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i'm a shapeshifter (please don't take off my mask)

Chapter Text

So this was how Shido was going to end him after all.

How ironic, that a puppet version of Goro would be the one killing Goro. He would laugh if he still had the physical capacity for it.

"I'll give you all a chance to save him. After all, you are all about sacrifice and whatnot." The cognition spoke in that sickening, honeyed tone. Fucking disgusting. "So one of you can take his place."

Goro could see it, plain as day. Joker - foolish, stupid, kind Joker was about to step up and no, no, he can't let this happen. Summoning the last dregs of strength left in him, the boy in the black mask lifted his gun. Only the slightest tremor as he pulled the trigger. Hopefully it wouldn't make a difference-

He'd always had good aim. And that skill paid off incredibly well, and that much was obvious from the cognitive version of himself dissolving into black specks. However, the other Shadows in the room became agitated at that, so with the one final shot remaining, Goro shot the control panel - and a solid metal wall rose up between the Shadows, himself, and the Phantom Thieves.

"Go!" His voice was failing him. "Promise me, Joker. That you'll...change Shido's heart. End this madness." Goro coughed, a pitiful, hacking sound. "Steal his Treasure, attic trash. Live up to your title...as a thief."

Ah, but what was this distinct feeling of sorrow? The Shadows were coming to tear him to shreds, but Goro had never really been concerned for his life. And he still wasn't. Perhaps now-distant sound of the other Thieves screaming for him on the other end of the wall...? Well, whatever. They couldn't save him, no one could. 

Goro closed his eyes, and-

This is truly an unjust game.

A...butterfly? When did it get here? Why was it glowing? And how was it speaking?

Your chances of winning are almost none.

Goro could feel his body being ripped into pieces, and yet...

But if my voice is reaching you, there is still hope.

Should you take this contract...

...

 

Akechi Goro woke up, at age fifteen.

It was really quite puzzling, but apparently, that strange butterfly had...sent him back in time? Why to age fifteen? Why at all? What was the purpose of...

Should you take this contract, 

you will have one more chance.

Use it wisely, Trickster.

"One more chance..." Goro muttered to himself, sitting up and combing through his considerably shorter hair. "Perhaps...I can reverse my fate?"

It was a rather interesting thought. Sent back in time for him to choose exactly where he would attend upper secondary school? If he remembered correctly, Shido would ask him where he wanted to go to school...

Goro's phone rang - speak of the devil. The brunet scowled, but picked the phone up. "Yes, hello?" He answered politely, softly. One advantage of having come from the future was knowing how exactly to interact with Shido.

"Akechi. You're going into upper secondary soon. Where would be most convenient for you?"

Oh. 

Oh.

Well, then. What a perfect opportunity. 

Goro's scowl formed into a little smirk, a plan starting to form in his mind. "Yes, I actually have an idea of where I would like to go. If it's possible, I'd like to go to Shujin Academy."


Going to Shujin had become habit now. The first few weeks, the detective had quite nearly gone to his former school from the old timeline and only caught himself right before boarding the wrong train. Thankfully, though, he easily became accustomed to his new train route, the new campus layout, new teachers - everything.

The first year, he immediately recognised Makoto Nijima and Haru Okumura. While the latter of whom was far more evasive, it might be much easier to connect with Makoto. Sure, she'd hated him in the past, but he'd been rather a bit of a dick to her. So perhaps if he changed his approach...

"Nijima-san?" He spoke with a small smile. "Might you be the younger sister of Sae-san?"

Nijima regarded him with clear suspicion, with narrowed red eyes and a guarded posture. "I am. Do you know her very well, Akechi-kun?"

Only a bit too well for this timeline. "I have worked with her on some cases. She's mentioned you in passing, though." Goro tilted his head, extending a metaphorical olive branch. "If you have the time, would you be able to indulge me in a lunch with you?"

She was quiet. Goro was scared that she would reject his offer - after all, if he was unable to bond with the other Thieves, he wouldn't be able to...

"Fine," Makoto sighed. "You don't seem as stuck-up as you do on television, though, Akechi-kun." She smiled a bit. It was working.

 

One year later, he and Makoto were incredibly close friends. And Goro saw some other familiar faces as well. Namely, Ryuji Sakamoto and Ann Takamaki. If he remembered correctly, they, along with Morgana and Kurusu, were the original Phantom Thieves. And along with their arrivals came the prelude to the Kamoshida case.

He saw how the teacher was always looking at Takamaki, the lust clear in his gaze. He saw how Sakamoto was getting progressively angrier and angrier, and things were starting to fall into place. While he felt terrible, things needed to happen this way in order for them to be able to foster the will of rebellion, and therefore Personas. So he watched, and he watched, and continued to watch.

Mementos missions were still often, but Akechi had long since numbed himself to the feeling of using Loki's powers. Learned not to try to observe what happened. He already knew, of course, so what was the point of looking back on it once again?

"Really, is it just me, or are there more and more of those strange incidents going on now?" Makoto's voice snapped Goro out of his thoughts. "I do dearly hope that things get cleared up soon..."

There was another twinge of guilt in Goro's gut, one that only intensified with him lying again. "I've noticed it, as well. I...I really hope that things get sorted out, as well."

It can only get cleared up...once the Phantom Thieves are...

 

"Your next mission is on a train conductor. I want it done as soon as possible."

So, it was that time already?

Time for Kurusu Akira to come into Tokyo.

 

Chapter Text

"Kamoshida Suguru. Shujin Academy."

Candidate found.

"...castle."

...beginning navigation.

 

It didn't take long for Goro to figure out Kamoshida's keywords. The way he paraded around the school like a king, completely immune to any kind of complaints that anyone would raise due to his status as a former Olympian. And what better place for a false king than a false castle? Well, not like it mattered. He had other things to attend to, after all.

"Sakamoto-kun?" Goro tapped the blond boy on the shoulder. "If you're available, would you mind meeting me after school? I have something I would like to show you, regarding Kamoshida-sensei."

The boy in question scowled, crossing his arms over his chest. "What's my beef with that bastard to you? Gonna snitch on me for not liking him or some shit?"

He's just like I remember him. "No, actually. I have some things on the rumours based around him. Wouldn't you like to get back at him?" Akechi smiled sweetly, innocently. "Really, I think you might like to see this."

"..." Sakamoto was utterly silent, regarding the brunet with clear suspicion. "Fine. But I'm ditchin' if it's boring."

The detective smiled victoriously. One down, one to go. He had until the end of the school day to find Takamaki.

Speaking of whom, Goro could easily spot her blond twin tails - she did, after all, stand out in the midst of all the students. Weaving through the throng, the brunet was finally able to slide next to the girl.

Tapping her on the shoulder, Goro greeted her. "Hello, Takamaki-san?"

"A-Akechi-senpai?" She seemed confused as to why he was speaking with her. Well, she didn't have any friends aside from Suzui Shiho at the time anyway, so he couldn't really blame her confusion. "Did you want to talk to me about something?"

"Yes, actually," The brunet smiled a bit sheepishly. Really, this was giving him such a sense of deja vu. Seemed that Kurusu had quite the effect on all of their lives. "It's about Kamoshida-sensei. I'm a bit concerned about the rumours that have been going around, so would you mind coming with me after school? After all, as a part of the police force, I can ensure that he gets justice for anything he's potentially done."

Takamaki's icy blue eyes widened in shock. "I-really?" Her voice was hushed. "You can really do that?" Goro nodded to confirm, and a familiar determination seeped into the girl's irises. "Then...I'll go with you."

Huh, that was easier than expected. "Thank you, Takamaki-san," he smiled. "I'll make sure that he receives what he deserves."

Class was starting soon, though - neither of them could dawdle on for very long. "Well, then, Takamaki-san, I'll see you after school."

 

When class was finally out, Gorocouldn't have moved faster without looking like he was rushing. Honestly, a perk of coming from the future was already knowing all of the material. So Goro had spent the entirety of the class period just thinking about how he could help Sakamoto and Takamaki awaken to their Persona. Completely lost in his thought, he didn't even notice the boy in front of him as he turned a corner, and so-

Goro bumped into someone. He thankfully wasn't going fast enough to knock the person down, but they were certainly off-balance. Reflexes built from romping around the Metaverse, though, allowed the detective to help steady the boy. And that's when he realised.

The boy he had bumped into was Kurusu Akira.

But he looked far different than the Joker he knew from his past timeline. Sure, in the real world, Kurusu had been much shier, but this was...almost saddening. It was plainly obvious that Kurusu was new to everything here, with how he hunched into himself, grey eyes wide and nearly doe-like in fear. The poor boy was almost tremulous, something that Goro had never seen of him before.

"I'm sorry," the detective said graciously. "I wasn't looking where I was going. Are you alright?"

Kurusu simply remained silent, nodding once, staring at the ground. He all but ran away, turning tail and walking very quickly in the opposite direction of Goro. Huh, how strange - Kurusu had always been quiet, but he hadn't said a single word. 

Well, not like Akechi could really worry about that. There was business to take care of. Thieves to awaken. A Palace to infiltrate. Wait, wrong order. Oh, well.

"Sakamoto-kun, Takamaki-san, thank you for meeting me today." Goro started, pulling his phone out. "The reason I asked you two today to come here is because I have something to show you."

With that, he turned the MetaNav on, bringing them all into Kamoshida's Palace.


"Dude..." Sakamoto breathed, staring around at their surroundings in shock. "Akechi, the hell is this?! Are we in the school?"

The brunet in question was in his princely attire, Robin Hood lurking just behind the mask. "Yes and no. To put it simply, this is how Kamoshida-sensei views the school."

Takamaki cut in before Sakamoto could say anything about it. "W-wait, Akechi-senpai, your clothes...pfft..." The blonde started laughing at the absurdity of the getup. "Oh my god. Ah. Okay, so going back to what we were talking about earlier, this is how Kamoshida sees the school? What exactly does that mean?"

"Yeah, can you explain it in a way that, y'know, makes sense?" The blond boy groans, shaking his head. "Cuz the way you said it just didn't make any sense. At all."

Was this how Morgana felt while trying to teach all of them on the ways of the Metaverse? "Think of it like this. You two know how Kamoshida-sensei sees himself as the king of a castle, correct?"

Sakamoto scowled deeply at that. "Yeah, well, duh. Damn bastard, always paradin' around the halls like he's untouchable or some shit." 

"Exactly. Just as how he sees himself as a king, this is his mental 'castle.' It's a structure that exists within his mind. If he is a king of the school, then the school is his castle," Goro attempted to explain it a bit better. "Is that an adequate explanation?"

"Wait, so what you're saying is that this is what Kamoshida thinks the school is?" Takamaki asked in shock and horror. "That's...!"

Goro nodded. "Well, then. Let us enter the castle. If you two are to be able to force Kamoshida to face justice, you will need your wills of rebellion."

 

Entering through the main gates, they were quite nearly immediately confronted by Shadows.

"What the hell?!" Sakamoto stepped back in shock. "What are those things?"

Goro swept the both of them behind him so they wouldn't get hurt. "Those are Shadows. They prowl around the cognitive world, and can only be fought...like so. Robin Hood!" Tearing his mask off, the proud white knight took form, bow shining with light. "Makouha!"

Bright white energy swirled around the Shadows, knocking them down effortlessly. Another attack finished them off without much more time. "Come. Let us see if there is any way for the two of you to awaken to a Persona here in this Palace."


They found the cells.

And inside one of them was...

"Dude, is that me?" Sakamoto whispered, staring in shock at the crippled version of himself curled up in the cell. "What the hell is goin' on?"

Goro winced at the sight of the cognitive version of the blond. "That is how Kamoshida-sensei perceives you." He said softly. "He thinks of you as nothing more than a weak boy to be trampled upon." 

Sakamoto's hands curled into fists. "Will you let him continue on with that mindframe?" Goro pressured, seeing his opening. "Or will you prove him wrong?"

"It should be damn obvious what I would do," Sakamoto growled. "I ain't gonna let him get away with this shit! I'm not some dog to be tossed around, dammit!"

With that, the boy screamed in pain, in agony, from the mind-splitting sensation of awakening to his inner rebel. Akechi could relate; he'd gone through it twice. "Come on, Sakamoto-kun," Goro whispered. "You can make it through this."

Make it through he did, and with a final scream, Sakamoto ripped off the newly-formed skull mask, giving birth to what must have been his original Persona. "Come, Captain Kidd!" 

Takamaki's eyes were wide, seeing how much blood there was when Sakamoto ripped his mask off. "O-oh my God, Ryuji, are you okay? Akechi-senpai, what just happened?"

"Sakamoto has awakened to his Persona. Don't worry, Takamaki-san, you have the latent ability within you as well. We only need to find a catalyst for your awakening." Goro assured the girl, knowing how she would hate not being able to fight along with them, especially since Sakamoto had awakened to a Persona. "Just a little bit longer."

She nodded, that fiery determination already burning inside of her. Akechi had a feeling that it would be sometime soon.

 

"Who are you all?!" That eerie reverb...it could have only meant one thing-

"Is that Kamoshida?!" Sakamoto hissed, reaching for his mask already. "I'm gonna-"

Cutting him off, though, was a loud gasp of disgust from Takamaki. "Oh my god. That's how Kamoshida sees me?"

Turning to take his first look at Kamoshida's Shadow, Goro quite nearly hurled on the spot. Frankly, it was hideous. Completely nude, minus a Speedo and a gaudy, heart-patterned king's robe? It truly spoke volumes about Kamoshida's personality. But, the cognition latched onto his arm...

It was the spitting image of Takamaki, but it also wasn't. Sure, they shared the same height, hair, body shape, facial structure, and facial features, but...the way that the cognition was dressed in an incredibly skimpy bikini, the way it clung to Kamoshida's Shadow...it was utterly disgusting. There was no other way for one to describe it other than disgusting. Clearly, Kamoshida saw Takamaki as a...

"So...he thinks I'm just a toy he can play with whenever he wants?" Her voice shook with all of the righteous rage burning inside of her body. "That I'll just throw myself onto him whenever he damn well pleases?" Takamaki started to laugh, voice dry and hateful and all anger she's built up over time. "Well, fuck him."

And it was the same as what happened with Sakamoto, blue fire and a cat-shaped mask, and the red leather bodysuit. Carmen was truly something to behold, as was Captain Kidd, but they really didn't hold a candle to Hecate and Seiten Taisei respectively. 

"Now that the two of you have awoken to Persona, it's really much better to exit the Palace for now," Goro grabbed the both of their attention. "The awakening will have drained you, along with the fight we will inevitably get into. I don't want you two to make the same mistakes in this world that I did."

"Guards, dispose of them. At once." The mockery of a king ordered armoured guards, who burst into Shadows, before leaving the area. 

Sakamoto and Takamaki flanked Goro, and they got ready to fight.

"Robin Hood, Kouga!"

"Captain Kidd, Zio!"

"Agi, Carmen!"

Bless, electric, and fire attacks tore through the Shadows, and they all ran towards the main entrance where Akechi activated the Nav, and they were all standing outside Shujin.

Akechi took a deep breath, straightening out his hair. "I know that was quite a lot to take in. Unfortunately, I have some matters to attend to. We should exchange chat IDs and numbers so that we may further discuss this."

Once they all registered each other and sent confirmation texts, Akechi went on his merry way back to his apartment, thinking on his progress. So far, he'd managed to get two of the Thieves to awaken to their Persona. He wasn't quite sure where Kurusu had found Morgana, but no matter. He'd just look out for a very specific talking black cat. All he needed to do now was explain the change of heart, consequences of killing a Shadow...

...and Shido. It wouldn't be fair for him to keep such a thing from them. Not after he saw what it had done to them in his past timeline.

But for now, all Goro could do was go home and answer all of the questions about the Palace, and the Metaverse in general.

 

 

 

 

Ryuji: hey

Ryuji: so what the heck was that anyway

Ann: persona...

Ann: it feels weird

Ann: i've never seen carmen before until today, but it feels like i've known her for my whole life

Ryuji: yo akechi get online so we can understand this better

Ann: he bikes to school, so it might take some more time for him to come online

Goro: Apologies for the wait.

Goro: Takamaki-san, it's natural that you would feel that way.

Goro: Persona are an innate part of yourself, after all.

Goro: The awakening was simply your recognising that part of yourself and accepting it.

Ryuji: so

Ryuji: what youre saying is

Ryuji: captain kidd was always inside my heart

Ryuji: or smth like that

Ann: i guess that makes sense

Ann: but

Ann: wHAT'S WITH THE OUTFITS??

Ann: i mean ryuji is legit even more delinquent than he usually is

Ann: akechi looks like a band boy + a prince

Ann: and mine is just 

Ann: uGH

Ryuji: lol

Ryuji: it looks good on you 

Ann: shut UP

Goro: Think of the outfits as...what you imagine to be a "rebel."

Goro: It's rather hard to explain, but those outfits are a representation
of what you personally think defies the rules of society.

Goro: You don't have to understand it now.

Goro: But I must educate you two on how that world - the Metaverse - works.

Goro: There are certain rules that must be followed.

Ryuji: uh...ok?

Ann: we're all ears

Goro: Thank you.

Goro: The first thing that you must know is that you must never kill a person's Shadow.

Goro: EVER.

Goro: That will cause what is called a mental shutdown. The real-world version
will die if that happens. A gruesome end, at that. It's something I've seen.

Goro: Please do not make that error. You don't want to live with
the weight of murder on your shoulders. It is a heavy burden.

Goro: The second thing you should know is that
spending time in the Metaverse will tire your body out.

Goro: It's something you get used to after a while.

Goro: But please remember not to push yourselves.

Goro: Those are the most basic - and relevant - topics at the moment.

Goro: However, I was not lying when I said we could bring Kamoshida to justice.

Ryuji: !!!!

Ryuji: HOW

Ann: he needs to be exposed

Ann: how do we do that?

Goro: Do you remember that castle?

Ryuji: uh, duh

Ryuji: we were legit just there

Ryuji: what does that have to do with anything

Goro: That space is what is called a Palace.

Goro: And all Palaces have certain objects called "Treasures."

Goro: By stealing one of these Treasures, we can enact what is called a change of heart.

Goro: In essence, Kamoshida will admit to all of his own wrongdoings.

Goro: By himself.

Ann: we...we can really do that?

Ann: then, we have to do it!

Ryuji: yeah i heard a bunch of things

Ryuji: physical abuse to the volleyball team

Ryuji: sexually harassin the girls

Ann: my friend shiho is on the team omg

Ann: i'll ask her about it

Goro: All right.

Goro: Before stealing the Treasure, we will of course need to locate it.

Goro: Please contact me through this group chat when the both of you are ready.

Ann: you got it!!

Ryuji: kk

Ann: btw, can i call you goro?

Ann: you can call me ann

Ryuji: ya can i call you goro too

Ryuji: u can call me ryuji lol

Goro: Ah.

Goro: I...

Goro: Alright, Ann, Ryuji.

 

I am thou, thou art I

Thou hast acquired a new vow

It shall become the wings of rebellion

that breaketh thy chains of captivity

With the birth of the Lovers and Chariot Persona,

I have obtained the winds of blessing that shall

lead to freedom and new power...

Chapter Text

Kurusu Akira was...tired. Tired of incessant voices, voices that whispered that he was dangerous, voices that murmured that he was a criminal. Tired, so tired.

Maybe that was why he’d stopped talking to people.

Because maybe, if he became invisible, then the voices would stop. Maybe he would finally be able to get his year in Tokyo to be one he could live in peace. 

Maybe that was why he’d turned to a cat on the street for company as opposed to other people.

The cat was...unusual, to say the least. While his fur wasn’t the strangest, he had bright blue eyes, far too intelligent for any normal animal. Akira named him Morgana. 

Morgana had been staying in the attic of Leblanc for the past couple of days, and it was...nice. Akira felt like he’d be able to say anything he wanted to the cat, and nothing bad would happen. At least, the cat wouldn’t judge him. It wasn’t as though he could understand anything that Akira was saying, anyway.

Sojiro had been shocked and somewhat angry when Akira had first brought Morgana in, saying things about the building being a cafe and animals not being sanitary. But then he’d heard Akira talk to him. It hadn’t been much, but it was something and Sojiro had almost seemed proud of him. Long story short, Akira got to keep the cat in his attic room.

At least one thing was going relatively okay for him in this wretched trip.


Takamaki had a Persona. So did Sakamoto. So far, things were going perfectly. While Goro hadn’t been able to find Morgana, it didn’t really matter too much—as far as he could see, he himself was able to accomplish what Morgana was needed for in the beginning. So that wasn’t a very big concern for him. His main concern was Shido. And maybe Kurusu, but he could wait. For now, he had to plan for Madarame’s Palace. 

Mementos trips were incredibly helpful in training Takamaki and Sakamoto. Or, rather, Ann and Ryuji. They were slowly getting used to the Metaverse, finding their unique fighting styles. Goro had been found a rather shady shop selling model weapons, and he had a feeling that Kurusu had gone to that exact place in his old timeline. 

Not like that mattered, though. For now...all he had to do was continue to train Ann and Ryuji. They did, after all, need to go through Kamoshida’s Palace to make room for Madarame’s. 

And maybe start trying to figure out how to get Makoto to join as well; she’d pretty much been Kurusu’s right hand leading the Phantom Thieves.  

As Goro was pondering this, he unknowingly went on the route to Leblanc, and only realised he was there when he heard Sojiro’s “Welcome.”

Blinking in surprise, Goro looked around and chuckled to himself. It was exactly as he remembered. “Ah, hello. I heard that the coffee here is stellar, so...”

The man let out a snort. “Yeah, yeah. Take as long as you need to look at the menu and tell me when you’re ready. I’m gonna be in the kitchen.”

Sliding into his usual seat—although, it’s not really his seat, not in this timeline, anyway—Goro patiently waited for Sakura to come back before ordering what he always got in the other timeline. “A Blue Mountain with one cream and three sugars, if you don’t mind.”

Sakura raised an eyebrow as he prepared Goro’s requested cup. “You seem like you know your stuff.” He sounded almost impressed. 

“Yes, well, a friend of mine taught me a bit about coffee.” Goro kept everything as vague as possible—the whole timeline thing would probably get him thrown into an insane asylum, even without mentioning the Metaverse. “So I like to think I know my preferences.”

A cup was placed in front of Goro, who took a sip of the rich coffee inside and sighed in delight. “Your coffee is truly spectacular, Sakura-san. I think I will have to come again.”