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Welcome to Hashi High

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"Kurusu Akira. We know you just came back from Tokyo...but our school and a few others are partnering with Hashi High in Tokyo in a cultural exchange. After some deliberation, the staff decided that you would be the perfect candidate, seeing as how you should still be familiar with the city. I admit we didn't discuss with you first…." 

And so there he was, gazing back upon the familiar sights of Tokyo once again. Akira felt something ...interesting thrilling through him. Not exactly nervousness, but not quite excitement either. He wouldn’t be going to Shujin with his friends this time, and the prospect of making new ones in a normal school setting seemed daunting. On top of that, he had to stay in the school dorms, instead of in the attic of Leblanc. He would miss waking up to Sojiro’s curry. 

While on the train, Akira looked through some articles on Hashi High and the new cultural exchange program. According to what he read, this was the first year for the program, and the new headmaster of the school wanted to start with other schools in Japan before expanding worldwide. The new dorms were constructed under the new headmaster’s direction, ready for the students who were coming to the school. His name was Konton Jisan, a rather young looking man with intelligent eyes.

“Next stop, Shibuya. Get off here for all Shibuya lines.” The voice over the train pinged to life. Akira stood from his seat and pushed a little roughly through the crowd to reach the doors. He got off, making his way up to Station Street. The first time he arrived into the city flashed through his mind. The MetaNav, the vision of Arsene, and the vision of himself. All of it felt so long ago, yet at the same time, like it had happened yesterday. He closed his eyes. He could almost hear Arsene’s voice now, gently guiding him to turn the tides of battle. 

What was this? Akira hadn’t opened his eyes, but he could see a black and white area on all sides of him. That wasn’t just his imagination, he really could hear Arsene’s voice. He was in battle, alongside the Phantom Thieves. That felt normal, but there were more people, fighting alongside him. The two closest to him stood on either side of Akira, each brandishing swords and Personas. One had short gray hair and sharp gray eyes, with a rather stocky build. The one on his other side had blue hair and a much smaller frame. They were fighting a large beast, but based on the injuries the group had suffered, they weren’t doing well. 

Akira gasped and opened his eyes. Damn, another vision? Why did this only happen in Tokyo? People were still bustling about though, so he must not have been in his mind for long. Out of habit he checked his phone, but of course the MetaNav wasn’t there. Of course it wasn’t. But that vision felt oddly like the MetaVerse. Not again, he was still recovering from dying twice. 

Akira sighed. A smile pulled at his lips though, as he remembered how discovering the MetaVerse had lead him to an amazing year with his new friends. Speaking of those friends, Akira had wanted to meet with them, but for whatever reason, every single one of them was busy today. They all agreed to meet up after school tomorrow though, so Akira had that to look forward to. 

After walking through Shibuya for a while, Akira found the school dorms. He went in, signed in with the front desk and got his key. He walked up to his room on the third floor and unlocked the door. The room was small and quaint, not unlike the attic of Leblanc. His box was already there, waiting to get unpacked. 

With a sigh, Akira flopped down on his bed. He had finished unpacking, and it had left him feeling tired. Relaxing a bit, he let his mind wander. How long had it even been before he was back in the place he had been banished to? Not that it mattered now, Shido was paying for his sins in custody and humanity was free from the bonds of Yaldabaoth. He could finally live a normal high schooler's life. He gazed out the window to the city beyond. It looked so peaceful, of course it was in the aftermath of Yaldabaoth’s downfall. He had a new school year in front of him, and despite those ominous visions in the city, he felt oddly comforted. 

How could he have predicted the insane adventure he was about to be thrown into, after all?

Chapter Text

Akira ran to his classroom, his breath coming in short gasps. He couldn’t believe he was late on his first day. Not again , he thought. He slid to a stop in front of the door and flung it open, revealing only two students. He checked his watch, then looked up at the clock on the wall. Damn, he forgot to adjust the time for Tokyo. 

Akira looked up at the two students, familiarity shooting through him. They were the two boys from his vision! The gray haired one was at least attempting to get some sort of work done while the blue haired one was doing his best annoy the gray one. When Akira slid the door open, both had looked up, a minor amount of shock crossing over their faces. He felt like he had intruded somewhat.

“Ah, s-sorry to disturb both of you.” Akira was about to walk away when the blue haired one spoke up. His voice was voice was soft and almost monotone.

“No, its ok. Come on in, we weren’t busy.” The gray haired one glared at the small boy. 

Akira walked in and sat down next to the two. “I’m Kurusu Akira. Are you two part of the cultural exchange?” He felt odd sitting close to them. The only other time he saw them was the vision of battle, and both had looked much different then. 

The blue haired one nodded. “Yeah. This class is supposed to be everyone who’s part of it. Arisato Minato.” He smiled very softly, like he didn’t do it often. Arisato wore a small pair of headphones over his school uniform. His voice was light, but staring into his eyes Akira found a rather similar look. He wasn’t sure why, but whenever he looked in the mirror recently his eyes had this dark gleam in them. He didn’t have it until…. Well the more he thought about it, the gleam had only shown up after he had ‘died’ by Akechi’s hands. Perhaps that was it. The look of someone who not only saw death, but truly felt it.

“I’m Narukami Yu.” Narukami adjusted his glasses, a pair of thick black frames with a few colorful stripes on the side. “It’s supposed to be a rather large mix of different years. Not sure who else is supposed to be here, besides some of my friends from Yasogami High. I heard some students from a nearby school are coming too.” Narukami seemed friendly enough. His gray eyes were hard as stone though, filled with a rather odd intensity. They flickered when he mentioned his friends, as is fear had flashed through them.

“A nearby school?” Akira thought about it. There were lots of local schools, but his mind went straight to Shujin. Though he doubted all of his friends would end up here. And Yusuke went to Kosei anyway. He felt his heart drop at the mention of friends, especially since Narukami was going to get to spend his school year with his. 

“My friends from Gekkoukan High are a part too.” Arisato sighed. Despite his teasing of Narukami, he seemed to have a rather lax personality. “There was another school. Just one student, one who volunteered. I heard rumors he only came because of the free food.”

Now that sounded like Yusuke. “Were the other two schools Shujin and Kosei?” Akira couldn’t keep the hopefulness out of his voice. He truly missed his friends. 

Narukami shrugged. “Maybe, I don’t exactly remember. All I really remember was that Yasogami was on the list.” He continued to do his work rather dutifully. The two seemed like such interesting people. 

“You really only care about the Investigation Team, huh?” Arisato teased, a small smirk pulling at his mouth. “It’s fine, you know. S.E.E.S. would absolutely destroy you guys anyway.”

“Huh?” Akira was confused. Was that their friend groups? They had odd names, but then again… he still referred to the group as the Thieves. Despite the Phantom Thieves technically being done, the friends still talked and hung out when they could. 

Narukami looked up, a little worried. He shot an angry glare at Arisato, before responding. “Well, you see-”

“Yu!” An incredibly happy voice burst into the room. Narukami instantly perked up as a tall, brown haired boy walked in. “Sorry for taking so long, Chie wanted to finish her breakfast.” Narukami stood and walked over to the boy as five more people walked in behind him. 

Akira smiled at the onslaught of people. They must have been the students from Yasogami High, considering how friendly they were with Narukami. He couldn’t deny that he felt a pang of jealousy. 

The group made their way to their seats, still chattering. Arisato turned away, apparently not interested in further teasing with Narukami. Once it started to settle down, Akira introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Kurusu Akira-”

The brown haired boy grabbed his hand too eagerly. “Hi Akira! I’m Hanamura Yosuke.” Akira felt odd, but not bad at hearing Hanamura call him by his first name. The boy reminded him of Ryuji. He smiled at the memory. When he and Ryuji had first met, the boy had absolutely refused to call Akira by his family name. He had found it slightly off putting at first, but he grew used to it. 

A girl with short, light brown hair and extremely intelligent eyes laughed at Hanamura. “What was that, Yosuke? I’m Satonaka Chie, but go ahead and call me Chie.”

“It’s….” Akira giggled. He found the group absolutely charming. “It’s nice to meet all of you.” Narukami seemed to be the odd one out, with his larger stature and softer personality, but all of his friends liked him. Another pang of jealousy hit him. Damn, he really missed his friends. 

“Akira! Holy shit!” That was a voice he recognized. Akira stood quickly, almost tripping over himself to get to the source. There he was, the absolute idiot. 

“Ryuji! I didn’t think I’d see you until later!” Akira felt elated, his heart fluttering. He pulled Ryuji into a tight hug, though what was behind him shocked him even further. “Ann? Makoto? Yusuke?!” The entire group was here, apparently just as surprised that their leader was here too. 

“Akira, we… we all volunteered for the exchange program, since we already knew each other. We never expected you to be here too.” Makoto smiled softly, clearly happy to be back with the gang. “The Thieves are all back together again.”

“Well, almost all of us.” Ann noted the absence of Morgana with a sad note. It was true, Morgana hadn’t come back with Akira to Tokyo. The group seemed a little downtrodden, but then Akira remembered. 

“Oh, well I promised I would video call him tonight. I’m sure he’d love to see you guys too!”

“The Thieves? Wait, are you guys talking about the Phantom Thieves?” Chie looked over at the new group, and Akira felt his heart drop. Oh. Just because they beat Yaldabaoth didn’t mean that people just forgot about the Thieves. “Do you guys remember that from last year? That was crazy to watch! Oh, but they were so cool!” Chie seemed oddly optimistic. 

“Ah, right. I lived in Tokyo at the time, so they were a little… up close and personal.” Akira cast a sharp glance at the others. His message was clear; we weren’t the Thieves. He walked back to his seat with them, everyone sitting down and chattering. People introduced themselves, laughs were exchanged. Akira felt happy, relishing in the wonderful people he was surrounded by. 

“It was weird though. Didn’t the very police say that the leader of those Thieves was dead? But then he turned up all of a sudden! Completely unharmed!” Hanamura pondered the logistics of Akira’s death. A small boyish looking person, who sat really close to the largest of the group, spoke with a firm voice. Akira remembered that their name was Shirogane Naoto. 

“It was very odd, yes. We weren’t in Tokyo at the time but the stories circulated everywhere. I myself watched that calling card several times over, trying to figure out how this ‘Phantom Thief’ managed to escape death.”

“Perhaps he was as crafty as the gentlemen thieves of legend.” Akira smiled sincerely. Ann had looked ready to try and bullshit, but knowing how horrible her acting was, he decided to step in. “We liked them so much we decided that we’d name ourselves after them.”

“While I agree that the Phantom Thieves were quite the spectacle, imitating them is probably a bad idea. What happened earlier this spring doesn’t just go away.” A tall girl with long red hair walked in. She didn’t seem to be from Yasogami or Shujin, but Arisato jumped up. 

“Mitsuru! Junpei!” It was weird to hear Arisato sound so excited. He didn’t seem like the type to really get excited. But Akira couldn’t deny it was almost cute. Arisato greeted the group that just showed up. The room was starting to get full. 

“Oh, I’m glad everyone is here finally.” A tall woman strode in. She looked young, with short black hair and wire glasses. “I’m Mrs. Tori, I’ll be your homeroom teacher. Welcome to Hashi High.”

Chapter Text

The teacher had been going through the rules at Hashi when an announcement came over the speakers. Yu relaxed in his seat a little. 

“All students and teachers please report to the auditorium for an emergency assembly. I repeat, all students and teachers….”
Yu tuned out the rest of the announcement. He turned to Yosuke with a slightly puzzled look. “It’s oddly similar to my first day at Yasogami…” He recalled the first day he had transferred, when there was the horrible murder. 

“Oh, I was thinking the same thing.” Chie chimed in. “It’s so weird. Like bad luck follows us wherever we go.” They all stood and walked outside of the room. Yu ended up falling in pace with Kurusu, the slightly shorter boy keeping his eyes ahead. He had seemed friendly back in the room, but now the boy had this odd air of seriousness and determination. What a change in personality!

The students all filtered into the auditorium. There was some chaos, so while Yu wanted to sit next to Yosuke and Chie, he ended up between Sakamoto Ryuji and Takeba Yukari. Takeba looked a little uncomfortable next to both Yu and Niijima Makoto, and Yu couldn’t blame her. All of the group, Thieves, they called themselves, gave off powerful energy, but Niijima seemed as if she could kill with a single glare. Yu heard Takeba ask Niijima a few awkward questions before the gray girl shook her head. 

“Thank you all for coming so quickly.” The headmaster was standing on the stage, gesturing for the students to quiet down. “I hate to start the school year off like this, but we must warn you to please stay out of trouble with these rumored cult members. If you see anyone suspicious, report it to the police immediately.”

The students buzzed with conversation, but the headmaster held up his hand again. “The reason we have brought this to your attention is because a first-year was found dead this morning.” 

The auditorium exploded with varying degrees of wails, anger, and shock. Yu himself felt numb. His head spun with this new information. Why did it always happen to me? God, he hoped that he wouldn’t have to go through this school year like last time. Sakamoto beside him seemed to be one of the angry ones, though Yu noticed with some suspicion that small sparks of electricity were bouncing around the boy. How odd. Yu shook his head. Must be an illusion from his crazy thoughts.

“Please return to your dorms for the time being. You will have tomorrow off as well, while we work on fixing this issue.” The headmaster bowed, and the students were released.

Yu could feel the waves of anger washing off of Sakamoto as the transfer students walked back through the hallways. Kurusu could too, since he finally turned around to stop the boy when all the other students were gone. 

“Ryuji-”

“I can’t understand what’s happening, Akira!” Sakamoto stopped, slamming his fist into the wall in rage. “What did we get, four months of peace before trouble returned?!” His voice was filled with anger, yes, but there was a deep note of fear. Yu stopped behind them, watching this all play out. 

“We got what we could, ok? We just have to deal with life as it is right now.” Kurusu was trying hard to soothe the anger, but his own voice was tight and controlled. Why were they so angry? “We have each other and that’s what matters.” 

“It just feels like all that we did was for nothing. We beat Yaldabaoth, so what?” Sakamoto instantly covered his mouth with his hands. Yu felt confused. Who the hell was Yaldabaoth? Did it have something to do with why they were so mad? True, Yu felt upset himself. The Investigation Team had already solved the case of murders back in Inaba, and he wasn’t keen on having to do it again. But this behavior was odd. 

“What are you guys talking about?” Naoto spoke up, their sharp blue eyes casting a cold glare on the Thieves. “Yaldabaoth? The God of Control?” God of control? Yu felt a shiver run through him. The Thieves had defeated a god? He was impressed, though by no means would he be starstruck. The Investigation Team had taken down gods as well and they didn’t receive so much as a thank you. 

Kurusu rested his hand on Sakamoto’s shoulder, squeezing it in a tight grip. “We should take this elsewhere. I don’t like talking about this here. There’s a sealed planning room on our floor, it should be good enough.” He was firm. Clearly, he didn’t intend to deny the fact that this group of seven teenagers had somehow taken down a god. Yu felt that such a feat would have been impossible….unless….

There’s no way they’ve got Personas too. But he didn’t want to deny them the possibility. Yu gestured to the Team and followed Kurusu back to the dorms. He walked with Yosuke, gently resting their hands together. 

“Do you really think they killed a god?” Yu wasn’t sure how to answer that. “I mean, we did, but it took our Personas to do so.” Yu looked at Yosuke. 

“What if they have Personas too, Yosuke?” Yu didn’t look up to see Yosuke’s reaction. The more he thought about it, the more plausible it seemed. The sparks he had seen around Sakamato made more sense too. He himself did that when he got angry. Yu sighed and squeezed Yosuke’s hand. “We’ll get through this like we always have.” 

The three groups sat down around the large table inside the planning room. No one said anything for a bit before Arisato spoke up. 

“You seven have all died, huh?” His voice was cold and stiff. Arisato glared at the seven Thieves as they stared at him in awe. “There’s this gleam in your eyes. You died, but here you are.” Yu gave Arisato an odd glance. If he was right, then he was standing in a room full of dead people. 

“Twice, actually.” Kurusu looked almost sheepish. Arisato’s eyes went wide. So not only had all the Thieves cheated death, Kurusu had done it twice ? It seemed so surreal. “So… Great segway into the main topic. Do you guys remember the news last November, when it had been announced that the leader of the Phantom Thieves committed suicide?” Yu remembered clearly hearing it on the news. The Phantom Thieves had caused such a stir in his hometown that it was impossible for him to ignore it. 

“I remember. The police said they caught a young man, a highschooler even. One with a criminal record.” Chie spoke up, not one for really holding her thoughts back. “Why do you ask?”

“That was me.” Shock registered on everyone’s faces, excluding the Thieves. Wait, so that meant that the group really was the Phantom Thieves! And Kurusu had a criminal record? “Though I don’t have that record anymore, if you’re wondering.” Yu pondered this. The way that the Phantom Thieves operated was a complete mystery to everyone. Could it have something to do with the power of the Persona? “I feel like we should all really introduce ourselves. The rest of you didn’t seem too shocked to learn we had defeated a god.” 

“I suppose you’re right. No use in hiding secrets.” Kirijo sighed and stood up. “Those of us from Gekkoukan High are members of S.E.E.S., or Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad. During our school year we fought to eliminate a hidden extra hour after midnight called Dark Hour.” Yu watched the formal woman speak. She seemed to be the leader of S.E.E.S., despite Arisato looking like he’d fit better. He and Arisato had explained to each other some stupid reason why each group was called so, but this was completely different. “We used a power called a Persona to fight beasts called Shadows.”

“Hold on!” Both Yu and Kurusu interrupted. The two looked at each other before Kurusu backed down. Yu cleared his throat. “You guys used Personas? And fought Shadows? How did you do it?”

“I was going to ask the same thing.” Kurusu looked at Yu with an intrigued look. So the Thieves knew about Personas and Shadows too. 

“By accepting mortality and pointing our Evokers to our heads.” Arisato spoke up. “When we pull the trigger, we summon our Persona. Normally I’d explain what a Persona is but you seem pretty understandable.” Arisato looked between the Investigation Team and the Phantom Thieves. “You’re up, Narukami.” 

Yu looked awkwardly at his friends before speaking up. “Right. We’re the Investigation Team out of Inaba. Last school year we worked to solve the mystery of a string of odd murders, as well as the Midnight Channel.”

“Whenever it rains and you’re home alone, the Midnight Channel comes on at midnight! People used to think it showed their soulmate, but it turns out, it showed people who were thrown in.” Yosuke piped up, trying to help explain. Yu nodded at him in thanks.

“We all have the power of the Persona too, but instead of whatever you guys do, we make peace with the shadow, er, our other self within.” Yu looked to Kurusu, who seemed rather impressed. They all did, though Arisato seemed sour as always. 

“We’re the Phantom Thieves. We stole the hearts of people with twisted desires to make them pay for the sins they committed. Using a place called the Metaverse we were able to summon our Personas.” Kurusu didn’t touch upon their deaths at all, and Yu couldn’t blame them. 

“By maintaining a strong will of rebellion in our hearts, we could rip off the mask that disguised our true self and bring forth the Persona.” Niijima had a rather soft voice for such a dangerous looking girl. Yu wondered if her Persona was just as dangerous. 

“Does anyone else find this weird?” Naoto stood, looking around. “We have three groups of students who dealt with the supernatural and can use Personas. All of us are in the same class for the cultural exchange program. It just seems to be more than coincidence.”

Yu looked at Naoto with surprise. He hadn’t really thought about it before, but it really was weird that the three groups were here. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around it all being planned though. It seemed so… insane. 

Sakura Futaba, a first year student from Shujin spoke up in a slightly tremulous voice. “I searched into it more, and apparently there’s been a string of mysterious deaths in Shibuya lately. There was hardly any media coverage since everyone was still recovering from the Phantom Thieves. But there’s so much information here…” She groaned, leaning back. “If only I had Mona to help me….” 

“There’s a cat at the door!” Iori Junpei leapt up to open it. The cat was black with white socks, as well as oddly intelligent eyes. It meowed loudly, and looked at Sakura. She responded by sticking her tongue out at it. The Phantom Thieves seemed to be in shock, especially Kurusu. 

“I said no such thing about you, Mona. But while you’re here…” Sakura jumped up and scooped the cat into her arms, resulting in a loud, angry wail from the cat. Yu watched it all go down, extremely confused. Did… Did she just talk to the cat like it talked back?

Chapter Text

Akira was so shocked at seeing Morgana that he couldn’t even react when the cat had angrily snapped at Futaba. He thought he had left him back at home, since he was unsure if the dorms allowed pets. He watched as the two spat fire at each other before interrupted. 

“Morgana! I thought I left you at home. How the hell did you get here?”

“I snuck on the trains. Surprising how many people don’t notice a cat on the subway.” As always, the cat was full of himself. But that still didn’t explain why he was here. “Akira, I’m sorry for not telling you, but as soon as you left I got these weird visions. They involved the Thieves, and-”

“And these guys?” Akira gestured to the Investigation Team and S.E.E.S. If Morgana had seen the same things he did, then it was probably best if Morgana was there.

“You ARE talking to the cat!” Chie stood up, pointing an accusatory finger at the Thieves. “Wait, is it actually talking back?”

“Oh, right.” Futaba let Morgana down and faced the others. “Morgana can talk. It’s hard to explain why, but only us Thieves can hear him.” 

“What’s he think about me?” Hanamura thrusted a thumb at his chest, causing Narukami to sigh. Though, Akira noticed, he did have a smile on his face. 

“Ugh. As if we needed another brain dead idiot like Ryuji.” Morgana groaned, glaring at Ryuji who gave him a similar glare in retaliation. 

“He called you a brain dead idiot. Just like Ryuji.” Futaba was never one for having a filter, especially when it came to talking about people. Akira sighed, a bit worn out from so many things happening at once. 

“Hey! I’m not that brain dead!” Both Ryuji and Hanamura both cried out in indignation. Akira lunged across the table to hold Ryuji back from punting the cat all the way back home, shouting at the two to cut it out for once, especially in front of these nice people. 

Arisato let out an impatient sigh. “I want to find out what’s going on here, and if you guys are just going to sit around yelling to a cat, I’ll do it on my own.” He got up and stormed out, who was quickly followed by the rest of S.E.E.S. Narukami jumped up to go after him, then turned to face the Thieves. 

“He’s right. Obviously you guys can’t keep it together so we can figure out why the hell we’re even here.” His stony eyes sent a chill through Akira. Anger started to flood through him as Narukami kept talking. “There’s no way such an absentminded group could have changed people’s hearts. We’ll solve this ourselves, thanks.” He was about to walk out before Shirogane stopped him. 

“Yu. You know for a fact that we can’t do this on our own. These cultists and incidents are on a different level than what we dealt with back home.” Narukami didn’t turn around to look at them. “Yu, they can help us and you know it. Stop being stubborn-”

“You think we aren’t the real Phantom Thieves?” Akira was shaking with anger. The Thieves backed away from him, knowing his rage was quite the storm. “You think that just because you solved some murders that you can talk down to us like we’re pigs?”

Narukami turned to look at the Thieves. He flinched at the rage Akira was spitting. “I never said-”

“Bullshit. If you want to solve these damn cases you better be ready to involve us. This place is home for us, and I’ll be damned if we’re just gonna sit by and watch as people die.” He couldn’t stop now, not even with everyone in the room cowering under his intense gaze. “I didn’t die just to let some country bumpkin try and save the day.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” It was clear Yu was afraid of the shorter boy, especially his intense glare. 

“We’re the Phantom Thieves.” 

Chapter Text

Yosuke was practicing his moves in his room while Yu and Chie talked. He fenced in the air, spinning the knives in his palms smoothly. After a while he stopped and looked at Yu. Waves of anger and broke pride came off him. 

“Yu, I really don’t think he meant it. You were both provoked, and Kurusu seems like the kind of person to snap like that, you know?” Chie was trying her best to calm him down. “He was right though, I don’t think we can solve this on our own.” 

“I don’t care if we can solve this on our own, they’re clearly rash and don’t know how to work together! There’s no way a team like that could help-”

There was a knock at the door. Yosuke tucked his knives under his bed before going over and opening it. Standing there was Niijima, looking rather friendly. “Oh, Niijima, what are you doing here?”

“Sorry to barge in, but I wanted to apologize to Narukami on Akira’s behalf. Do you mind if I come in?” Her voice was so soft and sweet, but there was something incredibly dangerous in her eyes that told Yosuke not to mess with her. He moved to the side so she could step in. “Thank you.” 

She stood near Yu and bowed. “I am sorry for his outburst. He has a… particular mindset that doesn’t let him keep quiet about injustice.” Akira seemed so interesting. Calm and friendly one moment, but if something goes wrong he snaps. And injustice? “Life hasn’t been all that kind to him recently. I won’t go into the details specifically, but for a while he was, at least in the public eye, dead.”

“So he really was telling the truth. You guys are the real Phantom Thieves.” Yu sighed deeply. “I feel bad about what I said, though he is rash and short tempered. I won’t let my pride get in the way of this case. If this case is to be solved, then we must all work together.” 

“Thank you. I’ll let Akira know. He also wanted to tell you that he felt bad about scaring you.” Niijima pointed to her eyes. “The first time I really saw him mad was terrifying.” 

Yosuke shuddered. “So his eyes really were red? That’s scary intense. How’d it scare you though, Niijima? You seem so… hardcore.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. The first time I really saw him mad, his eyes were yellow, like the Shadows. The only thing that stopped him from tearing the place apart was Ryuji.” She sighed. “Be careful not to let him get that mad. Sure he’s strong, but he can’t see when he’s like that.” Jeez, how terrifying was this guy? Yosuke had seen how short tempered he was, but if he could literally go into a blind rage... “Also if we’re going to be working together, please call me Makoto.” 

Yu stood and bowed to her. “Thank you Makoto. And yeah, that glare he’s got is scary.” 

Makoto chuckled a little. “I’m in the room down the hall, if you ever need anything.” With that, she left the room, shutting the door behind her as she left. Yosuke smiled at Yu. 

“What was that about them not working together?” 

“Oh shut up Yosuke.” Yu was smiling again. Good. “I guess we’ll need to train hard for this newest mission.”

“Way ahead of ya, partner.” Yosuke reached under the bed and cut his finger on one of his knives. “Gah!” He pulled his hand back out, inspecting the cut. It wasn’t too deep but it was long. “Damn that hurts…” He stood up straight and showed Chie, who rolled her eyes at him. 

“Here, let me get you a bandage, you big baby.” Chie went through Yosuke’s things, trying to find something to wrap around his finger. Yosuke, without thinking, leaned on the window with his hurt hand. 

“Ok I found… Yosuke what the hell?” Chie rushed over to the window. Yosuke turned to look at the window as well and jumped back. Right where his hand had been was a strange looking symbol. It clearly wasn’t there right before Yosuke had put his hand down, and as he stared at his bleeding hand a thought came to him. 

“Do you think it was my blood that made that symbol show up?” He gaped at Yu and Chie, who looked just as dumbfounded. “Let’s tell everyone… including S.E.E.S. and the Phantom Thieves. Here, I’ll go tell Akira.” Yosuke almost forgot about his cut finger until Chie grabbed his arm. She wrapped his finger up with a sigh, then he ran off. 

It took him a while, but Yosuke eventually found Akira’s door. His name tag was on it, and underneath was a piece of paper that read “Morgana.” He knocked on the door, and after a moment a meow came through. Yosuke kinda stood there awkwardly until an actual voice piped up.
“Morgana said to come in.” Yosuke fumbled with the doorknob for a second before he managed to get it open. Akira was sitting on his bed reading, with the cat at his foot. He peered over the top, and Yosuke was a little startled at how soft his gray eyes were. “Oh, hi Hanamura. Sorry for my outburst earlier. What do you need?” He seemed a lot nicer now that he wasn’t angry. 

  “Oh, you can just call me Yosuke. Anyway, I accidentally cut my hand and when I leaned on the window this weird symbol appeared. We weren’t sure what to do, so we decided to tell everyone.” Yosuke shifted a bit. For such an easily excitable person, Akira’s room was rather simple. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I’d bring a weapon of some sort with you.”

Akira put down his book and stood. “I wish I had at least my knife with me, but I didn’t bring it.” He frowned. Meow. “Morgana you WHAT?” Akira’s jaw dropped in shock as he dived for a cardboard box under his bed. 

“Uhm, what did he say to you?”

After a bit of rummaging, Akira pulled out a yellow scarf wrapped around some objects. “He said he snuck my knife and gun into my things while I was packing.” A gun? Yosuke was ever so slightly concerned about the fact that Akira had a gun. He watched as the boy unwrapped the scarf, revealing a long, double edged dagger and a smooth handgun. Yosuke found himself leaning closer to try and see them. “Don’t worry, it’s just a model gun, and it only works in the MetaVerse.” 

“Dude… That knife is so cool! I gotta show you mine!” Yosuke was practically beside himself with excitement. Akira laughed and held out his knife for Yosuke to hold. It was surprisingly light for such a large dagger, though it wasn’t as light as his. He fenced in the air a bit despite Morgana’s meow of concern. Whoever made this dagger knew what they were doing. Yosuke handed the dagger back, a wide smile on his face. “Just come on down to my room with the Thieves when you’re ready.” With that, Yosuke made his way back to his room. 

When he got there, people from both S.E.E.S. and the Phantom Thieves were already there. The whole Investigation Team was there too, so it was rather cramped. Yosuke squeezed in, going straight for his daggers, since everyone else there had their weapons as well. Did everyone bring their weapons to the dorms?  

After a long while all three groups had managed to either cram into the small room or peek in from outside. Twenty-three people didn’t seem like a lot, but all of them trying to fit into the same room was. Yosuke was smooshed up against the wall next to Sakamoto, who took up a rather large amount of space with the absolutely massive bat he had brought with him. 

Yu, Arisato, and Akira were talking by the window, though from what it sounded like, they weren’t coming to any conclusions. Akira was perched on the rather thin windowsill, and Yosuke had to admit, he must have some crazy balance to stay as firm as he was. As the conversation continued, he leaned backwards a bit.

There was a rather high pitched shriek for such a suave person as Akira didn’t hit glass when he leaned back, instead starting to tumble through the window. Takamaki, who was close by, grabbed his hands and pulled him back. Of course he promptly jumped down from the window, panting a little at the scare. Everyone had fallen dead silent at the scream, as well as the sight of Akira half inside the window. After a long, quiet pause, Yosuke cleared his throat. 

“So who wants to go first?”

Chapter Text

Minato did not like trying to work with either the Investigation Team or the Phantom Thieves. Narukami was too open and carefree, and Kurusu was snarky and almost straight up rude. Like it or not though, all of them were in this together, and Minato would have to put up with them. Admittedly he did have to stifle a laugh when Kurusu almost fell through the window. So much for the elegant boy. 

“I’ll go first.” Sure, he wasn’t as strong or agile as Narukami or Kurusu, but at least he had a brain. The other two didn’t openly object, so Minato clambered up on the windowsill and stepped in. 

His breath caught in his throat. This new world on the other side of the window was spiralling with black and white, and he felt almost out of place in the absence of color. Minato gazed around a bit in this new environment before he stuck his head back through the window, motioning for the others to follow. 

Once everyone was within the window, Minato fell in a group with the rest of S.E.E.S. The others talked among their own group as well, everyone completely unsure of what to even think in this new place. Minato talked to Mitsuru, trying to figure out where the hell they actually were. 

“Do you think this is a place we could summon Personas?” Junpei held out his Evoker, the sleek gun reflecting the white colors of the area. Minato looked at it and took out his own. He couldn’t even remember the last time he used it. Though he had to admit, he wasn’t even sure if it would work for him anymore. 

“What the hell is that?” Sakamoto shouted, looking at three dark blobs that crept towards the group at a slow pace. The beasts were the same black and white as the place, however the patterns on them are far more angular than the area’s smooth spirals and swirls. “Are they Shadows?”

Kurusu ran in front of the Thieves, reaching up for his face. How strange. Minato wasn’t sure why he reached up in such a manner, but Kurusu seemed almost, frustrated after the motion. He watched as Kurusu shook a bit, a snarl edging his voice. 

“Do I not have it anymore? Am I not rebellious as I was?” Kurusu stared down the blobs, and Minato noticed how his eyes were taking on a strange red tint mixed with the normal gray. “Can I even summon a Persona here?” Kurusu seemed to be doubting himself, despite standing up to the monsters. Minato watched as he reached up again, this time only to pull at the curly hair that fell in his face. He was shaking, more than before, as suddenly his eyes went wide. 

“Kurusu!” Shirogane’s voice was filled with concern, but none of the Phantom Thieves made a move to help him. Not even Sakamoto, who was so obviously Kurusu’s best friend. In fact, he didn’t even flinch when Kurusu let out a sharp, pain filled cry. What on earth have these people been through? Shouldn’t they help him? Minato could feel his chest tighten, and despite the fact that he would openly admit he didn’t like Kurusu, he felt the urge to go after him. He took a step, but Sakamoto held up his hand.  

“Don’t interrupt him.” Sakamoto’s gaze swept over everyone else, warning them that it’s a bad idea to even approach the suffering boy. Kurusu fell to his knees, clutching his head in both hands. Tears streamed down his face from the pain as screams shook his frame. “I watched this once before.” Sakamoto looked at Kurusu, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “It hurt like that for me too.” 

With a loud shout, Kurusu’s arms fell to his side. He spoke softly, his words drawn out. “P….er...son...a…” Minato crept forward a little, peering into his...mask? A simple white eye mask with black spikes around the eyes. Where the hell did that come from? Kurusu smoothly slid to his feet, his gray eyes sweeping across the three blobs who had stopped advancing because of the odd behavior. A laugh echoed from his throat as Kurusu reached up, his fingers gripping at the mask over his eyes. He struggled with it for a moment, before a horrifyingly grotesque sound ripped through the air. Minato was frozen in place, but a few others made shrieks of panic as blood spurted from the side of Kurusu’s face. He was ripping the mask off his face with a loud shout of pain.

“What the…” Minato shook in fear. Kurusu tore the mask from his face completely and threw it to the ground, blood spinning through the air. It dripped down his face as a tornado of blue fire and wind whipped around him. Minato held his arms up as winds buffeted everyone, hot and intense. A deep, resonating laugh filled the room, vastly different from Kurusu’s own. When he looked up again, Kurusu wasn’t wearing the school uniform anymore, instead bearing a long black coat over a gray bodice, loose black pants, and pointy black boots. A pair of bright red gloves completed the ensemble, but the logistics of Kurusu’s outfit wasn’t the most pressing matter. The tall, winged demon that stood right behind him would have startled Minato if it wasn’t obviously Kurusu’s Persona. 

“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Sakamoto burst into the same flames with a loud whoop, his outfit changing to a black fabric and gray steel pirate outfit. His gloves were bright yellow, and the fluttering tie around his neck was the same red as Kurusu’s gloves. A glinting steel skull mask covered half of his face, and a part of Minato felt that he had seen it before. The rest of Thieves followed suit, bursting into blue flames and changing into strange outfits. And the masks… My god, who are these people?  

Sakamoto walked up to Kurusu, completely ignoring the winged demon behind him. “Welcome back, Joker. It’s been a while.” The demon dissolved away, and the mask around Kurusu’s eyes returned. Joker?  

“This is really touching and all, but there’s still blob monsters there!” Satonaka, er, Chie as she asked to be called, pointed at the black and white monsters. Kurusu pulled off his mask, but right before the demon appeared again, Narukami ran forward. 

“I’m not letting you have all the fun, Kurusu!” Narukami pulled those thick glasses from his jacket and put them on. “I have a Persona too. Izanagi!” Nothing happened. Narukami growled and shouted again, but still nothing. Minato watched as he closed his eyes. Narukami was shaking, gritting his teeth. “No, my… My other self…”

“You just need to defeat your Shadow!” Kurusu looked at Narukami with an accusatory look, as if it was that easy. 

“It doesn’t work like that, Akira. Not for us anyway.” Hanamura kept his eyes trained on Narukami. “He has to make peace with his other self.” This was so different from the absolute airhead Minato was used to him being. There was something almost intelligent in the way Hanamura spoke about summoning Personas.

“If Kurusu can overcome his Shadow, I can make peace with mine.” Narukami smiled, his mouth almost in a grimace with determination. Minato watched as he held up a blue card, one that seemingly came out of nowhere. Making peace with your inner demon sounded easy, but he knew how hard it was to pull that trigger on his Evoker. He knew how hard it was to just accept death. Minato pulled the smooth gun from its holster on his hip, his thumb running over the letters of S.E.E.S. He could put it to his head, easy. But pulling the trigger?

“Per...son...a…” Narukami whispered quietly, a grin forming on his face. The card blazed to life in his fingers as he crushed it, a loud cry leaving him as the blue flames around him glinted in his glasses. “Izanagi!” A tall, cloaked figure rose to life behind Narukami, its glowing golden eyes glaring down on the blobs. It screeched and crackled with electricity, swinging the polearm at the monsters. 

“That’s right, partner!” Hanamura pulled out a pair of orange glasses and put them on. Minato noticed that they had the same colorful stripes on the side that Narukami’s did. The rest of the Investigation Team did the same as well, putting on various styles of glasses, all with those colorful stripes. 

Kurusu walked over to Narukami, a smirk on his face. “Izanagi, you said? My Persona is Arsene.” Sakura was bouncing up and down around the two, jabbering about how strong Izanagi was and how he could probably beat Arsene. 

Minato clutched his Evoker. He was strong too, he had to be. His hands shook, the lights glinting off the smooth metal. If people were talking he couldn’t hear them, a storm of thoughts pounding in his head. I don’t want to die. No of course he didn’t, he hadn’t wanted to die since last winter. But here he was, his fingers wrapped tightly around his Evoker. He couldn’t stand to get rid of it, but he never dared to pull the trigger. He could feel himself growing weak against his own mind. The gun started to slip from his fingers until he heard Mitsuru whisper to him softly. 

“You can be afraid.”

You can be afraid.

Minato’s hand moved to his head, the gun gleaming between his fingers. His index finger ran over the letters before shifting to the trigger. You can be afraid. As long as you just act. As long as you’re still yourself. You can be afraid. He stopped shaking, confidence overpowering him. “Pers…” 

You can be afraid. 

“..so…” 

You have the power to act. 

“...na…!” 

You’re yourself and that’s what matters.

With a loud bang, Minato pulled the trigger on the Evoker. Lights and flames spiraled around him as the power filled his entire being. Just because he was afraid of death didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to face it head on. “Orpheus!” The Persona blazed to life behind Minato, fire sparking around him. He felt a smile spread wide on his face, gazing over everyone. The shock on their faces was like oxygen to him, filling him with pride. 

I’m strong.

Chapter Text

“Oh, so you all do have Personas. Our master was right.” A gruff voice echoed through the place, bringing Yu back from gawking at Arisato and the Persona summoned with the gun in his hands. They all turned to the new person who had just appeared while they were summoning. Kurusu pulled his mask off his face, his gray eyes threatening. The new person was tall and build strongly, wearing a cloak of black and white squares layered atop each other in a chaotic pattern. His face was covered in a flat black mask with an odd oval symbol across the front. “Our master does hate to be disappointed.”

“Who the hell are you?” Sakamoto glared at the newcomer, clutching his bat. Yu hefted his long sword, the white lights glinting threateningly onto the man. The man laughed, the monsters at his feet surging back to life. Yu instantly bent into a fighting stance, his grip tightening on the sword hilt. As he looked around, he saw that everyone else was ready to fight. 

“You’re all so angry. Just give in to our master’s will and everything will be fine.” The man’s eyes almost glowed behind the mask. The monsters at his feet lunged forward, taking the forms of three feline like creatures. “Just let these Shadows absorb you and we’ll be on our way.”

“Like that’ll happen. Arsene!” That Persona of Kusuru’s blazed to life in a grand flourish. What a showoff. Yu lunged forward too, Izanagi raising his polearm to slash through the Shadows. Arisato popped himself in the head again, his Persona Orpheus ready to unleash a hellstorm upon their enemies. 

“Izanagi!” A white hot bolt of lightning slammed into the Shadow closest to Yu, arcs of electricity crackling over its body. Yu didn’t wait to see if it would get back up or if the other two were dealing with the other Shadows, instead racing forward and slashing through the knocked down Shadow. It dissolved into nothing, filling Yu with satisfaction. He turned to see the other two Shadows dissolve under the weapons of Arisato and Kurusu. The cloaked man stumbled backwards, though his voice was angry instead of fearful.

“You’ll regret not giving in when you had the chance!” The man stumbled away, vanishing into the black and white lights. Yu sighed as Izanagi returned to him, sheathing his sword away. He wanted to run after the man but he wasn’t as used to his Persona as before. His swing was weak too, as he hadn’t been working out as much ever since the last case of the Investigation Team. 

“That was close. You guys all need to practice more, I could feel how weak all your swings were from here.” Yu turned to see what was making the irritating noise and ended up face to face with a strange cat-monster. 

“I’ll show you how strong my swing really is, you monster.” Arisato walked up next to Yu and glared at the thing in front of them. Kurusu rolled his eyes and crouched next to the thing, placing his hand upon its head. 

“I know he doesn’t look like it, but this is Morgana. It’s good to know you’ll be able to understand him in the real world too.” Sarcasm edged Kurusu’s voice, along with some kind of hostility. Yu narrowed his eyes at Morgana, who returned the glare right back. “I’m surprised his cognitive form is what shows up here though.”

“Cognitive?” 

Kurusu stood back up and tucked his hands into his pockets. “It’s hard to explain. I think we should leave for today and come back later. It’s clear we aren’t-”

“I don’t think you should be telling us what to do.” Yu fixed his gaze on Kurusu, who returned the piercing stare from behind his mask. He didn’t want to admit that he also thought they should rest, but the way Kurusu was so commanding angered him. “The Investigation Team takes orders from me. So we’ll be heading back through that window.” Yosuke muttered out a “sorry” as he walked by the Phantom Thieves, following Yu as he walked back to the window. 

Once back inside Yosuke’s room, Yu slumped against the wall. Why do I feel so weak? His muscles ached and his head was pounding with vehemence. He held his hand up over his eyes. Yu was so focused on his headache that he didn’t pay mind to the Phantom Thieves and S.E.E.S. slipping back through the window. There were a few words exchanged, but after that all that was left in the room was the Investigation Team. 

“Yu, partner, you ok?” Yosuke rested a hand on Yu’s shoulder. His head had stopped pounding and gone down to a dull ache, but there was still soreness in his limbs. “Jeez, I didn’t even do much and I feel exhausted. I think I got Jiraiya back though.” 

Yu looked up at Yosuke. He smiled softly despite his exhaustion. “Yeah. Yosuke, I think I’m going to sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that he went to his room and flopped down onto his bed, exhausted. His gray eyes swept over the dark city through the window, the bright lights so innocent and free. How amusing. Yu chuckled to himself. No one down there knew about the window, the world behind it, or the three groups and their terrifying power. There was someone out there, someone who was filled with malicious intent to kill. 

He rolled over onto his back, gazing up at the ceiling. Makoto had apologized for Kurusu, but the way he acted like he was in charge… it didn’t quite sit well with him. And Arisato was so rude and headstrong… He didn’t like them, either of them. But he was stuck here anyway. 

Yu didn’t remember when he went to sleep, but when he woke up, the day was bright. The tall buildings of Shibuya soared on either side of him, almost too tall. How did I get here? He started walking down the street, people around him making way for the tall boy. A strange force pulled him towards a shadowy part of the street, the bustling crowd thinning out as he got closer and closer. The lights got dimmer and dimmer, though his eyes were adjusting to the bleak light. There was no one near him.  

Something brushed against his leg. Yu looked down to see a black and white object right next to him, and as he looked at it, it became clear that the thing was wrapped in the same cloak that the person from the window world was wearing. A cold chill raced down his spine as he nudged the thing over. It was bare chested, and that same oval symbol that was on the window looked like it had been branded there. Yu started shaking. Oh god no. The hood was pulled over the face, and while Yu didn’t want to pull it off he reached down and yanked it free. 

He couldn’t stop shaking as his eyes frantically searched the face and its agonizingly familiar features. Oh god no. 

The light brown hair was messy and a little burnt, but Yu recognized the color easily. Only one eye was open, and despite how it was glazed over, the dark brown was so familiar. Yu fell to his knees, panic lashing across every single nerve. His hands shook as he reached out to grab the large black and orange headphones from around Yosuke’s neck. The corpse’s other eye opened as many many voices all spoke as one. 

“We’ll all die…. It’s your fault.You could have saved us. But you can’t. We’ll all, we’ll all, we’re dead and it’s your fault Yu Narukami!” 

Yu sat bolt upright in his bed, a shout leaving him as he resurfaced from the nightmare. “Yosuke!” He panted, the voice of dead Yosuke still fresh in his mind. He was shivering feverishly, despite how warm he felt. What the hell was that nightmare? He had a lot of nightmares after dealing with Ameno-Sagiri and Izanami, but this was so different from those, especially with the robes and the symbol. 

“Yu?” There was a knock at the door. He breathed a sigh of relief at hearing Yosuke’s voice. He slowly got out of bed and opened the door. “Yu, dude, you look like hell. I heard you scream my name.”

“Ah, yeah. I had a bad dream. I’m fine, I promise.” He wasn’t sure if that was the entire truth though, considering how shaken he still was. It’s just my nerves. I’ll be fine later. Yu gave Yosuke a reassuring smile. “We were given the day off today, right?” A part of him wanted to meet with S.E.E.S. and the Phantom Thieves, but his pride didn’t want to admit the Investigation Team needed help. 

Yosuke nodded. “Yeah…” He looked a little sheepish. “Yu, after you left, Ryuji, er, Sakamoto came by my room. He was asking if you were ok. I told him you were tired and we ended up talking.” Yu couldn’t deny the spark of animosity towards Kurusu’s partner, though he knew it wasn’t Sakamoto’s fault. “He said that Sakura looked more into the murders and talked to Naoto and Kirijo. Apparently they always have that symbol we saw on the window. The snake.”

Yu frowned. He wanted to solve this thing himself, but if even Naoto was talking with the others he guessed he had to as well. “We should probably meet up in that room and talk. I’ll apologize for just up and leaving…” 

Yosuke shook his head. “The Thieves have already left to go find their informant in Shibuya. Ryuji invited me along but I said that I’d wait for you. Naoto went with them.” Yu chewed on the inside of his lip. It made perfect sense that they’d have an informant, though he thought that Sakura would have been the provider. 

“Fine. We can go scope out Shibuya.”

Chapter Text

Naoto always thought the city was too hectic for them to focus, especially with how chaotic the Phantom Thieves were. They had to admit that they were rather endearing though, just like how the Investigation Team is. They forced a smile down as they thought about their close friends. 

“Mishima tends to hang out here, so we’ll just wait for him.” Kurusu stopped in front of a set of game machines in the Akihabara district. Naoto looked around at the buildings and the people, falling into that habit of gathering information. The rest of the Thieves chatted amongst themselves, some of them talking about this informant. Mishima. Naoto wondered why this person hadn’t been a part of the exchange program, but thought it would be rather rude to ask. However, they wondered how they knew this Mishima if he wasn’t a Persona user like the rest. 

“Kurusu. I don’t mean to be rude, but is this Mishima a Persona user like the rest of us?”

Kurusu broke away from his conversation to address Naoto with a smile. “No, though I wish he was. He’s very smart, and the reason he’s our informant while Futaba is our Navi is because he, and no offense Futaba, but Mishima is a lot less socially inept.” Sakura stomped her foot almost angrily, but she had a teasing tone. 

“Hey, ‘Kira! I can talk to people!” 

“Futaba we literally had to trash your Palace before you would even let us address you by name.” Akira rested his arm on Sakura’s head, the tiny girl batting his arm away in protest. Before she could retort, a soft, boyish voice rang out. 

“Akira! Ryuji!” Naoto looked up as a boy with blue-black hair came running over to the group. He was shorter than Kurusu and Sakamoto, and while he was small in stature, there was a strange weight to his legs. “How’s Hashi High?” 

“It’s been interesting, and it’s only been one day. How are you dealing with Shujin by yourself?” Kurusu had a habit of making small talk with whoever he met. Naoto found it a bit endearing and like fresh air compared to the Investigation Team’s bluntness. They did wonder how this Mishima had become their informant if he wasn’t a part of the Phantom Thieves. 

“Oh it’s been really fine. A little lonely without you guys I guess, but with the documentary I’ve never been bored. So, you needed information?” Mishima seemed equally soft as well as excitable, though when he saw Naoto he struggled to contain his excitement. “Who’s that?”

“My apologies for not introducing myself.” Naoto stepped forward and bowed their head. “My name is Shirogane Naoto. I’m part of the exchange program at Hashi High. Mishima, is it? I heard you were the Phantom Thieves’ informant.”

Mishima swelled with pride. “You like the Phantom Thieves too?”

Naoto couldn’t help but stifle a smile at the boy’s enthusiasm. They nodded and looked at Kurusu for approval to ask about the incidents in Shibuya. When he nodded, Naoto turned back to Mishima. “We’d like to ask you-”

“Naoto!” They turned to see Yu and the Investigation Team walking towards them. Naoto waved them over, intending to introduce them to Mishima. Yu had this weird air of pride about him, and Naoto assumed it was probably because they had up and left with the Phantom Thieves to get information. While normally they would feel bad, they knew that Yu hadn’t been in the right mind ever since yesterday. 

“Guys, this is Mishima, the informant for the Phantom Thieves. Mishima, this is the Investigation Team.” Mishima looked a bit overwhelmed from the sudden influx of new faces. Naoto tried to explain without giving away too much. “We all came from a town called Inaba for the exchange program.”

“It...it’s very nice to meet you all!” Does anything throw this kid off? “So what did you want to ask me?” Naoto looked up at Yu, who’s expression had changed from stony to warm as soon as Mishima spoke. They suppressed the urge to smirk at the change in demeanor. They adjusted their cap and fix Mishima with their iconic stare.

“We heard about the murders here. Not just in Shibuya but all of Tokyo. With the media struggling to recover after the Phantom Thieves incident.” They couldn’t help the intense cool that came over them as they interrogated Mishima. 

“The murders?” Mishima thought for a moment before looking at Kurusu. “Don’t tell me that you plan on solving them!” He shook a bit. Whatever was involved in this case scared Mishima. “They mostly target teenagers, especially highschoolers. Apparently they convince them to perform crimes before they’re gone for a few weeks. Then the bodies are found. Wrapped in these black and white robes with a snake symbol burned into their chest.”

Yu staggered back, bumping into Naoto a bit. He held his fingers to his temple, and when Naoto could see his face, there was bright fear in his eyes. They stepped closer, holding a hand out to try and steady Yu. “Yu, are you-”

“Sorry, Naoto.” He cleared his throat and shook his head. “I just got a weird feeling.” He didn’t elaborate, and Naoto didn’t press further. Instead they turned their eyes back onto Mishima, who had looked at Yu in worry. With a nod from Yu, the blue haired boy continued. 

“I’ve heard lots of rumors of people suddenly getting these weird powers. After that, then they vanish, and either turn up dead or seen in those black and white robes.” Mishima looked around at the surrounding people before stepping closer as if to whisper. “People say it’s the Phantom Thieves doing again, and some of those powerful people are saying that they were the Thieves. But it’s not true!” Naoto admired the boy for being so upstanding amid such rumours. But they could understand why Mishima had wanted to whisper to the groups. People around them were starting to look at the large group with some suspicious looks, so Naoto took the lead in the conversation.

“Let’s go back to the dorms for now.” They cast a glance at both Akira and Yu, hoping the two would agree that this wasn’t a good place to talk. “It’d be better if we could talk in private. Mishima, you come along too.” Thankfully the two boys agreed for once, and the Phantom Thieves and the Investigation Team started to make their way back to the Hashi High dorm building. 

Naoto had gone ahead and messaged Mitsuru about meeting up in the planning room in a few minutes. They knew that Yu wouldn’t do it himself, what, with his stupid pride and all. Luckily Naoto was willing to get their hands dirty for this case. 

Once they had reached the planning room, S.E.E.S. was already waiting for the other two groups to show up. Mitsuru gave Naoto a small smile when the two groups walked in, though when she saw Mishima, her face went back to it’s stoic state. Naoto leaned up against the wall near the front, knowing that they’d probably need to calm everyone down eventually. Mishima joined them, albeit dragged along by Kurusu. It was clear he didn’t like being up in front of all these people. Naoto decided it would be best to help him along. 

“This is Mishima….” Damn, I don’t know his given name!  

“Oh, uh, it’s Yuuki, but you can just call me Mishima.” His eyes had been a bit glazed over, and his stance swayed a little. He shook his head to right himself. Is he ok? Naoto didn’t pay too much mind to it though, since Mishima seemed to be ok.

“Right, Mishima Yuuki. He was the informant for the Thieves, and has some important information for us regarding the murders in Tokyo.”

They could see that Mishima was shaking a bit, but Kurusu smiled at him in a comforting way. Mishim took a deep breath before beginning. 

“The media has been covering up the murders in an attempt to make it seem like the government isn’t corrupt or something.” There was a snicker from Sakamoto before Niijima shushed him. “According to what I’ve seen though, there are these cultists that wear black and white robes that have been targeting teenagers, promising them loads of power. They do crimes before suddenly vanishing, then turn up a few days later dead.” 

“Black and white robes? Like the ones we saw on that guy behind the window?” Iori looked at Mishima, and Naoto felt a bit of panic well up inside them. Mishima doesn’t know about the world behind the window!

“Junpei, hush. We shouldn’t tell a stranger-”

“I’m not new to this kind of thing!” Mishima fixed Arisato with a fierce glare. Naoto was surprised at the aggression from the otherwise timid boy. “I was right there when blood rained down on Tokyo, I saw it when no one else did, and I felt the only people in this corrupt world that I looked up to vanish!” How admirable, standing up for himself like this. Mishima clearly deserved to be a part of this, even if he wasn’t a Persona user. Naoto turned their gaze to look at Arisato, who seemed to have gotten over his shock at being yelled at.

“I like you, Yuuki.”

Chapter Text

Minato really liked this Mishima kid. When Narukami or Kurusu snapped at him, it was so irritating, but there was something about Mishima that reminded Minato of himself. He could understand why Kurusu trusted him so much, especially if he could get his hands on such important information. Though Minato was confused as to what Mishima had meant, what with the mentions of how he saw things that no one else did. 

“I like you, Yuuki.” 

Mishima blushed a bit at being called by his given name. “It’s ok, y-you can call me by my last name. I’m used to it.” He chuckled nervously. The aggression and passion in his voice was gone. “I just want to be your informant, if you’re going to try and solve these murders.” Akira had a prideful smirk on his face, and it took almost all of Minato’s will to not smack that smirk off. He hated how high and mighty Akira was. 

“Thanks for the help, but if the media is covering everything up, how will you get us information?” Shirogane’s question was a genuine one, clearly not trying to be patronizing. “What I mean is that I’d like you to prove yourself.” 

“I can tell you the name of the person I suspect the most.” A determined gleam lit up his eyes as he glared out upon the people. Minato had to admire it, especially the suggestion of getting information about someone who was part of this whole case. “As well as tell you more about that world behind the window.” 

“Have you been there?” Wow, Shirogane really is a detective.

“No, but after I talked to some people about it, I found it’s apparently called the Chaos Realm.” Good lord, this kid must have some crazy connections. “And the person who I believe to be killing people is a manager at a local convenience store named Jiga Hokori. I’ve heard rumors that people start working there only to disappear later. That’s all I know so far. I only started looking into this because Akira asked me to, so I don’t have that much yet.” 

Minato couldn’t deny that he was impressed. Getting information like that in such a short time must have taken some serious handiwork. He smiled slightly, though he wasn’t sure why Mishima had that effect on him. 

Shirogane bowed their head. “Thank you very much, Yuuki. You’ve been very helpful today.” Mishima blushed a little, then started to walk out. “Wait just a moment, please. We should all be able to get into contact with you in case of emergencies.” Shirogane glanced at Narukami who nodded his head in some sort of approval. “I think you should exchange contact with our leaders.” 

Mishima turned around, fumbling with his phone a bit. “R-right of course. Here…” He walked over to Minato, who also had his phone out. The two exchanged numbers, then Mishima went to get Narukami’s number. Once he was done with that, he excused himself and walked out. 

“I want to go back through the window.” Minato stood up, casting his glare around the room. He hated the Investigation Team and the Phantom Thieves, but his better judgement told him the three groups had to do this together somehow. Luckily for him, everyone else seemed to agree with him. Hanamura stood up and stretched backwards, an excited smile on his face. 

“Come on then, let’s go back to my room!” 

Minato couldn’t deny that Hanamura’s excitement was rubbing off on him. He’d never admit it openly though. He followed the Investigation Team out the door, motioning for S.E.E.S. to follow as well. Ever since he awakened again, Minato had started carrying his Evoker everywhere with him. He felt safer with the gun at his hip, and found that when he got lost in thought, he’d unclip and clip the snap on the holster. The sound made him feel at ease. 

By the time Minato had reached Hanamura’s room, the window portal was already open. He pulled his short sword from his coat, ready to take on whatever is beyond that portal. The Investigation Team went through first before Minato lead his team after them. Once again in the strange world, what did Mishima call it, the Chaos Realm? He had to shake his head to compose himself. The light of the place hurt his eyes. 

“How should we go about this? We know close to nothing about this place…” Mitsuru thought out loud, glancing at all the teens in this new place. “I think instead of trying to explore this place all together, we should split up into our normal teams. A group this big can’t move quietly or efficiently. Narukami, Kurusu, I’d like to ask you what your groups excel at when you traversed those strange worlds.” 

“We rescued people from the TV world, so I suppose that we were good at rescue.” Shirogane mused, answering for Narukami. “According to Mishima, this Chaos Realm is rather common knowledge. I can only assume the people who are murdering others are using this place. In that case, the Investigation Team can help rescue anyone who doesn’t belong here.” How intelligent. 

“The Phantom Thieves stole the desires of those who had Palaces, however, those desires tended to make them transform into horrible beasts that we had to defeat.” Kurusu turned his dark gray eyes on the others. “They were rather hard to defeat, but it was necessary.” 

“You could say we’re really good at defeating bosses!” Sakura piped up eagerly. This girl constantly thinks in video games. 

“In that case, S.E.E.S. had to traverse a massive tower called Tartarus. It was long and winding, and we had to stay sharp to not get lost.” Minato thought to himself. “We know nothing about this place and it’s layout, but we can work at creating a map of this place. We had to constantly map out Tartarus so we could make our way higher every time we were there.” The less I have to be around these losers the better.  

“Then it’s easy.” Mitsuru set the point of her rapier into the ground. “We will make headway here, the Investigation Team will focus on rescue, and the Phantom Thieves will handle any strong enemies we face. Normal Shadows can be taken care of by anyone.” 

Minato found himself agreeing with Mitsuru, and thankfully the other groups found it unnecessary to argue this. His hand gripped tighter around his sword hilt as he gazed at Narukami and Kurusu. As much as he hated them, a thought crossed his mind. He approached them rather cautiously all the same. 

“If your groups are going to hang back, I want both of you up with me.” He couldn’t describe the power that they had, but figured it was best for the three leaders to work together to lead the way. “You don’t have to lead S.E.E.S., I just think having a little more firepower would be nice.” Minato hoped they wouldn’t try to get upset at him.  

“I wanted to be up front anyway, so I have no problem with it.” Narukami rested the backside of his long blade on his shoulder. The sword looked heavy and hard to wield, but after seeing the tall boy smash a Shadow into the ground with it, Minato had decided to let him handle heavy weaponry like that. 

Kurusu mulled it over a little more, but eventually shrugged. “Sure. You’ll need my strength anyway.” He twirled the dagger in his hand, his fingers sliding so effortlessly across the metal. Kurusu was stronger than Minato, but the long knife he wielded always seemed more suited to fast, agile strikes. Minato didn’t want to admit that the lanky boy scared him with how fast he could move. 

Minato nodded at the two then turned to look at S.E.E.S. His friends brandished their weapons and determination sparkled in their eyes. It was time to make their mark on Tokyo. “We have a new mission, S.E.E.S.” He raised his sword into the air in a salute. “Let’s tear this place up!” The resounding cheer that rose from his friends made warmth spread through his chest. And maybe I won’t die this time.  

Chapter Text

Ken clenched his fingers around the grip of his spear. Minato had given them all a few minutes to prepare themselves, insisting on holding a strategy meeting with the other two leaders. He turned to look at Aigis, who seemed to never take her eyes off of Minato. He sighed. Aigis would always be the same. 

Mitsuru was fencing with Junpei, practicing moves against each other. Ken admitted that his strikes were probably weaker than before, but he had been trying to keep up with his strength between school years. Even so, he cautiously practiced strikes and slashes with his spear through the air, daring any Shadows to come near. 

“Hey Ken.” Yukari had walked close to him. “What do you think of those two?” He followed where she pointed to Narukami and Kurusu. 

Ken drove the point of his spear into the ground as he thought a moment. “Narukami is pretty big, but he seems nice. His friends like him.” He thought that the gray haired boy gave off a big brother vibe, though he would be cautious about trusting someone like that. “Kurusu is friendly too, and he seems so cool.” Ken admired the other two leaders, but Minato was always the best in his opinion. 

“S.E.E.S.! It’s time to get started.” Minato walked back over, so Ken pulled his spear from the ground and unclipped the snap over his Evoker. “From what we’ve seen, this place is just an open area. There’s more hallways ahead, filled with shadows.” His gray eye locked on to Fuuka, who was talking to the other navis. “We’ll be counting on you three for navigation.” 

With that, Minato pointed his sword down the hallway in front of the group, Kurusu and Narukami on either side of him. Ken took a deep breath. He was ready to fight any Shadow that came across his path. 

“Take that!” Ken dived down, thrusting his spear through the body of the Shadow beneath him. It dissolved into dust, and he let out a breath of relief. The Shadows hadn’t been too bad here, but there had been a lot. He wasn’t worn out yet, but was rather glad Kurusu and Narukami were with them. The two boys were frighteningly strong, with Narukami being able to take out Shadows in a single swing and Kurusu being so fast Shadows were dead before Ken could even blink. 

They had been making considerable progress through the Realm, especially with the help of all three Navis. Ken stretched his shoulder out a little, ready to continue on. 

“Good job guys, but be careful! There’s a ton of of strong Shadows up ahead.” Fuuka’s voice echoed around them. “But we think you guys are getting really close to a new area.” 

“Let’s go then.” Minato nodded in the direction of the hallway. Ken twirled his spear in his hand and ran after everyone, silently cursing his short stature. He was so distracted that he failed to see the large Shadow lunging at him until it was right in front of him. Ken let out a shriek and whirled his spear around, aiming for the neck but missed, the blade piercing the beast’s shoulder. It tackled him despite the injury and Ken had to push hard on his spear to keep the monster’s snapping jaws away from his face. Panic shot through him. 

A long blade sank deep into the Shadow’s side, knocking it off Ken. He shot up, yanking his spear from its shoulder. Narukami pulled his sword from the Shadow before stabbing it right through again. The Shadow writhed, so Ken pulled his Evoker out and held it to his chest. 

“Nemesis!” He pulled the trigger, his Persona rising into the air. “Kouha!” Light flew from his Persona and stabbed through the Shadow, effectively killing it. Ken retracted his Persona and nodded to Narukami, who threw himself back into the fray. 

The Shadows around them were big and ferocious, and the whole of S.E.E.S. was struggling to fight them off, even with the aid of Narukami and Kurusu. Ken gritted his teeth and flung himself at a Shadow that was sparring with Junpei. With a shout, he stabbed the beast through the back, letting Junpei recover enough to summon Trismegestus and defeat the Shadow. Ken helped him up, and together the two charged forward to assist anyone else. A Shadow lunged for him, but two swift slashes from Kurusu were enough to stop it in its tracks. The thief pulled off his mask to summon that winged demon, Arsene. Ken watched as Kurusu attempted to kill the Shadow with Eiha, but it bounced off its shell. 

“Kurusu!” A crazy idea popped into Ken’s head, and he hoped it would work as he wanted it to. “Use Eiha on my spear!” The thief didn’t protest, and dark energy wrapped around the sharp blade. “Go down!” He rushed forward, stabbing his spear through the center of the Shadow. The magic attack exploded outwards, destroying the beast. Ken planted his feet, the dark magic making him feel a little weak. Once it was done, he shook himself off, turning back to look at Kurusu, who smiled proudly at him. Ken felt warmth spread through him. 

He looked around, glad to see that the other Shadows had been killed. Minato stabbed his sword down into one repeatedly, making sure it was dead. S.E.E.S. had won this fight, but it was clear it had been taxing. Ken felt pain spark across his left arm. He winced as he looked at it, seeing where a Shadow’s claws had cut his skin. His armband had avoided getting torn, but his sweater would need to be sewn later. He inspected his other pained spots, only finding bruises and scrapes. The cut would need to be treated soon. 

Yukari had been going around, looking at everyone’s wounds. She came up to Ken and looked at his arm. “You’ll be ok. Here.” She carefully wrapped the wound despite Ken wincing at her touch. “There. Minato wants to keep going a little farther. He wants to know about the new area Fuuka was talking about. Do you think you can keep going?” He rolled his right arm around. His muscles would be sore tomorrow if he kept going, but he should be ok otherwise.

“I’ll be ok. If Minato wants to keep going, I can keep up.” Ken held his spear across his shoulders and walked after Minato, who had started leading the group onward. He had to jog to keep up thanks to being significantly shorter than anyone here. Eventually the hallway opened up into a wide open space where an eerily large building loomed before them. 

“So this is the new area, as Fuuka had mentioned.” Minato’s gaze swept up the tower as he spoke. “As much as I want to go on, S.E.E.S. needs to rest. That last group of Shadows was hard to fight. Fuuka, can you guys tell anything about this tower?” 

“It’s not too high or big, but we can tell that it has a very different feel than what you’ve been dealing with so far. You should find a way back so you can rest.” Ken looked around at the black and white walls, eventually noticing movement by the door of the building. 

“Minato-” 

“I see them.” Minato held up his hand to keep S.E.E.S. to show he would look by himself. Kurusu and Narukami joined him, and even from here Ken could feel the prickliness radiating from his leader. Wow, Minato doesn’t like them, but I don’t know why. Ken watched as the three approached the Shadowy figure. Even from here, the thing’s voice carried. 

“Y-You’re back! He was right, you God Slayers are dangerous.” God Slayers? Is it talking about us? There was some scuffling and Ken could see that the thing was actually a person, a person with something in their arms. He wanted to step forward to help, but the voice stopped him. “Come any closer and I’ll kill her on the spot.”

“Minato! He’s not bluffing!” Fuuka’s voice was filled with desperation. Ken shook, unable to decide what to do. “That man is much stronger than you and S.E.E.S. could defeat.” 

The man laughed. “If you want to beat me, come to the top of my Temple. Better do it before she dies!” He slid into the building, shutting the door behind him with a solid click. Everyone stood silently, struggling to process what just happened. Ken could see Minato’s arms shaking by his side. After a few more silent moments, Kurusu exploded. 

“What the hell are you standing there for? We have to go save her!” Kurusu slammed his foot into the door, but it didn’t budge. Ken flinched at the sound, but turned to look at Minato. “Arisato, these are your people. We have to go.” He looked at the blue haired man with an accusatory glare. 

“Kurusu. Look at them, they’re battered and bruised. They can’t continue on at this rate. We’ll head back and figure out what to do next, and don’t you dare try to argue with me.” Minato glared back. “S.E.E.S. needs to rest. We’ll return for now.” 

“Minato?” Fuuka’s voice rose to life around them. “We’ve found another entrance to this place nearby you guys. It should be over to your right.” Ken turned in the direction that Fuuka had mentioned, and he noticed a wavering light blue square on the wall. He approached it, seeing that same strange circular symbol that was on Hanamura’s window. 

“Ken, be careful. We don’t know what’s on the other side.” Mitsuru walked up behind him, gazing into the window. He thought he could almost see into it, the room beyond looking kind of like the dorms at Hashi. “Leader, will you go on through first?” 

Minato walked up to the window and just glared at it before poking his head through. After a moment he came back out with a huff of relief. “Thank god, it’s Ken’s room.” Why my room? “That means we can use this window as a way to get back here to this place.”

“Didn’t that weirdo call this place a temple? Does that mean he’s part of those cultists of rumor?” Narukami had walked over, sheathing his sword on his back. He folded his arms. “What are these windows anyway? Why the windows of our rooms?” 

Minato shook his head. “I’m too tired to think about it right now. Come on, we should go rest for now. Let’s meet up later in the planning room.” He leapt through the window and was gone. 

“Here, Amada.” Narukami was standing behind him with a small smile. “I’ll help you through.” He knelt down and offered a boost to the child. While normally Ken would have scoffed and walked away, he felt warmth spreading through him at the gray haired boy’s kindness. It was quickly followed by a sharp pang in his chest, but he swallowed the feeling. 

“Th-thank you.” He graciously took the assistance and stepped through the window and tumbled into the floor. Minato helped him up, though Ken could feel his arms shaking. They were all out of it. “Minato, are you ok?” 

“I’ll be fine. It’s been a while since I’ve fought, so I’m just sore. Is your arm ok?” Minato gently brushed his fingers on the bandage. Ken felt a prick of pain from the pressure, but otherwise it was ok. He nodded. “Good.” The rest of S.E.E.S. had begun coming through the window. “Take your time resting.” With that Minato left his room.

Everyone had long since left his room, leaving Ken to relax by himself. He had been working on school work when the chime of his phone rang out through his room. He picked it up and checked it, seeing a message from Minato. 

<< Ken, we’ve gotten a message from Mishima. Please come to the planning room.

Ken stacked his work together neatly before standing up. He wasn’t sure how long he had been sitting there, but his legs were stiff. He walked out anyway, as the planning room was a bit far. He’d stretch out his legs by walking. When he made it to the room, a lot of people were already there, including Narukami and Kurusu. He made his way to a seat near the front and sat down. 

Once everyone else was in there, Kurusu spoke of the message. It made sense that Mishima would have texted him first, considering how close friends they were. Despite that, Ken did wonder why Kurusu only called Mishima by his honorific.

“Mishima messaged us just a few minutes earlier. He said that a girl from his class named Nishi went missing. Her friends claimed she was last seen working at the same convenience store that Hokori manages.” Kurusu’s eyes were so dark and piercing, Ken fought to keep looking at the dark haired teen. “I think it’s rather safe to assume that Hokori dragged her into that big building thing we saw in the Chaos Realm.”

“So we’ve decided to take him out, topple that wretched temple of his, and save Nishi.” Minato’s gray eyes swept over everyone in the room, though it was clear the warmth in his glare was only for S.E.E.S. Ken felt excitement shoot through his chest, spreading across his entire body. A new mission. He stared down at his hands, clenching his fingers closed. It wasn’t vengeance that was driving him this time. No. 

This time I want to save people.

Chapter Text

Yu gazed up at the ominous tower in front of him. The three groups had decided to come the next day after they found out about Nishi, hoping that they could clear the tower before it was too late. Luckily he had enough time after school to change out of the stiff dark blue blazer and opted to just wear the gray undershirt with his sword holster. 

Arisato’s team was nearby, waiting for the signal to head in. Yu didn’t particularly like working with the blue haired boy, but the rest of S.E.E.S. was rather endearing. Especially Amada, who was fencing with Iori at the moment. Yu had to admire the child’s speed and strength. He wanted to talk to Amada before they went in, but Arisato spoke up, sending a small flash of annoyance through Yu. 

“I think everyone’s here now.” Arisato rested the flat of his blade on his right shoulder, absentmindedly tapping his foot against the ground. “S.E.E.S., we’re going to break a path for the other two groups to follow behind. Stay on guard.” He swung his sword into the doors barring them from the dark temple, breaking them off their hinges. Yu shivered as the three leaders stepped inside. This place had such a different feel from the rest of the Chaos Realm, almost heavier and more dense. 

The area lit up as the rest of the teams flooded in, looking oddly like some kind of storage room for a store. They wandered about, looking for Hokori. Yu wondered why some cultist would build their temple to resemble something like this, but before he could think too long, two people in identical black robes walked up to them. Their hoods were pulled over their eyes so it was hard to make out their facial features. Upon noticing the Persona users they got into fighting poses. 

“How did you get in here? Who are you?” One had a rather feminine voice. These aren’t the normal cult robes. Who are they?  

The other quickly shushed them. “Be quiet! Those are the god slayers the Acolyte was talking about! We have to get rid of them!” This one had a deeper voice, and was slightly taller than the girl. “Come to me! Shadow of the Soul!” Dark energy swirled around the cultist as a shadowy monster rose from them. Is that a Persona?   

“Watch out!” Yamagishi’s voice echoed in his head. “He just summoned a Shadow from himself. It’s a lot different than a Persona, so stay on guard!” Yu nodded and pulled his sword from its sheath and pulled it smoothly into his palm. With his weapon firmly in his hands, he turned to watch as the girl also summoned a Shadow. He glanced from Arisato to Kurusu, both of whom had pulled their weapons forth. The two cultists sent their Shadows forward, and Yu ran forward to meet them. 

The girl’s Shadow was a humanoid creature with an axe, and it swung the weapon as Yu swung his. There was a loud clang as metal hit metal, and Yu could feel the impact travel up his arms. The two broke away for a moment before clashing back together. This happened a few times before he started noticing the attack patterns. It’s so unpracticed, only swinging to try and hit me. No elegance or skill at all. Only power. And that was fine, he could deal with power. 

Yu planted his feet in preparation for the next strike. This time when the axe hit his blade he poured his strength into a parry, knocking the Shadow backwards. It stumbled a bit before falling to the ground, apparently not used to such skill. Now that he had time to take a short breather he was aware of Iori and Amada beside him, weapons drawn. He looked at both of them, thankful for their help.

“I’ll give you support from Nemesis!” Amada shot his gun through his chest, the Persona rising from him to join the fight. Yu clenched his fingers around his sword, turning his attention back on the Shadow, who was back on its feet and rather angry. It charged forward as Amada sent blades of light to intercept it. The Shadow didn’t show any signs of stopping, but the magic certainly slowed it down. 

“It has no skill. We’ll be able to take it down with ease.” Yu was ready to parry its attack again, and hopefully Iori would follow up with a strong strike. His blade met the axe, slamming the Shadow backwards, and thankfully Iori slashed through its body with a heavy attack. That paired with more of Amada’s magic sent the Shadow into dust, with a high pitched scream from the girl. 

There was a screech from the boy, and Yu looked over to see that the other Shadow had been taken care of. The two cultists collapsed to the floor, unmoving. Are they just knocked out? He nudged the boy with his foot, a low groan escaping them. Oh good. He turned back to Kurusu and Arisato. “We should-” 

“Oh very well done!” An oddly familiar voice oozed through the area. Yu could feel his muscles clench in retaliation, something about the voice set all of his instincts on edge. He looked around for the source, eventually seeing that same man who had kidnapped Nishi earlier. Hokori. “You dispatched my Followers with such ease. Just what I would expect from you God Slayers. Good thing I’ve been preparing myself and gathering strength.” Hokori started laughing, and Yu could feel power radiating from him. He braced himself, anticipating some sort of attack. “See how powerful I really am!” 

There was a sharp pain in Yu’s head. He gripped his forehead hard, trying to ride out the pain as Hokori laughed. When it finally subsided, he wasn’t in the same place as before. Instead, he was deeper in the storage room, with Kurusu and Arisato on either side of him. 

“What the hell?”

Yu whirled around to come face to face with the Investigation Team. I thought they were left behind to follow S.E.E.S.! “What are you guys-” Yosuke cut Yu off with a shout, pointing past him. 

“Is that… Adachi?” 

Before Yu could turn around that sickeningly familiar voice rang out through the corridor. “Oh, so you remember me.” He faced the dark haired man, his fists clenching hard. No. “Come here, Yu, you missed me, I know you did.” Yu gritted his teeth hard. Adachi’s twisted smile made his gut wrench, his head spinning as suddenly he was thrown into his memories of the past school year. 

“Don’t you remember how we first met, Narukami?” Yu could see the police station, Yosuke and Chie on either side of him. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but he recalled that Adachi had been saying that Yukiko was the murderer. He felt his stomach lurch and twist in pain. All this time you were covering your own crimes. 

“And eating dinner with me, and Dojima-san, and Nanako?” He was taken into another memory, sitting cross-legged on the floor of his uncle’s house. Seeing Nanako across from him made his heart leap with joy, but Adachi on his right sent his head reeling again. Yu struggled to breathe with the memories being pulled out of him. Leave me alone, get out of my head!

“Of course don’t forget when we fought, our Personas so alike in every way. You battling that fog, and I battling against you.” A deep chuckle. “You won of course.” Yu could feel the pain in his body from the fight, his own Persona struggling against Adachi. Shut up, shut up! He felt like crying angry tears, his fingers digging into his palms. 

“And don’t you forget when Nanako died.” Yu resisted the urge to vomit. His throat burned with fire as his memory opened up of seeing his cousin’s hospital bed. Her hands cold and lungs empty. He remembered the horrible anguish that had filled himself and his friends at seeing her lifeless. “Wasn’t that fun. ” 

Yu felt something in him stir. Something that sent chills through him. His gray eyes rose to meet Adachi’s, his body shaking. Fun? “You shouldn’t have beaten me, you idiotic, empty boy. I’ll kill you this time!” No. You’re not the real Adachi.  

“You’re not real. The real Adachi cared for Nanako, and he knew that my bonds were far from empty!” The fire in his chest blazed forward, pulling him from the depths of his mind. The Chaos Realm flooded back into his vision, the screams of his friends begging him to stop rushing into his ears. In front of him was that fake Adachi, holding its hand out for Yu’s sword. He realized he had been handing the weapon over to the strange Shadow thing, and now that he was awake, his fingers clenched around the hilt tighter. 

“Get out of my face!” He slammed his fist into the side of Adachi’s head, knocking the person backwards. The Investigation Team cheered for him, and Hokori’s voice rang out in disbelief. 

“How? You weren’t supposed to be able to get rid of my control that easily! What on earth are you? You were supposed to be weak!” 

Yu rolled his shoulders around. Silently, he cursed himself for even giving into the mind control, but now wasn’t the time to lament the state of his head. Testing the confidence of his arm, he tapped the tip of his sword against the floor. “I’ll show you true power!” He ran forward to the Shadow, the white lights glinting off the sharp blade. With a scream he slashed towards Adachi’s body, his blade clanging off the Shadow’s own weapon. So that’s how it is.  

He fought with fury and anger in every strike, but every swing was calculated. He was wearing the Shadow down, sapping its strength with powerful strikes and jabs. Adachi was stumbling, barely able to keep up with the boy’s intense movements. Now! Yu caught Adachi’s blade with a hard thrust, knocking him back. Quick as a flash he pulled his sword back and jabbed it through the Shadow’s chest. There was a sickening sound of the blade tearing through flesh and bone, blood spurting around the sword. Yu felt fire threatening to rise in his throat, but he swallowed it down. What kind of Shadow has blood?  

He didn’t give himself too much time to think. With an angry cry he pulled his blade free, holding it firmly in his left hand. Drops flew through the air, landing upon his arms. His limbs shook upon seeing the crimson there, but he fought against the gut wrenching feeling. Time to end this. “Izanagi!” With a cry he crushed the tarot card between his fingers, power blazing to life within him. Static flooded the air as his Persona rose to life, staring down at the Shadow-Adachi, who was clutching the deep sword wound. 

“You don’t have the guts to kill people.”

Yu’s face didn’t change as electricity sparked all around him. “Good thing you’re not a person.” The hairs on the back of his neck rose as Izanagi shot a white hot bolt from his hands, slamming the electricity into the fake Adachi. There was a screech from the Shadow before being cut off as it disintegrated. Yu retracted Izanagi and turned his attention to Hokori. 

“Very well done. I should not have underestimated the power you God Slayers have.” Hokori stood on the shelf he was perched on and clapped. Yu looked away, not wanting to give the cultist his attention. The blood that covered his sword dripped to the floor rather rhythmically, though looking at the red made his gut churn. “But I’m not done with you yet.” 

There was another sharp pain in his head, lights swimming over his vision. He clenched his eyes shut until the pain subsided. Upon opening them he saw a different section of the storage room. The Investigation Team had disappeared, instead, the Phantom Thieves were standing nearby. The hell? Hokori laughed, and Yu looked up to see the robed man sitting on another shelf. A Shadow appeared on the ground, sporting long brown hair and yellow eyes. 

“Who is that?”

There was a snarl from Kurusu. “Goro Akechi.”

Chapter Text

After seeing Narukami stab some older man apparently named Adachi, as well as seeing the Shadow bleed , Akira figured he was ready for what Hokori would throw at them. But seeing Akechi in front of him, not dead, smiling almost sincerely… It set his skin on edge. He instinctively snarled, resentment sparking to life in his chest. The Thieves were shifting behind him, Ryuji even stepping forward to try and attack the brown haired teen. Akira held up his hand though, stopping the blond from advancing. I’ll take care of this.  

“I’m glad you haven’t forgotten me. It’d be a shame if I was gone from your memories.” Akira’s head rapidly spun with flashes of Akechi, all the times he had seen the detective in the past year. “I can recall when we first met. That day in the studio.” Akira’s vision opened up to see the white corridors of the TV studio, Ryuji and Ann standing beside him. Akechi was in front of them, chattering about what Akira could only assume to be pancakes. The day he messed up.  

“And conquering that palace together?” This time the casino rose in his view, the glaring lights flashing in the golden windows. It felt like so long ago since he had been there, slinking alongside the Shadows and gathering coins to reach the top. And Akechi was right there the entire time. 

“The calling card was enjoyable to write with you.” Akira’s skin prickled. Something wasn’t feeling right. It was hard to place his finger on it, but it was right at the tip of his tongue. The calling card? Akechi was there when they sent the calling card to Sae, but… There were memories Akechi was intentionally leaving out. That’s right. A smirk found its way to his lips. 

“I remember all of those times, Akechi.” His voice was soft but controlled. “But there’s something else that I remember.” Akira blinked hard, the storage room returning to his vision. He could see Akechi’s blazing yellow eyes up close now, just a foot away from the detective. Akira’s fingers were wrapped around the blade of his dagger, offering the weapon to the Shadow. So close, but nice try. Akira felt pain sink into his hand as he gripped the blade. “I remember you pointing a gun to my head and pulling the trigger without remorse.” His eyes were dark with rage and determination. “I remember you trying to kill us with every ounce of power you had. And…. I remember you dying.” His voice rose with power. “You aren’t real, and you never were!” 

With a cry of anger, Akira planted a hard kick into the Shadow’s gut, throwing it backwards. He flipped his dagger in his hand, ignoring the pain in his fingers. He pointed it up at Hokori defiantly. Fury blazed through him, but even stronger was his rebellion. 

“Take me down now.” 

“Dammit! I tried to be nice that time and you still broke free!”

Akira turned his attention back to Akechi, who had gotten back to his feet. He pulled a long sword from behind him, and with a snarl, charged towards Akira. Ah hah. Nimbly, Akira flipped to the side, easily avoiding the swipe. Against a much more agile opponent, a long sword like that is almost useless. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he launched forward, sinking his knife into the Shadow’s leg. There was a screech, and before Akira could retrieve his knife he had to dodge away. Akechi yanked the knife from his leg and sneered at Akira. 

“What are you going to do without your precious knife?” 

Akira didn’t answer, instead he started focusing on his movements. He’d need his knife eventually, and he had an idea for how to get it back. He started moving backwards, closer and closer to the Phantom Thieves with each slash from Akechi. Despite being careful he winced as he felt a cut land on his arm. Damn! I need to get to Ryuji quicker! He smirked at Akechi, slouching his shoulders back in mock relaxation. 

“Can’t even kill one, defenseless Phantom Thief. You’re even more useless than the real Akechi.” Akira knew he was playing a dangerous game, taunting Hokori like this. Akechi yelled in rage and started swinging his sword with wild, imprecise strokes. Akira backpedaled faster, some of the slices getting dangerously close. Once he knew he was close enough to Ryuji he jumped back rather far and held his hand up. 

“Ryuji!” 

“I got it!” 

Ryuji threw his bat to Akira, who caught it, wrapping his fingers firmly around the handle. With a scream of determination he slammed it into Akechi’s sword. Akira had to admit that he didn’t have the raw strength that Ryuji did, but he poured his body weight into the strike. It was enough to throw Akechi off balance. He left himself wide open. Akira swiftly kicked his knife from Akechi’s hand and caught it, dropping Ryuji’s weapon and flinging himself towards Akechi. He clenched his fingers tightly around the handle, the blade protruding from his fists and gleaming lethally in flickering lights. With a sharp cry he plunged the dagger deep into Akechi’s forehead, right between his eyes. There was a horribly grotesque cracking noise, but Akira didn’t stop. When the blade paused only halfway, he let out a furious growl and leaned more into the handle. More disgusting sounds ripped out through the room as he pushed the knife up to the hilt into Akechi’s skull. 

There was a long silence as Akechi fell to his knees. His sword clattered to the ground and his voice trembled slightly. “How… did you… defeat me?” 

Akira yanked the blade from his head, blood splattering violently through the air. He felt some droplets land upon his cheeks. I needed a shower anyway. The blood on his knife dribbled onto the ground, pooling with the crimson that dripped from his fingers and palm. He was panting, chest heaving from the exertion. He turned his dark eyes up, directing his words at Hokori. “Because I don’t die easily.” 

Hokori snarled in frustration. “Damn it all! You won’t survive next time, I can promise you that!” He got up and laughed, causing that skull crushing pain to slice through Akira’s head again. He struggled against the agony, digging his fingers into his hair. When it finally stopped he peeked through his hands to see another section of the storage room. The Phantom Thieves were gone, and the whole of S.E.E.S. had returned back to their side. Hokori was perched on a shelf, fists clenching on the rail. 

“It’s time to finally die!” Hokori laughed loudly. The Shadow this time was a young boy with glimmering yellow eyes and slicked back black hair. The other noticeable feature was a long yellow scarf wrapped gracefully around the boy’s neck and shoulders. “Your adventure ends here. Presenting my strongest Shadow!” 

Akira was unsure how this young boy was going to be the strongest Shadow, but looking at S.E.E.S. showed that this boy was someone they clearly knew. At a sharp wail from Arisato he flinched, looking over in time to see the blue haired boy fall to his knees. He balled his fists, the one gray eye that showed glaring up at Hokori. There was mostly unrivaled rage in his toxic snarl, but the tears that were clearly forming in his eyes said otherwise. What on earth?

“Why.” Arisato shook. “Why him.” He screamed at Hokori in pure fury. “Why Ryoji?!”

Chapter Text

Minato was trembling uncontrollably. He didn’t want to show weakness in front of the other two, though he had to admit that they had shown weakness as well. From Narukami whimpering about some girl named Nanako while blankly handing the Shadow his weapon to Kurusu screaming in blind rage while he shoved an entire knife into a Shadow’s skull, Minato thought they were pretty pathetic. Hokori’s hypnosis was frighteningly powerful, using the memories of the leaders to control them. The other two were weak for falling for it, but he should have known he would be next. He should have known that Hokori wasn’t going to play fair. But god dammit why did it have to be Ryoji?

“Minato… I missed you.” His arms shook violently. Almost every single part of him screamed that it wasn’t real, that it was just Hokori’s stupid Shadow. His heart ached terribly though, making him want nothing more than to curl up and cry. “Didn’t you miss me?” Shut up.  

Hokori didn’t need to use hypnosis, though Minato doubted it would have worked. Just seeing Ryoji was enough to throw him into those suppressed memories he had fought hard to keep under control. His head was spinning like mad, pangs rattling his chest with every breath. 

The first memory he saw was when Ryoji was still Pharos, a tiny child that stared at him while he slept and talked to him of trials and death. Despite being in his memories the taunting voice of that Shadow reached his ears. “Do you remember all the times I woke you up? You were a rather nice conversationalist. I loved our talks.” Shut up! You’re not Ryoji! Minato desperately wanted to scream that, but he was so locked in his mind that the only sound he could let out was a pitiful whimper. 

He held his head in his hands as another memory replayed in his mind. It was the first time he had met Ryoji as an actual person and not some sleep paralysis demon. Those glittering blue eyes that Minato continually found himself getting lost in, the warm yellow scarf the boy was always too happy to share, all of it made his heart flutter with joy. One of my actually happy memories.  

“My first day of school. I loved seeing you every day.” Shut up! Shut up right now! Minato could only wail in his head towards the horrible Shadow that wore the face of the black haired boy. He wanted to curse himself for being so weak, but he couldn’t even fight back against the thoughts that plagued him. “Didn’t you miss me, Minato?” 

The next memory was the bridge. Not the bridge, oh please. Seeing Ryoji standing there with his scarf billowing in the wind as he explained who he really was made Minato’s heart wrench. He could feel tears forming in his eyes as he remembered all they had said to each other. I’ll still love you, even if you kill me. Thana- no, your name is Ryoji. Ryoji Mochizuki, I will love you. “I’ll love you too, Minato. Is what I want to say.” 

The laugh that followed the boy’s words was twisted with malice. Minato could tell that it was Hokori that was laughing, but that didn’t change the fact that every single insane chuckle was like ice being stabbed over and over in his body. Hokori could kill him right now for all he cared. Anything to stop this horrible aching in his heart. Minato could hear the Shadow charging up some powerful attack, as well as the rest of S.E.E.S. screaming his name. I’m sorry everyone. He braced himself for death. 

But it never came. 

When Minato opened his eyes, a rather familiar Persona was protecting him. The long white legs and coffins lining his back, as well as the thin sword, it all was so familiar. In fact, he could remember the name, though it had been a while since he said it. “Thanatos?” 

“While that is one of my names I must say I prefer it when you call me Ryoji.” 

Minato just about cried upon looking just past Thanatos to see the real Ryoji. The black haired boy was extending a hand out to him, which Minato grabbed firmly and helped himself up. Without any more hesitation he pulled Ryoji into a hug, tucking his face into the boy’s shoulder. He struggled not to cry, shaking from all the emotions. I missed you.  

“It’s been a while.” 

“Shut up Ryoji.” Minato’s voice cracked. “How did you even get here? Why are you even here?” The more Minato thought about it, the stranger it all seemed. How did Ryoji get here if he had since been defeated as the god of death? 

“That blue lady, Elizabeth, she was trying to find a way to get you back Minato. Nothing was working, not even the Nose had the power to break that seal. But I had an idea.” Ryoji pulled away from Minato, looking at him with a soft expression. “I gave you my human life. The one you had so lovingly cherished me in, where we bonded so closely. I had barely lived with it, and so had you. So I wanted you to live it out for the both of us.” He took the blue haired boy’s hands with his own. Minato felt like crying, though whether it was from happiness at seeing Ryoji or just emotions from hearing at how he had come back because of the boy’s sacrifices was uncertain. “So please Minato, live on. For both of us.” 

With those final words, Ryoji fizzled away back into Minato’s chest. He felt the warmth of the love the two shared for each other. After a moment of gathering himself, he looked back at the fake Ryoji. He gritted his teeth as he stared down the imposter. “I hate you. I hate everything about you. It’s time you die.” His voice, which used to be shivering and trembling with fear, was steady with anger. I am NOT weak. Red hot rage blazed through him, Thanatos growling at the mock boy. I will now bow to your will!

Shouting, Thanatos raced forward, flames blazing from his mouth. They exploded into Ryoji, over and over again. The flames I breathe are barely even stoked in the hatred I feel for you. Succumb to the power of the god of death! The Shadow tried to fight back, but with Minato’s rage and passion, it was impossible for the beast to even begin to defend itself. Flames danced around the room, the heat barely even reaching his face. After only a few more blazing attacks the Shadow was nothing more than a charred mess. Minato glared at Hokori with nothing more than annoyance. 

“You are nothing but dust beneath my heel, using memories like that to manipulate people into doing things for you.” Thanatos growled viciously at Hokori before Minato retracted him. “We’ll trash this temple and crumble you along with it. You’d better be ready.” 

Minato was keeping up a tough front, but his body felt ready to give in. He remembered the first time he had used Thanatos, and how it had caused him to pass out for a week. Stay strong . Hokori snarled at the teens before hopping across the shelves to make his escape. As much as Minato wanted to go after him, his legs just about ready to cave in. He turned around to look at S.E.E.S., and upon seeing how worn out they were, decided that this was a good place to start next time. 

“S.E.E.S., er, everyone, we should really head back.” Looking at Narukami and Kurusu’s faces only solidified this decision. The gray haired boy looked ready to hurl his guts up, and his skin was raw from trying to scratch the Shadow blood off his arms. The darker teen had some sort of murderous look in his eyes, and he hadn’t put away his dagger since he fought that brown haired Shadow. “Let’s head back down.” Thankfully they both agreed.

Once they had gotten back to the dorms, Minato barely talked to anyone as people filtered from Ken’s room. He knew that everyone besides just his team had seen him break down upon seeing Ryoji. If he talked to them, he feared he’d just break down again. Once everyone was back inside the dorms, he gave a curt nod to Kurusu and Narukami before walking to his room. He didn’t want to go to sleep yet, but thanks to the soreness in his entire body he figured he had no choice. He just about fell into his room, and luckily he saw the scarf before he passed out. 

Minato picked up the yellow scarf, feeling the soft fabric on his skin. Tears started to blur his vision again, but he choked them back. He buried his face into the scarf, inhaling just a bit. The thought briefly occurred to him to lock his door in case anyone walked in to see him nose deep in the fabric. The faint smell of mint and pine candles. It filled his chest with a warm, loving feeling, and as he went to lay down, he wrapped his body in the scarf. I could sleep every night if I wrapped myself up like this. He could only hope that no one would walk in on him the next morning. 

Thank you Ryoji. Warmth spread across his face. I’ll forever cherish this life we spend together.  

Chapter Text

By the time they made it back to their rooms for the night, Ryuji was exhausted. After watching Arisato incinerate that weird Shadow and Hokori stumble away, the groups all decided to go back for the day. Traversing back down the tower was hard, with those shitty cultists attacking them at every corner. S.E.E.S. had gotten worn out, so the Phantom Thieves had taken to the floor. 

Ryuji fell on his bed, burying himself in his mound of soft blankets. He laid there, unmoving for a while. Slowly he rose his head from his fluffy cocoon, pulling his phone from his pocket. He winced as pain shot through his muscles. Damn, I’m already so sore! Ryuji texted Akira, unable to move to go see him. 

>> Hey Kira. You ok?  

It was a while before Akira responded, so Ryuji could only assume he was busy with something. He did feel a spark of worry though, especially after the disaster with Akechi. When his phone lit up again, Ryuji just about tackled his phone, if it wasn’t for his tired body. 

<< Hey, sorry I didn’t respond right away. I was showering. Managed to get all the blood off me. How are you holding up?

Ryuji winced at the tone of the message. He bit his lip. Akira’s violent nature was something only the Phantom Thieves had seen until now, and normally he could control his aggression. Seeing Akechi like that though… It understandably brought out his more violent tendencies. Though by this time he should have composed himself, so the lax persona was a little unnerving. 

>> Yeah, just a little sore. Might have pushed myself a little too hard. How about you? You’ve been continually fighting for the past few days. 

<< I’m fine. 

That told Ryuji that Akira was absolutely not fine. He just about shot up from his bed to go see the teen, but the ache in his entire body stopped him. 

>> Bullshit. I’ve been fighting side by side with you for a full year so I know you enough to tell when you aren’t ok. It’s about Akechi, right?

There wasn’t a response for a long while, so Ryuji knew he had hit the nail on the head. He didn’t quite understand how he felt about seeing that strange shadow in the Chaos Realm, but Akira seemed the most affected by it. Arisato had explained later that Hokori was using a form of hypnosis to control the leaders through their memories, so the shadows were crafted after their enemies. It was incredibly smart, but also cruel. 

<< Ryuji, I can’t stop thinking that we just left him to die back there. Not in the Chaos Realm, but in Shido’s palace. He was evil, sure, but I can’t stop thinking that I could have done something to save him. Hokori is a bastard for pulling that stunt. I want nothing more than to beat his face in right now. 

That sounded like the Akira he knew. Well placed anger. Ryuji himself couldn’t deny the desire to kick Hokori’s ass, but right now he was too exhausted. Luckily there was a plan in place for the next day, where the three groups would work together to defeat Hokori into the ground. We know almost nothing about him, but it looks like his hypnosis won’t work on our leaders anymore.

>> Kira, we should probably sleep. Since we’re planning on fighting Hokori tomorrow, the more we rest the better. 

<< You’re right Ryuji. Good night.  

Ryuji didn’t like the half-assed response, but he knew Akira was going through shit right now. He plugged his phone in and managed to get himself into a comfortable sleeping position before passing out. 

Don’t worry Akira. I promise everything will work out.  

Ryuji couldn’t wait to get back to the dorms after school the next day. He charged into Yosuke’s room, not even stopping by his own to drop off his school things. 

“Dude, you seem excited.” Yosuke was busy changing into fitted tee shirt and twirling his kunai on his fingers. Ryuji was honestly impressed the otherwise clumsy teen hadn’t hurt himself with them yet. “I guess you Thieves haven’t seen all that much action yet, so I can understand that. Hokori really is an asshole, especially for making Yu fight that weird Adachi.” 

“Yeah, Akira was upset last night about seeing Akechi again. I don’t know about that Adachi person, but Akechi has been dead since last December, so seeing him was like getting punched in the face.” Ryuji reached under Yosuke’s bed for his weapon, a long club-like item with metal studs sticking out from every angle. It hit hard in anyone’s hands, but with Ryuji’s extremely powerful upper body the weapon was lethal. “Thanks for holding on to everyone’s weapons by the way.”

“Adachi is still alive, he’s just in custody for now. And it’s no problem really. Are you not going to change?” Yosuke turned to the target Chie had put up in his room and flung one of his knives at it. It hit the bullseye perfectly, embedding itself into the wall as well. Damn, his aim is on point. It briefly occurred to him that he’d never seen Yosuke fight, but the thought of seeing not only him but everyone else battle today only made him more excited. 

“I’ve never seen you fight, Yosuke. Your aim is incredible.” The very thought of the clumsy, awkward boy suddenly taking on a kind of powerful elegance in battle reminded him of Akira in so many ways. “I don’t need to change. I’ll just transform into my Thief outfit as soon as get into the window.” And this way I won’t have to worry about my clothes getting torn up.  

Yosuke yanked the knife from the wall and looked at Ryuji. “I’m nothing that special. I’m fast and that’s about it. You on the other hand, I’ve seen you fight.” Yosuke rested his hand on Ryuji’s arm, a rather friendly gesture. “You said you ran track, but your upper body is just as strong. You’re fast and strong, Ryuji. You remind me of my partner!” Ryuji felt himself grow hot under the praise, but he shouldered it off. 

“All I can really do it hit hard.” Ryuji rolled his arm around, flexing the muscles gently. They still felt a little sore, but he’d be pushing himself hard no matter what. “Everyone else should be coming soon. Let’s kick some ass today.” He drove his elbow into Yosuke’s arm, only in a friendly nudge. 

As if on cue people started flowing in, so Ryuji decided to sharpen his teeth and bite hard on his left thumb. There was the prick of pain before blood spread across his tongue. He held his hand out a bit, letting it all pool in his palm before smearing it across the window. The circular snake symbol appeared in red, the Chaos Realm spiraling into existence behind it. Ouch.  

“Oh, Ryuji, I didn’t notice you-” Yosuke turned away from the window to face Ryuji, his face suddenly taking on shock. “What the hell are your teeth?!” Shit! I forgot to turn them back! If he turned them back now Yosuke would know his secret. 

“Ah, uhm-”

“What, Yosuke, you really think someone can just make their teeth sharp on command?” Akira had walked up behind them, resting his hand on Ryuji’s shoulder. Idiot! Now he’ll know that I can make my teeth sharp! “That’s insane to even think about.” Ryuji took this opportunity to change his teeth back to normal, though it was probably too late. 

“What? I didn’t-” 

“Ah! I think everyone is here now! Shall we go in then? I think Hokori has an ass kicking with his name on it.” Akira’s charisma was off the charts like normal, oozing with fake kindness. It made Ryuji cringe inwardly. But damn does he have everyone else fooled!  

The leaders led the groups back through the temple to the top, and while there were some fights with the cultists, it was nothing major. If anything, it made Ryuji feel more invigorated and ready to beat Hokori so far in the ground he’d be sent straight to his master. The few Shadows they encountered were weak too, easily taken out by a single swing. 

When they finally made it to the top, Hokori was waiting for them in an absolutely huge room with sky high ceilings. Holy shit! Does he need any more room here? Ryuji instantly felt on edge upon walking into the room, so much so that he could feel his electricity sparkling across his skin already. What the hell? Hokori didn’t feel this strong before.  

“Welcome, God Slayers. You made it here at last.” Hokori laughed loudly. Ryuji gripped the handle of his weapon hard. He wanted so badly to beat the cultist’s face in, but his instincts from being a Phantom Thief told him to hold back for now. Instead he searched around the room. It was poorly lit, clearly to give Hokori some sort of advantage in their fight. Eventually his eyes found the slumped over figure behind the maniac, obviously Nishi. I want to go to her, but I have to let the Investigation Team take care of her. Ryuji gritted his teeth and glanced at Akira, who wore his signature smirk. He’s waiting for his chance to prove his abilities to the other teams. I don’t blame him, this is where all the Thieves are going to get to show off. “I hope you enjoy your trip to see my master!” 

“Oracle! Kujikawa and Yamagishi too, can the three of you get a read on his power and a possible weakness?” Akira faced down Hokori with a snarl. Ryuji let the static of his Persona crackle through the air around him. It was a way for him to keep his defense up while being able to put more power behind every single strike he used. “If not we’ll do whatever it takes until we find it!” 

“You can try, God Slayers!” Hokori screamed with laughter as his body melted into shadow. He cackled loudly as huge, black bats swirled upwards from the pool of darkness, flying together to form a large bat-like shape. His voice multiplied in power. That thing is huge! “Come and take me now!” 

“Joker! He can use wind skills, so Ryuji needs to be extremely careful!” It’s not just me! According to Yosuke, Kanji Tatsumi and Narukami are both at risk to this guy, and someone in S.E.E.S. probably is as well. This is going to be a damn tough battle. Ryuji rolled his shoulders. He was the fastest out of the Thieves, so he could get over to Hokori without much problem and strike at the same time. He cast another glance at Akira before sending a small jolt of electricity through his muscles. Racing forward, wrapping both hands around the handle of his weapon, Ryuji let out a battle cry. He made it to Hokori in no time, but as he aimed a powerful strike at the bats, they rapidly flew out of the way. The hell? They move even faster than I do when I’m charged! They swooped back, and Ryuji felt a spark of  panic. A counterattack!  

“Take this! Garudyne!” Ryuji couldn’t move out of the way fast enough, not with how his momentum was being directed. The only thing he could do was pull the mask from his face and summon the Captain. 

“Captain Kidd! Block it with Zionga!” He knew his lightning wasn’t strong enough to completely nullify the strong wind attack, but he could defend himself somewhat at least. Even so, he was flung backwards as the attack slammed into both him and his Persona. He skidded across the floor but quickly leapt back up to his feet. “Dammit! He can dodge our attacks so easily!” But if I had to guess…  

“Guys! I think he’s weak to electric skills. I saw him try to dodge out of the way when Ryuji used Zionga, despite the wind skill clearly being stronger.” Thanks Oracle! A flash of movement caught his attention. The Investigation Team was racing to the side of Nishi, with Narukami sending out powerful electric attacks to keep Hokori at bay. He’s so strong! Ryuji clenched his jaw. Hokori was extremely agile, and from what he saw not even someone as fast as Yosuke could keep up. “We have to slow him down somehow!” 

“I’ve got it!” Kirijo ran forward. “Kitagawa, you can use ice skills as well, correct?” Fox nodded at the red haired woman. She then turned her eyes to Ryuji. “And you, Sakamoto, your electric attacks are extremely powerful. Kitagawa, you go by Fox here, correct? You and I will slow those bats down. You don’t have to hit them, just slow them down with cold air. Then you, Skull, right? You and Akihiko slam it with your lightning.” 

Ryuji admired the intelligence and determination in the girl. It’s time to take this seriously! There was a scuffle near him, and he looked up in time to see Yosuke block a wind attack with his Persona. “Ryuji! While they cool Hokori off, let’s keep him busy!” He chuckled. Leave it to Yosuke to come up with a crazy plan. We’ll need more support though…

“Don’t count me out!” Iori Junpei ran up beside them, his normal smile gone from his face, instead bearing a look of stone cold determination. “Trismegistus!” He pulled the trigger on the gun in his hand, summoning a sleek, red clad Persona with golden wings and fins. Are all three of us extremely fast? “Let’s bring this bat to the ground once and for all!” 

“You got it!” Ryuji turned back to face the huge figure. This is MY time to shine, to show both Iori and Yosuke who I really am! “Alright, Captain Kidd!” He pulled his mask off with a cry. “Rampage!” The Captain soared to Hokori and chased the extremely agile bat with slashes and swipes. Ryuji knew they couldn’t connect, but with Yosuke’s lightning fast physical strikes and Junpei’s flaming skills, Hokori was having to split apart the bats to continue avoiding them. Like that, they kept him from unleashing attacks, but Ryuji knew that the three of them would most likely run out of stamina before Hokori did. 

The only comforting thing he felt was the temperature in the room steadily lowering. He had no problems with the cold, but he could tell that Junpei did as his fire attacks were hitting weaker and weaker. Akira’s going to have problems too, but despite the cold he’ll still hit just as powerfully. Ryuji was proven right very soon, as a winged demon swept in to fill Iori’s position. 

“Take a break Iori. The cold is wearing you down.” He’s about to completely show off! Akira called back Arsene, placing his feet in a stance that Ryuji knew very well. “Skull, Yosuke, please take a break too. You especially, Skull. We’ll need all your strength once the bats slow down.” Ryuji didn’t argue. He backed down, falling back into line with Queen and Panther. Yosuke joined him after a moment, though he still looked ready to fight. 

“I hope you’re ready for a show Yosuke.” 

“I came here expecting one, so I hope Akira doesn’t let me down.” 

Akira leapt towards Hokori, laughing a taunt. Ryuji felt warmth spread through him at watching the dark haired teen fight like this. He danced so easily around Hokori, despite the cultist’s intense agility he couldn’t keep up with the speed at which Akira moved. He truly is incredibly powerful. “He’s so incredibly fast it’s insane. Even when the room is so cold he can still move so easily.” Ryuji wasn’t quite paying attention to the way Kirijo and Fox were attacking until Akira skidded to a halt a ways away from Hokori, a sly smirk on his lips. 

Two powerful ice attacks slammed into the massive bat. Akira had done his job in distracting Hokori so Fox and Kirijo could hit him with a team strike. It’s my turn! “Captain Kidd!” Ryuji felt power coursing through him as his Persona pointed its cannon arm at Hokori. Sanada ran up to his side, his own Persona crackling with intense electricity. He nodded to Ryuji and together, the two Persona users filled the room with extremely powerful arcs of lightning. It was as if a miniature electric storm had slammed all of its power into Hokori. 

“No!” The ice shattered apart, and with it, the bats turned to shadow. They melted into the ground, utterly defeated. Ryuji was panting heavily. He had really pushed himself this time, the lightning assault on Hokori using almost all of his leftover stamina from earlier. But we effin got him!  

“We’ve got Nishi!” Narukami was carrying the limp girl in his arms. “Let’s get out of here!” He carried Nishi to the stairs leading down, protecting her with his far larger body. Ryuji let out a breath of relief. It’s all over. I’m so tired.  

There was a flicker in Ryuji’s chest. Something felt off. His skin prickled as electricity sparkled across him instinctively. He whirled around in time to see Hokori as a giant shadow swooping over the area. “I’ll kill you God Slayers!” Everyone else is either weak or busy! I have to do something! Lightning crackled as anger and rebellion filled his entire being. I have to protect everyone!  

“Fox!” 

“I’ve got it! Goemon!” Yusuke summoned a huge blast of ice that rose on either side of Hokori, slowing the cultist down significantly. With a furious cry, the ice started to crack from the strain of keeping the powerful Shadow at bay. Ryuji could feel Yusuke’s anger and determination manifesting as his ice attack. Shit! His power is still so strong!  

“You can’t defeat me! Not even your ice can hold me back!” 

“I’ve fought harder enemies than you, lowly scum. You’re not even fit to battle my former sensei, let alone me!” Yusuke didn’t scream or cry out. His ice doubled in power, shooting up hard against Hokori. The room was getting dangerously cold, but luckily Ryuji wasn’t weak to the frostiness. “Skull! It’s your turn!” 

Ryuji swelled with power at Yusuke’s determination. He’s right. I barely even showed the strength I have. That little storm was just the bare minimum of what I can do! He leapt upon the Captain’s ship, electricity crackling around them. “Charge, Captain Kidd!” His Persona streaked forward towards Hokori at breakneck speed, lightning surging throughout the room. “It’s time for you to go back where you came from, asshole!” Ryuji slammed right into the center of the Shadow, splitting it in half. Hokori’s screech rang out through the temple, the darkness blasted away from the sheer force of the physical attack. 

Ryuji couldn’t feel any pain with the amount of adrenaline coursing through him, but as soon as the attack was done, Captain Kidd was gone. I’ve used every last bit of my stamina. He plummeted through the air. Shit. I don’t have any energy left to catch myself. 

“Jiraiya! Use Sukukaja!” Yosuke suddenly appeared beside him, grabbing his arm before zipping away. Ryuji was pulled along at such an incredibly high speed the icy air stung his cheeks. The two landed on the ground, though Ryuji barely remembered flying through the air. He stumbled to his feet as Yosuke let go of his arm, panting heavily. There was a fading green glow around him, evidence of the skill he used. I thought Yosuke was fast before, but that was insane. It was like he teleported near me! “Sorry it took me a moment. I barely had enough stamina left to summon Jiraiya.”

But it had been enough. Hokori was back in his human form, completely knocked out on the ground. Ryuji stumbled to his feet. Now that everything was over, his adrenaline was wearing off and pain was returning to him. I hadn’t noticed that Hokori managed to land some blows on me, but now I can certainly tell how badly I’m hurt. Slamming head first into him certainly didn’t help. Yosuke was bleeding from several cuts on his arms and legs, and Junpei was suffering from ice burns. They certainly hadn’t gotten out of this unharmed, but luckily Hokori was defeated. 

Speaking of whom, before anyone could approach him, he cried out. It wasn’t out of fear or pain, but rage. What the hell? “You kids think you’re so strong!” His body was crumbling, dissolving into black particles. “You see this? My master is calling me.” Laughter echoed through the room. “I’ll be gone for good, my chaos energy being a permanent part of my master. Even if you save the girl and defeat me, he grows stronger by the second.” Hokori was disappearing quickly, from his feet up to his head. Gone for good? “Goodbye, God Slayers. I’ll be sure to tell him all about the chaos you caused!” And with that, Hokori was completely gone. 

For a while no one moved. Eventually though, it was obvious that they had to get out of this place. Yusuke, despite the ice that crawled across his limbs from the power of his attack, shoved his shoulder under Ryuji to support him. Junpei and Yosuke were being helped as well as the three leaders led everyone back to the dorms. 

“We all did spectacularly well today. Everyone get some rest, you deserve it.” Narukami carried the girl to the common room, obviously waiting for her to wake up. Ryuji stumbled to his room, just about collapsing in the floor. He suddenly remembered his injuries and swore at himself for being careless. I’d go to Takemi, but I doubt I could even make it to the station with how low my stamina is. He plopped into his floor and pulled out his first aid box. He worked on treating his cuts first before moving onto his other injuries. It took a while, but once he was done he felt a little better. Good enough to crawl into bed and get underneath the covers before passing out cold. 

Hokori just vanished like that. It was insane. But we won, so all’s well that ends well. And I showed everyone else what I’m really made of.

Chapter Text

Junpei was tasked with watching over Nishi for the night, until the Investigation Team could take her back home. As he sat in the common room, he had plenty of time to think about a lot of things. Defeating Hokori was easy, but the toll it took on Nishi can’t be ignored. He glanced over at the black haired girl. She had yet to wake up since they got out, but according to Fuuka, she seemed to be ok. 

Junpei pulled out his phone, but right before he could even think of something to look at, there was a small groan from Nishi. He scrambled over to her in time for her to wake up with a yawn. Nishi looked around her, slowly gathering the fact that she was in some sort of dorm instead of her home. Junpei watched the panic rise in the girl’s eyes. 

“Wait! Please don’t scream or anything, I can explain why you’re here!” Junpei waved his hands in desperation to keep her quiet, but luckily she seemed to understand. “Ah, sorry to startle you. I’m Iori Junpei.” He held out his hand. Damn she’s pretty. A familiar ache spread through his heart. 

She took his hand and gently shook it. “Oh, it’s ok. I’m just really confused as to where I am.” Nishi smiled gently, her dark eyes rather soft. “I’m Nishi Kuro.” She gazed around the common room, her gaze falling on the doors to the rooms. “So where is this? A kind of dorm?” 

“Yeah, this is the dorm building for Hashi High.” Junpei sighed and sat down nearby. I can’t believe I have to explain everything by myself. One of the other teams would be better at this than me. “Sorry to keep my explanation short, it’s… hard to explain.” He laughed awkwardly. “You were kidnapped, but we rescued you.” 

“I was… Oh, I guess I was kidnapped, huh? I remember… I was working at the convenience store when I was suddenly gagged and blinded. I woke up on the ground in some strange place, and then again when I heard something scream. Some guy was holding me…” 

“I do apologize for grabbing you without permission.” Oh thank god, it’s Narukami. The tall boy rounded the corner with three bottles. “I wasn’t sure which one you’d like, Nishi, so I just brought some water for you. As for you, Iori, I was told you like soda.” Narukami handed one to Junpei. He took it and twisted the lid off, taking a long sip. Ah, that’s the stuff. “It’s good to see you well, Nishi. My name is Narukami Yu.” 

“It’s nice to meet both of you. Admittedly this is really strange, but you said this was Hashi High, right? Have you talked to any of the transfer students from Shujin?” Nishi took the water Narukami handed her. “Apparently one of my classmates, uhm, Mishima I think his name is, was pretty upset that all his friends transferred over.” 

“Oh, you mean Kurusu and his friends?” Junpei raised his eyebrows. He recognized the name Shujin, as well as Mishima. That’s right, Mishima is the one who told us about Nishi. “All of us are transfers from various schools around Japan. This dorm was really built for us.” 

“If you’re all transfers, then where did you all come from?” Nishi seemed to not really care or pay any mind to her kidnapping or the fact that she had woken up in another school’s dorm. 

“I’m...well my friends are from Yasogami High in Inaba. I went there last year as a transfer myself.” Narukami leaned on a chair in such an aloof manner he looked almost innocent. If I hadn’t seen him try to smite Hokori with massive blasts of lightning I’d believe he was just some fluffy dude. He sighed. “I was going to attend a different school here, but right before I left I was told I’d be transferring here.” 

“I went to Gekkoukan High last year. It’s over on Tatsumi Port Island. All my friends transferred here with me, even Ken.” Junpei didn’t know why he felt like he had to impress Nishi. 

“Wait, so you all came here with your friends? That’s incredible! I don’t think I could ever transfer away from my friends.” Junpei felt static charge the room and realized that it must have been Narukami who was on edge. Yeah, I don’t think he could either.  

“It’s good to know you’re doing ok. We can take you back tomorrow if you want, so feel free to just hang out here.” Narukami smiled softly. He hides it so well to the untrained eye, but I can tell he’s exhausted. It was clear to Junpei that he had tried to hide the bags under his eyes, as well as the bruises and cuts he had suffered. No one could recover from fighting that hard so easily. I know he’s doing it to keep Nishi calm.  

“Oh.” Nishi looked away a bit sheepishly. “I’m sorry to have caused trouble. Why did you save me anyway? And… And how did you know where I was?” 

“It’s quite complicated to explain. We’re just people who side with justice really. Mishima told us you went missing, so we went to go find you.” Narukami shrugged, acting as if diving headfirst into a scary world and beating up some dangerous cultists was no big deal. “Those cultists are hard to avoid these days huh?” 

“Right, those weirdos. People say they have churches everywhere, but no one’s been able to find them. And they kidnap high schoolers all the time.” Nishi leaned forward in earnest. “It’s crazy in Tokyo right now.” 

“I hope you stay safe after you go back, Nishi.” 

Junpei sighed. “I should probably head to bed for now. I’ve been up all night.” He stood and stretched, feeling how sore his muscles were from fighting. Instinctively he patted his hip, feeling his Evoker still in its holster. Good. He waved good night to Narukami and Nishi and walked slowly to his room. It had been a mission successful, and he deserved a break for a while. 

He flopped on his bed and turned out the lights, his mind drifting off towards the notebook that sat in the window. Are you looking over me even now, Chidori? 

Will you watch as I save people like you saved me?

Chapter Text

It had been a few days since the Persona users had beaten Hokori and rescued Nishi. It almost felt strange to Yosuke to be back doing normal school work without worrying about who they were going up against in the afternoon. In fact, it was almost boring. 

Not doing much with those cultists let Yosuke notice just about everything else. The other students would talk about the transfers in the hallways, thinking they couldn’t hear. He couldn’t deny that he was used to it, but all the same it still stung as bad. Sometimes the things would stick harder than most and replay over and over in his head. Some of them are from the boonies. Can’t imagine why they thought this was a good idea. Those transfers are scary. Did you see that disappointing one? 

Yosuke was all too happy when the weekend rolled around. 

Except for when he was woken up at eight in the morning by someone pounding on his door. He flinched with every knock until he couldn’t stand it. “I’m up! I’m up!” Thankfully the knocking stopped when he yelled. 

“Hi, this is your new RA. We’re having a floor meeting in just a few minutes to talk about rules and the culture here at Hashi.” 

It was a young man’s voice on the other side. The hell? We have an RA? Yosuke begrudgingly got out of bed and put on a pullover sweater he had stolen from Yu. If it’s just a floor meeting, I don’t need to be in day clothes. He yawned loudly and stuck his phone in his pocket before walking out to the common room. 

“You’re late Yosuke!” 

Chie was suddenly in his face, her disappointment abundantly clear. Yosuke flinched away from her. He muttered out an apology and sat next to Yu. Everyone else was here already, apparently waiting for him. Dammit.  

The RA happened to be a rather young looking man with curly, light brown hair and oddly sharp green eyes. There was a muscular boy next to him with bleach blond hair and a Hashi High jersey. The RA introduced himself first. 

“My name is Kouji Ryomi. I’m the Resident Assistant for this floor. This is Hashiru Tama, the main sports assistant here at Hashi. Today we’ll be going over rules and talking about the clubs and sports teams.” Hashiru handed out a list of the sports teams and clubs to everyone. “It’s fine if you don’t want to, but we’d like everyone here to pick either a club or a sport to join.”

“Keep in mind that all the sports and a lot of the clubs here are competitive. I’ll tell you if i don’t think you’re cut for whatever you pick.” Hashiru wore a serious grin. He’s probably going to tear into us for whatever we pick. Yosuke’s skin prickled uncomfortably. He clenched his hands as he read over the list. 

I was never in any clubs or sports at Yasogami, and I’m not all that interested in one at the moment. Yosuke ran through his normal world skills, but all he could really think of was how fast and agile he was. Clearly, that probably wouldn’t cut it alone. 

“I’ll go in order of room number. If you haven’t decided yet, just say pass and I’ll get back to you.” I don’t want to join any clubs, so I’ll just look at the sports list.  

“Room 301, Iori Junpei.” 

“I want to try out for the baseball team.” Junpei flexed one of his arms and smiled. He seemed like he would be a natural with the way he fought. Hashiru nodded approvingly. 

“Room 302, Takeba Yukari.” 

“Archery team. I’ve already put in my physical.” Is everyone going to join things that help them with fighting in the Chaos Realm? Yosuke felt the need to pick something that would help him get stronger. Wrestling isn’t right, I’m too scrawny.  

“That doesn’t mean you’ll make it. You need a good eye and a strong arm, Miss Takeba.” Hashiru’s tone was scalding.

“Room 303, Yamagishi Fuuka.”

“Oh, I’d like to join the robotics team.” I wouldn’t have pegged her for that.  

“Room 304, Kirijo Mitsuru.” 

“Student council.” Of course, I heard she was the prez back at Gekkoukan.  

“Room 305, Sanada Akihiko.” 

“Boxing team, I’ve already dusted off my mits from last year.” Yosuke looked back at the sheet. Boxing is a no, I can’t throw a punch without my kunai. He almost felt bad about relying on material weapons before remembering that almost everyone else used weaponry as well. 

“Room 306, Amada Ken.” 

“U-uhm, I’d like to join the cooking club…” Kouji gave Amada a skeptical look, but the rest of S.E.E.S. nodded as if they expected this somehow. 

“Alright then. Room 307, Aigis.”

“It would be best for me to join the robotics team as well.” Aigis was certainly an enigma. According to Junpei she was a robot with a heart, something called an Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapon. 

“Room 307, Hanamura Yosuke.” Shit! I wasn’t ready! Everyone else so far had known what they wanted to do, but he wasn’t any closer to a decision. His face flushed with embarrassment. 

“I-I haven’t decided yet, so I’ll pass for now.” An awful weight settled on him. As the first member of the Investigation Team to be called, he felt responsible for setting an example. But that had been dashed to pieces. 

“Very well. Room 308, Satonaka Chie.” 

“The martial arts team. Kung fu specifically.” Thanks Chie.  

“Like I said, it’s high competition. Just watching fighting movies isn’t going to cut it.” How the hell did Hashiru know? Chie bit her lip and glowered at him. You better show him, Chie.  

“Room 309, Amagi Yukiko.” 

“I’d like to join the cooking club.” Yosuke had to suppress a laugh, though a bit had slipped through based on the death glare he got from both Chie and Yukiko. Shut up. He hid his embarrassment in his list. I can’t do baseball like Junpei, my swings aren’t hard enough.  

“Room 310, Tatsumi Kanji.” 

The amount that Kanji blushed immediately dragged everyone’s attention away from Yosuke. “Art club.” He muttered so softly it was almost unheard. There was a subtle snicker from both Hashiru and Kouji. Yosuke felt a spark of anger towards them, but Naoto stepped up before he could say anything. 

“I don’t believe Kanji’s interests are a laughing matter. If we could continue on, that would be great.” Thanks Naoto for being able to control your anger.  

Kouji rolled his eyes but continued. “Room 311, Kujikawa Rise.” 

“Easy! Dance team!” The answer was obvious for her. Yosuke scanned the list more. Archery is out of the question, even though I’m pretty accurate with my kunai. Maybe something where he had to throw at a target?

“Room 312, Shirogane Naoto.” 

“Forensics.” There was zero hesitation in their decision. Makes perfect sense from our Detective Prince.  

“Of course. Room 313, Sakamoto Ryuji.”

There was a long pause as Ryuji clenched the paper in his hands. His arms were shaking slightly, but he took a deep breath. As he spoke he locked eyes with Hashiru. “You need me on the track team.” 

Track team. That suddenly struck a chord with Yosuke. Track and field? He was fast and agile, he felt like it could fit almost perfectly. As he was pondering this, Hashiru gave a laugh.

“I watched you limp over here, Sakamoto. Do you really think they’ll let you?” 

“They’re going to have to.” Ryuji had unbeatable determination, and Yosuke had watched him run and fight. It most certainly wasn’t an empty claim. 

“Moving on. Room 314, Takamaki Ann.” 

“Put me in the drama club!” Right, she said she was a model. Yosuke couldn’t help but admire her devotion to her passions. 

“Room 315, Kitagawa Yusuke.” 

“Art club, with Tatsumi.” Yosuke admired how Kitagawa had accepted Kanji as an artist as well, despite barely knowing him. He glanced at Ryuji, and worry sparked through him. What if I’m not good enough? No, I have to start somewhere, and I already know I’m faster than Ryuji. Confidence swelled in his chest. 

“Room 316, Niijima Makoto.” 

“Student council.” Another obvious choice. 

“Room 317, Sakura Futaba.”

“Anime club! Oh, and maybe robotics as well.” I have no idea why Sakura would want to join an anime club over robotics, but I won’t judge her too harshly.  

“...of course. Room 318, Okumura Haru.” 

“I’d like to join the gardening club. I brought some of my plants with me!” Yosuke had originally thought Okumura to be too innocent for the Phantom Thieves, but then she smashed a Shadow’s head in with a battle axe the size of her body. Still, joining a gardening club didn’t help his confused mental image of her.

“Room 319, Arisato Minato.”

“Fencing team.” There was a horribly dangerous gleam in Arisato’s eyes, one that said he wouldn’t fail getting in. “And debate team.” Of course, he’s even smarter than Yu. His fists clenched around the paper. Everyone else had such obvious choices, so he had to be sure track and field was what he wanted. It is, I want to be faster and stronger.  

“A bit much. Room 320, Narukami Yu.” 

Yosuke hadn’t realized how much he had been thinking about what Yu would pick, but right before he spoke it dawned on him. He’d pick basketball, even if he had to do it without Kou. “Basketball team.” With his height and build, he’d fit perfectly. Hashiru wasn’t so convinced. 

“You’ll need to prove yourself, even at that height.” A shiver ran through Yosuke from the static that flooded the room. He knew that while he wouldn’t show it, Yu was irritated enough to start sparking. Clearly Hashiru can’t tell because of the sweater Yu’s wearing, but he’s nothing but hard packed muscle.  

“Room 321, Kurusu Akira.” 

“Gymnastics.” Yosuke’s head snapped to look at Akira. That was certainly not the choice he’d think that the black haired boy would even consider, but the more he thought about it the more obvious it seemed. Akira’s long legs and impressive upper body strength, the way he moved even outside of combat, and the insane maneuvers he could force his body to do, it all pointed to someone who had been trained well. No wonder he was so confident in facing down Hokori. He knew he could avoid all those attacks with ease. He sees his entire body as a weapon, as something to bend to his will. Yosuke felt new respect for Akira, but clearly Hashiru didn’t. 

“Hah! Whoever heard of a boy joining gymnastics?” 

“I can guarantee you that I would be better than most of the people there already. Sign me up.” I’m surprised he didn’t get angry! Though, upon closer inspection Yosuke could see a flicker of red in his eyes. 

My turn. He took a deep breath. 

“Hanamura, do you know what you wish to sign up for?” 

He stood up proudly. This is it. This is the first step to becoming stronger. “I want to join track and field.” 

“Alright that’s it. I want to see all of you sports people before I sign you up. I won’t sign you up for failure.” Hashiru shook his head. “Meet me in the gym once this is over.” Yosuke felt uncomfort and anger blaze through him. “Especially you, Hanamura.” Just because I’m clumsy most of the time? This is bullshit. He didn’t stick around for much longer, instead leaving the common room so Kouji could finish up. 

“Anyway, I’m glad everyone was able to pick something.” He cleared his throat. “As for the rules, I’ll go through them quickly. First, school rules apply here.” That’s a given. “Second, curfew is at nine, and lights out is at ten.” 

The wave of indignation that washed through the common room was so powerful Yosuke just about fell over. Many were angered by this, and it was obvious why. A lot of us don’t even get ready for bed until at least eleven at night!  

“I can understand your anger, but the student council decided this was the best time to choose, as you will need sleep in order to perform the best in class.” 

“Not all of us need sleep.” Arisato’s mutter was so soft Yosuke barely heard it. 

All of you need sleep, and that is final. Anyone with lights still on after ten will receive a write up. Third, people staying in your rooms overnight must be cleared by me first, and that includes parties and get togethers over breaks as well. I’ll be paying attention to those of you in relationships as well, for your significant other is not allowed to spend the night.” 

Yosuke couldn’t stop himself from sputtering. “That’s bullshit!” He glanced around, suddenly aware of how loud he had complained. “I-I mean, shouldn’t they be cleared by you instead?” 

“Absolutely not. Fourth, clean up after yourselves. We do room inspections here to make sure that you aren’t hiding things or attracting animals here. Keeping that in mind, no pets are allowed either.” There was some prickliness from Akira, and Yosuke knew the reason. Shit, how are they going to hide Morgana?  

“I believe that concludes everything. Thank you so much for your time today.” Kouji stood up and bowed before striding out. Once he was out of earshot, Ryuji practically exploded. 

“Where the hell are we going to store our weapons?! If they’re doing room inspections, we can’t just hide them.” Yosuke thought hard to himself for a moment. Yu had asked the team to not reveal his power to everyone else yet, but it was their only chance of hiding the weapons. Unless… 

“I’ll hold onto everyone’s weapons, just like I’m doing now. I promise I can hide them, I mean… ” It was a dangerous thing to do, revealing how he always carried kunai on him, but it was necessary for the effect he wanted. He flicked both wrists, knives sliding out of his sleeves. He palmed each one and spun them smoothly, feeling the handles glide against his skin. He threaded them through his fingers before producing four more from his sleeves. I know how to hide anything.  

“You had no idea I had these on me, did you?”

Chapter Text

“You never thought I’d want to join gymnastics, did you Yosuke?”

While Hashiru had only asked for those interested in athletics to go to the gym, the rest of the transfers had gone as well, watching from the stands. Akira was warming up, stretching his limbs out. He’s so limber, even when relaxed. It might have occurred to Yosuke to stretch, but that was something he didn’t know how to do. Instead he had his headphones over his ears, relying on that feeling to give him his edge. 

“At first I didn’t, but then I remembered how you fought. Then it was obvious.” 

Akira chuckled. “You aren’t going to stretch? You’re not as strong here as you are in the other world.” I know that, but I’ve never stretched before.  

“I don’t know how. Isn’t there like, a way to do it safely so you don’t hurt yourself?” Yosuke ran his fingers through his hair, stopping when he reached his headphones. 

“You can hurt yourself while stretching, but I can show you a few simple things.” Akira started going through some simple poses, pointing out the muscles that were being stretched. Yosuke did his best to follow, but standing still his balance was questionable. Ugh, Akira can keep his balance so much better than me.

“Alright, listen up potential athletes. I’ll be going through your names alphabetically, testing you individually to see if you’re good enough for the sports teams you picked.” Hashiru strutted out into the gym. Yosuke felt a prickle of annoyance, but the assistant continued without paying attention to anyone else there. “Until it is your turn, please wait in the stands. First up, Arisato Minato.” 

Yosuke walked up to the stands, looking out on the gym. It wasn’t a typical school gymnasium, and instead had been done up with rings for combat, a batting cage, targets, and an entire obstacle course. Arisato walked down there, his hands deep in his pockets. The aloof nature of his wasn’t a facade, but it still hid the skill he had with a light sword. 

“Pick your sword, and then you and I’ll begin in the ring.” Arisato picked the closest sword to him, flipping it with ease in one hand. I’ve barely even seen his skill in battle. He walked over to the ring, shrugged off his headphones, and readied himself. 

“Let’s get this over with quickly. You’ve got a lot of other skilled students to go through, and you’re taking up all of our time.” Arisato’s voice was dripping with annoyance as he glared at Hashiru. Then he scoffed. “I’ll keep my hair over my eye. You’ll need the handicap.” 

“You’re arrogant, Arisato.” 

I don’t think it’s an empty threat. He’s been fighting Shadows without using his right eye almost effortlessly. He’s been trained extremely well. Arisato rolled his arm around as he stared Hashiru down. The assistant hefted his larger sword, and a referee who had probably been volunteered for this signalled the start of the match. 

Arisato’s shoe made a high pitched squeak on the floor as he charged forward. Yosuke had known that he wasn’t as fast as himself, or even his partner, but even so, it was clear that this initial rush was intended to overwhelm Hashiru. Arisato isn’t as strong physically as Yu, nor as fast as Kurusu, but he’s wicked smart. Clearly, that’s what’s going to win against Hashiru. The swords clashed a few times, and while Hashiru seemed to be panicking slightly as his much stronger sword strikes were easily blocked, Arisato’s face only changed from annoyed to pleased. 

Between the rings of blades clinging against each other, Arisato suddenly closed the gap and snapped rather loudly. “It’s time I end this.” There was a sharp flash of movement, and suddenly Hashiru’s sword had been flung away. I barely got to see his techniques! The way Arisato had moved wasn’t terribly flashy, but his strategy was more than all he needed. Hashiru was clearly impressed. 

“I doubted you a little, Arisato. You’re much better than I expected. I’ll sign you up for the fencing team, and give them a little warning before hand.” Arisato walked up into the stands and took his place among the members of S.E.E.S. He passed his test so easily. Who’s next, if he’s going by our names? Wait, Arisato...then…! “Hanamura Yosuke. You’re up.” 

Yosuke stumbled down the stairs, cursing himself for being so clumsy already. He could see the disappointment in Hashiru’s eyes, but determination to prove his worth straightened his posture. “You’ll be racing the clock in this obstacle course. Get to the starting block. If you fall, you’re done.” 

This is it. Yosuke could feel the eyes of not just the Investigation Team but the rest of the Persona users watching him. Some weren’t expecting much, but that was ok. I can feel Yu and Chie and everyone believing in me. He stood at the starting mark, tapping his toes against the floor. He took a deep breath, imagining his kunai in his palms, and feeling the softness of his headphones on his skin. He closed his eyes. Picture Jiraiya giving you strength, giving you speed. Come on Yosuke. Power flooded through his body as his eyes traced the path to take. Speed and agility through Sukukaja!  

“Begin!” 

Yosuke was gone, his feet pounding the ground like his life depended on it. He hit the first obstacle in no time, not stopping to assess the situation. It was a springboard to reach a rope over a pit. Yosuke planted his foot on the spring and leapt halfway across the chasm before grabbing hold of the rope. Using his momentum he flung himself hard and easily cleared the pit. Perfect!  

Yosuke hit the next obstacles and surpassed them easily. His stamina was keeping up with the way he was pushing his body, and his balance hadn’t given out once. Confidence sparked through him until his foot suddenly hit a step that shifted under his weight. His balance started to slip, panic rising quickly. Shit! I’m not going down now! Yosuke gritted his teeth and shifted his foot to place his weight on the outside, then made a desperate leap for the next step. He had no time to think before he leapt to the next and then the next, making it across much faster than he meant to. 

Yosuke made it to the finish completely winded, his legs and shoulders aching. Making it through the course was easy, but his endurance was still pretty bad. Damn, I need more practice. “Impressive, Hanamura. I didn’t think you could be that agile but I was wrong.” Shut up, that’s only because I’m in this world. “You’re free to go. Next up!”

“Iori Junpei!”

Chapter Text

Despite the sting in his knuckles, Akihiko kept slugging punches at the punching bag in his room. He’d been at this since he had gotten back to his room after the athletics auditions, which was however long ago. He never tended to keep track. 

With the dull thuds that rung out in his room, Akihiko didn’t hear the chimes of his clock until he glanced out the window. It’s already dark! Broken out of his aggressive trance, he noticed the throbbing in hands at last, inspecting the split knuckles. It was probably best for him to stop now, especially with the way his stomach rumbled. He’d been at this all afternoon. 

Akihiko watched the cold water in the sink turn pink as he washed the blood from his hands. He’d gone down to the kitchen to prepare a dinner of protein shakes and cold water. I still have no idea how late it is. As he was bandaging his fingers a small yelp rang out through the room. He turned to see a tiny red haired girl peeking around the corner of the doorframe. Oh it’s Sakura.  

“Eep! I-I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone else was here…” Sakura’s face was bright red with nervousness as she tried to back away. Aki tilted his head at her. She was always so confident as a Navi, but outside of that strange world her timid nature shined through. “I just wanted to make my yakisoba, but I’ll come back later.” She started to back away. 

“No it’s ok. I’m not using the sink anymore.” Something within him felt soft just looking at her, like a need to protect her. Aki stepped away from the sink so she could have access to it. “You’re a really good navigator, ya know?” That made Sakura’s face even redder. Is she not used to praise?  

“Th-thank you.” She stood on her toes to stick her instant noodles under that tap water, and now that Aki was right next to her, he noticed how short she really was. Without thinking, he took the box from her hands and filled it up before handing it back. As Sakura looked ready to implode from gratitude, a sharp meow sounded from the doorway.

“Oh there you are, Futaba. I’ve been looking for you everywhere- Hey!” The black cat of Kurusu’s poked its head through the door and instantly hissed upon seeing Akihiko. “Get your paws off her!” 

“Morgana! Calm down, he was just helping me.” Sakura stuck her tongue out at the cat as she placed her noodles inside the microwave. “Sorry Sanada. Morgana kinda protects the Thieves.” The high pitched beeping of buttons rang out through the soft silence before the microwave roared to life. 

“It’s fine.” Akihiko looked down at the black cat who was glaring at him from the doorway. “He’s a cute thing. I...used to know someone who’d like him.” He chewed on the inside of his lip. He wasn’t sure if talking about Shinji was the right thing to do here, but even just standing in the kitchen reminded him of his best friend. He had been trying to hide his grief over Shinji, though he was sure S.E.E.S. could still tell. 

The microwave beeped and Sakura pulled her instant noodles from it. “Used to know?” She sounded genuinely curious about it, and for some reason, that led Aki to trust her. 

“Yeah. His name was Shinjiro Aragaki. We grew up together. Last year, right after he joined S.E.E.S. there was an incident.” Akihiko’s voice caught in his throat. He cleared it and started again. “It’s… Sometimes I’m over it. Most of the time I’m not, I guess.” He couldn’t look Sakura in the eye as he talked. S.E.E.S. knew about his attachment to Shinji never brought it up, and he was afraid that anyone else would mock him for it. 

But that’s not what Sakura did. “I know how that feels.” After a struggle, she managed to get on the counter and sit, setting her noodles in her lap. “My mom died right in front of me.” Her voice shook, but in a different way than her normal timidity. The more he listened, the more Aki could hear actual rage in her words. Why is she so angry? While he could feel fear for whatever made Sakura so angry, he couldn’t deny the admiration he had. “Some awful jerk made her have a mental shutdown. That’s why I joined the Phantom Thieves, so I could find out who did it.” 

Aki sighed. “Revenge, huh?” He looked at the tiny girl. “Don’t let it taint you. I know how bad it can get, to where you’ll hurt people you care about.” I don’t think Ken will ever recover from Shinji’s death. He folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t want anyone else to shoulder that burden.” 

“You’re talking about Amada, aren’t you?” 

“How’d you know?” 

Sakura shrugged. “I could feel it. He’s got a lot of complicated feelings.” She snickered softly, though it was a sad sound. “It’s so awful that we have to deal with the things adults don’t take responsibility for. That’s why we made the Phantom Thieves.” 

We’re all so similar. Why can’t our leaders see that? Even he could see how much Minato and Kurusu hated each other, seemingly for no reason. But despite their hatred, he could tell that he and Sakura could be good friends. “You’re such an interesting person, Sakura.”

“Call me Futaba, and I’ll call you Akihiko.” 

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

Futaba hadn’t anticipated actually making friends this year. She had known that all of the Phantom Thieves were to be attending Hashi, and had resolved to spend the year only with them. That was until the other Persona users had been forced into the picture. 

It was often way too loud anywhere in the dorms for Futaba to focus, so she often locked herself away in the tech room that the dorms provided. It wasn’t as modern as her own room, but it served its purpose. She found herself there more often than not, trying to research why so many Persona users were put into one place. 

Once again she found herself walking towards the tech room, barely thinking about what she was doing as opposed to what she was going to do. When she did look up from her tablet, she suddenly noticed that Hanamura was sitting in the tech room. 

“Oh, Hanamura, I didn’t see you there...s-sorry.” He apparently hadn’t seen Futaba until she spoke, sending the boy into a flurry. He scrambled to hide a paper and wipe his eyes free of the tears that had been accumulating there. 

“Sakura! You startled me.” Hanamura sniffed a bit, wiping his face again. Had he been crying? “I was just here because it was quiet.” 

“Sorry for scaring you. I can just l-leave now…” Futaba felt her face grow hot in embarrassment. She felt as if she had intruded on something private. She moved back towards the door before Hanamura spoke up again. 

“You don’t have to. Futaba, right?” Now that he looked up, Futaba could see that his eyes were red. He was crying. What could have made someone so carefree cry by himself? “Go ahead and stay. You need this room more than me.” Hanamura stood up to leave. “Enjoy the-”

“Were you crying?” 

There was an audible jolt from Hanamura, who slowly sat back down. He hung his head and took out the paper he had been holding earlier. Futaba sat down as well, looking at the paper. It was a torn picture, one of Hanamura and some girl. 

“I...Yeah, I was.” Hanamura’s brown eyes filled with sadness. “Some days, it hits harder, ya know? You realize you’ll never see them again.” It struck Futaba what he was talking about. Oh. He must have lost someone important.

“I know what you mean.” Futaba tapped her fingers nervously against the table. She longed for the feeling of keys beneath her skin, but for now she’d just listen to Hanamura. “My… My mother died right in front of me. Sometimes, I dream about seeing her alive again and I wake up feeling so lonely.” Her taps got harder, trying to distract herself. Though, she had to admit that talking about it with someone who felt the same was starting to make her feel better. “Usually I’d text Akira. He knows how to help.” 

Hanamura nodded with a sad smile. “I should have known that you Thieves suffered a lot. I mean, you have to rip off half of your face.” He leaned back, letting the tears pool in his eyes. “I was the only one of the Investigation Team who lost someone important to me.” He lifted the picture. “Saki Konishi was the second murder victim, and she was a girl I fell in love with last year.” 

“I thought you were-”

“Gay? Yeah, so does everyone else.” Hanamura set down the picture and wiped his eyes. “But Saki had won over my heart rather quickly. I wanted to confess, but… then she died.” He sighed softly. Futaba could tell how hard he was holding on. “It’s my fault that the Investigation Team formed, because I couldn’t handle Saki’s death.” He slammed his fist into the table, though it was only in anger towards himself. Futaba could tell, she knew what all of that felt like. “I couldn’t handle being alone in that tiny, boring town, so I went into the TV world without thinking. It was because of Yu that I was able to survive.” 

“And so your feelings for him started to form, isn’t that right, Hanamura?” 

“Not quite, and call me Yosuke.” 

“You two are having a mourning party without me.” Futaba squeaked and instantly leapt from her chair to hide behind Yosuke as Iori entered the room. “Chill out, I just wanted to come here to be alone. But then I saw you two.” He sat down at the table as well, a large notebook in his arms. His words were teasing, but his tone was sad. 

“So Akihiko isn’t the only one in S.E.E.S. who suffered a loss…” Futaba carefully crept out from behind Yosuke and returned to her seat. 

“Far from it. All of us…” Iori flipped open the notebook to a portrait of himself, drawn so spectacularly well that it radiated care and love. Was that drawn by the person he lost? “We’ve all lost someone important. Chidori… She was going to die anyway, but she gave her life to me. I always wanted to see her drawings, but I didn’t until she died. I… I was reminded that she’s still looking over me, even now.” There was a soft smile on Iori’s face. 

Of course. My mother watches over me now, like she always did. Futaba felt warmth spread through her at the thought. So much so that a soft smile started to spread across her face. “Yeah… It’s a nice thought.” 

Yosuke slammed his fist on the table again. “You… You don’t understand.” Futaba could feel how he was seething, but his rage was towards himself. She flinched away at the sharp sound. Tears had started to drip down his face. What’s his deal? “You don’t think I know that Saki is watching? She haunts me.” Yosuke’s arms were trembling. He’s hiding something. Futaba could feel that he was going to spill everything all at once. He stood up, anger radiating from him. 

“I almost killed someone because of Saki!” 

Futaba felt a shock travel down her spine, and Iori’s jaw dropped open. Neither of them could think of anything to say, but Yosuke continued. 

“Because of how I couldn’t throw away my feelings for Saki or my damn hero complex, I was this close to murdering someone before I was stopped.” He can’t forgive himself. But something made Futaba’s spine tingle. In a flash, the answer came to her. 

“But you were stopped by Narukami.” Her eyes flashed up at Yosuke. “Because he cares about you and everyone else. But especially you.” She couldn’t deny Narukami’s feelings toward Yosuke, considering how they talked to each other, the way their hands barely grazed to deliver their feelings through such brief touches. “You’re still shadowed by this Saki, and despite that, Narukami still cares so much.” 

Yosuke slowly sat back down. He seemed to be at a loss for words, but a smile started to grow on his face. He laughed breathily. “You’re right, god dammit you’re right.” He laughed again, resting his head in his hand. “I’m sorry, I just...it’s hard to forgive myself for doing that. But you’re right, it’s ok. Yu really is there for me all the time.” 

Futaba was about to respond again, but her tablet lit up with a message. She looked down and gasped. “Oh no. I just got a message from the NPC.” 

“NPC?” 

“Mishima. He’s just told me that a student from Kosei hasn’t been seen for two days. People think the butcher in Shinjuku killed him, since that was the last place he was seen.” Ping ping. Futaba read over the message and instantly started to research. “He suspects that the butcher is actually a cult member.” Her eyes rapidly scanned the influx of information, gathering as much as she could. 

“Kosei? Is that a school in Tokyo? Yosuke leaned over to try and read what Futaba was looking at. 

“It’s the school that Inari went to before he transferred here with the rest of us.” That looked important. She started sorting through the info, coming up with what appeared to be several cases of people vanishing in Shinjuku after going to the butcher. “Done. Looks like people vanish after going to the butcher shop, then reappear in those robes, dead.” 

“We should really tell the leaders.” Iori closed the notebook and stood up. “It...it was nice talking to you two.” He smiled before leaving. 

I never meant to make friends, but I’m glad I did. Futaba watched as Yosuke left the room as well. Well I hope it helps us in this new arising problem.

Chapter Text

“Narukami, you’d better have a damn good explanation for this.” 

Yu stumbled to his door, swearing to himself. That’s Kurusu’s voice. He couldn’t deny the irritation that blazed through him at once. He opened the door to see the Thief holding a familiar looking boy dressed in a white ruffled shirt by the collar. The boy whined as he clung to his armful of sweets for dear life. Kuma?  

“Just give him to me.” Yu reached for Kuma but Kurusu pulled away with a shake of his head. Yu narrowed his eyes and reached for Kuma again. 

“Not until you explain why I found this thieving little rat pilfering all the sweets from the kitchen.” Kurusu seemed to be seething, but Yu couldn’t figure out why he was so mad about Kuma. His irritation turned into anger. Give me Kuma and this can all be done with.

“He was hungry, isn’t that obvious?” Yu lunged and snatched Kuma from Kurusu’s grip. He pulled the boy into his room. “He’s just like everyone else. Can you blame him?” There was unintentional venom in his voice as he spat. 

“Yes, when he’s stealing the snacks that I bought for my Thieves.” Kurusu folded his arms and shifted his weight. “Where the hell did he come from anyway, and why does he call you sensei?” 

“Isn’t it obvious?” Kuma managed to wriggle out of Yu’s grasp and land on the floor. He forced his snacks into the boy’s arms. “Sensei is the most amazing Persona user there is! He was the first of us to get his power, and Izanagi is so strong!” Yu felt the familiar tingles of electricity start to spark over his skin as he realized how close Kuma was to revealing some more personal information. 

“Kuma, where is your suit? Is it in the kitchen still?” Yu could feel Kurusu’s poisonous glare from here, and in response his body crackled more. His eyes flickered up, matching those dark gray eyes with his own glare. 

“No, of course not. I went ahead and put it in Yosuke’s room, but he wasn’t there. So I just left my suit there before running back down to grab more of these tasty snacks!” Kuma took the mountain of goodies from Yu’s arms. “I’m gonna go back to Yosuke’s room now! I’m sure he’ll accomodate me!” The boy trotted off, leaving Kurusu and Yu to continue to glare at each other. 

“So you want to explain where he came from?” 

Normally, Yu would have been willing to explain the mysteries surrounding Kuma, but today wasn’t that day. Kurusu had disturbed his studying to bother him with something trivial, and he was already feeling more than irritated at the black haired teen for various reasons. “No.” He stepped back to close the door on the Thief, but a foot in the way stopped him. 

I am THIS close to shocking you into next week, Kurusu.  

“I think I deserve an explanation for some strange boy coming into the dorms and stealing my sweets. What other secrets are you hiding in that dumbass collar of yours?” Kurusu snapped at Yu, making his hair stand on end with the lightning that coursed through his body. “You and Arisato are suspicious as hell.” He pushed on the door, but Yu held it fast. 

“Get out of my room, Kurusu. I don’t trust thieves.” Yu started to close the door again, despite Kurusu’s protests. I’m physically much stronger than you. There’s no way you can fight against me. “Kuma is just one of the Investigation Team’s Persona users, and that’s all you need to know.” With one final push, the door closed on Kurusu. 

Yu leaned against the door to keep Kurusu out, sliding the lock shut. He sighed exasperatedly, pressing his fingers through his hair. He tugged at the gray strands, a nervous tick he developed in the TV world. This ‘talk,’ if you could even call it that, set him more on edge than normal. His irritation towards both Kurusu and Arisato had deepened, leading him closer to hatred. 

There was a knock at the door. Yu pressed his head to the wood, refusing to open it until the knocking persisted. With a growl, he unlocked the door and flung it open. “What part of get out of my-” 

Yu stopped yelling as soon as he recognized Yosuke’s face. He sank his teeth into the inside of his lip. “Shit, Yosuke, I-” 

Yosuke folded his arms with a huff. “I already know what happened. I ran into Akira on my way here and explained about Kuma.” Yu felt concern flash through him, but Yosuke wasn’t done. “Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him about your power. But I need to talk to you about something Futaba found.” Yu sighed. 

“Sorry Yosuke. I’m kind of distracted. Come in and we can talk.” Yu moved aside so the boy could walk in. He shut the door and sat at his desk, which still had papers and books strewn across it. I barely got any studying done.  

“Futaba found something while talking to Mishima. Some kid from a nearby school is missing. Aocha Heiwa. We suspect the butcher in Shinjuku, Inoshi Sansho.” Yu sighed again, resting his chin in the palm of his hand. He had been waiting for the next update on the cultist case, but he couldn’t swallow his pride enough to just let go of his argument with Kurusu. 

“Right.” 

“You’re upset about Akira.” 

Yu buried his face in his hands, pulling at his hair with his fingers more. Yosuke could always see through his facades, to the point where it could get annoying. “I know. I’m just upset. Kurusu and Arisato are ...aggravating. I wish I could solve this with just the Investigation Team, but I know we can’t.” Yu fell limp onto the desk, nesting his head in his arms. One eye looked up at Yosuke, who had a disapproving look on his face. It hurt a bit. 

“You know, maybe if you three slug it out, you might see more eye to eye.” There was a laugh at the edge of his words, though Yu could tell that Yosuke wasn’t entirely joking. That was fine. He could joke around too. 

“It’s hard to see eye to eye with them when they’re so short.” Yu couldn’t deny that he felt better like this, joking around with Yosuke. The metallic taste of bitterness was fading from his mouth. 

“Hey! I’m the same height as Akira, and you don’t call me short!” Yu laughed and lifted his head back up. Yosuke was making his normal pouting face when he was teased, and it made Yu’s face start to feel warm. It had been a while since the two had time to be alone like this, and he was once again reminded of his feelings for the boy. Especially when Yosuke pouted like that, with his lower lip looking so biteable-

Yu cleared his throat, trying to rid his mind of such perverted thoughts. He stood up and gave Yosuke a look. “Come on. We should meet with the other Persona users.” Beating up Shadows will help me clear my head. Thankfully, Yosuke agreed, despite the gleam in his eyes. We’re both so desperate these days. Yu opened his door, leaning in the opening. 

He’d reward Yosuke later. That was a promise to himself, one that he intended to uphold no matter the rules in place at these dorms.

Chapter Text

Yusuke would readily admit that the sound of graphite scratching against paper was one of the world’s most soothing sounds. It reminded him of what he lived for, paint and art and all things filled with beauty. Joining the art club was natural for him, as natural as the way a brush felt in his hand. 

Today wasn’t too unnatural, classes had come and gone easily, leaving Yusuke with excitement for the afternoon activities. He had art club after school, his favorite day of the week, a day where he could let loose and be who he really was: an artist. Yet, as he divided his attention between the model and his paper, a nagging feeling pricked at his head. 

A new person had gone missing from his old school, no doubt kidnapped by those strange cultists. It twisted his stomach into sharp knots, and before he realized it, his hand had strayed from drawing the model to drawing that normal figure of Yuuki. 

Upon noticing how distracted he was, Yusuke set down his pencil with an aggravated sigh. The concern he felt for Yuuki was undeniable, considering how far away the boy was. So far from my swords that will protect him.

“Can’t focus today either, huh?” 

The rough voice brought him out of his thoughts. Yusuke looked over to see Tatsumi rather angrily chewing on the end of his pencil. The person on his canvas wasn’t the model either, but a rather elegant sketch of what Yusuke assumed was Shirogane. 

“Unfortunately it seems my hand is concerned for my muse as well.” Yusuke set down his pencil and stared at the paper. He had been too busy ever since school started to really have the opportunity to draw Yuuki as much as he wanted to, and it didn’t help that he was still at Shujin instead of here at Hashi. “It is hard to focus because of… reasons.” 

Tatsumi nodded. “I can’t help being worried about Naoto, even if they can take care of themself.” He tapped his pencil rhythmically against his forehead, where Yusuke noticed a criss cross of scars. He wondered what had caused that. “I just wanna punch all those cultists to make sure everyone else stays safe.” 

At first, Yusuke related Tatsumi to Ryuji, in their thuggish, rough, violent nature. Not that he didn’t like Ryuji of course, in fact, the thief was one of his best friends. But now he had noticed little things that differentiated the two. How Tatsumi had such a liking in his heart for the arts and cute things, how protective he was for not just Shirogane but for everyone on the Investigation Team, how he felt about his interests being ‘girly.’ It felt strangely refreshing compared to the aggressive nature of the Phantom Thieves. 

“I can understand that.” Yusuke had originally thought it would be hard to talk to Tatsumi. That is, until he said he wanted to join the art club. That connection had sparked interest in Yusuke, though he still hadn’t been sure how to talk until now. “I’m worried for Yuuki.” 

“You talkin’ about Mishima? I didn’t know you were close.” 

“I sketch him from time to time.” He sat back, looking over the paper. Even with his skills, a mere sketch wasn’t enough to fully capture the beauty of their informant, the spiky blue hair, the ever so slight curves, the soft features. Yusuke sighed again. “Perhaps more than time to time.” 

Tatsumi stood up and slung his blazer over his shoulder. “We ain’t gettin’ anything done today. Come on, I’ll treat you.” Yusuke scrambled up, quickly putting things away. The promise of food was more than enough to make his stomach rumble as he finished packing up, standing next to Tatsumi. “We can talk more on the way.” 

The rhythmic jingling of the keys on Yusuke’s hip was another one of those sounds that he found rather beautiful. Even as they walked through Shibuya, the jingling brought him into soothing thoughts. 

“You and Shirogane are rather lovely together. I would like to draw you two some time.” Yusuke smiled to himself. In fact, he wanted to draw all of the other Persona users, finding each individual power to be so remarkable in its own way. He had seen glimpses of Tatsumi and Shirogane working flawlessly together, an absolute perfect unison. It reminded him of how Akira and Ryuji fought, or how Makoto and Haru did the same. 

“R-really?” Tatsumi turned away, a small blush in his cheeks. “Well, I’m ok with it, but you should really ask Naoto. They’re the one who isn’t always up for stuff like that.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that.” Yusuke fidgeted with his collar, a trait he had picked up because of his thief outfit. “You refer to Shirogane as they. Is there a reason for that?” He couldn’t figure out why Tatsumi wouldn’t refer to Shirogane as her.

There was a slightly defensive note in Tatsumi’s voice. “Because they asked me too. Naoto doesn’t feel like they fit as male or female. I respect that. Everyone else should too.” 

“I see.” It made sense to Yusuke, how Shirogane tried to look neither male nor female, how uncomfortable they got when called he or she. And he felt respect spark through him, his desire to draw them growing even stronger. “They are lucky to have you, Tatsumi.” 

“Huh?!” He covered his face, the blush growing stronger. “W-well I mean, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to save them last year, and they cared for me when I was confused, and-” 

“I just think, out of all the people they could have met, they met someone who obviously cares so much.” Yusuke chuckled softly, smiling as he looked over at Tatsumi. “The Investigation Team is all such good friends, I would be jealous if the Thieves hadn’t done the same for me.” 

Tatsumi brought his arms down, the pink fading from his cheeks. “I wanted to ask at least one of you about that. How did all of you become the Thieves?” He turned into the diner on Central Street, leading Yusuke up the stairs. 

Yusuke didn’t start talking until they had settled down in one of the seats. He took a deep breath. “It isn’t quite so friendly as you, unfortunately. At first, I didn’t like Akira and Ryuji. They were brash and uncouth, and they still are.” He chuckled rather sadly. “I tried to have them arrested for bad mouthing my former sensei, saying he plagiarized and abused his students. It was true, of course, but I had forced myself to remain blind. They really, truly saved my life by being so persistent.” 

Tatsumi was tapping his fingers against the table. Yusuke noticed he always did this when he wasn’t busy, and could assume that it was because he needed something to do with his hands. “That’s so shitty.” 

“That is one way to put it, yes.” 

“But you’re fine now. At least, you were until we found out about this cultist bullshit.” Yusuke shifted his hips a bit, used to the weight of his tail hanging from his waist. He knew that the Thieves would snicker when he walked, when he shifted his body just like now as if the tail was real. 

“I have another question. Hanamura is suffering, isn’t he?” Yusuke had noticed a strange feeling around the brown haired boy, something he could only equate to when Haru’s father had died. Something that gave them the same feeling of being rubbed the wrong way. 

Tatsumi would have jumped back if there was room. “Wait! How did you know?” 

Yusuke didn’t respond, unsure how to explain it. 

“He lost a girl he cared about last year.” He settled back down, folding his hands in his lap. “It tore him up somethin’ awful. Led him to do some crazy shit.” Tatsumi sighed. “We all were just doing this because we knew the police couldn’t do a damn thing. Yosuke was the one who really drove everyone to put our effort into the case. Because of that girl.” 

“I see.” Yusuke kept messing with his collar. “You and the team are all such nice people, even if Akira doesn’t think so.” 

“And you thieves aren’t half bad, despite what Yu thinks.” 

“You can call me Yusuke, by the way. I’m used to being called that as opposed to Kitagawa.” 

“Tatsumi is my mother’s name, so just...Kanji is fine.” 

“It’s nice to be friends with you, Kanji.” 

You really aren’t like Ryuji at all.

Chapter Text

 

“Minato, I don’t believe that fighting with the other two leaders will help with our situation.” 

Mitsuru set the tip of her rapier on the floor with a soft tink. They had been trying to navigate Inoshi’s temple, a giant freezer-esque place. She had been trying to avoid looking at the hanging things that blocked their way. It made a sort of a maze, so the party thought it best to split S.E.E.S. up and have the leaders lead them through. 

Minato slashed his sword through one of the suspending chains, sending its contents splattering down. “I can’t trust them.” He stared at the floor, his knuckles white as he gripped hard onto his sword. “They’re rude and brash, and I can’t trust people who think with their hearts and not their brains.” Mitsuru could almost understand that.

Except for the fact that she knew Kurusu and Narukami were the leaders of their teams for a reason. Even if they tended to run head first into danger, their friends trusted them. She saw no reason why they couldn’t trust each other. 

“That doesn’t mean you can’t work together with them.” Mitsuru talked as the two walked through the maze. “They’re leaders like you, and I don’t think that we can defeat these cultists by fighting amongst ourselves.” The meager Shadows they had encountered here were easily taken out by a simple attack, and the one that approached Mitsuru now was no different. 

Minato watched as she slashed through it, sighing. “I still don’t like them, and we beat Hokori by doing our own thing.” The flat of his sword tapped, irritated, against his shoulder. “Narukami’s weird friend stole my sweets too.”

“Hanamura did say he would repay you for those.”

Minato sighed again and ran his fingers through his hair. “And I know that weird cat of  Kurusu’s stole one of my candles.” He fidgeted with the snap on his holster, the popping sound echoing through the maze. “I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking but this is an actual problem!” 

He IS nitpicking, but I can’t tell him off. Mitsuru shook her head. It still made no sense to her. “We should really keep moving. Fuuka said this place was bigger than it looked.”

“And there are more Shadows too.” He swept past her, pointing his Evoker at his head. Mitsuru could tell that these Shadows were stronger than the ones from before, meaning that they were getting closer to their goal. She smiled a little. 

Seeing Minato operate in battle was always breathtaking. Even when he was still getting adjusted to his Persona, his fighting was smooth and powerful. And now, his skill was greater than anyone else in S.E.E.S. 

With a bang, Orpheus rose from behind Minato, flames spurting from his mouth. Explosions of fire rang out through the room as they slammed over and over into the largest of the Shadows, each time it got knocked back a little further. Mitsuru wasn’t going to let Minato take all the credit of course, pulling her Evoker from her hip and summoning Penthesilea. 

With a snap of her fingers, ice spun from her hand and wrapped around the other Shadows. Mitsuru charged forward, her rapier gleaming in the black and white lights of the Chaos Realm. In rapid succession, she slashed through the frozen enemies, reducing them to nothing. Letting out a breath, her Persona returned. Mitsuru sheathed her sword right as a large Shadow growled behind her. She whirled around, panic starting to build in her chest. 

Right before she could pull her sword back out, a blade emerged from the Shadow’s body. It poofed into dust, leaving Minato standing right behind it. He was panting a bit, clearly the fight had left him a bit winded. He sheathed his sword at his hip, and tucked his Evoker away. 

“These Shadows are persistent.” Mitsuru dusted herself off daintily, rolling her shoulders around a bit. She could tell that they were starting to get tired, as was expected for this place. The Persona users had greater strength here, but at the cost of their stamina. She sighed. “I’m going to contact Fuuka and see where the other two groups are.” 

Minato grumbled a bit but sat down as she pulled a communicator from her belt. Using the power of Penthesilea, Mitsuru waited for Fuuka to respond. 

“Mitsuru! Minato! I see you’re doing well in making progress.” The soft voice crackled to life. Mitsuru sighed again, this time from relief. “All three groups are getting closer to where Inoshi is. It shouldn’t be too much farther now!” 

“Excellent work, Fuuka. Keep us up to date.” 

Mitsuru almost shut off the connection before Fuuka let out a startled squeak. “Ah! Please watch out! There’s a huge Shadow coming your way!” As soon as she spoke, the ground began to rumble from the Shadow in question. Mitsuru quickly tucked away the communicator and whipped her rapier out. 

“Minato.” 

“Got it.” 

The Shadow ripped through the maze walls as it thundered towards the Persona users. Mitsuru raised her sword and ran forward. I only have Minato by my side, but that’s all I need. She slashed the arm of the Shadow as she leapt over it, her eyes meeting with Minato as the two flipped in unison. Her feet slammed into the ground, pushing hard against the floor as she raced forward again. The Shadow didn’t have enough space to turn around, but lashing tail would give them enough problems as is. 

Mitsuru couldn’t move fast enough to avoid the tail scraping against the floor, it hit her legs and sent her sprawling. She hit one of the walls hard, groaning from the impact. Her sword skittered away from her reach. Minato had managed to hold onto his sword when he flew back, landing smoothly on his feet. Anger burned in his eyes as he ran forward again.

“Grrrah!” With a cry he leapt through the air, sword gleaming with lethality. He brought it down into the tail, his aim hitting squarely in the center. It sank up to the hilt, effectively pinning the Shadow to the floor. “Mitsuru! Go for it!” 

In a smooth motion, Mitsuru swept forward, picking up her rapier from the floor. She leapt up the monster, Evoker gleaming between her fingers as she summoned Penthesilea. She planted her foot on the Shadow’s shoulder and flung herself over its head, her eyes narrowing in on the top. My aim never falters! She dived down, sword spearing through the Shadow’s head. It screeched in pain, and a second later, her Persona’s blade slammed all the way through. The screeching stopped abruptly as she Shadow split apart under the cold steel of Penthesilea’s sword, falling to the ground before dissolving to dust. 

Mitsuru landed and stumbled a bit, but caught herself. Her entire body ached from both the exertion and the impact, and her leg was bleeding from where the tail had hit her. Minato ripped his sword from the floor, sheathing it with finality. His face was cut and bruised, but other than that he seemed fine. 

“Excellent fight, Minato.” Mitsuru sheathed her rapier as well as she limped over to him. Her leg was the most injured, but a rest outside the realm ought to fix it. “Let’s go see Inoshi, shall we?” 

Minato draped her arm over his shoulder, giving her his support. There was a tiny smile on his face, one that cut through the maze of pain. “He’ll get what’s coming to him soon.” 

“Of course. It’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?”

Chapter Text

“Kero kero…” 

Yosuke chewed on his lip as he stared at the blank paper in front of him. He had sat down in the common room today to try and figure out who the hell these cultists were, but so far he had come up with nothing. Not only that, but even trying to think made his head hurt. The others in the common room weren’t helping, with Akira just reading while upside down in a chair, and Sanada shadow boxing in the corner. Yosuke grumbled again and tapped his pencil against the table. 

“Yosuke, what was that?” 

Akira caught his eye. Yosuke lifted his head, a bit confused. “What was what?” The dark haired boy pursed his lips in thought. 

“You said something, like ‘kero kero’. Was it a ribbit?” 

Yosuke’s face blushed brightly. He had heard from Yu that he tended to do that when he was deep in thought, but he never noticed. Akira apparently found it amusing, as he laughed at the blushing teen. “I...I don’t notice when I do it….”

“Is it because of your Persona?” 

His only response was to make the noise again, but softer. Akira snickered again. 

“It’s cute.” 

Yosuke attempted to hide in his shirt. Dammit! Shut up! He stood up and crumpled the paper before throwing it at Akira. “Don’t ca- kero- call me that!” He clamped his hands over his mouth as a ribbit escaped on accident. Akira laughed more as Yosuke’s face got even redder. Without waiting for yet another opportunity to embarrass himself, Yosuke ran back to his room and slammed his door rather loudly. 

“Ahhhh! Dammit!” Yosuke paced his room as he tried to calm down. He loosened one of his kunai from his sleeve and threw it into the target on his wall. He didn’t even take note of the perfect bullseye before sitting down on his bed and whipping his headphones into place over his ears. Yosuke let his music calm his racing heart until he laid back, melting away into the world within his head. 

He wasn’t sure how long he had been gone, or if he had even remained awake for all of it, but the yellow and red lights of dusk started to filter into his room. Yosuke sat up and took his headphones off, gazing outside. He found that the colors were soothing, inadvertently chirping the soft ribbits of Jiraiya. 

A knock at his door and a firm voice made Yosuke jump. He scrambled over to his door and opened it, revealing Yu. He smiled. 

“Yu!” 

The soft chuckle was like music. “Hey Yosuke.” Yu didn’t walk in, instead just leaning on the door frame. “I’d love to keep talking but the other two leaders and I want to go in and kick Inoshi’s ass.” There was a grumble in his words that hinted towards the animosity between the leaders, and Yosuke assumed that they didn’t talk it over so much as argued about it. 

“Oh, ok then. It’s a little late though, won’t Kouji kill us?” 

“Don’t worry.” The way Yu spoke sent a chill down Yosuke’s spine. The gleam in his eyes was more than just deadly. “The only evidence he’ll find towards someone locking him out of the dorms is a set of cat paws.” 

Yosuke didn’t press any further, instead just gathering up as many kunai as his sleeves could hold. The newest window to the Realm had been through Haru’s room, and since everyone had been holding onto their weapons for now, he made his way there. Even from down the hall he could smell the flowers and fruits she grew, mingling together into a rather pleasant aroma. 

The inside was even better, with flowers and plants on every surface possible, even hanging from the ceiling. Yosuke would have expected the smell to be overpowering, but it was light and soft, making him feel strangely invigorated for battle. Ryuji had apparently opened the window already, as the Persona users were filtering in as they arrived. Yosuke followed them, diving in head first. 

Diving into the Chaos Realm felt rather similar to entering the TV World, in that weird way he was suspended in the air before he emerged from the other side. It tended to make him a little dizzy at first, but after a moment it always went away. Jiraiya was stirring, moving about in a way Yosuke could only describe as slimy. To help wake up more, he started to flip his kunai in his hands, readjusting to the strength of his Persona. 

Once everyone was here, the three leaders gave a terse speech about what they were going to do. The plan was like before. Barrel through the temple to the top, fight Inoshi, and rescue Aocha, and escape. Everyone was in agreement, and Yu started the mission by ceremoniously kicking the temple doors open. 

Yosuke charged after the leaders, following as they broke a path through the temple. Most of the Shadows and cultists they encountered were weak, easy enough for the leaders to take out by themselves. Ryuji ran next to him, and Yosuke could see how he was unsettled. He tilted his head at the blond. 

“They’re angry towards each other.” Ryuji mumbled, mostly to himself. “Wish they’d work together for real.” He still seemed to be paying enough attention to everything else around him, as a split second later, Ryuji slammed his bat into a Shadow so hard it exploded. 

Yosuke turned his eyes away. Ryuji was right of course. The leaders were constantly bickering, and the tension between them was always too thick to even cut. He felt bad about not being able to help, that he should really work with Yu to try and resolve whatever issues had been going on. He hadn’t been sure how to go about talking to him though, as any time Akira or Arisato were brought up, Yu refused to listen to anything about them. 

Before he could think too hard, the Persona users arrived at the end of the temple. Yosuke shivered, the cold air piercing through his coat. It’s like a freezer in here! He looked around, noticing how massive steel hooks lined the walls. That implication only made him shiver more. 

Inoshi was at the opposite end of the room, with three of his cultists nearby. Yosuke readied his knives, staring down the powerful cultist. The butcher’s cold laugh rang out as he stood to face down the Persona users. 

“Well done in making it through my maze, God Slayers. But you won’t be leaving here alive, I promise you that!” Yosuke scanned the room, trying to find where Aocha was. There, by the other cultists! Inoshi was steadily moving closer to the groups, spouting some bullshit about how he’d never be defeated like Hokori. 

Yosuke knew his partner well. Well enough that he could understand what the gray haired boy wanted to happen, and he prepared himself. Jiraiya stirred, but Yosuke took a breath. No need for that yet.  

Once Inoshi had made it to the middle of the room, Yosuke shot off like a bullet. He barely felt his feet hitting the ground as he zipped towards Inoshi, then carved past him. The surprised faces of the other cultists rushed into his view, but right before he reached Aocha something slammed hard into his gut. Time slowed for a second as a snarling cultist hissed quietly to him. 

“You think you’re fast enough to steal this kid from us?” 

At once, Yosuke flew back at a high speed. He forced his mind to think through the pain, slamming his knives into the floor to slow himself down. Once he stopped, he coughed up some of the contents of his stomach, spitting off to the side. Dammit! He was so fast I couldn’t even think to dodge! Yu was by his side instantly.

“Yosuke! Are you ok?” 

He coughed a few more times, then wiped his mouth. Yosuke felt determination sparking through him as the cultists moved closer to Inoshi. Anger burned within, forcing him to his feet. Being bested in speed tended to make him upset, and he felt the need to prove how fast he could be. Jiraiya’s anger matched his own, the Persona swelling in his chest. 

“I’m fine.”

Yosuke watched as the Phantom Thieves attempted to attack Inoshi, who had since revealed his true form as some sort of boar minotaur thing. The Thieves weren’t having too much luck though, between Inoshi attacking them with the hooks on the wall, and the cultists who basically buzzed around him on their speedy Shadows. He could tell that they were too fast for even the acrobatic Joker to keep up with. He gritted his teeth. I have to do something, I have to-  

The answer came to him in an instant. 

They don’t think anyone is faster than them.  

“Yu!” 

Yosuke pulled the handle of his blade into his palm before placing his headphones over his ears. Jiraiya was dying to be let out, to let completely loose and handle those cultists. Power surged through him as the card shimmered into view. Yosuke swiped his blade through it, splitting the card in half, a shout in his throat. 

“Let’s do this, Jiraiya!” 

Yu had since knelt nearby, his hands positioned to throw Yosuke into the air. Inoshi hadn’t noticed what was happening either, but the swift cultists had. It’s now or never! Yosuke ran forward, relying on Yu to give him the boost he needed. He stepped into his partner’s hands, instantly feeling how much pressure was being put behind them. Right before he lifted off, Jiraiya wrapped himself around the boy. 

“Sukukaja!” 

At once, time slowed around Yosuke. A second later, he was flying through the air, rapidly coming face to face with one of the cultists. The Shadow beneath her reared up, barely blocking Yosuke’s kunai. He grit his teeth in determination. Go, Jiraiya! Yosuke knocked the cultist away and flipped back, arcing over Jiraiya’s throwing star. It split the Shadow apart before it could notice what was happening, and the wind in its wake threw him forward to meet the cultist. He grabbed the front of her robes and rolled, pulling her through the air before flinging her at the ground. Two knives loosened themselves from Yosuke’s sleeve, a Garu wrapping around them. The recoil from throwing them at the cultist boosted him back through the air again, this time headed for the next attacker. 

This one didn’t even see Yosuke coming until it was too late. He shredded through the Shadow with a whirl of his blades, turning around to face the cultist before firing a Garula to throw them away from each other. Yosuke backflipped as he careened towards the last cultist. He was upside down when he came face to face with the cultist, his blades clashing with the robed man’s gauntlets before he kept going.

Yosuke’s feet barely tapped the floor before he shot back again, knives gleaming in the light. The cultist was still turning around, leaving his side exposed. Yosuke planted a swift kick in the man’s side, feeling with grim satisfaction as the hard bones gave way. He jabbed one blade down into the closest gauntlet, fast enough that his knife split it in half. With a crack, it fell away as the blade pierced the cultist’s arm. Blood spurt forth, spinning slowly through the air. Yosuke planted his other foot into the man’s chest and pushed, throwing his opponent backwards from the impact. He rapidly sped close again on a Garula, his blades glinting lethally. Yosuke could feel his power starting to wane, his speed slowing. 

I have to finish this quickly!  

“Out of our way!” 

Yosuke flipped around, his heel connecting with the man’s head. The cultist flew down so hard, the Shadow beneath him poofed, sending Yosuke up again, this time facing Inoshi. He knew he didn’t have the strength to take out the powerful man, especially since he was pushing his stamina to maintain the Sukukaja. But a powerful attack would help turn the tides in the Phantom Thieves favor. He held out his hands, wind wrapping around them. A high pitched whir rose into the air as Jiraiya charged up his most powerful wind attack. The power concentrated in his arms, wind stinging his cheeks as he held, charging. When it was almost unbearable, to the point where Yosuke couldn’t breathe, he relented. 

“Panta Rhei!” 

Power exploded from Yosuke, a tornado slamming into Inoshi at full power. His could actually feel his energy leaving him, stamina pouring out in a single, high powered stream of magic. He somehow managed to hold on to consciousness until it was over, and at once the Sukukaja wore off. He flew back, barely avoiding landing on his face as he hit the floor. Yosuke almost passed out again, but he held on. Inoshi had fallen off balance from the intense attack, leaving him vulnerable to the rest of the Persona users. 

“Yosuke! You need to go get Aocha!” 

Rise’s voice cut through the heavy fog in Yosuke’s head, and he struggled to his feet. Yamagishi was crouching over by the boy in question, checking on him. Yosuke rapidly stumbled over to Aocha, black spots starting to appear at the edges of his vision. He crouched by the boy, looking over him. 

“I was going to ask you to heal him, but you barely have stamina left.” Yamagishi’s soft voice was thick with worry, but she smiled at Yosuke. “I’m surprised. I suddenly lost contact with you and was so worried, but Kujikawa told me it was normal. I can’t believe someone is so fast that not even a Navi can track them.” Yosuke felt himself grow hot under the praise, but he just gave a tired smile. 

“It’s really not that impressive.” He turned his attention back to Aocha, who seemed to be stirring a bit. Yosuke chewed on his lip. “He doesn’t really belong here, not when he doesn’t have a Persona to protect him.” Yamagishi nodded. 

“I’m sure the other Persona users will take care of Inoshi soon.” 

As if on cue, a chorus of “Agidyne!” rang out through the temple. A multitude of fiery explosions slammed into Inoshi over and over and over again until he burst into shadowy gunk before dissolving away. Even from this far away, Yosuke could feel how powerful each fire attack was, further pushing the limits of his consciousness. Once Inoshi was gone, the tension in the room went with him, leaving Yosuke with barely any power to stay awake. 

Yu rushed over to Aocha’s side and carefully picked him up. Yosuke shakily stood as well, feeling more and more like jelly instead of actually solid. He was practically a sneeze away from knocking himself out, but thankfully they were done for the day. 

Once back in the real world, Yosuke would have collapsed on his bed and slept for a week, but considering all that he had eaten that day had been messily left behind in the Chaos Realm, he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he had been fed again. He more tumbled than walked down to the kitchen where he was assaulted by the bittersweet smell of coffee. Akira was busy brewing a cup or two. 

“Oh Yosuke. Would you like one too?” 

Yosuke managed a nod before slumping over in a chair. Haru was there too, daintily sitting next to him. She cheerfully smiled at Yosuke, and once again he wondered how this tiny girl lifted an axe twice her size. 

“Hanamura! I meant to tell you before we all parted ways, but you were amazing today!” 

Akira set down a cup in front of Yosuke before turning back around to the coffee maker. “She’s right. I’ve never seen anyone move that fast before. What was that you called it? Sukukaja?” 

Yosuke took a long sip of the coffee and instantly perked up. This coffee is really good. He took another before responding. “Yeah.” He coughed roughly. Now that his mind didn’t have to focus on staying awake, he could take in everything else. Breathing was suddenly much more painful, and he could only hope it was from bruised ribs. Shifting his weight found that his legs might have been bruised from just going too fast. “Ah, oww.” He looked down at his hands, noticing at once how they were cracked and dry, even oozing blood in some places. Oh shit. His fingertips had left a trail along the counter and up the mug. 

Haru gasped. “Oh, are you injured Hanamura?” 

“N-no, I’ll be fine…” 

Akira brought over another cup and sat down. “You certainly don’t sound fine.” Can you really see through my bullshit that easily? “I have first aid in my room if you need it.” 

Yosuke almost accepted it. His torso was steadily hurting more and more, and he feared the worst. But he shook his head. “I heal quickly. I promise I’ll be ok.” He tossed back the last of his coffee, which had somehow made him feel more awake than ever, and pushed away from the counter. His hands complained at the sudden motion, but he did his best to ignore them. 

Walking back to his room was hell, constantly having to act like breathing wasn’t like having needles shoved into his chest. Once he made it back, Yosuke finally inspected his wounds. The muscles and joints in his legs were overworked and sore, but that was to be expected. He had seriously pushed himself to his limit today. Lifting up his shirt showed his chest and stomach to be more black and blue than skin colored, including a sickly looking bruise right over his ribs. He carefully prodded it, wincing at the pain but noticing no fractures. 

Yosuke sighed and let his shirt drop right as a soft kero kero reached his ears. At once he felt warmth spread through him. I was late today, but they didn’t forget me. He stumbled to the window, pushing it open despite how his muscles screamed in pain. The frogs were lined up just like always, softly croaking out the starting notes of the night song. Yosuke normally would have picked up his guitar to play along, but his hands were on fire at this point. He sat down next to the window to listen as he started to treat his hands. 

Are you injured, Yosuke?  

Yosuke winced. The medicine bled through the cracks in his skin and made the cuts sting. “We had a big fight today, but I’ll be fine in the morning. Jiraiya will help me.” He gingerly wrapped his hands in bandages, flexing the fingers to make sure they weren’t too tight.

That is good. We will sing the health song to help.  

“Let me get ready for bed first.” He chuckled softly. Yosuke knew that song was meant to lull him into sleep, to help him recover faster. As gently as he could, he changed into a loose shirt and sweatpants, snuggling into the soft covers of his bed. He buried his nose in the blankets, still getting traces of Yu from the last time he was here. The quiet kero kero wafted through his room, prompting him to turn off his light and drift into sleep. 

And in the morning when he would wake to the warm kero kero , his bruises would be miraculously gone.

Chapter Text

Ann dug through her bag with increasing frustration. School had started back up after Golden Week, and for the life of her she couldn’t find a pen at all. I knew I was unorganized, but not this bad. She sighed and threw her bag back down. It was too late to go back to the dorms to search, so she leaned over to Akira, startling the thief from whatever he had been thinking about. 

“Hey Akira? Do you have a pen that I could borrow?” 

“Hmm?” Akira lifted his head from his hand, returning to the real world for now. Ann had been around him long enough to know when he was off in his mind. He liked to call it the third eye, and outside of Phantom Thief business, had no real use other than blocking out people around him. “Oh, a pen. Sure.” 

He reached towards his bag right as Morgana popped his head out, a pen in his mouth. Akira flinched back a little, but snatched it before hissing at the cat to stay in the bag. He handed the pen to Ann. 

“Wait, where did you get this pen?” It was far too pretty and fancy for something that Akira would use, yet she could tell that Yusuke wouldn’t own something mundane like this. In fact, none of the Thieves would ever want to have a pen like this. Its matte blue exterior was certainly pretty, but Ann couldn’t picture her friends with this pen. 

But Akira only shrugged. He rested his chin on his hand again and stared off in the distance. Right before those dark gray eyes of his glazed over, a smirk found its way to his lips. “I stole it from Arisato.” 

Ann nearly leapt from her seat. “Akira! You can’t just-”

“Don’t bother with him, Lady Ann.” 

The muffled meow echoed from Akira’s bag. “He’s been pilfering little things like that from the other two leaders. I tried to tell him that he shouldn’t but he won’t listen. He even does this to pointedly make sure I drop it.” Morgana groaned angrily, and the bag lurched. Ann tapped the pen between her fingers. 

“I’ll return it to Arisato myself.” 

Ann simply didn’t take notes, deciding it would be better to ask either Chie or Yukiko later. Once classes were done for the day, she wandered back to the dorms, stopping by the store to pick up some sweets she hoped could be seen as a peace offering. 

She hated how the leaders constantly fought, and the rest of the Persona users felt the same. She often sat with Yukari and Yukiko and talked about how they wished they could do something, but the leaders absolutely refused to even try to work together. It’s a little more than just frustrating.  

Yusuke had recently confided in Ann, how he had been having odd dreams. Ones where he could see the leaders and feel their anger before everything erupted. If it was any normal person, she would have written it off as a nightmare. But Yusuke was no normal person, and spending a year around the weirdo showed that he was particularly sensitive to dreams. 

He knows something bad is going to happen.  

Ann was at Arisato’s door in no time, taking a deep breath before knocking. It swung open, revealing the boy as he sat on his windowsill. Arisato looked rather out of place like this, his headphones pounding music loud enough for her to hear. He wasn’t staring out of the window, instead his eyes were trained on a spot right in front of him, as if someone was sitting there. When he finally looked up, his eyes went wide. 

“Takamaki!” 

Arisato flung his headphones from his ears and all but fell from the ledge. He swatted his hand through the air, as if trying to clear the room of something Ann couldn’t see. Arisato adjusted himself, his usual cold demeanor returning. His face was still rather red though, and Ann could guess that his heart was pounding. 

“You walk so quietly I couldn’t hear you. What is it?” 

At least he tried to be civil towards the other Phantom Thieves. Ann pulled both the pen and a small box of sweets out of her bag, noticing how Arisato’s eyes lit up at the mere suggestion of sugar. 

“Akira took this from you, so I found it only right to return it. The box has some sweets in it as well, but those are from me.” She held out the two items, and thankfully Arisato took them. He glanced between the box and the pen before chuckling softly. 

“Thank you Takamaki.” There was a weird stiffness to him as he turned to shut the door back, one that suggested he might not be as complacent as he showed. Ann went to walk away anyway, noticing Akira rounding the corner. He waved at her, but in a split second, a flash of blue swept past her. Akira let loose a scream of surprise as Arisato was upon him, weaponless but terrifying nonetheless. 

Ann ran forward, desperate to keep them from fighting. Akira had begun fighting back against the tiny boy, his taller frame giving him an advantage. Both boys were screaming profanities, and Ann was the only one trying to help. She dragged Arisato off the other leader with a hard yank. 

“And they wouldn’t stop yelling at each other until I managed to force them to apologize. And even then they wouldn’t stop glaring at each other.” 

Ann sighed deeply and took a bite out of her crepe. She had been talking to Shiho on the dorm roof, exhausted from breaking up the fight from earlier. 

“You sound like its been crazy staying with the other transfer students.” Shiho giggled, leaving Ann to blush slightly. It had been crazy, but I can’t say I’d want to go back. “I still can’t believe you got transferred to this school.” Shiho leaned back a bit. “The other students talk about you. Saying that everything was fine until the transfers showed up.” 

Ann looked down at her feet. It was true that those cultist killings were brought to light as soon as they all transferred here. The fact that they were all so extremely different from each other didn’t help. 

“I don’t care though.” Shiho looked at Ann with a smile. “You and that black haired friend of yours saved me. It doesn’t matter what they say about you, you’re still my friend. Besides, those friends of yours are super cool too!” 

Ann smiled back. Shiho was right of course. The Persona users were a very different group when compared to the normal students. But I guess that’s what makes us the best.  

And in the end, who cared what the other students thought? The Persona users were the only people here that could solve these mysteries. They needed to be here no matter what.

Chapter Text

With a hard jolt, Akira resurfaced from his nightmare. He didn’t scream, but as air rushed into his lungs, a burning formed in his throat. He scrambled from his room in a panic, barely making it to the bathroom in time before he tried to cough up anything that was left in his stomach. More often than not, his night terrors ended like this. 

Akira wasn’t sure how long he was in there, shakily throwing his guts up. When he could breathe again, he rolled off to the side, laying limp in the floor. It was cold in the bathroom, so he brought his arms up to wrap around himself. His fingers brushed over bruises and swollen cuts, and he was almost thrown into panic again when he remembered what caused them. Arisato attacked me earlier. Akira knew they had both been in the wrong, but his pride kept him from admitting it. 

Fatigue washed over him at once, and with it, the blue walls of the Velvet Room. Akira couldn’t keep the groan out of his voice. First a night terror and then this? He forced himself to his feet though, staring down Igor. It was oddly quiet here, especially considering the twins weren’t here to yell at him. “What do you want now? Can I have my compendium yet?”

Igor simply chuckled. “Patience, trickster. You are not ready for your other Personas just yet, not when you are stuck in your head. Do not worry though, the door will open for you three in due time. I have only summoned you here to warn you, in place of my attendants.” 

Akira felt a prickly feeling wash over him, and his body threatened to rebel again. When the Velvet Room residents gave warnings, he knew it was something bad. “A trial is fast approaching, one that will test your abilities as a wild card. You must adapt quickly if you are to overcome it.” With those final words, the walls faded from Akira’s vision, leaving him back on the floor of the bathroom. 

“Dude! Are you ok?” 

Ryuji was in front of him, waving a hand in front of his face. Akira coughed a few more times and sat up more. The blond helped him, using a towel that he brought to wipe the disheveled teen’s mouth. They sat in silence for a moment. 

“I had another night terror, but this was worse than normal.” Akira leaned on Ryuji, despite the sting from his bruises. He just wanted the physical comfort. “It was like the feeling when we dissolved away, but more drawn out and painful.” He shivered. The floor is really cold. “I felt too alive when I woke up. I don’t know which part was more terrifying.”

“And then when you came here, you went to that weird blue place, right?” Ryuji carefully held Akira’s hand. “I don’t really know much about whatever that all is, but I’ve known you long enough to tell when you’ve gone there.” Akira felt tears starting to prick as his eyes a little. He still couldn’t believe how lucky he had gotten with his Thieves. 

Akira was still so tired. He almost fell asleep on Ryuji, but the blond carefully helped him up. “Let’s go to your room before you sleep on me, at least.” The dark haired teen would have protested, but Ryuji was so warm. The two plodded back to Akira’s room, where the leader curled up in Ryuji’s lap and fell back asleep. 

To say that Kouji was upset the next morning was an understatement. Akira woke to a hard knocking on his door that Ryuji was dutifully trying to ignore. He snapped irritably at whoever was on the other side, who responded by flinging the door open. The Thief jumped out of the blond’s lap with a shriek. Kouji was glaring at the two thieves with anger. 

“I do believe the rules state that you must pass all people staying the night by me. I don’t think this is your room, Sakamoto.” Ryuji was blushing rather brightly, stuttering and trying to think up some bullshit to tell Kouji. Akira recovered from the scare, then turned his dark gaze to match Kouji’s green glare. 

“My apologies.” Akira hated kissing ass like this, but if he and Ryuji were to get out of this without trouble, he’d have to sell this hard. “I tend to have night terrors, and Ryuji found me in the bathroom, throwing my insides up.” He sniffled a bit, and gently shifted his sleeve up to reveal the injuries. Even if they were inflicted by Arisato, they’re going to prove my point now. It seemed to be working too, as Kouji’s gaze softened more. 

The RA shook his head. “You should have told me about these night terrors, Kurusu. But I am glad you’re ok.” Kouji turned to leave the room. “Next time though, please come to me instead when you have these problems.” The door shut with a click, and Akira all but slumped to the floor. 

“Ugh.” 

“You got that right.” Ryuji hopped down and crouched by Akira. “We have the day off, so what do you say we go meet Mishima at Leblanc?” 

Akira perked up instantly. The promise of perfect coffee and curry was more than enough to chase away the bad dream. “Absolutely.” He grabbed his phone from his desk to text the Thieves. 

>> Phantom Thieves, we’re meeting up at Leblanc today. Be there as soon as you can.  

The two boys watched the messages flood back in, confirming the meetup. Akira found himself smiling. Even if he didn’t get along with the other groups, he still had his Thieves. And they trusted him. 

Akira and Ryuji stepped out of the room after everyone had given their confirmation, only to be greeted by Yosuke and Arisato. Ugh. Akira felt anger blaze through him, especially since Arisato had a shit-eating smirk on his face. 

“Kouji chewed you out, huh?”

“I talked my way out of it.” Akira returned the glare, feeling the red flickering at the edges of his vision. “I used the bruises you gave me as leverage, so thanks for that.” He knew that wasn’t what Arisato was expecting, and it showed. “Kouji thinks I’m some soft, innocent, broken boy now.” 

“Shut the hell up Kurusu.” The blue haired boy walked away, spitting more words over his shoulder. “Next time you and Sakamoto have your ‘fun times’ or whatever, do it in his room. I don’t want to hear you.” 

Yosuke rolled his eyes with a small chuckle. He nudged Ryuji playfully. “Do you not know how to stay quiet?” 

“Oh you be quiet Yosuke.” 

Akira laughed and pulled Ryuji out of the dorms. The two stumbled to Leblanc, a few of the Thieves already there. Sojiro welcomed the two with his grumpy smile, and Akira felt warmth spread all throughout him. He sat down in one of the booths with Ryuji, and soon a steaming mug of coffee and a plate of curry was sitting in front of him. 

“You causing trouble with your thieves again, Akira?” Sojiro’s tone was both teasing and concerning. The teen didn’t respond until he was halfway done with his curry, missing the delicious taste. 

“Not too badly this time. I don’t think.” 

“You don’t think?”

Before Akira could respond, Mishima burst into the cafe, waving a notebook in the air. “Phantom Thieves! I have the next suspect in the cases!” He stopped yelling as soon as he noticed Sojiro and put the book over his mouth in embarrassment. “Oh, s-sorry, forget I said anything…” 

Sojiro laughed and turned to the coffee maker. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?” 

Mishima shook his head and sat next to Yusuke. “Sorry for intruding on your shop.” He set the notebook down and opened it. Akira leaned over to get a closer look, though he realized he couldn’t make heads or tails of it. 

“Mishima, what is-” 

“I haven’t slept much recently, I’ve been too excited to.” Mishima flicked through the pages until he got to what seemed like a profile of a red haired woman. “Zurui Habisune. She’s a police officer in the city. Several cases point to criminals she’s in charge of going missing before turning up dead.” Akira leaned over further, his eyes struggling to read the scrawling handwriting. “There haven’t been any recent murder cases to tie back to her though…” 

With an even louder slam than the one Mishima gave, the door to Leblanc swung open. Standing there, with the most terrified look on his face, was Narukami. Akira first felt irritation, then concern. What the hell happened to him?  

“Hello, can I get you something to-”

“There’s a dead body in the alleyway!”

Chapter Text

Rise watched from behind the line of police tape as the slightly burned body was carried away. She felt fire burning in her stomach, and eventually had to turn away. She almost bumped into Yu, who had been staring, dumbfounded at the scene. She could feel the waves of fear radiating from the leader. 

“Yu…” She messed with the hem of her skirt. Feeling all of the emotions from the Investigation Team was already a mess, but piling those of S.E.E.S. and the Phantom Thieves on top and well… it didn’t help her sleep at night. And now with this new turmoil, she didn’t know what to do. 

“It was just like in my dreams.” Yu sank to his knees, clutching the sleeves of his shirt. He was trembling, though luckily everyone else had left at this point. It was just the two of them. “It...whoever it was didn’t have Yosuke, or Chie, or your face…” He shook his head and stood again. The fear was still so strong. 

Rise carefully reached up and tugged on Yu’s shoulder. “Come on, everyone is waiting in that cafe for us. The Thieves’ informant has more information for us.” She knew it would be best if they got out of the way of the police, and if Yu got away from the scene. Thankfully he gave way, following Rise back to the red cafe. 

Besides the Thieves and themselves, Fuuka and Kirijo were also there. Kurusu wouldn’t stop glaring daggers at Yu, though the gray haired boy didn’t notice. I can’t believe they still hate each other so much. Rise sighed and sat down next to Fuuka. 

The informant, Mishima, was trembling. “I’m sorry… I really spoke too soon.” Kitagawa was gently holding Mishima’s hand, the unlikely pair rather cute. “A-anyway, uhm, the new suspect I have...well it’s one of the police officers who was working with the crime scene, Zurui Habisune.”

Rise fidgeted more. The emotional turmoil in the room wasn’t helping the situation, and Kurusu and Yu glaring at each other only made things worse. She had talked to Naoto earlier, and found similar frustration towards all three leaders. 

“I don’t know what’s going on with these murders or cultists or whatever, but you kids had better stay safe.” The owner, Sakura, grumbled in a rather irritated, yet caring way. “And I thought we told you that us adults would take care of everything, Akira.” 

“Gah, I know I know.” The black haired boy shook his curls out, pulling at his bangs. “But normal people can’t handle this! This is all supernatural things, and only the Persona users can take care of this shit.” How close is he to this cafe owner to be able to talk about Personas so easily?

Sakura grumbled again. “No matter how many times you explain this to me, I won’t be able to get it. Fine, just, please be careful.” He took a long sip from his cup of coffee before talking again. “You haven’t introduced me to these people yet.” 

Rise popped up, rather cheerfully, trying to lighten the mood a bit. “I’m Rise Kujikawa! I’m staying in the dorms with the Thieves, as well as my friends on the Investigation Team. You’ve probably seen my posters around the city, back from when I was doing my idol business.” 

Yu laughed, and although it was forced, it helped lift the tension from the room. “And I’m the leader of said Investigation Team. Yu Narukami.” He bowed to Sakura despite the hiss from Kurusu across the room. Rise could feel Yu’s fear melting away, and she let out a sigh of relief. We’re relaxing after such a scare. The other two introduced themselves, though Kirijo’s introduction was a little tense. 

“You’re all welcome to come down here whenever you need something, alright?” Sakura smiled warmly at the Persona users as they stood up to leave. “And Akira, I do expect you to come down and help at times as well.” 

Rise walked out into the warm morning air, taking a deep breath. The air wasn’t as clean in the city as it was out in Inaba, but it still felt rather refreshing. Yu was by her side, and once again she could feel his fear. 

She had known for a while that the leader had some abilities that extended beyond just the power of his Persona. His gut feeling was often correct, in a way that he could almost be considered a Navi. Rise trusted in him, especially in the real world where her own abilities were so muted. 

“Are you kids ok?”

Rise felt her skin prickle before she even looked up at the police officer approaching them. The red, bouncing curls and similarly colored eyes matched Mishima’s description of that next cultist perfectly, but it was only made more obvious by the name badge. Zurui Habisune. Static crackled softly in the air, Yu instantly on the defensive. 

“Oh, we’re fine, thanks.” Kurusu was by their side too, though she could tell it wasn’t because he wanted to be. Zurui was more than just dangerous, and being this close to so many Persona users would set any normal person off. “Just a little scared, ya know?” 

She hadn’t expected Yu to nod along, going with what Kurusu was playing at. “Shaken and nervous. After all, I was the one who found the body.” The longer they stood by the woman, the more Rise could feel her energy. There was something ungodly deadly about this police officer, and more than likely, she was the next cultist the Persona users needed to target. 

“Well, that’s good. Gotta keep these streets safe, ya know!” Zurui chirped cheerfully before turning on her heel. “Oh, you there, who found the body. What was your name?” Rise felt like she was being rubbed the wrong way. No, no don’t answer her.  

“My name is Yu Narukami.” She bit the inside of her cheek, feeling that without a doubt, Yu should not have answered her. 

Zurui messed with her hat before casting a smile at the Persona users over her shoulder. “Narukami, huh? A nice name. It’s at least good to know that you aren’t a liar.” With that she walked away, leaving the group in shock. 

Rise turned on Yu. “You shouldn’t have given her your name!” 

Yu held up his hands in defense, confusion flashing across his face. “Agh! I’m sorry, I didn’t know...that was that supposed cultist Mishima was talking about, right? Same name and face?” 

“She is most certainly dangerous. I could feel a lot of bad energy radiating from her….And that was without Lucia!” Fuuka was trembling just a little. Everyone was on edge, whispering among themselves. That was until Mishima approached them, his hands shaking as he held his phone. He slowly turned it around to reveal a news article about a black haired delinquent kid from Shujin Academy. Rise’s heart dropped as she scanned the article. 

“Zurui Tafu, a student from Shujin Academy, was reported missing this morning. The school reports that while he was not a victim of bullying, he did have a history of violent acts and tendencies. Some people have been led to believe he got involved with the rumored cultists all around Tokyo.” 

“So that’s it huh.” Kurusu’s voice was filled with venom. They have the same name...so it could only mean… “Zurui’s kidnapped her own son.” 

“We can’t afford to lose anymore time.” Yu snapped his glasses into place on his nose. “Zurui needs to be taken down now.” These murders and cultists keep getting worse and worse. I guess the only thing I can do is keep with my support, like I always have. 

Please, watch over them, Himiko.

Chapter Text

“Please be careful, those Shadows are really strong!” Fuuka watched from the bubble of Lucia as S.E.E.S. fought to make their way towards the next temple. The narrow hallways were optimal for the Persona users and their fighting styles, but the Shadows were still strong. Luckily, having Rise and Futaba beside her helped. 

“Can you see anything ahead yet?” Rise lifted the visor of Himiko to look at the other two Navis. Fuuka shook her head. Ever since the Persona users had went into the Chaos Realm today, there was some weird feeling deep within. The three Navis had tried to check ahead, but it seemed like the place wouldn’t let them look too far ahead of the fighters. It was more than just a little frustrating. “Ugh…” She pulled the visor back down. “At least they’re still doing ok. We’ll probably have to go back once they reach the temple.” 

Fuuka nodded, though there was a prickling on her spine. It feels like they’re getting more worn out than normal. Checking their power levels only confirmed this, the longer they went along, the more their stamina drained from them. Futaba spoke up, voicing all of their concerns. 

“I think the place is draining their stamina quickly.” More information popped up in front of Fuuka’s vision, indicating that the rest of the Persona users, even those following S.E.E.S. at a distance without fighting, were becoming weaker. She shivered. The other two places hadn’t done this, so this made her feel that something was even more off. 

Quickly making the connection to the advancing group, Fuuka relayed their warning. “Be careful guys! We think this place is draining your stamina!” The groups acknowledged what was happening, but the three leaders pushed on without much slowing down. Are they insane? Fuuka narrowed in on their conversation to hear an argument. 

I’ll prove to you that I’m the strongest. Some shitty temple isn’t going to stop me from saving Tafu!” Narukami was blocking Kurusu and Minato from getting ahead of him with his body and sword. Even with the Shadows around them, the three leaders couldn’t work together in the slightest. 

Shut the hell up and get out of my way. These are my people, and if they’re tired, we’ll have to go back. Doesn’t matter how strong you think you are. ” Minato’s voice was sharp and carried a note of venom. It was bad enough that Fuuka flinched. The argument continued, so aggressive that it was causing interference for the Navis. 

Rise was about to tell them off when all three noticed something. Through the haze of static and information, a huge amount of power set an alarm off in the edge of Fuuka’s vision. “Guys, look!” She looked deeper towards the power, carefully unraveling the static to uncover what appeared to be the temple. The unbelievable power in front of it though…  

“Fuuka, they aren’t going to listen to us, we have to go to them, now!” Futaba lifted off in Necronomicon, leaving the other two to follow her. Fuuka retracted Lucia and ran next to Rise as the ginger zoomed ahead. I can only hope we aren’t too late. The closer they got, racing past the other Persona users, the more and more worried Fuuka felt. Please, everyone be ok!  

They burst forth from the tunnels just in time to catch Futaba as she flew through the air. Rise held the redhead, and Fuuka noticed how she didn’t have her goggles. She’s been separated from Necronomicon! Without waiting, she sat in front of Rise and Futaba and summoned Lucia, determined to protect them. Now that she had her navigation up, she could see what was going on. 

The leaders had been knocked to the ground by that police officer, the cultist, Zurui. Her Shadows and followers had also thrown the rest of S.E.E.S. back, and were tossing aside the Persona users that tried to save their friends. They drained their stamina so they couldn’t fight back. A wail formed in Fuuka’s throat, but she swallowed it. We’re outmatched here!  

“I recognize you children.” Zurui’s voice was calm, unlike the voices of Inoshi and Hokori. And that was scarier, as it was clear she was much more calculating and devious than the previous cultists. Even so, Narukami got to his feet and ran forward, growling as he swung his sword. That’s our leaders, always fighting back no matter what. Zurui narrowed her eyes. “You’re Narukami, the one who found the body. I should have expected you here, especially with all that immortal blood on your hands.” 

“Gah!” Narukami choked out a painful cry as the woman ducked beneath his strike and slammed her foot into his gut. Quick as a flash, she grabbed his arm and flipped him into the ground. The impact shook the floor, and left the boy completely breathless. His chest heaved as Zurui planted her foot on him. With a click, a gun was pointed at his head. No!  

“You God Slayers are so persistent, but something I took note of from those absolute idiots you defeated before was that you don’t like to work together.” A gunshot rang out through the area, and Fuuka held up her arms in fear. When she looked back, she noticed how Narukami had dodged the shot, the bullet grazing his face. Zurui grumbled a bit. “I forgot, you aren’t called God Slayers for no reason. Fast enough to dodge a gunshot, even if you’re nothing but children. But there is nothing you can do to resist the power of an Acolyte!” 

Klang. Kurusu had lunged for Zurui, his knife glinting in the black and white lights. She blocked him almost effortlessly though, a blade flicking into her palm. She struck quickly, grabbing the Thief’s coat, aiming to drive the knife into his chest. He twisted away, though the blade caught under his arm. He managed to kick away the blade, but Zurui wasn’t done. She flung Kurusu hard, the boy slamming into one of the walls and sliding down. She’s so strong, but how? “Kurusu. I recognized your name as that criminal from last year. Leader of the world famous Phantom Thieves.” She smirked. “Not so strong now.” 

A blazingly hot explosion hit Zurui, knocking her back. Minato had stood up with Orpheus in tow, fire weakly flickering around them. Normally his flames were powerful enough to incinerate most Shadows that came his way, but the cultist just patted the fire out. It was clear that he couldn’t pack the same punch. “And of course, the walking corpse, Arisato. You should be dead, with the rest of you no good God Slayers.” 

Before Zurui could retaliate against Minato, a blue bolt of lightning weakly struck the boy’s chest. It hit hard enough to launch him backwards, and as Narukami stood up, Fuuka noticed the lightning was from him. No! Why are you fighting him? There was a snarl in his words. 

“Stay the hell out of my way, both of you. I can do this on my own.” Narukami faced Zurui again, readying his sword. As he went to attack her, Kurusu practically threw his mask at him, Arsene unleashing strings of darkness upon the silver haired boy. Izanagi managed to block the attack, but for the moment, all three leaders were at each others’ throats. 

Fuuka desperately tried to scream, but she couldn’t be heard over the thunder and explosions. The other Persona users couldn’t help either, being incapacitated by the cultists earlier. She could only protect Rise and Futaba as the leaders clashed in their anger, wave after wave of their power hitting Lucia. It was all she could do to hold on. 

With a sweep of her arm, all three boys were flung into the side of the temple as Zurui cackled. The impacts were so brutal they made Fuuka flinch. The wind sliced into their skin, and she could see how their faces changed from fury to fear. Please...please get up! Fuuka begged silently, watching in horror as the leaders remained trapped and weak. She pressed her hands to the glass of Lucia, trying to reach them. 

“Get up! Go, we have to retreat!” Fuuka could only hope that they heard her. 

Narukami was the first to stand up. At first he seemed like he was about to challenge Zurui, but then his vision shifted past her to the Persona users. His voice was more than pained, desperation lacing every word. “No… please get out. I’ll hold them off. Get the hell out and don’t come back!” He emphasized this by sending another lightning bolt towards the cultist, holding her attention. “Rise! Get everyone out now!” 

Rise stood up, though Fuuka could feel her reluctance. The idol couldn’t go against the leader’s wishes, and started to round up the ragtag group. I should help, but...this isn’t right. I won’t go until-  

“Fuuka. Mitsuru. Help Kujikawa get everyone out.” Minato’s cold, pained voice cut through her thoughts. She couldn’t hold the gasp back, her hands starting to shake. Fuuka eventually retracted Lucia, her heart getting stabbed through with ice as she helped S.E.E.S. get to their feet. Zurui cackled, lunging forwards to intercept the Navis. She was cut off by tendrils wrapping around her feet and pulling her into the ground. 

“We didn’t say to go slow. Get everyone out as fast as you can, dammit!” Kurusu couldn’t get on his feet, but Arsene still yanked on the cultist to keep her at bay. “Get moving!” He cried out, driving Fuuka to start shuffling the groups out faster. The desperation in the leaders made her hurt, so much so that tears started to prick at her eyes. 

The Navis managed to get everyone out of the new portal, though they hung back to try and support the leaders. By the time they had gotten back though, the three boys had been restrained and their Personas had been taken from them. When Minato caught Fuuka’s eye, he glared, though she could tell he was barely keeping himself together for this. He pulled against the restraints, despite how they cut into his skin. 

“We said leave, leave Fuuka and protect S.E.E.S. in my place.” There were tears starting to pool in his eyes, matching the ones in hers. “I’m replaceable Fuuka, but the team can’t be. Go protect them and solve this mystery and for the love of god, don’t come after us!” With that final wail, the leaders were pulled into the temple, the doors closing with such finality it felt like a guillotine blade.

Chapter Text

Minato had figured that Kurusu was going to be angry. He figured that Narukami was going to be angry. His dreams of this place reminded him that Kurusu was almost always angry and Narukami never kept his mouth shut. So this dejectedness was out of the ordinary, and Minato felt bad about hating them. He couldn’t deny the depression in himself either, but he was almost certain that sacrificing themselves so their friends could get away was the right choice. Still, being stuck in this cell wasn’t optimal either. At least the damn cultist had untied them once they were inside, though it felt like she was taunting them at this point. 

The nightmares had been increasing in frequency and intensity up until last night, the last one leaving him still feeling the cold steel in his chest and the warm blood in his hands when he woke up. These black and white walls taunted him, almost begging him to lash out at the two others. To let out his anger and hatred towards them. He sat there though, and while he had thought rage would burn through him, instead he felt the cold claws of fear. 

He had been sulking to himself when the door swung open to their prison. Minato only turned his gray eyes up, not caring enough to give these Acolytes his full attention. To his surprise, Kurusu and Narukami barely moved too. He could at least give them respect for being so frosty towards their captors. The Acolyte in charge, Zurui, Minato remembered, pulled a table from the corner as well as a chair. She sat down and placed her chin so delicately on her wrist, staring down the three with her sly glare. 

“We only intend to kill you if you don’t cooperate. Oh, and if you lie to us. We’ll kill you then too.” Zurui laughed in a fake way, as if she was trying to make light of the horrible situation they were in. Minato would have almost found it funny if his life wasn’t on the line. “And don’t even think about summoning your Personas. We know how you damn people are, relying on that power.” Minato didn’t argue. They had taken away his Evoker along with Kurusu’s mask. Narukami was the only one not restricted, but there was no way he’d be able to defeat this many Acolytes by himself.

They had no choice but to comply. 

“I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and your choices will determine if we get to kill you.” Minato’s hands twitched. Nervous and scared weren’t even close to how he was feeling, but his defiance was the only thing keeping him from completely giving in. He looked up at Kurusu and Narukami, noticing for the first time how all three of them had gray eyes. “I take it you are as close to an agreement as you’ll get. Lovely. First, what are your names?”

“Kurusu Akira.” Kurusu’s eyes were dark gray, only a small bit of light kept them from being black. They really were quite striking, especially with his outfit, though his mask tended to hide them. He could understand why people were so attracted to the sultry color.

“Narukami Yu.” Narukami’s eyes were light and soft, completely contrasting his intimidating personality. If Minato liked him more, the color would feel warm. While he didn’t have the mystery that Kurusu did, they were rather enticing. 

“Arisato Minato.” His own eyes were like a mix of the two, not deep and dark like Kurusu’s but not soft like Narukami’s. There was a small lick of blue within them, reminiscent of the power off his Persona. Minato felt like his eyes matched him wonderfully, mysterious and cool. 

Zurui smirked. “Excellent. You pass the first test. Second, how did you access this world?” God her smile made Minato want to throw up.

“There’s a window in the dorms at Hashi High that, when smeared with blood, opens a gateway to this realm.” Minato felt no need to lie at this point, clearly Zurui knew all of this already. She was simply toying with them, seeing how far she could push them. That’s what really scared him. 

“Correct. Third question, well, questions really.” There was a devilish glint in Zurui’s eyes, one that knew that this next question would be much harder for the group to answer truthfully. Minato’s heart ran cold. “Who are your friends, and where did they go?”

There was a slight gasp from all three of them, though Minato knew it was going to be bad. The three looked at each other with panicked looks before Zurui chuckled softly. “It seems you need time to discuss. I’ll be a little merciful and let you hash it out. Try not to kill each other.” With that she left the room, leaving the three leaders to talk alone. 

“No. I don’t care-”

“Shut the hell up, Narukami. She’ll kill us if we lie.” Minato hadn’t meant to snap, but his anger and fear had been so pent up he couldn’t help it. His dream flashed across his mind. He ignored the warm smell of blood that flooded his senses. He was shaking and he hated it. He hated showing weakness in front of these two. “She’ll kill us and without our Personas we can’t do anything to stop her.” God, even his damn voice was shaking. 

Kurusu snarled. There was his anger and frustration, but perhaps there was a note of fear in his words. “I’m not on board with selling out our friends. I don’t care if we die, selling out my friends is something I’d never do. I thought highly of you, Arisato.” His eyes glimmered bright red. So much for that deep dark gray. “I thought you were above selling out your friends.” His voice was filled with so much poison Minato flinched. 

“I don’t want to sell out my friends either, but for once just think about what we’re up against! You damn Phantom Thieves always charge into fights without thinking first and then we end up in situations like this!” More blood. The ring of steel and the sharp crack of bone. It made him want to curl up.

“You’re always thinking about yourself, Arisato!” Minato hadn’t expected Narukami to be on Kurusu’s side. He glared at the larger boy, his resentment abundantly clear. “You always badger everyone about thinking so we don’t end up like this, but now that we’re here, what? You just want to give in? Betray our teammates like they’ve done nothing for us?” Narukami shook, his voice filling with...with fear! “And for what? So they can go die while we live? What kind of compromise is that?” 

Kurusu glared at Narukami, though Minato was unsure why. “You aren’t any better! You do all this shit for your friends, but never do you do anything for your damn self. Sacrificing yourself doesn’t help if they’re going to kill our friends anyway!” Kurusu seemed beside himself with anger. There was an edge to his voice that made Minato feel like he wasn’t just mad at Narukami. “Think about what’s right in the situation before you act!”

“If you had let me think before charging forward to sacrifice yourself, Kurusu and I wouldn’t be stuck here trying to clean up this mess. It doesn’t help that you attacked us and tried to take Zurui on by your damn self!” Minato was yelling, he couldn’t control himself at this point. “You could have gotten yourself killed for all I care, but don’t drag other people into your mess!” The smell of blood was so strong it brought tears to Minato’s eyes. He could feel the cold knife pressing into his chest. 

“You fucking take that back.” Minato was used to hearing Kurusu swear when he was mad, but never, never did he say anything like that. He turned to snarl at Kurusu, but was taken aback by the flickering of yellow in his eyes. It flooded his vision, bringing the dream back like a blade piercing his flesh. “You attacked him just like I did, so you’re just as responsible.” He towered over the short boy. “You’re so damn arrogant, Arisato.” 

Minato fell to his knees, though whether it was from the pain of being yelled at or his recurring nightmare was undetermined. His hands dug into the ground, his entire body shaking. “You’re both so full of yourselves. Open your damn eyes for once and see how hard it is for me to leave my friends behind! You don’t know the soul crushing fear I have when I pull that stupid trigger on my Evoker!” Tears bubbled out from his eyes, anger and fear racing through him. “You know nothing about me!” 

Narukami and Kurusu opened their mouths to say something, but Minato just clamped his hands down on his ears and screamed. 

“I don’t want to kill my friends!” 

Minato looked up at Narukami and Kurusu. He could have sworn they had said the same thing. Narukami had tears rolling down his cheeks, the first time he’s ever really seen the large boy show weakness. Kurusu was crying too, and shaking, unsteadily standing. With a strangled sob Kurusu fell to his knees, placing his head in his hands. Narukami slumped against the wall, covering his mouth with his hands. He would have relentlessly teased them for being so weak. So, so weak. He was so weak. 

And scared. Minato was so damn scared he couldn’t stop shaking. The last thing he wanted was for people to die because of him. He sniffed and wiped his face with his sleeve. “Dammit, I didn’t mean to-”

You’re allowed to be scared.

I know, he thought. I’m allowed to be scared.

I still have to act though.

“We got off to a bad start, I think.” Kurusu managed to compose himself, though his voice trembled. “I’m Akira. I got too upset because I felt that we were making wrong decisions left and right.” His gray eyes were back, but they had stopped looking so angry and resentful. In fact, there was fear and sadness in them now. “I’ve always stood by my justice, even if it’s the last thing I do. It’s what I’m afraid of losing the most.” Minato hadn’t expected him to be so open like this. It made him feel bad about yelling at him. Kurusu, er, Akira was afraid of losing his sense of justice, what a strange thing to be afraid of. While he wouldn’t have pegged Akira for it, it fit for whatever reason. It’s no wonder why he was so quick to sacrifice himself for his teammates. 

“Just, call me Yu. No need for the honorific.” Yu cleared his throat awkwardly and used the collar of his shirt to wipe the tears from his face. When he wasn’t angry, the way he composed himself was almost cute. “I was upset because I’m scared of losing my friends. Abandoning them like that and then turning right around to kill them, it just didn’t sit well with me.” He chuckled a bit. It was a pathetic sound. “I guess if we’re admitting things, I’m deathly afraid of loneliness. Abandonment issues, you could call them.” Even the big, tough, intimidating Yu Narukami was afraid of something as terrifying as loneliness. How admirable. We’re all selfish in the end.

“R-right. I’m Minato. I never wanted to betray my friends, but this horrible fear got to me. I’m afraid of death, funny enough.” He laughed. This isn’t funny. “Interesting how I’m scared of death and yet I willingly point a gun to my head.” He laughed again. This isn’t funny, why am I laughing? “I guess we really are alike, huh?” Minato laughed, tears still dripping down his face. Dammit, stop laughing! “If we’re being completely honest, I’m jealous of you two.” He didn’t look up to see their faces. They were laying everything bare after all. Might as well admit that he was a bad person. The tears still spilled down his face. “Akira, you’re so agile and graceful, you glide over land and through air alike as if it’s nothing. Yu, you’re so strong and powerful and just, so sure in every swing. Confident that you always land the finishing blow.”

“Minato…” Akira pulled all three of them into a hug. Just ten minutes earlier, Minato would have killed Akira for the gesture, but it felt right for whatever reason. “I was jealous of you too. I don’t know how the hell you’re so smart, you just figure things out so fast that even I can’t keep up. You’re so smart it scares me.” 

“I feel the same way…” Yu chuckled. “Were we all just jealous of each other?”

Minato just sat there in the hug for a moment. He felt like the three of them were missing something. He closed his eyes, that horrible nightmare washing over him. Screams and weapons and blood, so much blood. Blood will be shed… Blood will be shed… Blood would be shed if the three of them couldn’t work together. His eyes snapped open. 

“That’s it!” An idea of cosmic proportions crashed down upon Minato. He pulled away from the other two, light dancing in his eyes. “We were jealous of each other because they had skills we didn’t have, right? Then what the hell’s stopping us from getting out of this mess if we have all three of us?” Minato was shocked at how he hadn’t figured it out sooner. He watched as the realization hit both of them. Of course, if the three of them were going to get out of here, they’d have to be crafty, strong, and agile. 

“You have my full attention.” Akira smirked at Minato, but for the first time it wasn’t filled with malice. It was mischievous and wild, and his eyes were full of pure determination and willpower. 

“I’ll back you up with whatever I’ve got!” Yu gave Minato a smile of sincerity and trust. He made Minato feel ready, no, like it was his time to shine. 

“Here’s the plan….” 

… 

“Alright, your time is up. I hope that you have come to a sensible conclusion-” Zurui stopped as soon as she walked into the room. Minato almost laughed, but that of course would have ruined the illusion. The lady looked around at the crazy scene in front of her. Minato lying facedown on the floor, looking like he had, at the very least, been knocked unconscious. Yu standing with the most intimidating look he could muster, which Minato had to admit was pretty scary, especially with Izanagi towering over the three of them. Akira struggling in vain as Yu had a solid grip on his coat, a deep fearful cry coming from him. “Looks like I came in at the right time to see you guys do my job for me. Guards, come clean this up when they’re done.” 

A few Shadows spilled into the room, and Minato could see exactly what he was looking for. One of the Shadows had Akira’s mask, and another had his Evoker. My precious Evoker! It was up to Akira to grab his mask and get Minato’s Evoker to him, so at this point all he could do was wait. 

With a shout, Yu flung Akira through the air hard. Akira twisted in the air gracefully, planting his hands on the table to aid in redirecting the momentum. He slammed his foot into the Shadow with his mask, pulling the white mask free from the Shadow’s grip and summoning Arsene with a shout. While his Persona dealt with that Shadow, Akira kicked the gun from another’s hands. Minato hopped up and caught it, wasting no time in pointing it to his head. 

“Orpheus!” Minato felt power rush through him as his Persona blazed to life. Yu and Akira stood back by him, their Personas exploding with power. Sure, they were strong by themselves, but together, they shared the strength. Zurui was beside herself with shock, unable to move after the absolute speed that Akira was able to move. Minato smiled, a full, wide smile made of joy. “Now if you would kindly let us go before we rip this entire prison to tiny, flaming shreds.” 

“How? You were supposed to be killing each other because of that question, you all had such conflicting interests and ideals, there should have been no way in hell that you could have become friends!” Zurui clearly didn’t know what to do, facing down three angry Persona users. 

“Don’t misunderstand.” Akira smirked. Minato used to hate that signature smirk of his, but it was so fitting for him. “We aren’t friends, we just figured out it was a lot easier to take down you and your master if we stopped trying to kill each other.”

“We each have our own strengths, so it was obvious we should just stop hating each other so much.” Narukami chuckled at the panic in Zurui’s voice. 

Minato pointed his Evoker at the Acolyte. “You run off and tell that bastard of a master of yours to stop messing with us.” He couldn’t even recall the last time he had felt so victorious. “If he doesn’t, then expect to see the whole of S.E.E.S., the Investigation Team, and the Phantom Thieves to come and destroy your entire realm!”

Chapter Text

Escaping the confines of the temple was harder than the three leaders originally thought. The place was a maze of jail cells, most of them empty. The only way they could even track where they had been was through Akira’s third eye, and even that was limited. There were cultists and Shadows around every corner, so progress was slow. 

Akira leaned out from a wall, scanning a wider hallway lined with shackles. He hated it here, it reminded him of the old Velvet Room, where he was chained to his own heart. The energy rubbed him the wrong way, constantly making him feel on edge. It was worse than the first two temples, and at least in those he felt like he could breathe. 

“Akira.” 

At a gentle nudge from Minato, Akira’s attention snapped back to the hallway. He had gotten distracted and overlooked a figure laying limp and chained to the middle of the hallway floor. After a moment of staring with the third eye open, he decided that they weren’t a threat. He slunk forward, nodding at the others to follow. 

The person in the hallway was wearing a standard prisoner outfit. The shackles on their wrists seemed to melt into the floor, and there was a ball and chain around their right foot. As Akira stepped closer, he felt worry and concern starting to spark through him. Something’s wrong. Even so, he felt himself moving closer towards the figure, desiring to help them. 

“Akira, wait.” 

Yu’s composed voice stopped him in his tracks. He turned back around to see the gray haired boy glaring at the prisoner. Akira felt his heart drop as he turned back. He recognized why he felt close to them. The messy black hair, the tattered outfit, the sharply curving jawline, all of it screamed his name. This was what he looked like in the Velvet Room last year. And now that he was close, he could hear the muffled sobs that wracked this figure’s body.

“I don’t know how you managed to miss this, but that’s a Shadow.” Yu’s voice was dripping with...well, Akira wasn’t sure what all was in there, but it wasn’t anything good. His arms shook as he whipped his dagger from the fold of his coat. If it’s a Shadow, then we have to kill it.  

“I’m nothing but a prisoner.” 

Akira stopped again. His own voice called out as the Shadow leaned over backwards, its bright yellow eyes glimmering. It had tear stained cheeks as well as cuts and bruises from the restraints. It spoke again, sending Akira into a deeper panic. 

“I’m shackled down to fate, a prisoner of destiny. I’m supposed to be jailed. I’m nothing but a criminal.” 

“No...No I’m not.” Akira wasn’t sure what had led to him saying this. His voice trembled as the Shadow stood up, the chains in the floor pulling up as if being pulled from sand. The sobs turned into cackles. 

“You think everyone is chained down like you!” No! I don’t feel that way! “And anyone who isn’t is just better than you!” There was a sharp clink as Akira’s knife hit the floor before he put his hands over his ears. It didn’t do anything to block out the Shadow’s scalding words. “You drag everyone around like they’re dogs, all because you think they can’t change! Even those two! You think they’ll never change!” 

“No! I swear, I don’t think that!” Akira turned to Yu and Minato in desperation. “This isn’t m-”

“Stop.” 

Yu’s voice penetrated his panic. Akira blinked a few times at the gray haired boy, noticing how those light gray eyes were soft for once. Minato looked soft as well, less indifferent and more friendly. Almost. 

“While I don’t think that’s your real Shadow, it’s fashioned after you. That’s you. You need to accept it.” 

“But it’s not! I don’t think that way.” 

Minato stepped forward towards Akira and rested his hand on his shoulder. “It’s ok. I wouldn’t expect us to change right away either, I mean we just stopped trying to kill each other half an hour ago.” Akira felt the tension leave him, his panic melting away as Yu walked over as well. 

“I’ve dealt with the worst sides of people. Something you learn is that people are more than just bad or good.” Yu smiled softly, and Akira felt better at once. “You’re still a skilled fighter and acrobat, and the best leader the Thieves could ever hope for. Just because you feel like you and everyone else can’t change doesn’t make you a bad person.”

“We’re their leaders. They trust us no matter what, Akira. It’s all we can do to lead them in the best way we can.” Minato gave a tiny smile, something that look both out of place and perfect on him. Akira wiped his face and turned back to look at the Shadow. 

“Yeah. You’re me. I feel tied down because of everything that happened last year, and like I can’t escape doing stuff like this.” He locked eyes with the Shadow, feeling a warmth spread through his chest. “But it doesn’t matter. The Phantom Thieves will always follow me, no matter what, and I’m proud to be their leader!” He lifted the chains around the Shadow’s wrists into his hands. In a fluid moment, he broke them apart with a twist, and the Shadow vanished. Akira let out the breath he had apparently been holding. 

“We need to get home.” 

He picked his dagger off the floor and continued to walk with the other two leaders, but it seemed as if the layout of the prison had changed. Akira was about to gripe about how it felt like they were going in circles when he stumbled upon another wide hallway. There was a figure standing in the middle, and now that he knew what he was looking for, he could see how it was Shadow-like. 

“There’s another Shadow-” 

Minato had swept past him, as if moving against his own will. Akira reached for him, but the blue haired boy was already deep into the hallway. Cursing under his breath, he and Yu followed Minato inside, stopping when they saw the Shadow. 

It was humanoid, but that’s as far as the similarities went. It seemed to be split in half, one side looking rather familiar with the long blue bangs and uninterested expression. The Gekkoukan uniform was recognizable, as well as the headphones that hung from its neck. The other side was more terrifying, a white mask over an empty head. Four coffins stretched from a chain on its back, and more of those chains wrapped around the Shadow. It spoke in two voices, one being Minato’s and the other being like that snarling Persona he barely showed. 

“You don’t know who you really are.” Minato stiffened, wrapping his arms around himself. “Are you even human at this point? You’ve been harboring death for so long, how do you know you won’t kill anyone?” The boy let out a soft wail, glancing back at the other leaders with fear. “Are you a human, or are you a god?” 

“Don’t listen to it! It’s just...It’s just saying lies about me!”

“Don’t kid yourself! You know how you really feel, how easily you know you could kill them! All you have to do is let him out and they’re gone, they’re all gone!” Minato wailed again, desperately trying to get the Shadow to stop. Akira could see his white knuckles from here, digging into his jacket. 

“That’s not true! I’d never let him out!” 

“Minato!” Akira and Yu both cried out at the same time. They ran to him, flanking the boy on either side. Akira bent down, bringing his face close. “Minato, listen. I know you hate us, and frankly that’s fine. But I know you wouldn’t actually kill us, or any of your teammates for that matter.” 

“You have those thoughts and that’s ok. This...death, or whatever that’s a part of you, that’s all it is. A part. We all have pieces and parts.” Yu gently rested his hand on Minato’s head, and thankfully the boy batted it away. He seemed to be better. 

Minato shoved the other leaders away from him, recovering from his panic. He stared down the Shadow, though his gaze was rather soft. “I am both. I am Minato Arisato, and I am Death. But I will never, never let death escape again!” 

The Shadow vanished, leaving Minato to slump his shoulders again in his normal posture. He looked back at Akira and Yu. There was something warm in his eyes now, even if the rest of him didn’t show it. He could kill all of us right now, but I trust him. I trust he wouldn’t do that.  

They continued on their way, and once again, Akira was sure that the layout of the place had changed. Yu had been quiet after dealing with Minato’s Shadow, up until they reached another hallway. The soft sobs that rang out sounded rather familiar, but Akira couldn’t understand why. The Shadow in this corridor was a child, kneeling on the floor and crying. 

“Is that…”

“Me.” 

Yu stepped forward rather stiffly. Akira could hear the tension in his breath, but he approached the Shadow anyway. He and Minato followed behind, watching carefully as the gray haired boy knelt beside the weeping child. 

“Everyone is going to leave me if I don’t grow up.” Yu carefully turned the child so that it was facing him. The gray hair was the same then as it was now, carefully cut and styled the exact same way. The soft features had only gotten sharper as he got older, resulting in the powerful, composed Yu they knew. His voice was even the same, just deeper and sadder. 

“That’s not true. Your friends love you, no matter what. No one will leave you.” Akira watched as tears started to drip down Yu’s face. “You don’t need to grow up at all. And it was horrible of your parents to insist that you did.” He pulled the Shadow into a hug before it dissolved, then stood up. He stared at Akira and Minato for a moment before wiping his face. “I...I always thought that I needed to be the adult in my life. My own parent. Being childish was a crime.” 

“The Investigation Team still thinks you’re the best, and honestly, you’re the only one I’d pick to lead those crazies.” Akira smirked. “I don’t care if you’re an adult or a child. You’re Yu.” 

“And really, being ourselves is all that matters.”

Chapter Text

“Minato, Yu… Do you guys ever have nightmares?” 

Yu stopped walking, turning his head back to look at Akira. The dark haired boy seemed to be lost in thought, his eyes trained on the ground. What brought this on? Yu always thought that Akira was rather quiet except when he was angry, so this question was a bit unprompted. He sighed deeply. 

“Not often.” If the three of them were going to solve this case, the best way would be to get closer and fix this animosity between them. He couldn’t deny that there was still a lot that pissed him off about both Akira and Minato, but after seeing their inner selves, he realized that they were just like himself. His own anger was melting away. “I never used to get them, until the Investigation Team fought against Ameno-Sagiri and Izanami last spring. They’ve been mostly abstract, like feelings and shapes, but recently I’ve been getting a recurring one.” His voice shook slightly, so he took a breath to steady it. “I’m walking through Shibuya when it starts getting dark. A corpse falls at my feet, and when I check the face…” A dozen lifeless faces flash across his vision, Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Kanji, Rise, Naoto, Mishima… He shivered. “It’s the face of one of my friends. It’s why I was so afraid of the body in Yongen earlier this week. I was so scared it was someone I knew.” 

The other two didn’t say anything. Yu felt a small spark of anger in his chest at the silence. He was about to snap at them before Minato spoke up. 

“You have a fear of abandonment, right? I can imagine how terrifying it is for you to have to live through that in your dreams.” Yu hadn’t expected Minato to be so caring, but based on the way his voice filled with a little venom at the end, he had no shortage of horrible nightmares. “To answer your question, ‘Kira…” 

“Call me that again and I’ll call you MinMin for the rest of your life.” Yu snickered. Akira turned his dark eyes on Yu. “Laugh at that and I’ll come up with one for you too.” 

“Whatever ‘Kira.” Minato shrugged. “I get nightmares all the time, so this is really nothing new.” He was so aloof about it, Yu figured he must have grown up with terrifying dreams. “Ever since I came to Hashi, I started getting nightmares about that cell. Where we killed each other instead of working together. It’s part of the reason I was so upset in there.” 

“Makes sense.” The edge was gone from Akira’s voice. This is good. It was going to take some time, but if they started by stopping being so cruel to each other, then that was a start. “I don’t have many nightmares either, instead I get to sleep in the same room as a sleep paralysis demon.” 

Yu had heard that sleep paralysis was extremely terrifying, and once again he was thankful he didn’t have to experience that. “I do have a recurring night terror though. I don’t know how to explain it though, other than the feeling of extreme helplessness, like I’m just dissolving away into nothing. I wake up feeling way too alive.” Yu chewed on the inside of his lip. Both Minato and Akira had such terrifying nights, while he was able to sleep normally. Almost normally, if you don’t count needing Yosuke’s clothes to even close my eyes.

“You both have been through so much worse than I have.” He felt weirdly bitter, not at himself exactly, nor even at them. He felt upset at this world for being so cruel to them. He was beginning to understand why Akira had set out to change society with his thieves. 

“Just because you haven’t experienced worse doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel bad about shit that happens to you.” Akira kept walking, searching for the window that led back to Kanji’s room. “I heard from Ryuji that you are distant from people because you always moved around and didn’t have time to make friends.” Yu’s face flushed at his past being so out in the open. 

“That’s not-”

“Doesn’t matter, you’ve got friends now, right? We’ve all got these fears but it’s ok. I’m afraid of losing my justice, but here I am, solving these murders with you guys. Minato’s afraid of dying but he’s alive.” Akira turned his dark eyes on the other two. “We just have to push on like always.” 

The three of them turned the corner to find the window, the snake symbol contrasting the warm, inviting light of Kanji’s room. Yu raced forward, desperate to see his friends again and tell them he was safe. Akira beat him, leaping through with a whoop. Yu followed through right after, accidentally tackling Yosuke and falling to the floor in a tangle of limbs. His face warmed up rather quickly, so relieved to be touching Yosuke again. 

“Agh! Yu!” Yu thrilled with joy at being back in the real world. “You guys are safe, thank god. Makoto and Kanji were getting ready to get a search party together to get you guys.” Yosuke looked a little sheepish, chewing on his lip in his normal fidgeting manner. “I was going to go on ahead, but then…” 

Minato had come through the window by this point. “Stop making out in the floor, it’s stupidly late and I don’t want to hear you two sucking face all night.” He walked around them to the door. “I’ll tell everyone that we made it back safely.” 

“Wait Arisato!” Yosuke got himself untangled and stood up. “You look hurt, I’ll go tell everyone that you guys are safe.” He tilted his head to the side. Oh right. “Those bruises look bad, are you ok?” 

Minato shrugged. “Your boyfriend hits hard, Yosuke. Also, you can call me Minato. The Investigation Team is cool by me.” With that he walked out. Yu felt red hot shame rush through his cheeks as Yosuke looked at him. Akira walked out too before he could get dragged into this mess. 

“What was that about?”

“It was part of the plan. It was a compromise. We all got out, and I got to punch Minato a few times. All in good fun really.” Trying to defend why he punched Minato made it all seem worse, but thankfully Yosuke dropped the subject. 

“You look completely dead. Go get some rest.”

Yu struggled to his feet with some help from Yosuke. “Thanks. See you in the morning.” Yu walked to his room, slumping against the door. He was exhausted, but even as he laid against the door he couldn’t bring himself to even close his eyes. Instead, his thoughts started to spiral out of control. 

It wasn’t as if he’d never been through bad shit before, as if he’d never had a gun barrel pressed cold against his forehead, as if he hadn’t watched his friends vanish one by one, as if he didn’t strike down enemy after enemy, god after god in his desperation to save everyone. And yet, even so, as Yu pressed his back against the door, he felt tears starting to pool around his eyelashes. Fear suddenly overtook him as he thought about how badly it could have been back in that cell. If he, or any of them for that matter, had lost their temper completely, no one was getting out alive. 

He started struggling to breathe, his throat clenching shut as panic gripped his heart. He didn’t notice how his cheeks were suddenly wet, or how his fingers dug into his shirt so hard he could feel his nails ripping at his palms. Yu gasped for air, feeling like he wasn’t getting near enough to live. He was rapidly losing control of his own mind, the fear of everything that could have happened plaguing him. 

Yu was unsure how long he spent hyperventilating before the door pushed against him. He was instantly jolted from his thoughts, rapidly calming down in embarrassment. He wiped his face and rolled out of the way, hoping that whoever it was wouldn’t be able to tell that he had just been crying. 

“Partner?” Oh no it’s Yosuke.  

The boy poked his head into the room and looked down at Yu, his face falling even deeper in the concern that was already there. Yosuke crouched onto the floor and rested his hand on Yu’s shoulder. “Are you-”

“I’m not really fine.” 

Yosuke crawled in further and shut the door. He pulled Yu into his arms, and it was actually impossible for Yu to hold back his tears for the third time that night. His fingers gripped into Yosuke’s shirt as he sobbed, knowing that he didn’t even have to speak for him to know what was going on. He wasn’t sure how long he cried, but when he was done, he had lost feeling in his legs. 

“I’m sorry, Yosuke.” 

“You don’t need to apologize to me. Just know that I’ll always be there for you.” Yosuke pulled Yu away, only to look at him with a kind smile. “I figured you might need someone.” He simply kissed Yu’s forehead, then stood up with a yawn. “I’m going to go to sleep, but if you need someone, just come over, ok?” 

Yu wanted Yosuke to stay, but knew that Kouji would be making the rounds soon. He nodded though, a small smile creeping into his lips. “Thank you, Yosuke.” Despite everything that had happened, he was still here, with his best friend in the entire world. 

And that was really all he needed.

Chapter Text

After Yosuke left, Yu sat on the door for god knows how long before he decided to get up and walk to the TV. The clock in his room showed it to be a few minutes past midnight, and the screen remained empty and quiet. Figuring the lush green fields were more welcoming than this cold room, he stepped through the screen. 

Yu took a deep breath, the scent of the flowers filling his lungs. Ever since they had returned the world back to its original state, he liked coming here to unwind with Yosuke. Tonight he didn’t want to disturb the boy any further though, opting to wander the place aimlessly. 

It was always beautiful and breathtaking when he was here, the light warm on his skin. He took off his blazer and draped it over his arm, walking nowhere in particular. Eventually, a tv set rose in front of him. The kitchen. His stomach rumbled. Yu remembered that he hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast that morning. No one is awake at this hour, no one should notice if I just make myself a little something. He climbed through the TV set and just about tackled Minato, who had been trying to pilfer snacks from the cabinets. Yu scrambled backwards, trying to escape back through the TV while Minato wailed over his spilled snacks. Yu managed to get back through the TV, panting from many different feelings at once. He could hear Minato gather his snacks back up before approaching the screen. 

“Yu? Are you in there?” He didn’t respond, silently pleading to whatever gods were left that Minato would just leave. “This is stupid. I’m talking to a screen. Tch.” Yu thought he heard some shuffling of feet before a very loud BANG echoed through the entire area. He leaned back through to see Minato curled up on the ground, swearing up a storm. He carefully crawled out, crouching beside the boy. Did he try to go through the screen?  

Akira happened to have walked in at the same time, raising his eyebrows at the boy at the floor, then flicking his eyes up to fix Yu with a questioning look. “Wanna explain to me why Minato is in the floor and I just watched you come out of a TV?” 

“Not particularly, no, but I’ll do it anyway. After I make us some food.” Yu eyed the unhealthy snacks that Minato had amassed together, grimacing a bit. “God, Minato. Are you trying to kill yourself?” He picked the boy up who had since stopped swearing and started trying to staunch the flow of blood from his nose. Yu felt his stomach wrench at seeing the crimson dripping down, but he swallowed the feeling. 

“Shut the hell up Narukami.” 

“Sit down so I can make you something with actual subsistence.” Minato huffed but sat down at the nearby counter, where Akira joined him. He grabbed a towel to pinch his nose with, the blood still trickling from his face. Yu pulled ingredients out of the fridge, then turned on the stove. It was silent for a moment, before he spoke again. “I’m one of the only people who can pass through the screens on my own. I can help people through, but no one else can go through by themselves. On the other side is a wide, expansive world. It used to be foggy, but we beat the person making the fog. Using that world is how we managed to solve the string of murders in Inaba.

“That place makes these big dungeons based on the person who gets thrown in. We had to fight the Shadow of their person at the top, so they could face their darker side and gain their Persona. I led them for a few reasons, but mostly because I could use multiple Personas.” A prideful note crept into his voice as he walked over with omlettes for the other two, as well as one for himself. He sat down next to them. 

“You mean, more than just your normal Persona?” 

“Yeah, and it’s not like you , Minato. I have the power of the wild card-”

“Oh me too.”

Yu was startled by the response from not just Minato but also Akira. He gazed at the two boys who were staring at each other in shock. All three of us? “Wait, so… all three of us are wild cards? This whole ‘three groups of Persona users being sent to the same school’ is starting to seem a lot less coincidental.” 

Minato pressed his fingers to his temples and groaned. His nose had stopped bleeding, though the towel he had used was completely covered. I’ll make sure it gets washed later. “It might be someone trying to get rid of the Persona users.” Yu looked over as Minato ate half of the omelette in one bite before continuing. “Think about it. Even without our other Personas, we’re a threat to anyone trying to take this world for their own. Our bonds are what powers us.” Minato finished his food in yet another bite. “Holy hell, Yu, why didn’t you tell me you could cook this well?”

“You never asked.” Yu tapped his fork against his plate thoughtfully. “Wouldn’t it have been easier to take us down when we were separated instead of trying to kill us all together?” It didn’t quite make sense. Three teams of Persona users were most certainly harder to defeat than just one. 

“I thought about that.” Akira tugged at his hair, and Yu wondered how he hadn’t pulled any out yet. “Don’t you remember what happened earlier today? Maybe whoever’s behind this knew our personalities and tried to get us to kill each other instead.” His other hand drummed at the counter. “I mean, it almost worked. Zurui captured us almost effortlessly.” 

“They admitted it themselves. Persona users are notoriously hard to kill, even with the power of a god. Hell, they call us God Slayers.” Minato stood and started to clean up his mess, tossing the towel in the trash. “Whoever this is, they know who we are. Zurui knew I was supposed to be dead.” 

Yu stared at his hands. She knew how many gods I’ve killed. Whoever is behind all this has malicious intent, I can feel it. “Whoever it is, we’re what’s standing between them and this world.” He washed the dishes he used, letting the water run a little too hot. It’s just a little past midnight...and I’m so tired.  

Akira was sitting on the counter, still tugging at his hair. “Let’s just agree to work together from here on out. It’s the only way.” Yu nodded, shaking water off his hands before drying them. “Besides, our friends will be needing us.” 

A scratchy chuckling echoed through the room, a blue glow being cast on the walls. “We’ve been waiting for you.” That’s Igor’s voice! Yu turned to the source, a blue door in the middle of the kitchen. Clearly it led to the Velvet Room, but none of the leaders moved towards it yet.

As if to push them towards the door, footsteps sounded down the hallway, followed by a familiar voice. Shit! It’s Kouji!  

“There are students awake way past curfew. I’ve got some write ups with your names on them.” 

“Shit, get in!” Akira flung the door open for the other two, who didn’t waste any time in hurtling themselves in. With a slam, the door shut behind them, those familiar blue walls arching upwards. “Wait! Kouji’s still going to be able to see us?” 

“Do not worry.” Margaret’s voice softly rang out through the room. Yu felt relief settle on his shoulders upon seeing her. “By the time he gets to you, you’ll be back in your world, ready to evade capture. We have only called you here to give you what you desired, at long last.” The book in her hands opened, and Yu could have jumped for joy at seeing his arcana cards inside, lined up so neatly. 

The other two attendants opened their books as well, offering the multitudes of Personas to the other two wild cards. The taller one with rather short hair spoke next. “We had no intentions of withholding your Personas from you at first, but once you were at each other’s throats we knew we couldn’t allow access to them until you had agreed to work together.” 

“The power of the wild card will always be with you, and with it, trouble and trials.” The youngest spoke, in a soft, light voice. “Your bonds are what make you so strong, so you must hold tightly to those if you are to win. Your Personas are returned to you. Use them just as well as you always have.”

It was Margaret’s turn again. “Imagine this room as just another of those resting places within the building you call home for the time being. It is a room of power, where you cultivate your immense strength. Return to us when you so desire.” With those final words, the room dissolved away, bringing back the kitchen and the increasingly louder steps of Kouji. 

Without waiting for a response from the others, Yu grabbed the closest to him, which happened to be Minato. He hauled him over to the same TV he had come out of earlier. “I need you both to be quiet for a second if we’re going to get out of here. It’s going to feel weird as hell, but just wait for me on the other side.” He threw Minato into the screen, feeling a weird pang as the blue haired boy’s protests were completely cut off as he sank in. 

“Yu, what the hell-” 

“No time for questions.” Yu grabbed Akira next and forced him in before following closely behind. Sinking into the TV world was the same as ever, if a little more rushed, leading him back into the colorful world behind the screen. He sighed softly, the clean air feeling better than the city. 

“Ok so are you going to explain why you threw us into a TV of all things, as well as why there is an entire world behind the screen?” Minato was glaring at Yu, though it was just irritation at being forcefully shoved inside a screen. 

“Like I said before, this place used to be filled with fog, but we cleared it. Come on, if Kouji doesn’t find anyone down in the kitchen he’s going to start checking rooms.” Yu led the other two over to a large row of TVs, each one marked with a room number and name. “Don’t worry about why there is a TV for everyone’s room, nor consider the possibility that I can just get anywhere in these dorms, just find the one that belongs to you.” Yu didn’t wait to see if they understood, instead diving into the one marked with his name. 

Swearing as he fell on his hands, Yu tumbled from his TV rather loudly. Normally, he’d take a moment to get readjusted to the real world, but he didn’t have the luxury. He nearly popped his buttons off as he flung his shirt from his body before practically dive-bombing his bed. 

Yu buried himself in his covers, half of which were Yosuke’s clothes. He laid there, unmoving, as the door creaked open and Kouji peeked in. After a moment he left, and Yu got back up to turn on the light. He gazed about his room with a bit of irritation. It’s a mess in here. He moved around the room, neatening up his things. It was a mind numbing task, letting him relax from outrunning Kouji. 

“Yu.” 

A soft knock followed by a harsh whisper sounded on the other side of his door. He opened it to reveal Minato and Amada. Yu furrowed his brow. “What-”

Minato pushed Amada into the room and shut the door behind them. “Shut up. Kouji only went back to his room five minutes ago. I’ve got a favor to ask.” 

Yu crossed his arms grumpily. “What is it?” 

“What are the rules for you being able to teleport through those screens?”

“What, do you want to steal something?” Yu narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know if you know this, but I’m not like Akira.” 

Minato turned on him, his gray eyes filled with irritation. “I’m not asking you to steal some thing , Yu. I’m asking you to help me steal Ken’s dog and bring him back to the dorms. You’ll get something out of it too, don’t worry.”

“Oh really? And what’s that?”

“Koromaru is a Persona user.”

Chapter Text

“Tell me about those students that were accepted to Hashi High this year.” The voice sounded both low and high at same time, angry at the world yet perfectly complacent. The voice was everything and nothing, all at once. 

A screen, one impossibly large for the room, rose from the floor. A profile popped to life, a black haired teen with almost void-like gray eyes. “Akira Kurusu. He was arrested three times within the span of a year, and is the current leader and founder of the Phantom Thieves. Through his second year of school, he led these people to take down evil and corrupt people in Tokyo.” The voice that was speaking was small, much smaller, almost wavering. “He was pronounced dead by suicide on November 18th, though it was revealed later that he faked his death to continue operating underneath society’s notice.”

The voice mused softly. “They are able to fool even the eyes of a great being like society.” 

More information flashed up on screen, as well as images of the teen in a different outfit. “He is more than just dangerous. He is proven to excel in hand to hand combat, even unarmed, though his prefered weapon is a long bladed knife.” The knife in question appeared on the screen, the blade as dark as his eyes. “He is a skilled acrobat, and he sees his entire body as a weapon to be used.” 

“And the blood on his hands?”

Another voice piped up, this one rather feminine. “He assisted in the defeat of the goddess of fate, Enlil last fall. He also killed the god of control, Yaldabaoth, with a shot to the head. After some observation, it seems he does not have access to this power at this time, though his arcana is still to be determined.” 

A narrowing of eyebrows, and a small grumble of irritation. “His arcana cannot be identified? You were able to get the others, but not his? Persona Users always have an arcana.” 

“Perhaps his arcana is able to change, and that’s why we cannot pinpoint it.” 

“Nonsense.” The power in the word sent a ripple through the room. “Continue with his Thieves.” 

A blond boy with his face carved into a permanent scowl rose on screen. “The Chariot, Ryuji Sakamoto. A powerful physical attacker, known to use blunt objects as his preferred weapon. He’s also been known to charge his power up to hit harder and move faster.” As the voice listed off the Thieves, their pictures popped up on screen. “The Lovers, Ann Takamaki. The strongest magic caster on the team, preferred weapon is a whip. The Emperor, Yusuke Kitagawa. Despite his frail stature, is known for powerful strikes with his Japanese swords. The Priestess, Makoto Niijima. An all around hard attacker, as well as experienced healer. Enjoys using punching weapons. The Hermit, Futaba Sakura. World renown hacker and support character for the Phantom Thieves. The Empress, Haru Okumura. Powerful magic attacker and gunman, wields an axe the size of her body. The Magician, Morgana. Known as the hope of humanity, a cat with the power to represent the human race and their desires.”

“Excellent. Next group, if you please.” There was some note of urgency in the voice, yet the tone was rather relaxed. 

A teen with sideswept blue hair and stormy gray eyes showed up. “Minato Arisato. He has an infuriating inability to remain dead, having died and returned four times. He was pronounced officially dead on March 3rd, though what appears to be Death himself brought him back to life. Through his second year, he eventually rose the ranks in the group known as S.E.E.S. to lead them in the fight against the Dark Hour and eventually Death. He’s remarkably intelligent and persistent, as is evident by the fact that he was able to resist the power of the Fall and destroy it.” 

There was a rumble of irritation and satisfaction. “It is true that the Fall would have ruined our current plans, but the fact that a human was able to stop the unstoppable...we must take this into account. Continue.” 

“He is very dangerous, proficient in the use of several different weapons, but he is most lethal with a one handed sword. He knows strategy for any fight or battle, being able to rely on his ability to outsmart his opponents.” Pictures of various weaponry as well as a display of the teen fighting popped up on screen. “We also cannot determine his arcana, in the same way we cannot determine Kurusu’s arcana.” 

“What is with these strange arcana readings?” Anger and happiness. “If we cannot determine their arcana, it will be difficult to fight them.” 

“They could fight themselves.” The suggestion was given quietly, as if scared it would result in harm. “The personalities of these leaders are such a way...we would only have to intensify the surroundings to force them to clash.” 

A rumbling sound like growling laughter. “That is a most excellent idea...Before you go and do this, please tell me of that last leader...He is the most concerning of the three.” 

“Yu Narukami.” A teen with short, gray hair and matching baby-soft eyes appeared. The voice chuckled, as if to tease and encourage the teen to try any funny business. There was a pause, as if the smaller voices were worried. “He is not one to be trifled with. His track record with gods is terrifying, with five marked down as either defeated or killed.” There was a slightly fearful sound, paired with one of excitement. “He founded and led a group called the Investigation Team, a group that revealed the mystery of a serial murder case. They left a trail of gods in their wake, and Narukami is the strongest among them. He’s powerful, his favorite weapon being a long bladed katana.” 

“Is his arcana the same as the other two leaders?” 

A series of nods. “We have heard that other gods tremble in fear at the mention of his name and have started calling him the God Slayer. Despite his soft appearance, his hands have the blood of countless immortals. But we still stand by our idea, pitting these three against each other will make our job of eliminating these god slayers easier. Without their leaders, it will be easy picking them off, one by one.” 

“Then we are done here. Get to work in taking out these nuisances, and soon, so very very soon, this world will be ours!” A cackle. “These supposed God Slayers will be nothing but blood beneath us as we lead the world to its new form!”

Chapter Text

“This place is so big!” 

Ken spun around in the grass, gazing out upon what Narukami called the TV World. The place was lush and colorful, not at all like somewhere that Shadows would be running. The TV sets that were there were labelled, indicating where each led. “So this is how we’re gonna get Koromaru into the dorms?” 

Narukami was busy talking to some weird bear thing apparently named Kuma, but Hanamura spoke for him. “It wasn’t our first idea to use this place to get around, but after a few close calls with avoiding authority, we found that it served as a place beyond training.” He gestured to Kuma. “Kuma helped us find the places we wanted to go.”

“Wait, there are Shadows still here?” Ken flexed his fingers, suddenly wanting the familiar feel of his spear in his hands. “But we don’t have-”

“Our weapons?” Hanamura pulled a long, double bladed spear from behind him, seemingly from nowhere. “I said I’d hold onto them before.” Ken took the spear, relishing in the power that instantly flooded through him. He twirled it around, the blade singing as it swept through the air. “You handle it so well.” 

Ken felt his face grow hot under Hanamura’s praise. “Yeah, well, you’re really fast and powerful. When you beat Inoshi like that...it was so cool!” He kicked at the grass a little sheepishly. “Can you teach me how to go so fast?” 

Hanamura laughed. “You’re really admirable, Ken. It’s really just a trick I’ve learned to use really well.” He looked over at Narukami and the other two leaders talking to Kuma. “That, and being so close to my leader helps.” 

“In what way?” Ken tilted his head. How does being close to Narukami help him be fast?  

“We can talk to each other without actually speaking.” Hanamura sat down in the grass, pulling out one of his kunai to mess with. Ken had noticed how a lot of the other Persona users had small, nervous habits like that, including himself. The anxiety from being Persona users tended to do that. “In that battle with Inoshi, I barely spoke to Yu. He knew what I was planning on doing, and worked with me to help.” That’s so cool though…

Ken had even more questions for Hanamura, but in that moment, the leaders walked back over. Minato had a familiar smirk on his face, one that Ken recognized as being full of mischief. Narukami looked slightly irritated and tired, but the light in his eyes showed that he was just as excited to get Koromaru back. Kurusu looked ready to jump out of his skin in excitement, but that wasn’t surprising for the thief. 

“Kuma has located where Koromaru is. It isn’t too far, but Shadows still populate this place.” Narukami shifted his shoulders around. He looked stiff, but Ken was confident he’d still be able to fight. “We’ll proceed carefully, and with just the seven of us.” Hanamura stood up and tucked away his knives with a smile. “Ken, we’re counting on you.” 

Ken whirled his spear around. I’m coming for you Koromaru! Kuma led the way through the beautiful world, keeping an eye out for Shadows. The few that did pop up tended to stay away from the powerful Persona users. 

Eventually, Kuma stopped. “We’re here!” He chirped excitedly, and stomped his foot on the ground. A tv set popped into existence. “This should lead right into the place where Koromaru is!” 

“Gekkoukan!” Ken reached out to the set, the screen rippling under his fingertips. Excitement thrilled through him at being able to see Koromaru again. He looked back at Minato, who nodded. Then without another word, he dived into the screen, coming face to face with the white dog instantly. 

“Bark!” 

Ken felt tears start to prick at his eyes as he hugged Koromaru. He was laughing, getting attacked by Koromaru’s happy barks. The other Persona users followed through, and Koromaru made sure to give each one just as much affection, if not more to Minato. The blue haired boy was smiling, actually laughing as he petted the dog. 

“It’s so good to see you, Koromaru.” 

Kurusu was perched on top of the tv they had come out of, apparently trying to stay out of Koromaru’s reach. “Can we get going now?” He was holding Sakamoto’s hand rather tightly, and kept shooting panicked glances at the dog. Sakamoto laughed. 

“Akira’s just scared of dogs, take your time, Amada.” 

Ken turned back to Koromaru and rested his hand on the dog’s fluffy head. “Hey, Koromaru, do you know where your collar is?” A bark, and then he was running off into the dorms. Ken stood back up and looked at the others, a wide smile on his face. “Koromaru’s a strong fighter. His Persona is Cerberus!” Koromaru came running back, his electric collar in his mouth. Minato smiled and helped put the collar on the dog. 

“There we go, Koromaru. Ready to help us save the world again?” A cheerful bark was the answer, followed by Minato chuckling. “That’s good to hear. Let’s head back then, we all need sleep. Yu, if you would.” 

Narukami pressed his hand to the screen, the surface trembling. “Would it kill you to say please once in a while?” Kurusu slid into the screen, followed by Sakamoto. Hanamura stood by to let Kuma and Minato go through, then went in. Koromaru seemed a little hesitant at first, but at Ken’s encouragement, he went through. “Go on Amada.” 

Ken slipped through the screen, landing back in the lush green fields. He took a deep breath, right before fatigue hit him hard. Ugh, I feel so tired. Everyone else seemed tired too, with the exception of Koromaru. The leaders did just come back from being kidnapped, so I can understand it. Narukami stepped through, sighing. 

“We should head back now, if I stay awake much longer I’ll be dead in class tomorrow.” He let Kuma lead the group back towards the dorms, everyone else following close behind. Ken could feel sleep tugging at his head, distracting him as they made their way through the TV World. 

“Bark!” A sharp bark from Koromaru made Ken look up. Shadows! Several dark shapes launched themselves at the Persona users, and Ken barely had enough time to whirl his spear around and slash it through one of them. The attack was only strong enough to bat the Shadow away though, as it shook itself off and raced forward again. Ken slid out of the way, aiming a sharp jab, but with how light the hit was, it barely stopped the Shadow. We’re too tired! He looked about the battlefield, noticing how everyone else was struggling. 

There was a popping sound, and a huge gust of fire washed over the nearest Shadow, dissolving it into dust. Koromaru stood in front of Ken, growling at the other monsters. Koromaru is weaponless though, if he keeps using his Persona, he’ll run out of stamina!  

Hanamura caught his eye. The older boy was trying to attack the Shadows, but even with how fast he was, his hits weren’t strong enough. Ken stood up. “Hanamura! Throw Koromaru one of your knives!” Ken slammed the butt of his spear into another Shadow, throwing it away from him. Moments later, a long bladed kunai soared overhead. 

Koromaru caught it, then charged into a Shadow at full force. The long knife sliced through it easily, killing the Shadow before the dog leapt at another. Ken inhaled deeply, forcing his limbs to move even though they felt filled with lead. Another Shadow approached, and Ken gave a screech of power before slamming his spear all the way through it. It wasn’t quite dead yet, filling the boy with frustration. 

“Nemesis!” Ken summoned his Persona, and with a yell, huge blades of light stabbed, one after the other, into the Shadow until it was gone. He retracted Nemesis, then slumped to his knees. Thankfully, the rest of the Shadows were gone as well. Narukami was going around making sure everyone was ok, though he looked about ready to collapse. Using his spear, Ken lifted himself off the ground. “I’ll be fine, let’s just get back.” 

Ken was happy as they plodded back to the dorm rooms, falling back through his tv along with Koromaru. He managed to get to his bed before collapsing, Koromaru curling up at his feet. It felt natural to sleep again, even if he was so far from home.

Chapter Text

The leaders are extremely fired up today, and with good reason.  

Naoto trailed behind the three leaders, noticing how swiftly they swept through Zurui’s prison, how furiously they beat down the Shadows and cultists in their way. Being kidnapped changed them, and Naoto saw how they’d finally stopped butting heads against each other. That’s good.  

There was something else that had changed about them too. When Naoto first joined the Investigation Team, they had noticed something strange. Yu was a lot stronger than the rest, giving off an intense aura that contradicted his otherwise relaxed personality, though the reason only became evident later. He had the power to wield multiple Personas, calling it the wild card. And now, as they ran after the rather feral leaders, Naoto could tell that the other two must have that power as well. They didn’t have to be a Navi to feel the strength the three leaders radiated. 

With the leaders as fired up as they were, it wasn’t long before the Persona users made it to the top of the temple. Zurui was waiting there, a few of her followers nearby. She cackled, staring down at the leaders. 

“So you did make it out alive. Absolutely incredible, but I shouldn’t put anything past you damned God Slayers at this point right?” The cultist, or Acolyte, as they were supposed to be called, stood from the overly gaudy throne she was sitting in. Her followers moved forward, weapons in hand. Naoto pulled their gun from their uniform, calmly fitting it into their palm as Zurui kept talking. “You even managed to break free of those Shadows I designed for you. That’s incredible.” 

“So you kidnapped your own son?” There was no mistaking the fury in Kurusu’s voice. The anger he spit could have been considered reckless, but Naoto could feel actual power behind each word. What on earth? Even if they were special, there’s no way they could have gained this much power over night!  

But Zurui only laughed. If she was intimidated by the power radiating through the room, she didn’t show it. “I never thought the famous God Slayers would bother themselves with a delinquent child, who only acts that way because his momma is some big shot police officer! But of course I was wrong.” She snapped her fingers, and the other cultists stepped forward. “Even so, I don’t plan on failing like those other two. I’ve researched you, and I’ve discovered your weaknesses.” She nodded, a smirk on her face. 

Right before the cultists could attack, the three leaders turned around. Yu spoke first, addressing the groups as a whole. “From today forth, we work as one.”

“Putting aside our differences and retaliating against these Acolytes and their master is what we need to do to save this world. We will do our best to lead you in that way.” Arisato’s voice was quiet, but the lethality with each word was like a blade. 

“We must succeed, to save the people here, and this world! Persona users, we will not let these Acolytes, whoever they work for, ruin the lives of countless people here!” Kurusu spun his blade in his palm before whirling back around to face the cultists. “Navis, get a reading on Zurui, and everyone else? Do what you do best.” 

“Hah! I already bested you once, what’s to stop me from doing it again?” Zurui’s cultists let out a massive blast of ice, aimed at the leaders in particular. “You can’t resist my power!” 

“Oh no!” Rise’s voice cut into Naoto’s thoughts. “That’s an extremely strong attack, they won’t be able to resist!” Damn, really? Naoto ran forward, the shimmering blue card appearing in front of them. Right before they could shoot it, the ice hit the leaders in all of its fury. 

There was a chuckle as the snow cleared. All three were standing tall, completely unaffected by the powerful attack. No way. Did… Naoto’s lingering question was interrupted by Zurui’s hiss of rage. “How? How did you resist that attack?” She growled, but Naoto could see the fear in her eyes. “Who the hell are you people?” 

A blue card shimmered into view near Zurui. Naoto watched the arcana change. The wild cards! The card shattered, and a huge snake-like Persona roared to life. “Yamata-no-Orochi!” There was a screech as the serpent breathed huge gusts of wind at the cultists, picking them up into the air. “Minato!” 

The blue haired boy spun his gun between his fingers before pointing it at his head. “Jack Frost!” A small Persona leapt forth after Arisato pulled the trigger on his Evoker. “Go for it!” With a rush of ice, the cultists in the air were frozen in a mangled mess of frost and snow. “Akira, the final blow!” 

The masked Joker threw his mask off, blue flames curling around the new Persona. “Chi You! Take them down!” A golden clad fighter soared through the air, slamming a huge fist into the frozen cultists. The ice shattered, sending them crashing down, completely unconscious. Zurui watched in horror as her followers were taken out so easily. Naoto felt a small amount of satisfaction. Our leaders are so strong!  

Zurui spat angrily. “So you took out my followers, and you’re much stronger than you were before getting captured.” She seems upset, but… something is off. Naoto’s intuition sparked worry within them as Zurui continued. “But I’ve got something that Inoshi and Hokori never thought of using! My Listener, come to me!” 

From beside the lavish throne, a cultist wearing a mostly white robe with black patterns on the trim stood. Naoto couldn’t make out their face, and even as they walked over to Zurui they never spoke. As if they had rehearsed this, the cultist bowed their head and Zurui placed her hand upon them. She cackled loudly. “You have fought Acolytes before, but Listeners have a much different power.” She pulled the hood from the cultist’s head, revealing that they had what appeared to be bandages covering their mouth. “Go, my Listener.” This is bad! Naoto prepared themself for the worst, clicking a bullet into the chamber of their gun. “Show these cursed God Slayers your true power!” 

The Listener stepped forward, reaching up and pulling the bandages from their face. Their face began to shift, twisting into an evil snarl. Naoto felt something cold creep into the room as a strange voice slipped from the Listener’s mouth. It sounded both high pitched and low at the same time, and weirdly echoey. “I see now, the God Slayers before you, my Acolyte. They certainly are troublesome, so I do not mind abandoning my progress to lend a small amount of my time to assist you.” 

Rise’s worried voice rang through the room. “Everyone! We don’t know what’s really happening, but that cultist suddenly has a huge amount of power, and it’s from somewhere very far!” Naoto wasted no time in summoning Sukuna-Hikona, preparing themself for the absolute worst. Power exploded from the Listener as they charged towards the Persona users. That speed!  

“Yosuke!” Naoto knew that while they worked best with Kanji, in this instance, the two fastest would be needed. Luckily the wind user was paying attention, summoning Jiraiya and sending him forth in the blink of an eye. Sukuna-Hikona followed behind, nowhere near as fast as the frog, but that didn’t matter. Naoto took aim with their gun, following the line of sight down their outstretched arm. Time seemed to slow as their blue eyes traced the Listener’s movement, the tension in their trigger finger as they waited...and waited...for the perfect moment to-

BANG! The shot rang out, louder than the sounds of the Evokers being fired around them. Blood spun into the air as the Listener recoiled in pain. Naoto’s shot hit the mark, the bullet imbedding itself deep into the cultist’s shoulder. Yosuke was there in a literal flash, appearing out of thin air. He hit the Listener with a strong wind attack, though it was blocked by an even stronger bolt of lightning. Yosuke was flung back, hitting the wall of the room hard. Naoto winced. 

“I’ve got it!” Yamagishi’s soft voice echoed through Naoto’s head. “That Listener is being controlled from somewhere else, but whoever it is can’t give them more power than any normal Acolyte. Naoto’s shot has slowed them down considerably….” She cleared her throat. “Akihiko! Kanji! Ryuji! Can you three hit them from different angles, enough to knock them out?” 

There was a gruff reply from beside Naoto. Kanji. The muscled blond rested his shield over his shoulder. “Thanks Naoto. This hit is dedicated to you!” He raced forward, leaving them with a warm feeling in their chest. They watched as the three powerful attackers lunged for the cultist, a swarm of strong fighters taking to them. There was an inhuman screech as the Listener tried to fight back, but their strikes were weaker against the tanks. Within a few moments, the powerful cultist was knocked out. 

To say that Zurui was angry was an understatement. She shrieked and ran for the Persona users, shadow gathering around her as she finally revealed her powerful form. “I never wanted to show this form to your useless eyes, but I have no other choice if I want to rip you all to shreds!” Her form was akin to that of a naga, but instead of a human torso, it was that of a fox. A rather disturbing sight.  

She cackled as power surged through her. “You shitty God Slayers won’t be leaving this place in one piece!” She slithered towards them, screaming profanities. 

“Oracle!” 

“We’ve been running scans since we got here!” Oracle quipped up. “She uses a lot of high powered Psy attacks, so be careful! We haven’t found her weakness yet, but we’re close.” Naoto adjusted their hat. We’ll just have to see what works.  

“Sukuna-Hikona!” They called back their Persona, feeling that power rush through them. Come on, someone give me an opening! As if on cue, another of Yu’s Personas crashed into Zurui, followed by two others from Kurusu and Arisato. Zurui blocked their attacks, then lunged and grabbed Arisato’s Persona. With a sickening shattering sound, the Persona broke apart into light. Naoto winced again, but Arisato simply pointed his Evoker at his head again and fired. I see, so the members of S.E.E.S. can continually summon their Personas, but their endurance is much lower, so they must keep summoning. Naoto lowered their head, staring at their hands. 

If that’s the case, then I wish to show off the power of a lasting Persona! Naoto spun their gun in their hand, gesturing for Sukuna-Hikona to take the front lines. In a flash of light, the moth flew forth, darting between Persona users and spiralling up Zurui’s body. A small voice piped up from beside them, one full of awe. 

“Whoa! Your Persona is fast too!” Amada was standing beside Naoto, watching as their Persona glided so easily around Zurui. “You’re just like Yosuke!” 

Naoto chuckled. “Yosuke certainly has me beat in terms of jaw dropping speed. Jiraiya is incredibly fast and agile, but…” Those deep, calculating blue eyes turned up to concentrate on Sukuna-Hikona’s power, the Persona’s sword glowing with Bless, charging a powerful Kougaon to slice into Zurui. “...In terms of blinding power and speed, Sukuna-Hikona cannot be defeated! Go, Persona!” 

Sukuna-Hikona was nothing more than a streak of light, landing slash after slash all over Zurui’s form. The painful scream that resounded through the area proved that Naoto’s strategy was perfect, the naga screeching with every Light attack that combatted her powerful Psy abilties. Naoto was not without damage of course. Each attack Zurui landed, it showed on their body. Bruises started to appear, as well as a long cut along their cheek. 

“Naoto!” Kurusu’s powerful voice commanded them. “Allow us to match our attacks, and destroy Zurui together!” Naoto didn’t respond, other than to summon Sukuna-Hikona back to them. Kurusu had his original Persona, that winged demon named Arsene, at the ready. “I’ll bind her with my Eigaon, then do whatever you were just doing. Land that killing blow!” 

Kurusu’s enthusiasm must have been because he was finally getting his revenge on Zurui. Something they overheard Makoto saying once was that Kurusu can’t keep quiet about injustice because of his past. Being captured may have changed his view of the other leaders, but it only made his fiery personality stronger! Naoto smiled and messed with the brim of their hat. “I may be nearing the limits of my stamina, but I’ll support you with everything I’ve got. Sukuna-Hikona.” There was a tightening in Naoto’s concentration, things around them getting sharper and defined. “Mind Charge.” 

The power that instantly laced across Naoto’s body was a rush they’d never get used to. It was true that Mind Charge was an incredibly powerful move, but at the cost of a lot of stamina. This is what I must do. Their Persona glowed with the extreme power, waiting for Kurusu to attack first. 

And oh how he attacked. Somehow it managed to slip Naoto’s mind that Kurusu wasn’t just a Persona user, he was a wild card and an acrobat. He darted forward, Arsene in tow, challenging Zurui to fight. She slashed for him, but he easily flipped over the attack and bound one of her arms with his Eiga strings. I see. He wants to bind her fully, making it impossible for her to fight back against Sukuna-Hikona.  

Kurusu slid behind Zurui, ducking under her thrashing tail with the strings. He leapt up the serpent’s back, narrowly avoiding Zurui’s snapping jaws as she tried to turn around. The same strings shot forth again, binding her mouth shut as Kurusu kicked off her head. With her mouth firmly connected to her arm, Zurui was already bound enough for Naoto to work. But Kurusu wasn’t finished. Another Eiga found its way to her shoulder, and as Kurusu fell, he grabbed tightly to the strings. Using his momentum, he swung underneath her arm and made sure it was wrapped tightly before letting Arsene tie them to her lower body. He skidded across the floor smoothly, pushing off again one last time. 

“Eigaon!” This time the strings were part of what appeared to be spears, three of them sticking in Zurui’s body. The narrow weapons held tight, even as she tried to wriggle away. With a hard yank, she fell, completely vulnerable. “Naoto, now!” 

Power whipped through the air around Naoto right before Sukuna-Hikona shot off in a beam of light. Despite their waning stamina, their Persona struck hard, the Kougaon splitting Zurui’s body in half in one strike. With a screech, she dissolved into shadow, her limp form collapsed on the ground. Naoto retracted Sukuna-Hikona, then walked over to Zurui. She seemed to be trying to talk. 

“Please…” Kurusu was already there, blatantly refusing to stoop to her level. “M-my master, he is calling me back, I don’t have much time.” Naoto knelt, wanting to hear her better. “Y-you God Slayers are strong, that’s for damn sure. I promise though, you cannot defeat my master. So instead...please send the devil my regards for hell!” Power exploded from around her, throwing Naoto and Kurusu back. “You really think I’d give in to you annoyances? Hah! Nothing will stop me from continuing to aid my master!” Shadows swirled around Zurui, causing a cry of alarm from Yamagishi. 

“She’s back at full power, please, be careful!” 

Naoto swore, ready to keep fighting, but Kurusu calmly stepped forward. “Kurusu, I know you’re a wild card, but even you have your limits!” 

“So you don’t really care about your son, or this world, or the countless lives of people who are sacred and powerless against this master of yours?” Naoto could hear a strange control in Kurusu’s voice, something tight, like anger. They looked up, and what they saw sent a chill down their spine. Those eyes! Kurusu’s eyes were no longer their deep gray, instead they were bright red, flickering with a yellow color. 

Oracle’s voice rang out. “Joker!” There was unbridled fear in her words, not for Kurusu but because of him. “Skull, his eyes are flickering!” 

Before Sakamoto could get over there, Zurui was cackling again. “Of course I don’t care! All that matters to me now is my master and the chaos he brings!” She barely had a form at this point, darkness swirling around her. “I’ll kill all of you if it’s the last thing I do!” 

The anger and rage that radiated from Kurusu intensified flowing out from him in a wave. Sakamoto cursed from behind Naoto as the black haired teen cackled. “Oh, you’ve done it now! I was mad before, but now I’m beyond that!” His eyes were glowing with a sinister yellow light, the color of Shadows. The hell?  

“Everyone, get away from him!” Sakamoto cried out, startling Naoto enough to make them get up and shuffle away. “Dammit! I’d go over to him and calm him, but right now, he’s the only one who can take Zurui back down.” His dark eyes watched from behind the silver mask. “Just stay out of his way, and don’t make noise.” Kurusu cackled again. 

“Why can’t we make noise?” 

“He can’t see. He’ll attack anything that makes a sound.” As if on cue, Kurusu shot forward, laughs building in his throat. He was faster, much faster than before, streaking towards Zurui like a bolt. He’s almost as fast as Yosuke!  

The Acolyte tried to dodge out of the way, but the Shadows around her were making so much noise. Kurusu shot back after her, slashing away a good portion of the Shadows. Zurui screeched, trying to fight back. Kurusu was too fast. His blade sung through the air, each swipe hitting her Shadows and scattering them. He only cackled, ripping into Zurui like some sort of monster. He tore away her shell, revealing the cultist beneath and sinking his knife deep into her shoulder. Zurui fell with a cry of fear, staring at the thief with terror. 

“No! Please!” 

Kurusu laughed, the sound scalding. “I don’t take orders from anyone!” 

“Akira!” Sakamoto called out in a firm voice. The black haired teen looked up, those yellow eyes still brimming with rage. “Shirogane, can you still summon your Persona?” 

Naoto spun their gun into their hand, the arcana card shimmering into view. “Barely. Why do you ask?” They had a feeling they knew what Sakamoto was going to ask, but they wanted to make sure. 

Kurusu bolted over to them, racing over the ground at that same breathtaking speed. “Get ready to hit him, and don’t be afraid to hit hard.” Naoto watched, fear building in their chest as the thief got closer and closer. At the last possible moment, Sakamoto shouted. “Now!” 

Sukuna-Hikona’s sword slammed into Kurusu’s chest in a split second, the boy letting out a sharp cry as he was stopped so roughly. Sakamoto wrapped his arms around Kurusu, holding him tightly. The thief struggled for a moment, before starting to calm, his eyes flickering between red and yellow, then fading to gray. His body completely relaxed, becoming limp in Sakamoto’s grip. 

After a few more moments, Kurusu stood, though he gripped Sakamoto’s shoulder firmly. “Guide me over to her, I still can’t see shit.” Naoto walked over with them, wanting to make sure Kurusu wouldn’t snap like that again. “Damned cultist.” 

Zurui tried to scramble backwards, but the knife in her arm prevented that. “Don’t come any closer! You might have defeated me again, but I still don’t believe you can beat my master, not even with that power. And...I really didn’t mean it when I said I didn’t care about Tafu.” Her voice had some note of remorse. “He might hate me, and that’s ok. You’re unable to stop it, but you’re still strong. I’ll at least acknowledge that. So when the worlds collide, keep him safe. That’s all I ask.” Her form was dissolving, turning into shadow. 

“I will.” Kurusu turned his sightless eyes up, searching for where the Investigation Team was helping Tafu. It’s his sense of justice. It’s what he always relies on. “I don’t know what the hell you mean by the worlds colliding, but I won’t just keep your son safe.” There was a snarl in his words, and Naoto felt the fires burning within them matching the passion Kurusu had. 

“I’ll stop these worlds from merging if it’s the last thing I do.” 

Zurui laughed. “That will be your downfall, God Slayers.” Without anymore explanation, Zurui was gone, returning to her supposed master. Despite the ominous words, Naoto felt rather warm inside. This is the true passion of the Persona users. 

This is what we were meant to do.

Chapter Text

“Don’t forget! Practices and club activities will still be held over summer break, considering how all students now live in the dorm buildings.” Chie lifted her head off the desk, looking at their homeroom teacher as she continued talking. “The school trip is also tomorrow, so remember to pack tonight.” With that, Mrs. Tori left the room, the transfer students all starting to buzz with conversation. 

Chie stood and stretched before gathering all of her things together. I can’t wait to see Tatsumi Port again! Despite the incident from the last time they went, she still felt excited to go back, especially since they’d be there for a few more days than last time. She turned around too fast in her excitement, almost bumping into Arisato. 

“Oh, sorry Satonaka.” The blue haired boy looked down at her with a small smile. “This trip is going to be...interesting.” He chuckled a bit, though Chie could hear some sadness in his voice. He continued walking, throwing some words over his shoulder. “It’ll be ok to see some of the old places I used to hang out I guess.” 

The change in the transfers wasn’t just limited to Arisato. After beating Zurui, all three leaders seemed more open and mature. It was nice, at least in Chie’s opinion. She finished gathering her things, then hopped up next to Yukiko. 

Chie grabbed Yukiko’s hand, feeling the delicate fingers curl in her palm. “Come on Yukiko! I’m really excited for this school trip!” She smoothed down her skirt, realizing it had gotten ruffled in her energetic bouncing. 

Yukiko giggled softly. “You do seem excited. Do you think we’ll go to that club again?” Chie shivered, shaking her head. That would be another disaster. “Hmm, maybe not. I don’t remember much of that night, and I’d like to remember this trip. Oh, do you think if we asked the members of S.E.E.S. they’d show us around Tatsumi Port?” 

“Oh! That’s a really good idea!” The two started walking towards the dorms, a small skip in Chie’s step. It wasn’t just the excitement from the idea of the trip. Chie always felt like this when she was with Yukiko, though she couldn’t think of a name for the feeling. It most certainly wasn’t bad though. 

Once they got back to the dorms, the two girls parted ways, but only after Chie stood on her toes and kissed Yukiko on the cheek. She went to her room, throwing her school things on the bed for the time being. Chie stretched her back out, feeling her joints pop as she moved her shoulders around. Normally, she’d work out when she got back from class before going to eat with the Investigation Team, but today was different. She reached down under her bed, pulling a suitcase from the depths. 

It was sundown by the time Chie was pulled from her monotonous packing, the soft noises of Yosuke’s guitar peeling out into the air. It was something she had gotten used to, being able to tell how late it was, since the music always played right at dusk. She had no idea why Yosuke played his guitar right at dusk every night, nor did she understand the multitudes of keros that rang out with them. It didn’t matter though, it was such a nice sound that Chie always found herself nodding along. 

As much as she wanted to sit and let the nice music wash her away, Chie still needed to eat. She eyed her almost packed suitcase and sighed before walking down to the kitchen. Yu was waiting there, reading with a steaming cup of coffee in his hand. He looked up when she walked in, giving her a small smile. 

“We’re going to Tatsumi Port again, huh? I highly doubt Rise will be able to get us into that club for free again, though I don’t think we should revisit that…” Yu took a bashful sip of his coffee, setting his book down. “I’m sure the other two groups don’t want to experience that.” 

Chie could understand that. She had tried to block out that memory, but for some reason it kept coming back. Especially now, whenever she glanced at Yu it was hard to forget those rippling abs, and she could understand completely why Yosuke practically worshipped the silver haired boy. Though it only took a breath to chase away the heat that flooded her cheeks. “Yeah, that would be bad… though it did get Naoto on our side.” 

Yu took another sip and took off his glasses. “That is true.” He looked down the hall, listening as Yosuke’s music floated down to them. “The frogs are loud today.” He smiled and hummed along, and Chie realized she had never heard her leader really sing. It wasn’t as smooth and flowing as Yukiko’s voice, nor did it make her catch on fire as badly, but it was still rather pretty. 

“I’m still excited for the trip though, especially now that we have people from there to show us around!” Chie dug around in one of the cabinets, finding a few snacks to have before bed. “I’m sure we won’t get separated again.” 

“I’ve already asked Minato if he can show us around, though he didn’t seem too happy about it.” Yu tapped his fingers on the mug in thought. “Something about almost ending the world the last time he was there.” Chie sat down next to him, munching on her snacks. “I highly doubt that’ll happen again.” 

“It’s crazy that we get two school trips this year, surrounding summer break. I guess they expect us to do cultural studies while we’re on them, though since the second trip is to Inaba, that might be harder.” Chie twirled her wrist around, holding a chip between her fingers. She was starting to grow drowsy with Yosuke’s music wafting over them, and with the excitement for tomorrow, if she actually wanted to sleep tonight, she’d have to go to bed now. She finished eating and stood, bidding Yu farewell for now. “I’m going to bed.” 

Yu waved at her, putting his glasses back on to continue reading. Right before Chie left, he spoke up, though it sounded like he was thinking out loud. “Hey Chie? Who do you think the master is that’s behind all this?” The athletic girl looked back, assuming he had a hunch of some kind. Her eyes flitted to the book in his hands, reading the title. Egyptian Gods. “I’ve been talking to the other two leaders, and based on our experience with other gods, we think it might be another one.” There was some irritation in Yu’s voice as he turned the page. Chie leaned over his shoulder, scanning the page. 

“Wait, isn’t that-”

“The symbol on the windows when we open them to the Chaos Realm.” The oval encircling the snake stood out on the page, a description underneath. “This symbol was used to represent the god of evil and chaos, Apep, otherwise known as Apophis.” Chie bit her lip. Things were starting to fall into place, but it wasn’t looking good. “It’s nothing solid yet, but I understand why they called us God Slayers. If this master really is a god, people like us are a threat.” 

Chie stood back as Yu dived back into his book. She didn’t give much more thought to the matter, letting the leaders mull it over. She went back to her room, throwing her suitcase to the floor so she could sleep. The gentle sounds of Yosuke’s guitar mixed with the frog noises lulled her into sleep, leaving her excited for the next day, and the school trip to come. 

And if the master behind everything was a god, then that was fine.

They’ve defeated them before, so they’ll just do it again.

Chapter Text

It took way too much willpower to keep Ryuji firmly planted in his bus seat after so many hours, even with Akira holding his thigh in an iron grip since he started getting fidgety. He needed to move, get up, do something before he lost his mind. It did help that they were on the school trip though, though that excitement only added to his desire to run around like mad. And almost everyone else was busy with school work that he had supposedly forgotten to take, so if he did start running up and down the aisles, he’d probably get put in a choke hold by Makoto. 

“Ryuji, dude, I can feel you vibrating from here.” Yosuke stuck his head between the seats, glancing from Ryuji to Akira and back. “Hey, whatcha reading Akira?” The black haired teen came back to earth, his dark eyes flickering back to life. He looked up, noticing that he had been asked a question. 

“Oh, it’s a book on Greek mythology. After some deliberation, the others and I came to the conclusion that the master behind it all is some god.” He thumbed through a few pages, stopping on a description of a snake named Python. Ryuji quickly skimmed the page, before Akira flipped to one about Medusa. “I had a few hunches, but that’s all I’m hinging on at the moment. Minato is looking at other books too.” 

Ryuji pursed his mouth. “I can’t believe you guys are doing work when we’re on a trip.” He sat back, running his fingers through his hair. He noticed how his roots were growing in again, irritation sparking through him. “Damn.” 

Yosuke leaned around the other side of the seat, holding up a paper schedule. “It looks like there’s going to be a ton of lectures the first day.” There was no way to keep the groan out of Ryuji’s voice. “But, then day two is a tour around, day three is a free day, and then we go home.” 

Rise appeared out of nowhere, catapulting into Yosuke’s side. “I know exactly where we can go on the free day! There’s this club called Escapade-” 

“Absolutely not, do you not remember what happened last time?” Yosuke harshly nudged Rise, the idol huffing irritably. The hell? “I was the one who had to carry Yu back to the hotel.” Despite his words, Yosuke didn’t sound too upset about it. Ryuji snickered to himself. He’d never pass up that opportunity.  

Junpei jumped up from a few rows ahead, balancing on the top of the seat in front of him. “There it is! Tatsumi Port!” Ryuji leaned over Akira, pressing his hands to the window to look. They were crossing over the bridge to the island now, and it was quite breathtaking. The water around them was a shimmering blue, and the island looked clean and tidy. Ryuji sat back before leaping from his seat and bouncing in the aisle. 

“We’re finally here!”

Ryuji darted from window to window as they approached the school. Gekkoukan was a lot bigger than he thought, even bigger than Shujin. He looked over at Junpei and Minato, seeing if they were excited too. The nervousness on their faces was completely out of the ordinary, and looking around the bus saw the same look on everyone else in S.E.E.S. 

Mitsuru sighed and looked at Ryuji with an apologetic look. “We...well this is the first time we’ve been back to Gekkoukan with Minato, and the last time that happened…” 

“The world almost ended.” Minato was tugging at his blue hair irritably, his fingers winding into the strands. “Though I doubt it’ll happen again, with him being me and all.” 

The robot girl, Aigis stood from beside Minato. “Even if anything were to happen, I would be able to protect you.” She bowed before sitting back down. Ryuji found Aigis rather interesting, as the girl would constantly be by Minato’s side any chance she got. Does she like him?  

Before Ryuji could consider the matter further, Mrs. Tori stood up at the very front. “When we go into the school, I expect everyone to be on their best behavior. Now if everyone could get off the bus in an orderly fashion please.” Ryuji shuffled into the aisle, standing behind Aigis as the students made their way off. 

Minato mumbled something softly, and if Ryuji hadn’t been so close, he would have missed it. 

“I want to go back on top of the roof.”

Chapter Text

“I want to go back on top of the roof.” 

The words took even Aigis by surprise, her heart stilling as her gears turned in her head. She reached up, curling her fingers into Minato’s blazer. Why would he want to go back there? She couldn’t think of a good reason why, but Mitsuru spoke her concerns first. 

“Minato, I don’t believe that’s a good idea. Remember that we’re guests here now, so we should leave snooping around out of-” 

“Please.” 

His voice was lacking in its usual determination, sounding small and needing. “I just need a few minutes.” Aigis couldn’t find it in her heart to say no. 

“Ok. Tell us what you want us to do.” 

The lectures were rather bland, but the buzzing ideas of getting Minato to the roof was keeping Aigis alert. Not much had changed since they left, though there seemed to be some tenseness in the air as they progressed through the day. People were giving the members of S.E.E.S. sidelong looks as they whispered. Aigis heard every single word. Do you think they’re doing ok after that boy died? I heard he was their closest friend or something. What should we say to them? I’m sorry doesn’t really cut it.  

Minato must have heard them too, if the small clicking noise of his holster was any indication. Even without his Evoker, Aigis knew that the sound of the clasp helped calmed him. It was a familiar sound to her too, but more so as a way to determine if her allies were ok. 

The lectures drew to a close, and as the teachers rounded everyone up, Mitsuru spoke up loudly. This is it.  

“As the former student council president here, I noticed some things that required my attention. They were minor things, but considering we were only in a small part of the school, I wish to survey the rest. I’ll take Aigis, Fuuka, and Minato with me.” Aigis turned to look at Mitsuru, bowing to accept the job. At a nod from Mrs. Tori, Mitsuru swept away with the other three students in tow. 

Minato took the lead, running up the stairs to the roof. The doors were shut, as normal, but what wasn’t normal was the simple silver plaque across one of them. Aigis leaned closer, scanning them. In memory of Arisato Minato. May he rest in peace. There was a strangled laugh in Minato’s throat. 

“Resting in peace. What a concept.” He pushed past the doors before whispering to Aigis. “Give me a moment, but please join me. He wants to talk to you.” Before she could question what he said, Minato had strode out to the roof. Aigis reached out for him, then pulled her hand back. 

He? Aigis was completely unsure what, or who, Minato meant by that. She stepped out anyway, the warm summer sun glinting off her metallic arms. Minato was standing by the edge, wind whipping through his hair. He looked so serene, that Aigis felt the need to turn around and let him be. 

Then she saw his Evoker.

He was holding it loosely in his fingers, hand curled delicately around the sleek gun. Aigis got closer, questions pounding through her head. “Minato-” 

He turned around, brilliant sapphire eyes glittering through his hair. Aigis’ body moved before she could think, fingers clicking bullets and aiming for the Shadow in front of her. He put up his hands in defense, worry sparking in those familiar eyes. 

“Whoa! Aigis! Calm down, I just wanted to talk.” The voice was Ryoji’s too, confusing Aigis further. “I asked Minato if he could tell you some things, but he insisted I tell you myself.” Ryoji slowly lowered his hands and Aigis lowered hers, though she was still aggravated by his appearance. “There’s nothing crazy I can do right now, ok? I’m stuck in Minato’s body, just like before.” 

Aigis mulled this over for a moment. It was true that in this state, Ryoji couldn’t do anything other than talk. It still didn’t change the fact that he was dangerous. But he wants to talk. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. Ryoji noticed and smiled. 

He took a step forward, clasping his hands together. “I should start this by saying that I’m sorry.” Aigis wasn’t expecting that, not that she was expecting anything for that matter. Talking to Ryoji like this felt almost normal. Almost. “I shouldn’t have existed in the first place. All of this, even you, was my fault. I won’t ask for you to accept my apology, I just wanted to tell you how I feel.” 

Aigis was flying forward, though she wasn’t sure why. There was a yelp from Ryoji, a rustling of fabric, and suddenly he was embraced in her arms. Aigis’ heart pounded, feeling the slow breathing of Ryoji’s chest rise and fall against her own. “I do accept your apology. You were created with the intent to destroy, and yet you helped me. You helped me and the others grow far beyond what we thought possible.”

There was some silence before a pair of arms slowly circled around Aigis’ shoulders. Ryoji’s face fell into her arm, and before she knew it, the boy was shaking. The sobs that wracked his body shuddered against Aigis, soft tears falling down his face. He wasn’t expecting to be accepted.  

“I think you’re more than just Death. You’re Ryoji Mochizuki, and your feelings for Minato are real.” The crying stopped a moment, Ryoji pulling away to give Aigis a tearful look. She felt slightly guilty, but pushed herself to continue. “I tried to get in the way, but I should have trusted Minato, and you. It was because of those feelings that we were able to stop everything.” Her chest creaked as she smiled softly. “So I’m sorry too.” 

Ryoji burst into tears again, one hand holding tightly to Aigis’ arm as he used the other to try and stop the flow from his eyes. He tried to choke out words, but it seemed he didn’t quite know what he was trying to say. Aigis gave him a moment to calm down, and eventually he managed to compose himself. 

“I…” Ryoji sniffled before starting again. “Thank you, Aigis. I should let Minato back now, I think I’ve said all that I’ve wanted to.” He put on that always brilliant smile, which had first blinded and irritated Aigis, but now showed his sincerity. “Just...just remember, please, that you are more than just a machine. I don’t know how often you need to be reminded of that, but you are special. I promise. Minato cares an awful lot about you, and so do I.” 

“Ryoji wait!” Aigis felt like she had been hit by a sword, driven straight into her heart. Ryoji didn’t need to say such things, or make her chest ache in such a painful way. If Aigis could cry, she would be, but instead she felt like her heart was being torn apart. “You can’t just-”

“I’ll talk to you later, Aigis. Do keep up the good work in protecting Minato for me.” The boy shivered from his head all the way down to his feet, blue hair falling back into place over half of his face. When his eyes opened again, they had returned to their normal stormy gray color. That characteristic scowl was back as well, but it seemed that Minato was content. 

Aigis searched his face, trying to find any sign of Ryoji left. The scarf wearing boy was completely gone though, returning back to his place inside Minato. “Aigis, sorry about this, he really wanted me to tell you things, but I thought it better if he told you himself- Ah!” 

Minato’s voice cut off as Aigis pulled him into a hard hug. “Thank you, Minato, and Ryoji. You’ve both helped me so much.” 

And I vow to do my best to protect both of you.

Chapter Text

Akira promptly fell face first into the provided bed. He was exhausted as hell, from dealing with boring lectures all day, to students very obviously avoiding them in the hallways, to a few members of S.E.E.S. vanishing including Minato, to then having to track them down in the absolutely massive maze that was Gekkoukan High. They still had a few days of the trip left, so despite how much he wanted to stay up while Yu and Minato messed around, he resorted to just forcing himself to sleep. 

Ryuji eventually joined him, briefly waking the thief to get him to move the ‘eff over, you’re taking up the whole damned bed. Akira didn’t want to move but did anyway, letting Ryuji curl around his back and wrap him in a warmth that always made his heart skip a beat. He wasn’t sure what he had been dreaming about before, but when his boyfriend held him like that, only dreams of light and happiness flooded his head. 

And even through this haze of love, he was still a light sleeper. 

Akira knew what guns sound like. He used one in fact, so even the soft sounds of the metal clinking against itself was enough to wake him. He blinked his heavy eyes open, first noticing how Ryuji had turned over, the two thieves pressing their backs together. The second thing he noticed was Minato perched in the windowsill, a gun pointed to his head. 

Akira was still half asleep when he scrambled up, even so he was completely silent in doing this. He ran for Minato, desire to get him to stop powering through his tired limbs. There was a sharp bang, Akira watching through his outstretched fingers as Minato’s head snapped to the side and those gray eyes glazed over. Instead of blood spinning from his skull, soft blue lights sparkled around him. 

“I missed you.” Minato’s voice was soft, addressing something that Akira couldn’t see. Or, was something there? He squinted, blinking sleep out of his eyes before activating the third eye. And there it was.

The figure was blue, but that’s just how Akira saw things with the third eye. It had dark, slicked back hair and a rather thick scarf. The long legs swung from the windowsill, as if just shooting the breeze next to Minato. The two locked eyes, and after a moment the figure realized that Akira could see him. The mouth moved, but Akira could barely hear what it was saying.

“Wait, you can see him?” 

Minato was slack jawed, his eyes shifting from Akira to the figure, and it was then that Akira realized that he should have used the third eye way before tonight. While Ryuji and the other thieves were a bright blue color and had their arcana above their heads, Minato was the same color of his eyes. A deep stormy gray that curled around his body like fog. And the arcana above his head kept changing too, flickering between the different ones even as he sat still. Akira glanced over at Yu, only to find the same gray color and ever changing arcana. 

“Who is he?” Akira looked back at Minato, the blue figure hopping up to greet him. Now that they were close, he could hear what the figure was saying. 

“Sorry about this, Minato just wanted to talk to me.” The voice was remarkably similar to Minato’s, just a lighter pitch and tone. “I’m Mochizuki Ryoji. I’d offer to shake your hand, but I’m not really here. In fact, I have to ask, how can you see me?” 

Akira’s hands were trembling. He was burning up with questions, but couldn’t find his voice to speak them. Instead, he glanced at Minato before answering. “I have this thing called the third eye. I can see things that others can’t.” Minato narrowed his eyes. 

“So that’s how you can see him.” He sighed and tucked his Evoker away. “When I summon him like this, only I can touch him, though it’s a little...weird. Because it’s like I’m talking to myself.” Minato huffed, and Ryoji vanished with a sigh. “So now you know my secret, and I know yours.” 

“And so do I.” Yu was up now, looking more than a bit peeved that he was awake. “Akira, I thought you were a thief. Don’t you know how to be quieter?” The silver haired boy sat at the edge of his bed and yawned. “So we all have powers outside of normal Persona business. I guess that’s what being a wild card is about.” 

Akira leaned against the wall. It was strange. Three wild cards with powers outside of their normal Personas were all transferred to the same school. They were set at each other’s throats in an attempt to kill them, but overcame it. Whoever was doing this had their plans ruined big time. “I know we’re supposed to be relaxing on this trip, taking a break from this whole thing, but I can’t help thinking about it.” 

“A lot of the things I’ve been reading have pointed to a god called Apophis.” Yu fidgeted with his hands as he spoke. “The symbol on the windows looks a lot like the ones in the books, and the whole Chaos Realm thing points to him as well.” He spoke quietly, trying to not wake Yosuke or Ryuji. 

Akira nodded along, tugging at his bangs. “It fits, doesn’t it? I had been thinking Python, but I think Apophis fits better.” Minato’s eyes glazed over for a moment, before he shook his head and came back. 

“Ryoji said that Apophis would do something like that. The god himself is ancient, even older than Death and with a thirst for power that topples whole worlds.” Minato popped the snap open on his holster. “God of evil and chaos.” He chuckled softly. “What an adversary.” 

“It isn’t like we haven’t defeated gods before.” Yu’s eyes were dangerous, the gleam in those stone cold eyes sent a shiver down Akira’s spine. 

“We just have to do it again.”

Chapter Text

Walking around Tatsumi Port wasn’t too unlike when Kanji had gone with Yasogami the year prior. He didn’t like the city at all. It was too busy and loud, so much unlike the soft fields of Inaba. He stuck close to Naoto’s side as the tour progressed through the city, trusting the detective. 

The rest of S.E.E.S. seemed to be enjoying themselves, considering how they were poking fun at each other at some places they went to on the tour. Junpei practically pounced on Minato when they got to the Paulownia Mall, teasing him about his eating habits there. Mitsuru told him to knock it off. 

Naoto apparently found this rather amusing, though when the tour made it to Club Escapade they got quiet and clung to Kanji’s side. I don’t blame them. He had a difficult memory from that place, and he was sure that Naoto’s wasn’t any better. And despite that, Rise was raving all about how she managed to get a room reserved there for all of the transfer students. There was no possible way that would end well. 

“Kanji, what do you think?”

Kanji jolted, realizing he had been drifting off. “Oh, sorry.” He bit his lip, feeling guilty about not listening to Naoto. 

“It’s ok. I was just asking what you thought about the theory that the god in command of all those cultists is Apophis.” Their pretty gray eyes stared back at Kanji, making him blush hard. Everything about Naoto was pretty and handsome, constantly reducing Kanji to a blushing mess. 

“Oh, uhm, I think it makes sense. Th’ symbol matches almost perfectly, so I don’t see any issues really.” He awkwardly scratched his neck, fingers tapping at the skin. “We should focus on th’ break though. It’s nice to relax for a bit.” Kanji tried to ignore the weird stares he got from the locals, knowing they were judging his accent. 

Naoto squeezed his hand, comforting him. “Those city people can judge you all they want, I don’t care. I think your accent and voice is sweet.” If they smile I will be down for the count. Naoto’s smile was the sweetest thing he’d ever experienced, and it belonged in a museum. They did in fact smile, causing Kanji’s face to get even redder. Naoto’s compliments were like oxygen to him, despite how much they took his breath away.

“Th-thanks Naoto.” 

They kept walking, Kanji feeling lighter than air as the tour continued. Hanging out with Naoto was the best thing ever, and no, he would not accept any criticisms on this topic. He couldn’t pay attention to whatever else was happening, just too happy for words. 

When the tour was done, the students had a small amount of free time before they were supposed to return to the hotel for the night. Kanji followed Naoto all over Tatsumi Port, the detective’s natural curiosity dragging them all across the island. They continually popped their head into stores and stared at things through windows. Most often though, Kanji noticed how Naoto liked to look at the places where Mitsuru had admitted to fighting Shadows. 

These places seemed to be oddly untouched, which was something that Naoto noticed. “It’s as if these massive battles against those horribly powerful Shadows never happened.” They had come across a rather open area behind an alley, Kanji watching as Naoto investigated. 

“You hit the nail on the head, Detective.” Akihiko was standing in the alley, arms folded over his chest. Normally he smiled when he talked, but now his mouth was drawn into a fine line. “When the Dark Hour ended each night, things would return to how they were, without damage or debris. The bodies of the people who died however, remained.” His eyes swept across the area before settling on the corner, where several dead bouquets of flowers sat, half crushed. What’s this about?  

“Something terrible happened here, isn’t that right Akihiko? I don’t wish to ask you to repeat it, but it does explain how you and Ken act in certain situations.” Kanji often forgot how sharp Naoto was, picking up on cues and clues in ways he could never fathom. “From what I’ve heard, this Dark Hour was terrible to the people here on Tatsumi Port. I’m glad you are all ok, for better or worse.” 

“For worse is what it is sometimes. You didn’t see the plaque, but Mitsuru got a picture of it.” Akihiko walked over to the flowers, crouching down to look at them. 

“There was a plaque? Where was it?” Kanji narrowed his eyes a bit, determined to understand what was going on with Aki. 

The fighter stood again, brushing off his hands before looking at Kanji and Naoto again. His soft gray eyes were filled with an intensity that reminded Kanji not of Yu, but of himself. “It was at the doors leading to the roof of the school. Silver, and almost out of the way, as if the school forced themselves to put it there. In memory of Arisato Minato. May he rest in peace.” 

“In memory?” Kanji chewed on his lip. “He’s alive though.” 

Aki let out a sigh through his nose. “He wasn’t always alive. At the end of last school year, he died on that roof. We had to tell the school, Mitsuru said we had no other choice. We couldn’t tell them everything, just insisting that he died from sudden intense fatigue.” 

“That wasn’t the truth though. He died during Dark Hour, didn’t he?” Naoto messed with the brim of their hat. It was a habit that Kanji had noticed even before the TV World, something he chalked up to stress from their job. 

A simple nod from the fighter. “He died fighting Death, successfully defeating him but it cost him his life. However, using all his willpower, he clung to life until graduation day. We had forgotten everything that happened, right up until the cherry blossoms started casting their petals. We barely made it before he died.” 

“He’s back now though. But th’ school doesn’t know that. They still think he’s dead or somethin’. That’s what’s really crazy, cause how can you explain that? A kid you thought was dead turns up, completely fine.” Kanji was hurting his head a little with how hard he was thinking. 

“Many people died during Dark Hour, but he was the last one. He protected everyone, so it’s the least we can do to keep following him.” Aki walked back into the alley, vanishing from sight. Kanji pouted a moment, mulling over his words. 

“Minato has a dedicated following Kanji. But so does Yu. He has us. A detective prince and their beefcake boyfriend.” Kanji blushed so hard he thought he had caught on fire. You can’t just give me compliments like that. “We stand by him just as firmly. He’s our leader, and we trust him.” Naoto’s phone chimed softly. They took it out and checked it, a few different emotions crossing their face before sighing. “Just as we do now. Rise wants to go to the club tonight.” 

“There is no way in hell this is gonna end well.” 

“Considering we have to somehow convince Mrs. Tori that we’re enjoying the nightlife in an educated way, as well as struggling to keep Rise and Yukiko sober, that is in fact a very accurate statement.” Naoto took Kanji’s hand again, threading their fingers together. “We have to deal with S.E.E.S. and the Phantom Thieves too.” 

“Good lord, I just don’t want to be tackled by some drunk bear again.”

Chapter Text

Akira was extremely drunk off the atmosphere. Yu could see the gleam in his eyes that made him remember the first time they were in Escapade, and he had gotten drunk enough to almost completely strip. Akira was bordering on that, suggestively tugging on the collar of his slim tee shirt as he gazed at Ryuji. 

Yu himself was able to resist the tempting lull of the dull lights and weirdly dense atmosphere, as was the rest of his team. Dealing with it once before helped, and S.E.E.S. seemed to be fine as well. It was the Thieves he was most worried about. 

And apparently with good reason too. Yusuke was face down on one of the couches, one hand limp on the floor and the other wound tight on a glass. He seemed to be laughing, keeping up a constant giggle. It was so much unlike him to be so loose, laughing at the slightest things. He’s just like Yukiko.  

Makoto suddenly crashed into his side, surprising Yu and throwing him off balance. She struggled back to her feet with some help from Haru, who apologized for the lack of composure in the gray girl. “We know the drinks aren’t spiked, so we’re sorry about this.” Yu chuckled and helped Makoto over to take a seat. 

“It’s ok. We were reluctant to come back here after the first time.” He glanced at Yukiko and Rise, who despite having red faces, seemed to be holding onto sobriety. “Those two got drunk off the atmosphere and ended up forcing us to play-” 

A handful of chopsticks were thrust into his face. At the other end was a brightly flushed and glazed eyed Akira, a dark smile on his face. “The King’s Game. I found these in your bag, Yu.” Despite his obvious stupor, Akira’s words were razor sharp. “Let’s play.” 

Yu barely remembered that night. After Akira somehow managed to convince him and everyone else to play, it was all a blur. He avoided stripping, which he thanked whatever gods for, but Akira wasn’t so lucky. Ryuji was the king at one point, and had the worst luck in picking Akira’s number. The thief threw his shirt off so fast Yu was certain he had just phased through it. The ball of fabric was hurled at Ryuji’s head, knocking the blond from his seat before he was straddled by Akira and kissed. A second later, the leader was left in the floor, smoking a little from the sharp Zio that a panicking Ryuji delivered. Getting the three drunks back to the hotel was even worse, even with Haru being able to hold Makoto over her shoulder with ease. Akira kept running off, and it would take both Yu and Yosuke to pull him back with the rest of the group. Ryuji was dragging Yusuke, the artist beside himself with giggles. 

The next morning Akira slept in, as did everyone else. Yu woke up first, throwing open the curtains to the room despite four very irritable hisses from the beds behind him. He basked in the sunlight for a moment, before turning back to Yosuke and dragging the frog from under the mound of blankets he’d hidden himself under. He let the boy remain slumped over in front of the window before turning his attention to the coffee maker. 

Akira was already blindly brewing, his glasses askew off his nose. His hair somehow seemed messier than ever, and a little frayed from his shocking experience last night. Yu walked over, the smell of the coffee already making his head feel lighter, and it had the same effect on everyone else too. Yosuke managed to get himself standing, still leaning on the window, and Minato had poked his head out from the cocoon of fabric that he apparently always slept with.  

“So are we just not going to talk about last night?” 

“Shut the hell up Kurusu, I don’t want to hear it when we had to go chase you down.” Minato pulled himself up into a sitting position, stretching as the scarf fell from his shoulders. “You’d better be making that coffee strong.” 

Yosuke walked over to Yu and wrapped his arms around the taller boy. “The way Akira reacted was worse than you. And to think Ryuji would actually shock him…” He laughed sleepily and yawned. Morning breath.  

“Hey! You would too in that situation!” Ryuji shot up from the covers, pointing an accusatory finger at Yosuke. “I panicked!” 

“Nah, he didn’t.” Yu dislodged himself from Yosuke to invade the bathroom for a moment. His mouth tasted awful, and it was probably from those bar drinks they had last night. “I mean I didn’t tackle him but he still didn’t throw me into a wall.” He brushed his teeth before coming back out, taking the mug that Akira placed in his hands. Yosuke was blushing furiously. 

“That was entirely your fault. I had no say in any of that.” Yosuke wrapped his hands around his own mug, taking a long drink before continuing to talk. “At least we didn’t have Kuma with us this time. Kanji got away unharmed.” 

Minato had snatched his coffee and run back to the couch, clearly just wanting to stay in the warm pile of blankets he had snatched. “Next time you want to go to a damn nightclub, leave me out of it. Just be sure to record Akira for me.” 

“Asshole.” 

Minato shot tired finger guns at Akira. “You know it.”

Chapter Text

“And so I think that chaotic energy is what affects Mishima so bad. It’s like his body is so unused to it, that being around people like us is what makes him sick.” Futaba chattered excitedly as she swept through pages and pages of notes on her tablet. Rise couldn’t even begin to understand what she had there, but she trusted the other Navi with whatever she wrote down. 

“That’s crazy Futaba, but it makes sense.” The idol skipped ahead, leaving the other two Navis behind. “I have dance today, so I’ll talk to you guys after that!” She called over her shoulder, waving at Fuuka and Futaba. She ran off, excited for dance today. 

Rise ended dance that day absolutely fuming. She changed out of her uniform lightning quick, throwing her clothes into her bag before storming out. The idol burst into the dorms, startling Akira who had been lounging there. She threw her bag into a nearby chair before flopping down. 

“Rise-” 

“You know Daisuko?”

Akira set down his book and looked up. “Oh yeah, doesn’t she talk shit about us all the time?” 

Rise nodded and tugged on her pigtails. “Well she’s hosting a party this weekend, and invited everyone in the school, but she explicitly said that no transfer students were allowed. The only way I heard about it was from some of the people in dance. They asked if I was going, being an idol and all.” 

Akira sighed. “So what do you want to do about it?” 

Rise jumped up enthusiastically and leaned over Akira, who shied backwards on instinct. “I wanna go.” She hoped the gleam in her eyes was enough to convey that she wanted to do more than just go to the party. She wanted to tear the place to the ground.  

The thief nudged her aside and stood, pacing a bit. “If we asked Yu, he’d probably be able to get us in through the TV, though we’d need a distraction.” He muttered to himself, Rise bouncing on the balls of her feet. While she was never one for revenge, Daisuko deserved it. She often waited outside the classroom and dorm building, loudly jeering at the transfers, especially the three leaders. 

“Oh!” Rise popped up and grabbed Akira’s sleeve. “I could offer to sing for her as Risette! Obviously she doesn’t know I’m the real Risette, otherwise she would have asked me. I know she listens to my music.” Akira turned on his heel and smiled. Rise had never taken too much notice before, but the thief’s smile conveyed his emotions easily. 

And right now, that smile was full of malice. 

“I’ll go talk to Yu and Minato. Can you get the other two Navis together? This summer just got a lot more interesting.” Akira strode off towards Yu’s room while Rise scrambled to get her phone out of her pocket. 

>> Hey ladies! We’re gonna ruin Daisuko’s party, come help us plan!

<< hehe, im already on my way. I know where the party is too 

<< Oh, will you need my assistance? I’ll be over there shortly.

Rise closed her phone with a click and bounced around the common room for a moment. As a second thought, she grabbed her dance bag and threw it in her room, returning with a notepad to find both Fuuka and Futaba waiting for her. She greeted them politely, but she could feel a fire burning in her chest. Get ready Daisuko.  

The six teens wrote out a rather lengthy plan, Rise eventually getting into contact with Daisuko and offering to play at her party for no charge. Daisuko agreed, even when Rise asked if she could bring some extra hands to help out. The three leaders decided to have a two stage plan. The first stage was getting the three of them in there as sneakily as possible, with the goal of causing disturbance with the guests. 

Stage two was a little more excitable, with Yu helping the rest of the Persona users flood the venue and enjoying the party. There wasn’t going to be anything that Daisuko could do about it, and the transfer students would get to ruin her perfect city girl party. 

Rise couldn’t wait. 

When the day of the party rolled around, Rise took Fuuka, Ann, and Naoto with her up to the venue, which happened to be a rather nice mansion on a hill. Rise didn’t have too many things to take with her, as there was already a stage and sound system hooked up, but she and the others had boxes full of various things. Rise’s box in particular was stuffed full of tiny cameras that Futaba insisted on them setting up there. 

Rise gave Ann the cameras, trusting the thief to set them up just right. Meanwhile she busied herself with Fuuka and Naoto, setting up lights and the stage for the show. Daisuko came up to them at one point, asking if they needed any help.

“Oh, no we’re good thanks.” Naoto hopped off the stage to bow, thanking Daisuko for the offer. Rise felt a bit of turmoil in her gut, hoping that Naoto wouldn’t be misgendered. 

“Alright, that’s good. I’ll see you three ladies later!” 

Naoto looked queasy, grabbing Rise’s arm for support as Daisuko turned on her heel and left. Rise carefully held the detective’s hand, knowing how hard it was to be misgendered like that. “Don’t worry Naoto, she’ll pay soon enough.” 

Ann skipped back over, an empty box in her hands. “All the cameras are in place, and I found a large TV in a common room. I texted Akira to tell him, and he said that Yu and Kuma are looking for this place as we speak.” She stuffed the box under the stage, before setting herself up at the corner. 

Rise scanned the area, making sure that everything was in place. When she was satisfied with the result, she turned back to the other three and smiled. Then her smile faltered. There were things floating over her vision, and the more she looked, the more she realized they were numbers and letters. 

Naoto Shirogane, Persona: Sukuna-Hikona. Curse and Bless. 152 cm. Arcana: Wheel of Fortune. 

Ann Takamaki, Persona: Carmen. Fire. 168 cm. Arcana: Lovers. 

Fuuka Yamagishi, Persona: Lucia. Navigation and Support. 152 cm. Arcana: Priestess. 

Rise blinked hard, shaking her head. When she opened her eyes again, the numbers and letters were gone, and everything was normal again. She chewed on her lip as she tried to think about why that had happened. It was almost like looking through Himiko’s visor.  

Before Rise could get too lost, a crackling sounded in her ear. Futaba’s voice came through, her words quickly clearing of static. 

“Rise! Is everything set up?” 

“Everything is good on our end, Oracle.” Rise watched as a few party guests started spilling into the area, so she hopped up on stage. She gave a thumbs up to the three down at her feet, each of them signalling back that they were ok. The lights flicked on, music swelling around her, feeling natural and free. She leaned into the head set first, a snide smile on her face as she gazed out. 

“Begin stage one.”

Chapter Text

Akira was pacing around in the TV world, waiting for the ok from Futaba to go through with their crazy plan. He had ditched both his casual attire and his glasses for a tight black tee shirt, denim jeans, as well as borrowing Ann’s mascara to highlight his already long eyelashes. Especially with his dark gray eyes, he had that specific ‘bad boy’ look about him. 

Yu was wearing a white button up, as to why he had decided to wear that he didn’t explain. It seemed a little high end for a party, even for such a composed boy. He also had on black slacks and those thick glasses, which only made his sharp features even more accented. 

Minato, against his will, had been put into a white tee shirt and denim jacket, with loose blue jeans. He had fought to keep his headphones and music player, insisting that it was part of his aesthetic. His hair was more side swept than normal, letting his right eye peek through. The soft gray mixed with the blue was rather fitting for him. 

Akira could hear the party going on just behind the screen. Rise’s voice was really faint, but she sounded really good, good enough that the people there were mostly around the stage she had set up. Hopefully they’d be able to give all of them a break soon. 

“Alright, there’s no one around. Who’s going in first?” 

The three looked at each other before Akira stepped towards the TV. “I’ll meet you on the other side.” Yu nodded and helped him through, the sensation of going through still feeling just as weird as the first time. He jumped down smoothly, looking around at the place. It was rather gaudy and bright, reminding him of the museum in Madarame’s palace. 

Disgusting.

He followed the sound of Rise’s voice to find the stage, where Naoto, Ann, and Fuuka were keeping fans from getting up with Rise. Rise was singing her heart out, a little too enthusiastically, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying it. Akira slipped into the crowd, trying to make eye contact with any of the three. Eventually he met Naoto’s gaze, and they nodded towards a door to the left. Akira pushed his way through the crowd, feeling people’s eyes settle on him. At least he was still used to the feeling. 

He opened the door, revealing a rather nice bathroom. It was mostly hidden in the wall, but for whatever reason when Naoto pointed it out it was easy to see. His third eye flickered a bit, noticing how it made the door clearer to see . He strode over, quietly shutting the door behind him and waited for Naoto. 

They opened the door and shut it quickly, dropping the whole act. “I was beginning to think you guys would never show up.” The room itself was rather small, and being this close to Naoto made Akira conscious of how small they were. “We decided that this would be the room we use as a break room or an escape or whatever you need. You look good.”

Akira chuckled and ruffled his fingers through his hair. “That was the point. It took so long to convince Ryuji to let me do it.” He stared at himself in the mirror. “I hope the other two get here soon. I don’t exactly want to do this by myself.”

Naoto shook their head, though there was a smile on their face. “You better get all the girls you can before Yu can get here. If he’s wearing that damned white button up it’s all over.” Whatever memory was associated with that had to be bad if Naoto was grimacing in uncomfort over it.

“Yeah he didn’t tell us why he’d wear something so dressed up.”

“There was a time we went to a club on a school trip, before I was officially part of the group. Some of us got tipsy off the atmosphere and we ended up playing the King’s Game. Luckily I wasn’t ever chosen, but if you ask the others about it, you’ll get some uncomfortable responses.” Naoto shook their head to clear it of what Akira could only imagine was a bad image. “According to Yosuke, Yu has a bad habit of just taking off his shirt in intense situations.” There was a small little smile on Naoto’s face. Akira resisted the urge to gag. That sounded so much like Yu it almost seemed like too much. “Well, you better get ready, I’m sure the other two will be in shortly.”

They were right, as the voice of Futaba crackled to life in his ear piece. “Minato and Yu are in the building now. Good luck!” Akira took a deep breath. His eyes caught Naoto’s, determination sparkling within them. He opened the door and walked out, quickly finding the tall figure of Yu and the blue hair of Minato. He walked to them, a smirk pulling at his lips. 

“Ready to go?” 

“I just want to get this part over with. When it comes to it I want to be the one to punch her.” Minato’s gray eyes sparkled with animosity. Thank god it wasn’t directed on Akira anymore, as Minato’s glare was practically toxic. Akira chuckled and leaned to look at Yu. 

“Minato just isn’t a lady killer like us.” 

“Shut the hell up Narukami.”

The three boys split up, ready to start spreading their chaos on this party. 

Akira stumbled into the bathroom and leaned against the door. “Oh god.” Fuuka and Naoto looked up at him. He pressed his fingers to his forehead, rubbing them across his temples in a relaxing way. “I thought I’d never get away. Ryuji was right, this outfit is a real magnet. I was getting girls and guys alike.” He sighed and slumped to the ground. “Any news from Oracle?” His voice was weary, though being near people he knew was starting to bring him back to life.

Naoto nodded solemnly. This couldn’t be good. “About a half hour ago, Mishima ran into the dorms, frantically trying to warn Futaba. We could hear how loud he was through our earpieces. He said that he went to go scope out this venue to try and get info, but when he got close he started getting really really dizzy. He said it was the same feeling he gets when he’s around us, but much worse. He thinks it’s because we’re so chaotic that it makes him dizzy, so if he gets really dizzy here….”

“Then this place must be extremely chaotic.” Akira stood up. It was true that Mishima tended to get dizzy around all the transfer students, due to the amount of chaotic energy they had. Working in the Chaos Realm had showed them that Chaotic Energy was very much a real, tangible thing. If Mishima had gotten dizzy just by being near this place, then there had to be a ton of energy here. That could be bad. “I’ll go find Yu and Minato and tell them about this.” As he turned to leave, Fuuka spoke up. 

“Akira, Yu is getting ready to initiate stage two of the plan.” Hell yes! Akira had been waiting for this moment, especially now since he knew this place made Mishima dizzy. “He’s by the tv.” 

“Akira, can I ask you to tell Rise about it? This isn’t something she’d ever want to miss.” Naoto stood up and walked to the door, a rather sinister grin on their face. Jeez, Naoto can be really really scary. “In fact, I don’t want to miss it either. Let’s go.” 

Akira opened the door, letting Naoto leave the place first. He waved to Fuuka as he left, closing the door behind him. He scanned the area for the blue haired boy, eventually finding him amidst a crowd of darkly clothed girls who seemed to be giving him a rather hard time. Akira snickered at the panic clearly etched in his face before walking over. “Minato!” If someone had told Akira that one day, Minato would be happy to see him, he would have laughed in their face. But the blue boy instantly perked up at seeing the familiar face, worming his way out of the crowd to grab onto Akira’s arm. For such a small person, he had a grip of steel. 

“For the love of god don’t let go.” 

“Not sure Ryuji would like that but ok. Yu is ready to go into phase two of the plan.” Akira could swear Minato was vibrating with excitement. Naoto chuckled at them both and walked to the stage. They tapped it to get Rise’s attention, who was taking a short break between songs. She looked down at the three who had gathered there and grinned widely. 

“Sorry everyone! I’ll be taking a break for a bit! I’ll be back after a while ok!” Rise blew a kiss to the crowd and jumped down to join the trio. “I’m so excited to see this!” She giggled. 

“We should go then, before he does it without us.” Ann had walked over as well, blending into the crowd better than the four of them. “Minato, you’re holding onto Akira really tight. You sure you should be doing that when Ryuji gets here?”

“Shut it, I had to get away from those crazy girls before my clothes were ripped off!”

 Akira led the group to the common area, laughing at how close Minato stayed to him. He really seemed afraid of those girls. How weirdly adorable.

Akira instantly screeched to a halt upon seeing the common room. What the hell? Yu was draped seductively over a chair, his shirt unbuttoned completely. People were crowding around him, girls trying to reach him through the wall of bodies, guys trying to talk to him over the shouts surrounding him. He hadn’t noticed the group walk up yet, but if he was truly ready to start phase two he’d have to notice them eventually. Minato made a gagging noise, and Rise seemed to be steaming with anger beside them. Akira leaned down to the blue haired boy, struggling to keep his voice from shaking. “And I thought I was a chick magnet. Jeez Naoto, you didn’t tell me he was this good.” 

“Nothing I could have said would have prepared you for this. I had to experience this without warning too you know.”

“Oh hey there. You guys are here just in time.” Yu’s voice was smooth and sultry, and if Akira didn’t know better he would have thought the boy to be drunk. His gray eyes were sharp with sobriety despite the slur in his words, so he was clearly faking it. It was still a rather convincing act, Akira had to admit. Now that they were all here, Yu stood up, taking off his glasses and tossing them to Naoto. Some of the girls tried to catch them, but they slipped through the crowd easily to snatch the frames from the air. Akira ran forward to pull Naoto from the screaming fans before they could be crushed, yanking them into his arms. 

“Thanks Akira.” 

“Couldn’t let our Detective Prince be crushed before we solve these cases.” Akira let Naoto go, ready to defend the tiny person. Luckily, Yu had decided to speak up at that moment, attracting everyone’s attention. 

“I’m gonna break the TV!” It was weird to hear him shout, since his voice was normally so soft. Akira watched as a table was brought so Yu could get a running start. Not that he needs it. Minato had been shielding his eyes from the scene before, but as Yu was getting ready to get on the table he lowered his hand to watch. Alright Daisuko, let’s see how you like this.

Akira was heavily suppressing his laughter, and he could hear very soft chuckles coming from Minato already. Rise was seriously struggling, having fallen to the floor with her arms wrapped around her abdomen. They watched as Yu clumsily clambered on top of the table, all the while people started chanting his name. Akira bit his lip hard to keep from laughing as Yu did a running start before diving headfirst into the TV, vanishing instantly. The cheering came to an abrupt standstill, the disappearance of Yu still coming around to their thoughts. 

Once it finally hit that Yu had vanished into the TV, people started screaming in panic. Naoto didn’t laugh at first, but when a girl gave a particularly desperate wail there was a soft snicker from them. Minato couldn’t hold in his laughter anymore. He grabbed both Akira and Rise and hauled them both to the safe room, laughter already shaking in both of their shoulders.  Once the door had shut the three broke down laughing, Akira falling to his knees. Minato leaned against the door, his laughing sounding way too pure for the scenario. Rise had a light, sweet laugh, one that shook her entire frame. Fuuka watched them for a moment with a soft smile on her face. Akira eventually caught his breath, but not before his cheeks hurt and his sides heaved. 

“Akira, Minato, Yu is coming back with everyone. I will be waiting here. Good luck!” Fuuka nodded at the three. Let’s go Daisuko, I’ll show you to mistreat my friends.  

Akira quickly composed himself and smirked at Minato, who finally looked like he was having a good time. Rise popped up, clearly ready to make it rain chaos. “Let’s go!” The three of them ran out to the common room, where Daisuko had made an appearance amongst the screaming people. Akira watched the TV, waiting to see the wave of transfer students emerge. 

Yu was the first one, landing on the table rather elegantly. “I’ve returned, and I’ve brought the party with me!” His shirt was missing, resulting in another gagging noise from Minato. His voice was filled with that damn pride, but Akira had grown to admire the courage he showed. Once he finished speaking, there was a loud whoop from the screen before Yosuke, Junpei, and Ryuji burst forth, quickly followed by the rest of S.E.E.S., the Investigation Team, and the Phantom Thieves. Yosuke had latched onto Yu with vehemence, and, in full view of all the girls that Yu had rallied, planted a deep kiss on his lips. Akira turned his attention to Ryuji, who, after seeing the action between Yu and Yosuke, decided that Akira needed the same treatment. He leapt off the table, careening towards the dark haired boy. 

“Ryuji!” Oh god, legs don’t fail me now.  

“Akira!” Minato had managed to scramble out of the way before Ryuji crash landed into Akira with a loud grunt. He could normally hold Ryuji but the boy was moving too fast to get a good grip. They fell to the ground together, getting a laugh out of Minato. Before Ryuji could recover, Akira grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him into a sweet kiss. There was sweat, excitement, and bright lights in their lips, but it didn’t matter. When they pulled away, there was bright red in both of their cheeks, and they both laughed rather loudly. Akira eventually managed to stand up only to get tackled by Futaba from behind. 

“Ack!” 

“Oh shuddup ‘Kira, you know I don’t weigh that much!”

Akira laughed as Futaba dropped off his back. “I’m glad you’re having fun, Futaba. How’s everything looking outside?”

“I’ve got Fuuka and Mishima looking out just in case.” Futaba grinned widely at Akira. “Hey ‘Kira, listen, Mishima got dizzy when he came here, do ya think this place is-”

“All of you! Get out at once!” Akira felt a chill race down his spine. What the hell? He normally didn’t feel fear, not even when facing down those twisted Acolytes. He did get cold though. He turned to look at Daisuko, who was glaring at the three leaders with an icy stare. “I didn’t invite you for a reason, you stupid assholes!” Akira went to speak, but stopped when his breath billowed out in a white puff of air. He wasn’t imagining it, the temperature of the room was dropping drastically. With every word Daisuko spoke, the more ice and chill spread around. “If you don’t get out, I’ll make you!” 

Yu was sitting on the table, completely undaunted by the chill, though there was shock in those gray eyes. Minato had his arms wrapped around himself, though his gray eyes were still stony. “And how in the world would you manage that?” Minato wasn’t bluffing, clearly the three of them wouldn’t be easy to move. “Last I checked you hadn’t even noticed us getting in.”

This is too weird. First Mishima getting crazy dizzy around this place, then Akira being able to see the extremely well hidden safe room, and now Daisuko breathing out gusts of ice and snow. Things were starting to piece together in Akira’s head, but when he looked to Minato, he was relieved to see that there wasn’t any confusion. Thank god one of us figured it out.  

“Hrragh!” Cold air and ice stormed around Daisuko, her eyes glowing yellow with power and rage. Akira dropped Futaba near Ryuji and stood next to Minato. Normally he just didn’t like the cold, but he was feeling rather drained, as if… As if he was using his Persona! It clicked into place suddenly, his head reeling from the realization. Is this a place where we can use our Personas?

What the hell kinda place is this? No wonder Minato also seemed to be struggling against the cold, as Orpheus was also weak to the snow. Yu was unaffected, jumping down from the table to confront Daisuko. She screeched in a scathing tone. 

“You guys are so annoying!” Akira recognized the fear in her voice. “You were supposed to be weak to cold, just like all the other useless humans in this world! How the hell are you still standing? My ice was supposed to freeze you, all of you!” A wave of chill washed out from Daisuko, and everyone but the Persona users were frozen in place. Akira himself curled inward a bit, but he shouldered off the snow. “Freeze, damn you!”

“We can’t do that, sorry.” Akira snapped his fingers, the Phantom Thieves turning their attention to him. “Get everyone else out.” His gray eyes flickered to Yu and Minato. “We’ll take care of her.” To his surprise, the Investigation Team and S.E.E.S. followed his lead as well, helping people melt the ice to escape. Daisuko wasn’t sure what to do, focus on the teams helping the students escape, or the three leaders who faced her down. A deep growl sounded in her throat.

“Damn you all! Stupid Persona Users and your powers!” Three poles of ice rose out of the ground. Wait. Only the Acolytes called the group of teens ‘Persona Users’ in such a scathing tone. “This is my Chaos Space, I can do whatever the hell I want, and you guys can’t do anything to stop me!” Akira felt cold prick his chest. Chaos Space? Is that why-

His heart dropped as the ice spears pointed at one of the guests. No. “I’ll show you what I can really do! I’ll show you to underestimate an Acolyte of Apophis!” I won’t make it in time. Akira was moving anyway, trying to reach the girl and do something. Time was moving slow, way too slow as other students and Persona users tried to get out of the way. There’s no way he’d make it in time. Arsene, help me!

The blue walls of the Velvet room blinked into existence around him. While he couldn’t see him, Akira could hear Igor speak. “It’s time for you to awake to a new power. While you can’t summon your Persona, you can use their skills and powers in these chaotic places. Take care in using this power well.” Pain lanced through his entire body, focusing on his shoulders. Arsene’s deep laugh rumbled in Akira’s throat, no, it was his own voice that chuckled. This is me. Arsene is me! Huge, feathery red wings unfurled from his back. This is my power!

Akira flew through the cold air at such a breathtaking speed that the wind stung his face, but his goal was achieved. He landed in front of the girl, willing to take the attack in full for the stranger. The three spears struck their marks, his body jolting as they hit one after another. But he didn’t fall. He wouldn’t fall. Stand strong.  

“Ggkkkhhh….” Blood rose in his throat. Akira looked down, the world starting to spiral out of control as he saw the ice protruding from his chest. Oh god. His ears filled with mush as he heard Ryuji scream his name. His legs were going weak, and he hoped Ryuji would catch him. He slumped down, thankfully into the boy’s arms. Ann was there too, desperately trying to keep Akira awake. “Ann…” She’s a healer. “Ann… Use Dia… Trust me.” It’s the only way.

“Akira! The delirium is setting in, we have to do-”

“Ann, he said to use Dia. You saw Arsene’s wings carry him over here. You can probably use Carmen’s healing too! Just do it!” Ryuji was sounding desperate. Akira could have laughed if he wasn’t dying. The world was going black around the edges, but he managed to make out Yu and Minato using Izanagi and Orpheus’ powers. Ann reached down with a trembling hand as fire suddenly sparked at her fingertips. It curled around the ice spears and melted them down before filling the gaping wounds in Akira’s body. 

Akira’s ears cleared as he sucked in a sharp breath. It felt too good to breathe again, and once Ann was done healing him he sat up with a few coughs. He looked around, hoping that the others were still safe. Yu was using Izanagi’s polearm to break the ice crystals that were hurled at him while Minato was melting them with hot flames from his mouth. 

“Having fun without me, huh?” Akira stood up with Ryuji and Ann’s help. He was completely healed, but the cold was still rather taxing. He turned his dark eyes onto Daisuko, who stumbled in shock upon seeing Akira alive and standing, no less. 

“What the, h-how? You were dying there, I was told you were weak to the ice, that you would die!” A ring of ice rose up around her. Akira dislodged himself from Ryuji and Ann, gesturing for them to help the other students get out. This might get dangerous. 

“I’ve died twice already. Didn’t quite fancy it. Remember how you said this was your space?” Yu and Minato stood next to him. Akira could see the embers flickering in Minato’s teeth and feel the heat around him increase with each breath. Yu radiated even stronger energy, the electricity that arced all across his skin made Akira’s hair stand on end. Akira himself felt the shadows of the place leave the bright lights to gather at the feet of the pillager of Twilight. He smirked. Maybe he couldn’t summon his Persona here, but Arsene was right there, inside him. All he needed to do was loosen the lid. I will fight with you, Akira. Show these nasty cultists what you’re really made of.  

“Well it’s ours now.”

Chapter Text

Minato locked eyes with Daisuko, who had chosen to look at the most intimidating of the three boys. Her eyes shimmered golden, the signature color of those in part with the Chaos Acolytes. So they even reached high schoolers. Impressive. He could imagine the power she was promised, in exchange for creating such a chaotic space for their so called master to feed on. It could be tantalizing to him too, if he hadn’t already have Orpheus. 

He could feel his Persona now, his voice rumbling in his chest. Even if he couldn’t summon Orpheus completely he was still there, giving Minato strength. We fight as one now. With every breath the ice along the floor melted and the temperature of the room rose. It had a noticeable effect on Akira, where the shadows of the place were gathering. He looked regal with Arsene’s large wings sprawling from his back. 

Daisuko clenched her fists. “You people don’t know anything about me! About how much I hate all three of you!” She pointed a finger at Yu first, ice trying to combat the heat from Minato’s breath. “You never acknowledged me when I tried my hardest to make you notice me, you were the hottest boy I ever laid eyes on!” Minato laughed at that, getting stern glares from Yu and Daisuko alike. She wasn’t far from the truth though, especially with the way his sparks flickered across his bare chest and power gleamed in his light gray eyes. “But you only cared about your stupid transfer friends! I should have taken them from you when I had the chance!” Oh shit.

She moved onto Akira despite the growl from Yu and the electricity that crackled through the room. “And you always walk through the hallways with that damned smirk, like you’re so full of yourself!” Minato snickered again, though when he glanced at Akira he saw that same silky smirk. Maybe it used to piss him off before, but with the pool of darkness at his feet that had slid over his skin in elegant patterns he looked breathtaking. “Come off your pedestal and see that people were pining for you!” 

“And you!” Minato found himself at the pointing end of her finger this time. He didn’t deter his sharp gaze, instead choosing to narrow his eyes a bit. “You always act like you’re so above the people around you, like you can just go through life without caring! There are people like me who liked you!” He couldn’t hold in his laughter this time. “Stop laughing!” Minato sighed, his deadly glare relaxing into a gentle, snarky look. “I’m being serious.”

“Oh I can tell. You don’t bluff often. I’m just completely beside myself with wonder at how you managed to fall for three gay men.” Even Orpheus laughed at that. 

“No no, Minato, I think she has a point.” Good lord Akira was good at being smooth. It was painfully obvious why people liked the charismatic thief so much. “Clearly we just need to break up with our boyfriends and, how did you put it? Get off my high horse?” 

“While I’m not surprised you fell for me,” Yu emphasized this by flexing in an overdramatic way. Minato resisted the urge to punch him, “my ‘stupid transfer friends’ are kinda all I live for. So if you even think about hurting them, I’ll do worse tenfold to you.” His soft gray eyes went stone cold. 

Daisuko snarled at the three boys, clearly unable to form a good counter insult. “I’ll kill all three of you!” Ice spun outwards from her, targeting Akira first. Shit! Akira was weakest to ice out of the three of them. Minato sucked in a sharp breath, feeling the fire stoke in his lungs. Feel that power, deep within you. It was still such a new feeling to him, the heat and power behind every breath he breathed here. But he was powerful. 

He lunged towards Akira, exhaling a twisting fire storm from his mouth. The ice didn’t melt completely, but he at least stopped it enough to let Akira fly out of the way. Yu flexed the blunt claws of Izanagi, electricity crackling to life in his palms. Minato spun on his toes to face Daisuko, who had imprisoned herself in a shell of this ice and frost. The only one who could get close without any physical repercussions was Yu, who was preparing a lightning assault on the girl. Minato looked at Akira. 

“We have to protect Yu until he finishes charging!” Akira nodded and lunged fast across the room to defend Yu, only to get slammed by a snowy pole. He slid to his feet, shaking the snow off. Minato had taken that opportunity to leap over the pole, blowing hot flames over it. He skidded to a halt in front of Yu, his grey eyes lighting up blue as he poured more power into his breath. He summoned Orpheus’ lyre in a blaze of blue fire, bashing through the ice and snow that came for Yu. Akira appeared out of nowhere, dark energy slicing through the spears. 

“Get out of the way, I’m all charged!” Minato leaped aside as Yu’s eyes flashed bright yellow, electricity arcing all around him. “Take this!” He thrust his hands forward, lightning storming across the room to slam into Daisuko’s icy shell. Where the attack hit shattered apart, but the shell had done its job in protecting the girl. She had taken damage, but it was nothing more than a little shock. 

Minato gritted his teeth and ran forward, gulping down huge breaths to stoke the flames building in his lungs. The heat is your heart’s fire, stoke that power and revel in it. It was becoming crazy hot now, so much so that Minato could feel sweat beading on his face. Daisuko was building her shell back up, which didn’t take long at the speed she could create ice. This allowed Akira and Minato to get in close, while Yu took a breather. 

“You’ll never defeat me!” Daisuko screeched as Minato let his blazing flames wash over the ice while Akira sliced it with his claws. “You can’t break my shell!” A pole of ice slammed into Minato’s chest, effectively cutting off his flames. He flew backwards into a wall, groaning from the impact. He struggled to his feet, watching as Akira soared back, away from the ice spears. Dammit! Daisuko had already rebuilt her shell, the scorch marks from his flames barely making a dent. We’re getting nowhere like this! Think, Minato, think.  

Allow me to offer a suggestion, a way to concentrate your power into raw energy. Grab your music player, Minato. 

His hand drifted to his pocket, fingers curling around his music player. He had stashed it there after those crazed girls had tried to snatch it. He pulled it out, his thumb grazing over the glass face. That’s right. Orpheus was a musician, so he’s linked to sound. His free hand grabbed his headphone cord. This is going to hurt. “Yu, Akira, get behind me. I have an idea!” The other two ran over to him, Akira’s eyes flickering to the music player. 

“What the-”

“I can’t explain it, but I need you both to be ready to get Daisuko when I’m done.” Minato plugged his headphones in. “Orpheus is the master of strings, right? And sound is such a destructive force.” This is going to hurt. “I’ll be ok, just get Daisuko.” He pulled his headphones over his ears, muffling the shrieks of the girl as well as the protests of Yu and Akira. The quiet was welcoming. Be strong Minato, stand firm and unleash your true rage!  

His eyes started to slowly light up from that soft gray to electric blue. The fires had stopped in his lungs, instead cultivating raw power. He selected a nice song, Burn My Dread, and let the music wash over him. There was a tightening in his chest, a knot in his throat. Relax. Music is so much nicer when you relax. It built up inside him, the crashing sounds stirring deep within his chest. He turned to face Daisuko, a smirk finding its way to his face. 

His ears were so muted, but based on the way Daisuko had her hands clamped over her ears and the way the ice shook, his idea was working. Minato could only hope that Yu and Akira had gotten to cover so they could swoop in once that damned cage was down. Sounds that he couldn’t hear rattled in his chest and bones. God it hurt. He was shaking, fatigue already seizing his limbs. He collapsed to his knees, but kept his eyes trained on the girl in front of him. 

Crack. The knot in his throat suddenly came free, sound exploding from his body in a massive wave. The ice all shattered away, dissolving into nothing. When the wave hit Daisuko’s shields, they shattered apart, flinging the girl into the wall behind her. Minato couldn’t feel anything. His gaze shifted down, his headphones crumbling from his ears to the floor. I’ll need new ones. Sounds rushed back to him, especially those of Daisuko’s panicked screams. His arms finally gave out, throwing him sideways. He slumped over to his side, hitting a set of arms instead of the ground. 

“Holy shit Minato. That was cool.” You have done well today. Take a good rest. Akira smiled down at the blue haired boy. I hate your stupid smirk. Smiling looks so much better on you. He tried to laugh, but all that came out was a harsh, crackly noise. “Don’t talk. I think that crazed attack completely tore up your throat. Yu is getting Daisuko.” Akira scooped him up, and for once Minato didn’t even try to protest. Akira carried him over to where Yu had his foot planted firmly on her abdomen, his polearm up against her throat. 

“P-please, don’t kill me!” 

“Where the hell is your Acolyte.” 

“I’ll tell you, just…. Don’t kill me!” God she’s pathetic.

“Deal. Now tell me where your Acolyte is. I know for a fact someone as weak as you isn’t more than a Follower. And after that, I want you to take this place down.” Wait! Minato struggled weakly in Akira’s arms, trying to say anything. We can use this place to train! Akira looked down, then seemed to get it. He leaned in close to Yu, effectively squishing Minato between the two of them. There was a hushed exchange of words before they broke apart. Minato made a mental note to yell at them both later for crunching him like that. 

Daisuko pulled the polearm down beside her head, throwing Yu off balance. She leaned up and planted a firm punch on his cheek, knocking him down. She sprung to her feet, cackling. “Like I’d tell you God Slayers anything. Just you wait! I’ll be far stronger than anything you’ve ever seen!” Snow started to swirl at her feet. 

“No!” Yu lunged for her, but a small blizzard rose up around her, and with that she was gone. Yu fell to his knees. “Dammit!” His fists were clenched, shaking slightly. “We had an insider right here, and then she slipped through our fingers.” He dug his hands into the snow on the ground. 

“Hey guys, everyone is safe. Where’s Daisuko?” Yosuke walked back into the common room, followed by the rest of the group. His eyes filled with concern upon seeing Minato. “The hell happened to him, is he ok?” 

Yu sighed softly and stood. “He used an extremely powerful attack to knock down Daisuko. He’s drained of power completely.” He gazed out upon the carnage here. “Let’s go back to the dorms. We have a lot to discuss.”

Chapter Text

Akira was tasked with carrying Minato back to the dorms, since Yu was busy helping students get back home along with the rest of the Investigation Team. Without the gray haired teen helping them back through the TV world, he and his Thieves had to trudge all the way back to the dorms on foot. Luckily they wouldn’t have to walk through the city at all, though Akira wished he could have some sort of light along these dirt paths. 

Minato being completely limp wasn’t helping in the slightest. He kept making soft groans as he bumped along in Akira’s arms, and he knew that if the blue haired boy could speak he’d be chewing Akira out. 

“Kira, I don’t think we can take him to the dorms. How do you explain why we’ve got someone who’s completely limp?” Ryuji walked next to Akira, causing the thief to slow down a bit as he thought. “All three of you need medical attention as soon as possible.” 

Akira stopped walking and looked down at Minato, who managed to knit his mouth into a scowl. He bit his lip, thinking hard. It was true that he almost died tonight, but Minato was the worst off. “Let’s go meet back up at the dorms for just a moment or two before we go to Leblanc and Takemi. She won’t ask questions.” There was another groan from Minato as Akira started walking, causing the thief to roll his eyes. “Relax, I go to her for all of my medical needs. It’s all legal.” 

Kouji was waiting for them at the top of the stairs when they got back to the dorms. Shit. The third year was tapping his foot irritably, arms crossed over his chest. His piercing green eyes stared right through Akira’s soul as his high pitched voice rang out. 

“And where have you been?” 

“Daisuko’s party. Minato passed out.” Akira shifted his arms, and thankfully the blue haired boy stayed silent. “Sorry we kinda snuck out.” Kouji let them through, pestering them about telling him when they go out, not staying out too late, just rambling about being worried about the transfer students in general. Akira kept apologizing, setting Minato down on a couch in the common room. 

Yu and the Investigation Team snuck in right after Kouji returned to his room, gathering in the common room to discuss the limp figure of Minato. “Obviously we can’t take him to the nurse. How do we explain why we have a limp noodle who is otherwise fine?” 

“We talked about that.” Akira ignored Minato’s halfhearted hiss of resentment. “There’s a doctor over in Yongen. She treated us thieves last year, without asking too many questions.” He glared at Minato, who managed to return the fierce look. “We’d have to take the train though…” 

Akira couldn’t quite remember how they managed to get into this mess. All of the transfer students packed into one train car, Minato stuck under Yu’s shirt to hide the fact that they were transporting a half dead, very upset twink to Yongen. The train ride was awful, the only thing making it tolerable was the fact that Akira was squished up against Ryuji, and the warmth of his space heater of a boyfriend made it slightly better. 

The transfers exploded from the train, stumbling towards Yongen in a large, misshapen group. Akira led the way before realizing that a shit ton of students wouldn’t fit in Takemi’s office. “Hey, let’s go to Leblanc first. Sojiro can look after a bunch of teenagers until us leaders can get Minato taken care of.” He nodded his head at Ryuji, silently asking him to lead everyone else to the cafe. 

The three leaders walked into Takemi’s office, the doctor’s deadly brown eyes flicking up at them. Right before Akira could even think of how to explain what was happening, Yu let out a sharp screech. A moment later he dropped Minato, the boy falling to the ground with a muffled thud. Akira looked at both of them, completely unsure as to what just happened. 

“Minato bit me.” 

“And it tasted like shit.” Minato’s voice was more scratches than words, and based on the pain etched in his face, it hurt to even speak. He still couldn’t move the rest of his body, but he must have been recovering if he was able to bite Yu. 

“So do you want to tell me who these two are and why there’s a pile of bones in my floor?” Takemi was standing over Minato, tapping her clipboard on her temple. Akira flinched at her tone, but he managed to find his voice as he stooped down to pick up Minato. 

“Remember how I transferred back after last year? Well I ended up transferring again, this time to a school here in Tokyo. I might have gotten into some trouble with these two.” Akira eventually got Minato’s arm over his shoulders, holding him up. “He’s pushed himself to his limit, both physically and mentally.” 

Takemi rolled her eyes and opened the door to the exam room. “Let me have a look at him. And you two as well.” Her eyes traced them as they filed in, Akira setting Minato down on the bed. The doctor busied herself investigating Minato, poking and prodding him despite his protests. “His throat is torn to shreds, and it feels like he strained his diaphragm. Not sure how he did that, but aside from some minor cuts and bruises, he’s fine.” 

She turned to look at Yu and Akira, both boys feeling small under her glare. “Let me observe you as well. That burn on your arm is suspicious.” She grabbed his wrist, inspecting the red skin from Minato’s flames. “It’s giving off a lot of heat, like it’s still on fire.” Takemi carefully treated it, wrapping the wound up before moving onto Yu. 

The taller boy flinched at having his hand grabbed. Looking closer, Akira could see that at the tips of his fingers were fine red lines, ones that crackled over his first few knuckles like lightning. Wait, lightning?  

“I don’t want to know how you got lightning scars on the tips of your fingers. I can’t do much to treat them since they’re healed.” Takemi clicked her tongue at the two, then turned her attention back to Minato. She pulled a strange looking liquid from a cabinet and handed it to Minato. The very tired boy managed to drink it before letting out a strangled cough. 

“My throat…” His voice sounded clearer now, far less scratchy and more like his normal monotone self. He coughed again, then stood slowly. He stretched his joints out carefully. “I have no idea what you did, and I think I’m going to blame witchcraft. Regardless I feel better, so I won’t question it. Thank you.” 

“I won’t charge you for this visit, just know that I’ll always be open for you to come get medicine and treatment for things like this.” Takemi waved them away. “I’m sure I’ll see you around later.” 

The three leaders left the doctor’s office, Akira stopping on the steps. “Guys.” His gaze fell to his feet, thoughts storming through his head. The other two turned back to look at him, their gray eyes tracing his face. He matched their stares with his own, fire starting to burn in his throat. He clenched his fists. “This...whole thing. With the Chaos Realm, and the Acolytes, and Apophis. There was a doubt I had, that we weren’t strong enough for this job. Even if I was some big talking hotshot earlier in the year, deep down I knew I couldn’t do this on my own.” He took a deep breath, arms starting to shake. “But, even if I don’t think we’re strong enough, I have to at least try. We have to at least try. Because no one else can do this, no one else can stop Apophis.” 

“I agree.” Yu turned his sharp eyes up. “That knowledge that no one else can help, that we’re the only ones able to do anything, that drove us last year. It drives us now. And I know, even when things are bleak, we’re the kind of people who will get back up no matter what, we’ll be back to make our stand.”

“Willpower. That’s something that the gods we fought continually missed. They miscalculated our desire to fight back with everything we have.” Minato’s fingers fidgeted with the clasp on his holster, the rhythmic clicking rather soothing. “Apophis is making that mistake now. He does not understand that power, that denial of fate and destiny. We are the wild cards. And we do not bow to anyone.”

Chapter Text

“I’m getting better at finding who the cultists are.” 

Mishima was bouncing off the cafe walls, holding his notebook over his head. Yukari had found the excitable boy almost annoying, that is if he wasn’t so endearing. He had quickly joined the group as one of their own, despite not having a Persona. It was helpful to have him, especially since he was able to get his hands on information that the rest of them couldn’t. Yukari sat back in her seat as Mishima continued. 

“Nise Karuto is an older man who is often sighted near strange shops and clothing stores. He’s charismatic, and I think he kidnaps young girls using that tactic.” Mishima’s jumping eventually stopped when he flung himself into Yusuke’s arms. He relaxed into the taller boy’s chest, flicking through the notebook. “The latest kidnapping was from Shujin again, someone named Nash Kaku. They’ve been missing for a while now, so you should probably get going as soon as you can.” 

Minato slid from the counter where he was seated, running his fingers through his hair. He addressed the group, sweeping his gaze over each Persona user. It was a glare that Yukari could never get used to, especially now when it contained so much. “We secured that mansion, so that will be a place to train. After some discussion, we have decided that we’ll cycle out our fighters. We’re a group now, instead of three teams, so that means we fight together. If you aren’t leading the navigation of the temples, then we do expect you to train.” 

“These cultists are serious, and up until now, we’ve barely held them off.” Akira folded his arms over his chest as he spoke. “We will show them that we are not to be tampered with. We are the Persona users, the only ones who can save this city.” 

Yukari wasn’t on the original attack of this temple. She was part of the second rotation, falling into place to continue navigation when the first group grew tired. In the meantime, she was training in the Chaos Space to better adjust to the Chaos Realm itself. 

“Io! Lend me your strength!” 

It was different to feel Io in the Chaos Spaces. The two were more together than before, meaning that Yukari could feel the power being her own. She stared down her target, taking in a deep breath and feeling the power stir in her chest. A moment later, she breathed out needles of wind, arrows that pierced the air and embedded themselves into the target on the wall. 

“You’re looking good Yukari.” Yosuke was beside her, smiling rather softly. “It’s kinda weird to feel your power this well, huh?” He was standing next to Ryuji, the blond giving them both a toothy grin. “We wanted to ask if you could monitor a spar between us, and heal us if we need it. Would you mind?” 

“Oh sure!”

Yukari followed the two boys to an empty room, standing off to the side in case they needed healing. They stood opposite each other, and at once the room was filled with tension. Ryuji smiled with dangerously sharp teeth, bright yellow lightning starting to crackle around him. Yosuke stretched his arms before crouching into a fighting stance. It was interesting to watch the two fight, considering how different their styles were. 

Yosuke was fast, plain and simple. The way he fought was quick and light, rapid attacks in succession. His magic and strength weren’t too bad, but his biggest drawback was his poor endurance. Yukari had seen how weak he got after a few hard hits, his power not built to withstand strong attacks. 

Ryuji was sturdy and defensive, preferring to wear down his enemies until he could land his powerful blows. His strength and endurance were nothing to be trifled with, though his electricity didn’t pack as huge a punch as the other’s. The two were rather evenly matched. 

Yosuke attacked first, zipping forward so fast that Yukari could feel the wind peeling off of him. He slammed his feet into Ryuji, a Garu backing up his legs as he kicked the blond into the far wall. Yosuke chuckled as he got back into his fighting pose, but when the dust cleared, it was obvious that it would take far more than just a gust of wind to take out Ryuji. 

The blond had his arms up, the front of his ship protecting his body. He peeked out from behind it, smirking at Yosuke. “I ain’t that easy to take out, ya know.” 

“I figured Ryuji. Let’s get serious.” Yosuke was gone in a flash, the only evidence of where he was was the blur of green and white bouncing off the walls and slamming into Ryuji over and over again. Yukari watched this for a while, realizing that they were both using their main strategy for fighting. Ryuji clearly couldn’t keep up with Yosuke’s speed, but was able to see him enough to move his shield in time. It was going to take a lot more than rapid fire attacks to break through Ryuji’s defense. 

Then Yukari noticed the lightning. Ryuji’s right hand was charging the bright yellow bolts, preparing to attack back once he had the chance. That’s right, Ryuji’s lightning can be transformed into a kind of electric bomb. Yosuke dove in for another attack, the shield sweeping to the side. The cannon arm shot out, the ball of electricity firing. Yosuke flinched backwards, narrowly avoiding the attack. The ball exploded, covering a large space with lightning. Smart. Now Yosuke can’t move through there.  

But Yosuke wasn’t defeated yet. “Now that I’m warmed up, let’s see if you can take whatever else I throw at you!” Yosuke summoned Jiraiya’s scarf around his neck, pulling the fabric into one hand. He raced forward, Ryuji putting up his shield again. In a flash, the scarf shot up, wrapping around the rafters. What is he getting at ? Right before Yosuke hit the shield, he pulled hard on the scarf, hauling himself up and over Ryuji. Yukari watched as Yosuke flipped around smoothly, before slamming his fist into his back before he could move the shield. 

Ryuji was launched away, managing to stay standing after such a hard hit. Yosuke dropped to the floor, snickering. “Guess that means I’m better huh?” 

“Hah, I was just warming up too.” The shield on his arms split down the middle, turning into metal gauntlets. “No holds barred.” Yosuke raced forward again, not even caring that Ryuji had his shield. The blond punched with both arms, one fist connecting with Yosuke’s shoulder. There was a groan, but then the pointed end of the stern shot out lightning fast. Yosuke was unable to avoid it, a cut landing on his cheek. He leapt away, sticking to the wall with Jiraiya’s sticky hands. He was panting, but then Yukari noticed the scarf in his hand. The other end was wrapped firmly around Ryuji’s arm. 

With a shout, Yosuke yanked the scarf hard. Ryuji flew through the air, slamming into the wall beside Yosuke hard. The frog jumped to the opposite wall, throwing Ryuji into the ground with another hard slam. The blond got up, coughing a bit. They were both suffering, near the end of the spar. But they weren’t done yet. Ryuji held out his left hand, golden claws sparking with electricity. He jabbed them into his leg, a long shiver running through his body. His eyes lit up yellow, full of power. Power Charge.  

Yosuke wound his scarf around him, wind whipping through the room before the red fabric shattered apart. Yosuke was nowhere to be seen. His voice kept travelling, seeming to fill the room with sound. “Can’t see me now!” 

Ryuji sent one of his charged shots into the ground beneath him. At once the frog appeared, a tornado of wind in his palm. But Ryuji was ready too. His own fist matched Yosuke’s, the two hitting at the exact same time. 

When the room cleared, both boys were on the ground. Yosuke was smoking slightly from the lightning, and Ryuji was covered in bruises. Yukari rushed over to check on them, but at once they hopped up and fist bumped. 

“That was so cool bro!” 

They’re going to be fine.

Chapter Text

Haru stared up at the large temple. Muffled electronic music came from behind the doors, and some other odd noises as well. She was on the leading assault on the temple, alongside the three leaders, Futaba, Yukiko, Kanji, Mitsuru, and Ken. She took a few deep breaths to calm her nerves, a feeling she always had before engaging in Phantom Thief business. 

“I figured it out.” Futaba shut her laptop with a snap, tucking it under her arm. “This place isn’t completely in the Chaos Realm, it’s like someone took a bit of the real world and brought it here. So it’s a Chaos Space, like that party.” Haru shifted her shoulders, adjusting to the weight of her axe. “So we need to be careful.” 

The members of the group nodded, looking serious. Haru herself hadn’t gotten too used to being blended with her Persona, but there was no way she’d let that stop her. The leaders started forward, opening the doors to the temple and beginning the mission. 

The inside of the temple looked like a nightclub, not unlike the one in Tatsumi Port on the school trip. Already she could feel the power of Milady becoming her own, their minds melding together. The voice of Milady chuckled softly, crooning in her head. You are concerned that we have not fully adjusted to each other yet, hmm? Do not worry. I will help. That was comforting at least. 

It was only a matter of time before the group ran across a few of those cultists. After a quick analysis from Futaba, Kanji and Mitsuru were the ones to attack first. Haru watched from nearby, observing how both of them fought with their Persona’s power. Mitsuru was smooth in her attacks, ice rushing out from beneath her feet to match the strikes of her blades. It was a flawless combination, freezing her enemies in place before attacking again. 

Kanji was much more brutal in his attacks, shocking his enemies with his powerful punches. His lightning liked to transfer from one object to another, lacing across the floor and walls and marking everything with a distinct purple glow. You are special, my dear Haru. You know how to tap into your abilities like they do. Noir took a breath. Once the cultists were defeated, she quietly spoke up. 

“Joker. May I fight in the next battle? I have...an idea I would like to try.” 

“Of course Haru.” 

She felt warm inside at Akira trusting her so much. Haru kept her eyes open for more cultists, and as luck would have it, this temple was full of them. With a flick of her wrist her mask appeared, and she placed it over her face. She could picture the powerful Persona’s face now, flaming smile and eyes. 

“You God Slayers are nothing but a nuisance!” One of the cultists shot flames at the group, but Haru was ready. She slipped in front of the group, letting loose a powerful shout that should have matched her face. The reaction was instant. All three cultists let out varying wails and screams at seeing Haru’s face, filling both her and Milady with joy. She laughed loudly, removing the mask before sweeping her arm through the air. 

Clunk. A Gatling gun appeared in her arms, a whir forming in the air as it roared to life. “Have a sweet taste of my power!” She filled the gun with the power of her mind, bullets raining upon the cultists. When all three were passed out cold on the floor, then Haru stopped her firing and waved her weapon away. She sighed, adjusting her hat a bit. 

“Who’s ready to continue?” 

Joker was wide eyed, his jaw open in shock. Everyone else had similar looks, completely in awe of Haru’s power. Excellent work my dear. Now we must continue, those cultists won’t know what hit them!  

The group tore through the temple, the waves of cultists unable to make an impact on the Persona users. Kanji eventually swapped with Ryuji, and Rise took the place of Futaba. They doubled their efforts after a while, more Persona users joining to help make progress. Haru only used her guns when necessary, considering how much of her stamina they used. Milady talked her through everything so kindly, supporting her decisions on how to use their power. 

“Noir.” 

Haru flinched a little, not expecting Joker’s sultry voice to be so close. “Oh! What is it Joker?” 

“Rise detects Nash on the very top floor, but there’s something weird. She can’t detect Nise or anyone else up there though. And doesn’t this seem a little strange for some older man? A nightclub?” Akira tapped his claws against his head, deep in thought. 

Haru chewed on her lip a bit. “It does seem strange, yes. This place does not feel like what Nise would make as his temple, ya know?” Do be careful dear. There is some trickery at play here. Haru snapped her fan out, the sound distracting her a bit. “How close are we to the top?” 

“You guys are rather close. Just a few more rooms and cultists, and then Nash is right there. I would be careful, I’m getting some strange readings from Himiko.” Rise’s voice cut through Haru’s head, covering Milady’s thoughts. “I’m not sure what they are.” 

“Do you think Daisuko’s here?” Yu walked over, sheathing his sword on his back. “She almost admitted who her master was before she escaped. I have a feeling it’s Nise.” 

“Hmm. I can’t tell. Sorry. You guys are really close though, so if you want to come on back and rest, we can take care of Nise tomorrow.” 

Joker nodded and snapped his fingers. “Everyone, we’re regrouping to the dorms for the night. Early tomorrow, we return and send Nise back to where he came from!” There was a cheer from the Persona users as they filed back into the real world. 

They were in Naoto’s room, so Haru bowed to the detective before leaving for her room. She wasn’t too worn out tonight, still awake enough to take care of all of her plants. She watered each carefully, softly speaking to each in turn. The little bonsai in the window was her favorite though, since it was a gift from Ryuji after her father died. She taught him how to trim the leaves, noticing how his eyes had lit up when he did it right the first time. 

The leaves were a little ragged now. I’ll ask Ryuji to come help me when he has more free time. Haru smiled to herself as she spritzed the tree with water, almost being able to see it perk up. She loved her room so much, especially since the ivy vines covered up her axe from anyone else’s view.

Chapter Text

Aigis felt left out. 

Everyone else in this Chaos Space fused with their Personas, becoming stronger with them. But Aigis was mechanical, and infusing Palladion with her current body would require major modification. So while she did gain strength, she couldn’t use her Persona to fight here. But that is ok. I am still powerful. She knew she was the protector of the team. 

And that’s why she was one of the attackers today, following behind the teams as they continued to rip through the temple, making it to the final room at the top. Akira kicked the door open, and the sight that awaited them almost made Aigis’ head spin. 

Daisuko, wrapped in a bright white robe that was tied at her waist, was standing in the middle of the room. Her robe was splattered with red, the blood soaking through it to her underclothes. At her feet was a body, a body that Aigis identified as the cultist, Nise. Daisuko had a wide grin on her face, hands dripping with crimson. She took the time to drag her tongue slowly along her fingers, licking the blood from them as she stared down the petrified Persona users. 

“It took you long enough, God Slayers!” The girl threw her arms open wide, as if trying to embrace them. “I thought you’d never make it. Poor Nash has been conscious the whole time, their body wasting away as my master feeds on their energy.” Daisuko crossed the room to where the captive was sitting, tied up and laying flush with the ground. She picked Nash’s face up in her hand, leaving red fingerprints on their skin. “But now the big strong God Slayers are here to save you, isn’t that great!” 

Aigis took a step forward, but Minato stopped her. Daisuko dropped Nash’s head, the sound of their head knocking against the floor making Aigis flinch. “As for Nise, well, he was old.” The cultist crouched next to his body, dragging a finger through his blood. It was still fresh. “Out with the old and in with the new, I say. And I was right, if I had just left him, he would have lost to you so easily. In fact, I was able to kill him with his own weapon.” She ripped the long dagger from his back, letting it catch the temple lights in the metal and blood. “It was boring. So boring I almost went out to kidnap someone else. But I told myself you’d be here. Told myself that you would come and then I’d have my fun!” 

Daisuko cackled, ice swirling around her as she transformed. The leaders started to shout orders, several of them running past Daisuko to Nash. Minato inhaled deeply, and Aigis could feel the heat from here. She prepared herself, spider legs exploding from Daisuko as she finished transforming. Aigis raced forward, guns clicking into place before she leapt over the cultist and fired. At once, powerful ice shields rose up to block all the attacks. 

A pole of frost instantly slammed into Aigis’ back, knocking her to the ground at Minato’s feet. The robot got back up, glaring down Daisuko. She went to charge again but a firm hand on her shoulder stopped her. 

“Aigis, we need to get past her shields. I have an idea, but you have to be ok with it first.” Minato was holding his Evoker, face cast in darkness. “He wants to come out Aigis. He knows he can take Daisuko, but he wants to do it with you.” Aigis looked from the gun to Minato’s face, and it hit her. 

“Wait you mean-”

“Aigis. He really wants to make it up to you.” 

The robot searched Minato’s face for any sign of lying, but found nothing. She frowned, turning her head down. After a long pause, she looked back up, blue eyes glittering with determination. She wrapped her fingers around Minato’s hand, moving the gun up to his head. “If he will forgive me, I will fight by his side.” 

Minato smiled. “He’s forgiven you for a long time, Aigis.” With a bang, he pulled the trigger, blue lights swirling around him as his eyes snapped shut. After a moment, his hand fell to his side, carefully tucking his Evoker away. Aigis stepped back as those familiar blue eyes opened, strangely filled with life. He bowed. 

“It’s good to see you again Aigis. Shall we dance?”

Aigis turned around to face Daisuko, the cultist still fighting against the Persona users. Ice spun through the room, but it wouldn’t be that way for long. “Ryoji Mochizuki. If you permit me, I’ll fight by your side at full strength.” The robot shouted to those attacking, needing them to move out of the way. There is the potential that Ryoji is too strong. “Everyone, please take care  of Nash. I will handle Daisuko with Minato.” 

“Hah!” The spider focused her attention on the two. “You think the two of you can possibly take me out by yourselves? You’re nothing but a twink and a bucket of bolts! There’s nothing you can do!” 

Ryoji clicked his tongue and shoved his hands into his pockets, shrugging. “That’s where your mistake is.” He looked at Aigis with his charming smile. “Orgia Mode, that’s what it’s called right? How long does it last?” 

Aigis ran a quick scan, then tilted her head in surprise. “With this place, it seems that I can run Orgia Mode for much longer than normal.” She narrowed in on Daisuko, who was summoning a huge snowstorm against the two of them. “I’ll cover you. Orgia Mode!” 

The limiters on Aigis’ body released, steam hissing and gears turning as she felt power flood her entire being. Palladion, I request your strength! Aigis shot forward, guns blazing to life as she blasted the ice shards from the sky. Daisuko raised her shields before the robot got there, but that wasn’t her worry. 

She flipped over the cultist, ice shattering around her with every well placed bullet. Aigis kept neutralizing the ice storm, keeping it controlled while observing what Ryoji would do. Daisuko kept yelling jeers, insisting that the two couldn’t possibly destroy her, but she couldn’t have spoken sooner. Aigis’ body kept moving faster and faster, keeping up with Daisuko’s attacks. Orgia Mode should have run out by now, but Aigis felt more than just powerful. Her strength only increased as she continued to fight, this strange power filling her with a calm feeling. 

You may not think of me as real, but I will always be within you, Aigis. You are the shield that protects everyone, and I am one with you.  

The source of the voice hit Aigis at once. It was her voice. Her Persona. Palladion. A spear, the size of which she had never seen before launched itself from her arm, crashing through Daisuko’s next attack and slamming into her shield. It shattered apart under the metal, but almost instantly had rebuilt themselves. Aigis swore softly, jumping back and landing beside Ryoji. 

“I’ve got it.” The god spoke up beside her, dragging her attention away from the Acolyte. “It took me a moment to figure out what I can do here, but…” The power surged around Ryoji, the god fusing with the Persona in an instant. His bright blue eyes filled with darkness, chains spiralling around his body. A thick golden chain looped around his neck, trailing behind him with four blue coffins along it. His fingers were covered in white claws, but that wasn’t the most noticeable trait. Four sleek black wings arched from his shoulders, making him look strangely regal and breathtaking. Those black eyes focused on Aigis, and Ryoji smiled with pointed teeth. “Let’s burn this spider.” 

Aigis nodded, and together, the two former enemies charged. Palladion’s power exploded from the robot, a protective blue mask sliding over her face. Twin launchers sprouted from her back, and spear cannons shot from her forearms. Her legs moved faster, propelling her into the battle at a blinding speed. 

Daisuko sent wave after wave of ice after the two, but they had stopped defending at this point. Aigis broke apart the ice with her spears while blasting away Daisuko’s shields every time they came up. Ryoji was crushing it all between his hands, the god ripping through her magic as if it was nothing. The cultist’s shrieks were getting louder and more panicked, until she let loose a sweeping gust of wind that threw both attackers away. Aigis shook herself off, scowling at how strong Daisuko was. 

She skidded over to Ryoji. “I have an idea. Get your blades ready.” Without waiting for a response, she held both arms up, the spears connecting into one massive blade. She took aim, watching as Daisuko sent a huge wave of ice at them. Aigis waited, holding onto the spear until the last second, firing the weapon at Daisuko. It shattered through her initial attack, burrowing in deep to the ice wall. 

A moment later, two massive blades on chains shattered the ice apart completely, revealing the spider within. 

The chains kept going, wrapping around Daisuko’s legs and pulling her off balance. I hear you Ryoji, we hear you. The god of death didn’t need to say anything. Aigis knew that the final blow was hers. She leapt up on the chains, racing down them towards Daisuko. There was a clinking sound, and Aigis lept up once the shockwave Ryoji had sent reached her. She flew into the air, arching over the cultist. 

“Palladion!” 

The spear shot forth again, slamming the spider into the ground with a scream. She exploded into black shadow, revealing the girl behind it all. Aigis hit the ground, staring at the blue eyed god. Her body was nearing its limit, but she managed to walk over to Ryoji before she fell to her knees. 

“Careful.” Ryoji’s soft voice cradled her as he held her up. “That was good fighting, Aigis. It felt so natural to battle alongside you.” There was a clicking sound, the sound of an Evoker sliding from its holster. “Thank you.” 

Despite the creak in her voice, Aigis spoke up. “Thank you as well, Ryoji. Thank you for keeping Minato safe.” The god laughed, pointing the gun at his temple. “What’s so funny?”

“I’m no shield Aigis. I know what you are. You are the absolute protector of those here. You are the ultimate shield.” The voice started to blend, and Aigis could tell that Minato was speaking as well. “Keep doing what you’re doing. We depend on you more than you know.” With a pop, Minato was back, gray eyes looking just as stormy as before. 

“Welcome back.” 

Akira walked over, Nash’s arms wrapped around his shoulders as he held them. The student looked worn out as hell, and after a quick reading, Aigis concluded that Nash was severely drained. They will need medical attention. “We need to get out of here as soon as we can. I have overheated, and I can tell that Minato is exhausted.” 

“That was amazing though.” Yu approached them, sheathing his massive sword on his back. “I’ve never seen anyone fight like you two.” Aigis noted the soft pink in Minato’s cheeks. 

“It wasn’t really me, it was Ryoji, but thanks I guess.” 

Before anyone else could say something, there was a high pitched scream of terror. Aigis turned back to see Daisuko on the ground, dissolving into the same black particles that the other cultists had turned into when defeated. She didn’t think much of it, just how the Acolytes died, until she realized that Daisuko was screaming for help. 

And then Yu was right next to her, digging his hands into the black shadows, trying to get her out.

Chapter Text

The only thought in Yu’s head was that Shadows were almost impossibly slippery. He was arms deep in the pool of darkness that threatened to swallow Daisuko, trying to dig the girl out. It was hard to tell where her actual body was, and the high pitched screams of terror weren’t helping in the slightest. 

There! Yu’s fingers grabbed onto what he assumed was Daisuko’s clothes, but it was hard to tell. Nevertheless, he ground his heels into the ground, muscles straining as he struggled to pull her from the clutches of her master. Allow me to lend you my assistance, Yu. Electricity crackled around him as he called upon Izanagi’s strength, his power doubling at once. With a crackling sound, Daisuko broke free from the Shadows, falling into Yu’s arms. 

There was a shaking roar, the temple quaking in a threatening manner. Rise’s panicked voice crackled through his head, setting his nerves on edge. 

“The temple is going to collapse!” 

“And that’s not all.” Futaba zipped over on top of her ship, analyzing the pool of Shadows that was starting to bubble up from the ground. “Those Shadows are sucking the life out of the temple. I think they’re an extension of Apophis!” 

A screech rang through the building. It carried a huge amount of power, a feeling that Yu instantly recognized. You know that power all too well, other me. That power of a god. He grit his teeth and stood, grabbing Daisuko and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Yu called upon a feature of Izanagi, the long, whiplike ribbons shimmering into view and wrapping around Daisuko. 

“Everyone, get out! Navis, help make sure everyone gets down safely.” Akira had Nash draped over his shoulder, holding their wrists to keep them in place. “Yu, Minato, let’s blast away those Shadows to keep them at bay.” The thief held out his free hand, Arsene’s long claws framing the Shadows. Power concentrated around those massive talons, and Yu felt a shiver go down his spine. 

There was always that weird feeling of fear around Akira normally, though after watching him fight, Yu discerned that it was from his Persona. Being fused like this though, it only made that unrelenting fear stronger. It was interesting to say the least. The curse attack exploded from each of Akira’s fingers, five razor sharp strings stabbing into the mass of Shadows. 

The ear splitting screech from the Shadows didn’t deter the wild cards, as the heat from Minato was practically overwhelming at this point. The blue haired boy had Aigis leaning on him, but that wouldn’t stop him from accomplishing what he needed to do. His cheeks were puffed out alongside his chest, those gray eyes lighting up with the blazing inferno within. Minato’s fire was a terrifyingly powerful element, especially when he stoked it like this. At once, Minato belched out the blue flames, the fireball colliding with the Shadows and filling the room with the blaze. 

Yu felt Izanagi stirring, electricity wrapping those blunt golden claws. His power of the storms was something he took pride in, a way for him to take out his enemies in a flashy, fast way. The blobs of Shadows were almost smeared across the room, all they needed was a little push. In a flash of lightning, Yu summoned his massive blade, electricity from his claws arching into the metal as he threw it. The sparks exploded into huge bolts as they impacted the Shadows, flinging bits of black matter everywhere. 

“Now we have to get the hell out of here!” Yu turned towards the stairs, noticing how cracked they had become. This would be precarious. He led the way, jumping across the stairs and over the holes in the floor. The other Persona users were just a few steps ahead, the Navis working hard to get everyone out. My other self, be warned. Apophis wants his Acolyte back, and he will rip apart this temple to do it.  

As if on cue, an earth-shattering roar shook the building harder. “Give me back my Acolyte!” What sounded like something devouring the top floor made the temple shudder. “She has done nothing but sinned, so why do you need her? Return her to me, and you’ll make it out of here alive!” 

Not a chance you overgrown snake.  

Yu hurtled himself down the steps, a breath of relief leaving him when he saw the window. The Persona users were sliding into it as fast as they could, and whoever was already inside was helping the others through. Yu unwrapped Daisuko from the ribbons, knowing he couldn’t hold her like that in the real world. He held her in his arms, risking a look back to check on Akira and Minato. 

Akira was right behind him, Nash still draped over his shoulder. He was doing fine, though his face was looking strained. He must not have been used to carrying someone like this, but he’d make it to the window with ease. 

Yu shifted his gaze past Akira just in time to see Minato throw Aigis from him as a piece of rubble fell on his leg. 

“Minato!” 

Yosuke was by Yu’s side in a flash, taking Daisuko from his arms. The gray haired boy dove for Minato, Akira right behind him. The piece of rubble was heavier than it looked, and even with the three wild cards struggling to get it off it barely moved. Yu screamed in frustration, muscles straining as he struggled to lift the rock enough for Minato to escape. 

“Let’s use our Personas, Yu.” 

Yu nodded, watching as Akira dug his claws into the rock. He spread those huge wings, pulling on the rock to try and get it to move. Yu plunged his sword under the rock, lifting it slightly to get those ribbons underneath. He wrapped them around the rubble, then pushed harder on the sword. Minato was using Orpheus’ lyre to push as well, and after almost pushing themselves to their limits, he was able to get free. 

The other Persona users had gotten Nash, Aigis, and Daisuke out and were returning to assist the leaders. Minato was limping heavily, and Yu could feel that he had pulled something in his back. The three stumbled to the window as the temple crumbled behind them. With one last burst of energy they fell through, the glass shaking as the world behind it trembled. 

Yu was panting, laying face up on the floor of Naoto’s room. His chest heaved as he struggled to catch his breath, though at Naoto’s prodding he sat up. 

“We’ve relocated Aigis to her room, and Nash and Daisuko are in the common room. Daisuko lost consciousness, but Nash has stayed awake.” Yu managed to get to his feet, looking at Minato and Akira. Akira was simply winded, though he seemed to be fine. Minato was testing putting weight on his hurt leg, wincing when he did so. 

“Go check on Nash and Daisuko. I’ll take Minato to go see Takemi.” Akira forced his shoulder under Minato’s arm and started to walk out of the room. Yu stretched his back, feeling the joints pop musically. He left the room as well, plodding to the common room. 

Daisuko was indeed slumped over on the couch, her body shivering as she slept. Yu looked over at Nash, who was reclining in a chair with a foggy look in their eyes. Clearly they were awake, but as to whether they were actually processing anything was another question. Yu huffed softly and walked to his room. 

He always kept spare blankets on his shelf for emergency situations, though after they had started rescuing people, he started stockpiling more. Yu grabbed two blankets and walked back. He laid one on top of Daisuko, noting how she stopped shivering as much after a bit. He wrapped the other one around Nash, though once he was done they blinked at him. 

“Who are you?” 

Yu bit his lip. His body ached terribly, but everyone else was busy right now. He had to explain everything. “You were kidnapped, and happened to be conscious for the entire thing. It...couldn’t have been a pleasant experience. My name is Yu Narukami by the way, I’m one of the ones who rescued you.” 

Nash seemed to be coming back to earth, the color returning to their face. “You saved me?” They wrapped the blanket tighter around their shoulders. “Thank you. For saving me. I really appreciate it.” 

“It’s really no problem. We see people in trouble and we help.” Yu gave them a soft smile, despite being so tired. “It’s what we can do, when no one else can help.” 

“When no one else can help, huh? Is that why you saved her?” Nash pointed to Daisuko, who had since curled in on herself under the blanket. Yu hadn’t really thought about why he had risked his life to save her, but the more he thought, the clearer the answer was. 

“That’s partially it. I just couldn’t ignore her, not when she was so scared. No matter what, when someone’s in danger, I just have to help.” Yu smiled more. 

“That’s why I’m the leader of the Investigation Team.”

Chapter Text

Makoto had originally thought the two extra rooms on this floor were empty, until Yu almost ran into her as he left the one right next to Kouji’s. The room in question had a piece of paper with a blue V drawn on it, though when Makoto had tried out the handle it wouldn’t budge. But the boy had come out of the room all the same. 

“Oh, sorry Makoto.” There was a weird feeling around him that quickly faded as he shut the door behind him, an oddly familiar feeling. “Are you going to talk to Daisuko?” Makoto nodded. “Me too. I had a few questions for her concerning the Chaos Spaces and how they affect us Wild Cards.” 

The two walked to the common room where Nash and Daisuko had spent the night under watch. Minato was sitting in a chair, the musical sounds of whatever game he was playing ringing out softly. Makoto had expected him to be tired from staying up all night, but once he returned from seeing Takemi, he insisted that he could watch the former Acolyte. 

A stormy gray eye peeked up from the game before it turned off. “Took you long enough. Doctor told me to rest my leg in bed as much as possible.” Minato huffed and stood, leaning heavily on his healthy leg. “I’ll be in my room if you need me.” He limped off, using the walls for balance. 

Makoto took Minato’s seat, waiting until Yu had also sat down before addressing Daisuko. The girl had been given a change of clothes and food, though the glare from those poisonous blue eyes was enough to freeze over most people. She had been aggressive to everyone who had attempted to approach her or talk to her, and Makoto understood why. She was in enemy territory, even if the Persona users had helped her. 

“I hope you’re not here to ask questions because I won’t answer them.” Daisuko gripped the cushions, her knuckles turning white as she did. Makoto could tell that she was scared, much more than she was angry. “You trapped me here.” 

Yu sighed, adjusting the glasses on his face. “I agree that we had been keeping you captive, but it was dangerous for us to let you go when your wounds haven’t fully healed.” Makoto was suddenly thankful that Yu was there with her, considering how she had originally was going to be harsh with Daisuko. She trusted the leader to sweet talk Daisuko into giving up the secrets. “Besides, we don’t know if Apophis is still trying to get you back. It would be best to stay with us. I can tell you’re scared.” 

Daisuko was quiet for a moment longer. Then her lip trembled as glittering tears started to drip down her face. Her voice creaked as she spoke, sobs choking her throat. “I...I was promised so much power...I couldn’t resist Apophis.” She carefully wiped her eyes with her palm. “And after I accepted he pulled me in deeper and deeper...until I couldn’t leave.” She was shaking, pulling at her hair with her fingers. 

“I can understand how scared you must have been. It’s hard to defy a god.” Yu gave her a smile, one that Makoto realized was trying to break down Daisuko’s walls more. The girl snorted, seemingly over her sobs. 

“Hah! You say that as if you’ve tried!” The next person to snort was Yu, though he quickly covered his mouth with his hand. Makoto felt the same kind of laughter building in her chest, but she choked it down. Daisuko has no idea. “Hey, what’s so funny? Gods are immortal, there’s no way anyone can defy them, let alone you losers.”

Yu adjusted his glasses before continuing. “Sorry, sorry. It really is funny how high you hold gods in regard.” He let out another chuckle. “They really aren’t that bad the fourth or fifth time around. You get used to it. Anyway back to the matter at hand.” Those soft gray eyes were turned on Makoto now, trusting her to take care of this part. She took a deep breath, steadying herself. 

“It’s very clear that we can’t have you running around Tokyo, for one reason or another. We have a spare room on this floor that we would like you to move into. You don’t have to be friends with us at all, this is just a precaution. We’re also offering to help you move your things from your current living situation and explain everything to your guardians-”

“My parents don’t give two shits about me.” 

Makoto blinked slowly. She wasn’t quite expecting that response, but she continued. “I understand. Do you still wish for our help moving your things?” 

Daisuko stood, the table in front of her rattling. Her face was bright red with anger, voice raising as she shouted. “There’s no way in hell you damned God Slayers know a damn thing about what it’s like to not be important to your parents! Get the hell out of my sight!” 

Makoto walked back to her room, Yu right beside her. “I never thought we’d get a compromise out of her.” The gray haired boy sighed, tapping his fingers on his glasses frames. “But now maybe she’ll work with us from this point on.”

The two had left Daisuko to her own devices, knowing that she was too terrified to try anything funny. Makoto finished texting the rest of the Persona users the news as they walked back, though she had to admit that something was troubling her about Yu. She slid her phone into her pocket. 

“You were able to reason with her so well, even when she got upset about her parents. I have to ask, is it from experience?” 

Yu laughed, but it was a rather sad sound. “I’m that easy to read, huh? Well I don’t know how similar my situation was to Daisuko, but my parents were always pushing me harder and harder without really giving me anything in return for doing so.” There was a slight strain on his voice, though he quickly regained his composure. “Not that it matters that much right now. Not when we need to focus on these cultists, and the school trip tomorrow.” 

“I can’t believe we have another school trip, and right after we defeated an Acolyte.” Makoto sighed, though she couldn’t hold back the smile on her face. A school trip was just what the transfers needed right now. 

“And to Inaba, of all places.” Yu stopped at his room, resting his hand on the handle. “It’ll be returning home for the Investigation Team, though I suppose my house is in Tokyo. It just feels better there.” He opened the door, smiling at Makoto. “We’d love to give you guys a tour.” With that he walked into his room and shut the door behind him. 

Makoto spent the rest of the day packing and making sure the rest of the Thieves were packed. She looked into Inaba more, especially the murders. She’d heard the story from the Investigation Team, and just wished to compare between that and the news. There wasn’t too much discrepancy, apart from the reports being unable to understand the whole “TV World” thing. The only member mentioned in any articles besides the victims was Naoto, but that was because of their status as the Detective Prince. 

The sun had dipped below the cityline by the time Makoto sat down to look over the trip details. She hadn’t gotten student council president as she’d hoped, but being the vice president to Misturu was good enough. She scanned the documents, noticing that they were staying at a place called the Amagi Inn. Amagi… That’s Yukiko’s last name. She assumed there was a connection of some sort, considering how small Inaba is. 

Once Makoto was done, she carefully stacked the papers on her desk before turning in for the night. Sleep didn’t come easy that night, not with the stress of the trip and the worry of the next Acolyte on her mind, but after a stern mental talking to, Makoto eventually eased herself into sleep.

Chapter Text

“This is so exciting Chie!” 

It was difficult for Yukiko to contain her excitement. The Persona users were headed back to Inaba for their second school trip, and staying in the Amagi Inn as well. She had already talked to her parents, offering to help while she was there. They had both agreed to let her enjoy the trip, and that they could handle it themselves. There were some concerns, but even so, Yukiko said that she would enjoy her trip. 

The trip to Tatsumi Port was certainly memorable, but she was sure that going back to Inaba would be ever better. Yukiko looked around her, eyes gazing over the other Persona users on the train platform. Yu and Yosuke were discussing where to take the rest of the group when they had free time, and everyone else was looking around at Inaba. Admittedly though, it’s not much to look at. 

After getting their bags and things moved into the inn, schedules handed out, and assigned to appropriate rooms, the Persona users were allowed to just relax for the evening. Yukiko was antsy, feeling like she needed to be out and helping with the inn. 

“Yukiko, your parents did say that they wanted you to focus on your studies.” Naoto was sitting on the floor, several notebooks open and papers lying out everywhere. “And on top of that, we still have our job to do as Persona users. They may not understand that duty but I’ll be damned if they can’t tell you’re stressed.” 

Yukiko sat next to Naoto, looking over the papers as well. The notes had different handwriting, leaving her to assume that the detective must have gathered them from everyone else. After some reading, it was clear that these were accounts from various Persona users of the battles with the Acolytes. Yukiko opened her mouth, but Naoto spoke first. 

“I’m simply figuring out the best way to utilize each of us to the fullest in battle. The leaders asked Makoto, Mitsuru and I to do this.” They picked up a paper with the name Minato scrawled across the top. They handed it to Yukiko, who took it and read over it. 

The paper detailed the most recent fight with Daisuko, but the way everything was described… “Naoto, who wrote this? It...doesn’t feel like Minato.” There were things here that Minato didn’t use, like chains...and coffins!  

Chie leaned over Yukiko’s shoulders, wrapping her arms around her. “Didn’t Aigis say that she fought side by side with someone named Ryoji instead of Minato?” She reached over and pointed at the paper. “Yeah it says right here! Gave up control to Ryoji per his request. He said he can give up control to the other person…” 

“I looked into it more and it turns out that this other entity is actually the god of Death.” Naoto tapped their pen against their temple. “I looked into it more and asked Mitsuru, and apparently the physical manifestation had fallen in love with Minato during the time that he was there.” They scribbled some things down in a notebook before picking up more papers. “They thought they had both died.” 

Yukiko set the paper back down and picked up another. “Yusuke Kitagawa.” The lettering was rather hasty, but even so she was able to read what it said. The language was over the top too, describing how Yusuke wished he could draw the Acolytes instead of fighting them. “There’s a lot of information here Naoto.” 

“I admit yes, there is quite a lot. That’s why I’m working now, when I have time outside of studies and Persona business.” Naoto took the paper back and gathered everything back up neatly. “We should sleep. It’s back to back lectures tomorrow, and I for one, will need all the rest I can get.” They set everything aside before laying down, prompting Yukiko and Chie to do the same. “Let’s not forget, the other students know we were kidnapped. Try not to say anything too crazy while we’re there.” 

The classes were boring. 

They were more than just boring. They were so boring that Yukiko almost wished for King Moron to be back for some excitement. Great, now I’m starting to sound like Yosuke. Yukiko tapped her pen on her desk, watching the seconds tick down one by one. 

In some attempt to distract herself, Yukiko turned her attention to thinking about the acolytes of Apophis. She hadn’t had time to talk to Daisuko before they all left for this trip, which was unfortunate, but understandable. The acolyte had remained in the dorms under Kouji’s care for the time being, who had promised to take care of her and asked little questions. 

“Yukiko!” 

A hand was shaking her shoulder, prompting her to wake up. “Mmh?” Yukiko lifted her head from the desk to see Chie standing there. “What happened?”

“Honestly I don’t blame you. That lecture was super boring, but it’s lunchtime now.” She stepped back to let Yukiko stretch a bit. “After that it’s more lectures….but at least it’s a different teacher.” She stood up, gathering her things. 

“Where’s everyone else?” 

Chie grabbed her hand, lacing their fingers together. “We decided to eat lunch on the roof, like old times.” Her smile was like the sun, bathing Yukiko in her warmth. Despite everything she at least had Chie. The two walked up to the roof, where the rest of the Persona users were already eating lunch and talking loudly. 

Yukiko found a spot to sit with Chie, pulling out her lunch that her parents had made for her. God knows she can’t be trusted around food. Luckily her parents were more than willing to help out. 

It felt normal to be like this, to just enjoy lunch on the school rooftop with her friends, as if nothing bad had ever happened to them, as if they didn’t have Personas. She relished in this feeling for a moment, even if now she had much more friends than she did last year. 

Of course though, all things must end at some point. 

The door to the roof slammed open, and standing there with the most crazed smile on her face was a person Yukiko last saw in handcuffs. Yosuke’s insane ex, who stalked both him and the Investigation Team, who was supposed to be behind bars for attempting to kill both Yu and Yosuke, screamed in delight upon seeing him. Chizuru.  

“I’m back Yosuke!"