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----4/9 SATURDAY, AFTERNOON, SHUJIN ACADEMY

 

Shujin Academy was hailed all over Tokyo as one of the best schools to attend. Any who graduate from here was almost guaranteed an accepted college application. The teachers were highly acclaimed, and even an accomplished olympic medalist as the gym teacher, heading the national winning volleyball team. Or so they all say.

It's April 9th, the first week of school in the new year. Kimisawa Airi was beginning to doubt this school was as dignified as they claimed.

Looking at the bruises and defeated demeanor of Mishima Yuuki from her seat, her wine colored eyes narrowed in suspicion and worry. Who gave him those bruises? Why did everyone on the volleyball team dread practice? Why did they have practice everyday? All these questions swam in Airi's mind, distracting her from class. It's a good thing Kawakami-sensei doesn't really seem to care.

'I don't remember the lesson, but it's alright,' she grimaced, 'it's only the first week. More importantly, why hasn't any teacher done anything?'

The bell rung, signalling the end of classes for the day.

Airi decided to confront her classmate, and walked over to Mishima's desk where he was slowly packing his books away.

"Mishima-kun?" Airi smiled gently. Mishima's head shot up, a startled expression on his face. The smile on Airi's face dimmed slightly at the glint of fear in his brown eyes.

"A-Ah yes, Kimisawa-senpai?" Mishima stammered quietly.

She tucked a strand of rose colored hair behind her ear. "May I ask how your day was? You seemed rather depressed during the last class." Airi asked.

Mishima blinked. "Um, it was all right. I was just um, thinking...of future exams..?" His voice trailed off as if he wasn't sure himself.

Airi tilted her head slightly, her braid falling over her shoulder. "Those are rather far off, I don't think you need to worry about them now. Is something else bothering you?" She pressed further. His breath hitched at the question, the fear in his eyes that dimmed at the start of the conversation coming back in full force. Airi's brow furrowed in worry.

'Could this be more serious than it seems?' She thought, concerned. 'He's hiding something, something big.'

Mishima snapped up from his seat, his body rigid. His blue hair shadowed his eyes. "No, nothing's wrong!" He bit his lip. "Please excuse me, practice will start soon and I can't afford to be late again, he might..." He stopped. "Ah n-nevermind, see you tomorrow, senpai!" With that, he rushed out of the room.

Airi was glued to her spot, still standing where Mishima left her. 'What could make him so afraid?' She asked herself, troubled at his reactions. 'And "he"? Did he mean Kamoshida-sensei? He is pretty enthused about volleyball, scheduling practice every day...' She clenched her hands, and with a look of worry on her face, grabbed her bag and went down the same way that Mishima left.

The closer she got to the gym, the more Airi was starting to think her suspicions were correct. No other teacher or staff member was present near the gym, and thinking back on last year, they weren't here then either. They swarmed the other buildings though, practically at every corner. She gripped her bag, and quietly made her way to the side entrance.

Luckily, the door was unlocked. Already the sounds of practice could be heard, the squeaking of sneakers and volleyballs hitting the lacquered floor. From what she knew, the volleyball team had mandatory practices every day, even during breaks.

Airi slowly and quietly inched the door open. The bright lights inside the gymnasium blinded her for a moment. When her vision returned, she froze. Her blood ran cold.

Some members were diligently hitting volleyballs at the wall, constantly smacking as hard as they could. It would have been perfectly innocuous if not for the bags under their eyes and the bruises around their wrists and knees. Others were standing with their back against their teammates, who threw volleyballs at them with all of their strength.

Airi trembled, in fear or anger, she couldn't tell. Why was this happening? She looked around a little further and gasped. There was Kamoshida-sensei near the back of the courts, and in front of him was a shivering Mishima, head down. She couldn't hear anything due to the distance, but her eyes hadn’t deceived her. Mishima had gotten a new bruise on his face since she last saw him a half hour ago. Kamoshida-sen-. No. Kamoshida stood there with his hands on his hips, looking down at the bluenet with a sneer on his face, clearly berating him.

Airi clenched her fists, her eyes narrowed with fury. 'How dare he! I can't believe how he's gotten away with this for so long!' She seethed in her mind. She dug into her bag, looking for her phone. She needed to photograph evidence to show to Principal Kobayakawa about Kamoshida. She groaned silently when she grasped nothing.

'I probably left it in my desk.' She thought sullenly. 'I should at least go tell the principal. He needs to know.'

With one last decisive look, she slowly closed the door and power walked across the courtyard. Arriving at the principal's door within a couple of minutes, she took a deep breath to calm her racing heart and knocked. "Yes, who is it?" She heard.

Airi slid the door open, crossed into the room, and closed it behind her. She walked up to the desk and bowed. "Principal Kobayakawa, I am Kimisawa Airi from class 2-D. I would like to speak to you about something." She expressed.

The principal, a rather grotesquely rotund man in a mustard yellow suit that barely buttoned, looked up from his paper work and gleamed a blinding smile.
"Ah!" He exclaimed, "If it isn't one of the top students in the school! I saw your end of the year report earlier, and I must say, you definitely have what it takes to get into the best Universities!" He laughed jovially.

Airi straightened from her bow and blinked. "Ah um. Yes thank you, Principal," She stammered. It was rather embarrassing to be praised like that.

He shuffled his papers. "Now what is it that you want to speak to me about? Is it about a future letter of recommendation? I can certainly arrange for one next year, as long as your grades continue to be so wonderful!" Kobayakawa grinned. Airi shuffled her feet, a bit nervous. "No sir, though I thank you for thinking so." She answered. "It's about Kamoshida-sensei."

Principal Kobayakawa's smile dims. "Oh? Did you want his autograph?" He joked. "I 'm sorry but you'll have to gather the courage to ask him yourself for one!" He laughs obnoxiously.

"No, sir." She said firmly. "This may sound ridiculous, but... I think Kamoshida-sensei is abusing the volleyball team."

His smile disappeared instantly. "Now why would you say that? Those are rather serious accusations there, Kimisawa-san." He frowned, a little angered. "Kamoshida-sensei is an esteemed teacher, the best in his academy! I'm sure whatever you may think of him, it is unfounded." He waved her away. "I don't want to hear any more of this. Now please, school has ended for the day and I'm sure you have better things to do than to bother me with your nonsense!" He voiced his displeasure.

Airi stood there in shock. How could her principal say such things? She bit her lip and hurriedly walked out of the room, heading down the hall.

'He didn't even listen to me!' She sulked. 'I have evidence!'

Arriving at her class, she walked in and grabbed her phone. Passing by all the other students, she started walking out of the building, her face blank. She can't let anyone else know that there was a problem.

Walking a block away and into the empty vending machine alcove, she leaned on a wall and sighed in frustration. What could she do? She didn't want to see anyone hurt. 'Poor Mishima-kun.' She thought sullenly, 'He's enduring all of this. Don't their parents notice?'

She stilled.

'Or they do notice...and aren't doing anything...' She covered her mouth in horror. What was wrong with these adults?! The hand that wasn't covering her mouth gripped her phone tightly. 'I have to do something...I need to protect them.' Airi thought resolutely. ‘They don’t deserve this inhumane treatment. No one does!’

-Beep!-

Startled at the noise, Airi looked down at her phone where the sound emanated from. On the screen was a bright red logo of an eyeball. She raised a brow, observing it.

Kind of creepy.

She hesitantly tapped it, and a search box appeared.

"Please enter a name, a location, and a keyword." The app stated.

Airi tilted her head in confusion. 'What is all this? Where did it come from?' She wondered. 'I know I never downloaded an app like this.' She tapped on the map function a couple of times curiously, and the app updated.

"There is a hit." The voice said.

Chapter Text

-BA-BUMP-

Everything turned purple and...distorted?

Airi looked around, distressed. There was a weird nauseous feeling, and a split second where her feet wasn't touching anything. When she felt the ground appear underneath her feet, she stumbled, unbalanced from what she just experienced.

'What just happened?!' She thought, afraid. Looking around for signs of that distortion, she noticed something else.

"Huh?!" She uttered, bewildered.

The surroundings completely changed. What was once an orange sunset sky, there was now a reddish purple hue that clouded the heavens. Everything was dark except for the building in front of her. What was once Shujin Academy, had turned into a large and looming stone castle.

Airi turned around wildly. What was going on?! She looked down at her phone, and on the marker, it said "Kamoshida's Palace". She looked up, more aware of where she was, and saw the telltale signs. There were banners with Kamoshida's face on it everywhere around this castle. The only thing that stayed the same was the sign out front, spelling out "Shujin Academy."

This is the same place? Slowly putting one foot in front of the other, Airi walked in, cautious of her surroundings. Everywhere she looked, there were statues and signs dedicated to Kamoshida. What is this place exactly? Was this real?

She slowed to a stop in the foyer. There was no one around and not a sound was heard. The entire keep seemed empty of all life. The most noticeable thing in the room was the giant portrait of Kamoshida, fully dressed in armor.

Airi shuddered. 'I can't unsee that.'

Looking around a bit more, she noticed an open door that lead down into the depths. With a nervous gulp, she headed toward it.

'Wherever I am, hopefully I can find someone who can help.' She thought hopefully.

As she descended further into the deeper levels of the castle, Airi started hearing a loud noise.

'Is that rushing water?' She wondered.

Turning a corner, she was confronted with cells upon cells, a rapid river running right in the middle of the corridor. She paled. Actual dungeons?!
Hesitantly, she continued down into the cells, looking inside each one to see if there were any people. There were none. She hit the end of the corridor and sighed. So much for that.

"Huh? H-hey! You there!"

Huh? Airi looked around. "Who said that?" She asked, confused. Where was that voice coming from? "Down here!" She looked down and saw...a cat? inside the last cell. Airi eyed side to side, bewildered, but crouched down to speak to the cat thing.

"Hello? My name is Airi, can you help me?" Airi whispered.

The cat thing-what is it?- looks up at her with a mischievous smile on its face and exclaimed, "Oh beautiful lady! It is an honor to meet you! My name is Morgana!" It puffed up its chest with its paws on its hips.

Airi smiled. "Hello Morgana, it's a pleasure to meet you, although I'd rather it was somewhere more pleasant." She paused. "Um, I'm sorry if I offend, but what are you?"

Morgana huffed. "I'm human!...I think." It slumped.

Airi blinked. A human? "I'm sorry but to me, you look more like a cat." She answered hesitantly.

"Don't call me that!" Morgana exclaimed indignantly. "I'm not a cat! I'm a human!" it repeated.

Airi raised her hands placatingly. "Okay, I'm sorry for upsetting you." She soothed.

Morgana deflated. "Ah my apologies, I'm taking my frustrations out on you since I'm stuck in this cell." It perked up. "Oh! Do you think you can get me out of here, Lady Airi?"

She looked around to see if anything could break the lock. She saw a rock nearby and reached to grab it.

'Hopefully this works,' she thought as she raised the rock. With a deep breath, she struck down.

-CLANK-

The lock broke off and noisily fell to the stone floor. Airi stood up and opened the door, and Morgana rushed out.

"Ahh! At last, freedom!" It exclaimed in joy.
Airi smiled, glad she could at least help one person today.

"Hey! Who's down there making that ruckus?!"

The rosette stiffened, fear clouding her thoughts. Someone else was here?! Airi turned around and saw a bunch of deformed suits of metal, rushing up to her and Morgana.

'Are they hostile?!’ She thought fearfully. What was going to happen to them?

Morgana turned around and shouted, "Hey! You're not going to capture her or me!"

The suits ran in front of them, blocking their only way out. "Tch! A prisoner escaped," One guard said. "And an intruder?!" Another exclaimed. They raised their spears at the two.

Airi stepped back, trembling. 'We’re going to die!' She teared. All she could hear was the blood pounding in her ears.

Morgana rushed in front of her, shielding her from the guards' views.

"You'll have to get through me first!" It shouted valiantly, wanting to protect the girl who freed it. It rushed to attack and took one of them down before another guard swatted it away with its spear.

"Ack!" Morgana yelped, as it smacked against the cold stone wall, before falling into a slumped position. It winced, gritting its teeth in pain.

"Morgana! Are you okay?!" Airi hurriedly turned to look at it, brows furrowed in worry. That impact against the walls looked like it hurt.

Morgana slowly sat up, flinching. "I'm OK! But...I won't be able to fend them off. I'm too weak from being captured earlier." Its ears fell. "Lady Airi...you're going to have to fight!"

Airi hugged herself, afraid of not living up to the responsibility that was put on her. "B-but how? I don't have any weapons or fighting ability...," She stammered.

"You probably have a Persona!" Morgana told her. "You're in a Palace after all. You have to summon it and fight!"

"A Persona? I don't know what that is!" Airi exclaimed, confounded.

Morgana coughed. "You have to!"

One of the guards then grabbed Morgana by its neck and slammed it against the wall, holding it up with his grip. His other hand which held a spear, raised and aimed at it.

"Enough with your chit chatting!" The guard yelled. "Kamoshida-sama wants any and all intruders dead, including you!"

Morgana struggled against its grip, "You can try all you want!" It wheezed, unable to breathe well. "I'll never...bow down...to the likes of him..!"

Airi stood there watching, tears in her eyes. The other guard raised its spear at her. Why was she so useless?! She gritted her teeth. She just wanted to help, to protect someone from the injustices in this world! Why couldn't she do one thing right?!

-BA-BUMP-

Her eyes widened, mouth opened in a silent scream. She gripped her head. What was this pain?!

‘You wanted to protect those who couldn't protect themselves...’

This voice...who is it? Airi wondered, even as her mind felt like it was being torn in half. She flailed her head from side to side, trying to ease the splitting pressure but to no avail.

‘You love so strongly...even those you barely know...your kindness knows no bounds...’

Her back bent, nails starting to claw her skin off her scalp with the force she was gripping her head, 'make it stop!' Airi screamed in her mind.

‘You stand here now, completely useless...What is it that you desire most?’

‘You have the choice to grasp it, but you don't!’

Tears streamed down her face, from the pain or the truth in those words, she couldn't tell.

‘Will you accept the contract? Doom your soul to uncertainty in the face of reaching your desires?’

"YES!"

Chapter Text

Airi screamed, her head snapping up.

All the guards turn to look at her outburst, even Morgana who was still dangling on the wall.

She blinked when the pain stopped, and noticed that there was a mask on her face. Clenching her eyes, she raised her hands, grasped it tightly, and pulled.

RRRRIPPP.

The mask tore off in a gush of blood, and a blaze of power surrounded her. White flames encased her body, changing her, making her stronger. As her outfit changed to fit her new self, a creature slowly gained corporeality behind her.

Swathed in white, blue, and purple silks, glittering diamonds adorning her wrists, neck, and waist, was a woman. A large, ostentatious crown sat on her silver braided locks, set with more diamonds, lace, and the tips sharpened into a dangerous edge. The voluptuous being hovered in the air, her gown modest but flattering on her figure, with more fabric floating from her back, imitating wings.

She gazed down at the enemies with a look of disdain. Arms raised, she struck out, killing all the guards in white beams of energy. Morgana had hit the ground for the second time today, and looked up at Airi in awe.

"I AM THOU, THOU ART I. THOU WHO DESIRE BEYOND HER STATION, WHO ART WILLING TO FORSAKE ALL SHE BELIEVES TO PROTECT WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO THINE OWN SELF."

"I AM JEANNE, COMTESSE OF RADIANCE, ONE WHO SHINES HER OWN JUSTICE. NONE SHALL DARKEN MY PATH."

As the power faded, Airi had calmed enough to look down at her new self, and gasped in shock. She lifted a hand and admired her new outfit.
Her clothes changed from her Shujin uniform into a sleeveless deep purple and silver embroidered vest coat that hugged her figure, leaving the chest open. Long dark purple gloves sheathed her arms up to her shoulders, wearing a silver embroidered high collared blouse, skin tight black leather pants, and black heeled laced knee high boots. A large silver pendant hung from her neck, nestled in her cleavage.
The last new addition was the silver embroidered scarf she has loosely wrapped around her neck, the ends fluttering like dainty wings. The rosette lifted her hands to touch her face in amazement and gasped. She had a mask on as well! Looking into a nearby puddle, she saw that it was made of silver metal lace. The opera-like design covered her eyes as well as her right cheek.

"What is going on..." She wondered, amazed at her transformation.

"You awakened your Persona!" Morgana proclaimed, coming up to her and admiring with shining eyes.

"Persona?" Airi repeated. "I've never heard of that as a term for power..." her face furrowed in confusion.

"It's your inner self rebelling against the injustices done to you! You rip off the mask that you wear in your heart become your true self that breaks free and fights." Lectured Morgana.

Airi's eyes widened in surprise. "My true self...? The me who wants to protect..." she muttered, looking down pensively.

In a burst of white, her ostentatious clothes disappeared and in its place was her school uniform.
"Whoa!" She uttered in surprise. "My new clothes disappeared! Is that supposed to happen...?" She looked down at her body.

Morgana hummed. "You're probably still adjusting to your new powers, so it's a little unstable."

"Oh, that makes sense." Airi answered, nodding her head in understanding.

Morgana shook its head. "But never mind all that! We have to move, there may be more guards coming."

"I can take them!" Airi said confidently. "With this new power, my Persona, I can protect both of us!" She pumped her fist, a smirk on her face.

"Be that as it may," Morgana frowned reluctantly. "You're still new at this, we shouldn't provoke any more guards!"

It ran down the corridor and stopped near the stairs, the same ones she took earlier. Turning around, it gestured at her.
"C'mon, this way Lady Airi! I'll show you a way out!" Morgana grinned.

Airi followed it, and both of them ended up going through the large foyer and down another corridor. They dodged into a room on the left and came to a stop. Morgana then jumped onto the bookcase, where there was a barred access way, and ripped the grate off.

"Here!" Morgana gestured. "You can leave the Palace through this and return to the real world!"

The rosette held her hands out in a stop motion. "Wait before that, can you explain to me where exactly are we? What kind of world is this?" She pleaded.

"This is a Palace, a place where one's distorted desires have taken shape! A Palace is how a distorted person sees a location. To you, this is your school, but to the ruler, this is his castle." Morgana explained.

Airi crossed her arms. "So this is all cognitive?" She wondered out loud. "This is how Kamoshida sees the school through his eyes?"

Morgana smiled. "Yes! You get it!" It said happily. "I knew you were intelligent, Lady Airi!"

A thought dawned on her. "Is Kamoshida here as well?" Airi asked. "Or another version of him? And does it affect him in the real world?" She shot off.

"Yes, there is a Shadow version of him somewhere." Morgana stated grimly. "If you steal his Treasure, then you irrevocably change him and cleanse his desires. He turns into a new person and would confess his crimes."

Airi took a step back at its statement. "Wait, really? He’ll confess his crimes?" She asked, shocked. Morgana nodded cheerfully.
Airi hummed at all the new information. 'Maybe this can stop the abuse.' She thought grimly. Whatever it takes to protect the students.

Morgana shook its head. "Anyway, you should get going before more guards come!"

"But wait, can I come back to help?" Airi asked hurriedly. "And what about you, Morgana?"

Morgana grinned and gave her a thumbs up with its paw. "Don't worry about me!" It exclaimed. "And since you've come here once, you can do it again!"


"Who's there?!" Shouted someone from beyond the door.

Morgana straightened its shoulders and walked to the door. "I'll provide a distraction while you escape, Lady Airi!" It stated determinedly with its back to her.

Airi frowned worriedly, but acquiesced to its decision. She nodded. "Okay, be careful Morgana! I'll come back for you!"

Morgana flashed her a smile before running out the door.

Airi jumped up the bookcase, and started crawling through the vent. It took a couple moments, but when light shined through the tunnel, she picked up the pace and finally reached outside.

 

----4/9, SATURDAY, AFTER SCHOOL, AOYAMA-ITCHOME

 

"You have returned to the real world." Her phone stated.

Airi blinked. What? She looked around. She was back in normal Aoyama-Itchome. There were even students walking toward the train station.

'I was just crawling through...,' She thought, brows furrowed. Looking down at her phone, that red eye from before had turned into an app. She shook her head, a bit hysterical.

'That was real...That was really real!'

Putting her phone away, Airi headed toward the station and boarded a train to Shibuya. She walked off the platform toward her transfer when suddenly someone bumped into her.

"Ow!" She squeaked in pain.

"Sorry!" The guy said.

That voice sounded familiar.

Airi turned around to look at the person who pushed her.

"Oh!" He uttered in surprise. "H-hey senpai, sorry about that!"

It was Sakamoto Ryuji.

"Oh, Sakamoto-kun. It's alright." Airi smiled gently.

She had always had a soft spot for him ever since middle school, especially after what happened last year. It must have been hard for him to break his leg right before the track tournament. Then the disbandment of the track team itself, replaced by the volleyball team. Kamoshida just couldn't help himself, she pursed her lips. While a nice young man in general, Ryuji was much too brash and loud for Airi to have ever talked to him for longer than a couple moments.

“I thought I told you before, you don’t have to call me senpai. We're the same age.” She scolded gently.

Ryuji rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Ah, you goin’ home now?" He asked.

Airi nodded. "Yes, it's been...a long day." She grimaced.

Ryuji nodded in agreement. "Yeah I get ya. Thank god it's the weekend!" He groaned, stretching his arms up in the air. He slumped, exhaling a big sigh. "School is such a pain. Especially since I have to see Kamoshida's big ugly face." Ryuji grunted, pursing his lips.

Airi giggled, amused at his ire towards the gym teacher. "I can sympathize, Kamoshida is rather egotistical, huh?" She joked.

Ryuji looked up at her in surprise. "Uh, yeah...sorry," He started. "You're the first person I know who's agreed with me..." He trailed off.

Her face softened, understanding why. Kamoshida was such a respected figure in the school that no one said a bad thing about him. Except for Ryuji. Couple that with terrible grades and a somewhat rough demeanor, and it had him labeled as the school delinquent and outcast.

"I know, and I'm sorry it has taken so long for me to see." Airi answered, slightly ashamed.

Ryuji furrowed his brows. "Eh, don't worry about it. A lot of people can't see past his stupid act." He said, waving his hand carelessly. "Anyway, I'll see you on Monday!" And with that, he dashed off toward the direction of Central street.

Airi sighed. 'Still so overwhelming.' She thought, then smiled fondly.

It was a good look on him.

Chapter Text

----4/8, EVENING, YONGENJAYA BACKSTREETS

 

Arriving at Yongenjaya, Airi got off the train and out of the station. Walking down the back streets, she headed toward Cafe Leblanc. The sun was still setting, casting an orange hue on the buildings and its inhabitants. Walking into the alley, the sun dimmed, the building blocking its rays.

Opening the french door, she closed her eyes, inhaled, and slowly exhaled. The smell of coffee and exquisite curry could always calm her down, leaving her with a smile on her face. The decor of the cafe was rustic but warm, giving off a feeling of home. Opening her eyes, Airi walked up to the bar where Sakura Sojiro, owner and barista of Cafe Leblanc, was slowly wiping the counter.

Sojiro lazily looked up at her. "Oh hey Airi, just got out of school, huh?" He asked nonchalantly.

Sitting down on one of the bar stools, she smiled tiredly. "Yes, it's been a long day." She answered, setting her bag down on the floor next to her.

"Hmph. Not easy being class president and working it seems." He muttered. "What would you like today?"

Airi hummed, glancing at the shelves upon shelves of coffee beans behind him. She had been here often enough that she had tried almost every kind he had to offer, but decided to go simple today.

"One cup of columbian, please." She clapped her hands in front of her. "And a plate of Katsu Curry!" She requested.

"Comin' right up." Sojiro said, moving around to prepare the ordered items. While he got the food ready, there were thumping sounds coming from above. She looked up curiously but put it out of her mind.

Taking one last bite of her curry, Airi washed it down with her coffee. She sighed contently. Such a great meal.

"Thank you for the meal. It was delicious as always." She smiled.

Sojiro grunted in answer, not looking up from his newspaper.

She tilted her head. He seemed rather tense today. "Is something wrong, Sojiro-san?" Airi inquired softly.

He sighed heavily. "No, nothing's wrong per say. Just got someone new."

"Oh?" Airi voiced, curiosity winning over her. "May I ask who this person is?"

"It doesn't concern you." He answered gruffly, returning to his newspaper.

Airi sighed. 'I can't really help someone who doesn't want help.' Reaching down for her bag, she pulled out the appropriate amount of money to pay for the meal and left it on the counter. Getting up, she waved to Sojiro. "I'll be off now! Have a good night!"

"Night." He muttered, still not looking at her.

Leaving the cafe, the cool breeze of a spring evening chilled her. Rubbing her arms, she quickly walked a couple blocks down to a small house, sequestered away from the shops. Taking her keys out of her bag, Airi inserted and twisted it into the lock, opening the front door.

Her house was nothing special, a bit big for one person. There were small knick knacks and simple paintings lining the walls, filling in the empty spaces. Some were old family photos at the rink, recital, etc. Leading from the entrance was dark wooden floors, spreading to a small sitting room, living room and a dining room. The sitting room was a tatami room, set with a small kotatsu.

The living room was modestly furnished, with two light beige chaises, a dark wooden coffee table, and a TV mounted on the wall. The dining room consisted of a dark wooden table with eight complimenting chairs surrounding it, a simple chandelier brightly lighting the room. Connected to the dining room was the kitchen, with its dark wooden cabinets and white marble counters, it composed an elegant yet inviting feel. Behind the sitting room was a small bathroom, and the stairs leading up to the second floor.

Walking up the steps, Airi left her bag in the hallway and moved toward the master bathroom to wash up. The second floor consisted of two rooms and one bathroom. Only one was a bedroom, and the other used as a study. The furnishings were simple but tasteful, giving a lived in and warm vibe to the house.

After a nice relaxing bath, Airi grabbed her bag and brought it into the study. Turning the light on in the room, she went and sat down at her desk. Taking out all her textbooks and notes, she began her homework. 'Today's work includes Chemistry, History, and English' She mentioned to herself.

After about two hours, Airi closed the last book and sighed in relief. "I'm done!" She groaned, stretching her arms.

She put her books back on the shelves and her bag, before leaving the study and entering her bedroom. She had work tomorrow, after all. It had all the necessary amenities; a large but low framed bed with a purple comforter, two dark wood armoires, and a dark wood vanity where all her accessories and makeup laid. The only thing out of place was a beautiful cello leaning against its stand. The cool rosewood still gleamed softly under a layer of dust.

Flopping onto the bed, she exhaled. If only she had this house again sooner...

'Let go! Leave us alone!'

'Give me all your money bitch!'

'Hey! That's my wife and daughter! I'll call the police!'

'Mommy! Daddy!!'

-BANG-BANG-

Airi clenched her eyes as the memories assaulted her once again. A tear slipped down her cheek, wetting her pillow.

'He's already behind bars, Airi. Let it go.' She rationalized.

She could never regret her years in the orphanage, making sure the younger orphans were happy and healthy. Even if she regretted her parents' deaths at the hands of a mugger. She sniffed, wiping her tears.

"I have my home again." Airi whispered. "I just need to create my future, the way I want it to be..,"

Eyelids growing heavy, she slowly descended into slumber, letting the quiet sounds of the neighborhood lull her to sleep.

 

 

----4/10, SUNDAY, DAYTIME, SHUJIN ACADEMY, PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE.

 

"To reiterate," The principal began, "Just so we're clear, you will immediately be expelled if you cause any problems. Honestly, I hesitated on accepting someone like you, but there were some circumstances on our side..." He paused. "You might have done a variety of things hiding in your hometown, but you WILL behave yourself here. If you are thrown out from our school, there will be no place for you to go." He warned the student."Keep that in mind."

He gestured to his right, where a woman wearing a yellow striped shirt and jean skirt, stood. "This is the teacher in charge of your class."

She stepped forward, an exasperated expression on her face. "I'm Kawakami Sadayo. Here's your student ID." She stated, placing the card on the table. "Be sure to read the school rules. Any violations will send you straight to the guidance office. And, if by chance you cause any problems, I won't be able to protect you at all." She paused. "That is your promise, yes, Principal Kobayakawa?" Eyeing her boss skeptically.

Kobayakawa nodded in agreement. "He is responsible for all his actions."

Kawakami sighed, clearly irritated. "But really though, why me...? There should've been better candidates." She sullenly complained.

"It was a sudden transfer," Kobayakawa answered, flustered. "And your class was the only one that had an opening."

At this point, Sojiro interrupted. "If you're done explaining things, mind if we get going?" He asked tiredly. "I have a store to get back to."

The principal nodded. "Sakura-san, please keep a close eye on him. Don't let him cause any trouble outside..." He warned.

Sojiro rubbed his neck. "Well, I'll be sure to have a serious talk about the situation he's in."

Kawakami sighed and looked at her new student. "Come to the faculty office when you arrive at school tomorrow. I'll show you to your classroom."

The student who was the topic of the conversation nodded silently and took his new ID card. Examining it in his hand, it read, "Shujin Academy 2nd year, Kurusu Akira." Next to it was a portrait of himself.

'This is my new school...' He thought emotionlessly.

Sojiro turned and walked out, his charge silently following him back to the cafe.

 

----4/10 SUNDAY, DAY TIME, SHUJIN ACADEMY COURTYARD

 

Two people stood across from another in the walkway. The woman clearly looked done with her life, while the male seemed befuddled.

"What a troublesome situation." Kamoshida remarked, crossing his arms. Kawakami sighed heavily, putting a hand on one hip.

"I can't believe they pushed someone with a record on ME," She sullenly whined. "A male teacher would be better suited for this..."

"Why in the world was someone like that admitted here?" Kamoshida questioned, resting his hands on his hips.

"Who knows?" Kawakami retorted. "It was the principal's decision. I was told that it's for the school's reputation..." She trailed off.

"Hmph." Kamoshida crossed his arms. "I would've thought that my volleyball team has contributed more than enough to cover that."

Kawakami nodded tiredly in agreement. "That's certainly true."

"Be careful, OK?" Kamoshida urged, doing some stretches with his arms. "Then again, if anything were to happen, I'd kick out a student like that right away."

Kawakami ran a hand through her hair. "I keep wishing that he'd just end up not coming to school. Still, that isn't something I should be saying as a teacher...," She trailed off, pursing her lips in exasperation. Great, more things for her to do.

"Well," Kamoshida began, interrupting her thoughts. "I should be returning to practice."

"Oh right." Kawakami blinked. "The tournament's coming up, isn't it?"

"Hehe." Kamoshita forcefully grinned, pumping his fist. "Having such high expectations placed on you by others is quite a problem in itself. We'll have to work hard to make up for the track team too." He ended smugly.

"Yes...that's true." Uttered Kawakami.

Kamoshida headed down the courtyard towards the gym, leaving Kawakami where she was standing.

She sighed heavily once again. "Why'd it have to be MY class..."

Chapter Text

----4/11, MONDAY, EARLY MORNING, YONGENJAYA BACKSTREETS

 

Making sure the door was properly locked, Airi turned around and started walking down the road away from her house. Being so early in the morning, many of the shops had yet to open aside from the supermarket. The clouds were dark today, looking like it would rain later. Thankfully, she brought an umbrella in her bag.

Looking down at the time on her phone, Airi decided to hurry up, and power-walked toward the station. Once reaching the gates, she swiped her wallet on top of the ticket scanner before walking down the stairs toward the platform for her train. Already, she could hear the telltale rumbling that indicated one was about to pull up.

Hitting the platform, she walked up to the indicated boarding markers. When the train pulled up and opened its doors, she walked in amidst the sea of people getting out, grabbing a seat.

As the doors started to close, a young man hurriedly ran in, just making it through the gap. He slumped a little on his spot and sighed in relief. Airi tilted her head at the scene curiously.

'He's wearing a Shujin uniform,' She observed. 'I've never seen him around though. I could have sworn I was the only Shujin student from Yongenjaya...' Deciding to put it out of her mind for later, Airi pulled a book out of her bag to read. The train ride was going to take a while, after all.

After reading a couple of chapters, the announcement finally spoke out the desired destination. "This is Shibuya Station. I repeat, this is Shibuya Station. Transfers are available for..." It continued to list several connecting lines while the train pulled to a stop.

Airi put her book away and got up to the doors. Walking out as soon as they slid open, she leisurely strolled toward the Ginza Line.

-???- POV

He got off the train and looked around. 'The next train to take is the Ginza Line...' He repeated to himself. A little unsure of where to go, he started walking off the platform and up the escalator.

Once he was at the Underground Walkway however, he was a little overwhelmed with all the bright colors and multitude of signs. An older man bumped into him from behind.

"Hey, don't just stand there and block the way!" He said angrily, before power walking to his destination.

The boy hurriedly moved to the side, flusteredly ruffling his black hair. Leaning against the wall, he crossed both his arms and legs.

'People are so unfriendly here..." He somberly thought, frowning a little.

Adjusting his blocky glasses, he swerved his head left and right, trying to find an indicator of where to go. A familiar pattern caught his eye.

A girl wearing what seemed to be the Shujin Academy uniform was walking towards the stairs leading out of the station.

'Yes! If I follow her, she can lead me to school.' He thought determinedly.

Uncrossing his legs, he hurriedly followed after her up the stairs. Not really paying attention to anything else, he tracked the girl to another station platform, one that read 'Ginza Line'.

He exhaled, glad that his idea worked, and waited for the approaching train. As soon as the doors opened, he walked in to take a spot. It was packed with more students from Shujin, as well as businessmen and women on their way to work.

'Why is it so crowded...' He sulked to himself, hugging his bag close to him to avoid taking up more space. There was barely any room to move what with how packed the train car was. Thankfully the school was only a few stops away. He wouldn't be able to take this for much longer.

"This is Aoyama-Itchome, I repeat, this is Aoyama-Itchome, the time is now 7:24AM. The next stop is..." The announcement continued.

The boy perked up. He can finally get out of here! He along with many other students pushed out of the train. He sighed in relief from getting out of such a tight space. It took some time, but he finally made it.

Walking toward the exit, he overheard two other Shujin students talking in an alcove near the staircase.

"There was another one of those strange accidents...," One girl said. "This time, it happened on a subway. If it weren't a Sunday, I might have been on it." She finished, troubled at how apparent her mortality was.

"That's really scary...," Her friend answered her. "How much longer do you think this sort of thing will happen?"

'Accidents, huh...' He pondered.

Putting it out of his mind, he walked up the stairs, passed the gates, and out of the station. He stopped just outside, closing his eyes, and taking a deep breath of fresh air.

Drip.

Water hit his nose. He flinched, opening his eyes to look at the sky. It was beginning to rain. He grimaced and rushed to the nearest awning, a shop named "Jeunesse et Beaute", to wait it out. He idly looked down at his phone, unsure of what to do.

BEEP.

His phone rang out. That strange creepy app was back again. He sighed. How many times did he have to delete it for it to go away?

'I might have to reboot my phone...' He considered.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another pair of shoes walking up next to him to also take shelter. He turned his head to see who it was, and his breath hitched.

It was the girl he followed. He didn't get a good look at her earlier, what with how determined he was to get to the right train, but now with her so close, he studied her person. His hands started to feel a little clammy.

-AIRI- POV

She sighed. Of course it rained once she took a few steps out of the station.

'At least I didn't have to deal with a wet train ride.' She thought, a glimmer of thankfulness shining through.

She walked over to an awning of the store "Jeunesse et Beaute", for a dry place to dig for her umbrella. Another person was already taking shelter, a boy in the Shujin Academy uniform. While she sighed in relief from being out of the rain, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed him looking at her.

She turned to meet his gaze.

He was rather tall, with a slim build, fluffy black hair almost hindering his dark gray eyes, which were shielded by a pair of giant glasses.

He continued to stare at her with his mouth slightly open.

Airi gave him a gentle smile. "What a terrible day to start the week, huh?" She joked, hoping a conversation might snap him out of it.

He blinked, closing his mouth. "Uh, yeah...I didn't bring an umbrella..," He replied, looking away from her, slightly embarrassed.

'His voice is really smooth.' She reflected. She smiled at him, sympathizing. "I'd offer to share, but unfortunately my umbrella can barely fit me as it is." Airi sheepishly said, idly caressing her braid that was pulled to the left.

He stiffened at her statement, a slight flush appearing in his cheeks. "It's alright." He replied quietly, turning his head slightly toward her, giving her a shy smile.

She wondered why he was blushing, but then it hit her.

In Japan, only couples shared umbrellas.

Now it was her turn to blush at her faux pas. She looked down at her mary janes, embarrassed.

They both stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to say to each other. Splattering footsteps interrupted their awkward moment, and they both looked up when another person joined them under the awning. The girl, and it was clearly a girl with how short her skirt was, pulled down her white hoodie, freeing her bundles of blonde hair. She looked toward the sky, seeming to wonder when the rain will lighten up.

Airi blinked. It was Takamaki Ann.

Half Japanese and half Finnish, the blonde haired girl was regarded with both envy and suspicion as the only foreigner in the school. She was a gorgeous yet rather closed off individual, most likely due to people judging her as aforementioned. Airi never had a problem with her at middle school, except maybe her grades. She was quick witted, but school didn't seem to hold the amateur model's attention. It was honestly a shock when she heard that both Ann and Ryuji made it into Shujin.

"Takamaki-chan, good morning." Airi spoke, a friendly smile on her face.

Ann turned in surprise, seeming to forget there were other people within the vicinity next to her.

"Oh! Senpai! Good morning." Ann answered, giving her a small smile.

The black haired boy looked on, observing the two beautiful girls next to him.

BEEP BEEP

A honk interrupted any sort of conversation they could have had, and all three looked out at the road. A white car had pulled up in front of them, the window pulling down revealing Kamoshida. He looked out the car window toward Ann, a smile on his rectangular face.

"Good morning! You want me to give you a ride to school? You're gonna be late." He asked jovially.

Ann smiled a little. "Um, sure. Thank you." She answered quietly, walking towards the car.

Kamoshida looked over to the other two still standing. "How about you two?" He offered, still smiling.

Both Airi and the black haired boy waved their hands with a polite smile on their faces, rejecting the offer.

Once Ann got in the car, she pulled her seat belt on. As the window rolled up though, her expression turned into one of trepidation and slight fear before disappearing under the tinted glass, and the car drove away.

A silence took over, and Airi decided it had been a long enough delay and pulled out her umbrella. Opening it up, she turned to the boy and offered him a small smile.

"See you at school." She said, bowing slightly, before walking towards Shujin.

The boy was now alone, staring after the girl. What to do now, he wondered, with the rain still pouring.

"Dammit! Screw that pervy teacher." He heard.

Turning his gaze away from the small back of the retreating girl, he saw a blond boy with his hands on his knees, panting.

"Pervy teacher...?" He wondered out loud, staring curiously.

The blond boy got up and looked over at him with a sneer on his face.

Chapter Text

----4/11, MONDAY, AFTERNOON, SHUJIN ACADEMY, CLASS 2-D

 

It was only fourth period, but Kawakami-sensei seemed to get moodier and moodier. Airi wondered what could be troubling her like this. She leaned her head against her palm, idly looking at the board, inspecting for anything she missed.

The bell rang then, signaling break had begun. "Alright class, it's lunch time. I'll be off in the staff room." Kawakami stated monotonously, completely done with this day. She promptly left the class without a look back.

Airi sat up and started organizing her notes. Since the desk next to her wasn't occupied, she used it as another surface for her books when eating lunch. Most of her classmates left for the cafeteria, with only a few lingering in the room to chat.

She pulled out her meal, a simple spicy chicken mayo onigiri and a green tea bottle, and started munching away while scrolling through her phone.

"Hmm..." She muttered.

The only thing on the news were reports of the accidents. All of them had the perpetrators suddenly having a mental breakdown while at work, harming dozens of passengers. Airi frowned. Mental breakdowns...why did that strike her so oddly?

Her eyes widen.

The Palace! She covered her mouth in horror. 'I forgot about Morgana!' She thought guiltily. Biting her lip, Airi promised to go to the palace today after school to help it out.

"I heard there's a new student transferring," She overheard a classmate saying to their friend. "And they have a criminal record!"

"Oh my god, why would the principal allow a criminal in the school?!" The classmate's friend yelped. "What if he pulls a weapon on us? Or, or...kills someone!" They paled.

Airi furrowed her brows. A new student? And one with a criminal record?

'No one told me anything about this.' She thought pensively. 'But...Takase was a juvenile and he was still a great older brother to the other orphans,' She remembered.

Back at the orphanage that she lived in, most of the adults were too busy to really care for the children, so it fell to the eldest kids to take care of the younger ones. She was one such person who nurtured the children. The one who really brought excitement to the kids though, was Takase.

With short spiky brown hair, a chipped front tooth, and a loud personality, he was the older brother who brought back toys and knick knacks for the others from his little joints out in the city. A year later however, he was adopted out of the orphanage. A couple weeks after, Airi heard one of the matrons whisper about how "that unruly one is already causing trouble for his new family." They were clearly referring to Takase. 'But he's not a bad person.' She thought back then, ten years old. ‘He’s just trying his best.’

Returning to the present, she blinked and shook her head. She'll reserve her judgement about the transfer once she'd gotten to know him. She won't look down on him for making a mistake. Everyone messes up at some point.

She cleaned up her mess and decided to go to the restroom. Walking out of the class, she ventured down the corridor to the other side of the building where the they were located.Quickly relieving herself, she washed her hands and left. While walking back to the room, passing other students who were returning to their classes, she saw Kawakami-sensei talking to someone.

Deciding it wasn't her business, she kept her head down until she got back to her class.

Since she was class president, it was her duty to ready the board for the next lesson. Erasing the board cleanly, she wiped her hands to get rid of the chalk dust. Just then, the bell rang, signaling the end of break period.

Airi walked back to her desk and sat down, taking her books back from the empty seat, and readied herself.

Kawakami-sensei walked in. Airi furrowed her brows at her expression. 'She seems even more done.'

Just after finishing that thought, another person followed the teacher in.

It was the boy from this morning.

The rosette blinked in surprise. He was the transfer student? 'No wonder I didn't recognize him earlier. He's new.' A thought struck her then. 'Wait, if he's the transfer, then he's the one with the criminal record?'

Looking him over, she really couldn't see him as someone who would commit a crime. She would just have to get to know him first.

Kawakami clapped her hands, gaining the attention of the class. Immediately, the classroom broke out into loud whispers.

"Being super late on his first day? He really is insane..."
"He looks normal though..."
"But he might slug us if we look him in the eye..."

Kawakami cleared her throat, interrupting the class. "Settle down." She stated monotonously. "...Well, I'd like to introduce a transfer student: Kurusu Akira. Today, we..," Kawakami shifted a bit. "Had him attend from the afternoon on since he wasn't feeling well." She turned to the new student. "All right, please say something to the class."

He nodded and turned back to look at his new fellow classmates. Bowing, he looked ahead with a steady gaze.

"My name is Kurusu Akira. Nice to meet all of you." An appropriate and average introduction.

"He seems quiet...but I bet when he loses it..," A student whispered.
Another added, "I mean, he was arrested for assault, right...?"

Kawakami fidgeted apprehensively. "Uhh...So..," Her eyes darted around at the awkward tension in the room. "Your seat will be...hmm." Looking around the room, Kawakami's eyes landed on the empty desk, right next to Airi.

"There. The open seat." She pointed.

Akira looked at the seat she referred to and nodded.

"Sorry, but can the people nearby please share your textbooks with him for today?" The teacher asked awkwardly.

"This sucks..." Someone from behind Airi's seat muttered irritatedly.

"Also," Kawakami interjected, looking at Akira. "While I am your homeroom teacher, I'll be far too busy to take care of any concerns. If you have questions, you can direct them to the class president."

Akira nodded again in understanding, but tilted his head at the mention of the latter.

Kawakami then directed her gaze at Airi. "Kimisawa-chan, please stand up."

Airi perked up, and did as she was told. She clasped her hands in front of her politely, looking toward the new student.

"This is the class president of 2-D, Kimisawa Airi. Please come to her if you're unsure of anything." Kawakami stated.

Airi bowed. "I'm Kimisawa Airi, pleased to meet you, Kurusu-san. I hope you have a good time here at our school." She said with a pleasant smile.

Akira blinked in surprise. It was the girl from earlier, under the awning.

He realized he was staring and quickly bowed, then maneuvered toward his new desk. Walking down the aisle, he noticed that the other girl from the awning was in his class too. She looked at him with an accusing look.
"Lies." She whispered. He looked at her questioningly, but she avoided his gaze and stared out the window.

Settling in his seat, he unpacked his bag before putting it down, and got a notebook ready.

"Did you catch that?" A brown haired girl sitting further away whispered. "Do those two know each other? Does that mean he hit on her before transferring here?" She continued

"That means she's cheating on him with Kamoshida-sensei." Her friend gossiped. "Then again, this is Takamaki-san we're talking about..." She said continued.

"For real." The brunette snipped. "That side of the room is totally awful."

Airi grimaced. It seems the gossip never ends for them. 'Poor Takamaki-chan.' She thought.

"Oh right!" Kawakami announced, clapping her hands together. " The volleyball rally is in two days. Everyone's just changed classes so make sure you use that time to get to know each other. Well then, let's get class started."

At that, Airi took out the textbook for the next class and offered it to Akira with a smile.

He blinked, slowly reaching out to accept it.

Their fingers brushed ever so slightly, bringing a small blush to both their cheeks. Airi gave him another smile before averting her attention to the front of the classroom.

The girl who was whispering earlier began turned to her desk mate. "Kimisawa-senpai is too kind.."

Her desk mate nodded in agreement. "Un. She even smiled at him! He might target her first..."

"Who's on duty today?" Kawakami asked the class.

Mishima grimaced and stood up. It was him. "Everyone...please rise..." He said dejectedly.

 

----4/11, MONDAY, AFTER SCHOOL, SHUJIN ACADEMY, CLASS 2-D

 

School finally ended.

Airi sighed, organizing her notes. She was so tired of listening to Chouno-sensei drone on and on about how the rain messed with her hair. A shadow loomed over her, and she looked up.

It was Akira. He was holding out the textbook that she had lent to him earlier.

She took it back and shot him a smile, thanking him. "So, how was your first day, Kurusu-san?" She inquired.

Akira shifted his glasses with one hand, the other in his pocket. "It was fine. Thank you for lending me your textbook. You're..." He quietly started then paused. "You're the first person to be kind to me in a long while." He gave her a small smile.

Her eyes widened slightly. The first person to be kind to him?

Studying his eyes, she could see a glimmer of pain swimming in his gray orbs. It looked old. It made him look wearier than he was supposed to be at this age. She frowned. 'He must have gone through something horrible.'

"I'm glad that I could help." She replied after a moment.

Standing up from her seat, she grabbed her bag, flashing him another smile. "So!" She chirped. "Any questions so far? Do you think you'll be alright adjusting?"

He tapped a finger on his chin, shouldering his bag as they started walking out of the class together.

"I think so. Aside from all the rumors about me, I should be fine." He grimaced, looking away.

Airi furrowed her brows in worry, sympathizing with his situation. "I'm sorry you have to go through that. The school is just scared. They don't know you yet." She said guiltily.

They both stopped in the hallway right after exiting the classroom.

He looked down and met her eyes, keeping her glued to her spot. "And you?" He tentatively whispered.

“Huh?” She voiced, confused, tilting her head to one side. “What do you mean?”

He glanced away for a moment, before refocusing his gaze on her. “What do you think of me?” Akira questioned, a little apprehensive.

Airi looked down, gripping the handle of her bag with both hands. His stare was rather intense, and heavy as well.

“I think...you did something that you thought was right, and was punished for it.” She answered quietly, looking back at him with her warm red eyes, brows furrowed with empathy.

His eyes widened at her bold statement, and he gazed down at her in astonishment.

No one else had stood up for him. Not his friends, not his family. Yet this girl who barely knew him, treated him like...a normal person.

Lips twitching, Akira let out a small laugh, the sound slightly bittersweet.

“An accurate guess.” He regarded her coolly. “Thank you again, Kimisawa-senpai. I’ll be going now.” He waved goodbye at her, and turned to walk away.

Taking a few steps, he flinched, gripping his head that had suddenly started hurting. The corridor seemed to waver in front of his eyes, turning into a stone hall with red carpeting, before changing back to normal.

Noticing that he stopped, Airi walked up to him. “Is something wrong, Kurusu-san?” She quietly asked, concerned.

He loosened his grip on his head, straightening his back. “Is this...a castle?” He muttered to himself, shaking his head.

He didn’t notice Airi standing right next to him, who heard what he said and looked at him inquisitively.

“Kurusu-kun!”

They both turned toward the voice. Kawakami walked up to the both of them, crossing her arms. She frowned at him.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” She inquired. “Also...it seems like people are already talking about you, but I wasn’t the one who told them.” She grunted, tousling her light brown hair, irritated.

Akira looked down, resigned, but nodded to acknowledge the teacher’s statement.

“I can’t even catch a break, why do I have to deal with this?” She scowled, before looking up at the black haired student. “You should head straight home without stopping by anywhere. Sakura-san sounded pretty angry.” She stated. She looked down for a moment, before snapping her head up, a thought hitting her just then.

“Oh,” Kawakami continued. “ About Sakamoto-kun, don’t get involved-,”

The boy in question walked up, cutting her off. “Speak of the devil.” Muttered Kawakami, crossing her arms at Ryuji. “What do you want?” She snapped at him. “ I heard the police caught you cutting classes today.”

“Ugh...it was nothin’.” Ryuji grunted, his hard gaze directed toward the teacher.

Kawakami sighed, exasperated. “And you haven’t even dyed your hair back to black either…”

“Sorry.” He replied curtly, before turning to Akira. Leaning close, he whispered. “I’ll be waitin’ on the rooftop.” He leaned back, gave Airi a quick smile, then walked away.

Kawakami observed this with a tired frown on her face. “See? That’s why I don’t want you getting involved. Understood?” She said, before also walking away.

Both the ebony haired boy and the rose haired girl stared after their teacher, silent. Closing his eyes, Akira let out a heavy sigh.

Airi gazed timidly up at him from the corner of her eyes. It seemed there will be no end to the prejudice against him.

She gently placed a hand on his arm, trying to comfort him.

He opened his eyes and tried to smile at her, half succeeding, soundlessly thanking her for the support.

Kamoshida and Principal Kobayakawa stepped off the stairwell, a few feet away from the duo. They had their backs turned to the two students.

“Why did you allow a student like him to transfer here? He’s already started associating with Sakamoto.” Kamoshida complained. “A student with a criminal record, and a culprit of an assault case.” He sighed. “At this rate, it’d be pointless how much I contribute to the school.” Kamoshida bemoaned, placing his hands on his hips.

Kobayakawa gestured placatingly at the medalist. “Now don’t be like that…,” He lamented. “This school counts on you, Kamoshida-kun. You are our star.” Kobayakawa smiled, pride shining on his pudgy face. He shook his head. “Still, a steady build-up is necessary behind such brilliance as well.”

Kamoshida sighed, closing his eyes in displeasure. “Your troubles never seem to end, do they, Principal Kobayakawa?”

He forcefully grinned. “All right, I understand. I’ll continue to do my best to answer your expectations of me.”

They both turned and walked toward the faculty offices.

Airi frowned, watching the two staff members. ‘No wonder all the students were already talking about Kurusu-san if the teachers just walked around airing his dirty laundry like that.’ She thought angrily.

“I guess I’ll head to the roof to see what Sakamoto-san wants.” Akira began. “...How do I get there?” He asked.

Airi pointed at the stairs next to them. “Just go up these stairs and you’ll see the door. Be careful though, no one’s supposed to be allowed.” She winked, a playful smile on her face. “I won’t ask why Sakamoto-kun wanted you, but please stay out of trouble, both of you.” Airi said, smile softening. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Good day, Kurusu-san.” With that, she headed down the corridor.

Akira watched her leave, a slight smile on his face, before walking up to the roof.

As Airi headed toward her locker, she saw Mishima who was standing around morosely, his back hunched over.

‘Shit!’ She scolded herself. ‘I forgot to ask Mishima-kun about Kamoshida.’

Frowning, she walked up behind Mishima and tapped his shoulder. “Mishima-kun?” She softly inquired.

Mishima jumped, turning quickly to look at her, fear prominent in his eyes.

“O-Oh, senpai.” He stammered, calming down. The relief emanating from him was palpable.

Her eyes however, were focused on his right elbow where a new bruise was quickly turning purple.
Airi stared icily at it, knowing Kamoshida had place it on him.

“Are you alright, Mishima-kun?” She quietly asked, concern shining through her eyes. “Do you need to go to the nurse? I’m sure she’ll still be there right now.”

Hopefully he’d accept, and the nurse will question his injuries.

His eyes darting around, Mishima shook his head, bypassing her and quickly walking away, avoiding her attempts to call him back.

Airi gazed sadly after his retreat. ‘I need to take down Kamoshida’s palace.’ She thought grimly, walking out of the school.

Arriving at the empty vending machine alcove from a few days ago, she pulled her phone out. Scrolling through her apps, her finger arrived on the glowing red eye. She tapped it, and accessed her last search.

As the air distorted around her, the rosette disappeared from reality, leaving no trace of her presence.

Chapter Text

-AKIRA POV-

Walking up the stairs, he opened the door to the roof, ignoring the “DO NOT ENTER” sign. Ryuji was already there waiting for him, sitting on a discarded folding chair.

The punk looked up at the sound of the door opening, and regarded him with a heavy stare.

“...There you are.” He stated the obvious. “Sorry for callin’ you up like this, especially since you were chattin’ with senpai.” He apologized. “I bet Kawakami already told you stuff like “don’t get involved with him”, huh?” Ryuji snorted.

“She said you were trouble.” Akira answered steadily, nodding.

“Heh,” Ryuji snickered. “We’re pretty much in the same boat.” Crossing his leg over another, Ryuji continued. “I heard you got a criminal record. Everyone’s talkin’ about it.” He paused. “No wonder you were so gutsy.”

Akira rolled his eyes, exasperated at the constant mentions about his offense, and went to lean on one of the desks.

A silence came over both of them, each wanting to ask the same question, but not wanting to acknowledge it.

Ryuji sat forward, clasping his hands pensively. “...What was all that that happened? You know, how we almost got killed in a castle...” He quietly asked. “It wasn’t a dream...right? You remember it too, right?” He asked, almost desperately.

Akira nodded, a grim expression on his face. “Yeah, it happened.”

The blond looked away, gazing at the skyline. “Well, just cause we both remember doesn’t mean much though...” He quietly stated.

Sitting back, he crossed his arms and legs, looking at the ebony haired boy with a troubled expression. “I mean, even if it was a dream, you still saved me from Kamoshida...” Ryuji announced. “So yeah...thanks, Akira.” He finished, a big grin on his face.

Akira’s lips quirked. “You’re welcome.”

The punk replaced his smile with an angry frown. “But man, that Kamoshida we saw there...” Switching his leg, he continued. “You prolly don’t know about it, but there are some rumors about him.”

“Kamoshida…” Akira muttered, furrowing his brow.

“Yeah.” Ryuji nodded. “That ripped mophead.” He sneered. “That asshole who was all full of himself at the castle. No one says anything to him ‘cause he’s some medalist who took the volleyball team to Nationals.” He ranted, a serious look on his face. “The way Kamoshida was king of that castle felt crazy real ‘cause of that...” He scowled.

They both leaned back, exhaling heavy sighs.

“...I wonder if we can go back to that castle again.” Ryuji thought out loud, scrunching up his face.

With a loud grunt, he shot up from his seat, furiously rubbing his head. “Ugh, forget it. Must’ve been all a dream! It has to be!” He said, almost hysterically.

Akira looked on silently, unsure of what to say at the moment. Honestly, he didn’t know what to believe either.

‘It felt so real, but there’s no way...’ He thought pensively.

Ryuji turned to look at him. “Sorry to drag you out here like this. That’s all I had to say.” He paused. “You know, we might be pretty similar. I feel like we’re gonna get along just fine as “troublemakers.”” He grinned. “I’m Sakamoto Ryuji. I’ll come talk if I see you around. Don’t ignore me, all right?”

Akira nodded.

Ryuji beamed. “Seeya!” With that, the punk walked off, leaving the roof.

The ebony haired boy sighed. What a long day.

‘It’ll be even longer when I get back to the cafe.’ He thought sullenly, knowing Sakura-san was going to give him an earful. He began his walk toward the station.

Hopefully he took the right trains, since last time it was Kimisawa-senpai unknowingly showing him the way.



-AIRI-

With one last scream, the shadow dissipated into thin air. Airi relaxed the grip she had on her weapon, panting.

‘It’s a bit weird, I’ve never held a scythe before.’ She pondered, examining the weapon closely.

It was finely detailed, with elegant vine-like detailing swirling up the obsidian staff, and a blue clothed grip. The blade itself was a gleaming silver, with a razor fine edge on both ends. A sharp tip erupted at the top where the blade and staff met, allowing her to stab forward if need be. All in all, it was a graceful weapon to be used in battle.

‘I’ll have to practice, but it feels really natural so far.’ She complimented herself, happy that she was making progress.

Looking around, she noticed she ended up passed the kitchens. Examining the empty room, she wondered where Morgana was.

‘I hope it’s okay…’ She thought worriedly. The only thing she could hear was the crackling of fire from the oven pit.

Airi bit her lip. The castle was huge, and she was all alone. Was it a good idea to keep going?

‘I am pretty tired...maybe I should go back.’ She bleakly thought to herself.

Allowing the weapon to disappear, she walked toward the way she came from. There weren’t any new guards, so she safely made it all the way out.

“You have returned to the real world from Kamoshida's Palace. Thank you for your hard work.” Her phone stated.

Thank you for your hard work? Her brows furrowed. Maybe this app was as insidious as it looked. Pocketing her phone, she made her way home where she washed up, did her homework, then got into bed.

‘I’m so exhausted…’ She thought tiredly, her eyes boring into her ceiling. ‘Summoning my Persona and infiltrating a castle really takes the energy out of me.’ As she slipped into slumber, one last thought floated through her mind.

‘I should get some coffee tomorrow in the morning..’
……..


-BEEP BEEP BEEP-

Her eyes snapped open. Airi lazily sat up in bed and turned to shut her alarm off. She yawned, stretching her arms up in the air.

She hooded her bloodshot eyes, bags prominent under her wine colored irises. Even after sleeping a full nine hours, she still felt exhausted.

‘Definitely need that coffee.’ She thought grimly.

Slowly getting out of bed, wincing from the way her body screamed at her in pain, she made her way to the bathroom to get ready for the day. After an extremely hot shower to loosen her aching muscles, she changed into her school uniform, grabbed her bag, and left the house.

Lethargically, she walked down the backstreets of Yongenjaya.

It was a gloomy and rainy day today, and it only made her feel more tired. Gripping her umbrella tightly, Airi finally made it to Cafe Leblanc. Checking the time on her phone, she still had a good half hour before she fell behind schedule.

The bell on the door rang as she walked in, signalling a new customer, and after closing her umbrella, she collapsed onto the nearest bar stool, leaning on the counter.

Sojiro, who was stirring a pot of curry in the kitchen, looked up and raised an eyebrow. It was rare to see Airi so exhausted.

“What can I get ya?” He inquired.

Airi held up one finger. “Your strongest brew, please.” She requested, voice muffled from resting her head on her arms. “And a sandwich.”

“Sure thing.” He replied, getting what she requested. The clinking of the coffee jars and pots lulled her into a state of calm relaxation.

‘I could fall asleep right now...’ She thought peacefully.

The wood creaked underneath feet as someone came down the stairs from the attic, breaking her zen, and she looked up in curiosity. Sojiro was the cafe’s only inhabitant, she recalled.

Her wine eyes locked with gray orbs, ones that were concealed behind a giant pair of glasses.

Airi blinked.

It was Akira.

Akira, who stared back at her with a surprised expression on his face. He wasn’t expecting to see her here.

Airi gave him a tired smile. “Good morning, Kurusu-san.” She greeted warmly.

He walked up to the bar stool next to her’s, taking a seat. “Good morning, Kimisawa-senpai.” He replied with a small smile.

“You two know each other?” Sojiro asked brusquely, looking at them with eyebrows raised, as he placed both her order as well as a plate of curry down in front of the two students.

“Yes, we’re in the same class.” Airi replied, picking up her sandwich. “You know, you don’t have to call me senpai, we're the same age.” She said, looking at the ebony haired boy next to her.

He shrugged in response, picking up his spoon. “Itadakimasu.” They both said quietly, and started eating.

After finishing her sandwich, she grasped the handle of her cup. Swirling the coffee, Airi took a long swig. The heat hit her first, followed by a rich bitter taste that coated her throat as she swallowed. Downing her drink, she placed the cup down on its saucer before dabbing her mouth with a napkin. Already she could feel the effects of the caffeine, which means she’ll have enough energy to get through the day.

“The coffee was a godsend. Thank you, Sojiro-san.” She complimented. “You’re welcome.” Sojiro answered with a slightly fond smile, before taking the dirty dishes to wash.

Airi let out a sigh of content, then turned to Akira. “So, you live here then?” She chirped.

He nodded. “Sakura-san is my new guardian until I’m off probation.” He replied calmly. Sojiro grunted in agreement, washing the dishes.

Airi giggled at their somewhat rough interaction.“I’m glad that out of all the potential candidates, you got Sojiro-san.” She said, fondness bleeding into her voice. “Hey may seem rough, but he's a genuinely good man.”

They both could see Sojiro hunch his back from the statement, as if not wanting to accept the compliment.

Akira observed his guardian with a thoughtful look. He didn’t treat him badly, he supposed.
Akira tilted his head at the rosette. “So you live in Yongenjaya, senpai?” He politely inquired.

Airi nodded. “Yes, for the past year now, and in my childhood.” Her smile dimmed, eyes darkened as she was lost in her memories.

Akira observed her curiously. What was she remembering? His thought was interrupted when he heard his companion get up, and he blinked questioningly.

Shouldering her bag, Airi offered him a smile. “We should get going or we’ll be late.” She stated.
He nodded in agreement, getting up.

They both walked out of the cafe and opened their umbrellas.

It was really terrible weather, he admitted. A lot of the older generation in Yongenjaya that usually walked around at this hour were nowhere to be seen.

The two students strolled peacefully down to the station, not feeling the need to speak. The rain filled the silence, after all. They swiped their wallets at the scanner, and headed down toward the train platform.

While riding the train, they both chatted quietly to each other about nothing in particular.


“No way!” Airi laughed, covering her mouth with one hand. “You’re really from Mishima? We have a classmate named Mishima.”

Akira nodded, chuckling. “Yeah, I met him yesterday when he bumped into me.” He frowned. “I don’t think he’s OK...He was covered in bruises and bandages.”

Airi nodded sadly in agreement. “Yes.” She whispered. “I’ve noticed too. I-I tried to ask him yesterday, and before then as well, but he kept avoiding me.” She finished, looking down dejectedly.

Akira looked at her, frowning softly. He didn’t like seeing her so down, especially since she’s treated him so well.
He placed his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll look into it together.” He reassured her.

Airi looked up at him, surprised at his offer. She then smiled sadly at him. “Thank you, but you’ve just transferred. I don’t think I should be bothering you with this...”

Akira shook his head. “No, I’m already involved. You remember Sakamoto-san asking to meet with me yesterday?”

Airi nodded at his question.

“We had met Kamoshida earlier yesterday because we were...delayed in getting to school. He threatened me with expulsion if I got in his way.”

Her eyes widened. “Already?” She whispered, shocked.

He looked at her questioningly.

She pursed her lips. “I was looking into the volleyball team and their various injuries because of Mishima-kun.” She said reluctantly. “They’re required to have practice every day, which is insane if you ask me. I got suspicious, so I snuck into the gym after school to observe.” Looking away, she continued. “He’s been physically abusing the team, driving them like slaves. The entire school is enamored with him though, and even the principal didn’t believe me when I told him.” She sighed heavily.

Silence took over, both of them trying to figure out what the best course of action was.

“This is Shibuya. I repeat, this is Shibuya. The time is now 7:15AM...,” The announcement blared.

The train doors slid open, and they both got off the train, heading toward their transfer.

They chatted amicably the whole way to school, unaware of the other Shujin students traveling along with them, their eyes glued to the two with avid attention.

“Hey, isn’t that the transfer with the criminal record?” One girl whispered to her friend.

“Yeah that’s him...don’t talk to him or he might kill you.” She whispered back fearfully.

“Who’s the chick with him?” A male student questioned rudely.

“That’s the class president of 2-D, Kimisawa. I hear she’s super kind.” Another murmured.

“Tch, trying to leech off success, I see. Didn’t I hear that he and Sakamoto already started hanging out?” A guy remarked offhandedly.

“Hey, don’t say that about her! She’s my class president. She’s probably taking pity on him, fat load of good that’ll do though...”

Chapter Text

----4/12, TUESDAY, MORNING, SHUJIN ACADEMY, CLASS 2-D

 

The teacher in front of the classroom sneered. “I’m the social studies teacher, Ushimaru. I’ll be teaching you the rules of society this year.” He stated. “Hmph...you all look like you’ve been spoiled growing up.” He grouched.

Airi grimaced at how he was addressing the class.

Most of the students weren’t paying attention though, either distracted by the rain outside, or passing notes to each other discreetly. Akira was one of the former, lost in thought, leaning his head on his palm, watching the droplets slide down the glass.

“Before we learn society’s rules,” Ushimaru continued. “Maybe I should start with the rules of being a decent human being.” He frowned. Looking around the room and the faces of the students, his eyes stopped on one person.
“Hey, new kid.” He called out.

Akira snapped out of his daydream, turning to pay attention. Clearly he was calling him.

“The greek philosopher Plato divided the human soul into three parts. A soul is composed of appetite, spirit, and what else?” Ushimaru-sensei asked.

Akira furrowed his brows slightly at the off-topic question. “Logic.” He answered with certainty.

The teacher’s eyebrow raised. “Correct.” Ushimaru said, skeptical. “So you knew that, huh?” He remarked before returning his attention to the entire class. “Plato’s teacher, Socrates, said that evil is born from ignorance. People who’ve been babied, taught that evil is due to individuality, can only become society’s scum.”

The class erupted into furious whispers.

“Wow, he got it right...is he really a delinquent?” A brown haired student muttered.

“He seems like a punk, but maybe he’s actually serious about studying?” Another hushed, unsure.

Airi beamed with pride, turning to Akira to give him a thumbs up.

Akira smiled back, rubbing his neck bashfully, before they turned their attention to the teacher who continued his lecture. “Bizarre incidents have been occurring frequently. Those are but the action of scum. We don’t need crude people like that in this school. Understand?” He stated grimly, before starting the lesson.

 

----4/12, TUESDAY, AFTER SCHOOL, SHUJIN ACADEMY

 

The classroom was already empty by the time they packed their bags, and both Akira and Airi started walking out of the class, chatting about the material they learned. Just passing through the door, they saw Takamaki Ann in front of them, checking her phone.

Airi was about to say hi to her old middle school classmate when she saw Kamoshida walk up the stairs and stop in front of the amateur model.

Kamoshida called out a greeting with a grin on his face, not knowing he had an audience. “Hey there, Takamaki! You looking for a ride home? Things have been pretty dangerous lately with all those accidents.” He offered.

Ann turned to look at him, giving him a polite smile. “Sorry, I have a photoshoot today. It’s for the summer issue, so I can’t afford to miss it…” She said, rejecting his offer.

A frown now replacing his smile, Kamoshida sighed. “Hey, now...being a model’s fine and dandy, but don’t work your pretty little self to the bone.” He lectured, placing his hands on his hips. “You mentioned you weren’t feeling well, right? Something about appendicitis?” He inquired.

Ann nodded, confirming what he said. “Yes. I keep planning to go to the hospital, but I’ve been too busy...sorry to worry you.” She voiced meekly, eyes downcast.

Kamoshida shifted in place. “You must feel lonely too. I feel bad for keeping your best friend at practice so often. That’s why I asked you out in the first place,” He paused, a thought hitting him. “Oh, and...be careful around that transfer student. He’s got a criminal record after all, if something were to happen to you…” He warned.

“...Thank you.” Ann replied, still not looking at him directly. “Please excuse me.” She said quietly, before walking away.

Kamoshida stared at her retreating backside, drinking in the curvaceous girl with desire in his eyes, before his face twisted into an ugly sneer.

“Tch.” He angrily muttered, before walking off too.

 

Airi watched what happened, worry painting her face. She bit her lip. Sexual harassment as well? To a minor at that. The list of crimes just kept getting longer.

Akira nudged her, trying to get her attention. Airi snapped out of it, and gave him a reassuring smile. The two then started walking out of the building. Just passing the gate, they were stopped by Ryuji.

“Yo.” The punk greeted Akira, giving Airi a nod in her direction.

She smiled back, waving a hand in greeting.

Akira raised an eyebrow. “What’s up?” He asked.

Ryuji looked at Airi for a moment, hesitating, before walking to Akira. “I wanna talk about that castle from yesterday.” He whispered, covering his mouth from the rose haired girl. “I tried tellin’ myself that it was just a dream...but I couldn’t do it.” He leaned back. “I can’t act like nothing happened. It’s all connected to that bastard Kamoshida, after all.” He said, crossing his arms, a frown marring his lips.

Airi looked on at their conversation, curious to what they were discussing.

Akira shoved his hands into his pockets, a thoughtful frown on his face.

“I wanna find out what’s up with that place, no matter what.” Ryuji stated in a normal volume, his eyes silently pleading with the bespectacled boy. “And, y’know, you’re the only person I can rely on for this stuff. So, you in?”

Akira looked down pensively, thinking of his options. He did want to know what was up with the Palace, and his Persona. He pursed his lips. ‘And that jail room in my dreams.’ He added silently.

Looking up at the faux blond, he nodded in agreement. “Sure, I’m in. What next?” He asked, curious to what the plan was.

Ryuji pumped his fist in excitement. “Yes! I knew I could talk some sense into you.” He grinned. “I think we should just try retracing our steps from yesterday. In the meantime, you’re walkin’ to the station, right? We’ll go together.” He offered. “Lemme know if you see any other weird buildings on the way.”

Akira observed the punk, adjusting his glasses. ‘He doesn’t seem like a bad guy.’ He thought earnestly. ‘I should probably just go along with this.’

Airi, a little frustrated at being ignored for so long, interrupted. “Um, what are you two talking about?” She asked, crossing her arms.

Ryuji looked at her in surprise, as if he forgot she was there the entire time.
“Senpai!” He yelped. “Uh nothin’, nothin’. Just uh...guy stuff. Yeah.” He said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

She raised her eyebrow. Did he think she was going to believe that? “Guy stuff, huh?” She repeated. “What’s this about Kamoshida and thinking it was a dream?” Airi inquired. ‘Did they also appear at Kamoshida’s Palace?’ She wondered to herself, suspicious now.

Ryuji broke out in a cold sweat. “Uhhh..,” He stammered. “We uh, saw him yesterday at this weird place! So...We wanted to see if he was gonna be there again!” He finished, fidgeting in place and his eyes looking everywhere but her.

Airi lifted her eyebrows. “Well, if that’s true, you won’t mind me tagging along, will you? I also need dirt on Kamoshida to officially report him.” She stated calmly, testing her old middle school classmate.

His nerves getting the best of him, Ryuji’s teeth chattered, trying to come up with an excuse. “Uh, it’s in a really dangerous place! A girl like you shouldn’t be going anywhere near it!” He yelled, desperately trying to get her to drop it.

Airi deadpanned. She opened her mouth to retort when a hand fell on her shoulder, interrupting her.

She looked up at Akira, who shook his head. She pouted but conceded. “Fine. I’ll just leave now then since I’m in the way. See you tomorrow, Kurusu-san. Sakamoto-kun.” She said curtly, before turning on her heel and walking away.

Ryuji and Akira stared after her retreating back, the faux blond slumping down and letting out a big sigh. “Jeez, I thought she was never gonna leave.” He groaned, rolling his shoulders as if he just went through a huge ordeal.

Akira sweatdropped, and began walking toward the station, Ryuji following after him.


“How do you know Kimisawa-senpai?” Akira inquired after walking for a couple of minutes, curious at their relationship. For all their interactions these past two days, he barely knew anything about his class president.

Ryuji hummed. “I knew her since middle school. We used to be in the same class. I didn’t really talk to her too much.” He replied, trying to recall. “Even back then, she was class president. She’s really responsible, y’know? Always tryin’ to take care of people.” Ryuji smiled faintly.

“I remember this one time,” He began, grinning. “A kid in our class got a pair of scissors super glued to his hand and started freakin’ out. I thought it was hilarious, like who does that? But she walked right up to him and calmed him down, and escorted him to the nurse’s office. Senpai is just...naturally kind like that.” He finished, nodding as if agreeing with himself.

They both stopped in front of the station.

Akira looked on thoughtfully, the new information swimming in his mind. It certainly cemented the first impression he had of her as a kind and beautiful individual. ‘A rarity in this world.’ he thought bitterly.

Ryuji spoke up. “Alright, if a huge castle like that really exists, I’m sure we’ll find it in no time.” He paused. “...When’d they build something like that, though?” The delinquent looked around, trying to figure out where to go. “We walked that way from here, right?” Ryuji questioned, pointing at an alley.

Akira shrugged halfheartedly. “Maybe.” He replied.

Ryuji’s face dropped. “When you put it that way, I’m not so sure anymore...” He said, uncertainty clouding his eyes. He straightened up and squared his shoulders. “All right, this way. Lemme know if you see something.” He said, heading down the alley way.

Akira turned to follow him, disappearing behind the corner.


Airi looked out from behind a nearby building, narrowing her eyes at the two, overhearing their entire conversation.

“What are you two hiding?” She whispered to herself. Are they trying to get into the palace? Her mouth tightened into a straight line, she moved to follow them.

‘I’m glad that Sakamoto-kun views me in such a positive light though.’ She thought fondly as she dodged behind another corner, observing their journey.

That story was pretty old, after all.


“Huh?” Ryuji uttered, bewildered. "We’re at school...There wasn’t anything out of place on the way, right? I didn’t see no castle either...” Ruffling his hair, he turned to face Akira. “We must’ve made a wrong turn somewhere. Let’s try again.” He stated.

The ebony haired boy looked at his companion with an expression of exasperation. “Again..?” Akira asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Don’t worry.” Ryuji reassured. “I won’t mess up this time. Let’s go.”

With that, he turned around to try a different route, the bespectacled boy trailing after him silently.

 

Airi watched on as the two walked away, unimpressed. They had been circling back and forth from the station to the school over and over. Straightening up from her crouch, she leaned against the wall.

‘Are they looking for the Palace? I can’t even tell anymore.’ She thought tiredly. She would just have to wait here for them. If they really are trying to access the Palace, sooner or later, they’ll end up back here. Again. ‘I just have to be patient and wait for them to catch up.’


“For real?...” Ryuji groaned. They were back at the school again. He leaned against the gate.

“Is it smaller than we think it is? What do you think?” He asked, looking over at his companion.

Akira put his hands in his pockets, trying to remember what had happened exactly. ‘I was holding my phone when we arrived..,’ He thought pensively. He then looked at Ryuji, “Check on your phone.” He advised.

The delinquent sighed. “I already did that. I didn’t see anything like that around here...” His voice trailed off. ”Phone, huh.”
An idea hit him then. “Hey, that reminds me-didn’t you have a navigation app thingy on, back then?” He questioned, jumping up.

Akira blinked. “Navigation app…?” He murmured, adjusting his glasses.

Ryuji kicked his shoe against the pavement. “I dunno if it was or not, but I heard stuff that sounded like one comin’ from your phone.” He stated, furrowing his eyebrows. “Y’know, didn’t it say stuff like “returned to the real world” or something like that? Lemme see your phone for a bit.” He demanded, making grabby gestures with his hands.

The raven haired boy hesitated, but slowly took out his phone. Ryuji snapped it up and started searching, while Akira looked at him with an unimpressed face, his hand still outstretched.

“What’s this eyeball lookin’ thing?” Ryuji asked curiously.

“Not sure.” Akira shrugged. “I can’t delete it, it just keeps coming back…”

The punk looked up at him with disbelief. “Wait, what?” Looking back down at the phone, he frowned. “What a weird app...Oh wait! This is it!” He exclaimed, turning the phone over to show to his companion. “This IS a navigation app! There’s even your search history! Oh man, I’m such a genius!” He praised himself, a smirk on his face.

Akira squinted his eyes at the screen, suspicious of what was dwelling in his phone. He didn’t remember typing anything.

“Let’s try it out.” Ryuji suggested, excited to finally get somewhere today.

His companion looked at him skeptically. “I dunno about this.” He said flatly.

“I’ll do it.” The punk offered, already tinkering with the app.

“Kamoshida...Shujin Academy...Pervert...Castle..,” The automated voice listed. “Beginning navigation.”

“There we go!” Ryuji pumped excitedly. “Then, we just go in a certain direction, and-”

-BA-BUMP-

Chapter Text

The air around them turned purple and wavered.

Akira looked up, startled. What was going on?

Ryuji saw him move in the corner of his vision and looked up from the phone, not noticing anything else. “Hey, what’re you-huh?” He stopped, flabbergasted, as reality around them bended “What the hell?!” He yelled out, looking back down at the phone.

The red eye on the screen wavered, sending out pulses of energy. The scenery changed from Shujin Academy to a castle that loomed over them menacingly.

They stared at the building, completely mystified.

“Look! It’s the castle from yesterday!” Ryuji yelled out triumphantly.

He ran a couple feet forward, the darkly clad boy following right behind him. He came to a stop right outside the front door, observing his surroundings. “We made it back...That means what happened yesterday was for real too...” He said, turning to look at his friend, before taking a step back in shock.

“Yeargh! Those clothes..!” He sputtered.

Akira looked at him questioningly, then directed his gaze down on himself. Letting out a sound of surprise, he brought his right hand, clothed in a red glove, out of his pocket and examined his outfit. His clothes changed again, and he didn’t even notice.

Like the last time they were here, he was clad in a black trench coat that split into three tails, red gloves, and a turtleneck with line details. Clothing his legs were a pair of black cargo pants that tucked into his pointed boots.

“That happened last time too, huh?!” Ryuji asked, freaked out. “What’s with that outfit?!”

Akira shook his head. “I don’t know.” He replied, confused, putting his hand back in his pocket. “You jelly?” He nudged jokingly.

The faux blond sputtered in indignation. “I-I aint jealous!” He yelled. “What’s goin’ on here?! This makes no fuckin’ sense at all...” He bemoaned.

“Hey!”

Startled off guard, the two males turned to look at who had called out at them.

A small bipedal feline with a yellow scarf on came out from behind the corner, waving at them.

It walked up to the duo. “Stop making a commotion.” It scolded sternly.

Ryuji took a step back. “A-ah...You?!” He sputtered.

The feline shook its head in exasperation. “The shadows started acting up, so I came here wondering what it could be. To think you guys would come back to the entrance when you barely managed to escape.” It tutted in its boyish voice, scouting the perimeter with its large blue eyes.

“What is this place? Is this the school?” Ryuji questioned, scrunching up his face in confusion.

The cat, Morgana, nodded. “That’s right.” He confirmed.

“But it’s a castle!” The punk shouted, stomping one foot in front of him.

“This castle IS the school.” It lectured. “But only to the castle’s ruler.”

Ryuji tilted his head, confused. “The castle’s ruler..?”

“I think you called him Kamoshida?” The cat asked, not waiting for an answer. “It’s how his distorted heart views the school.”

Akira leaned on one foot, trying to make sense of the situation with all the information their new companion gave them.

“Kamoshida...distorted?” Ryuji muttered, not really understanding. “Explain it in a way that makes sense!” He demanded.

Morgana sighed, irritated. “I shouldn’t have expected a moron to get it...” It said, aiming an unimpressed look toward the punk who glared at him.

“What’d you say?!” Ryuji shouted angrily, sneering down at the cat burglar.

“AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

Their heads shot up, turning their gaze to the direction of the sound. Akira bent his knees, prepared for any approaching enemies.

“W-what was that?” Ryuji questioned softly, his eyes wide from the pain he could hear from the outburst.

Morgana looked at them grimly. “It must be the slaves captured here.”

“For real?!” Ryuji yelped, shocked. “Oh shit...it’s for real!” He muttered to himself. “We saw other guys captive here yesterday...I’m pretty sure they’re from our school.”

Akira looked on grimly. The news wasn’t surprising, but not welcomed.

“Most likely on Kamoshida’s orders.” The feline stated firmly. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary; it’s like that every day here.” It turned to look at Akira. “What’s more, you two escaped yesterday. He must have lost his temper quite a bit.” It remarked grimly.

“That son of a bitch..!” Ryuji growled, his hands balling into fists. He looked downward away from the other two, his face twisted in anguish.

“Ryuji..?” Morgana questioned quietly.

Tightening his fists, the punk exploded. “This is bullshit!” Ryuji snarled.
He sprinted toward the front door and slammed his shoulder into it, trying to break in. “You hear me, Kamoshida?!” He yelled out.

Morgana looked at the punk sadly. “Doing that isn’t going to open it, y’know...Still, it seems you have your reasons.”

Ryuji turned to look at the cat. “Hey, Monamona!” He said loudly.

The feline bristled, glaring at him. “It’s Morgana!” It corrected angrily.

“Do you know where those voices are comin’ from?” Ryuji questioned.

Morgana looked at him apprehensively. “You want me to take you to them?” It looked over to Akira, who nodded.
Kamoshida will pay for what he’s doing. “Well...I guess I could guide you there. But only if he comes with us.” It gestured to the darkly clad male.

“Let’s go.” Akira commanded.

Morgana jumped up excitedly. “It’s settled then!”

“For real?!” Ryuji grinned at the fellow teenager. “...Thanks, man.” He stated seriously.

Morgana focused on the two of them, and gave them a smirk. “All right, let’s do this. Follow me!” The three ran off, infiltrating the castle.

-------

A figure walked up to where the three were just standing, placing a hand on one hip, and the other holding a scythe.

“Knew it.” Airi said, smugly, her scarf fluttering a bit. She quickly followed after them, making sure they didn’t see or hear her.

‘I’m glad Morgana is alright. I’ll have to apologize to it later for not coming back sooner.’ She thought to herself, crawling through the vent.

Hiding behind chairs, corners, and walls, Airi silently tailed them. She wouldn’t have lost them anyway, all she had to do was following the trail of dissipating shadows that Morgana and Akira killed.

‘Ryuji doesn’t have a Persona?’ She questioned, still observing them from a distance. They were in the dungeons where the slaves were kept.

Airi grimaced. She hated this place so much.

‘I bet a shadow version of Mishima-kun is here as well.’ She thought grimly.

She watched as the trio made their way to the safe room to hide from the oncoming guards.

‘Shit.’ She cursed, dodging back a hallway. When a Shadow came close, she ambushed and killed it. Walking back to the safe room, she heard the room open and their foot steps getting farther, and she quickened her pace. They finally reached the training hall, she mused sadly. Ryuji’s going to be heartbroken. Observing from behind a corner, she watched as Akira shot a imitation gun.

Airi hummed in amazement. ‘I should get a gun.’

Airi observed sadly as Ryuji tried to free the slaves, but Morgana scolded him and told him that nothing here is real, and they’re all apart of Kamoshida’s cognition. Akira listened with a grim face, not saying anything. They couldn’t do anything anyway. There was no point in freeing the sports slaves, but she could see Ryuji was having a tough time admitting it himself.

 

Deciding that they were fine, Airi turned back and made her way to the foyer to wait for them.

‘I want to see the look on their faces when they realize another thief is here.’ She thought impishly, wearing a mischievous smile.
Finding a good hiding spot on the second floor on top of a bookcase, she sat and waited to make her entrance.

Instead of soft footsteps however, she heard the familiar but unwelcome sound of armor clanking. Looking down, Airi sees some shadow soldiers marching in the foyer, in the direction of the dungeon. Furrowing her brows in worry, she slowly got up.

‘Did they get caught?’ She wondered, gnawing on her bottom lip.

Chapter Text

-AKIRA POV-

“The watch post near the training hall has ceased reporting! Chances of intruder activity is extremely high! All personnel, increase security measures!”

He silently groaned. So much for sneaking out.

He readied his dagger next to Morgana, who also readied its scimitar as they waited for opposition.

Ryuji cursed. “Dammit!”

They snuck their way back to the entranceway.

“The exit’s this way! Let’s hurry!” Morgana urged, quickening their pace. As they ran out into the foyer, they were suddenly stopped by the appearance of Kamoshida and a contingent of soldiers.

Kamoshida, clad in a giant gold crown, a white fur trimmed red cape, decorated with hearts, and wearing a neon green speedo frowned at them, his yellow eyes glowing menacingly.

“You knaves again?” He sneered. “To think you’d make the same mistake again. You’re hopeless!”

Ryuji stepped forward. “The school aint your castle!” He exclaimed boldly. “I’ve memorized their faces real good. You’re goin’ down!”

Kamoshida smirked evilly. “It seems it’s true when they say “barking dogs seldom bite”. How far the star runner of the track team has fallen.” He gloated.

“The hell are you gettin’ at?!” Ryuji shouted.

The evil king started chuckling. “I speak of the “Track Traitor” who acted in violence, ending his teammates’ dreams.” He purred. “Oh, I can only imagine the pain of the others who were dragged under with your...selfish act.” Kamoshida bragged.

Flinching, Ryuji took a step back. “Tch..!” He grunted, frustrated that his guilt ridden memories were being brought up.

Akira glared at Kamoshida. “Violence?” He asked his companion. It must’ve been due to the unfair treatment. Ryuji was a brash guy, he’d seen it plenty of times today, but he’d never pull a fist on someone unless they deserved it.

Kamoshida tsk'ed. “What a surprise. So you’re accompanying him without knowing anything at all?” He questioned smugly. “He betrayed his teammates and crushed their hopes, yet he still carries on as carefree as ever.” The ruler gloated to the darkly clad male.

“That’s not true!” Ryuji argued, anger lighting his eyes.

“You’ve come a long way with this fool and are now going to end up dead...How unlucky of you.” Kamoshida said mockingly. He gestured to the soldiers behind him. “Go. Kill them all. Don’t sully my castle with garbage.”
The shadows stepped forward in their suits of metal, before transforming into their real forms as Demon Horses. They slowly circled them in.

Ryuji narrowed his eyes in frustration. “Goddammit.” He spat.
Morgana and Akira moved to shield him.

“Ryuji, move!” Morgana commanded, readying its weapon.

Akira dove straight in, slicing his opponent before back flipping out of an incoming attack. He stumbled back though, when he saw his attack had done little to no damage on the enemy. Another shadow snuck up behind him and knocked him down with its horns. He gritted his teeth, struggling to get up. Move, dammit! He yelled at his body.

“Agh!” Morgana yelped, landing in front of him in a painful heap. Kamoshida then stomped on its back, holding it in place. “Rgh...you piece of-”

Leaning on his elbows, Akira tried to get up when a soldier came up and stepped on his back, holding him down. “Ugh!” He grunted out, his face now pressed against the lush carpeting. What could he do?!

Ryuji sat where he stood, hopeless, his companions being beaten so easily in front of him. He stared defeatedly.

“I bet you simply came here on a whim and ended up like this, am I right?” Kamoshida said mockingly, sneering at the faux blond.

“No...” Ryuji whispered, not having the strength to deny harder.

Kamoshida shook his head in amusement. “What a worthless piece of trash, getting emotional so quickly.” He smirked. “How dare you raise your hand at me. Though it was only temporary, have you forgotten my kindness in supervising the track team?”

With a twisted expression on his face, Ryuji beat the floor with his fist. “Wasn’t no practice- it was physical abuse! You just didn’t like our team!” He argued, gritting his teeth.

Kamoshida sneered, “It was only an eyesore! The only one who needs to achieve results is me!” He declared, holding a fist up. “That coach who got fired was hopeless too. Had he not opposed me with a sound argument, I would’ve settled it with only breaking his star’s leg.” He gloated, smirking down at Ryuji who looked at him in shock.

---
Up above on one of the chandeliers, Airi looked on in disgust.

‘I can’t believe that’s what Kamoshida is wearing in his heart. Ugh.’ She thought, disturbed. Hearing Kamoshida talk about what he did to the track team made her grimace, fueling her determination to help her friends. She looked sadly down at Ryuji, who was standing there, stunned in silence.

‘So that’s what happened...’ She thought morosely. She had wondered what had exactly gone down with the track team, but had been too distracted by her own problems. Snapping out of her thoughts, she stood up from her crouched position.
Furrowing her brows, she readied her scythe to intervene.
---

Kamoshida laughed. “Do you need me to deal with your other leg too? The school will call it self-defense anyway!”

Ryuji clenched his eyes. “Dammit...Am I going to lose again?” He questioned himself. ‘Not only can I not run anymore...the track team is gone too ‘cause of this asshole!’ He berated himself angrily.

Morgana looked at the punk sadly. “So that’s why...” It murmured.

Shifting his foot on the feline’s back, Kamoshida gestured to a soldier. “Once I’ve dealt with these two, you’re next.” He stated, looking directly at Ryuji. His expression twisted, madness seeping into his eyes as he laughed in triumph.

“Ryuji!” Morgana shouted, trying to get his attention.

“Stand up for yourself!” Akira yelled, still pinned underneath a suit of armor.

“...You’re right.” Ryuji stated, getting up from his position on the floor. “Everything that was important to me was taken by him...I’ll never get ‘em back..!”

Ignoring the delinquent’s words, Kamoshida straightened. “Stay there and watch.” He smirked. “Look on as these hopeless scum die for nothing because they sided with trash like you.”

Standing up, the delinquent matched his steely gaze with acid yellow ones.

“No...That’s what you are.” Ryuji declared. “All you think about is using people...You’re the real scumbag, Kamoshida!” Shakily, he took a couple of steps forward.

Kamoshida, unsettled, yelled out, “What are you doing? Silence him!”

Ryuji stopped, and pointed his finger at the distorted king. “Stop lookin’ down on me with that stupid smile on your face!” He yelled.

‘You made me wait quite a while.’

-BA-BUMP-

Eyes widening, Ryuji gripped his scalp as immense pain tore at him. Shaking from side to side, he trembled, trying to contain the pressure in his head.

‘You seek power, correct? Then let us form a pact.’

He choked, saliva spitting from his mouth. Now on all fours, he violently convulsed on the floor. Even though his eyes were wide open, he couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t feel anything except for the soul wrenching pain.

‘Since your name has been disgraced already, why not hoist the flag and wreak havoc?’

‘The “other you” who exists within desires it thus…’

‘I AM THOU...THOU ART I…’

Ryuji screamed, feeling like his head was being split open.

‘There is no turning back...The skull of rebellion is your flag henceforth!’

With one final screech, Ryuji stilled. Silence reigned as everyone stared at him with bated breath. Snapping his head up, a metal mask in the shape of a skull, covering the whole upper half of his face, appeared in a flash of blue fire. Gripping the sides as he shakily stood up, he pulled with all his might.

“ARRGHHHH!” He screamed, the mask coming off in a burst of blood.

----
Airi was worried. She didn’t know whether or not Ryuji was going to discover his Persona, especially in this hopeless situation, but, with great reluctance, she decided to wait it out even though Morgana and Akira were being threatened at sword point. Seeing Ryuji begin to convulse on the ground though, she perked up.

‘Yes! It’s happening!’ She thought excitedly. Airi then bent her knees, ready to jump down at an opportune moment.

She was excited. With four Persona users, they could easily storm the castle.
----

In a blazing stream of blue fire, Ryuji’s power erupted, blowing away the guards and Kamoshida. Seeing as they were now unpinned, Morgana and Akira quickly got up, readying their weapons while looking on at Ryuji in awe. The initial burst died down, revealing Ryuji who was now covered in a black biker outfit, a blood red tie fluttering around his neck.
A being floated behind him, looking as if it was using an old ship as a skateboard. With two swords crossed on its chest, a golden canon grafted on its right hand, and an eyepatch, the skeletal outlaw grinned viciously at its opponents, its blue admiral coat billowing behind it.

Lifting his head, Ryuji gave an animalistic grin, eyes red from his awakened power.

Kamoshida shielded his face from the fierce wind. “Ugh, this one as well?!” He shouted angrily.

Ryuji looked down at his hands, admiring his new abilities.
“Right on...wassup, Persona.” He grinned gleefully. “Now that I’ve got this power...it’s time for some payback.” Cracking his knuckles, he stared down at Kamoshida. “Yo, I’m ready…”

“BRING IT!” All three Persona users got into position, ready to fight again. The guards stepped forward, transforming into Demon Horses and one Berith, a suit of armor wielding a spear, sitting atop of a horse.

Ryuji called out, “Captain Kidd!!” His Persona appearing behind him in a sea of blue flame. “Let’s light em up!” He said, calling down a lightning strike at his opponent. Akira went and took out one of the minions with a stroke of his blade. Morgana followed up with a strike, dealing more damage to the Berith. They quickly took down the enemies.
Ryuji put his hands on his knees, panting. “How ‘bout that?!” He yelled, snarling at Kamoshida.

Morgana gazed at him in awe. “Woah...so Ryuji had potential too..” It murmured.

Slashing his hand out, Ryuji gestured at the corrupted gym teacher. “Even if you apologize now...I ain’t forgiving you!”

Kamoshida looked at him in amusement as he took a few steps forward, his heart decorated cape fluttering. “I told you, this is my castle. It seems you still don’t understand…” Snapping his fingers, more soldiers appeared, and a lieutenant at that. Just then, a woman calmly walked up to Kamoshida, turning to look at the enemies.

“Wha-” Ryuji sputtered. “Takamaki?!”

Chapter Text

Indeed, it was Takamaki Ann. However, she was dressed in a purple leopard print bikini, wearing cat ears on the top of her head.

Morgana sighed dreamily. “Oh...what a meow-velous and beautiful girl..!” It purred, infatuated with the newest person in the room.

The woman in question wrapped her arms around Kamoshida’s, cuddling him.

Shocked, Ryuji could barely comprehend what was happening in front of his eyes. “What’s goin’ on…?!”

Akira watched the scene with a confused frown. Though he had little interaction with the model, Takamaki did not seem like she was one to do something so sickeningly submissive.
“Something seems off.” He declared.

Ryuji turned his head toward him. “Yeah, now that you mention it...But why is she even here?!” He shouted, bewildered. Kamoshida then caressed the Not-Ann’s jaw lustfully.

Ryuji flinched. “Hey! Let go of her, you perv!” He shouted.

Turning his head to look at him, the evil lord smirked. “How many times must I tell you until you understand? This is MY castle- a place where I can do whatever I want. Everyone wishes to be loved by me.” He gloated. He turned to face the three thieves directly, letting go of the girl’s face. “That is, everyone besides slow-witted thieves like you.”

Ryuji turned to Not-Ann. “Takamaki! Say somethin’!” He begged. \

Morgana rolled its eyes exasperatedly. “Calm down, Ryuji! It seems that girl isn’t the real one. She’s the same as those slaves- a being from Kamoshida’s cognition of her!” It proclaimed.

Kamoshida smirked. “Are you jealous?” He asked smugly. “Well I’m not surprised. Women aren’t drawn to problematic punks like you. Not Takamaki, not Kimisawa, none of them.”

Akira furrowed his brows, frowning when Airi’s name was mentioned. He didn’t like that this disgusting pig thought of his class president like that.

“Now,” Kamoshida started. “Clean them up this instant!” He declared, walking away with Not-Ann attached to his side.
The guards that had been standing idle since summoned started approaching them, swords raised.

Morgana took a step back. “We’re outnumbered!” It shouted, trembling in exhaustion.

“Dammit, what do we do…?!” Ryuji angrily panted, gripping his bat tighter.

Akira gritted his teeth. At this rate, it seemed there was only one way out. Taking a deep breath, he readjusted his dagger. If he was going to die here, he wasn’t going down without a fight!

“It seems this is where I make my entrance.” A voice called out.

Everyone stopped and looked around, not knowing where that voice came from.

A figure suddenly fell from above, landing in front of the thieves in a stretched out position, before straightening up, their back facing them. The woman-and it was clearly a woman with those curves, turned her head to the left, looking at the three behind her.

‘Those eyes look familiar..,’ Akira thought. With a wink and a quirk of the lips, she turned to face the front, giving the enemies a serene smile.

“Another intruder!” A guard shouted. “Kill them all! For Kamoshida-sama!” They shouted in unison. They convulsed, turning into Demon Horses.

The woman smirked. With a wave of her hand, caressing her mask, a regal figure bathed in light appeared behind her. Its excess fabric billowed behind it, imitating wings.

“No way! Another Persona user!?” Ryuji shouted, shocked.

With a twist of her heels, the newcomer spun in place and snapped her fingers, unleashing an all out attack. The shadows screamed in agony as white light pierced their bodies, dissipating into nothing. Seeing that the threat was gone, she relaxed her stance. The elegant lady then turned to look at her new companions with a warm smile.

“Sorry I took so long.” She apologized softly. “Let’s hurry and leave.”

Taken aback after that display, Ryuji sputtered. “Wait, who the hell are you?!”

Morgana ran up to the elegantly dressed lady, eyes shining with infatuation. “My lady! You came back for me!” It purred excitedly.

Akira tilted his head. “You know her?” He asked, questions running through his mind.

The woman in question shook her head. “C’mon, before more guards come!” And with that, she ran off, heading toward the escape route.

The skull adorned punk furiously rubbed his head. “Man…!”

The three Persona users then followed after the newcomer.


Once outside, they all came to a stop, safe for the time being. Ryuji had his hands on his knees, panting. Morgana kneeled on the ground, tired, thankful to be out of the castle for the first time in a while. Akira breathed in deeply, and with his hands resting on his hips, turned to look at the woman who saved them. He didn’t get a good look earlier, but she was dressed rather richly.

She had on a long sleeveless purple and silver embroidered vest coat, a silver embroidered blouse underneath, and long deep plum silk gloves reaching up to her shoulders. Her rose colored hair was twisted into an elegant and complicated braided bun, her mask a lacy silver that gleamed in the torchlight. With black leather pants, a silver embroidered scarf, and a large diamond pendant resting on her bosom, she made an impressive vision.

“Anyways,” Ryuji panted out. “I don’t remember changin’ into this!” He gestured at his outfit.

Akira looked him over and smirked. “It looks good on you.” He commended.

Ryuji looked away, slightly embarrassed at being complimented. “Well, it ain’t as bad as your’s!” He sputtered.

The ebony haired male gave him an unimpressed look, offended.

Remembering they had an extra member, the pirate punk turned toward the mysterious woman.
“And just who exactly are you?!” He interrogated, pointing a finger at the lady.

Said female raised her eyebrows, confused. “You don’t recognize me?” She asked.

Furrowing his eyebrows, Ryuji let out a “huh?!” and turned to look at Akira, silently asking him if he knew who it was.

The ebony haired boy shook his head.

The woman sighed, exasperated at her companions’ inattentiveness. “Watch.” She commanded them.

The two males stared at her questioningly. Slowly reaching up, the woman cupped the right side of her mask and pushed it upward, exposing the left side of her face. Her wine colored eyes stared at them expectantly, waiting for them to get it.

Ryuji squinted his eyes. “Um...you DO look familiar.” He mused.

Akira blinked, examining her face closer. ‘She does seem familiar,’ He thought to himself. ‘Where have I seen eyes like those before?’

A memory flashed in his mind. A beautiful girl turned to look at him in the rain, and gave him a smile. The same girl who silently offered her textbook to him. The same girl who he talked to for hours this morning on the train ride to school. The same girl who Ryuji tried to ditch earlier.

His breath hitched. “Senpai..?” He asked softly, surprise written all over his expression.

Chapter Text

Airi gave him a warm smile, happy that he finally got it. “Yep! Took you long enough, Kurusu-san.” She said teasingly, sliding her mask back down in its rightful place.

“HUH?!” Ryuji exclaimed. He walked closer, looking at her up and down, trying to correlate the person in front of him with his usually uniform clad acquaintance.
“Airi-senpai? Is that really you?” He questioned, befuddled.

Airi nodded happily, holding a finger in front of her lips in a secretive manner, winking at him.

Ryuji blushed at the motion.

Morgana ran up to her and jumped, yelling out in happiness, trusting her to catch it. The feline then nuzzled its face into her neck, the lady reciprocating happily.

Looking at the two snuggling in front of him, Akira frowned slightly.

“Did you find them?!”

The four persona users snapped to attention, looking in the direction the voice was coming from.

“No. Search that way!”

“Soo...” Ryuji began, rubbing the back of his head. “What just happened..?”

Morgana jumped back down onto the ground and crossed its arms. “I told you before. When a Persona-user opposes a palace’s ruler and becomes a threat to them, this happens. It’s to prevent you from being affected by distortions.” It lectured.

Holding up his hands to touch his new mask, Ryuji brushed his fingertips against the cool metal.
“Is this...a skull?” He questioned.

“Your appearance reflects your inner self. It’s the rebel that slumbers within...Not that you’ll get it.” Morgana ribbed, a smirk on its face.

The pirate let out a big sigh. “Nope..” He said, closing his eyes.

Morgana jumped up, a serious expression on its face. “Then stop asking questions and accept what you see for what it is.” It scolded.

Ryuji huffed. “Easy for you to say.” He retorted, then jumped as a thought hit him. “Wait, we’re in deep shit!!” He yelled out.

“Be quiet!” Airi shushed him, holding up a finger in front of her lips.

“We might’ve gotten away here, but we’re still screwed with Kamoshida at the real school...” Ryuji explained, a panicked expression on his face.

“That’s quite sharp of you!...For being an idiot.” Morgana mocked. “Relax. The Kamoshida in reality can’t possibly know what happens here.” The feline reassured them. “A shadow is the true self that’s repressed-a side of one’s personality they don’t want to see.”
“So...we’re OK?” Ryuji asked slowly.

Morgana shook its head. “Did the real Kamoshida remember about the execution?” It asked.

The faux blond blinked and shook his head no, realization slowly dawning.

“There you have it.” The cat said smugly.

Slowly, a grin spread across Ryuji’s face. “Alright, now that we know that, all we gotta do is-” “Wait.” Morgana interrupted the punk. “I guided you as promised. It’s your turn to cooperate with me.”

Airi looked at it, confused. Cooperate? “Morgana?” She softly said. The two boys next to her looked at the feline with questioning looks, not expecting anything else.

“That’s why I was being super nice about teaching you idiots everything.“ It said, looking irritated, then quickly turning to Airi. “Not you though, Lady Airi! I’m glad to help you!” It interjected, smiling at her dreamily.

Ryuji scratched his head. “Uh, cooperate?”

Morgana looked out to the courtyard with a serious expression. “Don’t you remember? I originally came here for an investigation.” It stated. “I told you before, Lady Airi. I’m human! I need to erase the distortion from my body and regain my real form!” Morgana proclaimed. “That’s why we must delve into Mementos and-” “Whoa, hold up. What’re you goin’ on and on about?” Ryuji interrupted, scratching his head. “We never said anything about helpin’ you out.” He looked over at Akira, who nodded in agreement.

Morgana looked at them, shocked. “Huh? Don’t tell me...Are you not going to repay the hospitality I showed you?” It turned to focus its eyes on Akira. “Especially you! You’re going to up and leave, even though you’re already part of my master plan?!” He shouted accusingly.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Akira looked at the feline questioningly. “I never promised. What plan are you talking about?” He asked.

Narrowing its eyes, Morgana exploded. “Is it because I’m not human..? Because I’m like a cat..? Is that why you’re making a fool of me?!” It then shifted its gaze at the only female, silently pleading.

Airi crouched down, gently placing a hand on its head. “Of course I’ll help you, Morgana.” She consoled. “You helped me out too.” She said, giving it an affectionate smile.

Morgana gave her a hopeful look, before turning to the two males with a frown, challenging them to say something.

Ryuji rubbed his face tiredly. “We’re busy!” He complained, then walked up in front of Morgana and crouched. “Thanks for everything, cat. You’ve got guts, bein’ a cat and all!” He proclaimed with a grin. “See you around!”

With that, he got up and started jogging out. Hesitantly looking at the cat, Akira followed after him, leaving Morgana standing there with its mouth hanging open in shock.

“Hey! What the hell?! Ugh, seriously!” It shouted indignantly. “Why’re you wrapping this up like everything’s all hunky-dory?!” It narrowed its eyes in anger. Pursing its lips, the feline made to follow them. “Oh hell no! Get back here! GRAHHH!” It roared after them, leaving Airi the last person standing in the courtyard.

Holding a hand to her temple, she shook her head and sighed. ‘Boys.’ She thought exasperatedly, calmly walking after them.

 

----4/12, TUESDAY, AFTER SCHOOL, AOYAMA-ITCHOME

 

“You have returned to the real world. Welcome back.” The phone stated.

Ryuji panted, straightening his back. “...Thank god. We’re back.” He sighed in relief.

Akira, who was breathing deeply with his hands resting on his hips, nodded in agreement. They breathed silently, the sounds of students leaving school filling in the background.

The faux blond looked up at his fellow Persona user. “I dragged you around a lot, huh?...Sorry, man.” He apologized quietly, a somber look in his eyes. “Ugh, I’m dead tired. How are you holdin’ up?” He asked tiredly.

Akira shrugged. “I’m exhausted.” He replied quietly, remembering that he got his ass handed to him at the Palace. Good thing Kimisawa-senpai intervened, he thought absentmindedly, before stiffening.

Kimisawa-senpai! He hurriedly turned his head side to side, looking for the compassionate class president. 'She didn’t follow after us.' He thought, stricken.

Ryuji, not noticing his companion panicking, nodded. “Me too...Man, I’m gonna sleep like a rock when I get home.” He groaned, then grinned, looking up at the bespectacled boy. “But damn, if what we saw was for real, this is gonna get good! I totally remember the faces of the guys Kamoshida was treatin’ like slaves. Once we make ‘em fess up to any physical abuse, Kamoshida will be done.” He declared triumphantly.

His expression turned into one of confusion when he saw the ebony haired student looking around frantically.
“Wassup?” The punk inquired.

Akira focused at his companion, eyes wide. “We left Kimisawa-senpai back at the Palace.” He stated bleakly.

Ryuji blanched. “Shit!” He yelped.

The two delinquents squirmed in place, unsure of what to do next.

Chapter Text

“It warms my heart that you’re both so worried for my well being.” A voice called out.

They turned to look at who it was. Walking out of the shadows was Airi, who smiled at them. Akira breathed out in relief, glad that his classmate made it out safely.

Groaning out in relief, Ryuji slumped. “You scared us, yo.” He said, exhausted from the sudden rush of adrenaline.

“Sorry.” She apologized sheepishly. “But you do remember it wasn’t my first time there, right?”

The two averted their eyes, not wanting to admit they actually had forgotten.

Airi looked on at the two of them, amused at their avoidance. “Anyway, you said you remembered their faces, Sakamoto-kun?” She inquired after a moment, looking at the faux blond.

Said blond nodded, frowning. “Yep. They were all members of the volleyball team. One of them’s in my class.” He replied seriously. “And it’s Ryuji, senpai.” He added as an afterthought.

She rolled her eyes. “And it’s Airi to you. You don't have to call me senpai.” She retorted, before turning to Akira. “You too, Kurusu-san. Please just call me Airi.” She added, looking at him hopefully.

The ebony haired student gave a small smile back, adjusting his glasses with one hand. “Then it’s Akira, Airi-chan.” He conceded. “I’ll help as well.”

The rosette blushed a bit at the more familiar suffix.

Ryuji pumped his fist. “Yeah! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ bout!” He shouted gleefully.

A thought hit her, and Airi looked up at the ebony haired teen with a worried expression. “Akira-san, if you wanted the rumors about you to dissipate, I don’t think this will help...” She said, conflicted.

On one hand, having an extra person help their investigation would help move it along faster, but on the other hand, this will undoubtedly blow up in the end.

Ryuji turned to his fellow male and nodded, agreeing with the class president. “Yeah, everyone already knows about you. They’ve got you pegged as a criminal...” He added, frowning.

Staring at the rosette in front of him, Akira smirked slightly, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Don’t worry about me.” He stated confidently, reassuring her. “How did that happen though? Kawakami-sensei and Principal Kobayakawa assured me that it was going to kept from the other students.” He asked, shoving his hands in his pockets, frowning slightly.

“Kamoshida opened his damn mouth, that’s how!” Ryuji scowled, crossing his arms angrily.

“Seriously? A teacher did that?” Akira asked, raising an eyebrow.

Airi nodded. “No one else but a teacher could have known, and we already know he doesn’t like you.” She frowned.

Balling his fists, Ryuji turned and kicked the brick wall behind him. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a student or a club; that asshole just wrecks things he doesn’t agree with.” He growled. “Just like he did with me…! No one’ll take anything I say seriously.”

Airi looked at the punk sympathetically. She straightened her shoulders, a look of determination replacing her previous expression.
“Still, we need to talk with the volleyball team, maybe get them to confess. After seeing Kamoshida’s heart, there’s no way we can just ignore this.” She stated firmly.

Akira looked at her pensively for a moment, then nodded. “Of course.” He said.

Ryuji whooped and pumped his fist in excitement. “I’m countin’ on you guys! Don’t worry; I’m hyped about this too!” A loud growl suddenly erupted, emanating from Ryuji’s stomach.
He slumped. “Oh right I forgot, I haven’t eaten anything since lunch...” He muttered. “It’d be weird to split off now, so why don’t we all grab a bite somewhere?” The faux blond offered.

The Yongenjaya residents looked at each other, silently questioning their counterpart, before nodding in acquiescence.

“All right! Follow me!” Ryuji declared excitedly, grabbing his bag. “I mean, I gotta hear all about your past, dude!”

Rolling his eyes in exasperation, Akira moved to follow him, Airi falling into step next to him as they walked to the station.


“WHAT?!” Ryuji sputtered, rice splattering out of his mouth. All three Shujin students were sat at the counter of a gyudon restaurant on Central Street.

Akira nodded while taking another bite of his beef bowl, confirming what he just said was all true.

“The hell, man! How much shittier can that asshole get?!” Ryuji yelled, outraged at how his companion was treated. Other than a few quick glances from other customers, they were mostly ignored.

Sitting to the left of the bespectacled boy, Airi held a hand up, covering her mouth in horror. “I’m so sorry, Akira-san...” She said quietly, her heart breaking from hearing his story.

She dolefully pushed her empty bowl away. ‘He really did try to do the right thing. By saving that woman, the would-be rapist sued him for injuring him.’ What a terrible world they lived in, where doing what was considered the right thing can be punished under the law. She frowned bitterly.

Akira waved his chopsticks dismissively. “Calm down, Sakamoto-san. It’s all in the past...” He stated, his face unreadable.

The punk tch'ed. “It’s Ryuji. And for real? If it was me, I wouldn’t calm down until I punched that dick in the face.” He declared, angry on his friend’s behalf. He continued to stuff his face with his beef bowl. “So...you left your hometown, and...you’re livin’ here now, huh?” Ryuji asked rhetorically, voice slightly muffled by all the food he was chewing. Swallowing, he paused. “We might be more alike than I originally thought.”

The bespectacled student raised a brow. “You may be right.” Akira replied, slightly quirking his lips.

Ryuji looked at him, surprised. “You’re the first guy who made me think that.” He grinned. His face fell, a frown marring his lips. “ I guess it’s how we’re treated like a pain in the ass by the people around us, like we don’t belong. I did something stupid at school before, too.” He finished dejectedly, continuing digging into his meal.

“Hey,” Airi interjected softly. Both boys turned to look at her questioningly. “Not anymore, OK? Even if people start treating me like dirt for hanging around you guys, I don’t regret it. I fully support you two.” She stated firmly, smiling assuredly at them.

Akira gave her a small but warm smile, gratitude shining in his gray orbs. “Thank you, Airi-chan.” He said quietly.

“Yeah, thanks Airi!” Ryuji added, grinning brightly at her. “But you know...” He looked away nostalgically, pursing his lips. “ I always thought you were too good for me, y’know? Like, you were super kind, and smart, and pretty. Everyone liked you in middle school, and they like you here at Shujin!” Ryuji explained, smile slightly bitter.

Airi’s eyes widened at his explanation.

“You worked harder than anyone else. Why should a delinquent come up to steal your time?” He finished, shrugging his shoulders as if it wasn’t a big deal.

The self deprecating look in his eyes gave him away though. How long did he think like this? Him not being worth her time? She pursed her lips.

“As someone who I care greatly about, you can come to me anytime. I’m not worth more than anyone else, including you.” Airi stated sharply, before softening her frown. “We’re friends, right?” She asked softly, a smile slowly curling her lips.

Ryuji stared at her, before giving her a bright grin. “Right! Friends.” He answered, slightly tearing up.

Wiping his eyes with a sleeve, the punk turned to Akira. “You both live in...Yongen, right?” He questioned.

The ebony haired student nodded.

“It’s rush hour on the subways right now. I suggest you kill some time before headin’ home.” Ryuji reasoned, giving a shrug. He looked down at the table, noticing his neighbor’s bowl. “What the hell, man. You barely touched your food.” Ryuji scolded, grabbing more ginger from the nearby container and placing it in his companion’s bowl.

Akira gave him an odd look. “What are you doing?” He asked, confused.

The faux blond nudged him, giving him a grin. “Just lemme do it. I gotta thank you for helpin’ me.” He answered, grabbing more ginger. “Anyways, I got your back like you got mine from tomorrow on.” The punk promised, giving him a smirk.

Airi looked at the beef bowl in front of Akira, a little disgusted. ‘That’s a lot of ginger..,’ She thought, sweat dropping.

“As long as we do something about Kamoshida, I’m sure we’ll both feel better at school.” Ryuji declared. “Oh yeah! Tell me your number and chat ID. You too, Airi!”

The three Persona users pulled out their respective phones, exchanging contact information with each other.

Putting his phone away, Ryuji muttered darkly. “Just you wait, Kamoshida…”

“We should start tomorrow then. The sooner the better.” Akira proposed, checking his schedule on his mobile.

Airi nodded in agreement. “Right. First, we should find and question the people who were kept as slaves.” She listed.

“The volleyball rally’s tomorrow, huh? Shit’s recommended by Kamoshida. Makes me wanna gag.” Ryuji complained, wrinkling his nose. “But thanks to that, we got no classes in the afternoon, and we can walk around unnoticed.” He finished, a serious expression on his face.

The other two nodded in understanding.

A grin overtaking his face, Ruji grabbed the tongs and piled on more ginger on Akira’s beef bowl. “C’mon, you gotta eat more. There’s tons of ginger here.” He insisted.

Sweat dropping, the ebony haired boy slowly pushed the other boy’s arm away from his bowl, which was now completely covered in ginger.

Airi stretched and got up from her bar stool, grabbing her bag. “You two enjoy yourselves, now.” She patted her black thigh highs. “Unfortunately, I have work to get to, so I have to cut this short.” She said apologetically. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”

Akira tilted his head. “Where do you work?” He inquired, curious about her secondary occupation.

“I work at the flower shop down in the Underground Mall here.” Airi replied. “You should come visit if you need any flowers! I work there four days a week.”

Ryuji’s eyes widened. “Whoa, you work that much? Talk about spending money.” He sighed jealously.

Airi giggled. “No, silly, it’s so I can afford groceries. Food isn’t cheap, you know.” She jokingly lectured.

Ryuji furrowed his brows, not comprehending. “Don’t your parents buy the groceries?” He asked.

At that, she averted her eyes, smile dimming slightly. “No. Just me.” She answered softly. Giving them a halfhearted wave, Airi turned and left the restaurant.

Akira stared after her retreating back, wondering what had triggered the change in her mood , before reluctantly digging into his -now mostly ginger- beef bowl.

Chapter Text

----4/12, TUESDAY, AFTER SCHOOL, SHUJIN ACADEMY, COURTYARD.

 

Two girls sat next to each other in the vending machine alcove that was out in the school courtyard, idly talking about their day.

“How are you doing, Shiho? You look really tired.” Ann asked, worry shining in her eyes.

The dark brown haired girl sighed shakily. “...I haven’t been sleeping very well.” Shiho admitted reluctantly. “Every time I close my eyes, I keep thinking about too many things.” Her dark brown eyes were blankly staring at the ground. “Nationals are coming up soon, so I keep thinking...” She paused, closing her eyes. “Should someone like me really be on the starting lineup..?”

The blonde foreigner stared at her friend with a look of sadness. “Shiho...” Ann murmured. Forcing a grin on, the model pumped her arm. “Don’t worry. Just be confident in yourself!” She reassured. “Your skills have been recognized. It’s all because you work harder than anyone else!”

Shiho slowly turned to look at her best friend, face still blank. “Yeah...Volleyball’s all I have, after all...” She answered bleakly, dark eyes looking away.

Coughing awkwardly, the teen model switched the subject. “More importantly, was that injury OK? It looked really swollen.” Ann inquired, looking at her companion with questioning eyes.

Shiho shook her head. “No, it’s nothing. It’s normal...Especially since a meet is coming up...”She answered softly.

Ann looked pensively at her, not knowing how to respond.

Just then, a blue haired student came up to them, eyes downtrodden. “Sorry to interrupt, Suzui.” Mishima apologized quietly. “Um...Kamoshida-sensei told me to get you.”

Gasping, Shiho looked at the depress male with wide eyes. “Huh? What does he want..?” She asked, fear slowly creeping into her dark orbs.

Mishima looked away. “He didn’t say...” He answered meekly.

The dark haired girl looked down, gripping the end of her plaid skirt in trepidation. “Ann, I...” Shiho muttered quietly.

Said girl grimaced. “It’ll be fine! I bet it’s a meeting about the starting lineup or something.” Ann said, trying to cheer her friend up.

Shiho looked up at the half foreigner, debating with herself, before smiling. “..Yeah.” She answered softly, before getting up. “Well...I better go...” Shiho stated bleakly, following Mishima to the sports office.

“Good luck!” Ann called out after her, pumping a fist. Once the two volleyball team members left her sight, her smile dropped.

“Hang in there, Shiho..!” She muttered fiercely, running a hand through a ponytail in agitation.

 

----4/12, TUESDAY, EVENING, YONGENJAYA BACKSTREETS, CAFE LEBLANC.

 

-AKIRA POV-

Arriving back at the cafe early in the evening, Akira walked in to see Sojiro sitting on one of the bar stools, reading a newspaper. The cafe owner looked up once he heard the bell on the door ring.

“...You’re home.” Sojiro stated after a moment. “I take it you actually went to school today since Airi personally escorted you?” He asked sarcastically, raising an eyebrow at the youth.

Akira frowned slightly, resigned to the fact that his guardian would be so skeptical of him. “Of course.” He answered quietly.

The older man humphed. “I guess you learned your lesson from yesterday. Eh, as long as you aren’t getting into any trouble, it’s fine by me.” He stated apathetically, before narrowing his eyes at the student. “I don’t know what you’ve been up to, but trust me, you’ll be gone if you start causing problems.” Sojiro warned. “In case you forget, your life is not a free one right now.”

Akira nodded with a blank expression. ‘Just be patient.’ He told himself. It was something he had repeated in his mind for months since the court decision.

His phone rang.

Taking it out of his pocket, he wondered who it was. On the screen, it read, “Sakamoto Ryuji,” and it was a group text message. It read, R: Hey! I decided to message you guys.
R: Can you see this?

Akira mentally rolled his eyes. Of course he could see it. He dexterously typed in “Yep” and sent it. He got a reply within a few seconds.

R: I’m counting on you tomorrow, OK?
Ak: Got it.
R: You’re a bro, man…
R: Airi, you gonna be at the rally? Wanna meet up with us?
Ai: -typing-
Ai: Yes and yes. I’ll walk with Akira-kun.
R: Gotcha. Seeya guys tomorrow!
R: Let’s save those guys who’ve been getting abused. All three of us.

He blinked. Akira-kun? Slightly blushing at the more affectionate term, he typed in a confirmation before putting his phone back in his pocket.

“Sheesh, are you even listening to me?” Sojiro grumbled, unimpressed at seeing his ward fiddle with his mobile. “Just stay away from bad influences, OK?” The older man sighed.

Akira nodded. ‘Too late.’ He thought, bemused, before walking toward the stairs.

Setting his newspaper down, Sojiro got up and called out. “Hey, I’m gonna head home for the night.”

Akira nodded.

“I’ll lock the store up. Don’t go wandering out.”

Nodding again, the ebony haired student ventured up the stairs and put his bag down on the table. Hearing his guardian leave via the bell ringing, he let out a sigh and collapsed on the couch, closing his eyes in exhaustion.

What a long and exhausting day.

Opening his eyes, he examined his room.
There were still cobwebs hanging on the ceiling in front of him, trailing down and encompassing the jam packed bookcase, an old dusty blue fan sitting haphazardly at the top. To his left was a stacked work desk covered with a transparent white sheet, the tools buried under more books.

‘I should clear that soon so I can use it for work,’ He thought absentmindedly.

On his right was an empty table, and next to that was his “closet”, which consisted of a large cardboard box sent from home. It was shifted into another rack, one which held bags of coffee beans he didn’t dare to touch. His bed, the only good thing about this room, was pushed to a corner right against the windows, a beige comforter carelessly pushed to one side of the mattress.

Reluctantly getting up, he took his school books out of his bag and began his homework.

The room still wasn’t clean enough to go without shoes, making it really awkward when he finally got up to change and get into bed. Laying down on the box spring, his phone rang. Quietly grumbling, he checked to see who messaged him. It was Ryuji again.

R: That thingy on your phone was some red eyeball icon, right?
Ak: Right..?
R: We ended up at that weird place when we used this nav app, right?
R: I found it on my phone too…
R: I don’t even remember installing it!
Ak: That’s creepy. You probably can’t delete it either.
R: For real. What is this thing..?
R: Think it’s being downloaded on its own somehow?
Ai: When you’re a Persona user, your powers automatically change your phone, making it into a doorway to the Metaverse.
Ai: Or that’s how I think it is.
Ai: Sorry for the late reply btw, just got off work.
Ak: So late? It’s almost 23:00.
R: Whoa, really? So you have it too, Airi?
Ai: Yep. It’s kind of creepy.
R: It’s dangerous to use something without knowing what it is...
R:But with it, we can go to that weird place, right?
Ak: Seems like it.
Ai: We’ll have to use it cautiously. There might be more to it than just as a portal.
R: I’m counting on you two, alright? Akira, don’t go ditching school on me!
Ai: Of course! Let’s do our best and help the students!
Ai: I gtg, It’s the last train and it’s packed.
Ak: Right. Get home safely.

Flopping his arm down on the bed after holding it up for several minutes, he placed his phone on the window ledge. Putting one arm underneath his head, Akira looked through the window at the night sky. The quiet neighborhood sounds slowly lulling him to sleep. Pulling his comforter to cover him, his last thoughts were of his new friends.

‘I wonder which house is Airi-chan’s…’ before his eyes slid shut.


Drip. Drip.

His eyes shot open and looked around.

He was back in the cell.

He sat up, holding a hand to his head, getting on his feet. The chains dragged behind him as he walked to the bars, clutching them as he stared out. The two young parole officers wearing identical outfits, Justine and Caroline, stood at attention next to his door. Their yellow eye looked straight ahead, their silver hair hidden by law enforcement caps.

“Welcome to the velvet room.” The beak nosed man greeted with a large grin, his bloodshot pupils the size of pinpricks.

“To reiterate, I am Igor.”

Chapter Text

----4/13, WEDNESDAY, EARLY MORNING, YONGENJAYA BACKSTREETS.

 

Like the day prior, both Airi and Akira met up at Cafe Leblanc to travel to school together. Chatting amicably on the train, they agreed to do this every school day to keep each other company on the long journey. Leaving the train station at Aoyama-Itchome, the two walked toward school, surrounded by other journeying students.

“How annoying- we’ve barely started high school, and already they’re making us play at a volleyball rally?” A first year student complained. “And why are they pitching us against the teacher team? Kamoshida’s gonna crush us.”

“We get to see his technique live and in person, though. We should totally get spiked on!” His friend exclaimed excitedly.

“Yeah, okay. You’re gonna get your face smashed in.” The first year replied irritably. “Just look at how banged up the volleyball team is. What the hell goes on in practices?”

Walking behind them were Akira and Airi, who frowned at each other. People knew that the volleyball team was in bad shape and no one was doing anything.

They walked silently the rest of the way.


“OK, listen up, everyone.” Kawakami announced. It was during what would have been considered first period. Standing in front of the class was the homeroom teacher, wearing a bored expression. “As you all know, the volleyball rally is today. Head to the gymnasium once you’ve changed. Got it?” With that, she left the room.

The room broke out in excited murmurs, thankful that there’s no class.

“I can’t wait to see Kamoshida-sensei! Sometimes, I still can’t believe we got an Olympic medalist as our gym teacher!” A female student gushed.

“I know right! I’m so jealous of Takamaki-san. It’s clear that she hogs him.” Another quipped.

The students congregated and left, heading to the locker rooms to change. The Yongenjaya residents waited for the class to empty before getting up, shouldering their bags, and headed toward the gym.

“How should we do this?” Airi whispered with a vague smile.

“We’ll have to wait until after some of the matches.” Akira replied with an even expression.

To anyone else looking, they would have appeared as normal students that weren’t trying to sniff out the biggest scandal of the school.

The bespectacled student separated from the class president and entered the boy’s locker room. He changed into the mandatory gym uniform for Shujin, a bright red track suit with white trim and arrow marks on the side. Leaving the jacket unzipped, showing the white t-shirt underneath, he left and headed into the gymnasium.

It was packed with students clamoring to see the medalist in action. Trying to squeeze past a couple of girls, Akira spotted Ryuji, his sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, sitting on the side near the stage. No one else sat around him, staying as far as they could from the delinquent.

Akira made his way over, giving the faux blond a nod in greeting.

“Yo.” Ryuji greeted. “Where’s Airi?”

The black haired boy sat down next to his friend. “Still in the locker room, I think.” Akira replied, looking at the court, disinterested.

The two then watched boredly as Kamoshida and the staff beat every team of students that went up against them.

Yawning, Ryuji stretched his arms up. “Pretty boring, right?” He grinned.

Akira smirked in amusement. It was pretty dull to keep watching the gym teacher annihilate his students, the other teachers not really participating.

“Sorry I took so long!” The boys perked up, looking up.

Airi jogged over and stopped, slightly out of breath. Her regular low ponytail was put up into a braided bun, similar to the one she had as a thief. Her red shorts showed off her pale skin, enhancing her long slim legs. She left her jacket unzipped with a white shirt on display, hugging her shapely curves.

Evening her breath, she sat down next to the boys. “I was held up in the locker room because I was talking to one of the girls on the volleyball team.” She whispered with an apologetic smile, hugging her knees.

Akira stared.

Why would he do anything else at this moment, he wondered distractedly, as his eyes drank in the sight in front of him. He knew that his class president was beautiful, but seeing her now out of her regular uniform and in more conforming clothes really cemented the fact in his mind.

“Did you get anything out of her?” Ryuji questioned, not noticing his companion’s silence.

Airi shook her head sadly. “No, she barely said anything.” She replied, softly frowning. “But I know abuse when I see it.” Her face hardened.

A whistle blew, signalling that someone had scored. Looking around the gym, Airi saw Ann sitting by herself, not really paying attention to the game.

Ryuji, following where her eyes were looking, snorted. “Still sticks out...She hasn’t changed a bit.”

An idea hit the rosette. “I’m going to go over to Takamaki-chan. She’s friends with the girl I cornered. Hopefully she knows something.” Airi informed the two, before straightening up and walking over to Ann.

The ebony haired boy continued to stare after her, mouth slightly open, his gray orbs glued to her backside. Damn. He watched the class president sit next to the model, giving her a greeting. The two chatted for a bit.

The crowd gasped, and Airi turned to see what had happened. One of the students participating in the game was on the floor, the volleyball rolling away from his face. She covered her mouth in horror.

it was Mishima.

Kamoshida stood there for a moment, staring down at the blue haired student with a frown, before crossing the court.

“Hey! Are you all right?” He called out, kneeling next to the boy, pulling him up into a sitting position.

He looked out towards the students. “Someone! Take him to the nurse’s office!” The gym teacher shouted.

Another student came up and dragged Mishima’s unconscious body away, out of the building. The students whispered to each other, uncertain of what to do.

“All right, let’s keep playing!” Kamoshida grinned, continuing the game.

Airi turned back to Ann with a guilty expression. “Sorry Takamaki-chan, but I have to go make sure Mishima-kun is OK.” She apologized, getting up from her seat.

The model gave the class president a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry about me. I understand!” Ann replied.

Airi shot her a grateful smile, before running out of the building.

-AKIRA- POV

Akira watched as the rose haired girl sprinted out of the building after Mishima. He frowned slightly. A student gets seriously injured and the teacher responsible for it just brushed it off.

‘Isn’t there anyone else in the room other than us who thought that was messed up?’ He wondered darkly.

“Hey.” Ryuji nudged him. “Let’s go.” He gestured to the doors.

Akira nodded and stood up, the two delinquents leaving the gym and headed to the vending machine alcove. Most of the students were still at the rally, leaving the courtyard mostly empty with only a few stragglers here and there.

Arriving at the corner, Ryuji turned to look at his friend. “That asshole’s actin’ like a king over here too...” He frowned. “Get to know each other better, my ass. It’s just a one-man show to stroke his ego. And how he acted like he was worried over Mishima? What an abusive douche bag!” Ryuji ranted angrily.

Akira nodded in agreement, a grim look on his face. “It was messed up.” He replied, putting his hands in his pockets.

Ryuji sighed, slumping from his outburst. “...Anyway, now’s our chance to go look for the guys we saw were slaves yesterday. Let’s look for the faces we saw at the castle.” Curling his fists, the faux blond looked at his friend with a determined face. “I’ll be sure to find to spill about Kamoshida’s physical abuse. Just you wait, asshole...” He muttered.

“Where are you searching?” Akira questioned.

Ryuji scratched his head, thinking. “Hmm...The first one that popped out in my mind was a guy from Class D, so let’s start from there.” He suggested. “That’s your class. Hopefully, you can get him to talk without any issues. People have been avoidin’ me lately, so...” He paused awkwardly. “Oh wait, you’re in the same boat, huh...”

Adjusting his glasses, Akira nodded. “I’m probably not the best person to, yeah. The entire class except for Airi-chan avoids me.” He stated, pursing his lips. “We should probably ask her to go in with us. She’d be able to get it out of them.” Akira suggested, knowing that their chances of success were low.

“Sure, OK. She’s at the nurse’s office, yeah?” Ryuji questioned, the two of them heading off.

Chapter Text

-AIRI- POV

Airi sat stiffly next to the still figure on the bed, extremely worried.

Mishima was still knocked out cold. His nose had bled earlier due to the force of the volleyball hitting his face, though thankfully it had stopped.
The nurse had examined him as soon as he was brought in, and she declared that he would be fine in a few hours, before leaving. The student who carried him here had also left, his job done.

Airi reached out and softly clasped an unmoving hand, mentally praying that Mishima would wake up soon.

The office door slid open, interrupting her thoughts. She looked up curiously, wondering who it was, and blinked in surprise when she saw it was her two fellow Persona users.

She tried to give them a smile as a greeting, but ended up grimacing. They walked up to the bed, giving Mishima pitying looks.

“How is he?” Ryuji asked softly.

Airi shook her head. “The nurse said he’ll be fine in a couple of hours, but I’m worried.” She replied, biting her lip. “Mishima-kun has been part of the volleyball team since last year. He might not last much longer like this...”Airi finished, gazing down sadly, taking her hand back from Mishima’s and placed them on her lap.

Clenching his fists, Ryuji gritted his teeth. “Fucking Kamoshida.” He spat.

He turned on his heel and headed to the door. Both gray and red orbs followed him, watching curiously.

“I’m gonna go find those guys. I’ll text you when I got one.” The punk stated, before sliding the door open and walking out, sealing the room behind him.

The two classmates were now alone, barring Mishima who was still unconscious.

The bespectacled student turned back to his class president. “Are you OK?” Akira asked quietly.

Biting her lip, Airi shrugged halfheartedly. “I don’t know. I wish I could do more for him...” She trailed off.

Dragging another stool up, Akira sat down next to her, offering his company. “Do you know him well?” He inquired curiously.

“Not exactly...”Airi replied uncertainly. “This might sound kind of patronizing, but he's pretty innocent for a teenager, and undeserving of this. Seeing him injured is like seeing someone kick a puppy for fun.” She explained, her face scrunching up in disgust at the thought.

Akira chuckled at the explanation, amusement dancing across his features.

They sat in silence for a brief moment.

The ebony haired boy lifted his hand, and slowly placed it on top of her’s. Ruby eyes widening at the unexpected contact, she looked up at her neighbor, surprise written on her face.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine.” Akira reassured her, giving her a soft smile.

She stared at him for a moment, before relaxing. Giving him a watery smile, she uttered a soft “thank you”, before averting her gaze, lost in her thoughts.

They sat together in silence, him never removing his hand from her’s.

“Ngh…”

Snapping their heads up, two pairs of eyes focused on the bedridden patient, who was starting to twitch. With a groan, dark brown eyes slid open, gradually regaining clarity.

Airi breathed out a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you’re alright, Mishima-kun.” She said softly.

The blue haired boy slowly turned his head to look at her. “Kimisawa-senpai..?” He breathed out, taking a long blink.

The rose haired girl smiled and nodded, eyes swimming with tears of relief.

Shakily pushing his arms, Mishima sat up on the bed. “What happened?...” He asked, holding a hand to his throbbing head.

“You were knocked out by Kamoshida.” Akira answered, retrieving his hand and standing up. He put his hands in his pockets, observing his blue haired classmates for any more signs of injury.

Mishima jumped. “Kurusu! You’re here too...?!” He shouted, looking at him with wide eyes before groaning, holding his head in pain.

Airi grabbed the painkillers and the cup of water from the side table, offering them to the bedridden teen.

“Here, this will help.” She offered gently.

He took the items gingerly, before washing down the pills. He exhaled, placing the empty cup back onto the side table.

Airi glanced at Akira, silently questioning if she should continue. He nodded. Turning back to their blue haired classmate, Airi softly called for his attention.

“Mishima-kun, please be honest with me.” She requested firmly. He looked up at her questioningly. “Is Kamoshida abusing you and the volleyball team?”

Dark brown eyes widened at the question, and he waved his hands frantically in objection. “No! No. N-Nothing’s wrong. I got hurt because I wasn’t paying attention, and...” Mishima stammered, then stopped. He clenched his eyes, gritting his teeth.

Airi grasped his hand with her own, brow furrowed. “Please, Mishima-kun.” She pleaded. “We can help.”

Gripping the bed sheets with the other hand, he bit his lip, and jerkily nodded. “OK.” He whispered, acquiescing.

Letting out a sigh in relief, she gave him a grateful smile. “Does anyone else outside of the volleyball team know about this?” She asked.

He nodded. “All the parents and faculty know.” He answered curtly, his darkened eyes staring ahead blankly.

Her eyes widened. “All of them..?” She asked shakily.

He nodded again. “Mine does. They don’t care.” He added quietly.

Airi let out a trembling sigh, unsettled by what he confessed.

A hand landed on her shoulder. She looked up at Akira, who’s hardened gaze bore into the bedridden classmate. “Is there anything you could tell us that could definitely incriminate him?” He inquired tightly.

Mishima slumped, a scowl marring his lips. “What would it matter? Everyone sees us with these injuries and brushes it off. They don’t care. He can’t get caught.” The blue haired teen answered defeatedly.

Just then, a phone rang out. Taking it out of his pocket, Akira answered. “Yeah?” He said into it.

“Yo. I found the guy, he’s in your classroom. Hurry up here!” Ryuji replied.

“Got it.” The black haired boy answered, before ending the call. He moved to leave the room, Airi getting up to go with him.

“Wait!” Mishima called out. The two Persona users turned to look at him. “Please...don’t tell anyone that I told you all of this.” He pleaded, his shoulders trembling in fear.

Airi softened her eyes and gave him a warm smile. “Don’t worry,” She reassured him. “He’ll pay for this.” Akira nodded in agreement.

The two then left the room, dark brown orbs staring after them.

A small glimmer of hope flashed in his eyes, before disappearing behind the dark despair.


The school outcast and the class president quickly made their way back to their classroom. Ryuji was leaning against the wall next to the entrance, tapping his feet impatiently. Straightening up, he pointed into the room at a heavily bandaged up student.

“Him. He was the first one we saw.” He stated quietly.

The three entered the room and made a beeline to the specified person.

Hearing footsteps coming up to him, the volleyball team member turned around to see who it was.

He jumped in shock. “Ack! A-Are you skipping out on the volleyball rally? I guess I expected it from you, Transfer, Sakamoto.” He remarked rudely, looking at the two outcasts.

Said transfer looked back with slightly narrowed eyes, annoyed at the minor slur.

The injured student then turned to Airi. “You too, senpai?” He questioned, shocked.

She directed a polite smile at him . “Please don’t tell on us, Tsukishima-san.” She requested calmly.

Said male looked back at them, suspicious. “What do you guys want..?” He asked slowly.

Taking a step forward, Akira’s eyes focused on his bandaged head. “How did you get injured?” He inquired.

Tsukishima looked affronted. “It’s from practice! What does that have to do with anything?” He asked defensively, eyes starting to dart around nervously.

“Kamoshida did that to you, right?” Ryuji interjected, also taking a step forward. “Look, we ain’t gonna tell anyone you squealed.” The faux blond reassured. “Just tell us about how Kamoshida’s abusin’ you.”

The brown haired student took a step back. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about!” He exclaimed shakily.

Airi stepped forward, clasping her hands in front of her. “Please, Tsukishima-san. We need you to testify.” She pleaded softly.

“You...you know? You have proof?” Tsukishima squawked, face slacken. He shook his head furiously, glaring at them. “This is ridiculous. Please, leave me alone. You’re really bothering me!” The volleyball member snapped, clearly done with the interrogation.

Rubbing his head in frustration, Ryuji turned to his friends. “Alright, let’s just go.” He grumbled.

The three walked out into the hallway. “Crap. If we keep goin’ at this pace, the ball game’s gonna end.” Ryuji cursed.

Adjusting his glasses, Akira shifted in place. “Let’s split up.” He offered. “It’ll be faster.”

The punk grinned, agreeing. “I’ll check the Practice Building for people before clubs start. You handle the Classroom Building.” He declared.

“I’ll check the courtyard as well as the girl’s bathrooms and locker room.” Airi added with a determined look.

The three nodded to each other and split up.


Heading toward the courtyard, Airi walked down the flight of stairs to the first floor. Turning the corner, she saw Ann with the girl she questioned in the locker room, Suzui Shiho, standing near some lockers.

“Everyone’s saying a lot of bad stuff about that transfer in your class, Ann...”Shiho remarked, tucking her black hair behind her ears.

Her companion grunted in agreement. “I know. I hate rumors already, but they’re only getting more and more complex as time goes on.” Ann replied, twirling her ponytail agitatedly.

“I wonder if he’s alright...I hope he’s not letting it get to him too much.” The volleyball member murmured, lips pursed in worry.

The blonde model sighed. “That’s just like you, Shiho. Always worrying about others before yourself.” Ann proclaimed, shaking her head exasperatedly before grinning. “Don’t worry, I’ve seen him around with Airi-senpai. She’ll make sure he’s OK.”

Shiho blinked. “Airi-senpai? You mean Kimisawa-san, right?” She asked.

Her friend nodded. “Yep. Don’t you remember her?” Ann asked curiously, tilting her head to the side.

Hesitantly, the black haired girl nodded. “Yeah. She asked me how I was when we were both changing in the locker room...She said she was worried about me.”

Ann giggled. “That’s just like senpai. She probably saw you looking down and thought ‘I have to cheer her up!’”

Shiho looked at her in surprise. “But she doesn’t even know me! We weren’t in the same class in middle school..!” She exclaimed.

“Well...” Ann started. “It’s a lot like how you were for me, remember?” She grinned, poking fun of her friend.

Smiling fondly, Airi continued on her way out the courtyard. ‘Takamaki-chan still thinks so highly of me...’ She thought happily. ‘And Suzui-san, now..! She’s just like…’ She shook her head. ‘Don’t think about it.’

Chapter Text

“Attention...Attention...All matches have concluded. Please get ready to go home for today...”

Akira bit back a curse. He had only just started questioning a first year volleyball member when the announcement rang out. The first year ran away hurriedly, not looking back.

His phone buzzed. Turning around the corner, he leaned against a wall next to the stairwell and unlocked his phone.

R: Dammit, we’re outta time. How’d it go?
Ak: No good.
R: So you didn’t have any luck, either…
Ai: Sorry. I almost got something, but the girl ran away.
R: Let’s regroup for now. See you in the courtyard?
Ak: Sure.
Ai: Already here.

He put his phone away and pushed himself off the wall. Walking down the stairs, he crossed the courtyard into the vending machine alcove. He saw Airi was sitting on one of the benches with a drink in hand, looking morose. 'She changed back into the regular uniform.' He thought, slightly disappointed.

He walked up next to her and sat down, taking a breather after their wild goose chase. They sat in silence for a bit, but it was broken by the arrival of Takamaki Ann.

“Hey. Can I talk to you guys for a sec..?” She asked hesitantly.

Akira tilted his head, looking at her. “What is it?” He replied evenly.

Airi looked at her curiously, nodding.

The blonde model crossed her arms. “It’ll be quick.” She assured them. “What was up with you? Like, how you were late the other day and all.” Ann grilled. “We both saw you in the morning, on the way to school.” She gestured to Airi and herself. “So you should’ve gotten here on time...And there’s that rumor about you, too.”

“Whaddya want with him?” A voice snapped. The three members of Class 2-D turned around to see Ryuji stomping up to them, glaring at the blonde. Ann glared back at him.

“Right back at you. You’re not even in our class.” She retorted, irritated at the interruption.

Ryuji looked away. “...We just happened to get to know each other.” He answered awkwardly.

Putting her drink down, Airi walked up to the two with her hands out. “Please, let’s not fight.” She soothed the two. She had had enough of this back in middle school.

Ann looked at her guiltily, before crossing her arms. “What are you guys planning on doing to Kamoshida-sensei?” She questioned with a slight frown.

“Oh I see, I getcha.” Ryuji started, glaring at her. “You’re all buddy-buddy with Kamoshida after all.”

“This has nothing to do with you, Sakamoto!” Ann replied angrily, scowling at the fake blond in front of her.

He hmphed. “If you found out what he’s been doing behind your back, you’d dump him right away.” Ryuji declared, clenching his fists.

Taken aback, Ann flinched. “Behind my back..? What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked, looking at the three curiously.

The two boys glanced at each other, silently questioning. Akira shook his head. Don’t involve anyone else.

Ryuji nodded before turning back to the half foreigner. “You wouldn’t get it.” He said shortly.

Airi closed her eyes and sighed. Boys.

“Well, whatever.” Ann retorted. “I don’t know what you guys are trying to pull, but no one is gonna help you. I’m warning you, just in case.” She finished quietly, before turning to leave.


Furrowing her eyebrows, Airi followed after her, calling out her name. “Takamaki-chan! Wait!”

Ann turned around, surprised that she followed her. “Senpai?” Ann asked, curious to why the rosette called out to her.

Biting her lip, Airi leaned in close. “Please, keep a close eye on Suzui-chan. I saw several bruises on her earlier in the locker room.” She whispered, casting a cautious look around.

Ann flinched back. “What?” She uttered, taken back.

Airi nodded. “The one on her lower back looked suspiciously like a hand print... A large male one.” She bit her lip, her eyes pleading at Ann to understand.

The blonde took a step back, staring at her with wide eyes. She nodded faintly.

Airi sighed in relief. “And it’s just Airi, Takamaki-chan. We’ve known each other for four years, after all.” She added, shooting her a fond smile.

The model pursed her lip and shook her head. “I don’t know if I believe you, but I’ll keep a closer eye on her. And it’s Ann to you then, Airi-senpai.” She shot back teasingly.

They both giggled.

“Well, I’m off then. I have a shoot to get to.” Ann stated apologetically.

Airi waved her off. “Don’t worry about it. Good luck.” And with that, they parted.


Airi walked back to the alcove where Akira and Ryuji were waiting, shooting them a sheepish look, before sitting down and grabbing her drink.

Gray eyes darting between the two, his brow furrowed. “How do you know her?” Akira asked them both.

With a roll of his eyes, Ryuji opened his mouth. “We all went to the same middle school.” He replied curtly, taking a seat next to the class president. Akira made to sit down as well.

“Anyway, I had no luck.” Ryuji started. “Did anything like someone’s name turn up?”

The ebony haired male nodded. “A first year mentioned that Mishima was getting special coaching from Kamoshida.” Akira stated.

“So what he said earlier was true...” Airi trailed off, grasping her chin thoughtfully.

Ryuji looked at her questioningly.

“After you left the nurse’s office, Mishima-kun woke up.” Airi explained, taking a swig of her drink. “I begged him to tell me what was going on, and he told us that all the parents and faculty know about this.” She finished, eyes darkened.

The faux blond stared at her incredulously. “Are you fucking serious?!” He growled, clenching his fists.

Akira looked at him sharply. “Hey!” He admonished the punk.

Ryuji flinched. “Right... Sorry, Airi.” He apologized, rubbing the back of his head guiltily.

Shaking her head, she gave him an understanding smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’m angry as well.” Airi replied. Getting up, she threw away her finished drink and turned to the two males. “We should go see if Mishima-kun is okay. He’s our only lead right now.” She declared.

The two delinquents nodded in agreement, and the three walked around searching for the bruised blunet.

They finally found him near the snack store, preparing to leave school. “Mishima-kun!” Airi called out, running up to him, the two outcasts following behind her.

The blue haired boy turned to look at her. “Oh, senpai.” He greeted quietly. He gave her a minuscule smile.

“Are you feeling better?” She inquired softly, concern shining in her dark ruby eyes.

“Did Kamoshida give you all those other injuries?” Ryuji asked brusquely.

Eyes darting around, looking at all the people still in the building, Mishima shook his head. “They’re from practice..! I’m just not very good at volleyball.” He lied.

The three looked at him disbelievingly.

“What’s going on here?”

The four second year students turned at the new voice. Kamoshida walked up to them, looking down at Mishima.

“Mishima, isn’t it time for practice?” He asked disapprovingly.

Said boy took a step back, looking away. “I-I’m not feeling well today...” He answered meekly.

Resting his hands on his hips, Kamoshida frowned. “What? Maybe you’re better off quitting then. You’re never going to improve that crappy form unless you show up to practice.” He remarked callously.

Ryuji glared at the teacher, and walked up to him with clenched fists. “Didn’t ya hear? He ain’t feelin’ well!” He yelled.

Kamoshida ignored him. “Well, Mishima? Are you coming to practice or not?” He taunted.

“...I’ll go.” The blunet reluctantly acquiesced.

Airi looked at him worryingly. “Mishima-kun, are you sure?” She whispered to him.

He didn’t respond, his dark eyes staring blankly at the floor.

“As for you.” Kamoshida began, looming over the punk. “Any more trouble and you’ll be gone from this school for sure.” He threatened, glaring down.

“Tch, bastard..,”Ryuji muttered angrily.

“Same goes for you. Didn’t the principal tell you to keep in line?” The gym teacher’s eyes zeroed down at Akira.

Said male placed his hands in his pockets, face unreadable. ”I was just leaving.” He replied shortly.

The older male sneered. “Well, just don’t get in the way of my practice. All these unsettling rumors are making the students anxious, after all.”

The faux blond narrowed his eyes at his statement. “That’s your own goddamn fault.” Ryuji muttered.

Turning to face the rosette, Kamoshida gave her a grin. “Kimisawa, you shouldn’t be hanging around these delinquents.” He playfully scolded her.

She blinked, taken aback.

“If you want, you can come watch the practice!” He offered.

Unsure of how to respond, she glanced over to her male companions. Ryuji looked at the teacher disgustedly. Akira furrowed his brows, frowning, anger flashing in his dark stormy eyes.

“Um...” Airi began, eyes darting around. “Thank you for the offer, sensei, but my shift starts soon.” She replied apologetically, giving him a polite smile.

“Another time then.” Kamoshida sighed. “Let’s go, Mishima.”

He turned to walk away, but paused. “Shujin Academy is a place where those with aspirations come to learn. Unworthy students like you, don’t have any right to be here. Get with the program!” Kamoshida declared, glaring at the three males.

“Yes, sir.” Mishima replied quietly, his expression downtrodden.

Narrowing his eyes, the gym teacher left, walking back to the gym.

Ryuji clenched his fists. “That asshole’s gonna pay for this..!” He declared quietly.

“It’s no use...” Mishima interjected. “Proving that he’s physically abusing us...is meaningless. Everybody knows. The principal, our parents...They all know, and they all keep quiet about it” He finished quietly.

“But Mishima-kun, if we can get more people to prove he’s doing this, we can go to the authorities.” Airi protested, frowning.

The blunet clenched his bag tighter, glaring at the three. “...Don’t be a pain. You don’t understand what I’m going through.” Mishima argued. “Shouldn’t you of all people know that nothing’s going to help..!?” He yelled, locking his eyes with Ryuji’s.

Taken aback, the punk flinched.

Taking the opportunity, Mishima fled.

Biting his lip, Ryuji lifted his hands in a strangling motion, before letting it go limp. “Dammit...” He muttered.

Akira turned to look sympathetically at the faux blond. “What now?” He asked, tilting his head.

Slumping, the punk looked down. “...I’ll try one more time to persuade the other guys. That’s...all I can do.” Ryuji replied quietly.

The three Persona users stood in the hall silently, each trying to figure out a way to help the situation.

How could the adults, the ones children were supposed to trust, allow this to happen?