He sits on a separate couch from the girl, across a table from all of them. His eyes are clear, and his hair is cropped close. A polo shirt is draped over his broad shoulders, and a tattoo of a dragon peeks out just beneath the sleeve. Black pants and a conservative, monochromatic dark belt cinch his slim waist. Physically, he reminds Akira of Kamoshida, but the difference in presence is absolute.
Akira knows there will be no questioning this man. No arguing. No rebellion. Just obedience.
The man looks up then, and sees him. Akira feels as if his entire plan has fallen apart. This man can see through all his deceptions and instinctively knows what he's here for.
This is the guy who killed Sugimura, Akira thinks. What the hell am I doing here?
Kaneshiro's gaze drifts away from him, but the oppressive feeling remains. His eyes land on Iwai, and a small smile plays across his mouth. "Munehisa," Kanseshiro enunciates. He slaps his hands on his knees and propels himself upward. He's a giant. "Good to see you, brother." He walks around from behind the table and extends a hand towards Iwai. Iwai takes it, and moves to shake, but then Kaneshiro pulls him into a hug. Akira feels the tension in the room skyrocket, but Kaneshiro only laughs and pats Iwai on the back, a bit too hard to be affectionate. "I thought you'd forgotten all about me," he says.
Iwai gently taps the shoulders of the man who encompasses him, and pulls away slightly. Akira can't see his face, but bets it's his best impression at a smile. "Nah, I just heard you were busy is all."
Kaneshiro's head tilts to the side, just a fraction, and he releases Iwai. "No worries, no worries," he replies. "All's..." He trails off, then snaps his fingers. "Nanashi," he calls. "What's that phrase? In English? The one about endings?"
Another man in the room, hands folded behind his back, like a soldier, says, "All's well that ends well," in passable English.
Kawakami would like his pronunciation, Akira thinks, then wonders where such a thought came from.
"That's right," Kaneshiro says, and points to the man. "All's well that ends well. You're here now, and that's what's important." He turns his back on them and sprawls back across the couch. Finally, after all this time, he looks at Tsuda. "You can go now, Tsu-chan."
Tsuda looks like he's about to say something, but his hesitation only lasts a second. Then, he bows, turns, and walks out, with the door held open by Muzaki.
"This the kid?" Kaneshiro asks.
Iwai motions Akira forward. He shuffles up next to him, and Iwai clamps a hand down on his shoulder. "Yeah. This is the kid. Akira Kurusu. He came to me for some stuff, a card reader and -"
"I remember," Kaneshiro says. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a large phone in a modest cover. "There's some interesting information about this kid online."
Akira feels his eyes widen. It can't be.
Kaneshiro turns the screen around until it faces them. "'Shujin's Newest Monster,'" he quotes. "Can't say who put this up here, but there's some very entertaining rumors. And then there's the facts. Did you know he was arrested for assault?"
Mishima never took that down?! Akira feels his blood boiling. He was going to kill that stupid little shit.
Iwai shakes his head. "The kid never told me, but then again, I never asked." He glances at him. "But you know how high school kids are. They like to exaggerate. Akira'll be more capable as a... covert, kind of guy for you."
Kaneshiro lowers his phone to the table. "'Covert,' huh? I wonder about that." He smiles. "Well, thanks Munehisa. You can go."
Go? Akira thinks.
"Go?" Iwai asks, voice faltering. "I thought I might stay and help show Akira the-"
"What?" Kaneshiro asks. "The ropes?" He shrugs. "What would you know about the ropes, Iwai? You're a civilian. Have been for ten years, ever since you left to take care of that... what did you call him?" He frowns. "Nanashi, what did Munehisa call his son, last time he was here?"
"A klutz, Boss," Nanashi answers.
"That's right, that klutzy son of yours." He throws one arm up along the couch's back. "So, why don't you make your way out of here?" When Iwai doesn't move, he lets out a low, grumbling laugh. Akira doesn't like the sound. "Relax, would you? The kid's with me. Nothing bad will happen to him, right?"
Iwai stiffens and removes his hand from Akira's shoulder. "Right." He backs up a step. Akira wants to call after him. He wants to beg him not to leave, but Iwai just says, "I'll talk to you later, kid." Then, he's turned around, and Muzaki is shutting the door behind him.
Akira stares at Kaneshiro. The big man gestures towards the couch with the girl lying limp on it. "Have a seat."
Akira turns his body, but doesn't move. His eyes fall on the girl. He can see that she's breathing, as her back rises and falls, but her exhales sound like soft whimpering. He lifts a hand and points a shaky finger at her. "Is she okay?"
"Have a seat," Kaneshiro repeats. It doesn't sound like a suggestion this time. A vague sense of threat kicks into his lower brain, and Akira's legs move. He slides past the girl, and sits down on the opposite end of the couch from her. The cushions are soft, and he sinks into it a bit.
Kaneshiro's eyes flick towards the girl, but return to Akira quick enough. He leans forward, clasping his hands together and stares at him for a moment. "So, what kind of scam were you running?"
Akira feels his heart hammering against his ribcage. When his fingers touch one another, he can feel the grooves of his prints. Part of him wants to get lost in these physical details of himself, wants to retreat back inside himself with the minimum of periphery input. But he forces words out of his mouth. "M-my scam?"
Kaneshiro nods. "You got that card reader from Iwai," he continues. "I'm assuming you used it for something."
He has prepared for this. He knows what he should say, but it sounds so weak when he blurts out. "ATMs. I put it into ATMs and when customers stick their debit cards in they-"
Kaneshiro holds up a hand. "I know how card readers work, kid. Why'd you do it?"
Akira's mouth works in a small circuit. This kind of question he hadn't expected. Why did I do it? What does it matter why I did it? "Spending money," he blurts.
Kaneshiro's brows rise. "'Spending money?'" Akira nods. The man releases that horrid laugh once more. "Spending money. I like that. That's good." He spreads his hands. "Think you could do it again?"
"I, um, don't have a card reader anymore. I-"
"We'll give you a few," Kaneshiro says, as if it's nothing. "Maybe you can show some of these morons how to work them." He holds up a finger. "What I'd like you to do is set these up in a few ATMs around Shibuya. Collect some card numbers and their PINs. Don't steal anything. The second you do, the banks alert the customers and they change their PINs. Bring them back to me, and I can use them at a later date, do a couple big pulls, if we need it."
Akira nods. "Yeah. I can do that." His mind already explores the possibilities. This could be a job for Morgana.
"Good," Kaneshiro replies. He takes out his phone once more and flips through it. "So, how much of this shit is true?"
"Um, that was put up by my gym-"
"Do you want some advice?" Kaneshiro asks, not looking up from the screen.
"Huh?" Akira asks, without thinking.
Now, Kaneshiro does look at him, and Akira feels his skin crawl. "Kid, when I ask you if you want advice, the answer is always yes."
"Yes," Akira sputters out. "Yes, please."
"Don't say 'uh,' and 'um,' and 'huh,' and all that other bullshit you're spewing." He lowers the phone. "You're nervous. That's natural. But don't let your nerves determine your speech. There's no faster way to make a bad impression than to sound like a fucking retard."
Akira takes a deep breath. "Okay," he says, and inclines his head in a bow. "Thank you for the advice."
Kaneshiro's grin tightens. "You're welcome. So, what about these rumors?"
Akira sits back up. "My gym teacher put that up. He got a kid at school to do it. Most of it is nonsense."
Kaneshiro nods. "But you were arrested for assault?"
Akira nods. "I was."
"Hmmm," the big man intones. "Did you punish him? For putting this up?"
"My gym teacher?"
Kaneshiro laughs again. "No, kid. Not your gym teacher. I know all about what happened to Suguru Kamoshida. I'm talking about the kid who posted this shit about you. You'd pay him back?"
Akira is about to say, 'Yes,' because he figures that's what the man wants to hear. But then he thinks about it. There are other Shujin students here. He could already know it was Mishima who did it, and he could know whether or not I retaliated. Instead, he says, "I didn't. I didn't want to get expelled, so I kept my mouth shut." He shrugs. "People can say whatever they want about me."
"Smart not to retaliate," Kaneshiro says, then frowns. "But you should've found some way to take all this down. If something like this stays up there, it'll only get worse. People like to say that folks will just move on to the next thing, and they might, but they'll never forget." He taps his own forehead. "Remember that."
Akira bows his head. "Thank you for advice, sir."
"That's going to get really old if you do that every time," Kaneshiro snaps.
Akira straightens once more and nods.
"What I'm looking for, ultimately, is someone who can help me get things done. You're young, and that's got its advantages and drawbacks. One advantage is that you can support me early, and if you want, as I rise, you'll rise. The drawback is that most kids and pretty goddamn dumb." He narrows his eyes. "You don't strike me as dumb, Akira Kurusu. But you don't impress me as a genius either, despite those glasses."
Akira reaches up and pulls them off. "These aren't actually real. I wore them around school to look less intimidating."
Kaneshiro blinks. "Hold up, you've got a disguise? Like Superman?" He throws back his head and laughs, louder now. "Holy shit, that's amazing. Hey, Nanashi, who's Superman's alter ego?"
"Bruce Wayne," Nanashi replies.
"That's right. Bruce Wayne," Kaneshiro repeats, straining with the syllables. "Maybe I'll call you that from now on." His laughter diminishes to a chuckle, and he shakes his head. "Wild, man. You can't make this stuff up." Akira forces a shaky smile onto his face and puts his glasses back on. "Well, anyway. I want to know if you're the kind of person who will stick with me when things get tough. And they're going to get tough, very soon."
"I am," Akira replies, automatically.
"See, you say that, but I can't exactly be sure, can I?" Kaneshiro asks.
The girl's leg spasms briefly, and Akira turns to her. Then, it stops, and her breathing returns to normal.
Kaneshiro stands. "Maybe it's time I showed you what I mean. Kids like you, they think that joining groups like mine will be all glitz and glamour. They don't realize that it takes hard work and commitment. They'll act as if they understand, but it's rare that they do." He turns towards the men at the door. "Muzaki, gather some of those other Shujin kids. The newer ones, and bring them downstairs. It's time they met Miyakagami-san."
The edge of Muzaki's mouth curls upwards, and then he turns and is out the door.
"Let's go," Kaneshiro says, and beckons for Akira to follow. When they reach the door, Kaneshiro turns to Nanashi and jerks his thumb back towards the girl. "Get that out of here." Nanashi nods.
Muzaki walks briskly down the hall and out of sight, but Kaneshiro turns and heads back towards the stairs.
"You know about the Dragon?" Kaneshiro asks.
Akira clears his throat. "Iwai told me about them, briefly. You're a branch of them, right?"
Kaneshiro nods. "Officially. For years, the Dragon Syndicate has been running things around Tokyo and the eastern seaboard. There were a few others, but a lot of them have been absorbed into our ranks. The Heron Clan. Fox Syndicate and their subsidiaries. The Boss knows what he's doing. But the Boss is going soft."
They descend the steps, heading deeper into the building. The horrid smell reenters Akira's nostrils.
"Too many of these old bosses are caught up in their old ways. Old ideas. Ours even wants to take the entire organization in a different direction. There's talk of us even going legitimate. Which is ridiculous." He lifts his arms, as if gesturing to the entire building. "We go legit, and we'll lose these revenue streams. We go legit, and half our people won't know what to do with themselves. So, in my estimation, it's time for the Boss to go." Kaneshiro turns and glances back at Akira. "And I'm the one who's going to lead us to that brighter future. As far as everyone in this building is concerned, I am the Dragon."
Kaneshiro leads Akira down a final flight of stairs to what Akira imagines is the basement. There's an echo whenever Akira takes a step, and dirty light from bulbs hanging overhead. They step into a large room with a number of twisted shapes along the wall.
They're cots, and when Akira turns to study them, he sees that the mass of shapes he'd taken for piles of blankets and sheets are actually people. Teenage girls, to be precise. He feels his stomach do a few flips. They all appear asleep, from what he can tell, but they roll around, restless, and in the dim light, Akira can see the same red path of marks up their arms.
He counts twenty of them by the time Kaneshiro reaches the far side of the room, and the man doesn't even bother to comment on them. A door greets them, large and metal, and Kaneshiro grasps the handle and swings it down.
They step into a smaller room, but one equally hollow and equally dimly lit.
In the center of the room sits a chair. Tied to the chair, is a young man. His face is bruised and his lips and eyes are puffed out. Wet spittle coats his mouth.
"Meet Miyakagami-san," Kaneshiro says. He walks up to the man and pats him on the shoulder. The man whimpers and tries to pull away, but the ropes hold him tight. "Miyakagami-san is the kind of person that says he can be counted on. He's the kind of person that asks for more responsibility. He's the kind of person who swears an oath to support you. He's also what you could call, a rat fucking traitor."
Akira's mind is blank. Oh my god, he thinks. Oh my god. This is an execution. What else could this be? What else could this possibly be? I can't see this. I can't be here for this.
"P-please," Miyakagami says. His speech is bookended by pale whimpers. His voice is cracked and high.
"A little late to be begging," Kaneshiro replies. Kaneshiro runs his hand up from his shoulder, into the man's hair, grabs a fistful of it and pushes his head forward. He releases right as the man begins to howl. Akira takes a step back.
He hears the door open and turns to find Muzaki entering. Behind him, march a number of young, wide-eyed men. A few look less startled than the others. They begin to line up along the walls, not in any formal or straight setting, just because there's nowhere else for them to go. Akira realizes that, as he's almost in the center of the room, all of them are looking from Miyakagami to him.
His name begins to rise in whispers. He looks around and sees a number of the boys are, as Kaneshiro and Iwai had both promised they would be, Shujin students. People he's passed in the hall, people who've gossiped about him, people who look away when he approaches. His being here, he sees, confirms everything they've ever said about him. A new panic begins to pound through his veins. What if one of them talks? What if one of them goes to the police, or even the Principal? There'd be no more chances for him.
He'd have to leave Tokyo. Leave the Phantom Thieves. Go back into the Box.
Akira begins to backpedal towards the wall, trying to remove himself from everyone's view. He watches as Muzaki walks up to Kaneshiro and pulls something out of his pocket. Crumpled up, it's difficult to make out what it is at first.
It's a plastic bag.
Kaneshiro takes the bag from Muzaki and nods. "Good afternoon, everyone," he says.
A few of the boys mumble back, "Good afternoon, sir." A few say, "Boss," instead. Akira remains silent.
Kaneshiro runs his eyes along their faces, a small smile on his face. "Can I assume you know why you're here?"
No one nods, or says anything. Some glance at one another. Akira tries to remain motionless.
Kaneshiro smacks the back of Miyakagami's head with his open palm. The man's shout deteriorates, quickly, into a high pitched whimper. "No guesses?" He shrugs. "That's fine." He begins to walk in a slow circle around Miyakagami, eyes flickering back and forth between the young boys lining the wall, and the man tied to the chair.
"When I was a kid," he says. "There was one thing I wanted to be more than anything else." He shrugs. "I mean, I wanted to be lots of things. Who doesn't, when they're that age? But I remember watching an old video - somewhere - on the Moon Landing. It was grainy and black and white, and I couldn't understand anything the Americans were saying. But I was mesmerized." He walks up to Miyakagami-san and crouches down until they're eye level. "So, I went to my father and told him I wanted to be an astronaut. He told me that I couldn't. He said I was too stupid to get into a good school. He said I wouldn't understand anything about the space shuttle. I told him that I didn't care. I said, 'I want to go to the Moon.'" Kaneshiro straightens, and moves behind Miyakagami, smoothing the plastic bag. "So my father put his hand over my mouth and my nose, pushed me to the ground, and held me there."
"No, no, no, n-" Miyakagami screams as Kaneshiro shoves the bag over his head. He leans down as he does it, putting his weight on the man's shoulders, holding the bag tight.
Akira sees the bag expand and contract as the air inside it goes nowhere. He watches as Miyakagami tries to struggle, tries to move, but there's nowhere for him to go. He's trapped. Akira wants to look away, and he begins to turn his head.
"Don't," Kaneshiro shouts. His voice seems to explode through the hollow room, and Akira notices others were beginning to avert their gaze.
"So," Kaneshiro continues, as Miyakagami squirms. "My father holds me there until I start to turn blue. And all the while, he's telling me that I can't go to the Moon, because there's no air there. And then he keeps repeating that word. 'Air. Air. Air. Air.' Because, he knows I want some. Brain cells, you see, they start dying after about five minutes without oxygen. They're very sensitive. That's why you see those people, sometimes, when they've been underwater for long periods of time, or been dead for a few minutes? Those doctors struggle to bring them back to life, and suddenly, their heartbeat returns. Everyone thinks it's a miracle, but all you've done is bring back a circulatory system. If it's been too long, the brain is already dead. You've revived a corpse."
Miyakagami's movements begin to slow. His jerks and attempts to kick more sluggish.
"Anyway," Kaneshiro says. "I didn't want to be an astronaut after that." He rips the back off of Miyakagami's head, and the man takes a ragged, desperate gasp. "Not yet," Kaneshiro says, and rubs his head, affectionately. "Not quite yet."
Akira feels his legs almost give out, but he remains standing. He hears a soft sob, and realizes it isn't coming from Miyakagami. One of the boys, tucked away in the corner, has his eyes squeezed shut, and blubbers out a few more.
Kaneshiro turns his head towards the sound, and marches over to the kid. "Don't you fucking cry," he says, and slaps him on the ear. The kid cries out and drops to the ground. Kaneshiro bends down, looming over the boy. "Don't cry for him. You came in here. You walked through that door. You knew what was coming. You knew what you were getting into." He wraps his hands around the back of the boy's neck. He doesn't choke him, doesn't hurt him, just holds him. "All you little boys come in here, wanting the money and the pussy, and then you whine and bitch when things get hard." He pushes the kid's head down, not hard, but firm, onto the concrete floor. The kid just keeps sobbing.
For a moment, Akira wonders if Kaneshiro is going to snap his neck, or stomp on his head, or something else even worse.
But the man just shakes his head. "Little faggot," he mutters, and releases the boy. He turns and walks away. He looks at each of the kids as he passes them, eyes drilling through theirs. When he gets to Akira, he stops. A smile grows on his face. "Scared?" He asks.
Akira looks over his shoulder, at the man tied to the chair, and the kid on the ground still. None of the other boys will make eye contact with him. "Yeah," he says. "I am."
Kaneshiro chuckles, reaches out a meaty hand, and rests it on his shoulder. "Good boy," he replies. He turns back to the group. "Fear is natural. Fear is fine. Fear can keep you sharp. Or," he nods towards the crying boy. "You can cave to it, and turn into that sad sack of shit over there. Nanashi," he calls.
"Boss?" The man asks. Akira hadn't seen him come in.
"Get things moving for tomorrow."
"The rest of you," Kaneshiro says. "Will be here tomorrow morning, at nine. I don't care what else you think you need to do. You'll be here." He turns back to Akira and whispers. "Tomorrow, the fun begins."
It takes time for the shakes to stop.
Akira exits the building, and staggers the length of a few blocks.
He hears a voice calling him. "Akira," and turns to find Morgana negotiating a series of vents and fire escapes, to land just before him in an alley. "Are you okay?"
Akira nods, then shakes his head. "No, I'm not." He scoops the cat up into his arms, and fills him in on what happened.
He slinks back to Untouchable, pushes the door open, and finds Iwai looking anxious behind a counter. "Kid," he says. "You're ba-"
"You've got to get me out of there," Akira says. "I can't be there. He's insane."
Morgana jumps onto the counter and glares at Iwai. "Yeah," he says, even though the man can't hear him.
Iwai holds up his hands. "Slow down, kid. What happened?"
"He tried to suffocate someone. He did suffocate someone, then stopped, and then..." He trails off, groans, and continues. "There were these cots, and all these girls on them, and it was awful." He leans on the counter, staring through the glass at a model handgun on display, just looking at something to have something to focus on. "I can't do this."
Iwai mutters something beneath his breath. Then, "Sure you can."
"This isn't sneaking into an art gallery or going to school. This isn't hiding behind a wall outside an abandoned building. He knows who I am. He knows where I go to school. He probably knows where I live. He'll find out about everything else." Akira's voice cracks the more he talks. "There's no way this is going to work. He'll figure it out and-"
"Right, fuck this," Iwai spits. He walks around from behind the counter, seizes Akira by the shoulder and pulls him up until he faces him. Then, he gives him a good shake. "You're doing this, Kurusu. We don't have time for you to be a pussy. Grow a fucking dick and-"
"Back off," Morgana shouts, and leaps at Iwai, swiping his claws through the air. Iwai yelps and jumps back, hand slapping to his neck. He pulls it away, and Akira can see a few thin cuts almost at his jugular.
"Your cat fucking scratched me," Iwai growls.
"Yeah, and I'll do it again," Morgana hisses.
Akira reaches out a hand and blocks Morgana. "That's enough," he says. He offers the cat a small smile. "Let's not attack one another." He looks over at Iwai. "You keep getting attacked when you put your hands on me. Maybe you should stop doing that."
Iwai winces as he prods the cut with his fingers. "Stings..." he whispers. His eyes snap back to Akira's. "You just gonna quit then? Run away? Guys like Kaneshiro can find you, you know. And what about your friend? The cute one with the dead Dad. Are you just going to let that go?"
No, Akira thinks. I'm not going to do that.
His phone vibrates. He takes it out and looks at the message.
OHYA: Call me. Now. I've got info.
"You should put some disinfectant on that," Akira says, as he takes a few steps away from Iwai, and brings the phone to his ear.
"I remembered that name," Ohya answers, without so much as a 'hello.'
"The name?" Akira asks.
"Junya Kaneshiro. I'd run across it before, but I couldn't remember where. It just came back to me, and you'll never guess from where."
Akira blinks. "Well?"
Ohya replies, with a tone of smugness in her voice, "Natsuki Storage."
"According to Ohya's research," Akira says. "The holding company that owns Natsuki Storage is a front for the Dragon Syndicate. Apparently, Kaneshiro's branch."
"Which means Sensei's scheme relied upon Kaneshiro," Yusuke says, with a twinge of awe in his voice. "Interesting."
Akira shrugs. "We knew there was a yakuza connection. We didn't know it was specifically Kaneshiro, though."
Ryuji's face scrunches up. "Weird. Kaneshiro's got a connection to Sugimura and Madarame? What are the chances of that?" His eyes widen. "Wait. Holy shit. Do you think Kaneshiro killed Madarame?"
Yusuke sits up straighter. "How do you mean?"
"We know Kaneshiro can trigger mental shutdowns, right?" Ryuji explains. "So, what if he triggered one in that Aoe guy? And then, that dude killed Madarame right after the confession. Wasn't there something about him not remembering doing it?"
The Phantom Thieves pull out their phones and begin to search. "You're correct," Haru says, and turns her phone to face the others. "The official reports say he was high on drugs, and doesn't even recall the stabbing."
Akira nods, and a laugh skips out of his mouth. That's the same thing that happened to Makoto's Dad. He keeps this to himself, but looks at Haru. He can tell, from her gaze, that she's thinking the same thing. They've yet to tell Makoto yet, but they'll have to soon. Akira has no idea when he's supposed to fit that in.
"We shouldn't jump to conclusions," Akira says. "But yeah, that's one hell of a coincidence."
Ann leans back in her seat. "But what's that got to do with what's going on now?" She asks. "Akira, I don't think you should go back there. This guy sounds crazy! He almost killed someone in front of you."
Haru nods. "And the things he's done to those girls. Horrible."
Akira smiles at them. "I don't want to go back. Believe me. But Iwai was right. We can't just ignore this now. Kaneshiro knows who I am. I've got to see this through."
Morgana bobs his head. "So far, Kaneshiro just wants him to rip off some ATMs. We should be able to fake that so Akira doesn't actually get caught. If we need to give Kaneshiro money, we could pool our resources together. I think we'll be able to keep Akira safe that way."
"Technically," Akira says. "He just wants me to collect debit card numbers. Which, I mean, shouldn't be too hard." He reaches out and pets Morgana. "Not with this guy."
"But you should have an exit plan or something," Ann continues. "You shouldn't just be stuck in that building with no way out. Maybe the police will-"
"No police," Akira cuts in. "You know that."
Ann frowns. "Well, fine. But speaking of police, Mishima reached out to me today."
"What's that little shit want?" Akira asks. Everyone looks at him. "What? The dumbass never took down the crap about me online. Kaneshiro could look at it. Everyone can still look at it. I think I'm entitled to be a little pissed off."
Ann clears her throat. "He's still the admin of the PhanSite," she says. Akira rolls his eyes. That's right. I wanted to get rid of him by now, but never got around to it. "And he says he got a message from Natsuhiko Nakanohara."
Yusuke perks up. "Nakanohara-san? What about?"
"Apparently, an Officer Hideotoshi Kagawa and Goro Akechi showed up at his work, asking him about his connection to the Phantom Thieves," Ann explains. "He thinks they know how old we are."
No one says anything for a moment. Then, Akira says, "This... could be bad. If they scrutinize him and his movements, it's possible they'll find out about our little meeting." He sighs. "We really don't need this right now."
"I believe we can rely on Nakanohara-san to keep quiet about us," Yusuke puts in. "Indeed, it's possible we could even use him for disinformation."
"He's a clerk, not a spy," Akira points out. "Do we really think he'll be able to fool Akechi? Or Officer Kagawa? It'd be better if he keeps his head down and calls no attention to himself."
There are nods of agreement around the table. "Still," Morgana says. "It proves the police are still interested in the Phantom Thieves. And the SIU too."
"And that's why we'll need Makoto's help. She's our link to Officer Kagawa." Akira looks at Haru. "We'll talk to her soon. About everything. Tomorrow, if we can."
"Alright," Haru says.
Akira leans back in his seat. "A lot is going on. But let's remember that this is our chance to get a solid lead on the mental shutdowns. Kaneshiro said that 'tomorrow, the fun begins.' I've got no idea what that means, and I'm scared. But we've got to pursue this." Everyone seems comforted by his little speech, but Akira can still feel his insides roil.
Please, he prays to no one. Please let us get through this.