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A Forgotten Truth Will Break these Binds

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[Interlude, November 20XX]

“You have your teammates to thank for this. You were sold out.”

And sure enough, after being thrown to the ground and handcuffed, I see my betrayers standing in the crowd before me: six people I used to call friends, plus one damn detective and his cat, both welcomed in with open arms only to use my hospitality against me. I should have known right from the start that he would be the one to break the trust of my confidants and ruin me.

I look at Goro Akechi and the Phantom Thieves, my Phantom Thieves, but now they turn away from me.

            …“someone, be it god or demon, gave me a chance”…

[May 20XX]

“A local high school volleyball coach has been found dead in an unusual manner after he received a threatening note yesterday. The police are on the case, including Charismatic Detective, Goro Akechi! This young detective has just cracked the case on the string of robberies plaguing the city, and he’s here with us today…”

The news report drones on as I slip out from under the store awning into the street. Anything to avoid the stares and not-so-quiet whispers from the people in the shop who turned their attention to my interview playing on the TV, even if that means getting drenched because of course my umbrella is happily tucked away back in my apartment. The little café down the street would be a welcome reprieve from the rain, but inside its TV is also tuned to my recent interview and a group of three students wildly gesticulate towards the me on the screen. Despite the promise of a dry roof, I want to avoid my digital double and people with strong opinions about me when I can, although there's something about this particular café that makes it more appealing than others.

The longer I stand outside contemplating my options, the larger the students’ motions at the screen become and the harder the rain falls. One of the boys inside turns to look at me because I must seem like an absolute fool simply standing out here, but now that I've been caught, there's no way I can just wander inside with my pride in tact. I gather my hair behind my neck to try and preserve some semblance of dignity and run for the next shop. Preferably one without a TV.

[Interlude, September 20XX]

“Crow, Morgana. Welcome to the Phantom Thieves.”

[May 20XX]

Friendship is found in unusual places, in unusual forms and under unusual circumstances. Currently, my best friend is an anthropomorphic talking cat who stalked me for a few days before we met in Mementos more than two years ago. Unlike the aggressive shadows I first encountered, he was careful not to be seen, but his light footsteps and little breaths could not escape my ears. He revealed itself after a few days, apparently done with stealth.

“Hey, you’re new here, huh? I’ve been watching you—” he had stepped out of the shadows and appraised me, “—and you need my help.” I was apparently found to be lacking. “In return, you’ll help me too. Make a deal with me. What do you say?”

Surprisingly, that wasn’t even the strangest thing to have happened to me that week. “I suppose… it would be fruitful to collect information from someone who is willing to help…” Its forwardness and human speech and mannerisms caught me off guard even though I knew it was following me. Curious that it seemed to prefer a diplomatic approach rather than a fight.

“Meow-velous. My name is Morgana. It’s nice to officially meet you. Don’t worry, I’ll find you again when I need you.”

I was not reassured by the little shadow cat, but there was not much I could do about it at the time, and since then, Morgana has been a wellspring of knowledge for understanding some of the workings of this place. He told me that my power is a Persona, my inner-most rebellious self. That’s similar to what Loki said during my awakening, telling me what I always wanted but was too afraid to take for myself. Morgana said that this place, with its veins that wind all over and strange sounds that come from everywhere and nowhere—this place has a name: Mementos. It is the collective subconscious of the city and part of the larger, cognitive Metaverse. The shadows I encounter are shadows of people, shadows of distorted desires. Morgana grew bolder and even pushier—I hadn’t thought it possible—and started to demand an exchange of goods for his information. I brought him samples of different foods and quickly discovered that fish was his favorite.

Today, after a hectic few days of school and work, I make a quick trip to the store before entering Mementos at our pre-arranged time. “Morgana? I’m here and I brought sushi.”

“Took you long enough,” Morgana pipes up. “I’ve been waiting for this!”

“Sorry, things have been busy.” He must be bored down here by himself all the time, waiting every day to see if I'll show up. I wish I could have visited sooner, and I’m hoping the extra sushi I brought will make up for it.

“It’s fine, but I’ve been waiting to give you some new information.”


Morgana eats his fish and watches me. “I think there are other Persona users exploring the Metaverse. You’re not the only one anymore.”

My mind draws a blank. My mouth runs away. “What does this mean? Did they obtain their power in the same manner as I did?”

“At this point, I can’t be certain—”

“Do they also have an app to enter this place?”

“There are other ways to enter, but—"

“Would we be able to recognize each other in the real world if we saw one another? Now that my eyes are opened to my Persona, could I also recognize another with the same power?”

“Slow down, Loki,” he interrupts. I never gave Morgana my real name, but he’s seen me call upon my Persona a number of times when we fight Shadows. The codename stuck. “I know you like to think out loud, but I’m gonna stop you right now. I really don’t know anything beyond a feeling of a recently awakened presence. And I think they have a unique power like you do. It feels kind of familiar…” Morgana trails off.

Though he tries, Morgana can’t pinpoint any solid evidence. When I return home to take care of my cat Mona, I think about the implications of there being someone else like me, and wonder how I can find them.

The first step in my new investigation is to analyze the phone app. In this vast network of cell signals in the city, there should be a way to detect the rogue signal emitted when I am taken to Mementos. Then again, the app is likely too other-worldly to use our mere mortal technology. If I can somehow track my signal, I might be able to find others’ too, but my calling is not in engineering; who knows if this is even feasible, and it’s not exactly something I’d want to ask my co-workers about either.

What would I even do it I did find them? Are they the kind of people who could become as good a friend as Morgana had become? Would they even want to meet me in the real world? They would probably end up disappointed and then it would be completely awkward if we keep seeing each other in the Metaverse. Maybe it’s better if we don’t cross that line... 

I should know better than to daydream while walking around the subway—Sae Niijima has often called me out for my distractedness. Most of the time, she steps in to guide me one way or another around a pole or a person, but without Sae looking out for me and without Mona screeching from my duffel bag, my shoulder crashes into something solid, pulling me from my distracted thoughts and towards the teenage boy with curly black hair and large, thick glasses. He holds his arm where we collided, eyes wide in surprise and my apology gets stuck in my throat when I see another emotion there too: he is affronted that someone bumped him. The two people with him round on me before I can get a word out.

“Dude, what the hell? Watch where you’re going!” the blond boy chides, sizing me up.

The girl sighs and flips her pigtails. “Seriously, some people have no courtesy for others.”

The offended look quickly vanishes from the face of the boy I ran into. He raises his hands towards his friends in a placating gesture, “Ryuji, Ann, it’s fine. No harm done.”

I start to apologize again but they continue over me.

“After everything we just did, we gonna keep lettin’ people push us around?” the blond boy demands of his friend.

“Yeah,” the girl adds, “you said that we all need to stand up—"

“Back off.” His tone shifts. The boy in glasses is no longer trying to play peacemaker, and they are all way too intense over an innocent mistake in the first place.

In the momentary lull, I try once more to defuse the situation using my most endearing celebrity personality voice. Honestly, it makes me sound a little stuck up, but it hasn’t failed me yet.

“I do sincerely apologize, I didn’t mean to start anything.” They look at me as if they just remembered I was there. I probably could have slipped away unnoticed. Well. Too late now. “I was lost in my thoughts and didn’t see you.” I hold out my hand to the boy in glasses as a peace offering. “May I treat you to lunch sometime?”

Introducing myself to strangers doesn't usually end well. Given my celebrity status, people usually overreact when I give my name, but the intensity of these three gives me pause, as if one misspoken word would cause the pigtailed girl and blond boy to call down fire and lightning, and the boy with glasses to rip me apart with his gaze.

Yes, situation diffusal seems prudent, but I don’t think it’s going well. My hand remains outstretched for a long enough time to be considered awkward by anyone’s standards.

“Well then…”

“Akira Kurusu.” The boy in glasses finally takes my hand, looking less ferocious than he did a moment ago.

            case closed. this is how your justice ends”…

 “Goro Akechi.”

            your heart is always free. I'm envious”…

A wave of disorientation breaks over me and I press my fingers to my forehead to ground myself. It’s gone just as quick. “I apologize if this is an unusual question, but have we met before?” The words spill out before I realize what I’ve said. Kurusu opens his mouth to respond but I wave my hands around as if I could swat away his words. I shouldn’t have asked. I nearly forgot about his intense friends and all their intense stares. I tell him to please ignore the question because I see something there in Kurusu’s eyes that makes my stomach drop, regardless of what his answer might be.

I keep trying to take back my question, when a tall, skinny boy with dark blue hair approaches our little group and stops in front of Kurusu, seemingly oblivious to the fact that we were already in a conversation.

“I sense an incredible aura from you," he says out of nowhere. "One of bonds being drawn, pulling people into the slip stream of each other’s lives.” He holds his hands out in front of him, framing Kurusu’s face with his fingers. “Please, let me draw you!”

Kurusu looks at the newcomer, but I keep my eyes on Kurusu. He doesn't seem nearly as surprised as when I bumped into him. He must be used to this by now, being bumped and bombarded with odd questions by strangers in the space of ten minutes. But unlike me, this newcomer holds no reservations about personal space and first impressions. Kurusu’s bodyguard-friends are still shocked from the sudden shift during our earlier encounter from ‘pissed off to handshake’ and remain silent.

Kurusu is interested. He and the newcomer, who introduces himself as Yusuke Kitagawa, exchange a few words and their contact information. Kitagawa says that fate brought him here and claims he caught sight of Kurusu’s aura when he was following a black cat through the subway.

I’m interested too. Perhaps the pull I felt last month wasn’t towards the café, but towards Kurusu, the one who stared at me as I stood in the rain.

The conversation miraculously wraps up peacefully after Kurusu and Kitagawa diverge into a discussion about art. Kurusu’s two friends and I hover around in the background, not quite knowing what to say, but not quite wanting to leave either.

When Kitagawa departs, I leave with him and ask to learn more about what he senses from Kurusu. When I return home at the end of the day, I realize I forgot to follow through on my offer of lunch to Kurusu, and since I didn’t get his phone number, I now I have no way of getting in touch again without seeming like a stalker.

[Interlude, October 20XX]

“Despite the complete failure with negotiations, we can try stealing the treasure as our novice member Crow suggests. And if it doesn’t work, we can always fall back on our usual methods.”

“I have faith that it will work this time.”

“Faith? Crow. We have cold, hard evidence that it didn’t work last time.”

“No, Joker. We did not do it properly last time, so we cannot possibly know if it would have worked.”

“We’ll see.”

[May 20XX]

The Mementos atmosphere often reflects the seasons in the real world. Today should be a beautiful spring day were it not for Mementos’ humid and stale air. Admittedly though, the veins on the walls give off a fair amount of illumination to dispel the gloom.

As a part of my personal mission, rather than my persona-user seeking one, I meet a humanoid Shadow with yellow eyes. In the real world, I overheard people saying that its human counterpart, a woman named Chiyo, is emotionally manipulative to her co-workers. She delivers praise with backhanded complements then provokes others to sink to her level. If they do, she brings them down further. After hearing the rumor, I sought out her Shadow to confront it with these allegations and offer a chance to share her story.

“I’m sorry I made them feel bad,” her Shadow says. “They’re just so much better than me and I can’t help but be jealous. I have no way of ever matching up to their skill, or yours for that matter. The famous detective Goro Akechi come to see me? I’m nothing compared to you. You shouldn’t be wasting your precious time on me when you should be prancing around looking beautiful as always.” She sighs and lowers her head but her eyes stay on me, watching me. “I’m sorry.”

She reminds me of my mother: gold medal for Charm and world-class champion in Self-Deprecation. She reminds me of myself too, sometimes. The Shadow is silent, expectantly waiting for me to comfort her; she has already written the script in her mind.

“Chiyo, you’re doing it again.”

“Doing what again?” She makes her face look puzzled, but I see right through it.

“You know what I mean,” I snap. It hurts to see her like this. I’ve seen it in the mirror. “I understand you because I’m like you too. Worthless, and wanting someone to tell you otherwise. Lasting companionship can’t be created using our methods. That’s not how you foster relationships.”

I wipe at the corners of my eyes. I can’t stay around her much longer but she needs another push. “I see you, Chiyo. I see you even as you surround yourself with bullshit. Everyone feels bad sometimes, but that is no excuse to take it out on others the way you did your co-workers. And if you wouldn’t take it out on others, what makes you think it’s right to take it out on yourself? You need to take a good, hard look inside. It’s painful and you will not always like what you see, but how else can you live, if you hate yourself so much?”

Something compels me to help others, as if I can make up for my past thoughts and actions. I’ve never been good at nurturing friendships; my talent lies in delivering the hard truths that people face when they examine the relationship they have with themselves or with others. The mind can get locked into a pattern, and sometimes that pattern needs to be shattered.

“Live for yourself, Chiyo.”

I leave the Shadow to return to her Self, believing she will choose life.

[June 20XX]

“Breaking news this evening: the critically acclaimed artist Maderame is dead. Preliminary reports claim he was found during his art exhibit with his eyes rolled back. A lot of blood was present, too much for it to have been an ordinary heart attack. An aide found a threatening card addressed to Maderame yesterday which had put him on edge. The card alleged crimes of plagiarism and abuse against his students. The unusual manner of his death is similar to the volleyball teacher from a nearby high school last month—"

I scratch Mona’s head and sigh.

Yusuke and I have meet up a few times since we met last month, and I've found him to open up the most when I offer to pay for a meal. I know Yusuke isn’t using me for food or money; I can recognize someone going through a difficult time as well as I can recognize my own face. The mirror again.

Our recent meetups have been especially difficult. I ask Yusuke how his painting is developing, tip-toeing around the elephant in the room, but Yusuke is a gentle soul. Despite the emotional abuse he sustained from Maderame, Yusuke’s face openly reveals his grief.

Part of my detective prince routine involves regular camera appearances. The topic of my interview today is the feasibility of the organized crime group, the Phantom Thieves, and the morality of the acts for which they claim responsibility. The TV and stage presence are a bit over the top for me, but the debate is enjoyable. Usually.

A familiar face is among the students gathered at the TV station for their field trip. He clearly remembers me too, whereas the other students in the audience make the usual gaga eyes, he looks at me differently. I must be staring a little bit during the interview because the host, presumably sensing my distractedness, walks into the audience to ask a question.

“Now then, let’s try asking some students the same age as Akechi about the rumored Phantom Thieves. How about this student here?”

Akira Kurusu.

“What are your thoughts on these Phantom Thieves, if they were real?” the host asks him.

“The Phantom Thieves… they’re justice itself.” He looks the same as he did on the subway: intense, yet trying to play it cool.

“You say that with such firmness,” I say. “Your mindset completely contradicts mine. I believe they should be tried in a court of law, though it’s rather intriguing to hear such a strong acknowledgement of these horrible acts.”

I have always loved debate. It’s not only about the argument itself, but about how the message is delivered. Does it appeal to emotion or stick to the facts? Would the other party respond to a humorous response with a flirtatious wink, or would that seem petty and desperate?

Kurusu doesn’t respond to my taunts, instead looking expectantly at me to continue. I push him to say more, going for emotional argumentation. “In that case, I’d like to ask a question too. Can you separate out your personal feelings? Would your response differ if someone close to you, for example your friend next you, received one of these threatening cards which suggested that the Phantom Thieves were after him? Compare that with how you would feel if it were instead a stranger you ran into once and only by accident?”

“What would you think?” At first glance, one might think his eyes are a dull, lifeless grey, but they are sharp. Piercing.

“Ah, throwing the question back at me, eh? My, my.”

“I mean it, Akechi.” He says my name like he’s concerned about me when in reality we’ve only met once before. “What would you do if your friend received a calling card? Wouldn’t that mean you’d have to take a closer look at their actions?”

I almost tell him that I don’t have any friends besides a cat thank you very much, but I think about if Sae received a card. She has always been a determined and motivated worker and the nicest person in the office.

“It would be heart wrenching if accusations were made against someone I hold in high regards.”

“You would avert your eyes to a possible crime because of your own shortsightedness?” Kurusu asks, curious and condescending.

The other critical factor in debate is the presenter and the confidence and style with which they carry themselves. And boy, does this Kurusu have style. He tilts his head slightly when he asks the question, looking at me with big eyes as if shocked that I would even consider doing such a thing as ignore a crime.

“That’s not what I said.” The only way to argue now is with facts and truth. “I would take any accusation seriously. My feelings towards the individual accused must become irrelevant, no matter the source of the accusation.” He hums in agreement. “But the source is the issue, isn’t it?”

He scoffs and dismisses my idea with a flick of his wrist. “The source doesn’t matter if justice is being served.”

“Due processes must take its course. These Phantom Thieves hide in darkness. They are unknown and do not reveal the methods they use to uncover these truths or fictions, nor do they rely on the proper channels for investigation and fair trials.”

“What if they had already tried to reason with the guilty party, or tried to go to the police? What then, Akechi?”

“Then we, as police and as a society in general, need to do a better job of listening,” I admit. “It is slow progress, but people are embracing empathy and recognizing the harm in victim blaming. It tears society apart. The Thieves are misguided vigilantes, but if their sources are credible and can help to uphold justice, I see no reason why we can’t work together within the scope of the law.”

When Kurusu smiles, its part admiration, part feral. He leans back into his chair and I mimic his motion—I hadn’t noticed I've been moving closer until I sat back and felt my heart racing in my chest—and he looks at his friends, nodding in approval. It seems I passed his test, though I can’t imagine what it was.

            …“you truly are interesting”…

The host takes over the interview again, commenting that she has never seen me become so animated before. I laugh it off and we move on, but I'm already checked out. Despite the severity of the Phantom Thieves’ crimes, Kurusu had no problem publicly showing his full support of execution based on rumors. At the same time, the seriousness of the issue didn’t hold him back. Debating with him was like a game of strategy rather than my usual ‘TV debates’. And almost as if we were friends bantering over our favorite book rather than discussing extremely serious matters on live TV.

I hope we meet again soon, Kurusu. Undoubtedly understanding how you see the Phantom Thieves will bring me closer to the Thieves themselves.

“Yusuke, why won’t you forget about the bond you have with Maderame? You can now see that it was not as strong or healthy a connection as you once thought. I am afraid of how you will worry yourself if you do not try to move on.”

“It is not about forgetting, Goro. I will always remember this pain and what I have done. It is not pleasant.”

“I didn’t mean that you should ignore the past. It will always remain a part of you. There will be many times when you are not okay, but you can strengthen yourself knowing this.”

“A part of me… that same broken part of me which lead him to his death.”

“I cannot see how you are to blame, Yusuke. You looked for the best in somebody, and they harbored malicious intentions. You did not cause him to take the actions he did, and you did not cause his death.”

Yusuke looks down at his plate and does not speak or eat for the rest of the meal.

[July 20XX]

The fall of Kaneshiro is attributed to the Phantom Thieves.

Three deaths in just as many months, and I'm no closer to discovering the method or pattern to the selection of their victims. The volleyball teacher Kamoshida and the mobster Kaneshiro were local to this area. Maderame was a world renown artist, yet he was here in Tokyo at the time of his death. No way that is a coincidence. If Maderame was targeted prior to his arrival, him being here was the perfect opportunity for the Thieves. He could have been targeted after he arrived too, suggesting that these Phantom Thieves move fast. There was only a period of about a month between Maderame’s return to Japan for the opening of his gallery, and his death.

Besides the location of opportunity, each victim was sent a threatening card with alleged crimes the day before they were killed. The victim initially dismissed the claims as outrageous, but investigators have since found them to be credible. So, are the victims selected because of their crimes and the fact that they had escaped attention and arrest for so long?

There are still too many unknowns and unanswered questions, but chiefly, one: what is the method for committing the death? And two: who will be next?

One: how did all the victims suddenly suffer what seemed to be a heart attack, when autopsies showed their bloodstream was clear of drugs?

Two: how can the police find and protect the next victim, when the victims tend to be people with a history of laying low or evading the police?

I put my notes away for the night. “Mona, what in the world is happening here?”

He swishes his tail against my leg in response.

Sometimes I go to Mementos as a distraction to clear my mind from my classes and the mysteries of my police work. After all, this is the place where a new mystery unfolded two years ago and changed my life. The day began with a walk to the subway station like always, but when I had checked the time on my phone there was an app I did not install. I thought it was my co-workers at my internship taking their pranks to the next level, installing malware or something. Until then, they had been content to flood my inbox with cat videos—which I secretly appreciated—and videos of people doing dumb things—which I did not find as amusing. I tried to delete it, but I accidentally opened it instead.

Nothing happened. A prank, after all.

Then I almost ran right into the man in front of me because he was completely frozen. It was indeed a chilly day, but cold enough to stop someone dead in their tracks? But it wasn't just him; I looked around and everyone had stopped. The entire city block. A blue pillar of light flickering in the distance was the only motion and I was drawn to it like a fly to flame.

{I am thou, thou art I}

A voice resonated from the light and a figure emerged, tall and lanky. When my eyes had adjusted to the brightness, I could just make out the black and white stripes that crossed its body.

{Thou who art heavy with chains of his past, I will help break and release thou from old and toxic binds. Loosen thine heart, and those who are similarly bound, and be free to let thy desires run wild}

Setting aside the impossibility of what was happening, the words sang of freedom, as if this voice was telling me to let loose, but that was contradictory to my upbringing. It was appealing all the same. It wasn’t as if I would abscond all responsibility, I just wouldn’t take things as seriously or feel as burdened by the expectations of others. Rebel, to be my true self.

The world reset and I was jostled back into motion by the crowd flowing around me. Before I could second guess anything, I deliberately pressed my finger to the phone icon. A weird sensation fuzzed through my head and I closed my eyes until it passed. Opening them again, the entrance to the subway station was still there, but everything was different. I walked down the stairs perhaps against better judgement, but I was emboldened by the Voice’s words. Mementos greeted me. Part of my mind was in an absolutely frenzy. The other part, insanely curious. Rounding a corner, I came face to face with an enormous blob of darkness. My attaché case was forgotten in my fingers and I backed up, matching the slow pace of the creature that oozed toward me.

I thought it was the end.

But really, it was just the beginning of something unimaginable. In that moment I had felt lighter and freer than I had in a long time after hearing the Voice’s words. They resonated with me in perfect harmony. Taking a deep breath, I planned for the conversation to go like this:

“Now, look here! Whatever you are, you will cease your intimidation methods immediately and have a civil conversation with me.”

What I said was:

“N-now look he-he-aaaahh??!”

As I simultaneously shouted and engaged in civil conversation, pain wrecked through my head, skull vibrating, Voice echoing—

{Will thou give up on thy freedom so easily? Will thou continue to be bound? No. Not thou. Break it!}

—and I screamed and ripped off the visor that formed on my face, blood falling into my eyes but it couldn’t blind me. My eyes were finally open and clear and I knew just what to say:

“Come, Loki!”

What followed was a blur. The blob was gone, a helmet formed around my visor which reappeared, and I was clothed in the same black and white stripes I saw on the figure.

My later encounters with Shadows were more diplomatic, though Loki and Morgana taught me how to fight the ones who didn’t want to talk. It was during these encounters that I discovered some Shadows had a humanoid form and were connected to a human counterpart. I listened and learned about these people and asked for their name. Those who volunteered it, I followed up on in the real world. Later, I purposefully sought out Shadows of individuals I knew were struggling.

I try to help people. It’s not much, but if I can point out where people’s past and present are chaining them down, new bonds might be formed of their own free will.

“Loki, those Persona users are not like you.”

My heart sinks. Months spent trying to find a link, some way to connect with them, turned out a failure. Studying the app and phone signals was a dead end, so I considered the ways I changed my life in response to my awakened power. The major difference is in my regular exploration of Mementos, but I have never found another Persona user here except for Morgana, despite his insistence that he'd heard them. It's a big place, afterall.

“What makes you say that, Morgana?”

“The deaths in the real world, the three suspicious deaths you’re investigating, they’re being committed in the Metaverse and we need to stop them.”

It's like a punch to the gut. It was a supernatural occurrence from these Phantom Thieves? They are the Persona users I’ve been searching for? It's unbelievable that I didn’t make this connection sooner, but I was expecting the Persona users to be more like me. After receiving my power, I have used it to help other, whereas they seem to use their power to enslave, to kill. What does that say about my Persona user kin?

            …“follow your true feelings”…

I turn around, looking and listening for the whisper I thought I heard amongst the usual noises of Mementos, but there is nothing except a vague and nagging memory, like waking up after dreaming. I’m not even sure I heard anything at all.

Morgana won’t share how he knows about the Persona users, but it does beg the question of how Morgana knew about the deaths in the real world. Perhaps like me, he can leave Mementos somehow.

But perhaps more importantly, how did Morgana know that I, Goro Akechi, am investigating these three deaths in the real world, when Morgana only knows me in Mementos as Loki?

The hacker group Medjed is trying to blackmail the Phantom Thieves.

My latest interviews ask me to comment on Medjed and the ‘justice’ of the Phantom Thieves. I lament that three times they have used execution as a means of repentance after their victims’ crimes are made public, when they could have instead come forth with the evidence they discovered. One time is already one too many.

Medjed seems to have their eyes on me too. I receive a text message from an unknown number minutes after I end an interview.

[xxxx] Tremble in fear mere mortal! Goro Akechi, you may call me Alibaba

I suppose there’s no use hiding it.

[Goro] At your service.

[xxxx] That’s a lame response. Aren’t you freaked out! Aren’t you gonna ask how I know about you and how I found you?

[Goro] No need. I assume you are Medjed and that you have been following my appearances on TV. I also assume you are of like mind as me if you have reached out.

[xxxx] Well damn. There goes that

It’s hard to believe this is the infamous Medjed who is blackmailing the Phantom Thieves. This person seems like a child playing a game. But if this truly is Medjed, they must realize the severity of the Phantom Thieves’ actions.

[xxxx] Anyway. The PT are giving people like me a bad name

What is that supposed to mean? Is Medjed actually condoning private killings—

[xxxx] Before you go asking oh have you killed anyone?

Are they actually about to admit to a crime over text message—

[xxxx] No. Duh. But the principle is the same

What does—

[xxxx] Stop

[xxxx] Trying to type over me

[xxxx] And let me finish


[xxxx] It’s like this

[xxxx] There are white hat hackers who fiddle around with systems on purpose and then report their findings to the security company to fix the flaws. Then there are others who maliciously exploit weaknesses

[xxxx] I’m a white hat, just doing my duty and letting people know what’s what. But the black hats ruin our good reputation. You get me?

Their point is valid. Just because someone has the means to expose someone else, doesn’t mean they will act maliciously. Just because the Thieves have the means to reveal crimes and punish by execution, doesn’t mean they are right to do so. It’s like I’ve said in the past: it could be possible to work together with the Thieves and their sources if they are willing. First, we’d need to bring the killings to an end, and the Thieves must of course be tried for the crimes they already committed, but understanding their methods would prove enlightening.

[Goro] I get you. How can we help each other?

[xxxx] I’m good at digging for info and I’ll leave it to you to put together a case

[Goro] You know what this group is capable of. Don’t expose your true identity to them.

[xxxx] Who do you think I am? I never leave the house anyway. Much more comfy here in my own little world

Finally, a lead to actually tracking down the Thieves when my own methods have so far come up short. Well, not exactly a lead, but a good contact has been made and progress will be forthcoming. If they are Medjed, I don’t need to worry about the hacker making a mistake and confronting the Thieves on their own. They should be safe in their investigation, unlike myself. It’s basically my job to speak out against the Thieves. Hopefully such visibility also makes me a riskier target for them.

The white hat hacker went silent after we traded information for a few days. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had word. I hope they didn’t do anything reckless.

Mona has become more vocal lately. Since finding him as a stray more than two years ago, my cat is typically content to laze around when I’m home, but the dirt he tracks through my apartment suggests that he finds ways to get out and explore the city anyway. Sometimes I take him out for fresh air tucked into a duffel bag, but usually it’s me forcing him to come along. Now, Mona paws at my leg and swipes at my shoes when I try to leave the apartment. Then he sits on my attaché case. He stares at me. I stare back.

“Alright, Mona, just for today,” I concede. It’s hard to resist him. “I’ll get the bag. You’re lucky I’m just running errands today. You can’t do this when I go to work. You are incredibly cute, but sometimes cats are not allowed.”

Mona jumps in the bag and settles down. “Good boy.” I heave it up over one shoulder and hold my attaché case in the other hand. “You’re throwing me off balance here,” I complain. Mona gives a happy little meow.

After my errands, I pass the café I avoided on a rainy day a few months ago. I look in and can’t believe I forgot who works here.

I rush inside and Akira Kurusu greets me. “Welcome. You’re popular these days.” I catch my breath and sit down at the counter as he gestures toward the TV playing my most recent interview. Today I don’t care about being around my digital self; my business is more important than my pride this time. “You sure are brave. Out and about and not afraid to be mobbed by your fans?” He leans across the counter and whispers conspiratorially. “Or, the Thieves themselves?”

“The Thieves I can handle,” I say waving my hand. “It’s my fans I worry about.”

Kurusu grins. “What’ll it be?”

While I enjoy my coffee, Mona gets antsy in my bag. Making sure no one is watching, I open it for him a little more. Ever the opportunist, he takes advantage and jumps up and leaps straight out the café window.


“What, did you let loose an evil spirit in here?” Kurusu is looking at the open window too.

“If my cat can be called an evil spirit, then yes. I’m sorry about bringing him in without asking. He’s usually very calm.” I stand and move towards the door. “I should go look for him.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Kurusu says as he touches my arm. “I’ll set out some curry so he can find his way back to you.”

If the dirt I’ve seen on Mona’s paws is in fact from his city exploration, he has at least some sense of direction, and his yellow collar with my name and address will tell people he’s not a stray. I’ll give him a few minutes, then go looking. I trust Mona enough to know, or hope, that he won’t get into any real trouble.

“Well, thank you. That’s very kind.”

“Don’t look so surprised, Akechi.” He lets go and prepares the dish.

“What I meant was, it’s probably a good idea to leave some food out for him.”

“It’s no problem.” He sets a plate of curry outside the door. I imagine it will attract more animals than just Mona, but I don’t want to ruin Kurusu’s good gesture. He ruins it himself by winking and saying, “I’ll just add it to your bill.”

I roll my eyes. “No such thing as a free meal, eh?” I take my seat again and he sits too, despite there being other customers for him to tend to.

“So. What do you really think of Medjed? I have a feeling that sometimes the words you speak on TV are not what you want them to be.”

“What makes you say that?” I think he is trying to get a rise out of me.

“A talent of mine. I can pick out liars with my eyes closed.”

“Takes one to know one?”

He gently nudges my arm. “What’s with all the recycled sayings today? So worn out from your interviews that cat’s got your tongue?”

“I suppose you’re right, Kurusu.” I sigh, but can’t hide my smile. “These interviews are exhausting and take time away from my actual investigation. I believe most of what I mean, just not how I say it.”

“Very cryptic. But I think I understand. Even though you’re ‘Goro Akechi, Charismatic Detective’ in real life too—" he actually uses his fingers to put air quotes around my name, “—you still have an image to portray on TV. I think the only time you broke character was during our debate.”

I don’t confirm it, but he’s right. I did break character because I was caught up with him. It was the first time I had someone to talk with instead of to. Someone who wanted more from me than just empty words and promises, listening to my meaning and responding thoughtfully. I don’t need to worry about keeping up appearances with Kurusu. It seems his opinion of me wouldn’t change if he knows how I really think.

Of course, we’re still playing a game, and I can’t reveal my hand just yet. Instead, I ask if he’s done a lot of acting himself.

“Not really,” he shrugs. “If I did, I honestly don’t think I could get used to seeing myself give that TV smile of yours.”

“Come now, what’s wrong with my smile?”

“You may be able to contort your face into that perfect smile,” Kurusu teases, “but I know the truth.” His voice is gentle. “You’re lonely.”

It’s like he’s kicked the legs of my chair right out from under me. I almost do tip over, but I play it off by then leaning forward across the counter to grab some sugar.

“And what,” I say slowly, “is the point of bringing that up?”

“Let’s be friends, Goro.” I look at him and feel that pull, that desire to be valued. He reads me like an open book.

            …“you wanted to be acknowledged, didn't you? to be loved?”…

 “I’d like that, Akira.”

            …“let's make a deal, ok? you won’t say no, will you?”…

His hand moves towards mine and he starts to speak but a crash near the front of the café cuts him off. Mona returns through the window and jumps back in my bag, a disheveled girl with long orange hair trailing closely behind him into the café.

“Oh, Futaba, it’s good to see you out,” Akira smiles at the girl. It’s forced; the TV smile he claimed he didn’t have. The girl doesn’t speak. She looks torn between moving towards Akira and shuffling back out the door. I stop staring and turn my attention to my coffee. The movement registers with her and she looks at me, about to speak but clearly flustered.

“Futaba,” Akira stands and steps towards her. “Did you come to a decision? Why don’t we talk about it later.” He punctuates his words. That’s a strange way of asking if someone is alright, but she nods and decides to take her leave.

The silence of the café is broken again by Mona, hissing at Akira. “Mona, what’s gotten into you? Akira was nice enough to make you food—”

“—that you’re paying for—”

“—and this is how you repay him?” I pointedly ignore his jibe and get out my wallet to pay for Mona’s meal. “I’m sorry to leave so soon, but Mona must be at his limits for socialization today. I’d better take the poor thing home.”

“I understand. I hope you come by again soon.” Akira hands me a take-out container of curry with another wink. “This one’s on the house.”

            …“you are truly beyond my comprehension”…

I thank him and walk through the city with Mona safely secured. A few people stared at us on the subway earlier, but now I leave the bag mostly open for him to look over my shoulder. We stop in a park not far from my apartment, and find a bench for us to enjoy the fresh air a little longer.

“Mona, you should have behaved yourself. You were rude today. Akira is someone I’d like to talk to again so it’d be bad manners to continue to shout at him.”

Mona does not look sufficiently chastised.

“From just a few chance meetings, he seems to really understand me. But something is concerning.” I cross my arms. “He flips a switch and completely changes his personality, or at least the way he portrays himself to others. You know Mona, I probably wasn’t supposed to see how he changed when that girl came in.”

Akira was warm and kind to me, but cold and calculating to that girl. Just like our first encounter when he toned down his offensive attitude, shrugged it off then turned it back up to snap at his friends. At the TV station it was turned all the way up, but there was a bit of playfulness I doubt anyone else would recognize. At least, I haven’t seen that playfulness when he interacts with others in that way of his. He adjusts his personality based on the situation and who he is talking to in order to optimize the situation and their affection for him. Put like that, it sounds manipulative, yet during our encounters, it feels like he behaved the way he did because he truly understood me.

I murmur to myself, “Something is strange indeed about that Akira Kurusu.”

Mona shifts in his bag and a nearby voice purrs: “I completely agree.”

I learn that my ever-affectionate cat Mona and the Metaverse creature Morgana are in fact, one and the same. My mentor and teacher in Mementos, is my pet cat.

After Mona spoke, I ran home with my talking-cat-not-a-cat, unleashing a barrage of questions along the way even knowing he wouldn’t answer until we were inside my apartment away from curious eyes and ears.

“Mona, why did you only speak to me like this now? We’ve already been together for two years. For two. Years! Both here and there! Why not share this part of you with me sooner?”

Mona is used to my long-windedness, both from listening patiently as a regular cat and from apparently talking with me as Morgana in Mementos. He patiently waits until we return home and I run out of breath.

“I’ve told you before, I don’t really remember my past.” It’s uncanny to see and hear Morgana’s human speech coming from my tiny black cat. “When I was searching for answers in Mementos, I found you and knew you were special. You had a wild power and needed looking after. But selfishly,” Mona pauses, “I was secretly hoping that being with you would help me recover my lost memories.”

“But why the deception?”

“I helped you when you needed me in Mementos. I didn’t think I should interfere as obviously in the real world. I’ve been here for you as passive support until now.”

In a strange, strange way this is making some sense. I found Mona The Stray around the same time I awakened Loki. I thought it was just a fortuitous event. I’ve always liked cats but with my long hours away from home, I worried about owning one. Mona The Stray followed me home anyway and took care of me more than I could have imagined possible from a pet. Mona’s not a simple house cat, after all.

After nearly coming to terms with my roommates’ identity, I return to the topic I was thinking on earlier.

“Mona… Morgana, what do you think Akira is hiding?” but I already know the answer. I’ve had my suspicions ever since I met Akira on the subway in May. I could never put a finger on what has pulled me towards him, but I suspect it’s because his power is so strong. He immediately understood and adapted to me; he knew I was lonely and offered me a solution: friendship. My power is strong too; it pushes others to think for themselves. Pushing and pulling like the tide going in and out, we have been drawn to each other.

“He’s a Persona user. And a strong one. You need to keep an eye on him.”

If I didn’t already understand Akira so well, I wouldn’t be so upset about what this could mean.


A Forgotten Truth