I'M BACK!

Thanks to Shadowking 7, RedOmega, TechnicalJoker, Bluehood103, Kizoku Seishin, kyoto knight, azickwolf, BlueYusei, zabuza776, AzureMask and Digits the Calculator for showing your support!

Sorry once again for the late update. It was a combination of procrastination and me settling back into uni life along with assessments and recently, me enjoying some holiday relaxation. I'll do what I can to update my stories but I can't guarantee constant updates since I don't have as much time as before. But, I hope that you guys have all had a good Halloween, a Merry Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year! Hopefully, a better one than this shite year!

Here are some replies to reviews.

Marioman101: thank you once again for reviewing ! I'm glad that you're enjoying how I'm making Ren more emotional and less of a blank slate. By the way, the whole scene with Ren playing volleyball and getting spiked by Kamoshida was actually inspired by the Persona 5 animation. While certainly not as popular, I just felt that I had to include a scene like that. Also, I do intend to have Shiho appear a bit more during Ann's confidant story since she does just disappear and then reappear by the end of the confidant story. Anyway, again, thanks so much for consistently reviewing and showing support !

Shadowking7: I'm glad that you're enjoying how I've made the MC more of a character instead of just a presence. Also, I'm glad that you're playing P5 Royal again. I played it twice myself, over 200 hours overall so I could get all the confidants to max. Also, even though I'd played it once already, I still thoroughly enjoyed the game !

IzanagiOmega: I'm glad that you've been inspired to try your hand at fanfiction. I would never have pictured myself doing any of this years ago but I just decided one day to just do it. It's fun and I hope that you enjoy it yourself !

Not much else to say but the usual.

I don't own Persona 5 Royal.

Now, ON WITH THE SHOW!

The previous bustling of the crowds of students was replaced by shrieks of horror and gasps of disbelief as the figure of Shiho Suzui stepped off the roof and came crashing down to earth, her body limp all the way. The students all talked and talked to one another with wide eyes and horrified expressions while Mr Ushimaru tried to bring about some semblance of order, hastily ordering the students back to their seats. But his commands remained unheard.

But, Ren hardly perceived any of this as he stared with wide, horrified eyes and a disbelieving expression as he stared blankly at the spot Shiho Suzui occupied before her … jump. His gaping was broken by the girl standing in front of him.

As Suzui came crashing to the ground, Takamaki gave a high pitched gasp of horror as her hands came to her mouth and she took an uneasy step back, her body visibly shaking.

"N-no … w-why …?", Takamaki whispered, raw emotion rife in her shaky voice.

Ren could only stare at the back of the girl's head with wide, sympathetic eyes, not needing to see her visage to know that there were tears flooding from her eyes.

"SHIHO!", Takamaki cried brokenly as she turned to the right and started running for the courtyard, pushing past Ren with tears falling like twin waterfalls.

This was enough to return the energy to Ren's limbs as he prepared to make chase.

"Ren, dude!"

Ren turned to look down the corridor, seeing Ryuji arrive at his side with a wide eyed look of shock and disbelief.

"What the hell just happened, man? Was that …?", Ryuji began with a tone of incredulity.

"It was Suzui-san … s-she jumped", Ren confirmed with a sick feeling in his stomach as he did so.

"W-what the eff, man?", Ryuji stated with a countenance displaying nothing but horror.

"L-look, let's just get down there, alright?", Ren proposed, trying to regain some calmness.

"Y-yeah, you got it", Ryuji agreed as the two set off into a sprint.

Manoeuvring past the other gawping students, the pair belted down the stairs as fast as humanly possible, only focusing on getting to their destination. But, as they arrived at the doors to the courtyard, they encountered a roadblock.

"Damn it, we're not getting past all these people", Ryuji griped as the two looked on at the doors to the courtyards were overflowing with curious students.

"There's another entrance to the courtyard in the practice building, right?", Ren asked for confirmation hastily.

"Yeah, you're right. Let's go!", Ryuji confirmed swiftly.

And so, the two navigated the first floor corridors to the practice building where they found a much less crowded pair of doors and with no hesitation, the duo pushed them open, emerging into the courtyard where the air was filled with conversation. The pair pushed their way through the crowd until they were close to the front and could see clearly.

"All of you, get back to your classrooms! Class is still in session!", a teacher tried to calm the students in vain.

"Suzui-san", Ren voiced with wide worried eyes as the pair looked on at the immobilised girl.

"Thank god she's alive though", Ryuji said gratefully.

Indeed, she was miraculously alive, her chest rising, but her body had been placed onto a stretcher by a pair of paramedics and it was covered up, obscuring the damage from the fall. But, it was evident that her body was in terrible condition.

"Shiho", Ren and Ryuji heard Takamaki say as the two saw her standing to their right and at the front of the crowd, her face an amalgam of horror and heart wrenching sadness.

FLASH

The two friends' worrying was interrupted by the sudden flash and the two turned around to look at their fellow students, many of whom were gossiping and had their phones out, ready to take pictures. This was more than enough to inspire disgust in the pair as they looked around at the gaping students who were ogling the immobile girl with morbid interest.

"What the hell is wrong with these people?", Ryuji asked through gritted teeth.

"As long as it doesn't involve them, they want to see it for themselves", Ren remarked in a disgusted tone.

"She's alive but she needs medical treatment quickly", one of the paramedics explained urgently as they walked up to the crowd.

"We need someone to come with her. Are there any teachers who can?", the paramedic inquired.

"I-I'm not her homeroom teacher", one male teacher anxiously explained.

"W-we should leave this to Principal Kobayakawa", another teacher added hastily.

"… are they serious?!", Ren whispered fiercely to Ryuji who had a similar look of disbelief.

"I'll go!", Takamaki suddenly yelled at the paramedic, tears still in the corners of her eyes.

"Thanks you! Please hurry!", the paramedic thanked before rushing back with Takamaki to the prone form of Shiho.

"Thank god someone's got their priorities straight", Ryuji remarked bitterly as he glanced at the uncomfortable looking teachers.

As Takamaki hurriedly approached her best friend, kneeling at her side while tears began to fall once again, the two persona users strained their ears over the hubbub of the crowd.

"Shiho … why?", Takamaki asked the girl with so much emotion packed into one question.

The duo saw Shiho's pale face and her eyes opening slightly as her eyes fused onto Takamaki. But, despite how hard they strained their ears, Ren and Ryuji couldn't hear the sound of her voice due to how loud everyone was being and how weak her voice was. The only evidence of her speech was her mouth moving.

"Shiho?", Takamaki inquired as she leaned in closer to her best friend's face, her ear right next to her face.

The duo saw the prone girl lean up slightly and whisper something into Takamaki's ear.

In response, Takamaki shot up with wide eyes, filled with disbelief and anger.

"Kamoshida?", Takamaki repeated.

Ren and Ryuji's eyes widened exponentially.

"Did she just say …", Ryuji began with rage in his voice.

But, before the blonde could finish, the pair of persona users' attention was caught by the sight of Suzui's eyes closing and her head falling limp.

"No … Shiho?!", Takamaki begged her friend to respond before more sorrowful tears began to fall.

What happened next was a blur for the duo as the paramedics swiftly carried the stretcher away with a restless and distraught Takamaki in tow and it wasn't long before the sound of ambulance sirens started blaring and could be heard from inside the courtyard as they faded away.

Despite the fact that the source of the disturbance was gone, the students remained in the courtyard, gossiping amongst themselves while the present teachers were left dumbfounded and clueless as to what to do.

The only quiet ones were Ren and Ryuji who had grave expressions and eyes full of rage.

".. she said Kamoshida, right?", Ryuji asked with an incredibly forced calm tone, sounding as though he was a hairbreadth away from losing himself to anger.

"Yeah. And Suzui is a member of the volleyball team", Ren reminded as his fists clenched.

"Return to your classrooms at once, all of you!", one teacher ordered, trying to establish order. But, no one paid much attention to him, especially not Ren and Ryuji.

"Suzui … ah … ah", a familiar voice weakly voiced.

Ren turned in confusion to see the familiar figure of Mishima rushing away, his eyes wide in horror with a hand over his mouth as if he was about to be sick.

Ryuji didn't fail to notice the fleeing volleyball team member either.

"Mishima? Wasn't he acting … strange?", Ryuji questioned for affirmation.

"Yeah. He definitely knows something", Ren started with narrowed eyes as he turned to meet Ryuji's similarly narrowed gaze.

"… this time, we ARE going to make him talk", Ryuji assured as his teeth gritted in fury.

The duo, with no further comments, began to run in the direction of the fleeing student, ignoring the sound of Kobayakawa's voice as the obese principal arrived on scene, sweat evident on his brow, and began to hastily order teachers to prevent any student from leaving at the moment.

The pair followed Mishima into the school building and easily found the student who was hunched over with a look of horror. But, the student looked up when he heard the sound of Ren and Ryuji approaching and his eyes widened at the sight of their grave looks.

Without any words, Ryuji roughly grabbed the boy's arm and dragged him into the corner, throwing him next to a row of lockers and the two persona users acted as a wall between him and any exit.

Ren couldn't help but notice that their fellow persona user, Morgana, had decided to join in on the interrogation as he was lying down on top of the lockers, pretty much out of sight. Ren could see that the non cat had a similarly grave countenance, having no doubt seen what had happened. Ren turned back to face Mishima, intent on getting answers this time.

"T-that hurts", Mishima griped about Ryuji's rough handling of his bandaged arm.

"Why did you try to run like that, huh?", Ryuji demanded with a look of pure irritation.

"I .. I wasn't running", Mishima denied weakly as he looked away in shame.

Wrong answer.

Without warning, Ryuji slammed his clenched fist against the lockers in a fit of rage, startling Mishima and even Ren and Morgana.

"SHE JUMPED OFF THE DAMN ROOF! SHE TRIED TO KILL HERSELF! AND YOU'RE STILL GONNA KEEP THIS SHIT UP?!", Ryuji raged at the shaking student.

"P-please, just leave me alone", Mishima rebuked, his entire body shaking, looking as though he was about to suffer a breakdown right then and there.

Planting a hand on Ryuji's shoulder, Ren gave Ryuji a look to have him stand down. Ryuji saw it and he took a deep breath and did his best to get his rage and breathing under control while Ren took a step forward.

"Mishima-san, we're not going to hurt you. But, Suzui-san just tried to commit suicide … and we all know that you know something about why. All of this should never have gotten this far … it has to stop, right here and now. So, please, tell us why this happened", Ren pleaded calmly to the sick looking boy.

"He's right", Ryuji agreed, his tone much calmer.

"We're not trying to get ya busted or anything. We won't say you talked or anything. Just tell us the truth, please", Ryuji similarly pleaded with a begging expression.

Mishima looked at the two with a pained and guilt ridden expression.

"Suzui … she was called out by Mr Kamoshida!", Mishima confessed quickly, as if afraid he'd back out at the last second.

Ren, Ryuji and Morgana's eyes widened as they looked at one another.

"Wait, what?", Ryuji asked incredulously.

"What do you mean 'called out'?", Ren asked despite having a good idea what it meant.

"It's how it works. Whenever he's irritated or pissed off, he calls for one of us to meet him in a place like the PE faculty office or teachers' room .. and then he beats us. I've been called there a number of times", Mishima confessed bitterly.

"That twisted son of a bitch", Ryuji cursed.

"But, yesterday, he just called for Suzui out of the blue. She hadn't made any mistakes or done anything wrong. But, he did seem especially angry when he told me to pass on the message", Mishima admitted with a shiver.

This caused Ren to gasp as he came to a conclusion.

"Mishima, was this after school?", Ren questioned with a grave look.

"Huh? Yeah, it was", Mishima confirmed with a slightly surprised look.

"How did you know?", Ryuji inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"… the truth is, yesterday, I ended up meeting Takamaki-san again", Ren explained.

"What does she have to do with this?", Ryuji asked, confused.

"… you know all those rumours about her being in a relationship with Kamoshida? They're all fake … but I know why people started to think that was the case", Ren stated.

Ryuji and Mishima said nothing.

"I promised her I wouldn't say anything but … I think this will be an exception … the truth is … Kamoshida was blackmailing her into being seen with him", Ren confessed.

Ryuji, Morgana and Mishima's eyes widened at that.

"He was doing what?!", Ryuji asked with eyes full of anger.

"But how was he blackmailing her?", Mishima asked.

"He threatened to take Suzui-san off the team as a regular. He knew how much Suzui-san meant to her", Ren explained with narrowed eyes.

"That sick bastard", Ryuji spat.

"That's not all. When I saw her yesterday, she was on the phone with him, having an argument. She told me later on that … he wanted her to come to his place", Ren explained darkly.

All eyes widened at the implications.

"Yeah … she turned him down and … we all know he isn't the type of guy who likes being denied what he wants", Ren finished with a distasteful tone of voice.

"It would make sense … and considering how angry he was and what you just said, what Suzui went through yesterday was no doubt … worse than usual", Mishima stated ominously with a disturbed look, his mind racing full of thoughts of what Kamoshida did to Takamaki's best friend.

"Wait … you mean Kamoshida …", Ryuji stated, not finishing the sentence as he felt sick to the stomach as he looked at the two for confirmation.

Ren nodded as he clenched his fists.

Once again, a countenance of pure rage appeared on Ryuji as he turned on his heel.

"THAT SICK SCUMBAG!", Ryuji cursed as he set off running.

"Ryuji, wait!", Ren shouted after the blonde and he ran after him, followed by Mishima who caught up with Ren soon, while Morgana trailed behind, trying to stay out of sight.

"He's definitely going to find Mr Kamoshida. He's probably in the PE faculty office on the second floor in the practice building", Mishima explained.

"Let's stop him before he does something he'll regret", Ren voiced as the two continued chasing after the furious ex runner.

Following the blonde into the practice building, Ren and company followed Ryuji up the stairs, ascending them in time to see him turning right. The trio followed the raging blonde into the faculty office at the end of the corridor and when they entered after Ryuji, they found the source of their disgust and rage, sitting nonchalantly in his chair at a desk, as if a girl hadn't just tried to commit suicide. That in itself was rage inducing enough.

Eventually, Kamoshida finally decided to turn his head in the direction of the group.

"… hmm?", Kamoshida said, looking over with a bored and uncaring gaze as if he wasn't responsible for what had just happened.

This only served to enrage Ryuji even more.

"You sick bastard! What the hell did you do to that girl?!", Ryuji raged, his blood boiling beneath the surface.

"What are you talking about?", Kamoshida responded calmly, his bored tone consistent with the dismissive gesture of his hand as he turned back towards his desk.

Ryuji's response was to kick the fold up chair next to him.

"DON'T PLAY DUMB WITH ME! YOU CAN'T JUST WEASEL YOUR WAY OUT OF THIS!", Ryuji snapped, completely and utterly incensed by the teacher's nonchalance.

"Ryuji!", Ren yelled through gritted teeth, wanting him to rein in his anger. Despite wanting to vent his own rage.

"That's enough!", Kamoshida yelled, finally turning to face the students with a look of annoyance.

"… what you did to us … wasn't coaching", Mishima muttered, looking down.

This earned the attention of all occupants of the room.

".. what was that, Mishima?", Kamoshida asked, daring Mishima to continue as he looked at the volleyball player with derision.

"You … you ordered me to call Suzui here", Mishima voiced further, anger starting to build up in his voice.

"That's how it works, right? You call for one of us when you're in a bad mood … and you take out your frustration on those who can't fight back. But, what you did to Suzui … I don't even want to imagine what you did!", Mishima yelled, his previous meekness gone and replaced by burning anger.

Kamoshida said nothing in return. He simply laughed humourlessly before standing up.

"You lot keep going on and on with all these … accusations which you have no proof of", Kamoshida stated as he walked closer to the students, looking as imposing as he could.

"It seems to me that you're just throwing these claims around because you can't be a regular on the team, right, Mishima?", Kamoshida stated with a small contemptuous smirk.

"Are you kidding me?! That's not what this is about!", Mishima rebuked irately.

"Even if it is what you imagine it to be, hypothetically speaking … what exactly can you do about it?", Kamoshida jeered as he leaned down mockingly.

"Do you honestly believe that you can get away with this now? After what just happened, I think certain people will be more open to talking. Especially Suzui-san", Ren explained with a tone filled with contempt.

Despite what he said, Kamoshida actually laughed.

"What's so funny exactly?", Ren demanded angrily

"Ah, you just reminded me of something important. We got a call from the hospital and it turns out that Suzui has fallen into a coma", Kamoshida explained with a false tone of concern.

"What?", Ren asked with wide, worried eyes.

"No!", Ryuji yelled.

Mishima gave a short intake of breath.

"Now, how exactly could someone like that make a statement, especially considering how slim her chances of recovery are?", Kamoshida asked rhetorically with a small smirk.

"It really is a shame though … the poor girl …", Kamoshida lamented with false sympathy.

"No, this can't be", Mishima muttered with a look of defeat.

"You goddamn piece of …", Ryuji cursed, his entire being shaking with barely contained rage.

Kamoshida merely looked at the blonde tiredly before sighing in annoyance

"This again? Are we gonna have another case of self defence on our hands, Sakamato?", Kamoshida mocked, sneering at the blonde.

"Shut your damn mouth, you son of a bitch!", Ryuji replied before pulling back his fist.

Recognising the stance, Ren's eyes widened before he rushed to Ryuji's side and caught his arm before his fist connected with the teacher's visage.

"What?! Why are you stopping me?!", Ryuji demanded.

Ren took a disgusted glance at the teacher before focusing on his friend.

"Don't give him what he wants. Do you want a repeat of what happened last time?", Ren asked gravely.

Ryuji's eyes widened at that as he let his arm relax and fall to his side.

"Of course not … but still …", Ryuji muttered with a tormented look.

"I know", Ren said empathetically.

Kamoshida actually seemed surprised by Ren's action.

"Oh? You stopped him? What a surprise", Kamoshida commented.

Ren refused to respond to the man, simply glaring at him with hostile intent.

"Still though, there's no need to hold back. Why not attack me? … oh, that's right, you can't", Kamoshida mocked with an infuriating smirk before laughing at the shaking blonde.

But, that smirk was soon supplanted by a grave expression.

"Everyone here will be expelled. I'll be reporting all 3 of you at the next board meeting", Kamoshida announced as he proceeded to sit at his desk.

Ren gasped with a shocked expression.

"Wha-", Ryuji stuttered in response, a look of dismay on his face.

"What?! You can't just make a decision like that!", Mishima yelled in a panicked tone.

In response, Kamoshida slowly turned on his chair to face the trio of students.

"Who do you think would really consider what scum like you have to say?", Kamoshida derided.

"Since you threatened me too, Mishima, you'll be held just as responsible as these two", Kamoshida explained.

"Huh?", Mishima said in response.

"Did you ever wonder why I kept someone as talentless as you on the team?", Kamoshida asked derisively.

"I mean, you act like you're just some poor helpless victim but who was the one who leaked Amamiya's criminal records all over the internet? How terrible is that", Kamoshida revealed with a small smirk of satisfaction.

Ren's eyes widened at that as did Ryuji's as they both turned to face Mishima who looked even more sick.

"Mishima?", Ryuji asked the student.

"He told me to do it. If I didn't, he would've …. I didn't have a choice …. I'm sorry", Mishima brokenly muttered as he fell to his hands and knees.

At that, Kamoshida began laughing in an obnoxious and deriding manner which earned more ire from the students.

'As far as I'm concerned, it was this scumbag who leaked my record, not Mishima. Also, anything that anyone says about me is nothing compared to what this bastard has put the volleyball team through … especially Suzui-san', Ren thought as he clenched his fists, staring daggers at the guffawing teacher.

"Now, are we done here?", Kamoshida asked impatiently after finishing his laugh.

"You're all expelled. You're all done for; your futures are mine to take! Now get outta my sight!", Kamoshida commanded as he turned back to his desk.

"I can't believe this prick is getting away with this!", Ryuji cursed.

"We'll make him eat his words", Ren reassured as he placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a knowing stare.

"Wait … you mean that …", Ryuji replied with wide eyes.

"Huh, have you kids lost your minds?", Kamoshida asked with an incredulous look.

"You worthless teenagers aren't making any sense, but sure, go ahead and try. After all, you'll have plenty of time to kill until your expulsion", Kamoshida goaded.

And so, with Mishima rising to his feet limply, the group left the PE Faculty Office.

'This is not over, Kamoshida. Not by a long shot', Ren thought, his mind set and resolute.

After the students left the office, they all parted ways, Mishima walking away with a look of defeat after apologising once again while Ryuji angrily stomped back to his own classroom, leaving Ren behind. But not alone.

"He really is an irredeemable scumbag", Morgana commented with a look of disgust on his expressive feline face.

"Yeah … meet us in the courtyard after school, where you found us", Ren ordered.

"You got it", Morgana acknowledged as the two parted ways.

Because of what happened, the school day was cut short and before Ren knew it, school had ended and Ren pulled out his phone.

'Meet up in the courtyard' – Ren

'Right' – Ryuji

With determination in his eyes, Ren marched to the courtyard, finding the feline figure of Morgana sitting on the round table and it didn't take long for Ryuji to arrive soon, a similar look of resolve in his eyes.

"We can't waste anymore time. We gotta go to that other world and beat the shit outta that asshole", Ryuji announced as he slammed his fist against the vending machine.

"We're not gonna beat him up, idiot. We're just going to steal his distorted desires", Morgana clarified.

"But, I can assume that this means you've both made up your minds – about how he could suffer a mental shutdown", Morgana stated seriously.

"… yes. Ever since yesterday, I've been onboard with this idea after I found out about Kamoshida blackmailing Takamaki-san. I told myself we needed to stop him before things got worse … but we were too late. At this point, there is no other choice. We have to do this", Ren spoke his mind gravely.

"Yeah. That girl tried to kill herself and is lying in a hospital bed in a coma because of him. At this point, I don't give a rat's ass if he dies", Ryuji snapped.

"… then it's settled", Morgana concluded.

"By the way, is getting rid of a Palace hard? You've tried it before, right?", Ryuji questioned.

"… when did I ever say that I've done this before?", Morgana replied.

Ren and Ryuji deadpanned at that.

"Were you just pretendin' to know?", Ryuji demanded.

"You're not giving us much faith in this plan of yours", Ren added, still deadpanning.

"Is it true that you guys are getting expelled?"

That statement attracted the attention of the trio as they turned to face the one who had interjected into their meeting.

It was Takamaki, her eyes slightly red and puffy, indicators that she'd been crying until recently.

"How do you know about that?", Ren inquired.

"Pretty much everybody is talking about it now", Takamaki answered with sympathetic eyes.

"That asshole's at it again", Ryuji swore with a sneer.

"So, what, you came all the way just to tell us that?", Ryuji questioned with a raised brow.

Takamaki was silent for a moment as she looked down but soon after, she met Ren and Ryuji's gazes with her own.

"If you're going to deal with Kamoshida, let me help too", Takamaki demanded with a determined look.

This caught all three of them off guard.

"What do you expect?! I can't just sit on my ass and do nothing after what happened to Shiho!", Takamaki snapped with anger in her gaze.

"I get it, I do. But this has nothing to do with you, okay?", Ryuji rebuked seriously.

"But, it has everything to do with me! Shiho's my-"

"I said don't get in our way!", Ryuji yelled.

Takamaki's eyes widened slightly before she made a sound of annoyance. Sensing that they wouldn't change their minds, the girl rushed off.

"… that was harsh", Morgana commented with a sad expression.

"Agreed. But, I understand why you did it", Ren stated with a knowing look.

"That place is seriously dangerous. We couldn't just drag her to somewhere like there. Even if she has a stake in all this", Ryuji explained but with a soft look.

"Well, I just hope she doesn't do anything too crazy. Women can be even bolder then men sometimes", Morgana remarked.

"Well, let's just hope that she doesn't. We don't need anyone else getting hurt or almost killed because of Kamoshida", Ren said gravely.

"All we need to do is take care of Kamoshida as soon as we can", Ryuji reminded.

"Then let's do this", Ren stated.

But, before they set off, Ren opened his bag and held in front of Morgana.

Morgana knew what Ren was implying and wasn't impressed.

"This again … seriously?", Morgana asked in a deadpan manner.

"Hey, it's the best way to keep you hidden from prying eyes. Or would you prefer to keep dodging and looking over your shoulder?", Ren asked with an amused look.

And so, Morgana begrudgingly ambled into the bag while Ren zipped it up, leaving a small gap at the back, allowing the small persona user to breathe. Heaving the bag onto his shoulder, Ren and Ryuji made their way out of the school and into the alley where they'd emerged and saw Kamoshida's Palace for the first time.

Setting his bag on the floor and unzipping it, allowing its occupant to emerge, the trio began to talk once more.

"Okay, listen up. When we cross over to the other world, we'll be treating each other like fellow phantom thieves, so I hope you're ready", Morgana notified.

"Phantom thieves?", Ryuji questioned.

"I'm pretty sure that phantom thief is another name for a gentleman thief", Ren added with a hint of uncertainty.

"That's right. Those who sneak in and stylishly steal Treasure – that is what we will become", Morgana explained with a grin.

"Phantom thieves, huh? … Cool", Ren commented with a smirk.

"Yeah, that is actually pretty awesome", Ryuji concurred with an excited grin.

"Anyway, we should hurry and use the navigator", Ren stated to his comrades.

"Right. So, we just enter Kamoshida, Shujin Academy and castle and we end up in bizarro world?", Ryuji asked for confirmation as he withdrew his phone from his pocket.

"So, this is the … app you use to enter the cognitive world, huh?", Morgana voiced as Ren showed the application to the feline.

"Yeah, it just showed up on our phones. We still don't know what it is exactly but … I'm pretty sure I heard you call it something when we tried to return to the castle", Ryuji explained as he looked at Ren.

"Metaverse Navigator", Ren acknowledged, repeating what he'd said a few days ago.

"Metaverse? Is that the name of that world? In fact, who even made this creepy thing and put it on our phones?", Ryuji questioned with a complete look of bemusement.

"I guess … we must have a secret benefactor", Ren theorised.

Ryuji and Morgana looked at Ren with confused and curious looks.

The whole 'there's an alternate reality made up of people's distorted desires which we are about to enter in order to steal said distorted desires of our scumbag of a teacher' scenario was already mind blowing. The existence of Igor and the Velvet Room was a whole other can of worms, especially considering Ren was contacted by the long nosed man in his dreams of all things.

"Huh, that's a bit weird … but actually kinda useful", Ryuji remarked as he looked at the ominous looking app on his phone.

"Well, we should get going", Ren announced to his comrades who proceeded to meet his determined gaze with equally resolute looks.

"We'll show that effin' Kamoshida!", Ryuji proclaimed with clenched fists.

"Let's go then", Morgana concurred with a catty smile.

And so, Ren's finger glided across the surface of his phone until he found the app and opened it, ready to enter the mysterious parallel world.

So focused all three of them were on the task at hand, none of them noticed the head of platinum blonde hair and the pair of bright blue eyes peering from around the corner of the alley they were in.

"Those two really are going to do something", Takamaki whispered curiously with narrowed eyes.

"What are they doing on his phone? A name …. School? What ARE they doing exactly?", Takamaki asked rhetorically, completely bemused.

That confusion soon evolved into shock as the female voice of the phone finished reciting the Palace details.

"H-huh?!", she intelligently said as she gaped at the ominous red ripples that appeared and started distorting the air around them.

No one else noticed surprisingly the team of two high schoolers and feline disappear from the alley …. taking the blonde girl with them.

"Back here again", Ren muttered.

As the ripples disappeared, Ren gazed up to find the familiar looming castle, the portcullis open as if Kamoshida was allowing anyone in through the front door.

'Wouldn't be surprised if he was. He thinks he's untouchable, both in here and in reality', Ren thought with disgust.

With that thought, Ren turned to his right and saw Ryuji in his own attire and Morgana, now in his anthropomorphic form, standing on the stone wall that surrounds the school building, one of the few things unchanged by the Metaverse.

"Alright! Time for us to bust on through!", Ryuji announced seriously as he winded up his right arm.

But before anyone could speak or move …

"WHAT IS ALL THIS?!", a familiar female voice demanded in a shocked and slightly scared tone.

The trio turned on their heels quickly only to look on with wide eyes and open mouths as they saw who was approaching them with a hurried gait.

"Takamaki?! You're here?!", Ryuji stated incredulously, gawping hopelessly.

"Wait, that voice … Sakamoto?! And, does that mean … you're Amamiya-kun?!", Takamaki questioned hastily with wide eyes, full of realisation.

"Uh … yeah, it's us. But, Takamaki-san, how are you here?", Ren asked, trying to remain calm and tread carefully.

"How should I know?!", Takamaki replied hotly.

The girl proceeded to look around hurriedly with a panicked visage.

"Just what the hell is going on here?! Where even are we?! Isn't this where the school's supposed to be?! Also, what are you guys even wearing?!", Takamaki shot off her questions.

Ren's mouth felt dry as he didn't really know what to say to the slightly hysterical girl without making her even more panicked. His eyes darted to his right where he saw Ryuji still trying to pick up his jaw off the floor while Morgana looked at Takamaki briefly with an almost … lovestruck gaze.

'He did seem rather … enamoured with that cognitive Takamaki-san last time … is that a heart?', Ren thought with a sweat-drop as he saw a pink heart above his ally's rather large head.

The most experienced member of the group shook off his look of admiration for a more serious one.

"I think I have an idea of what happened. She must have been nearby and was dragged in along with us by that app thingy. I mean, we got pulled in when Ren used the app so it stands to reason that anyone nearby could get dragged in too", Morgana hypothesised.

"Seriously?", Ryuji asked, speaking for the first time since Takamaki's arrival.

"Better make a note of that", Ren stated aloud, already mentally noting that tidbit of knowledge and seeing the simple logic in that hypothesis.

While the trio conversed with each other, Takamaki regained her composure as she turned back to face the trio seriously.

"So, wait! This all has something to do with Kamoshida and what you're going to do about him?", Takamaki persisted with an unflinching look.

"That doesn't matter! You need to leave here, right now!", Ryuji commanded.

"He's right, it's not safe", Ren added, hoping to persuade the girl.

"No way! Like I said before, Shiho is my best friend! This has everything to do with me!", Takamaki rebuked the two heatedly with a determined gaze.

"Guys, if this keeps up, the shadows are going to hear and find us", Morgana reminded urgently with a pointed look.

It was at that moment that Takamaki finally noticed the upright feline and the fact he could talk.

Her reaction was pretty typical all things considered.

"No way! Did that thing just talk?! Oh my god! It's a monster cat!", Takamaki screamed, her eyes wide with fear

Morgana's eyes went blank and his jaw fell to the floor in shock as his whole body seemed to turn white.

"… m-monster?", Morgana asked in a crushed tone of voice as he seemed to wilt slightly.

Ren and Ryuji couldn't help but glance at their ally in pity as they looked upon his pale form.

"Anyway, just what exactly is this place?! And what's going on?! I'm not leaving until you start explaining!", Takamaki promised resolutely.

"Looks like we gotta force her out", Ryuji sighed.

"We can use the app to get her out", Ren reminded as he took out his phone.

"Right", Morgana added as he came out of his stupor.

With that, the trio turned to face the girl who looked at them expectantly. Only for that look to become confused as she watched the trio approach her seriously and for it to turn to alarm, as the trio grabbed her.

"H-hey, what are you guys doing?!", Takamaki demanded as she was forced away from the castle.

"Sorry about this, Takamaki-san", Ren apologised as he tried to drag her by the arm as gently and carefully as he could.

"H-hey, where exactly are you touching, you perv?", Takamaki further demanded hotly as she glared at her fellow blonde.

"S-sorry about that, I-I didn't mean .. that's not important right now", Ryuji nervously responded after he accidentally touched the small of her back in his efforts.

"Listen, we'll explain everything later, we promise", Ren promised to the blonde girl as he finished with the app.

"Ugh, you guys, seriously – ahh!"

With a small as she was given a final push to the back from Morgana, she fell forward and disappeared into the red shimmers in the air.

Ryuji and Ren let out their sighs.

"You were right, we should definitely be more careful with this app", Ryuji agreed with Ren.

"But, still, how is it that I seem to know more about this app than you two do when you're the ones who've been using it?", Morgana asked in an unimpressed tone.

"Give us a break, Morgana. We've only known about this thing for a couple of days and this was only the second time we used it ourselves", Ren defended their ignorance towards the app.

"Still, geez. Takamaki wasn't meant to find out about this place. Nobody was. We gotta deal with all this fast", Ryuji stated seriously.

"… that girl's name was Ann Takamaki, right?", Morgana asked for confirmation with a curious look.

"Um … yeah", Ryuji replied hesitantly.

"… Lady Ann", Morgana said in a dreamy tone with a similar visage.

"… Lady Ann?", Ren muttered to Ryuji who looked just as bemused by Morgana's title for Takamaki as he shrugged.

"Anyway, we need to get a move on. The shadows have no doubt noticed us now so you should prepare yourselves", Morgana warned after adopting a serious look.

"Understood", Ren replied

"Yeah, got it", Ryuji confirmed with a grin.

With a catty grin, Morgana turned to look up at Ren.

"We'll be counting on you, Joker", Morgana stated.

"Joker?", Ren questioned with curiosity in his eyes.

"Is that supposed to be a nickname?", Ryuji asked confused.

"Don't call it that! It's a code name. That sounds way more cool. I mean, what kind of Phantom Thief would use their own name?! I'm not down for that! Also, we have no idea what effects yelling our real names in here would have? It acts as a precaution", Morgana reprimanded the blonde.

"But, why is he called Joker?", Ryuji questioned.

"Aren't Jokers the trump card in a pack of cards?", Ren inquired for confirmation with a raised eyebrow.

"Exactly. He's our trump card when it comes to fighting strength", Morgana explained with a grin.

Ren couldn't help but grin himself. He couldn't deny that having a code name made the whole affair even more cool. Especially having such a badass code name.

"Joker, huh? I like it", Joker admitted with his wry grin.

"Then that's settled", Morgana affirmed with a nod.

The cat like phantom thief turned to face their blonde compatriot with a focused look.

"Next is you, Ryuji. You'll be … Let's see …", Morgana trailed off.

A cheeky smirk appeared on his face.

"Thug", Morgana announced in an amused tone.

Ryuji sneered in response.

"Are you pickin' a fight with me?! I'll choose my own code name, damn it!", Ryuji rebuked Morgana with a twitching eyebrow.

Then, Ryuji's irritation vanished as a look of realisation and a grin blossomed in his visage.

"When it comes to me, it's gotta be this mask. Honestly, I kinda like it a lot. What if we name me after it then?", Ryuji offered with an excited gleam in his eyes.

"Fine then", Morgana sighed in response.

"So … Skull, then?", Joker stated with a raised eyebrow at his blonde friend.

In response, Ryuji's grin seemed to broaden even further as he laughed with excitement.

"Ooh! That sounds so frickin' awesome! Haha! I'm Skull then!", Skull announced to his compatriots gleefully.

As Skull's excitement died down, he turned down to face Morgana with a puzzled expression.

"Well … what about your code name?", Skull inquired.

"I'm not too sure", Morgana confessed with a , "you guys have any ideas?"

Skull gained a mischievous expression.

"How about Cat? Or Fel-"

Skull didn't get to finish his, in his eyes, humorous suggestion as the unamused recipient suddenly jumped up at the blonde and with surprising strength, given his stature, started to try and throttle the blonde.

"I. AM. NOT. A. CAT! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I GOTTA TELL YOU?!", Morgana yelled at the blonde with a comical expression of anger as he shook the blonde boy who had a look of surprise and dizziness as the smaller thief shook the blonde.

Ren simply looked on with a sweatdrop and a small look of amusement. Which soon disappeared as he remembered what was at stake. So, he approached the duo and wrapped his arm around Morgana's small body and pulled him away, the cat like thief kicking and screaming all the way.

"Let's just calm down guys, alright? Remember why we're here. As for your code name, Morgana, how about … Mona?", Joker reminded calmly and suggested at the top of his head as he looked down at his catty comrade.

Said comrade looked up at Joker with a raised eyebrow and a much calmer countenance.

"I guess that works if you say so", Mona conceded as Joker placed him back on the ground.

"Sounds good to me", Skull concurred as he gave a quick glance of surprise at the NOT cat.

"Alright, we are now Joker, Skull and Mona. Remember, we have to be extremely thorough about using these code names now", Mona gravely reminded the two rookies.

Both nodded in response and the trio turned to face the looming archway of the castle and with resolute countenances, they walked through the giant entrance and emerged in the small space before the three large entrances to the main hall of the castle.

"Alright, it's time to steal this treasure thing. Let's do this!", Skull announced with a grin.

"Remember, we don't want to go through the main entrance. There'll no doubt be guards waiting for us there", Mona interjected.

"Right, we should use the spot where we came in last time. From the looks of things, they haven't discovered our way in", Joker said, pointing towards the open vent to the left.

With their course set in mind, the trio dashed towards it and with all three possessing the power of Persona, the trio entered the vault with great agility.

"Woah. I understand how you guys were able to do stuff like that now. I feel so much … lighter this time", Skull noted with a wide eyes.

"I guess it has something to do with our Personas", Joker theorised.

"You'd be correct. You guys don't belong here in the Metaverse so your bodies must have felt heavier but because you unlocked your Personas, your bodies are enhanced in the Metaverse and you are able to do things you wouldn't normally be able to", Mona explained, turning back to face the duo in the vent.

"Huh. Helpful", Joker stated simply as the trio continued on their mission.

The Phantom Thieves emerged in the small familiar room and without another word, the trio silently stalked out of the room towards the double door, almost directly opposite them. But before Joker could open the door …

"Praise be to Lord Kamoshida! Death to the intruders!", a familiar distorted voice, belonging to a guard, bellowed.

Joker's hand flinched away from the door as he turned towards the source of the voice.

"W-what the hell?", Skull stated as quietly as he could as he too turned.

"Look over there", Mona pointed out.

All three had looked left down the corridor, through the open doors at the end that led to the main hall. The main hall that was full of shadows, clad in armour and wielding shields and swords and all. And at the head was a taller shadow clad in bronze armour like the one they'd faced when Skull unlocked his persona.

With a mutual nod between the trio, they silently stalked down the corridor and hid at the end of the corridor, Joker on the right with Mona and Skull on the left.

They peered carefully through the door way and their eyes widened at the sight at the top of the ornate stairs.

"Isn't that …", Ryuji whispered.

Yep. Shadow Kamoshida, clad in his cape and small crown with his sickly golden eyes staring down at his minions.

"Those bratty intruders the other day proved quite entertaining. But, I can't allow such trash as that to ransack my castle!", Kamoshida yelled with a sneer.

With a wave of his hand, exposing his naked form underneath, he announced with a twisted smirk, "strengthen all security! Kill them on sight! And I'll reward whoever brings me their heads on a silver platter!"

"PRAISE BE TO KING KAMOSHIDA! DEATH OF THE INTRUDERS!", the guards recited in unison, their distorted shouts echoing throughout the hall.

Joker developed a frown while Skull had a look of anger on his visage before he turned to face Mona.

"Can't we just beat this asshole up and call it a day?", Skull inquired as quietly as he could.

"Do you see how many of his guards there are? It'd be suicide. And don't you want him to confess his sins?", Mona answered through gritted teeth.

"I know. It's just … seeing that twisted bastard there … after what he did …", Skull admitted with an expression of pure rage.

"I understand, Skull. But we've got to focus and find the treasure if we truly want justice for Shiho-san and everyone else he's screwed over", Joker reminded calmly with Mona nodding in agreement.

"… you're right. Let's go", Skull sighed in acceptance yet still having a look of dissatisfaction.

As the trio turned away from the hall full of guards, they headed back down the corridor to the unopened door.

"So, where exactly is this treasure thing?", Skull asked Mona.

"I'm not sure where exactly but it'll definitely be somewhere deeper and more secure in the castle so we'll need to infiltrate further", Mona confessed as they approached the door.

Being as quiet as he could, Joker opened the door and peered through … coming face to face with the back of a guard.

Looking back at the duo, he mouthed 'guard' at them.

"What do we do then? Do you wanna fight it?", Skull asked while hastily looking over his shoulder at the collection of guards down the hall.

Mona hummed with a look of contemplation.

"I think this might be a good opportunity to teach you guys something", Mona added with a smirk.

He looked up at his associates.

"Remember how I taught you guys about Hold Ups and All Out Attacks?", Mona reminded.

Both boys easily recalled that particular experience when Joker and Mona both destroyed the shadow they fought after knocking it down.

"What of it?", Joker inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, there's another use for hold ups besides taking out enemies. I'll show you", Mona explained before approaching the door and inaudible opened the door, allowing the trio to sneak through, leaving the corridor and conglomeration of shadows behind.

With the door shut behind them, Mona wasted no time in leaping onto the shadow's back.

"W-what!?", the shadow guard's distorted voice yelled out in surprise.

"Time to come out, shadow", Mona announced as he left away, tearing the guard's mask away, making the guard explode and reveal its true form, a small blue clothed fairy with red hair.

The fairy didn't react as the sudden reveal left the female shadow dazed and confused, giving Mona time to explain turning to face the other two.

"Listen, shadows are beings born from people's hearts and so, they can talk too, like you've seen before. And if you can communicate with them, you can bargain with them for money or items when you've caught them off guard since they won't wanna die", Mona clarified with a grin.

"So … we basically can mug them?", Joker asked with an incredulous expression as Skull also looked caught off guard.

"Pretty much. Shadows can have surprisingly useful stuff on them that we can use in the cognitive world. While you can get stuff from them after defeating them, you get more this way than from simply offing them", Mona explained further.

With that explanation finished, Mona pulled out his slingshot and with careful precision, he aimed his ranged weapon at the fairy and let loose a well placed pellet that struck the fairy in the head and knocked it to the ground.

"Let's do this, guys", Mona voiced with a grin,

Shaking off their surprise at this tactic, both phantom thieves pulled out their respective firearms and ran up to the floored fairy with Mona and aimed them, ready to fire at any given time.

The fairy chose this time to come to her senses and her eyes widened in rage at the trio before her.

"Seriously?! You guys are the intruders that King Kamoshida was talking about?!", the fairy shadow lamented with a sneer.

"That's right! And we're taking down that bastard for good, ya hear?", Skull proclaimed fervently with a grin.

The fairy simply groaned in frustration in response.

"Damn it! It can't get worse than this …. What exactly are you going to do with me?", the shadow asked warily.

Joker chose this time to put forward his offer.

"Anything useful you have on your person. Give it to us", Joker ordered, his gaze not wavering.

"So, wait, you'll let me go if I just give you something?", the fairy asked with disbelief and a hint of hope on her countenance.

"Something along those lines … doesn't matter if it's money or items. Just cough it up!", Mona pressed further, pulling his slingshot back a bit further as incentive.

But, things didn't go according to Mona's plan.

The fairy adopted a panicked look as she hastily scanned her person.

"B-but I don't have anything on me right now. I didn't expect to be frigging mugged by some intruders … I-I mean, I usually do have something, I swear", the fairy voiced in a panicked manner.

Joker and Skull both sweat dropped at this … turn of events and turned their unimpressed masked faces towards Mona whose usually confident face was replaced by a look of embarrassment.

"O-oh .., this isn't how I was planning all this to go", Mona stated with a sweatdrop running down the side of his furry head.

"Ya think?", Skull asked simply as Joker sighed.

Mona's embarrassment faded as his face returned to its normal confident appearance.

"Well, in that case", Mona began as he faced the nervous fairy and stated bluntly, "then I guess it's time for you to go to hell."

The fairy, after hearing the phantom thief's declaration, developed a comical look of panic.

"W-wait!", the fairy begged.

"Sorry, can't. We're in a hurry", Mona stated.

"N-no, seriously wait! I'm sure we can work something out", the fairy tried to negotiate.

The female shadow turned to face Joker with her wide panicked white eyes.

"C'mon, please! You seem like a nice guy, don't just kill me like this! I'm sure I can help you out in some way", the fairy begged.

There was silence as Joker stared down at the rather pitiful shadow, judging her with his gaze and he slowly lowered his pistol.

"Alright, prove that you can help us", Joker commanded, his resolute gaze not faltering.

The fairy's face brightened as she began bowing to the persona user rapidly.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!", the shadow repeatedly stated before looking up with a grin.

"I promise, I'll help you ou ..", the fairy began to say.

FLASH

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a flash of light bathed the room for a moment … and the fairy slowly rose from the ground, her form radiating light and possessing an … enlightened look.

"Woah, what the hell?!", Skull exclaimed with wide eyes.

"What is this?! I've never seen this before!", Mona was similarly shocked.

As for Joker, he simply stared at the fairy with a shocked look … but he felt something else. Something tugging in the depths of his heart.

"I remember now. I don't belong to Kamoshida", the fairy stated, no remnant of panic in her tone. Her voice was … strangely content.

"I'm an existence that drifts about in the sea of humanity's souls", the shadow cryptically explained.

And then, with a grin, she proclaimed, "my true name … is Pixie."

"I am thou … thou art I. From now on, I will live within your heart", Pixie proclaimed as her form became engulfed in light.

All three shielded their eyes and removed their arms when the light faded.

In place of the female shadow, there now hovered a mask. One that looked exactly like Joker's domino mask.

"W-what?", Ren asked quietly.

His eyes widened when the mask suddenly shot forward from its place and slammed into his masked face. Yet, Joker felt no force as the mask disappeared into a burst of blue flame as it hit his.

Mona and Skull looked on in awe and no small amount of confusion at what happened when the mask disappeared and how Joker's eyes flashed yellow for a second. Just like when their Personas awakened.

"W-what just happened?! That Pixie chick just turned into a mask and got sucked into Joker's?!", Skull demanded, his face a picture of confusion as he looked down at their guide to all things cognitive.

But, Mona was equally as baffled.

"I-I honestly have no idea what just happened! I wasn't expecting something like that! Joker, do you know what just happened?!", Mona inquired hastily, hoping for an answer.

Joker stood there in a stupor after the … rush he just felt before returning to his senses.

"I …", Joker started to say hesitantly …

BANG

The trio of thieves jumped in surprise as the doors they had come through were shoved open by an unwelcome visitor.

Another shadow guard.

"Crap. One of the guards must've heard us", Skull stated with a panicked visage.

As all three turned to face their new opponent, the guard growled as it started to shake and then combusted, revealing two new shadows: a pair of familiar black horses with curled horns.

As Joker's hand tightened its grip on his knife, he felt another rush through his body as he froze and his eyes widened.

'You wanted to know how I could help you out? This is how', a familiar feminine voice rang in Joker's head.

'That voice', Joker thought with wide eyes.

'You know what to do. You want my help? Say my name', the voice announced, a grin very much audible in its tone.

Joker developed a grin of his own as he raised his hand to his mask.

"Come, Pixie!", Joker commanded as he tore away his mask.

With this exclamation, instead of the tall, dark figure of Arsene looming over Joker, every occupant in the room was befuddled to see the petite form of Pixie, surrounded by blue light and energy.

"I-isn't that the shadow from earlier?!", Mona questioned with a dropped jaw.

"How the hell did Joker just summon her like that?!", Skull inquired, similarly gobsmacked.

As for the two equine foes, they simply stared in shock, recognising the Pixie as one of their former comrades.

Joker grinned at their confusion as he pointed his finger at them.

"Now, Pixie, Zio!", Joker commanded.

And so, with a swipe of her arm, a bolt of lightning rained down on the horse shadow to the right, knocking it to the floor, startling its fellow shadow.

"Now, Skull!", Joker ordered at his blonde friend as his mask reappeared and Pixie disappeared.

While initially shocked, the blonde persona user shook off this and turned to face the enemy and tire off his mask.

"Do it, Captain Kidd!", Skull ordered with a grin.

Aiming his cannon arm at the other enemy, the persona let loose another bolt of lightning to the same effect as the last.

With both enemies incapacitated, Joker turned to his allies.

"C'mon, guys, time for all an all out attack", Joker announced with a grin.

With similar looks, the trio leaped into the air and began their assault on the helpless enemies, pummelling them until they burst into darkness, fading away as the trio fell to the ground, letting out sighs of relief.

They were silent until Skull turned to look down at Mona with wide eyes.

"Mona, what the hell was that? What did Joker do?", Skull questioned the equally surprised phantom thief.

"From the looks of things", Mona began as he turned to face the confused Joker, "he sealed that enemy's appearance and abilities in his mask. And … it became his new Persona."

'It's like Justine said. My Personas', Ren thought, recalling the warden's words.

Mona continued to look befuddled.

"I-is such a thing even possible though? I mean, I've never seen someone do something like that", Mona confessed to the teenagers.

"But … isn't this a good thing?", Joker posed with a raised brow.

In response, Mona's face erupted into a grin.

"Of course it is. Usually, a person only has one Persona since they only have one heart. But, you can use multiple Personas it seems. This ability will give us a huge advantage in battle", Mona commented excitedly.

"So, I guess I should try and hold up as many shadows as possible", Joker concluded with a smirk.

"Definitely", Mona agreed with a similar smirk.

"Hah, alright, then. We'll hold up every one of those shadows", Skull concurred exuberantly, excited at the prospect of new personas.

"Hehe, seems I have an eye for talent after all", Mona bragged to himself with a grin and a gleam in his eyes.

"Let's go, quickly. It's a miracle no one else has shown up yet", Joker ordered, regaining his business like demeanour.

With agreements all around, the thieves turned to face the other door of the room, which was in the wall to the left when they entered the room first. Joker carefully passed through the door with his compatriots behind him.

They entered into another corridor and they turned left and right like at a crossing and saw the corridor continued down to another door at the far end on the right. As they stalked down the corridor to the door however, they noticed an … interesting sight.

On their left, halfway down the corridor, they found a smaller corridor, leading to another closed entrance … only it was barred by a gate.

"Wonder what that bastard's got down there?", Skull posed his question with a sneer, not wanting to think what the twisted teacher's shadow had behind bars.

"Who knows? But, we can't open it so we should carry on", Joker reminded.

"Yeah, our priority's the treasure", Mona concurred.

The trio stalked down the corridor, reaching the door and Joker took a peak through and saw yet another room, which possessed a more castle like quality. The floor was made of stones, there were pillars made of bricks, there were torches perched on the walls and weapons hanging off of racks. And to top it all off, there were three guards.

Inaudibly closing the door, he turned to face his fellow thieves.

"There are three guards in there. One for each of us, if we take off their masks, they'll be stunned and we have a better chance of ending this quickly", Joker planned.

"Solid plan", Mona complimented.

"Hey, any chance to take down those shadow bastards, you know I'm in", Skull agreed with a slightly savage smirk.

With a nod, Joker reached out to open the door but …

"Wait, I have something for you guys", Mona interjected.

"What is it?", Joker inquired curiously.

"Here", Mona simply stated as he threw two identical objects up to Joker and Skull.

"Huh? What are these bags?", Skull asked confused.

Indeed, they were two small bags, more like pouches as they were small enough to fit in their hands. They were plain dull brown, the opening in the top was big enough to just fit their hands into and they had ropes around their necks to seal them up.

"Honestly, they look a lot like those bags you see thieves carrying in their backs. You know, in old cartoons", Joker commented.

"Huh, yeah, you're right", Skull agreed as he examined the small bag in his hands.

"Well, you know how I told you guys that you can get items from enemies, either by defeating them or holding them up? Well, you're gonna need these to put away all the stuff you're gonna get", Mona explained.

"Uh, Mona, these bags aren't all that … you know, big", Skull commented simply as he looked at the rather unimpressive bag with doubt.

Joker couldn't really help but agree.

"Ahah, they may seem small but … why don't you try reaching in, Joker?", Mona proposed with a smug grin.

Joker raised an eyebrow at his expression but nonetheless, conceded. He loosened the rope around the bag and his eyes couldn't help but widen when he saw inside. Despite appearing so small, Joker couldn't see a bottom to the bag. Just a dark empty space.

With a small amount of hesitance, Joker reached in and his eyes seemed to widen even further when his hand felt no fabric. So he reached in further. And further. And further.

Skull's jaw dropped at what he was seeing and Mona looked on, his proud expression still intact.

Joker's entire arm was in the bag yet he still couldn't feel the bottom of the bag.

"How the …", Joker simply stated with a shocked face as he withdrew his arm from the pouch.

"Well, it'd be pretty inconvenient to have to haul around a big sack of stolen goods, right? So, I made these pouches to store our goods. After you defeat any enemies, any useful items they have will now transport to that bag for later use. I'll tell you about that later", Mona expounded.

"Dude, that's so cool", Skull commented with a grin as he hooked his bag onto the side of his belt.

"I know, I'm amazing", Mona so humbly announced with a grin.

Joker raised his eyebrow in amusement as he did the same with his pouch, attaching it to the side of his pants.

"That'll prove useful. Thanks, Mona", Joker thanked their mentor in all things cognitive.

"You're welcome", Mona replied with a grandiose bow.

"Alright, let's deal with these bastards", Skull voiced enthusiastically.

So, the trio snuck into the medieval room and began to sneak up to their quarry, making use of the brick pillars to hide their presence from the knights.

The three snuck up on their prey … and leaped.

The knights let out cries of surprise as the phantom thieves ripped away their masks.

After the explosion of darkness, Joker found himself facing a two horned horse, Skull was facing off against two of them and Morgana had three floating jack o' lanterns.

Skull wasted no time.

"Persona! Now, Captain!", Skull ordered his Persona.

Instinctively knowing what the blonde wanted, the Pirate Persona aimed his cannon arm and let loose a lightning bolt on one of the horses as the blonde rushed up to the now downed enemy, started rolling his arm before bringing back his pipe and letting loose his swing. The swing elicited a crack from the shadow as the pipe smacked the horse's head sideways before it dissolved into darkness.

The other horse had regained its senses but before it could rush the blonde who'd destroyed his companion, its path was blocked by the skeletal pirate who unleashed another lightning attack, leaving the equine enemy spasming on the floor.

"Thanks, Kidd", Ryuji voiced gratefully.

The blonde ran up to the enemy, leaped into the air and brought down the pipe on the shadow's head brutally, causing the enemy to fade away.

As for Skull's allies, Mona had already summoned Zorro and downed two of the jack of lanterns with his wind attack. As for the third, it was unleashing fire from its lantern, forcing the smaller phantom thief to evade the attacks skilfully.

Eventually, the shadow ran out of energy and its barrage of fire ceased and Mona capitalised on that.

He rushed up to the tired shadow and swung his cutlass up and down before leaping away, withdrawing his slingshot and with accuracy, let loose a well placed pellet that downed the enemy.

"Now, Zorro, let's end this", Mona commanded as he rushed forward.

The rapier wielding persona let loose a wind attack that destroyed one of the downed enemies while Mona rushed forward and with one clean slice from his cutlass, he cut through the last two shadows.

With their enemies down, Skull and Mona sighed.

FLASH

The familiar flash of light caught the eyes of the pair as they turned to face Joker's location.

Joker was standing in front of his opponent who was glowing in a pale blue light like a certain Pixie earlier.

Joker had attacked the two horned horse like they had done to Pixie and begun to talk to it. The horse shadow spoke in an older man's voice. Joker admittedly found it rather peculiar but, he wanted to try out what had happened with Pixie again.

The result was this.

"I remember now. I'm no Shadow from this place. I used to be livin' in that there sea of the human soul. From now on, call me Bicorn. No need for any honorifics, sonny", Bicorn stated happily.

And just like before, Bicorn's equine form changes into a familiar mask which launched itself at Joker's face. The familiar rush came back and Joker smirked.

"Whoa, you actually did it again", Skull remarked as he and Mona jogged up to their friend.

"Yeah, like I said, that ability will be extremely helpful", Mona reminded with an excited grin.

"You're right … now let's keep going", Joker stated, his smirk still present.

"And leave that chest over there unopened?", Mona asked innocently as he pointed at the corner of the room opposite the exit.

The other two looked over and indeed saw a red chest that was adorned with gold.

With a shared look between them, they approached the chest and with no reluctance, Joker opened it and took the sole object that what was inside.

"Another dagger", Joker stated as he looked at the silver dagger, a contrast to the dark blade that Joker had wielded up until now.

"Hmm. That dagger looks stronger than the one you've been using till now. Why don't you try it out?", Mona suggested.

"Yeah, go on, man", Skull urged as well.

"Fair enough", Joker conceded as he took the blade and stored it away in his coat and put his old blade in his pouch.

Their business concluded in the room, they turned back and exited through the double door into another corridor which turned right at the end. This corridor was shorter than than the previous ones and matched the décor of the other corridors, not having a stone floor or walls like the previous room but a decorative décor. And at the end of the short corridor was a familiar sight. A shimmering door.

"Hey, it's another one of those hazy lookin' doors! That thing! Uhh, what's it called again?", Skull wondered as he looked upon the blurred door.

"A safe room", Joker simply stated.

"Glad someone remembers", Mona stated under his breath with a twitching eyebrow.

Mona's expression adopted a serious appearance.

"We can discuss our strategy inside there. We still have a long way to go and there are places that I haven't even seen yet", Mona explained gravely.

With a plan in mind, the trio entered the safe space, ready to plan their next move. So far, they'd made good progress. But, none of the phantom thieves had any idea of what was going to happen next.

Or more precisely, who.

The outside of Shadow Kamoshida's castle was as quiet as it usually is, enhancing the intimidating nature of the looming castle and the unnatural sky above.

"Hey, this is that place from earlier"

Until the silence was broken by the sound of a familiar female voice.

"What's up with this place? And where are those guys?", Ann Takamaki wondered as she walked around.

"And what's up with this app?", Takamaki asked herself with an unnerved expression as she looked down at her phone.

At the black and red eye that stared up at her in return, it's appearance on the girl's phone being the result of … a certain someone's machinations.

"All I did was say those words that Sakamoto said and I ended up back here again. What the hell is going on? And what does Kamoshida have to do with-"

"Princess?!", a distorted voice questioned

The sudden and unordinary voice shook Takamaki out of her thinking as she looked up in shock at what she saw.

"Princess!", one of three shadow knights yelled as they ran up to her.

"Aaaahhhhhh!", Takamaki yelled as she was seized by the Shadows and taken away.

'WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!'

"You know, even though we've done pretty well so far, it seems like we have much more shadows to worry about than last time. And getting this far has been a pain in the ass. And tiring", Skull commented as he laid back in one of the chairs in the safe room.

"It does seem that way. And it's no doubt gonna get even more stressful the further we go in", Joker concurred as he leaned against the table

"It's no doubt because you guys provoked Kamoshida", Mona reminded, unimpressed.

"But, admittedly, he seems awfully on guard", Mona stated with a contemplative look.

"Anyway, how exactly are we supposed to steal this treasure thing?", Skull demanded impatiently.

"Don't be so hasty, Skull. We need to secure our infiltration route first", Mona instructed.

"A what now?", Skull asked with a bemused face.

"I'm guessing that's our path to the treasure", Joker expressed.

"Exactly", Mona confirmed with a nod.

But, then, a worried visage appearance on Mona.

"But, honestly, considering how difficult things are going to get, I think we'd need a bit more manpower for this. At least one more persona would be nice", Mona confessed with an unsure look.

"Hey, by the way, even though you say you've got amnesia, you still know all about this kinda stuff", Skull voiced.

He proceeded to turn to Joker.

"Do you really think this guy's got amnesia?", Skull 'conspiratorially' whispered.

Joker was silent for a moment.

"I think he's telling the truth. Just because someone has amnesia doesn't mean they forget everything; sometimes it just their personal history. He's led us right so far so … I believe in him", Joker stated to the blonde before looking at the smaller phantom thief with a smile.

Mona looked caught off guard for a moment before he schooled his expression into one of pride.

"Hah, glad at least someone has faith in me. Proves your step above that moron", Mona announced with a proud smirk.

"Don't call me a moron!", Skull rebuked with a comical expression of anger.

Joker chuckled under his breath at the duo.

"Man, you talk all big and everything but what if it turns out you're just some stray cat in the end, huh!?", Skull questioned, a muscle twitching in his forehead.

"No way, that can't be what I am!", Mona vehemently denied the concept.

"… it can't be …", Mona whispered but less sure with a scared expression.

"Still, why was the princess in such an odd place?"

The trio's eyes widened and they all tensed as they heard the familiar voice of a guard from outside the safe room.

"Princess? Who do you think they mean?", Skull asked quietly.

All three of them approached the door and leaned their ears towards it in order to better hear the topic of conversation.

"It's strange though. I could've sworn that we were following the signal of an intruder", the same guard stated, confused.

"It doesn't matter. We just need to take her back to King Kamoshida", another guard reprimanded as the sound of their metal feet and armour rattled down the corridor.

"I should look into this", Mona voiced as he quickly and quietly snuck out with no further delay.

"And yet another question goes unanswered", Skull grumbled.

"I will admit, he is a bit of a mystery", Joker relented to his blonde friend.

"More than a bit. I mean, this castle and that app are mysterious but Morgana's got 'em both beat in my opinion", Skull voiced his opinion.

"Code names, Skull", Joker reminded with a smirk.

"Ah, crap. Sorry", Skull apologised while rubbing the back of his head.

"Still, Mona may be a mystery to us and even himself, but he's the one helping us. The only one who's willing to help us put a stop to Kamoshida when it should be dealt with by the headmaster and the parents of the members of the volleyball team. He's got a good head on his shoulders; as far as I'm concerned, that's all I need to know to trust him", Joker explained to Skull.

"Huh. I guess you're right … still think he's a cat by the way", Skull added with a grin.

Joker snorted in amusement.

"This is bad, guys!"

Both of the jumped at the sound of Mona's voice as they turned down to face him. Only to see a concerned look.

"What is it, Mona?", Joker asked, trying to maintain composure.

"It's your friend, Lady Ann! She's been taken by shadows", Mona explained as he jumped on the spot in panic.

Both teenagers looked down with disbelieving expressions.

"What!? But that shouldn't be possible!", Joker stated worriedly.

"Yeah, we sent her back to the real world", Skull added with a similar look.

"We did but … if she has the app …", Mona trailed off.

"No … don't tell me it got put on her phone like it did with ours?!", Skull rhetorically asked with a worried face.

'Igor … was this your doing? Of course it was', Joker thought with gritted teeth as he realised why she would have the app.

"Goddamn it, we let her out for her own safety but she ended up coming back by herself", Skull lamented.

"It doesn't matter. We just need to focus on rescuing her", Joker reminded sternly.

"He's right. We've got to rescue Lady Ann", Mona agreed.

"Then, let's get goin'", Skull impatiently voiced.

With haste, the three exited the safe room.

"They went back the way we came, through that place with all the weapons and tables", Mona informed, pointing back down the corridor they came from.

With no further information, the three bolted down the empty corridor to the room and as they did, they could hear a familiar and angry voice.

"What is all this?! Is this some kind of sick filming?! Who's in charge here?!", Takamaki shouted in a panicked tone.

Only incensed by the panic of the girl, the trio of thieves continued through the room and emerged into the corridor and their attention was immediately caught.

"That gate is no longer there", Joker pointed out.

The previously inaccessible corridor and door were now unbarred.

"They must've taken her in there", Skull put together as he pointed at the door.

Their musings were broken by the sound of a feminine gasp from beyond the door.

"This way, guys!", Mona announced as he led the charge.

The trio sprinted down the red carpet of the corridor with reckless abandon, past the rows of knights' armour lining the sides of the corridor, one of which was collapsed on the floor.

"Look, I'll apologise for touching the armour, alright? Just let me go!", Takamaki exclaimed.

Despite the situation, the trio can't help but sweatdrop.

"She has no idea what's going on", Skull sighed.

Joker simply nods in agreement.

"Let's hurry! We have to save her", Mona reminded

With nods, the thieves continued their running and with no more waiting, they snuck in through the door.

Ann Takmaki's situation was not an ideal one. Her arms and legs being tied to a large golden X in the far end of a pink room with candles lit everywhere while two knights were pointing their blades at the immobilised girl. If she was facing the wall behind her, she would've no doubt seen the giant portrait of Shadow Kamoshida, clad in his crown and cape, his torso, of course, bare for the cognitive world to see.

So, naturally, she was incensed.

"What is all of this about?! Let me go right now! Seriously, I'm gonna call the cops!", Takamaki yelled at her captors fervently as she struggled against her shackles.

Although she wouldn't be able to do much calling due to her current predicament.

"So … this is the intruder", a distorted voice that was strangely familiar to the girl.

The girl's struggle ceased when she gasped and looked up at the figure before her in utter bewilderment.

"Kamoshida?!"

It was Shadow Kamoshida, although she didn't know that yet. And he wasn't alone.

"W-what?! W-who is that?!", Takamaki shakily demanded as she stared at the man's companion.

It was a carbon copy of her … except this one was wearing a pair of cat ears, a crown, a purple panther print bikini and a pair of pink high heels. The girl was identical to Ann … yet it clearly wasn't her.

She shook off her unease and shock as her anger returned.

"More importantly, what is this place?! Why has the school turned into a place like this?!", Takamaki demanded answers.

Kamoshida's Shadow simply sneered.

"Hah, I can't believe you actually mistook my Ann for someone like her. Sure, she looks just like her but the fact she's talking back should prove it's not her", Kamoshida reprimanded his guards before laughing in his creepy tone of voice, enhanced by the distortion.

He took a step forward, making Takamaki flinch slightly.

"Are you afraid?", Kamoshida asked mockingly.

"Wha … what is that outfit?! Have you lost your mind?!", Takamaki asked with wide eyes as she looked down at the bizarre apparel he was wearing.

"Hah, I don't need to explain myself to you. I do whatever I please here. After all, this is my castle … the world of my desires", Kamoshida announced as he looked around at the large room with a twisted grin.

"Wha- wait, is this some kind of red light district?! Or something?!", Takamaki questioned, desperately trying to explain where she was.

Kamoshida simply chuckled.

"You are quite the lively slave, aren't you?", Kamoshida sneered.

Takamaki's eyes widened at what he called her and more and more panic began to set in underneath her anger at the man before her.

"Enough with the bullshit, Kamoshida! This isn't funny!", Takamaki yelled with fire in her eyes.

The shadow simply grinned in response before turning to face Takamaki's scantily clad copy.

"The girl's decided to tell me off. Tisk tisk. What do you think of that?", Kamoshida questioned the clone.

The cognition giggled.

"Talking back is like … totally unforgivable", the clone spoke with a seductive undertone, matching her look.

"Hmmm … in that case, she should be executed", Kamoshida announced with a sneer.

"W-what?", Takamaki whispered with wide, afraid eyes.

Said fear was only enhanced when a larger knight in bronze armour approached with his large blade.

"Now, then", Kamoshida's shadow began with a sick grin, "how should I play with you? Shall I tear you into little pieces?"

"Are you kidding me?", Takamaki whispered, terrified for her life.

Takamaki, Kamoshida and the knights were too focused on what they were doing to notice the three thieves that had snuck their way in. And they were too focused on what was between them and their classmate.

"W..what is this?", Joker asked in disbelief as his clenched fists shook.

"This is just effed up", Skull added with a look of pure rage.

"That bastard …", Mona muttered with loathing in his eyes.

In the giant room, lying around on the floor, were several pink female figures.

They had no faces but had similar short brown hair and were all wearing either bloomers or track suit pants. But that was it. They were topless and were all lying in seductive and provocative poses while making … suggestive sounds.

"Are … are these …?", Skull dares to ask.

"This is how Kamoshida views the girls on the volleyball team", Joker concluded with gritted teeth.

The sight was … sick, to put it mildly. And all it did was heighten their resolve to put Kamoshida in his place.

"Hey, guys, look", Mona pointed to the right.

They all looked and saw Ann Takamaki, restrained and about to be cut up by Kamoshida's knights while Kamoshida waited in anticipation.

With no further words, they ran up to them.

"Stop!", Joker yelled furiously.

"Takamaki!", Skull yelled worriedly.

"Bah. Just when I was about to start enjoying myself", Kamoshida's Shadow growled

"What's wrong with this guy?!", Takamaki demanded, panic written across her face.

"You little piece of shit!", Skull cursed fervently.

"… how many times are you gonna come back?", Kamoshida demanded with a frown.

"As many times as we need to", Joker answered with a deathly calm yet his eyes spoke otherwise.

Kamoshida simply gave a disparaging smile as he turned back to the restrained girl.

"I bet you're just like these thieves. You're here because you're pissed at me, huh?", Kamoshida inquired with a mockingly raised eyebrow.

"But, you see, the thing is …", Kamoshida began to say before adopting a mockingly contemplative look.

"Ah, I forgot that chick's name but it's your fault that she jumped, you know", Kamoshida stated with a cruel smile.

"Huh? W-what?", Takamaki said in response with wide eyes.

The thieves' expressions became panicked as they realised what Kamoshida was going to say.

"You were so reluctant to throw yourself at me that I had her take your place", Kamoshida explained with a sadistic grin.

Takamaki's eyes slowly widened as the fire in her eyes became hotter.

"YOU BASTARD!", Takamaki furiously yelled with tears in her eyes.

But, before she could let loose a torrent of extremities, the larger knight pressed the point of his sword closer to her throat.

"No!", Skull yelled out in response to the action as the three prepared to move.

The response to his yell was for the smaller knights to place their swords' edges against her throat.

"Any of you three so much as take another step, I'll have her killed on the spot", Kamoshida growled.

"Damn it", Skull muttered.

"You son of a bitch", Joker similarly muttered under his breath.

"Now … just sit back, relax and enjoy the dismantling show", Kamoshida voiced like the announcer at a game.

"N-no! Don't!", Takamaki yelled out in fear.

Kamoshida then developed a perverted expression.

"Perhaps I'll start with her clothes", Kamoshida stated as he licked his lips.

"Hahah, you're such a perv", Kamoshida's cognition of Takamaki voiced in a high pitch girly voice, not fitting the genuine article.

"Dude, what are we gonna do?!", Skull yelled out as he looked at Joker who had a similar look of panic.

"We can't do anything. We move and she's dead", Joker stated with gritted teeth.

"He's right", Mona stated with a despondent look.

The knights began to approach her with their blades getting closer to her clothes.

"Takamaki!", Skull yelled out with wide eyes.

But, she didn't respond but looked down slightly with an almost dead look in her eyes.

"Is … this my punishment for what happened to Shiho?", Takamaki asked quietly as a blade started tearing at her jacket.

"Haha, that's more like it! You should've been looking like this from the start", Kamoshida stated sickly, enjoying his twisted entertainment.

"Shiho … I'm …. I'm so sorry", Takamaki said tearfully as she looked down.

Takamaki's world froze in place as her mind was cast back. Back to when she was alone. Completely and utterly alone. And then, she came along. Shiho Suzui. She was nothing like the others who talked about her behind her back because of her foreign heritage, because of her looks. She came right up to her and looked her in the eye; she didn't judge or discriminate. She simply treated her like she was anyone else. And so, they became friends. Best friends. Shiho made her life bearable and less lonely. Then, Kamoshida came along and she decided to do whatever she could to help Shiho. Like she helped her.

'Shiho … you were there for me when I was completely alone and when I tried to help you, I failed miserably. I tried to everything I could to be there and make life less miserable for you. But, in the end, I didn't do enough; all I did was stand by and watch. I wasn't there for you. Shiho, my best friend. I … I'm so sorry. I … I failed y-'

"TAKAMAKI-SAN!"

Her eyes opened at hearing her name and she looked up quickly, her eyes meeting those of the one who yelled her name with such fervour.

Her eyes widened.

"Amamiya-kun?", she whispered.

"IS THAT IT?! ARE YOU JUST GOING TO LISTEN TO THIS ASSHOLE?!", Joker yelled passionately.

Takamaki's eyes widened further as Kamoshida looked back at Joker with a snarl.

"You pest", Kamoshida muttered.

"THIS BASTARD CAN SAY AND SPIN AS MANY LIES AS HE WANTS! BUT THE TRUTH IS … IT WASN'T YOUR FAULT! YOU DID EVERYTHING YOU COULD TO TRY HELP SUZUI-SAN, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE SITUATION WAS AGAINST YOU! YOU WERE WILLING TO THROW AWAY YOUR IMAGE FOR HER! I MAY NOT KNOW HER AS WELL AS YOU DO BUT … I DO KNOW SHE WOULDN'T BLAME YOU; I KNOW THAT IF SHE KNEW ABOUT WHAT THIS BASTARD WAS FORCING YOU TO DO, SHE WOULD NEVER EVER BLAME YOU!"

Takamaki stared in shock as Kamoshida grew increasingly angry.

"There are a few people who are responsible for all this … BUT YOU'RE NOT ONE OF THEM! HE IS!"

Joker took in a few breaths as his allies looked at him in slight awe and with grins on their faces, remembering a similar event.

"SO, DON'T LISTEN TO WHAT THIS BASTARD SAYS! AND DON'T JUST ROLL OVER LIKE THAT! YOU'RE BETTER THAN THAT! FIGHT! FOR HER! FOR SUZUI-SAN! BECAUSE REMEMBER …."

"SHE'S YOUR ONLY FRIEND! YOUR BEST FRIEND!"

Takamaki gasped.

"But, Shiho is my best friend. My only friend"

"She's been there for me for so long"

"She's the only thing I have left in that pathetic excuse of a school!"

Takamaki's face fell down, her visage hidden from everyone.

"Damn you, you brat! Ever since you've arrived here, you've been the biggest pain in my ass!", Kamoshida's Shadow yelled with an incensed look in his eyes.

"Yeah. And I'm damn proud of it!", Joker spat back

"Damn you, you little shit! I swear when I'm done with this knock off, I'm gonna take my time and slowly k-"

"Shut the hell up, you prick", a quiet voice muttered.

Kamoshida's eyes widened and everyone in the room turned to face the bound Takamaki.

Her head lifted slightly and a small smile appeared as she looked at Joker.

"Thank you, Amamiya-kun", she thanked.

Joker simply smirked in response.

"You were right. What the hell was I thinking?", Takamaki asked herself incredulously.

"Actually letting the piece of shit toy with me like that", Takamaki spat at Kamoshida.

Kamoshida turned and looked at Takamaki with his furious gaze.

"Shiho … she was the only person in school who accepted me. Who talked to me. Who cared for me. She's my best friend", Takamaki said fondly.

But that fondness disappeared.

"And now she's lying in a hospital bed … because of him", Takamaki muttered with so much venom in her voice.

Kamoshida simply sneered in response.

"Why exactly can I hear you still talking? Like I always say, slaves should just keep their mouths shut and-"

"I said. Shut. Up", Takamaki snapped.

Kamoshida flinched at her rebellious words.

"You've pushed me and pushed me … now, I've had enough", Takamaki voiced.

And with that, she looked into the yellow eyes of the Shadow with fierce intensity which instilled fear in the shadow.

"YOU'VE PISSED ME OFF, YOU SON OF A BITCH!", Takamaki exclaimed.

The fire in her eyes had reignited and now … it's erupted into an inferno.

'My, it's taken far too long', a woman's voice resounded in her mind

Takamaki yelled out in pain as the irises of her eyes turned yellow as she started to struggle against her shackles.

"Wait … is Takamaki …", Skull voiced in disbelief.

"Lady Ann as well?", Mona made clear his awe as well.

Joker simply smirked as his hunch was proven correct.

'I knew she was given that app for a reason', he thought.

'Tell, me … who is going to avenge her if you don't?

'Forgiving him was never the option'

As Takamaki's eyes closed as she struggled, the shadows stepped back, sensing the surge of power within her as Kamoshida looked on in horror.

'Such is the scream of the other you that dwells within'

'I am thou, thou art I'

The pain Takamaki felt reached its peak as she fell limp against the frame that held her as tears of pain fell from her eyes.

'We can finally forge a contract'

Takamaki panted from the pain as she looked up slightly, tear marks on her cheeks.

"I hear you … Carmen", Takamaki voiced.

Then she lifted her head up so fast you'd be afraid she'd get whiplash.

As she did, a familiar flash of blue appeared and now, alongside her glaring yellow eyes, Takamaki was wearing a red panther mask.

"You're right. No more holding back!", Takamaki exclaimed passionately

The trio of thieves stared on with grins as Kamoshida began to sweat as he took a step back.

'There you go … nothing can be solved by restraining yourself'

With a flash of blue at each limb, Takamaki's limbs tore away from the frame, breaking the shackles and setting her free.

'Understand? Then I'll gladly lend you my strength.'

Taking her right hand, she grasped the left cat ear of the mask and tore away with a scream, blood coating her face as the pillar of blue light and flame emerged and engulfed her form.

Every other occupant of the room shielded their eyes from the sight until eventually the pillar faded and two figures were revealed.

The tallest figure was female and had pink skin, black hair styled into a set of drills while her eyes were a mix of yellow and orange with the pupils being slits like a cat's. Covering most of her face was a black cat mask with pink markings while between her lips was a cigar. She wore a black choker around her neck and she wore a beautiful flowery red and black ballroom dress. Her arms were covered by the dress which was black in that area and decorated with red hearts while the top of the dress was ruffled, red and black alongside a black corset with red hearts which left her bountiful chest exposed. Further down, the hem of the dress was expansive, ruffled and had a pattern of red, black and yellow horizontal segments with red being the most common colour. Her legs were clad in black high heels with red heart patterns that went up her legs, covering all of her legs that could be seen. The most curious aspect of her was the wreath of large red roses around her waist, the thorny stems of which acted like ropes or leashes as two of them branched off. One she was holding in her hand and it led to the neck of a male figure, smaller than her, about the size of a normal man. It was clad in a suit with a red bow tie and its head was that of a giant metal red heart with eyes shaped like hearts that were pink and instead of a mouth, it had a speaker grill. It was floating beside the woman as she grasped ahold of its rose stem in her left hand as if he were a balloon. As for the other rose stem, it branches off to the right and was connected to the neck of a similar heart shaped male figure who was on all fours with the woman resting her right foot on his back like it was a footstool.

The woman, in essence, was indeed a femme fatale.

And standing in front of this giant figure was Takamaki. She was clad in skin tight red latex cat suit with a cleavage cutout and zippers. She wore a pair of pink gloves, dark red thigh high boots and there was a clipped on red tail behind her.

Her gaze was full of silent fury and with no further comment, she rushed at one of the paralysed shadows and then high kicked his sword right out of its hand, sending it arcing through the air. With that done, Takamaki ran in the direction of the sword, jumped into the air, grabbing the handle of the sword and with a furious yell, brought the blade down on her clone, causing it to disappear.

Seeing the fate of his 'princess', Kamoshida's Shadow stepped back hastily as sweat dripped down his terrified face as he whimpered behind his strongest knight.

Rising from the floor with sword in hand, she spoke once again.

"You know what? I'm not some cheap girl that you can toy with … you scumbag", Takamaki stated in a level manner but her voice was filled with nothing but pure loathing.

"Bitch", Kamoshida cursed despite the fear he was still feeling.

As this all happened, Takamaki turned to see the trio thieves joining her with Joker on her left, Skulk on her right and Mona behind her with Carmen looming over all of them.

"You stole everything from Shiho … you destroyed her … now it's your turn!", Takamaki exclaimed with a fierce countenance.

She dropped the sword in her grasp as the trio joined her at her sides.

"Now … I WILL ROB YOU OF EVERYTHING!", Takamaki snapped as she pointed her accusing hand at Kamoshida.

But, the three knights came between her and Kamoshida.

"How dare you, you pathetic wench! Enough of your insolence!", the larger knight yelled as it and the other two began to shake.

The trio exploded and a huge swirl of black and red appeared on the floor before a large being erupted from the void. It was a large demonic being with purple skin, eyes with red irises, two large horns erupting from its forehead, a large pointed nose, a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, a white scruffy beard, large pointed ears and a devil's tail. It's flawed hands were clad in yellow fingerless gloves, it's feet were clad in yellow socks that didn't cover its clawed toes and its muscled form was sitting on a white toilet.

"No … I've had enough of you. No one is gonna stop me now. LET'S GO, CARMEN!", Takamaki exclaimed.

With that, Takamaki furiously rushed towards the large demonic being and withdrew from her waist, a red whip that she proceeded to use to unleash all her rage on the giant demon.

While it hurt the creature, it wasn't much damage and seeing the girl's furious state, the demon smirked as it capitalised on that fury. With a swing of its hand, the creature let loose a gale of wind that sent the girl flying back with a yelp.

"Takamaki!", Skull yelled.

"Lady Ann!", Mona did so as well.

"I've got her!", Joker responded as he rushed to the downed form of Ann Takamaki.

"Damn it … that bastard", Takamaki cursed as she began to get up.

But, as she looked up, she saw a gloved hand and the masked face of Joker.

"Amamiya-kun", Takamaki muttered.

"I know you're angry, Takamaki-san. But, don't let that anger control you; if you want to win, you'll need to be smart. And you'll need help. So let us help you", Joker suggested to the platinum blonde.

The girl was contemplative for a while as she turned to face her Persona who looked at her and nodded before a smile appeared in her face as she accepted the hand and the two rose as they were joined by Mona and Skull.

"Thanks", she said gratefully, earning a nod from Joker.

"How dare you deny King Kamoshida's love, you selfish lass! Pay for this insolence with your life!", the shadow raged at Takamaki.

She turned to face the creature with a frown but her rage seemed more controlled now.

"Love?! Seriously?! Don't give me that crap! That dirtbag only sees women as sexual outlets. Don't make me laugh with that 'love' bullshit!", Takamaki replied hotly.

With quick glances at her new allies, she gained a smirk.

"Now, Carmen, let's give 'em hell! Agi!"

With an elegant swish of her hand, a fireball was unleashed and it hit the demonic being and it was knocked down as Carmen disappeared and the panther mask returned to Takamaki's face.

"Fire is its weakness", Joker noted.

"Now, it's down. C'mon, guys, let's beat this asshole!", Skull announced with a grin as he and Mona rushed towards the downed shadow.

"Wait, what are we doing?", Takamaki asked confused.

"Now that it's down, we attack it as one. Just follow our lead", Joker explained with a smirk.

With that, Takamaki followed after the thieves and watched their actions and did her best to replicate them. Soon, the quartet were unleashing a barrage on the giant shadow.

Eventually, they stopped but unlike the times before, this wasn't enough to defeat it as it rose, visibly damaged but still in the fight.

"RAAAAAGGGHHH!", the creature roared.

"It didn't go down?!", Skull noted incredulously.

"It's much more powerful than the other shadows we've faced. It's gonna take a lot more than that", Mona explained with a grave expression.

As the quartet tensed, the shadow once again roared as it clenched it clawed fists and a green light began to engulf it.

"No, it's healing some of its wounds", Mona lamented.

"But not all of them", Joker noted the weakness of the healing.

With a gesture of his head, they all started rushing towards the shadow and unleashed their attacks on the creature, counteracting its healing. Joker making cuts with his new silver knife, Takamaki lashing it with her whip, Mona slashing with his cutlass and Skull bashing with his pipe.

Eventually, the creature grew agitated by their actions and with a roar and swing of his arm, another giant gust of wind hit them all. The blades of wind blew them all back and inflicted damage on them all. One more so than the others.

"Aaaggghh!", Skull yelled out in pain as he fell to the floor, his body wracked with more pain than usual.

"Skull!", Joker yelled out in worry.

"His Persona uses lightning attacks! That makes him weaker to wind attacks!", Mona clarified as he rushed towards the downed blonde.

As they all scrambled, the creature returned to its healing, having been greatly damaged by the onslaught of the four.

"Look, I can heal, Skull. You two stop that guy from healing!", Mona suggested as he began to summon Zorro.

With a nod from Joker, he turned to Takamaki.

"Takamaki-san, fire is its weakness, remember?", Joker reminded.

"Right", Takamaki confirmed, understanding what he wanted.

"Persona!", Takamaki announced as she removed her mask and Carmen reappeared.

"Now, dance, Carmen!"

With yet another swish, Carmen let loose another fiery projectile that interrupted the demon's healing and left it helpless on the ground.

"Now, it's my turn. Persona!", Joker yelled.

Arsène appeared behind Joker and already knowing what he wanted, he unleashes his curse attack on the helpless shadow, causing further damage.

"Now, Captain! Zio!", Skull yelled as his Persona appeared and unleashed a bolt of lightning on the demon as well.

"You too, Zorro", Mona ordered as a gale of wind barraged the shadow.

Both had returned with Skull looking better than before as he looked at Joker and exchanged smirks with him as well as Mona.

All four turned to look at the struggling shadow, its exhaustion and pain clear.

"Want to do the honours?", Joker asked Takamaki.

"Gladly", she replied as she tore away her mask.

With Carmen appearing behind her once more, she pointed.

"Now, Carmen, one last time. AGI!", Takamaki commanded with a grin.

With a smile, the Persona swished her elegant arm and the fire raced towards the weakened shadow and with a fiery explosion, the demon lets out a yell of pain as it fell limp on its toilet.

"Urgh … to think that … there would be a woman … who could stand up to King Kamoshida", the shadow weakly voiced in shock.

"Hah, you're really that shocked?", Takamaki asked in disbelief.

"Inside school, he may think he's king but outside, that guy's nothing but a pathetic loser", Takamaki spat with venom.

And so, with a final yell of pain, the giant shadow dissolved into darkness.

"Oh shit", Kamoshida' Shadow muttered with dread in his tone.

As the persona users turned to face him, he immediately turned tail and ran.

"Kamoshida, you …", Takamaki began to say but she fell to her knees when she tried to follow him.

"Wait!", she yelled to the fleeing scumbag's back as he fled the room.

The kneeling girl was joined by the thieves.

"Takamaki-san, you're exhausted. You're in no shape to go after him", Joker explained to the kneeling girl.

"Yeah. Anyway, why'd you come back here, man?! And more importantly, how?!", Skull questioned quickly.

"Hey, is that any way to speak to a woman, you brute?!", Mona reprimanded the blonde.

Joker raised an eyebrow at Mona as he turned to face Takamaki again with a concerned expression.

"Are you alright, Lady Ann?", Mona asked softly.

Takamaki looked up to face Mona.

"Lady Ann?", Takamaki asked, clearly confused.

Her visage became shocked as the reality of what she was talking to dawned on her.

"Wait, what is this thing? Is it really a monster cat?! Is it alive?! How can it talk?!", Takamaki rapidly questioned.

"Ahh!", Mona simply said as his jaw fell and he looked completely crestfallen once again as he fell to his own knees.

Joker and Skull sweat dropped at their ally who looked like his whole world came crashing down.

"Uh, Mona. You good?", Skull posed his question.

No response.

Joker shook his head as he turned back to Takamaki who was still rattling off questions that had yet to be answered.

"And where exactly even are we?!", Takamaki finished her barrage of her questions, panic evident in her voice.

Having heard this, the smallest phantom thief recovered from his shutdown.

"J-just calm down. Everything's going to be okay; don't worry", Mona softly tried to comfort.

No longer focused on what Mona was, she summoned up the strength to stand with the help of Mona's large head to get up.

"And how exactly am I supposed to calm down?! I mean, we just fought some giant demon thing and … and …", Takamaki began her tirade but her voice fell short as she looked down at her rather … promiscuous attire.

"H-h-huh?! Why I am I dressed like this?! When did I even …?!", Takamaki demanded as she covered her cleavage and as her face became atomic red.

"What's with this?!", Takamaki exclaimed as she knelt and tried to cover herself as much as possible.

"Takamaki-san, look, I know this is a lot to take in but please, try to calm down", Joker tried to placate the embarrassed blonde with a nervous look, trying to not step on a land mine.

"And like I told you, guys", Takamaki voiced through gritted teeth as she looked up at Joker, "how exactly am I supposed to calm down when I'm in a latex catsuit, in the middle of some freakish sex castle and I just fought a giant demon on a friggin' toilet."

Joker tried to say something in response … but couldn't.

"She's kinda got a point. Our introduction to all this stuff wasn't as rushed as hers", Skull pointed out, rubbing the back of his head, considering they didn't fight a giant demon in the first couple of moments they'd entered the Metaverse.

"Well, I'm stumped", Mona confessed, not knowing how to handle the situation gently.

"All I do know is that a search party will be here soon and so we don't have time to hang around here", Mona stated seriously

"We need to leave the Metaverse. Now", Mona ordered gravely.

"Ah, damn it. We were just getting all fired up and you just had to get involved, Takamaki", Skull lamented.

He approached the still kneeling girl who had finally vented.

"C'mon, give me your arm. You take her other arm, Joker", Skull stated.

"Got it", Joker agreed.

The two kneeled down and with a silent nod from Takamaki who'd finally calmed down, the two put her arms around their shoulders.

With a nod towards Mona, the 4 left the room, ready to leave the mysterious cognitive world.

As the red ripples disappeared, the 4 found themselves in the alley in front of Shujin Academy with Takamaki clearly more winded than the others.

"Um, thanks", Takamaki thanked quietly as she regained her breath.

"You're welcome", Ren replied good-naturedly.

"Looks like we made it back alright. Hey, you doing okay?", Ryuji commented.

"Well, pretty much", Takamaki stated tiredly.

But then she sighed.

"I lied. I'm still confused about all this", Takamaki confessed.

"That's only natural", Ren said in response.

"You may be safe for now, but a lot sure did happen back there. At any rate, we stand out too much here. Let's relocate to a safer spot", Morgana pointed out.

With that said, all three teenagers nodded at one another.

"Which one you want?", Ryuji asked Takamaki as he held two vending machine bottles in his hands.

All persona users had agreed on having their conversation at the train station in order to blend in amongst the hustle and bustle of the rush hour and so all four moved there with Morgana being inside Ren's bag.

"Whichever's not carbonated", Takamaki responded.

"Uh, they both are", Ryuji hesitantly responded.

Takamaki sweat dropped at that.

"Then, I'll take this one", Takamaki decided as she reached out and took the one in his right hand.

With that, Ryuji offered the remaining drink to Ren.

"Here ya go", Ryuji simply said.

"Thanks, man", Ren thanked as he undid the cap on the bottle, the carbonation fizzing.

Ren felt the pressure of Morgana's body on his left shoulder as he leaned out of his bag and onto him.

It didn't bother Ren.

"What about me?", Morgana asked, affronted at being left out.

"Huh? But you're a cat, dude", Ryuji simply stated.

Ren hid his smirk at Morgana's reaction by drinking from his bottle as the not cat looked ready to burst his top yet simply took a deep breath before turning to the girl of the group.

"… have you calmed down, Lady Ann?", Morgana asked the girl, not paying any attention to Ryuji.

"Um … Morgana, right?", Takamaki asked hesitantly.

"Yep, that's me", Morgana stated as he puffed his chest in pride at his name being remembered by the girl.

"I really am talking to a cat … this feels so strange …", Takamaki remarked.

Ren looked over at his shoulder when he felt the pressure shoulder increase a little and was quite amused to see Morgana laying limp on his shoulder, his front legs and head hanging over his shoulder, a dark cloud around his head.

Takamaki noticed the small guy's depression at her remark.

"O-oh, sorry, you're not a cat, are you?", Takamaki apologised with a genuinely apologetic countenance.

As quick as lightning, the previously despondent cat was back to his usual self.

"It's only natural that you're confused. Demanding that you understand all of this right after what you went through is asking too much", Morgana voiced softly with a smile.

Ren raised his eyebrow at Morgana's soft tone of voice and the way he addressed her while Ryuji looked affronted by the not cat's much softer approach towards Takamaki and her confusion … unlike his approach to him.

"Honestly, I still can't believe what happened …", Takamaki stated.

"And … that power … my Persona …", Takamaki muttered.

"From what Morgana has told us, it's a sign of a rebellious will and thanks to having a Persona, you can fight in that world like we can", Ren explained.

Takamaki adopted a serious look after what he said.

"And if what you all told me is true, we can make Kamoshida have a change of heart, right?", Takamaki asked for confirmation.

"Is it possible? Can we really force him to confess to his crimes?", Takamaki asked, her questions becoming more forceful and hopeful.

"Before we learned about this, we tried to get the volleyball team to speak up but they're keeping quiet while teachers and parents turn a blind eye. If guys like us were to complain, they'd just shoot us down. Going all in on this plan is the only chance we got", Ryuji explained with a grave expression

"Then let me help. I wanna make him pay for what he did to Shiho. To everyone on the team. He keeps acting like nothing's happened even after what he did to her … I'll never forgive him for what he did", Takamaki swore with determination.

"Wait, you say you wanna come along?", Ryuji asked in disbelief.

"Oh come on. Don't act like I'll be a liability. You saw me, I can fight too", Takamaki reminded hotly.

"Hey, what should we do?", Ryuji turned and asked Ren.

"Honestly, even if we said no, she'd probably just go in without us", Ren stated, amused.

"Damn right I would", she admitted shamelessly.

"She has more than enough reason to come along and help. And now, since she's got a Persona, I think she'll definitely be an asset. Didn't you say, Morgana, that we needed more numbers?", Ren explained before looking to his left.

"Right. With Lady Ann on our side, we'll definitely have enough people to get the treasure", Morgana agreed with a grin.

"And like he said, even if you said no, I'd just go in by myself", Takamaki reminded Ryuji.

"Ah damn it, you're right. She can go in herself. It'd be more dangerous to say no", Ryuji said with a sigh

"Fine", Ryuji conceded.

"It's decided then, I hope we get along", Takamaki voiced with a smile.

But said smile disappeared as a look of determination materialised on her face.

"I'm going to make Kamoshida atone for what he did. Not just for Shiho but for everyone he's wronged. I'll make sure he never makes anyone suffer again. I'll do whatever it takes", Takamaki swore.

"We all will, Takamaki-san", Ren agreed.

"Hey, I noticed you both call me by my family name that but since we'll be working together like this, you can call me Ann", Takamaki voiced with a smile.

"Huh. Alright then … Ann. I guess you can call me Ren", Ren voiced with a similar smile.

"Yeah and you can call me Ryuji", Ryuji added with a grin.

"Thanks, Ren, Ryuji", Ann said gratefully and with a big smile.

'Ann's certainly determined. She has a strong fighting spirit. Me, Ryuji and Morgana have that in common with her. She'll be a great ally', Ren thought hopefully.

And like that, another bond was born, the flicker of a flame, ready to grow.

11/20 2016

Ren shook his head as he recalled when Ann joined them on their quest to change Kamoshida's heart, her being the most passionate, as he turned back to face Sae.

"A group like yours with as much publicity as you have would've relied on subtlety and misdirection. Otherwise, you never would've lasted as long as you did. Some of you might have been hiding behind a 'public face' their entire lives, providing a much stronger cover."

Ren looked away.

"If you're listening, then answer me!", Sae demanded as she leaned forward

I am thou, thou art I

Thou hast acquired a new vow

It shall become the wings of rebellion that breaketh thy chains of captivity

With the birth of the Lovers Persona, I have obtained the winds of blessing that shall lead to freedom and new power.

With that familiar phrase, the tarot card of the Lovers appeared in Ren's mind.

'Yet another confidant', Ren thought as time unfroze.

"Just let me know when you're heading back in … oh wait! We don't have each other's contact info", Ann pointed out.

"Let's exchange numbers and chat ids then", Ren declared.

Receiving nods from all three students, they took out their phones and quickly sent their contact information.

"Well, I'll be counting on you guys, then", Ann voiced with a smile as she put away her phone.

"That includes you, Morgana", Ann clarified as she looked at the not cat.

"The pleasure is all mine, Lady Ann", Mona responded, delighted as he bowed his head.

"Well … see you guys tomorrow", Ann bid adieu.

"Yeah, see you then", Ryuji replied with a grin.

"Looking forward to working together", Ren told her with a smirk.

And so, the platinum blonde girl departed.

"Wow … such a kind girl … such admirable consideration for others … and the innocence to cast herself into the jaws of death to achieve her goal … she cares about her friends and she's beautiful to boot … what a girl! She's captured my heart", Mona sung praises of Ann, all while wearing a lovesick expression.

"Dude … seriously", Ryuji simply said as he deadpanned at the not feline.

"Yeah, cool it down, Romeo", Ren similarly deadpanned at the rather amorous phantom thief

Mona simply huffed in response and kept his love sick smile.

"You know, it'd be better if we could all get together quick from now on", Ryuji stated.

"True", Morgana agreed, shaking off his previous fixation.

"You saying we should arrange a meeting place for all of us?", Ren asked.

"Yeah. A secret hideout would be the best option to meet up and discuss these things", Morgana concluded.

"A secret hideout, eh? I like the sound of that", Ryuji announced with a grin.

"Likewise", Ren concurred.

"I think our best bet would be the school rooftop. No one seems to go up there but us. For the time being, it'll make the perfect hideout", Morgana declared with a nod.

"Also, there one more thing", Morgana added.

"What is it?", Ren inquired.

"I can't contact you guys from within the Palace so I'll be staying in this world", Morgana revealed with a grin.

"That being said, I'll need someone to take care of me", Morgana concluded as he started looking at Ren.

"… why do I feel like I'm suddenly being elected for something?", Ren asked with a wary face.

"Probably because I'm personally nominating you. You should feel honoured", Morgana revealed with a cheeky smirk.

"What?! What about you, Ryuji?!", Ren questioned hastily as he looked to his friend.

"Sorry, man. This's all on you. There's no way I can at my place. We'd probably tear each other apart", Ryuji noted.

"… true. But, what am I supposed to tell my guardian? I'm on probation, remember? I'm dancing on a razor's edge as it is", Ren reminded with a slightly panicked visage.

"The train will be arriving soon", the announcer declared over the intercom, causing Ryuji to look up.

"Don't worry, man. You'll figure something out. I got faith", Ryuji reassured with a grin.

"… I feel better already", Ren deadpanned.

"Well, we've got a hideout so let's meet there tomorrow! See you then, Ren!", Ryuji voiced as he ran off to catch his train.

Ren sighed as his soldiers drooped and he looked over at Morgana, still perched on his shoulder..

"Okay! With that taken care of, let's go look at my new residence for this world. Onward!", Morgana proclaimed as he stuck out his paw.

Ren sweat dropped at the phantom thief's dramatics.

'Well … this is going to be fun', Ren snarked, not looking forward to what was awaiting him at LeBlanc.

Ren and Morgana took the train back to Yongen-Jaya with Morgana hiding away in Ren's bag and by the time they arrived at their destination, the evening had come rolling in.

Exiting the train station, Ren found himself in the familiar neighbourhood as Morgana peeked out his head to survey the area.

"So, this is where you live, huh? Pretty small", Morgana stated simply.

"Yeah, pretty much", Ren replied as he made his way back to the café.

It didn't take long for him to find himself outside his temporary residence, the lights from inside shining through the panes of glass in the door.

"Wait, you live in a café?", Morgana asked incredulously.

"Yeah, it's … complicated", Ren explained.

"Listen, you're going to need to keep quiet, okay? And don't give yourself away. I don't want Sakura-san to end up kicking me out before I have a chance to explain", Ren instructed Morgana.

"Wow, you said it was complicated but it sounds a lot more than that", Morgana stated with wide eyes.

"You have no idea", Ren replied with a sigh.

And so, Morgana ducked his head inside the bag, concealing his form without another word as Ren mustered up the courage to step inside.

With a deep breath, Ren pushed upon the door, his arrival signalled by the ringing of the bell above him as he entered.

Ren raised an eyebrow at what he saw as he realised a customer was still present, sitting in the booth closest to the door, sitting on the seat, facing away from him.

"Ah, you're back", Sojiro greeted with a quick nod from behind the counter.

"Yeah", Ren said simply.

"Well, go upstairs for now since we're open for business", Sojiro instructed.

With a nod, Ren got ready to go up the stairs … but his attention was still caught by the woman sitting in the booth with a glass.

She had dark blue hair styled in a messy bob-cut with blunt bangs and brown eyes. She had red nail polish on her finger nails and no doubt on her toe nails as well. On top of that, she was rather short. She wore a choker around her neck that connected to multiple necklaces and she also wore a bracelet. Her attire consisted of a short black jacket, a blue dress with a white spiderweb design and black ripped leggings alongside matching black ankle boots.

The woman didn't take long to notice the student examining her.

"… yes?", she simply stated, no visible emotion on her face.

"Hey, don't bother the customers", Sojiro scolded Ren who looked back at him.

"Sorry if he was rude, Doctor", Sojiro apologised with an embarrassed look.

'Doctor?', Ren thought with curiosity as he never would've thought the woman with the punk style clothes would be a doctor.

"… I don't mind", she replied nonchalantly, truly not looking bothered.

"Go on, you. Upstairs", Sojiro reiterated.

"Right", Ren replied with a sigh as he started to walk off.

The woman chose this time to depart as she stood up from the booth.

"… thanks. I'll see you later", the doctor voiced to Sojiro.

"Come back again", Sojiro said in response as he would to any customer.

And so, the woman exited the café, the bell ringing in her wake.

"Ah, that's it for today", Sojiro voiced in relief.

"Who was that woman? You said she was a doctor?", Ren inquired, curious about the shirt woman.

"Oh, her? Yeah, she's actually the head doctor of that clinic down the street", Sojiro explained.

"Although, rumour has it that she gives pretty crappy examinations, and sells some weird homemade medicines on top of that", Sojiro added.

"… at least, that's what I've heard. Never actually been there myself", Sojiro quickly voiced.

He then proceeded to sigh.

"All those people say all these things about her when they should just leave her be. It's hardly like she's getting in the way of their lives", Sojiro voiced his opinion.

"… are we there yet?", Morgana whispered, his voice slightly muffled.

Ren did his best to school his features as he saw Sojiro arch his eyebrow and look around a bit before sighing once more and coming out from behind the counter.

"Well, I've got to get home and start making dinner … look in the kitchen, you'll find your food there", Sojiro pointed out quickly before making his way out the door.

With a smile, Ren retrieved his plate of curry from the kitchen and sat down at the counter, setting his bag down on the seat next to him, allowing Morgana to peek out.

"Well, your 'guardian' is certainly something from what I could hear. At least he feeds you", Morgana stated as he looked around at the café interior.

"Yeah, he acts tough but … he seems to have a soft spot … I won't tell him that though", Ren replied as he began digging into the curry.

Once again, he savoured the explosion of flavour as he finished the dish in record time and without further ado, brought his plate and cutlery to be washed.

With that out of the way, he grabbed his bag with Morgana inside and took him up to his room.

Dropping his bag on the bed, his ally emerged from within and his jaw dropped at the sight of his room. Clearly, his expectation had not been exceeded let alone met.

"W-what the … what is this place?!", Morgana stammered as he coughed on the dust in the air.

Ren sighed.

"Don't judge, alright? This isn't my actual room, okay? It's just where I'm sleeping for as long as I'm here", Ren explained hastily.

"I mean, it's one thing to say you're currently living in a café but this … are we sure this isn't like an abandoned house or something?!", Morgana asked as he surveyed with slight horror the rather depressing sight of the room with the cobwebs and clutter in the corner.

Ren would be lying if he said he want slightly embarrassed by the rather accurate comparison. It made it sound like he was squatting.

"Hey, are you-"

Ren turned 180 degrees on the spot as he heard the unmistakable voice of Sojiro Sakura and came face to face with his unimpressed face.

'You'd think with being a phantom thief that I'd be more aware of my surroundings', Ren thought as he sweatdropped at his lack of awareness of Sojiro's arrival.

'Or Sakura-san is just that good at sneaking?', Ren thought in argument.

"I was wondering why I heard meowing", Sojiro sighed.

Ren looked in the corner of his eye at Morgana who was frozen on the spot and tucked in on himself as his eyes darted from left to right.

'Okay, he doesn't sound too mad. That's a plus. Now, comes the hard part', Ren thought, slightly alarmed about how this could go.

"What did you bring it here for?!", Sojiro snapped.

'… I stand corrected', Ren thought nervously

"I found him on the street. From the looks of things, he was abandoned", Ren falsely explained.

"That's … that's a shame", Sojiro voiced, noticeably somber.

But, the café owner proceeded to sigh in frustration.

"Look, this place is a restaurant. Animals are a no-go", Sojiro explained although not looking too happy about it

'C'mon, think!', Ren reprimanded himself mentally as he realised he was fighting a losing battle.

At least be thought.

"… but I guess it would help keep you out of trouble if you had a pet to take care of", Sojiro reasoned.

Ren looked at his guardian with a slightly dumbstruck expression, only just about registering the sound of indignation from Morgana about being called a pet.

"… so is that a yes?", Ren gingerly asked.

"… sure. But keep it quiet when we're open for business. And don't let it roam downstairs or I'll toss it out", Sojiro threatened … but Ren didn't really believe him.

"Oh, and I'm not going to take care of it. That's all on you", Sojiro clarified.

Ren simply smiled.

"Thanks, Sakura-san", Ren said gratefully.

"Yeah, yeah", Sojiro waved off.

"Ah, hold on, I'll be right back", Sojiro promised as he walked back down the stairs.

As he disappeared, Morgana got up from his lying position and sat up straight.

"So, he's the ruler of this place?", Morgana inquired curiously.

"Yeah, I guess. His name is Sojiro Sakura, he owns the café", Ren explained.

"Well, he seemed pretty understanding for someone who keeps you cramped up in this dump", Morgana noted.

"True. He's often strict with me but he has his moments … although I wasn't expecting things to be this easy", Ren admitted while rubbing the back of his head.

"Yeah, he'd probably be a bit less accepting if he could actually hear me talk. Thankfully, to everyone else, I just sound like a meowing cat", Morgana pointed out

The two stopped talking when they heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs and Sojiro appeared from downstairs, a plate of curry remnants in his left hand which he placed on the bed in front of Morgana.

"Seriously … it had to keep calling out in that cute little voice", Sojiro lamented.

Ren raised his eyebrow at hearing his guardian use the word … cute.

"Be sure to wash that dish when it's finished", Sojiro instructed.

"Right", Ren replied.

"By the way … have you decided on a name?", Sojiro asked, trying to sound less interested than he actually was.

"Yeah. Morgana", Ren revealed.

"Morgana? Huh", Sojiro simply spoke.

He proceeded to look away with a look of … disappointment?

"I was hoping I'd get to name it", Sojiro lamented as he walked off.

Ren looked on, amused as Sojiro headed back downstairs.

"Hah, looks like the chief likes me better than you", Morgana observed with a smirk.

Ren chuckled in response.

"It's not that difficult, all things considered", Ren acknowledged with a smirk.

Morgana proceeded to examine the room.

"You know, this place may be pretty shabby but it's heaven compared to Kamoshida's dungeon", Morgana confessed.

"Yeah … speaking of, how exactly did you end up getting captured? You never told us how you ended up there", Ren inquired.

Morgana's happy face became more somber as he looked down at the dish with a thoughtful look before standing up and facing Ren.

"… remember how you guys asked me before about what I am?", Morgana reminded.

"Yeah, you told us you were human and that you lost your memories", Ren recalled.

"… you see, the thing is, I don't remember a single thing about my birth. I think that the Metaverse's distortions made me lose both my memories and my true form", Morgana confessed.

"So, you truly don't remember anything? Then how are you sure that your true form is human?", Ren inquired carefully.

"It has to be!", Morgana responded indignantly.

"I mean, think about it. How else would a cat be able to talk like this? There's no other explanation I can think of", Morgana rationalised.

As he looked down sadly, Ren said nothing as he waited for Morgana to say his piece.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the distortions of the cognitive world are what made me lose my true self. And when those distortions are purged, I'll regain that self. And I have a pretty good idea of how to do it too. That's why I was in Kamoshida's Palace in the first place", Morgana unfolded his theories and story.

"That's when you got captured, right?", Ren asked for confirmation.

Morgana nodded as he turned to face his plate with an interested look.

"You know, I was never hungry in the Metaverse", he revealed before he started chowing down.

As soon as he took the first bite, Morgana's eyes widened and stars seemed to shine in them.

He dug in.

"I know, Sakura-san's food is amazing", Ren voiced as he smiled at the voracious not cat.

It didn't take long for Morgana to finish and when he had licked the plate clean, he turned to face Ren with a bright expression.

"Now I understand why you chowed down before. This … this was amazing. This place really is heaven compared to that Palace", Morgana exclaimed joyfully.

Soon after, he regained his composure and met Ren's gaze with his own.

"Speaking of, you taking me in like this won't be for nothing. This'll be a give and take relationship", Morgana reassured.

"Honestly, Morgana, taking you in was the least I could do; you're the one who showed us how we can stop Kamoshida when we thought all hope was lost and you've been teaching us about fighting shadows", Ren replied, showing gratitude to Morgana.

Morgana looked flattered.

"Well, you and Ryuji are the ones who got me out of that cell in the first place. Also, I'm more than happy to stick it to Kamoshida for what he's done. My pride wouldn't allow me to not get payback for the horrible things he's done", Morgana responded with a smirk.

"Which is why I'm going to keep helping you by teaching you how to make infiltration tools. I have a lot of intel on them thanks to my knowledgeable and dexterous nature", Morgana revealed proudly.

"Infiltration tools? What exactly do you mean?", Ren inquired.

"Hold up. Let's settle on our deal first. In exchange for allowing me to stay here, I'll teach you about these tools. How's that sound?", Morgana proposed.

"Fine with me. Let's do this", Ren agreed without hesitation.

"I like that answer. Hehehe … it's a deal then", Morgana declared with a grin as he stuck out his paw.

With a grin of his own, Ren reached down and took Morgana's soft paw into his hand and they shook on it.

'Morgana certainly seems happy with this. I'm glad; he hasn't let us down and he'll be a big help', Ren concluded mentally.

20/11/2016

Ren recalled when he and Morgana forged their deal in the attic of LeBlanc as he turned back to face Sae's straight face.

"As phantom thieves, you were able to skilfully infiltrate and escape to all manner of places. There the distinct possibility that you used special tools and had someone who manufactured them"

Ren slowly looked to the left.

"… answer me!", Sae snapped.

I am thou, thou art I

Thou hast acquired a new vow

It shall become the wings of rebellion that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Magician Persona, I have obtained the winds of blessing that shall lead to freedom and new power.

With that, the tarot card of the Magician appeared in his mind, the second confidant of the day.

As time unfroze, Ren let go of Morgana's paw.

"I'll lecture you about the infiltration tools over time. We've done enough for the day", Morgana reasoned.

"True", Ren held the same opinion as he still felt the exhaustion from the Metaverse.

"By the way, that power of yours in the Palace was seriously amazing. The more you use it, the more reliable it'll be as a trump card", Morgana explained.

"Don't worry. I intend on doing everything I can to steal Kamoshida's treasure", Ren reassured.

"I have no doubt. Well, from now on, I'm going to be sticking with you wherever you go from now on. Watching over you", Morgana vowed.

"Alright then. I trust you to keep quiet when you need to like in school", Ren reminded.

Morgana nodded in response.

"You know, Personas are the strength born from one's heart. Depending on what kind of life experience you gain, I bet it'll affect that power as well", Morgana elucidated.

Ren's eyes widened at that.

'That sounds like what Igor, Justine and Caroline were talking about. About Confidants', Ren thought.

"And if you become acquainted with capable people, you might learn various, useful skills too", Morgana elaborated further.

Ren was shocked once again.

'That's … pretty much identical to what they told me … hell of a coincidence … right?', Ren thought, caught off guard by the coincidence.

"This is all part of our deal, got it?", Morgana stated sternly.

Ren's shock dissipated as he sweatdropped at the senior thief's stern tone of voice.

"Yeah … don't worry, I won't slack off", Ren reassured.

Morgana nodded and smirked in acceptance.

"I expect great things from you. Don't let me down, okay?", Morgana asked in a hopeful manner.

'… just like Igor', Ren noted mentally.

"Well, I'll certainly do my best", Ren reassured.

"That's really all I can ask for. Also, whenever we're moving around, I'll have to get used to being in that bag of yours. Moving around in cat form is really inconvenient", Morgana lamented.

RING RING

Taking out his phone as Morgana's ears perked up, Ren examined it as he sat down next to his fellow thief.

"It's Ann", Ren revealed.

"Lady Ann?", Morgana repeated hopefully as he came closer to look at the screen.

'Thanks for everything, today' – Ann

'You kinda already thanked me back in the Palace' – Ren

'Yeah but, I felt I needed to thank you properly for saving me' – Ann

'It's totally fine' – Ren

'No it isn't. Anyway, I wanted to let you know at least' – Ann

'See you tomorrow' – Ann

'Yeah, see you then' – Ren

"Huh. So you guys send messages to each other like that?", Morgana questioned.

"Pretty much. I'll type for you if you every have anything to say", Ren offered.

"Thanks", Morgana thanked.

And so, Ren decided to prepare himself for bed; it had been a long day with both Shiho's attempted suicide and their Metaverse misadventures. Ren took the plate downstairs and washed it before switching off the lights downstairs. He went back upstairs and got ready for bed by changing.

"Tomorrow's going to be a busy day. Keep it together, alright?", Morgana stated.

"You don't have to tell me twice", Ren replied.

He lifted the covers of his bed and leaned back and practically as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out like a light.

You could tell as he made no comment on the fact that Morgana decided to curl up on top of his slumbering body and joined him in sleep.

The day was long and stressful; Ren now had to worry about the threat of expulsion unless he and his allies could pull it out of the bag and change Kamoshida's heart. A daunting task, to say the least.

But for now, all those worries and that stress faded away as Ren drifted away, thankfully having a restful sleep.

He'd need it. For with the arrival of dawn, the work would begin.

AND DONE! FINALLY!

Why am I such a procrastinating bastard?! Some things we will never know.

Still, I am sorry about this late update. Like I said, a combination of procrastination, me getting back into the swing of university life, assessments and the winter holidays. Thankfully, I managed to actually finish this chapter.

So, Ren's under the threat of expulsion, Ann's awakened her Persona and now they are all working together to stop Kamoshida. This'll be fun.

Anyway, like I said at the start, I hope you guys have had a Merry Christmas (as well as you can). I know for some people it's been hectic and I consider myself lucky to have had my family over for Christmas, even if only for the night when some people haven't been so fortunate. Also, I wish you all a late Happy New Year; 2020 has been a shitshow but let's all just hope that 2021 will be an improvement.

Please, stay safe, all of you!

Peace!