A/N For those of you who've ready my other stories and are familiar with my work, it's been a while since I've posted to this site or really written anything. I got the urge recently and just wanted to write this story. My guess is that it'll end up being fairly long as well. And I am posting this fittingly on the 25th anniversary of the Persona franchise! Here's to another 25 more.

I post once a week, generally on Fridays but will usually note down if the timing will be different on a week-to-week basis. For example, I will not be posting this coming Friday and Chapter 2 will be the following Friday instead, but this chapter is fairly long so hopefully that makes up for it.

Anyone asking about the sequel to ITROM, yes, it'll get done eventually, but I won't be doing anything on it until this is done because I don't work on multiple stories at once as a golden rule.

As the summary suggests, this will be a story primarily focusing on Persona 5 and Persona 4 coming together to a high degree and as such it'll follow Ren and Yu as its primary protagonists. The story will have a bit of setup going for it that'll pay off later, so in that sense it is very Persona-esque xD.

It will be sort-of Ren and Yu will have multiple pairings, so it's sort of Harem for each in that sense, but by the end there will only be one for each… so look forward to that. RenxTwo and YuxThree are what I am looking at. Feel free to speculate, though I will say Ren's girls will be more apparent right off the bat.

Note: This story will not be in the P5 Royal timeline and since it occurs ~6 months after P5 vanilla, obviously P5 Strikers is considered nonexistent as far as this story is concerned. RIP Yoshizawa :'(

Disclaimer: I do not own Persona or any of its characters, and I make no money off of this.

Chapter 1

July 15th, Shujin Academy, Mid-Afternoon…

Months after the infamous Phantom Thieves had inexplicably stopped humanity from collapsing in on itself, life had more or less become ordinary for the students of Shujin Academy. The previous talk of mysterious tricksters that stole the hearts of the unjust was gone, and in its place was talk of the impending summer vacation.

While the thoughts of said Phantom Thieves were still distant to most students, the very members of the group itself were still close by. Not in some fancy hideout or an off-map secret base, rather they could be found simply in class 3-A.

Right next to the window, just as they had in their second year, sat Ann Takamaki and Ren Amamiya. Off to the center of the room was their hot-headed friend, Ryuji Sakamoto. Of the three of them, however, only one was currently falling fast asleep in the middle of the final lecture they'd receive before being set free.

"And with that, you take—hey, Sakamoto, pay attention!" the teacher shouted.

"Huh?! I-I'm awake, I'm awake!" Ryuji exclaimed, jolting in his seat. "I would never fall asleep in history class, I swear!"

"That's good to know, Sakamoto-kun. There's only one problem: This is a mathclass," the teacher shot back, clearly amused.

"Dumbass," whispered Ann under her breath, rolling her eyes.

Laughter erupted from the students, as was predictable, and even Ren cracked a small smirk from his seat behind Ann. Luckily for Ryuji, the teacher didn't press it further as one glance at the clock gave him pause.

"It seems we're almost at time. I doubt we'd learn much more within the next five minutes, and as you're all third years, I want for you to enjoy your last summer vacation here at Shujin. Oh, and don't forget to do your homework! That means you, Sakamoto-kun. Got it?"

"Y-Yes sir…" Ryuji replied in the midst of a few girlish giggles from around his seat.

"Dismissed," the teacher plainly announced.

It took next to no time at all for the students to clear the room. Ryuji walked over to his closest friends as they packed up their belongings. His head and shoulders slumped as a result of his recent embarrassment.

"That sure was a great history lecture, wasn't it, Ren?" Ann jokingly asked.

A black cat sprouted from inside the black-haired teen's desk, crawling into his bag as if it were a natural perch for it.

"You really are hopeless, Ryuji," it spoke.

"Shut it, Mona," he grumbled. "Btdubs, you guys coulda tried to warn me, y'know?!"

"And how would we do that exactly?" shot back the blonde.

"It was also pretty funny," Ren added, earning a chuckle from Morgana and a giggle from Ann.

"Even you, Ren…?" Ryuji asked, his head now slumping even further.

"Anyway," Ann began with a smile, "you should be happy now that we're on summer vacation! Just thinking about everything we'll get to do is getting me super pumped up!"

As if he were coming back from the dead, the blonde-haired teen flashed a cheerful grin and pumped his fist up in the air.

"Hell yeah we are!" Ryuji cheered. "No more school for a whole month and a half! Aw man, I'm gonna play so many video games it ain't even funny!"

"You recovered quickly," Ren commented.

"That's Skull for ya. So used to setbacks and yet he never lets them keep him down!" Morgana exclaimed.

"…was that a compliment?" Ryuji wondered aloud. He shook his head and turned his attention back to his two classmates. "Anyway, let's get the hell out of here, yeah? The sooner we leave Shujin the better."

"You can say that again," Ann said in agreement.

With a nod from Ren, the trio got up and left the school. Once they were on the streets, the former track runner was the first to bask in the glory of their new-found freedom.

"Leavin' school never felt so sweet," Ryuji said with a cheerful grin spread from ear to ear.

"I wouldn't go that far, but I am looking forward to summer vacation," Ann said, sporting a small smile of her own. She nudged the arm of her black-haired friend, saying, "You'll finally be free of all those extra lessons, right?"

"Yeah," came the simple reply.

"Kawakami-sensei sure is nice catching you up after your stint in juvie."

"Ryuji!" Ann exclaimed.

"W-What'd I do?!"

"You have no tact, Ryuji," Morgana stated, shaking his head. "Obviously, that's a topic that Lady Ann wishes to avoid brining up in his presence."

"It ain't like he cares. Back me up here," Ryuji said, looking to his friend for a lifeline.

"He is right, I don't really mind," Ren replied.

"It's still insensitive!" Ann stated, crossing her arms and glaring at him slightly.

"Speaking of… we should probably get going to Kawakami's place, right?" Morgana uttered, looking up at Joker expectantly.

"Yup, and afterwards I'm free," Ren said with a sigh of relief.

With that, the former Phantom Thieves' leader waved off his two friends and left for what would be his final day of being tutored. He was quickly out of sight, leading Ann and Ryuji to their own devices.

"Think he suspects anything?" Ryuji wondered aloud.

"I hope not…" Ann said, her tone betraying her skepticism. "But he is pretty smart, so I wouldn't be too surprised if he expects something."

"He can be surprisingly dumb when it comes to certain stuff tho," he replied. "You of all people should know that."

"Meaning…?"

"How dense he can be." Ryuji stated, giving his longtime friend a suggestive grin.

The slight blush on Ann's cheeks and her averted gaze was all the satisfaction that he needed, and Ryuji being Ryuji had absolutely no intention of stopping there.

"L-Lay off!"

"Oh c'mon, you know what I mean," the blond stated pointedly. He puffed out his chest and adopted what was, to him, a feminine posture. His voice mockingly high-pitched, he continued, "Hey, Ren, how does this bra look? Maybe you could help me—Ow!"

A can of green tea was launched square into the side of Ryuji's head, ending his act and directing his attention right back at Ann. If it weren't for the fact that she was blushing, the glare she was giving him might have actually made him apologize for the sake of his own safety.

"What was that for?!" Ryuji exclaimed.

"Like you don't know!" she shouted back. "And I do not sound like that!"

"Okay, so it was a bad impression…. Buuut it ain't inaccurate."

He saw Ann grab another green tea can from her bag at what felt like the speed of light before chucking it at his head. This time, thankfully, he managed to barely dodge it.

"Okay, how many of those do you have in there?!"

"Keep goin' and we'll find out together!"

The two butted heads and growled for a few short seconds before coming apart in a shared huff. Then they just went about their business, taking a stroll down the street as if nothing had happened.

"By the way," the blond-haired teen began, "I noticed you didn't say I was wrong when I said he hadn't noticed how ya felt yet."

"Choose your words very carefully, Ryuji," cautioned Ann, giving him a sideways glare that he had very much so earned with his previous 'impersonation'.

"So touchy," he mumbled under his breath.

"What was that?"

"N-Nothin' really… I was just gonna say that you should either work your magic on him or just outright confess unless you wanna see some other girl snag him up."

The blonde-haired aspiring model was silent and had a very stern look about her in the wake of his words. Whether this was because she was in deep thought or just didn't want to respond, he was unsure. Still, neither would've stopped him from speaking on.

"And don't be thinkin' it can't happen, okay? Ever since his criminal record went away and his reputation got a bit better, he's gotten a little more popular. Top that off with him bein' smart and good lookin' and all and it'll just be a matter of time. A girl even came up to him,that lucky bastard...! It was just the other day, I saw—"

Ryuji stopped himself when he noticed that the girl at his side had a predatory look in her eyes. Realizing he was about to give her a target list, he just brushed it off and continued on.

"A-Anyway, the point is that you should do somethin' before you regret it."

After a brief period of awkward silence, the hoodie-wearing blonde released a deep sigh. She looked on with a somewhat defeated expression spread across her features.

"The hell's that look for?"

"It's just that it's hard, ya know? I mean Ren is… well, Ren," Ann stated in a bewildered tone as she fiddled with her hair.

"Well, I feel ya there. I mean he's this amazin' guy that's probably one in a million, maybe even a billion. Meanwhile hot-lookin' girls like you are about a dime a dozen."

"Ryuji…"

"Yeah? Wha—OWW!"

A hard kick to the shin had the mighty Skull hopping on one foot with tears forming in his eyes. He whispered swears under his breath as she just stood in place with a satisfied smirk showing from ear to ear.

"Son of a bitch, that hurt…!" Ryuji grumbled, shaking his leg as he finally placed it on the ground. He stared angrily at his friend. "Can't you take a joke?!"

"A woman's feelings are never to be treated as a joke, and let that be a lesson to you."

"Ya know what…?!" Ryuji hissed, his eyes fixed in a glare.

Their would-be squabble was cut short by an onlooker, though not one in a traditional sense.

"Ah, there you are! Will the two of you stop goofing around and get to work?!"

The two were scared stiff at the sudden voice and frantically looked around to find its source. They recognized the voice to be Futaba's, though they were unable to find her anywhere nearby.

"Up here!"

Their sights were set on a nearby security camera set up to monitor traffic at the light. Both were more or less speechless.

"H-How can you even…?" Ann uttered in disbelief.

"Why would you even?!" Ryuji exclaimed.

"No time for the how, but the why is because you yahoos weren't answering your phones!" Futaba stated pointedly. "You two have a job to do, so hurry up and get back here! Everything's gotta go off without a hitch!"

With that, the camera seemed to go back to its normal functions, all the while the duo checked their phones and noticed the unread messages they'd each received.

"It's really scary that she's able to find us on a whim like that…" Ann uttered. She placed the phone in her pocket and looked at Ryuji once again. "We should probably get going, yeah?"

"R-Right…"

Special Investigation Unit (SIU) Tokyo Branch: Director's Office

A suited-up young man sat outside the office of the SIU's director, patiently awaiting his scheduled meeting. He was tall and handsome, sporting well-kempt silver hair and a very mature demeanor. His name was none other than Yu Narukami.

Yu appeared calm and collected on the outside, but internally he was actually quite confused. He hadn't the slightest idea as to why the director of the SIU wanted to speak to him. The equivalent would have been meeting a large company's CEO on one's first day as a mid-level manager.

Before he could really think more on the subject, his patient wait came to an end as a well-dressed black-haired man exited the office and addressed him.

"The director will see you now."

With a nod, he raised himself up and headed through the doors to the office. He stood at the center of the room, seeing little more than the back of the director's chair at first.

"You asked to see me, sir?" Yu called out respectfully.

"Ah yes, Mr. Narukami. Impressively graduated from Tokyo University in three years and passed the Bar Exam while still in attendance. Spent his first year working in the SIU's Iwate office wherein throughout the first year you impressively caught the eye of the office's director. Twenty-two years of age, and while a lady's man, surprisingly single—even though his previous boss is happily married to a very attractive woman for over twenty years. You must not have learned much from him on that front, huh?"

The voice was instantly recognizable to Yu. His presumptions were confirmed once the director swiveled his chair and him with a wry grin. He was dignified in appearance but did not give off the feel of someone that was used to high society. He was clearly on the older side, at least fifty years of age, had parted black hair with gray-tinged sideburns, and sported a pair of designer glasses. His suit appeared rather plain, though such was his preference.

"Tachibana-san…?" Yu muttered in a surprised tone of voice.

"Don't just stand there gawking," he said with a chuckle, gesturing a hand across his desk. "Take a seat."

Sporting a smile of his own, he did just that. He gave the director his undivided attention, though he was by no means stiff.

"In case any introductions are in order—my name is Akihito Tachibana, acting director of the SIU. I look forward to working with you."

"And I as well," Yu replied, fighting the urge to chuckle.

Without warning, the man burst out into a fit of laughter as if unable to hold himself back anymore. He spoke soon thereafter, tears pooling in the corners of his eyes.

"Oh wow, that look on your face was absolutely priceless. I wish I'd snapped a picture," he said, wiping his eyes underneath his glasses. "Haah… well, at any rate, I finally managed to break that stone-cold expression of yours."

"That's an understatement. I thought that you were still running things back in Iwate."

"Until a short time ago, I was," he replied, his expression now a little more serious. "You can thank Masayoshi Shido for my promotion—indirectly, of course. So many of the SIU's district heads either retired forcibly to avoid jail time or left of their own volition because they were disgusted how the department heads were in bed with Shido. They went down the list of remaining candidates until they found someone that wasn't about to be indicted or forcibly retired and they found me. I'm only here on a temporary basis for now, but still…"

A solemn nod was Yu's response. The incident with Masayoshi Shido had shaken the very core of Japan, though sadly all of the action had been taking place in Tokyo. He'd been far too swept up in Iwate working for the SIU. It stung a little bit that he hadn't seen something of that magnitude coming, but he didn't dwell on it.

"Ah, but onto the reason I called you here," Tachibana began, looking the silver-haired young man straight in the eye. "We're in an unfortunate position right now. The SIU is bleeding talent because of the Shido incident, and as such we're a bit short-staffed. Therefore, effective immediately, I'm appointing you second-in command of the third unit."

"W-Wait, isn't that a bit much?" Yu exclaimed, obviously surprised.

"It would be, except that the prosecutorial division no longer has any employees for that division."

"…so in a division with no members, you're appointing me second in command."

"You should know my sense of humor by now, Narukami," he retorted.

"Still, I—"

"I won't permit protestations, got it?" Tachibana bluntly stated, cutting the young man off. "Regarding your time at Iwate, let me be candid: you were the only first year prosecutor that I ever even spoke to, be that about work or personal matters. Most I don't even bother to learn the names of. You've proven yourself as a valuable asset to me. It's certainly true that if it were anyone else in this chair, you wouldn't be appointed to the position that that I'm giving you for at least another three or four years. However, I am the one sitting in this chair and I've seen firsthand what you're capable of."

Realizing that this was one of the rare instances where his former superior was putting his foot down, Yu relented and nodded his head.

"I understand, sir. I won't let you down."

"Obviously," replied Tachibana, flashing a bemused smirk. He then reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a file and slapped it on his desk. "This is the first case I'm sending your way. I'll be expecting great things from you."

"Yes, sir."

With that, Yu walked up to the desk and picked up the file. He began reading through it as he walked away, but before he got to the door, the director called back to him.

"Ah, and one more thing, Yu-sama… my daughter said to say hello to you."

Catching the menacing tone, and becoming somewhat nervous, Yu turned his head and gave the only response he could give that would let him off the hook.

"O-Oh, tell her I said hi, and also that she should listen to her father when he says to wait until your thirty to start dating."

"God damn right," Tachibana stated. "Now get to work."

Kawakami's Apartment: Living Room

Ren toiled restlessly, his hand almost cramping, until he finally completed the last exam that he'd missed for his second year of study at Shujin. With a relieved sigh, he put the paper and pen down. Almost immediately though, Kawakami snatched it right from in front of him with cheetah-like speed.

"Whether you get to feel relief comes down to your grade, you know," the former maid said.

"R-Right…"

As the grading went on, Ren just checked his phone for messages. The group chat was oddly quiet, but he didn't think anything of it for the time being. His attention shifted back to his first-year teacher when it was clear that she'd finished.

"A perfect score." Kawakami placed the papers on the table that Ren had been doing his work as if she was flashing a straight royal flush, a smirk plastered on her face showing the same level of smugness. "Glad to see in your time away that you didn't let your brain rot after all."

"Wouldn't dream of it."

"Don't get too full of yourself, Mr. Phantom Thief," she replied, noticing his cocky smirk. "I should remind you that this is…"

Kawakami paused and stared off into the distance. Shortly thereafter, a look of panic took over her features.

"What's wrong?" Ren asked, his concern mounting.

"I just noticed what time it is! C'mon, I'll give you a lift home."

"Hm? Okay, but I don't really think—"

"Just hurry up and get ready. Save the backtalk for your third-year teacher," Kawakami jibbed.

Listening to the brown-haired woman's instructions, Ren grabbed his belongings and made for the door. They were soon in the car and on the road where thankfully there was little traffic to be seen. Given that it was nearly eight o'clock that was expected.

"Good job, by the way," Kawakami spoke abruptly. She looked over at her with a cheerful expression. "I just realized I didn't congratulate you yet. But now your totally done—no need for after-school lessons anymore."

"Yeah, and thank you again for all this," he replied, sincerity evident in his voice. "If it was any other teacher, I don't think I would've made so much progress so quickly."

"And thank goodness for that. My neighbors were starting to come up to me asking about the 'handsome' young man that keeps coming by during the week. They thought I'd gotten a boyfriend or something," Kawakami said, her demeanor souring before she continued. "And when I explained it, they'd ask me when I was going to get one! Ayame-san pressed especially hard on that…!"

She was distracted by a small chuckle coming from the passenger's seat. It was faint, but she'd definitely heard it.

"Is that somehow funny to you?" Kawakami asked, giving him a sideways glare.

"Oh, sorry, I was just thinking it's funny that Ayame-san was the one saying that to you," Ren stated. He looked his former teacher dead in the eyes, sporting a small but charming smile. "After all, you're a thousand times prettier than she is. I think she might just be jealous."

Naturally, Kawkami's cheeks turned a bit pink and her expression lightened. She tried to hide it as best as she could, though.

"Y-You really shouldn't be saying that kind of stuff to your teacher, but since I can tell your being honest, I'll let it slide this time."

An accompanying chuckle on Joker's part only added to her embarrassment, which put an abrupt end to their conversation.

"Easy there, Casanova," Morgana said jokingly. "Need I even remind you that it's a bad look to flirt with your teacher?"

'Well, if I was trying to, that'd be the best part…' Ren thought jokingly. He'd never say something like that out loud, of course.

The car stopped a short time later near a parking lot outside of Yongen-Jaya. They both quickly got out of the car, which had caught Joker's attention. The teacher shouldn't have needed to do so.

"Did you still need something from Sojiro?" Ren asked curiously.

"Yep," Kawakami replied cheerfully. "It's more the other way around, actually. He wanted to thank me in person."

'That doesn't sound like Sojiro…' Ren thought.

Still, his confusion hardly mattered. As such, he started walking towards the café with his teacher in tow. They quickly reached the entrance of Leblanc, and once he'd opened the door, before the bell even finished its characteristic chime, a series of miniature confetti canons popped off.

"Congratulations!"

Ren stared, starstruck, as he was greeted with the sight of a full house of people he'd met over his last year in Tokyo. The core group of the Phantom Thieves notwithstanding, he saw Iwai, Tae, Chihaya, Ohya, Mishima, and Hifumi. There were only a handful of people he could think of that weren't there.

"Yes, got 'em!" Ryuji shouted triumphantly.

"Yup, looks like it," Ann confirmed.

Futaba rushed up to the raven-haired teen with a wide cheerful grin spread from ear to ear. Her doing so had the added effect of breaking him out of his stupor.

"So, did we surprise ya? Did we? Did we?!" Futaba asked expectedly.

"…yeah, you sure did," Ren answered, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.

"Yes!" Futaba exclaimed, literally jumping for joy. She quickly turned around and pointed at Yusuke. "And that means you owe me a thousand yen!"

"Told ya not to take that bet, dude," Ryuji said, patting his friend on the back.

"To be honest, I'm more than happy to pay it. I'd call it an emotional hedge," Yusuke said with an honest smile. "I won't lie though when I say I'm surprised Ren didn't see it coming."

"Anyway," Futaba said, turning her attention back to the black-haired heart-stealer. "I've got another surprise for you. C'mon!"

With an almost anemic grip, Futaba led Ren to one of the tables near the back of Leblanc, showing him a computer monitor with a feed to Makoto and Haru who made their appearance via webcams from their apartment.

"Congratulations, Ren. And good work!" Makoto said cheerfully.

"Congratulations! I'm so happy you finally finished catching up! Hmm, can he see me, Futaba-chan?" Haru asked, sounding and appearing genuinely curious.

She made to toy with the webcam's focus but was stopped a split-second after her hands started to move.

"Haru, just stay still and don't touch anything!" Futaba exclaimed. "With your curse, the computer will explode at the slightest agitation!"

"R-Right."

"Isn't that a bit extreme…?" Makoto muttered, smiling but simultaneously shaking her head. "I could always just come into the other room and fix it if it somehow gets messed up."

"Trust me, it most certainly isn't an exaggeration," admitted the fluffy-haired heiress. "A-Ah, but it's good that you can at least hear me!"

"Yeah, and by the way, I can see you…" Ren said.

The raven-haired teen couldn't help the noticeable smile that crept onto his face. He was momentarily lost in the moment, but was shaken out of it by his guardian. The bearded shopkeeper came up to him and patted him on the back with a chuckle.

"What? Cat got your tongue?"

"Nah, Mona's still in his bag," Futaba quipped.

"I believe that was an expression."

"That was a joke, Yusuke," Futaba replied.

"I'm just glad you're a bit surprised," Sojiro admitted. "And the architect of it all was Futaba and Ann-chan. They worked pretty hard to set all this up, so just be sure to show your appreciation, got it?"

"Is that so?" Ren asked, his eyes firmly set on the young PC prodigy.

"Yuh-huh!" She chirped. Seeming a bit nervous, she averted her eyes. "S-So, did I do good? I did, right?!"

"Yup, definitely," Ren replied.

With a reflexive chuckle, he tussled Futaba's hair and gave her a smile of appreciation. The triumphant grin on her face couldn't have been more exaggerated. He then looked towards the group of people that were respectfully quiet in the wake of his arrival.

"Thanks for coming everybody. I… well, I'm not really sure what to say," Ren began sheepishly. "It's been a long couple of months, and last year was even more hectic, but… something like this makes me think I've clearly done something right in my life to have gotten to know so many great people. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you."

In the wake of his honest words and his genuinely happy expression, it was no small surprise that things got emotional rather quickly. Most everyone attempted to keep it to themselves, but those immediately around him did no such thing. Perhaps it was more correct to say they couldn't.

"Aww, Ren…!" Futaba whimpered.

Joker was very quickly wrapped in a bear hug by both Ann, Futaba, and oddly enough, Ryuji, who may have been the most teary-eyed. Just this once, it seemed that his teammates would overlook it.

"The emotions I feel in the wake of your gratitude… C-Canvas! And brushes! I need to capture these emotions at once!"

"…aaaand there he goes," Futaba sighed, giggling to herself afterwards.

"Alright you three, that's enough," Sojiro called out with a bemused laugh. "It's high time we started serving food to everyone and getting this party started, don't you think?"

"Yeah!"

As everyone followed Sojiro's advice, Ren looked back into the video chat that Futaba had set up for the missing members of the Phantom Thieves.

"Sorry we couldn't be there in person…" Makoto apologized.

"We definitely would've been if we could!" Haru chirped in a determined tone.

"I know, I know," Ren stated amusedly. "You guys are getting back here tomorrow, right?"

"Yup! Mako-chan and I will be heading out by train after our last final!" answered an enthusiastic Haru. "We can start having fun as a group right away after we arrive!"

"I'm looking forward to it," Ren said, a subtle but charming smile still spread across his lips.

"The feeling's mutual. Have fun, Ren," Makoto said.

"See you tomorrow!"

With that, Queen and Noir disconnected from the chat, leaving Ren to entertain his technical guests. Before that, though, came the issue of his stomach being completely empty.

Several Hours Later—

Most of the party's guests had left. Only two remained outside of the core members of the Phantom Thieves and Sojiro, and one was just about to head out.

"Heading home, doc?" Sojiro called out.

"Not quite," Takemi replied, standing in the doorframe. "I've got to spend some time at my clinic beforehand. Thank you for hosting, by the way. And I'll be seeing you later, my little guinea pig."

"Take care," Ren answered.

"I oughta be heading out soon, too," Iwai thought aloud. He turned back to the shopkeeper. "Hey, Sakura-san, mind giving me a cup of coffee for the road?"

"Not at all."

Over at one of the furthest-back booths, an entirely different conversation was ongoing.

"Dude, seriously, what the hell is with that nickname the doc calls you?" Ryuji asked.

"Oh, it's really nothing…"

"Doesn't sound like nothing," Futaba muttered, her arms crossed.

"It does sound like a kind of pet name as if one were in an intimate relationship," Yusuke mused.

"Right?!" Ryuji all but shouted.

"Well, you're not entirely wrong," Morgana chimed in, clearly trying to mull over in his head.

The girls present reacted as one would expect. Futaba looked at Ren with eyes wide as saucers, unable to actually speak, while Ann shot out of her seat in shock.

"W-Wait, really?!" Ann exclaimed.

"Thanks for that, Mona…" Ren trailed off, giving a slight glare to his feline roommate before offering an actual explanation. "I took part in some clinical trials, hence the nickname. That's all it is."

"…for real?" Ryuji said, sounding deflated.

"Yup."

"Somehow, that's kinda a letdown," Futaba thought aloud.

"You all seem to have misinterpreted what I'd meant. Intimacy does not always need to involve a physical or romantic relationship. I doubt he'd be interested in that kind of thing with a woman nearly eight years his elder," Yusuke explained.

"I'll bet any amount of money that he could if he tried!" Futaba said cheerfully.

"I've had enough of losing bets to you for today, thank you very much."

"Still, even if they were 'like that'… what kind of a pet name would 'guinea pig' be? It certainly doesn't suit Ren very much," Ann stated absentmindedly.

"Got any bright ideas?" Ryuji said suggestively, earning himself a glare and an elbow to the ribcage from the now red-faced blonde at his side.

"Shut it!"

"Oh c'mon, it was just a little joke!" he said defensively.

"You've no notion as to what lies within a woman's heart, Ryuji," stated Morgana in a condescending tone.

"Can it, cat."

Any classical argument between the two was put on hold as the shop's owner called out to the former Phantom Thieves.

"Sorry to interrupt, but Ryuji-kun, would you mind coming up here and helping me clean up a bit of this?" Sojiro abruptly called out.

"Sure thing, boss!" he replied energetically.

"I'll come too!"

"Same here!"

"As will I."

The group got out of their seats and started to help Sojiro with the cleanup. Ren too was about to get up, though a firm hand was placed on his shoulder and stopped him dead in his tracks. He looked up to see Ann waving a finger at him.

"Nope," she said firmly. "It's your surprise party. Let us clean up, okay?"

"Sorry, but you should know by now I'll end up helping anyway," Ren stated honestly.

"A-At least try to do as little work as possible!"

"Well then… how about I just take out the trash?" he offered. "Mona can come with me."

"Okay, fine, but that's it, okay?" Ann relented.

With a nod of understanding, Ren got up from his chair and made to grab the several trash bags that were located at the front of the store. He grabbed them as the rest shuffled to clean up the mess the party had made and went outside to throw them in the alleyway dumpster a short distance away.

"Must feel weird, huh?" Morgana offhandedly asked.

"Hm? What do you mean?" Ren said as he adjusted his grip on the trash bags.

"Things are so calm now, aren't they? It feels so… strange. Not in a bad way, but… well, you know."

"Yeah, I do," Ren answered. "Those are famous last words, by the way."

"Hm? What do you mean?" Morgana asked, tilting his head in confusion.

"It's just an expression. It basically means what you said is tempting fate."

"Oh, you're just being—"

"Hey! N-No, stop! L-Let go! I—"

The sound of a scuffle nearby caught their ears. Predictably, Ren rushed off to see what the commotion was all about and Morgana followed close behind. They rounded the corner a short distance down the street into an alleyway, seeing what looked like a physical confrontation at the far end.

Without missing a beat, the black-haired teen started walking forward to get a better look, but the unmistakable sound of a gunshot and an accompanying scream forced him to take cover behind a nearby set of trash cans.

'What the hell?!' Ren thought in a panic.

He heard rubber skirting against the pavement as a car sped away, leaving behind nothing but dust and the faint groans of whoever had just been shot. It wasn't long before they materialized into audible speech.

"H-Help! Someone! Gnnh…!"

"Hold on!" Ren shouted.

Without missing a beat, he rushed to the side of the shooting victim. He was alive but bleeding profusely from his left abdomen. Outside of that, the only thing worthy of note about him was the mask that he currently held in his hand. He was weakly clinging to it, and losing his grip fast. Thinking on his feet, Ren tore off a part of his shirt and started to apply pressure to the wound.

"Ren! Hey, Ren!"

Ryuji's voice sounded off from the entrance of the alleyway. He turned to see Sojiro, Iwai, Ryuji, Ann, Futaba, and Yusuke rushing towards him. When they got a full glimpse of the man that he was treating, naturally they were all hit with varying degrees of shock.

"D-Dude, what the hell?!" Ryuji shouted.

"What happened?! Clearly this man was shot, but—Hey, you two! I thought I said not to come outside!" Sojiro exclaimed, looking directly at the two females present.

"I, uh… I just acted on impulse!" Futaba said in a panic.

"Can't a lecture wait?! That guy clearly needs help!" Ann countered.

"You can say that again, kid. We gotta get him to a doctor quick," Iwai stated.

The former yakuza got down on the ground next to Ren and started to examine his condition with a keen eye. He looked deadly serious, which did not give the man a good prognosis in Joker's eye.

"I know Dr. Takemi's got a clinic nearby and she might be able to treat the wound. We need to wrap the wound tight and try to get him over there asap."

"Right," answered Ren. He then looked to the others. "I'll need some help getting him there, so—"

"I'll help ya out," Ryuji volunteered.

"And I'm coming too!" Ann said.

"I shall contact the police," Yusuke stated, pulling out his cellphone.

"And I'll get on my pc and make sure they get here sooner!" Futaba proclaimed.

"You kids…" Sojiro muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. "And Futaba, if you're going to do something illegal, at least don't just announce it like that!"

"State of emergency, Sojiro. It's all good!"

In the midst of the conversation, Iwai put his hand on Ren's shoulder and diverted his attention towards some gauze he had pulled out from his trench coat, clearly wanting him to step aside.

Without saying anything more, he went to work and started wrapping him up with a veteran's experience. Most everyone looked at him like he had two heads, but Ren could only be thankful he was there.

"There," Iwai said. He then looked back at the group. "That'll hold him for a short while, so get movin'."

With that, Ryuji and Ren picked the man up as carefully as they could and started moving towards Takemi's clinic. Ann led the front, making sure that no random passersby or cars got in their way. That left only the two adults present at the scene of the crime.

"Geez, those kids…" Sojiro said.

The shopkeeper rubbed the back of his neck in exasperation, though he couldn't help but smirk at the fact that they were all so brave and put together in the face of something that probably would've traumatized most others. He supposed that was expected of the Phantom Thieves, though.

He looked over to Iwai with the intent to thank him, but found himself instead observing the look on his face and his general demeanor. The man looked visibly shaken and totally zoned out.

Wondering what it could've been, the shopkeeper tried to see what was in his line of sight, but all he could see was blood and the white mask that the man had been holding before he was carried off. Neither of those two things should've scared him.

"Is something wrong?" Sojiro asked.

"Hm…? Oh, uh… it's nothing." The former yakuza cleared his throat and adjusted his cap, after which he turned towards the opposite end of the alleyway again. "I'll head out now, Sakura-san. Sorry to stick ya with the police report, but I don't really like cops."

"I think I can guess why," he replied. With a nod of understanding, he continued, "And thanks. Hopefully you helped save that man's life."

"Hopefully, yeah. Take care."

Inside Takemi's Clinic: Several Minutes Later

A relaxed Tae Takemi sat behind the glass cover of her clinic's front office, reading the latest issue of a medical magazine. No sooner than she flipped to page eighteen did the doors to her clinic fling open with such a sense of urgency that even she was taken by surprise.

The good doctor looked over to see her guinea pig and two of his friends hauling in a bloodied body. Her eyes went wide and she momentarily wondered if she was hallucinating. It very quickly became obvious that she wasn't.

"W-What the…?" Takemi uttered.

"Dr. Takemi, this man's been shot! We need—" Ren began.

"Yes, I can see that. Get him to the exam room, quickly!"

In no time at all, the group had gotten the man situated over the exam room table and Takemi had started going over his condition.

"He'll most likely make it but we have to act fast, and I'll be needing you three to help out," Takemi stated. "But if you can't stay composed, then I'm sure Ren will be enough."

"No issues there," Ren answered.

"Fine, now listen up. Second shelf on the left, get me the vile of morphine. Third drawer on the right, get me the needle. No time to numb the area, so someone needs to hold him down while I administer it."

Ann and Ren quickly set to task one and two while Ryuji got into position to hold the man down. Once the drug and needle were in the doctor's hands, she prepped it and sent it into his veins.

"First drawer on the left, give me the small pair of tongs, the flashlight, and scissors. Second drawer on the right, get me the needle and the thread."

They were both quickly placed on the little tray next to her. She grabbed the scissors and cut open the gauze, at which point she picked up the flashlight and the tongs. Before moving further, she turned to the others.

"Make sure he doesn't move. The drug should be in effect, but I guarantee this will still be painful."

Ren and Ryuji prepared to restrain the man should he start moving, but that proved unnecessary as the doctor extracted the bullet with little issue. She then made to stich the man up, breathing a sigh of relief as she did so.

"This man has lost a lot less blood than most who've been shot in the gut," Takemi stated. "Should I assume a certain nosy black-haired young man is responsible for administering early treatment?"

"You assume correctly," Ann replied. She then looked at the doctor with a hopeful expression. "So, does that mean that…?"

"Yes, he'll most likely be fine. Long term, of course. He did just get shot," Takemi dryly remarked. She finished stitching the man up before rolling her chair towards the nearby IV bags that she kept handy. "We'll need to start replacing his fluids. That'll help mitigate the blood loss."

As if he understood entirely, Ren got up and started helping the doctor with preparations for administering the IV. Ann and Ryuji could only watch with mild amazement as they worked in perfect unison.

"So," began Takemi as the drip was finally in place. "What exactly happened?"

'I was wondering the same thing, too…' Ann and Ryuji thought on similar grounds.

It quickly became clear that Ren himself was not entirely sure. In fact, it seemed as if this moment was the first time, he even devoted his mind to considering what had happened as opposed to how to save the man that'd been shot. After a short time, it didn't seem as if his recollection was improving.

"I heard a struggle in a nearby alleyway and went to check it out. I saw really bright lights at the end of it and the silhouettes of two men duking it out. Then there was a gunshot and I had to run for cover. After that… the car bolted off, and I ran up to help the man that'd been shot," Ren answered.

"First time I've heard of a crime that overt in Yongen," Takemi thought aloud.

"Same here. I mean—"

Ren was cut off by the sound of his own cellphone buzzing madly. He looked at the screen to see that Sojiro had sent him a message.

"What's up?" Ryuji asked curiously.

"Sojiro just sent me a message. The police are at Leblanc and they'll be here soon for the shooting victim. He also said that that they want to talk to me."

"Well, you are a witness," Takemi replied, stating the obvious.

"Yeah, which means I've got to get going," Ren mused. He made for the door, turning back to Ann and Ryuji as he did so. "You two should head home. I think this might take a while…"

"I kinda figured that," Ann said with a good-natured smile.

"Thanks for everything, Dr. Takemi. In spite of the circumstances, it was really something to see a talented doctor like you at work again," Ren stated, flashing his usual slight but sincere smile.

The good doctor predictably blushed and fidgeted in her chair just enough to be noticed. All the same, she cleared her throat and regained her composure rather quickly.

"Yes, well… if ever you want to watch me work again, I'd prefer you not provide me with the body next time."

"I'll certainly try."

"Okay, time to go!" Ann said, pushing the other two out the door.

With that, the trio was out the door and into the streets of Yogenjaya. The previously quiet streets were now abuzz with onlookers who had heard the commotion. It took all of two seconds for them to start feeling a bit awkward about it. Well, two of them at least.

"People sure are staring, huh…?" Ann muttered as they continued forward.

"Whaddaya expect?" Ryuji countered.

Not wanting to raise a commotion, they speedily made their way back to the area outside the alleyway, where it seemed a number of police were already investigating the scene. Sojiro was among the crowd of officers just outside the newly-placed police tape and was waving him on. Thus, with a slight sigh, Ren turned back to his friends.

"Well, this is my stop. I'll see you guys tomorrow."

"Yup, take care man," Ryuji said.

They parted ways then and there, and in no time at all, the two blonde-haired teens were on the subway headed to Shibuya. Each looked around, finding next to no one present. That wasn't altogether surprising given the time, but it was still unnervingly quiet given what they'd just been through.

"So, like, are we gonna talk about what just happened at all?" Ann abruptly spoke, shifting her posture uncomfortably. "The night was going great, everyone was having fun, and then someone just got shot randomly and we helped save his life. It's really crazy that it's just now setting in…"

"Eh, we've been through crazier stuff," Ryuji said with a shrug.

"How are you not fazed at all after that? I feel like I'm about to start shaking," Ann replied.

"Neither was Ren."

"He isn't fazed by anything," she stated pointedly. "You on the other hand almost cried when he spoke up at the party and thanked us."

"T-That was just cuz' I yawned right before he started talking!"

"Whatever…" Ann said dismissively. She held one of her legs up to her chest in a half-fetal position, looking curiously at her friend from the corner of her eye. "But seriously, that didn't get to you at all? I'm kinda curious as to what's going through your head right now."

"Honestly? I'd have to say I'm thinkin' about how Ren could've totally banged that doctor. What a guy."

"…I don't even have the strength to hit you right now," Ann sighed tiredly.

"Oh relax," Ryuji said, rolling his eyes. "If it helps, I'm sure Ren would pick you over her any day."

"Aww, that's sweet of you to say," Ann replied, managing to smile. "If you actually mean it, that is…"

"A hundred percent," Ryuji said, not a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He of course proceeded to ruin his genuine response a split-second later. "But seriously, that guy has to have some kind of magic powers or something. I mean did you see that doctors face when he turned the charm on?"

"Aaand he's back," Ann thought aloud.

Inside Café Leblanc: Some Time Later…

After a lengthy police questioning, all Joker could do when he entered his home again was release a tired sigh. The café's owner, who'd been standing behind the counter preparing to close up for the night noticed this and couldn't help but chuckle.

"You alright? You look like your about to collapse and it isn't even midnight yet," Sojiro joked.

"Yeah, I think I'm good," Ren answered, taking a seat at the counter. "Let's just say even before today that I've had my fill of police questionings for a dozen lifetimes."

"That's understandable, your history being what it is and all…" Sojiro uttered. He adopted a mirthful smirk, adding, "You and Iwai-san seem to be in the same boat in that regard. He wanted nothing to do with the police either—not that I blame him. After you left, he went pale as a ghost and headed straight home."

"Iwai-san went pale…?" Ren wondered aloud, his confusion showing in his tone.

"Hm? Yeah, looked like he'd seen a ghost," Sojiro replied.

"That definitely doesn't sound like him."

"I was surprised too," admitted the shopkeeper, stroking his beard. "But I doubt it could've been because of the crime scene. All that was there was blood… and of course that weird white mask. If half of the stuff you wrote in your log about him are true, then it's hard for me to believe that a former Yakuza got scared off by something like that. Then again, maybe it just brought back unpleasant memories. Yeah, maybe that's it."

Though confused and surprised, the infamous leader of the Phantom Thieves couldn't really make heads or tails of that explanation. His expression of deep thought didn't go unnoticed by his guardian, who quickly spoke up.

"If you're thinking about getting involved in this, don't," Sojiro said, crossing his arms and giving the teen a stern look.

"Hm? I wasn't really thinking about that in particular…"

"So then you weren't thinking about tracking down and changing the heart of the shooter or something?" Sojiro pressed.

"That's not really how it works," Ren answered with a slight laugh.

"And I would know that how, exactly?" Sojiro countered, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "Look, all I'm saying is that you just got settled back in and your friends are coming back from college tomorrow. Maybe it's better to just let the police look into this."

"Yeah, maybe…" Ren uttered plainly. He then got up from his chair and started to head towards the stairs. "I'm gonna get ready to turn in for the night. I'll make sure to lock up, too."

"Thanks," Sojiro replied.

With that, the former convict headed into the attic, leaving the humble café owner to finish closing down the shop. Before he did so, however, he could only shake his head and chuckle.

'Why do I get the feeling I only encouraged him to get involved by saying what I did?' he wondered.

Café Leblanc: Joker's Room

Joker found his way into his room, almost immediately being greeted by the sight of Morgana who sat on the desk just off to the right of the end of the staircase.

"Welcome back," greeted the cat. "So, I take it we're going to be sticking our noses in this?"

"Eavesdropping?" Ren asked with a chuckle.

"Can't really help it. Cat-like hearing, remember?" Morgana countered. "So, are we…?"

Ren didn't answer at first, instead walking over to his bed and taking a seat, all the while sporting a contemplative look. He stayed like that for longer than expected, prompting Morgana to jump up onto the bed next to him, gazing up at him expectedly all the while.

"Not sure."

"A-All that buildup for nothing?!" Morgana exclaimed, practically falling off the bed.

"What?" Ren asked innocently. "It's not like we have a proper target or anything. That and the Metaverse doesn't exist anymore. So, unless something shows up…"

"The PhanSite, maybe?" Morgan suggested.

The question did not require an answer as both knew full-well that something like that would be a shot in the dark at best. On top of that, the website was predictably far less popular than the heyday of the Phantom Thieves. Public interest was a fickle thing, after all.

"I'd prefer to help, I really would… but I just don't know how that'd work right now. As weird as it feels to admit, this does seem like more of a job for the police," Ren mused.

At the very least, it didn't look like his companion disagreed. Although it did seem that he was trying his level best to do so.

"Yeah, guess you have a point…"

"I always do."

"Heh, when did you get so cocky?" Morgana wondered aloud, his lips curling into a small but prideful smirk. "It's gettin' kinda late, yeah? You're probably tired and—"

"Should get to sleep?" Ren asked in an almost pained voice.

"You read my mind!"

Shibuya Central Hospital: Outside Private ICU, Some Time Later…

Two uniformed officers stood outside the door housing a man recently shot on the streets of Yogenjaya. Everything had more or less gone quiet with doctors and nurses no longer rushing in and out of the room.

"How long are we just gonna stand here…?" One of the men groaned.

"As long as we need to. And complaining won't do us any good."

"You telling me you don't got somewhere you'd rather be, Inoue? Rhetorical, by the way. Of course, you don't."

"As a matter of fact, Takazawa, I had a hot date tonight."

"Wait, really…?"

"Yeah, your sister."

"Okay, I walked right into that one," replied the other officer. "Seriously though, when is the detective assigned to the case getting here?"

"Before that, the witness has to regain consciousness and be cleared for questioning," Inoue stated plainly.

"And that will be…?" Takezawa pressed.

"That's what I intend to find out," a voice called out from just down the hall.

The officers' attention was shifted to an approaching young woman with long, somewhat messy blue hair and matching blue eyes. She stood at average height and sported a gray pantsuit, complete with a black belt, white collared shirt, and a pale blue tie. Her only other accessory appeared to be a laptop bag she carried over her shoulder.

"Hello, I'm the detective that's been assigned to this case. Do either of you two have any information that might be useful before I head in?"

"Uhhh…" Takezawa muttered, looking to his partner for backup.

"Not to be insensitive, but you seem a bit too young to be a detective. I assume you have some kind of proof of your status?" Inoue requested.

"Yes, of course."

The young woman produced her wallet, and the badge of authority within was something that the two men didn't even know existed. However, it could have been entirely absent and just the sight of the name 'Naoto Shirogane' would've been proof enough.

"W-Wait, you're…?" Takezawa stammered.

"My sincere apologies for having doubted you. I hadn't suspected someone of your notoriety would be handling such a mundane case," Inoue said, opening the door to allow her to pass through. "And the patient is not awake to my knowledge, even if he is in phenomenal condition for a man that's recently been shot. You may need to wait some time once inside."

"Thank you, much appreciated," she replied evenly. "And don't beat yourself up about not recognizing me. I've taken to avoiding the spotlight since graduating high school."

With that, the former Detective Prince entered the ICU, leaving behind one still shell-shocked officer and one incredibly calm one. Predictably, it didn't stay quiet in the hallway for very long.

"I can't believe I just met the Naoto Shirogane. That guy—er, girl—is a legend!" Takezawa exclaimed.

"I've met her once before, but that was years ago when she was still just a kid…" Inoue said. He chuckled slightly and smirked at the recollection. "She was by far the smartest person I'd ever met in all my years of policework, and that's true even to this day."

"And she's gorgeous to boot," the other officer said. "That's probably one of the nicest chests I've ever seen."

"I'll have to draw on firsthand experience and say that your sister's is nicer," Inoue calmly shot back.

"Hey!"

Inside the ICU—

Naoto quickly looked for the physician on hand once she'd entered the room. It seemed that her presence was noticed given that a doctor and a nurse started moving towards her, thus saving her some of the effort. A young-looking man garbed in white nodded his head as a greeting, clearly not wanting to shake for obvious reasons. The nurse, a young woman, did the same.

"And how may we help you?" asked the young man.

"I'm Detective Naoto Shirogane, and I'm here to ask Inazuka-san a few questions," Naoto responded. "I understand that his condition is remarkably stable but that he has as of yet not awoken."

"Actually, he is awake," the young man replied. "Amazingly, he might even be able to be discharged by the end of the week. Whoever treated him after the initial gunshot did an outstanding job."

"Then may I—"

"Sorry, but we would like you to wait a short time while we confirm his lucidity. He won't be any use to you otherwise," the nurse stated respectfully.

"But that shouldn't take longer than half an hour," the doctor clarified.

"Very well, in that case I suppose I'll just wait over here."

With that, Naoto walked over to the nearby set of chairs and calmly sat down. The doctor gave a few instructions to the nurse, afterwards the former left the room while the latter went back to tend to the patient.

The room now deftly quiet, Naoto placed her laptop bag on the chair immediately to her left and took it out. After booting it up, she decided to indulge in her favorite pastime as a detective. This, of course, involved getting on Netflix and watching a classic series starring the infamous Detective Sherlock Holmes.

She plugged in the headphone jack and started up from the episode that she'd left off on. However, about ten seconds into the opening sequence, the enemy of all internet streaming—the buffer icon—started spinning round and round. Her reflexive sigh was inevitable.

"And that infuriating wheel strikes again. I knew I should've just downloaded the episodes onto my laptop…" Naoto uttered, her eyes fixing in a slight glare. "Whose idea was it to make buffering a thing in the first place?"

"I see you're still as impatient as I remember…"

It took a second, but Naoto quickly registered that the voice that had just spoken was not the doctor, the nurse, or one of the officers that were guarding the doors to the ICU. She recognized it like the back of her hand, but she couldn't really believe her ears.

Naoto looked up, seeing none other than Yu Narukami standing a short few feet away from her. While she definitely wasn't used to seeing him in a suit, his handsome face, calm demeanor, and gentle smile were all unmistakable. Sadly, while she was trying to analyze whether or not what she was seeing was reality or a hallucination caused by sleep-depravity, a very real Yu still awaited an actual acknowledgment of his presence.

"What? Not even a 'hi'?" Yu asked jokingly.

"O-Oh, uh—"

The detective shot up from her seated position rather awkwardly and in so doing caused her laptop to launch straight into the floor. Naturally, Yu saw this coming a mile away and caught it with time to spare.

"Careful," he cautioned, picking it up and glancing over it to ensure that it was no worse for wear. He then put it on one of the nearby chairs, after which he diverted his attention back to his longtime friend.

"So, um… h-hi," Naoto stammered.

His chuckle in response caused her cheeks to heat up, but she was determined to move past the awkward initial introduction undeterred. Thus, she extended a hand, which earned her a curious look.

"Sorry, I'm still not a hugger," Naoto explained.

"Not a problem," Yu replied, taking the hand and shaking it heartily. "It's good to see you all the same, Naoto."

With that, the esteemed detective's desire to avoid any feelings of embarrassment went straight out the window. Something about his charming smile and sincere respect made even a handshake more than she'd bargained for.

"Y-Yeah…" Realizing her calm demeanor was fading, she cleared her throat and rallied herself. "Well then, would you like to sit down? I imagine we've got quite a bit to discuss."

"It'd seem so," replied Yu.

The two quickly made themselves comfortable, the initial shock of their meeting no longer affecting Naoto. In fact, she was the first to speak up.

"So, what brings you here?" Naoto asked.

"You know, I'd bet any amount of money you already know the answer to that," Yu said with a good-natured chuckle. He then took out a file from his satchel and handed it over to the blue-haired woman. "But to answer your question, this is why I'm here."

"I think I can guess what this is…" Naoto thought aloud.

In no time at all, the detective was finished reading over the files in the folder. She handed them back over to Yu, a blank expression spread across her features.

"So, as fate would have it, the two of us are investigating the same case," Naoto said, as if speaking to no one in particular. "I take it you've looked into the background of the man that we're about to speak to?"

"I know his name's Shinji Inazuka, 20 years old and attends Waseda University. No history of arrests or offenses—basically, just an ordinary guy."

"Exactly so, though of course we won't know that for certain until we talk to him." It grew quiet for a short time, but she eventually continued, "On a lighter note… It has been some time since we've spoken to each other, and I'm curious… how have you been?"

"Oh, I've been…" Yu trailed off. He received a curious look from Naoto, prompting him to point toward the approaching nurse, saying, "Sorry, looks like catching up will have to wait."

"Thank you for waiting, the patient should be able to answer your questions. But please do go easy on him."

"Of course," Yu replied.

"Naturally," said Naoto.

The two were led back towards the bed of Shinji Inazuka. Both were curious as to how he'd seem in person because the truth was all information pointed to him being completely normal by every stretch of the word. Upon coming face to face with him, that impression didn't really change.

"Hmm…?" the man weakly grumbled.

"Inazuka-san, these two are with the police. They're looking into what happened to you and want to ask you a few questions," the nurse stated.

"Yes, my name is Detective Shirogane and this is Yu Narukami. We would greatly appreciate your cooperation."

"Of course! And you'll find the guys that took—Ghhh!"

His agitated natured seemed to exasperate his injury. The nurse was at his side instantaneously ensuring that he didn't squirm and make himself worse for wear.

"Inazuka-san, I'll remind you again to stay calm and not get riled up," chided the nurse.

A slight nod of understanding was all she received in response. The young man calmed himself and redirected his attention back to the blue-haired detective.

"So, what did you want to know?"

"Why don't you start by telling us what exactly happened earlier tonight?" Naoto suggested.

The man hummed in thought for a brief time, clearly trying to put great effort into getting his memory in order. When he was ready to speak, he did so with a sense of predisposed agitation, which did not go unnoticed by the investigative duo.

"I remember that I was walking my girlfriend back home after a day of shopping in Shibuya. We needed to make a stop in Yongen-Jaya because she wanted to buy something from a shop nearby, and we'd just gotten off of the train, walked down about a block, and then boom, it just… happened. These guys came out of an alley and got ahold of Akane, and when I tried to fight 'em off, I took a nasty hit to the stomach." He winced at the memory of the pain, but nevertheless he continued, "When I recovered, I bolted to the end of the alleyway. They'd just loaded her into a van and hopped in, but I got there just in time and managed to get ahold of her leg and was about to pull her out. That's…"

Although he'd trailed off with a bitter expression on his face, he didn't need to finish his sentence for the duo to know what happened next.

"And your girlfriend—what is her full name?"

"R-Right, that'd probably be useful for you to know," he muttered, clearly berating his own stupidity. "Her name is Akane Kirio. She's a student in Waseda Univesrity like me, and she lives just outside of Giza. There's a picture of her in my wallet, please feel free to take it for reference."

"And what about the men that attacked you?" Yu asked. "Do you remember what they looked like? Or what kind of car they were driving?"

"I'm sorry to say that I didn't really see their faces," he replied. "They were well dressed, I guess? Black suits, white dress shirts, and black ties—nothin' too out there. But they… wore these weird masks. They were white and plain-looking with just two eye holes."

"And did you manage to pull off one of the masks while you were trying to get Kirio-san?" Naoto asked.

"Um, no… I was pretty focused on getting Akane out of that van. Why do you ask?"

"One was found on the scene," she clarified. "But since it wasn't you, then it was likely Kirio-san that managed to do it. Moving on, was there anything else you can tell us? If anyone had a reason to go after Kirio-san, for instance?"

The man was notably distraught at the question, but the nurse quickly settled him down by placing a firm hand on his shoulder and leveling him with a glare. He recovered his composure shortly thereafter.

"No, not at…! Ehem, not at all," he stated evenly. It was obvious that his answer was unsatisfying even to him, and so he continued, "Akane was a very strait-laced girl. She's social, yes, but not in the party-girl kinda way. She still follows a curfew for God's sake! Before me, she hadn't even had a boyfriend, and she hasn't even felt totally comfortable doing… w-well, fill in the blanks."

"I see. Well, thank you for your time," stated Naoto.

"No problem at all. But detective, please… please find her. I don't know who could've done this or what their reasons were, but all I really want is for her to be safe."

In the wake of the clearly emotional plea, two investigators shared a brief look, after which Naoto nodded her head in understanding before she started moving toward the door with Yu in tow.

They headed outside the room and moved towards the elevator, whereupon calling it to their floor, the former detective prince spoke up.

"With that, we've learned virtually nothing concrete," Naoto spoke, a dissatisfied undertone in her words. She looked over to her companion with a wry smirk, saying, "But still, that's nothing new to either of us, is it?"

"Yeah, I guess not," Yu replied good-naturedly. The elevator son arrived with its characteristic ding of a bell. "After you."

"Thank you."

The silver-haired prosecutor followed suit once she was past the doors and clicked on the ground floor. He could tell that Naoto was rather pensive and unsatisfied, but then again, he didn't really blame her.

"Hey, cheer up," Yu called out. The detective was clearly surprised by his words if her expression was any indication. "Even if he was unhelpful, this is still the closest thing that's show up that's concrete about these men in white masks. If this is their first mistake, then it'll be one too many."

"…you're right. You're definitely right," Naoto responded, allowing herself a small but friendly smile. "I suggest that we go over the evidence collected at the scene and look into Kirio-san tomorrow. If time permits, I think it'd also be best for us to reexamine the crime scene."

"Sounds like a plan."

A/N There you have it, first chapter I've done for any story in quite some time. Once again, the next chapter will be posted on Friday the 1st of October, so look forward to it.

Outside of that, please feel free to leave a review or PM me directly with any questions you may have.

It doesn't even need to be about the story—in fact most messages I get tend not to be xD. I don't mind answering or talking about anything, and while I can't promise I will give you an answer to story-related questions because I don't like to spoil my intent or anything, I generally do respond to everything within a few days.

Only thing to add for anyone that isn't used to my work, I usually give a bit of my though process or random tidbits relating to the story in my Explanationssection at the end of each chapter. So, without further ado…

Explanations:

Why no Yoshizawa? Aka: Why no P5 Royal? (SPOILER WARNING for P5Royal): First off, I love her. She's great and she's in my top 5 P5 girls list for sure. Why isn't she here and why won't she be? Honestly, it's just because I would have to retcon the ending of Royal and that was too much of a pain based on what I wanted to do. I disliked Royal's ending (post Maruki-palace) quite a bit, so believe me I have no problems tearing it up, but having to write my way out of it was just not very enjoyable to think about and thus I opted not to do it. Based on what I want to do, it'd also just be an added layer of complexity that I don't want to bring in. So, while I think she's great, she will not be in this story, nor will any P5R content.

Yu Narukami: So yeah, Yu ended up becoming a lawyer and is working for the SIU in Tokyo (where Sae used to work for reference of anyone who doesn't know off the top of their head). I thought really long and hard about what I saw Yu as, and honestly it was always going to be in law enforcement. I just thought that if I had him become a cop, it'd be like 3 characters from P4 just becoming cops with Chie and Naoto being the other two. That felt so blah to me, and when I pictured him as a lawyer I just thought 'yes… that'll work'. Curious as to what people think about him being a lawyer rather than an actual officer of the law. Other than that, his personality is something that will line up closely with the P4 anime (dub version for reference which imo is better than the subbed version).

Ren's Return to Shujin: There is more to it than he just decided to return and not leave in the first place. The gap months between the present and when he got out of Juvie (early March in this story) will be explored later on in the story. It will focus primarily on the Phantom Thieves in the aftermath of his departure, but don't expect this to occur anytime soon. Just know I have something in store in that regard.

Ren's Lessons with Kawakami: As I said above, he got back to Shujin early March and hence missed more school than in the vanilla version of the game. Details of how he ended up moving to year 3 are again going to be explored later, but basically he's smart and it was considered more of a formality.

Ren's Pairings: I know this is sort-of harem, but please keep in mind that the love interest won't be in the dozens or anything near that. Also, I'll be keeping it to his own age bracket for any actual/serious love interests. As much as I'm sure we all know through harnessing the powers of swag, he could bang Kawakami, it's still the case that relationship is super creepy xD. Speaking of his pairings…

Ann: Yes, Ann is one of the first love interests for Joker that you will see in this story. Her feelings might just be a given at the start, but there will be a point when the gap between when Ren left initially and when he 'came back' is filled in. I'm curious as to how people actually feel about her being the first one, but I honestly see Ann as one of the two 'main girls' of P5, the other one imo being obvious. I did find her romance rather sweet, albeit very vanilla—nothing wrong with that though. Also, she is by far the character that grew on me the most after repeat playthroughs. I admit I ended up liking her a lot less my first time around in part because her confidant has a few amazing ranks mixed in with some absolutely shite ranks. That and then there are a lot of moments that seem to parody her more explicit flaws like her stupidity and sweet tooth. However, all in all she is an incredibly female character.

Yu and Naoto: This is alluded to in their conversation and I will outright state that yes, it has been quite a while since the two have seen or talked to each other. More on that later, just confirming that is the case.

Which Persona Games I've Played: I have played P5, P5 Royal, P5 Strikers, and P4 Golden. I have not played P3, but am very much aware of its plot points and characters because youtube is a thing. I hope that it gets announced as a port soon so that I can actually play it. Listing this off is just for peoples' respective references.

Chad Narukami's Pairings: Yes, same as with Ren. This is sort-of harem as far as pairings go, but even though both Yu and Ren are gods amongst men, they will only have a few serious romantic options. That goes for both of them, and there is no meme-exception in my book.