It had been a while since Makoto Nijima felt satisfied after finishing her student council duties for the day. Just the other day she felt helpless and lost, then yesterday happened and she felt in full of control of everything, including herself.
"This memorable day marks your graduation from your false self…" she muttered. She smiled at the thought, it was what her Persona, her other self, told her.
As she was about to leave, a buzz in her phone prolonged her stay. She looked at it and saw a message from the leader of the Phantom Thieves.
"I need to talk to you in private, meet me on the rooftop."
"That place is off limits, you know," she replied.
"It's important. Don't worry about bringing a key, I had Morgana unlock the door."
She frowned. She was new in the Phantom Thieving business, but she was still the student council president, seeing someone nonchalantly break school rules didn't sit well with her. But she had faith in them. If their leader said it was important, then there was no doubt in Makoto's mind.
When she arrived at the rooftop, she was greeted by the sight of Akira Kurusu deep in thought.
"Pres, you're here," he said. "Come have a seat," he gestured at a chair.
"You can just call me Makoto," she said as she sat down. "What is it you want to talk about, Akira?"
Akira sat opposite to her, a wooden table between them. He brought his elbows on the table and clutched his hands together. He lowered his head and his glasses gleamed, hiding his eyes.
"I'll be honest with you, Makoto," he took a breath. "You're a liability."
His words struck her painfully. She knew in some sense that she was going to be dead weight, it was her first mission, after all, even her explosive display yesterday as she awakened to her Persona didn't guarantee she would be of help to the group. But at the same time, she refused to be put on the sidelines.
"May I ask why you think so?" her voice croaked.
"You can't hide."
"Pardon?" she was expecting more than that.
"You can't hide."
Silence followed, Makoto was confused.
"What... do you mean?"
"It means what it meant, you can't hide," a sigh escaped Akira's lips, a sign that he was tired of repeating himself.
"That doesn't make sense!" Makoto slammed a fist on the table, surprising both her and Akira. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that," she calmed herself. "But, how would you know that?"
"I thought you knew," Akira raised an eyebrow. "I was being respectful for not bringing it up since I have a suspicion you were being forced to do it."
"What are you even talking about?" Makoto bit her lip, she was having a hard time controlling her emotions.
Akira saw her repressed anger taking shape. It intimidated him, causing him to be quick on his words, his usual calm now in disarray.
"I'm talking about the time you were following me everywhere I go," he said.
That seemed to stop Makoto's temper from rising.
"You…" she looked at him in surprise. "You knew?"
"Yes…" he brought his phone to the table. "Here's my proof."
Makoto looked in horror as she witnessed pictures of herself following a certain frizzy-haired boy. A few of them could be thought of as just a picture of a girl enjoying her manga, but most of them were explicit in its desire to show the world that she was a stalker, an incredibly poor one at that.
"H-How did you… but I'd never seen you take pictures on your phone…" she stared at him in disbelief.
"That's because I know how to hide."
That struck Makoto on the head. She did recall losing sight of him from time to time whenever she was following him, but she didn't know her cover was that bad. There was also Morgana to consider… if the cat could unlock doors, what was stopping him from taking pictures?
All fight within her escaped as she stared listlessly at the sky. It was a Tuesday, she remembered, she had to cry about her uselessness early tonight so that she wouldn't be late to school tomorrow.
"I see…" her voice broke. Her time as a phantom thief didn't last long, but she would always treasure the memory. So much for graduating from her false self. "Goodbye, then," she hurriedly stood and turned around.
"Wait, where are you going?" Akira asked, catching her by the wrist.
"Home, you don't need me anymore, right?" she snapped.
Akira was taken aback by the shine in her eyes, and only then did he realize his mistake.
"No, we need you," he quickly said. "I was just about to offer you lessons."
"Lessons on what?" she glared at him.
"Stealth…" he meekly said.
"Then you should've said so earlier!"
"I'm sorry," despite being a head taller than Makoto, Akira felt small.
"And here I thought you want me out of the team…" she sighed, rubbing her eyes. "Can we talk about this later on text? I assume you don't want to infiltrate the palace till I learn how to hide properly."
"Yes," he nodded. He sensed sarcasm in her voice but thought better not to point it out.
"Ok, see you later then," with a curt bow, Makoto left.
"This is why I told you that you need to study more if you want to connect to a girl like Makoto," Morgana the cat said, coming out of his bag. He jumped to the table and proudly nodded to himself. "If I were to rate your knowledge, I'd say it's 2 out of 5. You also lack tack, Joker."
"Shut it, cat," Akira pushed his glasses upward, sighing to himself. "There's that Nostalgia Steak on the Diner in Shibuya, right?" he rubbed his hair.
"Yep, let's go," Morgana said as he happily went back on Akira's bag.