When classes were over, Makoto headed to the school's courtyard and waited for Akira outside the gym where there were benches and vending machines. She bought a snack and nibbled on it as she watched the clouds passed by.
"Pres," she heard. She turned to her left and saw a member of the student council calling for her. "What're you doing out here?" the girl said as she approached her.
"Just waiting for a friend," she said. "How are you?" she noticed the girl's fidgety behavior.
"I'm alright," the girl said looking at her feet. "Pres, is everything okay?"
"Yes," Makoto stood. "Why do you ask?"
"Well…" the girl played with her fingers. "I heard a rumor."
"What is it?" Makoto pressed, growing weary of the girl's lack of directness.
"It's about the transfer student…" the girl mumbled and Makoto sighed. She was expecting something like this to happen sooner or later.
"What about him?" she said.
"I heard he was extorting you or something…"
"Extorting me for what?" Makoto's glare caused the girl to shrink.
"M-Money and…" the girl gulped, but Makoto interjected before she could finish what she was about to say.
"He's not like that," Makoto said gravely. "Listen, you shouldn't take rumors seriously. Often than not, they're filled with lies."
"O-Oh…" the girl slumped her shoulders. "You're right. I'm sorry."
Makoto softened her expression and let out another sigh, she seemed to be doing that a lot these days.
"It's okay. Thank you for your concern," she smiled.
The girl nodded and went off.
"The rumors about me sure are escalating aren't they?" she turned and saw Akira. Swiftly, without any hint of hesitation, he took the last piece of her snack and put it in his mouth.
"Hey, I was eating that!"
"Too late," he swallowed. "All gone," he showed her the inside of his mouth.
Makoto wanted to be angry, but a laugh left her after seeing Akira's stupid expression.
"Close your mouth."
Akira smiled at her and offered to buy her a drink. She accepted and they sat at the bench with drinks in hand.
"You know, that rumor isn't exactly wrong," Akira said.
"How so?" Makoto eyed him curiously.
"You blackmailed us, remember?"
"Oh!" she recalled in surprise and Akira laughed at her reaction.
"Though, the rumor got it backward," he said. "I wonder what will happen if they found out Ms. Pres blackmailed the Phantom Thieves to do her bidding."
"Now you're just teasing me aren't you?"
"Yep," he nodded with a satisfied grin on his face.
Makoto grumbled, opting to drown her annoyance with the sour yet invigorating taste of lemon. "Smug bastard," she slipped out.
"Oh-ho," Akira was impressed. "Pres is learning how to smack-talk, eh?"
Makoto blushed. She couldn't deny the liberating feeling of saying what she felt, so she hid it by emptying her lemon soda. "Sorry, that was immature of me," she coughed.
"You should loosen up," Akira said, gentler this time. "Remember how you cursed at Kaneshiro's shadow before awakening to your Persona?"
Makoto nodded, unsure whether to feel good about that or not.
"Righteous anger isn't a bad thing. In fact, I recommend it," Akira finished his drink as well. "Besides, we're friends, things like that won't offend me."
"I suppose you're right," Makoto smiled, she seemed to be doing that a lot these days.
"That and we're officially friends now, aren't we?"
Makoto looked at him in question before realizing what he meant.
"Just how long were you eavesdropping?"
"From the very beginning," he said. "I'm a phantom, after all."
"Yes, yes, you are," Makoto rolled her eyes and stood.
"Well, aren't you cute, Pres."
"Stop teasing me!"
"I don't think I'll stop anytime soon," Akira stood with another satisfied grin on his face.
Makoto glared at him, holding back the urge to mess up his already messed-up hair. Akira took her glare in stride.
"Anyway," Makoto turned, her defiance was to deny him eye-contact. "What's today's agenda?"
"Our target for today is Ryuji Sakamoto."
Ryuji Sakamoto leaned his back on the wall near the stairs as he waited for Akira to come. Akira had texted him to meet up. It was unusual, but he couldn't care less, he needed to blow off some steam.
He yawned, still not fully awake after taking a nap on his last class.
"Dude, cover your mouth when you do that."
He opened his eyes and saw Akira.
"Sup," he greeted lamely.
"You alright? It's rare seeing you this lethargic," Akira said.
"Letar-what? Sounds like toothpaste," he yawned again, blocking it with his hand this time.
"How far behind are you in your studies?"
"C'mon man, cut me some slack," he cracked his neck. "I've been staying up all night looking for info."
"About that Yamauchi guy?"
"Yep," he stretched his arms, the cracking noises waking him up. "Heard he frequents the monjayaki shop in Tsukishima, now I just need to know his schedule."
"Monjayaki, huh," Akira pondered. "It's been awhile since I had those."
"Were you even listening to what I just said?"
"Yep. We're eating monjayaki, right?"
"Of course, It'll be a waste not to eat some when we're there," Ryuji said. "I still need to do some digging though."
"You sure you don't want to eat right now?"
"Dude, are you that hungry?"
"I'm not, it's just monjayaki, man," Akira shook his head.
"I know what you mean," Ryuji nodded.
They shared a dream of eating monjayaki, however, it didn't last long. They had cooked the perfect monjayaki, but before they could take a bite, they were interrupted by the high-pitched voice of their mutual acquaintance.
"Akira, Ryuji," they turn and saw a boy with blue hair. "We're friends right?"
"Friend's a bit…" Ryuji said.
"Mishima, classes just ended," Akira said. "Don't be so needy."
"I'm not," Mishima frowned. "I'm just wondering whether you guys are free."
"Why, what's up?" Ryuji asked.
"Look at this!" Mishima showed them a poster filled with a vibrant pink and the words 'maid' and 'master'. "Don't you guys think it's about time we get our revenge?"
"Chill," Akira said, but there was no denying the glint in his eyes. "Where's that from?"
"It's from the new maid cafe in Akihabara," Mishima said. "They're having a discount right now for people in groups of three."
"Oh?" Ryuji was now fully awake. "What about the maids?"
Mishima smirked and brought out his phone. "Look at this," it was a picture of a nervous Mishima and a cute maid.
"Holy shit, she's cute!" Ryuji said. "Wait, you already went there?"
Mishima shrugged. "I need to do some research first. We can't be failing like last time, right?"
"You're serious about this, aren't you?" Akira asked.
Mishima nodded with conviction.
"Damn," Ryuji said. "Your heart's been set, huh," he looked at Akira. "What do you say, man? Looks like our friend needs help."
"That he does," Akira grinned. "That he does."
"Let's go then," Mishima turned to the stairways. "Time for the real Operation Maidwatch."
"I paid 4000 yen for this omelette!" Ryuji's voice echoed loudly throughout the cafe. "Fix it!"
"I'm so sorry, master!" the maid serving Ryuji shrunk and took his plate of splattered ketchup, the omelette a bloody mess, and ran.
"You call this coffee?!" Akira slammed the table causing the maid serving him to cower in fear. "It's actually not that bad," he took another sip. "No, I take it back. This is really good!"
"Oh, um, thank you… would you like another cup, master?"
"Please," Akira said and the maid took off.
Mishima ate his food in silence, afraid to stutter in front of the maid serving him.
"Would you like some more water, master?"
"Y-Yes, p-p-please!" he stuttered.
"Okay," and the maid went away with a chuckle.
"Damn, that girl knows her coffee," Akira emptied his cup in approval. "Who knew I'd find a rival here."
"You're lucky. Mine filled my plate with hot sauce, can't even eat the damn thing," Ryuji chugged a glass of water. "It still burns."
"I suck…" Mishima lamented.
"You tried your best," Akira said.
"Yeah, no worries, man. You'll rise from this," Ryuji said.
"You guys…" Mishima teared up.
"But man, the girls here are cute aren't they?" Ryuji smiled widely. "I'd be a regular here if not for the price."
"Yeah, I blew my earnings from yesterday," Akira looked at the insides of his wallet and saw a solitary 500 yen coin.
"We can always go to mementos," Ryuji said.
"Mementos?" Mishima asked.
Akira glared at Ryuji causing him to go wide eye in realization. Mishima saw this exchange and interjected before Ryuji could utter another word.
"I didn't hear anything," he said. "By the way, Akira, I think I saw you in Shinjuku last night. Were you there?"
"Yeah," Akira fixed his glasses, a smile forming on his face. "I got a part-time job at a bar called 'Crossroads'."
"I see," Mishima said.
"What were you doing there?" Ryuji asked.
"The usual. Research, managing the Phansite, the works."
"You sure are working yourself to the bone," Ryuji said.
"Well, the Phantom Thieves wouldn't have gained any sort of traction if not for his hard work," Akira said.
"You're exaggerating," Mishima laughed. He was pleased without a doubt. "By the way, there's actually another reason why I wanted to talk to you guys."
"If it's how to act on a maid cafe, just don't follow Ryuji's example," Akira said.
"Eff you, man," Ryuji said. "In my opinion, the kid needs more guts, so he needs to follow my example."
"True, the kid needs to be emboldened," Akira pondered. "But I have doubts about him learning from you."
"The 'kid' doesn't need advice on anything," Mishima said. "It's about the forum requests."
"What about it?" Ryuji said. Both him and Akira leaned closer, their faces grave.
Mishima gulped. "A number of people posted your name on it," he looked at Akira. "They want you to have a change of heart."
"What?" Akira said. "Why?"
"There's a rumor going around in our school right now," Mishima said. "Here, it's easier to see it," he brought the Phansite on his phone and handed it to Ryuji.
"Let's see," Ryuji started reading. "The transfer student in our school is getting too close to our president," he read and looked at Akira. "This guy has a criminal record, I'm worried about her. Please change that guy's heart,"
"That could be anybody," Akira said.
"Dude, you're the only one I know who's a recent transfer and has a criminal record," Ryuji said.
"Read the ones below," Mishima said.
"Holy shit, do you go to Shujin?" Ryuji read aloud. "Yeah."
"What?" Akira asked.
"The dude who posted the request said 'Yeah'."
"Oh, continue then."
"I don't go to Shujin, but I've seen your president, she's cute," Ryuji read. "You think he's blackmailing her?"
"They're just saying whatever they want," Akira scoffed.
"Yeah, she's really cute," Ryuji read. "Uptight, but pretty. I want to protect her lol."
"Didn't know you have a crush," Akira said.
"Shut it," Ryuji said before going back to reading. "C'mon P. Thieves, protect our beautiful president from that criminal bastard!"
After reading that last message, Ryuji handed back Mishima's phone.
"And that's just one of many threads," Mishima said. "What do you guys think?"
"It's a load of-" Akira looked at Ryuji, "eff."
"True, you should just ignore this type of requests," Ryuji said. "But man, didn't know Makoto was popular."
"Eh? Makoto?" Mishima said. "You guys know her personally?"
"Something like that," Akira said.
"Pretty, huh?" Ryuji pondered. "I guess I could see it, but she's more scary if you ask me."
"That's true," Mishima nodded. "I get nervous whenever I see her. Feels like she'll glare me out of existing if I ever break school rules."
"I don't know, I kinda agree with the cute part," Akira said, causing odd stares from his two friends.
"Sounds like you're the one who has a crush," Ryuji grinned.
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Ryuji's remade omelette.
"Sweet, I've been waiting for this!" he refused the addition of ketchup and started devouring his food. Not long after, Akira's second cup of coffee and Mishima's refill arrived.
As the three enjoyed their meal, a lone priestess sat at a booth out of their line of sight. She was red-faced and drinking coffee.
"Would you like another cup, Madam?" the maid serving her asked after seeing her empty cup.
"Yes, please," she said.
Ryuji and Akira parted with Mishima near the station entrance, Mishima opting to stay at Akihabara to gather some intel.
"Man, that guy works himself too hard," Ryuji said. They stopped at the subway, waiting for their train to arrive.
"It hasn't been long since Kamoshida, so I think it's his way of recovering," Akira said, tapping on his phone.
"You've got a point. That kid's much of a victim as Ann and Suzui," he said, cupping his chin. "We should prolly treat him better."
"And don't forget, he's also our number one Phanboy," Akira smirked, pocketing his phone. "But I'm curious, you said something interesting right now."
"Yeah," Akira said. "You don't consider yourself a victim of Kamoshida?"
"Oh," Ryuji pondered. "Technically, I guess I was. But ya know, I managed to get back at him," he grinned. "And he's in jail now, so everything's squared."
"That also applies to Ann, you know," Akira chuckled. "She was the one who brought that bastard to his knees."
"Ah, you're right."
"I guess you two are similar in that regard," Akira said. "I'm really glad you two were the first people I befriended here."
"Geez, man," Ryuji said, rubbing his hair. "What's with the sappiness?"
"Probably the maid cafe," Akira said. "I feel like my kindness leveled up."
"I getcha!" Ryuji nodded. "I feel gutsier after yelling at that cute maid."
Ryuji's phone buzzed as the train arrived, it was a message from his former upperclassman. He checked the message and smiled widely at its contents.
"Dude, you still got some time right?" he said, stopping Akira from boarding the train.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Let's go have that monjayaki," he showed Akira the message. "That bastard is going there right now."
"I see, only one problem."
"What is it?"
Akira brought out his wallet and tossed whatever's left inside on his palm. Only a 500 yen coin dropped.
"For real? You're more broke than me?" Ryuji asked.
Akira fixed his glasses, the lenses shining through. "Yes."
"Why do you sound so damn proud?" for the first time in their friendship, Ryuji felt pity for Akira. "Fine, I'll treat you. Let's go."
Makoto watched Akira and Ryuji devour plates of monjayaki, clearly celebrating their success. She asked Akira if she could help in any way regarding Ryuji's situation, but Akira texted her to let Ryuji handle it on his own. She wasn't convinced at first, but after listening to the recording (through Akira's phone) she yielded. It would be improper for an outsider to butt in when all the pieces were about to fall in its place.
She peered through the shop's window again, feeling slightly envious as she hadn't eaten monjayaki before. It was a small place, and unlike the maid cafe, it didn't have any table where she could hide.
Her stomach growled. She sighed, it was a mistake not to order food at the cafe.
"Niijima?" she heard her name. Startled, she immediately turned around. It was Miss Kawakami, her former teacher in Japanese Language.
"Teacher!" she wasn't doing anything particularly bad, but she felt like a criminal who's discovered without her pants.
"What are you doing outside? C'mon let's go in," Kawakami smiled, her good mood spreading on the air.
Used to the sight and demeanor of a tired and depressed Kawakami, Makoto couldn't help but stare, unsure whether she was looking at the real deal.
"Hello, Miss Niijima?"
"Dude, that shit was great, let's go on a run to burn it-" yellow spiky hair appeared on Makoto's line of vision. "Makoto?" a second later, it was followed by a mop of messy black hair. "And Kawakami?"
"Sakamoto?" Kawakami said. "And Kurusu too," she frowned at Ryuji. "That's Miss Kawakami to you."
"Hey, teach, fancy meeting you here," Akira said. "You too, Makoto," he grinned.
Seeing Akira's conceited smirk snapped Makoto out of her pause. "Yes, what a coincidence," she said, expressing a glare specifically for Akira.
The brusqueness on her voice, however, didn't go unnoticed.
"I understand, Niijima," she heard Kawakami's voice. "Seeing two troublemakers after school sours the mood doesn't it?"
"Huh? N-No," she tried to explain.
"But that's just on the surface," Kawakami interjected. "Kurusu isn't really that much of a troublemaker, though I can't say the same thing for Sakamoto."
"Hey, what does that mean?" Ryuji's yells were followed by Akira's laughter. "And dude, don't put me inside the bus."
"It's 'under'," Makoto said. "And don't worry teacher, we're friends."
"Really?" Kawakami said.
"Yeah," Ryuji said, loud as ever. "The president's our friend, what d'you say about that, Kawakami?"
"I'm really surprised," Kawakami said. "But I don't see you dyeing your hair back."
"Eh, this fits me better," Ryuji said.
"You look like a thug, dude," Akira said.
"And you look like Harry Potter," Ryuji replied.
"He does, doesn't he?" Makoto laughed, however, her moment of superiority crumbled as her stomach growled once again.
Kawakami and Ryuji stared at her as Akira sniggered.
"Sorry, I haven't eaten yet," she said, her face flushed.
"Now, quit teasing Niijima and get out of our way," Kawakami said, pushing between the two troublemakers. "Let's go inside, Niijima, my treat," she smiled at her.
"Yes," Makoto followed, still a bit taken aback by Kawakami's vibrant mood. She said her goodbyes to the two boys before exchanging a glance with Akira.
He grinned at her and she grinned back, they would talk about the results later. Right now her mind wondered what monjayaki tasted like.
No idea how maid cafe works. Also, I'm late, I'll try not to be late on the next one.