There was a scream as Futaba's spaceship blew up. Ren Kurusu swiftly turned to see the cloud of smoke, and watched as the remaining fiery pieces fell to the ground. She was the final one. His gaze shot from each fallen Thief to the next. He thought they had been prepared for this. They had defeated so many strong opponents, gained so much strength, and yet before them was a being of a different caliber. Ren was out of bullets, out of energy, out of items, and out of comrades.
He turned back around to see the silver, metallic angel-looking Yaldabaoth lowering the massive pistol that was attached to one of his many arms. It was the same gun that just blasted Futaba out of the sky, and was now pointing at him. This was it. They had failed. The world would be controlled by this malevolent God. He fell to his knees in defeat as the barrel of the gun settled in front of him.
"So you have finally accepted your defeat," the deep booming voice of Yaldabaoth spoke. "The trickster is caught, and he shall be no more."
Ren closed his eyes and waited for the final shot. But then he heard a voice next to him. It was a soft voice. He turned and opened his eyes which were now level with the young girls' next to him. Her platinum hair blew behind her blue Victorian-era maid dress as she gazed at him.
"I'm sorry, but I was wrong," Lavenza spoke. "You are simply not strong enough. It is time for you to restart, but don't worry; it won't be a complete restart, for you will remember what has happened."
Suddenly the grimoire she held flipped open, and began glowing. Time seemed to slow, as Ren heard the stretched bang from the gun in front of him. He turned to see smoke and fire creep from the barrel. He thought he could see the bullet still in the back of the chamber, but it steadily grew closer.
Then all around him became a blur as if time was sped up to hundreds of times the speed as it was before. He caught glimpses of the Thieves facing Yaldabaoth, entering Mementos, facing Shido, Akechi. He saw himself meeting the other thieves, and facing the other Palace owners. It clicked. He was watching everything that happened this past year, but in reverse. He could also hear everything, but it was at the same speed and also in reverse which resulted in it being practically indecipherable noise.
Maybe this is what they mean when they say your life flashes before your eyes? Ren thought. The images became faster and faster until he had to close his eyes to prevent getting motion sick though that still didn't drown out the cacophony of sounds.
Just as he was wishing it would stop, it did. It was replaced with the sound of low voices muttering, and a train moving along its tracks. His eyes slowly opened to take in the situation around him. He was on a train.
There was no sign of Yaldabaoth, the thieves, Lavenza or the Personas. He looked down at the clothes he was wearing. Gone was Joker's black tailcoat and waistcoat, instead replaced by the red-buttoned black blazer of Shujin Academy with a white turtleneck underneath. His pants were now the slim black and red plaid of the winter uniform. Finally his bird-like mask was gone, and where it was was now his large, round fake black glasses.
He quickly took out his phone. His eyes widened at the date: April 9th. He didn't think he was dreaming, nor did he feel as if he was dead. He had actually gone back in time to when he had first arrived in Tokyo. He could redo everything now. He could save those he couldn't before, and stop those before they could do more harm. He couldn't help but smirk. This time would be different.
The train stopped, and he stepped out. He knew he had to go through the Shibuya crossing to get to his next train, but he also knew what awaited him there. As he made his way toward the crossing, he looked down at his phone, noticed he had a GPS app open to show his way to Yongen-Jaya. He closed the app because this time he knew where he was headed, but he kept his phone unlocked in preparation of when the Metaverse app would show up.
What should I do when it pops up? He thought. I guess I should play along. I don't want Igo- Yaldabaoth to know that I know about him…not yet at least. Sure enough, when he reached the middle of the crossing, the app showed up. He hesitated for a second, but then went ahead and dragged the app down to the trash icon at the bottom of the phone screen.
Suddenly everyone slowed around him until they came to a standstill. He knew what was next, and so was not surprised at the blue flame that manifested on the far side of the crossing in front of him. He recognized the figure that the flame took the shape of: Arsène. It was his persona after all…or at least it would be. Although…
Ren shook his head as the flame disappeared. He would test any theories he had later. For now, he should get to Café Leblanc. He didn't need to go to Sojiro's house this time because he knew Sojiro wouldn't be there. Though that didn't mean it was empty. His heart sank a little when he realized that the recluse Futaba would be back to her old self. They hadn't conquered her palace yet after all. He had to shake his head again, and remind himself again that he would figure things out once he had settled into his room above the cafe.
After a bit, he finally made his way to the narrow back streets that he would call home for his next year. As he made his way down the street toward the cafe, he passed several people, but the one person that caught his eye was someone who actually passed him. The young woman with dark blue hair in a messy bob-cut style wore a white-lab coat over a dark-green dress which fluttered slightly as she moved quickly.
Tae Takemi. She would be the doctor he would get his medicine from in preparation for going into the Metaverse. He didn't notice her the first time he came through here since he was distracted with trying to find his way around. He wanted to help her too. In fact, he wanted to help all of his confidants with their problems, and he was in a position to do it much quicker this time. But he had to be patient. He would get to them in time.
He came to the door of the small cafe. The red and white striped awning above it read "coffee & curry" with "Leblanc" written under that. He took a deep breath and opened the door which rang a small bell stationed above it.
A middle-aged man sat in one of the chairs at the counter facing toward the tables. He had slicked back dark hair that formed into a chinstrap beard which ended in a flared-out goatee. He wore a pale pink dress shirt under an black apron with a white pin-stripe design, and khakis. He also had on glasses, though these weren't fake like Ren's. He held a newspaper in his hand as he worked on the crossword. He was Sojiro Sakura, and would be Ren's guardian for the next year. He was facing a table where an elderly man and a woman were sitting.
He looked up in surprise to see Ren standing there. His eyebrows narrowed as his gaze turned to one of annoyance. Ren stiffened as he actually forgot what Sojiro's attitude toward him was when they first met. He had gotten used to the more friendly side of the cafe owner.
"Oh, right. They did say that was today," he stood up and placed the newspaper on the counter. The man and woman also stood up.
"I guess we'll be going," the man said. "But at least there shouldn't be any accidents here."
"Accidents?" Sojiro asked.
"Oh you know," the woman piped up. "All of those car accidents and such. They're awful, but we shouldn't have anything to worry about."
"Oh yeah," Sojiro responded. "Well thank you both for coming as always."
"No, thank you for the delicious coffee and lunch," the man said as they made their way out of the cafe. "We'll be back." The door shut behind them and Sojiro turned toward Ren.
"Follow me," was all he said as he headed for the stairs to the second floor. Ren did as he was told. He knew he just had to be polite and thankful to get on Sojiro's good side. Also he needed to show some interest in making coffee if he really wanted to befriend the current grump.
They got upstairs, and Ren let out a little sigh. It was just as cluttered as the first were boxes and books on the floor, on the two tables, the couch and the mattress that would become Ren's bed. A dying plant was off to the side. He would have to clean this up again.
"You'll be staying here," Sojiro said. "Also I lock up every night. If I come back in the morning, and there's money or things gone from the store, or you've disappeared, I'm immediately going to the cops. Oh before I forget, there's something I need to give you." Sojiro headed downstairs, and within a few minutes, had returned. He was carrying a black journal in his hand. He tossed it onto the small shelf where Ren had placed his bag.
"Since you're on probation, I'm supposed to report on you every now and then. But I have a shop to run, so you're in charge of writing down your daily life. Other than that, I figure you can straighten this mess yourself. I'll be downstairs." He did a half wave goodbye before heading downstairs.
Ren reached for the journal, opened it…and almost dropped it out of shock. Inside of it were notes. It wasn't blank like the first time he had received it. Inside was notes on his adventures with the thieves, his meetings with confidants, and a list of Persona names. All in all, it took up around ten pages of the journal. He immediately ripped out the pages. He figured Sojiro hadn't seen the notes, or else they would have been mentioned. But how did they end up in the journal? He never made notes like these even through his first time. Still, he knew Sojiro shouldn't see these…at least not yet. He had to hide them, so he slipped them into a random book which he then slipped into his bag. He would look at the notes later.
He began cleaning and straightening, and after around two hours he was finally finished, but also exhausted. He laid on the bed before remembering the notes. He walked over and took the book he hid them in and opened it.
There was a section on each of his confidants, both Phantom Thief and non. There was also a section on each palace and each of the bosses he fought. The notes weren't terribly detailed, more just listing the major points of each subject. But it was enough for Ren. He could use this to plan his moves. His sight then fell on the list of Persona names. There were only thirty names on there. He knew there were a lot more than thirty, so why only these? Maybe… he shook his head. He would figure it out later.
He laid back down after re-hiding the notes. He glanced at his phone and saw the Metaverse app was back with its creepy crimson and black eye symbol. He decided not to try and delete it this time. He knew it was useless anyway. And when he fell asleep he would be in the Velvet room. Though that knowledge kept him from falling asleep as quickly as usual.
Finally though, he did drift off…and woke up in a jail cell. He sat up and looked at his black and white striped prison uniform. A sudden clang on his prison bars made him look out of the cell door. Standing before the door were two young twin girls with platinum hair and golden eyes. They each wore a blue prison guard outfit. They each also wore a black eyepatch with a "V" on it though on different eyes.
The one that wore it on her left eye had her hair in a long braid that reached to the middle of her back. She carried a clipboard at her side. This was Justine. The other one had her eyepatch covering her right eye. She wore her hair in a bun on either side of her head just above the ear. She carried an electric shock baton. This was Caroline. They also wore a hat that had letters written on them. Justine's said "O-Y-O-O" while Caroline's read, "X-M-R-N".
"Pay attention, Inmate!" Caroline yelled as she hit the bars again.
Outside of the prison was a circular room covered in blue velvet. This was the aptly-named Velvet Room. Ren knew this was where he could fuse Personas, strengthen them, and even summon them for the right price. But right now that wasn't important. Ren's gaze fell on the center of the circular room. There sat a wooden desk, and behind it sat an old balding man with a long, pointed nose and bloodshot eyes. He had a sinister smile on his face while his elbows rested on the desk with his hands placed in front of his face, his fingers intertwined with each other.
Ren's hands unintentionally clenched as he grabbed the bars of his cell. He was overcome with a seething rage as he stared right at Yaldabaoth pretending to be Igor. The same thing that killed his friends the first time he had gone through this. Then he remembered that he had no way of doing anything at the moment, so he forced himself to calm down.
"Hello, my name is Igor," Yaldabaoth lied. Ren stood there listening to this fake Igor's spiel on how this room was a manifestation of Ren's mind. He listened as Caroline and Justine were introduced, and how they were the wardens. Finally the speech was wrapped up when Yaldabaoth said that they would meet again, and Ren blacked out.
He awoke in his bed above the cafe. He realized that his hands were still clenched. He slowly unfurled them and saw that his nails had slightly dug into his skin. If they were any longer, they probably would have drawn blood. He sighed as he replayed the meeting in his head. He absolutely had to do something. But he also knew that if he wasn't strong enough with the thieves when they last fought Yaldabaoth, then he wouldn't stand a chance by himself. He had to be patient.
He knew he was going to Shujin Academy today with Sojiro to meet the principal and his homeroom teacher, so he got out of bed, and changed out of his sweats and tee, and into his school uniform. When he got downstairs, he saw Sojiro waiting for him.
"Let's go," Sojiro said, turning around. "We're going to your school, so you can introduce yourself to the principal. We're taking the car since the train fare costs a bit, and the route transfers are a pain. But this is just for today. Starting tomorrow, you better get familiar with what trains to take." He walked out the door with Ren following.
After over half an hour, they finally arrived at the Academy. The campus was split into two grayish buildings that each sat three floors tall. One was the main campus while the other was the practical building. In between them was a courtyard. In front of the main campus, and the stairs leading up to it, was the front gate. This was where Sojiro and Ren were currently standing.
"Now when we get inside, you better behave," Sojiro said. "They accepted you even with your record so you should be grateful."
They only took me in to help their image, Ren thought, but he just nodded in response. He then followed Sojiro up the stairs and into the building.
They made their way to the principal's office where two people were waiting for them. At the desk sat Principal Kobayakawa. He was a balding, overweight, middle-aged man. He wore a beige suit, white undershirt and a red bowtie. But Ren only briefly looked at him. Instead his eyes focused more on the woman standing next to him.
She was a young adult, upper twenties. She had dark brown unkempt hair that matched her eyes. She was of medium height and slender. She wore a yellow long-sleeved shirt with red and white horizontal striped lines. She also had on a blue denim skirt with white kitten heel pumps.
She seemed to be half irritated and half tired, and Ren knew why. This was Sadayo Kawakami. She would be his homeroom teacher, and was one of his confidants. She also secretly worked as a maid at night to make more money due to her being blackmailed. He knew who it was too, but he would take care of it once he had access to Mementos. If he said anything right now, he'd probably be expelled for lying.
"If you cause any problems, you will be immediately expelled," Principal Kobayakawa said which brought Ren out of his thoughts.
"I understand," Ren said. Then he bowed to both the principal and his homeroom teacher. "Thank you for letting me attend here." He didn't do this last time, but he might as well make a better first impression while he could.
"Well at least we're off to a decent start," the principal responded with a fake smile, and while Sadayo didn't say anything, she did look a little surprised at the sudden thanks. "Ms. Kawakami, is there anything you'd like to add?"
"Just be here on time," Sadayo answered. "I don't need you causing a disruption on the first day."
"Of course," Ren responded. He couldn't help but smile a little. While Sadayo was acting a little cold toward him, he felt as if his thanks made her soften her original stance, if only just a little.
Some time later, Sojiro and Ren left the school and made their way back to the cafe. It took them over an hour due to traffic because of another accident.
"Accident", Ren thought. He knew what was causing it, or rather who, but that man would have to wait as well.
When they got inside the cafe, Sojiro turned toward Ren, "Since you behaved during the visit, I'll allow you to go out at night. But only around here. I lock up every night, so be back before closing or I will lock you out. And it won't be open until the morning."
"Thank you for taking care of me," Ren responded.
"I only did this because one of my customers is a friend of your parents. Don't go thinking I'm a nice guy or anything. Anyway, I'll make some dinner since you probably don't have that much money right now. I should be making it for a woman though." He muttered the last sentence, but Ren could still hear it. Some time later, they ate some curry that Sojiro cooked, and afterward Ren went to the bathhouse.
He could start coming up with a plan now. He knew tomorrow it would rain, and because of that, he would take cover under an awning and happen to bump into Ann. She would be invited by Kamoshida to get into his car so that he could take her to school. Right after that, Ryuji would appear too late to stop her. He would accidentally say the key words, and the Metaverse app would transport the two of them to the first palace: Kamoshida's Castle. There they would meet Morgana, and learn about everything.
His thoughts turned to Ann, Ryuji, and Morgana. The last time he saw them they were…Ren sighed. But they shouldn't be gone this time. They're still alive right now, and I can keep it to where they never die. It's pretty simple. By now he had finished his bath, and had made his way back to Leblanc. He arrived just before Sojiro locked up and left.
Ren walked upstairs and sat at the table where he would wind up making Thieves' tools. His thoughts went back to the plan. There was one way to keep them all safe. One surefire way. That way was to defeat Yaldabaoth. And he had to do it alone.
Of course if he was planning on doing this by himself, he would have to make sure Yaldabaoth didn't install the Metaverse app on anyone else's phones. Just his. He also had to get much, much stronger. And so a plan began forming in his head. He would take on everything alone. The palaces, their rulers, their guards, everything in Mementos. He would face it all alone. Well, not entirely alone. There was one who he absolutely couldn't do this without for various reasons, and he would meet the little cat burglar tomorrow. But first he had to make sure neither Ryuji nor Ann got sucked into the Metaverse.
He had to make sure he brought his umbrella tomorrow.