Your Heart Can Be Free - Chapter 1 - Red_Galiray (2024)

Chapter Text

After spending his entire life being the plaything of others, of Shido, of Yaldabaoth, of Maruki, to die free rather than live as a slave seemed a blessing. But, of course, Akechi would have no such luck.

Repeating the year actually seems like a greater blessing than death, don’t you think? Everybody deserves a second chance and here’s yours.

He thought he could be excused if his initial reaction was complete disbelief. After all, were he to tell everything to a therapist (a real one instead of that sorry excuse, of course), he would be declared insane at once. Sometimes he had considered the idea that he was indeed insane – in the sense of hallucinating and constructing false realities. He suspected Amamiya and his crew would agree readily that he was insane in other senses. But the Metaverse and all its events had followed a certain logic. Time travel certainly did not follow any logic at all. But then again, it was not entirely out of the question, was it? If Maruki and Yaldabaoth could remake reality itself, surely reversing time wasn’t out of the question.

But it couldn’t have been them who did this. Yaldabaoth would have already appeared by now, gloating about its control. And that voice… it wasn’t Maruki. And if Maruki still had control over him, Akechi wouldn’t be himself. He would be his brainwashed slave, robbed of all the sorrows that nonetheless made him him. Given that this turn of events made him deeply miserable and borderline hysteric, he had reason to suspect it wasn’t Maruki.

Akechi checked his phone. April 9th. If he wasn’t mistaken, it was the day Amamiya first arrived at Tokyo. Shortly after this, the Phantom Thieves would take down their first target and become a thorn on his side. Upon further reflection, Akechi decided that if this was indeed a second chance, he should use it to correct his mistakes. Building up Shido may have made the fall all the more painful, but it also meant he was harder to take down, at least by himself. It was, in other words, foolish. At the end, he had failed, and much to his humiliation Amamiya had succeeded. Well, now he had the advantage. Even if the Phantom Thieves had benefitted from this phenomenon, they were scattered, many of their members still under the thrall of their previous targets. No one to stop him now.

The red eye of the app stared at him as he typed the keywords to Shido’s palace.

The first time he was defeated by the politician, who managed to encase him in ice and shatter his body.

He woke up on April 9th again and decided to try again.

The second time he was ambushed by the bizarre goat demons, and although those on his front fell easily to his attacks one managed a lucky strike on his back.

He woke up on April 9th again and decided to try again.

The third time the despicable Cleaner fell before his sword, but he was too exhausted to put up long or successful resistance when the cognitive fake wearing his face appeared.

He woke up on April 9th again and decided to try again.

The fourth time the cognitive fake didn’t waste time and killed him as soon as he appeared.

The fifth time he tried to be more careful, but that only resulted in the real Cleaner appearing on his door after he told Shido that he was a bastard and he was going to take him down in a pique of foolish yet satisfying wrath.

The sixth time he lied low on the real world but ultimately succumbed to the palace again.

The seventh time… the eight time… the ninth time… the tenth time…

You know, the definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

He refused to countenance at first the idea that he was simply too weak to defeat Shido. But he had made so many attempts, had fallen painfully so many times, and had failed to even see his Shadow. He knew it took the efforts of Amamiya’s whole team to clear the Palace and defeat Shido in the original timeline, and as loath as he was to admit it, the Phantom Thieves when together made for a formidable adversary. They had, after all, defeated him.

Akechi was not blind to the advantages of teamwork. Their time working together to face Maruki had not been too horrible, most willing to put aside their mistrust of him in order to face a greater threat. Even Okumura and Sakura, who (mostly) treated him with professional detachment much to his own surprise. Without them, he had to admit, he would have similarly perished had he tried to face Maruki alone. Surely, they would be willing to conclude a similar alliance to take down Shido. At the very least, he was aware of Amamiya’s personal conflict with him. Akechi guessed that they, with their oh so lofty ideals, would insist on their glorified lobotomies instead of outright killing Shido. But did Akechi have other option?

Putting up with them and their inanities would be a problem, but he could endure.

The real problem, he soon realized, was that Ren Amamiya simply did not exist.

He was not at Leblanc, and when asked Sojiro Sakura said he knew of no Amamiya and would never take in a delinquent. The easily hacked records of Shujin academy confirmed that no transfer student other that Sumire Yoshizawa was expected. When Akechi was finally able to swallow down the pride and the bile to ask Shido, he had gruffly said that no idiot brat had ever confronted him anywhere and to not ask stupid questions. The census of Amamiya’s hometown showed there was a husband and a wife couple named Amamiya, but they were childless. More careful research of their family tree and other families with that surname turned no Ren among the records.

Ren Amamiya simply did not exist.

Oh, is that sadness, Akechi-kun?

The rest of the Phantom Thieves were where they were supposed to be at the start of the year based on the detailed dossiers Akechi and other members of Shido’s team had construed. Such dossiers did not exist anymore, of course. But he had memorized them.

Ryuji Sakamoto, former track star whose dreams had been ended by an altercation with Suguru Kamoshida, was in Shujin, described as a friendless delinquent by staff and students alike. The son of a single mother, having been abandoned by his abusive father.

Ann Takamaki, aspiring model of partial American ascendancy, was also in Shujin. Her only known relation was Shiho Suzui, and she was described as being a loner otherwise, with even her parents being often out of the country. Salacious rumors regarding her relationship with Kamoshida abounded.

Yusuke Kitagawa, young talented artist, and the pupil of the master Ichiryusai Madarame. Orphaned at a young age, he was taken in by Madarame. On the outside, the relationship seemed a heartwarming tale of a kindly old master teaching the young man who was for all purposes his son. But in truth Madarame was an abusive fraud, albeit a useful one for his business of counterfeit paintings helped to finance Shido’s organization.

Makoto Niijima, younger sister of the prosecutor Sae Niijima, who was also her guardian on account of them both being orphaned at an early age. The relationship between the sisters could be fraught given the elder Niijima's workaholic and demanding nature. The student council president yet described as something of a doormat with no real power.

Futaba Sakura, birth name Futaba Ishiki. The daughter of the prominent investigator Wakaba Ishiki, who had been… disposed of. Placed under the care of her uncle, and then of Sojiro Sakura. Known to suffer from severe depression and to be a shut-in with scarce contact with the exterior world.

Haru Okumura, the daughter of the CEO of Okumura Foods, Kunikazu Okumura. Known to disapprove of her father’s business practices and especially resent his efforts to marry her off to a suitor he deigned acceptable.

All of them seemed to have no relation with each other and no knowledge whatsoever of the future. Or the potential future, as it were. Sakamoto and Takamaki did not even talk to each other, when Akechi remembered them as one of the closest pairs within Amamiya’s little group – and one of the most obnoxious too. Okumura and Niijima, despite their own friendship and sharing a grade, also did not talk. Sakura, as far as Akechi could see, was still a shut-in, when he remembered that she had startlingly started to socialize after she joined the Phantom Thieves. Kitagawa, too, raised no complaint whatsoever about Madarame and sang his high praises when asked.

There were two further deviations as well. The creature known as Morgana, who Akechi remembered as a key to his undoing by that humiliating mistake, was nowhere to be found, and Akechi had scarce information regarding its origins and nature. Sumire Yoshizawa, as well, was not living under the delusion that she was her deceased sister Kasumi, and as such instead of the annoyingly bubbly girl Akechi had known she was a depressed shell.

This inspired Akechi into looking into a third person, finding a third deviation. Takuto Maruki, much to Akechi’s disappointment, was alive, but was instead known as a man who was formerly promising yet had become a failure after the death of his fiancée. A meeting with him showed no recognition on his part, and none of the irritating savior complex that had characterized him.

Attempts eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen also failed.

Whoever was toying with Akechi now had objectives he just couldn’t discern. It would be one thing if all the Phantom Thieves came back, including Amamiya. A blessing for all of them. It would be another if all came back without their memories, allowing Akechi to easily manipulate them with his superior knowledge. A chance to defeat his rival and his little group. It would not be advantageous to Akechi, but it’d make sense if they came back but he did not, allowing them in turn to defeat him. It would even be acceptable for them to come back with their memories but without Amamiya. Akechi knew they’d flounder without their dear Leader – at the very least, that’d be amusing. But as they were, with no Amamiya and no memories, they were simply useless to him.

Attempts sixteen to twenty-nine ended in failure. Attempt twenty was especially embarrassing, given that it started with a trip to Mementos to see if he could train, and Akechi’s co*ckiness allowed a light-oriented enemy to kill him instantly.

At the end success could only be claimed because the Phantom Thieves worked together. No one of them, not even Amamiya, could have won victory over any adversary by themselves. Akechi then had no option but to try and recruit some members of Amamiya’s team and somehow convince them to help him take down Shido. Alright, it shouldn’t be too difficult to manipulate them when they lacked both their adored Leader and their memories. He’d just have to spew dribble about justice and that’d convince them. But first, he ought to collect more information. Seeing a world without the Phantom Thieves could be interesting.

The results, however, were rather bleak.

Shiho Suzui ended up committing suicide, it being an open secret that this was because of Kamoshida’s actions. Shortly thereafter, Sakamoto was expelled after another altercation with Kamoshida, while Takamaki, unable to cope with the grief and loneliness, left the country for the United States. Shamefully, the only change that resulted from the disaster was Niijima resigning as student council president and transferring to another school, probably on Sae-san’s advice. Moreover, Yoshizawa also left Shujin after her scholarship was revoked on account of her poor athletics performance. The newspapers also announced the lavish party celebrating the marriage of Haru Sugimura, née Okumura, no one failing to notice the sadness in the bride’s face. Kitagawa and Sakura didn’t seem much affected at first, but the Kosei faculty had grown increasingly worried regarding Kitagawa’s hunger, exhaustion, and depression. Sakura, for her part, seemed to sink into deeper mental difficulties, and a suit against Sojiro Sakura had been filled by her uncle.

Akechi observed and analyzed all these results, trying to maintain a clinical detachment. Given the dreadful consequences for every Phantom Thief, he could better understand their undying loyalty to Amamiya. This data should allow him to inspire a similar loyalty towards himself.

(Akechi refused to acknowledge the uncomfortable feelings that formed as he saw this happening. These people were not his allies. Much less his friends. Their fates were of no consequence to him, except insofar as they could prove useful tools).

But you don’t mean that, do you, Akechi-kun? Admit it, you took no pleasure from seeing them like this. In fact, you felt bad, didn’t you?

He had no better idea to re-start the loop than to basically commit suicide by going to Shido’s Palace and allowing the shadows to kill him. He woke up on April 9th once again, more annoyed than anything (dying was not fun) and started to consider his possibilities.

Within Amamiya’s merry band, the obviously most useful member was Sakura. Her navigator abilities were unmatched and would be key to any successful Palace infiltration. They were also useful in combat. Akechi knew exactly how useful, having seen her use them to guide the Phantom Thieves in their battle against him, but also to guide Akechi during their forced alliance. Yet Sakura would also be the most difficult member to recruit due to her nature as a shut-in and Akechi’s lack of intel regarding how exactly she came to join the Phantom Thieves. He only knew that she had had a Palace and could infer that destroying it had been key to both her recovery and forging her alliance with Amamiya. Despite how useful she could be, then, she would be discarded given how difficult recruiting her would be.

(There would also be complications regarding his role in Wakaba Ishiki’s fate, that he ought to avoid).

After Sakura, Niijima was the most competent member. Amamiya’s right hand, imbued with genuine leadership abilities. Yet she would also be difficult to recruit, since Akechi found himself working again with Sae-san and could not approach her little sister without rousing her suspicion, and possibly imperiling the tasks he, unfortunately, still had to perform for Shido. Akechi, furthermore, knew nothing of how Niijima was recruited, except that it was around the time the Phantom Thieves targeted Junya Kaneshiro. Niijima would also be the most likely to question his motives for going after Shido.

Okumura was neither one of Amamiya’s best fighters nor one of his top strategists, and if Shido found he was forging a friendship with the daughter of a man who had dared to defy him there could be complications too. Better avoid facing her. For purely practical reasons.

Kitagawa was probably the most tolerable member of Amamiya’s team in Akechi’s eyes. He was neither loud nor annoying and was one of the few that could hold an intelligent conversation, usually about literature, albeit always remaining aloof and often remarking how he preferred the visual arts. He acted with a cool professionalism that Akechi appreciated, especially when Sakura was bound to make petty remarks and Okumura to make veiled threats. Yet, from his observations, Akechi knew that Madarame’s hold on him was firm. In fact, it had led him to conflict with Amamiya, Sakamoto, and Takamaki in the original timeline. He knew not how to recruit him then.

Reluctantly, Akechi came to the conclusion that his best bet were Sakamoto and Takamaki. Possibly the pair he… well, he disliked all of them, but he found those two especially grating. Always loud, bright, friendly. Sakamoto would not hesitate to call Akechi a jerk to his face, but although abrasive he was never antagonistic. Takamaki was the worst. She had tried to appeal to his better nature, as if such a thing existed, and seemed to regard him with pity, in a way that bothered him far more than Okumura and Sakura’s barbs. He regarded this apparent kindness with suspicion, believing it was an attempt by Amamiya to get him to lower his guard. But it was genuine, and that just made it worse in his estimation.

Yet, for all their faults, both were still potentially powerful fighters. He remembered well Sakamoto’s powerful hits and Takamaki’s searing flames. Takamaki also had healing skills, something Akechi had always lacked and that truly held him back when going on his own. Both were also deeply loyal to Amamiya yet lacked Niijima’s critical thinking skills. Loyalty and stupidity, keys to successful manipulation. More importantly, they would be easy to recruit. A combination of Amamiya being willing to share and Sakamoto’s big mouth, plus the information on the dossiers, let Akechi know that the Phantom Thieves were originally formed to take down Suguru Kamoshida in response to every member’s personal grievances against him. Notably, his atrocious rape of Suzui, who had been a middle school classmate of both Sakamoto and Takamaki. And therein laid the key: defeat Kamoshida, protect Suzui, and Akechi would have two allies who would feel deeply indebted to him.

(He could admit only to himself that he would take some satisfaction in taking out Kamoshida, the most despicable of the Phantom Thieves’ targets in his opinion. He had always disliked his kind, those men who believed they owned defenseless women. Those men like Shido.)

(He could not admit even to himself that the only action of Amamiya that he truly, earnestly admired was him standing up for that woman and then not regretting that even though it shattered his life).

If all his plans made sure to take down Kamoshida before he could lay a hand on Suzui it was for purely practical reasons. After all, allowing her to be assaulted would distract Takamaki and result in no advantage.

And they say Akechi-kun’s heart grew three sizes that day…

Akechi was not certain of the exact circ*mstances surrounding the awakenings of Amamiya and his team. No one was forward with details, not even Sakamoto, except that Amamiya awakened to his Persona to protect his own life and Sakamoto’s. As such, Akechi believed that any threat to their lives would be enough to awaken their Personas. With this in mind, he decided to simply kill Kamoshida, instead of having to put up with Takamaki and Sakamoto seeing the Palace. After that, he’d exploit their debt to him by asking them to help him with Shido’s Palace, where the threat should be enough to awaken them.

“Hello, Takamaki-san,” he greeted politely as she finished a photoshoot, taking some satisfaction on how easily he slipped on the mask of the charming Detective Prince. “I’m Goro Akechi. May I have a minute of your time?”

Takamaki regarded him with slight suspicion, but she then gave him a genuine smile. A combination Akechi did not understand.

“Hi, Akechi-kun! Are you, like, with the agency? Oh, maybe you’re that new guy they were talking about!”

“Not at all. Maybe you recognize me from an interview? Or maybe by that embarrassing nickname some have given me?” He looked down, feigning bashfulness. “The Second Detective Prince?”

Takamaki frowned, before her eyes widened. “Oh! You’re that detective guy!” She started playing with her hair. “Hehe, I’m not getting arrested, am I?”

“Certainly not. But if you help me, Suguru Kamoshida is.”

He now had her attention.

Sakamoto was even easier. He just had to approach him, tell him he was looking into how to take down Kamoshida, and his initial rough demeanor immediately evaporated in favor of his loud enthusiasm. “Course I’ll help you take down that sh*tty bastard!” he had yelled in the middle of the street, and Akechi had to wonder yet again how Amamiya put up with him.

This fake identity, odious as it was, proved yet again useful as they both identified him as a famous detective and jumped at once at the opportunity of taking Kamoshida down. They accepted to meet him in the alley outside Shujin, So gullible. How had he lost to these people, again?

“sh*t, sorry! Kawakami held me up again but I came as fast as I-” Sakamoto said as he arrived, late, and then trailed off when he noticed Takamaki. She, too, stopped her inane babbling.

“Sakamoto?” she asked.

“Takamaki?” Sakamoto then scratched his head and turned to Akechi with a frown. “Is she on this? Isn’t this, like, kind of dangerous, dude?”

“And what do you care if it is!” Takamaki snapped. “What are you doing here?”

Interesting. Based on his observations in the original timeline and knowing they had been classmates since middle school, Akechi had expected those two to be good friends. Them not even talking to each other had been a surprise. This outright hostility, this hurt and tension, was a most unwelcome development – it could complicate things.

“This guy says he’s got a way to take down sh*tty Kamoshida. You know, the guy you’re all buddy-buddy with?” Sakamoto spat back bitterly. “So, if you’re here just to help your friend you should just get lost!”

Akechi had to resist the urge to slap his forehead in exasperation. If he suspected Takamaki was on Kamoshida’s side, why would Sakamoto tell her about their plan?

“What!? How can you say that! You know nothing, Sakamoto!”

“Both of you shut up and listen,” Akechi ordered before the tiresome shouting match could continue.

He explained, to understandable lack of comprehension and disbelief, that his abilities as a detective did not come from mundane means. They did not believe him until he used the app to show them the Castle, pulling them back into the real world soon. He did not delve deeply into the Metaverse – the last thing he needed was for one of them, reckless as they were, to do things without his supervision. For that same reason he had required them to come without their phones. But he revealed he could see the real sentiments of twisted people such as Kamoshida and could take them down.

“From one such exploration I became aware that your teacher plans to blackmail you into having intercourse with him, Takamaki-san,” Akechi said, trying to fake concern for her wellbeing while maintaining a detached professionalism.

Takamaki’s eyes widened, before she looked down in sorrow. “He’s-well, he’s already been pressuring me into spending time with him. And, yes, he’s said I should come to his apartment. I’ve resisted, but… He says that if I don’t go he won’t give Shiho the starting position and-and…”

“sh*t, Takamaki…” Sakamoto said, his expression surprised, regretful. It quickly morphed into anger. “I can’t believe that bastard! He’s got no right to pull that sh*t with you!” He turned to Akechi. “You gotta do something, man! The teachers won’t do anything!”

“…Can you do something, Akechi-kun?” Takamaki asked, her voice small in a way Akechi had never heard. “Sakamoto is right, the teachers, even the parents, they are all protecting him. But you’re a famous detective, aren’t you? Please, I’d do anything if you could help Shiho…”

Akechi had to hold back a smirk. An easy victory.

“There’s a way.”

Akechi had no interest in replicating Amamiya’s brainwashing. As far as he was concerned, such a fate was too good for the likes of Kamoshida. More importantly, it was a far more involved process, compared to just strolling in and killing the ruler of the Palace. Amamiya’s team had been able to defeat it with the pitiful power they displayed in Madarame’s Palace, so Akechi was sure he could kill Kamoshida with no real effort.

“He might die!?” Sakamoto asked. “I-sh*t, dude, I don’t know? Kamoshida is a son of a bitch but killing him?”

“It’s a possibility,” Akechi lied smoothly. Much to his annoyance, it seemed like the moral qualms of the Phantom Thieves were real and not just for show, an attempt to hold onto the high ground for their own benefit. “If everything goes well, he should confess, but a mental shutdown is a possible risk.”

“Is there no other option, Akechi-kun?” Takamaki asked, her face betraying some apprehension at the idea. Which was uncomprehensive to Akechi. Why would she show any mercy to her oppressor? “Couldn’t you take him down by other means?”

“I’m afraid there is no time for any other method, Takamaki-san,” Akechi said solemnly. “I’ve discovered an even more appalling desire on the part of Kamoshida.”

Takamaki paled. “What? Even worse!?”

“Horribly so.” He closed his eyes, acting as if he needed a moment to compose himself. “If he does not obtain what he wants from you soon, he will rape your friend Suzui.”

“What!? B-but, he-he had said Shiho would be safe if-“ Takamaki sank to the ground then. “You mean all this time I’ve been just putting Shiho in danger!?”

Sakamoto stared helplessly as Takamaki wept. At one moment, he extended his hand towards her, looking as if he wanted to console her, but then retracted it with a stricken expression. Finally, he turned to Akechi.

“Alright, I don’t give a f*ck if the bastard dies. He ain’t touching Suzui or Takamaki. What do we have to do?”

This time Akechi allowed himself a smile.

(If he felt something at seeing Takamaki’s reaction it was just being uncomfortable at the public display. Nothing more).

The next day Suguru Kamoshida died by a painful mental shutdown. Akechi’s only difficulty was determining whether he should inflict the shutdown when Kamoshida was in public or at home, and ultimately decided that the first, although more satisfying, would draw too much attention, potentially including from Shido.

Yet, there was no elation, no happiness, no triumph on the part of Takamaki or Sakamoto. Again, he found such a reaction inexplicable. God knows that if someone had offered to murder Shido for him Akechi would have been ecstatic. His only qualm probably would have been that he would have wanted to do it himself. Instead they seemed somber, almost defeated.

“Was that the right thing to do?” Takamaki asked sullenly, and it took everything in Akechi to not snap at her for her naïve reaction. He knew she had even questioned the Phantom Thieves’ own morality and motives. He had no patience for such lack of decision. One ought to choose a course and stick to it, whatever the consequences.

“I’m afraid there was no other choice, Takamaki-san. Without this, he would have done unspeakable things,” Akechi said instead.

“I know, but-“

“Your friend Suzui can now be safe. We had no other choice.”

Takamaki closed her eyes hard. “Alright, you’re right, Akechi-kun.”

“Yeah…” the unusually quiet Sakamoto agreed. “There was no other way to make sure Shiho was safe, Ann.”

Back to first names, huh? Well, if they got along better, their teamwork should be better too.

“Now, I require your help,” Akechi announced.

He felt no need to tell them his own story with Shido. The fact that he had told Amamiya (in a moment of weakness) to exploit his pitiful savior-complex was bad enough. He just had to tell them Shido was behind the mental shutdowns and that he needed their help to stop him.

“But, why us? Akechi-kun, we’ll always owe you for this, but how can we help you?”

“The app shows me those with the potential,” Akechi said, persisting in his fanciful lie. “You both have been signaled by fate.”

Pulling them into Shido’s palace and then abandoning them, faking a trap, was enough to get Sakamoto to awaken out of his desire to protect Takamaki. But Akechi hadn’t been counting on how pathetically weak he’d be at first. He had hoped that, just like Akechi, he’d preserve his strength. In fact, Akechi had even suspected that recuperating his Persona would also restore his memories. No such luck. The attempt ended in failure, and although he rescued Takamaki, she proved even more useless as she sobbed over Sakamoto’s lifeless, mangled body.

Soon, Akechi felt a painful headache, passing out and waking up on April 9th.

That was not a very nice thing to do, was it, Akechi-kun?

Great. Just great. So, the death of any member of Amamiya’s team seemed to restart the loop again. It also wiped their memories once more, so there was no chance for them to learn with every attempt. He would have to do everything again.

Attempt two resulted in Takamaki awakening instead, but she was unable to protect Sakamoto and the loop began anew.

Attempt three again ended up with Sakamoto awakening and dying.

Attempt four seemed promising, for they both awakened. Yet they both also died.

Attempt five was the most successful, with both awakening and remaining alive. For a little while, for they ended up dying anyway when they began a real infiltration.

Attempt six was the most exasperating failure, for neither awakened and both died.

Useless.

Useless.

Useless!

He did not bother recruiting them in attempt thirty of plan A. He just killed Kamoshida, in order to keep his options open, and then also ended up dying in Shido’s Palace.

Attempt thirty-one ended when an enemy pushed him into the pool and then unleashed an electric attack.

Attempt thirty-two ended when an enemy pushed him off the ship into the open sea, and try as he might his exhausted arms were unable to keep him afloat.

Attempt thirty-three was an experimental one, for he tried to just kill Shido in the real world by slipping poison into his drink. It failed, and he ended up being disposed of by the Cleaner.

Attempt thirty-four was also an experimental one, for Akechi, at his wits’ end, tried to just flee. The Cleaner easily found him.

Attempt thirty-five ended with him being killed by the Reaper in Mementos.

Attempt thirty-six ended with the cognitive fake ambushing him and cutting his throat.

Attempt thirty-seven… thirty-eight… thirty-nine through forty-five…

Plan C was trying to recruit Niijima. As expected, Sae-san was wary of his intentions, and so was Shido, who chalked his sudden interest on some base sexual attraction. He managed to pull Niijima into Kamoshida’s Palace and have her awaken, but she then refused to take part on the mission if it meant Kamoshida would die. He could try and let Suzui be assaulted to overcome Niijima’s objections, but found he was unable. He was no monster – no complete monster, at least. On other tries he convinced her to come to Shido’s palace, but she ended up dead every time.

Plan D was trying to recruit Sakura. He didn’t manage to even see her. His meddling only roused up Shido’s suspicions, and he ended up being taken care of by the Cleaner. In another instance, Sojiro Sakura showed surprising vigor by throwing him out to the street.

Plan E was never put into operation, since he had no desire to see Okumura. For purely practical reasons.

Plan F was trying to recruit Kitagawa. Like Niijima, he could be awakened by a trip to his oppressor’s Palace, Madarame’s in this case, but then he refused to take part if it could result in Madarame dying. When Akechi managed to bring him to Shido’s ship, Kitagawa ended up dead as well.

Plan G was trying to recruit Yoshizawa. This was the most dismal failure next to Sakura, since he didn’t even manage to make her awaken even once. Every time, whatever Palace she was in, she faced her death with grim acceptance.

Plan H was simply killing himself. He tried several methods – none worked, he always woke up on April 9th again. At the very least he could now say that a pistol was indeed painless while throwing himself off a bridge could be agonizing.

He was tired. Tired of trying, tired of dying. He knew not how to break this loop. Every attempt to kill Shido by himself ended up in a painful death; every attempt to recruit a Phantom Thief ended up with them dead. Attempts to escape failed and resulted in assassination by the Cleaner or some other Shido crony. He refused to even contemplate just continuing to live under Shido’s thumb. His only guiding light, his only objective, the only remaining barrier between him and true madness, was the hope that someday he’d succeed in taking down Shido.

Back to Plan B.

Your Heart Can Be Free - Chapter 1 - Red_Galiray (2024)
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