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Thread: A Thief Among Heroes (Persona 5 x Grand Order Crossover)

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    A Thief Among Heroes (Persona 5 x Grand Order Crossover)

    Summary: The Phantom Thieves were no more. The collapse of the Metaverse made sure of it. Yet what should have been the end turns out to be merely the beginning, as what the team thought to be the world’s distortion turns out to be only one of many, with the last secret of the Grail revealed at last. “Akira Kurusu, from the Sea of Souls I have come forth. What is your bidding, my master?”

    Index
    Chapter 1: Homecoming
    Chapter 2, Part 1: Back in the Game

    A/N:
    Obvious homage in title is obvious. As usual, a thanks to my betas LeBlueHelix and nitewind for their efforts to make this chapter presentable.

    I've actually had this posted on FF.net for a while now, but while updating my other story I realized I'd never added this one here. Nothing new for those of you who may have already read it, but for those who haven't, I hope it's enjoyable.

    With that out of the way, serious spoilers for Persona 5 ahead. I would imagine most already understand that considering what fanfiction is to begin with, but I feel it to be a necessary warning regardless.

    Seriously, if you’re planning on getting the game and haven’t yet, and are worried about spoilers, stop here. I take no responsibility. Probably my game of the year to be honest, hence the following story. And speaking of which, here’s:

    –––––

    A Thief Among Heroes

    Chapter 1
    A New Contract (I) – Homecoming

    –––––

    “Master, may I ask why you have that?”

    A sharp nose rose at the question, bloodshot eyes meeting golden as the master of the Velvet Room found his current attendant expressing her distaste. Sighing at the justified response, the elderly man directed his attention to where a plain-looking goblet rested on the corner of his desk.

    The Holy Grail. A manifestation of human desire. As well as an instrument that had proved itself to be more than just a tad troublesome over the course of recent events.

    However, thanks to the actions of a certain trickster, it now sat inert and unresponsive under his scrutiny, just as it always should have.

    “You really must learn to let some things go, child. The cup you see is now nothing more than it appears. The self-awareness that once tainted it has been sealed, its distorted heart being stolen like that of many others. Yaldabaoth is no more, defeated in a game of his own making. Personally, even with consideration for my own imprisonment, I still find myself fascinated.”

    “I wonder what else the desires of humanity have in store for us.”

    His explanation did nothing to dispel the look of mistrust on the girl’s face. Not that he expected it to. After all, until recently she too had been nothing more than a piece in its game, not to mention the life of a boy he’d noticed she had a growing affection for.

    “However, as for the reason it is in my possession? The reason for that serves another, though not completely unrelated, purpose. The cards have revealed some most interesting news as of late, and as it so happens, our dearly departed foe seems to have only played a part in something much larger.”

    Lavenza raised an eyebrow in annoyance at the vague answer, her expression beckoning him to get to the point already. He chuckled, aware of the twins she had become once sealed. As it turned out, the two near contradicting personalities had been two sides to the same coin.

    “It’s possible the journey of our marvelous guest may not have come to its end as we believed it had.”

    To that the girl’s eyes opened wide with surprise, catching on to who he spoke of even without a name. There were very few visitors Igor spoke of so affectionately after all, and most of them hadn’t visited for a very long time.

    “The singularity caused by Yaldabaoth has been erased, and humanity’s fate seems to have been redirected to a hopeful future as well. Unfortunately, it appears that rather than be averted, the ruin that false god spoke of so fondly has been merely forestalled. Yet it’s possible the cause for such alarm may also be the means to its own solution.”

    “Tell me, Lavenza. Are you aware that in some cultures the Holy Grail is primarily seen as an almighty device to grant wishes?”

    His attendant frowned. She was catching on to where this conversation was headed, and obviously disapproved of such a route. No matter. Such was the reason she was the attendant in their relationship.

    “With that being said, it strikes me that in all the excitement of his departure, while you and many others gave their final farewells, I forgot to give our thief a gift myself.”

    He was exaggerating, of course. Such a decision had been made with purpose, quite possibly with the exact intent of what he was about to propose. An advantage that came with knowledge of so many Arcana.

    “You might say that after everything we’ve seen of him so far, his wish is one I find myself most interested in seeing to its fruition. How would the course of human desire deviate, if placed in the hands of one worthy of it, who always managed to set the fortune of others before his own well-being?”

    “I sense that our trickster hasn’t yet ceased in amazing me.”

    “Master, if I may?” Lavenza inquired, receiving a nod in response. “Forgive me for doubting you, but I must discourage you from placing his fate in the hands of such a thing.”

    In answer, her master only grinned. A smirk that gave the impression he was privy to some joke only apparent to himself.

    “Yes, I’m well aware of your growing affection for the boy. How often has it been now since his departure that you have asked the cards questions regarding his fate? How oft have I found you using your powers to look over his well-being, hmm?”

    In one of those rare moments in which he struck her speechless, his attendant stuttered in her attempts to deny any ulterior intent, even if the both of them understood he was aware of the truth. She was not the first to develop a strong bond with one of those who made a contract with the Velvet Room. Though hesitant at first, he came to welcome such feelings, as they were in a way another step made in the direction of answering his own questions regarding the humanity both he and his master valued.

    Such was the reason for his second decision.

    “But regardless, you are right that such a course would be unwise, which is why I’ve considered the presence of another. One whose reward has also yet to come for her diligent services.”

    “Master?” Her tone had fallen apprehensive, surprised by the sudden turn in conversation.

    “It occurs to me that without either the Metaverse or a convenient app to direct his actions, our wild card may find himself a bit lost. As such, it’s only necessary that a guide looks out for him.”

    Wisps of light suddenly rose from around the alarmed attendant, and when she looked to him he saw comprehension as well as a bitter smile.

    “I see. So this is what you’ve been deliberating with yourself as of late. In that case, I will continue to serve him diligently as one of our most honored guests. Master, may we meet…”


    …and like that, she was gone.

    “Now with that matter settled, let’s see what you have left to show me, trickster. I do hope to see you put my own gift to you to good use. After all, is a final compensation not also the merit of a contract?”

    As the Velvet Room once more descended into the depths of its place in the Sea of Souls, what could be heard of Igor’s chuckling eventually drifted into silence.

    -- --

    “Isn’t that the boy that got charged with assault a year ago?”

    “Shh! What are you doing?! Don’t meet eyes with him. Who knows what might make him snap.”

    “I heard his sentence was rescinded on false charges, though? Are you sure he’s as bad as they say?”

    “Maybe, but you can’t be too careful these days, you know? Just because the courts declare a verdict doesn’t make it true. In the end, they’re no different than all the corrupt politicians you see these days.”

    Passing by a trio of girls on his walk through the shopping district, Akira felt a faint hissing coming from his side as both he and his companion overheard their whispered conversation.

    “Funny you should say that, considering they got it wrong the first time too!”

    Patting the bag at his side to calm its occupant, he continued his trek while ignoring the stares he received, grateful yet again that to everyone else Morgana’s biting responses came off as nothing more than cat noises. Such was one of the downsides to living in a small town like this. Everyone knew who you were, whether for better or worse, and gossip made its way around almost overnight.

    Still, he found his outlook brightened with regards to his companion’s defensive attitude, amused at the realization of how much had changed. Back during his first days at Shujin, when similar comments had been made about him so much more openly, the cat had barely lifted a paw aside from the occasional comment of pity. Now, after everything they’d been through, Morgana treated every one of the insults directed at his back as if they were talking about the cat himself.

    A few minutes later, after reaching a narrow street branching off the main road, he passed by the familiar looking homes that made it feel as if he’d been gone far longer than he actually had been. Some kids were playing in the street, yet when he met eyes with the mother watching over them, they were quickly ushered inside, a tone of caution in her voice answering the children’s complaints. He’d never realized he was so recognized.

    Following the path that now felt so strangely foreign, he almost walked passed the plate with his family’s name on it. He only noticed thanks to Morgana’s last-minute observation, and he discovered that when it came to strange, his walk through town didn’t hold a candle to how it felt to cross the threshold of his family’s property with such a strong sense of anxiety. He stood still there for a second, before with a sigh, he finally managed the last push, and after a knock opened the door.

    “I’m home,” he called out, not that he was expecting an answer, and neither did he get one. Both his parents had warned him beforehand not to expect any kind of welcome party. His father was on a business trip overseas, while his mother was enjoying a short vacation at the local hot springs resort with some friends for the week.

    It should probably be mentioned both of them had known he was coming back since the month before.

    Rolling his shoulders to deal with the stiffness that seemed to always accompany rides on the train, he once again took a moment to accept that he was really doing this. Spending the opening days of spring break with his friends had made all of this seem like nothing more than a dream, that in the end after everything he’d find himself heading back to Tokyo with the rest of them.

    It only became real when in unusual behavior for the Thieves they lost track of time, Makoto realizing she and Haru only had a couple days to prepare for their entrance exams and needed to return immediately in order to prepare. As such, rather than drive him the full-length home as had been the plan, his final farewell with his friends had instead taken place at a station set in-between their separate destinations.

    “Well, welcome home, I guess.”

    He chuckled at the cat’s sarcastic greeting, likely the best thing he could expect considering his current situation. Morgana would likely be the only one welcoming him to anything for quite some time. He could almost feel the sigh coming from the bag at his side in response, and wasn’t surprised at the shift in weight as the cat moved until his front paws were on his shoulder, eyes set on getting a feel for what was to become home for them both.

    “So, this is where you live, huh?”

    Morgana likely couldn’t have made his distaste any more apparent in his tone.

    “It’s funny. This is so much nicer than your space in that coffee shop’s attic, I mean it’s an actual house after all, yet already I find myself wanting to go back. Guess this is a case of ‘home is where the heart is’, eh?”

    “It’s not like you ever kept the distance between you and your parents a secret, but I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that hearing about something by proxy and seeing it firsthand end up giving such different impressions. Makes me realize I never appreciated the warmth that came just with having someone there to greet you every time you returned to LeBlanc, biting reprimand or not.”

    “I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that our leader was raised by a dad who’s close to totally absent from home due to long commutes or distant business trips, and a mom who does nothing more than express her disappointment in him. We spent all that time changing the hearts of people in Tokyo when maybe the first place we should have focused on was your own home. Geez, even when he still thought of you as a punk, boss still treated you better.”

    The cat seemed to wilt after that, looking to him suddenly apologetic.

    “I’m ranting, aren’t I? Sorry about that. This is supposed to be your triumphant return home, right? We should be out celebrating. Preferably with lots of sushi!”

    Mona’s excitement was short-lived. “It’s just… the Phantom Thieves, Igor and Lavenza, Japan, maybe even the world. We all owe you for what you did. You saved us, all of us, and it’s only natural you should get some kind of compensation for that. While the team did manage to get that assault charge against you overturned, despite all of that, even now it just… feels like you’re always getting shoved into a corner to be forgotten.”

    Akira answered that in his typically silent manner, choosing instead to smile fondly as he scratched his partner behind the ear. As for his thoughts, the final words he received from Lavenza came to mind, and he found he disagreed with Morgana’s line of thought.

    “The last Arcana you have taken hold of is ‘The World.’ It is the willpower to stand up in this world on your own feet, unswayed by no one. That will become the basis of hope toward a future with your teammates who share the same belief. Now that you've gained that power, you are no longer an existence that wanders alone...”

    Even if the stigma of his departure remained regardless of Shido’s confession, even if the heroics of the Phantom Thieves were forgotten by all but his confidants, he had his friends, and that was all he could ever ask for. Just as Morgana thought they all owed him something for laying down the final blow on that false god, even later turning himself in to further protect them, he, in turn, felt a debt owed to each of them for helping him get there to begin with.

    It was because of them he could even consider returning home like this in the first place.

    To seek credit for his actions, to desire fame or acknowledgment, would only place him on the same path as Akechi. He had seen firsthand the destruction of where that would lead him, the memory of a falling shutter and ominous gunshots coming to mind. The power of the Wild Card may have been infinite in its potential, but that only held true when one learned to value the bonds that gave it such strength to begin with.

    Then with timing that seemed almost perfect in pulling him from his thoughts, his phone vibrated with the notice of a new text message, and he wasn’t surprised to see who it was from.

    [Ryuji: Hey man. How’re you setting up on your first day back?]

    He struggled briefly with how to word his response before he just ended up going with the truth.

    [Ryuji: Still labeled even after all that crap we did to get your name cleared, huh? That’s rough, buddy. You sure it was the right choice to head back home in your situation? You know you can call me if you ever find yourself in any trouble, right?]

    [Ryuji: Just because I’m half a country away doesn’t mean I don’t got your back, Joker. Give me a call, and I’ll make sure to get the train out there in record time. As for when it comes to the parts where I’m on my feet, I’ve even got most of my old form back.]

    Ryuji never changed it seemed. He was rude and crass and picked a fight with Morgana at every opportunity, but in the end, he couldn’t imagine anyone more loyal to call his best friend. Though the cat shooting him looks of concern certainly made good on competing for the rank.

    Sending his buddy a short affirmative, he made for the stairs as well as the bedrooms on the second floor that lied beyond. There were four of them, one each for his parents who had slept separated ever since his days in elementary school, a guest bedroom whose past occupants he could count on one hand, and then, of course, his own at the furthest end of the landing. To be honest, that distance hadn’t meant something until after he’d entered high school, when it became clear the space between him and his parents had become more than just physical.

    Opening the door, aside from the sight of a familiar box sitting at the center, he found that everything within lay untouched in the year of his absence, a realization that left him feeling more wistful than he’d been expecting. That was as far as he let it bother him, however, and he soon got to work on settling in.

    First things, first. Time to tidy up. Not that there was much to do really, but this place could use a good dusting. It was about time he put the skills he learned from Kawakami to good use.

    In what felt like record time his futon was made, his desk cleared, a series of gifts sat on his dresser, while Desire and Hope hung securely on his wall. If his time stuck in that dusty attic hadn’t been enough to increase his housekeeping skills, then his time cleaning up after both Futaba and Ryuji certainly was.

    Speaking of whom, he barely managed to set up the laptop he’d repaired at his desk before he got the alert of a requested video call. Already aware of who he could expect on the other end, he accepted the invite, only to find himself face-to-face with Alibaba herself sitting in one of the booths at LeBlanc, several friendly faces hovering over her shoulder.

    “There he is!” came Ryuji’s familiar voice, leaning over the seat from the booth behind the one the hacker was sitting in.

    “Of course it is. Who the heck did you think I was calling, idiot?” was Futaba’s sharp reply.

    “It’s good to see you, Joker. How has home treated you so far?” was Yusuke’s cool voice, skillfully ignorant of the squabble starting between the two next to him.

    “Ryuji gave us a bit of an update, but we thought it’d be good for all of us to hear it from the source.” Though he couldn’t see her on-screen, that voice could belong to none other than Makoto.

    “Um, are you all sure this is necessary? Didn’t we say goodbye to him only this morning?” That inquisitive tone could only be Haru.

    “Oh, don’t even start. You were just as eager to talk with him as the rest of us were.” It amused him how easy it was to imagine Ann rolling her eyes.

    Like that, any thoughts regarding him and his parents promptly dispersed like dust in the wind, replaced by his usual amusement whenever he found all the Thieves gathered in the same place.

    “You tryin’ to pick a fight?”

    “Hardly. I mean, wouldn’t be much of one.”

    “What was that?!”

    “See? That’s what I mean. You’re way too easy to rile up, Ryuji. There’s no challenge in it.”

    “They never change, even when you’re gone, do they?” spoke the cat at his side.

    He shook his head at the familiar antics. It seemed regardless of who it was, Futaba could find a way to raise their irritation from 0 to 100 in record time. It was perhaps only due to an oversight that she’d only set her eyes on Yusuke and Morgana in the past, and now one of the said targets was gone, leaving the girl to find new waters.

    His heart went out to Makoto, whose exasperated sigh reached him over the voices of the two arguing in front of him.

    “Is this what they call a lover’s quarrel? I believe one of my classmates termed the phrase ‘tsundere’. Most fascinating.”

    Yet with a skill that it seemed only he alone possessed, Yusuke halted both of them in their tracks, immediately thereafter becoming a target of their combined ire.

    “Shut up, Inari.”

    “Pervert Inari.”

    “Who are you calling a pervert?!” Such was how the fighting renewed, now with a third party.

    The screen was turned, away from the fighting trio and to the three girls sitting on the opposite side of the booth. He was met with Makoto’s exasperation, Ann’s amusement, and a friendly wave from Haru, who chose the wisest course of ignoring the three entirely.

    “So, how’s home?” questioned the heiress.

    He shrugged. “Not much to report on, really. Same old stigma, same old story.”

    Somehow, that was what proved to be enough to cease the other three’s bickering, while in the meantime the three girls in front of him looked like they were going to start something in turn. Though he had no clue as to who with. Yet that reaction came as no surprise, as all his friends had been like that for as long as he’d known them. So quick to come to his defense no matter the situation. More than once he’d had to hold back Ryuji from starting a fight, while Yusuke was generally quick with the cunning remark, further earning him his rights to his nickname.

    As for the girls…

    Contrary to his Persona, Akira was no fool. He’d noticed the signs. Yet as much as he entertained the thought of a deeper relationship with one of his friends, unity amongst the Thieves had taken precedence, and the last thing he could afford to do was disrupt that as their leader. Now as far from them as he was, he only felt impressed that had been the right choice, as none of the girls in their group deserved to be forced into such a long-distance relationship.

    To Futaba, he was her ‘key item’. The person that allowed her to break out of her shell just by his presence. A result of the trust she placed in him as the leader of those who had finally helped her to open her heart. It certainly didn’t help matters when it became apparent Sojiro had come to accept him as something close to family.

    As for the heiress, from their first meeting, Haru continued to uphold him as some kind of hero standing above even the rest of the Thieves. Feelings which were only reinforced after giving her the courage to break off her unwanted engagement and learn to once again trust those who had worked closely with her father.

    It had taken him a bit longer to understand Makoto’s infatuation, but from what he’d been able to gather it had something to do with the fact that she regarded him as the one of had given her life purpose, who had given Queen the outlet she needed to finally break loose of the monotony of her life as well as a group that needed her. It also seemed that his life experience varied so greatly from her own that she had come to regard him as some kind of teacher.

    Amongst that, for the longest time, Ann seemed to be the only female member of the Phantom Thieves who didn’t hide a deeper infatuation with him, but even that had been disproved shortly after he’d turned himself in on Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been there to see it for himself, but from he had gotten from Ryuji, from then on the girl had shown a ferocity she’d never shown before. Even with Kamoshida. If that didn’t settle matters, then the hug that spoke of deeper things she had given him upon his return certainly had.

    Then shortly after that had been the time that Valentine’s day had rolled around, and when he found himself gifted with chocolate not only from each of the girls in the Phantoms, but from several others as well that he’d never even considered, Akira had to accept the fact he hadn’t grasped the female attention that surrounded him nearly as well as he’d deluded himself to believe.

    Well, it was probably a redundant matter by this point anyway. Separated now as they were, the girls would likely set their eyes on guys closer to home. After all, there was no way they’d continue to uphold him so highly in their hearts, right?

    He ignored the voice in the back of his head taunting, ‘absence only makes the heart grow fonder.’

    For now though, “Relax guys. This was my choice, remember? No different than my first months at Shujin.”

    That proved to calm their irritation, if only temporarily, as thereafter in an inquisitive tone he heard Ryuji’s voice. “Hey, leader, you never really explained to me why you did decide to go back anyway. Any insights you’re willing to share?”

    The curious look on the girls’ faces proved that the delinquent wasn’t the only one wondering such a thing. He shrugged, as there was nothing really complicated about it honestly.

    “After watching all of my friends address their pasts and growing stronger from doing such, as the guy they’ve trusted to be their leader, how could I avoid trying to do the same?”

    He could see his best friend slide into the booth behind the girls, a resigned smile already on his lips.

    “Dammit, man. When you put it like that… well, what would it say about me not to support you with our roles reversed?” Ryuji then grumbled, “Not that I think you need our help. After everything I’ve seen you do – I mean I still can’t believe you killed a god, dude! – making up with your folks seems like kind of a cakewalk in comparison.”

    Personally, he’d rather face Yaldabaoth another dozen times before seeing his mother, but placing that aside for now, “Perhaps, but it’s appreciated nonetheless. You guys have always been my strength.” Based on the smiles he got in return for that response, he assumed that had been the right thing to say.

    “In that case, make sure to let us know the moment there’s anything we can do to help, you know?” Ann said.

    Makoto nodded. “Indeed. Haru and I may be preoccupied in the near future with entrance exams and the like, but I think I speak for both of us when I say we’re willing to put that on hold if it’s for your sake.”

    “Don’t worry about me! As our skilled and trusted navi, getting into high school should be as easy as beating the first boss in new game plus!”

    “Between college and taking over the reins from my father, I can’t promise how much free time I’ll have, but if you ever find yourself short on funds just let me know, okay?”

    “In that case, as a destitute artist, I’d like to request a…”

    “I don’t believe I was talking to you, Yu-chan.”

    “Ouch. Stone cold, princess. Well anyway, you heard ‘em, Joker. I’m sure we’ve dropped the line so often we’re making it go outta style, but we got your back, dude.”

    “We’re relying on you, Mona, to tell us if he ever tries to tackle anything on his own.” Akira chuckled in amusement at Ann’s sendoff, Morgana doing his best imitation of a salute using his tail. His friends knew him all too well it seemed.

    With little else to say for the time being, he disconnected the call shortly after that, making his way down to the kitchen to prepare dinner for himself and Morgana. Yet just as he reached the fridge, he found something pinned on the door he wasn’t expecting: a note addressed to him, left behind by his mother.

    ‘By the way, we have some family planning on visiting with us for a while. It looks like it’s going to be under some… extended circumstances. Don’t do anything weird, and don’t cause any trouble. You know what I expect of you. If she calls me to complain about anything…’

    His mother had apparently decided to leave the threat hanging as usual. Such comments had been frequent during his trial a year ago, and it seemed that in the course of things she’d picked up the habit more permanently. How wonderful, he thought sarcastically.

    Then with some kind of wicked timing, the doorbell rung right after that, yet Akira found himself preoccupied with his own confusion. He hadn’t seen a member of his extended family in years. His grandparents on both sides had passed away a couple years ago, his mother raised as an only child, while his father and aunt hadn’t been on speaking terms for longer than he could remember. So who was it that was visiting?

    He shared as much with Morgana. “Well, the most courteous thing you can do is at least see who it is, right? We can figure out what to do with them after that,” had been the cat’s advice.

    Such was how he found himself standing in the doorway, struck utterly speechless as he came face-to-face with a girl he believed he’d never see again.

    “Good evening, trickster. I believe this is our first meeting outside of the Velvet Room, is it not? May I enter?”

    Lavenza?

    If the platinum hair in a country like Japan wasn’t a dead giveaway, then her curtsy in the blue Victorian dress she was wearing certainly was. There’s was something quite clearly different about her from the last time they met however. Namely, that the top of her head now reached up to the bottom of his chin rather than barely past his waist. Well, that was certainly some growth spurt.

    He did his best to ignore the fact that her height wasn’t the only thing that had grown either.

    Fortunately, her greeting managed to shake off whatever kind of mental shutdown he experienced with her appearance. Behind him, Morgana wasn’t faring as favorably, the cat’s expression stuck in one of muted shock. Or well, at least until his precarious position on the stairs finally reached its tipping point, and the cat found the rest of his way to the ground floor in a series of barrel rolls.

    So much for cats always landing on their feet…

    Back with Akira though, the boy groaned, running a hand through his black hair as none of the implications behind this boded well. Still, both she and her master’s intentions for him had yet to be proven anything close to ill, and so he stood aside while gesturing with his arm to let her in.

    Seems it had been one of his strokes of luck when he’d decided to grab a little extra for dinner when grabbing a few groceries on his way home. He hoped she liked curry.

    -- --

    A short time later found his two guests gathered at his home’s dining table, Akira himself set over the sink as he cleaned what dishes had been used for the night’s meal.

    “I’ll admit that when I imagine the many paths of the wild card, this isn’t one that I consider. Regardless, the meal was splendid. I assume it’s a recipe you gained from one of your confidants?”

    His response was to gesture towards the small notebook that sat on the island behind him given to him as a farewell gift from the chief, a personal recording of a number of the man’s favorite recipes and coffee blends.

    “As I thought. As your previous guide, it warms my heart to see you maintaining the value of the bonds you made over the course of your rehabilitation. Though to taste the results myself was admittedly not a situation I ever thought would be possible.”

    Looking at her over his shoulder, he turned off the faucet, drying his hands while his eyes visibly overflowed with perplexity.

    As usual, Morgana read his silence like a book, “I believe he’s asking you why it is you are here? A question I’d personally like to second as our next discussion.”

    “And it’s an explanation I’m more than happy to give, though I fear the fullness of things as they are hasn't been revealed to myself either.” Both he and Morgana flinched back when in a flash of energy from a Persona-user, the Compendium appeared on the table before her. While the two of them exchanged looks, they maintained their silence, expecting that too was a part of her explanation.

    “My master pulled a few strings, and in doing so used the remnants of the distortions you and your friends fought to secure me a more permanent place in this world. It seems that as a result of that your parents, as well as the world, believes me to be your cousin, whose parents were victims amongst the mental shutdown incidents: Lavenza Kurusu. Only those amongst your fellow Persona-users, and perhaps some you’ve built a strong bond with, will be able to see past the distortion.”

    Unexpectedly, she suddenly changed character, muttering in a manner that almost had him mistake her for Caroline, “Apparently, it’s also only now that the old geezer takes into account my desire to be taller as well.”

    He chose to ignore that, focusing instead on the matter of Igor’s motivations. While he understood she spoke the truth, as stranger things had found their way into his life from the Metaverse, he could only shake his head at the sheer ridiculousness that came with such an action. Every time it felt he was growing closer to understanding just who this girl or her master were, they managed to pull something like this out from under his feet. He was grateful they could be accounted amongst his confidants, as the very concept of facing them as enemies gave him pause.

    “As for the reasoning behind such a choice,” she continued as if her change had never occurred, “the matter seems to be one that once again concerns the world at large, as well as one of a much more... personal manner.”

    He had no idea how to respond to the blush that was making its way on her cheeks at that admission, at least until the words this girl had sent with him shortly before their last meeting came to mind.

    “I love you, my trickster.”

    With everything else that had been going on at the time he’d forgotten his embarrassment at such a clear confession, but now that all of that had passed, well… it didn’t get much more honest than that.

    “Your expression tells me you recall what I speak of. I’m glad to see my feelings weren’t disregarded. For while I’ll admit that for reasons I do not understand I find myself agreeable with the new title I’ve been given, I do believe the two are related. Is this what they refer to as the feelings of a newly-wedded housewife?”

    Nope. Not touching that. He was still in high school! He should be learning the basics on dating, not considering marriage!

    Lavenza continued, though he had no way to determine if she was either purposely ignoring or actually oblivious to his distress. “With that said, I feel it’s my responsibility to inform you I’m not the first Velvet Room attendant to grow… attached to one of our visitors, and it’s likely I won’t be the last either. Such is to be expected when one works so closely in matters of bonds and emotions. While I suspect my master’s decision has something to do with that, sadly, even I can’t foresee what he ultimately intends with these events.”

    “I always thought it was unbecoming for an attendant to do anything else other than perform her or his tasks as a resident of the Velvet Room, or at least I did until now. Yet now I find myself asking what happened to those who came before myself, the sisters I once worked alongside, and if in their own way this is the fate of every attendant, to be released into reality to answer our own questions regarding the humanity of the contractors we work so intimately with.”

    “It’s for that reason I ask you to watch over me during this time, as I decipher what these emotions I struggle with mean exactly, as well as how I should act on them. I feel that the process will prove to be a learning experience for the both of us. Please pardon my intrusion, as I ask to rely on your generosity once more.”

    Was she asking him to stay? Considerate, maybe, but a bit redundant by this point. Even if he entertained the thought of refusing, which he didn’t, was it even possible for him at this point? Ignoring the fact that from his parent’s perspective it’d be the same as kicking out a girl that’d been entrusted to their care, there was the simple fact of just how much this girl had done for him, as well as the vital role she’d played in Yaldabaoth’s defeat. A homestay was the least he could offer as appreciation for all that she’d done.

    And aside from that, would it really be so bad to have another friendly face at his side in his current predicament? He told Lavenza about as much.

    She smiled at his answer, a gentle expression that hinted at something a little more. “Your kindness knows no bounds, it seems. You did well to build so many of your social traits during your time in rehabilitation. From this day forth I’ll be in your care then.”

    “Well with that settled,” said Morgana, “I think it’d be a good time to show her where she’ll be staying during this time, don’t you? After all, I’m still interested in seeing the rest of your house too.”

    Nodding, he checked that everything was left in an orderly fashion before heading to the stairs once more, Morgana making a practiced bound from the table to the island and then his shoulder as he passed. He could never quite place how he was supposed to feel at such a thing becoming so familiar to him, but he wouldn’t have cared either way. With Lavenza following with the Compendium in a modest fashion after he beckoned her with a nod, they were on the second landing once again, and he opened the door to a room not much different than his own, except for one subtle – obvious – difference.

    “Seriously?” came the agitated comment from his shoulder as Morgana noticed the same that he did. “This place looks like it was cleaned just yesterday. And look at the size of that bed! It’s twice as big as yours! There’s even a flat screen! If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we were in a hotel! Are your parent’s rooms this nice as well? Is your mom trying to make it a point to say how much she doesn’t want you here?”

    He shrugged, as it wasn’t as much that as much as the fact he’d never shown any concern for such things before, and it probably went without saying his parents weren’t the type that just handed him casual gifts. He’d never had problems sleeping in his bed, and he’d never been one to express much interest in television before Ryuji and Futaba had both made it their personal mission to make him into a gamer.

    Then Shinya came along, and took all of that to another level. Now that he thought about it, he wondered how his high score in Gun About was faring.

    The cat jumped down to the floor, turning to glare up at him. “You know, I recognize that you’re our cool and fearless leader, but I’m getting tired of that nonchalant response to every insult someone throws your way. Makes me feel like I’m overreacting to all of this.”

    “Someone has to be there to keep you and Ryuji in line,” was his response.

    “Tch.”

    “If I might interrupt,” said Lavenza as she entered the room behind them, “I believe I’ve missed something in the course of my arrival.”

    Directing his attention to their confused guest, the feline was all too happy to oblige. “Without boring you with the details, the situation between Akira and his parents is… complicated. Enough so that I still question his choice to come back. While all I know is what he’s told me, from my understanding when he was shipped off to Tokyo on those false charges, his parents… weren’t exactly heartbroken to see him go. All they seem to care about is their own image.”

    As if to contrast Morgana’s irritation, his previous warden chose instead to regard him with a proud smile, the same one she had given him after he’d handed himself over the police. “I see, so rather than embracing your safe return, your parents are merely concerned at the effects your reputation will have on their standing in society. Yet another ironic turn of events for the one responsible for saving the souls of humanity. Regardless, I believe your choice to return was the correct one, if for no other reason than because it’s the choice you made of your own volition. Whatever else your future may hold in store, never let go of that conviction.”

    He nodded. He’d never intended anything less.

    Her grin then turned a bit mischievous, “Though I wonder: why is it not the one concerned who’s telling me all of this?”

    He laughed. “Morgana tends to feel that I sell my own problems short…”

    “Because you do!”

    “…so I’ve gotten used to him and a number of my other friends generally being the ones to share the details of my past whenever a friend asks about it. For some reason, they all seem to think I got dealt the harshest hand amongst us outcasts.”

    Somehow, the pride in her eyes only seemed to deepen, “So that too could be considered a part of the bond shared between you and those who have chosen to follow you. While I encourage you to never dwell on the past, please cherish that concern your teammates show for you, as well as the love that drives it.”

    “I always do.”

    “I believe you. You wouldn’t have been able to save us in our darkest hour if you didn’t.” Moving until she was sitting on the bed, for the first time in their conversation, her expression fell into a frown. “It’s getting late, but before you part, there’s one last matter I must address with you. The growing concern for which my master has sent me, and why it is that I’ve been asked to behave as your guide one more.”

    “First, shall we review the contents of the Compendium?”

    -- --

    Lying in his bed, Akira pondered those words as he stared up at his ceiling, as well as everything that came after:

    The grail. A test. And coming ruin.

    Leaving him with everything Igor had in turn left with her, Lavenza nonetheless left him with more questions than she did answers. Yet he’d grown accustomed to such cryptic messages regarding the future thanks to Chihaya. Due to that, he recognized it for the warning that it was, running through the list of possible meanings with Morgana.

    “I guess before any of that though,” Morgana theorized, concerned blue eyes looking to him from the ball of black fur curled up at his side, “we should be asking how it is we’re expected to fight back. Regardless of what that Compendium says, Mementos was destroyed, and with it so too was our ability to fight as Phantom Thieves. Without that or our Persona, neither of us is anything more than the cat and student we both represent. Do you think it has something to do with the gift Lavenza mentioned Igor giving to you?”

    “It’s possible,” Akira muttered, “but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re still just speculating. Maybe it’d be best to sleep on it for now, and talk about it with the rest of the team tomorrow. After all, we still need to tell them about Lavenza too.”

    “Yeah,” was the despondent reply, “I guess you’re right, Joker. If that’s the case, maybe it’d best to change the subject. What are your plans for tomorrow?”

    “Shopping.”

    An incredulous expression. “Huh?”

    “Lavenza needs clothes. Can’t exactly have her wandering around as she is if we want anyone to regard her as anything more than a dedicated cosplayer. Not to mention the kind of perverted weirdos that stuff tends to attract. It’ll be a good opportunity to show her where everything is too.”

    The cat sighed, “There you go again, thinking of other’s needs before your own. Every time I look you’re always running somewhere to help someone or working to ensure the success of the Thieves. Even when I think you’re finally doing something for yourself all it turns out to be is some way to improve yourself as our leader. One of these days I’m going to convince you to ignore all those invitations and just do something for yourself, no leader strings attached.”

    He chuckled. “Love you too, buddy.”

    “Are you even listening?! Well, whatever. That’s certainly not a bad trait to have, and if you’ve managed this long I suppose I don’t have to worry about you crashing on me. Just… consider it, okay? I don’t think anyone would think less of you if you acted selfishly every once in a while.”

    He reached over to scratch the cat in his favorite spot beneath his collar. He’d always appreciate the concern, but it was his role as their leader, a task they each trusted him with, to put his teammates’ needs first. Asking them to allow him that, to sacrifice his needs for theirs, was his selfishness.

    If he had any say in it, it always would be.

    -- --

    “Thank you once again for today. Placing aside the need for clothing other than that of which I came with, it was an enriching experience to interact with the livelihoods you and your friends fought so hard to protect. I only hope that with time I can see the same potential in them that I do in you.”

    Leaving the station that had taken them to the shopping district that was a town over, the girl at his side once again thanked him for their day together. Well, them and the scoffing feline that just made himself known from his bag, to be more precise.

    “Unlikely. No matter how you look at it, this guy is special, but we’re both more than aware of that. Right?”

    “Of course.” She smiled softly. “He wouldn’t be my trickster if he wasn’t. Nevertheless, there are many things that were impossible to understand whilst a resident of the Velvet Room, and I imagine that too plays a part in my master’s decision to give you my assistance.”

    “Though on an unrelated topic, I feel it necessary to ask: do such clothes really suit me?”

    Akira gave her another once over, a blouse and skirt of familiar color scheme replacing her previous dress. It was the same regardless of how many of the retail bags on his person you looked through. The respective blue and black combination just fit her best, regardless of how many other patterns he’d had her try. Though he supposed it probably had something to do with the headband she refused to remove.

    Personally, he thought she looked adorable. Had the guts to tell her as much too.

    The light blush that dusted her cheeks told him of her appreciation for the remark.

    While the neighboring collection of clothing stores certainly held no candle to Takenoko Street, it was enough to keep the attention of the local girls from what he understood, and that usually meant enough from his meager experience. In the end, as he expected, it had fallen on his shoulders to pick out outfits for the girl to wear, and if he were completely honest with himself, he wasn’t half bad at it.

    One of the benefits that came with one of your best friends being the daughter of two fashion designers he suspected, not to mention the experience that came with accompanying her to no small number of her photo shoots. According to Ann, his charm and charisma were such that the only thing that stopped her from inviting him to participate in said photo shoots was his deliberate decision to refuse to move away from his black and white wardrobe.

    Well, that and the inevitable gossip that would’ve followed such a thing. Mika and the magazine photographers already held enough suspicions as it was.

    What could he say? Fashion sense or not, despite his style Joker was, first and foremost, practical.

    Surprisingly, his biggest concern of the day, the cost of their ventures, ended up being a non-issue after a message to his mother. While he wouldn’t claim his family was as well off as perhaps Haru’s or Ann’s backgrounds, both his parents were successful in their careers, and living in a ‘country town’ as Sojiro liked to call it, came with its advantages.

    Matters with his parents might’ve been considered strained at best for the time being, but contrary to Morgana’s feelings, that didn’t mean they purposely intended to leave him high and dry.

    “Who’s that girl? You think she’s a foreigner? Wait, is she hanging out with him?”

    “The hell? Do you think he’s blackmailing her into spending time with him?”

    “I don’t know. Do you think we should report this to the police?”

    He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the whispers that rolled off his shoulders. Yet, while he long since had grown accustomed to such statements, the girl at his side obviously wasn’t, her smile dropping into that of sad resignation.

    “I believe I’m beginning to understand the point your companion is making,” Lavenza said. “It seems that regardless of where we go, such comments follow at your heels like a shadow. It seems that the unjust game you were dragged into continues still. If there is any matter you wish to speak with me, even if it’s simply a desire to vent, know that you have a willing listener in myself.”

    “That goes for me too, you know,” added Morgana.

    “Ah.” He nodded, acknowledging that their friendship was the very reason he could weather such comments with ease.

    It was during the silence that followed that it happened. Just like the first time, it was subtle, a brief feeling of sudden lightheadedness serving as the only sign that something was off.

    The sudden absence of any gossip was the next thing to tip him off, and when he looked, the streets that had just been crowded with high school students enjoying the last of their break and adults heading home from work were nowhere to be seen. When he turned around, it was with an abundance of relief that he saw Lavenza still followed him, and the shifting from his bag told him Morgana was still with them too.

    When a still-normal cat poked his head out to look up at him, he briefly considered he was wrong, and that they’d merely taken a wrong turn at some point.

    …but that’s when a gasp came from behind him, and when he found Lavenza looking back from the way they’d come, eyes wide and brimming with confusion, he made the mistake of doing the same. He almost dropped everything he was carrying at what he saw.

    The entire town was wrapped in flames, the full destruction hidden behind a veil of black smoke. The sky was dyed red by the fire, the ground burnt to the color of charcoal, and even at their current distance, the flames were intense enough that he immediately grasped it was impossible for there to be any survivors amongst such carnage.

    With that realization, for the sake of innocent lives his surprise became a prayer that his suspicions were true.

    Somehow, they’d done what he thought was impossible, entering the Metaverse once again.

    -- --

    The first thing he did was find a safe place to store their packages. After that came the time for answers, and he pulled out his phone, expecting to see the ominous eye icon of the Metaverse Navigator. Contrary to his expectations however, no matter where he looked it was absent. That, more than anything, told him something was wrong.

    “Can’t find it, huh?” Morgana said, having previously jumped to the ground the moment he realized they were alone. “Makes sense. It was a creation of Yaldabaoth, after all. It would only make sense that with him gone the app should be as well. That being the case…”

    He looked apprehensively to the inferno that was rapidly gaining ground towards them. “That doesn’t leave us with a lot of answers as to what’s going on. If that weren’t bad enough, none of us seem to be considered a threat, which not only leaves us with our regular appearance but somehow incapable of summoning our Persona as well. As things stand, I can’t imagine us being caught any more defenseless. The only thing going for us right now is that I fail to sense the presence of any shadows, but I’m not sure for how long we can count on that. Lavenza, any thoughts?”

    “Nothing more than what you’ve already summarized,” she admitted, posture fully guarded in a fashion that reminded Akira that despite everything else, this girl was still a ruler of power. “However, I believe it’d be safe to assume this is related to the matter my master spoke of. Still, the distortion in this place is one I’m completely unfamiliar with. If this truly is the Metaverse, then it should be impossible for an attendant such as myself to be incapable of calling on her powers like this.”

    “I see. Then I guess that leaves us with no other alternative than to investigate. What do you think, Joker? As our leader it’s your call. Do we look into the cause of this place further, or would you rather we look for a way out instead?”

    He’d be lying to say he wasn’t tempted to choose the latter, but their discussion the previous night stayed his hand. Igor warned that ruin was still coming, and if what Lavenza suspected was true, then that meant running away from this would only render every achievement the Thieves had ever made meaningless.

    Unfortunately, any decision he might’ve made on the subject was taken from his hands.

    “What the…?! How?! Joker! Lavenza! Heads up, we’re surrounded!”

    It rose from the ground beneath their feet. The familiar miasma of a shadow awakening, and completely unguarded as they were, they were left entirely to its mercy as all three of them were thrown in the air.

    His landing left him breathless, impacting through the glass window of a nearby café, and tumbling over one of the booths. Once he managed to get his head to stop spinning, he checked himself for injuries, satisfied to find that though bruised, nothing was broken.

    His good tidings were crushed however at the sight that greeted him the moment he could stand.

    The other two had ended up being thrown in the opposite direction as himself, and though they too were sporting superficial injuries at best, their situation was increasingly direr. Several dark shapes surrounded them, their appearances masked by some sort of darkness, and despite Morgana’s continued cries of “Persona!” it seemed no help would be coming their way.

    Though he tried to move, he found himself instead rooted in indecision. He would stick his neck out for a friend in a heartbeat, but as he was right now, what could he do? He had no weapons, no jacket, and just like the feline, regardless of how many times he called for any of the Persona at his disposal, nobody came.

    He shook his head, grunting in frustration. Dammit, how the hell did that change anything?! His friends were in danger. Even if it was just to stall to give them time to escape, he could at least prove himself a distraction!

    Regardless of what kind of fate awaited him!

    Like that had been some kind of answer, that was when the headache struck. The pain he’d almost forgotten of a year ago burned inside his head, but unlike previously, it didn’t stop there, and soon it encompassed everything about him. Next thing he knew, he’d fallen to his knee, hands pressed against his head as he screamed. The fire that seemed to surround him grew to the point he almost lost his renewed resolve, hoping that by doing so the pain would abate.

    But Akira Kurusu was one who’d managed the willpower to stand up against society, the world, and even a god. He would not be broken so easily, and eventually, it proved to be enough.

    The pain abated, replaced by a voice that resounded within his head, one he recognized had stood against him as his enemy only a few short months ago. However, gone was the tone of mockery and superiority, replaced instead by respect and even… fealty?

    You who have passed all trials placed before you, and been chosen to stand as the champion of humanity. I have heeded your resolve.


    Though previously we fought as foes, as the one to emerge victoriously, I bow to you as my new master. Let thy will be the light to guide humanity’s desire into the future.

    Now let us form a contract. I am thou, thou art I… Let the rebellion within thee light a fire to oppose the will of he who wishes to control all.

    Bear my seal, and call upon humanity’s greatest champions! Let them become the extension of thy will, and bring forth the age of heroes once more.

    May all those who stand beside thee be bestowed with the strength to stand against the world’s end. Let us adorn your departure from the world with a new Grand Order.

    He almost screamed again at the feeling of a hot iron being placed against the back of his hand, but he nonetheless wasted no time to stand and call on the new power surging within him. Directing it to where his friends stood surrounded, he released the trigger, and was almost blasted off his feet in what followed.

    What may as well have been a guillotine fell upon the ignorant shadows, and the following conversation spoke of nothing but death. Amongst the hurricane of steel and torn miasma that followed, he identified a figure completely encompassed from head to toe in armored plate. Red emblems adorned the metal of an origin he didn’t recognize, and whoever this person was, they wore a helm with horns sticking out in an intimidating fashion.

    The battle was over as quickly as the figure appeared, before he’d managed to cross even half the distance between him and his friends. The figure briefly regarded the two who had fallen to the ground amongst the chaos, and with a ferocity that completely surprised him, he screamed for the figure to bear down their arms.

    They did so, or at least, turned away from his friends to face him. He stopped as the figure regarded him, and he got the distinct impression they were looking for some kind of proof that he deserved any of their respect, so he took the moment to get his first good look at the Persona he had just summoned. Even covered with heavy plate he could still identify the feminine stature underneath, and he felt no surprise as the figure finally approached him, their helm folding backwards once they drew close enough to reveal the face of a girl of blond hair and emerald eyes.

    He knew her name already from the moment she was summoned.

    “From the Sea of Souls I’ve come to answer your call. Servant Mordred, the knight of treachery, stands ready for your orders, Master.”

    –––––

    End: A quick note for those of you who adhere more strictly to the lore that this story will be a bit light on the Nasuverse side. By that, what I mean, is don’t expect many other elements from the Nasuverse other than certain Servants and of course the grail itself. This is, of course, because the crossover elements, as well as the fact this is placed predominantly in Persona’s universe.

    As for Lavenza? Eh, I’m not one to keep my intentions secret, and after the couple extra lines of dialogue you get after presenting her with the Double Bookmark, this pairing is possibly even more canon to me than a number of your other non-Thieves confidants. The fact I found my time with her personality, as short as it was, so enjoyable just compounds all of this.

    As for the real pairing, it’s undecided for the time being, but if it isn’t obvious, I’m keeping my options open. More than one waifu might ruin your laifu, but Fate protagonists seem to make it a habit of throwing that rule to the curve.

    Let me know what you guys think of this new idea. Comments, ideas, criticisms, I’ll take them all. As for Servant suggestions, I offer the same that I do with An Ocean’s Sword: I’ll more than happily take them, but I make no promises as to who’ll actually appear.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I'm off to start writing that Aeon confidant…
    Last edited by Sky Master; March 26th, 2019 at 01:51 AM.

  2. #2
    It is interesting, will keep an eye on it at FF.net.
    For servants suggestion I will suggest the Victorian related servants will show up or each persona 5 main character pair up with one servant each?

  3. #3
    死徒 Dead Apostle hatori's Avatar
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    this is nice.
    I shall serve thy cause, upon my honour, till thy death.
    -Avenger/Jester. Trinity Series.
    Destined Legacies, shamelessly rewriting it since 2010

    When I go random.


  4. #4
    Deadpan Dead People LegalLoliLover's Avatar
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    Besides the obvious comments, I'll just say that I would have assumed that a Persona X Fate crossover would have Yaldabaoth's "game" be a Singularity, but then that would be a crossover starting from Fate, as opposed to your direction to have it start from Persona.
    May the Light of Zvezda Shine Throughout This World!
    Spoiler:

  5. #5
    War sword KooriRenchuu's Avatar
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    And old Yaldy would be a Beast of some sort.
    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    Koori is a miracle of the forum.

    Seriously.

    This fandom needs more happily gay men.

  6. #6
    Deadpan Dead People LegalLoliLover's Avatar
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    Basically.
    Oh, and if this continues, I'd like to request Mordred cat play with Mona.
    Last edited by LegalLoliLover; October 17th, 2017 at 02:06 PM.
    May the Light of Zvezda Shine Throughout This World!
    Spoiler:

  7. #7
    "They're all excellent kids after all." Sky Master's Avatar
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    Chapter 2, Part 1

    A/N: I could give you any number of excuses as for why this took so long to update, but it really just comes down to a lack of motivation. With the New Year though, I decided to put some renewed effort into my writing, and so here we are. For those of you who don’t follow my other story, I’m aiming for shorter updates from here on with the hope that doing so will avoid another long hiatus in the future.

    A thanks to the usual guys, nitewind and BlueHelix, both for the beta work and for still being up to the task after such a long break period.

    –––––

    A Thief Among Heroes
    Chapter 2
    A New Contract (II) – Back in the Game


    –––––​

    “Seriously? You’re it?” A sigh. “What a pathetic looking master the grail has tasked me with.”

    Following with that crude remark, the knightly stature of the girl’s appearance collapsed like a stack of cards, her previous expression replaced with a frown of obvious dissatisfaction. Suddenly, Akira felt himself being measured up in an entirely different fashion, and he could tell without asking that he was sorely lacking whatever it was she sought in him.

    It’s a good thing appearances could be deceiving, especially when it came to thieves.

    On the other hand, the girl in front of him wore the power she held so openly he had no need for either Morgana’s or Futaba’s tactical assessment. Mordred, was it? As a girl who was barely a few centimeters taller than Oracle, he imagined most would write off the intimidation they felt before her as a figment of their imagination. Akira, however, had two previous wardens who had done more than just desensitize him to the idea of associating size with power.

    ‘Be wary of the ankle biters,’ he thought sarcastically, a certain feline also coming to mind.

    And speaking of his favorite cat, “A new Persona? Eh, guess I shouldn’t expect anything less of you by this point. Thanks for the save, Joker.”

    The look said Persona was giving him was hard to decipher, but the raised eyebrow didn’t encourage positive thoughts. “Joker? Is that what your parents actually named you, brat?”

    He shook his head, correcting the misunderstanding. Her look of pity lightened, if only slightly.

    “Akira, you say? Hm, not much of an improvement, but I suppose I never did understand the superstitions of the people and assigning strength to a name.” She turned around, her sword raised once again. “But enough of that. It seems a monster cat approaches us. Master, do you wish me to execute this abomination?”

    “Gaaaaaaaaan. Why is that everyone’s first response?!” With that admittedly… unusual cry, which was pretty standard for his buddy now that he thought about it, the cat recoiled on himself to preserve his self-respect in some measure. He almost rolled his eyes in exasperation, before he stopped as his attention was drawn to the rather important detail that’d apparently changed at some point in the quick skirmish.

    Namely that Morgana’s head was now noticeably disproportioned to the rest of his body, resembling some kind of mascot. For anyone who knew the cat, the implications of what that meant were obvious.

    Did this mean Morgana could use his Persona once more? After all, the cat only changed form like this while his potential was released within the Metaverse, but that asked the question of what conditions had changed. In fact, perhaps the more leading question was what the conditions had been to start with?

    Regrettably, as important as the answers to those questions were, his own transformation was proving itself too great a distraction. It had only been a few short months, but even still it was all too surreal to look down at himself and see a familiar coat, to be able to admire the weight of a familiar mask.

    What the hell was going on here?

    “Oh. I think I broke it,” the sarcastic response from his newest companion shook him from his musings. It seemed that while she willing to acknowledge his partner wasn’t a threat, Mordred wasn’t done tormenting the poor feline, squatting next to the little guy as she prodded him with the pommel of her sword. The interaction was made all the worse once you took into account that her interest seemed to stem from the pitiful noises she got for doing so.

    Silently apologizing for the mistreatment, he made a mental note to buy some tuna the next time he was at the market. Being the team mascot came with its own set of challenges, and it certainly didn’t help that the cat’s ego was about as disproportionately large to his body as the rest of him was.

    With one of his friends accounted for, though perhaps left in less than ideal conditions, he searched for Lavenza. The fire and smoke that surrounded them prevented him from seeing any trace of her, however. Where could she…?

    As if to answer that question, a small hand pulled at the end of his coat. It just so happened that Mordred chose that moment to raise her attention from her current amusement to look in his direction too. She confirmed what he already expected.

    “Oi, boy, what’s with the chibi brats?”

    The irony of who that was coming from wasn’t lost on him.

    Turning around, instead of a girl close in appearance to his own age, he found a pair of much younger twins, both dressed in the outfit of a jail warden.

    Well, this was unexpected.

    It was Justine who had grabbed his attention, and she answered his question before he could give voice to it. “You’re used to fighting along three others, correct? Not including your new Persona, we currently only make for a party of three. Therefore, allow us to offer our services as a means to fill in that void.”

    As usual, her statement was marked by the scoff of her sister. “Be grateful, inmate! Our master told us to look after you, so understand this isn’t something we’d do for just anyone!”

    “Now Caroline,” Justine chastised, “recall that he’s our inmate no longer. In fact, has he not already proven his strength great enough to rival that of the abilities of two rulers of power? His rehabilitation has come to an end, so isn’t it about time you open up your feelings and accept you merely want to fight next to him with the hope that he’ll praise you afterward?”

    Caroline’s response was a blush of such intensity as to rival the heat of the fire behind her. “Justine! What the hell are you saying?! Don’t tell him that! We agreed that…”

    Ignoring her sister’s complaints, the more aloof of the two turned back to him, giving him a warm smile he realized he had only ever seen after meeting Lavenza. “As you can see, we are still a bit self-conscious as to the relationship we wish to pursue with you. Never mind the façade, Caroline has been most excited to speak to you on her own terms. Isn’t that right, sister?”

    Regaining her bearings, the other twin used her hat to try and hide her expression, though it did little to hide the grin on her lips. “Hmph. As if it’s any different for you, Justine. It’s good to see you’re doing alright, inmate. After all the time we invested into your rehabilitation, it’s not like we could let you fall in a place like this.”

    Sadly, the heartwarming reunion wasn’t seen as such by everyone present. “Oi, Master, are you some kind of child molester?”

    He sighed, choosing to ignore however the twins responded to that. If his Persona were actually capable of forming their own opinions of him, then he was doing a great job in failing the first impression here, wasn’t he?

    As if to save him from further scorn, Morgana chose that moment to throw himself into their conversation as well. “One of these days I’m going to have you teach me how you earned all your girl troubles, Joker. With that said, what’s the plan?”

    He’d be sure to thank the cat for getting them back on track later. “For now, find an exit, if there even is one. We were caught blind here, so it’d be best if we reorganize and figure out just what’s going on. We need to warn the others about this, too.”

    “Got it. If you need any healing, let me know! You look like you’re about to fall over.”

    The feline wasn’t wrong in his observations. He hadn’t felt this tired since the first time he’d summoned Arsene, but even in that state, he’d still fought his way out of Kamoshida’s castle. He’d manage.

    “I hope you’re not expecting me to carry you, Master.”

    “Tch. Don’t become useless to us now, Inmate.”

    “What she means to say, Trickster, is please get some rest if you need it. If you desire a lap pillow, she’d also be more than happy to volunteer.”

    “Stop doing that, Justine!”

    -- --​

    His first course of action was to see if they were supposed to get back from the same place where they entered, the general location thankfully marked by the shopping bags they’d left behind earlier. Hopefully, the same rules that applied to the Metaverse would do so here, because he had no clues as to how they’d find an exit otherwise.

    “Oi, Joker! What’s going on with your hand?”

    As it turned out, they didn’t have to look far.

    He still wasn’t certain of the specifics to the contract he’d agreed to when his friends had been in danger. It felt… different from any Persona he’d partnered with previously, different from any Arcana for that matter. He also couldn’t ignore the fact that he and the rest of his team couldn’t access their powers until after his agreement to the terms. The answers to his earlier questions probably lied somewhere in the fact the timing of the two had to be more than mere coincidence.

    One other thing that separated this contract from any he’d made before was the markings that’d appeared on the back of his right hand. Covered by the gloves of his Thieves attire he figured he’d look into it later, but apparently, fate had other plans. What had grabbed his partner’s attention was the light now shining through the material, and taking off his gloves revealed the brand glowing a bright red. A symbol that resembled the grail after it had reverted to a normal chalice, free of Yaldabaoth’s influence.

    …and as if to answer his growing suspicions, the knowledge of what to do next came to him as if it had always been there.

    With a spin that had his coat flaring out behind him, he held his arm high as he spoke confidently.

    “By this seal, I command thee: Open the door between dream and reality.”

    “Wait, Joker, what…” That was the most any of them managed to say as the burning scenery around them drifted away, replaced with the familiar main street of his hometown. He wasn’t surprised to see that the sun had set in the time they’d been caught in the Metaverse, and fortunately there were few similarities between the activity of Tokyo’s nightlife and where he’d grown up. Few individuals were still out and about, and even then most of them seemed to be so deep in a drunken haze they were barely capable of standing on their own feet, let alone sober enough to acknowledge the presence of him and his friends likely appearing from out of nowhere.

    Morgana sighed, his appearance once more that of an ordinary cat. “You always did have an attachment to theatrics. Looks like that hasn’t changed. Though, I have to ask, what would you have done if that hadn’t worked?”

    He didn’t answer. He couldn’t if he wanted to.

    An exhaustion that surpassed anything he’d previously experienced came over him then, and it was only due to a will tempered from the conflict with a god that he managed to remain standing at all. Lavenza was there a second later though, concern reflecting in her golden eyes, her halves once more whole again. As the only thing keeping him from ending up on the ground, he was quickly forming a new appreciation for her newfound height.

    “Here. I’ve got him,” chimed a third voice, from one who couldn’t have been there, who suddenly found herself facing three expressions resembling a deer caught in headlights.



    ……

    ………

    “What? Something wrong with my face? You wanna fight?”

    Forced to say something, he fell back on his usual wit, rather than voice the question he and both his friends undoubtedly shared. “Thought you said you weren’t going to carry me?”

    “Tch.” The knight looked away in irritation, her cheeks brightened with a light shade of embarrassment. She didn’t take back her offer however, the support she offered his shoulder betraying the true strength of her small frame.

    Oddly enough, the girl didn’t seem to need any directions as to where they were going. Though perhaps that should’ve been obvious, if one took the term ‘manifestation of thought’ literally. It was a fortunate turn of events, as neither Morgana nor Lavenza seemed to be in the right mindset to be their guide, the two following idly while lost in thought.

    He didn’t blame them. He wasn’t faring much better himself.

    How was this possible? Persona could only be materialized within the confines of the Metaverse, or at least, he’d never been able to call on one before. He could still remember one particular afternoon in which they’d taken a break from navigating Kamoshida’s castle, when he and Ann had sat in amusement as they watched Ryuji try to summon Captain Kidd for over an hour before Morgana had seen to share that information with them.

    No, now that he thought about it, there had been one exception to that rule. There at the end of everything.

    When the confines of the Metaverse and reality had almost been destroyed, and Yaldabaoth’s influence had begun extending into their world, their Persona had beckoned the call and fought at their sides. He’d never forget fighting above the streets of Shibuya next to his friends as they made the climb back to that foreboding temple.

    If he was right, and the two really were related, then that meant things might be a lot worse than any of them first realized. They needed answers. Hopefully, the difficulty he was having in keeping his eyes open meant he’d soon be getting them.

    Eventually, the task proved itself to be too much.

    His final thought as slumber came upon him was an amusing one. He’d need to do something about the armor this girl was wearing, and see if he could fit her into something more comfortable. If she was staying, he really didn’t need the attention.

    -- --​

    “So it seems our most exciting guest has returned. Welcome, Trickster, to the Velvet Room. A place between dream and reality, mind and matter.”

    It was both nostalgic and strangely foreign to hear Igor’s greeting as he awoke. The contradiction in that took him a moment to place, but once he did it was a bit sad to realize just how short his time with the true Igor had actually been. How ironic was it that the fake had spent as much time as he did training him, ensuring the means to his own destruction? But that thought bothered him for all of about a second before he realized there was something much more alarming regarding present circumstances.

    For the Velvet Room as he had known it was no longer.

    Gone was the jail cell and execution grounds, replaced with something quite a bit more welcoming, and just that much more familiar. He found himself seated at your standard booth, wooden beams and brick walls lining the exterior around him. Every window he could spot was covered in a blue veil, the same which also covered each of the tables set up around him. He almost felt like he was back at LeBlanc, though it seemed this place had its own name.

    Ahnenerbe, huh? He pondered if the name had significance. While he didn’t recognize it, it was possible Futaba or Makoto might know something.

    It should’ve gone without saying that his first question to the man sitting across from him had to do with the change in scenery. After a short chuckle, his host answered.

    “You already know that the Velvet Room is merely the reflection of one’s heart. Is it so surprising that after everything that’s happened, Trickster, your heart might change from a place of self-imprisonment to one where one can come and go freely, as well as have their burdens lifted? Your friends were not the only ones who grew from your time together.”

    He found it difficult to meet the pride in Igor’s eyes. Well, when he phrased it like that…

    Thanks to that, he finally took notice the two of them weren’t alone. Standing next to their table was his faithful attendant, giving him her usual smile as she offered him a teacup filled with the usual.

    “Coffee?”

    He nodded, worried that if he did anything else he’d be caught staring. Unfortunately, if the slight quirk of her lips was anything to go by, she already knew that.

    “Did you think that simply because I’ve come to your side in reality that my duties to you here as your guide would come to an end? If so, I apologize for the confusion. Regardless of where it may be, it will always be my greatest joy to aid you.”

    As if avoiding their eyes wasn’t difficult enough, now he had to hide the growing warmth on his cheeks as well. It wasn’t until recently that he became aware of how weak Akira Kurusu was to words of praise and oaths of loyalty. Something that had only become apparent when he found himself abandoned and sent off to Tokyo on a false sentence.

    Who could’ve imagined that somehow amidst that he’d end up finding friends who not only were willing to give him both in spades, but were determined to stick by his side, even if it meant risking their lives in order to do so?

    A bond that looked like he might be putting to the test yet again.

    It was that thought that reminded of why he was here.

    “So I take it this means the Metaverse has returned then?”

    “In a sense,” Igor answered with an ambiguous smile, hinting that in at least this sense the man and his fake were one and the same. “However, to say such a thing would also lead to the mistaken interpretation that the Metaverse disappeared to begin with.”

    His eyes opened in alarm. “It didn’t?”

    The response he got was the quiet chuckle of his host, and in many ways that was the only answer he needed.

    “Allow me to clarify your confusion.” The girl at their side intervened. “You’re well accustomed to the knowledge by this point that the Metaverse is intrinsically connected with the desires of mankind, as well as the idea that those of such a world can manifest themselves in territories of their own, if they and their desires gain a certain level of corruption, correct?”

    He nodded, though the way she phased the question had him hesitate to do so.

    “As I’m sure you’re aware by now, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but as a basic premise it grasps the most important details.” A certain hacker certainly came to mind at the mention of such complications. Her palace hadn’t been one so easy to define in black and white.

    “However, where you’re mistaken is the belief you and your friends managed to destroy such a thing by defeating an entity created by that collective will. Humanity’s desires have existed far longer than the sentience of that corrupt god’s. What you destroyed in your victory was his influence on the Metaverse, the place which you call Mementos, as well as the bond you had with him that allowed you to enter such a world.”

    “The navigation app…”

    “Precisely.” Lavenza nodded, offering him a small grin as she refilled his drink. “As evidence of this, despite his disappearance, has mankind’s inherent desires or their corrupt nature changed at all?”

    He already understood that they hadn’t, an observation he and the rest of the Thieves had come to shortly after their ‘retirement’. Frankly, the only thing that seemed to have been affected at all was the general populace’s recognition of Shido’s crimes, and that the Phantom Thieves had played a part in exposing such. Aside from that, they were being treated with the same level of skepticism they’d seen when they were first starting out.

    Ryuji, in particular, was still a bit sore about that.

    In the end, all this really meant was that Akira had to revise his original question. “So then if Mementos and the navigation app are both gone, then how did we make it back into the Metaverse?”

    This time it was Lavenza who had a difficult time meeting his eyes, frustration breaking her expression. “Recently my master discovered a contingency plan set in play by our mutual foe, one neither of us realized would be enacted so soon. It appears he was not so arrogant as to completely overlook the warning my master gave him before he sealed the two of us away. As such, not only do you face ruin once more, it’s already occurred.”

    It was at that point the attendant looked to the master, who continued, “It seems that the world as you know it no longer exists, and the clock now ticks against you. If this matter isn’t resolved within the coming year, the effects will remain permanent, and it’s likely the result will spell disaster for humanity. Even extinction.”

    As if the stakes of the previous year hadn’t been high enough…

    Once again, his female guide further clarified, “What my master speaks of is that the world, outside of the country you call home, has ceased to be. The rest of the world has been embroiled in a state of constant war, in a final game that pits history against itself, and you have been chosen as one of its participants.”

    Honestly, even for him, that was a bit too much to accept. It wasn’t that he couldn’t believe such a thing could happen, but… “That doesn’t make sense. If that’s true, someone should’ve noticed by now. The internet alone would be in an uproar.”

    Igor sighed, leaning back in a sign of resignation, and it was perhaps that action more than any other that lead to his understanding of how serious of an issue this was. “A powerful illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. In fact, you’ve already seen the evidence of it yourself, have you not?”

    Again, Akira immediately caught on to what Igor was referring to.

    “My new Persona. She didn’t disappear.”

    Lavenza nodded. “The only way to explain that is that once again reality has merged with the Metaverse, or that she doesn’t fit into the standard definition of what you call a Persona. As things stand, it looks like both of these statements hold true.”

    Wait… “Are you saying Mordred’s not a Persona? Then what is she?”

    “That will have to wait until your next visit, as it seems our time together has come to an end…” As Igor trailed off with that statement, Akira felt the usual exhaustion come upon him whenever one of his nightly visits to the Velvet Room was nearing its close.

    Why was it that this always seemed to happen when they finally made it to the most important question?

    The last thing he heard before drifting back into the comforts of sleep was Lavenza whisper comfortingly, “It seems the time has come for you to fall asleep, but worry not, we’ll speak more once you’ve returned to the waking world. Until then, my Trickster, sweet dreams.”

    –––––​

    End: As usual, if you have any thoughts, leave a comment. Getting feedback is just about the only way I can gauge people’s interest in seeing this story continue.
    Last edited by Sky Master; March 26th, 2019 at 01:38 AM.

  8. #8
    A Multiversal Traveler Hikari's Avatar
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    A bit confused on how the setting fusion works, but I look forward to seeing how Akira changes the grand scheme. To ask, and not sure if its a spoiler, but are his parents mundane?
    Worlds Destroyed And Created. Lives Erased And Created. All At My Whim. What Exactly Am I? I Am A Writer.
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