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Solitude

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His Life was nothing more than a chore to him.

 

When he was 7 years old, reality had struck him earlier than others.

 

He knew about death. He knew why people sometimes don't wake up.

 

He also knew he'd be one of them soon.

 

And he didn't care.

 

It was his second year in middle school when his grades began dropping. The teachers would call his parents to report it and then later he would get yelled at or beaten. It didn't help either that a small town had been experiencing a lot of murders during these days. People getting hanged over antennas and since his dad was a police officer, he needed to be there for the case.

He would often cry himself to sleep or not sleep at all and before he knew it he was in high school. His first year was shocking seeing as he was arrested for a crime he did not commit and was on probation for a year.

He was moved to Tokyo, Yongen-jaya to stay at a cafe named LeBlanc. And with a criminal record attached to his name he just wanted to die, right then and there.

 

Luckily he did not.

 

His second year of high school was a strange yet fun year. He had met Ryuji, Ann, Morgana and later on Yusuke, Makoto, Futaba and Haru. They had formed a group called 'The Phantoms Thieves', 'P. Thieves' for short. They were now a world-known group. Known for changing hearts of people who had distorted views of society and fighting for justice.

 

They sat idly at LeBlanc a.k.a. their hideout talking about their targets in Mementos. By this time the owner, Sojiro Sakura, adoptive father of Futaba Sakura had known that their Phantom Thieves and had agreed to hide their identities from society was making coffee behind the counter.

 

He observed the scene with his head resting on his hand as he looked at the people that he now calls 'Family'. He's parents never once contacted him since his arrest and probably never will.

 

"-ra? AKIRA!"

 

Akira snapped out of his thoughts when he heard Futaba scream his name right next to his ear. "S-Sorry, I was zoning out for quite a bit. What were we talking about?" He asked

Makoto had her arms crossed with a frown on her face as she let out a sigh "Y'know.. You've been spacing out alot lately. Is something wrong?" He saw out of the corner of his eye Yusuke and Ann nod before turning their gazes at him.

 

"Nothing serious. Just thinking about some stuff that have happen these past few months" He replied trying not to worry his team mates. "Hell yeah!" Ryuji shouted out "It feels as if it was only yesterday we defeated that bastard Kamoshida" Ann laughed at the memory "Though having to first rip off our masks to summon our Persona was kinda painful"

 

Everyone nodded, agreeing to her. "Now that I think about it.. Morgana aside, you were the first to awoke to our powers, how did you react to it?" Haru questioned pointing at Akira,laying the spotlight to their leader once more.

 

Ryugi piped up at the moment the question was asked "He was effin' confused thats what!" Their gazes moved to Ryuji "What do you mean?" "I mean what I say I mean! The look on his face when his mask first appeared was priceless! Though after that he became this guy we know and love" He nudged Akira with his elbow  who was sitting beside him, Akira laughed at that.

 

"Yeah I was pretty lost back then" Akira said. He looked towards his team mates only finding that there was confusion on their faces. After realizing his words had more depth to it, he quickly changed the subject

 

"A-Anyway, I need to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back" "W-Wait! What do you mean by lo-" Akira had stepped out of the room before Ryuji could finish his question

All of them were silence before looking towards each other with worried expressions. Yusuke was the first to break the silence "Is it just me or is our leader acting quite off?" Futaba looked down at the floor "Yeah.. He's always been like that since two weeks ago"

"Two weeks ago?" Futaba nodded. "Oh wait.. I think I can remember.." Morgana said trying to think "Yeah! It was after he had a nightmare I think..?" Silence. "A nightmare?" Morgana began to regret his choice of words "He told me not to tell you guys so that you wouldn't get worried but by the looks of it, it was a pretty bad nightmare" He said

They all looked towards where Akira disappeared with worried expressions on their faces. "Hey uh.. Guys?" They looked towards Ann who was looking down at her phone with the MetaNav on it who then looked towards the group "Do you guys think Akira has a palace?"

Chapter Text

Silence.

The question hung in the air.

"Do you guys think Akira has a palace?"

Everyone expected someone to shout immediately 'Of course not!' but all that came was silence.

That was before Morgana snapped out of it "Impossible" The group turned their heads towards their friend "Remember. A person with a Persona cannot have a palace or a shadow because well.. Their Persona is practically their shadow" Morgana explained

"Yes but.." Makoto started "Akira has multiple Personas.. " Everyone sighed that's when Ann remembered something "Hey, Morgana?" "Hm?" Ann looked down unsure if what's she was gonna asked made any sense "Is it possible.. To loose control of your Persona?"

Again, Silence.

Everyone looked at Morgana who seem to be thinking for an answer "Maybe.. Only if the person has really strong desires. Strong enough to convert their Persona into a Shadow and a Palace"

"Surely our leader is far more strong to let his desires become a proper Shadow and Palace" Yusuke said "Yeah, problem is since he's got multiple Personas,  he's desires might double up to the amount where it could turn into a Shadow and Palace" Futaba murmured

"Sorry it took awhile" Everyone jumped from the sudden voice, looking towards the source, It was Akira.

His eyes filled with confusion when all of them just stared at him "Something.. Wrong..?" He asked worried that something bad happened

"O-Oh! Were sorry! We were just a bit surprised when you suddenly appeared" Haru said, bowing "Oh no, It's fine. Oh! and before I forget, I need to run some errands. Do you guys mind?" Akira questioned

"It's fine. While your out, we'll be looking for our next target" Makoto said "Sounds good?" Akira nodded and soon after, left.

Soon after Akira had left Makoto immediately pulled up her phone, everyone looking at her "Only one way to find out then" She hummed

Everyone else soon followed by taking out their cells and going to the metaverse app. "Akira Kurusu" They all said in unison.

"Candidate Found"

They were all shocked at what they had heard. Usually they would expect it but this time.. It was different. Their friend and leader, Akira Kurusu, has a Palace. "It has to.. It has to be just another person.. Right?! This is just another person!!" Ryuji shouted

"Nuh-uh.." Futaba said looking at her laptop "Right here.. There's a lot of Akira's .. Not many Kurusu's.." She continued "But for sure.. The Akira Kurusu on the app.. Is our beloved friend and leader." She finished closing her laptop.

"Let's continue this for another time.." Ann suggested "I think we all need a breather after all this" Makoto nodded

"Oh and Futaba?" Futaba turned "Don't tell Akira about this, if he finds out.. He'll even be more distant than he already is" Makoto said "You can count on me!" Futaba smiled "Please send Akira our regards" Yusuke said as they left returning to their homes

 

===Time Skip===

P. Thieves Group Chat

Akira: Hey guys, Futaba said you left early 'cause you had some things to do.

Makoto: Ahh.. Yes. Were sorry for not letting you know.

Ryuji: But man... Findin' our next big target is pretty hard..

Futaba: Even with all these networks I'm checking there's still nothing popping up...

Yusuke: Why not let us all gather at the beach like last time? I'm sure we can pin-point our target then.

Haru: Like last time?

Ann: Oh right.. You weren't still in the team..

Makoto: Long story short, When Futaba was still new, we held her welcoming party at the beach.

Futaba: Yeah! But that was a long time ago!

Haru: I see..

Ryuji: But hey! I think goin' to the beach might not be so bad!

Ann: Agreed!

Yusuke: How about you, Akira?

Akira: Sounds fine to me.

Ann: Then it's settled! Were going to the beach this.. When are you all free?

Yusuke: I can't come this week. I'm going to reserve a spot at the Art Gallery for my painting.

Makoto: How about next Sunday? Is everyone free that day?

Ryuji: No plans!

Futaba: Cleared!

Yusuke: I am as well.

Haru: Same as everyone else! How about you, Akira?

Akira: I'm free.

Ann: Then its all settled! Next Sunday it is!

Akira put his phone back into his pocket when Morgana piped up "The others?" Akira nodded "They said were going to the beach next Sunday" Akira informed "I see.. We better get ready by then!" Akira nodded.

There was silence for just a second but it felt like an eternity for Morgana "Hey.. Akira?" Akira turned his head towards the cat "Are you happy? I-Im mean.. You know.. With your life?" That got Akira's attention, while he smiled at the cat "Real question is.. Why are you asking me this?" Morgana then looked away "W-Well.. With me and my memories not coming back.. I was uhm.. Trying to look for advice I guess..?" Morgana lied.

Akira reached up to pet him "Why ask such a thing? Ever since this whole thing started I've been more happy than I ever was before I came here" He said as a soft smile crossed his face and he petted Morgana.

Morgana coughed as if to say 'Okay okay, now stop petting me'. Akira pulled up his blankets while Morgana made himself comfortable with his place as they fell asleep.

===Time Skip===Shujin Academy===

As Kawakami explained something that Akira, who was just staring off at the distant began to recall-- "Ahem, Mr. Kurusu? Eyes on the board please." Kawakami said before turning and writing something down.

Akira looked at Ann who was looking at him with worry before mouthing 'Are you okay?' Akira just smiled at her showing that he wasn't distressed or anything that could worry her.

After class, they had a 30 minute break for lunch. Akira pulled up his phone before a hand grabbed his shoulder.

"Hey! I've been looking all over for you!" Ryuji said smiling happily "Geez Ryugi! You might've as well scared the living daylight out of me and Akira!" Morgana said scolding Ryuji.

"Ryuji, did you need anything?" Akira asked keeping his voice low "Hmm? Oh yeah! Ann wanted to discuss our plans for next Sunday. Didn't she ring you?" Akira looked at his phone and indeed, there was a new message from Ann.

"Makoto's gonna be there too along with Haru" Ryugi explained "Anyway, we better hurry! Or else they'll kick our sorry ass" He said already grabbing Akira by the arm and running towards the Student Council Room

Once there, they opened the door panting. "There you guys are! What took you so long?" Makoto said grabbing them a bottle of water for the two of them "T..Thanks..." Ryuji managed to say as he drank the water all in one go.

"Had trouble findin' this guy" Ryuji pointed towards Akira who was still drinking his water "None of that matters now" Ann said "Anyway, about next Sunday. I was thinking of reserving another Banana Boat but for the eight of us." Haru smiled at the suggestion "We can have ice cream after that as well!"

As Haru and Ann talked about the plans on their own Ryuji and Akira sat down at one of the chairs. "Hey now guys.. We have a budget on our hands here. Let's not get too carried away" Makoto said.

"How about you Akira? What do you wanna do?" Ann questioned. "Probably.." He said thinking before his eyes landed towards his friends "Whatever you guys wanna do" He said finishing his thoughts.

"That just makes it harder to decide!" Ann shouted "We might wanna wrap this up quick. We only have 15 minutes left" Makoto said looking at the clock. Ryuji had suggested something that Akira couldn't hear as his mind spaced out and before he knew it, Lunch Break was over.

Akira and Ann had come back to their classroom and had math. Their teacher, Ms. Usami, Had already begun writing down numbers and shapes for the students to copy in their notebooks.

He had glanced down to his phone checking if there was a new message on the group chat before putting it down.

Teachers had this policy where if your phone rings, teachers need to confiscate your phone or if it's a call you have to answer it with speakers turned on so that the class could hear. Bad thing about it was you can't tell the person that's on the other side that the whole class was hearing about your conversation.

Akira had always been careful to fully mute his phone whenever class is on. He didn't want his whole class to hear about any of his confidants and that he has some weird connections to people.

 

Except for this one.

 

His phone had rang cutting off Ms. Usami from finishing whatever she was trying to say "You know the rules, Mr. Kurusu" Everyone in class had eyes on him, a lot of them had smirks on their faces and some even secretly was recording him. Akira looked at Ann who seemed to mouth 'Good luck' with a face that was mixed with sympathy and.. Happiness..?

He quickly stood up not looking forward to what's going to come next. He just hoped it wasn't any of the Phantom Thieves business. And with that he answered his phone.

"Hello?" Akira said already with his phone on speakers. "Ah! Aki-kun! I've been trying to reach you since I got on the train! Wait.. Shouldn't you be in class? Don't tell me your cutting class!" A voice said ringing throughout the whole classroom.

Akira froze the moment he heard the voice. His head was practically screaming 'DANGER! DANGER!' After a moment of silence the voice said again "Aki-kun? Are you still there?" Akira blinked into reality, hesitating to speak but when he looked at his teacher, she only nodded.

Akira took a deep breath "N-Never mind that.. What are you calling in for..?" He said "Is it really that bad for a senpai to greet his kohai?" The voice said with a hint of seriousness.

Murmurs had began when the voice asked the question but not too loud for the voice to hear "I guess your right.." Akira said his bangs covering his eyes "Ah! Before I forget, Your doing really good with it!" 

"Doing what?"

"Oh you know.. Maybe the P word?" 

Akira froze again. Who told him? How did he know? Since when?

"Wh.. Who did you.."

"Don't worry, don't worry! It was kinda obvious seeing as your my kohai, or have you forgotten the fact that I have a P too?"

Akira stayed silent before saying

"Great job Yu-san, now I'll have to answer a lot of questions. Oh and before you ask how I found out that you knew that the whole class was listening I'll just give you the answer, well.. If you want"

The class gaped at him as the person on the phone can be heard clapping.

"Please do tell everyone Aki-kun!"

"If you didn't know the class was listening you probably would talk about Minato-san or the others before him.. Or probably just argue with me about the 'Social Link and Confidants' thing" Akira said doing air quotes.

"That does sound like me.. Oh! My stop is coming and just so you know, it was the second one. They're called Social Links and not Confidants!" The voice said before hanging up.

Akira sat back down, not forgetting to mute his phone and then looking up to Ms. Usami who only looked at him with surprise along with the whole class. There was silence before he spoke

"Sorry about that. I'll make sure my phone will stay on mute from now on" He said with a smile that can only be suspicious to Ann.

 

Chapter Text

Word had quickly spread through the school about Akira's 'accidental' phone call. Many had used the nickname 'Aki-kun' or 'Aki-san' for Akira who only gave them a glare that made them stop calling him by the nickname. When asked why he only said "Only the P's can call me that" and then when asked what's the meaning of the P, he only gave them a smile and walked away.

It was almost the end of school as the gang waited in front of the school, only waiting for Makoto who was asked to help out a teacher.

Haru had checked her phone before saying "Futaba said that she and Yusuke is waiting at LeBlanc" The others nodded while taking out their phone "But man... I still can't believe you have a nickname like you-know-what" Ryuji said smiling towards Akira.

"Who was that anyway?" Ann questioned putting her phone back to her pocket "He's a senpai" Akira said bluntly.

"From your old school?"

". . ."

"Akira?"

"Not really.. You could say he's just like.. A big brother"

Before Ann could question him further Makoto emerged from the school gates "Sorry that took awhile, we had some trouble finding space for the boxes. Did I miss anything?" She said looking worn out.

"Only that Futuba and Yusuke's already waiting for us" Morgana said popping his head out of Akira's bag. "We should get going then"

===Time Skip=== LeBlanc===

As soon as they walked in Futaba jumped right at them "You guys took so long! I had to hangout with Inari who keeps talking about aesthetics!" Futaba said pointing towards Yusuke.

"Before you do that how 'bout you go upstairs since there's more people than usual" Sojiro said getting some beans from the shelf "Care to lend a hand?" He asked Akira who nodded.

"I'll be there in a few minutes" He said towards the group who gave thumbs up.

Soon after they were out of view they quickly pulled out their cells, opening the MetaNav. "You sure it's safe to do this? Akira can just walk in here while were figuring out his keywords y'know" Futaba said towards Morgana "That's exactly why I'll be sitting here" Morgana replied sitting down at the table near the stairs.

"I'll guard. You guys better figure out his keywords, but I'll try and help too" The group nodded turning to their phone.

"First, the place of distortion right?" Ann asked as the group nodded.

"Then it must be LeBlanc, seeing as he does technically live here" Yusuke said.

"Candidate found"

"Okay. Now next 'what'.. Any ideas anyone?" Morgana questioned.

That was when silence took over.

Everyone just stared at their phones, not wanting to believe that their leader-- Their friend had a palace.

"Before we get into that.. What could Akira want to hide from us?" Haru said breaking the silence.

"Nothin! He's a good and honest guy! There's just no way.. Oh God..." Ryugi said stopping in the middle of a sentence. Futaba seems to have caught what Ryugi was thinking "Your not thinking.. That he's like me, do you?"

"If that's the case however.. That would just add up to the reasons on why we should take his treasure and save him" Yusuke said while the others smiled "Hurry, Akira might come up here any minute now"

"Let's see.. If what you said is true then.. How about Prison?" Ann guessed

"No candidate found."

"Then how 'bout.. Solitary confinement?"

"No candidate found."

"Lets try another topic. One instead of a place, we go for an item" Makoto suggested "A.. Item?" Haru questioned while Makoto nodded.

"I see.. Seeing as it's Akira were talking about we might as well go out of the box" Morgana said "Then how about.. Mask?" Yusuke said

"No Candidate found"

"Glasses?"

"No Candidate found"

"Come on guys, think! What could Akira treasure that could create a palace?" Ann said furiously trying to think

"The only thing I could think of is that plant.." Morgana said pointing his tail towards the potted plant.

"Man! This has to be the hardest one we've got..! I mean.. A guy who can wield multiple Persona's can have multiple faces, right?!" Ryugi said almost giving up.

"Wait.. Ryuji your a genius!" Futaba suddenly shouted "H-Huh?" Ryuji looked up to Futaba who was taking a deep breath before saying

"Persona!"

"Candidate found. Beginning Navigation."

"Woah! Nice job Futaba!" Morgana said before they were all teleported to Akira's Palace.

===Akira's Palace===

Opening their eyes and then looking around they realize their still not in their Phantom gear. "So he still doesn't view us as a threat, right?" Ryuji asked looking at the group. Morgana nodded "That's right, but.." Stopping mid-sentence he takes a deep breath "I didn't expect me to still be in this form!" He shouted looking horrified.

"It's probably his cognition doing it." Futaba said "But.. What is this place?" Looking around it was just pitch black. You couldn't even tell if there's walls or a floor "Does this mean he views the world as.. Nothing?" Yusuke said with his hand on his chin.

Just as he said that, a door appeared. It was as if the door had been there since they got there and a spotlight just turned on above it. Looking back at the group Morgana was first to say "Since Joker isn't here, how 'bout I lead?" He said looking for approval "Dude, no way.." Ryuji said with a frown on his face.

"Mm... How about Makoto? She's strong and reliable!" Haru said with a smile on her face "M-Me?!" Makoto looked at Haru then to Morgana "Then it's settled! Makoto, your our temporary leader. Lead us to victory!" Morgana said walking towards the door.

"A-Alright.. Lets do this everyone!" Makoto said with new determination in her eyes as she opened the door.

They opened their eyes after walking in. It was just LeBlanc. Normal LeBlanc. Looking at everyone, they still weren't at their Phantom gear. "I guess it's good he still doesn't see us as a threat.." Ann said looking back at the door.

Opening it, she found that it was no longer the black room they came from. Instead it was just the back way of Yongen-Jaya. No distortions what-so-ever  she noted before turning back and closing the door.

"No distortions..? Then what-" Futaba cutted off by a voice "I'm sorry the owner is-- Oh, what are you all doing here?" Turning their eyes toward the stairs, they see Akira in his normal attire.

All of them were at a lost for words. Was this his shadow? Did they need to fight him? Their minds started questioning as Akira walked down the stairs. They noticed one thing. His eyes aren't yellow.

"Go ahead and have a sit. What do you guys want?" He said  putting on his apron. "W-Whatever you recommend, I guess?" Makoto responded as they sat down, their body stiff. Akira nodded "I'm guessing you guys want Iced Tea?" His eyes landed on Futaba and Ryuji, their heads nodding. Akira smiled "Four Coffee and two Iced Tea coming up."

Turning, they whisper to each other "What's going on? He's eyes aren't yellow so that can't be his shadow right..? Not to mention that there's no distortions anywhere!" Ryuji said scratching his head.

"Could there be a possibility that.. Were in the real world..?" Haru said looking down "Impossible! You saw that black room earlier, didn't you?" Ann said looking distressed "Shh! He's coming back!" Morgana said quickly.

"Here are your guys four Coffee and two Iced Tea" He said placing them down to each person. "I didn't know what you wanted so I just got milk." He said to Morgona placing it down in front of the cat. He then turned grabbed a chair from the counter and then moving it at the front of the table, His eyes closed and smiling. "So.. I noticed you guys are really.. Nervous?" Akira said his smile now gone.

"A-Ah.. Uhmm.." All of them were speechless. "It's fine though" Akira said waving his hand "I mean, I wouldn't how to react either if I found out one of my friends had a palace" The group looked at him, their faces filled with shock and horror.

"T-Then.. You really are his shadow..?" Ann said speaking up. Akira looked at the group "Yes I am." The group looked down again "Then.. Why aren't you attacking us..?" Haru asked "Cause that's not my job" The group looked at him, clearly confused.

"Ah.. Sorry. You can say.. I'm the part of him that actually.. Wants help?" He said. "There are multiple shadows of him. But that's what you would expect from a man who has worn so much masks.. I can hardly tell which one is the real one"

"So you mean.. Your not the only one?" Makoto asked as Akira nodded "If you want to say here, on this.. Paradise. I advise you not to go to the washroom. Though if you decide to, please tell me. I'll have someone to assist you"

Standing up and putting the chair back to it's original place, Akira turned to go upstairs until someone tugged on his sleeve. "Is it possible.. To go in there now..?" He looked at the group, their eyes filled with determination.

Turning with a smile on his face "Of course, but not now. You'll have to give me a day to set things up. As your leader, I'll get some items that I'll give to you, as for the person who will assist you.. They will only guide you through the palaces. Of cou--" He was cut off by Ryuji.

"Wait wait.. 'Palaces'? With a 's'..?" Akira sighed "Let me explain. He has multiple Palaces. Each with their own shadow. But through all of these palaces, there won't be a single treasure. The treasure will be at the very end, At the last palace. And the shadow that resides in that palace.. No one has seen him. Not me nor the other shadows. Quite terrifying when you think about it." He quickly glanced at the group "Any questions?" A hand raised up. "What is it Haru?"

"If there's no treasure at each of the palaces except for one.. Then are we going to need to fight the shadows?" Akira thought for a moment before replying "I'm pretty sure you don't have too. You can just earn your trust like you did to me. Though I doubt that would be easy near the end"

"I might as well tell you all this now but every Sunday all of us shadows go to a certain place. That certain place is not a palace however." Again, a hand raised up. This time it was Yusuke "Why on Sunday of all days?"

"You see, that certain place only appears on Sunday. We believe it's because that's the most calming day to him. Away from school and he can just hang out with you guys."

"Do these palaces have shadows that we need to fight?"

"It depends on the palace ruler"

"How come your eyes aren't yellow?"

Clapping his hands together with a smile on his face he said "Good question! I think this would help you actually. You see If a shadow doesn't see you as a threat, their eyes won't be yellow like mine. But if they do and your not in your phantom gear yet they probably want to mislead you or something like that sort.."

"Anymore questions?" He said while the group looked at each other, checking if anyone else had a question "All right, I'll take that as a no. You all should come back here tomorrow afternoon, So I can prepare. In the mean time, why don't you check up on him?" He said going to the stairs

"I look forward to the day we can actually come together as one" He said vanishing as he stepped at the last stair.

"We should probably take his advice." Morgana said earning him a nod from the group. "Let's act normal, alright everyone?" Haru said as they exited the first palace and onto the real world.

Chapter Text

Opening their eyes they see that they were still in Akira's room. Only now that the windows beside his bed show orange light from the sun, indicating that it will soon be dark.

Groaning, everyone stood up "What're we going to tell him by our 'sudden disappearance' but no exit?" Ryuji said scratching the back of his head. "To be frank.. We have no excuse at all.." Makoto said "We just have to hope he isn't downstairs right now.."

Coming down the stairs carefully, they see that Akira was not where to be found while Sojiro was serving a customer curry. "W-Wait.. How're you still here?" Sojiro asked looking shocked when he saw the group coming down from the stairs. "Sorry Boss. We'll explain later but.. Could you keep this a secret from Akira?" Nodding back to the group they waited until one of the last customers went out.

"So.. What's this about?" He said sitting down at one of the stool. Futaba taking a deep breath then followed by "Akirahasapalaceandwewanttohelphimandwefoundthekeywordsearlier--"

She was shushed when a hand touched her shoulder "Woah, slow down Futaba" Ann said with a nervous smile. "You see Boss.. Akira has a palace." "W-Wait.. You mean those places where you 'steal hearts'?"

Nodding the group continued "He's been acting up and we got worried so.. We checked. Turns out he does have one." Makoto said with a serious face before bowing down to Sojiro "Please don't tell Akira this!" She said. The group followed Makoto's gestures except Futaba "Calm down you guys! Sojiro's totally going to keep this a secret, right Sojiro?" She said turning to him.

Smiling, Sojiro stood up "If the kid's gonna have some of his burden's lifted up from his shoulders then how can I say no?" The group smiled looking at each other "Oh- And one more thing.. Where is Akira?"

"He said he was going to see this 'Chihaya' girl.." The group nodded "Please tell us if he says or does something off character for him. It may help us" "Will do" Sojiro said as the group left the cafe.

=== Akira's POV === Earlier ===

Just missing the group from going to his Palace, Akira stood on where the group was suppose to be. He looked around with only confusion showing on his face. Then a question 'How did they leave without going through the front door..?' He looked over his bed, staring at the window before opening it. 'If they were to jump down the window they wouldn't be able to close it since this is the second floor..'

Giving up, he messaged the group before receiving a message himself. Reading it, he realized it was from Chihaya. She was asking if he could come and help her out. Agreeing he went to see her, leaving Sojiro with a note saying he'll be back.

Once he got there, he found Chihaya with a lady sitting down, presumably a customer. Chihaya looked at him with a smile while patting the chair next to her "You can sit down" Following her advice he sat down, turning to look at the customer who seems to be having the time of their life

"So if I continue with this method, I can grow my business, correct?" She said looking towards Chihaya "Of course! But be ready if fate has something else in store for you. After all, you can change fate with just a simple 'Hello' " She said "Yes, thank you dear. I'll come back next week" The customer said before leaving.

"Sorry about that, and sorry for bothering you. You must have a lot of things you need to do" She said apologetically "Don't worry about it" Akira replied

"To be honest.. I just really want to check your fate. Or.. Your 'current' fate" She said doing air quotes. Nodding he waited for his fate to be read.

After a quick few minutes Chihaya finally stopped to think. The cards shown were the Wheel of Fortune, Death and The Sun "Can I ask you something?" She said looking towards Akira, as he nodded "Do you have some kind of.. Problem?" She said receiving herself a confused look on Akira's face. "What do you mean?"

"Like.. I don't know.." She said looking towards the ground "Is my current fate that bad?" He asked "No! It's just.." Giving up she turned to Akira with a worried face "Just be careful, okay?" Smiling at her, he bid his goodbye and traveled back to LeBlanc receiving a text message on the way.

Yusuke: We are terribly sorry Akira. For leaving without even saying. As for our sudden disappearance without us walking out the front door.. We cannot tell you that.

Akira: May I ask why?

Futaba: You heard Inari! We just.. Can't tell you..

Makoto: We truly are sorry Akira. But we can tell you it's nothing bad.

Ryuji: Yeah dude! Anyway, I'm still hyped about next Sunday!

Ann: Oh yeah! I still need to buy sunscreen..

Haru: I completely forgot about that! I'm sorry..

Makoto: It's fine, Haru

Haru: That's not what I'm sorry for..

Ann: What do you mean?

Haru: You see I.. Reserved DestinyLand..

Yusuke: Isn't that expensive? And what part did you even reserve?

Haru: The whole park..

Ryuji: WAIT, WHAT?! You mean the WHOLE park?! Like DestinyLand itself?!

Haru: Y-Yes..

Makoto: That is a problem in it itself..

Futaba: When can we go there?

Ann: Futaba!

Haru: We can go there next Sunday as I remembered Yusuke not being able to come this Sunday..

Yusuke: You remembered that but didn't remember the beach plan?

Haru: I truly am sorry..

Makoto: Don't be. We can find a way to do this, right leader?

Akira: Of course.

Ryuji: Man.. Since you don't chat much I sometimes forget you're even here!

Ann: I can relate..

Makoto: We'll talk about this tomorrow in LeBlanc. All of us should go to sleep.

Futaba: Mkay!

 

=== Thursday, Afternoon ===

Walking out of the school gates, Makoto pulled out her cellphone "Makoto!" She looked as she saw Futaba waving at her with the rest of the group. "Ah.. Did you all wait long?" She asked "Not at all. If I may ask, are we going to the palace?" Haru said holding her phone out

"Yes. We did promise that after all. But what about Morgana?" Makoto asked "Don't worry! I snatched him out of Akira's room earlier and I said to Akira that I'll be taking him on a walk" Futaba said holding up Morgana.

"I told you to put me down already!" Morgana said as he trashed on the grip of Futaba before getting put down "Then I'll tell Akira we'll be late, if not can't come seeing as we'll be exploring his second palace." Yusuke said texting Akira.

"Let's get this show on the road!"

=== Akira's Palace === First Palace ===

Stepping in the cognitive LeBlanc they see Akira's shadow in a booth reading a book "Oh you're here!" He said closing said book and standing up "Just as promised, here are the stuff you'll need, as well as an escort. I'll introduce you to him later" He said handing the group items.

"Thank you. But do we really need all of this stuff?" The shadow nodded "I assure you, you will need all of these!" He said "Now let me introduce you to your escort!" He said with a smile before blue fire wrapped around him before taking shape

"Wait.. that's.." Ann said looking shocked "Arsene!" The shadow finished off. Arsene was just normal Arsene, only now there are more chains surrounding him.

"I am honored to meet you." He said, standing tall "Now lets not waste anymore time." The shadow said opening the door to the washroom only to reveal it as a black room, similar to the one they were at before entering the first palace.

"Now come." Arsene said going to the room with the group following him to the room before the shadow closed the door.

"And thus, the show has finally begun."

=== Akira's Palace === Second Palace ===

They were back in a black room. Even with Arsene's fire, nothing had been lit up. Slowly but surely though, their phantom gear was now visible "Guess that means that this ruler views us as a threat, huh?" Ann said before all of their masks disappeared with their Persona's coming out

"Arsene! Dear, are you okay?" Carmen said "Not to worry. I am fine." Arsene responded "If I may ask, how did your wielder create a palace?" Goemon said "To be honest, he was.. under immense pressure.."

"Pressure?"

"Yes.. The first time I sensed it was even before his probation started, but it grew immensely when he had been arrested by the police under a false accusation. It grew again when that P.E. Teacher said that he'll be expelled, and with Medjed as well when they said that the future of Japan's economics are in the hands of the Phantom Thieves. But it tipped him over the edge when he heard that Okumura, their target, died right after they stole his treasure."

The group and even their Persona's were speechless. How much burden had they put on Akira? "And that means you as well.." Zorro said "But not to worry. I have faith in all of you that you'll help him, help us, through this" Arsene said before a door appeared "Let's go" He said as he pushed open the door.

Bright light showered them before turning into red. Walking out the door they feel much, much hotter. "So freakin' hot!" Ryuji shouted as he fanned himself with his hand.

"Goemon.. Mabufu please.." Yusuke panted out before the group was hit with a sudden relief of coldness. Taking a look at the palace they realize they were in a concrete bridge connecting to what looks like a stone fortress. Under them was.. lava.

"Why is there lava?! And why lava of all things?!" Futaba screamed stepping back. "Why? Cause I like it." They turned to see Akira's shadow. Second shadow to be exact, only this time he was wearing Joker's trench coat but buttoned and a white turtleneck shirt. Other than that it's all Joker's attire except no mask. They noted one thing though.. His eyes are yellow.

"Arsene? What are you doing here?" The shadow asked "Oooh! Let me guess! First sent you to escort these so called 'Phantom Thieves' to the treasure, correct? That's too bad.. Since they'll never make it!" The shadow smiled

"First..?" Haru said, confused "He must be talking about the previous shadow.." Morgana said.

"I guess I can let you pass this time. Here." The shadow tossed a paper to Makoto "It's a clue to us. His shadows. Though I doubt you'll decipher it. Let's have fun, kay?" The shadow smiled before disappearing.

The group looked at Makoto, walking towards her "What'd it say?" Ryuji asked as Makoto opened it, letting the group look at it as well.

"I dont get it.." Morgana said "Me neither.." Ann said as she looked carefully. The paper said:

1: ⚫

2: ▲

3: ⬛⚫

4: ⬛

5: ⬛▲

"What does it mean?" Yusuke asked before Makoto rolled it into a scroll "Let's figure that out later. For now, let's get going" She said as the group nodded going inside the fortress.

Chapter Text

As they enter they could see that the inside had similarities to the outside, but is much more pleasing to the eye. The walls had been decorated with fire torches, the ground decorated with a red carpet leading to various rooms, while the ceiling had tubes of lava flowing through it.

"Now. As he told you, I cannot fight nor can I provide support. I can, however, provide guidance. So if you do need that kind of help, feel free to call my name." Arsene said bowing before disappearing.

The thieves looked around for any shadows, hiding in corners or furniture concluding that there wasn't any.

"Dunno why, but I get the feeling no shadows is a no-go." Futaba said still looking around "You're right about that bu- wait.." The group looked at Ann who seemed to be staring at a pedestal, above it was a key floating.

"A key?" Ryuji asked taking a look at the key. "Doesn't the color bother you though? I mean, This whole place is well.. Red. And yet a key is.. White?" Ann said

"I do think it is odd.. Maybe it'll provide a clue to that paper?" Yusuke said looking at Makoto who was looking at the paper. "I don't think so.." Makoto muttered before hiding the paper "Whatever this key provides, it'll surely help us."

"Futaba can you scan the key if there's any trap attached to it?"

"On it!" 

It took two or three minutes before Futaba jumped up "None at all.." She whispered looking shocked "Could it be that the shadow is underestimating us?" Haru looked angry with her eyebrows furrowed.

"Looks like it. But we gotta continue this tomorrow, we still gotta meet up with the real Akira, remember?" Morgana said taking the key from the pedestal.

"Yes, I agree. We should head back" Makoto said as they exited the palace.

 

 

"The real Akira, hm...?"

 

===Thursday, Evening===

Walking in LeBlanc at night was different than usual. Usually in the afternoon the Sun would still be somewhat still in the sky but at night, the Moon was up instead. The lights from the shops, houses or street lights was turned on and not much people were out and about.

With the bell ringing as usual the group sit down at one of the booths, while Morgana went upstairs to call Akira. "Sojiroooo! I hunger!" Futaba, the only one who wasnt in the booth and was sitting down at one of the stools.

"Sure thing, I'm guessing all of you want curry?" The group nodded, waiting for Morgana to come down "He's not here!" Morgana shouted before coming down the stairs "If you're looking for the kid he's still out. Probably on the way back now" Sojiro said serving them curry.

"Itadakimasu!" Futaba shouted immediately after the smell of the curry hit her nose and began to dig in. "Slow down Futaba, you wouldn't want a stomach ache after that" Sojiro said handing out two more to Ryuji and Haru.

As if it was timed to perfection Akira walked in "Did you all wait long?" He asked setting his bag down in one of the stools "Nof uf alt!" Futaba said her mouth full before swallowing "That was 'Not at all' by the way." She said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Come and sit down. I'm willing to bet you want curry too?" Sojiro said already setting a plate down for Akira "You know me so well" Akira said sitting down.

"That reminds me. I need to lock up shop earlier than usual, though all of you can stay for as long as you'd like. Just don't forget to lock up when you're done." Sojiro said before leaving as the cafe filled up with silence.

"Soo... Uh..." The group tried to ease up the silence but failing miserably "You know I've been thinking.." Akira said, finally breaking the silence and gaining everyone's attention

"You guys have been.. Somewhat acting all weird with me lately. Is there something going on that I don't know?" The group tensed "Pfft.. What do you mean? Were not acting strange! Not at all! Oh by the way Haru, You really booked out the whole DestinyLand park?" Ann said quickly changing the subject

"Oh yes! About that.." Haru continued on except in Akira's mind there wasn't a single sound coming out of her mouth. Not only her's but he's friends as well.

Wait.. Are they even my friends..?

What are they hiding?

Did they do something fun without me?

Am I a burden to them?

Am I even qualified to be their leader?

Why am I even their leader?

Why did they choose me?

Why me?

Why me?

WHY ME?

"Akira?" Facing them, he sees that all of them were looking at him. Their expressions.. Not great.

"Akira is there something wrong?" Yusuke asked again, only now putting his hand on Akira's shoulder.

"Y-Yeah.. Anyway, It's getting late. All of you should go back or you'll miss the last train." Akira said quickly standing up

"You're right.. Well then, I'll see all of you tomorrow." Makoto said saying her farewell and then soon after, the group left the cafe.

"Just like you said, it's getting late. We should probably go to bed early if we want to continue on that Second Palace"

"Second what?"

Realizing his mistake, Morgana quickly tried to cover up his mistake "N-No! That's not what I meant!"

"Then what did you mean?"

"W-Well.. There's this new restaurant called.. Uhh.. Second Plate! Yeah! And uh.. It's really fancy soo.."

Morgana looked at Akira, his heart beating. Anymore would probably result into a heart attack. After a while, Akira smiled, crouched down and pat Morgana's tiny head.

"Why don't you show me tomorrow?"

"Y-Yeah.. But go to sleep first!" Akira chuckled, going straight to his bed while Morgana followed him.

"Night Morgana."

"Night"

===???===

"I can't believe we have to come here just cause of them!" A voice shouted angrily

"If we had been a second late, he could've broken apart.." Another voice said

"T-T-They k-know! A-And th-they're gon-gonna a-abandon u-us!" A voice stuttered

"And it's all your fault! You should've beaten them while you were there! Why do I always get to do your dirty work?!"

"They're here to help."

"B-But w-w-what i-if th-they're not..?"

"I swear on my life that they are."

"But we do not need help. Were their leader. Leaders do not need help nor want help."

"That's enough." A voice so stern that everyone stopped.

"But still.. To have to come to this room because of that! And plus, he has to deal with more things!"

"I-It's not a p-problem a-a-at a-all.."

"I am truly grateful for taking care of such an area. You have my respect."

"W-We s-should probably h-head back.. G-Good work e-everyone.."

"See you all this Sunday."

Chapter Text

===Friday===

It was a routine everyday. Wake up, get up, and then get out there. At some occasions, they either find a route to the treasure at the current palace or go to Mementos to grind or complete some missions.

Today, they can only do one option. The day had passed by so quickly that by the time Akira noticed this he was already at the front of the school gates with Yusuke and Ann while Morgana sat quietly inside his bag.

"Oh, by the way" He said towards the three "It's been a while since we last fought. I'm thinking we should all go to Mementos tomorrow, sound good to you guys?"

Ann and Yusuke looked at each other, their faces pale before turning to Morgana who shaking his head out of Akira's view.

"Is something wrong?" He questioned, noticing their silence "No, it's just.." Yusuke began "We can totally go! Right, Yusuke?" Yusuke looked at Ann, her face saying 'Just go along with it!'

"O-Of course! We do need to get stronger for anything to come." Yusuke said relieving Ann as she sighed while Morgana just looked at them

"Great. Then I'll tell Futaba." Akira said taking his phone out. The rest of the group finally showed up as Yusuke and Ann told them about their upcoming trip.

"We should get going" Akira said leading the group towards the train station "Why did you agree?!" Morgana whispered from behind Akira's bag

"I followed Ann's lead to be honest. Could you please explain?" Yusuke said, careful not to let Akira hear him.

"First of all, isn't it suspicious that Arsene isn't one of the shadows? Normally a shadow is their Persona and yet Arsene is well.. Arsene" Ann questioned

"I can agree with you that it's suspicious but.. What will we do if Akira finds out he can't summon his persona?"  Haru said what everyone else was thinking. What will they tell Akira?

"Can't summon what?" Akira turned, the group turning stiff as a rock with their minds racing "Oh uh.. Futaba's been blabbing on and on about this new action game, right Futaba?" Ann said a bit nervous

"Y-Yeah! It's really awesome! But I still need to level up two more times before I can summon a new.. Ally!" Futaba said quickly fumbling her fingers.

"Oh, good luck then." Akira said as the group let out a breath they've been holding in just as Akira turned his head as they headed into LeBlanc

"Oh, you're back. Another meeting I presume?" Sojiro said from behind the counter "Nope! Just a group hanging out today" Ryuji said already sitting down

"I see.. The do you guys want something?" The group nodded ordering coffee and Ryji and Futaba Iced Tea.

"Coming right up" Sojiro said going to the kitchen to get more beans for the coffee as the group sat in silence in the main room.

"Ah, so it's true.." Akira said getting everyone's attention "What's true?" Morgana asked Akira as he placed his chin on the palm of his hand which was supporting it "Oh. Nothing." He said waving his hand

"Well aright then.." Morgana said as Sojiro brought them their drinks before turning to Akira "You better get your things upstairs." He said while Akira nodded "I'll be right back then" He said climbing the stairs

Sighing, Sojiro turned to the group "How's it going? His Palace I mean"

"It's going fine. Were going to continue later though."

"I see.. Oh and before I forget. Earlier, the kid talked to me about you guys. Said you're acting all weird and nervous around him."

The group listened to Sojiro's words before turning to themselves with worried expressions. "I think we need to hold back a little on the palace.." Makoto said looking down as everyone agreed with her "How about this then?" Haru said gaining everyone's attention

"Since Akira will not be joining us and Makoto is on the front lines it just means that two people will be on the back lines since Futaba will be the Navigator, correct? Then we'll leave the back lines here so that they can keep an eye on Akira and for us not to be suspicious" She explained

"It is risky, but it does guarantee us some safe closure with Akira" Yusuke said still considering the risk.

"Well since its pretty clear that the palace emphasizes the lava and stuff, I'm sure the shadows in there will probably be some fire Shadows" Morgana said

"So that means our best bet is to use Ice attacks on them while we also resist fire.. Only one person can do that, hm?" Makoto said as everyone looked at Ann "Guess I'm guaranteed to be on the front lines huh?" She joked

"Goemon mainly does uses Ice attacks but he is also weak to fire.." Yusuke troubled by the thought

"If I were you Makoto, I'd send Ann, Morgana, Yusuke and you since I don't seem to play a roll in this." Everyone turned, worried that Akira may have been listening to them talking about his very own Palace

"Akira.. Wait- Did you hear everything?!" Makoto asked with a panicked look "Hm? Oh, no. I just eavesdropped on you guys when Morgana said something about a palace emphasizing the lava and what-not"

"I see.."

"What's this about a palace anyway?"

"Oh uhm.. We just wondered about circumstances  in palaces.. Like.. Who would be in the front lines if the palace mainly uses fire Persona's when you're not around or you're sick. Y'know.. Just to be prepared." Futaba quickly explained

"I see."

"Then who would you send up again Akira, and why?" Makoto asked the dark-haired raven boy

"Well, every leader has to be in the front lines giving.. orders so naturally you'd be in the front lines since I'm not there.. And Ann since she does resist Fire and... naturally Fire shadows. Next is Yusuke and even though he is weak.. to Fire, you can use Rakukaja on him and he'd be a pretty strong ally. Morgana, of course, has those healing.. skills, so you... shouldn't.. worry about.. H..P.." He breathed out, suddenly looking red.

"Akira? You okay..?" The group asked when Akira suddenly began to sway a little bit. When Ryuji saw this he immediately stood up to support his best friend.

"Sorry.. It's just I wasn't.. Used to... Talking for... That.. Long.." His voice became raspy near the end but still managed to say what he wanted to say. "Dude.. No one gets all red and swings back and forth just cause  of not used to talking to much! I bet you caught a cold or something.."

They checked his temperature up in his room and just as Ryuji said, he did have a cold. "39°.. There's no mistaking it.." Sojiro said as he looked at the temperature then back to Akira before sighing.

"You've been pushing yourself too hard lately. Rest up and I'll call your school." He said going downstairs

"N..No.. W-Wait.." Akira rasped out but not loud enough for Sojiro to hear. "Dude.. Maybe he's right.. You should take a day off or two once in a whi- Dude! Wha-?!" He said shocked, making the group look at Akira.

When they saw him. Oh boy, did it shock them.

Their Leader. The almost dead-pan, reliable leader.

Is crying.

"Akira..." Yusuke said, not believing his eyes "Damn it.. I caused trouble for you guys.. Again.." He said, whimpering

"Wait- Again? Dude, you have never caused trouble for us" Ryuji said crouching down to Akira's level "And besides, this is probably your cold speaking. You should sleep and get some rest bud." He smiled to Akira

When Akira heard the words 'Sleep' and 'Rest' his eyes began to panic as he lifted his body in a hurry. The group saw this coming and held him back "Let go! I have to-! I have to do some things!" He struggled under their grasp

"Akira, please calm down!" Makoto shouted "No! If I go to sleep.. You guys.. You guys will just leave me again!" He said, tears flowing out his eyes while his words shocked the group

"Leave you? Akira, we would never do such a thing." Yusuke said towards the boy "You would.. Ever since.. A few days ago.. You guys have been.. Acting all weird when I'm around! Am I no good? Am I.. just a burden..?"

"No!" The group yelled in unison. Some had tears on their eyes, guilty of leading Akira to feel like this. "Akira.. You're a great leader! We would never think of you as a burden!" Haru shouted

"Were sorry for acting weird! But in truth, we would never leave you!" Futaba said, crying "Please.. Never think those thoughts again!" Makoto shouted, almost seemingly angry but you could tell she wasn't just by the look of her eyes.

"You guys.." Akira had calmed down, his eyes red for crying so much "How 'bout this?" He turned to Ryuji "We'll stay here until you wake up and if were not, then you could brew us your most bitter coffee and we'll drink all of it!" He said

"..Promise?"

"Promise." Ryuji said. Almost after that  Akira had fell asleep, his mind at ease. The group, as promised, watched over Akira. Though saying that they didn't spend the night at LeBlanc would be a lie.

Chapter Text

===Saturday===

Opening his eyes to the bright sunlight from his windows, Akira feels a towel on his forehead. Sitting up he removed it while getting his glasses on. Once he got his glasses he looked around his room, his memory still fuzzy from his fever.

Getting up and going near the stairs he can hear voices "I still feel so guilty we made him feel like that.." "Still was pretty shocking when he started crying though"

Going down he slowly peeked around the corner, there he saw the whole group, their bags on the side and looking ready for school. Yusuke, with his sharp eye for detail, noticed Akira and motioned him to come out.

Doing as Yusuke motioned him to, he stepped out shifting everyone's attention on him. "Dude.." Ryuji said with a shocked face. He felt confusion crept up behind him as everyone looked at him with a shocked face, except Morgana.

Morgana noticed this and asked "Yeah. I know. It's pretty crazy huh? That's my reaction too when I first saw it." He said towards the group.

"Am I.. Missing something..?" He asked, worried he was missing out on something. "Akira.." Yusuke called as Akira looked at him before he motioned his head "What about my.. Head..." He slowly realized.

Oh no.

"I think this is the best best hair I have ever seen!" Futaba said with a large smile on her face while taking pictures of Akira's bed hair. "F-Futaba!" Akira shouted quickly trying to fix his hair.

"It's too late to fix that hair Akira~ I already sent  all the pictures on the group chat!" The group quickly checked their phones while Morgana and Sojiro looked at Futaba's phone

"I don't even want to ask why it looks like you have cat ears.." Ann noted as everyone nodded, agreeing with her "I don't.." Akira muttered, a bit embarrassed by the situation he's in but doesn't let it show

Sighing, he let go of the bed hair topic and asked a more important topic "My memory's a bit fuzzy about last night. I remember you guys saying I have a fever but that's all I can remember." Akira explained before asking "Did I do anything?"

The group looked at each other, silently deciding whether or not tell Akira about last night "Not at all" Makoto said "It was just a normal fever. I already called your school to let them know your not coming since your fever might act up during the day." Sojiro said behind the counter

"Speaking of school, shouldn't you guys get going?" Futaba asked while the group paled. "The time! THE TIME!!!" Ann shouted quickly getting her bad while the rest of the group followed while panicking

Sojiro, Futaba, Akira and Morgana watched, all of them catching little bits of a smile in Akira's face. "Anyway! We gotta go! See you later!" Ryuji said all too quickly as they ran out of the cafe.

"For thieves who steal hearts, you guys don't seem all too stealthy, huh?" Sojiro said with a smirk on his face "We are! Just not here in the real world.." Futaba muttered earning her a chuckle

"Either way, you better go up stairs and rest for a bit. We don't want your fever coing back" Sojiro said towards the boy "If she's up to it, maybe Futaba can look after you."

Futaba practically shouted with stars on her eyes "Guess that's an obvious answer, huh?" Morgana laughed

Futaba tried pushing Akira up the stairs while Morgana just followed them "Slow down, Futaba" Akira said while Futaba tried to push him up the stairs.

Once they were there Futaba immediately wrapped a blanket around Akira, took off his glasses and handed him a cup of hot chocolate that came from who-knows-where.

Futaba stepped back, admiring her work while Akira just let it happen to him. Just then Futaba's phone rang "You better answer it." Akira said drinking his hot chocolate

"I will." Futaba responded as she went downstairs, carefully signalling Morgana to follow her.

"Is it them?" Morgana asked "Yep." Futaba said going into one of the booths while Morgana hoped next to her

Makoto: This might be our chance to progress further more into the Palace. Is everyone okay with that?

Ryuji: What about Akira? Won't he get all sad and stuff?

Futaba: You guys can just say that you have a ton of homework you know..

Yusuke: But what about you and Morgana?

Futaba: Just leave it to me!

Ann: Either way, we can't let him feel like that anymore. We gotta come up with a plan so that he doesn't feel left out while we progress.

Haru: Why not just leave a backup party member to hangout with him while the others progress?

Makoto: It is an option but it is risky.

Yusuke: If it means that Akira will have someone to hang around with and not let him feel those hideous thoughts then I'm okay with it.

Ann: Me too.

Makoto: Are you all sure?

Ryuji: Yeah! Besides, the guy probably needs someone to be there with him while were gone.

Futaba: Yep!

Makoto: Then it's a plan. The ones on the front lines will be Me, Ann, Yusuke and Morgana  as Akira said yesterday while Futaba is our Nav. Meaning Haru and Ryuji will be the backups.

Haru: I can stay with him later.

Ann: You can't. You're in the same class as Makoto and with Makoto saying her excuse is that she has too much homework, then it won't add up.

Futaba: Then how about Ryuji?

Ryuji: I'm fine with it. Nothing like the best to handle him!

Haru: I guess that's settled. Shall we all meet up at the diner?

Yusuke: That is fine with me.

Futaba: Mhm!

Makoto: See you all then.

Futaba looked at her phone more, even after the conversation ended. Morgana looked at her "What's up?" He asked

"Well.. I remember the first shadow saying that all of Akira's shadows meet up somewhere during Sunday's.. I'm gonna discuss it with Makoto." Futaba said already notifying Makoto.

Morgana nodded as he returned upstairs.

===Afternoon===

Akira: Sorry I can't come to Mementos today everyone.

Ryuji: It's cool man!

Yusuke: I agree. Your health is more important than anything else.

Makoto: Either way, we can't come seeing as we have a lot of homework..

Yusuke: You too?

Ann: The teachers went crazy with the homework today..

Futaba: And this is why I don't like school.

Akira: You guys shouldn't come over at LeBlanc. You might catch my cold, or that's what Sojiro said.

Futaba: Yeah! He even kicked me and Mona out!

Haru: Boss truly is a caring man.

Makoto: I agree.

Futaba closed her phone, as she approached the diner with Morgana on her bag. She saw everyone including Ryuji. "Wait- Why is Ryuji here?!"

"Akira said it himself. That we shouldn't be there while he still has a cold." Then he pointed that Makoto "Or, at least that was she said."

"I feel like were not very organized with the planning.." Haru said "We usually do plan with Akira and he is very good with planning. But since he isn't here, we simply need to try our best." Yusuke reminded

"Well then, Let's go" Makoto said as they went to the Palace.

===Second Palace===

Appearing in front of the Palace, the group made their way inside. "Something's still bothering me.." Makoto said "What is it?"

"First off, that code Akira's shadow gave us.. The one with circles, squares and triangles. What does it mean?"

"He did say it's a clue to them. Akira's shadows, I mean." Yusuke responded. The stood around for a bit, thinking a way to decipher the note "Wait! Are they numbered?" Futaba asked while Makoto grabbed the note to check

1: ⚫

2: ▲

3: ⬛⚫

4: ⬛

5: ⬛▲

"They are." Makoto confirmed while Futaba smiled "It may be the number of shadows!" The group looked at her while she continued on "Look. Why would there be numbers if its words and has colons if they're words? Plus he did say it was a clue to Akira's shadows. I think it's safe to say that the numbers represent Akira's shadows and since there's numbers up to five, that means there's five shadows!" Futaba concluded.

"That does make sense, but what about the shapes? What does that mean?" Yusuke asked "You should know that Inari! Since your an artist and all!" Futaba fired

"I may be an artist but I am not a detective." Yusuke retorted back.

"Whoa, whoa! Okay stop! Let's not argue while were on a Palace and shadows may be lurking." Makoto cut them off "Either way as to Oracle's theory we can find out if that's true tomorrow since the first shadow did say about them meeting at a certain place."

"How'd we gonna get there tho-" Ryuji was cut off as a voice louder than his spoke "How troublesome."

The group looked at the direction. Their instincts automatically kicking in as they prepared for battle. The shadow was at a decent height, slightly larger than them "Careful you guys! Even though it looks pretty weak, its actually pretty strong!" Futaba warned

"Who are you calling weak..?" The shadow asked while it turned to the podium where the key should be at "The key.. Give me the key!" It shouted as the battle begun.

Queen, Panther, Mona and Fox immediately went to the front, dodging some of the attacks the shadow fired at them. "Comparing power levels.." Oracle analyzed as she scanned the shadow inside Necronomicon "A little stronger than you guys. Be careful!"

"Say your final words." The shadow said before casting Inferno on Fox dealing severe damage to him "Fox is on the ground! Can someone heal him?!"

"Mona, heal Fox! Panther use Agidyne!" Makoto ordered as she used Marakukaja, buffing the whole party's defense.

"On it!" Morgana said as he healed Fox "I thank you" Yusuke said before casting Bufudyne on the shadow making it fall down to it's knees "All-Out-Attack!" The group said before attacking as the shadow's health depleted before giving up.

"You.. Will.. Never succeed.." The shadow murmured "Yeah, yeah. But before that.." Ryuji looked at Makoto as she stepped forward with the code that the second shadow gave "What does this mean?"

The shadow looked at the code before shaking it's head "I do not know what that is. But just as he said, if I lose I shall give you a clue. The group looked at each other before returning their gazes on the shadow "Continue."

"The moon is peaceful while the arrow is threatening. The clock is what lies in-between." The shadow said before disappearing.

"It disappeared.." Yusuke whispered "Either way, we got a clue." Makoto said turning to the group "The moon is peaceful..? What's this gotta do with a moon?" Ryuji asked before getting hit in the head

"Dummy! It's a riddle." Ann scolded "What was it again..?" Haru asked "The moon is peaceful while the arrow in threatening. The clock is what lies in-between.." Makoto repeated "The shadow wanted the key so that means that key is important." Futaba analyzed

"Yes, but what would the riddle mean?" Yusuke asked "Maybe it's a place..? Or an item..?" Haru thought, each one just a guess "The moon, an arrow and a clock.. Do they have any similarities?" Makoto said, brainstorming any possible answers

"We should continue forward. There might be more clues up ahead" Morgana ordered as the group nodded, continuing forward.

Chapter Text

Travelling further into the Palace, they've encountered countless shadows, always weak and defeated easily as if they've just been put there to waste their time.

Entering another room out of countless ones, the group sees that unlike the other rooms, this one was empty. "Everyone! Look!" Haru shouted as she pointed down onto the floor. On the floor was pieces scrambled making the image unfamiliar with only one empty space for a piece to move.

"It's one of those puzzles, isn't it?" Ryuji complained already knowing what they have to do "Let's get this over with then. There might be something important if we solve this." Makoto said going near the piece next to the empty slot.

"This is.." They jumped at the new voice. Turning, they see Arsene as their masks disappears showing their Persona's "Is there something wrong with this puzzle Arsene? If it worries you that our wielders may not be able to solve this then please, do not worry anymore." Goemon as he continued "I assure you. They will solve this and move on."

"No. I am not worried. To be frank, I am more scared." That took them by surprise, even with Carmen and the other Persona's were shocked. Akira's Persona is Arsene! A gentleman thief who even the great Holmes couldn't capture. And that very same thief is scared.

Of what though?

That was the question everyone had in mind. "What are you scared of?" Necronomicon asked the question as Arsene shook his head. "I cannot tell you. Besides, It may just be my imagination." Arsene said before grabbing his head as if he's having a headache "Arsene?" Carmen worriedly called.

Arsene took his hand away from his head "I'm sorry but I have to leave. There is a matter I need to take care of." He said, not waiting for everyone's response before disappearing.

"Arsene! Wai- He's gone.." Ann said "We shall help on completing this puzzle. It is quite big, I must say." Johanna said as the group worked on the puzzle.

-

After much pushing and scrambling, the image was actually finished. The Palace shook as a surface of the floor moved as another surface went up revealing a pedestal with a red key.

"Another one?" Ann asked ready to take the key out "Looks like it. Still no traps though.." Futaba scanned before nodding at Ann to break the glass.

"This image bothers me a little.." Yusuke mumbled. The image was the Sun Arcana, only difference is that instead of the Sun smiling, it was wearing a sad face instead. "It is a bit creepy.." Futaba noted

"That is not what bothers me." Yusuke said "Why is the Image the Sun Arcana? Shouldn't it be the Fool since it is the beginning of everything and not the Sun which is the 19th card of the Major Arcana?"

"It may represent someone in his life." Goemon spoke as he stood beside Yusuke "Must be. He does hang around with a variety of people. No doubt one of them represents The Sun." Captain Kidd said

"Wait, what?" The group asked "How do we explain.." They thought before Arsene appearing once again "Sun Arcana, Toranosuke Yoshida. Occupation, Politician. Rank 10." Arsene said before looking at the group "That is all I can share for now."

"W-Wait.. Rank 10..?" Ryuji asked making Arsene sigh "Rank 10, Charismatic Speech.  Allows you to form contracts with higher level Shadows."

"Slow down Arsene. Our wielders may not understand everything you meant by that." Zorro said moving towards Arsene "I'm quite sorry. It seems that my wielder- Akira, has caught his cold once again. At the moment I'm trying my best to clear my head to explains these things to you." The thief responded with an apologetic bow

"Dear if you're not feeling well then you should rest. Just like your wielder you are quite stubborn and keep saying you're fine when obviously you need rest." Carmen reminded with everyone agreeing with her

"You may be correct, then I shall take your advice. Let me remind you though. These keys you are collecting.. They are a major part in this Palace, especially the next one you shall be getting. It may even be heavily guarded." The thief said before disappearing.

"Question is, How many more keys do we need..?" Morgana asked looking at Futaba who was already scanning for the keys "We still need two more. The third key is just down the hallway. We should hur- Wait.."

The group look at her as she takes a closer look at the screen "What the.." She murmured "What's wrong?" Makoto asked "There's.. something huge.. There's something huge at the end.. I-I don't know what it is but when I zoom in more and more the screen keeps on staying at the same place.." She said

"Maybe it's the entrance to the next Palace? It may have a spell that Akira's shadow put there." Haru said "Either way, the third key should be up ahead that hallway." Futaba pointed as they continued on.

-

After walking for a while they finally reached the end on the hall, except not the end of the hall. Just like Arsene said, it was heavily guarded. The floor was turned into sharp spikes ready to pierce anyone to dare to step on them, all the while the key was at the middle. The group also noted that there were security camera's which would alert the Palace security if they were to be seen.

"Uhm.. Oracle.. How are we suppose to.." Ann searched the orange-haired female's face for any answers to only receive a sigh "I can hack for the ground to rise so that the spikes won't  pierce us, but with the level of security here I doubt that it could be anything just not a stroll down the park.."

"We still have to try. Arsene did say these keys are a major part in the Palace." Makoto as Futaba nodded typing away inside Necronomicon "And.. Done." She said as the ground rose up, the spikes disappeared along with it.

To their surprise, the security camera's shut off leaving the key completely theirs to take. "I have a bad feeling about this.." Yusuke murmured

"Guys! The key is just over there! Shouldn't we take it?" Ryuji pointed "Baka! This might all just be a trap you know!"

"I beg to differ.." Futaba said "I scanned the place and there isn't a trap anywhere.. Not on the walls, floor or even the  ceiling.."

"Then.. Wait.. So where just gonna take it and leave..?" Ann asked confused at their situation "What should we do, Leader?" Morgana asked

"We better take it before any traps could be activated. We don't know what this place is gonna throw at us if it activates the traps."

Walking over the pedestal and breaking the glass. "What the?!" Ryuji screamed causing the group's attention onto him as Makoto rushed over to the panicked blonde "What's wrong?"

"The key..s.." Ryuji added as he pointed "Keys? There's suppose to only be.. one..?!" Makoto finished surprise at what she saw

On the pedestal was two keys, the other being covered by the first key they saw on the pedestal "What?! There's only suppose to be one though.. Then what's the other one I saw earlier?!" Futaba asked in a frantic as Makoto held the two keys in her hand, one blue and the other yellow.

Just then the Palace shook, a doorway opening up in the wall where the end of the hall should be as a figure stepped out of the doorway.

"Never.. You will never take them away.." Turning, they see Akira's shadow "Give them back.. Give all of them back to me!" The shadow screeched

"What the-?! Extreme power levels! Be careful!" Futaba shouted as the group dodged the Shadow's attacks "Never! I won't let you take them away!" The shadow continued attacking, the difficulty increasing as he hit Ann, only resisting a little bit as the attack was heavily fired.

"Panther!" The group shouted "Give.. Them.. Back.. To me.." The Shadow panted, rolling himself into a ball causing all of the attacks to stop as their masks disappears as their Persona's appeared, Zorro and Morgana coming to heal Ann.

After a minute or two, the shadow stood up, obviously worn out from the amount of attacks he let out "I.. won't give up.." Just then the group recognized Akira. Not Akira's shadow but Akira himself. Their unyielding, powerful and determined leader was in front of their very eyes.

The Shadow raised his hand, ready to attack from what's left of his energy until arms grasped the Shadow "They are right. You are quite stubborn." The voice said as the group immediately recognized Arsene.

"Let go of me!" The shadow struggled "You're only to be guiding them! You have no say in this!" The shadow shouted "Oh? I am not helping them, for I am helping you." The thief responded "Like hell you are!"

"If I am correct, the you in the real world has a fever as of now and it is obviously taking an affect here." The shadow struggled even as Arsene explained "Listen to me. They are here to help."

"No their not!"

"Yes they are."

"How would you know that?!"

"They are your friends, are they not?"

That seemed to have an effect as the Shadow stopped struggling, his eyes looking towards the ground "Look at them and answer me." The shadow did as instructed and looked at the Thieves

"Do you trust them or not?"

"I.."

"Give me a straight answer."

"...I do.."

Even with the mask at Arsene's face, the group could see a smile as he patted the Shadow's head "Will you let them go to Third's place so that they can help?" Arsene asked as the shadow nodded quietly "Thank you."

"But.. All of them has to come tomorrow.. I can't let them in until tomorrow.." The shadow quietly whispered as the group nodded "Then we'll come back tomorrow just as you say." Makoto said

"And we really are here to help, Akira." She said as they returned to the real world

.

.

.

"Damn you Arsene.."

Chapter Text

"Akira! dude!" Ryuji shouted as he stopped Akira by placing a hand on his shoulder "We can just come back later y'know? Maybe eat ramen and.."

"Look, Ryuji. I don't know what you've guys have been talking about since this morning but isn't about time we should rest for a bit? And besides, I can make you curry and Iced Tea."

"Nah dude!" Ryuji said desperately trying to get Akira away from LeBlanc's doorstep before his phone buzzed as he checked at the message giving Akira a chance to get inside "I'm coming in." He said as he grabbed the doorknob as he pushed in

Strange. Akira thought. Why did Ryuji let in me so easily?

==September 15 = Morning ==

As the bell rang throughout Shujin Academy indicating for the first class to start. Ms. Usami was explaining a formula that Ann didn't really care about as she watched the Leader of the Phantom Thieves from behind her seat.

They had only found out that their leader's birthday was today. So as Morgana suggested, they made a private group chat in order to surprise their leader.

"Kurusu! Answer this question!" Ms. Usami suddenly shouted noticing how Akira wasn't paying attention as he looked at Morgana then at Ms. Usami with a blank stare

"Pfft.. I bet he doesn't he doesn't even know the answer.."

"Look at him! He's just staring!"

"That's what you get for not paying attention."

Ann couldn't take this anymore. She stood up, opening her mouth to say the answer and- "Your formula is wrong."

"E-Excuse me?"

"Your formula is wrong." He repeated "It's supposed to be square feet." He pointed "And the answer is 52ft²."

The class was bewildered. Ann looked at Akira, his eyes not seemingly focused as the bell rang. "Akira?" Ann called out to the boy "Oh, Ann." He smiled not minding the class' whispers.

"For a guy who doesn't seem to be listening, you're pretty smart." Ann joked not missing Morgana's face drop from the joke "Ahem!" The cat meowed as Morgana kept looking at Akira and then towards Ann who got the message.

As Akira left Ann immediately pulled out her cell texting the others.

Ann: He's out of the classroom!

Makoto: Futaba, have you got the contacts of people on his phone yet?

Futaba: I got some of them.

Yusuke: 'Some' of them..?

Futaba: The guy hangs out with a lot of people you know! Including us!

Ryuji: It's true.. One time I saw him with that politician guy and then after that I saw him with a fortune teller!

Haru: He's quite sociable for someone so quiet, is he not?

Ann: True.. Though I don't think quiet is the right word..

Yusuke: Agreed.

Futaba: Sojiro said that we could use LeBlanc for tonight!

Haru: The cake and decorations will also be done this afternoon.

Makoto: Ryuji, could you distract Akira from coming into LeBlanc until six?

Ryuji: Got it!

Yusuke: We'll message you when were ready.

Futaba: Don't mess up!

"Ryuji." A voice said making Ryuji jump "You wanted to see me?"

"Yeah! I thought we could hang out after school and stuff. We haven't hang out for I while so.." Ryuji said making Akira smile. He saw Ann and Makoto with their hands saying "Lead him away!" making Ryuji think quickly for an excuse "Wanna go to the rooftop?" He asked

"Rooftop? Wh-" Akira got cut off as Ryuji led him away. Panting from the rush, Ryuji immediately sat down on a chair left on the roof while Akira stood, leaning against a wall.

"What's this all about.. Ryuji..?" Akira panted, slowly regaining his breath as Ryuji desperately tried to talk him out of the subject while Morgana quietly whispered "Nice going, Ryuji.." He said sarcastically "Shut up, cat.." Ryuji responded

== Afternoon ==

Walking out of the School Entrance, Akira sees Ryuji waving towards him as he approached "Ready to go?" He asked as the raven nodded "Akira" Morgana said out of Akira's bag "I'm gonna go ahead to LeBlanc" He said making Akira tilt his head

"Your not coming?" The raven asked "I wanna rest, so you guys should get going. Don't worry, I'll catch up with Lady Ann or someone else to let me hide in their bags until we get into the train." The cat responded, jumping out of the bag as he hurriedly sprinted to catch up with someone.

"We should get going." Ryuji said as they went to the Arcade. "Akira?" A voice called "Oh, Shinya." Akira said as he turned towards the boy "Oh by the way, Hap--" Shinya cut off as he saw Ryuji making a silent sign "Hap..? Are you trying to say hop..?" Akira asked, confused

"..Y-Yeah... There's uh.. This new game I guess.." Shinya responded as he caught on to the situation "How's it going with your mom, by the way?"

"She's back to normal for now thanks to the Phantom Thieves." He responded before getting called on "I bet get going. There's still something I have to buy" He said before saying his goodbye and leaving.

Out of the corner of his eye Akira saw Yusuke and Haru walking with bags on their hands. Instinctively, he tried to call out to them before his phone buzzed as he received a message. 

Hifumi: Do you have anything planned for today, Akira?

Akira: Not really.

Hifumi: Is that so?

Hifumi: I'm sorry but I have to go.

Akira: Do you have a match today?

Hifumi: You could say that.. Either way I just wanted to check on you.

Check on me..?

Akira: Were you worried about something?

Hifumi: ...I need to go

After a minute or two Akira finally let the conversation go. Why did she need to check on me? He thought. Turning over to Ryuji he saw that his best friend had been texting someone. "Ryuji?"

The said boy flinched before hurriedly hiding his phone onto his pocket "Y-Yeah?" The blonde asked as if everything was normal "Are you guys.. Hiding something from me?"

"Hidi- Pfft.. As if.. If we were to act you'd immediately find us out.." Ryuji awkwardly said before changing to an entire different subject making Akira more and more suspicious.

--

"Guys! Everyone of Akira's pals have been informed!" Futaba abruptly shouted as the gang readied LeBlanc for Akira's party.

"Yusuke and Haru texted me. They said they saw Akira with Ryuji in an Arcade." Ann informed looking over to her cellphone.

"They must be on their way here then.." Morgana said as he got some of the decorations with his tail "Either way, did they got what they needed to get?" Makoto asked as Ann nodded before the door swung open.

"We got the cake!" Haru said as she placed down a box down at the counter "I also got some party poppers, some balloons and candles for the cake." Yusuke said already prepping the balloons.

"Make those balloons as big as possible, Inari!" Futaba shouted as she turned off her laptop and helped some of the decorations "By the way, what are we gonna do about our presents..?" Ann asked

"Don't worry. Futaba got Boss to list our presents and now he's out shopping for his and ours" Morgana said as Futaba nodded

"Oh by the way, they all texted me back and said they should be coming now." Futaba informed "You mean the people Akira hangs out with?"

"Yep!"

"That's good.." Makoto sighed as she looked over to her cellphone to check the time "Guys! Its already 5:48! Come on! Last 12 minutes, let's make it count!"

--

After going to the Arcade, Fishing and even going to the Movies, Ryuji still kept insisting Akira to go to the diner or some other place.

After much tugging and running away, Akira was finally at LeBlanc. 

"Akira! dude!" Ryuji shouted as he stopped Akira by placing a hand on his shoulder "We can just come back later y'know? Maybe eat ramen and.."

"Look, Ryuji. I don't know what you've guys have been talking about since this morning but isn't about time we should rest for a bit? And besides, I can make you curry and Iced Tea."

"Nah dude!" Ryuji said desperately trying to get Akira away from LeBlanc's doorstep before his phone buzzed as he checked at the message giving Akira a chance to get inside "I'm coming in." He said as he grabbed the doorknob as he pushed in

Strange. Akira thought. Why did Ryuji let in me so easily?

Opening the doors he immediately heard party poppers going out with a shout "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Flinching from the surprise, Akira looked at the scene before him. Sojiro behind the counter which had some large plated food while on the booths had plenty of wrapped presents and a cake on top of a table.

On the ceiling were some decorations of bright colors and a sign that read 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY!'

Looking at the people who held the party poppers and shouted he saw that the should P.T. Group was there as expected with Ryuji beside him and all of his Confidants. Doctor Tae, Hifumi, Shinya, Ohya.. All of them.

"W-What.." Akira whispered speechless at the sight "You're really mean Akira!" Futaba shouted "How could you tell no one that it was your birthday?! I certainly wouldn't know if I wasn't doing a five star check on you!"

"F-Five star.. What?" He responded, still at a lost for words "Isn't it good though? We managed to surprise him!" Ann said laughing at Akira

"You have no idea how hard to keep this guy away from here.." Ryuji pointed "Still worth it though" Ryuji said as he smiled

"You guys.." Akira bowed his head to hide his blushing face "Ooh~ I got a scoop right here~" Ohya said as she took countless pictures of Akira's face.

"This truly is an amazing sight." Yusuke said framing Akira's face with his hands "Stop mopping around already and blow the candles!" Morgana meowed out

Akira walked over to the cake, looking at everyone who nodded before blowing them out. "Happy Birthday, Akira!" Haru said clapping with the others

"Now that that's done.. Open these up!" Futaba shoved a present at Akira's face, presumably hers. "Take your time, Akira. Were aren't rushing." Makoto said as Akira held Futaba's present

"Before we get to that.." Akira said before lifting his face with a smile "I really am grateful to all of you"

Everyone froze, having mini-nosebleeds in their head as they only nodded.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The party was over as Akira lifted himself up to his bedroom, Morgana already asleep as he received a message

"How was today by the way?"

"It was your birthday."

"..."

"Happy Birthday, Chair-kun."

'Sent 2 minutes ago, by group chat: Fools'

Chapter Text

"I hate you."

"I know."

"I'll never forgive you."

"Yes, yes."

"You're a disgrace."

"Now isn't that taking it a bit too far?"

"..Sorry. I meant to say that you shouldn't exist."

"My, after everything I've done for you.."

"What do you mean by that?! Because of you I let them esca--"

"Is that so..?"

"Huh.. So even you let them go."

"I knew you could trust them!"

"S-Shut up! It's cause of this guy that they escaped!"

"Either way, with the things going on like this its guaranteed that they shall ask for your help to locate this place."

"W-Wait... W-What? N-No.. T-They c-can't! P-Please!"

"Don't worry! They're nice!"

"T-That's your o-opinion!"

"They're pathetic."

"Says the one who let them escape."

"Shut up!"

"Quiet."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"After today things will get back to normal, meaning they'll head into yours. I'm counting on you to not let them go as far to reach him."

"Understood."

"T-That's a p-promise o-okay?"

"We'll see, after all.. Their fates are in the cards."

--

== Sunday ==

Today was finally the day. Today was the day that they're going to go to 'that' place. The group had recovered from the shock of seeing Akira's shadow trust them and actually willingly let them through to the Third Palace which they had yet to have seen.

Akira was out due to spending some time with Shinya at the arcade, practicing shogi with Hifumi at the church and then finishing his day off at one of his part-time jobs, he had said to them.

The group didn't have any problems with that since they would go to that place while Akira won't feel lonely without them so it was a win-win situation.

Entering the Second Palace one last time they see Arsene with his hands crossed as the Second Shadow had his hands on his waist with an angered expression seemingly scolding Arsene.

"Guys! Our outfits!" Haru shouted as they looked at each other from head to toe realizing they didn't have their Phantom gear on. "It's a lot cooler than before too.." Ann noted "This is a good sign, you guys!"

"They seem to be waiting for us." Yusuke said as the group looked at Arsene and Akira's second Shadow. Walking up to them they heard "Ah. So you do trust them."

"Shut up already.." The Shadow responded before facing them "I guess you want to go to that place, huh? No doubt First told you about it."

The group nodded, confirming the Shadow's suspicion. The shadow huffed before turning and entering the Fortress as the group followed him silently, Arsene disappearing but his aura stayed with the group as if he was just invisible.

They found themselves retracing their steps back to where they had left until the Shadow turned a sharp corner. They kept on walking in silence before the Shadow spoke up "Never in my life had you guys been tense like this. I am still Akira you know." The shadow mused, his usual strictness gone. "O-Oh.." The group tried to make at least a single conversation topic failing miserably while on the process of it making the Shadow sigh.

"Akira's wasn't always like this." The Shadow said "Growing up in a town where there had been daily murders, living with parents who took little care of him and topping it off by getting shunned by society."

The group listened intently, no sound coming out of their mouths as the Shadow continued "Even if he'd earn friends at school they'd always, one by one, leave him. And even... And even after that.." The Shadow let out a shaky breath before halting to a stop "Were here." He finished with the group looking at.. A waterfall of lava.

"Don't worry." The Shadow reassured them "It won't burn you. The lava is just there to blind you until we get there."

"Wait. Blind?!" Ryuji shouted stepping back "Hell no! We ain't gonna get blind!" The Shadow smirked "It's not permanent. What I mean by 'blind' is that you won't feel or see us getting teleported. You'll just feel as if you walked through a door." He turned as the lava engulfed him slowly.

"If you're too scared then you have the option not to come. Though all of them expect you to come." He said before completely disappearing.

"Let's go." Makoto said summoning all of her courage just to walk up to the flowing lava "Don't tell me you're really going to.." Futaba asked feeling uneasy as Makoto only nodded "We have no choice but to trust him."

The group looked at each other for a moment, silently deciding whether to follow or not to. A moment passed before all of them nodded taking a step forward as bright light engulfed them.

== ??? ==

The group slowly opened their eyes. Their eyes slowly adjusting to the brightness of the place as they slowly looked around, not knowing where to go. "Over here." A voice they were all too familiar with said. They turned as they saw the Shadow. The First Shadow to be exact.

"Second already went ahead. Saying something like 'It's his fault' and 'I don't trust them'. Though I have to say. You did better than what I originally suspected." He smiled before looking at the clock that loomed over the room "It's almost time. We better get going."

The group nodded, relief flooding in their body as they talked with the First Shadow. Telling him how their heist went and him giving out little pointers. That didn't last long however as they approached a large door.

The Shadow knocked two times before the door opened. "Thank you for bringing them here." A voice said as the group suddenly felt the atmosphere change around them.

There was a large long table in front of them. Stretching from one side of the room to the other. Each side had four chairs, one taken as the Second Shadow silently sat there. At the end of the table, however, had one chair.

"Took you long enough." The Second Shadow hissed before sitting up straight. The First Shadow laughed as he took a seat beside him as a voice echoed throughout the room "Now that we're all here we can begin."

The vacant chairs slowly got occupied as silhouettes formed before emitting color, forming a person along with it.

The group looked at them, as they only looked at them back "How rude of us. We did not get any seats for our visitors. Here." A snap of a finger was heard as a large sofa appeared at the other end of the table as the group tensely sat down on it.

The group examined the three people who they haven't seen before. The one who somehow made a sofa appear out of thin air was still-- Akira. His hair was on the right side of his face, covering his right eye so that the left eye is the only one to be seen. He was wearing a blue long-sleeved polo with a black necktie, Black pants and shoes and White gloves.

The group looked at his eyes realizing that it was almost Akira's normal eye color with a tint of yellow.

Moving on to the next one next to him was Akira now with a full on prison outfit. Handcuffs help onto his wrists and ankles. His eyes heterochromia with one eye shining yellow and the other with Akira's normal eye.

The last one was the one sitting at the end of the table, and oh how it brings back memories.  The one at the end was-- Joker.

From head to toe, he was exactly similar. Down to the tail-coat to the red gloves and from the Cuban heeled boots. This time, his eyes shone yellow with a touch of Akira's normal eye color, the exact opposite of the other one.

"Let us introduce ourselves who have not met you all." He started before eyeing on the one with his hair on the right side of his face "I am Third. Simply put, I am the Shadow you will be facing next." He said, his expression not changing before going to the seat next to him

"I-I.." He quietly stuttered "I-I'm F-F-Fourth... N-Nice to.. M-Meet y-you.." He quietly said fidgeting with his hands. "And I am Fifth or better known to you all as Joker."

The group stared at them, their minds in deep thought. "So did you figure it out already?" Second said as he placed his head down on his palm which was being supported by the table "Figure what out..?" Haru asked before Morgana screamed "The paper!"

"Paper? Oh right!" Makoto hurriedly pulled it out as she presented it to them "This.. What does it mean?"

1: ⚫

2: ▲

3: ⬛⚫

4: ⬛

5: ⬛▲

"Still haven't figured it out, huh?" Second bluntly said "The circle means they shouldn't be a threat to you, the triangle means they're a threat and the square should mean they're in the middle. Am I correct?" Third said as he looked at the simple cipher, his expression still not changing. ((AN: Congrats to Nana_Thyme for solving the cipher~))

"Well, it isn't my idea. It was his." Second pointed to First who quietly laughed "I thought it would help them. So why not?"

"Cause it's dumb."

"Dumb or not, that cipher is quite simple."

"Silence." Fifth said immediately silencing everyone to talk as the atmosphere grew thick "Just as you all should have figured out now, we are all his Shadows." He said as he pulled out a book from who knows where and started flipping through the pages before stopping entirely.

The others looked at him as he said nothing but look at the page, his expression not telling anyone anything. "F-F-Fifth..?" Fourth called, worried for the other.

"..." He didn't respond. He acted as if he was in another world, void of any sound as he only sat there. "Okay. This is freaky." Second stood up, as if he's ready to run back to the Palace. "Fifth, are you okay?" Third asked, his face still not changing but you could see a hint of worry in his left eye.

After a few moments of silence, Fifth finally blinked as he looked up at the Phantom Thieves without saying a word "You.. Uh, Okay?" Ryuji awkwardly asked, not knowing what to say

"Sorry I.." The Shadow clenched it's head as he made small groans of pain "Woah! Fifth!" First rushed to him readily stood by him to support him. "G-Get away!" Fifth suddenly shouted startling First who took a step back.

Fifth glared at the Phantom Thieves, his eyes devoid of any emotions except for anger "You.. You!" He started as the other Shadows stood in their fighting stance, ready to take him on in case of a rampage.

"You all are.. Are.." He stood up, still glaring at their before pointing towards them "You all are Cinnamon Rolls!" He declared.

.

.

.

.

..What

After a moment of staring the group looked at the Shadows who look like they just had gone through traumatic trauma. Fifth only laughed, his sternness and his usual facial expression gone "I can't believe we fell for it again.." First said, still looking like a trauma victim.

"Sorry for this.." Third said, hiding his face with his hand as he face-palmed at what Fifth had just done. "He does this to relieve the tension in the air, he said."

"Why do you do stuff like that?!" Second shouted as Fifth only smiled "With a code name like Joker, I just can't let times like that pass." He answered which only angered the other more

"Either way, you all haven't spoken a lot since you came in here. And with the way Ryuji and Futaba-- I mean.. Skull and Oracle's sitting, I deduced that all of you were stiff and tense." He said, knowing full well what their code names are.

Suddenly, the clock looming over them rang, not too loud nor not too quiet. "Our time's up I'm afraid." Fifth said looking towards the clock which started to disappear along with the rest of the walls "After this room disappears, we shall return to our Palaces. You shall return to the Palace you were in and you can continue on your journey or return to the real world." Fifth said, slowly disappearing.

The room glowed bright making them close their eyes as they were teleported back to the Second Palace.

== Second Palace ==

The group opened their eyes. They were back at the waterfall of lava, only this time the lava was no longer there. "I have something to show you before you all leave." Second said motioning the group to follow him "Fifth said to show you guys this before you leave, and I do not want to piss him off."

"Is he that powerful?" Futaba questioned as Second nodded "Fought all four of us at the same time and won." He bluntly said as the group was petrified. How strong is that guy?!

"Anyway.. Give me the keys." He held his hand out as the group looked at him, confused at what to do "You know! The keys you guys collected on your way here!" The group yelled in unison as they figured out what he was talking about and gave him the keys.

"You guys would be going through here tomorrow to get to Third's Palace so I don't know why Fifth bothered to tell me to show you guys this.." He said as a pedestal rose up from the ground, five keyholes on the top of it as the Shadow placed them in and then turned, the wall in front of them opened revealing a corridor and at its end was an elevator, presumably the way to the Third Palace.

The corridor only had a carpet that led up to the elevator but aside from that, it had four paintings with words separated from the paintings.

'Naoya Toudou'

'Tatsuya Suou'

'Minato Arisato'

'Yu Narukami'

And on top of the elevator was 'Akira Kurusu'. Below all of their names were descriptions of the person and what they had done. Only Akira's was blank, however.

"Who are these people..?" Yusuke asked looking at the paintings as if he's memorizing every single detail.

"'Became the great seal'..?" Ann asked, confused at what that meant. "You'll know who they are when the time comes. Or, at least that's what First told me."

The group only looked at him before looking at the paintings once again before departing from the Palace and into the real world.

Second watched them leave before walking away humming a particular song.

Chapter Text

"Sorry for the intrusion."

"What are you doing here?"

"Ah, just wanted to let you know that I'll be giving them this."

"This is harder than the one they've gotten before. Since they didn't even solve that one, how can you be so sure that they'll solve this harder one?"

"But that was only because that one didn't have any clues to it. This one has plenty of those."

"...Fine."

"Thank you. Then I shall get going. They may already be there now."

"Be sure not to let them get to him."

"Oh? Are you worried about him..?"

"Who isn't? He is the most vulnerable out of all of us. Not to mention holds most of our secrets."

"..Do you think he's it?"

"Don't you dare go into tha--"

"I'm joking. With the way he is, he can never be him."

"Just go already."

"No need to tell me twice."

== Monday == Shujin Academy ==

It's been almost a week now since they've found out about Akira having a Palace. Each day, they try to hang out with Akira as much as they could whilst later on they would make some progress in the Palace. So far, it had been easy. The First Palace rule they didn't even need to fight as the Second one tried but failed due to the... Situation. Today, they'll be going to take a look at the Third Palace.

"Makoto," Akira called out as he carried some boxes up to the storage room "What's wrong? You've been spacing out." Akira pointed as if trying to prove a point "Ah. Is that so?"

Akira nodded as Makoto put the remaining boxes in before closing the room "I guess I have a lot on my mind lately.." It was true. Having to hide something so important from someone who you trust so deeply in, it can have a toll on you. Akira remained quiet, carefully eyeing on Makoto before speaking up "I wouldn't worry about it." He announced as he turned to Makoto "If it's you, I wouldn't worry about it because you're the type of person who doesn't give up until they've achieved their goal."

Makoto stared, shocked at his response before smiling towards him "Always so motivational like always.." He laughed before heading back to his classroom.

Seeing her leader walk away, Makoto felt her heart twist. It felt so real yet so fake at the same time. The other Phantom Thieves were struggling to keep it a secret too, especially Ryuji as he's the one closest to Akira.

Makoto felt her phone buzz, shocked at the message left for her.

Akira: Better hurry up or else the next bell is about to ring, Mrs. Student Council President.

"I know, I know." She smiled before going to her own class.

==

Ding, dong, ding, dong.

The sound rang throughout the school as students sighed out of relief. Ryuji letting go of the pencil he was writing out of before face-palming his face onto his desk. Another excuse, another route, another.. Another.. Another.. "Sakamoto!" His teacher yelled, "Pack up you're things!" He sighed. Damn, why do teachers always gotta be like that?

"Ryuji!" Someone yelled before an arm was thrown over his neck "Ann! What the heck?!" He shouted towards the other blonde as Akira only followed her, a smile on his face while a tiny portion of Morgana's face can be seen in his bag.

"Get off me already!" He yelled as Ann only smiled, accomplishing on annoying Ryuji. "Would you guys lower your voice?! People are staring at us cause of that!" Morgana hissed "It is to be expected.." They turned as they saw Makoto, her bag on hand as she walked over to them "And besides... Aren't they staring at us because there's a cat in school?" A new voice piped up in a teasing tone behind Makoto. The group snickered as Morgana only argued quietly.

"I am not a cat! I am an honorable human!" He argued "No you're not. You're Totoro," They all turned to Akira, who nonchalantly said it before turning his phone to let them see it's screen, "Said Futaba." The group laughed, Morgana dumb-founded as the group walked out the school, still laughing.

"Um... Makoto?" Haru tapped her shoulder as they moved behind the group "What is it?" The other asked, her voice in a whisper "About the Palace... Do you have the equipment's ready?" Makoto nodded looking forward to the group "Our main focus right now is to save Akira. Of course, we still have to be here with him whilst we go through his palaces but..."

She trailed off, Haru only stayed quiet as she knew. It was hard for all of them to see their leader, friend, and savior be happy and laughing on the outside whilst hiding all of these emotions inside of him.

They kept walking, distracted by their conversation that they didn't notice Akira stopped before him saying "What's wrong?"

They stopped and turned. Seeing Akira so serious with a knowing glance and a frown upon his face was not a good sign. "You guys have been secretive lately. Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

"What do you mean?" Ann asked nervously, putting on her best act while under pressure 'Calm down, dear.' Carmen's voice rang through her head 'Arsene will try and keep his suspicions under control.'

Despite Carmen's words, Akira stood still, the situation getting tenser and tenser by the minute before he sighed "Well, this just might be the effects of the third eye or I'm just too tense lately.." The group stood still as Akira walked passed them, his eyes covered by his bangs "Akira! Wai-" Ryuji was cut off, stopped at the very last moment at the realization about what he was going to say. Akira eyed him, waiting for him to continue before shrugging it off and continued walking.

Before they knew it, they arrived at LeBlanc. Futaba and Yusuke sitting down at two stools as Sojiro came out of the kitchen "Oh, you're back." LeBlanc is on that rare day where it was a full house. Weather? God? Illuminati? It was a fortunate mystery. "Mind help me with these?" Sojiro asked as Akira nodded, Morgana hopping out of his bag as he went upstairs to get dressed.

"Sojiro!" Futaba whispered "Could you distract Akira for... An hour or so?" Sojiro looked bewildered before nodding to her request "Just come back as soon as you can. Don't want to worry the guy than he already is, y'know?" Futaba blinked, thought about it for a second before pushing it to the back of her mind. Yusuke nodded towards Makoto before they set off into the metaverse.

== Second Palace ==

They rushed through the Second Palace, racing towards the gate to the Third Palace with speed before slowing down as the Second Shadow stood there. "Third Palace?" He asked as the group nodded, determination in their eyes before the Shadow pushed a button making the elevator's doors to open up.

They all got in as quickly as they can. The elevator doors slowly closing as the Second Shadow tossed them a bag "You'll need it." He simply said before the doors completely closing.

As the elevator transported them to the Third Palace, the group examined the insides of the bag. Yusuke taking out bottles of what looks like healing medicine, bandages and some ailment treatments. "If the dude's giving us this, the next guy is probably strong.." Ryuji nervously said, holding up one of the bottles of medicine "Either way, this will be a big help for us." Yusuke said before a bell rang and the elevator's doors opened up.

== Third Palace ==

Stepping out of the elevator, it wasn't freezing nor was it warm. It was like a windy day with no winds what-so-ever. The group looked around. Status standings were neatly placed onto the front of the building, Tarot Cards were lined up against the walls as floating screens circled the tower in which they call the Palace. The screens held images of what looks like Persona fusion operations and their status.

"You're here." They directed their gaze onto the Shadow. His eyes still gleaming a little yellow with a smirk and a book in hand. The one thing you wouldn't want Akira to have if you're fighting him is blood-thirsty eyes, his devil smirk and not knowing what he'll throw at you.

The group readied themselves and with a blink of an eye, the Shadow is gone. "You're too slow." His voice rang out before utter destruction took over. Spears were being thrown at them from mid-air as they dodged them, slowly closing in the Shadow before he disappeared again only to appear on every screen.

"I got the base of your performance." He said as he flipped through the book he was holding "It was better than I expected, to be honest. Here's your reward." A scroll fell down, landing in front of Makoto as she picked it up. Before she could even look at it, the Shadow spoke up "Hey, Queen."

"This is just an assumption but I'm guessing you're doing this because you all want to 'save' him, correct?" Makoto nodded, stepping forward "We can't let him suffer anymore. We're going to steal his treasure and save him."

The Shadow stared at her before closing his book and turning away "...Are you really saving him or are you just ruining him?"

Now it was the group's turn to stare back, confused at the question "Bare in mind, he worked hard for all of you not to see this side of him. Would you really betray his trust just to only tear off this mask he's worked so hard to make?"

The group looked down as the Shadow only continued "Well, It is my job to not let that happen. Adieu." He finished before the screens going back to its original state.

"Back to LeBlanc?" Futaba asked quietly as the group slowly walked away, Akira in mind.

== LeBlanc ==

It was 5:48 PM. The Sun was almost setting as Yongen-Jaya's street lights slowly came on. They walked in, tired out of their mind thinking about how much what Akira did to himself just to not let them worry.

Stepping in, the usual scent of coffee and curry filled their noses. A conversation between a person and a certain barista going on "Hahah, is that so?"

"Yeah. They--" He stopped as he looked at the group "You're back." He smiled "We were just talking about you guys."

'We' being The Phantom Thieves Leader, Akira Kurusu and The Ace Detective, Goro Akechi.