“...Welcome back to the Velvet Room.”
It had been several months since Akira Kurusu had last heard that nasally voice. He had only heard it ever briefly, but it had left an impression. His vision felt blurred, filled with nothing but blue velvet.
“It’s been some time trickster,” A far more familiar voice greeted him. “But also not long enough.”
His vision cleared, enough for him to finally see the familiar face of Lavenza, who he had once known as Caroline and Justine, greeting him with her big golden eyes, but a sad-looking smile.
“You completed your rehabilitation and saved your world from ruin with flying colors,” Igor chuckled, staring up at Akira from his tented hands. “As expected of the Wild Card.
“...We do not call you back here for no reason though.”
“It is as my master says,” Lavenza frowned at him. “I wished for you to live your life in peace from here on, but your fate will soon become intertwined within those of others once more.
Lavenza stopped herself, staring down at her feet before looking back up to Akira. “Your world hinges on ruin once more, a great seal being threatened and an old danger looms.”
“Of course,” Igor grinned at him. “You have proven yourself to be beyond even my expectations of the Wild Card’s potential and as always, we will aid you, like we have time and time again.”
Lavenza smiled at Akira, still sad but with warmth. “I still hold faith in you trickster, that you and your compatriots will be able to save the world from ruin once more. Now go and return to the waking world… And remember this dream.”
“Hey, are we there yet?” A voice questioned Akira, stirring him awake. “Hey wake up!”
“Morgana…” Akira groaned, rubbing his temples. “Can you at least let me sleep on the train?”
The cat poked his head from the bag on Akira’s lap, glaring at him. “Well you don’t gotta stay cooped up in a bag the whole trip! I’ve been in here for hours!”
“We should almost be to Yongen-Jaya,” The young man replied, pushing two fingers against the cat’s forehead, “and you have to stay in the bag.”
“Well let me get another minute of air at least,” Morgana growled, pushing back against his hand.
The cat let out a sigh. “It’s nice to finally go back to Tokyo though huh? Your hometown’s nice and all, but it’s pretty boring.”
“I thought you liked taking cat naps all day,” Akira jostled the cat’s ears. “Not to mention how much my mom dotes on you.”
“I mean, can you blame her, I am pretty great,” Morgana sneered. “I missed the hustle and bustle of city life though!
“Not to mention,” Morgana looked up at Akira with a far more genuine smile (or at least as much as one a cat could give.) “It will be great seeing everyone again. I’ve missed them… Even dumb Ryuji.”
“It’s only been a couple of months,” Akira gazed out the window. “But it feels like it’s been ages. It will be good to get to spend summer vacation with them.”
“I’m sure they’ll be surprised to see us too!” Morgana exclaimed. “We’re coming a full week ahead of schedule after all! Just in time for their end of the term party.”
“I’ve been keeping an eye on our old Phantom Thieves group chat and they don’t seem to suspect anything yet,” Akira replied, looking down at the cat once more. “Sojiro hasn’t let it slip to them."
Akira reached up and pinched at his cheek. “Of course even though I told Sojiro we were coming a week earlier then expected, I hope we didn’t inconvenience him in getting things ready.”
“I’m sure the Chief’s just as excited to see us as we are him and the rest of the gang!” Morgana exclaimed, poking his head out further. “Or well, I’m sure he’ll be excited to see me at least.”
Akira glared down at the now smug looking cat before pushing down on his head once. “Back in the bag Morgana.”
“Ow ow ow fine,” Morgana whined as he retreated back into the darkness of the bag. “You don’t have to push me so hard.”
Not too long after, Akira found himself stepping out of the station at Yongen-Jaya and back in the familiar back alleys he had called home for a year, and home is what it felt like, the familiar feeling of the warm summer sun coming down onto Tokyo, the chirping of cicadas from the little overgrown patches of grass coming through the old concrete and gardens, the cozy little community he had found here, and the cat riding around on his back.
“It’s good to be home,” Morgana echoed Akira’s thoughts, peering over his shoulder. “I wonder if the Chief’s got much business today.”
“Probably not,” Akira responded, looking back at the cat on his shoulder. “Summer vacation’s just starting after all.”
The two quickly made their way, facing the familiar door to the place they had lived for over a year, the sign with “Cafe Leblanc” still ever in place. Akira looked up at the sign with a smile before pushing the door open, hearing the bell sounding off his entrance as the rich aroma of coffee and cooking curry filled his nostrils and the ever familiar smirk of the goateed face he had gotten to known all too well.
“Hey kid,” Sojiro smirked at him as he came into the cafe. “Long time no see.”
Akira strolled in and over to the counter, grinning at him. “Hey Sojiro. Same to you.”
“Hey there Chief!” Morgana popped out of Akira’s bag, leaping to a nearby seat as he exclaimed at the middle-aged man.
“You know, I still don’t understand a word you’re saying cat,” Sojiro sighed before reaching out and giving the feline a pat on the head. “But it’s good to see you too.”
Morgana let out a purr, rubbing against Sojiro’s hand before the man pulled his hand back and turned his focus back to Akira. “You got here just in time, Futaba should be getting back from her school’s end of term ceremony soon -"
Sojiro smirked and shook his head. “I still can’t believe she’s going to school now. She’s really come far.”
“She’s going over to Gekkoukan right?” Akira asked. “Over in Iwatodai?”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty good school,” Sojiro replied, as he started to move some dishes over to the sink. “Funded by that Kirijo Group I’ve heard.
“I shouldn’t be surprised she got into a good school,” Sojiro chuckled. “She’s always been bright, just like her mom. She’s even on the student council now, I’m real proud of her.
“I do sorta miss seeing her around all day though,” Sojiro let out a sigh and looked wistfully into space.
“Well hey, it is summer vacation now,” Akira shrugged. “You’ll get to see both of us all the time again for a-”
“YOOOO SOJIROOOOO,” A voice shouted in as the entrance bell rang. “You best got that curry a cooking because I am hun...gry...”
Futaba came into Leblanc her usual energetic self, outfitted in a school uniform with a yellow armband marked with “Student Council”, her long orange hair blowing behind her as she pushed the door open. She immediately trailed off, staring in a stupor as she saw who was there. Akira gave her a timid wave as she stared straight at him in surprise.
He then immediately had to put all his strength into keeping himself from falling over as Futaba sprinted right over to him and leapt at him in a huge hug.
“You’re back!” Futaba clinged to him, shaking Akira back and forth. “Wait, you’re not supposed to be back for another week! Well whatever, you’re back!”
Akira groaned trying to keep himself up. “Futaba, you’re light… But not that light.”
“Huh? Oh. Oh!” Futaba exclaimed, putting her feet back on the ground realizing she had literally jumped into his arms. “Sorry.”
Akira let out a sigh, but heard a little bit of nervous laughter peeking over Futaba to see someone else in a Gekkoukan High uniform who had followed in after her. Some brown haired young man he didn’t recognize, just a little taller then Futaba and with a matching yellow armband.
“Hey, who’s that?” Akira looked over at mystery student then Futaba.
“Oh that’s Amada-senpai!” Futaba exclaimed, dragging Akira over to him, much to both of their surprises. “He’s my school’s student council president, and also my very good friend.”
“Oh yeah, I think I remember you mentioning him before,” Akira pondered, remembering Futaba mentioning in the Phantom Thieves chat that she was ‘hanging out with Amada-senpai’ and other variants upon that.
“My full name’s Ken Amada,” He said, reaching a hand out to Akira. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” Akira smiled, reaching his hand out to shake his. “I’m Akira Kurusu.”
“So, is he your boyfriend ?” Morgana sneered, snickering at Futaba.
Futaba slowly turned to Morgana with a death glare, slowly reaching out to him, Morgana promptly shrieking in pain as she pulled hard at his cheeks.
Ken pulled his hand away right before Akira reached it and covered his mouth as he erupted into a coughing fit. Akira looked in surprise at Ken Amada as he finished coughing and spoke up once more.
“Oh, sorry, something in my throat, uh,” He looked sheepishly back and forth at Akira, Sojiro, and Futaba before speaking up once more. “I just remembered I have to make a call real quick. I’m gonna step out for a second.”
Ken excused himself and quickly backed out the door as he pulled out his phone. Akira was getting a weird vibe from him, something he couldn’t shake off, before he could ponder it any further though, Futaba grabbed him by the arm again and started dragging him toward the attic stairs.
“Cmon, you gotta put your stuff away,” She grinned up at Akira as he let her pull him along, “and we gotta catch up! You gotta tell me what you’ve been up to!”
“Hey don’t you wanna know what I’ve been up to too?” Morgana howled after them giving chase.
As they disappeared from his sight, Sojiro shook his head with a smirk as he got back to work. It really was starting to feel like home again.
Ken Amada had just heard a cat talk. Well he already knew the cat was going to talk, but that didn’t change the fact he wasn’t expecting it. Especially not right now. He knew the cat could only be heard by Persona users and Futaba didn’t know he was a Persona user. None of them were supposed to know, being a regular student was his cover after all.
He let out a tired sigh as he found a corner away from prying eyes across from Leblanc, a small dingy laundromat serving exactly that purpose, and quickly scrolled through his phone contacts. Ken had to talk to the person who got him into this mess in the first place because he decided to do her a favor. As he did so, he remembered just what had happened to lead him down this path back in spring, right before the current semester begun and as he did, he landed on the name he was calling.
Several months ago…
It had been a while since Ken Amada had seen Mitsuru Kirijo, but he had known her since he was 10 years old and she was one of his closest friends. So when she invited him to a private lunch because she wanted to discuss something of importance with him, he of course accepted the offer even though he had left the Shadow Operatives several years ago so he and Koromaru could lead more peaceful lives - but he did want to eventually return to the organization.
So it was then after a filling lunch he found himself seated in the personal office of Mitsuru, up in her very fancy penthouse apartment in the middle of Tokyo, his albino Shiba Inu friend donning the old orange hoodie Ken had worn as a child seated obediently next to him. It looked up at him, its tail wagging away.
“You get enough to eat boy?” Ken smiled back at Koromaru, petting his head.
Koromaru gave an affirmative bark as Mitsuru looked up from the papers she was sorting through on the desk with a smile, her long red hair ever draped over her left eye.
“So how’s Koromaru doing?” She asked, peering down at the dog. “He’s starting to get up in years right?”
“Yeah, but he’s still as full of energy as ever,” Ken smiled, looking back up at her. “Thanks for helping me get him to stay with me in dorms by the way.
“Besides that,” Ken looked over at Mitsuru with a far more serious look, “I imagine you didn’t just ask me over to ask how Koromaru is doing.”
“Of course,” Mitsuru sighed and frowned as she continued, bringing up something far less pleasant. “It’s about Christmas.”
Ken felt a chill down his spine as she said “Christmas.” This wasn’t about the holiday in general or next Christmas. This was about last Christmas, just a few months prior, or more appropriately, when the world almost ended. When a giant godlike being calling itself Yaldabaoth towered over Tokyo, as the very world melted around their eyes and horrors surrounded people at every turn.
Ken Amada was ashamed to admit he was terrified. Absolutely terrified. It was just him and Koromaru as the Shadows drew in ever closer. He hadn’t felt that scared since he was a child and saw the Fall happening from up close, and this time, there wasn’t someone to sacrifice themselves to seal it all away.
At least that what’s he had thought, but then they showed up. He had heard of them of course, as they became all the rage in Japan and then as they descended into infamy - the Phantom Thieves of Heart. Ken was a skeptic, thinking it was all just some show with them at first but he had never expected them to be Persona users. He never saw them personally of course, but it had been impossible to miss the call that echoed through the sky of “Satanael!” and what had been the largest Persona he had ever seen come into existence, a demonic overlord with even more might then Yaldabaoth and the thunderous gunshot that blew a hole straight through the god’s head and split the very sky apart.
With that, it was all over, the world returned to normal as if nothing had even happened and the general public not even realizing it. Just like with the Fall and the Dark Hour, they had forgotten for their own good, the memories shoved into a deep part of their subconscious to keep their sanities intact and the Phantom Thieves of Heart became nothing but myth once more.
Ken remembered of course. Anyone with a Persona would remember, such was their curse. He got a hold of his nerves and looked back up at Mitsuru though. “What about Christmas?”
“Well first,” Mitsuru pushed a file toward him, “take a look at this.”
Ken picked it up and skimmed through it. He wasn’t too sure what was important about it, reading the name “Futaba Sakura” at the front of it and a picture of the girl - she was a bit odd looking, but she was cute. Only a year younger than him though she looked ridiculously tiny. The file seemed to have her medical history, her residence, guardian, and other such general information.
“So why are you showing me this?”
“She’s enrolling at Gekkoukan High as a second year at the start of next semester in several weeks,” Mitsuru replied and steepled her fingers. “She’s also a member of the Phantom Thieves.”
“I dunno why a random new student at Gekkoukan would be important to me -” Ken murmured, before the last thing Mitsuru said sunk in. “Wait what?”
“I’m fairly sure she’s their technical expert and navigator,” Mitsuru continued, disregarding Amada’s bewilderment. “A similar role that I filled for us back during our days in school until Fuuka joined us.”
“Wait, you’re saying this girl is a member of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts?” Ken ignored what Mitsuru was saying as he wildly pointed at the file.
“Well not just that,” Mitsuru glanced at him, flipping her bangs away from her eyes. “I’m fairly sure she was one of their targets once.”
“I…” Ken stammered before he let out a sigh and submitted. “Okay then. So what is it you need me to do?”
“I know you’re no longer a part of the Shadow Operatives,” Mitsuru began, giving Amada a sympathetic look, “but I was hoping you could keep an eye on her.
“You’ll be going into your third year as the new student council president though, on top of studying for your entrance exams,” Mitsuru continued. “You don’t need to accept this, but I would very much appreciate it. I would ask Aigis, but I already have her observing some other members of these Phantom Thieves of Hearts.”
“It’s just keeping an eye on her right?” Ken sighed, scratching the back of his head. “Nothing crazy, I don’t need to fight any Shadows or evil gods or anything like that?”
“Correct,” Mitsuru nodded. “At least I’d hope not.”
“Sure then,” Ken agreed, leaning back in his chair. “I can keep an eye on her, it probably won’t be too hard.”
Koromaru finally let out another bark after all the conversation, Ken glanced over at him as he did. “Koromaru says he’ll help too, of course.”
Mitsuru let herself a cheerful little giggle. “Thank you very much Koromaru.”
Ken looked back at the file - at this “Futaba Sakura” - then back to Mitsuru. “So, why do you want an eye kept on the Phantom Thieves?”
“I suppose you can consider it a professional curiosity,” She smirked at the young man. “I’d like to know the quality of their character mostly.”
The two would discuss further, but Ken pulled his mind back to the present, his gaze fixed on the name Mitsuru Kijiro glowing softly on his phone.
“Keep an eye on her” is what he should have just done. Instead he ended up becoming friends with her, made her a member of the student council because her computer expertise was actually incredibly helpful, and she’d become invaluable to him in more ways than one.
He pressed call, and let his phone ring away.
“So how’d you meet Amada?” Akira Kurusu looked over at Futaba as he placed his bag down onto the old bed he had been on all last year and sat down next to it.
Futaba looked back at him as she ran a hand over top of the old CRT he had a bought last year, a cloud of dust rising up and straight into her face. She coughed before waving it away. “Oh, he helped me out a bunch when I first got to Gekkoukan. I was super lost, especially since I haven’t been in like, regular school since elementary.
“We ended up actually becoming friends pretty quick after that,” Futaba pondered, before she strolled over and sat down next to Akira. “He also convinced me to join him on the student council, which I thought would be pretty lame, but I’ve actually been enjoying it.”
Futaba let herself a little snicker before looking at Akira with a smirk. “He’s also a huge fan of Featherman R but he’ll barely admit it to anyone. I managed to pry it out of him though, but don’t tell him I told you.
“Enough about me though!” Futaba exclaimed, pointing a finger at Akira. “What have you been doing these past couple months?”
“Not as much as you,” Akira replied. “School mostly, not a lot goes down in the country.
“This is my final year though,” He continued. “So I’ve been getting ready for entrance exams. I’ll probably go to a school here in Tokyo, so it will be a lot easier to see you guys from now on.”
Futaba smiled at the thought and pulled her feet up onto the bed, assuming the sitting position Akira was more used to seeing her in. She then turned to him once more a thought coming to mind. “Oh hey, you should come to Akihabara with me and Ken tomorrow!”
“What’s going on in Akihabara?” Akira asked as he pulled his bag open and started sorting through the contents.
“Oh nothing except that my FAVORITE Pink Argus is gonna be there doing signings tomorrow,” Futaba exclaimed, her voice filled with excitement. “Yukari Takeba, from the rare series run when Pink Argus was the team leader. She’s incredible!
“Not to mention Ken’s got an in!” Futaba continued feverishly. “He told me she apparently babysitted him when she was in high school or something like that, at least that’s what he told me.
“Ooh ooh! Ken also said he’d bring his dog,” Futaba continued rambling, Akira smiling at her as she did. “He has this super cute Shiba Inu named Koromaru and he’s sooo soft, you gotta meet him.”
“Sure then,” Akira let out a little laugh and shrugged. “I just hope I won’t be too much of a third wheel.”
“Huh, what?” Futaba raised an eyebrow. “Why would you be a ‘third wheel’?”
“I know you got mad at Morgana for teasing you earlier there,” Akira answered, “but it does sound like you guys are sorta a thing. Don’t worry I won’t tell Soji-”
“Huh?! What?! No no!” Futaba shook her head back and forth. “We’re not! Amada-senpai is just my friend!
“I mean I guess I am being pretty loose with addressing him formally right now, but he doesn’t mind me calling him by his first name,” Futaba pouted and crossed her arms. “But we’re just good friends! That’s all!
“Besides that,” Futaba nervously looked over at Akira and blushed. “There’s actually somebody else I already like… Don’t tell Sojiro that though!”
Akira patted her on the head and gave her a warm smile. “Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.”
He looked at his phone for a second before looking back at Futaba. “You look cute in a school uniform by the way.”
“Shutup!” Futaba’s face turned red as she swiveled away from him. It quickly returned to normal as another voice poked in.
“I bet I can guess who that somebody you like issss,” A teasing meow came up from the steps, Morgana casually strutting in with a big cheshire grin.
“You know I really missed you too Morgana,” Futaba stood up and slowly walked toward the cat. “It’s a shame you had to ruin it.”
“Wait wait wait - AH LET ME GO!” Morgana screamed as Futaba wrapped him up in her arms and started harassing the poor cat. “PLEASE STOP AAAGH!”
All Akira could do was let himself have a little chuckle at the two of them going at it again.
“Mitsuru!” Ken exclaimed as the other end of the line picked up. “Oh, sorry for shouting so loud.
“Yeah, I hope you aren’t too busy, I just uh,” Ken rubbed his temples. “Ran into a tiny issue - the leader of the Phantom Thieves is back already.
“Yeah I know this is a good opportunity for me to get to know all of them better,” Ken hissed into the phone, making sure nobody was watching him, “but he brought back that cat too! Yes the one that talks! Yes, the one only Persona users can hear talk!
“It already caught me by surprise once, I don’t wanna get caught off guard and have them all figure me out,” Ken sighed and listened as the voice came from the other side. “Yeah, yeah I know. I’ll be careful and stick around for a bit.
“Bye Mitsuru,” Ken let out a large sigh and hanged up, somewhat frustrated. He pondered to himself as he stepped out of the dark little corner he had hidden in. Maybe he could just excuse himself now instead - he really didn’t wanna see the fallout if he got discovered now. Just before he could fully consider that course of action, he realized a large group of people were heading right toward him.
“Man, am I glad summer vacation’s finally here,” The bleached-blonde young man in a Shujin uniform let out an exaggerated sigh, walking with a horribly postured gait. “I can only take so many exams…”
“I told you to study Ryuji!” A far more prim and proper brown-haired girl scolded him. “This is your final year in high school, I mean if you do poorly now, what are you going to do about next year?”
“I would think Ryuji would stay in high school forever,” A very tall, pale, and blue haired boy, clad in a Kosei uniform, responded. “It does seem the most fitting place for him.”
“Oh shut up Yusuke!” Ryuji growled at him. “And don’t worry Makoto, I’ll be fine. Easy peasy.”
“Maybe if you don’t leave your summer homework to the last-minute this time…” A girl with blonde pigtails, also in a Shujin uniform, sneered at him.
“I’m sure we can have complete faith in Ryuji!” A very soft-spoken auburn-haired girl spoke up. “I mean he did get to his third year after all!”
This boisterous conversation continued on, Ken Amada was only able to watch in a stupor. As they got closer and their conversation suddenly stopped as they all saw him, he realized his plan to excuse himself was no longer an option. He let out a nervous laugh as they all turned their attention to him in front of Cafe Leblanc. For now ; he was in the sights of the rest of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts.
“Hey kid,” Ryuji raised an eyebrow at him. “Who’re you?”
“He’s wearing a Gekkoukan uniform,” Makoto replied. “He must be that friend Futaba’s been telling us so much about - Ken Amada, correct?”
“Oh you’re the guy!” Ryuji slung an arm over him all of a sudden. “It’s nice to meet you! The name’s Ryuji Sakamoto.”
“I can’t imagine how you put up with her all day,” Yusuke spoke up, nodding at him. “I am Yusuke Kitagawa.”
“I don’t think Futaba’s that bad Yusuke…” Makoto sighed but then looked at Ken with a polite smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m Makoto Nijima.”
“Well since we’re all introducing ourselves,” The girl with blonde pigtails pointed her thumb at herself. “I’m Ann Takamaki!”
“I’m Haru Okumura,” The auburn-haired girl - Haru - smiled warmly and gave a polite bow of her head.
Ken, now trapped under the grasp of Ryuji stammered out. “I-It’s nice to meet all of you. Futaba’s told me all about you-”
“Man!” Ryuji shouted, rustling him back and forth. “You’re way shorter than I expected.
“Like what,” He leaned back from him, looking him over. “Are you five foot or something?”
Ken gave him an indignant look and shot back. “No, I’m 5’1”!”
“Eh, close enough,” Ryuji shrugged.
“God Ryuji,” Ann huffed. “You really need to be more polite to people - I mean he’s taller then Futaba at least.”
“Yes, but Futaba stayed inside all the time until recently,” Yusuke pondered. “It makes sense for her to be so short.”
“Can we please stop talking about this?!” Ken shouted. “Why are you all getting so caught up on my height?!”
“I’m so sorry Amada-kun,” Makoto sighed. “They’re always like this.”
“Oh Amada-kun!” Haru exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “Why are you waiting outside anyway? I would have thought you and Futaba would arrive together.”
“Oh, this guy was there when we got here and Futaba was pretty excited so I thought I’d give her a minute,” Ken stretched the truth a bit. “Akira Kurusu or some-”
Upon saying that, Ken saw all of their eyes go wide with surprise and he was dragged along as they pushed into Leblanc together, Ryuji’s arm wrapped around his shoulder despite his own protests. The bell rang once more as the group filed in, Ryuji leading the pack as he pushed Ken along with him.
“Yo Akira,” Ryuji shouted far too loud, “what are you doing back early you son of a bitch?!”
“Geez kid!” Sojiro growled at Ryuji. “Don’t go shouting expletives out loud in my cafe! I don’t need that kinda business.”
“Oh, sorry ‘bout that Boss,” Ryuji chuckled abashedly. “I got a little overexcited-”
Ken could only let out an exasperated sigh as the group become overly boisterous once more as the “famed” Akira Kurusu came stepping down the stairs in the back with a small wave, Futaba and that talking cat pushing him along. He was only granted some relief as Sakamoto finally released him, the whole group flowing around him and they swarmed Akira.
“Man, you’re weren’t suppose to be back for another week!”
“Quite, I would have appreciated if you had stayed on schedule Akira.”
“Oh, but Yusuke, it’s so good to see him again isn’t it?”
Ken could only stare on as the group continued like that, filled with energy and so tightly knit. It had been so long since he had been part of a group like that… It made him a feel slight twang of nostalgia.
“Hey there Amada,” Sojiro leaned over the counter, catching Ken’s attention. “Haven’t got a chance to actually properly introduce myself. Sojiro Sakura.”
“Oh, you’re right,” Ken laughed, turning to face the man. “Ken Amada, it’s nice to meet you Sakura-san.”
“Futaba’s told me all about you,” Sojiro replied as he pulled at his goatee. “I just wanted to say thanks for helping her out so much. I was worried about her going to a new school all alone, but you’ve really helped her along from what she’s told me” - he smirked - “I hope she hasn’t been to much of a problem.”
“Oh, it’s no problem! I consider it a part of my duties as student president council - and she’s been a huge help to me as well.”
“I’m glad that’s the case,” Sojiro continued as he nodded sagely. “I hope you’ll excuse how excited they’re getting. They haven’t seen Akira since March - anyway, I gotta get back to that curry.”
Ken nodded as Sojiro walked back over to the kitchen and turned his attention back to the group - the Phantom Thieves of Heart - only to realize their attention was on him now.
“As Boss said,” Makoto Nijima said as she walked over. “Our thanks are needed for you helping out Futaba so much.”
“Yes, thank you very much Amada-kun!” Haru exclaimed. “She’s a very dear friend of ours after all.”
“Truly you must have the patience of a saint Amada,” Yusuke said.
“Oh shut up Inari,” Futaba fumed, staring straight up at Yusuke, who towered over her. “Well, all of you shut up really, you’re embarrassing the heck outta me!”
She marched forward and grabbed Ken’s arm, pulling him along to a booth. “Now c’mon Amada-senpai!! You gotta try our Sojiro’s curry, it’s soooo good!”
Ken soon found himself boxed into one of Leblanc’s booths, surrounded by the group on all sides and sat right next to Akira and Ryuji. The others filed in as well as they could as well, pulling in stools to crowd around the table. He was well and truly trapped for the rest of the evening.
“So how’s university been going Makoto and Haru?” Akira spoke up.
“Excellently I’d say for myself,” Makoto replied with pride. “It’s hard work but I was prepared for that.”
“It has been very hard work managing it and Okumura Foods,” Haru let out a sad sigh but smiled, “but I have been managing.”
“Oh, so you are that Okumura” - Ken interjected - he hadn’t been told as much about the other Phantom Thieves as he had Futaba but he had his assumptions - “Oh erm, sorry. I hope that wasn’t too rude.”
“Oh no it’s okay Amada-kun,” Haru reassured him, giving him a bright smile. “You don’t know us so it’s only natural that’d you’d want to find out more. Actually, I’m curious to find out more about you in fact.”
“Oh, well there’s not really that much to tell,” Ken answered. “I’ve lived in the Iwatadoi ward pretty much my whole life and have gone to school there too. I attended Gekkoukan’s elementary and middle schools and I’m now enrolled in their high school.
“I was also in the student council in middle school and headed it up in my final year then as well.”
“Are you perhaps pursuing a career in government or law?” Makoto spoke up and looked at him. “I was student council president back in my last year as well and I’m pursuing law like my father and sister before me now that I’m in university.”
“Yeah, you could say it’s something like that,” Ken replied, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head.
These little conversations would continue until Sojiro interjected. “All right, I hope you kids are hungry, because the curry’s all done.”
“Heck yeah I am Sojiro!” Futaba stood up from her seat, pounding her fists on the table.
“I’ve cooked it up at home,” Akira wistfully leaned back as he answered, “but it’s not the same as getting it right from you Sojiro.”
Ken sat back as the plates of curry were put in front of everyone and watched as everyone dug in. It certainly smelled good though so he certainly was excited to try it out. He took a scoop with his spoon and slowly closed his mouth around the concoction. It did taste good, in fact, it tasted really good. It evoked a sense of strange nostalgia in him as he recalled an insignificant day back in the Iwatodai dorms.
“Why don’t you cook more Aragaki-san?” Ken asked as he stared up at the much taller Shinjiro. “The curry you’re making smells really good.”
“Stop asking questions if you want some of it then,” Shinjiro shot back, glancing down at the Ken..
Shinjiro Aragaki started pouring some of it into a pair of bowls and carried it to the table. “I just don’t like to do it when others are around. You just happen to be here today.”
“Well Minato-san is here, but he’s been playing a game on his laptop all day.” Ken noted.
“I don’t really get that guy sometimes,” Shinjiro mumbled. “Anyway, feel free to dig in.”
Ken sat down next to him as Shinjiro started eating the curry himself. Ken shoveled it in, realizing he maybe should have waited for it to cool a bit - but it tasted really good. He looked over at Shinjiro once more. “It’s tastes really good Aragaki-san, you should cook for the others sometime-”
“Aragaki-san cooks food for Koromaru all the time.” A robotic monotonous voice came from around the corner, Aigis peering from around the wall.
Shinjiro stopped eating, slowly turning his head in shock at what the robotic girl had just revealed. Ken stopped too, letting the curry he had just shovelled in simmer in his mouth. A happy bark came from the other side of the kitchen as Koromaru waltzed in.
“Koromaru says it is very good,” Aigis translated. “He agrees with Amada-kun and thinks you should also cook food for the rest of the team as well.”
Shinjiro let out a ragged sigh, maintaining his tough guy composure. “No. None of you mention this, or else.
“I’ll tell the others you get up early to watch Featherman R if you say anything kid,” Shinjiro teased.
“Wait, how do you know that!?” Ken yelped, shooting up to attention in his chair. “I thought I was keeping it pretty well hidden…”
“And I’ll figure out some dirt on you,” He glared at Aigis.
“Why do you not make these threats toward Koromaru?” Aigis asked, oblivious as ever.
“Well uh,” Shinjiro stammered. “Because he’s just a dog, so I don’t have to worry about him.”
Koromaru barked once more and Aigis looked at him as she translated once more. “He says it’s because you love him the most.”
Shinjiro shot up from his chair in a tizzy, completely flustered and shouting like a madman. “Sh-Shut up! Both of you! All of you!”
He let out a frustrated growl, grabbing his curry and stomping off toward somewhere he could eat alone.
It was a silly memory to recall but it was a pleasant one. A one from before Ken remembered the truth and everything went to hell. As he got older, he wished he could go back to before then, go back and not make the biggest mistake of his life. Ken Amada had long learned though the past was the past and it couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be changed.
“Man, you must really not like it,” Ryuji spoke up. “You’re tearing up.”
“Huh?” Ken said with surprise, reaching to his eyes and pulling back damp fingertips. “Oh no, it’s great, I just uh, don’t eat spicy stuff too often.
“It brings back good memories actually,” Ken continued, looking at Sojiro with a smile. “Thank you Sakura-san.”
“Heh, now that’s a pretty good compliment, thanks kid,” Sojiro said with smarmy pride. “You guys could learn a thing or two from him.”
The group continued well into the late evening, Sojiro taking off early as he told Akira to make sure lock the place up after they were all done. Eventually their conversations winded down, Futaba quietly staring away at some late night anime she had tuned into on the TV in the cafe, trying to tell Ken the specifics, while the others sat around discussing. Morgana especially had been oddly quiet most of the night, sleeping away in a separate booth.
“I’m telling you guys, that new transfer student is totally into me!” Ryuji exclaimed. “I’ve seen her checking me out a couple times now.”
“She’s way too cute to be into you,” Ann scoffed, giving Ryuji a look of disbelief.
“It does seem quite farfetched to believe someone would be so willingly” - Yusuke twisted a finger through his long bangs as he replied - “‘checking you out’ as you put it.”
“Maybe she was amazed by how much of a monkey you are,” Morgana piqued in with a yawn, jumping onto the divider between booths, his glowing eyes staring at the senior members of the Phantom Thieves.
“Ah, shut up,” Ryuji grumbled. “I’ll show all of ya in the fall when she totally starts going out with me.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it,” Ann groaned, but then looked over at Makoto and Haru with a sly grin, “but on the topic of love lifes, I wanna know if you two have gotten into anything at university. Any hot older guys?”
“Oh gosh no,” Haru exclaimed. “I’m far too busy for anything like that. Honestly, I’m glad to not have one, especially now that I don’t have to worry about that arranged marriage anymore.”
“So how about you Mako-chan,” Ann turned her focus, pointing a finger at Makoto. “Come on, give me something good.”
“Well,” Makoto blushed. “I do have this older senpai, he’s quite handsome. He has this beautiful silver hair.”
“Oooh, you gotta give me those deets girls.”
“Well it’s not like I’ve made a move or anything,” Makoto continued. “He’s a few years ahead of me and he’s been a huge help with my studies.
“Unfortunately he went to visit family out in the country for the summer though, so I won’t get to see him again for a while,” Makoto let out a sigh. “I should really try to be a bit more forward though.”
“So you think you’ve finally found yourself a study partner for the test of love?” Akira teased, leaning forward.
“Oh god don’t remind me,” Makoto laughed. “I still can’t believe I said that to you. I’m never gonna live it down am I?”
“Nope,” Akira answered as the group erupted into laughter.
“Yo, so man you doing anything tomorrow?” Ryuji turned to Akira. “We should totally hang if you’re free.”
“I already made plans with Futaba actually,” Akira answered. “Apparently someone who starred in Featherman R will be making an appearance in Akihabara and she asked me to come along.”
“Eh, maybe I’ll come along too, someth-” Ryuji got cut off as he let out a shriek of pain as Ann kicked him in the shins underneath the table. “Goddamn what was that for?!”
“Geez Ryuji, we have something to do tomorrow,” Ann said (lying very badly.) “Don’t you remember?”
“What are you even talk-” Ryuji shrieked again as her foot connected with his shin once more. “God okay fine, you reminded me!”
Akira cocked an eyebrow at the odd display, but let his attention get turned away as Ken walked up to the table, phone in hand.
“It’s getting pretty late, and we’re nearing the last trains,” Ken murmured before looking up at them. “So yeah, I just figured it’s a good time for me to head off.”
“I believe it would be so for the rest of us as well,” Yusuke replied as he also noted the time.
“Oh, I just wanted to say thanks by the way,” Ken spoke up. “I’ve been so focused on school, I’ve not really had a period of just… Hanging out with a huge group of people like this for a really long time. It’s nice.”
“Hey, you’re free to spend time with us anytime you want Amada!” Ann exclaimed. “Any friend of Futaba’s is a friend of ours!”
“Thank you Takamaki. I appreciate the sentiment.”
“Let’s all get heading over to the station then,” Ryuji yawned. “Just let me get my shit.”
“I’ll walk over to the station with you guys then,” Akira said as he got up from his seat.
“I will too!” Futaba shot up from across the room. “Just let me get sorted.”
“I’ll wait for you guys outside then,” Ken replied as he repositioned the bag strapped over his shoulder.
“Oh hey, Amada,” Akira followed after him. “I’ll wait with you. There’s something I wanted to ask you actually.”
The two of them headed out the door, the bell chiming away as the rest of the group went about cleaning up their trash and collecting their things. As they did so Morgana spoke up once more.
“Geez, how dense can you be Ryuji?”
“What?” Ryuji glared back at the talking cat before then turning to Ann as well. “Was that what all the kicking was about?”
“Have you not really realized what’s going on Ryuji?” Ann sighed with annoyance. “Morgana’s right about you being dense.”
“Oh come on, just tell me what’s going on.”
Ann made a sly smirk before turning to look at Futaba. “♪Futaba’s got a crush on Akira♪”
Futaba stopped dead in her tracks before she slowly turned around to show her face was beat red. “W-w-w-wh-what?!”
“It has been rather obvious for quite a while,” Yusuke chuckled.
“I noticed it back during March actually,” Makoto added.
“I-is it really that obvious?” Futaba stammered, looking like she was about to fall over. “D-does Akira know?!”
“Joker’s talented in many fields,” Morgana piqued up, “but I’d say the field of love isn’t one of them. He definitely hasn’t, don’t worry.”
Futaba let out a long sigh of relief, the tension disappearing from her body. “Thank god.”
“Goddamn,” Ryuji cursed and pinched the bridge of his nose as he winced, “am I seriously the only who didn’t notice?”
“I’d be more worried if you had honestly,” Morgana sneered at him. “I’d have wondered what happened to the real Ryuji.”
“Ah, shut up you stupid cat.”
“Don’t worry Futaba!” Ann exclaimed, smiling and giving the younger girl two thumbs up. “I got your back in this!”
Futaba laughed nervously, her face turning red once more. “Th-thanks Ann.”
Good nights were said, Futaba was walked back home to Sojro’s, and Cafe Leblanc was cleaned and locked up for the evening. Akira let himself fall into bed, his body tired after a long day of travel and socializing. He was very happy to see his friends again after all this time, but his face was lined with concern.
“So what was it you wanted to ask me Kurusu?”
“Well… Actually nevermind, it’s not a big deal.”
Akira let out a tired sigh, unable to sleep. He turned his head to the side and noticed a familiar pair of glowing green eyes staring into his.
“So you noticed it too huh?” Morgana spoke up, pacing around him.
“Yeah, of course I did,” Akira replied, his voice filled with concern, “but I just… I don’t wanna worry everyone especially now that we just got back. Let’s just figure this out first, okay?”
“I mean he played a pretty good game,” Morgana continued. “Managed to ignore me for the rest of the night, but he slipped up right at the very start there.”
Akira nodded his head, his eyes tired but still aware. “Ken Amada was able to understand you.”
“Yep,” Morgana replied, giving Akira a serious look. “I know he’s Futaba’s friend and all, but what if that’s just part of some greater plan?”
“I know,” Akira sighed. “He seems nice though, and I don’t wanna move in on this and worry everyone just yet.”
“Akechi seemed pretty nice at first too,” Morgana stated, “but you’re right. We still don’t know the whole situation.
“Let’s get to sleep for the night. You look exhausted.”
The ever familiar tones of velvet blue surrounded him once more, Akira finding himself in the Velvet Room once more. Igor peeked up at him, a wide smirk on his face as he drew a tarot card from seemingly nowhere. He looked at it, his smile growing ever wider as he faced it Akira’s way.
“One of the Justice arcana…” Igor chuckled his deep nasally chuckle. “Just like the one you were faced with defeating before.”
“This one feels quite different though,” Lavenza remarked. “It has a certain warmth to it - a true belief in Justice, not corrupted by a cruel and terrible being.”
“Indeed,” Igor interjected. “In fact, he was even an ally of one of our former guests many years ago.”
“I can sense the hesitance in your heart trickster,” Lavenza said with an understanding smile, “but the bonds you form are what will lead to your success, for you to save the world from ruin once more. Remember this and believe that you can trust in him.
“Now go trickster and return to the waking world.”