“Uh, we sure this is a palace?”
Akira directed his eyes up at the gray stormy sky, watching as lighting flash and danced behind the curtain. The trees that surrounded the palace were blackened and dead, the branches moved in such a way that it reminded Akira of hands reaching out to grab anyone passing by them. Hedges that seemed to stretch endlessly upwards boarded behind the trees, they looked far more alive than their natural counterpart but they also seemed fake. Finally, there was the house: an old, dilapidated, shell that stood out sharply against the mass of gray clouds. The once vibrant green had faded away to a sickly and pale version of itself. The painted white wood was dirty and browning, planks of wood had fallen off or had been eaten away. It reminded Akira of-
“A haunted house.” Ann speaks up beside him.
“To be issued a challenge only to be presented with something childish as a Haunted House.” Makoto says, although there’s a hint of a tremor beneath her voice.
“Scared of Haunted Houses, are we?” Akechi teases with a slight smile. “Given what you and the others have faced from your time in the Metaverse, conquering a haunted house is nothing.”
“Says the guy who’s only been in a palace for like two days.” Ryuji muttered under his breath.
Akira can hear the beginning of yet another bickering session between Akechi and Ryuji. He quickly gains the attention of the others. “The faster we get this done, the faster we can return to Sae-san’s palace. Let’s go.”
He makes his way towards the entrance, climbs up the small set of stairs which creaked ominously under his weight, and opened the door. The entrance groaned, long and loud, as it slowly swung further into the house. Everything inside the building is dark, pitch black stretching into every corner of the building. A doll, no taller than Morgana sat in the center of the room. It’s eyes were buttons and it’s smile was sending warning signs to Akira’s brain.
“Holy shit.” Ryuji whispered as he crept up behind the leader. “This looked smaller from the outside. The hell kinda palace is this?”
“In a traditional Haunted House, they are much bigger inside than out.” Yusuke murmured. “But this feels more akin to a labyrinth.”
“Hello Phantom Thieves!” A voice boomed from the doll, startling the thieves into nearly pulling out their weapons. “How nice that you’ve chosen to take my challenge! I was wondering when the group of self-proclaimed heroes would descend upon the common folk and bless them with their presence!” The voice grew darker, laced with a sinister undertone. “It’s about time someone clipped your wings and sent you crashing down to the ground like the commoners you truly are.” They cleared their throat and the doll smiled wider, showing off its woven... sharp teeth. “Any-who! Welcome to my Palace! A House of Horrors! I hope you enjoy your stay!”
The door slammed behind them and darkness encased Akira’s vision. He could hear both Futaba and Makoto scream in terror at the sudden action. Dim lights flickered on above them and the doll was gone.
“Okay, that’s creepy as hell.”
“Is... Is it too late to leave?” Futaba whispers.
Haru moves towards the door and jiggles the handle. “I’m afraid so. We’re stuck here.”
A heavy silence befalls the thieves and for once Akira is at a loss of words. Above them, the house creaks in a mocking matter, as if it’s laughing at them. Taking a deep breath, he addresses the others.
“This is just another palace. We can handle this one just like the others.”
“J-Joker’s right. As long as we stay together, we’ll be fine.” Makoto added.
“Yeah! We’re the Phantom Thieves and there ain’t nothing we can’t handle!”