Cramped, stale, and uncomfortable.
That would be the description of the cold interrogation room he found himself in. The hard chair dug into his back and the cuffs locked around his wrists were bound to the table, a few experimental tugs did nothing to soothe his sore wrists. Honestly, he would prefer his cell in the Velvet Room compared to this hole. He glanced at the one-way mirror on the opposite wall and grinned. There were eyes on the other side of that mirror, he dearly hoped that they were unsettled by his appearance.
His hair, while not that surprising, was a ruffled, curly mess. Grime and dust stained his face, and there was a spider webbing crack in his mask, right underneath his left eye. Despite everything, his costume remained mostly intact, except his shoulder still burned from the bullet wound. The police didn’t seem to care about it, but they at least had the decency to wrap it up in gauze, he ignored the crimson splotch that stained it.
A simple Dia would have him all fixed up in no time, yet he couldn’t breach the strange fog that clouded his mind when he called upon his persona. They were distant and slipped through his fingers like smoke whenever he tried to reach them.
The chains around his wrist clinked when he threw his head back with a sigh. Had it been seconds?
That had passed since they threw him in here? He had lost count.
Suddenly, his heart skipped a beat as the door swung open and two people stepped inside. One, a plain-looking detective in a brown trench coat, and two, a cat-headed police officer. It was a strange sight.
Things hadn’t made sense since their arrival, so he plastered on a confident smirk as the detective took the seat opposite of him. A thin folder was set on the table and the detective dug a small notebook and pen from his coat pocket. He looked exhausted, but there was a kind smile on his face.
“We’ll try to keep this short. My name is Tsukauchi Naomasa.” The detective said, “We haven’t been able to find anything about you in our system. So, for starters, why don’t you tell us your name?”
“Hmm?” His playful smirk fell into something cold, “Straight to questioning? No drugs or beatings this time? I have to say, detective, I’m a bit touched to see someone like you care so much.”
Tsukauchi flinched back as if he was struck, “Were you mistreated by the police force before?”
His confidence returned like a thick veil that coated the room, he simply shrugged, but held back the wince from the burning pain in his shoulder. Tsukauchi and the feline officer exchanged uneasy glances, but the detective cleared his throat and plastered on a tense smile.
“We’ll investigate it if you give us names. I want to assure you that you won’t come to any harm while you’re in our custody, and we’ll even give you a lighter sentence if you cooperate with us.”
“Yeah, tell that to the cowboy who shot up my shoulder,” He tilted his head to the side, “And the only person I’ll cooperate with is Sae Niijima.”
Tsukauchi and the officer looked at each other in confusion, then the detective turned to him with a furrowed brow.
“You don’t know your own public prosecutor?”
“The name doesn’t sound familiar,” Tsukauchi glanced over at the officer, “But Officer Tamakawa will look her up for you.”
Tamakawa nodded and left the room doused in an awkward silence. Tsukauchi pretended to flip through his notebook and the folder had yet to be touched. He knew they should have a stuffed profile, but it appeared that they didn’t have anything on him. Still, the ear ringing silence dragged on longer and longer, and sheer boredom and curiosity finally got the better of him.
“Hey detective,” Tsukauchi glanced up at him, “I’ll make a deal with you.”
“Go on.” Interest sparked in his eyes, and he sat up straight with his pen at the ready.
“I’ll tell you my name if you tell me what you did with Mona.”
“Mona?” Tsukauchi tapped his pen against his pad, “Oh, you mean your cat?”
He gave Tsukauchi a blank look, and the detective sighed.
“Your cat is still cooped up in a different interrogation room. Don’t worry, he’ll be in good hands after all of this is over.”
“Oh, I’m not worried.” A small chuckle escaped before he could stop it, “Mona can take care of himself if it comes to that.”
The detective’s eyes widened, “You really believe that, don’t you?”
He didn’t answer, instead, a smooth grin slithered into his expression.
Tsukauchi sighed as his shoulders sank, almost as if he was used to dealing with odd situations like this.
“So, your name?”
Oh, wasn’t this the fun part? His smirk grew, and he leaned forward onto the table. The chains ground against the metal table, but that didn’t seem to bother the detective as he mimicked the movement.
He expected the detective’s eyes to light up with recognition, or have some semblance of surprise. But no, there was nothing of sort, just a confused tilt of the head at the infamous leader of the Phantom Thieves. The detective wrote it down nonetheless.
“Joker? No offense, but I wouldn’t choose that name for a new villain.”
Joker reeled back, and the sudden movement startled Tsukauchi. He took in Joker’s wide eyes and his all knowing smirk was wiped clean from his face. Tsukauchi glanced at the one-way mirror, then back at him.
“You’re saying you’ve never heard of me?”
“No, I haven’t.” Tsukauchi searched Joker’s face with a frown.
Joker was about to respond, but the opening door interrupted him. Officer Tamakawa looked troubled, and his fur stood on end as he picked up the sharp tension in the room.
“Did you find Niijima?” Tsukauchi asked as the officer approached the table.
“No. There isn’t, or ever was, a public prosecutor by the name of Sae Niijima. I even called around the surrounding prefectures to make sure.” The cat turned towards Joker, “Are you sure you have the right name?”
Joker’s heart pounded like a war drum and his hands sweat beneath his gloves.
“Are you sure you didn’t give me any drugs?” He forced a teasing lilt to his voice, “Or maybe I’m not the one who felt the prick of a dirty needle.”
The officer rolled his eyes as he crossed his arms.
“So,” Tsukauchi ignored them, “This nonexistent prosecutor of yours isn’t going to help you. Your only chance at a lighter sentence is to cooperate with us, so I suggest that you answer my questions.”
“She’s a real person and a badass prosecutor at that,” Joker said as he relaxed back in the chair, “I’ve spoken to her several times.”
Tsukauchi’s head snapped up at that. He searched Joker’s face as if he tried to see through a lie, but found none. Tamakawa’s ears flicked, and he gave the detective an odd look before glancing back at Joker with suspicion in his eyes.
“When did you speak with her last?”
“Does it matter?”
“Possibly, but I see you won’t answer that either.” Tsukauchi sighed, and wrote the name down, “So Joker, what’s your quirk? “
What the hell was a quirk? It seemed to be a common term by the way these two ogled at him. Joker desperately lacked information about this strange place, and he could almost hear Oracle’s teasing voice in the back of his mind.
His heart lurched. He hoped his friends were alright, wherever they ended up.
“Information should be a fair trade, detective,” Joker said, his gray eyes pierced through the other man, “Why don’t you two tell me what your quirks are first?”
The detective pinched the bridge of his nose, then looked at the officer. Tamakawa gave Joker a bewildered look, his fuzzy ears twitched and swiveled like a real cat. What would Mona have to say about that?
“Well, mine should be obvious.” Tamakawa said, “Feline mutation quirks are pretty common in Japan.”
Joker filed that information away for later. If there were cat mutations, who knows what else there could be? He’s only been here a short while, but that could explain the many strange things he’s encountered if he was really outside the metaverse like Mona suggested.
“My quirk is pretty simple. It’s called Polygraph, so I’ll always know if you tell the truth or not.”
Polygraph, huh? Maybe he could work with this.
“Well, I have nothing fancy like that.”
“Don’t lie to us.” Tamakawa suddenly snapped, “There have been several people that witnessed the power of those creatures you control, and you even healed one of the injured during the incident! You can’t sit here and tell us that you don’t have a quirk.”
“I’m not a liar,” Joker tilted his head and smiled, “It wasn’t the work of what you people call quirks.”
“He’s telling the truth.” Tsukauchi gaped at Joker, his pen hovered shakily over the paper.
“What? But that’s impossible!”
Joker smirked as he leered at the officer, “You have no idea what’s really impossible, do you?”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Enough.” Tsukauchi glanced at the officer, “Why don’t you step out and get some coffee? I can handle the rest.”
Tamakawa huffed, but he stepped outside without another word. Joker chuckled, and it was worth the pain to see the detective’s bewildered look.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” Joker said, though his eyes sparkled with humor, “I just feel sorry for your friend. A good cup of coffee must be hard to get in places like this.”
Tsukauchi deadpanned, and shook his head with a sigh. The room was quiet for a few moments, and the detective used it to gather his thoughts.
“What did you mean when you said your powers weren’t like quirks?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Look, kid,” The detective scrubbed at his eyes, then folded his hands on the table, “We’re getting nowhere fast. I can’t help you unless you help me, so I suggest we stop going in circles and get some answers from one another. Does that sound good?”
Joker didn’t respond and chose to lean back into his chair instead. The front legs hovered a few inches off the floor, and although the chains pulled at his sore wrists, he chose to mask it with a lazy smile.
“...Alright.” Tsukauchi shook his head, “Then I’ll ask the questions. What do you know about the League of Villains?”
“The League of Villains. The ones you were with when you invaded the USJ?”
The chair landed on all fours with a solid thunk. It jarred his injury, but it was funny to see the detective flinch backward.
“First off, I never invaded that fancy dome of yours. Second, this league needs a better name and a less creepy leader.” Joker flared his bound hands, the blood-red gloves popped compared to the rest of his dark clothes, “Who in their right mind wears severed hands around their body?”
“Out of curiosity, what would you name it?”
“I don’t know.” Joker scrutinized the detective with narrowed eyes, “Maybe something cool, like the Phantom Thieves.”
No recognition, not even a tiny spark. The detective blinked, and then his shoulders shook with contained laughter. Joker pushed past the serpents that roiled in his stomach and swallowed down the sandy dryness that sprouted in his mouth. Did the Phantom Thieves fall out of existence a second time? He held back the shivers at the thought of his friends vanishing again, amidst panicked screams and pattering rain.
“Alright then.” Tsukauchi chuckled, but his smile fell just as fast, “Back on topic, you’re saying that you’ve never met Shigaraki Tomura before the incident?”
Tsukauchi narrowed his eyes, “Then how did the League recruit you?”
“I was never ‘recruited’.”
“Okay. I believe you, but other people won’t be so open-minded, even if I tell them about my quirk. They’ll say you had to of know their plans or at least worked with one of their numbers, to have the date and time that Class 1-A would be there.”
Joker’s smile shook, but he kept up his facade. He could use this information for later. Right now, however, he had to clear his name. Again. Or find a way to escape, locate Mona and his weapons, and try to find the rest of his friends. He knew he had to step lightly here, but perhaps he could play to this detective’s good side. Detective Tsukauchi seemed like a decent guy, and maybe he could sprinkle in a bit of truth to get past his quirk.
“Look,” Joker pulled his lips down and furrowed his brow, “I’ve never heard of the League of Villains, or of the USJ, or even this U.A. school before today. All I know is that one moment I’m with my friends, the next we’re blindsided by an attack. I blacked out and I was in an unfamiliar place when I came to. Mona was with me, and aside from him, there’s no sign of my other friends.”
Tsukauchi stared at him in shock, “You were attacked by a villain?”
“I suppose you could call it that.”
Joker shrugged, and he didn’t bother hiding the wince as his shoulder burned with a vengeance. Tsukauchi’s face softened, and he looked down to write in his little notebook. Tsukauchi missed the quick, triumphant twitch of his lips, and it was gone when he looked back up at Joker.
“Let me get this straight, you were attacked by a villain and knocked unconscious, then woke up during the USJ invasion?”
“Pretty much, quite a boring story without all the bells and whistles though.”
There was no way a normal detective would stay calm if Joker described the God of Control. If Yaldabaoth taught him anything, it was that he learned to play this game, and play it well. He was only lucky that their plan with Niijima paid off in the end, but this was different.
“Were you brought to the USJ against your will?”
Joker rolled his eyes, “That’s what I was trying to tell you before you slapped on these lovely handcuffs and gave me an agonizing bullet wound. Not necessarily in that order, mind you.”
Tsukauchi grimaced. At least the detective had the guts to look apologetic, and he glanced at someone behind the mirror. Joker followed his eyes, his confident smirk was reflected right back at him.
“That doesn’t explain your costume or your unregistered powers. It’s against the law to hide your quirk or participate in such activities without a license.” Tsukauchi said slowly, “But I concede that you could be just as much a victim as the students who were at the USJ. Do you want to tell me what happened before your arrival there?”
Joker snapped out of his one-way staring contest and raised a brow. This man was giving him a chance. Joker expected the sudden whisper of Lavenza’s voice in his ear, a promise of new power to be forged from this bond with Tsukauchi. But alas, Lavenza’s voice was silent. No confidant was being written, so did that mean his fate was malleable?
…Or did it suggest something much worse?
Tsukauchi would never admit that this boy’s stormy eyes had pierced straight through his heart. There had to be something more to this kid, he held an air of smooth authority that didn’t belong to someone his age. He could practically feel Nezu’s brain going into overdrive from behind the mirror.
Joker’s confidence melted away into a guarded mask, and he sat up straight.
“You wouldn’t believe me, even if I told you.”
Tsukauchi leaned forward, his chair creaked and he never broke eye contact. He picked up his pen and smiled as a challenge rose up in those eyes of his, burning bright like a funerary pyre.