Disclaimer: I own neither My Hero Academia or the Persona Series
Izuku peered around the corner of the conveyor belt, watching the Shadows intently work on the machines. Rows of bullets tipped with needles cascaded from the mouth of the belt, clearly representing the Quirk-erasing bullets. But Izuku ignored them, eyes were instead honed on the Shadows putting them together and transporting them away. They all worked with robotic regularity, following the same paths and looking in the same places when they weren't hunched over the conveyor belt.
"Okay… I think I have the timing." Izuku whispered back to Makoto and Morgana. "We'll go on three."
"That's no issue for the three of us." Morgana spoke confidently.
"On your mark, Hero." Makoto nodded.
Their trek through the second floor of Chisaki's Palace had been relatively quiet. Their small group avoided as much conflict as possible, only picking a fight with a decently strong bunch of Shadows standing guard at the door of this room. Despite lacking their usual numbers, the three handled the encounter swiftly, Izuku swapping between his Personas as quickly as possible to probe the Shadows' weaknesses. While they suffered no real damage, they felt their lack of manpower with that encounter.
"Alright… one, two… three!" Izuku led the three with a phantom dash, his footfall quiet as he and his friends passed by the Shadows with relative ease. They reached the door to the final area, quickly shuffling in and closing it behind them before the Shadows could react. "Alright, we're in the clear."
"At least until we find the floor officers." Makoto sighed, eyes scanning the room. It was stuffed with boxes, the bullets packaged up and being stored by a machine into cases that fell to the floor. "There's so many… do you think they've actually produced this amount in the real world?"
"I'm sure they've got quite a few, but Palaces do tend to exaggerate a bit. Still, it's worrying to know that his plan is to produce the Quirk-erasing bullets on this scale." Morgana's eyes narrowed, scanning the room. "I know he was trying to bring yakuza to the forefront, but what would he need all this for?"
"If his goal is to produce this much… he's not just trying to revive his clan," Izuku swallowed a lump in his throat, sweat trailing down his brow. "He's trying to wage war on Hero society…"
"You really think he's going that far?! But… that's insane." Morgana's jaw slightly slacked at the very idea. "He's just a thug, and that's a lofty aspiration."
"He likely never would have such goals if it wasn't for the discovery of the Quirk-erasing bullets." Makoto held her chin in thought, the possibilities darkening her expression. "However they're made, he now has a monopoly on the one thing that could turn all of Japan on its head."
"We'll put a stop to him long before he sees any of those plans come to fruition. And save Eri-chan along the way." Izuku reassured them, always keeping that frightened girl in his mind as part of his motivation. He scanned the room again before looking up at an office overlooking the storage room. "We should check up there and see if the officers are around. Hopefully we can get the keys without a fight, but…"
"Don't bother tryin' to get out of a brawl, brat."
Izuku snapped his head around just in time to see a figure flying toward him.
"Hero!" Izuku had been reaching for his mask, getting ready to summon Carter, but Makoto had shoved him out of the way. Her upper body was coated with steel she absorbed from their surroundings.
But the air pressure created by the blow alone was powerful enough to send her sailing back into the wall.
"Queen!" Izuku wailed in fear, quickly shuffling to his feet.
"Zorro!" Morgana didn't allow their opponent another chance, his Persona materializing above and casting Garu. An intense gust billowed forth, enveloping their opponent. "Check on Queen!"
"Thank you!" Izuku quickly dashed over to the dented wall, eyes scanning her Makoto in alarm. "Are you okay?! It hit you hard…"
"I-I'm okay…" Makoto mumbled, blood trickling out of her mouth as she pulled herself from the wall. Her arms shook as she held them out. Despite being coated with steel, the blast had dented her forearms.
"High Pixie!" Izuku quickly cast Diarama, recovering the damage dealt to her.
"Well, well. Looks like that brat's pretty tough." Izuku and Makoto snapped their attention to the voice, the wind from Morgana's attack fading away and the dust clearing. A man stood tall, at least six-four, with a muscular build and hands as large and thick as his skull. He wore a mostly tame attire with a tattered white shirt, black pants and a coat hanging from his pants held up by two belts. His oversized hands were wrapped with leather straps attached to metal knuckle gloves. And like his previous comrades, he wore a medicine mask, his noticeably different as it covered the entirety of his face with his pinkish long hair flowing out the back and down to his shoulders. It was shaped more like an ant eater's head as opposed to the more traditional beak look.
"He didn't take any damage?!" Morgana cried before noticing a light sheen of yellow light domed around the yakuza. "Wait… is that a force field?"
"Correct. Good eye, cat-child." A man stepped out from behind the first, nearly as tall but a much leaner frame. He wore a traditional navy blue yukata with leather boots on his feet. His eyes looked perpetually closed and he wore the more familiar medicine mask as opposed to the full face one his comrade wore. "What you see before you is the strongest combination of offense and defense."
"SHUT IT!" Izuku and the others blinked when the more brutish of the two suddenly launched a barrage of punches at his companion. His fists were blocked by the man's shield though, clearly anticipating the attack before it was launched. "I wasn't given a damn choice by Chisaki when he shoved us together! I wanted to feel the power of that attack and know what I'm fightin'!"
"Chisaki-sama. Refer to him properly." The other sighed, sounding mildly annoyed by his partner's demeanor. "You shouldn't be so quick to indulge yourself, you battle-crazed lunatic. We have a job to do."
"I don't give a damn! I'll do my job by gettin' into some damn good fights to the death!" His partner continued to hammer away at the shield. It didn't crack, despite the force.
"What a dysfunctional team…" Morgana mumbled before looking back at Izuku and Makoto. "Still, they're clearly no pushovers. Are you okay, Queen?"
"I'm good now. Hero healed me, but…" Makoto grimaced, eyes narrowing at the still quarreling yakuza. "That punch was the real deal. Be careful not to take a direct hit from it! Use your Personas to guard against it if you can!"
"Not to mention the speed he's throwing those punches at…" Izuku muttered, teeth clenching as he summoned Carter. "We should end this as quick as possible!"
"You hear that, Tengai?! They're rarin' to go! Now drop that damn barrier already!" The aggressive one of the two snarled, cracking his oversized knuckles in anticipation.
"Fine… just be wary of their abilities. We still don't know what they're capable of, Rappa." The now named Tengai pointed out, the sheen of light fading away from around the other. "End it as quickly as possible, but leave one alive for questioning. If that's possible for you, of course."
"Glad we understand each other! But don't fuckin' count on any of 'em survivin'!" Rappa cackled,his body beginning to transform similar to those on the previous floor. The Thieves paled as the already intimidating form began to turn into a hulking mass, Carter's height but dwarfing him in bulk. "The name's Rappa Kendo! I hope you brats can make my blood boil!"
What the hell's with these two?!
Bakugou gnashed his teeth together as his attempt to land an explosion on the hulking yakuza Rikiya was blocked, a wall of cement uplifted from the floor. Mimic, his companion, had left his body moments after the fight started and taken control of their environment. To the explosive blond, this was more troubling than the more intimidating presence of Rikiya. He could handle some muscle bound monster, but Mimic ability to weaponize anything made it difficult to land any clean hits on the otherwise lumbering Rikiya.
"Why can't we land a damn thing on this asshole?!" Ryuji clearly shared his frustration as he barked close behind.
"We have to locate his partner and disable him before worrying about the other." Yusuke suggested, eyes scanning around for Mimic.
"Good luck with that, PUNKS!" The cement was shattered as Rikiya charged them, arm reared back for a big swing. The Thieves narrowly dodged his large fist, the ground quaking upon impact.
"DIE!" Bakugou tried to jump on the opportunity, drawing his mask away and summoning Tombstone. The Persona's smoking barrels leveled with Rikiya's midsection, nuclear energy smoking as it prepared to blast into him. But before Bakugou could blast him, a pillar of cement crashed into his side, causing him to cough up in pain as he lost his focus. He was knocked several feet back, feet skidding across the ground as he stopped his trajectory.
"Nitro! You okay?!" Ann asked in concern, watching as he spat in irritation.
"I'm gonna MURDER THAT LITTLE BASTARD!" Bakugou exploded with seething anger, hands shaking as he held both tomahawks.
"Looks fine to me." Ryuji sighed as they looked back at Rikiya. "Damn it, we're gettin' nowhere! Fox's right, we gotta take out that little guy before the big one!"
"But we have to worry about the big guy rushing us on top of the entire room throwing us around!" Ann cursed, eyes looking around once again for Mimic.
"Then all of you look for the little bastard!" Bakugou drew their attention as he stalked forward, eyes burning as he looked to meet Rikiya head on. "I'll keep that big bastard distracted while you idiots find him."
"You can't do that on your own! Not with the room flippin' us everywhere!" Ryuji pointed out, walking up next to him. "I'll help Nitro out! Fox and Panther can do the looking."
"You brats can try and distract me all you want, it'll end the same!" Rikiya slammed his fists together, a small shockwave erupting on impact. "I'll crush you first then take the gal for some fun!"
"Get goin'!" Bakugou snarled back at the others, exploding forward and heading straight for Rikiya. In anticipation of a wall blocking his path, Bakugou blasted the ground beneath him to sail higher, hoping to confuse both of the Yakuza and keep them guessing.
"Don't think you can just hop around all free like that, brat~!"
Bakugou heard the roof above him begin to crackle, grimacing as a pillar of cement rocketed toward him. He quickly avoided it with a follow up explosion, but that put him closer to Rikiya, who was already winding up for a punch. Damn it! These sons of-
A blur rushed at Rikiya, the yakuza not even getting the chance to blink as a nailed bat struck him between the eyes with a loud crack, throwing him off balance. Bakugou grinned, taking the chance to rear his own hand back.
"Not bad, fake blondie!" Bakugou cackled before throwing an explosion directly into Rikiya's chest.
"GRAGH!" The hulking yakuza stumbled back, slamming his feet to regain his footing.
"Oi oi, Rikiya! Don't forget they're workin' together now! I can't cover all yer blind spots!" Mimic's disembodied voice berated.
"They're slippery little bastards, I'll give them that." Rikiya groaned, rubbing his face as Ryuji and Bakugou stood side by side, ready to jump at him again.
"I'll try and slow 'em down, but you gotta finish 'em off, Rikiya! Can't keep this up unless I keep pumpin' in that Trigger!"
"Panther, on the northern edge of the ceiling!" Yusuke pointed out, eyes narrowed as he could barely make out the mask sticking out of the wall, albeit just barely. "I thought he'd need to be in a location he could see us all in. Take him down!"
"Agh, they found me! Time to move!" Mimic's mask sunk into the cement just as Yusuke and Ann opened fire with their guns, unable to put him away at that moment.
"He won't go far! He's still gotta see the whole damn room!" Bakugou exclaimed before blasting forward and engaging Rikiya again.
"I'll crush you long before then!" Rikiya lunged for Bakugou, but the explosive teen maneuvered above the swipe with an explosion. He delivered a concussive blast to his face as a follow up, momentarily blinding him. Ryuji didn't let that be the end of it, dashing in with his Quirk and smashing his pipe into Rikiya's stomach.
But Rikiya seemed ready for a diversion, his left hand blindly swaying out and grabbing hold of Ryuji by the waist. "Gah!" Bakugou snarled, attempting to stop the cognition's attack with a blast but Rikiya struck first, batting him away into a stack of crates.
"You damn brats. I'll crush you!" Rikiya growled as he began to tighten his grip. As if to further weaken Ryuji's body, Rikiya simultaneously inhaled a stream of energy from Ryuji after his Quirk activated upon contact.
"S-Shit… I'm gettin' weaker…" Ryuji gasped as the strength left his body. It was a struggle to stay conscious. His limbs felt like they were being stuffed with lead.
"Skull!" Ann cried in panic, reaching for her mask to try and help.
"Focus on your job!" Bakugou barked, swinging his tomahawks down and sinking them deep into the arm of Rikiya. "If you don't, this shit only gets harder!"
"GAGH! Get off me!" Rikiya snarled as he was forced to release Ryuji.
"I've got you, big fella!" The wall formed long spikes and speared toward Bakugou and Ryuji. Yusuke acted first though, sword slashing through the spikes before they could reach the two.
"Panther! The east wall!" He called out, continuing to slash as the spikes multiplied and kept him occupied.
Ann's eyes did a quick glaze over it and found her target, the small bit of mask sticking out for her to find. "Got it! Carmen!"
"Looks like it's time for me to-"
"MARAGI!" A torrent of flame ignited the entire wall, leaving no room for him to escape this time as it burned.
"GAAAAGH~!" Mimic's diminutive form was forced out of the wall, its black veil of a body catching fire from Ann's onslaught.
"Well done, Panther! Now for the finale!" Yusuke drew his mask away, Goemon appearing in a blaze of chains and blue flame. "FALL!" Goemon swung its bladed pipe, swiping it across Mimic's small body and cleaving it in half.
"Mimic!" Rikiya's arms momentarily dropped their guard, his husky voice distraught. "You little brats! I'll kill-"
"YOU CAN DIE TOO!" Bakugou grinned wickedly as stuck his hand between the gap of his arms and hit him with another concussive blast, causing him to stagger back. "SKULL!"
"Let's go!" Ryuji dashed forward alongside him, both drawing their masks off and summoning their Personas. And showing a rare moment of synergy, they roared with an equal amount of intensity:
"BLOW 'EM AWAY!"
Captain Kidd and Tombstone burst forth, cannon arm and triple barreled gun aimed directly in Rikiya's face.
A burnt orange and electric yellow explosion consumed Rikiya's upper body, the hulking yakuza wailing in pain as he was lifted off his feet and sent sailing back several meters. He hit the ground with a heavy thud, a small tremor passing through the area. The Thieves slowly regrouped at the center of the room, eyes glued to the fallen cognitions as they took a moment to catch their breath.
"Well… that wasn't too bad…" Ryuji huffed, a grin slowly spreading across his face before looking at Bakugou. "Not too shabby, newbie. You even used my codename for once."
"Shuddup." Bakugou huffed, his eyes reluctantly meeting Ryuji's. "You've at least got some guts..."
"And despite your demeanor, your focus in battle was quite impressive." Yusuke was next to pay him a compliment, sheathing his sword. "Keeping a cool head even when one of us is in danger did pay off."
"Yeah. You're really loud and obnoxious, but you're not bad at leading people. It's kind of a shock, really." said Ann.
"How is that a shock?!" Bakugou huffed, only eliciting a laugh from his team members.
"Y-You… stupid kids…"
The Thieves snapped their attention back to their downed opponent, Rikiya barely fidgeting where he lay.
"You lost already. Can it and give us your key card." Bakugou spat, unamused by the cognition's words.
"Heh… you think I'm… done?" Something tightened in Rikiya's thumb, causing the four to get into defensive postures. "You brats wouldn't know… the first thing about bein' beaten…"
Ryuji and Bakugou instantly felt their limbs turn to jello as Rikiya took a breath. "Wha-What the 'eff?! I'm feelin' weak…"
"Is that his damn Quirk?! It was only workin' on shit he touched before though…" Bakugou's legs wobbled no matter how hard he willed them to stop. His heart was pounding and his lungs heaved like he'd just run a marathon.
"Skull! Nitro!" Ann quickly rushed to Ryuji's side with Yusuke, the two helping their teammates find their balance. Rikiya slowly rose to his feet, his veins engorged with stolen energy. Steam radiated from his body as his skin reddened.
"Wh-What the hell happened to him? How'd he do that?" Ryuji muttered, trying not to lean on Ann too much and find his balance.
"He must have taken Trigger! It enhances a Quirk well beyond its normal capabilities!" Yusuke guessed, eyes narrowing at the cognition cautiously.
"You punks… think you can just waltz in here and stop Chisaki's plans? Chisaki gave garbage like us a home…" Rikiya's muscles trembled as his body continued to swell with power, lurching back and spreading his arms wide. "LIKE HELL WE'D LET HIS AMBITIONS FALL APART TO BRATS LIKE YOU!"
He swung his hands back together into a clap, and-
The ear shattering sound was only a small part of the small shockwave that rocked the Thieves. They were blasted off their feet. Ann and Ryuji crashed into the conveyor belt, breaking the machinery upon impact. Yusuke and Bakugou were thrown into the opposite wall hard enough to crack the concrete.
"W-What the hell was that..?" Ryuji gasped, slowly trying to rise and gritting his teeth.
"His power has gone up dramatically…" Yusuke winced as he tried to peel himself out of the wall. "Nitro, are you able to move?"
"Y-Yeah… Shit…" Bakugou snarled, falling to his hands and knees just to escape the crater he made in the wall.
"Fox, we have to take the lead! Skull and Nitro were drained by his last move!" Ann announced, setting Ryuji down as she stood in his defense, snapping her whip.
"Hell no! I can still fight!" Bakugou snarled, ignoring the vertigo he felt trying to rise to his feet.
"No! If you want to help, you and Skull will have to fight from the rear! Support us with your long ranged weapons and-"
"He's charging!" Ann alerted them, the steaming mass of a monster making the ground quake with every step he took toward them like a charging rhino.
"I'll tear y'all limb from limb!" Rikiya darted directly for Yusuke ,his frame looming over them as he extended his arms out to crush him.
"Dance, Carmen!" Ann blasted Rikiya's side with a blaze from an Agilao spell, stopping his immediate approach. Yusuke took his momentary halt to grab Bakugou and move, getting out of his range for the moment.
"I can…" Bakugou began to complain, but hesitated when he realized he couldn't move that well on his own.
"Don't think you can run from me!" The cognition snarled before lifting its leg and stomping the ground. It caused a tremor strong enough to knock Yusuke off his feet, he and Bakugou rolling across the ground.
"Damn! Goemon!" Yusuke drew his mask away, his Persona taking shape and swinging its bladed pipe down on the cognition's shoulder. To his chagrin, Rikiya only flinched from the attack, his knees bending as he absorbed it. But that reaction aside, he was still standing, a bloodcurdling growl hissing out of his mouth. The cognition reached forward and grabbed Goemon by the shirt.
"You're all gonna DIE!" Rikiya slammed Goemon into the ground, the damage reflecting in Yusuke as his back tensed in pain. While the damage done wasn't directly proportionate to what Goemon took, it was still a clearly powerful blow.
"Get away from them!" Ann drew her Uzi replica to unleash a hail of bullets. Rikiya paused in his pursuit of Yusuke again to shield his face with his arm. The bullets harmlessly bouncing off his skin even if he grunted in annoyance.
"I ain't takin' no hostages anymore… you can die with the rest of 'em!" He snarled, digging his hands into the ground and uplifting a chunk to flip onto her.
"You ain't hurtin' anyone either!" Ryuji sat up with his shotgun in hand and blasting off. Their barrage was enough to slow him down, his veins continuing to swell as he continued to attempt to tear the floor out from under them.
"Goemon, strike!" Yusuke took the chance and blasted Rikiya across the back with a torrent of ice.
"GAUGH!" Rikiya's upper body was encased in ice, Yusuke relieved and not allowing the chance to be squandered.
"He's vulnerable! We need to strike now!" Yusuke drew his blade, preparing to launch a head on attack.
"I-I won't… lose to some brats!" The cognition roared as he struggled against the coat of ice. "GRAAAAGH!" With an agonizing growl, he tore himself out of his icy prison, leaving torn muscles and skin on the jagged ice.
"It went that far…" Yusuke gaped at the cognition's determination, his feet rooted in place as Rikiya turned to him and swung his arm.
"Fox, look out!" Ann screached, reaching up for her mask. Yusuke attempted to dodge but had reacted too slow, the arm swinging around and approaching like a truck-
Yusuke found himself being launched backward as he was suddenly shoved. Bakugou had muscled his way to his feet and tackled Yusuke out of the way. The result ended up being Bakugou instead taking the swing, blood spilling from his mouth as he was batted away, sent flying across the room.
"Nitro!" Ryuji screamed, teeth gnashing as he forced himself up. "Captain Kidd!" With the last ounce of stamina left in his body, he sent his Persona sailing forward into Rikiya's back, smashing apart the ice still frosting his back and with it a portion of his upper body.
"You'll pay for that!" Ann then followed up by summoning Carmen, unleashing a torrent of flames that burned across his upper body.
"Thank you, Nitro…" Yusuke muttered, clenching his jaw as he rushed forward. "And now the finishing blow! GOEMON!"
Rikiya could only watch in horror as Goemon thrust its blade through his chest, black sludge spewing from the wound as Rikiya's body finally gave out.
"D-Damn it…" the cognitive Rikiya sank to his knees, his body finally giving out. "After all that… to a bunch of brats… Still… you'll never beat… Chisaki…" As Rikiya's body began to fade, the streams of energy that he had once inhaled left his mask. Ryuji soon felt his energy return, blinking as he flexed his hands.
"I-I'm back to normal… Shit, Nitro!" Ryuji quickly scrambled to his feet with Ann, the two running forward with Yusuke to where Bakugou had landed. Ryuji slid on the ground next to him, eyes searching over him. "Nitro, you okay? You're not dead, right?"
"L-Like hell I am…" Bakugou coughed, sitting up and wincing as he held his arm.
"Here, I can heal you. Don't move." Ann offered, raising a hand and allowing a veil of green healing magic to surround Bakugou.
"You saved me from that blow. I… you have my gratitude." Yusuke looked down, bowing his head in guilt. "If you hadn't stepped in-"
"Save it… I was just paying you back…" Bakugou huffed, pushing off the ground to stand. The others offered to help him up, but Bakugou clearly wanted to do it on his own. "I'm fine. Let's move on."
"If you're really okay to move…" Ann mumbled, eyes trailing away before landing where the cognition had faded. "Hey, look! HIs keycard!"
"Hell yeah! I'll bet we'll be able to use the elevator now!" Ryuji grinned.
"Only if Hero and the others were able to acquire the officer's key card from that side as well." Yusuke said with a frown.
"You think they're okay? It was just the three of them…" Ann muttered, biting her bottom lip.
"They better be. I'll kill them if they're dead." Bakugou huffed, walking toward the exit. "Let's go. That cloth bastard's gone now so we can probably get back just fine."
"Always the positive one, huh?" Ryuji rolled his eyes, beginning to follow before stopping. "Hey wait… you think there's a 'clean room' for that Chisaki asshole like on the first floor?"
The others came to a halt, looking back at Ryuji before trailing to the office sitting above the area.
"LET'S GET OUR BLOOD BOILIN'!"
Izuku grit his teeth as Rappa threw a punch rush their way, quickly back stepping with Makoto and Morgana at his side.
"Don't let him get close! Use magic instead!" Izuku ordered, drawing his mask away and summoning Shiisa. "Zio!"
"GAGH!" The thunder spell surged through Rappa's body, paralyzing him.
"He's vulnerable!" shouted Morgana, Makoto close behind him. "Don't let him make another move! Zorro!"
Rappa's body was thrown back by the Wind and Nuclear energy, his feet dragging across the ground. But he refused to allow himself to fall.
"Come on… now… long range moves?!" Rappa growled, flexing his arms as he tried to shrug off the damage. "I WANT THIS UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL!"
"You should take our opponents' tactics into account, Rappa. They're not going to play your game the way you want them to," said Tengai, fingers stroking his forehead. "But if you wish to keep charging in blindly, then by all means."
"Tch… fine." Rappa growled in reluctance. "You can shield up. But only when they use that long range shit!"
"I can operate with such parameters." Tenga nodded, his closed eyes furrowing as he honed in on their opponents. "The one in the white mask seems to be the leader. Aim for him first."
"The leader, huh? Then he should be the strongest, right? You got it!" Rappa charged at Izuku again.
"He's charging again! Don't let him get close!" Izuku once again summoned Shiisa, the Persona letting out a howl of lightning.
A yellow sheen barrier surrounded Rappa, the Zio spell dispersing across it harmlessly.
"We'll have to change targets to his partner, Hero! We can't land any hits while he's around!" Makoto suggested, revving up Johanna and driving forward past Rappa. "Feel my rage!" Makoto drove the front wheel of Johanna down on Tengai, but her eyes flared the moment she realized a barrier protected him. "What?"
"Did you think I couldn't project multiple barriers? Not surprising, but one must expect the possibility." Tengai declared, his closed eyes tightening. "Rappa!"
"Hell yeah, keep the other two back!" Rappa cackled as he charged at Makoto with his fists already pistoning in the air,launching a barrage ready to engage with Makoto. "She's got some guts, so I'll test her again!"
"Queen, watch out!" Izuku cried in fear, quickly switching to Carter. Morgana was already summoning Zorro, unleashing a blast of wind to try and stop Rappa in his tracks. Unfortunately, a barrier was already blocking them off.
"Come on, biker girl! Show me what you're made of!" Rappa laughed as he continued to charge.
Makoto turned to him with eyes wide in shock. But she quickly dismissed her caution, Johanna disappearing and red eyes narrowing as she gripped her knuckledusters. "You want to see what I've got? FINE!"
Makoto rushed right at Rappa, meeting his fists with a flurry of her own. The yakuza wasn't expecting such retaliation, Makoto catching him on the chin through his mask with her punches at first. Rappa staggered back. His smile vanished for a moment as he processed what just happened. But soon he was grinning like a hunter who had just found worthy game..
'Damn, kid! You're ballsier than I thought! You're amazin'!" Rappa laughed wildly, quickly resuming his attack and meeting Makoto punch for punch. "SHOW ME WHAT YOU'VE GOT!"
"I'M NOT GOING DOWN!" Makoto coated her arms in steel again and once again met him head-on.
"Whoa… Queen's taking him on blow for blow…" Morgana mumbled in awe, eyes widening behind the mask on his head.
"She is, but look!" Sweat glistened across his skin as he watched the exchange. Makoto was holding her ground, but Rappa's punches clearly had more weight behind them. Her feet were digging into the ground. The metal protecting her arms was already buckling beneath Rappa's onslaught.
"We can't let this go on for much longer!" Izuku said, brow furrowing as he summoned Carter. "This barrier won't stop us! We're smashing through! Hold on just a little longer, Queen!"
"Hm?" Tengai's eyes finally opened as he stared upon Carter's visage, the Persona's hand igniting with light as Izuku began to charge up for an attack. "Rappa! Turn your attention away from the girl! The enemy is going to try and break through the barrier!"
"I ain't disrespectin' the opponent in front o' me! Can't you see we're beatin' each other to death?!" Rappa snapped in defiance, continuing to hammer his fists against hers. Blood was spilling from her mouth and the metal across her body was beginning to fade.
I can't stop now! I have to keep it up and let Izuku charge up to break through!
"That's right! Don't you dare back out on me now!" Makoto dug deep and felt her muscles scream as she forced her Quirk to hold on just a little while longer. She needed power. Enough to break through this never ending storm of punches. Her Persona responded to her will, the power of Frei coursing through her fists. Each blow against Rappa now burned with nuclear energy, causing him to buck his head back.
"Did you get stronger?! fuckin' A, girl! You've got way more spirit than I ever coulda imagined!" Rappa turned up the intensity of his punches, turning a storm into a deluge. Makoto's guard lapsed, a blow finding its way into her stomach. Her legs nearly gave out from under her then and there, but she dug her heels in and let out a ferocious roar, fighting through the pain as blood and dents covered her body.
"Rappa! You need to turn around! They're going to break-"
"VIRGINIA SMASH~!" The barrier shattered like glass before Carter's fist and Izuku's will. The light breaching the barrier continued forth, engulfing Rappa like a tidal wave and carrying him into Tengai. The gangsters were sent flying into the opposite wall and buried deep inside.
Izuku stood at the ready for the cognitions to rise back up, he and Morgana watching the crater carefully. But as the dust settled, both cognitions laid unconscious, backs planted in the wall and heads hanging limply in defeat. Izuku breathed out in relief before turning his attention to Makoto.
"Queen!" He and Morgana quickly rushed to her side, seeing blood trailing down her arms and face as she shook. Makoto's breathing was ragged as her shoulders rose and fell with each breath. Finally her legs gave out, but Izuku was thankfully there to catch her and slowly lower her down so that they were seated on the ground. "Koto-san… Are you okay?"
"Y-Yeah… I'm okay…" She mumbled, leaning her head into his shoulder to rest. "Thanks for not taking too long…"
"Don't worry, Queen. I'll get you healed up right now. Though it's not going to fix everything…." Morgana mumbled, summoning Zorro and washing a Diarama spall over her.
"I'm so sorry you had to deal with that on your own… I'm so sorry…" Izuku mumbled, arms cradling her close as he let her rest.
"Oh shut up…" Makoto giggled, flicking his head weakly. "You would have done the same thing… but you're not the only one who can go 'Plus Ultra', you know…"
"You went beyond that…" Izuku breathed shakily but kept his tears back as he smiled. "You were incredible. It reminded me a lot of why I always looked up to you."
Huh. it's almost… odd to hear him say that. Makoto smiled, momentarily resting her eyes. It feels like I've been looking up to him lately.
"There, all healed. Are you feeling better now?" Morgana asked, Makoto opening her eyes and stretching her arms out.
"Yeah… though admittedly, the healing spells don't fix everything." Makoto slowly stood up, her body sore even though every sign of injury had vanished. "I wasted a lot of energy for that last stand… but I should be okay to keep going."
"We'll get the key cards and then regroup with everyone. I think returning to the real world for today might be our best option." Izuku said, staying close to make sure she was steady on her feet. "The cognitions should-" Izuku quickly drew his staff up, Makoto and Morgana quickly following suit when they realized Rappa was on his feet, standing before them bruised and battered.
"How tough is this thing?!" Morgana cursed, sword pointed.
"That was… a helluva brawl, girl." Rappa seemed to ignore the others though, his eyes drawn to Makoto. She blinked in surprise but kept her guard up.
"Yeah, it was. I barely hung on."
"But you did. You were goddamn amazin'." Rappa dug into his pocket, drawing out a key card and dropping it on the ground. "Hope we'll get to really brawl it out… someday…" With those final words, the cognition's body suddenly began to fade, dissipating into thin air. The three slowly lowered their guard, looking around and realizing both cognitions had faded away.
"That was… odd." Makoto mumbled, leaning over and taking the badge. "They were just cognitions, right? Not Shadows?"
"No, they weren't, but… they certainly had more personality than a typical cognition would." Morgana admitted, eyes trailing to the side in thought. "Perhaps… because they live in such close proximity to the Palace Ruler, the personalities of their real world counterparts were reflected in them?"
"You really think so?" Izuku asked, a little bewildered.
"I can't say for sure. There's… still a few things I don't completely understand about Shadows and the Palaces." Morgana admitted with some shame. "It's possible that he knows their personalities this well that they translate into his cognition, but… from what we know of Chisaki I get the feeling that's not it."
"It's probably best not to worry too much about it. We have other priorities at the moment." Makoto said, offering the key card to Izuku. "At least we have this now. We can head back and hopefully get to the other side. I hope the others are alright."
"Yeah…" Izuku nodded, eyes trailing up to the office. "Though… I was wondering…"
"About what?" Asked Morgana.
"I wonder if there's an office for Chisaki like there was upstairs." Izuku's lips thinned into a line. "I'll be right back."
"Crap, they ain't here yet." Ryuji cursed, looking around the elevator room urgently. "Come on! Let's go see if they're still on the other side!"
"Wait, Skull! We can't rush too much. Nitro's still feeling weak." Ann said, though clearly sharing his concern as she frowned.
"I'm fine! We can keep goin'..." Bakugou winced as he tried to move, but attempted to ignore it.
"While I am concerned for Nitro's health, we still don't know exactly how-" Yusuke began, but paused when the opposite door they came from slid open. The Thieves brought up their weapons in urgency, but lowered them when Izuku walked in with Makoto leaning on his shoulder.
"Hero!" Ryuji exclaimed before rushing over and grabbing Makoto's other side. "H-Hey! You okay, Queen?"
"Be gentle with her. I've healed what I could but it's not perfect!" Morgana advised, eyes filled with concern.
"I'm alright… just took a bit of damage in the last fight." Makoto sighed, relieved to feel some pressure taken off of her when Ryuji helped her. "Thank you. It's good to see everyone's alright."
"Of course we are, they had me." Bakugou scoffed, but Izuku and Makoto quickly noted that he was nursing his side and his Thief attire was the most worn among them.
"As much as I hate to admit it, Nitro was a big help." Ann gave a half smile back to their newest member. "We ran into a bit of trouble toward the end."
"Same with us. But seeing as we all made it through alright, we can relax a bit." Morgana smiled, glad to see them back together as a big group.
"Yeah. But with the amount of damage Queen and Nitro have taken today, I think we'll have to call it for today." Izuku suggested.
Bakugou's jaw clenched. "I said I'm fine!"
"It's not just for you, but Queen as well." Bakugou turned to Makoto. Seeing her wince, his expression softened.
Bakugou clicked his tongue, but drew his eyes away. "Tch. Fine… we better be back soon though, we're almost through this damn place."
"We will once you're both back up to full strength. We've got around a week and a half to finish the Palace, but I think we're making good time." Izuku reassured, earning a relenting huff from Bakugou.
"Sounds good to me. It was pretty rough splittin' up like we did, but at least we made it through." Ryuji nodded in agreement.
"You won't get any argument on my end. I'm pretty beat too." said Ann.
"Then let us retreat. We'll reconvene once we've all recovered." Yusuke reaffirmed, The Thieves gathering at the elevator and calling it to bring them back up.
"Oh yeah, Hero. I nabbed this while we were on the other side," Ryuji drew out a cassette from his pocket, handing it to Izuku. "I figured you might wanna give it a listen if you still got that tape recorder on you."
"Oh, yeah I do…" Izuku drew said item out, holding the other tape he had collected from the office. "I found one on the other side, too. Let's listen to yours first."
Izuku took the cassette from Ryuji, inserting it and clicking play;
"Kai Chisaki's log, June 10th, 20XX. I've started getting the clan into cooking and distributing Trigger. There were several detractors from the old times that opposed the idea, calling it 'below' our standards. I quickly erased them from the equation."
"Just for disagreein'? Piece of-"
"Shh!" Ann hushed him, wanting to hear more.
"Trigger remains a useful tool for now, but it only helps with the short term issues. It also comes with a good number of risks as well, but we don't have much choice. The family has been skirting by thanks to the Old Man's businesses, but even that's beginning to run dry due to his absence. It'll work for now. Buy me more time to continue working on… other projects. Let's hope these incompetent old timers don't screw it up and get us all pinched by then."
The tape came to an end, causing the three to share a short look. "Well, at least we know what 'other projects' he was working on." Makoto spoke first, eyes narrowed. "Trigger was just a means to that end."
"Who's the Old Man he mentioned? We ain't seen anyone like that so far." Ryuji tapped his foot, feeling as if he were missing something.
"From the sound of it, his predecessor. He's likely retired in this case, or deceased. But considering this line of work, it's not likely." Yusuke guessed, arms crossed over his waist.
"Probably got off'd by this asshole." Bakugou spat.
"No filter with you as always," Makoto sighed, looking at Izuku. "Play the next one, Hero."
"Right." Izuku took out the first tape and put in the next.
"Kai Chisaki's log, November 21st, 20XX. The progress on the Quirk Erasing bullets has advanced tremendously. It took much trial-and-error, but we've gotten to a stage in which we can produce the erasing effect for a short period of time. It's not perfect, only able to erase a Quirk for five seconds. But with each test, we extend the length of erasure. We have several interested parties looking to invest in the project, but they expect more results. We need proper tests. I don't like the idea, but we don't have much choice. We will begin selling the prototype on the street and use them collect data. Our connections within the police can provide us with the statistics."
A silence followed after that, and Izuku thought it was over. "Well, at least we know that by last November, they weren't-"
"Her body seems to be a bit frailer of late. I'll have to be a little more careful during the next production."
Izuku felt his throat dry shrivel up. A million thoughts were going through his head. None of them left his lips.. He slowly drew his eyes back to the recorder, almost as if he expected to hear more. "What… What did he mean by that?"
Ryuji swallowed a lump in his throat "You… think he was talkin' about Eri-chan?"
"What… What does she have to do with the Quirk Erasing bullets?" Ann mumbled
"Hero…" Makoto called Izuku. His eyes remained affixed on the tape recorder, his hands trembling.
"Hero, you have to snap out of it." Morgana took the hand holding the tape recorder to force Izuku's eyes off of it. "It's okay. That's why we're here, right? We'll save her no matter what."
"Yeah. So don't waste your energy on it." It was surprisingly Bakugou's voice that stretched out with reason. "We're gonna send that beak-faced bastard to hell either way. Just look forward to that."
"Still… one thing is clear. The pain she is suffering is… nothing new or recent." said Yusuke.
"... We'll be back soon. Once everyone's healed up." Izuku said, eyes tightening behind his mask as he took a deep breath. "And we'll save her and put an end to this."
The Thieves weren't sure if Izuku was saying that for himself or for the others, but they silently gave their agreement. With that, the Thieves retreated from the Palace and left to the real world.
"Ugh. It's starting to hit me now just how tired I am…" Ann stuck her tongue out, hunching over slightly as she stood with the Thieves by the cafe they had previously used as their entrance to the Palace.
"Indeed. I think retreating was the best course of action. We'll be more than ready for what the third floor has waiting for us." Yusuke nodded, eyes seemingly struggling to stay open.
"Don't make me wait too long or I'll go and finish it all on my own." Bakugou huffed, slinging his school bag over his shoulder. "I'm out of here."
"Hey." Bakugou paused, sparing a look back at Ryuji. The faux blond watched him with a frown and scratched the back of his head. "I still think you're a loud mouth and an asshole."
"Tch." Bakugou started to turn but stopped when Ryuji held out his fist.
"But I think you're not that bad. You had our backs in there, and you know… it seems like you were really tryin'. So I'm willing to let bygones be bygones if you are. How 'bout it?"
Bakugou stared at his hand, eyebrow cocked before turning away. "You're an idiot." Ryuji nearly tripped at his answer, but straightened up when he continued. "But at least you're not in the way when we're fighting."
"A simple 'sure why not' woulda worked." Ryuji sighed, but gave a small smirk in return. "Hope you're ready to shred that Palace next time we're in!"
"That's my line! You'd better be even faster next time! You better be ready, Sakamoto. And the rest of you!" Bakugou gave a brief smirk before turning his back on them, walking off and leaving the Thieves behind.
"Huh. He actually remembered your name," Ann giggled, hands crossed behind her back. "Guess I'll take that bit of progress."
"I as well. It was unstable at first, but I believe we've come to an understanding with him." Yusuke nodded in affirmation.
"That's good to hear. We were worried he might still be hard to work with." Makoto smiled in relief. "Thank you for giving him a chance."
"I'm sure he'll still be a pain, but we can deal with Ryuji so it's not that big of a deal." Ann teased, nudging the faux blonde.
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Ryuji huffed.
"I'm kidding… and hey. Thanks for trying to look out for me in there." Ann smiled more kindly. "I appreciate it."
"Ah yes. You sounded quite chivalrous standing up for Ann. I too was moved when you spoke on her behalf." Yusuke added, looking and sounding genuine much to Ryuji's embarrassment.
"W-What? Nah, I wouldn't say all that… just kinda came outta nowhere…" Ryuji rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
"C-Chivalrous?! Y-You're kidding me! How could a doofus like Ryuji be chivalrous?!" Morgana complained with his back arched and every hair standing on end.
"Up yours, Cat! I can be…" Ryuji trailed off when his eyes found Izuku, who was standing apart from the others. Ryuji walked over and placed a hand on Izuku's shoulder. "Hey, man. It's okay. We're gonna get it done."
"What?" Izuku drew his gaze to him, suddenly becoming nervous under the concerned gazes of his friends. "O-Oh, right, I'm sorry! I-I didn't mean to worry you guys, I just…" Izuku couldn't escape his grief so easily, his eyes falling to the ground. "I'm sorry. I'm just going to head home. Everyone get your rest, okay? We'll be going back in when we're all ready."
Izuku's friends watched him leave without another word, Morgana jogging over to catch up to him. He was silent the rest of that night, the last words of the recording hanging over him like a stormy cloud that wouldn't leave. Not until he knew that Eri was safe and away from Chisaki.
To be continued…
Hey everyone, hittin' you with another chapter! Sorry if this one seems a little short BUT don't fret, next chapter you can expect it to be pretty packed as we approach the final part of this Palace!
Still, I hope you guys enjoyed the battle! It was fun getting Bakugou to finally relent and give Ryuji and the others a chance, and showcasing how badass Makoto can be was a ton of fun on its own! Her going toe to toe with Rappa's cognition came to me when I thought of her Showtime from Royal.
With that, I hope you all enjoyed the chapter! Be sure to leave a follow, a favorite and a review if you'd be so kind! Don't forget to check out the twt account or the spacebattles page if you want to see the comic pages and fanart that we've drawn for the story!