The end of the world.

That was the only way she could possibly describe the sight before her.

The smell of rotten corpses from either Risen and her allies did little to numb her senses. Neither that nor did the misery and dread that surrounded the battlefield, as all of that paled when compared to the darkness of the ash-covered sky.

It was as if death itself came to harvest all life.

Her blue eyes took in the scenery, watching flames devour everything in their path.

The destruction that the Fell Dragon brought spread across the land without opposition.

In this forsaken world, no place was safe from Grima's wrath.

Tears raced down across her cheeks the moment she saw her companions, friends, and even her own father and mother, lying lifeless on the ground. The horrible sight took away whatever strength she had left, forcing her down into a pit of despair.

And the moment her eyes caught sight of her lover among the mounds of corpses, no longer could she hold her own voice.

She could still hear quiet whispers of those that passed away— tormenting her, blaming her for their deaths. At this point, she could no longer make out Grima's voice, taunting her over her failure to save those that she loved.

But she could not hear any of them over her own painful cries of sorrow.

For the future was gone, and she was all alone.

Masked Encounters – Part 1

"Lucina..." Her body stiffened. "Lucina, wake up."

The Exalt's future daughter blinked in discomfort. She was disoriented at first, but the moment she opened her yes the confusion faded away, and she was greeted by the sun as it set over the horizon. One word stood out in her mind the most as she gazed at the grand sunset.

Beautiful, she thought in wonderment.

"Hey, you're okay?" A voice said, a warm smile in the tone.

"Yeah." She rubbed her eyes and snuggled closer to his chest in search for warm. "It was... just another dream."

She felt a gentle gloved hand caress her hair all the way behind her ear. "Was I in it?" There was no need for her to look at him to know that he was smirking. That same infuriating smirk that he always wore whenever he was trying to tease her—but it was one gesture that she couldn't help but cherish about him.

After all, it was all part of who he was—Joker. The leader of the Phantom Thieves, and the man who stole her heart.

"Wouldn't you like to know," she said with a knowing smile and the two shared a short laugh.

She felt a strange sense of calmness dwell deep inside her chest whenever she's near him. Peace of mind, she thought. It was hard to describe. It was a sentiment that she hasn't felt for a very long time, and it was only possible because they were together.

The young princess was overjoyed by the prospect of finally being able to spend time with her lover without having to worry about life-threatening matters.

Perhaps it was selfish of her to think that way. After all, the blood of the Exalt runs through her veins, which means that she bears a responsibility unlike any other. A duty to the people of Ylisse… No, a duty to the people of the entire world that she has to uphold.

So if only for a few minutes, if only for a few seconds—her only desire was to spend these precious moments together with the one he treasured most and nothing else. Was her desire to seek her own happiness really that selfish?

"Did you had that dream again?" He asked her with unmistakable concern.

Lucina didn't gave him a straight answer, but her silence was more than enough and she knew it.

By no means did she had any intention of deceiving him. There was no point anyway, as the young thief was quite adept when in came to reading her thoughts. He could easily tell whenever there was something bothering her, no matter how much she tried to hide it. He knew her that well, after all.

However, her nightmares still lingered in the far future that she left behind. A future where the world succumbed into nothing but chaos, where death awaited at every corner.

It was all a dreadful memory now—one that she didn't particularly enjoyed talking about.

Thankfully Joker was well aware of this. He knows about her past and understood her apprehension whenever it was brought up, so he didn't pressure her for an answer and simply let the subject drop.

The eyes behind his mask went over Lucina for what might have been a millionth time as her head snuggled closer to his chest, now fully awake. The two were seating under the shade of an oak tree, watching the sunset unfold in silence, doing nothing but enjoy each other's company.

Her father of course wasn't thrilled when the truth about her relationship with the young thief was revealed. However, the Phantom Thieves have proven to be a key factor in the success of many battles and will most definitely continue to be in the many to come.

As their leader, Joker has assisted in the front lines alongside his fellow thieves multiple times, showing time and again to be a warrior worthy of respect. Not even Chrom could deny that he had an uncanny level of skill and combat prowess.

The corners of her mouth turned upwards at the thought.

After what felt like years fighting alongside the masked thief and his companions, her mind couldn't help but recall the memory of that fateful night when they first met.

The time she met the man known as Joker.

Take Your Time

Sparks flew in every direction as their blades clashed with one another.

A frown spread behind Lucina's mask as she attempted to push her opponent, only for him to leap back in what could only be described as an unnecessary display of acrobatics.

A breath escaped his lips as he landed in a crouched position—the smirk that adorned his face was left untouched. The fact that the man's knife was able to withstand the strength of Falchion was unexpected, if not shocking.

Lucina clicked her tongue, taking a stance as she readied her sword.

That weapon was by no means an ordinary knife, of that she was certain. She needed to treat the situation as carefully as possible and to keep a watchful eye over her opponent's next move.

It hasn't been long since her father and his group were ambushed by Risen shortly after her arrival. After assisting them in their fight, she was quick to flee the scene in order to diminish any actions that may cause serious repercussions over the future.

She already took a huge risk as it was by talking to her father, so it was better to lay low for a while.

However, it was while traversing through the forest that she came across a mysterious man wearing black clothes and a white mask. She didn't know who he was, but he looked far too suspicious to just be some random stranger wandering through the woods this far from the road.

One thing led to another and the two soon found themselves crossing blades.

"Who are you?" Not wanting to take any chances of being discovered, she continued to masquerade as Marth in order to hide her own identity. "What business do you have around these routes?"

The eyes behind his mask reflected surprise, but that was quickly replaced by a look of realization and the daring smile then overtook his features. His next response was far too unexpected that even she was left baffled.

"Curious now, aren't we?" His gloved hands went to rest inside the pockets of his coat and the knife that he had mere seconds ago was nowhere to be seen. "Name's Joker. And would you believe me if I told you that I came all the way here just so I could see a fair maiden such as yourself under the beauty of the moonlight?"

It was hard to notice, but she almost took a step back when the stranger revealed her gender. Does he know–? No… No, that can't be right. Lucina mentally frowned. This Joker character, as he calls himself, might have seen pass her disguise, but there's no way that he figured out her true identity.

"I'll give you one last chance." She pointed her sword at him. "Why are you here?"

A gentle breeze flew pass them, blowing both her cape and his dark coat, yet neither of them flinched at the mesmerizing cold of the silent wind. The tension that filled the air was so thin that anybody would be able to feel it, but in no moment did Joker ever dropped that aura of confidence that surrounded him.

"If you must really know, then let's just say that my group and I are running some… errands, if you'll like to call it that. We got separated during a strange ordeal with a portal. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was lucky enough to stumble into you," he finished with a charming smile. "Is that enough of an explanation for you?"

"Hardly," Lucina said with a frown. "You aren't making much sense."

Joker shrugged. "It is what it is. Can't say that I understand much of it either, but at this point you could say that I'm simply moving along with the flow of things."

There it was again. That arrogant, flamboyant attitude that reflected not only in his words, but in his entire personality. It was as if he was trying to taunt her with his gaze alone, daring her to respond one way or another.

This time however, she was more than happy to oblige to his request.

"Stop." Joker lifted his hands the moment he saw her take a step forward. "I have neither a reason nor the desire to fight you. As I said, I'm only looking for my teammates."

The arrogance vanished from his voice in an instant. The sudden shift in personality was so sudden that even Lucina was forced to question herself if she was looking at the same person anymore.

Looking into his eyes however, Lucina could see that there was real concern in them.

By no means was she an expert when it comes to judging a person's character, but if there's something that she always knew, its how to recognize a liar—and right now she was looking at no liar.

The atmosphere suddenly lost all of its accumulated tension and she let go a deep sigh.

"I have no reason to trust you," she said, putting Falchion back into it's scabbard as she gave Joker a hard glare. "But it's true that I have no reason to fight you either."

"Well, that's a relief." He smiled, lowering his hands. "I certainly had no desire to fight such a beautiful lady. I wouldn't be able to call myself a gentleman otherwise."

Lucina choose to ignore his flirty remarks and instead continued, "I don't know about your comrades, but I would advice you not to spend too much time in these woods. Dangerous creatures lurk at night, especially around these parts."

His gloved hands went back into his pockets. "Thanks for the heads-up, but I'm sure that I can handle them just fine."

"Hmm. Do as you please then." She turned around to leave, having already wasted enough time, or so that was her intention before the masked thief called to her once more.

"Before you go, may I have your name?"

The question came out of nowhere. It was so unexpected that she had to take a moment to think his words through before she responded. She stood still in complete silence for no longer than a second before she looked over her shoulder.

Finally, she answered, "You may call me Marth."

His smile was evident upon her response, only this time it lacked the same cockiness that any of the previous ones had—this one looked far more genuine and sincere.

She shook her head once she realized that she's been staring far longer than what she first intended.

Turning away from the thief, she dashed away into the distance until her form became nothing but a blur in the night.

"What an interesting girl," were the most appropriate words he could think of as he watched the mysterious swordsman disappear.

It was far from his worst attempt at making a first impression, but it definitely wasn't his best considering that most of his introductions didn't involved almost getting his head chopped-off during the first greeting.

Then again, maybe provoking the lady holding the sharp sword wasn't that much of a smart idea to begin with.

"–ker! Can you hear me, Joker!" Upon hearing a familiar voice inside his head, his amusement was soon replaced by a serious look.

"This is Joker," he responded without delay.

From the other side he could hear Oracle's voice as she let out a sigh. "Geez, about time you decided to answer. Do you have any idea how worried we were about you?"

"Sorry. I couldn't hear you until now, but I'm glad that you're safe," he said with an air of relief. "What about the others?"

"I already reached everyone and they're all fine. You're the only one left," the navigator of the Phantom Thieves responded.

"Good," he whispered as he felt a sense of relief wash over him. "Tell everyone your location so we can rendezvous with you."

"Way ahead of you. I've already done it," she replied with glee, seemingly proud of herself. "Did you found anything interesting while you were on your own?"

Joker's lips turned upwards at the reminder of his recent encounter.

"You could say that."

I Challenge My Fate

The sound of battle and steel clashing traveled across the hallways of the Royal Palace as what little remained of the Ylissean garrison attempted to push back the attacking Plegian forces.

It was only due to the combined efforts of the Shepherds that they were able to keep the overwhelming number of enemies at bay. However, their foes were relentless and wouldn't back down without a fight.

Slashing through an enemy soldier's armor with a swift strike, Lucina was quick to parry an incoming blade before cutting down her attacker. Looking around, she was glad to see that there were no more enemies left—at least not in this area.

Lucina allowed herself a moment to recover. I cannot waste any more time, she thought while she took a deep breath. This area looks secure enough, so I better go make sure my father is safe.

She quickly began to make her way to the other end of the now clear hallway.

"I see that you're quite busy." Lucina froze upon hearing the familiar voice. She spun around and saw none other than the mysterious masked man from the other night. "Though I have to say, I like the long hair," he told her with a charming smile. "It really suits you."

Joker's words were so sudden that Lucina barely had time to suppress a blush from reaching her now reddened cheeks. It was the first time someone other than her parents gave her a compliment in such an open manner.

Realizing what she was doing, Lucina quickly shook her head. Her hand went for the grip of her now sheathed sword, ready to draw it out at a moment's notice. "What are you doing here?" She demanded. "Are you with Plegia?"

"If you mean those guys outside, then no, I'm not with them." His tone was calm and collected. He was doing his best to not give her a reason to attack him, which was reassuring to some degree, but it didn't make her any less wary of him. "I came here to help," he answered, much to her surprise.

There was no time to question the sincerity of his words before more enemy reinforcements smashed through the doorway. "There they are!" One of them yelled as they charged head-on towards the sword-wielding princess and the masked thief.

Lucina clicked her tongue as she unsheathed Falchion. Looks like I'll have to deal with more of them before I can go anywhere else. That's what she originally thought before Joker walked pass her, heading straight towards the charging Plegian troops.

"Joker, what are you–?" Lucina tried to protest, but he was quick to cut her off.

"I know that you don't trust me." Blue flames suddenly ignited around his whole body, but he was surprisingly left unharmed. "So allow my actions to be proof that I really am on your side."

As the enemy soldiers got nearer, they soon became aware of the man who's body was being consumed by flames. Their initial confusion quickly turned into shock when the mask he was wearing dispersed and behind him a large crimson figure took shape.

The Plegian soldiers watched in fear as the crimson demonic entity spread its wings, sending everyone flying due to the blunt force and power behind it. Even Lucina had to take a step back in awe as this unknown being displayed power unlike anything she has seen before.

It wasn't until Joker—with a smirk plastered across his face—finally spoke that the entity did its first move.

"Go, Arsene!"

Releasing something akin to a maniacal laugh, the other-worldly being known as Arsene unleashed a barrage of reddish-black tendrils that blasted everyone away before they even had a chance to react.

What little soldiers remained after the attack didn't dared come any closer—not even when Arsene disappeared or when his mask returned to its rightful place.

"Now do you believe me?" Joker asked with a knowing look.

Lucina honestly didn't know what to make of what she just witnessed. Her mouth opened as if she was about to say something, but it closed a moment later and nodded. She had many questions, but she acknowledged that there were far more pressing matters that needed her attention.

He was an ally, and at the moment that was all that mattered.

Standing next to him with Falchion at hand, Lucina spoke, "If you are truly on our side, then help me clear our path. We need to keep the Exalt's private chambers safe."

"Right. It shouldn't be that hard," he said as he masterfully twirled his knife through his gloved fingers. "Let's make our way through then."

Lucina frowned at the thief's blatant show of overconfidence. "You're strong, but I doubt that that strength alone will suffice to turn the tide of the battle in our favor."

The leader of the Phantom Thieves merely smirked at her claim. "Who says that I'm alone?"

Take Your Time

Standing behind a pillar, Lucina watched in silence as both her father and mother spoke with the Exalt, Emmeryn, alongside the other Shepherds.

The corners of her lips turned upward, feeling a sense of relief at having successfully averted a horrible fate from befalling over the Exalt, if only for the time being that is.

However, her thoughts where clouded. The events of the previous battle were still fresh in her mind. Thoughts that consisted mostly in that masked thief who fought alongside her during the attack.

He was an exceptional fighter—she has been aware of that ever since they first crossed blades—but it was that power of his what made her feel uneasy.

Whatever that winged creature was, it had a frightening aura and its almost demonic appearance didn't do it any favors. That thing had far more power than any mage or sorcerer that she knows, and that alone could not be ignored.

Lucina wasn't sure what to think of her new ally. She intended to question him once the battle was over, but oddly enough she couldn't find him anywhere.

The thief left without leaving behind as much as a single trace. It was almost as if he was some sort of ghost.

Guess I won't be getting any answers out of him any time soon, Lucina thought with a frown.

Seeing that her father was nearly done with his conversation, she reminded herself that it was time for her to leave. She accomplished what she came here to do, so there was no need for her to stay any longer than necessary.

"Leaving so soon?"

This time she no longer displayed any surprise. Her face remained perfectly neutral as she greeted the smiling thief. "I apologize if it seems rude, but I cannot prolong my stay any longer."

Stepping out of the shadows, Joker calmly approached the blue-haired swordsman. "I don't want to intrude, but I actually hoped that you could answer a couple of questions of mine."

His request was unexpected, but it was an opportunity that Lucina couldn't afford to miss. "I may be willing to answer them, but only if you answer some of my own in return."

"Go ahead then," he spoke in a gentle manner, almost as if telling her ladies first with his gaze alone.

"That power that you used…" Lucina choose her words as she recalled the appearance of the crimson entity. "…that strange creature that you summoned. Joker, who are you exactly?"

Giving her a teasing smile, he responded, "I could tell you, though I would rather keep my identity to myself until you at least tell me yours first."

Her whole body went stiff for a brief second before she composed herself. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You were wearing a mask when we first met," Joker pointed out. "I find it hard to believe that you would tell me your real name while also trying to hide not only your identity, but the fact that you were a woman."

Lucina paused for a moment, finding herself unable to argue against his logic. In the end she sighed in defeat. "I guess there's no point in lying about it seeing that you already figured it out."

He wanted answers and so did she, so maybe there was room for a compromise. After all, it was highly possible that this man had something to do with the events that would lead to her own future, so exchanging information could be very much prove to be worth a try.

"Due to reasons that I am not able to explain at the moment, I cannot tell you my name," she responded. "But I'll try to answer any other question that you may have."

Joker seemed disappointed, but nodded soon afterwards. "Alright then. Can I start by asking just what are you doing in a place like this? Don't get me wrong, I am delighted by our reunion even if it isn't under the best of circumstances, but I can tell that you aren't here just to take a pleasant walk."

Lucina couldn't tell if he was just playing or if he was actually being serious. Either way, he already helped her once, so getting his assistance may prove to be a beneficial.

"I have seen the future," she said. "I knew that tonight there would be an assassination attempt on the Exalt's life, so I came here to prevent it."

"The future?" Joker mumbled. "Well, that's definitely a new one, but surprisingly not the weirdest thing I've heard so far. Am I correct to assume that we successfully adverted the assassination attempt?"

"Take a look for yourself." Lucina gestured to the side where voices could be heard coming from the next hallway.

"Good to know. That makes things much easier." He nodded as he started walking away, but was stopped when a hand pulled his arm.

"Hold on. You still haven't answered any of my questions." The future daughter of the Exalt frowned. "I can tell that you are not from Ylisse, so why are you getting involved in this war?"

Lucina expected to hear a reason or some sort of motive that would give her insight into his intentions. But instead, he simply shrugged and responded, "No reason, really. People were getting hurt, so I stepped in."

Lucina's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before a smile graced her lips. Joker would be lying if he said that he didn't find the gesture cute. "I see. So you put yourself in harms way because you couldn't stand to watch innocent people die."

"You could say that." The thief returned her smile with one of his own. "Though that's only half of the reason. We were actually tasked to help out."

She blinked at the unexpected revelation.

It took her a moment before she caught on to the rest of his words. "Wait, did you say we?"

I Challenge My Fate

It ended up being quite a shock to learn that Joker wasn't working alone.

He had powerful companions by his side—going as far as to include a talking cat wearing a mask and a sword of his own—who assisted in the defense of the Exalt against the assassins that were after her life.

From there it didn't took long for the group to introduce themselves to Chrom and the others as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, with Joker of course acting as their leader.

A particularly fancy name if she says so herself, but one that quickly earned the respect of the Shepherds after having fought side by side during the onslaught.

Chrom of course was more than happy to welcome the illustrious group of masked warriors into their ranks. They helped save his sister's life, so that was to be expected from the crowned prince.

But to Lucina, this brought nothing but confusion.

The true of the matter was that in the future never did she heard any mention of the Phantom Thieves from her parents or from any of the other Shepherds.

Lucina didn't know how it was possible, but she knew that their involvement happening not long after her arrival could not be a coincidence. Something must have changed that triggered some sort of alteration to the past that brought this group of masked individuals into the picture.

And this brought a bigger question: Who was responsible for this?

Take Your Time

What's her name?

That was a question he found himself asking far too many times to even bother counting. But just what's so captivating about her that managed get his interest in such a way?

He was intrigued. It was an odd feeling, but not an unpleasant one.

Perhaps it has something to do with how little he knows about her. Yet again he couldn't help but ask himself; Who was the woman that went by the name of Marth?

"Hey Ren, are you feeling alright?" Ann asked from the other side of the table.

The leader of the Phantom Thieves was pulled out of his thoughts and was met by the concerned looks of his teammates.

There were no customers and Sojiro was out for the evening running some errands, so they had Leblanc all for themselves. Makoto of course suggested using the time to discuss their battle plans and strategy before their next incursion.

"I'm fine." He let out a quiet sigh and took a sip from his coffee. His lips curled bitterly upon contact. It was already cold.

Ryuji of course didn't buy it. "You sure, dude? I mean, you were starin' at the wall for a whole minute there."

"Yeah, I was just… thinking, I guess." He tried to brush off the subject, though he knew that that didn't worked the moment he saw a glint of mischief reflect over Futaba's glasses.

"Ho-ho! Could it be that our fearless leader has fallen over the charm of a woman?" The young hacker teased. "Oh! Is it that mysterious girl with the blue hair that we saw the other day?"

Ryuji's eyes became wide as plates. "Wait… Are you for real?!"

Rather than annoyed, Ren felt rather amused. "Maybe," he responded with a sly smile.

"He doesn't even deny it!" Ryuji shouted in disbelief. For some reason he was being louder than usual, and even Morgana snickered at the blond's reaction.

Ann leaned over the table. "Woah! Is that really true, Ren?!"

"So romantic!" Haru's hands joined together with excitement.

Yusuke nodded in agreement. "Indeed. This is most unexpected," he said. It was unusual to see the ever eccentric artist show interest over something like this.

The conversation would have probably gone for a bit longer had Makoto not interrupted them. "Can we all get back at the matter at hand, please? I feel like we're getting off track here."

"…Oh, right. Sorry Mako-chan." Haru turned bright red.

"Y-yeah, I guess I got a little carried away there." Ann laughed awkwardly. "It's just that… well, Ren falling for a girl from another world? How crazy is that?"

"Yeah, no kiddin'," Ryuji mumbled. "It's weird enough that every time we fall asleep we are all thrown into that weird fantasy place. Its almost like some sort of dream, but it all feels so damn real."

Everyone, even Mona, had to agree with Ryuji on that one. They were walking over uncharted territory, so they needed to treat the situation as carefully as possible.

It's been only a couple of days since both Ren and Morgana came back to Tokyo for summer break. The whole gang was of course excited to be all back together and even went as far as to organize a party to celebrate their reunion.

Sojiro was more than happy to have them back and had no problem with letting them stay in Leblanc like the good old days. However, their plans to spend their summer took a massive turn when on the very first night they all woke up in none other than the Velvet Room itself.

It was there where they met the room's attendant, Lavenza, who told the group about a great danger from a different plain of existence that threatened to destroy their world as they know it if allowed to return.

Having the situation explained to them, and now with their team officially reunited once again, the Phantom Thieves took upon a new task; to prevent the awakening of this new evil and to save both worlds from mutual disaster.

A wide grin spread across Ryuji's face. "But I gotta say, if Renren does manage to score with that chick then he'll totally be an absolute legend!"

"Oh! That reminds me," Haru said when a thought came to her. "Ren-kun already spoke with her twice, right? Would it be possible for us to run into her a third time?"

"I don't doubt it," Morgana responded while scratching the back of his ear. "For what he told us, our goals align with each other, so it wouldn't be strange to see her again during any of our upcoming operations."

It was true. If Marth's goal was to keep the Exalt safe, then it was very likely that they will see each other again.

Only time will tell under what circumstances that will be.

"Welp, as long as Ren doesn't go all lovey-dovey while we do all the work then I guess its fine," Futaba said as she fidgeted with her laptop.

"I'm pretty sure we won't have to worry about him doing anything of that sort," Makoto reassured playfully with a roll of her eyes. "He's always been nothing but reliable. I'm confident that he'll lead us just as he has done many times in the past. Right, Ren?"

"Right," he answered without a moment of hesitation.

It was hard not to smile knowing that everyone had so much faith in his leadership. He wouldn't say that he was the best person for the job, mind you. Far from it. But the fact that they trusted him with the responsibility to lead was something that could not be overlooked.

To have the confidence to make the right call when it matters the most. To inspire and support his friends whenever he can. That's what it meant to be the leader of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts.

Having all of his comrades by his side, he wouldn't trade that even for the world.

I Challenge My Fate

"You wanted to see me?" Joker asked.

Standing in the middle of an open field was none other than Marth herself, who patiently waited for his arrival. "I see you got my letter," she said as soon as they stood at a close enough distance. "I was hoping that we could continue our conversation from the other day if you don't mind."

So that's what all this is about, Joker thought. A hand rested under his chin as he nodded. "Alright, then. Shoot."

Marth blinked in confusion. "Excuse me?"

He shook his head and clarified, "I meant go ahead." He already had a rough idea of what the blue-haired swordsman wanted to discuss.

After all, clearing any lingering doubts that she might still have could prove to be beneficial in the long-run.

Despite the density of the forest, they weren't too far away from the camp where the others rested for the upcoming march to Plegia, but it was still a good enough distance for anyone to eavesdrop without being noticed.

"I–yes," Marth quickly composed herself and continued, "I intended to question you about you and your group." She gave him a sharp look. "Nobody knows where you came from or what that power of yours is. I also remember you mentioning something about your group being send here to help, but that doesn't say much about your true intentions."

Joker remained unfazed by her words. "I understand that you're still wary of me–"

Her glare hardened. "Wary is putting it lightly."

"…But the point that I'm trying to make is that I am not your enemy," he explained. "I know that it can be a little hard to believe seeing that I've been keeping things to myself the whole time, but I have my reasons for that. You could say that we both have that in common."

"…" Marth was about to retort, but hesitated. Her mouth opened for a brief second but closed shortly after. "I… I cannot deny that, as much as I'm ashamed to admit it. But even so, there's too much on the line for me to simply allow you to walk away without even knowing what your intentions are."

"Then why don't we make a deal?" Joker offered. "You obviously know far more than what you let on, and right now my team is rather short in information, so let us help each other out."

Her eyes narrowed for a moment, as if suspecting for a hidden intention or a deeper meaning behind his words. But despite her own growing suspicion, she still choose to hear him out.

"What do you suggest?"

Looking intently without breaking eye contact, Joker answered, "Let's work together."

There was a short pause as Marth considered his words. "What exactly are you getting at?"

Marth didn't looked fully convinced, but he could tell that his proposition at least managed to get her attention. It was understandable, but he was hoping that she would listen to what he has to say first before making a decision.

"My team and I are looking for a threat that could potentially endanger all of us," Joker revealed. "And I believe that you know what I'm talking about."

Marth furrowed her brow, finally putting the pieces together. He knows something, she thought. Her posture shifted uncomfortably while the air around them grew tense.

Aware of the sudden change, Joker spoke, "You and I both know that there's something out there. But unlike me, you know what that threat is. Don't you?"

There was no response, but the look in Marth's eyes was a good enough answer.

"No matter how you look at it, sooner or later we'll be forced to face this threat, and the only way we can ever hope to overcome it is by working together." He extended his hand towards her. "That's why I ask you to lean us your strength. With our combined power we shall advert this catastrophe and put an end to this conflict once and for all."

There was apprehension in her eyes. "I… I don't…"

Joker smiled and, much to her surprise, he said the following words, "I know that you'll do the right thing. I only need you to trust me."

He could see that his words managed to go through, as even though she was hesitant to accept, she was giving his proposition some thought. It wasn't an easy choice, and considering that they haven't known each other for very long, he could understand why.

But even so, if he was to stop this approaching calamity, then he needed all the help that he could get.

And most importantly, he needed her support.

"…Lucina." There was slight hesitation when she spoke. "My name is Lucina."

Joker's smile beamed at the sign of trust. "Well, it's a pleasure to met you, Lucina. My name is Ren, and I look forward to working together with you from now on."

"So do I," she responded with a slight smile of her own.

I am thou, thou art I

Thou hast acquired a new vow

It shall become the wings of rebellion

that breaketh thy chains of captivity

With the birth of the Aeon Persona,

I have obtained the wings of blessing that

shall lead to freedom and new power…

He could feel the familiar sensation of a new bond forming, and a new power awakening inside him. It felt similar yet completely different to any of the previous bonds that he has.

It was strange, but not unexpected considering his circumstances.

"So, about exchanging information…" Joker began, as both he and Lucina prepared for a long night full of discussion involving apocalyptic monsters, a world-ending threat and, probably the weirdest of them all, time travel.

Take Your Time

"Arsene, ravage them!"

Calling upon Arsene's power, Joker blew away numerous Plegian soldiers, creating a pathway through the enemy lines wide enough for his team and the Shepherds to go through.

"Nice work!" Chrom said as he dashed through the now broken enemy formation, cutting them down without giving them as much as a chance to react.

The master thief watched the prince's impressive display of swordsmanship with a silent gaze. "Not bad for royalty." He smirked as he shot an enemy mage that stood behind Chrom. "But you forgot one."

Chrom returned the gesture. "Is that so? Well, you aren't doing so bad yourself either." Moving at near lighting speed, Chrom was just in time to stop an axe before it could strike Joker from behind. "But you left yourself wide open."

Joker chuckled to himself. "Point taken." He twirled his knife before slashing across the chest of an axe-wielding enemy.

The leaders of their respective groups worked their way through the dunes of sand in an impressive display of battle prowess and teamwork. Both prince and thief moved at perfect sync as they fought their way up to the execution grounds where the Exalt was being captive.

The rest of the Shepherds were following closely from behind, feeling their morale boost as they continue to fight their way through.

"Those two sure like to show off a lot," Robin said as she blasted an enemy mage with a fire spell.

Queen could barely hold a sigh from escaping. "Please don't mind our leader. He's… Let's just say that he enjoys the attention a little bit too much."

"But that's part of his charm," Noir added as she blew a dozen of enemies away with a swing from her battle-axe. "He wouldn't be the same Joker otherwise."

"Part of his charm you say?" Robin said to herself. The tactician couldn't stop her own eyes from wandering to Chrom's direction. "I-I guess that's one way of putting it."

Chrom skillfully thrusted his sword towards an enemy wyvern, cutting the rider down before releasing a barrage of slashes that easily defeated all of the remaining enemies.

"Come on!" Ylissean Prince cried out. "We must reach Emm before they send more reinforcements!"

Both the Shepherds and the Phantom Thieves pushed forward side by side, defeating anyone and anything that stood on their path.

But by the time they reached the summit, it was already too late.

I Challenge My Fate

Sitting down by a fire, Lucina observed the embers in silence before throwing another piece of wood to keep the flame alive.

She couldn't help but stare at the fire, contemplating her own failure with clenched fists. "I… I couldn't save her," she whispered to herself, ashamed that she was unable to be there to prevent the execution of the Exalt.

Now that Emmeryn has passed away, the future was slowly starting to resemble that of her own. If things were to continue like this, then her efforts to change the future would have been for nothing.

One step closer to the awakening of Grima.

Under no circumstances could that be allowed to happen. Stopping that monster was her one and only goal, so if she was to prevent the downfall of humanity and the end of all life as they know it, she cannot allow fate to continue as it is.

The future has to be changed.


Lucina stood up the moment she heard someone sneak up behind her. Her hand quickly went after Falchion, drawing the blade to her side as she readied herself for a possible attack. But the moment she saw the intruder, she was surprised to see a young girl with long platinum hair and golden eyes.

The future daughter of the Exalt found herself at a lost for words. "Ah… a child?"

What was a little girl doing outside in the woods this late at night? For that matter, she couldn't recall there being a town anywhere near by, so where did she come from?

Even with those questions in mind, there was still one that managed to bother her even more than the last.

As a survivor from a far away time, she has developed a heightened sense of perception that has allowed her to be more aware of her surroundings than the average person. This was an ability that had taken her several years to perfect—one that has saved her life countless times during her years fighting the Fell Dragon and his forces.

With that in mind: How was this girl able to approach her camp without her even noticing?

"I have been looking for you," the mysterious girl said. "The one who traveled through time to save her world from utter destruction."

Lucina's eyes went wide upon hearing that declaration. "Wh-what…? How did you–"

"Please, do not be alarmed. My master is quite aware of your desperate situation and deemed necessary to send me here with an important task," she said in reassurance, though her words had the opposite effect.

Her brow furrowed in suspicion. "Who are you?" Lucina demanded, pointing Falchion directly at her.

However, the smaller girl didn't seemed threatened by the sword in the slightest. "My apologies. I should have introduced myself from the start," she said, giving her a cordial bow. "My name is Lavenza. It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Princess Lucina of Ylisse."

Lucina nearly took a step back. "You know who I am?"

The girl now known as Lavenza nodded. "My master is quite knowledgeable about many things, but that is not why I'm here."

"You keep mentioning this master of yours," Lucina said. "Who is he?"

"The identity of my master is of no concern at the moment." Lavenza could see the look of distrust grow over Lucina's features. "But I can assure you, I mean you no harm. My only wish is to assist you in the journey ahead."

Lucina contemplated her words, but she quickly took notice the large book that Lavenza was carrying. That has to be a magic tome, she thought in realization. But I can't recall ever seeing one that large before.

"And how exactly do you plan to assist me?" Lucina asked, looking at the small girl warily.

"By deepening the bond that you and my Trickster share."

At her words, Lucina raised a brow. "Trickster?"

"Yes," Lavenza nodded. "I believe you two have already met. He would often go by the name Joker whenever he and his allies operate."

Lucina lowered her sword at the mention of the frizzy-haired thief. "You know Re–I mean, you know Joker?"

"Yes. You could say that my Trickster and I know each other quite well." Her hand moved to where her heart rested. "He's the man who saved my life, going as far as to achieve even the impossible to prove humanity's worth in the eyes of the gods." A warm smile adorned her face. "He is truly remarkable. Wouldn't you agree?"

She… She seems to hold him in high regard, Lucina thought, feeling an odd sensation at how fondly Lavenza spoke of the thief.

Whatever their relationship was, they were definitely more than just acquaintances.

But just like it appeared, her expression shifted away in an instant. "You involvement with our guest has become a very… unusual relationship, but I can feel a strong bond growing between you," Lavenza said. "My wish is to help you make that bond even stronger."

"I don't understand what you're saying." The princess from the future shook her head. "How would doing that even help us?"

"Our fate is in the cards, and you represent the Aeon arcana," Lavenza explained. "The bond that you two share is a special one. That connection translates into power, and that power turns into strength. Your bond with my Trickster not only does it make him stronger, but you as well."

"So this bond that you speak of…" Lucina paused. "You mean to say that it grants us both power?"

"That is correct." Lavenza nodded. "And even though power alone may not be enough, once it's combined with that of others, it can turn into something far greater. A power that could one day challenge all odds, or perhaps even change fate itself."

Power through bonds? It was a strangely bizarre concept, maybe even naive. But for some reason, Lucina didn't believed that the girl was lying.

If there was really a way for her to acquire such strength, then it was definitely worth a try.

"However, a bond needs time and care to develop and grow. Time that we do not have." She allowed her words to sink in before she continued, "At your current pace your bond will not be strong enough for when the time to face your coming trials arrive. Fortunately, my master has come up with a solution that will help us solve this problem."

Lucina raised a brow in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

Lavenza shook her head. "Everything will be revealed in due time. However, you must remember that if you truly desire to bring an end to the despair that torments your time, then your bond needs to become even stronger."

Lucina's body tensed the moment she saw the girl open her large book. "Wait, what are–"

"I'm afraid that my time is up," Lavenza said. "It is time for me to leave, and for you to sleep."

Wh-what? She was about to protest, but a numb feeling began to take hold of her mind.

"By the time you regain consciousness, you will find yourself in an unfamiliar place. But worry not," Lavenza's words turned into echoes as her vision grew blurry. "My Trickster will surely find you. Once you're reunited, the rest will be up to you."

Take Your Time

Chance encounters weren't anything new to him.

Even when they were unexpected, he was smart enough as to not let it catch him off guard.

From all sorts of interesting faces that one could think of, Shibuya was probably the best spot for all types of people to be reunited in one place.

But when he saw a certain blue-haired princess being interrogated by a police officer over at the Shibuya Central Street, he tried his absolute best to not look shocked.

And failed miserably in doing so.

The master thief couldn't believe his eyes, and Morgana was just as surprised as he was. "H-hey, isn't that…?"

He nodded, already guessing who's name Mona was about to say.

Standing at the middle of the street was none other than Lucina herself.

It was something that Ren never thought possible. How did Lucina even got here in the first place? He couldn't even fathom to come up with an answer. However, whatever thoughts he had, he had to put them in hold.

"Look kid, I'm only gonna ask you this once," the irritated police officer said. "From what school are you from, and what's the deal with that sword you're carrying? That isn't real, is it?"

Lucina hesitated to answer. "I… I don't understand what you're asking me..."

The officer gave her a hard look. "I ain't here to play games, kid," he said before he forcefully grabbed her arm. "I'm taking you back to the station for questioning. We'll contact your parents once we get there, so you better be cooperative or else we are gonna have a problem."

"H-hey, let go of me–!"

"Don't try to resist." The officer responded harshly. "You're gonna get yourself in bigger trouble if you start acting like a brat."

"But I don't even know where I am, I–" Lucina tried to argue, but her words fell on deaf ears.

Her hand was already reaching for her sword when he decided to make himself known.

"There you are. I've been looking all over for you," Ren interrupted, giving Lucina the chance to take her arm out of the man's grasp. "We are gonna be late for the event if we don't hurry." He turned his gaze back to the police officer in question as if he didn't realize that he was standing there. "Is there a problem, officer?"

The policeman gave the frizzy-haired teen a scowl. "You know this girl?"

"I do," Ren responded without an ounce of doubt. "We were on our way to a competition for cosplayers at Akihabara, but we got separated amongst the crowd after leaving the station."

He gestured to Lucina, sending her a subtle look that said, Just follow along.

It took Lucina a moment to realize what he was trying to say. "Oh, y-yes, that's right!" The princess blurted out. "We were meeting for that… cosplay-thing that he mentioned."

The officer seemed skeptical. He looked at him for a moment before shifting his gaze back to Lucina. "You know that unlicensed ownership of weapons is illegal, right?"

She suddenly felt unsure on how to respond to that. "Th-that is-my sword is…"

"That? That's just an old toy," Ren interrupted a second time. "Its nothing more than a prop to compliment her costume. She likes getting into character whenever she dresses up, so please forgive her if she gave you any trouble."

The future daughter of the exalt was impressed by how smoothly Ren was about to lie his way through. Not even once did he lost his calm demeanor despite the fact that he was straight-out lying to a law enforcer in the face.

It was honestly impressive, if not a little bit frightening just how much of a good liar he was.

"Very well," the officer conceded but kept his scowl. "You may go now. But don't let me catch you like this again, you got that?"

Watching the officer walk away, Lucina finally spoke, "I… Thank you for your help," she said with a quiet sigh. "That man came up to me so suddenly that I just wasn't even sure how to respond. My mind simply froze after having all of those questions thrown at me at once."

"Don't mention it. If anything, I'm surprised to see you here, but I'm also kinda glad." He flashed her a smile. "It's good to see you, Lucina."

It all happened in a second, but it was there.

Not only her cheeks—but her whole face turned red. Though the ears had been hidden among the messy curls of her hair, it was obvious that they were as rosy as her face. He would be lying if he said that he didn't find it amusing when he saw her turn to hide her face in the most gentle way.

"Y-yes, well, I…" Lucina cleared her throat. "I cannot deny that it is quite comforting to finally be able to see a familiar face."

"Sounds like you went through a lot." Ren took a look around, making sure that no one else was around to listen. "Care to tell me more about it over some coffee?"

I Challenge My Fate

"I see. So it was Lady Lavenza who brought you here," Mona said in understanding.

Lucina nodded. "That's right. I believe that's the name she gave me," she said, taking a sip from her coffee. "So, for whatever reason this Lavenza person brought me to your world, and now I'm trapped here with no way back?"

"Yeah, that's pretty much it," the frizzy-haired thief said. "I have to say, you're taking this far better than what I was expecting."

"Let's just say that this isn't the first time I find myself in this sort of scenario," Lucina explained, putting the cup back on the table. "Besides, panic won't do any good, so the best thing I can do is to keep myself level-headed and avoid doing anything reckless."

"Hmm, you're much level-headed than what I gave you credit for," Morgana complimented. "You'll definitely make for an excellent phantom thief."

Lucina blinked. "I… Thank you?" It felt weird to receive praise from a talking cat of all things.

"Anyway, the simplest solution would be to find Lady Lavenza and ask her to take you back. Then again, we can't really reach her unless she wishes to do so herself," the feline thief explained with a small frown. "Can't you remember anything that she might have said before sending you here?"

She bit her lip, trying to think back to the events from last night.

"I honestly can't remember much of it." Lucina shook her head, feeling as if something was clouding her memory. "I really can't recall anything other than something about the strength of my bonds being mentioned, or something along those lines."

"Strength in your bonds?" Ren questioned with a raised brow.

"Yes." She nodded. "But that's as much as I can remember before I lost consciousness, I..." Lucina said with a downcast gaze. "I'm sorry, but… I have to go back."

If she can't find a way to get back, then all of her efforts to change the future would have been for nought. Ylisse will fall, her father will still be betrayed and Grima's awakening will remain unchanged.

"Alright. It's decided then," Ren said. "I know how we can solve your problem."

"You do?" Both Lucina and Morgana asked at the same time.

He nodded as he extended his hand. "C'mon, there's something I want to show you."

Take Your Time

"What is this place?"

"It's the aquarium," Ren answered, looking at the numerous fish tanks, which were filled to the brink with all manners of sea creatures. "You can find nearly all sorts of fish and sea life in here. The kind that you wouldn't see in any other place other than the ocean."

Lucina found herself at a lost for words. She was astonished by the marvelous sight that was all of the creatures together. Her fascination went far beyond to the point where she was practically leaning against the glass—not so different to how a child would.

Ren found the sight amusing to watch, but otherwise choose to say nothing, opting to let her enjoy herself. "This is wonderful," she said, with one of the brightest smiles that he has seen her wear. "But why did you brought me here?

"You remember Lavenza telling you about strengthening your bonds?" Seeing her nod back, he continued, "Well, that's exactly what we're here to do. She expects us to grow closer in order to draw more power out of our bond," the young thief explained. "I know it probably doesn't make much sense to you now, but you'll see what I mean soon enough."

The Ylissean Princess gave him an apologetic look and said, "I'm... I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that I'd have to decline your offer." Her eyes trailed down and her hand clutched her chest tightly. "Every life in my world is at stake. Everyone depends on me, and I cannot afford to spend any more time in this place while my people still suffer."

"Then there's nothing to worry about," Ren said reassuringly. "If Lavenza brought you here, then she must have used the same method that she used on us. You should still be in your own world, though you are probably just asleep."

The princess' blue eyes went wide. "But–that doesn't make any sense," she mumbled. "How can I be sleeping yet be here at the same time?"

"I know that it can be somewhat complicated to understand, and honestly, even I myself don't quite get it either. But trust me when I say that you'll be back before you notice."

Lucina felt more at ease now that she heard that, but that feeling was soon replaced by confusion when Ren suddenly took her hand.

Blinking, she looked down at their interlocked hands in confusion before turning to look at him. "Wh-what are you doing?"

The young thief simply looked at her with a smirk. "No need to tire yourself out. You're already here, so you might as well enjoy yourself, right? It's not like it'll take any of your time or anything."

Lucina was about to protest, but stopped before she could do so. Ren… Ren is right, she thought. If what he says it's true, then no matter how much time I spend in here, in the end it won't make a difference.

With that in mind, she offered no further objections.

The feeling of his hand on hers was a strange one. Not in a bad way, but it felt different to when she used to hold hands with her parents. It was odd, but it was also comforting in a certain way.

With a weak sigh, Lucina conceded. "What what do you have in mind?"

He let out a small chuckle. "To be honest, I intended to show you around some places, spend some time together." A subtle hint of embarrassment washed over his face. "You know, that sort of stuff?"

Lucina gave his proposal some thought, and it wasn't until a few seconds later that her eyes widened in realization. "W-wait. Are you… courting me?"

"Maybe," Ren responded with a shrug. "Does that bother you?"

"Y-yes. I mean, not exactly but…" She couldn't find the correct words. "Oh gods, what am I even saying."

Th-this is so sudden, she thought, feeling her head go numb. Her mind was turning into a complete mess at the thought of what he was suggesting. His words continue to repeated themselves inside her head over and over. Just… what is this feeling inside my chest?

As if aware of the conflicting thoughts that we're going through her mind, Ren spoke up, "Hey, it's alright." He brought her out of her thoughts with a reassuring tone. "If it bothers you that much, then I won't force you to do anything."

Lucina shook her head. "It doesn't bother me, it just…" she paused, working to calm herself down before she let out a sigh. "Spending time with someone for things that have nothing to do with either training or the war-effort is… fairly new to me," she explained. "I had spent the better part of my life on the front lines, for years I lived for nothing more than to fight monstrous creatures, but I have absolutely no experience with anything else other than that."

"Then how about I teach you?" He offered, much to Lucina's surprise. "I never met a princess before. One, who may I add, also happens to be from a different world and a time traveler no less. You could say that there's a first time for everything."

She looked at him for a brief moment before she finally let out a short laugh. "That's one way of putting it."

"So, you think it's worth a shot?"

"That depends," she responded. "If what you claim about my circumstances is true, then I guess it's only fair that I give this idea of yours a try."

"Alright," he said. "Shall we get going, then?"

Well guys, there you have it. The first part of this short story wrapped up and done.

I really wanted to write a story about Joker and Lucina much shorter in comparison to my other project, Dreams of a Better Future, which will end up being a much longer story than this one. One main difference between the two is the fact that this one-shot takes place post P5 original game, inside the world of Fire Emblem Awakening.

This story doesn't include Royal elements, mostly because I came up with this one-shot way before the release of P5 Royal.

Anyway, if you guys would like to see more stories like this then let me know, I'm all ears. Constructive criticism is more than welcome and I would really appreciate it if you could share your opinion of this two-part one-shot.

Not sure when I'll have the second part done, as I'm currently working on the next chapter for Dreams of a Better Future, so hopefully it will be done soon.

With that said, I thank you for taking the time to read this and I wish you all a wonderful day.