FG


Fool's Gamble

Life 96

Chapter II: Calling Your Cards


Despite the joy he felt just to be back in the Velvet Room, to see Igor and Lavenza once more, Akira felt a piercing feeling in his chest as he stared at Igor, something akin to anger sprouting within him.

"I searched… for years. I begged for help, to help me fix everything… where were you?" He asked of Igor, the Velvet Room's proprietor only able to sigh as the sun overhead began to dull, Lavenza's eyes taking on a sad light as she began to tend to the plants.

"Trickst… Akira, my imposter told you once before, that only those that are destined to be Guests may enter the Velvet Room, and only their own." Igor explained then as slowly the rooftop garden began to fade back into the prison, only to quickly shift back to form, almost as if the prison was some unnatural alteration.

"When the game ended, and Yaldabaoth was finally defeated, his control over the Velvet Room was ended, and the form he had chosen for it was erased. You were never officially a Guest of this room, but by the time I was freed, you had earned your place here. However, as your room was no longer, you could not simply return, for you had no place to go. Everywhere you traveled: Mikage-cho, Sumaru, Tatsumi Port Island, Inaba, Crossgrove, the Velvet Room was always there, you merely couldn't see it, as they did not belong to you."

Akira felt gutted, that for so long he had thought himself a failure, but he had actually found the Velvet Room, time and again, only to be denied because it wasn't HIS Velvet Room.

"Then why now? If my room is gone, and I'm not a Guest… why now Igor?" Akira asked in desperation then, as something must have happened if Igor had broken his own rule, if the Velvet Room had welcomed him once again.

"It is quite an interesting story. This form of the Velvet Room, just began to exist not too long ago. I knew it was for you, yet I did not craft it, nor were you planned to return… So why was a new room made for you Akira?" Igor proposed a question then, of why exactly they both found themselves here, while the Velvet Room had seemingly acted on it's own to return a Guest to it's domain.

"Then… what's going on? What caused all of this?" Akira asked in turn then, looking around as he saw an almost shifting quality to the Velvet Room, plants growing and wilting in seconds, as if the room was in constant flux. Ever changing.

Lavenza threw her tools aside in frustration as her flowers vanished right before her eyes.

"Keep aware, this is only a theory of ours, but we believe that an alteration has occurred, long before your journey began." Igor said carefully as Akira took a second to connect the thought, and that just brought him even more questions.

"You're saying something's changed?"

"Yes. Something at the beginning of time has been altered, and it is changing reality itself." At that Igor held a hand aloft, and Akira could only watch in avid surprise as the gloves the Master wore turned a startling white, the dark suit he so often adorned changing to a matching shade, the dark tie morphing into a glistening gold.

"Is this… Do you mean like how Maruki did? Someone's altering reality?" Akira asked him then as he felt his mask shatter to particles on the wind, just as it had long ago, but within him he felt the beginning of a new bond forming, a new mask lying just beneath his skin.

Igor merely marveled at the change he had undergone, his eyes shifting and losing their bloodshot nature, soft blue eyes remaining as the man seemed more entertained than confused.

"Not in this case, instead something or someone has altered the course of human history. As we speak, my mind is cataloging memories from a life I have never experienced Akira. People, worlds, and events are so very different from those that I have seen in our past. A world beset not by Shadow, but by a being from Twilight. It is truly remarkable." Igor said as he stood then, his smile turning sad as his familiar and trusty desk faded away, the Velvet Room seeming to collapse around them as the plants wilted into ash, the sun above sinking down to the ground as a soft light washed over them and a blue moon hung overhead.

"Igor… What do I need to do?" Akira practically begged him then, confused and worried by the change so abruptly surrounding him, he only knew that he had to try and stop this change, to try and fix things as he had sought for so long.

"You begged and prayed for so long, to replay your Game, to begin again and embrace those lost in the epilogue… Would you still take that option, were I to return you to a time lost?"

And therein lies the ultimatum, whether Akira would go back, would do things better… at the cost of leaving everything behind. Ryuji, Sumire, Maruki, Zenkichi, Akane, Tora, Futaba, Wakaba.

He would be leaving all of them behind to pursue a second chance….

A part of him begged to refuse, he had a life here now that he couldn't just drop. He was to run for Prime Minister, change this country once and for all, be there for his sister and niece, to be there for everyone he had left.

But as he was about to refuse, to say the words that would damn his last chance, he felt the weight on his chest. Their rings weighed him down more than his criminal record and his cursed fate ever had.

If he went back… it'd be 2016 again… They'd all be alive again. Haru, Morgana, Ann, Goro, everyone…

He could save them, do things differently, keep the Thieves from drifting apart.

"I would in a heartbeat Igor."

"Splendid, but I shall warn you Trickster, the Game has new rules now, things won't be as you remember them to be. This third party, they have changed things drastically." Igor said as the void around them faded and the skyline of Shibuya hung behind them, buildings shifting and phasing into existence as the city itself rapidly changed and morphed.

"Could… Do I have time to say goodbye?" Akira asked then, knowing he couldn't just leave things as they were, leave his family behind when he was the only thing linking them all together anymore.

"You would have twenty-four hours Akira, any longer and the timeline will settle, and whatever past has occurred will fully alter the present. If you remain in the real world, you will be changed with it, so you must return in time Trickster." Igor said with a serious tone as he waved a hand to the side, a golden door appearing before them as Lavenza wiped her hands free of dirt, stepping forward to join him.

"Lavenza shall accompany you as you say your goodbyes, but do take heed, that while time itself has not solidified just yet, things have already changed within this world. Do not slow yourself Akira, for not much time is left." Igor stressed to him a final time as the former Thief nodded, Lavenza taking his hand as she pulled the door open, the outside of the Shibuya alley waiting before them.

"I shall see you soon Trickster, I wish you luck in your farewells."

And with that, Guest and Attendant set off into Japan on a final outing, to set in motion the tides of a new game.

A game where Akira would not let his family die a second time.


23 Hours Remaining…

Leblanc hadn't changed at all really, maybe a few new dressings and seats in the front, but the cafe Akira once called home had stood opposed to time as he walked through, the old bell ringing just as loudly as it once had.

"Welcome back… Master." Damn her for teasing him, even over twenty years later, Akira's eyes were aflame as Sadayo stood with a hellish grin behind the counter, her customers completely ignoring her as the news re-aired his interview from the night before.

"Sadayo, must we always do this song and dance?" Akira asked with a weary smile as she returned it, a cup of coffee finding it's way to him before he could even ask.

Blue Mountain with a hint of cream, just like he liked it.

"It's the only way I can have fun in this quiet little hamlet… Now, what brings you back my way, Joker?" And there was the reason he had always liked Sadayo Kawakami, that even though she had never seen it, she knew how important the Metaverse had been to them all.

She was the only one that still called him Joker.

"I was looking for some old things of mine, held onto any of it?" He asked with hope in heart as he saw Lavenza wander off to bother the customers, and Sadayo only grinned at him in turn as she gestured up the oh so familiar stairs.

"I've left Sojiro's shrine to you just as he left it, it's still your room after all." She said with a smile as he headed towards the stairs, only absently noticing that she had removed the yellow landline from the bar, probably didn't want that reminder hanging around.

And… his room was practically identical to when he had left it in 2016, down to the tools scattered across the desk and the plant that for some reason still hadn't died.

It was like stepping back in time, and in a way, it was.

But he didn't have the time to play Forneus for the thousandth time, or see if Tanaka still sold weird crap at midnight.

With a pleased grin, he pulled free a padlocked suitcase from under the poor excuse for a bed, the combination instantly coming back to him as he popped it open.

Therein lay three objects of note. A toy dagger that looked more like a cutlass, a skull emblazoned on the hilt with a small inscription on the handle. "Paradise Lost R, a licensed Phoenix Rangers EX Replica"

A model pistol, the feel of it real, the metal glistening as he eyed the pained skull that rested on the barrel, no inscription tarnishing it but he knew the name of it as well as he knew his own.

The Tyrant, a pistol made to topple kings and erase gods.

With his tools of the trade reclaimed, all that remained was a plastic package, the familiar image of a Phantom Thief Calling Card shining in the light.

They were postcards technically, not ones actually made by Yusuke, he'd bought a pack before Okumura, and he had never gotten to use them… but they'd work for his purpose.

Searching his desk, he found an old beaten up pen of his with barely any ink, and began to write.


I Reversed Chariot

22 Hours Remaining…

When Ryuji Sakamoto got home from his shift at the clinic, he expected nothing major to happen, maybe a call from his mother or a movie on the TV that he could use to burn through the remaining hours of the day.

He had merely existed after losing the hope he fought so hard for, even for a time blaming Akira for it though he knew it was wrong, horrible of him to even consider.

If he hadn't helped him, hadn't saved him, he would never have lost everything, Ryuji's life would have held meaning still.

Now he only saw reminders of his own suffering, trying to help heal others in a way he never would.

His life had slowed to a stop, and all he could do was keep walking, for he would never run again.

He knew that Joker had not commanded him to save him, Ryuji had chosen to do that on his own, but a part of him still blamed Akira.

His mind was in tatters, but even he noticed that his apartment door was unlocked, and he hadn't left it that way.

From what he could see, the furniture within was pristine and unharassed, which meant he wasn't robbed or vandalized.

He wandered around the small apartment for ages, wondering what was missing, why someone would even break into his home… only for him to freeze as he saw something waiting for him that he never thought he'd ever see again.

A calling card on his table, just like the ones they used to send out, the flaming top hat almost calling out to him as he stepped forward, his fingers reluctant to grab it in case it vanished like the rest of the Metaverse.

When the paper held up to his touch, he flipped it to the side and found handwriting that he would know anywhere, and a message.

Despite his better judgement, he began to read.

"Sir Ryuji Sakamoto, the Guardian of the Weak. You have fought your entire life to protect others, but the Phantom Thieves failed in their final mission. I shall renew this game we all played, and seek a better outcome than the one that befell the former Thieves of Hearts.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you soon"

With panic in his heart, Ryuji pulled his phone free and tried to call the man he once called brother, only for his breath to falter when he got a simple voice line from his friend that should have told him to leave a message.

That wasn't the message on the phone though, and it just left even more questions to be answered.

"We Failed the Game."


A Bond Most Broken:

The Broken Chariot

2017, Osaka Jail

"Oracle, status report." Joker called aloud as he ran through the streets of the futuristic city, Fox and Skull at his sides keeping pace as Noir followed from the back with her axe in hand.

"Shouldn't be too far to the Keep, but stay on your toes, I'm picking up strange readings ahead of you guys." Oracle answered in their coms as Joker slowed in front of what appeared to be an alleyway, the others pausing in question.

"I… I feel something. Something familiar…" Joker muttered aloud as he instinctively raised his gun to the head of the alley, the sounds of chains echoing over the wind. A chill flooded all of their veins as a memory flashed through their minds.

"Is that…?"

"Guys, get out of there, it's the Reaper!" Oracle said in panic then as the four readied their weapons, though a nervous gaze fell over Fox.

"But wasn't the Reaper only in Mementos? How could it be here?" Fox asked then as a concerned feeling fell over Joker, the urge to run growing stronger as a red glow began to form at the end of the alley, the tip of a long pistol appearing from beyond the turn of it.

"The Jails are technically made from the desires of the public, Mementos was the manifestation of humanity's twisted desires… Perhaps there's some overlap." Oracle suggested as the Reaper drew closer, Joker throwing back the hammer on the Tyrant as it aimed back at him, Yoshitune flying into his mask as he felt the General beg for revenge against his greatest foe.

"We can do this right? Hell, we beat him like ten times in Maruki's Mementos." Skull reminded them which helped somewhat, but the Fight or Flight part of Joker's mind remained troubled, not even the presence of Yoshitune helping to offset the cold.

"The Reaper is different, Joker. The readings are completely different from the one we used to fight." Oracle informed them with worry as the Reaper finally came to a stop before them, both pistols aimed at Joker's heart with an inhuman growl.

"Could we win Oracle?" Joker asked simply as a bead of sweat fell through his mask, the Tryant's weight heavy in his hand as Yoshitune's anger grew more and more stifling, the usually stoic and composed General becoming a feral beast in his mind at the sight of the Reaper.

"It's possible, but you have to be careful. No theatrics, no showing off. Finish him off so we can move on." Oracle advised them as Noir stepped forward, her axe coming up to guard Joker's chest as the pair stood together, Skull and Fox falling into formation at their sides.

"Noir, you're first. One-Shot Kill, aim for a Critical." Joker commanded as his love lowered her axe, Milady appearing in a flash as she aimed the tips of her fingers out at the Reaper, a blast of golden light launching straight at the Reaper, the usual red spark of a critical burning into life as it hit.

And it merely brushed the fire away, not a scratch on the Reaper as it just seemed to laugh at them with it's remaining eye, and dropped one of it's pistols… a long sword appearing in it's place, a burning pipe emerged from the side of it as it's edge cut at the ground.

"Fox, Hyakka Ryouran on all of us."

"Goemon!" Fox called out as the legendary Outlaw sprung forward, his blades blowing forth a protective wind that fell on their team, all of them feeling a burst of strength as Joker kept his eyes on the Reaper.

"Skull, Matarukaja on all of us."

"Captain Kidd!" And with that, their power grew even further as the Reaper seemed to grow impatient, the barrel of it's remaining pistol beginning to glow a bright red as smoke began to bellow out of it. The good Captain merely ignored the Reaper, the pirate giving out a war cry as they each felt their strength bolstering.

"Yoshitune, Charge." With a clenched fist, Joker felt as Yoshitune's power started to build, the feeling growing under his teeth as his bones began to burn, his eyes turning a bright scarlet as the General's strength echoed through his body.

The Reaper followed his example, the beast taking it's turn to advance it's own strength, the blade and pistol both glowing with a hellish light as the ground around them began to rumble, the sky turning a harsh red around them as the Jail seemed to erupt around the Reaper's presence.

"Noir, hit it with a Psycho Force."

"Milady!"

And yet, an attack that would have pulverised a common shadow, or done a decent dent on the original Reaper, left no sign of damage on this new Reaper.

"Joker, something's not right, you need to-" Oracle interjected as their comms fell into static, the Reaper's eyes glowing a golden shade as they found themselves cut off from the rest of the Thieves, having to throw their earpieces aside just to hear again.

"Akira, we can't do this…" Haru said with a concerned gaze as she stepped back an inch, her eyes purely on him as the Reaper's form began to ripple, the cloak it wore began to tear as the chains began to raddle like never before, a droning, piercing noise all around them.

"Everyone, fa-" And just as he was about to call for a retreat, Joker was caught off guard as the Reaper lifted it's pistol to face him fully, a bright burning light emerging from it in a single shot, the heat mirroring the sun as it flew closer and closer to Joker.

The heat scalding and otherworldly, the tips of his coat catching ablaze as he merely closed his eyes.

A Megidolaon, something he hadn't seen in years, but a favorite of the Reaper.

"Akira!"

Before he could even react, Akira found himself knocked out of the way of the blast, his mask vanishing as he saw Ryuji lying beside him, having saved him from the assault.

Ryuji was screaming, though his health only took about seventy points of damage… so why was-

The bright red blood caught him off guard, never in the Metaverse had they ever bled outside of an awakening, their wounds always cauterized instantly… and Ryuji was now missing a leg, the bare bone glowing like a diamond through the raw flesh.

"Ryuji!" Akira screamed out then as his friend fell stiff at his side, his pulse weak but there as he felt the Reaper's shadow fall over them, his first friend's blood staining his gloves as he raised his gaze to meet the Reaper's sole eye.

"Your fate is sealed."

The Reaper spoke, and something broke within Akira, his mask returning as a red light overcame his eyes, the white of his mask melting away until only an obsidian black mask remained.

"I will… ravage you… SATANAEL!"

The Fallen One had returned.


II Remnants of the Hanged Man

19 Hours Remaining…

"So, what'll make me look scary?" A young man asked aloud as Kaoru Iwai tried not to roll his eyes at a potential customer, as ever since he had moved the shop to Ueno, his customers were nothing like his father had gotten on Central Street.

Less Yakuza and thugs, more hobbyists and children who thought intimidation could solve a bullying problem.

"Depends on the budget. Most of what we have here could work, though if you're going for realism we have a few cast metal replicas in the display cases. Though I must remind you that no product of mine is meant to be used for violence." Kaoru said the line he had said more times than he could count as the boy just pulled out a much too full wallet, and Kaoru realized why his father could afford to double as a pawn shop, as fools were willing to spend far too much on replica weapons.

"I like… that one?" The kid said, completely unsure of himself as he pointed out The Viking, one of the most expensive models he carried, and Kaoru just yawned as he checked the clock.

Almost closing time.

Just as he was about to unlock the case for the kid, Kaoru heard the phone begin ringing in the back. He excused himself to the kid as he picked it up, the number obvious to him as a tired grin formed.

"Hey dad."

"Kaoru, you need to close up shop and come see me. We got a letter." Munehisa Iwai said with an odd sense of urgency as Kaoru glanced back at the kid in his shop, his gaze curious as his father and he didn't exactly have too many friends in the letter sending hobby.

"From who?"

"Who else? Akira Kurusu."

Kaoru told the kid to come back tomorrow.


"Let me see it."

"Patience kid, never get anywhere in a rush like that." Iwai said with a chuckle as he held the postcard out, Kaoru taking it gingerly as he faintly recognized it as a Phantom Thieves postcard, like the ones they sold years ago in Shibuya.

And the handwriting on the front was definitely from his father's former employee.

With the patience of a saint, Kaoru opened it and began to read aloud.

"Sirs Kaoru and Munehisa Iwai, the Merchants of the Bold. Through my time spent with the both of you, I learned lessons immeasurable in worth and obtained means to which further the agenda for which the Phantom Thieves strived and suffered.

As you know, the game has been lost and the Thieves disbanded, but I can't let it end like this. Iwai, I imagine you're proud of me for not giving up.

I won't let you down Gun Dad, I promise you I'll set things right.

Take care of your old man Kaoru, he'll probably drop dead in a week if you don't."

"Kurusu still a cocky piece of shit…" Iwai said with a grin as he set his lollipop aside as his son continued to read.

"I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you both soon"

"Does Fate even have a heart?" Iwai wondered aloud as Kaoru placed the calling card aside, equal parts fear and worry overwhelming him as he thought of the man he considered a brother, going who knows where and driven by his grief.

"If it doesn't, Akira will just pull something out of his ass and manage it anyway." Kaoru said with confidence as his father placed a hand on his shoulder, a familiar smile forming on his lips.

"Kaoru, clear out a shelf in the shop. We're making a new gun!" Iwai said with more energy than he'd had in years as he walked to the workshop in the garage, his son following with a wavering smile.

"Let's get to work kid! The Joker ain't gonna build itself!"


III Reversed Faith

17 Hours Remaining…

Sumire Yoshizawa had never expected to find herself alone again, not after meeting Akira and the Thieves. After all they had done together, she thought it would always be like that, them all together working to fix society.

Then Akira went home after that wonderful year, and her heart broke a little bit to watch him go, not even having the words to express to him how much he meant to her.

Then he returned a year later, an App having driven Japan insane as the world began to fall apart once again, and Aki- Joker, reached out to her.

They wanted her back, she had another chance to be a hero, to fight for a cause that wasn't purely selfish… and she turned him down.

Her heart hurt every time that she saw him, Haru practically hanging off of his every word, and Sumire knew even then that her prince in a mask would never be Akira.

His heart had already been stolen by another.

But she refused to accept it, believing in her twisted fantasies.

She had worshipped the ground he had walked on, believed him to be her personal savior, the one to take her pain away and show her the glorious life she deserved.

She was wrong, and she had lied to herself more than anymore else.

She regretted it, telling him no, saying that she wasn't a Phantom Thief. That it wasn't her fight, not her duty to save the world.

At the time she had let her heart lead her, and it said it wanted to hurt Akira in any way it could… then Ryuji was crippled.

Then Haru vanished into the Metaverse never to be seen again.

A dark, shadowy part of Sumire cheered that Haru was gone, she laughed and plotted on swooping in and stealing her Senpai for herself, to heal his heart now that he was finally free to be with her.

Then she saw his pain.

And then Ann was dead.

The next day, Morgana was dead.

Her world shattered, that two of the teammates that she had once held dear, her friends, were dead.

And she realized how horrid she had become, no better than any of the monsters that they had found in Mementos, willing to use her heartbroken friend to make the hole in her own heart hurt a little less.

So she left, cut all contact, decided to work on herself.

Then she came back, she wanted to help Akira, not to have him but to heal him.

And she only made everything worse…

She wondered at times, what the world would be like if she had died instead of Kasumi, if her sister had been Violet instead, had lived on in Sumire's name instead…

Wondered what her sister would have said if she found a calling card waiting by her bed, her name written across the back.

With a strength she doubted was left in her, Sumire lifted the card and saw Akira's writing.

And she barely held it together long enough to read it.

"Madame Sumire Yoshizawa, the Wearer of Many Faces. You wear names as if they're armor, but you failed to recognize that the true mask was over your heart. The game is over Sumire, we all lost, but there's always a second chance.

I shall play again, to try and find a different ending to the game that we failed so poorly at, to avert the injustices we all suffered.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you soon"

Sumire knew it was true, his words.

And she would take them to heart, and try again.


A Bond Most Broken:

The Misplaced Faith

2020, Ginza

Sumire wasn't a healthy person, she accepted that a long time ago, knowing that she wasn't normal anymore, nor did she think she was a good person.

She would admit it, she had been stalking her Senpai for some time now, hoping beyond hope that something would happen to Haru…

She had loved Akira Kurusu for longer than she could remember, from the moment he had stood up for her on the train, she had felt a kindling in her heart because of him.

They drew so close together, he helped her learn the truth and accept who she really was, and when she finally awakened Cendrillon, she thought it was her perfect opening.

She'd join the Phantom Thieves, form a bond with its members, and finally she would steal Joker's heart for herself…

And upon meeting his friends, she met his girlfriend… Haru Okumura.

She hated her from the moment she met her, and thus she decided to shadow the both of them, waiting for the moment Haru would slip up and Sumire would have something to use to ruin her…

But Haru was perfect.

Kind, polite, eager to help the less fortunate, and loving beyond possible for any girl with as much baggage as Haru had.

So she waited, she prayed, and she waited even more for something.

Some divine miracle that would break them up so Akira could be with her, they were meant for each other after all, yet he couldn't seem to see it.

It wasn't easy following them, considering they traveled so often, but her father was happy to help, though she did tell him she was still doing gymnastics.

And now, she found them finally back in Japan.

On a date…

Haru had taken a work call sadly, having to step away from Akira as her secretary filled her in on a Zoom call she was scheduled for later in the day, when the signal suddenly cut off without delay.

"Korra?" Trying to reopen the call, Haru was caught off guard as her phone's screen turned completely red, an all too familiar eye appearing on it as her breath halted.

Years of searching for the Metaverse with Akira… and it just came to her without prompting.

"Please enter a destination to begin navigation." The voice said as Haru turned to stare back at their table, Akira looking around for her as she started to walk back to him.

"Akira! I found the Metaverse! We have to get home!" Haru tried to yell to him over the noise and bustle of the restaurant, only for the phone to jolt to life in her hands.

"Match found: Akira Kurusu. Metaverse. Home."

With a halted scream, Haru tried one last time to reach Akira as the words she dreaded most attacked her and she found herself lost adrift in a world of shadow.

"Beginning navigation."

Sumire saw as Haru disappeared into the Metaverse, seemingly her wish was fulfilled… until she saw Akira push through the crowd and reach where Haru had been, her phone now held in his hands as he began to shake.

"Aki-" She tried to call out to him, only for her heart to stop as she swore she saw Joker's mask appear on Akira for a second, his eyes burning scarlet as it faded away to ash, the crowd around him concerned and wary as the young man collapsed with Haru's bag clenched to his chest.

Akira screamed, and Sumire couldn't tell you for how long, because she ran away to escape it.

To escape his pain, to escape the fact that despite this being all she had asked for, she had never wanted it like this.

She had caused this, she was sure she did.

Sumire left after that, running from his crying face, and from her guilt.


IV Hermit and Moon

15 Hours Remaining…

Futaba's life had changed drastically from the shy shut-in she had once been, now a successful if lazy businesswoman with a husband and children.

She would never understand how Yuuki managed to convince her that the picket fence life was what she wanted, but he had been just as shy as she had, and they found kindred spirits in each other.

Their youngest, Akari, gave another kick from within her, seemingly impatient to be born.

Wakaba had already left for school, whereas Yuuki was probably off in his study working on the Phan-site, which despite next to no one even remembering the Phantoms Thieves, he still maintained to this day.

As she waited for her coffee to brew, she found the man in question stumbling into the kitchen with a worried and sad look to his face, his phone in hand as she took in his aura with a frown.

"Yuuki… what's wrong?" She asked as she reached out to him, only for him to hand her his phone, the one he had refused to upgrade over the years… and the Phan-Site was open on the browser, but it was greyed out… like the lights were turned off.

Then, she saw a new post on the front page, but not from her husband. He had stopped updating the site years ago, only keeping it up..

"The Phantom Aficionado Website has served it's purpose, as all things do. From the Final Phantom Thief, the last Calling Card."

And attached was a photo of one of the old postcards the Central Street supermarket sold, with handwriting messily scrawled across it, but she would recognize it anywhere.

"Sir Yuuki and Madame Futaba Sakura, They Who Kept the Faith. You have both been struck loose by the nature of our work, but emerged brighter and stronger than any peak we had ever reached. The pride you instill in me will never cease, and I apologize that I shall not see Wakaba and Akari grow into the wonderful women that I know they will be.

While we have lost, the game is not over, and I seek to play it again.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you soon.

P.S. Give my love to the Old Man."

Sojiro hadn't expected a call that afternoon, but he always welcomed a visit from Futaba and his grandkids, even if all of them cried into his arms, including Mishima.

To his dying day, he would never admit that he cried with them after seeing the last testament of his son.

They would see him again, of that they were sure.


V Councillor

13 Hours Remaining…

Takuto Maruki had been relieved when his shift ended for the night, having long parked in the depot and began the trek home, but for the oddest reason he felt compelled to check his mailbox on the way.

And within, he found the second Calling Card he had been given.

Whereas the first was an attempt to reach out to him in his delusion, and then was a declaration of war.

This… this was a goodbye from a dear friend, and he found himself reading it over for the rest of the night, the words burning themselves into his dreams.

He thought nothing could have been worse than losing Rumi.

He stood corrected.

"Sir Takuto Maruki, the Hopeful Dreamer. You dreamed of a world without pain, without suffering, where all could embrace their true selves without fear as their masks became a formality.

I rejected your offer long ago, and later came to regret it.

I have found my resolve once more, my spirit of rebellion having returned in my final moments.

I shall not follow in your footsteps brother, but I shall change the ending we all were subjected to. I shall renew the hope this world should have been given.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you soon"

When Maruki awoke the next morning, Asclepius waited to greet him, the healer garbed in pure white as Maruki felt a sad smile fall into place, Asclepius placing a hand upon his shoulder.

"It was all you could do, Dreamer."


VI Judgement and Priestess

12 Hours Remaining…

Sae's life had turned for the worst once again. She barely worked nowadays, preferring to slow down a bit, but her faith slowly faltered with each day that her sister slept on.

She had yet to awake, her hair growing thinner by the days and her skin pale as a spirit as Sae tried her hardest to care for her sister, all that she had left in this world.

Once in her life, she would have blamed Kurusu for this, for overworking Makoto and then vanishing when she stopped being useful to him.

But she couldn't, she saw the light leave his eyes when she told him, she knew that the man was as hurt by what had happened as she was, so she could not hate him.

She asked after him now and then, called to make sure he was eating properly and getting enough sleep.

After some time he stopped answering her calls, but she still made them.

One day she knew she'd wake up and see on the news that Akira had died, either from recklessness or from taking his own life, she knew he wouldn't let himself have a future without his love by his side.

When he joined the Diet and started working with Yoshida again, she felt hope.

She fooled herself into believing that he would be fine, that maybe she could see him come back to life.

Then she found a Phantom Thief calling card sitting beside Makoto's bedside, the hospital staff not able to tell her who had left it.

But she knew, from the golden ink on the front that read both of their names.

She knew.

"Madames Sae and Makoto Niijima, The Bearers of Justice. You both sought and fought for a way to resolve the illness inherent in this world, but I claim it's a fight we have all lost. Reform is impossible when the heart is broken, and with all that have been lost, there can be no recovery.

The Phantoms Thieves were the last sin to be tallied, and we tipped the scales too far.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

Take care of her Sae"

Sae would keep her promise, even if her sister never awoke, she would never leave her side.

Never again.


VII Emperor

8 Hours Remaining…

Yusuke had stayed away from society, had faded into the background of the world in hopes that in the deepest shadows he could find himself again.

And despite the distance he had erected between himself and his former allies, the struggle he had undertaken to vanish into the world like Goemon had.

Despite it all, he now held a calling card in his hands, a scowl on his face as he read the name it was addressed to.

It wasn't one of his, it was printed, likely a commercialized one from when they had been celebrities.

He was tempted to burn it, but a voice inside him told him to read it.

He didn't know if it was Goemon that spoke, or just a part of him that was tired of running, but Yusuke listened to it without complaint.

"Sir Yusuke Kitagawa, the Man Who Paints with Thinner. You once told me that hope rested in all things, from the acorns that fell from the trees, the flowers that bloomed in Autumn doomed to freeze. You said that no matter how small or cursed, even nature has hope that all will be well.

I will never stop regretting the fact that I stole the hope you had fought so hard for, nor will I stop regretting letting you walk away.

You will always have a place in our hearts, but with an apology, I must now follow your example.

I will walk to the beginning of our story, and change our ending, for you. For all of us.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you soon"

Left dumbstruck and lost, Yusuke sat there for the rest of the night, wondering if there was even a home for him to go back to.

A part of him thought about everything he had missed, all he had abandoned…

And he thought about a church in Kanda.


A Bond Most Broken:

The Bitter Nomad

2017

"So… you're leaving." Hifumi Togo said with an unreadable expression as Yusuke sat beside her, his eyes cold as he looked everywhere but at her.

He had painted in this church once, the concept of blind faith and devotion sparking a fire within him that burned brightly in his pursuit of beauty.

That fire was mere embers now.

"I can't stay here any longer Hifumi… The spirit I held is gone. There is no beauty left." Yusuke said with not an ounce of emotion, his tone even flatter than it usually was as she felt not a hint of warmth within him.

She didn't know what happened on their trip, as he refused to tell her after it, but she knew what had happened to Sakamoto.

She had a hint of what happened, but she missed her Fox…

"So then, is that just it, Yusuke? You're giving up the game like that… What about me? What can I possibly do without you?" She said in a whisper as her hand came to stroke his jaw, his firm hand catching her own as his ice cold eyes glared at her with a heat she had never hoped to see from him.

"You'll be better off without me, just as I'll be better off anywhere but here." Yusuke said in that same dead tone, his eyes quickly darting away from hers as she felt a bit of her heart crumble.

"Don't say that Fox… The game's not over until I say it is…" She begged of him as he turned to look at her, her Shogi board laying between.

He just cast it aside, the pieces flying free as the board clattered against the ground, Hifumi's breath catching as his eyes turned furious.

"I'm done playing Hifumi." Yusuke said as he stood in the light of the church, the old couples around them were staring at him in anger and her in concern as he walked from the pews, Hifumi racing to catch up to him.

And as he stepped into the streets of Kanda, Hifumi tripping and falling somewhere behind him, he swore he felt Goemon's anger and rage.

But directed at him for once.


VIII Tower

6 Hours Remaining…

It had been a regular day for Shinya, trying to find another bug in the castle level as his coworker claimed it was complete, that development could continue unabashedly.

But Shinya knew there was another bug, as Kori was a sloppy programmer at best, and he knew she always left a hole in the code.

Ah, there it was. When he used the Mask of Truth, it revealed a path leading to which switches had to be pulled in order to advance the puzzle, but the Mask was meant to be useless within the Castle.

It was as he was brutally exploiting the level, that the intern came to a stop outside his ramshackle of an office, a letter in hand.

"Hey Shin, you have a letter."

With a wave away, Tomiga left the letter by his desk and scurried off, letting Shinya focus once more on his work, as he knew there had to be an issue with the boss' programming, as sending a party member to steal the Demon's crown shouldn't outright kill the boss.

By the time he considered the level flawless, night had already fallen on the world and his coworkers long gone for the night… and that letter from before in his hands.

No one sent him letters anymore, the last person being Akira-chan back when he graduated, a ticket to the Gun About Veterans Competition within.

Now, he found himself holding a calling card, an object he had always wanted but never wanted to earn, and the man that might as well have been his brother had left it for him.

"Sir Shinya Oda, The Man with a Heart as Strong as his Trigger Finger.

You brought life to all that you met, even though you judge yourself for how you once saw the world.

You and I both learned that victory wasn't the truest reward, it was family all along, but I learned that lesson much later than you did.

The Phantom Thieves are gone Shinya, I know you dreamed of joining us when you were older, but the game is over.

I'm going back to the start, and I'm going to fix this, all of this.

I, the remaining Joker in the deck, shall steal the Heart of Fate itself.

See you soon little bro"

Shinya once heard it wasn't cool for men to cry, but as he held the last traces of his best friend, a goodbye in all but the words themself, he let himself cry.

Just this once.


IX Sun

4 Hours Remaining…

Toranosuke Yoshida died a beloved and honored hero to the people of Japan, a political warrior that fought for the peace and mind of the next generation, and who defended the future of those that felt themselves powerless.

He would be remembered as one of the greatest Prime Ministers that Japan had ever had, and his grave was constantly showered in flowers, charms, and letters people wrote of things they wish they could have told him.

Of how much they appreciated him, how he had changed their lives forever or inspired them to reach for goals they never thought possible.

And in the crowd of letters and remembrance, a single red and black card rested before the statue of him, his name written on it in golden lettering.

Tora would never read that letter, but it had to be written.

"Sir Toranosuke Yoshida, the Mentor I Never Thanked.

Thank you for everything, you saved me in more ways than one.

-Akira Kurusu"

And if the statue looked a bit weird, with a white masquerade mask on it's face, no one cared to notice.

Over time someone would remove the mask, but there were those that loved it, believing it made Yoshida the hero they had always called him.

So a few days after it went missing, someone painted a mask onto the statue's face, a golden mask that made his eyes shine like the sun.

He never sought fame or recognition, but Tora Yoshida would always have it.


X Justice

"I didn't write you a calling card." Akira said as he stood for a final time at Goro's grave, the writing on the headstone hard to make out after years of storms and age, the unremarkable marker a far cry from the monument that Tora had gotten.

Akira knew that this was the way Goro would have wanted it though, to be forgotten and to allow his sins to cease hurting people. If Goro was forgotten, then the pain he caused would vanish as well, or so he would have likely thought.

Despite that, he still found himself coming back here a last time, to say goodbye.

"You always said I'd get myself killed being an idiot, but here I am sacrificing myself to try and save all of you. You'd still call me an idiot though, you'd say that you don't want to be saved, just like before. I would argue that from the moment I met you, that I could never do anything but try to save you. And you would yell at me, say I was the filth of society and that you wanted nothing more than to kill me. But I remember the fear in your eyes when your cognition pointed a gun at me, you decided then and there where your loyalties lied… and I only wish we had met sooner Crow, if we had found you before he had… You didn't deserve freedom, but you deserved redemption. You deserved to face justice, not to be made an example of the flaws in it. You deserved to earn your place at our side, and I'm sorry you never got it."

He left the glove on the grave, the leather long worn out and the fingers mostly gone on it, but he had held on to it since the day Goro left them, but he didn't need it anymore.

Akira would awaken the true Goro Akechi, save him from himself, no matter the cost.

He was not letting his family die again, not any of them.

"I'll see you soon Crow."


A Bond Most Broken:

The Blackened Mask

2016, Shibuya Station

"I'm going to be entirely honest with you." Goro Akechi said in an even tone as the two of them took a breath outside the station, the remnants of Robin Hood holding tight to his heart as he felt the call of Loku within.

Robin wished to strengthen their ties with Joker, to tell him the truth of the Conspiracy, of Shido. To enlist his and the Thieves help in finally making his father pay, and he knew he could accept that. He didn't need his bastard of a father to die, merely to be ruined. He would take the man in a jail cell over free any day… but he knew it couldn't be.

They weren't strong enough to stand against Shido, and he couldn't rely on them no matter how much Robin begged him to, to give in and embrace them as he so dearly wished to.

Loki scoffed within his head, and remarked on how easy it would be to kill Joker, to steal the light from his eyes and the air from his lungs, of how messy his apartment would become if he dismembered Joker piece by piece.

He'd do it in the bathtub then, to minimize the mess.

The blood would drain and he could use the shower head to rinse the corpse clean.

Then, when the pieces were dried and sterile as corpse fragments could be, he would use them to fertilize his balcony garden.

His Sun Tomatoes would be glorious.

"I hate you."

Joker's eyes went wide then as Akechi could only grimace at him in turn, his rage palpable as he beheld the surprise in the other boy. Had he really thought they were friends? What a fool.

"Your ease at achieving what others deem impossible, your desire to pry into businesses beyond your understanding, your… NEED to fix things that are better left broken. But most of all, I hate that you're stronger than me, that you can do what I could only dream of… Because it isn't fair Joker." Akechi said with malice dripping from his teeth as his eyes flared at the sight of Joker's saddened face, the hope he saw draining from his eyes.

That despair reflected in those eyes, was paradise incarnate for his warped soul.

"Crow…"

"THAT… is not my name." Akechi said with pure hatred in his voice as he reached out and grabbed Joker by the throat, the Phantom Thief pulling at his hold as he pinned him against the wall, his nails digging into the tender flesh as he enjoyed the look in Joker's eyes as his air began to abandon him.

"I am not one of your little playmates Joker. I will not play your games any longer. I may work together with you all, but know that if you continue to believe in this idiotic idea that we are FRIENDS… Then I will not hesitate to end our arrangement. You will not contact me unless we are entering the palace, or I shall ensure you end up in a police interrogation room. Do I make myself clear, Joker?" Akechi growled out as Joker finally broke free of his grasp, the people around them crowding in concern as their idol was seen choking a person in public.

They probably assumed it was justified.

"Understood?" Akechi said with a growl as he straightened his tie, the other boy staring at him in turn as the crowds began to disperse.

Joker just rubbed at his throat in pain, his eyes cold in a way they had never been with him before, and Akechi acknowledged that maybe he was finally understanding the depths of his hatred for him.

"Whatever you say… Crow."


XII Strength

5 Minutes Remaining…

"Is that everything Trickster?" Lavenza said with a worried glance as the two found themselves once more standing outside the door of the Velvet Room, the two having practically traveled all across Tokyo to deliver his farewells, and yet now he held one last one in his hands.

"This one is for you, Lavenza." He said with a sad smile as he handed it to her, her shocked expression saying far too much.

"You… you wrote one for me?"

"Of course I did." With that, he patted a hand softly on her head, a habit of his he had picked up with Justine, and one that she now freely embraced.

"I will miss you… Akira." She muttered back at him, tears beginning to stain her face as she could only look at them in confusion.

"I'll fuse you again Lavenza. I won't let you suffer like before." Akira said with a tear of his own, his hand falling to her shoulder.

"Take care of them Lavenza, and…" At this, he fished free his old cell phone, the one he had used ever since his probation, dinged and nicked more times than he could count, but it still worked as ever.

"I won't be needing this anymore." With that, he placed the phone in her small hands, her fingers curling around it as she held it to her chest, treasuring it.

"I don't have another gift for you Trickster… All I had was the key." She muttered aloud as the Velvet Room door began to glow an ominous red, and they both knew not much time was left.

"You're family Lavenza, that's all I ever wanted from you." He said with a smirk as he pulled open the door, the attendant following him through it as she held both the phone and calling card closely.

"Welcome back Trickster. It is time."


And mere moments after Akira Kurusu stepped into the Velvet Room, a wave of energy blasted through the city, buildings warping and changing as people vanished and others appeared from nowhere.

The timeline had solidified, what had happened in the past had become a new reality.

All through the country, and the world, reality shifted in unexpected and strange ways, conflicts undone and events altered.

And in a finely decorated room, a woman awoke from a deep sleep, her husband stirring at her side.

"Haru… you okay?" He blinked his eyes sleepily at her, an expression of concern as he wrapped his arm around her.

"Yeah Aki… just a weird dream."


April 9th, 2016

"What?! Are you for real?" A voice nearby, the hard metal of the train seat jumping as they sped along the tracks, the feel of his old glasses on his nose as he blinked at the sudden light.

"A mental shutdown?" Two girls talking by the doors, so very familiar, he knew them… knew this conversation…

"It's the truth!" Akira knew this day, knew it well, the buildings of Aoyama-Itchome blowing past the windows as he found his phone once more in his hands, the Metanav suddenly appearing on his home screen with no prompt or marvel.

"To a person though? That's gotta be a joke."

He felt a grin form then as he looked to the ceiling of the train, a familiar warmth spreading through his chest as he took a breath for the first time in seemingly years.

He was back.

The game was just beginning.