If there was one feeling that Akira had to constantly put down, it was the feeling that people- in general- were absolute jackasses. The worst jackasses in the world. Back when he had operated in Tokyo, that was completely fine, seeing as people happened to be the only species in the world with a high enough level of intelligence for critical thinking. The rest of the animal kingdom were species like cats and dogs. Cute, but also not very sociable. Excluding Morgana, that is.

Here, though? No excuses at all.

It was strange, how no matter the circumstances, humanity managed to make major fuck ups one way or the other. Somehow, some way, humans would go to war, fight over nothing at all, and destroy the very things they worked to build over things that were just petty. Whether it was about skin color or extra appendages on someone's head, people seemed to screw up.

In fact, the people in Remnant seemed to be even worse.

And to think that there were folks on Earth who would die for things like catgirls to exist. Oh the irony.

It was now a year past the day he had woken up in such a strange plane of existence, in a world and city completely unfamiliar to him. Except at the same time, they were not. He had memories of Remnant, memories of a life completely different from his one in Earth, yet filled with similar undertones. He was a single child living with a middle class family in Atlas. His parents had been working for the Schnee Dust Company for god knows how long, and the last time he had seen them was when he was 5, the only indication that they were even alive being the paychecks that arrived at his house.

Strangely enough, he felt saddened. Regardless of whether or not his consciousness had been there to experience everything, they had become his memories. He remembered the events, and more importantly, the feelings that went through his mind. Ones of seething anger and sadness.

It made him feel like he had stolen a soul away. As far as he was concerned, there was an Akira Kurusu that was born and raised in Atlas, and he had simply swooshed in and stolen his entire life away.

Oddly enough, he somehow desired the company of Igor. The long nosed man had been a rather soothing presence, always oozing the aura that he was beyond Akira's mortal understanding, and that everything the man said contained a hidden meaning, or a strange wisdom.

Perhaps that was what it felt like to be religious. To desire the soothing reassurances of something beyond your power, something divine.

Unfortunately, Igor and Lavenza were a distant dream. He had been on the land of Remnant for a year now, and they were nowhere to be seen at all, despite the fact that he still retained the power of Persona. It was annoying that he couldn't access his compendium or fuse new Personae, but he wasn't particularly disappointed with the set of 12 he had ended up with.

Speaking of Persona, there was another irregularity in Remnant. One called aura.

It happened to function the exact same way as mana in the metaverse, except it protected him from wounds too. Strangely enough, the two were connected as well, with his aura capacity that was way beyond the average human being according to a scanner on a device similar to a phone called a scroll.

When he had discovered that particular tidbit of info, he had been worried that Remnant was actually some sick manifestation of the metaverse. Luckily enough, Arsene's voice had instantly reassured him that the shadows in various palaces felt nothing like the Grimm of Remnant.

It also helped that the metaverse navigator had shown up on his scroll.

The first time he had donned his mask again... It was exhilarating. Cathartic in the best of ways. 2 months after being stranded in what seemed like a new dimension, it felt amazing to just cut loose. Slice up minor shadows in Mementos and steal twisted hearts from the public's cognition.

Although the fact that Mementos existed in Remnant was a problem for the land, god was he glad that it existed for that brief moment.

It was much more inconvenient without a team of thieves, but in his defense, he was a wild card and an experienced combatant in the Metaverse. Invading normal palaces were like child's play. And boy were there lots of palaces out there. In fact, almost every big business owner in Atlas had a palace of some sort. Some were stronger than others, but they all had a singular focus.

Power. Whether it was psychological or financial, everyone in Atlas was drunk on power and corruption.

God, this place was fucked. He almost felt as if Remnant was some sort of mirror to Tokyo, except everything was amplified by eleven.

By the sixth month Akira Kurusu had woken up in a new land, a criminal vigilante named Joker was on the rise. He would send a calling card to anyone corrupt or drunk on power, and only days later, the person would publicly announce his or her crimes and "sins," before promising to do a better job in the future and instantly enforcing more friendly, ethically reasonable work procedures.

Little by little, Atlas was changing. The name Joker became a title of fear to some, and a title of hope to others.

And while the cities walls began to rumble and change, what was the criminal doing when he wasn't invading the heads of corrupt businessmen and politicians?

Why of course, he owned a cafe. Because what else was there to do?

It was a fact known by absolutely none of the Phantom Thieves that Akira Kurusu... happened to be an absolutely horrible cook. At least when it came to general food items. When he dealt with coffee and curry, he was a master only because Boss had drilled the techniques into him by force.

But, no one needed to know that. A little white lie was fine, and Akira happened to be quite proud that he was good at cooking curry. And brewing coffee, although that was a drink and not a food. Besides, his friends had never asked, so he never felt the urge to answer.

Unfortunately, it was dawning on him that such a decision was possibly a quite bad mistake, at least when it came to owning and running a business. After all, he couldn't simply serve his customers the same food and drink over and over again. The spice of life was uncertainty after all.

While technically he was fine in terms of finances, he needed some way to spend the day outside of being in the metaverse. And thus, he had decided to open Leblanc cafe in Atlas, a homage to Sojiro Sakura's absolutely stunning tasting curry and coffee. Akira had to admit, he was proud of his skills, but he wasn't at Boss level quite just yet.

He clenched his fist, grabbing a handful of apron with a look of pure determination plastered onto his face.

One day, Akira. One day, you shall grasp the stars of cooking.

At the current moment though, he was quite very occupied with two foods that were supposed to be quite simple. Still, cooking for a group that was possibly way larger than the entirety of the Phantom Thieves was a daunting task for a single person, especially seeing as he was still a minor.

Well, at least the ingredients were the same. Tasted the same too. If he had to pull up a new recipe from scratch, Akira wasn't sure he could have done such a thing. Thankfully enough though, his cooking skills at coffee and curry remained solid, and Leblanc of Remnant was even starting to get a couple regulars that came to the place reasonably often.

The doorbell rang, signalling the first customer of the day. Akira quickly fumbled around with the pot of curry, expertly handling it before pacing out to the counter to greet his first customer. Although he supposed there was only a single person in Atlas that would open the door at such an early time in the morning, which was-

"Kurusu! Good to see you, lad."

Pietro Poledina was now one of his most frequent regulars after the man had wheeled himself in on a terribly rainy day. Ever since then, the scientist (Or so he called himself) had rung the door almost every other day for a cup of coffee, and occasionally a bowl of curry as well.

"I'll have the curry today." said Pietro. Akira nodded before quickly getting to work, pouring his customer a cup of black coffee and preparing a plate of curry in record time. Leblanc was all about great customer service, after all.

"So, how are things going, kid?" asked the man. Akira shrugged in response, giving a nonchalant answer. In reality, he had completed a heist only yesterday. But nobody needed to know about that.

"I heard the new vigilante around these parts, the one called Joker went after some new person. You keepin' up with the news about Joker, Kurusu? Things have been wild around here." said Pietro. Akira hesitated for only a brief moment, contemplating his answer.

"I don't see anything wrong with what he or she does. If somebody is doing bad things, they should face consequence, right?" Akira said. He was quite aware that the reality of the situation was quite different. But he had to play things off. And half-lies always worked better than full ones.

"You're probably right. I'm curious how it all fits together though, are you not? Imagine the things you could do with such a power! The ability to take away corruption, to steal away desire... It's quite amazing in my opinion, and quite frightening too. What would happen, do you think, if Joker decides to turn bad?"

Akira would make sure that would never happen.

He simply shrugged in response.

"I'm sure such a thing is unlikely." he said. "I don't know much about this Joker person, but well... it seems good. What's being done, I mean."

Pietro stared at him with curiosity for a brief moment, making Akira's mind spike with slight panic, before the man simply chuckled. "Ah, kids. Sorry I bothered you with all of this real world jargon. You must be bored, right? I don't really know what young folk like you are into these days... Though we could talk machines, if you want."

Akira was completely fine with talking about "real world jargon," but he steered the conversation away anyway. No good in lingering on a discussion about his other day job.

"You have a family by any chance?" Akira asked. Instantly, he regretted opening his mouth. Pietro looked at him with a strange expression of curiosity once more, before speaking.

"I do have a daughter. She's about your age now, actually. Maybe I'll bring her along one day when she's free." said Pietro, before giving Akira a stern look. "No making moves on her, kid. Don't think I know how sly you can be."

This made Akira chuckle, and the scientist laughed.

"Well, it's been nice once again. You really do have to share your recipe with me some day. You self taught?" asked Pietro as he started to wheel towards the exit. Akira shook his head.

"Learned from the best." he said with a smile. He really did miss Boss.

That night, Akira went to sleep with a smile on his face. Business had been booming. Although the effort was tiring, he was rather glad he had cooked up so much curry in a single spurt. It allowed him to multitask way more efficiently. It had probably been the best day for Leblanc as a whole.

And then, his dreams came and shook things up a bit.

Akira wasn't a stranger to nightmares. In his early days of palace raiding, he had had nightmares just from the strange, grotesque shape of shadows and the constant near death experiences that happened to be an occupational hazard for a phantom thief.

Which was why he could identify when something was a nightmare. The feelings that associated with him during dreams like that were crystal clear. This dream? He was sure it was something different. He felt strangely curious, outlandish even. If he had to put it in the most simple way possible, it was like he was back in the Velvet room again. Except that was impossible, wasn't it? After all, why would Igor contact him after an entire year?

And besides, this didn't look like his velvet room at all. The velvet room ingrained into his memory was a prison cell. This on the other hand was... a battlefield? A stadium? An arena? He wasn't quite so sure. But this didn't look like the velvet room at all, and he would have been sure that it wasn't the velvet room-

-if not for the awfully familiar blue clothing that the lady in front of him wore.

He would never forget that color. Not when he'd been kicked in the ass- quite literally- by Caroline and Justine so many times. He was honestly surprised that his back wasn't disfigured by now, considering that the twins, despite their size, were absolute powerhouses.

The boy instinctively rubbed his back at the memory. Ah, it had been so long since he'd last done that.

"Hello?" he carefully decided to call out, making the woman in familiar blue garb turn around to face him. She was... beautiful. That was the only real thing he could say about how she looked. She certainly wasn't his type or anything, but saying anything else would be an extreme injustice. She radiated an almost regal aura, with wavy hair and a perfectly composed posture and expression.

"I've finally found you." said the woman with a smile. "I apologize that this took so long. Master Igor is a fairly powerful entity, but even he didn't expect that you would somehow end up in another plane of existence. But somehow, you seem to have found your way to this place once more. I apologize if this seems rather unfamiliar for you. The master is currently indisposed and he felt that your... usual attendant did not quite fit the... mental state to pursue you to such a place."

Akira honestly couldn't find it in his heart to disagree. While Lavenza was way kinder than the twins, she still felt like a bit of a child. So this lady's another attendant of the velvet room, huh? I wonder how many there are.

The woman gave a rather regal looking bow.

"Anyhow, let us get straight to business. I'm sure you would appreciate such a sentiment as equally as I. My name is Margaret, and welcome to what can suffice for now, as your new Velvet Room." said the woman with a knowing smile. "I have noticed that you have been utilizing your personas in this world already. However, using our old services would be beneficial, would it not?"

Akira smiled and nodded. This was a strange twist, but he wasn't gonna complain.

"However, there is a catch. This world too is bound to fall towards ruin if your intervention is not present. Thus, your journey will have to begin anew. It will be different from the one you had in the past, seeing as your personae are already powerful. But regardless, there is one thing you must still do, and I suspect you know it. After all, you may hide it well, but you feel the emptiness that clouds your soul even now." said Margaret.

Akira grimaced. "My bonds." he said. He had tried his best to forget about his old friends and how they were doing. After all, he really had no clue, and thinking about it too much wouldn't benefit anyone. But now apparently, it was time to face the music.

"Furthermore, you must sign a contract that will ensure you begin your new journey. This means that you will find difficulty in using your higher level personae. While your physical body will not be reverted, the state of your soul will revert back to a clean slate. So while your physical body will remain the same, you will find it mentally much more straining to use high level personae." said Margaret. Akira scratched his head in response.

"That just sounds overly complicated." he said with a frown. Margaret nodded.

"Indeed it is. However, this is the first time a fool such as yourself is beginning a second journey, and while even the Velvet room does not have the ability to take away certain aspects of your growth, we also do need to ensure that your journey will not simply be one where you affect others, but self discovery and development as well. It is a natural part of the process that is involved when our original contracts are signed."

"You mean the one that tells you to take responsibility for your actions?" Akira asked, raising a single eyebrow in curiosity. Margaret gave him a knowing smile.

"Yes, exactly. After all, if you have no capacity for change, your actions intrinsically have less significance. It's a rather tricky process. The parts of your soul that prevent you from growth are the same ones that make you the person you are today. We have to be extremely deliberate in what part of your state can be wiped clean without damaging your body altogether. Although I suppose such a thing would be impossible, even for us." explained Margaret. Akira put two fingers on his lips, a thoughtful expression on his face.

"So that's why I'll find it difficult to use higher level personae? Because you can't make it impossible for me to use them, but you need me to grow with aspects of myself, so you're putting more of... an encouragement device? A fifty fifty deal?" Akira asked. The woman in front of him nodded, seemingly pleased.

"You catch on quickly." said Margaret before she held out a clipboard and a pen. "Now, simply sign your name and this contract shall be sealed."

Akira took the pen and scribbled his name on the paper. Instantly, he felt a sharp pain in his chest before it instantly disappeared. Suddenly, he felt a lot less complete, but at the same time, a lot less empty.

"You have just ensured that you have the ability to make social links once more. You feel lighter, yet more complete, no? That is because the bonds that gave you completion are gone, but your soul is at a state where it can function without them. This is the... motivation device, as you put it." Margaret smiled before speaking once more, her tone rigid. "You shall soon wake up from this place with a key inside your pocket. You obviously know what this does, yes?"

Akira nodded solemnly.

"Oh, right. And I forgot to tell you. This world's metaverse functions differently from your world's own. I'm sure you noticed that the individuals whose hearts you have stolen have not simply gone down to be arrested, instead gaining a different type of resolve. Even I know not the true extent of how this world's metaverse seems to function, but don't let the familiarity of everything cloud the fact that it is different. Prepare yourself for irregularities, trickster."

Akira couldn't respond before he felt a tug at his backside, and his eyes opened back in the real world again. Sure enough, in his pocket there was now a blue key that looked awfully familiar.

"Margaret, huh." he said to himself. It was almost unnerving that a velvet room attendant didn't know about how the metaverse here functioned. It gave him a sense of unease, an uncertainty that was never present when Igor had been his master. Even Yaldabaoth was a bit of a comforting divine presence that oozed an aura of "this is all planned."

Even if the plan was rigged against him.

Although he had to say, he wasn't too against everything. After all, he now had access to his compendium again. Although it would probably be a long time before he could properly use his personae, it was nice to have the comfort of fusion. And now, he had a purpose too. A reason to exist in Remnant.

"Although, where to start?" he asked himself.

Like a sign from the gods, the bell of Leblanc cafe started to ring, and Akira knew just where.


Yep. So, this is a thing now. Expect more notes in the future, but I don't have anything to say lol.

Please leave a review, though. I would love to hear your thoughts, regardless of whether it's a compliment or a straight up flame.

Thanks for reading so far!