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House of Horrors

Chapter Text

“Uh, we sure this is a palace?”

 

Akira directed his eyes up at the gray stormy sky, watching as lighting flash and danced behind the curtain. The trees that surrounded the palace were blackened and dead, the branches moved in such a way that it reminded Akira of hands reaching out to grab anyone passing by them. Hedges that seemed to stretch endlessly upwards boarded behind the trees, they looked far more alive than their natural counterpart but they also seemed fake. Finally, there was the house: an old, dilapidated, shell that stood out sharply against the mass of gray clouds. The once vibrant green had faded away to a sickly and pale version of itself. The painted white wood was dirty and browning, planks of wood had fallen off or had been eaten away. It reminded Akira of-

 

“A haunted house.” Ann speaks up beside him.

 

“To be issued a challenge only to be presented with something childish as a Haunted House.” Makoto says, although there’s a hint of a tremor beneath her voice.

 

“Scared of Haunted Houses, are we?” Akechi teases with a slight smile. “Given what you and the others have faced from your time in the Metaverse, conquering a haunted house is nothing.”

 

“Says the guy who’s only been in a palace for like two days.” Ryuji muttered under his breath.

 

Akira can hear the beginning of yet another bickering session between Akechi and Ryuji. He quickly gains the attention of the others. “The faster we get this done, the faster we can return to Sae-san’s palace. Let’s go.”

 

He makes his way towards the entrance, climbs up the small set of stairs which creaked ominously under his weight, and opened the door. The entrance groaned, long and loud, as it slowly swung further into the house. Everything inside the building is dark, pitch black stretching into every corner of the building. A doll, no taller than Morgana sat in the center of the room. It’s eyes were buttons and it’s smile was sending warning signs to Akira’s brain. 

 

“Holy shit.” Ryuji whispered as he crept up behind the leader. “This looked smaller from the outside. The hell kinda palace is this?”

 

“In a traditional Haunted House, they are much bigger inside than out.” Yusuke murmured. “But this feels more akin to a labyrinth.” 

 

“Hello Phantom Thieves!” A voice boomed from the doll, startling the thieves into nearly pulling out their weapons. “How nice that you’ve chosen to take my challenge! I was wondering when the group of self-proclaimed heroes would descend upon the common folk and bless them with their presence!” The voice grew darker, laced with a sinister undertone. “It’s about time someone clipped your wings and sent you crashing down to the ground like the commoners you truly are.” They cleared their throat and the doll smiled wider, showing off its woven... sharp teeth.  “Any-who! Welcome to my Palace! A House of Horrors! I hope you enjoy your stay!”

 

The door slammed behind them and darkness encased Akira’s vision. He could hear both Futaba and Makoto scream in terror at the sudden action. Dim lights flickered on above them and the doll was gone.

 

“Okay, that’s creepy as hell.” 

 

“Is... Is it too late to leave?” Futaba whispers.

 

Haru moves towards the door and jiggles the handle. “I’m afraid so. We’re stuck here.”

 

A heavy silence befalls the thieves and for once Akira is at a loss of words. Above them, the house creaks in a mocking matter, as if it’s laughing at them. Taking a deep breath, he addresses the others.

 

“This is just another palace. We can handle this one just like the others.”

 

“J-Joker’s right. As long as we stay together, we’ll be fine.” Makoto added.

 

“Yeah! We’re the Phantom Thieves and there ain’t nothing we can’t handle!”

Chapter Text

They absolutely could not handle this. The hallways twisted and looped among each other, with each room entered and exited, the layout would change which made the hope of Oracle finding a route for them impossible. Every now and again, things would leap out of the shadows and disappear before it came into contact with Akira. Ghostly hands would reach out from the walls and grab them, leaving a burning sensation that managed to breach their clothing. Echoes of children’s distorted laughter filled the air around them, they became lower and more distorted as they continued. The doll the mastermind used to speak through would appear randomly throughout the house, almost as if it was keeping an eye on them.

 

Futaba clung to him like a lifeline, trembling terribly and jumping at every scare. Makoto wasn’t doing much better, but she hand managed to put on a brave face and hold it together. Ann herself had taken to holding onto Ryuji, her eyes flicking around wildly like she was trying to predict where the next scare would come from. Ryuji muttered his annoyance about the palace, his grip tight on the bent pipe he carried. Yusuke and Akechi were silent, although their hands were resting on their weapons, readying to defend the others at a moments notice. Haru and Morgana took up the rear, both of them kept glancing behind to make sure they remained unfollowed.

 

The hallway shifts and splits into two different pathways, Akira frowns as he glances between them. The god forsaken doll was there as well, sitting at the splitting point of the rooms. Each of them lead further into the house and an unsettling feeling filled his stomach.

 

“We have to split up.”

 

“Of course this asshole would split us up.” Ryuji huffs “We ain’t that stupid enough to do that.”

 

“The thug has a brain? What a surprise.” The returning voice sounded from the doll. “Didn’t think he had one. With such a loud mouth, I wasn’t expecting it.”

 

“Hey!” He growled and narrowed his eyes at the marionette.

 

“The dog is all bark and no bite!” The doll laughed before the tone changed. “Perhaps I should change that.” The voice cleared their throat. “Now be a typical bunch of teenagers, and split up gang, and search for clues!” With that, the puppet disappeared as the lights flickered above.

 

“Weird ass thing...” Akira glanced over at Ryuji, he was tense and grasped the pipe tighter. The leader imagined the blond had a white knuckled grip.

 

“...Surely we don’t have to split up.” Makoto spoke up after a while. 

 

“If this is anything like a horror movie.” Haru tilted her head in thought. “Then we should expect something to happen to one of us once we go our separate paths. Perhaps a monster of some sort.”

 

“Skull, you take Crow, Panther, and Noir.” Akira jerks his head to the right. “I’ll take everyone else into the left path.”

 

“Alright, be careful, man.”

 

“Same to you.”


 

Akira rolled his sleeves as he focused on the locked chest before him. Behind the leader, he could hear the others rustling through dusty stacks of books and old furniture. So far they had found nothing and Akira was beginning to think that the Mastermind was playing with them again. Finally, the lock gave way and the lock hit the floor with a thud. He opened the chest and peered inside, half of a key with s small scrap of paper was the only thing within the trunk. 

 

“Find anything?” Morgana asked.

 

“Half of key.” He picks it up. “The other one is probably in the other room.”

 

Makoto came over and looked at the paper. “Joker, I believe we should leave. Now..”

 

“Why?”

 

She pointed at the scrap.

 

‘A good leader keeps an eye on ALL his teammates. Have you seen your lapdog lately?’

 

Ryuji.

 

Akira bolted from the room, ran down the hall, and nearly crashed headlong into a distressed Ann.

 

“Skull-”

 

“We can’t find him.” Her voice was soft. “We turned our backs for one second and then he was gone.”

 

“We should go back and-”

 

Suddenly all the doors slammed shut and the hallway shift to a lone locked door, the doll had returned... but it had Ryuji’s mask. Akira glared as he walked towards it, hands moving to seemingly choke the thing.

 

“Where’s Skull?”

 

“Here and there, hither and thither.”

 

“Don’t get cheeky.”

 

“Oh! Is the great leader, Joker, losing his calm facade? All because I took his right hand man? You care for the loud mouth mutt?”

 

“Where. Is. He?”

 

“Silenced.”

 

Akira nearly dropped the marionette, Ryuji couldn’t be-

 

“Oh, that look on your face brings me joy. You’ll find your friend behind this door.” The doll disappeared in a plume of smoke.

 

In a flurry, Ann hands Akira the other half of the key. The door clicks open and slowly swings open, revealing Ryuji sitting in the center of the room with his head bowed.

 

“Skull?” Panther and Joker made their way quickly over to him. “Sk-”

 

Ryuji’s head raised and Ann covered her mouth in shock while Akira paled. Ryuji’s mouth had been sewn shut, sloppily, and with a myriad of different wires. Blood had pool and was dripping down slowly from the wounds. Akira slowly reached out, but Ryuji jerked back and shook his head. It seemed touching them would spell bad news for the blond. A sickening feeling flooded Akira’s body as one thought echoed throughout his mind.

 

What had he and the others gotten into?

Chapter Text

Akira got to work untying Ryuji, trying hard not to stare at what the Mastermind had done. The air was heavy and silent, no one wished to speak as the weight of their situation dawned on them. Once free, Akira pulled Ryuji in for a hug.

 

“I’m sorry.” He whispered.

 

Ryuji hugged him back and clenched tightly at Akira’s jacket. They took a moment to rest, but their eyes kept flickering to Skull. Eventually, the blond pulled the ascot off from his neck and wrapped it around his mouth.

 

“You didn’t-” Akira began.

 

Ryuji interrupted him with a shake of his head before pointing at Akira and then at the door that had creaked open behind him.

 

“You want us to keep going? Ryuji, we should go back, we need more time to think about how to tackle-”

 

Another shake, but this time, Ryuji pointed at Makoto. 

 

It takes Akira a few seconds to understand what he meant. “You mean... you want this palace over with quick, so we can focus on Sae’s?”

 

He nods.

 

“With how big the palaces normally are, and how we hardly started exploding the casino.” Makoto spoke. “So I can understand the urgency...” She placed a hand on Ryuji’s shoulder “But your safety comes first, Skull, and if continuing harms all of us. I’d rather us leave and think of a plan.”

 

“Oh, you can’t do that.”

 

Everyone jolted as the doll appeared from behind the crack in the door. Still wearing Skull’s mask and smiling like it won the lottery.

 

“Do what?”

 

“Leave. Well-” The doll tilted its head. “You and the others are more than welcome to walk right out the front door. But the muzzled mutt can’t leave. His wings have been clipped, you see, and any one of you could be next. So go ahead and leave Skull to his fate here in the house. I’ll make sure he’ll be nice and safe~”

 

Akira felt a flash of anger at that last statement, like hell he would leave Ryuji to fend for himself.

 

“No.” He moves in front of Ryuji, trying to protect him from the doll’s sight. “We’ll keep going.”

 

“Oh ho? And risk another one of your friends getting the same treatment Skull did? Would you be able to live with yourself is that happened?”

 

Before Akira could respond, Ann cut in.

 

“Where do you get off, playing with people like this?”

 

“Ah, the beauty and grace that is Ms. Panther herself.” The marionette opened the door wider, Akira could see a glimpse of hedges that stretched far out before fading away. “As to answer your question. Don’t you thieves do the same thing? Playing with hearts and lives?”

 

“We change hearts so that people like you confess to their crimes.”

 

“Crimes? What exactly have I done? From what Queen and Joker have said, you all rushed in here with no plan other than to take me down. Seems typical of what a bunch of stupid teenagers would do. And even with another brain in the group, thinking ahead just seemed to not be important. I gave you everything: codewords, info, etc. Yet you assumed this would be a cake walk. If you thinking that you only need your grace and skills to get further in here, then you’re sorely mistaken.”

 

Before Ann responded, the doll began to disappear.

 

“Travel further into the hedge maze if you’re still going to confront me.”

 

They watched as it disappeared into a plume of smoke.

 

“...Does it have to be a maze?” 

 


 

Another dead end, Akira was starting to get fed up with this. As much as he wanted to take his time with this, he couldn’t, not when he could hear the crackle laughter of the monster that the Mastermind had sent after them. Ryuji tugged on his sleeve and pointed towards the exit. Right, continuing on.

 

“I hope we’re close to the end.”

 

Ryuji pointed at his shoulder then at the top of the hedge.

 

“Climb on your back?”

 

A nod.

 

“Anything to get us out of here.” Akira climbs on his shoulders. “Are you-”

 

Ryuji shoots him a thumbs up and the leader directs his attention over their enclosure. He can see see the crumbled and moss covered remains of some kind of statue, but he can also see the top of the monster’s head and the weapon it carries. Judging from the revving of an engine, it was after Makoto.

 

“I see where we need to go, but Queen’s in trouble.” Akira looked down at Ryuji. “We should-”

 

A thud sounded behind them causing both of the teens to face some creature with an animal skull on its head, glowing red eyes, and a body that reminded Akira of a tank. It pointed its weapon at it the pair before making its way over to them. The leader jumped down from Ryuji’s shoulders, grabbed his hair, and started running. He could hear the creature slamming into parts of the hedge as it gave chase. Ryuji shoved him to the ground as the weapon flew past them and sank into the hedge.

 

They scrambled to their feet as the creature loomed over them, The monster reached out and grabbed Ryuji, just as Johanna slammed into it, sending the thing tumbling the row of bushes.

 

“C’mon!” Queen shouted.

 

Akira helped Ryuji up and the teens climbed on. Makoto didn’t slow down until they reached the pile of stones. Whatever had been on the stone plaque before they arrived had been dealt with or answered. The pile was moved to the side, revealing staircases that lead under the maze. Makoto and Ryuji descended into unknown, but Akira paused, eyes move over to the other side of the stones. There was a hidden plaque and the leader moved closer to read it.

 

‘Panthers are beautiful, but that’s no longer the case for yours.’

 

Frowning, Akira walked down the stairs, only to paused as he spotted the other thieves surrounded something. He moved closer, fear and questions flying through his mind. Akira’s voice caught in his throat as he stared at Ann, who sat faceless on the floor.

 

He had failed to protect his friends yet again.

Chapter Text

“Oh Panther. We should’ve- I should’ve..” Akira was at a loss of words. “Oh god.”

 

And so the beautiful Panther has danced her last.” Instead of the doll appearing, the voice rang out from above. “Still think you should go through my palace? I’ll give you one last chance.”

 

“And leave Skull and Panther to their fates? I won’t back down.”

 

“Then the game continues.”

 

There was a scraping sound as the entrance slowly moved back to its original position, casting the Thieves into darkness. Beside him, Ryuji jumped and Akira was reminded of his phobia of the dark. A faint humming sound started up as small blue lights appeared from the walls. For a few moments, none of them moved. Their confidence had dwindled and would continue to do so the further they went into the palace.

 

“Let’s... go.”

 

Their footsteps made small clinking sounds against the metal floor as they went down the only path. Akira glanced behind him, watching as Ann clung tightly to Makoto who was struggling to keep a straight face. The single path continued, until it suddenly broke off into three branching paths. This time, Akira was more apprehensive as he eyed the pathways.

 

“I-”

 

“It’s okay, Joker.” Makoto placed her hand on his shoulder. “Since we know, or at least in a sense, what we’re up against. We just have to keep an eye on one another.” She pointed to the path closest to her on the far left. “I’ll take Panther and Fox. Crow, take the middle path with Noir and Ora-”

 

Futaba took the chance to latch onto Akira’s other arm. “I’m going with Joker!”

 

“Alright. Noir and Mona will go with Crow.”

 

“And I’ll take Skull and Oracle with the last path.”

 

With a nod, they parted ways. At the end of the hallway, a lone door stood slightly opened and practically inviting the trio inside. Akira hesitantly pushed it open and walked into the dark room. The glow of an old TV flickered with static, bathing the room in an eerie glow. In the center of the room was a singular chair covered in scratches and torn fabric with the stuffing falling out of it. Oracle clung to him while Skull moved over to where the chair was. The face he made upon seeing what was in it drew Akira’s attention.

 

“What is it, Skull?”

 

He reached down and picks up a doll... of himself. The doll had his metaverse outfit on along with his mask, its eyes were a set of brown buttons and the space where its mouth should’ve been had a stitched over X on it. There was something attached to the tips of its shag like hair. 

 

Akira grabbed the tag and read it. “Skull, the silenced loud mouth...”

 

Ryuji visibly deflated and his eyes drifted off to the side.

 

“Skull-”

 

“Oh, so you found the doll!”

 

The trio jumped as the Mastermind’s voice sounded from the TV. Akira glared at the glowing screen.

 

“What do you want?”

 

“Oh ho! Is Joker getting angry? You’re the leader of the group, you’re supposed to keep your cool, not lose it to the bad guy.”

 

Akira growled and grabbed the doll from Ryuji’s hands. “Where did you get this doll of Skull?”

 

“Made it. Just like I made the Panther doll and soon a Queen doll.”

 

“...What?”

 

“Oh you haven’t heard? I’ve captured the Queen and that means I’ve won another part of this little game of ours.”

 

“Where is she.”

 

“Waiting for you, like the others are. She just might not be as smart as you remember.” A chuckle. “There’s only six of you left. How many more fall until you stopped me?” With that, the TV turned off and a door opened up behind it.

 

Akira moved quickly and dashed to the door, only to pause as he spotted the others around Makoto. She had bandages wrapped around her head and her mask was gone. She swayed and appeared distorted. Akira glanced at Akechi, who shook his head with a solemn look.

 

“What-”

 

“Lobotomy.” 

Chapter Text

“Think of this like a game of chess, Joker.” Mastermind spoke from above. “I’ve taken your rooks and your queen. How many more will be sacrificed before the king falls?”

 

Akira glared up at the ceiling as Haru helped Makoto to her feet.

 

“And what should happen if you are toppled instead?” Crow asked. “Then this little game of yours will draw to a close.”

 

“The pawn should watch his place lest he wishes to wind up like the Rooks and Queen.”

 

Something dark flashed by on Akechi’s face at being called a pawn and Akira vaguely wondered if that was his true face coming through.

 

“No words? Figures the bird would be silent. You’re always like that, aren’t you? Quietly observing everything from the shadows, almost as if you wear it as a second skin. What secrets does the Crow hid from his King?”

 

“At least I make myself known, instead of hiding behind tricks and cheap gimmicks like a coward. If you truly wish to test the strength of the Phantom Thieves, then come down from your ivory tower and face us.”

 

Silence met Akechi’s words as they lingered in the air. The detective chuckles and a shiver runs down Akira’s spine from how dark it sounded.

 

“No words? Pity.” He directed his attention at Joker “Shall we continue on? As lothed as I am to say it, the answer to their salvation lies further within.”

 

“You’re right.” Joker handed Ryuji make his look-a-like doll. “Did you see any doors down your path?”

 

“None, so I can only conclude that they’re further ahead.”

 

Akira nodded and walked further into the underground path, Akechi strolled up to his left while Ryuji stayed at his right. Behind him, he could hear the girls along with Yusuke and Morgana following behind them.

 

“Are we not going to talk about what happened back there?” Akira whispered to Akechi.

 

“There’s nothing to talk about. I just put a false god in his place.”

 

Nothing more was said and they continued in silence. Eventually, they came across a door with a 3 etched into the metal. 

 

“Is it another trick?” Morgana asked as he approached the door.

 

“No trick.” Mastermind answered, voice sounding cold and barren. “Only three of you can go into the room. The others will be safe out here, but that can’t be said for the ones who venture inside the room.”

 

Akira moved towards the door only to have his sleeve grabbed.

 

“Wait.” Futaba spoke. “You heard what he said, Joker, we don’t know what’s going to happen to you once you step through there. We can’t risk that.”

 

Akira shook his head. “It’s better than putting the rest of you in danger. I couldn’t prevent the other instances. I-”

 

“You’re not going in alone.” Morgana interrupted. “I’m coming with you.”

 

“As am I.” Crow added.

 

Akira was silent for a few moments, debating whether or not to include them. Eventually, he gave in with a sigh and moved towards the door with the other three. The door opened with a foreboding creak, they stepped inside the room and jolted as the door slammed shut behind them. The lights flickered on, bathing the room in harsh brightness as their eyes adjusted. Suits of armor lined the wall, all of them quiet and still. Akira was on edge, expecting them to activate once they completed whatever the room was about. A chair with a lone chessboard was in the center of the room.

 

“Care for a game, Crow?” Mastermind said, voice still the same cold tone.

 

Akechi made his way to the chair and sat down, folding one leg over the other as he leaned forward.

 

“So desperate for a game that you felt the need to lock us in? What would you gain once I win?”

 

“Watch your mouth! This is my world and you’ll play by my rules!”

 

Akechi huffed. “You sound like an infant whining about someone beating you at a game.” He looked up at the ceiling. “Are you actually a toddler or are you truly a full grown adult who acts like a child? Because either way, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”

 

Akira opened his mouth to tell Akechi to tone it down, only for a pair of manacles to appear from the chair and lock the detective in place. Crow jolted from the sudden action as another pair of manacles trapped his wrists to the arm rests. Akira and Morgana quickly moved to pick the locks, but stopped short as the suits of armor came to life and pressed their weapons against Akechi’s throat.

 

“Ah, ah, ah. No helping Crow out.”

 

“What are you planning?!” Akechi snarled.

 

“Nothing, just want to play a game with no outside help.” A chuckle. “But if you wish to be free, you either win the game or trust that your teammates can find the four keys hidden in the room.”

 

“You forgot, if my hands are bound, I can’t play.”

 

“You have a voice, don’t you? Use it.”

 

Akechi let out a low growl as Mastermind laughed. Akira shot him a disappointed look which caused Crow to glance at him and then look away.

 

“What?”

 

“Did you have to?”

 

“Just playing the game.”

 

“You played it too well and now look at you.”

 

“You didn’t-” Morgana jump across Akechi’s lap to the other side of the room. “You didn’t stop me.”

 

“And I should’ve.”

 

Akechi rolled his eyes.

 

“If the pair is done fighting.” Mastermind chimed in as a timer appeared above the board. “Shall we begin? Oh! And this is timed. What happens once it reaches zero? Who knows. Good luck!”

 

“Of course it would be timed.” Akechi muttered as the time counted down.

 

“Just focus on the game, Mona and I will find the keys.”

 

While Akechi gave commands to the board, Akira broke off to the line of bookshelves against the wall. He pulled out the numerous books until a black rook fell out of one. Akira pocketed it and glanced at the timer, grimacing and hurrying along upon seeing it. The second key took longer to find, Akira had to resort to pulling all the books off the shelves before he found it. The black queen key was hidden inside one of the shelves.

 

“Mona! I got the keys!”

 

“I do too!”

 

Akira worked on the left while Morgana worked on the right. Once the manacles were off, the suits of armor moved to the side and Akechi all but sprang up from the chair as the timer hit zero. Nothing happened for a few moments and Akira started to wonder if it was a bluff. Until the floor opened up from under Akechi, Joker hardly had time to think as he dove to grab his hand before he fell.

 

“Nice reflexes, Joker!” Mastermind said. “But you can’t hold onto him forever.”

 

Something shot out from the hole and wrapped itself around Akechi’s ankle. The thing pulled the pair further into the pit. Akira felt claws dig into his leg as Morgana tried pulling them back up.

 

“He can’t pull both of us up.” Akechi spoke. “Just let go.”

 

“No.”

 

“Joker, I’m not worth it.”

 

“I’m not letting you go.”

 

“I’d rather myself suffer for my actions than drag you down.” Akechi reached up and gripped Akira’s hand.

 

“Don’t you dare.”

 

“Keep going, I’m sure we’ll meet again.” Akechi’s voice wavered. “Whatever he does to me, just like the others, we’ll meet up again.”

 

“Crow-”

 

Akechi tore Akira’s hand from his and fell into the pit, Morgana pulls him back in as the hole closed up. The door unlocked but Akira made no move to get up.

 

“Joker...” Morgana muttered.

 

“How many more will he take until this ends?”

 

“...”

 

With a heavy sigh, Akira got up and walked towards the door.

 

“Joker! You- Where’s Crow?” 

 

“... Gone. Mastermind took him.” Akira moved past them and paused. “Crow wanted us to keep moving.” He walked down the now open hallway.

 

The others slowly followed after him. Akira opened the door at the end of the corridor and a spiral staircase greeted him. After a slow climb up, a lone door stood before them which Akira pushed open without a second. He paused as he spotted Crow on the other side.

 

“Crow, are you...” Akira trailed off as Akechi shook his head. “What did he do?”

 

Akechi made a snipping motion over his mouth.

 

Tongue. Cut out.