• Published 29th Jun 2017
  • 3,573 Views, 120 Comments

Hearts and Minds - The card holder

Equestria is facing a potential crisis involving distorted reality based on cognition. Celestia tells an old friend, who has just the solution for her...

  • ...

Tempered Return

The rest of Akira's day was rather uneventful. After everyone ate ramen together (at Ryuji's insistence), they went their separate ways, and it was already evening by the time he had made it back to the cafe. And like so many nights before, Sojiro was right there at the counter as he walked inside.

"So, how was your first day back?" he asked, giving a small smile.

"Better than expected."

"Glad to hear that." He started to fish out a cigarette from his pocket. "Well, I'm gonna go ahead and close up for tonight."

Akira gave a questioning look.

"Closing already?"

Sojiro chuckled. "Not like anyone else is coming, it's a Tuesday." Right before he left through the door, he gave a sly grin. "And besides, you have a visitor. Don't have too much fun."

Before Akira could ask what he meant, Sojiro was already out of the cafe.

"Wait, a visitor?" Morgana asked, taking the opportunity to jump out of Akira's bag. Suddenly, his mild concern turned into a smug smile. "Oh, I think I-"

There was a noise on the stairs behind him, followed by an all-too-familiar voice.

"Long time no see, Master~!"

Akira turned around, and couldn't hide his smile at the sight of a certain somebody on the steps. Still, he couldn't fight the urge to be a little snarky.

"No maid outfit this time?"

Ms. Kawakami gave a small pout. "I finally get to see you again, and that's how you greet me?"

Meanwhile, Morgana started heading towards the back door. "I'll just leave you two be for a while."

Now that they were truly alone, Akira stepped closer to Kawakami.

"I missed you."

She gave a small smile. "I missed you, too, Akira."

In the brief silence that ensued, Akira noticed that, apparently, Sojiro left the coffee machine hooked up for the night.

"I'll make us some coffee."

"That would be nice."

It didn't take long to brew up two cups, and as soon as he was finished, Akira brought both cups with him to one of the tables, where Kawakami already took a seat.

"Hard to believe the man in front of me was the leader of the most infamous group in Japan just last year," she commented. "I hope you've been staying out of trouble?"

"I've been managing."

Kawakami smiled. "That's good to hear."

As she took a sip of her coffee, her cell phone started ringing. Akira just watched curiously as she answered, facing away from him.

"Hello?" A pause. "Oh, no, it's fine, I'm..." She looked at Akira for a moment. "I'm not busy."

There was a longer pause as whoever was on the other end started talking for a prolonged amount of time. Akira could just barely hear the voice through the phone, and for some reason he felt like he knew it...

"Oh, it's fine," Kawakami eventually answered. "I'll be free most of the summer, so just give me a call if you need help, alright?"

She hung up, and looked over to see Akira's questioning look. "Just helping some students out over the summer. One of them had to cancel some of the study appointments they made with me, but they said that-"

Suddenly, Akira's own phone started going off, and he quickly took it out and answered, not even bothering to check the caller ID.

"Hey man, it's me!" Ryuji's voice came through, making Akira wince slightly as he forgot how loudly he talked on the phone. Judging by Kawakami's smirk, she could hear, as well.

"Just calling to tell you to let me know in advance if we're not going to do phantom thief stuff, alright?" Ryuji continued, Akira almost dropping the phone in shock at the casual mention of their secret. "I, uh... I gotta get some homework done this summer, kay?"

Akira slowly agreed, and then Ryuji hung up. As he put his phone away, he couldn't help but notice the smug look that Kawakami was giving him.

"'Phantom Thief stuff', huh?" she asked. "You know, I had a feeling Sakamoto was involved..."

"Just a coincidence."

"Suuure it was..." She suddenly turned serious. "But still, if you really are doing that stuff again, be careful, okay?"

The sudden concern caught Akira off guard, but he was quick to recover.

"I'll be careful."

"Good." She smiled brightly at him. "I'd hate for a repeat of last Christmas!"

The conversation drifted into silence, and Kawakami's smile slowly dropped.

"Say, about that... what exactly happened last Christmas?"

"What do you mean?"

"Christmas Eve... before I messaged you that night. I remember... something about you saving the world, but I can't remember what from, or how."

This got Akira thinking. 'Apparently people's cognitions are already covering up the events...'

Eventually, he decided on an answer.

"It's not important now."

"Well... I guess you're right." Kawakami finished off her coffee, then leaned across the table, speaking in a lower tone of voice. "You know, I did bring my maid outfit with me. Would you like to come upstairs and help me try it back on?"

Akira did not hesitate.

"Yes please."

Akira opened his eyes, then got onto his feet. The Velvet Room was just as he remembered, although there was a new, yet familiar figure next to Igor's desk now.

"I am glad that you accepted this favor, Trickster," Igor greeted. "To be quite honest, you have adopted astonishingly quickly to your this new environment."

Akira shrugged.

"It's not too out there."

Celestia, who had taken an interest in her surroundings, finally spoke up. "This is a rather... interesting decor, Igor."

"This room is formed after the feelings of the guest's heart," Lavenza explained. "Akira was a prisoner of fate originally, and so this place manifested as such. However, he has since broken free of his fate, hence the lack of any cages or doors."

Celestia tilted her head at the girl in blue. "I don't believe we've met, have we?"

"My apologies." Lavenza gave a small curtsy. "I am Lavenza, the current attendant of the Velvet Room."

Something in her sentence stuck out to Akira.


His question was ignored, however, as Lavenza continued. "My master has already told me about you, Princess Celestia of Equestria."

Both Akira and Igor watched the greetings come to a close, before the latter spoke up. "In any case, I am glad to see that you already have a plan of action, Trickster. However, one thing I would like you to keep in mind is the value of strong bonds; not just maintaining the ones you've already formed, but new ones, as well."

Celestia nodded in agreement. "In my world, true friendships have the power to change the world. Just from what Igor has told me, I already know that you are the perfect example of this. I am counting on the Phantom Thieves, as well as you, personally."

Akira adjusted his glasses.

"No pressure, then."

Celestia let out a small giggle. "At least you have a sense of humor."

A bell started ringing, and Igor leaned forward. "It seems our time is at an end for now. Go on, Trickster, we have high expectations."

Akira nodded, and he slowly felt himself returning to reality...

Author's Note:

Honestly it kinda hurts to unironically use the tilde symbol in my writing, even if it is completely accurate

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