I don't own either My Hero Academia or the Persona series.

Chapter 37

Izuku honestly didn't think that bringing Bakugou to Mementos would result in his awakening. Perhaps he should have suspected the possibility the first time he came to the Metaverse, but it wasn't the first thought to cross his mind. But there he stood, wearing that same confident-bordering-on-sadistic grin, his clothes having changed along with him. And above him hovered the mighty form of his Persona.

"Holy shit… that guy really got one…" Ryuji was the first to voice his surprise among them, and it was probably a shared sentiment.

"Should we… be assisting him?" Yusuke was the first to ask, looking at Izuku.

"We should… probably wait until he needs the help." Makoto suggested, knowing the explosive blond. Izuku didn't argue the point, even if he wanted to help.

Still… seeing him with a Persona… it's best to let him feel the power out for himself. Izuku knew in his heart that with the power of a Persona at Kacchan's disposal, there was little that could get in his way.

"Now, Tombstone! Blast these morons away!" Bakugou gave the order, and his Persona obeyed. It leveled the triple-barreled shotgun at the Shadows that had previously stooped over him, blue light shone from within the barrels before three beams shot out, engulfing the tunnel with explosions of nuclear magic.

The purple Shadow was thrown on its back, while the red one was sent hurtling backward. It snarled in defiance, letting out a roar as it charged forward. But it didn't seem to sway Bakugou. In fact, he restored the mask to his face, one hand sheathing the tomahawk he carried before blasting him into the air. It was as if the black gloves weren't there, allowing him to make his explosions without any sign of damage. Izuku could only guess that it was because they were clothes formed from his cognition.

"Go to hell!" As he flew up high above the Shadow's swing, Bakugou took the tomahawk back from his belt and swung both across the eyes of the Shadow. It cried out in pain, staggering back again as it clutched at its face.

Bakugou landed on the ground, eyes watching his two opponents. They slowly stirred as the purple one finally rose to its feet and the red one wiped away what it could from the cuts on its face. "Tch! You two still want more? Fine!"

Izuku felt his eyes bulge out of his head when he saw Bakugou draw a belt-fed minigun out of thin air, the barrels already revving up in anticipation. "Eat this, shitheads!"

"What the hell is that?!" Ryuji blanched. No one answered as the chain gun filled the air with a blinding barrage of lead, tearing into the bodies of both Shadows. They both staggered back, arms and weapons raised in a meager attempt to defend themselves the hail of bullets punching through them. Bakugou only released the trigger when both Shadows fell to their knees.

"Now DIE!" Bakugou threw his mask away again, Tombstone taking shape once more. This time, the barrels were loaded with scorching hot buckshot, blasting the Shadows into black sludge that seeped back into the ground.

Bakugou's chest rose and fell, a malicious grin on his face as his mask rematerialized and his Persona faded away. It took a moment for the Thieves to stir, all eyes on Bakugou as he stuffed his weapons away. He held up his hands to look at them, eyes narrowed.

"Holy shit… that was effin' nuts." Ryuji mumbled as he looked at the others.

"I'm not sure if I should be relieved or… a little disappointed that he got one too." Ann half joked, scratching her cheek with her index finger.

"It certainly does bring an interesting variable to the situation. What do you think, Hero?" Yusuke asked, eyes falling to Izuku.

"I-I… I don't know…" was his honest answer. He walked forward, extending a hand. "Kacchan…"

"Outta my way, nerd!" Izuku recoiled at Bakugou's quick reaction, eye twitching as he seemed to say that on habit.

"He's not in your way, idiot." Makoto sighed, walking up alongside Izuku as the others followed close behind. "Are you feeling better now that you've got that out of your system?"

Bakugou narrowed his eyes at Makoto, lips parting for a moment to say something before snapping his head away from her. "I'm tired. Let's get the hell out of here."

"After all that, that's all you have to say?" Morgana huffed, paws on his hips. "I thought you'd at least be contemplating your new outfit or what you just learned about yourself."

"Shut it, mascot." Bakugou huffed as he staggered past them, clearly exhausted from his awakening.

"M-Mascot?!" Morgana's jaw dropped in utter horror.

"Stop bein' so damn stubborn. Didn't your Persona tell you to let other people help?" Ryuji tapped his foot impatiently.

"Hah?!" Bakugou snapped back. "The hell are you talking about?!"

"Don't act like we didn't hear it. Aren't you supposed to give us a chance now?" Ann smirked teasingly, her words visibly striking a chord in Bakugou as he stiffened, shoulders trembling as the face dusted with a faint blush.

"That's not what it was saying, damn it!"

"No, it was quite clear about its implications." Yusuke gave a more welcoming smile as he extended a hand. "Come now. Perhaps our start was less than cordial, but with your awakening we can put that all in the past. Do as your Persona proclaimed and 'allow this gang of rebels' to aid you."

"Buzz off, fox face!" Bakugou snapped as his face became steaming read, eyes white as a shark as his brow became sharper than blades. "I'LL FIND MY OWN WAY OUT!" Bakugou stomped forward, teeth grinding as he went. His exhaustion became clear when he staggered again, nearly falling off balance before catching again. "Don't. Any of you. Say a damn word."

Ryuji, Ann and Makoto stifled laughter while Izuku could only give a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of his head as they watched him go. It was almost like they were bullying him. Only Koto-san used to get away with that…

"Talk about a stubborn guy." Morgana shook his head, trotting up to Izuku's side and looking up at him. "Still, something clearly changed in him. Not to mention he got a Persona. If it weren't for his personality, I'd say he'd be a great ally to have."

Izuku blinked, raising a brow at Morgana. "An ally? You mean… as a member of the team?"

"Well, yeah, but even after the change he just experienced… you really think he'd want to work with us?" Morgana asked, crossing his paws over his chest. "Besides, even if he did, who knows if he'd really listen to us."

Izuku's lips thinned into a line, eyes trailing after Bakugou's back. Several thoughts raced across his mind at all the possibilities. Bakugou was strong, there was no denying that. Even setting his Persona aside, he was one of the few people with formal training for dealing with threats like Shadows. But now he was more than capable of holding his own in a battle against a Shadow. He had proven it only moments before. And after hearing what his Persona and Shadow had said…

Would Kacchan consider working with us?


"Are you sure you want to do this?" Morgana's voice hid none of his doubt, the cat eyeing him worriedly from over Izuku's shoulder. A day had passed since Bakugou's Persona awakened, but Izuku decided to put the infiltration off for one more day. He stood now with Morgana and Makoto in Shibuya station

"I think it's worth a try. The worst he can do is say no, r-right?" Izuku offered even as sweat beaded down his forehead.

"You know that there's a lot more he can do than just that." Makoto shook her head, frowning in concern. Her eyes trailed ahead, pushing off the handrail she leaned on. "He's here."

Izuku swallowed the gathered spit in his mouth as he followed her gaze to Bakugou, the explosive blond approaching with a resting scowl on his face, eyes narrowed at the three.

"I'm here. So what do you want, Deku?" Bakugou asked, little patience in his voice. "I already told you I don't give a shit about what you idiots do."

"I know, but… I thought that now that you have a Persona…" Izuku found this question harder to come straight out with than he thought, doubt filling his mind. "That you would consider joining us."

Bakugou gave him the blankest stare Izuku had ever seen from him. "Huh?"

"We're extending you an invitation into the Phantom Thieves." Morgana leaned forward on Izuku's shoulder to make himself more visible. "I have some reservations myself, as do some of our other teammates, but we can't deny that you'd make for a valuable asset if you were to join the team."

Bakugou was silent for a long moment before letting out a loud scoff. "Oh yeah?! I bet you did! But what the hell would I gain outta this?! I'd be up the creek if you idiots ever got caught!"

Izuku noted that it wasn't an outright rejection. Knowing Bakugou, if he wasn't interested, he would have walked off or thrown the idea in their faces and cursed them out. "It's nearly impossible for anyone to find out we go to that world without the app we have on our phones. Only people who've been to the Metaverse have it due to some… circumstances."

"As for what you'd gain, I would say experience fighting." Makoto supplied, arms crossed over her chest. Bakugou's eyes darted to her, and surprisingly held none of the malice that they had seen in his gaze the past several times they spoke. "Shadows are strong opponents that will likely give you more field experience than any training than what U.A. can offer. Not to mention the chance to learn more creative ways to fight and learning to fight with a team. A strange concept, I know, but it could prove valuable for your future efforts."

Bakugou seemed slightly irritated by the statement, but didn't make any belligerent gaff in denial. In fact, he looked more contemplative. He stroked his chin, eyes trailing to the side. "Blowing those assholes away was a damn good workout…"

"Where we go, there's plenty of Shadows to deal with. Not to mention the Palace ruler." Morgana pushed further. "The more the team fights, the stronger we've all gotten. I'm sure you'd benefit quite well from joining the team."

Bakugou stewed for a moment, eyes narrowing as he continued to consider the idea.

But Izuku knew one thing had to be mentioned in all of this, and he was afraid it might be the dealbreaker for Bakugou.

"There is one thing, though…" Bakugou's gaze trailed back up to Izuku. "If you do join us… you have to follow my lead."

The explosive blond stiffened, his red eyes murderous. "Huh?"

It has to be said. Izuku let out a deep breath, hardening his brow as he locked eyes with Bakugou. "Like we said, you'll be joining our team. But we don't go blazing through Palaces or Mementos fighting everyone in the way. Sometimes we have to act stealthily and avoid unnecessary confrontations. When we fight, I need to have you on the same level as everyone else."

A vein popped on Bakugou's head as his hand shook at his side. "So now you wanna tell me what to do, huh?!" Bakugou spun around, but his shoulders trembled as he stayed in place. Izuku couldn't tell what it was, but he looked almost… hesitant? He half expected the explosive blond to completely reject the idea and leave. But it looked like he still had a chance to convince him otherwise.

"Kacchan, please!" Izuku stepped closer to him, extending a hand. "I do think you'd be valuable to the team, but we have to work together! There has to be some way that you'll at least consider it!"

Bakugou's shoulders finally stopped shaking, making Izuku stop his hand short from touching him. Bakugou slowly looked over his shoulder, eyes narrowed but not with hate. Izuku saw an almost curious glint in his gaze.

"Are you really strong enough to tell me what to do?"

Izuku blinked, unsure what he had said. "Wh-What?"

"You heard me. You're the leader here, and you're the one jumpin' into the shark's tank fighting this asshole yakuza. You even strong enough to do that?" Bakugou slowly turned back around, his eyes settling back into a more calm scowl again. "You want me to join? Show me you got what it takes. Show me how serious you are as the leader."

Izuku felt some hope return. But then felt his face pale. There was only one thing in his mind that could convince Bakugou that he could think of, and it wasn't wholly unexpected. Izuku sucked in a breath of air and calmed his nerves, nodding in understanding.

"Okay. If that's what you want, then I will."

Bakugou grinned ear to ear. "Looks like you get the picture for once."


Ryuji rarely disagreed with Izuku's ideas. The kid was smart, way smarter than he was. Not to mention he put a lot of faith in his decisions as team leader and as his best friend. But when Izuku made his intentions to recruit Bakugou into the Thieves the day prior, he felt a little more than tentative about the idea. He could see the potential of having someone like that on the team with how he and Makoto explained it, but no one would argue that the guy's personality was the most agreeable.

Still, understanding why Izuku made the decision, Ryuji agreed to work with him if they were successful in recruiting Bakugou. Though to his shame, he did half hope that the explosive blond would reject their offer.

So he was decidedly a bit disappointed when he got the text late the previous night that Bakugou would indeed be joining as part of the team for the Palace.

"Hey." Ryuji drew his gaze up to Ann, the twin tailed blonde frowning in concern. "You okay?"

"Huh? Y-Yeah. Why do you ask?" Ryuji tried to cover up his worries, though Ann didn't seem to buy it.

"Come on. I can tell you were on edge when Izuku told us what he was gonna do." Ann gave a half smile, offering him a drink. "Here. Maybe it'll help you chill."

"Thanks…" Ryuji took the bottle, feeling a minor comfort as the drink fizzed in his mouth. "I just… You really think that guy's gonna be helpful?"

"Well, he was definitely strong when he summoned his Persona." Ann shrugged, leaning on the railing next to him as she twirled the end of her left hair tail. "And he fought pretty evenly with Makoto."

"It was nice to see her smack him up a bit though." Ryuji grinned as he recalled the first time Makoto slammed him into the ground.

"Just a little bit," Ann snickered next to him, but became thoughtful again. "Still… I really have to wonder how much he'll actually get along when it comes to infiltrating the Palace."

"Yeah… it's been buggin' me pretty bad." Ryuji scratched the back of his head. "Makoto told us he wasn't great when they first met and was kinda a bully to Izuku. I'm still wonderin' how they got him to agree."

"Perhaps we shouldn't dwell too long on it." Ryuji drew his attention to Yusuke as the Kosei student joined them at their 'hideout'. "At least now we can finally focus on our main objective of taking down this yakuza boss. And with added firepower."

"Yeah… guess you're right." Ryuji relented, looking at Ann. "We'll just have to deal with it as we go."

"Ah, he's here." Yusuke was the first to point out. Ryuji got off the rail with Ann, both standing up as Bakugou walked up to them. Ryuji saw little change in the ever present glare in his eyes as he scanned the three, eyebrow cocked.

"Oh, you extras are already here." Ryuji felt his eye twitch in irritation.

"Who the hell you callin' extras?! We're gonna be workin' together from now on, you know?!" he snapped.

"Yeah! So you better remember our names!" Ann crossed her arms, no less irritated than Ryuji.

Bakugou clicked his tongue, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Whatever. Tell me your damn names and Quirks then."

Man, and he was even worse than this before? Ryuji huffed, scratching his head. "Fine. I'm Ryuji Sakamoto. My Quirk is called Spark Speed. I store energy in my knee caps and use it to run real fast."

"Ann Takamaki, and don't forget it. My Quirk is Razor Teeth. I can practically bite through anything."

"I am Yusuke Kitagawa. My Quirk is called Ink Dispenser. It has no offensive capabilities unfortunately." The painter spoke up last.

The explosive blond scanned his eyes across them, silent for a moment before grunting. "I'll see if you're worth remembering as we go."

"What the hell kinda attitude is that?!" Ryuji snapped in irritation. "Aren't you supposed to have changed already?!"

"The hell do you mean 'changed'?" Bakugou challenged, glaring back at Ryuji.

"Just let him be." Ann pulled on his shoulder, rolling her eyes. "A guy like that isn't going to change over night. Let's focus on working together to get through the Palace, okay?"

Ryuji grumbled a bit, irritation evident as his hand balled into a fist. "Y-Yeah…"

"Ann is right. Bakugou-san. You are now a member of the Phantom Thieves," Yusuke pointed out, bringing the explosive blond's attention to him. "I don't quite know the circumstances of your recruitment, but we have come together in order to stop the unseen injustices of this world. As a team. We need you to act accordingly to that. Or are you incapable of doing so?"

Yusuke's words seemed to hit a nerve, Bakugou's teeth ground against one another at the thought. "Tch! Whatever. I'll play along. Just don't hold me back!"

"Same goes for you! We do just fine workin' together!" Ryuji pointed a finger at Bakugou. "Last thing we need is you goin' rogue!"

"Like you have to worry about that." Bakugou huffed, turning his back to them. "I already agreed to what Deku said, so can it."

Ryuji shared a glance with Ann, both doubtful of his words but not having long to think on it. Izuku and Makoto entered the hallway soon after with Morgana, the three carrying a couple bags.

"Sorry we're late! I wanted to make sure we were fully supplied for the heist." Izuku announced as they joined them.

"Took you long enough! We doing this or what?!" Bakugou huffed.

"Yes, now that we're all here, we can get going." Morgana answered. "We'll give you a full rundown of what's going on and who we're targeting on the way to Asakusa."

"Good!" Bakugou stomped forward, heading for their transfer.

The others sighed tiredly, Ryuji looking at Izuku. "You sure this is gonna be alright?"

"Yeah, I'm confident it'll be okay." Izuku gave a smile in reassurance, despite the bit of glistening sweat on his brow. "Kacchan agreed to get along. I know it seems like a lot to deal with, but I think he'll be a great help!"

Ryuji's lips tightened as he thought it over before relenting, "Alright, I trust you, I just... hope you're right."


"Ugh. I totally forgot about the smell of this Palace."

The first thing the team was greeted with was the horrible stench that once again invaded their noses wrinkled as they tried to stifle the smell somewhat, but it was pungent and wafted all around them.

"Seriously, what the hell's up with that?!" Ryuji grumbled, hand over his nose.

"It's ungodly. Like rotting meat…" Yusuke groused in disgust.

"Considering this is part of Chisaki's cognition, I hate to imagine what it is." Makoto mumbled, barely wanting to open her mouth in fear she may even taste the foul stench.

"Be on guard, everyone! Last time we were attacked just outside the Palace, remember?" Izuku reminded them, even as he covered his face.

"Hey, losers." Bakugou called out, drawing their attention to him. The explosive blond pointed further down the alley. "You don't have to guess what the smell is. Look."

They drew their attention further down the alley, all going pale as they took the sight in. Their stomachs twisted as they gazed upon the bodies scattered throughout the alley floor. Izuku partially wondered just how distracted they had been to have missed such a thing in their previous visit. It was no less unsettling.

"Dude…" Ryuji's jaw slacked as he stared, eyes wide as plates. "Does he just think of everyone else is dead meat or somethin'...?"

*Cough cough*

The group was startled when one of the supposedly dead bodies let out a hacking cough, drawing them out of their stupor.

"S-Someone's alive?!" Izuku rushed forward, stooping next to one of the rotting bodies.

"They're not real. Who cares?" Bakugou grunted out, but no less approached with a curious glint in his gaze.

"Maybe, but it might tell us more about the mindset of who we're dealing with." Makoto pointed out, walking behind Izuku. "How are they?"

"Barely alive… they're clearly sick, though… but I don't know what kind of sickness makes someone rot before they die…" Izuku trailed off, afraid to touch the cognitive creation with how rotten its body seemed to be.

"It seems that… they're all alive, looking at them all now…" Yusuke drew their attention up to the other supposed corpses scattered throughout the alley. "I can see some of them still breathing."

"H-He's right… they're all alive…" Ann mumbled, biting her bottom lip. "But I don't get it… why are they like this?"

"They're representative of how Chisaki views the world around him, so I guess he views everyone as sick and rotten." Morgana sounded no less perturbed than the others, eyes showing his disturbance.

"But I thought what he viewed as a sickness was heroics..?" Ann mused, keeping her nose tightly squeezed between her thumb and index.

"Perhaps it's the love of heroics that he views as the sickness?" Yusuke suggested, eyes narrowed in disgust. "Society has held Heroes in high regard for some time. People in general are affected by their work day after day."

"So this sick bastard just sees people as walkin' corpses…" Ryuji spat, gritting his teeth. "Weren't yakuza types about honor and shit?"

"He's criminal scum no matter how you look at it." Bakugou huffed, turning his back on the bodies. "Stop wasting time. We'll learn more about the asshole as we trash the place."

The others shared a look of hesitation, but silently agreed with his remark. They left behind the rotting cognitive bodies, heading for the end of the alley and peering around. Another guard similar to the one before in white scrubs stood guard.

"Alright. Let's blast our way through!" Bakugou grinned as he pounded his fists together.

"Wait, Kacchan! We're not going through the front!" Izuku stopped him, causing Bakugou to whip around.

"Huh?! Why not?!"

"We're trying to infiltrate the Palace without attracting every Shadow's attention. Duh." Morgana shook his head, looking at the fence surrounding the compound. "We'll need to find an infiltration point where we can go in and out quietly. This heist may take more than one day. So let's not waste too much energy by recklessly busting through the front door."

"Tch! That's way too roundabout!" Bakugou crossed his arms over his chest. "We should be busting down their front door and looking for the boss from the start! The faster we get this done, the faster that asshole's put down in the real world!"

"We have firepower to fight a few Shadows, but there are a lot more than just a few." Makoto retorted, shaking her head. "If we were to take the Palace straight on, we would have no end of enemies to deal with. We would have to retreat, and end up making too little progress in the process."

"Not to mention the Palace ruler isn't the objective." Yusuke added this time. "Our objective is to steal his Treasure so that his cognition will change."

"Then why don't we just drag his ass out and make him tell us where the damn thing is?" Bakugou remained indignant, his eyes narrowed.

"It's not that simple! The Palace ruler can be far more terrifying than their real world counterparts when push comes to shove," Morgana tapped his foot as he tried to remain patient. "The risk of attacking head-on far outweighs the reward. Not to mention we have to go through a process to make the Treasure materialize to begin with."

"They're right, Kacchan. This is a lot more complicated than you think." Izuku spoke again, dragging the frustrated glare of Bakugou to him.

Bakugou opened his mouth to complain, eyes meeting Izuku's. Seeing the silent order, Bakugou's cheek twitched before he turned around in a huff. "Fine! Let's find another way in, then!"

Izuku breathed a sigh of relief. He's keeping his word. Good. Izuku spared a glance around, looking for other options. The wall surrounding the compound wasn't too large, so scaling it wouldn't be too difficult.

"Let's go!" Izuku called back, taking the lead. The others hurried behind him, even Bakugou. It was clear the explosive blond wanted to say something, but he held back. Izuku knew it was best not to question it. They stuck closely to the walls as they circled around the gate, making sure to stay out of sight of the Shadows guarding it . The wall was a little taller than expected, around 3 meters high, but Izuku was used to vaulting such heights by now. Not to mention the tool that Mei had given him earlier.

"I'll go first." Izuku drew his grappling gun and aimed at the top of the wall. The line shot out with a soft pop, hooking onto the edge and pulling him up as he released the trigger. Landing in a crouch, he hopped along the edge of the wall and peered over. In front of him was a traditional Japanese garden that looked like something you'd see at a temple, with paved tile walkways, meticulously trimmed bonsai trees, and a freshly mowed lawn. In fact, the layout of the Palace looked surprisingly similar to its real world counterpart. The only differences were that the windows looked like they were made of reinforced plexi-glass and the heavy wooden doors were replaced with sliding ones.

To his surprise, there weren't any guards stationed at them.

"Alright, the coast is clear!" Izuku said, motioning for them to follow. He drew out the rope and hook Morgana provided to him, sending down a line for the others to climb with. He hopped down, allowing them space to follow behind as he continued to scan the courtyard for more Shadows.

It's strange… I thought there'd be more security around the Palace entrance. Izuku raised a brow in wonder, activating his Third Eye to see if there were any hidden traps lying around. Again, he saw nothing. Shouldn't they be more wary of intruders?

He was drawn from his thoughts when he heard the others climbing over, each one landing on the grass behind him.

"Where the hell'd you get this stuff?" Bakugou asked, eyes pointed at the grappling gun still in Izuku's hand.

"A-Ah, well, I have a friend who makes them in exchange for… favors," Izuku explained, wondering if he should say much about Mei Hatsume since they went to the same school.

"Oh yeah, he's got this crazy girl from U.A. who helps make his stuff!" Izuku almost fell over when Ryuji blurted it out. "She's kinda weird but she makes good stuff. Which reminds me! She made this awesome knee brace for me!"

Everyone drew their eyes to Ryuji as he pulled out the knee brace that Mei had invented for stabilizing his quirk. With a rough pinch around his knee and a wince, Ryuji fastened it into place, turning it on and watching the lights flash on to show it was running. "Now I can use my Quirk without any issue! She's kinda nuts but she effin' rocks!"

"Whoa, really?! That's incredible!" Ann leaned over, eyes shining as she inspected it. "I'm so happy for you, Skull!"

"Indeed. Not to mention it should come in handy helping us during battle."

"Nuts?" Bakugou's eye twitched subconsciously. "Was it Crosshair Eyes?"

"That sounds like her, probably." Ryuji raised a brow. "Know her?"

"... Yeah." Bakugou grimaced as the word left his mouth.

"Hey, just because the coast is clear doesn't mean it's safe!" Morgana reminded them, eyes darting around. "Let's find an entry into the compound!"

Not wasting any time, the Thieves started to move, sprinting across the courtyard with their eyes peeled. Again, Izuku noted the lack of enemies guarding the area. Is it because he doesn't know we're coming? I guess the outer perimeters of the previous Palaces weren't heavily guarded either, but…

He let the thought go as they soon reached the side of the main compound, walking to the edge of the wall to get a view of the main entrance. That was clearly locked down, the main doors shut tight and looking less than inviting.

"Well, we're here. What now?" Ryuji asked, looking around. "Doesn't look like we got a lot of places to enter from."

"Perhaps we could scale the side of the building like at Madarame's. It should prove more fruitful than our current position." Yusuke recommended.

"Good idea, Fox. Let's see if we can gain a better vantage point," Morgana turned his attention to Izuku. "You're up again, Hero."

"Right." Izuku gripped the grappling gun in hand and used his Third Eye to find a sturdy hold along the roof for him to grapple to. Spotting a steel ventilation pipe, he fired the hook and flew through the air, landing gracefully on the roof. He scanned the rooftop, looking for an easy way in. Thankfully, there was an air duct large enough for them to crawl through that led inside. He waited for the others to climb before pointing it out. "We can get in through there."

"This is going a little too smoothly. You would think that the yakuza would be more on edge, right?" Makoto mused, stroking her chin.

"Maybe. But they don't know we're coming, so that could play a part in it," Morgana didn't sound so sure about that, but it was still a reasonable thought.

"We'll put 'em on notice soon enough." Bakugou grinned darkly, looking anxious to get into a fight.

"Easy there, sparky." Ann rolled her eyes before realization crossed her face. "Oh, that reminds me! We haven't given you a code name yet!"

"Huh?"

"Oh yeah, we do gotta give him one." Ryuji agreed, the group gathering around Bakugou and looking thoughtful.

"The hell do I need one for?" Bakugou narrowed his eyes in irritation.

"We don't want to go shouting our names all over the Palace, obviously. Who knows what that'll do to the Ruler's cognition." Morgana pointed out.

"I thought they don't know jack about what goes on in the Palace?" Bakugou pointed out.

"It's better to be safe than sorry. It's still part of the unconscious mind." Makoto reminded him, crossing her arms. "Well, since we're going over a code name for you, do you have any ideas for what we call you?"

Bakugou's eyes drifted to the side for a moment before returning to them. "Lord Explosion Murder."

.

.

.

"The hell kinda code name is that?" Ryuji raised an incredulous brow.

"Huh?! What's wrong with it?!"

"For one, it's rather long. For another, it's inelegant and unbefitting of a phantom thief." Yusuke pointed out, shaking his head in distaste. "You'll have to come up with something else."

"I was afraid of this. Baka-chan's never been good at naming anything," Makoto pinched the bridge of her nose.

"Screw you! I'll come up with something great!" Bakugou snapped again. "I'll be Thief Explosiion Murder!"

.

.

.

"So, I guess we'll have to figure out a code name for him, huh?" Ann suggested as the group practically turned their back on Bakugou.

"Screw you guys!" Izuku found it both terrifying and comical that they were practically making Bakugou of all people feel like the outsider.

"He's got that cowboy look. How's Cowboy sound?" Ryuji shrugged.

"Seems a little on the nose though, doesn't it?" Ann wrinkled her nose. "Oh! Maybe Desperado!"

"That seems a little long compared to everyone else's though." Makoto pointed out, shaking her head.

"Well, considering his Quirk and the likely use of it, perhaps we can go off of that?" Yusuke reasoned. "It would match his personality as well."

"The hell's that supposed to mean, fox face?!" Bakugou complained from the back.

"Oh, maybe Firecracker?" Ann grinned in amusement.

"Hell no!"

"Maybe Explody?" Ryuji snickered.

"You wanna die?" Bakugou's left eye twitched in irritation as his voice fell an octave.

"Alright, come on guys. As much as I'd love to keep making fun of Baka-chan, we have a heist to start," Makoto gave a smirk that further infuriated the explosive blond. "Let's see… how about Gunslinger?"

"Considering his firearm is a minigun, I do wonder if that would be considered accurate." Yusuke interjected. He then turned to Izuku. "Do you have any ideas, Hero?"

"M-Me?" Izuku felt some pressure as Bakugou shifted a seething glare his way.

"You might as well give one, too. We're all having a little trouble." Morgana shrugged.

"Yeah, Deku. Go ahead." Bakugou's underlying threat didn't go unnoticed. Izuku laughed awkwardly as he scratched his cheek.

"W-Well, when I think of Kacchan I do think of his Quirk before his cowboy look, s-so…" A name suddenly came to him, Izuku turning with a curious look at the explosive blond. "What about… Nitro?"

Bakugou opened his mouth to argue, but found his words dying in his throat, eyes trailing to the side as if thinking about it.

"Yeah, Nitro! That's a good one!" Ryuji nodded in agreement. "It's like he's our explosives expert!"

"It's almost too good for him… nice job, Hero…" Ann mumbled.

"It's short and to the point. I couldn't agree more." Yusuke gave his approval.

"So, Baka-chan? Nitro work for you?" Makoto asked, arms crossed as she watched him.

"... Fine, whatever. It works." Bakugou huffed, clicking his tongue before pointing a finger at Makoto. "But you gotta stop calling me that, moron!"

"Oh, fine. Just remember to refer to everyone by their codenames and not by your stupid nicknames." Makoto reminded him back.

"Yeah, yeah! Tell me what they are then!"

"I'm Mona."

"Hero."

"Skull."

"Panther."

"Fox."

"And I'm Queen." Bakugou raised a brow when Makoto announced her name last before a smug grin spread across his face.

"So, you still hung onto that name, Biker Queen?" Makoto's face turned rosy as he said that.

"S-Shut up! It was still better than Lord Explosion Murder! Seriously, did you just throw a bunch of words you thought were cool together or something?!"

"Huh?!"

"Come on, guys. We have to save our energy for the Palace…" Izuku stepped between them before a real argument could break out, quickly turning to Bakugou. "So remember, from now on we'll call you Nitro. And do the same with the rest of our codenames, okay?"

Bakugou grumbled in annoyance but gave a stiff nod. "Yeah, yeah…"

Izuku shifted back to their current objective: gaining entry. Striking the corner of the vent with his staff loosened it enough for his Persona to peel it away and let him jump inside. As he reached the bottom, he struck the second vent hard enough to unlatch it, landing on the wooden beams that hung over the entrance.

The main hall looked like one of the old Japanese castles you'd see on brochures. Hickory wood floors with red painted walls and sliding doors on each side, somewhat reminiscent of the halfway point in Madarame's Palace, but far less gaudy. Unlike the Shadow guarding the main entrance, the ones patrolling these halls were dressed in colorful suits with dragons and tigers emblazoned on their backs.

"Let's see if we can find a map of the layout." Morgana suggested, hopping down from the scaffolding to hide behind a corner wall. "There must be an office or leader somewhere…"

"Why would they have a map of the place?" Bakugou's brow quirked in wonder.

"Who knows? Guess the Shadows get lost in the place too?" Ryuji shrugged, scratching his head. "Every Palace has had a map so far."

"Shadow incoming," Makoto alerted them. "I don't think we'll be able to sneak around it to get through this hall."

"Doesn't look like any other Shadows close by." Morgana confirmed as he scanned the hall before looking at Izuku. "What do you want to do, Hero?"

"Let's take it out." Izuku got ready to jump, knees bent as he got ready to pounce. "Wait until it gets a litt-"

"I'll take it!" Izuku's voice hitched when Bakugou jumped out of cover and blasted forward, grinning like a maniac as he popped an explosion in the Shadow's face. "COME OUT, ASSHOLE!"

The Shadow's back slammed into the ground, groaning in pain. "Y-You damn brat…" It's body quickly dissolved and took the shape of the same red Oni demon from before, with another Shadow materializing with it. A muscular monster with the head of a horse, cloven feet, and skin the color of blood.

"Finally, a new one of you things! I was getting tired of fighting the same damn mugs over and over again." Bakugou drew a tomahawk from his waist in his right hand, twirling it in his fingers like a drumstick.

"At least he waited for confirmation…" sighed Makoto, quickly running out to join Bakugou with the others right next to her.

"Who are you brats to try and force your way into our compound?!" The horse-man hissed. "You tryin' to piss off the Eight Precepts?!"

"Piss off?! Don't make me laugh!" Bakugou propelled himself forward with his free hand, a tomahawk swinging down and slashing into the Shadow's chest. "We're just here to take out the trash!"

"GRAGH!" The Shadow grunted, swinging its arm back at Bakugou to swat him away. Bakugou evaded, flipping back and avoiding it with a quick propulsing blast.

"Zorro!" Morgana summoned his Persona, blasting a gale of slicing wind into both Shadows. The red demon grunted, but the horse-man waved it off with little annoyance. It then lunged at Bakugou with its hoofed foot, hitting him before he could move out of the way. The explosive teen grunted as he was sent backwards, lifting off the ground for several meters before his feet skidded to a stop.

"Not so tough now, brat!" The horse-man cackled, hopping in place and getting ready for another attack.

"Bastard…" Bakugou spat as he brushed off his stomach and reached for his mask. But before he could attack, Izuku made his move, drawing off his mask first.

"Leanan Sidhe!" Izuku summoned one of his newly fused Personas, a pale skinned woman with flowing blonde hair, pointed ears and a silky purple dress taking shape above him. In her hands were two silver hooks linked together at the top, her position that of someone seated in thin air. "Psio!"

The celtic figure held the hooks forward, unleashing a barrage of psychedelic colored orbs that slammed into the horse like Shadow, causing it to stumble back in agony.

"I'll take it from here!" Makoto followed up, flying overhead on Johanna and driving its front wheel into the Shadow's chest. The tire let out a powerful shockwave, the follow up causing the Shadow to fall flat on its back from the force.

"Hey, I had it handled!" Bakugou snapped in irritation.

"It's called teamwork, dude!" Ryuji huffed before gritting his teeth. "Hey, here comes big red!"

The three got the warning just soon enough, managing to avoid a swing of the demon's blade as it charged at them.

"Goemon!" Yusuke didn't allow it to go much further, a misty cloud blasting into the demon and blasting it with ice. As a lucky turn, the ice was able to freeze the Shadow's body. "It's frozen! Someone follow up!"

"You got it! Captain Kidd!" Ryuji bursted forward, his Persona slamming the hull of the ship directly into the Shadow's head. It toppled the demon, the ice shattering as the damage was doubled by their technical shot.

"Alright, time for an All-Out attack!" Morgana called out, and the Thieves lined up together. "Try to keep up, Nitro!"

"Tch!" Bakugou blasted forward, joining the team as he hacked away with the others at the Shadows, causing their bodies to spurt black ooze before ultimately dissipating. The group took a moment to settle down, brushing themselves off before looking around.

"Man, we're gettin' real good at this!" Ryuji grinned, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "That was easy!"

"Yeah! We've really improved since Kamoshida!" Ann held one arm above her head and stretched it out, smiling.

"We can't let our guard down, though. There's still plenty of Shadows around that we probably haven't seen yet." Izuku reminded them, but gave a smile of approval. "But yeah, we really have improved."

"Hey, Ba-Nitro. Remember that you have to follow Hero's lead." Makoto drew the explosive blond's gaze to her. "We usually let him initiate the battles with the Shadows."

"Huh? What's it matter who starts it?!" Bakugou snapped, placing a hand on his hip. "So long as we all know we're fighting, who cares who takes the first hit?"

"I… suppose he's not wrong." Morgana crossed his small arms over his chest. "I guess we've just fallen into a habit of letting Hero take the lead on that."

"If you want us to, we can take turns initiating battle, Hero. It would take some of the work off of you." Yusuke offered thoughtfully.

"Oh, well, I don't really mind doing it, but… if everyone is on the same page about who we attack, I guess it can be anyone who initiates." Izuku nodded, seeing the logic.

Bakugou gave Makoto a smug grin. "I win."

"A blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while, I suppose…" Makoto rolled her eyes as she walked away from the explosive blond. "Come on, let's go. We've still got plenty of ground to cover."

"Yeah. That's just one fight of many to come. Keep your eyes peeled." Morgana reminded them, the others nodding in agreement before following after

"So, were you shocked?" Ryuji nudged Bakugou as he passed him. "Hero's pretty amazin', huh?"

"Shocked? Why would I be?" Bakugou quirked a brow.

"I don't know, maybe the fact that he has more than one Persona?!" Bakugou stared at Ryuji blankly before scoffing, turning his back on him to follow the others.

"I already knew that." Ryuji blinked owlishly, watching as the explosive blond left him behind.

"Wha-since when?! Hey, since when?!"

"Quiet, Skull! There are still Shadows running around!" Ann hissed back, causing the faux blond to clam up. It wasn't long after that the group took down several more Shadows, most unimpressive. They wandered the long wooden halls looking for any hints towards finding the Treasure. But every hallway looked almost identical to the next. It was nearly impossible to tell if they had walked down the same path twice. It was eerie how mundane the place looked compared to the previous Palaces they had infiltrated.

They soon came upon an open hall, the front door just to their left and a reception desk to their right. A Shadow stood behind it and had failed to see them, sitting behind the desk and lazily reading some obscure magazine.

"Tsk! We're back at the main entrance!" Bakugou cursed as they hid around the corner of a wall. "I told you we shoulda just blasted through the main door!"

"You don't know what kind of alarm system they have here!" Morgana hissed in response, but did look somewhat confused. "Still… only one guard at the main entrance? What's with this lackluster security?"

"I did expect more from a hardened criminal as this Kai Chisaki." Yusuke noted, stroking his chin. "Especially if he's as heinous as Boss said."

"Who the hell is Boss?" Bakugou looked only further confused.

"That's not important right now. We should take down the Shadow behind the desk." Makoto suggested, eyes trailing back to the others. "If we're going to get a map, it'll be from there."

"Queen has a point. Ready to jump in there, Hero?" Morgana looked to Izuku.

"Yeah. No room for stealth here. Let's get the jump on him before he sounds any alarms."

"Don't have to tell me twice!" Bakugou got ready to step out, only for Morgana to stop him short.

"Wait. How about we get him to come here first? That way we're sure he doesn't set off any alarm from that desk."

Bakugou huffed, rolling his eyes. "You're all way too roundabout. Fine."

"Alright. How're we gettin' his attention?" Ryuji asked.

*POP*

The Thieves jumped at the sudden noise, looking at Bakugou who held up his hand, having made a small explosion in his palm. "That should do the trick."

"Warn us next time!" Ann complained in a fit. But before any further words could be spared, the group was soon greeted by the Shadow guard from the table.

"The hell was that noi-what the hell?!"

"Well, it definitely worked!" Ryuji grit his teeth as he gripped his bat. Izuku quickly dashed forward, slamming his expandable staff into the chest of the Shadow's cognitive body. It didn't topple over though, only groaning before allowing its body to take shape from the black ooze. A large figure formed from it, one similar in stature to the red-skinned demon. This time though it was a blue-skinned, with a hole where its face would have been. It wore a white garb and a swirling black pattern on its chest and purple armor resting on its forearms and collar.

"You brats don't know who you're fuckin' with! I'll thrash you and toss ya out!" The Shadow didn't hesitate to make the first move, twirling the double bladed sword it wielded in front of him like a fan. A powerful gale of wind blasted across the Thieves, causing them to grit their teeth and wait for the attack to pass.

"Gah!" But on one end, Ryuji was still the most vulnerable to Wind, the attack knocking him off his feet.

"Skull!" Ann was the first to call out, quickly stepping in front of him with a defensive posture.

"I'll take the first shot!" With his inherent resistance to wind, Morgana was the first to be able to move freely, dashing forward and leaping in the air. "Zorro! Lucky Punch!"

A boxing glove on a spring materialized from thin air and slammed into the Shadow. Unfortunately, luck was not on Morgana's side, the attack doing little if any damage to their opponent. "... Uh oh."

"Pathetic!" The Shadow retaliated by swinging its free hand into Morgana, sending him reeling backward on the ground. The cat let out a pained meow, stumbling on his paws to regain his composure.

"Let's hit it, Nitro!" Makoto rushed forward, arms reinforced with metal.

"Don't get in my way!" Despite his protest, Bakugou blasted after her, both rearing their melee weapons back and laying into the Shadow. Makoto punched across the Shadow's ribs while Bakugo used an explosion to do the same on the opposite side. The Shadow wailed in pain, but neither was able to break through its skin. Still, it staggered in pain, unable to immediately retaliate.

"Allow me!" Yusuke dashed past them, katana drawn and mist shimmering along its edge. He slashed across the Shadow's arm and weapon, leaving a sharp gash along them. In the cut, the mist lingered before piercing ice shards erupted.

"GAAGH! MY ARM!" The Shadow wailed in agony, trembling as it held up the frozen limb. "What did you-"

"Your turn, Skull!"

"Leave it to me! SUPER SPEED~," zooming past the Thieves at blinding speed, Ryuji smashed the Shadow's frostbitten arm into tiny shards. "HOME RUN!"

"GAAAGH~!"

"Hell yeah!" Ryuji grinned wickedly, giving a thumbs up. "Let's finish him!"

"Great job!" Izuku and Ann threw off their masks, unleashingMatador and Carmen to send a wave of psychic energy and fire at the hapless Shadow. With one last cry of agony, it fell apart and faded from existence.

"Well, that didn't go too poorly…" Morgana rubbed his soar behind, looking up at the others. "Everyone alright?"

"All good on this end!" Ryuji walked over to Yusuke, the two bumping arms together. "Great combo, man!"

"You two pulled off an impressive maneuver. But how did you cover your blade with your ice like that?" Makoto inquired, curious.

"After seeing that we can use our Persona's elements without summoning them, I thought to try and use Goemon's ice through my sword. It turned out fantastically." Yusuke said with a proud smile.

"Yeah, and I was able to charge my knees up no sweat with my electric energy! I can pretty much use it whenever!" Ryuji grinned, electricity sparking around his palms.

"That was pretty cool…" Ann let out a short giggle as she gave a teasing smile. "Still though, I think you should work on a name for that move. 'Super speed home run' just doesn't have a good ring to it."

"What?! Aw, come on, it wasn't that bad!"

"You talk too much." Bakugou walked back over to the group, shoving a piece of paper into Izuku's hands. "There's the map. Now we can stop running around like chickens with their heads cut off."

"O-Oh, thanks Nitro!"

"Don't thank me!"

Izuku smiled despite his sharp reply, unfurling the map and showing it to everyone. "Okay… so we're in the main lobby right… here." Izuku pointed out their location for the others, eyes narrowing.

"Is it me or is this map kinda small?" Ann asked, tilting her head in wonder.

"It does look small, but look at the top corner," Morgana pointed out the 1F on the map. "Looks like there's more to this place than we've seen so far. Which means this map isn't complete."

"Huh? This thing doesn't give us the whole layout?" Bakugou spat, leaning forward to look over the map for himself.

"No. The previous Palaces split their maps up into several sections. Looks like the same applies for this one." Makoto pointed out before tapping another part of the map. "Look here, though. There's an elevator on this floor. We'll probably need that to go deeper into the Palace."

"Hey, it's not far from here! " Ryuji grinned, looking up at the halls around them. "Should just be up a few doors to the left hall and near the center!"

"Then let's stop standin' around and go!" Bakugou barked, walking ahead of them.

"Man, he's definitely a good fighter. But he's still a pain in the ass…" Ryuji huffed, trailing behind the others with Ann as they followed after the explosive blond. It didn't take long for them to reach the elevator. They decided to avoid the Shadows along the way, staying in darkness and allowing them to pass by. Bakugou made several faces that clearly showed his desire to engage, but held himself back.

"Alright, we're here." Izuku announced as they entered the small room. While it was modest enough in design, the elevator stood out, looking out of place with large steel doors sealed tight, barring their entry. On the side, the mechanism for calling the elevator was a digital keypad with a slot for a card to be inserted. Something of smaller note was a safe room just outside the room, which they had quickly visited to establish on their MetaNav.

"That can't be good…" Izuku mumbled as he took notice. He walked up and hit the button to call the elevator, only for the keypad to buzz.

Floor officer card required.

"Floor officer? But none of the Shadows have dropped anything like that!" Ann's brow creased in annoyance.

"I'm guessing that means the standard grunts aren't allowed into the lower levels." Makoto bit her bottom lip. "We'll have to find the floor officers among the Shadows."

"Damn it. Just when I started thinkin' this was gonna be simple," Ryuji cursed, kicking his foot across the oak flooring.

"There's nothing to be done about it. Let's look at the map again and see if there's any clues as to where we can find an officer." Yusuke suggested. They gathered back around Izuku as he brought the map out, looking at the layout.

"We don't have much left to explore on this floor… but this room might be what we're looking for." Izuku pointed out a particularly big office a little ways further down the hall from their location.

"It's a start. I imagine that an officer would have their own office, at least." Makoto nodded. The others quickly agreed, soon following after Izuku. As they went back into the hall, they quickly realized that there were no Shadows patrolling this time. As if the ones who previously roamed the halls had all been called back.

"Where did they go?" Izuku mumbled, eyes darting around.

"I don't like this… keep your guard up. We know better than to not expect Shadows from popping up out of thin air." Morgana cautioned the group. They slowly proceeded forward, the empty halls painfully quiet without the mumbling Shadows walking around. The quiet continued for several minutes, the Thieves feeling their anxiety grow as they scanned their surroundings for any sign of an enemy. But were met with silence.

"They must know we're here… but if so, why empty the hall?" Makoto chewed on her thumb.

"It's obvious, ain't it?" the Thieves turned their attention to Bakugou, the dirty blond's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "We're heading into a trap."

"Y-You think so?!" Ann swallowed a lump in her throat, looking to Izuku. "Is it really okay for us to keep going?"

"We don't have much choice… We only have one way to reach the lower floors after all," Izuku hated to admit, looking down the hall with some apprehension. "But this wouldn't be a first for us. Stay alert and we'll thwart whatever they throw at us!"

"Yeah! Just like every other trap!" Ryuji placed a hand on Izuku's shoulder.

Bakugou looked on with a skeptical gaze. "How many traps have you idiots walked into?"

"T-That's not important! What's important is that we've gotten through them all!" Morgana tried his best to sound confident despite some of the awkward shifting from his teammates. "Part of being a Phantom Thief is being ready to adapt on the fly! I hope you're ready for that, Nitro!"

"Tch! Don't underestimate me!" Bakugou stormed past them. "Let's spring this trap!"

"Always quick to jump in…" Makoto let out a snicker, she and the others keeping pace with the explosive teen.

They quickly turned another corner, fast approaching their target location. The hall mirrored the rest of the floor, only with one major exception: The room they were quickly approaching had a major visible difference compared to the rest of the rooms they had scoured. Instead of the traditional sliding doors they had previously seen, this room was locked behind a metal and glass door.

"Huh. This door's real different than the others." Ryuji noted, watching Izuku slowly approach the plaque sitting next to the door. "What's it say?"

"'Chisaki's Clean Room'." Izuku read aloud for the others to hear. "Why would he-"

"Well, well, well~! Looks like we've got a rat infestation."

The group immediately snapped their attention to the voice, hairs standing on end when they were greeted with three figures at the edge of the hall. Unlike the previous Shadows, these men were far more defined in appearance and looked more like regular human beings.

The first was a man with neck-length blond hair, black slacks, and a forest green dress shirt adorned with an out of place pink tie. On his face was a long nosed medicine mask much like the one Izuku had seen Chisaki sport.

The next was the tallest among the three, a bald man with a plain white surgical mask. The first three buttons on his black button up were left undone, his eyes imperceptible beneath his furrowed, jutting brow.

The last and most disturbing among them was a man covered head to shoulders by a burlap sack, held in place by loose rope around his throat. His eyes bulged out of the eyeholes. A low, gurgling sound could be heard behind the stitched on mouth. His hands twitched sporadically, his gaze dancing from one person to the next.

"So we really do have intruders. What inconvenient timing." The bald one spoke, arms crossed over his chest.

"Tasty… they look tasty… Eat?" The bag head spoke, his voice as unsettling as his appearance.

"Wh-What the hell?! These guys look like the real deal…" Ryuji stared wide-eyed at the trio, hand restlessly gripping his bat.

"Y-Yeah, they're nothing like the other Shadows… but somehow they're more intimidating…" Ann mumbled, a deep dread coming over her as she wearily eyed the hungry-looking yakuza.

"Looks like we've sprung the trap…" Morgana's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Though something is… strange about them…"

"Who're you callin' rats, yakuza trash?!" Bakugou snarled, hands cracking as he curled his fingers.

"Hey, now! Throwing around words like trash is kinda mean, y'know?" The blond one took a step forward, eyes glaring into Bakugou's. "I might haveta bash your skull in for that, brat."

"Hold on, Setsuno. These are clearly children we're dealing with." The bald one spoke, putting an arm in front of him. "You're all dressed up like would-be heroes, but none of you are old enough to have your licenses. Who are you and what are you doing here? Depending on your answer, we might let you off with just a beating before we dump you out."

"No eat?!" Burlap sack whined.

"Chill out, Tabe. You'll get to eat a little." The blond cackled, eyes glaring back at Bakugou again. "Even if we let 'em off easy, we'll have to take a couple fingers so that they got a good reminder of who they're fuckin' with."

"How appalling… so these are the real yakuza…" Yusuke muttered, hand edging toward his sword.

"Looks like we can't talk our way out of this so easily…" Izuku bit the inside of his cheek, walking several paces ahead of the others. "So we might as well tell the truth."

"Hero?" Makoto watched him in wonder, the Thieves staring at his back.

"We're the Phantom Thieves of Hearts!" Izuku suddenly proclaimed with a sharp edge in his voice. "We've come to steal your leader's heart and save Eri-chan!"

"H-Holy shit, he really said all that…" Ryuji mumbled in awe of their leader.

"Hah! Now you're showin' some backbone!" Bakugou cackled, stepping up alongside him. "You trash hear that?! Now eat shit and get outta our way before we move you!"

"Hey! Don't go actin' like you're his partner!" Ryuji complained, stepping up next to Izuku.

"Eat! Eat! EAT~!" Tabe cheered, his mouth opening wide before clamping shut like a bear trap.

"Wait wait wai~t! These kids know about Eri?!" The blond's eyes drifted to the bald yakuza in panic. "We can't let these brats walk outta here now. We'll have to take care of 'em, Hojo!"

"Hm. So it would seem. Not only do they know about Eri, but they're also targeting the boss." The man's whole body convulsed, muscles ripping through his shirt as his head approached the ceiling. The Thieves all drew their weapons when crystals sprouted from his shoulders, arms, and head. He was now close to the size of the red demon from before, but the aura he gave off was far more imposing. "Sorry, brats. But you won't be leaving here alive now."

"You hear that, Tabe?! Looks like you're eating like a king tonight!" The blond cackled, eyes becoming pitch black as he stared back at the Thieves.

"EATEATEAT~!" Tabe's neck, arms, and fingers stretched out like taffy, his body hunching forward the way a bipedal lizard would as his mouth tore free of the bag, revealing rows upon rows of dagger-shaped teeth.

"H-Hey, these guys aren't transforming like regular Shadows…" Ann mumbled, looking at Morgana. "What's going on?"

"These guys… I knew something felt off…" Morgana's jaw clenched"They're not Shadows. They're cognitive beings in Chisaki's heart! People strong enough to leave an impression on him and manifest in his Palace as guardians!"

"I hope you brats prepared well for this. You face the Eight Bullets!" Hojo rumbled, taking a thunderous step toward the Thieves. "We'll exterminate you before you ever reach the boss!"

To be continued…

Man, it's good to be back after so long. It's been an… interesting second half of the year so far lol

For those of you unaware, I came down with Covid in September, so I put a halt on any writing I was doing. But don't worry, I had very mild symptoms and no real issues to talk about. I'm fully healed and back in action now, hopefully with the energy to get really good work done on my fics. Thank you everyone for the kind words and for being supportive during that strange time.

That aside, I'm glad to finally get this chapter out. I've been so afraid about my approach to Bakugou joining the Thieves as well as the Palace itself. So far I think I've done a decent job and that the next chapter will expand much further on what's being established. Trust me when I say that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that this Palace may take a few chapters to get through. Please enjoy the ride as we go :)

That said, I do want to work on some other stories now that this chapter is done. Don't worry though, I expect that I won't take nearly as long on those as I did on this. Hopefully. I expect to be back on this in the next couple months, depending on my work rate.

With that, I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter and Bakugou's first escapade as a member of the Thieves. Some have guessed correctly on what kind of position he'll have on the team, but I won't confirm anything until it's established within the story.

Thank you all for your patience and looking forward to seeing you guys in the next chapter!