About an hour later, Faith sat on the edge of a bed in the infirmary. She looked down at her hands, where her fingers were covered in bandages.
Liz walked up to her, showing that her entire right hand was wrapped up as well. “Your flames were really impressive, Faith! There’s still plenty of room for your control over them.”
“Yeah… It’s funny. Before, if I managed to get hurt by a flame, I would be freaking out looking at the wound. Now though… I’m a lot more at peace with myself.”
“It just shows how much you’ve grown! Listen, I’m sorry about going rough on you guys, but I—”
Liz was interrupted by loud snoring that began to echo throughout the room. Faith turned around, facing the bed next to her where Winona was resting. She was sound asleep, even bearing a grin on her face.
“She definitely tired herself out.” Faith giggled quietly. “Looks like she’s peaceful…” She looked toward the other side of the room, where Brandon was currently lying unconscious in a bed of his own. “Brandon on the other hand…”
He was giving off a grimace of pain, while Paul sat beside him with concern in his eyes. “This guy did way too much. Hopefully, he’ll feel better soon…”
Faith stood up and walked over next to Brandon. She leaned in close to get a better look at his condition. “Brandon… His breathing isn’t right…”
“Hey, don’t worry about him.” Liz placed her hand on Faith’s shoulder. “You know, you should be getting some rest as well. I’m surprised you’re not already knocked out.”
“Right… That’s probably a good idea.” Faith accepted Liz’s suggestion, flopping down on her own bed. She rolled over to face the ceiling, wanting to review everything that had happened that day, but couldn’t—her body wouldn’t let her. Faith’s eyelids slowly closed, and she was asleep in seconds.
Adam’s eyelids slowly opened, staring at the ceiling above him. It took him a moment, but he realized it was the ceiling to their room in the hotel. He rose, having his memories come back to him involving what occurred prior to this. As he remembered the tunnel, the barrier, and the girl he saved, Adam froze. There was something in front of him that required his attention.
He wanted to look away, but could not. A little girl stood on the bed a few feet in front of him. However, it couldn’t possibly be the girl he saved. This girl, this thing was utterly grotesque, a green slime oozing from her rotting body. She had no eyes or teeth—her mouth hanging wide open. A foul, rancid smell plagued Adam’s nostrils—he covered his nose, backing up and smacking his head on the wall behind him.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
Adam looked up a second time. The horrific sight was no more, and a normal, non-demonic girl now stood there. It quickly dawned on him that he knew this girl. She was not only the girl he saved from that strange void, but she happened to be the same one that he saw in Ann’s back when this all began.
“It’s… It’s you…?”
“Adam, what are you doing?” Charlotte walked over to the side of the bed, hands on her hips. “You’re gonna scare her.”
“You were in the store that night…”
“Huh?” Charlotte was curious as to what Adam was talking about. The girl has a questioning look as well, sitting down on the bed.
“Brown hair and eyes… pigtails… suspenders… Yeah, it’s gotta be you, from that night! Charlotte—she’s the girl I was talking about!”
“Wait—for real!? That one you said initially activated your World Mirror that night!? What kind of odds?”
“Um…” The girl wanted to speak. Adam and Charlotte turned to her. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, mister… But you saved me from that darkness—I know that much. So… T-Thank you!”
“I did…?” Adam looked down at his hand. “I’m not sure how I did… or if I did to begin with, but at least you’re safe, whoever you are.”
The girl grinned. “I’m Lucy!”
“Lucy, huh? Got a last name?”
“I… Um… I’m not sure. I can’t remember…”
“Are you serious…?” Adam sighed. “Not another one…”
“I think Lucy’s issues with her memories are a lot more justified in her case,” Charlotte stated.
Adam looked at her with curiosity on his face. “Huh? What’s that mean?”
“Well, she’s a ghost…” Charlotte gestured toward Lucy, who had started to float in mid-air.
“I know that from meeting her in the store—hey, be careful! Don’t go phasing through the ceiling!”
“I’m fine, I’m fine!” Lucy responded, laughing in enjoyment.
“Well—” Charlotte continued. “Lucy’s… I’m not sure how—or why—but she’s as strong as I am. She’s clearly not an Ouderkirk, yet she has enough power to keep her form without it dissipating.”
“What the hell…?” Adam glanced at the girl, now flying around the room pretending to be an airplane. “Was that the reason she was there in the basement…? No, that doesn’t make sense. I saw her way before we even knew about that room.”
“Muraco and I… have actually come up with a theory for that,” Charlotte said, her voice slightly cracking. “After all that energy vanished, you and Lucy emerged, both unconscious. Before we got out of there, we took a look in the coffin…”
Adam’s eyes widened. “Don’t tell me…!?”
“It wasn’t her body. Well—I should say—it no longer is. The chaonic energy had built up for so long, it turned her remains into dust…”
“Chaonic energy…? Yeah—I’d say it’s gotta be related to the Night of the Half Moon, for sure.”
“What exactly is the Night of the Half Moon? I can vaguely recall it from my investigation, but you’ve said it a few times now…”
“The Fisher family—” Adam began to explain. “They owned a farm not too far from here. An odd family from an outside perspective, but nothing too out of the ordinary. However, there was darkness there. Horrible darkness. They had molded their family into a cult over several years, performing various rituals and sacrifices to gain power…”
“They would give birth to children merely to sacrifice them… It had something to do with the ‘purity’ of phantons within newborns, and that was vital to what they were attempting to accomplish.”
“Are you serious…?”
Adam nodded. “They got to the point though where they were incredibly weakened using this method. They got desperate since they were so close to achieving their goal. So… they went on to kidnap local children. That’s how they ended up getting caught.”
“…Do you know what their goal was?”
“It was something chaonic—that much was obvious. Whatever it was… they did manage to create it, for a short amount of time. And in that time… it caused lots of damage. As well as… kill my mother.”
“Adam…” Charlotte tried to move the topic away from that. “Do… Do you think Lucy was one that was sacrificed? You said newborns, though…”
“That is odd—hey, Lucy.” Adam got the girl’s attention. She immediately flew over and landed on her feet. “Do you remember anything surrounding your death?”
“Adam! You can’t be so blunt! What if she isn’t aware that she’s—”
“Oh, it’s okay, Charlotte!” Lucy gave her a thumbs up. “I already know… and I’m sorry, but I don’t remember much about it…”
“That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” Adam stood up and patted Lucy’s head while walking by. She was silent for a moment, then giggled a little.
“What’s the plan, Adam?” Charlotte asked him.
Adam began to stretch. “Well, I guess we found out what was down there inside the barrier. I suppose… we can head back to Prelude and see if those guys can figure out Lucy’s background?”
“I think that’s probably our best bet right now. They should be able to uncover information that we would be unable to by ourselves.”
“Lucy, do you want to go with us?” Adam asked, turning to her. “I’m… not really sure what you would do otherwise? But I think it would best to keep you safe, regardless.”
“Sure!” Lucy responded cheerfully. “I don’t know what I’d do either! I’m just here right now…”
“I was thinking…” Charlotte started to speak. “If I, an Ouderkirk, has issues with her memory, then I’d assume Lucy would have an even bigger issue. That is, if we take into account that phantons record memories and that memories have been erased to help keep our forms stabilized.”
“That could be a possibility… Although I’m assuming in your case there’s a lot more to it than just that. Considering the World Mirror, and everything…”
“Right…” Charlotte sighed. “I’m tired of not knowing anything.”
“I’m tired in general. But… we can’t let up. We have to keep going. We’ve got to get all this stuff figured out.” Adam clenched his fist. “Now, I’ve been wondering. Where the hell has Muraco been!?”
They turned toward the door, where Muraco hopped out from the shadows.
“Bunny! You’re back!” Lucy hopped at Muraco, grabbing a hold of his ears.
“H-Hey! Watch it! My ears are sensitive!”
“That’s good timing. I’ll ask you myself—Muraco, where have you been?”
“Charlotte didn’t get a chance to tell you anything? I’ve been keeping an eye on the activity around here ever since we busted that barrier.”
“Oh yeah? Did you see anyone?”
“Yeah… I sure did. Unity definitely found out. Brown Suits are starting to swarm into town. Think this could keep them away from Prelude?”
“It might… for a bit. We should get back as soon as we can.” Adam sat back down on the bed. “We’re sandwiched right now… We’ve got this group we have to worry about, as well as Unity. I’ll be honest… I want to take it all on myself. I don’t want anyone getting hurt… but…”
“We won’t let you do that,” Charlotte assured him. “We’re all in this together.”
“I know… That’s good though. Cause I certainly have no idea how I would do this on my own.”
“It’s all about teamwork!” Lucy cheered.
“Yeah…” Adam smiled softly. He glanced over at Muraco. “Hey, can I ask you something?”
“Huh? What is it?”
“For a third time, I’ve seen something freaky when you’re around. You say you don’t have an Ability like that, so I’ll trust you. But… Do you know why it’s been happening? Any clue?”
“Hmm…” Muraco pondered the question. “The only thing I can think of—an Ability that I don’t know I have? And it seems to only trigger for you, for some reason? Another World Mirror thing, perhaps?”
“That wouldn’t surprise me. This thing’s chock-full of mystery.” Adam shrugged. “Anyway, we ready to sneak outta here, Charlotte?”
“Yeah. I’ll phase deep underground, then we can move and pop up in Prelude without issue!”
“Y-You think that will have no issue? How can you tell where you’d be that far underground!?” Adam questioned with unease.
“Don’t worry, I got it.” Charlotte grinned, almost sinisterly.
“How…? How can you be sure we won’t end up caught in the dirt or anything? Charlotte? …Charlotte?”
Lucy ran up to Adam and grabbed his hand. “No need to worry! We just gotta wing it!”
“Y-You should be worried… You have your whole life ahead of—wait, no you don’t. Uh…”
Charlotte giggled, holding Lucy’s shoulder. “That’s something Adam would say, minus the enthusiasm. Isn’t that right?” She glanced at him. “Don’t worry so much. You always worry when there are others involved.”
“Muraco, say something?” Adam turned to look at the rabbit who was keeping his distance from the scene.
Muraco responded with a simple shrug.
Adam at that point could only sigh.
The man sat in his wooden chair in the shadows of the run-down building, holding his glass of whiskey with one hand and his head with the other. In the dimly lit part of the room opposite of him, a black mass floated slightly above the floor—it’s duck-face mask looking at the clearly stressed out person.
“Are you okay?” The figure asked him—voice eerily echoing against the worn-out walls.
“Of course not. I was convinced that the room was simply for those bastards to keep information about that night locked up. A lot of things that happened are highly confidential, after all. But… that’s what was down there…?”
“It’s quite interesting… Not only did that man manipulate Unity to place that down there, but to go to such lengths… to make you suffer?”
The man chuckled. “That’s what it seems like. Even if we were to figure out how to capture this wandering key of ours, we would have had to face what was in that room for it to even be useable.”
“Then you should be thanking Adam. His Ability seemed to destroy the barrier without much of a commotion. The power needed normally—we concluded—would have brought that city of Minuet to ruin. I couldn’t even get inside using my phantom energy—it was quite the obstacle.”
“I don’t care about the how—all I care about is the result. Our key now has a stable form. Before anything else happens, we need to secure it.”
“Right, right.” The shadow cackled. “What’s our next move then, Leader?”
“They’re returning to Prelude, it seems. Hmm… They’re lucky they have such an easy way to move around—it’s certainly helped us.”
“You’re talking about me, aren’t you? Oh, you don’t have to praise me. We’ve known each other for so long, after all.”
“I’ve told you, I still can’t trust that statement completely. Although, I’ll keep calling you Jason, for the time being.”
“Hey—I’m not even sure of it myself. So it’s only natural for you to have your doubts about my origin.”
“Anyway—regarding our next move. I think it’s about time we use her.”
“Oh!?” The figure seemed highly enthused. “Really!? We’re going all out!?”
“I think it’s the right time to do so. Look at what these people have been doing. So many defiant characters running around—Rizzo won’t know which direction to focus on. His bullshit ‘reign’ will come crashing down soon enough. If not by us, then maybe this silly ‘Twine’ group can do it.”
“So you don’t want us to destroy them? It’s only natural you wouldn’t want to.”
“I don’t care. I just want the key in our possession. I can’t trust it with anyone else. The power that’s behind this seal… It has the power to change everything.”
The door to the room swung wide open, almost falling off its hinges. Carl casually strolled inside.
“It sure does! Sorry—I’ve been listening.”
“I know—I could sense you.” The man sighed. “How’s it going, Carl?”
“Well, I’m excited now! We can finally get things rolling!” Carl looked down at his hand. “We can gain the power we deserve.”
The shadow chuckled. “I can finally have a human body, at last. I’m sure you’d like your body back to normal, Carl.”
“It’s never going to be ‘normal’ again. Once it restores itself, I’ll be at an entirely new plane of existence. Not only will I have perfect control over chaons—like our leader over here—the entire concept of chaons can be thrown away.”
The man smirked. “You’re really confident in those body modifications of yours. Just make sure you save me a seat. I’ll arrive at that level soon enough.”
“Of course, my friend! I’m even surprised you would think that I could reach it before you do!”
“You have lots of potential. We all do… I called this group ‘Fangless’, after all. Ones who seemed to lack any sort of power—any sort of way to fight back. Now look at us—look at how much we’ve accumulated over the years.”
“And we can finally put it to use!” Carl laughed.
The man nodded, determination filling his brown eyes. “Carl. Jason. I’m not going to waste any more time. Begins preparations. We’re taking over Prelude.”
Next: Chapter 2.19
Previous: Chapter 2.17