Before Adam opened his eyes, he could tell that he was someplace familiar. Quite familiar, in fact.
“This… comfort. Yeah—this is my bed…?”
Adam sat up, his eyes now glancing around the place he knew the most.
“What am I doing here…? What happened…? Wait—” Adam took a look at his right arm, which had regenerated due to the World Mirror, as expected. “That… thing. The Nexus…”
“Oh, I thought I heard you.”
Adam turned toward the opening that once housed his door. Muraco stood there—his tiny paws on his hips.
“That’s my name. Geez, it took you long enough! You were out of it for three days!”
“Three… days? Huh!?” Adam stood up in a panic. “Is—”
“Everything’s all right, calm down. We gotta hear from you what exactly happened. And then… we’ll fill you in on all the development you’ve missed.”
“Development…?” Adam looked down at his hand, shaking from the rush of anxiety he just felt.
“Come on, follow me.” Muraco beckoned Adam, hopping away toward the living room. Taking a moment to take a deep breath, Adam followed him.
Entering the room, Adam saw Jerry sitting in his usual chair while Charlotte was relaxing on the couch. Upon seeing him, Charlotte jumped up.
“Adam! You are awake!” She rushed over, taking a hold of his shoulders, almost knocking him down. “Are you okay!?”
“I, uh… feel okay. Just how I usually do when I wake up.”
“I… felt the presence of something down there. It was like sleep paralysis—I couldn’t get up and help you. It was weighing me down, both physically and mentally.”
Adam let out a loud sigh. “I’m surprised you could put your experience with it into words… Then again, you didn’t face it directly.”
“What was this ‘it’ thing you encountered? It felt familiar to me, but—”
“I assume it’s whatever prevented you from possessing Emma to free her from that nonsense. It calls itself ‘The Nexus’. Had a whole conversation with the thing, before I ended up in bed for three whole days, apparently…”
Jerry finally reacted to Adam, standing up and walking over to him. “Yeah… I figured as much.”
“Huh? You figured?”
“Yeah—I’m glad you’re all right. ‘The Nexus’ huh…? So it literally named itself after where it’s located?”
“Not exactly. It decided to use that name since that’s what Rizzo calls it.”
The other three were shocked, yet slightly unsurprised at that statement.
“I mean… I guess it makes sense.” Jerry scratched his head. “Adam, are you in shape to tell us what happened?”
“Sure… Buckle your seat belts though. You’re in for a ride.”
Adam sat down on the couch, with Charlotte and Muraco on each side of him. Jerry returned to his chair, as Adam began his explanation.
“I can’t believe it… What the hell?” Charlotte was astonished at what Adam had told them. “So… that thing’s the reason the manager’s… dead? Just cause!?”
“Seems that way. And, while we’re on that subject… He’s… He’s still not down in the police station’s basement, is he…?”
“Nah. Cody managed to get him out of there. Arrangements for the funeral and stuff have already been made…” Jerry answered, with slight sorrow in his voice.
“Huh!? Arrangements!? How the hell can that be done considering all the circumstances!?”
“Adam…” Charlotte began to speak. “It seems… that demon did keep that deal with you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Rizzo visited Prelude two days ago, without any warning. Cody and Thomas met with him. Your exile is over with.”
“For… For real…? Rizzo does listen to that thing then…?”
“Everything regarding the Brown Suits was dropped as well. No consequences from that. In fact, Unity is paying for the manager’s funeral expenses. The official cause of death is certainly not true though—getting shot during an attempted robbery? It’s sickening…”
Jerry leaned forward. “Unity’s taking responsibility due to the Brown Suits having control over Prelude during the time frame this ‘robbery’ occurred. Whenever Unity has control over an area, regular police are kicked out after all.”
“What the hell…?” Adam held his head in annoyance. “So, things are okay for us, but obviously they had to lie and create such a situation involving your manager…”
“It’s fine,” Charlotte assured him. “Trust me—I will get justice for him. For now, though, I’ll accept this outcome, for our sake.”
“If you say so… Man, my head hurts.” Adam complained.
“Well, you haven’t eaten in days. Let me make you something.” Jerry offered.
“Yeah… That’s probably a good idea.” Adam took a glance around the room. “Where… exactly is Lucy? Is she with the others?”
“No, she’s here.” Charlotte sighed. “In the kitchen, as a matter of fact. Be prepared.”
Adam took a step onto the cold floor of his kitchen. “Be prepared for wh—”
Lucy was passed out on the floor. Surrounding her were multiple apples, all consumed as if a savage beat had eaten them.
“I got you some apples, but she went and ate all of them…” Jerry explained.
“But she’s a ghost! She doesn’t need to eat anything! Charlotte—I don’t think I’ve seen you eat before?”
“I mean, I can if I want to. The phantons inside me just cause anything to disintegrate. Luckily, I can still taste things, in case I decide to have something.”
“A-All right…? Anyway!” Adam leaned down next to Lucy, poking the side of her face. “Hey! Wake up!”
“Huh…?” Lucy opened her eyes slightly, taking a look at Adam. She sat up, unable to process where she was for a moment. Eventually, it dawned on her that he had awoken. “Huh!? You’re okay!?”
“Forget me. What happened here?” Adam pointed at the scraps around her.
“Oh… They were really yummy! I guess I fell asleep after I ate them!”
Adam sighed. “You know what? You’re off the hook since you have good taste in food. How could you fall asleep right here on the floor, though?”
“She’s been sleeping most of the time, like you,” Charlotte responded. “I assume it’s due to the state she’s in.”
“Right—I see. It’s basically how you were up until recently.” Adam noted.
“Exactly. I’ve wanted to walk around the area with her, to see if she could recall anything. But, being in this condition most of the time…”
“No progress in that front, huh? Wait—Jerry. Have you found anything out?” Adam asked him.
Jerry stepped over the apple remains, opening the fridge to take out meat to cook. “I’ve tried… Travis and Cody seem to be preventing even myself from accessing any data.”
“Huh? You can’t even get into anything? What… the hell are they hiding…?” Adam said concerningly. “Did you talk to your dad about it?”
“I would, but I don’t want any internal conflict to go down… Is that the right play?”
“I’d say so. Even if we do want to go with Charlotte’s idea of possessing them for info, they’ll probably figure out we did it. Then things will escalate from there… Man, this is so annoying…” Adam shook his head in frustration.
Charlotte grabbed Adam’s shoulders, escorting him over to the couch. “Here, you should relax until the food’s ready. Lucy—can you clean up that mess on the floor?”
“Kay!” Lucy responded, cheerfully picking up the eaten apples off the floor.
“She’s happy doing that?” Adam questioned, lying down on the couch. “These cushions are so cold…”
“Sorry—I’ve been hanging out here all day.” Charlotte laughed awkwardly.
“Huh? It’s not a bad thing. Cold cushions, blankets, pillows… It’s all heaven.”
“It’s just an issue if the person in bed with you is cold, huh?” Charlotte giggled. Jerry overheard this, dropping a ladle on the floor.
“What’s wrong, Mr. Jerry?” Lucy asked him, picking up the utensil that had fell and handing it to him.
“D-Don’t worry about it—thank you, Lucy.”
“Anyway—” Charlotte continued speaking to Adam, sitting on the end of the couch. “Twine’s been keeping an eye on the town, just in case that group decides to make another move.”
“They didn’t employ new Brown Suits, huh…? I’m not sure how I feel about that.”
“I know. On one hand, they’re out of our hair. On the other hand, we don’t have much defense against that group…”
“Is this that thing’s doing…? If we defend Prelude on our own, we’d have to fight much harder. That means I’ll gain more experience… I think that’s what The Nexus wants.”
“Don’t worry—I won’t let anything happen to you. We’ll all get strong, and kick that thing’s ass!” Charlotte yelled.
“Miss Charlotte swore…” Lucy covered her mouth in shock as she walked around the couch to see the two.
“Oh! I apologize…” Charlotte looked down bashfully.
Adam began to chuckle. “Hearing that reminds me of that first day you were here. You kept apologizing to me over everything.”
“Well, of course I would! One of those apologies was over accidentally seeing you in the shower, and—”
Jerry ran over, smacking the back of the couch. “Again, what!?”
“Jerry—Do you know when those guys are returning from Unity?” Adam asked, changing the subject.
“They should be arriving later this evening, actually. We’re going to have a lot to discuss with them. You seem… to be allowed to interact with them now?”
“I guess so? We have to come up with a plan—knowing The Nexus has so much influence and can manipulate Rizzo so easily… I’m worried about what could happen.”
“That’s true…” Jerry sighed. “There’s also something else I’m worried about.”
“What’s up?” Adam asked him.
“The last thing The Nexus said to you… about things not working like they’re supposed to? What does that mean?”
Muraco, who was now sitting in Jerry’s chair, finally spoke up. “I have a theory about that, actually…”
“Oh hey, you’ve been awfully quiet for a while—wait, you do!?” Jerry asked astonished.
“It’s cause I’ve been thinking about it…” Muraco scratched his ears. “Adam—remember I wanted to tell you and Charlotte about the things I do remember?”
“Right—you never did.” Adam sat up. “Your theory involves those memories?”
“Maybe…” Muraco took a deep breath. “For years, whenever I appeared somewhere… it was somewhere vile. Crazed individuals who were doing experiments similar to what happened to me were who I encountered. Cults, I believe? There were several around Requiem, and each attempted to harness the power of what you now call chaons.”
“There’s a whole section of Requiem east of here that’s infamous for that kind of thing,” Adam explained. “Slightly past Minuet. It’s dubbed the ‘Fairy Tale Land’. I think Unity’s presence greatly diminished their existence, yet some are rumored to still exist.”
“That could be where I popped up? Anyway, there was a common theme for a lot of these cults. They wanted the power to ‘restore things’. Of course, the chaons corrupted their minds, completely throwing that goal off course. Do you think that could involve what The Nexus spoke of?”
Jerry pondered what Muraco said. “Hmm… That could be a possibility. It’s something I’m going to look into, for sure. In the meantime, we have other things we need to focus on.”
“Like my food.” Adam said.
“Right! Sorry! I’ll get it going!” Jerry laughed, heading back off into the kitchen. Lucy suddenly let out a huge sigh.
“You guys are talking about lots of confusing stuff!” Lucy pouted.
“Sorry.” Adam chuckled. “It would be confusing for you.”
“It’s okay though! I, Lucy, have decided that you are the good guys! We’ll all fight for justice!”
“Justice, huh…” Adam sighed, lying back down. He stared at the ceiling, cracking a tiny smile.
Next: Chapter 2.23
Previous: Chapter 2.21