“W-What do you mean…?” Winona was baffled at what her father had just said.
“The timeline must adjust for there being a soul that shouldn’t belong. I happen to be the unfortunate soul that must be sacrificed, it seems…” Cody held his head. “H-How do I know that…? What am I even talking about!?”
“You’re not dying!” Winona declared. “I refuse! Whatever’s going on, I’m going to stop it!”
“I…” Cody grew silent. Travis walked over to him, placing his hand on his shoulder.
“You seem fine to me? As usual, you can take a hit pretty well. So that’s clearly not a problem… What are you talking about with this ‘timeline’ nonsense?”
Jerry stared at Cody, going deep in thought. “He doesn’t look like he’s joking… He’s dead serious. Timelines…? Is something that big actually real!? If that’s the case…” He approached the man. “Cody, is there anything else you can tell us!? Anything that can help us figure out what we can do to help!”
Cody snickered. “Although you do genuinely want to help, you’re seeking out information as well, correct? That’s just like your father… gathering information while simultaneously trying to make things better. It’s tough to do both earnestly.”
“Of… Of course, I want to learn more. I want to learn the truth behind Phantonics—which I assume you know is being kept from us?”
“It absolutely is,” Cody agreed. “Those bastards make it pretty obvious they’re covering up things. Ain’t that right, Travis?”
“Yeah…” Travis nervously nodded. “Without that actual data, I’ve… barely been able to do anything of significance with my career…”
“Don’t worry—we’ll get to the truth,” Jerry stated. “But first, we need to learn more specifically to help Cody out!”
“Heh—I honestly used to think you brainiacs were incapable of emotions. Turns out, I was surrounded by a bunch of softies, huh?” Cody chuckled.
“Well, what can you tell us, Dad!? Anything else!?” Winona asked in a panic.
“It’s like… my soul from another timeline—one that knows the truth behind all of this stuff—is merging with mine. At the same time… I feel tons of power flowing through me. Not in a good way, however. I feel… like I’m about to overload—” Cody collapsed onto his knees, about to vomit.
“Dad!” Winona grabbed him.
“You… You need to get Adam. He’s the only one who can stop this…”
“Cause of the World Mirror…?” Jerry pondered. “Just… What is Adam’s Ability all about, anyway?”
Before Winona could respond to her father, Cody’s skin began to crack, small amounts of blue emitting from them.
“N-No! Dad!” Winona hugged Cody out of desperation. “D-Don’t! Don’t die!” She began to sob. “You can’t go…!”
“We’ve got to think of something!” Travis yelled, rustling his hair—close to ripping it out. He looked over at Thomas and Derek who were still battling. “At a time like this…!?”
Derek noticed the unusual activity going on off to the side. “Hey, don’t you think you have more important things to deal with right now?”
“I’m not giving you any opportunity to take Lucy!” Thomas proclaimed. Inside his head, he was not as courageous.
“What the hell is happening to Cody!? Is it something these guys did!?”
“Well, that’s fair. I didn’t expect to be sneaky about it. I’ll just have to take her using brute force,” Derek jumped away from Thomas, wiping the blood off of his body from the wounds he had received.
“I can read your movements using my eyes!” Thomas pointed out. “Your Ability gives away quite a lot of information regarding how and where you’re going to attack.”
“You know…” Derek sighed, cracking his neck. “My Ability is called ‘Inner Force,’ since the phantons stay inside me while operating how I move on the outside. You’re the second person recently who seems to be able to see how it works.”
“Don’t underestimate how far phantonic technology can go!” Thomas chuckled. “It can be very dangerous… It can also be quite helpful.”
“Yeah, I can’t really let Unity get away with using stuff like this regularly, huh?” Derek placed his hand on his chin. “Hmm… All right. Since you can see my phantonic activity on the inside, why keep it there?”
“Huh? What do you mean?” Thomas asked, pointing his weapon at Derek.
A thin blue line formed around Derek’s body. As Thomas reacted to the phenomenon, the energy erupted outward, pushing him back.
“What is this!?” Thomas jabbed the ground to stop himself from moving.
“I usually fling my phantons around inside of me, causing my physical body to be flung in conjunction with the force I apply. This trick allows me to just straight up fling the phantons around, like so—”
Derek punched the air in front of him, unleashing a beam of energy from his fist. Thomas blocked the azure attack, yet was still sent flying back into the ruined walls of Ann’s.
“That’s quite a change,” Thomas leaped back into the fray immediately. He held Phoebe back, preparing to jab. “I can’t hold back now, it seems?”
He thrust his rapier forward, unleashing a phantonic beam of his own—although it was thinner than Derek’s. Seeing the attack coming, Derek retaliated by swinging his fist at it—the blue radiating out of him easily knocking away the blue from Thomas.
“The difference between our phantons is becoming more apparent…” Thomas sighed, dashing forward. “I’ve got to end this quickly!”
“We’re both in a rush—let’s finish this up!” Derek smashed his fist into Thomas’ blade, the eruption of phantons blanketing what was left of the store. Winona shifted her foot, erecting a small stone barrier to protect the group from the impact. She kept her eyes on her father the entire time.
“What do we do…!?”
Outside, Faith and Charlotte were well aware of the strange activity happening off in the distance.
“We need to get over there!” Faith begged, trying to pull Charlotte in the store’s direction.
“Faith—we need to be careful—you should know this. With our current strength, we have to find a practical way to help.”
“We will!” Faith said with strong determination. “Regardless of how we do it, I’m going to fight! We’ll see this through to the end!”
“Good resolve…” Charlotte smiled softly. “Let’s—” Her eyes widened upon feeling a strange sensation.
“What’s up Char—” Faith went silent. She pointed over toward the police station. “What is…?”
Charlotte turned—the green light confirming her suspicion. “Again!? Emma!”
“Wait, this is what happened before!?” Faith asked, prepared to blitz over to help her sister.
“Should we split up…?” Charlotte questioned, holding Faith’s arm while trying to contemplate. “You want to go help out Emma, but I may be more effective against that strange power of her’s…”
“W-Whatever you think…!” Faith began to panic. “We just need to come up with a decision, and fast!”
Out of the corner of their eyes, the two noticed black energy suddenly surround Miles’ unconscious body.
“What the—” Charlotte formed a tiny knife, flinging it at the mass. It did nothing—Miles quickly vanishing. “Dammit…! They must be rescuing their fallen comrades!”
“…Let’s leave it alone for now. We’ve already got enough on our plate!” Faith yelled, still trying to think while also waiting for Charlotte’s input on their current situation.
“All right. Why don’t we—” Charlotte gasped.
“What is it!?”
Charlotte simply pointed her trembling finger to their east. Faith turned, swallowed by the same terror that had struck her friend.
Limping toward them was Medusa. The demon’s appearance was enough to shock anyone who witnessed it. However, it was not the most horrific feature this beast brought.
Medusa was holding a blood-soaked severed head—torn right off the unknown individual.
In the woods, Muraco suddenly jumped up in surprise. Brandon noticed this, drearily looking at the rabbit.
“Hey, what’s your problem!”
“Idiot, look!” Muraco pointed over toward Ivan, where another black mass had formed.
“Gah! What the—”
Before the two could move in, their enemy had already disappeared.
“H-He’s gone! Dammit! What just happened!?” Brandon shouted while surveying the ground where Ivan lied moments prior.
“It was the same energy that warped us here. They used it to save their ally, it seems.” Muraco explained. His expression grew solemn.
“Now that I got a good feel on it, it does feel exactly like the same kind of power that Brandon used…”
Faith formed a flame in her hand while Charlotte formed a sword in her own. The two prepared for Medusa to charge directly at them.
They immediately froze upon staring into the demon’s hellish eyes.
“W-What is this power…? I can’t move…!” Charlotte’s sword fell, smashing apart on the ground.
“This thing is… stopping us from moving with a mere glance?” Faith’s flame vanished—the embers blown away by a slight breeze.
The head that Medusa held in its hand began to disintegrate into black ash, merging with the beast’s body.
“I-It assimilated that person’s head…” Charlotte struggled to speak. “Has it been killing people to stock up on power!?”
“Is that what’s it’s doing…?” Faith couldn’t help but feel queasy. “What a monster…!”
In the next moment, Medusa leaped at the two girls without warning. It did not matter at this point if they were ready—they were restricted by the demon’s strange power.
Faith and Charlotte fell into despair, accepting that they could do nothing to prevent Medusa from ripping them to shreds.
A bright light flew between the two—Adam striking Medusa with an Overlay-covered kick. The force knocked the beast away, saving the girls just in time.
“Adam…!” Faith’s eyes filled with joy.
“I… thought I sensed you coming. Couldn’t be sure, though.” Charlotte sighed in relief.
“We do have a lot going on over here as well. Geez…” Adam glanced back at the station, blanketed in green light. “It’s that bastard’s power again…”
“A-Adam!” Winona noticed his arrival and sprinted over. “You need to help us!”
“What’s going on over—” Adam paused, grimacing at the swelling energy off in the distance. “This is…!”
“I don’t know what’s happening! My dad says he’s merging with another timeline—or whatever—and the overwhelming power is going to tear his body apart!”
“Timeline? So is this for real…?” Adam held his chest. “I’m not going crazy…?”
“So, she was right…” The inner voice sighed. “I didn’t want to believe it. I did all of this to help you against the trials you face, but it seems to be causing unnecessary dread, huh…?”
“Well, what do I do?” Adam asked himself. The three surrounding him looked curiously at his actions.
“Should I tell you…? Will it affect this timeline in another way…? No… I can’t let that happen. Maybe I should step back… It’s already too much to lose Cody to this. If anyone else were to get involved…”
“Hey—I asked you what the hell do I do!?” Adam roared. Faith held out her hands, wanting to reach out to him.
“Adam, what are you—”
“Dammit! If you’re not going to help out, then why did you show up in the first place!?” Adam groaned, stepping toward Ann’s. “I’ll have to use Reflection… I let the World Mirror study the properties of the phenomenon, then proceed to deal with it based on I learned! It’s worked so far… somehow! Freaking—don’t worry, Win! I’ll help him!”
Adam started to run toward Cody, who was already covered head to toe with blue phantonic cracks.
“Adam, look out—”
Adam turned to Faith’s voice, which was yelling out to him. Before he could see her, Medusa struck him, smashing his throat. This blow would have easily torn Adam’s head off if it was not for his quick thinking—gathering energy in his neck at that moment.
Medusa knocked Adam back, falling to the ground—blood splattering everywhere from his fresh wound.
“Guh!” Adam held his throat in absolute agony, attempting to channel more of the World Mirror’s energy to restore it.
“Adam!” Faith and Charlotte yelled simultaneously, still taking care of focusing on Medusa’s movements. The demon made a high raucous noise, licking Adam’s blood off of its hand.
Winona stared at Adam in despair, as the only possible way in saving her father had just been temporarily taken out of commission. She slowly turned, knowing time was up.
Cody saw Winona and was able to give her one last smile before the phantons disintegrated his body.
Next: Chapter 2.34
Previous: Chapter 2.32
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON: