“Dad… No…” Winona fell to her knees, watching the phantons that were once within her father ascend, taking the dust that remained with them.
Jerry and Travis stood there in silence. Eventually, the red-haired boy sat down, punching the ground below him. “God… dammit! What were we supposed to do!?”
“Cody…” Travis was shaking. “Why did this happen to you… Just, what…” His voice trailed off.
Thomas managed to take his eyes off of the battle, glancing over where his friend had just perished. “What… happened? Cody…”
“This is the way the world works,” Derek stated. “You can lose someone precious to you at any time. I’m not sure what just happened, personally, but it does not matter to me. What does matter—”
Unleashing phantons from the soles of his feet, Derek leaped toward Jerry and Travis.
“—is succeeding in my mission!”
Jerry realized that Lucy was currently on the floor next to him. Nobody was holding her—leaving her wide open. “Dammit…!”
Lucy was grabbed by Derek before Jerry could even move. Thomas had attempted to attack the man in the process, but could not, as Derek had picked the absolute perfect moment to make his move—one where all present were distracted enough.
“He’s going to get away…” Thomas started to chase after him, proceeding to trip and fall down. “My body’s at its limit…!”
Winona was the only one close enough to potentially save Lucy. Of course, there was no way she was in a state where she could react in time. With tears running down her face, she attempted to use her own dust in the air to bring back the ashes of her father.
“Dad… I wanted all of us… together again. I wanted Cynthia to come back and… and then we could have been a real family again…” Winona collected the ash into the palms of her hands, while tears soaked into them.
Charlotte and Faith were well aware of the current situation, although they could not do anything to help. Medusa started stomping on the ground repeatedly, seeming to prepare for another attack.
“…Faith, let’s do this. We’ll take this thing down, and we’ll save Lucy. We won’t lose anything else.”
“Yeah…” Faith took a deep breath, forming a veil of flames around her. “Once Adam gets up, the three of us will work together and win!”
“He should be getting back up in a minute. The World Mirror works wonders like that…” Charlotte looked over at the boy on the ground, feeling an odd sensation come from the white energy emitting from him. “Adam…?”
Adam managed to regenerate his esophagus, while the rest of what was lost was not that far behind.
“I see… I see…” Adam managed to whisper. He sat up—the World Mirror finishing up its handiwork. “I see…”
“Are you okay, Adam?” Faith asked him.
“Derek took Lucy, huh? All right, then. I should go and stop him… But first, let me make it clear to all of you, inside my head and out—”
Adam ran forward with blinding speed, jabbing Overlay-covered fingers into Medusa’s eyes.
“I’m no goddamn hero. Never expect me to do anything even close to what a hero does.”
Medusa wailed in pain, ripping itself away from Adam. He proceeded to kick the beast away from him, sending it a few feet away.
“I…” Winona silenced her sobs, which Adam noticed.
“I’m not speaking to you specifically, Winona. I would have saved your dad if I was able to. There’s some extra bullshit that’s happening on top of everything. It was annoying as shit, but now that it’s claimed an innocent life, I’m done.”
“Adam, what are you—” Faith was interrupted by a glare from Adam.
“I believe in you and Charlotte. Finish this thing off while I go take care of Derek. We’re going to tear everything down until we get our peaceful town back.”
“We… We got it,” Charlotte nodded. “We’ll handle things here. How did you know to strike at its eyes?”
“I can see it focusing all of its chaons toward its eyes. I figured it did something with that to keep you guys from moving. You’re not two that just sit there and let something attack you.”
Charlotte sighed. “Well, actually, I just stood there and let that Miles kid grab me…”
“Well, whatever happened, don’t beat yourself up over it. Mistakes can be made…” Adam looked at Medusa, who was attempting to regenerate its eyes. “I’ve made plenty of them, and I’ll probably make many more from this point forward.”
Faith approached Adam, gently placing her hand on his arm. “Listen, Adam—”
“I’m your hero, right?” Adam asked her.
Faith’s eyes widened. Before she could respond, Adam continued.
“I don’t consider myself one. Nobody should. The idea of a true hero just… isn’t plausible.”
While Adam and Faith had their discussion, Charlotte managed to form a sword and begin swiping at Medusa. The demon managed to stumble out of the way, evading multiple attacks that she attempted.
“What do you mean by that?” Faith questioned, staring down at the arm she still held.
“It’s actually pretty obvious, and I don’t see why the world just… doesn’t seem to understand it.” Adam took a long, deep breath, exhaling slowly.
“This world isn’t black and white. It’s entirely filled with gray.”
With those words, Adam leaped off in the direction that Derek had gone. Faith watched in silence as the boy cloaked in white disappeared from her vision within seconds.
“Gray, huh…?” Faith looked at the ground, shaking her head. “That… does make sense, though. Of course, not everything’s in black and white. Is that why we can’t understand anything? Do we just not look at the world the way we’re supposed to?”
“Of course not!” Charlotte yelled at her, landing next to her. “I know we have a lot to process right now, but we don’t have the time to talk about it! Help me finish this thing off before its eyes heal up!”
“R-Right!” Faith stepped forward, strengthening her flames once more. Charlotte stood next to her.
“Timelines, huh? It seems like they very well could be real… I didn’t really have any doubt though, after what I’ve seen.”
“Huh? What have you seen? Wait—didn’t you say we shouldn’t talk!?” Faith asked, scratching her head in confusion.
Charlotte smiled, wielding her blade in front of her. “I’ve seen something certainly worth fighting for. If you knew what it was, you would agree with me…”
“Y-You can’t tell me?”
“I don’t want something to happen, causing more damage,” Charlotte breathed in, accessing her white-haired form. “Just trust me when I say: we need to keep fighting!”
“Well, I wasn’t gonna disagree with that!” Faith smirked, readying herself for combat. The quick bout Charlotte had with Medusa was capable of preventing the beast from healing its eyes.
If they were to defeat it, they would have to act right at that moment.
Charlotte was the first to move, thrusting her sword at the beast. Unlike her previous attempt, she managed to slash the side of the Medusa, successfully tearing away a good chunk of flesh.
“I figured this form would work a lot better. I can’t stay in it for too much longer!”
“I’ve got your back!” Faith shouted at Charlotte, managing to strike Medusa with a fierce flaming fist.
Charlotte followed up immediately, slashing at the back of the demon’s neck. Her sword had already begun to grow brittle, only managing to give Medusa a good whack.
“Damn!” Charlotte cursed. “I can’t finish it off like this!”
“Keep hitting it, Charlotte! I’ll do the finishing blow!”
Charlotte did not doubt Faith, following along with her plan. She struck at Medusa several times, causing massive blunt damage. The beast attempted to slash in retaliation while Charlotte blocked the blows with her blade.
Her sword shattered—leaving Charlotte wide-open for an attack. Medusa, sensing the opportunity, manipulated the tendrils on top of its head to strike down at the ghost. At the last moment, Charlotte leaped backward, using a small amount of flight to move out of the way.
This pattern continued—Medusa now focusing entirely on expanding its tendrils to attack. Charlotte, at this point, could only evade. She managed to keep her white-haired form active, which most likely saved her from getting struck.
In the meantime, Faith had formed a flaming Roswell Sphere in her hand.
“I can’t attack while they’re moving around like that… I’ve gotta…!”
With determination boiling up inside of her, Faith ran into the fray. Charlotte noticed this, attempting to completely garner Medusa’s attention.
“Adam… I don’t care what you say. Heroes can exist. I’ll show you, you stubborn idiot…”
Faith chucked the sphere at Medusa, which rocketed directly at the beast.
However, Medusa noticed this, moving out of the way at the last second. Faith’s attack was now heading in Charlotte’s direction.
This did not matter. Faith and Charlotte grinned as the Ouderkirk caught the sphere, not causing damage whatsoever simply due to Faith’s desire for it not to hurt her.
“We’ll see ya later, demon!”
Charlotte smashed the flaming sphere into Medusa’s back, causing a massive explosion the second it made an impact. The entire area was covered in raging flames, which only burned the beast that had been struck.
Faith manipulated the flames to surround Medusa, trapping it inside. Although, both of the girls were certain that they were successful in their attack.
“Just in case—” Faith looked at Charlotte. “I’m going to stay here. Charlotte, please go save my sister!”
“A-Are you sure?” Charlotte asked her worriedly. “Shouldn’t you be—”
“I need to be here right now.” Faith glanced over at Winona, who was staring off into space. Jerry was next to her while Travis had met back up with Thomas.
“Right… You can count on me.” Charlotte assured her. Fading back to her black-haired form, she ran over to Jerry. “Can you come with me? I need your help at the station.”
“I-I mean, I can see why, since I’m the one who originally stopped that energy from going out of control. But in this situation… And right now—” He looked at Winona.
Charlotte leaned on her knee in front of Winona, grabbing her shoulders. Winona managed to look at her.
“Winona. I’ll help you in any way possible to deal with this… I’m so sorry…” She quickly embraced the gloomy girl. “B-But right now…”
“I know… I shouldn’t grief. We’re in the middle of a battle…” Winona nodded, weakly returning the hug. “I just want to know… How? Why?”
“We’re going to find those answers—I promise you,” Charlotte affirmed, placing her hand on Winona’s head. “We’ll start the search right here, right now. Through this battle… Through all the battles in the future—we’ll search for the truth to this world!”
“Yeah… We will…” Winona nodded, slowly standing up. “I won’t leave Faith’s side, don’t worry.”
“I’ll stay here too.” Thomas barged in, stretching out his now sore body. “I can trust Jerry to handle things back at the station, right?” He playfully nudged his son’s arm.
“Do you really think I can…?” Jerry asked, now having doubts about himself.
“Of course you can. You’re better than me, you know?”
“Huh? How!?” Jerry asked, quite surprised.
“You’ve got both things down—a head and a heart. With both of those, you can figure a way out of anything.” Thomas gave him a thumbs up.
“Dad…” Jerry slowly nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
“Come on, fake boyfriend,” Charlotte grabbed Jerry. “We’ve gotta get over there. We’re running—I want to conserve my energy.”
“Wait, we’re running!?” Jerry whined. “Sure, you may conserve energy, but what about me!?”
“Just grin and bear it for now!” Charlotte yelled, dragging the boy away.
“Should I go there too?” Travis asked the man.
“Nah, stay here with us.” Thomas leaned in, whispering into Travis’ ear. “I need to discuss what just happened with you.”
“Huh?” Travis attempted to question Thomas, only to be silenced by the man’s hand over his mouth.
Winona walked over to Faith, who was now focused entirely on the fire encapsulating Medusa.
“So this is a chaonic entity, huh?” Winona asked in a melancholic tone.
“This is what Unity’s originally made to fight. Creatures created from chaons, such as this one… Of course, who knows what—”
Winona buried her face into Faith’s shoulder, not making a sound.
Faith simply held her friend in her arm, as gentle and comforting as possible.
“Who knows what we’re really supposed to fight…”
“…This entire world, I think.” Winona responded softly.
“Yeah…” Faith nodded. “That sounds about right.”
Next: Chapter 2.35
Previous: Chapter 2.33
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON: