Derek stopped dead in his tracks upon a sudden chill surging through him. He turned, looking back toward Prelude—anxiety taking over. The trees in Daybreak Forest swayed with a slight gust of wind passing through.
“I… I’m almost there,” Derek looked down at Lucy, still unconscious in his arms. “Chris, hang in there…” He took a few cautious steps—the soft soil underneath his feet sinking slightly. “Once I hand this girl over to him… it’ll all be over.”
Derek focused his Ability into his legs, kicking off the ground—dust scattering about as he dashed forward, almost near Minuet.
Several yards behind him, the ghastly glow of Adam’s Outline filled the dark, cloud-covered woods as the boy was honing in on Derek.
“I’ve almost got it down…” Adam examined his body as he evaded tree after tree. “Using Redirection around my body while Outline is active, I can manipulate the force of the air going against my body.”
Wind formed around the boy as his speed began to accelerate. Bushes and branches were torn to shreds as Adam soared ahead. It would not be long now until Derek noticed Adam’s presence closing in behind him.
“I need to save Lucy… no matter what.” He held his head, experiencing a slight pain. “That’s all that matters right now.”
Emma’s roars shook the area, ripping apart the remains of the police station. Brandon held his position, being pushed back by the tremendous force. Pam and Charlotte moved up next to him as the dragon-possessed girl started to calm down.
“Brandon, you’re okay!” Charlotte sighed in relief. “Thanks for the save. You’ve gotten pretty fast.”
“Heh… I wouldn’t thank me. I’m pretty worn out right now. I’m not sure I can be much help with… whatever’s happening to Emma.” Brandon clenched his hand while glaring ahead.
“I need to get serious…” Pam stepped forward. “I need to go at her like… like I’m going in for the kill. It’s the only way to hold off that kind of power that she can easily generate.”
“Y-You can’t…!” Brandon pleaded. “There’s gotta be something we can do to save her!”
Pam smiled. “You and Charlotte need a breather. Talk with Jerry while I hold her off for a bit. I’m sure the three of you can come up with something.” She looked ahead toward her daughter, who started to slowly creep in their direction. “I… I’d rather die myself than let something happen to her. At the same time, if it’ll put everyone in danger, I can’t die… I have to fight for as long as I can. For everyone—including Emma.”
Steam erupted from Pam’s body, causing Brandon and Charlotte to move back from her. Charlotte shook her head.
“She can still generate some substantial power with her steam, but it’s not enough to counter the kind of strength Emma’s been creating!”
“You’re right…” Pam nodded—a cocky smile forming on her face. “I guess I’ll have to step it up a notch, huh?”
“Your flames are so strong, Becca!” A Pam in her early twenties cheered in admiration upon seeing her best friend slice the boulder in front of them with ease.
Rebecca turned to her—her gray eyes glowing with the azure flame emitting from her black blade. “Thanks!” She smiled, brushing her long, curly black hair out of her face. “Pam! You should totally do what I do!”
“What you do…?” Pam questioned, staring at the blade Rebecca was tapping lightly on with her finger.
“We both have a chokutō for a weapon—mine’s black with your’s is white. It’s totally symbolic! We should learn some similar skills!”
“I-I still don’t understand what you’re getting at!” Pam brought out her weapon from it’s Core, analyzing it. “My blade, Aeolus, stores up the steam I emit, while your blade, Hestia, stores up flames you create. How—”
“See, they’re totally similar—in a way—aren’t they?” Rebecca snickered. “But, no. Want me to teach you a little trick I’ve created? It’s totally difficult to do, but I know you can figure it out!”
“I’m… nowhere near as strong as you…” Pam sighed. “How can you think I—”
“You stop with that.” Rebecca wagged her finger in Pam’s face. “Guess what? You can totally do anything that I can do! You just have to apply yourself!”
“I…” Pam could not figure out what to say in response to her friend’s words.
Rebecca’s sword lit up with fierce flames. Although, to Pam’s surprise, they were orange instead of their usual shade of blue. “These are what my flames are supposed to look like.”
“Do… Do you just heat them up enough to where they become blue?” Pam asked. “I can see you being able to do that.”
Rebecca shook her head. “I mean, I could. But what I do gives me a lot more power.” With a tiny twitch of her hand, the flames ignited, forming into their usual azure splendor.
“What do you do…?” Pam was curious as she stared in awe at the flames she both loved and envied.
“I call it ‘Azure Layer,’” Rebecca answered. “You use phantons when you use your Ability—that’s obvious. But what about the other phantons you have? You should have some leftover, right?”
“I’m not sure about that…” Pam chuckled awkwardly. “Using Steam Engine tires me right out.”
“You do—I know you do.” Rebecca giggled. She swung Hesita around a few times, taking care of keeping the flames on the blade. “I picture myself as a fireplace. That totally sounds weird, but stay with me. The logs in the fireplace—we can consider those the leftover phantons. Using my flames I’m already generating with my Ability, I ‘ignite’ those phantons, which fuel my flames and create the power I use.”
“I… guess I get it?” Pam shrugged. “I’m not sure exactly how to go about doing something like that.”
“No matter what’s on the outside, your mind and your heart are your most powerful weapons. Never forget that.” Rebecca grinned. “Take what I just explained to you and figure it out. It seriously would be totally cool if we could have matching powers!”
Although Pam smiled in return, nodding at Rebecca’s words, her doubt still plagued her. After all, her best friend, Rebecca Grayson, was one of the world’s strongest.
“It’s time, Becca…!” Pam tossed her blade to the side. “I need to focus…” She closed her eyes. “It’s in my Ability’s name—Steam Engine. My phantons—the coals—will aid in powering myself up!”
The steam emitting from her body began to change—the ferocious white shifting into a wispy blue. Her skin began to form a slight light-blue tint. Charlotte was amazed at the sight in front of her.
“Th-That’s more like it…” She took a step back. “What is she doing? This concentration of energy is like—”
“Azure Layer: Steam Engine!” Pam roared at the energy exploded out of her—the sheer force pushing everyone back. “Are you ready, Emma? This is gonna hurt a bit—bear with it for now!”
Energy began to form in between Emma’s horns once more. Despite how swiftly the power could be concentrated, it did not matter. In an instant—as if she teleported—Pam dashed directly at Emma, smashing her into the ground with a mighty punch to the face.
“D-Damn! I couldn’t even see that!” Brandon yelled, astonished.
Emma, using some sort of mysterious force, pushed herself back up, standing like she was moments before. She began to slash at her mother with her claws, which Pam was able to almost effortlessly avoid. With a sudden kick to the chest, Emma was sent skyrocketing out of the area.
“I’ll buy some time fighting her away from here! Time to think of a strategy, guys!” Pam yelled back as she shot off toward her daughter. The two were now out of sight—the trees surrounding the ruined station blocking their view. They quickly heard the sound of continuous clashing in the distance—gales rattling the area.
“I can’t think of anything with our current situation.” Jerry cautiously stepped forward with the danger temporarily out of the way. “If we had the power to do so, we could potentially… No, no. That wouldn’t work… would it?”
“Tell us,” Brandon demanded bluntly. “We can work off of it.”
“W-Well…” Jerry scratched his head. “Block was the program keeping that energy in check this whole time. Now that the system running the program is gone, the energy is running rampant. If we could restore the system, then it could stop it again, yes? Problem with that, though—I’m not sure how to reverse that transformation that’s going on… If we had absolute control over everything—meaning no risk of the energy going crazy—then we can deal with that.”
“So, the main thing is to get Block up and running again, yeah?” Brandon nodded, turning his attention to the sound of combat. “We lack power? Do we need some kind of supercomputer to run it?”
Jerry tilted his head at the oddity of Brandon following along with what he was discussing. “Well, not a supercomputer. We managed to build a good enough system in Twine’s basement. The only other place that could come close to it—that’s around here—would be at my house. Block is backed up there, after all. But it wouldn’t be enough to get it running—we’ve tried it before.”
“This is gonna be a weird question to ask—” Brandon held his head. Jerry swore he saw tiny sparks fly out of it. “Can you get Block onto your phone? Like, can you download it wirelessly from your house to your phone?”
“Y-Yeah, I can. There’s no way in hell I can run the thing off of it, though—”
“That’s fine!” Brandon smirked. “If you can get it here, I’ll take care of the rest.”
“You’ll take care of…?” Jerry’s eyes widened. “Your Ability…?”
“You can do something like that?” Charlotte asked, keeping her attention toward the battle near them. “Amplify that thing using your electricity?”
“I was going to do that, but nah. I’ve got to do something far beyond that.”
“What the hell do you have in mind?” Jerry questioned skeptically. “To manipulate your Ability to that degree—”
“Emma’s spine is like its own computer—or whatever—right? Well then, it’s simple…” Brandon chuckled, tapping the back of his neck. “I’ll just take Block off of your phone and install it into her spine!”
Jerry was bewildered at Brandon’s plan. “…t-to manipulate your Ability to that degree…” He shook his head. Besides, you’re in no condition to try something with that many precise calculations.”
“I’ve got to do it, no matter what.” Brandon cracked his knuckles. “It’s simple.”
“It’s not simple, Brandon!” Jerry yelled. “Do you even realize how—”
Charlotte grabbed Jerry’s hand, turning toward Brandon. “We’ll have to try it. I have an idea of my own that can help out.”
“You do?” Brandon asked. Charlotte walked over to him and glanced back at Jerry.
“I’d get that thing onto your phone. We don’t have much time.”
Jerry sighed, beginning to tap away at the device. “I’ll trust you guys…”
Brandon was flustered, Charlotte now holding both of his shoulders. “W-What’s your plan…?”
“Phantons are capable of resonating with each other. It’s been pretty obvious to me for a while now, but—”
“She’s right,” Jerry butted in. “Even if they’re from different sources, they can still resonate, and generate a varying amount of power in that act alone based on—”
Charlotte was glaring at Jerry, motioning to him that he needed to focus on getting the app onto his phone.
“My bad, my bad…”
“Anyway, I notice that whenever I possess people, this happens with my phantons and their own. My idea is to have zero resistance in a possession… A consensual possession, if you will. Using my Ouderkirk powers, I can take advantage of that boost and—without the resistance I usually feel when I do it—we can generate some good power, despite our current state!”
Jerry once again turned his attention away from his device. “My god… I would have never thought to try something like that. You’d be combining both your talents as a spirit and as an Ouderkirk! That’s…” He began to mumble upon receiving cold stares from his friends, returning to his task once more.
“So… I have to give you consent to be… possessed? Is that all it takes, on my end?” Brandon asked anxiously.
“Well, that and…” Charlotte paused. “Listen… Brandon. This is going to be sensitive stuff for me to deal with—I barely have any strength left. But it should work as our last resort. It’s… a last resort for a good reason.”
“W-Well, just tell me! What’s the catch!?”
“You won’t resist this, which means I’ll have easy access to everything inside you. Memories, feelings, all of that. That alone might be too much, but…”
“T-That’s fine…! I don’t care! See all my weird shit! If we can get the strength to finish this, then—”
“…To make the power resonate properly… I have to do the same.” Charlotte took a long, deep breath. “…You’ll be the first person to ever see the outside perspective…”
“Of… Of what?” Brandon chuckled awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head.
“Of something nobody should ever see, or… experience…”
Next: Chapter 2.40
Previous: Chapter 2.38
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