Winona took a stroll around the garden in her backyard. Daisies, daffodils, peonies, tulips, pansies, and petunias were a few flowers out of the enormous variety that the vibrant garden held.
She had put a lot of effort into growing everything over the last six years with her father. It was an important place for her, and she took extra care to make sure it wasn’t ruined.
Winona leaned over a spot where a few sunflowers were growing. They seemed to be one of the only plants that were struggling. She put her hand on the ground in front of the flowers, as she closed her eyes.
“The soil seems… yeah—the soil is fine. It must be something else.” She stood up and gazed around at the colorful display surrounding her.
“My Concept involves the earth itself… I’ve done so much to this soil to help everything grow, but…” She played with one of the gemstones in her hair—this time, choosing the blue jewel. “Maybe it’s too much?”
Winona lied down on the soil, placing her ear against it. “The plants help each other grow, and at the same time, do not hinder each other. That’s the network I’ve been working on for years now. I’ll have to think of what could be causing this.” She could feel the vibrations of the earth—something she had begun to learn recently. Using this power, she senses an area below the garden.
“I wonder if it has anything to do with that…”
She felt footsteps approach her—familiar ones that did not alarm her whatsoever. With the tapping of a cane as it made contact with the ground, Winona’s father—Jericho Caldera—approached her.
“The earth talking to ya? What’s it saying, honey?” He chuckled as his dark brown eyes peered through the lens of his black-rimmed glasses at his daughter’s antics.
“You know I like to focus on everything, Dad,” Winona pouted. “I can’t miss a single detail…”
Jericho’s cane—silver in color with a dark blue handle and tip at the end—struck the soil next to Winona. She slowly began to levitate off the ground, waving her arms frantically as her father used his Concept of gravity to lift her up onto her feet.
“You’ll get dirty down there. Wait…” Jericho scratched his chin. “You could just control the dirt and get it off of you that way… Huh. I’m not used to you having a Concept.”
“It’s been a few years now, Dad,” Winona sighed. “How are you not used to it by now? I’m always using it out here.”
Jericho chuckled, glancing around at all the hard work Winona had put into the garden. “In an odd way, I guess forgetting you have these powers helps me remind me of raising you. Like your sister, once you awakened your Concept, you gained an understanding of the real world. You—in a sense—grew up…”
“Dad…” Winona shook her head with a bittersweet smile. “I’m just getting started. My work with Unity begins soon… I’ll be closer to Cynthia again. And once we settle things, we can all return here… as a family.”
“Settle things…” Jericho looked up toward the sky. “I truly hope you, Faith, and the others can finally do something about the mess Unity is. Going into it with the intentions the organization is supposed to have—protecting the people—will certainly be a good starting point. Cynthia couldn’t do that… my generation couldn’t do that. Truth be told, I would love to kick the crap out of that man for what he’s done, but…”
“Yeah, your back…” Winona peered off to the side, looking at a red rose that gently blew in the breeze.
“I’ve had to walk around like an old man for years now! I’m not that old! I’m the same age as Pam, and she’s still active.”
“Pam… Cynthia… and—you, to be honest. How bad has it been? For real? You never go into detail…”
Jericho tried to think of what to say, with a sigh involuntarily coming out in response. “W-Well… I still have to go on missions, even with my back the way it is. Even with my Concept helping me, I still can’t draw out my full potential. And it sucks. It really does.”
“I… feel like ‘it sucks’ doesn’t do it justice.” Winona paused. “Cynthia… hasn’t been the same. Ever since they took her by force… She refused—she wanted to stay, but…”
“Yeah, it doesn’t work that way, at the moment…” Jericho shook his head. “You have no idea how much I curse my own weakness, sweetie… I want to keep you two safe, but—”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Winona assured him as she clenched her fist. “You stay here and relax with Mom. You’ve done enough. It’s my turn. I’ll do my best—I’ll get Cynthia to help as well!”
Jericho could not help but smile at the courage his daughter possessed. “Heh… I’m not sure if I can relax, exactly. I’ll try. And in any way possible, I’ll help you two.”
Winona embraced her father, snuggling up close to him. “Thank you… I know how hard it is for you.”
“Heh… I’m glad I raised you right. If only…”
She looked up at him—an earnest expression on her face. “You raised Cynthia right, as well. Don’t you worry.”
Jericho sighed, patting his daughter on the back. “I sure hope so, kiddo…”
“Oh!” Winona jumped up. “I wanted to ask something!”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“The abandoned mine below the town… how much do you know about it?”
Emma sat in the waiting room at Thomas’ office. She furiously mashed buttons on her handheld gaming console, humming to the chiptune of the game she was playing.
“Is that Shadow Sea Adventures? Man, that’s an old game.”
Roger Oaks was a friend of Emma’s who was here for an appointment as well. He looked over and adjusted his glasses to try to see her progress in the game.
“Wow, that’s gotta be one of those hidden bonus levels. I’ve never seen that one before.” Roger rustled his curly black hair as he attempted to remember the specifics of each level.
“Yeah, it took me a while to finally unlock it.” Emma sighed. “Now I can’t even beat it! That’s stupid eye thing keeps getting in my way!”
The door leading into the exam room opened up, as Thomas entered—yawning loudly.
“Roswell. Emma Roswell. You’re up next, whoever you are.”
“Haha, very funny.” Emma sat up from her chair. “I really hope you know who I am at this point.”
“Yeah… It’s just not a good joke. Didn’t work with Adam, either.” Thomas sighed. “Well, head on in whenever you’re ready.”
“Good luck, Emma! I know this is serious stuff for you.”
Emma turned to Roger and smiled. “Thanks. I know I do.” She held up the game she was playing in front of Roger. “Here, wanna try the level out while I’m in there?”
“Huh?” Roger was surprised. “But if you’re having trouble, I doubt I can do anything!”
Handing Roger the game, Emma walked over to the door. She looked back and grinned.
“It’s your turn now. You got this!”
Emma sat in the office with Thomas. She had her shirt removed so that her front was covered, yet her back was bare, showing a massive scar that went from the top to the bottom of her spine.
Thomas held a handheld device capable of scanning the inside of a person, almost like an x-ray. Yet this device was made using phantonic technology and could get a reading of how things looked based on the phantons within a person, and how they circulated around the body.
Thomas pressed the scanner up to Emma’s back, starting to carefully move it around. He had a laptop off to the side, which monitored the process.
“That’s good. I know we had that issue for a while where it hurt whenever it was touched.”
Emma remained silent throughout the process. After a few minutes, Thomas was already finished with the scan.
“All right, very good. No issues. That’s the Miracle Girl for you.”
Emma sighed as she got herself dressed. “Seriously, what a stupid nickname.”
Thomas chuckled. “Well, nobody ever expected a spine to be completely rebuilt like that. Even with the advances in the last decade, it’s still nearly impossible.”
“Well, they should seriously work on that. I know there’s a lot of people out there who could use this kind of thing.”
Thomas began writing notes on a piece of paper—smirking as his mind immediately thought of Jericho. “Well, that whole incident involving that fire was bizarre. If only…” He shook his head. “Nah, nevermind.”
Emma stood up, thinking of the events that led her to obtain her scar.
“I know the exact part of the house that fell on me. It hurt so much. I thought my fragile little body was gonna be split in half. Somehow, the house got fixed. My body didn’t. I thought I wouldn’t be able to have a normal life. Yet somehow, here I am.”
Thomas tapped his pen on the desk. “Well, if you are gonna go into Unity, there is the obvious problem that remains.” He turned toward Emma. “If you end up awakening to a Concept someday, it might affect how your artificial spine works. I’m sure your mother has talked to you about it.”
Emma nodded. Thomas got another piece of paper and began to draw on it.
“The artificial metal created known as phantonite. It was named that due to how it interacts with phantons, and can even change its shape. I’m sure you not only learned that in school but with your Unity training as well. As you know, most weapons used are created with phantonite.”
Thomas has drawn a sword on the left side of the paper, while he worked on a spine on the right side.
“With your spine, we did some tweaking with phantonite to reform it. A lot went into its design, and miraculously it worked out. We ran into an issue pretty quickly, however.”
Emma stretched her body. “My own phantons interfering with it.”
“Yeah. We had to come up with a little shell around your spine that would prevent interference. It was… very tricky. But we managed. Now, the only issue you seem to have at this point is a little discomfort during thunderstorms, right?”
“Freaking hate electricity,” Emma stated. Thomas chuckled at her response.
“So, if you go without unlocking a Concept, you’ll probably be fine. However, if that happens, we’ll have to re-examine that shell and do some major modifications, since obtaining a Concept makes a drastic change in phantonic activity.” Thomas was stern in his expression.
“I can’t promise you that things will go as well this time around. It’s very sensitive stuff to deal with.”
Emma smiled. “Well, if it ever happens—” She flexed her arm as the smile turned into a huge grin. “I’ll just face whatever becomes of it!”
Thomas seemed content with Emma’s response. “You definitely have optimism. You get that from your mother—actually, no. More so from your father.”
“Well, I remember him being so charismatic. I can’t believe my mom married a guy like that. But still, I miss him…” Emma walked over toward the exit and leaned her back against it.
“Faith and I know how Unity is. Our mom has shared all of that with us. But still, it’s an opportunity to make things right at the same time. We both want to go through with it and protect everything special to us.” She nodded.
“That’s why I’ll face whatever happens—like I said. Even if I lose any means of mobility, I still won’t give up!”
Initially, Thomas smiled at her. Upon turning to write down a few more notes, his expression grew incredibly somber.
“Losing your mobility is one thing… I’m not sure you understand how deep this goes. It’s just another reason as to why I…” He clenched his fist around the pen, almost snapping it in two.
Next: Chapter 12
Previous: Chapter 10
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON: