Chapter 2.34

“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, thanks to these unawakened phantons…!”

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…”

“Oh? 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.

“…Why’s your power colored white, then?” Faith looked at the ground, shaking her head. “That… makes 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 this is a good time to talk about stuff, but it’s also really not a good time to do that! 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

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Novagirl93

Chapter 2.33

“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

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Novagirl93

Chapter 2.32

“What did you do!? What did you do!?” Miles roared, swinging his fist at Charlotte. Despite her successful block using her arm, phantonic energy burst out of her, quickly absorbed by the boy.

“Dammit…” Charlotte jumped away, almost tripping on her own feet. From that one punch, she began to feel woozy. 

“You’re just a mass on energy! I’ll use my hands to rip you to pieces! Damn ghost—how could you do this to her!?”

Miles swung violently, attempting to grab hold of Charlotte at any opportunity he could get. She could not build up the strength to fly away in time, causing her to become locked into a close-quarters evasion game.

“Listen… This is war. This is what happens we two sides go at each other with the intent to kill. To no one’s surprise, people die!” Charlotte shouted right into Miles’ face. “Your friend intended to…” She paused. “Kill… me?”

“You’re already dead! You don’t have the right to mess with the living! I’ll make it so you no longer exist!”

Despite his pure rage, Miles’ statement was still accurate. In Charlotte’s eyes, at least. 

“I…”

Her guard fell. Miles took this opportunity to grab Charlotte by the throat using both of his hands. She immediately felt the phantonic energy discharge out of her—Miles squeezing it out.

“What am I even doing? What am I fighting for…? This feeling… I can’t breathe. I’ve… I’ve felt this pain before…” Charlotte gazed into Miles’ eyes. 

“It certainly wasn’t him… That glare, however. I’ve seen it. Fury. Fury, for no particular reason, taken out on me… There is a reason this time, though. I took a life. When I’m no longer among the living. Even if you’re alive, taking a life is… wrong. It’s wrong. So… What grounds do I even have to do it…?” 

Charlotte did not even make an attempt to struggle her way out. If she had the strength to do so, she still would not bother.

“Yeah… It figures. I never mustered up the energy—that I certainly had—to get those fiends off of me. If I’m going to disappear, this is certainly the way to go. Not fighting—even if I could. Besides, if these memories are the only thing I can remember… Please, just end it. Let me be at peace…”

Charlotte’s vision was blurred. The little that remained visible to her suddenly lit up in vibrant orange light. A few moments passed before Miles slowly released his grasp on her. The next thing Charlotte saw was the boy collapsed onto the ground—his back badly burned.

“Huh…?” 

She fell to her knees, reverting to her black-haired form. Charlotte did not bother catching her breath—not needing to breathe—yet held her throat from the agony she had just received. Looking up, she saw Faith rush toward her.

“Charlotte, are you okay!?” She leaned down, grabbing Charlotte’s shoulders.

“Faith… I… I’m okay…” Charlotte replied—her voice hoarse. 

“Thank goodness… Man, I’m exhausted!” Faith slowly rested her head on Charlotte. “Using my flames like this… I wasn’t ready!” 

“Were you the one fighting in the gas station…? I deflected an attack toward there on accident… How foolish of me…”

“So that’s how that happened!” Faith laughed rather boisterously. “I thought I kept the structure of the building in check during the fight. I see… Yeah, I had to use my flames to guard myself. After that, I had to put out the fire before it spread to the pumps. That obviously wouldn’t be good if they went up in flames.” She folded her arms, nodding to herself. “Yep, yep. I’m really getting this Ability down, aren’t I?” 

Charlotte started to giggle—wrapping her arm around Faith. “What am I honestly doing…? I can’t let you guys face all of this alone, now can I?”

“Hm?” Faith looked at her curiously. 

“I need to stabilize my body—you need to take a breather. Let’s do that. But…” Charlotte glared over toward Ann’s. “We need to get over there as soon as possible.”

“Right…” Faith agreed. “If Win’s in there, I know things will be all right. But… like you said, I can’t let any of you face this alone.” 

“That’s right… I’m not alone in any of this.” Charlotte glanced up at the cloudy sky, which revealed a small speck of blue.

“I may not be alive… I do, however, exist. And it’s worth ‘living’ this existence, isn’t it?”

 

“Muraco!” Brandon attempted to rescue the rabbit lying motionless on the forest floor. A sizeable metallic beast stood in his way—glaring at the boy with literally empty eyes—the eyeballs missing from their dark sockets. The mouth, now filled with razor-sharp fangs, emitted an eerie screeching noise.

“This is… that Ivan guy…? This dude grew twice his size. He’s a huge hunk of demonic phantonite now! He’s pure silver and terror!”

“Brandon…” Muraco slowly raised his head. “Stop analyzing his appearance… You need to get out of here…!” 

“I’m sorry—I pay attention to the finer details when I’m in a panic!” Brandon shouted. “And… hell no! I’m not leaving you here!”

“It caught me off guard… It’s too tough for you to deal with! Get out of here, moron!”

Ivan took a swing at Brandon, who rolled out of the way, preventing his body from being sliced apart by the beast’s sharp claws. 

“Being entirely made of metal now, I can sense his movements pretty easily with my Ability. Still—that doesn’t compensate for the hella power gap I now have with this dude… thing… Okay—just what is he!?”

Ivan roared, continuing to strike at Brandon—hitting the ground each time as the boy continuously jumped to evade the attacks. The air crackled with electricity while Brandon maneuvered around the trees at a swift pace.

He knew he was only delaying the inevitable.

“What do I do…? What do I do…!?” His breathing began to pick up—now composed of shorter, quicker breaths. “If I don’t do something… I’m gonna die. There’s no help—I’m seriously gonna die…!”

Brandon started to feel odd. He felt an overwhelming amount of calmness consume his body. Yet, he could also feel an inner rage swell up within him. It did not make sense to him—it was such a mysterious feeling that it distracted him from the horror currently attacking him.

He did not need to worry, as his body began to move for him. Brandon launched backward off the ground using his leg, moving a significant distance away from Ivan. His Shepherd Surge had faded away at this point—no longer active. 

Muraco struggled to stand. “He’s out of energy…? Dammit! Gotta move!”

Brandon looked at the ground, unable to move his own head up to face the beast that had started to charge after him. Like a puppet, Brandon moved his legs, casually walking forward. Electricity slowly surrounded his body once more.

The blue had now become pitch-black.

Brandon casually waved his hand, touching Ivan’s side. The contact caused an explosion of black lightning, ripping his metal body to shreds—bits and pieces scattering about on the forest floor.

“Guh…!” Ivan coughed up blood as he collapsed. In a panic, he tried to stand back up immediately, struggling as over half of his body was now destroyed. The phantonite attempted to reform his lost limbs, but could not. Overwhelming exhaustion struck Ivan, rendering anything he tried useless.

As the strange black electricity vanished as quickly as it had arrived, Brandon and Muraco’s enemy had been defeated.

“That… electricity…” Muraco stared at the motionless Brandon. “It felt similar to that energy that warped us here…” The rabbit carefully hopped over to the boy, taking precaution near Ivan’s now unconscious body. “Hey… Brandon. What the hell was that?”

“I… need to save her… That’s my role…” Brandon mumbled.

“Huh? Save who? Brandon?” Muraco waved his arms in an attempt to get the boy’s attention. 

Brandon finally gazed up, looking at Muraco. For a moment, Muraco swore he saw Brandon’s eyes glow. “Muraco…? What-What happened?”

“You… defeated this guy? Look—” Muraco pointed at Ivan, who was no longer moving. “I don’t feel like he’s gonna try to get up again after that attack.”

“What attack?” Brandon asked—his enthusiastic personality beginning to return. “W-What!? What did I do!?”

“Good grief…” Muraco sighed. “Is this what I get for getting involved with you guys? I have to deal with all of this weird shit?”

“W-What weird shit!? What happened!? For real! I’m freaking out, man!” Brandon began scratching his hair in a frenzied panic. 

“Well, you’ve still got energy, surprisingly.” Muraco shrugged his shoulders, turning toward Ivan. “And, well… This guy—” He proceeded to stomp on Ivan’s head with his right foot. “You tried, didn’t you? You almost got me, but in the end, you were, in fact, a boring villain. Get comfy—this is where you’ll rust away.”

“Muraco, geez. That’s not how a hero should act!” Brandon yelled, baffled at the rabbit’s behavior.

“That again…” Muraco shook his head. “Well, are you good enough to head back? I’ve been hearing all kinds of noises coming from town. We should hurry!” 

“Yeah, let’s—” Brandon attempted to move, falling flat on his face instead.

“…You don’t have as much energy as I thought.” Muraco sighed. “Need a few minutes?”

Ys plse…” Brandon spoke—his words muffled in the dirt.

 

Adam shook his hand, which was in tremendous pain after striking Carl. He glanced behind him, viewing the damage he had caused. The entire upper half of Carl’s head had been smashed to pieces—black blood oozing from it.

“He’s not dead…” Adam groaned. “Chaonic energy is still dancing around like crazy inside of him.”

“Adam…” Pam slowly approached him. “Seriously… How are you this strong?”

“I… don’t think it’s just me right now…” Adam shook his head. “I know you probably don’t understand what I mean—at all—but I can’t explain right now. I’ve gotta go stop something from happening.”

“Stop what from happening?” Pam asked.

“Stay here and finish this guy off. He’s a problem, after all.”

“And you’re giving me orders!? Adam, just what are you—”

“You need to trust me right now,” Adam stated firmly. “Besides…” He sighed. “Even if I explain, none of it will make sense.”

“How can you be sure about—”

Before Pam could finish speaking, Adam dashed off toward the center of town.

“…I can understand more than you think…” Pam sadly murmured to herself. “I wish you guys would trust me…” She snickered. “What I’m hiding from you, though… Yeah—you’re probably right in not wanting to trust me.”

Pam raised her guard at a sudden chuckle. Looking down, she was stunned to see it originating from Carl’s body.

“There’s no shame in keeping secrets, you know.” He sat up—the black blood bubbling from where Adam had crushed him. His mouth spoke regardless. “Sometimes, there are things people don’t have the right to know.”

“They have the right to know this secret…” Pam gathered steam around her blade. “You can still talk like that!?”

“Yeah, I can. Man—that kid can heal a hell of a blow. His power intrigues me… Could it possibly be the push I’ve been looking for…?”

“What are you saying!? Don’t even think about messing with Adam!” Pam slashed down at Carl, only to be intercepted by Jason’s phantom energy, suddenly appearing out of nowhere.

“Thanks, Jason! You recover some of your strength?” Carl asked as the portion of his head that he lost started growing back, surrounded by blood-like crimson energy.

“I think I’m good enough for a tactical retreat. You need a break after regenerating something like your head, correct?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Carl smirked—his newly formed eyes glaring at Pam. “I guess that’s it for round two. I’ll see you again, Pamela!”

“Wait—” Pam jabbed the ground with her blade, cracking the earth below her with a wave of steam in an attempt to stop Carl. This ended in vain as Jason successfully warped the man away—the shadows fading away. 

“Dammit…!” Pam threw her sword in frustration—the steel striking the rocky terrain, causing a loud metallic bang. “Come on, Pam! You need to step up your game!” 

She sighed while reaching down for her weapon. As she grabbed it, Pam turned around at the sound of a massive crash.

“Wha—”

A dark green mass of energy rocketed out of the front doors, tearing the front of the building to shreds.

 

Jerry had joined Winona and her father, who was still attempting to recover from the strike Derek dealt on him. Travis had finally awoken, yet was unable to fully register the situation around him.

“T-This is what happens when you don’t sleep, kids…” Travis murmured, almost passing back out on the spot. Jerry was able to keep him standing, although almost fell himself keeping the man propped up.

“Anyway, you got Lucy, Win? Let’s take her and your dad and get out of here while my dad’s fighting!” Jerry declared.

“Y-You’re leaving him to fight that guy by himself!?” Winona asked with hesitation in her voice. “But he isn’t—”

Jerry pointed at the fight. Thomas had been tactfully evading all of the blows Derek had attempted on him. The majority of the jabs Thomas countered with also missed their mark, yet a select few were able to create minor scratches.

“My dad messed with his own eyes. There’s technology in them that allows him to track phantonic activity. However this guy plans on using his Ability, he’ll be able to react in time.”    

“A-Amazing…” Winona was stunned. She took a look at Lucy, who was still being held by her. “Jerry, what is this thing on her neck? It caused her to pass out once he placed it on her. Something about suppressing phantonic activity…”

“Huh? Let me see—” Jerry analyzed the strange black device. “I… Uh… Don’t know! Suppressing phantonic activity… Yeah, that makes sense. This might be difficult to remove—we don’t want to hurt her in the process.”  

Cody slowly stood, gaining the attention of the others.

“Hey, Dad!? Are you okay? You shouldn’t push yourself too hard! Thomas has this!”

“Heh…” Cody chuckled, staring at the floor. “That guy’s always full of surprises…” He shook his head. “You all need to get out of here, though…”

“There’s no way I’m letting you continue to fight!” Winona yelled, getting up in her father’s face. “What will Mom say if you come home all messed up!?”

“Mom… Claire, heh…” Cody laughed. “I’ll miss her… I’ll miss you and Cynthia, so much…”

“Huh…? Dad…? W-What are you talking about…?”

Tears rolled down Cody’s face—a bittersweet smile forming.

“I’m going to die, Winona.”


Next: Chapter 2.33

Previous: Chapter 2.31

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Novagirl93

Chapter 2.31

Adam collapsed to his knees, shaking and breathing violently. 

“Adam, what’s wrong—” Pam attempted to ask. Carl interrupted her with another wave of black petals. She responded just in time—slashing them apart with a flurry of sword slices.

“Good—you didn’t drop your guard. I would have been upset if I was able to take you down that easily.” Carl chuckled, creating more petals surrounding him. 

“I don’t have time to check on him… I need to finish this quickly! Hang on, Adam…” Pam leaped forward, striking at the barrage of attacks Carl unleashed. As she dealt with the tiny waves, Carl created a gigantic one, ready to crash down on her like a black tsunami.

“Hey, Pam! Can your sword slice through all of this!?” Carl beckoned her to attack the structure about to crash down upon her.

“I won’t use my sword for this…” Pam sheathed her blade, placing her hands in front of herself. Steam began to form rapidly around her body, forming itself into multiple spheres of steam.

“Roswell Repeating Sphere—go!

Pam let loose, sending the spheres directly into the enormous wave. At first, they seemed to be easily lost in the darkness. From the inside, they ruptured, tearing the black petals to pieces—the massive amounts of steam filling the area, mixing with the fog.

Adam attempted to look up at the action unfolding. He could not, as his vision has become distorted. Similar to a glitch in a video game, the area surrounding him was incredibly pixelated. The lack of white he observed in the pixels made him question exactly what he was looking at.

“This is…?”

It took him a moment, but Adam soon discovered that this scene was in fact Prelude, minus the fog. He compared it to a map with layers—this glitched layer being the standard layer, while the foggy layer was removed entirely.

“What’s… happening here…?”

His voice once again spoke inside of him.

“Dread is fast approaching… Through your keen eyes, you can see how the very concept of despair warps the world around you.”

“Despair…?”

“The bonds you’ve forged… They’re about to be affected drastically. Being linked to yourself—the one with the World Mirror—things… will start to not make sense.”

“Heh… start to not make sense…?” Adam chuckled. “Nothing‘s made sense for a while now. Even if things weren’t thrown completely out of whack… I still can’t seem to get a grasp on it all.”

His inner voice laughed. “I’ve compared it to an author writing our story… One that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Is that thinking outside of the box? I don’t think it matters. Whatever’s happening—”

“You use my voice… Yet, you’re not me. Just what are you…? A few times now… like after I saved Lucy, you’ve spoken to me. I think you called me your ‘fellow past self,’ right? Are you…?”

“…You’ll come to learn that time is a complicated thing, Adam. I’m not sure what else I can say without disrupting things right now, but…”

The pixels lit up in bright white light, blinding Adam. As he held his hands in front of him, another hand reached out for him, lightly grabbing his wrist.

“It’s been hard… hasn’t it? What you did to this wrist, for example…”

Adam looked up, unable to make out the tall silhouette towering over him.

“Whatever pain comes your way… Whatever obstacles throw you off the main track… Please, keep running forward. It’s the only way you’ll make it to the end. The true end… And let me tell you…”

Adam felt something wet land on his face.

“The ending is so worth it…”

Wiping the tears off of him, the white surroundings shifted back to the foggy setting. Adam slowly stood, focusing his attention on Pam and Carl, who were exchanging blows using their sword and spear.

“Keep running forward, huh…?” Adam stabilized his Outline while forming Overlay over his arms and legs. “That sounds like winging it to me… Like running through traffic, hoping you don’t get hit. Oh well…” He arched his back, bending his knees. 

“This body can handle it. I’m the one with the World Mirror, after all.”

He took a giant leap toward the action, shattering the ground below. Pam had just been knocked back as he flew at them. 

“Adam!? You’re—”

Carl grinned, turning his attention to the boy soaring in his direction. “You’re back in the fight, huh!? Let’s do this!” He jabbed directly at Adam with a mighty thrust of his spear.

Adam blocked the blow with his left hand.

“What…?” Carl was shocked. “I… put all of my strength into that…”

Adam crushed the tip of the spear—whacking the remainder off to the side with the back of his hand. This caused Carl, who still held the weapon, to lose his balance.

“Impact…”

In the next moment, Adam’s right fist smashed into Carl’s head, slamming the man into the ground with enough force to cause a fierce gale to erupt into the sky as the earth below tore apart.  

  

Winona and Miles had a staredown—trying their hardest to muster up the energy for another round of attacks. Miles has the entire fog to back him up, while Winona was on her own defending the others, as Cody could not do what she could.

I need to strike fast and hard. His body’s got to be wearing down, even if he’s using all of those phantons to support it…”

Cody stared down at the rifle in his hands. His hands were still trembling while contemplating what has just occurred.

“My… Ability. It’s never done that before. And it felt natural—almost like it could always do that…”

Cody was so lost in his own thoughts, that he did not even notice the man silently approaching from behind. He finally turned around upon hearing Derek grab Lucy.

“Hey! Let go of me!” Lucy shrieked. “I swear, I’ll beat you up—”

Derek did not hesitate to place a device that resembled a black suction cup on the back of her neck, causing her to immediately pass out.

“I’m sorry about this…” Derek sighed. He turned his attention to the man in front of him who had his weapon aimed in his direction.

“Let go of her!” Cody demanded. Winona turned her head toward the commotion while trying to keep her focus on Miles.

“Lucy!”

“This device Carl created suppresses phantonic activity. It’s the perfect way to knock a ghost out since our signal seems to not work on them alongside us Ability-wielders…” Derek clenched his fist. “Hopefully she won’t have to suffer now…”

“You sound like you don’t want to capture her…?” Cody asked him. “I sense hesitation in not only your words—but your body.”

Derek shook his head. “I’ve never wanted to do any of this. However, I have to—it’s that simple.”

Miles began to jump around. “Oh—Derek! Get that girl and move! I wanna kill these guys!”

“You probably should back off, Miles,” Derek suggested. “Your body’s taken enough damage as is. I should have moved in sooner. I apologize…”

“Nah, it’s okay!” Miles affirmed. “I’m having loads of fun fighting! I just gotta change the nature of the phantons inside of me to heal, and I’m good!”

“It’s not that simple…” Derek sighed. “Well, all right. I’m not one to give you orders. Do what you want.” 

Cody inched closer. “You gonna let Lucy go?”

“You probably think I’m at a disadvantage with you having a ranged weapon?” Derek questioned. “Cody Collins, you should know based on your experience…”

Derek flung himself at Cody with no hesitation, striking the rifle—shattering it in a single blow.

“Range doesn’t matter if you’re fast enough.”

Cody attempted to retaliate with a punch. Due to his back, he had trouble twisting around to the proper position in time. Derek quickly whacked Cody in the head with the side of his hand, sending him rocketing into the damaged walls, causing them to finally collapse.

“Dad!” Winona turned around, ready to strike Derek with a stone she formed in her hand. Instead—following her instincts—she spun around, chucking it at a small blast of phantonic energy that Miles had shot at her.

“Don’t think you can ignore me!” Miles began focusing more energy around his body. “Derek, I’m gonna destroy everything. Take the girl and leave!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Derek sighed. “That’s what I’m here for.”

“Nobody’s going anywhere.” Winona declared. Slamming her foot into the floor, a giant dome formed above Derek, encapsulating him within. Turning her attention to Miles for the brief moment now available, she created a drill-like structure from the ground, sending the spiraling mass at the boy. Even with the built-up phantons protecting him, the strike sent him flying out into the fog.

Derek proceeded to smash out of the stone that had trapped him with a single punch. Winona adjusted her focus back to him—the strain beginning to build up within her body.

“I won’t let you take Lucy!” Winona manifested more sand, surrounding herself in it—ready for Derek’s attack.

Derek prepared to face Winona using the only hand available to him—the other currently holding Lucy.

It was at this point where the sky above them—now clearly visible from inside the building due to it’s ruined state—lit up in a fierce blue aura. Winona gazed up at the phenomenon, seeming to know the origin.

“Charlotte…?”

Derek was also glaring at the light above. “It’s that Ouderkirk girl, isn’t it? This isn’t Miles, that’s for sure…”

At the energy faded, there was silence. Winona and Derek awkwardly turned back toward each other, ready to resume their fight. Noticing the fog starting to fade, Derek began to grow anxious.

“Dammit… Haley was taken out already…!? Without the fog, the signal—”

Winona shot a burst of sand at Derek, who managed to whack it away rather easily, despite his current emotional state.

“I don’t know what you guys thought you could get away with, but we have power on our side! You shouldn’t mess with Prelude!”

Derek shook his head. “If the fog’s gone, then that also means any protection has been lifted. Is Unity waiting outside, ready to make their move…?”

“You shouldn’t worry about Unity right now,” Winona commented. “You should worry about me!” A smile slowly formed on her face. “Not only me—but…”

Without warning, Thomas had stood up. As Derek became aware of his presence, the scientist jabbed at him with a blue rapier. Thomas had attacked at the perfect angle for Derek to take his grip off of Lucy. Winona noticed this and used her sand to catch the unconscious girl before Derek could grab her once more.

“I got her!” Winona brought her sand back to herself, placing Lucy in her arms. “Thomas, are you guys all right!?”

“I’m disappointed in myself, to be honest.” Thomas sighed.

“Huh? What for? You just helped me save Lucy!”

“Nah, not that. See—” He pointed at the side of his head. “Knowing of Oberon, I took precautions just in case I had to deal with it directly someday. Whatever signal these guys were just using, it was similar, but not exactly like Oberon. There’s a chip inside of my head that can process this kind of data. It wasn’t quick enough for me to wake up, though…”

Jerry opened his eyes, trying his best to stand. “That’s Dad for ya—always doing weird stuff…”

“Jerry, are you okay?” Winona asked him.

“Yep. That was a nice nap…” Jerry looked over, shaking Travis who still seemed to be out of it. “This guy’s still sleeping soundly, despite the situation we’re in…” He looked around his surroundings. “This is…!”

“Give her to me!” Derek roared, smashing his foot into the ground. “She’s already dead—why do you care so much!? Let her be of use for people who are still living! We can still save… her…” He looked at the ground—his fists trembling. 

“Save who?” Thomas asked, pointing his rapier at Derek.

“My wife… Please…” Derek glared at Thomas with tears almost forming in his eyes. “I just want her to be okay…”

“Still…” Winona spoke. “Lucy’s important to us. We want to know her origins, and we…” She paused. “Do we… want her to be able to rest in peace…?”

“I think that’s what a ghost should be able to do—rest,” Jerry commented.

“Does that mean, Charlotte…?” Winona fell silent.

“Let’s not worry about that right now,” Thomas insisted. “Anyway—listen, pal. I know exactly what it’s like to lose a wife. If there’s a chance that she can still be saved from whatever’s going on with her, then… that’s great. I would have loved to save my wife from her disease…”

“If you understand, then let me have the girl! Hurry!” Derek begged.

“I can’t allow you to go through with it in this way, however,” Thomas stated. “With the damage your group has caused, we have no choice but to stop you.” Thomas jabbed his rapier into the ground. “See this? It’s the custom weapon that my little brother got from Unity. It’s now mine, while he uses a basic weapon with his Ability. It’s illegal as hell for me to own this, but—”

“Why are you rambling at a time like this!?” Derek asked, furiously.

“…I named this weapon Phoebe. After my wife. Also apparently after some Titan from Greek Mythology—where most weapons’ names originate. But, that’s beside the point. I know Phoebe wouldn’t be happy with me going through some dastardly means to save her. Let me ask you—would your wife be happy with what you’re doing?”

Derek started to chuckle, shaking his head violently.

“She’s the dastardly one, for what she tried to do… I know she’s paying the price for committing such a grave sin. But as the man who loves her more than anything in this universe, I still want to save her!”

“I see…” Thomas sighed. “And how would taking Lucy save her, exactly?”

“That’s enough.” Derek declared. “I’ll be taking her now. I’m out of time, you see.”

“Is that so…?” Thomas raised his weapon. “You know, I don’t just have this for the hell of it. I taught myself how to fight. Ability or not, I’ll stop you.” He turned toward Winona. “Keep her safe, all right? Same with your dad.”

“Right…” Winona looked back anxiously, expecting to see Miles pop up once again. After not seeing him, she slowly inched her way toward her father, who was still recovering from his recent hit.

“Give her to me—” As Derek reached out to snag Lucy from Winona’s arms, Thomas once again jabbed at him. With this thrust, Phoebe lit up in a blue aura, increasing the potency of the attack.

Derek blocked the blow by whacking it away from him. “You can charge your own phantons through that, huh? Your phantons aren’t awakened—how long do you expect to last?”

Thomas glared at Derek—his irises flaring up in a light blue while his pupils adjusted exactly like a camera lens.

“Long enough.”

“What did this man do to his body…?” Derek dashed at Thomas, sending a flurry of punches toward him. Thomas used the side of his rapier to parry and evade each strike—keeping a keen focus on every single move.

“Take him down, Dad…” Jerry said, pulling at Travis’ hair still attempting to wake him.

 

Miles stood up after the attack Winona used on him. He started to giggle—almost uncontrollably. 

“All right! I’m really gonna kill her now!” Miles declared, beginning to focus on creating another attack.

“Huh…?”

He quickly realized that the fog that was supplying him with energy had now vanished.

“Huh…? What…?” Miles surveyed his surroundings like a lost puppy. “Haley… W-What happened? Where are you…?!?”

He found the answer to his question—lying motionless on the ground a small distance away.

“…”

As Charlotte stood next to Haley’s body, she sensed an ominous force blitz toward her, ready to tear the Ouderkirk apart. 


 Next: Chapter 2.32

Previous: Chapter 2.30

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Chapter 2.30

Several minutes earlier, with the fog still plaguing the town, Miles crept close to the front door of Ann’s. He began to giggle to himself.

“They went in here, huh? After all that trouble I went through to create that bomb. Oh well…” He opened his hands, forming multiple miniature spheres of phantonic energy in each palm. “It doesn’t matter where you are. I’ll kill you all.”

Before he could shatter the glass doors in front of him, a giant wave of sand came crashing down upon him. Winona had arrived just in time. She glared at the pile of dirt she had created.

“I won’t let you kill anyone, even if you are some kid!”

The sandy tomb suddenly turned blue, erupting into a plume of phantonic energy. Quickly fading away, Miles stepped out, completely unharmed.

“You’re one of the Ability-users, huh? It’s too bad—nothing like that will work on me!”

Winona quickly summoned dirt around her, preparing her defense. “What the…? What kind of Ability does he have!?”

Miles’ fingers began to twitch. The fog seemed to slowly gather, morphing into more phantonic energy. “Thank you, Haley!” He cheered, whipping his hands at Winona, sending sharp waves of blue toward her.

Winona instinctively blocked with her sand. She retaliated by sending a similar form of attack at Miles, only hers was composed of dirt. He quickly moved his hands, coming into contact with each individual attack. This action once again turned Winona’s power into pure phantonic energy, gathering into Miles’ hands in the form of two spiraling spheres.

“You’re just feeding me, you know!” Miles mocked. “You can’t do anything against me!”

“Is that so?” Winona started to chuckle.

“Huh? What’s so funny!?” Miles asked, flinging the spheres at Winona, who whacked them away with a knife made of stone she forged in her hand.

“Between the fog and my Ability, it’s obvious what you’re doing. You’re returning structures composed of phantons back into their original form, which you manipulate. Odd, as I mix actual earth into my Stone Rose, yet you still completely change it… That’s quite the Ability you have.”

“You’re good!” Miles grinned rather sadistically. “I’m actually sort of interested in you now! What are you going to do? Huh? Huh!? I wanna see!”

Winona gathered sand around her arm. “It’s quite simple, actually.” With a flick of her wrist, she sent a small burst of the earth at Miles. He moved his hand in the attack’s path, ready to counter with his Ability.

With a motion barely noticeable, Winona changed the trajectory of her sand, causing it to go around Miles. She snapped her fingers, reforming the sand into a sharp stone spike.

This new object buried itself in Miles’ temple, faster than he could react to.

“Huh…?” 

Blood spewed out of his head, as he collapsed to Winona’s one simple move.

“You don’t have much battle experience, do you? Maneuvering my sand in multiple different directions is something I’ve grown good at. So, of course, I can move around your slow, flailing arms. Sorry—I couldn’t hold back…”

Winona seemed upset at what she had just done. However, she didn’t hesitate. Ignoring Miles, she quickly ran through the front doors of Ann’s.

 

Muraco dashed around the foggy forest, blocking multiple gunshots using his scarf. Ivan pursued closely, now shooting from barrels formed on both of his arms. The man seemed perfectly capable of maneuvering through the treetops with keen precision, not missing a single step while continuing the fight.

Brandon stood off in the distance, observing the two—Shepherd Surge at the ready. He was impressed that Muraco could keep deflecting the bullets raining down upon him.

“Muraco’s… good at this. What kinda experience does he have…?” 

“Dammit…” Muraco cursed. “I have to try something else. I can’t get an opportunity to whack him with my scarf with all the shit he’s firing!”

Muraco retracted the scarf’s extensions. Ivan took this opportunity to attempt a fatal strike on the rabbit. However, he failed to make any mark. Muraco suddenly sank into the shadows, entirely out of sight.

“Where did you go?” Ivan asked himself nonchalantly. He landed on the ground, swiftly shifting his eyes around the woods.

“He really can use more than one Ability…” Brandon noted.

Fabric shot out from the base of a nearby tree, barely missing Ivan as you casually moved to the side. It latched itself onto a tree nearby as another scarf formed from the shadows. This process continued—long scarves manifesting in an attempt to capture Ivan, yet were unable to do so. 

Eventually, Muraco ceased his attack—the woods now covered in a blanket of blue. Ivan stood in the center, completely unfazed. He adjusted the barrels on his arms.

“It does not matter if you created more shadows with these. Wherever you pop out, I’ll fire at you.”

With the combination of fog and fabric, Brandon could no longer see the enemy.

“Muraco… Whatever you’re planning, I hope it works. Cause I won’t be much use right here—”

With a powerful flash, the scarves exploded. Tiny blue threads scattered throughout the area surrounding Ivan, slashing at his body like an infinite number of blades. Within the shadows, Muraco’s voice roared.

“Finishing Move—Thread Shredder!” 

The attack tore through Ivan’s phantonite body like it was paper. Brandon stood back in awe and horror while being glad that Muraco could control the threads to only strike inward. He would be a goner if they ended up scattering everywhere.

As the activity ceased, Ivan collapsed—with a small portion of his lower head left along with his torso.

Brandon ran over to him while Muraco hopped out of the shadows. The two stood over their fallen enemy.

“Did… Did you kill him…?” Brandon anxiously asked.

“I would say yes, except… no. He’s still alive, somehow.” Muraco leaned over in caution. “I can feel his energy… It’s still inside.”

Brandon stared in terror as blood seeped from the wound on Ivan’s head. “How…?”

“How is he alive? Beats me. He’s a tough cookie. That’s fine—he won’t be doing much anymore—”

“No.” Brandon shook his head. “How… can you gather up the courage to kill someone…?”

Muraco was silent at first. Eventually, he responded. “It’s not like we can talk these guys out of it. Their minds were set the moment they began all of this. We can’t afford to let them… live.” He sighed. “Man, I don’t sound like much of a hero, do I?”

“I… get the ‘why’ part of it. I think. But… I asked, ‘how’ you can gather that courage?”

“I’m not sure I would call it ‘courage,’ Brandon. I don’t know what I’d call it, but we, as humans, need a firm resolve to—”

“Muraco… What… do you mean by that?”

“Freaking—I don’t know how to explain this process to you, but—”

“No… not that.” Brandon placed his hand on Muraco’s head. “You said ‘we, as humans’… Are you considering yourself a human…?”

“Huh? I-I mean, I might as well be human! I…” Muraco lowered his head. “I’m not too sure about my origins. I’m aware that I was tortured by the Ouderkirks, but how I gained this form… What I was before… I don’t know.”

“Well, let’s not worry about that! Right now, we gotta get back to the others!” Brandon shouted. “Come on!”

“Wait a minute, Brandon,” Muraco stopped Brandon by grabbing him with his scarf. “This guy right here… I told you he’s still alive.”

“Yeah? I doubt he’s going to do much in that state, dude.”

Muraco shook his head. “No… Something doesn’t feel right.”

“Hmm…” Brandon scratched his head, staring down at Ivan. “I’m not sure—”

In the next moment, the boy and the rabbit were engulfed in a sudden fiery explosion of blue, expelling from Ivan.

 

“Dad!” Winona ran up and embraced her father, who almost fell over from the impact.

“Woah, take it easy, Winona! It’s okay. We’re okay…”

Winona let go of Cody, looking down at the three who had fallen unconscious. “So, it happened here as well…”

“Winona, is everyone okay over there!?” Lucy asked, rushing up to her and grabbing her leg.

“People without Abilities passed out as well… But, they’ll be all right. Pam, Faith, and Adam are there, after all.” She gave a comforting smile to the girl.

“What are we gonna do with all of these sleepyheads?” Lucy questioned the father and daughter, pulling at Jerry’s hair, making it even more spiky than usual.

“If we can carefully move them back toward the station, we can rejoin the others,” Cody answered, scratching his chin. “Now that the base is demolished… we might as well.”

“I can use my sand to transport these guys. It shouldn’t be too difficult.” Winona stated, beginning to form her sand around them.

“Do you hear that…?” Cody asked, pointing toward the ceiling. “Sounds like there’s quite a fight going on above us… It must be Charlotte dealing with the enemy.”

“I just fought someone as well. Managed to take them out quite easily.” Winona glanced up. “I hope Charlotte can handle whoever she’s fighting…”

“Let’s hope that’s the only other enemy nearby. We can make a break toward the station. Er… Winona?” Cody began to chuckle. “Can you… use your sand on me as well? You know I can move around that well.”

Winona sighed with a smile on her face. “Yeah, yeah. Of course, I can. Make sure you keep an eye out for any enemies. I-I mean, as much as you can in the fog… I can handle people who move on the ground thanks to my Ability, but flying enemies… I don’t think so.”

“This is gonna be difficult, and extremely risky…” Cody said, adjusting his grip on his rifle. “But, it’s even riskier just staying here. We need to all group up, I think…”

“You think?”

“It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to come up with these kinds of decisions on the battlefield. I fear your old man’s brain is starting to wear…”

“Oh, come on. You’re not that old, Dad.” Winona giggled.

“So I am old, is what you’re saying?”

Lucy lowered her head. “I wonder how old I am… I’m seven—I know my age when I was alive. How long has it been since…?”

Cody, without thinking, answered.

“Well, you’re in your mid-twenties, of course—” He hushed himself immediately.

“Dad…” Winona’s eyes widened. “How… do you know that?”

“My brain… really is starting to wear…” He let out a long sigh. “I’ve been able to keep it a secret for this long since you don’t seem to recognize me, Lucy. And I figured Pam should be the one to let you guys know. But… I should say it, shouldn’t I…?”

“Do you know who I am!?” Lucy’s eyes lit up. “Tell me, tell me!”

“Yeah… Tell us, Dad.” Winona requested, holding back her anger.

“Right…” Cody carefully leaned down on his knee, grabbing Lucy’s shoulders.”

“Listen, Lucy. You’re actually—”

The reveal was interrupted by the front door of the store shattering apart. Winona and Cody quickly turned toward the action, ready to fight whatever was about to enter.

Winona was petrified at the sight of Miles stumbling inside. A tiny amount of blue oozed from the wound on his head, while his left hand seemed to be quivering.

“Ah… You left before we could finish our fight…” Miles started to giggle with his head facing the floor. 

“Dammit! He survived that!?” Winona motioned the sand around the others in front of herself.

“Round 2…” Miles waived his right hand forward. From the outside fog, a giant sphere of blue shot into the store, tearing through every obstacle in front of it to reach Winona.

“Fight!”

Aisles were toppled over as the attack exploded, ripping apart the very foundation of Ann’s. Winona struggled but was able to successfully keep her sand sturdy enough to prevent the attack from connecting with her and the others.

The dust settled, and Miles’ laughter grew even louder upon seeing Winona standing. “Yes! Yes! That’s it! Let’s have some fun and tear everything apart—”

He was interrupted by Cody, who had shot at him. The projectile entered his right shoulder, almost knocking him off his feet. Yet, he remained standing and did not find the bullet to be much of an issue.

“You’ll have to shoot to kill, you know!” Miles snickered as blue ooze slowly crept from his fresh wound.

“I refuse to kill a child,” Cody stated. “However…”

The debris around the store began to move. As if it was being pulled by a magnet, it flew—striking Miles in a fierce barrage.

“I have nothing against punishing one.”

Miles was knocked out of the store, back into the fog. Cody walked up and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Are you able to keep going? He’ll probably retaliate pretty quickly.”

“Dad…” Winona felt a strange sensation as if it was floating in the air around her. “Why… After all the years of us training together… Why didn’t you tell me you can pull objects toward where you use your Ability!? I…” She shook her head. “I know you can transfer it temporarily into your bullets, but your Ability is called ‘Trip Stick.’ Before you injured your back, you use it in close combat, affecting the ground around you. Opponents got stuck, and you used that to your advantage.”

“Winona…” Cody body started to shake. “I’m… not sure myself. What did I just do…?”

“Huh…?” She looked at her father in astonishment. “You mean, you didn’t even know!?”

The area outside of the shop lit up. The two returned their attention to the battle as Miles began to shift the fog into phantonic energy.

“Winona! This is gonna be a big one!” Cody yelled.

“I-I know! I got it! Don’t worry!” Winona slammed her hands onto the ruined floor. A wall of blue paved its way inside—Winona counterattacking by creating dozens of large spikes from the earth, aiming and striking away at the sizeable phantonic structure.

In the clash, Winona could not ease her mind. Not from the enemy that she was currently facing, but the strange circumstances suddenly surrounding her father.

“What’s… going on right now… exactly?”

 

With a fist of white energy and a fist of steam, Adam and Pam struck at the wall of black petals before them. The force tore through the obstacle, having enough strength to spare—pushing Carl several feet away.

“Nice… nice nice!” Carl caught his breath. “You two are nearly impossible to overcome working together!”

“Adam… are you doing okay?” Pam asked the boy next to her. 

“I’m fine. Using Overlay for my punches works much better than how I was going about it before. It’s not perfect, but I’ve still got my hand in one piece, for now.”

“Good to hear. Let’s finish this guy off before he tries anything fishy! Be careful that other Jason guy doesn’t interrupt either.”

“I’ve been keeping an eye on him…” Adam glared at the mask floating off to the side. “He’s been keeping his distance. I’d say he’s definitely drained at the moment.”

“Well, even better. Come on, Adam! Follow my lead!”

“Will do—” Adam froze. 

“Adam…?” Pam turned back to him before she charged ahead.

“No…” Adam shook his head in dismay. “What is this…?”

He felt a chill run through his body as if it was piercing him from multiple directions. Before he had time to process it, Adam heard his own voice echo in his head.

“It’s beginning…”

He, however, was not the one that spoke.


Next: Chapter 2.31

Previous: Chapter 2.29

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Chapter 2.29

Alexander could not process what had just occurred. He stood up after crashing onto a concrete floor—his wings luckily protecting him from taking too much damage.

“The… hell…!?”

Whatever had just struck him sent him tumbling into an abandoned warehouse that had a high metal ceiling with rusty rafters. The only things noteworthy on the floor were several wooden pallets in multiple stacks around the room.

The being now descended slowly through the hole above—dust and light calmly surrounding it. Alexander immediately retaliated, extending his wings to stab through the enemy.

“Huh…?”

His wings stopped before they could reach it. The one known as “The Nexus” chuckled at Alexander’s attempt.

“Oh—I guess that makes sense. I attack you out of nowhere, so you attack me back. I just wanted you to stop, however. I do not want to fight—I would like to speak with you, Alexander Strauss.”

“The shit are ya supposed to be!?” Alexander started to grow uneasy. “Not only did my wings randomly stop working, they can’t even read whatever the hell’s doing it in the first place…!”

“Oh—I’m not anything that special. Just a being wanting to figure out its origins.” The Nexus raised its hand, forming a large azure spear with a cylinder-shaped hilt that it gripped tightly. “You don’t have to say a word—I know how you act. You’re going to desire a fight. I suppose I could talk to you while you attempt it?”

Alexander chuckled. Several wings shot out of his back, creating intense pressure around him.

“Shit just keeps on piling up, doesn’t it!? Fine, I’ll just do what I always do! You’re goddamn right I want to fight! Bring it on, you freaky fuck!”

 

“Sent us inside the gas station, huh?” Chris groaned, standing up after being slammed into a stand full of potato chips. He leaned on the front counter—glaring at Faith who stood on the other side of the tiny store.

“I’m glad I aimed well enough…” Faith sighed. “If I actually hit the gas pumps, that could have been really bad…”

“How the hell did you not burn me!? You were on freaking fire!” Chris shouted at her.

“I have to put most of my energy into moving around… I can’t gather up enough heat to actually burn you with that technique. Anyway, not that I got you out of the way, it’s time to start talking!”

“Talking…?” Chris chuckled. “Talk about what? You’re the good guy—I’m the bad guy.”

Why though? What are you even doing all of this for…?”

“Huh? We desire power. That’s all—”

“Why do you desire power?” Faith’s face was stern.

“For the love of—” Chris sighed. “Listen. My sister kinda put herself in a really bad situation. If we gain the power within the seal, Carl can learn much more about the world. With that knowledge, he can free her. My buddy, Derek—actually my brother-in-law… he’s her husband. We’re both working toward this.”

“Do you have to go about it in this way…?” Faith asked with a solemn look.

“Well—Unity won’t do shit! They already have her for breaking the damn law! She’s quarantined in a hospital… with guards all around her. She’s trapped in that… gross shit… and used as a test subject. They won’t help her. She’s a huge source of info for those bastards…!”

“So you turned to this path…” Faith sighed. “I’m sorry…”

“Huh…? The hell… are you sorry for!?” Chris flicked his fingers in a sudden rage. Faith moved her head as the spark flew past her, shattering the glass of a vending machine behind her—seared bottles of soda sent flying across the store.

“Unity’s corrupted… I know. That’s one of the reasons why I willingly joined. I want to make it a better place—to have it truly live up to its name. Unity should be a place where we can all come together, not a place that causes fear and suffering.”

Chris shook his head. “That’s all fine and dandy. But we don’t have time for you to overthrow the damned thing! My sister’s dying to that chaonic shit around her! We’re making our move—today!

“I understand… wanting to save your sister…” Faith sighed. “But I can’t allow you to do it like this! You’re no better than Unity right now! People are suffering because of this attack!”

“You aligned yourself with them…” Chris muttered. “No matter your reasoning, you have no say in whether what we’re doing is right or not…” With a snap of his fingers, a spark began to form. This time, it expanded—forming into a yellow whip-like structure.

“What is that…?” Faith asked, forming flames around her arms for defense.

“My Spark Blast Ability… This can be considered an extension of it—quite literally. Take a look!” Chris swung the whip around, almost like a lasso. He then flicked it toward Faith—the tip barely missing her as it caused a powerful explosion upon impact with the already trashed vending machine. The force managed to knock her down on the hard store floor.

“It’s… stronger than before…” Faith leaned up, wiping away the blood from her now bleeding nose.

“What are ya doing just laying there!?” Chris laughed maniacally, sending the whip at Faith for a second time. She managed to roll out of the way just in time, using her flame to push herself even further to successfully escape the impact of the blast.

As she stood up, Chris continued to whip his weapon around. Faith had to continuously dodge, using the shelves in the few aisles around her as shields. He was swift—quickly reducing the obstacles in front of him to dust with each explosion.

Chris roared with laughter, feeling the thrill of the battle welling up inside of him.

 

“Chris… It’s okay. You don’t have to cry anymore…”

Sam sat on the front steps to their house, holding the young Chris’ shoulder in comfort.

“Why… did dad have to die…? Seriously—everyone else flies planes without an issue!” Chris gasped for air as tears continued to flow.

“It can happen…” Sam sighed. “Technical difficulties can always happen… It’s okay, though. He died doing what he loved best.”

Chris rubbed his eyes, pulling an old pilot hat out from behind him. “This was grandpa’s…? Dad gave it to me recently…”

“Mhmm! Grandpa wanted that to be passed on. I’m… kind of afraid of heights, so flying was never really an option for me. But you always loved it! That’s why you have it! Is… it something you want to do?”

“Why would I do something that killed dad!?” Chris shouted. “I’m not an idiot like him!”

“Chris… He wasn’t an idiot. He knew what he was doing. Like I said, it was technical difficulties.” Sam shook her head, standing up. She reached out her hand to her little brother, beckoning him. “Come on, follow me.”

“Huh? Where are we going, Sam…?” Chris asked, grabbing his sister’s hand.

“You seriously don’t know! I’ve been talking about it all week!”

“You have…?” Chris was stumped.

“Oh, geez! Let’s go! You’ll see when we get there! It’s getting late—we’ll miss it!”

Chris said nothing more. He followed his sister in silence as she led him down the streets of Nexus City. As the sun set, the blue of the buildings began to grow in brightness—the two different hues clashing with each other.

“The beach…?” Chris finally spoke up, seeing multiple people standing on the sandy shores.

“Yeah! It’s getting dark—it should be starting in a minute here!”

“Wait…” Chris paused. “You don’t mean…?”

As the sun fell below the horizon, the sky once again lit up. Chris jumped at the loud noise echoing above him. Looking up, he watched as the fireworks began.

“Dad was going to take us to see these… I still wanted to take you.” Sam stated, holding Chris’ hand tightly.

Chris stared in absolute awe at the sight forming above him. Red, blue, green, yellow, orange, violet. So many colors danced around the sky, he couldn’t help his face light up in excitement.

“I’ve never seen fireworks before… They’re so cool!”

“They are… aren’t they?” Sam giggled, holding Chris closer.

“I… want to be up there. The sky’s so open, ain’t it…!?”

“Do you see why dad and grandpa loved flying? Despite the risks, they still did it. They wanted to explore that vast, endless sky. A place where beauty is free to expand to its heart’s content, like right now.”

“They’re a little loud… I can barely hear ya, Sam,” Chris chuckled. “But I… I know. Dad would want me to go up there, wouldn’t he…?”

Sam turned to him, placing her hands on his shoulders—giving her brother a gentle smile. “He would want you to do what makes you happy. If you do want to fly, then for sure!”

“I’ve got a few years before I can start to learn…” Chris scratched his hair. “I’m not even a teenager yet.”

“You’ll get there! Don’t rush your high school years—trust me. It may seem hellish, but life after it is kinda…” Sam trailed up, laughing awkwardly.

There was silence between them as the fireworks continued to explode, increasing in intensity. Chris eventually spoke, still audible to Sam.

“Do… Do you think dad’s up there right now…?”

“Do you think he is?”

“Well… wherever he is, I hope he’s enjoying these fireworks, just like we are…”

Sam nodded, embracing her brother. The big finale started while Chris’ memory grew fuzzy.

 

After over a dozen strikes, Chris had transformed the store into a blazing inferno. He held his head in frustration, panting heavily.

“Why… the hell did I think about that now…? Sam…”

Chris stared into the flames before him. “I’m… sorry. I have to do this… I need my sister to smile once again…”

He stepped back in shock upon seeing Faith casually walking out of the fire.

“What…? None of that shit hit you!?”

Faith started giggling to herself. Despite flames covering her body, she did not react in fear. Instead, she embraced herself, seemingly basking in the warmth around her.

“What in the…? Are you freaking Satan or something!?” Chris swung his whip once more. As it descended upon Faith, she casually avoided the blow by stepping to the right. Before it even made contact with the floor, she grabbed a hold of the weapon with her fiery palm, avoiding the tip.

In a calm, eerie voice, Faith answered Chris’ question.

“I’m just having fun.”

She dashed toward him, sliding her hand along the whip as she moved, making Chris unable to maneuver it.

“Damn it…!” Chris canceled out the whip, positioning himself so he could fire back. He shot multiple sparks—all aiming directly at Faith.

Keeping her right fist ignited, she blasted a mighty flare from her left hand, engulfing Chris’ attacks. They exploded—the recoil pushing back toward Chris himself.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!” He held his arms in front of his face, instinctively shielding himself from the oncoming force. The fact that he had just guarded himself actually caused him to drop his guard entirely.

Chris could not react quick enough as Faith smashed her flaming fist into his gut—the intense power sending him rocketing through the front counter, shattering it to pieces, while money from the cash register shot out and littered the flame-infested building.

As Chris lost consciousness, Faith collapsed to her knees. She trembled immensely.

“T-There… Take a nap and think about what you’ve done…” She began to laugh. “Have I… been this strong this entire time…?” Glancing at her hand, the flames continued to dance around her—being no issue whatsoever for the one who, months prior, would have been in extreme distress at this scene.

“Am I strong enough… to make things right in this world…?”

Faith then heard a large crashing noise come from above. As she looked up, the ceiling broke apart violently, descending upon her.

 

Charlotte glanced down, looking at the collapsing building below. She had just deflected a strike from Haley’s blade—the force being redirected toward the gas station.

“Dammit… There was a fight occurring in there! I couldn’t tell who it was, thanks to this fog, but… Please, if someone was on my side…  Let them be okay!”

She had no time to think—Haley’s sword aiming at her as it had been. Charlotte blocked the strike, sending the energy from the impact off to the side.

“You shouldn’t worry about others, Ouderkirk girl. In this fog, I’m too powerful to ignore.” Multiple shards of ice formed around Haley, firing at Charlotte. With her sword, she swung rapidly and repeatedly—quickly reducing the projectiles to nothing but cold dust.

“You can even see, can’t you?” Charlotte jabbed at Haley, who guarded successfully.

“Yes. In this fog, I don’t need my vision. I can see everything that’s happening. A lot is going on… Some of your friends are in danger, even. You probably don’t want to waste time here. Unfortunately, I’m not giving you the option to leave.”

Charlotte took a deep breath. “I’ve been honing my senses during this fight. It’s not perfect yet, but I can tell… that Miles kid headed to Ann’s. Can Cody defend the others…? No—wait. Someone else is there… This energy… Is it who I think it is?”

Haley slashed, Charlotte slashed back in retaliation.

“Even still… she’s right. I can’t afford to waste any time. But…” Charlotte transformed her long sword into a great sword, the following slash strong enough to knock Haley back a significant distance. “Hey—why can I feel my energy coming from you…?”

“Oh? You finally noticed?” Haley giggled. “My hair didn’t give it away? Yes—that is your family’s power you feel. Somewhat, I should say. We were injected with some of your deceased family’s DNA. Unity worked out the kinks, and was able to produce a small amount of your power within us.”

“Unity…? What the hell? Why would they do that?” Charlotte asked, keeping her defense raised.

“Aside from the obvious desires that Unity seeks… Well, we were the perfect test subjects. Abilities forced upon us, causing us to lose something… I lost my sight. Miles lost his sanity… the poor boy. By using us as test subjects, they could see how the Ouderkirks’ power could aid us. It certainly gave us tremendous energy, thankfully. Along with what we individually lost, we lack the physical strength to do daily activities, for the most part.”

“It… actually doesn’t sound too bad. I’d love it if my family’s power could actually help someone. But…” Charlotte tightened the grip on her sword. “What led you to this point!? Why are you doing something like this!?”

“The experiments would eventually lead to our deaths. Fangless, the group that rescued us, knew that. We were saved, and along with the potential to still fix ourselves, we’re working alongside them.” Haley’s voice began to shake.

“What is it…?” Charlotte asked her.

“I… want to see the world once more. There’s this beautiful field, you see. Whether it’s filled with flowers—vibrant in color, or blanketed in ice-cold snow… It’s the perfect place. I played there when I was little… I just to see that place again, if anything!

“Are you serious…?” Charlotte shook her head. “I get wanting your sight back. It seems it was wrongfully taken from you, after all. But… a freaking field is your goal? I’m sorry, but trying to kill innocent people… There’s nothing that can make that justifiable, especially that bullshit!”

“Shut up!” A violent gale filled the fog. As in came into contact with Charlotte, frost began to form around her body. “You have no idea what I’ve been through!”

“After what you’ve done, trying to kill my friends…” Charlotte held her sword high in the air. “I don’t give a damn what you’ve been through!”  

“Is that so!?” Haley roared, forming several gigantic shards of ice around herself. She launched them toward Charlotte at remarkable speeds. This did not matter, as Charlotte easily slashed through each of them. Holding the great sword to her side, she soared at Haley.

Although Haley did move her sword in time to defend, Charlotte shattered the icy blade with a single, mighty strike. As Haley watched the fragments fly around her, she finally understood.

She was no match for Charlotte.

She was no match for a true Ouderkirk.

With Charlotte preparing a second slash, Haley flew backward, creating multiple chunks of ice to defend herself.

The chase began. Charlotte sliced through the frozen masses before her, following Haley as she manipulated the fog to maneuver herself around the area.

“G-Get back… Get back!” Tiny blizzards started to form, blinding Charlotte’s vision—slowing down her movement. This was only temporary. Charlotte pushed through, keeping her pursuit going in spite of all that was thrown at her.

“Why won’t you stop!? Just freeze already!”

“The cold doesn’t bother me,” Charlotte stated calmly. “Temperature itself doesn’t bother me. You’re not stopping me with something like that!”

“Dammit…” Haley ascended high above Charlotte, almost reaching the top of the barrier of fog. “Just give up! Let me have your power!”

A fierce blue aura manifested around Charlotte’s blade, melting away the ice that had covered it. “You want my power, huh? I’ll give it to you, then!”

Haley gathered the fog above herself, creating a gargantuan glacier-like structure. “Try and stop this!”

“Is she crazy!? She’ll destroy the entire town with that! Does she not care about her allies!?” Charlotte tightened her grip on her sword.

“Time to go all-out.”

With all her might, Charlotte slammed her giant blade into the heap of ice. The energy discharged from the strike, yet remained somewhat calm as it wrapped itself around the lower half of the glacier. Now that her phantons were in place, it was time for Charlotte to finish the fight in one simple move.

“Royal Ascent!”

With another tremendous slash, all of the energy she gathered erupted, vaporizing all the ice above her with little effort. With such almighty power, mere ice could not slow it down.

Haley was petrified. She did not move, yet her blindfold had loosened from her continuous bout with Charlotte. It slowly fell from her face, revealing terrified blue eyes that matched the color of the attack about to strike her.

Although her Ability allowed vision in the fog, it was merely a black and white image that Haley viewed. At the very last moment, she could have sworn her sight had been filled with raging azure.

Engulfed in the Royal Ascent, she smiled softly, partially glad she somehow saw color once again.

Charlotte stared above in astonishment while the phantons faded. She had no idea she could harness and unleash so much raw power.

“Royal Ascent… It’s stronger than Royal Descent, simply due to the fact I don’t have to hold back from damaging the ground.” Charlotte looked at her sword, fading away. “Those moves… Who taught them to me?”

Her thoughts were interrupted upon seeing a tiny heap fall toward her. She moved to the right, as Haley’s remains plummeted to the streets below.

Charlotte descended, noticing the fog around her beginning to diminish. Touching the ground, light had begun to return to Prelude.

The battle against Fangless was far from over, however. As Charlotte felt Haley’s life fade away, she surveyed the destruction surrounding her. She could hear fighting nearby and was prepared to fly over to assist.

A quick look at Haley’s body stopped her dead in her tracks.         

“What… is that…!?”

An eerie substance—void of color—floated a few feet above Haley. It was a bizarre shape—one that Charlotte couldn’t quite comprehend. It slowly crept toward her, as she did not resist it merging with her body.

Words then echoed in her mind.

“Ouderkirks are masters of the soul, Charlotte. We have the great honor to dictate what happens to one upon leaving the body. Why? Are we considered gods? Not quite. We were granted this power to seek out a certain kind of soul if it were to appear…”

“Who’s… voice is this…?”

A calm, gentle voice of a young woman continued to speak inside her mind.

“…there are indeed special souls out there that could use our guidance. Yet, the most important soul… The one true soul that us Ouderkirks wait for… I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what that is. Our salvation…”

“The one with the World Mirror, right…?” Charlotte muttered to herself. She did not realize that she had begun to cry.

“That… That voice… Mom… It’s you, isn’t it? I found it—T-The World Mirror… What am I supposed to do now…!?” She glanced at her hand, feeling the presence of another now within her. She yearned for it to be her mother, yet knew it was not.

“And… What’s the deal with your soul, Haley…?”


Next: Chapter 2.30

Previous: Chapter 2.28

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Chapter 2.28

“Brandon! Yo, Brandon! Wake up!”

Muraco had been kicking Brandon in the head for the past few minutes, attempting to wake the boy. After about the hundredth kick, his eyes finally opened.

“Okay, what the hell!?” Brandon grabbed the rabbit and threw him across the foggy field they were now located. “Wait—where are we…?”

Muraco sighed. “We’re in the woods north of Prelude. That shadow seemed to send us away from the station. And however it worked, it sure seemed to mess with phantonic values… That’s what you call it, right? Yeah—you passed out from it. I was obviously okay, cause I’m great.”

“Ah, shut up!” Brandon groaned, rubbing his head where Muraco had been whacking him. He stood up, taking a look around. “This… isn’t good. We’ve gotta get back!”

“That’s why I was trying to wake you up,” Muraco stated. “I wasn’t going to leave you here. And like hell I was going to carry you!”

“Right… Well, I appreciate it—I think. Even if you were kicking me.”

“In any case, this fog is certainly mysterious. We need to take caution while proceeding through it. Stick next to me. My ears—along with my other sensory skills—will get us out of here!”

“What other ‘skills’ do you even have?”

“Well, aside from the Abilities I told you about last night during our long talk, I… seem to be able to sense different energies—like how an Ouderkirk can. It’s difficult for me to use it, so I tend to stick with my ears.”

“Huh… I see.”

“Do you?” Muraco glared at Brandon questionably.  

“Of course I do! Besides—it’s not important right now! Let’s go!”

“Right, right…” Muraco began to hop behind Brandon, who had already started running south. He was decently familiar with the terrain—enough to know which direction to go.

They only managed to move a few yards before gunfire rang out through the area.

Instinctively, Muraco formed his scarf in front of Brandon, expanding it to intercept a bullet that had been aimed at the boy.

“Wha!?” Brandon fell to the ground, startled as the bullet connected to the phanton-fueled cloth made a sound similar to two large pieces of metal slamming into one another.

“We’ve got an enemy to the east!” Muraco changed the scarf into a large barrier that intercepted multiple gunshots now striking at the two. “Dammit…!”

Brandon stood, activating Shepherd Surge. “Do they have a freaking machine gun!?” The bullets had now become a horizontal rain of steel, bombarding Muraco’s defense. The rabbit had difficulty keeping the scarf together as he had not been able to complete the transformation in time.

A bullet flew through the cloth, missing Brandon’s head by mere centimeters. At that instant, the electricity around him had managed to get a good feel on the material the bullet was composed of.

“Phantonite…?” Brandon’s eyes widened. “Yeah… It’s definitely phantonite. It feels just like Charlie’s weapon. How… can I tell though?”

“Brandon! Less chatting, more helping! Can you do anything with your Ability!? I need some time to form this correctly!”

“Yeah…” Brandon nodded, looking down at his hands. “Yeah—I think I can!”

A second bullet flew at Brandon—this time his body was now directly in the path. With his enhanced reflexes, he slapped the bullet out of the way with his electrified hand.

With the air cracking around him, a cocky grin formed on Brandon’s face.

“Muraco! I’m gonna blitz at them!”

“Huh!? Are you crazy—”

In the form of a lightning strike, Brandon shot past Muraco with blinding speed. It took the rabbit a moment to process what had just happened.

“He’s…!”

Brandon stormed through the bullets, keeping his arms in front of him as an extra line of defense, although his electricity was successfully deflecting them off of him.

“Keep going… Keep going…!

He had already reached a pine tree where a figure stood on a branch. It was clear to Brandon that this was the source of the attack. With confidence swelling in his body, Brandon leaped up toward this mysterious foe.

“Don’t mess with my town, you bastards!”

Spinning his leg around his body, Brandon struck like a bolt of lightning, shattering the entire upper half of the tree in a blinding light.

Brandon, however, missed the enemy. He glanced off to the right, where the figure—still not entirely visible due to the fog—aimed its arm at him. Brandon noticed the barrel seemingly formed directly from the person’s body. He did not have time to question how or why, as a shot from this distance would hit him. There was no time to reform his Shepherd Surge around his entire body, after all, as he had concentrated all of it to his leg.

“Shit…!”

Muraco reacted just in time, kicking the figure with incredible force, sending it flying into the earth below. The rabbit formed his scarf around Brandon, grabbing him and pulling him to the ground, where they both landed safely.

“You shouldn’t be that careless, Brandon!” Muraco shouted. “Even if that attack was both fast and powerful, it leaves you wide open if the enemy is able to evade it. You need to make sure you’re keeping your guard raised!”

“All right, battle expert! I’m sorry—I know… I thought it would have gotten them…” Brandon pouted.

“Well, that’s okay. It gave me enough time to focus my phantonic energy to my scarf. I should be able to use it to its fullest potential now!” Muraco stared ahead of them noticing the figure casually standing up. “So—who the hell are you?”

The figure did not respond. It took a few steps forward, keeping Brandon and Muraco on their toes. It was a slim, middle-aged man with wavy black hair. He had his entire face below his nose made up of a solid metal structure, along with his arms that were visible due to his short-sleeved blue jacket. Brandon wondered if his legs were the same underneath his black jeans.

“His… body is made of phantonite…?”

“I am Ivan,” The man responded in a monotone, almost robotic voice. “I have no choice but to kill you. We can’t have anyone with Abilities getting in the way of our plans.”

“And what are these plans of yours, ya freak!?” Brandon asked in a furious tone.

“Irrelevant,” Ivan responded nonchalantly. “You have to die. That is all.” He aimed the barrel on his right arm toward the two. A blue aura began to emit from his body.

“He’s gotta be making infinite ammo by fueling the phantonite with phantons…” Brandon shook his head. “He would have to have lots of phantonic energy to do something like that!”

Ivan shot at Brandon, who had already raised electricity in front of him. Muraco, however, deflected the bullet with his scarf, surprising Brandon.  

“Hey, thanks, but I—”

“I’m going to make an opening so you can finish him off,” Muraco stated. “In the meantime, I’ll wear him out! There’s no way I’m letting us die from the hands of this boring creep!”

Muraco’s scarf expanded, forming into several tentacle-like appendages around his body.

“I am Muraco! Hero of Requiem! Villain of Requiem, at least be an interesting character before I take you down!”

 

Charlotte flew into the fog in the center of town. She kept looking around in an attempt to locate the enemy.

“If only my sense could work perfectly…”

Charlotte was startled as a thin layer of ice suddenly began to form on her body.

“There we go. You came to me. That saves me the trouble.” Charlotte glared at the figures that suddenly revealed themselves before her, levitating just as she was. A girl on the right, around her late-teens, and a boy, around his mid-teens. Both had blond hair—the boy’s being short and shaggy while the girl’s long and wavy—yet they each had a mysterious white streak in their hair that caught Charlotte’s attention.

“Wait a minute… This feeling I’m getting from them…”

The girl raised her arms as if reaching out for a hug. She, for a reason unknown to Charlotte, had a black blindfold around her eyes. Her dark blue dress with gem-like decorations danced within the fog as she moved around.

“It seems it was true after all, Miles. The energy you obtained from Carl’s body was, in fact, legitimate Ouderkirk power.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you, my darling Haley!” The boy known as Miles fidgeted while speaking to the girl next to him, yet he kept a wicked grin plastered on his face. His attire seemed to somewhat copy Haley’s—consisting of a blue sweater with similar gems near the collar and white pants.

“Of course not, you sweet boy,” Halley lightly stroked Miles’ cheek. “It seems like even we can achieve something from this operation.”

“Haley and Miles, huh? Were you the ones who attacked us a few minutes ago?” Charlotte asked, easily forming a sword in her hand despite the ice surrounding her.

“Ah, yes. Miles formed a nicely sized ball of phantonic energy formed from my fog. He dropped it on you all, aiming to kill all the living people. You seemed to escape with them, yes? No matter—we shut down that signal. Now our signal has rendered everyone without an Ability unconscious.”

“Thanks for the info. At least those guys passing out makes sense now. Why though? Why are you doing this…?”

“It’s simple, really,” Haley giggled, holding her hand in front of her mouth. “We want power. And when it comes to Miles and myself, you will be perfect for us.”

“I’m not stupid. I can feel your energies… A-Are you two…?”

“We’re not Ouderkirks!” Miles roared. “How dare you even assume we’re related to scum like you!”

Haley calming placed her hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right. Relax, Miles. No—we are not Ouderkirks, like he said. It’s… a complicated situation. We’ve been put into quite a difficult situation, you see. And we’d like to use your power to get out of it.”

“Is that so?” Charlotte snickered. “Well, I may have been willing to listen to you. But, after what you’ve already done… That’s no longer an option.”

“Oh? Do you not notice the ice forming around you?” Haley chuckled, again with her hand over her mouth. “It’s formed from my fog, you see. You’re in my domain to begin with, and now you’re encapsulated. You don’t have much leeway here—”

With an eruption of azure energy, Charlotte shattered the ice around her, smiling confidently at the two.

“All right then. If you’re the source of this fog, all I have to do is take you down, correct? This should be simple.”

“Do you know how much power Haley has been concentrating over these past few months!? There’s no way you can take it on, regardless of your powers!” Miles shouted in a fury. “In fact—let me handle this, Haley!”

“It is true your Ability would be perfect against her,” Haley noted. “However, you lack the battle experience. One wrong move, and she’ll kill you. I’ve got this, Miles.”

“O-Okay, if you say so…” Miles quickly grew timid, floating back behind Haley.

“They can both fly… It must have something to do with their Abilities? Or… just her Ability. This fog… is certainly her domain—she wasn’t wrong about that.”

Haley raised her hand, forming a sword similar to Charlotte’s, completely made of ice. Tiny frozen petals also seemed to form, floating around the hilt. “I’ll defeat you, and capture that other ghost girl. Sound good to you?”

Charlotte shook her head. “Of course not.”

Without any hesitation, the Ouderkirk girl soared toward her opponent with her sword ready to strike.

 

Carl shot the two waves of petals at Adam with a swift wave of his hands. Before Adam could react, Pam jumped in front of him, slashing the petals apart using her steam-covered sword.

Chris quickly snapped his fingers, sending a spark in Pam’s direction. She formed a sphere—flicking it at the attack. The two powers collided, with Pam’s easily overcoming Chris’.

“Shit! She tore that apart! Gotta—”

Through the smoke that had formed, a second sphere of steam flew toward Chris. Carl formed another wave of black petals, knocking the sphere away from his ally before it could make contact.

“Don’t worry about Pamela. I’ll handle her myself. You try and take out the other girl so we can get to the boy before he recovers.” Carl ordered.

“Sounds like a plan, Carl.” Chris nodded, preparing to make another move.

“Adam, wait until you’re fully recovered. Faith and I can hold them off.” Pam prepared to charge ahead, only to be stopped by Adam.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that. I’m fine—he didn’t injure me that badly.”

A spark flew from Chris. Before Pam or Adam could stop it, Faith did so herself using a fierce flame shot from her hand. She sighed, shaking her head at Adam.

“This Carl guy seems to be the one in charge here. Mom, you can hold him off, for sure. But I think you and Adam working together against him will be our best bet. Based on what I’ve seen from this other guy’s Ability… I think I can take him on my own.”

“Faith, you can’t! You—” Adam was hushed by Faith’s finger placed on his lips.

“You can trust me, Adam. I do have more battle experience than you, after all. Despite my Ability being recent, I’ve been practicing for this sort of thing for years. In fact, I’ll get this guy away from here, so you can focus your attention on Carl. You also need to be prepared for those shadows, as well.”

“I trust you, honey,” Pam nodded. “I’ll make sure Carl doesn’t get in your way. Go for it!”

Faith grinned, cracking her knuckles. “With pleasure.”

Adam said nothing. He simply stared at the torn pavement below him.

“Heh…!” Carl sent another wave of black petals toward them. Pam pointed her sword directly at the attack and took a massive leap forward. The steam surrounding the sword tore through the petals as she jabbed at Carl. He was able to form a spear in his hand at the last second, intercepting her strike.

“I won’t let you escape this time!” Pam shouted.

“Escape? I have no intention on doing that…” Carl swung his spear, whacking Pam away from him. “Not until we accomplish what we came here to do!”

Pam began swinging her blade repeatedly with Carl blocking each slash with the side of his spear. The pressure building up, thanks to the steam, became too much for him, causing him to jump back. He retaliated by creating petals from the tip of the spear, flinging them toward Pam almost in the shape of a beam.

Pam placed her sword in her scabbard, drawing it immediately afterward, slashing through the attack with a sharp column of steam that had quickly built up. Carl stepped to the side, barely avoiding the power perfectly capable of splitting him in two, as it had done before.

“That’s definitely a handy trick! You can even build up that much power in a short amount of time? You’ve certainly honed your craft, Pamela!” Carl dashed at her, attempting to strike her directly with his spear. Pam continued to evade Carl’s attacks, able to get a few slices in herself before he, in turn, blocked her efforts.

“This is my chance!” Faith blitzed Chris, who had lost focus while paying attention to Carl and Pam’s bout.

“Shit!” He flicked his fingers, creating a spark that would surely strike Faith, being only a few feet away.

Faith managed to duck, however, dodging Chris’ attempt to hit her. She pushed off the ground with her feet, jumping right at him.

“Are you an idiot! You can’t dodge now!” Chris unleashed a second spark. Although this would have normally made contact with ease, Faith would not allow it. Taking her right hand, she began to form a Roswell Sphere of her own. Before its shape was complete, she shot the gathering energy out of her palm, throwing herself around Chris’ attack.

“What…!?”

Faith grinned, landing on her feet to Chris’ right.

 

“All right, Faith. We had quite the fight yesterday, didn’t we?” Liz asked, patting the girl on the back. Faith looked as though she was in horrible pain. She was, in fact, considering their battle was the day prior. They stood in the very same forest area that they had begun their trial.

“Why are we doing more training…? Shouldn’t I rest more…?”

“That would be nice—right? It’s not happening, unfortunately. Our goal is to review what happened yesterday and learn.” Liz leaned over, patting the ground beside her. “Win’s… digging, apparently? Wonder what she has in mind, tunneling under here?”

“Oh… That’s what she’s doing? I sorta spaced out when you two were talking… I was thinking about how nice a sandwich would be right now, but we can’t eat, can we…?”

“I’ll help you get the greatest sandwich in the world, once we’re done. Now… I wanted to ask you something. That attack you were using near the end, with the spheres… That’s a lot like your mom’s technique, isn’t it?”

“Yeah… I can’t really throw them yet, but I was able to use them to launch myself toward you. I figured that could have worked, but you can build up enough energy with your Teleleap to block a Roswell Sphere, you mad woman.”

“I’ve done crazier stuff before. You’ll see what I mean once we start working together. Anyway—you launching yourself. Do you think you could work on that? I think it would be perfect for you if you could rocket around the battlefield. Especially at your stage, where you excel at close combat. You can get up close and personal a lot easier with it.”

“I… get what you mean. That might be pretty cool… But, forming those spheres takes too much concentration. Mainly with keeping their shape. I’m not sure how well that could work on the fly…”

“Well, what if you don’t need to keep that shape? You’re building up the energy, right? Try channeling that power into just launching yourself, as opposed to forming the sphere, and then launching yourself.”

“Hmm…” Faith looked at her hands. “It… was pretty fun, actually. Flying through the air. I never thought something I’ve feared for so long could do that…”

“If you master this, you’ll be able to have even more fun! You’ll be like a rocket!” Liz grinned.

Faith giggled. “A rocket, huh…?”

 

“Dammit!” Chris flicked a spark at the ground, where Faith swiftly launched herself upward with another burst of flames, evading the explosion that obliterated where she just was.

Now she was once again in front of Chris. As he turned, she formed a veil of flames around her body. Mere inches away, he had no way to counter her in time.

“Ready to fly?”

Concentrating her flames to her foot, Faith launched herself off the ground, striking Chris with her elbow. She proceeded to dig her fist from the same arm into his chest, opening up the same hand to release a robust flame—catapulting the man into the thick fog behind him.

Stepping down, Faith promptly took off after him by expelling flames from her feet repeatedly. She had completed her task, successfully removing Chris and herself away from the battlefield and onto another. It happened at such a pace that Adam had trouble keeping up with Faith’s movements.

“Not only has she done so well in overcoming her fear… Faith’s flames are basically a representation of her own inner flames now…” Adam sighed. “Can… you do it? Can you take that guy by yourself? You need to be careful, in this fog…”

“You need to have… faith, in her, Adam…” Pam sighed, kicking Carl away from her—seemingly doing little damage despite the high concentration of steam currently surrounding her foot.

“When you named her, puns like that were inevitable…” Adam stood, stretching out the limbs that had finally recovered. “They’re not good puns, but I’ll let it slide for now.” He walked by Pam’s side, lifting his arm—now surrounded in Overlay.

“I never thought the day would come when I’d fight by your side…” Pam thought out loud. “I wonder what your mom would think…”

“From everything I’ve heard about her, she’d probably be concerned we’re keeping this nonsense going on for this long. Let’s hurry up and take this guy down!” Adam vowed.

Pam chuckled, holding back the tears she felt like she was about to shed. “Right. Back me up, Adam!”

Carl donned a menacing smile, forming more petals that spiraled around his spear. Adam and Pam bolted ahead as they began their clash.

 

At the Unity building inside Nexus City, Alexander encountered Rizzo in the hallway. The boy had already formed his wings, ready to strike at the man.

“You’re not going to help out? What the hell is even happening in that town!?” Alexander roared.

“Please, keep your voice down, Alexander,” Rizzo requested. “I already made the official statement. No Unity member is to enter that fog. The official reason is ‘It’s too dangerous,’ but I think you can read past that, can’t you?”

“Do ya just want all those innocent people to die!? Ya just keep on showing how scummy ya are, huh!?”

“Are you going to fight me, again?” Rizzo asked nonchalantly. “I’d rather you not try one of your foolhardy attempts in here, please.”

“I’m not wasting my time on that shit! Ya can’t stop me now—that’s the rules ya made, right?”

“As thanks to your sister, as long as you don’t get in the way of Unity, I won’t lay a finger on you. That is correct.”

“Then I’m going! If all of these bitches here will just bend over for you and watch a town get destroyed, then I’ll be the one to settle things!”

“Do what you want.” Rizzo shrugged, walking past Alexander. The boy paused for a moment before flapping his wings, soaring through the corridors toward the exit. Veronica calmly watched as he burst through the doors and into the city.

“If I go at max speed, I can get to Prelude in seconds. Gotta make sure I don’t flap these things too hard. Don’t want to trash Nexus City just to save another place from being trashed.”

Alexander took to the air, preparing to take off. He could see the fog-covered town from this distance. Gritting his teeth in fury, he began to flap his wings.

He did not get far. Alexander could barely react to the green silhouette kicking him down into the buildings below.  


Next: Chapter 2.29

Previous: Chapter 2.27

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Chapter 2.27

The raging shadows faded. Jason was certain that he successfully warped the three away from the area. Although Brandon and Muraco had vanished, Adam remained.

It took the boy with the World Mirror a moment to process what had just occurred.

“B-Brandon… Muraco…?

Likewise, it took the masked being made of darkness a moment to process the fact that Adam remained on the battlefield.

“How did… How did my phantom energy not work on you…?”

Adam gritted his teeth, rage welling up within him. “What the hell did you do to them!?”

Jason could feel a strange pressure beginning to come from his opponent. “Hmm… Like me, it seems your power isn’t exactly ‘normal,’ is it? I figured, based on what I saw in Minuet. But this is…”

Adam moved his arms in front of him, adjusting his footing. “I see faint traces of red in that huge black mass. Chaons—I assume. But… phantom energy? Could it be that black energy related to chaons that Thomas mentioned? How does it work… He said we would be ‘sent away,’ right?”

“This is a problem,” Jason revealed his mask, glaring down at Adam with piercing red eyes. “If I can’t warp you away, then we might be at a disadvantage. Yes… Counting you, there would be four Ability wielders on our front, once they come out.”

“He already knows our numbers?” Adam’s eyes slowly widened. “Wait, ‘our front’? Don’t tell me…”

Jason began laughing—his mask bouncing up and down. “Of course we know where the others are. We actually couldn’t detect the place using our network, yet with me—one who can move around almost anywhere—it wasn’t too hard to find. Now, let’s see how much noise this causes…”

“Noise? What do you mean by that!?”

Jason responded with a mere chuckle.

 

While this encounter was occuring, Charlotte’s eyes shot wide open. She rose out of bed, while her anxiety simultaneously rose.

“Something… doesn’t feel right.” She looked to the side of her. Lucy had been sleeping next to her the entire night, yet was no longer there.

“Where’s—”

Charlotte was interrupted by giggling over near the center table. Looking over, she exhaled at the sight of Lucy conversing with Jerry.

“And that’s why Kitty Kid and Puppy Pal is the greatest show of all time!” Lucy stated with a grin on her face. She was moving her legs back and forth while sitting in the seat next to Jerry.

“I-I see…” Jerry chuckled. “That show was on when I was a kid… I think even then it was on for nearly a decade. Interesting…” He began typing away at his laptop. “Let me see if I can figure out the exact time frame you would have watched the show based on the details you gave me about your favorite episodes…”

Charlotte trudged over to them, wondering why she still felt like something was off. “Lucy, you sleep well?”

“Morning Charlotte! I did! You’re comfy!”

“Charlotte, I have some great news!” Jerry’s face lit up upon seeing her.

“Oh? What’s up?”

“The god drive! It has some weird data on it! It’s as if it locked itself up in a ZIP file that doesn’t want to open… I’ve been trying to figure out how to extract it most of the night.

“Are you serious…? Adam’s hunch was actually correct? How did it even get on there?”

“Not sure,” Jerry shrugged. “And for it to act like this… It’s almost as if it was intentionally placed on the god drive, as opposed to the thing catching random values. D-Does this even make sense to you, by the way…?”

“I think I understand enough of it, yeah.” Charlotte nodded.

“Okay, just checking. Anyway, I just want to go through this Kitty Kid and Puppy Pal stuff to learn some more details about Lucy, then—”

“Gah!” Travis jumped up from his chair.

“What’s wrong!?” Thomas asked in a panic, reaching over to look at Travis’ computer next to him. “Wait, this is…?”

“What is it, dad?” Jerry ran over to the commotion with his laptop still in his hand. Charlotte and Lucy were quick to follow.

“Block’s been disabled! There’s some sort of interference outside that’s messing with it!” Thomas looked up at the ceiling. Cody slowly stood from his seat a few feet away.

“Unity doing something, you think? Or is this…”

“I knew I felt something!” Charlotte quickly shifted into her armored form. “I’m sensing odd phantonic activity…”

“Well, it’s either Unity or that group. Charlotte, can you get us over to the others? We can’t really do much at the moment if Block got disabled that easily. We’d be safer over there.”

“Right! Everyone grab on, I’ll—” Charlotte grew pale. “This…”

“What’s wrong, Charlotte!?” Jerry questioned.

“Grab on everyone! Now—

The entire doctor’s office was flattened in an instant by a gargantuan sized sphere of azure shot from the sky, erupting in the center of Prelude like an atomic blast.

 

As Prelude shook, Adam looked on in horror as the event could be seen easily through the fog, causing hurricane-force winds to roar through the streets. The windows shattered on the building behind him—glass raining down as the gales calmed as quickly as they began.

“Woo! Nice one, Miles!” Jason laughed hysterically. “Haven’t seen a blast that large in ages! Man, that certainly should have destroyed anyone it hit! Hope the ghost girl is still okay. The values he should have put into that should make it not affect her—”

Adam leaped over Jason, aiming to make a break for it to the impact site. Despite the fog before him, his eyes indicated that his mind was set on going.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Jason manipulated the shadows around him, swirling around Adam. “I could tell from before… Even if my phantom energy can’t do anything to you, you are also unable to do anything.”

Flailing his arms around, Adam struggled to free himself. “Dammit! It’s hard to move…” He could feel his arms already burning with exhaustion.

“Sadly, I can’t keep holding you. Need to conserve my energy.” Jason flung Adam back toward the station, landing back in front of the door. By this time, Pam, Faith, Emma, and Winona had rushed outside to see what had just occurred. Roy and Roger stood back, fearing for their safety.

“Adam, what’s going on!?” Faith asked, moving next to him with a flame in her hand. “What is that thing!? Wait, isn’t that…?”

“What was the explosion!?” Pam moved forward, forming a sphere of steam in her hands. “It’s you again…!”

“Oh man, Pamela Roswell. Carl, get that thing up and running, please…?” Jason begged seemingly to no one. “I’m not sure how quickly my energy will drain dealing with all of this…”

“I’m ending this right now!” Pam chucked the sphere at Jason with blinding speeds. Simply raising up a small portion of the shadows, he intercepted it, causing it to fade away.

“Uh oh, looks like that move couldn’t work,” Jason cackled. “At least, not on me…”

Pam grimaced. “What does he mean by—”

Shadows formed directly above Adam and Faith. The sphere of steam descended on them without hesitation. By the time Pam turned around, her attack had already exploded, completely blanketing them in white that matched the fog.

 

“Magnificent!” Carl jumped for joy upon the sight of the explosion. “I knew the kid had it in him!”

Chris stood by Carl on the outskirts of Prelude, watching safely outside the fog’s boundaries. He patted Carl’s cloaked back. “Save the energy for the operation. Jason’s about to pull us in there.”

“Yes yes, of course. I’m just so thrilled this is finally happening!” Carl started to giggle like a child. He reached into his pants pocket, pulling out a tiny device designed to look like a smartphone with a touch screen and sleek silver design. “The fog was enough to shut down their weird network, yet destroying the entire place works even better!”

“I find it funny that even you couldn’t hack through it, with normal methods,” Chris chuckled. “You had to rely on this wack-ass fog that Haley created.”

“Yes… Knowing who designed it, I’m not too surprised. No matter—I’m past feeling inferior to that man…” Carl clenched his fist. “My network known as ‘Outer’ has its own unique features! Ones that could have reshaped the world if those damned board of directors listened to me!”

“That’s the shit Derek and I were using when we were looking for the seal, yeah?” Chris asked.

“Yes. It went beyond the simple detection of phantons. Distortions similar to those that phantons can create, as well as chaons. That is what Outer can locate! I even programmed the values into Smokey… Poor Smokey. He would have been the peak of Outer’s potential. But—no matter.”

“Yeah, I miss the freaky little shit. I named him, after all.”

“It’s all right. My new pet will truly bring out Outer’s potential!” Carl raised his hand to the fog. “Isn’t that right, Medusa!?”

Several feet away from the two, concealed by the fog, was a black humanoid creature, limping forward. It made a noise like the whistle of a tea kettle, except much lower in pitch. Several tendril-like appendages flopped around on the top of its head, acting as a sort of hair for the beast. It did not have a mouth—simply bearing two gloomy, forbidding orange eyes.

“Now, there’s nothing in your way! Time to activate Code 6543! Put these fools to sleep, and feast!”

With Carl’s command, Medusa froze. After no motion for several seconds, the air around it began to seemingly vibrate. This energy expanded, growing weaker the further away it got from Medusa.

“Is it… working?” Chris asked slightly concerned.

“It absolutely has—fear not,” Carl grinned. “What you see and what is actually happening are completely separate.”

Chris nodded, staring off into the fog—Medusa beginning to walk once more.

“Derek, be careful on your side of things, man.”

 

The barrier made of dirt that had seemingly protected Adam and Faith at the last second crumbled, falling apart around them. This revealed that Adam had covered Faith with his right arm, raising his left to block the attack.

“Huh…?”

Adam glanced over to Winona, who had used her Ability at that moment to defend the two. She was panting rather heavily.

“That… was… the fastest I’ve ever used my power. Glad I… made it in time…”

Turning his attention to his arm, Adam realized that he has completely enveloped it in the World Mirror’s power, as opposed to the rest of his body which still had Outline surrounding it.

“I moved… rather quick as well. This technique… I was going to call ‘Overlay’. I focus more power to a certain part of my body, making it useable for either offense—or in this case—defense. I never actually used it in this way before… How did my body know…?”

“I’m… glad.” Pam sighed a breath of relief. “I was careless… But, you two were able to react to something that fast…?”

Adam and Winona looked at each other. They could do nothing but shrug at the strange occurrence.

“I feel like that would have been something Carl would have liked to see…” Jason commented. “Yes, your bodies being able to react before your mind even fully processes what’s happening. I think he mentioned something like that before… But happening from two people at once? What are the odds?”

“Whatever,” Adam reverted Overlay around his arm back to Outline and stepped forward. “Pam, this guy can warp things his shadows come into contact with! He sent Brandon and Muraco away somewhere… It doesn’t seem to affect me, so let me deal with this!”

“Well, even if that’s the case, we can’t let you do this by yourself!” Faith declared. “Let’s back you up!”

“Got any ideas?” Adam asked her. “Whatever you try to do, he’ll just warp it—either at me or someone else.”

“This guy’s certainly a problem…” Pam sighed, pulling out a Core from her pocket. She activated it, revealing her blade still in its sheath. “We’ll just have to figure out how to deal with him!”

“If we can get past him, we can head to where that explosion occurred…” Winona paused for a moment. “…They’ve attacked the others, haven’t they…?”

“I’m pretty sure—yeah. He moves way too fast though! And if any of you get caught up in those shadows, he’ll just—”

“Yeah—I don’t think you guys understand,” Jason sighed. “I don’t have enough power to actually attempt to engage you right now. Well—I do—I just can’t waste it here. I’ve got plenty of others to move around.”

“I won’t let you do that!” Adam roared, preparing to charge at the shadow once again. He halted, feeling a strange energy come into contact with him. “Huh…? What’s this…?”

“Emma!”

Adam turned upon hearing Faith’s scream. Emma had suddenly collapsed onto the ground with no warning. Along with her, Roy and Roger inside near the entrance seemed to fall instantly as well.

“What the…? Sweetie!” Pam rushed over to Emma’s side, helping Faith hold her. “What’s happening!?”

“Just a little thing to help us keep the trash out of the way.” Jason chuckled. “And to help fuel our little pet that should be walking around right about now…”

“Dammit… We need to get to where the others are…” Adam looked at Winona. “Win, I have an idea.”

“You do? I’m all ears.”

“You can use your Ability to sense vibrations in the earth, right? That means the fog shouldn’t be that much of an issue for you. I’ll hold this guy off while you go and aid Charlotte and your dad. Based on what I’m seeing here… whatever’s happening, it’s knocking people out who don’t have Abilities. That means they’ll have their hands full protecting the ones who are unconscious.”

“That… Yeah, that sounds good. You guys can handle this thing here and catch up when you’re done.” Winona nodded, slightly surprised at Adam’s quick wit.

“Easier said than done. I feel like the phantons in this fog are going to cause all sorts of problems. Don’t rely on your normal sense—use your Ability to guide you. I think I know a way to break through—we just need this guy out of the picture first.”

Jason sighed. “I need a few more seconds… Carl, hurry up…”

“A few more seconds?” Adam smirked. “Then we’re making a move now!

“Right! Let’s go!” Winona stomped her foot on the ground, forcing a wave of dirt to gush up from the earth, spiraling around the two.

“What are you two doing!?” Faith shouted, guarding her face against the sudden burst in front of her.

Winona’s Ability split in two, causing fierce twisters of sand to spread across the station’s parking lot, surrounding Jason.

“That’s some decent power. Damn—guess I’m gonna have to warp these away, huh—”

Jason was interrupted by Adam, who leaped out of the dust that still covered their location. With his right arm once again wrapped in Overlay, he flew directly toward Jason’s mask hiding in the shadows.

“Ever since I fought Derek, I’ve been using the World Mirror much like his own Ability, ‘flinging’ it through my limbs and out of my body. If I want to stop losing arms, I have to work it differently… So, by focusing most of my power through Overlay, I can unleash an attack called…”

“Impact!”

Jason intercepted the strike at the last second, positioning his shadows in front of him. The intense clash of black and white began.

“Shit! Gotta keep my mask safe… But, those twisters—”

“Yeah, I figured your mask was your weak point.” Adam smiled in a cocky manner. “I just have to force you to keep it safe, right? And Winona can make an escape.”

“Huh? An escape?” Jason moved his mask to look behind him. Both of the sand twisters diminished, with Winona hiding in the one to the left of him. Kicking off the ground, Winona launched herself into the fog with a slab of stone.

“Dammit… I’m reaching my limit…” Jason began to growl. “Curse these… limits…”

“If that’s the case, then I’m not letting up!” Adam roared, putting his back into his fist. Energy gathered that started to push the shadows back.

“Such amazing power…” Faith stared in awe. “He might breakthrough!”

“Unfortunately, you and I can’t do anything against this guy. So we’ll have to hope he can do it…” Pam said as she moved Emma and the other two a safe distance inside. “He can’t break those shadows, but he can certainly move them with force.”

“Right… Winona went on ahead. We have to be ready to go as well. But, who will watch these guys?” Faith asked, looking over to where her sister was in concern.

“I…” Pam hesitated. “I’m… not sure. Am I even someone who should be considered a Town Admin at this point…? Adam formulated a strategy a lot quicker than I could have. Heh, he’s Becca’s son after all…” She looked ahead, basking in the light of the World Mirror.

“So go, Adam. Finish him.”

Adam began groaning in pain. Although his new way of attacking was working, he could still not keep up the pressure without the bones in his arm beginning to crack.

“Almost… there…”

Unbeknown to Adam, black petals had already blended in with Jason’s phantom energy. As Carl casually approached the station with Chris by his side, he waved his hand. This simple motion caused the petals to erupt out of the shadows, forming into a massive wave.

“Wha—”

As Adam finally noticed, he was slammed into the ground with tremendous force.

“Adam!” Faith attempted to run to his side, yet was halted by her mother.

“Don’t! Faith… look. It’s him again…”

Jason descended—his phantom energy quickly diminishing. Carl playfully tapped the floating mask.

“You did well, Jason. I’m surprised we actually had to come here ourselves. You were having that much trouble? Was really hoping you’d warp us… but oh well. It matters not.”

As the petal disintegrated, Adam struggled to sit up. He felt pain equivalent to wasps stinging his entire body at once. Barely able to open one eye, he saw the newcomers join the fray.

“It’s you…”

“Adam Grayson! What’s up, man!?” Chris asked in an almost genuine tone of happiness.

Carl chuckled at the sight of Adam in the dirt. “This is who you are, huh? Interesting…” He turned his attention to the mother and daughter behind the boy. “Long time no see, you two.”

Pam positioned herself, ready to draw her blade.

“With how things currently are, Unity isn’t going to send for help, are they? Rizzo… Are you really going to allow that? Your reputation will be tarnished—simply so that Nexus thing can test Adam…?”

Carl formed black petals on each side of him, raising his arms in a conceited manner. “Pamela! It’s time I pay you back for slicing me in half. How about… I slice your daughter in half in exchange?”

Faith put her fist in front of her, coating it in her flames. “I’m not going to allow you to do that, you asshole!”

“Hey, I like this girl,” Chris commented—a wicked grin forming on his face. “Man, I’d definitely ask her out if we weren’t on opposing sides. Damn! Lost opportunity!”

Adam stood—the aura of the World Mirror fixing his wounds as he was leaning over in front of the Roswells. He glared at Carl and Chris with glowing white eyes that, along with the blood covering his face, sent a chill down Chris’ spine. Carl, on the other hand, grew excited.

“Nice nice nice… This is going to be fun, indeed!”

 

“Jerry! What happened!?” Charlotte attempted to wake the boy up who had suddenly fallen unconscious.

“Thomas… Travis… What’s going on!?” Cody poked his fellow colleagues with his cane, before taking a look around. Charlotte had managed to move the group into the currently closed Ann’s. Despite the powerful blast, it seemed to had only affected their hideout, as buildings nearby suffered only minor damage.

Lucy ran back and forth, slapping the three who were leaning up against a shelf of canned vegetables in one of the store’s aisles. “Wake up, wake up, wake up!”

“I don’t think that’s going to work, Lucy.” Charlotte grabbed Lucy’s hand, calming the young ghost girl down. A moment later, she went back into her hysterical panic.

“But what are we gonna do!? Aren’t the bad guys coming after us!?”

“The bad guys…” Charlotte focused her senses around the area, trying to detect the presence of anyone. “It’s hard to tell… This fog is an issue…”

Cody pulled out a Core, transforming it into a silver rifle with gold inlay. “Well, you’re gonna go out there and stop them, right?”

“Huh…?”

“I can’t move around much these days, as you know. I have to keep my distance and use this gun to fight others. But, don’t worry. I’ll keep everyone here safe.”

“All right…” Charlotte nodded. “I’ll make sure I take down the enemy.”

“It’s a deal, then.” Cody smirked.

“Charlotte!” Lucy ran up to her, grabbing her arm. “Be… Be careful. Don’t get hurt…”

Charlotte smiled, lightly touching the girl’s face. “Don’t worry. I’m royalty, after all.”

“Wait—you are!? Are you a princess!?” Lucy was beaming.

“I.. I don’t know,” Charlotte laughed awkwardly. “Right now, though… I’m a warrior.”

With those words, Charlotte took off through the wall, out into the foggy battlefield.

Little did Charlotte know, she was heading right into the toughest battle of her afterlife.


Next: Chapter 2.28

Previous: Chapter 2.26

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

StKa4mainies

Chapter 2.26

“Carl, we’re ready.”

Jason had appeared in front of Carl, who was standing outside of their base in the forest. It was early morning—the sun had barely risen over the horizon. The duck-faced mask danced around in the black energy it resided in rather cheerfully.

“Nice nice nice! I’ve been waiting for this moment! Everyone know their role?”

“Yes—I’ve given instructions to the others who aren’t here right now. Derek and Chris are ready to go, yes?”

“Oh, indeed! Especially Derek. We had to make sure he was the most prepared, as he’s key in this mission succeeding.”

“If only I could move the girl with my phantom energy… I can defy space, after all. The issue is her values are far too sensitive for me to do that…”

Carl wagged his finger. “Not to worry! You’ll still have plenty to do! You’re with Chris and me, preventing the people in the station from counterattacking. We’ve figured out the girl’s current location is in that basement, which is all too perfect. We can proceed with the initial plan. She won’t die, of course, so we should be able to scoop her up from there.”

“The Ouderkirk girl is currently down there too…” Jason sighed. “You’re gonna have him do something about that?”

“Sure! Haley will already be there, considering she’s the one who will attack the place. Miles is attached to her, so having him there will be simple! Assuming the Ouderkirk girl survives the initial attack, Miles can wear her down. And Derek can grab the little girl during the commotion. If I can get the Ouderkirk girl to… “ Carl began to cackle.

“And in the meantime, I can warp away whatever defense they may have to Ivan’s position. You and Chris can handle the remainder of them…?”

“It’ll certainly be a challenge, especially if Pamela Roswell is there. But that’s fine! This is going to be fun!”

“I’m excited as well, Carl. But… we have to make sure this goes well. For everyone’s sake.”

“Oh, come now, Jason!” Carl shook his head—a cocky smirk forming on his face. “There are plenty of important things one has to deal with. If you can’t have fun doing them, then you’re not doing it right!”

“I-I don’t know about that…” Jason floated toward the front door of the base. “Hey… Carl?”

“Hmm? What is it, my friend?”

“Do you really think you can… restore my body?”

“You don’t have to worry,” Carl assured him. “With the power I aim to achieve, I’ll be able to do anything! Once I grasp the truth of the world, there will be nothing standing in my way!”

“In that case, I’ll do my part until the bitter end.” The mask seemed to nod. “And… he’s already in position at the seal. That’s just what I got back from doing.”

“Indeed. Once Derek brings the girl to him, it’ll all be on his shoulders. I’d rather not let him deal with it himself, but… he’s the only one who can do it at the moment.”

“Right… Anyway, Haley should have gathered up the energy required for this. Let’s do this as quickly and efficiently as possible so she doesn’t die on us.”

Carl chuckled. “Well, hopefully, that little experiment done on her will help her out. Miles as well. Those poor kids… Even I wouldn’t do something so cruel to them.”

“You say that, but you are going to be strengthening that thing during this mission, aren’t you?”

“Oh, yes indeed! The opportunity is too perfect. Not to worry! It’ll be discrete, and it’s not like those older folk are much use anyway, aside from their used up phantons.”

“You’re horrible, Carl…” Jason laughed. “It’s interesting how young phantons bring chaons into the world, yet older phantons help fuel chaons…”

“You’ve always been interested in how energy works, huh?” Carl shrugged. “Makes sense. You’re a huge mass of energy, after all. Hmm…” Carl examined the black aura around Jason.

“What is it?”

“Your phantom energy… It’s literally the concept of nothingness brought into a physical form. Yet, in order to exist, it has to follow certain laws of the universe. The phantom energy your body is made out of has adapted to those various laws… Although it’s been a huge help in my research, fresh phantom energy would be the best for what I want to achieve. But… where would I find that?”

“You’ve asked this question several times,” Jason sighed. “I can’t help you. I’m not sure about my origins, aside from what’s been programmed into me. I’m still not sure if I’m actually Jason Zamora.”

“A mystery we’ll have to figure out another day. Luckily, that day can certainly come after our victory today!” Carl raised his fist in the air. “Are you ready, Jason!?”

“Heh… Your enthusiasm is usually creepy. Today though, it’s welcoming. Yes—let’s do this.”

 

“Well, you two look comfortable.” Emma scoffed. Adam and Faith were slowly waking up from their deep slumber, seemingly unaware of how close they were.

“Emma…? What time is it…?” Faith glanced up at her sister, who had her hair let down—drooped around her crossed arms.

“Time to get up. We have breakfast. Once we eat, we’re gonna check on the others.”

“It felt like I was sleeping forever…” Adam stretched his arms, yawning loudly. “Oh, hey Faith. Sleep well?”

“I-I…” Faith realized that she and Adam had been wrapped around each other almost the entire night. “Y-Yeah… I did…” She responded bashfully.

“Good. Oh—Emma. I didn’t know you had that much hair.”

“I usually have it up in a ponytail. Haven’t gotten the chance to do that yet.”

“Right, right.” Adam stood up, continuing to stretch out his body. “Is your mom doing okay?”

“She’s up. Still at her desk… Not sure how she’s feeling though…” Emma responded, shrugging her shoulders. “Hopefully we can sort things out today.”

“Hopefully…” Adam began walking toward the main room. “I’ll go on ahead. Gotta check if this food can actually be considered breakfast.”

“I think that means apples have to be involved…” Faith sighed. She got up, almost falling back down. Emma helped her remain on her feet.

“You still that sleepy?” Emma asked.

“It was some… good sleep.” Faith chuckled awkwardly.

“You know, you’re both adults now. What you do in your spare time is up to you guys. Just remember, I’m gonna be such a cool aunt!”

“Huh!? Emma, it’s nothing like that! We just passed out is all…”

“I’m just messing with ya! Mostly…” Emma chuckled.

“Whatever! I’m gonna go check on Mom!” Faith stomped into her mother’s office.

“Might as well join you!” Emma followed with a huge grin on her face.

Pam had been looking at various papers that were scattered on the desk’s surface. She glanced up upon Faith and Emma entering.

“Sleep well, Faith?” She asked her daughter. “Actually—sleep too well…?” A grin matching Emma’s formed on her face.

“You too!? I guess you’re feeling better, then!” Faith shouted in embarrassment.

“I am… I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. Before I tell you guys about Lucy, I need to talk to Adam first.”

“Huh? Why Adam? Is it about last night?” Faith questioned.

“Oh, the thing with the door? That’s no biggie. It’s… about… well…”

“Whatever it is, don’t sweat it,” Emma stated. “We’ll get through whatever all this crap is, together…”

“That’s what the Roswell’s are all about,” Pam smiled. “Making sure we not only help each other, but all of the loved ones around us.”

 

“Adam, I’m sorry! If only Ann’s was open!” Winona pleaded for Adam to eat the food that was spread out on the table.

“I don’t blame you, Winona. I only blame myself.” Adam murmured.

“Huh? Why do you blame yourself!?”

“I should have prepared for this. Any scenario that restricts my apple consumption… I should have had a backup plan…”

“What’s the big deal?” Roy asked, chugging down a glass of milk. “T-They’re just apples?”

“A fool wouldn’t understand…” Adam shook his head, sighing.

“What was that? Picking a fight!?” Roy jumped up from his seat.

“Roy, sit down!” Roger begged, pulling on his shirt.

“Roy… Why are you even here? Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?” Adam asked him, getting up in his face.

“O-Of course! I saw all the shit that’s been going down! I need to do this, for the boss!”

“Right… I get it. But understand, this isn’t a playing field a normal person can be on. Well, not normally. You’ll have you surpass all expectations if you’re going to get revenge for your boss.”

“Why are you telling me this!? And don’t call it revenge! Isn’t revenge a bad thing?”

Adam shrugged. “I guess… it all depends on how you carry it out? Getting justice for your boss doesn’t necessarily mean you have to kill someone in retaliation. Figure out another way to do it…”

“You… don’t even sound sure yourself, dude.” Roy scratched his head.

Roger slowly raised his hand. “U-Um… Should I even be here…?”

“You were helping out down in Twine, right? We definitely all the help we can get on that end. Don’t sweat it.” Adam poked Roger’s forehead.

“O-Okay…” Roger nodded his head timidly.

“W-What is your Ability, anyway?” Roy questioned. “These guys have been talking about it quite a lot.”

“The World Mirror,” Adam answered. “It’s quite the Ability, let me tell you… Wanna see?”

“You’re going to show him, right here!?” Winona asked in a panic. “What about everything around us?”

“Oh, I won’t show anything destructive. In fact, this is a first for me. I’ve finally come up with names for certain things I can do with this thing.”

“Names?”

“Yeah. Makes sure Roy and Roger are back a bit, Win. This shouldn’t cause any damage, but you never know with this power…”

“R-Right!” Winona beckoned the other two to move a few feet away from Adam. Making sure they were a safe distance away, he shut his eyes.

“All right. This power… It began to work this way during my fight with Alexander, I believe. A thin, white line around me… It can boost my physical capabilities quite a bit, and without the repercussions of just letting the World Mirror’s energy run rampant. I can honestly… branch out from this technique alone, can’t I? Hmm…”

“What’s he doing?” Roy looked at Adam curiously. “He’s just standing the—”

“Outline.”

With a sudden flash, Adam formed the thin line of energy around his body, kicking up a small gust of wind. It blew back a few donuts that were on the table, yet none fell to the floor.

“Woah… What can that do? Does it give you a shield?” Roy questioned, glancing around Adam’s body.

“I mean, that’s part of it. Not an absolute shield, or anything like that. But it does help keep my body safe.”

“So… if I punch you, it would only hurt a little?”

“I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Can’t promise I won’t punch back. Besides, I can heal easily from a simple punch.”

“You… can heal yourself? What the shit!?” Roy yelled. “Well, aren’t you overpowered!”

“Well, maybe at some point I’ll be… Right now, there are still too many risks. Too many kinks I have to work out.” Adam looked around the room. “Hmm… How’s my movement at the moment with this…?”

Adam quickly leaped off the floor, startling Roy enough for him to fall back. He backflipped over the table and soared across the room, landing on the wall on the opposite side.

“Control the energy… Jump off with enough force to launch yourself, yet not enough to damage the wall…”

With multiple thoughts flying through his head, Adam gathered the necessary information he needed to complete his objective. He immediately jumped back over the table and in front of Roy—a ghostly trail appearing on the path he took for a brief moment.

This entire process happened so swiftly, it took a moment for Winona to register Adam’s movement.

“W-What is that power…!?” Winona questioned astonished. “It’s got speed behind it, for sure. But there’s something else going on that makes your movement tricky to track!”

“Yeah… I think it’s just how the energy acts. And what I just did… I use the reflective properties I first experienced when fighting Muraco. No… That’s not quite right. A lot more was going on than simple reflection. I think I’ll call that ‘Redirect’, as I’m ‘redirecting’ how various energies move around me as they come into contact with the World Mirror’s energy.”

“Wow… This all sounds very fascinating!” Roger beamed.

“What? You can understand what I’m saying?” Adam asked. “Even I can barely understand what I’m coming up with…”

Winona ran up to Adam, seemingly pumped up. “I really wanna see this Ability in combat. Adam, after all of this nonsense is taken care of, fight me!”

“Huh? Like, spar?”

“Or we can go all-out. Whatever works—although I’d much rather overcome this awesome power of yours when it’s at its fullest potential!”

“I… I see. I forget you can get quite competitive sometimes…” Adam laughed. He breathed in, quickly exhaling. This caused his Outline to fade away, returning him to normal. “Anyway. Are Brandon and Muraco outside…? Were they out there all night…?”

“I think so?” Winona shrugged. “Hopefully they’re okay. One of us should go check.”

“Yeah—I will.” Adam nodded taking a glance at the food on the table. “Are these… rice balls? No—” Adam rubbed his eyes. “Still had sleepy shit in my eyes… It’s just a jelly-filled donut, of course.”

“Are rice balls—or onigiri, as they’re also called—even a normal thing in Requiem…?” Roger asked slightly amused.

“I think there’s a cool shop in the mall in Nexus City that sells that kinda stuff?” Adam shrugged, grabbing a donut and heading toward the front door.

“That guy…” Roy sighed. “Is… interesting?”

Winona grinned. “He’s doing pretty well these days… despite what’s been going on. I hope he keeps it up…”

“Didn’t he destroy a door last night or something?” Roy asked.

“Yeah… He’s had some moments where his temper has gotten to him. That’s not what I’m talking about, though…”

“Huh?” Roy looked at Winona questionably. “Well, whatever. A jelly-filled donut sounds good right about now.” He finally got off the floor and began to scan for the best donut on the table.

 

Adam opened the door, feeling the fresh morning breeze of Prelude hit his skin.

“Ah, yeah. That’s a good temperature. Not too muggy for once.”

He glanced toward his right, seeing Brandon and Muraco cuddled up together, sound asleep up against the wall.

“I… guess they bonded pretty quick…? Having a rabbit is a pretty great cuddle partner, but I’m pretty sure Brandon would have still preferred my cuddle partner last night…” Adam sighed heavily. This caused Muraco’s ear to twitch, and for his eyes to slowly open.

“Huh…? Oh, hey Adam. Did I pass out here—” Muraco froze. He slowly turned to Brandon, who had a firm hold on him. “Oh… Oh hell no!”

Muraco whacked Brandon with his ears, causing the innocent boy to tumble violently on the ground.

“H-Hey! What the hell, rabbit!?” Brandon screamed, standing up immediately with his fists clenched.

“Why were you holding me!?”

“Huh!? Cause it was getting chilly last night! And you seemed warm enough!”

“Oh, so it wasn’t an accident…” Adam commented.

“You could have just gone inside! I would have been fine! I’m a hero after all!”

“I didn’t want to leave you by yourself!”

“Oh…?” Muraco seemed to calm down.

“Yeah. And you remind me a lot of a stuffed bunny I had when I was little. I just had to!”

“Oh, so now you’re comparing me to some freaking toy!?” Muraco’s rage swiftly returned. “Did our long talk last night mean nothing to you!?”

“You made me feel better, and I respect you a lot for that! And I’m sorry I cuddled with you without your permission!”

“This is a weird argument…” Adam scratched his head, staying off to the side.

“Ugh! It sure is!” Muraco paused. “All right… Apology accepted.”

“Good grief…” Brandon sighed. “Anyway, what’s up, Adam?”

“Well… We have breakfast inside. If you want to eat.”

“Breakfast…” Muraco’s eyes lit up. “Like… bagels!?”

“Umm… I just saw donuts. You’ve had bagels before?” Adam asked.

“I have! When you were passed out. They’re… amazing…” Muraco began to drool.

“A rabbit loving bagels… All right then. I’ll accept it.” Adam shrugged.

Brandon snickered. “I feel like at this point, you’re accepting a lot of what’s been going on.”

“When it comes to the weird stuff? Yeah—pretty much. Might as well attempt to move on from that sort of thing, and focus on what’s important right now.”

“That reminds me… You did take that carrot pun I made seriously, didn’t you?” Muraco asked, head tilted.

“A… pun!?” Brandon grabbed Muraco’s ear, beginning to lightly shake him. “You have to be careful! Adam hates puns! Unless they’re really good!”

“All right—all right already!” Muraco jumped away from Brandon. “Geez, you guys are weird!”

“I think it’s fine this way…” Adam smiled. “Nothing like a weird personality to make things interesting.”

“Right…” Muraco shrugged. “Well, I’m sticking with all of you for the time being, so I might as well get used to it.”

“You’re weird yourself, so you’ll fit in just fine!” Brandon smirked.

“Why you…” Muraco sighed. “Whatever. I’m hungry, so let’s go eat.”

“That… brings up another question,” Adam spoke up. “Do phantons disintegrate food in your stomach too…? Like how it apparently works with Charlotte and Lucy?”

“I…” Muraco froze. “It… It does, doesn’t it!? It actually never crossed my mind!”

“What? How does something like that never cross your mind!?” Brandon asked doubtfully.

Adam began to reach for the handle to the front door. “Yep. Definitely weird. Anyway, let’s get inside and—” His voice trailed off.

“What’s up?” Brandon questioned.

Muraco’s ears began to twitch. “What… is this…? I sense something…”

“You can too, Muraco?” Adam turned to him, his eyes lit up.

“W-What’s up—again—for a second time?” Brandon started to get nervous.

As if something snapped their fingers to cause it, the entire area was suddenly blanketed with a thick, heavy fog.

“Where did this come from…!?” Brandon looked around the area in a panic.

“It’s an Ability, or something related to… it…” Adam began to shake.

“What’s wrong, Adam?” Muraco asked. “I can feel some kind of heavy pressure…”

“…I say it’s an Ability, cause this is clearly made of phantons. Yet… there are way too many…!” Adam shook his head in disbelief as his field of vision was almost entirely filled with an immense blue aura.

“Could it be that group, finally making a move…!?” Brandon raised his fists in defense.

“I think that could be it, actually…” Adam took a deep breath. “We gotta fight back, then.”

“Right here, right now!?” Brandon asked in fear.

“Real battle has no official start time, Brandon,” Muraco stated. “It happens whenever someone makes a move—simple as that.”

“Dammit…” Brandon activated Shepherd Surge around his body. “Should we get the others…?”

“Should we…?” Adam thought to himself. “I highly doubt the three of us could take them…” Adam glared into the fog. “Even with my eyes, there are way too many phantons to distinguish the presence of anyone. The fog’s an issue on both fronts, in that case…”

“I can’t hear anything,” Muraco commented. “I should be able to pick up on any sudden movement… Is anyone even around?”

“I’m going to use that technique…” Adam sighed. “The one I used to break out of Phobos’ illusion…”

“Who the hell is Phobos!?” Brandon was growing agitated at the situation.

“How is that going to work…?” Muraco questioned, slowly pacing around.

“Outline—” Adam activated his now named technique, glowing brightly through the fog. “And now that the World Mirror is in contact with this stuff—”

“Don’t think I’ll allow any funny business. You three are being sent away.”

As the ominous voice echoed, a gigantic black mass formed around them, spiraling with rapid intensity.

“Shit! Where did this come from!?” Muraco shouted, forming his now lit up blue scarf into a cocoon-like structure around Adam and Brandon.

“No one can defend from my phantom energy…” Jason cackled as his power phased right through Muraco’s defense, filling their vision with nothing but darkness.


Next: Chapter 2.27

Previous: Chapter 2.25

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.25

Muraco had used his Ability to merge with the shadows near Adam’s house. Being nighttime, he had a lot more freedom to move around so that Adam couldn’t track his location easily.

Eventually, Muraco grew frustrated. Not at the duty he was assigned, but at the fact that he was not helping a friend who clearly needed it. With that, Muraco sprang out of the darkness on top of the roof. Adam didn’t seem to be startled at the sudden appearance of the white rabbit.

“Muraco…”

“I’m getting annoyed with that painful look on your face, so I decided to come out and talk to you.” Muraco hopped over next to Adam and sat down. “So—what’s on your mind?”

“Just… thinking about myself… the world… how confusing it all is. Really want to go in my room and just sleep it all away. But I can’t do that, can I?”

“You should get some rest—it’s getting pretty late. I get what you mean though… and you’re right. You can’t.” Muraco scratched his ear while contemplating what to say next.

“I’m sorry how I acted back there… I don’t know where I got the idea that could all of a sudden do shit like that just cause of my Ability. I… wanted to help. And I let my anger get the best of me…” Adam sighed. “They’re probably mad at me, aren’t they?”

“Not at all,” Muraco responded. “They were worried about you. Myself included. Why I came here to check on you.”

“I guess… that’s like them. Very accepting of someone like me…” Adam chuckled softly.

“…I could hear you and that Phobos thing talking to each other.” Muraco blurted out.

“Huh? You could? Weren’t you unconscious?”

“I was… Guess it was some kind of weird link? I could hear you through that thing…” Muraco paused. “You’re certainly… quite the intriguing guy.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Something naturally evil, born from all the stuff that happened to me… and yet you wanted to steer it on a proper path? What kind of out-of-the-box thinking is that?”

“I just think one’s origins shouldn’t dictate their path in life. Let them choose what they want based on what they experience. If they then decide to choose the wrong path, well…” Adam hesitated. “Should you try to save someone if they willingly go that route? I’d like to not care at that point, but…”

Muraco started to laugh. “As a hero myself, I’ve gotta say… you have the heart of one as well. It seems to be a trend to think that about you among your friends. Even Lucy considers you one.”

Adam did not respond.

“Honestly? I think that you—”

“A hero?” Adam asked abruptly.

“Hmm?”

Adam glared at Muraco with fury in his eyes.

“A hero doesn’t try to kill himself!”

“Huh…?” Muraco’s eyes widened. After a moment, he shook his head. “Geez… You’ve been through some stuff, haven’t you?”

“Sorry…” Adam sighed. “I just… don’t get why people always call me that… Why is that a thing!?”

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Muraco smirked. “Now, from one hero to another, want me to give you some advice?”

“Advice on what…?”

“About how to deal with everything that’s been happening.” Muraco cleared his throat. “For starters, the World Mirror. Understanding that is a key component to all of this. You seem to have been discovering all kinds of new tricks recently, haven’t you?”

“I suppose I have been… It’s getting difficult to keep track of the things I can do now.”

“And I’m sure that’s not the end of what it can do. So! How about this?” Muraco hopped in front of Adam. “Let’s start naming your techniques! You don’t really call them anything, do you? As a hero, you gotta give your stuff cool names!”

“Is that really necessary…?” Adam asked with doubt on his face. “And wait—aside from naming your Abilities, do you even name your attacks?”

“Of course! I haven’t had to bust out any signature moves yet! I’ve got a lot in store!”

“Right…” Adam pondered. “Well, I guess labeling each thing something could help me out…”

“Glad you’re listening. You’re a smart human.” Muraco nodded.

“Am I…? I’m not so sure.”

“Listen! I promised to help Charlotte with her problems. You promised to help both of us… so I’ll help you as well, with whatever happens! As long as you continue to be by our side! Deal?” Muraco held out his tiny paw.

“I…” Adam hesitated for a moment. “I… still can’t believe I’m actually talking to a rabbit. This world might just be too crazy to understand in the end… However, Charlotte did point out that we both like to wing things. I always have… But having someone else like that on my side could help…” He chuckled, grabbing Muraco’s paw. “I suppose it’s a deal.”

“Excellent! I look forward to you being my sidekick!”

“I think it’s going to be the other around.”

“What!? Wait—we still have to finish that fight, remember? Whoever loses shall become the sidekick!”

“I’m not fighting you right now. We have to be careful at the moment, anyway.”

“That’s true…” Muraco moaned. “It would have been a good opportunity for you to name your attacks!”

“Don’t worry—I’ll think it over.” Adam chuckled. He decided to reach into his right pocket for his phone, yet realized that his phone had not been on his person for quite some time. “Damn, that’s rare.”

“What’s rare?”

“I usually keep my phone on me… It’s still in the house I believe. Unless—” Adam now checked the left pocket. “Well, no phone, but—” He pulled out the blood-stained letter and the god drive that Jerry had given him. “I’ve kept these…”

“What the!? Why is that think all bloody!?”

“I had it with me when I first met Charlotte and awakened my Ability. My body got incredibly injured, and it happened to get like this. The contents inside are still okay, luckily.”

“What’s inside?” Muraco asked curiously.

“I’m not sure—I have yet to read it. Pam gave it to me and told me when I’m feeling really low that I should look at it.”

“So, tonight isn’t considered really low for you?”

“I’ve been wondering what ‘really low’ would even mean for me. I… probably should have read it a few times by now.”

“Well, whenever you think is the appropriate time. And what’s that thing?” Muraco pointed to the god drive.

“It’s a thing you can hook up to a computer. Jerry gave it to me in case there was a computer down in that basement that we needed to extract data from. That… was certainly not what was down there. I wonder if I should give this back…? W-Wait a minute…”

“Huh? What is it?”

“Data… Phantons can act like data… I wonder…? It’s a stretch, but…”

“What? Tell me!” Muraco was growing impatient.

“I want to stop by Twine. Think it’s too late to, or?”

“If it’s important, especially to our situation, I doubt the time matters. Wanna go?”

“Yeah… I think we should. I have a gut feeling about something. Let me go get my phone, and we will.”

Muraco grinned, raising his paw into the air. “All right! Mission time!”

 

“Well Brandon, looks like you won’t be the only boy here tonight, at least.” Emma commented on the sudden appearance of Roy and Roger at the station.

“Hey, I know you! You were that one annoying kid in my study hall that one time!” Brandon shouted at Roy.

“Brandon Shepherd, huh…?” Roy stared at Brandon ominously.

“Hey, come on guys! Let’s get along! No need for sudden hostility!” Roger begged.

Fine!” Roy sighed. “I’ve been hanging out with this guy way too much recently… Anyway, after talking to Jerry, we figured we’d be safer here.”

“You guys don’t have to get involved in all of this… You’re allowed to walk away.” Emma suggested.

“Screw that! I’ll get revenge for the boss! Even if I don’t have one of those crazy Abilities!” Roy declared.

“That’s true, but…” Emma went silent.

“I can respect that!” Brandon yelled. “Just try not to get in the way!” He raised his fist in front of Roy.

In response, Roy slapped it away.

“Huh…? Was it because I called you annoying—”

“Scumbag. I won’t cause a scene, but just stay out of my way.”

Roger whined. “You are causing a scene!”

Emma walked up to Roy. “That still? I thought I—”

“He’ll be a scumbag until he proves otherwise.” Roy paused. “Even though she’s now my ex… I still believe her, and the other girls on the volleyball team…”

Brandon’s eyes widened in horror. Before he could attempt to say anything, Emma grabbed his shoulder and glared at Roy.

“And you’re still weak until you prove otherwise. And I’m not talking physical capabilities. You lack the will to believe in yourself.”

“Huh…? Emma, the hell are you talking about!?”

“What are any of you talking about!?” Roger asked in a panic.

“I was there. I know what happened. And that’s why I believe in Brandon—”

“Emma, it’s okay. You don’t have to stick up for me…” Brandon told her with his body shaking.

“But—”

“Let people believe what they want to…” Brandon walked to the other side of the room and sat down at one of the desks, away from the others.

Faith and Winona were currently sitting on a desk near where the conversation took place. The two looked at Brandon in concern, remaining silent.

“Whatever.” Roy pulled out a chair next to the center desk and took a seat. “Roger, got any other cool games with ya?”

“I-I mean, we can see what’s on my phone…?” Roger sat next to him, showing him his cell phone.

Emma stared at Brandon, who had rested his head on the desk.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him like this… Does it still hurt him…? Have I been making a mistake with all the pervert jokes?” She shook her head.

“Once we get through all of this… I should begin to approach him differently. I don’t want to hurt him… Not after what he did for me back then…”

 

Pam sat at her desk, looking at nothing in particular. Her depression had currently taken over all of her senses.

“Ethan… Becca… What do I do…?” She held her head, which was radiating pain. “How do I go about telling them something like this… after keeping it a secret for so long…?”

 

“I was wondering what you did with that.” Jerry chuckled as Adam showed him the god drive.

“We didn’t need to use it under Minuet, but…” Adam paused for a moment. “All right, so this might be way out there, but I had a thought.”

“Which was?”

“So…” Adam cleared his throat. “This thing is supposed to extract data the second it’s put into a computer, right?”

“Yeah, that’s how it should work.”

“Now—hear me out. Phantons can act like code, right? So what if—somehow—this thing can extract data right from the air?”

“Umm…” Jerry seriously contemplated Adam’s idea. “I actually… never thought of that. It would entirely depend on how the phantons work. They would have to be quite powerful for it to even pick up—”

“I had this with me when that Nexus thing showed up. It was certainly powerful enough. Do you think this thing could have caught something while I interacted with it?”

“I can definitely check… You’ve got me intrigued!” Jerry took the god drive from Adam and ran over to his laptop at the center table while laughing mischievously.

“That’s quite a thought, kid,” Thomas commented, walking over to Adam. “Although I doubt it would have caught anything, I could be wrong. Phantons can be quite mysterious.”

“That’s Rebecca’s son!” Travis cheered over near the computers. “Coming up with theories nobody else would have even considered!”

“She was like that, huh…?” Adam chuckled quietly. Charlotte had now walked up to him, leaning down to scratch Muraco’s ears.

“You feeling better now?” Charlotte asked him. Muraco jumped up into Charlotte’s arms—a huge grin on his face.

“We had a talk. He should be on the right track.”

“I’m sorry about how I acted earlier…” Adam mumbled.

“None of us blame you,” Charlotte responded. “It’s okay.”

Adam moved himself to an empty space in the room, stretching out his body. Lucy noticed his presence and ran up to him, hugging his leg.

“Oh, hey, Lucy. You’re not asleep yet? Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“I sleep randomly now! I can’t control it!” She giggled. “But are you better now?”

“Yeah…” Adam looked down at her, patting her head. “I’m sorry… All of this is stressful enough for you.”

“I’m not sure how to feel about all of it…” Lucy paused. “I… don’t remember much, after all.”

“That’s true…” Adam looked over at Charlotte, beckoning her.

“Huh? What is it…?” As Charlotte approached, Adam placed his hand on her shoulder.

“The two ghost girls. Literally cold on the outside, but with warm hearts inside. You two are worth the struggle. We’ll figure out your memories, no matter what. And, whatever does end up happening…” Adam grinned, disintegrating the darkness that had taken a hold of him earlier. “We’ll make sure everything turns out okay!”

Lucy’s face lit up. “Yeah! We can do it!” She started giggling, jumping up and down with strong enthusiasm.

Thomas, Travis, and Jerry had gathered next to each other, smiling at Adam’s statement. Muraco chuckled, shrugging his shoulders. “Sheesh, you sure can tip the scales when it comes to your emotions, if you want to.”

Cody remained sitting at the computers with surprise on his face.

“This is the kid who tried to kill himself several months back…?” He snickered. “Winona definitely chooses unique friends, doesn’t she? I’m glad she knows someone like you. Someone who can disregard his own inner turmoil and light himself up, simply to help others… Just like Becca.”

Tears began to fall from Charlotte’s eyes, surprising Adam.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong…” Charlotte sniffled. “I’m just… so grateful that I’m here…” She buried herself in Adam’s shoulder, embracing him tightly.

“Well, I’m glad about tha—” Adam’s eyes widened. “Charlotte…”

“What is it?” She asked staying still.

“You’re… warm?”

“I… Huh?”

“Huh!?” Jerry dashed over to the two, grabbing Charlotte’s shoulder. “My hand isn’t freezing…? What’s going on!? Dad—get the—”

“I’m already on it!” Thomas had a small watch-like device in his hand, scanning the area around Charlotte. “These readings surely are different than usual… What do they mean? How does this change in phantonic values result in a ghost suddenly becoming warm?”

“I-I’m not sure either!” Charlotte was now flailing her arms around while trying to wipe the tears away at the same time.

“Oh, wait. They’re going back to normal…” Thomas sighed.

“They are!?” Jerry touched Charlotte’s shoulder for a second time. “She’s getting cold again…”

“Maybe it has something to do with the World Mirror! Charlotte—mind getting close to Adam again?” Thomas asked.

“I think I’m going to bed!” Charlotte shook her head in annoyance. “Adam, what are you going to do?”

“Stay here with us!” Lucy begged. “We couldn’t have a sleepover at the police place, so let’s have one here!”

“I think I need to go back to the station. Make sure everyone’s all right… Don’t worry though, Charlotte’s good company.

I-I guess, but…” Lucy pouted. Charlotte held out her hand to her.

“Come on, Lucy. Us ghosts need some rest.”

“Oh, fine! See you tomorrow, Adam!” Lucy waved at him, then glanced up at Charlotte. The older girl smiled at the younger girl as she escorted her to the area with the beds.

Witnessing this act, a sharp pain radiated through Adam’s head. Muraco was the only one who noticed the boy holding his head in silent agony.

“What’s wrong, Adam?”

“Where is this place…?”

“Huh…!?” Muraco looked at him with tremendous concern.

“It-It’s nothing. Sorry, Muraco. I think I’m just tired… Wanted to train a bit, but I don’t think my body is up for that.”

“Right… Well, let’s get back to the station, then.”

Jerry waved goodbye to the two. “I’ll let you know if this god drive has anything on it. Text me if you want me to let you guys back in again.”

“Will do.” Adam nodded. With Muraco by his side, the two walked up the stairs out of the basement.

 

A few minutes later, Adam and Muraco arrived at the station. They met with Brandon, who was next to the entrance, leaning against the wall.

“Hey, Adam. Feeling better?”

“Y-Yeah… How about you? You’re looking gloomy as hell. That’s not normal.”

“Just thinking about stuff…” He smiled at Adam. “Nothing to worry about.”

“If you say so…” Adam tapped Muraco’s head. “Stay out here with Brandon. Keep him company.”

“What? Why should I!?”

“I need to check on everyone inside. And I don’t want him to be alone.”

“Wait, Adam, it’s okay. I—” Before Brandon could continue, Adam walked inside, leaving him alone with Muraco.

“All right, sure?” Muraco scratched his ear. “I guess it’s my job tonight to talk to people who are feeling down?”

“Nah, seriously, I’m fine. You don’t have to—”

“Human!” Muraco pointed at Brandon with ferocity. “Let me indulge in your secrets!”

“Fine! I’ll tell you, ya freaking demon rabbit!”

Inside, Adam glanced around the room, noticing a few people passed out on the floor. On the other side of the main room, Winona and Emma were sleeping next to each other, wrapped up in blankets. Roy had fallen asleep at a desk off to the left, while Roger had passed out in a seat at the center table.

He walked over toward the hallway off to the right, where he peered down the dark corridors. A faint light was coming from Pam’s office, and Adam could notice a silhouette sitting up against the wall to the left of it. Approaching it, Adam realized that it was Faith who took the position. Unlike the others, she was still awake.

“Why aren’t you out there with the others?” He asked her.

“Hey, Adam…” Faith was clearly exhausted, seemingly in a daze. “I wanted to keep an eye on my mom, so I’m hanging out here.”

Adam glanced into the office, seeing Pam sleeping peacefully at her desk with a blanket covering her. He also noticed that the debris from the destroyed door had been cleaned up already.

“Adam? You feeling better?”

He turned back to her. “Yeah…” Hesitating for a moment, he walked over and sat on the left side of Faith. “I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be! Here—” Faith covered Adam up with half of her blanket. “Just get some rest for now. We all need it.”

“Uh…? Are you sure it’s okay if I’m right here…?”

“I’m fine with it if you’re fine with it! We used to cuddle all the time when we were kids!”

“Well, yeah. But we were kids. We’re not anymore…”

“I…” Faith began to ponder that statement. “I’m still okay with it…”

“Well, in that case—” Adam leaned his head on Faith’s shoulder, calmly closing his eyes. The gesture startled Faith, yet she kept her reaction internal.

“Y-Yeah… Get some rest…” She felt Adam’s soft hair up against her face. It was comforting to her—she could nuzzle it if she wanted. Although, she held back from the sudden urge.

“I… really need to stay strong. I can’t let anything get in the way. There’s a lot that needs to be handled before this can become the future… Wait. I… want it to be the future…?” She quietly chuckled.

“What’s so funny…?” Adam asked, almost asleep.

“It’s nothing…” She responded in a faint whisper. The calmness of the now silent police station surrounded them, and the two quickly doze off into a peaceful sleep.

This would be the last night of peace any of them would get, as their world was about to shatter apart.


Next: Chapter 2.26

Previous: Chapter 2.24

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