Chapter 22

“Terra… Bombardment!”

The hovering stones shot toward Charlotte’s best form with incredible speed—each one making contact in less than a second. Unfortunately, the blue gel-like substance surrounding her buffeted the blows, causing the attack to do nothing.

“Shock absorption, huh?” Winona gritted her teeth. “I can feel vibrations through any earth I take control of, even things that become projectiles. That substance has to be absorbing all the impact…”

“T-That wasn’t your Full Abstraction, was it?” Adam asked. “You gave it a name… We’re in trouble if she just shrugged that off.”

“Huh…?” Winona was rather confused. “…O-Oh! Nah, I name a bunch of my attacks. A Full Abstraction would be a sort of super move or technique—you put your heart and soul into it. I have created one, recently, but—”

The weapons stuck within the ground burst out—now entirely visible while ascending into the air. Winona had sensed their initial movement and prepared to counter.

Adam, as well, realized what was about to happen as the sharp weapons pointed toward them. “These things pack a punch…! You’d better—”

“No problem!” Winona waved her arm, giving a signal to the rocks under her control.

“Terra Scattering!”

As the weapons descended toward them, the stones flew around in multiple directions. The myriad paths they took ended up successfully colliding with the azure projectiles, knocking them off their intended path. Many of them shattered upon impact, some broke as they whacked against the ground, and a few managed to remain in one piece.

These weapons shifted their trajectory, and from new angles, they attempted to strike once more.

“Again…!”

Winona’s arms motioned around her—it almost looked as though she was hugging herself. Rocks from all around once again flew, colliding with the projectiles and stopping them. One blade, however, managed to bypass the stones and aimed right at her.

“Gotta move…!”

With a stone of his own in his hand, Adam whacked the blade just in time, throwing it off its course—shattering as it bounced off the ground.

“Woah…! Nice one, Adam!”

“It’s not all that impressive,” Adam admitted. “I just happened to gain Authority in this place, somehow. I can sense all kinds of shit that’s going on…” He winced, trying his best to stay on his feet. Miraculously, his control has even kept his eyes from showing signs of the World Mirror.

Whatever kind of “control” Adam had would soon be lost, however. It was inevitable, at this point, that Winona will learn of his power. 

Especially considering that they both could be flattened by Charlotte’s next attack, as her gigantic claw descended toward them. 

“Terra… Surf!”

A massive heap of sand swept the two up from the side, carrying them out of harm’s way as the impact shattered the earth where they were a moment prior. The dust kicked up, enveloping the entire area.

Winona took advantage of this. While they were blanketed, she used her Concept on the dirt surrounding them. The sand that had been used for her Terra Surf came to a halt, while her power was channeled elsewhere. 

With visibility returning to the area, there was no time to spare—the sharp needle-shaped rocks were ready to launch.

“Terra… Thorn!” 

The stones shot forward, penetrating the blue gel seemingly with ease as the tips managed to dig partially into the creature’s actual body.  

“Terra, terra, terra… Anyway,” Adam smirked. “You got through that layer! Piercing, as opposed to blunt force, seemed to be the trick.”

“But it didn’t even flinch…” Winona raised her hand in front of herself. “So, we’ll do this…!” Sand began to float around the two—Adam curious as to what she could potentially do next. 

“Terra…?”

“Go get ‘em, sand!”

“No terra…”

All of the dirt flung toward the needles—collecting at the tips that barely stook out of the gel. Charlotte seemed to be rather lackadaisical with her current body’s movement, so this task was much more straightforward than it could have been. 

“Are you making those things longer, so they can dig deeper…?” Adam asked. He began to show concern, knowing who the creature really was.

“I’m…” Winona had trouble breathing for a moment. “I’m sending the sand directly into its body…! I’m not sure how we can return this person to normal, but…”

“You’re gonna try to weigh it down?” Adam seemed to understand Winona’s plan. “Sending dirt into a human’s body would obviously be pretty damn bad for that person. With the way things are right now, though…”

Charlotte began to whimper—her bestial tone sending a chill down Adam and Winona’s spines. 

“…Who is this, Adam?” Winona questioned bluntly. “It is someone… I know?”

Adam chose to remain silent.

“…That blood on you… and your clothes are torn up like they are… What has been happening down here?”

Adam slowly exhaled. Winona glanced back at him—flabbergasted to see the white aura begin to emit from his body. His eyes, as well, had lit up once more.

“Well, shit. I guess I have to explain…”

 

Chris pouted as he sat on the floor of the hideout—Jason’s shadows around his body fading away. “I can’t believe you guys almost forgot me!”

“Sorry,” Derek sighed. “We had to rush out of there. Good thing I remembered.”

“And we got nothing out of it!?” Chris questioned while groaning, lying down on his back. 

“I guess it’s my bad!” Carl cackled. “I had no idea the Ouderkirk girl would actually be a threat! I just assumed—”

“You shouldn’t assume shit!” Chris shot back up into the position he was just in. “You’re a scientist! You’re supposed to do research and logically approach things—ow, ow, ow!” His body suddenly twitched from the pain.

“Careful. She did knock you out pretty hard…” Jason stated.

“It was a hypothesis!” Carl responded to Chris’ rant. “You guys went in and did the test to see if my hypothesis was correct! It… wasn’t.” He shrugged. “That’s science for ya.”

“Derek, hold him down. I’m gonna flick a spark into his face.” Chris prepared to snap his fingers. In response, Derek simply shook his head.

“That won’t do much to him. He’d probably like it.”

“Yeah…!” Chris agreed. “I could see that as a fetish for you, Carl.”

“Heh… hahahaha!” Carl began to laugh loudly. “With this body, I can’t do anything even remotely sexual, so things such as fetishes are something I’d rather not bother with.”

“I feel like we could get deep into this topic, so I’d rather we not,” Derek suggested.

“Plus, we got a kid here,” Chris pointed toward Jason’s shadow. “We can’t talk about this—”

“I only have the voice of a kid!” Jason yelled abruptly. “I’m an adult, just like you bastards!”

“Are you…?” Chris asked. “You don’t even have a body. How do you know?”

“I feel like we could get deep into this topic, so I’d rather we not,” Derek repeated his previous line.

“Anyway. Jason,” Carl turned toward the hovering shadow. “What’s the current situation there?”

“Well…” Jason was silent while analyzing the other side. “Okay… so. We’ve got someone else in the mine now. She’s got a Concept…! Oh! That girl who can manipulate the earth!”

“Oh?” Carl chuckled. “Yes, that makes sense. If the barrier’s beginning to fade away, then she certainly could get in there, now could she?” 

“Yeah… Seems like she’s helping the kid out against… whatever the hell the Ouderkirk girl turned into! Carl, look at this shit!” 

A shadow formed around Carl’s left eye, seemingly granting him vision of the activity in the mine. “Oh… oh! Oh, oh, oh! What is that magnificent specimen!? It’s most definitely something that a Chaonic Entity could become, yet it’s phantonic in nature! Amazing! Amazing, amazing, amazing! This is the power of the royal family!? Astonishing—”

“Okay, stop.” Derek sighed. “You sure you can’t do anything sexual? You’re for sure getting off on this crap.”

“Forgive me…” Carl continued to giggle.

“You know…” Jason paused. “When is his session going to be over with? It’s been a while, and we could really use—”

Suddenly, a large crimson portal appeared next to the group—its mere presence causing the room to shake. 

“Well, speak of the devil…” Jason chuckled. “Hey, took you long enough.”

The outline of a figure could be seen exiting the crimson mass. It stopped as it seemingly brushed something off of its shoulder.

“I took my time with this one. Pretty sure I’ve created a new kind of ability, actually. It could help us—” The calm, stoic voice paused as the man glanced around at the people in front of him, still not entirely visible. 

“Has something happened…?”

Jason floated in front of him, laughing awkwardly. “You’re gonna want to sit down for all of this, my friend.”

 

“Stay here, Brandon.” Jerry requested, heading for the door while Brandon remained on the couch. “I’m gonna go get some stuff from my house. Don’t try going down there again while I’m gone. Wait for me. Or, wait for Charlotte to return.”

“I’m… having trouble seeing right now, anyway.” Brandon said. “It won’t be easy for me to. I’d trip and fall down those stairs, probably.”

“Try to relax if you can. You have that carton of apple juice—keep drinking that. It’ll help flush out your system.”

Brandon took a tiny sip as his hands were shaking. “Adam’s gonna kill me for having this without his permission…”

“You know he actually wouldn’t care, right?” Jerry paused, waiting for Brandon to respond. “…Right?”

 

“…That was hours ago…” Brandon said to himself nervously, lying motionless on the couch. “Wait… no. It’s only been a few minutes, I think…? I don’t know.”

He held his head—still very much in pain.

“What is time, anyway? What is… space? What is… wrong with me!? I’m acting all… loopy.”

“It’s pretty much how you act normally, anyway.”

Brandon leaped up at the sound of his own voice. “Wha…!? What the!?”

“Oh… you’re reacting to me. This is a first. It’s like we’re actually separated.”

“Are you a demon!? Did you possess me, after all!? Get out of my head!” Brandon began running around Adam’s living room, nearly tumbling over the furniture. 

“Sit down.”

Seemingly like magic, Brandon was flung back onto the couch, where he sat—just as the voice had ordered.

“What in the…!?”

“It can work on us, huh…? Cool, I suppose.”

“Wha… What did you do?” Brandon questioned, frightened to move. 

“Nevermind that. Anyway, to answer your questions from before… no. I am not a demon. You and I are the same person. A certain event occurred where everything would have changed for you. Your mind would have been messed up beyond belief. Yet, you were split off for the sake of living a normal life.”

“What…? What event?”

“I can’t tell you that. You see, the moment you realize the truth, we will once again merge. Keep being the same old dumbass, in the meantime…”

Brandon had no idea what to say. There were way too many questions—ones that he assumed the voice inside his head was aware of. 

“Well… we have an issue with you doing that, however,” The voice continued. “Adam’s still down there… You got teleported away before you could be sure he was safe. I desire to take over once more, but…”

“So you’re the reason I went in there? Yeah, I want to save Adam, but Jerry—”

“You can rely on Jerry like you always have. He helped you get through school, didn’t he? You couldn’t even comprehend your classes, which is why I have doubts about your understanding of what you’re getting into. But… I want to rely on you in the same manner.”

“What do you mean…?”

“If I continue to take over, I risk us blending into one. I learned that down in that mine. If Adam didn’t show up…” His inner voice sighed. “You have the power to fight on your own, you know? Just telling you about it is risky enough.”

“I do…?” Brandon shook his head. “Wait a minute. You’re the reason why I’ve had all those issues over the years? I tend to blackout for a moment or forget things. Is that—”

“Yeah,” The voice responded. “My—Our emotions tend to get the best of us. If something bothers you, it bothers me. It’s another way we could become one. So… I tend to wipe your memory. I’m going to do so with portions of this conversation, by the way, but it’s pretty… therapeutic to talk about this stuff, even to myself.”

“What the hell…?” Brandon felt like he was about to cry over the sheer stress of the situation.

“If I am to rely on you… I need to take a risk. For you to unlock the power that you have access to. So… allow me to show you something. A memory—rather recent—that should help you out.”

“Wait—”

Before Brandon could say anything, his consciousness faded.

 

The memory seemed hazy, yet Brandon picked up on his location quickly.

The heat paired up with a long day of practice was something he could never forget. He was leaning on the fence of the tennis court, which was the closest to their school. His red soccer uniform was drenched in sweat, so he figured he was trying to cool off.

Although he knew there were several other athletic fields off to the left, he could not view them. Looking toward the right, he could not even see the school. Light seemed to only focus on the area where he was currently standing.

What little control Brandon had on his body had left him—the memory now ready to play out.

“…Hey, idiot.”

He turned to the familiar voice. Emma walked up to him, wearing her white volleyball uniform. “You look miserable.”

“I have to do all kinds of practice before college. They want me to make sure I’m in tip-top shape so that they can feel comfortable giving me all the scholarship money.” He chuckled, wiping his brow. “Sorry if I’m a mess.”

“…That’s not what I meant.”

“Huh?”

“Nevermind,” Emma sighed, standing up against the fence next to him. “Anyway. Do you have anything to say to me…?”

“Anything to say…?” Brandon was utterly puzzled.

“…I see. I guess it is true, huh?” Emma looked down.

“Wha…? What’s wrong!?”

“Well, since you won’t remember, it won’t hurt telling you how I feel, for once.”

“How you… f-feel…!?” Brandon was taken aback by those words.

“Settle down,” Emma groaned. “Sheesh… at least you seem to be able to act like this, despite…”

“Despite…?”

Emma took a deep breath. “…I don’t know why it happens, but whenever you and I are by ourselves… you forget everything. It doesn’t happen when we’re with others, but… if we have a quick chat about a game, or whatever, you never remember. At first, I figured you were just messing with me.”

“I would mess with you much differently than that,” Brandon smirked. It faded as he noticed how pained Emma’s expression seemed.

“With all of the connections I have, I could get you to see someone about it. You never know, it could be something Phantonics could solve. But I don’t want that. I would never lead you into anything that dangerous…”

“Dangerous?”

“Ever since Adam… you know, he’s been tested several times. I have to thank Jerry’s dad for making sure he’s okay. The same for me. If it wasn’t for him volunteering to do my checkups, I’d be…”

“It’s a scary world, isn’t it…?” Brandon shrugged. “Well… why don’t we just hang out with others from now on, if you’re so worried I’d forget something? If what you say is true, then I’m going to forget this whole convo too, yeah? If you’re gonna tell me important shit, then wouldn’t it be—”

“The fact you forget is the reason why I’m confident in telling you this stuff right now…” Emma began tapping her foot on the ground. “And…”

Brandon waited nervously for her to continue.

“…I don’t want that.”

“Huh? Don’t want what?” Brandon asked innocently. 

“Why can’t we hang out… just the two of us? Why can’t it be like when we were younger…?”

“I… u-uh…” Brandon was growing flustered at how open Emma was being.

“We’ve known each other since we were kids. We grew up together… Ever since Adam introduced you to me. And… you spent time with me. I was in that hospital, all alone. Mom was busy with work and stressed about Dad dying. Faith was dealing with a lot of it too, and she shut herself out from everyone. You, however, took the time to visit me…”

“…I annoyed my dad to the point where he would drive me there almost every day. Yeah, of course… I remember that.” 

“Then why don’t you remember anything after that? What… happened?” Emma’s voice sounded pained—Brandon took notice of this.

“I know! I can get Jerry’s dad to—”

“No…” Emma shook her head. “Unity takes tabs on every patient he has. They’d know. If something really off was discovered, they’d find out. It’s frustrating… how goddamn stupid it all is!” 

Brandon instinctively placed his hand on Emma’s shoulder. He grit his teeth in anticipation of her swatting it off. To his surprise, she did not.

“Look… Emma. Let’s talk about this when someone else is around. Maybe we can figure something out! And I’d be able to—”

“Listen…” She glanced up at Brandon—the smile on her face was agonizing to him. “All I want… is for you to live a normal life. Not get caught up in the bizarre world that I live in. Make it big with soccer—or whatever—and retire early. Settle down somewhere far away from here with some girl—hopefully, you’ll be smart enough to find someone halfway decent. And… just live in peace.”

Brandon had no time to even consider a response, as Emma began to walk off—his hand finally falling off of her shoulder. Attempting to reach her, no words could come out. She vanished as the memory faded to white. 


Next: Chapter 23

Previous: Chapter 21

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 21

Charlotte’s blades crumbled away as her grip on them was lost. She could not tell what side hurt the most—both the entry and exit wounds were in astronomical pain. Her breathing picked up—hyperventilating while her body attempted to process what just occurred.

Derek did not expect the assist from Carl and Jason. However, it saved him from defeat. In Charlotte’s current state, she could easily be captured, and their goals would grow close to fruition.

The three had no idea what they had just caused.

No one—Charlotte included—would understand precisely how the events unfolded for quite some time. The technicalities did not matter, as the following was simply the release of raw, powerful emotions. 

If the bullet had aimed for any other section of Charlotte’s body—one that did not involve the specific organs that it had pierced through, her reaction would have been different.

While she felt agony inside of her that began to pick at familiar memories from long ago, Jason’s shadow appeared around the injured girl.

“Well, let’s get back to the base. You’ll be fine—you’re already dead, after all… Huh?”

The swirling black vortex of Jason’s struggled to form around Charlotte. If he could not submerge her entirely in the darkness, she would be unable to teleport. 

“Jason!” Carl yelled! “Come on! I know you feel exhaustion, but the reality is that you don’t have a freaking body to strain! Fight through it! Grab her before she heals!”

“T-That’s not it…” Jason moved the shadows away from her, appearing next to Jason. “She’s…!”

Even Derek felt the sudden surge of energy around the Ouderkirk. They all noticed the tiny veins of crimson that were in the ground had started to shift to the phantonic azure. 

“Is she turning the chaons into phantons, like she’s been doing?” Derek asked, stepping back as the air itself began to vibrate.

“…I believe this is a side effect,” Carl responded seriously. “That wouldn’t stop Jason from grabbing her—his shadows can tear right through energy if he so desired.”

“Then… what’s going on?” Derek almost toppled over as Charlotte’s power expanded. She had remained silent—eyes toward the ground the entire time. He still saw her shaking and felt as though he could literally feel the emotion radiating from the ghost girl.

“It’s Authority…” Carl sighed. “It seems like she’s now taking it from the other guy. Unlike how he took it from us, she’s doing so with sheer force. He can’t really do anything about it in his state.”

“So under her Authority, Jason can’t use his shadow?”

Before Carl answered, they were shocked as blades suddenly shot up from the earth—Derek jumping away quick enough to avoid being skewered.

“This is too dangerous…!” Carl cursed at himself. “Screw it! Jason—grab Derek while you still can! Derek, you stay out of her Authority’s expanding range while he does so!”

Derek did so as blades continued to rise from the ground. Jason’s shadow followed as it covered the man, preparing his escape.

Charlotte finally glanced up. Although she was not looking at anything in particular. Derek looked into her teary eyes and realized something immediately.

The despair she displayed was something he had seen before. There was no mistake—he knew exactly what that look indicated. However, he could not deduce how she felt that way. It did not make sense to him.

While the shadow consumed Derek, warping him to safety, he recalled the obvious. Charlotte was a ghost. One that had issues regarding her past memories. It’s entirely possible that, upon becoming injured, those memories had shot to the surface.

While Derek’s hypothesis—one he did not share with the others—was mostly accurate, it was merely the emotions of Charlotte’s past that had awakened. With no actual memories of any event, she was a mere pawn to her past sorrow.

Holding the lower section of her abdomen, Charlotte released an agonizing scream—one that would be torturous for any sane person to hear. 

Adam was still unconscious. However, that did not stop his body from resonating with the anguish his friend was in.

He began to speak in his mind, in a dream-like state. His voice echoed throughout the inner void—the words muttered were ones he did not control.

 

“…We’ll get through this…”

“…We have to keep on fighting…”

“…Thank you for helping me take care of…”

“…We’ve both lost so much…”

“…But knowing you’re there for us…”

“…Like we are for you…”

“…Don’t suffer alone…”

“…We can do this, Char…”

 

Adam awoke several minutes later.

Teardrops had fallen from his glowing eyes, partially cleaning his bloody face. 

“Huh…?” 

He used his right arm to brush away the tears, which had managed to grow back. His body was in immense pain, however, and he could barely move. 

“What… happened here?”

Adam looked around the area he was in. It took him a moment to recall that he was in the mine, especially considering how different it looked. Blades, spears, arrowheads. These, along with many other forms of weaponry, sprung from the ground all around him. Fortunately, they did not seem to reach his location.

“These are… Charlotte’s, yeah?” Adam struggled to stand. Leaning back against the wall, he used the stone surface to wiggle his way onto his feet. “The entire cave is… brighter. All of her weapons are lighting up the place.”

Attempting to step forward, Adam tripped almost immediately, using his hand to stop himself from planting his face directly into the stone ground. 

“Dizzy… so dizzy…” He looked at his bloody body and realized the issue. “Right… that takes longer to regenerate. Even back then, when the cut healed quickly, I still suffered from blood loss.”

Adam continued to stare at the red he was soaked in. “The sight of it doesn’t… seem to bother me? Do I still… not care?”

He grew silent.

“…Do I still want to die?”

A loud crash in front of him snapped Adam out of his stupor. He glanced up to see several shattered blades fly his way—one slashing at the side of his face before crashing into the wall behind him. 

“What…?”

What Adam saw a few meters ahead both baffled and frightened him. A giant blue fetus—the basic description of the creature. The main body was glowing while a cerulean slime coated its outsides. Upon closer inspection, Adam noticed that the beast had qualities of a lizard as opposed to a human.

“What the… what the hell!?

The creature bellowed, unleashing a devastating sound that—quite literally—made Adam’s eardrums burst. 

“Gah…!”

The World Mirror took no time in beginning its healing process—just finishing the restoration of the cut on Adam’s face. As the ghastly aura leaked from his ears, the boy would not be able to hear for now. He felt the surge of energy that was erupting from the beast—not only physically, but on another scale as well.

“Authority… was it? I somehow picked up on what they were saying when I was going crazy. Probably from the World Mirror’s bullshittery—anyway. I took this ‘Authority’ over this mine from those guys. I can tell… right now, this thing’s the one trying to take over. We’re about fifty-fifty right now. Me and…”

Adam stood, struggling against the force radiating from the beast.

“Charlotte… is that you? Wait—hang on, don’t answer yet.” He rubbed the inside of his ears, collecting blood and flicking it onto the ground—the silvery-white energy fading. “O-Okay… I think I can hear now. Charlotte! Is that you!? Please don’t scream again!”

The creature Adam deduced to be Charlotte was motionless—not counting the slime churning around its body. As sound was returning to him, he could hear a low weeping noise coming from her.

“…What happened? How did you end up in that state? You’re suffering… aren’t you?” He slowly shook his head. “Geez… I’m pretty sure I figured out where the other ghost girl is, yet here you are… making me help you too.”

Adam limped forward—his entire body shouting at him to stop and rest.

“I’m really gonna die at this rate…! So, before I go, let me at least…” His eyes widened. “Let me at least save you… then save her… then save everyone else. Is that what I want…? It’s a never-ending chain, isn’t it?”

As Adam looked to the ground, giant arms grew from Charlotte—their claws cutting into the earth as she began its crawl toward him.

She did not reach him. From the ceiling above, an avalanche of stone descended. It was so swift that the sound of rock shattering was not heard until it collided with Charlotte’s body—the massive force knocking Adam into the wall his back was becoming accustomed to. 

“Wha—”

A figure emerged from the ceiling, landing on top of the massive pile of rubble. Adam attempted to make out who had appeared while waiting for the dust to settle.

“Adam…!?”

He recognized the voice immediately. Winona jumped out of the sandy mess and onto the ground in front of him. “What…? What!? What are you doing down here!? What happened to you!? Are you okay!?”

“How did you…?” Adam laughed lightly. “Right. Your Concept is Earth. I guess you would be able to figure out something was going on down here. Can’t you feel vibrations, and whatnot?”

“Y-Yeah!” Winona took a quick glance around. “The mine down here… I could always feel some sort of activity down here. Today, there was too much happening, so I figured I’d dig down. It was like… a sphere, of sorts, was emitting the vibrations. I could never tell—no—I never bothered to tell, until today. It was some kind of chaonic barrier, wasn’t it? Took me a bit of effort to bust through.”

“A sphere…?” Adam nodded. “Yeah… you’re right. It seems to be weakening a lot right now, probably since we’ve taken the Authority from those guys.”

“…Authority!? Wait, wait, wait!” Winona shook her hands violently. “You still haven’t answered why you’re down here! And now you’re saying something about Authority!? If you’re legit talking about the Phantonic terminology, then… how? That’s classified stuff that Unity keeps from everyone else!”

“Unity… that’s right.” Adam sighed. “You’re going into Unity soon, aren’t you? You’ve already learned things that are ‘classified,’ huh?”

Winona understood the tone that Adam was talking in. It happened to be one that she had used before. “…I know it’s probably hard to do so, but… I want you to trust me. You can tell me what’s happening. Clearly, you’re hurt, and I won’t let that slide!”

Adam knew this, of course. He knew that Winona, the Roswells, and Thomas would all prioritize his safety over anything to do with Unity.

There lies the problem. Disregarding his own well-being, they would all be putting themselves at risk. Winona merely showing up is already a huge issue. If Unity caught wind of what was occurring here, they would seek out answers. And they could track her down as a suspect—they had the means to deduce that sort of thing. Even if she kept this a secret, there were ways to get her to speak.

That was the kind of power the organization known as “Unity” held.

As the stones began to move behind them—garnering Winona’s swift attention—Adam realized that he had to worry about all of that later.

“…I mentioned ‘we’ took Authority from the people who had control over this place. The ‘person’ you just crushed with all of that rubble is the other one who currently has Authority here…”

“B-But…” Winona took a step back. “I figured it was some massive Chaonic Entity, which is why I opened up the ceiling on top of it. It’s a… person?”

Charlotte smashed through the stone—her bestial form shaking off the rocks as if it were nothing. Winona was utterly horrified at what she saw.

“What… What the…!?” 

Adam stood up and limped over next to Winona. “Somehow, they turned into that. We’ve got to help them. Any… ideas?”

Using her power, Winona manipulated the stones flying around the area, forming a circular band in the air above her. “I-I’m not sure… We have to fight—that much is certain. Or it’ll kill us…” She looked back at Adam, smiling despite the situation. “Helping someone, huh? That sounds just like you…”

Winona took a deep breath, readying herself for battle.

“All right! Leave it to me!”  


Next: Chapter 22

Previous: Chapter 20

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 20

Derek—his right arm seared.

Adam—his right arm vaporized.

Through the power struggle, Derek had managed to hold his own against the might of Adam’s World Mirror. It did not take long for the arcane energy to lose control, destroying his limb. 

Adam had been slammed into the wall once more, this time finally losing consciousness entirely. Derek stood motionless, making sure that the boy would not awaken once more. The white aura diminished, only focusing on his injuries—his arm especially.

“Well, looks like he finally calmed down…” Derek glanced down at his burnt hand. “This whole incident… Something feels off about it.”

“You can worry about it later,” Jason suggested. “Right now, we need to get the guy out of here. Carry him toward the exit. His friends seem to have gone upstairs for the time being. Not sure if we can peacefully sneak past them or not.”

“The plan is to walk right out the front door!?” Derek asked astonished. “Walking out in public with this blood-soaked dude probably won’t look that good!”

Carl chimed in. “At this point, I do think we have to take the boy in. We couldn’t scare him off—clearly. If we put him in his bed and leave, he’d wake up and break in again—potentially wiser the second time around, coordinating an effort with the Ouderkirk girl.”

“…Isn’t Chris handling that right now? Aren’t we capturing her?”

“Err…” Jason hesitated. “You see… Chris lost. Badly. He’s unconscious right now, but he’s safe. She left him alone, thankfully.”

“…I could have sworn she was in a state where capturing her would be easy. What the hell happened!?”

“It’s fascinating!” Carl screamed suddenly, startling Jason as the shadow shook around. “Remember how I said ‘energy is energy’ when it comes to these things? The girl is purifying the chaons in here, transforming them into chaons, which she can feed off of. Chris didn’t stand a chance—she seems to be quite skilled in combat. And… Well, tell him the bad news, Jason.”

“There’s more bad news…?” Derek sighed.  

“Yeah. She’s almost here. You’ll have to fight her. Good news, however! You don’t have to hold back this time!”

“Holding back for me is more difficult than getting serious,” Derek explained. “I’m exhausted as hell right now. How do you expect me to battle someone like her—”

“What’s going on here…?”

A chill ran down Derek’s spine as he heard the girl’s voice. He turned toward the right—the direction of the previous room—witnessing an array of azure flames floating around the white-haired, blue-armored young woman.

“She’s… not only an Ouderkirk, but a ghost, huh? First time I’ve met either.”

“Carl…” Jason groaned. “I think we should just warp Derek out of here and call it for right now. We’re putting him in danger, and at least she’ll get Adam to safety.”

“They know his name…?” Charlotte formed a sword and pointed it in Derek’s direction. “Who are you? That shadow… it spoke when that other guy showed up, as well. What’s going on?”

“It seems you let Chris live…” Derek shrugged. “I’d be dead meat if anything happened to him. So, first of all, thanks for that.”

“I don’t kill without a just cause,” Charlotte stated. “Well, at least right now. Who knows how I was like before…”

“Hmm?” Carl’s interest was piqued at Charlotte’s words. “Memory loss? Ah, yes. That would make sense… yes, yes, yes!”

“Another voice…?” Charlotte took a step back. “What is that thing?”

“The first voice was a disembodied one—don’t worry about those details, it’s complicated. And the second one was some creep—feel free to worry about him all you’d like.” Derek rubbed his injured arm. “Anyway, I think Jason’s right. Let’s at least wait until—”

“Derek…” Carl chuckled. “That girl in front of you is key to having our plans succeed—astronomically faster than if we didn’t seize her. We don’t have much time left, you know?” His tone immediately shifted. 

“Don’t you want to save your dear sweet Samantha…?”

Derek gritted his teeth—his muscles tensing upon hearing those words. “Why… the hell would you play that card right now?”

“Motivation, obviously!” Carl cackled loudly. “Now, weaken her! We don’t want an Ouderkirk retaliating too much upon returning to our base—it would probably get destroyed.”

“Y-Yeah…” Jason’s tiny shadow moved close to Derek’s ear and began to whisper. “I’ll grab her once you make an opening.”

“Fine,” Derek stepped forward. “But Ouderkirks have control over pure phantons, don’t they? Isn’t my Concept a bad match up?”

“Although you’re using pure phantons that you’ve gathered,” Carl began to explain. “It still falls under your Concept—it’s unique to you alone. Ouderkirks can’t alter things to that degree. At least, it’s never been mentioned in any records I’ve come across. If you’re worried, and you value safety, finish this quickly.”

“…I’m learning some new things just by listening to them.” Charlotte thought. “That guy seems to be their source of knowledge. I wonder how much he knows…?” Her hands tightened around the hilt of her blade as she glanced at Adam. 

“Not that I’d ever willingly seek this person out…! If you want a fight, you’ll get one. Just know, I won’t hold back! For the moment, my stamina is no issue. I’m not even sure how powerful I am right now.”

Derek was silent for a moment. He took a deep breath, preparing himself.

“Sam… I keep adding things to the list. The list of things I’ll apologize for once this is all over.” He shook his head, focusing entirely on Charlotte, who was ready to face him. 

Derek took another, sharper breath, and began to speak.

“My body—a locked chest. My soul—the precious treasure within…”

“Huh…?” Charlotte noticed a sudden swell in Derek’s power.

“Ooh!” Carl seemed ecstatic. “You’re getting that serious, huh!? Nice, nice, nice! I love seeing this!”

“Share the wealth with the virtuous…

Rob from the sinful…”

On Derek’s forehead, a glowing azure mark in the shape of a keyhole appeared. Immediately, a mighty burst of phantonic energy was unleashed that swirled around his body. Just as swiftly, the power calmed. Charlotte noticed he now wore four ring-like objects—two around his wrists and two around his upper arms, near his shoulders. 

“Armaments of the Summer Storm!”

“…Of the what now?” Charlotte’s questioning had to be put on hold, as Derek’s power had now skyrocketed. She was prepared, however. 

Multiple arrows had manifested from a few flames surrounding her—the fire proceeding to concentrate around the head of each projectile. As if she had shot each one individually with a bow, they flew toward Derek, connecting in an instant. Upon contact, a mighty explosion was unleashed that had nearly engulfed Adam as well.

As the dust cleared, Derek was unharmed. In front of him, an azure glass-like barrier had formed in the same circular shape as his rings. The structure shrunk down—hollowing out and returning to his right wrist. Although the object had remained on him the entire time, this band of energy fit into what appeared to be an opening around the ring, laying back in place like a puzzle. 

“That fast…? I didn’t even notice!” Charlotte leaped back—the remaining flames following her. She breathed in as they merged with her body. Her aura increased in size while she stood her ground, waiting for the next move.

“I’m not sure if it was after your time or not,” Derek began to explain. “But this power is based around ‘The Wrath of the Summer Storm.’ A rather famous myth of Requiem. Four rings of remarkable power based around the four seasons were forged by a goddess. A wicked witch stole one of the rings—the Ring of Summer—unleashing a cataclysmic storm that leveled the world. That’s… basically how it goes, summarized.”

“How… do you have that kind of power?” Charlotte asked, somewhat intrigued despite the situation.

“I don’t. It’s how Concepts can work. Your soul adjusts to a certain ‘thing’ that exists—physically or conceptually—but you can bend the rules a bit if you put in the effort.”

“That’s kind of what that Chris guy mentioned before…” Charlotte recalled. “With how things can get ‘tricky’ with Concepts.”

“My Concept—Storage—gathers phantons throughout Requiem. You can say I could also gather the history of it—rather, the myths and stories that have been passed down for ages. I take one of my favorites, one that’s quite famous, and use that.” Derek aimed his hands at Charlotte—tiny individual openings forming around the two rings on his wrists.

“This is a Full Abstraction that I’ve created.”

“Full… Abstraction?”

Derek fired multiple scale-like projectiles from the rings as they scattered around the area, slashing the air while they darted around in a myriad of directions. Charlotte whacked away a few that flew her way, realizing that she had to move before they overwhelmed her.

Jumping up, she began to fly around the area, evading the scales to the best of her ability. Striking each scale to deflect them grew tedious—individually, they all had remarkable force behind them. 

Charlotte attempted to phase through one of the scales only to find out that they damage her anyway. Luckily, it was a simple graze on her left cheek and nothing too serious. 

“Damn…” The blood spewed from the wound as she held it.

“She can bleed…?” Derek asked himself in confusion. Carl decided to answer him.

“Yes, it seems that way! However, it’s not really anything for her to worry about.”

Much like the World Mirror heals injuries Adam obtains, Charlotte’s own phantonic energy covered the wound. It regenerated quickly, even causing the blood to disappear.

“So this is what it’s like, huh…?” Charlotte looked at her hand, realizing that the red that covered it had also vanished. She turned her attention back to the scales, which seemed to be slowing down in their pursuit.

“Hmm? What’s happening?” Derek waved his hands to aid in maneuvering the projectiles toward Charlotte. “Usually, whenever I release them, they keep going for the target. Why—oh…” He began to chuckle.

“Oh! Do you know, Derek? I figured it out as well! Based on what you’ve told me, at least. Am I right?” Carl questioned with a giddy tone.

“The scales seek out life in order to cause death. It lasted for a few because of her energy, but the Concept caught on. She’s dead, so why should they seek something already dead?”

Charlotte watched as the scales returned to Derek’s rings, entering the openings as they closed once more. “Scales… seeking out death…? Wait a minute, I—”

“The rings in the myth aren’t technically sources of power, themselves. Rather, they act as a sort of ‘portal’ to summon items that hold tremendous capabilities. Items that can’t typically exist in the world without repercussions.” Derek explained.

Charlotte calmly landed in front of Derek, looking as though—ironic as the saying is—had seen a ghost.

“…The Scales of Autumn. The goddess took them from a dying dragon, obtaining the concept of ‘dying’ within the concept of the season ‘autumn.’ Life withering away—not quite dead.” 

Derek’s eyes widened upon the explanation. “Y-Yeah, that’s exactly it. You know this myth…? It’s old, so maybe—”

“The Shield of Winter—that thing you protected yourself with—holds the actual concept of ‘death’ within the concept of ‘winter.’ Anything with the force of life cannot break through that shield.”

“…The goddess took the shield off of a dead soldier, found frozen in a blizzard.” Derek added. “Damn… You probably know about the other two, don’t ya?”

Charlotte snickered. “Yeah, that’s right!”

In her head, she panicked. “I… don’t recall those! I still can’t recall the overall plot of the myth, but I remembered those two! Why… is that? Is it cause I saw them physically?” 

“The spring one would be perfect for my condition at the moment,” Derek sighed. “But unfortunately, I don’t have it quite down just yet. And the summer one… Well, that would be silly to use here—”

Charlotte swiftly formed a spear in her left hand, thrusting it forward. Derek reacted just in time, blocking it with the ring on his right wrist. Due to the injuries on that arm, this caused tremendous pain. 

“I know we’re both having fun talking about this stuff, but we’re still fighting. Did you forget?” She transformed the sword in her right hand into a second spear, jabbing at Derek with that weapon as well. He blocked with his other ring—the force this time pushing him back. 

“Sorry, I’m a bit tired from dealing with that guy up against the wall,” Derek snickered, motioning his arms as the rings opened once more. “Let’s end this!”

Scales were unleashed for the second time. From her experience before, Charlotte knew that the first few seconds mattered the most when dealing with them. Once they consider her dead, their force and accuracy diminish greatly. 

The spears she held would not do the trick. Instead, she changed their shape, creating two boomerang-like weapons in their place. 

“Let’s try… this!

Charlotte threw the boomerangs. As if they were magically targeting each individual projectile, her weapons spun around the area and struck the Scales of Autumn out of the air, shattering as they hit the ground.

Her counterattack did not end there. Charlotte’s boomerangs continued, aiming at Derek’s sides. He blocked both with his rings—the force pressuring him from the left and right kept him in place temporarily. 

Charlotte took this opportunity to strike. She created a rapier in her hand and dashed forward with remarkable speed. 

“There…!”

Although Derek seemed as though he was wide open, he was not. Charlotte seemed to forget the two other rings that were placed on his upper arms. The one on the left opened, and energy was unleashed. By the time Charlotte noticed, she was already connecting with the summoned Shield of Winter.

“It doesn’t matter what ring it is, they’re all connected to one another! Isn’t that right!?” Charlotte asked while struggling against the shield. 

“Right,” Derek answered while knocking the boomerangs away. “I doubt that’s how they actually worked in the myth, but for me, it doesn’t matter too much.”

Charlotte continued to pressure the shield. Derek was baffled that she would continue her attempt to shatter a shield that no life could break.

He realized that he genuinely was exhausted, as his mind caught on too soon.

It took a small amount of time, but the scales eventually considered Charlotte “dead,” so they lost their energy attacking her. 

The same could be said for the shield. It eventually realized that the phantonic energy Charlotte was releasing did not originate from a source of life, rather, one that was deceased. Phantons were particles of life—that was an established fact. Ghosts were, scientifically, remnants of life. However, everyone could classify them as one who has passed. Derek’s Shield of Winter took priority over the first fact before settling on the second.

As Charlotte shattered the shield, along with her weapon, she contemplated for a moment on how odd it all seemed. Could the actual science known as “Phantonics” actually define everything surrounding the phanton? It certainly tried to, but will it ever actually be achieved?

With a sword already in her hand, Charlotte swung at Derek, who evaded the slash. She noticed the surge of energy now coming from him.

“Well, aside from using these items, I guess I’m much more powerful in this state. So, why not try fighting you like I normally do?” 

Derek swung at Charlotte, who blocked with her blade. Being knocked back, she realized how much strength the man was generating. As her weapon crumbled, she formed another—a second one accompanying it in her opposite hand. 

Reinforcing her blades with the extra energy she had gathered in the mine, Charlotte attacked. Derek used his rings as a means to defend while finding an opening, striking at any he saw. The ghost girl was not easy to hit, and he realized this rather quickly.

He leaped back, beginning to maneuver around the stalagmites in a manner he did in his fight with Adam. Unlike his previous opponent, who tore the stone structures apart, Charlotte simply phased right through them. She had a complete focus on where Derek was, even if he was out of eyesight.

“Damn, if this keeps up…” Derek was entirely on the defense. Despite his increase in power, the sheer skill Charlotte was displaying was something he currently could not surpass. 

“Heh…” Charlotte smirked. “This feels… good. Where did I learn to fight like this? Even with my memories gone, this is all… natural to me.” 

Jason was watching the fight nervously. He knew that Derek would not last much longer.

“Hey… Carl. This looks bad. I can’t even find an opportunity to—”

“Don’t worry, my friend,” Carl began giggling. “Leave this to me…”

In his hand, Carl held a plain-looking silver pistol. Although the bullets he was loading looked silver as well, Jason knew they were made of phantonite.

“Is that…?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” Carl was now laughing maniacally. “An ordinary gun! Just kidding, it only looks that way. With the tech built into this thing, and with the use of phantonite for the shells…”

“…You’ll tear right through anything made of phantons.” Jason stated. “Even a ghost.”

“As soon as I saw her bleed… I knew. Her body replicates ‘getting injured’ in that manner, before healing itself. Why? That seems like a waste of phantons. Regardless, she reacted to it—she felt the pain, even if only temporary. One could say… you can truly ‘hurt’ her with opposing phantons, or even phantonic technology…

Jason did not say anything. He opened up the portal wide enough for the bullet to pass through, and he would be the one to aim. Carl simply had to pull the trigger. 

Charlotte continued to gain the upper hand against Derek. At this point, his rings had begun to crumble, and the mark on his forehead started to close. With his energy fading, Charlotte knew it was the time to strike. 

Her blades turned dull so that she would not cause any severe harm to the man. Derek, at that point, accepted his loss. His body simply could not keep up with an Ouderkirk.

Charlotte lunged forward, beginning her final attack. 

It never connected. Upon the sound of a gunshot echoing through the cavern, the bullet tore through the right of Charlotte’s armor—near her waist—piercing her and exiting out the other side.


Next: Chapter 21

Previous: Chapter 19

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 19

Derek shook his head, frustrated at the current situation. Adam stood before him, ready to face what was about to happen. There was nothing Derek could do—reasoning with the young man seemed out of the question.

“Maybe I can spook him…?” Derek looked on the ground and picked up a small pebble that was near his feet. “All right, then. Let’s see how you feel after you see this.”

Sky-blue energy formed around Derek’s hand. With a mere flick of his wrist, the stone was shot at remarkable speed, barely missing the top of Adam’s head as it struck the cave above where he had entered the room. An avalanche of stone formed a blockade—it was only then that Adam was able to react to what had happened.

“Wha…?”

“I barely put any effort into that. It’s all thanks to this very world we live in. ‘What do you mean by that?’ I’m glad you asked! Well, you see—”

“—Phantons…? Pure phantons…” With his eyes, Adam could see the particles appear, emerging from within Derek and concentrating around his hand. “How is that possible? Only Ouderkirks can use them in that manner…!”

“…If you’d let me finish, I’d be glad to tell you. And since that move didn’t seem to rattle you enough—” 

With a swiftness that Adam could not follow, Derek appeared right in front of him. A single strike with his palm sent Adam flying toward the pile of rubble behind him. Upon impact, the stones dug into Adam’s back, causing massive damage—pain unimaginable to an average human.

“Oops. Your durability isn’t all that great—that power healing you made me forget that. Whatever, I guess that means I don’t have to worry about being a little nasty toward you.”

Adam struggled to break free from the stones that had stuck into him. The World Mirror’s energy eventually caused them to crumble as he tumbled onto the ground in front of him in agony. 

“…I call my Concept ‘Storage.’ All of the natural phantons that flow throughout the world gather toward me, and I ‘absorb’ them—in a way. Over time, it builds up, and I have enough power to be able to strengthen me. I merely ‘unlock’ the energy and send it to whatever body part I want to use it with—like my hands and feet, arms and legs—that sort of thing.”

Derek watched as Adam struggled to stand. He sighed, walking over toward the boy. “I tell you this, why? Not to gain your trust, really. I feel like I can’t do that in your current mental state. I simply—” 

Gathering energy in his foot, Derek showed no hesitation as he stomped Adam’s head into the ground.

“—Want you to see how futile it is. I’m sorry. Based on your behavior, you seem incredibly ignorant toward the cruelty of this world. Yet…” Derek removed his foot and took a step back. “You desire to save someone—someone you don’t even know—no matter the cost. I respect that innocent determination. Once, I was like that. I met a wall, however, one that I could not get past no matter how much will I had.”

Adam was barely moving—his body merely twitched around as the aura around him had weakened tremendously. 

“I’m not sure if you’re conscious right now—I don’t want to check. That face is probably torn apart. So—”

“I…” Adam began to squirm, attempting once again to get up on his feet. 

“Oh, good. Please stay down, though. Right now, for the sake of my eyesight, more than anything. Anyway…” Derek stretched his body while glancing around. “What does one do when they can’t get past a wall? When they deplete every option that was in their arsenal? They should either give up—which is silly—or retreat and find other ways to go about it. This is what I found in my search.”

Derek motioned his arms around the mine. “I believe in the power that we can obtain. You see—what’s beyond that wall for me is something I’ll risk everything for! Sorry, but I just can’t see you having that kind of willpower originate from some stranger. Learn what reality is, suffer like hell, and grow from it. Find something logical you want to save or protect, and stop living in a fantasy, like some hero!”

“Hero… huh?” Adam chuckled. “Ah, okay. I get it. Thanks for the advice.”

Adam gained some footing and was now kneeling in front of Derek. Something peculiar began to occur as he struggled to stand. His aura was growing once more, although it was slowly turning red as opposed to white.

“Chaons…?” Derek took a step back. “No… it’s nothing like that. His blood. His freaking blood is mixing in with that stuff?”

Despite not being actually chaonic in nature, Derek could not help but feel an immense, dark pressure now radiating from Adam. His blood swirled around in the torrent of energy, becoming an incredibly vibrant crimson in color. Holding his face—covering what had yet to heal—Adam was now on his feet. His ghastly white eyes peered through the ominous aura, emitting a “force” that Derek could only describe as death itself.

“If I can’t be a hero, then I’ll just be a villain.”

Derek barely had any time to react as Adam lunged toward him, grabbing hold of his arm while dashing forward. He was along for the ride as the two soared out of the room, into a brand new section.

The cavern had opened up, becoming much more spacious as opposed to the narrow sections from before. Stalagmites shot up from the earth while stalactites descended from above.

Derek took notice of the former, swinging his body around and slamming Adam directly into one as they flew through the cave. Remarkably, he managed to land on his feet as he slid to a stop, thanks to the phantons flowing within his limbs. 

“This part… Seems we’re no longer in the maze, are we? Which means we’re close to that, huh?” Derek brushed the dirt off of him and looked toward Adam, who was swinging his arms around savagely to free himself from the rubble. With the amount of energy he was producing, this was an easy task.

“I’ve got to stop him here. If he manages to reach that place, then everything we’ve worked for up until now will be in jeopardy.”  

A thin outline of phantonic energy formed around Derek as he took a stance, ready to fight. Adam, who had lost all rationale at this point, sprinted forward with the fury of a wild beast.

Derek stepped to the side as Adam shot past him, colliding with another large stalagmite nearby. 

“You know, I’m quite nimble in this state. Even if you have speed, simply jumping at me won’t mean much if I can get out of the way—”

Adam jumped out of the dust and dived toward Derek, who managed to evade the boy slamming into the ground. Immediately, the attack continued as the pursuit began.

Swing, swing, swing. Adam was not even attempting a legitimate punch at this point, he was merely flailing his arms around as he tried to strike Derek. The man read the erratic moves quite well, managing to move his body enough to dodge while conserving energy simultaneously. As this continued, he began to compare the attacks to an animal attempting to claw at him. 

“He’s legitimately reverting back to primal-like behavior. His mind has given up, hasn’t it? Why did he allow himself to get to this state…?”

Derek maneuvered around a few boulders that were in the path of the battle to get Adam off of his tail. These were torn through quickly—the bloodied aura of the World Mirror reducing the stone to dust. 

“How is his body still intact? With the amount of raw power he’s emitting, it would take an expert level of control to not have his own body vaporize. His clothes are even still on—thank god. But…”

Derek took a quick glance around while he moved. It was barely noticeable, but there were tiny veins of crimson within the ground and ceiling. He knew little details surrounding this mine, even unaware that their plan seemed to center around some little girl that the raging young man before him was aiming to save. 

Despite talking big moments prior, Derek knew that there were faults in what he was fighting for. It was evident from the get-go, yet he had no choice but to help out with this project.

He noticed a tiny shadow form near his shoulder as Jason began to speak. 

“This is getting out of hand, isn’t it?”

“You’re keeping an eye on everything going on, yeah?” Derek asked. “Which means, Carl’s there watching as well?”

“Yep, we’re both watching everything…” Jason gulped. “I better not tell him that Chris just got knocked out…”

“Carl, what the hell do you think is happening? How is he controlling this power?” Derek jumped back as Adam attempted to stomp him into the ground—his leg seemingly undamaged.

“Yes, yes, yes! Derek, you and I have similar thoughts!” 

“We’re not similar.”

“Anyway—” Carl’s voice echoed from Jason’s shadow. Adam did not seem to react to the discussion whatsoever as he continued his assault. “Here’s an interesting question for you, Derek. Being one that studied archeology, you’re aware of how difficult it is to explore anything pertaining to the Ouderkirks?”

“Yeah, we rarely ever had any clearance to check those places. Why?”

“Although it is meant to keep things a secret, there actually is a bigger reason why people are not allowed near those locations.”

“Which is…?” Derek dodged a swipe from Adam and managed to land a punch on him. He was pushed back for only a moment, resuming his flurry of strikes.   

“It’s something known as ‘Authority.’ You can think of it like how a Concept operates. One takes control of something—anything. Much like a Concept, yet different. Concepts naturally come from within one’s self, while an Authority is one’s self taking hold of something that exists in front of them.”

“All right, I’m following…” Derek said while leaping off of the nearby wall, evading a rocketing Adam.

“Usually, only one who has complete control over either phantons or chaons can create an Authority over something. In fact, our leader and Jason both share Authority over these mines. That’s how we control it.”

“Not right now, we don’t…” Jason interrupted in dismay.

“Right right right, I was getting to that point,” Carl responded to the disembodied voice. “You see, Derek, despite the Ouderkirks no longer existing—for the most part—Authority over where they ruled remains. Mainly where their power was at display the most, like their forts off to the east. Someone entering that does not belong means terrible danger, such as the very terrain sucking out your life force—fun stuff like that!” 

“Hmm… So why is Jason saying we no longer have control here?”

“I don’t know how it happened…” Carl paused. “But the mine has fallen under that boy’s control. He mysteriously placed Authority here, ripping it from us. It has to relate to that unknown power, cause that’s something that can’t just happen normally. Hey, kid! You listening!?”

Adam was, in fact, not listening—whatsoever. His body was simply going berserk. Derek was not sure that he was even conscious at this point.

“It would be good to ask him some things…” Carl sighed. “I wonder, could it be due to his blood? I’m talking genetically. That could easily make sense, but we have to wait for an answer to that.”

Derek had begun intercepting blows directly. He had become accustomed to the amount of force that Adam was creating and managed to respond with an equal amount of energy radiating out of him. 

“…No,” Jason spoke up. “It doesn’t have to do with that. Trust me, this place was built to keep everyone out.”

“If Jason says so, then…” Carl pondered. “It… It’s astounding. I have a theory…! Oh! A crazy, crazy, crazy theory! It does have to do with his blood—his literal blood that’s spewing from him!” 

“What do you mean?” Derek asked as he was struck with the back of Adam’s hand. This did little to Derek, who held his ground.

“Concepts. Authority. These things encompass everything that exists. Everything, including actual concepts—things that aren’t tangible, such as names. Everyone knows that the name ‘Adam’ belonged to the ‘first man’ that existed, yes? There are other meanings behind it. Meanings that pertain to the earth… the red earth.”

“Y-Yeah…? That means something?”

“Look around—a place within the earth fueled with crimson! As his blood seeps into the stone, his power acts as a medium for these concepts to intertwine, acting as a way for his being to ‘merge’ with the area. The red earth fuses with the red earth! Thus, Authority is conceived. How it overrides our Authority, however, is alarming…” 

“…That’s a stretch, don’t you think?” Derek found an opening, smashing his fist into Adam’s gut, sending him into the wall. 

“When one is in an area with their Authority active, the terrain does aid them. Despite chaons being a different type of power, energy is energy—Concepts, in general, do not care. You’ve seen my research, you know what I’ve always wanted to present to those bastard scientists…”

“Concepts can be born from chaons, not just phantons. Yeah, I know. I’ve seen enough to believe that. The absurdity of those people… I guess our hatred for them helps you and I get along, at least. Crazy-ass scientist.”

“Heh… For now, I’m classifying Adam’s strange power in the same class as phantons and chaons. Even if he has neither, can he actually use Concepts? Intriguing… Intriguing, intriguing, intriguing!”

“He might as well. Clearly, he uses a power that a normal human does not possess. So, why not?”

Adam limped forward from his spot in the wall. Throughout the fight and discussion, it seemed as though Derek’s effort to stop him had been working. His aura weakening, blood dripped from his face—remarkably healed up at this point.

“Authority, huh…?” Adam mumbled. It was loud enough for Derek to hear, who was in shock.

“How… did he hear all of that!?”

“It’s not too surprising,” Carl responded. “The Authority he has is allowing him to pick up all kinds of stimuli—all throughout the mine, I’m guessing. But… no. No, no, no! Even so, in his current state, how could he process anything—freaking how is this kid still standing!? I don’t even think my body could withstand what he’s dealt with!”

Derek looked at Adam’s eyes. The malice they had unleashed started to dim, yet something was still off.

It was not fear that Derek felt at that point. Instead, curiosity flowed through him, much like his phantons had been doing. He recalled the first thing that came from his own mouth upon entering the mine.

“Déjà vu… I feel it quite often. Carl, you said it’s from the residual information that phantons have as they enter me?”

“Hm? Yes, that’s correct. All kinds of information, regardless of its size, flows into you daily as you store it away. It would make sense that you tend to ‘recall’ events that did not actually happen to you personally.”

“Adam Grayson,” Derek stepped forward—Adam barely able to react. “This is going to sound strange, but your gaze gives off an absurdly strong sense of déjà vu—it surpasses any side effect of my own Concept.”

“You hitting on me…? In some weird-ass way?” Adam wobbled around, struggling to stay steady.

“Sorry, I’m already married…” Derek glanced down at his finger. “My ring was destroyed, unfortunately. But that’s all a story for another day…” He glanced around for a moment, proceeding to chuckle. “What the hell…? Is this some effect from your Authority? Does it make me feel like I’ve been here before, talking to you with similar circumstances?”

With these questions, Adam’s sanity slowly returned to him as he pondered them.

“…I have to complete this task, however. You need to leave this place. Jason told you not to dig into this. It’s beyond a miracle that things have happened in the manner that they have—you’re still alive.”

With his Authority, Adam glanced off to the right. He managed to sense a location toward the end of the mine, unable to process what was in there.

“He knows the location, Derek!” Jason’s shadow flew around Derek’s head like an irritating insect.

“…It’s pretty straightforward at this point, I’m sure anyone could find it—Authority or not.”

“S-Still! You’ve gotta stop him!”

“I know that…” Derek swatted Jason away, returning his attention to Adam. “I’ll give you one last chance. Will you leave?”

Adam, remarkably, managed to give a genuine smile as he responded.

“I can’t do that.”

Derek smirked. Jason floated back a bit—he and Carl taking note of the sudden shift in the behavior of the two young men. 

With a flex of Derek’s arm, phantonic energy surged from it—pure power ready to make the final strike. “I knew you would say that.”

Adam copied Derek’s action perfectly—the World Mirror summoning an equal amount of power in his own arm. While the aura was still crimson from his blood, the vibe coming from him was much more calmer.

A mere moment passed, and the two jumped forward—red and blue, clashing upon impact as the sound of colliding energy echoed throughout the mine. The men known as Adam Grayson and Derek Sommers had one similar thought toward the final push:

Why did it all seem so familiar?


Next: Chapter 20

Previous: Chapter 18

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 18

Brandon was flung from the shadows onto the dirty basement floor. Jerry, who had been attempting to stand up, almost fell back over upon hearing his friend yelp in pain.

“Brandon…!?” He looked over at the black mass hovering above the front of the barrier. “What is that!?”

“Oh, good. Spiky red-hair guy—” Jason’s voice cracked. “Excuse me. I’m getting a little exhausted from warping all over the place. Keep this guy from barging back in here. It’s dangerous. Okay? Okay.”

Before Jerry could respond, Jason’s shadow had vanished. However, his voice did echo out one last comment.

“How in the hell is this thing still visible? What caused that to happen? Oh well. We’ll fix it…”

Jerry forced himself on to his feet, limping over to Brandon, who had begun to move. “Hey, are you okay? What happened?”

“Jerry…” Brandon looked up at him. “Adam’s still in there. He’s probably going to start fighting some guy. He’s already injured and is probably going above and beyond what he can do alone…”

“Why?” Jerry asked. “What for? Tell me whatever you know!”

Brandon held his head while nodding to his friend. As he told Jerry what had unfolded inside the mine, sheer pain continued to surge throughout his body. By the end of the quick catch up, Jerry noticed this.

“If what you’re saying is true, then your body was affected pretty badly by those chaons. You’re probably poisoned. We’ll have to fix you up before it’s too late.”

“…Is it possible to get possessed by some demon or something?” Brandon asked. He stood up, feeling incredibly dizzy.

“Careful—” Jerry held onto him to prevent him from falling back down. “And, yeah, absolutely. That’s how they do it. Your body becomes riddled with chaons, giving them a ‘home’ that they can safely nest in. If one becomes poisoned, your system will naturally cleanse the chaons, eventually. In the meantime, your body’s not only taking damage, but it’s also at risk of possession.”

“Do you think I was possessed…?” Brandon questioned. Jerry pondered the possibility based on what he had been told.

“It’s possible… it would explain a hole in your memory. When you ran into that barrier… the chaons that would have gotten into you shouldn’t have been in you for too long, but…”

Jerry took out his phone and opened the app that he used before. He motioned it around Brandon as it picked up signs of chaonic influence. “Okay… you’re definitely poisoned. Not too bad, actually. You’re certainly not possessed, though.”

“Why does it feel like my head’s splitting open…?” Brandon questioned, holding his hands around his temples. “Like… my head is an egg, and something’s trying to break out, but it lacks the strength to.”

“That’s… quite the comparison.” Jerry was utterly perplexed at Brandon’s condition. 

Jerry’s brain went into overdrive. He had to brainstorm all the possible moves that could be made in the current situation so that everyone could get out of it safely. 

Miraculously, Jerry Peck happened to be one to work extraordinarily well under pressure.

Fighting through the pain—which was slowly subsiding—Jerry began to walk Brandon toward the stairs.

“W-Where are we going…?” Brandon began to squirm like a pet trying to break free and run off. “We’ve gotta help Adam…! Jerry! We’ve gotta—”

“We’ll save him, relax!” Jerry yelled. “Listen—whatever you’re going through right now… whatever Adam is going through, I swear… I’ll figure out a solution to everything!

The confidence that radiated from Jerry seemed to affect Brandon, as he had finally calmed down. Despite his desire to rush back in and help Adam, he repressed it and placed his trust in the best place possible.

 

As Jason opened up a portal inside the mine, a young man dived out of it. Only a few meters from the ground, he managed to somehow slow down and calmly land on his feet. Adjusting the goggles he was wearing, which were a part of what looked to be an old pilot hat, he took a glance around.

“Hey, uh, Jason?” He looked up at the shadow, which seemed to be groaning in annoyance. “Where exactly did you put me?”

“These guys keep messing with the mine…!” Jason cursed. “I can’t even place you in the right place! Well, whatever. The girl should still be in the same section, just a little bit ahead. I’ll leave it to you, Chris.”

“Yeah, yeah…” Chris waved as Jason faded away. He looked around—a shiver going up his spine upon taking in the surroundings. 

“These are the mines, huh? Creepy. Creepy creepy. Ah—shit! I’m starting to repeat words just like Carl! No, don’t do that.” He took a deep breath. “Father. Sister. Keep me safe. Not only from whatever’s in here but from that guy back at the base…”

Chris began to walk at a brisk pace. He wanted to get out of the dark caves as quickly as possible, aware that he had to accomplish his mission to do so.

It was then that Christopher Serpenti had realized something. Never in his nineteen years on this planet did he once encounter a ghost. There were many other horrifying things he had met, but not a mere spirit. He had no idea how to proceed with his task.

“Do I… talk to her first? Carl said she should be easy enough to fight against, but how do you fight against something already dead? Does that make any sense!? Demon… Chaonic Entities—to be more precise. I’ve dealt with those, but… they’re technically living.”

As Chris spoke to himself, he was unaware that the torches he passed had begun to be blue in color as opposed to the usual red. 

“I’m thinking that talking to her—asking if she’ll just come with us—is the better option. I’m not sure how to fight against a ghost. If you can fight them just like a normal human, then what’s honestly the difference? They might as well be alive at that point…”

He stopped. What Chris encountered was something that shook him to his very core. 

Tiny azure flames danced around Charlotte, who was sitting right in the middle of the cave floor. She was humming—her way of focusing her energy into moving the sprite-like specters of energy as if they were dancing. 

Although disturbing, it had no malicious intent, as Chris assumed it did. Charlotte initially did not notice him as she was deep in thought regarding her power.

“I can make phantonic energy from chaons…?  How does it work? Well, it’s now in a form I can use, so maybe I can —”

She glanced up to see the man standing before her. There was no greeting—no acknowledgment, aside from the two staring at each other in silence. Chris, eventually, broke the silence with the snap of his finger.

“…I won’t let you get away with your cursed rituals, demon!”

A spark flew from his fingertips, growing in size and flying at Charlotte, exploding upon contact. Chris leaped backward, gaining height as he made contact with the ceiling. Mysteriously, he held onto the rocky surface as if there was a place to grip onto.

A blue wave of energy ripped through the smoke, revealing a completely unharmed Charlotte. The flames that were around her had reformed, enveloping her in a ghastly aura. 

“That was extremely rude of you,” Charlotte said with a serious expression. “Do you just attack women willy-nilly like a savage!? Wait—willy-nilly… what does that mean…?”

“I’ll attack anyone if they’re in the middle of a cave performing dark arts like you are!” Chris yelled, flicking his finger repeatedly. A spark formed each time as Charlotte was bombarded by multiple attacks. She created a large circular shield, which blocked the explosions from making contact with her. 

“Is that your Concept?” Charlotte asked, moving the shield to her side as it floated in mid-air. She quickly formed a javelin in her right hand and, with remarkable speed, chucked it toward Chris. He evaded it by releasing his hold on the ceiling, jumping onto the wall as the javelin smashed his previous location into pieces. 

“See if you can figure it out! It tends to stump people, but it’s quite simple!” Chris sent more sparks at Charlotte, who once again blocked all of them. He continued to shoot at her as he landed back onto the ground and sprinted right toward her swiftly. 

“What is he—” Charlotte used her power to force the floating shield forward, bashing right into Chris. She figured he would be rather easy to send hurdling, considering his slender physique. However, he did not budge, and the shield met with fierce resistance.

“Well, you’re a ghost, after all. And with that attire, I’m guessing you’re quite old. Not sure how much science you would actually know!”

With the initial force of Charlotte’s attack diminished, Chris adjusted his footing and leaped back, managing to gain significant distance from the shield. He rubbed his forearms, which had made contact with the phantasmal object. 

“Yeesh, thought I was gonna lose there for a sec. Definitely had to get away before you tried something fishy. What is your Concept? Or—er—wait. Ouderkirk… Ah, yeah! You can control phantons, can’t you? Is that how you’re making those weapons?”

“I believe so,” Charlotte moved her hand, causing the shield to return to her side. “I don’t have to think too hard about it. I call it ‘Royal Armory’ because the weapons seem to already be made, ready to go. Summoning them and using them is what drains me.”

“Ah. See, maybe I misjudged you. You seem to talk normally. This is what I wanted to begin with—talking is much easier. Although, it seems as though fighting you isn’t as difficult as I initially thought.”

“Are you the one who owns this mine?” Charlotte asked as the shield faded away. In its place, a longsword formed, which she grabbed without hesitation. “Tell me exactly what’s going on here.”

“Uh, no, I don’t own it. I work for the guys who own it, I guess? Listen, I was just told to capture you. I didn’t really want to actually fight, but I’m not sure you’re gonna listen at this point. I did start it, after all…”

“Capture me…?” Charlotte raised her sword. “You’re right. I won’t listen to someone who wants to do that—why the hell would I?” She dashed forward and, in a split second, began slashing at Chris. He managed to evade the attacks—his body meeting no resistance to the air around him. 

“I get it, I get it! The guys I work for aren’t all that bad, actually! I’m sure talking things out with them will work out! I’ve just gotta bring you to them!” Chris sent several sparks at Charlotte, who whacked them away with her blade. “Ah, geez. This is on me. I had to freak out and begin fighting—you do realize it looked incredibly creepy, though!? What were you even doing down here? What are you doing down here, overall?”

“My friend ended up in here somehow, and I’m here to get him out… that’s all.” Charlotte lunged at Chris, taking a mighty swing that shattered the ground beneath them. He dodged, grabbing onto the ceiling once more.

“Right, right… My friend Derek should be working on that part right now. So, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Charlotte brushed dust off the illuminated blade, chuckling softly. “And why do you think I should trust your word? If I just surrender now and go with you to have this hypothetical discussion with the people you work for so that everything can end ‘peacefully’… how will I know my friend is safe? How will I know that I’ll be safe?”

“…Yeah, I messed this one up. Dammit. Oh well… I guess I’ll just have to do this the hard way.” Chris jumped a few yards back, readying his fingers. “I know it won’t do much at this point to gain your trust, but my Concept is ‘Friction.’ I can move around quickly with no resistance, or I can gain lots of resistance like I did against your shield. I can hold onto walls and ceilings easily, as well.”

“Well, that is good to know…” Charlotte resumed a battle stance while the inside of her processed this new information. “…Friction… friction. I swear I’ve picked up that term before, but what is it!? I think I can figure it out, based on what he’s said… Freaking memories. No—this is this era’s fault! Science has gone too far!”

“And with these sparks that I’ve been making… I make enough friction with my fingers to create it, but it continues from there. The spark moves like a bullet—all the resistance it meets building up heat, forming a tiny explosion upon contact.”

Charlotte was perplexed at Chris’ explanation. “…Okay. I think even if I did understand modern science, I wouldn’t understand how something like that works…”

“From what I’ve been told, Concepts don’t have to fully make sense!” Chris explained. “They bring a factor that exists in this universe under your control, so through one’s influence, things can get a little tricky!”

“I see… In that case—” Charlotte swapped her longsword for another javelin. “I’ll end this before things get too tricky!” 

She chucked the weapon with remarkable force, rocketing toward Chris. At the last moment, he moved his body slightly to the left, just enough to dodge the incoming strike.

“I practice subtle movement all the time! And with how much resistance I can make if I let an attack hit me, you’ll have to do better than that!” 

“I’ll need both stealth and strength to take you down, huh?” Charlotte noted as Chris flicked his fingers once more. This time, several sparks erupted from him—a volley of flaming projectiles flying toward the ghost girl.

Charlotte took a deep breath. The azure torches surrounding them began to dim as she phased through the ground beneath her as if she dropped into a body of water. The sparks soared passed when she was a moment prior, and the remaining light on the walls faded, leaving the surrounding area in darkness. 

“What!? Damn!” Chris looked around in a panic. “The torches… were red up to this point,” He glanced back where he could see a tiny crimson light in the distance. “Right… They’re supposed to be that color. The ones around here were tampered with by her…!”

“—And I’m not restricted by the space inside of these caverns…” Charlotte’s voice echoed all around Chris, who was trying his hardest to guess her location. 

She shot out of the wall off to the side—the raging azure from her weapon garnering Chris’ attention. A giant war hammer had formed, ready to strike.

“I’m a ghost, after all!”

The head smashed into Chris’s side—an impact was made that tore the stone around them. He had enough time to activate his Concept, creating enough resistance for his body to stay in place.

However, there was astounding power behind Charlotte’s swing as phantonic energy was exploding out of her weapon. Even if he could put up a fight, the struggle was futile. His body would break before the attack ended.

“Well, shit—”

Chris was slammed into the wall of the mine—the shockwaves ripping everything in the area to pieces. As his consciousness faded, regret took hold of his remaining thoughts.

“I’m… not gonna die, am I…? Did I… lose everything, again…?” 


Next: Chapter 19

Previous: Chapter 17

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 17

Jerry awoke, still slumped over the stairs. His body ached from where he had leaned on each step—the sharpest pain near the back of his neck. Immediately, his mind kicked into gear. 

“What happened…!? Okay—need to think, need to think…” He stepped onto the cellar floor and looked around the left corner. “The barrier’s still there…? What happened to Brandon? Something knocked me out—did it get him as well? Did it take him? Why just him? Why—”

He paused, taking a deep breath as he tried to focus. “Calm down. Think rationally. Nobody seems to be down here…?” Surveying the damaged basement, Jerry began to formulate a few ideas while taking his phone out of his pocket. 

“Okay… I was out of it for twenty minutes. Charlotte hasn’t returned, so something must be going on inside that cave to delay her for so long. Brandon’s missing—he wouldn’t just leave me lying on the stairs like that if I passed out. Why would he be kidnapped, while I’m just knocked out? I would conclude that another party is involved, to some degree. Many, many questions. I could ponder for hours… but I’ve got to act before it’s too late.”

Jerry turned and began to dash up the stairs. That was what he attempted to do, although he immediately ran into a problem. He collapsed onto his knees, leaning on the bottom step. The pain in his neck had spread to the rest of his body, preventing him from moving any further.

“…I was able to move fine for a moment, but now… Gah—what happened to me!?”

 

Brandon ran behind Adam as he took note of the energy—now calmer than before—surrounding his friend. 

“Hey. Uh… are you okay? That power… it heals you—if I remember correctly?”

“Yeah,” Adam held out his arm. “I’ll be fine, for now. We need to wrap this up quickly. Charlotte’s in here, you said? Where’s Jerry?”

“I’m not sure… after Charlotte came in, my memory’s kinda fuzzy. I hope whatever possessed me didn’t hurt him.”

“Let’s hope not. If Charlotte’s in here, we need to group up. With her, I’m sure we can get this done fast enough.”

“Speaking of fast… you’re running quicker than me. That’s a first.” Brandon noted.

“I told you this power also gives me a boost in my physical capabilities. That includes something like this…” Adam glanced down at his legs. “I don’t know how to use it, but since it’s active as it heals me up, I guess that works.”

“Wait… it doesn’t look like you need healing. You’ve got blood all over you, but your wounds should be—”

“The World Mirror’s aura…” Adam hesitated. “It’s given me protection from the chaons, in the manner that phantons protect everyone else. It’ll only stay active as long as it heals, though. So when it diminishes enough… the chaons start eating away at me again. It’s a cycle. You probably can’t notice it, but I can feel it, believe me…”

“…S-Should we do this?” Brandon asked nervously. “I don’t like the idea of you constantly getting messed up like that, man. “Maybe we should go back and think this through.”

“…Let’s find Charlotte,” Adam suggested. “She’ll probably have the best idea on what to do. I’d rather find her anyway before we think about leaving.”

The setting that had repeated for quite some time had finally changed. Adam and Brandon entered a more substantial area—a circular room with boulders, mine carts, and metal track scattered about as if they were randomly chucked in there. The familiar torches were still lined up on the wall surrounding the place.

“This is… new.” Brandon stopped to glance around as Adam took an extra few steps before slowing down.

“Yeah…” Adam’s eyes surveyed the new location noticing the chaons did not seem to act differently.  

That is until he glanced upward.

At the center of the stone ceiling, a black swirling mass appeared. The chaons swarmed around it, seeing to dissipate upon contact. Jason began to speak.

“How did you two join up…? That’s not supposed to happen! And how did you get here!? This is supposed to be one of the safe rooms kept out of the cycle!”

“Adam… it’s talking. What is that—why is it talking!?”

“Just stay behind me, Brandon,” Adam raised his guard. 

“Oh, boy…” Jason let out a sigh. “Well, let’s get this over with, quickly.”

A figure emerged from the darkness, descending down toward the two boys. Adam backed up, pushing Brandon as he did. Derek landed effortlessly, staring at the two with a blank expression. 

“Hmm…” Derek glanced around the room for a moment before returning his focus to them. “Oh. Oh, yeah. I’m getting that feeling. Jason, that déjà vu feeling is at an all-time high right now.” He pinched the area between his eyes. “I don’t like it. Carl said it’s a side effect from how my Concept works, but I don’t really trust his judgment. He started scratching the inside of his ear wildly while explaining the current situation. For what reason?

“That’s why you wanted to warp so quickly? I get it,” Jason chuckled from the abyss. “Should I send Chris too? He’s ready to dive on in, as well. Carl’s dancing around him… H-He’s just dancing.”

“Let Chris take a shot at the other ‘point of interest’ that’s in here. I’ll back him up once I’m done.” Derek shrugged as his attention returned to the boys in front of him. “Oh, hi, yeah—I’m Derek. I’m here to escort you out of here.”

“…Who are you? Where did you come from?” Adam asked—his body twitching from the pain he was in.

“I’m Derek, are your ears okay? Are you okay? Why are you covered in blood? Is that your blood? What the—what the hell? And that energy…”  

“I think it heals him, Derek,” Jason responded from above. “It looked like his arms were growing back when I tried to warp him earlier. That energy—I think—is the reason why I couldn’t get it to work.”

“I know the gist of it,” Derek rubbed the side of his head. “He doesn’t have phantons. That caused the chaons in here to hurt him. This power of his healed him, luckily, but he’s still in danger. Well, Jason, just shift the sections accordingly, open up the barrier, and I’ll walk them right out before they get hurt any further.”

“…I’m not leaving,” Adam stepped forward. “I’m not leaving until I save that little girl! Where is she!? What the hell even is this place!?”

“Woah. Yelling. Stop that.” Derek said. “What girl? Jason?” He looked up. “Got any idea who this ‘little girl’ is that he’s talking about?”

“I don’t know how, but it seems he knows of it…” Jason replied. “Listen, kid. The mine was set up this way to protect that girl. So, don’t worry about it. Trust me when I say this: Don’t get involved. At all. It’s for your own good.”

Adam went silent. Derek looked at him and shrugged. 

“Well, our shadowy boy said so. I’m… kinda concerned as to how a little girl is involved, especially considering…” Rage temporarily filled Derek’s voice before he stopped speaking.

“Adam, what should we do…?” Brandon patted his friend on the shoulder—the World Mirror’s energy not resisting this action. “I don’t know how to approach this…” 

“I don’t really understand how this other guy got in—I didn’t pay attention, unfortunately—but he seems to not have awakened phantons. So…” Jason’s shadow quickly flew downward, coving up Brandon before either of them could react.

“Let me warp you out, at least.” 

Adam reached out his hand, but it was too late. The shadows vanished, and Brandon was nowhere to be seen.

“B-Brandon…!?”

“Hey. It’s okay. We just got him out of here before the chaons started eating away at him. Look—I know how frustrating it is to want to save someone, and you can’t… trust me. But, she’s safe. I know these ominous-looking caves don’t help reassure that. But I trust the people I’m working with. Expect Carl. He’s a creep.”

Adam’s arms drooped down—the aura around him starting to surge, which caused a chill to run right through Derek.

“She appeared in front of me… first time in Ann’s—nothing to note of her expression then. But then, in my basement… she was crying. She asked for my help before she faded away. There is some girl in here? She asked me for help…

Derek did not say anything in response, as the feeling Adam radiated resonated with him. He knew what situation was about to unfold. In many ways, it would be one of the most challenging tasks he’d dealt with up to that point. 

Jason was preoccupied elsewhere, yet had a tiny sliver of his shadow remain. He could hear the words that were exchanged.

“She manifested in front of this kid…? How in the world is that possible…? I gotta go get him. I know he’s busy, but this is a horrible predicament we’re getting into!”

“Look, Adam. That’s your name, yeah?” Derek stepped forward. “Let’s relax. Not only is this situation stressful, just look at yourself. Your body has gone through a lot. Even if it can heal, you still feel the pain. Great pain, I’m assuming? Do you know what that can do to your head? Please, let’s end this before it begins…” He pleaded while reaching out his arm.

“I don’t want to get violent.”

Adam knew Derek was absolutely correct. In most cases, Adam tried to look at things rationally. Several times, that act had failed. Ever since the girl first appeared to him in his basement, he had been relying strictly on his emotions. Despite trying to keep a cool head, the strain his body had taken was far beyond what an average person could handle. 

It was only half a year prior that a mere slice to the wrist was too much for him.

Now, in the span of a few days, he had shattered bones, had his body burn apart, and had limbs vaporized by his own uncontrollable power. Not to mention, the process of regeneration was almost just as painful as receiving the injuries.

It was all too much for Adam Grayson’s combat-rookie mind to handle.

He gave up all rationale. Saving the little girl from her pain, whether she was dead or alive, was his top priority. Even if it meant fighting the man in front of him, who only wanted to help, then so be it.

Taking a quick glance at his hand, Adam raised his fist in front of him. Derek was met with the World Mirror’s icy glare.

“Get violent, then.”


Next: Chapter 18

Previous: Chapter 16

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 16

Brandon Shepherd stopped upon hearing a voice call out to him. It was one only he could listen to—one that did not originate from the mine. He shook his head frantically as if he wanted to shake the voice out of him.

“Shut up… I’m out right now. The curse is probably the reason why—where am I? Don’t worry about it—I’ll sleep soon—I have to rescue Adam—he’s important… Yes, I used it—how do you think I’m in such a place? I’ll use it again, too—it’s all troublesome—I’m so unlucky… cause of you… Remember that, as I’m used up in your abysmally pathetic game…”

He began to sniff the air—a sinister grin forming on the face of one that should not be fueled by malice whatsoever. “Smell that? Misfortune. That’s gotta be him—I’m gonna bring him here—I’ll use it.”

Pausing for a moment, his mouth resumed moving. Not a single sound could escape, however. The crimson energy of the mine had gathered, forming a demonic hand around his throat. Several others immediately proceeded, grappling onto his limbs. They squeezed as if they wanted to crush Brandon like a can.

“…! D-Dammit…!” His voice could barely come out. It broke through, however, and Brandon Shepherd screamed louder than he ever did before. The bloody roar was accompanied by a fierce glare of dark amber irises, directed toward the world. 

 

“…So loud.”

Brandon stood in pitch blackness. He could not even see his hands.

“Is that… me? What am I shouting for? Oh… wait. This seems… familiar.”

He let out an agitated sigh that echoed in the void.

“It’s been a while since this happened. I get like this sometimes whenever I get really anxious. Think the last time was a few years ago in high school? During practice… I’m surprised it didn’t happen recently. I almost had a heart attack when I first heard Adam tried to… Oh… wait. Oh! Adam!” 

Brandon looked around, yet his vision remained the same regardless of what direction he turned toward.

“Adam got sucked into some cave… and I tried to run in there to help him. Right, I guess that’s a good reason to freak out? What is… going on, exactly? It feels… different this time. Hmm…”

He began to ponder, tapping his foot on the “ground.”

“Hmmmmmmmmmmmm… Yeah, this shit is weird. That’s about all I can come up with.”

Upon hearing his disembodied screams once more, he jumped in shock. 

“…Well, I’m smarter than I look—I… I hope. I can come up with something. I think… I should probably wake up first. How to do that…?”

 

Adam’s vision returned to him. The first thing he noticed was the gigantic white aura that had formed around him. His body ached immensely, yet the World Mirror had saved him from burning away. 

“It… can help me regenerate lost limbs, I know that. But I figured something that constantly ate away at me would be a bit too much…” 

Looking ahead, Adam was still in the mine, right where he had collapsed. Blood was all around him, and it covered his body from head to toe. He noticed something odd occurring.

“I can see clearly, even though you’d think this energy around me would blur my vision. Hell, my eyes lighting up should blind me, but they don’t…? How the hell does that work?”

Phantonics, as a whole, tended to contradict many other fields of science. It seemed that his unknown power of the World Mirror did this as well. To what degree, Adam was unsure. 

The aura guarded him—chaons seemed to be lighting up as they made contact with his power. They could not get in, at least for the time being. 

“It activates whenever I’m injured. More healing equals more energy coming out. Right—okay. That sucks. I should really figure out an alternate way to unleash it. Cause, clearly, this power is hella strong. It… can make a difference. I know it can.”

Adam began to walk, noticing immediately that, along with the intense pain, he was quite dizzy. 

“I lost quite a lot of blood, didn’t I? In fact, when I originally tried to… you know, they noted that I had lost a ton of it. Hmm… I think I can regenerate blood, as well, but it’s a much slower process compared to everything else. Damn, okay. Gotta watch out for that, I suppose?”

His arms twitched as he raised them in front of himself. “How to control this power…? What have I been doing thus far when I can ‘control’ it?”

In the fight with Charlotte and during his attempt to break the barrier, the World Mirror did work in the way he had intended it to. Energy had gathered around the limbs he wanted to use, mainly due to his injuries, yet the explosion of power was something to take notice of.

“What did I do in those moments? How did it feel when I swung my fists…? It’s way too soon for me to be entering combat with this thing, but…” Adam’s eyes gazed into the darkness ahead. “I might have to if I proceed with this weak-ass rescue attempt.”

He shook his head. “That girl was a ghost anyway, Adam. She’s dead. What’s there to save…? No, that’s contradictory. You’re helping Charlotte, who’s also a ghost. Who can… basically be considered alive, with how she acts. Gah…” 

Scratching his hair fiercely in his frustration, blood gushed out of it. 

“Guh…! What the fu…!” 

With the World Mirror’s power active, he was much stronger right now. Adam did not take into account a simple action, such as scratching the top of his head.

“P-Pretty sure I almost dug into my brain… Damn this…”

Adam stumbled forward. What happened next was an incredibly lucky circumstance that fate decided to give him. He would not know the details for quite some time, but by stepping on a certain spot of the cave with the World Mirror active, something occurred.

He had stepped on a border—a spot where two sections of the cave that were constantly swapping had met. All of the sections frequently shifted to keep a person lost in the crimson maze, yet one could easily set foot on this spot at the right time.

Nothing would happen—or even be noticed—if it was anyone else. Adam was the one capable of making the change. By stepping on this border, the entire framework of the mine was rewritten. Adam’s desire to rescue the little girl resonated with the World Mirror, and with its power, the cave was now—unbeknownst to him—under his control. 

Nothing could be kept from him now. Adam continued to stumble on the rocky path, trying his best to keep his composure. Blood dripped from his head while the scratches slowly healed. The aura surrounding him was like a white flame casually passing between the tinier crimson ones located off to the side. 

He heard groaning—seemingly out of nowhere. Walking a few meters ahead, Adam quickly located the source of the sound. A sizeable crimson cloud was directly in front of him—ghastly red hands occasionally popping in and out of the mass. 

“What the hell is this thing…?”

The groaning turned into the sound of someone crying—a young man that sounded familiar to Adam.

The voice began to speak. Adam recognized it—his eyes widening not only from the realization but from the words that exited the mist.

“Kill… me…”

“Brandon…?” The World Mirror’s aura was like a storm—the power unleashed instantly caused the stone walls of the cave to crack. The regular red fog that was around him was blown away, yet the mass that had trapped his friend remained. 

“Kill me… Kill me… Kill me, kill me, kill me, KILL ME, KILL ME!!”

With each repetition of those words, the crimson hands unleashed as a countermeasure to Adam’s power. They grabbed onto him, despite breaking apart against the pressure of the World Mirror.

He waved his own hands around in retaliation, whacking the appendages off easily. The white energy had no choice—Adam’s desire to save his friend, as well as the confusion toward why Brandon would say those words. Out of everyone he knew, Brandon Shepherd was the least likely to spew such nonsense.

Or—was he? This brief hesitation led Adam to get punched a few times by the hands, sending him several feet backward. He realized that it was no time to consider something like that. The time was after—after Brandon was safe.

Remaining on his feet, Adam blitzed the crimson energy—the hands unable to affect him whatsoever as he charged through. Coming into contact with the cloud, the struggle began. Despite being a gaseous phenomenon, it was rather difficult for him to break through. 

Still, Adam pressed forward, attempting to tear it apart.

 

Inside the pitch-black world, Brandon had given up. His screams from the outside had ruined him, as he sat in the fetal position with his ears covered.

“W-What the hell…? I can’t do anything to get out of here, can I? What the hell, what the hell, what the hell…?”

The Brandon that was on the outside and the Brandon on the inside were now synced together. Both of them, in their own respective darkness, were unsure of what to do aside from giving up. 

Tiny cracks of light appeared before him. Brandon slowly glanced up at the phenomenon—pieces of darkness falling around him like they were shards of glass.

The blackness shattered. The white entered the realm, enveloping him. Brandon was astonished to see Adam appear from the light, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt.

“I don’t know how you got in here… but whatever. What’s important right now…” Adam looked as though he was about to cry out of sheer rage. Brandon’s eyes, flickering between yellow and blue, were focused on his friend.

“I’m not going to let anyone go through anything remotely close to what I did! Especially my best friend! Don’t ever say such shit like that when your life’s so important, you goddamn moron!”

The crimson cloud faded as Brandon stared at Adam in awe. He felt as though he could cry, but this feeling was suppressed by a surge of emotions—ones that left him more confused than anything.

“I-I appreciate that, dude. But… W-What’s happening here…? Where am I? What’s going on!?” Brandon shot up onto his feet, glancing around the area. Despite being captured by the strange mass, he seemed fine physically—the mysterious “alter ego” that had formed out of nowhere had rested knowing Adam was safe.

“You… what? You don’t know—oh, okay. I think I might get it…?” Adam crossed his arms. “Were you possessed by something? All of these chaons in here could have caused something… That being said, how did you get in?”

“I… I don’t remember! What’s been going on!? You said that stuff to me, but I don’t know the context!”

“D-Did it legit leave your memory? What the…?” Adam pondered what could have possibly happened. “Whatever! As long as you know that I meant that stuff I said, then fine! Let’s just forget about it.”

“I… I know you mean it. We don’t have to get into all that sensitive stuff right now, at least, for my sake. If you ever need to talk about it, though…” Brandon was clearly embarrassed by the topic. He threw any nonsensical pride off to the side, however. “I’m here. I’ll always be here… I-I should have made it clear that I was always there for you, to begin with!”

Adam was astonished to hear those words come out of Brandon’s mouth. He’s heard him say similar things before, but it felt different this time. Adam understood why, as he noticed his friend begin to tear up.

“I don’t want you to die… dude, don’t die. Please… no matter what the cause is, you can’t. We have to see things through to the end!”

Adam looked toward the ground below. He noticed that blood had been dripping from his body, and tiny puddles began to form around him. The World Mirror was healing him, yes, but the strain on his body was starting to show.

The sight made Adam begin to shake in a panic. However, the scene also helped Adam recall words he had heard before—similar to Brandon’s.

“You can’t die…! Adam, please! Stay with me! You… have to stay… with me, don’t you remember…!? We have to live, so we can…”

Through the sheer force of his will, Adam calmed himself. He glanced up at Brandon, who could notice the fire that had formed in his eyes.

“Do you know how I feel, Brandon?”

“About what, exactly…?”

“I hate suffering. Whether it be myself or seeing someone else go through it. I tried killing myself cause I hated suffering in loneliness that much. If I had to choose between my suffering or someone else’s, however… I’d take on all of the burden. I think that’s part of the reason I got to that point. It’s not going to change, though. I’m stronger now. I’m someone who conquered death itself, after all. I’ll keep going. It’s like you said, we have to see things through to the end!”

Brandon did not know how to respond. He felt incredibly proud that his friend had found this inner strength to press forward. However, he was incredibly concerned with how far Adam would go. 

“There’s something in here that needs help. It’s simple, really. I’m going to go rescue her. It’s dangerous as hell, and I’m not sure how well you can manage with these chaons, but…” Adam held out his fist.

“After what you’ve said, how can I turn you away? Do you want to stay? In that case, will you help me?”

Brandon hesitated for a moment before a cocky grin formed on his face. He bumped his own fist against Adam’s. 

“Why not? Let’s show this person just how far these two idiots can go for them!” 


Next: Chapter 17

Previous: Chapter 15

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 15

Brandon stumbled as he walked through the shadows—the torches near him dim. His usual blue-eyed gaze—fixated on the ground—was unseen to the world.

“My head has never been so clear… My heart has never been in such turmoil—I’ve got to find Adam and end this quickly—I can’t be here—I have to hide again—I’m just a tool—so unlucky—so unlucky…

The incoherent mumbling continued. Having mysteriously passed the barrier, Brandon continued through the cave. He had no way of knowing that sections of the cavern were continually swapping places with one another—the mine was deliberately keeping him separated from any other forms of life. 

 

Charlotte had noticed this. While analyzing her aura and how it redacted to this unique environment, she felt the presence of two others lost in the caves. 

“One is Adam… I can feel the World Mirror’s energy rather easily now ever since it surfaced the other night. What’s this other one, though…? It gives off phantonic energy in the manner that a human does, but… what is this dark pressure I’m feeling from it? That’s not normal.” 

She shook her head as she began to walk. “Regardless, no matter how often these sections switch places, they’re keeping us all apart. If I detect Adam in a nearby area, I can’t get there in time. The shift occurs too quickly. I can fly fast—if I do say so myself—but it’s not enough. I risk losing this form if I put too much power into flight.”

Glancing from left to right, Charlotte focused on the crimson torches on the wall. “It doesn’t make sense for them to be lit if nobody’s normally down here. I wonder…” Raising her hand, tiny specs of phantonic energy ascended. She notices how they seemed to strengthen—growing in size. This was not her doing.

“Let me see if I can try something. Hang in there, Adam…”

 

The shadow that had tried to grab Adam was no longer in the mine. In an entirely separate location, many miles from Prelude, there was a remote white brick building deep within a lush green forest—blanketed with vines as nature tried to claim it. Inside, there was nothing but a single sizeable empty room—literally no item in sight.

Underneath the floorboards was where everything was. The center room was an eerie laboratory with little light. Large test tubes gave off a cerulean glow while several monitors lit up the silhouette of a figure covered in a black cloak. The shadow was floating near this person as it had just relayed information to them. 

“I see, I see, I see…” The man in a shaky voice leaned on the desk in front of him. “That’s no good. Our leader is preoccupied with another important task right now. We can’t interrupt him, even for something like this.”

“I know,” The shadow responded, annoyed. “That’s why I warped to you, Carl. I assume you can help me come up with something. I’m not sure what will happen if the kid somehow finds the main room, but I’m pretty sure he’ll die before that happens.”

“This strange energy coming from him intrigues me…” Carl commented as he began to chuckle. “What an interesting power, to be able to resist your shadows. This family is just full of surprises!” 

“His mother, Rebecca Grayson…” The shadow seemed to ponder. “From what I know, she was strong, but not that kind of strong. A power like this kid’s shouldn’t exist… unless of course, there’s an influence because of—”

“We should cut the chit chat,” Carl interrupted. “If you can’t warp him out of there, then we’ll have to send someone in personally. You can control how the sections change, yes? Just open up the barrier from the inside so that someone can walk them out. We’ll have to figure out a good spot to do so…”

“There’s a hole in the basement of his house, but the kid had friends over. Walking into one of them would be troublesome…” 

“Warp them out of the way? Let your power drain their phantonic energy just enough so they lose consciousness. No struggle involved.”

“Hmm…”

“Jason, what is it?” Carl sat up and hovered over the shadow. “You in there, you disembodied freak?”

“I-I just went and checked again…” Jason paused. “Somehow, one of his other friends got inside. And… another person, too.”

“Well, that’s not good… Not good, not good, not good.” Carl began pacing around the room. “Who’s this other person? Just warp the two of them out—we’ve gotta focus on getting that kid out of there—”

“I’m not sure how it’s possible, Carl. But the other person… is an Ouderkirk.”

Carl went silent. He slowly lowered his hood, revealing an extremely pale man with unkempt black hair. His eyes, crimson in color, glared at the shadow. 

“Are you serious?”

“I’ve never met one of them before myself, but it completely matches. White hair, blue eyes, phantonic energy that’s off the charts… but, there’s something peculiar about how she moves.”

“What does that mean?”  

“A pure-blooded Ouderkirk shouldn’t exist anymore. How this girl seems to control her power… She’s careful with it. I think—”

“A ghost…?” Carl began tapping his finger on his arm. “Why, yes! Yes, yes, yes! That would make sense! Incredible! She sounds like a great specimen!”

“You looked fearful a moment ago…” Jason noted. “What’s with that change?”

“She must be much weaker as a ghost! Keeping a spiritual form stable, especially in the environment the mine has, is tremendous work! If we can capture her, you do realize how quickly we can set our plan in motion!?”

“That’s right…!” Jason shouted cheerfully as his shadow began to dance around. “We need an Ouderkirk’s power! Yes! Let me see if I can—wait, the kid!”

“Right! The kid, the kid, the kid!” Carl ran around in circles, furiously scratching the hair on his head. “We can’t let him die… I think?” He stopped abruptly. “We may or may not be in deep shit if that were to happen!”

A metal door off to the side suddenly swung open as a muscular man with short black hair entered the room. His brown eyes glared at them, clearly irritated.

“What on earth is all this noise about? I know you like to shout at random times of the night, but Jason, too?”

“Ah, Derek! Perfect timing!” Carl ran up to the man, shaking his hand repeatedly. We need your assistance with something! Actually, is Chris busy? We might want him to tag along. This could get a little nasty…”

“He isn’t…?” Derek tilted his head in confusion. “I want to say no, but I feel like that’s not going to be much of an option. Just what are you getting us into this time, you crazy scientist?”

 

Adam’s eyes had finally begun to open—their ghostly gaze looking toward the crimson light on the walls. He could barely move at first but slowly sat up.

“My arms…?”

They had mostly healed at this point—a tiny white aura indicating that the World Mirror was doing the finishing touches, which Adam could not make out on the surface. He moved his fingers around without issue and clenched his fist as he hit the ground, using it to prop himself onto his feet.

“This is what was beyond that barrier, huh? What’s with these…?” Adam analyzed the torches. With the World Mirror active, Adam’s vision picked up what appeared to be a faint red smoke from the flames, which was not visible to the naked eye.

“Well, I’m in here. I went through the trouble of busting in when I could have easily approached it much differently. Why did I feel like, at that moment, I had to get in here? Who is that girl…? Why did her voice…” Adam shook his head. “Whatever. I’m clearly in a ‘do now, think later’ mindset—for whatever reason—so, let’s just go find her.”

He began to run, still feeling pain from being sucked into the mine. “It was pitch-black behind me… Did I seriously get pulled in that far? Even though I don’t want them here, I’m surprised the others didn’t show up. Something’s weird about all of this. No, shit, Adam. But…”

Adam slowed down, almost tripping before coming to a complete stop. 

“I let something within me—some feeling I didn’t know existed—pull me into this. Is it…?”

“The hero. You’ve always been like one…”

Faith’s words echoed in Adam’s mind as he shook his head. 

“It’s not something that cliche, is it? I heard a little girl cry for help, so I rushed in to save her? I mean… t-that sounds like something any person with a heart would do! I…”

There was a reason Adam was hung up on this. He could tell the moment he started running through the cave. Adam wanted to come up with an admirable excuse for his actions—one that would outweigh the complete loss of a logical approach. This “excuse” was legitimately what he felt in his heart, so things would have worked out in the end. As long as Adam survived and saved the unknown girl, it would be a happy ending.

The moment Adam realized what was happening to his body, everything was ruined. He paid attention in school—enough to know what chaons were—enough to know of their crimson and scarlet auras.

Adam knew the role phantons had in counteracting chaons. Awakened phantons were utterly immune to their potent toxicity, while normal phantons could at least hold up a good enough resistance for some time.

Adam Grayson was the boy who mysteriously lacked phantons. Sure—the World Mirror was powerful and gave Adam quite a boost in capabilities. But he was still new to everything. He did not know how to properly use it.

There was nothing to protect him from the crimson mist surrounding him—visible with the World Mirror’s eyes. His skin began to burn as it lit up in a blood-red blaze. 

His breath, something that Brandon had seemed to suggest was special in some way, did nothing in this situation. He had already breathed in the strange substance. Blood burst from Adam’s mouth as he coughed violently—gasping for air that could no longer enter him. 

Adam Grayson’s naive actions won heavily against his feeble attempt at being a “courageous hero.” He fell to his knees as death was once again beckoned by the appearance of his blood.


Next: Chapter 16

Previous: Chapter 14

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 14

“Hmm… hmm… hmm…” 

Faith quietly hummed to herself as she strummed the strings of her guitar. She lay in bed with a notepad next to her—red headphones over her ears, which were connected to her phone as she listened to tunes. With free time on her hands, she was attempting to write a song.

“That wouldn’t sound too good… Maybe a different type of song?” 

While she shuffled through her playlist, attempting to find inspiration, Emma walked into her room—the door on the opposite left side of the room, wide open. Her hair was down, which she was playing with—a habit she had when it was not wrapped up in its usual ponytail.

“Hey, Faith?” She waved at her sister to get her attention while glancing around the room.

“What’s up, Em?” She asked, uncovering one ear to listen.

“Where did you put that medicine? I got a killer headache all of a sudden…”

“Uh… oh—right here,” Faith leaned over to her nightstand, brushing the wrapper of a snack she ate earlier out of the way. She picked up the pills and shook it. “These?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Emma took the bottle and looked at it. “Hope this helps…”

“You’ve been playing loads of games the last few days,” Faith noted, wagging her finger. “I’m not one to talk whatsoever, but you’ve gotta be careful. Take breaks every now and then.”

“Dude, Shadow Sea Adventures has too many secret levels to unlock! It’s only the first game, as well. These developers are crazy!” 

“We need to 100% the Super Samurai games, remember? We’ve got to get to that pretty soon… There are only two months left before I leave.”

“I know, I know…” Emma walked over and sat on the edge of Faith’s bed.

“You’re not taking those?” Faith pointed at the bottle of pills.

“In a sec. I just wanna see what you’re writing…” With a mischievous grin, Emma leaped for the notebook. 

“H-Hey! Emma!”

“Writing a love song of some kind?” She snickered as she looked at her sister’s writing.

“I-I…” Faith was too flustered to speak.

“W-Woah…” Emma was bewildered at the words on the page in front of her. “This could totally be some kind of love song! You’re usually not the best at this kind of style, but…” 

“When were you one to care about this type of music? You’ve told me before that it’s crap!”

“Usually, it is. Cause love is just…” Emma paused, placing the notebook down. “Crap… But, you’re good at making this stuff sound good. I wish you… could have been a musician…” 

“Well, I’ve got to work for Unity, for the time being…” Faith sighed, putting her headphones down. “I won’t really have time for this sort of thing.”

“…Hey,” Emma got into a fetal position, clearly distraught at the conversation topic. “Do you think people with Concepts can ever be ‘free’ from this whole thing? With powers, like the ones you have, you should be responsible, for sure. But… being tied down by a group that is definitely not responsible… How do we fix this?”

“I…”

“You have the opportunity to fight for good—sure. But it just seems… wrong, not having a choice. We don’t see Mom as often as we should, and even when we do, she’s exhausted from all of it.” Emma chuckled. “Not that that’s any different from having a parent with a demanding job. But it is different. There’s so much danger and uncertainty that—”

“Emma,” Faith tapped the notebook next to them. “Wanna know something? This song I’m working on…” She moved some of her hair behind her ear as a tender smile formed. “It’s actually inspired by a poem I wrote when I was little. I’m not sure what happened to it, but I remember it vividly. Trying to add proper music to go with it is the tricky part… It’s gotta be perfect.”

“T-That’s interesting and all, but what does that have to do with—”

“Look at the lyrics again. You can see it as some kind of love song—sure—but the main theme is centered around ‘hope.’ Hope that the person singing and the person they’re singing to can come together and conquer anything that gets in the way…”

“…no matter if the skies are gray.” Emma glanced at one of the lines, twirling her hair around her finger. “Hmm… Well—” Emma stood up from the bed. “I guess I’ll hope things turn out for the best.”

“Take those pills and lie down, for now,” Faith suggested. “Don’t worry. Leave everything to your big sis.”

“I don’t want you to bear that burden…” Emma mumbled to herself.

“Hmm?” Faith was trying to hear what her sister was saying.

“My birthday’s in a week,” Emma changed the topic. “I’ll be seventeen. Just a reminder in case you forgot. A week should be plenty of time to get me something nice.”

“Right, right…” Faith sighed. “Anything you want specifically?” 

Emma began to leave the room as she stopped and leaned up against the door frame. “Well, aside from things relating to the topic we just discussed…” She placed her hand on her chin, going deep into thought. “Games… You can check my wishlist to see what you’d think I’d like.”

“I can do that…” Faith nodded, picking up the notebook and taking a quick glance at it.

“Oh, that’s right…” Emma stared at Faith’s large wooden desk, which was to the left of the door. She had her attention on the two drawers on the right side. “Your own birthday was over a week ago—feels much longer than that. You’re eighteen now…”

“I am,” Faith began to put her headphones back on. “I can now legally vote for whatever political nonsense Requiem wants to get itself in.”

“You’re also old enough to… you know…” Emma tiptoed toward the drawers. “Did Mom get you any…? You gotta be safe, you know?”

“W-Wha…” Faith was flabbergasted at what Emma was bringing up. “W-Why do you need to know!? You’ve gotta wait a year before you start thinking about anything like that!”

“Oh, it’s not about me,” Emma responded with a sinister grin. “I just want to make sure you’re prepared in case any—let’s call it—’Gray Sky’ situations happen.”

“I-I don’t have anyone who I would want t-to…”

Emma stared at Faith with a brooding judgemental glare. Faith knew the emotions her sister was expressing through it.

“I-I…” Her hands began to shake as she raised them in an attempt to protest. 

Emma’s glare continued. While Faith’s flustered face was comedic at this point, surprisingly, flames began to form from the top of her head. Emma’s eyes lit up in horror.

“Oh. Well, they’re not burning anything. She doesn’t seem to notice… I shouldn’t tell her… I don’t want to freak her out. Cute quirk, Sis.” Emma slowly back walked out of the room so Faith could cool down. 

“Geez…” Faith noticed the heat on top of her head, yet the fire had already dissipated. “Huh…?”

Around the corner, Emma pressed her hand gently on the wall. “Right here is…” She slowly exhaled as she seemingly had held her breath. “That’s a good birthday wish. I don’t want you to fear those flames anymore, Faith. They didn’t take me, after all…”

 

Torches lit with crimson energy decorated the walls of the cave. Aside from that, it was merely stone in the immediate vicinity—nothing to indicate that this was once a prosperous mine that helped put Prelude on the map. 

The debris that was sucked in with Adam was, oddly, not near him. He lay on the ground unconscious—his arms almost entirely healed from his attack on the barrier. It had been several minutes, yet there was no sign of Charlotte.

If Adam was awake, he would notice every few seconds the strange “shift” occurring around him. The entire mine shook as sections seemingly swapped places with one another.

 

Charlotte, in an entirely different area—this one with a few broken tracks and a minecart off to the right—had stopped flying. She was well aware of the situation at this point.

“An abandoned mine underneath Prelude… sealed off by that strange barrier,” She began to walk around, taking note of the torches on the wall. “This bitter energy permeates the air… It keeps these things fueled, that’s for sure. Is it also causing the area to move around in the manner that it is…?”

Charlotte looked up and then down, clenching her fist. “Even though it’s a wall surrounding the outer area, its influence extends all around… like a ring around an invisible sphere. The barrier itself was invisible until just recently. I never sensed it at all… How is that possible?”

Although it was for a brief moment, she recalled the scarlet symbols that were on the barrier before she broke through. “I swear I’ve seen that writing before… Come on, Charlotte. You losing your memories is quite the inconvenience, ain’t it?” She paused. “Ain’t…? I’m picking up words like that? Strange…”

Taking a glance at her body, Charlotte realized something. 

“My power… isn’t weakening?” She took a closer look at the blue aura surrounding her, which seemed to be much more active than usual. “What… is this?”

 

From the ceiling of Adam’s current location, a peculiar black portal seemed to form. It slowly descended toward him while a childish voice began to echo on the walls.

“Oh boy… I sensed that someone broke in, but you of all people managed to do it, huh? Well, that’s not good. I should probably get you out of here…”

The darkness surrounded Adam as it began to swirl around. “Let’s warp you out of here… Huh?” 

A faint white light emitted from Adam’s body. It was enough to shield him from the shadows grabbing ahold of him. 

“Huh…!? What the hell is this power!? I figured you awakened some cool Concept that let you bust through things, even our barrier. This is… different. Yes, that’s right. You don’t have phantons. This is definitely different.”

The shadows ascended. The voice began to chuckle as they faded away. “All right. We might have to get a little rough with you, depending on how you respond. Let’s see how this works out, Adam.”


Next: Chapter 15

Previous: Chapter 13

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 13

Adam ran over and pushed the cabinet off to the side, which was a lot lighter than he had anticipated. It was almost tipped over—the metal wobbling as it readjusted its position firmly on the ground. 

He began slamming his fist on the stone wall repeatedly in a thoughtless attempt to break through. It only took a few hits before he began to bleed, although he could not notice the red stain on the wall, as his vision was still filled with the crimson energy the strange barrier was emitting.

Eventually, the pain became evident to Adam—slowing him down. He grimaced as he stared at his wound. The World Mirror was already active—the silvery-white power forming as his body began to regenerate.

“This energy…” Adam took a step back while looking at his hand. “It appears when I’m injured. Not only can it heal, but it can also…”

Taking a deep breath, Adam whacked the wall once more, this time with the World Mirror’s power still surrounding it. The stone cracked this time—a tiny fragment falling off. Recalling his fight with Charlotte, Adam started putting the pieces together.

“If I can unleash this power, it can be used to destroy this wall—I’m sure of it. That part I’m not concerned about. This barrier, though…” Adam started to punch the stone, this time with both of his fists. 

“I’ll need tremendous strength to bust through. World Mirror—whatever the hell you are—let’s put you to the test. Let’s see just how special you are.”

As the pain surged through his hands, the World Mirror’s energy began to flow out at a faster rate. He was surely breaking his fingers at this point, yet that was—morbidly—Adam’s goal. 

“What am I doing…?”

The wall began to crumble as Adam chipped away. Although Adam could not tell, the red energy had now become entirely visible as he continued to clash against it. Scarlet sparks scattered about in an attempt to knock him back, yet he kept on punching.

“Why don’t I just go get the others…? Why am I doing this…? What’s driving me right now…?”

Brandon and Jerry had heard the commotion at this point and began to run toward the basement door. 

Adam had created a hole in the wall, which seemed to lead into a cave-like area. The barrier remained—Adam’s final obstacle. His fists completely enveloped in white—he was ready to bust it down.

As he pulled back his right arm, the energy erupted out of him—immense power that, for this brief moment, was his. He slammed his fist into the barrier—the force blowing back everything behind him into the opposite wall. The washer and dryer had begun to bend from the sheer might.

Adam could tell that this was not enough. He also noticed that his hand was close to vaporizing from its own power. Something had to be done at that moment, while the barrier was pressured.

Energy exploded from his shining left fist as he gave a mighty uppercut to the barrier around the same place where his right had connected. This was enough—the crimson before him shattering asunder. 

At that moment—like a vacuum—the opening swallowed Adam whole as he rocketed into the cave on the opposing side. Everything on the opposite side of the room was sucked in along with him. Brandon had almost taken a step into the area affected but was luckily safe. The two watched in absolute shock as their vision filled with dust.

“G-God d—” Brandon coughed, trying to catch his breath. “W-What the hell just happened!?”

When the two could finally see once more, they were horrified to see that almost the entire basement had vanished into the cavern. All that remained were a few scraps of metal near the entrance, seemingly charged with crimson electricity.

“This is…!” Jerry ran over to inspect what had just occurred, making sure to keep a safe distance. “This red… It can’t be!?”

The two only saw a bright white light as they entered the basement. They had no clue as to what exactly transpired a few moments ago. Brandon began to look around in a panic.

“D-Did Adam get sucked up in there!? Where did that hole come from!? What’s this red stuff around the entrance!? I—” Brandon started to run into the darkness.

“Wait, Brandon! Stop! You’ll—”

Brandon slammed against the crimson energy as it immediately began to reform into the shape it was before. He fell onto the ground hard, blood flying out of his mouth upon impact.

“Idiot! It’s dangerous!” Jerry went to inspect his friend’s injuries, only to stop before he made contact. “This has to be…” He pulled out his phone and moved it toward Brandon. “I know Dad helped me get this app… Where is—oh, there!”

Tapping on the phone a few times, Jerry opened up a program that seemed to be composed of a grid. Many dots appeared—mainly blue in color. A few were red, which seemed to indicate where Brandon was.

“Dammit, you got some in ya… It should be okay, though. Your own phantons should help flush them out.”

“The… hell are you talking about…?” Brandon attempted to sit up while holding his head in agony.

“You know what phantons are, Brandon. Since I helped you out in school so much, I know you’re also aware of their counterpart. The opposite of a phanton is…?” Jerry leaned in, expecting an answer. Brandon did not respond, unable to focus properly under the current circumstances.

“…I’ll let it pass this time since you’re suffering.” Jerry sighed. “A chaon. Opposite of phantons are chaons.” He used his phone to scan the surrounding area. “Opposite of phantons are chaons. Phantons make up life, so you can see how chaons are harmful to people.” 

Unknown to Jerry, Brandon’s senses had begun to fade.

“With the phantons that your own body produces via your phantonic network, chaons that get inside you will be released slowly. As long as you’re not constantly exposed to them, they’re not toxic to humans. They hurt like a bitch, but you should be fine. If you have awakened phantons, like you do with a Concept, you’re actually completely immune to them. W-Wait a sec…”

Jerry was not paying attention to Brandon. The science he knew led him to conclude that, although it was a hard hit, his friend would be okay. While Jerry’s concern grew on Adam, Brandon sat there in a complete trance.

As if being exposed to chaons had caused something to stir within him.

“A… Adam doesn’t have phantons! Shit! Shit! Phantons help as a defense mechanism from chaons! Even if they’re not awakened, phantons are still vital to keeping someone safe. If he doesn’t have that layer of defense… what’s going to happen to him!? What even happened here in the first place!? Gah!” Jerry began to rustle his hair in a frenzy. 

The current commotion happened to be just enough. From the basement ceiling, a certain spirit had begun to descend toward the two. Charlotte—half-awake—glanced around. 

“What did you guys do…?” She landed, startling Jerry as he tumbled to the floor.

“Charlotte! You’re actually up!? I’m not sure, but we think Adam got sucked into that—” He pointed at the hole in the wall, where the barrier had reconstructed itself. “That’s made of chaons!”

Jerry briefly explained to Charlotte what he thought he had told Brandon. Her eyes widened upon the realization that Adam could potentially be in tremendous danger. 

“If that’s the case, then… there’s no reason to hesitate.”

Charlotte entered her white-haired form instantly. Manipulating the phantons that were emitting from her body, a gigantic glowing axe was created. “Move Brandon out of the way! Did he lose consciousness or something!?”

“He shouldn’t have—” Jerry finally noticed Brandon’s state. “B-Brandon…? Did you hit your head too hard or something…? Well—” He dragged his friend toward the stairs, doing what Charlotte had requested. “If you’re going in, be careful! I’m not sure how chaons will affect you.”

“This red, ominous power…” Charlotte inched closer, raising her axe into the air. “I feel like… I remember something about it. You call it ‘chaons’ in this day and age? Hmm…”

Despite the animosity radiating from the crimson before her, Charlotte was not afraid. She felt like this was something not worthy of her fear. 

“Hah!”

With a single slash downward, the azure split the crimson apart. As it opened, the same force attempted to drag her in. Although it had little effect on her, she still flew into the cave immediately, dropping the axe as it faded away. 

“There she goes…” Jerry stood on the stairs looking around the corner as the event unfolded. While he watched the barrier once again reconstruct itself, he decided to finally focus his attention on Brandon. “Okay, what happened to you—”

Brandon stood, while Jerry slowly lost consciousness. It seemed as though a mere wave of black-haired boy’s hand near the back of his friend’s neck did the trick.

“You don’t need to involve yourself in this,” Brandon spoke in a stern voice, something he never did. He walked over toward the barrier—head looking down. 

No one, not even Brandon himself, understood what was happening. Words exited his mouth—ones that were his own, yet were not simultaneously. 

“All right, moron. Let’s go save Adam. I can’t trust anyone else with this, can I? Man, how unlucky can I be…?” 


Next: Chapter 14

Previous: Chapter 12

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