Chapter 2.25

Muraco had used his Ability to merge with the shadows near Adam’s house. Being nighttime, he had a lot more freedom to move around so that Adam couldn’t track his location easily.

Eventually, Muraco grew frustrated. Not at the duty he was assigned, but at the fact that he was not helping a friend who clearly needed it. With that, Muraco sprang out of the darkness on top of the roof. Adam didn’t seem to be startled at the sudden appearance of the white rabbit.

“Muraco…”

“I’m getting annoyed with that painful look on your face, so I decided to come out and talk to you.” Muraco hopped over next to Adam and sat down. “So—what’s on your mind?”

“Just… thinking about myself… the world… how confusing it all is. Really want to go in my room and just sleep it all away. But I can’t do that, can I?”

“You should get some rest—it’s getting pretty late. I get what you mean though… and you’re right. You can’t.” Muraco scratched his ear while contemplating what to say next.

“I’m sorry how I acted back there… I don’t know where I got the idea that could all of a sudden do shit like that just cause of my Ability. I… wanted to help. And I let my anger get the best of me…” Adam sighed. “They’re probably mad at me, aren’t they?”

“Not at all,” Muraco responded. “They were worried about you. Myself included. Why I came here to check on you.”

“I guess… that’s like them. Very accepting of someone like me…” Adam chuckled softly.

“…I could hear you and that Phobos thing talking to each other.” Muraco blurted out.

“Huh? You could? Weren’t you unconscious?”

“I was… Guess it was some kind of weird link? I could hear you through that thing…” Muraco paused. “You’re certainly… quite the intriguing guy.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Something naturally evil, born from all the stuff that happened to me… and yet you wanted to steer it on a proper path? What kind of out-of-the-box thinking is that?”

“I just think one’s origins shouldn’t dictate their path in life. Let them choose what they want based on what they experience. If they then decide to choose the wrong path, well…” Adam hesitated. “Should you try to save someone if they willingly go that route? I’d like to not care at that point, but…”

Muraco started to laugh. “As a hero myself, I’ve gotta say… you have the heart of one as well. It seems to be a trend to think that about you among your friends. Even Lucy considers you one.”

Adam did not respond.

“Honestly? I think that you—”

“A hero?” Adam asked abruptly.

“Hmm?”

Adam glared at Muraco with fury in his eyes.

“A hero doesn’t try to kill himself!”

“Huh…?” Muraco’s eyes widened. After a moment, he shook his head. “Geez… You’ve been through some stuff, haven’t you?”

“Sorry…” Adam sighed. “I just… don’t get why people always call me that… Why is that a thing!?”

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Muraco smirked. “Now, from one hero to another, want me to give you some advice?”

“Advice on what…?”

“About how to deal with everything that’s been happening.” Muraco cleared his throat. “For starters, the World Mirror. Understanding that is a key component to all of this. You seem to have been discovering all kinds of new tricks recently, haven’t you?”

“I suppose I have been… It’s getting difficult to keep track of the things I can do now.”

“And I’m sure that’s not the end of what it can do. So! How about this?” Muraco hopped in front of Adam. “Let’s start naming your techniques! You don’t really call them anything, do you? As a hero, you gotta give your stuff cool names!”

“Is that really necessary…?” Adam asked with doubt on his face. “And wait—aside from naming your Abilities, do you even name your attacks?”

“Of course! I haven’t had to bust out any signature moves yet! I’ve got a lot in store!”

“Right…” Adam pondered. “Well, I guess labeling each thing something could help me out…”

“Glad you’re listening. You’re a smart human.” Muraco nodded.

“Am I…? I’m not so sure.”

“Listen! I promised to help Charlotte with her problems. You promised to help both of us… so I’ll help you as well, with whatever happens! As long as you continue to be by our side! Deal?” Muraco held out his tiny paw.

“I…” Adam hesitated for a moment. “I… still can’t believe I’m actually talking to a rabbit. This world might just be too crazy to understand in the end… However, Charlotte did point out that we both like to wing things. I always have… But having someone else like that on my side could help…” He chuckled, grabbing Muraco’s paw. “I suppose it’s a deal.”

“Excellent! I look forward to you being my sidekick!”

“I think it’s going to be the other around.”

“What!? Wait—we still have to finish that fight, remember? Whoever loses shall become the sidekick!”

“I’m not fighting you right now. We have to be careful at the moment, anyway.”

“That’s true…” Muraco moaned. “It would have been a good opportunity for you to name your attacks!”

“Don’t worry—I’ll think it over.” Adam chuckled. He decided to reach into his right pocket for his phone, yet realized that his phone had not been on his person for quite some time. “Damn, that’s rare.”

“What’s rare?”

“I usually keep my phone on me… It’s still in the house I believe. Unless—” Adam now checked the left pocket. “Well, no phone, but—” He pulled out the blood-stained letter and the god drive that Jerry had given him. “I’ve kept these…”

“What the!? Why is that think all bloody!?”

“I had it with me when I first met Charlotte and awakened my Ability. My body got incredibly injured, and it happened to get like this. The contents inside are still okay, luckily.”

“What’s inside?” Muraco asked curiously.

“I’m not sure—I have yet to read it. Pam gave it to me and told me when I’m feeling really low that I should look at it.”

“So, tonight isn’t considered really low for you?”

“I’ve been wondering what ‘really low’ would even mean for me. I… probably should have read it a few times by now.”

“Well, whenever you think is the appropriate time. And what’s that thing?” Muraco pointed to the god drive.

“It’s a thing you can hook up to a computer. Jerry gave it to me in case there was a computer down in that basement that we needed to extract data from. That… was certainly not what was down there. I wonder if I should give this back…? W-Wait a minute…”

“Huh? What is it?”

“Data… Phantons can act like data… I wonder…? It’s a stretch, but…”

“What? Tell me!” Muraco was growing impatient.

“I want to stop by Twine. Think it’s too late to, or?”

“If it’s important, especially to our situation, I doubt the time matters. Wanna go?”

“Yeah… I think we should. I have a gut feeling about something. Let me go get my phone, and we will.”

Muraco grinned, raising his paw into the air. “All right! Mission time!”

 

“Well Brandon, looks like you won’t be the only boy here tonight, at least.” Emma commented on the sudden appearance of Roy and Roger at the station.

“Hey, I know you! You were that one annoying kid in my study hall that one time!” Brandon shouted at Roy.

“Brandon Shepherd, huh…?” Roy stared at Brandon ominously.

“Hey, come on guys! Let’s get along! No need for sudden hostility!” Roger begged.

Fine!” Roy sighed. “I’ve been hanging out with this guy way too much recently… Anyway, after talking to Jerry, we figured we’d be safer here.”

“You guys don’t have to get involved in all of this… You’re allowed to walk away.” Emma suggested.

“Screw that! I’ll get revenge for the boss! Even if I don’t have one of those crazy Abilities!” Roy declared.

“That’s true, but…” Emma went silent.

“I can respect that!” Brandon yelled. “Just try not to get in the way!” He raised his fist in front of Roy.

In response, Roy slapped it away.

“Huh…? Was it because I called you annoying—”

“Scumbag. I won’t cause a scene, but just stay out of my way.”

Roger whined. “You are causing a scene!”

Emma walked up to Roy. “That still? I thought I—”

“He’ll be a scumbag until he proves otherwise.” Roy paused. “Even though she’s now my ex… I still believe her, and the other girls on the volleyball team…”

Brandon’s eyes widened in horror. Before he could attempt to say anything, Emma grabbed his shoulder and glared at Roy.

“And you’re still weak until you prove otherwise. And I’m not talking physical capabilities. You lack the will to believe in yourself.”

“Huh…? Emma, the hell are you talking about!?”

“What are any of you talking about!?” Roger asked in a panic.

“I was there. I know what happened. And that’s why I believe in Brandon—”

“Emma, it’s okay. You don’t have to stick up for me…” Brandon told her with his body shaking.

“But—”

“Let people believe what they want to…” Brandon walked to the other side of the room and sat down at one of the desks, away from the others.

Faith and Winona were currently sitting on a desk near where the conversation took place. The two looked at Brandon in concern, remaining silent.

“Whatever.” Roy pulled out a chair next to the center desk and took a seat. “Roger, got any other cool games with ya?”

“I-I mean, we can see what’s on my phone…?” Roger sat next to him, showing him his cell phone.

Emma stared at Brandon, who had rested his head on the desk.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him like this… Does it still hurt him…? Have I been making a mistake with all the pervert jokes?” She shook her head.

“Once we get through all of this… I should begin to approach him differently. I don’t want to hurt him… Not after what he did for me back then…”

 

Pam sat at her desk, looking at nothing in particular. Her depression had currently taken over all of her senses.

“Ethan… Becca… What do I do…?” She held her head, which was radiating pain. “How do I go about telling them something like this… after keeping it a secret for so long…?”

 

“I was wondering what you did with that.” Jerry chuckled as Adam showed him the god drive.

“We didn’t need to use it under Minuet, but…” Adam paused for a moment. “All right, so this might be way out there, but I had a thought.”

“Which was?”

“So…” Adam cleared his throat. “This thing is supposed to extract data the second it’s put into a computer, right?”

“Yeah, that’s how it should work.”

“Now—hear me out. Phantons can act like code, right? So what if—somehow—this thing can extract data right from the air?”

“Umm…” Jerry seriously contemplated Adam’s idea. “I actually… never thought of that. It would entirely depend on how the phantons work. They would have to be quite powerful for it to even pick up—”

“I had this with me when that Nexus thing showed up. It was certainly powerful enough. Do you think this thing could have caught something while I interacted with it?”

“I can definitely check… You’ve got me intrigued!” Jerry took the god drive from Adam and ran over to his laptop at the center table while laughing mischievously.

“That’s quite a thought, kid,” Thomas commented, walking over to Adam. “Although I doubt it would have caught anything, I could be wrong. Phantons can be quite mysterious.”

“That’s Rebecca’s son!” Travis cheered over near the computers. “Coming up with theories nobody else would have even considered!”

“She was like that, huh…?” Adam chuckled quietly. Charlotte had now walked up to him, leaning down to scratch Muraco’s ears.

“You feeling better now?” Charlotte asked him. Muraco jumped up into Charlotte’s arms—a huge grin on his face.

“We had a talk. He should be on the right track.”

“I’m sorry about how I acted earlier…” Adam mumbled.

“None of us blame you,” Charlotte responded. “It’s okay.”

Adam moved himself to an empty space in the room, stretching out his body. Lucy noticed his presence and ran up to him, hugging his leg.

“Oh, hey, Lucy. You’re not asleep yet? Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“I sleep randomly now! I can’t control it!” She giggled. “But are you better now?”

“Yeah…” Adam looked down at her, patting her head. “I’m sorry… All of this is stressful enough for you.”

“I’m not sure how to feel about all of it…” Lucy paused. “I… don’t remember much, after all.”

“That’s true…” Adam looked over at Charlotte, beckoning her.

“Huh? What is it…?” As Charlotte approached, Adam placed his hand on her shoulder.

“The two ghost girls. Literally cold on the outside, but with warm hearts inside. You two are worth the struggle. We’ll figure out your memories, no matter what. And, whatever does end up happening…” Adam grinned, disintegrating the darkness that had taken a hold of him earlier. “We’ll make sure everything turns out okay!”

Lucy’s face lit up. “Yeah! We can do it!” She started giggling, jumping up and down with strong enthusiasm.

Thomas, Travis, and Jerry had gathered next to each other, smiling at Adam’s statement. Muraco chuckled, shrugging his shoulders. “Sheesh, you sure can tip the scales when it comes to your emotions, if you want to.”

Cody remained sitting at the computers with surprise on his face.

“This is the kid who tried to kill himself several months back…?” He snickered. “Winona definitely chooses unique friends, doesn’t she? I’m glad she knows someone like you. Someone who can disregard his own inner turmoil and light himself up, simply to help others… Just like Becca.”

Tears began to fall from Charlotte’s eyes, surprising Adam.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong…” Charlotte sniffled. “I’m just… so grateful that I’m here…” She buried herself in Adam’s shoulder, embracing him tightly.

“Well, I’m glad about tha—” Adam’s eyes widened. “Charlotte…”

“What is it?” She asked staying still.

“You’re… warm?”

“I… Huh?”

“Huh!?” Jerry dashed over to the two, grabbing Charlotte’s shoulder. “My hand isn’t freezing…? What’s going on!? Dad—get the—”

“I’m already on it!” Thomas had a small watch-like device in his hand, scanning the area around Charlotte. “These readings surely are different than usual… What do they mean? How does this change in phantonic values result in a ghost suddenly becoming warm?”

“I-I’m not sure either!” Charlotte was now flailing her arms around while trying to wipe the tears away at the same time.

“Oh, wait. They’re going back to normal…” Thomas sighed.

“They are!?” Jerry touched Charlotte’s shoulder for a second time. “She’s getting cold again…”

“Maybe it has something to do with the World Mirror! Charlotte—mind getting close to Adam again?” Thomas asked.

“I think I’m going to bed!” Charlotte shook her head in annoyance. “Adam, what are you going to do?”

“Stay here with us!” Lucy begged. “We couldn’t have a sleepover at the police place, so let’s have one here!”

“I think I need to go back to the station. Make sure everyone’s all right… Don’t worry though, Charlotte’s good company.

I-I guess, but…” Lucy pouted. Charlotte held out her hand to her.

“Come on, Lucy. Us ghosts need some rest.”

“Oh, fine! See you tomorrow, Adam!” Lucy waved at him, then glanced up at Charlotte. The older girl smiled at the younger girl as she escorted her to the area with the beds.

Witnessing this act, a sharp pain radiated through Adam’s head. Muraco was the only one who noticed the boy holding his head in silent agony.

“What’s wrong, Adam?”

“Where is this place…?”

“Huh…!?” Muraco looked at him with tremendous concern.

“It-It’s nothing. Sorry, Muraco. I think I’m just tired… Wanted to train a bit, but I don’t think my body is up for that.”

“Right… Well, let’s get back to the station, then.”

Jerry waved goodbye to the two. “I’ll let you know if this god drive has anything on it. Text me if you want me to let you guys back in again.”

“Will do.” Adam nodded. With Muraco by his side, the two walked up the stairs out of the basement.

 

A few minutes later, Adam and Muraco arrived at the station. They met with Brandon, who was next to the entrance, leaning against the wall.

“Hey, Adam. Feeling better?”

“Y-Yeah… How about you? You’re looking gloomy as hell. That’s not normal.”

“Just thinking about stuff…” He smiled at Adam. “Nothing to worry about.”

“If you say so…” Adam tapped Muraco’s head. “Stay out here with Brandon. Keep him company.”

“What? Why should I!?”

“I need to check on everyone inside. And I don’t want him to be alone.”

“Wait, Adam, it’s okay. I—” Before Brandon could continue, Adam walked inside, leaving him alone with Muraco.

“All right, sure?” Muraco scratched his ear. “I guess it’s my job tonight to talk to people who are feeling down?”

“Nah, seriously, I’m fine. You don’t have to—”

“Human!” Muraco pointed at Brandon with ferocity. “Let me indulge in your secrets!”

“Fine! I’ll tell you, ya freaking demon rabbit!”

Inside, Adam glanced around the room, noticing a few people passed out on the floor. On the other side of the main room, Winona and Emma were sleeping next to each other, wrapped up in blankets. Roy had fallen asleep at a desk off to the left, while Roger had passed out in a seat at the center table.

He walked over toward the hallway off to the right, where he peered down the dark corridors. A faint light was coming from Pam’s office, and Adam could notice a silhouette sitting up against the wall to the left of it. Approaching it, Adam realized that it was Faith who took the position. Unlike the others, she was still awake.

“Why aren’t you out there with the others?” He asked her.

“Hey, Adam…” Faith was clearly exhausted, seemingly in a daze. “I wanted to keep an eye on my mom, so I’m hanging out here.”

Adam glanced into the office, seeing Pam sleeping peacefully at her desk with a blanket covering her. He also noticed that the debris from the destroyed door had been cleaned up already.

“Adam? You feeling better?”

He turned back to her. “Yeah…” Hesitating for a moment, he walked over and sat on the left side of Faith. “I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be! Here—” Faith covered Adam up with half of her blanket. “Just get some rest for now. We all need it.”

“Uh…? Are you sure it’s okay if I’m right here…?”

“I’m fine with it if you’re fine with it! We used to cuddle all the time when we were kids!”

“Well, yeah. But we were kids. We’re not anymore…”

“I…” Faith began to ponder that statement. “I’m still okay with it…”

“Well, in that case—” Adam leaned his head on Faith’s shoulder, calmly closing his eyes. The gesture startled Faith, yet she kept her reaction internal.

“Y-Yeah… Get some rest…” She felt Adam’s soft hair up against her face. It was comforting to her—she could nuzzle it if she wanted. Although, she held back from the sudden urge.

“I… really need to stay strong. I can’t let anything get in the way. There’s a lot that needs to be handled before this can become the future… Wait. I… want it to be the future…?” She quietly chuckled.

“What’s so funny…?” Adam asked, almost asleep.

“It’s nothing…” She responded in a faint whisper. The calmness of the now silent police station surrounded them, and the two quickly doze off into a peaceful sleep.

This would be the last night of peace any of them would get, as their world was about to shatter apart.


Next: Chapter 2.26

Previous: Chapter 2.24

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.24

“How…? Why…? What kind of hell is this…?” Pam took a few steps back, grabbing the side of a nearby desk to prevent herself from falling over.

“Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a ghost!” Lucy jumped up, cheering. “More new friends!”

“A little girl…?” Faith leaned over and patted her on the head, smiling at the young child’s enthusiasm. “Wait… She’s as cold as ice!”

“That’s cause she’s a ghost.” Adam stated bluntly.

“W-Wait… Huh!?” Faith asked surprised. “But… is she…?”

“No, she’s not an Ouderkirk. We’re trying to figure out how she works exactly. Her body was sealed behind a barrier underneath Minuet, yet her ghost has been wandering around Requiem for quite awhile. Upon coming into contact with her remains, she gained this form.” Adam explained wearily.

Pam felt as though she was going to be sick. “Her… remains? There shouldn’t have been anything left… Why were they there, and sealed off…?”

“Mom, you doing okay?” Emma asked, noticing the color had vanished from Pam’s face.

“I-I’m fine…” Pam responded, laughing rather awkwardly.

“Huh?” Lucy finally noticed Pam’s presence. Her face lit up. “Ah! You’re—”

Pam suddenly covered her face and bolted down a hallway off to the right, where her office was located.

“Mom…!?” Emma yelled to her, yet Pam had already slammed the door shut.

“What… What was that about?” Faith looked down at Lucy, who was just as confused as she was.

“So she knows too, huh…?” Adam muttered.

“She knows? Knows what?” Faith asked, overhearing his words.

“Who Lucy is. Travis and Cody seem to know as well, but they’ve been preventing us from gaining any info on her.” Adam explained angrily.

Thomas let out a sudden sigh. “I figured as much. Even I tried to take a look into it, since Travis wasn’t getting anything. It seems they blocked my attempt. They did for you too, right?” He looked at his son standing next to him.

“Yeah… How did you know that?”

“Of course I know the things you’d try. Who do you think I am?” Thomas chuckled.

“Lucy, you recognized her, didn’t you?” Adam asked, leaning down in front of her. “Who is she to you?”

“Um…” Lucy pondered the question. “I think she’s a friend of my parents!”

“Your parents—wait, do you remember who your parents are!?” Adam questioned rather intensely.

“Uh… S-Sorry! I don’t remember that much…”

“Damn! I mean—uh… Sorry. It’s okay. That helps, thank you.” Adam patted the somewhat concerned Lucy on the head, which calmed her down.

“So, are we going to ask her?” Charlotte asked. “You didn’t want to cause a conflict between us, I know that. But…”

“The conflict’s already started, in this case.” Adam shrugged. “I’ll go down there and talk to her about it.”

“Wait—” Faith interrupted. “She’s my mother. I can go ask her.”

“Yeah, same here!” Emma added. “Both of us can—”

“I don’t want there to be any family drama rising out of this nonsense,” Adam stated. “I’m going to go talk to her myself. Wait here.”

With those words, Adam went down the hall, almost stomping down on the cold floor.

“There he goes… trying to take on everything by himself again…” Faith frowned.

“Don’t worry,” Charlotte patted Faith’s shoulder. “He can handle something like this.”

“I know he can… “ Faith sighed. “But it wears him down…”

 

In front of Pam’s office, Adam knocked on the door rather hard.

“Pam. Open up. What’s going on?”

No response. Adam decided to open up the door, yet couldn’t, as it was locked up tight.

“Whatever your relation is with Lucy, it’s okay. I’m not going to judge you about anything. We just want to know, so we can figure everything out…”

There was still silence on the other side. Adam’s patience was growing thin. Eventually, he felt himself already building up energy in his hand.

“I’m sorry, Pam… but we don’t have time for this. We can grieve about things after I save all of us…” He shook his head. “Just call me Adam ‘Fuck Doors’ Grayson…”

With a mighty push, Adam’s power shattered the wooden door into several pieces, granting him entry into the office. Pam’s head was on her desk, yet she sat up immediately.

“Adam! What are you—”

There was sorrow in Adam’s eyes. Not due to the action he just executed. It was all because of Pam’s face covered in her tears.

“See? I can’t let you suffer like this. Talk to me about it.”

Faith and Emma dashed down the hall, both grabbing Adam by his shoulders.

“W-What the hell are you doing!?” Emma asked in shock at the state of the door.

“Adam…” Faith pulled him out of the room. “You don’t have to be so harsh…”

Charlotte now ran up, with Brandon, Jerry, and Winona hiding behind her. Adam was startled at the fear in their eyes.

“I have to apologize…” Charlotte paused. “Adam. I know I said we don’t have time to waste, and that’s true. However, like Faith said, you don’t have to be so harsh. Especially with someone—I assume—you think of as your own mother…”

“I…” Adam glanced back at Pam in horror, then slowly down toward the remains of the door.

“You did this to your bedroom door, remember?” Brandon interrupted. “It’s understandable that you’re going through a lot. But acting like this, dude…”

“Brandon’s being reasonable for once—wow,” Emma commented. “But, he’s right. We get it, Adam. No need to destroy property—”

“It’s okay, you guys.” Pam stood up from her desk, wiping away her tears. “When he broke the door down, he didn’t have a look of rage. He was concerned. And I think I shouldn’t… hide things from any of you…”

“I am concerned…” Adam gritted his teeth. “But… why do I have to act like this? I was even aware that I did it.”

“He’s right!” Muraco shouted, hopping down the hall. “I heard him call himself “Adam ‘Fuck Doors’ Grayson!”

“Hey! Bunny! Bad!” Lucy jumped on Muraco, slamming him onto the floor. “Don’t swear!”

“Hey! Get off me you brat!” Muraco struggled, but could not get the child off of him as he held back from using force.

“That’s a pretty accurate nickname…” Brandon chuckled. “B-But, still! That does prove you were aware…”

Adam sighed. “You guys are…” Adam slowly moved Faith out of his way, doing his best not to push her. He then stormed back out into the main office area. “Getting on my damn nerves…”

“Hey!” Lucy attempted to stop Adam, yet was prevented from doing so by Muraco.

“Leave him be.” He turned to the group. “That includes all of you. He needs some space.”

“But…” Faith took a deep breath. “You’re right. I’ve seen him upset before, but this is different…”

“Don’t worry, everyone.” Muraco stood up straight and saluted to the group. “I’ll keep an eye on him! With my ears and my capabilities to sneak in the shadows, I can be a watchful guardian!”

“That’s probably a good idea.” Charlotte agreed. “Even if he does need some space, none of us should be alone right now. We have no clue when that group will make a move.”

“That group…” Pam stepped out into the hallway. “Right… We have to make sure we’re safe. Thomas?”

Thomas peeked around the corner. “Yes, Pammy?”

“You’ve been keeping the townspeople unaware of everything going on, correct?”

“Yep, I sure have. Even since the Brown Suits were walking around, actually. I didn’t want anyone getting afraid of them.”

“Huh? What’s he talking about?” Brandon asked.

“My dad has access to various phantonic technology… which he’s able to use on the residents.” Jerry answered.

“To keep it simple for you, Brandon, it’s a special signal we send from Twine’s basement, causing people nearby to kind of “zone out”, we’ll say—which makes them ignore things that happen around them. We call the program ‘Oberon’. You can register a person’s phantonic signature into it to prevent it from affecting them. And it doesn’t work on people with Abilities.” Thomas explained.

“T-There’s something like that…? Why would Unity allow you to use it?” Brandon questioned.

“He…” Jerry turned toward his dad.

“I go through some illegal procedures to get my hands on this stuff. Don’t worry about the details.”

“I think I am gonna worry!” Brandon shouted. “Wouldn’t that cause tons of issues if it fell into the wrong hands!?”

“It’s already in the wrong hands,” Thomas stated bluntly. “It’s something Unity could potentially use, if they wanted to…”

“We’ll worry about that issue when we get to that point…” Pam sighed. “Anyway. The majority of Prelude’s small population is filled with senior citizens, so they probably won’t be leaving the house at nighttime—or at all, for that matter. So we just have to keep an eye on their activity during the day. Keep them out of the way…”

“So, we don’t have active officers at the moment, right? What happens if one of those old people have a heart attack or something?” Brandon asked in concern.

“Well, paramedics will be called from Nexus City, as usual,” Jerry answered. “At least… I think.”

“It’s almost like Rizzo is allowing this group to attack and do what they want…” Winona commented. “But…”

“It’s that Nexus bastard,” Muraco stated. “It seems to want Adam to grow, which means it’ll put him up against anything for that to happen. Of course, we’re getting in the mix as well.”

“Yeah… I can see why he’s getting stressed.” Faith looked down.

“Let me take Jerry and Thomas back to Twine,” Charlotte suggested. “I can stay with them, in case something happens. With my mobility, I can move quickly to whatever location I need to be at. If you guys stay here, I think you’ll be somewhat okay. Most of you have Abilities, after all.”

“I think that’s the best play,” Pam agreed. “They need to continue working down there. I’d rather not abandon the station either, seeing as though someone should be in a position to protect the people.”

“All right. Muraco will go keep an eye on Adam. Faith, Emma, Winona, Brandon, and Lucy will stay here with Pam. Lucy—you okay with staying here?” Charlotte asked the girl.

“Sure! We can have a sleepover!” Lucy ran up to Pam. “Is that okay—” The girl paused at the woman’s horrified expression. “Hey, what’s wrong…?”

“I…” Pam began to speak, yet had to stop, as she felt like she was going to be sick.

“Mom!?” Faith held her up, as Pam almost passed out on the spot.

“Clearly this Lucy thing is tough to deal with for you…” Charlotte pondered. “You don’t have have to tell us anything right now, Pam. I’ll take Lucy to Twine with me. I can keep her safe. You guys make sure Pam feels better.”

“I’m… sorry…” Pam struggled to speak. Charlotte shook her head.

“Don’t be. I can understand certain things can be… difficult to talk about…” She glanced at Muraco, then to Winona. “There are only three people I’ve told so far about something… involving me…”

“That thing you talked about with me on the bench…?” Winona asked with pain in her voice.

“Yeah… You were actually the first person I told. I managed to finally bring it up with Adam and Muraco, as well…” Charlotte looked at the others, who seemed to be worried about what she was talking about. “Don’t worry, you guys. I’ll tell you eventually… I’ve grown to trust all of you, after all.”

“Something about your past, I’m assuming…?” Jerry questioned. “That’s all right. Whenever you’re ready to. We need answers—that’s true—but… just like with Pam, we’re not going to pressure you into anything. It’s not worth it.”

Charlotte smiled. “Thank you, Jerry. I knew it was the right choice to pick you as my pretend boyfriend.”

“I still can’t believe it was all fake.” Winona giggled.

“Could have still picked me…” Brandon mumbled. “Anyway—Charlotte, and Pam. Don’t stress over anything. We’ll get all of this sorted out. We’re all strong enough to get through whatever happens! And…” He snickered. “Do you honestly think Adam would let anything happen to us?”

“He’s right!” Lucy cheered. “Adam saved me from the darkness that was around me! He’s a hero that can do anything!”

Faith’s eyes widened at the girl’s words. She started chuckling, shaking her head in a pleasant state of disbelief. “For real…?”  

 

Meanwhile, the hero sat alone on the roof of his house, staring at the starry night sky. He couldn’t help but concern himself with the darkness that he believed had taken root within him.


Next: Chapter 2.25

Previous: Chapter 2.23

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.23

Adam and Charlotte were waiting outside the police station. They figured that they would be the ones to greet the others upon returning from Unity. Charlotte was currently staring at the ground, deep in thought.

“What that girl mentioned… with the timeline’s values being messed up… Could she be referring to the same sort of thing we’ve been talking about? What do I do..? I shouldn’t mention anything involving what I discussed with her to these guys. That… yellow power though. What was that…?”

“Something wrong, Charlotte?” Adam asked, noticing her behavior.

“I-It’s nothing!” Charlotte laughed awkwardly. “They should be here pretty soon, I would think. It’s going to be dark in a bit.”

“Yeah…” Adam sighed, taking a look upward. The sunset cast beautiful golden hues, enveloping the few fluffy clouds that currently took residence in the sky. “Charlotte, do you recall ever hearing about the twilight here in Requiem?”

“Huh? I don’t think so? What about it?”

Adam smirked. “They say during this time of day, souls are able to merge together and become one. It’s always been one of my favorites, for some reason. Pretty sure nobody knows how far back that myth goes.”

“I see…” Charlotte attempted to recall any memory that seemed familiar to it, but was unsuccessful.

“It would be quite convenient right about now. Even if everyone could only join souls for a short amount of time, I’d bet we could come to understand one another a lot better.”

“To be honest… as long as everyone’s unique, I doubt we’ll ever come to a mutual understanding. Not that I want people to be the same—that would make the world a boring place.” Charlotte said while glancing around.

Adam continued to stare at the sky. “I told Muraco this—I’m not sure if I ran it by you before. But… even if we can’t make that happen, even if it seems impossible, I want to get the ball rolling in that direction, through my actions. Somehow…”

Charlotte looked at Adam, smiling at him. “I think trying is the best anyone can do. One should be proud of themselves if they even attempt something of that scale.” She looked at the ground, her smile dwindling away. “Yeah… That’s the kind of person you are, isn’t it? Of course it is. It’s starting to make sense…”

“Huh? What makes sense?” Adam asked her.

“Why…” She shook her head. “It’s nothing. Nothing to be concerned about right now.”

“Well, whatever it is, you can talk to me about it when you’re ready to, like I’ve said before. That’s the case for anything.” Adam stretched his arm, taking a glance toward the road.

“Thank you…” Charlotte took a step forward. “Here they come.”

The silver van that brought the group away from Prelude had now returned from Unity. Pulling into the police station’s parking lot, Adam could tell that Pam was the one driving, with Faith in the front seat.

As soon as the vehicle came to a stop, Brandon swung the back right door open, dashing toward Adam. “No way—he was telling the truth!?” He grabbed Adam’s shoulders. “Y-You guys are here…!?”

“Yeah…” Adam chuckled. “Long time no see.”

“Heh… I was prepared for not seeing ya for a while. But you’re actually back!” He turned to Charlotte. “You both are!”

The other three exited the van—Pam and Winona approached them next while Faith stood back.

“It wasn’t some sick lie… What in the world…?” Despite the questions running through Pam’s head, she embraced Adam as Brandon stepped to the side. “You’re okay…”

“Yeah, I’m all right.” Adam responded, glancing back at Faith. Noticing this, Faith gave him an awkward smile. Obviously, Adam could tell something was wrong.

Winona walked up to Charlotte, giving her a hug as well—startling her.

“I’m so glad…” Winona paused. “You’re still cold…”

Charlotte giggled. “Sorry about that. I wish I could be warm…”

“Oh no! It’s okay! I just… might fall asleep here on your shoulder…”

Charlotte patted her head. “Was the orientation tough…?”

Brandon ran up to the two. “It was exhausting! After the day we fought Charlie and Liz, we kept doing random-ass exercises!”

“Oh?” Charlotte grabbed Brandon’s ear. “You still seem to be energetic enough.”

“Ow—Well, yeah! You guys are all right! Of course I would be!” Brandon looked over at Adam. “So… all we were told is that you were allowed back here, and Rizzo wouldn’t do anything to you. The guy just said it at the last second. Just… what the hell happened?”

“That’s… all you know?” Adam shook his head. “Well, then you guys are in for quite the story.”

Faith finally decided to walk over, carrying a gloomy expression with her. “I knew there would be something off about all of this…”

“Well, I’m here. So for right now, you don’t have to worry.” Adam poked Faith’s forehead, snapping her out of her mood.

“R-Right.” She smiled. “I guess I can breathe for the first time in a few weeks, huh?”

“Better take a deep, refreshing breath. As I said, I have a lot to tell you guys.” Adam decided to follow his own suggestion, breathing in and exhaling slowly.

Pam took a look at the building, then glance around the parking lot. “They haven’t even re-assigned normal officers… That’s troubling. What if that group decides to attack?”

“We’ve got people watching over things, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a surprise.” Adam commented.

“W-Wait, what do you mean? What people?” Pam asked him.

“Oh boy…” Adam sighed. “Let’s head inside. Charlotte can go get the others—Charlotte.” He turned to her. “Maybe bring a few people at a time. We don’t want to overload them with info all at once.”

Charlotte nodded. “Y-Yeah… That would probably be for the best.”

 

In the main area of the police station, Adam sat with the others while waiting for Charlotte. They were sitting at a large table in the center of the large room, with office desks surrounding them. Each desk was littered with various documents, and a few even had cups of coffee that were unfinished.

“They really forced the officers out of here in a hurry… I didn’t see how it went down, but I doubt the Brown Suits were friendly to them.” Pam said, somewhat upset.

“The damn Brown Suits…” Adam clenched his fist.

“I assume they’re involved in all of this…?” Faith asked him.

“Of course. Just one piece of the big ass puzzle…” He groaned.

“Why are they called the Brown Suits anyway?” Brandon questioned. “I-I know they wear them! But couldn’t they have a cooler name? They’re… not that cool, though…”

“I’d say they wear brown cause they’re shitty people.” Adam nodded at his hypothesis. “Yep. That’s what I’m going with.”

Brandon snickered. “Definitely gonna go with that.”

Pam shrugged her shoulder, smirking. “I don’t know, but I think you’re onto something, Adam.”

“All joking aside… they are foul people. Well, technically they’re—gah!” Adam sighed heavily. “I’ll just let them explain this stuff.”

Right on cue, Charlotte phased up through the floor, with Thomas and Jerry on each side.

“I still can’t believe you’re a ghost, Charlotte…” Pam was astonished at her power. “And an Ouderkirk on top of it? What the hell…”

Thomas chuckled. “I hope that’s not the biggest thing bothering you, Pammy.”

“I-It doesn’t bother me! I’m glad she’s on our side!” Pam shouted.

“Anyway—” Charlotte glanced at the father and son. “I figured I’d start with these two. Wanna explain things?”

“Is it really safe to do that…” Jerry questioned concerningly. “I know it’s you guys, but being in Unity and all…”

“Don’t worry—Rizzo shouldn’t do anything as long as they don’t take action against him.” Adam assured him.

“I sure hope so… Dad, do you wanna do the honors?”

“I…” Thomas sighed. “Yeah. Sit down, everybody. I’ll be the one to explain most of it…”

 

Several minutes later, the four Unity members sat in silence, stunned at all the information they just took in.

“I… Emma!” Faith sprung up from her seat. “I need to make sure she’s okay!”

“He said she was, Faith…” Pam responded. “Although… I’d like to see for myself.”

“On it.” Charlotte hopped backward, falling right through the floor. After a few moments of silence, she returned, bringing Emma with her.

“Hey, Faith… Mom… see? I’m—”

Faith and Pam ran up to Emma, embracing her.

“I-I’m so sorry, sweetie…” Pam’s voice began to shake. “If only I knew, I could have…”

“Relax, Mom. It’s okay. I’m okay now.” Emma assured her. She turned her attention to Faith, who was struggling to hold back tears. “Hey, cheer up, okay?”

“I… I…” Faith couldn’t figure out what words to say. Emma pushed the two of them slightly away from her with a smile on her face.

“I’m too tough to have something like that ruin me!” Emma snickered—her smile turning into a huge grin.

Brandon walked up with his hands casually behind his head. “She’s her usual cocky self, so she seemed good to me.”

Emma grabbed hold of Brandon’s ear, beginning to pull on it. “I see you’re your usual idiotic self.”

“Ow! Hey! Watch it!” Brandon whined, trying to push the smirking girl away from him.

Pam sat back down, staring at the floor. “Aside from Emma… the manager of Ann’s… This thing in the Nexus Network has been the cause of all of this!? Even giving Rizzo the power he has… Just what is it!?”

“It’s horrible…” Winona’s body tensed up. “He was… such an innocent man. Is this thing a monster…? It controlled the Brown Suits into doing that?”

“The Brown Suits are freaking clones!? Let’s not forget that!” Brandon yelled. “And… Jerry… you and your dad have been working on this super-secret group this whole time!?”

“Not to mention my dad has been helping out…” Winona said, upset at not knowing what her dad had been dealing with.

“And Travis of all people has been involved as well…” Pam shook his head.

Adam sighed. “Yep. You guys are jumping all over the place now. I figured it would be tough for you to zone in on one topic at a time.”

“You’re right,” Pam nodded. “You said there was… even more you guys wanted to share with us?”

“There is…” Jerry sighed. “Charlotte—why don’t we go get the others? I think once everything is introduced, we’ll have a huge talk about it all at once.”

“You’re right…” Charlotte pondered. “Hmm… How about I bring him first, and then her…?”

“Yeah, that should work.” Jerry gave her a thumbs up. With a simple nod, Charlotte phased through the floor once again.

“Him and her…? There are others mixed up in this?” Faith asked.

“They’re more like key players as opposed to outsiders being thrown in,” Adam answered. “Well, the ‘her’ certainly is, at least.”

“Although…” Emma laughed awkwardly. “We did get some legitimate outsiders mixed up in this… didn’t we?”

“Roy and Roger?” Thomas chuckled. “I told the two of them they don’t have to involve themselves any further. Roger’s been a good help, though. And Roy’s, well…”

“He’s something…” Emma sighed.

“Huh? Roy?” Brandon looked concerned. “Who’s that?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Emma stated. “Just another idiot, like you.”

“Hey, I’m the idiot around here! Nobody else gets that title except for me!”

Emma shook her head. “Do you ever think before you speak?”

Charlotte emerged from the floor, this time holding Muraco in her arms. She held him up to be on full display for everyone.

“Wh-What the hell is that thing!?” Brandon shouted, jumping back in shock.

Muraco jumped onto the floor in rage. “I’m honestly getting tired of how humans react to my appearance! I am Muraco! Hero of Requiem!”

“Hero!? A-And it talks!?” Brandon cautiously approached the rabbit, kneeling down. “Just what in the…?”

“You got a problem, punk!?” Muraco stomped toward Brandon, getting right up in his face. “I’ll destroy you, you know!”

Winona walked up to Muraco, taking his attention away from Brandon. “He’s…” She suddenly embraced the rabbit with a swift and mighty hug. “He’s so cute!!!

“Hey—What do you think you’re doi—a-actually… This isn’t so bad. You’re kinda warm…” Muraco grew comfortable and began to snuggle up with Winona.

“C-Can I hold him too…?” Faith asked, approaching with her eyes lit up.

“You can pet him, but right now he’s with me!” Winona giggled. Faith nodded, slowly stroking Muraco’s fluffy ears.

“H-Hey, you’re warm too… All right—I can work with this!” Muraco chuckled conceitedly

“Did… some kind of magic spell turn this guy into a rabbit? Is that what this is…?” Brandon asked, running up to Adam quickly. “Cause… I’m gonna need that spell.”

“Huh? No—we’re not sure why exactly he’s like that. Experiments the Ourderkirks did ages ago gave him that form somehow. He originally was after Charlotte and me, but we ended up having him join us.” Adam explained, glaring at his friend.

“Interesting… So, there’s a chance it could be a spell? And we could learn it? And I could turn into that? And I could get hugged by girls?”

Adam responded simply by flicking Brandon’s forehead.

“Ow! Hey!”

“Anyway—Charlotte,” Adam looked at her. “Wanna go get her now?”

“Sure… Travis and Cody are keeping an eye on things so I won’t be able to bring them anyway.”

“That’s fine. I figured they’d need to stay near the computers.”

As Charlotte disappeared, Faith approached Adam. She nervously looked around the room. Mostly everyone had shifted their attention to Muraco, including Brandon, who was ready to face off against his new rival.

“What’s up, Fai—”

Faith hugged Adam swiftly, catching him off guard. “I’m glad you’re okay… I was certain I wouldn’t see you for quite a while… Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to believe when I heard that the exile was off…”

“I still don’t know what to believe…” Adam sighed, resting his head on her shoulder. “Even with all the crazy information we’re currently trying to figure out, there’s a lot of unknown things we haven’t even touched yet.”

“It’s been tiring, huh?” Faith patted Adam’s head. “I’m hoping we can get through all of it…”

“Adam Grayson!” Brandon stormed over to the two—Faith stepping to the side in confusion.

“Huh?”

“What is the World Mirror!? What kind of almighty powers do you get with that thing!?”

“Oh—That does remind me. I’ve learned some new tricks with it.”

“You have huh!? Do tell!” Brandon’s jealousy was being too obvious to Adam.

“You need to relax, you know that? And I’ll tell you about it later. Charlotte’s gonna be back here in a sec.” He pointed toward the floor.

“You can tell?” Jerry asked him, surprised.

“I could with my eyes, but I’m just assuming right now.”

Adam’s assumption was right. Charlotte ascended from the floor, this time with Lucy tightly wrapped in her arms.

“Woah! More people!” Lucy yelled excitedly.

Pam, who had been focused on Muraco’s cuteness along with the others, suddenly froze. She turned to the source of the new voice, horrified at what had appeared.


Next: Chapter 2.24

Previous: Chapter 2.22

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.22

Before Adam opened his eyes, he could tell that he was someplace familiar. Quite familiar, in fact.

“This… comfort. Yeah—this is my bed…?”

Adam sat up, his eyes now glancing around the place he knew the most.

“What am I doing here…? What happened…? Wait—” Adam took a look at his right arm, which had regenerated due to the World Mirror, as expected. “That… thing. The Nexus…”

“Oh, I thought I heard you.”

Adam turned toward the opening that once housed his door. Muraco stood there—his tiny paws on his hips.

“Muraco…?”

“That’s my name. Geez, it took you long enough! You were out of it for three days!”

“Three… days? Huh!?” Adam stood up in a panic. “Is—”

“Everything’s all right, calm down. We gotta hear from you what exactly happened. And then… we’ll fill you in on all the development you’ve missed.”

“Development…?” Adam looked down at his hand, shaking from the rush of anxiety he just felt.

“Come on, follow me.” Muraco beckoned Adam, hopping away toward the living room. Taking a moment to take a deep breath, Adam followed him.

Entering the room, Adam saw Jerry sitting in his usual chair while Charlotte was relaxing on the couch. Upon seeing him, Charlotte jumped up.

“Adam! You are awake!” She rushed over, taking a hold of his shoulders, almost knocking him down. “Are you okay!?”

“I, uh… feel okay. Just how I usually do when I wake up.”

“I… felt the presence of something down there. It was like sleep paralysis—I couldn’t get up and help you. It was weighing me down, both physically and mentally.”

Adam let out a loud sigh. “I’m surprised you could put your experience with it into words… Then again, you didn’t face it directly.”

“What was this ‘it’ thing you encountered? It felt familiar to me, but—”

“I assume it’s whatever prevented you from possessing Emma to free her from that nonsense. It calls itself ‘The Nexus’. Had a whole conversation with the thing, before I ended up in bed for three whole days, apparently…”

Jerry finally reacted to Adam, standing up and walking over to him. “Yeah… I figured as much.”

“Huh? You figured?”

“Yeah—I’m glad you’re all right. ‘The Nexus’ huh…? So it literally named itself after where it’s located?”

“Not exactly. It decided to use that name since that’s what Rizzo calls it.”

The other three were shocked, yet slightly unsurprised at that statement.

“I mean… I guess it makes sense.” Jerry scratched his head. “Adam, are you in shape to tell us what happened?”

“Sure… Buckle your seat belts though. You’re in for a ride.”

Adam sat down on the couch, with Charlotte and Muraco on each side of him. Jerry returned to his chair, as Adam began his explanation.

 

“I can’t believe it… What the hell?” Charlotte was astonished at what Adam had told them. “So… that thing’s the reason the manager’s… dead? Just cause!?

“Seems that way. And, while we’re on that subject… He’s… He’s still not down in the police station’s basement, is he…?”

“Nah. Cody managed to get him out of there. Arrangements for the funeral and stuff have already been made…” Jerry answered, with slight sorrow in his voice.

“Huh!? Arrangements!? How the hell can that be done considering all the circumstances!?”

“Adam…” Charlotte began to speak. “It seems… that demon did keep that deal with you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Rizzo visited Prelude two days ago, without any warning. Cody and Thomas met with him. Your exile is over with.”

“For… For real…? Rizzo does listen to that thing then…?”

“Everything regarding the Brown Suits was dropped as well. No consequences from that. In fact, Unity is paying for the manager’s funeral expenses. The official cause of death is certainly not true though—getting shot during an attempted robbery? It’s sickening…”

Jerry leaned forward. “Unity’s taking responsibility due to the Brown Suits having control over Prelude during the time frame this ‘robbery’ occurred. Whenever Unity has control over an area, regular police are kicked out after all.”

“What the hell…?” Adam held his head in annoyance. “So, things are okay for us, but obviously they had to lie and create such a situation involving your manager…”

“It’s fine,” Charlotte assured him. “Trust me—I will get justice for him. For now, though, I’ll accept this outcome, for our sake.”

“If you say so… Man, my head hurts.” Adam complained.

“Well, you haven’t eaten in days. Let me make you something.” Jerry offered.

“Yeah… That’s probably a good idea.” Adam took a glance around the room. “Where… exactly is Lucy? Is she with the others?”

“No, she’s here.” Charlotte sighed. “In the kitchen, as a matter of fact. Be prepared.”

Adam took a step onto the cold floor of his kitchen. “Be prepared for wh—”

Lucy was passed out on the floor. Surrounding her were multiple apples, all consumed as if a savage beat had eaten them.

“Huh…?”

“I got you some apples, but she went and ate all of them…” Jerry explained.

“But she’s a ghost! She doesn’t need to eat anything! Charlotte—I don’t think I’ve seen you eat before?”

“I mean, I can if I want to. The phantons inside me just cause anything to disintegrate. Luckily, I can still taste things, in case I decide to have something.”

“A-All right…? Anyway!” Adam leaned down next to Lucy, poking the side of her face. “Hey! Wake up!”

“Huh…?” Lucy opened her eyes slightly, taking a look at Adam. She sat up, unable to process where she was for a moment. Eventually, it dawned on her that he had awoken. “Huh!? You’re okay!?”

“Forget me. What happened here?” Adam pointed at the scraps around her.

“Oh… They were really yummy! I guess I fell asleep after I ate them!”

Adam sighed. “You know what? You’re off the hook since you have good taste in food. How could you fall asleep right here on the floor, though?”

“She’s been sleeping most of the time, like you,” Charlotte responded. “I assume it’s due to the state she’s in.”

“Right—I see. It’s basically how you were up until recently.” Adam noted.

“Exactly. I’ve wanted to walk around the area with her, to see if she could recall anything. But, being in this condition most of the time…”

“No progress in that front, huh? Wait—Jerry. Have you found anything out?” Adam asked him.

Jerry stepped over the apple remains, opening the fridge to take out meat to cook. “I’ve tried… Travis and Cody seem to be preventing even myself from accessing any data.”

“Huh? You can’t even get into anything? What… the hell are they hiding…?” Adam said concerningly. “Did you talk to your dad about it?”

“I would, but I don’t want any internal conflict to go down… Is that the right play?”

“I’d say so. Even if we do want to go with Charlotte’s idea of possessing them for info, they’ll probably figure out we did it. Then things will escalate from there… Man, this is so annoying…” Adam shook his head in frustration.

Charlotte grabbed Adam’s shoulders, escorting him over to the couch. “Here, you should relax until the food’s ready. Lucy—can you clean up that mess on the floor?”

“Kay!” Lucy responded, cheerfully picking up the eaten apples off the floor.

“She’s happy doing that?” Adam questioned, lying down on the couch. “These cushions are so cold…”

“Sorry—I’ve been hanging out here all day.” Charlotte laughed awkwardly.

“Huh? It’s not a bad thing. Cold cushions, blankets, pillows… It’s all heaven.”

“It’s just an issue if the person in bed with you is cold, huh?” Charlotte giggled. Jerry overheard this, dropping a ladle on the floor.

“What!?”

“What’s wrong, Mr. Jerry?” Lucy asked him, picking up the utensil that had fell and handing it to him.

“D-Don’t worry about it—thank you, Lucy.”

“Anyway—” Charlotte continued speaking to Adam, sitting on the end of the couch. “Twine’s been keeping an eye on the town, just in case that group decides to make another move.”

“They didn’t employ new Brown Suits, huh…? I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“I know. On one hand, they’re out of our hair. On the other hand, we don’t have much defense against that group…”

“Is this that thing’s doing…? If we defend Prelude on our own, we’d have to fight much harder. That means I’ll gain more experience… I think that’s what The Nexus wants.”

“Don’t worry—I won’t let anything happen to you. We’ll all get strong, and kick that thing’s ass!” Charlotte yelled.

“Miss Charlotte swore…” Lucy covered her mouth in shock as she walked around the couch to see the two.

“Oh! I apologize…” Charlotte looked down bashfully.

Adam began to chuckle. “Hearing that reminds me of that first day you were here. You kept apologizing to me over everything.”

“Well of course I would! One of those apologies was over accidentally seeing you in the shower, and—”

Jerry ran over, smacking the back of the couch. “Again, what!?

“Jerry—Do you know when those guys are returning from Unity?” Adam asked, changing the subject.

“They should be arriving later this evening, actually. We’re going to have a lot to discuss with them. You seem… to be allowed to interact with them now?”

“I guess so? We have to come up with a plan—knowing The Nexus has so much influence and can manipulate Rizzo so easily… I’m worried on what could happen.”

“That’s true…” Jerry sighed. “There’s also something else I’m worried about.”

“What’s up?” Adam asked him.

“The last thing The Nexus said to you… about phantons. They’re not working like they’re supposed to? What does that mean?”

Muraco, who was now sitting in Jerry’s chair, finally spoke up. “I have a theory about that, actually…”

“Oh hey, you’ve been awfully quiet for a while—wait, you do!?” Jerry asked astonished.

“It’s cause I’ve been thinking about it…” Muraco scratched his ears. “Adam—remember I wanted to tell you and Charlotte about the things I do remember?”

“Right—you never did.” Adam sat up. “Your theory involves those memories?”

“Maybe…” Muraco took a deep breath. “For years, whenever I appeared somewhere… it was somewhere vile. Crazed individuals who were doing experiments similar to what happened to me were who I encountered. Cults, I believe? There were several around Requiem, and each attempted to harness the power of what you now call chaons.”

“There’s a whole section of Requiem east of here that’s infamous for that kind of thing,” Adam explained. “Slightly past Minuet. It’s dubbed the ‘Fairy Tale Land’. I think Unity’s presence greatly diminished their existence, yet some are rumored to still exist.”

“That could be where I popped up? Anyway, there was a common theme to a lot of these cults. They wanted the power to ‘restore things’. Of course, the chaons corrupted their minds, completely throwing that goal off course. Do you think that could involve what The Nexus spoke of?”

Jerry pondered what Muraco said. “Hmm… That could be a possibility. It’s something I’m going to look into, for sure. In the meantime, we have other things we need to focus on.”

“Like my food.” Adam said.

“Right! Sorry! I’ll get it going!” Jerry laughed, heading back off into the kitchen. Lucy suddenly let out a huge sigh.

“You guys are talking about lots of confusing stuff!” Lucy pouted.

“Sorry.” Adam chuckled. “It would be confusing for you.”

“It’s okay though! I, Lucy, have decided that you are the good guys! We’ll all fight for justice!”

“Justice, huh…” Adam sighed, lying back down. He stared at the ceiling, cracking a tiny smile.

“Sounds heroic.”  


Next: Chapter 2.23

Previous: Chapter 2.21

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.21

“Fine, I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’m not one to turn down free information.” Adam kept himself in a position ready to attack or defend if need be.

“Oh—Smart choice. Now, where do I even begin? There’s a lot I could tell you.”

“Who or what the hell are you? Let’s start with that.” Adam demanded.

“Oh—That would be a great place to start, wouldn’t it.” The being sighed. “I don’t have an official name, or anything I identify myself with, really. Elliot likes to refer to me as ‘The Nexus’—if that helps. Although it’s not all that accurate of a name…”

“Elliot… Rizzo!? You’re—”

“Oh—I figured you would jump right to that. Yes—to be blunt—I’m the reason Elliot has so much power. I’m allowing him to hold the throne, so to speak.”

Adam was astonished. “What…? Are… Are you the reason for everything, then…?”

“Oh—Don’t get it twisted. Elliot has had free will this entire time, with a few exceptions. Please, continue to blame him for the majority of things. It’s quite amusing.”

“Exceptions…? What do you mean?”

“Oh—Probably the biggest one you have to be concerned about is your exile from Prelude. That was my idea. Good job on not following directions, by the way.”

“Wait—You thought that up!? Why!?”

“I was simply curious on what you would do. It was something I thought of on the spot after I saw your… unique power. What a complete novice you are… Although, despite that, you surprised Elliot, a veteran on the battlefield.” The Nexus began to pace around the room, putting its arms behind its back.

“I was surprised myself, to be honest. Didn’t expect my attack to land. Yet… it did.”

“Oh—You weren’t even sure on that? That’s very amusing.” The Nexus stated nonchalantly. “Listen—I’m about to reveal a big secret behind Elliot’s power, and how I’m involved with it.”

“Huh? Why would you do that? Aren’t you working alongside him? Or… Are you using him?”

“Oh—’Using him’ is kind of harsh. But I certainly am not entirely on his side. I do not care for that sort of thing. He was one of the first characters I encountered upon entering this world, and I found him interesting enough.”

“When you entered this world…?”

“Oh—It was around two decades ago. My records indicate you were born on March 20th? It was around June of that year, I believe. The Nexus Network was in this beta stage at that point. They had the framework down, yet couldn’t exactly get things going. Somehow, during the process of making it work, values came together that created my existence.”

While The Nexus was speaking, Adam kept a close eye on it as it walked around the room.

“Let’s just say… Elliot Rizzo is someone you should never feel any sympathy for. Yet, I decided I would gift him the power he desired. I wanted to see how a human of that nature would act. So far, it’s exactly as one would expect.”

“…How much power did you give him—what kind of power did you give him?”

“Oh—When it comes to raw power, for the most part… nothing. He’s as strong as he is on his own. However, being an existence living inside the Nexus Network, I know how phantons operate quite well.” The Nexus pointed at its body. “See—Despite not yet knowing my true origin, I have been able to apply phantons into my body. These veins remind you of anything?”

“Yeah… the structures in Nexus City used for the Nexus Network itself.”

“Oh—Very good. That was an easy question, though. Anyway, with my knowledge of phantons, how well do you think most Abilities would fare against me?”

“…You weaken them, don’t you? Or make them entirely worthless? Whatever it is, it helps Rizzo leave fights without taking any damage.”

“Bingo—Although Rizzo’s power does, in fact, help him out with defense, I usually don’t allow it to get to that stage.”

“So it’s like what Alexander claims he can do with his Psycho Matter… He scans the Ability, and can nullify it once he understands how it works…”

“Oh—I usually don’t need to worry about analyzing an Ability’s properties. That does remind me… The case where I’ve been unable to nullify an Ability, simply due to it lacking phantonic values. As you can guess, it’s usually when Elliot faces Alexander. Obviously, this process also failed to work against your power…”

The next thing Adam knew, The Nexus had appeared right in front of his face.

“You two interest me. Your powers are foreign, just like my own. You first used your ‘World Mirror’ in Nexus City facing against that strange creature on the table, correct? I thought something was off. Luckily, I was able to see your Ability once again through Elliot. And, after testing it with that code, it confirmed my suspicions.”

Adam backed away, raising his arms in front of his face. “What are you getting at with all of this?”

“Oh—It’s simple. You want to know the origins of your power, yes? And I want to learn the origin of my power. Want to make a deal with me? You’ll gain access to the entirety of the Nexus Network. I can even grant you access into confidential material. Research would be such a breeze. How about it?”

Adam paused, pondering for a moment. “…First of all, what would I have to do? You clearly wouldn’t give this opportunity away for free?”

“Oh—It’s mostly free, actually. All I ask is you remain doing what you’re doing. You would no longer need to worry about Elliot Rizzo or Unity. They would not interfere with you. I’d assume you’d prefer to take care of that other group that’s after you? I’d love to see how you’d do against them.”

“Hmm… Let me ask you something. Do you control the Brown Suits?”

“Hm? Oh—I’m able to, yes. Do I do it often? Not really. Most of the time, they simply follow Elliot’s orders.”

“…Are you the one that ordered them to kill the manager of Ann’s?”

“Oh—That man? Yes, that was in fact me. It was out of morbid curiosity. You seem to have value in your friends, so I wanted to see how they would act in a situation like that. Emma going berserk like that wasn’t on me, however. It’s in the code Elliot placed in her spine. It allows him to use my power if need be. I allow it for part of our deal—”

“You just like to sit back and see how a lot of things happen, huh!?” The World Mirror erupted from Adam’s body, pushing the large table behind him back with sheer force. Luckily, for Muraco and Jerry, it did not topple over.

“Oh—Getting mad, are we? Isn’t this exactly how it happened with Elliot? You lost your cool—striking him? What do you think will happen this time? Do you want to put yourself in an even worse situation?”

“I don’t care about me… But what you did to him… No… not only that. Giving Rizzo that much power, knowing exactly what he’d do with it!? You’re responsible for everything!

“Oh—Well I guess I am responsible. Forgive me—it must have slipped my mind, seeing as though I do not care.”

Adam was baffled. “W-What…?”

“Oh—Trust me, you humans are quite interesting. However, I’m just here to complete my objective of figuring out what I am. What happens as a result of that…” The Nexus shrugged. “It’s none of my concern.”

Adam began to chuckle. “Yeah… You know what? There’s no way I’d agree to any deal of yours. Besides—” He raised his fist, building up an incredible amount of energy within it.

“If I take you down, there will be nothing to keep Rizzo’s rule safe, and we can put an end to all of this bullshit!

Adam leaped forward, aiming directly at The Nexus’ head.

The fist that should have collided with the being vanished, along with his entire arm.

“Huh…?”

An invisible force held Adam in the air, causing him to be unable to move. He was completely defenseless.

“Oh—Incredible power. With your current level of control, it would have probably vaporized your arm still, but would have been enough to destroy this projection.”

“Projection…?”

“Oh—Yes, I’m using Emma over there to manifest myself temporarily so I could speak with you. Anyway, as of right now, what do you think?”

“W… What do you mean…?”

“What just occurred. Your arm didn’t turn to ash due to your sloppy treatment. I handled it myself. And, what exactly is holding you up right now?”

“I…”

“Don’t try to figure it out with words alone. This level of power I’m using can’t be described with any language your world can use. It’s beyond what you can currently comprehend. Yet… How you were handling that chaonic entity’s power… Adam, you definitely have the oepattnloio.

“Potential…?” Adam felt pain surging through his head hearing that word.

“Oh—What’s this? You understood that? Remarkable… To be fair, I set those values pretty close to your own language, yet you’ve crossed the border already…”

With a flick of its hand, The Nexus threw Adam onto the ground, freeing him from its grasp.

“I really can’t let anything happen to you, can I? From what I’ve gathered, you care deeply for your friends? Even to the point where you would defy an order to be by their side? Very well, Adam Grayson. How about we meet halfway?”

“What… do you mean— gah!” Adam leaned over in agony, keeping himself from planting his face on the floor using his left arm to hold himself up.

“Oh—The human body is so fragile. You’ll have to work on protecting it. Anyway, what I mean is… I’ll let you be able to rejoin your friends, officially. Yes, even the ones in Unity.”

Adam glared upward. “I thought I told you—”

“Oh—Allow me to correct my rash decision. I tried to force you to be alone, yet it did not work. With the help from the Ouderkirk girl and that strange creature, you accomplished breaking through that barrier set up in Minuet to conceal that little girl’s corpse. And you grew from their assistance.”

“Of course… I did. I would have never gotten down there without their help. At least, not safely…”

“Oh—Safety, yes! You’re much safer with help. I don’t want anything to happen to you, so I will definitely allow this change! Do not fear, Elliot will not get the way of this.”

“What the hell…” Adam shook his head in disbelief. “This whole situation is one big mess…”

“Oh—Forgive me for that. I’m trying my best to adapt to the situation as it develops. Despite all the logical knowledge I may have, human emotions are something I struggle to understand. I try to use what intel I gather from the phantons in the network, but…”

“Heh… You hold a lot of power, almost like a god. But, you’re far too flawed to be something like that.”

“Oh—A god? I’m not sure I would want to be something like that.”

Before Adam continued to speak, he was interrupted by the blood that gushed out of his mouth.

“Oh—You’ll probably pass out in a few moments. It saddens me, but it looks like this chat will continue another time. I’ll do as I said, involving your friends. Seeing as though you don’t want to work with me, trust is certainly an issue. Therefore, I doubt you’d want my help with research even if I did offer it.”

“You’re… goddamn right about that… We’ll figure out things our own way…!” Adam’s vision began to blur.

“And I respect that decision. Before we wrap this up, let me give you two warnings—” The Nexus raised its finger. “First, even if I get Elliot off your trail, that doesn’t mean Unity has changed. If you want to correct what he has done, then by all means. Just keep your friends in mind.”

“You… won’t protect them, I see. From everything you’ve said so far… it makes sense that you would only care for me.”

“Oh—I’d like them to last as long as they can to help you, but you’re correct.” The Nexus slowly raised a second finger. “Now… for the other warning, and the most important thing I’ll say—stay conscious for this…”

Adam could barely focus on the being in front of him, now looking like a gigantic blob of green in his eyes. Yet, he kept his ears open.

“This situation isn’t the only mess… This entire world is a mess. The very makeup of it is all thrown off.”

“Wha—”

Adam reached his limit. His vision darkened as he fell onto the ground. The Nexus chuckled, getting one final message across.

“If you want this world to be magical, make phantons work the way they’re supposed to.”


Next: Chapter 2.22

Previous: Chapter 2.20

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.20

“Al, how are you feeling…?”

Laura stared at her brother, who was lying on the couch, facing away from her. He had not spoken a word to her ever since he returned from getting his injuries patched up at Unity.

“You know how it goes when you try beating up Rizzo… Why do you keep trying…?”

“Dumbass. Ya know why…”

Laura sighed. “I know, I know… You really shouldn’t put yourself in danger over me though.”

“The concept of ‘danger’ doesn’t apply to me. Until, well… I try and face him.” Alexander sat up, frustrated. “His Ability’s gotta have something fucking my scan up. I can tell it’s phantonic, which hasn’t been a problem for anyone else. Why the hell can’t I pick up on something…?”

“The problem is you think you’re at a level where you can just rush in and take care of things with your Psycho Matter. That may work with others, but with Rizzo—”

“Tsk! Stop sucking him off! I get it! I’m not strong enough…” Alexander stood up and walked toward the front door.

“Listen, Al! You just need to strategize more! Let me help you—”

“Shut it! I’m going for a walk! Leave me alone.”

“Al, wait—”

Before Laura could say anything else, Alexander slipped on his shoes and stormed out of the apartment the two siblings shared.

Outside, Alexander took out a piece of butterscotch candy and tossed it into his mouth. Instead of burning the wrapper like he normally did, he simply put it into his pocket.

The sun was starting to set—the veins of the Nexus Network beginning to become more visible as nighttime approached. Alexander glared up at the ones decorating the face of Soul Tower, which was a few blocks away.

“There’s… so much damn potential for this thing… and it’s being put to waste. Why can’t I just kick that bastards ass…? What the hell do I do…?” There was a strain in Alexander’s voice as he softly asked himself these questions.

 

The first thing Adam noted as he awoke was his face hurting. He realized that he fell asleep with his head on the table. Groaning, he looked up to see Jerry sitting across from him, working on his laptop.

“There are like a dozen computers over there, and you’re still using that thing?”

“Of course I am. You think those crappy computers can do what this baby of mine can do!?”

“That’s fair. What are you working on at the mom—” Adam paused, glancing to his right. Muraco had passed out, using the table for his bed. He was currently curled up in a ball, lightly snoring with a smile on his face.

“Who allowed him on the table?”

“He’s not a cat, Adam. He’s fine.”

“He’s not even a rabbit, technically! He’s… He’s something.”

“I mean, he does look like something right out of a cartoon. I’m also interested in that scarf of his. He can manipulate its shape, correct?”

“Yeah, he called it the very creative ‘Scarf Manipulation’.”

Jerry chuckled. “That’s as creative as my uncle’s ‘Metal Manipulation’ Ability. Oh! Brandon texted me a little while ago! Uncle Charlie’s actually going to be the one teaching him!”

“Oh? That’s good… How are they doing there?”

“He apparently forgot that I’ve told him before my uncle is a Unity member, so after we had a huge argument over that, he told me things are… tiring. Tiring, but okay. They had quite the training exercise today, but they made it through.”   

“That’s good… Hopefully, they’re getting stronger.”

“Yeah—I’m sure it’ll be worth it.”

“Everything…” Adam paused. “Everything… better be worth it.”

Before Jerry could say anything, Adam stood up from his chair, stretching out his body and yawning loudly.

“I gotta pee. Where do I go?”

“I would… just go upstairs. We didn’t build one down here. Just push the button on your right when you get to the top of the stairs, and the desk will move.”

“All right.” Adam glanced over toward the computers, seeing Thomas and Travis working just as hard as they were prior to him passing out. He turned his attention to the beds, where Emma was still sleeping. Charlotte and Lucy decided to join her, however. Lucy was in between them as all three occupied a single bed, dreaming peacefully.

“What the hell? There’s more than one bed there… Wait—wouldn’t Emma get really cold with those two next to her?”

Jerry shrugged. “Emma looks content. Guess it’s not too bad.”

“Oh well.” Adam sighed, heading up the stairs.

 

After he found the restroom in the doctor’s office and took care of his business, Adam returned to the desk, moving it out of the way so he could enter.

He immediately felt like something was off.

As he noticed his eyes light up, Adam crept down each step cautiously. A faint, red mist began to fill his vision, making him enter a slightly dazed state.

Reaching the bottom, Adam took a step into a pool of blood.

He felt something hit the side of his foot.

Looking down, Adam was horrified to see an arm floating in the scarlet sea beneath him.

“This…”

He surveyed the room. Dozen of limbs were scattered about—on the floor, covering the table, drooped from the monitors, and—

“No.”

The World Mirror’s aura erupted from Adam’s body—his eyes glaring directly at the hellscape in front of him.

“Muraco—this is the perfect opportunity. I’m ending this bullshit. Right here, right now!

The white energy merged with the red mist, creating a light pink color. Adam—no longer rattled by the illusion—had a lot more to deal with. What he could only describe as “numbers” were filling his head. The World Mirror was processing through a seemingly limitless amount of data, much like it did with the barrier earlier that day.

Even without the World Mirror, Adam could easily classify the barrier as phantonic, while this anomaly originating from Muraco was chaonic.

The differences showed as Adam’s head felt like it was burning. In fact, he noticed that his eyes, ears, and mouth had begun to bleed from the strain of analyzing the values from Muraco’s strange “Ability”.

Adam then felt calm. He took notice of the color of the mist, believing that it seemed familiar to him. The next thing he noticed were cracks that seemed to appear within it, despite it not being solid.

With a final burst of energy, the World Mirror shattered the illusion apart.

Adam collapsed onto his knees, breathing heavily. His own blood dripped down, covering the floor that the fake blood was located moments prior.

“T-There… I know it usually wears off on its own, but this time… I forced it to disappear. I can feel it… I… think I can face the source now.” Adam looked up. “Muraco! Let me see if I can—”

Muraco was still sound asleep. Adam was certain that, despite being under the illusion, he would have made enough noise with his Ability to wake the rabbit up. However, looking around, Adam realized something.

Everyone was now asleep. Jerry remained in his chair—his head now resting on his laptop. Thomas and Travis were also passed out in their chairs, appearing to have fallen asleep suddenly.

“W-What the…? Did I do something…? No—what’s causing this!?”

Thin crimson strings of energy began to flow out of Muraco’s body. Adam wiped the blood away from his eyes, focusing on the phenomenon in front of him.

“Now what…?”

“You…” A deep voice began to echo from the energy, now concentrating into a tiny sphere floating above Muraco. “You were able to detect my existence for some time… and now you can break through…?”

“So I was right. The freaky-ass visions were coming from him. More specifically, whatever the hell you’re supposed to be.”

“Heh… I am but an insignificant little being, forged from the hell that this one suffered all those years ago. You humans sure love to cause pain and suffering for everything, don’t you?”

“I can agree with you on that. The opposite can also be true, however.”

“Oh? For the few hundred years I’ve existed, I haven’t seen anything to prove that.”

“Well, you need to open your eyes, then. If you have any, that is.” Adam smirked.

“Cocky little brat… aren’t you? Your name is Adam, correct? My name… well, there’s a name I would like to call myself, but it’s going to take me several millennia for me to achieve that level.”

“Huh? What level would that be?”

“The level of a god, of course. Based on what I am able to do with my powers, I figured I’d call myself ‘Phobos’.”

“Really? I mean, I guess I’ve been afraid of what I’ve seen. Why were you targeting me, specifically?”

“I wasn’t. Your mysterious power seemed to hone in on my own, and it automatically triggered those visions. Unbelievable. I was hoping once this one perished one day, I’d crawl off and go into hiding until I built my strength up. Now that you know of my existence… I have no choice but to fight.”

Adam sighed. “You noticed I was about to use my Ability on Muraco. The plan was to use these values I just obtained to scan for you, and drag you out. Yet, who said anything about fighting?”

“I won’t let any human get in my way… I will survive until I obtain the power necessary to rid this planet of you foul beasts!”

“Could Muraco’s resentment of humans originate from this thing…? Adam scratched his head. “Listen, it doesn’t have to be like that. As I said, open your eyes. This world may be filled with shit, but you simply have to surround yourself with things that aren’t shit. Trust me, there are things you wouldn’t want to destroy if you just take a second to look!”

“Heh… Logic states that I, the weaker one, should listen to you, the stronger one. Yet, my very existence originates from the destruction humans cause. My task is clear.”

“Taking you’re some kind of chaonic entity, I’m not blaming you for your lack of education. So, let me spell it out for you—” Adam took a step forward, stomping the ground. “Your origin doesn’t mean shit! Do what you want to do with the existence you have!”

Phobos cackled. “You’re still trying to persuade me, despite knowing exactly what I am? What an interesting creature you are.” The red energy expanded, increasing in ferocity.

“So you’re just going to fight back?” Adam clenched his fist, building up power in his right arm. “Oh well. I gave you the option to reconsider.”

“I thank you for that. But I’ve made my decision. Whether it’s the correct choice or not, I will follow my nature till the end.”

“It’s building up a decent amount of strength. I can tell though… One quick strike to the center, and it should fall apart.”

“Let’s see if I’m worthy enough to become a god!” Phobos moved forward. Adam wound up his arm, ready to smash it to pieces.

As quickly as it had formed, Phobos was destroyed.

This was not done by Adam.

A mysterious force seemed to erase Phobos from existence, occurring before Adam could come close to making contact himself.

“Wha…!?”

It was then Adam realized that Jerry and the other members of Twine were not knocked out by Phobos’ presence. There were phantons that had become visible to him, which were simply masked by the chaonic energy from the being.

Trying to locate the source, Adam kept his guard raised, unsure if the unknown power would strike again.

“Was it these phantons that caused it…? No, I would have noticed them if they were the ones to do it in. Where did…”

The room began to glow an eerie green color. Adam, having terror running through him, finally turned toward the stairs.

An emerald figure with blue vein-like structures glowing within it stood before him. The featureless clapped its hands together, giving off a sense of glee that Adam could somehow pick up.

“Oh—I’ve been waiting to meet you, Adam Grayson.”

“Who… What…” Adam took a step back, unable to comprehend the appearance of another new being. “What are you…?”

“Oh—Questions right off the bat? That’s to be expected. I think you’ve earned a few answers, from what I’ve seen recently.”

Adam leaned forward. “First, before you say anything else. Are you good, or are you evil?”

“Oh—Concerned are we? That’s also to be expected. Don’t worry—as I am right now—I am but a simple spectator. Although, a spectator wouldn’t jump onto the field and destroy one of the players like I just did.” The being shrugged. “Oh—It doesn’t matter. That thing wasn’t special—although it did bring up some interesting things when you spoke to it.”

“You know—if you’re the one who knocked out my friends, I can easily classify you as an enemy. Why should I listen to what you have to say, if that’s the case?”

“Oh—You make quite a lot of good points. Although, the answer to that is quite simple—” The being rose its arms.

“I’m a treasure chest filled with not only answers, but the power the change the course of this story you’ve embarked on. How about it—want to get to know me, Adam Grayson?”


Next: Chapter 2.21

Previous: Chapter 2.19

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.19

“Hi, I’m Lucy!” Lucy greeted the red-haired father and son as Adam’s group entered Twine’s basement. “I’m a ghost! Watch!” She leaped up into the air, casually floating around.

“S-So you found her in that room…?” Jerry asked.

“Yep. She’s quite energetic for someone who’s dead.” Adam noted.

“Hey—being dead has nothing to do with that? You’ve known me for a while now.” Charlotte stated.

“And up until recently, you’ve had to sleep most of the time. Your point?”

“Fine, fine!” Charlotte pouted.

“Anyway, this is quite fascinating!” Thomas’ eyes lit up. “She’s not an Ouderkirk, yet she has a stable form that could be compared to you, Charlotte! How did all of this happen!?”

“I can explain it all to you.” Charlotte answered. “Adam, you should go take a look—” She pointed toward the area with the beds. “See?”

Adam turned around, seeing Roger and Roy sitting on each side of Emma, who was now awake. She looked exhausted, yet she was still smiling as she conversed with the two.

“Emma, you’re okay!?” Adam ran up to her.

“Adam…? What are you doing here? Yeah… I’m okay.” Emma stood up slowly, taking care not to fall over.

Roy stood up. “Come on, Roger. Let’s go see if we can be useful at all over at the computers. I doubt I will be, but you probably will.”

“Hah… Don’t sell yourself short, Roy.” Roger followed him, moving away from the beds.

Adam watched them leave, then turned back to Emma. “Do… Do you remember what happened? It was explained to me, but I want to hear how you experienced it.”

“Right… Well, I can’t remember much of anything. My head got all fuzzy, and then… everything went black. When I came to, I was here. And my entire body ached.” Emma looked at the floor. “These guys have already told me the details… I…”

“What is it?”

“Just… Why? Why did they have to use my spine for something like that? I… attacked everyone? Seriously… like, what the hell? I would have much rather preferred to not have my spine fixed if this was the result!”

“Emma…”

“The Miracle Girl?” Tears began to roll down Emma’s face. “I always knew that nickname was just full of horse shit! I’m a freaking curse!”

“Nicknames are stupid, don’t worry about that.” Adam poked Emma’s forehead. “And don’t worry about anything, as a matter of fact. Once I learn how to master my power, I’m diving headfirst into everything, and putting an end to all of this nonsense.”

“You…” Emma snickered. “That’s just like you. You’re… You’re right. I need to grow stronger so I can help.”

“I’d say not to push yourself, but you’re going to get involved regardless, aren’t you? You won’t let this get in the way. That spine initially didn’t stop you, so why should you let this?”

“I mean… this could be a lot more serious than my mobility, but I guess you’re right?” Emma giggled. “You’re weird.”

“I’ve always been weird. Look at all the people I hang around with.” Adam chuckled, patting Emma on the shoulder. “Lie back down, for now. Rest up. That program these guys have made will keep that green nonsense out of you.”

“I… sure hope it does.” Emma did as she was told, making herself comfy on the bed. “I just… want my mom and sister, to be honest.”

“They’ll be back soon. Unfortunately, Unity will most likely catch a whiff of what we’ve been doing at that point. So we’re going to have a lot of decision-making to do.”

“What… are we going to do? We can’t face all of Unity… and… what if they make those guys fight us?”

“They won’t fight us. I won’t let anything like that happen. As I said, don’t worry about anything.” Adam assured her.

“I… will probably still worry. But I’ll trust you. Just… don’t get hurt, all right?”

“Too late for that…” Adam laughed awkwardly. “But, I’ll try my best from this point forward.”

“Oh… okay…” Emma frowned, closing her eyes. Despite her worry, her body’s fatigue forced her asleep in seconds.

Adam walked out into the main area of the large room, but was stopped by Muraco who was standing near the stairs.

“That’s quite the promise. You think you can keep it?” The rabbit asked him.

“I have no choice. I have to keep it, no matter what.”

“Yeah? Well, I’d feel bad if we upset the girl—or even worse—put her in danger. Same goes for everyone here… so!” Muraco hopped right onto Adam’s back. “I’m going to help you keep that promise.”

“Thank you, mutant bunny who recently wanted to kill me. I appreciate it, I really do. And please ignore the sarcasm I put into that sentence.”

“Hey! I didn’t want to kill you! I just wanted to throw you into another world, where… you…All right, maybe I did want to kill you, in a way?”

“It’s fine. I have other things to worry about right now. One day though, we’ll have that fight, and I’ll win.”

“Hah! Foolish! Just like a typical human!”

“What’s ‘foolish’ is what you’re doing right now. Why are you on my back?”

“Oh, this? I wanted to stand on your shoulder, but I’m a little too big for that. So, I’ll be on your back, and just look over your shoulder like this to talk to you!”

“But why are you doing this? I mean, you’re not that heavy, but—”

“Just don’t worry about it! Onward, to the other side of the room!”

“I—” Adam sighed. “Fine, do what you want.”

“Haha! I’ll take advantage of that ‘not caring’ attitude you have!”

As Adam began to walk, he turned around hearing the sound of the desk opening above. Through the secret entrance, two men entered. One was Travis, while the other was an older dark-skinned man using a black cane to walk, which had a blue handle. His brown eyes, hidden behind black glasses, met Adam’s.

“Winona’s dad…? What are you doing here?” Adam asked him.

“You can just call me Cody, Adam. And I’m helping out Twine, of course! A group dedicated to messing up Unity? Of course I’ll do my part! For the sake of my back!”

“H-His back?” Muraco was confused.

“Well, that’s quite the peculiar creature there! Yes, tiny rabbit man! My back was injured in a battle a while ago. Due to that, I’m unable to fight properly. Yet, thanks to those bastards, I still have to chip in whenever I can using my Ability! Screw that! Cody wants some rest!”

“You still have to do things…?” Adam seemed angry at that statement.

“Yeah… Nothing too crazy, but every once in a while… like recently, for example. I had to help the Brown Suits with their investigation. Luckily, that gave me the perfect opportunity to help when the issue with Emma’s spine became reality.”

“He helped Thomas dispose of them!” Travis explained. “His Ability allows him to stick enemies to whatever surface he uses it on using a unique phantonic force. Thomas then uses some of the weapons he’s got stored to, well—”

“Vaporize them.” Cody continued. “We have no choice. Can’t leave any evidence behind.”

“I-I see…” Adam assumed their method involved something like that, but did not expect them to be so blunt about it.

“Whether that’s the ‘humane’ thing to do—we can’t really have that hold us back.” Travis sighed. “They’ve done enough damage as is… Perhaps once all of this is over, we can round-up the remaining clones and figure something out. I’m sure they won’t know what to do once we defeat the source of all of this.”

“The source of all of this…” Adam walked up to Cody. “I assume you know the situation we’re currently in?”

“I sure do! We’re in deep shit, kid.” Cody chuckled. “Even if we’re succeeding in sending them false information, that won’t matter once someone pops up in person. Usually, the Unity people stationed in Minuet like to drop by here, but thanks to—well—you apparently, they’re wrapped up in figuring out what happened to that barrier. It’s just a matter of time though before someone shows up. Most likely Rizzo, once the orientation is done.”

Oh, that’s right! You seemed to pull it off! What did you find inside!?” Travis asked enthusiastically.

“Well—” Adam turned to see where Lucy was, but was interrupted by her flying onto Adam’s back alongside Muraco.

“Bunny! I shall join you in taking control of Adam! You be the pilot in the left seat, and I’ll be the pilot in the right!”

“Hey, kid! There’s not enough room!” Muraco shouted, trying to push her off.

“N-No! Bunny has gone evil! I must defeat him!”

“Come on guys… Why are fighting on me!?” Adam groaned.

While Adam and Muraco were distracted by Lucy’s mischief, Travis and Cody looked horrified.

“C-Cody… that’s…!”

“I know… I know. What do we do in this situation…?”

“I was hoping you would know…! But, we should pretend we don’t know anything, for now…”

“Right… I’m not sure if it’s something that’s supposed to be known. Well, it isn’t normally, but I’m not sure under these circumstances…”

Adam was able to calm Lucy down, along with Muraco, who had been riled up as well. “Anyway, this is Lucy. Her body was apparently sealed down there, while her ghost has been wandering around Requiem for a while now. When she interacted with her body, it made her like this. Basically alive.”

“S-So… kind of like how Charlotte is? Except she’s not an Ouderkirk?” Travis tried to play it cool. “Lucy, do you remember anything…?”

“Hmm?” Lucy glanced at Travis. Now noticing her and Cody, she attempted to analyze them. Both of the men held their breath, knowing that this act alone could be dangerous.

“Just that my name’s Lucy! Can’t even remember my last name! My head feels all funny when I try to remember things…”

“I-I see…” Travis exhaled. “There must be a reasoning behind that.”

Charlotte, now done with her discussion with Jerry and Thomas, walked up to the group. “Yeah. We think to keep her current form stable, the majority of her memories had to be sacrificed.”

“Ah, I see! That makes sense…” Travis scratched his head. “Even forgetting your last name, huh…?”

“Yeah. If we knew that much, it would be a lot easier to dig up info on her. I’m assuming she’s related to the Night of the Half Moon in some way, considering where her body was stored. Think we could match the name ‘Lucy’ up with that and figure something out?” Adam asked.

“Sure—” Jerry nodded. “I can work on that—”

“How about I do it, Jerry?” Travis suggested. “You should continue helping your dad out with Block.”

“I mean, sure? It doesn’t really matter who looks it up.” Jerry seemed slightly confused at Travis’ behavior.

“Cody, w-wanna help me out?” Travis asked the man.

“S-Sure! No problem!” Cody followed Travis as they walked over to the computers.

Adam turned to Jerry. “What’s ‘Block’?”

“Oh, that’s what we’re calling the software we’re using. Pretty simple, but it gets the point across.” Jerry answered.

“I gotcha. Anyway—” Adam grabbed Lucy and Muraco, placing them on the floor. “Muraco, keep Lucy company. Anywhere that’s not my back.”

“Man, I sure am getting the short end of the carrot…” Muraco whined. Adam suddenly grabbed a hold of his ear.

“Was… Was that a pun…?”

“Yeah. Is there an issue…?”

“There is. I’m gonna let it slide, for now. You watch those puns…”

“O-Okay?” Muraco nervously escorted Lucy away from him. “Let’s go play a game, Lucy.”

“Hey, I love games!” Lucy cheered.

“Wonderful.” Muraco sighed.

Adam once again turned to Jerry, placing his arm around his friend.

“Huh? What’s up, Adam?”

“Travis and Cody. Those two know something about Lucy. They weren’t doing too well in hiding it.”

“Y-You think?” Jerry glanced over to the two now sitting at the computer desks. “That… could make sense. They’ve been here the entire time. Ever since the Night of the Half Moon, at least. My dad probably wouldn’t know, considering we moved here when I was little. That was years after the incident.”

“It happened about a week after I was born. Travis seemed to know my mom, so he’s been around. Cody obviously has been as well.”

Charlotte joined in on the conversation. “Should I possess one of them? See if I can get the info out of them?”

“Maybe. I’d rather not do that on our allies if we don’t have to. I’ll think about it.”

“It’s best we obtain any information as soon as we can. Considering what position we’re all in at the moment.” Charlotte suggested.

“Right…” Adam walked over to the large table, flopping down in the chair. Charlotte and Jerry followed him.

“What’s the matter?” Charlotte asked him.

“The situation we’re in, obviously. We have to figure out what to do… I feel like my World Mirror is our best bet. How, though? I’m not strong enough yet…”

“Don’t see yourself short, Adam.” Charlotte leaned against the table next to him. “You just made another major step in learning your Ability. Figure out how to apply what you did to the barrier to actual combat, and you’ll continue to grow even further.”

“That’s fine and everything, but we’re limited on time.”

“Well, think about it this way—” Jerry raised his finger. “Charlotte and Muraco are fighting alongside you, yeah? You’re all sharing your strength. It’s not just them, we’re all giving you strength, in our own ways. We can fill the gap in strength for the—”

“This isn’t emotional strength we’re talking about! These are enemies with actual power that could kill us! Sure—Charlotte, Muraco, and I together are pretty strong. But these guys… forget this weird group, Unity alone is dangerous enough. It’s run by a guy that nobody can touch! He has—from our point of view—absolute power! How are we supposed to mess with that!?”

“I’ve… I’ve had an idea for a while now. I could try to possess Rizzo… Make him drop his guard. I wasn’t too sure it would work to begin with, but now I’m really not sure… He could be connected to that weird thing in the Network.” Charlotte sighed.

“Right… Just, what do we do—”

Charlotte placed her hand on top of Adam’s head, and leaned in close to him. She was staring directly into his eyes, only a few inches away from his face.

“Wh-What are you doing, Charlotte…?”

She did not respond for a moment. Charlotte simply took in the calming gray within his eyes.

A smile then formed on her face. Although it was incredibly warming to see, Adam couldn’t help but notice her eyes seemed somewhat pained.

“Yeah… I see. Don’t worry, Adam. We’ll figure it out. We have things to fight for, after all.” Without another word, Charlotte walked over to where Muraco and Lucy were, sitting on the floor to see what they were up to.

Adam and Jerry were left utterly bewildered.

“…Adam, what was that?”

“…I-I’m not sure. I thought you would know…”


Next: Chapter 2.20

Previous: Chapter 2.18

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.18

About an hour later, Faith sat on the edge of a bed in the infirmary. She looked down at her hands, where her fingers were covered in bandages.

Liz walked up to her, showing that her entire right hand was wrapped up as well. “Your flames were really impressive, Faith! There’s still plenty of room for your control over them.”

“Yeah… It’s funny. Before, if I managed to get hurt by a flame, I would be freaking out looking at the wound. Now though… I’m a lot more at peace with myself.”

“It just shows how much you’ve grown! Listen, I’m sorry about going rough on you guys, but I—”

Liz was interrupted by loud snoring that began to echo throughout the room. Faith turned around, facing the bed next to her where Winona was resting. She was sound asleep, even bearing a grin on her face.

“She definitely tired herself out.” Faith giggled quietly. “Looks like she’s peaceful…” She looked toward the other side of the room, where Brandon was currently lying unconscious in a bed of his own. “Brandon on the other hand…”

He was giving off a grimace of pain, while Paul sat beside him with concern in his eyes. “This guy did way too much. Hopefully, he’ll feel better soon…”

Faith stood up and walked over next to Brandon. She leaned in close to get a better look at his condition. “Brandon… His breathing isn’t right…”

“Hey, don’t worry about him.” Liz placed her hand on Faith’s shoulder. “You know, you should be getting some rest as well. I’m surprised you’re not already knocked out.”

“Right… That’s probably a good idea.” Faith accepted Liz’s suggestion, flopping down on her own bed. She rolled over to face the ceiling, wanting to review everything that had happened that day, but couldn’t—her body wouldn’t let her. Faith’s eyelids slowly closed, and she was asleep in seconds.

 

Adam’s eyelids slowly opened, staring at the ceiling above him. It took him a moment, but he realized it was the ceiling to their room in the hotel. He rose, having his memories come back to him involving what occurred prior to this. As he remembered the tunnel, the barrier, and the girl he saved, Adam froze. There was something in front of him that required his attention.

He wanted to look away, but could not. A little girl stood on the bed a few feet in front of him. However, it couldn’t possibly be the girl he saved. This girl, this thing was utterly grotesque, a green slime oozing from her rotting body. She had no eyes or teeth—her mouth hanging wide open. A foul, rancid smell plagued Adam’s nostrils—he covered his nose, backing up and smacking his head on the wall behind him.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

Adam looked up a second time. The horrific sight was no more, and a normal, non-demonic girl now stood there. It quickly dawned on him that he knew this girl. She was not only the girl he saved from that strange void, but she happened to be the same one that he saw in Ann’s back when this all began.

“It’s… It’s you…?”

“Adam, what are you doing?” Charlotte walked over to the side of the bed, hands on her hips. “You’re gonna scare her.”

“You were in the store that night…”

“Huh?” Charlotte was curious as to what Adam was talking about. The girl has a questioning look as well, sitting down on the bed.

“Brown hair and eyes… pigtails… suspenders… Yeah, it’s gotta be you, from that night! Charlotte—she’s the girl I was talking about!”

“Wait—for real!? That one you said initially activated your World Mirror that night!? What kind of odds?”

“Um…” The girl wanted to speak. Adam and Charlotte turned to her. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, mister… But you saved me from that darkness—I know that much. So… T-Thank you!”

“I did…?” Adam looked down at his hand. “I’m not sure how I did… or if I did to begin with, but at least you’re safe, whoever you are.”

The girl grinned. “I’m Lucy!”

“Lucy, huh? Got a last name?”

“I… Um… I’m not sure. I can’t remember…”

“Are you serious…?” Adam sighed. “Not another one…”

“I think Lucy’s issues with her memories are a lot more justified in her case.” Charlotte stated.

Adam looked at her with curiosity on his face. “Huh? What’s that mean?”

“Well, she’s a ghost…” Charlotte gestured toward Lucy, who had started to float in mid-air.

“I know that from meeting her in the store—hey, be careful! Don’t go phasing through the ceiling!”

“I’m fine, I’m fine!” Lucy responded, laughing in enjoyment.

“Well—” Charlotte continued. “Lucy’s… I’m not sure how—or why—but she’s as strong as I am. She’s clearly not an Ouderkirk, yet she has enough power to keep her form without it dissipating.”

“What the hell…?” Adam glanced at the girl, now flying around the room pretending to be an airplane. “Was that the reason she was there in the basement…? No, that doesn’t make sense. I saw her way before we even knew about that room.”

“Muraco and I… have actually come up with a theory for that.” Charlotte said, her voice slightly cracking. “After all that energy vanished, you and Lucy emerged, both unconscious. Before we got out of there, we took a look in the coffin…”

Adam’s eyes widened. “Don’t tell me…!?”

“It wasn’t her body. Well—I should say—it no longer is. The chaonic energy had built up for so long, it turned her remains into dust…”

“Chaonic energy…? Yeah—I’d say it’s gotta be related to the Night of the Half Moon, for sure.”

“What exactly is the Night of the Half Moon? I can vaguely recall it from my investigation, but you’ve said it a few times now…”

“The Fisher family—” Adam began to explain. “They owned a farm not too far from here. An odd family from an outside perspective, but nothing too out of the ordinary. However, there was darkness there. Horrible darkness. They had molded their family into a cult over several years, performing various rituals and sacrifices to gain power…”

“Sacrifices…?”

“They would give birth to children merely to sacrifice them… It had something to do with the ‘purity’ of phantons within newborns, and that was vital to what they were attempting to accomplish.”

“Are you serious…?”

Adam nodded. “They got to the point though where they were incredibly weakened using this method. They got desperate, since they were so close to achieving their goal. So… they went on to kidnap local children. That’s how they ended up getting caught.”

“…Do you know what their goal was?”

“It was something chaonic—that much was obvious. Whatever it was… they did manage to create it, for a short amount of time. And in that time… it caused lots of damage. As well as… kill my mother.”

“Adam…” Charlotte tried to move the topic away from that. “Do… Do you think Lucy was one that was sacrificed? You said newborns, though…”

“That is odd—hey, Lucy.” Adam got the girl’s attention. She immediately flew over and landed on her feet. “Do you remember anything surrounding your death?”

“Adam! You can’t be so blunt! What if she isn’t aware that she’s—”

“Oh, it’s okay, Charlotte!” Lucy gave her a thumbs up. “I already know… and I’m sorry, but I don’t remember much about it…”

“That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” Adam stood up and patted Lucy’s head while walking by. She was silent for a moment, then giggled a little.

“What’s the plan, Adam?” Charlotte asked him.

Adam began to stretch. “Well, I guess we found out what was down there inside the barrier. I suppose… we can head back to Prelude and see if those guys can figure out Lucy’s background?”

“I think that’s probably our best bet right now. They should be able to uncover information that we would be unable to by ourselves.”  

“Lucy, do you want to go with us?” Adam asked, turning to her. “I’m… not really sure what you would do otherwise? But I think it would best to keep you safe, regardless.”

“Sure!” Lucy responded cheerfully. “I don’t know what I’d do either! I’m just here right now…”

“I was thinking…” Charlotte started to speak. “If I, an Ouderkirk, has issues with her memory, then I’d assume Lucy would have an even bigger issue. That is, if we take into account that phantons record memories and that memories have been erased to help keep our forms stabilized.”

“That could be a possibility… although, I’m assuming in your case there’s a lot more to it than just that. Considering the World Mirror, and everything…”

“Right…” Charlotte sighed. “I’m tired of not knowing anything.”

“I’m tired in general. But… we can’t let up. We have to keep going. We’ve got to get all this stuff figured out.” Adam clenched his fist. “Now, I’ve been wondering. Where the hell has Muraco been!?”

“He’s been—”

“I’m back!”

They turned toward the door, where Muraco hopped out from the shadows.

“Bunny! You’re back!” Lucy hopped at Muraco, grabbing a hold of his ears.

“H-Hey! Watch it! My ears are sensitive!”

“That’s good timing. I’ll ask you myself—Muraco, where have you been?”

“Charlotte didn’t get a chance to tell you anything? I’ve been keeping an eye on the activity around here ever since we busted that barrier.”

“Oh yeah? Did you see anyone?”

“Yeah… I sure did. Unity definitely found out. Brown Suits are starting to swarm into town. Think this could keep them away from Prelude?”

“It might… for a bit. We should get back as soon as we can.” Adam sat back down on the bed. “We’re sandwiched right now… We’ve got this group we have to worry about, as well as Unity. I’ll be honest… I want to take it all on myself. I don’t want anyone getting hurt… but…”

“We won’t let you do that,” Charlotte assured him. “We’re all in this together.”

“I know… That’s good though. Cause I certainly have no idea how I would do this on my own.”

“It’s all about teamwork!” Lucy cheered.

“Yeah…” Adam smiled softly. He glanced over at Muraco. “Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Huh? What is it?”

“For a third time, I’ve seen something freaky when you’re around. You say you don’t have an Ability like that, so I’ll trust you. But… Do you know why it’s been happening? Any clue?”

“Hmm…” Muraco pondered the question. “The only thing I can think of—an Ability that I don’t know I have? And it seems to only trigger for you, for some reason? Another World Mirror thing, perhaps?”

“That wouldn’t surprise me. This thing’s chock-full of mystery.” Adam shrugged. “Anyway, we ready to sneak outta here, Charlotte?”

“Yeah. I’ll phase deep underground, then we can move and pop up in Prelude without issue!”

“Y-You think that will have no issue? How can you tell where you’d be that far underground!?” Adam questioned with unease.

“Don’t worry, I got it.” Charlotte grinned, almost sinisterly.

“How…? How can you be sure we won’t end up caught in the dirt or anything? Charlotte? …Charlotte?”

Lucy ran up to Adam and grabbed his hand. “No need to worry! We just gotta wing it!”

“Y-You should be worried… You have your whole life ahead of—wait, no you don’t. Uh…”

Charlotte giggled, holding Lucy’s shoulder. “That’s something Adam would say, minus the enthusiasm. Isn’t that right?” She glanced at him. “Don’t worry so much. You always worry when there are others involved.”

“Muraco, say something?” Adam turned to look at the rabbit who was keeping his distance from the scene.

Muraco responded with a simple shrug.

Adam at that point could only sigh.

 

The man sat in his wooden chair in the shadows of the run-down building, holding his glass of whiskey with one hand and his head with the other. In the dimly lit part of the room opposite of him, a black mass floated slightly above the floor—it’s duck-face mask looking at the clearly stressed out person.

“Are you okay?” The figure asked him—voice eerily echoing against the worn-out walls.

“Of course not. I was convinced that the room was simply those bastards keeping information about that night locked up. A lot of things that happened are highly confidential, after all. But… that’s what was down there…?”

“It’s quite interesting… Not only did that man manipulate Unity to place that down there, but to go to such lengths… to make you suffer?”

The man chuckled. “That’s what it seems like. Even if we were to figure out how to capture this wandering key of ours, we would have had to face what was in that room for it to even be useable.”

“Then you should be thanking Adam. His Ability seemed to destroy the barrier without much of a commotion. The power needed normally—we concluded—would have brought that city of Minuet to ruin. I couldn’t even get inside using my phantom energy—it was quite the obstacle.”

“I don’t care about the how—all I care about is the result. Our key now has a stable form. Before anything else happens, we need to secure it.”

“Right, right.” The shadow cackled. “What’s our next move then, leader?”

“They’re returning to Prelude, it seems. Hmm… They’re lucky they have such an easy way to move around—it’s certainly helped us.”

“You’re talking about me, aren’t you? Oh, you don’t have to praise me. We’ve known each other for so long, after all.”

“I’ve told you, I still can’t trust that statement completely. Although, I’ll keep calling you Jason, for the time being.”

“Hey—I’m not even sure of it myself. So it’s only natural for you to have your doubts about my origin.”

“Anyway—regarding our next move. I think it’s about time we use her.”

“Oh!?” The figure seemed highly enthused. “Really!? We’re going all out!?”

“I think it’s the time to do so. Look at what these people have been doing. So many defiant characters running around—Rizzo won’t know which direction to focus on. His bullshit ‘reign’ will come crashing down soon enough. If not by us, then maybe this silly ‘Twine’ group can do it.”

“So you don’t want us to destroy them? It’s only natural you wouldn’t want to.”

“I don’t care. I just want the key in our possession. I can’t trust it with anyone else. The power that’s behind this seal… It has the power to change everything.”

The door to the room swung wide open, almost falling off its hinges. Carl casually strolled inside.

“It sure does! Sorry—I’ve been listening.”

“I know—I could sense you.” The man sighed. “How’s it going, Carl?”

“Well, I’m excited now! We can finally get things rolling!” Carl looked down at his hand. “We can gain the power we deserve.”

The shadow chuckled. “I can finally have a human body, at last. I’m sure you’d like your body back to normal, Carl.”

“It’s never going to be ‘normal’ again. Once it restores itself, I’ll be at an entirely new plane of existence. Not only will I have perfect control over chaons—like our leader over here—the entire concept of chaons can be thrown away.”

The man smirked. “You’re really confident in those body modifications of yours. Just make sure you save me a seat. I’ll arrive at that level soon enough.”

“Of course, my friend! I’m even surprised you would think that I could reach it before you do!”

“You have lots of potential. We all do… I called this group ‘Fangless’, after all. Ones who seemed to lack any sort of power—any sort of way to fight back. Now look at us—look at how much we’ve accumulated over the years.”

“And we can finally put it to use!” Carl laughed.

The man nodded, determination filling his brown eyes. “Carl. Jason. I’m not going to waste any more time. Begins preparations. We’re taking over Prelude.”


Next: Chapter 2.19

Previous: Chapter 2.17

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.17

As Charlie’s Metal Manipulation struggled against Brandon’s Shepherd Surge, a thought crossed his mind. “Even if he can make my metal magnetic—however he’s doing it—the raw power it takes to even overwrite the values I’ve put into it… Let alone—keep it going for this long…”

The electricity crept up the metal appendages, getting closer to him. Charlie couldn’t help but laugh.

“Jerry… What kind of people are you friends with?”

Brandon’s body finally caught up to what he was doing. The lightning broke and scattered apart, causing him to collapse on his knees.

“God… God damn… That took a lot out of me… That was-was-was-was-was…!”

Speaks flew from Brandon’s head. He screamed in agony, rolling onto the ground.

“Brandon…!? Hey! What’s wrong!?” Paul dashed over to his teammate, sliding next to him.

Charlie stepped onto the ground, forming all of the metal back into its original rapier shape. He leaned down, checking Brandon’s condition.

“I see… It seems if you overexert yourself, your own Ability can mess with your neuron activity. It’s probably been charging them up this entire time, considering how you’ve managed to avoid quite a lot of attacks.” Charlie looked up toward the ceiling. “Rizzo. Can we call it here? This kid’s shown me more than enough, and I don’t want to waste my time on Paul—someone who I already know is good—with the risk of this kid’s health.”

“It’s your call,” Rizzo responded over the microphone. “He was certainly far more impressive than I thought he would be, as well. If we work on those weaknesses of his, he’ll definitely be a powerful force for Unity.”

Charlie nodded. “Paul, help me lift him up. Let’s get him out of here. Those others are still fighting, after all. We don’t want to get mixed up in that mess.”

The two picked Brandon up and began to carry him. He had a blank expression on his face—the electricity having subsided for the time being. For some strange reason, Brandon—through what little he could currently process—swore he heard a young woman’s voice cry out to him.

“I’m… fine… mom… D-Don’t… worry…”

“Brandon…” Pam stared at the monitor in front of her, having no hesitation in showing how worried she was.

“Pamela—” Rizzo turned to her. “You shouldn’t worry about that boy. After all, don’t you have more important things to worry about?” He pointed to the monitor next to the one she was looking at.

Winona had grabbed Faith, attempting to move into the island area using dirt she was using for temporary flight. Liz had been able to teleport out of her attempt to corner her and take her down—which drained a lot of Winona’s stamina.

The dirt carrying the two couldn’t last, and they fell onto one of the tiny pieces of land that were scattered about on the body of water in the southeast corner of the room.

“Gah! Sorry, Faith… I can’t get us away—”

Liz appeared, kicking Winona away from Faith, crashing into the water nearby.

“You guys seem to be getting a handle on the distance I can do with each Teleleap. If I go beyond that limit, it’ll cause strain on my body. Even though she was trying to encase me in all of that rubble, her attack covered quite a wide area. So I had to leap quite far to get out of it.”

Faith unleashed flames from her body, attempting to wrap Liz in them. Of course, she was not quick enough. Liz appeared behind her, punching Faith before she could maneuver her flames to defend herself. She fell into the water with Winona.

Faith glanced down into the depths below, noticing Winona had already been swimming back up toward the surface. Winona gave her a grin, simultaneously holding her breath. They had a plan.

The two shot out of the water, startling Liz. Faith waved her arm fiercely, sending a wide wall of flames rushing at Liz. She teleported above, rattled by the sudden updraft the fire had created.

Although this distraction was brief, it gave Winona enough time to prepare for her move. She gathered the dirt particles she usually kept close by, forming a spiraling sandstorm above her. With a flick of her fingers, Winona sent it at Liz.

Liz had no choice but to use Teleleap once again. She moved back down near the water’s surface, attempting to search for a good angle to counterattack. Faith and Winona landed on the tiny island, the latter taking the opportunity to use her Ability on it.

The island rose, breaking apart from the mass of earth hidden underneath the waves. Liz—continuing to leap around—was astonished at the sight of Winona’s capabilities.

It was Faith’s turn. She manipulated her flames around the surface of the floating island, completely covering herself and Winona within the intense heat.

“What the…? Faith’s flame’s aren’t hurting Winona…?” Liz landed on another small island, staring in awe at the sight the two were creating.

“Good job, Faith!” Winona began to pant heavily. “Now… we have a good defense. All that’s left is…!”

“A finishing blow! Right…!” It was taking all of their focus and concentration to keep their combination going. Yet, they had, in fact, created something that Liz could not penetrate.

“I’ll drop the island into the lake! It’ll distract her, then we can go all-out, shooting dirt and flames from above until we hit her!”

“This is…” Faith tried to catch her breath. “Taking quite a lot out of us…”

“It’s all we can do right now…” Winona stated—the island now approaching the ceiling. “We’re out of her league. Besides, this is great practice for us…!”

Liz smirked, cracking her knuckles. “You two sure are impressive. Using up this much power would be foolish in an actual fight, but here… You’re really showing your stuff. You two have grown so much.” She giggled. “…however, your defense only takes into account the main factor of my Teleleap. There’s another thing it allows me to do…”

Clenching her fist, Liz jumped. She began teleporting quickly, almost entirely in place. She ascended, regardless, slowly picking up speed. Faith and Winona look down at her in fear.

“What is she going to do…?” Winona questioned.

“My Teleleap can build up momentum! Which means—”

With a swing of her fist, Liz ripped right through the island, smashing it into pieces. The two girls were bewildered at what just occurred.

“…I can charge up attacks like that!”

Faith’s flames diminished, while Liz prepared a second attack right away.

“Dammit!” Winona motioned the shattered earth around them, attempting to capture Liz in her movement. Instead of leaping all over the place, she used the same technique again—building up momentum by teleporting almost entirely in place. The stones striking at her were torn apart, unable to cause any damage.

“Win!” Faith shouted in terror, as Winona was grabbed by Liz. Using her Teleleap, she moved the two of them off toward the desert area. With her descent, Faith could only watch the event unfold. She crashed into the water a few moments later, not bothering to try to brace herself for the impact.

“If… If this was an actual fight… I would have just lost Winona. The enemy could have finished her off at that moment. No—not only that, but… if they wanted to, they could have finished me off…”

Faith glanced up, staring at the light shining from above.

“I’ve… I’ve let this fear get to me for too long. I need to keep moving forward. I need to continue to grow, and become strong enough so nothing like this actually happens…!”

With her resolve set, Faith put her hands close together.

 

“Are… Are you saying I can do that trick as well!?” Faith asked her mother during training a week prior.

“I don’t see why not? I was able to pull it off with my Ability. You seem capable of drawing out loads of power with your flames—that’s key.”

“It is…?” Faith looked down at her hands.

“Your father’s Ability could cause whatever he came in contact with to spin… It was due to his Ability, that I came up with the idea for this move—”

Opening the palm of her hand, Pam created several tiny spheres of steam. They spiraled intensely, showing the raw energy that was being placed within them.

“Roswell Sphere—one of my go-to techniques. If you want to, I can teach you the basic principles. As I can create and manipulate steam, you can create and manipulate fire. I’m sure it’ll help out with your control as well!”

“You based it off of how dad used his powers…? Then, I think it’s obvious.” Faith pumped herself up. “Please teach me, mom!”

“Heh…” Pam smirked, causing the tiny sphere to float off into the sky. “I’m sure your dad would be happy to hear that.”

 

“Focus it all into one area, Faith…” A flame formed in between her hands, slowly lighting up the darkness surrounding her. “Let the flame spin, like a mighty twister…”

Through her sheer willpower, Faith concentrated her Ability into a sphere of raging flames. She couldn’t help but grin at how much she’s been able to get it under control. Not only her Ability, Flame Witch, but the fear that had plagued her for so long.

“In no way have I perfected this yet, but that’s okay… All I need to do…” She moved her hands below her—the sphere exploding with massive ferocity.

Faith shot out of the water, basically making herself a rocket. The single burst had enough force to give her temporary flight—soaring her through the air. It wouldn’t last long, which is why she prepared a second one.

In the desert, Winona attempted to stand. Liz had been pacing around, taunting her.

“It sucks, doesn’t it? You’re in such a perfect area to unleash your Ability with full force, yet you’ve exhausted yourself. You can barely move a grain of sand, can’t you?”

“You…” Winona started laughing. “You’re really acting like a villain here, you know that?”

“That’s the role I’ve gotta play! You two need to be prepared for this sort of stuff in the future. You—”

Liz turned around, hearing a loud noise from behind. Faith had erupted her second Roswell Sphere, causing her to fly toward the desert area at incredible speed.

“You’ve still got some fight in you, Faith!?” Liz grin became crazed. “I like it! To honor your resolve, let me fight right back!”

Liz leaped at Faith, building up her momentum with her Ability. The two met in the air—Flare Witch and Teleleap colliding with one another. Liz had struck at the Roswell Sphere with the palm of her hand, having built up enough force to compete with it.

Faith noticed that Liz had still been teleporting in place, continuing to build up energy. She already had difficulty keeping the sphere’s shape in the first place. With this extra pressure, Faith had no clue how she was managing.

“Faith—tell me! Why do you want to join Unity?”

“Why…?” She could begin to feel her fingers singe from her own flames. “I… I want to become someone… Someone just like the person who has saved me in the past…!”

With all her might, Faith pushed forward—the Roswell Sphere exploding against Liz’s power.

“I’m going to become a hero!”


Next: Chapter 2.18

Previous: Chapter 2.16

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.16

Faith and Winona were on the field on the opposite side of the forest, with Liz standing before them. The ground was slightly lower than the area around it, indicating that the floor in the training room was not lowered.

“Faith, don’t you wonder what kind of technology they use to work this thing!?” Winona asked her.

“I do… Um… Before that though, can I ask you something, Win?”

“What is it?”

Liz crossed her arms, seemingly pouting. “I wanted to get started right away, but I guess I can let you two work out a quick strategy.”

“Thanks—” Faith turned back to Winona. “We… already have one. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about.”

“I was about to say. So, what’s up?”

“…I’ll be blunt. Why are you being so positive right now?”

Winona was silent for a moment, before letting out a heavy sigh. “Yeah. I figured you’d see through that.”

“You like to fight—I know that. But, considering everything right now… and especially what you told me happened last night.”

“You’re right. It doesn’t make sense. I kind of wanted to be positive for… Brandon’s sake, I guess?”

“That’s a good excuse.” Faith said without hesitation. “You’re usually quite cheerful, but when something bothers you, it’s easily noticeable.”

“I guess… for my own sake? Or… Cynthia’s…?”

 

“The previous evening, Winona was walking back from the restroom, heading to the room Faith and herself were staying in. On the way, she saw quite the familiar face.

“Cynthia! Hi! I thought you were out on a mission?”

“Hey, Sis… It’s orientation time, isn’t it? How are you holding up?”

“It’s fine so far. Brandon… got sort of messed up though. He’ll be all right, thankfully.”

“I see… it figures something would happen right off the bat.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s Unity, Win. Of course something would happen. Sounds a lot tamer than what happened during my orientation…”

“What happened…? You never told me.”

Cynthia snuggled up in her coat, which was clearly still too heavy to wear in the summertime. “Don’t worry about it. Just focus on what you have to do. And… try not to get hurt.”

“Cynthia… is everything okay? You’re still wearing that coat, as well…”

“I told you, I use it for training. I make wind flow down my legs, venting out all the heat—”

“No, that’s silly. I can tell you’re lying about that. What is it really for?”

“Winona… you shouldn’t be so blunt.” Cynthia sighed. “I just…”

“Just what?” Winona’s stance was firm—she was going to get to the bottom of her sister’s behavior.

“It’s just… cold. I hate the cold. No, I… I’m afraid of it…”

“Huh? Afraid of it? What do you—”

“I’ll talk to you about it when you become a legitimate Unity member.”

And with that, Cynthia walked right by her sister. Any sort of power Winona temporarily held on her was shattered—unable to figure out what to say.

Despite this, she quickly came up with the words she wanted to use.

“I love you, Cynthia…”

Cynthia stopped in her tracks. There was no movement, no sound. Just silence. The two sisters stood in the empty hallway back-to-back.  After what seemed like an eternity, Winona could have sworn she heard a sniffle.

“I love you too, Winona…”

As Winona turned toward her sister, Cynthia used her Ability to accelerate her body, moving out of sight in the blink of an eye.

“Cynthia…”

 

“Liz—” Winona stepped forward. “I’m not going to hold back.”

“Oh?” Liz beamed. “That’s what I like to hear!”

“Let’s do this, Faith.”

Faith walked up to her side, cracking her knuckles.

“Yeah!”

Before they began, the group heard a giant crash from behind them. Faith and Winona turned around, while Liz began to giggle.

“They already got started, it seems. Let’s not waste any more time!”

As Liz took the first step, Winona glanced back at her—sensing her movement. With a swift motion of her foot, the ground in front of Winona tore apart—rocks flying toward Liz.

Within a mere second, it seemed as though Winona had already landed the first blow with her Stone Rose Ability at its maximum power. Faith stared at her friend in utter amazement.

“That was—”

“That was fast, but—”

Liz had appeared behind Winona out of nowhere. Before either Faith or Winona could react, Liz grabbed ahold of Winona’s arm.

“You’ll have to be faster to beat my Teleleap!”

Jumping upward, Liz seemed to teleport herself and Winona multiple times, making progress toward the ceiling each time. She smashed her opponent into it with tremendous force—Faith not believing the amount of strength Liz had to pull off such a strike.

The dust settled, showing that Winona had taken the attack. Liz jumped back, slowly descending back toward the ground.

“Oh? You’re lucky that ceiling’s made of stone. You were able to change its properties at the last second.”

Winona stuck to the ceiling, now turned into a sandy surface. She had used it to cushion her from the blow while also keeping herself attached. Using her Ability, Winona formed four spears of stone on the side of her. She launched them with great speed at Liz, who seemed to use her own Ability to teleport out of the way. The spears struck each other, failing to make a blow.

Liz appeared back on the ground, brushing off the sand from her clothes. “Gotta be careful—don’t want you to manipulate the stuff that gets on my clothes—”

Feeling a sudden warmth, Liz turned toward Faith. Without hesitation, Faith had formed a mighty flame, which was heading directly for her. Once again, Teleleap was too quick, and managed to get Liz out of the way.

“I’m so proud of you, Faith! You’ve finally got those flames down!”

“Heh—thanks. It’s not as easy as it looks, though—”

Faith motioned her hands, like she was grabbing directly onto the flame. She whipped it at Liz, who evaded the move just as easily as before. Continuing to move the flame around, Faith attempted to strike Liz, yet was unable to, as she approached the girl cautiously with her Teleleap.

“Dammit! This flame is—”

“You’re putting too much effort into using your Ability, Faith.”

Liz had finally appeared behind Faith, holding onto her shoulder. Faith’s flame slowly diminished, while her fear took over.

“You’ve put so much focus into learning how to control your Ability, you’ve forgotten all that training you’ve done over the years. You know how to fight. An Ability shouldn’t slow you down.

Clenching her fist, flames erupted from Faith. Liz managed to teleport away from her just before she was caught.

“I know I’m focusing too much on my Ability.” Faith stated, as the flames surrounding her faded away. “That’s what I need to do right now. I’ll make sure I’ve got this Ability on a leash once I’m done with it!”

“You can form the flames around your body, huh?” Liz commented. “I’m gonna have to be careful making physical contact with—”

Liz teleported out of the way just in time, as a giant rock nearly missed crushing her.

“Winona’s back up to bat, huh?” Liz looked up toward the ceiling, expecting to see Winona sending a rainfall of stones down on her. Yet, she was not there. A second rock flew toward her—evading the technique for a second time helped Liz figured out Winona’s location.

“The city!?”

Winona stood in the window of one of the tall buildings. Using the stone from the structure, she shot toward Liz and Faith’s location. Multiple rocks were now heading directly at Liz.

“Damn, how’s her aim so good!?” Liz dodged the incoming stones, dancing around the field with her Teleleap. Thanks to her teammate’s accuracy, Faith took this time to move back while Liz remained preoccupied.

“I’m gonna have to leap over there to stop this. To think, she has this much strength with her Ability already!? It’s fine—I can use these rocks as stepping-stones, so the trip shouldn’t be too straining—”

A rock that had just missed Liz exploded, revealing Winona hidden inside.

“How did you…!?”

“Recklessness.”

Winona formed her hand into a fist. With that simple movement, all of the stone that she had scattered about gathered with lightning speed, striking Liz. The impact shook the entire room, knocking Winona and Faith off their feet.

 

“What… was that…?” Brandon stood up, having been knocked into the front of the mountain area. “Was I… Did I lose consciousness from that?” He looked at the trees in front of him, having been torn to shreds.

“I.. must have. It was only for a few moments I think, but… Dammit! I can’t keep getting tossed around like this!”

Paul suddenly appeared, flying directly toward him. Before they collided, Paul managed to do a flip in the air, barely missing his teammate. He even landed on his feet, with his eyes focused forward.

“Oh, good. You’re okay.” Paul sighed, both in relief and exhaustion. “Charlie’s giving me quite a lot of trouble.”

Before Brandon could ask how, Charlie emerged from the forest. He had wrapped the metal from his sword around his body, forming what appeared to be spider-like legs, which he was currently using to move around.

“Why the hell did you make your sword turn into that!?

“Why not? It helps me traverse through the trees easier. You should also be creative whenever you can—I believe.”

Charlie moved his hand, causing the legs to rise from the ground, proceeding to jab at Brandon and Paul. The two managed to avoid Charlie’s strikes—Brandon with his Shepherd Surge’s influence on his reaction time and Paul with his Sensory Swap.

As Charlie formed more legs, it was clear to them that they were becoming cornered quickly. The metal struck the ground multiple times, attempting to land a blow on them as they continued to evade. They moved into the mountainous terrain, using the stone surrounding them as cover.

Yet, Charlie easily slashed their defense apart, forcing them to continue to move. Brandon picked up a rock from the debris, and chucked it with great force. His aim was fantastic, flying directly at Charlie despite the commotion he was causing. It didn’t do much, as Charlie formed a slab of metal in front of himself with little effort.

“Brandon, I’m impressed, honestly. You have lots of strong points, yet you lack key fundamentals for surviving a fight!”

Charlie stabbed at the ground, focusing several legs on a single point. The impact was right in front of where Brandon was standing—the force sending him flying into a rock wall nearby.

Paul retaliated by jumping toward Charlie. As a leg aimed at him, Paul maneuvered in the air, landing on it. He slid on the leg, getting closer to Charlie himself. With simple manipulation, Charlie caused the leg to crumble apart, leaving Paul wide open.

With another leg heading right at him, Paul used his blade to smack the side of the appendage, moving him out of the way. Landing on the ground, he noticed Brandon moving out of the corner of his eye.

“There you go. You got back up already.”

As lighting shot of his body, Brandon dashed forward, flying by Paul and heading toward Charlie. Charlie sent more legs raining down on the boy, yet Brandon was capable of barely avoiding each and every one of them.

“Even if I’m in a place I know nothing about… I chose to be here. I have to keep moving forward!”

With a burst of powerful electricity, Brandon soared—kicking through several of Charlie’s metal legs with his power.

“I-I did it…! I did the thing again—” Brandon fell onto the ground, rolling multiple times due to losing his focus.

Despite losing several legs, Charlie restored them quickly, preventing him from falling over.

“I see… So that’s what you’re capable of.” Charlie smiled. “You’ve surpassed my expectations, honestly. Not bad, kid.” He raised all the metal around him, with the exception of two legs to keep his balance.

“I’ll be nice and let you turn in early, Brandon. As a veteran of the battlefield, I would feel bad for a newbie to deal with so much in one fight. I’ll be sure to keep testing Paul once you’re knocked out, though.”

Descending from above, Charlie aimed multiple legs directly at Brandon. Preparing to dodge, he quickly understood the gravity of the situation.

“They’re too fast… I can’t—”

By instinct, Brandon raised his hands in front of himself to guard against the attack. A surge of electricity erupted from them, blocking Charlie’s metal from coming into contact with him.

Paul cheered. “Nice, Brandon! See that, Charlie? Brandon’s not out of—”

Looking at his senior’s expression, Paul grew incredibly concerned.

“Charlie… Why does he look absolutely petrified?”

Charlie gulped—his eyes wide with fear.

“This entire time… I’ve taken into account his electricity. I changed the properties of the metal, to make sure it wouldn’t be magnetic. Yet… Brandon… How are you defying that…? How are you magnetizing my metal…!?”


Next: Chapter 2.17

Previous: Chapter 2.15

Table of Contents