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 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 spheres 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. Immediately, a third one was formed. 

“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… I… I can’t…”

“Huh? You can’t what? 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 quite well. 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…!?”

“I’m being reckless—that’s how.”

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 Switch.

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 lightning 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

Chapter 2.15

Meanwhile, Brandon and Paul entered the training room, ready for the challenge that awaited them. Faith and Winona were the only other ones in there, sitting on the floor discussing something. At the sight of the two coming in, Faith sprang up.

“Brandon! How are you doing!?”

“Much better!” Brandon grinned, giving Faith a thumbs up. “I’m ready for today!”

“That’s not what you just said to me.” Paul snickered. “Didn’t you say you were scared to death about this test—”

“Hush, you!” Brandon pressed his hand against Paul’s face, silencing him. Paul smacked Brandon’s hand away.

“That’s the second time you’ve done that today. Do you like touching mouths or something?”

“Only if it’s using my lips! Uh—a-and if it’s a girl’s of course. Uh…” Brandon groaned. “Dammit!”

“Glad to see you two are getting along.” Faith smiled, shaking her head in disbelief at the same time.

Winona stood, jumping up and down. “Are you guys excited!? This is going to be fun!”

“Fun!? No! Paul just said I’m scared to death!” Brandon whined.

“Interesting. Didn’t take you too long to give up on trying to hide it.” Paul noted.

The door off to the side swung open, with two people walking out into the room. The woman to the left almost had to duck down to avoid hitting her head, covered by long curly blonde hair. Her light blue eyes glanced toward the four as she gave them a grin. The man on the right gave off an opposite aura—his lazy hazel eyes were a part of his gloomy expression. He scratched his short unkempt red hair—which gave Brandon a sense of familiarity.

“Hey, kid—” The man pointed at him. “You’re Jerry’s friend, right?”

“Y-Yeah? How do you know Jerry?”

“He’s my nephew. The name’s Charlie Peck, and I’m gonna be the guy in charge of you and Paul from this point forward.” Charlie adjusted his Unity pin on his coat, which was sloppily put on.

“I-I didn’t know Jerry had family in Unity!?”

“Oh, yeah? Jerry never mentioned it to you?” Faith asked him.

“No, he didn’t. Odd, I figured that would be something that would surely come up in conversation.” Brandon pouted, clearly upset at the information his friend withheld from him.

“Eh, don’t sweat it. You should know that kid’s busy like his dumbass father.” Charlie chuckled. The tall woman next to him suddenly jolted her arm upward with great enthusiasm.

“Are we ready!? Young Faith Roswell! Young Winona Collins! Today’s the day!”

“I knew you’d be with us, Liz!” Faith cheered, as the girls ran up to her and gave her a hug.

“They know her?” Brandon asked Paul, who shrugged at his question.

“Beats me.”

Faith turned back to the two curious boys. “This is Elizabeth Rhodes. She’s worked with my mom quite a bit, and we’ve had training with her already. She’s great!”

“Aww, Faith—you sweetheart. Brandon, is it? I heard my husband took care of you yesterday?”

Brandon was silent, with a horrified look on his face.

“…T-Trevor’s not your husband, is he…?”

Liz burst out into laughter, almost falling onto the floor. “No! Jordan! My husband! He’s the doctor here! He healed you—that’s what I meant by ‘take care of’”

“Oh… That guy. Yeah, I think I was unconscious when he fixed me up. I never saw him.”

“That’s him for ya.” Liz sighed. “He’s a shy one, that guy.”

“So completely opposite of you, it seems…” Brandon murmured to himself.

“Anyway—” Liz pointed up toward the room above. “It’s time, everyone!”

Rizzo stood in the window, with Pam standing next to him. She gave an awkward wave down to them, as Rizzo prepared to speak.

“As Unity members with Abilities, you’ve been granted quite the honor to lead this organization into any obstacle we must overcome. That’s right—for events that call for it, you will be the first on the front lines. Unity mustn’t hold back against hostility of any kind. No hesitation to go all out—that’s one of Unity’s strongest points. Therefore—” Rizzo raised his hand, facing it downward toward the group below.

“You must learn how to fight to the fullest extent your Abilities will allow you to. Everyone—prepare to descend.”

“Huh? Descend!? Like, go down!? Get our asses kicked!? Wha—”

“Brandon, relax.” Faith put her hand on his shoulder to calm him down. She pointed at the floor below, which began to shake. After a moment, it began to descend.

“W-What’s happening!?”

“The floor acts as a sort of elevator,” Charlie answered. “Don’t know why they couldn’t just build a normal elevator, but this will go down right into—”

The walls surrounding them vanished, as they lowered into an even larger room, lit up like it was outside. Brandon was in awe at the sight he was witnessing—terrain of all varieties filling up his view. He couldn’t get a good enough look as the “elevator” came to a stop, merging with the floor below.

“Welcome to Unity’s true training grounds!” Liz blurted out.

“W-What…?” Brandon was clearly terrified at the sudden change of scenery. Luckily, Faith was there to calm him down.

“We landed in a forest section—as you can see.” Charlie waved his hand around, showing the group a wide variety of trees surrounding them, some even tropical.

“It’s more like a jungle…” Winona commented. “I can’t believe how natural it feels…”

“You’ve never been down here?” Brandon asked her.

“Nope. Only official Unity members are allowed to enter here.” Winona grinned. “So—you know what that means?”

“That’s right—” Rizzo’s voice echoed from a speaker from somewhere in the large room. “You can now consider yourself legitimate Unity members. Congratulations.”

“W-Where is he!?” Brandon looked around in a panic.

“We have monitors up here that allow us to view what transpires down there. Not to worry, Mr. Shepherd. I’ll keep my eye on you.”

“That’s… creepy.” Brandon laughed nervously.

“Let me give you kids a rundown of what’s going on here—” Charlie began to pace around them. “This room is divided into several different sectors. We have the forest—or jungle—sector that cuts right through the middle of the room horizontally. The floor in the other room can also descend down here, as you’ll probably be able to tell.”

“…Who designed this place!?” Brandon sighed. “It’s freaking weird…”

“The northwest sector is mountains, northeast is a city—with some basic buildings, southeast is an ocean with various islands, and the southwest is a desert.”

“How!?” Brandon shouted. “Just how do you design it like this!?”

“Don’t underestimate the capabilities of Unity, Mr. Shepherd,” Rizzo responded to him ominously through the speaker.   

“Anyway, your objective is quite simple.” Charlie stretched his arms. “Brandon and Paul are against me, while Faith and Winona are against Liz. We fight.”

“…Until we die, or something!? You gotta be more specific than that!”

“You’re quite the character, Brandon.” Charlie groaned. “No—not until you die. We’ll stop as soon as Liz and I are satisfied with the fight. We’re getting a gauge on your Abilities, teamwork capabilities—that sort of stuff.”

“Oh, all right…” Brandon forced a smile onto his face. “Well—I’m still nervous when it comes to all of this, but I have to give this a shot, isn’t that right?”

“Don’t worry—I’ll try not to damage you as much as Trevor.” Charlie snickered, pulling out a Core from his pocket.

“W-Wait, isn’t that—”

“Faith, Winona.” Liz beckoned the two of them. “We’re gonna start in the other area. Gotta give each team their proper space.”

“Gotcha.” Faith nodded in agreement. Winona was the first one to move—following Liz toward the trees. She turned and waved back.

“Good luck, Brandon! Don’t stress over this too much!”

“R-Right…”

Before she took off, Faith placed her hands on his shoulders, looking him directly in the eye.

“Brandon. We’re doing this for Adam, remember? Not just him… For everyone. And… ourselves. We have to become strong, right?”

“Y-Yeah…” Brandon was now distracted—not from Faith’s words—but from how close she currently was from his face. Although getting past that, her words did finally sink in. “Let’s do this thing…!”

Faith grinned, nodding her head. “Yeah!”

She let go of Brandon, dashing off behind Winona and Liz toward their battleground.

With Faith’s departure, Brandon’s sense of comfort also left. For the first time since arriving at Unity, he felt truly alone.

“Alone…”

He glanced at Paul, who gave him a smile.

“You ready, Brandon?”

“I…”

A flash of blue interrupted him. The two turned toward Charlie, who had formed a silver-colored rapier from the Core.

“Don’t worry, you guys. I’ll make it dull so it won’t pierce through you.”

“Make it dull…? It looks pretty freaking sharp to me.” Brandon noticed.

I said—don’t worry, Brandon. I can see you’re going to be quite a handful…”

Brandon took another look at Paul. Although he was there on his side, the loneliness couldn’t be shaken off.

“I… Paul… He’s still new to me. This… I don’t know. It would be less scary if I had someone with me that I knew. Faith and Winona left though… It’s just me, right now. Until I get familiar with these two, it’s just me.” A thought crosses Brandon’s mind, which made him feel even more uneasy.

“Adam… Is this how you felt? When none of us could be with you… Honestly, I’ve never felt like this. Even when I was playing soccer, or another sport… I never had this sense of emptiness. What is…”

“Brandon, you ready!?” Paul shouted, which snapped Brandon back to reality. Paul reached into his pocket and pulled out a Core of his own.

“Huh?”

“Just do whatever feels right! I’ll take charge! Don’t sweat it!” Paul activated his Core, which transformed into a silver scimitar. “Here we go, Charlie. A generic Core Weapon—my go-to. Strange… shouldn’t you have a custom one made?”

“I should—you’re right,” Charlie smirked, waving his blade around. “Although, it’s not really necessary for me. After all… this can form into whatever I want!”

Charlie pointed the rapier at Paul. It expanded—shooting directly toward him. Paul swiftly blocked the jab with his weapon, although it pushed him back a few feet.

Brandon was in awe. “W-What the hell just happened!? Does he have some sort of superweapon!?”

“No—no need for that sort of thing.” Charlie retracted his weapon, pointing it at the ground. “My Ability is ‘Metal Manipulation’. It gets the point across, doesn’t it? Along with that—phantonite already reacts to phantons as is. Along with my Ability, I can make it quite versatile.”

“Really, dude?” Brandon shook his head. “You could call it anything, yet you choose something boring like that?” He stood his ground—forming electricity around his body. “Say hello to Shepherd Surge. Once I figure out this Unity crap, it’s over for all of you!”

“What? Is your goal to fight everyone in Unity or something?” Charlie asked.

“Nah, just Rizzo—hi Rizzo!” Brandon waved up at the ceiling, assuming Rizzo was still listening in on them. “But if anyone wants to get in my way, I’ll fight them too!”

“I get it…” Charlie sighed. “You’re one of those people. Someone who wants to reform Unity. I think that’s what you’re getting at? If that’s what you’re thinking…” He raised his sword, now pointing it toward Brandon.

“Just give up.”

The blade once again extended, now aiming at Brandon. With his quick reflexes granted to him by his Ability, Brandon managed to maneuver his head out of the way just in time. Yet, the attack wasn’t over. The rapier’s shape changed—curling around Brandon’s body like it was a metal whip.

“What the—”

“See ya, kid.”

Charlie whipped the blade to the left, releasing Brandon and sending him rocketing into the forest toward the mountain area. Branches and bark from the trees scattered about, almost pelting Paul with a hail of wood. He seemed to have no trouble evading all the debris, however.

“Now that the new kid’s out of the way for the time being—” Charlie started walking toward Paul, his blade slithering around like a snake. “Let’s test how you are, by yourself.”

Paul grinned, closing his eyes and pointing his own weapon at Charlie.

“You think I’m going to let what you just did to my teammate slide?”


Next: Chapter 2.16

Previous: Chapter 2.14

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.14

The reflective properties of the sphere and the World Mirror collided, kicking up powerful gales throughout the tunnel. Charlotte and Muraco jumped back, trying to keep their distance from the ferocious energy clashing in front of them.

“H-He’s doing it!” Muraco cheered. “Just what the hell is his power?”

“That’s one of the things we’re trying to figure out…” Charlotte said, letting the calming aura from Adam drift her off into her thoughts.

“When he got upset in the cafeteria… The energy he created that cracked the walls… This doesn’t feel like that.”

Adam kept his focus on his hand—making sure to keep it pressed against the barrier. He noticed the sphere’s energy began to gather around it, attempting to push him back. For a moment, he wondered if this was a perfect opportunity for Charlotte and Muraco to try to attack from the other side. Feeling the energy he was facing, Adam concluded that this was something he should handle himself.

He could see it—the flowing power of the barrier. A moment passed before Adam realized that he could also feel it. A sense of discomfort came over him—noticing that something had been entering his brain.

Trying his best to think about what was happening while simultaneously using his Ability, Adam figured it out. He could simply describe it as ‘variables’ or some form of ‘data’ processing inside his head. The World Mirror’s ‘reflection’ seemed to have more than one definition. It reflected powers it came into contact with—yes—but in order to do that, it must also ‘reflect’ on how the opposing force operates.   

Adam was beginning to understand the properties of the barrier. He could not put into words how it worked, but it did not matter. The World Mirror was taking care of analyzing the values that were presented to it, and Adam responded with what it had learned.

Something else was beginning to occur. As the barrier was unable to be reflected at the moment, the World Mirror’s energy began to leak out of Adam’s hand, forming around the sphere.

“What’s happening now!?” Muraco asked astonished.

The World Mirror merged with the barrier—now a spiraling mess of white and blue. Adam—with his now broken hand—pushed with all his might. With his strength, he smashed through the barrier.

It took a few seconds for it to register. Once the barrier realized what had happened, it was too late. It shattered into thousands of tiny blue pieces, consumed by the white energy of the World Mirror. From Charlotte and Muraco’s perspective, Adam’s Ability had literally pierced through the darkness.

Before he could view what was inside, Adam collapsed onto his knees, held up by his left hand.   

“Adam!” Charlotte rushed to his side, making sure he was okay. Muraco quickly followed, yet kept his attention forward, using his ears to scout out what they had potentially just uncovered.

“I don’t hear anything…” Muraco attempted to brush away dust that had flown into his face from the resulting collapse.

Adam stood back up, attempting the channel his power into his hand to heal it. “I actually pulled it off. Unfortunately, that was a lot louder than I hoped it would be. So, we better make this quick.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get us out of here as soon as we check the contents,” Charlotte assured him. She faced forward, as the three patiently awaited the dust to settle. Adam’s eyes, however, were already focusing in on something.

“Red… What is that red aura?”

“Huh? Red?” Charlotte focused her senses to the best of her ability. She quickly felt what Adam had been seeing. “This is…!”

A tiny, black coffin came into view. This was the only thing that had been hidden inside the barrier—resting within the darkness.

“It… has such foul energy,” Charlotte commented, feeling sick to her stomach.

“Red…” Adam gritted his teeth. “Yeah. I assume this has to be chaonic energy… It would make sense. That’s usually red…”

“So, you can see that kind of energy as well?” Muraco asked. “It’s not visible to the naked eye either… at least not in this state. Actually, can it be visible?”

“It operates the same way as phantons, in that regard. Usually invisible, but can be seen if enough energy has gathered. It seems… calm, for chaonic energy. Everything I’ve read about it, it’s usually quite chaotic.”

“Chaos… Is that where it gets its name?” Charlotte questioned.

“Chaons? Yeah. There was a little sentence we used in school to remember it: If they’re chaotic, they’re chaonic.” Adam chuckled. “So stupid. But it gets the point across.”

“Regardless, this is a coffin… hidden behind quite the powerful barrier. Is… is this the seal? Is something sealed inside that coffin that shouldn’t be unleashed?” Charlotte formed a new, normal-sized sword, pointing it forward.

“Jerry and the others don’t think it is. Obviously, there’s still something quite freaky inside there.” Adam sighed, cracking his knuckles. “Well, we don’t wanna leave empty-handed. Let’s break it open.”

“W-Wait!” Muraco shouted. “Aren’t you supposed to respect coffins!? They hold your dead, correct? A-And if there’s something chaonic in there—”

“All the more reason to break in. I don’t want someone having to suffer through something like that. Chaons are toxic to people, after all.”

“I-I mean… they would be dead, anyway, right?”

“You were literally just talking about respect seconds ago, hero.”

“Hey! Listen—”

“Will you two stop?” Charlotte held her head in frustration. “Let’s just—”

Adam let out a gasp. He watched as a blue streak of light swept across his vision, knocking the top of the coffin clean off. Before they could do anything, a burst of visible, crimson energy shot out into the open. Although it was only slightly larger than the coffin it originated from, they could feel the pure animosity that had just been awakened.

“W-What the!?” Adam raised his hands in time, as a wave of energy blasted him into the wall on the other side of the tunnel.

“Adam!” As Charlotte reacted to the attack on her friend, a second wave was aiming directly at her.

“Charlotte!” Muraco managed to lightly kick Charlotte out of the way before she was hit. A third attack was now heading toward him, which he was now prepared for. He jumped out of the way as multiple blasts of power emerged from the crimson mass, focusing on him. With great reflexes, Muraco managed to evade all of them. They kept on going, however, and collided with Adam.

“Shit! Adam, are you okay—”

Adam jumped out of the impact site, keeping his body safe with the World Mirror’s aura surrounding him. “Yeah, peachy.” Even though his guard was flawless, he was unable to use the reflective properties he had just discovered on the chaonic energy. His body felt the sting of the power, as it quickly patched up any harm the attack did end up doing.

Charlotte, now wholly focused, slashed at the waves of energy that had continued to volley the trio. Adam ran ahead, swatting at whatever attacks he could come into contact with. Muraco sharpened his scarf with his Ability, extending it and striking back as well.

It seemed like the attack would not stop—none of them could even attempt to counter it—simply fend it off and defend themselves.

The blue streak once again appeared, this time forming around the crimson aura like it was attempting to bind it. It had finally become visible to Charlotte and Muraco as well, gathering massive amounts of energy from seemingly nowhere. After a brief struggle, the blue tried to begin merging into the red.

“This is…” Charlotte analyzed the situation, sensing exactly how the two powers were operating.

“What is it?” Adam asked, keeping his guard raised in case of another attack.

“The blue energy… It’s giving off similar properties to a possession. Is that what it’s trying to do…?”

“Possess…? Why?” Adam watched as his eyes gave him a clear view of the phenomenon at much greater detail than Charlotte and Muraco were seeing.

The red was now fighting back with great ferocity. Waves of red and blue were now scattering around the room, tearing the walls to shreds. If no one had heard Adam bust through the barrier, it was likely that they would now be hearing this event occur.

“What do we do!?” Muraco asked, holding his ears in front of his face to guard himself.

“I’m trying to think!” Charlotte shouted, using a shield to block the flurry of energy. “Adam, do you have any ideas!?”

“I…” Adam tried to contemplate a plan but lost his focus when he heard something. An odd noise was coming from ahead, muffled by the loud clash of powers. “Do you guys… hear that?”

“Hear what?” Charlotte asked.

“I don’t hear anything except this loud nonsense!” Muraco yelled.

“Even Muraco can’t hear it…? What is—”

“…lp.”

“Huh?” Adam began to make out what the noise was.

“..lp. He… help…”

It was a voice. A tiny one—perhaps of a small child?

“There’s… someone in there.”

“Someone? Who?” Charlotte questioned.

Adam stepped forward. It was a voice, clearly asking for help. That alone made his feet move. Yet, there was something about this voice, something about it—despite it not being familiar to him—that made him come to the conclusion that he had to save whoever it was, no matter the cost.

“Adam? What are you doing!? Get back—”

As a red strike of energy struck his body, it was repelled off by the World Mirror’s aura. Adam walked ahead in a trance-like state, with his Ability keeping him safe, almost as if it was operating on its own.

Charlotte and Muraco watched in astonishment as continuous waves of red and blue were unable to phase the boy. Each step he took was absolute—there was nothing that could stop him. Eventually, he reached the actual source of the powers.

Without hesitation, Adam walked right into the epicenter of it all.

“Adam!” Charlotte’s shout was the last thing he heard before his vision faded to black.

 

My body felt like it was on fire.

I, for whatever reason, walked right into that mess that had formed in that room

The voice that had called out to me, the one asking for help, drew me in.

Now that I was inside, I could not see anything.

Did I make a mistake? Did I just foolishly throw my life away like that?

It wasn’t the first time I attempted that…

Before I got caught up in my dark thoughts, something came into my view.

It was a figure of pure white—casting its beautiful light through the darkness.

At first, I thought it was tiny due to me being far away from it. Upon getting closer, however, I realize that it was simply tiny in general.

A little girl… She seemed familiar to me. Although, in her current form, it was hard to make out any distinguishable features.

“Hey. Who are you?” I asked.

No response. She was just standing there. If I hadn’t gotten used to all the weird shit that had happened to me over the past month, I would consider it kind of creepy.

I attempted to ask her again, yet was stopped.

It was like the darkness had picked her up, grabbing her from above.

I tried to move—to save her—yet I was swept away by the same darkness.

Yeah… I could describe it like an invisible hand had snatched her, while an invisible tsunami had knocked me away.

The tsunami part seemed accurate—it honestly felt like I was drowning.

“World Mirror. I had to use the World Mirror!” I kept thinking to myself.

Struggling, I managed to get the World Mirror’s calming glow out of me.

Now what?

I couldn’t force my way through nothingness, let alone use the reflective powers I had just discovered.

Nothingness… Yeah. That’s what it was.

Somehow, nothingness was causing this to happen.

The girl drifted further and further away from me.

I had to do something.

Reaching out my hand, I struggled harder than I ever struggled to grab her.

I don’t know why. The place seemed to defy time and space. She could be light-years away from me at this point.

Regardless, I still tried.

As I said, the place seemed to defy time and space. I had no clue how long it felt like, but it seemed like my attempt to catch her took years.

Eventually, the World Mirror wasn’t having any of it.

Yeah. It seemed like the World Mirror literally fell out of my hand—disappearing into the shadows.

I had nothing now. My Ability—rather—the Ability that I called my own Ability, had vanished.

What was left?

I’m not sure.

To be honest, I’m not sure to this day, my fellow past self.

Although, I had something.

My hand moved on its own—and with that simple wave—I shattered nothing. That unknown something literally destroyed the entire concept of nothing.

It doesn’t make sense—I know—but that’s the best way I could describe it.

After defying the time and space inside that ‘dimension,’ I guess I could call it, I had finally lost consciousness.

That was okay, though. Not only did I recover the World Mirror as quickly as it left me, but I had also saved that girl.

However…

Adam, listen…

I’m sorry about the events that happen next.


Next: Chapter 2.15

Previous: Chapter 2.13

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.13

Brandon awoke the next day, still in the infirmary. The first thing he noticed was that his body felt completely fine compared to the day prior. Shifting himself to the left, his gaze caught a young man sitting next to him. Paul noticed Brandon waking up and waved.

“Yo. Sleep well?”

“Huh? Paul? What are you doing here?”

“I usually get up pretty early. Normally, you were supposed to room with me, but they wanted to keep you here. I got lonely pretty quickly, so I figured I’d drop by.” Paul had a knife in his hand and an apple in the opposite. He was in the process of cutting it up into slices for Brandon.

“Uh, y-you don’t have to do that.” Brandon laughed awkwardly.

“Nah, it’s fine. It was sitting here after all. I hate apples, but I feel bad for food going to waste—”

Brandon jumped up and covered Paul’s mouth—a look of pure terror across his face.

“You don’t say those words, ever! He’ll get us!” He quickly moved his head back and forth, surveying the room.

Paul struggled briefly, freeing himself from Brandon. “W-What are you talking about!?”

“Oh… Wait. He’s not here. Right…” Brandon took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Sorry, it’s just a habit.”

“O-Okay…?” Paul sighed. He began to chuckle. “You’re certainly one strange guy.”

“Hah. I get that a lot. Strange, weird—all that stuff.”

“I do too. It’s usually due to how I operate my body. Luckily, the people who actually matter, know why I do it.”

“Huh? Do you mean how Trevor had to pick you up from the ground?”

“Yeah—see—I call my Ability ‘Sensory Switch’. It amplifies my senses in general, but I’m also able to shut off a sense of my choosing to amplify another to an even higher degree. For example, I can shut off taste—something you usually wouldn’t need in combat—and it increases the capabilities of my other four senses.”

“That’s… interesting. How does that involve—”

“You see… my Ability was forced out of me. By someone who kidnapped me and many others several years ago. It wasn’t natural, which means it usually takes a greater toll on my body. So, to compensate for that, I rest whenever I can.”

“I-I see…” Brandon hesitated to continue the conversation but wanted to know more. “…What happened to this person who kidnapped you?”

“He’s dead now, luckily. I was rescued by Unity and recruited as the only survivor. Well… it’s kind of more complicated than that.”

“What do you mean?”

“It was… at a church. I should say—a place that was pretending to be a church. A guy pretending to be a pastor… He would secretly use his Ability to locate children with the potential of having a good Ability and force it out of them. Before Unity even got there, however…”

“You don’t have to continue if it’s hard to talk about!” Brandon assured him.

“Oh, no! It’s okay! I want you to know. You’re my new partner after all, and I don’t want to keep any secrets from you!” Paul breathed in, then continued. “Another group actually attacked the place. I lost consciousness during the event, and when I woke up… the few kids who were still alive at that point were gone, labeled as deceased… I still have my doubts, but anyway—Unity showed up after, and that’s how I became a Unity member. Well—not an official one. I had to wait a few years before I could take these classes.”

“I see… That sounds rough. I, uh… don’t have a history like that. One of the biggest issues I’ve dealt with was my parent’s divorce. For some reason, my sweet and caring mother started to go crazy. That’s… how I describe it. I lived in Serenade and moved with my dad to Prelude to ‘get away’ from her. I don’t blame her for anything, I just wish I knew what happened… so I can help her.” Brandon rubbed his head. “And then there was an issue in high school that just sorta… stopped being an issue, out of nowhere? It was with this girl—I still don’t really get what happened myself, so I can’t describe it well at all. That was rough, but, uh… Sorry—it doesn’t sound as wild as what you’ve gone through.”

“It’s all right, Brandon. We all go through various kinds of pain, and they all affect us in various ways. Thank you for sharing with me… I do wonder though—is she still alive?”

“My mother or the girl?”

“Well, both, I guess.” Paul chuckled awkwardly.

“I… I’m not sure. Last I heard, my mother was still alive. The girl sort of… vanished. It’s what made the whole situation weird.”

“That’s certainly strange. But with your mother, there still might be a chance for you to figure things out, and to make things right.” Paul smiled. “My parents were both killed by the guy who kidnapped me… so I can’t really talk with them about anything that we may have feuded about.”

“Oh, come on! Now I feel bad!”

“Oh, sorry! That wasn’t my intention!” Paul chuckled. “But, it seems you’re fine now. The doctor here patched you up pretty well!”

“Patched?” Brandon analyzed his body, trying to find exactly where he was patched up.

“I don’t mean literally. The doctor, Jordan Rhodes, has an Ability that can heal wounds. So, of course, Unity had to recruit him.”

“Oh… I didn’t see him. I just saw a cute nurse.”

“He usually does things while the person is asleep or unconscious.” Paul stood up. “Anyway, if you’re all right and you’re not eating these apples, I guess it’s time to get ready.”

“Ready? For what?”

“The tests today!”

“Tests!? Oh hell no, I’m not doing that crap! I haven’t even studied for anything!”

“Not that kind of test. We’re teaming up to have a practice match with the Unity member that’s going to be watching over us for the next two years.”

“Oh… well, that’s better—wait, no that’s not better!”

 

In the tunnel below Minuet, Muraco slowly rose up from the shadows. Taking a glance around him, he assured himself that he had covered up every single camera with a cloth. He raised his thumb, indicating that the job was done. Charlotte then emerged from the wall, with Adam by her side.

“That’s taken care of,” Muraco stated. “We have to make sure we prevent anybody from finding out what we’re doing, if at all possible.”

“I’m not sure how easy that’s going to be… We may have to use a lot of power to bust through this thing. It won’t be sneaky at all.” Charlotte sighed. “Here—check this out.”

Charlotte walked to the opposite side of the dimly lit concrete hallway, putting her hand on the cold wall. “Adam—can you feel anything—”

“I’m curious…” Adam leaned over next to Muraco, grabbing hold of his ear. “That was a pretty cool Ability. You can merge with the shadows and move around? Interesting. You just gonna keep on pulling Abilities like that out of your ass?”

“Hey—watch the ear! And I’ll use Abilities when I see fit! I’m not gonna just showcase all of them right off the bat!”

“It would be nice to know so we could strategize, just in case…” Adam turned his attention back to Charlotte. “Feel anything? I’m not sure…”

“Try to focus. From what you’ve told me, you may be able to detect something.”

“Focus? That’s pretty vague. How am I supposed to ‘focus’ exactly?”

“Hmm… well—when I go to sense things, I try to concentrate on the center of my head—” She pointed at the spot right between her nose and eyes. “Right here. Try that, and then look ahead.”

“I guess I can try…” Adam scrunched his nose, eyeing the wall in front of him. He wasn’t too sure how this would work, but he figured if Charlotte was asking him, he’d at least give it a shot.

As his eyes began to glow, it appeared. A gigantic swirling ball of blue energy, hidden behind the wall. It was slightly larger than an average-sized room, indicating that it more than likely was surrounding one.

“I see… a sphere. Made of phantons? It’s blue, so I’m going to assume it is unless there’s some other weird-ass form of energy that’s blue.”

“You… can actually see it, huh?” Charlotte seemed surprised. “I can only sense it. And obviously, feel when I come into contact with it. It’s strange… even though phantons can clearly be visible—take my power, for example—it’s still undetectable by the naked eye most of the time. You can bypass that with the World Mirror, it seems.”

“I remember in my fight with Derek, I ended up seeing the phantons he was using with his Ability. Seems like that’s another thing I can add to the list of what this World Mirror can do…”

“Interesting. That should come in handy in the future. Anyway—” Charlotte transformed into her armored form, stepping forward. “You two stay back for a sec.”

Using her power, Charlotte created a gigantic sword, one that’s blade was easily the size of her entire body. Yet, she held it up with ease.

“L-Let’s do what she says, Muraco.” Adam picked up Muraco and carried him off to the side.

“Hey! You don’t have to carry me! I’m not a child!” Muraco struggled and jumped out of Adam’s arms. “Don’t belittle me just cause I’m a—”

Charlotte swung her blade—the force ripping through the wall like it was cutting through paper. The strike startled Muraco, who leaped high enough to smack his head against the ceiling. Before he fell back down to the ground, Adam caught him.

“You’re welcome.”

“I-I have great hearing! Of course, a sudden event like that would scare me—”

“Hey, you guys. Look.”

Charlotte pointed toward the room—or at least—what should have been the room. Instead, there was nothing but darkness in front of them. Combining the light from the hallway and the glow from Charlotte’s weapon, it should have at least been lit up to the degree of being able to see what’s inside.

Adam’s eyes had reverted back to their gray color. “Is… Is this barrier blocking light from entering it?”

“Intriguing,” Muraco commented. “Not only is it blocking us from entering, but it’s preventing us from even seeing the contents hidden within.” He paused for a moment, then began to chuckle.

“Huh? What is it?” Adam asked him.

“My Ability I just used, Shadow Sneak, should be able to get me inside if it’s designed like this.”

“I doubt it would, actually,” Charlotte stated. “It’s still a phantonic barrier—even if you can merge with it, it’ll prevent you from going all the way inside.”

“Charlotte—” Adam’s eyes once again turned white. “Can you try striking it with your sword a few times?”

“I can, but I shouldn’t use too much power. We’ll be noticed if we force our way through.”

“That’s okay. I want to see something…”

Charlotte hesitated for a moment, then nodded her head. “Okay. If you have an idea, then I’ll go with it.”

“Muraco, feel free to attack it as well. Maybe this is time for you to show off a new Ability?”

“I don’t have many offensive Abilities!” Muraco groaned. “Honestly my kicks from my Bunny Hop are probably our best bet.”

“That’s fine, then. Just make sure you don’t burn your legs off or whatever. We’re not sure what this barrier can do.”

“Well—” Charlotte raised her sword. “When I’ve tried to phase through it before, it repelled me away. Let’s see…” She took one swift slash at the darkness in front of them. Instantly, the recoil had knocked Charlotte back a few feet.

“That didn’t work…” Muraco stretched his body. “But your sword seems fine, so let me try!”

Muraco leaped at the barrier, striking it with a solid kick. The same thing occurred—he was knocked away the instant he came into contact with it. However, he hopped back at it once again.

“How about this!?”

He unleashed a flurry of kicks in what seemed like a single moment, using incredible speed to strike. This did not change anything, as the barrier once against sent him back.

“Damn! I thought speed could overwhelm it, but—”

“I see…” Adam took a glance down at his hand.

“Huh? What is it, Adam? Did you notice something? How do the phantons react to our attacks?” Charlotte asked.

“I mean—it’s obvious even without looking at the phantons. It’s bouncing your attacks right back the second they come into contact with it. Bounce… Another word you could use…” He gazed up at the wall of darkness before him.

“It’s reflecting them.”

“I don’t think it really matters what word we use,” Muraco commented. “It’s still the same—”

“It does matter, actually.” Adam interrupted him, taking a step toward the barrier.

“What do you mean? What are you planning to do?” Charlotte was concerned at what action Adam was about to take.

Adam raised his hand, watching it as the glow of the World Mirror formed around it, along with the rest of his body. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I fought Muraco. I noticed how this power acted at a certain moment. If I’m right, then… we’ve all been foolish when it comes to the World Mirror. Myself especially.”

“Have you figured something out!?” Charlotte showed enthusiasm at Adam’s potential breakthrough.

“Well—we’re about to find out if I did or not.” Adam took a deep breath. “Guys. I think I know why it’s called the World Mirror. The World Mirror. Note the emphasis on ‘mirror.’ Watch—”

Adam started by lightly tapping on the barrier. His finger was swatted away like a bug, yet he did not care. He tapped it a few more times with the same result. His hand began to light up as he moved on to striking at the blue sphere with his fists.

“I… I don’t think this is gonna work either,” Muraco said, crossing his arms.

“Hold on. Give him a moment.” Charlotte expressed her confidence in Adam’s plan.

With his hands in pain, Adam paused for a moment to analyze them. He glanced up at the barrier, then back to his hands. During this, he noticed something odd.

“What the…?” Adam watched as a blue streak of light hit the side of the barrier. A few seconds later, another one—this time on the opposite side. This pattern continued, with lights seemingly coming from nowhere striking the sphere.

“Charlotte—can you sense that?” He pointed at a spot where a streak had just occurred.

“What? I only sense the barrier. What are you seeing?”  

“I-I’m not sure… Is something else trying to get inside…?”

“Something else?”

“Yeah. It should be phantonic—the color matches the barrier. How can you not sense it though?”

“That’s odd…” Charlotte continued to sense around the barrier to see if she could pick up on anything.

“They’re getting reflected back, just like our attacks have been. Hmm… Whatever you are, strange power, you want to get in as well?” Adam raised his hand, touching the barrier directly. “Let’s break-in, then.”

A burst of white light lit up the tunnel, radiating from Adam’s touch. By coming into contact with the barrier, the World Mirror’s power was being pushed back.

Or so it seemed.

In fact, for the first time, something that had gone against the sphere remained in place. Adam could feel the bones in his arm, cracking under the pressure, yet he was doing it. Doing what the World Mirror was designed for. He felt foolish this entire time—thinking he simply had to continuously pull out power to fuel his body and produce massive strikes against his enemies. When, in reality, it was incredibly simple.

The blue obstacle before him resembled the world. And with his power, Adam reflected it, like a mirror.


Next: Chapter 2.14

Previous: Chapter 2.12

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.12

Everyone, aside from Emma, was now seated at the center table.  Thomas and Jerry sat across from Adam, Charlotte, and Muraco while Roy and Roger were off to the right. Travis sat on the left side of the table, writing down something in a notebook he had.

Thomas tapped his fingers on the surface in front of him, pondering how to begin. “How about this?  What questions do you have, Adam? I can answer all of those and then fill in what’s leftover.”

“Questions… I have a lot of them.” Adam scratched his head. “Let’s start with… Why Emma? How is she involved in everything?”

“I figured you would want to start around there.” Thomas chuckled. “Let’s see… You know about her spine, I assume?”

“Yeah…” Adam nodded—a somber expression forming on his face. “I remember it well. Those were the days I kept Faith company all the time since she couldn’t see Emma in the hospital. If a visit was possible, it was sporadic.”

“They didn’t want outside interference, in any shape or form.” Thomas sighed. “Her title, ‘The Miracle Girl,’ came from those days of solitude. For the first time, we were able to create something as complex as a spine entirely out of phantonite.”

“Wait—’we’?” Adam seemed astonished at that statement.  

“You didn’t know? I was on the team that helped design it. She goes to me specifically for checkups due to that.”

“Huh. And here I figured it was easy to do, with your office being in Prelude and everything.” Adam leaned back in his chair, eyes still on Thomas.

“My wife—Jerry’s mother, Phoebe, passed away from cancer shortly before all of this. Despite my recent success with school and my studies in phantonic technology, I couldn’t do a thing to help her. I… desired to learn more. Luckily, I was blessed with incredible talent. Like Jerry, I’m able to absorb knowledge with ease. I had started my journey in medical school, aiming to merge what I had already learned with the things I planned on learning.”

“So that’s how Jerry’s mother…” Charlotte trailed off with her thought.

“I got something along the lines of an ‘internship’ early on. With my status in the field of phantonic technology, they wanted my assistance. A girl had recently been injured in a fire. Her spine was utterly shattered, and things didn’t look too good for her. Thanks to her mother being in Unity, they granted her access to specialized technology to keep her stable. This wouldn’t last, however…”

“I get it. That’s how you got involved in making a brand new spine for her…” Adam stared at the table in front of him, processing the information he was starting to receive. “So, what does this lead us into?”

“Although we managed to form a spine that was capable of replacing her lost one, we ran into quite the predicament. As we used phantonite—which is highly sensitive to phantonic activity—to structure it, Emma’s own phantonic activity could potentially reshape the spine. Obviously, that wouldn’t be good. So, we had to work extra hard to formulate a method to keep that potential flaw in check.”

Thomas leaned forward. “We formed a shell. Again, this was formed out of phantonite. This time, however, we made sure this shell was set to react to particular values, to keep the majority from interfering with what was inside.”

“I can branch off of that, Dad—” Jerry chimed in. “From what you know about Phantonics, Adam, I assume you can deduce that phantons interacts with the world as if they were sort of a ‘code,’ like something in a computer. Emma’s spine was capable of working initially due to syncing with specific values that only she possesses. This shell built around it aids in keeping those values in check while preventing other values, or ‘code’ from the outside messing with the spine—like my dad mentioned.”

“So… I suppose this shell can kind of be like a firewall of sorts?” Adam asked.

“That’s pretty much it, yes.” Thomas nodded, happy Adam came to that conclusion as quickly as he did. “Now, with that in mind, let’s assume Emma’s entire spinal structure is sort of like a computer… this ‘firewall’—the shell—is keeping things inside pretty safe, right? Well, what if something were to take advantage of that high-level security, especially when back in those days, actual computers couldn’t even be considered that safe?”             

“What… are you saying? They’re using Emma to store some kind of phantonic code? But, that doesn’t make any sense! Wouldn’t the spine change shape upon reacting to it?” Adam questioned, showing unease with his confusion.

“It’s true—any sort of code would have to phantonic based for it to be stored—one would think.” Thomas paused. “However, what if it’s not?”

“Huh? What do you mean by that?”

“I’m saying… the code that’s currently placed inside Emma is like a phantonic one, yet it is not a phantonic one. It’s capable of mimicking similar values as to where it can be stored, but it doesn’t have values as to where it would mess with the spine’s structure like phantons would.”

“I can recall…” Charlotte began to speak. “What I felt when Emma went berserk… It was like nothing I’ve felt before. I mean—at least what I believe I haven’t felt before. That green, twisted energy… It was incredibly powerful. I’m surprised I was able to suppress it, actually. And—”

“I’m glad I got down there when I did—” Jerry interrupted, reaching into his pocket, taking out the remote that had stopped Emma. “When we got the signal that it had been unleashed, I ran as fast as I could. Let me tell you… I’m not one who should run. I thought I was going to pass out.”

“You guys were clearly aware of this thing inside Emma,” Adam noted. “I can figure out why you hesitated in doing anything about it, all things considered. But—”

“We have done things, actually. Lots of things.” Thomas motioned his hand around the room. “This is a result of all those things…” He sighed heavily. “…They initially hid their plan of storing this strange code inside Emma from me, even though I was on the team that helped design it. I figured it out pretty quickly. Then came the tricky part.”

“Which was?”

“Figuring out what Unity was planning on using it for, and to stop them. We had to take things very slowly, covering our tracks, so we didn’t get caught. Eventually, we gained access to the Nexus Network, sneaking our way through all the hidden data we could come across. And… Well…”

“What did you find out?”

“Well, when it comes to Emma… They’re using the storage space within her as a sort of backup for something… Something we currently cannot comprehend.”  

“Huh?” Adam crossed his arms. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Elliot Rizzo—” Thomas leaned forward. “When you had your scuffle with him, was there anything you noticed that was strange? That might be an odd question since you’re not that used to combat. Yet… What were your thoughts on his Ability?”

“His Ability? I couldn’t do any damage to him at all. That is until I actually used my Ability.”

“If you remember, The Brown Suits used Code 2819 on you, concluding that your Ability wasn’t phantonic based. Even though it caught him by surprise, it actually managed to work on him due to that fact.”

“What my dad’s trying to say—” Jerry continued. “—is whatever this strange power is that’s hidden within the Nexus Network, and using Emma as a backup… it knows all about phantons. That includes how to cancel them out.”

“So… is Rizzo using this power himself!?” Adam asked growing concern. “Is that why nobody can touch him? He just nullifies any Ability he faces?”

“It’s a precaution against Abilities themselves,” Thomas explained. “His actual Ability… well, he hasn’t officially named it, yet it’s basically him enhancing his body in multiple ways. Such as durability to withstand blows from a sword, like you faced.”

“Right… That does explain why I managed to slash at his clothing, yet couldn’t put a scratch on his body.” Adam recalled. “What… What else can he do?”

“Super strength, super speed, even heightened senses—that sort of stuff,” Jerry answered. “Even if it’s all simple on paper, actually using them together, with this unknown power aiding him, you can see why he’s such a monster.”

“Charlotte originally came back to Prelude earlier cause you guys felt that huge tremor, correct?” Thomas questioned. “That… was Alexander Strauss’ doing.”

“Huh? That guy again!?” Adam sprung up from his seat.

“Yeah… He tried to rebel against Rizzo. This is something that has actually happened a few times—and just like this time—he’s always been stopped by Rizzo.”

“Is he okay!? How did…” Adam paused, falling back into his chair.

“What is it, Adam?” Charlotte asked, noting Adam’s sudden shift in behavior.

“Alexander… He uses Psycho Matter, which he said wasn’t of this universe. That means, at least in terms of mystery, we’re in the same boat. There’s this thing though—his Psycho Matter could scan things and learn about their properties. He stated he could use it to completely shut down an Ability if he wanted. It couldn’t work on mine, though. From the sound of it, it seems like he can’t use it on Rizzo as well, due to this unknown power?”

“That makes sense, considering he’s tried multiple attempts at Rizzo’s life. You’d expect a power like that to eventually analyze how things work, yet it doesn’t seem to be the case.” Jerry said, starting to fidget.

“That explains why he was so desperate to figure out how mine worked… He wants to learn how to scan unknown things so he can get at Rizzo, huh?” Adam noticed Jerry’s behavior. “What’s wrong?”

“Just so you know, I-I… didn’t keep everything a secret from you. There were things I legitimately did not know about until I went to dad to ask him. Alexander Strauss, however, I learned about from someone else. Unity has kept info about him under wraps, but turns out he’s actually the older brother of a friend of mine.”

“Laura, right?” Thomas asked his son. “I knew about her connection to him for quite a long time. I didn’t think it was something that you needed to know, yet—being my son—you managed to figure out things on your own. There were… lots of things I didn’t think you needed to know about, but I should have known better than to keep them from someone as talented as myself.”

“Well, I shouldn’t have tried to hide things from you, seeing as though you found out what I was trying to do the second I began attempting to hack into the Nexus Network.” Jerry chuckled. He turned toward Adam. “I had no idea that my dad had this thing going on down here until that point. Then, he told me everything. I’ve been helping him ever since.”

“So that’s what you were actually doing every day on your laptop?” Adam questioned, glaring at Jerry.

“Y-Yeah… I was telling you the truth when I said I currently lack the skill to get any information myself. My dad’s been teaching me various things as I help him out with the development of his software.”

“That software—” Thomas raised his finger. “…is why Emma is still with us.”

Charlotte shifted around in her chair. “What does it do, exactly?”

“I can explain that!” Travis leaped out of his chair, eager to discuss it. “It has several layers to it. First, it blocks off the signal sent to Emma’s spine in case of emergencies, which is what happened earlier today. This raises a lot of issues, however.”

“I assume it has something to do with Unity finding out you’re blocking the signal?” Adam asked.

“Exactly!” Travis answered, nodding fast. “We have to create false data to send back into the Nexus Network, indicating that things are all okay. To be honest… we don’t know how this unknown power operates, so it could all be undone at any moment. We still have to try, though. And even if that doesn’t end up being an issue, we have the Brown Suits to deal with. Luckily, there’s a loophole involving them—”

“Is it because they’re not human?” Charlotte asked. “It helped to know that fact, so I… I didn’t hesitate to slash those two down that… that did that to the boss…”

Roy looked down at the table, cursing his own weakness.

“How do you know that, Charlotte?” Thomas questioned, surprised that she would have that knowledge.

“I…” Charlotte wanted to answer, but a quick glance at Adam halted her words.

“Wait, what do you mean they’re not human!?” Adam was astonished. “They-They act just like them, though—”

“Artificial humans.” Jerry blurted out. “We’re not sure if they’re clones of someone, as they have slightly different features between them, but they were certainly manufactured. Their minds are all linked up to the Nexus Network, and although it isn’t perfect, they can replicate human emotions due to data gained from the network.”

“That makes sense… The network’s run off of phantons after all and those can carry human emotions within them. But… seriously? Processing that kind of thing into data? What kind of backward bullshit is that!?”

“What do you mean, Adam?” Charlotte turned to him as he stood back up.

“Emotions are something that people gain living day-to-day, experiencing the good and bad that faces them. Just taking all of that and shoving it into some kind of processed crap? I hate that! God damn Rizzo…”

“As you can probably guess—” Thomas continued the main topic of the conversation. “The Brown Suits are made specifically to follow Rizzo’s orders. That’s another thing he has under his belt. With them, he can expand his control far beyond his physical reach.”

“However, we can take advantage of the fact that they’re linked up to the Nexus Network. By creating false data, we can throw them off. Like today—none of the Brown Suits or members of Unity know what occurred in that basement, as it had been blocked by the technology we currently possess. The last update they are aware of is what occurred with Alexander. In fact—luckily—the original reason Monica Teske dragged your boss into that basement wasn’t even officially registered. We could have blocked it, however.”

“But wait—that doesn’t make sense.” Charlotte stood up next to Adam. “The Brown Suits were the ones who… who shot him… even if you can block things from being registered, they must have had an order given to them for them to do that! Or do they have enough free will to carry out that act?”

“They may—they may not,” Thomas answered. “The act of shooting Brian Carpenter was, in fact, an order, however.”

“That goddamn Rizzo! I’ll kill him—”

“…Not from Rizzo.” Thomas raised his hand in front of him. Adam grabbed Charlotte’s shoulder to help calm her down.

“Then, who did?” Adam asked.

“It wasn’t a command from an outside source.”

“Huh?” Adam and Charlotte were perplexed.

“Inside the Nexus Network…” Thomas paused. “Inside the Nexus Network… This unknown power… We think it’s some sort of living thing.”

“Like… some sort of ghost?” Adam asked. “I mean, that would make sense, seeing as it’s made up of phantons after all—”

“So that thing was…” Charlotte whispered although it was loud enough to be heard.

“What thing?” Adam turned to her.

“I tried to possess Emma’s body to kick whatever it was out of her. I could have—be it a spirit or a mere form of energy. Yet, there was this figure… It was green, like the power Emma used. It moved me right out of her before I could even register what was happening.”

“Yeah… That green energy was something I certainly haven’t seen before.” Jerry commented. “I’m gonna assume then that’s what it came from—that strange thing you saw.”

“I see…” Thomas got up from his chair, beginning to pace around the room. “Phantons usually give off blue energy, with the exception of whatever Ability the person uses, of course. Chaons give off red energy, except for a strange black aura they sometimes create we refer to as ‘phantom energy’. I can talk about that another time, but… Green, huh? This doesn’t sound familiar to me. Unless? Maybe…”

Thomas began muttering to himself, off in his own world. Jerry sighed, turning back toward Adam. “Hey, there’s also a reason why I sent you to Minuet specifically…”

“And even more specifically, the tunnel area?” Adam scratched his head. “Yeah, there’s something down there, blocked by some kind of barrier that we haven’t been able to break yet.

“A barrier?” Thomas moved back toward the table, almost hopping. “I figured those phantonic signals were something along those lines… They’re really protecting that, huh…?”

“Wait, do you actually know what’s down there, Dad!?” Jerry asked in surprise. “You just told me it was important for Adam to go investigate it.”

“Yeah… I figured I would use Adam’s peculiar exile to have him fish it up. I don’t know the exact nature of what it is, but I have a vague clue…”

“Is it the seal those guys have been looking for? I assume Jerry told you about that?” Adam questioned. “Although, if you say it’s just phantonic signals, I find it hard to believe they’re having difficulties in locating it…”

“No, I, unfortunately, do not know where this seal is they seem to be searching for, but what’s being protected by that barrier must be—”

“Something related to the Night of the Half Moon, right?”

Thomas nodded. “Now that I know it’s a barrier, it’s even more important for you to break it and find out the contents. This group that seems to be looking for this seal may want it for themselves. I… I was hoping, actually, that the two—rather—three of you now, could actually tackle this group, and at least figure out what their true goals are. I ask this of you, now in desperation…”

“Desperation?”

“You see… The false data we generated today… It’s not going to fool Unity for long. They’ll find out what’s happened here, and make their move. I figure once the orientation is over, actually.”

“Dad? Is that why you…?”

“While Jerry was jamming the signal, I was above ground… disposing of the Brown Suits that currently walked Prelude’s streets. It was difficult—I’m not the stealth-type. But I had to. Now that there are none left simply using the false data will keep us safe. When Pam and the others come back though…”

“I get it, I think…” Adam sighed. “You’re definitely on a timer right now. But what does that have to do with me getting into that barrier?”

“Well—remember—that was what I initially wanted you to do before the events of today occurred. As you have some sort of ‘freedom’ at the moment, I figured you would be the best bet in handling these guys outside of Unity’s way of ‘handling’ things.”

“I know we have to stop this group, obviously, but don’t you think we should work together to handle the Unity situation right now?”

“It’s all about honor, Adam,” Thomas stated. “Rizzo, despite everything, is a man of honor. If you do something as heroic as stop this dangerous group, you should get some kind of bonus points not only from him, but from the public eye. Unity can’t censor everything, and if the public were to know about overcoming such a foe, Rizzo will have to acknowledge you in a positive light, for the sake of his credibility with the people. While you do this, we’ll try our best to cover our tracks. Maybe we can make this whole Unity thing blow over?” He shrugged.

“…I think I see another reason as to why you want me to do this.” Adam clenched his fist. “You want me to get stronger, right? So I can eventually take down Rizzo? You know my power can reach him, after all. You saw it in person. It makes sense to get stronger by fighting guys like this.”

“Amazing…” Travis stared at Adam in awe. “You’re just as sharp as your mother…” Adam glanced at him, unable to process the compliment.

Thomas laughed. “Well, you got me there. That’s not a problem, though, is it? Isn’t that what you want as well?”

“Yeah, of course, it is.” Adam slammed his hand on the table, leaning in. “Jerry suggested I do it, to begin with, so I’ll definitely do it.” He walked around the table to the other side—Jerry standing up to face him.

“Adam—you know I’ll support you with my brains. So, in return, support all of us with the power you have. I know you have it in you. After all—” Jerry grinned. “I remember you always boasting about wanting to be a superhero when we were kids.”

“Are you for real…?” Adam muttered to himself, letting out an enormous sigh. “All right, I can do that.” He held out his fist in front of Jerry.

Hesitating for a moment, Jerry gave Adam and smile, pressing his fist against his friend’s. “Let’s get through this!”

“We will,” Adam stated, turning to Charlotte and Muraco. “Let’s head back to the hotel, for now. We’ll rest up and get whatever’s down there first thing in the morning. Then, we’ll come back to report what we’ve found.”

“Why not right now?” Charlotte asked, almost tripping over her own feet as she stood there.

“That—that’s why. You’ve been through a lot today. I want you to get some rest. I won’t be able to do this without you.”

Charlotte looked at Adam in wonder. She quickly turned her head away from him.

“Saying that kind of stuff, huh…? Dammit…”

“Huh? What’s up?” Adam approached Charlotte as she spun back around with a straight face.

“Nothing. Let’s get going.”

“Hmm? Well, hold on…” Adam walked back toward the area with the beds, standing next to Emma, who was still asleep. He reached out his hand, gently touching her own.

“Don’t worry… I’ll make sure to handle whatever happens..”

Emma suddenly rustled around in her sleep. Although she remained in that state, she happened to speak.

“Big… Bro…”

Adam’s eyes widened. He retracted his hand, forming it into a fist. Fueled by a sudden rush of emotions, he could feel the pressure he was putting into his grip.

“Yeah… I have to handle whatever happens.”


Next: Chapter 2.13

Previous: Chapter 2.11

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.11

“Jerry, what are you doing!?” Charlotte asked him as he beckoned her.

“Get over here, for now, Charlotte. I don’t want you getting caught up in that.”

The energy that had formed Emma’s wings was now flying all around the hallway, barely missing the people who were in it. Charlotte took his advice and ran up to him, watching as Emma yelled in agony.

“Jerry! We gotta help her! We—”

“This is helping her.” Jerry pointed at the remote. “It’s gonna hurt, but the signal that this thing created should block the foreign entity from controlling her body.”

“How do you know that…? What is that anyway? I know you’re smart, but how do you—”

“I’ll explain once this is over. By activating this, things are going to get more complicated. And I’ll more than likely need your help. Adam’s as well.”

Charlotte held herself back, shifting her attention back to Emma. The energy had begun to fade, eventually dissolving into the air. Her eyes slowly turned back to normal, although she quickly lost consciousness.

“Emma!” Charlotte flew over to her, grabbing her before she fell. Turning back into her black-haired form, she inspected her friend’s status. “It… It’s gone. I think?”

Jerry reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny tablet. “Yeah—she should be okay for now.”

Roy and Roger finally stood up, after cowering in fear the entire time. Roger ran up to Jerry, with a relieved smile on his face.

“Senpai!”

Jerry facepalmed. “This isn’t an anime, Roger. I don’t know why you still call me that.” He let out a loud sigh. “It seems you got mixed up in this, huh? I’m sorry about that.”

“That’s not important right now! We gotta get Emma some help!” Roger turned frantically to look at the girl who had fallen unconscious.

“Of course. My dad should have handled things above. So—Roy, is it?” Jerry pointed to the boy who had been keeping his distance. “Think I remember you from school. Anyway—help us carry her out of here.”

“I can do it—” Charlotte insisted. “And… wait. Your dad?”

“Yeah… It’s all gonna take lots of explaining. First I need to ask: are you okay?” Jerry leaned down, inspecting Charlotte’s condition.

She nodded. “I am. Whatever was controlling her… should have killed me. It had such a strange power. But it didn’t. I was simply ‘moved’ back outside of her.”

“So, that’s what it decided to do, huh…?” Jerry pondered.

“…Jerry. You seem to know more than you first let on.” Charlotte noted. “Just what have you been hiding…?”

“I’ll explain everything, I promise. If you’re okay, I need you to go and fetch Adam right now. Sneak him back into Prelude—into my dad’s office specifically.”

“All right. I’ll trust you, as your fake girlfriend.”

Jerry smirked at the statement. Charlotte gave one last look at Emma before phasing through the wall, beginning her trip back to Minuet.

“W-What about the boss!?” Roy asked, pointing back toward the interrogation room.

“The boss? Huh? What are you talking about?” Jerry seemed genuinely confused.

Roger stayed with Emma as Roy escorted Jerry down the hallway, showing him the bloody room. The red-haired boy was absolutely baffled by the scene presented to him.

“They… went this far…!?” Jerry began to chuckle—being in a state of complete shock. “Yeah… We can’t allow this to go on any longer. We have to do something.”

 

It was an early evening in Requiem. Soaring through the twilight, Charlotte held Adam and Muraco in her arms, carrying them back to Prelude. She maneuvered her way through Daylight Forest—an area that was in between their hometown and Minuet—heading northwest.

“You’re awfully quiet, Adam,” Charlotte stated.

“I usually am. What of it?” Adam asked her, not realizing he gave off a small amount of attitude in his words.

“It-It’s just—”

“I didn’t expect to be heading back to Prelude this soon, is all. Well… that’s not all. I didn’t expect Jerry to be hiding something from me.”

“Human—I mean, Adam—you trust this Jerry character a lot, from what I’ve heard. He gave you directions to head to Minuet in the first place, correct? I can only assume you feel some sort of betrayal, not only from him keeping secrets from you but from potentially throwing you off course?”

“I’m not going that far. I… I’m sure he has his reasons.”

“Adam…” Charlotte paused. “I think I can understand why you hold some sort of resentment, despite your trust in him. It’s cause Emma got hurt, isn’t it?”

Adam snickered. “You hit the mark. I’m impressed.”

“I know it wasn’t Jerry’s intention for her to get caught up in this. However… I feel like he hasn’t had any say in what’s been going on.”

“Let’s just see what happens when we get there.” Adam solemnly stared at the ground below him, flying past at incredible speeds.

About a minute later, they had arrived. Charlotte sank into the ground, masking their presence from anyone above. Although their vision was utterly cut off, Charlotte somehow knew exactly where to fly.

They ascended, entering the waiting room of Thomas’ office cautiously. This act caught Jerry off guard—sitting there in one of the chairs.

“W-Wah!” He leaped into the air, now standing on his seat—arms all the way up.

“Sorry, sorry!” Charlotte chuckled, letting go of Adam and Muraco. Jerry looked at Adam, who raised his vision to meet his friend’s.

After a moment of tense glaring, Jerry’s eyes shot off to the right, noticing Muraco’s presence for the first time.

“W… What is that thing!?” Jerry attempted to climb up his chair but was already as high as he could go. “Wait—a white rabbit…? Is this the thing that attacked you?”

“Thing!? How rude! I am Muraco—Hero of Requiem!” Muraco yelled.

Adam scratched his head, sighing. “This is Muraco—Hero of Requiem. Kidnapper of Adams. Group Member of The Adam Kidnappers. Joined by fellow member Charlotte the Kidnapper.”

“…Incredible.” Jerry jumped off the chair, grabbing hold of Muraco’s floppy ears. “T-This is incredible! I had no idea creature like this could exist!”

“H-Hey, watch it!” Muraco shook Jerry off of him, bouncing back to the opposite side of the room. “If you weren’t Adam’s friend, I would have destroyed you for that act!”

“That… That doesn’t sound very heroic.” Jerry scratched his head, chuckling awkwardly.

“That’s exactly what I told him.” Adam shrugged. “Anyway—Jerry. We have a lot to talk about.”

Jerry nodded. “Yeah… we do. Before we get to that though…” Jerry lowered his head. “I’m… I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve kept things from you. I’ve had to lie about a lot, actually. And Emma ended up getting hurt because of it.”

Adam did not respond for a moment. After a long silence, he let out a loud sigh.

“Knowing you, you had a reason to do it. Which is what I’m here to learn about. And when it comes to Emma… You obviously wouldn’t want her getting hurt. Cause of that, I blame whatever ended up hurting her. Not you.”

“Right…” Jerry put a fake smile on his face. “Come on. My dad’s waiting. He can help fill you guys in on a lot.”

“In his office?” Adam walked over to the room’s door, swinging it wide open. He gazed inside, seeing nobody present. The only noteworthy things he could notice were the multiple degrees and certificates displayed on the wall.

“Sort of.” Jerry went past him, standing on the right side of Thomas’ sizeable wooden desk, which had a pen, an empty notebook, and a few folders littering the surface. “You just push it, like this—”

Using all of his strength, Jerry moved the desk off to the side, revealing an old, secret staircase. “He’s down here.”

“Is… Is your dad a supervillain? Are we stepping into his evil lair?” Adam asked half-joking.

“Supervillain? Evil!? I fight that!” Muraco shouted enthusiastically. Charlotte sighed, holding down the rabbit that was about to dive down into the abyss below.

Jerry chuckled. “It’s nothing like that. If he has a lair, he’s not telling me about it.”

“A dad not telling you things? I can relate to that.” Adam smirked.

Jerry escorted the boy, the ghost, and the rabbit down into a brand new room, that was as large as the entire building above. Directly ahead was a long rectangular table surrounded by multiple metal chairs.  Roy and Roger currently sat in two of them, playing with some cards.

“Charlotte…”  Roy stood up from his chair.  “You’re back? I’ve meant to talk to you about you… apparently being a… ghost…?”  He stopped talking, eyeing Muraco.

“Yes, I’m a ghost.  And don’t worry about him—”  She patted Muraco on his head, which seemed to be comforting to him.  “This is Muraco. Our friend.”

“F-Friend…?”  Muraco was surprised at Charlotte’s statement.  She turned to him, nodding with a smile.

“Of course.”

“Where’s Emma?”  Adam asked, glancing around.  The left and right sides of the room in front of them were similar—both having multiple desks scattered about with old computers stationed on each one.  A man was sitting at a desk off to the left he did not recognize. Upon seeing them enter, the man shot up and ran over to them.

“You’re Adam Grayson, correct!?  It’s such an honor to meet you! I’m Travis Robinson, I used to work with your mom back in the day!”

“An… honor, huh?”  Adam shook the man’s hand.  That was the first time someone had said it was ‘an honor’ to meet him regarding his mother, not counting Rizzo’s more than likely ruse upon meeting him a week prior.

Adam analyzed the man’s appearance.  He seemed to be in his early forties, with his light brown hair wrapped up into a single curl on his head.  Wearing round-black glasses and a white lab coat, he was undoubtedly the stereotypical smart-type. 

“I’m currently here helping Thomas out with… well, why don’t you ask him yourself?  Travis pointed back toward the staircase, off to the left side. The room extended into that section, where multiple beds were placed.  Thomas sat next to one of them, where Emma was lying motionless.

“Emma!  Is she okay!?”  Adam ran up to Thomas’ side, glancing down at the girl.  Thomas looked up at Adam, hushing him.

“She will be, thankfully.  Her body was really worn out.”

Adam clenched his fist.  All right—let me see if I can understand this.  Something possessed her after Charlotte killed off those two Brown Suits that shot her boss?”

Thomas sighed.  He stood up, placing his hand on Adam’s shoulder.  “As long as you promise not to get angry and punch someone like you did with Rizzo, I can guide you through everything that’s been going on behind the scenes.”

“Just…”  Adam took a deep breath.  “I’m tired. Tired of not understanding what the hell is happening.  Emma… Why did she have to get involved?”

“Jerry already apologized to you, right?  That’s the first thing he said he would do upon meeting you.  Now, it’s my turn. Adam…” Thomas paused for a moment. “I’m sorry.  I’m… sorry for being so weak. I’ve known so much for so long, which is why I’ve established this little base down here.  But I haven’t been able to do a thing.”

“…You did, though.  Jerry saved Emma with some sort of device?  I think that’s what Charlotte told me?”

“Right.  That was my one condition: If Emma were to get into a predicament, I would get involved, no matter what.  Now that I have, however… Our time is limited.”

“I see… Well then, it looks like you’ve got a lot you need to talk about.  Please, I want to hear every detail.”

Thomas nodded, gesturing back toward the main table.

“Welcome to Twine, Adam.  This mini organization I founded in this trashy basement will hopefully save the world.  From what, exactly? Well, let me tell you all about it.”


Next: Chapter 2.12

Previous: Chapter 2.10

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.10

Blood splattered all over the room. It was as if a car had struck the two as opposed to a blade. Multiple limbs flew, indicating that Charlotte had managed to slash at the men several times in that instant.

“C-Charlotte!?” Emma tripped and fell over the sudden savagery that occurred in front of her. Charlotte landed on her feet, standing in the pool of blood that oozed from the remains of the Brown Suits.

She dropped her sword—the blue crumbling to pieces as it splashed against the red. Ignoring what she had just caused, she rushed over to her boss.

“N-No… How could they?” Charlotte shook, extending her arms toward Brian. She could not take her eyes off the wound in the center of his forehead, yet moved her hands to shut his eyes—drenched in his blood.

Charlotte then fell to her knees, sobbing.

Emma rushed over to her, almost slipping. She grabbed ahold of the ghost girl, who was lost in pure hysteria.

“I-I’m so sorry, Charlotte… I was too late to do anything…”

Charlotte shook her head fiercely, wrapping her arms around Emma. “I-It’s not your fault… It-It’s them… Why, though? Why the hell did this happen…!?”

“I don’t know…” Emma buried her tear-soaked face into Charlotte’s ice-cold body. “Unity’s cruel, and I can honestly see them do something like this. But… I assume they would have kept trying to get the information out of him.”

Roy stepped into the room, unable to actually look into it. “Charlotte… I’m sorry! I was in the store when they took him! I should have protected him—”

“Roy… Thank you. But don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault…” Charlotte turned to him, using all the energy she could to crack a smile.

The boy glanced over to her, able to see this. He moved his head up toward the ceiling before his mind could register the horror that surrounded her. Roy finally felt warmth leave his eyes, rolling down his cheeks.

Roger—still on his knees—crawled out into the hallway, leaning against the wall. “What kind of hell is this…?”

“The Brown Suits…” Emma began to speak, causing Charlotte to look at her. “They… shouldn’t be allowed to act like this, unless given a specific order. Did… Monica order them? Or… is someone else to blame?”

Charlotte recalled what the clock-masked girl had told her a few minutes prior.

“Don’t hold back on them, okay? They’re not actual people.”

Before she could ask Emma if she knew anything related to that statement, they were all interrupted by a strange noise. The room was filled with the sound of what could be described as a distorted radio signal.

“CODE 4200—ACTIVATED.”

A robust and robotic voice echoed from the floor. Everyone looked to see that the source was the goggles that the Brown Suits had worn.

“What is that?” Charlotte stood up, wary of what was happening.

“I don’t know!” Emma got on her feet as well, carefully stepping toward the devices. “I’ve never heard of that code before…!”

“SCANNING… SCANNING… ANOMALY LOCATED—ASSESSING THREAT VALUE… SCANNING… SCANNING…”

Roger glanced around the corner into the room. “Shouldn’t we stop it?”

“SCAN COMPLETE—A-RANK LEVEL DETECTED—ANALYZING POTENTIAL OPTIONS…”

Charlotte formed a blade in her hand. “Yeah—let’s get rid of these things.”

“OPTION FOUND—ANALYZING PROPER CODE TO PROCEED…”

“I’m not gonna let you!” Charlotte jabbed her sword down swiftly, destroying both pairs of goggles.

“There! Wonder what it was trying to—”

“CODE 0710—ACTIVATED.”

Charlotte turned around slowly, a look of pure terror on her face. This time, the voice did not come from the goggles, as they had clearly been smashed apart a moment prior.

The voice had come from Emma.

She stared at Charlotte with a blank expression. Her arms were shaking, and her back was slouched.

“Emma…!?”

“DRAGON SPINE—INITIATED.”

As her mouth echoed the haunting voice, Emma’s eyes changed—her irises becoming an emerald color while her sclera was more along the lines of seafoam. A burst of dark-green energy—similar to television static—erupted out of her back, slowly molding into the shape of dragon-like wings.

Roger stood up, rushing into the room. “Emma! What’s going on!?”

Roy started to chuckle with a defeated look on his face. “Damn. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. Now, the girl I’ve been into has become a freaking monster. All right then—”

“You two—get back!” Charlotte shouted, forming a second sword in her other hand, pointing both of the tips toward Emma.

“What is going on!? This energy… It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before!”

“A-RANK ANOMALY—IN POSITION. DESTRUCTION PROTOCOL—INITIATING.”

“Move you two!” Charlotte raised the blades, blocking the swift strike from Emma’s wings. It generated enormous force, knocking her out of the room and into the opposing wall in the hallway. Roy and Roger had dived out of the way just in time.

The wings extended—flying at Charlotte. Transforming into her true form, she phased through the wall, evading the second strike. This caused the basement to shake—with even more ferocity than a few minutes prior.

Emma’s body floated out into the hall, now hovering in the air. Whatever had possessed her was not interested in Roy and Roger at all, clearing showing interest in Charlotte alone. Her eyes darted around the area, scanning for the ghost girl’s location.

Emerging from above, Charlotte slashed down at Emma, targeting where the wings came out of her back. The right wing quickly blocked both of her swords, knocking her off toward the direction opposite the stairs.

“I need to study how this strange energy works before I can try to get it out of her. Hang on, Emma!”

The same wing aimed at Charlotte, repeatedly slashing like it was a sword itself. Charlotte managed to block the flurry of attacks, although she could not switch to offense. Eventually, her blades shattered—the force knocking her back.

This time, the left wing shot at her—Emma’s body not moving in the slightest. Charlotte leaped upward, phasing through the ceiling to make another quick escape.

Emma’s demonic eyes glared upward—her wings charging up energy, ready to strike. Before they could, Charlotte re-emerged from the ceiling near the stairs. Instead of her usual sword, she had formed a bow in her left hand. Using her right, a fiery arrow was conjured. Without hesitation, she shot the arrow directly at Emma.

As Charlotte predicted, this was blocked by the green wings once more. However, this was no simple arrow she had created. Upon contact, the arrow exploded into a fireball of energy, engulfing Emma’s possessed body.

The wings flapped once, blowing the phantonic energy away from Emma and causing a ferocious gust to roar through the hallway. At this point, Roy and Roger had gotten on their stomachs, holding their arms over their heads to protect themselves as best they could.

The wind had blown Charlotte back a few feet. If she glanced up, she would be able to see the two flights of stairs above her. Emma’s wings—without pause—continued their attack. This time, both of them were rocketing toward Charlotte at the same time.

Using her power, Charlotte shifted the shape of the bow into a two-handed ax, swinging it with great strength. The gigantic size of the weapon made it capable of intercepting both wings at once, although Charlotte now had to deal with two times the opposing force.

“I-I can’t hurt her…! But if I keep using this amount of power, it’ll tear me apart! I have no choice—I have to go for it!”

Charlotte kicked off the ground—creating enough energy to knock the wings back. They immediately responded, aiming to strike once more.

With quick thinking, Charlotte re-shaped her weapon again—duel-wielding her two blades like before. Positioning them to her sides, she blocked the wings from striking her, while simultaneously opening a path straight to Emma—keeping them at bay.

“Here’s my chance!” She leaped forward, flying at Emma with all the speed she could muster.

“Possession!”

Turning spectral, Charlotte faded upon coming into contact with Emma. She had successfully entered into Emma’s mind—now she had to kick whatever the strange phenomenon was out of her.

This would be impossible to accomplish.

Standing upon the sea foam-covered ocean that had manifested, Charlotte saw it. A featureless figure—neither male nor female. It was a dark-emerald color, having an absurd amount of glowing blue veins visible within its body.

Despite not having a mouth, a shape formed on its face that resembled a grin.

“atatamaestethuilpettcwliashtwta”

Charlotte held her head in agony—a sharp pain now radiating through it. Her vision faded, and the next thing she knew, she was back outside of Emma’s body on the floor in front of her.

“It… It didn’t even seem like I was forced out! I simply… moved—gah!” Her face slammed on the ground—not from an opposing enemy—but from the sheer pain forcing her down. She could not help but shriek in suffering.

“A-RANK ANOMALY—CORNERED. DESTRUCTION PROTOCOL—IMMINENT.”

“Come on… Charlotte! Move! Y-You have things… you need to protect!”

Charlotte was unable to get out of the way in time, as the wings descended upon her.

However, they stopped.

Charlotte looked up, seeing the wings’ shape begin to distort. Emma herself had started to scream in pain.

“Emma! Hang on, I—”

“Charlotte, I wouldn’t do that.”

Before Charlotte stood up, she turned toward the source of the voice that just spoke to her. Looking upward, she saw Jerry standing at the top of the stairs—a strange remote in his hand.

“This should get it out of her. Yet—our cover’s gonna be blown now, it seems.”


Next: Chapter 2.11

Previous: Chapter 2.9

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.9

Charlotte arrived in Prelude, hovering cautiously behind a building nearby the police station. She instantly noticed the street and parking lot were completely torn to shreds, and that the Brown Suits were currently surveying the damage.

“What the hell happened here…?” Charlotte glanced toward the right, her eyes widening in horror. The woods north of town had been completely wiped out, appearing as though a giant crater had swallowed the trees whole.

“N-No way…”

Before she could conjure a plan on how to approach the situation, a blinding flash of blue came from in front of her. It completely enveloped her vision—covering the entire area in a calming blanket of light.

“Thi-This feels familiar!” Charlotte attempted to sense for an active Ability, coming across one where she figured—directly ahead. “There!” She flew through the light—keeping her focus on her target without relying on her vision.

Charlotte’s sight came back to her as the anomaly faded—almost causing her to crash right into a tree that had blocked her path. She phased through it and landed on the ground. Taking a look around, her surroundings had been restored to their previous state.

“Rewrite Phenomenon…? So that means—”

The clock mask-wearing stranger stood before her, seemingly having difficulty remaining on their feet.

“It’s you! You’re the one who fixes things… The one who helped us that night.”

The figure adjusted themselves, staring at Charlotte for a few moments. Then, the girl behind the mask spoke.

“That’s right… That’s… That’s right…! That’s right that’s right that’s right—”

“Uh, what are you doing?” Charlotte asked her, astonished that she actually spoke.

“It’s just… I haven’t talked out-loud like this in so long… The people who I’ve interacted with—well… I can’t really risk doing that. Although, it seems I can speak to you without messing with any values. That surprises me, Charlotte.”

“You… You know my name?” Charlotte questioned nervously. “Was my name mentioned that night…?”

“I absolutely do know you. I’m surprised—it seems you’re still the same even in this—” The girl stopped herself. “Sorry… It’s really complicated for me to speak, as I could completely mess with the time-time… timeline?” She glanced around quickly—sighing in relief. “Good—I can say that much.”

“Timeline…? So—when you go to restore things to their previous state… can I assume you’re using some method of time travel?”

“I suppose you can say that.” The girl nodded. “I’m not sure at this point how familiar you are with Phantonics, but it’s not as big of a deal as one would think. Phantons record data on areas they encounter. The particular skill I use merely uses that data to bring things back together. It’s… honestly, all I can do at the moment.”

Charlotte gazed back toward Prelude, then returned her attention to the girl. “I see you have to be careful—yet I need to know—may I ask you a few things?”

The girl stared down at her right hand, taking a deep breath. “It seems I should be able to before I have to fade away for a while. However—I currently cannot tell you my origin—only how I got to this point.”

“I understand.” Charlotte scratched her head. “You said, ‘fade away’… are you a spirit… like me?”

“Nah, I’m very much alive.” The girl flexed her arms in a comedic manner, almost causing Charlotte to laugh. “Yet… in a way… I guess I might as well be considered dead.”

Charlotte’s eyes widened. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well… look at it this way. If an entire timeline ceased to exist, then would one thing that managed to escape truly be alive… after losing everything…?”

Charlotte was petrified. “What… What are you talking about? An entire timeline?”

The girl sighed. “I can already feel my head spinning simply thinking about it… I cannot say what happened, currently. However—it’s as I said. The timeline I existed in was completely destroyed—and I ended up in this one. It seems extremely similar to mine… Yet… there are a lot of differences as well.”

“How did you escape?”

“It was all thanks to my afetraha—

The girl began to cough violently, collapsing onto her knees.

“Are you okay!?” Charlotte rushed over to her side.

“D-Dammit… I can’t even say that, huh?”

“Wh-What was that noise—” Charlotte’s head began to feel funny. She held it as a sharp pain started to form.

“I’m sorry… Hearing that probably hurt you too, didn’t it?” The girl held Charlotte’s head gently. “Well… This person who I can’t even seem to mention saved me. Along with that, I have been blessed with quite a few handy powers to aid me in… well… I’m not even sure anymore.”

Charlotte looked at the girl in concern.

“Hey, Charlotte. It seems like you don’t remember much, do you? You’re not quite sure what to do… right? Although I do have my memories, I can really share in that pain of uncertainty in taking the next step.”

Charlotte looked down. “Yeah… Adam and I are attempting to uncover the truth of my past, yet… I’m not sure how to do that. There’s something in Minuet that we think may lead to somewhere, but—” She paused. Slowly, she began to giggle.

“What’s up?” The girl asked curiously.

“I can talk to you like I completely trust you. It’s strange… I feel like I’ve met you before.”

“Well, I can say that I’m not from the past, and I’m not an Ouderkirk, in case you were wondering that.”

“So, in this alternate timeline that you came from, you’d be from the future, correct?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

Charlotte began to feel a strange feeling in her chest. “D-Do you currently exist? I-I mean, uh… In your timeline, at this point, would you have existed?”

The girl shook her head. “Nope. Not for a few more years.”

There were several pieces to the puzzle that Charlotte did not have. Despite this, she lacked so much knowledge that she craved to have answers. She took the risk and asked a question. 

“Is… Is it all right if I… see what’s behind that mask of yours? I-I’m sorry if that’s too upfront, but I—”

“I feel like… I can show you, yes. I still will not say anything—and anything you figure out you must keep to yourself. I do not want anything to happen to your timeline…”

“How can you be so sure this wouldn’t ruin it!? It’s okay—you shouldn’t—”

“I can feel it. It’s you, Charlotte—” The girl raised her right hand in front of her. On the back, a glowing blue mark formed in the shape of an arrowhead.

“What is that…?” Charlotte asked, despite the nostalgic feeling welling up inside her.

“All I’ll say is this: Thank you, Charlotte.”

“For… For what—”

“Now then—this mask… remember, please keep this between us.”

Before Charlotte could protest, the girl slowly removed the mask from her face. As she wore a hood, she had been able to completely conceal her look. Now, Charlotte was able to see her. First the hair, then the eyes, and finally, the face.

This is what the girl gave to Charlotte—something only she could witness.

Charlotte was in awe, completely speechless. Her hand covered her mouth, unable to handle the puzzle that had been thrown together in an instant.

“Y-You’re… You have to be…”

“Yeah, probably who you’re thinking.” The girl smirked, placing the mask back on, concealing her appearance to the world once more. “Man, nothing happened by doing that. Thank goodness…”

“Why did you want to reveal that to me…?” Charlotte questioned concerningly.

“Just to give you something else worth fighting for, I guess?” The girl chuckled. “Listen… Right now, I’m lost. I have no clue what to do now that my timeline no longer exists. My body does not seem to age for whatever reason. I’ve been around… for quite a long time.”

“Just like me… it seems.” Charlotte sighed. “It strange—you did not end up where I’d figure you’d be—since you’re from the future.”

“Huh? Oh… Like, I wouldn’t be in this timeline’s future? I honestly expected myself to end up there, but… certain factors threw me back a few hundred years.”

“A few hundred…? Were you around when my family—”

“I certainly cannot say anything regarding your family. I would love to fill in the holes in your memory, but I can tell the universe won’t allow it, unfortunately.”

“B-But you were able to reveal your face! You might be able to—”

The girl started to giggle. “This is the kind of attitude that I would give you. Don’t worry, Charlotte. You’ll figure things out when the time comes.” She sighed. “Although… who knows? I’ve seen plenty of differences. Anything can happen in this timeline, I suppose.”

A sudden spark flew out of the girl’s body, causing her to wince in pain.

“What was that? Are you okay!?” Charlotte grabbed hold of her.

“Even though I’m still alive, the laws of this world treat me as if I am a spirit. As in, I temporarily have to fade away and rest when I use up my energy. This usually happens whenever I use—what do you call it? Rewrite Phenomenon? That. I had to fix a lot more this time, considering how much damage Mr. Str—Alexander, dished out.”

“Right! I came here to see what was happening!” Charlotte stood up. “Is everyone all right?”

“The conflict is resolved. Well, that one is.” The girl glanced at her left hand, where a similar pattern to her right hand formed, although this one was yellow. Before she could move, black electricity formed around her arm, numbing her.

“Gah!” Charlotte did not get touched, although she felt immense pressure from the strange energy, causing her to jump back.

“Right… The values are all messed up at the moment in this timeline when it comes to using this power…” The girl sighed heavily. “I could have fixed the problem with ease using this, but I guess we’ll have to do it the hard way. I certainly can’t use my left eye right now either… Damn.” The yellow arrowhead vanished from her hand—the black electricity soon following.

“What are we doing?” Charlotte asked, preparing herself for the worst.

“Sorry—I didn’t really mean we. My time’s up, so you’ll have to handle it on your own. Listen—go into the basement of the police station. You need to save them!”

“Huh? Save who? Who’s down there!?”

“That doesn’t matter—you’ll save them regardless, right? I know that’s how you are.” She chuckled. “And… Charlotte. Are you aware of the Brown Suits?”

“I am… Are they involved?”

“Yeah, it feels that way. Don’t hold back on them, okay? They’re not actual people.”

“W-Wait, what!?”

The girl’s body began to glow a faint blue color, slowly fading away.

“Just make sure you don’t get caught. And… hopefully… I’ll see you later…”

“Wait!” Charlotte reached out her hand, attempting to catch the girl before she vanished.

“I… hope… I can figure out how to help you all… so it doesn’t happen again…”

The girl had disappeared, fading into the breeze of the forest. Charlotte felt as though she was about to cry.

“…The police station—right! I need to focus on that. Save the other stuff for later!”

 

Emma swung the door to the interrogation room wide open. There were no guards keeping watch, and she was confident that the Brown Suits had all been distracted by the events outside.

However, this was not the case. Two Brown Suits turned toward her—their hands reaching for the guns concealed in their coats. They stopped after noticing it was her.

“Emma Roswell? You should not be here! What business do you have?”

Emma did not bother to respond. She lost focus of the two, in fact. Her attention was shifted entirely to the man who sat in the chair behind them. Roy and Roger walked up behind Emma, quickly seeing the same horror site that she did.

With a gunshot wound to the head, Brian’s lifeless eyes stared back at them.

“W-What… the… hell…?” Emma could not comprehend the scene in front of her.

“B-Boss…” Before tears could fall from his eyes, Roy turned around and vomited on the hallway floor.

Roger did not speak. He merely fell to his knees, unable to stand from the pure shock radiating throughout his body.

“Do not concern yourself with this, Miss Roswell. The man would not speak. Unity does not value people who do not consider the value of information that he was disclosing from us—”

“You… shut up… How could you do something like this…!?” Emma stomped toward the Brown Suits.

“Stay back, Emma Roswell!” The Brown Suits once again reached for their weapons, yet hesitated.

“Do you not shoot cause of my goddamn spine!? Who cares! You’re going to have to shoot me! If you don’t, I will destroy you two!”

“We are forbidden to harm you, Miss Roswell. However—” The Brown Suits finally pulled out their weapons.

They aimed at Roy and Roger.

“Those two behind you mean nothing to us.”

Emma watched in horror as the Brown Suits began to pull the triggers to their guns. She attempted to move her arms in the way to block, yet she knew she was not fast enough.

Before the bullets shot out, a flash of light blinded the room. With a wild slash of her blade, Charlotte tore the Brown Suits to pieces.


Next: Chapter 2.10

Previous: Chapter 2.8

Table of Contents

Chapter 2.8

“I would like to ask: Why exactly did you initiate a battle with, Monica Teske?”

Alexander chucked, shrugging at Rizzo’s question. “I don’t know? Maybe it’s cause I’m tired of people trying to kiss your ass?”

“She’s a fresh graduate—surely someone who should not have to deal with this.” Rizzo sighed.

Monica glanced up and looked around Alexander to see Rizzo. “Sir…”

“…It’s pathetic of her.”

Her eyes widened at Rizzo’s statement.

“Honestly, though—since it’s you—I can see why this is the outcome. It’s sad, Alexander. You have such tremendous power, yet you’re stubborn. With our strength combined, we could easily secure Requiem for ourselves. Perhaps even move on to claiming other countries?”

“For fuck’s sake. Ya really still thinking about becoming a king or some shit?”

“The Ouderkirks are gone, Alexander. For almost a century now, Requiem has moved onto a system similar to the United States. It might work at the moment, but do you think it will last? This country will fall into ruin, especially with Phantonics as a key staple in our economy.”

“Didn’t this damned country almost get ruined when the Ouderkirks ruled the place anyway? I don’t see how ya intend to reinstall that kind of bullshit government again.”

“It should not have. There were outside factors that caused the fall of the family. Which is why I want to give it a second chance. But you misunderstand, Alexander. I don’t want to become king—that title is not mine to take. I would settle for the President’s seat if it meant I could revive the Ouderkirks once more.”

Alexander glared at Rizzo. “I figured… That’s why you’re manipulating him, after all.”

“Manipulating is such a harsh word. I’m guiding Trevor down the path that he deserves to take. If it were not for his fool of a father, his blood would still be pure. It’s not his fault—so I want to aid him.”

“Have ya ever considered that maybe the dumbass doesn’t want to become king?”

“Alexander—you don’t get it, as you don’t care for the concept of glory. When offered to you on a silver platter, one usually does not hesitate to claim it. Take that woman behind you, for example. She’s worked hard to have her Past to Present Ability be useful to me. She respects my power, and she simply wants to be rewarded for her efforts.”

Rizzo folded his arms behind his back, beginning to stroll around the area. “I admit, Monica. Under normal circumstances, you using your power would be quite handy in catching people who defy Unity’s rules. However—with the technology we have prepared—it’s not really needed.”

Alexander’s eyes widened. “Rizzo… don’t tell me you’re talking about—”

“I am. A good portion of phantonic technology developed over the last few decades has been kept confidential by Unity. You’re certainly aware of that fact.” Rizzo pointed at his head. “Recently, I’ve been informed about something quite interesting. Therefore, I’ve decided to begin rolling out that secret technology—for Unity’s sake.”

“You’re that afraid of whatever the hell you’re talking about!?”

“Not me, personally, as I’m not too familiar at how it works. My informant doesn’t even know how, yet they’re quite curious, and don’t want to take any chances.”

“Informant…?” Alexander stepped forward, a look of fear on his face. “Rizzo—who the hell are ya talking about!?”

“That does not concern you—although they have mentioned they’ve taken quite the interest in yourself. I’m sure they’ll approach you when the time comes. But anyway—Alexander. This is good news for you. We can officially abolish a portion of our pact.”

“Huh…?”

“As we’ll need loads of manpower to get this technology up and running, your sister Laura is going to become quite valuable. Honestly—you should pay attention to her accomplishments. She’s been doing quite splendidly recently. Without your help, she’s gained enough value for me to keep her. Do you understand what I’m saying, Alexander? You no longer need to worry about her well-being! She’ll be safe working for me!”

Alexander was furious. He was clenching his fist hard enough that he was surprised he was not shattering any of his bones.

“Oh? What’s the matter? Isn’t that good news? You no longer need to run errands for me in the Blue World—you’re completely free. Well, until I stop you, of course.” Rizzo chuckled. “The technology we’ll use can correct the issues with the Nexus Network. I do thank you for your efforts, however. They certainly helped us figure out how to correct the problem.”

Meanwhile, Emma had joined up with Roy and Roger. She was trying to push the two of them back away from the discussion happening in the street.

“This atmosphere’s too tense right now. If those two start a conflict, we need to get out of here.”

“Huh? How come?” Roy asked her.

“That’s Elliot Rizzo, the Leader of Unity. Along with Alexander right there, we’re looking at the two strongest Ability users in all of Requiem!”

Roy did not say anything. He walked up to the building and sat up against the wall.

“All right. I’m just gonna sit here. I’ve had enough for today.”

“Didn’t you hear me!? I said we would have to get out of here!”

“Eh, it’s okay. I’m sure those two wouldn’t deliberately want to hurt us.”

“Roy…” Roger leaned in front of him, glaring into his eyes. “You do realize that guy just destroyed that woman’s arms without any hesitation, right?”

Roy shrugged. “It’s all gooooooood! No worries here!”

“I’ve seen this before—” Emma approached the boy, who looked as though he was about to cry. “He’s in complete denial of the danger he’s in.”

“N-No I’m not…” Tears began to fall from Roy’s eyes.

Emma sighed, facing back to the two in the road.

Alexander had been looking at the ground, not saying a word.

“Alexander? What’s the matter?”

“Rizzo…” Alexander took a deep breath. “Ya really have dug your own grave, ya know that?”

“Oh?” Rizzo chuckled. “And why is that?”

“First of all, if what you say is true, then my sister won’t be harmed no matter what I do.”

“That’s correct. I give you my word. Not out of respect for you, though. Simply out of respect for her hard work—”

“Also—I know what Laura’s dream is.” Alexander glared up at the man towering above him. “She wants to work with phantonic technology—yes. It’s not the kind you want her to help with, though.”

Alexander’s body began to glow, Psycho Matter enveloping him. “She wants to help people. People who have been hurt—” He glanced over at Emma, who had been listening to the two of them. “She wants to take the technology used for that Miracle Girl there and make it work for everyone who’s been fucked up by something!”

Emma’s eyes widened, hearing Alexander’s words.

Rizzo smirked. “And what makes you think working for me would hinder that—”

“I know how that shit works. They may both have similar basics, but they’re both completely separate fields of phantonic technology. It would drive her off the path she’s worked so hard to get on!”

Rizzo began to laugh. “Honestly, Alexander… the way you’re speaking… it makes me wonder…” He moved right into Alexander’s face.

“How you honestly thought the two of you could ever do what you wanted?”

And with those words, Alexander snapped.

“RIZZO!!!!!”

Psycho Matter erupted from Alexander—his screams amplifying the shock waves that catapulted Rizzo straight through the woods and into the field north of Prelude.

The pressure shattered the windows on the police station, knocking over everyone who stood near. Emma grabbed hold of Roy and Roger.

“See!? I told you—We’ve gotta get out of here!”

“Well—look, Emma.” Roger pointed at Alexander, who leaped toward where he had sent Rizzo. “We’ll be okay if they’re out of tow—”

“No, we won’t be! Get inside!”

“Emma?” Before Roger could question her any more, she had shoved the two of them through the shattered doors and into the building.

Rizzo stood from the crater that had formed upon his impact. He threw his torn up coat onto the ground, brushing off dirt from his body. Glancing up, he saw Alexander honing on him quickly, wings fully formed. He sighed.

“It’s been a while since I had to teach you a lesson, Alexander—”

Alexander sent a wing downward at Rizzo as if it was a large, sharp blade. Rizzo raised his fist at the attack, and with an instantaneous movement, he shattered the wing with his punch.

“DON’T FUCK WITH ME!!!!!” Alexander formed over a dozen wings sprouting out of his back. Swinging his arms, he sent each one at Rizzo with lightning speed. Rizzo countered the wings—knocking each of them away with swift and powerful blows. The collision caused a massive amount of air to rise, blowing Alexander upward toward the sky.

“Come on, Alexander. Please tell me you’ve improved more than that?” Rizzo shouted at the boy.

Alexander gritted his teeth in absolute fury. Reforming his wings, he motioned his hands toward the area above him.

From the clouds, bright pink objects began to descend. As they become visible, Rizzo realized that Alexander had created dozens of gigantic sword-like structures.

“EAT THIS, YOU GODDAMN SHITBAG!!!!!”

Alexander threw his hands downward, causing the blades to rapidly descend. Rizzo stared at the phenomenon as a literal storm of swords fell upon him. They slashed right through the ground, causing not only Prelude to shake but the entire country of Requiem.

 

Inside the police station, Emma covered Roy and Roger, who had started to climb down the stairs toward the basement. Roy stared up in horror at the tremendous quaking.

“Well—this is it. I’m dying a virgin.”

“You’re not gonna die. See—” Emma gestured toward the ceiling, as the shaking had calmed down.

“You were the one afraid of us getting caught up in all of this! Why are you so calm now!?”

“Because—I took that opportunity to slip into here. The Brown Suits are definitely preoccupied with the fight. Which means—we can make sure your boss is all right!”

“Is… is he down here?” Roy asked, reaching the bottom of the stairs.

“He should be. This is where we have our interrogation room. He’ll have the highest chance of being in there.”

Roger nodded. “All right—let’s go check!”

 

At Unity, Brandon awoke from his slumber, after his ordeal with Trevor. Faith and Winona were with him in the infirmary when the shaking occurred.

Brandon sighed. “Is that Trevor guy causing shit again?”

“No—” Faith stood up in a panic. “What is that!?”

Winona placed her hand on the floor, concentrating. As the shaking came to a stop, she opened her eyes.

“That… that came from the southwest… near Prelude.”

“What!? Emma!” Faith began to dash at the door, only to be stopped by Winona.

“Faith, calm down. We can’t just rush into things. Especially when we’re in the middle of orientation. Like hell they’d let us go.”

“Dammit!” Faith slammed her fist on the door. She took a few deep breaths, eventually turning around.

“If it’s something serious… Mom will handle it. Or… even Adam. If something were truly wrong, he wouldn’t standby.”

Brandon leaned up from the bed he was lying in. “Right. You can’t let emotions get the best of you when it comes to this stuff—ow!

“Are you okay!?” Faith ran up to Brandon, holding him up.

“Yeah—just a little sore, like, all over.” He chuckled, attempting to hide the blush he knew he was making thanks to Faith pressing against him.

“I’m glad.” Faith gave Brandon a warm smile, causing him to become even more flustered.

“Let’s go see if they’re talking about it.” Winona gestured toward the door. “Brandon needs his rest.”

Faith nodded, following her out the door. Before she left, she turned back to Brandon.

“Not sure when the nurse will be back, but let us know if you need anything.” Faith grinned, carefully closing the door behind her.

Brandon sighed, lying on his back. He stared at the ceiling.

“Dammit… She’s still way too cute.”

 

Charlotte was holding Adam back, who had attempted to sprint toward Prelude after feeling the quake.

“Adam, calm down! Sheesh—it’s like you saw a guy looking flirtatiously a girl you like or something!”

“That’s… somewhat specific—but anyway—what’s happening over that way!? I can’t let anything happen to Prelude!”

“Relax.” Charlotte turned Adam around to face her, placing her hands on his shoulders. “Want me to go and check?” She pointed back toward Minuet. “I just got back from the hotel when you were throwing that hissy-fit.”

Muraco was a few feet away, holding a lasso in his hands that he formed from his scarf. “Freaking crazy humans…”

“Listen—the hotel’s fine. It seems like the manager checked out the damage and… didn’t care.” Charlotte shrugged.

“What!? How cheap is this hotel we’re staying at!?”

“The point is—we can head back in there. You two should get some rest.”

“Right… We need to figure out how to get through that barrier. We’re all going to go down there tomorrow to check it out. But right now—Charlotte—please…”

Charlotte placed her finger on Adam’s lips, nodding. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure everything’s okay. Prelude… Prelude is my home now too, after all.”

Adam smiled softly. “You’re right—it is.”

Charlotte grabbed Adam’s hand, beckoning Muraco with the other. “Come on, let’s get you two back inside.”

 

Trees from the woods fell into the massive hole that had formed from Alexander’s attack, along with a small highway north of the field. Within seconds, he had completely changed the landscape into something that could only be described as apocalyptic.

Alexander slowly descended, panting heavily. Using his Psycho Matter, he had taken into account the people who had been driving on the highway, keeping them safe by enveloping the vehicles with his Ability, moving them to safety.

From the abyss beneath him, Rizzo leaped out, rocketing toward Alexander. His body was covered in slashes from the attack, yet he moved without issue.

“Wh-What the hell!?” Alexander prepared his wings for Rizzo’s counterattack, shaken by seeing the man come out of his onslaught so casually.

“This is the first time you’ve injured me like this, Alexander.” Rizzo’s fist collided with Alexander’s wing, knocking him back into the air several meters. Kicking downward, Rizzo’s strength propelled him upward at swift speeds. “Honestly—if you did not worry about the people back there—you might have finally done me in!”

Alexander screamed in a fiery rage, sending multiple wings toward Rizzo. Kicking at the air a second time, Rizzo swung his fist, tearing through the Psycho Matter that opposed him. Realizing that his wings did nothing, Alexander prepared his barrier as the Leader of Unity honed in on him.

With one final fist, Rizzo smashed right through, landing a direct blow on Alexander. The force sent the boy skyrocketing back into the town—tearing through what was left of the street they stood on a few moments prior.

Alexander came to a stop near Monica, who had situated herself on a lamp-post that had miraculously remained standing. As the dust cleared, she stared at the boy in terror—the very same boy who had just made quick work of her in his previous fight—now unconscious in the middle of the ruined asphalt.

Rizzo landed at the scene a few seconds later, stretching out his body— completely disregarding the damage it had taken.

“Such a pity, Alexander. You honestly tried so hard this time. I commend you for your efforts. Although, it’s time to take you back to Unity now. You’re like a child—you need a proper time-out.” He glanced over at Monica. “You as well, Teske. I’d like to hear everything that transpired here today.”

Monica did not say anything. She stood up, limping over to Rizzo.

“I see… Alexander did quite a lot of damage to you. No worries, we can fix you up back at Unity. Here—we can get there quickly if I carry you.”

With a blank expression, Monica fell into Rizzo’s arm as he grabbed hold of her. He walked over to Alexander, picking up his body and placing it in his other arm. Without speaking a word to any of the Brown Suits that had stood around, he leaped off the ground toward the direction of Nexus City.

As the wind blew against her, Monica took a quick glance at Alexander.

Although unconscious, it seemed as though tears were falling out of his closed eyelids.


Next: Chapter 2.9

Previous: Chapter 2.7

Table of Contents