Chapter 22

“Terra… Bombardment!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Terra Scattering!”

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

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

“Again…!”

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

“Gotta move…!”

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

“Woah…! Nice one, Adam!”

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

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

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

“Terra… Surf!”

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

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

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

“Terra… Thorn!” 

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

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

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

“Terra…?”

“Go get ‘em, sand!”

“No terra…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam chose to remain silent.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Forgive me…” Carl continued to giggle.

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

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

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

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

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

“Has something happened…?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

He held his head—still very much in pain.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sit down.”

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

“What in the…!?”

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

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

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

“What…? What event?”

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean…?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait—”

Before Brandon could say anything, his consciousness faded.

 

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

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

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

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

“…Hey, idiot.”

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

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

“…That’s not what I meant.”

“Huh?”

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

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

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

“Wha…? What’s wrong!?”

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

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

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

“Despite…?”

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

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

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

“Dangerous?”

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

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

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

Brandon waited nervously for her to continue.

“…I don’t want that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know! I can get Jerry’s dad to—”

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

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

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

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

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


Next: Chapter 23

Previous: Chapter 21

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 21

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

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

The three had no idea what they had just caused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“…We’ll get through this…”

“…We have to keep on fighting…”

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

“…We’ve both lost so much…”

“…But knowing you’re there for us…”

“…Like we are for you…”

“…Don’t suffer alone…”

“…We can do this, Char…”

 

Adam awoke several minutes later.

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

“Huh…?” 

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

“What… happened here?”

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

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

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

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

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

He grew silent.

“…Do I still want to die?”

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

“What…?”

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

“What the… what the hell!?

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

“Gah…!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wha—”

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

“Adam…!?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What… What the…!?” 

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

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

Winona took a deep breath, readying herself for battle.

“All right! Leave it to me!”  


Next: Chapter 22

Previous: Chapter 20

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 20

Derek—his right arm seared.

Adam—his right arm vaporized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s going on here…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Share the wealth with the virtuous…

Rob from the sinful…”

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

“Armaments of the Summer Storm!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Full… Abstraction?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s try… this!

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

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

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

“There…!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte lunged forward, beginning her final attack. 

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


Next: Chapter 21

Previous: Chapter 19

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 19

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

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

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

“Wha…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re not similar.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Y-Yeah…? That means something?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How… did he hear all of that!?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“S-Still! You’ve gotta stop him!”

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

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

“I can’t do that.”

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

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

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

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

Why did it all seem so familiar?


Next: Chapter 20

Previous: Chapter 18

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m a ghost, after all!”

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

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

“Well, shit—”

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

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


Next: Chapter 19

Previous: Chapter 17

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

Chapter 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is until he glanced upward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam went silent. Derek looked at him and shrugged. 

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

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

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

“Let me warp you out, at least.” 

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

“B-Brandon…!?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t want to get violent.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get violent, then.”


Next: Chapter 18

Previous: Chapter 16

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

I Haven’t Made a Site Update in Quite Some Time, So Let’s Talk!

Hi everyone, long time no talk.

Over the past few weeks, my will to write has returned to me, and we are back in the game. I did start this newer version of the web novel back in January, so I’m certainly a lot further behind than I want to be. The delays in chapters are mainly contributed to mental health-related issues that have been amplified by everything happening this year. I can say they’re definitely still affecting me, but at least I’m making progress once more.

The chapters are being released weekly, with one new chapter for everyone. On Patreon, I now have it so we are two chapters ahead of everywhere else, which a new chapter posted there weekly as well. If you’re caught up with the story, and that interests you, then two bucks a month will grant you access. It is greatly appreciated if you do so, but as I’ve stressed in the past, simply reading the series is fantastic support on its own.

Don’t be shy about asking questions, by the way. If something in the story confuses the hell out of you, ask. I’ll answer as long as we don’t dive into spoiler territory. That is the thing though: there are loads of things that won’t make sense right away. Like what I’m doing with this new version involving Brandon *recent chapter spoilers* and his strange “alter ego” that has taken him over. It’s a new idea I have, yet it will all lead to the overall plot surrounding him that I’ve had all along. It will make sense in the long-run, just please be patient with it, just like you would with other points of the story.

I’ll admit it right now. One of my pet peeves is people who are not patient. In general, but also with writing. As this is a series that releases by the chapter, not everything is going to be covered right away. There’s a lot of content overall that needs to be covered, so it’ll take time. So, if you ask a question with the clear intent of “just tell us what the hell is happening” then it’ll probably be ignored. Genuine innocent curiosity, however, will loop back to what I discussed above: I’ll definitely answer you as long as we don’t get into spoiler territory.

I think I mentioned this on Royal Road, but this version of the web novel takes the comedy aspect of the series a lot more seriously. Comedy has been a thing with Phantonics since the beginning, so I figured that I would officially make it into a core part of what makes up the Phantonics universe. So, whacky antics will now be a more common part of the story. There are moments that will be quite stressful to read in the future, so a good balance of humor will be needed to help the reader not get too sad. Timing for this humor is something I’ve been working on; mainly involving Brandon. I hope to keep at it and make the “interlude” sections of the story in between arcs a lot more entertaining.

Speaking of, I’m not sure if I want to start doing interlude specific chapters. I’m still thinking about how I’d go about doing those. One thing I am heavily considering is beginning short stories of alternate “what-if” scenarios that could happen. I’d probably just call it “Phantonics Alternate” or something simple like that. Here, I’ll give away an idea for one: it would be called “Phantonics Alternate: Ash” and be a what-if scenario if Faith and Emma weren’t saved from the fire and they both died. It would be quite dark, so—naturally—it would be fun to write. Also, taking into consideration the humor thing, another side story thing I’d consider is one strictly for that kind of thing, that detaches itself quite far from the normal story. Maybe call it “Phantonics Fool” or something like that—idk I just pulled that title out of my ass. Right before this sentence that I’m writing right now, I took a small breather for a moment and noticed I had typed exactly 666 words, so that’s fun. Thought I’d mention it, just cause.

Side story-wise, Phantonics Sakura is still one that I will do whenever we reach 10 supporters on Patreon. Still only at one at the moment (shoutout to Novagirl93 for the support you’ve given so far) so, for those of you who do want to go that extra mile, that will be one of your (eventual) rewards. If you want to see Alexander Strauss in his own story (readers of the previous web novel will know him quite well—he’s a fan favorite from the few people I’ve talked to) then tell your friends! And for you lovely folks that read the story normally, rest assured. It will be released to the public upon completion. I mention on Patreon that it will be released in chapters, much like the normal story, specifically on there. Random note: I’m pretty sure the side story for Faith will be called “Phantonics Flare” and I have a good idea as to where I want to place it in the timeline. It’s… quite far off, however. We’ll deal with that once we get to that point. Random note 2: Alexander’s side story is called “Phantonics Sakura” due to his Psycho Matter matching the color of cherry blossoms—I know, creative. It has nothing to do with that one person from that one series about ninjas.

I think I’m going to make chapters a bit longer again so that more content is released weekly. When this version started, I wanted chapters to be shorter so that people could sink into the story easier and not be as overwhelmed. It was also to help me keep up with a schedule, but we all know how that went. I’m going to keep it up as long as I can, and we can hopefully start to see some growth in the series as we get through this second half of the year (how is 2020 already halfway over wtf). The current Crimson Mine Arc should be done by the end of July and the arc after that will hopefully be done by the fall. That will get us through Book 1, perhaps around 2 years after I started the original web novel (October 27, 2018 will always be considered Phantonics’ birthday, btw). I’m doing a really rough estimate here (especially considering how I am) and I’m guessing Book 2 will go into 2021. If I do well enough, maybe we can reach the territory of new new content like… a year or so from now? It’s kind of rough to type that out, but who knows? I could pull off something crazy and write much more before then. It all depends.

I should clarify, as I said before, there’s plenty of new content before we reach that point. The Crimson Mine Arc currently in progress is completely new, surrounding that two chapter fight with Derek in the previous version. It’s much more expanded than before, taking place in an entirely different setting. Fun fact: this mine was actually something from the original Phantonics that I wrote a decade ago. It’s kind of nice to go back to it when I’m actually somewhat competent with writing (somewhat). The following arc will have extra content expanding on that fight with Carl in the woods. Book 2’s first arc will be roughly the same (done better, though—I honestly did not care too much for how I wrote that), then there will be another completely new arc, followed by the arc the last version left off on. That one will be similar, with some differences with how some of the fights play out. Once we get past the point of the Chris fight and the situation that was going on with Emma, we’ll be in new territory. I’ve mentioned this before, but I, unfortunately, did pull the plug right before the super crazy stuff went down. It motivates me to get back to that point, but I know I have to take it slow. Or, just be careful with my writing. If I want to go off with writing, I certainly can if I’m in the right mindset. This simple update, for example, is WAY longer than I thought it would be. It’s a lot of rambling, but I’ve felt like I’ve covered some good points. Not only for you guys to read, but for me to think about.

Anyway, I think I’ll end it here, on that note. If you actually read through this entire thing, bless your soul. This update alone is about an average length of a chapter, and it took me about an hour to write (that does count the small breaks though). So, can I keep this up and work on an actual chapter right now? Or will I go to bed? Both sound tempting. We shall see.

Thank you,

-Kyle

 

 

Chapter 7

Adam felt a cool breeze upon his skin. He seemed to quickly remember what had occurred before passing out. Vision returning to his eyes, consciousness was coming back. The next moment Adam was on his feet. It was only then he took in where he was.

It seemed to be a clearing of some kind in the middle of the woods. Knowing the layout of Prelude his entire life, Adam could tell that he was still near the town based on a simple observation of his surroundings. He was certain he had walked in this area before—surrounded by pine and apple trees.  All Adam had to help him see was the light of the full moon above him.

“How… long was I out?” Adam looked frantically in each direction.

“Three hours.”

Adam turned toward Charlotte, who was standing behind him. He could have sworn he looked that way and did not see her at all a moment ago.

“I’m not really sure why you fainted—I’ll have to figure out the specifics later. But, it made moving you to a remote location much easier.” Charlotte shrugged.

“…You’re a freaking ghost.” Adam shook his head, completely baffled at the entire situation he now seemed to be in.

“I am. Let me tell you, it’s been quite the task to keep that under wraps as I investigated.” 

“Investigated what…?” Adam began to back away from Charlotte.

“The location of what I was looking for. Which ended up being—”

Adam did not blink. Somehow, Charlotte ended up behind him.

“You…”

He jumped back, falling onto the ground as he tried to defend himself. There was no telling what Charlotte was capable of.

“W-Why me? What’s so special about me? I don’t have some crazy Concept or anything! I don’t even have phantons!”

Charlotte paused for a moment before speaking—somewhat annoyed.

“Concepts… Phantons… Yes, the science of Phantonics has certainly rounded a lot of the supernatural up into one neat package, hasn’t it?” Charlotte began to giggle. “They’ve been trying to study why you lack phantons. What’s funny to me is that it seems as though you think the answer is something negative—something that deems you worthless.”

Adam did not respond—Charlotte assuming he would. She continued to speak as he remained silent.

“What if I told you… your soul is meant to be different? It exists specifically to use a certain something—something that no one else can use?”

“…What the hell are you talking about?”

Charlotte grinned—her arms opening wide.

“The World Mirror.”

“The… World Mirror?” Adam scratched his head. “The hell…? What is that supposed to be?”

“An item with immeasurable power. Power that can only flow through you. It seems like it already has done so—albeit in small amounts.”

“…All right, Miss Ghost,” Adam stood up, not amused with what Charlotte was talking about. “Let’s say this ‘World Mirror’ thing exists. Why are you looking for it? And—you had the audacity in to kidnap me and bring me out here in the woods? You couldn’t just talk to me about it in the store without going all freaking ‘Boo, I’m a ghost—feel my cold-ass forehead and stare into my creepy glowing eyes’!?”

Charlotte could only sigh in response. She gathered her thoughts and decided to answer. “It was too dangerous to do anything in the store. As for why I’m looking for it… It’s necessary.”

 As Adam was about to ask her what she meant, an azure aura started to form around Charlotte. Starting off calmly, it quickly shifted into a tremendous force that knocked Adam off his feet. He tried standing up, only to be knocked back down once again.

The force diminished a few seconds later, and Adam was able to regain his footing. Focusing his attention back onto Charlotte, he noticed her appearance changed. Instead of the jet black hair she usually possessed, Charlotte now had pure white hair. The clothing she wore was now a set of navy blue armor that seemed relatively light and easy to move around in.

“That appearance… it reminds me of…”

Charlotte nodded, seeming to know what Adam was thinking. “Yes, I know it’s been taught in your curriculum. My true name is actually Charlotte Ouderkirk, a member of the royal family of Requiem!”

Adam chuckled in disbelief. “So, this is what I’m dealing with. I was wondering how a ghost was capable of existing like a living person. If you’re a part of them, it makes sense.”

“My family created the World Mirror, you see. It was always considered as something that could help in a time of desperation. Which is why I’m going to be borrowing its power.”

“Listen,” Adam scratched his head. “Even if I do have this World Mirror thing, I have no clue how to use it. So I can’t really help you out with whatever it is you need.”

“Heh… I don’t blame you for being clueless. Trust me, you’re not the only one.” Charlotte held out her hand to the side. “Let me help you—using what I do know.”

Charlotte waved her hand in a motion as if she was beckoning someone. An azure glow formed near it, and a longsword of the same color appeared—the hilt now held by her.

“I call this my ‘Royal Armory.’ Our family has complete control of the things you call phantons, which we can use to create whatever we want.”

“A sword… completely made out of phantons?” Adam began to back away. “W-What are you planning on doing with that…?”

“Relax. The edges of this blade are incredibly dull—you won’t get sliced apart by it.” Charlotte assured. She began to giggle while waving the sword around. “However, I’m still going to use it on you.”

“What!? Why!?” Adam did not give Charlotte time to answer as he began to run away. 

He could not escape. Adam felt a bitter cold surge throughout his body as Charlotte phased right through him, stopping him in his tracks. 

“I need to pressure you. Understanding the ‘why’ isn’t necessary right now. Besides—” Charlotte prepared her blade. “Where’s the fun in just outright telling you?”

Before Adam could react, the blade struck him on his left side with blinding speed. This was followed by several more slashes that hit him before the pain could even begin to register. Charlotte delivered a kick to finish the combo, knocking Adam onto the ground a few feet away.

The agony he felt was like none he had felt before. Blood spewed from his mouth as he convulsed on the grass, certain that—despite the blade not capable of cutting him—several limbs had been broken by the sheer force of Charlotte’s strikes.

“Hm… Strange, nothing’s happening yet.” Charlotte noted, walking towards the young man in suffering. She realized that Adam’s eyes were, in fact, glowing just as they did at the store. “It has to be active… Why isn’t it doing anything?”

Adam could not even attempt to ask what Charlotte was talking about—he could only cough in response.

“…Is it possible that you’re holding back the power yourself? Subconsciously? That’s no good—you’ll die, you know.”

Die. That simple word set something off within Adam. He looked at the earth beneath him, covered in his own blood. The sight brought back memories that he wished never returned.

Charlotte approached him, ready to continue her onslaught. She stopped, realizing that the young man before her was no longer shaking from his injuries. Somehow—she knew the difference. How the body trembled from physical agony versus internal.    

“…I was looking into things for a while now.  Being a spirit, I can do certain things to help me acquire information. Eventually, I narrowed my search down to your school. If I wanted to, I could have found you right away. There were restrictions—unfortunately, that hindered how quickly I could investigate. I had to do things in a specific order. Becoming a student myself was the first thing. Getting information on the students was next. Graduation happened before I could continue, but I did learn some interesting things…” There was a rather long pause.

 “Six months ago, you tried to kill yourself. Is that correct?”

Adam’s eyes widened. Their ghostly gaze shot up and looked at Charlotte—filled with astonishment on how she knew about it.

“A kid with no real hobbies, no real plans for the future. Friends that have loads of promise, on the contrary. You distanced yourself from them, thinking they no longer needed you. And your home life… heh. Truly, you don’t have much of a family, right?”

Adam’s mind went back a few hours ago to what Pam told him.

“You have a family here, don’t forget that.”

Anger seemed to boil within him. He stood, slowly gaining his composure. Something was occurring that he did not seem to notice.

A faint ghostly aura began emerging from his body. Charlotte could feel it in the air—tiny vibrations that held a certain power. Although weak, she knew what she was facing.

The power of life itself.

“So, this is…” She smirked—her body shaking with excitement. “This is the true power of a soul. Fueled by the World Mirror to the point where it physically manifests from your body!”

Adam was not paying attention to her words. Instead, he charged at Charlotte—his fist flying right toward her. She raised her blade, blocking the strike with its side.

Although she stood firmly in place, the force of the impact shook the area surrounding the two.

“Yes… Yes—amazing!”

Adam pulled his fist back—blood now covering the glowing sword. What were fingers mere moments ago had become lumps of crimson flesh—bones protruding from the wounds.

“His body clearly can’t handle the boost in power it’s getting…” Charlotte shook her head, analyzing the situation. The white aura began forming more prominently around Adam’s hand—still unaware of what was happening to his body. She placed her hand on her chin while observing—a gleeful grin on her face. “That’s no issue, however.”

As Adam Grayson revved up for another punch with the same arm, his fingers had miraculously grown back. The newly formed appendages—lit in a blinding phantasmal light—struck Charlotte’s blade a second time, now capable of pushing her away a few feet.

“See… This is your power! With this, you can certainly help me find—”

Charlotte was interrupted by a punch, now from Adam’s left fist. She whacked it away with the side of her blade—the mighty force almost causing her to lose her balance. Adam, seemingly slipping into a blind rage, began sending a volley of attacks her way.

“The power is also fueling his adrenaline… and his anger.” Charlotte parried the berserk onslaught to the best of her capabilities, yet was starting to have difficulty in keeping up. She evaded a kick, which ended up shattering a tree that had been behind her.

“What crazy power… My body won’t be able to hold out in this form much longer.”

As bark and large chunks of wood flew around the area, Charlotte could tell that Adam’s foot—shoe included—was miraculously still intact. Although it was clear that he could barely stand on it.

Yet, with that very foot, Adam leaped at Charlotte. His right arm—now missing its hand—lit up all the way to his shoulder. Bending it back, he unleashed it swiftly, like shooting an arrow. The spectral energy erupted, engulfing Charlotte before she could adequately block the attack. It shot forward—a white comet rocketing through the forest with immense power. 

The recoil knocked Adam onto his back. As the shaking of the earth slowly ceased, his inner fury subsided. 

“…”

He gazed into the scene in front of him, wondering what just happened. There was no pain—he did not seem to understand how much damage his body had taken.

“Family… right. That’s what she was talking about…”

With a wave of her arm, Charlotte blew the dust away, clearing the way for both of them to see. The area had been torn to shreds, like a war zone. Adam’s attention finally turned to his arm—or rather—where his arm should be. Void of emotion, he surveyed the rest of his body. His left hand was also missing, and most of his person was described as a muddy, bloody mess.

Even then, physically and emotionally, he felt nothing. 

Charlotte held the hilt of her sword—the only thing that remained as shards of the blade crumbled away into dust. “You’re pretty strong, you know that?” She tossed the remains of her weapon to the ground, fading away moments later. 

Adam did not respond. He was caught up in his own mind—memories returning to him involving things people have said about him in the past.

“What the hell is that kid even doing here?”

“Is he mute or something?”

“I’ve never heard a peep out of him.”

“Heh, careful guys. He could be a ghost or something.”

“He might as well be dead.”

There were layers of irony in his current situation. Contradictions, as well.

Whether Adam Grayson was a nameless ghost—a soul merely wandering the world—or a peculiar existence that science deemed soulless altogether, none of that mattered now.

Adam had just unleashed a remarkable power from within him. Whatever was said before this moment—it was invalid to him. This was his true starting line. 

He watched as the strange energy continued to form around his wounds. Although the pain was immense—like tiny needles stabbing through him, Adam was now aware that his body had begun to regenerate.

“Just what the hell is happening…?”

“This is the power of the World Mirror,” Charlotte responded. “Even if it was brief, you showed things that I remember from the legends.”

“…Yeah—I think it’s time you started spilling everything that you know.”

“Everything I know…” She sighed. “Let me ask you something first.”

Despite not needing to, Charlotte breathed just like a living person. She inhaled—held the air in—and exhaled, anxious to continue speaking.

“…What pushed you to the point of wanting to take your own life?”

Adam processed Charlotte’s sudden and intense inquiry, his gaze meeting the moon above. At that moment, emotions began to finally surge inside of him. After pondering for a few seconds, he was able to answer calmly.

“I saw it. All of it. Clearly. The despair plaguing the world. Ever since all of those things happened years ago, I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to save… her, and everyone else. Including myself… That feeling combated that despair… and lost.” Adam formed a light smile.

“It’s funny how I lost due to happiness, however. It felt as though she was better off without me. I was so able to see her genuinely smile again. She—and my other friends as well. They have so much going for them. They don’t need me. And that’s all I had… the fact that I could help them through things. I was too scared of the rest of the world to try to find something myself.” Adam violently shook his head.

“Can’t they see… all of this twisted shit in the world!? I know they can, everyone can. And they… they don’t do a damn thing about it! Nobody ever does!

There was silence. Charlotte spoke before it grew to the point of awkwardness.

“So, why are you upset?”

Adam’s eyes widened, seemingly confused from her question. His gaze would remain upward, however.

Charlotte answered herself. “It’s because that feeling actually didn’t lose. That feeling to combat that despair. It’s still there. But it’s struggling. Life makes everything struggle. But it’s not over.” Charlotte walked over to Adam and bent over him, now blocking his gaze at the moon with her own eyes.

“You have a purpose. To continue fighting that despair. That’s why the World Mirror manifested within you. It knows you want so desperately to fight, regardless of how many times you fall.” Charlotte dropped down onto her knee and bowed to Adam as he stared at her in bewilderment.

“I’ll be by your side while you do so. While I figure out my situation, I can help you with yours.” She smiled. “It’s the least I can do… for being so physically and emotionally harsh to you. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me one day, yet you don’t have to—”

Adam had reached his limit. Before Charlotte could finish talking, he collapsed—the glow the World Mirror created fading away. His body was exhausted beyond words and could hardly handle what was happening anymore.

“Well, I guess, for now, that’s fine. I’m exhausted as well. I think to have to act like a villain exhausted me more than using my power.” Charlotte chuckled, lowering her head.

“Was it acting, though?”

The branch of a nearby apple tree that was damaged snapped—the fruit tumbling onto the ground. Charlotte watched as they rolled over toward the two.

As an apple—golden yellow in color—came to a stop next to Adam’s now reformed right hand, the spirit grew uneasy as to what she had just set in motion. 


Next: Chapter 8

Previous: Chapter 6

Table of Contents

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE HEROES OF REQUIEM ON PATREON:

Novagirl93

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

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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

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