Charlotte slashed down at Carl, who guarded with his weapon. The shock wave was powerful enough to tear apart the area around them, causing trees to be flung upward like they were toothpicks.
Carl maneuvered his spear around Charlotte’s sword, attempting to slash at her with one of the sharp ends. She jumped away just in time, landing on a mass of earth that had been raised up from the ground.
Not hesitating, Carl spun the spear around and jabbed at the air with the opposite end. Charlotte jumped off her foothold, avoiding the attack that ripped it into shreds.
“He has that much strength? What is this power?” As Charlotte analyzed her opponent’s capabilities, Carl leaped forward, going for another jab at her mid-air. She was able to move most of her body out of the way but realized that she needed to phase through the entirety of the attack.
When Charlotte attempted the phase, it did not work. Carl’s spear slashed the right side of her face, causing blood to splatter all over. Charlotte landed, holding her wound in pain.
“Man, I knew it was fishy!” Carl laughed as his feet hit the ground. “There aren’t supposed to be any full-blooded Ouderkirks alive these days! I felt it again though… You were going to phase through that strike, just like you did when you tried to get out of my grip on you! You’re a ghost! Oh man, so many things to learn from experimenting on you!”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna allow you to do that.” Charlotte put both hands back on her sword, the blood from holding her face dripping down onto the glowing blade.
“Oh, come on! You’re bleeding, and you’re a ghost! Do you have any idea as to how that’s possible!? Cause I sure as hell don’t! I know your family has power, but I didn’t think something like this was able to be done.” Carl took a step forward.
“I know you’re the one who hurt my comrades a few weeks back. You were defending that boy they were fighting against, weren’t you? Why do you associate yourself with him?”
“I…” Charlotte hesitated with her response. “It’s my duty… to help him. I think...”
“You think? What’s that supposed to—oh… oh, I get it.” Carl started giggling. “You don’t have all of your memories, do you? I thought it was weird that you, with your status, simply stayed here with that boy. You’re clinging onto what little information you do know, trying to seek the truth, right?” Carl raised his hand in front of him, beckoning Charlotte.
“All you have to do is come with me. I swear, I can help you figure out more than you ever would staying with him.”
“First of all—” Charlotte pointed her blade at Carl, the blood seemingly soaking into it. “You’re a creep, so no. And… This place—” She jumped at Carl, her sword unleashing massive amounts of phantonic energy.
“It’s my home now!”
Her sword struck Carl’s spear, which shattered apart from the tremendous force of Charlotte’s power. He was now defenseless. Charlotte did not hesitate and jabbed right at Carl’s chest.
As Carl formed a huge grin, he motioned his left hand, causing mysterious black petals to form from below him. They shot upward, engulfing Charlotte before she could realize what was happening.
Charlotte was spiraling toward the night sky, attempting to slash her way out of the attack. Despite how freely the petals moved, they were incredibly dense. Her sword burst into pieces, unable to move them at all.
“Nice nice nice!” Carl was ecstatic. “Now, you’re mine!”
The petals blocked out the light, leaving Charlotte in complete darkness. Carl maneuvered his hands to reform them into a solid black sphere above him.
Charlotte was convinced that she was trapped, being unable to do a thing. Her fear was enveloping her, as she started to shake, shedding tears.
“What’s going to happen to me?”
She became calm as if a switch was flipped.
“What’s going to happen to me? I’ve said those words before. Time and time again. Even though… I knew what was going to happen. I broke free, though. And I got strong… Strong, so that nobody else in my family would have to go through with that.”
Charlotte started to chuckle.
“Attempting to keep the perfect blood lasting forever? It was already long gone by that point. That’s why… I defied my family. Wait… No, we did. Who… Who was that with me? Oh well… That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is… I’m strong…”
She glared downward as if she was staring directly at Carl.
“...And you’re weak.”
The black sphere exploded in a fiery blue, Charlotte diving down at Carl like a missile. She instantly formed a long sword in her hand and jabbed it into both her opponent and the earth.
As if a meteor hit, a massive blast of energy shot through the area. Faith, Emma, and Winona were about to head into the woods when this occurred. Winona jumped in front of her friends.
She placed her hands on the ground, raising a giant wall of stone for protection. This was just in time, as the energy ripped out of the woods and into Prelude.
As quickly as the blast of energy had occurred, it ended. Faith and Emma looked up from their arms, as they had braced themselves. The stone Winona had put up was still standing, although now beginning to crumble.
“Wow, nice one Win! How did you manage to keep that—”
Winona started coughing uncontrollably, collapsing onto the ground.
“Winona!” The sisters immediately checked what was wrong. Faith held Winona up as blood began to ooze out of her mouth.
“Had… to put all my power into that stone… so it wouldn’t brea—” Winona continued to cough.
“We have to get her some help! Quick Emma, go inside and call—”
“There is no inside, Faith.”
Faith turned around, seeing her sister point at their house, now torn to pieces as if a tornado had hit it.
“W-Wait! Charlotte!” Faith was in a panic. “Emma! Go see if she’s oka—” She paused, feeling Winona’s hand grasp her own.
“She’s not there,” Winona whispered. She pointed her shaking hand toward the direction of the blast site.
“Huh? How is she there?”
“I just have a good feeling… Faith, go make sure she’s okay, please?”
“I-I have to get you to safety!” Faith had started to breathe heavily, overtaken by anxiety.
“I got her, Sis.” Emma placed her hand on Faith’s shoulder. “If Charlotte’s somehow over there, then we gotta go make sure she’s all right. I’ll take Winona and get help. I know you can do it.”
“B-But…” Faith was shaking. Emma picked Winona up and had her lean against her side.
“How can I…? How you do know I can?”
Emma started to guide Winona away, yet took the time to look back at Faith with a confident smirk on her face.
“Cause you’re my big sister.”
Faith watched in awe as her sister ran off. Winona was capable of taking steps as well, making the process of getting her to safety easier.
Despite her fear, Faith dashed into the maze of toppled trees. With great swiftness, she made her way toward the strange event that was occurring.
“I was never the heroic one. But that’s why I’ve wanted to become strong. To become a hero. I can’t let… such stupid fear bring me down. Nobody has to get hurt anymore…”
Faith recalled the moment where she held Adam in her arms in this very forest.
“Things don’t have to be like that!”
Taking a huge leap, Faith came across a large crater in the ground. She was able to stop herself from falling into the abyss, raising her guard for whatever was below.
It was there she saw Charlotte in the hands of someone she did not know. Carl held her high, smirking.
“If I didn’t turn myself into a scientific mess, that would have for sure killed me.” He pointed at the large hole in his chest, that was molding back together with a black liquid his body was producing.
The attack from Charlotte has wholly destroyed the cloak Carl was wearing. It revealed a not shirtless black-haired man with shining red eyes. His skin seemed extremely pale.
“Yeah yeah yeah, you went right through me and blew up the forest instead. What kinda attack was that? You forced all of the energy to the tip of your sword.”
Charlotte struggled to break free, yet her power was dwindling. The armor she was wearing had started to break apart, and her blue aura began to fade away.
“How interesting! You’re definitely an Ouderkirk, that’s for sure!” Carl shouted into Charlotte’s face. “Let’s go figure out how to channel all that power, yeah?”
“Ouderkirk!?” Faith noticed that Charlotte’s hair was now white, which she remembers was one of the traits the Ouderkirk family had.
This did not matter, however. What mattered was that her friend was in danger.
Faith jumped into the crater, sliding down the side. As fire lit up in her right hand, Carl noticed her.
“Oh? Some girl with an Ability? You could be fun to play with back at the lab too!”
“Focus… I can’t hit Charlotte. I have to rescue her. There was a reason I obtained this power, and I can’t let it go to waste! Comfort… Passion… Life… There’s so much that fire represents… And I’m going to accept all of it!”
Powerful flames erupted out of her hand, hurtling toward Carl. Faith had succeeded in crossing another bridge. Although she would already be forced to cross another one.
Carl rotated his body around, holding Charlotte in between himself and the fire approaching him.
“Stupid stupid stupid! Too easy!” Carl laughed maniacally.
“You’re the stupid one! These aren’t just any ordinary flames! These are my flames, and they follow my rules!”
Faith did not hesitate as her attack collided with Charlotte and Carl, engulfing them both in the scorching inferno. However, the only one to feel pain was Carl. He screamed in agony, as his grip loosened enough for Charlotte to free herself.
‘What is this?” Charlotte looked down at her body, which merely felt toasty warmth blanketing it. She turned toward Carl, whose body began to burn away.
Charlotte jumped out of the fire and landed next to Faith, who had her focus on controlling her flame. She was making a comedic humming sound, which almost caused Charlotte to laugh.
Carl stomped his foot, causing black petals to kick up and extinguish the flames that had captured him. His body oozed black liquid from his burns, beginning to heal them.
“What the heck is his body made of!?” Faith prepared another flame in her hands, making sure to keep her focus on her opponent.
Charlotte created another sword and stood next to Faith. “Whatever it is, I think we have to take care of how we attack him. I put all of my power into an attack, and most of it slipped through, and…” She glanced behind her. “I messed up, didn’t I?”
“Don’t worry about that right now.” Faith said with confidence. “Focus on what’s ahead of you.”
“Right—” As Charlotte began to charge at Carl, her sword shattered. She fell on her knees as she reverted back to her black-haired form.
“Charlotte! Are you ok—”
“Take your own advice, girl!”
Faith turned back to her opponent, who had begun to launch a wave of black petals at the two of them.
Gritting her teeth, Faith released a giant flame formed by both of her hands. It collided with the petals, causing a massive shock wave.
“You can generate some nice power, but you’re too much of a greenhorn!” Carl condensed the petals and caused them to spiral, eating their way right through Faith’s attack.
As Faith braced for impact, a blue light flashed, and she and Charlotte had vanished. The attack went right through where they were not a moment before and wrecked a large portion of the crater’s south side.
“Where the—” Carl scanned the area and found the two quickly. They were several feet above their original position, standing on the edge of the crater. A third figure had appeared and stood in between them. Faith turned to her left and recognized the clock-masked person immediately.
“It’s you! You saved us?”
The figure did not respond. Instead, they began to remove their mask.
Right before the right eye could become visible, an intense blue light shot out, engulfing the entire area.
At the same time, Emma had already gotten Winona to safety and returned to her house with her mother by her side. Pam wore a light black jacket, black pants, and the blue pin of Unity members. As she saw her house in ruins, she gripped a sword that she had on her left hip in frustration.
Her anger would not have a concrete source for long, however, as the light made its way to their location, blinding the two who stood there.
As they regained her vision, Pam had instinctively guarded Emma against the strange event. The mother and daughter looked in front of them, where their house once again stood. Their entire surroundings had returned to normal.
“Mom... Is this…!?”
“Yeah, it has to be,” Pam answered her daughter. “Rewrite Phenomenon. Stay here. Help should be here shortly. I’m going in.”
“Be careful!” Emma waved at her mother, who nodded at her with a grin. Steam started to form around her feet and swiftly built up enough pressure to launch herself into the woods.
Back at the battle, Faith and Charlotte were back in the normal forest, where trees once again stood tall. They looked around in pure wonderment.
“W-Where did that guy go!?” Faith was looking down at the ground, where the crater existed mere moments before.
The earth began to shake violently, as black petals erupted out. Carl dropped onto his knees, gasping for breath.
As Faith raised her guard, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. Turning to the source revealed that the masked person had vanished.
Charlotte began to scream in agony, with snapped Faith out of her stupor regarding who the person was.
“What’s wrong!?” She leaned over to hold Charlotte, who had begun to fade away. Faith could not believe what she was seeing.
“Charlotte… Who… are you?”
Charlotte seemed to notice something behind her, as she turned to look. A smile formed on her face.
“Don’t worry about that right now. I need to go… Luckily, I can go, seeing as though you’re safe.”
Before Faith could ask more questions, Charlotte vanished into thin air. Carl stood back on his feet, starting to chuckle.
“Really!? She leaves you here!? Oh well, I’m disappointed that I lost that goldmine, but you’ll do for now.”
Carl crept toward Faith, who prepared herself to continue to fight. Truth be told, she could barely stand at this point. But, she had to fight.
Or so she thought. She quickly understood what Charlotte meant by her being safe.
Pam blitzed into the battle, smashing a steamy fist right into Carl’s face, sending him flying off into the forest.
“Mom!” Faith immediately ran up to her mother, giving her a huge hug. Pam returned the affection from her daughter, holding her tightly.
“I’m here, sweetheart. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired…”
Pam smiled. “You did well. Tell me about all the details later.”
She held her scabbard, which started to emit steam and turned toward Carl’s direction, where loud footsteps could be heard.
“I’ve got this.”
Carl leaped out of the shadows, a new spear formed, aiming it directly at Pam.
“You think you can do that to me, you bi—”
Pam’s sword shot out of the scabbard, causing to the hilt to slam in Carl’s face before he could attack.
He landed on his feet as Pam caught her sword. The white-blade of the chokutō radiated steam; the heat capable of being felt from several feet away. She rushed at Carl, who blocked her slashes with his spear.
Pam smirked. “Pretty sturdy weapon you’ve got there.”
“You’re from that filthy Unity, huh? I see, steam… Wait, are you—”
“It doesn’t matter what my status is in Unity.” Pam declared, sheathing her sword as steam continued to build up. “All I am right now is a mother who’s about to beat the bastard who messed with my daughter!”
She swung her sword out of the scabbard, causing a sharp wave of steam to blast out at Carl. He attempted to block with his spear, but it was futile. Pam’s attack cut clean through his defense and bisected his body in the blink of an eye.
“What… How...!?” Carl’s two halves fell, black liquid splattering everywhere.
“My best friend could use her flames with her sword, being able to slice through anything. It took me a long time, but I managed to do something similar with my steam.” She pointed her blade into Carl’s face.
“She used her power to protect and conquer, and I’ll do the same.”
Carl began to laugh, simultaneously coughing up a mixture of blood and black liquid.
“Pamela Roswell, huh? Damn, didn’t expect I’d have to deal with you tonight. Well, this is your hometown, after all. I just figured we’d be able to do the original plan without much hassle, but ah, screw it. I’ve had enough fun. Jason!”
Shadows suddenly emerged from underneath Carl. Pam jumped away, raising her arm to protect Faith. A white duck mask formed above the dark energy, glaring down below.
“I’d say so, Carl. I’m glad you told Derek and Chris to leave. I’d rather not have our new companions get caught up in this mess.”
“What the hell are you?” Pam began to form steam around her right hand. “And are you stupid? You’re really spewing out your names? Even if it is just your first names, that’s idiotic.”
The mask started to chuckle, echoing throughout the woods.
“It does not matter. We will soon get what we’re looking for. Then, it’ll be all over.”
“Whatever you’re doing—” The steam formed into a sphere, which Pam aimed at the mask. “I’ll stop it!”
The sphere launched at the mask with lightning speed. Before it could make contact, however, the mask had vanished into the very shadows it created. At the same time, Carl as well had disappeared. The shadows blended in with the darkness of the forest and were gone.
Pam flicked her fingers in frustration, causing the sphere to fade away. “Dammit! I can’t let anything happen again!”
“Mom, what are you—” Faith was interrupted by her mom embracing her hard.
“I love you, Faith. I’m…” Tears started to roll down her face.
“I’m not going to let anything like that happen again! I’ve lost two precious people already, and no way in hell I’m losing my two girls.”
Faith began to cry as well, which quickly formed into sobbing.
“M-Mom, you idiot! We’re here t-to help you make sure that doesn—happen!”
Pam buried her face into her daughter's shoulder, hiding a warm smile that was on her face.
“You sure are getting strong, huh?”