“So let me get this straight—” Charlotte sighed. “You have an Ability for temporarily taking someone’s hearing capabilities and adding them to your own? All right, that’s fine. But what I don’t get is how you took no precautions for someone actually seeing you?”
“I sure did!” Muraco yelled. “I kept my hearing in focus! If someone were to approach, I would have sensed it!”
“So, why did you allow that couple to almost see us? Surely you should have heard them long before they got that close?”
“I-I was distracted! I wasn’t expecting… yourself to have had a bad past as well…”
Charlotte had used her powers to get Adam and Muraco out of the hotel. They were now sitting on the floor of the forest north of Minuet.
“Listen—” Adam stretched out his body, which was up against a tall oak tree. “We’re out of there now, and the important thing is we’re all safe—”
“Adam, why did you agree to something so stupid!? At least take it outside somewhere, like right here! Nobody would be around!” Charlotte said, clearly irritated.
“Remember our conversation earlier? I love to wing things. The little guy right here challenged me, and I knew his strength, so I couldn’t just say no, tell him to have a nice day, and walk off.”
“Unbelievable.” Charlotte held her head in frustration. “Good thing I found the security room for the place, so I can handle any CCTV footage. But seeing the damage around the door… This will still alert someone.”
“Relax. They’ll probably think it’s just sudden asbestos damage.”
Charlotte looked at Adam, puzzled. “I… I don’t think I actually know what that is? Can’t recall coming across it in my investigation…”
“Good.” Adam nodded. “So you won’t know I totally made up that being a potential cause for something like that.”
Charlotte facepalmed. “Adam, you’re grounded.”
“You can’t ground me!”
“I’m going to. Anyway, Muraco—” She shifted her attention toward the rabbit, who had been watching their exchange curiously. “There’s a flaw with that hearing stealing Ability you have.”
“And what would that be?”
“If someone were to completely lose their hearing out of nowhere, wouldn’t that cause alarm?”
“I’ve considered that…” Muraco responded. “Usually, I just hope they don’t notice? I also can’t get it to work on people with Abilities, since we’re on the subject.”
“A-All right, so basically, what I’m coming to understand today, is that both of you just like to wing things!?” Charlotte let out a huge sigh. “This is ridiculous. I’m taking a nap. If there seems to be limited activity at the hotel later, we can go back.”
“Shouldn’t you take care of the security cameras first?” Adam asked her.
Charlotte groaned, sinking into the ground. She headed off toward the hotel to take care of the duty only she, unfortunately, could accomplish.
“So, Muraco—” Adam stood up from his spot. “What kind of information do you have? Anything that can help us out?”
Muraco seemed uncomfortable with the question. “I… I’m going to be honest, not really. I was freed from my experiments all those years ago, by someone. Then, I wandered around Requiem. That’s all I’ve been doing—while fading in and out of existence…”
“That sounds like what Charlotte dealt with as well…” Adam put his hand on his chin. “It’s familiar, but you don’t seem to be a ghost…”
“That’s correct. Still, my body hasn’t changed in the slightest. And I mean… When it comes to memories, I do have some that picked up over the years, although they have nothing to do with what you two are trying to figure out.”
“Anything would help. Besides, I want to learn more about you, regardless.”
“Human… I-I mean, Adam…” Muraco sighed. “Very well. I’ll tell you about them later, once Charlotte returns. For now, let’s take it easy.”
“All right, sounds good.” Adam wandered over to a small clearing within the trees. He peered out and gazed at the small city of Minuet.
“I’ve always liked this place. It’s larger than Prelude, but not by much. They like to build wooden houses here, and they look really nice. I wouldn’t mind living in one, someday…”
Muraco hopped over next to him. “Although, that hotel you’re staying at looked kind of hideous.”
“It’s all right, you can barely see it since the school’s blocking it.” He pointed off toward the right, where a sizeable red-bricked building stood nearby them. “That’s our high school. Let me tell you, I don’t have fond memories of that place.”
“And a tunnel connects it to the library—that building over there?” Muraco gestured at the tall gray building that was slightly to the left of the school, almost directly in front of them.
“Yep. Our school didn’t have a library of its own, so we always had to walk through it to get books—or whatever.” Adam sighed. “To think, there was something of importance down there this entire time.”
“Well, let’s get some rest for the time being,” Muraco suggested. “We’ll figure it out later.”
Adam agreed with a small nod. Muraco lied down right in the grass beneath him, stretching out. As Adam walked back to the tree he had been resting against, he felt a cool breeze pass him, rippling through the leaves above. He gazed up at the top of the forest, where warm sunshine descended down upon him.
“The atmosphere really is nice here, huh?”
His vision shifted toward the right of him.
“Although… That’s near here as well…”
Roy was moving boxes all around the store floor, attempting to fill up empty shelves as fast as he could. Brian currently operated the cash register, tapping his finger on the counter in boredom.
“Boss! You really gotta hire some new people! This is too much work for one guy like me!”
“We have to get people to apply first—” Brian sighed. “There aren’t too many people in Prelude who would want a job like this, unfortunately. Besides, it’s not that bad. Look at you. I’ve never seen you work this much!”
“Cause you’d grill me if I wasn’t working!” Roy finished placing bottles of dish soap on the shelf, crushing up the box that they came in. “Anyway, I gotta piss.”
“Enjoy your piss. While you’re in there, can you clean the toilets?” Brian asked.
“Now that’s just cruel!” Roy stomped off toward the back of the store where the restrooms were located.
“I mean, I would have done it, but since you’re being so nice…” Brian grabbed a magazine that was on display next to the counter. It featured several trending topics that had been headliners in the news lately.
“Let’s see… This is just crap young people are talking about. I don’t care about this celebrity couple—I’ve never even heard of them before!” Brian scanned the pages.
“Nothing about what’s happened recently… They don’t even go into that thing over Nexus City at all! Is this Unity censoring things…?”
The front doors of Ann’s slid open, as two Brown Suits entered the store.
“Speaking of the devil—listen, fellas. I already told you everything I saw after I reported it that night. Unless you’re here to shop? In that case, we have fifty percent off—”
“My, my. What a gloomy little store we have here.”
Brian heard the voice of a young woman behind the two Brown Suits, who moved off to the side to reveal her.
“Purple short hair? Man, young people these days—”
“Young? I’m a fresh graduate of Unity, after all.”
“Hmm?” Brian noticed the usual black coat, and eventually located the blue pin, which was placed in her hair above the left ear.
“Still, that’s pretty damn young. Anyway, what do you want? Like I said—”
“Brian Carpenter, yes? You’re the manager of this store? My name is Monica Teske. I am the Unity member in charge of the Brown Suit squad that is to patrol your town while Pamela Roswell is away for a few days.”
“I was wondering why I was seeing more of them around today…”
Monica approached the counter, her gray eyes ominously peering into Brian’s.
“You said something interesting a moment ago. You said you already told us ‘everything you saw’ after reporting the incident the other night?”
“That’s right,” Brian responded, unfazed. “Mind telling me what’s so interesting about that?”
“A creature like you reported was clearly one created out of chaons. Do you understand how rare that is these days? That was more common way before you and I were born, around the time when witches existed, and rituals were performed.”
“Well, there was that one incident close to two decades ago—”
“And it seems the Rewrite Phenomenon is related as well. You’ve heard about that, correct?”
Brian sighed. “Yeah, I have. I figured it was something like that when the town seemed to be fine after that huge explosion.”
“That’s correct. You see that there are a lot of serious matters regarding this case. Therefore, I take everything quite seriously.”
“That makes sense. So, why would you question me after I—”
“Have you ever heard of ‘Past to Present’?” Monica tilted her head, with a sly expression.
“Is that a band or something?” Brian shrugged. “Never heard of them.”
“It’s not. I was curious as to how much Unity actually let out to the public, but I guess the name of my Ability was kept a secret.”
“Yes.” Monica giggled. “There are a lot of complexities that you wouldn’t understand, but here’s a basic trick I can do—”
Monica’s eyes shot wide open, looking as though they were about to pop right out of their sockets.
“That’s kind of disturbing.” Brain chuckled, hiding his extreme discomfort.
I can see into the past.”
“I can go back in time about a month or so and see exactly what transpired in any location I investigate.” Her gaze shifted toward the front doors. “I already checked outside before I walked in here. You reported that the creature took off in the direction of the woods north of town, yes?” She began to laugh.
“You were lyyyyyyyyying!”
“A girl saved you. She dragged the disgusting creature away from here. And what’s most interesting out of anything we’ve discussed so far, is her. White hair? That blue armor? If she’s who I think she is, then we must look into this immediately!”
“She seems awfully similar to a girl who worked here at the counter… what does her name tag say? Charlotte?”
“That’s—” Brian began to panic.
“Bingo! Your reaction says it all. All right, you two!” Monica beckoned the two Brown Suits. “Take this man into custody. We’ll question him further at the police station.”
“W-Wait!” Brian did not hesitate to show his fear, yet cooperated fully with the Brown Suits. Instead of handcuffing him, they simply held one arm each and dragged him out of the store.
“Sorry, Mr. Carpenter. But Unity’s rule is absolute. And I will not have anyone tear that down. I will check every detail there is.”
As Monica exited, the store was left empty. All that remained was the lone boy hiding in the back, who had witnessed the entire ordeal.
“Dammit! They can’t take the boss away like this! Besides—” He ran up an aisle right toward the cash register. “There’s no way you’re leaving me to deal with this store by myself!”
Roy rustled his hair, struggling to figure out what to do.
“I should close the store, I guess? Then… Then… I’m not sure! Unity… Police station… I know! I can ask her what to do!” Roy let out a heavy sigh.
“This is going to be awkward…”