“Brandon! Yo, Brandon! Wake up!”
Muraco had been kicking Brandon in the head for the past few minutes, attempting to wake the boy. After about the hundredth kick, his eyes finally opened.
“Okay, what the hell!?” Brandon grabbed the rabbit and threw him across the foggy field they were now located. “Wait—where are we…?”
Muraco sighed. “We’re in the woods north of Prelude. That shadow seemed to send us away from the station. And however it worked, it sure seemed to weaken phantonic values… That’s what you call it, right? Yeah—you passed out from it. I was obviously okay, cause I’m great.”
“Ah, shut up!” Brandon groaned, rubbing his head where Muraco had been whacking him. He stood up, taking a look around. “This… isn’t good. We’ve gotta get back!”
“That’s why I was trying to wake you up,” Muraco stated. “I wasn’t going to leave you here. And like hell I was going to carry you!”
“Right… Well, I appreciate it—I think. Even if you were kicking me.”
“In any case, this fog is certainly mysterious. We need to take caution while proceeding through it. Stick next to me. My ears—along with my other sensory skills—will get us out of here!”
“What other ‘skills’ do you even have?”
“Well, aside from the Abilities I told you about last night during our long talk, I… seem to be able to sense different energies—like how an Ouderkirk can. It’s difficult for me to use it, so I tend to stick with my ears.”
“Huh… I see.”
“Do you?” Muraco glared at Brandon questionably.
“Of course I do! Besides—it’s not important right now! Let’s go!”
“Right, right…” Muraco began to hop behind Brandon, who had already started running south. He was decently familiar with the terrain—enough to know which direction to go.
They only managed to move a few yards before gunfire rang out through the area.
Instinctively, Muraco formed his scarf in front of Brandon, expanding it to intercept a bullet that had been aimed at the boy.
“Wha!?” Brandon fell to the ground, startled as the bullet connected to the phanton-fueled cloth made a sound similar to two large pieces of metal slamming into one another.
“We’ve got an enemy to the east!” Muraco changed the scarf into a large barrier that intercepted multiple gunshots now striking at the two. “Dammit…!”
Brandon stood, activating Shepherd Surge. “Do they have a freaking machine gun!?” The bullets had now become a horizontal rain of steel, bombarding Muraco’s defense. The rabbit had difficulty keeping the scarf together as he had not been able to complete the transformation in time.
A bullet flew through the cloth, missing Brandon’s head by mere centimeters. At that instant, the electricity around him had managed to get a good feel on the material the bullet was composed of.
“Phantonite…?” Brandon’s eyes widened. “Yeah… It’s definitely phantonite. It feels just like Charlie’s weapon. How… can I tell though?”
“Brandon! Less chatting, more helping! Can you do anything with your Ability!? I need some time to form this correctly!”
“Yeah…” Brandon nodded, looking down at his hands. “Yeah—I think I can!”
A second bullet flew at Brandon—this time his body was now directly in the path. With his enhanced reflexes, he slapped the bullet out of the way with his electrified hand.
With the air cracking around him, a cocky grin formed on Brandon’s face.
“Muraco! I’m gonna blitz at them!”
“Huh!? Are you crazy—”
In the form of a lightning strike, Brandon shot past Muraco with blinding speed. It took the rabbit a moment to process what had just happened.
Brandon stormed through the bullets, keeping his arms in front of him as an extra line of defense, although his electricity was successfully deflecting them off of him.
“Keep going… Keep going…!”
He had already reached a pine tree where a figure stood on a branch. It was clear to Brandon that this was the source of the attack. With confidence swelling in his body, Brandon leaped up toward this mysterious foe.
“Don’t mess with my town, you bastards!”
Spinning his leg around his body, Brandon struck like a bolt of lightning, shattering the entire upper half of the tree in a blinding light.
Brandon, however, missed the enemy. He glanced off to the right, where the figure—still not entirely visible due to the fog—aimed its arm at him. Brandon noticed the barrel seemingly formed directly from the person’s body. He did not have time to question how or why, as a shot from this distance would hit him. There was no time to reform his Shepherd Surge around his entire body, after all, as he had concentrated all of it to his leg.
Muraco reacted just in time, kicking the figure with incredible force, sending it flying into the earth below. The rabbit formed his scarf around Brandon, grabbing him and pulling him to the ground, where they both landed safely.
“You shouldn’t be that careless, Brandon!” Muraco shouted. “Even if that attack was both fast and powerful, it leaves you wide open if the enemy is able to evade it. You need to make sure you’re keeping your guard raised!”
“All right, battle expert! I’m sorry—I know… I thought it would have gotten them…” Brandon pouted.
“Well, that’s okay. It gave me enough time to focus my phantonic energy into my scarf. I should be able to use it to its fullest potential now!” Muraco stared ahead of them noticing the figure casually standing up. “So—who the hell are you?”
The figure did not respond. It took a few steps forward, keeping Brandon and Muraco on their toes. It was a slim, middle-aged man with wavy black hair. He had his entire face below his nose made up of a solid metal structure, along with his arms that were visible due to his short-sleeved blue jacket. Brandon wondered if his legs were the same underneath his black jeans.
“His… body is made of phantonite…?”
“I am Ivan,” The man responded in a monotone, almost robotic voice. “I have no choice but to kill you. We can’t have anyone with Abilities getting in the way of our plans.”
“And what are these plans of yours, ya freak!?” Brandon asked in a furious tone.
“Irrelevant,” Ivan responded nonchalantly. “You have to die. That is all.” He aimed the barrel on his right arm toward the two. A blue aura began to emit from his body.
“He’s gotta be making infinite ammo by fueling the phantonite with phantons…” Brandon shook his head. “He would have to have lots of phantonic energy to do something like that!”
Ivan shot at Brandon, who had already raised electricity in front of him. Muraco, however, deflected the bullet with his scarf, surprising Brandon.
“Hey, thanks, but I—”
“I’m going to make an opening so you can finish him off,” Muraco stated. “In the meantime, I’ll wear him out! There’s no way I’m letting us die from the hands of this boring creep!”
Muraco’s scarf expanded, forming into several tentacle-like appendages around his body.
“I am Muraco! Hero of Requiem! Villain of Requiem, at least be an interesting character before I take you down!”
Charlotte flew into the fog in the center of town. She kept looking around in an attempt to locate the enemy.
“If only my sense could work perfectly…”
Charlotte was startled as a thin layer of ice suddenly began to form on her body.
“There we go. You came to me. That saves me the trouble.” Charlotte glared at the figures that suddenly revealed themselves before her, levitating just as she was. A girl on the right, around her late-teens, and a boy, around his mid-teens. Both had blond hair—the boy’s being short and shaggy while the girl’s long and wavy—yet they each had a mysterious white streak in their hair that caught Charlotte’s attention.
“Wait a minute… This feeling I’m getting from them…”
The girl raised her arms as if reaching out for a hug. She, for a reason unknown to Charlotte, had a black blindfold around her eyes. Her dark blue dress with gem-like decorations danced within the fog as she moved around.
“It seems it was true after all, Miles. The energy you obtained from Carl’s body was, in fact, legitimate Ouderkirk power.”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, my darling Haley!” The boy known as Miles fidgeted while speaking to the girl next to him, yet he kept a wicked grin plastered on his face. His attire seemed to somewhat copy Haley’s—consisting of a blue sweater with similar gems near the collar and white pants.
“Of course not, you sweet boy,” Halley lightly stroked Miles’ cheek. “It seems like even we can achieve something from this operation.”
“Haley and Miles, huh? Were you the ones who attacked us a few minutes ago?” Charlotte asked, easily forming a sword in her hand despite the ice surrounding her.
“Ah, yes. Miles formed a nicely sized ball of phantonic energy formed from my fog. He dropped it on you all, aiming to kill all the living people. You seemed to escape with them, yes? No matter—we shut down that signal. Now our signal has rendered everyone without an Ability unconscious.”
“Thanks for the info. At least those guys passing out makes sense now. Why though? Why are you doing this…?”
“It’s simple, really,” Haley giggled, holding her hand in front of her mouth. “We want power. And when it comes to Miles and myself, you will be perfect for us.”
“I’m not stupid. I can feel your energies… A-Are you two…?”
“We’re not Ouderkirks!” Miles roared. “How dare you even assume we’re related to scum like you!”
Haley calming placed her hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right. Relax, Miles. No—we are not Ouderkirks, like he said. It’s… a complicated situation. We’ve been put into quite a difficult predicament, you see. And we’d like to use your power to get out of it.”
“Is that so?” Charlotte snickered. “Well, I may have been willing to listen to you. But, after what you’ve already done… That’s no longer an option.”
“Oh? Do you not notice the ice forming around you?” Haley chuckled, again with her hand over her mouth. “It’s formed from my fog, you see. You’re in my domain, to begin with, and now you’re encapsulated. You don’t have much leeway here—”
With an eruption of azure energy, Charlotte shattered the ice around her, smiling confidently at the two.
“All right then. If you’re the source of this fog, all I have to do is take you down, correct? This should be simple.”
“Do you know how much power Haley has been concentrating over these past few months!? There’s no way you can take it on, regardless of your powers!” Miles shouted in a fury. “In fact—let me handle this, Haley!”
“It is true your Ability would be perfect against her,” Haley noted. “However, you lack the battle experience. One wrong move, and she’ll kill you. I’ve got this, Miles.”
“O-Okay, if you say so…” Miles quickly grew timid, floating back behind Haley.
“They can both fly… It must have something to do with their Abilities? Or… just her Ability. This fog… is certainly her domain—she wasn’t wrong about that.”
Haley raised her hand, forming a sword similar to Charlotte’s, completely made of ice. Tiny frozen petals also seemed to form, floating around the hilt. “I’ll defeat you, and capture that other ghost girl. Sound good to you?”
Charlotte shook her head. “Of course not.”
Without any hesitation, the Ouderkirk girl soared toward her opponent with her sword ready to strike.
Carl shot the two waves of petals at Adam with a swift wave of his hands. Before Adam could react, Pam jumped in front of him, slashing the petals apart using her steam-covered sword.
Chris quickly snapped his fingers, sending a spark in Pam’s direction. She formed a sphere—flicking it at the attack. The two powers collided, with Pam’s easily overcoming Chris’.
“Shit! She tore that apart! Gotta—”
Through the smoke that had formed, a second sphere of steam flew toward Chris. Carl formed another wave of black petals, knocking the sphere away from his ally before it could make contact.
“Don’t worry about Pamela. I’ll handle her myself. You try and take out the other girl so we can get to the boy before he recovers.” Carl ordered.
“Sounds like a plan, Carl.” Chris nodded, preparing to make another move.
“Adam, wait until you’re fully recovered. Faith and I can hold them off.” Pam prepared to charge ahead, only to be stopped by Adam.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that. I’m fine—he didn’t injure me that badly.”
A spark flew from Chris. Before Pam or Adam could stop it, Faith did so herself using a fierce flame shot from her hand. She sighed, shaking her head at Adam.
“This Carl guy seems to be the one in charge here. Mom, you can hold him off, for sure. But I think you and Adam working together against him will be our best bet. Based on what I’ve seen from this other guy’s Ability… I think I can take him on my own.”
“Faith, you can’t! You—” Adam was hushed by Faith’s finger placed on his lips.
“You can trust me, Adam. I do have more battle experience than you, after all. Despite my Ability being recent, I’ve been practicing for this sort of thing for years. In fact, I’ll get this guy away from here, so you can focus your attention on Carl. You also need to be prepared for those shadows, as well.”
“I trust you, honey,” Pam nodded. “I’ll make sure Carl doesn’t get in your way. Go for it!”
Faith grinned, cracking her knuckles. “With pleasure.”
Adam said nothing. He simply stared at the torn pavement below him.
“Heh…!” Carl sent another wave of black petals toward them. Pam pointed her sword directly at the attack and took a massive leap forward. The steam surrounding the sword tore through the petals as she jabbed at Carl. He was able to form a spear in his hand at the last second, intercepting her strike.
“I won’t let you escape this time!” Pam shouted.
“Escape? I have no intention of doing that…” Carl swung his spear, whacking Pam away from him. “Not until we accomplish what we came here to do!”
Pam began swinging her blade repeatedly with Carl blocking each slash with the side of his spear. The pressure building up, thanks to the steam, became too much for him, causing him to jump back. He retaliated by creating petals from the tip of the spear, flinging them toward Pam almost in the shape of a beam.
Pam placed her sword in her scabbard, drawing it immediately afterward, slashing through the attack with a sharp column of steam that had quickly built up. Carl stepped to the side, barely avoiding the power perfectly capable of splitting him in two, as it had done before.
“That’s definitely a handy trick! You can even build up that much power in a short amount of time? You’ve certainly honed your craft, Pamela!” Carl dashed at her, attempting to strike her directly with his spear. Pam continued to evade Carl’s attacks, able to get a few slices in herself before he, in turn, blocked her efforts.
“This is my chance!” Faith blitzed Chris, who had lost focus while paying attention to Carl and Pam’s bout.
“Shit!” He flicked his fingers, creating a spark that would surely strike Faith, being only a few feet away.
Faith managed to duck, however, dodging Chris’ attempt to hit her. She pushed off the ground with her feet, jumping right at him.
“Are you an idiot! You can’t dodge now!” Chris unleashed a second spark. Although this would have normally made contact with ease, Faith would not allow it. Taking her right hand, she began to form a Roswell Sphere of her own. Before its shape was complete, she shot the gathering energy out of her palm, throwing herself around Chris’ attack.
Faith grinned, landing on her feet to Chris’ right.
“All right, Faith. We had quite the fight yesterday, didn’t we?” Liz asked, patting the girl on the back. Faith looked as though she was in horrible pain. She was, in fact, considering their battle was the day prior. They stood in the very same forest area that they had begun their trial.
“Why are we doing more training…? Shouldn’t I rest more…?”
“That would be nice—right? It’s not happening, unfortunately. Our goal is to review what happened yesterday and learn.” Liz leaned over, patting the ground beside her. “Win’s… digging, apparently? Wonder what she has in mind, tunneling under here?”
“Oh… That’s what she’s doing? I sorta spaced out when you two were talking… I was thinking about how nice a sandwich would be right now, but we can’t eat, can we…?”
“I’ll help you get the greatest sandwich in the world, once we’re done. Now… I wanted to ask you something. That attack you were using near the end, with the spheres… That’s a lot like your mom’s technique, isn’t it?”
“Yeah… I can’t really throw them yet, but I was able to use them to launch myself toward you. I figured that could have worked, but you can build up enough energy with your Teleleap to block a Roswell Sphere, you mad woman.”
“I’ve done crazier stuff before. You’ll see what I mean once we start working together. Anyway—you launching yourself. Do you think you could work on that? I think it would be perfect for you if you could rocket around the battlefield. Especially at your stage, where you excel at close combat. You can get up close and personal a lot easier with it.”
“I… get what you mean. That might be pretty cool… But, forming those spheres takes too much concentration. Mainly with keeping their shape. I’m not sure how well that could work on the fly…”
“Well, what if you don’t need to keep that shape? You’re building up the energy, right? Try channeling that power into just launching yourself, as opposed to forming the sphere, and then launching yourself.”
“Hmm…” Faith looked at her hands. “It… was pretty fun, actually. Flying through the air. I never thought something I’ve feared for so long could do that…”
“If you master this, you’ll be able to have even more fun! You’ll be like a rocket!” Liz grinned.
Faith giggled. “A rocket, huh…?”
“Dammit!” Chris flicked a spark at the ground, where Faith swiftly launched herself upward with another burst of flames, evading the explosion that obliterated where she just was.
Now she was once again in front of Chris. As he turned, she formed a veil of flames around her body. Mere inches away, he had no way to counter her in time.
“Ready to fly?”
Concentrating her flames to her foot, Faith launched herself off the ground, striking Chris with her elbow. She proceeded to dig her fist from the same arm into his chest, opening up the same hand to release a robust flame—catapulting the man into the thick fog behind him.
Stepping down, Faith promptly took off after him by expelling flames from her feet repeatedly. She had completed her task, successfully removing Chris and herself away from the battlefield and onto another. It happened at such a pace that Adam had trouble keeping up with Faith’s movements.
“Not only has she done so well in overcoming her fear… Faith’s flames are basically a representation of her own inner flames now…” Adam sighed. “Can… you do it? Can you take that guy by yourself? You need to be careful, in this fog…”
“You need to have… faith, in her, Adam…” Pam sighed, kicking Carl away from her—seemingly doing little damage despite the high concentration of steam currently surrounding her foot.
“When you named her, puns like that were inevitable...” Adam stood, stretching out the limbs that had finally recovered. “They’re not good puns, but I’ll let it slide for now.” He walked by Pam’s side, lifting his arm—now surrounded in Overlay.
“I never thought the day would come when I’d fight by your side...” Pam thought out loud. “I wonder what your mom would think…”
“From everything I’ve heard about her, she’d probably be concerned we’re keeping this nonsense going on for this long. Let’s hurry up and take this guy down!” Adam vowed.
Pam chuckled, holding back the tears she felt like she was about to shed. “Right. Back me up, Adam!”
Carl donned a menacing smile, forming more petals that spiraled around his spear. Adam and Pam bolted ahead as they began their clash.
At the Unity building inside Nexus City, Alexander encountered Rizzo in the hallway. The boy had already formed his wings, ready to strike at the man.
“You’re not going to help out? What the hell is even happening in that town!?” Alexander roared.
“Please, keep your voice down, Alexander,” Rizzo requested. “I already made the official statement. No Unity member is to enter that fog. The official reason is ‘It’s too dangerous,’ but I think you can read past that, can’t you?”
“Do ya just want all those innocent people to die!? Ya just keep on showing how scummy ya are, huh!?”
“Are you going to fight me, again?” Rizzo asked nonchalantly. “I’d rather you not try one of your foolhardy attempts in here, please.”
“I’m not wasting my time on that shit! Ya can’t stop me now—that’s the rules ya made, right?”
“As thanks to your sister, as long as you don’t get in the way of Unity, I won’t lay a finger on you. That is correct.”
“Then I’m going! If all of these bitches here will just bend over for you and watch a town get destroyed, then I’ll be the one to settle things!”
“Do what you want.” Rizzo shrugged, walking past Alexander. The boy paused for a moment before flapping his wings, soaring through the corridors toward the exit. Veronica calmly watched as he burst through the doors and into the city.
“If I go at max speed, I can get to Prelude in seconds. Gotta make sure I don’t flap these things too hard. Don’t want to trash Nexus City just to save another place from being trashed.”
Alexander took to the air, preparing to take off. He could see the fog-covered town from this distance. Gritting his teeth in fury, he began to flap his wings.
He did not get far. Alexander could barely react to the green silhouette kicking him down into the buildings below.