Faith and Winona watched in dismay as the blue and green exploded above Prelude.
“T-They’re really going at it over there…” Faith said while shaking. “I hope Charlotte and Jerry can help… and nobody ends up getting killed over this.”
Winona did not respond as she looked over at a spot on the ground. “You should be safe there, for now, Dad…”
“You buried his ashes?” Faith asked. “Good… We can do things properly once all of this ends.”
Winona glanced at Medusa’s burning body. “It’s really not resisting? You can’t burn it completely, though?”
“Yeah. I haven’t had the need to use my power to strengthen the flame, which is good, especially in our state.”
Thomas and Travis had also observed the battle going on a short distance away. However, Thomas seemed furious at Travis.
“You… really didn’t say anything until now!?” He asked his fellow scientist in anger. “Why did you and Cody—and Pam keep this from us!?”
“Cause it was something they would not allow us to talk about!” Travis responded, seemingly quite upset. “Now that this has happened…”
“What’s going on?” Faith questioned as she approached the two.
“It’s… nothing.” Thomas answered, staring off into space. Eventually, he turned to Faith. “Actually, you should know. Travis, I’m gonna tell them.”
“That’s… fine, at this point.” Travis sighed. “Do what you want.”
“Tell us what?” Winona had joined in on the conversation. Both of the girls made sure to keep a wary eye on Medusa.
“About… who Lucy is.” Thomas took a deep breath.
As the body of the demon crackled to the flames nearby, Thomas explained what Travis had just told him. Faith and Winona’s hearts dropped upon hearing the truth.
“N-No way…” Faith put her hands over her mouth. “Why is she… How…?”
“Things just keep piling up today, don’t they…?” Winona clenched her fist, turning to Travis. “Why was it kept a secret…? Shouldn’t—”
“Unity,” Travis stated bluntly. “It’s… all cause of Unity’s damned restrictions. To be honest, we’re not sure what value in keeping it a secret was, but Rizzo threatened anyone who spilled the beans.”
Faith began to pace around the ruins surrounding them. She sighed multiple times, frustrated at the information processing inside of her head.
“I can’t believe this… What is up with today!?”
Winona looked down, suddenly sensing something with her feet.
“Guys! Someone’s coming from that direction!” Winona pointed toward the gas station. Faith immediately focused her attention toward the area, seeing a figure approach.
Chris was limping as he made his way toward them. He was now missing his pilot hat, revealing his jet-black hair. His body was covered in a multitude of scratches and bruises from head to toe.
“Man, I finally woke up!” Chris groaned. “Fire Girl, you can deal a shit ton of damage, can’t you?”
“I can deal even more than that! Wanna continue?” Faith raised her fists in an attempt to intimidate her opponent. Chris put up his hands in front of his face.
“Woah woah! No need for that! Don’t you see the shape I’m in? I couldn’t fight like this… For real though, you continued fighting after you knocked me out. You…” Chris glanced at the burning body of Medusa. “...took that thing down, and you’re still up for a fight!?”
“Well, not really, no…” Faith did not respond to Chris. “Most of us have hit our limit…”
“Derek seems to have kidnapped that girl? At least, I hope he has—I assume he has, he’s quite capable of doing so. Hmm…” Chris looked at the ground, not caring for Faith’s presence, as well as Winona’s, who was now right next to her teammate.
“No matter how capable he is, Adam went after him. He’ll save Lucy—I know he will!” Faith declared, pointing her finger at Chris with ferocity.
Chris chuckled. “You have lots of faith in that guy, huh? Man… My sister had a lot of faith in Derek as well. Even when things fell to shit… When… I lost my niece… Sam still believed in him. Even though… she still went through with that…”
“Loss…” Winona sighed. “We all share that in common, don’t we? Then…” She paused for a moment. “Then… why do we have to keep going at each other’s throats like this!? Why are we causing even more loss!?”
“I mean, I was all for just kidnapping the ghost girl. The others wanted to blow up half the town…” Chris sighed. “She’s dead, after all. No harm done, right? That’s how it should be… Even that’s pushing it though, I think… huh?”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Winona asked Chris bluntly. “What the hell is wrong… with everyone? What the hell is wrong with this world!?” Tears began to pour out of her eyes.
Chris took a step back. “Hey, what’s—”
“Why did my dad have to die!? Just out of nowhere!? Why is… Why is everything so fucked up—I just don’t get what’s happening anymore!” Winona fell to her knees, sobbing horrendously.
“Win…” Faith leaned down and held her friend’s shoulder. “Along with her physical condition, she’s not emotionally able to be here on the battlefield right now…”
Chris sighed. “This just happened, I’m guessing…?”
“It did.” Faith responded. “It didn’t seem like it was related to anything your group was doing. Something else is going on… Something much greater than all of this.”
“Is that right…” Chris fell silent for a moment. His eyes slowly drifted up toward the sky. “You know… ever since my sister was corrupted by chaons, I always wondered how and where everything originates from, you know? My dad, my grandfather… they all loved to fly. That’s where I got my hat from that—” He finally noticed that his hat was missing. “Ah… whatever. In the end, it’s just a hat. Anyway—”
“Why are you trying to chat with us?” Thomas asked, approaching with his weapon at the ready.
“Cause she tried to chat with me. Isn’t that right?” Chris glanced at Faith.
“Is that so…?” Faith questioned nervously.
“Listen. I think they loved to fly, cause… I don’t know… The sky’s just so big, you know? And there’s so much information we don’t have, we just think the sky can hold all the answers for us…”
“That… what?” Faith was perplexed at Chris’ words—her face clearly showed how lost she was.
“I don’t know how to put it into words!” Chris shook his head. “Look—I…” Chris paused, slowly turning to Medusa, as if he suddenly had an epiphany. “Chaons…”
“This guy sure is something…” Thomas sighed. “Let’s just capture him and take him into custody, for now. After all of this settles, maybe we can figure out just what he’s—”
“My phantons are awakened… Awakened phantons don’t get corrupted like normal ones do. Yeah… It’ll still hurt like hell and be shit to adjust, but…” Chris snickered.
“What’s so funny?” Faith asked, growing cautious.
“Carl was supposed to absorb this thing to gain some boost, and to further his goal to unleashing his body’s true capabilities…” It was clear now that Chris was merely talking to himself. “Carl’s a smart guy, I’m sure he can figure out another way to get to that point. Why don’t I just…”
Chris raised his hand toward the direction of Medusa. His body was shaking—not due to its current fatigue, but due to Chris’ anxiety welling up within him.
“What’s he going to do…?” Faith stepped forward.
“I’m not risking anything,” Thomas stated. “Let’s knock him out right now!”
“Hold it.” Chris glared at the group. “Let’s make a deal, shall we?”
“We’re not doing anything of the sort!” Thomas leaped at Chris, effortlessly jabbing at his right arm—blood splattering onto the ground below.
“Well, shit!” Chris yelled in agony. “T-That’s okay, that helps, actually. I don’t really have too much blood outside of my body right now…”
“What are you—” Thomas paused. “You’re… not going to try something like that, are you?”
“Yeah. Don’t get in my way!” Chris flicked his finger—a spark erupting right in front of Thomas. Using Phoebe, Thomas managed to block the sudden attack but was pushed back near Faith and Winona.
“Thomas!” Travis yelled while keeping his distance from the action.
“Listen to my deal,” Chris demanded. “It’s based around what that girl mentioned before. The world is fucked up, ain’t it? I certainly don’t care too much about it anymore. I just want to save my sister. If you guys defect from Unity, then I’ll join up with you. We’ll form a new group with the goal of fixing everything that’s wrong with this world! That includes saving my sister, and then doing whatever you guys want to do! You clearly can’t be down for how Unity operates things, based on what I’ve been gathering from you?”
“You’re right,” Faith admitted. “Unity is… trash. But… people I love and care for have already been dragged deep into Unity. If I were to leave… I’m not sure what would happen to them. That’s why…” She took a deep breath. “That’s why I want to save it from the inside out! And make Unity truly a place where we can all join as one!”
“She’s right…” Winona stood, finally calming down. “I can’t leave my sister alone… much like Faith can’t leave her mother. They have a hold on them—one you can’t understand. We’ll fight there, by our side, and save them that way.”
Chris exploded into laughter. “What the… hell is wrong with you people!? I mean, I’m fucked up too. The world being fucked up certainly includes us… Nothing makes sense anymore. Actually, did it ever?” He once again raised his hand toward Medusa. “There’s no guarantee that Fangless’ plans will benefit Derek and me—we’re just henchmen, after all. If I take this thing’s power, then I can at least say we’ll have this!”
“You’re crazy!” Thomas shouted. “Do you know the ratio of how often this kind of thing can work—”
“I sure am crazy! Do you think I care anymore!? Do you really think I care!?” Chris snapped his finger as a spark was unleashed. “Spark Blast: Lagging Flash!”
Instead of the usual explosive firepower with his Ability, the attack lit up in a blinding burst of light. The few moments this provided Chris were more than enough. He did not need to see—he knew what he had to do.
“I can never forget this incantation… Derek, you were there, too. You… didn’t stop her, did you? You… didn’t protect her. I resent you for that. If… If this ends up separating us, then so be it. I’ll try my best to still fight for you… you’re my brother-in-law, after all. But if I can’t, then… so be it. I don’t care anymore.”
With his corrupted thoughts running through his head, Chris began to speak.
“When two becomes one, power awakenss. I take in all of you, you give me everything. Sssee to it that my ssssoul asssssends to newer heightssssss…”
Chris’ blood lit up in a mighty crimson light. The flames surrounding Medusa vanished as it rose off of the ground. It floated toward Chris, moving around with such fierce, ragdoll-like violence that it looked like a glitch straight out of a video game.
“...Let the twilight cast over the world known as me.”
Medusa’s body exploded, turning into a massive mass of black blood. It ran down the air itself, as if it were a physical object, slowly merging with the blood on Chris’ arm. Immediately, pain surged through his entire body.
“Gah!” Chris fell to the ground, the earth shattering apart as his mass increased dramatically due to the chaons’ power.
The others were finally able to see the event occurring, but could do nothing at that point. Electrical crimson energy radiated out of Chris, ascending upwards, trying to climb into the sky.
“This is…!” Faith took a step back, shielding Winona, who was having difficulty standing.
“Yeah…” Thomas chuckled in dismay. “Chaonic Assimilation.”
Through the chaotic energy, Chris’ now crimson-red hair could be seen extending several feet above his head, swirling toward the tip which was lit up with a similar crimson-red flame. A few red scales could now be seen around various parts of his body, most noticeably covering his face. As his wounds seemed to heal themselves, Chris opened his pitch-black eyes, grinning sadistically.
“Well, dammit…” Chris spoke in an echoey voice. “I can’t see right now… Oh well. This is… wow. This power… I can feel everything around me. Did it seriously go this smoothly?” He began to cackle.
“He’s good…” Thomas noted. “If he has an Ability, that sure makes things easier on him. But to pull off the assimilation that easily…?”
“His wounds are healed up…” Faith commented. “The human body is complex, yet chaons with their chaotic behavior are somehow able to adapt to that fact, which can cause regeneration-like acts to occur. Much like Adam’s power…”
“Jordan’s Ability can heal as well,” Travis stepped forward. “You’re right though. We’ve always wondered how it all works, cause the human body’s so dang complicated.”
“This means I’ve surpassed the human body?” Chris asked, smirking. “That’s what I’m getting at? Sounds good to me!”
“What do we do…?” Winona asked while attempting to form sand around herself. “We’re in no condition to handle something like this…”
“You’re right…” Thomas sighed. “Geez, this isn’t looking good, huh? Maybe—”
“I’ll handle this.” Faith declared, moving in front of the group.
“You’re in no condition to fight, Faith!” Winona yelled at her friend. “You can’t do this on your own!”
“I’ll… I’ll have to,” Faith clenched her fist. “I’m going to have to go past my limits.”
Chris chuckled. “Damn, I was hoping you would surrender upon seeing this power. You’re still gonna try to fight? Damn, that’s impressive. I might be falling for you.”
“Sorry, I’ll have to turn you down,” Faith snickered. “Your eyes aren’t that pretty, right now.”
“Oh, harsh!” Chris yelled while laughing. “What kind of eyes do you like, then?” His expression slowly turned serious.
“Huh…?” Faith seemed stunned at the mere mention of the color.
“That Adam kid sure is impressive, from what I’ve seen of him. I had to sit around and watch my sister’s entire relationship with Derek develop. It was gross and annoying as hell, but I do know how it plays out.”
“W-What are you even going on about?” Faith asked nervously. “Are the chaons getting to your head?”
“That could be! But…” Chris sighed, seemingly losing focus for a moment before returning his attention to her.
“Do you love him?”
Faith could not say a word to that question. Her eyes merely widened in response to what just exited Chris’ mouth.
“Derek loves the shit out of my sister,” Chris stated. “He’s gone above and beyond when it comes to her. Even though he couldn’t protect her then… he still tries to this day. Man…” He shook his head. “That kind of power can certainly help you surpass your limits. Let’s see you try it!”
“Even after the Chaonic Assimilation, his true feelings are still being expressed…” Thomas noted. “He really doesn’t want to fight… does he? He’s giving Faith advice to help her out. The madness of this world is clouding his mind… He’s fallen far, especially with this new power. But… still. Does he want to be saved?”
“I…” Faith gained her composure. “It’s none of your business on what drives me. Protecting everyone dear to me is what makes me fight! You don’t need to know the details!”
“Don’t let him rile you up, Faith…” Winona patted her shoulder. “Let’s do this.”
“Huh?” Faith turned to her. “You still wanna fight? I thought you said we—”
“We’re in no condition to fight, yes. But if you’re going to still do it, then I will too.” Winona smiled gently. “We’re teammates, after all. No… We’re best friends.”
Faith slowly nodded, smiling at Winona’s words. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“I can’t do any fighting at this point,” Thomas stated. “But, if you two want to go past your limits, then there may be a way.”
“What way?” Faith asked while staring ahead at Chris, who seemed to be standing there waiting for them.
“Here—” Thomas pulled out a tiny clear case with a few navy-blue pills inside. He popped it open, taking two of them out. “If you guys take these, then your inner phantons will erupt, giving you a massive boost.”
“Wha…!?” Faith looked at Thomas in disbelief. “T-Then why didn’t you give them to us earlier?”
“Cause they’re dangerous to use,” Thomas said bluntly. “Even at full power, these things can still take a toll on the user. In fact, only people with awakened phantons can use them. If a normal person were to take these… they’d die.”
“W… What would happen if we were to use them at our current strength?” Winona asked.
“Well, your limits could certainly be passed…” Thomas sighed. “But… I’m not sure how you guys will be afterward. Are you sure you want to—”
Faith snatched a pill from Thomas’ hand, looking at it with confidence. “It seems like we’re gonna have to fight this guy anyway. I’m willing to take the risk…”
Winona took the second pill from Thomas’ hand. “She’s right… We have to try.”
“You two…” Travis shook his head. “If something were to happen to you guys, then your future—”
“Everyone’s future is at risk right now.” Faith said, moving the pill closer to her mouth. “We need to save as much of it as possible.”
“For my dad’s sake… I’ll protect as much as I can.” Winona declared.
With those words, Thomas and Travis could no longer stop the two. Chris snickered at the girls as they swallowed the pills.
They felt it immediately—the surge of phantons through their bodies. With their stamina at the level it currently was, it felt as though the phantons were tearing right through them. However, both of them felt a strength boiling up toward the surface.
Chris grinned, preparing his fingers for the battle. “You ladies finally ready!?”
An eruption of flames exited Faith, surrounding her while spiraling plumes of sand formed around Winona. The two matched Chris’ grin, drunk on the power they now possessed. In unison, Faith and Winona made their declaration.
“You’re going down!”