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.
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.
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.
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.