"Hmm… hmm… hmm…"
Faith quietly hummed to herself as she strummed the strings of her guitar. She lay in bed with a notepad next to her—red headphones over her ears, which were connected to her phone as she listened to tunes. With free time on her hands, she was attempting to write a song.
“That wouldn’t sound too good… Maybe a different type of song?”
While she shuffled through her playlist, attempting to find inspiration, Emma walked into her room—the door on the opposite left side of the room, wide open. Her hair was down, which she was playing with—a habit she had when it was not wrapped up in its usual ponytail.
“Hey, Faith?” She waved at her sister to get her attention while glancing around the room.
“What’s up, Em?” She asked, uncovering one ear to listen.
“Where did you put that medicine? I got a killer headache all of a sudden…”
“Uh… oh—right here,” Faith leaned over to her nightstand, brushing the wrapper of a snack she ate earlier out of the way. She picked up the pills and shook it. “These?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Emma took the bottle and looked at it. “Hope this helps…”
“You’ve been playing loads of games the last few days,” Faith noted, wagging her finger. “I’m not one to talk whatsoever, but you’ve gotta be careful. Take breaks every now and then.”
“Dude, Shadow Sea Adventures has too many secret levels to unlock! It’s only the first game, as well. These developers are crazy!”
“We need to 100% the Super Samurai games, remember? We’ve got to get to that pretty soon… There are only two months left before I leave.”
“I know, I know…” Emma walked over and sat on the edge of Faith’s bed.
“You're not taking those?” Faith pointed at the bottle of pills.
“In a sec. I just wanna see what you’re writing…” With a mischievous grin, Emma leaped for the notebook.
“Writing a love song of some kind?” She snickered as she looked at her sister’s writing.
“I-I…” Faith was too flustered to speak.
“W-Woah…” Emma was bewildered at the words on the page in front of her. “This could totally be some kind of love song! You’re usually not the best at this kind of style, but…"
"When were you one to care about this type of music? You’ve told me before that it’s crap!” Faith asked.
“Usually, it is. Cause love is just…” Emma paused, placing the notebook down. “Crap… But, you’re good at making this stuff sound good. I wish you… could have been a musician…”
“Well, I’ve got to work for Unity, for the time being…” Faith sighed, putting her headphones down. “I won’t really have time for this sort of thing.”
“...Hey,” Emma got into a fetal position, clearly distraught at the conversation topic. “Do you think Conceptors can ever be ‘free’ from this whole thing? With powers, like the ones you have, you should be responsible—for sure. But… being tied down by a group that is definitely not responsible… How do we fix this?”
“You have the opportunity to fight for good—sure. But it just seems… wrong, not having a choice. We don’t see Mom as often as we should, and even when we do, she’s exhausted from all of it.” Emma chuckled. “Not that that’s any different from having a parent with a demanding job. But it is different. There’s so much danger and uncertainty that—”
“Emma,” Faith tapped the notebook next to them. “Wanna know something? This song I’m working on…” She moved some of her hair behind her ear as a tender smile formed. “It’s actually inspired by a poem I wrote when I was little. I’m not sure what happened to it, but I remember it vividly. Trying to add proper music to go with it is the tricky part… It’s gotta be perfect.”
“T-That’s interesting and all, but what does that have to do with—”
“Look at the lyrics again. You can see it as some kind of love song—sure—but the main theme is centered around ‘hope.’ Hope that the person singing and the person they’re singing to can come together and conquer anything that gets in the way…”
“...no matter if the skies are gray.” Emma glanced at one of the lines, twirling her hair around her finger. “Hmm… Well—” Emma stood up from the bed. “I guess I’ll hope things turn out for the best.”
“Take those pills and lie down, for now,” Faith suggested. “Don’t worry. Leave everything to your big sis.”
“I don’t want you to bear that burden…” Emma mumbled to herself.
“Hmm?” Faith was trying to hear what her sister was saying.
“My birthday’s in a week,” Emma changed the topic. “I’ll be seventeen. Just a reminder in case you forgot. A week should be plenty of time to get me something nice.”
“Right, right…” Faith sighed. “Anything you want specifically?”
Emma began to leave the room as she stopped and leaned up against the door frame. “Well, aside from things relating to the topic we just discussed…” She placed her hand on her chin, going deep into thought. “Games… You can check my wishlist to see what you’d think I’d like.”
“I can do that…” Faith nodded, picking up the notebook and taking a quick glance at it.
“Oh, that’s right…” Emma stared at Faith’s large wooden desk, which was to the left of the door. She had her attention on the two drawers on the right side. “Your own birthday was over a week ago—feels much longer than that. You’re eighteen now…”
“I am,” Faith began to put her headphones back on. “I can now legally vote for whatever political nonsense Requiem wants to get itself in.”
“You’re also old enough to… you know…” Emma tiptoed toward the drawers. “Did Mom get you any…? You gotta be safe, you know?”
“W-Wha…” Faith was flabbergasted at what Emma was bringing up. “W-Why do you need to know!? You’ve gotta wait a year before you start thinking about anything like that!”
“Oh, it’s not about me,” Emma responded with a sinister grin. “I just want to make sure you’re prepared in case any—let’s call it—’Gray Sky’ situations happen.”
“I-I don’t have anyone who I would want t-to…”
Emma stared at Faith with a brooding judgemental glare. Faith knew the emotions her sister was expressing through it.
“I-I…” Her hands began to shake as she raised them in an attempt to protest.
Emma’s glare continued. While Faith’s flustered face was comedic at this point, surprisingly, flames began to form from the top of her head. Emma’s eyes lit up in horror.
“Oh. Well, they’re not burning anything. She doesn’t seem to notice… I shouldn’t tell her… I don’t want to freak her out. Cute quirk, Sis.” Emma slowly back walked out of the room so Faith could cool down.
“Geez…” Faith noticed the heat on top of her head, yet the fire had already dissipated. “Huh…?”
Around the corner, Emma pressed her hand gently on the wall. “Right here is…” She slowly exhaled as she seemingly had held her breath. “That’s a good birthday wish. I don’t want you to fear those flames anymore, Faith. They didn’t take me, after all…”
Torches lit with crimson energy decorated the walls of the cave. Aside from that, it was merely stone in the immediate vicinity—nothing to indicate that this was once a prosperous mine that helped put Prelude on the map.
The debris that was sucked in with Adam was, oddly, not near him. He lay on the ground unconscious—his arms almost entirely healed from his attack on the barrier. It had been several minutes, yet there was no sign of Charlotte.
If Adam was awake, he would notice every few seconds the strange “shift” occurring around him. The entire mine shook as sections seemingly swapped places with one another.
Charlotte, in an entirely different area—this one with a few broken tracks and a minecart off to the right—had stopped flying. She was well aware of the situation at this point.
“An abandoned mine underneath Prelude… sealed off by that strange barrier,” She began to walk around, taking note of the torches on the wall. “This bitter energy permeates the air… It keeps these things fueled, that’s for sure. Is it also causing the area to move around in the manner that it is…?”
Charlotte looked up and then down, clenching her fist. “Even though it’s a wall surrounding the outer area, its influence extends all around… like a ring around an invisible sphere. The barrier itself was invisible until just recently. I never sensed it at all… How is that possible?”
Although it was for a brief moment, she recalled the scarlet symbols that were on the barrier before she broke through. “I swear I’ve seen that writing before… Come on, Charlotte. You losing your memories is quite the inconvenience, ain’t it?” She paused. “Ain’t…? I’m picking up words like that? Strange…”
Taking a glance at her body, Charlotte realized something.
“My power… isn’t weakening?” She took a closer look at the blue aura surrounding her, which seemed to be much more active than usual. “What… is this?”
From the ceiling of Adam’s current location, a peculiar black portal seemed to form. It slowly descended toward him while a childish voice began to echo on the walls.
“Oh boy… I sensed that someone broke in, but you of all people managed to do it, huh? Well, that’s not good. I should probably get you out of here…”
The darkness surrounded Adam as it began to swirl around. “Let’s warp you out of here… Huh?”
A faint white light emitted from Adam’s body. It was enough to shield him from the shadows grabbing hold of him.
“Huh…!? What the hell is this power!? I figured you awakened some cool Concept that let you bust through things, even our barrier. This is… different. Yes, that’s right. You don’t have phantons. This is definitely different.”
The shadows ascended. The voice began to chuckle as they faded away. “All right. We might have to get a little rough with you, depending on how you respond. Let’s see how this works out, Adam.”