Where the hell… am I?
I can’t see anything…!
How… How do I get out of this?
I’m falling…? Why am I falling?
Wait. I’m slowing down…?
Something… something’s touching my back.
Who is it…? I can’t turn around.
Everything’s pitch black anyway—I doubt I could see who it is. Or… what it is.
Hands—gentle hands… yet they fill me up with anxiety.
Does that make any sense…? No. Regardless of who or what it was, they’re pushing me—I’m now ascending.
As I soar further away from whatever had helped me, I swear I can hear a voice.
Refuse? Refuse what?
“Refuse… Re… fuse… Refuse. Refuse. REFUSE. REFUSE! REFUSE! REFUSE!! REFUSE!!! I REFUSE!!!“
It’s like this void is shaking at the incomprehensible voice’s rage.
Yes, rage. Also sorrow. And… a shit ton of regret. I can feel those emotions ricocheting back and forth around me.
I can’t… breathe.
Is this hell? It has to be some kind of hell. That would be the best explanation.
If I could release words from my mouth—any at all—I would ask this voice what was wrong.
…No. No, that’s not right.
If you want the honest truth… I’d tell it to shut up.
If this is where I meet my end, I don’t want some jackass shouting through the process.
I want my peace and quiet.
…Ah. Yeah. I get it. You really do want to die, don’t you, Adam?
Why do I, exactly?
I know how I got to this point, for sure. However… why me?
Why do I have to go through all of this?
Sure, I want to be at peace. But…
Just why can’t I be at peace while I’m alive?
…That’s right. I told Charlotte to trust me. And… I promised Brandon I wouldn’t die.
…I guess I don’t have much of a choice, do I?
I can’t let anyone else cry for my sake.
Adam’s unconscious body lit up in a white light—the World Mirror’s second wind kicking in at last. This startled Brandon, who was close to using his brand new Concept as a means to shock life back into his friend. With the ghostly aura came a deep breath as life slowly returned.
“T-Thank god…” Brandon took a deep breath himself. “Is… Is he going to be okay now…!? Is everything good? He’s still out cold…”
Charlotte walked over and placed her hand over Adam’s forehead. “Hmm… I see.” She nodded. “Yeah, he should be out of danger. The World Mirror is prioritizing his life force as opposed to his body. As long as that remains, it can take its time restoring him physically.”
“How can you tell…?” Brandon asked anxiously. “D-Did the mirror talk to you or something?”
“No,” Charlotte chuckled. “It’s not like that. Instead, it… well, it can’t be put into words. That’s why…”
As they spoke, Jerry had finally caught up to the action—the mine now allowing a straightforward path. Feeling like his lungs were close to collapsing, he removed his goggles as Type:Roswell floating next to him tumbled onto the ground.
“W-What… in the… g-goddamn… h—” He could not help but cough violently. “Br-Brandon…! Concept…!? How!? Adam… I-Is he…?”
“H-He’s fine!” Brandon exhaled in relief. “It’s all fine now…”
Charlotte returned her gaze toward Adam while Winona walked up to Jerry to make sure he was okay. As her hair returned to back and her clothes reverted to normal attire, she was incredibly puzzled.
“Phantonics… As a science, I truly think it’s impossible to define the things that are happening. It shouldn’t center around the phanton—there’s a much broader scope that we need to look at.”
“Jerry,” Charlotte followed Winona’s footsteps over to the sweaty, exhausted young man. “I need you to work with me from now on. There are things we need to work toward. My ancient knowledge and your modern knowledge need to merge as one.”
“Huh…?” Jerry attempted to stand up straight. “I-I couldn’t agree more. But are you sure? Right now, I mean… aren’t you gonna pass out again. From the looks of this place… you had quite the battle, yeah?”
“That won’t be a problem,” Charlotte assured him. “This mine is now—”
She froze. Turning her head toward the end of the cavern, she could sense movement. By the time she registered the action, it was too late.
There was no immediate danger to the group. Instead, she felt a “snap” occur, followed by a surge of energy rush outside of the barrier. Charlotte understood that whatever was kept securely inside the mine had escaped.
“…I’ll be right back!”
Changing back into her spirit form, Charlotte soared through the stone ceiling, phasing through and reaching the surface within a second.
For the next hour, she would scout the entire area around Prelude—energy she took from the mine, allowing her to expand her search range around Nexus City. As the night took over Requiem, the ghost continued to survey any possible route the energy took, attempting to find any trace toward its new location.
Eventually, Charlotte accepted the fact that the strange power had vanished. However, this had a silver lining—she could be sure that her friends and the surrounding community would be safe for the time being.
Returning to the mine, she recalled the peculiar shadow that had been with the enemy during their battle. Being able to sense the entirety of the spherical “barrier” that remained, Charlotte would be able to know if it was observing them—preventing it from obtaining any sort of information.
“Damn, you were gone for a while!” Brandon yelled, attempting to stand—failing as his leg would not allow him to. He sat on the ground with Jerry by his side and Adam in front of them, seemingly sleeping peacefully. Energy continued to emit from his body, now with a more calming aura.
“…It’s gone,” Charlotte said bluntly. “Whatever it is that Adam wished to rescue… it’s gone. I can’t even trace where it went. How did it—”
“That’s fine,” Jerry interrupted. “We can deal with that at another time. For now, the chaos that happened today has concluded. I heard everything from Brandon and Winona’s point of view. Let’s chill here while you tell me yours. It’s safe in here now, isn’t it?”
“It is, and I’ll make sure it stays that way!” Charlotte returned, once again, to her casual form. Sitting down, she took a quick glance around. “Where is Winona, actually?”
“Digging around the cave with her Concept,” Jerry shrugged. “She says there’s a method to her madness. I’m not gonna argue, especially with someone who still has that much energy after a huge fight.”
“She’s not inside of the mine right now… Oh—there she is. Nearby.” Charlotte sensed her friend’s location while her eyes were shut. “Okay… anyway. Let’s talk. While I was searching for that thing, I was brainstorming a bunch of stuff…” She paused. “Brainstorming…? Didn’t think I’d pick up a word like that.”
“Can you guys figure out what to do with my leg…?” Brandon hesitantly asked. “I-I need my leg to work so I can, you know… walk. That would be cool—walking.”
“I have a solution for that!” Charlotte’s eyes lit up. “I think it’ll work! You won’t have to go to one of those hospitals either!”
“T-That’s good,” Jerry nodded. “Normally, we’d get him to one. If they figure out what he’s been involved with, however…”
“Can’t we just lie?” Brandon questioned. “I could say a bear attacked me or… something?”
“You have an awakened Concept now, Brandon,” Jerry explained. “As long as you’re in Requiem, any hospital has the means to detect that.”
Charlotte nodded. “I figured. Well, want to hear my idea? Not just for Brandon’s leg—we’re gonna branch far past that!”
“Oh?” Jerry was growing curious.
Raising her arms, Charlotte smirked. “I’m taking the spherical shape these guys had for their barrier and recreating it from scratch with my own Authority. We’ll develop our own base of operations and begin our pursuit of the truth! I…” She paused. “I don’t know whether I was a good person or a bad person… Right now, that doesn’t matter. I want to take back Requiem and make it a better place. We’ll start right here…!”
She pictured the structure of the area in her head as it lit up in a vibrant blue. Phantonic energy began to scatter and dance around the cavern walls—each particle seemingly having a life of its own. This calmed the young men who watched the phenomenon while simultaneously taken aback by the magic-like event unfolding.
“The crimson mine is no more…” Charlotte declared—a name forming in her mind. Although a peculiar one, the requian royal found it oddly fitting.
“Welcome to the Azurasphere!”