That night… was cold.
There was some light snowfall, but nothing too serious.
I had just gotten home after the walk I took after school.
Of course, nobody was there.
I went to lie down on my bed, checking my phone in the process.
Nothing, just like usual.
For about an hour or so, I stared at the ceiling.
That was all.
Eventually, I had enough.
I admitted to myself that the loneliness was too much.
Picking up my phone, I decided to text Faith.
It was just a simple hello, checking on how she was.
She had been busy practicing for the school musical that was in a few months.
It turned out that she got one of the main roles.
To be honest, it didn’t surprise me.
She was so charismatic, cheerful, and had a wonderful singing voice.
I was so happy she had risen so far above that scared little girl who sat alone on the swing set many years prior.
I was also envious.
There was no point in hiding it.
I felt as though I had nothing.
A few minutes passed, and she texted me back.
She seemed ecstatic to hear from me, giving me all kinds of details about how things were going.
The message ended with her asking how I had been.
That hit me.
It was the first time in a while that someone had asked me that.
I began to tear up, to be honest.
While that happened, another feeling welled up inside of me.
I felt like I was bothering her.
On one side, I was genuinely curious as to how she was.
But on the other… I really wanted someone to help me.
And I felt as though it would be a bother to her.
Yet, I pressed the keys on my screen, opening up to her.
The words that were formed were ones I would only let Faith read.
However, I regretted them as soon as I hit send, fearing what she would say in response.
It didn’t take too long for her to message me.
She showed great concern, as I expected her too.
Faith was too kind, after all.
It turned out she was already done with practice for the evening, and wanted to see me.
I figured she was tired, so I declined.
At that moment, something happened in my head.
To this day, I can’t quite figure out what exactly triggered it.
I simply wanted to die.
Before she could reply, I sent one last text.
I told her I was going to disappear.
So I did.
Throwing my phone in the trash, I walked out of my house.
Entering the woods, I began to pick up speed.
By the time I was enveloped in the shadows, I was sprinting.
It was time to get away from there.
To get away from life.
The snow had picked up at that point, making it harder to run as the ground was blanketed rather quickly.
I ended up tripping and falling.
It was cold, especially since I didn't bother to put on a coat, or anything like that.
Yet, it felt nice.
It was here that I decided I would meet my fate.
I would let the bitter cold take me.
For some reason, however, I was in a rush.
Moving my arm, I noticed there was a thin sheet of ice beneath the snow.
Due to my fall, some of it had cracked apart.
A rather… sharp piece had caught my eye…
I felt it—there was no doubt about that.
But I didn’t care at that point.
I lay there as the blood rushed out of me, making the white snow underneath me turn red.
It was warm.
It felt nice.
Then, it started to get cold again.
I could feel it this time.
I could feel that the cold was going to get me.
It was so… calming…
Just a beautiful sleep in a beautiful void. That’s all I wanted.
And I was going to get it.
Somehow, someway, she found me.
Through the void, I could hear her voice screaming out to me.
It was… agonizing, to hear her sound like that.
I decided to curse whatever god led her to me. Cause she did not deserve to see this.
My hope was for the snow to cover me up.
That didn’t happen in time.
I had gained the energy to see her.
The tears falling from her face was a hell I never wanted to see.
Yet, I looked into her eyes.
I did not listen to whatever she was saying—I simply focused on her eyes.
They do say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul, or some crap like that, right?
Well, that may be correct.
I felt her entire being cast into me.
It revived the memories I had forgotten.
We had always been so close to each other, Faith and I.
Our adventures as kids were incredibly fun, despite how nonsensical they were.
Many times, we searched these very trees to find treasure.
What treasure? Beats me.
Yet, we searched for hours, knowing in our hearts that it was here.
Many of these quests Faith had apparently “learned” from fairies—that was the story we were following.
She was a big fan of fairies and believed that they existed to give us joy and wonder.
Joy and wonder…
What happened to those?
If fairies do exist, and for that purpose, why was it that they were no longer around?
I wasn’t mad about it—in fact, I was more curious.
Yeah, I was curious.
That’s why I went on those adventures when I was young.
I was curious as to what would happen.
The joy and wonder part ended up being the adventure itself, and despite never finding anything too exciting, those times were so precious to me.
Yeah. Now, when I look back at that moment in the forest, things make sense.
For example, Faith had successfully gotten me out of there and gotten me help.
When I reached the hospital, my cut was long gone.
Not even a scar remained.
Everyone was baffled, as signs did indicate I suffered from major blood loss.
Along with the fact that I was soaked with my own blood.
I had recently figured it out.
Charlotte did not help me awaken the World Mirror.
It had already awakened inside of me.
Although incredibly subtle, it responded to my curiosity that had come back to life at that moment.
It did more than that, however.
Faith’s desire for me to survive…
The World Mirror reflected that as well.
I myself… also reflected it.
I did want to survive.
I desired to go on adventures again.
Everything… is just beginning.
I can’t let my body give up now…!
How… How do I get out of this?
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.
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?
Whatever. At this point, nothing made sense. It’s like I just talked about with Charlotte. If things didn’t make sense… it didn’t matter.
We would get through it anyway.
...That’s right. I told Charlotte to trust me. And… I promised Brandon I wouldn’t die.
So, as I fly closer toward the surface of whatever this “place” is, I prepare a question for myself.
With light entering my vision, I ask it.
“Body—physically, mentally, and emotionally… can you keep up with me?”
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 don’t think it’s possible 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!”