"… Phantoms?" Finn whispered softy, confused.
"Yes," Archon replied. "They look like completely white humanoid entities and have no hair. If you have seen one, it's impossible to forget what they look like or not know what I'm talking about. That's how disgusting and repulsive they are."
Finn could hear the venom in Archon's voice as he spoke about these 'Phantoms', though he was still a bit lost.
'White humanoid entities… of course I know what he's talking about,' Finn thought. 'But… aren't they called Ghosts?'
He was hoping for an answer from Zelestria, but received none even after several seconds. Sighing, he decided to just tell these strangers the truth.
"I did see them… but I won't be able to anymore."
Finn clenched his fists tightly as he was once again reminded of the fact that he was now blind, unable to open his eyes at all.
"… Easy, kid. You feel a burning desire for revenge, huh? Don't worry… we've all been there. Everyone here right now has had something taken away from them by those bastards in the past. Welcome to the club," Archon said, patting Finn's shoulder. "You've already seen one of them… so there's no going back. Now, I'm going to leave you with two choices."
"What?" Finn asked, tilting his head towards the direction of Archon's voice. Even though he couldn't really see them, he still did this by instinct.
"One, I give you an amnestic, and you return to being a normal human… just blind. But this solution is not ideal, as one day, you may remember again — the cause of your blindness. When that happens, you'll most likely go crazy from the shock. That's why there is never truly escape."
"... And two?"
The man, after a brief silence, opened Finn's palm and placed what felt like a knife's handle into it.
"You join us, getting revenge with your own hands."
"W-Wha- Boss!" the hyper boy cried in shock.
[Calculating advantages to disadvantages ratio of accepting Subject AC3 into our organization. Results: 1:27.]
"… Archon. Are you sure about this?" a third voice that Finn had not heard before added. It was quiet and soft, but Finn could tell it belonged to a male.
"I am, Storm," the man named Archon replied darkly and firmly. "As for Octane and Reaper… I have already made up my mind. No matter what you say, my proposal will not change."
"B-But…!" the boy — Octane — protested.
"No 'buts'. Have you forgotten? When I accepted you six years ago, you were in a state not that much better than his. Back then, I had seen a fire in your eyes. One that burned for revenge. Now, I can't see this young friend's eyes, but…"
Archon turned to Finn and grinned.
"... I can feel the thirst to kill in his heart. Don't ask me how, but I can tell. The dark hatred he holds… it runs deeper than any river; the lust for blood in his mind greater than any Phantom. I don't care if he's blind. I don't care if he's weak. For as long as he keeps that black flame of determination burning in his heart, he will eventually get strong, one day."
"…" Finn fell silent and gripped the dagger tightly.
He wasn't thinking about whether or not he should get revenge. No… that was already set in stone. He had sworn to purge all Ghosts from existence, and he would live up to that promise.
But the question was… could he trust these mysterious strangers? Who were they? What did they do? And why would they help him?
Finn had no answers for any of these questions, and it's not like he was going to get any answers until he answered their question first.
Life was a game. Gambles needed to be taken. Choices needed to be made.
Finn twirled the knife around in his hand and tightened his hold on the handle, before turning his head slightly to face Archon.
"… When can I start?"
The group of them left soon after that, insisting Finn get some rest. He had wanted to learn more about their group and why they called Ghosts 'Phantoms', but he couldn't really argue back against recovering, especially given the state he was currently in.
Finn drifted off to sleep… and found himself inside a neon, vaporwave-style reality rift two minutes later.
"… It's you again," Finn muttered, staring at the flawless figure of Zelestria.
"What, unhappy to see me?" She smiled seductively, closing one eye and sticking her tongue out.
"Not really. More like… annoyed? I was planning on going to sleep, but you prevented me from doing that."
"Your real body's still getting the rest it needs. You are only here in spirit form, since I figured it was about time I briefed you properly on the power you hold — the power I gave you. Take a look."
She swiped her arm through the air, conjuring a screen of some sort in front of me. On the hologram displayed the anatomy of a human body. But there was... something off — quite obviously, too.
"This is a visual representation of your body," Zelestria explained, folding her arms. "Now... do you notice anything unusual?"
"The blood... it's black."
"Mhm. Look closer."
Finn did as told, narrowing his eyes — and it was then that he saw.
"There's... faint strands of red in it still...?"
Zelestria smiled. "Indeed. Want to know why?"
"Cut the pointless questions," Finn interrupted harshly, but Zelestria didn't seem fazed at all.
"Oh my~ so cold... fine, fine. The red strands you see are the faint traces of your human blood still remaining, and the black fluid... is Ghost blood."
Finn froze. "... And why, exactly, is there Ghost blood flowing within me?"
Zelestria sighed. "This was the only way I could save you. You were about to die of blood loss, so I drained the blood of the Ghost you killed and infused it with your body, allowing you to live. It was quite tiresome, especially since I only had a short window of time to do it and had to hide it from that robot, but it worked, I suppose."
Finn glanced down at his hands, opening and closing them.
"... How ironic. You gave me this power to slay Ghosts, but in the process, turned me into one."
"Don't worry, it's not like you've completely turned into a Ghost. If I had to say... you're a half-Ghost right now, something that shouldn't exist in this world."
"I'm not worried. If to kill other Ghosts, I have to become one myself, then so be it."
At this, Zelestria fell silent, observing Finn curiously.
"Oh, nothing..." She smiled mysteriously. "It's just... I like that philosophy of yours, Finn. Don't ever change it, mkay~?"
"... Sure?" Finn was confused, but didn't pry about the matter. "But that aside, what powers does Ghost blood give me?"
"Fufufu," Zelestria giggled softly. "I said I would brief you, that's it. If I told you everything now, where would be the thrill of finding out yourself? Just think about this, Finn..."
She closed up the screen and descended down onto the ground, throwing her arms around Finn's neck and pulling herself closer to stare him straight in the eyes. Finn didn't show any reaction, but he could feel her ample chest pressed against him and himself being drawn into her beautiful and starry gradient eyes. The faint scent of flowers tickled Finn's nose, and her skin felt warm on his neck.
"Life and death, light and darkness, are just two sides of the same coin. Humans depict surging life and energy, while Ghosts depict eternal hunger and thirst. When combined... what do you get?"
Leaving this cryptic message behind, Zelestria smiled seductively and backed away, snapping her fingers.
"Everything shall be revealed in due time, Finn. For now, the people around you are enough to help you get stronger. Until that happens... I'll be waiting."
She gave a flirty wink as Finn's surroundings were enveloped by darkness once more, plunged into dreamland.
Once he was gone, Zelestria turned to stare out at the neon sunset, something she loved doing when she was on her own.
"I'm sorry, Finn... I can't just tell you everything right now. I need you to get stronger on your own first. Then, and only then, will you be able to avoid relying on this power and stand a chance against that entity."
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and smiled faintly, recalling Finn's words from earlier.
"'Then so be it,' huh?"