"WOO! He did it! He really did it!" Octane yelled at the top of his lungs as he zoomed down the stairs into the main living quarters of the Phantom Slayers' headquarters.
"Quiet, idiot!" Archon whispered sharply as he grabbed Octane's ear and pulled him closer.
"O-Ow, boss! Chill, boss!"
"What are you going to do if they hear you?!"
Archon groaned and let go of him. "Agh, whatever. You said… he did it?"
Octane hurriedly nodded about five times in the span of a second. "I heard it loud and clear, boss. I dunno about what they talked about before, but I just heard the girl accept the guy's deal."
"Did you manage to catch the girl's name?" Archon asked, raising an eyebrow as he sat back down on the couch.
Octane nodded. "Yeah. She's called Ivis. I dunno about the last name."
"Ivis… I feel like that's similar to a name I've seen somewhere else before…" Archon murmured to himself as he tried to search his thirty year old memory. "Man… this line of work really wears out your body… I'm not even 40 yet, and my memory's already this bad…"
"… Ivis, huh?" Storm murmured quietly from a short distance away, a faint smile on his face.
"Oi, oi, oi… Storm, don't tell me… you in love with that girl?!" Octane exclaimed, clutching his head in shock.
Storm immediately narrowed his eyes, all hints of there ever being a smile on his face, gone. "What makes you think that?"
"I-I mean… you never smile…" Octane whimpered weakly, scratching his head.
"Oh? So if I smile, it means I am in love with someone?"
"Alright, alright," Archon pressed the air with his hands, motioning for the two of them to settle down. "Octane, what is our new friend and Ivis currently doing?"
"Uh… I dunno. Want me to check?"
Archon nodded. "Remember, stay quiet this time."
"Heheh," Octane rubbed his nose, then pointed at his own chest triumphantly. "On it, boss!"
- Inside the Room -
"… They heard our conversation, it seems," Finn noted after hearing Octane's loud cheer as he ran down the stairs.
"Only the end of it," Iris replied. "And, it's a modified version of it too."
"Yes. To them, my name sounds like 'Ivis' — a fake alias, obviously. I knew he was eavesdropping already thanks to my Oculus Angelica, so I purposely enchanted the door with a special Enchantment that made whoever was on the other side here a slightly different version of what was really said."
"You can do that?" Finn asked curiously.
"Yes, anyone can use enchantments, so long as they know how. It's a pretty advanced technique though... I'll teach you sometime in the future, once we both get stronger."
"Sure, having an extra skill couldn't hurt."
"You're... not going to question why I wanted to hide my name from them?" Iris suddenly asked.
"Hm," Finn turned away and sat back down on the floor. "I'm sure you have your own reasons for not wanting them to find out about your real name, so I won't pry."
She smiled. "I'm grateful."
"By the way… is there any way I can tell what Angelica I have?" Finn asked, voice quiet as usual.
"No, but…" Iris snickered and rolled her wheelchair over closer to him. "… I can."
Iris cupped Finn's face with her two hands, forcing him to turn his head to her even though he could not see. To Finn, it felt nice and warm.
"Usually, an Angelica is awakened in a dire encounter with a Ghost," Iris explained. "However, because not everyone who joins the Ghost Hunter world goes through dangerous scenarios like that, there are certain people who are chosen to help someone forcefully awaken their Angelica. And this, just happens to be one of the miscellaneous abilities of the Oculus Angelica I possess.
"Of course, many people are just naturally born without Angelicas, and won't awaken one no matter what. But they still hold the hopes that they do have one, which is why a job like this exists only for Oculus Angelica users — though I much prefer being on the frontlines myself, so I've never actually done it before."
"Huh… I see," Finn murmured, letting Iris have her way.
"Alright… let's see… Eye of Knowledge — Soulread!"
Iris opened her eyes wide as she activated her Angelica, her irises turning bright golden. Luckily, Finn was already blind, otherwise, he would've ended up blinded by the dazzling ray of light emitted by Iris's eyes.
"Hm? This is…" Iris frowned, concentrating even harder. Finn flinched a little from her applying more pressure on his cheeks, but he didn't resist.
"What kind of Angelica is this…? I've never seen such a thing before…" she murmured to herself, narrowing her eyes further.
Normally, Angelicas took on physical forms that only appeared when the user activated them — but those with the Oculus Angelica could see the Angelicas regardless of whether or not they are being used.
In addition, every Angelica had their own 'insignia' of sorts. For example, the Stormbringer Angelica Storm took on the shape of a white lightning bolt, shrouded by dark thunderclouds sparking with blue electricity, and the Daredevil Angelica Octane had was symbolized by a glowing light green syringe.
However… the energy signature Iris saw coming from Finn didn't have a definite shape. Instead, it was a concentrated black mist, similar to the dark hatred that clouded him. It pulsed and beat like a human heart, as if ready to change shape and morph into anything else at a moment's notice.
Iris attempted to delve deeper, using her Oculus Angelica to unravel the mysteries behind this unknown new entity, but suddenly, she froze as a frightening force overtook her body. Her eyes widened in shock, falling forward, and gasped for air.
Finn quickly caught her in his arms. "Are you… alright?"
His voice was cold and emotionless, similar to the dark, empty force that seemed to be swallowing Iris whole.
"Ngh…" she trembled in pain as her muscles refused to listen to her.
As Iris glanced down at her body, however, fear overtook her.
The dark black mist surrounding Finn had expanded, working its way up her own body, threatening to consume her whole.
Finn, meanwhile, had no idea any of this was happening, since he was blind.
Iris wanted to cry out for help, to beg someone for rescue, but her vocal cords seemed to have been frozen still.
Finn held her in his arms, confused at why she wasn't responding, and Iris could only watch on in fear as the dark entropy swallowed her completely.
- An Hour Later -
"Mmn…" Iris moaned, slowly opening her eyes.
The first thing she saw was Finn's face, and it was then that she realized she was lying on his lap.
She quickly got to her feet in a flustered panic, only to awkwardly fall back down since she was crippled. Finn caught her once more, and she awkwardly glanced upwards at him.
"U-Um… could you… take me back to my wheelchair, perhaps?"
Finn nodded and stood up, carrying her in his arms as he awaited further instructions.
"It's directly in front of you, 5 steps," Iris commanded.
Finn obediently did as told, before gently setting Iris down in her wheelchair.
"Thank you… but anyway… what happened earlier?"
"I should be asking you that question," Finn scoffed, sitting back down on the ground. "You randomly collapsed on me, while in the middle of checking what kind of Angelica I have. Is that normal?"
"O-Oh…" Iris fell into thought, placing a hand to her forehead as she slowly remembered the events that had transpired earlier. "No, that's definitely not normal…"
"Then why did you fall over?"
"I… don't know," she admitted, stumped. "It might just be because this is my first time checking someone's Angelica, but still, this shouldn't have happened. All I remember is being submerged in some kind of black mist… I forgot how or why…"
Finn's reply was brisk, but that's because a certain someone had spoken in his head.
[Fufu, I wasn't expecting you to get one this early, but this works too.]
'What?' Finn thought in his head, confused.
[The Oculus Angelica, Finn.] Zelestria explained. [You just obtained it from that girl.]
'How...? Was it from just holding her…?'
Zelestria paused briefly, then made her decision.
[I'll explain more the next time we meet in the reality rift. Your friend here seems to want to talk, so I'll leave you be.]
'I would much rather find out more about this power, though...'
"A-Anyway," Iris cleared her throat, interrupting Finn's thoughts. "We never determined what kind of Angelica you had in the end, did we? Let's try again."
Deciding to keep the whole matter with him acquiring her Angelica a secret for now, Finn raised an eyebrow. "… You sure?"
"It would be pretty irresponsible of me if I didn't finish the job I promised to do, wouldn't it?"
"I suppose… that's fair."
In all honesty, Finn didn't really care about this anymore since he just found out from Zelestria that he had obtained the Oculus Angelica that easily, but for appearance's sake, he still went along with what Iris wanted.
He leaned in and let Iris cup his face once more. She activated her Angelica, eyes turning golden and shining as bright as the sun, and concentrated her gaze.
"Eye of Knowledge — Soulread!"
'Is that how to use an Angelica...? Calling out the move's name out loud? Isn't that just telling your opponents what you're going to do next,' Finn thought in his head.
[The 'moves' are called Abilities.] Zelestria interrupted despite just saying she would leave them be. [It's not necessary to chant an Ability's name out loud to use it, but it conserves a bit of your Angelica's energy, otherwise known as mana. That's why when no enemies are around, Angelica users tend to just chant the Ability's name out loud.]
'Huh, I see...'
Meanwhile, from Iris's perspective, she could see that around Finn was a bright yellow aura, one that was similar to her own. Above his head hovered a glowing golden eye, radiating energy.
"Huh…" Iris closed her eyes and deactivated her Angelica, leaning back on her wheelchair. "It seems you have the same Angelica as me."
"The Oculus one?" Finn asked, just to keep up the act.
Iris nodded. "Yes. Though… I'm afraid it won't be of much use at all, since you are blind. The few Abilities this Angelica has that don't require your physical eyesight are all advanced ones, meaning you can't use them until you've gained experience using the basic Abilities of this Angelica."
Taking a deep breath, she sighed. "... I'm sorry, Finn."
"It's fine. It's not your fault."
Iris appeared genuinely concerned, but in Finn's mind, he wasn't worried at all.
So what if he had a useless Angelica? It's not like he couldn't fight against Ghosts using the enchanted weapons Iris mentioned earlier. And besides…
… If he really could obtain other people's Angelicas this easily... all the most powerful ones in the world will soon belong to him.
"Hehe," Zelestria giggled as she watched this scene unfold before her, unbeknownst to Finn. "Useless Angelica? Fufu. To think one of the most powerful, divine Angelicas to exist would deteriorate to the state it's in today. How pitiful."
She smiled sinisterly as she hovered within the reality rift that was her domain, waiting to see what would happen next.
"Finn… the power within you is far greater than you can imagine. Should I give him another hint, perhaps? I do think what I said was a bit vague..."
She then suddenly frowned in thought as she realized something, then glanced up at the pink and purple sky.
"369's already begun making her move, huh? Hm, indeed, she chose a good seed that is progressing quite quickly. Still, I believe mine — Finn — will be able to match hers, eventually."
Zelestria turned her head to gaze at the beautiful neon-themed sunset over the horizon, infinite and majestic.
"The only problem is… the final fight that will determine the fate of all reality planes… it's nearing. Will he make it in time?"