Chapter 18:

Vol. 2 ☆ Fragment 12: A Silently Approaching Illusion ~「Eclipse」

Scarlet Finale! (Demo)


Important Notice: Before starting the chapter there is something important I wanted to talk about. I know this may come off as sudden for some of you but it's something I've been considering for some time now. Those who know the details know, but the only thing I will say is that for personal reasons I no longer feel comfortable hosting my work on this site.

In other words, this is the final Scarlet Finale! chapter that will be available here. You can think of this as the end of a demo for the story. If  you still want to support my work and want to continue reading or interacting with me, don't worry, you can find it here: royalroad.com/fiction/20503/scarlet-finale (Sorry, since I know you can't just copy/paste the link) 

To those whose stories I got the chance to read and those who took their time to check out my work, it was a pleasure. I'm really grateful to have had a chance to interact with you and check your work. I wish you the best of luck with all your projects moving onward.  

With this being said, it's likely you came here for the new chapter so here we go! I hope you like it!


Anyone who didn't know better would have assumed she was a world-famous model. Despite her remarkable fashion sense and her good looks, one glance into her eyes would be enough to awaken a major primal fear inside anyone's heart. Reading the true emotions of the black haired girl wasn't so simple however, it was just that her expression was one of anger by default.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

The loud sound of her fingers rhythmically dancing through the keyboard echoed in the room. Light from the screen of her laptop reflected on her silver eyes and bags were starting to form under them, showing a clear sign of her lack of sleep. Despite that, she wasn't about to relax and take a break. It was the opposite; energy was continuing to build up thanks to her rising stress. As a result, she continued to restlessly tap her foot against the floor.

Unbeknown to her, she had been given quite the title by multiple main players across Glint City. She was the "Mastermind."

The past day had been one thing after the other.

At first it was the inauguration day for "Anything Scarlet," a company that claimed they could "do anything." As much as they called themselves a company, the reality is that it was merely a small group who just happened to own a large structure in the city to back up their name. With the city still being no different from a ghost town, their plan of operation was rather simple. Her younger sister Eri and the part-timer Caroline were going to hand out flyers across the city, after that, she would stay over here with Faith to look after minor details, wait for the others to return and call it a day. She wasn't expecting anyone to show up and she wasn't expecting anything else to happen.

At least, that was until the city was hit by a major earthquake without warning. Even though she managed to talk with Eri and confirm her safety, it didn't take long for communications in the entire city to go out. Then, out of all things, a customer showed up with a request. The request was something as simple as catching a thief. People trying to take advantage of natural disasters to shoplift was a rather common thing to happen, so she saw no reason to decline that request. Of all people Faith could easily handle this.

So if Eri and Caroline were still safe and Faith was only running a quick errand then... why were neither of them back yet?! It was already the next day for crying out loud, it was ridiculous.

To top it off, it's not like May was left all alone either. Soon after getting a disturbing energy reading gathering around the plaza where Faith was, she wasn't able to communicate with him anymore and then, someone actually showed up at the front door of Anything Scarlet. It was a young kid carrying an unconscious girl in his arms. She didn't know what to make of that until the boy spoke the most stressing name she could think of at that moment:

"W-Wish sent me to look for you!!"

Giving her this kind of responsibility at a time like this, just what was that girl thinking?! No, there was more to it than that. What was really going on?

Of course, this wasn't the end of all the pressure Wish would put on her.

Much later that night, she was finally able to get in touch. At that moment, she had sent Wish to look for her sister and bring her back. Moreover, as far as she knew, Wish and Faith were both in the same place. So why were they taking so long to get this done?!

It was no wonder May wasn't able to get a single ounce of sleep. It had been a horribly long night. She was waiting for everyone to walk back in with every passing second but nothing happened.

A breeze of cold wind made May's braid sway from side to side. Even though she was sitting on a chair by the entrance of the main building, it wasn't that different from being outside. You could say Anything Scarlet had taken damage from the earthquake in a very unique way. In order to get a better understanding of May's surroundings we would need to take a quick glimpse at what happened just a few days ago.

The day Faith arrived at Glint City he had met Caroline and challenged her to clean up the entire building. To his dismay, the girl had succeeded. Even though cleaning such a huge skyscraper in such short time was already ridiculous enough, that wasn't what made this so impossible. Most of the windows in the building were missing or broken and she had to replace them all.

Although Caroline held the title of "Super Part-timer" and loved to pride herself on all the different skills she had obtained, she wasn't a magician, neither did she have the power of Alchemy to restore the entire place with a single touch. The only reason she had managed to complete her task was because of another chance encounter. On that day, Eri had been snooping around the building while trying to think of what to do. Ironically enough, the situation was reversed and she was the one who had lost contact with May back then. After taking notice of the poor girl who was trying to put together one of the windows using only tape, she decided to approach her and offered to help.

Once Faith walked back in, all the windows had been completely restored. But in reality, they weren't. You could say that it was all an illusion.

Between Eri's megaphone and the Silver Memories, May was someone who loved making new inventions. As a result, she kept a large vault with many different experiments, regardless if they had ended in failure or not, what mattered to her was observing all the different possible results.

This time, Eri had picked up one of May's most recent creations: the Silver Caster. What this invention did was simple: by using something else as a sample, it could duplicate it in the form of a hyper realistic hologram. The range of the Silver Caster however was nowhere near as big as to be able to cover the entire building, neither could it create infinite holograms, but the workaround for that was simple: spread multiple ones together and connect them with a wireless signal. It wasn't too different from friends connecting multiple videogame consoles to play a game together.

In the end, the building had remained to stay in one piece through the earthquake but the same couldn't be said for the Silver Casters that had been spread all around.

Moving back to present time, despite the building actually being clean, most of the windows were still missing and most of the city in this area had lost power as well.

May knew that whenever tremors like this took place there would almost always be aftershocks. That's why she had rearranged things in order for them to easily be able to move around and exit the building if necessary.

The first floor of Anything Scarlet was still a very wide and empty room with a set of stairs leading up. There was also an elevator but it looked like that stopped functioning a long time ago. May's original plan was to redesign this place and turn it into a comfortable lobby but for the time being all there was in the room were three things:

The black chair with wheels May was using right now and a small plastic table where her laptop was stood to the right of the large main doors. A wide sofa where her other two guests currently were stood to the left. That way it would be easy for anyone to run outside and everyone got their proper personal space.

Or at least, that's the way it looked like from May's perspective. If you were to ask the brunette boy he would disagree in a heartbeat. While it's true May had enough space and comfort in her chair, he was stuck in very close proximity with a passed out girl. Right now it looked more like she was sleeping though.

Upon arriving, May did a general checkup to see if she was breathing. She plugged in a few things he didn't understand and connected them to a portable tablet. His best guess was that May was checking on the girl's heartbeat or other vital signs. After taking her into another room, she brought the pink haired girl back and she was now wearing a new set of clothes.

While it's true that the sofa was quite big, the girl's sleeping face was only a few centimeters away from Starr. With no space to lie down, Starr had tried to sleep by resting his face on the armrest of the sofa to no avail. At some point he gave up on that altogether. Despite that initial discomfort he was still uneasy about both the earthquake and never hearing back from Wish.

Even though he hadn't known the blonde girl for longer than a day, everything was always loud, fun and colorful whenever she was around. Being around May was the exact opposite. There was nothing but an awkward silence blending in with the sound of May's keyboard and sudden gusts of howling wind. The situation didn't feel that different from sitting at the wake before the funeral of someone you didn't personally know.

Come to think of it, May's rapid typing had continued for quite a while. Just what was she so busy doing? It seemed like the internal clock for both of them had already gone out of whack since May had handed him a lunchbox a few minutes ago. She didn't take longer than five minutes preparing it but it was the one time she had looked away from her screen. Starr didn't question it either since he wasn’t aware it was only a little past 4 AM.

Looking at this blue lunchbox with the image of a cute bear wearing a witch hat... he was totally being treated like a little kid, wasn't he? As grateful as he was to receive something, part of this also irritated him.

Well, for now it was as good a time for breakfast as ever. Starr opened the lunchbox and found two wrapped up sandwiches and a grape juice in a box. He reached for the first sandwich but something made Starr's body freeze up on the spot. Huh? He wasn't sure but he could suddenly feel a powerful glare locked on him. It was like a prey taking notice of its predator before their fight or flight response would trigger. In Starr's case, his response was to remain still.

What would happen if he turned around? The short haired boy had two different scenarios in mind. One would be that a hungry bear was lured in by the sandwiches and was ready to eat him whole the moment he did as much as to blink. The other one was that the bear from the lunchbox had somehow come to life the moment he opened it. Maybe opening this box was just like opening pandora's box. Maybe he had made the ultimate mistake. And now! They would all die!! All because of him!!!

He knew there was no way any of these scenarios were about to take place. He was well aware of that but... what if...

At some point, curiosity had begun to blend in with his fear. At some point, he had started to slowly turn his head around, and then, a pair of amber yellow eyes was staring intently at him.

"It's the bear!!!!!! Please don't eat me!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Hah?! Who are you calling a bear?!"

The response came from the owner of those curious eyes: a slender girl with long pink hair and a mole under her left eye.

"P-Please don't be mad miss bear!! I-I'll give you a sandwich!!!"

"Like I said-!" She held Starr by his white-green hoodie and began to shake him violently. "Who are you calling a big ugly be- huh............wait......"

Her attitude completely changed in a matter of seconds. Despite the fact that the only thing in front of her was a terrified Starr, her mind wasn't registering his presence as she looked into the distance.

"W-Wait!! Wait! Wait! Wait!!" She jumped up from the sofa and looked all around. "Where is this?!"

"Um... This is the Anything Sca-" Starr's polite explanation was cut off abruptly.

"..........................................What are these clothes?" The pink haired girl began tugging at her own clothes, frantically checking herself over once she realized her entire outfit had changed. "These aren't mine!!!"

Between her original outfit and the one now, the only thing that remained the same was the white tank-top. Although Starr knew it couldn't be the same one because all of her clothes were completely drenched when he first brought her here. Instead of the white sweater, she now had a cropped blue denim jacket with a matching pair of shorts and black pantyhose that accentuated her legs. Despite being rather simple, it was quite the stylish combination, as expected from someone like May. More than likely these were May's clothes to begin with but since the pink haired girl had a similar body build, they were able to fit her without any problem.

In the midst of all this commotion, the reaction of the culprit behind this outfit was rather simple: May looked up from her screen and glanced at the girl from her feet up to the top of her head. Yeah, just as she thought, this combination worked wonders on such a pretty girl. It was a carefully crafted combination that accentuated her curves while still covering quite a bit of skin. Proud of her results, May nodded to herself in approval before looking back at her screen.

"Where is it?"

Starr thought she was talking about her old clothes, but the more this girl voiced her concerns the harder it was for him to follow.

"Where is my camera?!"

"Camera?" Starr tilted his head to the side. He didn't remember seeing the girl having a camera when they found her.

"This can't be!! You are telling me I got kidnapped and I don't have my camera with me?! Do you have any idea how many views this would get me?!"

"I'm... not sure I follow."

"Hah?! Are you serious?! Do you live under a rock?!" The pink haired girl approached Starr, placed her hands on his shoulders and looked him dead in the eye. "Do you realize how popular those 24 hour challenges are right now?! Being kidnapped is the pinnacle of that!! It's my chance to finally go viral!!!"

That was the confirmation Starr needed. The confirmation that trying to follow anything miss scary bear said was completely impossible. The misunderstanding of being kidnapped aside, didn't she accept her sudden change of clothes a little too easy?

"I don't know about the camera but..." Maybe it was best if he began to try and clear the situation. "You didn't get kidnapped, you were passed out in a fountain so, um, we brought you here to nurse you back to health."

"And you seriously expect me to believe that?" She crossed her arms. "Oh, hold on, I'm starting to see the big picture here. So that's how it is, huh? You are one of those hardcore fans craving for my attention. Aw, you should have said so earlier. Here! Hand my camera over and I'll give you a shout out on my next video, mister kidnapper!"

"I...I don't want to be called a kidnapper by a mean bear!!"

"Alright that does it, you may be a fan but I won't go easy on you!!"

"N-No! Wait!!!"

Before Starr could become the bear's next meal, a small metallic tube fell on the girl's head. To be more accurate, it was hurled at her by the girl who sat behind her laptop.

"Your old clothes are there but I don't think you will find a camera. Even if you did they are drenched so I hope your camera was waterproof."

".........................................?"

The pink haired girl knelt down to pick up the silver tube. It was one of May's Silver Memories. This girl had no idea how they worked but she was startled the moment her clothes popped out of it with the press of a button.

"By the way, your name is Estelle Rona, correct? Or as you like to call yourself in your channel "Est."" May spoke with a hand on her chin as she observed the girl. "You seem quite interested in growing your fan base but I think your approach could use some work. Your streams are popular so you should do those more often. Your videos might be okay on the level of an amateur but the editing is atrocious most of the time. Your overuse of jump cuts and padding to reach the ten minute mark are more than enough to make anyone click away a few minutes in. The fact that your channel hardly follows a theme is also terrible for keeping a consistent fan base. One day it's a regular vlog, the other it's a haunted house challenge then a food review and the next one is a gaming play-through? At least divide these using different playlists. By the way about your-"

"T-T-T-T-That's enough!!! Please don't say another word!!!!!" Estelle's soul had been broken apart into a million pieces.

"Fair enough. I'll leave it all in a comment then, that way you can read it anytime."

At a loss for words to retaliate anymore, Estelle folded her wet clothes. She was still dumbfounded by the Silver Memory but just as expected, with another press of the button, they were sucked back into the metallic tube. Completely defeated, she sat on the couch next to the brown haired boy while looking down at the floor.

"Um...” He couldn’t understand why she was so deflated but Starr thought he should still try to reach out to her. “Want one of these?"

With her expression turning into one of annoyance she took the sandwich off of Starr's hands and started unwrapping it.

"By the way," completely unable to read the mood, May decided to speak up again. "The bear in that lunchbox isn't just any bear. Her name is Magibear and she's adorable."

".........................................." Neither of them knew how to reply to that. Not just because of how out of nowhere that came from but because of the glaring contrast from May's usual behavior.

"I think.... I should go." Estelle stood up before awkwardly glancing at the exit of the building.

"The total sum for those clothes is around 452.84 Euros. Around 514 American dollars if that works better for you. With the current views on your videos, implying you have a good amount of ads on them... let's just say you aren't leaving any time soon." Even though she kept it to herself, May was actually going to make Wish be the one to pay every single cent.

"So this is how it all ends huh... I get kidnapped and forced to work for the mafia until I can pay my debts. I knew this day would come. If it's come to this, I'll swear my loyalty to you, boss!!"

May was a mafia boss?! Wait, Starr knew that wasn't the biggest problem here. Wasn't Estelle accepting this a little too fast?!

"Good, good. That's a great response." May nodded. "Now be a good little underling and stay right where you are unless you want me to give you another detailed review about your channel."

"I'll stay right here ma'am!!"

Now than that was taken care of, May returned her sight towards her screen but her expression changed into a sudden frown.

The girl whose short brown hair barely reached her shoulders walked forward across the empty streets of the city. Even though Mirage wanted to take care of the mastermind as soon as possible, the earthquake had complicated things a little. Even if these people were members of an evil organization, she couldn't leave the people who lived at the Castle of Hope alone. First, she made sure that everyone remained safe and had enough resources to survive on their own for the time being. Of course, before leaving for good she made sure to dispose of all dangerous weapons as well.

As deep as her investigation was, Mirage ended up with very little results. She knew there must have been someone behind the scenes guiding these people but she wasn't able to find who the true higher ups of the organization were. After checking the same control room that May tried to use in order to blow up the place there was only one conclusion she could reach: they had been abandoned.

Likely, after May's attempt to hack into their database, the true higher ups had opted out to cutting off any communication. They had abandoned these people as long as they could remain in the shadows. It was frustrating to leave with so little results after getting so close.

It was important to keep in mind that there was a reason Mirage was so invested in this investigation and there was a reason why she started looking into this organization in the first place. For most citizens she was the chief of the police station but that wasn't entirely true. Mirage had taken over the police station because the original police force of Glint City had abandoned the citizens in face of the natural disasters. Some of them likely fled the city while others joined the organization themselves.

The reason Mirage was able to take on this role in the first place is because she was experienced enough to do it. This is because Mirage was none other than a member of the SGTU - The Special Global Tactical Unit: a secret group that worked closely with well-known organizations of the law like the FBI. It was especially because mentions of the Organization of Hope were nothing but an urban legend that they couldn't mobilize any other police or military force. In other words, it was up to this group to find the truth. And the one chosen to step head first into a mysterious battlefield had been Mirage.

As big as her main objective looked like, Mirage was also the kind of person who would abide by her own rules. Yes, there was a greater mission on the line but her current goals were simple and straightforward.

The first one: to find the mother of that girl in order to keep her promise. For some reason, even after looking thoroughly around the castle she was nowhere to be found.

The second one: to take down the mastermind who had tried to take down this base of operations, ending the lives of many in the process. She couldn't let someone who had no regards for human life roam around the city just like that. There was also the chance she could find out more about the missing person by confronting someone who had infiltrated the castle.

Mirage walked across the empty streets of Glint City. It was considerably early in the morning, enough for the sun to be still hiding and for anyone at their homes to be sleeping. It was an unconventional time to be walking around but this is exactly why it was the perfect time to put everything in motion.

As she moved onward, she passed by a particularly familiar place. At first glance it was an old and run down building but it had a logo of what looked like a police badge high on top. What caught her attention however was that part of the wall on the fourth floor looked like it had shattered down. Despite this, the damage wasn't grand enough for the whole place to come tumbling down but it was still quite worrying.

"That tremor really did a number on this place, huh? I hope Ryuusei is okay, I haven't been able to get in touch with him at all."

For just a moment, she walked towards the rusty main door and placed her hands on the handle. Should she take a look inside and take a good look at the damage? No. The building was still standing and she already had everything she needed with her. Even if this worried her it wasn't the time. With this, she walked away while making a mental note to come back and check as soon as she could.

Little did she know that both Ryuusei and a certain blonde were passed out on the other side of that door after escaping a confrontation with a deadly maid.

Now, it was time to get to business. Tracking the mastermind had proved rather easy. Footage from the castle showed she had escaped on a small, sporty red car and there were records of that same car having been around an abandoned building by the entrance of the city a few days ago. The quick way SGTU members could gather intel was a force to be reckoned with.

Going from the police station to that building was actually rather fast. If one were to go by foot it might only take them about ten minutes.

She would silently get there and silently get the job done in one fell swoop, that's how her plan was supposed to go but her opponent wasn't someone so naive.

The blue eyed girl immediately stopped moving the moment she heard a clicking noise. It was a sound she somewhat recognized, and this is exactly why she opted for staying still.

The source of the noise had come from just below, slowly moving her sight downwards Mirage was able to notice what looked like a small black bump from something buried deep in the boardwalk. Without mistake, it was a land grenade. One small movement and her leg might be blown off without mercy.

So, how could she get out of this? She couldn't stay still forever; she had to think of something. Keep in mind, Mirage's Phantasmagoria only allowed her to modify someone's way to filter the world to alter their senses. In other words, it couldn't do anything past playing with their senses. While it's true she could make someone pass out by making them think their leg was torn off, their leg would actually remain in one place. This wasn't a power that could magically change the effect of what an actual object did and Mirage was still only human.

Her opponent was also fully aware that anyone's usual reaction would be to think of a way out. No one was willing to give up their leg just like that. And that's why May’s trap was so cruel and merciless. She wouldn't give their opponent any time to think or the opportunity to make a choice.

In seconds, what looked like a tiny metallic black ball fell on Mirage's shoulder. For an experienced professional like her, she immediately knew what this meant.

It was an explosive.

With a loud burst, the metallic ball released its grand destruction.

She would be lying if she said she wasn't nervous at all. Waking up inside a random building, surrounded by unknown people and on top of that having your entire outfit swapped out would be nerve-wracking for anyone. On the other hand there was a reason the pink haired beauty was able to remain as calm as she was, and that was because this kind of scenario had started to become a little too common in her life.

Because of all the challenges she would take on for the sake of the camera she would often find herself in dangerous situations and it wasn't too rare to wake up inside the house of a kind soul that rescued her from the wilderness. So a lot of this was just more of the usual. Except for the part about waking up in a different set of clothes. If May didn't go through the trouble to do that she would surely have caught a cold with this cold wind though. But thinking about it, May was someone that liked to mess around with different inventions, wasn't she? Did she have an invention to easily swap out someone's clothes or did she take care of that manually? Let's leave the answer to that up to your imagination.

Even though she couldn't clearly remember what was exactly that she was doing before getting here, she had started to accept the fact she had almost drowned out in a fountain. Her old wet clothes were good evidence of that for starters and a bit of humidity still remained on her hair. It’s not like she had absolute memory loss either, her memories about the events leading to the fountain incident were just very blurry.

"But in that case..." She spoke in a low tone as she focused on trying to remember. "Aha! I know what happened!! It must have been those clowns!!!"

"Clowns?" The short haired boy tilted his head to the side.

"D-Don't tell me you don't know!! There's been an outbreak of clowns everywhere lately!!"

Somehow Starr had a lot of difficulty figuring out why that was a problem. When talking about a clown outbreak the image on his head was that of a cheerful gang of clowns on a silly car playing circus music while telling jokes and throwing balloons all around. For some reason, his mental image included a cat with a bow tie inside the car as well.

"I've heard most people think this is just advertisement for a movie but I think they are being too naive. I may be too close to the truth, that's why they got me." Estelle spoke in a soft tone as she leaned in closer to the boy. "Listen, I think these are clowns that escaped from the Dark Circus."

"D-Dark Circus?!"

"Yes! It's the name of an evil organization where clowns from around the world come together to plan world domination!!"

"Does that mean they only go to parties in order to brainwash everyone with their jokes and riddles?!"

"Exactly!!" Estelle nodded enthusiastically. "And then, and then! The cake at parties is made of mind control cream to slowly brainwash everyone into joining the Dark Circus!!!"

"A-And there's a member that does the same using hamburgers instead!!"

"That one would be their big boss."

"Are you two done?"

May's serious voice suddenly being so close to them made both jump up startled. It looked like the black haired inventor had moved closer by sliding her chair with wheels around.

"Besides there was a glaring plot hole from the very start. If they wanted people to join that evil circus why would there be an outbreak with them escaping? Wouldn't that mean the ones that escaped were finally able to free themselves from the clowns' mind control? Unless their minds had been damaged beyond repair and now they wander the streets attacking anyone on sight, I guess that might be one way to explain it but it feels too forced for comfort to me."

Despite not being part of the conversation at first, the silver-eyed inventor couldn't help but to speak out her mind.

Estelle noticed Starr about to give her a response but quickly put the palm of her hand over his mouth. She was starting to catch up on the fact that prompting May to debate against them wasn't a really good idea, not unless they wanted to spend the next few hours listening to her rants and needless nitpicking.

"How about it? We aren't that far away from Halloween, are we? If it's scary stories you want to talk about I want to go next."

With those words, May proceeded to set up the mood in a very classic way. By holding a flashlight under her face and turning it on. The sun was nowhere near being up just yet, so the current lightning was very fitting for a scary mood despite it being early in the morning.

Estelle and Starr gulped with anticipation. Just what kind of true terror was a person like this one going to talk about?

May leaned in closer and closer as she looked into their eyes with a scary expression.

"It was a very very cold night. No one was around except for myself." May spoke ever so slowly. "On that night, I was downloading the new episode of Magibear that had just been released. But then, the lights around me began to dim. As the true embodiment of malice spread around, electricity around me began to flicker and then..."

The other two were on the edge of their seat. Just what did May see on that night? Was it a ghost, a demon, an alien?!

"...and then... electricity went out, just before I could download the episode."

There was a solid minute of absolute silence as the other two waited for May to finish her story. Reading May's emotions was always incredibly difficult because of her default dead-pan expression but Estelle was slowly starting to realize what happened here. The story was... done. May had been left waiting for a reaction all this time.

"W-Wahhh!! T-That's so scary!!! Not Magibear!!!!!" Estelle raised her voice in the most forced high pitch she could.

"........................................................Eh?" Meanwhile Starr was still stuck waiting for a proper resolution. Was... was he supposed to react already? Estelle didn't mess up, did she? Otherwise that would be really awkward. But it would be even worse if he missed his timing. Was it okay then? Should he really react now?

His confirmation came in the form of Estelle gently hitting his side with her elbow.

"O-Oh yeah!!" For some reason Starr's voice had come out like something resembling laughter rather than the tone of someone scared. "That was way too scary I was really frozen in fear!!"

For someone as picky as May, despite their responses being so forced, she had actually taken them at face value.

"Right? I had waited all week to watch that episode, it was unfair."

It was only until now that May realized something. She was interacting with these people. She had even told them about a somewhat personal experience. Not like these kinds of interactions were that uncommon in general, but they were for May. What made her even more self-aware about it were their responses. Usually, no one would give her a proper response to most of what she had to say except for Eri. She wasn't about to have any deeper feelings like those of friendship but maybe these people who Wish had sent her way weren't so bad after all.

She didn't mind interacting with them some more but this kind of interaction would be short lived. Seconds after, something vibrated inside May's pocket. Despite it being such a small signal, it changed things entirely for her. After all, even now, she was still engaged in combat with an unseen force that continued to make their way towards them. Originally, May had laid traps in order to deal with members of the Organization of Hope if they tried to get any close. But somewhere along the line, things had changed. Mere members of the organization wouldn't be able to make it this far. This signal meant that the level of danger she was dealing with was much higher than anticipated.

"Okay, I have an idea." The braided girl spoke, standing up from her chair. "Est, let's go look for your camera. We might be able to get some clues and you can get some fun footage too."

"Captain you are the best!!!" Estelle's eyes lit up with sparkles.

"So she's captain now..." Starr on the other hand was questioning her consistency and slowly starting to understand the problems May was pointing out about her videos.

May closed her laptop and led the other two outside the building. After circling it around to the side they were able to find a shiny and fancy looking black truck. The main driving area seemed to fit at least two people while the compartment was a large, closed up metallic box.

Moving to the back side of the truck, May opened the door to the compartment, letting the other two hop inside. Looking around, it didn't even feel like a truck anymore. The best way to describe the inside would be a fancy living room. The floor was covered with a soft blue carpet and there was a TV hanging from a corner. There was a black couch and two black sofas, by the looks of it, the one inside Anything Scarlet had come from here so Estelle and Starr found themselves in a very similar position again.

"Just wait there and I'll tell you when you can go out." With this, May closed the door and walked over to the driver's seat.

"So I guess we'll just relax here for now. Wait for me my camera!!" Estelle plopped down on the sofa, making Starr move into one of the couches so he could finally get some proper personal space.

Looking around, as comfortable as this place looked like, something was bothering Starr. For one, the space was a little too cramped and second of all, there were no windows. He couldn't wait until they finally made it somewhere with free space to move around and get fresh air.

"We'll go looking by the fountain, right? I wonder if we'll meet Wish again."

"Wish? Oh! I see, I see. So you want to throw a coin into the fountain and wish to be acknowledged by your favorite superstar, Est!!"

"That's not it..." Starr shook his head. "Wish was the one that originally saved you. Um... since you weren't breathing anymore she's the one that gave you CPR back then."

"............................................................................................................................................................................Hold on." Estelle’s mind went blank. She remained quiet for solid thirty seconds before jumping up while bursting with energy. "Are you telling me this Wish person stole my first kiss?!?!"

"That's..." The brown haired boy couldn't come up with a good response to that. While it's true it was just an emergency procedure, it did look a lot like that to him.

"Just you wait..." Estelle rolled up her sleeves and clenched her fists. "Prepare yourself, Wish!! I will make you pay for this!!!!!!!"

But even then, Mirage remained in one piece. Normally, someone in that situation would be left without options. No one would willingly take the road to lose a leg, forcing them to take the power of the second explosive head on.

This is if we were talking about an average person. But this was Mirage, a powerful irregular. Losing her life meant failing her objectives, failing to accomplish her objectives meant to break her promise with that girl. That's why, next to that, losing a leg was a much better option.

The moment Mirage noticed the explosive, she immediately jumped away ready to take in the full force of the landmine, but her leg wasn't torn off and no explosion ever came out from below.

After covering her eyes and body with her arms to protect herself from any flying debris from the other explosive, Mirage walked back to where the landmine was. What used to be a black lump buried underground was now something that looked similar to a silver CD player with a few buttons on its side.

It was one of May's Silver Casters.

Even though Mirage had no way to know the exact logic behind this mechanism, the fact that it had created an illusion to make her react accordingly was still true. If so, running away and actively choosing to make a sacrifice to stay alive was the right option to escape. It seemed that as cruel as the mastermind was, her ways of doing things wasn't absolute. If she had access to an explosive in the first place, there was no reason not to put a real landmine there. This possibility to escape only existed because the mastermind had made it so it would exist.

From now on, she would need to proceed with great caution. There was a chance that this was the start to a greater trial, and there was a chance this possibility to escape only existed as a decoy to make her let down her guard.

Keeping this in mind and making sure to scan the area around her thoroughly, Mirage continued to make her way towards the Anything Scarlet skyscraper.

For the most part, the trip there was very uneventful. It almost felt like she was falling right in the trap of the mastermind. The fact that no other traps had come her way kept her on the edge, anything could jump at her at any moment. But... nothing was happening. Just when would the enemy attack and where would it come from?

It's not like the last time she had stepped on the Silver Caster by accident. It had blended in with the area. This meant that any step she moved onward could end in a deadly result.

Eventually, Anything Scarlet had come into her sight. She was getting closer and closer. Yet, the closer she would get the more on guard she would be.

As much as she anticipated something happening, the next trap would go above and beyond to get rid of anyone who had made it this far.

Once Mirage stepped into the same boardwalk that led towards her goal, the windows on the building next to her all broke. Shards of glass from a location three times her size all rained towards her and as they did, pointy spears emerged from the floor and surrounded her before shooting towards her at full speed.

Which one was the illusion this time? The raining glass or the unnatural spears?

Of course, if someone would know the answer to this, it was Mirage. And the answer was that there was no illusion here. Both were real.

This time, Mirage's hands rapidly reached for the pouch attached to the golden belt around her waist. It was time to bring out her own armament. She took out what looked like golden sand and flung it upwards towards the falling glass. Rather than sand, they were really tiny explosives that reacted with contact. She used the force of the explosion to redirect the rain of shards, then, she used that opening to move around and dodge all the spears coming in her direction. Every single one of her movements was precise and perfect. Although anyone looking from afar might think she was a break-dancer doing a street performance.

After making it past this trap, this time she dashed towards the building only for the sound of a starting engine to reach her. Seconds later, she could see a black truck speeding away down the street. Was the mastermind trying to escape? Unlike Faith and Wish, Mirage didn't carry a motorcycle or any kind of vehicle to give chase like that.

The truck was getting farther and farther away, at this rate it would all be over. Yet, if this was all it took to shake her off she wouldn't have been a member of the SGTU to begin with.

This time she reached for the buckle of her belt. It was made of pure gold and had the image of a sun with a crescent moon in the middle. With a click, she removed the buckle and with another click, it shot out a long lifeline that had a hook on the other end. It attached itself to the top of one of the buildings and then pulled all of Mirage's weight upwards. Using this to connect from building to building, she was essentially swinging freely through the skies of Glint City.

It was no wonder that new traps might activate to stop her, but Mirage was ready to go on the offensive. As she flew across the skies, she released more of her golden sand explosives all around her trajectory, deactivating most of May's explosives hidden on land.

It seemed like May had taken notice of Mirage giving chase through the air as her approach had changed. This time two projectiles came flying at Mirage from different directions. Rather than dodging them, she used the wall from the building behind her to get impulse, and jumped forward. She spun through the air, kicking a projectile in the direction of the other. Both were sent flying into the solid floor, blowing up part of the street and causing car alarms to start blaring loudly.

It didn't matter what was thrown at her. Once Mirage had her sights on an objective she would see it through at all costs.

As much as she had wanted to go towards the place where Estelle had been originally found, May had started to drive in the opposite direction. That's the last place where she had been able to contact Wish and Faith, if anything, it probably reeked of a lot of danger. On the other hand, if someone dangerous had taken out both Wish and Faith of all people it would also make sense that this was the same person coming after her now. That's the only conclusion May could reach for the time being.

Wait. Something about her own actions was off. It was only up till now that May was able to recognize that. The reason she had taken Estelle and Starr along was in order to protect them. But it's not like their small interaction was enough for May to go out of her way for their sake. The mastermind would never act like a hero of justice. That being said, it was also true that her current actions were born out of some sort of affection. The only reason she had ended up stuck with those two was because Wish had sent them her way.

Even if she wasn't all that close with Wish, she was still an acquaintance she had known for years. Despite that girl's explosive nature and even after scolding her for all the mistakes she had made, May knew that it was just fair to give credit where credit was due. As such, she had grown to respect that blonde girl. She had seen her get up time and time again no matter how many times she failed. This is the reason why she had sent Wish to secure Eri's safety and why she hadn't gone there in person just yet, because if someone would follow an objective through to the very end it was Wish. And this is also why she knew that if someone was the kind to never ask for help it was also Wish.

In other words, if Wish had entrusted her with the safety of Estelle and Starr it was because she trusted her. Whether it was for the sake of her own image or for the sake of protecting Wish's heart; that was still enough for May to take action. If she had received this kind of trust then May would make sure to never let her down.

All of this was fine but this is when May had realized what was off with her actions. She had her ways to send Estelle and Starr to safety but there was no reason for her to come along. Coming along meant running away. If someone was coming their way then the best course of action was to take care of them on her own.

Almost as though destiny itself had read her thoughts, a beeping noise began ringing. May had placed her tablet over the truck’s dashboard. The image on screen displayed what looked like five transparent dots. With a loud noise, one of them began glowing red.

Whatever it was that was after them, it was getting closer. Even as the truck sped up across the vast roads in the midst of ever extending skyscrapers, they were still being chased. If the opponent was able to close their distance this much it was only a matter of time before they caught up.

With this, a second red light lit up, and a third one. These lights were part of May's security network. All of the Silver Casters and all the other traps and explosives she had spread around to take care of the enemy were all connected as part of the same defense network. If the alarm had been triggered to this extent, it meant that the threat level was bigger than anything she could have imagined.

To put it in simple words, May would gauge someone's threat level between five stages. These were all based off her collected data and all received different names that symbolized how dangerous they were.

The five stages were as following:

Mouse - Stage One Danger Level

Bird - Stage Two Danger Level

Dragon - Stage Three Danger Level

Supernova - Stage Four Danger Level

Event Horizon - Stage Five Danger Level

To her, all the grunts in the organization were merely classified as "Mouse" and that was only thanks to the weapons they would carry. More advanced professionals were often able to trigger stages two to four, but the only individuals that she was ever able to gauge as Event Horizon, a Stage Five Danger Level threat, were Wish and Faith.

As she took notice of this, a fourth light lit up. The enemy was dangerously close to approaching a level that would become way too troublesome even for someone like May. It was time to start gauging whether or not she should change her entire approach to this situation.

And this is when a fifth red light warned May. The person after her had reached the level of Event Horizon.

There was no time to hesitate anymore. With a swift movement, she opened the dashboard of her truck and took out a chunk of silver memories. With the press of a button, the truck entered auto-pilot mode and with this, May jumped off the moving truck.

Thanks to the driving area and the back of the truck being separate, Estelle and Starr continued to hang out on the back of truck with no knowledge of what was going on.

As the truck continued running into the distance, May opened a Silver Memory, taking out a silver bracelet and putting it on her left wrist.

"Fine. If this is how it's going to be then come for me you absurd monster."

As a figure walked forward in the distance, something else had changed. The sun that was slowly rising up with the arrival of dawn had frozen in the spot. May looked up only to notice sunlight getting drowned out by a shadow. It was an eclipse.

To be more precise, one that was created by the effect of Phantasmagoria.

With the environment around that wide city quickly darkening, Mirage spoke as she cracked her fingers.

"So you finally show your face. If this is how it's going to be then let me bring you down in the name of justice."

The hero and the mastermind. Standing face to face in the midst of the lonely streets, both took a step forward.

Nepp
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Riri R. Palette
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