Chapter 39: All Fun and Games...

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I own nothing
Chapter 39: The Calm

Ortho entered the main hub to check the progress of Grim's testing, pondering his conversation with the intruders.
"I'm back, Brother. How are Subject F's tests going?"
"We just finished the battle simulation tests." Idia sighed. "Ugh... He's sloppy in every possible way. I mean, he does fit the bill of a magical beast that got exposed to too much Blot. All research could tell me was that he's a kind of magical hybrid between some beast and another animal. He possesses enough intellect and sentience to co-exist with humans. His magic is sloppy at best. Oh, and his Blot accumulation may be more drastic than most."
The robot boy tilted his head. "Maybe? It's unusual for you to be so unsure. What do you mean by that, Brother?"
"Every time I try to measure his Blot accumulation, the numbers go haywire. I can't tell if he's on the same level as a Phantom, either. Just when I thought that he was showing numbers bordering on in the Red Zone, his chart suddenly drops down to zero. The effects of the healing room don't seem to change anything either. Just look at him."
The monitor showed Grim snoozing away in his room, mumbling about wanting dessert.
Ortho was confused. "He seems to be sleeping soundly. His vitals look stable and normal, too.
"How can he sleep without any problem? He's just been abducted, you know...? Not like I have any right to be judging him. I figured out some other things after the battle simulations, but Sir Grim shows traces of an overwhelming amount of magical energy."
"Like the blue flames coming out of his ears?" Ortho asked. "I thought that was just a specific feature for his species, but could he be able to materialize curses like you do, Brother?"
Idia shook his head. "I looked into that too, but there seems to be a more complicated kind of magic involved. I can't categorize it into one thing. Even with S.T.Y.X's super computer system, it'll take more or less a hundred years to finish analyzing everything. I did manage to discover that, on the surface, his magic comes from a very archaic source."
"How ancient are we talking?"
"As old as the founding magic from a thousand years ago. I don't know who bestowed Sir Grim with these powers and for what purpose, and I can't say for sure if his resistance to Blot is a blessing or a curse."
"I mean, those terms have been widely considered to simply be magic that is bestowed upon a person." The robot pointed out. "The only difference lies in the kind of emotion it is cast with. Meaning, it can be negative or positive."
"Precisely. For generations, our family has been cursed to incinerate Blot as soon as it starts accumulating...I guess it could be considered a "blessing" because we don't have to worry about going berserk for as long as we live, but to our ancestors, it was more like a curse in disguise, something that stopped them from rebelling."
Ortho didn't say anything, upset with that outlook. Eventually, he managed to muster a response.
"The reason why the Shroud Family became Gatekeepers was because the first head rallied the Titans with them to rebel against the Jupiter Family, correct...?
"Yes. They lost to Jupiter in the end. As punishment, they were appointed guardian of the prison Tartarus, as well as guardian of the Phantom Graveyard. In other words, the Underworld. Give me a break. Who in their right mind would even challenge Jupiter? And to usurp the throne, no less. They must've known the odds were against them. How in the world are we related? All they did was cause trouble for their descendants. It's the reason why we don't have hopes and dreams anymore. The next head theorized that if Phantoms didn't exist, then there would be no need for our family to guard this hell hole. They devoted their life to researching Blot, but as you can see, we're still here, so that's saying something. Back then, I used to think that if all of humanity suffered our fate, then I could call it even. I started looking into it on my own, but I realized a fundamental truth in just three minutes. What will our curse remove if there's no Blot to burn?"
The robot's eyes widened. "That would only leave pure magical energy, correct...?"
Idia pointed at him. "Exactly! If our curse has no negative energy to feed off of, it will continue feeding on our magical energy. Meaning, our MPs are suffering from continuous debuffs. If it only ate through the Blot, then the Shroud Family would've been a lively bunch of heroes bursting with happiness and magical power. But both Grandmother and Father relied on magical devices. And they're both naturally pessimistic types. I understand that the curse was at its worst on certain levels. But, man... They sure didn't have a lot of consideration for li'l ol' me." Ortho glanced away as his brother kept up his depressed tirade. "For as long as our curse sets our own negative energy on fire, our purpose is to guard the Phantoms' graveyard, this Underworld teeming with negative air. It's foolproof, is what it is! Truly a curse one could expect from an era of gods and goddesses! It's not something I can solve on my own."
A loud noise pierced the air as a small body zipped over to Idia, beeping and squeaking erratically. The older Shroud shrieked, hiding behind his brother.
"GAH! WHAT IS THAT THING!?"
Ortho cupped his hands, letting the small Pokémon rest there. "This is Rotom. He is one of Dorm Leader Stone's beasts. He's the reason she found us. He's essentially a sentient computer virus...that is also a ghost."
"What kind of terrifying RPG world does she come from that people can have computer viruses as pets!?"
Rotom cackled before zipping up and nudging his head to Idia's check. The boy immediately flinched back from the affection.
"W-what do you want?"
Ortho smiled, patting Rotom's head. "I think he's trying to encourage you brother. He doesn't want you to give up. You're a genius, Brother. I'm sure you can turn the tables around if you put your heart into it!"
Idia rubbed his head, not exactly pushed by this newfound cheerleader. "Geez, this one's like an over enthusiastic shonen protagonist like his owner. I mean, I'm not underestimating my own talent, you know? But our ancestors have tried but to no avail. I can't win with resolve alone. Plus, you haven't forgotten yet, have you...? You do remember what happened to Ortho the moment he tried to escape..."
"Yes, but-," the younger Shroud was cut off.
"My fate has been set in stone since I was born. I am to live with the burden of spending the rest of my life in this gloomy place ridden with phantoms. I mean, if for some reason, the Phantoms we've been guarding suddenly ran amok on the surface, then the world would return to an age of chaos. I wouldn't be able to read the next issue of my favorite manga or even watch the next Three Fates concert......I won't be able to play games either. I already lost all hope for my own life, and it'll be the worst of the worst if I can't participate in stan culture anymore. Plus...I don't have the courage to overwrite the save data that my ancestors have worked so hard to progress." He sighed. "Those people on the surface live such carefree lives without knowing of our hardships. I'm jealous, tbh."
Rotom beeped furiously, not at all happy with the older boy just resigning himself to his fate. Idia was more freak out since he could yet understand the ghost type's speech patterns. Ortho, in contrast, kept trying to find the words, desperate to convince his brother to not give up.
"The King of the Underworld is said to have undertaken the noble task of guiding lost souls, but...What if, just like you, he was simply entrusted with a role he didn't want to do?
"The King of the Underworld?" Idia repeated. "I highly doubt it. Oh, but I guess if your headcanon is right, I'd probably end up stanning him even more!"
"Acting Director, all tests and observations on Subjects A through E have been finished." An operator interrupted. "We've told them to wait in their rooms until the Lethe River program is ready, but we've encountered a slight problem......"
Idia groaned. "Ah, gotcha. I'll be right over. What are those problem children complaining about now...?! And you!" He pointed at Rotom. "Go back to your owner. She'll kill me if she thinks I'm running experiments on you!"
Rotom cackled at the thought, but Ortho was much more somber.
"...............I'm sure you can make it happen, Brother..."
"Sorry, what was that...?" Idia asked.
"It's nothing, Brother. Let's go!"
As the older Shroud left, Rotom nudged Ortho's cheek, whistling questioningly.
"Don't worry, Rotom, I'm fine. Thank you for trying to help. Go back to (Y/N) now, please."
The Plasma Pokémon did as instructed, but he was mildly concerned.
(Timeskip)
In the lounge, Idia was met with a multitude of unhappy faces.
"So nice of the Acting Director to finally join us." Vil snarked. "Has he come to offer some soothing words for his beleaguered subjects?"
Leona growled. "Hey, you tall piece o' radish. What the hell is up with that pathetic tray of food? You make our school's cheap steak look like a 3-star meal."
"I agree." Jamil jumped in. "It might be nutritionally balanced, but it lacks taste and texture. Oh, but I will retract my statements if I've accidentally insulted your traditional meals."
"Idia-senpai! I demand that you prepare tea this instant!" Riddle said. "As stated by the Queen of Hearts' Rule # 339: After-meal lemon tea should have nothing more or less than 2 sugar cubes in it. We are outside of school grounds, but as Heartslabyul's Prefect, I will follow what rules I can follow."
Azul also decided to pester the Shroud male. "Idia-san, I will not ask you to let us use the internet, but I would prefer it if you brought us the morning, and perhaps even evening, newspapers. If possible, one that is teeming with articles regarding the current state of world affairs. I must check on my investments."
Needless to say, Idia was overwhelmed in an instant. "Demands here, demands there... This isn't a zoo, damn it. Did you forget what I said earlier? Don't make me repeat myself again. I!!! AM!!! THE!!! BOSS!!!"
Leona rolled his eyes. "Bold of you to assume that if the Herbivore is here."
"All right, I'll be straight with you, Boss." Vil said, annoyed. "Taking care of subjects you've brought here against their will is part of a good boss's job. S.T.Y.X's whole deal is to "secure the safety of mages" isn't it? We're here providing you with good data for no compensation at all. We should be rewarded somehow, yes?
"Uh... Have you forgotten the amount of trouble you caused when you Overblotted?" Idia pointed out (kinda rightly).
"I haven't. Still, I don't remember causing you any direct harm."
The lion beastman rubbed his head. "Aw, geez. I knew some people liked to blame victims even though they don't know the whole story, but I didn't think I'd meet one here. You don't hear Stone complaining about us!"
"Um... Just the Overblot alone is enough to give us problems, but go off." Idia sighed. "I mean, I'm not here because I like doing this either. Thanks to you, I haven't started with my oshi's event yet, and I lost my log-in bonus streak, too. All you've done since you got here is complain. Why'd my parents leave this whole ordeal to me?
Ortho seemed more swayed by the complaints. "Maybe they thought that the subjects would feel more at ease if they saw someone they already knew."
"Common sense would suggest that it's harder because we know each other, geez. Prioritizing results over their son's feelings sounds like my parents, all right...Looking at their travel log, I'm gonna assume that they headed to the Isle of Dawning, but their purpose would've been to interview the Headmaster who was in charge of these problem children. Man, I wish they could've let me do that instead."
"But, it's the first time that your friends visited our house, isn't it?" Ortho pointed out. "I'm really happy about it."
Idia did a double take. "What? F-friends...?"
Ortho nodded with a smile. "Yup! We've never experienced it before, but it's a common trope in anime or manga for friends to visit each other's houses, isn't it? Inviting friends over is a normal part of communication, right?"
"Yeah, for normal people... For us, it's more like a thing of fiction. Plus, we didn't exactly invite them over to play, we forcefully brought them here so we could research them."
"I mean, it doesn't change the fact that they're here now, does it?"
"Uh, it's completely different. Paradise isn't exactly in hell. You'll have to update your cognizance. Are you suggesting I'm friends with these problem children? Not funny, bro."
"Would you please stop whispering over there?" Vil hissed. "Are you listening to us?
VIL: If you're done with the tests, then please let me do some workouts or maybe even yoga. I want to get some exercise, too."
"Meat." Leona grunted.
"TEA!" Riddle yelled.
Azul also joined in. "An economics magazine!!"
Idia screamed. "YOU'RE SO ANNOYING!! YOU'RE GOING HOME TOMORROW, SO CAN'T YOU BEHAVE FOR A LITTLE BIT LONGER!?"
The intercom suddenly went off. "Time on record: 13:00. Testing on Subjects ROS-859A and SUS-3320B will commence shortly. Phantom Cages are currently being opened. For everyone's safety, all doors will be locked until the tests are finished. For those who are on the move, please proceed to the controlled areas as soon as you can."
The older Shroud shuddered. "They're testing the A-Class Phantoms today, so this might take a while...You hear that? You won't be able to leave this room for 2-3 hours. Find some way to kill time."
"WHAT!?" They all screamed.
"Listen, I already told you that this isn't a normal clinic or whatever. Didn't you hear the announcement? We are momentarily releasing a Phantom from Tartarus so we can test it and gather some data. Even if the Cerberus System is active, I can't guarantee that it'll keep us a hundred percent safe. In order to reduce casualties, everyone is required to stay in the shelters until the test is over.
Vil nodded. "I understand where you're coming from, but would you please explain what Tartarus is?"
"Ah, sorry. I got carried away there."
"Tartarus is located deep within S.T.Y.X. and it acts as a sort of asylum for Phantoms." Ortho explained. "There are close to 10,000 Phantoms resting in there."
Everyone gulped. "T-ten thousand!?"
Vil was the first to snap out of it. "You did say that you were taking care of Phantoms from all over the world, but I did not expect this magnitude..."
"Tartarus was constructed after our ancestor was appointed a Gatekeeper back in the age of gods and goddesses." India continued. "The Ferrymen employed under our wing are mostly tasked with bringing us the test subjects..."
Leona side eyed him. "From the age of gods, you say? Isn't 10,000 too little, then?"
"A lot of them disintegrated as time passed. However, the facility houses Phantoms that have been present since thousands of years ago."
"It shocks me to know that a being could remain in such a monstrous state for thousands of years..." Vil admitted.
Ortho nodded. "S.T.Y.X. categorizes these Phantoms into 12 different danger levels. The deeper they are, the more dangerous the Phantom is. The Class A Phantom they're observing now is pretty dangerous. Oh, but they're usually under cryostasis, so there's nothing to fear! Father equipped the base with good defenses, and Brother perfected the Cerberus System six years ago, too. We'll be perfectly safe if anything happens!"
"He completed your defense system?" The lion beastman said, completely baffled. "This radish right here?"
Vil shook his head. "I feel a bit anxious about that..."
"HUH!? WHY!?" Ortho demanded. "The Cerberus System is amazing! It was named after the King of the Underworld's trusty guard dog! It's perfect! It doesn't just guard Tartarus, it protects the whole island, you know?! In times of dire emergencies, it's able to use its pre-programmed brain to take care of–,"
"Uh... Stop, Ortho. They're clearly not interested..." Idia then cleared his throat and turned away. "You don't have a choice... Please behave and find a way to entertain yourselves here... Farewell for now..."
"Why are you ending the conversation on a one-sided note, Idia-san?" Pondered Azul. "I will not let you leave until you provide us with something to help ease our boredom."
Vil crossed his arms. "Indeed. I won't ask for anything absurd like a treadmill, but I would like to have a yoga mat at the very least."
"I would personally prefer some reference books that I could read and study, but-,"
Jamil cut Riddle off. "Oh, we were able to watch movies from the monitors in our room. Can we watch any from here?"
"Three hours is nothing if you just take a nap." To prove his point, Leona yawned.
Vil glared at him. "Excessive napping is not good for the body. You'll have trouble sleeping later tonight, Leona."
"I don't need your concern. I've always been a good sleeper."
"Do you really need to mention that every time?"
Ortho nudged his brother's shoulder. "Brother, there's an 87% chance that things will end in a kerfuffle if we don't give them something to do."
Idia shrugged. "I mean, even if we gave them everything they wanted, there's still a chance that they'll bicker and fight... It's like a co-op team disbanding from too much arguing...What's an effective way to kill time for a group though...?"
"Oh! What about a board game? "Magical Game of Life" can accommodate over five players, and the rules aren't that difficult."
"Wait!!" Idia exclaimed. "Are you sure about making these guys play a dice game? They'll disagree over the rolls, and I'm like, 100% sure it'll end in a fistfight."
"Y-you have a point... How about something easy and less competitive...? Ah...! What about PC games? I can set it up as long as we can download and install them. If it isn't anything competitive, then it should be fine~'
"Huh...? These guys don't look interested in games at all..."
"We can just think of alternatives if they say no. Failure leads to success!"
"But..."
The robot turned back to the students. "Your attention, please~!!"
"Hold on, Ortho...!"
"First of all, I'm sorry that you have to stay here and be stuck with each other for three hours. I suggest that we all play some PC games to kill time~!"
(Timeskip)
Surprisingly, Ortho's suggestion went over very well. Riddle, who had never been allowed to play video games (surprise surprise), struggled at first, but he eventually got the hang of it. Vil proved to be a natural.
"You're amazing!" Ortho cheered. "You managed to beat the first boss so easily!"
The model tiled his head. "I didn't realize until I started playing, but... Was there a live action movie based on this game?"
Idia nodded. "It is a bit fuzzy, but I remember seeing a similar story with Father. Wait–!? You saw the movie, Sir Vil!?"
Ortho beamed. "I see, so it was adapted from a game. That's good to know."
"The movie was critically-acclaimed by long-time fans, but it was a big hit with the general public, too. "Star Rogue" was the talk of the town for a long time!"
"Yes!" Idia looked enthused for once. "The movie helped boost the game's sales until a sequel was announced!"
"But, right after the announcement, the original production team disbanded...That was a real tragedy. The scenario writer, the character designer, the game planner, all of them fell into a disagreement and quit the agency one by one..."
"Even if the original production team isn't available, there should've been other production companies who were willing to take on the project." Vil suggested.
"Exactly. If they get the original team's permission, another production company could just take over. But, a "Star Rogue" sequel was just an empty dream, something that was never meant to be...
Ortho sighed. "As a result, the live-action sequel was called off, too."
"I've always dreamed that the OG team would get back together to finish the sequel they promised..." Idia let out a sob.
Vil tiled his head. "Oh, and you haven't acted on it?"
"What?"
"If you love it so much, then you should try your hand at it."
"Huh?"
Leona nodded. "True. The Shroud Family's loaded. I'm sure you can pay those guys to do what you want."
"EXCUSE ME!?" Idia shrieked. "You just don't get it, do you?! I want the creators to do something that they believe is interesting and will get the players hyped up! Something mediocre that's been obviously made as a money-grab isn't worth the time."
"Is it that complicated?" Jamil asked.
"It is! There's no way a normie like you would understand a nerd's heart!"
"Sorry to interrupt your rant, but you've completely misunderstood me." Vil corrected.
"Huh...?"
"Have you tried conveying that passion of yours to the production team?"
"Pardon...?"
"They might change their minds once they see how many fans have been loyally waiting for a sequel."
Idia rolled his eyes. "O-of course, a lot of fans have already written in and expressed their opinions..."
"But it was their words, not yours, correct? Have you personally done anything to incite change? I-impossible. My power alone won't be able to do anything..."
"If you believe that nothing will come of it before you even try, then the possibilities will always be zero. I'd rather take my chances."
Ortho's eyes widened at the words, echoing in his head as Vil continued.
"You gain nothing if you bet at nothing, don't you? But, one small action can turn your 0% into 0.001%. I believe that you can achieve so much with just one step. It wouldn't hurt to give it a try. Take the "Star Rogue" protagonist for example. He went from zero to a hero, didn't he?
"Yes, he did, but that's just fiction." Idia argued. "Real life isn't as forgiving. The original creators themselves lost the will to work on it."
"Yes, I quite agree. Reality is harsh and it doesn't always end with a "happily ever after". But, that doesn't mean that you can't try to change your future. We're only 18 years old. It's too early for us to be giving up.
"I– I just don't think I'm cut out for it..."
"It's not impossible, Brother!!" Ortho yelled, causing the older male to shriek.
"Waugh–!?"
"Inviting friends over and playing games together always felt like fiction for us. But, we're living in the moment right now."
"Huh...? But I mean... This is a bit different from inviting friends over, you know?"
"I feel like I just realized what I want to do." The robot beamed at the blonde. "Thank you, Vil Schoenheit!"
Vil looked confused. "Hm? I believe I didn't do anything to receive your gratitude...But, I'm glad if I somehow made you happy."
"Yeah!.
"H-hello, Ortho? Can you hear me...?" Idia asked.
"I did it!!!" Riddle suddenly yelled. "I finally cleared the first stage!!"
Ortho turned. "OH! It looks like Riddle Rosehearts cleared the first stage."
"WOW!" Idia said sarcastically. "Even though he didn't know what an up button was?!"
"Well, I believe we have my advice to thank, no?" Azul joked.
Riddle gave him a look. "You were just backseat driving the whole time."
"Have you two been playing all this time? Remember to take a break now, you hear?" Vil scolded the two second years.
Ortho looked down, repeating Vil's words silently to himself. "I should take my chances... If I do that...Will we be able to rewrite our future, too..."
The intercom turned back on. "Time on record: 16:00. Testing on Subjects ROS-859A and SUS-3320B have concluded. Phantom relocation has been accomplished. All doors will now be unlocked."
Idia sighed in relief. "Looks like they're done with testing. I can finally leave this stuffy room...
Vil stretched. "That didn't feel like a long time at all."
Leona also got up. "I had a good nap."
Jamil shook his head. "I'm surprised you can fall asleep with all that noise."
Riddle rubbed his eyes. "Ugh... I feel like I can still see the river and the souls when I close my eyes..."
Azul was quite smug in contrast. "I feel like I understand why games make for a good pastime now. Riddle-san's screams during every close call were quite entertaining. The memory alone is enough to..." He had to stop to laugh.
Idia ignored the octopus. "You're free to head back to your rooms now. We're scheduled to return to school by 8 AM tomorrow. Please stay put until then. Oh, wait. Sir Vil, I need to talk to you, so please stay behind."
"Just me?" Vil asked. "I don't really mind."
"Sir Rook, Sir Epel, and Lady (Y/N) are all on the Isle currently."
"Oh, we're aware." Vil said. "I'm surprised (Y/N) didn't strangle you."
"She's...still considering. Ortho, please give him Sir Rook's care package.
Ortho saluted, grabbing the bag. "Roger! Here you go! It's filled with all your favorite skincare products!"
Vil stared. "What......?
Idia seemed almost relieved at his reaction. "Right? I knew you'd get me. They flew all the way here using their brooms, you know...? It felt as if all of S.T.Y.X. froze as soon as he left this package in my care."
Ortho nodded along. "He even said, 'My sworn friend, Vil Schoenheit, is in a dire situation that needs my careful attention!'."
Vil laughed. "Goodness, I must give them a thorough talking to after I give them a hug and a kiss. I am quite used to Rook's sudden bursts of impulse, but this one really takes the cake. Who would have thought Epel and (Y/N) would follow, too? Actually, no, (Y/N) was leading the charge, no one is controlling that girl. I told them to stay put, but they are stubborn as always. I will give them a piece of my mind as soon as we get back. Still, they worked hard to bring this, so I'll graciously accept." He then grabbed a particular bottle. "Hm? This serum..."
Ortho tilted his head. "Is something wrong?"
"Oh, no. It's nothing serious. It seems like they brought me something that's been charmed with a bit of their well wishes, so to speak. They must have seen how roughly we were treated by your Ferrymen. It must have been specially prepared to counter the rough treatment."
"Rook-san is such a caring and considerate person. Though..." Ortho shivered. "(Y/N) is very scary when she's angry."
Idia nodded rapidly. "If looks could kill..."
Vi just chuckled. "Well, thanks to their actions, I will be able to attend my next photoshoot without problem. I do believe I have your permission to thank for this kind of privilege. I'm very grateful, Boss."
"No prob. It's similar to giving a beast a treat so he'd stop going wild."
"You really need to work on your crude phrasing. If that is all, then I will be returning to my room now."
"Sure. Thanks for staying..." Idia then walked out as his com began ringing. "This is Idia Shroud speaking."
"Acting Director, I have something to report regarding Case No. LOD-627's adjustments to the Lethe River." The operator said. "88% until fully operational. As of 20:00, it will be possible to use the program on Subjects A to E, as well as other related persons. Mnēmosynē is currently in charge of removing all uploaded digital evidence of our involvement."
"Thanks for the trouble. Let's schedule the "cleanup" for 12 midnight."
"Understood. Hexa Unit is currently being deployed to Sage's Island."
"Roger." Idia then remembered. "Oh, wait. Malleus Draconia is currently staying in Night Raven College. Fae folk react differently to the Lethe River, so exercise some caution when regulating. It will be bad if he discloses what information he knows about us."
"Roger." The operator stated.
Ortho looked down sadly. "... Everyone will forget about S.T.Y.X. if you use the Lethe River, won't they...?
Idia nodded. "Yes. S.T.Y.X. might be equipped with the latest in technology, but we can't turn back time. The most we can do is use the Lethe River to overwrite select memories. We'll change it to them voluntarily coming to the Kingdom of Heroes to receive specialized care, as well as cooperating with them to research Blot. People say that no one who ends up on the Island of Woe ever returns, but... They just lose their memory, so technically they've never even set foot here."
"...Will they all forget that we played games together, too?"
"Of course. In their minds, I'll still be the same shut-in nerd that they knew. Not like seeing me here changed their impressions either way. Fuhihi!" The robot was silent. "......Ortho?"
"...Huh?"
"You've been acting weird. What's the matter? Is your magical circuit or reactor malfunctioning...? Should I perform maintenance, just in case?"
The boy shook his head. "No need! My body feels perfectly fine. Brother's fine-tuning is perfect as always. The unusual experiences must've taken time to register in my memory bank, is all."
"Really? All right, then..."
"I'll go check on Rook-san and the others for now. I have to report that Vil-san received the package just fine, too."
Idia waved. "Oh, okay. Have fun."
Slowly, the boy walked away, somber.
"What else can I do to make some kind of progress...?"
"Do you want to know how?" A voice asked.
Ortho jumped. "Who's there!?"
"Come here..." It beckoned. "Come closer."
The robot followed. "... It's... It's coming from Tartarus...Could it be a Phantom...!?"
The voice continued to ask. "You want to know what you can do, don't you?"
"... Please tell me...I want to change the future..."
"Come to me. Down the stairs, now..." Ortho headed there, against his better judgment, lured by the voice, unaware he was being followed. "Deeper, child... Come on down...To the depths of the cold, dark earth..."
In a trance, Ortho descended into the dark pits, almost completely unaware. When he finally snapped out of it, he blinked, seeing the gates.
"This is...Are you... there...?"
"Yes. I've been here long before you were born..." the voice said. "I wasn't lonely though. I have lots of friends to keep me company here."
"Friends...?" Ortho repeated.
"I want you to... No, sorry...I want the whole world to be our friend. Do you see? We won't need this cage anymore. Big Brother will be free!"
Ortho gasped. "Did you say, "Big Brother"...? Could you be...!?"
A loud jittering noise tore Ortho away as a small body zipped in front of the control, sparking threateningly.
"R-Rotom!?"
"Ah, it knows." The voice said. "It knows what we want. But, we can't let it stop us. No one can stop us."
"...right." Ortho agreed. "I have to free big brother." He then leveled his weapon at the ghost type. "Rotom, get out of the way."

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