MUSE

Chapter 3

Yuka and Echo

Yuka felt nauseous. She had the weird sickening feeling for the third time and it felt like her insides will be gushing out in an instant. The last surge of pain was immediate and hurt less, but it still had a huge impact on her consciousness.

Everything was slipping away. The constant throbbing of her head allowed her to be in half-awake, half-asleep state, but she could still not see. Darkness engulfed her every direction and when she tried reaching out, all she could touch was emptiness…

Emptiness… How empty her life had been. Being alive for the sake of surviving… is not living, at all. Ever since that day when she lost everything, her life had been a weary struggle. The constant revolution of the sun reminded her that time had passed, but it felt like she had been trapped in the past.

Yuka knew it too well – that she wasn't actually living. There was nothing to look forward to into the future, no hope alive to keep her going. Her friends and their constant presence had been a small sliver of hope for her, but not even that escaped fate's cruel machinations.

The dark void that her soul was cast upon… Will someone find her there?

Repeat

Eh? What was that voice? It's a boy's voice...

The things that you always do,

Are the things that make you "you"…

What was with this weird chant? It was like a string of words, but with a certain way of uttering them…

And time repeats once more,

See what lies in the core.

Find what's lost in your heart,

Set the stage and play your part.

It was just like a poem. Or not a poem. It had the distinct depth as one, but its delivery was different. For Yuka, it seemed so nostalgic…

Will you stay the way you are?

Ignoring the looming war?

Or fight till the bitter end,

And do it all over again?

What? Do it all over again? The same things, doing it again? Isn't that story of her life? What was to be achieved in repeating the same things over and over again?

But she had to find where this voice was coming from. But she couldn't see… But maybe she can hear? After all, she could hear the phrases, loud and clear.

Yuka screamed, but no voice came out. Why? Then, whose voice was she hearing? If someone was out there, could her voice reach him?

Repeat and repeat and repeat…

I'll fight 'til the bitter end.

Yuka shouted and screamed. If somehow her voice could reach another person, she was willing to hope once more. Despite how broken she is, despite how nonexistent her outlook was, despite how hollow the life she had been living, if only she'd be given the chance…

She will find her "hope" herself!

Repeat and repeat and repeat…

And do it all over again!

Yuka screamed once more. And this time, she could hear it – loud and clear…


The whirring sound of the helicopter's rotors was drowned by Hatori Chihiro's thoughts. She was looking down below her, still astounded by the lack of life a populous city like Tokyo could radiate in perilous times like this. Not a single soul was seen on the streets, roads and highways; everyone was deep inside the bunkers. They're all safe. Hopefully.

"We're almost at the spawning point," the pilot told her.

"Thank you, Hoshiro-san," said Chihiro politely. "I owe you for this one."

Hoshiro-san, a cheerful middle-aged man, gave her a thumbs-up. "No problem. But if you don't mind me asking, Chihiro-chan, why are you taking these risks?"

"It can't be helped," replied Chihiro, somehow convincing herself as well.

A momentary paused settled. "That's all you got to share?" It was clear on Hoshiro's voice that he was expecting more.

"Land near the rendezvous point," Chihiro told the man, ignoring his previous question.

"All right."

As the chopper neared its destination, Chihiro got a full view of the magnificent pink barrier that shone in the sun's rays like an iridescent crystal. And she could also see the revolting black mass that bloated and contracted every second or so.

Chihiro gritted her teeth. NOISE – the menace of this world. She would not rest until each and every one of these dastardly creations was eliminated. For the sake of this country and for the sake of those who perished on these creatures' wake…


Yuka opened her eyes to a strange new sight. Her body glimmered with a strange peach-colored light and the pain that once wracked her body was strangely gone…

"Hey! Finally awake, huh? I thought I was going to finish the whole song just to get some response from you."

That voice! It was the voice that was singing… Was that the correct term - singing? She just realized it now.

"Hey, down here! Look down here!"

Down? Yuka did she was told and saw the expanse of space between her feet and the ground.

"Eh? What?! Why?" Panic and fear flooded Yuka's emotions and her footing on the air became unstable. She was going to fall!

"Hey, hey! Calm down!" The voice sounded agitated, like he could see what was happening. But Yuka was too frightened to calm down.

"Hey! Hey! Look, close your eyes! And breathe in and out! Trust me!"

Yuka had no other option but to do so. She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing and soon felt that she no longer felt imbalanced. It was as if she was firmly footed on the ground, despite knowing that she wasn't.

"Okay, now, focus on your thoughts. Think about slowly going down and landing on the earth. Can you do that?" The voice was soothing, but a bit irritated at the same time.

"O-okay," said Yuka. And so she did. She thought about slowly falling to the ground while keeping calm at the same time. She didn't knew how long it took, but at last she felt her feet touch solid ground and a pair of hands grabbed hold of her arms.

"It's okay now, you can open your eyes," said the voice.

Yuka reluctantly did so and met the eyes of another person. It was colored crimson and looked like the pale color of blood. She was so engrossed in his eyes that she forgot to see his whole face.

"Hey, you alright, MUSE girl?" asked the owner of the eyes. Yuka jerked up and finally focused her gaze on the person before him. He was wearing a strange black outfit topped by a red jacket. His clothes looked like he'd been in some sort of fight – the sort you'll see on a delinquent's. He looked around her age, with tanned skin, a lean built and black hair. He seemed to be a normal high school student, except for the gun he was holding.

Yuka stepped back and freed herself from his grip. "Who… Who are you?"

"ANALOG agent Echo, at your service," introduced the guy. Yuka looked dumbfounded, so he continued. "Let's cut to the chase, shall we? I'm a person whose job is to neutralize NOISEs. I'm what you call a CHOIR. Then we also have what we call a MUSE, and that's what you are."

Yuka was puzzled more than ever. "I don't understand…"

Echo scratched his head and sighed. "This is really difficult. See, I'm not really good at explaining things." Yuka nodded, which seemed to have annoyed him. "But at least you know what a NOISE is, right? The giant thing behind us?"

It took a couple of seconds for Yuka to sink this fact in. She shivered at the sight of the monstrous creature behind them, with all the revolving spiked balls that littered in its circumference. She put her hands on her ear on impulse and realized that she couldn't hear any of the NOISE's deadly sound.

"That's one of the special things about a MUSE," Echo told her, turning his back on her as he readied his pistol. He took out another one from those on his belt, a similar silver pistol, but this time with a red holster. "And CHOIRs like us, to an extent. We can survive the NOISE's fatal Sonic Signature for some time."

Yuka was astounded. So there were people like that. Echo is, what, working for the government? And the MUSE that he was talking about, could it be related to Japan's Project MUSE? If so…

"What's going to happen to me?" asked Yuka, looking at the strange pink light radiating from her.

Echo turned to her and smiled. "Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to you," he told her, to which the girl blushed. He turned back to the humongous NOISE in front of them and said, "Now all you need to do is to keep the Barrier running and I'll take care of this pest."

"Barrier?" Yuka looked up and saw the crystalline sheen covering them and the NOISE. It was beautiful and amazing, but… "I made that?"

"Yep, and one absurdly fine craftsmanship," said Echo. "I had a tough time getting through that thing! But stand back for now." He stepped towards the NOISE, holding both his pistols up, his tattered jacket being blown by the wind. "Now then, let's get this over with."

Yuka was astonished as Echo suddenly sped up towards the NOISE. He was quite fast and covered a lot of distance between him and the monster quickly. The NOISE seemed to have sense his presence, as the small orbs rotating the bigger one flew one by one towards his direction.

Yuka gasped as the orbs grew sharp pointy spikes. They smashed towards Echo, but the boy quickly dodged, sidestepped and jumped out of the way, not losing momentum even once. Yuka realized right there and then that Echo was indeed no ordinary person.

Once the NOISE knew its tactics were not working, it proceeded to a different strategy. The spiked balls merged and plastered itself into the ground, turning into a huge thorny wall. But Echo did not even decelerate, but pointed both his pistols at the obstacle.

"Go for it!" shouted Echo, pulling both triggers of the guns. "Blazing Spiral Shot!"

To Yuka's surprise, a burst of green and red energy flowed out of Echo's guns. It converged in the middle and turned into a fiery tornado blown by a gust of wind. The force blasted through the wall, covering the area in an explosion of fire, wind, sound and smoke.

Yuka covered her eyes as wisps of wind and smoke scattered near her, but she kept a close sight to what was happening. Echo had surprised her once more by creating a hole on the enemy's defensive wall and passing through it without losing speed.

However, the NOISE did not slacken one bit and more walls erupted. Echo readied his pistols and once again aimed on the wall before him. "One more time - Blazing Spiral Shot!"

Another pulse of fire and wind broke through the next wall, creating a much bigger hole than the last time. But a few more barred Echo's way, but he did not lower his pace one bit. Could it be that he plans to...

"Again! Blazing Spiral Shot!"

Yuka had to step back. It couldn't be that he was going to charge head on? That was completely foolish!

"Once more! Blazing Spiral Shot!"

The next wall to be hit crumbled against the force. In Yuka's view, it seemed like each blow was more powerful than the one before…

"Repeat! Blazing Spiral Shot!"

"Repeat?" said Yuka, remembering something.

Repeat and repeat and repeat…

I'll fight 'til the bitter end.

The song! Yuka understood what was happening. Echo's true powers must be…

"Repeat and repeat and repeat…" chanted Yuka. "And do it all over again!"

"HAAHHHHHHHH!" shouted Echo, aiming for the last wall. "BLAZING SPIRAL SHOT!"

A powerful burst shook the ground where Yuka stood. The force coming Echo's dual pistols completely obliterated the final wall that guarded the MUSE, sending chunks of black material over the place. Yuka watched as Echo stood up from the rubble, pointing both his guns at the large spherical NOISE.

"I hope you're ready to be…" said Echo, but there was a strange shaking in his posture. "Eliminated…"

Echo dropped a pistol and kneeled on the ground.


Chihiro emerged from the helicopter after thanking Hoshiro-san. She hadn't fully composed herself yet when two young men came up to her and bowed their heads at her. "Captain!" both said.

Chihiro recognized both of them – CHOIR special agents. "Tenor, Presto," she said. "How's the situation?"

"We're still awaiting orders from HQ," replied Tenor. He was a good-looking young man in his early twenties, with straight light blue hair and a pair of purple eyes. He was wearing the standard CHOIR black outfit, but with blue linings on his jacket. There was something on Tenor that Chihiro was wary of – probably the air of mystery that he usually gave off. "But I wonder why a lovely lady like yourself would come here personally?"

Ah, his acute perception, of course – that was the thing that she should be wary of. But Chihiro was a professional on what she does. "I believe a personal survey is necessary. This is no ordinary NOISE we're dealing with."

The other agent, Presto whistled. "I heard it's a Level 5," he said with a carefree smile and arms behind his head. He was a little younger than Tenor, had spiky blonde hair and a pair of amber-colored eyes. He wore the same black CHOIR outfit, but with a yellow-lined jacket instead. "And there's a powerful MUSE on the loose, too."

Chihiro gave Presto a suspicious look. This was classified information, only those in her division and Echo knew about the situation. It was a strict order even for their Commander, Hisaya, so how did he know?

Presto seemed to have understood her expression. "Sorry, couldn't help it," said Presto with an apologetic look. "I had a quick look on the situation beyond the Barrier."

Chihiro sighed. Presto was a good kid, but his happy-go-lucky nature sometimes gets the best of him. "This is still classified information, so nobody else should know."

"Aye!" said Presto with a salute.

"Roger that," replied Tenor coolly.

"I sent Echo ahead, but we lost contact with him a few minutes ago," Chihiro told them. "Any news on his whereabouts?"

"He's fine, Captain," said a voice from behind them.

"Null!" Chihiro recognized the teenager with neat brown hair and green eyes beneath a pair of eyeglasses. He was dressed in the same outfit as the two other agents, but his jacket was lined with green instead. Chihiro was glad to see him, but his face didn't show any emotion as he continued his report.

"Echo just had established communication with the MUSE," he said.

"What?" said Chihiro, a bit surprised. "So he did manage to calm her down…"

Null pushed a button hidden on the right side of his glasses and a screen appeared before him. He touched the projection and several graphs and charts appeared. "He used a special Sonic Signature to get through her Awakening trauma," he explained. "It seemed to have a continuous effect on her brain waves and had a chance to restore her consciousness. The probability of it working was around 67%, so it wasn't a bad move."

"I see," said Chihiro. It was wise to trust on Echo, after all, despite her doubts.

"Echo never fails to surprise me," remarked Tenor. Chihiro didn't blame him for not trusting on Echo too much.

Presto scratched his head. "Err, what were you guys talking about? I'm lost here!" Typical Presto, thought Chihiro.

"To put it simply," said Tenor. "Echo used the power of song."

"Oh, the power of song," said Presto with a triumphant voice. "But, what does that mean exactly?"

Chihiro shook her head, with just enough will to not start laughing. Even Tenor barely suppressed a chuckle. "You're hopeless, Presto."

"Ahem," coughed Null, gaining all of their attention once more. "However, even in the current situation, things look bad for Echo and the MUSE."

Chihiro's blood grew cold; she didn't like it when he said things like that. "What do you mean, Null?"

"Their chances of survival out there," said Null bluntly. "Is currently less than one percent."


Is this really the extent of his powers? Darn it…

Echo trembled as he tried to move, dripping sweat all over. His body was wrecked with exhaustion; he couldn't even reach out and grab the pistol in front of him. Launching Sonic Attacks one after the other was a foolish plan, but he had no choice but to take the risks. But he was almost there, just one more and the NOISE would have been damaged enough to buy him and the MUSE girl some time…

"Move!" he whispered to himself. "Move, darn it!" But his muscles wouldn't listen to him…

And then a stinging sensation reached through his ears. "Arghhhhh," he grunted. Not this, too – the NOISE's Sonic Signature had started to affect him. This was bad, really bad!

The ground beneath Echo's feet began to shake and he looked at the NOISE overshadowing him. The giant eye that held the monster together began to bloat further, bubbling like water in boiling temperature. The bubbles turned into large orbs and in an instant, a hundred spheres hovered in mid-air.

Feeling helpless for the longest time in his life, Echo cursed. No, this was not how it was supposed to end. He still had a mission – something he dedicated his life with. There was no way he was going to die here…

His body shaking, Echo summoned the last of his strength on his legs. Somehow, he was able to stand, though his legs quivered every now and then. He gripped the pistol on his right hand and clenched his empty left hand into a fist. With the last of his power, he slowly raised his right arm, trying to point his gun at the monstrous NOISE before him.

Echo was still halfway there, when all of the NOISE's surrounding orbs grew large spikes. And each and every one of them headed towards Echo.

Echo closed his eyes. This was the end, after all…

"NOOOOOOOO!"

The resounding scream opened Echo's eyes voluntarily and he felt power surging from behind him. He turned just in time to be engulfed in a burst of strange pink light…


"L-less than one percent?" asked Chihiro.

Null extended his hand and pulled out a projection of a keyboard from the screen before him. He began typing and several more graphs appeared. "If you take into consideration the Sonic Signature, audio frequency, sound power and sound intensity of the NOISE," he said. "It takes at least three MUSEs and seven CHOIRs to effectively neutralize the NOISE. To fully eliminate it, we would need this much power…"

"This amount of power," said Tenor, looking at the screen and catching Chihiro's attention. "It's impossible to generate this…"

"No," replied Chihiro. She had seen the impossible become possible in the past thirty minutes. "We can generate this much power through Resonance."

"Re-resonance?" Tenor looked dumbfounded. "But Echo cannot Resonate with another MUSE. Plus, there's no MUSE in the…" Tenor's eyes then grew wide, as if he understood something. "Are you saying that the newly awakened MUSE would have that much power inside her?"

"Highly unlikely," said Null, typing quickly. "She has quite the potential, based on ANALOG's readings, but-"

"Null!" shouted Chihiro. How did this kid get these newly updated files? There was only one way he got it. "Don't tell me you hacked into our system again!"

"I belong in ANALOG, no harm done."

"But-"

"The MUSE has this much power in her arsenal, basing from her previous three Sonic Bursts," continued Null, ignoring her. "But with Echo's unique ability to generate more power every time he accomplishes a Sonic Attack, her power could multiply in astounding speed."

"I see," said Tenor with a nod. "That makes sense, but the question is: are they Compatible?"

"There's very little chance of that happening," answered Chihiro. "Echo's Sonic Signature is too unbalanced. After all…" Chihiro looked at both Tenor and Null, who both refused to meet her gaze. "ACE was formed because of this."

The situation fell into complete silence, until Presto gasped and produced an alarmed sound.

"Ah, guys…" he said. "I don't know if it's good or bad, but something's happening inside the Barrier…"

"Wh-what?" Chihiro's jaw dropped at the amazing sight she was seeing. Inside the crystalline Barrier, a huge burst of pink light could be seen. It looked like it was flashing, like a very bright firefly trapped inside a bottle.

"This is…" Chihiro knew the familiar scene and the feel of power emanating from it. But, how was it possible?

Presto and Null looked shocked, but Tenor just grinned. "You never fail to surprise us, Echo-kun…"

To be continued…


Author's Note: Done with Chapter 3! It took a lot of time, but finally made it!

Let's see now, we have three brand new characters – Tenor, Null and Presto! What do you guys think of them? We'll see a lot more about them in the next chapters.

The power of Resonance seemed to be the only way the NOISE would be defeated. But just what kind of power is this? And can Echo and Yuka be able to use it? Find out on the next chapter!

By the way, Echo's song's title is "Repeat". Composing songs is a bit of a hobby of mine. Anyway, drop a review before leaving! Thanks for reading!