Criscrossing Shadows

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Crisscrossing Shadows Rewinding Breeze
Characters
RI Medic icon.png
Human Resources Operator
Blank icon.svg
Performer
Backgrounds
The Stage
1
RI Room
2
RI Corridor
3
With Ms. Christine's guidance, a Human Resources Operator locates Phantom and asks him some questions about his life. While Phantom's answers aren't exactly lies, they do raise more questions.
<Background black>
Mesdames et Messieurs,[note 1] we thank you for coming tonight. Let us give our eyes and ears to the troupe's latest production!
We guarantee you won't see tonight's show anywhere else. It's one-of-a-kind, exclusive to the last. Your bliss to know here and here alone!
Now, cleanse your sight, sharpen keen your hearing, and enjoy the wonderful evening ahead...
Welcome, all, to the Crimson Troupe
Phantom of the Opera.png
Phantom ......♪
(Quietly singing)
Answer.
The shadow in the dark.
Phantom Who is it? Who calls to me in this dead of night.
It is time. I must prepare to take the stage.
Answer.
The shadow in the dark.
The killer on the stage.
Phantom Who is it that speaks? Who is it that sings?
Answer.
Your darkness is asking.
Phantom The curtains are drawn. The lights cast. The performers stand at center stage.
But what sound is this? Who is it that awaits, who is it that...
—applauds.
<Background black>
[The audiance applauds.]
But
In the fact who you are.
Who you are.
The shadow in the dark.
<Background 1>
[Phantom is highlighted by the spotlight.]
Phantom Who am I?
I am the wraith in the dead of night. The apparition behind the curtain. The star upon the stage.
I am...
An Empty Chair.png
Performer A I know who you are.
Performer B We all know.
Performer C You conceal yourself in a wretched room. You cower at the end of the long table. You force yourself into those demonic words and Stygian scripts.
Performer B Sing with us. We miss nary a rehearsal. You sing well.
Phantom Who are you?
You are not the actors in this play. Why do you yet appear here?
You... recognize me.
Performer A You ask who we are. You don't even recognize us.
How could you forget? How could you dare forget? The Devil chooses you. Teaches you the music. Teaches you the lines. Teaches you the taste of the stage.
You cling to a demon. You give chase where the Devil leads. And yet at the end you desert. You killed the Devil. You left this place. And now you would forget us in all.
Do you truly believe you can kill the Devil?
Phantom It—it is not so. I have forgotten nothing.
I...
I have already killed them all to the last. They were wrong in their ways.
It was wrong to indulge, wrong to give chase, wrong to find beauty. I had to kill them off. I had to do so—
Performer B And so you did. And as you did, you stole our breaths too.
Performer C It was on this stage that you began to sing.
Phantom ......
It was.
I have long since slain you all. So, why would you yet appear here?
Performer B It has been a while, dear brother of ours.
Together, we left our birthplace. Together, we came of age. We were relatives of different blood. We ate as one, lived as one, yet saw not the same ending.
It has been an eternity since I have spoken to you. Since the candle melted away, since my blood dripped with the candle upon the stage, since then have we not spoken.
Performer C We differ from you. A performer unable to know the true taste of art is but a failed, rejected article. Only the love. None of the gift.
While some throw themselves upon the flame, some fly away.
Performer B And some yet stay there in the bygone past. In that night. There the sound of singing arises, and never ceases.
Ah... our time is up. We mere apparitions of the past. We could never linger too long here. We should never have been on this stage.
<Background 1>
Phantom Wait! Don't leave—
*Cough*——*cough*—*gasp*—*cough* *cough*...
My... throat...
Performer A How heart wrenching, midnight wraith, unable to discern yourself. Deprived of your song, what is there that remains of you?
You wish to escape this place. You think you can do it this eve?
You should never have spoken. You should never have sung.
You should never have been on this stage.
[The lightbulbs shatter and everything goes dark.]
<Background black>
Answer.
The shadow in the dark.
Answer.
Who you are.
And what you really desire.
[...]
Mesdames et Messieurs, the curtain has fallen...
Best wishes, and to each and all a wondrous night...
Phantom ...Who am I?
What I—desire...
<Background 2>
8:10 AM \ Overcast, rain
Rhodes Island Landship, Second Floor, Human Resources Department
[An R.I. Human Resources staff reads through a heap of papers about R.I. Operators.]
Human Resources Operator All Operators in this group should be accounted for here. 1, 2, 3... good, we're alright.
Hm? This one's... a previous number? Someone must've got it mixed up with this batch. Who did these papers? Gotta be pretty careless to mix up whole groups...
[The HR staff looks at one of the papers.]
Human Resources Operator Phantom?
Who's that? I don't remember any operator by that name... Huh? And why's a part of the file missing?
[The HR staff searches through the papers to find the missing files, but to no avail.]
Human Resources Operator ......
Weird. What's going on here?
<Background 3>
Doctor Already used to life aboard the ship?
Mint Yes!
There are parts I'm still not fully clear, but Skyfire's been helping me a lot all throughout! Don't worry!
Oh, that's right, Doctor! I've read the operator's manual Skyfire gave to me front to back!
It's got all sorts of interesting notes in it, and the writing is clear as crystal! It's honestly a joy to read! Who's the author? I have to know! They're amazing!
Oh, and the canteen's food is delicious! Skyfire said I've gained plenty enough weight and she forced this pamphlet on me for Miss Hibiscus's healthy meals, but she's not hiding the fact she eats just as well too!
And also, also, um...
Oh, sorry, Doctor. Have I been talking too much?
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor Not at all. Seeing you take so well to things makes me happy.
Mint Eheheh.
Everyone here's so kind. They all take care of me so well, too. It makes me very happy.
The sooner I can become more reliable, the better. I'd like nothing more than to be able to help out with everyone.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor ......
Mint Sorry. I'm sorry. I know everyone gets fed up with me when I talk.
*whimper* I'll try and watch out in future...
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor No sweat. Truth is Skyfire's packed on the pounds too.
Mint Right! I thought so too!
...Oh, don't let Skyfire hear that. If she gets mad, she'll burn down your whole office, Doctor, no doubt about it...
<Dialogue branch ends here>
[Someone knocks the door.]
Mint Oh! Someone's here.
Doctor Come in.
[The HR staff from before opens the door and enters the room.]
Human Resources Operator Sorry to interrupt, Doctor.
There's a file that needs checking over. Do you have the time right now?
Dr. Kal'tsit and Amiya both said I should come here to ask you about this.
Doctor Let me have a look.
Human Resources Operator (She hands the file materials over to the Doctor).
This file, here.
The records pertaining to Operator Phantom's background are incomplete. Plenty of information's just missing.
I don't know who was previously responsible... They didn't even fill in their name for it on HR's table. Likely they were swept up in work and plain forgot.
We've had a lot of newcomers in recently, so it's the perfect time to get all our data on all our operators sorted. Plenty of omissions like this coming to light, honestly.
It's nothing glaringly huge, but we've got to get it up to scratch, same as everything else.
Mint Sounds like you're having a tough time...
If you need anything, I can help too.
Human Resources Operator What's your name?
Mint Nice to meet you. I'm a new Caster Operator, codename Mint.
Human Resources Operator Ah, I remember you. You're the new girl that got separated during the last mission, right?
Haha. I swear, Miss Skyfire was THIS close to exploding.
Mint *whimper* I'm so sorry about that, and for all the trouble I caused...
She must be angry with me. She was lecturing me non-stop afterwards.
Human Resources Operator Hm? No, no, no, not with you.
She was upset with herself because she wasn't watching her own back properly... at least, that's what she said.
Mint Huh? So she wasn't...
Human Resources Operator I know. There's times Miss Skyfire can be pretty strict with other people, right?
But she's much stricter with herself, really. Take last time as proof. She'll reflect on herself first before she starts grumbling at anyone else.
And you can't blame her, really.
Once you've seen her pitting herself against her own standards, upset at herself for falling so visibly and palpably short, getting chewed out by her from time to time doesn't feel so rough...
Mint You're right! That's how she really is. I admire her a lot for that.
Human Resources Operator Haha, I can tell. Anyway, thanks for offering to help.
We've definitely taken on a lot of fresh blood in a short time. Whether it's us, Medical or Logistics, we're all a little swamped.
Oh, er, right, Operator Phantom's file.
Circling back to that, we've got a decent amount of operators' files in incomplete states. In general, standard protocol for small questions is we'd find the person themselves and ask directly.
But Operator Phantom's kind of tricky in this regard... I'm gonna put it straight. We can barely figure out where he is.
Mint Is he not on the ship right now?
Human Resources Operator No. Our mission records say he's not out in the field for anything.
Operator Phantom seems to be deliberately avoiding people. Add in his Arts, and we've had our work cut out finding him.
We could lie in wait in places, or ask Miss Closure for help... but we just can't spare a single person and waiting's not an option, and as for the latter, well, mm...
I heard he caused some trouble when he joined us and now Miss Closure's... pissed off with him.
So we'd probably be telling her "this is your chance to give him a public execution," right? It's hard to even guess what would happen afterwards.
Mint This definitely sounds tricky...
Are Mr. Phantom's Originium Arts similar to Mr. Ethan's? Or... um, waitletmelookatthemanual. Right! Like Miss Manticore's?
She has the ability to hide where she is too, doesn't she?
Human Resources Operator Yep. I remember when she signed on. It was just as much of an effort back then to get her records filled out.
All you had to do was blink and she'd slip away unnoticed. That was a whole thing to deal with.
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor Manticore's got plenty of anxieties of her own.
Human Resources Operator No, I agree.
At the time, the only way we could actually converse was with pen on paper. It took a lot of effort on our part and hers.
But at least in terms of her own feelings, Miss Manticore is ultimately very willing to work with us.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor ......
Human Resources Operator Judging by your reaction... you recall too, don't you, Doctor?
That one time you only remembered Manticore was in the room after you'd already locked up.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor She might be in this room with us RIGHT NOW.
Mint What?! Miss Manticore's in here?!
Human Resources Operator Really, Doctor?!
You're kidding, right? Really, Doctor, you can't just joke like that...
<Dialogue branch ends here>
Human Resources Operator Miss Manticore's case was more helplessness. I get the feeling that Operator Phantom's just using his Originium Arts to dodge us. On purpose.
Mint Is that so...
Human Resources Operator Dr. Kal'tsit and Amiya said we could ask you to help us out with this. Do you have any good ideas, Doctor?
Doctor It's not like there isn't a way.
Human Resources Operator You mean it? Great! What should we do to find him, then?
Doctor At times like this, we seek the Madam's opinion.
Human Resources Operator The Madam?
Doctor, do you mean...
<Background 2>
Phantom !
[Phantom falls off his bed.]
Phantom ......
It's that dream...
The stage that night, and those people.
(...No, no.)
(That night, nothing of the sort happened. Everything was perfect.)
(They couldn't ever appear again. They shouldn't ever appear again.)
(...Spirits, I've long since laid you to rest.)
The endless river runs, and to my ear its babble is as song. It washes forth, so leaves me, flows away to endless far...
Or perhaps they never really left.
[The sound of something walking on the floor is heard...]
Phantom (Hm? The sound of footfall. The sound of...)
[...which comes from Ms. Christine, Phantom's kitty companion.]
Ms. Christine Meow.
Phantom So it was you, Ms. Christine.
Ms. Christine Meow~
Phantom What is it?
You seem in a good mood.
Ms. Christine Meow. Meooow.
Phantom No, I'm fine.
You oughtn't worry. I'm used to it.
Those apparitions are forever in the corners of my sight...
Ms. Christine Mew.
Phantom Hm?
Of course. I'm well aware we have other guests.
—Doctor.
[The Doctor enters Phantom's quarters.]
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor Good morning.
Phantom Rainy day.
I fear it's not too good a morning.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor ......
Phantom ......
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor You know me by footsteps alone?
Phantom Every step someone may make, be it hard or light, labored or leisurely, divulges plenty a message.
You may find it easier than you'd think.
<Dialogue branch ends here>
Phantom There are others besides you as well.
Two stranger footfalls. One a little airier, the other heavy.
[Mint and the HR staff reveal themselves before Phantom.]
Mint Oh, I've been made.
That's incredible! I was making so sure to tip-toe all carefully!
Human Resources Operator Scarily acute sense of hearing... wait, heavy means me? I guess I have put on a little weight recently.
Mint Er, I feel he didn't specifically mean your actual weight.
Phantom ......
[...]
Phantom Go on, then. What might you need me for?
Ms. Christine rarely brings guests. It seems you've gained her favor.
<Dialogue branch starts here>
Doctor I'm honored.
Ms. Christine Meow. Meowww~
Phantom Mm. Ms. Christine expresses her approval.
<Dialogue branch>
Doctor Where were you hiding?
Phantom I was not hiding. Your eyes were simply cheating you.
Eyes, ears, throat, nose. All senses capable of tricking someone.
...All, even memory.
<Dialogue branch ends here>
Human Resources Operator Anyhows, the important thing is we're finally face to face. Nice to meet you, Operator Phantom.
Phantom And you are...?
Human Resources Operator I'm from the HR department. There's a file of yours with an incomplete section. We only have a few questions, just so we can check our knowledge from the top.
Phantom File?
...I understand. What would Rhodes Island like to know?
Human Resources Operator Thank you for your cooperation. Don't worry, all you'll need to answer is a few simple questions.
Ah, before that... allow me to just quickly confirm your Originium Arts control capacity.
Have you noticed any issues with your specialized monitoring equipment, Mr. Phantom?
Particularly in day-to-day moments... for example, like our current conversation. Any tendencies for your Arts to take effect in a manner that exceeds your control?
Based on your feedback, Mr. Phantom, the techs can make the necessary followup adjustments to your equipment's respective functionality for you.
Phantom No need. It does plenty enough for now.
Its suppression of the crystal growth is very much appreciated, as are its counter-adjustments of frequency and amplitude.
So long as syllables don't form melodies, there are no problems.
...I thank you greatly.
Human Resources Operator No worries. Supporting operators in controlling their Arts is one part of what we do.
If there's no problems, that's good!
Alright, moving on... your place of birth, Mr. Phantom.
Last time we entered your data, according to you, your place of birth was in Calais-Blason in west Victoria.
Mint Calais-Blason...?
......
Phantom Correct.
Human Resources Operator Hm... well, that's strange.
Based on the info you gave us, we sent someone from our Victoria branch to the local area to verify, and reality seems to be at odds with what you've told us, Mr. Phantom.
Phantom ......
Wait. Wait, could it be...
<Background 1>
The stage draws to a close.
Out from its drapery seeps blood.
Fresh flowers lie trampled on the ground.
What's wrong?
Something sounds with a crack. A dinnertime glass.
Paint begins to flake off the cabinet door. The people on the streetside laugh.
A tomato drops to the ground. A flower is trodden on.
The wind makes a piano resonate.
Hot and stifling, the stage lighting pierces through black cloth.
The audience at the roadside applauds.
——Who is it in the alley?
What's wrong?
What's wrong?
[...]
——Who is it, laughing?
<Background 2>
Phantom Calais-Blason. Could it be that it doesn't even exist?
Human Resources Operator ......
Correct.
Investigation couldn't find any nomadic city with a similar name, nor any area...
Mr. Phantom, I should remind you that if you don't want your place of birth to be known, you have other options. Applying for temporary confidentiality or a requisite level of access authority are both possible.
But if you're going to lie about the most basic things, then that's a completely different matter!
We give operators the room to conceal, keep confidential, or refuse explicitly to provide some information, but lying... that doesn't help either of us to build trust in the other. In any way, at all.
Do you understand that?
Phantom ...I wasn't lying.
Human Resources Operator What?
Phantom When you were registering me, I spoke the truth. I didn't even think to lie.
The person who gave me a home, in times past, once told me that that was where I was born.
So they said. That our village was razed by a Catastrophe. That the fields were engulfed by war's flames. That the ever-travelling troupe was passing by. That in the stead of each home the children had lost, the troupe took them in.
That after, as we followed with the troupe, we left... and we never once returned.
Apart from this singular name, I know nothing about the land it was.
Mint ......
Human Resources Operator This is really, really weird. What's even going on here... Could it be your guardians had made a mistake?
Or you might have remembered something wrong, Mr. Phantom?
Phantom ......
Doctor Maybe it was just a mistake. / ...... / We can worry about verifying it later.
Human Resources Operator Yeah. We'll just have to leave it like this for now.
Provided there's no intentional falsification going on, we can flag up basic information as special procedure, and then freely supplement or modify later as needed.
Mint Oh, you can do that?
I'd always been under the impression that no matter where you go, they'd be strict all the same about files like this.
Universities in Victoria are like that! If there's any sort of problem with your files, in the most serious cases, they'll probably suspend you!
Human Resources Operator Broadly speaking, yeah, it's a pretty strict matter.
But a lot of Rhodes Island's people are out of the ordinary. There's no practical, clear-cut blanket to us...
Take Cuora's case. She really doesn't remember anything at all, and we've turned up short on any way to help her with that.
And there's a couple of operators with very unique circumstances. Once we've determined that they won't jeopardize Rhodes Island, we can bend the rules a little as needed.
Phantom ......
I apologize.
Human Resources Operator Huh? Oh, no, no worries.
If what you've just said is true, then it's not even exactly your fault, Mr. Phantom... In any case, we can try and look for it again later.
If we still don't get anything after that, I'll report the whole truth of it upstairs and leave the judgment to them.
But don't let it weigh on you! Amiya never really lets all this clerical stuff cloud her head!
Hmm, let me see what else there is... ah, right. Can I ask what your motivation for joining Rhodes Island is? It's just a question I have to ask.
Given you're Infected, I assume it's for treatment of Oripathy?
Phantom No.
Human Resources Operator Huh? It's not?
Phantom I'm looking for someone.
Human Resources Operator For whom? Is this an operator of ours?
Phantom ...I can't be sure.
[...]
Phantom I'm looking for someone. There is something I need to find out, for which I need to find the person who knows.
Those ghosts from the past—stood on the streetcorner, behind the window, by my side...
Those things. I have to free myself from them.
Only when I know what the truth of their passing was. Only then can I lay them to rest, once and for all.
Mint What could you be talking about...?
For that matter, how can you be sure the person you're looking for is here in Rhodes Island?
Phantom ......
I heard music.
I heard a voice. The voice told me to come here, for here I could find the trail I needed.
The answer was in this place.
[...]
Human Resources Operator ......
[...]
Human Resources Operator (Doctor. Doctor!)
(Is Operator Phantom really doing alright? He makes me feel like he's anything but alright! Are you sure he doesn't need another checkup with Medical?)
Mint (Oripathy can affect your auditory senses, and it can even encroach on nervous and cognitive function. Mr. Phantom might have something like that...)
Doctor I don't think his situation is entirely because of Oripathy.
Phantom What are you talking about?
Doctor Nothing.
Right. I've been meaning to ask from the start.
Phantom ......?
What is it?
Doctor The clothes on your wardrobe door are very eye-catching. An old costume?
Phantom ...What did you say? Wardrobe?
I have no—
[Phantom looks at his quarters' wardrobe, only to be shocked upon seeing the clothes inside.]
Phantom ?!
These clothes—are...
Why... since when...
They should not be here—!
<Background 1>
Bouquets forced into a cupboard.
Dark, grey clouds.
Cement columns sprouting eyes. Thawing, melting leaves. You are flanked by seats.
Applause thunders. The people on the streetside cheer.
A refuse bin stands and breaks into dance. Who is it that sings?
[...]
Who is it that sings?
——Who is it that sings?
[...]
Out from those clothes seep red, and flowers are trampled on the ground.
There is no-one in the seats.
No-one on the streetside.
<Background 3>
Mint (Calais-Blason, Calais-Blason. It's so strange. I feel like I've heard that name for a place somewhere before...)
(Hmm... where does it come from?)
Oh...
I can't remember at all!
Oh, forget it. I'll go borrow some books and see if I can find anything there.
[Suddenly, a Pythia operator appears out of nowhere...]
Rhodes Island Operator Hey there.
Mint Whbuh!
Rhodes Island Operator Uh, my bad. Did I just scare you?
You're... a new operator, I think. Got any troubles, or?
Mint S-Sorry about that! It's not your fault. Just my overreaction.
There's just this question I can't quite figure out, and it's got me a little lost...
Rhodes Island Operator Hm? Is it anything I can help you with?
No need to be reserved about it. Call it my apology for frightening you. I'll listen to what's on your mind, if you want. If I can help with any of it, that's all the better.
Mint Thank you... you're such a nice person!
Everyone at Rhodes Island really is so kind...
Rhodes Island Operator Heheh. Much appreciated.
What were you saying before about something you couldn't remember?
Mint So you heard that. I was thinking about the name of a place... Calais-Blason. It gives me the nagging feeling I've heard it before, but I just can't think of where.
Have you heard of any place like that before?
Rhodes Island Operator ......
Ah... that is familiar.
I never thought I'd hear that name again.
Mint Oh! You know of it?!
Rhodes Island Operator Of course. Of course I know of it.
Long, long ago, I used to live there.
I heard someone mouthing off about its name. Saying it's not one people ever mention anymore, how you only remember if you should've been buried long ago in the rotting ruins of the past.
That person and that mouth are both rotting in the past, if you ask me...
Mint ......?
Rhodes Island Operator No, my bad. That was neither here nor there.
Do you have time for a story? I've got one to tell.
It's about Calais-Blason, and about its people. About a group of children who lost their shelter, and about the travelling troupe passing by that little village...
I can tell you every last bit.
<Background black>
Rhodes Island Operator Let's go somewhere a little quieter first, though.
...It might be a very long story.

Notes

  1. "Ladies and gentlemen" in French