Brandon stood across from Trevor, alone in the vast empty room. Everyone else had moved up above to view the match behind the window.
“You don’t have to be nervous—” Trevor stated, noting Brandon’s body shaking. “I simply want to see what you’re capable of.”
“W-Well I haven’t done anything like this before, excuse my cold feet!”
“Cold feet? I feel like that’s something you usually wouldn’t say…” Trevor theorized.
“He’s right—” Faith nodded her head. “Must be the anxiety’s stirring up his brain?”
“Hey, don’t act like you know me!” Brandon angrily pointed at Trevor.
“I’m sorry. It’s part of my job to analyze the behavior of a person to figure out how they would act in various situations.”
“Huh? What—are you some kinda detective!?” Brandon asked, stomping his foot.
“You’re pretty naive, aren’t you? Do you even know what you’re getting yourself into by joining Unity?”
“Naive…?” Brandon recalled that Adam used the same word recently. “...Well, not like I have a choice!”
“If I recall the details—” Trevor began to walk around. “You went right up to Sir Rizzo and displayed your Ability, knowing exactly what would happen. I would say it was your choice, was it not?”
“But—but if I didn’t—”
“You would have gotten in trouble? True. Although Unity would have caught you eventually, you have quite the potential with your Ability… do you realize that?”
“What do you mean…?”
“Electricity. The number of things you can pull off with that kind of power… Just how do you choose to use it? I’m curious. If I had it, I could think of all sorts of tricks to avoid Unity’s detection. You didn’t even try, though, did you?”
“Look, man! Why are you speaking like my Ability is all high-and-mighty? Is your’s that bad?”
“Oh, I’m not saying that at all. Why don’t you come at me, and you can see what mine is like?”
Brandon sighed. “People with their wording… Or is my mind just that bad when people simply say the word 'come'—Anyway. Fine! Whatever you want! I want to get stronger, and the best way to do that is to kick everyone’s ass!”
Trevor smirked. “It seems your heart is in the right place. But—how about your mind?” He raised his arm, beckoning Brandon to strike.
Blue sparks began to form around Brandon, lighting up his body.
“Woah, so cool looking…” Faith watched Brandon’s Ability in awe, as this was the first time she saw it in person.
“Surrounding your body with it? I see—”
Brandon roared, charging at Trevor with swift speed. He raised his fist and swung it directly at Trevor’s face, landing a hit.
Or, at least he thought he did.
Before it made contact, Brandon’s punch was stopped dead in its track. It felt as though Brandon had just hit a wall, jumping back and wagging his hand in agony.
“Gah! God damn—What the hell just happened!?”
“That’s how you use your Ability?” Trevor asked disgustedly. “Honestly, do you think giving your opponent a slight shock added to your fist will change anything?”
“Well, you’ve gotta admit, it would be quite surprising to the average guy—”
Trevor positioned his right palm toward Brandon. The air around it began to circulate, concentrating into the center of his hand. He then unleashed it, the pressure colliding with Brandon’s body, sending him soaring into the wall behind him, shattering the concrete it was composed of.
“Brandon!” Faith attempted to run out of the room to go and help him, only to be stopped by her mother.
“You can’t interfere, honey.”
“He just got shot into a wall! Please, can I just—”
“Young lady.” Rizzo interrupted her plea. “We are ones who possess Abilities. Our phantons are in an awakened state. Do you honestly think phantons of that level would let their vessel get damaged so easily? We can handle pain like this. I would have assumed you knew that already.”
“I-I know that… It’s just, he—”
“She’s just concerned with how he handles it, sir,” Pam explained. “He is new to combat, after all.”
“That’s fair,” Rizzo responded. “However, do not fear. Trevor would not purposely kill a fellow Unity member.”
Brandon managed to get himself out of the small hole that formed on the wall upon his impact, collapsing onto the floor, coughing horribly.
“What… the… What… the hell was… that!?”
“I call my Ability ‘Air Force.’ As you can manipulate electricity with your Ability, I can manipulate air with mine!”
Up above, Faith seemed to be pondering something, which Winona noticed.
“What’s up, Faith?”
“You know—a lot of the time in video games—lightning and air are grouped together with fire, earth, and water as the five natural elements.” She pointed at herself and then to Winona. “I’m fire, and you’re earth. Those two with their lightning and air… all we need is water, and we’d be a complete set!”
“Huh… That’s pretty weird, actually.” Winona nodded at her friend’s analysis.
“You ladies make a good point—” Rizzo remarked. “That certainly is interesting. I wonder what it could mean…?” He ended his question with a rather creepy grin, which caused the two to take a step away from the man.
“Come on! Air Force, like the plane thing!? Get creative!”
“Yes… like the plane thing.” Trevor sighed. “You call your Ability ‘Shepherd Surge,’ correct? I honestly don’t see the creativity in that one myself.”
“Oh, come on! It’s using my last name, and both words start with the letter ‘S,’ and—”
“All right, enough of this!” Trevor yelled. “Let’s go! Show me something more impressive!” He motioned his hands toward the floor, causing a gust of wind to kick up around the room, almost knocking Brandon off of his feet.
“Okay—gotta get past this guy’s wall-thing he’s making! Let’s get up close and personal!”
Brandon, electrified, dashed at Trevor once again. He sent his fist flying once again, colliding with the invisible barrier Trevor was creating. Instead of flinching from the pain, Brandon continued to attack—whacking at the wall with a barrage of punches and kicks.
“You trying to see if you can find a weakness in my barrier? I hate to tell you this, but you won’t find one!” Trevor formed more pressure around himself, pushing Brandon a few feet away.
“I will! I’ll show you!” Brandon leaped upward, getting quite high into the air. He positioned himself, ready to land a kick. As he descended on Trevor, electricity concentrated in his leg, lighting his attack up just like a lightning strike.
Trevor’s eyes widened, astonished at the sudden boost in not only power but speed. He could barely react as Brandon collided with his barrier, electricity scattering all around them.
“Oh? This is more like it!” Trevor swung his arm around, his palm connecting with Brandon’s leg. The force he built up was powerful enough to break right through Brandon’s electricity, knocking him away.
Brandon rolled on the ground a few times, attempting to stop. He was able to, but not after causing several red-hot sparks to form under his feet.
“Gah! Shit shit shit!” He stomped his feet several times, trying his best to prevent his shoes from catching on fire.
“Even after pulling off something impressive, you still act like that?” Trevor noted.
“I’m trying not to lose these shoes, man! Do you know how much to cost—ow!” Brandon held his leg in pain. It had taken damage from Trevor’s attack and felt like it was sprained.
“Well, you’re not gonna be fighting much more on that leg. I guess we’ll call it—” Trevor began to cough violently, clutching his chest.
“Uh, dude? You okay?” Brandon cautiously limped toward Trevor.
“You—” Trevor attempted to calm his cough, holding his hand to his face. A grin slowly formed. “You’re not as stupid as you look, I see.”
“Huh? What did I do?” Brandon looked at Trevor in curiosity.
“You took advantage of my Ability… and you used your own to ionize the very air I was manipulating. Quite clever. It would be hard to breathe under these conditions.”
Brandon gave Trevor a blank stare.
“...So, uh. What… does ionize mean, exactly?”
Trevor glared at his opponent in disbelief.
“All right. I apologize in advance for this, but you deserve it—”
Trevor formed air around Brandon’s feet, swiftly launching him upward. He collided with the ceiling before he could even process what was happening. As he began his descent, Trevor concentrated more air around Brandon, this time using it to slam him right into the ground below.
“Now we’ll call it.”
“And that’s the match! Trevor is the victor!” Rizzo declared, casting his voice throughout the room.
“Brandon!” Faith, now allowed to, ran out of the room, with Winona quickly behind her. The two swung dashed down two flights of stairs, opening up the door into the training room.
Brandon lied there in the floor’s debris, unconscious. Trevor did not hold back in his final attack on the boy.
“Trevor, how could you!?” Faith yelled, holding Brandon’s hand.
“It was a match, it’s what happens. Especially when I was faced with danger. The guy could have completely shut off any attempt for me to breathe—I had to take action.”
“You were about to call the match before you started having difficulties breathing,” Winona commented. “It would only make sense for you to end it even sooner, wouldn’t you think?”
Trevor shrugged. “What’s done is done.” He approached Faith, glaring at her. “I gave him an honorable fight, seeing as though he had the courage to face me. You wouldn’t understand that, though, would you? You don't even dare to use your own Ability.”
Faith stood up, forming a flame in her hand inches away from Trevor’s face.
“You were saying?”
“Oh? Nice progress. Although—” Trevor pointed at Faith shaking body. “You still have some things to work on, it seems.”
“Trust me—next time you hurt my friend like that, I will use my flame on you.”
“Is that right? Looking forward to how that will go.” Trevor began to walk toward the exit, waving back. “Sir Rizzo, I’m going to take a break.”
“Very well,” Rizzo responded. “Faith and Winona, take Mr. Shepherd to the infirmary. We want to make sure he’s all patched up for tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll hold off on discussing all the Unity-related topics I had for all of you.”
“Here… Let’s get him up.” Faith told Winona, as the two picked up Brandon, carrying his unconscious body out of the room, taking care not to catch up to Trevor.
Pam stepped close to Rizzo. “Sir, is that how you raised that boy?”
“Yes. He’s given great dedication to his training, and his curiosity only leads to even greater success. Honestly, his family should be proud of him.”
Pam sighed. “I know he was born without blue eyes like the rest of the Ouderkirks had. Even if they considered that ‘the end of the bloodline,’ he still had tremendous power. If he’s pushed too far, it could go to his head.”
“That’s all right. I want the boy to desire power. He’s who I plan to have succeed me in the future, once my body begins to finally wear down. I want him to feel like he’s truly one of their family members, and I want him to hold authority, just like his family should still be doing.”
Pam looked at Rizzo in astonishment. “Sir… does that mean—all along—you didn’t compete against Becca for your own benefit? In fact, it was all for—”
“Paul—” Rizzo cut Pam off, facing the boy off to his side. “What did you think of your partner’s capabilities?”
“He’s certainly new at all of this. But he was actually able to make Trevor of all people cough like that? I’m really looking forward to working with him!” Paul responded, almost cheerfully.
“Glad to hear. Teamwork is the most important thing here in Unity. You must always prioritize that over anything else.” Rizzo beckoned Paul to follow him. “Come. It's time for one of your exams. We should get one in before you fight seriously tomorrow.”
Paul nodded, following the man out of the room. He turned to Pam, giving a wave.
As Pam waved back, her hand slowly formed into a fist. When the two were down the stairs and out of sight, she slammed it on the nearby wall.