“Alexander Strauss… what are you doing here!?” Monica shoved out of the way, approaching the boy. “Your current orders say you’re supposed to be helping with the orientation!”
“Yeah, you’re right about that.” Alexander shrugged, his wings dissolving into nothing. “I even checked the official list myself—man, what a weird-ass thing for Rizzo to get me to do!”
“Then why aren’t you doing it!? The Brown Suits are currently investigating the town—we can’t have someone like you interfering!”
“Oh? Interfering? I wouldn’t think of it like that—think of it as ya having a really overpowered bodyguard, in case those bastards come back! Surely you alone couldn’t handle anything super serious happening.”
“I am a fresh graduate of Unity—something you haven’t actually done! I’m fully capable of doing more than you when it comes down to business!” Monica screamed, not holding back her obvious rage.
“Yeah—honestly why is that? There are several reasons, yet recently it’s been a head-scratcher even for me. Like—keeping me away, so my Psycho Matter doesn’t interfere with the growth process of the members? And now he wants me there to help with it!? Come on, that’s obviously the mindset of a man who’s freaking losing it!”
“Huh? If he doesn’t actually have to stay away due to that, then does Adam…?” Emma thought to herself.
“How dare you talk about Sir Rizzo in such a manner! Men—” Monica snapped her fingers. “Please escort Mr. Strauss back to Nexus City, so he can get to his real assignment. I’ve had enough of this pointless chit-chat.”
The Brown Suits did not move a muscle.
“Men!? I order you at once!”
Alexander chuckled, then exploded in laughter.
“Oh, man! This goes back to my ‘dumb bitch’ comment! Ya don’t seem to really know how things really operate in Unity, do ya? The very thing ya put so much respect and passion into!”
“What the hell are you talking about, Alexander!?”
“It’s simple—let me explain it to ya. It goes back to the reasons why Rizzo doesn’t want me around. I’ll be frank—I’m no match for Rizzo. Period. What do I mean by that? I mean just Rizzo! Even when it comes to graduates—excluding Trevor if he gets his shit together one day—you’re all just tiny ants compared to what I can do!”
“Yeah!?” Monica was ready to burst. “You think you’re hot shit with your damned Psycho Matter!? Men—do not hesitate.”
“Ya might as well stop.” Alexander grinned. “They won’t listen to ya—they’re programmed to be smart—they know when to stand down.”
“Programmed?” Roger asked himself quietly. “What does he mean by that?”
“Is it supposed to mean something?” Roy questioned him, overhearing his thought.
“I-I don’t know…”
Monica gritted her teeth. “Dammit! I’ll just have to take care of you myself then!”
“Do you really mean that?” Alexander asked with a serious expression.
“Of course! I’m not going to let your shit-talking mouth get away with—”
With a pink glow formed underneath her feet, Monica was launched directly upward into the air, as if she was shot like an arrow.
Emma fell onto the ground as the thin sheet of Psycho Matter stopped right before it touched her. Alexander formed his wings and ascended, laughing maniacally.
Monica was able to quickly regain her composure. “Wh-What are you doing!?” She screamed at him, reaching into her pocket.
“Teaching ya how Unity operates, since those two years of training didn’t seem to really do it for ya!”
“I see why it’s called Psycho Matter—you damned psycho! Don’t underestimate me!”
Monica pulled out a Core, it immediately reacting to her. Through the blue glow, a massive two-handed sword formed, which seemed to lack sharp edges, yet had three clock-like designs on each side.
“A custom weapon? Ya just got that when ya graduated, correct? Shit—I’m sorry I have to break it on ya already!”
Alexander reached out his hand, a faint glow forming around it. Monica raised her sword, ready to return the strike.
Alexander reacted in time as a gigantic shock wave emerged from the end of Chronos, colliding with his now folded wings. It sent him flying into the pavement below, shaking the entire area.
Monica landed in front of Roy and Roger, who had barely kept their footing from the impact. She glared toward the pink light before her, which faded to reveal Alexander standing casually, as if nothing happened.
“Well—that was a surprise. Could have sworn all ya could do was look at shit that happened in the past. The hell was that about?”
“Past to Present—” Monica swung her sword again, sending a second shock wave at Alexander. It came into contact with his barrier that had formed, completely negating the force of the attack.
“Not only can I receive information from the past, but I can also use phantonic energy from the past!” Monica slashed her sword twice, creating sharp bursts of energy. Alexander formed two small spheres in his hands, calmly flicking them toward the attacks. Crashing into Monica’s power, the spheres once again halted her attempt to do damage.
Within the smokescreen that formed from the collision, Alexander had sent another sphere of Psycho Matter toward Monica. She raised Chronos in front of her, shielding her from the impact.
“Hah! Is this all your Psycho Matter can do? I’m barely conjuring up any energy at all!”
“...I see. Based on how they’re reacting, I can tell exactly what that is—you’re using leftover phantons. Humans shed a finite amount of phantons each day—simply going about their lives. It’s what the Nexus Network is fueled on, after all. With your Ability, it stores those phantons ya shed, so ya can use them to increase your battle capabilities when you need to. Am I right?”
“Well—I see it’s true. Your Psycho Matter can analyze things it comes into contact with. And with a decent head on your shoulders, you can figure quite a lot of shit out, can you?”
Alexander shrugged, grinning. “What can I say? I was blessed with great power. I’ve dedicated my life to attempting to use it correctly. There’s still much, much more I need to accomplish with it, however. I was slightly interested in your Ability since something that could manipulate time would be very interesting to learn about. But—you’re just taking advantage of a trick phantons are capable of!”
Monica snickered. “Oh? You seem to understand that my Ability is related to that theory.”
“It doesn’t take a freaking genius to figure that shit out! Phantons record data of everything they come in contact with—how do ya think ghosts are a thing? They use values presented to them in the past to form those creepy bastards. That’s how ya see into the past—ya just gather up the stray phantons in the area and make them tell ya what you want to know.”
“Smart—” Monica leaped at Alexander, slamming Chronos down at him—his barrier once again halting the attack. “So—that obviously doesn’t matter in this battle. My power comes from a different aspect of my Ability—how do you propose to overcome it!?” Monica swung her sword to bounce away from Alexander. She smashed Chronos into the ground, causing the pavement to tear apart.
Alexander leaped upward, avoiding the attack altogether. “Really!? Ya think that’s an issue for me!? I already told ya I know how that works as well—and it’s simply a boost in power!” He raised his hands, forming a gigantic sledgehammer. Moving it as smoothly as a feather, he slammed it downward at Monica, blocking it with Chronos.
The collision completely tore the parking lot apart—ripping through the earth toward the road. Roy grabbed Roger just in time and dived out of the way. Monica was flung out of the ground, able to regain her footing on the sidewalk across the street.
Alexander landed in the road, glancing back toward Roy and Roger. “Sorry about that! Ya guys should really get away from here if ya want to live!”
Emma ran up to the two in a panic. “Are you two all right!?”
“No! I just pissed myself!” Roy shouted. Roger slowly crawled away from Roy.
“Y-Yeah—we’re okay. Thanks for the save, Roy. But—please stay back for now…”
“Huh? I was kidding! I didn’t actually—”
“Whatever! Come on, guys—let’s get back.” Emma glanced over toward Alexander, who was spinning the sledgehammer in his hand with ease. “We… can’t do anything right now.”
As Emma escorted Roy and Roger toward the building, Alexander raised the hammer in Monica’s direction. “Ya know, I am pretty impressed you’re standing after that. You’re clearly not an amateur—like I thought ya were.”
“So you can generate some decent power. Good—then I can cut loose!” Monica began to run Toward Alexander, sword ready.
“Yeah! Sure—let’s get busy!” Alexander chucked, swing the hammer at Monica’s incoming slash, knocking her back a few feet. He leaped at her, swiftly slamming her with another attack. This time, she handled it a lot better—being capable of striking back immediately.
The two began dancing around the street—striking at each other with their weapons. Each impact sent fierce gales throughout Prelude, shaking the nearby houses. Street lamps were slashed apart, a mailbox was torn into pieces, and cars were turned onto their sides from the sheer force of the battle.
Roy and Roger viewed the conflict in awe. Shaking, Roger turned toward Emma. “Is this really the world you want to get yourself involved with?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Like I said earlier, I’ll face anything for the sake of my sister. Besides—” Emma smirked. “Doesn’t the sound of weapons clashing against each other not get your blood boiling with excitement!?”
“Uh…” Roy took a step back. “Now that we’re safe, we see the true side of Emma Roswell. All righty then—I am certainly not going to ask you out again. I really could die.”
Emma looked at him, wielding an ominous grin. “Good. Now you understand.”
Monica landed several yards away from where the two Ability users began their clash, using Chronos to keep herself standing up. Her body was shaking, yet she could not help but smile.
“Damn—I’ve never had to go all-out like this before. You’re certainly tough.”
Alexander stood near her, letting his hammer float near his hand. “Oh? You’re going all out? How cute.”
“Huh?” Monica wiped the sweat off her forehead that had begun to form. “Are you saying… you’re not going all-out!?”
“Are you serious!?” Alexander cackled. “Sure—your Ability is interesting on paper—and it is giving me a decently fun time—but going all-out!? Ya don’t want me to do that.”
“So that’s how it is, huh…?” Monica raised Chronos in front of her, while Alexander changed the shape of his hammer to a spiraling ball of Psycho Matter.
“Here—let’s see how you do blocking this!”
The ball erupted into a fierce beam of raw energy, flying toward Monica with swift speeds. She slashed Chronos down, slicing at the attack. It exploded, ripping apart the entire road several meters behind her, even cutting into a nearby field just south of Prelude.
As the dust settled, Monica was revealed to have withstood Alexander’s power. Yet, she collapsed onto her knees, panting heavily.
“You… y-you damn bastard…! Do you really want to tear up this entire town!?”
“No? Why the hell would I want that? It’s just some collateral damage—nobody’s gotten hurt yet. Well, ya look like you’re in pretty bad shape though. Wanna call it quits? As long as ya know not to fuck with me, I think we can end it here.”
“Dammit!” Monica slammed her fist on the ground. As she was prepared to give up, a blue glow out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Looking up, she grinned at the sight of the clock designs engraved onto Chronos lighting up.
“Huh? The hell’s your weapon doing?” Alexander questioned.
“Wow—for real!? I didn’t expect it to actually work, considering your Psycho Matter doesn’t use phantons. Yet—you’re still human. It would be natural for you to still casually shed phantons.”
“What the hell are ya talking about?” Alexander became cautious, analyzing Monica’s movement.
“Let me show you..” Her hand slowly raised, opening her palm toward Alexander.
“She’s planning something... She gonna shoot energy right out of her hand or some shit?”
Slowly, a wicked smile formed of Monica’s face,
Alexander’s body began to vibrate. Before he could comprehend what was happening, a tremendous force erupted around his entire body. The pressure was immense, causing blood to fly out of Alexander’s mouth. He stumbled and fell onto his knees.
“Wow—it worked! I can’t believe it actually worked on you of all people!”
Alexander held his chest—managing to keep calm despite the look of fear written all over his face.
“You see—when a human emits phantons into the world—their values change. As phantonic properties are unique to each person—to avoid them conflicting with the other naturally flowing phantons—they rewrite their code so they can all match together without a problem.”
Monica stood, slowly approaching Alexander with Chronos in hand. “That’s what Past to Present can take advantage of. As it stores phantons that I would naturally shed, it’s aware of how that code works. By fighting you with them, they can sync up with the phantons that you are emitting. When that happens, I can reverse their flow, as they’re still adjusting to the outside world. They still have values that are unique to you—yet also have the universal values of natural phantons.”
Alexander sighed. “So—what I’m getting at through that shit-ass explanation, is that you use those stored up phantons of yours, link them up to mine, and distort them as they still hold values that only I have. Thus, it distorts my inner phantons, as those you’re fucking with on the outside are still connected to them through those remaining values.”
“Correct! Not bad for a kid who hasn’t had any legitimate education on the matter! Your Psycho Matter must reveal quite a lot to you. Which is strange—how did you not notice what was occurring?” Monica scratched her head. “Although I actually can’t tell myself. That’s why they designed Chronos here to help me—” She pointed at her weapon. “When these glow, it indicates to me that a link has been established. Usually, it wouldn’t take as long—yet your Ability doesn’t add phantons into it. It would have connected to those, then made it easier to sync up with your emitted ones.”
“Oh? I see—I see…” Alexander stood as if he was unharmed. His gaze fell toward the ground—a snicker escaping his mouth. “Thanks for putting it into words for me. Would have taken a few minutes for my Psycho Matter to come up with all of that. Strange—so strange. Out of every normie Ability I’ve faced, yours may be one of the oddest. So… if I’m to prevent ya from pulling any other crap like that—” He laughed, glaring up at Monica with a twisted grin.
“...I’ll just have to get serious!”
A pink flare shot out from his eyes. Monica raised her blade just in time to block the sudden attack.
However, Chronos shattered to pieces.
“Oh, come on! Did ya honestly think I couldn’t break that toy of yours!?”
Monica leaped back, aiming her hand at Alexander. “Don’t get cocky! I still have the link! I’ll just have to mess you up even more—”
She was interrupted by a sudden pink flash. At first, it did not seem to do anything. Monica decided to ignore it and continued her attack. Yet—she soon realized what had happened.
Monica’s entire right arm had crumbled into dust.
“Wh-Wh-What the—” Monica held the wound with her opposite hand, screaming in pure agony. “What the fuck did you do!?” Her shrieks permeated throughout Prelude—everyone looking on in horror.
“Ale-Alexa… der… Strauss!!” Monica motioned her left hand toward the boy, fully intent on destroying him with the link that had been established.
This was a mistake. Without moving a muscle—for a second time—Alexander erased her arm with a blinding pink flash of light.
“...just… how could you…” Monica could not release her voice anymore. The pain was far too intense for her to handle. Her armless body collapsed onto the ground in front of Alexander.
“Sorry. When ya became a threat, I had to take action. Ya see—this world needs me. Right now… my Psycho Matter is the only thing that can potentially stop that man. Yeah… that very man you look up to. If you honestly thought ya could impress the guy—well—ya very well could.”
Alexander opened his hand, pointing it toward Monica’s unconscious body. Tiny particles of Psycho Matter began to fall out, enveloping her.
“Ya get too close to him—however—something far worse than this would have happened. Something even I couldn’t fix.” He breathed in deeply.
“I’ve always done research into it, but ever since that kid almost crumbled into dust in front of me, I’ve been looking into it non-stop. It’s not the entire body, and it’s nothing vital, so…”
Pink ooze started to pour out of Monica’s wounds. The Psycho Matter began to reshape while growing in size. After a few moments, Alexander had fixed the damage he caused, as new arms had formed where the others had been moments prior.
“Well, shit. It actually worked. Sorry—they’re gonna be pink—but those should function just like normal arms.”
Monica’s brand new fingers twitched as she slowly regained consciousness. Her vision met with her new appendages, shocked at their appearance.
“Oh—and don’t think ya can test those in the lab to find out any secrets of mine. I removed any values relating to the formation of my Psycho Matter. It doesn’t really matter anyway—after all these years…” Alexander smirked. “They haven’t figured out shit.”
As Alexander stood above his defeated opponent, he felt the earth beneath him shake. He turned around to see the source of the impact. There, in the center of the street, Rizzo had appeared.
“Alexander… making a mess, as usual, I see?”
“Shitbag… manipulating others, as usual, I see?”