Chapter 65 – Keys’ Frustration

Chapter 65 – Keys’ Frustration

“What the fuck is goin’ on, here?!”

“Ugh…” Pierce groaned in reply to Davídrius’s demand. “…What’s it look like?”

“That ain’t an answer,” Davídrius retorted as he glared at Pierce. He then stepped to the side, allowing him to easily glance between Pierce and Austin, who was still sitting on the ground. “I know what I saw. I ain’t askin’ about that. I’m askin’ what the fuck y’all think you’re doin’ here.”

“Ngh…” Austin grunted in pain, his face scrounged up and his right hand clutching at his stomach as he stumbled to his feet. “We were just… ow, fuck…” He then turned toward Pierce. “What the fuck, man? Why’d you hit me so hard?!”

“Hard?” Pierce echoed incredulously as he returned the look. “The hell are you talking about? Don’t be a baby, your Simulator powers would’ve—“

Stop ignorin’ the damn question!” Davídrius interjected, drawing Pierce and Austin’s attention back to himself. “If y’all don’t answer me, then there’ll be hell to pay when we’re back in Treséd!”

“There’s gonna be hell to pay no matter what we say…” Austin muttered under his breath.

“We were just settling, once and for all, which of us is the best,” Pierce declared. “And given how things were looking there, I think it’s clear that I—

“Am a fucking idiot,” Davídrius cut in. “There’s a fucking reason we don’t let first-year Chaotics duel each other. Y’all ain’t got the knowledge, the experience, or the grasp of your own powers to safely do this shit!”

“What? Bullshit! I know my powers just fine! Superspeed is piss-easy to understand.”

“And that’s what makes it dangerous. Take it from me, as a Velocitechnic. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your speed, thinkin’ that nothin’ can hurt you, but that ain’t true in the slightest.” Davídrius sighed and began massaging his temples before looking toward Austin. “…That ain’t even the start of what y’all got wrong, anyways.”

Pierce crossed his arms, an impatient frown upon his face. “So now you’re going to lecture us, huh?”

“Normally, I’d do even worse, but y’all ain’t regular students,” Davídrius shot back. “Do y’all understand what the hell you’ve done, here? Startin’ a fight on a different planet, and in a protected area, too! People’ve been thrown in jail for less!”

“But no one was around,” Austin countered.

“No one around my fuckin’ ass,” Davídrius retorted. “There’s always someone around when you don’t expect it.”

“Is this what you’re concerned about? Us getting arrested?” Pierce snorted derisively. “Fuck off. We can look out for ourselves. As if SERRCom would let us get arrested, anyways.”

“I don’t think I’d count on that, actually.”

“Huh?” Austin and Pierce both looked to the left, where Mark and Luke now approached through the trees. “Luke?!” Austin exclaimed in disbelief, “what’re you doin’ here?”

“How the hell did you guys even find us?” Pierce questioned.

“A combination of luck, and your friends knowing you too well,” Luke replied as he and Mark stopped across from Davídrius. “Austin, Pierce, the two of you haven’t exactly been subtle about antagonizing each other.”

“Wha-what?!” Austin stared at Luke incredulously. “I didn’t even do anything! Pierce is the one who’s been bullying me!”

“I haven’t been bullying anyone, just putting a loser in his place,” Pierce shot back.

“We can discuss the details of this later,” Luke interjected. “Look, as soon as we realized that the two of you were the only ones not at the talent show, Twy and Phoenix put two and two together and suggested this might happen. Twy was even able to sense the two of you leaving the hotel together. Doesn’t take a genius to figure things out from there.”

“Twy could sense us? What?” Austin questioned in confusion.

“The special abilities of your friends ain’t the focus, here,” Davídrius declared.

“Ah, you’re just mad that our designated worry-wort got you involved in our own problems, aren’t you—?” Pierce remarked with a taunting smile, only to suddenly stagger backwards when met by Davídrius’s foul glare. In the waning twilight, the Dean’s flared nostrils and deeply furrowed brow were accentuated by dim golden lighting and sharp shadows; for the briefest of moments, Pierce thought that the Dean had been replaced by a furious monster.

“…Now, you listen here, you ungrateful shit,” Davídrius started, his voice low as he glared directly at Pierce, maintaining eye-contact with such fierce steadfastness that Pierce could feel the hairs on the back of his neck beginning to rise. “I didn’t ask to teach a bunch of fuckin’ ungrateful outsiders,” the Dean growled. “This task was forced on me by the other Deans, and I decided to go through with it ‘cause I trust ‘em. If it’d been totally up to me, y’all sure as shit wouldn’t be here.” Davídrius paused for a second, and then added, “…but you knew that, didn’t you? You’re just tryin’ to get a rise outta me, ain’t you?”

“Well…” Pierce started, forcing himself to keep smiling to mask his unease. “That’s…”

“Don’t think I ain’t heard it before. I’ve dealt with hundreds of threats in my life more challenging than a petulant kid.” Davídrius finally tore his attention away from Pierce to glance between him and Austin. “But that don’t change the fact that I’m still responsible for y’all, as much as I’d rather not be. And that means that anything y’all does reflects on me. Which means that I won’t stand for the fuckin’ death-seekin’ idiocy on display, here.”

“Death-seeking?!” Austin echoed incredulously.

Pierce snorted. “So you want to protect your reputation, is that it?”

“…You really don’t get it, do you?” Davídrius hung his head as he released a lofty sigh. He then looked up at the darkening skies above, his lips pursed as he seemed to process his own thoughts; in the silence, only the soft rustling of the nearby leaves could be heard.

…Ahem… Mark cleared his throat, making his unease manifest as he looked between Austin and Pierce. Well, uh… let’s all start going back, how about that?

“I ain’t done here yet,” Davídrius snapped. “We ain’t leavin’ until these idiots learn just what they did wrong, here.”

“Wha-what? B-but Pierce was the one who—!” Austin started, only to be interrupted.

“Don’t try to pin this on me, dweeb,” Pierce countered. “You’re the one who first said you could beat me in a fight, and you’re the one who decided not to back down from the challenge.”

“Isn’t that backwards?!”

“Austin,” Luke spoke curtly, drawing the attention of his nephew. “…I know this is frustrating, for you. But the fact of the matter is that you’re here, too. You could’ve said ‘no’ at any point and just stayed out of a duel. But you didn’t, so in the end, you and Pierce both are at fault.”

Austin drew back, a mixture of surprise and anger running across his face as he attempted to find the words to reply to his uncle. Before he could, however, Luke turned toward Davídrius and nodded.

“We’ll wait for you, Dean,” Luke commented. “You got the floor.”

“Nice to know some Earthians get it,” Davídrius grumbled. “Now if only you could teach your own these lessons…”

Luke adopted a sheepish smile as his shoulders raised into a shrug. “Sorry, Dean. You know a lot more about bein’ a Chaotic than any of us do, anyways. That’s the whole reason we’re here.”

“Don’t fuckin’ remind me…” Davídrius muttered, and then sighed again. A second later he gestured for Austin and Pierce to step closer, which they both reluctantly did. “…Now,” the Dean eventually began, “let’s talk about the real reason that y’all fucked up, here, which is that y’all don’t understand your own abilities — or each other’s abilities — nearly as well as you think you do.”

“What’s so hard to understand about superspeed?” Pierce questioned incredulously.

“My powers are a little more complicated, sure, but I still get them, I think,” Austin added.

“Ugh…” The Dean shook his head and sighed, and then glanced over at Austin. “Just a second ago, you were complainin’ about how hard Pierce hit you. Explain.”

“Huh…?” Austin stared cluelessly at Davídrius for a second, before glancing over at Pierce, who simply passed him a snide smirk. “…Tch… well…” Austin then turned back to Davídrius as he explained, “the fight started fine. At first, when he hit me, it just stung a little, but I could take it. Then, after he used his Overdrive—“

“He WHAT?!” Davídrius exploded, and then whipped around to glare furiously at Pierce. “You used your fucking Overdrive? For a damned duel?!

“The fuck was I supposed to do, not go all-out?” Pierce countered.

“Yes! That is exactly what you’re supposed to do! Are you trying to fucking kill Austin? How much practice have you even had with your Overdrive, huh?!”

“C’mon, I’ve used it before. Besides, you said that Speed Break was just a simple speed boost, right? What’s so bad about using it in a duel?”

“This is exactly what I was talkin’ about when I said y’all don’t understand your abilities,” Davídrius declared, looking between Austin and Pierce. “Simulator Psychotechnics can only copy the baseline abilities of nearby people. They can’t copy power boosts granted by Overdrives, or the Chaos State.”

“…Oh,” Pierce muttered, unease washing across his face.

“That would explain why you were suddenly hitting so hard…” Austin grumbled. “And why I couldn’t track you, anymore…”

“Heh. You should’ve expected to lose a contest of speed, dweeb.”

“Now is not the time for that fuckin’ attitude,” Davídrius snapped, “especially not after you almost fuckin’ killed Austin!”

“What…?” Austin and Pierce responded in unison, passing each other confused stares before looking back at Davídrius.

“You— you were serious about that? But I… I didn’t ‘almost kill’ anyone,” Pierce refuted, his face contorting into a bitter scowl. “The hell are you even talking about?”

“And this is the lack of restraint that beginner Chaotics are known for…” Davídrius shook his head. “I know y’all figured out that part of bein’ a Velocitechnic means that you can take hits that would kill any normal person, and I know y’all figured out that Simulator Psychotechnism can copy that.”

“Yeah, otherwise I’d be dead,” Austin said.

“Right. But that copied durability only lasts as long as Pierce here is within your simulation range.”


“Do you know what your simulation range is?

“Uh…” Austin trailed off, and then looked down at the ground in thought. “Um… a few meters, I think…?”

“The fact that you don’t know is a big fuckin’ problem,” Davídrius declared. “Admittedly, that’s one of the first things we should’ve figured out for you, so part of that’s on me… but it doesn’t change the overall point.”

“Which is?” Pierce pressed.

Davídrius looked over at Pierce. “When you kick Austin, he can survive the blow because he’s copyin’ your durability. He doesn’t even have to think about it to make it happen, which is part of what makes Simulators powerful. But what happens after the kick, huh? Now that Austin is sailing through the air at Mach 2, and you’re no longer in his simulation range. What happens?”

“He’d lose the increased durability that he got from me,” Pierce answered.

Davídrius nodded. “Right. But he’s still goin’ Mach 2, ‘cause nothin’s stopped him yet. So what happens when he does stop? Say he hits a tree, or the ground. What happens?”

“Hitting a tree at Mach 2? I’d… die…” Austin muttered, and then clutched at his chest again as he felt his stomach churn. “Fuck… I almost died?!”

“That’s… no. There’s no way that was gonna happen,” Pierce insisted. “I— I was practically on top of him the whole fight. He wouldn’t’ve died!”

“He absolutely would have if I hadn’t shown up right before he hit the ground,” Davídrius countered. “I saw that last blow. You spiked him to the ground from a dozen meters up. I ain’t ever heard of a Simulator havin’ a simulation range longer than ten meters or so, and you sure as shit ain’t fallin’ fast enough to keep up with him. I know too well just how hard a Velocitechnic can spike an opponent like you just did. And ain’t no way a Chaotic like Austin is gonna survive hittin’ the ground at supersonic speeds.”

“What…!” Pierce scowled, reflexively clutching the side of his torso as he glared at Davídrius. “No… that’s… what?”

“You realize your fuckup now?” Davídrius questioned, his arms crossed as he slowly glanced between Pierce and Austin. “A duel between Chaotics can easily turn deadly, even between experienced Chaotics who know what they’re doin’. All it takes is one mis-step, just one person gettin’ too into it for just one moment.” He then sighed. “Maybe it’s a good thing that y’all could learn this now… but I better not hear about any more impromptu fuckin’ duels from y’all, you understand me?”

“…Like we could’ve known any of that!” Pierce retorted. “How the hell were we supposed to know the stakes were that high if no one even told us about how dangerous a fight could be, huh?”

“Do you seriously want me to fuckin’ spoon-feed you everything?!” Davídrius shot back, “I would’ve thought someone like you could pick up on that shit after gettin’ involved in multiple Chaotic fights. For someone who talks shit so much, though, you sure are slow to the take, huh?”

“I— that’s ridiculous. Besides, your whole point about how Austin could’ve— about how this duel could’ve ended was based on his deficiencies, not mine!”

“Wait, what?!” Austin exclaimed incredulously, “how’re you tryin’ to pin the blame on me for this?!”

“If you actually had your head in the game the whole time, then you shouldn’t’ve had any issue keeping up with me,” Pierce argued.

“What?! You’re the one who pulled an Overdrive out of his ass just to out-speed me and make sure that couldn’t happen!”

“Don’t think you can weasel your way out of this,” Davídrius growled as he glared at Pierce. “Austin needs improvement, too, but you’re the one who almost killed him!”

“And if he had just accepted his loss earlier, then we wouldn’t have gotten to that point!” Pierce snapped back.

“You…!” Austin’s lips curled as he glared at Pierce, his hand still clutching at his stomach. “…You fucking push me into this goddamn duel, and then you almost fucking kill me, and you can’t even take goddamn responsibility for that? Are you fucking kidding me?!”

“…I think you’re both just in shock, at the moment,” Luke interjected, taking a step toward Austin with his hand outstretched. “We still need to talk this out, but not while emotions are running this hot—“

“No!” Austin snapped, momentarily turning his glare toward Luke, who stopped in his tracks in surprise. “I can’t… I can’t just let this sit,” Austin growled, turning back toward Pierce and pointing an accusatory finger toward him. “I didn’t ask for any of this shit! Getting these powers, gettin’ sucked up by SERRCom, and then dumped on an alien planet with a bunch of people who don’t even want me around? You think I wanted any of this, that I signed up for this? And now you get all up in my fucking face, with the bullying, and the taunting, and thinkin’ that you’re so much better than I am… but you’re in exactly the same situation as me, you arrogant bastard!”

“What’re you—?!” Pierce began to reply, but was cut off as Davídrius stepped up and held out an arm in front of him.

“Austin…” the Dean muttered, his tone low as he turned to face the Simulator Psychotechnic full-on. “I get where you’re comin’ from, but I need you to take a few deep breaths, a’ight?”

“I’ll take those breaths when I’m done,” Austin countered, shifting his gaze to Davídrius. “Why the hell should I listen to you, anyways? You clearly don’t like us, you don’t want us here. So why are you lecturing us in the first place? Why’d you even bring us along? Hell, why the fuck didn’t you just say ‘no’ to Pallan? Then you wouldn’t have to deal with us, we wouldn’t have to deal with you, and we wouldn’t be stuck in some crapsack shithole desert town!”

“You—!” Davídrius started, only to stop himself and clench his teeth. “…Shit,” he muttered under his breath, and then passed Pierce a furtive glance. “Back up. Now.”

“What…?” Pierce questioned uneasily, but the tension in Davídrius’s words and stance suppressed Pierce’s urge to talk back. Instead, he slowly began stepping back as a familiar sensation of anxiety washed over him. I don’t know what’s going on, or why the dweeb is breaking now, but something about this feels familiar… why? What’s happening—?

“Oh, so now you’re fucking running, huh?!” Austin snapped, his attention back to Pierce, while he remained clutching his stomach — but it seemed as though his fingers had curled with tension, and were digging into his shirt and skin. “You talk fucking shit, but when shit doesn’t go your way, you just point fingers at everyone else, huh?! Well I’ve had e-fucking-nough of this! I didn’t want— I don’t—! Urgh… you…!” Austin doubled over, his face scrounged up in discomfort. “Agh…! Rgh…!!!”

Austin? What’s wrong?! Mark questioned, beginning to approach the distressed Chaotic as he doubled over and fell to all fours. Hey—!

“Get back!” Davídrius shouted, just as a faint blue tinge appeared over Austin’s hands. “Damn it all, get away from him!!”

What—?! Mark started, only to be interrupted as a blast of energy emerged from Austin’s position, carving a chunk out of a nearby tree and staggering Mark onto his back foot. Before he had even the chance to recover, a loud, bestial snarl echoed through the underbrush, drawing everyone’s attention to Austin — or at least, where he had been a moment earlier. In his place appeared the dark blue silhouette of a humanoid beast, hunched on all fours, with its head angled up toward Pierce.

“That’s…!” Pierce froze in place, eyes wide as he beheld the snarling sight before him. A sharp throb ripped through his torso, nearly forcing him to his knees if not for Davídrius grabbing him and leaping into the forest beyond. “Wait, what’s happening?!”

“One of the worst things that could happen right now,” Davídrius answered with a scowl. “Austin’s gone berserk!”