“Fine, I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’m not one to turn down free information.” Adam kept himself in a position ready to attack or defend if need be.
“Oh—Smart choice. Now, where do I even begin? There’s a lot I could tell you.”
“Who or what the hell are you? Let’s start with that.” Adam demanded.
“Oh—That would be a great place to start, wouldn’t it.” The being sighed. “I don’t have an official name, or anything I identify myself with, really. Elliot likes to refer to me as ‘The Nexus’—if that helps. Although it’s not all that accurate of a name…”
“Elliot… Rizzo!? You’re—”
“Oh—I figured you would jump right to that. Yes—to be blunt—I’m the reason Elliot has so much power. I’m allowing him to hold the throne, so to speak.”
Adam was astonished. “What…? Are… Are you the reason for everything, then…?”
“Oh—Don’t get it twisted. Elliot has had free will this entire time, with a few exceptions. Please, continue to blame him for the majority of things. It’s quite amusing.”
“Exceptions…? What do you mean?”
“Oh—Probably the biggest one you have to be concerned about is your exile from Prelude. That was my idea. Good job on not following directions, by the way.”
“Wait—You thought that up!? Why!?”
“I was simply curious on what you would do. It was something I thought of on the spot after I saw your… unique power. What a complete novice you are… Although, despite that, you surprised Elliot, a veteran on the battlefield.” The Nexus began to pace around the room, putting its arms behind its back.
“I was surprised myself, to be honest. Didn’t expect my attack to land. Yet… it did.”
“Oh—you weren’t even sure on that? That’s very amusing.” The Nexus stated nonchalantly. “Listen—I’m about to reveal a big secret behind Elliot’s power, and how I’m involved with it.”
“Huh? Why would you do that? Aren’t you working alongside him? Or… Are you using him?”
“Oh—’Using him’ is kind of harsh. But I certainly am not entirely on his side. I do not care for that sort of thing. He was one of the first characters I encountered upon entering this world, and I found him interesting enough.”
“When you entered this world…?”
“Oh—It was around two decades ago. My records indicate you were born on March 20th? It was around June of that year, I believe. The Nexus Network was in this beta stage at that point. They had the framework down, yet couldn’t exactly get things going. Somehow, during the process of making it work, values came together that created my existence.”
While The Nexus was speaking, Adam kept a close eye on it as it walked around the room.
“Let’s just say… Elliot Rizzo is someone you should never feel any sympathy for. Yet, I decided I would gift him the power he desired. I wanted to see how a human of that nature would act. So far, it’s exactly as one would expect.”
“…How much power did you give him—what kind of power did you give him?”
“Oh—When it comes to raw power, for the most part… nothing. He’s as strong as he is on his own. However, being an existence living inside the Nexus Network, I know how phantons operate quite well.” The Nexus pointed at its body. “See—Despite not yet knowing my true origin, I have been able to apply phantons into my body. These veins represent this.”
“Yeah… I can tell that much.”
“Oh—Very good. Anyway, with my knowledge of phantons, how well do you think most Abilities would fare against me?”
“…You weaken them, don’t you? Or make them entirely worthless? Whatever it is, it helps Rizzo leave fights without taking any damage.”
“Bingo—Although Rizzo’s power does, in fact, help him out with defense, I usually don’t allow it to get to that stage.”
“So it’s like what Alexander claims he can do with his Psycho Matter… He scans the Ability, and can nullify it once he understands how it works…”
“Oh—I usually don’t need to worry about analyzing an Ability’s properties. That does remind me… The case where I’ve been unable to nullify an Ability, simply due to it lacking phantonic values. As you can guess, it’s usually when Elliot faces Alexander. Obviously, this process also failed to work against your power…”
The next thing Adam knew, The Nexus had appeared right in front of his face.
“You two interest me. Your powers are foreign, just like my own. You first used your ‘World Mirror’ in Nexus City when you faced that strange creature on the table, correct? I thought something was off. Luckily, I was able to see your Ability once again through Elliot. And, after testing it with that code, it confirmed my suspicions.”
Adam backed away, raising his arms in front of his face. “What are you getting at with all of this?”
“Oh—it’s simple. You want to know the origins of your power, yes? And I want to learn the origin of my power. Want to make a deal with me? You’ll gain access to the entirety of the Nexus Network. I can even grant you access to confidential material. Research would be such a breeze. How about it?”
Adam paused, pondering for a moment. “…First of all, what would I have to do? You clearly wouldn’t give this opportunity away for free?”
“Oh—It’s mostly free, actually. All I ask is you remain doing what you’re doing. You would no longer need to worry about Elliot Rizzo or Unity. They would not interfere with you. I’d assume you’d prefer to take care of that other group that’s after you? I’d love to see how you’d do against them.”
“Hmm… Let me ask you something. Do you control the Brown Suits?”
“Hm? Oh—I’m able to, yes. Do I do it often? Not really. Most of the time, they simply follow Elliot’s orders.”
“…Are you the one that ordered them to kill the manager of Ann’s?”
“Oh—That man? Yes, that was in fact me. It was out of morbid curiosity. You seem to have value in your friends, so I wanted to see how they would act in a situation like that. Emma going berserk like that wasn’t on me, however. It’s in the code Elliot placed in her spine. It allows him to use my power if need be. I allow it for part of our deal—”
“You just like to sit back and see how a lot of things happen, huh!?” The World Mirror erupted from Adam’s body, pushing the large table behind him back with sheer force. Luckily, for Muraco and Jerry, it did not topple over.
“Oh—Getting mad, are we? Isn’t this exactly how it happened with Elliot? You lost your cool—striking him? What do you think will happen this time? Do you want to put yourself in an even worse situation?”
“I don’t care about me… But what you did to him… No… not only that. Giving Rizzo that much power, knowing exactly what he’d do with it!? You’re responsible for everything!”
“Oh—Well I guess I am responsible. Forgive me—it must have slipped my mind, seeing as though I do not care.”
Adam was baffled. “W-What…?”
“Oh—Trust me, you humans are quite interesting. However, I’m just here to complete my objective of figuring out what I am. What happens as a result of that…” The Nexus shrugged. “It’s none of my concern.”
Adam began to chuckle. “Yeah… You know what? There’s no way I’d agree to any deal of yours. Besides—” He raised his fist, building up an incredible amount of energy within it.
“If I take you down, there will be nothing to keep Rizzo’s rule safe, and we can put an end to all of this bullshit!”
Adam leaped forward, aiming directly at The Nexus’ head.
The fist that should have collided with the being vanished, along with his entire arm.
An invisible force held Adam in the air, causing him to be unable to move. He was completely defenseless.
“Oh—Incredible power. With your current level of control, it would have probably vaporized your arm still, but would have been enough to destroy this projection.”
“Oh—Yes, I’m using Emma over there to manifest myself temporarily so I could speak with you. Anyway, as of right now, what do you think?”
“W… What do you mean…?”
“What just occurred. Your arm didn’t turn to ash due to your sloppy treatment. I handled it myself. And, what exactly is holding you up right now?”
“Don’t try to figure it out with words alone. This level of power I’m using can’t be described with any language your world can use. It’s beyond what you can currently comprehend. Yet… How you were handling that chaonic entity’s power… Adam, you definitely have the oepattnloio.”
“Potential…?” Adam felt pain surging through his head hearing that word.
“Oh—What’s this? You understood that? Remarkable… To be fair, I set those values pretty close to your own language, yet you’ve crossed the border already…”
With a flick of its hand, The Nexus threw Adam onto the ground, freeing him from its grasp.
“I really can’t let anything happen to you, can I? From what I’ve gathered, you care deeply for your friends? Even to the point where you would defy an order to be by their side? Very well, Adam Grayson. How about we meet halfway?”
“What… do you mean— gah!” Adam leaned over in agony, keeping himself from planting his face on the floor using his left arm to hold himself up.
“Oh—The human body is so fragile. You’ll have to work on protecting it. Anyway, what I mean is… I’ll let you be able to rejoin your friends, officially. Yes, even the ones in Unity.”
Adam glared upward. “I thought I told you—”
“Oh—Allow me to correct my rash decision. I tried to force you to be alone, yet it did not work. With the help from the Ouderkirk girl and that strange creature, you accomplished breaking through that barrier set up in Minuet to conceal that little girl’s corpse. And you grew from their assistance.”
“Of course… I did. I would have never gotten down there without their help. At least, not safely…”
“Oh—Safety, yes! You’re much safer with help. I don’t want anything to happen to you, so I will definitely allow this change! Do not fear, Elliot will not get in the way of this.”
“What the hell…” Adam shook his head in disbelief. “This whole situation is one big mess…”
“Oh—Forgive me for that. I’m trying my best to adapt to the situation as it develops. Despite all the logical knowledge I may have, human emotions are something I struggle to understand. I try to use what intel I gather from the phantons in the network, but…”
“Heh… You hold a lot of power, almost like a god. But, you’re far too flawed to be something like that.”
“Oh—A god? I’m not sure I would want to be something like that.”
Before Adam continued to speak, he was interrupted by the blood that gushed out of his mouth.
“Oh—You’ll probably pass out in a few moments. It saddens me, but it looks like this chat will continue another time. I’ll do as I said, involving your friends. Seeing as though you don’t want to work with me, trust is certainly an issue. Therefore, I doubt you’d want my help with research even if I did offer it.”
“You’re… goddamn right about that… We’ll figure out things our own way…!” Adam’s vision began to blur.
“And I respect that decision. Before we wrap this up, let me give you two warnings—” The Nexus raised its finger. “First, even if I get Elliot off your trail, that doesn’t mean Unity has changed. If you want to correct what he has done, then by all means. Just keep your friends in mind.”
“You… won’t protect them, I see. From everything you’ve said so far… it makes sense that you would only care for me.”
“Oh—I’d like them to last as long as they can to help you, but you’re correct.” The Nexus slowly raised a second finger. “Now… for the other warning, and the most important thing I’ll say—stay conscious for this…”
Adam could barely focus on the being in front of him, now looking like a gigantic blob of green in his eyes. Yet, he kept his ears open.
“This situation isn’t the only mess… This entire world is a mess. The very makeup of it is all thrown off.”
Adam reached his limit. His vision darkened as he fell onto the ground. The Nexus chuckled, getting one final message across.
“If you want this world to become magical, make things work the way they’re supposed to.”
Next: Chapter 2.22
Previous: Chapter 2.20