"Everyone, back!" Aldrich said as he stepped forward while manifesting his [Death Essence Barrier]. He roughly shoved several people behind him, sending them flying back, but better safe than sorry.
Hat Trick smashed his fist into the ground, sending out a shockwave of force that crashed against Aldrich's barrier harmlessly.
Hat Trick's shockwave had not really been meant to harm. It was more like a way to vent his frustration.
The crowd grew silent in fear and confusion as they took nervous, tentative steps backwards.
Even if this was the case that Hat Trick was just unleashing a man child tantrum, Aldrich had to be wary that it could devolve into something dangerous. He could not think of a more dangerous and volatile person than an egotistical hero who had fallen from all the grace and praise they once took for granted.
From what Aldrich knew through publicly available information, Hat Trick's Alter power was categorized under the Augmenter main category, but he had a Trump subcategory that indicated that his powers could traverse across multiple other categories under certain conditions.
In Hat Trick's case, depending on what color his hat was and what trick he performed with it, he obtained different sets of powers.
What these powers exactly were was kept more of a secret, but his marketing team showcased most often his ability to turn his body into lasers and another one where he obtained a completely crystalline, diamond like body.
But even at his base state, Hat Trick had a high enough AC count that his raw physical stats were considerably developed already.
Hat Trick began to laugh. It was a full bellied, extended laugh that continued on and on until he ran out of breath.
"Back," repeated Aldrich with more force, and the crowd all shuffled away, behind Seismic as a second layer of protection.
"A joke. A sick fucking joke," muttered Hat Trick. He finally looked up at Aldrich, his face revealing under his hat. There was no anger there. No frustration. His eyes had tears of laughter welling up within them. "This is what this all is.
All that work, the monster hunting, the plastic surgeries, the hair transplants, the marketing, the movies, the acting, so much fucking acting on set, off set, so much some days I couldn't even tell what was real anymore - all that just to get flipped over by a no name fuckup like you.
It's a joke, isn't it?"
"Hat Trick, if you don't stand down-," snarled Seismic as he stepped forward, but Aldrich raised a hand, stopping Seismic.
Aldrich wanted Hat Trick to break down here. It would give Aldrich even more leverage to work with.
"But you know what I've come to realize?" Hat Trick's smile turned into a cold, emotionless void. "I might like tricks, but I fucking hate jokes."
The rim around Hat Trick's hat glowed blue. The hero then took off his hat in one smooth motion and opened it up towards Aldrich.
The empty space inside the head of the hat glowed bright with energy that fluxed before shooting outwards in a brilliant beam.
'The energy output vested within that attack presents minimal risk,' stated Volantis. Though Volantis spoke to Aldrich, it was more accurate to say his words were mentally transmitted, meaning their meaning reached Aldrich's mind near instantly.
This allowed Aldrich to react to things based off of Volantis's observations even in tense, time sensitive situations.
Aldrich just kept his barrier up. With how high its energy resistance was, Hat Trick's laser would not get through it.
The crowd started to scream in fright and alarm as they witnessed Hat Trick's laser, his so-called Blue Blaster, used against Aldrich.
'Get everyone out of here,' said Aldrich as he put his hand in front of him, watching as the blue laser crashed into his green barrier, absorbing into it without dealing much collateral damage elsewhere.
'I know,' came Seismic's response.
"Everyone, move out! Back to shelter!" said Seismic as he waved the crowd away, standing in front of them with an eye on Hat Trick to make sure he was ready to intercept any attack.
Hat Trick's Blue Blaster faded down, revealing his smoking, blue energy tinted hat. The hero started to hover in the air as he stared down at Aldrich with a smile that could only be described as broken.
"What do you think you're doing?" said Aldrich, his voice terse.
"Oh, me? I probably won't be a hero much longer, will I?" said Hat Trick. "No, that's not true. I'll probably get demoted to writhe with the rest of the B rank maggots that have to wring their hands and beg for their paychecks.
That humble life, to be honest, isn't the life for me.
So why don't I have a little fun first? Before I make my career change? Show my new recruiters that I've got what it takes, eh?"
"You think a tempter tantrum like this is going to impress the Underworld?" said Aldrich.
With his hero career nuked, Hat Trick was planning on becoming either a villain or a mercenary. And he wanted to prove himself to them now, very likely by causing damage or by killing.
Aldrich was a decent judge of people, and he knew within Hat Trick's multi-colored eyes that there was zero morality there, zero sense of consideration for others, only consideration for the self.
There was no doubt in Aldrich's mind that Hat Trick had the capacity to kill with cold blood.
"Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But at the very least, I'll get to feel a lot better bashing in that tin can head of yours," said Hat Trick. "While all of your little friends are out there fighting those disgusting fish freaks."
"Tell me, how much of the fight did you see broadcasted?" said Aldrich. He questioned Hat Trick mostly to buy time. Hat Trick was self-absorbed enough to continuously talk, and that gave Seismic the opportunity to move civilians away while also allowing Aldrich to get his own battle pieces ready. "You should know I'm no easy target."
"The broadcast? Didn't pay much attention, really. Only saw the end of it, when you killed the Locus after everyone did the hard work for you," said Hat Trick. "I have no doubt you're still strong, though, so I won't go easy on you.
And you're still weaker alone, especially with that old geezer busy handling civvies." Hat Trick palmed the crown of his hat in his palm and raised it up in the air like a magician ready to pull a rabbit out of it.
"So, how about it, want to see another trick?"
"Go ahead," said Aldrich.
Hat Trick smiled at Aldrich and put his other gloved hand into the hat to take out a large rose.
"Red," said Hat Trick. The hat's band changed from blue to red, and the rose burned up in flames, crumbling away into nothingness.
Hat Trick's entire body erupted in flames as he put on his hat again. His eyes glowed a fiery orange-red now as he flashed a cocky smile down at Aldrich.
"You have access to multiple powers…an incredibly rare ability. No wonder you were in the A rank," said Aldrich with mock surprise. He already knew Hat Trick had more than one power. He just wanted to keep Hat Trick distracted by playing into his giant sized ego.
"Of course," said Hat Trick. "How else do you think I distinguished myself from the average E, D, C, even B rank rabble?
Do you think I rose through the ranks like some kind of modern era peasant, moving to this city and that, hunting this small fry variant here and there, managing my social media myself, begging for interviews and sponsors?"
"I figured you worked your way up down from the E rank like any normal hero," said Aldrich, now insulting Hat Trick's pride after building it up and goading him into more talk.
Like this, Aldrich constantly psychologically manipulated Hat Trick into talking and talking and talking.
Hat Trick's face distorted into anger, and as he spoke, flames started to crackle and roar upwards all around his body, matching the rising tone of his voice. "No! All of that came to me on its own!
Like moths flocking to a flame, all of that, the fame, the credits, the deals, the women, all of it came to me because I was special! I deserved it all! I killed an A rank variant by myself, and after that, the world loved me! Everyone knew how much I was worth!
But you -," Hat Trick pointed a flaming finger at Aldrich. "You, the newbie that doesn't know a single thing about how this hero game is played, you just had to screw it all up, didn't you? I know what you think.
You think you're doing the right thing here, aren't you? Exposing me?
Think again, idiot. With this, nobody will have your back in this industry again. You've doomed your chances here even before you got started!"
"Alright, time's up. You can stop talking now, puppet," said Aldrich. An edge manifested in his voice, and Hat Trick paused in surprise for a moment at how utterly cold that voice felt.
It did not feel human. Even surrounded by intense flames, Hat Trick felt a chill run through his body.
"Wh-what did you say to me?" said Hat Trick as he put his hands together, starting to generate a ball of flame.
"I said-" Aldrich crossed his arms. "Time's up."
"Yeah, for you-," Hat Trick raised his hands into the air, channeling an ever-growing ball of fire, but before it could grow into anything notable, a bright ball of green and blue light erupted behind him.
The light emerged and faded in an instant, allowing Hat Trick to see what it was.
Hat Trick's eyes instantly widened in fear.
It was the Locus.