"…" Seismic grimaced as he watched the explosion from below, a sphere of such radiant orange that it looked like a miniature sun, bloom outwards, engulfing everything in its hungry approach. He could instinctively sense that the explosion, despite having a large area of effect, was not nearly as devastating as the initial heat strands that the Locus threw out to start this explosion.
Those strands seemed absolutely devastating. Seismic's instinct had always been strong, almost beast like in their perceptiveness to the point where they could be considered a power on their own, and he could feel strongly that even touching those strands would lead to instant death, even for him.
Seismic were sure that the armored man had dodged, even if Seismic had not been able to tell exactly had happened from how blindingly bright this attack was. It seemed almost impossible that that man could have been taken by surprise from this, but then again, Seismic had seen heroes both veterans and rising stars taken out by one single mistake before.
Because unlike the moves and comics and telescreen shows, often times, that was all it took to take someone down. One single mistake. Didn't matter how many fans you had. Only meant you had more people to mourn your loss for a week before moving onto the next shiny hero to fawn over.
"Tch. So that's how it is," muttered Seismic as he shook his head.
Almost as soon as the enormous orange explosion had bloomed outwards, it sunk back in, collapsing upon itself and drawing in a loud surge of wind with it. Standing alone among a sea of molten, bubbling rock, was the Locus.
The Locus's normally brilliant rainbow shell was now completely white, and its eyes shone a dark black.
The armored man was nowhere to be found. The shield bearing woman was gone, too.
Seismic could not be sure that man had died just yet. All of his controlled corpses seemed to still be operating. Or perhaps his control extended after death. There were plenty of Alter powers that could do that.
But whether or not that man was alive or dead, what mattered now was that the Locus was still standing, and it was standing alone, unattended. It could escape now if it wished to.
Seismic clenched his fists, the veins in his arms bulging as he put strength into them. He would not let that happen.
"Kindred…that was disappointing. Was that all it took to take you down?" said the Voice as it piloted the Locus's body. Although it did speak, its voice could only be heard by the Kindred, though it did not know where the Kindred was.
The Voice stared out ahead, looking out across a swathe of scorched, smoking earth as it tried to locate the Kindred it sought to destroy.
When it could not find him, the Voice stared down at its shelled hands, its antennae twitching. "Kindred are hidden from my life sense, but surely, this cannot be it." The Voice closed its hands and opened them again, as if testing out the feeling of its body. "But this child of mine is strong, there is no doubt about it.
Perhaps he was too strong for you, as a neonate Kindred yet to develop your strength. It is a good thing I culled you here, before you grew stronger."
The Voice's antennae twitched then, and it stepped backwards in an instant as Seismic landed in front of it with a diving kick, splashing away all the molten rock.
"Another one…," said the Voice, and this time, its words were audible to all. It stared at Seismic's muscular body, at the aura of power that emanated from the man's steely grey eyes. "But evolution has treated you well. Your essence will be worth harvesting."
Seismic did not respond and rushed forward with a punch encapsulated in a large sphere of white energy. He was not holding back. He was aiming for the kill here, as the contingency meant to take this monster down.
In response, the Voice cocked back its fist, locked it in fully, and met Seismic's fist in a direct clash.
When the two fists, one of flesh and bone, one of shell, clashed together, it was as if a high yield bomb had been detonated between the two mighty entities. The ground in a huge area around them instantly shattered, blowing apart like tiles on a roof peeling off from a hurricane. The earth rumbled as Seismic's quakes rocked through the Voice's new body.
Seismic grit his teeth and roared as he maximized the output of power in his quake punch. The sphere around his fist was still stable. He did not want to shatter it yet because if he did, the seismic waves contained in it would fan out, losing focus.
And he needed focus right now. The powerful energy wave that usually came from the Locus's full power punch did not stream outwards and wash over Seismic. Instead, its flow was split down the middle and directed around Seismic through the quake sphere.
With the ocean wave pattern of the blue energy wave, it looked like Seismic was literally parting the sea. The twin streams of energy crashed behind Seismic, obliterating everything it hit with thunderous rumbles.
But so long as Seismic kept his quake bubble intact, he could use it as a sort of barrier to split the energy wave. On top of this, the longer the Locus kept its fist in contact with Seismic's, the longer it felt shockwaves running internally through its entire body, ravaging it from the inside out.
It was hard for anyone to trade melee blows with Seismic because even if you guarded his attacks, the shockwaves still permeated through. No, it was almost impossible for anyone to beat Seismic in a straight up brawl because of this reason unless there was a way to avoid the internal damage.
But the Locus was not avoiding the damage.
All throughout its body, Locus's shell cracked and spurted blood again and again, but with every injury, began to regenerate, white particles emerging from the ground and patching up any damage almost as soon as it happened.
Antaeic Factor. Much stronger than before, too. Capable of healing near fatal internal injuries in moments.
And in the middle of a fight, no less.
The healing factor was strong enough to keep the Locus continually pushing against Seismic's fist despite the life-threatening injuries it suffered to its internal organs over and over again.
There was zero doubt about this now. This Locus beforehand was an A ranked Disaster. But now it was S ranked.
And as the Locus continued to stand, continued to push against Seismic, Seismic's quake bubble grew smaller and smaller, losing its energy over time.
In an extended clash of pure power like this, Seismic was at a disadvantage. His power lasted in short bursts, now more than ever due to the effects of age and Crystallization.
Seismic buckled down to one knee as his quake sphere reached half its size. And as the quake sphere shrank, so did its damage reducing capabilities.
He felt the bones in his knuckles shatter. His forearm bone splintered.
But he kept struggling, because by now, there was nothing left but to struggle.
He could have left at any time this night.
Ran to see his son again. Ran to enjoy his credits for another day like Hat Trick had done.
But that was not his way now.
He never thought he was the type to champion heroic ideals. He still did not think that. He did not care about having a 'heroic' image, and most of the public still remembered him as a menace who destroyed more than he saved.
He had no idea how the golden age heroes juggled so many ideas of morality and good and perseverance and selflessness without breaking under the weight of it all.
Eventually, though, he came to the realization: they did not.
They were all human at heart, and nobody was perfect enough to handle all of that all the time. No, what they did was keep things simple.
Once you commit, you go all in. Never back down. Never back out. Shut everything else out. And it gets easy to fight.
Those were not Seismic's words. They were Vanguard's. But they were the words that resonated with him. And following those words were enough to be a 'hero' most of the time.
So he did not back down now.
Just as Seismic thought this, as if to mock him, his Crystallization flared. He felt the organ at the base of his spine spike in pain as black crystal protrusions grew outwards from his Alter Organ, ripping visibly through his flesh.
His quake bubble began to crack, unable to sustain itself at full power for this long.
"You have fought enough. Cease your struggles," said the Voice. "And return your essence to the Primordial Womb."
'That's right.' Seismic's eyes widened as he heard that man's voice ring through his head. 'You have done enough. So take a break and rest that back before it breaks. Take that hit and let it carry you.
Any injures you get, I can heal.
I'm going to end this now.'