Chapter 236 - Megaloptera 3
Aldrich flicked his hands like he was done washing them, slinging off chunks of mashed up carapace and yellow, gooey insect guts. Around him were the corpses of the megaloptera nymphs, thoroughly put down with fist sized holes in their heads and abdomen.
Aldrich's spiritweave suit was stained with insect guts, but by just summoning a bit of his magical energy, he could get the clothing to self-clean itself, getting rid of any nasty stains or smells.
In the distance, the fight continued to rage on with the megaloptera. Stella kept bombarding it from above while Ace covered her, acting a flying shield to protect her from any spines. All the while, the megaloptera faced a slow death with Tox burying herself deep inside.
Aldrich noted that Tox's mindset completely shifted when she fought. It was something he had observed back in Blackwater as well. Normally, she was loud, expressive, skittish, and picky about what to do or what to eat. But when she got into a fight, all of that washed away, leaving behind a trained killer's core.
Tox exhibited signs of thorough mental conditioning. From Aldrich's research, he knew she had been kidnapped by Scavengers - villains that snapped up orphans from variant ruined battlefields to assess them for combat potential - when she was just five or six.
Even though most Alter organs remained dormant until age ten, it was still possible to roughly measure how strong Alter children could get by analyzing the organ's potential to house Alter cells and process them.
When Tox bloomed her power as an Elemental Augmenter - one of the rarest and best power categories - she was sent to Ember, a powerful mercenary organization that comprised one of the Dark Six.
Ember was known for indoctrinating its mercenaries from a young age with conditioning techniques that were not known even to others in the criminal underworld. What was known was that once a child came out of Ember, they came out trained, ruthless, and deadly.
Ember agents were valued as top tier prizes in the criminal underworld, fetching hundreds of thousands of credits minimum for even the most minor of jobs.
From what Aldrich knew, Tox was specialized for battlefield combat. In particular, she was feared for her expertise in invading other's bodies and melting them from the inside with expert efficiency, abusing her liquid form to its maximum capability.
Aldrich figured this fight was over at this point with Tox inside the megaloptera already.
But as he thought that, the megaloptera unleashed one more struggle.
The giant creature began to flap its wings rapidly. The wings glowed bright red and orange, generating intense amounts of heat and steam.
The rapidfire movement of the huge wings pushed the heat outwards like a hurricane of scorching winds, blowing everything around it back.
The heat waves were so intensely hot that they melted the rock around the megaloptera like it was butter.
Stella and Ace both flew backwards, getting out of the range of the fiery winds.
"Now that's something," said Aldrich. He watched as the heat waves circled around the megaloptera with extreme speed, forming into a howling angry orange tornado of crushing winds, melting heat, and scorching steam.
"Ain't it?" Clint landed beside Aldrich, driving up a small crater with the impact. He looked around at the beaten nymph corpses and whistled. "Hot damn! You're no slouch either. Makin' me respect ya even more!"
Aldrich narrowed his eyes in focus, ignoring Clint. He wondered how Tox was doing inside the megaloptera. The temperatures around and within the variant must have started to get dangerously high, easily enough to harm her.
Ace evidently thought the same thing. .
"I'm going down for her!" said Ace. Tox was one of his closer friends in Blackwater. He was not going to let her die again.
"That tornado's gonna be a real bitch to fly through!" shouted Stella, trying to yell over the howling winds. "Want me to blast a way in!?"
"…No! I got it!" Ace flew around the tornado, towards the side where the megaloptera's wing was torn damaged, severed in half. The winds there were weaker, causing the fiery tornado to look lopsided.
Ace braced himself and rushed in at super speeds. Flying into the tornado felt like he was getting swept up by a powerful current, but he grit his teeth and pushed through it. He did not know why, but he had an instinctive feeling that ever since he had come back from the dead, fire and heat would hurt him badly.
Ace could use his barrier to avoid the damage entirely, but he knew if the fiery winds got a gold of his skin directly, he would burst into flames.
Which also meant that Tox, already someone susceptible to fire, might be suffering particularly badly.
Knowing this, Ace redoubled his efforts to push through. Once he broke into the tornado's eye, the winds stopped.
However, Ace noted that the atmosphere within turned into a vacuum. Not that he needed to breath anymore. The biggest issue was it was still intensely hot here, the ground turning in a bath of liquid rock the megaloptera lay upon.
Too hot for Tox to survive.
Ace flew down to the hole Tox had gouged out. He went into it but the deeper he traveled, the narrower the opening became. Most likely because Tox had probably shrunk herself, compacting her corrosiveness so that she could melt through the variant faster.
The space became so cramped that Ace had to eventually end up punching his way through, but the insides of the damned bug were almost just as tough as its outside.
Ace was strong, but he was not the strongest. He could not easily rip a variant of this size and strength apart easily. His punches blasted off chunks of flesh, but the variant, like many of its strength, had a decent healing factor that worked even through Tox's poison, hampering his progress.
He grimaced. He was still weak.
Weaker than Seth Solar.
'You're just a copy of me. An inferior one.' Seth Solar's words after Ace had suffered a decisive defeat and broken arm against the golden child.
'If you are weak, you are a failure.' Words rung in Ace's head from his time in the labs.