“What—!? Shit—! Chaos Armor!” Kievkenalis quickly called, bracing himself for an inevitable follow-up to the Drakkar’s attack. Not even half a second had passed before he was blown back by a massive force, knocking him into the wall behind him. He slowly slid down to the ground, disoriented, until he shook his head and jumped back to his feet. He quickly surveyed his surroundings until laying eyes on Christeané, who stood still as a statue, his posture one of defensive apprehension.
…Time really did freeze… Kievkenalis thought to himself, I knew that Surdeus could do this, but to actually see it with my own two eyes… wait a minute, if Christeané’s frozen, then why aren’t I—?
His thoughts were interrupted as he suffered another blow, this time from the side. Sent tumbling violently, Kievkenalis was unable to prevent himself from smashing into a pile of debris, protected only by the shroud of Chaos Energy Armor surrounding his body.
Kievkenalis glanced up at Surdeus uneasily. The Drakkar’s words seemed to run together, as if he were speaking so quickly that the spaces and pauses were simply omitted. He then quickly approached Kievkenalis, though his motions didn’t look like a full-out run — they appeared more like a leisurely walk that had been sped up, as though it were a video on fast-forward.
That’s it… somehow, I’m experiencing a slower rate of time than Surdeus?
((Ohhowthetideshaveturnedhmm?)) the Drakkar taunted as he reached through Kievkenalis’s Energy Armor, grabbed the underlying physical armor, and hoisted him into the air. ((Youthoughtyoucouldscareme?Youthoughtyoucouldgoadmeintoleavingyoualonebytauntingme?Howridiculouslynaive!))
“Ngh…”Kievkenalis had a difficult time parsing Surdeus’s sped-up speech, but he was nonetheless able to tell that the Drakkar was gloating. Need… to stop him… “Chaos Neg—agh—!”
Surdeus slammed Kievkenalis into the ground mid-word, shocking him into silence. The faction leader then stooped down to glare at the Chaostechnic, his eyes glinting. ((Youcannotcontroltime.ThatabilitybelongstoChaosConduitsalone!Itbelongstomealone!ThefactthatyoucanstillmovealbeitslowerisindeedimpressivebutIamsureitissimplyprotectionontheAyas’sbehalf.Allowmetotakeitoffofyou!))
“Wha—!? No!” Kievkenalis scowled as Surdeus grasped the Ayas Arcán and yanked it out of his hands faster than he could react. The Chaostechnic quickly jumped back to his feet and stumbled away from Surdeus, keen to put some distance between himself and the Drakkar.
((Youcanstillmove.)) Surdeus’s eyes narrowed. ((SoitisnotprotectionbytheAyas?Perhapsthereistrulyuntappedpotentialinyouyet.Itissuchashamethatyouwillneverlivetoseeit!))
“Chaos Def—uagh!” Kievkenalis attempted to call out, but was cut short as Surdeus bicycle-kicked him, knocking him backward and into the air. The Drakkar then jumped after him, raising both of his arms such that his elbow spikes pointed downward and then jammed them into Kievkenalis, piercing and dispersing the Chaos Energy shroud and shutting down the shielding of the underlying Chaos Armor while simultaneously slamming the Chaostechnic down into a debris pile. Kievkenalis slowly and painfully began to dig himself out of the debris as Surdeus landed on the ground a couple meters from the pile, his arms crossed and chin raised in arrogance.
Damn it… Kievkenalis grimaced as pain shot through his entire body and distracted him from the Drakkar’s continued boasting. He’s too fast, I need to get away from him somehow so I can use Negation… but the moment I try to call an attack, he’s on top of me! He glanced up at Surdeus, who continued to monologue but appeared to be wrapping up. He’s not even using any Chaos Attacks or trying to steal my Ciei, so he’s still toying with me! I need to wrap this up before he gets bored, but… damn it, what to do, what to do…
((…soIshallnowshowyouthefutilityofvictoryagainsttheDrakkars!)) Surdeus shouted, crouching and then lunging forward with both palms outstretched. Realizing that the Drakkar now seemed more serious than he had before, Kievkenalis quickly spun out of the way, barely managing to evade Surdeus’s incoming palms. He sprinted away, turning on his heel after a couple seconds just in time to see Surdeus coming and duck as the Drakkar leaped over his head. This is it! “Chaos Neg—!”
But Surdeus proved more nimble than Kievkenalis expected as he slammed his left knee into the Chaostechnic from midair, knocking Kievkenalis flat and interrupting his Chaos Negation call. Surdeus landed on the ground some distance away and immediately spun around, lunging for the Chaostechnic as he attempted to pick himself up. Seeing the Drakkar coming, Kievkenalis quickly threw himself to the side, evading Surdeus by a hair; he then rolled back to his feet and stumbled backwards, unable to catch himself before he fell over on his bottom. Surdeus snapped his head toward the Chaostechnic and lunged for him again, but Kievkenalis managed to knock the Drakkar’s palms away with his own before being blown backwards by a powerful kick. As he tumbled along the ground, he managed to utter, “Chaos…!”
Surdeus was instantly upon him, backhanding the Chaostechnic and sending him flying into the far wall. The Drakkar then dashed toward the Chaostechnic before thrusting his right knee forward, the spike mounted on his knee extended menacingly. Kievkenalis barely managed to dodge, leaving Surdeus to embed his knee in the wall and spend a second to remove it, a second which Kievkenalis quickly took advantage of by shouting, “BLAST!”
A massive dome of energy exploded from the Chaostechnic’s body, engulfing much of the room and creating yet another crater. Kievkenalis quickly began climbing the crater up to the lip, not even bothering to search for Surdeus or spend time thinking about the new Chaostechnic type he had just unlocked as he finally muttered, “Chaos Negation!”
With all of the Chaos Energy in the vicinity negated, the flow of time returned to normal, and much of the room spontaneously began to collapse under the stress it had suffered during the period that time had been frozen. Christeané, who was standing mere meters from the lip of the crater Kievkenalis created, suddenly began to look around in confusion.
“What the fuck happened?!” He brandished his battlehammers apprehensively, glancing down at Kievkenalis as the Chaostechnic threw himself up onto the crater’s lip and then collapsed, breathing heavily.
((Ahahahaha!)) Surdeus laughed heartily, jumping out of the crater to Kievkenalis’s left before turning to face him. ((You do not cease to amaze me! I did not expect you to take advantage of the mid-call pause in such a way. Blast is an excellent move to use for that as well, as it is a short, sweet word… much like the destruction it can bring! Obliteration within a second! And then you took advantage of the lull to negate all Chaos Energy in the area and return time to normal, a feat only Sabotage types can achieve… Bravo, I must say. Bravo! Your performance deserves nothing short of praise!)) The Drakkar moved to place his left hand on his hip as he nonchalantly tossed the Ayas up and down in his right. ((You are certainly an interesting specimen… you are clearly not a Chaos Conduit, given your reaction to Time, and yet — you possess the ability to use multiple types of abilities. At least four, by my count. That’s more than I have ever seen… truly interesting.))
“See? You can’t beat us that easily after all.” Kievkenalis smirked painfully as he pulled himself back onto his legs. “Even after all that showboating, I still stopped you!”
“You really need to stop pointing these things out…” Christeané muttered.
((Stopped me? Ha! Stopped me from what? Do tell!)) Surdeus scoffed, ((stopped me from stealing your Ciei, perhaps. But I have taken the Ayas from you, and with it, your ability to act in a field of negated Chaos Energy.))
“…Oh. R-right…” Kievkenalis muttered uneasily.
((Your use of Negation indeed returned time to normal, but it also removed your ability to retaliate to anything I may now throw at you! By your own hands, you have been served defeat!))
“Kevken, what’s he talking about…?” Christeané questioned warily, “how’d he get the Ayas?”
“He’s backed us into a corner…” Kievkenalis scowled, but moments later his scowl slowly transformed into a knowing smirk. “But it’s not over yet!”
((You still intend to fight, even whilst standing in a vacuum of Chaos Energy?)) Surdeus shook his head in disbelief. ((I doubt I will ever truly understand you Aldredanoids… but, so be it. If you cannot accept your defeat on your own, then allow me to force it upon you! Chaos! BLA—agh!?))
Davídrius suddenly blasted onto the scene, plowing into Surdeus foot-first and sending the Drakkar tumbling along the ground — and knocking the Ayas out of his hands. The Velocitechnic then drew two of his repaired blades and brandished them defensively as Kaoné and Rebehka rushed over to tend to Kievkenalis and Christeané. Kevérin and Siyuakén approached Surdeus on either side of Davídrius, but didn’t step any closer than the Velocitechnic.
“That’s for making me go berserk again, asshole,” Davídrius growled.
((…Well,)) Surdeus muttered, ((…again, I find myself surprised by your actions. This is becoming a most annoying trend.))
“It’s your own fault, really.” Kievkenalis smirked as he bent over to pick up the Ayas Arcán. “I knew you liked to gloat, so when I used Negation I knew that you’d spend all of the time that Chaos Energy was actually negated holding it over my head. Goading you on is easy, too, and with the Ayas present, I didn’t have to wait as long for the Energy to return… not to mention the added bonus of probably helping out the berserk situation.”
“It really did, actually,” Rebehka stated.
“Anyway, we have the Ayas now,” Kievkenalis remarked. “We know your tricks. You can’t win again.”
((No, he cannot… but for the same reasons, neither will you.))
((Exdominor…)) Surdeus turned to glare at the other faction leader as he jumped down from one of the many holes in the roof, coming to stand nearly thirty meters away from both Hero Machina and Surdeus. ((Come to witness my pending victory, have you?))
((On the contrary, your penchant for gloating always has a way of netting you losses, Surdeus… yet I never imagined that the trait was contagious.)) Exdominor stared down the Sursum faction leader and then turned his haughty gaze toward Hero Machina, who had all frozen with surprise and fear at being confronted by both Exdominor and Surdeus. ((You were rightly contrite and fearful when facing me, yet, here you are, exchanging meaningless words and taunts with this child of a leader.))
((Child? Only as compared to your great age, Exdominor. Your senility is most amusing.))
((You cannot bluff me, Surdeus. We are of the same age: ageless. Our minds cannot decay just as our bodies cannot die. But perhaps your incompetence has transcended these facts, hmm? Were you not in the middle of something before allowing yourself to be distracted?))
((Wiping out these pesky Aldredanoids shall be a simple task. I have been amusing myself by observing them, but I assure you, they present me no threat.))
((Do not overestimate yourself. They may be incapable of killing you, but they are surely capable of dealing you lasting damage. Do not make a fool of yourself, and I too, by extension. This… partnership is by no means long-term. Or has your incompetence claimed that fact as well?))
“Some pair they are,” Davídrius snorted as he watched the two Drakkars exchange words.
“Two faction leaders, though…” Kevérin scowled. “We have a hard enough time against either on their own — we can’t take them both on. We need to run.”
“I think that’s what we should have done in the first place,” Siyuakén retorted as she turned to Kaoné, “make us an exit, quick—agh!”
“Siyuakén!?” Rebehka exclaimed, running over to her friend who had just doubled over, clutching her head in pain. “What happened—?”
The Cryotechnic was interrupted by the sound of a metallic clang as a football-sized chunk of metal fell down from the ceiling, drawing the attention of everyone present. It sat still for a moment before slowly uncurling and twittering, turning its bug-like appendages toward Siyuakén.
((A metal… bug…?)) Surdeus muttered, and then froze as the entire room filled with the sounds of twittering and mechanical whirring. ((Is this—!?))
“…It’s the metallic bugs!” Kevérin scowled as every hole in the roof was quickly lined by the offending objects. Several even began falling into the craters haphazardly, shoved over the edge by the sheer numbers of metallic creatures. “Shit, the metallic infection was here? On Maasen?!”
“We’ve spent enough time here!” Davídrius shouted, “it’s time to leave—!”
His exclamation was cut short as the room suddenly transformed from its wrecked state back to its initial, clean form, though with a distinct silver sheen that had not been present before. The transformation was immediately followed by something slamming into the ground from above, impacting with enough force to create a shockwave that knocked back both Hero Machina and the Drakkars — yet leaving no sign of its entrance on the floor.
“What… who…?” Kievkenalis muttered, squinting at the object that had just appeared. After a moment of stalling it slowly rose to its feet, revealing its distinctly Aldredanoid appearance. In fact, it looked remarkably similar to the average Nimalian — plain black hair, plain tan face, plain body stature, but wearing an odd maroon long coat that draped down to his legs.
“HEH HEH HEH…” The figure chuckled after slowly sweeping his gaze across the room. “I SUPPOSE I SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED. DRAKKARS FIGHTING ALDREDANOIDS… OVER A HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS HAVE PASSED, AND YET, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.”
((You—!)) Surdeus growled.
“OH YES, I CERTAINLY REMEMBER YOU, SURDEUS,” the figure snorted, and then turned his head toward the Drakkars. The core of his voice sounded nonthreatening, but it was layered over a slight robotic tone and an unnatural presence that suppressed any urge to interrupt him. “YOU AND EXDOMINOR BOTH. HA! I’VE WATCHED THE TWO OF YOU TROUNCE ABOUT THIS PLANET AS IF YOU OWNED THE PLACE, FIGHTING THE ALDREDANOIDS AS THOUGH YOU HAD ALREADY DEFEATED THEM. WHAT A FARCE! YOUR CLAIMS ARE LAUGHABLE, YOUR ACTIONS EVEN MORE SO. RULERS OF ALL? MASTERS OF CHAOS ENERGY? OWNERS OF THE CHAOS AYAS? ALL NONSENSE! WERE ANY OF THOSE STATEMENTS TRUE, WOULD YOU NOT ALREADY CONTROL THE GALAXY? YET, YOU DO NOT! IN ALL THESE MILLENNIA THAT I HAVE BEEN GONE YOU HAVE ACHIEVED NOTHING, APART FROM WALLOWING IN DULL INACTIVITY AND FESTERING IN YOUR OWN INCOMPETENCE. THIS RECENT ATTACK IS NOTHING MORE THAN A FACADE, AN ATTEMPT AT SHOWING THE GALAXY THAT YOU ARE NOT AS IRRELEVANT AS PERCEIVED!”
“Shit, I can’t contact the Genesis… Kaoné!” Kevérin hissed, glancing at the Materiatechnic while the figure addressed the Drakkars, “quick, get us out of here!”
“I… I can’t! I can’t— I can’t transform the walls… eep!” She yelped as the figure in the maroon coat turned to glare at Hero Machina menacingly.
“AND HERE WE HAVE SOME ALDREDANOIDS.” He sneered. “I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHY I’M BOTHERING TO ADDRESS YOU. THE DRAKKARS MAY BE MISTAKEN AND BLIND, BUT AT LEAST THEY POSSESS POWER. WHAT OF YOU? YOU HAVE NOTHING! NOTHING AT ALL! MY REVENGE, SWEET THOUGH IT MAY BE, WILL BE WOEFULLY SHORT-LIVED…”
“Who…” Kevérin muttered apprehensively, “…who are you?”
“…I’M NOT SURPRISED THAT YOU DON’T KNOW WHO I AM, CURSED DESCENDANTS OF THE ALDREDAS. ONLY THE DRAKKARS ARE ‘IMMORTAL,’ AFTER ALL.” The figure snorted. “I AM NONE OTHER THAN THE LEADER OF THAT WHICH YOU AMUSINGLY REFER TO AS THE ‘METALLIC INFECTION.’”
“I AM MORCII!” He grinned as he spread his arms wide, gesturing at the incredible multitudes of metallic bugs twittering around him. “LEADER OF THE NANOCREATURES AND HARBINGER OF IKIROM, THE SUPREME COMMANDER OF THE MORIKAI — THOSE WHO THE ALDREDAS UNJUSTLY SEALED AWAY FROM THIS REALM OF EXISTENCE! TODAY MARKS THE BEGINNING OF THE GALAXY’S ULTIMATE FATE — THE DOOM OF ALL! FOR I WILL CLAIM EVERY LAST CHAOS AYAS, AND I WILL FREE THE MORIKAI FROM THEIR PRISON! AND NO ONE IN THIS GALAXY, OR ANY GALAXY… CAN HOPE TO STOP ME!”