“THE MORIKAI WILL BE RELEASED… WHETHER YOU LIVE TO SEE IT, OR NOT—”
Siyuakén interrupted Morcii with a powerful lightning strike, knocking the Nanocreature leader back several meters. The rest of Hero Machina quickly spread out, with Davídrius and Christeané moving to close the distance between themselves and Morcii, only for the Nanocreature leader to jump back to his feet and lunge forward fast enough to blast past the two Chaotics. Kaoné instantly stopped his approach by spontaneously lifting a pillar of matter from below, slamming Morcii’s chest and launching him skyward.
“Everyone, get back!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, jumping back as he raised his right hand toward the Nanocreature leader. “Cha…os…!” Each uttered syllable issued forth a shockwave powerful enough to shatter the ground beneath his feet, each subsequent shockwave more devastating than the last as the Chaostechnic continued, “Mach… Five… Cannon!”
The force of firing the projectile slammed Kievkenalis into the ground as it instantly tore into Morcii, completely obliterating his body as his constituent metallic parts spread out and fluttered to the ground.
“…That did it?…” Kaoné questioned, frozen in shock.
“Of course not,” Kevérin countered, “he’s still around here somewhere—!”
The very moment the Pyrotechnic completed his thought, the ground underneath Kievkenalis exploded upward as Morcii appeared, snatched the Master Ayas from the Chaostechnic before he could react, and took to the air.
“Fuck! After him!!” Kevérin shouted as he gave chase to the Nanocreature leader who had fled to the cavern’s higher platform. He, Rebehka, and Kaoné all flew through the air while the other four Chaotics rushed up the steps, each of them pausing at the platform’s edge to take in the sight before them: a massive arena, nearly a half kilometer wide and a whole kilometer long, with thirteen wide, blood-red pillars forming an oval around the platform’s center. At the top of the right-most four pillars were the four Light Ayas, at the top of the left-most four pillars were the four Dark Ayas, and at the top of the tallest pillar, the one located farthest back from the steps, was…
“Morcii!!” Davídrius roared as he crouched down and then leaped high into the air, prepared to slam his feet into the Nanocreature leader — only to be blinded by a bright flash of silver light, causing him to miss completely and slam into the far wall instead.
“HA… AH HA HA HA. BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!” Morcii released a maniacal guffaw as he stood atop the tallest pillar, the Master Ayas hovering in place behind him. The pillar was too tall for any of the Chaotics to make out Morcii’s expression, but they could feel his haughty glare nonetheless.
“Sh…shit…!” Kevérin scowled, his entire body tense as he realized the situation. “That’s… that’s all the Ayas…!”
“INDEED!” Morcii replied, a malicious grin spreading across his face as he slowly lowered to the ground across the platform from Hero Machina. “FINALLY… AFTER A HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS… THE MORIKAI WILL REIGN ONCE AGAIN. MY GOAL HAS BEEN ACHIEVED — ALL THANKS TO YOU!”
“No!” Siyuakén shouted back, charging forward and releasing several lightning bolts toward the Nanocreature leader as she brought the Arcán Claymore overhead and prepared to slash him. At the same moment, Davídrius dashed up from behind and prepared to deal a fearsome kick to the Nanocreature, forcing him to take at least one of the two blows… except Morcii simply disappeared, the nanomachines constructing his body dissipating into the air.
“YOU ARE TOO LATE,” Morcii retorted, his body reforming in the very center of the oval formed by the red columns. Before any of Hero Machina could react, he raised his arms into the air, shouting, “CHAOS: RELEASE!”
Each of the nine pillars hosting the Ayas immediately turned pure white, emitting columns of light that reached up to the cavern ceiling. A thirteen-point circle appeared on the ground around Morcii, lighting up a brilliant blue as the Nanocreature leader jumped back, allowing a series of energy blasts to strike the center circle as hurricane-force winds picked up in the cavern, causing the Chaotics of Hero Machina to reflexively shield their faces. Then, as the energy strikes continued to grow in brightness and ferocity, a form began to manifest in the circle’s center, starting with a right leg—
—then two strikes later, a left forearm—
—five strikes later, a torso—
—three strikes later, two hands and feet—
—six strikes later, the remainder of the legs and arms—
—two strikes later, a set of extravagant armor swathed in black, silver, and gold robing—
—and four strikes later… a head.
A brown head with dozens of backward-facing hair-like spikes, similar to that of the Drakkars — yet with a sharp nose, pursed lips, and black eyes. The figure possessed the skin tone, stature, and apparent physical frailty of the Drakkars, yet it also possessed the bodily and facial structure of an Aldredanoid, with a two and a half meter height and a pair of five-fingered, two-thumbed hands that resembled neither.
“That’s Ikirom…?” Rebehka echoed quietly in response to Arcán’s utterance, “…then… the Morikai have really…!”
“No… something’s wrong…” Kevérin narrowed his eyes as he watched Morcii approach the new figure and kneel. “There’s only one of them… Morcii sounded like he wanted to free the whole race, so why only one—?!” The Pyrotechnic clamped his mouth shut and froze in place as the recently formed figure began to move, slowly shifting his gaze to fall on the five Chaotics of Hero Machina who remained by the platform edge. Silence befell the entire cavern for several moments, with no one moving so much as a millimeter until Morcii finally opened his mouth.
“MASTER IKIROM, SUPREME COMMANDER OF THE MORIKAI… WELCOME BACK TO THE PHYSICAL REALM.”
Ikirom narrowed his eyes into a frightful glare, his gaze remaining on the Nimalians as he addressed Morcii, “a hundred thousand years it has been, Morcii. And this… this is all you can manage?”
“I APOLOGIZE, MASTER. THE ALDREDAS’ MEDDLING HAS EVEN EXTENDED INTO THE CURRENT AGE; THIS IS ALL I COULD ACCOMPLISH FOR NOW.”
“Hah,” the Morikai snorted, his arms crossed behind his back. He eventually turned away from the Chaotics to look up at the Ayas upon the cavern pillars; Davídrius and Siyuakén seized the opportunity to attack, lunging forward from their position behind Morcii and Ikirom. The Nanocreature leader quickly jumped to his feet and whipped around, prepared to counter their attacks, only for the two Chaotics to be suddenly yanked into the air by an invisible force and thrown forward, hitting the ground hard and tumbling to a stop just in front of the rest of Hero Machina.
“…Surely you jest,” Ikirom retorted, having moved nary a muscle. He swept his eyes across the Chaotics once more before addressing Morcii again, “I count merely two Chaotics who could have possibly given you trouble, one of which is hampered by her aversion to violence, and the other has only recently reached his full potential. Yet you’ve allowed them to reach this far? To last this long?”
“He… he knew our types without even seeing us in action…?” Kaoné faltered.
“He knew we were comin’ without even lookin’!” Davídrius scowled as he climbed to his feet and kept a safe distance from the Morikai Commander. “And then he flung us across the platform without even movin’!”
“THAT IS BUT A FRACTION OF IKIROM’S POWER…” Arcán responded tensely, “THAT… IS A REALITECHNIC’S POWER.”
“…I APOLOGIZE,” Morcii commented, ignoring the stunned Chaotics as he replied to Ikirom, “I MAY HAVE… GOTTEN CARRIED AWAY WITH MY ACTIONS. THE URGE TO PLAY WITH THIS INFERIOR AGE IS DIFFICULT TO QUELL.”
“Is this ‘urge’ of yours to blame for this pitiful excuse for a release? You should know well what it takes to undo an Ayas Seal. Yet you create an incomplete replica of the initial moments, allowing only I to come out and leaving the rest of my brethren within that cursed space?”
“That is not all, either. Your incredible lack of ability leaves me chained to this region of space, and my powers limited. What you have here is not enough to undo a full Ayas Seal, Morcii!”
“I BELIEVED THAT RESTRAINT TO BE A NON-ISSUE GIVEN YOUR CHAOTIC TYPE, MASTER.”
“You incompetent fool! Have you spent so much time in this age that you forget the basic laws governing the Chaos Ayas and all else derived? You are beginning to draw my ire; know well that my wrath has no bounds, and even servants such as yourself can be reduced to nothing with a thought!”
“…They’re arguing,” Christeané deadpanned.
“This would be funny,” Kevérin commented uneasily, “but for Morcii to be acting so subservient… just how powerful is this guy…?”
“Why are we still here?” Davídrius questioned, “he’s a fuckin’ Realitechnic, right? We can’t fight that!”
“It sounds like he’s handicapped, though,” Rebehka commented. “…But it still might be best if we left—?!”
The Cryotechnic gasped as the entire cavern immediately turned pitch-black, removing all definition from the surrounding platform. A second later, the environment was replaced with an endless gray plane, stretching for as far as the eye could see in every direction toward twilit horizons while the sky itself appeared to be a dark static-like fuzz — and neither the pillars housing the Ayas nor the Ayas themselves were anywhere to be found.
“Do not be mistaken,” Ikirom addressed Hero Machina, “my powers may be limited, but you still cannot hope to stand against me. Nor shall I let you; it was your ancestors who locked me away in that timeless prison, after all. Thanks to their short-sightedness, I have spent countless millennia observing the galaxy, unable to interact with it in any way, left only to watch as that which I saved was claimed by the descendants of those who betrayed me! I may not be able to exact vengeance on the true perpetrators… but you shall receive punishment in their stead, children of the Aldredas!”
A severe gust of wind exploded outward from the Morikai Commander as seven pitch-black holes appeared in space behind each of the Chaotics. The seven glanced behind themselves in surprise just before a steady stream of hurricane-force winds began rushing outward from Ikirom, pushing Hero Machina toward the tears in space.
“Chaos Time!” Kievkenalis quickly shouted, forcing the environment around him — Ikirom included — to come to a sudden stop. He then relaxed, taking a deep breath as the strong winds were no longer a factor.
“What—?!” the Chaostechnic exclaimed, crossing his arms in front of himself as Morcii appeared and dealt him a fierce kick, sending the Chaotic flying into the black hole behind him — where he immediately disappeared and the tear in space closed.
“BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE USED ‘RESET.’” Morcii sneered as the flow of time returned to normal. Ikirom offered the Nanocreature a brief nod before stretching his arms forward. Catching the motion in the corner of his eye, Davídrius broke into a head-long sprint, attempting to counter the high wind speeds and attack the Morikai. Before he could reach him, however, Ikirom snapped his fists shut, imparting a sudden and massive force to each of the Chaotics and flinging them all back toward the holes.
“What!?” Kaoné exclaimed, barely holding herself in place with her Materiatechnism as she watched Davídrius and Christeané tumble backwards and get swallowed by the voids in space. “Wha, where’d they go?!”
“Shit! Hold on!” Siyuakén grasped the Arcán Claymore with both hands and drove it into the ground, using it as an anchor as she turned around and reached toward Kevérin as he struggled to fight against the wind currents with his own flame jets. Kaoné reached out to help the Pyrotechnic as well, but as soon as she took her attention away from Morcii, the Nanocreature leader appeared by her side and dealt a fierce blow to her chest, flinging her into the void. Kevérin was quick to follow, but Rebehka managed to deflect Morcii’s attack and keep herself anchored to the ground with massive ice sheets. Eying the white anchors, Ikirom simply twisted his mouth up into a half smirk — and all of the ice spontaneously disappeared.
“I’ve got you!” The Electrotechnic released Arcán, jumping backwards to grab Rebehka’s hand before summoning the Claymore again and stabbing it into the ground — only for Morcii to interfere and knock the blade away. Failing to properly anchor herself, Siyuakén stumbled and tumbled over backwards, inadvertently letting go of Rebehka in the process.
“NO—!” Her eyes shot wide open as she snapped her attention backwards just in time to watch the Cryotechnic disappear. She froze for a second before whipping out Arcán again and slamming it into the ground, followed by shoving such an incredible current through the weapon that the dark ground for meters around glowed a bright white. Even Morcii and Ikirom found themselves shoved backward from the force of the blast.
“…Interesting,” the Morikai Commander muttered as the final void closed without receiving its target. “The Prior State offers more resistance than I expected…”
“Mm?” Ikirom responded calmly, eying Siyuakén as she tore the Claymore out of the ground and held it in front of her in a battle-ready stance.
“You…!” She trembled with rage. “What did you do to them?!”
“What did I do to them…? For now, nothing. I have simply subjected them to the same bodiless limbo that I experienced for countless millennia.” Ikirom crossed his arms behind his back again. “They are certain to be disoriented, but perhaps they will realize their own station in time to witness your defeat at my hands.” He then summoned the Syn Scythe, twirling it in the air once before grasping it firmly and slamming the pole-end into the ground. “I do not believe I have fought another user of the Prior State before…”
“His voice… that weapon…!” Siyuakén muttered warily, glaring at Ikirom as she tightly grasped the Arcán Claymore. “Arcán, is he…?”
“I SEE… THE ALDREDAS KEYS DID SEAL AWAY THE MORIKAI SHORTLY AFTER THEY DEFEATED THE MENACE, AFTER ALL,” Arcán responded. “HE MUST SOMEHOW STILL BE IN THE SYN PRIOR STATE… BUT IF THAT IS THE CASE… SYN! PRIOR PRAEFECTUS SYN! ANSWER ME! WHY DO YOU STILL SUPPORT THIS THREAT?”
“You will receive no answer,” Ikirom countered as he stretched an arm toward Morcii. The Nanocreature leader immediately dissolved into a silvery cloud that rushed toward the Morikai Commander and coalesced around his body, forming a second pair of arms and a long tail. “Syn remains loyal to me. And if you knew your place, Prior…” The sky was spontaneously replaced by a giant red orb of plasma, illuminating the entire area with the light of a red giant star while leaving temperature and radiation levels somehow survivable. “…Then you, too, would join me!”
“YOU SPEAK NONSENSE. ANY OTHER PRIOR WOULD AGREE! SIYUAKÉN, MY PRESENCE AND THE PRIOR STATE AFFORD YOU A LEVEL OF RESISTANCE TO HIS MANIPULATIONS, BUT EVEN SO—”
“I got it, be careful.” She nodded resolutely, and then raised her voice to address Ikirom. “I don’t really know what you did way back when to deserve this, but if you’re Morcii’s commander, and the first thing you do when you show up is attack me and my friends with deadly force, then you leave me no choice but to kill you!”
“You may think that a threat, but in truth it is merely an empty promise,” Ikirom responded calmly. “But if you truly wish to fight me, very well. Allow me to demonstrate for you the power of the Morikai…” He leveled his Scythe toward Siyuakén as the environment spontaneously changed to that of a tundra. “Allow me to demonstrate the power… of Realitechnism!”