Brilliant solar explosion after explosion rocked the insides of Volantis's boss arena, linking into a strangely beautiful chain of golden novas that formed a network of glimmering lights that looked like a constellation.
What drew this constellation was Seth Solar punching Volantis over and over and over and over again in hyperspeed. Each of his mighty punches loosed not only a shockwave of enormous kinetic force, but a burst of light as his solar energy reserves burst out of him.
Volantis shot around like a pinball, gouging out craters in the ground, walls, and ceiling as Seth Solar punched him, then flew to him at hyperspeed, punched him again, and repeated this process over a hundred times.
Volantis could do nothing but ball up and put his arms out in front of his head in a guard. He had used [Organ Stitching] to make himself as fire and physical damage resistant as possible, wrapping himself in thick coils of muscle, sturdy plate like scales, and layering himself on top of that with dragon flame sac lining.
But though Volantis could dramatically reduce the damage he took, he did not have the raw physical stats to keep up with Seth Solar.
Seth Solar was absurdly fast right now, faster than what the human eye could perceive, faster than a speeding bullet, and against his onslaught, all Volantis could do was weather the solar storm.
After another onslaught of punches, Seth Solar's aura of glowing orange and bright golden light started to dim over time. His breathing became heavier, his flight speed lagging and his blows weakening in their sheer destructive intensity.
Energy seemed to leak out of him, shooting out from his body in strands of orange that dissolved in the air, leaving in their wake a trail of glimmering gold sparkles. Like the remnants of a dying star going supernova.
"DIE!" Seth Solar unleashed one more solid punch against Volantis from above, shooting the living armor down into the scorched, cratered ground below. This blow embedded Volantis in the deepest crater made so far, the cracks of the environmental damage streaking out through nearly the entire arena.
Seth Solar breathed in and out with deep, gasping breaths, and each time he exhaled, a little more of his solar energy streamed out. He looked at the arena around him with glowing golden eyes that dimmed more and more by the second.
Zayn had balled up in a coat of defensive feathers, preventing himself from dying to collateral damage.
The Butcher, on the other hand, was not so lucky. The simple after shocks of solar energy gusts and force shockwaves from Seth Solar's intense barrage had torn the Butcher's body apart, leaving his bits scattered everywhere.
But due to the nature of the Butcher's ability, it was possible the villain was still alive.
Not that it mattered to Seth. In a battle of this scale, the Butcher was useless. He looked down at Volantis, wondering if the damned thing was dead.
Volantis was still in the middle of his smoking crater, all of his muscle and newly formed organs charred to a black crisp.
"F-fuck…" Seth felt more of his energy leave him in streaks, and he held off on his flying, slowly falling back down to the ground. "Something's… something's wrong."
He looked down at his hands. His energy was leaving him, his golden aura fading as it dissolved into little twinkling sparkles that faded into the darkness of the arena. He fully expected to lose a vast amount of stored solar energy, but that was because he knew he was going to use it all up. Right now, he was losing energy without even doing anything.
The color of his normal skin started to return as his shining gold aura faded, and that was when his eyes widened as he saw black streaks within his visible veins.
"Kryptic!?" The realization hit Seth as his vision blurred. He felt deeply sick to his core, his strength leaving him in waves.
"Impressive. Truly, truly commendable." Volantis emerged from his crater, piles of burnt rubble spilling from his huge frame. He moved shakily, and no longer did he regenerate damage to his armor, revealing a host of scorch marks and melted, warped holes. "Your flesh is strong. Very strong. I can hear your bones screaming under the oppression of that mighty flesh.
Thus, it is my burden to bear to free those bones of yours."
Volantis put his right hand over his left forearm. "I do not know if I can use this power, for my levels have been reduced considerably. But I no longer possess the strength to fight you otherwise."
With a solemn chat, Volantis uttered the words - "[Part Stitching: Arm of the Blood God]"
A massive surge of crimson energy burst out from Volantis as he emitted a war cry that thundered throughout the arena. The entire arena lit up a shade of threatening red as Volantis's burned metal body started to line with veiny streaks of brightly glowing red, forming a circulatory system that branched out from his left arm.
The left arm itself turned into a shade of pure red, almost like an energy construct.
Volantis trudged forwards, his steps shaky and weak while he supported his glowing red left arm up with his right hand, as if his left arm was an enormously heavy weapon.
Seth Solar fell to a knee as he watched Volantis slowly walk towards him, that red arm of his with its claws outstretched ready to make lethal contact. He grit his teeth as he tried to muster up power in his eyes to unleash a solar beam, but with the Boost wearing off and Kryptic circulating through his system, his eyes only managed to flash gold before crackling, unable to build up energy.
Seth grunted in pain as he rubbed his eyes, looking down, and that was when he saw a case land in front of him. The blue glow of a Boost vial emanated temptingly at him. Of the three vials he had come with, this was the only one left.
The other one -
A dark mass rushed over Seth's head with a squall of wind trailing behind it. Seth looked up to see Zayn colliding against Volantis. Zayn had Boosted himself, turning his humanoid form entirely into that of an avian variant.
He looked like an enormous crow-eagle hybrid covered in thick coatings of sharp, midnight black feathers. A whirlwind of feathers floated around him in a tornado of slashing blades.
"Gah!" Volantis skid backwards as he held out his Blood God arm against Zayn's supersonic approach. Volantis buckled down to one knee as the red sphere of light in his helmet started to dim, indicating near death.
But the Blood God's arm had enough strength to stop Zayn as Zayn loosed a bestial roar and bit down on Volantis's shoulder, tearing right into the sturdy metal with a sharp red beak. Six red eyes gleamed menacingly from Zayn's head, all of them directed in killing intent against Volantis.
Volantis knew that even a second more spent against this crow creature would lead to his own death. He activated the Blood God's arm.
The glowing red arm's claws sunk into Zayn's chest, easily tearing through the metallic feathers, and once they fit yielding, blood-filled flesh -
Zayn's body ruptured as stakes of hardened blood burst out of his body from within, completely skewering him from the inside out.
Zayn loosed a piercing cry of pain before his head hung limp, his stiffened feathers growing soft. The whirlwind of feathers raging around him stopped moving, softly falling to the ground.
Volantis shook Zayn's body off the side.
"Now, only you are left-," Volantis trudged forwards with hellbent determination. Bloody stakes started to rupture out from his own armor body. The side effects of drawing upon the power of a level 100 Blood God far beyond what his current form could withstand.
But even as the stakes emerged, ripping through his armor and ravaging his life force, he continued forwards, ever forwards, for at heart, long, long ago when he was still a man of flesh and blood over bone, he had been a noble warrior, and true warriors always saw their fights to the very bitter end.
No compromise. No surrender. No retreat.
Not when your comrades fall one after the other, leaving you alone in a sea of blood.
Not even when you are beaten, bloodied, and torn asunder.
Not even when your flesh is torn from your bones.
No, when there is nothing but bone left, that is when you are truly free.
This is what Volantis thought as he made his way to Seth Solar on the last dregs of his hit points.
Seth took the Boost vial before him, raised it over his open mouth, and snapped it in half. The liquid fed into him, and once again, a huge burst of solar energy radiated out from him. Boost was far less effective when used successively, not to mention the Kryptic poisoning, so Seth Solar could only generate a temporary chunk of energy that would fade away rapidly.
But this was all he needed.
"You're done," said Seth coldly as he concentrated the small burst of energy into his eyes, firing off twin mighty rays of searing golden heat that washed over Volantis.
Volantis's black silhouette crumbled away in that light, disintegrating into nothingness. When the light faded, all that remained of him was a small red orb, no larger than a tennis ball - the core of his being that had been in his helmet.
The orb glimmered red before dimming down into a mute grey, indicating Volantis's death.
Seth made his way over to Zayn's corpse. He knelt down by the giant crow and realized with some surprise that Zayn was still breathing. But death was inevitable.
The stakes that jutted out from all around his body meant that Zayn's internal organs were all shredded. It was by pure variant tenacity that he could even stay alive like this.
Not to mention the Kryptic poisoning left Zayn with zero chance of ever recovering even if he was rushed to the best hospital in the entire world at this very moment.
"Why the fuck did you do that, Zayn? You think I needed help?" Seth's voice lost its regular edge. He spoke softly, or as softly as he knew how to. "You and I, we were both supposed to live and be strong.
Strong enough that we could break free from the lives they forced on us.
I treated you and only you right because I thought you and I were the same. Because you understood me. We knew what it took to survive, how much we had to kill and take.
I thought we would both make it together. Stand at the top of this world no matter how many bodies we had to pile beneath us.
And now, look at you."
Seth shook his head at Zayn's fatal wounds. The last of his solar energy started to fade away, dissolving away his aura of gold fully to leave his bare skin and face. "We were supposed to show them we had a fucking choice.
That we were strong enough to tell this sick world to go fuck itself so that we could live our own lives with our own choices.
How the fuck are you going to do that when you're dead?"
Zayn breathed slowly, the air in his throat rattling, heralding his passing. His six red, black pupils landed on Seth. "I…did have…choice. I made…choice. Regret…"
Zayn's eyes closed, his consciousness fading as blood pooled out in huge quantities from his horrendous wounds.
Seth felt the blood warm under him as he saw Zayn suffering. He shook his head again and put his hand on Zayn's head before twisting his friend's neck, instantly killing him to end his suffering.
Seth stood up, breathing deeply as he looked at his blood-soaked, black veined body. He looked around at the arena, waiting for it to dissolve.
That was when he heard a faint rumbling from behind him, from the entrance of the arena. Footsteps echoed. He turned around, and then his eyes widened in impossible surprise.
"Y-you!" began Seth.
"How does it feel, Seth, to lose your friends one by one?" said Aldrich as he made his way towards Seth with his suit on.
Aldrich saw the Butcher's decapitated head and grabbed it, inspecting it like a piece of fine art. "Ah, you're still alive. Excellent."
He took the Butcher's head and shoved it into his chest where his Chrysalis generated a small black portal to absorb it.
He then reached Volantis's grey core and tapped it, emblazoning a green sigil on it to raise for later.
Finally, he stared at Zayn's corpse when he got close enough to Seth. "To be honest, I was even surprised you could even make a friend like this. That you even cared about someone. You didn't give a sh*t about the rest of your gang dying."
Aldrich stared down at Seth's bloodied body as he tore open the chest of his suit, revealing the phylactery that replaced his heart. The purple orb crackled with arcs of energy, reacting to the near completion of the [Ritual of Eternity].
"But the fact that I managed to rip something precious from your heart almost makes me feel like my own is whole again."