Aldrich looked down at Shrimp and observed as the variant cocked his head and stared at Valera with curiosity. The very same type of curiosity it had afforded Blackwater's rank 1 Mel Morales.
An innocent curiosity that felt sinister in that it came from a monstrosity with enough power to wipe out the lives of an entire city.
"You…very strong. Do not break," said Shrimp as he stared at Valera with wide open, shining rainbow eyes. "But still hurt. Will die soon."
Shrimp's eyes gazed at the white hot parts of Valera's armor, at the smoke of the seared flesh wisping out from beneath the metal.
Aldrich closed his fist, and his [Mist of Undeath] welled up underneath Valera. The green mist immediately restored her health to full, completely healing her burns. The cold nature of his mist also soothed the armor, rapidly cooling it down to its black shade.
"Oh, am I hurt now?" said Valera as she smiled widely, her large vampiric fangs bared. "You should take more care of yourself!"
Valera shoved a foot in front of her, and the ground shattered under her as she exerted mighty power into a [Shield Bash], thrusting her giant shield forward like a battering ram.
Shrimp did not dodge this attack like he had done to the heroes' attacks before his molting.
Instead, Shrimp put out his arms and clashed against the shield bash. A loud shockwave of pure physical force boomed out as Valera pushed against her shield and Shrimp shoved back against it.
Between the two physical powerhouses, the ground started to crack and fissure in a solid line separating them.
A hundred or so Bugs started to hover around the area, raining down gunfire against Shrimp, even targeting Valera on accident, but their bullets and even small missiles did literally nothing against either fighter.
Noting this, the Bugs moved away, programmed to avoid battles between beings of sufficiently high power levels for they would only end up getting in the way.
Shrimp trembled in exertion against Valera.
But soon, he slowly began to give ground.
Aldrich took this moment of Valera distracting Shrimp and used it to multi-task.
First, he analyzed Shrimp's capabilities.
Judging by the struggle between Shrimp and Valera, Aldrich could determine that Shrimp's top physical strength was around Valera's level, if not slightly below it.
But it could generate sudden explosive bursts of energy that dealt devastating amounts of damage, very likely from its piston powered fists.
Second, Aldrich secured his own safety.
Aldrich whistled, and Crow instantly rushed to his side. He hopped on Crow's back and withdrew his wings.
'Volantis give me your strongest defensive stitching' commanded Aldrich, for he could not afford to get blindsided by Shrimp's newfound teleportation with no real defense, especially considering Shrimp could instantly reposition himself.
'[Organ Stitching: Mountain Drake Scales]' said Volantis, causing thick grey, earthen scales resembling the hide of a pangolin to emerge all around his armor. The scales glinted with tiny gem-like sparkles.
'Excellent choice,' said Aldrich.
'There is not a single set within my bone collection that is of no use,' said Volantis, pride tinging his regal voice.
Mountain Drakes were flightless monsters that lived deep within the largest of mystical mountains, and over centuries and millennia sleeping in beds of precious ores, their scales not only hardened with age, but also fused with the minerals around them, becoming unfathomably hard.
In terms of pure physical resistance, Mountain Drakes were nearly at the top.
Mountain Drake scales to pad Aldrich's physical resistance. The [Death Essence Barrier] to cover his energy resistance. Like this, at the cost of offensive capability, Aldrich was almost as resilient as a proper tank class character.
Then third - the army.
'My Legion, scatter. Get back to the Deildeghast line and make sure no fishmen cross it. Only the strongest few will remain for this fight,' said Aldrich, knowing full well that in this fight, anything less than his strongest units, most of them in the range of level 30, would die from collateral damage.
Aldrich did this all with lightning quick efficiency in the span of just two to three seconds. He was used to micromanaging units in Elden World, and he applied that talent now. He gave a broad mental command for all the units he did not need to retreat, then took all those that he foresaw could be useful and had them begin moving to aid Aldrich.
Most notable of these units was the Storm.
The green clouds in the distance began to shine and rumble as they floated closer. Meanwhile, in the distance, far from the current site where Shrimp and Valera was, Merman began to channel the sea anemones active.
While this happened, Aldrich noticed Valera starting to go on the offensive as she saw herself slowly but surely overpowering Shrimp in raw physical strength.
"ORA!" Valera kept her shoulder against her shield to push it forward but used her opposite fist to punch it.
This was a much higher level Shielder skill called [Guardian's Reckoning] that amplified the damage of a punch through a shield, magically using the shield as a strong force amplifier. The blow that passed through the shield amped with strong scaling based off of the defensive stats of both the one throwing the blow and the shield itself.
Valera's shield loudly clanged and vibrated, and a concussive shockwave shot forth from it like a cannonball, and this time, Shrimp was blasted far back, gouging out several craters as he skipped across solid earth like a stone thrown across a pond.
Shrimp stopped himself from hurtling too far back by digging his hands into the earth, skidding as he anchored himself down to a halt.
But before Shrimp could get up, Seismic fell from the sky and smashed Shrimp's head under his foot with a mighty impact that cratered the ground under Shrimp's head with a loud bang.
A white orb covered Seismic's boot, and beneath it, Shrimp's head started to distort against the orb.
Shrimp's face sank into the ground against Seismic's shockwave orb. Cracks lined Shrimp's shell helmet, spurting with blue blood. One of his rainbow-colored eyes bulged before it popped out of its socket entirely from the intense amount of pressure it was subject to.
"I…fight…I…fight!" Shrimp shouted with a single bloody eye. Even against Seismic's tremendous force, Shrimp began to slowly but surely resist, positioning his four arms to push himself up.
Seismic's face warped into an expression of pure concentrated savagery as he loosed a deafening roar, the huge muscles around his legs bulging as he input as much power as he could. The orb shattered, and with that, all hell broke loose as his charged earthquake fully unleashed itself.
Enormous, visible tremors of force radiated out from Seismic's boot, shattering ground everywhere it touched.
The earth rumbled as Seismic generated another earthquake.