Aldrich watched from above as the earth sundered apart from Seismic's force. Every single time that Seismic let loose his full strength, he literally reshaped the entire landscape around him.
This was power. The power of the strongest heroes just below the hallowed S class with might so unparalleled that they were considered equivalent to entire sovereign nations in terms of sheer military might and the influence that came with it.
Nevertheless, even if Seismic was not S class, he definitely was near the top of A for his raw power.
It was truly awing to watch Seismic go at it with all his might. About two decades ago, during Seismic's prime, he had been a devastating menace that always let his power loose at max throttle without much care for collateral damage.
No, back then, he had been a bloodthirsty warmonger that toed the line between hero and murderous villain, and the worst case was when he completely broke apart the city sized flying base of Iron Lord, a S ranked villain back in the day.
The huge metal chunks of that base had showered all over a city, causing hundreds of civilian deaths and millions in property damage.
Seismic's wanton tendency for absolute carnage and the sheer destructiveness of his power made him be both feared and revered as a natural disaster, a powerful force that could not be predicted, only worked around.
But even that was not enough.
Amid a sea of crumbling, upturned rock chunks, some as large as entire apartment buildings, Seismic shot up rapidly into the sky through a cloud of dust and debris. He was high up enough that he was nearly level in altitude to Aldrich.
Seismic had his arms crossed in front of him in a guard, but his forearms were badly scorched, the flesh blackened and falling off in charred strips.
"Over here!" said Aldrich as he swooped in with Crow.
Seismic noticed Aldrich and lightly hopped on a tiny quake bubble, land on Crow's back.
"I'll take care of your injuries," said Aldrich.
Green mist emerged from underneath Seismic's feet and curled towards his blackened arms, completely restoring the burned flesh back to sculpted muscle.
"Now, this is useful," said Seismic as he looked at his newly healed arms. He cracked his back, feeling his newly healed spine. However, he grimaced when he felt the same old stiffness where his Alter Organ had started to Crystallize.
Whatever this healing was that came from this mysterious man, it could not undo Crystallization. Which made sense. There was not a single Alter power or piece of technology in the world that could counter Crystallization.
"I can't do it infinitely, though," said Aldrich. "So don't take too many hits, especially ones that cane take you out entirely - I can't bring you back from that."
'Master! Shall I strike now!?' Valera's voice rang through Aldrich's mind, and he sensed that she was in front of the upturned earth spikes from Seismic's kick. 'While the monster is weakened?'
'Hold off on that,' said Aldrich. 'It's too risky to go in solo against a tough unit like that blindly.'
"What's the situation look like?" asked Aldrich to Seismic. He deferred to the veteran hero's judgement on whether to press the attack or hold back.
"The Locus is tough. It took a full force hit from my Quake and still survived. I almost killed it with that hit, I could feel it. But it still has more than enough power to fight back. I would advise holding back and confirming its injuries," said Seismic. "Not a good idea to rush into A rank Locuses like this.
I would wait until we can secure a visual."
'The creature's new energy aura has been committed to this true sight of mine," came Volantis's voice in Aldrich's mind. 'It shall never leave my perception, and I am prepared to track it through even warping.'
"I have a visual," said Aldrich… He looked down to see that under all the giant earth spikes, rock chunks, and huge cloud of dust, there was a brightly glowing green circle that signified Shrimp's presence.
Shrimp remained stationary at the epicenter of all that upturned rock and dust. But Aldrich remained infinitely on guard, knowing how this had played out last time with Shrimp molting and teleporting. He kept his altitude with Crow, and he made sure that Seismic was right beside him, not to mention his ironclad defense with Volantis's organ stitching.
On top of Volantis's energy tracking, Aldrich doubled down on his security and commanded his [Grave Ward] to position high in the sky but directly focused toward Shrimp.
Like a miniature satellite, the [Grave Ward] would feed Aldrich a visual of Shrimp was much as possible, and its sight pierced through the dust clouds, making Shrimp's appearance clearer than a blob of marked green energy.
Shrimp was standing there in the midst of all that shattered earth with its hands on its head, blue blood pooling from between its fingers.
There were cracks all over its rainbow shell with a white glow shining through the damaged lines. It appeared that from this white energy, Shrimp began to regenerate its injuries. The white energy concentrated strongest beneath its feet, traveling from the ground up over the variant's body.
"It's not moving," said Aldrich. "And it looks like it's taking the time to regenerate."
"Is there a white glow around its injuries?" said Seismic.
"Hm? You know something about that?" said Aldrich. He figured that Seismic had knowledge about strong variants like this that was classified to heroes of his caliber.
Seismic nodded. "Few heroes know this because they are so rare. But strong enough variant Loci have a healing factor that works so long as they are making contact with the ground.
It's called the Antaeic Factor.
Often times, it requires standing still as well.
I suspected that a Locus as strong as this had it."
Seismic grimaced. "That makes this many times harder. For Loci with Antaeic Factors, we cannot ever let it out of our sights unless we risk it recovering itself.
And it has teleportation to make holding it in place even harder. But it can't use its teleportation freely."
"How did you come to that conclusion?" asked Aldrich. He had his own ideas about the teleportation's weaknesses, but he wanted to test Seismic's perceptiveness as well.
"It if could use its teleportation freely, it would have already by now. Especially when I had struck it.
If it cost too much energy, it wouldn't have been strong enough to counter me like this.
Most likely, it needs time free from interferences to use it," said Seismic calmly. "But while its healing with the Antaeic Factor, it shouldn't be able to use its other powers.
If we want to strike, the best opportunity would be now."
"I figured the same," said Aldrich. He was impressed with Seismic's quick analytical skill capable of deducing the likely weaknesses of Shrimp's powers with such confidence.
Aldrich immediately pieced together a plan to take Shrimp down.
"Sustained pressure. That's what will take this thing down, just like you said" said Aldrich. "We can't leave it alone to let it heal or teleport away. We need to keep whittling it down.
That means you need to limit your area of effect shockwaves."
"My bracers are broken," said Seismic. "I can't focus my quakes. It will be hard. But I'll try. I can't go all out, though. If I hit with my full force, it would have to be for the final, decisive strike."
"I know," said Aldrich. "And I'll set that opportunity up for you. To start off with, I'll flush it out while it's still standing stationary.
I'll hit it hard and fast to break it out of its little healing break, and right afterwards, he lay down the pressure. We never let it take a single break."
"Approaching it will raise its alarm," said Seismic as he narrowed his eyes and put a hand to his sharp beard. "If you want to flush it out, you would have to do it by range."
"Range? How convenient. It's basically giving us one free hit, right? One free hit in exchange for recovering itself to full health. That's the gamble it's willing to take. Let's see if it's gambling on the right side." said Aldrich.
He raised his hand into the air, and the Storm gathered above him, coalescing its ghostly green clouds together.
The jellyfish and anglerfish glowed brightly as they channeled waves of energy in deep, resonating echoes of bass.
They channeled prodigious amounts of energy, but not as much as they did with Merman as there was not enough time before Shrimp would make a full recovery and become mobile again.
Yet even this buildup of energy was easily enough to be devastating. Aldrich could feel the very air itself grow heavy around him, emanating an ominous, tense stillness that stifled any breezes - the calm before the storm.
Aldrich put down his hand towards Shrimp's location, and the storm exploded in bright green as it unleashed a lightningbolt with a bright nova of light and a booming clap.