Aldrich aimed his dragon head hand right towards Shrimp. The mouth of the majestic dragon was wide open, baring rows of bloody red, crystalline teeth.
But though dragons certainly had a fiercesome bite, that was not what they were known for.
No, what made them beasts of legend, what made them living calamities, was their famed and feared breath.
And this dragon was a Bloodblaze Dragon, a vampiric type with a particularly nasty breath that created torrents of crimson flame that not only burned, but also rapidly built up the [Bleed] status effect. This effect was so potent that in the lore, it was said that whenever a Bloodblaze Dragon went on a rampage, the rivers would run red with the blood it spilled.
"What is that? So many powers. Not like the other humans. How?" said Shrimp as its antennae twitched, trying to get a read on what Aldrich was doing.
In all of Shrimp's short life, he had not felt fear. He knew the destiny he was born to. Both his mother and the Voice had told him to wipe out the humans. And he knew that as King, it was his given duty to do so.
For that purpose, Shrimp had suffered and struggled, facing pain and strong enemy after enemy. But never had he felt fear.
That was, not until now. Because even though every instinct inside Shrimp was screaming at him to wipe out the being standing in front of him, when he focused on that thing, all he could see was…nothing.
And that made him scared. Like he was a child staring into a deep, dark shadow ready to swallow him without a chance of ever escaping.
"What is this, you say? Well, this is another experiment: let's see if you can last through it, my valued test subject," declared Aldrich as he willed the dragon to fire its [Bloodfire Breath].
The dragon's red eyes glowed strongly as red sparks flickered between its jaws, igniting a wave of bright red fire that shot forth with a crackling roar. The night sky lit up in a shade of sinister red as the bloodletting session began.
"Gah!" Shrimp yelled out in agony as the red fire washed over him. The flames quickly melted the rock around his feet, but the heat was not the issue here, no, if it was just heat, Shrimp was fine. His shell was heavily resistant to it.
It was the bleeding.
As the raged over Shrimp's body, parts inside of it just broke apart. Blue blood spurted from ruptured veins. Internal bleeding ripped through his body, and he dropped down to one knee yet again as he desperately put his arms against the flames to no avail.
With a sickening sound, Shrimp vomited out a chunk of blood from both his mouth and his eye sockets that rapidly evaporated in the heat of the fire. This compounded on top of the Cursed flames that continually sapped Shrimp's life force.
"Is this it?" muttered Aldrich, feeling a minor sense of disappointment. No, it was remarkable that Shrimp had been able to fight this long against an entire army by himself in the first place, even if that had required constant evolutions and sudden powerups.
Aldrich was just feeling disappointed because things would end like this when he had just started to get into the zone, when he had just gotten the chance to really go all out with all his new powers.
In response to Aldrich, Shrimp tried to move to the side, but his other leg collapsed, causing him to fall down on both knees as blood continued to spurt from every open wound in his body.
Shrimp's energy surged around it in a Burst again, shimmering in a bright green aura, but the aura chaotically broke apart when another round of bleeding forced Shrimp to cough out a chunk of blood.
Even if Shrimp had successfully used Burst, Aldrich was ready for it. But with that Burst getting disrupted, with all that built up energy fading away, Shrimp was done for, doomed to perish in an inferno kindled by his very own blood and life force.
Shrimp weakly waved his hands towards Aldrich, even though the Locus was so far away. This was not a real attempt to attack Aldrich. It was a final, desperate attempt to reach out born from the imminent approach of death.
Shrimp managed to slowly crawl towards Aldrich for a few seconds, blood spurting from all of his wounds, but after those seconds, it was obvious the end was in sight.
And while Aldrich focused on Shrimp's end, there were others that focused on him.
Heroes, police, and civilians alike all crowded together on whatever devices and screens they could, watching the fight between their black armored savior and the Locus with bated breath and wide eyes. Technos had rigged a massive advertising holo-board at the city center square to link with the stream that showed the fight, and here, the biggest crowd of people thronged together to watch.
Beforehand, everyone had locked themselves in apartments or in shelters, but now people were starting to find the courage to move out, to stand together in solidarity to watch their savior that they had entrusted their hopes and dreams and lives to fight.
When they saw Shrimp finally collapse under red and black flames, cries of celebration began to ring out from everywhere. Before there had only been the tense silence of desperation.
"He's got him! He's got him!"
"Just a little more! Take that shrimp faced bastard down!"
"Please win, after all we've been through, please, please win!"
Yet, amidst all these cries of hope, there was one person who stayed silent. She watched from her phone secluded from everyone else, hidden away in a dark alleyway by an open manhole cover. Blackwater's rank 1 Mel Morales.
"So it's like that, huh." Mel looked at the battle with gleaming golden eyes. She zoomed in on the imposing black armored figure and tapped at it with a finger. She whispered under her breath. "Guess I'll be seeing you soon."
With that, Mel slipped into the manhole cover, fading away into the Haven sewage system.
Neo-York, within the hero team Protectorate's headquarters-
Two people watched the mysterious defender of Haven near the killing blow on the Locus attacking Haven from a huge holoscreen projection. The room they watched from was a recreational in headquarters movie theater. The place was spacious, and the two used that space as much as possible, standing quite a distance away from each other.
One of these people was a tall, built man with a gold and black bodysuit with flowing blue that radiated the image of the typical action hero. He had pearly white, perfect teeth, a square jaw, slicked back blonde hair, and shining eyes gold like the rays of the sun.
This was Solomon Solar, S rank hero and rank 1 in the Superboard top 100, making him the most popular and beloved hero in all of America. "Would you look at that! Another new S ranker to join in our crusade for justice, maybe?"
"…Maybe. I haven't seen anything like it. All those powers and that suit of his - he's a wild card that I can't believe has stayed hidden all this time.
Even so, from what he's shown so far, he doesn't measure up to us. But he could still be hiding his strengths, not to mention that army of his," responded an equally tall woman, though as a woman, her height made her stand out even more than Solomon Solar.
Her silvery hair was done up in a ponytail as her bright green eyes stared at the screen with sheer focus. She emanated a kind of beauty that could only be described as 'cold' with sparse expressions and stiff body language that oozed seriousness.
Her costume comprised of a black bodysuit topped with armor plated gold breastplate, skirt, greaves, and gauntlets. Verdant green vine patterns were embossed in the plating, and overall, her getup seemed strangely archaic, hearkening back to an age of armor and swords.
This was Valkyrie, or, as the public nicknamed her, the Queen of Thorns.
She was a S rank hero and rank 10 in the Superboard top 100.
The Superboard top 100 was mostly a popularity contest, so the fact that she, as someone that never cared about popularity or social media or pandering to corporate sponsors, could manage such a high rank was a testament to her overwhelming strength that had a magnetic charm of its own.
"Either way, he's going to shake the hero scene if he joins to decide the AA. Or even if he doesn't; that's a big decision in of itself," said Valkyrie.
"That's great! Then maybe we can give him a seat in the Protectorate where he can put his powers for good!" said Solomon Solar enthusiastically with a wide, cheery smile.
"…I doubt it. He has his own team, looks like. But no matter what, he's going t make things interesting," said Valkyrie. She paused before staring at Solomon Solar. "And do you have to put up that happy go lucky Mr. justice bullsh*t act even in private?
After all the years we've spent working together?"
"What do you mean, Valkyrie?" said Solomon with a confused brow raise and concerned voice. "Are you alright?"
Valkyrie sighed. "Nevermind. I was just wondering why you were even tuned into this stream in the first place. I imagined Haven would be the least of your worries, considering its low tier status and how much cleanup we have to deal with here in Neo-York.
My intuition is telling me you were looking for something in Haven. Something you don't want to freely tell others." Valkyrie shrugged with nonchalant energy. "But that's just my intuition."
"…" Solomon Solar paused for a moment before responding. "The tier of a city doesn't matter - I check up on all of them to see where I'm needed!"
"Then fly over there or over to Europe or Africa or wherever they still need help instead of wasting time here," said Valkyrie curtly as she turned and left the theater room.
When Valkyrie left, Solomon Solar's smile warped into a twisted frown that nobody in the public could have ever imagined him making as he stared at the screen with a twitching brow of barely suppressed rage.