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16+ Language Violence

Iceflame// Chapter 27: Vortex of Crimson

by SalisRuinen


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.

Whatever remained of the big central field was completely decimated by the tide created by Exo and his class. The ground shook, the sky split open, trees were uprooted, set on fire or shredded, chunks of earth being thrown around in a vortex of elements.

It pretty much made the attacks used by both Earthlings and Martians in the Class Battle up to that point look like pale imitations of true power. If only King could’ve been conscious to see it. He would definitely be angry on missing out and not contributing in any way to such an important event in the class’ history once he woke up.

Then again, the gluttonous giant had helped his classmates by providing the additional drive they needed to fight against Nepalo as hard as they did because they wanted to avenge him. That could possibly cheer up King and Exo decided to relay that information to him once he opened his eyes.

That could actually happen at any minute now due to the number of joyous whole-hearted laughs and triumphant roars of the girls around him. Vega and the whip-tongued healer joined the others soon enough, the drunkard only having a small smile on his face.

It was a rare thing to see, Vega not going all-out during a celebration. Especially considering he himself had led his classmates during this battle and had almost been taken out by their united attack.

When the group was reunited, the drunkard stepped closer to Annabel, who appeared to be the most exhausted out of everyone, Yonira currently supporting her so she could keep standing up.

(Vega) ‘-Bel … was that you? Teleporting the two of us away just as the tide hit Nepalo? I definitely saw some light wrapping around us.’

(Annabel) ‘-My light was used as the base for our combined attack not only because I have a very strong deva, but because I could use it to teleport you guys out of harm’s way after it came in contact with you faster than anyone else here. Let me ask you this, though. Did you know we were going to unleash that tide just now?’

(Vega) ‘-I knew you guys wouldn’t wait to be fully healed before joining the fray, but wasn’t sure when that was going to happen exactly. That’s why I tried to buy as much time as possible with mid- and close-range physical attacks on that sucker. And then I just hoped you would intervene on time to save our asses.’

(Yonira) ‘-Good thing this mad bitch over here totally went overboard by switching from exhausting her healing deva to patch up as many Earthlings as possible so they could join our attack to exhausting her light deva to lead the others in creating our destroyer tide.’

(Annabel) ‘-And I did all that without being fully healed, Yonira. You can’t deny I’m the strongest girl in the class now. Even Yuki couldn’t have pulled off something like this.’

(Keiry D) ‘-Well, you’re certainly the craziest girl in our class, Bel, that’s for …’

Sprays of crimson energy spread around the smiling main sensor of Earthling Class #1, something taking her away seconds later. Everyone’s joy turned to shock and then to horror when they followed the trail of energy that was without a doubt coming from Nepalo’s deva to find out what had happened to Keiry D.

An animal made of crimson energy that looked like a rhino, but twice the size, with its teeth on the outside of its mouth, three horns instead of two and bony spikes along the length of its spine had impaled the black-haired sensor on two of its horns.

Keiry herself was utterly shocked as the creature shook its head to take its horns out of her body and throw her aside, splashing her blood around. The moment she hit the ground, everything around her classmates started shaking.

Exo could hardly move his eyes away from the run-through girl, but forced himself to do that in order to find the source of her suffering. When that source was revealed, another feeling swept over him instead of the terror he had felt up to that point. HOPELESSNESS.

The smoke from the Earthlings’ combined attack had cleared, revealing the Martians who had moved all the way to the forest beyond the remains of the big central field. Ahead of them stood the unscathed Nepalo, who had created tens of animals identical to the one that had impaled Keiry D around him.

(Nepalo) ‘-That was a splendid attack, Earthlings! So splendid that it made me change my mind! I think I’m just going to kill you right now!! WITH MY CRIMSON 100-HORNED STAMPEDE!!!!’

Right after saying that, he got on the back of the only rhino-like animal that had four horns on its head unlike the other tri-horned ones, leading a charge of his creations against the hot heads who were more disheartened that ever. And none were more disheartened than Exo.

Too much was happening both inside the techno-genius’ head and outside of it at this point. Keiry was in critical condition and needed immediate medical attention. Nepalo’s attacks were clearly performed with a murderous intent, which was strictly forbidden, but the Summerbolts hadn’t intervened to stop him. And he had come out unscathed after the strongest attack Earthling Class #1 could muster.

One thought finally came to the forefront amid the swirling chaos in Exo’s mind then – that something needed to be done about the coming assault of tri-horned energy animals and their leader. This attack was definitely going to cause a lot of damage to everyone, but if its effects could at least be lessened so that none of the wounds suffered are fatal, it would still be enough.

That’s what Exo needed to focus on: serving his class as the thing he was always meant to be – their shield. Having found a clear purpose again, he stood in front of Vega and clenched his fists.

(Exo) ‘-Yoni, get over here! Vega, power the two of us up as much as possible!!’

Yonira ran to stand by the techno-genius’ side but the drunkard was unresponsive. When turning to look at him, it almost felt as if the two’s places had been exchanged. Vega was the one who looked like a coward gripped by fear now – something his classmate had never seen, which made this sight all the more unnerving. The destruction Nepalo was about to unleash was even more unnerving, though.

Exo clutched the energy-using warrior’s shoulders and roared at him with whatever strength he had left to make him come back to his senses. For if he didn’t, the Earthlings would cease to exist very soon.

(Exo) ‘-DO YOU WANT THE WHOLE CLASS TO DIE?!?!! POWER US UP, SO WE CAN HOLD HIM!!! NOW, VEGA!!! IF IT DOESN’T WORK WITH OFFENSE, WE’LL GIVE HIM THE BEST DEFENSE THERE IS!!! SO SNAP OUT OF IT AND HELP ME SAVE EVERYONE!!!!’

Vega’s fear turned to surprise, but within a few seconds the same determination that fueled Exo’s every action at the moment was ignited in his classmate’s eyes as well.

As the metal defender stood next to Yonira again, the drunkard slammed his palms on the backs of the duo in front of him. Huge amounts of pale green energy were channeled through their bodies as they directed their palms forward, roaring together to push their devas to their limit one last time.

Layers upon layers of high and wide walls that combined rocks with hard metal emerged from the ground in front of the masters of defense just as Nepalo and co. reached them. While they tried to hold the attackers at bay, those among the duo’s classmates who had managed to overcome the fear in their hearts at least a bit added their own devas to the wall formation to further strengthen it.

It seemed that some of the others had also not given up. There was yet a chance to survive. And as mad as it sounded, Exo hoped even for something more than that – to uncover Nepalo’s weakness, for the techno-genius was certain that even an enemy of such a caliber had a weakness. He couldn’t be invulnerable. If the hot heads at the remains of the central field could find his weakness, then they could at least give the others a bigger chance at defeating the strongest Martian.

Some of the walls were broken while the Earthlings’ master of defense was thinking about this, others were bent and the last line of defense cracked. The ground kept on shaking more and more, the creators of the walls roaring with all their remaining strength. The crimson energy still contained by the barricade for the time being was blasted off into the sky, its high volume changing the color of parts of it to match that of the red-skinned monster’s deva, making the situation feel even more apocalyptic.

The cracks on the last layer of the barrier kept growing in size, some of those starting to connect with each other to form holes, Exo, Yonira and all the others having fallen silent after all the shouting. Amid that silence the last wall was ripped in half, crimson energy bursting from it and consuming everything around the techno-genius and his classmates.

Silhouettes started coming out of that energy, the coward trying to prepare his body as much as possible for the pain he knew he was about to experience. The leading silhouette was certainly Nepalo and his unique mount. That’s what Exo was aiming for as a hard metal blade came out of the boy’s wrist, using it for a single swing before pulses of pain wrecked his nervous system.

All he saw was crimson now. Whether the color came from the Martian’s deva, or from the blood being sprayed around, he could not say. Nothing remained of his mind with all the pain coursing through his body. And then when the pain reached a most excruciating level, it suddenly started subsiding. The less pain there was, the less acute the other feelings became and the more blurry things became all around.

It was almost a relief to be freed of all the accumulated stress. No more fear. No more despair. No more confusion. Nothing. Even the color started changing, becoming darker and darker.

Until nothing remained but perfect black silence.

*

Exo wasn’t certain how long he had been unconscious for when he opened his eyes. All he was certain of was that as soon as he opened them, he wanted to pass out again. The pain he felt now was a hundred times worse compared to what the initial experience of Nepalo’s attack had been, almost feeling that his body had been ripped apart. Another thing he felt was a deep regret because he could move his head and neck.

That meant he could lift his head and see what the state of his body was and nothing terrified him more than looking at his wounds. The condition his classmates were in was likely the same, so he didn’t want to turn his head to them, either.

The techno-genius considered it would be best if he just kept lying on the ground without moving a muscle, waiting for the moment he would lose enough blood and die. Most likely that moment was going to come soon. And then the pain, the dread, the confusion, the guilt – all of it would just disappear.

Someone’s pain-ridden screams interrupted his defeatist line of thought. He knew that voice. It belonged to one of the girls in his class. Most likely she was in a terrible condition to be screaming so loudly and her mangled body was definitely not something he wanted to see. Yet he turned his head around and looked.

Many of the Earthlings were spread amid the smoking remains of the big central field around him, no one seeming to have lost a limb or some of their insides, but still having puddles of blood around them. Some were still unconscious, others having woken up and still trying to accept the state they were in. And then there were the members of the third group who had already realized how badly wounded they were and screamed as loud as they could because of that.

Exo himself was overcome by a strong urge to scream, but not because of the agonizing pain. The reason for his screams would be the giant shadow that loomed over him. It was the red-skinned monster, a terror-inducing grin covering the lower half of his face as he leaned closer to the broken techno-genius, slowly reaching for his head.

As the monstrous hand came closer to his face, the fear and pain in the teenager found another companion – surprise. The cause for that was the scratch left on Nepalo’s arm just above the wrist.

It was a small cut. Not even big enough for any blood to come out of it. But as it was on the part of the strongest Martian’s skin that had no spikes coming out of it and no patterns of black shapes over it, the cut definitely stood out. It wasn’t Exo’s imagination.

And that cut had most likely appeared because of the swing of the metal blade coming out of the techno-genius’s wrist the moment the Crimson God of War and his creations first ran over him and his classmates. The Earthling had just made a discovery that could turn the tide of the whole Class Battle.

That cut may have been insignificant in Nepalo’s eyes, but for his current target it was important enough to make him cling to life a bit longer. He needed to survive to deliver this information to Tokura. All the destruction the hot heads had endured up to this point would’ve been for nothing otherwise.

(Nepalo) ‘-And here’s the main pest behind the creation of that wall that slowed down me and my tri-horns. You may be spineless, Exo, but you have my respect for managing to mount such a defense against me so fast. (crimson energy started swirling around his hand as he finally touched the metal defender’s face) Too bad you won’t live to tell the tale of it.’

The hand suddenly moved itself aside from the Earthling’s face, streaks of azure energy being revealed to his eyes when that happened as he heard the sound of fighting nearby. Something pushed the red-skinned monster away a second later, Nepalo being enveloped in that same azure energy and teleported away. Tokura Braveheart now stood next to the coward instead. Exo had tears in his eyes from the pain and the fear, but now those tears started flowing uncontrollably. Was it because he was happy the pseudoknight had finally arrived? Or because he was losing control of his body the closer he drew to death?

(Tokura) ‘-I’m sorry I was too late, Exo. Let’s get you and the others away from here.’

(Exo) ‘-T-Tora, wait! I have to tell you …’

He put too much strain on his voice because of the storm of emotions raging inside him and that cost him the ability to produce sounds loud enough so that Tokura could hear them,. With normal speaking no longer being an option, the techno-genius used whatever strength was left in his arms to pull the azure savior closer to the side of his face, whispering in his ear.

(Exo) ‘-It’s about Nepalo. He … he has a very thin layer of crimson energy wrapped closely around his body that won’t allow any attack to go through it. When he uses really big attacks, that layer of energy is removed so it can serve to further power up the attacks. I know, because … because I managed to cut him during his last attack. You have to hit him when he attacks with his full might. That’s how … he can be beaten.’

(Tokura) ‘-You fu**ing genius. Don’t you worry, Ex. The bastard will be broken really good for what he did. I’ll just sent you to the Summerbolts along with others first so they can help you. (Flexoid streams started enveloping Exo then, the only thing he could see beyond them being the ‘small’ battering ram’s confident smile) With what you’ve done here you’ll have something to brag about to Line-sensei the next time we meet him, so make sure you live until then.’

The image of Tokura disappeared along with everything else soon, the azure energy consuming the fallen Earthling completely for only a moment.

After the moment passed, he felt he fell on solid ground from a short distance. Nothing significant, but it still added to his pain, a multitude of sights and sounds bombarding his eyes and ears at the same time once the energy around him disappeared.

He had appeared next to the remains of the observation tower atop which the Summerbolts were supposed to be, his classmates lying on the grass around him with something happening in opposite directions of what remained of the tower. On one side Yuki, Iziya, Graid and Rose were fighting hundreds of men with full-body uniforms and partial armor using anti-deva arsenal powered by pale green energy. On the other side Ulura Nightsong was beating Saya Summerbolt.

And Exo’s homeroom teacher was helping her do it.


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Fri Aug 05, 2022 2:50 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hiya Salis!

First Impressions
I felt really bad for the Earthlings in this one. Not only is Nepalo still undefeated, they also have to deal with realising that their teacher betrayed them. Like, okay, now I’m convinced that Tenji is a real traitor. <.< The chapter definitely leaves a lingering feeling of horror.

Annabel, Keiry D, Yonira

I like the moment of triumph with these three bantering before everything crashes down again. The lightheartedness certainly fooled me into thinking everything would be alright, so Nepalo’s counterattack caught me off guard.

My general impression of these three characters is that they form a kind of contrastive dynamic, kind of like, say, Hikaru and Seiren. Keiry D is more of a strategist, being quieter and having a sensing-type deva. Yonira is opposite to her, being a fighter and generally louder and bantering with opponents. I like that Annabel has an unexpected personality for a ‘healer’ character. I think usually a lot of shows and games like to have healers be very demure or quiet all the time, but Annabel’s personality varies a little more. Earlier on she was more ‘sensible’ and tried to get Hikaru and Seiren to stick to the plan, but here she is acting more ‘reckless’ because the situation is different, and I like that complexity.

(Vega) ‘-Bel … was that you? Teleporting the two of us away just as the tide hit Nepalo? I definitely saw some light wrapping around us.’

This was both awesome and heartwarming!

(Annabel) ‘-And I did all that without being fully healed, Yonira. You can’t deny I’m the strongest girl in the class now. Even Yuki couldn’t have pulled off something like this.’

I also like this line xD Definitely encapsulates the ‘hot head’ label the class has as a whole, and Keiry D’s comment after is also good.

Exo, Vega and Classmates

Exo’s actions seem to drive the plot forward the most for this chapter. At first, he’s the one who brings the class back into action to defend against Nepalo’s attack, and then later, he tries and succeeds in finding Nepalo’s weakness. Exo’s determination to serve his classmates makes him very likeable to me. I always have a fondness for service-oriented characters like that, who are not very loud, bold or flashy but do important work.

Something else I like is the realistic reactions that Vega, Exo and the others have to the terrible destruction. It totally makes sense that they’d be in shock and terrified, and those reactions helped the story feel more ‘real’ to be and empathise with them more.
Many of the Earthlings were spread amid the smoking remains of the big central field around him

This is just a suggestion, but I feel like this moment would be a good point to use some ‘small-scale’ sensory description of the setting. During the battle scenes and given the type of disorientating battle that takes place in this chapter, I think the descriptions you already have make a lot of sense. Most of it is focused on the elemental-based attacks happening with some general orientation like the “forest” and the “big central field” to show where every thing is. In the part I quoted, it felt almost like the view was from a bird’s eye perspective. The details of the place described are very large-scale and vague ones, like people being “spread” amidst the “big central field”.

However, this bit isn’t in the middle of an active fight scene but is kind of a moment of defeat. I think that the feeling of hopelessness and fear might be conveyed more acutely if there were some ‘small scale’ details added to it, because from what I can tell Exo and his classmates are feeling trapped, like there’s no way out of this – so the big and sweeping descriptions don’t seem to reflect that. Maybe the first thing Exo sees when he regains consciousness is dust in the air, or maybe a shred of bloody clothing right next to his head. It doesn’t have to be something very grisly like a wound, but having some small remnant of destruction described might help the reader wrap their head around the overall mood of this scene.

Nepalo

I hadn’t expected one of Nepalo’s abilities to be summoning a stampede, so that was a pretty effective scare. I can get the continuity of his character being someone who is all about strength. The class launches a big attack at him so he sends an even bigger one right back at them.

If I were to speculate a little bit as to how the fight with Tokura will go, I’d say it’s going to be big and bombastic. Even though Tokura now has a strategy and a particular weakness to aim at, he’s still going to have to attack while Nepalo is unleashing a lot of damage. Which sounds pretty scary, given that the battlefield is full of his injured classmates.

Overall

And Exo’s homeroom teacher was helping her do it.

This was a good dramatic one-liner! Overall, the chapter brings together a lot of threads of the plot, which is great. As mentioned, I definitely sympathise a lot with Exo here as Tokura was just talking about how they were going to make Line-sensei proud and now he walks in on this. I’m not really sure how the Earthlings are going to make it out of all the different aspects of trouble they’re in, from all the adults seemingly being held up, to the Nightsongs, to Nepalo . . . so it looks like we’re entering an even more desperate stage of the fight from now on.

Hope some of this is helpful and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




SalisRuinen says...


Thanks a bunch for the review!
I like your comment about Annabel, Yonira and Keiry D. I had always planned for Annabel and Yonira to have a rivalry mirroring the one between Hikaru and Seiren (only a bit toned down), but had never thought Keiry D can play a role in their relationship as well. The food for thought you've given me with this one is much appreciated.
The focus on this chapter is indeed on Exo. Due to him being the most cowardly member of his class, I thought it'd be a good idea to see Nepalo's rampage through his eyes. Which is why your idea of describing the battlefield in more detail after Nepalo's attack is great. I just didn't think of that. I wanted to show the scale of the destruction unleashed by Nepalo with the sentence you mentioned, but forgot to give some attention to the little things. No worries, I'll be sure to fix that when I can.
Summoning a stampede is not something only Nepalo can do, actually. Not many people can use such a technique, but its usage is not limited to him only. It goes back to the set of five basic skills for all deviants Saya had explained to Yuki in one of the pre-Class Battle chapters. What Nepalo did here is an example of totem manifestation, his totem being this particular species of rhino. The number and size of totem manifestations one can create depends on how strong a person's deva is, so I wanted to show just how powerful Nepalo is by creating so many animals at once.
I'm also glad you caught on Nepalo's definitive character trait here. As I explained in the reply to your previous review, he doesn't respect any of the Earthlings he's facing here prior to the combined attack they unleash against him. After that, though, he is somewhat impressed, finally deciding to get serious. Makes one wonder if it's better to be respected by such a person or not!
If there is one thing I can guarantee about the Tokura vs. Nepalo fight, it will not disappoint in terms of scale. That's why Tokura teleported his class away from the big central field %u2013 so he can go all-out without having to worry about hurting anyone. The problem he still has is the fact he exhausted more energy than expected while fighting the Hera Trio earlier, being somewhat tired at this point. At the same time Nepalo has a weakness exposed, so both combatants will enter this battle with handicaps - something I wanted to do to even the odds and make it impossible to guess who'll win.




Perfection is lots of little things done well.
— Marco Pierre White