Hector observed the fight with grim wonder, trying to keep an eye on everyone. Dimas and Salvador appeared to have their situation well in hand, with Dimas occasionally boring enormous holes in the rock, earning more aerial space for himself. Hector watched the man fly into a tunnel of his own making, only to return a moment later, exploding through a wall behind one of the Blackburns.
Meanwhile, Xuan and Melchor were still a thunderous mess of scarcely understandable chaos. Pillars of white smoke and whiter flames slammed against sheets of flexing metal, making both burst apart each time.
‘What are they doing?’ Hector asked.
‘Trying to overwhelm one another,’ said Garovel. ‘They’ve both mastered pan-rozum, so there aren’t many ways they can subdue each other. Hyper states can be forcibly undone by tearing the reaper out of the user’s brain. But in pan-rozum, the user can melt their brain mass down into something incredibly small without losing any of its functionality--and on top of that, it can be MOVED, too. So right now, they’re both attempting to surround and destroy enough of one another that they can locate their opponent’s brain and end the fight.’
Hector understood. ‘Process of elimination...’
‘Exactly. The less original mass the user possesses, the fewer places the brain can be located.’
Every now and again, Hector could see the smoke take on a vaguely human shape, sometimes with too many arms, all grasping at Darktide’s only slightly more humanoid form. Javelins of white flame punctured the mercury in multiple places, looking almost like fiery claws as they tore through the liquid body. Xuan’s own body expanded and contracted as he pleased, billowing one way and then the other, and not being particularly bothered by Melchor’s smothering walls. Even when Darktide actually succeeded in boxing some of the smoke in and compressing it, the Seadevil simply cut himself free with fire or acid.
‘What is Xuan’s element?’ said Hector. ‘Do you know?’
‘No one told me,’ said Garovel, ‘because I guess they like to keep their trump card secret when they can, but seeing it now--it’s almost definitely phosphorus. The sheer volume of smoke is somewhat telling--though I’m a little surprised he can control the product of his chemical reactions so well. To make the smoke an extension of his body... well, I am quite impressed.’
‘They did say he was 106...’
‘Yes, they did.’