Hector tried raising platforms beneath Nere to trip her up, but she was simply too fast; and the one time he actually succeeded, Nere just leapt off the platform as if she’d expected it to be there.
Asad, however, employed a better strategy. With a clenched fist, he raised a huge bed of powdered quartz beneath Ismael and Nere, slowing them both down as they suddenly had to go from running on stone to stomping through clumps of sand. Of course, they also had superhuman strength in their legs, so the sand only offered a brief opening as they adjusted their running motion accordingly. But that was enough for Asad.
A quartz spike gored Nere through the stomach, then spawned dozens of barbed branches in quick succession, exploding out of her torso and severing the top half of her body from the bottom. Her arms moved to destroy the quartz, but it was already too late. The glass cut cleanly up through both shoulders, stopping her movement completely before proceeding to encase her neck and head.
Hector looked on in horrified awe. He would definitely have to steal that technique, he decided.
And it had gone almost unnoticed thus far, but Asad was the main reason why none of the fallen Blackburns had been able to return to the fight. Even when he’d been fending off two or three opponents at once, Asad managed to coat the severed heads in quartz and prevent regeneration. Ismael or Melchor would sometimes break someone free, but Asad would just coat them again without losing a beat. Hector, at least, managed to provide some assistance on that front, recoating a couple with iron when Asad didn’t have the time.
Now, with Nere taken down, Hector checked on Lord Salvador again. Darktide already had him pinned and was almost finished extracting his reaper.
Only Ismael, Melchor, Asad, and Hector remained. The last four combatants. How he’d ended up in this position was entirely beyond him, but the good news was that Xuan’s head, neck, and shoulders had finished regrowing.
He heard Garovel ask the question that was already on his mind.
‘How much longer?’
‘He just needs one hand,’ said Duvoss.
In calmer circumstances, Hector might have asked why. He also might have complained about it, because that was still way too long to wait--especially now that he was watching a living metal monster barreling toward him.