Hector tried to stay bundled up, but too much of Xuan had regenerated. The Seadevil could no longer fit inside the small pocket of safety between Hector’s chest, arms, and shield. So the mercury seeped through the cracks, and Hector could only thrash against it.
It was like trying to fight ten opponents at once, all with invisible hands guiding the flow of mercury, pummeling Hector’s whole body, tearing at him, swarming him. A tendril wrapped around one of Xuan’s regenerating arms and tore it off. Another tendril tried to do the same to the other arm, but Hector used the point of his shield to chop it off. And he saw Xuan’s one remaining hand. It was nearly complete. The stubby fingers were all that was still needed.
And then Hector felt himself being pulled away by the legs. Only Garovel stayed with him, having somehow repositioned himself to Hector’s hand, hiding just behind the battered shield. Melchor spat the pair of them out like old chewing gum, and Hector clattered to the floor in his crushed armor.
Before even standing, he stared back up with wide eyes, wanting to know if he’d bought enough time for Xuan. And he still couldn’t tell. Chunks of shattered iron were falling all around him, crashing into the rock and making the room tremble, and Hector had to annihilate the pieces that would have otherwise fallen on him.
When he saw Darktide again, the man was a writhing mass of marbled silver. Moving, shifting. Struggling.
And then a white flame burst out of the mercury like a sword, smoldering and bright. Swirling trails of white seeped through the hole, growing as the flame did, until a plume of smoke finally spewed outward, accompanied by a booming laugh that filled the foyer.
Darktide splashed down to the first floor while the Seadevil billowed up to the second. The liquid mercury shuddered violently, almost boiling, and Hector couldn’t tell if that was the result of anger or just a dose of Xuan’s acid.
‘Hector,’ came Garovel’s strained voice, ‘stop using the shield...’
Hector let it drop to the floor and heard Garovel let out a groan of relief. He armored up his other hand so that he could pick it up again. The leather glove underneath was shredded, but he wasn’t presently concerned about the added discomfort.