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Ibai frowned at his father. “It’s not over already, is it, Papa? I barely got to fight!”
Ismael didn’t seem to hear him. “A ceasefire,” the man said, almost inaudibly. “Yes, a ceasefire...”
‘So you agree, then?’ said Chergoa.
‘Alright, then call off your monster.’
Before Ismael could move, however, Melchor came splattering toward them. The mercury bubbled and sizzled beneath trails of smoke and steam, and Melchor’s liquid mass seemed to have trouble keeping its shape, dripping like hot wax.
Ismael ran over to him, pulling Ibai along as well. “Melchor!” he shouted. “Stand down! For now, this battle is over!”
“What are you saying?” came Darktide’s growling voices.
“Just stand down! I command you!”
And Melchor needed no further convincing. The mercury liquid coalesced into a human form once more and regained the pale skin color that all Blackburns shared. Orric melted out of the man’s naked body and fell into his hand. Melchor dropped to his knees, breathing heavily and sweating, looking as if he were about to retch.
Xuan arrived, still bursting with smoke and fire, as Ismael was pulling off his own overshirt to drape around Melchor’s shoulders.
“What’s all this, then?” said Xuan. “Surrendering? Wait--is that an aberration?”
Ibai was busy pulling off his pants.
Chergoa spoke up again. ‘We’ve reached a temporary understanding,’ she said. ‘Em, tell him.’
Emiliana placed herself in front of Melchor and raised both hands toward Xuan. “Please stop fighting. There’s been a big misunderstanding, and we’re requesting a ceasefire. Please.”
The Seadevil just continued to hover there, swirling in place and hardly seeming human enough to have a voice at all anymore. Slowly, however, he lowered himself down to the ground and took on his usual, smaller visage. And of course, he was also stark naked.
Asad lent him his robe, which fit Xuan like a blanket.
Everyone else had released their reapers, and by extension, their hyper-states, but Xuan still clung to his. “Return the children to us,” he said with two voices. “Only then will my cousins agree to talk to you.”
“Very well,” said Ismael.
“Good.” Xuan looked over at Asad and Hector. “Don’t let that thing eat Duvoss while I’m out, yeah?”
“What do you--?”
Duvoss melted out of Xuan’s body, and Xuan fell flat on his face, unconscious.
And when Melchor saw that, he collapsed onto his side, also out cold.