“Many thanks for arriving so promptly,” Roy said cheerily, even as he stood on his tiptoes to maintain his position in the trap shaft. “I had resigned myself to another long, long time alone with my own darkness, but fortune has smiled upon me! Truly, it is providence that a previous ally has stumbled upon me. Although we are current enemies, we are both driven by the treasure of this place, are we not? A typical story. We will now put aside our differences and work together to-”
“Shut the fuck up,” Drake growled. With a great heave, he pulled himself out of the shaft and onto the ground of the passage. The entirety of the junction had dropped away, meaning that Drake could only peer down over the edge at Roy. It was just barely possible to see that below Roy, there was a strange liquid of a deep black color.
In a consistent fashion, it bubbled ominously.
Roy winked up at Drake. “Let’s skip the posturing, shall we? I am truly in a pickle down here. Give me a hand, and I swear I will hand over this… Naga’s Determination, yes?”
“Pass up the item, then I will pull you up,” Drake grunted, having no intention of doing any such thing. He lowered his bone gauntlet down the shaft and shaped his hand so his finger was extraordinarily long and flimsy. Good enough to grab a disk, but weak enough to shatter if something else were to seize the bones.
Roy released an aggrieved sigh. “You were always an abysmal liar. Why are you trying to kill me? That’s hardly sporting.”
“Sporting?” Drake snorted, a black humor overtaking him. “You are a dead thing, Roy.”
All of a sudden, Roy was completely still. His eyes went glassy. “All is dead. Consciousness is the indulgence in a chemical-soaked flesh sponge. If you were to open yourself up like a box, you would find only emptiness, Drake.”
That gave Drake pause, and that was probably exactly what it was waiting for.
It being the Frogipede that Drake was too distracted enough to notice. As opposed to its previous compatriots, this Frogipede took great care in lining up its strike and positioning itself. There was only a soft squish as its body folded on itself, and then it exploded into motion to impact Drake at the rear base of his helmet.
The entire back portion of the armor cracked without Ryx there to defend him, and the bone armor shattered into pieces as the attack knocked Drake into the trap shaft. He twisted and Ryx exploded into a bone shield bristling spikes, but the Frogipede brought one of its arms smashing down.
Drake heard more than felt as his head was clobbered into the stone wall. And this was no stone that he recognized, because his skull cracked and didn’t leave even a scuff on the wall. Dizzy, he twisted around as he tumbled down the shaft.
Gurgling in glee, the Frogipede followed him down. Fat globs of saliva dripped down the sides as it drooled in excitement. As his trembling hands scrabbled at the walls, Drake could find no purchase. Ineffectually, he shook his head. Can’t scratch, need to press and suspend. But his body-
Even with his high Endurance, a concussion was possible-
But then a hand grabbed him.
“You have better luck than me. At least I had stabilized before I fell. I could wait for help. But if I hadn’t been right here, right now… tsk tsk, well, it is my duty to be in place for such things.”
Drake blinked and looked over at Roy’s smiling face. His hand was as cold as ice. “What… what are you doing?”
“I’m a Hero,” Roy said with a shrug.
But then both their gazes turned upwards. The Frogipede was charging down towards them, and now that Drake was closer to it, he really didn’t like the sulfur smell wafting up from the bubbling black liquid.
“Can you reach up past the little peon and grab the edge?” Roy asked casually.
Drake frowned. He didn’t like where this was going. And from a few months of working with him early in the System’s arrival, he could guess where Roy’s head was at. “Yes, but it would be cleaner to-”
Roy twisted away, losing his precarious standing position. He flexed the hand not gripping onto Drake and condensed an ax just as the Frogipede smashed down towards them. In an almost dismissive blow, Roy beheaded the thing, deftly twisting his ax to maneuver it in the tight shaft.
Swearing, Drake ignored how the pain in his soul shifted to a throbbing feeling and created a bone gauntlet to reach up and seize the edge. They stopped, and now Drake was the one keeping Roy above the black sludge. The headless body of the Frogipede fell into the black liquid, sinking almost without a sound. Within a split second, it had disappeared.
Gritting his teeth in annoyance, Drake glared at an innocent looking Roy. He had never considered himself a very moral person, but Drake had a few very strong tenants of behavior. The most relevant of which was to repay like with like; as Roy had killed dozens of people from Donnyton the last that Drake had heard from him, Drake felt no qualms in killing him now.
But Roy had now saved him.
“Hand over the Quest Item,” Drake hissed.
With a widening smile, Roy flipped the disk toward Drake, whose one hand was grabbing salvation, and the other was on Roy.
Ryx leaped up and grabbed it in his mouth, then pushed off the side of the shaft and began to ascend. As Drake pulled himself and this grinning abomination from the trap, he picked up Ryx and carried them all up.
First thing he did on solid land was check nearby for any Frogipedes on the ceiling. Finding none, he turned to Roy. The man had waited patiently. An expert at toeing the line, that one. If he had fucking put as much hard work into bettering himself as he did in twisting the situation to suit him…
“Why?” Drake asked, considering simply burying his sword in the thing in front of him rather than trying to speak to him.
“Because when it becomes obvious that there is not true force but entropy, the only logical conclusion is to bring yourself enjoyment. Being a Hero is enjoyable because the world loves me.” Roy announced.
Drake just looked at him. He was rapidly losing track of what their conversation was about.
Chuckling, Roy said. “Or is this why I saved you again? Drake, I am a Hero. It is the blessed Class without limits, but not without responsibilities. Although we are enemies, a Hero’s Mercy has no bounds.”
“Mercy,” Drake said, feeling sick to his stomach. This was the other reason that he never appreciated Roy. The man was simply too focused on meaningless distinctions for Drake to enjoy engaging with him. Calmly, he looked down at the disk in his hand.
Determination of the Naga (S) Lvl 60: The crystallization of those lesser creatures seeking to ascend to something greater. In the swirling runes, you see the instructions to a great ritual that can change one’s fate. But such a ritual cannot occur as long as the Naga restricts the bloodlines of those beneath it. A drop of the blood of a true Naga is required to complete the ritual. Whiff of Hope V. Energizing Light V.
Whiff of Hope V: All the lesser bloodlines who are near will sense what you do, and move to aid you. You may now communicate with those of sufficient intelligence.
Energizing Light V: Health, Mana, and Stamina Regeneration +300 while the disk is held.
Drake swore quietly. The Health and Mana were useful, but it was the 300 Stamina regeneration per minute that was almost mind-boggling in its power. That was an extra 5 Stamina a second, on top of what he already had. The resiliency that would give him in battle… It was something that Drake had seen in nobody but the Ghosthound.
His eyes turned sharp as Drake focused back on Roy. This was the man he was supposed to kill. You are my sword. But another part of Drake was more pragmatic. The item implied that there was a boss waiting at the end of this maze, a True Naga, although Drake wasn’t sure what that would entail. It was likely the Boss of the Danger Zone. Something almost impossibly strong. Something on the caliber of the Ghosthound.
It was not an enemy he could fight alone.
His duty was nebulous, even if he believed he had the right answer. A part of him was aghast that he was considering wavering from his desire to kill Roy, but another part pointed out that the reward from the System Quest would likely be worth the effort. And at this point, Drake couldn’t be enthused about either the prospect of killing Roy or his chances of doing so.
Trapped in these tiny passages… true, Roy faced the same limitations. But for all that Roy claimed to be a Hero, his fighting style was all misdirection and ambushes.
Roy’s eyes were bright as he extended a hand. “Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. And I very much believe you see the value in questing together.”
His head throbbed, but Drake reached out and took Roy’s hand.