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A note from puddles4263

A little late, but the second chapter for today. Two more tomorrow.

The grand melee was an event that almost all of Qtal came out for, and Claptrap was no exception. The administrators of the event opened up the general challenge cells and cleared them out, so those without the money or status to make it to the central viewing tower could view by running around through the cells.

As per the usual, the merchants moved as a band, heading towards the highest, and largest of the cells, creating a tightly packed “Special Market” where each of the merchants brought their most prized wares, sold at special prices to those individuals who came up to their shops.

For Claptrap’s part, he brought several finely made pieces of armor, as well as the 3 bracers engraved by the Ghosthound. If he could make a sale of these today….!

“Ah, Claps my boy, you came too? Hohoho, tis a good thing our stands are so far apart, otherwise I would worry about you stealing some of my customers with your big city acumen.”

His face red, Claptrap turned to face the speaker, an extremely fat merchant with a well oiled beard, who styled himself ‘Uncle Izzie.’ The space behind Uncle Izzie was filled with a varied spread, where every item of armor appeared to be a precious treasure that would be the valued possession of the current master of a Style. It was infuriating, because Uncle Izzie was Claptrap’s main competition, and Claptrap hadn’t been able to best him in a single category since he had come to Qtal.

“Mr. Izzat, it’s good to see you are doing so well.” Claptrap said woodenly.

Izzat’s eyes narrowed, but his smile remained stubbornly in place. “Hohoho, no need to be so formal, call me Uncle Izzie, everyone does...Are your servants coming later, bringing your wares? Why is it that you only have a small satchel at your side?”

Claptrap bit his lip. One of the things that annoyed him about Izzat is that he insisted on never using an interspatial ring to store his wares, but instead paid servants to physically carry around the armor in boxes, in a show of wealth. The amount of spare coin the man had was maddening.

Embarrassed, Claptrap turned away, leaving Izzat to chuckle at his retreating back.

When Claptrap arrived at his space, his heart sank further. Although he had reserved it so far in advance, why was it so small….? It was the size of a child’s desk, and would basically would have enough room for him to display 5 or so pieces of armor, with him hunching behind them. Worst of all, both of the stands on either side of him were large and splendid, covered in fine red table clothes and Tassle streamers of varying colors, indicating the high support that they had from their customers.

Claptrap made a mental note to ask the Ghosthound for a tassle streamer of his, just to have something to display. It didn’t even matter if it was red, it was better to have something than nothing.

So Claptrap slowly removed a high quality ivory helmet, greaves that sparkled with gold inlay, but in fact were not weakened by the use of the metal, and the Ghosthound’s 3, low quality, dirty and beaten leather bracers, and tried to keep a smile on his face for the meandering customers.

It was going to be a long day.

*****

“Hello Shal.”

Shal’s gaze slid sideways, from his student, who finally became serious about the competition and killed two bottom feeders, to find one of the people he detested most in the world.

“Egger.” He grunted, his gaze returning to the window. The less he was forced to interact with this pompous prick the better.

“I am surprised. Who knew that you would have the delicacy to train a disciple. I suppose even violence obsessed idiots have their moments,” Egger said, stepping closer to Shal, so they were side by side as they looked out the window. “...I have 20 trained and tested disciples in this farce. I have given them explicit instructions that they are to have one of them on each of the stages. We will see whether your disciple will even be able to survive long enough for his Tassle to unfurl.”

And this was why Shal detested Egger. For as children, they had been rivals in Egger’s eyes, until Shal summarily trounced him. Since then, Egger had bootlicked his way into one of the larger Styles, and had become a rather well respected instructor for new disciples, even if he was still a mediocre spear-user. At every opportunity, Egger took the opportunity to lord his training accomplishments over Shal, which was received with stony silence.

After all, previously there wasn’t really any competition. But now Shal had a disciple recognized by the world, although most of the world hadn’t realized it yet; there was another Spear Phantom in training.

Normally, Shal would ignore him, because your ability to train a disciple was secondary to individual strength. But there was another truth here, that Shal didn’t want to endanger.

Shal had never lost to Egger, in anything.

So, despite his distaste, Shal spoke directly. “...On this day, a Tassle of your Iron Spear Style will be taken by the Spear Phantom Style. I will wager…”

Shal paused, considering his opponents financial straights. Then he removed an old spear from his ring, a huge, almost 3 meter long monstrosity that had been forged of obsidian. It glittered black in the darkness, a huge hunk of black metal. “...the Spear of the Devourer.”

Egger’s eyes paled, and Shal experienced a certain satisfaction. All had wondered how Shal’s duel with the Devourer had gone, but Shal refused to speak of it. But the fact that he had the Devourer’s spear could only mean one thing…

Shal enjoyed the expression on Egger’s face as he did some quick calculations over the worth of such a spear, and the fear and panic in Egger’s eyes when he realized what a large bet it was. But strangely, his face stilled, and he smiled. “...alright. I will bet this hunk of DragonHeart ore… as well as a bit of information.”

Sneering, Shal opened his mouth to deride Egger, not even wanting to hear the information. Although the ore was valuable, it was nowhere near as valuable as the spear of the Devourer. But Egger continued speaking, and Shal froze.

“...I’ll tell you the location of Lucrecia.”

Shal blinked. Then his eyes darkened. “It is a deal.” He hissed through his teeth, turning back to the melee with fiery eyes.

****

Randidly ran forward, passing stage after stage, his brooding eyes taking in the vicious struggles going on at each location, where more and more people with ideas like his would break off, swarming to the lesser populated stages that they would find for themselves, hoping to see how well they would stack up against the competition. But Randidly continued to jog.

Not to restore his condition, because he had almost instantly regained the Stamina he had lost in his little fight. But because the heat in his chest was slowly cooling to a bubbling anger, preparing to blow up again. But at the moment, he was unsatisfied by the large crowds he ran into.

Still, time was beginning to drag on. Such was the size of the location that he had been jogging for almost 20 minutes and still hadn’t reached the opposite side of the arena. It was simply too large, more a small island than a boat. Although there was already a large cluster of people gathered around the current stage that Randidly was approaching, he was sorely tempted to stop, and set up shop here.

But again, that flicker of rage made him grind his teeth, and in order to avoid killing all of these spear users, Randidly continued to run. As he did so, he noticed that a slim young woman with spiky red hair was shadowing him, not coming too close, but also clearly following the same path as him at the same speed.

Again, his temper flared, but again Randidly pushed it down. It wasn’t yet clear what this woman’s intentions were. But if she planned some sort of vengeance for the two people Randidly had killed…

Shaking his head, Randidly put that out of his mind. This world was different. Perhaps killing was just killing here, and wouldn’t lead to an endless cycle of revenge…

Besides, the young woman wasn’t really looking at him with any sort of malice. But it was a strange, deliberate intensity to her gaze that set him on edge. It was strange, to him, why she would look at him like this, when they had never met in the past. Perhaps some relationship with Shal…?

The distance she maintained was enough that Randidly didn’t really have any plans to turn and attack her. It would be a waste of time, and there were so many other spear users lurking around… It was best to just ignore her for now.

A few minutes later, Randidly arrived at the next stage, which was strangely quiet. There were fewer people here, but also, there was only a single man on the stage, surrounded by around a dozen bodies. The blood was already dried, and the crowd around them was milling about, looking at each other nervously.

But perhaps the most eye catching thing about the stage is that the man standing on the stage was the two spears he held, one in each hand, both wet with blood. His grip was casual, his gaze bored, scanning the crowd with open disdain.

The raw arrogance in his slouched stance ignited the rage in Randidly’s heart even further. His hands tightened around his spear. Ignoring the dead bodies surrounding the strange man, Randidly picked up speed as he ran forward. Almost instinctively, he activated Haste, gaining speed. When he reached the edge of the crowd, he allowed his rage to just carry him forward, activating Mana Strengthening and leaping, clearing the nervous group of spear users and sailing through the air.

In a rather ungainly fashion, he crashed onto the stage, sliding slightly on a patch of blood that was still wet. But with the assistance of the Grace skill, Randidly stabilized himself very quickly, then turned to regard the man. He had long hair, cascading down his back and over his shoulders. As Randidly arrived, his eyes had narrowed, and now he was looking at him with a sneer. His skin was a yellow very close to lime green, a bright, vibrant color that almost made the man look like a clown to Randidly’s eyes.

“Are you a fool? I am a disciple of the Thundercrash Style. Leave, or your corpse will fertilize rice.” The man demanded, his eyes flashing.

Randidly just grinned, leveling his spear at his opponent.

With a snort, the man waved his hand, and a strange energy surged through the air, smashing towards Randidly. When it reached him, Randidly blinked and swayed. It was like 1000s of ghost spears were surging towards him, each with the speed and ferocity of a lightning bolt. But Randidly simply frowned and focused, and the strange spiritual attack warped and shattered, cracking like glass.

For a time, there was silence, as the man’s expression changed from derision to contemplative. Randidly tightened his grip on his spear, his heart beginning to beat with an increased intensity. Finally, a spear user near his own level. The chance to see how well he stacks up against individuals from a world of the 5th Cohort of the Nexus.

“You… who are you?” The man asked slowly.

“They call me the Ghosthound.”

“I am Tartet. It would be a great joy to kill you this day, Ghost-”

“I’m Dian.”

Both Randidly and Tartet turned, rather confused. Randidly’s eyes narrowed. It was that woman with pointy red hair. Most annoyingly, she seemed content to produce a pallet from her interspatial ring, lounging on the stage, in the corner. As the two men continued to stare, she straightened and frowned at them.

“I’ll just take the winner. It wouldn’t be fair to fight 3 at a time; 2 people would just gang up and kill the third.”

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