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Claptrap had been able to sell his ornate helmet for a decent profit, and that would sustain him for a while longer, but otherwise.. It had been a very disappointing market. Although plenty of customers had walked past, they simply didn’t even notice that he was a separate stand than the two lavish set ups on either side of him.

Honestly, immediately after he had sold the helmet, Claptrap experienced intense regret, for he realized just how much of a draw that ornate helmet had been. Without its high quality craftsmanship and materials to draw the eye, Claptrap’s small stand was just a piece of wood in the eyes of the powerful spear users who would come to this high market.

Although it was frustrating, no one had even noticed the engraved bracers that he had received from the Ghosthound. They simply were too shabby looking. At this rate-

Just then, Claptrap looked up, only to frown as he saw a large group walking down the aisle towards the location where his booth was located. Located at the front was a grinning man, who was clearly being bootlicked by the oily Izzat, who was rubbing his hands together in a disgusting way, practically drooling at the thought of obtaining such fat sheep.

And fat sheep they were, because in the middle of their group, a towering ogre of a woman stood, with a Tassle held aloft, a soft, soft blue, barely more than white. It was the Crashing Wave Style, who were the largest Style in Qtal, and the surrounding area.

“Well, it’s hard to say, we do business with a lot of merchants,” The grinning man was saying, rubbing his beard. “We don’t really have exclusive contracts. But of course, we are amenable to competitive pricing…”

“Don’t you worry about that. Ask anyone, Uncle Izzie gives you all you are entitled to, and more, for a fair price,” Izzat said, his eyes crinkling so far he looked like some sort of chubby night terror.

Seeing him like that… walking with people from such a big Style… it was too much, and Claptrap felt something snap inside of him. Almost before he had realized what had happened, he had slammed his fist down on his small booth, cursing his luck, cursing himself for running away from Ciel without saying anything, even cursing Ciel in a small part of his heart, for driving him away from his happy life to this…

To be overtaken by this bootlicker…

The grinning man turned at the noise, tilting his head to the side. Most of the surrounding merchants were looking at Claptrap too, slightly shocked. It wasn’t that loud noises were uncommon in the area, just that…

...had there been a small stand there this whole time…?

“Ah, Claptrap! Oh, Sir, this is a minor merchant with which I have some small dealings… perhaps we should check his… stock…?” Izzat’s eyes had already scanned what was on the table in front of Claptrap, and his mouth had twitched slightly after he had examined it all. Although Claptrap was sure he was a better judge of quality, Izzat was still a wiley old merchant. He clearly saw the low quality nature of the bracers on the table. And he wasn’t going to miss this chance to humiliate Claptrap. “He occasionally has… unusual finds. Anything worth this honored sir’s time, Claptrap?”

The question was obviously a trap, a part of Claptrap noticed, but humiliation and frustration and rage were all mixed inside of them, and they insisted he refuse to back down. So Claptrap raised his head proudly and said. “Of course. Would honored sir please examine these bracers?”

Izzat’s face was twisted between shock, caution, and excitement, as he struggled to understand why Claptrap wouldn’t back off, but the grinning man came forward, his amused expression still in place. The man seemed to know that some sort of posturing was going on behind the scenes, but it was clear that he didn’t really mind, as long as it was amusing. And approaching these poorly stitched bracers, he had no doubt that it would be.

The man picked up the first bracer.

****

Randidly descended, picking up speed, and Dian only looked up at the last second, her eyes widening with realization. Which was good, because Randidly couldn’t do much fine spear work yet, even if his body was slowly struggling to throw off the poison. But Randidly couldn’t care less what he couldn’t do, because he was sure right now that there was one thing that he could do.

And that was to end this strange, poison woman.

He landed with a crash, Dian just scrambling backwards. Unfortunately the shockwave knocked her even farther away, disorientating her, but only injuring her slightly. Randidly pulled on his rings, gathering up the rest of his stamina and mana.

Several bursts of Spearing Roots ripped upwards, and Dian didn’t notice until one had already pierced her thigh, wriggling upward in a strange, root-y victory dance. Her eyes widened, and she showed a surprisingly decisive personality as she twisted, ripping the hole in her leg even more widely, but she was able to use her spear whip to sever the roots in the surrounding area.

Another wave of Spearing Roots was on its way, but she was perhaps just as skilled as Randidly at fleeing. She flicked her whip out, and following the elongated weapon, Randidly was surprised to find it wrapped around the leg of a surprised Tartet, who appeared to have just regained his feet, mostly recovered.

Yanking on the whip, Dian’s body blurred sideways, out of the oncoming roots, shooting sideways over towards Tartet, who fell to the ground with a yelp, unable to withstand the sudden force. Eyes narrowing, Randidly raised his hand, his Eyes of the Spear Phantom focusing to a pinpoint.

“Incendiary Bolt.”

It shot forward, aimed directly into Dian’s path, and she didn’t see it until the last second. It struck the hand that held her weapon, ripping a hole in her palm and knocking the weapon out of her hand. She tried to use what remained of her hand to steady her fall, but the hand gave out, and her face smashed into the ground, her nose breaking with an audible crack.

Randidly grinned and pointed, Spearing Roots ripping upwards out of the ground, ripping through Dian’s armor. But she wiggled like a fish, and was able to avoid any serious wounds. And also, with her good hand, she had produced a potion, a pink one that Randidly recognized as the same type that the Yeti had used, that appeared to restore everything to the user. He raised his hand to send another Incendiary Bolt, but Tartet regained his feet and stood between the two of them, blocking Randidly’s line of sight.

“Ghosthound-! Spear users do not stoop to fighting with mag-”

Randidly’s mind was ignoring Tartet, considering the options at 1 million thoughts a second. Root Manipulation would require more sight to use, Spearing Roots had proven ineffective. Summon Pestilence took too long, Incendiary Bolt would just lose its killing power on Tartet, Circle of Flame and Agony don’t have the range…

Randidly needed to close the difference, and ideally eliminate the interference from Tartet as soon as possible.

“The Spear Advances, Ash Trails.” Randidly’s eyes burned with the image, the explosion of force, the purity in a simple spearhead advancing. He saw it too, the implacable deadliness of Dian’s spear, the hunger of Tartet’s spear.

But that was not his spear. His was a spear with tyrannical momentum. A spear that would not stop, no matter the obstacle.

His was a spear that advances.

To his credit, Tartet managed to get his weapons up in time, activating the strange vibrating spears, and even moving to attack, his eyes narrowing as Randidly approached. But that split second wasn’t enough, even for the highly trained Tartet.

His body was sent flying like a ragdoll, and Randidly flew forward in his wake, twisting slightly midair. Although he was unable to control his momentum mostly due to the continued effect of the poison, but he was satisfied with still moving forward towards Dian. Randidly raised his spear and activated Empower and Haste, his eyes locked on Dian’s throat. There was a strange maroon energy around her, slowly spreading outward, but Randidly ignored it, forcing his will down, and wrapping it around his spear, almost instinctively.

Immediately he could faintly see an emerald energy around his spear, and Randidly wondered if this was Battle Intent, but it was only a fleeting thought, and he used Phantom Thrust. The spear ripped forward, cutting into the strange energy without any ill effects, swiftly advancing towards Dian’s vulnerable throat.

Their eyes met, Dian’s narrowed and bitter, Randidly’s glowing emerald and vicious.

‘This is your fault, you pushed me to this.’ Her eyes seemed to say.

‘I only take your life, because you tried to take mine,’ His eyes answered.

But as his spear ripped forward, that energy surrounding it was slowly devoured, reduced to nothing, leaving only the spear. At the last second, his spear sunk a fraction of an inch into Dian’s throat, drawing blood. The second after that, all of the emerald energy was gone, and there truly was only the spear, which instantly disintegrated to nothing within that maroon energy.

Eyes narrowing, Randidly leaped back, his body clumsily reacting to his commands still. The energy exploded outwards, not exactly following him, but more like flowing towards him in his direction. He raised his hand to protect his face, and continued to retreat backwards. Very quickly he had outstripped it, because the energy flared, then fell back, settling around Dian.

She looked at him strangely then, raising the pink potion to her lips. Randidly looked at his hand.

Most of the flesh on the front had been stripped away, leaving only bloody muscle and bone. The rings on his right hand were ruined, melted to nothing. Luckily his interspatial ring was on his other hand. Drinking his own potions, Randidly eyed her, just as she eyed him.

‘You surprised me.’ Both of their eyes said.

“Ghosthound…” Tartet said, struggling to his feet, panting. “You fucking piece of shit. I’ll kill you for humiliating me like this…”

But Tartet was wounded too, and produced his own potions, drinking them quickly. The three stood, eyeing each other warily. Randidly had missed his chance to kill them both, due to the interference of the other, and it appeared that the other two knew it. But it was also clear that to Dian and Tartet… it was still 1 v 1 v 1. They would not work together. That was their pride.

Even so, Randidly would have an extremely difficult time. His breathing had returned to even, and he removed another bone spear from his ring, but he had played out most of his hidden moves. Meanwhile, it was impossible to determine exactly what this strange energy that Dian made could do, and Randidly didn’t doubt that Tartet knew another move to make his skill set so powerful.

Randidly didn’t know how much time was remaining, but it was going to be-

“Ill fated peasants, why do you bleed over my stage?”

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