Even with a wound in his side, the male spear attendant stood, perplexed, almost heedless of his own blood loss. Of course, his high physical defense stats were starting to slow the bleeding down, but he had lost a majority of his health in the single blow, and must be feeling it, Lucretia mused.
But in his stance, there was no weakness, only confusion.
“Misery…? Does our friendship really mean so little, Claptrap…?” The male spear attendant said, his eyes sorrowful. But this heartfelt wondering served only to infuriate Claptrap further.
“There! This is exactly why!” Claptrap bellowed, the red glow in his eyes hardening. “You don’t take me seriously at ll. Even now… even as I hold the power to kill you, you don’t feel threatened. Because it’s me. Because I’m Claptrap, the lovable merchant, the SIDEKICK!” With the final word, Claptrap threw himself forward, his spear raised. A powerful image of a monster appeared in the air behind him, fuzzy and distant, but vicious and potent.
However, unlike his first strike, the male spear attendant was ready this time, and his Iron Bulwark sprung into being around him, his spear held defensively. The two forces crashed, and the Bulwark was ripped into scrap metal. The male spear attendant managed to interpose his spear between himself and the strike, but even the shaft of that was bent slightly with the force of Claptrap’s attack.
This exchange served as a signal for the other two, and the fight between Black Spear and Divveltian resumed, Divveltian throwing all his reserves at Black Spear, pounding him, forcing his body into awkward positions. Whereas before Divveltian had challenged Black Spear directly and lost, now he continued to harry him, slowly increasing the damage done to the physical body, which the deceased soul inside of the body had little ways of addressing.
Still, those small wounds were short lived, as the red in Black Spear’s eyes grew more bright, and small flames began to emerge on those wounds, licking at them. Slowly, they grew closed, healing through sheer force of will.
Black Spear stepped forward, its eyes baleful and glowing. Divveltian just growled and closed his eyes. A music was emerging, sweeping the streets, higher and stronger than before, and spears began to materialize everywhere.
The small crowd that had gathered at the end of the street watched, eyes wide. This level of confrontation was rarely seen by the public, Lucretia knew, and she didn’t want to be the one that spoiled how weak the average person really was. So she waved her hand, and her third and final zombie moved out of the shadows, cutting the onlookers down.
Beckoning the final zombie over to her side, Lucretia turned to watch the two contests with interest.
Whatever Divveltian was doing, it was working. Although Black Spear was able to heal, he couldn’t do it quickly enough, not with the weight of the crescendo of spears that Divveltian was using to slowly tear the skin off of Black Spear’s body.
If Lucretia didn’t know better… she would have said that Divveltian just had an epiphany mid battle, and was powering up immensely. But the likelihood of that actually happening… Shaking her head, Lucretia turned to the other battle.
It seemed that Claptrap had seen the state Black Spear was being reduced to, and lashed out, harder and harder. Each time, the male spear attendant was knocked to the ground. But each time, the male spear attendant also sprung to his feet, his shoulder broken, his thigh bleeding heavily now as well, but the image of the Iron Bulwark behind him stronger, more vibrant.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY!” Claptrap bellowed, and there were tears in his eyes, Lucretia saw. But she just smiled. She could feel his emotions roiling within Claptrap. Fear, shame, uncertainty. But also, behind the others, a certain amount of satisfaction and excitement, and pride. He enjoyed these new powers very much, she could tell. He just wasn’t sure if it was worth the cost yet.
“Too late…” Lucretia whispered, patting her third zombie on the head. Then, to amuse herself, she began to braid his hair.
The male spear attendant stood his ground. “Why did you come here, if not for us? We-”
“IF NOT FOR US?!” Claptrap was spitting with fury now, almost insensible. “That’s exactly why! I know you think I’d be nothing without you. I know you think all of my success… is just because of the Ghosthound. And maybe… maybe he is responsible. Maybe he deserves it! He’s all they talk about, all anyone talks about… even…. But I refuse to be a fucking dog living in his shadow, like you!”
“Besides…” Claptrap continued, his voice going lower, more menacing, and Lucretia was gleeful as dark, angry emotions grew stronger, filling his body. “It was never about you… it was always about Ciel… and then to see, like everything else, her bet her hand in marriage to the Ghosthound…. And you cracking jokes after she lost, treating her like a cheap harlot…”
In spite of himself, the male spear attendant chuckled. “Oh, kukuku. Yes, my wit is sharp. But they were aimed more at Aethon, than her, I-”
“Just shut the fuck up and get out of my way.” Claptrap interrupted, his eyes flicking to Divveltian, who continued his onslaught on Black Spear. “Or I will show you the difference between us.”
The male spear attendant didn’t move. Claptrap’s eyes hardened. The monster appeared, more defined, but also different, larger now, with a human torso, but with the head of a slug, and arms that were part tentacle, part hook. They lashes forward, with vicious intent.
Although the Iron Bulwark was definitely improved, it was still ripped to the side, and the male spear attendant’s body was hammered into the ground. One of his legs snapped, and a deep gash was left on his chest.
Claptrap stepped over him, not trying to finish him off, but also not paying him any attention. The monster above him roared for blood, the red light growing brighter, and Claptrap stumbled, but continued further.
“No point, help first,” Claptrap mumbled, annoyed at the way the monster inside of him was rebelling against his control. After a brief struggle, the monster relented.
Lucretia was overjoyed. The fact that they were fighting already… she couldn’t wait to watch the monster inside of him slowly eroding Claptrap’s own will, beating him down, haunting his dreams and twisting his perspective. Although she hadn’t started out like this… now, watching this sort of dark transformation was her favorite part.
But to both her and Claptrap’s surprise, after a flicker, an image appeared, interposing itself between Claptrap and the ongoing fight: an Iron Bulwark.
Claptrap snorted, and swiped his spear, aiming to disperse it, but his spear hit the Iron Bulwark and rebounded off with a clang.
Even Divveltian paused briefly at the sound, his eyes widening, before he resumed his furious offensive, inflicting large blows on Black Spear.
Lucretia tapped her jaw, frowning.
“You…. you’re at the Adept level!??!” Claptrap said, some of his confidence visibly leaving his face.
There was a chuckle. “Perhaps you didn’t know? My name is Roger Kingsley, and I am a genius.”
Claptrap turned around to gaze at the male spear attendant, Roger Kingsley, who held his gaudy spear, flashing with light from the slowly rising sun. Although his body was trembling, his eyes were bright, his gaze even. More and more of his Iron Bulwark sprang into being, hemming Claptrap into one spot.
“Sit in timeout,” Roger announced, “Until you remember that we are friends. I meant no insult to your woman-”
“She was never my woman…” Claptrap said bitterly, raising his spear. The monster bellowed, morphing and twisting, growing a shark fin and an arm that resembled a spear. Then it they lashed out together, attacking the Bulwark between him and Roger. The thing cracked, but the image held, much to everyone’s surprise.
Lucretia narrowed her eyes. The transition to an Adept level was mostly one in utility, rather than power. There were some that got to that level through a mental insight, allowing them to prematurely condense their image. Or they used the Intermediate Battle Intent Path, which gave you a very real boost to crossing that line.
Somehow, she knew that this Roger had done neither. This was done through sheer force of repetition, constantly refining his image. This… was an annoying variable.
“You… you…!” Claptrap roared, fear and confusion filling him as he ripped through wall after wall of spiky iron, some of the stray metal ripping small gashes on his side. He was surprised when Roger stepped forward, meeting him in close combat.
Claptrap’s eyes glinted, and he lashed out, using the techniques of the soul inside of him to attack unpredictably. Roger was sent staggering, but recovered instantly, righting his stance. As Claptrap watched, the Iron Bulwarks around him wavered, then disappeared. Condensing suddenly, those Bulwarks reappeared on a smaller scale, covering Roger in a thick, glistening armor. He looked like a chosen of god, glittering there, his body covered in huge sheets of spiked iron.
In that moment, Claptrap began to sweat. The armor flickered, and then reformed, a more refined form, more sleek. And yet there was still a billowing aura of power that spread out from Roger, that shook Claptrap to his core. This was… even now… even now they treated him like he was just a joke to be stepped on…!
Roger grinned at Claptrap. “One spar, for old times sake, friend? I promise to go easy on your, or my name is not Roger K-”
At Lucretia’s instruction, her third zombie struck him from behind, drilling a hole through the armor, and into Roger’s back, puncturing a lung.
Roger stumbled forward, and his Bulwarks flickered. Claptrap watched it happen, almost in slow motion, the man who he would have once referred to as a friend falling in front of him, defenseless, his self created armor technique broken.
Although it was a chance, Claptrap couldn’t find the strength to strike. Now that he was at this moment, this…
But Claptrap was no longer the only passenger in his body. His arm lashed out, the blow catching the male spear attendant cleanly in the neck.