Robin willed the Aspect of the Dragonfly to activate, feeling the immediate boost to his reflexes and perception taking hold. He saw the usual faint red lines that indicated the field of vision of people and creatures around him, and grimaced at the red cones he saw extending from small holes in the two large ISO containers near the dock at the other end of the room.
The two containers were the same kind that were commonly stacked on trains or cargo ships, each the size of a long shed. Both containers had small holes drilled through it at random heights, and each looked like it had a blach mesh fabric stretched over it, making the holes blend in with the black-painted containers. Robin was not sure he would have noticed them at all, if not for the red cones. He kept his expression neutral as the MANA flowed out of him.
He smiled. It was a very nice ambush, and with such a large, empty room, he had virtually nowhere to hide. Tao was standing up fully, pushing himself off the wall where he had been leaning, fully out of the potential line of fire. He left a small indent in the wall as he pushed, and Robin could see that there was a small alcove dented into the metal where Tao had been leaning.
Robin tensed, expecting the massive rock-man to rush directly at him like the brute characters usually did in movies, but Tao strolled very casually towards him, stopping about ten meters away. He suddenly bent forward at the waist, keeping his eyes on Robin. He straightened out
Robin was shocked, finding his anxiety ramping up.
Was that a bow? What happened to having me gunned down?
Robin kept his voice calm as he spoke, trying to speak as slowly as he could without sounding like he was doing it on purpose.
“Are you… Sorry, rather, do you possess the Martial Artist title?”
Tao’s expression changed to one of unadulterated glee. It was a gruesome sight on the new, decidedly less handsome face, and was not that much more welcoming than the glare had been.
“I do! Is this a challenge, then?”
Robin nodded slowly.
“It is. It is your challenge to me.”
The face twitched, the stone facial features rasping against one another as they contracted.
“You are mistaken, bug-boy. It is you who is challenging me. I am the superior; I hold the title, so to speak, and thus, it falls on the challenger, yourself, boy, to challenge the champion, which is to say, myself, Tao, the Li… The Iron Reaver of the Seas!” Tao stood triumphant, his fist arched in the air dramatically.
Robin shook his head exactly as he had before, a little more emphatically than he had the first time. “No, I already had the Martial Artist title before you called me out, to come fight you here. You also bowed first.”
Tao waved his hand, annoyed.
“Bah! So what! It does not matter who challenged who, even if you are wrong”, he shouted, the guttural edge of a man about to commit violence creeping into his voice.
Robin gestured to the back of the room with his head, towards the containers. “Did you plan on having your men shoot me?”
Tao smiled, the annoyance on his newly transformed face disappearing as quickly as it had when it was flesh.
“Only if you won, bug-boy.”
Robin nodded good-naturedly, kicking idly at the ground. “Thought so. It will not work, you know. I thought you would notice when you looked the first time…”
Tao’s smile slipped, the shock visible on his face for just a moment before being replaced with anger, and he whirled, half-facing the containers. “What did you…”
The smile on Robin’s face widened, and he pulled out the ΔU-Revenant, snapping it up to aim at the head of the pirate-turned-golem. He pulled the trigger, the hammer already cocked, and a blue bullet slammed into the back of the head of the golem. The grapefruit-sized blue explosion sent chips of stone flying, the force of the impact sending Tao stumbling forward…
...a single step.
Crap. So much for my Single Strike Slayer title...
Tao turned, slowly, from where he had finally noticed the webs oozing out of the unfortunately-named spider holes his crew had created in the shipping containers.
“It is your own fault for having a crew so undisciplined that they do not even clean up cobwebs.” Robin enunciated each word, saying the entire sentence carefully.
That seemed to do it for Tao, who screamed in frustration, the grinding noise almost physically painful to Robin as it echoed throughout the metal room. He rushed forward, each thundering footstep driving into the metal, leave furrows in the metal deck behind him.
Robin was already reacting as the first metal foot landed, slamming the hammer of the ΔU-Revenant into place and firing as quickly as he could.
Robin managed another two shots before he was forced to move, leaping forward toward Tao, rolling at a forty-five degree angle past him. Tao turned and grabbed for him, his turkey-sized hand grazing Robin’s calf, but was unable to catch the much smaller, much more nimble target.
While the first seemed to detonate harmlessly against the stone, the second of the bullets impacting Tao’s chest seemed to have an effect making him stagger. His momentum remained, however, and he stumbled, quickly turning it into a tumble and springing back to his feet, the movements appearing graceful despite the horrendous shrieking of the metal floor being rent and torn with his every motion.
Robin leapt forward as he came to his feet, sending himself on a hurtling run towards the docking area at the opposite end of the hangar. As he sprinted, he reached into the side pocket where he had been storing his magical webs, drawing one of his two coils of the Gossamer of Anansi.
Behind him, Tao was already bounding in his direction, though it seemed he was a little bit slower than Robin to achieve full speed. The footing was less than adequate for a creature of his size and weight, the steel shredding as he ran.
Robin threw one end of the coiled Gossamer to the floor, using Reshape Webs to anchor it firmly to the grid-metal floor, leaving the rest slack and uncoiling behind him as he ran. Robin began sidewinding, zigging roughly three meters to the left before zagging back to the right, anchoring a web and forcing it to curve upwards at each point.
This reminds me of doing back-and-forths on the tennis court at school… Thank Yoshi I have the Flexibility trait, or my ankles might have already popped from the twisting, Robin thought, executing another zigzag. He glanced behind him and made a face oozing with dismay as he watched Tao run directly through the Gossamer, the ends of the sticky strands flapping in the wind created by his speed. Robin finished dropping the entirety of the coiled web he had withdrawn, glaring at Tao as the massive titan deliberately ran through every strand without slowing in the slightest.
“Stop running, bugboy!”
Robin ran faster, focusing on the ground in front of him. He quickly expended twenty MANA to refill the ΔU-Revenant. As the weight of the revolver was still increasing with each bullet fully materializing from the MANA feed, Robin leapt upward and forward as hard as he could, sailing into the air. Focusing, Robin shouted, unaware he was doing so until he heard the noise from his own mouth, the anger and confidence in his voice unfamiliar to him.
He froze in the air, suspended in place. Robin twisted his torso towards the charging man of stone who was now less than ten meters away from him, using his Flexibility trait to keep his waits mostly pointed forwards.
Robin put one hand on the hammer of the revolver, slamming it into place, and shouted again.
He fired the revolver, immediately clapping the back into place with his other hand, and fired again, and again, until his handgun was empty, the chamber clicking.
The first bullet was blue, a pure MANA bullet, and it slammed into Tao’s chest, sending small glints of stone chips spraying outwards. Tao roared, but his furious exclamation had barely begun to leave what passed for his throat when the second bullet hit, less than ten centimeters from where the first had landed. This bullet, however, was not blue.
It was black. When it impacted, there was no explosion of energy or detonation of stone. The black bolt simply… disappeared.
The remaining four bullets did not, however. Each bullet hit the massive target, detonating on the chest. Tao actually stumbled at the last impact, his stony screams becoming more gravelly.
Robin reloaded the ΔU-Revenant, grimacing at his dwindling supply of MANA. He looked at Tao, moving towards him in a determined lumber. He was less than two meters away, and Robin lifted the revolver again. To his great surprise, Tao actually flinched, the massive golem-man ducking slightly.
Old instincts die hard, I guess.
Tao reached out for Robin, floating in the air, and Robin smiled at him, putting as much pity into his expression as possible. Tao narrowed his eyes, grinding his stone jaw, and the sheer dichotomy between that expression and the dumbfounded look it changed to when his target suddenly hurtled away through the air towards the dock all that much more satisfying to Robin.
Robin twisted his body back around to face the direction the stored momentum from Delay Reaction had hurtled him, stuffing the revolver back into the holster and clamping it closed, holding it tightly to his side. It barked with motion abruptly, the holster slapping up and down Robin’s leg, but it did not break its container on his hip.
Robin landed at a run, barely keeping to his feet. He laid more webs out, reaching into a coil and pulling out a large bundle, shaping it as soon as he felt it in his hands. They had even less of an effect than the last ones had, draping over the advancing Tao like a lazily-done mummy.
The pirate-turned-golem was advancing slower, his chest rising and falling slowly.
Robin slowed his run, turning to stand and face Tao directly as he walked towards him.
He grinned obnoxiously, then lifted his hand and made the classic “come here” gesture used in action and martial arts movies, flapping his hand at Tao.
Tao took the challenge and roared, breaking into a frenzied sprint towards Robin, the webs clinging to his stone body trailing behind him like streamers. When he reached a section of the floor that was solid metal rather than the grating, three meters away from Robin, he leapt into the air, locking his fists together over his head to bring them down in a hammer strike on Robin.
Robin crouched as Tao leapt, one arm held downwards in front of him, and the other out to his side.
At the last possible moment he could bear to stand in front of a literal ton of furious stone meteoring down at him, Robin leapt to the side, pressing with all of the might he could bring to bear in his legs. As he leapt, he slashed his arm blade over his head, focusing on activating his ability before he was squashed like a…
Well, like a mage.
The Shining Trail that remained in the air after Robin’s slash glittered in the lights of the hangar bay, but Tao either did not notice or did not care, having not yet found an obstacle he was unable to smash through.
Tao’s fists smashed into the line in the air, and a terrible crack filled the room, echoing for long moments. The noise faded, and for the first time since Robin had entered the room, it was quiet, enough so that he was able to hear his own breathing… and Tao’s.
The man was breathing heavily, his breaths ragged and pained. He was on one knee, almost kneeling, glaring at Robin over the dissipating line of energy. He was trying to rise to his feet, but he could not seem to find the strength, pushing the jagged-stone stumps of his arms against the ground in futility. The webs and the Gossamer of Anansi was starting to cling to the floor, making his attempts almost laughable.
He stared at Robin, panting individual words with each breath.
“I… will… kill… you… slowly… you… dirty… Sp-”
Robin shot him three times, each blow landing on the stone titan’s head.
The Iron Reaver of the Seas fell to the side with a terrible crash, sinking into the twisted metal with the force of the fall.
Robin sat down with a thump, staring at the rocky corpse until it vanished in a burst of glowing particles, leaving a pile of items behind. He received several notifications, but he pushed them aside in a daze, feeling the adrenaline leaving his body.
After a few moments, he stood up slowly and walked over to the pile. The Gossamer of Anansi was gone, much to his disappointment. The REGEN-blocking version he had used was unlikely to be created again, and it had been vital in his success here. He squatted and slowly, carefully sorted through the items.
The first thing he picked up was a small dagger, just shorter than the length of his hand. It had a wooden handle with a straight blade with both sides sharpened, and looked like it had been sharpened repeatedly. He used Identify immediately, scanning the box that appeared.
|Dagger of the Seal (U)|
|Used in the illegal hunting, skinning, and butchering of over a thousand seals, this dagger has absorbed some of their essence, becoming able to slip through water and other liquids with no resistance. This dagger treats liquids as if they were normal air for all purposes, and is not affected by any effect carried through a liquid.|
Weird… I guess it will never rust? It seems… cool, I guess, but not that useful. Robin tucked it away into his pack and reached for the next item, a reddish-brown satchel that was tied with a metallic string. He used Identify immediately.
|The Black Heart of the Iron Reaver, dust (R) (x20)|
A component piece. Okay… I bet something I could make something neat with this. He tucked it into the main compartment of the Aliquam Pack.
Robin was skeptical about the last item, picking it up and inspecting it before using Identify. It was what appeared to be a small toy boat, carved from a grey stone.
|The Wing of the Dragon (Un A)|
|One of five legendary ships of the Armada of the Dragon King, the Wing of the Dragon was forged by a king in a forgotten era in his pursuit of dominating his plane of existence. While powerful on their own, the ships grow more powerful when more are gathered. The true power of the ships that comprise the Armada of the Dragon King only emerges when all five ships are together. When the avatar is placed in liquid and imbued with MANA, the ship will be released from the binding. The binding is not reversible.|
Robin was wiggling happily as he read, fighting the urge to go throw the carved boat into some water this very instant.
Woah! I got a ship, a really good one! Did I just beat disc one?
Robin tucked it into a side pocket of his pack rather happily, and decided to pull up his notifications.
|Rewards: x1 Nemesis Mote, x1 2 Red Iron Motes, x1 Automatic Level Increase, +10 SP, x1 Class Ability Upgrade|
Yes! Level up! The Motes are neat, too. And the class ability upgrade!? I might be a little bit drowning in choices, there...
Another notification followed automatically after Robin closed the first.
|Folly of Beast, Madness of Man|
|You have emerged from the ordeal thrust upon you, and have grown stronger and wiser.|
|Rewards: x2 Beast Motes, x2 Knowledge Motes|
Huh. I was not really expecting anything from that one at all, so this is not bad… I probably have a lot of Motes saved up by now. I should use those before I use the class ability upgrade, just in case I get something particularly interesting. Robin pulled up his Motes menu for a quick scan.
No sooner had he started reading it, though, when red lights clicked on and a warning klaxxon began blaring through the speakers in the room, overlapping with a repeating pre-recorded voice.
“Abandon ship! All hands, abandon ship!”