In battle, having two people was usually better than having just one, even if the second was much weaker. It caused them to have to focus on two places at once, and it limited their tactical options. Kail was in no way incompetent in combat, so he was able to help out Barrett- as long as the enemy wasn’t able to kill him without effort. However, Kail trained his body and metal energy, so it would take a much stronger opponent to kill him without effort.
Barrett and Kail spread out so that if the giant scorpion approached either of them they would be able to flank it. It would have very little success attacking to the sides or the rear. That meant it would do best to go after lone prey, but it was large enough and unintelligent enough it probably didn’t consider that issue.
Once it came within a handful of meters, it seemed to have picked Barrett out as its target. It covered the distance between them in a single second, its tail snapping forward toward Barrett. He dodged back and to the side, to avoid both the stinger and the claw that followed shortly behind it. As the claw skirted past to his right, he swung a backhanded fist… that bounced off the ‘wrist’ of the scorpion’s claw with a disappointing metallic thunk.
It immediately swung back toward him, its right claw requiring him to duck. Its second claw curved down toward him, and Barrett pushed off of it with his hands to vault over it. Fortunately its tail was still being retracted at that moment so it couldn’t take advantage of his movements.
Kail arrived behind it and grabbed the base of its tail, allowing Barrett the opportunity to attack one of the scorpion’s left legs. The chitin there was thinner than on the claws, and there was a satisfying screeching crunch as Barrett brought a leg down between the top two segments. The leg went limp, but the rest of the scorpion thrashed wildly, throwing Kail away. At the same time, that brought its claws back toward Barrett.
Instead of dodging to the side, Barrett moved forward and in toward the scorpion’s mouth, leaving the claws behind him. Though they immediately moved in to grab him, Barrett was already ducking down underneath the scorpion. His arms went up on either side of the scorpion, between the first and second pair of legs. His hands didn’t reach much more than around the sides- but that was perfect. Using that and his head, Barrett pushed upward, flipping the scorpion over on its side. It wasn’t easy, because it was moving and struggling… but it was only a few hundred kilograms.
He threw it to its right, so one of its three lower legs was the damaged one. He immediately stomped on the next one, getting a satisfying crunch. Kail was already moving back toward him, and helped him hold it on its side, grabbing one of the “upper” legs.
The scorpion continued thrashing, but Barrett and Kail worked together to systematically break the remaining legs, then they backed away from it. Somehow it managed to right itself with the flailing of its tail, but with all of its legs unusable it could only thrash around wasting energy. Some of the broken legs leaked a bluish golden ichor, and eventually the thrashing stopped. Barrett approached from behind and kicked the back of the tail, but it didn’t react.
He opened his magic bag and pulled out his axe. Perhaps he should have kept it out now that he wasn’t fighting metal magic, but he preferred to hone his unarmed techniques. The armor he couldn’t quickly put away if pursuers caught up, so sadly that had to stay in the bag.
The axe chopped down- once, twice, three times. Each time had a significant amount of berserk energy, but the shell was thick and strong. Finally, the fourth blow severed the tail. If the scorpion hadn’t been dead, it was now.
Barrett frowned, “Tch. I wish we could bring this with us. Should be worth a pretty penny.”
“It’s unfortunate… but my magic bag can’t store that much. We can take the stinger, at least. The venom is stored around there, so it’s the most valuable part. The meat is… umm… edible.”
“If you have the stomach for it.”
“Well… I wasn’t exactly planning to go on a long trip. Best to save on supplies. You can try turning off your sense of taste. It’s good practice.”
“Hmm…” Barrett looked ahead as the ground started to be covered in white, and the air was filled with visible contaminants, “We’re right up against the danger zone. I can survive there but… you’d have some trouble. We’ll have to hug the edge.”
“I can do it,” Kail protested.
“That stuff is strong enough to melt off flesh in a couple hours. For you, maybe a day.”
Kail shook his head, “I can’t say about very deep in, but I can handle at least a handful of miles closer indefinitely. If I couldn’t, I would be a shame to my clan.”
“Maybe you can while you’re awake…” Barrett started, “But can you use energy to keep yourself from corroding while asleep?”
“That’s not it…” Kail shook his head again, “If I was trying to keep all of that away from me I would run out of energy in an hour. However, I can handle a lower density without problems.” He pointed to his face and grinned, “See?”
“What am I seeing exactly?”
“My skin! Did you think I was born with this wonderful… golden… color?” Kail paused for a moment to think of one of the common names for metal colors.
“Well I wasn’t. My clan has… had… grounds near one of the golden rivers. It always reacted some with the air but during rains… it was like in there,” he gestured toward the Metal Sea. “The Anakoni clan body training technique is perfectly suited for dealing with such circumstances. In fact, it is helpful to training.”
“Great. There’s just one slight issue,” Barrett looked down at himself.
Kail thought for a moment, then grinned, “We also have special clothing. I have a few spares… there should be at least pants that fit you.”
“Thanks,” Barrett nodded. “If I had to choose between modesty and my life, I’d choose my life… but I’d really rather keep both.”