Within the 15th floor of the Necropolis--
"How are you alive?" began Seth as he stood up, flicking Zayn's blood off his arms. His face set as he glared at Aldrich with pure, unadulterated, focused hate. "No, the how and why doesn't matter.
All that matters is that you're standing here in front of me.
You're responsible for all this, aren't you?"
"Aren't you clever," said Aldrich. "Go on. I'll answer any last questions you have before I kill you."
"The Kryptic - how did you manage it?" said Seth.
"It needed deep connections through the criminal underworld and a fortune. Luckily, I made a friend who had both," said Aldrich. "Casimir was with me this entire time. I made sure that the Boost you wanted was spiked with a little present of my own."
"And how much is in here? Enough to kill me?" said Seth as he looked at his hands, his eyes tracing the black veins starting to show through his skin - the telltale sign of Kryptic poisoning him.
In ordinary individuals, Kryptic had no signs for poisoning, but with the Solar family or in those with particularly powerful bodies, it manifested through the blackening of blood vessels.
"No. I couldn't get that much," said Aldrich. "You should know your own body the best, no? This amount of Kryptic just keeps your powers down, even with a double dose. I bet after a week of sunbathing; you could clear it out of your system.
But that's besides the point.
I didn't want you to die of Kryptic.
Too painless. Too easy.
I needed to kill you personally."
"Yeah? How do you think you'll go about doing that?" said Seth. He clenched his fists. They made squelching sounds as his grip squeezed his blood slicked hands. "I still have some power. Enough to break a Dud's spine with my bare hands.
Enough to kill YOU at the very least.
You'll regret showing your face to me here."
"Do you really think so?" Aldrich manifested all of his [Grave Reaper] set and his [Lantern of the Accursed Eye]. He surged his magical energy as much as possible, to the point where the ground underneath him began to crack. "I have power, Seth. More than enough power to deal with the likes of you, especially with how weak you are now."
Aldrich aimed his free hand and fired volleys of [Chill Bolts]. He intentionally shot around Seth, causing countless blasts of frosty ice to scatter behind Seth. The machine gun fire of icy bolts smashed through rock, the freezing effect boring through solid stone.
Seth could not react to the speed of the bolts with how weakened he was, and all he could do was turn his head around and watch the icy explosions smash rock instead of what would have been his body.
Aldrich then grabbed the chain of his lantern in both hands, swung it, then smashed it into the ground while boosting himself with [Negative Surge], shattering stone.
That could have easily caved in Seth Solar's skull or crushed his organs with how frail he had become.
All this as a display of power.
To let Seth Solar know that he had utterly zero chance to survive here.
"So, you wanted to show off all this new power before you killed me? Do you feel better now that you aren't a useless fucking Dud?" said Seth. He spat on the ground. He did not despair, he just stared at Aldrich with the same hateful gaze he always had.
Unlike Ghost, Seth did not beg or plead for his life. If he was going to face death, he faced it standing. "If you're going to do it, then get on with it."
Aldrich scoffed. "I just wanted to make sure you felt powerless. I wanted you to know you never had a chance to begin with. Just as my friends did when you killed them.
But killing you with my magic is a little too impersonal for my taste, and instant death is too quick.
Aldrich dematerialized all his equipment and his lantern. "But that's not how I want to kill you. I'm going to be generous here, Seth. I'm going to give you a chance."
Aldrich stepped forwards; his fists clenched. "I'm going to beat you to death.
No powers, no magic, just my own two hands.
If you can beat me, well then, hats off to you. Maybe scum like you does deserve to live."
Seth nodded slowly, meeting Aldrich's cold, green eyes. He clenched his own fists as he stepped forward. "A chance? Don't get cocky, Dud. I've run my fist through your heart once. I'll do it again."
"You're welcome to try," said Aldrich.
The two men stared at each other one final time.
Both from wildly different walks of life.
One born powerless.
The other born with overwhelming might.
One raised with love.
The other raised as a tool.
And yet, there was one thing that tethered both men.
Choice. Or rather, the lack of it.
And without choice, both men grew hatred that festered deep within their beings, hatred that lashed out at the world around them through a desire for vengeance.
In this final juncture, Aldrich and Seth shared a wordless moment not of disagreement, but of understanding.
When they looked into the other's eyes and saw the very same type of hate they harbored reflected back at them, the very same fire of vengeance that fueled them, they knew at that moment that they were twin sides of one coin.
And because they knew this, because they knew themselves better than anyone else, they knew this was the end.
The opposite sides of a coin could never meet together. They were part of the same plane and yet they were fundamentally opposed.
Where Seth Solar's hate channeled into vengeance that sought to see the unjust world burn in chaos, Aldrich forged his vengeance into a tool that aimed to bring this world under order, no matter the cost.
There would be no middle ground here.
Only a victor.
Seth Solar roared as he flew forwards with his fist cocked back, though because of how energy depleted he was, he did not really fly, he just boosted his own jumping strength.
Aldrich raised his arms up in a guard. Seth's fist slammed into Aldrich's arms and drove him back several feet. Aldrich grunted as he felt damage register on his arms. The bone of his forearm actually cracked under Seth Solar's punch, though simply broken bones did nothing to stop Aldrich's undead body.
Despite Seth Solar going through two rounds of Kryptic poisoning and severe depletion of his energy reserves that disabled his solar beams, the Alter's base strength had been so high that even now, he was still superhuman.
Each of Seth's punches could shatter the skull of a normal human and he could still out sprint any pre-Altering professional runner.
That meant roughly speaking, Aldrich and Seth were evenly matched in pure physical stats provided Aldrich did not enhance himself with magic.
No, Seth had a moderate advantage, even, in terms of raw punching power and durability.
Aldrich wanted this fight to be even. To be as personal as possible.
Seth sprinted to Aldrich with another punch.
Aldrich narrowed his eyes, focusing. Seth's punch zoomed towards Aldrich's head, and he weaved it to the side, narrowly evading the blow. Aldrich then grabbed Seth's arm and spun around, slamming Seth into the ground using an over the shoulder throw.
Seth broke his fall at the last moment, holding out an arm to stop the impact from hitting directly into his back and disabling him by knocking the breath out. The Alter had some martial arts training, it was evident, though not nearly on the level of Aldrich.
Seth grimaced and immediately rolled backwards, getting back on his feet only to meet a flying double kick from Aldrich.
Seth blocked the first kick, but the second kick hit him square in the face, sending him falling flat on his back against the cold hard stone. He got up on a knee, holding a hand over his broken, crooked nose. He grabbed his nose between his fingers and forcibly set it back into place before exhaling out a glob of blood.
Aldrich let Seth take his breather before diving into an offense… Aldrich threw out jabs as he circled around Seth, gauging their distance.