Seth put up his own guard, blocking Aldrich's light jabs as he counter circled against Aldrich in a carefully calculated dance, each man trying to gauge when to strike.
Seth was a few inches taller than Aldrich, giving him extra reach. He tried to abuse this by keeping his distance, throwing out punches at the limits of his arm span.
Aldrich countered by weaving between one of Seth's punches and getting right inside Seth's range.
Here, in an in-fight, Aldrich made it very, very clear who among the two was the better martial artist. Who among the two had dedicated their entire life to training just to match up the superpowered bodies around them.
Aldrich feinted a head blow, making Seth raise his guard high, but then immediately adjusted into a quick low punch to Seth's gut, doubling him over and breaking his guard, before following up with a solid uppercut that sent Seth flying backwards with the resonating crack of impact.
Seth grunted as he stopped his fall by floating in the air, landing on his feet gently. His breathing wheezed as he wiped blood from a burst lip. Very likely, his jaw had fractured too.
He spat out two teeth knocked loose from Aldrich's uppercut.
"Look at you," said Aldrich. "Without all that power, you're nothing. You don't know what it's like to train every single day of your life to measure up to even one tenth of the weakest Alter around you, and it shows."
"Shut up!" Seth yelled as he charged Aldrich, this time holding his arms out to try and tackle and grapple Aldrich down.
Aldrich knew how to defend against a takedown. There were three real options here. One was to strike the opponent when he got into range. The second was to dodge. The third was to meet the takedown head on.
Aldrich took the third option. He lowered his center of gravity and met the tackle with firmly rooted stance, preventing Seth from knocking Aldrich down to the ground immediately. Aldrich's plan was to elbow down on Seth's exposed neck while he stayed at Aldrich's hip level.
However, the takedown was a feint. It was mostly meant for Seth to get a firm grip on Aldrich's waist, preventing him from moving away.
The reason for this became immediately clear -
Seth's right eye started to glow a bright gold as he channeled up a solar beam. Because of how little energy he had left, he could only manage to charge up a beam from one eye, but he aimed this now at Aldrich's face.
Aldrich reacted swiftly and mercilessly. He grabbed Seth's head with his hands, holding it firmly in place, before jamming his thumb into Seth's right eye with all his might.
Seth roared in agony as Aldrich dug deep into the eye, completely crushing it to a pulp and disabling it entirely. He shoved Aldrich away and put his hands over his face as the built-up solar energy detonated inside of his crushed eye, completely disintegrating it and scorching out an empty socket in flash of light.
This, however, though a grotesque wound, did not kill Seth.
The wound had cauterized on its own, preventing bleeding, and it had not burned into the brain itself.
Coupled with Seth's own stubborn will and superhuman body, and he remained conscious and capable of fighting.
But Aldrich did not stop there. He rushed towards Seth from his new blind side, and when Seth heard Aldrich near, he roared and swung wildly with a right hook.
Aldrich easily maneuvered past the punch and rotated behind Seth, meanwhile taking Seth's arm in a lock. Aldrich then pulled the Alter's arm back painfully behind his back, disabling the arm and exposing Seth's face.
With Aldrich's free arm, he wailed down punches against Seth's defenseless head.
Seth raised his one good arm to try and guard, but there was only so much one arm could do, and Aldrich easily maneuvered past that half guard to land his strikes.
Punch after punch after punch.
The sound of enhanced flesh cracking against enhanced flesh resonated through the arena.
Seth's face bloodied incomprehensibly as cuts and bruises began to litter it, swelling his facial muscles and his eyes.
Aldrich then let Seth go, tossing him away.
Seth stumbled and fell to the ground before weakly raising himself up, shaking his face of blood, sweat, and the tremors of impact. He stared at Aldrich in confusion, wondering why Aldrich had just let him go.
"I told you. I was going to make this slow. And painful. I'm going to break you down bit by bit. Piece by piece." Aldrich ripped off the bloodied, tattered remains of his suit jacket and dress shirt. "Until there's nothing left of you."
"Come on then…," said Seth weakly.
Aldrich ran into Seth's range. Seth clumsily shot out a punch at Aldrich's face. By now, the fight was over. Seth had taken too much damage, and that affected his coordination, and against a master martial artist like Aldrich, even just a tiny little lapse in ability was a fatal flaw.
Aldrich ducked beneath Seth's strike and landed an elbow right into Seth's stomach, doubling the Alter over in pain and cracking ribs.
Aldrich then hooked his arm around one of Seth's and used Seth's arm as a lever to throw the Alter onto the ground again.
With Seth on the ground and still reeling from the gut shot, Aldrich took this opportunity and went down on the ground himself, wrapping his legs around Seth's arm in a firm armbar before applying pressure, completely dislocating the elbow joint in a painful, popping snap.
Seth roared in pain as he writhed on the ground like a worm. Aldrich then got off of Seth and rolled away, leaving Seth foaming at the mouth with spit and blood as he processed the pain.
Aldrich watched Seth struggle for a few seconds before his brow twitched in anger.
"Get up," said Aldrich as he stood and watched Seth convulsing in pain on the ground. He saw Seth's struggling, suffering wracked form, and all he felt was rage at this pathetic sight. "Get up! All the pain you've caused, all the lives you've taken, and THIS is what you have to show for it!? Pathetic!"
Seth grit his teeth and got on a knee, his left arm hanging limp and useless from his shoulder.
"Good, good," whispered Aldrich.
Seth breathed deeply before yelling and flying towards Aldrich in a surprising final burst of power dredged up from the depths of his will to survive.
Aldrich reacted by jumping in the air and locking Seth's one good arm in a flying armbar. In midair, Aldrich twisted and applied cranking pressure, dislocating the elbow joint yet again.
Seth roared in agony as he began to fall straight back to the ground. Aldrich got leverage over Seth and twisted atop his back. Like riding atop a wild bull, Aldrich grabbed the back of Seth's head and used it to steer Seth's flight straight down into the rocky ground face first.
Aldrich was not done. While Seth groaned in pain from the impact, Aldrich immediately went to Seth's left leg.
Aldrich wrapped his legs tight around Seth's knee and then grabbed his left heel with iron grip before twisting it, breaking the ankle.
Seth loosed a muffled roar of agony into the stony floor.
"I told you. I would break you down. Piece-," Aldrich detached from Seth's left leg before hooking around his right heel. He yanked again, breaking the right ankle this time. "By piece!"
Another yell of agony form Seth.
Aldrich locked around Seth's left knee next before twisting, dislocating it. "Bit!" He then repeated the same process with Seth's right knee, dislocating both knees and rendering both his legs utterly useless. "By bit!"
Another scream of pain that rang through the arena, though in here, in this realm of cold, empty death, there was nobody to hear it except Aldrich himself.
Aldrich got off of Seth and then put a foot on his upper back, pinning him head down into the cratered rock below as he reached down and grabbed Seth's left arm before yanking violently back, hyper extending the arm and dislocating the shoulder.
Aldrich reached out to Seth's right shoulder and pulled that back too, dislocating it.
Seth's yells of pain grew quieter and quieter after each dislocation as the pain became too intense to bear, dangerously getting him close to fading out of consciousness.
But Seth's enhanced durability worked against him here, keeping him in that sweet goldilocks zone of suffering where he held onto a strand of consciousness despite the inhuman amounts of suffering he faced.
Now, Seth was completely immobile, all of the major joints in his arms and legs dislocated. He did not have the energy to fire beams or fly.
"I-I can't die," muttered Seth as blood pooled from under his split lips and bloody mouth.
"Hm?" Aldrich stood up and kicked Seth over on his back, baring his face - beaten and disfigured beyond any human comprehension.
"I…can't die. I'll show…I'll show this world what a real villain is…what to fear…I'll burn it all down," continued Seth. He was half delirious now, muttering out the burning hate that kept him alive this long.
The hate that had given him purpose.
Aldrich stood over Seth, his pale skin drenched in swathes of bright red blood. He looked down at Seth's eyes welded nearly shut from bruising. Seth's one good eye still stared ahead with pure hate.
But it did not stare at Aldrich. In Seth's delirium, looked past Aldrich, towards the abstract idea of the world that had wronged him.
Looking down at Seth like this, utterly defeated, utterly broken, Aldrich felt nothing but immense satisfaction.
Contrary to what many said, there was nothing that felt better than quenching a thirst for vengeance.
But at the same time, looking into Seth's distant eyes, Aldrich, too, was forced to see ahead, into the future beyond all of this. All of this personal vengeance.
Seth Solar was not unique. He was a mere by product of this twisted world that churned out broken monsters like him.
And, Aldrich did not hesitate to admit it, broken monsters like himself as well.
"I understand how you feel," said Aldrich quietly. "But this world doesn't need people like you anymore. People that see how wrong it is and think that it's better off burning down into chaos.
No, what this world needs is order.
Aldrich tapped his Phylactery, and a small dark portal opened. From within, two pairs of rotted arms drew out. Adam and Elaine funneled onto the stone floor, and as soon as they smelled weak, vulnerable flesh, they groaned in desire.
They loomed over Seth's body, their jaws open and ready to feast.
Seth's pupil dilated as he drifted back from delirium, recognizing Adam and Elaine for a few brief final moments.
"This is my final gift to you, Adam. Elaine. With this, I've made things right to you. Enjoy your feast." Aldrich closed his eyes as he heard Adam and Elaine tear into Seth's body, ripping off chunks of his helpless, immobilized flesh. He heard their growls punctuated by Seth's screams of suffering and pain, and he felt…alive.
More alive than ever. Huge surges of negative energy generated by the suffering of Seth Solar and the rest of his deceased friends funneled into him, setting his green aura alight in purple.
His body of flesh and blood…felt heavy. Like a prison. He could feel his heart, his soul, ready to leave its confines, to become something more.