Had the two men continued their advance, Claude would have continued to throw out projectiles. They'd not, however. Instead, they'd stopped to check on the first two, which gave Claude time to evaluate the situation and change his strategy accordingly.
He felt a sudden urge to test out Mental Shock. He'd been wanting to test it on humans for the longest time, and now was his chance.
Claude whispered as he focused on the tall, dark man on the right.
The target swayed one, then slumped against the wall behind him, though still on his feet.
"Bang!" Claude barked again.
The target's head slumped to his chest for a moment and he turned around, as if trying to figure out where he was. He dropped his weapon and started giggling mindlessly.
His companion stared at him, shocked. It only took him a moment to decide the masked bastard must have done something. He turned to Claude, and charged. He roared as he slithered along the ground, blade-tip dashing for Claude's heart.
Claude was caught off-guard and the man was on him before he could launch a projectile.
"Bang!" he barked for the third time.
The world spun for the man suddenly and his eyes glossed over. It lasted only half a moment, though, before he cleared his mind forcefully and refocused his intention on his target.
"Bang!" the words echoed again as Claude started lunging to one side to try and get out of the knife's way.
The man's knees gave way, but even as he lost his footing, his arms steadfastly guided his knife at Claude's chest. Claude's instincts took over. He grabbed the man's wrist, twisted, and shoved everything back.
The blade vanished into the man's stomach with a wretched squelch Claude had never heard before.
The man would have yelled, but his senses had all but left him from the two mental attacks, so instead he just grunted involuntarily. His hands went to his gut instinctively, and he clutched the knife embedded in his stomach. His eyes lifted to the masked man in disbelief, then he collapsed.
Claude wiped the sweat from his forehead. That had been too close. He'd let himself be put in the weakest possible position. He should know better!
The remaining man was busy steadying himself, hands buried in the muddied floor as he grabbed for holdfasts.
Well, that confirmed Mental Shock worked on humans pretty well. Claude smiled sadistically.
One spell was enough against big animals, but it turned out humans were more resilient. It turned out his nickname for, stick-to-the-head, might not be quite as appropriate as he'd thought. If that were really how it worked, then it shouldn't have taken two hits to take out the thugs if it only took one to knock out much stronger animals. He supposed it might have to do with the intelligence of the target, but now was not the time for conjecture.
The dark man's hands found his weapon again, and he started struggling back to his feet against the wall.
"Bang!" Claude barked one more time, and the man fell to the ground again.
He didn't try to get up again this time. He just lay on the ground as he'd fallen, giggling like a boy who'd just heard a naughty joke.
The thought sprung up in Claude's mind again. Maybe it really had something to do with the target's intelligence. Animals were stupider than people, even those much bigger and stronger than a man had maybe half his intelligence, likely even less. Maybe that was why this spell had such inconsistent results along other metrics. In that sense it still was a stick to the head, but a mana stick to the person's consciousness, not his physical head.
Claude 'banged' the man twice more just to be sure he wouldn't get back up again. And smiled happily when he heard gurgling noises like a baby burping from him. Kamadi was now the only one left. Claude snickered at the thought and stepped towards the third-in-command.
Kamadi stared at the scene. He could feel the edges of his sanity beginning to fray. He'd held the advantage, definitively, just moments ago, but now his men were on the ground, giggling like buffoons. He blinked, and a chill grasped his bones like he'd never felt before. It darted along his marrows and strung him up like a snake.
His words were cut short by his disbelief. He'd hired the best men he knew as his bodyguards. They were second only to the gang leader himself, so how had they fallen so easily? He'd not panicked when the first three went down one after the other, for he still had those two, the best in the gang. But when they started falling, his blood ran cold in his veins.
His body, unable to move thanks to the snake clasping his bones, started shivering, like a puppet master was dangling iron chains they clattered together, his teeth foremost of all. He raised his dagger, pointing the tip at the masked man.
"Don't... don't come closer..."
"No need. You come to me," the man's hoarse voice rang again.
His teeth clattered even worse. He jerked himself back to reality and threw his dagger at the man, turned, and vanished in a shower of shit and toilet water.
"Damn you!" Claude shouted, dodging the dagger.
His feet started moving to give chase, but stopped when he heard a deep thud behind him. When he turned around he saw the hilt sticking out of the dark man. He continued to gurgle like before, but now dark blood joined spittle at the edges of his mouth.
That was his boss's fault, Claude insisted, trying to absolve himself of the man's death.
"Hehe, you wanna run? Come now coward, I'm not letting you get away!" he shouted.
Two projectiles darted out of his hand and slammed into Kamadi's knees at the very edge of their range. The knees gave way and Kamadi planted his face in the grime. The man rolled back and forth on the ground, clutching his shattered knees despite the pain wracking his face.
"Go on. Run," the masked man sneered.
Kamadi didn't even try. He could feel two holes in his legs. His knees were all but gone. He'd never walk again.
The masked man loomed over him for several moments. Kamadi was certain he would finish the job, almost hoped he would; relieve him of this misery. But no. The man only snorted contemptuously, and turned to walk away.
Kamadi saw only red. His entire being pressed into a single sliver of hatred so bright even a blind man could have seen it. Was he not even worth killing? F*ck that bastard! He would make him take him serious even if it was the last thing he did! He reached for a small knife hidden in his boot, drew it, and launched himself with strength he never knew he had at the bastard.
"I like your spirit! That's what gangsters should be like!" the bastard answered.
Was he, happy that Kamadi was attacking him? He sounded like he'd been waiting for this, like finally the game was becoming interesting. Damn him!
But whatever energy Kamadi's hatred might give him, he was still no match for Claude. The latter took a step to the side and Kamadi's knife missed him. He reached out and caught the man's wrist and began pummelling him with his feet, one after the other. Several hit, and the man, his body robbed of all life, dropped the knife.
Claude smiled and let go of his wrist, stomping on it as hard as he could when it hit the ground. It cracked, and several bits of bone punched through the skin. Kamadi didn't even yell, he just stared up at his assailant, his eyes begging for release.
"We must pull out the roots when ridding the world of evil, lest it just grow back," the masked man said, bringing his foot down on Kamadi's other wrist.
"Ridding the world of evil? You're--- aaaaaaggghh!" Kamadi bellowed instinctively.
"Too loud," the masked man said, and a foot connected with Kamadi's chin.
The world turned dark immediately, but Kamadi's last moments were still enough for him to feel a bit of his tongue rolling around loosely in his mouth, bitten off, then everything ended.
"All wrapped up and dealt with," Claude said cheerfully as he dusted his hands and whistled happily.
Jerad and his group had long since vanished into the building. They didn't want to wait outside and find out if the masked man had a bone to pick with them as well. They couldn't quite shake their morbid curiosity, however, and were staring at the garish scene through the ground floor's windows.
Several of the building's other occupants had since joined them. Kefnie, who'd been waiting for her older sister, had been the first. They watched him finish up Kamadi, then walk by, whistling.
"So cruel..." Kesline muttered.
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"What do we do now?" one of Jerad's men asked.
"Report this to Blacksnake immediately. We mustn't let them think we were the ones that did this. Go tell ours as well, we need some backup in case this goes south anyway. Everyone else come with me. We need to help them. Blacksnake won't take kindly to us if we aren't seen to be helping their men," Jerad answered.
He took a deep breath, and let out a long sigh. He didn't like having to help those bastards, but if he wanted to come out of this in one piece, he'd best treat them like his brothers.