* * *
It was the fifth severance. Van drew in a ragged breath as he stared at the giant troll’s forearms stacked against the gap in the barrier.
“They’re coming, more……. Much more…….”
With these five severances, the gap through which the monsters invaded was completely blocked. But he couldn’t let his guard down as the giant troll’s arm picked up handfuls of monsters from the outside and crawled through even the smallest gaps.
The number of monsters in the final ‘launch’ was vast enough to fill the palm of the giant troll’s hand. A single sword aura strike was not enough to cut off its forearm, and Van was unable to stop it.
‘This is the limit.’
And Van realized that his reason was being pushed to the edge of a cliff.
A turbid aura colored his entire body. The color of Van’s eyes deepened as the aura grew blacker and blacker.
Instead of severing the endless regenerated arm of the giant troll, he should have joined the Knight Order outside the barrier to assess the situation. At least, that was what he should have done when the giant troll stuck its arm through the barrier for the third time.
But he didn’t, he just severed the first arm he saw, slaughtering the monsters that came his way. The more he drank their blood, the more he absorbed it, and the more the whisper in his brain told him it was right.
‘I must join Commander while the troll’s arms are blocking the barrier.’
If he continued to deal with monsters here, he didn’t know how he would change. Van forcibly tried to cancel the [Blood Flow Sword].
Piercing pain that twisted and stabbed at every muscle. When he managed to get out of the state of awakening by gathering his shallow will, the aura that became blacker wrapped around him instead of reducing the range.
Black pupils. An eerie glare turned to his wrist.
His wrist, where the [Bracelet of Rest] should have been placed, was empty. When he looked down, he saw the two broken pieces of the bracelet clattering to the ground.
His cloudy eyes flickered uneasily.
Van slowly bent down and picked up the bracelet. If it hadn’t been for the bracelet given to him by his commander, he would have gone berserk long ago.
“I was going to…… take it to the grave, but…….”
His weakness prevented him from keeping the gift from his commander. He strained his hand in a sudden fit of rage, and the bracelet bent in his grasp.
The stunned expression gradually distorted. Van’s hand, still clenched into a fist, struck his own forehead roughly. The eyes beneath the bowed head were murderous.
“All because of those *ssholes…….”
A simmering murmur. The aura he had barely suppressed began to flood once more, giving off a sinister feel.
“Kill them all. Kill them all, and give Commander…….”
His creaky steps shifted. Van clutched his tattered bracelet as he headed toward the rear where Cadel would be.
The instinct to slice and dice everything in sight, and the rationalization that he needed to get back to Cadel first. The aura that surrounded him fluctuated unsteadily, following the two maddeningly conflicting emotions.
* * *
「The Awakening Quest for Knight ‘Van Herdos’ begins.」
「Please help Knight ‘Van Herdos’ from being eroded by the power of the Berserker.」
「On failure, the Awakening Quest ceases to exist. Knight ‘Van Herdos’ is unable to fight.」
‘Do you think I haven’t got enough things to do on my hand?’
Fending off the goblin horde flocking like a pack of dogs, Cadel spat at the annoying system window.
The number of monsters raining down in the fifth wave was hard to count. And they were all aiming for Lumen. Desperately, as if this was their last chance.
When being surrounded by so many monsters, it was hard not to show any gaps. Their goal was not victory, but the recapture of the core, so they would try to catch Lumen off guard at all costs.
As a result, Cadel evacuated Lumen.
‘We’ll stop the monsters, so you stay away from here as far as you can! If I think it’s okay to join, I’ll fire a fireball, so defend the core no matter what.’
‘……Be careful, Leader.’
He took care of the monsters charging after Lumen, while Lydon restrained the rampaging monsters. Not a single one should be allowed to chase Lumen, that was Cadel’s primary goal.
‘Why is the Awakening Quest popping up now? Where is the protagonist of this Awakening Quest?’
An unexpected Awakening Quest. An Awakening Quest for Van who he wasn’t even with. He was too busy dealing with monsters to pay attention, so he didn’t realize how the quest happened.
Cadel shook his head urgently as he stepped over the monster’s corpse. The timing of the Awakening Quest was unfortunate, to say the least. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, and the penalty for failure bothered him.
‘From quest disappearance to inability to fight……. The notice was written so vaguely that I can’t tell if it’s temporary or not. What’s the aim?’
Did the disappearance of the Awakening Quest mean Van would never get another chance to awaken? Did being unable to fight mean he’d lose his Aura and other skills forever? None of this was clear.
In any case, they were both worst-case scenarios, so Cadel had to find Van in the midst of the madness soon.
“……Huh? Cadel, look at that. Ahaha! Van has become so huge!”
With a jovial chuckle from Lydon, Van was revealed.
A jet-black aura, like a shadow, colored around Van. The blurred focus of pupils blackened together. A mess of blood and aura lay atop the greatsword dragging on the ground, his ragged breathing a disturbing contrast to his slow movements.
Cadel’s expression hardened at Van’s unusual state.
‘The Bracelet of Rest is missing. Is it broken?’
Van wouldn’t have taken it off on purpose, so it was likely destroyed when it couldn’t withstand his aura. This was much worse than Cadel expected, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Van went on a rampage right now.
How to stop Van from going out of control.
‘I need to say something first…….’
But just as Cadel took a step forward, a goblin, hidden by Van’s size, lunged at him from behind, leaving Cadel no chance to stop it.
“Van, behind y―!”
There was no need to stop the goblin. Without a backward glance, Van grabbed the head of the goblin that had tried to bite his shoulder in one hand. He curled his fingertips around it.
The grisly sound of flesh and bone being crushed. The goblin’s head snapped back, blood spilling over the fingers that dug into it.
The goblin’s body went limp as it struggled in Van’s grasp. Without hesitation, Van tossed the corpse to the ground and wiped the blood from his cheeks. His hand, too, was covered in blood, which only served to smear more of it across his face.
“I’m back, Commander.”
An eerie glow flashed in the black eyes. A grotesquely squashed goblin’s head and Van, who’d been transformed into someone else. Looking back at the two, Cadel thought vaguely, swallowing dry saliva.
‘Isn’t he already going out of control……?’