HARBINGER OF CHAOS (II)
Lino stood near the central, stone stele, his body bent over, arms pressed against his knees, panting heavily. It’s only been seven minutes, yet it felt as though he’d been fighting for weeks. Every muscle in his body felt strained despite the fact that he knew his body was perfectly fine as his innate regeneration was simply inhumane.
It was the mental side of things that made it difficult; after the first few minutes, the creatures came from more than one side, which forced him to always split his attention in two, then in three... four... all the way up to seven. He didn’t even wish to know how many were coming the next time.
Appreciating the quick breather, he whipped out a gourd of ale and downed it whole, also taking out a bottle of water and spraying it all over himself. Just as he finished, he heard the stumping sounds, causing him to groan and stand up straight. Taking out a pair of swords from the void world, he took a deep breath and unleashed his wings.
A pair of golden, feathered beauties streaked out form his back, shining away the gold at the silver tiles beneath. Lifting himself up in the air, he quickly scouted the edged walls and saw eleven groups in total, causing him to nearly blister and burn; barely holding back a scream of frustration, he once again stirred his Singularity and flapped his wings once.
To increase his speed further, he coated his entire body in azure lightning, the mix of two colors creating a strange, eerie blend streaking through the sky. He landed within the group of bear-like creatures walking on two hind legs, armored to tooth, with straight horns protruding from the sides of their massive heads.
The group roared at him, exposing spiked teeth within their massive, gaping maws, as they launched themselves at Lino. The latter quickly flipped in the sky, withdrawing the wings, and descending directly into the heart of the group, slicing about the two swords as flames broke off their edges, creating a massive whirlwind of flames consuming everything around and above him.
The whirlwind spread out flatly in a ring-like pattern around him, falling over from top like the water from a fountain, bleeding away the scorch throughout the tiled floor. The creatures roared in pain, becoming even more terrifying as their clear, beige fur turned blazed. Ducking to avoid a swipe, Lino used one of the swords as a propeller to whiff himself into the air, vaulting over the three bears which had encircled him before whipping out his wings.
Realizing he had made a mistake in choosing the first target, he took to the air once again and scouted around, realizing that two groups were already halfway to the stele. Groaning lowly, he flapped the wings and rushed over without a pause, fishing the two swords out upfront and stabbing directly into the floor, disrupting the group of ordinary-looking foxes save for their black fur; he then withdrew the wings and pushed more Qi into his legs, thickening the bolts of lightning as he darted around and swiped at their necks, beheading one after another as gore and guts spilled about.
Disregarding the bloody and gory scene, he heaved into the air once again, quickly crossing over two kilometers of distance and arriving in front of the stele just in time as a flock of sheep -- of all things -- was approaching. Though, to be fair he mused inwardly, it would be quite forgiving to call the black-wooled, red-eyed, three-meters-tall-looking, hooved, horns-adorned creatures sheep.
He withdrew the two swords and took out [Hell’s Belittlement], repeatedly injecting Qi into it, activating [Law-bender] effect. The weapon suddenly turned lighter as brisk flames shot out of its surface, consuming it whole. The hammer stood blazing in his hands as Lino’s expression distorted, his gaze turning maddened momentarily.
Roaring, he blasted forth, leaving a gaping hole in the floor where his feet used to be, jumping directly within the flock while swinging the hammer about. Everything the weapon touched caught fire, the latter quickly consuming the entirety of grounds around the stele. It raged on like an eternal inferno, within it a singular devil commencing a slaughter for remembrance.
Lino heaved about whilst ignoring completely wears and tears of his body, the splintered skin, the protruding bones, the bleeding veins, the torn muscles... even the outward color of his armor changed to deep crimson from mostly black, giving him even more demonic appearance; his hair flayed madly about in strains, his jet-black eyes dancing about their sockets, constantly finding new victims.
The flock was quickly dealt with, yet Lino wasn’t done; he turned the stele’s surroundings into his own domain, into his own little playground. He ran through the flames as though they were a part of him, wailing about the hammer with reviled freedom. He heaved and jumped, and rolled and ran, darting about in the bolted streaks of coral and azure and crimson, smashing away at heads and bodies of various creatures.
The surroundings of the stele quickly turned into a literal nightmare, stacked to roof with various body parts and countless puddles of blood. There wasn’t a whole corpse in sight, all entirely mutilated and messily dismembered. At the center of it all stood he, leaned slightly forward whilst using the hammer as a cane, panting heavily, his black hair wet through blood, plastered across his face, a pair of maddened eyes peering through.
He was beyond exhausted, an inch away from passing out, and he was fairly certain that the only reason he hadn’t already toppled over was because the Writ was supporting him. He still felt somewhat proud, though, as he’d gone through everything without once activating <Berserk>, relying entirely on his everyday strength.
Finally unable to stand any longer, he fell flat on his behind and lied back, disregarding entirely the fact that he was lying in the pool of mushed gore and guts. Despite the nauseating stench, he simply lacked any willpower to get himself up and over to someplace clean.
“... now that I think about it...” he mumbled faintly. “Wouldn’t it have been easier to just... trap the first wave without killing them?”
“Yes.” the Writ replied. “But, only Outsiders ever did it that way; this was the only way for you to gain the respect.”
“... you... you can go and suck a whole bowl of fat, ugly, smelly cocks,” Lino, despite his internal anger, was too exhausted to externalize it properly. “Because, by god, I think this is the most I ever hated you.”
“Even more than when I indirectly caused deaths of your friends?”
“... forget the bowl. You go and suck an entire ocean of rotting dicks, you gigantic dick.”
“Congratulations, Lord Empyrean!!” a cheery voice echoed throughout the chamber as a human-sized and human-shaped stone appeared in front of Lino. “You passed the first Trial wonderfully!”
“... did... did you suddenly become small,” Lino muttered in confusion. “Or is one of the rewards for passing me turning into a fucking giant? ‘Cause if so, turn me back! I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate a dick that’s about two hundred times bigger than her!”
“Ha ha, no, no, as I’m merely a spiritual manifestation, I can change my size at will.” the stoned creature spoke out, causing Lino to sigh in relief.
“Stop scaring me like that man,” he mumbled, sitting up. “But... there is a reward still, right?”
“Of course -- you have several options at that, actually.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“You can either choose a weapon, a Martial Art, or a book.”
“... that’s it?” Lino asked, frowning.
“All of them are top-tier, don’t worry.”
“... can you just give me like some materials so I can craft my own weapon?”
“Oh? You are a smith?” the Titan asked with some interest.
“Well, as there’s no one here to regulate me -- because the Titan race is extinct, ha ha ha -- I suppose I can bend the rules once. Is there any specific material you desire?”
“... yeah,” Lino just ignored the supposedly laughing matter of racial extinction and moved on. “It’d be great if you had some [Fragmental Chaotic Steel].”
“Oh, you’re in luck! I do have two small pieces! I assume you’d like the rest to be the supporting materials?”
“... yeah.” Lino played along as he really just wanted a small piece of the Chaotic Steel; however, if he was being offered more stuff, he wouldn’t say no.
“It’s no problem. I’d offer you to use our own smithy, but, well, who knows where it is? Ha ha ha.”
“... that’s quite alright. I’ve got my own.”
“That’s fantastic,” the Titan said as he suddenly handed Lino a small ring. “All the materials are in there. Do you mind if I watch your process of crafting? I may not look like it, but I do have some knowledge. Maybe I can give you a pointer or two.”
“Oh, yeah, thanks.” at the mere mention of the stored materials, and with the knowledge that he’d soon be crafting, it seemed as though all his previous exhaustion simply... vanished. He nimbly got on his feet, quickly scanning through the ring while his lips curled up in the biggest, childlike smirk he could procure. His eyes gleamed in joy, entirely replacing the madness, his body trembling not due to pain and tiredness but blissfully innocent excitement... all because his mind had immediately conjured up a new project based on the materials present within the ring, especially so because he, once again, decided he’d experiment... quite a lot.