Chapter 61 — Berserk
Soran jumped down and hacked at a gnoll warrior. The gnoll blocked the attack with its weapon, but Soran’s downward momentum forced it to take two steps back. The gnoll lost its footing and stumbled. Ignoring his trembling legs, Soran mustered his strength and slashed at his target’s chest. Blood sprayed out from the wound, some splashing onto his face, and the stench of blood triggered his combat instincts. He kicked the gnoll in the balls, making it shudder and spasm. Without giving it a chance to recover, Soran dashed toward the immobilised gnoll and stabbed its chest, then kicked it down the cliff.
The gnoll struggled as it fell and finally laid still after crashing onto the ground with a loud crash.
Soran sheathed his sword and moved to change locations again. A gnoll desperately threw its weapon toward him, but he nimbly dodged it.
Apart from advanced gnoll scouts, most gnolls were close quarters combatants, as their claws made it hard to use bows and crossbows. To attack Soran, who was maintaining his distance, the gnoll warriors could only throw their weapons at him.
Soran briefly observed the situation and slid down the rocky slope, stopping around the middle of the rocky hill. A few gnolls had just climbed to the top, only to realise their target had already gone back down. He calmly reloaded his enhanced crossbow and fired at a gnoll. The bolt punctured its eye socket and ended its life in an instant. Soran repeated the process, but this time he failed to kill a gnoll with just one shot; the bolt landed in its arm. The gnoll growled and pulled the bolt out as if it was nothing.
Soran was not in a hurry; he was slowly whittling away at the gnolls anyway. He was taking advantage of his high Dexterity and Constitution. The gnolls could not catch up with him, as he was agile, and their stamina was rapidly decreasing after climbing up and down the cliff. Even though their eyes were full of rage, their movements were getting dull. They had no way of dealing with the sneaky human; Soran kept moving around and shooting them with his enhanced crossbow, but the gnolls had no ranged attacks. They could do nothing but play into Soran’s hands.
Kiting—it was a style of combat that took advantage of the slow movement speed of armored opponents. One would slowly chip off the enemy’s HP with ranged attacks while keeping a safe distance. It was a cowardly yet effective style: keep running when the enemy pursues and chase the enemy when he flees.
Soran kept a distance of at least fifteen meters from the gnolls at all times. Even if the monsters tried to surround him, there was enough space for him to avoid the encirclement. Gnolls had higher muscle strength and speed than normal humans, but that was it; those did not help much when fighting against Soran.
Soran continued to reload and fire his crossbow at the three gnolls charging at him. One of them howled and tumbled as a bolt struck its chest. The other two completely lost their reasoning and lunged at him with a suicidal attack; they tried to knock him off the cliff with their momentum.
Just as the gnolls were about crash into him, Soran dropped to the ground and barely avoided the charging gnolls by a hair's breadth. Their suicide attack was in vain as they howled while falling to their deaths.
A few more gnolls slowly approached Soran. His cold expression was still completely composed as he put away his crossbow and unsheathed his sword. He rushed toward one of the gnolls, who greeted him with an attack. Soran dodged the initial strike by twisting his body, but the gnoll’s cranium basher smashed the ground and sent chunks of rocks flying in all directions. One of the rocks scraped his back, creating a wound. Without caring about his injury, Soran slashed at the gnoll’s shoulder.
The ground was covered in dust and small rocks after getting smashed. Soran kicked the rocks at the gnoll to distract it and once again charged. He lowered his body and sliced open its waist; gnolls had hard skulls, and his Strength was insufficient to deal a killing blow to the head, thus he opted to attack its flesh.
The gnoll's intestines were dangling out of the wound, but it did not care and lunged at Soran, aiming to bite his neck. Soran was still fixing his stance and could not attack with his sword, thus he could only grit his teeth and headbutt the incoming gnoll.
The impact knocked out a few of the gnoll’s teeth. Soran felt dizzy, but that only lasted for a split second; his high Constitution allowed him to recover swiftly. Blood was dripping from his forehead, but the wound was not that deep. The gnoll, on the other hand, was in much worse shape. It was lying on the ground, struggling to move. Soran hacked at the powerless monster’s neck with his weapon and severed its head from its body.
A simple yet brutal attack.
It did not matter how fancy a skill was; practicality was all that mattered.
Blood from the wound on his forehead dyed his vision red. Soran wiped the blood from his eyes, then stood there with his curved sword in one hand.
Soran had already killed seven to eight gnolls; there were not many of them left. He had consumed a fair bit of his stamina during the prolonged fight, but there was no longer a need to run around. He could still use Shadowstrike five times, which should be more than enough to kill the gnoll alpha; the enemies would crumble the moment it was slain.
The gnoll alpha finally made its appearance. Soran's silhouette became hazy, and he dashed toward it like a leopard. It blocked his hack with its spiked mace, but dark energies began corroding its arms, turning the flesh grey.
As long as Soran could come into contact with the target, the skill would ignore physical defences and deal 6 damage. It was by no means fatal, but it was enough to disrupt the enemy's rhythm. Soran attacked once more. His sword did not damage the gnoll alpha, but Shadowstrike again bypassed its defences and dealt damage; 12 damage was equivalent to landing a hit with his sword.
The gnoll alpha shuddered and finally realized its opponent was damaging it with some strange power. When Soran attacked with Shadowstrike for a third time, it stepped back and evaded the strike. The dark energies would only gather for a moment; if the attack did not land, they would dissipate almost immediately. He could now only use Shadowstrike two more times.
The nearby gnolls gathered and rushed to aid their leader. Soran could also hear the howls of gnolls in the distance.
—Sword Form—Heavy Hack!
His muscles went taut as power gathered in his arms. Soran leapt into the air and slashed diagonally, cutting off the gnoll alpha’s hands. He followed up with a horizontal cut, which beheaded the target. Blood gushed out from the stump like a fountain; the headless body took a step before smashing into the ground.
Soran grabbed the gnoll alpha’s head and roared. The wild roar echoed through the region.
The charging gnolls came to a halt. They bared their fangs with fierce looks, but they showed a hint of fear in their eyes.
Soran mustered his strength and roared once again, holding the gnoll alpha's head up high. He glared at the nearby gnolls and readied his sword.
The gnolls howled in retaliation, but the sound was lacking compared to Soran's powerful roar. They looked at one another and finally turned to flee into the forest after realizing there were only a few of them left; the rest were all dead along with their leader.
After confirming the gnolls had all fled, Soran tossed the head away and sat on the ground while laughing like a maniac. The battle had only lasted ten or so minutes, but its intensity made his hands shiver. If the gnolls' morale had not plummeted, and they had continued to fight, he would have had to resort to using his special fighting style, which he did not like to use.
Dealing damage while sacrificing his own health—the one who deals more damage while receiving less wins. The drow who taught him the style told him that it should not be used without the resolve to face death; it was something drow assassins used only in missions that were impossible to finish without sacrificing themselves.
Recalling the words of his drow mentor reminded him of his memories of the Underdark. Back then, the residents there called him the Brutal Rogue. Many believed he should have multiprofessioned in Sword Saint or Berserker instead of advancing into Lurker. However, he did not regret his decision; it would have been impossible to live such a free life in shady places such as the Underdark and the Abyss if he had not chosen Lurker. Soran smiled as he brushed the dust off his outfit and stood up.
"No longer in combat!"
"After a tough battle, your have improved your skills!"
"You have successfully taunted the gnolls! You have successfully intimidated the gnolls!"
"Intimidation +10, Taunt +5, Evasion (Body-shifting) +1, Evasion (Rolling) +2, Parry +1, Survival +2."
"You are now more proficient in using Sword Form—Heavy Hack."
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