Chapter 66 – Berserk Chaos

Chapter 66 – Berserk Chaos

“Austin’s gone berserk!”

“What…?” Pierce responded, his tone uneven as he shifted his gaze to the feral silhouette now standing several dozen meters away. Not a single aspect of Austin’s physical appearance could be seen — not his unkempt hair, not his casual clothing, nor his light skin. All that remained was his tall and lanky stature, as a dark blue aura had practically consumed him.

A sharp pain ripped through the right side of Pierce’s torso, forcing him to drop to one knee as he grimaced and clutched his side. What the hellPierce’s thoughts raced through his mind, his attention never once wavering from the feral form in the distance. This is like… this is just like…!

In the growing darkness of dusk, for just a brief moment, Pierce thought he saw a whirling dome of metal, ripping and tearing into the walls and streets around him. He then snapped his gaze to his left, where he saw a tall man standing in front of him, with tanned skin and scruffy black hair that was tied back into a low ponytail. His dark green jacket with black lining was pierced through the arm with metal shrapnel, and a deep red had begun to stain the cloth — though the man seemed to ignore the pain as he crouched down, his own attention focused on the berserker in front of him.

In that moment, Pierce reflexively lashed out, grabbing the man’s arm as he shouted, “Wait, Tren—!” As soon as he made contact with the man, however, his vision snapped back to normal, replacing the shredded street with a dark forest — and the man in dark green with Davídrius and his beige jacket.

The Dean looked down at Pierce, startled. “The hell’re you doin’?!”

“Uh—!” Pierce quickly withdrew his hand and cast his gaze to the side. “S-sorry.”

Davídrius responded with contemplative silence. Before he could offer a verbal reply, however, a feral howl emerged from the berserker in the distance as he leaped toward one of the nearby trees. Davídrius immediately backed into a defensive stance, but remained where he was as Mark dashed onto the scene with Luke in his arms.

You’re both safe… good, Mark observed with relief as he set Luke down on the ground. He then looked over at Davídrius. What do we—?

“You need to restrain ‘im, now!” the Dean barked. “Hold ‘im down ‘til the Berserk State wears off! But you’re on your own!”

Understood! Mark nodded firmly before whipping around toward the silhouette — just in time to block an incoming tree trunk, using his strength to simply knock the trunk to the side. Berserk Austin was soon to follow, but Mark leaped forward to intercept, successfully grabbing the berserker by his arm and dragging him through the air away from the others.

“…Well, this is just great,” Luke muttered as he watched the two Chaotics disappear into the forest. He then passed a doubtful glance toward Davídrius. “Why aren’t you helping?”

“For the same reason that Austin and Pierce fightin’ was a terrible idea,” the Dean replied. “Austin is a Simulator. And when Simulators go berserk, they’ll copy any ability in range, almost at random. So if a Velocitechnic like myself got too close, then he’d just zip off and kill himself on a tree.” Davídrius then looked back at Pierce, who remained as he was with one knee on the ground and a hand on his side. “You better not try to play the hero, here.”

Pierce didn’t respond. His attention was wholly focused on the snarls and sounds of cracking timber that he could hear in the distance; sounds that occasionally reminded him of shattering concrete and glass. Damn it, Pierce, keep it together! What the fuck is wrong with you?!

A shout of exertion drew the bystanders’ gazes to Mark as he blocked a particularly fierce blow from Berserk Austin. As the two were standing barely a couple meters from each other, Austin was able to Simulate Mark’s own superstrength and durability to almost force Mark to his knees and crater the ground below him; however Mark managed to remain on his feet and calmly shove Austin back. He then reached over and grabbed the berserker’s wrist, holding him in place with his superior strength. Berserk Austin struggled against Mark’s grasp for just a couple seconds before swinging his other arm around; Mark quickly brought up his own free hand to block the blow with his forearm, only for his arm to then be yanked downwards as an invisible force tugged at his jacket. Caught by surprise, Mark’s grip on Austin loosened just enough for the Berserker to free himself, leap back, and then claw into a nearby tree. Immediately, the entire 20-meter plant was uprooted and began swinging through the air, only for Mark to effortlessly smash it with his fists and charge at Austin.

“A whole tree, and that large…?” Luke muttered, “I’ve never seen Austin manipulate something that massive before…”

“This ain’t uncommon for a Berserk Chaotic…” Davídrius replied. “When a Chaotic goes Berserk… it’s like any mental safety limiters get removed. Often looks like they get stronger, but it’s at the risk of hurtin’ themselves real bad…”

“Is there any way to stop him?”

“Given what we have right now?…” The Dean passed a contemplative glance toward Pierce, only to shake his head a moment later. “Mark’s strength is all we got. A Berserk Simulator can copy his strength, but not his skill, and Berserkers ain’t known for usin’ skill in the first place.”

“…Is there something I can do?” Pierce questioned, his voice low, though he nonetheless had turned his attention to Davídrius. “The way you looked at me…”

“If there’s anything you know, we have to use it,” Luke insisted.

“…Tch.” Davídrius snorted in irritation. “The problem is what I don’t know. What I thought of two seconds ago won’t work.”

“But still—!”

“Now ain’t the time for experimentin’, not if you value Austin’s life. Besides, it looks like Austin can’t copy the full extent of Mark’s strength. It’s convenient right now, for sure, but I never heard Mark use an Overdrive… so somethin’s off.” Davídrius passed Luke a glance. “I guess those ‘Eximius Vir’ of yours really are somethin’ special, huh?”

“Really…?” Luke questioned warily, and then slowly turned his attention back to the fight in front of them.

By then, several trees had been uprooted by Austin’s Berserk Imperator ability, and then transformed into wood chips by Mark’s deflective punches, forming a small clearing pock-marked with craters from the Berserk Chaotic’s attempts to crush Mark with his own strength. Nevertheless, Mark pressed on, his jacket, shirt, and shorts covered in small tears and holes but his body showing nary a scratch. As the berserker moved to uproot another tree, Mark lunged forward, using the superhuman strength in his legs to cover the distance between him and Austin in a single powerful pounce. With the tree only halfway out of the ground, Berserk Austin forcefully used it to intercept Mark, creating a shower of dirt and grass as he ripped the roots out of the soil — but none of it fazed Mark, who simply smashed his way through the tree and charged at Austin. The berserker’s hunched-over stance, combined with the six-inch height advantage that Mark normally had over Austin, allowed Mark to quickly wrap his arms around the berserker’s neck from above in a guillotine choke; immediately, Austin began thrashing about, his arms and legs lashing out to smash the ground and slam Mark in the face, each blow containing so much force that they kicked up dust clouds and created visible shockwaves in the air. Yet, Mark calmly stood strong against them, his skin and bones unbreaking as he wrestled with the berserker to maintain control of his hold and stay on his feet, all while slowly dragging him away from the trees and to the center of the makeshift clearing.

Just as Mark took another step backwards, however, the berserker released a feral howl, startling Mark and causing him to stumble. He barely caught himself, but he was now on the back foot — and Berserk Austin immediately followed the howl by stooping down and raking the ground with his free hand, activating his Imperator ability against the layer of wood debris covering the dirt and shooting it all up at Mark like a ground-fired shotgun. Mark stood strong as the debris ripped into his clothes yet bounced harmlessly off of his skin, but the debris provided just enough cover for the berserker to swipe Mark’s legs out from under him, thereby finally managing to force him to the floor. Yet still, Mark maintained his grasp on Austin’s neck, resulting in the berserker nearly falling down on top of him — Mark quickly moved to wrap his feet around Austin’s hips in an effort to maintain the hold, but the berserker knocked away Mark’s leg with his arms before flipping unnaturally through the air, using his Imperator powers on himself to simulate flight. Berserk Austin then slammed his back down onto Mark’s face before lurching forwards, using his chin and neck alone to attempt to throw Mark. Between Austin’s sudden movements and Mark being unsure of the exact difference in strength between them, Mark quickly released his hold before Austin could follow through with the neck throw, therefore allowing the berserker to escape without injury. Mark quickly jumped back to his feet, but so did Austin, the two once again separated.

“…Mark’s got skill,” Davídrius admitted, as he continued to watch the fight from a distance. “He knew he was stronger than Austin, and that he could accidentally hurt ‘im, so he gave up his advantage. Most Chaotics his age wouldn’t realize that in the heat of the moment, not against a berserker.”

“I hear you,” Luke muttered warily, “but this is dragging on longer than I’d like.”

“This is normal for when someone goes Berserk. We’re just lucky it happened out here, away from the city.”

“Are we really safe here, though?”

“When a Chaotic goes Berserk, it’s like they go feral. They can’t strategize or use tactics, and they always focus on the nearest threat. So as long as we don’t do anythin’ to draw his attention, we’re fine where we are.”

“But…” Pierce started, finally finding the strength within himself to climb to his feet again — though his hand unconsciously remained clutching his torso as he turned toward Davídrius. “If this goes much longer…”

Davídrius passed Pierce a glance. “…You’ve seen this before, ain’t you?” he eventually questioned. “Someone goin’ Berserk?”

“If we don’t stop Austin soon, someone is going to di— get hurt,” Pierce insisted, momentarily diverting his gaze as he stumbled over his final words. He soon snapped his attention back to Davídrius and finished, “you had an idea earlier, right? When you looked at me. If there’s anything I can do, tell me!”

“The way you’re feelin’ right now is why I can’t tell you!” Davídrius snapped. “Bein’ over-eager to help against a berserker is a surefire way to get you or someone else hurt — or worse, killed!”

Pierce drew back, as if startled, only to furrow his brow a moment later. “Look, I can totally—!”

“Stay where you are,” the Dean interrupted. “I’ll explain better when this situation is under control. But believe me when I say that I know first-hand that nothin’ good’ll come from you gettin’ involved right now!”

Pierce glared back at Davídrius while gritting his teeth, but a sharp throbbing in his torso prevented him from forming a verbal response. Instead, he looked back to the clearing, and the fight within it. Mark had successfully dragged the fight to the center of the clearing, and for the past minute he had been blocking and weathering Austin’s attacks in search of an opening. Heavy blow after heavy blow, the berserker used Mark’s own strength against him, generating loud thuds and blasts of air as he slammed his fists into Mark’s forearms. Even under the incredible assault, however, Mark remained braced, standing, and unmoving, seemingly content to serve as an outlet for the berserker’s aggression.

After a couple more seconds of launching punch after punch, Austin finally drew back, putting about a meter between him and Mark. At this point, the veil of dark blue that covered Austin’s entire body was beginning to lighten, allowing parts of his body and clothes to be seen — but the berserker’s stance remained hunched and feral, his attention focused entirely on Mark. Cautiously, Mark repositioned his feet and reset his stance, preparing for another onslaught… but instead, the berserker whipped around and dashed for the tree line. Immediately, Mark bounded through the air, his superstrength allowing him to kick off of the ground so hard that a small crater formed where he had just been standing. Before Austin could reach the trees, Mark had landed on top of him, grabbing his legs to trip him up and bring him to the ground. As soon as the berserker’s palms touched the ground, he exerted control over the dirt and wood chips with his Imperator powers to create a debris shotgun, as he had done earlier, but Mark ignored the attack to drop onto Austin’s back and wrap his right arm around the berserker’s neck in a rear naked choke hold. In clear distress, Austin began lashing out, his arms and limbs flailing in an attempt to knock Mark away — but the latter used his superior size and strength to calmly remain on top of Austin, this time carefully maintaining his position to reduce the berserker’s chances of injuring himself.

Nearly a full minute of thrashing followed, interspersed with more attempts at shotgunning debris into Mark’s face, but still he managed to maintain his choke hold, all while the blue veil around Austin’s body continued to lighten and thin. Eventually, Austin’s movements began to slow, with the aura that had once been surrounding him now concentrated on his hands and face. Tentatively, Mark released his hold, allowing the berserker to collapse to the ground… where the final remnants of the aura dissipated into the air.

Quickly, Mark held two of his fingers up to Austin’s neck to check his pulse. After verifying that the Imperator was still alive — merely unconscious — he climbed to his feet and signaled to the bystanders that they could approach. Luke immediately obliged, dashing across the open clearing to kneel by his nephew’s side while Davídrius and Pierce approached more cautiously.

“…Good work,” Davídrius eventually commented, passing a nod toward Mark.

…Then why doesn’t it feel like it…? Mark muttered, his own attention focused on Austin.

Nothin is ever good about someone goin’ Berserk,” Davídrius replied. “This whole situation is shitty. But you did the best you could in that shitty situation — even better than some Chaotics I know. Look at it this way: no one died, and no one got hurt.”

Pierce opened his mouth to comment, only to close it a second later without saying anything. Instead, he looked down at Austin, his lips pursed and brow furrowed. No one died… but choking someone until they’re unconscious is pretty damn close…

“He’ll be fine.”

“Huh?” Pierce glanced over at Davídrius, only to find that the Dean was looking at him.

“Austin will be fine,” Davídrius reiterated, and then jerked his head toward Mark. “Mark has both Forcetechnism and Duratechnism, right? That means Austin’ll be copyin’ that increased durability, even while unconscious. Should be obvious, given how long it took to knock ‘im out. But that also means he’ll recover faster than normal, so long as Mark stays in his simulation range.”

Understood… Mark muttered quietly as he stepped closer to Austin.

“Austin does seem fine, that’s true…” Luke said, having completed a quick in-field checkup. He then looked up at Davídrius, still kneeling by Austin’s side as he said, “this situation still isn’t great, though.”

“’Course it ain’t,” the Dean retorted, passing a look toward Pierce. “You understand the stakes of usin’ your power irresponsibly, now?”

“H-hey, I…!” Pierce started to respond, but quickly lost steam as he failed to find any words with which to defend himself.

“…I ain’t gonna lecture you any more, not at this point. Seein’ a Berserk episode up front like this is often enough to scare folks straight, I find,” Davídrius declared. He then looked up at the sky, now filled with the star-speckled darkness of night. “…But I will at least say this. What you just saw was a stress-triggered Berserk episode. These’re more dangerous than regular Berserk episodes that’re caused by over-usin’ your abilities. Shit like this is why we Chaotics need to keep a cool head when we can, and most of all…” He dropped his head to look Pierce in the eye. “Not antagonize other Chaotics.”

“…A-alright, I get it. Point taken,” Pierce muttered.

“Good. ‘Cause one day, if you ain’t careful, this could be you. Watch out for that. Now…” Davídrius began walking away from the clearing, beckoning for Pierce to follow. “Pierce, you an’ I should head back to the others. Luke, Mark, y’all got Austin, right?”

“Of course,” Luke replied, only to quickly turn his attention to his nephew as Austin slowly began moving. “Oh, Austin! You’re back!”

“And that’s our cue to leave. C’mon,” Davídrius commented, passing Pierce a nod before dashing off into the dark forest.

Pierce, however, didn’t immediately follow. For just a second, his gaze lingered on Austin, watching as he slowly sat up. …Davídrius is right. No one died, or was hurt, so it worked out in the end. But… A dull throb shot through his torso, bringing a grimace to his face. …Damn it! Fuck this. Let’s get out of here. With that, he whipped around on his heel and launched into the forest after Davídrius, leaving the impromptu battlefield behind him.