"N-no wait a second!" The boy flailed about with all his might, sheer terror releasing all the adrenaline from his body in an instant.
Most notably, the muscles in his injured arm contracted hard, swelling beyond their normal limit as the black capillaries around the lacerations inexorably gained ground. Krold, who was pinning his arm under his knee, immediately felt a distinct increase in resistance and a solemn expression graced his features.
"I have no choice, Ikaris. I've seen what happens to those bitten or scratched by these things. When the wound turns black, the transformation is already irreversible. If I don't cut off your arm now, you'll kill us all."
The teenager stopped struggling as he heard the words of the resolute barbarian, but his panicked black eyes flashed with a murderous gleam. He had no intention of losing his right arm without a fight.
'Don't blame me Krold, I do what I have to do to survive.' He apologized inwardly, but his face was devoid of guilt.
His free left arm slid down to his loincloth and he pulled out the mosquito's proboscis that served as a hidden weapon. In a blind attempt, he violently folded his left arm behind his back, planting the proboscis in the barbarian's thigh pinning his right shoulder.
Krold winced in pain and the pressure on his right shoulder eased. Waiting for this, Ikaris pushed on the ground as hard as he could with his left arm, contorting his torso so much that he dislocated his right shoulder with a snap.
The warrior didn't stand still and almost immediately readjusted his position, but for a split second the boy got a straight line of sight to the barbarian's heart.
A devastating punch caught him in the jaw, but Krold also ducked to the side, clutching his heart with a wail of agony. Without the aborigine's weight astride his back, Ikaris rolled easily in the opposite direction and rose to his feet in the blink of an eye. Once standing, he drew his knife straight away and pointed it at the barbarian, keeping his guard up.
The two opponents spoke at the same time, the disbelief and confusion on their faces identical in every way. Krold couldn't figure out how the boy had targeted his heart. If he had not instinctively dodged, his heart would have been pierced through and through. As for Ikaris, he wanted to know what justified such viciousness towards him.
The silence lingered for a while, the man and the boy stonily staring at each other with extreme vigilance, until Krold realized something.
"You... You're still yourself." He stammered, staring at him as if he had just seen something surreal.
"Of course I am! Why on earth should I feel any differ-" Ikaris fell silent as he shifted his gaze to his arm wound.
At that moment, all sorts of possible explanations flooded into his mind and he came to the conclusion that he owed his sanity to his absurd Soul Strength. Once the problem was highlighted, he realized that his behavior had been out of character since he woke up.
Instead of negotiating with Oliver and maintaining his image as a puny, innocent child, he had immediately become angry, breaking off any hope of negotiation, while alienating the hairdresser. The chance that the latter would try to steal his fruit by more forceful methods or to harm him by jealousy was now highly likely.
Although Ikaris was willing to get his hands dirty to protect his interests, he hated trouble. Knowing the Heart Strawberries' whereabouts, he had initially just intended to use up his supply, sharing it with Oliver and Ellie if necessary until he found an opportunity to get more.
Even sharing would have guaranteed him enough food for several days. When he returned, he would have been more cautious and made sure he wasn't spotted.
Oliver would have thought he had run out of fruit. Problem solved.
That plan was no longer an option. The risk of his Heart Strawberries being stolen later that day or exposed to the rest of the villagers was what he had to mentally prepare himself for.
Likewise, just now he had unhesitatingly not only considered, but wished to kill Krold. Though it was in self-defense, his decisiveness had gone beyond the limits of what a normal Ikaris would do. At worst, he would have struggled or run away, but killing would never have been his intention.
It would create more problems than it solved if a corpse appeared in the village in broad daylight. He wasn't sure about Malia and Grallu's olfactory abilities, but he was sure that several villagers had seen him enter Krold's tent. The warrior was a squad leader. His absence for the morning exploration mission would have been noticed within an hour.
[Status : Infected by a Rank 2 Crawling (Transformation to Crawling-Thrall in progress 16%)]
[Side Effects: Night Vision, Crawling Physique 16%, Attributes +0.5, Vitality+5, Insatiable Appetite, Strict Carnivore, Loss of Sanity, Bloodlust, Absolute Loyalty to the Glenring Race]
Ikaris immediately understood the barbarian's drastic reaction. The transformation was only 16% complete and the side effects described were already terrifying. It explained how he had so easily freed himself from Krold. He was indeed stronger and faster than before.
But he was still himself. To be truthful, for the moment this infection offered him more pros than cons, but he knew that it wouldn't last.
[Transformation in progress 16>17%]
Suddenly, Ikaris saw his fingernails lengthen and darken slightly and he felt an uncomfortable tingling sensation in his teeth and lower spine. An intolerable sense of urgency pervaded his entire being.
lightsΝοvεl ƈοm'I have to find a way to stop this... but first I have to pacify Krold.' The boy reasoned as he saw the warrior approaching him sinisterly, brandishing his bronze sword.
"Krold please stop. I still have control, trust me."
The barbarian lowered his blade slightly, before raising it again.
"What kind of proof do you want?"
The aborigine smirked at him and without ever taking his eyes off of him moved back to a corner of his tent and grabbed what appeared to be some kind of roasted leg. It didn't take long for Ikaris to recognize whose leg it was.
"Remember when you refused to eat that goblin for moral reasons? Show me that your words still hold true. Show me you can still do it." Krold gravely threw the roasted goblin leg at him."
Out of reflex, the teenager caught the greenish meat in mid-air, but as soon as the smell entered his nostrils, his bloodshot black eyes bulged, his heart sped up and a stream of saliva filled his mouth. The meat that had seemed so disgusting a few days ago had become a divine dish 1000 times more appetizing than the best dish of a starred chef.
Yet... This urge to devour everything made him realize that this voracious appetite did not only apply to the goblin. He also became aware of his burning desire to kill, maim and devour Krold.
When Ikaris became aware of his changes, he became aghast. However, he was far from losing control. It was not even as tempting as the smell of warm bread in front of a bakery. Sure, if he hadn't eaten in days he might have given in, but he was full and it wasn't bread but a filthy goblin roast.
In the end, he ignored this impulse surging from deep inside himself, almost immediately losing interest in the meat in his hands. Seeing that the boy showed no sign of losing control, a shell-shocked gasp froze the barbarian's face.
"How is this possible? He exclaimed, his voice broken with sadness as he thought of all the comrades he had finished off with his own hands thinking they were done for.
"Told you. I'm a different breed." Ikaris chuckled casually, but inside the sense of urgency was only growing.
Krold stared at him for a long time, scrutinizing his every movement and muscle twitch for a symptom of loss of self-control, but the boy seemed the same as always. Eventually, he reluctantly lowered his sword and declared,
"I won't kill you... For now."
Ikaris immediately breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"But!" Krold dampened his spirits. "From now on, I want to have you in my sight 24/7. I'll turn over command of the squad to Tuari for this morning's exploration."
"Won't that penalize you, you know, for the blood ritual?" The teenager eagerly tried to dissuade him.
"Don't worry about me, no one in the village would dare single me out for the ritual except Malia or old Grallu." The barbarian scoffed, seeing through his act.
Thus, Ikaris returned to his tent with an extra companion. His mood was already dismal, but when he found his tent empty, his Heart Strawberries nowhere in sight, a killing intent that had nothing to do with his wounds... or maybe it did, erupted forth all at once.