Q'VIL'S LAST STAND (II)
Skyhaven Dynasty – force which would eventually lead mankind into its most glorious era had dark and brooding beginnings. Even a continental-sized dynasty required seas of blood as sacrifice to be born to say nothing of the world-sized one. First ushered by the Velor the Great, Skyhaven Clan was a small but powerful group of mountain dwellers. In his fifty-third year of life, Velor became the Bearer of a Writ, and quickly conquered nearby mountain tribes and clans, until eventually coming down and slowly forming the Skyhaven Kingdom. Through four generations, Skyhaven Kingdom slowly became Skyhaven Empire and after seven generations of Monarchs – all of whom were Bearers of Writs – it turned into a Skyhaven Dynasty. The records had long since lost the count of dead that were left beneath the hooves of their horses and tips of their blades and spears, but the glorious name of Skyhaven had undoubtedly shook the hearts of men whenever it was mentioned.
Currently, the ninth generation Monarch of the Skyhaven Dynasty, Edgar IV, was standing at the backend of the massive army, surrounded by his retainers. They all stared coldly at the distant, shoddy walls. It was the last line. The last conquest. The last force that could usurp their rule – Great Dragon Empire. The wars between the two sides were waged for the past four generations, and dozens of large-scale battles were led, resulting in millions of deaths. Edgar IV’s gaze was somewhat solemn; it was a dream of every Monarch before him to truly unite the world underneath the banner of Skyhaven Dynasty, and today was finally that day. He inherited the dreams and desires of his forefathers and he was about to accomplish them. However, within that gaze, there was certain reluctance; that was solely due to a single man who was currently standing atop the distant gates – Q’vil. A commoner of ordinary birth who rose to prominence out of nowhere had stifled their progress for the past ten years greatly. Had it not been for him, Great Dragon Empire would have long since crumbled. Edgar IV didn’t want to let go of such a vassal, but no matter what he threw at Q’vil, the latter never even responded, let alone rejected. Every other general and important vassal of Emperor Yomir had come to his side… except the only one he truly desired. He couldn’t care less of old dogs who betrayed the blood in their veins because of vanity. No, he wanted someone like Q’vil – someone who could withstand the fall of the heaven for his King.
“… what a pity.” he mumbled softly. Next to him, a man in his mid-thirties sighed as well as he glanced at the gates. He was Edgar IV’s Sacred Guardian, and another Bearer of Writ – Grand Commander Yvel. He too felt the suffocating feeling, much like the man he served. Ten years ago, when he led an army of twenty-hundred-thousand against foe’s fifty-thousand, it was supposed to be the last victory. But, it was an utter defeat. Defeat so catastrophic that Yvel nearly took his own life out of shame. And that defeat was dealt to him by no one else but Q’vil. Back then, he was a youth in Yvel’s eyes; the latter had lived for hundreds of years by now, while Q’vil was a fifty-something youth at best. Yet, that spear… that valor… the strength… the tyranny… Yvel could still clearly remember his blood freezing. He cut his men as though they were wheat, directly charging into the heart of the army like a madman and began a slaughter that Yvel would never forget. Corpses piled into hills and blood soaked the land until even the heavens began crying. With thunder blasting off in the sky, he stood atop the mountain of corpses, spear in hand, soaked in blood from head to toe, his black eyes staring at Yvel’s – that gaze was a gaze of a being above the world. Though both were Bearers of Writ, Yvel knew something was different. He didn’t know what Writ Q’vil was obeying, but he wanted it. All the same, he quickly realized he could never have it; such disposition had nothing to do with the Writ. It was the heart.
“They will all march out, Your Holiness,” Yvel said solemnly. “After today… Draconic Bloodline will probably cease to exist…”
“Humph, so what?” a cold snort came from the other side; Yvel glanced at the hot-blooded youth – the third Writ Bearer of the Skyhaven Dynasty – but said nothing. “They are just barbaric beasts, lacking grace. Look at their walls and their buildings. They are pathetic.”
“Shut it, Gyel.” Edgar IV said softly; however, a mere blink later, a trail of blood escaped down the corners of Gyel’s lips as his eyes widened. “You should rather steel your heart. When Dragons march…” Edgar IV paused for a moment as a lowly sigh escaped his lips. “The world bows.”
As his last word faded, the distant gates tore open as a swarm blasted out like floodgates. One… ten… a hundred… Edgar IV had stopped counting. His gaze was fixed on those distant figures. The last of Draconic Bloodline… truth be told, Edgar IV didn’t want to kill them. If there was any way, he’d gladly accept them as vassals. But, he knew that was impossible. Much like Dragons, pride was etched in their blood. They would never kneel before another Lord but their own. The Dragons marched… and the world indeed bowed… Edgar IV and Yvel stared at the sight in daze. No matter that they were Bearers of Writ, the world never obeyed and kneeled. It was never roused by the beat of their hearts. They were quickly jolted out of their gaze by a single figure – the black dot leapt off the gates and landed upfront, running forth ahead of everyone. “Q’vil…” both mumbled, inwardly shaking their heads in regret.
“…” Lino had witnessed such sight because Q’vil’s perception was truly that great. He was stunned. Just how many battles like this took place over the course of history? He wondered for but a moment, immediately shifting his attention back on the open plains. There is no strategy… just a straight march at an overwhelmingly powerful foe…
After briefly talking to Emperor Yomir, Q’vil sped up, creating distance between himself and the rest. Ten meters… a hundred… soon he was half a mile out, matching his pace with those behind him. His gaze was clear. His heartbeat calm and even. It didn’t seem as though he was marching to his death, but to a higher heaven. Perhaps, Lino realized, he truly believed he was. Though he was not a Dragon like the rest in blood, they all never doubted him. To them, he was the greatest Dragon that had ever taken to the skies. He was their star. Their light. And in their darkest moment, their eyes and legs followed that blinding light. His back was sturdy, his shoulders broad. Rather than casting shadow which would sway them, his back cast light against the darkness which surrounded them. That was who Q’vil was to them. The latter didn’t turn back. He didn’t look back. He marched forward steadily. A mile ahead, a magnificent row of shield bearers was waiting. Behind them were troops of spearmen. Further back were archers whose bows were already nocked, ready to be fired. Yet, his gaze was calm. His countenance tranquil. At a half mile mark away from the main troop, arches let loose. Arrows blanketed the sky, pouring down like rain. Q’vil glanced upward slightly. His lips curled up in a faint smile. The grip on the spear tightened as all his muscles bulged.
“… what does it mean to be an Empyrean?” he mumbled softly as he suddenly spun like a whirlwind.
A blast of wind so strong it curbed the earth beneath gushed upward into the sky. The invisible force turned visible as it began shattering arrows as though they were made of fragile porcelain. The darkened sky brightened once more. For the first time in his life, Lino realized just how beautiful a clean, blue sky can be. Unblemished by the spoils of the world. Ever-looming. Tranquil.
“… who is an Empyrean?” Q’vil mumbled as he landed softly on his feet, speeding up suddenly as crimson lightning swept past the soles of his feet. He disappeared, leaving behind only a trail of bloody light.
“SHIELDS UP!!! HERE HE COMES!!!!!” a roar came from the ranks of Skyhaven’s forces.
A breath later, crimson bolt fell from the clear, blue sky in the middle of the army. A shockwave akin to a world’s tear swept outwards as winds rose into hurricanes. Crimson lightning danced like cobwebs, surrounding a solitary figure. Amidst the golden and silver armors, a single man wearing ordinary, white robes was standing, his spear hoisted down. His gaze was calm. Demeanor graceful.
“SPREAD!! SPREAD!!” a commander’s rough voice echoed. “PRIESTS RAISE THE SHIELDS!!! KNIGHTS UPFRONT!! SPEARMEN SURPRESS!!”
Q’vil ignored the shouts as he moved. He slid sideways gracefully, swiping his spear as his dance began. Vaulting sideways, he struck the spear downwards as crimson bolts danced like serpents at the tips of the spear’s blades. He landed softly as crimson blood mixed with bolts. Without taking a breather, he moved sideways once again, charging past the shields and blasting them apart as though they were made of paper. Each swipe of his spear claimed tens of lives. Just when it seemed like he had no way out, his feet would flash crimson and he’d disappear, reappearing elsewhere, followed by a massive crash of crimson bolt.
“Is he an overlord?” a faint voice surged within the hellish screams of pain and agony. Blood dripped freely. Collapsed parts of the whole rolled over. Heads with eyes and mouth wide open strutted down in their singularity. Just then, Emperor Yomir charged at the front, followed by his vassals, commanders, generals, soldiers, men, women, children, old, young, sick, healthy… it was a scene that Lino couldn’t describe even if given a lifetime. There was no fear in them. Though they stood against a foe they couldn’t overcome, they charged bravely. They fought bravely. And Q’vil danced. Not a beautiful dance. Not a graceful dance. But a bloody dance.
Suddenly, crimson bolts which had surrounded him disappeared. Sixty meters around him was a charred, empty ground full of blood. Nobody dared step forth. Nobody even dared look directly into those black eyes. God of Slaughter – that was what Skyhaven’s soldiers called the man in front of them. Who would dare attack a god? Rising from the ashes of crimson bolts, calm, transparent water coiled around spear’s shaft. It appeared alive, indispensable to the world surrounding it.
“Is he a saint?” Q’vil mumbled under his breath. He drew a beautiful arc up as he leapt forth, seemingly ignoring the laws of gravity, bounding over half a mile as he landed in another core part of the army. He came bearing gifts of death and nothing else. As countless attacks began foaming toward him, his spear moved gently, easily reflecting each and every attack that came at him. No, rather than reflect, it would be better to say that he was subduing them; everything grew tranquilized as it came in touch with that water and that spear. Tranquility in his eyes – only matched by the coiling bits of water – remained even as hundreds fell beneath his spear.
“Is he a god?” water dispersed, and in its place living and breathing emerald fires arose, coating spearhead completely. Like a ghost he moved in-between the terrified soldiers, reaping lives like a messenger of death. One. Ten. A hundred. A thousand. It has already been a minute since he began fighting. How many had he killed? Lino had long since lost the count. No, he didn’t even have leisure to count in the first place. What he was witnessing clashed with everything he believed in. He certainly knew that cultivators were powerful – but he only thought so because of the supernatural they could cause. Because they could split a mountain at a great distance. Because they could summon fires and scorch the world from the skies. Yet, Q’vil couldn’t. He was in the heart of the enemy’s army, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of soldiers. His spear was his cleave. His body was his flame.
“Is he a servant?” as his spear swept sideways, it suddenly came to a halt. Shifting his calm gaze, Q’vil saw a man seemingly in his thirties holding a war axe, firmly holding his spear in place. The man’s gaze wasn’t as tranquil; rather, it was besieged by strange emotions. His golden hair fluttered gently in the wind, its magnificence magnified only by the golden robes wrapped around his body.
“Yvel.” Q’vil muttered calmly as he withdrew his spear. Suddenly, two more men appeared by the man’s side. Q’vil recognized them, but didn’t seem to care who they are.
“Your people are dead, Q’vil.” Edgar IV spoke softly, sighing. Q’vil’s eyes turned toward the distant place. There, a hill of corpses rested. He quickly recognized Emperor Yomir… he was smiling. There was also old man Fu… he, too, was smiling. He even recognized Sela, a young pig-breeder… she, too, was smiling. They were all smiling. And Q’vil smiled too.
“Hm.” he nodded, averting his gaze from the corpses back onto the three men standing before him. World around them opened as the ordinary soldiers withdrew. They had no business prying into a battle between the Bearers – no, Messengers of the Writs.
“Won’t you reconsider?” Edgar IV asked yet again.
“… no.” Q’vil said, seemingly to answer Edgar IV’s question, yet seemingly to answer something else. His gaze swept beyond the three men in front of him, into the distant future. “And yes.” he spoke in a voice which only Lino could hear. “Empyrean is everything… and he is nothing.” he continued.
“It’s a shame…” Yvel said, his gaze fluctuating. “You’re a magnificent soldier, Q’vil.”
“You flatter me, Yvel.” Q’vil said with a faint smile.
“Should you fall today,” Edgar IV said. “Your name will be forgotten.”
“All things are bound to be forgotten one day,” Q’vil said, still smiling. “As shall I, so shall you.”
“Impudent!!!” Gyel roared, reaching for the sword in his scabbard, but quickly being held back by Edgar IV. “Your Holiness!”
“Calm down, Gyel,” Edgar IV said, still looking fixedly at Q’vil’s calm eyes. “It is indeed as you’ve said. We will all be forgotten one day.” Edgar IV took in a deep breath. “But… you are too young to be dreaming up such thoughts, Q’vil. Think about it… you’ve still got plenty years to live. You could become so much more than a fallen myth. A stain in the past.”
“Hmm…” Q’vil mumbled lowly as he looked up toward the sky. “It is certainly a beautiful day to die, don’t you think so, Your Grace?” Q’vil smiled once again. “A clean, blue sky… next to my brethren… on my own soil… with a calm heart. It is more than a man like me could ever wish for, really.”
“…” Edgar IV sighed bitterly. Though he knew this would be the end result, he still couldn’t let go of it easily. Such a blinding light… is it really meant to fade today?
“Ha ha, don’t look so dispirited, Your Grace,” Q’vil laughed as he heaved his spear up. “Come! By the Command of King of Heaven… comes the Death of All!” What does it mean to be an Empyrean? Lino thought as he witnessed he scene. To be an overlord? No… and yes. To be a saint? No… and yes. To be a god? No… and yes. To be a servant? No… and yes. Everything… and nothing. He doesn’t care about being remembered… about having to die in a corner of the world that will be wiped from history… even while standing in the field of death, he is calm… what is it that makes him different from me? What is it that he’s trying to teach me? To tell me? To be an Empyrean is to always remain calm? No, that’s not it. To always charge forth no matter what? No… that’s not either. To never forget your bearing? No… it is not that vain of a meaning. It’s more… yet, for some reason, I feel like it’s exceedingly simple. “To be an Empyrean,” a familiar voice mumbled yet again as the black eyes peered into the abyss of death. “Is to be yourself.” Lino’s mind shook. “That is my second lesson, little dragon.”