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CHAPTER 57

ASMODEI

Lino realized that the atmosphere inside the hall was beginning to shift. Though it gave off grand, awe-inspiring and monumental feeling upon setting foot in the place, it wasn’t as overwhelming as one might expect. And neither the radiating wings nor the coffin inspired frigid heart to thaw; yet, as soon as the man crawled out of the coffin, setting upon the invisible floor in the air, the hall underwent a towering change. The sculpted pillars seemed to have come to life, their gait eerily vibrant, their eyes piercing and fierce, while pressure emitted by them increased tenfold. The spectacular lighting of the hall turned a hue more golden, yet it seemed to have made a world’s difference. The light bounced off the tiles, creating ridges and bridges of light cascading across the hall, like a light-show one would only dream of witnessing, but never actually having a chance to do so. The man himself exuded an air so ancient Lino was certain it was not of this world; it reminded him quite a lot of the atmosphere he’d sense whenever he’d enter the Writ’s world to choose a Primal Spirit. It felt as if he was carved out of another dimension and placed here, as though he didn’t belong. However experienced Lino was in reading people, their expressions, mannerisms, gait, gestures, he couldn’t even begin to venture a guess as to what kind of a person the man above him was. His wavy, golden hair fluttering backwards was oddly transparent, ethereal in sorts, while his eyes brimmed with wisdom and knowledge Lino was certain no human being has ever or will ever posses. Yet, however monumental the occasion was, Lino’s heart was calm, serene even. He felt not a tinge of danger coming from the man, only eternal peace, as though remaining here till the end of his days would be worth sacrificing everything else. The man flew down slowly, landing without making a sound, stopping merely a few feet away from Lino. The latter felt like a newborn babe before the man who, Lino was certain, towered over at least three meters. Despite being on the taller side of his peers, Lino wasn’t even the height of man’s calves.

“... hello.” Lino spoke meekly. “Sorry, uh... for waking you up?”

“... ha ha,” the man laughed heartily before replying. “No, no, you are wrong. For me to have woken up, I’d have needed to be asleep first.”

“... then, uh, sorry for resurrecting you?”

“Still no. In order to be resurrected, I’d have to have been dead first, and in order to have died, I’d first had to have lived.” ... what the hell is he talking about? Though Lino thought so, he didn’t dare voice it out. “You seem confused.”

“... no, no way. I get it. Y’know, never live, never die. Quite a cheat.”

“Yet, you don’t seem envious.” the man spoke candidly.

“Envious of what? Being stuck in an empty hall, inside a - true, nice coffin - but coffin nonetheless, speaking to wind and earth for all eternity? Hah, no thanks.”

“Quite a brazen fellow, aren’t you?” the man said, smiling faintly. “You don’t seem to fear me.”

“Oh, give me a reason and I will.” Lino said.

“Very well,” the man leaned in closer, his head, as tall as whole of Lino - if not taller - inches away from the boy’s face. “The friend of yours, inside here,” he pointed at the center-most point of Lino’s chest, between the breasts. “I am older than him.”

“...” Lino gulped loudly, his mouth gaping slightly. “Yeah... uh, officially terrified. You can stop now.”

“Ha ha ha,” the man laughed yet again, his voice resounding throughout the massive hall in a seemingly eternal echo. “Don’t worry, don’t worry. I mean no harm. I see he’s still a being of very few words.”

“Oh, you have no idea.” Lino said enthustically. “Did he always just pop out of nowhere, say something incredibly important but leaving out the most important part, and then no matter how much you call out to him, he’s just like ‘eh, too tired, gonna take a nap’?” he launched a torrent of complaints against his silent companion while the man remained standing, startled.

“... ho ho ho,” the man stroke his chin as he spoke. “Indeed he was. Can be quite annoying, no?”

“Yeah. Hey, do you have some secret spell or something that I can use to pull him out once in a while and just give him a good beating?” Lino felt all his pent-up frustration with Writ slowly dissipate as he let it all out, bit by bit.

“Ah, unfortunately no,” the man shook his head, sighing faintly. “Though I am older, he’s far wiser.”

“... eh, shame.” Lino said, sighing as he sat down. “So... he told me to come here. Do you know why?”

“I imagine because of those,” the man glanced at the wings above him, following Lino’s lead and sitting down as well. Strangely, no matter how much he moved, he never made a sound. “My wings.”

“...” though Lino remained silent, greed was evident in his eyes. However much he had strayed away from the ‘cool is the way to go’ when it comes to equipment, it wouldn’t hurt having massive, golden wings and making an occasional entrance to save an eye-candy from deadly danger.

“But I imagine he also sent you to me for answers.” the man said, the tone of his voice turning serious.

“Answers? To what?” Lino asked.

“Your questions.” the man replied simply, waiting.

“...” Lino stared deeply into man’s eyes for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. “What is he?” he asked after a dozen or so seconds of silence.

“... a Holy Writ,” man replied. “One out of Seven. He’d gained many titles across the eons of time,” he elaborated. “The Beholder, the Uncorrupted, the Eternal Guardian, the Prime... though, I imagine, he couldn’t care less for those even if he tried.”

“I know about some of the Writs,” Lino said. “But... what exactly are they? At least he doesn’t seem like any other cultivation method.”

“He’s not,” the man said. “None of them are. Seven Holy Writs are a compendium of plenary knowledge, a limbo for exhausted souls, voices of the mute, eyes of the blind, ears of the deaf. Our mutual friend is Writ of Chaos,” the man glanced up toward the ceiling, yet it seemed as though his gaze was piercing the fabric of space and time, peering into place no longer existing. “His counterpart is Elysian Writ, which is the Writ of Order. Then we have Writs of Light and Darkness, Incandescent and Aphotic Writs respectively. Writ of Nihility for nothingness, Canorous Writ for spoken word, and lastly Immortal Writ for transcendence.”

“...” Lino’s mind worked furiously to remember all of this as he knew it would no doubt be tremendously important in the future. “And you are?” he asked after making sure everything was remembered.

“... I’m an Overseer... or at least, I used to be,” the man replied, heaving and sighing in deep melancholy. “Upon the universe’s creation, Seven Holy Writs descended upon it. However... before all seven of them, before there was either light or darkness, order or chaos, any energy, First Scripture appeared. I, alongside countless of my brethren, were born of that Scripture. We were once called Order of Angels, and I was the firstborn, the Prime Archangel, given the name of Asmodei.”

“...” Lino wanted to know more, but seeing the look of utter agony on the man’s face, he chose not to and instead decided to change the topic. “Who is Gaia?”

“Oh? I’m surprised you know about her.” Asmodei said, smiling faintly. “Gaia is... the World, Lyonel.”

“So... it’s true then. That the World is a person?” Lino probed further.

“A person? Ha ha, I would hardly call her a person,” Asmodei laughed, surprising Lino with the sudden emotional shift. “Even I’m not quite certain as to what she is, to be honest. All I know is that she created this world that you and I inhabit, and eventually learned to formulate life from observing Writs and the Scripture.”

“...” Lino remained silent for a moment, contemplating. “I know that she’s after something that’s referred to as the ‘Truth’, which lies in the heart of this world. Can you explain?”

“You know quite a lot, don’t you,” Asmodei chuckled before continuing. “The ‘Truth’ you speak of is simply another word for the origin of my birth.”

“The Scripture?”

“Aye, the Scripture. As for the heart of the world... I wouldn’t know. Perhaps it’s there, perhaps it’s not.”

“... what’s my role in all of this?” Lino asked the only question he truly needed an answer to, his eyes brimming with expectation.

“Your role? Your role is whatever you assign yourself,” Asmodei smiled gently. “No one and nothing, Lyonel, can ascribe you a purpose you do not want. You can choose to be a soldier, you can choose to be a messenger, or simply an observer, much like all those who came before you had chosen at one point. It is true that Gaia had corrupted other Writs, but expectations of others need not be your dreams. You don’t have to wage their war, Lyonel.”

“... you know what you just said? Nothing. Literally nothing. That’s not even an answer!” Lino cried out in frustration. He’d realized that all of the old bastards love to speak cryptically and weave words such that they seem to be a perfect answer, yet upon deeper thought mean absolutely nothing but empty drivel.

“Ha ha ha, indeed, indeed I’ve said nothing,” Asmodei laughed yet again, amused by Lino’s outburst. “But, I’ve also said everything. I’ve been hidden away from the world for far too long, Lyonel. I hardly know its current state. That was, is and always will be a question you need to answer for yourself. Do you want to know the complete truth? Or do you want to remain blissfully ignorant? Remember, though, some truths are hidden for a reason.”

“... I want to know.” Lino mumbled lowly, more so to himself than to Asmodei, but latter heard him nonetheless.

“Then, you pursue the knowledge. You fight. You sacrifice. You endure. You win, lose, overcome, fall and rise back up again. I was... I am not like you and him,” Asmodei said, sighing faintly. “I have given up a long time ago. Unlike him. You complain, yet you two are eerily alike.”

“Take that back you bastard!!” Lino cried out, nearly jumping up and clubbing Asmodei who simply laughed out yet again.

“Though your temperaments are vastly different, I must say. I have given you the answers, Lyonel,” he said, slowly getting up and turning toward the wings. “Now I give you a gift. I’ve clipped them when I had realized all my brethren had Fallen, grown corrupt. I clipped them because I had failed. But... I could never abandon them. There was always a part of me hoping that one day I’d don them once again, grace the world with my voice, and join the eternal war once more. Now, though, I know it was but a wistful dream. They have been asleep for far too long. It is time their holy radiance shines upon this world once again...”

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About the author

beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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