A robotic voice once again echoed inside Lino’s head as the latter appeared completely dazed, staring into the throne with empty eyes.
[Essence Transferred: 89%]
[Compatibility with Bearer: 92%]
Lino came to at last, sighing deeply while robotic voice continued as though nothing had transpired. He knew better than to ask or wonder how; after all, Writ wasn’t a person. He lived far longer than Lino or Eshen, or anyone else alive or dead in this world. Besides, Lino already knew that Writ’s only purpose was accomplishing its goal. Disregarding humane way to do it only makes sense, as humane way means little to him in the grand scheme of things.
[Bearer too weak to assimilate the entirety of Essence...]
[Current Assimilation: 9%]
[Bearer attains Level 78]
[Bearer’s Strength is permanently increased by 10%]
[Bearer’s Endurance is permanently increased by 10%]
[Bearer’s Soul’s Strength is permanently increased by 15%]
[Bearer’s Divine Sense now covers 1 mile area]
[Bearer’s resistance to Illusions permanently increased by 20%]
[Bearer’s resistance to Dark Element increased by 5%]
[Bearer’s affinity to Darkness increased by 50%]
[Bearer’s affinity to Light decreased by 10%]
[Bearer’s affinity to Spirit World decreased by 15%]
[Fewer Primal Spirits will be willing to accept the Bearer as their Master]
[Unlocked access to Primordial Spirits of Darkness]
Lino bitterly smiled as he recounted everything - and that was a lot to recount. It would be a lie to say that he didn’t benefit hugely from this visit. His all around strength had nearly doubled, even going as far to reach Level 78, inching ever so closer to the elusive Mythic Realm. His Soul had once again increased, which was the hardest part of one’s cultivation to strengthen. He wagered that even the emotional trauma that accompanied this increase in strength couldn’t dampen the overall benefits. Yet, for some reason, he simply couldn’t bring himself to be happy. He knew that he was practically stealing another person’s lifetime of cultivation. He was stealing everything she worked so hard to obtain. It hardly felt like he earned much of what he was given, as that fight had hardly been a proper one. She, who was at her last breath, fought against him in prime of his youth. Though there was an entire realm of difference between the two, it hardly amounted to much, as he simply had far greater endurance than her fragile body and soul.
“... is it true? Everything she said?” Lino asked; he knew it was foolish, but he couldn’t hold it all inside anymore.
“Yes.” the robotic voice replied almost immediately.
“Do you regret it?”
“... didn’t you see her today? That was the result of what you did to her.” Lino argued.
“That was the result of Eshen’s own choices,” the Writ said. “I had offered a mutual parting, which wouldn’t have affected her as badly. However, she refused, claiming she’d rather suffer the consequences than unleash me upon the world and another innocent soul. I had no choice but to forcibly tear myself away, leaving her in the state she was in.”
“... aah,” Lino sighed. “It just doesn’t seem right. She didn’t seem like a bad person, all things considered.”
“She wasn’t. However, she had wounds that could not be healed. And every new task I asked of her only broke her down further. Which is why I at one point stopped asking anything of her, hoping she would slowly recover. She took it as me abandoning her, which only served to break her down further, until there was only a shell left of a woman I had once known.”
“Deflecting blame is hardly ever a correct path,” the Writ continued, surprising Lino as it began being rather chatty again. “I am not above admitting my own shortcomings; she was too young when I had joined with her. She was too young when I asked her to kill in my name. She was too broken when I asked her to stare into the abyss, expecting her to resist its temptations. I miscalculated.”
“Hah, I can’t believe someone as old as you miscalculated.” Lino chuckled as he slowly turned around and began to leave the hall.
“... it shouldn’t be surprising. I’m old, not omnipotent.”
“You can just say you believed in her, you know?” Lino said, smiling. “I won’t judge.”
“Yeah, now he shuts up. How unexpected. Anyway, if you ever have plans of letting me go, hit me up ‘cause I’d want that mutual parting. I don’t want to die in that kind of misery.”
There was no more conversation and Lino realized there wouldn’t be for a while, which is why he also decided to shut up and just leave this place. Coming here ascertained him to a simple fact that kept being reiterated everywhere he went: to be Empyrean is to do things that will make blood of others freeze in their veins. Lino was hardly a saint, and wasn’t above committing evil to propagate the endgame. In the end, what is good and what is evil are arbitrary notions. Inherently, those concepts do not exist; if they did, <Empyrean Writ> ought to be good, and other Writs ought to be evil, yet no one has ever worded it as that. They are simply different. Everyone makes choices that benefit them the most, and some of those choices happen to be good, and some happen to be evil. Then again, Lino knew he had to have a mental line he wasn’t willing to cross. Or rather, he was unable to cross. If someone didn’t have that barrier, it would only lead to eventual self-destruction. Or becoming like Eshen; a soul so broken it is no longer possible to repair it.
He took his time leaving the necropolis as he wasn’t in a hurry. With Eshen’s death, all other corpses died as well. Now that the death had been perished from its halls, it appeared rather beautiful, in a bizarre sort of a way. He chuckled at the thought and shook his head; everything can be beautiful in a bizarre sort of a way, he realized. He left the necropolis only after a whole hour of touring, landing in the forest beneath. He glanced back once again and looked deeply toward it. He’d leave it there, hidden away from the world. It was the tomb she chose, her last resting place, her last bastion of sanity. The place where she gave away the last piece of her heart to a complete stranger, with whom she shared her life’s story, and gave away a small part of herself to rest with him eternally. He quickly switched his tattered clothes with relatively unharmed ones and donned his coat before slowly departing. He hummed a low tune as he crossed between the trees, retracing steps Kraval, Fish, Smite and others took on their way away. He suddenly chuckled as he thought back to Smite’s reaction; though the latter was rather obnoxious in a funny sort of a way, he seemed to really care for Aeala. She’d found good people, he realized, the sort that will have her back even if all hell breaks loose, as they have already proven. That is rare in the world, he knew very well. He suddenly came to a halt as he was jolted out of his thoughts; in front of him, Kraval, Fish and Smite stared at him in a bizarre sort of a way, their lips slightly parted, eyes like eggshells, bodies hunched slightly. They looked like petrified statues, and if the atmosphere surrounding them didn’t seem slightly heavy, Lino would definitely burst out into laughter.
“Hey? Guys?” Lino called out. “Did you meet someone so terrifying you literally just died like that?”
“...” they merely blinked, which only told Lino they were alive.
“Right. Uh, I’m going back guys. You... you keep up whatever the hell you’re keeping up.”
“You defeated it?!” Smite cried out at last.
“Huh?” Lino glanced at him.
“That scary woman-like thing, Mythic Realm one!” he elaborated.
“Oh. Her. Yeah, I did.” Lino said, lacking enthusiasm they expected.
“... fuck!! Dude, how can I compete with you?!” Smite cried out, falling onto his knees. “Can you slow down a bit?! The only thing I have on you are Levels, and you’ll probably pass me in like three days! I’m just gonna be the third wheel for the rest of my life!”
“...” it was Lino’s time to stare oddly at him. He found Smite’s obsession with the ‘rivalry’ between the two rather funny, as he was certain if he simply stayed with Aeala, they’d eventually get together as she seemed to like him as well. “Do you know how can you win against me?” Lino decided to play along.
“Huh? How?” Smite asked, intrigued.
“Stop acting like a dumbass and get up. We’re going back. Geez, the hell are you doing in the middle of the forest, standing like you took the worst shit of your life, contemplating every choice you ever made. Come on, come on, don’t take it to the heart. Your moms wouldn’t want you to feel hurt. Let’s go, let’s go.” Lino ignored the stares and walked past them, moving onward while resuming the humming. He didn’t really want to speak about what happened in the necropolis, partly because he didn’t trust any of them yet, and partly because they didn’t need to know.
Lino knew that, sooner or later, he’ll leave this place. And they won’t be able to follow. They’ll stay behind and build their own lives in their own ways, climbing slowly to wherever they wish to be when they die. There wasn’t much point in sharing with them who he was and what he was doing, as they’d hardly understand it all. Perhaps they would, but even then they would only understand and know. They’d forever remain behind, struggling to keep up with him. He knew, however, no matter what they did, they wouldn’t be able to. After all, Lino’s cultivation could hardly be called a ‘proper one’; it was designed to burn him through Realms and Levels as quickly as possible to take him to the top in the shortest amount of time. No one and nothing could keep up that pace, or at least he so believed. Little did he know that belief would one day be shattered into pieces, upturning his world on its heels.