WRATH OF AN EMPYREAN (II)
Shocked expressions of Su Clan members were hardly enough to convey the sheer impossibility of what had just occurred; the Eternal Night was shattered!! Even the Matriarch had not expected it, despite facing an Exalted! After all, Defensive Artifacts couldn’t simply be overpowered by higher realm. Yet, Lino did exactly that.
He didn’t feel it was such big accomplishment; after all, items he used to battle against the Artifact weren’t exactly scrap found anywhere. His greatest weakness when it came to battles was inability to externalize Qi; this meant he had no way to attack from range... so he made a way: by literally throwing money at people!
“Reform!” the Matriarch cried out, reassembling the Artifact. “First Cycle - Life! Second Cycle - Death! Eternal Cycles of Heaven and Earth - Cardinal Reversal!”
The golden sun suddenly spun as it cried out into the world; its light tripled in intensity, causing even Lino to put an arm in front of his eyes to block it. The ‘moons’ surrounding it pulled backwards until they were all circling the sun in completely reversed formation. Day once again turned into night, but that wasn’t all; Lino suddenly felt a strange sensation overcome him. He couldn’t quite explain it; it was as though moving slowly would mean moving quickly, whereas moving quickly would mean moving slowly.
Defensive Artifacts usually couldn’t be used to attack directly; rather, they were more similar to massive-scale formations. However, they were stronger. While formations used Qi to strengthen themselves, Defensive Artifacts manipulated Qi directly - which is why there was a widespread saying ‘To overcome the Sect’s Heart, one has to overcome Heaven and Earth’.
Lino, naturally, didn’t know that. He just felt quite odd, but it didn’t stop him from drawing out several weapons from his void world and hurling them toward the seemingly only source of light in the darkness. Still, Defensive Artifacts weren’t that weak, after all. Before even reaching the Artifact, Lino’s weapons seemingly lost their target and flickered for a moment before falling back down to the ground.
Realizing his previous tactic was impossible, Lino did what his opponents thought it was impossible: with his feet suddenly coated in azure lightning, he moved forward while causing a billowing sandstorm to sweep behind him. Matriarch’s jaw gaped intensely as she stared at the flicker of light approaching. Under the effect of Cardinal Reversal, even she - who had centuries of experience with it - couldn’t exert all her strength. After all, everything was reversed - it wasn’t simply a matter of moving forward to move backward.
Even Qi passages for Martial Arts were reversed! However, what they didn’t know that Lino didn’t have Qi passages. His entire body was one, massive Qi gulf instead. In addition, he cultivated Chaotic Qi, the origin of all Qi in the world; to say he was immune to all illusions wasn’t correct, but something which directly influenced him could easily be negated. He moved his body normally, as though the Cardinal Reversal had never occurred.
He took out two spears from his void world and flung them in front of himself as he plunged into the screen of darkness bordering him from the shining sun. There was no explosion, but rather a sound of a paper tearing as the screen crumbled. Lino’s spears found their way and hit the sun directly, causing Matriarch to immediately feel her organs churn and twist, vomiting her innards out.
Naturally, that wasn’t enough to actually damage the Defensive Artifact, but Lino was relentless. As he was blown backwards through rebound force, he forcibly steadied his body and spiraled forth yet again, cruising through the air like a falling star. Over and over... ten times... hundred times... his speed couldn’t be perceived as his momentum kept increasing.
One booming sound after another bellowed out, and the world around quaked as walls, buildings and even spires cracked and collapsed. All around was an apocalypse, as people began leaving the Su Clan in droves, afraid of being caught up in the utter destruction unfolding before their eyes.
On the other hand, Su Clan members had no choice but to stand gobsmacked and stare at the figure flying in and out of the sky. No, rather than call it a figure, to them it was just a flash of light; they’d never witnessed anything remotely this fast. Velin and old man Van were especially shocked. Though they believed Lino to be strong, they never once placed him at the same level as Matriarch. They didn’t even consider him as strong as Elders. But, today, all their perceptions of the world were crumbling.
Lino’s expression grew more and more maddened the more he attacked. By now, he was entirely consumed by the urgent feeling of battle. His blood boiled and churned as though ablaze, his muscles bulging and contracting repeatedly, veins wriggling like worms. With each attack, he expelled mass amounts of Qi through the two spears, yet by the time he attacked again, it was entirely replenished due to insane speed of recovery.
“... Birth! Death!” realizing that this method would only lead them to eventual destruction, the Matriarch cried out toward the sky as the darkness disappeared. “The Absolute Cycle! Heaven’s Reversal --- Earth and Sky bejoined, Heaven’s Fall!!”
A sky-amassed pressure suddenly crashed against Lino, forcing him to halt his attack. Winds bellowed in cyclones, ruffling his long hair and beggar-like clothes as he raised his head and looked toward the sky. Heaven’s Fall, Artifact’s final form. Even Lino was somewhat apprehensive of what it could do and, looking at the sky, that apprehension only grew.
There, where once sun was, he only saw a massive void of darkness. Cracks like bolts spread out from the void throughout the sky as though it was made of glass, ready to be broken at any moment. And, it was. The sky collapsed; true to the name, it was the Fall of Heaven. Rather than darkness, sky was replaced by a void filled with stars and galaxies that shone like lanterns in night.
It was truly beautiful, Lino admitted; his maddened expression turned tranquil as he gazed at the completely new vision of the world. It was as though he suddenly understood something; although he was told this world was the lone one in the existence... how was that possible? What, then, of the countless stars adorning the nightly sky? Suddenly, he had a desire to fly up toward the void and chase after the suddenly growing lights.
True, stars were seemingly growing; no, Lino realized, rather than growing, they were coming closer. From a fingernail-sized to fist-sized all the way until they blanketed the sky. Ten... a hundred... tens of thousands of stars were blasting through the heaven’s void and collapsing toward him. It was a sight that would leave even the bravest of souls crippled in fear. What can one, ordinary, fleshly body do against the might of heavens? Nothing.
To many, it wasn’t simply a saying, but absolute law. Death was true projection of heaven’s might; who had ever withstood the ravages of death? None. Heavens could not be measured with normal understanding. Still, there stood a boy, not even fully grown yet, who didn’t care. Rather than respecting heavens, he felt nothing. He didn’t believe in heavens. While staring at the falling stars, his eyes were as clear as Eternal Lakes, his posture straightened like a spear he was holding.
It was beyond breathtaking - not only for him, but other Su Clan members. It was the first time they had the pleasure to witness their Artifact’s final form. They imagined it all to be real... only a few, however, knew it was nothing but an illusion. Heavens didn’t collapse. How could a meager artifact of a small clan collapse the heavens? It couldn’t. Their hope lay in Lino being unable to realize it. But... Lino never even believed it was collapse of heaven.
That is why he did nothing. He watched burning stars, millions of times brighter than the sun, fall toward him. He stood there, appearing like a small ant before the overwhelming might. Stars... he didn’t know what the stars were. He couldn’t understand the make of the celestial world. However, he swore he would one day. Its beauty was beyond compare. Such were his thoughts as countless burning globes blasted against him.
In the eyes of those caught in the illusion, everything exploded. The earth, the sky, the world itself... only they remained safe. They cheered. Loudly. They were assured of victory. However, a few among them sighed. Matriarch looked at the boy standing there, his eyes still glued to the sky. She knew he never fell for her illusion. No matter how shaken a person was, they would always battle in their last moment. If Lino truly fell into the illusion and experienced the Fall of Heaven, no matter how overwhelmed he felt, he would have resisted. But... he just calmly welcomed it.
While hundreds of people cheered, Lino closed his eyes and breathed in. He even felt a small amount of gratitude toward the Su Clan. Because of that illusion, he felt as if his view toward the world broadened greatly. All sacrifice was not in vain. Nay, their deaths weren’t in vain. He chose to believe so. They died valiantly, they fought marvelously. They were like the stars... flashing blindingly across the whole of the universe for a brief flicker before disappearing forevermore.
“... must we really do this?” a woman’s voice brought him back to reality as he opened his eyes and looked toward the sky, where the elderly woman floated next to the Artifact. The shine had dimmed by more than half.
“... it’s not fair,” Lino said. “To either of us. They didn’t deserve to die, but neither do you or your Clan. Is there a right choice to be made here?”
“... allow our Clan’s Bloodline to persist,” the woman said. “I’m willing to offer my life in exchange.”
“You overvalue your life... and overvalue my kindness,” Lino said. “Su Clan will end today. As the matter of fact, I don’t have to kill any one of you. Just step back and let me destroy the Artifact and I’ll leave.”
“:.. I can’t do that.” the woman said, her eyes flashing with immensely complex emotions.
“I know,” Lino suddenly smiled as he raised his spears yet again. “If you did, the last shred of respect I have for you would have been wiped away. I may be cruel... and my actions may seem as petty. It doesn’t matter. I’ll don the devil’s crown for today. Come. Don’t wait for me.”
Sun shone... it swept the darkness away. Though Artifact’s durability was massive, Lino was relentless. Without resting for even a moment, he plunged himself directly at it. Over and over again. Each time he struck, hearts of those watching would freeze. Sun’s radiance dimmed... cracks spread... tears of blood flew. Compound was already leveled, the rest of the city buried in the dust.
From well back, Sylvia watched the whole ordeal. Tears had long since infested her eyes. She hadn’t felt much attachment toward the Clan, but she was still a member. It was almost an instinctual reaction toward seeing the Heart and Soul of the entire Clan being rammed in time and again. Everyone wept, whether old or young, whether aware or not. Each time a crack appeared on the sun, one would appear on their hearts as well.
18th of August, year 16,369 of Yev’eve Calendar, just before the dusk, sun turned colorless, lightless. It turned to ash, and with it nearly twenty people perished. It didn’t even take half an hour for it all to happen. Those who lived stared at the sight they would never forget. From that day onward, till the end of time, these few dozen would be the last blood of Su, a Clan which once danced the Devil’s Dance with one of the four Great Clans, Godly Clan.