SIEGE OF THE THRONE (IV)
The Rapture of Heaven --- it is the name that will be given to the battle for the throne by commoners years later. For, to all of them huddled beneath earth in formation-enhanced bunkers, that’s what it was; even so down below, protected by magic of those much closer to gods, they felt it it all -- they felt the earth rumble and quake, and even felt sky tear open as though gashed by a knife.
It was the sort of collapse that rendered even the youngest children incapable of cries, shutting the whole world in silence of anticipation and dread. They didn’t understand why was there a fight, they didn’t know who was fighting, and they didn’t know how they were fighting; to mortals, these were the matters of gods which they had no say in, and could only inwardly utter prayers to come out unscathed from it all.
Meanwhile, up in the skies, a maimed body would every so often fall from the sky like a swatted fly and crash through the buildings, leaving a temporary imprint of their story while they exhaled their last breath amid the fall. Soon enough, the flat earth of cobblestone-paved streets down below was sacked with holes like ones from cannonballs, within which listless bodies lay cold and mutilated, many beyond their mother’s ability of recognition.
It was the bitter reality of war, and none felt it worse that a solitary woman currently swatting golden arrays of glistening light flashing past her cheeks, tearing open a small wound on them. Anger, pain, grief... myriad of emotions were reflected in Evelyn’s eyes. Indeed, she dubbed herself cruel enough to rule; yet, it hurt. It hurt more than she had ever dreamed it would.
Some of those who fell she didn’t know, some even fought against her rule, and some she knew personally; yet, regardless, she felt pained over seeing so many talented men and women of Empire fall at the hands of one another. Yet, she couldn’t spare even a moment to grieve over them or send them to Gaia as she was too occupied with her own battle. Three Seers were far from being weak even if their primary call was one of Fate Readings.
All three had exceptionally sturdy bodies endowed with high mastery of Defensive Arts, and while their attack lacked in comparison, it could still dig deep if she was caught unaware. All around her was chaos, entombed forever like imprints in the sand into her memory, bound to linger on there forevermore. Yet, amidst the sadness delving deep into her soul, a flame arose, one akin to stout sun.
She gnashed her teeth till her gums bled, causing crimson trail to slip past her lips, appear ever-dauntingly beautiful and ethereal. Her eyes suddenly turned into fiery slits, expression contorting till the point of disfigurement, Qi beginning to flood her meridians near the point of implosion.
As she, once again, deflected combined arrays of golden light that were as quick as the speed of sound, she suddenly shifted backward like a shadow and forged a distance between her and the three Seers, elevating slightly up above them in air, tilting her head down and looking at them.
Her hair fluttered wildly behind in rhythmic vice, shouldering her slender frame. The cape strapped to her shoulders fluttered even further back, almost resembling a pair of shackled, ebony-dyed wings; in concert with her gaze denoting transcontinental coldness and anger, she seemed like a visage, an incarnation of rage itself.
Her weapons disappeared from her hands in a puff of waning smoke, Qi surging outside her body forming a visible shake in space around her. Were anyone - including Three Seers - to stand by her side, they would undoubtedly be consumed by it; the amount was so massive it far surpassed what someone of Numinous Realm could achieve. Yet, she wasn’t crossing that gulf; she was embodying her Crown, her Throne, her Empire into who she was - perhaps for the first time in her life.
For the first time, she displayed dignity of an Emperor -- unshakable pride of a ruler of billions of men and women. Drive and passion, grace and grandeur, poise and prestige, virtue of a Queen. It was then that the space before her shook and a warped void tinier than a person’s palm appeared; from it, a white light flashed out for a moment before the void closed.
Evelyn felt coldness assail her palms as she looked downward and saw a sword long as her arm stirring within her hand; it was a beautiful sword, darted with winged patterns, slim but sharp and sturdy in make with blade glossed entirely in pure white and guard holding it swatted in unfiltered, slightly dirty gold. The handle within her hand felt smooth, almost silken, and seemingly perfectly designed to fit her and nobody else in the entire world.
She felt something trickle from the sword itself into her; it wasn’t energy, it wasn’t defiance, it wasn’t any sort of recognizable feeling -- it was, she realized, more similar to Will her father told her about. Will of the Weapon -- its Soul. It was only then that she recognized the sword in her hand -- her Family’s True Heirloom -- [Emperor’s Dignity].
The sword seemed to resonate with her, with her emotions and her state of mind, appearing to answer her calling. Her expression didn’t change, save for perhaps appearing even more dignified. She once again averted her gaze toward the three Seers who, as though mirror images of one another, all had solemn expressions as they stared at the sword in Evelyn’s hand. This was what they had feared; one of the reasons why they thought they could suppress Evelyn herself, which would have allowed them at least a say before the former Emperor, was that she still lacked the core of what made Divine Dynasty’s Ruler truly unquestionable existences -- the Emperor’s Dignity, both one’s innate virtue and the weapon itself. At that moment, they knew they had all but lost... and that there was no hope any longer.
Meanwhile, two men of completely opposite appearances stood side by side, both looking toward the sky and the battle occurring between the Seers and Evelyn. One of the men was a beggar-looking youth in his mid-twenties wearing simple, tattered clothes, while the other was a dignified-looking middle-aged man of tall and bulky stature, wrapped entirely in platinum armor. Though his face was somewhat wrinkled, he still appeared handsome with thick, black beard and brows and a pair of purple eyes.
“... that’s a good sword.” the beggar spoke out with a strange glint in his eyes.
“Oh?” the middle-aged man turned toward him with a slightly surprised expression. “You know of smithing?”
“... a thing or two,” the beggar said, smiling faintly. “Should be Unique-Legendary Soul Weapon, no?”
“... you’re right.” the man nodded. “You really have an eye for many things, little beggar.”
“I’d appreciate if you stopped calling me little.”
“And I’d appreciate if you’d drop the ‘Brawny Empy’ nickname.”
“I suppose I am at least a little bit little.”
“You never give up, do you?”
“It’s one of my virtues.”
“... you didn’t think she had it in her, did you?” the man decided to simply drop the discussion as he realized it was going nowhere and instead asked the beggar a strange question.
“... honestly? No,” the beggar shook his head. “She’s many things, to that I attest... but I’ve never once noticed dignity of someone ruling a nation in her.”
“I have,” the man said, averting his gaze back to the sky at which he stared with unequaled pride. “Since the days of her earliest childhood. She carried herself in a way that defied her age. Unlike all my other sons and daughters, she understood the necessity of ears over tongue... image of dignity over terror.”
“At least, now, they probably won’t be making any moves,” the beggar said. “Is this what you were counting on?”
“Eh, I had an idea or two in case she got cold feet.” the middle-aged man smiled strangely as he stroked his beard.
“... will you head over after the official coronation?”
“I have to,” the middle-aged man said, his expression hardening. “There are rumors of ruins suddenly surging from earth.”
“Intrigued.” the beggar replied. “But, really, you haven’t managed to pry open their lips after so many years? You really are just a Brawny Empy...”
“... I’m seriously considering executing you.”
“You mean my tongue.”
“Oh, I have special idea in mind for your tongue.”
“Does it include being your ass-wiper for many years to come?”
“What? I need to know what I’m getting myself into, at the very least.”
“... they don’t know,” the man, once again, decided to switch topics. He realized he’d done it many times in the few tens of minutes he’d spent with the strange beggar. “Before they fled, all their Elders who knew of the exact location committed suicide by staying in their Library which they then set ablaze.”
“... loyal to their last breath, huh.” the beggar said, sighing faintly. “It’s a shame.”
“Want to come with me?”
“... not yet,” the beggar replied. “It’s merely rumors by now, and I’ve still got something to do in the city.”
“I already told you where she is.” the man said, rolling his eyes.
“... you’re really beset on the idea I’m in love with Lucky, aren’t you?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Why else would a man try to upturn a Capital of the largest Empire on the continent for a woman?”
“... because I was afraid,” the beggar said, his expression softening suddenly. “She might have given up in the end.”
“... I don’t know what kind of a person you know her as,” the middle-aged man said after short silence. “But, I know her as a wall that cannot be breached or broken.”
“... there is no such wall,” the beggar looked at the man with strange eyes. “One way or another, we can all find ourselves suddenly kneeling toward the sky and asking ‘why’. Anyway,” it was the beggar that decided to switch topics this time around, surprising the man. “I’ll join you over there in a year or so at most. Till then, you better make damn sure you don’t croak, old man.”
“... oh, so now I’m an old man?”
“Eh, you’ve been an old man for a while I imagine.”
“At least I don’t look like I just crawled out of shit-sprawled sewers.”
“... gives me a sort of archaic wisdom, no?”
“I’d wager it gives you archaic stench rather than anything else.”