Two figures remained in each others’ embrace for nearly ten minutes, doused in complete silence interrupted only occasionally with a faint sob and a gasp. Lino slowly came to and raised his head, his eyes being met by a reddened pair. He couldn’t help but let a faint smile escape his lips as Ella tightened her hold on him. From over her shoulder, he could see another figure slowly leaving the small house.
Eggor was still just as Lino remembered him; tall, broad and old. Though he kept his brows furrowed, it was clear it took quite a magnificent effort to do so. He seemed to take a deep breath before beginning to walk forward, stopping only when he reached the two. He spoke with his arms crossed over his chest.
“Hello old man.” Lino replied, smiling.
“... you look like shit.”
“... I’m glad you’re okay.” Eggor said, coughing almost immediately after as if to cover up his embarrassment.
“You know what I’m going to do right now?” Lino asked, pulling Ella up and away.
“What?” Eggor asked, arching his brow.
“I’m gonna give you a bear hug.”
“No you won’t.”
“Sure as hell will.”
“Try and I’ll rip you apart.”
“No you won’t.” Lino said, taking a step closer.
“Hey, back off bastard!”
“Here I come, old man!”
“Fuck off you bastard! I’m warning you!!” Eggor exclaimed, fervently backing up.
“Aww, come on, come here. Gimme that big ol’ hug!”
“I swear I’ll shove a sword up your ass if you don’t stop!”
“Eh? If you’re gonna cheat on your wife man, at least, you know, pick another woman.”
“How about that hug, huh?”
“Ha ha, are you thinking about whether it’s possible to squeeze me to death?” Lino asked, slowly walking over.
“Eh, give it a shot. If it works, I won’t haunt you.”
“I’d be quicker to believe stars shit diamonds than that.” Eggor said, grinning for a moment. However, he wasn’t backing up any longer.
“Why diamonds though?” Lino asked as he stopped in front of him. Though Lino had grown quite considerably, over 190 at that, he was still at least a head shorter than the giant before him.
“... come here.” though he tried desperately, Lino was unable to wrap his arms around the thick-bellied giant. On the other hand, it was leisure for Eggor to do so. Muscle atop a muscle, that was truly the only thing Lino felt.
“Damn man, you’re so fucking fat...” Lino mumbled as the two parted.
“Fat? Humph, ‘tis all muscle, you braindead kid. All muscle.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Lino said, grinning.
“All the same, I’d rather be a fatso than a stick like you.”
“Oh, please. You should see how women swoon over this stick.”
“Perhaps ‘stick’ wasn’t the best choice of words...” Eggor mumbled.
“... oh. Yeah. Khm, anyway,” Lino swiftly turned around and faced Ella who was currently staring at the two curiously with a faint smile. “What are you looking at?”
“Just wondering if I should be worried.”
“... oh, please.” Lino rolled his eyes at her. “Unlike you, I’d be crushed if he tried to jump me.” Pa!! Though it hurt, Lino suddenly felt a strange sense of nostalgia surge from within. He then immediately suppressed it form fear of growing to enjoy being slapped at the back of his head.
The trio soon headed back into the house where Ella quickly fashioned a simple meal while Eggor took out the finest ale he could find and poured all three of them a cup. Lino grabbed at the wooden spoon and quickly downed the strange soup. It wasn’t exactly due to hunger, but because he missed Ella’s food quite a bit.
“Did you two wait long?” Lino asked.
“No.” Ella replied, shaking her head.
“Hell yeah.” Eggor replied, frowning.
“... so which one is it?”
“Mine.” both replied at the same time.
“Ah, I get it. So you decided to fuck with me for a while.”
“Do you really think I have time to do that?” Eggor asked.
“Well, you had time to wait for me here.”
“How have you been?” Ella asked while caressing Eggor’s back gently, healing the old man’s wounds.
“Honestly?” Lino said, looking at her. “Thinking about whether I should try to kill you when I found you, mostly. It was a very tough decision.”
“... that bad, huh?” Ella asked, sighing lowly.
“... nah,” Lino said, smiling. “Had I been smarter, all of this could have been avoided.”
“... I’m truly sorry, Lino.” Ella said. “I... I honestly never meant to entangle you into this mess. I had no idea it would happen in this way...”
“... I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you didn’t have a choice,” Lino shrugged his shoulders. “If the bastard wanted you to give him to someone, you would have given him to someone. The cunt’s cunty like that.”
“... are we talking about the same thing? The thing?” Eggor suddenly asked, seeming slightly shocked.
“The Writ? Yeah.” Lino replied casually, nibbling on the bread.
“... you really have the balls of steel calling it a cunt.” Eggor said, a shred of respect toward the young bastard across from him appearing in his eyes.
“Oh, that? Pf, cunt’s like a lovely nickname compared to the shit I usually come up with. For an entire year, I used to call him Gaia’s unwanted whore. Even he couldn’t endure it in the end and decided to teach me a brief lesson in pain.”
“... khm,” Ella coughed awkwardly. “You’re still the same, I see.”
“He he, but of course!”
“Oh, right.” Eggor chimed in. “What happened to the others?” he remembered the band he was briefly a part of before he went to look for Ella. The atmosphere almost immediately dipped into frigid as Lino’s expression darkened. He almost immediately regretted asking, but there was no button to unwind the time and erase regrets.
“... dead.” Lino said. “Only Lucky’s alive... I suppose.”
“... I... I’m sorry...” Eggor mumbled weakly.
“... as am I,” Lino said, sighing and leaning back into the chair. “I went my own way for a while before the invasion ‘cause I wanted to make some money and buy some resources... I was too late in coming back.”
“... that’s why the spear’s there...” Ella mumbled.
“The spear? Oh, right. Yeah,” Lino said. “As you can imagine,” he continued, taking a deep breath. “I was a bit angry about the whole ordeal. So I figured it was a good idea to go and challenge two Devil Variants with my sissy-fit. I someone wound up shoving my Will into the spear. Killed everyone there, though. Well, except the Devil Variants of course. One day, however... I will.”
“... the Devils killed your friends?” Ella suddenly asked, frowning.
“...” Lino glanced at her and smiled oddly for a moment. “What? You think everyone uniformly agreed to help out a wet-behind-ears Empyrean dog without any issues with it whatsoever?”
“As with almost everything, there are splinters,” Lino explained. “A group content with invading this dimension, partly because they really like killing humans and partly because they can’t really say no. And then there’s the other group, who would rather not condemn their race to a near-extinction war.”
“... how’d you learn this?” Ella asked.
“A Devil told me.”
“Ay, he was quite a fun guy actually.” Lino said, remembering Linger for a moment. “Didn’t really appreciate me pretty much flipping him, but then again, he didn’t try to kill me either. Good guy altogether.”
“... this is making less and less sense,” Ella sighed, shaking her head. “Again... I’m really sorry Lino. If I had known... ah...”
“... why didn’t you tell me what it actually was, though?” Lino asked.
“Because I figured you wouldn’t need to know,” she replied with a bitter smile. “That you would be like Eggor. Train for a while, and then get too tired of it and focus entirely on blacksmithing.”
“Clearly, though... I was wrong. You really intend to pursue both paths. You always did.”
“... it’s not like I really have a choice,” Lino shrugged. “It doesn’t matter though. I’ll figure it out eventually.”
“I know you will.” Ella added with a smile. “You’re quite quick in your progression,” Ella suddenly added. “Already Early Purity Realm!”
“Pu!!” Eggor suddenly spat out a mouthful of ale, a shocked expression on his face. “W-what the fuck?!! You’re already so strong, you bastard?!”
“Huh? What are you spitting at me for, you weak, old bastard?!” Lino said. “By the way,” he then ignored reddened Eggor and focused back onto Ella. “Just how strong have you gotten over the past ten years? You’re at the very least Numinous Realm. That’s even faster than me.”
“Ha ha, well, for me it’s mostly just retracing back my old path.” Ella said with a faint giggle. “But are you sure you want to know just how strong I am? It might shock you quite a bit.”
“Oh, please. Don’t be so vain.”
“Alright. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” seeing her basic stats, Lino’s world crumbled for a moment as time stopped. He stared in utter disbelief.
“What?” Ella asked, seeing that Lino remained silent for nearly five minutes.
“... fuck my mother.” he took in a deep, cold breath, remembering those few brief lines.
[Eleanor Qe’ll - Human - Immortal Sword Maiden]