CLASH OF GIANTS (I)
It has been nearly a week since Lino had reunited with Eggor and Ella. The trio mainly remained within the confines of the small house, rarely if ever venturing out past the massive plaza outside. For the first time in a long while, Lino felt serenity overcome him, tranquilizing his worries into a chasm-deep descent. He found himself laughing and smiling more so than ever before as he narrated his stories to them, and they narrated their stories to him.
He almost felt as though this little piece of the world was a distorted vacuum existing outside the reality itself, where he found himself washed repeatedly with currents of understanding. Alas, no peace lasts forever; on exactly eight day since his arrival, his brows suddenly arched as Ella also lifted her head up from the book she was reading, both glancing at each other for a moment while Eggor looked on confusedly.
The two left outside and looked toward the end of plaza. Though there was no one there, both felt streams and currents of Qi and life encroaching upon their little home.
“... what’s with you two?” Eggor asked, frustrated, since the two remained silent.
“We’re not alone anymore.” Ella replied.
“... how many?” Eggor asked somberly.
“... a lot.” Lino added with a sigh. “The word’s really spread far and wide, hasn’t it?”
“What do you want to do?” Ella asked him.
“I’ve still got something to do here,” Lino said, smiling faintly. “So I’m afraid I’ll have to leave for a bit. You two can just hide in the meantime.”
“You really expect us to leave you to wander out alone?” Ella asked with a slightly surprised expression.
“I’m a grown man--”
“I’ve gone through much worse--”
“You don’t count.” Ella said dismissively. “Anyway, you don’t need to leave. I have what you want right here.”
“Eh?” Lino exclaimed softly as he saw Ella take out a spherical, glassed object. It wasn’t the object itself that surprised Lino, but what it contained; inside was a swirl of colors and energy, engorging itself toward the edges of the object before condensing back down into a small speck, barely visible to the naked eye. “Is that... really a singularity?” Lino asked, seeming uncertain.
“It’s a very old, unstable and weak singularity,” Ella replied. “But it’s a singularity nonetheless.”
“Where did you find it?” Lino asked.
“Outside,” Ella said with a smile. “On a shore toward East. Buried deep beneath the ravaged troves.”
“... lovely. So I would have been blindly searching here like a dog... hey, didn’t you tell me the Singularity was here?!” Lino suddenly shouted at himself.
“... but it is here.” the Writ replied inwardly.
“But it was here.” Ella added outwardly.
“... fuck. Fine, give me. I’ll go somewhere and--”
“Just go back in the house,” Ella said, rolling her eyes at him. “And do what you’ve gotta do. We’ll protect you.”
“The energy will leak out... I’ve no doubt someone will recognize it.”
“Do you think my current Level is just for showing off?”
“Don’t worry about anything,” Eggor suddenly said, smiling coarsely. “This is our debt.”
“Wow, that’s one hell of a self-imposed debt.”
“Do you want our help or not?”
“Sure do, sure do.”
“Then shut the fuck up and go inside.”
“Ay, ay, you brain-dead muscled-coated worm.” Lino said, suddenly sprinting toward the house while Eggor was registering his words.
“Hey you bastard, come back--”
“Just let it slide.” Ella said as she held him back from running toward the house. “Why can’t you just act like an adult? He’s just a kid.”
“... he’s twenty-seven.”
“So? You’re over two thousand years old.”
“... I’ve noticed you’ve been going against me a whole lot more since we met that bastard.” Eggor said.
“You’re imagining things.”
“... you’re imagining things...” Eggor feebly mumbled.
“Nothing. So, how many are there?” he asked.
“A decent lot. You should pull back and protect flanks with the Constructs. I’ll take the head.”
Eggor casually walked back and reached out with his two arms upon which small, palm-sized cubes appeared. He flung the cubes onto the floor as they blasted out in a brief swirl of energy and light before engorging into a human-sized figures. They appeared made of some sort of metal exuding light-brownish sheen, with thick arms and broad shoulders. Their heads were extruded backwards in an arch, eyes just two empty sockets flashing occasional crimson, without noses or mouths. With a quick mental command, Eggor sent both of them slightly sideways to protect the flanks while he himself simply sat just outside the house cross-legged and waited.
Ella, similarly, sat down at the very center of the massive plaza and waited with her eyes closed. She didn’t care all that much about the people from the Western Continent or even Central Continent. The only one she was worried about were the two figures that came from the Holy Continent - Annar, the Star Child. He was one of the few Chosen of Ella’s generation, a direct descendant from the Patriarch of one of the Seven Holy Lands - The Children of Gods. Though he could never really compare with Ella directly, he did have a massive advantage of nearly two thousand years during which Ella hadn’t cultivated. If it was him alone, she would still be confident in easy victory, but there was another - Scarlet was her name, as far as Ella could remember.
Much like Annar, she was also one of the Chosen, but it was during the generation following Ella’s. From what she learned in the past ten or so years, Scarlet was often compared to her during the growing period as she also bound realms like empty plains of nothing. Even though she never really matched Ella’s speed, it wasn’t without reason that many would rather look the other way than pick a fight with her. It also had to do with the fact that she’s part of Necrosis Crypt - 6th ranked Holy Land. Although they were only ranked sixth in terms of strength, very few were willing to fight with them, as that would also mean fighting hundreds, if not thousands and hundreds of thousands of corpses at the same time.
Coincidentally, the two were also the first ones to show up on the scene. They walked slightly apart, seemingly indifferent to each other. Annar was a relatively average-looking man seemingly in his forties; he wasn’t all too tall or short, and loose robes draped over him lent credence to the rumor that he was quite fat, though Ella could easily see that he was at best just average. He had a bald head and a pair of blue eyes, which were the highlight of his appearance.
Scarlet, on the other hand, stood out far more; she wore rather showy black dress with cuts and cleaves nearly everywhere, barely covering anything. She had long, black hair that was draped over her shoulder forward and then over her exceedingly large breasts. Her pair of eyes was black, encapsulated with the oval face, the highlight being a full pair of blood-red lips that were seemingly eternally curled up in a seductive smile.
The two came to a halt at the entrance of plaza, focused entirely on the housewife-looking figure at the center of it. As Scarlet had never seen Ella, she had no clue who the strange woman was, but Annar was different. His eyes shone momentarily as they landed on her; though he had never seen her with this appearance, he would never forget those eyes. Those eyes captured his soul the very first time he’d seen them.
“... I didn’t expect you’d also be interested in this place.” Annar suddenly spoke. “If I had known, I’d have offered my company.” Scarlet looked at him strangely for a moment, questioning his taste in women as he seemed interested in a rather average-looking housewife. It was no wonder, then, she realized, that he had showed no interest in her despite traveling together for over two months.
“...” Ella didn’t reply, merely slowly getting up and looking at Annar calmly.
“... battle intent?” he faintly mumbled. “Did you find something?”
“I have.” Ella replied coldly and indifferently.
“Heh, you don’t have to be so invigorated. If you accompany me for a while, I’ll simply ignore it.”
“You think too highly of yourself, Young Master Annar,” Ella said with a faint smile. “To be frank, I would rather accompany a pack of dogs to a hike than you for even a sip of the world’s most expensive wine.”
“...” Scarlet smiled, musing over Annar’s twitching expression. She was fully aware of just how proud of a person Annar was; for him to hear something like that and still manage to control himself... that woman really was something, even she had to admit.
“Who is she?” she asked Annar.
“... your light.” Annar replied dubiously, yet Scarlet seemed to immediately realize what he meant, her gaze hardening and turning frigid as she looked at Ella yet again.
“Sword Maiden, huh?”
“... Lady Scarlet, long time no see.” Ella said, smiling faintly.
“... we’ve met before?” Scarlet asked, furrowing her brows.
“I was one of the honorary guests when your mother was birthing you. It was quite a... unique experience.”
“...” Scarlet’s cheeks suddenly flashed red as she looked away, but she just as quickly seemed to recover, hardening her expression yet again. “I’m honored. I apologize, though; I still must offend you.”
“... you can’t defeat her,” Annar said, frowning slightly. “What did you find Eleanor? Has it anything to do with the Writ?”
“No.” Ella replied casually.
“Then you wouldn’t oppose us inspecting it?”
“... you really do think quite highly of yourself,” Ella said, sneering. “I’d been absent for far too long, it seems. Did you forget, Annar? If I told you to sit and bark like a dog, you would have sat and barked like a dog. Nothing has changed. Not now... not ever.”
In a moment beneath the length of a second, Ella withdrew a sparkling sword and swung sideways in one swift, smooth motion, meeting an enlarged gauntlet head-on. The resulting shockwave blasted the tiles beneath her feet upward as well as the dashing figure backwards. Annar flew like a cannonball, blasting through the decaying buildings before finally settling down in the dusty storm nearly a mile away.
“ATTACK HER!!” he screamed from the dust, surprising Scarlet. She hadn’t expected him to react that violently, even less to be beaten back so casually.
“You’re quite---” before Scarlet had time to finish her sentence, she noticed a cold gleam of the blade streaming toward her throat, forcing a frown and sweat to emerge upon her forehead. She quickly shifted backwards, turning into a gust of empty, black smoke. Materializing nearly half a mile away, she called upon a scepter which appeared in her hand; it was over a meter long staff carved out of old-looking wood with a black skull ceaselessly spitting out blood from the empty sockets up top. She weaved it roundly in a swift motion, causing ground to shake.
Soon after, small vortexes appeared all around the plaza and corpses - skeletal and zombified alike - began appearing in dozens and soon hundreds. Without waiting for them to properly settle, Ella flashed, turning into a stream of brilliant, pure white light as she dashed from one corner of the plaza to another within eye’s blink, striking out with her sword and leaving behind nothing but destruction in her wake.
It hadn’t even been half a minute, and the battlefield was already a greater ruin than it was before. It was also then that Annar finally returned and swiftly joined the ever-increasing number of corpses in trying to restrain Ella. He wielded a pair of flaming gauntlets, ten times as large as his own hands, built out of metallized [Dragon’s Blood].
His style resembled boxing, mainly relying on quick but powerful jabs to gain momentum over his opponent before exploiting the flaws in their defense. However, he quickly realized just how useless his style appeared in front of Ella; he swung his arms around in ever-increasing pace as Ella kept ducking and weaving through his attacks, disposing of corpses. When his speed seemingly increased to the point she couldn’t handle, she made but a faint step back and bent her body backwards before shifting the center of gravity in her body, falling back like a leaf. She then propelled herself sideways, evading his attack which barreled down with a fierce firestorm just behind, striking in a thrusting motion with her thin sword. Annar’s fists hit empty air, setting it ablaze, fire roaring nearly twenty meters into the air before settling. Meanwhile, Ella’s sword struck at his right-side ribs, his face immediately contorting into a distorted grimace. He not only heard but also felt nearly a dozen of his ribs crack in one swift motion as the exploding force of the impact sent him straight up into the air.
Ella then used her other leg to shift back the center of gravity, jumping up like a bullet, evading the corpses that began piling up at her location, following after Annar. She struck yet again and, as though there was a platform beneath her feet, kept jumping midair, following his ascent. Over and over again, Annar felt bones in his body crack and his skin splinter as blood began gushing out like a river. He was juggled in the sky without being able to do anything; it wasn’t for the lack of trying, but Ella seemed to be capable of perfectly finding the exact moment to hit him in order to prevent retaliation.
In the end, unable to handle it any longer, he screamed like a madman as a cluster of energy burst out from within him, forcing Ella back. His entire body shuffled into the embodiment of fire itself as he sprung toward her like a meteorite. Rather than fighting head-on, Ella sped up her descent and shifted sideways, covering nearly half a mile of distance in one, simple step, leaving behind a trail of white light. Annar crashed into the ground, causing quakes that shook the entire city, crumbling dozens of buildings in the process. His arms struck down, causing earth to seemingly obey his desires, splitting apart into a massive crater which began spitting out fireballs and blazing rocks as though it was a volcano.
Within those flames, a figure rose to his feet and looked toward Ella’s direction. He no longer appeared entirely human, entirely coated in flames.
“So what if you’re a Sword Maiden?” he spoke in a distorted voice. “Qe’lls are but children who just had a faint taste of power, just began understanding what it means to stand at the top of the world. Us? We’ve been there for millions of years. You don’t stand a chance, Eleanor.”
“Funny.. coming from a guy who just got his ass beaten so bad I’m fairly certain it has turned blue.” Ella replied, smiling faintly.
“... enough with the games,” Annar said, turning toward her and beginning to walk. “Surrender what you’ve found and apologize. For the sake of your Clan, I’ll let you go. Otherwise... I won’t be as pleasant.”
“... ha ha ha, you’re really funny Annar,” Ella said as she suddenly withdrew another sword from seemingly nowhere. “Of all the Godly Forms from your Sect... <Avatar of Fire> is the least impressive one. If it was your Master here and not you... granted, I wouldn’t dare utter such nonsense. But, he’s not. What makes you think you’re the only ones with Avatar Forms? Perhaps... ay, perhaps it’s high time you learned, Annar... just why they called me Immortal Sword Maiden.”
She spread her arms apart, two identical swords present. They glistened in faint white, giving impression that they were merely extension of her body rather than the independent tools. With legs close together, she suddenly rose into the air, her hair fluttering madly as winds surrounded her in reverence. She rose up to nearly fifty meters into the air before stopping. A speck of light emerged from her forehead as it seemingly shredded her skin anew; the housewife appearance disappeared and was instead replaced by a figure that even Scarlet couldn’t entirely comprehend.
Golden hair swayed freely, sea-blue eyes piercing the world itself. She still wore simple, shoddy-looking clothes, yet they hardly retracted anything from the ethereal beauty she displayed. More so than her beauty, though, air of dignity swirled around her, air of solace, of someone standing on a place no other soul could ever hope to reach. Annar resisted the urge to halt and admire her as he squatted down and suddenly propelled himself in the sky, behind him a stream of fire seemingly spat out of the soles of his feet. He knew it wasn’t a battle he could afford to lose; for the first time in nearly a thousand years, he found himself going all out without holding absolutely anything back, because even a moment of doubt could mean immediate death.