CLASH OF THE GIANTS (III)
While the world outside the little stone house was slowly beginning to collapse due to the battle, Lino was sitting cross-legged on the floor, his eyes closed, eyebrows tightly knit together. He had began absorbing the Singularity the moment he’d entered, yet, unlike with what happened with Eshen, it wasn’t a simple, quick process.
The Singularity itself appeared formless, yet Lino could sense boundless energy streaming out from it. He felt as though there was enough to collapse half the continent in a one, bright flash of light. Perhaps, he mused, even more than just a half. He slowly began absorbing it under the Writ’s guide, trying to integrate it with his own Singularity. However, the moment the two came in contact, he felt space round him dilate, pushing and pulling at him as though it was trying to eat it away.
He felt as though his mind was suddenly ripped out of his own body and sent barreling through the boundary of space and time, diving through the vortex of darkness surrounded by bending lights of innumerable stars. It was both the most beautiful and the most terrifying sight that Lino ever beheld, leaving him in the awe of terror beneath the spades of infinity.
The journey didn’t last all that long as he felt being spat out into another world. He found himself floating in the clean, blue sky. Turning around, he immediately noticed a figure standing by his side; it was a woman clad in crimson armor, strapped full in metal from head to toe. It was beyond majestic, yet also seemed cumbersome, Lino thought.
The woman seemed to be in her late twenties at most, with starkly silver eyes and hair encapsulating placid expression with which she suddenly looked at him. Those eyes... they made Lino shudder. It was as though he was looking at the reflection of himself, when day and night mingle in those few moments of utter loneliness. Where even the greatest of liars turn truthful to themselves. The two stared at each other for a good while, and Lino felt wholly incapable of tearing his gaze away from her. There was something mesmerizing about her figure, about her gaze, about the way she seemed to hold the whole of the world in her palms.
“... welcome.” she said in a strangely soft, melodic voice, a complete opposite of her appearance.
“... uh... it’s, uh, good to be here?”
“Do you think it’s odd that a man is trying to absorb my Singularity?” she suddenly asked, seeming genuinely curious.
“I mean, if you don’t, neither do I. I just wonder.”
“...” Lino looked at her oddly, finally realizing who the woman before him was. “Why are all Empyreans mental cases?” he asked.
“You have to be mental to stand with him.” Syvelea said.
“... good point.” Lino nodded.
“So you don’t think it’s odd?”
“What is odd is that you dragged my soul all the way here to ask me that.”
“... this isn’t reality,” Syvelea said, faintly smiling. “I’m already dead. My age has long since past.”
“... your Will?” Lino asked, arching his brow.
“It’s the Will of me... and all those who once stood behind me.” she said.
“... not following.”
“What do you think ‘Will’ really means?” Syvelea asked.
“Manifestation of our character?” Lino took a guess as he really never thought too much about it, strangely enough.
“Parts of it, perhaps,” she explained, looking eastward. “It’s a manifestation of reality you chose to uphold... to believe in. Your reality is your own. Mine was not.”
“You are too weak to absorb my Singularity,” Syvelea said, expressionless. “It only means he’s helping you. Why?”
“He doesn’t have a choice,” Lino shrugged. “He put all his apples in this basketcase right here.” he added, pointing at himself.
“Is that so...” she mumbled faintly. “It’s a shame. Of all the anguished fates Empyreans had suffered, you still somehow managed to draw the short straw.”
“Even dead you sure don’t hold back.”
“All of my predecessors and I fought knowing that even if we fail... our mantle will be carried on.” she said. “You don’t have that luxury. I truly don’t envy your position.”
“... you’re oddly chatty.”
“I’ve never managed to forge friendships,” Syvelea said, her lips curling up into a bitter smile. “For most of my days I remained rooted in the training grounds, studying ways to get stronger, isolating myself from the rest of the world. By the time of my dying, I realized that... I didn’t like being alone, after all. You’re unfortunately the sufferer of it all.”
“... why unfortunately?” Lino asked.
“I’ve not much to offer in terms of a good conversational partner.” she said. “Yet you seem well-versed it in, able to uphold a conversation even with someone like me.”
“... maybe you express yourself better with actions,” Lino said, smiling lightly. “Words are worthless when the sky begins collapsing. However, your tiny figure standing there, holding it back so that the people can escape... speaks far louder and with much greater clarity than a witty tongue ever could.”
“... what is your name?” she asked.
“I’m Syvelea. My mother and father always called me Lea. Apparently, in old Farkish, Syv means ‘star’ and Lea means ‘sea’. They thought their little girl would grasp at the sea of stars.”
“... have you?”
“No,” Syvelea looked at him and shook her head lightly. “What does your name mean?”
“My name? I wouldn’t know,” Lino said. “What does Lyonel mean?”
“Lyo means ‘lion’ in my mother tongue,” Syvelea said, smiling. “It’s a good name.”
“They’re coming.” Lino said.
“... do you hate them?” she suddenly asked, glancing eastward yet again where silhouettes began appearing.
“Them? The Bearers?”
“No. I’ve no reason to.”
“I do,” Syvelea said. “It was a witch-hunt against me... yet they wished to erase my entire nation from existence. They’ve done no wrong besides accepting me... accepting those before me... and giving us a place we could call home. Yet, no doubt, they would still claim the moral ground after I perished. Vile... filthy... corrupt... evil. They’re evil, Lyonel.”
“... I’m sorry to hear that.” Lino said, looking down. However, there was no ‘down’. Just sky. There was no earth in sight.
“It’s an eternal war that no side can win. At the end of it all, we won’t be the true sufferers.”
“I don’t know what choices you’ll make in your life,” she turned toward him one last time as a crimson-radiating spear appeared in her right hand. “I just hope you’ll live a happy life, regardless. Like me.” she smiled at him yet again before turning around and slowly flying toward the figures who had by now come into sight. Three led the charge... with tens of thousands standing valiantly behind them.
Lino learned from the Writ that the three that jointly attacked Syvelea were Bearers of Nihility, Immortal and Aphotic Writs. It wasn’t hard to recognize them; Bearer of Nihility seemingly flickered in and out of existence, their true appearance indistinguishable. Bearer of Aphotic Writ was enshrouded in thick, billowing black smoke that danced around him like serpents, while Bearer of the Immortal Writ appeared clad in silver armor, with threads of golden light flickering around him.
Words were exchanged between two sides, but Lino was unable to hear anything. The armies of tens of thousands spread out into an encirclement, leaving the four Bearers directly at the center. It began, Lino realized as a grasping shadow appeared suddenly behind Syvelea and docked a dagger into her back. She grimaced for a moment before swiping her spear backward, hitting nothing but air. Her eyes veered toward the Bearer of Nihility as she smiled. It was a frigid smile, one full of hate, anger, unbridled resentment that could not be hidden.
She swept forth like a wave, tearing open a void in space and manifesting directly before the Bearer of the Immortal Writ. She trust forth with her spear, displacing the space around the tip till it looked like a contorted ball. The man crossed his fists but it was useless; the spear pierced through and stabbed him as crimson blood dyed Syvelea’s crimson armor in a deeper shade, making it even more radiant. She swiped sideways and halved the man before immediately dashing sideways and striking at the billowing cloud of pitch-black darkness.
It tried to wrap around her, but she didn’t pay any attention to it. Crimson flame arose at the tip of the spear, illuminating the darkness till it began wailing like a mournful ghost. She thrust yet again, causing a faint figure to be sent flying from the sky further back before she swept her spear backwards in a swift motion, defending against yet another sneak attack. Her beauty collapsed in that moment, turning into a portrait of bleeding anguish. She grabbed forth with her free arm and grasped at nothingness itself. Yet, that concept seemed not to matter before her eyes. She dragged a figure from it, a figure remarkably similar to her.
It was a woman Syvelea’s age, made in the stark likeness of the latter, almost a carbon copy. Taken aback, Lino couldn’t grasp the situation in that split second before Syvelea suddenly stabbed at the woman’s chest and ripped it open. She then let go of the spear as it levitated next to her, and used her now freed arm to strike at the woman’s face. And again. And again. Tens, hundreds of times, she struck, till both her fist and the woman’s face were bleeding crimson like rivers. All the while she screamed maniacally, filling the sky up with a mix of angry roars and lunatic laughter.
Lino shuddered; should anyone without the know look at this, they’d immediately accuse Syvelea of being psychopathic maniac indulging herself in sadistic slaughter. Surely, her image resonated well with that description at the moment. Yet, underneath all that surface anger and pure rage... Lino saw what he saw in himself on that day: heartbreak. She didn’t even seem to care when the darkness came back and struck at her back, ripping open a massive gash. Seemingly oblivious to it, she continued hitting woman till she split the latter’s skull open, till her eyes popped out of their sockets, till a mere adjective of ‘disfigured’ could do no justice to what was done to her.
Lino looked onward solemnly, realizing that this was only truly a beginning. A beginning of hell that would unfold in these skies. A beginning of nightmare that would befall the world before him.