PARTS AND PIECES
Not unlike Gustav, Lino also attempted to process what had just transpired; however, unlike Gustav, he didn’t have much knowledge when it came to the natural laws, which is why to him it merely seemed as though he moved bits and pieces of space around to win. As he pulled himself out of his thoughts, his eyes landed onto Gustav and saw the man shiver and shake, his eyes growing twice their size, lips trembling, sweat breaking out.
It took Lino but a moment to see it in those eyes; terror, fear, confusion... his heart skip a beat as he realized he’d shown too much to a wrong person. Without almost a thought, he rushed forward and sliced away with his sword, aiming directly for Gustav’s neck. The latter barely recovered in time to duck and pull himself back, but before he had a moment to shout for help and to share his revelation, he felt cold death of a blade encroach upon his back.
Swiftly spinning in place, he managed to somehow block the blade with the shaft of his hammer, pushing Lino back. However, the latter - as though maddened - forcibly cracked a few bones in his body to suppress the backward force and strut himself forward. Without even having a chance to take a breath, Gustav was forced to raise his hammer in defense again.This time, though, the blade slithered around almost as though it had muscle, bypassing the hammer and striking at far right side of Gustav’s chest.
Blood spurted out as Gustav found himself pushed back, gritting his teeth as he reached with his arm and forcibly halted the bleeding. Still, he didn’t have much time to accommodate the newfound wound as blade came slicing yet again. His eyes somehow met up with a pair of Lino’s black; then and there, Gustav realized he had made a mistake. Those eyes were void of emotion, of compassion, of playfulness that the strange beggar displayed almost always.
They were dark, cold, full of resolve and empty of any sort of empathy. It almost seemed as though a completely different person surfaced and was now leading the attack. There was no grace in the movement, there was no playfulness in expression and in style; it seemed the entirety of attacks desired only a singe thing - to take Gustav’s life.
The old man repeatedly got pushed back until he realized something was strange; looking around, he once again saw hilly formations and remnants of ruins causing him to gasp as he tended to a wound on his thigh. He was led away from the central battlefield further back, till nobody could see them any longer. Lino suddenly stopped attacking, surprising Gustav. He just stood there, a hint of that playfulness apparent on his expression.
“... oh boy, I sure chose a wrong opponent.” Gustav laughed bitterly.
“And I sure chose a wrong technique,” Lino replied. “Didn’t know those old bones of yours had seen the world.”
“...” Gustav nearly wanted to vomit blood; the bastard was not taking him seriously, at all! How could anyone miss the fact that he literally changed the laws of nature?! “I-is that so? Khm... uh, well, I feel obliged to ask... but could we not go directly into a deathmatch? Though you would probably win in the end, it won’t come at no cost.”
“... this I feared,” Lino said, sighing lightly. “Who I am... cannot be disclosed, old man. The only reason I’m talking with you is because even I’m childish enough to believe in the abstract notion of respect.”
“I won’t tell anyone if that’s what you fear!”
“Yes you will,” Lino said, smiling. “And, frankly, I can’t fault you for it. After all, it would come with many benefits. If it was me alone that was involved in this... I might even let you go on the grounds that I like you quite a bit. But I’m not. There’s more at stake here than just my life.”
“...” Gustav himself figured as much, actually. The beggar didn’t seem like someone who would kill for any random reason. “Aren’t all Empyreans supposed to be loners?”
“So I’ve been told repeatedly.” Lino shrugged. “But, I’d rather not base my social life on a thing that’s never fucked a woman, you know?”
“...” this, however, Gustav did not figure; he did not expect or anticipate and, even if someone was to beat him to death over it, he would never come up with it. From his knowledge, all Bearers were reverent toward their Writs - regardless if Empyrean or others. There was awe-inspiring respect within them toward the source of who they were. Or, at the very least, that’s what he believed until now.
“Eh, I don’t know.” Lino suddenly said, scratching his hair. “I mean, did he fuck a woman? Or at least, you know, Writ-equivalent to a woman? Maybe he’s gay? I mean, I did notice that since this guy inhabited me, most of those interested in me turned out to be old men. It’s weird, you know?”
“... hah... I’m gonna lose my life to a fool...” Gustav lamented.
“Ah, you’re right. Why am I worrying about his sex life? Who cares, right? Anyway... any message you want me to tell them?”
“... heh, no need,” Gustav said, taking a deep breath and brandishing his already half-crumbled hammer tightly. “I just hope, at the very least, you will have enough courage to admit to what you’ve done... and to bring my body back.”
“... I owe up to what I do,” Lino said calmly, rising his sword. “That’s the least I can do for sowing chaos in my wake.”
He vanished from the spot, kicking up winds behind him as he reappeared above Gustav, striking down with his sword. It swayed madly as did his tattered clothes, his eyes once again lacking any emotion. Gustav swung his hammer up as he roared, his entire body flexing madly as his bones cracked. Alongside the hammer, a massive earthen spike erupted, following the hammer’s flow.
Lino switched his trajectory and swung sideways, repelling the hammer strike and using the backlash to avoid the spike. Before even landing back onto the ground, he swung his sword backwards and used its force to propel himself forward. He flew in an arc, eclipsing Gustav who smashed the hammer onto the ground and caused the earth to rumble and rapture. Lino landed just next to a crevice and began a slalom-like movement over the cracks and holes and spikes, evading them seemingly with no effort.
He soon closed the distance between the two and began a relentless onslaught; wound after wound appeared on Gustav’s body, his clothes torn and tattered beyond recognition. He flayed his hammer madly, trying to at the very least delay Lino as much as possible in hopes that someone will come. But, he quickly realized that was impossible; the more they fought, the quicker Lino became, more savage, unrestrained, more beastly in nature. His form, his attacks, his strategy... Gustav realized it now, that the so-called ‘Writ of Chaos’ was named so not only because of the energy it used.
Its name resonated with everything it represented, down to how its Bearers fought. There was no logic or reason or order to the sequence of attacks, to his footwork, to anything; above, below, from front and back and both sides, all around attacks came in indistinguishable patterns, leaving one extra hole or one extra gash on his already wounded body. He was bleeding from every orifice, barely able to cope.
It all lasted nearly five minutes till Gustav finally collapsed, letting go of the hammer and faltering onto his knees, his head hunched down, grayed hair in disarray falling over. His arms were slouched at sides, body full of wounds to the point where it was harder to find a whole section of skin than a wounded one. He bled profusely and, even if Lino never attacked again, he would bleed out in minutes at most. Gustav suppressed the cry of pain and anguish deep within his lungs. He breathed heavily, but didn’t allow himself to groan... even less to plead for mercy.
Lino landed slowly in front of him and squatted, using his free arm to grasp Gustav by his chin and lift his head up. The twos’ eyes met shortly after. Gustav’s were full of complex emotions, while Lino’s remained relatively pure and simple. Almost like the eyes of a child.
“However little you may value my words,” Lino said. “I promise... I won’t allow them to fall so long as I live and breathe.”
“... ha-cough-cough,” though blood splattered over Lino, he didn’t even blink, calmly looking into Gustav’s eyes. “You may damn them, just the same...”
“... maybe,” Lino nodded lightly. “And if I do... I’ll redeem them. Dynasty of your forefathers will last Gustav.”
“W-what makes... makes you think I give a shit... about those pricks...” he mumbled faintly.
“If you hadn’t, you would have long since left this place,” Lino said, smiling lightly. “It’s alright. Though I can’t let your sons and daughters kill me just yet for revenge...” he added in a low voice. “I can assure you, my end... will make you laugh from down below.”
“Of course it will... you bastard...” Gustav grinned, his bloodied and cracked teeth painting a picture of a madman... yet his eyes contrasting it with a man who’d accepted it all.
“Goodbye.” Lino said, still looking into Gustav’s eyes as he shoved a sword directly through the latter’s heart. A last breath escaped Gustav’s lips as he closed his eyes, ready for eternal rest.
Lino remained silent for a moment before sighing lightly and lifting up Gustav’s body, putting it over his shoulder and strapping the sword to his waist before heading back to the distant dust storm where the battle was fought. His steps were brisk, and calm... yet appeared lifeless. His expression still calm with a hint of playfulness, his smile still boyish. Only his eyes seemed to lack something... as though part of what they reflected dimmed and disappeared.