Erkhaan stared dubiously at Lino wondering just how had he lost the duel to this man. After all, he now looked like a child throwing tantrum rather than an expert capable of running him over like a boulder. Had his Master not intervened in the end Erkhaan knew he would have most-likely died there and then. Yet, despite it all, he still couldn’t help but admit he couldn’t hold a candle to an Empyrean.
“Congratulations on winning the duel.” Erkhaan spoke out as he saw that Lino calmed down and stood up.
“Eh? You’re really persistent about the whole duel business,” Lino replied similarly confused by Erkhaan’s behavior. “Are you a Knight or something?”
“No.” Erkhaan shook his head.
“Oh. So you’re just insane. Got it.”
“Calling the kettle black...”
“Hey, at least I’m not denying I’m insane.” Lino shrugged.
“You should.” Erkhaan added.
“Why? Insanity is beautiful.”
“It really is not.”
“Whatever you say, lunatic.”
“Are we really going to start calling each other names?” Erkhaan asked, frowning.
“What do you mean, oh the crazy one?”
“Are you a child?”
“You’re a child. An insane child that is.”
“I’m just messing with you dude,” Lino rolled his eyes at him and sighed, wondering why do people take him so seriously so often. It’s definitely my godly acting... “Anyway, could you like scram from here so I can get that fragment or whatever?”
“...” Erkhaan’s eyebrows twitched at how casually Lino asked him to pretty much move out of his home. “I will, don’t worry. Before that, as a winner of a duel you can ask one thing of me. So long as it’s within my power I’ll do it.”
“...” Lino truly felt there was something wrong with this man’s head; however, Lino was never the one to shy away from extorting others, especially when they offered so freely. “Alright. Give me ten billion gold coins.”
“... I-I don’t have them...” Erkhaan spoke through gnashed teeth.
“Eh? So you’re pretty poor, huh? Alright, whatever. Give me an Origin-tier Martial Art.”
“WHY?! YOU CAN’T EVEN LEARN IT!!”
“But I can sell it for ten billion gold coins.” Lino shrugged.
“Y-YOU WOULD S-SELL O-ORIGIN-TIER... FOR... FOR...” unable to scream anymore, Erkhaan plummeted onto his knees, realizing he had much to learn.
“...” I-is it my face? My voice? Why is he still taking me so seriously?!! “Dude, hey, dude. Are you alright?”
“So I’m guessing you don’t have Origin-tier Martial Art,” Lino ignored the sobbing Erkhaan and continued his shenanigans. “Can you give me a Kingdom--no an Empire then?”
“... you can stop messing with him.” the Writ’s voice echoed out inside of Lino’s head; it seemed that even the immortal being had enough of it. “He has a pet. Ask him for it. It will be helpful to you.”
“...” Lino grinned oddly before coughing for a moment. “Uh, can you give me your pet?”
“... y-you want Andy?” Erkhaan’s eyes grew twice their size as he stared at Lino.
“... you named your pet Andy? Hell no. I’d rather eat my own shit.”
“How dare you insult Andy?! I challenge you to a duel!”
“...” Lino was tired. Truly, truly tired. “This is enough, isn’t it?” he mumbled as he looked at the sky, his ego being fed like a fattening goose. “Just give me your pet.”
“... f-fine.” Erkhaan mumbled through his teeth on the verge of tears, taking out a small, leather-pouch and carefully handing it over to Lino with shaking hands. “Y-you have to promise, alright, promise? You got it? No, you have to swear on your honor--on your everything-- you will treat her well?! Swear!!”
“...” Lino took the pouch and playfully tossed it around for a moment while looking at Erkhaan’s reaction. “You were saying?”
“... you’re a disgrace to the name of an Empyrean.” Erkhaan spoke out.
“Oh, thank you!! That was my intention!” Lino exclaimed, smiling.
“... you’ve no honor, have you?” Erkhaan asked as he finally managed to calm himself down, realizing that Lino was merely having fun.
“Honor? What do I need honor for?” Lino asked with a slight grin as he put away the pouch into his void world, deciding to check out this ‘pet that would help him’ later on. “The only people who have honor are those who can afford to lose it. Tell me, then, can I ever be a part of that group?” Lino asked back seriously.
“... even if you succeed through some miracle in the end,” Erkhaan said. “You would have won nothing but the right to be an empty shell for all eternity.”
“Nothing is eternal,” Lino said lowly as he looked away from Erkhaan. “And if it is, there’s no point to it. Part of the reason why we fight and strive for all the things we do is because we know we have limited time. If someone told you tomorrow you could never die no matter what, that you would live forever as the strongest existence, there would be nothing left. If I do one day become that,” Lino’s eyes veered back onto Erkhaan whose image of Lino shifted somewhat. “I may as well die right here and now.”
“... then what do you fight for?” Erkhaan asked after a short silence. “It’s clearly not for personal honor and glory, and it certainly is not because you respect the calling of an Empyrean. I highly doubt you are so noble as to desire to save the world from the eternal war. Is it simply for riches?”
“... you’re selling me short there,” Lino said, smiling faintly. “Even I have people I care for, you know?”
“I suppose you do.” Erkhaan sighed.
“... why do you fight?” Lino asked.
“For my Master.” Erkhaan replied without hesitation.
“...” Lino’s eyes shifted for a moment, a trace of disappointment within them. Erkhaan didn’t miss it, causing a frown to emerge on his face.
“What?! Are you now going to disrespect my Master?”
“... no.” Lino shook his head. “I’m well aware of how great a figure your Master is.”
“Then what’s with the gaze?”
“I’m just disappointed.” Lino said. “That your dreams orbit another. Suddenly... winning against you doesn’t seem as grand an achievement.”
“... we all fight for what we believe.” Erkhaan replied, smiling faintly. “Perhaps you have never believed in someone or something so much that you’d devote yourself to it, but most of us have. You’ll eventually come to realize that believing in something grants you more strength than you can even imagine. Perhaps you should simply look around. There are those who believe in you -- not as an Empyrean, but as you -- which is why they fight.”
“... I’m well aware of it.” Lino replied, his shoulders sinking somewhat. “I don’t like that either.”
“What? You can’t shoulder a faith of a few of your friends? Are you really that weak?”
“... I’m not the sort they should put their faith in.” Lino said.
“That’s not for you to decide,” Erkhaan smiled yet again. “The least you can do is let them know their faith wasn’t for naught, no?”
“My business here is finished,” Erkhaan said, stretching yet immediately groaning out in pain, forcing him to halt his movements for a second. “You really did a number on me. It will take a couple of years to recover to my peak. Oh well. I’m not sure whether we’ll see each other again in the future, but I’ll wish you best of luck nonetheless. You aren’t as bad as you’re letting others see. Take good care of Andy, though. You hear?! If you do so much as--”
“Dude, just get out.”
Within a blink of an eye, Lino found himself back on the meadow, a small, spherically-shaped object dyed entirely black with bolts of gray lightning flickering around floating in front of his eyes. He stretched his arm out and casually picked it, his hand immediately assailed with trickling feeling that he barely managed to ignore.
[Fragment of a Dimension -- Unique]
Void Familiarity: +0,0001%
Special Effect : ???
Special Effect : ???
Note: A special fragment of a collapsed Dimensional Pocket. Gathering enough components can be used to forge a completely new Dimensional Pocket.
Lino didn’t pay too much attention to it as all this was still far off into the future for him. He merely glanced at the stats and stuffed the fragment into the void world; after all, according to the Writ, he would be using it simply to cross over from one realm to another. He neither had intention nor the reason to ruggedly run around and collect 99 other fragments to create his own Dimensional Pocket. He simply deemed it a waste of time.
He also decided to quickly check the ‘Andy’. The Writ wouldn’t have told him the creature would be helpful without a reason, after all. Taking out the pouch from the world, he decided to check its stats as well before summoning out the pet.
[Pet Dimensional Pouch -- Void Artifact]
Special Effect  -- Can be used to store living creatures for prolonged periods of time.
Special Effect  -- The pouch can store limited amount of things regardless of their size.
Note: A naturally-made Dimensional Pouch that was refined by Void Refiner in order to allow living creatures to be stored.
Lino paused and nearly fell on his butt. After all, this was the highest-level item he had seen in his life -- even higher than the spear depicted in the blueprint he found within the ruins of Oreb Kingdom. Level 2800 was such an astronomical number that Lino didn’t even dare comprehend it properly. What’s perhaps even more astonishing was that the pouch was a Void Artifact -- meaning it has been built at the very least in the Skyhaven Era.
While its effects might seem underwhelming, Lino knew better; after all, even Eggor stood absolutely no chance of creating a Void Item that could store living things even for a breath, let alone for prolonged period of time. Rather, according to everything Lino learned, there is not a single person in the entire world at the moment with ability to craft a Void Item that can store a living thing.
He immediately realized, however, that the difference lay in fact that the pouch wasn’t technically a Void Item -- it was a Dimensional Pocket in and of itself, simply refined to such a degree that it turned into an item with the capacity of storing living things. Lino sucked in cold breath but chose against testing it on himself. If he accidentally got stuck inside the pouch, wouldn’t that be the greatest tragedy ever?
“D-did... did he know?” Lino mumbled faintly as he felt his hands shaking while holding the pouch.
“... what do you think?” he could almost imagine the Writ rolling his eyes at the dumb question. In Lino’s heart Erkhaan’s position suddenly skyrocketed; he now loved him almost as much as he loved himself, which was an achievement he firmly believed nobody could ever match up to.
“Aaagh!!” he screamed out in frustration. “If I knew that bastard was this generous, I would have asked him to stay in contact... fuck, I would have even faked my entire personality to match up his standard!! Aaah, what a miss...”