Lino was currently dubiously staring at the creature before his eyes that he had summoned from the Dimensional Pouch. The creature was nearly five meters tall and Lino estimated it weighed at least a ton altogether. It had the head of a bird except larger, with two round, crimson eyes dancing effortlessly as they took in the surroundings.
On top of its head was a golden comb that appeared rather majestic, its neck spilling into a feathered cape dyed beautifully scarlet. At the creature’s sides were a pair of beautiful wings, similarly dyed scarlet, spanning so far out they could blanket the sun and provide Lino with perfect shade. The creature had four clawed feet -- two at the front and the other two at the back -- that exuded a metallic sheen and three, feathered tails springing out its backside proudly and gracefully.
“H-hippogryph?” Lino mumbled as he recognized the creature. It was one of the subspecies of the Pegasus Lineage, a hippogryph. Except, from what Lino read, they shouldn’t be this big... and they certainly shouldn’t be as red as blood... and they most definitely should have neither the golden comb nor the three tails. Really, only the creature’s head and wings somewhat resembled what he thought hippogryphs looked like.
“Caaw-caw!” the creature actually replied to him, nodding its head lightly as it continued looking around, occasionally fluttering its wings as though it was stretching after a long sleep.
“... what the heck?” Lino studied the hippogryph in detail yet, no matter what, at the end of the day it was still a hippogryph, despite the numerous... anomalies. “No wonder he didn’t want to part with it,” Lino shook his head, smiling faintly. “It’s a mutated species. Most-likely with extremely pure Bloodline.” in reality, however, the main reason Erkhaan didn’t want to part away from his pet was because he enjoyed sleeping against the latter’s feathered body. “Anyway, your name’s Andy, right?” a cold glint suddenly flashed through the hippogryph’s eyes causing all of Lino’s hairs to stand up. You idiot!! Because you named him like he’s a harmless worm, now he’s taking it out on me!! “Khm, yeah, that stupid name doesn’t suit a magnificent bastard like you.”
“Caw caw!” the creature fervently nodded, that cold glint passing away similarly to all the feelings it had for its previous owner.
“How about... hmm... Crimson Nightmare?” Lino blurted out randomly.
“CAW CAW CAAAW!!” the creature rose up to its hind legs and bellowed out into the sky proudly. He seemed to like it.
“No, wait, that’s way too long. Imagine if I had to keep calling you that in front of others? Geez, I’d rather you just kill me now. Hmm... we gotta keep that crimson somehow. Let’s see... crimson... crimson... huh? Crim-son... crim... oh, right! How about I call you Grim?”
“CAW CAW CAAAAW!!” the creature replied in even greater fervor than before, suddenly barreling at Lino and hugging him with its wings, stroking its head against Lino’s chest while the latter stood frozen in place. I-it’s probably best I don’t tell him I was making a pun...
“Hah, good, good! From today onwards I baptize you as Grim!” Lino spoke through laughter as he stroked the creature’s head.
“W-woof, woof! Woof!” a familiar bark interrupted the beautiful bonding scene, causing the warmth that Grim was exuding to turn frigid as he dangerously looked at the newcomer.
“C-caw? Caw caw caw!”
“Woof woof!” Non nodded.
“Caw caw caw!!” Grim nodded fervently.
“... you... khm, I must have misheard. Ha ha, after all, there’s no way I can actually understand what you guys are saying. It’s all in my head. All in my head. Yeah, it’s all in my head.”
“No, shut the fuck up! It’s all in my head!! There’s no way you two are blood-related!!”
“Woof woof woof!!”
“Caw caw caw!!” yet the two seemed rather certain that Lino definitely understood their conversation properly.
“... fuck everything.” Lino mumbled faintly as a strange image appeared inside his mind, scarring him for all eternity. It would be a while since he’d be comfortable with doing this and that again. At the same time he withdrew Grim back into the Pouch, also forcing Non into it.
As he had nothing else to do inside the Ancestral Grounds, Lino tailed back toward the entrance. His appearance, however, was more rugged than after he fought Erkhaan. He simply couldn’t shove out that image inside of his head... what’s more... it began... moving. A furred creature... mounting...
“AAAGRRH!!!” he collapsed onto his knees as he held his head, tears nearly streaming out of his eyes. He remained so for nearly half an hour, even beginning to shake.
“E-eh?! Mr-Mr. Lino, are you okay?! What happened?! Did someone attack you?!” a familiar, melodic voice woke Lino from his stupor. He raised his head and looked sideways only to see Freya -- accompanied by several dozen others -- rushing at him, concern written on her face.
“A-ah... an... angel...” her concerned expression managed to erase that moving picture. He swore he would make a shrine for her once he had the time.
“E-eh? Mr. Lino... a-are you alright?” Freya asked as he crouched down, blushing madly as she heard Lino’s words.
“Ah, I’m alright. I’m great.” Lino replied, smiling widely as he suddenly patted her. “You... you are great. A blessing. Never change.”
“A-ah?!” unsure as to what to do, Freya merely stood frozen as she felt the warmth of Lino’s hand on her head.
“Right. What are you doing here?” Lino asked as he came back to his senses.
“E-eh? We... we heard a scream so ran over to see what happened...” Freya replied.
“Oh? I was that loud? Damn...” Lino said as he stood up, stroking his chin. “Maybe I should become a Commander if my voice can get so loud?”
“...” it was also then that the others approached and managed to hear the last of Lino’s mumbling, nearly tripping over nothing and falling down.
“Ah, whatever. It’s too much work. What’s more, I don’t even know how to ride a horse. Those bastards are scary.” Lino said, dispelling his brief interest. “Are you headed out?”
“... y-yeah.” Freya replied meekly. No matter how hard she thought about things, ever since she met Lino she was unable to figure this strange beggar out.
“Great! I’m also on my way out!” as though there wasn’t a couple of dozen pairs of eyes staring daggers at him, Lino put his arm around Freya’s shoulder and guided her forward. “Eh, tell me, did one of the guys catch your fancy? I’ve seen quite a few handsome studs in that lineup behind us! He he, you sure don’t hold back! Ah, but even if he must be handsome, you have to choose carefully, alright? Most guys are just wolves ready to pounce on poor sheep and mount---AARRRGH---oh, good, it’s gone. Whooh, almost self-destructed there... anyway, as I was saying, you better...”
All of those who followed behind quickly learned what it meant to have a Tongue of Gods. It had nothing with the complicated and hard-to-learn words, nothing with how eloquent one was in expressing themselves or how one can use words to trick their opponents. It all had to do with someone being able to talk utter nonsense for nearly three hours straight without as much as taking a single break. Jumping from a topic like beautiful surroundings to cow dung within a single sentence shouldn’t be possible -- nor allowed -- yet the beggar by Freya’s side did it... more than once.
Freya was completely exhausted by the time they reached the exit; following Lino’s train of thoughts was simply impossible. She could at best pick up on a few questions and answer them to the best of her abilities, but from their conversation which lasted nearly three hours, she at most remembered a few seconds of it. It was just a constant stream of words after words, never-ending torrent of sentences and topics, an overwhelming wave of destruction. Mother... sticks and stones truly may break my bones... but today I’ve learned words can end up outright killing your will to live...
The group departed from the Ancestral Grounds in a rather dubious atmosphere and immediately scattered when they reached the platform, afraid they might become the next target of that tongue. However, Lino didn’t pursue them; waiting by the spacial vortex was the same woman he made promise with and her eyes were currently looking at him with expectation, wonder and even a dash of intrigue.
After saying a few words to Freya, she sent her off with Elders. Within a few minutes, only the two of them remained standing on the platform.
“Did you have fun waiting?” Lino probed, grinning.
“You jest, Mr. Lino,” Valkyria replied, smiling. “I was merely standing on an ocean of needles.”
“This isn’t the best place to converse. Why don’t we move into my chambers?” she spoke out as she waved her hand gently, opening similar -- albeit somewhat smaller and slower -- vortex.
“...” Lino merely smiled as he stepped through, feeling the space around him warp for a moment before the platform was replaced by a rather simple-looking room. There was nothing that spoke ‘leader of a Clan’ around save for a single painting hanging over a bed, depicting a crimson-haired woman as she held onto a strange-looking book. It was only a moment later that Valkyria appeared next to him, her eyes also landing onto the painting.
“She’s our Mother,” Valkyria spoke out with reverence and respect well beyond the little she showed to Lino. “Story has it that she had made a deal with a Devil to grant her the power to avenge her husband. After killing her husband’s murderer, the Devil came to collect, and she killed him too. While I’m certain the actual story is most-likely different, it’s quite humbling.”
“People selling their souls to avenge the loved ones...” Lino mumbled. “The tale as old as mankind itself.”
“Indeed,” Valkyria nodded. “But, it isn’t only mankind who is averse to it. All races are.”
“I imagine.” Lino said, smiling lightly.
“Now...” Valkyria said, taking a deep breath. “Did you do it?”