FROM ALL SKIES
Several figures hovered high in the sky, looking at the encompassing domain of shadow in the distance. The Sin-Devil Commanders all had rather ugly expressions on their faces, eyes glistening in worry and a tinge of terror. Rothar’s was even more so, as he knew they would be getting visited rather soon which is also why he only asked six other Sin-Devils to join him in the sky.
An hour or so later, their eyes veered off the domain of shadow toward the distant horizon where a flicker of gold sped through the thickened clouds, leaving behind a brilliant arc of light. Before they could even register it properly, they found themselves blinded and burning, instinctively pulling back and covering their eyes.
Rothar was the first to recover, squeezing his eyes open barely; he immediately noticed a winged figure hovering some fifty meters in front of them, donning a simple yet imposing mask and a set of rather shabby-looking clothes. His black hair fluttered with the wind, the massive, golden wings occasionally flapping and causing the whirlwind to form beneath them.
“... hello lads.” Lino grinned as he saw a set of rather ugly expressions and dangerous eyes focused on him. Though they did their best, they were unable to wholly hide their hatred. “I hope you’ve been well.”
“... h-hello.” Rothar spoke out awkwardly as he realized nobody else would. “We hope you’ve been well too.”
“... ah, can’t say I have,” Lino sighed, deciding to push some buttons first. “Your friends really did a number on me, you know? I almost died.”
“...” the temperature dropped to frigid within a moment’s notice, the seven pairs of eyes uniformly squinting and staring at Lino fearlessly, their muscles bulged, hands curled into fists, barely holding back.
“... not bad,” Lino, however, only smiled faintly, nodding. “You guys are showing some real growth. You’ll get places, I believe. Anyway, enough with the foreplay. Did you know it was a Prime?”
“... yes.” Rothar replied, taking a deep breath.
“You had a way to relocate her without waking her up?”
“... you do realize that if I’d found out, you’d have a better chance fucking the sky than taking her away, right?”
“Well, no use crying over the spilled milk,” Lino shrugged as he sensed the Devil Qi around him growing thicker. “All Commanders and Godhood-equivalent Generals will join me.”
“Are you insane?!” Lino recognized the voice as well as the man behind it -- En’kav, who against all odds was still somehow alive. “You want to fight a Prime?!”
“... did it sound like I was asking for your opinion?” Lino used a sliver of his Will to superimpose over his Divine Sense, causing the seven Devils to suddenly feel as though the sky was falling onto their shoulders. “Do what you have to do to convince everyone else,” Lino remarked casually as he turned around. “And be at the southern end of the Domain within two days. If I don’t see you there,” he glanced back, his eyes void of emotion. “I promise that the Prime will be the least of your worries.”
Leaving behind the last words, Lino’s wings fluttered madly as he turned into a blurring beam of light, streaking through the sky and out of the Devils’ vision. Though his breathing was quickened, Rothar forcibly calmed himself down; the clash of Wills he’d just engaged in would perhaps merit the outcome it did if it was Rothar alone... but it was seven Sin-Devils versus a single person... and they all looked as though they’d just engaged in a month-long battle for survival.
“... what should we do?” Rothar turned toward the other six and asked. Though he’d assumed pseudo-leader position, he hardly had any actual power over the others.
“I’m assuming he doesn’t actually plan on fighting Umbra,” Handuur said in a low tone. “Most-likely just putting her back to sleep through the usual method.”
“... can we use the Flute after the fact?” En’kav asked.
“We can,” Handuur nodded. “The question is... do we want to take that chance?”
“... we should at least give it a shot,” Rothar said, forcing a conviction to be born within him. “Though he appears fine, I’m sure he still hasn’t recovered to his peak. At worst, a few of us will have to die to hold him back while the rest take Umbra to the nearest portal.”
“... I’ll set it up.” En’kav said in a serious tone.
“Hm.” Rothar nodded faintly, his eyes narrowing for a moment, veering off toward the distance where the golden shine had disappeared in.
Meanwhile, Lino had already returned back to the temporary ‘base’ within the mountain range just outside the Umbra’s Domain. Currently, only four people were present there -- including him -- as the rest scrambled to do whatever they could to prepare. Lino quickly located Hannah who was sitting on top of a tree and reading a book while humming a low tune. Down below, around a small campfire, Lucky and Felix were sitting in awkward silence, occasionally glancing up.
“Hey, these two seem rather into you.” Lino shouted toward the tree, startling Lucky and Felix onto their feet. “How about you indulge them for a moment.”
“...” Hannah glanced down and smiled faintly before putting the book away and joining them on the ground. “I was merely waiting for you to make the introductions.”
“The wanna-be-badass lady, and the wanna-be-cool kid.” Lino pointed at Lucky and Felix respectively, grinning. “The actual badass lady and me, the actual cool guy.”
“You’re right, we’ll really get along.” while Lucky and Felix rolled their eyes at Lino, Hannah chuckled briefly before taking off her mask. “Hello you two,” she extended her arm out. “I’m Hannah.”
“... L-lucky...” Lucky stuttered as she awkwardly accepted the handshake.
“... F... F...”
“Felix!” Lucky angrily stomped at the boy’s foot, causing him to scream out in pain for a moment.
“Right! Felix! That’s my name!” he quickly shook Hannah’s hand before retreating back and burying his head in his arms.
“There’s no way you two are together!” Lucky suddenly turned toward Lino who’d also taken his mask off. “She’s way, way, way, way, way too fucking hot to ever be interested in you.”
“... I think your subjective bias is clouding your judgment right there,” Lino frowned. “After all, I’m the epitome of greatness that can’t be found even if you searched the seven seas and oceans. It’d be stranger if she wasn’t gunning for me with all she’s got.”
“...” Lucky’s eyebrows twitched as she shifted her focus on Hannah who was merely smiling. “Y-you... you two aren’t together, right?”
“Well, he is the epitome of greatness that can’t be found even if you searched the seven seas and oceans, after all. It’d be stranger if I wasn’t gunning for him with all I’ve got.”
“Hey, is this gonna be a thing? You stealing my cool lines and appropriating them?” Lino asked.
“... it’s kind of adorable you think that was a ‘cool line’.” Hannah retorted.
“And it’s beyond adorable that you think you can fake it out with me.” Lino fired back. “We both know it was a cool line.”
“Agree to disagree, I suppose,” Hannah shrugged, sitting down next to the campfire. “Be useful and whip out some booze. Look at what you’ve done to these poor things.”
“... did I just get downgraded to the booze-supplier?” Lino mumbled, sitting down next to her but still taking out four gourds of wine. “But, I ain’t done shit to the two. Felix over there is too embarrassed to look you in the eye all due to his own insecurities, Lucky over here is wondering whether passing up on me was really the best choice she’d made, and I’m just wondering what’d you think of the book?”
“Oh, it’s really fun,” Hannah exclaimed softly, taking a sip. “Especially the part when Ashka dumps Endoran. By far the best scene in the book.”
“... did you miss the underlying tones or are you trying to tell me something?”
“... who knows?” she grinned, shifting away her attention from him onto Lucky who was currently in the process of downing the whole gourd in one go. “So, did you guys make any babies yet? Though I’m young, I’m fairly certain I’d make a great granny for the young ones.”
“YOU’RE NOT EVEN A MOTHER YET!!” Lucky yelled out in frustration; she was reminded once again that looks are beyond deceiving; anyone who gathers around Lino is no good. They are fundamentally insane.
“How can you say that?” Lino exclaimed, faking hurt. “Don’t you know she can’t have kids?!”
“... w-what?” Lucky stuttered, nearly falling back; glancing at Hannah, she saw a rather heartfelt and hurtful expression, causing her heart to contort. “I... I’m so sorry... I... I didn’t...”
“Fuck!” Lino glared angrily at Hannah who broke. “You seriously need to work on your endurance! You suck literal ass!”
“Fuck you right back! Perhaps start with some lighter fun! How can you expect me to hold back on that?!”
“Tsk, this is why I said I’m the one who’s supposed to entertain while you just stand next to me and look pretty.”
“How about I stand next to you and shove a spear so far up your ass you’ll be spitting steel for the rest of your life?”
“... not gonna lie, you saying it... kinda makes it hot.” Lino said, taking a sip. “Though I’d much prefer if I was the shover and you were the receiver. And it wouldn’t be a spear. Nor the ass. Wink wink.”
“... did you just say ‘wink wink’?” Hannah asked, drawing back a bit.
“YOU TWO ARE FUCKING MENTAL!! COMPLETELY INSANE!!” Lucky’s roar -- one full of frustration, anger, disappointment and genuine depression -- bellowed out throughout the mountain, echoing for a good minute after. Yet, even with it, she was still unable to let go of the demons festering in her heart; she knew that the future was grim... and it had nothing to do with that creepy shadow surrounding the city, but with the two morons currently sitting across from her and pridefully grinning.