WORLD ON FIRE
Eluinda was currently standing atop a cliff overlooking a narrow passage through a mountain valley, staring at the stream of people passing through it, all huddled together in confusion yet not daring to voice it. She would perhaps laugh at them if she knew what was going on, but as the things stood she was just as much in the dark about the things as the rest.
When her Patriarch returned from the small meeting with the Descenders, he merely sent her in one direction and told her to gather every living thing -- sentient or not -- and either evacuate it as far as possible in that direction, or even outright kill them if they don’t comply. Though confused, she didn’t ask any questions due to a rather maddened gaze in the Patriarch’s eyes; whatever it was that the Descenders told them, Eluinda knew she was far too weak to be included in it.
Her case wasn’t an isolated one; everyone save for the Sky-bearing Monk, Patriarch Chen and the Unholy Guardian were kept in the dark to the true nature of the overwhelming shadow that most of them had experience fighting. None even for a second thought it was actually a Prime, as the fear of the species was so embedded within their hearts they didn’t even dream of escaping from one should they cross paths.
Streams upon streams of people and animals were shoved out from around the City, pushed to go as far as they could outwardly. It was a mass migration on the scale none of those involved had ever even anticipated. Among those asked to leave were Eggor, Ella, Scarlet and Annar who instead of joining with the caravan of people simply went around those escorting them.
The four had noticed a strange atmosphere quite a while ago, but decided on staying put in case Lino called them for help.
“What do you think’s going on?” Eggor asked while the four stood at the flying ship’s forefront while the world around them blurred.
“Can’t be anything big seeing as he hasn’t asked for our help yet, right?” Scarlet commented, seemingly somewhat excited. Annar merely rolled his eyes at her and sigh before giving his input.
“A mere Devil invasion can’t have this much of an impact,” he said. “It has to be something else.”
“It is something else,” Ella said, frowning. For a while now she felt rather unsettled, as though something unspeakable had cemented its eyes into the sky, watching everyone down below. “Can’t you guys feel it?”
“... you mean that voice in the back of my mind that keeps screaming at me to leave?” Scarlet said, chuckling. “Yup, I can very much feel it.”
“... are you sure Lino’s fine?” Annar asked, frowning.
“His life talisman is as bright as ever,” Ella shrugged. “It’s not really him that I’m worried about. He’s quite crafty. It’s everyone else.”
“Why not just contact him?” Scarlet asked.
“... I suppose we should.” Eggor said, sighing as he whipped out a talisman. “At the very least to let him know we’re headed over.”
Quite a distance away from the four, Lino and Hannah were currently skimming around the domain of the shadows, drawing something on the ground below with their Qi. Both had a rather expectant expressions on their faces, their eyes flushed with anticipation and a sliver of madness. Felix and Lucky, who were watching them from the side, for reasons still unknown were feeling terror abound their hearts and mind, and even a scarce hint of fear toward the two.
Lino suddenly came to a halt, his expression quizzical as he reached into the void world and whipped out a flashing talisman. He quickly recognized it was Ella’s and Eggor’s, taking off the mask and withdrawing some distance from the trio.
“... I suppose it’d be stranger if they hadn’t noticed it by now.” he mused lowly as he answered the call. The screen lit up before him as it slowly showcased four figures; Ella and Eggor upfront with Scarlet and Annar just behind them. “Hello strangers!” Lino grinned foolishly.
“Hello.” Scarlet was the first one to reply. “I missed you~”
“I missed you too.” Lino said as he felt a pair of cold eyes land on him. Glancing sideways, he saw Hannah staring at him as though questioning. He sheepishly smiled for a moment before turning his attention back on the screen. “I assume you’re calling because you’re on your way over, right?”
“Yeah. How did you know?” Ella asked.
“... ah, migration should be well underway now,” Lino mumbled, stroking his chin. “Anyway, I’d recommend you halt around one hundred or so miles away from the Capital and enjoy the view in the little while.”
“What are you talking about?” Ella questioned, sensing that something was wrong.
“Oh, it’s not a big deal,” Lino said. “It’s just that some idiots in the Capital woke up a Prime, so now I’m trying to figure out how to ensure the whole Continent doesn’t go, you know, to shitters and stuff.”
“...” though it wasn’t the first time, Lino still rather enjoyed seeing the vast array of expressions on their faces.
“W-what do you mean a Prime woke up?!!!” Ella suddenly exclaimed in a crazed fashion, darting to her feet. “Do you even know who Primes are to begin with?!!”
“Oh, geez, calm down. I’m an idiot, not an imbecile,” Lino shrugged. “Don’t worry, it’s a host-type. I’m not in any danger.”
“Not-any-danger my ass!!” Eggor yelled out as well. “Get your ass out of there before I come over and fucking murder your dumb-ass!”
“They’re right, Lino,” even Scarlet chimed in quickly. “Whatever type a Prime is, it’s not something any one of us can contend against. You’ve already done better than most, so it’s alright to withdraw.” Lino’s smile softened for a moment, a stream of calm warmth surging through his heart. He then turned and stared at Annar, willing the latter into the awkward position.
“Y-yeah... you... you should get back. We’re worried fo--”
“Ha ha ha, don’t worry about anything guys,” Lino interrupted halfway through, causing Annar to frown in frustration. “Just sit back and enjoy the show. I’ll meet you lot up there with some friends. Oh, right, I’ve got to introduce someone to you. Anyway, remember what I said: a hundred miles away at least! Got it?”
“Lino--!!” Ella exclaimed, but was quickly interrupted.
“Do you not trust me?” Lino asked with a serious tone.
“... of course I trust you.” she sighed in defeat, sitting down.
“Then let me do my job.” he winked mysteriously before ending the call.
“...” on the other end of the line, the four sat in strange silence, contemplating.
“Should we actually listen to him?” Eggor asked with a frown.
“Of course not,” Scarlet exclaimed. “It’s a Prime! I’m even surprised he knew to recognize one to begin with...” Ella and Eggor glanced at her and then each other, smiling bitterly.
“He told us to stand back and enjoy the show,” Ella said, taking a deep breath. “Seeing as he worded it like that... it’ll probably be something rather spectacular.”
“W-we’re really not going to help him?!” Scarlet asked.
“Stop meddling,” Annar jeered at her. “Though I can’t be hundred percent certain, he seems far stronger than everyone here except Ella.”
“You’ve noticed too?” Ella glanced at him, smiling proudly.
“Oh, you mean that voice in the back of my mind telling me he’d probably make a meat pasta out of me? Yeah, I’ve noticed.” Annar replied, smiling bitterly.
“Anyway, let’s just listen to him for now.” Ella said. “And see how it goes.”
Meanwhile, Lino was currently still receiving questioning looks from Hannah, ones with a tinge of hostility. Smiling bitterly, he put the mask back on and walked over.
“So, you miss her, huh?”
“I thought you weren’t the jealous type.” he fired back right away.
“What gave you that impression?” Hannah asked as the two went back to tracing Qi over the ground.
“The fact that you told me you didn’t care that I screwed, y’know...”
“I don’t,” Hannah commented. “I didn’t imply I wouldn’t care if you continued to do so.”
“What gave you the impression that I would? Anyway, we gotta hurry up and finish this. My adoptive parents of sorts are on their way over and I want them to see a good show.”
“... y-your what?!” Hannah exclaimed, jolting on her feet.
“Oh, you’re gonna love them,” Lino chuckled. “He’s you’re standard ‘I’m a dude, I’ve got no emotion, stoic, muscle-head’ and she’s this whacky ‘cool mom’, you know? They’re kinda adorable, though.”
“When did you get adopted is what I was asking!!”
“Oh, right out of the orphanage, actually,” Lino chuckled as he remembered the day. “Literally, the very next morning. He found me sleeping in his, khm, ‘backyard’, and, well, one thing led to another... he taught me blacksmithing, actually. Well, still is to be honest. Anyway, hurry up. We can catch up later.”
“...” Hannah remained staring at him for a little while before also continuing to trace the Qi over.
The two finished around an hour later, quickly picking up Felix and Lucky and taking to the sky, bounding nearly fifty miles up and away before stopping. Hannah and Lino glanced at each other while unable to hide the greatest of grins on their faces, their bodies practically itching for the answer as to whether the plan would work. They’ve already ensured that nobody was near and around before both took deep breaths and began tracing a complex array in front of them, spanning hundreds and thousands of threads.
The finished product was a circle-shaped array which lit up into blaze, mimicking sun’s radiance, as it began spinning around until it turned into a blur, slowly spitting out threads which bounded fifty miles over and latched onto the ginormous formation surrounding the Holy City and the shadow domain in the extension.
The array suddenly lit up similarly to the one in the sky as Hannah, Lino and even Lucky and Felix looked on in anticipation. The very next breath, a blaze spanning thousands of miles around altogether blasted out, consuming everything in its wake and rising to nearly half a mile into the sky. Infernal flames danced with the surging wind, hue of the golden orange lighting up the world around. The whole manifestation was visible nearly halfway across the entire Continent, as all those who could looked on toward the direction, mostly confused.
Sky-bearing Monk, Patriarch Chen and the Unholy Guardian also looked on toward the inferno, shaking their heads. Only madmen from the Great Descent could even figure to burn away thousands upon thousands of miles of life, and not even flinch in doubt while planning for it.