INTO THE TITAN REALMS
Though the city woke up, it was woken into madness; everyone started scrambling to get back to the reality of things, and as Lino didn’t exactly feel like up-ending the Empire’s entire system of belief, he mostly let the Emperor’s descendants run things for the time being. There would be a good while before everything goes back to the way it used to, but they would eventually.
Altogether, there were in total eight hundred and eleven casualties, comparatively nothing to the City’s entire population. And even if didn’t feel all that great, Lino had long since accepted that he could neither be the savior nor the hero of everyone, and that should he ever mantle that cause, he would go mad before ever even figuring out hows and whys of it all.
He was currently enjoying a simple lunch inside the Palace, in its tallest spire, overlooking the entire city from the clouds. The table in front of him was stacked with boar, chicken and pork meat, with several platters of various sauces there to enrich the flavor. He wasn’t alone, though, as the entire gang decided it would be a great idea to have lunch together; Hannah sat just next to him, with Ella and Eggor sitting on the opposite end of the table, Annar and Scarlet to the left, Jack and Edward right next to them, Lucky and Felix on the right side with Princess Annabelle and Prince On’yal right next to them and even the Patriarch Chen, the Unholy Guardian and the Sky-Bearing Monk mixing in the background.
The latter two were entirely unaware as to who Lino and Hannah were, and they simply assumed they were guests of Eggor and Ella.
“How long do you think before Devils attack?” Annar asked Eggor while chewing on a chicken’s leg.
“Eh, I give ‘em a week or two,” Eggor replied while devouring boar’s ribs. “If at all.”
“Why if at all?” Scarlet asked, candidly eating a small piece of bread just for the show.
“Well, namely because they’re terrified,” Ella said, stealthily glancing at Lino and Hannah who seemed to be lost in their own little world, entirely indifferent to the world around them. “I very much doubt they expected the Descenders to be able to defeat a Prime.”
“Oh, yeah.” Scarlet mumbled, stealing a glance at Lino.
“Hey, Lino,” Jack said, gulping down a cup of ale. “Are you ever planning on introducing us to the lady?”
“Why? Will you try and steal her from me?” Lino smiled, taking a sip of wine.
“Hello,” Hannah rolled her eyes at Lino and scoffed, turning toward Jack and Edward and flashing them a smile. “I’m Hannah. Lyonel’s crutch.”
“Oh my.” Jack snickered, shaking Hannah’s hand. “Good luck, young lady. I’m at my wits end on how can anyone reign him in.”
“Especially that tongue of his.” Edward chimed in.
“It is a vicious tongue, indeed.” Annar chimed in.
“Hurts more than some whip-lashings.” Ella stoked the flames.
“I suggest we cut the problem at its roots,” Eggor suggested. “By just, you know, cutting the bastard out.”
“... you lot certainly do seem carefree,” Lino mumbled, glancing at them dubiously. “What do you mean my vicious tongue? My tongue’s made out of gold and heaven’s sprinkles. Whatever I say becomes practically a word from the holy scripture. You ought to listen to me more rather than just complain.”
“Aww, don’t listen to them,” Hannah pinched his cheek gently. “I love that tongue of yours.”
“You just love sucking on it,” Lino shrugged. “But wait till you find out---”
“Aaaalright, how about we switch the topic?” Ella quickly interjected, predicting the future of the conversation. “To literally anything else.”
“Right.” Lino nodded faintly, suddenly glancing at Lucky and Felix who felt shudders reach their souls. “You two have been awfully quiet. Are you waiting for the proper time to tell me I’m gonna be a granddad? ‘Cause this is a great moment for it.”
“Suck a dick dude.” Lucky flipped him off, angrily glaring.
“Whoa, whoa, where’s all this hostility coming from?!” Lino jolted on his feet, trying to hide a grin. “Have I been nothing short of supportive? I’ve even gone as far as to ignore your moans that kept me up at night because of how much I care for you!” he slowly walked over toward the two, with Felix’s head having already found his bosom, and even Lucky’s cheeks beginning to burn. “In reality, I’m nothing short of supportive for all of you!” there was but a single thought that suddenly popped inside everyone’s heads: oh no.
“No, no, this is fine,” Lino interrupted Hannah, smiling lightly. “Like, for instance, I’ve never mentioned anything about these two suddenly coming up with fifty chores when they wanted to get down to business,” he pointed at Ella and Eggor, the former quickly sighing and holding back the latter from jumping up. “What? I was fifteen. I wasn’t completely retarded. Or, or, how about the fact that I never mentioned how Scarlet, who was seemingly so much into me she’d burn the world just to touch my ass, was actually just trying to make this little guy jealous?” he pointed at Annar, grinning. “Or how he, for the lack of any balls inside his pants, decided that the best way to win her heart over was to be a complete asshole toward her.”
“My tongue may be vicious,” Lino smiled faintly at everyone. “But at the very least it’s fucking honest, no?”
“...” while everyone began cooking in awkwardness, Annabelle and On’yal began to doubt their sanity; this seemingly random boy suddenly lashed out at everyone present, with even Patriarch Chen and the Unholy Guardian feeling the awkwardness of the situation despite the fact that they were just outsiders looking in.
“Damn, that felt good to get off my chest,” Lino chuckled and took a deep breath, glancing at Scarlet and winking quickly before sitting back down next to Hannah who was doing her best not to burst out in laughter. “Isn’t it great? Doesn’t everyone suddenly feel much closer to one another, huh?”
“Khm, come on, let’s give them some space to properly process that closeness.” Hannah quickly got up and pulled Lino’s arm.
“That’s not actually the reason we’re leaving,” he said quickly. “She’s really just about at her limit, and even a few seconds longer would result in her cracking open with laughter.”
“Goddammit...” Hannah pulled even harder, barely stifling her laughter before the two left the room.
“... well, we did poke the bear.” Ella chuckled faintly, taking a sip of the wine.
“... I just wanna know how he knows so much stuff.” Edward said, looking oddly at the four who were hit the hardest. “Can he read minds or something?”
“He’s probably just really good at reading people,” Jack chimed in. “Or, well, really, really good at reading them.”
“Anyway, you two,” deciding not wait on the sleeping giant, Eggor turned toward Annar and Scarlet who were both currently as red as blood in their faces. “Isn’t it a wonderful occasion, huh? There’s nothing quite as beautiful as the coming of two hearts. Truly a wonder...”
“... s-shut up, you brainless muscle...” Annar stuttered.
“Huh?! What’d you call me, you coward?! Can’t even be honest about your feelings! What kind of a fucked up man are you?!”
“Alright honey, pipe down...”
“Imagine if I was like that!”
“You were. Remember that I had to chase you around for years before you caved in?”
“All I remember is that you followed me around on your knees and begged for my forgiveness, and I eventually took pity on you...”
“... that hurt.”
While the atmosphere inside slowly recovered, Lino and Hannah stood above the entrance to the Titan Realms. They neither had plans nor desires to sit around and wait for the Devils to arrive; even beyond simply picking up Umbra, Lino wanted to explore the last remnants of the Titan Era, as he had a queer sort of interest in it. Even Hannah didn’t know all too much about how Titans lived, which was also the main reason behind her joining the excursion.
“Alright, what’s the real reason you went off like that?” she asked. “I know for a fact that making you lash out like that takes far, far more than what they said.”
“... it’s simple, actually,” Lino smiled faintly. “For Lucky and Felix, I simply wanted to distract them. For all their courage, they were sitting at a table that they would otherwise never have a chance to. For Scarlet and Annar, it was even simpler: I was just fucking tired of them. Just... so goddamn tired.”
“... yeah, I feel you on that one.” Hannah nodded.
“You noticed too?”
“Yup. Wasn’t that hard.”
“Right.” he nodded.
“What about Ella and Eggor then? Don’t you kind of see them as your parents?”
“Oh, I do,” Lino said. “But, I had to make them realize they can’t be there for me all the time,” he continued, smiling gently for a moment. “Force them, at least partly, to understand I’ve got my own role to play on this stage. While hardly enough, it’s a step in the right direction.”
“... I don’t care much for others,” Hannah said as the two slowly walked into the underground tunnel leading to the entrance of the Titan Realms. “But, if you ever play those mind-games with me and I find out... I’ll be very sad, you know?”
“Then I should probably ensure you never find out, huh?”
“Ha ha ha ha, alright, alright. Oh?”
“What is it?” Hannah asked as she saw Lino’s eyes light up.
“Got a word from Non;” he explained. “It looks like our dear Emperor found a way to the Holy Continent.”
“... haaah... that fool. I still don’t understand why you didn’t just kill him, or call us to help you.”
“... why kill off an useful chess piece preemptively? He’s still got a role to play, and not to be a drama-queen or anything, but it’s a quite crucial one.”
“... and when will I be let in on this plan?” she asked as the two suddenly came to a halt, standing in front of a seemingly normal wall; yet the two quickly noticed the small distortions and disfigurements.
“Why’d I do that?” Lino asked, glancing at her and smiling. “I’d much rather surprise you many times along the way.”
“... alright, alright. Play your hymn. Be careful inside, though. For now, we should just stick to the charted areas and proceed outwardly with caution.”
“Yeah... let’s see who the Titans really were before they fell...”