Ruins that were vacant for millions of years prior were currently being rummaged through, the noise of footsteps and occasional shouts canceling out the eternal silence that the Titan Realms had been enveloped in.
A massive tower stood erect at the central square of a small-sized town, cracked nearly down to its foundations; roughly dozen people currently stood around it, some examining the surrounding ruins, some chatting, and a few mapping out their exploration so far.
“Damn, those few million of Qi Stones sure paid off,” a young man seemingly in his early twenties chortled, his black hair tied neatly into a tail. A pair of black eyes vivaciously stared at the massive tower and the surrounding area, realizing that boundless riches soon awaited him. “Dan, how far along with mapping are you?”
“We’re over halfway through, Young Master,” Dan was among the older within the group, seemingly middle-aged with graying hair and beard covering his somewhat wrinkled features. “We should be done within a few hours at most.”
“Good,” the young man nodded, smiling. “You’ll all be bountifully rewarded for coming here with me.”
“Young Master, I’m sensing something strange.” a girl standing next to the young man suddenly spoke out with a frown; she had rather delicate, youthful features, yet her eyes spoke an entirely different story. Her somewhat short, brown hair was tied up with colorful hairpins, a long, lavish dress the crown jewel of her appearance.
“What is it Melly?” the young man asked, his tone turning serious.
“... roughly fifty miles west, I’m sensing three sources of Vitality.”
“Aren’t they our scouts I’ve sent ahead?”
“No,” the girl called Melisa shook her head quickly. “They are very distinct. Although one is familiar, I can’t quite pinpoint it.”
“Are they headed here?” the young man asked, frowning as well.
“Well, let’s go and welcome our guests,” he smirked viciously for a moment before relaying orders to a few who would remain on the ground while taking eight people with him to the sky. “Did that bastard sell information to another Sect? Heh, thinking he can swindle the Eternal Paradise? He’s dead meat once we get back.”
Meanwhile, approaching in a rather tranquil atmosphere were Lino, Hannah and Grim. The former two had also sensed the signs of life east of them which dumbfounded them for a moment which was why they decided to head over and investigate. They decided against wearing their masks as this wasn’t exactly excursion ordered by the Great Descent but more of a personal endeavor for the two.
“Hmm?” Hannah exclaimed softly as she raised her head off of Lino’s shoulders, fluttering her eyes open. “They seem familiar...”
“They do?” Lino asked.
“Yeah,” Hannah nodded as her face suddenly lit up strangely. “Oh, they’re members of my own Sect.”
“Eh? The Holy Land?”
“What the fuck are they doing here?”
“Eh, how am I supposed to know?” Hannah shrugged, stretching and standing up, followed shortly after by Lino. “Looks like there are more entrances than just one for the dimension.”
“... ah, I’m gonna get bullied, won’t I?” Lino exclaimed softly as he seemed to have realized something.
“Yeah, probably. Want me to step in?” she smiled sweetly -- on the surface at least.
“Nah, it’s been a while since someone bullied me. It should be a good reminder that the rest of the world is just full of morons waiting for their asses to be kicked by none other but yours truly.”
“... yeah. Who are you telling these things to?” Hannah asked. “It certainly isn’t me. Are you just self-feeding your own ego?”
“If I won’t, who will? Self-love is best kind of love, babe.”
“Self-love is second best kind of love, babe.”
“... so much for standing up for yourself.”
“Hey, I’d rather have sex than have pride.” Lino shrugged.
“... why am I attracted to you?” Hannah mumbled as Grim suddenly stopped flying.
Lino glanced up and saw eight people standing on top of a small, flying battleship. The leading man was clearly the youth up front with long, black hair and a pair of eyes which were currently bulged, focused on Hannah. She, though slightly shocked, merely smiled sweetly and waved.
“Hello Eddy,” she exclaimed with such purity that caused Lino to gag. “Long time no see!”
“L-l-lady Hannah?!! I-is that you?! Is that really you?!!” Lino grew startled as he saw the young man flip out. “W-what... how... when...”
“Ah, I see the rest of the gang is here as well,” Hannah glanced over the rest of the entourage who similarly had trouble processing the reality at the moment. “Ah, Melly? You finally had a kid? How wonderful! Oh, Sven, I see you’ve worked really hard at cultivation! To think you’re so close to becoming a Titular!”
“... who the fuck are you and when did you replace Hannah?” Lino’s genuine question was met with an elbow jab reminding him to keep his mouth shut. Realizing that he was being treated like a ghost, he shrugged, took out a bottle of ale, sat down and began drinking.
“It’s really you, Lady Hannah!!” the young man called Edward exclaimed joyfully. “The Elders have been looking for you for weeks now! It’s good that you’ve returned! We can finally start turning tables in the War!”
“Oh, sorry,” Hannah smiled sweetly. “I did not return, I’m afraid. On my adventures, I’ve picked up a Disciple and I’m currently in the process of accompanying him, I’m afraid.” Lino immediately felt like weeping for he could practically foresee the future.
“Huh?” Edward wince for a moment, glancing at Lino who was currently exuding the aura of someone within the beginning stages of Exalted Realm. “If he’s that important to you, Lady Hannah, why not refer him to the Sect Elders? If he’s worthy of being picked by you, I’m certain he’s talented enough to get into the Sect directly. Though, barely Exalted at thirty...”
“He he, what can I say... I just can’t resist his charms.” realizing that Hannah was plunging him further down into the inferno, Lino finally put away the ale and got up, walking up and standing next to her, glancing casually at her.
“I am sorry for hoarding the Master,” Lino bowed suddenly as Hannah’s eyes flashed in a strange glint. “I was unaware she was required to return. Please, Master, you have taught me enough already. I will forever hold your teachings close to my heart, and should Fate ever will us together in the future -- then it be so. But it is time we parted.”
“... certainly a Lady’s Disciple,” Edward said, nodding satisfyingly toward Lino’s words. “Thank you very much for your understanding, young man.”
“It is only natural.” Lino smiled faintly before bowing once again, sitting back down and taking out the bottle of ale yet again, beginning to drink with expectant gaze plastered on Hannah’s back. Realizing she danced too close to the fire, she sighed bitterly, shaking her head.
“How are things at home, Eddy?”
“... they aren’t good, Lady,” Edward replied, frowning. “Lady Alison has been made a commander of the Secondary Regiment, but as she lacks experience, we have been unable to secure any victories on that front. The First Regiment under Young Master O’on is currently in a stalemate, but we are being pushed back ever so slightly.”
“Eh? They put Ally in charge of an army?” Hannah titled her head in confusion, with even Lino exclaiming inwardly in wonder. “Who made the call?”
“It--it was her Master...” Edward replied meekly.
“That old fart?” Hannah frowned, while the eight standing on top of the ship shuddered. “What the hell did he come out for anyway? To stir things up for no reason? Haah... whatever. I’m sure he has a plan, whatever it is. What are you doing here, though?”
“We have secured information allegedly leading to the yet undiscovered Titan Ruins,” Edward’s excitement returned as he replied. “It turned out, however, that they weren’t just ruins -- it was an entire dimension of them! We have informed the Elders but as they are too busy with the war, they allowed us to explore the outskirts at our discretion.”
“Hmm, yeah, that sounds about right.” Hannah nodded, stroking her chin for a moment. “Anyway, I --” Hannah, Lino, as well as Edward and the rest suddenly all frowned and turned their heads sideways as the space suddenly raptured. Void spun into a vortex, the band quickly realizing it was a teleporting array. Lino moved Grim closer to the ship as they all faced toward the tear through which a massive warship suddenly came gunning, helmed with a sigil of a golden shield.
“Shit,” Edward suddenly cursed. “Melly, go and secure those on the ground! The rest, prepare for the battle, now!!”
“Eh?” Lino exclaimed, still sucking onto the bottle. “What’s wrong?” he asked Hannah.
“There’s gonna be a huge battle soon,” Hannah replied hurriedly, her eyes darting about. “Please, keep them safe. Just dart around and save them if they’re in trouble. Can you do it?”
“Sure.” Lino nodded, quickly jumping onto his feet. “But wouldn’t it be better if I fought directly?”
“... right, let’s pin the Exalted kid against the Titulars,” Hannah replied, rolling her eyes at him. “And watch that kid whoop their asses, because that makes sense. Just keep them safe and leave the fighting to me, alright?”
“Alright,” Lino walked up and smiled, grabbing at Hannah’s behind for a moment. “Knock ‘em dead babe.”
“... sigh, in more ways than one, you have absolutely no intention of ever growing up, do you?” Hannah asked, smiling bitterly.
“Nope!” Lino exclaimed cheekily before jumping off Grim and disappearing within the ruins, darting about like a shadow, ready to rescue all those who needed it.