HARBINGER OF CHAOS (IV)
Lino took his sweet time re-charging after crafting the [Dragon Slayer]; after all, he’d begun doing so shortly after the already exhausting battle, with little to no downtime, which only further crippled his ability to exist. He crashed for full three days, sleeping away the tiredness, before begrudgingly waking up for a single meal and then crashing yet again for whole two days.
At the end of his sleeping bender, though still feeling somewhat drowsy, he felt re-awakened in a sense -- namely because he’d come close to another great barrier of cultivation, Aeonian Realm. Only mere ten levels short of crossing the barrier, currently sitting at Level 360, he was somewhat excited as Aeonian Realm signaled something quite tempting to a lot of people -- practical immortality.
While no true immortality existed -- as even the Writ had told him he had an expiration date -- there were ways to extend -- really extend -- one’s lifespan considerably, and the most desired of them was the Aeonian Realm. Bar no accidents, just getting to Level 370 means one can live for just over a billion years, a concept Lino simply had no ability to comprehend.
Despite the fact that he wasn’t nearly as enticed by the concept of longevity as some others, it didn’t mean that he was completely indifferent to it. In addition, it signaled that he was slowly catching up to the pack -- albeit extremely slowly. After all, his weapons and armors can only go so far in evening out the playing field and he can’t rest his laurels on them for all eternity. One day or another, he’ll have to step up himself and catch up.
Shortly after gorging himself in a meal and a barrel of ale, Ekkly showed up next to him out of thin air. The Titan Spirit had a somewhat dubious look in his eyes as he looked at Lino, wondering when did cultivators require sleep, food and drinks to function, but decided against asking.
“Lord Empyrean, are you prepared for the Second Trial?” he asked.
“What’s it about?” Lino asked.
“... of course it is.” Lino sighed, stretching. “What’s it called?”
“Duels of Fate.” Ekkly replied nimbly. “It pertains to successfully dueling those above your realm.”
“Oh?” Lino’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Are we allowed to use external items?”
“Yes, you are allowed to use weapons and armors,” Ekkly chuckled. “Otherwise, I’d have already suggested you leave.”
“Why?” the lit eyes dimmed almost immediately.
“The weakest opponent you’ll face will be Level 1500.” Ekkly replied. “After all, I did say these trials were designed for Titular Voids.”
“... yeah, yeah, you did mention that. Huh. Fighting someone over thousand levels above me. I remember when my greatest problem was whether I’d find something else to eat besides dirt and grass’ roots. I kind of miss those days, to be honest.”
“Oh, it’s not over...”
“--as the trials were designed for Titans, you too shall face Titans.”
“... as in, you know, giant, walking mountains?” Lino asked.
“... is there a way for you to scale them down to, you know, reasonable height?”
“... huh. ‘s that so.”
“Okay, you seriously have to stop pausing midway through your explanations! You’re giving me a migraine here dude!” Lino protested in frustration.
“Forgive me, Lord Empyrean.”
“Yeah, yeah, in addition to what?”
“In addition,” Ekkly spoke slowly. “Besides the Primary Duel, you will also face the hordes of enemies that accompany the Titans as servants.”
“... what numbers are we talking about here?” Lino, strangely, didn’t seem that upset.
“...” Ekkly looked on and saw that the indifferent expression slowly turned into excitement, despite Lino’s best attempts to hide it. “Is everything okay?”
“O-okay? Pfft, no, I mean, of course not everything’s okay! I-I mean, I have to, you know, fight a freaking Titan and then a host of his minions, that’s just--just terrible... pfft... khm...”
“... very well. There are in total three duels,” Ekkly said. “You only need to obtain victory in the first one; the second one entails you to additional reward, and obtaining victory in the third entails you to choose a single item from the remaining treasury.”
“... what’s the catch?” Lino asked.
“Second duel is against a Level 3000 Titan, and the third is against Level 5000.”
“... of course it is.” Lino sighed.
“If you ever decide to give up, just voice it -- no matter how loud or silent -- and I’ll end the trials. However, remember that if you choose to give up during the First Duel, you’ll have no chances left for taking the Trials ever again.”
“Alright, sounds reasonable.” Lino took in a deep breath, readying himself. “Send me to my death, Ekkly!”
“It’s a saying... it’s... it’s a goddamn saying...”
“Oh. Very well then. I shall send you to your death, Lord Empyrean.”
Ekkly slowly vanished, leaving Lino alone in the empty chamber. Just as he began suspecting something went wrong, space next to him vibrated and shook, forcing him to look sideways. There stood a spinning vortex -- the size of a small mountain -- causing Lino to bitterly smile. Though he was excited to test out the [Dragon Slayer] against a small army of enemies, there was also the Titan he’d have to face.
Not only did he know next to nothing about Titans’ physique, he also had absolutely no idea on how the Titans fought. It was also then that he realized that he’d have to do what he opted out of doing ever since the Trials began: begrudgingly ask the Writ for the advice.
“... so?” Lino mumbled faintly, still refraining from entering into the vortex.
“Just remember that time and speed are relative,” the Writ replied. “But that the blunt force of impact is pretty squared out across the board. I’d suggest you avoid getting hit at all cost, even with the armor on. Roughly ninety-eight percent of Titans practiced Body Cultivation, which is also where the vast majority of Cultivation Methods for Body Cultivation come from. You’ll finally face someone who has all your strengths, but none of your weaknesses. Good luck.”
“... my weaknesses? Pshh, I don’t have any weaknesses.”
“Your Level, Realm, lack of Martial Arts--”
“Dude! You can read my freaking mind!” Lino grumbled. “You know I didn’t mean it!”
“Alright, so don’t get hit. Great advice. Great... advice...”
Taking another deep breath, he slowly walked through the vortex, enduring the spatial drag for a few seconds before being spat out on the other end. He found himself standing within a gigantic hall, so large that Lino was completely gobsmacked and at a loss for words when it came to describing it.
It was simply... big. So big, as the matter of the fact, that he was unable to clearly see the ceiling. So big that even the rug’s thickness beneath his feet... was three times as big as he was. The hall was so big, actually, that Lino contemplated for a second whether he’d become an ant... or some even smaller insect.
It took his mind quite a few moments to focus upfront, where a massive, over two hundred meters tall humanoid-shaped piece of rock sat. Unlike Ekkly, who was just stone, the Titan before Lino also wore a set of armor dyed entirely silver. By his side was a ginormous spear, which Lino at first though was yet another pillar supporting the massive hall -- but it wasn’t.
The Titan’s eyes slowly opened, and just like with Lino, it took him awhile to move his eyes from front to down, only to spot a small dot in the distance glaring at him. Confused at first, he leaned a bit closer in and snickered.
“... adorable.” a coarse voice shook Lino’s eardrums for a moment. “Will you... become my pet? I promise to feed you every day.”
“...” Lino’s eyebrows twitched, yet he was also half a wit away from bursting into laughter. “Funny. I was gonna ask you the same thing. We don’t have anything this big anymore in my time; you’d make all the ladies I meet swoon and go over the moon for me.”
“Oh? You can talk? Now I want you as a pet even more.”
“Well, you’ll first have to whoop my ass!” Lino exclaimed as he whipped out the [Dragon Slayer] from his void world. “And I promise you, this little pet has some pretty sharp claws!”
“I... I can’t fight you,” the Titan sighed. “You are too adorable.”
“... dude, do you want me to start insulting you? Because I kind of like you, actually. It’d do no good for either one of us if you suddenly decided you don’t want me as a pet, but as a carcass you can decorate your room with.”
“Hehe, words can’t hurt me, little human.”
“Really?” Lino suddenly grinned evilly. “Then, I suppose, you won’t mind if I point out that your eyes look like two suns...”
“Who hate each other so much they constantly have to look away from one another.”
“And, I suppose,” Lino continued. “You won’t mind if I point out that you’re by far the smallest Titan I’ve ever heard of. Or, because words can’t hurt you, I suppose you won’t mind me saying that the size of that spear is definitely overcompensating for something. I can’t say what, but, you know, definitely something.”
“And, you definitely won’t mind me saying -- because, you know, words can’t hurt you -- that you have by far the weirdestly-shaped head I’ve ever seen in my life! What’s that?! Is it a pear? Is it a tear? Is it a peni--”
“I am Agguv Ook,” the Titan interrupted Lino, suddenly getting off his chair, the previous amicable demeanour completely vanishing. “Third of his Name, Titular Spear of the North. I have lived for many moons, little human, but have never met anyone who disrespected me so. You shall pay!”
“... oh. So I guess words can hurt.”
“Well, whatever,” Lino shrugged, taking a battle stance. “Swords hurt even more.”