Lino slowly opened his eyes, a hair-raising groan of agony quickly escaping his dried, trembling lips. Aside from the exhaustion which had overwhelmed his entire body, the parched throat and the bare-bones ability to breathe, the biggest concern was the splitting headache. He felt as though someone was repeatedly hammering his skull, caving it in over and over while it regenerated.
Barely holding back a scream of pain, he sat up and whipped out an assortment of booze, quickly downing the contents. Though it hardly helped with the headache, it revitalized his body with some freshness it needed. Looking around, he felt slightly confused; sitting inside a gigantic crater whose ends he could barely spot in the distance, the last thing he remembered was stabbing the [Dragon Slayer] into the ground. After that... nothing.
However, looking around, he couldn’t help but feel a slight sliver of pride surge from within as he was fairly certain the cause of the massive crater was him. Yet, that pride quickly vanished once headache grew stronger, even causing him to cry out in pain momentarily, clutching at the sides of his head. He didn’t know why -- the attack he performed, while draining, certainly was neither large enough to make him pass out and especially cause such a massive headache.
“Goddammit dude, can’t you do something about this?!” he cried out angrily into the world.
“No.” the Writ replied simply.
“You can’t or won’t?!”
“... eh?” Lino exclaimed, somewhat surprised. “Did... did you lose your powers or something?”
“... I’ll choke you to death.”
“I can’t divulge the source of your headache,” the Writ said. “But, I can tell you it’s not bad. It’s the good kind of headache.”
“... forget choking, I’ll set you on fire and then have you oiled up and over till every inch of your goddamn body is scalding.”
“Just endure it,” the Writ said. “It will pass soon.”
Lino went silent begrudgingly, waiting for it to pass soon. That ‘soon’, however, quickly turned into an hour... then two... then ten... and ‘soon’ the two days had passed, during which he hadn’t had a wink of sleep. He felt cranky, angry, betrayed, but couldn’t voice out the frustration as he spared no focus on maintaining his sanity that the headache tried to take away.
At last, almost three full days later, he was free from it. He felt... alive. Free. Inspired. He had realized just how short life was, and that he didn’t need to change anything about his as he was already doing everything right. Though not exactly having learned a lesson of sorts, he did come out of the scalding pain somewhat more brightened and mature.
“... one day,” Lino mumbled faintly and angrily, clasping his fingers into a fist. “I’ll strap you to a chair, tear hooks into your skin, and then dismember you limb by limb while still letting you live, before shoving tiny, poisonous needles into every inch of your body... still keeping you alive... before finally, ten years -- cent-- ten thousand years later, I’ll set you on fire and end your suffering.”
“Is anything the matter, Lord Empyrean?” Ekkly’s voice brought him back to the reality.
“... no. Everything’s just dandy.” Lino forced a smile on his face, yet Ekkly merely shuddered in a response.
“U-uh... d-do you wish to continue this Trial or receive your award?”
“I’ll take the award.” Lino decided to stop and not test himself any further, as he very much believed he was simply unfit to face a Level 3000 Titan.
“Very well,” Ekkly smiled faintly. “As Lord Agguv was very pleased with your showing, he’s allowed me the right to give you an additional reward. The first reward is an Unique item; though it had little value during the Titan Era as it was rather easy to craft, I imagine it’s very much one of the rarest materials currently known to a man.” Ekkly took something out of the void world and handed it over to Lino who took it rather happily.
It was a small, egg-sized sphere, jagged by the edges, made seemingly out of the mixture of stone and metal. There was a finger-sized wide hole tracing from top through the bottom, exposing the heart of the sphere with was a small, barely visible glimmer of cyan light. Lino dubiously checked out the stats.
[Titan’s Heart - Unique Artifact]
Special Effect: Loses 1 Durability every 24 hours; once it reaches 0, it is destroyed
Special Effect [Heart of the Titan] -- socket the Heart into the breastplate to give it the following:
+1000% to base Defense
+1200% to base Vitality
+600% to base Strength
+100% to base Elemental Resistances
- -- immediately heal all wounds, physical and mental - costs 40% of total Qi reserves; recharge time 7 days
- -- gain temporary, Absolute Resistance to all control effects; 50% chance to reflect the effects back onto the caster; duration - 15 seconds, recharge time 1 day
- -- gain 1% to base attack speed for every non-Body Cultivator enemy present (stacks up to 50%)
Note: One of the last remaining hearts of the Titan Race; treasure bounding age, it is something that everyone searches for, yet very few find.
Shortly after reading over the stats, Lino plopped onto the ground, his eyes vacant. He had a terribly tough time comprehending just how something so... ugly-looking could be so beyond powerful. Just the ‘absolute heal’ effect was already beyond insane, to say nothing of the utterly ridiculous increases to Base Stats of the armor, and perhaps the most insane thing of all - Absolute Resistance. ‘Control effects’ is an umbrella term for a massive array of things, including illusions, slows, freezing, basically anything that even in the tiniest bits inconveniences the body -- and this even includes spatial deformation.
In his many years as a blacksmith, he’d dreamed numerous times of creating an armor with a special effect of giving temporary Absolute Resistance to a single element... never anything close to this, though.
“From your expression I’d imagine it’s to your liking.” Ekkly said, feeling somewhat proud as well at the moment as it was the first time his actions had trumped over Lino’s mind rather than the other way around.
“... you... you got any more of these?” Lino asked with a greedy expression.
“Apologies, no.” Ekkly said.
“But, I do have your second reward here. Although it may not have the same value as the [Titan’s Heart], I am fairly certain you will appreciate it greatly.”
Just a mere glance at the object had Lino reeling as he immediately recognized it -- it was a Singularity! A small globe of light hovered above Ekkly’s stretched arm, with small bolts of lightning crackling about. Lino grasped and took it with shaking hands; these rewards were simply insane, he mused inwardly.
[Singularity of Oom -- Unique]
Requirement: Level 4,000
That excitement, however, quickly dwindled as he realized he can’t use it... and won’t be able to use it for most-likely centuries, if not thousands of years. He gave a quick stink eye to Ekkly who smiled bitterly before explaining.
“While it is true that you can’t actually consume the Singularity and make it your own,” Ekkly said. “You can use to it constantly feed your own Singularity, enriching it in the process and, if luck is on your side, even prompting the Evolution.”
“... well, I certainly got someone close to me who’s lucky.” Lino grinned sheepishly at his own joke, while Ekkly wondered whether he’d gone insane. “Aah... I suppose it’s fine. The [Titan’s Heart] is already beyond generous, I can’t have asked for more. Wait, it says here that the item’s level is 8,600. Does that mean that Oom was the same level?” Lino asked, his brows furrowed.
“No,” Ekkly shook his head as Lino sighed in relief. “Lord Oom was over Level 18,000 at the time of his death. However, due to the passage of time, the Qi within the Singularity leaked enough to downgrade it.”
“... Level 18,000 you say?” Lino chuckled moronically, feeling tears encroach upon his tired eyes. “What in the hell am I doing with my life? Feeling so proud over becoming an Exalted, and soon to become an Aeonian... what worth is my weak ass? I should just off myself and let the Level 18,000 guys handle this shit...”
“Aah, don’t be dispirited, Lord Empyrean,” Ekkly chuckled. “Lord Oom, after all, was nearly a billion years old when he fell. He was rather untalented, and was considered among the weakest even in his prime.”
“... you’re not helping man.”
“The point is that, with your age, you are merely slightly behind the average curve of Cultivation speed. Furthermore, Lord Empyreans have never really prided themselves with high levels; to them, Levels hardly ever meant anything, as it’s simply an average of all the person’s stats. For instance, Lady Empyrean Villen was Level 1,900 when she fell, but she was able to go toe-to-toe with Level 10,000 and over foes. By your very nature, most of your innate stats go into Strength and Vitality, with dozens of others remaining rather... weak. If just Strength and Vitality were taken into account, for instance, you’d be almost Level 8,000 right now.”
“... thanks.” Lino, indeed, felt somewhat better. He’d also come to realize a long time ago that Levels didn’t really account for much when it came to the actual battle strength. As Ekkly said, there are dozens of stats, and Level is just an average number of them all. It didn’t account for how the stats accompany the fighter’s style, or the Martial Arts, or even the purity, density and quantity of Qi. It was just a number, after all. “But... but... it would be ten thousand times cooler if my Level wasn’t so low...” he still whined and cried, though. At the very least outwardly.