GATEWAY OF ENTROPY (III)
Explosion cast blazing blanket over the sky as a smoked trail flattened out; shortly after, a golden blast fizzled past the barrier of light, encroaching on the impossible. Lino held tightly onto the sword, every fiber of his being screaming with energy, as he whipped out the [Spear of Salvation] in addition.
Etvenya was currently flying back uncontrollably, doing her best to slow down the descending momentum to no avail. There was a massive gash over the right side of her chest, bleeding profusely with seemingly no intention of healing. Gritting her teeth, she unchained her Will and circled herself with it, rousing winds and fires in unification of Laws. A barrier broke down like glass as she infused the energy directly into the spear, feeding it with frenzy.
A metallic clash resonated fiercely, with both of them feeling as though they’ve hit an impenetrable wall. Lino roared freely, feeding the madness dousing his heart as he retracted the spear and used it to flay about up front. It wasn’t a mere clash of weapons, but the clash of outstanding Wills; behind the two, inching close to the ten meters of length, appeared mirages. Etvenya was more subtle, silver in hue, with clear, milky eyes and edges enshrouded in mist.
Lino’s, on the other hand, seemed to completely contrast her; jet-black in color, with eyes burning fierce crimson, it seemed like an incantation of death and hell itself had come to life. It was more visible, more corporeal, and vastly more direct. Pushing every inch of himself to its fullest capacity, Lino at last broke past the barrier and managed to strike her, piercing the side of her body with a spear. Crying out in pain, Etvenya shuffled sideways and avoided the [Dragon Slayer]’s slash while returning fire by summoning sixteen chakrams in total and bending them into a flanking formation.
Lino entirely ignored the circulatory objects cutting into his skin, accepting the wounds like they were badges of honor as he pursued her in unlimited capacity. The sky was repeatedly being ripped open in a continuum of utter, wanton destruction. Scars ran rampart, visible even to the most naked eye; yet, neither of the two had mind to pay attention to their surroundings.
Realizing her counter-attack yielded little result, Etvenya switched tactics yet again, deciding to once more stimulate her Will. Although she was never the true creme de la crem, she was -- as most Empyreans -- unwilling to bend and bow to someone else. Her heart was ignited with a spirit of the battle, her eyes briefly flickering in the same madness that Lino’s possessed. Meeting him tit-for-tat, she abandoned reasoned fighting and went into the full-on exchange of wounds.
Blood flew like a waterfall from both of them, limbs cut and regrown repeatedly, cuts and gashes and holes filled and ripped open time and again. There were no screams of pain, no agonizing cries, just roars of absolution, as though two Primordial Beasts had engaged in a territorial battle.
Each explosion sent a collective shockwave which rippled for thousands of miles, encompassing both the earth and the sky and ripping apart everything in its wake. The world had surrendered to the two and begged silently for it all to be done; yet it continued. A day... two... soon, a whole week had gone by, and the two were still engaged in a fierce struggle.
Lino had long since burned through his Qi reserves and was running on fumes. He fought through the numerous <Berserk> withdrawals, he’d fought through his weakest and strongest, and he pushed and was pushed back. It was the most taxing fight he had ever been involved in and it had given him a brief insight into what every battle he’d engage in would become eventually -- a lengthy struggle that should never be encouraged.
He never let himself grow or even feel remotely tired, remotely unwilling; his evolved Will slowly but surely was polished, forged through the flames of the lasting struggle. It was well beyond the point of admitting surrender for, now, if he did, he’d have reversed all the progress he’d made over the past week.
The change happened on the ninth dawn; once again Lino had activated <Berserk>, pushing himself well beyond his body’s capacity. His muscles ruptured, bones broke, tendons ripped apart, veins popped like balloons, eyes bulged like a pair of saucers; every inch of his body was screaming at him that it was impossible, yet he ignored it. He ignored the pain, the agony, brief disassociation of his body and soul, even the brief revolt of his Will... he went against himself till the point of no return, whereupon he felt a sudden gush of revitalizing energy surge from within.
It was freeing, liberating, all-encompassing sort which almost immediately healed all of his wounds. He felt reborn within that brief second, even indestructible to a degree.
Etvenya stood to the side and let it happen; the moment she’d sensed that familiar energy, she too felt a sort of release -- for she had realized she’d lost. Her lips curled up into a liberating smile, her lungs breathing out a breath she’d seemingly been holding for nine days, her whole body relaxing into the perpetual state of freedom.
“... it has never been more beautiful to witness the birth of an Aeonian.” she spoke in a softened, melodic tone for the first time.
“... and it has never been more beautiful to witness someone’s veneer falling apart.” Lino said, smiling back as he did his best to control almost unsustainable energy fiercely digging through his body.
“How does it feel to effectively be an Immortal?”
“Eh, I felt better.”
“As one does,” she says. “Congratulations, Lino. And thank you.”
“Thank me?” he tilted his head in confusion.
“Thanks to you, I’ve at least had the chance to experience what I was missing during my years as an Empyrean,” she said. “And consolidate my regrets before burning them away. But, you have it. You have what Eve had... you have what Dawntone had... you have what Rygone had... what Eldon had... and, I’m certain, you’ll soon be standing on the same sky as they did.”
“... I’m honored?” Lino mumbled as he only recognized one name in there - Eve - and it was because Umbra mentioned her once.
“Ha ha, it seems you don’t yet know who they are. It’s fine; but, just so you aren’t completely in the dark over the compliment... they are some of the individuals who had managed to open at least 30 Gates.”
“... holy crap.”
“Ha ha, yes,” Lino mused inwardly that her demeanour had completely changed, once again facilitating his somewhat broken theory that the source of happiness is being at peace with who you are first and foremost. “They were close, Lino. I hope... with all my heart and soul, that you will manage to cross the bridge they hadn’t. I hope you will rectify us, and once and for all cement our lineage of madness and scar the world permanently with it.”
“... well, that’s one fucked up request. But also one I’ll happily oblige.” Lino had finally managed to control the surge of Qi and settle down, at least for the time being. “Why were you never able to open as many Gates?” he asked quizzically.
“... opening the Gates has little to do with your Level or your cultivation realm,” she explained with a somewhat nostalgic expression. “In reality, it has far more to do with everything else. For instance, during our fight, when you linked Laws of Time and Death -- do you think you touched them because of your cultivation? No... you touched upon them because of your Will, because of the consolidation of factors. That, in part, was what I lacked. To take the impossible... and still do it. I’ve never managed to reverse my Fate, yet you seem to have done it more than once already. That confidence in yourself... I, instead, was oftentimes filled with doubt, with wondering whether I was capable. Just as it cripples other cultivators, it does the same to an Empyrean. Never, ever, ever allow doubt to become your crucible, Lino.”
“Well, if there’s one thing I really get,” Lino chuckled. “It’s self-love. I’ve known hell that is self-doubt, and it’s not pretty. If you can’t believe in yourself... then how can you expect others to do it?”
“... yeah, Ataxia told me that one often.”
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Lino mumbled, frowning. “He seems to have repeatedly encouraged every single one of you, but all I get is either some form of silent treatment or ‘suffering unto yourself will make you stronger’. He said like three nice words to me since the day I met him.”
“... that only means he trusts you unconditionally,” she suddenly burst out into laughter as though she suddenly remembered something. “Ah, you remind me a lot of Eldon.”
“Who was he?” Lino asked.
“... you will definitely partake in his Archaic Record, so I’d rather not spoil the surprise. I have a feeling, though, you might possibly hate him in the end.”
“Eh, that’s not really all that hard to predict,” Lino shrugged. “I hate most of the people I meet.”
“... that’s hard to imagine.” Etvenya smiled faintly, looking up toward the slowly restoring sky. “My time has run out, it seems. I am somewhat glad that of all the possibilities, I was chosen to face you. Because... for the longest time... I had always wanted to ask the likes of you... how do you do it? How do you make the impossible... possible?” she glanced at him with interest, her eyes brimming with desire to know. Lino thought for a brief moment before replying.
“It’s simple,” he smiled. “Just never let yourself believe... anything is impossible. Because, the moment you do, you create the barrier that is nigh impossible to dissolve. If anything is possible, then it’s doable. However hard, however tiring, however challenging... it can be done. And it will be done. Over and over. Until you prove to the world, to all those who think like you, to all those who give up because something is impossible... that they are just scared. And that they only need a bit of courage... not courage given to them by others, but courage to believe in themselves unconditionally.”
“... it really is simple.” she smiled widely for a moment as he figure grew more transparent as seconds passed. “Anything is possible. So... it was possible for me to win?”
“And to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do?”
“... good. That’s good. Thank you. And farewell, Lyonel. May the Chaos forever shroud you in infinity.”
“... farewell. See you on the other side.” he mumbled with a faint smile as Etvenya disappeared from his sight. “Wherever that may be...”