ORDER OF ETERNITY
Hannah was currently sitting inside the massive hall containing the seven gates for seven different Trials, reading an old, worn-out looking book with half a mind on the words and half a mind on the gate of Chaos. She’d come out almost a month ago after spending a whole two inside, and when she didn’t see Lino, she figured he was merely taking his sweet time.
Yet, bit by bit, as days began to pass, she also grew worried. She had half a mind to tear the gate down and just go in and look for him, though she managed to hold back somewhat in the end. Her body shook suddenly, her eyebrows crumpling; reaching into her void treasure, she took out a talisman, her expression distorting somewhat. Reluctantly sending a sliver of Qi into it, she also quickly whipped out the mask and donned it.
“... greetings, Sixty-Eight.” a masked figure showed up on the screen, golden 44 etched on the right cheek of the mask; it wasn’t Hannah’s first time seeing the man, so she replied in kind.
“Neither you nor Seventy-Two had returned to hand in the report regarding your mission.” the man said stoutly.
“During the mission we have discovered the remnant of a Titan Era, which we are currently investigating.”
“That wasn’t your mission, Sixty-Eight.”
“And neither is yours to be a pain in the ass, but what are we gonna do about it?” Hannah grumbled.
“... I understand you come from an upbringing throughout which all your demands were met unquestionably,” he said. “But, this isn’t your home. You are an agent -- not the chosen child. It has been eight years; you ought to begin acting like one.”
“I’ll do my best, I suppose.” Hannah sighed. “Why did you contact me?”
“As you have failed to hand in the report on time, your rewards have been automatically relinquished, and as your mission is over, you two are being assigned a new one.”
“... both of us?” Hannah frowned.
“We have received reports of the Order surging back on the surface,” the man said. “And you two happen to be the closest to it. Not to mention your expertise will come in handy during the mission.”
“... you’re really asking me to sniff out my Brothers and Sisters?” Hannah asked, arching her brows.
“You are Sixty-Eight -- you’ve neither brothers nor sisters. You have missions -- and your mission is to track the Order of Eternity and capture or vanish its members. Your time limit is one year; should you fail to either complete the mission or hand in the report, Seventy-Two will be barred from accepting missions for a decade while you will be jailed inside the headquarters for the same amount of time.”
“... fine.” Hannah said after a short thought, sighing. “Send in the information.”
“Dude, you gotta tell me your secret,” a familiar, amused voice suddenly echoed from behind Hannah’s back, startling her. “How do you hound her in like that?”
“Eh? L--- what are you doing here?” Hannah glanced back and recognized the masked face, crying out.
“Seventy-Two... why have I been unable to contact you?” the man on the screen asked Lino who had been standing behind Hannah silently almost since the start of the conversation.
“So, who’s the dude with the really bad haircut?” Lino asked Hannah, ignoring the man.
“... he’s the mission-handler of the Descent,” Hannah explained. “So, pretty much our boss.”
“I have asked--”
“Yeah, yeah, shut up for a sec, I’m trying to have a conversation here,” Lino growled at the screen before turning his attention back to Hannah. “So, does he really have the right to not give us our rewards?”
“Bullshit!” Lino cried out, crouching down and nearing the screen as close as possible without passing through it. “I’m lodging a complaint, you hear me you asshat?! Call that baldy and his two weirdly-haired henchmen --- by the way, are bad haircuts like our congregation’s staple or something? Just asking! Anyway, call that baldy who gave me the mission, and tell him I’m very agitated at the moment! Oh, and if you could, as a reward for the mission you just assigned us, I’d like a mound of materials! Alright? Great talking you mate! Catch you some other time!” finishing what he had to say, Lino quickly cut the talisman in two and glanced at Hannah who was currently staring at him with a baffled and a startled expression.
“Dude!!” she shot to her feet, crying out. “Y-y-you-- what--”
“Eh, just relax,” Lino shrugged, chuckling. “He wasn’t the guy who gave me the mission.”
“So?! He’s the mission handler!”
“... alright, let me rephrase that,” Lino felt somewhat amused over how startled Hannah was and decided to calm her down instead of playing it up further. “The guy who handed me the mission promised me a reward so long as I completed it within the time limit. Also, despite the fact that he tried to hide it, his number? Single digits.”
“Now, call me crazy, but I imagine that some rando numbered 44 doesn’t exactly have authority over the baldy, right?”
“... y-y-y-you... you met one of the Fallen?!! AND YOU NEVER TOLD ME?!” contrary to his expectations, rather than calming down, Hannah seemed to be flying off the handle.
“... alright, I’m lost.”
“The Fallen! The Descender with the single-digit numbers! The leaders of us all! Hello?! What number was he specifically?!”
“... uh, seven? I think? Might have been four, though. Seven or four, definitely. Maybe eight.”
“Alright, when your brain stops frying itself,” Lino said, sitting down. “You can join me for some fine wine that Ekkly gave me as a parting gift. By the way, what’s Order of Eternity? Somehow connected to your Sect?”
“... I... I really envy you,” Hannah, eventually, settled down and smiled bitterly as she took off the mask. “Your... just... your casual attitude about everything and everyone. Now, I know it stems from godlike levels of stupidity, but it’s really inspiring.”
“... is it me or did you just call me godly stupid?”
“No, it’s not you. I did just call you godly stupid. But it’s good! You know? This way, I can freak out, and you’ll be there to calm me down so at least when I’m being fucked in my head, I’ll be calm about it.”
“... why are you so scared of that dude anyway?” Lino asked, handing her a bottle of wine.
“... because, believe it or not, I did not become a Descender out of good will,” Hannah said. “But because completing missions nets you awards -- big, exclusive, cannot be found anywhere else sort of rewards! And he, well, he’s the guy who says whether I get a reward or not. And I really like getting those rewards Lino. I really, really do. They make my day!”
“... ugh, don’t worry, you’ll get your fucking rewards,” Lino grumbled. “Anyway, what about the Order?”
“... hmm, yeah, you were sort of right,” Hannah said. “Some half a million years ago or so, there was a massive dispute over who was supposed to be the Sect’s next leader. As it often happens, two factions emerged from the ruckus, and, eventually, they splintered entirely. The dissenting faction was formed and they named themselves Order of Eternity. Ever since then, they’ve been out and about, trying to poach our members and, you know, do bad stuff.”
“Like what?” Lino asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. Mostly a lot of murders... robberies... some pillaging... and hunting the Descenders because the Great Descent backed the other faction during the conflict.”
“... so we’re hunting them mostly because of the last one, right?” Link asked.
“Yup.” Hannah said.
“... world is really fucked.”
“Right again. Damn son, you’re on fire!”
“... you’ve never said that before in your life, have you?”
“... eh, there’s a first time for everything. Anyway, how did the Trial go? Right! Why the shit did it take you so long?! Do you know how worried I was?!”
“... b-but... you have my life talisman?” Lino glanced at her quizzically.
“That only tells me you’re alive! It doesn’t tell me whether you’ve still got all your five, functioning limbs!”
“... I had to...” Hannah said.
“... yeah, so, from now on, your left boob is named Jasmine and your right boob is named Angela. Two girls and I will have some fun times without you.”
“... isn’t this like the eighteenth time you’ve named my tits?” Hannah asked. “Soon, you’ll start running out of names, you know? The Trial! Stop changing the subject!”
“Oh, it went pretty great.” Lino said. “Cleared first three... and only almost died like four times altogether. What about you?”
“Heh, cleared five.” Hannah said, smirking.
“... why are you like this?” Lino mumbled, sighing.
“Also crossed Level 2000,” she said. “So there’s that.”
“Oh, so you’re really happy?” Lino asked as an idea popped into his head.
“Of course I am!” Hannah exclaimed, yet suddenly felt a cold chill traveling down her spine. “Wait--”
“But I’m not; I mean, you’re clearly so much better than me that I feel entirely emasculated by you to the point it physically hurts,” Lino began to babble, not allowing Hannah to put a word in. “So, obviously, so I don’t get made fun of, I need to catch up, right? Of course I do! So glad we both agree! So, dive into that treasure trove of yours and whip out some more materials for me to work my magic with!”
“... I hate you.” Hannah cried lowly, yet still reached into the void treasure and began picking like a beggar, feeling ache over each new piece she handed to Lino. “I hate you so much. So... so much...”
“... really?” Lino smiled faintly, brushing the wavy, crimson hair behind her ear.
“... yeah.” she sighed dispiritedly.
“On the other hand,” he said, packing all the materials into his void world. “I love you. What a conundrum, huh?”