LAWS OF NATURE
While Lino’s expression remained entirely confused as he tried to unravel the bombardment of information he’d just received, the old man leaned leisurely in the chair, taking out a cup of warm tea and drinking it with gleeful expression. He didn’t have intention to unload so much on him, but considering the acquired grievances, he felt it was just.
Meanwhile, Lino had long since spiraled into a nebulous dimension of thoughts where very few things made sense. Trying to figure it all out independently of asking Ataxia appeared fruitless as he simply couldn’t wrap his head around numerous concepts tied to the whole narrative; the very concepts of the existence, creation, universe and matter and energy were still quite dubious to him as whole, rendering practically the entirety of the story more difficult to comprehend.
Throughout the years, he’d spent a lot of his free time contemplating on the possibilities and theorizing the potential realities, yet the entire house of cards he’d built up from his own perceptions had collapsed. Very rarely does one undergo a life-altering moment where everything they believe in shatters and they need to start anew, but he has. Picking up the pieces of his naive, innocent understandings of the world, he pulled himself out of the limbo and glanced at the smirking, old man.
Above all, he was thankful -- thankful that for the first time someone was straightforward with him. The old man didn’t give him riddles or vague nonsense, but an answer -- direct, brutal, eye-opening one. Lino had also realized that the old man had accepted him, for better or worse, as the Empyrean. It was the recognition of someone belonging on the stage above, and it wasn’t the recognition derived from personal reasons.
“... thanks.” Lino said with a serious expression. “It means a lot.”
“You recovered rather quickly.” the old man said. “Or did you spiral back into denial?”
“Ha ha, no, I don’t think even I could willfully deny all that. Sometimes the cup really is full.”
“... well, you’re handling it better than I expected.”
“What’d you expect?” Lino.
“Well, mainly for you to fall into the pitfall of self-doubt, existential crisis, bawling your eyes out while rolling over the floor for the few years to come.”
“Oh, wow, you have a really low opinion of me, huh?”
“Can you blame me?” the old man chuckled.
“... that’s a lot to contemplate on.” Lino mumbled. “But, some other day perhaps. Now, because you were so mean to me, I think some additional rewards are in order!”
“... just spill what you want,” the old man groaned. “Don’t play the innocent-game with me.”
“Eh, if you wanna be blunt, sure. Give me some books on Laws of Time and Death.” the old man suddenly gagged as he spat out a mouthful of tea, staring at Lino wide-eyed.
“... y-you... you chose those two to start with?!” he stuttered meekly.
“Huh? Yeah? Something wrong with that? I mean, I already managed to establish a link with them, so I figured it can’t hurt to dive a bit deeper, right?” Lino replied, confused.
“Oh, of course, you already established a link. With Laws of Time and Death. Before turning thirty. That’s not odd. Not odd at all.” the old man mumbled into his jaw.
“... how’s that denial going?” Lino asked, chuckling.
“Great, great. You don’t see me shoving my finger through my eye and poking my brain, do you?”
“... yeah... what’s with the reaction? Was I supposed to master some others first?”
“... aah, it’s not that,” the old man sighed in defeat. “In reality, we have little control over which first few Laws we master.”
“How come?” Lino asked.
“Because they’re intricately linked with who we are,” the old man explained. “So, we generally tend to have this innate pull toward them and subconsciously gravitate toward them.”
“... old man, I think you just slapped me with the worst insult of my life and you weren’t even meaning to do it.”
“No, no, in your case it actually makes more than enough sense now that I think about it,” the old man said. “I mean, you were surrounded by death since your early childhood and it’s not as though you ever feared sticking your dick in its business.”
“Time, however, is more relative as it can have numerous interpretations; my best guess is that you feel you never have enough time to do anything, and that it’s escaping you.”
“There’s a peculiar saying in the mortal world,” the old man spoke out after a few moments of silence between the two. “Laws are dead, but people are alive. In essence it means that sometimes following laws to the tiniest detail is wrong, but, the saying can also be applied to us. Laws in and of themselves merely regulate the way the nature is -- their default state of being is non-interactive. It’s up to us to actually make something of them. That’s why, depending on your own state of being through life, you will feel more closeness to specific Laws.”
“For instance, Tribes of the Northern Plateaus of the Holy Continent are perpetually exposed to almost unbearable chill since their early childhoods which means that vast majority of their children first master the Law of Frost. Similar case, for instance, is for the Cults residing on the Shadow Isles, as they receive very little sunlight due to the surrounding mountains which loom over them.”
“... so the residents first master the Law of Shadow?”
“Yes,” the old man nodded. “That’s why the so-called Ancestral Sect Grounds exist in the first place. It isn’t merely nostalgia that’s keeping them there, but the Law Inheritance.”
“But, anyway, I’m afraid I don’t have any books on the Laws.”
“Huh?!” Lino frowned.
“Or, to be more precise, even if you literally had every book on Laws ever written, they would all be entirely useless to you. We all perceive and interact with Laws differently, and we all have our own individual experiences linking us to them. Mastery of Laws is an entirely blind alleyway for everyone, and that’s pretty much one of the few places where all individuals have equal starting points.”
“I wouldn’t be worried if I were you, though,” the old man chuckled as he saw Lino’s strange expression. “Future accidents notwithstanding, mastering Laws ought to be the easiest thing you’ll do in your life.”
“... huh.” Lino mumbled, stroking his chin. “Should I aim for all 72?” the old man merely rolled his eyes at Lino’s own ramble, unwilling to humor him.
“Instead of books on Laws, how about a Martial Art?”
“I can’t use Martial Arts. Geez, it’s like you don’t know anything about the Empyreans.”
“... you really never miss an opportunity to stroke your own ego or shit on another’s, huh?” the old man sighed, shaking his head. “Of course I know that. But you already have Martial Arts, right? It’s not as though nobody has ever created a Chaos-exclusive Martial Art before. And while I’m certain Ataxia has them all, you’re still way too weak to utilize about ninety-nine percent of them.”
“... aww, you and I are so alike, Grampa!” Lino exclaimed with a grin.
“I’m not your gr--!! Ah, whatever. Here.” procuring a rather thick book from seemingly nowhere, the old man threw it at Lino without even looking at him. The latter grabbed and quickly inspected it.
<Unshackled -- Low-tier Divine Martial Art>
-- Removes body’s limits temporarily --
“... that’s... quite a detailed explanation...” Lino whined lowly.
“It’s simple,” the old man said. “It has similar properties to your <Berserk> ability and its removal of Attack Speed restriction -- just, you know, on a much larger scale. Like most of your abilities, it’s a double-edged sword; it temporarily allows you to exceed your potential strength in return for, you know, crippling you afterwards.”
“... how strong will I have to get till I can use those cool-looking abilities?” Lino asked quickly. “All I have at the moment is body-enhancing techniques that basically tell me ‘hey, fuck your body, fuck your mind, go jump in there and let others fuck them up further’.”
“... much, much stronger.” the old man said, smiling. “For instance, the First Form of the <Sword of Chaos> -- [Brilliance of Entropy] -- requires you to be at least a Void Titular with complete mastery of one Law, at least 200,000 Strength, 300,000 Vitality and -- well, you’ve already fulfilled the Will requirement, you freak.”
“... yeah, this is fine.” Lino said dispiritedly. “This is completely fine. I’ll just, you know, keep throwin’ myself at ‘em. That’s fine.”
“... you’re like a woman who repeatedly keeps asking whether she’s really pretty or not,” the old man said, his eyes turning into slits. “Either you just want validation or are genuinely insecure... whichever one, though, neither makes you anything more than irritating.”
“... oh, wow. Somebody finally called me out on it, ha ha ha,” Lino suddenly burst out into laughter. “Every time I’d whine like it, I’d see people wince and cringe, but nobody ever called my bull. At times, I really wanted to explode over how frustrated I was.”
“... yeah. I give up. I’ll never understand you.”
“To understand me is very simple, actually,” Lino said, putting the book away. “Think of how a normal person would react to something, then remove reason, sanity, and sense of disgust from them and, well, you get me -- the soon-to-be-Void-Titular, Primal Jackass!”
“... you’re not actually going to choose that one as your Title, right?”
“... eh, I don’t know. I’m thinking about it. It suits me well, right?”
“... and thus the world wept unto his stupidity, tears filling crevices, cries replacing the winds; oh the woeful world, didst thou giveth us a moron for a savior?”
“... yeah, yeah, I deserved that.” Lino nodded, though his mind had already trailed onto his last -- and most important -- request from the old man: the materials. Lots and lots of materials. So many materials they would last him whole lifetimes.