Lino sat on top of the final terrace of the tribal grounds, where Valkryia’s chambers were stationed, just outside of them, heaving his legs over the edge, sipping ale ever so often. He’d occasionally glance downwards where life went on, though, from time to time, many would look up and chatter in low mums. His lips stretched up into a smile as he shook his head, wondering whether he’ll ever get accustomed to it.
“Your Majesty,” Valkryia’s voice caused his smile to turn bitter as he glanced sideways where she slowly sat. “Do you require something?”
“You’ve taken good care of them.” Lino said.
“Of course. It’s my job.”
“What’s with the formation?”
“Ah, I was wondering when will that be brought up,” she chuckled, taking the bottle from him as he whipped out another one for himself. “Just not so long ago, you’d done something kind of insane.”
“Oh.” Lino exclaimed. “You mean the eyes?”
“Aye, the eyes,” she said. “On that day, every single member of the Tribe had their latent Bloodline awaken.”
“Ah, forgive me, ‘Bloodline’ is a bit of a... stretch, though the effects are the same,” she said. “Though there are no direct descendants of Empyreans here, our Ancestors did serve them. It forms a karmic sort of relationship that even Fate can’t strip us of.”
“Well, it’s through that relationship that our rise was fed,” she explained. “The more consuming the Chaos was, the more present in the world, the stronger we were. When Chaos waned, so did we. When it rose, so did we. And, well, there’s hardly a higher sky for an Empyrean than becoming a Harbinger. Your mere presence here has caused our Realms to... well, put it this way: when you first departed, our average Level was roughly 400. When you threatened the whole world, it rose to 600. Now? We’re only fifteen people short becoming Titulars.”
“...” Lino’s brows arched as he glanced downwards in surprise, inspecting everyone quickly, confirming Val’s story. “Holy shit...”
“I don’t understand it quite myself,” Val said. “It’s just... the way things are. We’re similar to Primes in that way.”
“... well, except a whole lot weaker.”
“Ha ha, yeah, except that. But, still, we’d be qualified to actually establish a small Sect on the Holy Continent if we desired.”
“... so you could have fought those six off all on your own?” Lino asked.
“We could have,” she nodded. “But, well, how can we deny our Majesty a chance to show off in front of people? That’s hearsay.”
“Hah, funny,” Lino chuckled, taking a deep breath. “Though, I suppose, you have been building up an army like you promised.”
“... I was rather tempted to contact you after your declaration,” she said after a moment of silence. “To offer you our services. Unfortunately, even now, we’re still too weak to be counted on for anything more than occasional support.”
“... despite my eternal bravado,” Lino said. “It seems more and more I’m gonna need your help.”
“You’re fighting a war, Lino,” she said, patting his back whilst smiling. “However strong you may be, each General needs troops.”
“... I killed one of the Bearers.”
“And now they’re sending off a bunch of children to hunt me and those close to me,” he added. “And, despite my warnings, I very much doubt they’ll stop.”
“... they won’t,” Val said. “Unless you can put a fear of god in them, they’ll never stop. It’s who they are; misled children led by an army of megalomaniacs. A recipe for a disaster, if there ever was one.”
“Oh well, I’ve no intention of stooping to their lows,” Lino said, taking a sip. “I may not be a saint, but I’m better than that. We’re better than that.”
“... are we?” Val asked lowly.
“We have to be,” Lino replied, glancing at her. “Otherwise... what’s the point even if we win? I’m not fighting to replace them, Val. I’m fighting to change the world for better... however little I can. If I do what they’ve been doing all the while, how does that make me any different?”
“So what? You’re gonna stop killing them?”
“Hardly,” Lino chuckled. “I never said I’ll stop speaking their tongue. But, we have to draw a line somewhere. I’ve no doubt that, by the time I come back to the Central Continent, it’ll have been swarmed by people looking for me, looking for Hannah, for everyone close to me. I can handle myself, Hannah can more than handle herself... but, there are people who can’t. And I’m just one dude, whatever horrid titles the world attaches to me, I can’t split myself into million clones and save everyone.”
“You promised me an army,” he said. “But, I don’t need an army -- not yet, at least. I do need help, however. A group of people, corp, really, strong and smart enough to become my many arms.”
“... what are you thinking?” Val asked with curiosity.
“Every faction, I imagine, has a small legion that doesn’t really exist, at least officially,” Lino replied. “I need one too. For starters, their sole job will be attaching themselves to everyone I know and keeping them safe while relaying information to me. Where will they go from there? They say sky’s the limit, but I’ve no intention of stopping there.”
“... how many?” she asked.
“A hundred, for starters,” he said. “Put Lucky in charge. Her Realm is still low, but she knows how things go. She’ll be a relay between me and the rest of them. Pick young prospects, separate them into ten Divisions each led by someone more experienced, and make sure they’ve got a quick wit about them.”
“...” Valkryia remained silent for a while, seemingly deep in thought, before replying. “You’re finally getting serious, huh? It was about time.”
“... you can do it?”
“Of course,” she chuckled. “I’ll pick the brightest of the bright. But, I do have more suggestions.”
“I’m all ears.” Lino said.
“Why stop there?”
“You may not need an army just yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t build the foundations of one.” she said. “Set up logistical points behind the enemy lines -- open up shops and whatnot -- and create a world-wide sphere of information. Set up separate departments, smithing, formations, talismans -- I’ve got many talented youths very interested in auxiliary fields. I’ve held back on developing them from fear of standing out too much, but... if we’re going to a war, there’s no reason to hold back anymore.”
“... hold on on that for a little while,” Lino said, smiling faintly. “I’ve a feeling Hannah would very much like to preside over it.”
“Oh my, are you sidelining me?”
“Ha ha ha, you’ll get it when you meet her,” Lino laughed freely, looking up. “She’d said many times since we met, that I’m a leader, but not a ruler.”
“She’s right, you know? No offense.”
“I know,” he nodded. “I’m confident in standing out there, holding a sword, meeting whatever the world throws at me face to face, fearless. I’m confident in holding a hammer, in battering away at stones and metals and making myself something grand to behold. I’m confident in myself, in my strength, in my Will.”
“Setting up departments, on the other hand, managing an army, land, money, all that boring shit... ain’t that inspiring to me. To her, however... it aligns rightly with who she is.”
“... you really love her, don’t you?” she asked, sighing faintly.
”More than I’ve ever loved anyone,” Lino replied. “More than I’ll ever love anyone.”
“She should arrive in a few days’ time,” he added, standing up. “And then you two can work out the kinks of your plans. But, for now, kickstart the small division and immediately dispatch those ready enough to the Central Continent and its holy capital to keep an eye out. If you’ve got means, also build a Teleportation Formation somewhere near the capital. I’ve a feeling I’ll become quite busy in the following few months, going back and forth.”
“... I’ve a feeling you will,” she said, chuckling. “Thank you.”
“Though I know you only begrudgingly agreed to my declaration of heart,” she said. “To me... to us... it means more than you can imagine to be able to serve you.”
“... you’re not serving me, Val,” Lino said, glancing back at her and smiling. “You’re a friend, helping out another friend. I don’t need mindless slaves obeying my every word. I need people just as willing to change the world, just as passionate about making it better. Friends who stand by my side, shoulder to shoulder, facing the world. That’s the weight I can put on my shoulders.”
“... you must have some big-ass shoulders.” Val said, smiling.
“Eh, I’ve been working out.” he said simply before disappearing inside, leaving her sitting out alone, smiling brightly. After so many years, so many generations, so many crushed hopes and dreams... the time for Oreb Kingdom to rise again has come.