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CHAPTER 286

THE HUNTED

Within a wasteland inhabited by volcanic ash and tantalizing rivers of magma, cracked and splintered mountains and dead trees half bent over toward their demise, and occasional gorge seemingly eaten away at by a massive maw, space suddenly distorted like rippling water, soon after spitting out a massive mechanical wonder.

Metallic, silver sheen blasted light onto the darkened biome, a pair of black-jetted, thick wings spreading from the body’s side for nearly a whole mile, stacked behind by a row of spinning propellers surrounded in thick, cyan bolts of lighting. A massive mast arose from the center, layered neatly in compartments, built wholly of steel; at the far top, a flag ruffled in the speedy winds, fluttering madly. It bore pure, white background with a sword piercing a reddened, spiraling pattern imposed on top of it.

At the far front a statue depicting a faceless woman spreading her arms wide as though in a prayer, her neck craned back, head pointing toward the sky, languid dress draped around her perfectly sculpted features, stood as the figurehead. Two flickers of light shone in and out of existence just above her palms, her hair draping down and melding into the ship itself as transparent conduits running throughout the entire ship with faintly azure energy trudging through them like blood through the veins, all circling about and piercing into the heart of the ship, deep within the hull.

Main deck was eerily void of noise and life, save for the five figures standing at the far front, overlooking the ashland down below. Two were men and three were women, each sporting extremely distinct features; one man towered above the rest, balded, with thick, black eyebrows arching over similarly jetted eyes. He had deeply wide shoulders and a body full of muscles, donning half-exposing leather armor while two massive cleavers hung off his sides.

The other man was a stark contrast, having sleek, black hair covering most of his face, slender build, sickly-pale skin and a pair of pink eyes. He wore loose, black robes, leaning against the ship’s side freely.

One of the women had extremely tanned disposition, bordering jet-black, yet it only made her beautiful, silver eyes stand out even more. Though tall, she still fell somewhat short of the balded man; still, she had rather imposing air about herself, her short, black hair curled into spikes, seemingly gelled with something. Wide shoulders blended into a pair of full breasts, wide hips and thighs, and leather-bound calves seemingly moments away from ripping free. A giant, teethed sword hung off her back, crimson in hue and surrounded in thick, gray shroud.

The woman standing next to her painted a massive contrast; short, timid-seeming, with snow-white skin and a pair of sky-blue eyes. She donned tight-fitting, cyan robes stacked with patterns glowing in faint silver. Sporting unnaturally azure hair draped over her shoulders, she seemed rather unimposing in contrast, yet the faintly visible halo rotating behind her back repeatedly spoke otherwise.

The last woman stood at the very front, seemingly the leader of the rest; she had beautiful, golden hair tied into a bun, and a pair of yellow eyes, almost cat-like, with colored dots seemingly orbiting her irises. She had indifferently aloof expression, lips curled up into the faintest of smiles, as though nothing in the whole world could impede her. She wore rather traditional garb, mainly silver in color, with jetted, golden threads spreading about in a compendium of swirly patterns. She held her arms behind her back, her chest proudly puffed out. However, the most striking feature of hers was a golden tattoo jetted on her forehead, a circle divided into two, black and white.

She glanced about the ashland beneath her for a moment before turning around and facing the other four from the slightly elevated position.

“We are here,” her voice was soft yet immensely powerful and domineering at the same time. “Does anyone have any questions?”

“How are regions assigned?” the balded man asked.

“You will take far north,” she replied in the same tone. “Vyrove will take west, Ethena will take south, Litha will take east, and I’ll take the central regions. I should warn you, however,” she added quickly before anyone else had a chance to ask a question. “Chances are that only Litha and I can clash with him directly; if he has the support of Elysian, it would render even the two of us useless. Do not engage carelessly, even if you outnumber him. Always, at the very least, fight in pairs.”

“You could always just show us the Record.” the black-haired, black-eyed man, Vyrove, spoke out indifferently, not even looking at her.

“There is no reason you would need to see it,” her voice turned slightly colder as she glanced at him. “If you wish to revel in another’s misfortune due to your perversions, I am sure you can find other outlets rather than blemishing the memories of my Brothers and Sisters.”

“...” he glanced at her indifferently, his eyes barely peering through the thick bangs. “I’ve as much interest in your dead as I’ve in your living. I simply do not wish to begin the hunt without knowing everything about the beast I’m hunting.”

“You know what you need to know.” she said.

“Do I?” he questioned, still indifferent. “All you’ve told us is that he’s fast, strong, and seemingly impervious to injury. In essence, you ticked the boxes on every Empyrean stereotype ever.”

“Because he did not display anything else,” her voice turned even colder, her eyes turning into slits. “Merely his physical prowess.”

“... your Clan’s motto used to be that you deal in misinformation,” Vyrove sighed, shaking his head faintly. “Not lies, Yennefer. Whatever; have it your way. You always have anyway.”

“It’s pointless to bicker,” Ethena -- tall, black-haired and dark-skinned woman joined, her voice rather brash. “Whatever uniqueness he may have of his own, at the core he’s still another Empyrean Vy. Avoid melee, if he gains on you -- run away. Don’t fight to kill him, fight to exhaust him. That’s all.”

“That’s his point, I believe,” Litha suddenly joined in -- the last of three women, the most timid-looking -- with a rather childish voice. “We know the general strategies when fighting the Empyrean, but I’m fairly certain Yen’s Juniors knew them too. So why have they failed so miserably? Granted, they were barely Void Titulars, but, even so, only a Fiend should be able to so easily dominate six of them. And I very much doubt an Empyrean became a Fiend within a little more than a decade.”

“... items,” Yennefer gave in at last, sighing faintly in defeat. “It was due to the items. He has a pair of wings and a strangely-shaped sword. From our estimates, both are at least of Legendary-tier, the Wings bordering Continental.While we do not know the specifics, we are at least certain that the Wings bolster his speed quite considerably.”

“And there it is...” Vyrove snickered for a moment.

“It’s a fool’s task to believe you’d ever even have a chance at taking them,” the last one to speak out was Ritton, a tall, muscular Aeonian. He spoke in a deep, gruff voice, scoffing at Yennefer. “An Empyrean would rather ravage everything he owns and burn it to ash than let us have it.”

“That’s enough,” Ethena spoke out firmly. “Whoever gets them, gets them. Whether it be one of us or the eternity, that’s not why we’re here. Did the Eternals provide any information on the Elysian?”

“They have,” Yennefer nodded. “But it’s fairly outdated. The last they have of her was that she was yet to cross into the Void, though our sources have confirmed that she’s at the very least Level 2000 at the moment. She is not the problem, though,” she continued, turning back around. “Unless she remains in close proximity to the Empyrean, we’ll be able to easily subdue her. What we should look out for is the Sword Maiden.”

“...”

“...” heavy silence immediately fell over all five of them; everyone here was more than just aware of the name ‘Immortal Sword Maiden’. After all, she’s currently the only living possessor of the Origin Soul, and the entire world breathed in relief when she was banished over two thousand years ago. Just as they breathed in relief before, however, they are stifling their breathing now.

“Master Alex has confirmed she is only weaker than the few Arch Patriarchs of our Sects,” Yennefer continued. “So, avoid provoking her at all cost. Regardless of everything, she is still the child of the Holy Grounds; she should not indiscriminately start killing us unless otherwise provoked.”

“... so at least a Fiend?” Litha mumbled faintly, frowning.

“Yes,” Yennefer nodded in affirmation. “Qe’lls and the Eternals, for that reason, will not be joining us just yet. They are of belief there is still a chance to bring them back.”

“Of course they are,” Ethena scoffed. “Without the two of them, their positions are in question. While Eternals would still be able to hold onto the spot due to the Eternity, Qe’lls would most-likely be warred against into the oblivion by the rest. The only deterrents at the moment are that volcanic brat and the Maiden.”

“We part ways here,” Yennefer said. “Stay in touch perpetually; everyone needs to join in on the meeting once a day and report their situation. Do not leave your bounds and trespass. Do not engage alone. Do not -- I repeat -- do not interfere with local ongoings, no matter what. Anyone caught doing so will be banished back home and imprisoned for a thousand years. I hope everyone understands. Godspeed.”

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beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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