Northern coastline was composed nigh entirely of tall, sharp and steep cliffs looming over the raging ocean beating against it and carving it out bit by bit, through the passage of years. Slightly further north, the ocean itself ceases to exist, turned entirely into a massive icecap the size of a ginormous island.
Following the northern coastline and searching for the continental entrance was futile, but its ravaged terrain full of snowy peaks, frozen lakes and frigid valleys made for a perfect bastion of defense. Standing erect surrounded by the frozen hell was a massive castle of black surrounded with tall, thick, ebony walls imposing over the white snow.
Towers rose one after another in a cascade of attempts to pierce the sky, spires decorating corners shaped like screws, faint presence of occasional windows exuding warm, orange glow, the only piece of light in an otherwise darkened wasteland. However, for all the frigid silence the castle’s surroundings lived in, the black structure’s interior was a livid place.
Laughter, screams, shouts and such ilk crashed whatever silence resided beforehand, imposed over one another like a constant, never-ending choir of sounds. In the central hall, supported by tall and thick pillars and a floor carpeted with blood, dozen men sat around the wooden tables filled with cups and plates of food, on each’s lap at least a single woman. Most were stark naked, some flirtatious, others terrified, few in abject tears.
Sitting at the largest table was Ritton, his hands full, one holding onto a cup of ale and another on the woman’s cup; the latter seemed feverishly young, her skin stained with mud, brown hair tussled out and about until it lost all its luster, a pair of eyes seemingly begging for death that would not come.
“Lord, Turk’s informed us he found another hundred or so, ha ha ha,” a resonant laughter crashed through the hall’s massive door as a youthful-looking man burst in, running over to Ritton’s table. “He should have them here within an hour.”
“Ho ho, good, good,” Ritton grinned, grinning and chewing on the piece of boar’s raw leg. “We were starting to run out of the fresh ones, heh.”
“W-will... will you... kill me... finally?” the girl sitting on top of his leg spoke out in a low, quivering tone; Ritton’s laughing expression turned grim as he moved his hand away from hear breasts and onto the nape of her neck, pushing her head down against the table with force large enough to shatter the latter into wooden splinters. “Aaaah!!” the girl cried out in pain as another round of laughter resonated through the room.
“I’d already told you filthy cunts, I won’t kill you,” Ritton said. “It’s against the rules, after all.”
“And you’re a law-abiding, morally-bound man after all, aren’t you?” a rather low, yet piercing and imposing voice echoed throughout the hall, burying all other sounds. Ritton’s brows scrounged up into a displeasing expression as he shifted his gaze away from the bloodied head up front where he saw a bearded man casually walking up to him, his hands behind his back. A pair of jet-black eyes stared at him with disgust and anger, prompting him to grin.
“Alas, alas, the hero arrives! Ha ha ha,” Ritton laughed, throwing the girl away and getting up. “And who might you be lad? One of these faire maidens’ lovers? An embittered man looking for his devoted love? I must admit, I admire you gravely for reaching all the way to here. I have half a mind to take you in as one of my own.”
“...” Lino came to a halt as ten or some men stepped up and stood in front of Ritton, all drawing their weapons out, their faces decorated with grins. “I must admit, I do share your love of booze and women. However long we may live, what worth is life without a bit of pleasure, no?”
“Ha ha, indeed. The man after my own heart.” Ritton said. “You still haven’t answered my question lad, though. And you better.”
“Pleasure is a fickle thing, though,” Lino said, glancing around. “Once... you start deriving it from the suffering of others... you’ve crossed a damning line. A point of no return.”
“He he, a hero indeed,” one of the men standing in front of Ritton said. “Been a while since I met one.”
“What should we do Lord? Kill him... or have fun first?”
“Fun, fun-- of course. Right Lord?”
“It seems to me you’ve no intention of cooperating,” Ritton said, sighing faintly. “In that case, I must--”
“Kneel.” Lino said simply, indifferently, his eyes squarely meeting every gaze aimed at him.
“Ha ha, what are yo---” a tremor ran through the hall as every single person standing suddenly felt their Wills crashing, their own autonomy disappearing; shaking, trembling, their souls beating in fear, all fell to their knees one after another, soon beginning to bleed out of every hole they had. Eyes, ears, noses, mouths -- and those few unspeakable ones -- blood trickled down like river, mixing with the already-drying one on the floor.
Ritton, however, still stood, seemingly unaffected by what others are experiencing. However, he knew it wasn’t due to his own resilience -- but by the man’s choice... the Empyrean’s choice. He felt the imposing Will, and even just its aftereffects were enough to cause his heart to stop beating. He felt fear, not due to the clash of Wills... but due to himself. His eyes turned to saucers as he watched the man approach him, step by step, walking over his men as though they were grass, and stopping right in front of him, holding his gaze.
“What I find the most astounding,” Lino said, resting his arm on Ritton’s shoulder. “Is that, behind those eyes of yours... there are people tens of thousands of miles away, meditating in the comfort of a warm, well-protected room... entirely ignoring your actions. People who are tasked with ensuring things exactly like this do not occur.”
“Shh,” Lino interrupted the stuttering and quivering attempts at the reply, smiling faintly. “You will get your comeuppance eventually. We all will. It is one thing I genuinely love about this world, about its conception -- that, no matter how high we get... there’s still no escape. You’ll die... I’ll die... those Elders of yours currently shaking their arms around in the bouts of anger that I dared question them will die... Writs will die... Gaia will die... everything we know, everything we love, hate, enjoy and despise... all will be gone one day. It gives me pleasure and comfort knowing that, even if I fail, even if you lot somehow manage to defeat me, it’s just a temporary taste of victory. All until the entire world comes undone.”
“....” Ritton kept shaking and trembling, yet the hand on his shoulder prevented him from collapsing.
“However... that notion is hardly worth anything to these girls,” Lino said. “And to many others whose lives you’ve no doubt ruined. And to literal billions and tens of billions who’ve played one or another puppet’s role in the never-ending search for power. I often wonder... why were we wired to derive pleasure from the sense of power? To me, really, it just seems like a perfect recipe for disaster -- no matter how you look at it.” Lino let go of Ritton who immediately fell on his knees, shaking.
The former turned around then and began walking, picking one girl after another up and holding them gently for a moment... before crushing their hearts, killing them instantly. Smiles crept up one after another on the girls’ faces, smiles of gratitude, of relief, of happiness.
“... I’ve no plans of letting anyone who came to this continent in the pursuit of me leave alive,” Lino said. “As the matter of fact, I fully intend to make your lives living hells before finally taking them. But... heh, what’s the point? Sins just keep getting passed on. Guilt and blame and the feelings of anger... the thirst for revenge... it’s like parents passing on something on their children. So long as people fuck, some fucked up part of that generation will persist. I’ve never known my parents unfortunately...” he paused for a moment, having killed the last girl present there. “Never got to ask them what fucked up part of themselves they passed on me. What can I blame on them, and what I can’t.”
“Ha ha ha, excuses, excuses,” he laughed freely for a moment, shaking his head and walking back over to Ritton, pulling his chin up and forcing their gazes to meet once again. “Whatever they passed on me... ah. It doesn’t matter now, does it? However terrible they may have been, I guarantee they have nothing on the things I’ve done. Things I’ll do. So, the old Aeonians oceans away, hear o’ hear.” he placed his thumb on the Ritton’s forehead.
“N-no--please--no--a-anything but that--no--”
“People who live by the creed ‘all is fair in love and war’,” Lino said, pressing the thumb against the forehead, causing Ritton to scream out. “Die by it. With considerable interest.”
“AAAAGGHGHGHG!!!!” a blood-curling scream, one that could be heard across the entire Continent, one that startled even the coldest of hearts, broke out of Ritton’s throat. His eyes turned blank, his gaze dull, but the scream didn’t stop. It went on for a full minute, causing the castle itself to come undone and collapse unto itself. By the time Ritton came to and opened his eyes, the man was gone -- but the terror he left behind... Ritton knew it would never disappear, perhaps not even with his death.