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CHAPTER 294

(CATHARSIS V)

Lino and Hannah stood on an open field, grass swaying up to their ankles, the nearby river gushing through freely. A faint trace of sunshine bathed the scene, all encapsulated by a tall mountain ridge bounding in a half-circle, capped in snow-white up top.

Hannah played with a small, handle-shaped object while Lino drank in silence. Shouldn’t be long now, he thought, sighing faintly. Though he did choose as distant of a land as he could from the civilization, it was hardly a guarantee for anything. Battles on this scale hardly ever remained limited within the confines of their beginnings.

Litha and Vyrove, ultimately, rejected his offer, merely taking the bodies and disappearing. Though disappointed, it wasn’t as though he didn’t expect it; colluding with an Empyrean, beyond all else, was a sin no one was willing to forgive. And however much he liked the two, he didn’t like them enough to try and upend their perspectives on everything.

Av and others had already departed and met up with Val; all that was left now for Lino and Hannah was to return as well for the Empyrean and the Elysian to vanish from public eyes for a little while. He would also use this opportunity to finally bound another realm, transcending from an Aeonian into an Aeviternal -- a Saint.

Every realm past Aeonian had to do with preparations for ascending into the Godhood Realms, and Aeviternal was the first step -- if becoming an Aeonian virtually meant he ceased being a human, then becoming an Aeviternal truly cut that cord. It was a transformative realm, similar to Purity Realm but on a much larger scale.

He looked up suddenly, woken from his thoughts; in the distance, a massive, sun-bloating ship appeared from the thick clouds. It seemed imposing, and for most it probably was. What Lino saw, however, was simply a massive, steel box held up in the sky by a set of complex arrays that he was far more interested in.

“... hmm, they really went all out.” Hannah said. “Besides the five of them, there’s 20,000 more. Oh my.”

“The 20,000 don’t matter,” Lino said. “Rather... I’d have liked to avoid fighting entirely if I’m being honest.”

“They most-likely came with something to combat your Will,” Hannah said. “Otherwise, however ego-blind Yennefer was, she wouldn’t just walk into a loss.”

“Your first time fighting a Fiend,” Lino glanced at her, smiling wryly. “Nervous?”

“Eh? What do you mean my first time fighting? Won’t you take care of the five on your own and leave the minions to me?”

“... god you’re as mean as ever,” he chuckled bitterly. “Can you take Vyrove and Litha?”

“Yeah,” Hannah replied. “But... we aren’t nearly far enough from the civilization.”

“I’ve asked for help in that department.”

“Ella or Eggor? Or both?”

“Both,” Lino replied. “Though the bastards did refuse to just do everything. Something about my problems and such. Tsk.”

“Good god you’re mightily spoiled,” Hannah chuckled. “Ah, look at those flashy and cool entrances. They really want to show off, don’t they?”

“Hey, you have something against showing off?!”

“N-no, certainly not. It’s what I love about you the most!”

“Humph, that’s what I thought. You and your loose tongue.”

“I’ll loosen your fucking brain one day,” Hannah grumbled. “You and your stupid ideas really just need to go.” the five landed just ahead of them while the remaining force stayed on the ship. Of the five, Ritton entirely avoided Lino’s gaze, Litha and Vyrove had complex expressions, Ethena was frowning slightly, while only Yennefer had a slight smile on her face as she stepped forward, meeting Lino’s gaze squarely.

“Ah, the mighty Empyrean -- we meet at last,” she said. “It is an honor.”

“Honor’s all mine,” Lino smiled faintly. “You sure came a long way for me.”

“I’d have gone far further if it meant finding you,” she said, her smile turning cold. “After all, you are the first moron to so openly challenge the Chosen. If we just let it slide, people will begin thinking we are no longer the strongest.”

“It’s a shame,” he chuckled, putting away the gourd. “Such a beautiful face ruined by such a scorned soul. Seems to be a trend lately.”

“There’s still time Hannah,” Ethena spoke out from behind. “It doesn’t have to end this way.”

“... it has to, though.” Hannah smiled faintly, her voice calm.

“She’s made her bed -- let her sleep in it.” Yennefer said, not taking her eyes off Lino, like a beast stalking its prey. “Now that you have come into open, there is no hiding; at the very least you have chosen a decent place to be your grave.”

“I swore on the day that Felix drew his last breath,” Lino said as the playful smile vanished from his face, a sword appearing in one of his arms and the gauntlet in the other. He slowly began walking forward toward the five. “Games were over.”

“Heh, only an Empyrean could get so flustered over the death of someone insignificant.” Yennefer scoffed as Qi began dancing around her madly. “No wonder you are known as emotionally-unstable brats.”

“Insignificant?” Lino growled, his gaze turning maddened. “He mattered more than all the Holy Grounds combined, you worthless cunt.”

A billowing explosion ensued as he darted forward, crippling the earth beneath into thousands of pieces; Yennefer quickly replied, flashing into the sky and within a single breath summoning a rain of light -- tens of thousands of bolts shimmering in bright gold fell upon Lino. The latter spun and swung the [Dragon Slayer] upward while hitting the earth beneath with the gauntlet; fire raptured out as though the gates of hell opened, while the winds stirred.

Golden and coral intermingled like a pair of lovers as dust blasted out; the five scattered, Vyrove and Litha circling sideways where they got intercepted by Hannah, while Ethena and Ritton charged directly at Lino, ensuring he stayed away from Yennefer.

Light flared from the sky in a blinding shower, all cascading in strange paths toward Lino who stood at the center of the massive crater still wholly ablaze; within he seemed almost ethereal, his figure a mere silhouette. Grasping the sword in the backhand, he crouched for a moment and funneled Qi into the soles of his feet as a pair of golden wings unfurled behind him. Meeting light with light, he darted straight upward where Ethena tried to intercept him, swinging her massive sword directly at his neck. Lino swung sideways, meeting her directly and spinning in place, using the momentum to throw a jab at her head.

Ritton appeared right there, however, matching him; feeling the light approach, Lino grinned madly for a moment as he channeled more and more Qi into the gauntlet until fire exploded from in into a massive, spraying inferno; Ritton was forced to flicker backwards as Lino pushed the [Dragon Slayer] ever further, blasting Ethena from the sky into the rotting ground beneath before turning to face Yennefer.

The light converged into a mirage of a dragon who roared freely into the sky like a crackle of lighting; not to be outdone, Lino roared straight back, entirely snuffing out the former one before blasting forth, meeting the dragon’s mirage squarely; just then, thousands upon thousands of arrays of light showered him in concert with the dragon as the remaining 20,000 joined the battle.

Unable to withstand it all, he was flung into the earth and burst it open in a massive crater. Seemingly unbothered by it, however, he flipped backward and landed squarely, his whole body crackling with lighting and fire as he spurred the inferno beneath his feet to catapult him into the sky. Rather than charging into Yennefer yet again, he went after the 20,000 who were all entrenched in a series of formations. Ignoring them entirely, he broke through and swung the gauntlet and the sword in concert as cries of pain and agony soon broke out into the sky while he found himself showered in blood and gore.

Light suddenly pierced his abdomen, causing a massive hole that, however, quickly regenerated. Withdrawing the wings, he entered the freefall for a moment before spinning sideways and causing gauntlet to spit out fire beneath him, propelling him into the sky suddenly to everyone’s surprise. Yennefer found herself facing him directly as he reached her, still upside down; that grin of his caused a shudder to run through her soul for a moment before she reacted, bathing herself in quaint light as it exploded into a massive nova, blasting Lino away.

Unfettered, he replied by throwing the [Dragon Slayer] directly at her at the speed she could not hope to match; the sword pierced right through her left thigh, leaving behind a massive hole trickling with blood. Crying out in pain for a moment, her expression distorted as she steeled a stance, space above her head tearing into pieces as a mountain-sized, golden fist emerged and opened into a palm, spitting out an incinerating beam of light.

Lino quickly withdrew the shield and placed it over him, blocking the direct hit; however, the sheer force behind it propelled him for nearly fifty miles backwards before he could stabilize himself. Realizing he couldn’t just win by playing around, he took a deep breath for a moment and looked forward; they resumed the same formation -- Ritton and Ethena upfront, 20,000 in the middle, and Yennefer on the far end.

Smiling eerily for a moment, two chakrams suddenly appeared behind his back. Wrapping them up into his Will, he immediately channeled his link to the Law of Death as his entire body quickly got shrouded in the thick mist of darkness before the darkness veered off and entered the chakrams.

A second later, the small chakrams screeched out and shattered into pieces, their mirages appeared behind him, one on each end, each nearly five miles tall. Withdrawing the gauntlet, he whipped out both the [Dragon Slayer] and [The Untamed]. Flaying them freely for a moment, he channeled <Sword of Chaos>, displacing the reality around him.

“... my Will... be done...” he mumbled in a low growl as a visage of himself suddenly stood upright in-between the chakrams, holding them each tenderly. His eyes turned entirely black like chasms, world around him beyond the capacity of recognition; Death and Time adjoined the warp of reality as Lino, for the first time in his life, channeled a Domain of his own accord -- Domain of No Return.

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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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