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CHAPTER 296

CATHARSIS (VII)

Yennefer groaned lowly as she dissipated into a flash of light, barely evading a scalding slash of the massive, scythe-shaped chakram. Several dozen cuts stained her otherwise ethereal image, crimson blood spilling onto her armor, even muddying her golden hair. Glancing down on the ground, she felt a pang in her heart as she counted nearly 3,000 dead souls resting in pieces.

The source of it all, she glared angrily, stared at her from far above; she’d finally come to realize why she was repeatedly warned about confronting the Empyrean. The latter, though seemingly unassuming, was simply well beyond what she anticipated; not only was he faster than anyone on her side, even if they managed to land a hit, he just shrugged it off as though she merely patted him on the back.

There was also the weird fighting style he employed; if he couldn’t close the gap due to the way she moved the massive formation, he’d simply start throwing his weapons around -- each more powerful than the previous -- and entirely disrobe her of any idea as to how to counter it. All logic pointed to the fact that the Empyrean’s biggest weakness was the fact that they couldn’t externalize Qi -- which made it so that they absolutely had to close the gap.

Yet, there stood the reality-bender, who simply decided he had no weaknesses and that was it. Ritton and Ethena were already tired of darting around and chasing him, yet he seemed completely fresh, as though he was merely taking a stroll.

“We can’t win like this,” she cried out as she quickly reorganized the formation, suddenly charging at its front. “No point in holding back any longer; use Laws, items, talismans, runes, whatever you have -- throw it all at him!”

Lino smiled playfully as he heard her; truth was, he was having quite a bit of fun. The only attack he really had to look out for was Yennefer’s, which greatly expanded his options. If they started acting like annoying flies, he’d simply start throwing weapons at them. He didn’t even have to be all that precise; mere aftershock was more than enough to reap lives of practically everyone outside the top trio.

He even had time to look at Hannah’s end, which caused him to shudder deeply as he saw her spitting strange beams that devoured everything they touched. Inwardly he wondered whether he should continue to tease her excessively, lest he became the target of one of those.

Sensing the massive uptake in Qi consumption from practically everyone, he too stopped playing around, calling back the [Dragon Slayer] and [The Untamed] into his hands. Grasping them tightly, he drew a deep breath, stirring both his Will and Qi and fluttering the wings behind him.

The two Avatar Form chakrams split sideways, each bounding around like boomerangs and targeting the heart of the formation rather than Yennefer. For the first time since the battle’s begun, Lino decided to go head-to-head with her and truly test the limits of his strength.

Yennefer quickly sensed him approach and grinned as she took out a strange-looking book from her void treasure. The book glowed in faint twilight, quickly spurring open to its midway section as strange cries resounded into the sky. Lino easily repelled the mental attack yet still felt a faint sense of danger coming from the book. Quickly making the decision not to retreat, he picked up the speed, almost immediately arriving in front of her, swatting at her with the [Dragon Slayer] and at the same time piercing with [The Untamed]; the latter attack was far quicker, over in practically a flash, yet she seemed prepared for it.

The book suddenly spat out a pillar of light, bouncing both weapons back and bending forward, turning into an umbrella-shape on its way down and cornering Lino. The latter glanced up and faintly smirked, entirely ignoring the attack and striking at the pillar itself.

“Sinful Paradise--” Yennefer mumbled suddenly closing the book and causing both the pillar and the attack to disappear, much to Lino’s surprise. “Hallowed Souls.” the book spun open once more, this time around unleashing a frothing wave of undead souls, each crying out louder than the other.

All hairs on Lino’s skin stood up as he quickly drove his Will into his mind to resist the attack before swatting sideways with the [Dragon Slayer] -- to no avail, though. The ghosts passed right through the weapon and him as he suddenly began feeling sluggish, almost every part of his body halting to a crawl.

“Now!!!!” Yennefer suddenly cried out as she dashed back in a flash of light and gained some distance from him before suddenly withdrawing the book and raising both her arms into the sky, summoning an assortment of swords, axes, spears and whatnot, each glistening in faint golden, aimed at Lino.

Similarly, all around, talismans, weapons, massive Arts all lit up like stars in the sky, causing the nature of Qi itself to shudder slightly. Everything from flames to thundering orbs plated in beautiful silver came together in a massive shower of attacks all aimed directly at him.

“Well, fu--” his bitter complaint was quickly drowned out in the sounds of thousands of explosions as they lit up the sky like fireworks; all colors imaginable beckoned unto one another, blasting apart space into a shredding void.

A fire could soon be seen flying backward, out of control, leaving behind him a trail of smoke and blood. Lino truly looked terrible, half his face entirely scorched, missing his left arm up to his shoulder, one of his wings clipped halfway through, a truly terrible gash running all the way from his neck to the left thigh... he certainly seemed more dead than alive, and his resounding cry of pain barely contradicted it.

He cursed inwardly as he pushed his Singularity to its limits, trying to regenerate his body, yet he didn’t even know where to begin with. In the end, he settled on regenerating his arm first as everything else could wait. It was only after nearly fifty miles of travel that he managed to somehow recover, only to see the army right there, standing above him. Yennefer stared at him with a victorious grin, as though already confirming he stood no chance.

“After I am done with you,” she chuckled, licking her lips. “I am going to hunt down every single person who ever as much as saw you, and I am going to give them deaths so cruel you cannot possibly even imagine. Once and for all I will tell the world... that Empyrean does not belong with the rest of us.”

“... ‘s that so?” Lino chuckled faintly, glancing up at her; considering that half his face was scorched, and the other bloodied, he hardly seemed human -- more like a cross between a devil and a corpse. “Well...” Yennefer -- as well as everyone else -- soon realized there was something strange going on; it wasn’t the amount of Qi, or even energy itself -- but rather something far more primal... something so primal that their instincts immediately began screaming at them to retreat. “I’ve no intention of waiting. Right now, right here, I will show you, as well as the rest of the world, cruelty the likes of which it has never seen. One that will freeze the blood in their veins and remind them... not only does the Empyrean belong in this world, I am its fucking King.”

For the first time in a long while, Lino settled on going all out; there were numerous reasons for it, starting with not wanting to seem weak in front of millions of spectators. If they for a second thought he was easy pickings, he would never see the end of them nor their cruelty. Rather than fight and flee and always wonder whether people he cares for are in danger, he’ll mark himself and himself alone as the foe of the world. And the best way to do it was to show everyone watching the lengths to which he’ll go to if they ever piss him off.

Secondly, he also inwardly wondered just what his limit was. Since the last time he went all-out, he’d obtained quite a few items and even Arts, and he wanted to see just what state of being can he achieve if he stacks them all together in a singular burst of strength. While it will certainly last only for a short period of time, and leave him practically crippled for a while, there was no fear inside of him -- only excitement... and burning desire.

<Berserk>, <Unshackled>, [Dragon Slayer]’s special effect <Bloodbath>, <Ironborn>, <Hell-forged>, <Baptized in Flames> among other effects of his armor... he laid it all out in a single moment of madness, his body immediately regenerating, his eyes turning milky white, a few strands of his hair following suit. In concert with everything else, he sensed it -- at last; it was faint, distant, hidden... but he managed to pull a small strain, managed to pull it to the surface and combine it with himself -- a small piece of Primal Chaos.

He was no longer human, he knew; he didn’t look the part, didn’t feel the part, and didn’t think the part. The world around him changed into one of darkness, into one of absolute madness, base entropy. In that moment, he realized what true strength meant, what standing on top of the world entailed. His Will shuddered and exploded out of his body, transforming into a pair of angular eyes in the sky above him, overseeing all of creation. Harbinger had woken in that moment, stirring Chaos from all corners of the world. Those who believed and those who defied, those who loved and hated, those who respected and dreaded... in concert, they once again felt the similar shudder in the depths of their souls like the one on the day of his awakening. In that moment, Yennefer, Ritton, Ethena and everyone else who was watching the battle knew... no one was leaving that place alive. All would be consumed and destroyed to its most base form -- that of Chaos itself.

That is what it meant to be a Harbinger rather than just an ordinary Empyrean; rather than simply killing, the Harbinger changed the state of the world through it. Taking away other forms of Qi, other forms of energy, and purifying them into Chaos, feeding the latter and growing it. Unlike the last time, few realized, however, there was something different this time around, something far more profound, far more terrifying, far more primordial; something none could quite understand, not even those who’ve seen all there is to see in the world through the eons of their lives.

“<Sword of Chaos>,” Lino mumbled, rising his arm up both slowly and quickly, practically shredding the reality into pieces and transforming it into Chaos, which he immediately consumed. “Eighteenth Form -- Call of Liberation -- Primal Genesis.” and thus, there was light.

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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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