REIGN OF CHAOS (II)
Hannah sat casually on the edge of a small cliff, eating an apple, while gazing off toward the distance where Lino had begun his slaughter. She had a rather infatuated expression on her face, while the two lying in pools of blood behind her were the exact opposites; terror ran through their spines, and they couldn’t even ascertain who they feared more -- the Empyrean over there obliterating everyone and everything, or the Elysian in front of them, both of whom should have ‘cruel’ tattooed on their foreheads.
“Good god, I’m so wet right now...” Hannah mumbled, sighing as she glanced back at the two lying behind her. “You two have been awfully quiet.”
“Eh? What’s with those ‘are you an idiot?’ looks you’re giving me?” Hannah pouted. “I even went as far as to fix... well, what can be fixed. You know, you two should really be a little grateful. Even after refusing our offer, we still had enough hearts to forgive you.”
“... w-what about them?” Litha mumbled, pointing her shaking finger at the distance where Ritton just died.
“Them? Eh, they had it coming,” Hannah shrugged. “It’s a war, after all.”
“--then why spare us?” Vyrove questioned. “It’s not as though we are worth much as a bargaining chip. And I very much doubt you’re doing it due to the kindness in your hearts.”
“... why is that so hard to believe?” Hannah replied after a short silence, glancing back at them once more, her smile slightly painful. “Just because he’s the Empyrean?”
“Whether you believe me or not, he’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life,” she continued, turning her eyes back on Lino. “If you give him your heart and your trust, he will give you the entire world. If you ask him for help, he’ll help you -- though he might decorate it with a slew of insults. What you’re seeing right now is what he has to be... not what he wants to be. Ah, but don’t worry. You’ll be spending a lot of time with us for the foreseeable future, so you’ll come to realize it yourselves. Truthfully...” Hannah chuckled faintly, taking another bite of the apple. “If he never revealed himself and merely continued to live as another cultivator, he’d have won the whole world over by the time it realized who he was. Don’t be surprised when one day you wake up and realize you’d rather stand by his side than have all the riches the world has to offer.”
Litha and Vyrove remained silent, entirely distrusting of Hannah’s claim; yet, even they couldn’t help but admit that by just watching him from the distance... it felt different than they imagined. Certainly there was terror and fear he inspired, the sort that one simply can’t shake; but... there was also something more, something purer. Though unwilling to admit it just yet, both had realized why people gathered around him. They, too, felt it -- that just by standing behind him... they were shielded, protected from the rest of the world.
The Qi above Lino surged like a tidal wave as over a hundred souls bonded together in externalizing it in mass. Dropping Yennefer’s head, he turned to face them, gripping the [Dragon Slayer] tightly. Enrobed in shadows, he displaced the reality around him and heaved up into the sky where he was suddenly met by a massive flash of light dropping on top of his head; spherical in shape, it was reminiscent of sun.
He cleaved up in a quick fashion, unfurling his wings in the process; the sphere split across the middle in two halves, with him emerging through the opening and fluttering the wings as he cruised above them for a moment before dropping down.
The middle-aged man met him directly, supported by five more people -- two men and three women -- as they danced into a strange-looking formation. The rest retreated slightly while unleashing a barrage of attacks on him. From up and below, from all ends and sights, all Lino saw were attacks directed at him; arrays of light, balls of flame, pillars of void... however, rather than retreating, he stepped directly both in the six’s formation as well as the onslaught of the attacks.
Meeting them head-on, he spun forward, withdrawing the wings, and slicing away with the [Dragon Slayer]. He didn’t have much time left on his buffs, but he wasn’t all too worried; after all, everything he was doing at the moment were just mere theatrics. The eighteen blades were yet to position themselves properly. Until then, he just had to survive -- something he knew he wouldn’t have any trouble with.
Angry roars, one after another, exploded toward him, accompanied by the booming sounds of explosions. His body was like a target practice dummy, accepting everything it was thrown at it; yet, seemingly regardless of how much he was hit, he didn’t even flinch. Working through the sky-wide net of attacks, he was slowly approaching the middle-aged man who was currently holding two floating orbs of light in the palms of his hands.
“<Mother’s Blessing>!!” he cried out, crashing the two orbs together. “<Heavenly Domain>!!”
Lino suddenly felt sluggish as the blending darkness disappeared, drowned out in the siege of pure light. Looking around, he realized that all figures had disappeared someplace; chuckling lightly, he merely externalized his Will slightly in concert with the Divine Sense to locate all of them -- one who happened to be just behind Lino. The latter glanced back and met a pair of green eyes who suddenly widened in horror as a hand grasped at the skull.
The sound of the crackling bones exploded out once more with a cry of anguish as brain matter flew up with blood and gore, absorbed by the ethereal shadow that Lino had become.
“<Heaven’s Judgment>!” numerous voices cried out at the same time. “<Hammer of Purification>!!”
Looking up, Lino saw a massive, simple-looking hammer manifest in the sky. Spanning tens of miles, it slowly began descending toward him, carrying with it a massive momentum of wind.
“... you still don’t understand,” Lino said in a low tone, nocking the [Dragon Slayer] by his waist. “Just what it means to battle an Empyrean.” he bend forward slightly, seemingly tensing his muscles as the hammer descended.
Exploding in a singular burst of speed, he broke well past the speed of light as the massive hammer suddenly exploded into billions of pieces, shattering the Domain of Light in the process. One cry after another bellowed out into the sky as blood and gore mingled with the rain of rubble and ruin that showered the earth down below.
The middle-aged man, alongside several dozen others, suddenly spat out a mouthful of blood as they were shot out of the domain before it collapsed. Everyone glanced up and saw Lino in free fall as he aimed directly at them.
“All our predictions were wrong,” the middle-aged man sighed lowly as he suddenly took out a strange-looking piece of dirty cloth. “Truly, you can’t gauge the Empyrean by his age, his level, his realm... his anything. They live on an entirely different plane.”
“That-- are you sure?” a woman standing next to him asked, frowning while looking at the piece of cloth.
“We cannot kill him,” the man said, throwing the cloth up. “But... we can stun his progress. The Mother only needs a little bit longer; we cannot allow him to distract her and break her progress.”
Lino, too, had noticed the cloth; inspecting it, he chuckled bitterly -- truly, if he didn’t have those eighteen blades that seemingly everyone had forgotten about, he would have been screwed. The piece of cloth was rather perverted, exactly akin to something he himself would craft -- if he even knew where he would even begin with.
[Time-tattered Shroud -- Unique Void Artifact]
Special Effect [Ether of Time] -- binds itself to the targeted victim, forcibly preventing them from increasing their strength for a century; cannot be Dispelled, Evaded or Resisted
It was truly a... strange item. Hardly meant for harm, it was more of a crippling tool that ought to only ever be used due to pure hatred that cannot be fixed in any way, shape or form.
He suddenly came to a halt, freely accepting the cloth, even holding it in his hand and feeling its rugged texture. He didn’t know whether Ataxia would have been able to repel it, but it was unnecessary; today was his show, his battle, his message to the entire world. Taking his eyes off the cloth, he looked toward the middle-aged man who had a wide smirk plastered on his face.
“Even if this worked,” Lino said. “It’s only a hundred years. It took me less than twenty to catch up to you. So... in hundred and ten, I would come back and wipe the entire concept of the Holy Grounds from the existence.”
“If it worked?” the man chuckled. “You are underestimating Artifacts, kid. Even with Ataxia’s help, you should only slightly lower the amount of years. By the time you are free of the curse, the world will have moved on without you.”
“... you still don’t understand,” Lino said, his eyes angling into the smiling position, his voice carrying a slight playfulness. “Or, at least, you do your damn best to forget what it means to fight the Empyrean.”
“Oh, please do tell what we do not understand.” the middle-aged man seemingly humored him.
“Time... space... life... death... Chaos reigns supreme over them all,” Lino said, looking up at the sky. “You shouldn’t have come here. In your heart of hearts, you knew I wouldn’t spare anyone. Yet, you still came. It must be because you were confident in battling me. So, if I don’t teach the world a lesson, morons like you will keep swarming in, seeking to enrich their glory and name with a title of the Empyrean Slayer. I can’t be bothered to fight each time a swarm of flies comes knocking.”
“At least, if nothing else, you’ll finally understand,” Lino said, chuckling. “What it means to fight the Empyrean. -- <Primordial Genesis -- Commence>.” as his voice vanished, so did the world -- everything, anything, everyone... became the bearers and the sacrifices to the Genesis.