Raging, azure flame covered Lino’s whole body as he sat cross-legged, a pained expression on his face. His veins bulged all over like worms, muscles convulsing due to pain. His eyes were closed at the moment as he was unable to open them; every inch of his body was on fire, almost near the point of breaking. He sat like this, immersed in the pain, for nearly a whole week straight as he tried desperately to refine the flames Edryss gave him -- Level 8,000 [Dragon Frost Flame]; it was even the diluted version, yet he was almost at his limit already.
While others may say it was insanity to try and embody a Level 8,000 Flame without even becoming a Titular, Lino was extremely confident in his body. Even if all other aspects of his overall strength may be lacking, he was more than assured in his endurance; yet, his current situation was begging him to reconsider that stance.
“That is enough.” a familiar voice washed over his soul as the pain vanished, Lino exhaling the breath he’s been holding for days. “You have endured longer than I thought you would.”
“W-what are you talking about. Pft, this? I could have gone all the way...” Lino stuttered out, taking quick and deep breaths.
“I can always resume--”
“God no!! Are you fucking insane?!!”
“Rest for now. We will resume tomorrow.”
“This is so unfair,” Lino cried lowly as he glanced at Hannah sitting next to him; she was merely staring at a cloudy sphere of nothingness all day long; no flames, no pain, no tears... “What the hell are you even training in?”
“My Avatar Form.” Hannah replied, glancing at him and smiling faintly. “Fortunately, it’s not as painful as your training is.”
“... suck a dick, you demon.”
“Ha ha ha, don’t be like that. You look hot with tanned skin.” Hannah winked mischievously.
“I look hot regardless,” Lino replied. “Fulfilling your fantasies isn’t worth the pain.”
“Oh? So you’re saying I’m not worth the pain?”
“You’re the fucking pain. Pain in the ass.”
“For an almost middle-aged man, you’re awfully childish,” Hannah said. “Ever plan on growing up?”
“... what do you mean growing up?” Lino grumbled. “Dressing nicely? Eating fancy food? Using some weird language?”
“No. Just, you know, be nicer to people. In general.”
“... there goes the kettle, calling the pot black again...” Lino grinned, putting on some clothes and walking over. “Tell me about those Avatar Forms. Evelyn mentioned something during the Record, but I didn’t really figure out anything.”
“It’s nothing complex, really,” Hannah replied as she put the sphere away and let him lay on her lap as she slowly began drawing her fingers through his hair. “There are six Avatar Forms that an Elysian can embody -- Avatar of Creation, which is the one I chose; Avatar of Deconstruction, Avatar of Command, Avatar of Origin, Avatar of Paradox and Avatar of Realization.” Hannah said, pausing for a moment before continuing.
“All of them are really self-explanatory, and it’s really only toward the higher Avatar Stages that the differences between them become pronounced. For instance, Avatar of Creation is capable of taking inanimate matter and morphing it into a living, breathing creature; Avatar of Deconstruction is the exact opposite, capable of taking anything and reverting it back to the most basic elements; Avatar of Command is exactly as its name implies -- capable of taking command of everything, living or dead; Avatar of Origin is kind of an oddity, as it doesn’t have anything unique about itself, but those who perfect it can practically do what all other Avatars do up to the sixth stage.”
“Avatar of Paradox deals with creating unsustainable realities and breaking them apart through the realization of paradox itself; Avatar of Realization is the most difficult to master, and not a single Elysian since the dawn of time was capable of reaching the Seventh Stage. Astrum told me that, upon reaching that stage, Elysian would cease to exist as an individual -- rather, they would become part of the world, capable of commanding it inside out, effectively becoming eternal.”
“...” Lino listened with interest, occasionally exclaiming audibly, especially so during the end part of Hannah’s short monologue. “Why didn’t you try your hand at the Realization?”
“Because, in that case, I’d have had to abandon everything -- my emotions, my own thoughts, my own desires, wants, needs, loves, hates, likes, dislikes... I would have had to become a ‘Null’ -- a conceptual individual. In old religions, especially in the Eastern and Northern Tribes, the end-goal of every practitioner was to become a Null -- it was the highest state of being for them. By absolving themselves of everything, the idea was to become practically a baby inside an adult body -- reaching complete self-realization.”
“... isn’t that fucking impossible, though?” Lino asked.
“Astrum said it is,” Hannah shrugged. “But it requires someone very different than me. I can’t give up my fucking gold, let alone anything else.”
“... don’t tell me you went with the Avatar of Creation so you can make glittery stuff for yourself once you master it?”
“You did, didn’t you?”
“... oh wow.” Lino chuckled. “You’re insane.”
“I have a problem, okay?!! Tell me, how would you feel if someone told you to give up booze?!”
“I’d kill them.” Lino said outright.
“I’d kill them, revive them, and then kill them again!”
“Anyway,” Hannah shrugged it off, taking a deep breath. “Every Avatar Form has seven Stages -- although they all have their own unique names, the universal calling-cards are -- First Foot, Enlightenment, Transition, Actualization, Return, Singularity and Genesis. The highest I’ve gotten was Enlightenment, and even then it was for like a second. I haven’t been able to step into it since.”
“You’ll get there.” Lino encouraged her as he heard the bitterness in her voice.
“... heh. When? Even the best Elysians usually took centuries to master the Second Stage. Do you think we have centuries?”
“What do you mean the best Elysians?” Lino asked, his gaze forcing Hannah to stare back, piercing directly into her soul. “There’s no one better than you. So what if they took centuries? You aren’t them. There are no absolute rules to things,” he added with a faint smile. “Everything, anything... is just a bundle of temporary uncertainty. Who says sun will forever set in the west? Who says winters will always be cold? Who says pigs will never fly?”
“The biggest wall you’ll ever hit in life is self-doubt, Hannah,” Lino said, getting up slowly and caressing her cheek. “If you don’t believe you can do it... the no matter how talented, how hard-working, how dedicated you are... it won’t mean a thing. You won’t be able to do it. If you say I’ll do it tomorrow... you’ll never do it. If you say I’ll do it once I become stronger... you’ll never do it. You can never sit back and wait... just wait for that ‘perfect moment’. If through miracle it arrives for one, it won’t for another. So, create it. That moment. Create it through your own hands. There are no miracles in the world; just people who bled to make the impossible happen.”
“...” Hannah’s lips curled up into a faint smile as she pressed them against his. Her crimson hair quickly mixed with his jet-black one, creating a rather striking contrast to their chilly surroundings.
“Grown-up enough for ya’?” Lino asked with a grin, plastering his forehead against hers.
“I’m not like you,” she mumbled faintly. “I can’t do it all alone. I really... really needed that...”
“... it seems you still don’t know me that well,” Lino said after short silence. “I can’t do anything alone either. Whoever claims they can is a fool. You wanna know what’s my secret?”
“Every time I feel like giving up,” he whispered softly, grabbing her hand. “I feel like I’ve reached a wall I can’t breach... I think of what would happen if I fail. I picture your face. I picture Lucky. Val. Jack. Ed. Ella. Eggor. Even that thing staring at us in jealousy and hate over there.”
“Ha ha ha....”
“And then I imagine, just for a brief second, a world without you lot.” he said. “You’re all pains in the ass, but there’s not a moment in my life that I’m not happy that I’ve met you all. And I’d do anything --- literally anything --- to keep you all by my side. If I had to, I’d rip the entire world in half and shit down its throat till it clogged. And that’s my fuel. My fire. I wasn’t kidding when I told Edryss I could have gone all the way,” he looked up and met her eyes; Hannah felt frozen in place, the determination in them striking her deep. “If it meant keeping all as is, I’d burn till every inch of me was scorched. Because no matter how hot those flames may be, they are like the coldest winter when compared to the ones in my heart.”