While Hannah and Seya were currently leisurely drinking and eating on the far end of the valley, Lino was trapped inside a small world Edryss created, one entirely filled with the flames she gave him. After he got accustomed to them slightly, she immediately shoved him inside this place and left him here for good two days now to stew like a fine piece of pork. He didn’t mind it all too much, though, as not only was his control of the flame getting better, the flames around him also helped purify his Qi even further.

Inside, he also had a lot of time to think, a luxury he could hardly have afforded until recently. Ever since he woke up after his ten-year-long ‘nap’ of sorts, save for a few months of respite, he’s always been on the move -- be it fighting, planning, setting up pieces, making odd friendship here and there... it would wear down anyone, even him, eventually. And though sitting in the fire might be unpleasant, it was by no means overtly painful meaning he was able to focus clearly.

There were several reasons as to why he chose to withdraw from the limelight after going at it so adamantly at the start; while true that it was to increase not only his, but others’ strengths as well, it was hardly the only reason. He was becoming too hot; he knew he had to give the Holy Grounds a breather, give the world peace and calm, otherwise they really may have sent all hell on him and disregarded everything to kill him. The only reason they didn’t is because of Great Descent -- at least Lino theorized so. The silent watchers from the side had a lot of say, and so long everyone played by their rules, they wouldn’t intervene.

But, if Lino took it too far, he knew even the Descent wouldn’t give him a moment’s time; he was already warned more than once that his shelter was temporary, and that should he cause too large of a shift in the world, the asylum would be lifted up and he would become a free meal for the world -- and he certainly wasn’t ready for that. He was well aware of the limits of his strength at the moment, and while he could do a lot, as Edryss said, it was only in a single outburst. If it came to prolonged fight, like a genuine war, he’d at best be an average Titular, even with all his items.

And while he could technically kill even Ennya in a single shot if he went all out, what about after? He’d turn into a cripple for at least a few weeks. Save for perhaps a very few recluse individuals, others can hardly change the fabric of the world all on their own, and he was not an exception -- at least not just yet. The first step, naturally, was to ascend to the Void Titular and obtain his Title. As the day was fast approaching, he also familiarized himself with the remaining realms as well as the Void Realm itself.

He still has to go through the Realms of the Godhood before ascending to the Void. The next step, actually stepping into the Godhood, would be the most difficult alongside entering the Void. He’d already formed his Singularity, evolved his Will, and has Exalted Soul -- so, as long as he actually enters the Godhood, it shouldn’t take long for him to ascend to its peak.

The realms of Godhood represented the utmost peak of the pre-ascension Cultivator. That is to say, it’s the furthest one can reach in strength by merely utilizing Qi and a sliver of Will. To actually grow stronger, mastery of Laws was a necessity, which is also why one of the requirements to become a Void Titular was to achieve complete mastery of at least two Laws. Lino had long since chosen to focus on Time and Death as his primary Laws, as not only did he feel the closest connection with them, he also understood them the most out of the bunch.

In order for him to step into the Realms of Godhood, however, there was a very stingy requirement that he was yet to fulfill -- a complete mastery of at least one Martial Art. While for others it’s probably the easiest part, for him it wasn’t so; similarly to ascension to an Exalted, there were different stages of completion, entirely dependent on the grade of the mastered Martial Art. As Lino didn’t want to skimp on it, he decided to at least try to master a Primordial-tier Martial Art, if not Origin-tier one.

But, before that, he had one more step to complete -- a simple one, yet also a time-consuming one, quantity of Qi. So far, he mostly focused on the quality factor of his Qi, as his regenerative capabilities were also applied to Qi itself, meaning that no matter how low his starting reserves may be when compared to others, he could still outlast them through the brute force. This is also why he had a lot of ground to make up before he even though about ascending any further.

“You seem to have settled fine in here.” Edryss voice jolted him out of his thoughts as he opened his eyes, noticing a strange... blob in front of him. The only reason he knew it was Edryss was because of the pair of eyes staring at him.

“... you are... different.” Lino mumbled, poking at the strange blob due to sheer curiosity.

“It is one of my many Avatars,” Edryss said. “After all, my real body can hardly fit each place I wish to visit.”

“... yeah, you’re freaking huge.” Lino nodded.

“While increasing your Qi is important, it is also an easy job -- it is time for you to start multitasking.”

“... of course it is. What do I need to do? I’m already increasing my Qi and weathering these flames. I’m already multitasking, you know?!”

“You can start by mastering a Law.”

“... oh you fucking--”

“I suggest you start with Time. It is much easier, ironically.”

“Nah, I’ve already decided to first master Death.” Lino replied, shrugging. “Time is just... weird. Just... just fucking weird.”

“... Death, huh? Do you even understand it?” Edryss asked, a faint trace of dissatisfaction in her voice.

“Do you?” Lino asked back.

“No,” the Dragon replied honestly. “To me, it is merely the perpetual state of nothingness. I do not understand its associations with the Law.”

“Then what about life?” Lino asked.

“What about it?”

“How do you understand Life? Perpetual state of something...ness?”


“There’s the common understanding of the two,” Lino continued, stroking his beard. “That they’re antithetical... yet beyond linked together. If you understand one, then just contradict everything and you’ll have understood the other. But, that’s wrong.”

“It is?” Edryss asked with some interest -- after all, every human she interacted with since her birth was a Mage, rather than a Cultivator.

“Yes,” Lino nodded lightly. “I understand death as the continuation of life. That’s not to say that there’s something else after life, something other than that perpetual state of nothingness, but that death is simply one of many steps we take as we live. If birth is the beginning, then yes, death is the end -- but life is too grand of a concept to just be associated with birth. It’s an all-encompassing term, and merely claiming that death is its opposite is, well, fucking stupid.”


“While I can’t claim so for others, to me Law of Death doesn’t represent an end -- merely an opportunity. It is about taking Life and subverting it, creating a mutually incompatible system within one’s very Soul. For instance, this,” he suddenly reached onto to the floor and literally grabbed a small flicker of fire, holding it in his hand. “Is life. At least to me. So, if I apply my understanding of Death to it...” the flames blazed out suddenly in a flash of light before withering away into nothingness. “What happens to them?”

“They disappear?” Edryss replied uncertainly.

“No!” Lino exclaimed. “They are still here,” he pointed at his palm, smiling. “Just in their lifeless state.”

“Eh? So... you are saying...”

“It’s simple -- Law of Death is about taking something alive... and killing it. Or, rather, killing its single point of failure -- or, in case of people, about seven billion of them as virtually any part of us is susceptible to causing the rest to die out. At least to me, that’s what Law of Death means. Simply taking the living part out of the construct’s equation.”


“Similarly, however, if someone were to understand Law of Life in the similar manner like I did with Law of Death,” Lino continued. “They would be able to take the dead and give it life. Well, not literally -- they couldn’t bring a person from the dead, of course, but they would be able to make the body move -- after all, our brains store all our actions, and by the time most of us die, certain things are so deeply embedded we don’t even think when we do them, like walking, breathing, eating... so, you wouldn’t need a conscious thought to order the body around... just the body itself to move through instincts, like an animal.”


“But, I very much doubt anyone would actually understand Life as such,” Lino chuckled after he saw Edryss’ strange gaze. “After all, no one who takes up understanding Life is so perverse as to distort it to such a point. By then, it wouldn’t even be about the Law of Life, but something much grimmer and macabre.”

“How far along are you in mastering the Law?” Edryss asked after a short silence.

“Oh, nowhere close,” Lino shook his head. “I’m still in the understanding phase and basic applications. I can only do what I did to fire to a few select objects, none of which would actually qualify as ‘living’ so-much-so as just, you know, existing. Fire, water, air, weed, glass... any time I try to experiment on something more complex, I suffer a massive backlash instead.”

“But the fact that your theory works at all means that it is true; you simply lack the understanding to push it further.”

“Yup!” Lino exclaimed with a grin. “But, as my brain is rather restless, I’m already thinking ‘bigger, bigger, bigger’...”

“What do you mean?”

“You might think it’s crazy...” Lino said, his eyes narrowing, gaze turning rather... perverse. “But... what if I combined two Laws?”

“Eh? Combine two Laws?” Edryss exclaimed in confusion.

“Yes! Take Death and Time for instance -- what if I had capability to turn back time for someone -- just their own individual strength -- and make them weak enough so I can just, you know, use Law of Death to kill them?! Wouldn’t I be fucking King of the World then?! Who in the fuck would dare piss me off if I could do that?! The problem is, however, that two Laws are simply too different... shitting fuck. I have to figure it out! First, I should be able to...” as Lino went onto another one of his classic monologues, Edryss stared at the creature in front of her with a strange gaze; she had no heart to tell him that ‘reversing time’ to such a degree was simply impossible... but, in the depths of her heart, she was still slightly expectant -- after all, she had come to realize, this boy, this generation’s Empyrean entire creed was exactly that -- defying the impossible, and doing it anyway.


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About the author


Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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