FIRE AND FURY
Ashened -- if there was a single word that could describe the loathsome landscape strapped together by the surrounding mountains, it would undoubtedly be that. Gray rock, ash and black soot reigned over, snuffing out whatever life may rise in their wake. The sky above was entirely blackened by the smoke spat out by nearly a dozen volcanoes which were bleeding hot magma onto the land down below, carving out earth into rivers of fire and blaze.
Yet, despite the glimmer of flames, it was tepidly dark, suffocating even. Low barrels of smoke pranced about the surface, creating a mist-like mirage, barring anyone from seeing further than a few tens of meters ahead of them. Occasional cry of agony broke out, breaking otherwise silent world. The entire place seemed hardly suitable for life, yet nonetheless life there existed.
At the center, surrounded by the perpetual ring of fire, a massive body of the Dragon lay resting on the ground, its black scales blending perfectly into the background, with occasional flashes of coral flames breaking the monotony apart. The Dragon’s eyes were starkly visible, perhaps the only thing visible from each corner of the dimensional pocket; the pair burned like two, vertical suns, spitting out light of flame outwardly like the chill off of the ice.
“... why are you here, little Devil?” voice which sent tremors throughout the pocket beckoned out, the pair of eyes lowering their gaze downward, in front of the Dragon, where a three-horned, gray-skinned Devil was currently kneeling.
“I have some news, Revered One.” the Devil replied meekly.
“Everyone has some news,” the Dragon replied. “But you do not see them bugging me with them.”
“I wouldn’t have either, had the news not been so perfect.”
“Edryss has sought help.” the Devil said.
“Hoh? The ever-proud and frigid Aspect sought help? This might be a first. Who? Have any of the neutral Aspects decided to help her?”
“No...” the Devil shook his head, looking up. “It’s the Empyrean.”
“... the Empyrean? Are you certain?”
“Yes. Those four fools had gone to meet him apparently, and I just did a bit of searching through their memories to find out. Apparently, Edryss is training him to help her.” the Devil finished rather excitedly.
“... your means of finding things out are rather disgusting,” the Dragon replied coldly. “Digging through the memories... only pathetic creatures have capacity to fall so low.”
“...” though the Devil said nothing, he bit his lower lip, anger flashing through his eyes briefly. “The surprise factor is gone. We can set up an ambush and take down the Empyrean before he even gets a chance to fight us.”
“... set up an ambush?” the Devil suddenly felt his soul freeze as he was forced to lie flat on the ground due to the pressure on his soul. “You dishonorable degenerate!!” the Dragon’s roar shook the entire pocket, the tremors showing up even on the outside where space wiggled out briefly. “You filthy lot and your scheming and planning!! If you seek the reason as to why you can never reign the world, there it is! Who fears sniveling rats hiding in the shadows?! No one! Fight with honor -- and whether you win or lose, you will do both knowing you did all you could. Humph, get out of my sight before I forget my promise to your pathetic Father and snap your goddamn neck off.”
“Y-yes!!” the Devil cried out lowly before suddenly vanishing, leaving the massive Dragon alone.
The creature hummed lowly as the gaze in its eyes dulled, as though deep in thought. After what seemed like a few hours, his eyes finally regained their sharpness and focus as he closed them for a moment. The creature’s Will suddenly left its body, a mirage of sprawling flames traveling out of the pocket into the frigid north and beyond, moving quickly toward the south.
Meanwhile, Lino suddenly felt a jolt as Ataxia showed him an image of something flying in the sky. Grinning monetarily, he left the pocket of flames, glanced at Edryss, winked and took to the sky as his wings unfurled.
The two parties met halfway through, both coming to a halt, standing apart less than ten meters. Even the Dragon’s mere Will left Lino slightly terrified; it bounded for over five miles altogether, all doused in beautiful, coral-crimson flames. A pair of eyes suddenly emerged upfront and met Lino’s; the latter couldn’t read any hostility from them, merely curiosity.
“Unflinching, unbending, straightforward,” the Dragon spoke out. “You are indeed the Empyrean.”
“And you must be the sod Edryss chased away the other day.” Lino said, grinning.
“Ha ha ha, and sly-tongued? Oh my, Ataxia really lucked out this time around.”
“He really did.” Lino nodded, quickly taking the liking to the creature he so far thought of as merely foul evil. “So, why are you here Vay-what’s-your-name?”
“Vynoarad,” the Dragon replied. “But you can call me Vy.”
“So, Vy, why are you here?”
“One of my subordinates informed me that the whore had sought help,” Vynoarad said. “I hardly believed him until he mentioned it was the Empyrean. Only you lot are mad enough to tangle yourselves into the struggle of Dragons without being forced to.”
“Well... it is true. I am definitely mad.” Lino said, chuckling. “So? You came here to buy me out or something?”
“Ha ha, I wish,” Vy said. “While it would be pleasure to have you standing on my end of things, fighting you will be a much greater pleasure than that.”
“... you expect me to fight you? You?” Lino asked, arching his brows. “Wow, who’s the mad one now?”
“What? You aren’t up to the challenge?” the Dragon taunted.
“No, definitely not,” Lino replied without hesitation. “Dude, just what is your Level?”
“Around 160,000, last time I checked.”
“... when was that?”
“Eh, a few hundred million years ago.”
“... oh go suck a scaled Dragon dick.” Lino groaned. “I’m not even a Titular yet! What do you expect me to do?! Clean your teeth with my bony arms?!”
“Your lips keep spewing one thing,” Vy said. “Yet, your eyes are burning, little Empyrean. Burning like fires inside my soul. I can see Edryss is feeding you her shitty flames, probably asking you to refine them, no?”
“... yes?” Lino questioned, his eyes turning into slits.
“Even if you completely master it, you would still be nothing in my eyes,” the Dragon said. “But, I have a way to help you fight me.”
“... and I’m supposed to just accept the fact you’re helping someone you want to fight grow stronger?”
“What is so strange about that?” Vy questioned back. “All my life, I craved fighting those who could match me.”
“Edryss can match you.” Lino said.
“Edryss? Ha ha ha, oh, little Empyrean. Edryss could not match me even if there were a thousand more of her clones flying around. I see she has not told you everything.”
“... oh boy.” Lino groaned suddenly, feeling cheated. “Why did you run away then?”
“Because I have no intention of killing her,” Vy said, almost seeming to shrug. “She is my little sister after all. She is just a bit... eh, too devoted to the Ancient Ways.”
“... oh for the love of... did I get myself entangled in the Race affair of Family affair?”
“Both,” Vy said. “After all, all Dragons are technically family so...”
“Yeah, let’s not go down that rabbit hole any longer.” Lino interrupted. “So, you’re saying, you can easily defeat everyone?”
“No,” the Dragon shook his head. “Truth is, the damnable Mages are the reason I even sought to build the army of those little cretins. I need someone to absorb all those Scripts. They may not have the ability to kill me, but I take no pleasure in being blasted by lightning time and again for weeks before they finally run out.”
“... yet you take pleasure in making your opponent stronger so he can match you up in a fight? Goddamn dude, you are fucking weird.”
“Ha ha ha, hardly so,” Vy laughed freely before continuing. “I have no issues with being beaten to a pulp, or even to death, by someone stronger than me. It is the most basic Law of the World. One, unfortunately, that everyone seems to have forgotten. Tell me, ay, why has the world given itself over to Gaia?”
“Eh?” Lino exclaimed softly.
“By the Old Ones, you right now could probably splatter her across the walls of the world,” Vy sighed, shaking his massive head while stirring the winds that nearly blew Lino away. “How come such a pathetic cretin gets to rule the world? Ay, ay, your mainland races and your customs... they are the insane things here.”
“... wait- back the fuck up! Y-you... you are saying I can kill Gaia as I am right now?”
“What the fuck!!” Lino screamed out. “Why am I even getting stronger then?! Shouldn’t I just rush into her palace of shit and ram her fucking skull through the thick concrete wall?!”
“Oh, no, no, you stand no chance in actually getting to her. I just mean that if she decided to for some reason challenge you to the fight, you would defeat her. Hell, even I probably cannot reach her without suffering quite considerably.”
“... oh. Yeah. Raise my hopes and shoot them down. God, you are like the every girl back in the village I grew up in. Ugh, so, anyway, how do you plan on making me strong enough to match you? Because, and I say this fully conscious of how it makes me sound like, you can probably sniff me right now and I’d die.”
“... there is nothing I can give you to make you suddenly strong enough to fight me, little Empyrean; after all, strength is a gradual process -- well, at least for the Lesser Races.”
“... fuck you.” Lino flipped him a finger as Vy continued.
“But, I can tell you how to temporarily gain control over the entire <Sword of Chaos> Mantra.”
“... what will it cost me?” Lino immediately asked, realizing there was no free lunch in the world.
“Nothing,” the Dragon shook his head. “I will bear the entire burden for you. You just need to go all out in an attempt to kill me.”
“... heh, and I thought I was the battle-crazed maniac. I’ve ways to go still, it seems.”
“You are,” Vy said, his eyes piercing into Lino’s soul. “Had you not been, I would have killed you right here and now. I have met quite a few meek and timid Empyreans who slithered about in the shadows like rats, thinking they can obtain victory like that. If you had turned out to be like them, I would have never allowed you to embarrass the title any further. But... you are not.” Vy paused for a moment before continuing. “You are a Harbinger, Harvester of Souls, Ruin of Creation, the Mad Symphony life is afraid to play. You are just like me, Empyrean. Perhaps, somewhere deep down, you even outmatch me. This, more so than anything else, gives me confidence that our battle will be one for the annals of history. Let the rest scrabble and scrape to earn their honors, and let us wash the sky in fire and fury. When the day comes, I want you to show me the meaning of Chaos, Empyrean; I want you to bathe the world in damnation the likes of which it has never seen before. Do you accept my wish?”
“... I do.” Lino replied with a faint smile. “Wash the sky in fire and fury? I like that. I really like that. So be it, old Vy. When the day comes, I’ll meet you up above. But, are you feeling brave?”
“... brave?” Vy asked, seeming confused.
“Ay. How about we make a wager?”
“A wager? Oh?” the Dragon mumbled with deep interest.
“Should you win, you can request anything of me, even my life if you want it. But, if I win, I want you to become my pet.”
“Yes, I just said my pet. Don’t look at me like that. Do you know how cool I’d look if I were to arrive to each battle riding a motherfucking Dragon? Dude, the waterworks that would flow... holy crap.”
“... ha ha ha ha ha, you really are a spectacular specimen, Empyrean!!” Vy roared out in laughter, turning around. “Very well, if you win, I shall become your pet. But, if I win, you shall become mine. We shall spar every day until the end of time. And even if you ever grow stronger than me, you would still remain my pet. How’s that sound?”
“Like something I’d put my money on. Cheers, old bastard. I look forward to riding your ass like someone else rides mine.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha....”