BIRTH OF THE EMPYREAN BLACKSMITH (I)
[Lyonel Qa’yi – Human – Level 1000(?)]
Titles: Adept of Writ (???), Empyrean Soldier (???), Continental Crafter, Harbinger of Chaos, The Unbent, Destroyer of Life, Beholder of Madness, Writ Slayer, Ender of Light, Dragon Rider
Occupations: Beggar (Level 86), Blacksmith (Level 800 - Continental Archmaster), Cultivator (Level 20)
Martial Arts: Empyrean Will (Level 3), Peerless Empyrean Spear Scripture (Level 2), Sword of Chaos (???), Berserk, Unshackled, Aeonian Body, Weapon Mastery
Primal Spirits: Ra, Ye, Gu, Li, Glog, Tet, Ashta
What was the difference between all the previous realms and becoming a Void Titular? That’s an answer Lino was currently trying to figure out, seated on top of a crystal-like altar, enshrouded in milky-white mist all around, drawing Qi from hundreds of miles all around. His mind spun more quickly than ever before, images flashing through his thoughts, words, concepts, truths and lies, his entire life crammed into a singular flash of memories.
His black hair streaked upwardly as though there was wind beneath him blowing up. He had his eyes closed, his expression placid and tranquil, his posture relaxed. It was a moment of monumental change, both within and without; after having spent over two years in practically perpetual solace, training in silence, he’d finally come this far -- yet only a massive wall awaited him. There was no one in the entire world who could help him traverse it -- it was something he had to do himself for himself, as every crossing was vastly different than the other.
What it meant to become a Titular was different or everyone; to Hannah, for instance, it was finally letting go of the fear and guilt over what she believed. It could be something as simple as merely desiring for it, and yet it could be something so complex one can never hope to even achieve it. Lino himself had no idea what his would be like, though if it were to go anything like Hannah’s, he could venture a guess or two.
After nearly an entire day of silent sitting, he opened his eyes slowly and breathed out. He had a rather bitter expression on his face, his lips curling up into a faint smile before he stepped off the altar and into the frosted wild. Hannah and Seya sat down below, both anxiously looking at the alter, their expressions also turning bitter when they saw him walk out.
“Good god, you suck!” Seya exclaimed. “That was your third time moron! Do you have absolutely any talent to speak of?!”
“... oi, oi, ease with the anger, peacock,” Lino grumbled, sitting down next to the two of them. “Don’t you think I’m also tired of moving my ass back and forth?”
“What’s the problem?” Hannah asked with a sympathetic expression.
“... I don’t know,” Lino sighed. “It’s not that I’m unable to cross... it’s almost as though there’s no bridge to the other side. Just... blackness.”
“Did you try lighting it up with one of your jokes?” Seya poked at him.
“No, but I did consider setting you on fire.” Lino shot right back.
“Take your time,” Hannah said, jumping in-between the two. “There’s no rush.”
Lino didn’t say anything, though well-aware that there was some hurry to be had; after all, according to Edryss and Vy, the war of the North was less than a year away from actually beginning. Still, even with the pressure, Lino didn’t let it get to him. He’d faced and beaten far worse in his life, never allowing himself to fall down into the pit of self-doubt.
He remained sitting in silence and drinking, his gaze focused on the sky above. Here and there, every now and then, sun would at last pierce through the enshrouding clouds. Though brief and rather meek, he welcomed it; living under eternal clouds and rain was rather depressing, even for him.
What did it mean to become a Titular? He didn’t know. Though he thought about it many times before, he never really gave it a good hard look -- he merely imagined it was just another realm with specific requirements he’d have to meet before crossing over. Now that he stood in front of the gorge, looking over on the other end, he realized it was all but. Perhaps, in the most primitive sense, it really was just another realm, but it was also far more than that.
If all the realms thus far were about Qi, becoming a Titular was all about the World itself and its Laws -- one’s own command of them. Lino had already grasped the mastery of both Death and Time, even touching a threshold of Lightning. He was still some ways off from complete and absolute mastery, but his current understanding was more than enough to become a Titular. His eyes honed onto the distant horizon, his gaze slightly dull, lost in thoughts.
Time and again he spun his memories around, trying to find the answer within them. He replayed all parts of his life he considered as defining moments; from meeting Ally all the way to today, where he sat on top of the cold block of ice, reminiscing. Even if, in the end, it didn’t help him cross over, he was still glad he took the trip down the memory lane. He rarely thought back on his life, being a firm believer in the creed of what’s in the past stays in the past, and looking back is merely a waste of time.
Yet, here and now, in his most pressing moment, he too was looking back, searching, wondering. All the faces of the people he ever met, especially those he grew fond of and even loved, one by one appeared in this strange symposium of faces. Some were smiling, some were blushing, some were staring at him angrily... their expressions mirrored what he thought they thought of him. Only then it hit him how many of those faces he’ll never see again in his life. He can’t say he’s lost too much, but he’s lost enough to never want to lose another one again. The pain bubbling in his heart was something he had long since got accustomed to; all the grief he had slathered into the small pockets of his soul... it was all still there, pulsating in effervescent silence.
From time to time, he’d reach into those pockets, in those moments he needed strength to move forward, strength to contend, to overcome. And, bit by bit, the grief, the guilt, agony and pain had all begun seeping out. Some parts of himself felt rather hollow; some distant memories rather blurry; some voices and faces distorted by the passage of time. Even though he could have perfect recall through the basic usage of Qi, Lino had never chosen to do it -- rather, he’d tried to make himself as mortal as a cultivator can get. It was one part of his past he could not abandon, the first fifteen odd years of his life that he spent in blind hollowness.
Besides the memory, he never uses Qi to make the sleepiness or tiredness of everyday living go away. He doesn’t use it to keep a close eye out on things or even people, to notice whether they are lying or not; he doesn’t use it when drinking or eating; he doesn’t even use it to prevent sickness or to cure it. Really, he only ever used Qi during fights or something similar to them.
One of the memories, however, even if he forgot all others, would remain -- one that had been sealed and reforged time and again throughout his life. He wasn’t even ten yet, and it happened shortly after Ally left, but before he killed Barry. It was summer, a scorching hot one, and as per usual, he was left to his own devices when it came to finding food and water. By then, he knew Hannah was looking after him, and she’d never let him go thirsty or hungry. Still, that dependence hurt whatever little pride he managed to amass over the years. Thinking he was more than resourceful enough, he decided to leave the village for the first time in his life and try his luck outside.
He can’t, however, remember why he thought it would work out, or what he was going to do. He can only remember finding himself deep in the woods by the nightfall, surrounded by nothing but eerie silence, darkness and the distant howls of the wolves. He remembers shaking, trembling, and even sobbing silently while perched on top of a branch of a short tree he managed to climb. He was hungry, thirsty, tired and terrified. For a brief moment there, he truly thought that would be it, in his own little naive understanding of death.
However, he pushed through the night and, come dawn, he actually managed to catch a rabbit and find a nearby stream. For two whole days, he managed to survive all on his own; however terrible those two days may have been, he found a way to get by. It was an inspiring victory, one he never allowed himself to forget.
Today, however, he was not alone; rather, he had many friends, a whole hall of people he loved, who were there with him. He knew he would never find himself alone in the woods again because they would uproot the earth and bend the sky in order to find him. He knew, deep in his heart, he would never be alone again, not until he drew his last breath. Why was he fighting in the first place? Perhaps, in the beginning, it was merely naive curiosity and a simple desire to prove himself. It has long since evolved, however; he didn’t fight for himself, for the world, or even for Ataxia. He fought for those who stood by him, for those who hid behind his back, and for all those too weak to fight for themselves.
He hardly considered his motives noble, however; being noble is saving a complete stranger. Saving the loved ones, he merely considered it common sense.
Sharpness returned to his gaze as his lips curled up into a gentle smile. His eyes veered sideways onto Hannah and Seya who were sitting listless in silence. In some weird way, they really have become a family of sorts. Though the two were more like sisters rather than anything else, there was still that bond that transcended the ordinary, one that couldn’t be cut with anything but death itself. He got up suddenly and walked over, pulling both of them into his arms, surprising them. He was no longer a boy, a curious little pock wandering the world in search for answers. He was not a maverick, nor a lone wolf. For these two, for all those now fighting his war, for all those praying for him... the journey was about them, as should the destination be. In his heart of hearts, he was a smith before he was a fighter -- and, each smith dreamed of crafting a creation that cannot be surpassed. Where higher, then, can one go than the world itself? For them, for the rest, he would craft a world in which they wouldn’t need to dream of better days. He’d create a reality within which all of them could be anything they want to be. He was the smith, after all, and his material this time around would become the world itself.