FIRE AND FURY (II)
Last Bastion of Magic -- it stood remarkably slightly off the ground, array beneath spitting coral light onto the ground. Rounding the entire city was a massive dome-like shield shining in faint cyan, a central tower spitting a singular pillar toward the center of the dome, connecting everything. Lino and Hannah sat on the very edge of the city, overlooking a spectacularly beautiful creation that left both of them breathless. Buildings erected out of white, clean marble were everywhere, looming over padded streets and narrow alleyways, not an iota of smoke to be seen anywhere.
Dozens of tall towers and spires arose around the city, some bending over toward the top like a finger, some shooting straight up like a spear, some splintering halfway up and bending entirely sideways, perfectly horizontal. Both, merely from a surface glance, realized a lot of love and care went into creating something of this scale and beauty. The hurried souls marching through the streets, the light of the arrays smoldering the sky, the shouts of the somewhat anxious-sounding men and women... all that beauty was currently being shook by the roars of war.
Platoons of young and old gathered, all wearing similar robes with pointy hats on top and various staffs each shimmering in peculiar hue. It was no different, Lino realized, whether it be Cultivators or Wizards... war was remarkably same for everyone over the world. Pine your young and healthy and ship them off with prayers and songs, ready in your heart to bury them in the rain. Hannah noticed his strange gaze and grabbed his hand, jolting him out of his thoughts.
“You having some flashbacks there, big fella?” she asked with a faint grin.
“No, no, more like flash..uh...forwards?” he said. “Imagining how cool I’m gonna look when I serve that old bastard the beating of his life and make him my pet.”
“... are you really confident?” she asked with some worry. “I mean, I know <Sword of Chaos> is unquestionably one of the most powerful Arts to have ever existed... but you’re going up against a fully grown Dragon Aspect, Lino.”
“I thought that would turn you on more than it would scare you.”
“... I’m suppressing it.” she grinned.
“Ha ha ha, good, you’re learning some control,” he said, cracking his neck and glancing at the distant horizon where, between two mountains, a massive shadow of black and red began emerging. “Don’t worry,” he smiled warmly and patted her head for a moment. “Even if there are ten of them, I’ll still come out on top.”
“... psh, right. God, a part of me actually wants you to lose just so your goddamn ego would take a worthwhile blow.”
“Sorry, sorry, half of me wants you to lose.”
“... I know you’re joking--”
“Who says I am?” she interrupted.
“--you better fucking be!!”
“I am. He he.”
“... ugh,” he groaned, pulling his hand away and unfurling his wings. “You’ll be the death of me woman.
“... come back safe.” she mumbled under her breath, her playful expression turning into a worried one as she watched his back flee toward the high skies.
She stared toward the ever-fading dot for a long while, pondering on how can he so easily throw himself into everything. She couldn’t even pretend she would battle a full-fledged Dragon, yet there he was, running ahead of time. It was a stark difference between the two, she realized a long time ago; yet, it was also one among many other things that made them tick so well together. He thought with his heart and she thought with her head; yet, for that brief moment he disappeared, she also wished to listen to her heart and join him. To stand by him and to fight by side side. She knew she couldn’t, though; both had their own battles to wage, and own victories to achieve.
After one last, longing glance, she turned on her heel and entered the city, passing through the masses of people without seemingly being seen by any. She made her way over to the central tower and entered with ease, passing by those few standing on guard and making her way to the top, entering a rather dimly lit room currently occupied by five people -- four men and a woman. Four men she’d already met, and was quite familiar with as she’d visited the city a few times over the past two years, but it was her first time seeing the woman.
The latter had long, snow-white hair and a pair of breathtaking, silver eyes. She was lithe and slender, her long legs impossible to hide beneath loose-fitting, white robes. Her face was oval-shaped, lips full and cherry-red, cheekbones high and rosy, gaze piercing and honest.
As Hannah walked in, the two women’s gazes met as four men mumbled in low tones, glancing between the two with rather peculiar expressions.
“You were right,” the woman said, her lips curling up into a gentle smile. “She is indeed more beautiful than me.”
“... what in the fuck were you guys talking about before I walked in?” Hannah immediately quizzed with faint anger and embarrassment, funneling it all into the rage toward the four men who found themselves standing in the crossfire.
“We, uh,” Ajjy mumbled meekly. “Nothing, khm, nothing. So, uh, Empyrean made it fine?”
“They were just being men,” the woman said, inviting Hannah to sit next to her. “By now, I genuinely believe they cannot help themselves.”
“Y-yes, we can’t... khm,” Vyne said lowly. “It’s just, uh, who we are.”
“Right,” Hannah mumbled. “Four morons. In what universe am I more beautiful than her?” she decided to play along. “I’d kill for my hair to be so white.”
“Just give it a couple of dozen years and you’ll get there!” Ajjy winked yet immediately regretted it as he felt two pairs of murderous eyes land on him squarely.
“I was hoping the Empyrean would join us,” the woman said. “Where is he?”
“He’s gone off,” Hannah said. “For some reason, he’s really excited to fight a Dragon.” she added with a shrug. “We’ve never met, right? I’m Hannah.”
“Jade,” the woman replied with a smile, accepting Hannah’s handshake. “And we hardly could have; I’ve barely left my workstation the last three years. Arrays, after all, won’t draw themselves. From what I understand, you’re the Elysian?”
“Aye.” Hannah nodded.
“Fascinating,” Jade said, her gaze turning somewhat dubious for a moment. “Empyrean and Elysian... helping us in our time of need. The world has really gone mad.”
“... is that really that strange?” Hannah asked, realizing nearly everyone who knew about Lino and her helping had a similar reaction.
“Naturally,” Jade replied. “After all, past generation’s Empyrean is the reason we were banished from the mainland, while the Elysian of yore is the reason we’ve lost nearly all our ancient knowledge.”
“... what the shit...” Hannah mumbled, her eyes turning into saucers for a moment. “Sorry... I didn’t know.”
“Ha ha, why would you? It’s ancient history, even to us; I can barely imagine what it is to the rest of the world. Perhaps a footnote in one of your history books, at most. But, past is in the past; today you are here as friends, and we would not have you any other way. I assume you are well-versed in the overall battle strategy?”
“I am,” Hannah nodded, taking a deep breath. “But, do you guys really need no help on your end?”
“Even if we did, we could hardly ask you or the Empyrean to help us,” Sylos chimed in with a faint sigh. “You are already bending-over-backwards to help us. Honestly, if not for you two and Edryss, we would have folded and fled a long time ago. The least we can do is uphold our end of the war and win.”
“... alright.” Hannah mumbled faintly, turning silent right after, her mind muddled with a surge of thoughts as the remaining five began discussing the overall plan once more.
Meanwhile, far up in the sky, beyond the clouds, inching near the universe itself, Lino was currently staring at a pair of eyes each as large as a massive mountain who started right back. Vynoarad was truly massive, Lino realized; it was beyond shocking to actually see the Dragon up-close this time around, to face the beast squarely -- beast whose single scale was already larger than Lino himself. The only saving grace were the wings behind his back, spanning over a hundred meters altogether, giving him a smidgen of grandeur Vy presented.
“... ‘oly shit, you’re really huge!” unable to hold it in anymore, Lino exhaled out the words and took a deep breath afterwards. “Like, fuck. Can’t you just fight by just using your Will? That was at least somewhat manageable!”
“Ho ho, are you cowering beneath my mighty stature?! Ha ha ha ha, you humans truly are puny, be it a peasant or the Empyrean.” Vy replied in a somewhat mocking tone, causing the corner of Lino’s lips to twitch.
“What, you’re just a goddamn shower anyway,” Lino fired back. “What use is the size and girth when I’ll still beat your ugly head black and blue. Tsk, when you become my pet, he he, I’ll downsize you to a pup. Just you wait, you ol’ bastard.”
“... those below us cannot win this war, Empyrean,” Vy suddenly spoke in a rather serious tone, surprising Lino. “Even with Edryss and Elysian aiding them. Your only hope of saving them is to defeat me. If you submit to me now, I’ll immediately withdraw the troops and ensure their lives till the end of mine. What do you say?”
“... win or lose,” Lino grinned, whipping out [Dragon Slayer]. “What’s it matter, little Dragon? Weren’t we going to shower the world in fire and fury? They are ready to burn the last bit of fuel inside their hearts to defend their home... what abominable coward would I be if I didn’t at the very least match their flames?”
“... ha ha ha ha, indeed, indeed, well-said, little bastard,” Vy laughed, his voice shaking the entire world around the two. “If you said yes, I would have swallowed you on the spot you bastard!”
“Goddamn, you and your fucking tests. It’s getting tiring you ol’ piece of shit!”
“Ha ha ha, alright, alright. No more tests then,” he said, his black scales suddenly catching on fire. “Let us truly cover the world in flame and fury, Lino. Show me all the Chaos has to offer, and allow me to show you it is not quite as prolific as the world has made it out to be.”