FIRE AND FURY (V)
Heaved high up in the sky amidst the roaring, crimson flames, a figure still managed to stand out within the ever-reaching corporeal shadows. Lino hardly looked himself at the moment; his black hair had turned entirely white, seemingly aglow, his jet-black eyes following suit, spitting ceaseless arrays of light from the edges. The greatest change, however, to his appearance were the wings behind his back -- feathered and golden they were no more, instead turned entirely into nimble, black shadows.
A starkly dark sheen surrounded his body, making him seem far more devilish than holy despite his hair and eyes. Veins all over his body stood up and pulsated like worms, his muscles contorted, nearly ripping through the remnants of his clothes. Behind him, rising even further into the sky, was a mirage of himself. On top of the mirage stood a chilled crown, and further above both the mirage and the crown was a pair of scythe-like chakrams blanketing the heaven and the earth.
The world around him appeared distorted due to his sheer presence, Qi being dragged in and consumed at a rate few could even follow. In his arms he held the [Dragon Slayer] and the [Gauntlet of Absolution], both of which lost their blazing luster in lieu of rapturing shadows. He seemed entirely devoured by darkness and pulled over the line past no return, yet his gaze remained sharp and focused, a playful smirk eternally plastered on his face.
“Madness? Ha ha ha ha ha,” Vy suddenly burst out into laughter, his eyes narrowing slightly. “Fantastic! You truly are one of a kind, Empyrean! But, you are a fool to strengthen me!”
“<Sword of Chaos>,” Lino mumbled with a massive grin. “Sixty-sixth form--”
“Oi, oi, what the hell are you doing?!” Vy quickly exclaimed, a faint trace of fear present in his voice.
“Chaotic Liberation -- Collapse of Creation, Resurrection of Destruction!” shadows exploded like fire from Lino, turning into a massive torrent expanding outwardly in each and every direction, consuming all the surrounding flames in their wake. The shadows expanded across the entire sky, shrouding the whole world in the perpetual night, all the while devouring all matter and energy they came across.
It all, eventually, fed back to Lino, whose mirage grew exponentially clearer and more corporeal until it practically became another body of his. [Dragon Slayer] roared with a furious tone as shadows raptured its blade and took its place.
“... oh you crazy piece of shit.” Vy grumbled but didn’t hesitate any further as his entire body suddenly shook, causing winds of fire to stir around him and consume him in a blanket of flames.
On one end of the sky stood shadows past which no eye, ethereal or ordinary, could gleam, and on another an infernal sea too bright and warm for anyone to look directly at. The battle down below temporarily ceased as everyone focused on the tall sky, their breaths abandoning their lungs, their minds forgetting the most basic functions.
Hannah found herself shook beyond words -- not due to flames, but exclusively due to the raging shadows. The sheer quantity of Qi present was beyond her capacity to understand, making her feel somewhat downcast; even though she knew Lino was only able to do what he did due to Vy’s help, she still couldn’t justify it through that entirely. A large part of it was still his own Will commandeering everything around him to such a perfect degree she felt slightly ashamed, yet also deeply proud. After all, she’d seen him through all parts of his life, from when he was a young, broken boy, to now -- where he became someone who can change the tides of the world all on his own. However much help he was given, whether by Ataxia, Ella, Eggor, or even herself, he would never be able to reach this far without his own strengths.
Some ways off, Jade stood amidst the platoon of Mages, her gaze dubiously focused also entirely on the shadows. There was a trace of nostalgia swirling through her silver eyes, her lips curled up into a faint smile. Something about those shadows, she mused inwardly, felt beyond close and warm... yet also deplorably distant.
Edryss, too, found herself staring at the shadows rather than the flames; she was well-aware of Vy’s strength, after all, and all the while questioned the Empyrean’s decision to head into the battle alone. Yet, now, beneath the blanketed sky of fire and fury, she found herself relieved... yet also slightly terrified. What would have happened if the Empyrean and Vy stood on the same side? She didn’t even dare guess.
Meanwhile, the entire world seemed to be suspended in the moment; most had quickly recognized the source of the shadows, while only a few could recognize the source of flames. After a two-year long slumber, it seemed that he had at last returned. The leaders of the Holy Grounds quickly gathered together in order to discuss the plans, while those who cursed the Empyrean had simply ran away crawled into the holes in hopes of hiding.
Inside a small lake behind the Holy Palace of the Central Continent, an old man and a pair middle-aged ones were sitting around a chess table, their gazes focused on the distant sky.
“Haii, to think the little bastard would actually fight a Dragon to a standstill,” the red-haired man said with a sigh. “He’s just terrible...”
“Well, he did dare threaten our deal ol’ Master here,” the blue-haired one chuckled faintly, his rather feminine face exuding strange sort of grace. “Battling a Dragon seems like a step-down, really.”
“Say what you will, but threatening an old, weak-looking man and a sky-spanning Dragon are two very different things,” the red-haired man retorted quickly. “Even you and I would have to think twice before doing it, let alone some pissy, not-even-forty-yet kid. Don’t know whether to call him courageous or idiotic. Both fit, actually.”
“... his Will had evolved again...” Six, the Eternal Watcher, sighed faintly, shaking his head. “That kid really never rests.”
“It has?!” both men sitting by his side exclaimed in surprise.
“Aye,” the old man nodded, stroking his chin. “How else do you think he’s commanding so many things at once? He’s channeling Law of Madness directly through his body -- something that even I would have trouble doing so easily and swiftly -- while also commandeering Laws of Death and Shadows, binding them together. You can’t do any of that without an ironclad Will.”
“.. isn’t the Dragon taking on most of the burden?” the blue-haired man questioned after a short silence.
“No,” the old man shook his head quickly. “The Dragon is only ensuring Lino doesn’t collapse unto himself entirely due to using <Sword of Chaos>. Were it not for the massive discrepancy in Levels, that little kid could almost match the Dragon in both the Laws and Will, actually.”
“... haii, what a terrifying bastard... to think Forty-four still wants to teach him a lesson... ah, I pity the poor bastard...” the red-haired man said.
“Let him,” the old man shrugged. “Should be a fun show to watch.”
“... M-master... Forty-four is also your Disciple, you know...?”
“Humph, the little bastard has grown quite self-important ever since I put him in charge of missions and rewards. It’s time someone did a check on his ego.”
“... don’t you think Lino needs a far greater check on his ego?”
“What? He’s perfectly fine,” the old man shrugged dismissively. “Young lads need to have fire and passion about them.”
“... is it me or am I sensing some nepotism at play here?” the red-haired man questioned.
Meanwhile, far up and away, Lino and Vy charged at each other with roars loud enough to deafen even the most resilient; Lino slashed with the sword and punched with the gauntlet while Vy stretched his maw far open and spat out an infernal beam directly at the former. A clash of powers resulted in a world-shaking explosion and a shockwave that ripped right through the north, collapsing hundreds of mountains in its wake, and even managing to shake the entire quasi-continent temporarily.
Two sides beneath had long since withdrawn in the safe areas, temporarily establishing ceasefire as they awaited with abated breaths. Yet, no one could see past the shroud of fire and fury high up where two clashed repeatedly, each subsequent one seemingly even more terrifying than the last. Soon, the entire Northern Fjords quaked under the sheer burst of energy, splinters and cracks forming all throughout.
Lino and Vy halted for a moment, both beaten and bruised, taking quick and shallow breaths due to exhaustion.
“Ha ha ha, good lad, good lad!!” Vy laughed out freely. “You’ve really made these old bones work out for the first time in a while!”
“Ha ha ha, don’t relax yet ye’ old bastard,” Lino laughed back. “When I make you my pet, I’ll have you fly me everywhere! You’ve yet to know what having your bones worked out really means!”
“Ho ho ho, someone’s confident! Aye, lad, this poor place can’t handle any more of our clashes,” Vy said. “So, how about we wrap it up in one final bout, eh? Whoever wins... wins. What do you say?”
“You read my mind,” Lino said, grinning. “Besides, I think we’ve inflicted enough terror onto the world for now.”
“Hell no,” Lino shrugged. “But my girlfriend is down there, and it’d be bad if I accidentally killed her.”
“Aii, you humans and your loves and relationships,” Vy lamented with faint disgust. “It’s deplorable.”
“Oh shut up you crazed chunk of meat and come at me!”
“No, you come at me!”
“Fuck! I’m actually giving you initiative and you’re rejecting my kindness?!”
“Who the shit needs your kindness?! Humph, little kid, I’m trying to give you a chance to go out with a blast, yet you want to keep up that bravado of yours till the end!”
“Fuck you! Instead of making you my pet after I beat your ass, how about I instead just kill you?! I have a feeling it will save me a whole slew of trouble in the long run!”
“Humph, now I’m considering killing you too instead of taking you as a pet, little human. But, no, ha ha ha. When I make you my pet, I’ll have you dance and sing for me all the time, ha ha ha ha... it’s going to be glorious...”
“... you really have some shitty interpretation of what ‘glorious’ means.” Lino sighed as he held the [Dragon Sword] in the backhand. “Alright, enough of the chatter. Here I come you fatty!”
“No, here I come you stick-and-bones!”
“What?! Didn’t you give me the initiative?!”
“Didn’t you give it to me?!!”
“FUCK YOU!!” both yelled at the same time as they rushed at each other.