VESTIGES OF TIME AND CHAOS
Lino had realized Amadeel was an exception, an anomaly of sorts, the moment he’d stepped into the hall. Among all those present, he was the only one who seemed entirely indifferent to Lino’s presence, as though he was just another man, one in the sea of others. That feeling was only further exuberated while the two talked, a small window of time during which Lino realized the man held neither fear nor awe nor dread nor disgust toward him -- practically nothing.
Another giveaway, at least for Lino, was that the Law of Time around Amadeel acted rather strangely; so strangely, as the matter of fact, that Lino was entirely unable to interact with it. Time -- something he had a fairly decent mastery of -- entirely rejected his calls, as though he was mere air. It was also then that Ataxia and Vy, both at the same time practically, informed him of the man’s true identity -- the first Human, the first being, really, to have ever mastered the Law of Time -- The Titular Chronoshifter, an ageless monster referenced in texts dating as far back as the Skyhaven Era.
While it was never confirmed that it was truly him, it was beyond true that he was perhaps one of the oldest living currently in the world, if not the oldest. Someone like that would hardly visit Lino just to chat randomly, which is also why the latter waited for the two to have a conversation in private.
“... what an extravagant title, don’t you think?” Amadeel asked with a faint smile, taking out a pipe from many pockets of his robe and lighting it up. “The Chronoshifter... as though Time beckons my bidding like a slave.”
“Doesn’t it?” Lino questioned back, smiling faintly as well.
“If it did, do you think I would be sneaking around, spending my days in shadows, hiding away?”
“... we all have our kinks.”
"You have a decent mastery of Time, young Empyrean," Amadeel said. "By now you should have realized that Time will never be a slave of the living. On the contrary, with every passing day, we are being further and further chained by it."
“... somehow I have difficulties believing that the man older than the concept of Cultivation itself is chained by Time. Please do enlighten me in regards to these chains, Time Lord.”
"... nothing in this world comes free, young Empyrean," Amadeel said, leaning back into the chair and puffing out a cloud of smoke. "What I've gained through Time, I've given back hundredfold, if not more. As any other Law of Creation, what it gives, it takes back in spades; Death will give you the ability to reign over the sea of corpses, yet it will take away your ability to live among the sea of living. Life will give you the ability to breathe primate sentience into the unlikeliest of things, yet it will take away your ability to understand that all things come to an end."
“Time, similarly, gives many things,” he continued. “It has given me the ability to live through countless eons, to see things others can’t possibly even dream up, to meet a myriad of people bounding each era freely; it has provided me with life in which I’d lived through most of the events others only ever read about. However, somewhere along the way, it has taken away everything that once upon a time made me a Human. I cannot love, nor can I hate; I cannot fear, nor I can express joy. All the emotions that are so quintessential to a person’s identity are entirely alien to me. Tell me, young Empyrean, would you be willing to give up all that merely to live a long life?”
“... no,” Lino replied, smiling lightly. “It sounds rather exhausting.”
"... it is," Amadeel said. "More so than you can possibly imagine. Regardless, however, it has provided me with a unique perspective on things. While others vie for the Crown, I stand by the side and watch them all burn to ash through their blasting desires. And, as you've said, living so long has allowed me to understand Time beyond the capacity of this world."
“...” Lino’s eyebrows perched for a moment, his eyes glistening in the sheen of curiosity.
"Time, like all other Laws of Creation, is a constant," Amadeel explained. "Well, that's perhaps slightly misleading; not a true constant, yet not a variable either, but something in-between. It can be slowed down to a certain extent and within a specific scope, yet it can never be stopped, nor it can ever be sped up. Even when slowed down within a specific region, the Law itself will find a way to make up the difference to restore the original timeline. Meaning that, from the dawn of time till today, an exact number of years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds have passed. Nothing and no one, no matter how powerful, has ever or will ever change that."
"..." Lino listened carefully, as Time was one of the few Laws that had just a few potential interpretations, lending itself to only a few paths one could tread while studying it.
“Because of this reality, however, something odd is happening,” Amadeel continued, his tone turning grave. “Time is in a strange distortion; it is still progressing onwards consistently, yet the spikes of balance are growing more frequent and more pronounced.”
“... Law is trying to fix dilation?” Lino asked after a short thought.
“No,” Amadeel shook his head. “Law is fixing dilation -- the problem is that the latter’s exponential increase seems entirely artificial.”
“Someone’s purposefully tampering with Time?” Lino exclaimed softly. “What’s even the point if the end result is still the same?”
"Isn't it rather silly to compare the journey to the destination?"
"Your destination is to reach the world's apex and achieve the long-yearned victory of your Heritage -- does that destination specify a journey you need to take?" Amadeel said. "Similarly, tampering with Time can have disastrous consequences on the world at large. While the Time will naturally fix itself in the end and regain its original timeline, it hardly cares for the collateral destruction it causes along the way."
“Do you know who is causing it?” Lino asked.
“No,” Amadeel shook his head. “Time does not merely span this world, young Empyrean -- it’s an all-encompassing force that exists everywhere where matter and energy do. For all I know, these effects don’t even originate from here.”
“... even with all that, why come to me?” Lino asked something he was the most interested in. “If you were hoping I would drop everything I’m doing and embark on a quest that, from the sound of it, might wind up with me being stranded god-knows-where, you may as well kiss these walls and leave.”
"For a simple reason," Amadeel explained. "Chaos is the only thing that pre-dates Time itself. Rather, it is the only thing that can exist outside our understanding of reality. No matter how wise or witty or knowledgeable, it is impossible to understand a world without, well, everything that makes up the world. Chaos is our sole clue, yet, what can we derive from it? The entire concept of Chaos orbits the fact that no true meaning can be extrapolated from it. That is unless the one understanding it is the one that embodies it."
“...” Lino awaited further explanation, merely taking a sip of ale with a queer smile on his face.
"My understanding of this may not be true -- it actually may be a complete fabrication in the end... but as I understand the relation between Time and Chaos, the latter, when superimposed over the former, takes precedence; meaning that Chaos, potentially, has the ability to command Time on the most primal level -- one that is unobtainable to everyone and everything else."
"... so you are hoping I'd be able to locate the source of distortions in Time through tempering with it further? Aya, aya, old man; don't you know ‘fight fire with fire' is an idiom of irony, not advice?"
"... I have kept an eye on you for a while, young Empyrean," Amadeel said, sighing faintly. "And I know, in my heart of hearts, you aren't fighting for glory or riches or vengeance; whatever differences we may share, at our cores we fight for the same thing -- for this world. The reason I didn't come to you with this earlier is precisely that I waited for you to understand yourself in full capacity."
“And now you think I have?” Lino questioned, chuckling faintly.
“I do.” Amadeel replied with an honest gaze. “With my whole being.”
“... my understanding of Chaos and Time, however, differs greatly from yours, Chronoshifter,” Lino said after a short silence. “Most of the world wholly believes that Order is Chaos’ counterpart; that the two are like fire and water, sky and earth.”
"We both know, however, that's not the case," Lino said, sighing faintly. "I could put an argument forward that Chaos and Order have absolutely nothing to do with one another, as strange as that may sound. At least in practical philosophy, rather than the theoretical one."
"In my understanding, Time is the anti-thesis to the Chaos," Lino continued, tapping his index finger against the wooden table slowly and rhythmically. "Time is the quintessential portion of regulation, opposite of the core principle of Chaos; ever-unchanging, predictable... everything that the Chaos is not. How can I tamper with something that principally rejects every core foundation of my strength? The dilation I would cause by trying to tamper with Time could potentially end up being on a world-ending scale."
“... so you will do it?” Amadeel asked with a queer smile, taking another blow from the pipe.
“As long as you stop reporting on us to your overlords back home.” Lino said.
“That’s rather unfair; after all, I am still a member of the Holy Ground. I take my duties seriously.”
“I take mine too, but that doesn’t mean you ought to brag about them.” Lino said with a strange smile.
“Nevermind. It’s fine; just don’t report on anything too sensitive.”
"Like the fact that I've been here for over four hours and I still haven't met my dearest younger brother. What a disgraceful man I am..."
“...” Amadeel sighed inwardly, having finally been reminded of the fact that the young man in front of him was indeed an Empyrean, the core projection of everything that Chaos was -- and, among many things, Chaos was ever-changing... as were the Empyreans.