THE BEND OF TIME
Ever since Lino began studying the Law of Time, he always imagined it as a more of an abstract concept with practical impact on reality. However, Amadeel had almost entirely shattered his way of thinking, as Time lay stretched before Lino’s eyes into barren infinity. It was difficult to describe its shape, as it simply seemed to embody everything it touched, rather than being anything on its own.
For one reason or another, he also believed that Space and Time were practically inseparable, yet, he could see it now, that even within the Void itself Time still existed and thrived. It was hard to wrap his mind around the concept; perhaps, more so than any other Law in existence -- Chaos included -- Time was the most abstruse one. It was difficult to grasp, and even more difficult to explain.
“This is Time,” Amadeel said. The two of them were currently orbiting above the skyline, where breathing was practically impossible. “This, and much more. But, for the time being, I can only show you this much.”
“... it’s still fascinating nonetheless.” Lino replied, smiling faintly.
“... it represents a single moment.”
“If you look carefully enough,” Amadeel said. “You can see every speck of Time bending so quickly it’s impossible to calculate it properly. Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands of times in a second? Either way, because of the way it’s structured, neither Past nor Future technically exist -- just a single moment. Time can be understood as a string of unbroken, single moments -- like those screen-viewing talismans. So, if you introduce a tear in that chain, you disrupt the continuity, which means that Time itself has to make up the difference.”
“...” Lino listened carefully.
“If you can create large enough of a distortion over long enough of a period of these ‘strings of moments’, you can cause a domino effect, where Time will distort another point of reality in order to bend itself back onto the original timeline.”
“It’s impossible to tell what would be disrupted in that scenario?” Lino questioned with furrowed brows.
“It is,” Amadeel nodded. “It could be virtually anything -- Space, Void, Reality itself, or any other element. The last time a mass-scale dilation of time happened, it caused so many volcanic eruptions that it cleaved a single continent in two -- Central and Western.”
“... eh? You serious?” Lino exclaimed in surprise. “They used to be one?”
“Ay,” Amadeel nodded. “And the dilation was caused due to the first Origin War; for the first and last time in the history of the world,” Amadeel continued, his expression solemn. “Tier 9 Magic was performed -- it slowed Time to a crawl within nearly the entire continent -- a combination of both at the time -- whose effects rippled on and created the so-called ‘Ashen Age’, a period of several million years where the Moon Continent was uninhabitable. It was surrounded far and wide by ash and mist, and no one could approach it. By the time we could, it was no longer one but two.”
“... holy shit.” Lino mumbled lowly after taking a few moments to process the information.
“The current distortions may not yet be at such a level,” Amadeel said, not giving Lino time to properly go through everything. “But, the build up still exists; virtually anything can trigger it at this point -- a large-scale conflict, a war between Holy Grounds, Prime or Fiend Awakening, long-term usage of Defensive Artifacts...”
“... can we at least predict where the fallout would hit the hardest?”
“No,” Amadeel said. “It entirely depends on which other element or Law Time decides to borrow from. I know that, in many scenarios, this fallout would actually be beneficial to you, as it may entirely cripple the Holy Grounds. But--”
“--but it’s also just as likely to cripple us,” Lino said. “I’m not a gambling man, Amadeel. Rather than praying to the gods of luck and whatnot, I’d much rather tinker with Time myself, and if it blows up in my face... at least I’ll know who to blame.”
“Don’t worry,” Amadeel said, smiling faintly and patting Lino on the shoulder. “Whoever has been doing this has been doing so for many, many, many years. It is impossible to create this large of a disruption within a short span of time. So, unless you manage to kill Time like you killed Light, we ought to be fine.”
“... are you holding that against me?” Lino asked, skewing his glance.
“No, of course not.”
“You sound like you do.”
“It’s just that Eos was such a beautiful--”
“--bitch. She was a beautiful, vile, vengeful bitch.”
“Right, but she was really beautiful.”
“I thought your old ass couldn’t feel any emotions.”
“... libido isn’t an emotion, young Empyrean.”
“... oh for the love of...” Lino groaned. “How far have I fallen to be talking about libido with old, limp dudes?”
“Oh, I assure you, I am very much active and in no way limp.”
“... read between the lines man. I do not -- I repeat -- I. Do. Not. Want to ever hear about your libido, or your activities, or literally anything in relation to your genital area ever, ever, fucking ever again. Got it?”
“Khm, got it. Understood.”
“Good.” Lino said, suddenly smirking. “But, you’re right. Eos was really beautiful. I mean, her tits were amazing; full, round, and those nipples, ah man. Did you know the color of her bush was also golden? I mean, how amazing is that?”
“... y-you---you s-saw her naked?”
“Much harder to understand than even Time, right?” Lino winked, turning sideways momentarily and glancing at the uninterrupted flow of Time before him. Though he promised Amadeel he would help, he didn’t have a clue where to begin with, and Ataxia remained mum -- merely stating that tinkering with Time wasn’t something he ought to be doing. “Anyway, thanks for showing me this. I’ll mull over how to trace back disruptions to their Origin. In the meantime, can I ask for a favor?”
“What do you need?” Amadeel asked back.
“I’ll need you to embed some runes on my weapons,” Lino said. “Spare no expenses; ask Val for whatever materials you need.”
“... any specific requirements?” Amadeel asked as he took a small ring -- clearly a Void Storage of sorts -- and looked inside only to see items strewn about freely.
“Strength and speed,” Lino said. “If you can add some range-oriented effect, it’d be great, but it’s fine if you don’t.”
“... very well. I’ll see what I can do. It will take a while, though, if you want all weapons to have Tier 5 Runes.”
“Tier 5? Weren’t you a Grandmaster?” Lino asked with a strange gaze.
“I am?” Amadeel replied in kind.
“I was thinking more along the lines of Tier 7, old man. What use do I have for Tier 5 Runes? If wanted Tier 5 Runes, I could just fuckin’ buy them.”
“... y-you want to tire me out to death?! Tier 7 is already my utmost limit!!”
“Then you better work hard at it. Or I might just happen to forget about the whole time-business.”
“... I know you’re joking--”
“--do you? Really?”
“... you’re a mean, mean, vile and vengeful man.”
“Nah, I’m just really good at pissing people off.” Lino winked, glancing down. “Anyway, if you need anything, you’ve my talisman. Also, ease down with the reports on our position. Even if you don’t give them a dead giveaway, they might be able to locate our general area.”
“... very well.”
Lino descended down from the sky quickly, easily piercing through the veil around the Fortress and quickly finding his way inside, undetected. The entire fortress was like a well-oiled machine, and though he had plans on personally visiting some of the more promising members, he had to leave them for some other time.
He quickly sped up through the floors and landed just beneath the top one, where inside a small corner was his room. Hannah was already inside, reading a book underneath the light of a stone-crystal, a local invention which had stunned Lino -- using Qi Stones to light up crystals which in turn lit up rooms. Although he was fairly certain he’d seen the ‘invention’ in practically every bigger city he’d visited, it was still impressive they were able to produce it, especially because Arrays required weren’t that simple.
“Hey,” she called out as she saw him enter, putting the book down. “Where were you?”
“Up. In the sky. Talkin’ time and shit.”
“Khm, you know that traitor Lucky mentioned?” he asked as he sat down by the only table in the room and poured two cups of mead, Hannah soon joining him.
“Yeah, you figured out who it is?” she asked.
“Hm,” Lino nodded. “That old Amadeel dude, the Runecrafter.”
“Yeah, but don’t worry. He comes in peace... mostly. I’ll tell you some other time, it’s kind of complicated.”
“... are you saying I’m stupid?”
“Yeah, and annoying. Can you please stop with that shit?” Lino groaned.
“Why?” Hannah smirked. “I love your exasperated expressions.”
“And I love your horny ones, but you don’t see me sticking my fingers here and there whenever I have the opportunity.”
“... yes. Yes you do. That’s literally what you do. I was half-expecting your hand to already be beneath my skirt by this point.”
“... khm, right. Anyway, how familiar are you with markets on the Holy Continent?”
“... very familiar.” Hannah said with a strange expression.
“Oh, right. I forgot. You’re a hoarder.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, I’m planning on heading over and procuring some money,” he said. “And I was kind of hoping you’d come along and guide my crafting.”
“Alone?” Hannah asked.
“Nah, I’ll ask Jack, Edward and those three youngsters, whatever-their-names-be, to come along with us. Lucky is already there, and I’ll also get that Ion kid to join us. I hear he’s quite talented at Formations.”
“Oh, wow. An entire entourage. That’s so unlike you.”
“What do you mean?” Lino questioned, somewhat angrily. “So far I had to do all that shit alone, but why would I still be doing it alone when I’ve got minions ready to kiss my ass to do it for me?”
“... yeah, great way to talk about people who respect you. Keep at it and they just might fall in love with you.”
“You walked right into that one, you know?” Lino said, smiling wryly as Hannah lowered her head and sighed.
“... yeah, yeah I know. It’s my fault for thinking the guy who supposedly loves me will pass on the opportunity. My bad, my bad.”
“What do you mean supposedly loves you? Have I not, through many romantic, heroic and generally one-of-a-kind acts, proven my love? What more you want woman?! What more do you want?!”
“What are you doing?” she asked, looking strangely at him.
“... dramatizing things a bit? A lot of books you read have these moments. You know, like dude says ‘eh, you cooked a better dinner yesterday’ and the whole thing explodes into this huge fight that somehow ends up with a King of a next-door-kingdom dying with a pen stuck up his bum.”
“Yeah, that was a bit insane,” Hannah said, sighing. “But also kind of interesting, no?”
“Oh, god yes.” Lino nodded fervently. “It was pretty much a guess game, and you always guessed wrong. There was no way in hell to predict what was going to happen. Anyway, you in?”
“Of course I’m in. How are you gonna put a baby in me if you’re an entire continent away?”
“... are you saying my dick isn’t strong enough to perform such an act?”
“Not unless it suddenly became a magical dick.”
“... I’m afraid ‘tis not.” Lino said, chuckling lightly and kissing Hannah’s forehead gently.
“What was that for?” she asked, taking a sip of mead.
“... for everything. Oh, I also plan on causing some Chaos while I’m there, you know, to kind of weaken them and force them to bring back some of the crazy dudes and chicks they sent after me. So, you better pull out that evil-batshit-insane side of you while we’re there.”
“Why not bring Litha and Vyrone? They ought to know more about the whole situation than me by now.”
“... they’re not ready,” Lino said, sighing faintly. “Some other time.”
“... alright.” Hannah said, cozying up to him. “We’ll give them more time then.”
“... yeah.” Lino pulled his arm over and put it around Hannah, kissing the top of her head. His heart sped up momentarily, as he was once again reminded how weak, yet strong, she made him. Glancing down, he smiled warmly and moved strands of her crimson hair behind her ears, revealing the side of her face. Her eye moved sideways and met his, quickly squinting into a smile. It was the sort of smile that give him the courage to believe, with all his heart, that they would win. That he had to win.