TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Lino sat on the far edge of the Holy Holm, overlooking the small divide between it and the mainland. Mountains rose immediately on the shore-side on the other end, ships humming across the waters repeatedly without a stop, carrying on and off hundreds of people as it was forbidden to fly over. Sitting next to him was a young, bald girl with peculiar eyes eating a raw fish, a custom Lino found more disturbing that most other things in his life.
She ate it with strange delight and gusto, chewing right through the bones, swallowing it all freely. It was her third, Lino mused inwardly, yet she seemed incapable of stopping any time soon.
“... no wonder my Mark didn’t work on you,” she commented after swallowing a mouthful, glancing at Lino; the latter sighed and whipped out a handkerchief, wiping the girl’s cheeks. “The Empyrean, huh? You sure don’t look the part.”
“There goes the kettle calling the pot black...”
“... but, then again, my image of the Empyrean is probably slightly distorted.”
“What’s it like?” Lino quizzed.
“A big, hairy monster with six legs, four heads, eighteen arms and a perpetually exposed penis.” the little girl replied.
“... yeah, slightly distorted. Anyway, what are you doing here?”
“I ran away.”
“Because they wouldn’t let me leave.”
“Why did you want to leave?” Lino persisted, much to the little girl’s annoyance.
“... ugh, what’s with all these questions? What if I started asking you, huh?! What are you doing here? Why? Why again? Just damn why?! See, isn’t it super annoying?”
“... I’ve come to bargain.” Lino replied with a grin.
“My skills in exchange for lots and lots of wealth.”
“... why do you need money?” the girl asked quizzically. “Can’t you just make what you need?”
“... oh, yeah, sure. In my head I just imagine the world going boom, and boom the world goes. That’s how shit works in real life.”
“What other life is there?”
“The imaginary one you’re apparently living in.”
“... touche.” the girl nodded, finishing the last bite of the fish. “So, will you let me go now?”
“... aww man. I apologized and everything.”
“I got a hold of a Great Seer. Why in the god’s name would I let you go?”
“... because I’m adorable?” the little girl puffed her cheeks and smiled sweetly, crossing her arms over her chest in a feeble attempt to pronounce her non-existent breasts. She kind of looks like a potato... Lino kept the thought to himself, though.
“How about instead of letting you go, you come and work for me?” Lino asked, dangling fish -- literally -- in front of the girl’s beaming eyes.
“... y-you... you can’t bribe me...”
“You clearly don’t exactly think I’m a big, bad wolf setting himself up to swallow the world, and even if you did, you don’t seem to have a problem with it. So, why not just hop sides?”
“... what for?” she scoffed, finally managing to tear her gaze away from the fish and onto the water divide. “You’ll just be like them. Tell me what to do all the time, where to go, how to do it, what to say, what to think... I may as well just stay a beggar.”
“I’ll give you a job,” Lino said, putting the fish down. “A mark -- pardon the pun. How you go about it... I don’t care. What you do to complete the job... I don’t care. What you think about the job, the world, me, or even the Mark itself... I don’t care.”
“... humph, what, you tryin’ to say there isn’t an Empyrean School of Thought all your followers have to abide by?”
“Of course there is,” Lino said. “Technically, every group has its own School of Thought. But, I’d wager mine is pretty relaxed. You know, do as you will so long as you don’t betray us. And we’re good.”
“... I highly doubt that the world’s number one enemy is so lax about his members. Aren’t you afraid you’re gonna be betrayed all the time?”
“Why would anyone betray me?” Lino suddenly picked the girl and placed her on his lap as she cried out lowly. “You know, no amount of fear and terror and rules and regulation will ever create a society no one will betray. Hearts are fickle, and instead of trying to regulate them, I chose to believe them instead. I give my heart out in return for yours.”
“... a-a-a-are you conf-confessing your l-l-love to me?!” the girl suddenly curled up inside Lino’s lap, hiding her head away in her knees.
“I want to reign the world, Y’sha,” Lino mumbled lowly. “I want to batter through everything and everyone standing in my way. And, one day, when I hoist the Crown, I want to live inside the world where young kids like you don’t have to beg on the streets for food. I want to live inside the world where young men and women aren’t forced to die bearing arms for the dreams of another. I want to live inside the world where everyone can make something of themselves, so long as they’re willing.”
“But, in order to get there,” he said, looking up. “I have to do things that make me the same as them. I don’t mind, honestly. I’m not above it, nor am I better than it. Rather, in many ways, I prefer their ways than some condescending, holier-than-thou non-sense that never gets any results and just mockery. And, even more importantly, to get there... I can’t do it alone. So, I’m not asking you to be my slave... instead I’m asking you to be the wind in my back.”
“... tsk, I can’t believe you’re actually using that sly tongue of yours to charm and woo young girls,” Hannah suddenly chimed in, causing Lino to sigh. “Have you no shame?”
“You were getting too emotional and decided to lash out?” Lino grinned.
“... humph, you already have a girlfriend and you’re flirting with me. Shameless!” the little girl tore herself away from his arms, a tinge of pain flashing through her eyes.
“Does that mean you won’t help me?” Lino asked, putting on an expression that made Hannah gag for a moment.
“... I-I... I didn’t say that...”
“Why don’t you go with big sister?” Lino said, smiling sheepishly. “I bet you’ll look real pretty after a good bath.”
“... y-yeah... thanks...”
Lino smiled apologetically at the glaring Hannah as she took Y’sha away. He remained seated, taking out a gourd of ale, slowly sipping it. While meeting a Great Seer was a happy accident, it hardly changed his plans. He already knew who he wanted her to Mark, but it would have to wait for the time being. Realizing he’d learned as much as he could about the Holy Continent here, Lino knew it was time to depart. Cross the divide and enter the land of over eleven billion souls, most of which were hellbent on finding him and killing him.
Rather than terror or even excitement, most of all he felt a strange sort of melancholy; he couldn’t quite explain it, or even understand it all that well himself, yet it was there, pressing against his heart.
Though he indeed did so in an attempt to manipulate her, he didn’t lie to Y’sha -- he wished to reign the world and re-make it, at least in small parts and pieces. However, the nagging feeling that had started festering years ago wasn’t leaving; if anything, it was growing stronger -- one that told him this was the world’s predestination, the idea that it has to be this way for it to exist. To be at perpetual war, ensconced in wanton chaos, intertwined in eternal web of conflicts.
It was almost like a whisper inside of his head, humming ‘it is meant to be’ repeatedly. He still refused to believe it, though; he didn’t believe everything was determined already, and that no one could do anything to change the outcome no matter what.
“... if you wish to change the world,” a now long-silent voice spoke out once again inside Lino’s mind, surprising him. “You need to understand all its shortcomings first.”
“... are you telling me to chat to that bundle of insanity again?” Lino suddenly shuddered as hollow light of terror flashed through his eyes. “’Cause, quite frankly, I’d rather just leave the world as is.”
“Lyee is a quintessential element toward increasing your strength rapidly,” Ataxia said. “If you can properly embody her, you’ll easily be able to master up to eight forms of the <Sword of Chaos> rather than having barely minimal mastery in the first two. In addition, she can teach you to finally engrave the Titan Heart into your armor.”
“... yeah, of course, all of that sounds great.” Lino nodded. “But, on the other hand, she quite literally unloaded more words onto me in a day than I have spoken in my lifetime. Me, Ataxia. Not some random, shy lad. But a dude who makes it his business to lecture people just to watch their pained expressions at least once a day.”
“... you, khm... you just need to learn to filter her out...”
“Yeah, that sounded really convincing,” Lino sighed. “Not yet, though. I promise I’ll talk to her once I open the smithy.”
“Have you finally decided on the city?”
“I’ll open it in the heart of the sole Empire of the continent, in Do’r city” Lino said, smiling lightly. “And bedazzle the nation like it was never bedazzled before, nor will it ever bedazzled again...”