Seated on top of a strange, steel bench with glassed back and roof, Lino donned local fashion as to not stand out while he waited for the verdict, taking the time to observe the absolute alien nature of everything around him. Boxes on wheels moved across the street speedily, leaving roaring sounds in their wake and jets of black smoke behind them. Ever so often, he’d see a much larger sort decked in dozen windows on both sides which allowed him to peer inside and see dozens of chairs, all occupied by people.
Colors ranging form dull gray to sun-yellow fashioned the streets, somewhat standing out against the otherwise rather boorish world surrounding them. He sat in silence, occasionally joined by another person who would then leave him to sit on one of those big, wheeled boxes with the rest. There was no music blasting from anywhere, there were no street performances, there were no visible taverns filled with awkwardly-dancing drunkards, there were no children bounding corners, their laughter echoing out joyously. There was absolutely nothing he was familiar with.
It was an entirely new experience, and a welcome one at that; time and again, no matter how much he thought he knew, he’d learn or see something entirely new and different. He took great pleasure in such moments as they were quite inspirational. They proved, at least to an extent, that the world was so large that he may never learn everything there is to know, that there is always something new to see, to hear, to embrace and understand.
Hours ticked by but he barely noticed, too indulged in observing the new reality around him. From time to time he’d see a person flicker out something out of their pockets, a rectangular box of sorts whose front end shimmered in faint light. Some would put them up against their ears and then mumble into them, some would merely frown and put them away.
“Ah, you’re here.” Tim’s voice pulled him back to reality as Lino shifted around and faced him. He quickly realized he was ‘accepted’ based on Tim’s expression; he was actually rather happy, as it meant staying here for a little while longer, taking in even more sights. “The good news is that they’re willing to give you a chance; the bad is that you only have one.”
“One’s all I need,” Lino said, smiling and getting up. “So, where to now?”
“Follow me,” Tim said as he passed Lino and rounded a corner, moving down a somewhat empty street. “I’ve much to show you and tell you. Perhaps, once done, you may truly Liberate us.”
“... I already have,” Lino said, startling Tim who turned around. “What?”
“W-wasn’t that... just for show?” Tim asked.
“No,” Lino shook his head. “Your isolation to both Qi and Mana have nothing to do with tangible. It’s similar to raising a child in a single room and telling them repeatedly there is nothing outside. Given generations of it, you’ll have a massive settlement which doesn’t believe in the outside.”
“... w-wait, you’re saying our walls were entirely imaginary?”
“Yours? Sure,” Lino nodded. “Though I suspect, during the first few generations, some form of a literal chain actually existed.”
“Contemplate shit later, take me places now.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.” Tim recovered quickly, beginning to walk again. “How did you figure it out so quickly?”
“I’m very sensitive to any form of shackles,” Lino replied. “So it was rather easy.”
Tim didn’t question any more, merely leading Lino through a rather complex set of roads, intersections and alleyways. Around half an hour later they found themselves in front of a rather tall, somewhat better-looking building than the rest; front stuck out, glassed all around with metallic poles holding it all together, much to Lino’s amazement. Glassed doors split apart on their own as they approached them, but Tim didn’t explain anything just yet.
They bounded a wide, rather empty hall to the left and into a set of corridors which ended into a mechanism Lino was already familiar with -- a box that could move up and down through a set of cables and gears. As the two entered it, Tim punched several buttons in a row as the box roared, descending shortly after.
The descent lasted for less than a minute, and as they stepped out, the two found themselves inside a dimly-lit set of corridors that were more akin to a labyrinth. Lino was certain that if he didn’t use Divine Sense, he’d most-likely get lost here, yet Tim seemed entirely at home, quickly leading him into a round chamber.
Walls were stacked with screen-like protrusions, with the center of the room splitting the front and the back; the front was stacked with chairs, while the back, the end nearer to them, had a crescent sort of a desk with a mesh of buttons decorating it, chairless.
“What’s all this?” Lino asked.
“It’s not important just yet,” Tim replied from the far left, digging through a strange sort of a shelf filled to brim with rolled, massive pieces of canvases. “They’re sort of like mechanized helpers.”
“... mechanized?” Lino questioned.
“Uh, non-sentient, yet not like a rock,” Tim struggled to explain it properly, as to him understanding it all was entirely innate. “It usually means a machine powered by electricity. Ah, anyway, here it is.” he brought back a rather large piece of canvas made out of a strange material Lino had never seen before. He then spread it over the floor in front of Lino, as the latter studied a strange sight; the canvas depicted various lights, in various shapes, across a black background. Letters and numbers ran across the whole canvas, though not a single concise word was to be found.
“And what’s this?” Lino asked again, crouching down to get a better look.
“This? This is... everything. Well, at least everything we’re currently aware of.” Tim replied with a steadfast grin.
“Huh?” Lino looked at him strangely for a moment.
“... do you know when you rip space clean, and look to the other side?”
“Into the void?”
“Yes, the void,” Tim nodded. “This is that.”
“The ‘void’ outside is not a void, Lino,” Tim elaborated, pointing at the blobs of light on the canvas. “Rather, it’s a stretch of immeasurable space we call Cosmos. To be even more precise, you are never ‘ripping’ space, just using enough energy to temporarily displace it and peer on the other end. That other end is all of this.”
“...” Lino still remained silent, both stumped and confused.
“This,” Tim suddenly extended his finger and plastered it against one of the smaller blobs of light toward the left-end side. The blob was shaped as an elongated spiral. “Is what we call a galaxy -- a compendium of stars, planets and various other cosmic objects. And, within this galaxy... is our home. Noterra. All of this around us,” he pointed at the rest of the blobs as well as the empty space between. “Is the entire Cosmos. In reality, all of this, all of us, are so small... we are merely a part of an already insignificant part of everything.”
“...” though Lino’s expression remained relatively steadfast, his mind was all but; thoughts spiraled together into a soup of madness as he tried to reconcile what he believed with what he was told. He had a massive urge to simply reject everything Tim was telling him yet, for some reason, deep in his heart he believed it to be truth. “Wow, you weren’t kiddin’ when you said I’m gonna find out just how irrelevant I am...”
“Ha ha ha, I certainly was not,” Tim chuckled, sitting down. “But, that’s not what I wanted to say. You’re not irrelevant. Nobody is, really. What I wanted to tell you is that there’s a limit to what we know and what we can do. Just look at all this -- even we, who have been studying this for eons now, cannot even begin to hope to measure to exact size of it... yet, we are certain that no single soul, no matter how long they may live, will ever be able to see and witness every corner of it. Who is to say, then, that somewhere out there, in another galaxy, in another corner of the Cosmos, aren’t beings far more powerful than us? Who is to say that they aren’t right outside, watching us, observing us, not unlike we observe the animals here?”
“... pshhh...” Lino sucked in a cold breath, steadying his heartbeat. He certainly was prepared for many things, but not for this. “How did you guys figure this out? And, rather, why hasn’t anyone else?”
“... largely because we are content,” Tim said, sighing and getting up. “Truth be told... we were not the ones who figured this out. We didn’t even draw this map.”
“Who was it, then?” Lino asked with interest, getting up as well.
“... it’s best if I show you, perhaps,” Tim said after a short thought, rolling the canvas back up into a cylinder and putting it away. “As words can hardly describe it. What I’m about to show you is known only by a small fraction of the world; even the Holy Grounds are entirely unaware of it. Save for perhaps a few recluse individuals, I’m only certain that upper echelon of the Descent knows of it, perhaps to even a larger extent than us Gods do. It’s not a terrible secret per se,” Tim continued as they left the chamber and returned to the set of corridors, walking slowly. “But it is too life-altering to be put out there. You’ll understand... once I show you...”