TO TAME TIME
There was neither a beginning nor an end to it, not even a complete edge to be found binding two objects together. All around space wrung itself around a rotating axis in spinning half-circles, overlapping in a strange fashion; at points where it ought to cross and collide, it instead phased right through and went onward. Waves of thin threads spun around like spider webs, bounding around the squirming space.
Within boundless cast of matter and energy, surrounded by writhing realities, Lino floated freely, stroking his chin. He’d arrived here just a moment ago, yet he had a hard time pinpointing exactly where he was. After all, just a few seconds ago he was still staying within the City of Gods, reading through an assortment of books depicting their findings when he sensed a massive spike in time dilation. Right after he ripped open space in front of him and dove straight through into the heart of the anomaly -- winding up here.
As to where that ‘here’ was, it was difficult to say; even Chaos Qi was unable to pierce through to the other side, while his Will was entirely restricted to merely his skin and not even an inch further. He easily spotted the anomaly, however; while everything around him seemed to be entirely chaotic and random, that was hardly the case. Space, and all it was made up, did indeed worm around in strange ways, but it always did so clockwise. Among the sea of exact behavioral replicas, however, was one that stood out -- a small ball, the size of his fingernail, distorting and ripping along its trajectory, all the while rotating counterclockwise.
This rotation caused a direct clash with its surroundings, creating a domino-like effect on the rest, creating a time dilation. Around the small ball, within a radius that was several meters large, time was twice as slow as where Lino stood. This effect rippled out for hundreds of miles as far as Lino could tell, though to a much lesser extent where barely anyone could spot it, and even then only if they were specifically looking for it.
Despite the rather large distortion at the center, there was no grand-scale effects on the world at large. Yet, nonetheless, this reality was worrying. This was merely one dilation that Lino happened to spot and quickly react to. How many more have passed him by without him ever noticing? Hundreds? Thousands? He couldn’t even begin to count.
He whipped out a talisman from his bag and lit it up. A small parchment of paper burned out in crimson glory, its shimmering light vanishing into thin bits of ash and smoke. Lino waited for a few minutes before he was joined by another figure. Amadeel appeared right by his side, quickly glancing around, frowning.
“... when did you discover it?” he asked.
“A few minutes ago,” Lino replied. “Purely by accident.”
“... I’ve seen this one before.”
“Hm,” Amadeel nodded. “About two hundred thousand years ago, if I recall correctly. Back then, however, dilation was merely a few seconds, and it only affect at most a meter around the ball.”
“External feeding or internal feedback loop?” Lino mumbled.
“Can’t tell,” Amadeel sighed, floating over toward the ball yet daring not come too close, let alone touch it. “Can you inspect the ball?”
“No,” Lino shook his head. “All I get are big-ass question marks. I can’t even discern the material it was made out of.”
“It’s coated in the shedding remnants of time,” Amadeel said. “Insides are probably made entirely out of iron as it’s the most stable.”
“Where are we?” Lino asked.
“Somewhere above the Cold Expanse,” Amadeel replied. “Why?”
“Where was this dilation the last time you saw it?”
“Edge of the World.” Amadeel said. “We can’t trace its trajectory without the third point, and we can’t stay here much longer to follow it.”
“... I may have come up with a way to do something... though, just a fair warning, it’s a bit insane.”
“An Empyrean saying something is insane? Huh, I’m half-curious and half-terrified. What did you have in mind?” his silver eyes flashed briefly as he glanced at Lino.
“Two things -- I may be able to fashion an item that can withstand the erosion of time long enough for us to trace the ball’s trajectory,” Lino said. “Or, create an item that would allow us to rip the ball out of the Timeline entirely.”
“... yeah, you said it was a bit insane. I should have trusted you.” Amadeel said, taking a deep breath. “You do know the risks of something like that, don’t you?”
“Yeah, if we fuck up, we die,” Lino shrugged. “But, is it any different than my everyday life? Besides, I may not be confident in fighting with whoever is creating the dilation, but by god when it comes to crafting, no one can outwit me.”
“... this doesn’t seem to be a spur-of-the-moment idea.” Amadeel commented as he spotted confidence in Lino’s eyes. “What brought it on?”
“I’m currently visiting Gods,” Lino replied. “And they’ve really managed to open my eyes.”
“... you’ve learned of Earth?”
“You know about it?” Lino glanced at him, exclaiming softly.
“... I may be an old, unsuspecting man that you’re taking for granted, but I am the Chronomancer, Lino. Save for perhaps the Founding Members of the Descent, Gaia and Ataxia, I may be the most knowledgeable soul in the world.”
“... huh, is that so?” Lino chuckled faintly, suddenly taking out a chunk of a strange, metal-like material flattened into a plane, dyed in odd black. “You know what this is?”
“God, I love these moments, ha ha ha ha...”
“... w-what is it?” Amadeel asked awkwardly, scratching his nose.
“It’s a prototype material,” Lino said. “I’ve read about it one of the books. It was the most resilient material know to humans on Earth -- graphene. The original design, however, wouldn’t have been able to endure time-erosion for a prolonged period, but after tinkering with it for a bit, I may have just made it possible. I’ve embedded a tracking-talisman into the core,” Lino said, letting go of the small plane as it began floating along the current of time. “It’s a temporary solution as the talisman only has enough energy to transmit its location for about six months, but if the material remains largely intact after six months... it should prove capable of doing either of my ideas.”
“... for an Empyrean, you certainly like reading a lot.” Amadeel said, his gaze following the floating object that began disappearing. “Though I perhaps know more, you seem to know what is needed in an exact moment. I wasn’t wrong to seek your help.”
“How are things in the fortress?” Lino asked.
“Relatively calm,” Amadeel replied. “Now that you’ve picked up all the overshadowing talents, we’ve got a lot of hard-workers trying to prove themselves.”
“We? Oh my,” Lino grinned. “Looks like I managed to steal you after all.”
“Or I might be playing you. Who knows?”
“Does the fortress lack anything?”
“Not yet,” Amadeel said. “But, despite his lack of complaints, Master Eggor is overworked. And we lack any form of actual defenses past the Sword Maiden.”
“... Eggor will stop when he needs to stop, don’t worry about him.” Lino said. “As far as the defenses go... quite frankly, I don’t think we need anything more than Ella. But, we’ve held back on showing her off so far, so we may as well continue. I’ll figure something out. Would a Prime do?”
“Ha ha ha, well certainly. A Prime is a great deterrent, but where can you possibly find one?” Amadeel asked.
“I’ve one in my pocket.” Lino replied.
“Of course you do.”
“I’ll see if I can make a quick trip to the fortress once I return to the smithy,” Lino said. “Right, can you tell me anything about the Void Cult?”
“Secretive, cunning, low-brow... my conjecture is that they’re trying to set themselves up as a contender to the Descent.” Amadeel said.
“Good god no,” he chuckled, glancing at Lino. “Most of the current generations don’t even have a whiff of a clue as to just how strong the Descent is. Their fears come from stories and tales, with newer generations believing fewer and fewer of them. It should tell you something, however, that the last time Descent showed a sliver of its actual strength was over a billion years ago... yet that dread still lives on.”
“Are they a threat?” Lino asked. “Void Cult, I mean. Apparently they were behind that fire in Celeste.”
“... a threat? Hardly. Mostly a nuisance. If you’d like, I could bring you some of their members that I’m familiar with.”
“No, no need,” Lino shook his head, sighing. “You just focus on locating anomalies and trying to trace them. By my estimates, if I could know the position of at least twenty-two of them, I should be able to locate crossing points they all share. It won’t give us a location of source or anything, but it will narrow it down.”
“... it seems we have at least one thing in common.” Amadeel said, turning around and slowly vanishing.
“Yeah? What’s that.”
“We both act the role of clowns in the world of the sages.” Amadeel smiled as Lino grinned back at him, shaking his head helplessly. I used to bitch and moan whenever those old bastards gave me cryptic answers, he mused inwardly, glancing at the vanishing ball and the object he threw out one last time before disappearing. Yet, now I’m the same. Ah, the cycle continues...