A NEW BEGINNING
Lino sat inside a rather stuffed room overlooking a massive, fascinating city down below. Even after staying here for nearly a month he hardly got bored just observing the ongoings down below silently. However, it was high time he hollered back as he can’t delay his plans much longer, especially with Lucky and Hannah now gone for indefinite period of time.
Doors to the room swung open as a figure walked through; she appeared slightly more dressed up than usual, surprising Lino somewhat. Edith wore a fluffy, looped dress which pronounced her height, granting her an imposing sort of an air.
“Oh my, miss Edith,” Lino chuckled, walking over. “If I were not a man taken, you would have won me over just now.”
“Oh Lino,” Edith smiled wryly. “If only every single woman in this city hadn’t heard that one before.”
“Ah, what can I say -- women have always been my weakness.”
“I was only surprised to hear a single one has somehow managed to tie you down,” she said, sitting down. “She has earned full respects from the rest of us, I’ll tell you that much.”
“Everything ready?” he asked, sitting down with her.
“It is,” she replied. “However, it will still take a few months to put it all into action.”
“It’s fine, we’re in no rush. I’m surprised your engineers were actually able to build it.”
“As am I,” Edith said. “It was no small undertaking. However, with your help, they said it was easier than drinking mother’s milk.”
“... I don’t know whether to be flattered,” Lino said, his smile strained. “Or glad I’m leaving.”
“Ha ha ha, I imagine a little bit of both. You have truly helped us.”
“And to think you were ready to send me away... tsk, tsk, tsk. You gotta have a better eye for the peeps, Edith.”
“Ah, I see; so you’re the grudge-bearing kind,” she chuckled, taking out several stacks of paper and handing it over. “Here is all the research, our knowledge, and the designs you wanted. As we discussed, we’ll join you in groups. The first one should arrive in the fortress within a month.”
“I’ve already arranged for someone to pick you up,” he said, taking the papers and putting them away. “I imagine our Formation Masters won’t be too thrilled over having a whole another, far more complex fortress to shroud in a slew of arrays. They might even start cursing me.”
“Heh. It’s cute you think the entire world hasn’t cursed you out already.”
“... ouch. But, also true.” he said, getting up. “When you get to the fortress, meet up with Val. She could really use some help on the bureaucratic side of things.”
“That’s the side we excel at,” Edith said, chuckling. “Don’t worry; our gratitude is like a fire under our asses.”
“... yeah, I’ll take it as a compliment. Alright, see ya’! Stay fit and thin, alright?”
“And you stay your charming and annoying self!” the two laughed as they hugged, with Lino vanishing shortly after into a spatial rip with a quaint smile.
Edith sighed and sat down, her lips curling up into an involuntary smile. She quickly went through the memories of the past month that Lino had stayed with them, slowly breaking down all the walls they had built up over the eons of time.
“He left?” without her noticing it, Tim had joined her and sat next to her.
“Yeah.” she replied.
“Wow, what a bastard. Didn’t even say a goodbye.”
“He did to me.” she chuckled.
“Of course, not the guy who liked him all along. Tsk, typical Lino.” he said, opening up a bottle of wine on the table and pouring himself a glass. “Everything ready?”
“Yeah. I still can’t believe we’re actually doing it.”
“I’ve dreamt about it and even I can’t believe it,” Tim shrugged. “Well, at the very least we won’t have to go to the battles. That was nice of him.”
“... yeah, I think he wants his army to be intimidating, not embarrassing.”
“As he should.”
“What will you do now?” she asked.
“Uff, I don’t know. He asked me to found a group and begin doing research on the compound elements,” he said. “While also keeping Qi and Laws in mind as potential fusion. I’m just not quite sure who to pick just yet. What about you?”
“Well, I still have a lot of things to organize,” Edith said. “But, once we’re all there, I’ve asked him if I could continue being a professor and he made me a principal of yet-to-be-built university. So, I’ve a feeling I’ll be busy for a while.”
“Better that than bored.”
“Cheers to that...”
Meanwhile, inside a small smithy on a small corner, Lino walked through the rip in space on Edward, Jack and Talleah going over some designs. They were entirely unaware of him as he walked up and loomed over them; the designs depicted a warship, causing him to exclaim somewhat, startling the three.
“Where the shit did you come from?!” Jack asked, looking around as sweat barreled down his forehead.
“What’s this?” Lino asked, pulling up a chair and sitting with them.
“Talleah’s design,” Jack replied after a short silence. “We’re trying to minimize it and turn it into a potential reality.”
“Oh?” Lino glanced at Talleah who awkwardly looked away. “I didn’t know you were also talented in designs. How’d you come up with it?”
“It’s fine,” Edward chimed in. “You can literally say whatever you want in front of this guy and he won’t mind.”
“... you do realize I’m your leader, right?” Lino asked, dubiously glancing at him.
“Sure you are. Good job leader. You’re doing great. We’re super proud of you.” Edward replied with a grin, taking out three cups and filling them with ale. “Anyway, where have you been? We had to sit closed for nearly a month because of you. I’m fairly certain everyone has already forgotten about us.”
“They’ll remember soon enough,” Lino shrugged. “Anyway Tal, walk me through it.”
“Uh, s-sure,” even with Lino there, her presence still turned the scene rather comical; two dwarfs next to what can only be described as a giant of a woman -- she seemed more like a mother of two toddlers rather than an awkward teen discussing smithing with two old men. “M-master Eggor informed me that, uh, we still don’t have a ship fleet, flying or otherwise. In my youth, I’d seen quite a few ships as I lived near a docking area, and studied them to a certain extent. I-I mostly did it for fun, but then Master Jack found the sketches... and... and forced me to talk about it...”
“... yeah, we tend to do that, sorry.” he smiled apologetically, turning back to the design. “This isn’t bad, though. However, you’ll have to hold back from making any further plans for now.”
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Some newcomers will be joining us soon,” Lino replied. “And they’ll have some experts in aviation that you can consult. For the time being, just start with gathering the materials but don’t finalize the design. Oh, and also, what do you want to call the ship Tal?”
“U-uh... I don’t... I don’t really--”
“Of course you do. Just spill it. Anything short of naming it puss---uh, right, forgot you were still kind of a kid. Khm, anyway, what do you want to name it?”
“... I... uh, I was kind of thinking... Titan...”
“Yup, sounds good. Titan it is.” Lino said. “What are the rest up to?”
“Ryt and Ion are mostly just training, while Vyena has been teaching Y’sha scribing while also trying to brainwash her into being more indulged in the Empyrean Faith.” Edward replied.
“Yeah, it’s good that the two of them--- Empyrean-what now?”
“Empyrean Faith,” Edward reiterated. “It’s when a bunch of us gather around in a circle and sing songs in your name.”
“...... you’re joking, right?”
“No, yeah, we’re serious.”
“... I was kind of hoping you were.” Lino sighed. “After all, I do do well in songs. My courage, kindness, humbleness, general greatness translates well into odes and hymns and such.”
“... yeah.” Edward looked at him dubiously, shaking his head. “Too bad.”
“Anyway, Tal, go and find the rest of the kids,” Lino said. “And tell them to wash up for tomorrow. We’re going to meet someone really important.”
“And yes, that includes you too.”
“... very well, Lord--”
“There you go.” he grinned as the young girl awkwardly got up from the chair, half-bent over as to not plunge her head into the ceiling, leaving the room.
“Who are you gonna meet?” Jack asked, putting the designs away.
“The princess,” Lino replied. “I’ll have to guilt-trip her into promoting our little shop or something. It’s time we earned some fucking money, don’t you think?”
“... ah, I wonder how many people can so casually mention they’ll be meeting a princess... and explicitly state it’s to extort her for money.” Jack lamented. “Who did I put myself under...”
“I’d suggest putting yourself under a woman sometime soon,” Lino grinned. “We’re gonna get pretty busy.”
“Hah,” Jack scoffed. “It’s adorable you think I’d survive being under a woman.”
“... a midget joke?”
“What do you think?”
“How come every time I make it I’m being insensitive, but you doing it is cool?” Lino questioned.
“Who told you you were being insensitive?”
“Nobody did, right?”
“You just wanted us to tell you you weren’t being insensitive, right?” Edward pressed.
“... oh shut up and stop gloating. At least a woman can ride me without riding the life out of me.”
“I’d make fun of you, but I’ve met the woman riding you,” Jack sighed. “And you’re one lucky bastard. I’ll never understand how you got her...”
“Eh, makes two of us. Anyway, I’m gonna go get ready. You two go over our stockpiles once more and start setting things up. We’re opening shop in a week.”