PRISON BREAK (IV)
Hidden beneath thick, tall branches and a rugged cliff was a small clearing which currently sported a massive carving on the ground. Bounded within a large circle with a radius of six meters was a seemingly chaotic entanglement of lines crossing over each other and looping around to formulate a six-headed spiral which nestled away in a single thread into the center, creating a looping circle with thousands of cross-sections, all culminating into the dotted ring at the center with an eye-like pattern within it.
Lucky and Hannah stood on the side, looking as though they were going to pass out form merely looking at it. Alison and the man carefully stepped through the circle, placing the finishing touches, ensuring they didn’t miss anything by accident. The massive formation took them almost five days to draw up, without having rested more than just a few times altogether. Hannah mused that, even back in the Sect, perhaps only the truly large-scale formations outmatched this one in complexity.
“... do you get anything from it all?” Lucky asked, shaking her head.
“Only that it’s a great way to kill a libido,” Hannah replied, sighing. “Formation masters are... eh, quirky. Let’s go with quirky.”
“I was gonna say batshit insane nutbags,” Lucky added. “But let’s go with yours I guess.”
“No word from Lino still?” Hannah asked in a lower tone, her expression briefly flashing into one of worry.
"... you're way too obsessed with him," Lucky shrugged. "He's fine, probably causing headaches wherever he may be as he always does."
“... I worry,” Hannah sighed. “How can I not? It’s not as though you don’t know what he is like.”
“... I worry too,” Lucky glanced at her, smiling faintly. “But, what can we do? He won’t stop being who he is. So all we can do is trust him.”
“Yeah, but I was thinking more along the lines of trusting him to meet other women or to, you know, plant a fucking orchid or something,” Hannah said. “I genuinely do not trust him -- at freaking all -- when there’s a role he fashions for himself to play. And there’s always a role, especially when he’s surrounded by people who want to kill him.”
“He won’t do anything rash until we return,” Lucky said. “Only set things up. Would you like to instead to that busywork?”
“... yeah, good point,” Hannah chuckled. “Here they come. Shush, you fat cow.”
“You’re just jealous of my abs, you tiny stick.”
“You’ve clearly never seen me topless, then.” Hannah fired back.
“Who would want that? It’s just two potholes surrounded by bones. Ugh, just thinking about it makes me wanna vomit.”
“What are you two talking about?” Alison asked with a faint smile, and faint hope, that they were finally getting along.
“About how Lucky is jealous of the fact that I’ve got bigger tits than her,” Hannah said. “And a better ass to boot.”
“Heh, tits I’ll give you, but the only way you’ve got a better ass than mine is if the beholder is blind and you bribed him with the rest of your shitty body.” Lucky said with a grin.
"... ah, so nothing decent," Alison said, her smile turning pained. "You two are so similar it's a wonder you don't get along as well as twin sisters..."
“....” Lucky and Hannah remained indifferent on the surface, yet quickly summarized their relationship inwardly -- it was indeed like that of two sisters. Always at each other’s throats until an external threat imposes on them.
“Is it done?” Hannah asked, dispelling her thoughts.
“It is,” Alison replied. “And, from what little I know of formations... it should work... maybe... probably...”
“It will work,” the man chimed in as he joined them. “It has to.”
“You look ready to give it a whirl.” Lucky said, cracking a smile. “Anything we can do?”
“Just don’t step into the circle once miss Alison lights it up,” the man said, smiling back freely. “Or you might start remembering things too.”
“Sheesh, don’t turn this into a horror story.” Hannah and Lucky said at the same time, shuddering; Alison glanced at them strangely for a moment, once again realizing just how similar they were.
“What horror story?” the man asked.
“Well, let’s just say I don’t drink fucking cheap ale for its taste.” Lucky said.
“Let me guess,” Alison turned to Hannah. “Wine?”
“Wine, ale, mead, anything, really,” Hannah shrugged, smiling. “So long as it gets up there and screws things up.”
“... aye, aye...”
“Anyway, let’s get this over with,” the man exclaimed lowly, turning toward the formation with a fiery gaze. “However it may turn out, I wish to take a moment and thank you for freeing me... and giving me these few weeks of respite. Even if I don’t live past today, at the very least I’ll die a free man rather than one hanging inside the barred cage in the sky.”
“... you’re gonna be fine,” Lucky chuckled as Alison and Hannah got swept away by the atmosphere for a moment. “Someone who can survive this hellhole for so long certainly ain’t gonna croak because of some fuckin’ formation. Now get in there and remember all the tits and asses you’ve touched so you can stop staring at ours. They’re not made out of gold mate.”
“Heeeh, she wouldn’t be Lucky if she didn’t take every single opportunity to make a charming moment awkward...” Alison chuckled bitterly, scratching her nose, as the man flushed red in embarrassment, turning on his heel and heading toward the literal eye of the formation at the center.
Hannah and Lucky withdrew further back as Alison stepped to the very edge of the formation, crouching down and pressing her index finger into a small hole wedged into the bounding circle. Taking a deep breath and waiting until the man nodded faintly from the distance, she closed her eyes and channeled a very specific amount of Qi into the formation. As per man's instructions, she didn't do it gently but rather unleashed it into a raw stream that quickly swallowed up the sandy carvings as golden light filled the canals.
Luckily for them, the shrubbery and the cliff above managed to contain the majority of the light, but as a precaution, Alison had drawn up a formation surrounding the whole area that took care of the rest.
Along with the light, a low hum of a beast shuddered out as ground beneath them quaked. The golden light soon filled the full circle, which is when Alison stepped back and pressed her hands together in front of her chest, mumbling a prayer. The golden shimmer bound inwardly, quickly taking over the darkened wedges, loops, swirls and spirals. Gold was soon adjoined by a faint flicker of crimson halfway through, and then an even fainter coral at the very center, just outside where the man stood. As the last bit of emptiness was filled with color, the entire array shook and brightened, flames rising briefly, dousing the large circle.
The man cried out lowly as he felt the sensation of being burned permeate his chest and soon his extremities. Rather than from the outside, the fires burned from within, seemingly desiring to burst out of his flesh and join those on the outside. The man's muscles bulged, but he stood straight, clenching his jaw to the point his gums began to bleed, trails of crimson trickling out of the corners of his lips.
The tattered clothes he wore soon went up in flames, revealing beneath them a body nigh void of any muscle. His stomach was concave, his collarbone sticking out above his dented chest, cradling into his apple-sized shoulders.
It didn’t take long, however, for the man to falter and, with a cry of anguish, collapse onto his knees. He heaved his arms up and held onto his temples, looking up at the sky with eyes wide open, terribly red.
Alison was half a moment away from breaking apart the formation before Hannah suddenly stopped her, pulling her back. Lucky stood on the side, her expression full of complexities.
The fire went on, though the man had long since stopped paying attention to it. It was no longer the flames that caused him anguish, but the surging, comatose-inducing pain inside his mind. What his eyes saw wasn't what was in front of him -- but what his mind conjured up. The latter, however, were images he couldn't understand. Black, swirling eyes. Beautiful laughter. Fires consuming the world. Anger. Fury. Pure, unadulterated wrath. World bending over. Endless chaos. Famine. Pestilence. Dread. Horror. It was him. Not them. They knelt. Bowed. Pressed their foreheads against the stone until their skulls were cracked open. A woefully wicked grin. A sensation of pleasure. Loss. Grief. A breaking point. Madness... all around him, consuming everything, including himself. Madness in its most primal form, without make or reason. The image was clear now. There, beneath gushing, black and white flames, he hovered. Crimson, glowing eyes. Black, feathered wings. A pair of cleavers in his hands. His topless torso bloodied. The hall around him consumed with strewn corpses, most incomplete. A throne. A crown. A woman. Fiery hair, warm smile. He broke. Fell on his knees and wept. Chains. Anguish. Fear. Dread. Horror.
The flames around him settled as his shoulders slumped, his arms falling at his sides. His dull eyes regained their vigor, the atmosphere around him had changed completely within a fraction of a second. He had remembered who he was, what he had done, and why was here locked up inside a cage in the sky. A long ago, he had sown chaos across the world... and he reaped all he had deserved. He was Primul, the very first Human Empyrean.