AGE OF EMPYREAN
Hannah had a faint smile on her face as she saw Lino descend through the hundred souls who merely stood frozen in place and watched, seemingly too terrified to even move a muscle. His wings collapsed unto themselves as he entered a free fall and landed squarely next to her, stirring dust and kicking away the rumbling pebbles.
Lucky sighed lowly and shook her head, merely dismissing him right away as she withdrew to the corner. After all, she technically didn’t know him, and there was no reason to meet him yet again.
Lino glanced sideways slowly and met a pair of shimmering, blue eyes who stared at him wide-eyed. There was a strange glitter to them, a peculiar sort that Lino had only ever seen in one pair -- Ally’s. Seeming absolute honesty, the ilk of innocent that sees no wrong and evil for as long as possible... his lips curled up into a warm smile as he realized that the world was yet to break her.
However, to Alison, that smile appeared quite queer, especially underneath that faceless mask, causing her to cry out and whimper back behind Lucky almost instinctively. The latter quickly scowled at him angrily.
“What the fuck are you doing dude, huh?!” she raged on, much to Alison’s horror. “Is your hobby scaring girls or something?”
“... that was scary? Ouch,” Lino chuckled faintly. “And who might you be? A guard dog? Congrats. You do look the part.”
“... suck my dick.” she flipped him a finger.
"Yeah, you do look like those ‘gals' with dicks," Lino grinned. "Though I must admit, you've got tits done bar none. Who did them? I might take Hannah there one---ugh, yap... too far... taken it too far..." he groaned in pain as he felt an elbow smash into his abdomen, coughing lowly for a moment. "H-how do you do, babe? Long time no see..."
“Who are you calling your babe, jagoff?” Hannah growled. “What are you complaining about my tits for, huh? You seemed perfectly content sucking on them like they’re your last straws to life each time you’d seen them.”
"Ah, I remember the times you were at least faintly embarrassed from publicizing our terrifying bed-stuff." Lino said, taking a deep breath and straightening up. "But, eh, this is kind of hotter anyway. I've missed you." his hand reached behind her ear slowly, pulling a few strands of hair from her forehead as he leaned in and pressed his against hers, his other arm bounding her waist and holding her back tightly.
“I’ve missed you too.” she said, her lips quivering slightly.
“Was I cool up there or what?”
“So fucking cool.”
“I felt cool.”
“So why are you getting so hot right now?”
“You make me--”
“Hey, you two fuckdogs!!” Lucky suddenly screamed from the side as she saw Alison was nearing the point of fainting. “Keep your dicks and your cunts for your fucking room, hear me?! Or do you want me to start cuttin’ stuff?!”
“... fucking jealous bitch.” Hannah mumbled lowly as she tore herself away from Lino’s embrace, glancing sideways with a glass smile. “Yes, yes, you goddamn desert.”
“Now, now, desert,” Lino chimed in. “Don’t you know it’s better if I’m empty of such thoughts when I’m inspecting for a new wife?” Lucky and Hannah looked at him quizzically, though the latter quickly caught on.
“Yes, yes indeed.” she nodded, smiling faintly.
“But, first, what should I do about those peeps above, huh? Should I cut them up into pieces and store their meat?”
“---eeeeh!!?!” Alison cried out from behind, finally stepping out. “W-w-w-hy?!! T-they surrendered!!”
“What do you mean why?” Lino shrugged. “How else am I going to feed my fourteen billion men army, huh hun? You think food just falls from the sky?” Lucky rolled her eyes and groaned as Alison’s eyes widened once more, staring at him in pure horror. “Hey, you’re cute. Alright, I’ve made my decision. You’ll bear me a son!” he exclaimed, pointing at Alison. “Unlike this one here, I hope.”
“Humph, what, you’re not satisfied with girls?”
“Six of ‘em at that,” Lino groaned as Lucky caught up to what they were doing. They were just being themselves, she realized, as per usual. “In one go. God, that was one huge stretch...”
“---pftt, khm,” Hannah barely recovered. “Y-y-yeah... you, khm, you said you could see my throat from down there...”
“Your throat, uvula, your fucking eyeballs.”
“... hey, dipshits,” Lucky sighed from the side. “She fainted. You happy?”
“... you’re certainly not what I expected.” a voice chimed in from the side, surprising Lino as he glanced toward its direction. There an ordinary-looking man stood, though Lino quickly recognized that gaze, as though he were looking into a mirror. “Empyrean.”
“... I’m guessing he’s the surprise, huh?” he mumbled.
“Yep.” Hannah said.
“...” two men didn’t exchange any more words. Lino simply smiled strangely after a moment, the man quickly replying in an equally strange smile, bowing and retreating back into the shadows.
“I want to talk to Ally, you two,” Lino suddenly said, surprising Lucky and Hannah. “You two deal with the Cultists. Though I doubt you’ll learn much, ask about their centralized structure.”
“... what do you plan on doing?” Lucky asked, frowning.
“... just a talk, L’,” he smiled gently. “Nothing will happen.”
“... are you sure about this? What if she recognizes you? She’s not ready, Lino.” Hannah added from the side.
“She won’t recognize me,” he shook her head. “Even if, by some miracle, she remembered that boy from so long ago... she’ll never able to connect this handsome, brilliant, mind-blowing stud with that whiny bitch.”
“... fucking hell...” the girls sighed in dismay, their shoulders slumped, as they headed toward the outside. “Primul, come with us.” Hannah said. “Tell us if you recognize any of them.”
“Very well.” the man nodded and, with one last glance at Lino and a pleased smile, left.
Lino sat opposite of Alison, on top of a rock, and took out a gourd of wine, waiting. It was nearly ten minutes later that she groaned lowly, her eyelashes fluttering, as she came to.
Her blurry vision recovered quickly as she spotted an imposing figure sitting near her, causing her to cry out and back up against the rock. She felt her heart tremble as she met a pair of swirly, black eyes once more. They were terribly familiar, yet eerily distant at the same time. There was something about him she couldn’t quite put her finger on, but she couldn’t spare a thought as she was simply too terrified to think. All she could wonder is how would he kill her.
“... Bearer of Immortality,” Lino chortled, shaking her head. “You hardly live up to your title.”
“Even if you can’t defeat me,” he added, taking a sip. “Or even if you can’t stand against me for longer than a second... that’s not a disposition you should show to your mortal foe. Meek... defeated... terrified...”
“--m--make it... quick... p-please...” Alison mumbled lowly, lowering her head.
“Make what quick?”
“... I’m not going to kill you.” he said.
“W-why?” she looked up once more, this time less in terror and more in wonder.
“What? Do you think I get off on killing innocent kids or something?” he chuckled. “I know... you see me as this terrifying ghost, a reaper of souls... but, to me, you’re just a young girl... trying to make her way in the world.”
“...a-ah... so... I-I’m not e-even worthy... of being your enemy...” she added dispiritedly.
“... you’re worthy of being my friend,” Lino said with a faint smile. “And, I don’t know what your books of life tell you, but mine tell me that it’s a whole lot harder to become someone’s friend than it is to become their enemy.”
“... y-you... killed B-brothers and... Sisters... and Eos... and... friends? You-you want me to be your friend?” a small fire seemed to have returned to her spirit as she looked up, seemingly having finally remembered who it was that was sitting in front of her. “Y-you... truly are mad...”
“... do you know what my greatest dream in life is?” Lino asked, taking out a small, pink-dyed glass bottle and putting it in front of Alison slowly, retreating back to his rock right after.
“... to kill us all and reign over the world alone?” Alison scoffed, ignoring the bottle.
“... back in this small village I’m from,” Lino replied, taking a sip. “There’s a small, shabby house, full of holes and broken floorboards and windows. One day, if at all possible, I want to wake up there one morning, look sideways, and see Hannah. The way she is in the morning. Strands of her hair caught up on the corners of her lips, her cheeks slightly puffed, red, criss-cross pattern over them as she’s a terrible sleeper, her arms no doubt flayed in ways that should be humanly impossible.”
“...” Alison couldn’t help but smile involuntarily, as that was exactly what Hannah was like in the morning.
“And I’d like to wake up first every morning, so I can watch her as she opens her eyes... and as she smiles at me.” he added. “Then, children’s laughter would break out the quiet and she would groan, telling me to go and quieten the little fuckers.”
“... ha ha...”
“I don’t want to rule the world,” he added with a faint smile. “I’ve no use for it. It’s too big, it’s too tiresome, it’s too... dreadful. What use of me is another enemy, when I can have a friend? You and I... we can continue the vicious cycle, forever. Just as I killed Eos... she killed someone I’ll never be able to replace. Does that mean I should go after her family? After her friends? After everyone she ever loved? Why?”
"That's why I don't want this ugly world," he said, smiling bitterly and taking a sip. "Because, no matter what you or I do Alison, it will go on. Whoever wins these pointless battles and these pointless wars, and whoever ends up hoisting the Crown and watching billions bend their knees to them, peace will wane like flowers in the winter. We crave blood like newborns crave their mothers' milk. Fighting, killing, dying, crying... they will all perpetually continue until, one day, tides of time end us forever. What do you want? In your heart of hearts, Alison? If you want to fight, if you want to end me and all those who will come after me from the depths of your soul, I'll let you go. I'll even give you the wind in the back that you need."
"..." Alison's lips trembled for a moment as she found herself struggling for an answer. Guilt soon overwhelmed her, as she knew she was supposed to immediately shout at him that she would fight him. Yet, despite the hate she believed to hold in her heart and soul toward him... he managed to disarm her. Just as she disarmed many, she now knew what it felt like. To stand on the other end, swept in the currents of the eyes that see through you and words that carry you to places you never knew you could reach.
"Stay with us for a while," he said, smiling tenderly and suddenly extending his arm. Even though she couldn't see his face, Alison was certain -- it was not one of a madman, an unrelenting murderer without a heart or soul. "A month, that's all I ask. Nobody will touch you, let alone harm you. You can talk to everyone, ask them anything, and learn... learn about me, learn about Hannah, learn about all of us. Why are we fighting. Why am I here today, talking my supposed enemy into becoming my friend, instead of killing you like the world believes I would and should. In my heart, I believe, Alison... I believe we are better than this. That we can be far more than what we are. All I want... is to give the rest of the world a chance, a single opportunity, to see it. I believe with all my heart that it's all I need -- just a single moment... a single passing second... for them all to see that we don't belong in the wars. Instead, we belong in the stars."