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CHAPTER 378

LAW OF ENTROPY

Inside a glass-roofed gazebo overlooking a cascading garden of roses and rapid streams of water bundling into small waterfalls as they all fell into an out-streaming, massive one, five figures currently sat in ephemeral silence around a wooden table stacked with exotic fruits.

The place beneath was surrounded by clouds as it floated far up, well away from the sight of the world. The gazebo was held up by six, hand-carved beams, decorated by various, beautiful patterns, which ever so often sported a shimmering gem.

Of the five figures, two were men and three were women; Freya sat at the central spot, her expression downcast and troubled. Seated next to her was a woman with a veiled face, her whole body edgeless, bloody-red hair faintly visible as it draped over her back.

Opposite of them, to the far right, was Erebus, who had a deep frown of contemplation on his face. Seated right next to him was the other man, seemingly in his late sixties with a head full of white hair and a face full of white beard. His eyes were closed, his features otherwise entirely ordinary. To the end was the last woman, draped in cascading shadows of nothingness, her figure both there and not at the same time. She didn’t have any distinguishing features, as though she was everyone and no one at the same time.

“... why now?” Erebus suddenly asked, breaking the silence and drawing attention to himself. “Why would the Empyrean take Alison now?”

“... I imagine it is because he has seen through my Avatar,” Freya replied with a faint sigh. “Which forced him to speed up his plans.”

“What plans?” the other man asked, his eyes still closed.

“... it’s difficult to say,” Freya replied, sighing once more. “I got the feeling he is not playing just our own game, but one much larger than it all.”

“... what could possibly be larger?” the veiled woman scoffed, her voice cracking and breaking. “In the end, he still became merely another of Ataxia’s puppets. We’ve put too much faith into him.”

“A’yor,” Freya turned to the last woman. “What do you think?”

“... I think,” the woman’s voice was paradoxically loud and low, distant and near, everywhere and nowhere, at the same time. “Nothing. I am ashamed... to say it, Mother. But, when I look at him... I... see nothing. Far more... than looking myself in the mirror.”

“... I’ve said it before,” the old man said suddenly. “It was a mistake, Mother, to antagonize him.”

“... chips merely fell where even Sister was unable to predict them,” Freya said, chuckling bitterly. “If it was in the cards, I’d have befriended him instead.”

"Regardless," the veiled woman said. "We can't allow this to continue anymore. Our reign is already being questioned. If we do nothing after having lost another Bearer, it will become even more difficult."

"... I agree," Erebus said. "We need to draw him out and throw everything we have at him. Even if we are unable to kill him, we need to buy more time. How many years before we can breach the barrier, Mother?"

“... with the help of Four and Three, I estimate another thirty years at the least, forty at the most.”

“Then forty we need to buy.” Erebus said. “He’s not invincible... nor is he as composed as he lets out. However despicable, we need to aim where it hurts the most.”

“... dear Mother, Great Sister,” the elderly man suddenly said, opening his eyes as his lips curled up in a bitter smile. “I’m afraid I cannot participate in this.”

“... why, Istok?” Freya asked.

“I... simply cannot.” the man replied, bowing lowly. “I shall await my due punishment.”

“... Istok...” Erebus mumbled, but the man had already vanished from his spot, as though he were never there.

“I shall arrange everything,” the veiled woman said. “You only need to gather people and be where I tell you to be at and when I tell you.”

“Yes, Great Sister.” Erebus and the other woman nodded solemnly and too vanished, leaving behind only Freya and the veiled woman.

“... I’m afraid, sis.” Freya said, biting her lower lip. “This... might truly be our undoing.”

“What are you afraid of, Gaia?” the veiled woman asked with a faint scoff. “He is just a lowly human, at his core. Ataxia may enamor him, but he doesn’t make him an immortal. Not in the least.”

“You haven’t met him,” Freya said. “Not like I did. He’s... different. Different from Eve. Different from Ayla. Different from Rove. Different from Stark. Different from Eldon.”

“... in what way?” the veiled woman asked.

“... he can both match Eve’s cruelty, as well as Ayla’s compassion,” Freya replied, sighing. “He can meet Rove’s determination... as well as Stark’s will. And, by far, he is the only one that can match Eldon when it comes to true madness. I feel if we aggravate him too much... he will simply cease to care.”

"Let him cease, then," the veiled woman said. "If his following keeps growing, it will soon match ours, Gaia. He may have won them over for now with his wit and charm, but, he'll chase them away all the same once they finally remember who he is. He's just another one of Ataxia's dogs, that's all. Not one thing less nor one thing more."

"..." Freya remained silent, merely looking out of the gazebo into the vast horizon. Times were about to change... yet, for the first time in a long, long while... she felt as though she didn't belong on the right side of it all. The first and the last time she felt that way... she was right. Luck was on her side back then, but in her heart, she knew that wouldn't be the case this time around. She silently prayed, to someone, something, even grander than her... prayed and prayed. That was all she could do now.

**

Floating above the ravaged rubble that was once a prison island, two figures had strange expressions on their faces. Four and Three had just witnessed Lino ride off with a Dragon into the horizon, as the two of them slowly materialized behind.

“... we need to report this to Two, at the very least.” Four said in a heavy tone.

“... it is indeed getting out of hand.” Three added, taking a deep breath as she glanced down at her trembling hand. Just now, when Lino threw the woman from the sky, majority of his Will was aimed neither at the woman nor at those beneath on the island -- it was instead aimed at the two of them, a clear-cut warning that should they intervene, things would get ugly. “We’ve allowed him too much freedom he’s begun to believe the world is truly his.”

“... you won’t report anything.” a familiar voice startled the two of them from behind as Six appeared, his expression complex. “I will handle it.”

“... like you handled it so far?”

“He’s becoming a loose cannon, Six,” Four said. “How can he be trusted with handling anything important? He’s half a breath away from spiraling.”

"... is he?" he questioned with the two oddly. "Think back, think back to the moment his Will touched yours. What did you sense? Past the overwhelming desire to kneel, past the unbridled, surface madness, past all of the things you expected his Will to be. What did you sense... at the very core?"

“... nothing.” Three exclaimed lowly.

“Exactly. Nothing.” Six chuckled bitterly, shaking his head. “I can’t believe that lad is actually trying it...”

“... won’t Ataxia notice?” Four asked, unable to mask a surprised tone in his voice.

“... no,” Three suddenly said, chuckling. “He only let us sense it. On purpose.”

“Aye,” Six nodded. “Still, it worries me. He’s juggling too many things right now. And it seems Gaia has also decided to stop sitting idly by.”

“... we still can’t intervene.” Three said.

“We won’t,” Six added. “There is no need. I believe he can figure it out himself. He always has. No reason to stop now.”

“... how did he even come up with the idea for it? He shouldn’t have been exposed to the Universal Laws just yet.”

“He took a short trip to Earth,” Six said. “A small island in possession of gods. It must have been there that he learned of Law of Entropy.”

“... still, just from that?” Three sighed. “Even Eldon needed more.”

“... it’s simple,” Six said. “Eldon grew up understanding the same Laws we did, boxed in. Lino... has always had the liberty of not knowing. It is much easier to create a new habit than it is to re-shape an old one.”

“Can you guess his ultimate intentions?” Four asked. “Does he truly intend to suffocate Qi Springs?”

“... I can’t even begin to fathom what he wants to do,” Six chuckled. “But, I am looking forward to it. You two should return to the mainland and stay in Celeste. Don’t let him kill other Bearers just yet.”

“What if he goes against us?” Three asked.

“He won’t,” Six replied. “He’ll probably curse you out to heaven, but as long as you endure that beating, he won’t make a move against you.”

“... I feel... I’d rather have him make a move, though...” Four mumbled, rubbing his gauze-covered temples. “That tongue of his... aii... it’s only gotten more venomous over the years...”

“Just take the lashing,” Six said, slowly beginning to fade. “After all, we’re forcing him to work with two hands tied behind his back. It’s the least we can do for him.”

"... then you take the damn lashing..." Three mumbled.

"You think I hadn't?!" Six growled from beyond. "I'd taken so many I'm on the brink of vomiting blood every time I see his face. Humph, it was the high time someone else took that burden away from me -- I mean, that joy from me. Have fun!"

“... old crook. Go and die already...”

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A note from beddedOtaku

Starting a new tradition: trivia that I can't quite fit into the novel itself without it seeming too much out of place. 

Trivia n1: Hannah has saved every item she has ever owned, never throwing them away. In total, she has 13,593 items stored in various Void Treasures. Not even Lino knows this.


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beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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