Alex was currently sitting in silence, surrounded by five other people, his expression complex and somber. The chamber they sat within was sparsely decorated, barely a gem on the wall acting as the source of light, only a single table and a set of chairs taking up space in an otherwise empty rectangle.
Among those present in the room, besides Alex, was the current Patriarch of the Eternals, Titular Eternal Night, both of Hannah’s parents, her Master, and an unexpected guest -- Patriarch of the Qe’ll Clan. Their expressions varied remarkably, the most distinct being the one Qe’ll’s Patriarch -- Cane -- bore: a faint amusement. After all, he’d also lived through this very moment with his own Sect not too long ago, as deepened lull took over everyone and everything, as all feared to say what was on all minds present.
He, however, didn’t probe; merely sitting calmly, occasionally taking a sip of tea. It was their choice to make, after all; he was here merely as an invited help of sorts, the answer to their questions.
“... I say we do it.” the Sect’s current Patriarch, a middle-aged man donning emerald robes, was the first one to break the silence, his eyes attaining a peculiar glint as he looked at the rest. “We’ve sat on the sidelines long enough.”
“... surrender ourselves over?” Hannah’s Master scoffed coldly.
“Surrender?” Eternal Night mused. “A peculiar choice of words, Myveen. What makes you believe we are surrendering?”
“Then what are we doing, exactly?” Myveen grinned coldly for a moment. “Merely making friends?”
“Choosing a side,” he replied. “That is all.”
“... that is not all,” Alex sighed lowly, muttering. “This choice will shape the rest of our existence. Should we choose wrong, we will cease to exist.”
“That is why I don’t want us to over-think it,” the Patriarch said. “Otherwise, we will never rip ourselves free of the crutches of doubt.”
“We can’t make it rashly either, though,” Alex said. “Why do you suggest we join the Empyrean?”
“... it’s a feeling,” Eternal Night replied, his emerald-green eyes shining for a moment. “Nothing more, I’m afraid.”
“... humph, if I had known you’d be making major decisions based on your emotions, I would not have cast my vote behind you.” Myveen scoffed once more, getting up and beginning to pace around the room.
“What do you two think?” Alex turned toward Hannah’s parents and asked, startling both of them.
“M-Master Alex, we... we’ve no right to have a voice in these matters--”
“--then who does?” he interrupted quickly. “Nobody is going to judge your choice, whichever it may be. We all here can understand both of them.”
"... I... I can't choose..." Hannah's father, a meek-looking, bald man sighed lowly, hiding away his eyes. "I can't choose, Master Alex. My heart wishes to see my daughter once more, yet my mind tells me she crossed a line that ought not to be forgiven."
“... old friend,” Alex suddenly turned to Cane, smiling faintly. “Care to shade some light?”
"I--" just as the old man was about to reply, everyone in the room stood up to their feet as space in front of them ripped open; they quickly sorted themselves into a battle formation as they watched a figure casually walk through the rip in the spacetime, coming to a halt with a surprised expression when he was met with a battle-ready group. Cracking a grin, Lino waved gently as the space behind him closed down.
“Chill, chill, not here to fight,” he said, glancing around the room and taking in all the faces; save for the woman and the man behind the rest, he recognized everyone here -- Cane, Ella’s uncle of sorts and current Patriarch of her Clan; Alex, Alison’s Master and Arch Patriarch of the Eternals; Myveen, Hannah’s former Master and Ivon, the Eternal Night, the current Patriarch of the Eternals. “Did you forget already? I told you I’d be visiting in two days.”
“... y-you... you look different.” Alex exclaimed softly as he realized who the strange man in front of him was.
The Empyrean he remembered had starkly white hair and cleanly-shaven face, with low cheekbones and angular jaw. However, the man in front of him cast a completely different picture; his hair was as black as the night, half his face covered in thick beard, jaw squared, nose wide, first signs of wrinkles appearing on his forehead. However, those eyes were the same, Alex realized. Exactly the same.
“Well of course. What? You think I’m gonna show my face to that worthless lot?” Lino smiled faintly as he pulled out a chair and placed it next to the table, casually sitting down and taking out a bottle of wine while everyone else remained standing. “You guys hid really well. It took Ella nearly two hours to find you and open up a path to here. You’ve made her work terribly...”
“... s-she... found us?!” Myveen exclaimed as her eyes turned into saucers. Perhaps, if it were an ordinary room, that wouldn’t be as strange; however, this particular room was located at the very heart of the Sect, enshrouded in nearly three hundred protective arrays and formations altogether. Yet, it took the Sword Maiden barely two hours to both locate it and open up a path... just how terrifying is that woman!? She quickly glanced at Cane who barely held back from laughing.
“She told me you were discussing whether you’d join me or stay with Gaia,” Lino continued taking a sip. “So, to make it easier, I’m here to answer all your questions. Fire away.”
“What are you lot doing?” Lino sighed bitterly as they remained silent and standing even a minute later, only Cane sitting down and calming down. “Did I startle you all dead? Or did my eyes suddenly obtain the power to turn people into statutes? ‘Cause I kind of had a dream about the last one.”
“... sorry. It was just unexpected.” Alex said, recovering and sitting down as everyone else followed his example. “I thought your words were merely a threat.”
“... a threat?” Lino tilted his eyes sideways, questioningly. “Really? I actually told it to you in excitement. Though, I suppose, when you whisper thoughts into someone’s mind directly, intentions get lost in the transportation.”
“Why hasn’t El’ accompanied you?” Cane asked, drawing attention to himself.
“Eh, settle down old man,” Lino shrugged. “She’ll come later this week with Cae, so you can fawn over him all you want then.”
“...” Cane merely broke out a quick grin before closing his eyes, seemingly withdrawing from the conversation.
“Anyway, my visit today isn’t merely to ask you what you guys want to do,” Lino said. “I also have some exciting slash heart-breaking news. Depending on your point of view, I suppose.”
“Oh? And what news is that?” Ivon asked.
“I’ve asked Hannah to marry me,” Lino said simply. “And she said yes.”
“...” silence quickly consumed the room as everyone turned to their thoughts, contemplating.
"I don't want to rush you," Lino said, seemingly tired of sitting in the silence. "But, as I'm sure everyone in this room is aware, time is not a luxury any one of us currently has much of. Whether you decide to join me or not, I'd still want Hannah's parents to attend the wedding, and her Father to walk her down the aisle. I am not losing this war," he added suddenly, his expression hardening. "That much I can promise. I hope that, even if we walk different paths, we maintain some level of decency. I'll always accept an invitation to fight. Unlike others, I do not like to skittle and crawl around and attack everyone but their actual target." Lino got up slowly, putting down a talisman onto the table. "If you light that up, it will mean we've become friends. That means that, even if Gaia brings down the sky unto you, I'll be there to beat it back. A coward like her..." he muttered, turning around as the space in front of him ripped open once more. "Has long since lost the privilege to be called a Mother."
Everyone in the room save for Cane watched Lino leave in silence, their eyes focused on his fading back. It wasn’t long after that Alex took a deep breath, his eyes temporarily shining, expression hardening.
“Light it up,” he said, handing the talisman over to Ivon. “We are going to war.”
"Yes, Master." Ivon nodded lightly, smiling and picking up the talisman, burning it one go. The ashes suddenly glistened and spun mid-air, binding together into an item that fell at the center of the table. Surprised and startled, Alex reached over and picked it up, quickly going over its stats.
[Chaos Dweller -- n.o.6 -- Unique]
Special Effects: contains a condensed Will of Chaos that can be used by anyone. The unleashed Will can be used to form a shield that cannot be broken by anything or anyone for 15 seconds, or it can be used to send a signal.
Note: I will answer the call.