AGE OF EMPYREAN (I)
Lino and Hannah currently lay in bed, stark naked, with the latter gently resting her head on the former's chest. Her hair lay flat over, slightly disheveled -- as was his -- their cheeks faintly flushed. A few rays of moonlight managed to pierce through the slightly cracked window, folding over their bodies, casting strange shadows elsewhere.
“So, wife,” Lino said, glancing downward and smiling. “What’s for dinner?”
“... me?” Hannah glanced up, smiling back.
"Eh, but I already had you... and as much as the expression ‘eat her pussy' lends itself to sating hunger, it does not, as the matter of fact, sate any hunger whatsoever. Except, you know, the erotic one."
“... haii, I already knew what I was marrying myself to, but by god, it does not get any easier...” Hannah said, sighing audibly.
“You’re the one who said yes,” Lino shrugged, pulling himself up slowly and sitting, leaning against the wall as Hannah followed suit. “Listen, I’ve a favor to ask.”
“... why so serious all of a sudden?” Hannah asked quizzically.
"I need you to locate any and all known portals to Hell," Lino said, turning toward her, his gaze starkly heavy. "And map them all out. Afterward, I'd like you to scout out the route to the Dragon Isles."
“... why?” Hannah asked, frowning. “Is something going on?”
"I'll be walking into a trap set up by Gaia in a few weeks, I imagine," Lino said. "So, there's gonna be a shitstorm that will sweep the world. By then, I hope to be aware of where everything is."
“... you’re afraid the Devils are going to turn on you?” Hannah asked. “Back up a bit, by the way. What do you mean you’re going to be walking into a trap? Should I slap you once more?”
“I have to,” Lino shrugged, chuckling faintly. “This is the only way to bring out the Bearers and her from their fucking turtle shells. Otherwise, I may as well just go in front of the Sects and curse them out in vain hopes they get so angry and attack me.”
“That actually sounds like something that you could do...” she mumbled with a faint smile. Lino shook his head, taking a deep breath.
"Take Ally, Lucky, Seya and Amadeel with you," Lino said.
“Why Amadeel?” Hannah asked, surprised slightly.
“There’s little he can do from here,” Lino said. “And, besides, despite his ordinary looks, he’s quite powerful. Use him as you please.”
“Oh, right,” Hannah said, seemingly having remembered something. “The first batch of Gods has arrived. Did you know?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “Don’t worry about them. They have their own tasks to tend to for the time being. I should also probably meet up with Val before going.”
“... is there a chance I could follow you into that trap?” Hannah asked.
“There’s no need,” he replied, reaching over and caressing her cheek gently. “Though I say I’m walking into a trap, it’s more the other way around, really. My life is in no danger; it’s only going to be a bit tricky because I’ll have to save those I’ve left in the city first.”
"... you used them as bait? That's low." Hannah grumbled, frowning deeply.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he chuckled bitterly, slumping further back. “I really, really tried to think of another way... but short of outright attacking a Holy Ground and then running away in hopes they’ll chase... this was the best I could come up with. If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.”
“... knowing Gaia,” Hannah mumbled after a few moments of silence. “This really might be the only way... are you sure she’ll just kidnap them, though, and not just kill them on the spot?”
“... there’s always a chance,” Lino said, his eyes briefly flashing in the light of pure madness, startling Hannah. “But, I think she’s smarter than that. However, if she really does do it... I might just go a bit nuttier than I intended and do some shit I’ll probably come to regret.”
“Right, why do you want me to scout out a path to the Dragon Isles? Do you plan on going there?”
“Eventually, yes,” Lino nodded. “I still need to upgrade the [Dragon Slayer], but, even beyond that, I’d like to see where the Dragons stand at the end of the day. Are they like the Devils and Descent, playing the hand they think is likely to win, or do they actually have balls to stand on one side?”
“... aren’t you worried Descent will prevent you from killing anyone?” Hannah asked, seemingly just now realized that was a possibility.
“No doubt they will, but I’m not too worried,” Lino said. “Ella will be there to keep their top-guns busy. Besides, you’re the only one who knows exactly how strong I am. If I want to kill someone and get out, do you really think anyone, even Descenders, can prevent me?”
“... I could.” Hannah suddenly grinned, pinching his cheek.
“Tsk, that’s just ‘cause I told you all of my secrets.”
“I told you all of mine, too.” she pouted. “Nobody knows that I can finally reach the Third Avatar Form except for you. Be proud, you damn bastard.”
“... I might have to use the Crown,” Lino frowned for a moment. “If things really do escalate to the point of no return.”
“... we still haven’t managed to gather all the herbs, however.” Hannah frowned as well, her tone growing heavy. “Try to avoid it if possible.”
"Eh, that's just for the worst-case scenario," Lino shrugged. "If I'm backed into the corner, I've a lot of shit to burn through before resorting to the Cube."
“Have you finally managed to convince Lyee to help you?” she asked.
“She will... for a price.”
“Each time she helps me,” he glanced bitterly at her. “Means being able to watch us doing it once.”
“... what the fuck is wrong with that Spirit...” Hannah sighed, somewhat startled yet not surprised. She, too, had once interacted with the Spirit... and has had nightmares ever since.
“Plenty, according to her.” Lino shrugged. “Anyway, be careful and check in daily. Try to remain under the radar; it shouldn’t be too difficult as I suspect the eyes of the entire world will be on me.”
“He he, just as you dreamed as a young boy, huh?”
"Ho ho, indeed, indeed," he said, stroking his chin. "I finally have a proper audience to expose myself to!"
"... fuck, no wonder Lyee accepted your invitation. You two are practically twins from different mothers!" the two laughed for a moment before the atmosphere switched back to somber. "Just... be careful, okay? If you widow me so soon after our wedding, I'll bring you back to life and torture you till the end of days, alright?"
“... I don’t plan on dying,” he said, smiling and leaning forward, planting his forehead against hers. “Not until we’re old and worn and tired of each other, and until our grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-children begin ritualistically praying every morning we finally croak.”
“That’s a lot of grands...” she mumbled, closing her eyes.
“The result of a lot of nights like this one...”
“Hmm... a lot...”
Meanwhile, the city of Do'r slept silently and unaware, as though it was just another night awaiting another normal dawn. Yet, far up above and far down below, a set of arrays interlocked into a massive formation that simply seemed to break every known law. At the very top, where the billions of lines and threads merged, Freya floated freely, surrounded by three figures -- Erebus, the old man tasked with keeping Ella away, currently floating slightly behind, cross-legged, his eyes closed, and a younger man of similar appearance and disposition, floating next to Freya.
"... I still think it's a bit of an overkill," the young man said, frowning faintly; he had a rather flamboyant appearance, sporting flaming, coral-dyed hair and lavish clothes. "Just for a single man... nay, a single child..."
“Better safe than sorry,” Freya said. “If driven into a corner, who knows what he may do?”
“They held the wedding ceremony tonight,” Erebus said suddenly. “Apparently, they let anyone who wanted watch it. Humph... arrogance...”
“... how have you failed to hold onto Astrum?” the young man turned to Freya and questioned with a frown. “She’s a key piece to our invasion of the Dragon Isles.”
“She can be replaced,” Freya replied, meeting the young man’s eyes squarely. “Do not worry too much about it. Just focus on maintaining the formation. How long exactly do you think you can keep it up?”
"An hour, at most," the young man replied, shrugging his shoulders. "And then I'll have to hibernate for at least a decade. It's a steep price to pay, Gaia, just to chain an Empyrean that's at the very least thousands of years away from being a threat."
“You have grown too arrogant, Yovel,” the old man behind the trio suddenly spoke out, causing all three to turn around. “And disrespectful. You’ll spend your hibernation in Hellfire.”
“Save it,” the old man interrupted, a whiff of his Will extending over onto the young man, causing him to bend onto his knees midair. “If the Empyrean posed so little threat, do you believe the Descent dogs would be protecting us? They clearly know something we don’t, though I imagine we are about to learn. Even all of that forgotten, he still has the Sword Maiden on his side. She alone is enough to pose a threat to everyone and everything... and you dare say we have a few thousands of years of respite? Humph, arrogant brat.”
“... how strong do you think is the Sword Maiden?” Erebus asked with interest clearly present in his eyes.
“... I’ll know soon enough.” the old man said, closing his eyes and returning to the state within which he seemingly didn’t even exist.
“Proceed with the plan,” Freya turned to Erebus, nodding. “Do it silently and stealthily, but leave the traces of life behind. We need him to come alone, after all.”
“Yes.” Erebus nodded, vanishing. The young man, Yovel, followed soon after, glancing at the old man behind him one last time before disappearing, leaving the old man and Freya alone.
“... what do you think are our chances tomorrow?” Freya asked, looking up at the full moon above her.
“... make it quick,” the old man said. “If not, run away.”
"... that bad?" Freya sighed, frowning. "Am I making another mistake, Y'nn?"
"You've made the mistake the day you met the boy and didn't carve his heart out," the old man said, his eyes still closed, white hair fluttering freely in the wind. "And you made another the day you watched him flee from the ruins... and another when you let him face Vy... and you've made the last allowed one that day by the fountain, where you should have used the Mirror."
“... he didn’t seem ready.” Freya sighed lowly, shaking her head.
“He was,” the man said. “More so than anyone realizes, perhaps even Ataxia.”
"What do you mean?" she asked, turning around swiftly, but the old man had already disappeared. Her expression distorted slightly as thoughts inside her mind spun, but she couldn't come up with an answer no matter how much she tried. Sighing once more, she glanced down at the city of Do'r with a downcast expression. "Forgive me... forgive us... and please understand..." her whisper faded out into the wind as she vanished from the spot, leaving behind an open sky full of stars surrounding the full moon... and the eerie silence that seemed to wash over the entire city down below.