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CHAPTER 393

AGE OF EMPYREAN (II)

The city of Do’r woke to a dawn just like any other, as chatter, sounds of footsteps, and opening shops intermingled in a symphony of the morning. There appeared to be nothing odd about either the sky or the earth, as all simply embarked on their standard routines.

Inside a small shop on the corner of a street, Edward and Jack had just finished crafting an item and had climbed onto the second floor and entered a small room where the other five were. Ryt and Ion seemed to be discussing something in hush-hush tones, while Vyena, Y’sha and Talleah were sitting on the other end, eating breakfast. The two joined the girls, who quickly whipped out two more portions and handed them over.

“Aah, the wedding truly was beautiful...” Vyena exclaimed softly, her eyes glistening like gems for a moment. “And the Lady... ah, the lady was truly beautiful...”

“The Lord was really handsome as well..” Talleah added, her cheeks blushing faintly.

“Aah, he really was...” Vyena echoed the sentiment while Y’sha sighed lowly, rolling her eyes.

“What? You didn’t enjoy the wedding?” Jack asked her with a smile.

“No, I did,” she replied. “But clearly not as much as these two airheads.”

“Ha ha ha, just let them be,” Jack laughed, taking a bite of freshly baked bread. “’tis lovely to be so young and full of energy.”

“What do we have to do today?” Y’sha asked.

“We’ll slow down today,” Jack replied. “And give ourselves some rest. There aren’t any major orders anyway, and our current stock can hold on for up to a week, so we are set. So, today you can just relax. Maybe go out and roam the streets a bit.”

“What about you lads?” Edward suddenly called out to Ryt and Ion who jumped like startled cats, smiling awkwardly right after. “How about you get off your asses and escort the ladies?”

“A-alright, will do Master Edward...” Ion replied, nodding faintly as he glanced at Ryt, his eyes shimmering briefly.

“They’ll just embarrass us!” Vyena exclaimed, pouting as she glanced angrily at the two. “T-they always... always ask where the brothels and-and whatnot are...”

“...” Edward and Jack barely managed to stiffen their laughter, while Vyena, Talleah, Ion and Ryt swiftly buried their eyes toward the ground. Y’sha seemed the only one indifferent to it, eating slowly.

“I’ve heard a new one opened just a few streets west,” she said. “Apparently, it’s got the best and freshest girls. And guys. And even dogs if you’re into it.”

“Alright, alright, settle down,” Jack ruffled her hair gently, briefly laughing in the process. “Nobody’s goin’ to any brothels or such. There’s plenty of other things in the city to see. How about you head to the Palace? The Maester, after all, said you are welcome there anytime. The girls can visit the library while you two lads can look for a Martial Room or such to train in for a while. The tournament isn’t too far away, you know?”

“... u-ugh... don’t remind us...” Ryt and Ion groaned at the same time, their expressions turning downcast. Chuckling faintly, Jack got up and slowly walked out.

His expression turned stern the moment he left the room as he glanced at his hands which were shaking. Every morning, he pondered whether this would be the day. Two weeks ago, he met up with Lino in secret and the latter told him of the upcoming matter -- that they'd most likely be targeted by Gaia and kidnapped as a way to ‘draw him out'. Though Lino had promised nothing would happen to them, it hardly eased Jack's mind. He didn't care much for himself, as his life was saved by Lino, in addition to being exposed to what truly top-tier smithing is, so he didn't mind risking himself for him, though he couldn't say the same for the rest. Edward, after all, was his younger brother, and the rest... the rest were merely kids.

He somehow managed to reach his office and slump into the chair, covering his eyes with his hands. It would have been better, he thought, if he was not informed at all. He would be like the rest, sitting in the dark, none the wiser. All the same, however, he also knew why Lino told it to him in the first place. He would have to become a calming force once it all transpires, ensuring no one does anything stupid and suicidal -- especially Ryt and Ion who worshiped Lino and would most-likely go berserk if anyone insulted him.

Jack calmed himself down forcibly by taking deep breaths, looking out of the window and onto the somewhat barren street down below. Only a few drunkards and shop owners littered it, making it seem rather lonely. For a moment he got lost in thought, recounting the last decade of his life, and how it all changed in ways he previously wouldn't have ever been able to even imagine. From a small-time smith with some reputation to someone unknown yet far more knowledgeable in a much greater land, crafting items he only read about in the books and handling materials he didn't even know existed.

Smiling faintly, he shook his head and got up. Though still worried, Lino’s words repeatedly resonated inside his mind -- he wouldn’t let anything happen to them. Jack trusted those words from the bottom of his heart, as he knew Lino far better than the young ones who worshiped him. Before he became a skybound figure, he was after all just a young man in search of a smithing job with a somewhat sly tongue and burning passion. He bled and cried for people close to him, and would rather watch the world burn than carry another corpse to the pyre.

Jack walked out and went down to the first floor where he saw two figures standing behind the counter, waiting. Their usual seller, Anna, must have taken a break as she was nowhere to be found. The two men appeared to be in their thirties, both dressed rather simply, sporting no distinguishing emblem to identify them by. Their appearances, as well, were extraordinarily ordinary to the point Jack was certain he’d forget them by the time they left the smithy.

“Ah, sorry of the wait,” he said, hobbling over to the counter and jumping on top of a chair. “How can I help you?”

“Is this the Divine Smith’s shop?” one of the men asked.

“It indeed is,” Jack nodded, smiling. “Do you require an item, perhaps?”

“No.”

“Then what--” all he felt was a sting, a sliver of pain, before it all went dark. He clutched at his throat for a moment but it was too late. He fell over on his back, crashing the chair beneath him, and rolled once before coming to a halt.

The two men merely nodded at each before ascending the stairs in silence, leaving his corpse lying there. It didn't take them long to reach the occupied room; they burst in nimbly and trounced over at the table where Edward, Vyena, Talleah and Y'sha were seated. The three girls cried out in shock as Edward tried to jump in front of them, but to no avail. A single blade flashed silver through space and, in the blink of an eye, four found themselves clutching at their chests where each now had a dagger-sized, bleeding hole. They toppled over like statues, crying out in pain and anguish.

Ryt and Ion reacted quickly, each grabbing a weapon and readying for a battle, though not quickly enough. The former swung a spear in a crescent arc to repel an attack he couldn’t even see properly, only for the latter to suddenly change the trajectory and cross underneath the swing, slashing straight through his jaw and cleaving his head in two. Blood sprayed out in droves as he took a step back and toppled over, crashing into the wall with a loud thud.

Ion fared slightly better as he managed to avoid the first strike, barely managing to clip his cheek. However, that was all the fight he could put up, as he suddenly found himself in agonizing pain and falling onto his knees. Both his legs had hundreds of holes poked inside of them as every ounce of blood seemed to streak out of them, quickly piling up into a massive pond and joining the rest.

Just before his gaze would darken and his mind go numb, he reached into his void treasure and burned a talisman. The two men, however, didn’t try to stop him, causing him to look up in disbelief only to see them walking away as though nothing had happened, ignoring the scene they had just created.

It was all over so quickly, he thought as streams chucked through his eyes. Glancing sideways, he suddenly felt sick in his stomach; Ryt’s cleaved head welcomed him, his pair of wide-open, shocked eyes separated by a massive, still-bleeding gash. It was a horrifying -- beyond horrifying sight to behold, causing him to rapidly look away. However, what awaited him there was hardly any better.

On the other side of the room, lying side by side, three girls lay soaked in converging pools of blood. Edward lay just in front of them, his tiny body trounced, barely visible next to the cracked table and chairs. They were all dead, Ion realized. Jack as well. All dead. For no rhyme or reason, seemingly. One moment they were there, laughing, chatting... and the next they were not. Pain held back a roar of anger boiling inside his chest as he gritted his teeth till his gums began to bleed. Just before he passed out, he swore to high and low heavens that, should he live, they will not.

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A note from beddedOtaku

Trivia n16: Temple of the High Lords, resting on the southern end of the Holy Continent, is the oldest, still-standing building in the world, just shy of 4-billionth birthday. Though it underwent numerous reconstructions over the time, the foundations had never been touched.


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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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