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CHAPTER 439

BEYOND THE DIFFERENCES

Lino clutched tightly at his chest, a piece of thin cloth pressed against his skin, wet as though he’d doused himself with a barrel of water. Glancing back, his pupils dilated at the mere memory, his heart skipping beats repeatedly. He quickly scowled back, hiding behind a slightly erect rock, resting against it. He couldn’t stop his body from shaking, couldn’t stop it from feeling the instinctual fear… yet, he didn’t understand why.

Though certainly terrifying, the overwhelming feeling that washed over him temporarily was still far from enough to cripple him to such a point. There was something far more primal about the sensations surging from within, something that felt rather disconnected from his own reality. It was a blend, he realized shortly after, of his base instincts that were fed with Chaos for so long – effectively, the fear was not wholly his.

“… who was that?” he asked as he slowly came to.

"…" Ataxia didn't reply, though Lino waited patiently. The response was largely the Writ's, and for something to terrify Ataxia to such a point… Lino couldn't even blindly guess. "It doesn’t matter. We can’t stay here anymore. Leave.”

“… no.” Lino replied. “No more. Give it to me straight, or I’m going back and fighting whatever that is.”

“… go ahead if you never want to see your child again.” Ataxia replied, having already calmed down.

“—the Princess… the Princess of what? Yours? Your ex? If so, that was an apt reaction, I must say.” Lino chuckled faintly. “Come on. I thought we were well past hiding things from each other.”

It’s an irrelevant remnant,” Ataxia replied. “That should not be roaming the world. If you hope to find some answers from it… don’t. It’s a broken mind fueled by a base desire. It’s… gone.”

“… a base desire, huh?” Lino mumbled lowly. “Even if true, we both know that ain’t just an ordinary, base desire, Ataxia. For a desire to feed the soul’s entire purpose and existence… is it a Primal Spirit?”

No…”

“… isn’t it nominal that you ought to tell me about things trying to kill me specifically because of you? If I don’t know what it can do, how can I fight it?”

By not fighting it,” Ataxia said. “There’s no purpose to fighting. It can’t be defeated or killed. As I said… it’s a remnant. Eventually… it will fade.”

“—why are you so terrified of it, though?” Lino questioned. “I’ve never in my life experienced that amount of fear. That… wasn’t normal.”

… let’s go,” Ataxia said. “We don’t belong here.”

“—the greatest fuel of fear… is guilt and shame,” Lino said, ignoring Ataxia’s subtle pleas. “Trust me… I know. Perhaps to an extent that is nowhere near yours, but, it’s all the same in principle.”

“…”

“If it is a remnant,” he continued, lowering his head and staring at the dirt. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it was born of resentment. Looking back… all I saw was a genuine desire, base joy. Who was she… Ataxia?”

There is no need to humanize me,” Ataxia said following a short silence. “As it is pointless. If I let guilt and shame cripple me every time I dealt with them, I would have never come as far as I did. Besides, our bond is of two minds, not of two hearts or souls; we are, effectively, each other’s tools, means to an end. As I’m using you to achieve my goals, you are using me to realize your dreams. There is no need to corrupt the beauty of it all.”

“… whoever she may be, she’s clearly always been looking for you, and will continue to do so,” Lino said, slowly getting up. “If every time I come face to face with her, I bend over and weep like a bitch, I’d like to at least know why. She… has a powerful magnetism to her. The purity of her Chaos exceeds even mine, bar the Primal. Why not just tell me who she is if she’s so irrelevant to the entire thing? Get it off your chest.”

—you are wasting your precious breaths,” Ataxia replied. “The magnetism is temporary, and the purity an illusion. Not every question needs or has an answer, Lyonel. Not every sentience has a story or a reason. Sometimes… it is what it seems. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“… you may as well have told me to fuck off, instead,” Lino said, sighing as he slowly inspected his surroundings once more. He ensured that, at all times, his being was coated in his Will enriched by Primal Chaos, ensuring he wouldn’t be located again. “If you expect me to believe there’s no story behind who she is. Everything… everyone has a story, Ataxia. You, your battles, the consequences, either intended or not, of those battles, the ever-expanding effect of all our decisions that change the course of the world without us ever even realizing it. My choice to kill Eos… spawned millions of stories that otherwise wouldn’t have come to fruition. Your choice of me effectively cemented fates of thousands of people, yet it hardly erased their own stories. Just say you don’t want to share. Don’t lie to my face.”

… hypocrite.”

“I am,” Lino nodded. “But, so are you. And most of us who breathe. We all have an ideal. But the disconnect between the ideal and practicing it… is a very real wall. Embodying it will unhinge you.”

… we are different. Why are you trying to downplay that?”

“—we’re not that different,” Lino said, beginning to walk aimlessly as his Divine Sense didn’t work, and he was unable to extend it further than a few meters away through the usage of the Primal Chaos. “You know damn well everything has a story, but you’d rather pretend I’m an idiot who won’t call you out on your bullshit.”

… no, trust me. We are different. I’ve specifically chosen you because we are different. You’ve seen repeatedly what happens to those similar to me.”

“… and thus, in circles we go,” Lino chuckled, shaking his head. “It’s fine.”

… if we are not so different, then why are you holistically afraid of giving me the autonomy? There is no common ground here besides the obvious one.”

“…” Lino frowned for a moment before sighing, speeding up slightly. “I’d gladly give you the autonomy if you wouldn’t use the people I love as a part of a ploy.”

… and there you go.” Ataxia said. “I believe in effective results, no matter the consequences.”

“… was she the consequence of an effective result?” Lino probed. “I imagine she was. Though, I suppose, if you lived past that… you can live past everything.”

“…”

“… and I imagine she wasn’t the only one,” Lino said. “Though you hid it well, I still felt it, when you finally showed me Eve’s last days. I felt it even as far back as when I met Eshen. Nobody will chide you for caring, Ataxia, and refusing to abuse the trust of others. There’s always another way to completing the dreams.”

—like yours? How’s that working out?” Ataxia asked in a slightly raised, though still robotic, tone. “Broken down time and again, forced to watch your world go up in flames repeatedly, living in perpetual fear of losing everything that you have, seeing threats in everything and everyone, spending every day on the edge, upholding a careless façade in front of those you supposedly trust the most because you don’t want to worry them… tell me, when was the last time you put your guard down? How long has it been?”

“… yet, here I stand.” Lino replied. “Still whole, still fighting. Is that the penultimate difference? That I endured, while others were unable?”

… they were unable,” Ataxia said. “Most wind up betraying their Will, going mad, and either dying or breaking beyond repair in the end. You mentioned Eve, didn't you? Let me tell you what would have happened if I'd let her go on – her core, the very embodiment of her Will, was wrath. Every time someone, something, angered her, she had to lash out. Every time people didn’t bow to her ideals, she had to make them or kill them. She didn’t intentionally embody the misunderstood principle of Chaos – she became it of her own volition. However, eventually, her fuel would run out. Nobody can sustain living on anger alone. In those desperate moments to reconcile who she believed she was with what her reflection told her, the dissonance between the two would unhinge her mind, as her whole reality becomes undone. She would cease existing, replaced by that dissonance, lashing out at everything and everyone until either she dies out of exhaustion, or someone kills her.”

“…”

Why do you think I don’t interfere more often, Lyonel? It’s partly because I trust you, but partly because my interference would collide with your Will. Even without playing a part, you always dance the fine line. You are repeatedly challenging the other end, expecting to come out of it stronger, and I always have to take the brunt of it all. You’ve been repeatedly battered with consequences, yet you still do it regardless. That is your ‘still whole, still fighting’. You are trying to prove nothing to no one, afraid someone will gleam past it.”

“… shhh,” Lino sucked in a cold breath, chuckling bitterly. “Boy… did I hit a sore spot. But, I suppose, you’re right. I do dance the fine line… but not because I’ve nothing to prove to no one. I’m doing it because Will isn’t a static thing as you believe. As the world, really, believes.”

“…”

"It being static implies it can't change, that it can, at best, move slightly in intensity," Lino continued, glancing around as the landscape changed from flatland with occasional sharp rock bursting out to a valley surrounded by two, steep cliffs bleeding crimson magma. "But, that's just… wrong. Will can change, become completely different. It doesn't require excruciating and painful struggle… just a change in perspective, really. It's a reflection of who we are at our core. I'm no longer someone who can't walk away. If I were, I'd have gone mad a long time ago. The key difference is that Will doesn’t change on its own… you first have to recognize the change within yourself. Most never do, unfortunately, precisely from fear of going against their Will.”

“…”

“You, perhaps almost as well as I, know who I am at my core,” he added, settling slightly as he looked at the tops of the surrounding cliffs. “And, you’re right, I am terrified of someone seeing past what I show. But that’s because I’m no longer a vagabond fighting the world. I’m someone leading thousands… and the ever-aloof, never-threatened, always-calm image of me soothes them, gives them hope it will all be alright. There will always be consequences to our actions that we don’t want to deal with. But… ignoring them in vain hopes they’ll go away is just as cowardly as trying to excuse them. It’d be much easier for me to deflect the blame for countless deaths I’ve caused. But… what’s the point?”

“…”

“El’ told me a long time ago to always face my demons,” he said, tapping against the scorching rock, seemingly listening for something. “And while it ain’t always easy, it’s necessary. You fucked up and someone you cared for suffered because of it? Don’t run away. It seems easier… but, you clearly now know it’s not. A’right,” he added, craning his neck slightly. “We’ll have to cut our nice talk short. There’s a big-ass Dragon on this cliff and he’s like half a breath away from dying… and I’d really like to find out how in the ever-loving-fuck that happened.”

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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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