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Legend Of The Empyrean Blacksmith 459 Nine Years Ix

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CHAPTER 459

NINE YEARS (IX)

A smooth, somber and low melody echoed gently throughout a dimly-lit room full of people seated on the rows of wooden benches. Piano's notes seemed to match the flickers of the overhead candles and gems, slowly cascading up and then down, like a whirling storm of emotions.

Far up front, beneath a gla.s.sed stele brought out of the wall, held up by over a two dozen steel beams, stood looming over the entire room – from left to right it angled slightly, names carved out one by one at its surface. It sat on a slightly elevated platform, two steps up from the laminated, wooden floor, surrounding the piano in a half-circle. The piano itself was large, built out of a mixture of different woods, from maple to spruce, dyed in somber black, its keys only faintly extruded toward the edges.

Seated on a rather small, wooden stool, Alison appeared stoic, only her arms and fingers moving, banging slowly against the black and white keys. She wore a pristine, white dress decorated with folds of flowers and crescent patterns laden in bra.s.s-bronze, her sun-dyed hair falling freely down her back like a waterfall, some strands finding their way over to her face and looming across it. Her expression appeared heavy, cast in deep shade due to the lights' angle, forming a strange, even eerie, illusion of ephemerality.

She had hardly changed over the course of nearly ten years, perhaps only obtaining a slight tint of age to her eyes, a faint trace of wisdom that comes with it. Beyond that, however, she remained the same; soft, dazzling, elegant, warm and kind. Her blue eyes appeared teary at the moment, glistening even in the silent darkness they ever overcast with.

The melody seemed to trickle from her fingers, its roots tracing back to her heart and soul, bounding her entire self before being thrust into the keys, which pulled at the strings, forming deep, bleak, even earnest, melody. It went on for minutes, drawing all eyes to her, all ears to those keys, all souls to the shared feeling of loss and grief. Be they veiled or free, emotions reigned in their expressions, eyes, and lips trembling beneath the might of the song.

It was only five minutes into the piece, by which point the time itself seemed to cease and end, that her voice joined the keyed melody. Unlike the somber, mournful music, her voice was bright, lively, even slightly hopeful. Despite the contrast, however, it almost innately made sense; it fit, like two pieces of a puzzle falling back into their place of origin. It seemed as though that was the way it was meant to be.

"Somewhere far, far, far away,

The night gives way to the perennial day,

In the land of the skies beyond,

The sun shall s.h.i.+ne on evermore," her voice raised a pitch, yet still matched the melody perfectly.


"Through the broken gla.s.s,

Sing the tune of bra.s.s,

Through these little cravings,

See the binds come undone."

The staunch melody lightened up slightly, introducing several higher notes into the mix, as though to even better match her voice.

"Here they may lay cold,

But beyond they're cradled in waves,

Of true warmth unmatched and bold,

One day we will join their ranks," the pitch went up slightly again before she continued.

"From beyond the calls of storm,

From beyond the whispers of truth,

Torn asunder yet their hearts still warm,

Like thunder, their voices soothe."

The keys swung in the opposite end, almost inspiring a mood to dance, alight with hope and the seeming cheer, as though designed to cast away the previous heaviness.

"We may weep and we may choke,

And we may sing and we may joke,

But the cloak of death, it folds so clean,

Drapes us in the effervescent greens.

And when the dawn of light draws near,

We will see the stars alight the day,

Forevermore shall their names we roar,

Remembered… remembered 'till the end of days…"

There were no cheers, and there was no applause as her fingers ceased moving, and she hung her head even lower. The melodic light ended, replaced once more with a heavy overtone, a somber silence. It was a send-off, a lasting goodbye to the many who had fallen.

Nearly a minute later, Alison got up off the stool, turned toward the crowd of a several dozen, bowed and walked off beyond the stele and beyond the crimson curtain. She pa.s.sed a well-lit corridor of dry and drab stone, curving halfway through, and came to a selective pa.s.s where six doors in total existed seemingly embedded in the walls. Walking through the first door on her left, she was immediately blinded by a fairly bright light coming off a cyan gem stuck at the center of a small room. Beyond it, only several chairs, a mirror, a closet, and several bookshelves existed.

The somber expression grew alight the moment she recovered her vision as she raced forth and draped her arms over a seated figure currently reading something. Lucky closed the booklet and smiled, glancing up and kissing Alison back before suddenly wrapping her arms around the latter's shoulders, pulling her over through the side and onto Lucky's lap. Alison cried out in surprise before bursting into laughter.
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"—aai, stop, stop, I almost fell over!!" Alison exclaimed, pulling herself up by Lucky's shoulders and sitting over the next-chair-over. "This was a nice surprise. You usually dread coming here."

"I'd have walked down the h.e.l.lish maw if it meant hearing that beautiful voice of yours," Lucky chuckled, tilting her head slightly. "It's unfair, really, all the things you can do. You make the rest of us look rather f.u.c.kin' boring."

"Take solace in the fact that I'll never curse better than you, at least." Alison chuckled back.

"Ah, and I'll ensure that! I've been honin' this craft for decades. Ain't no way I'm handing it over to anyone."

"—"

"And if you dare mention Lino, I'll never come down here again." Lucky quickly interjected when she spotted Alison's mischievous smile.

"—what Lino?" Alison quickly recovered, grinning sheepishly.

"Good girl," Lucky nodded. "Anyway, I've let Lino know of the deserters."

"Really? What did he say?" Alison asked, visibly curious.

"What does he usually say?"

"Take care of it Lucky?"

"Yup."

"… ah, what a lazy b.a.s.t.a.r.d." Alison sighed, shaking her head. "I can't tell whether it's because he respects you're better at it than him, or that he just can't even be bothered to try."

"A bit of both, I imagine," Lucky said. "But, he seems to think it has something to do with Eight. If that's the case, we really need to investigate this properly. Besides, I don't think he can endure any distractions right now."

"… yeah," Alison nodded. "The number of dead will only go up from now for a long time. I really… hate this…"

"…" Lucky remained silent; it wasn't the first time Alison expressed her hate for battling and war, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. Lucky herself, however, didn't detest it as much; rather, she believed it was the sole tool through which, paradoxically, never warring again could be ensured. So long as there is dissent, there's a chance of a fight. Rather, so long as there's an individual thought, fighting is virtually inevitable. It is never about preventing or ending the warring forever, it is about containing it to the best of their possibility. "I'm always amazed by how your body and your mind are so disconnected," Lucky spoke out after a momentary silence, chuckling. "One practically hand-crafted for gritty, b.l.o.o.d.y battles, and the other so averse to it, it may as well be ant.i.thetical to the whole concept."

"… do you think I'm naïve?" Alison asked.

"I do."

"…"

"I don't think you're wrong, though," Lucky added, taking out a bottle of ale, pouring herself and Alison a cup each. "Just a bit… misguided. Not everyone has the world painted in the rose-tinted gla.s.ses like you."

"… is it really so stupid to wish people would simply come to their senses?" Alison sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose; after all, this was a repeated, tired discussion she'd had with many-soul over the past nine years. "What worth is any of this? Why does it even matter who sits on the throne? In the end, doesn't everyone simply wish to lead happy lives and be content with what they've done before pa.s.sing? If, universally, we share that, why are we actively fighting against it?"

"… outliners, Ally." Lucky said, taking a sip. "We don't share anything universally, save for perhaps the two commonalities – that we were born and that we'll eventually die. Beyond that? f.u.c.k all, we come in all means and manners."

"… I won't ever give up believing, though, we can be better."

"I know," Lucky chuckled lightly, getting up and walking over, crouching in front of Alison, grabbing her hands. "That's one of the many reasons I love you and pray you'll never change."

"… it's been a while since you told me you love me," Alison smiled warmly, her cheeks flus.h.i.+ng red. "You really do savor the word."

"Ah, you greedy little minx. If it were up to you, I'd be repeating it on an infinite loop till I died."

"—why stop at death, though?"

"… f.u.c.k, even you can be creepy at times, huh?" Lucky said, getting up. "I've got to go. Apparently, nothing gets done when I'm not there. What a time to be alive, huh? Anyway, make me something nice for dinner. I'm tired of cold and hard s.h.i.+t I've been eating for weeks."

"Alright," Alison nodded as the two shared a kiss. "Be careful."

"Yup, yup!"

Alison watched Lucky saunter out of the room in silence, the former slumping back into the chair right after. She glanced at the cup of ale Lucky handed her; it was almost a tradition at this point, within which Lucky pretends the two are sharing a drink rather than her just drinking it alone. Alison stared at the cup for a long while before finally managing to pull her eyes away, sighing right after.

She found it difficult to reconcile the joy of building the world in the image of a paradise with the ever-depressing reality of it all. Groups still lived in sections, confined within the comforting sights, hardly ever interacting with the world outside. Young boys and girls still applied to the Cultivation Academies like crazy, despite repeatedly burying their friends and family members who were returned from the frontlines. Sometimes she wondered… was she the crazy one? For seeing something wrong with the entire picture?

Perhaps, she mused, as she walked over to the closet, changing from the flamboyant dress into a more comfortable one. Perhaps she was the crazy one, beyond simply being naïve. However, it didn't matter; she herself knows the best how much killing someone can eat away at your soul, nibbling like an army of tiny worms, suffocating you. She wasn't saintly, not by any means. That is precisely why she found it so difficult and painful to see people like Lucky, like Ella, like Hannah, and especially like Lino, drown in the mountains of corpses. She can still vividly recall the day the Dragons were brought over. The sea, the ocean of death and decay. All by a single hand. How did he endure it? She didn't know. Perhaps she'll never know. Those black eyes, after all, are impossible to read, however familiar they may be, even for her.

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