Legend Of The Empyrean Blacksmith - LightNovelsOnl.com
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DAWN OF GRACE
Dull silence permeated the hollow walls of a brick-rise, windowed on all four sides in perfect symmetry, insides hidden by pulled curtains of gray. Forty rooms, each exactly the same as the last, existed through the five stories, comprised of a praying mat at the center and an overhead gem s.h.i.+ning warm blue across the wooden floor and cold, stone walls. There were no decorations, no beds, no shelves to stack the books, no mirrors, no exceptions. Even doorframes were dull, plain rectangular, lacking any uniqueness to them.
The hallways were narrow and straight, carpeted in simple scarlet, illuminated by the gla.s.sed gems on the side, each s.p.a.ced every two rooms. Beyond the occasional flicker, there was no sound to be heard; be it chirping of the insects or the breathing of the living. Senses ceased and were replaced by paranoia for the inexperienced as the silence vexed the mind, driving it insane. It was perennial, the sense of isolation, the nature of existence.
Within one of the rooms, Two was currently sitting cross-legged, her features veiled behind the silken fall of silver, body draped in loose, white robe lined in sporadic, yet eerily orderly, threads of red. She had a placid expression, her eyes closed, hands resting on her knees, both arms evenly pressed against her sides. She seemed a motionless statue more than a living person, as though she were a relic of the vanished time. Ever so often, s.p.a.ce around her would wiggle, almost like the pulsating veins, before withdrawing back into itself, restoring the uneventful reality.
She had remained stoic for years now, entirely removed from the ongoings beyond her; she was entirely unaware of the war, of the battles that took place, of the changes that the tides of time brought – she was locked within her own self, within her mind, caged within the fabrication she construed of her own thoughts. The penultimate form of meditation, as many would call it, was simply a break from reality – though simple-sounding, it was still remarkably difficult to achieve. Abolishment of connections, of desires, of hopes, and dreams was the gate keeping many away from the state of serenity.
It wasn't merely reserved for increasing one's cultivation or probing further into the Nature of Laws; it also helped with purging the swarm of demons, of ripping through the clouded reality of the mind. After the Battle of the Isles, she had realized it herself – she was charged, unstable, insatiable in her anger. It was strange, beyond unlike her; whatever it was about the black-eyed man, it should not have been enough to send her to such a state of unrest, of uneasiness. In such reality, she had declared the Origin War, something she had condemned many before her for doing. However, there was no turning back; all she could do was settle, recuperate and advance. Win.
She exhaled a deep breath, one she had been holding for a long, long time, letting her body slowly cool and reawaken. The relaxed body tensed slightly as she came to, ripped from the serenity into the reality; the shapeless colors and blends withdrew to the rigid and formulaic reality, one of the dull, expressionless room. It was the same as it was when she entered. Squared. Empty. Cold. Soulless.
She didn't move at first, still seemingly recognizing herself within the world; occasionally glancing about, taking it all in, she got up only a few minutes later, apparently having recovered to the state of thought.
She walked out silently, not looking back, bounding the floors and exiting through the slightly elevated archway at the bottom. Her expressionless face immediately darkened as a pervasive stench a.s.saulted her senses, a morbid, dark sight piercing her eyes. Smoke, ash, and soot cradled the horizon, blanketing the world above the Valley like the clouds. She couldn't quite identify the smell, though she found traces of corpses, rotten fish and milk, and plenty more. The streets remained unpaved, laden with animal excrement, wooden fences all half-broken, bleeding and bending, dark, black-brick towers looming over the unimpressive remains. When she had first arrived here, it was a boundless land of green, tucked between two beautiful mountain ranges sporting unique and lively wildlife. Now, however, it was something entirely different.
There were no guards around; rather, there was no one around. The parcel was well outside the centralized Valley, surrounded by several landfills of waste and a few wild beats living as scavengers. It was a sight beyond depressing, but she hardly reacted save for the initial shock. It was a minuscule stop; it would be cleaned up quickly and swiftly. They were at a War, and insubordination was just a minor part of a much larger picture. What mattered to her was that she counted countless souls within the Valley, which meant that the recruiting was going well. All the mistakes aside, it was even better than what she expected.
Though the earth beneath was muddy and wet, her feet seemed impervious to it as all the dirt seemed to split wherever she walked, avoiding her. She strolled casually, observing everything. The road from the parcel toward the center of the Valley was slightly curved from left to right, bounding a small uphill climb that seemed more a mound than a hill. It was beyond it that the living quarters stemmed from the earth, as diverse as she imagined they would be. Right to her left, a field of tented huts, strewn together from straw and cloth, extended into the mountain itself. Several splintering vials of smoke erupted into the sky from the bonfires, corralling together into an overhead mist that even the dead shouldn't be forced to breathe.
To her right, following the curvature of the road, several plantations of dying corn were cradled around a dozen or so rundown, simple, wooden houses that seemed almost entirely abandoned. The fields themselves looked as though n.o.body had worked on them for years, left to rot and decay in perennial oblivion. Beyond them, blending into the mountain, she saw several rows of gallows, some still sporting skeletal corpses hanging by the nooks.
Further down the road, the tented huts gave way to brick-belted high-rises, built into one another in a formation of four, squared alongside the roads cutting between them at perfect angles. Half the windows were cracked, barely a few s.h.i.+ning in faint coral as a sign of life, while the streets were overrun with filth. It wasn't a large section by any means, yet it seemed to house thousands at the very least. The arrangements were terribly off, Two realized quickly, but they could wait. The first change she would have to introduce was that of att.i.tude.
Everything she saw on her stroll spoke of a very lax, unbothered att.i.tude toward anything. It appeared as though those living here were entirely unaware they were at war – and not just any war. That illusion would have to collapse. There wasn't even a trace of militant order to be found; no soldiers were practicing on the open fields, there were no hundreds of workers producing weapons, scribers carving out runes and talismans, smiths crafting items… this, by and by, would have completely ruined this place. Not a trace existed of a war-ready nation; it was more akin to a town of outlaws bound by their inability to live anywhere else without being beheaded.
She eventually found her way to the so-called 'Hub'; on her way over, she had gone from depopulated centers to the shockingly populated ones, namely taverns and brothels. The 'Hub' appeared no different; she could hear the groans and moans and soulless eyes of the women from miles away. What she envisioned as an all-purpose building for war had become a breeding center, a house of decadence.
Walking past the guards who hadn't even noticed her since their cultivations were abysmal, she made her way through a decorated, broad hall upheld by pillars of might, path guided by an oriental carpet. She took a sudden stray left, in-between the pillars, into the unlit dark of the edge, where she found an unguarded path down the spiraling staircase of stone. It was narrow and slightly claustrophobic, barely large enough to fit one person in line, with the descent itself lasting over five minutes.
At the very end, past the arched exit, she immediately saw it – the vulgar visualization of all things gone wrong with this place. A bed upon a bed, spread sporadically across a borderless room, floors ga.s.sed with poured liquor and broken bottles, the mixed stench of death and decay eclipsing all else. There were well over twenty beds altogether, each wide enough to support four-five people, yet were populated by at least ten. Walking between them were naked women carrying trays of bottles with collars tightened around their necks, leashes falling between their b.r.e.a.s.t.s.
Curses, angry shouts, sounds of slapping, beating and even occasional murder mingled with the generic brothel compendium. Women were forced to moan, beaten if they refused, killed if they persisted. Some were chained to a wall, their limbs spread far out, torched with fire-hot iron while the decedent laughter resonated. Some were perched on all four and forced to crawl and lick the liquor off the floor, and some were beaten until an inch away from death, slumped with their eyes rolled up, their bodies occasionally spasming. It was a ghastly sight, one that even managed to sour Two's heart and mind; she had half a mind to simply turn the entire building into a pile of ash, but that would be too quick. Too pointless.
The saddest end of it all was that she didn't recognize any of the men in the room, and perhaps for a good reason – they were all pathetically weak. The strongest appeared to be barely Level 40,000, which, while enough to reign as a king here, was nothing. An empty number. There was no point in redeeming any one of them, of giving a second chance. However, in her heart, she knew that even if one of them was strong enough to catch her eye, she would hardly forgive. After all, sights like these are not the likes that can be forgiven.
Time suddenly came to a crawl, causing motions and sound to swell into a build-up without release. All souls within the room found themselves atremble, dancing eyes slowly veering over to the white-robed figure that stood at the entrance to the room. They, however, did not see Two; they did not see a human standing there, looking at them; they saw a personification of Time, the embodiment of End. Like sheets of paper, their Souls ripped, eyes rolling back, foam bursting out of their mouths like water from a fountain, their bodies slumping, turning cold almost immediately.
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It was difficult to quantify the pa.s.sage of time, but they died too quickly to process it all either way; women were caught unaware, shocked still, not even realizing their captors and abusers were dead. Two glanced through the pairs of eyes, some of which were already corpses and some that still had the faintest of flames burning, sighing audibly, summoning two wooden tables from her void world, one full of clothes and the other full of s.h.i.+mmering daggers.
"—those of you who wish to die, be that thy will," she said, turning around. "Those of you who wish to live, dress and meet me upstairs." she left the room in a saunter, her voice echoing for a little while after, until the women in the room came to. Some sped to the daggers, slitting their throats in swift motions, while a few raced over to the clothes. Only a couple remained unmoved, still glancing at the fading back of the woman they didn't recognize, unable to decide what they want to do.