Chapter 1009: Towards The Light

Though the shrine looked spacious from the outside, Vahn quickly learned that the interior was a maze even more complex than one of the Dungeon’s Floors. Many of the walls were set upon mechanisms that allowed them to be freely moved and rotated, causing the layout to constantly shift under the guidance of dozens of dedicated Priestesses. As if in response to his unasked question, Wakahirume had recovered her innocent and childish smile as she explained, “Big Sis doesn’t like receiving guests so she tries to make it as inconvenient as possible for people to meet with her~desu! She is making a biiiiiiig exception for you, so feel grateful~desu!.

Contrary to how polite she had been during their introductions, Wakahirume’s tone had quickly broken into a more casual tone after Vahn ‘helped’ her up the stairs. She no longer showed a pouting expression but it was easy to see that what little respect she had held towards him had now turned into a peculiar familiarity. Vahn had never been too fond of formalities, so he allowed her behavior to go unquestioned as he listened to her drone on about how ‘amazing’ her Big Sis was. As the principal Goddess of the Dawn, at least in the Far East, Wakahirume seemed intent to hype up Amaterasu, the principal Goddess of the Sun. It was easy to see the admiration in her oversized eyes as she gestured excitedly during the surprisingly long walk towards the shrine’s inner sanctum.

Upon reaching a pair of sliding wooden doors, upon which a golden sun motif had been set, two exceptionally beautiful Shrine Maidens, each with matching features, gave a polite bow before sonorously chiming, “Lady Amaterasu has been expecting you, Lady Wakahirume, Emperor Vahn Aldrnari Mason…” Finishing these words, the Shrine Maiden on the right glanced towards Fenrir with slightly squinted eyes but, before she could say anything, a voice that seemed unbelievably soft, even as it easily reached the ears of everyone present, stated, “Allow her to enter. Any companion of Vahn is to be treated with the same courtesy we would afford our most esteemed guests…”

With their expressions morphing into one of sincere respect, the two Shrine Maidens bowed a second time before greeting, “Welcome…” before pulling aside the doors and revealing their contents. The interior was noticeably simple, at least compared to the rest of the shrine’s interior, as the only decorations present were a few neatly arranged velvet cushions, four pale-gold incense lamps, and a simple bamboo screen dividing the room in two. Vahn could tell there was an elevated platform on the other side of the screen but, perhaps wishing to show her sincerity, Amaterasu had moved her screen to the lowest point of the room, directly opposite the velvet cushions. This was her way of treating Vahn as an equal, even though it was their first and, perhaps, final meeting.

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Even with his [Eyes of Truth] active, not that he had intended to peek, Vahn’s vision was dominated by an aura that was almost identical to the sun in its radiance. It felt like his retinas would burn if he kept his eyes active so, out of respect for the hidden goddess, Vahn obediently deactivated his eyes before sitting atop the cushion that had been set out for him. There were only two present but, even without words passing between them, Wakahirume stood at the side as if it were perfectly natural, allowing Fenrir to take the seat meant for herself. This was yet another way of expressing respect, causing Vahn to give the childish goddess a small nod, eliciting a happy giggle in response.

From her veiled position on the other side of the screen, Amaterasu also released a peal of bell-like laughter before musing, “How peculiar…Wakahirume rarely takes to guests so quickly…tell us, have you seen something that requires our attention…?” There were teasing undertones contained in Amaterasu’s words that caused Wakahirume’s face to turn beet red before waving her hands in a flustered manner as she said, “No, no, no, there is nothing~desu!” At the same time, Wakahirume looked towards Vahn, her face burning even brighter before she accused, “Isn’t Big Sis the one-“

Before Wakahirume could finish her words, a cough sounded from the other side of the bamboo divider that caused the child-like goddess to cover her mouth with both hands. As if she were literally swallowing them, Vahn her an audible gulping sound but pretended it had escaped his notice as he politely stated, “I have looked forward to meeting you, Goddess Amaterasu. Tenjin has spoke highly of you ever since gracing Orario with his presence. I must express my most sincere gratitude that you had the foresight to send him to my side. He has been a true blessing to the Sage Aldnari School…” As this was their first meeting, Vahn was using the polite-form of speech that was common within the Far East. Ever since arriving, he had been using their native tongue, even though Wakahirume had spoken in Koine, the most common language in Eden.

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In response to Vahn’s words, silence persisted within the room for several long seconds before a small sigh could be heard from the opposite side of the partition. When Amaterasu finally spoke, there was a touch of regret coating her words as she muttered, “Though we had expected as much, it would seem the purpose of your visit is more diplomatic in nature…it is a shame, as we have few people that could be considered…friends…” The last word spoken by Amaterasu had more emphasis placed on it than Vahn had expected as, even if he believed the unseen goddess had developed a fondness for him, they had still never met. Her actions were more than a little surprising but, considering her reputed intellect, granting her a Clairvoyance many prophets could never hope to achieve, it made sense that she had come to a few ‘conclusions’ of her own.

Deciding it was better to drop his polite speech, Vahn allowed an audible sigh to escape his lips before apologetically stating, “I had planned to visit a bit later…on better terms…recent events, however, have necessitated that I take more decisive action. I’m sorry, Amaterasu…I hope your opinion of me will not be swayed by the haste of my actions.” As he didn’t have a grasp of her character just yet, Vahn gave an earnest apology as, much like Amaterasu, he had formed several expectations of his own. If Tiamat hadn’t given him a wake-up call, it is very likely he would have come to visit Amaterasu on far more casual terms. They would have had plenty of time to associate with each other, nurturing their friendship until it eventually developed into something ‘more’…

Much like Vahn, Amaterasu released a far more audible sigh than her first before asking, “What has happened to force you into such dire straits…can you tell us…?” There was more concern in Amaterasu’s voice than curiosity, causing Vahn’s opinion of her to improve slightly as he honestly explained, “Soon, I will ascend as the first mortal to achieve godhood…it as at the precipice of this accomplishment that I have come to know of my own weakness. Compared to the gods that have existed since time immemorial, I am akin to a child stepping into the ocean for the first time, completely unaware of the dangers lurking in its depths. To avoid losing everything I hold dear, I have been forced into a decision that I had intended to make far in the future…as for what that entails, I cannot answer without endangering everything, including this world. I believe that Loki has detected the truth of the matter but I cannot state exactly what it is I intend to do…I’m sorry…”

Vahn could only talk around the truth of the matter without revealing the truth as, even without going into details, the void around them had become tense with a lingering ‘threat’. Amaterasu had sensed this phenomenon from the very moment Vahn began speaking, alerting her to the severity of the situation while also allowing her to interpret Vahn’s words as the truth. As she felt a genuine threat to her own existence, Amaterasu chose not to press him on the issue and simply stated, “We understand…thank you for telling us this much…” in a quiet tone of voice. Any secret that would cause the Laws of the World to stir wasn’t a simple matter that could be casually discussed.

It took several minutes for the presence of Law to fade from the room, finally allowing everyone present to breathe easier. Wakahirume even plopped to the ground, an expression of relief on her face as fear lingered within her eyes while, sitting adjacent to Vahn, Fenrir’s skin was glistening slightly with a fresh layer of sweat. She had been caught in the focal point of the Laws alongside her Master so, while Wakahirume only felt the side-effects of the event, Fenrir felt as if each individual strand of her fur was being lightly tugged by an unseen force. It was almost as if her body was on the cusp of being pulled apart, causing Fenrir to shake slightly as her tail curled up in an uncharacteristically sheepish display…

Vahn gently stroked Fenrir’s head to help her calm down, a comforting smile on his face as he said, “It will be okay…one day, even the Laws will be unable to do anything to us…” Though he said this in a quiet voice that only Fenrir should have been able to hear, a barely audible gasp sounded from the other side of the partition that caught Vahn’s attention. Only goddesses like Anubis and Bast would have been able to hear his word, especially with a partition separating them, causing Vahn to wonder if Amaterasu’s chosen form was something other than a human. Since she was a goddess from the Far East, many of which chose more ‘exotic’ forms as their vessel, the chances were rather high.

Understanding that Vahn had heard her outburst, Amaterasu remained silent for several seconds longer before finally asking, “Were those words the truth…?” Though she had the ability to perceive truth from lies, Amaterasu denied what she had heard as it was simply ‘impossible’ to believe Vahn’s words weren’t false. Contrary to her hopes, Vahn nodded his head in affirmation, this time speaking clearly as he stated, “Once I have completed my task, there will be nothing that can bind me…” He didn’t mention the Laws again, as Wakahirume was still present, but the meaning of his words was able to properly reach an awestruck Amaterasu. Her mind was trying to make sense of what Vahn had said but, no matter how quickly the wheels, she felt no closer to an answer that would satisfy the many questions she desired answers to. The worst part of it all was her awareness that she couldn’t even ask Vahn to clarify as, after witnessing how the Laws reacted to his words, such knowledge would undoubtedly lead to her death…

By the time Amaterasu had collected herself, the atmosphere within the room had become a little awkward as Wakahirume’s eyes danced around in their sockets, confusion clearly reflected on her face. She wasn’t allowed the opportunity to ask her own questions, however, as Amaterasu suddenly stated in a voice laden with severity, “Wakahirume, please leave us. There are…important matters we must discuss with Vahn…” There was an uncharacteristic ‘break’ in Amaterasu’s words but, like an obedient younger sibling, Wakahirume gave a polite bow before quickly exiting the chamber. Even the Shrine Maidens stationed outside had already left their posts as, regardless of the trust placed in them, they were not privy to listening in on the conversations their goddess had with guests.

After the sound of Wakahirume’s robe draping along the floor disappeared, the doors to the chamber closed of their own accord as movement sounded from the opposite side of the partition. Vahn was curious about what Amaterasu was up to but, remembering the blazing sun beheld by his [Eyes of Truth], he elected not to peek. This quickly became a moot point, however, as the partition between them was quickly moved to the side, revealing the hidden figure he had been talking to thus far. Upon seeing Amaterasu’s true form, Vahn’s eyes widened in genuine surprise as his mouth hung open, words failing to escape the chaotic recesses of his mind.

Seeing the stupor Vahn had fallen into, Amaterasu could feel her heart rate rapidly increasing as she hesitantly asked, “Are you…disappointed…?” She had expected Vahn to be surprised when she suddenly revealed herself to him, much like everyone was when they first saw her, but his expression seemed more like genuine shock than anything else. Her question seemingly caused the cogs in his brain to begin turning once again, fortunately, as he quickly adopted a more neutral expression before answering, “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed…in fact, there…well…haaaa…” Vahn couldn’t quite put into words how he felt right now as a combination of validation, surprise, shock, exasperation, and acceptance all hit him at the same time…

Though not nearly as young as Wakahirume, Amaterasu’s figure was like a blend between Fenrir and Loki, giving her an extremely youthful appearance, even though she had a peculiar air of maturity about her. Like the two he compared her to, Amaterasu was distinctly lacking when it came to the development of her chest but, answering Vahn’s earlier curiosity, there were two pointed ears standing perfectly upright from the top of her head. With white tufts of fur poking out from their base, combined with nine sleek tails protruding out of her backside, it was easy to see that Amaterasu had taken on the form of a nine-tailed Kitsune. The ‘problem’ was that, though not nearly as small as Lili and Kali, Amaterasu was only around 130cm tall, making her even shorter than Hestia…

Even though he had fully expected Amaterasu to fall into the more ‘youthful’ category, as it seemed to be a trend when it came to almost every goddess from Hestia’s generation, Vahn still felt as if The Path had played with his emotions a bit. Other than Ouranos, it seemed like every goddess that was qualified to pledge him an Eternal Vow, at least in regards to his Main Quest, was of a particular category. Vahn even expected Ouranos to go against his expectations and refuse the deal he had come up with, forcing Vahn to look for another ‘elder’ god as a replacement. With goddesses like Maya and Tiamat recently entering the picture, Vahn wasn’t looking forward to any more unexpected changes within the Quest’s requirements…

Fortunately, perhaps as a result of his unwillingness to deal with further changes, there were no new notifications from the system as he looked toward into Amaterasu’s worried and appraising gaze, seeing his own image reflected in her golden eyes. As if fragments of the sun themselves, Amaterasu’s eyes shone with a radiance that was hard to peer at directly. She also possessed fair white skin but, compared to the pure white of her garb, it was easy to see that there were pink undertones that made her seem less like a sculpture and more organic in nature. With her long black hair, coming to an end at the small of her back, combined with the ornate design of her robes, Vahn couldn’t help but admit that she was easily one of the most beautiful goddesses he had ever beheld.

As if she could sense the ‘shift’ in Vahn’s perspective, Amaterasu allowed a smile to adorn her face as her tails flickered around behind her. Then, remembering why she had removed the partition in the first place, Amaterasu walked towards Vahn with a determined glow in her eyes before being intercepted by Fenrir. She was surprised by the unexpected obstruction, giving Fenrir a curious look as she asked, “Why are you standing in our way…?” Though she knew of Fenrir’s existence, enough to understand the reason why she would block her access to Vahn, Amaterasu couldn’t help but ask directly. This was due to the fact that she also understood Vahn well and, expecting Fenrir to share a similar amount of knowledge, couldn’t fathom why she would do something that was ultimately futile.

Undaunted, Fenrir’s face formed into a frown as, instead of answering Amaterasu’s question, she asked, “Do you plan to follow my Master…?” Even without having Fenrir clarify her meaning, it was easy enough for Amaterasu to intuit what she was really asking. With her smile blossoming even more than before, Amaterasu crossed her hands in a polite manner before bowing towards Fenrir as she confidently stated, “I sincerely believe in the future that Vahn has envisioned for this world. Even before I came to learn the ‘truth’, I had already made my decision. Though I may not be able to leave this place, know that my heart will follow him, no matter how much time passes…” As she already knew about Vahn’s ‘need’ for Eternal Vows, courtesy of Loki’s and Tenjin’s efforts, Amaterasu had been awaiting the day Vahn would finally visit her shrine. She wanted to see the world that Loki had promised, a world where gods were no longer bound by their Divinity as they lived amongst others as equals…

Just as she had tested the convictions of Tiona, Tione, Ais, Lefiya, and most of the other girls, Fenrir could see that Amaterasu wasn’t trying to mislead her. Though she was more than a little annoyed that another girl would be lingering around her Master, especially since Amaterasu had very soft looking ears and a plethora of tails, Fenrir still moved aside to allow the petite goddess free passage. As for Vahn, he had been watching the event play out with the best poker face he could manage, even as Amaterasu seemed to dedicate her heart to him. If circumstances had been different, Vahn would have felt that Amaterasu’s confession was a blessing but, knowing the path he now tread, it was much harder to sort through his emotions…

Even after arriving right in front of Vahn, Amaterasu’s smile hadn’t faded in the slightest. Her smile was, quite literally, reminiscent of gentle rays of sunshine that warmed up the world below without prejudice. It didn’t matter if you were the worst criminal or a perennial saint as the light of the sun would be cast upon everyone without distinction. Even Vahn felt as if the lingering chill that had infected his body days prior was being reduced slightly, something that only those closest to him could manage. As if she could sense this change, Amaterasu’s smile became even more radiant, to the point it reached her eyes and caused them to squint in an admittedly adorable fashion. Then, in an equally gentle tone of voice, Amaterasu confidently asked, “Can you stroke our head…? Tales of the ‘legendary’ Godhand have even reached our ears…”

Though they hadn’t moved since the time of her reveal, Amaterasu’s long ears flickered in response to her words. They were much longer than a normal Kitsune, standing nearly 10cm from base to tip, so they stood out quite a bit atop Amaterasu’s head. Seeing them up close, combined with the petite goddess’ request, caused Vahn’s hand to twitch before he instinctually reached out. Though he managed to stop himself with his hand between the two pointed protrusions, Amaterasu took the initiative to complete the action by rubbing her head against his palm of her own accord. Vahn immediately took note of how soft her hair was and, though he would never say it out loud, even Haruhime’s, Preasia’s, and Hestia’s ‘softness’ couldn’t compare…

Allowing a sonorous giggle to escape her lips, Amaterasu proudly stated, “We have lived for more than six hundred million years. In that time, few have been allowed to bear witness to our true form. You, however, are the first we have allowed to touch our ears…we trust you know what that means?” Though not nearly as intimate as allowing him to touch her tails, Amaterasu’s actions were the same as a basic courting ceremony. Vahn was intimately aware of this fact and, as it coincided with his intended purpose for coming to the Far East, he ultimately took the initiative to continue stroking Amaterasu’s head as he said, “I know you deserve better than what I can give you right now…until I must leave, allow me to do my best to make it up to you…”

Feeling the warm energy flowing from Vahn’s palm, Amaterasu was more than a little surprised as, even without her willing it, she couldn’t help but rub her head against his palm. A blush had already crept upon her face so, by the time she heard what Vahn had said, Amaterasu’s heart was pounding furiously in her chest as she gave a bashful, ‘Nn…’ in response. Following that, even though it felt like her heart was going to explode, Amaterasu buried her fast into Vahn’s chest, allowing herself to be embraced for the first time in her long existence. Though this was already ‘too much’ for her heart, Amaterasu had underestimated Vahn’s ‘prowess’ as his free hand sneakily found its way to her tails…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Don’t underestimate Big Sis~desu!’,’Inevitable’,’The Unstoppable Godhand…’)

(A/N: I know some wanted Amaterasu to be a busty Onee-san, but I had to go with her original design per request. For those unaware, she is based off the character Nagato from the Mobile Game, Azur Lane. Source: https://azurlane.koumakan.jp/Nagato#/media/File:Nagato.png )

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