Try as he might, Vahn hadn’t been able to completely harden his heart as, the closer his departure came, the less willing he was to actually leave the Record behind. Though he had been able to avoid giving in to his desire to see his children one last time, Vahn now sat atop the Tower of Babel, three hundred kilometers above the expansive City below as he passed his intent over the Manor’s interior. Even without observing it directly, Vahn could ‘feel’ the sadness that had permeated through the place that, in the past, represented endless warmth and comfort for him. Part of him wanted to reach out and embrace his children, comforting them as best he could, but a larger part of him warned that he might not be able to follow through with his decision if he began to hesitate.
Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Vahn absentmindedly muttered, “The pain and loneliness I experience during my time in other worlds will be my punishment for the sadness I have caused you all…though time will cease to pass in my wake, I pray that my unborn children will not resent me for my hasty actions…I swear, when I return to this world, I will never allow anything to threaten our happiness again…” Unlike the vows he knew would cease to influence him upon exiting the Record, this promise was one he had engraved into his very soul. It was the ‘meaning’ he had given himself and, no matter how much time passed between now and his return, Vahn swore he would make good on his words one day.
Though not exactly in response to her Master’s words, Fenrir hugged him from behind as she nuzzled her nose into the nape of his neck before muttering, “I will not let Master be lonely, no matter how much pain I have to bear…” Knowing full well that she would lose her [Cinder*Ella] upon leaving the Record, Fenrir had been making the best use of her time whenever she wasn’t focused on devouring Tiamat’s energy and hunting monsters. As a result, though they were atop the Tower of Babel, overlooking the City below, Fenrir was currently bereft of clothing as she pressed herself into his back and licked the side of her Master’s neck.
As tempted as he was to go for another round, Vahn’s mood had diminished greatly after peering into the Manor’s interior. He grabbed Fenrir’s hand, linking his fingers with her soft paws as he apologetically stated, “It is time for us to go…I fear that the temptation to remain will overwhelm my resolve to depart if I stay any longer…” This was one of the few times Vahn had ever ‘refused’ Fenrir, causing her to blink in confusion before finally nodding her head in understanding. Using her magic, Fenrir quickly wore a gothic-style dress before rising to her feet and saying, “I’m ready…please don’t make me wait too long, Master.” Since she would need to enter into Stasis in order to accompany him, Fenrir was a little worried about what she might ‘experience’ during the time she was locked away. Though time shouldn’t pass for her, the same principle was supposed to apply to anything placed within her Master’s Inventory. Since she still had memories of her time within the magic core, Fenrir felt anxious knowing that it could take months, or even years, before she was able to stand at his side again…
Knowing what she was worried about, Vahn tightly embraced Fenrir’s delicate and light frame before kissing her deeply. Unlike before, where they had been unable to kiss as a result of her [Devour] skill, Fenrir had full control over when, and what, she was trying to consume. Over the last few days, they had both stress-tested this newfound functionality, confirming that it was now ‘safe’ to kiss in a more intimate manner. This didn’t stop Fenrir from licking Vahn’s lips as he attempted to separate from her, however, causing a smile to appear on his face as he rested his forehead against her’s and said, “Once I am able to get my bearings, I will summon you at the earliest possible moment…I promise not to keep you waiting for too long.”
Though she didn’t doubt his words, Fenrir spent a few more minutes after that enjoying her Master’s warmth and aroma before finally separating from him, exclaiming, “Okay, I’m ready…!” With this, Vahn extended his hand, activating the storage function of his Unit Management and placing Fenrir into stasis. This halved her total Loyalty but, considering she still had more than forty billion, Vahn wasn’t particularly worried that she would be affected. Even with half the total amount, Fenrir dwarfed the competition as even Anubis only had around 347m Loyalty towards him. Since Vahn knew Anubis would likely even sacrifice her Divinity for his sake, Fenrir’s Loyalty was something he would never call into question…
With Fenrir safely stowed away within The Path, Vahn’s focus shifted to events that were occurring nearly three-thousand kilometers to the North. Currently, his avatar was seated at the center of a gathering where nineteen unique individuals, each representing the heads of various clans, were signing the treaty they had drafted. It was the near-completion of this process that had led to Vahn’s momentary melancholy as, once the paperwork was finalized, he fully expected his Main Quest to be completed. Coincidentally, as the new Twilight Countess, a title that had been bestowed to her by Vahn, the final member signing the document was none other than the Dark-Elf slave he had rescued several years prior, Shiva. She still had a mature and cold disposition but, unlike how she presented herself in the past, there was now a ‘regal’ aura surrounding the dark-skinned beauty as she bowed her head low and pledged, “Henceforth, The Land of No Sun will share the same fate as the Empire…”
Nodding his head, Vahn gestured with his right, his voice echoing through the chamber as he said, “Rise…” From the perspective of the various clan leaders, there was a solemnity within Vahn’s words that caused most of them to hold their breaths as the void around them trembled ever so slightly. Though he was doing his best to remain calm, Vahn couldn’t completely bury his emotions as his time within the Record was swiftly dwindling down. Fortunately, Shiva was unaffected by the pressure he was emanating as she easily rose to her feet, a fervent and loyal glint within her deep burgundy eyes. The madness that had been present within them had now turned into sheer adulation as she smiled towards her Master and swore, “I will never forgive the favor you have granted me…Master.”
With the last word spoken in a tone that only Vahn could hear, Shiva gave a final polite bow before exiting the chamber at Vahn’s behest. Though it wasn’t wrong to consider their relationship as Master and vassal, it was obvious that the Dark Elf was placing emphasis on their past relationship, even though Vahn had freed her. Knowing this, Vahn followed her departure with his eyes but, instead of ruminating on the past, he immediately shifted his focus towards the future as a system notification sounded within his mind. Vahn didn’t have much of a reaction upon seeing this, other than feeling a strange regret about having failed to complete all of the Optional Objectives…
//Main Quest Completed//[Quest: The Path of an Emperor Begins With The First Step]
Completion Grade: (-)
Objectives: Unify the Continent of Eden(9/9), Conquer the Living Dungeon, Tartarus(1/1), Form a Divine Council with a God of every Major Divinity(31/30)
Optional Objectives: [Curiosity] Form a Harem with at least one member of every race:(37/59), [Inspiration] Acquire 10,000 Followers, Subordinates, or Retainers(93,005/10,000), [Might] Overcome the restriction of Level 10: (10/10), [Virility] Sire 100 Children (24/100)
Rewards: 10,000,000,000OP, Quest Creation System Function Unlocked, 1x[Innate Awakening Pill], 1x[Page of the Akashic Tome]
Bonus Rewards: [Inspiration], [Might], 83,005,000OP[Innate Awakening Pill]
Use: Allows the user to promote an Innate one full grade at the cost of sealing that Innate for one year. In the event that the user has no active Innates, forcefully awakens a sealed Innate in exchange for sealing all sources of energy for ten years.[Page of the Akashic Tome]
Use: Allows the user to rewrite the fate of any named entity recorded within the Akashic Tome. **Warning: Use extreme caution as this item affects the causality of all Records accessible to Host entity: Vahn Mason**[Inspiration]
Use: A Grimoire that bestows the user with the intrinsic ability to inspire their allies, greatly bolstering morale and temporarily increasing their base capabilities. At higher levels of Mastery, it is even possible to inspire targets to push beyond their limits, allowing a Miracle to occur.[Might]
Use: A Grimoire that allows the user to increase their raw physical power by a factor of ten without any extraneous consumption of energy. Be warned, however, as the strain this skill places on the body has the potential of irreparably damaging weaker users.
//Quest Function Unlocked//
Allows the Host to browse through a list of compatible quests directly tied to the fate of a Record. Quests depicted are limited by the User’s understanding of the Record and their rapport with entities tied to the Record’s fate.
Though the descriptions of his rewards had caused Vahn’s mood to improve a bit, it was only a temporary increase as the realization that he was about to leave the Record hit him like a truck. He suddenly felt an extreme amount of regret regarding how he had spent the last few weeks in the record but, having already made his resolve, Vahn allowed the emotions to wash over him as he opened the system shop and located the [Dimensional Anchor: Stasis]. Using fifty of his fifty-three billion OP, Vahn purchased the coveted item, causing another system notification to sound within his mind, this one far more comprehensive than his previous one…
//Quest Completed//[Quest: I Shall Seal The Heavens]
Completion Grade: SSS
Objective: Obtain 50,000,000,000 OP and purchase a [Dimensional Anchor: Stasis] from the system shop. (completed)
Rewards: All system functions upgraded, 3x[Spirit Vessels], 1x[Enlightenment Stone]
Grade Rewards: 500,000,000OP[Spirit Vessel]
Use: Serves as a catalyst that allows a soul to be bound to a temporary body. This faux body is capable of emulating the capabilities of the original but is incapable of growing any stronger.[Enlightment Stone]
Use: Allows the user to enter a state of Enlightenment, granting insights into any singular compatible Law.
//System Shop Upgraded to allow the purchase of Unique items obtained by Host.//
//Records Function Upgraded to allow Host to trace the Origin of items obtained through The Path.//
//Unit Management Function Upgraded to allow Host to share senses with Subordinates, Followers, and Retainers//
//Gacha Function Upgraded to allow for one free Premium Gacha pull every 24H. The drop rate of Premium Gacha Tickets increased when defeating Unique enemies.//
//Upgrade Function Upgraded to allow Host to temporarily infuse the power of equipment directly into another target. Duration dependent on the number of times the equipment has been successfully upgraded.//
//Minimap Function Upgraded to allow the user to inspect and track any target within territory designated as their own.//
//Quest Function Upgraded to allow the user to assign Quests to Subordinates, Followers, and Retainers. Quest Rewards dependent on the capabilities of the target and the difficulty of the assigned Quest.//
//Inventory Function Upgraded to allow for the storage of 16,384 unique items. Inventory slot size increased from 1,000m³ to 10,000m³.//
Having each of his system functions upgraded caused Vahn’s depressive state to recede even further, replaced by renewed confidence about what the future might hold. Reading what his system functions were capable of provided Vahn some small comfort in regards to how much time it would take him to return. This was especially true for the Quest Function as, previously, Vahn feared that his lack of knowledge regarding Records would be his weakness. Now, even without having studied the source material, Vahn at least had an idea about what course of action to take when appearing within the foreign land for the first time. He could always just read through the list of available Quests before deciding where to go from there while, after finding his footing, he could even assign his companions to complete tasks for him…
Now, feeling less ‘lost’ than before, Vahn took in a deep breath as he severed his connection with his avatar and opened up the Records function of The Path. He had only ever used it once before but could still recall the times he would often read through the list of myriad Records during his idle time back in the Western Forest. That now felt like a lifetime ago and, though the memories were as vivid as the day he had obtained them, Vahn viewed them as if he were an outsider now. He noticed that he had been able to perceive many things around his body, allowing him to play through the memories in the third person as, much like the phenomenon people would experience at death’s door, Vahn watched silently as his entire time within the Record flashed across his eyes…
Seeing the many experiences he had obtained, Vahn allowed a small smile to spread across his lips as, though there were undoubtedly sad and trying times, much of his time within the Record was filled with happy memories. There were certainly a few things he would have liked to do differently but, knowing the folly of such ideas, Vahn allowed his regrets to fade away with the stream of memories as he turned his eyes skyward and muttered, “Eject…” in a somber tone of voice. Then, in an instant that couldn’t be recorded by the passage of time, Vahn’s body had vanished from the Record in its entirety. Following this, all of the items that had been purchased through the use of his system shop began to destabilize but, long before they finished breaking apart, the entire Record slowed before, moments later, coming to a complete stop…
Feeling himself passing through various viscous membranes, Vahn did his best to remain calm as an overwhelming sense of loss threatened to claim his mind. He reminded himself that everyone he had parted with wouldn’t even mark his disappearance and, though this was a somewhat saddening thought, Vahn found comfort in knowing he wouldn’t be missed. Now, regardless of the passage of time, he had a literal eternity to become strong enough to link the Records and reunite with his family. When they were next together, Vahn swore that even the machinations of Fate wouldn’t be able to separate them again. Even if he had to create severe restrictions on the Records that would fall under his influence, Vahn didn’t mind if he had to spend the rest of his days bound to the body of a sealed avatar if it meant he could stay with his family…
With such thoughts on his mind, Vahn found himself collide with something impossibly hard, even though he felt no pain in the collision. Upon taking in his surroundings, he noticed he had returned to the stone dais that had been present before he ventured forth into the Record of Danmachi. This was, as explained by Sis, his own personal Dimension that served as the resting place of his actual Soul. It was through the stone dais that he was able to traverse the myriad Records and, once he was strong enough, it would be this same stone dais that allowed him to link the Records, even if the means of doing so currently escaped him.
Releasing an emotional sigh, Vahn sat down with his legs crossed before pulling up the Records function once again. It was impossible to move from one Record directly to another, as there was simply nothing connecting them, so he was required to eject himself from the Record before moving to another one. This process resulted in the destruction of his ‘physical’ body within records he no longer habitated, forcing his awareness back to his own personal Dimension as a result. Now, using the Trace function he had just unlocked, Vahn designated [Enkidu] as his target before widening his eyes as a massive ‘map’ appeared before him. It looked like a series of points that were connected by small strings, leaving Vahn confused as to what they represented as the name ‘Nasuverse: 2-5’ reflected in his vision…
Without having any other information to go on, Vahn mustered up his resolve as, instead of dawdling atop the stone dais that was surrounded by literal ‘nothingness’, he was determined to face the next Record immediately. He told himself that, the sooner he started his journey, the quicker it would come to an end. Though his growth would depend heavily on his ability to comprehend various concepts that currently escaped him, Vahn knew there were no limits to his growth. Regardless of the challenges, he would face, nothing would be able to forestall his return to the place that had become his home…the place where his family was waiting…
Much like the first time he had entered into the Record of Danmachi, Vahn felt his ‘body’ traverse through several indescribable membranes, each imprinting a bit of themselves upon the vessel that would serve as his new body. He knew these membranes were the restrictions of the Record’s Laws and, though he would invariably be able to ‘bend’ them a bit, Vahn was subjected to their influence just like every other entity within the Record. At the same time, however, Vahn felt as if his presence sent something akin to an ‘echo’ through the surrounding nothingness before a fierce tugging force originated from the place where his stomach would generally be located. This was an unbelievably powerful force that Vahn could offer no resistance against as he felt his consciousness rapidly descend towards a destination outside of anything he could have imagined…
With momentum beyond Vahn’s ability to fathom, his ‘body’ descended towards what looked like a nebulous blob before he was unceremoniously brought to a stop just before slamming into a strange black platform. Carved into the surface, Vahn could see a complex arrangement of runes that were constantly changing shape and form, each tethered to angular lines that were interconnected to form a larger network. These lines seemed to extend outwards without end but, more important than the notion of where they led, Vahn’s attention was drawn to what appeared to be their origin. There, at the very center of the black plane, the nebulous blob he had witnessed previously, albeit much smaller, was floating within the void. It seemed to contain an incalculable number of points that caused Vahn’s mind to feel a strange sense of ‘collapse’ when looking at it directly…
Fighting against the desire to fade into unconsciousness, Vahn struggled to right himself before, seemingly appearing out of thin air, a strange-looking boy obscured his vision. He had pale white hair without any semblance of color while two red eyes were set within his expressionless face. Unlike the vast majority of humans Vahn had come across, the boy had solid black sclera and, while he was bereft of a single piece of clothing, his flesh seemed almost metallic in structure, even as an unfathomable amount of vitality radiated off of him. With his ‘flesh’ being an amalgamation of black and white, looking decidedly alien in structure, Vahn knew that the entity before him wasn’t a normal existence as, much like when he first met with Ouranos, he could only feel the ‘aura’ radiating off the boy while his presence was something beyond Vahn’s perception…
Observing the entity tilt its head to the side, Vahn noticed it didn’t actually appear to have a gender, appearing more like a doll than anything else. He wasn’t afforded any time to consider the peculiarity of the entity, however, as the latter stated in what could only be described as a purely synthetic voice, “State your designation and purpose. Failure to comply will result in immediate termination.” Then, without affording Vahn an actual chance to answer, the entity extended its hand forward, eyes flashing with thousands of runes as it added, “Anamoly detected. Initiating operation: Expulsion From Eden. Requesting permission from Termina Nasu to remove Anomalous Factor: AF-002 from Root Designation: Akasha…”
Before Vahn was even aware of his inability to form words, he watched in abject terror as his limbs began to break down into particles of black dust, much like how a monster would vanish from the Dungeon. A sense of powerlessness far greater than what he had experienced when confronting Tiamat welled up inside him but, just as he felt as if something was about to ‘break’ within his mind, another synthetic voice echoed through the void, stating, “Request Denied. Termina Nasu has given AF-002 the designation: Type Omega. Submit to Root Designation: Akasha/Central_Axis_Terminal for processing.”
With the second voice coming to a stop, so too did the destruction of Vahn’s body which, as if the previous phenomenon had been an illusion, had returned to normal. He was once again denied the opportunity to make sense of what had happened, however, as the entity in front of him waved its hand slightly, resulting in Vahn’s surroundings changing completely. Instead of the vast black plane he had found himself on previously, Vahn was now seated in a surprisingly comfortable chair across from three more distinctly inhuman entities.
Like the one he had met previously, they didn’t seem to have an actual gender but, just as the previous entity appeared to be male at a glance, Vahn felt that the one seated directly across from him was a female while the other two were almost identical to the one that had nearly ‘deleted’ him. The only thing differentiating them was the fact that each of the ‘male’ entities had different hairstyles while the ‘female’ across from him had a ‘dress’ that seemed to be part of her actual body. She also had hair that looked distinctly synthetic, shaped into a perfectly symmetrical bowl cut, even though the left half of her hair was blonde while the other side was pitch black. Vahn couldn’t even see light refracting off of the strands, almost as if he were looking into a void of nothingness that threatened to pull him without mercy…
With an eerie smile on her almost featureless face, the ‘woman’ spoke with a surprisingly soft voice as she said, “Greetings, Type Omega. My designation is Akasha, System Administrator of Root Designation: Akasha. Tell me, how have you found your way here? In 36,828,489,212,002,085,419 cycles, you are only the second anomaly to appear from beyond Termina Nasu’s scope. What is your purpose here? Depending on your answer, I may have to deny you passage through the Root before sending you to Termina Nasu itself for analysis.” As these words left ‘her’ lips without any emotion whatsoever, Vahn felt as if his heart had been tightly gripped in Akasha’s hand as he instinctually answered, “I have come seeking strength…so that I may return to my family and protect them…”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Fenrir’s Resolve’,’Oh hey, it’s Shiva o_o…’,’Those are some hefty rewards…’,’It would seem that entering a ‘multiverse’ isn’t as easy as invading a lower-tiered Record xD…’)
(A/N: This is the final chapter of Volume 18 and the official end of Vahn’s journey through Danmachi. Though he will one day return, the next thousand or so chapters will detail his journey through 3-5 different Records, each with a subtly different writing style. Remember, I’m writing this story for practice so there are a few things I’d like to try out now that I have more ‘freedom’ in the plot’s direction. There may be times when the story becomes ‘very’ dark, especially since he is in the Nasuverse, so please bear with me as I promise things will get better~! Also, make sure to vote for any Servants you would like to see appear as time is quickly running out before the poll will be closed! (https://poll.ly/#/G5KQjj8P))
https://bit.ly/2XBzAYu <-(p.atreon link)
Discord Invite: https://discord.gg/mn5xMbE