Hephaestus sighed at Loki’s outburst but also had a grim expression on her face as she explained, “This elevator leads to the throne of Ouranos…and the seal that keeps the dungeon sealed.” Unable to understand why Loki and Hephaestus were upset, Takemikazuchi asked, “Is it a bad thing that the dungeon is sealed? Isn’t it necessary to keep the One-Eyed Black Dragon at bay?”
In response to his words, Loki nearly spat, “If that was the only thing it did, it wouldn’t be a problem. But did you ever ask yourself what keeps the seal powered?” Seeing that none of three understood her implication, Loki continued in a grim tone, “It uses the vitality and mana of the people that enter the dungeon. The greater the number of deaths and the more mana expended to slay monsters, the stronger the seal becomes. As the seal grows in strength, so to does the strength of the monsters which causes more people to die and a higher expenditure of mana…”
This time, Miach frowned as he asked, “Though it sounds terrible and will result in more death, it should still be a good thing since it keeps the dragon sealed.” Loki began to laugh at his words before explaining, “If the dungeon is advancing at a pace faster than the growth of adventurers, it leads to a cycle where it cannot be conquered even as the dragon grows progressively stronger. Eventually, things will progress to the point where even high ranking Adventurers can’t enter into the deeper floors. When that happens, there will be fewer and fewer people killing the high leveled monsters and the dragon will eventually escape. When that time comes, the majority of strong adventurers would have died just to keep the seal functional!”
At this point, everyone in the elevator had frowns on their face as they processed Loki’s words. If what she said was true, that meant it was next to impossible to conquer the dungeon and it was only nurturing the calamity within. Seeing they had started to understand, Loki said, “The only way to guarantee the death of the One-Eyed Black Dragon would have been with the cooperation of various gods and the use of their Arcanum to destroy it completely. Instead, Ouranos created the pathway from Heaven to the mortal world and we’re restricted in the use of Arcanum to the point where it would immediately eject us from the world and return us to Heaven. Now, after Zeus and Hera failed to subjugate it, all gods are prevented from entering with the excuse that it makes the dungeon evolve in an uncontrolled manner. Ouranos demands that mortals be the ones to kill the One-Eyed Black Dragon, but he has created a death trap that prevents them from ever becoming strong enough to do so!”
As her words finished, the elevator came to a stop and everyone stepped off the platform that opened up into a dark space where even the ceiling couldn’t be seen. The only light within the room shone down from the void onto a large throne where and elderly, yet powerful looking, figure that they all recognized sat. Even when sitting, Ouranos was more than two meters tall and had a proud expression with piercing blue eyes. He had long white hair that curled toward the ends and a neatly trimmed beard with a powerful physique clothed in traditional ceremonial attire with a hooded cloak covering his upper body and head.
The moment they entered the room, everyone could feel a subtle pressure throughout the entire room as Ouranos sat with a perfectly upright form and asked with a deep and powerful voice that resonated through the air, “Loki, Hephaestus, Anubis, Miach, and Takemikazuchi…what matter brings you here to my domain so late in the evening?”
As they had agreed on previously, it was Loki who answered with her usual expression and devious smile, “An interesting question considering it comes from you, Ouranos. Even if you took a vow to personally attest that you had no involvement in this matter, I still wouldn’t be able to believe it~!”
Ouranos frowned slightly and said in a heavy tone, “I’ve no patience for your riddles, Loki. If you’ve nothing to discuss, I will have you leave this place. It is not a playground for your galavanting and licentious behavior.”
In response, Loki began to laugh as if she didn’t consider his words seriously at all. Ouranos’s frown deepened further before Loki’s expression turned serious and she said, “Do not play me for a fool, Ouranos. Do you truly believe you can scheme and trick the goddess of trickers herself!? Even if you had no direct involvement with the events that transpired tonight, there is no way your cohorts weren’t involved. I imagine you’ve been plotting to get more information on the Vulcan since the moment he awoke.”
Ouranos didn’t immediately answer her accusation as he stared at Loki coldly before passing his eyes over each of the other gods and goddesses at her back. Ignoring Loki’s words, he turned to Hephaestus and ordered, “Hephaestus, tell me why you have come here this evening.”
Hephaestus had a cold, but fiery, look in her eyes as she said in a low voice, “I am of the same mind as Loki on this matter. I don’t believe for a moment you’re unaware of everything that has been happening. There are far too many coincidences and everything lines up too perfectly with how your men usually act.” Though they had no proof, both Loki and Hephaestus knew how Ouranos operated. There was no way he would allow Vahn to keep secrets from the moment he became aware of his existence.
Ever since Hephaestus confronted Freya and forced her to take an oath before Ouranos, he had likely already started targetting Vahn. Even if this event had nothing to do with him, Ouranos wouldn’t be able to deny having any involvement with the matters concerning Vahn. Though they wouldn’t be able to force a confession out of him, as long as they stood their ground they would be able to edge out an advantage by taking advantage of his character.
Though he had expected her to do so, Ouranos was still displeased hearing Hephaestus side with Loki and her accusations. He had indeed been investigating Vahn and even had Fels gathering information on him since the last Denatus. Because of the protection of Hephaestus and Loki, it had been very difficult to gather any concrete information and he had used the events of tonight to extrapolate various pieces of information that he wanted to make use of. Vahn made an excellent pawn for his future plans, but now he would have to somehow deal with the two troublesome goddesses before his plans were even set in motion.
As the voice of moderation in the mortal world, Ouranos was under a powerful oath to never lie. Even if he could be misleading or dismissive, if they truly continued to press him he would be unable to refute his involvement, even if it was indirect and unprompted. If it was just a single god or goddess, he would have been able to pressure them to silence, but now two of the top three goddesses were confronting him with the support of three others.
Squinting his eyes slightly, Ouranos spoke out confidently with a challenging look in his eyes, “I will admit to knowing the events that have transpired tonight as well as the fact that I have been investigating Vahn Mason. I will also state that I, nor any of my subordinates, had any involvement in the matters that have come to pass. It is my job to be informed of all matters that take place within the City, and you’ll find your accusations and libelous claims have no weight.”
Contrary to his expectations, Loki’s smile grew wider and she seemed like she was about to burst into laughter. Ouranos’s frown grew deeper as he glared toward the tricker goddess with his cold blue eyes. His domain began to spread, but it was immediately offset by Loki and Hephaestus before the other three joined in shortly thereafter. Gritting his teeth slightly, Ouranos pretend to be unaffected as he focused his pressure on Loki who continued to laugh.
After a few seconds, Loki stopped laughing as she looked toward Ouranos with the eyes of a snake and said, “If you’re aware of the matter, you know that Vahn Mason cannot be held responsible for the death of Laverna. It was her Familia and their actions against Milan Yuel and Tina Yuel that led to his counteraction in order to save the Mother-Daughter pair. Not only was she the goddess of an unlawful Familia, but she violated several of the laws and prohibitions that all gods and goddesses are meant to follow in the mortal world.”
Ouranos listened to her words in silence before immediately responding in a heavy tone as he continued resisting the combined Divinities of the five opposite him, “That may be the case, but it stands that Laverna was killed, not by a god, but by the unlawful action of a mortal. He may not be personally responsible, but his actions led to her death without trial or judgment. It was not his right, nor place to-“
Before he could finish, Hephaestus’s pressure grew stronger as a pale red light covered her body and her ruby eyes began to glow crimson. She gave Ouranos a fierce look and said, “If Laverna hadn’t died by the actions of another, I would have killed her myself! If you think you can justify her death by making an example of her victims, you’ll find I’m not going to stand by passively!”
A sky blue and purple aura began to spread from Ouranos as he locked eyes with Hephaestus and spoke in a voice that caused the void around the ripple, “Someone must answer for this, or there will be chaos amongst all the gods!” For Ouranos, maintaining order was of paramount importance as chaos would lead to the collapse of everything he had fought hard for a millennium to build.
In response to his outburst, Loki said plainly, “We have already discussed the matter and planned concessions of our own. You have no moral grounds to hold Vahn accountable, but you will be able to press that he relinquish his position in the Hephaestus Familia for failing to cooperate with the investigation. You’ll find that, even with Laverna’s testimony, the identity of the assassin is unknown and there is no justifiable means to force Vahn to reveal the information given the fact Laverna’s scheme not only involved the people he cared about…” At this point, Loki paused before congealing her own godly aura which took on a chaotic glow.
She continued in an icy voice, “Her scheme was also was an affront against the rank 1 and rank 3 Familia within the City! She plotted to steal billions of Valis in items and compromise one of the core members responsible for the Alliance we had established. If she got her hands on Vahn and forced him to take a vow, it would have caused no small amount of chaos to disrupt the precious ‘order’ you’re so fond of! If anything, you should be rewarding the assassin for ridding this City of a tumor! Not to mention, you even have the gall to use this situation to your advantage and conduct a joint investigation to purge even more criminals and corrupt Familia!”
As Loki continued her tirade, Ouranos sat silently with a stone-faced expression as he glared between each of the opposing gods and goddesses. Each of the things Loki said had some degree of credibility, and it was true that he used the situation to further his future plans. He had actually benefitted a great deal from the death of Laverna and the swift and spontaneous actions of Vahn. Not only did he obtain more information on the ‘demigod’ but, even now, there were a number of thorns that had been deeply rooted in his side being removed by the Hephaestus and Loki Familias.
Ouranos considered his words before speaking in a firm voice, “Very well, I will propose that Vahn Mason is exiled from the Hephaestus Familia henceforth. He will also be prevented from joining any of the Familia that he is currently associated with. I will have you all swear an oath to offer him no aid for the probationary period of one year an-“
Before he could continue, Hephaestus unraveled the package that she had been carrying on her back since parting ways with Vahn earlier. The moment the cloth was undone, she gently waved the massive sword through the air and it caused an oppressive aura to spread out. Ouranos frowned and glared at Hephaestus for daring to interrupt his words, but he was also drawn by the power he could feel emanating from the sword. As far as he could tell, it seemed to almost possess the power of Divinity and shouldn’t be something that existed in the mortal world.
Hephaestus stroked [Lævateinn] affectionately and explained, “Though he is not yet a [Master Smith], this sword was forged by Vahn Mason. I will be announcing it during the upcoming Denatus, but it is my intention to marry him after the Monster Feria comes to a conclusion…You should be able to sense it as well, but this is no ordinary sword. I will allow you to ‘force’ Vahn to withdraw from my Familia; I will even agree that he be unable to join any of the Familia present…but, I will not allow you to cut him off from us and be at the mercy of your goons and the people that would conspire against him!”
Loki piggybacked Hephaestus’s words and continued, “Vahn Mason will become an important figure in the future and is already the lynchpin of the Alliance between two of the top three Familia in the City. I can almost guarantee that, once certain matters come to light, there will be a number of gods and goddesses that will ally with him as well.”
Ouranos had been distracted by the sword in Hephaestus’s hands, but he turned his gaze toward Loki after hearing her words. He asked in a questioning tone while squinting his eyes, “I see…that must be why even someone like you has taken to his defense? I knew he had some involvement in the formation of your alliance, but I couldn’t determine what was special about him at the time…is it related to his origin?”
Loki laughed at his inquiry and said in a taunting tone, “I guarantee it will be something that benefits your future plans and impacts the lives of every god and goddess in both the mortal world and Heaven. Even that bitch Freya will likely come to his aid the moment she finds out about it, so do you really want to stand against the three strongest guilds just to uphold the honor of a degenerate goddess?”
Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to get any answers in the present moment, Ouranos continued to remain silent for several minutes before turning his attention back to the sword in Hephaestus’s hand. He said in a somewhat muted, yet still powerful, tone, “Allow me to inspect that weapon. I will weight my decision based on what I am able to infer from it.”
As it had been part of their initial plan, Hephaestus handed over [Lævateinn] before cautioning, “Be careful, the flames emitted by the sword cannot be extinguished by anyone other than the wielder.” Hearing her words, Ouranos’s brows raised slightly as he stood from his throne and towered over the others in the room. His standing height was nearly three meters unless he changed his size to accommodate his environment.
Taking the sword into his hands, Ouranos admired its make and the power he could feel resonating from the blade. Though subtle, he could detect the Divinity of fire and darkness within the blade and it caused even him to feel a bit of pressure. Though he was one of the more prominent and influential gods in both the mortal world and Heaven, he could feel a tyrannical ‘pride’ emanating from the sword in his hands.
Swinging the sword, Ouranos felt his mana drain as a large swath of flames spread from the blade and began to char the floor black as they began to corrode the reinforced stone in his temple. Using his Divinity, Ouranos tried to forcefully suppress the flames and even used a powerful magic spell to try and extinguish them. As Hephaestus had claimed, none of his actions had any effect on the flames other than causing them to spread more quickly. It wasn’t until he willed the flames to extinguish by focusing on the sword in his hands that they finally burned out.
Ouranos understood the power of the weapon and the significance such a thing would have in the future. Though it wasn’t to the extent Loki claimed, it would certainly influence the position of several gods and goddesses if they found out Vahn could create such weapons. However, Ouranos also understood that the weapon in his hands had little to do with what Loki had been hinting at. Since the sword was already something so impactful, he couldn’t help but be curious about what else Vahn had hidden. Until he could find out, Ouranos determined it would be a detriment to take a hard line against the two goddesses before him.
Handing the sword back over to Hephaestus, Ouranos took his position back on his throne and resumed his authoritative demeanor. After a few seconds of silence, he spoke out in his characteristic and powerful voice, “Very well, you have my attention…”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Loki Takes Control’,’Ouranos likes playing with fire’,’Hephaestus’s Intentions’)