Chapter 388: Dark World

After a short flight, the group ended up in the same area as the previous day and Vahn divided his time between practicing with Fafnir and ‘playing’ with the girls. He had never really thought about it much in the past, but Vahn realized he never really did any normal playing at all in the past. During his previous life, the only ‘fun’ thing he did was reading manga and watching anime if he ‘behaved’. When he got to this record, he spent the majority of his time learning how to survive until he became strong enough to protect himself. Ever since then, he had somehow ended up as one of the key decision makers, not just in his own life, but the lives of others. It wasn’t until now, while he was playing catch and tag with the girls, that Vahn realized he had never really ‘played’ in a normal way…

Even though it was very cold outside, the area around the training area was as warm as spring due to the influence of Vahn’s domain and everyone was enjoying a picnic for lunch. After his earlier realization, Vahn had decided to spend a large part of the morning just having fun without worrying about the future at all. He hoped that, when he finally had children of his own, they wouldn’t grow up in a similar manner as he had, not even knowing how to play properly. Vahn had long ago realized that the record of Danmachi was actually quite a dark place rife with persecution, racism, and deeply rooted corruption. Orario, even though it had an incredible amount of problems, was actually the ‘safest’ place in the entire continent.

Ever since the war between Humans and Goliaths in the past, the continent had been in constant turmoil and almost every country was at odds with the others. The elven kingdom to the west propagated the idea of racial superiority and their only allies, even taking into consideration gods, were the Dwarves. As for the Dwarves themselves, they proactively enslaved several races and even accepted the ‘soiled’ offspring of the Elves as life-long servants for their bars, inns, and taverns. For the Half-Elves sent to the Iron Hills, their only choices were death or servitude without the possibility for freedom. Other than in Orario, any Half-Elf found by one of the Elven elitists would be killed on sight.

As for the Amazon’s to the east, their Queen had issued a decree towards all nations that, if they entered the territory of the Amazons, they would be slain on sight. Other than the village on the outskirts of the Eastern Jungle, Nazaria, entrance into the territory of the Amazons was treated as an act of war. They considered the very idea of intermixing with other races a threat to their culture and saw themselves as the superior species amongst all others. Other than a few exceptions, such as Kali herself, even gods weren’t allowed access to their territory. For the Amazons, the men of other races were simply ‘breeding stock’ and there were thousands of incidents in the past where they had actually kidnapped and raised boys to serve their needs.

The sad fact was, these were actually not the extremes in comparison to some of the others powers within the world. In the area of the Northern Tundra, where Emiru and Maemi were from, there was an unknown power that controlled the Frost Giants and Ice Wolves near Mount Olympus that would periodically send out a wave of terrifying monsters to ‘thin’ the herds of the surrounding villages and settlements. The average Frost Giant, when it reached physical maturity, was around Level 3 while their elites could easily break Level 5. However, the absolute worst example of how dark and dangerous the world was could be seen in how the Ares Familia ran their Empire.

The Empire was helmed by Ares, The God of War, Conquest, and Domination. He didn’t rule his empire through typical politics and building infrastructure, but forced people into the position of serfs in order to further his desire for conquest. His Familia was the largest in the entire world with more than 100,000 conscripted members. The Empire used a caste system with clearly designated ‘levels’ that could be obtained by citizens and, if you were a lower tiered citizen, you could actually be killed on sight for sleighing someone with a higher position in society. They advocated might and merit without any infrastructure to support such principles. Nearly 70% of the entire population were third-class citizens, which were nothing more than slaves since The Empire itself promoted the superiority of social standing.

Since second-class citizens hated being treated badly by first-class citizens, they took out their frustrations on the weak and downtrodden. This perpetuated an endless cycle of hatred and ensured that all those that actually had real power within the Empire were selfish, egotistical, and morally corrupt individuals. If they weren’t, they would have been weeded out by a society that looks at compassion, empathy, and scholarly pursuits, as weakness.

Lunoire had been the daughter of a second-class household, so her life had been relatively easy-going while her parents were still alive. When they died, however, her own family quickly stepped in to ‘seize’ the property of her parents and kicked her out of the house she had lived in her entire life. Though some of her parents’ former friends showed her some compassion, they very quickly threw her to the wayside when she became an inconvenience.

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It was things like this that made Vahn want to change the world so that, not just his own family and children, but everyone would have the opportunity to live a happy life. Though he hadn’t brought it up to the girls on the network yet, Vahn was trying to think of a method for how he could bring about permanent change in the world. He knew he would need power, but simply using scare tactics and threatening people wouldn’t be enough to change things. The power he needed wasn’t individual might, though it would certainly help, but influence and authority. If he could create a legend for himself that spread through the continent, similar to how Finn lived his life, Vahn could inspire people toward the change he wanted to see in the world…

Vahn had been eating a tuna salad sandwich with a serious and thoughtful expression on his face when Shizune reached over and poked his cheek while asking, “Why so glum~? Are you not satisfied with having a picnic alongside so many cute girls?” Vahn’s expression softened a bit when he looked into the deep amethyst eyes of Shizune and saw the concern contained within. Now that he was paying closer attention, Vahn noticed that everyone had turned silent and had somewhat solemn expressions on their faces as they stared at him. Vahn felt a bit of warmth spread through his chest and he said in a soft tone, “I’m actually very happy right now…I just want to make sure this happiness continues far into the future. Sorry, I was just thinking about a few serious matters, I didn’t mean to ruin the picnic.”

The paws wrapping around his back tightened into a firm embrace as Fenrir nuzzled into the back of his head and said, “Vahn worries about everyone. Don’t worry, Fenrir will protect everyone for Vahn.” Fenrir had been hugging him from behind during the picnic because she seemed very fond of Vahn’s Pallum form and only separated from him when he was training with Fafnir. Though they were having a picnic with several different dishes, she had been perfectly content just hugging Vahn without eating anything at all.

Hearing Fenrir’s words, Vahn chuckled before saying in a tone mixed with both amusement and seriousness, “Not just Fenrir, but everyone will work together to protect our shared happiness. We must become much stronger so nothing can every threaten…our family.” As he spoke, Vahn looked around at Lefiya, Maemi, Shizune, and even Riveria. As a High Elf, Riveria was actually in a very unique position and was even going out of her way to have an Envoy visit Orario in order to officiate his title as ‘Sage’. She didn’t have the bias and elitism of most High Elves, and was actually a very intelligent and sensible woman, but she still acted in accordance with her ‘duty’ toward her people. Vahn knew there would probably be a conflict between himself and the Elven Kingdom in the future and Riveria may very well be a key player in the events to come.

Thinking about the Elven Kingdom, Vahn suddenly had a thought, almost like a small epiphany as he asked, “Ah, Riveria, do you think you can help me out during the exhibition?” Riveria, hearing Vahn’s question, squinted her eyes slightly and asked, “How, exactly, would you like me to help?” Seeing the intrigue and healthy skepticism in Riveria’s expression, Vahn smiled and said in a casual tone, “I want you to cast one of your strongest attack spells on Fafnir. Since I want to deter anyone from trying to conspire to attack it, showing off its capacity to resist magic would be very helpful.”

Rivera put her fingers to her chin in a thoughtful manner before saying in a very plain tone, “I’m afraid my magic might end up killing your dragon…are you certain its a good idea?” Though he wasn’t trying to make fun of her, Vahn started laughing in a playful manner before saying in a somewhat teasing tone, “Other than your Wynn Fimbulvetr, your other magic will probably have no effect on Fafnir at all. I might not have mentioned it in the past, but Fafnir actually possesses a very high-grade magic immunity, not resistance, but actual immunity. Since it is also Level 5, the majority of your spells wouldn’t be able to get within 20m of its body.”

Hearing Vahn’s words, Riveria’s eyes opened in shock before she looked at the colossal dragon lazing about at the side, apparently asleep. She was already impressed by its capabilities, but now Vahn was telling her it was also immune to magic? Since she was one of the few people that knew about Vahn’s ‘naming’ ability, Riveria knew he could potentially make several such creatures if he had the intention to. Magic immunity was an incredibly rare, and decidedly terrifying, ability that would make most people think twice about confronting such a creature. Vahn’s words had also sparked her intrigue, since Riveria was very curious about the veracity of his claim, so she nodded her head and said, “Sure, but I’d like to test a weaker version of the spell before using anything more powerful. I don’t want the burden over accidentally killing one of your tamed monsters on my shoulders…”

After coming to an agreement, the group enjoyed the picnic until everyone was satisfied before setting up the stage for the next ‘performance’. Vahn explained to Fafnir what they were going to do and its response was a playful, (*Ahahaha, I can tell that Riveria isn’t as strong as Eva. I’m not scared at all~!*) Though she was usually a very stoic and taciturn woman, Vahn had seen Riveria’s aura flare up slightly as her brow twitched. There was a strangely competitive ‘glint’ in her jade green eyes as she held out her staff and began a very long chant, “The flame will soon be released. Creeping war, unavoidable destruction. The horn of battle sounds aloud, the cruelty of conflict will envelop all. Come, crimson flames, the ruthless inferno. You are the avatar of hellfire. Sweep completely, bring a close to the great war. Burn them through, Sword of Surtr – my name is Alf!”

A massive, emerald green, magic circle had appeared under Riveria as she was chanting her magic. Everyone, excluding Fafnir, was standing within the safety of the magic circle since the entire area for precisely 300m was a ‘danger’ zone. Fiery red ‘cracks’ appeared along the ground as Fafnir took to the sky and spread its wings in a majestic, somewhat domineering, manner as it released a loud roar. Following the tremble in the void, massive tornadoes of fire erupted from the ground and began to converge on Fafnir’s position from the periphery of the spell’s range.

All of Vahn’s instincts were triggering alarms inside his mind and he knew that, even though it looked like simple fire, the ‘flames’ of Riveria’s [Rea Laevateinn] actually carried the elements of destruction as well. It tore apart the soil, trees, and boulders before breaking them down into fine particles of ash and dust while trying to overwhelm the giant black dragon in the sky. Vahn knew that, if he had been the target of the attack, he would have certainly died without a single part of his body remaining in the aftermath.

Fafnir, however, domineeringly hovered in the sky with an almost ‘mocking’ glint in its stark blue eyes as the tornadoes broke against an invisible barrier surrounding its body. Magic relied on elemental energies and laws to create the phenomenon that could be observed in the real world, but Vahn could see with his [Eyes of Truth] a ‘sphere’ around Fafnir where foreign magical elements couldn’t enter at all. The moment they came into contact with the sphere, they would dissipate in an instant and return to their neutral state in the atmosphere once again.

Though everyone had shocked, and somewhat terrified expressions on their faces, Riveria was the most affected by the sight she was seeing before her. The spell she had cast was only half power but, just as Vahn had claimed, it couldn’t even get near Fafnir’s body at all. She didn’t have the same ocular prowess as Vahn, but Riveria could sense an abnormality in the air around Fafnir’s body from the feedback she received through her magic. Since the elemental energies were currently under her control, she could sense whenever they impacted the target and knew they were dissipating the moment they came into contact with the space around Fafnir. She could postulate that, unless she used a spell from within the effective range of Fafnir’s ability, she wouldn’t be able to deal any significant damage to it unless she used her most powerful spell and used all of her mana…

After the devastation came to an end, Fafnir dropped down from the sky with a loud thud and shouted in a happy voice, (*Vahn, did you see, did you see~!? Ahahahahaha, Fafnir is the nemesis of all mages you know~?*) Just as Eva had remarked to Vahn in the past, it seems that Fafnir was aware of the ‘title’ she had given it. Vahn walked forward after clearing a path for the girls and they all complimented Fafnir while Riveria hung her head in dejection from the rear. She had heard Fafnir’s words and taken a mental impact since it had such a cute voice but said such biting words.

With the experiment concluded successfully, Riveria agreed to help Vahn showcase Fafnir’s prowess so it could act as a deterrent in the future to dissuade any enemies that might plot against it. Though it wouldn’t stop some people from trying, it would at least prevent the majority of the ‘rabble’ from wasting everyone’s time. Fafnir was the defacto ‘guardian’ of the youth troupe, which were the most vulnerable girls within the Familia, so it was very important that it was ‘feared’ by their enemies. Even though Vahn wanted the majority of people to accept its presence, he didn’t want to inspire any confidence in his enemies by making Fafnir appear to be weak.

Since they had ‘inadvertently’ destroyed a large swath of the forest, Vahn spread around a large variety of seeds while flying around on Fafnir’s back. He had briefly thought about restoring the damage by planting a Tree of Life, but the moment the thought passed through his mind Vahn felt like an idiot for even thinking about ‘wasting’ it on such a thing. The [Seed of the Tree of Life] was actually an incredibly important item that he could use as leverage in the future if there was any conflict with the Elves. Vahn had also thought about planting it within the orb once it became active again, but decided it would be a bad idea since the orb was ‘temporary’.

Losing a self-propagating tree that could live for an indefinite period of time seemed foolish. It was even possible to plant the seed within space, or even something extreme like the center of an active volcano. The seed could grow in any conceivable environment as long as the laws of the world weren’t contradicted. This included the bottom of the ocean, the frozen tundra, or even the body of a large organism if such a thing even existed. Once it bloomed, it would bring life to the area and could even, if enough time had passed, terraform an entire planet since it was capable of creating oxygen and nurturing plant life regardless of the presence of seeds to germinate.

The ‘Tree of Life’ was one of the most miraculous existences in the entire record of Danmachi, and Vahn needed to seriously consider how he would use it in the future. If he planted it arbitrarily, such as in the backyard of his Manor, it would be an incredibly eye-catching sight and would immediately lead to conflict with the Elves. As they were descendants of Plant Spirits, Elves actually relied on the existence of their Tree of Life in order to make procreation easier. This was the reason most Elves never had relationships outside of their home forest because, even if they fell in love, it almost never resulted in offspring. When it did, it was always a Half-Elf and, according to the old laws and customs of the Elven Kingdom, would require the ‘death’ of the resultant child.

If Vahn planted the seed within the City, it would likely lead to a dispute between Orario and the Elven Kingdom regarding the ‘ownership’ of the tree. A Tree of Life only created a single seed throughout its entire lifetime so, if Vahn actually had a seed and planted a tree, they could argue the point that he had ‘stolen’ it from them. Since only the Elven Royalty knew the location of the actual seed, they could maintain the pretense and try to force the issue to try and establish sovereignty within Orario’s borders.

The Elven King had long been looking for justification to ‘invade’ Orario, and Vahn didn’t have any intention of being the ‘reason’ behind their foolishness. He would rather burn down the entire tree than have someone use it for their own selfish agenda. Of course, if he actually burned down a Tree of Life, he would likely draw the ire of the entire Elven species besides those that knew the truth. Making an enemy out of an entire race of gifted mages wasn’t exactly a wise decision given the current circumstances Vahn found himself in.

After cleaning up the area a bit, the group made their way back to the Hearth Manor before it started to get too late. Along the way, Vahn enjoyed the ‘escort’ of the girls once again even though he began to feel a bit of anxiety that got increasingly more severe the closer they got to the Manor. Bothered by the strange incongruity, Vahn began thinking about the reason for his instincts triggering at such a moment. He didn’t sense ‘danger’, and none of the people around seemed hostile to him…

A few minutes away from the Manor, Vahn had a sudden realization and felt a cold sweat start to build upon his back even though it was below freezing outside. He wasn’t sure how he had forgotten about it, but Vahn now recalled Syr’s words when he was leaving the Manor about Hephaestus, Eina, Loki, and Anubis stopping by in the evening. Though he wasn’t ‘afraid’ of the women, he, in fact, loved them quite a bit, Vahn was still concerned about how they would ‘react’ to his current form. As he wanted to acclimate to being a Pallum, Vahn had stayed in the form for the entire day since it would have taken nearly an hour to reverse the change. He had gotten caught up in enjoying the peculiarity of the situation and now he had to face the ‘final bosses’ soon.

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Hephaestus would probably try to ‘protect’ him in the same manner as Tione, Chloe, and Fenrir, whilst Loki would probably crack up and tease him incessantly. As for Eina, she had a strange desire to have a younger brother so, now that he actually looked somewhat like a child, she might have a strange reaction outside of Vahn’s expectations. In the case of Anubis…well, she probably wouldn’t change much at all considering her nature. She would probably try to pamper him more, but he couldn’t see her reacting out of character since she had a soft spot for ‘children’…

Lefiya, who was once again holding his hand, looked over and asked in a concerned voice, “V-Vahn…is something wrong? Your h-hand…it’s sweating a lot…” Hearing her words, Vahn shook his head with a wry smile on his face and simply said, “I was thinking about how the girls were going to react when we got back home. All the events from this morning hit me like a ton of bricks and I was just getting a little nervous…I’m not really used to being small like this, after all.” Though it looked like Lefiya was going to say something, it was Fenrir who responded by hugging Vahn tightly and saying, “Fenrir likes the small Master the best though~! Vahn should stay like this forever and let Fenrir take care of him!”

Lefiya saw Vahn’s expression after hearing Fenrir’s outburst and understood his anxieties a bit. However, she didn’t really pity him as the current situation was something he had machinated by his own actions. Even she felt a strange ‘possessiveness’ and a desire to protect him that she had never experienced before. Looking around, she saw that Shizune and Maemi also had gleams in their eyes as if they were agreeing with Fenrir’s claim. Though Lefiya liked the ‘big’ Vahn a fair amount, she also wished he would stay small…just a little. She had never had any siblings of her own, and the small Vahn was much easier to interact with than his normal form…

Vahn was very aware of how the auras of the girls were converging toward him but the only thing he could do about it was laugh as they continued forward towards the inevitable. If nothing else, Vahn has resolved himself to not get ‘taken advantage’ of in his current form. If push came to shove, he had already made the determination to get the upper hand and take control of the situation. Fortunately, Eina was supposed to be there and Vahn believed she would prevent things from getting out of hand…hopefully…

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