Though there were rumors that had been spread throughout the City, it hadn’t been highly publicized that Vahn was going to participate in the Monster Feria. Because of this, though there had been a great deal of excitement in the crowd earlier, there was a strange discordant stir passing through the crowded Coliseum that held more than 50,000 spectators. Many people had heard of Vahn, several even knew what he looked like, but very few had ever actually seen him. When he walked out of the waiting area accompanied by a small girl and the relatively famous Riveria, many people didn’t know how to react and simply began discussing the matter in hushed voices.
Vahn had felt more than a little nervous at first, especially since his perception was overwhelmed by the number of people packed into the Coliseum. However, now that he experienced the reaction of the crowd, a cool sensation passed through his mind and he simply shook his head. Though he might care about the people individually, after getting to know them, Vahn realized it was pointless to worry about their reception of him. The only reason he was here was for Fafnir, not the ignorant masses that placed more value in rumors than their own understanding of a situation.
After patting Tina’s head, the young Cat Person showed a nervous smile before walking out into the center of the arena with somewhat mechanical movements. Unlike Vahn, she was still very nervous about how many people were staring at her with curious, confused, and some derisive expressions. She hadn’t been part of the original routine, but Vahn had told her that she had the ‘cutest’ and ‘most innocent’ appearance, so she mustered what little courage she could manage and pressed forward. Once she reached the exact center, Tina turned to the stands where the gods were seated and waved in an awkward, yet happy, manner to the gathered gods.
Ganesha had been a little confused about Vahn’s plan, especially after seeing a small girl walk into the arena, but he couldn’t help but show a toothy grin when Tina waved toward ‘him’. Even though the crowd was very loud, Ganesha was somehow able to be heard clearly amongst the various noises as he shouted, “Gahahaha, greetings little lady~! This Ganesha welcomes you to his arena~!” Tina had flinched a little at the strangely loud voice before remarking in an awkward tone, “Umm, hello Mr. Ganesha…samnyaa. I want to show everyone that Fafnir is a cute and kind dragon…” Ganesha began laughing in an amused manner at Tina’s words before spreading his arms wide as if he were addressing the crowd, “Well, Tina, you have all of our undivided attention~! Everyone, let’s give a round of applause for the bravery of this young girl!!!”
Though they didn’t all start clapping immediately, it wasn’t long before there was a loud applause resonating through the arena in order to encourage Tina. Even though she hadn’t done anything yet, she was an adorable little girl that had the courage to stand in the center of the large arena on her own. If nothing else, she deserved their encouragement and it wasn’t long before the crowd mentality kicked in and everyone got caught up in the festive atmosphere once again.
Tina’s tail was twitching furiously due to her nervousness, but she still managed to squat down to the ground and place her hand on the shadow beneath her feet. In a loud, cracking, voice, Tina shouted, “Fafn-nya, it’s time to come out~nyaaaaa!” Because of the overwhelming noise of the crowd, nobody could actually hear what she said but it didn’t stop them from all coming to a complete silence several seconds later when a massive dragon began to slowly emerge from the shadows beneath the small girl. Other than a few powerful adventurers, everyone felt an almost instinctive fear at the ‘evil’ looking creature that was appearing right before their very eyes.
Since it had emerged right beneath her, Tina was lifted by Fafnir’s head until she was nearly 10m off the ground as it stood proudly before the crowd and said, (*Yaaaay, Tina, lets play~!*). Though Vahn had expected some reaction, nothing could have prepared him for the large mass of people that nearly ‘collapsed’ after hearing the cute voice of Fafnir respond to Tina. Ganesha had also stumbled slightly but immediately recovered as he leaned forward over the railing of the balcony and shouted, “IIIIIIINNNCREDIBLE~! Ganesha is impressed that such a powerful dragon is tamed to the level where it even responds to people other than its master! And that voice, absolutely adorable! Ganesha is very satisfied and the exhibition hasn’t even started yet! More, show us more, the crowd demands it, gaahahahahahaha~!”
Ganesha’s outburst brought the crowd back to life and it was like his voice transmitted excitement throughout the entire Coliseum. Though they had been afraid by the sudden appearance of the 17m long Fafnir, seeing Tina sitting safely on top of its head was enough to let them calm down. This was, after all, the Monster Feria; it wasn’t strange to see powerful tamed monsters put on display, as that was the very purpose of the event from the start. Now that they knew this was ‘part of the show’, the crowd began to get hyped up and started cheering loudly for the ‘show’ to begin.
Vahn was impressed by how easily Ganesha could control the momentum of the entire Coliseum but put that matter aside for the moment as he said in a casual tone, “Fafnir, bring Tina to me.” Hearing Vahn’s words, Fafnir remarked, (*Aye aye Vahn~!*) as it, very smoothly and gently, moved its body before lowering its snout to Vahn so that Tina could safely jump into his arms. Vahn easily caught her and gave her a few head pats as he whispered, “Thank you, Tina, you were great.” Vahn could feel her body shaking a little bit from how nervous she was, but she still showed a happy smile and said, “I’m not a little girl anymore…I’m not afraid of the crowd at all!”
Vahn chuckled before setting her on the ground so that he could continue the performance and show off how ‘tame’ Fafnir was. After rubbing Fafnir’s snout, Vahn gestured with his hands and Fafnir opened its mouth wide in response. Then, amidst the gaps of horror from the crowd, Vahn placed his upper body inside the massive maw until he had nearly inserted his entire body. The inside of Fafnir’s mouth was surprisingly dry, and it didn’t seem to care that it had its own Master sitting down on its tongue. Fafnir then lifted its head, mouth still open, as it slowly moved around so that everyone could easily see inside of its mouth where Vahn was waving casually.
After completing a full revolution, Fafnir angled its head and Vahn jumped out and vaulted through the sky as Fafnir continued a second rotation and sent its tail into Vahn’s trajectory. It almost looked like Fafnir was ‘attacking’ Vahn, but the skilled adventurers easily saw through the truth of the situation long before Fafnir’s attack came to a sudden halt, allowing Vahn to nimbly land on its scaly surface with his arms flared wide. Vahn performed a polite bow for the benefit of the crowd as Fafnir’s tail dropped slightly before launching him high into the sky.
Though he was nearly as flexible as in his Báihǔ form, Vahn was still able to contort his body as if he were a circus performer. When Fafnir launched him into the sky, he spun around several times in a controlled manner before landing on Fafnir’s wing tip. Without any delay, Fafnir launched him even higher into the sky and followed along as they began what could only be described as a hair-raising dangerous routine. Even if it was the most skilled Tamer in the entire Ganesha Familia, they wouldn’t be able to emulate what Vahn and Fafnir were doing. It wasn’t simply the ‘bond’ between a Tamer and their Monster, no, even to the untrained eye it was very apparent there was a deep level of ‘trust’ between Fafnir and Vahn.
After a few short minutes had passed, the crowd was cheering loudly at the display and were egging the show to continue. Then, very suddenly, the entire Coliseum was brought to a stunned silence for a brief moment when Fafnir, who had been ‘dancing’ around with Vahn in mid-air, suddenly accelerated towards the sky at a speed faster than many could follow with their eyes. All the saw was the literal after-image of Fafnir before a powerful burst of wind spread out and it was suddenly gone. Some of the more powerful observers had pointed to the sky and now everyone was angling their heads towards a small black dot several hundred meters above the arena.
A tense atmosphere passed through the crowd as, several seconds later, they could see Vahn falling from the sky without Fafnir anywhere to be seen. Some people shouted out in horror while others even tried to break through the magical barrier to ‘assist’ the falling Vahn. Just as he was about to reach the top of the Coliseum, a ridiculously fast blur passed overhead for a brief moment and Vahn disappeared from sight entirely. Before anyone knew what had happened, Vahn had actually reappeared in the center of the arena as if nothing had happened at all. Fortunately, his presence was quickly noticed as there were more than 50,000 people present and they all began to shout loudly in both excitement and confusion.
Without explaining anything, Vahn had already expanded his domain within the confines of the arena and started populating it with a total of thirty mannequins. Even to the untrained eye, everyone could tell that the armor worn by the humanoid mannequins was a very high quality. Some of it was even made out of Adamantine, and the combined cost of the display likely reached into the billions of Valis range. Though the majority had no idea what the purpose of the suits of armor was, there were some that waited with solemn expressions on their faces for what they expected to come.
However, as if refuting any expectations they might have had, black spikes emerged from the shadows beneath the mannequins and easily penetrated clear through the exquisite suits of armor. Before most people could comprehend what had just happened, the entire floor of the arena under Vahn turned dark, almost as if a massive shadow was obscuring the arena from above. Moments later, Fafnir appeared looking something like a deadly porcupine as it had used the shadows beneath the mannequins to attack with its spear-like scales. Though he originally planned to have Fafnir ‘shoot’ the spears out from aboveground, Vahn thought it would be more ‘intimidating’ to show that he could easily attack enemies from the shadows.
At this point, most of the noise from the crowd had ceased and a tense silence had gripped many people as they saw Vahn standing atop Fafnir’s head as it slowly raised the suits of armor using the lethal spikes protruding from its body. Though they had opened up to it a bit earlier, there was now a dreadful aura spreading over everyone present as the looked into stark blue eyes of Fafnir as it lifted thirty suits of armor worn by mannequins, each of which could have been people if the circumstances had been changed.
Vahn could feel the atmosphere changing rapidly, but he wasn’t going to pull back now since he wanted Fafnir to become a clear deterrent for anyone that would try to approach it in the future. From the earlier performance, there was no way anyone would be able to argue that Fafnir wasn’t fully under Vahn’s control. Even if some people tried to stop him from being able to fly around the City, they wouldn’t have any real justification to stop him. If Fafnir could easily pass through, and even attack from, the shadows, it didn’t matter if it was above or below ground. Unless they knew exactly where it was at the time, Fafnir would always be a ‘threat’ to anyone trying to harm the Hestia Familia.
With a smooth motion, Vahn cut his hand towards the sky and Fafnir followed it almost perfectly as it launched all thirty sets of armor high into the air. Then, without any delay, beams of pure black light launched out of some of Fafnir’s scales before drawing complex angles and piercing through every suit of armor within the sky. The beams were far faster than the speed of sound, so most people saw them appear before seeming to have pierced through the mannequins in an instant. Before many could process this incredible feat, the mannequins all exploded in a terrifying wave of energy that sent ripples through the barrier protecting the crowd.
At this point, after some initial panic, there was near-absolute silence in the Coliseum as Vahn pat the top of Fafnir’s head and said in a gentle tone, “Way to go, Fafnir, that was excellently done.” In response to his words, Fafnir responded in a happy voice as it waggled is massive wings, (*Yaaay, Vahn praised me~! Should I destroy even more things now~?” Though its words were childish, many people felt a chill run down their backs, especially when the stark blue eyes passed over several somewhat ‘hostile’ individuals that Vahn had pointed out silently during their performance. However, instead of attacking again, an unexpected situation occurred as a massive, emerald green, magic circle appeared on the far side of the arena.
Ganesha had been enjoying the performance greatly but, seeing Riveria priming an incredibly powerful magic, he bolted to his feet and shouted, “Reinforce the barrier~!” Since it hadn’t been kept a secret that Riveria would be participating in the exhibition, there were already several people on standby to channel their mana into the giant magic formations protecting the crowd from stray attacks and wild monsters. Though it had previously been invisible, there was now a subtly yellow barrier that had appeared around the entire arena that stretched more than 50m into the sky.
Vahn felt incredibly nervous at this point, but he trusted in Fafnir’s barrier as he sat atop its head and looked at Riveria in the distance. Though they were a ways away, Vahn could clearly see her clear jade eyes staring back at him with a hint of concern present. He showed a small smile and whispered in a voice she wouldn’t be able to hear, “Do it…” Just as his words fell, massive red cracks began to appear on the floor of the arena as Fafnir immediately took to the air. The cracks exploded in a phenomenal display of terrifying magic power as devastating tornadoes of chaotic energy erupted all throughout the arena.
The ‘fire’ was so bright that it seemed to darken the very sky above as the magic barrier protecting the crowd emitted fearful screeching sounds as it resisted the horrifyingly destructive magic spell. However, while all of this was going on, there were a great number of people that had been paying attention to the colossal figure in the sky that easily bore the brunt of the magic spell without any difficulty at all. Fafnir hovered in the air in a tyrannical fashion with Vahn sitting atop its head with his arms crossed in an incredibly casual manner. Aware of all the eyes on him, Vahn actually had the ‘audacity’ to yawn in front of the onlookers before stretching out his body and laying down on Fafnir’s head.
It wasn’t just the crowd that had been watching him, unfortunately, and Riveria had also seen his display. She had agreed to help him out, but now Vahn was inadvertently ‘showboating’ at her expense and she could feel her left brow twitching in annoyance. Though she wasn’t sure how she would do it just yet, Riveria promised to ‘punish’ Vahn when she found the chance. Just like when she had ‘punished’ Ais in the past, a glint appeared in Riveria’s generally calm expression and she showed a small smile on her face…
Vahn, completely unaware of the ticking time bomb he had set into motion, continued his little charade until the destructive energy had completely dissipated. He sat back up and looked around at the now destroyed floor of the arena before releasing an ‘impressed’ whistle and patting Fafnir’s head so it would land. Fafnir dropped from the sky with a loud thud before lowering its head to the floor and allowing Vahn to step off. He was stuck in his ‘acting casual’ manner still, so Vahn began to stretch a bit before turning his gaze over the crowd to gauge their reaction.
Everyone was mostly silent, for the time being, so Vahn nodded his head in satisfaction before sending a signal to Tina, who had gone back to the waiting area earlier, so that she could initialize the final phase. She nodded her tiny head before waving at the other waiting in the wing as they all began to walk out in lackadaisical and casual manners as they headed toward Vahn and Fafnir. The sudden appearance of a variety of beautiful girls brought some life back to the crowd and noise began to build once again.
As they had practiced, Fafnir saw the girls’ arrival and moved toward the before rolling over ‘submissively’ on it’s back. It cried out in a playful tone, (*Yay, praise me, praise me~! I did everything just like I was told, ehehehehe~!*) As it had requested, the girls began to climb on Fafnir’s body without any noticeable hesitation and began to affectionately pet its body and rain heavy praises on it. Since the atmosphere had been tense for a few minutes, everyone was gobsmacked by the sudden change and didn’t know what to make of the situation. Of course, there was a very obvious exception to this as Ganesha literally jumped from the balcony he had been standing on and performed several frontflips before landing on the ground in a manner similar to how Vahn had landed at the beginning of his presentation.
Without any hesitation, Ganesha walked over while laughing boisterously and patted Vahn on the shoulder as he said, “Very well done, Vahn! Let this Ganesha commend your performance and thank you on behalf of everyone present for showing us an incredible display of finesse, suspense, and excitement! I am somewhat regretful though, as I should have saved your performance for the very end! Now everything will be overshadowed by your ‘shadow’ dragon, gaaaaaahahahahahahahaha!” As he laughed, Ganesha continued to smack Vahn on the shoulder heavily. Though he knew Ganesha was playing to the crowd, Vahn felt like he could feel a little ‘resentment’ in the strikes on his shoulder.
The crowd started to cheer after the momentum began to shift again and there were thousands of people crying out regarding the ‘amazing’ performance. Many of them were commending him in a similar manner to Ganesha, though there were also a large number of men trying to call out to the girls during the confusion. Vahn passed his eyes of several of them and committed their appearances to memory, just in case, as he walked alongside Ganesha toward Fafnir and the girls. As if he were completely unafraid, Ganesha climbed up onto Fafnir’s body and began patting its stomach as he said, “Well done little guy, you performed excellently. Without your cooperation, your Master wouldn’t have been able to put on such a great show! This Ganesha thanks you for your effort, gaaahahahahahaha!”
Fafnir had stirred a bit after Ganesha suddenly climbed on its body, but it didn’t kick him off immediately and just sunk itself into the shadows as if it were submerging in water. Ganesha laughed loudly in response and said, “Graaaahahahaha, I’m jealous, so jealous! What a smart monster!” Without tarrying too much, Ganesha said a few words to the girls present before patting Vahn on the shoulder again and climbing up a ladder that some members of the Ganesha Familia had set out for him.
Before he had separated from them, Ganesha had paused by Vahn and said in a deep baritone voice, “I’ll do what I can to make sure nobody causes trouble for either of your tamed monsters…I really would like to know what method you used to evolve them like this though. Since they have the same energy signature as you, it’s surely related to a skill you possess…we should talk more in the future.” Though Ganesha’s words sounded serious, Vahn could tell by his aura that he was simply curious and probably wanted to get along well in the future. After he had been patted by Ganesha earlier, Vahn had been able to see his affection and it was already at a whopping 92(Trust) even though they had just met. As for the intrigue, almost every god Vahn had ever met was instantly at 100 simply due to how ‘unique’ he was compared to other ‘mortals’.
With Ganesha’s departure, Vahn left with the girls after Fafnir descended back into the shadows. Even if it might be able to fly around freely in the future, it couldn’t exactly stand at the side and watch the Monster Feria with other people. It would take time for word to spread about everything that had taken place and it might not even be until the next Denatus before Fafnir is ‘officially’ allowed to fly around. Of course, Vahn was now going to allow it to play around the airspace of the Hearth Manor and Alliance from now on.
Hephaestus, Loki, and even Freya, had purchased up every piece of land for several kilometers around the Hearth Manor and it was almost a ‘restricted’ area in a lot of ways. They didn’t prevent pedestrians from walking the streets, obviously, but there was a heavy amount of security present and several patrols constantly making the rounds nowadays. Fafnir being in territory managed by the Alliance was easily justifiable since it wasn’t the business of others what went on in the territory of other gods and their Familias. They lived in a region that had been dedicated to private residences, so there weren’t any people outside of the Familias connected to the Alliance living in the area anymore. The only people that would be ‘exposed’ to Fafnir would be those ‘visiting’ the Alliances territory in the future…