As he sat upon his lonely throne crying, Vahn was comforted by Fenrir and Hephaestus before Haruhime, Inari, and Anubis all came forward to help comfort him as well. Loki stood at the side and waved away the other five while having Masonia wait with her. Though he was grieving, Vahn realized he was aware of everything happening within the room without any exceptions. With his power flowing freely through his body, Vahn could even sense the individual molecules of his own body, the flow of mana in the atmosphere, and the emotional state and heartbeats of everyone around him. Even though it was very interesting, Vahn couldn’t bring his mind to focus at all as images of those he lost passed through his mind. When Inari and Haruhime worked together to wrap him with their tails, bringing him a surprising amount of warmth and comfort, the only thing Vahn could think of was Tina’s childish face crying alone in the darkness…
Vahn felt overwhelmed by the image of the girl and lashed out with an anguished cry before waving away almost everyone around him and teleporting them outside of his throne room. He didn’t feel like he deserved any of their comforts right now and just curled up into a ball on his own throne and hugged Fenrir as he cried over a loss he hadn’t been able to experience himself. Though she was obviously uncomfortable being squeezed by Vahn’s immense strength, Fenrir didn’t complain at all and just continued stroking his head and saying soothing words to help him calm down. The bond between them allowed her to share his grief and the only thing she wanted was to see his smile once again…
Even though his mind had been in a daze, Vahn knew it took exactly seven hours, forty-nine minutes, and seventeen seconds for Loki to machinate a way to break into the barrier he had erected. Because they were concerned about him, they couldn’t let him mourn alone so Vahn’s son, Masonia, and his daughter, Lenneth, combined their powers over space and magic to eventually break through his erected barrier. If he were at his full power, they wouldn’t even be able to put a scratch on it, but Vahn had no idea how to actually exercise any control over his current capabilities and just relied on instinct and his own emotions to draw power. He actually didn’t want to be alone right now, so they were able to crack through in a relatively short period of time.
Vahn knew they had worked hard to get inside, so he didn’t eject them again and just continued to brush Fenrir’s hair in an attempt to keep calm. This was the way he was behaving with his [Will of the Emperor] active, so Vahn’s actual grief was far greater than his current mentality could manage. Over the nearly eight hour period, he had several thoughts of suicide but was brought back by Fenrir’s concern. He knew his death wouldn’t be the actual end of his life, just his ejection from this record, and he didn’t want to abandon the people that cared about him. They stood by him for twenty-two years, even when he had probably lost his way, and Vahn felt like he owed them that much.
The only ones that entered his throne room were Hephaestus, Loki, Anubis, Haruhime, Inari, and Masonia. Though she had helped break the barrier, Lenneth was guided away by Freya in a clearly dejected manner as she cast several glances toward the doors leading to his throne while being pulled away. The rest of his children left, likely to return to their own duties, leaving Vahn to Hephaestus and Loki to take care of. They had only come to the Heavenly City after being summoned by Hephaestus and didn’t have the luxury of staying away from their own dominions unless Vahn asked them to. The current him wasn’t the same Emperor, or father, that they had loyally served and they didn’t want to see him in his current state at all.
Once they got near his throne, everyone stopped a few meters away from his throne and looked at Vahn cuddled up with Fenrir with a great deal of concern in their expressions. The most neutral ones were Loki, who had a serious look, and his son, Masonia, who had the stoic disposition of a High Elf. With this thought in mind, Vahn commented in a dull tone, “You’re a lot like your mother…where is she these days?” Hearing Vahn address him, Masonia bowed his head low and responded, “Mother is well…she spends her days as the Headmaster of the Orario Magic Academy and is continuing her research in high spirits.” Vahn imagined Riveria sitting at a table stacked tall with books and it brought a small smile to his face knowing that he had somehow gotten closer to her in the past.
Before anyone else could say anything, Vahn turned his head to Loki and asked, “I asked earlier how many children I had…please tell me…” Loki’s eyes opened slightly and she cocked her head to the side in thought before saying, “The ones that we are aware of…total eighty-three…” Vahn’s hands, which had been combing through Fenrir’s hair, came to a stop and he tried to comprehend what it meant to have eighty-three children that ‘they were aware of’. This implied that he likely had kids with other people over time and had never even cared for them after the fact…he could tell that Loki was trying to let him process a bit of the information and was feeding it to him in bits and pieces when he was ‘calmer’.
Nodding his head, Vahn asked in a melancholic tone, “Who are the mothers…and what has happened to them over the years?” Loki looked to Hephaestus as if pleading for assistance and the forging goddess released a small sigh before saying, “Most of the girls, with the exception of Milan, Tina, Emiru, Maemi, Ryuu, Chloe, Misha, and…Eina…all gave birth to at least one child. Lili and I were the only ones to give birth to three children…and the rest were various goddesses and people outside of the Alliance…” Vahn noticed that the majority of the girls listed off were those that had died and his heart twisted in his chest until a name he hadn’t expected at all came up. With clear trepidation on his face, Vahn looked directly at Hephaestus and asked, “What happened to Eina?”
Hephaestus showed a melancholic expression with a wry smile and explained, “Eina…is still at the Hearth Manor with Hestia…she said she will always be waiting for your return…” Vahn released a sigh of relief before asking, “Why did she never have a child? Did something happen?” Hephaestus nodded her head with a sad smile and said, “Eina had several miscarriages before deciding to give up having her own child and helping to raise the other little ones that were running around the Manor…” Vahn’s mind turned cold after hearing Hephaestus’s words and he imagined the gentle half-elf woman raising his other children when she deserved to have her own. He couldn’t imagine how he failed to let her have a child when he was able to help goddesses conceive…
Realizing something, Vahn asked, “Why couldn’t I help her prevent the miscarriage? Why didn’t I use ‘Nirvana’ to help her…?” This time, it was Loki who shook her head and explained, “Eina refused…she wanted to care for the other children since you were too busy to do so yourself…after Chloe and Ryuu died, you changed a lot, Vahn. Though you did your best when you were around, you spent the majority of your time in the Dungeon and traveling around the world trying to resolve troubles in order to protect everyone.” Vahn could feel tears welling up inside his eyes after Loki mentioned the deaths of Chloe and Ryuu once again and he could feel Fenrir shaking in his arms as well. He couldn’t imagine how he had become so busy that one of the most important women in his life wasn’t able to have a child of her own. Vahn knew Eina was the type to sacrifice for others, but he couldn’t help but feel like he had failed her greatly.
Seeing Haruhime and Inari at the back, Vahn had a thought and tried to clear his melancholy by asking, “Haruhime…Inari…we had children as well?” Even though Vahn recalled his son Zenkoshiro, he was still curious if there were any other children. He actually had a powerful urge to meet all of his children, even though he was also afraid of how they would view him in his current state. When she heard his question Haruhime’s ears perked up and she showed a lovely smile and explained in a soft tone, “We had two beautiful boys, Vahn. They are currently students at the Academy and are doing their best to live up to their Father’s expectations~!” Before Vahn could ask Haruhime to clarify the names, Inari spoke immediately after Haruhime, “We also had two children, Vahn! I can hardly believe this is happening…how vexing!”
Vahn had no idea about how he had come to meet Inari so he asked, “Inari, how did we meet?” Hearing his question, Inari’s silvery white hair flared out slightly and she bit her bottom lip in a pouting expression as she ‘glared’ directly at him for several seconds. As she seemed to be unwilling to answer, it was Loki who explained, “When you were traveling trying to unite the world, you visited the Far East and tore apart their patriarchal society and abolished a large number of influential clans. To appease your wrath, Inari was offered to you as a ‘sacrifice’ for peace and you accepted her in order to create and hear to rule over the land.”
Inari flustered at Loki’s explanation and blushed fiercely as she continued to glare at Vahn and shouted, “You brute! How dare you forget everything you did to me!?” There were crystalline tears in Inari’s eyes and Vahn felt a lot of guilt seeing them until Loki laughed in a mischevious manner and said, “Don’t fall for her little act, Vahn, she was undoubtedly the one that tried to seduce you. She is probably just mad that you forgot her ‘training’, isn’t that right Inari~?” Inari’s blush turned crimson and she refused to answer Loki’s words as she continued to glare, not at Vahn, but Fenrir sitting in his lap. He had misconstrued her gaze earlier as resentment towards himself, but it seemed like she actually just wanted to replace Fenrir…Though he hadn’t noticed it earlier, Vahn could see a pearl-white collar wrapped around Inari’s neck with the initials V.M. displayed in gold.
With a blank expression on his face, Vahn turned to Loki and she seemed to understand what he wanted to ask so she gave him a thumbs up and said, “I gave birth to a healthy baby girl and you cried a lot at the time~! I still remember the panic on your face as he squeezed my hand at the side, fufufu, it makes my heart beat just thinking about it. Oh, our daughter was named Disa Mason, and she is currently the Governor of Orario. She will probably come visit in the future, fufufu, I wonder what you’ll think when you meet ‘for the first time’.” Vahn imagined what kind of daughter he and Loki would have raised for her to have risen to such a position. If she were anything like her mother, she would have probably been a rambunctious child when she was younger…
Vahn felt the burden on his mind ease up at the thought and he released a small sigh before smiling at the group gathered before him. The entire time he had been speaking, his son had continued to stand stoically at the side and showed no signs that he was perturbed by the situation, other than a hint of concern in his bluish-green eyes. Vahn pat Fenrir’s back and she startled for a moment before hopping out of his lap and allowing Vahn to stand. Vahn was much taller than everyone present and it felt a little strange to be looking down on them like this. As this thought passed through his mind, however, Vahn felt his height shrinking and noticed that his clothing also changed to match his appearance as he came to eye-level with Hephaestus.
Everyone’s eyes widened because it was almost like Vahn had stepped backward in time and now looked identical to his fifteen-year-old self once again. It was common knowledge that he was immortal, but he had been in his ‘Emperor’ form for the last fifteen years and it was a peculiar sight to behold seeing him turn into a young boy again. Vahn shook his head at their reaction and walked over to his own son and saw the boy startle slightly as he reached his arms out and embraced his son for what felt like the first time. He had no idea what kind of life his own loved ones had lived in the past twenty-two years, but Vahn knew he probably wasn’t a great father to his children. Though he hoped this entire situation was a complex illusion he couldn’t see through, Vahn still wanted to treat his loved ones better, especially his own kin.
For several seconds, Masonia stood like a statue until the combined glares of the girls caused him to awaken as he hugged Vahn in return. Like most High Elves, he wasn’t accustomed to affectionate contact at all and this was actually the first time he had shared a hug with his own father. Since he had so much respect for everything Vahn had accomplished, he had no idea how to deal with this situation at all and just copied Vahn’s actions even though every fiber of his being was screaming at him that this was abnormal. He imagined what kind of face his mother would give him when he told her about this and the only thing that came to mind was incredulity and disbelief.
After hugging his son, Vahn made the rounds and gave everyone that was present an embrace filled with all the love he could manage. Other than his memories, Vahn knew he had lost a great deal over the last twenty-two years, but everyone present were the ones that had stayed at his side throughout everything. He didn’t know what to say to them at all, so he just did his best to show it through his actions. During this process, Vahn noticed his energy instinctively flowed whenever he was hugging one of the girls and their auras would quickly take on a rosy pink hue that began to proliferate with a passionate red if he hugged them for too long. He didn’t know exactly which skill was activating, but he felt like it was his [Godhand] ability, which seemed to be the evolution of his [Petting] ability that he had just started training in his memory.
It was especially strange when he was hugging Inari and Haruhime because he knew they had both given birth to his children even though he had absolutely no memories of the first time he had spent with them. He couldn’t even imagine how many hundreds of times he had been with Haruhime over the last twenty-two years, yet he had no memory of the event at all. He had even ‘trained’ Inari, though he wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, and she turned to putty the moment he put his hands around her waist and embraced her. Vahn felt like, if there weren’t others present, she probably would have gone into heat the moment he touched her. He could feel her charm enveloping his body as she hugged him with shaky hands and rubbed her head against the side of his face.
After embracing everyone, Vahn turned to Fenrir and felt a strange anxiety because he had just been thinking about missing his first time with Haruhime and Inari. Vahn knew that Fenrir had probably suffered a lot in the past and had even given up her first time to him at some point, though he had no memory of the event. Vahn’s current mentality saw Fenrir as something closer to a daughter, and he couldn’t even imagine having sex with her. However, the moment he had this thought, the image of Lenneth appeared in his mind and Vahn felt that same fear from earlier well up inside of him and he had to shake the image from his mind. Vahn had no idea how he would deal with the demigoddess in the future and wondered if her behavior was something that resulted from his own failures as a parent.
Because he was no longer able to conceal his expression from them, almost every girl present somewhat understood what Vahn was thinking so Hephaestus stepped forward and hugged Vahn from behind as she explained, “The only person that could keep Lenneth under control when she was younger was you…as she got older, however, her affection turned to love and she has been pursuing you ever since. Don’t worry, you never did anything too serious with her…” Though he knew she was trying to comfort him, Vahn understood what the words ‘too serious’ implied and it made him hang his head in shame as he asked, “How old is she…?”
However, as Vahn asked the question, the scene of Freya claiming that their first time was after Tina’s death, fifteen years prior, it meant she was likely on fourteen years old. Vahn was currently thirty-seven and the thought that his own daughter had such feelings for him made his mind turn cold once again. Hephaestus hugged his body tightly and explained, “Vahn, the Vanir don’t age and mature in the normal way…Lenneth has looked the same way ever since she was five…though her behavior didn’t change until she became an ‘adult’.” Vahn had several questions after hearing Hephaestus’ words, but he couldn’t form any words as he tried to imagine that she had probably been making advances at him ever since a few months prior.
Loki stepped forward and walked around to the front of Vahn with a serious expression on her face as she said, “Vahn, you know how influential a Divinity can be on a goddess, much less a mortal. Because you were worried about her, Lenneth was one of the few children you proactively tried to raise because you were the only person she would listen to. Even Syr, Hephaestus, and I, weren’t able to reign her in, much less that idiotic Freya. If you left her unattended, she probably would have killed several boys, including her own siblings, as she was growing up…you did your best, please remember that.”
Even though Loki’s words made sense, Vahn instinctively resisted them with as much rationale as he could manage and he simply refused to believe there wasn’t a better way. He would almost rather have no children than have one of his suffer such a tragic fate as being bound by a Divinity related to sex. If Hephaestus’ words were true, which they very likely were, it meant that she had reached ‘maturity’ when she was essentially a toddler and had likely been very promiscuous growing up. As she was a very beautiful girl, she had likely even been a target of others and had to be kept away in order to protect, not just herself, but the people that would have been her ‘victims’. Vahn had no idea how he had been able to manage such a child, but it apparently wasn’t the correct way given the current state of affairs.
Loki frowned after seeing Vahn’s expression because she knew he wasn’t buying her words at all. With his memory loss, he had regressed to one of the more annoying points in his life and he seemed especially childish since she had come to expect the somewhat tyrannical Vahn that had a domineering expression and demeanor at all times. Loki knew the current Vahn couldn’t bear the burden of his own responsibilities and he would likely fall in the future if he weren’t protected from his enemies. Even though he was very powerful, likely the strongest in the entire world, there were numerous enemies and uprisings that were constantly trying to seize power away from him. As it stood, he would probably go on a rampage in the near future after he learned the full extent of the things he had done in the last twenty-two years.
Hephaestus and Loki matched gazes for a brief moment before Loki turned to Masonia and asked, “Have you been able to discern anything? How long are you going to stand there like a statue!?” Masonia startled at Loki’s outburst and his eyes glowed a brilliant blue and Vahn felt an invasive energy pass through his body that he almost instinctively countered. The image of his own son’s head exploding appeared in his mind and Vahn gnashed his teeth as he resisted the urge to retaliate. Hephaestus hugged his body tightly from behind and whispered, “It’s okay, Vahn, we’re here to help you…”
After several tense minutes passed, Masonia released a long sigh and wiped the sweat from his forehead as he explained, “I can’t sense any abnormalities in Father’s body at all…even the fluctuations of his energy are exactly the same as they have always been…I’m sorry, Father, I have failed you…” Masonia had a profoundly regretful look on his face as he kneeled low to the ground and hung his head in shame. Vahn saw this and wondered what kind of father he had been that his own children bowed to him as if he were their master. Even the five goddesses that had apparently become his Empresses had bowed formally to him when they arrived earlier. These were the people that were supposed to be the closest to him, but Vahn had put them in a position where they acted almost subserviently to him.
Even though his body wasn’t tired at all, Vahn felt powerful mental exhaustion overwhelming him as the urge to simply commit suicide welled up inside him once again. With his own memory as the basis, he had spent less than a year in this world yet now had to deal with the fallout of an additional twenty-two years of additional time without any memory of it whatsoever. Though he wanted to do his best and try to live up to their expectations, Vahn could tell by the atmosphere that things had been irreversibly altered and he would likely never be able to reclaim what had been lost. Without Sis’s guiding voice inside his mind, Vahn felt like he wouldn’t be able to live in this world that he had created through his own actions. Just imagining how he would deal with Lenneth in the coming days, months, or even years, made Vahn feel an endless amount of trepidation and anxiety.
With what remained of his mental faculties, Vahn scanned over everyone once again with his [Eyes of Truth] as if he were trying to see through the illusion that had entrapped him. From what he could discern, everything before him was absolutely real and the most depressing thing was that he still had access to The Path. If this were a real illusion, he wouldn’t be able to emulate The Path at all, since knowing about its existence to such an extent would have caused whatever entity that had entrapped him to die. Vahn couldn’t give any cohesive information about The Path to anyone within the record, so there was no conceptual way for him to be stuck in such a detailed illusion…
The biggest indicator that this was reality was the fact that Vahn could see the intricate designs of the equipment everyone was wearing and had a subtle understanding of the massive formation at his feet. These were all things he had ‘forged’, so he had an instinctual understanding of them even though he had never forged such complex creations in his memories. If he were in an illusion, he shouldn’t be able to easily see through the ‘logic’ of the world itself, much less create identities for his own children to an extent they looked like living and breathing entities. Realizing this, the anxiety in Vahn’s heart dissipated entirely and was replaced by an emptiness that he had only ever experienced when he had watched his memories fading into non-existence in the past, before he had received The Path.
Even though he could feel Hephaestus’ warm embrace as she desperately clung to his body, the chill in his mind had spread beyond his own control and Vahn felt like he had lost everything. He still felt love for everyone present, even the son he had never known, but it was overwhelmed by the powerful sense of loss that pervaded his mind. Just imagining that he would never see girls like Chloe, Ryuu, Emiru, Maemi, and Tina again made Vahn feel like the current reality wasn’t worth living at all. From Loki’s reactions, Vahn knew he probably hadn’t been a ‘good’ Emperor, or his own children and lovers wouldn’t be so deferential to the point where they would bow to him when meeting. He had likely become cold and detached after the loss of the girls and had crusaded against the injustices of the world and imposed his own ideals on everyone in a selfish manner.
This time, instead of teleporting the others away, Vahn closed his eyes and disappeared from his throne room and appeared far above in the sky and looked down on the world below. From his new perspective, Vahn could see a massive palace floating in the sky and, even though they referred to it as the Heavenly City, he couldn’t see any signs of life. There were strange automatons moving about and a colossal amount of magical energy but, other than the signs of life in his throne room, there were no other signs of life that he could detect at all. Even Freya and Lenneth seemed to have disappeared somewhat, along with his other children, so Vahn assumed there was a teleportation circle as the palace seemed to be hovering about in the stratosphere, high above the world like an isolated island.
Vahn could feel the cold energy of space invading his body, but he was easily able to resist it and this realization made him feel even ‘colder’ inside as he turned his view to the void above. He felt an incredible power coursing through his body and noticed that the chaotic energy of space was being absorbed and fed into his own source energy. After a few seconds passed, Vahn felt his body transforming naturally and a black aura intermixed with pale blue consumed his figure and he felt like he had become chaos itself. Reaching out his hand, Vahn felt like he could command the entirety of space and even managed to create a miniature black hole after focusing for a short while. However, the more power he could exercise, the more powerless Vahn felt because he couldn’t comprehend how things had gotten to this point.
Just like his current action, Vahn felt like he had probably spent the last twenty-two years running away from things instead of facing them head-on. The only way he could imagine things getting to this point is if he was simply negligent and had been so focused on his own pursuits that he pushed everyone else away from him. Though he didn’t know the details, Vahn could infer that he had slowly conquered the entire continent, including the islands in the Far East, and he could even tell that the Heavenly City was slowly making its way over the ocean and heading towards the unknown. Vahn felt so detached from everything at this moment that he couldn’t even form tears so he just floated in space since he apparently didn’t even need to breathe anymore.