Chapter 431: Great Responsibility (2/2)

Vahn stayed in the same spot, floating high above the rest of the world as his Heavenly City slowly continued its path along the horizon and became progressively smaller. Even though it was outside his detection range, Vahn could still ‘feel’ its presence and knew he could teleport to it with a simple thought. He had no idea how he was able to do this but knew it was part of his power and likely related to his own Divinity. He had been floating for nearly two days at this point, and Vahn had managed to somewhat understand what Divinities he had by seeing his own children’s capabilities. Lenneth seemed to have influence over space, even though Freya didn’t possess such a Divinity, so Vahn was able to deduce that one of his Divinities likely related to space. This, of course, was with the belief that Lenneth hadn’t managed to develop such an ability on her own.

Other than space, Vahn felt like he had a Divinity related to Magic and Life, since he had an inexplicable skill like [Sower of Life] and remembered Hephaestus’ belief that she had been pregnant from the very moment he ejaculated inside of her. Since he hadn’t done anything to guarantee she was pregnant, Vahn felt like his past self had come up with a permanant solution and it likely related to his own Divinity being either Life or Fertility. As for why he believed he had a Divinity related to magic…Vahn had so many skills that transcended the restrictions of the world that he couldn’t believe otherwise. If someone else claimed to be a god of magic, Vahn felt like he would have to educate the foolish person since he felt like he could cast any magic with a thought.

Even though he didn’t remember the training, Vahn must have reunited with Eva in the past and learned from her because he had obtained the [Magia Erebia]. When this thought had come to mind, Vahn had inspected his own soul and found a naked Eva curled up in the fetal position surrounded by several chains making a sphere around her body. Knowing that he at least had Eva, Vahn had calmed down a lot and almost teleported back to meet with Hephaestus and the others once again. However, imagining how he would face those he had yet to meet, Vahn couldn’t muster up the courage to move from the spot and just continued his lazy orbit.

Though he wanted to claim he was unaware of how much time had passed, Vahn knew it had been precisely eighteen days, seven hours, thirty-two minutes, and nine seconds since the time he had teleported into space. He had long deduced that he also had a Divinity related to Time and he was currently trying to make sense of how to use it in the hopes that he would one day be able to return to the past. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort he put into trying to use actual time magic, Vahn couldn’t revert his own time for even a single second. He could influence other objects, to an extent, but his own time seemed to proceed forward irrespective of his own wishes.

Vahn had lost count of how many times he had cried during this time, even though he knew it was a total of one-hundred-nineteen times instinctively. It was like Sis still existed in his mind and could answer his questions yet, no matter how desperately he cried out for her, he wasn’t able to hear her responses at all. Because everything else felt like an illusion, even though he could see that it was reality, Vahn felt the loss of Sis to be the greatest impact to his mind. She had been the only constant in his life ever since he obtained The Path, but now her voice no longer reached his mind and this made Vahn feel terrified. He felt that, even if he left this record and tried to move on, Sis would never return again and this made Vahn grieve more than the loss of the girls and twenty-two years of his life…

Nearly three months later, Vahn detected a presence enter his domain and he teleported away to evade it for what felt like the ten-thousandth time, even though it had only been four-hundred-twelve. Vahn knew they were trying to use Fafnir to track him down but they couldn’t get anywhere near him unless he allowed them to. Vahn was surprised to see how big Fafnir had become, as its body was now 26m long, but he didn’t want to meet the girls that were riding on its back right now. He had been tempted to return several times over the last three months, but the memory of his earlier decisions not to always prevented him from doing so. If not for his curiosity to see who they sent after him, Vahn wouldn’t even let them get close enough to trigger his domain at all.

This time, Vahn had even detected Eina on Fafnir’s back, but she was one of the people he was most afraid of seeing right now so he teleported an entire three-thousand kilometers away before continuing to teleport even further knowing that they would catch up to him if he stopped. However, even though he wanted to evade them, Vahn still teleported towards Eden so they could safely return to Orario without chasing him around above the ocean. Vahn had already learned that they would eventually give up after a while, so he went through the motions of evading them once again.

However, this time things didn’t go quite as he expected and Vahn felt a powerful energy locking around his body after his first teleportation. He knew they were trying to prevent him from moving using a powerful magic that he had never seen before, even though he somewhat understood it was something of his own creation. Vahn was briefly tempted to allow them to capture him, but he broke through the massive sphere of mana with a giant spear of chaotic energy that shattered the entire structure without any resistance whatsoever. Shaking his head, Vahn looked in the direction of the approaching black dot and spoke into the void, knowing that his voice would carry to them, “Please stop chasing me…I need to work through things myself…I…” Vahn couldn’t continue his words and just broke away from the re-emergent spell that was trying to lock him down once again.

He ultimately came to a stop right above Orario and fell down from the sky until he came to a stop atop the massive Babel Tower and looked down at the City below with a deep melancholy. This wasn’t the first time Vahn had viewed the City like this recently and he was tempted to once again return to the Hearth Manor and reunite with Hestia and Eina. One of the thoughts that came to mind often in the recent days was the claim that they were both waiting for his return and had likely been doing so for several years. Vahn had promised to be with Hestia forever and every time he viewed the City from above he could feel his connection with her draw him back home. The cold of space had long spread through his entire body, and Vahn longed for the warmth of the home he had somehow lost…even though it was right in front of him.

Unlike the previous times he had stopped by, Vahn decided not to flee away and instead allowed the strange transformation to dissipate as he sat on the edge of the 200km tall tower and looked down at the City with a blank look. The only thing that prevented him from being ‘happy’ at the moment was his own indecision, but Vahn didn’t know how to face the repercussions of his actions for the last twenty-two years. He knew that if he truly returned, he would feel obligated to do his best even though he didn’t know where he would start. Twenty-two years seemed like such a long period of time, at least compared to the life experience he had accumulated for himself, and Vahn knew nothing about regulating an Empire and being a good ruler.

He even suspected that the entire reason he had created a solitary palace in the sky was so that he could avoid doing so himself. Instead, his past self had allowed his Empresses to manage things on his behalf and he knew most of his children were kings, queens, governors, and other types of rulers. In the span of two decades, he had conquered the entire world and now his family controlled everything…yet Vahn felt nothing but emptiness as a result. He felt like he had ruined the happiness of many others in his own pursuits and had now lost his own right to be happy…instead, Vahn felt like it was his duty to rule over from above and do his best to intervene whenever things got too difficult for others to handle…

“Now you understand the price of power…it’s quite heavy, isn’t it, Vahn Mason?” Hearing the unexpected words, Vahn teleported away from the ledge and appeared behind the tall old man that had somehow snuck up behind him through his ‘inviolable’ domain of 500m. Vahn knew his magic [Throne] gave him full control over everything within 500m and it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to get around his detection. However, even though he was now standing behind the 240cm tall man, Vahn couldn’t detect his presence at all.

The stranger waved his hand and Vahn felt the void around him become ‘solid’ and he was no longer able to teleport at all. Reaching into his inventory, Vahn pulled out the SSS-Ranked [Longinus] from his inventory and placed the shimmering black tip against the man’s back and asked, “Who are you!? Tell me, is this all your doing!?” Vahn felt the chill fall to a point far below absolute zero and, if the man said he was the one responsible for everything that had happened, Vahn was prepared to make him suffer a fate worse than death.

The man began to laugh and Vahn could feel the space around him shake as a powerful aura bore down on him from above as an unfathomable Divine Power emanated from the man. Before he could process what was happening, Vahn found himself in an empty white space and the entire world around him had completely disappeared. Though he had immediately activated [Eyes of Truth], Vahn still couldn’t see through the man in front of him who had now turned around and revealed the face of a ‘kindly’ old man.

The old man’s upper body was bare, revealing a powerful figure that was wreathed in a black cloak with a hood that framed his elderly face. He had stark white hair and sky blue eyes that radiated with power as he smiled at Vahn before waving his hand, revealing a wooden table and two chairs with a piping hot pot of tea set out for their use. Vahn noticed that he couldn’t muster any power, not even The Path, and the only thing he could do was glare at the unknown man that continued to smile at him while gesturing towards the chairs. After a while, Vahn gave up resistance and just released a long sigh before sitting down and unceremoniously drinking a cup of tea.

After laughing out in a rumbling voice, the man sat down and enjoyed his own cup of tea as he continued to hold Vahn’s gaze with an unwavering expression of his own. Once he had completed half the contents of his cup, the man set his tea to the side and explained, “I believe introductions are in order…you are Vahn Mason, the Sage Aldrnari that seems intent on reforming the world. As for myself, I am known as Ouranos, God of the Sky and the chief representative of Orario and the Guild as a whole.” Hearing the man’s introduction, Vahn’s mind blanked and he stared at Ouranos before asking, “What is this place…? Did you create an entire world just to throw me into it and see how I would react? How is this possible?”

Ouranos leaned back in his chair and laughed loudly before shaking his head and saying, “Foolishness! As if I can exercise such power in the mortal world, especially for a unique individual such as yourself. This world is one that you had created on your own and I’m merely something like a pre-recorded message set to trigger when you finally realize what you had sought for yourself.” Vahn only grew further confused by Ouranos’ words and asked, “What do you mean!? What am I supposed to have realized by coming to this place? Can I return to the past!?” Knowing there was a possibility to return to the past, Vahn had sat up from his chair and knocked over the pot of tea in his outburst.

As if he were completely unphased by Vahn’s outburst, Ouranos picked up his cup from the table and took another sip as Vahn noticed that the state of the table had returned to normal. His own glass was completely filled once again and it was like his previous action never happened. Ouranos squinted his eyes and explained, “There is no future, nor is there a past, there is only the present. Your desire to return to the past is simply ridiculous…” Hearing Ouranos’ words, Vahn plopped heavily in his seat and held his head with both hands as he lamented how things had developed.

After a long period of silence passed, Vahn lifted his head and noticed that the tea in his cup was still hot, even though he knew ‘hours’ had passed since he began brooding. During his silence, he had been contemplating Ouranos’ words and asked, “I’m still in my bed at home…aren’t I?” Ouranos’ sky blue eyes glittered for a moment as a smile appeared on his elderly face and he shook his head, saying, “As far as I know, you should currently be staring blankly at a scroll, trying to comprehend its secrets…I’m not sure about anything else, as I’m not aware of anything going on in the real world.”

Vahn released a relieved sigh before asking, “Has everything in this space been an illusion…or…?” Ouranos shook his head once again and explained, “The scroll you received is a rare artifact called the ‘Scroll of Prophecy’. I’m not sure how it came into your possession, but it must mean that my real-world counterpart had taken an interest in your growth. The scroll allows the user to cast a powerful Divination spell that allows them to peer briefly into the future path they had decided for themselves. This isn’t an illusion, nor is it a reality…neither is it the future, nor the past…it is simply the present you have constructed for yourself in your own mind. The complexity of this world is an orchestration of your own mind, the logical conclusions you had derived with the progression of time, and a fair amount of disillusionment caused by the inevitability of fate…”

Hearing Ouranos’ words, Vahn couldn’t make sense of anything and simply wanted to ask, “My children…Lenneth…they aren’t real?” Ouranos’ eyes widened slightly and he waved his hand before a puff of blue magical energy appeared and the naked body of Lenneth appeared floating in space. Vahn scowled at the old man that stared back at him without casting a single glance at the naked body of his daughter. Lowering his hand, she disappeared from the space and Ouranos explained patiently, “As I said, this world is a construct of your thoughts, the future path you had decided upon, and a powerful Divination spell. Everything in this world can become absolute truth, assuming you don’t deviate from the path you had decided on…that is why it isn’t the ‘future’, merely a single path.

Vahn nodded and felt a powerful feeling of relief overtake his body knowing that he could change the outcome of things and avoid such a tragic and lonely future if he put in the effort to avoid it. However, before he could completely relax, Ouranos stated in a powerful tone, “Foolishness…this kind of complacency is what led to this future you seem to find distasteful…how irresponsible.” The amiable smile on Ouranos’ face had disappeared and he now looked at Vahn as if he were viewing a latrine pit full of refuse. Before Vahn could speak, Ouranos continued is a disruptive manner, “If your mind is influenced so easily by such things, you’ll find yourself unable to cope when things happen outside of your expectations. The entire reason you became a tyrant that conquered the world was over something petty like the deaths of loved ones…”

Hearing Ouranos say something so serious in a dismissive tone, Vahn felt rage and tried to flip over the table only to find it was completely immovable. When he tried to move around it, Vahn found himself back in his own chair as if he had never moved in the first place. Ouranos continued to stare at him in contempt before saying, “If you truly want to avoid such a fate, you need to understand your responsibility to the world before you take action. You must understand that death is a natural consequence of your failures and oversights, not something you use as an excuse to lash out at the world because you can’t cope with the emotional burden. If you irresponsibly allow such feelings to compound, you’ll one day find yourself in the exact same position that you lament so vehemently. Truly, you are just a child that has no understanding of the consequences of his own actions…”

Before Vahn could utter a retort, he once again found himself on the edge of Babel as he looked down on the City below. Turning his head, Ouranos was gone and Vahn could now feel his own power radiating from his body. A powerful fear overwhelmed his mind as he realized he was once again ‘trapped’ inside the Divination and, even though he tried to use [Chainbreaker] to break free, the only thing he accomplished was exhausting himself and destroying the top of Babel Tower. As a world of his own construction, he couldn’t ‘break free’ from it, as he was the one that was keeping himself ‘trapped’ in the first place.

Unable to break free from the situation through force, Vahn sat down on the ruins of the tower and looked down at the chaotic City below. When he had lashed out, several forces began to move in order to discern what had happened atop the colossal tower. However, the only people that had access to the top were Freya and the other members of the Alliance, none of which were located at the top of the tower presently. Using the time it would take for them to mobilize, Vahn ruminated over Ouranos’ words and his earlier actions. Because his memory was nearly perfect, Vahn could replay events in his mind indefinitely and he slowly began to understand what Ouranos wanted him to know.

According to Ouranos’ words, this world was something Vahn had created for himself after using the scroll that Eina had given him. He didn’t remember using it, but that was probably a function to prevent the user from realizing they were in such a world so it could enable them to act accordingly to their default personality. If Vahn knew this was a world of his own creation, he would have acted very differently, probably with much fewer inhibitions. After the twenty-two years had passed, his memories of the past were erased so that he could ‘objectively’ view the world he had created and slowly come to understand the repercussions of his actions. If he still had his memories, he might not even consider the current state of the world to be a problem at all. This meant that this world was the future path Vahn was walking, though now it would be influenced by his knowledge of events and would be irreversibly changed when he finally left.

Vahn recalled the earlier words, “Now you understand the price of power…it’s quite heavy, isn’t it, Vahn Mason?” and began to understand why Ouranos had given him the scroll. Because he acted as the role of an observer, Ouranos wouldn’t interfere with the world he would create and wanted Vahn to understand the consequences of his actions if he didn’t take them into proper consideration. The thing Vahn was most afraid of was losing the people he had loved and now he got a glimpse of a world he had created after experiencing such loss. However, Vahn knew that he likely could have prevented many of the events from happening if he had paid closer attention to things…

Chloe had died to an enemy attack, something that she shouldn’t have been facing alone in the first place. Ryuu had the tragic fate of dying at the hands of Fenrir in what Vahn could only consider having been something easily preventable by exercising care and caution. Fenrir would only ever do such a thing if she had lost control yet she had only killed one person while seriously injuring a second…this showed that she had been reigned in somehow and she had spent nearly two decades after the fact sealing herself away as a result of her own grief. This showed Vahn it was an accident that could have been prevented by simply paying attention to the warning signs that would likely have emerged beforehand.

As for the death of Emiru, Vahn found this one of the most incredulous because he couldn’t understand what had happened for Emiru to have been in the Dungeon without Maemi. The fact that Maemi died soon after showed their bond was still working, so Vahn couldn’t rationalize what had transpired to lead to such a conclusion. He was tempted to go find out, but knowing the events in detail would likely cause him to make a mistake and would influence his decisions to an extent that would probably reshape his entire perspective on life.

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The final loss, Tina, was something Vahn didn’t even want to think about in detail at all. Since she was part of the Hestia Familia, her year-long disappearance didn’t make any sense unless she had left the Familia at some point. Since it had taken fifteen years prior, that meant Tina was around seventeen at the time of her death. The fact it took them a year to find out was something Vahn couldn’t comprehend at all and he wondered what kind of scheme she had been caught up in to have gone through such a tragic event. Because of her experience being kidnapped, Tina should have had more awareness regarding such things and should have avoided such a situation. If she had been training with the other girls, her own strength had to be high and this made it even harder to understand exactly how she had been entrapped…

Shaking the negative thoughts from his mind, the one thing Vahn could be sure of was that each event was something he could have prevented just by paying closer attention. Almost every event had taken place as a result of his own negligence, and the negligence of the network behind him. However, he couldn’t blame them at all since he knew it was likely his behavior that had caused such events to transpire. Fenrir had probably lost control because she was influenced his own emotions, likely due to the grief he had experienced at the loss of Chloe. When Ryuu died, he probably felt even worse and potentially even blamed Fenrir or, even worse, tried to avoid blaming her. The fact that she sealed herself away was an indicator that she hadn’t been satisfied with his punishment and decided to punish herself instead. Everything simply compounded off of everything else and all of the events all had Vahn as the core since this world couldn’t even exist without his actions influencing it.

Without his notice, the world had suddenly turned white again and Vahn found himself sitting, not on the edge of the tower, but in the wooden chair holding a cup of tea. Ouranos now had a smile on his face as he repeated, “Now you understand the price of power…it’s quite heavy, isn’t it, Vahn Mason?” This time, instead of lashing out, Vahn nodded his head solemnly and took a sip of the hot tea within his hands. After savoring the flavor for a while, Vahn said, “Wielding great power and influence invites those that desire it to take action…a moment of complacency can lead to tragedy and, if one is not prepared to bear the consequences, they should never become complacent…this is the responsibility of those that wield such power. If I can’t bear such burdens, I should avoid pursuing such power as it will invite further tragedy into my life that has far-reaching consequences that could even influence the entire world depending on my actions…”

Ouranos laughed loudly at Vahn’s words for several long seconds before a large grin appeared on his face and he said, “Everything that happens, happens for a reason. As long as you understand that, and cultivate a mentality that can accept the result of the decisions you make, you are worthy to rule. Know that, though other are responsible for their own actions, you are ultimately to blame for any event you had set in motion as a result of your past actions…walk forward with your head up high, or do the world a favor at take your own life…though that also has consequences, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

Hearing Ouranos’ words, Vahn was reminded of the quest he had received to save Haruhime since the actions he had taken would have inevitably led to her death. He knew that he would likely receive similar quests in the future, likely to prevent such tragedies from happening, so he clearly understood Ouranos’ words and took them to heart. He also knew death wasn’t the end of his journey, so arbitrarily deciding he should leave the record would just cement a future that he no longer had control over. Without the ability to put the record into stasis, it would continue forward regardless of his desires and those he left behind would have to deal with the consequences of his actions.

Vahn couldn’t allow such a thing, so he looked toward Ouranos and said in a confident tone, “I will shape a better future, not just for myself, but for everyone I love. I won’t stray away from the path and walk such a lonely road…I don’t want to end up in a future where those that I love treat me in such a distant manner. I would rather suffer and grieve at their sides than ever allow such a thing…” As he spoke, Ouranos’ eyes gleamed with a magical light before nodding his head toward the end of Vahn’s words and saying, “Very well, Vahn Mason, I will you good fortune. Ah, know that when you meet the real me, I will have no knowledge of what transpired in this place. Though I will know that you obtained the scroll, I will not know what kind of world you created through your actions. Other than that, I can only hope you don’t resent me for putting you through this test…farewell, Vahn Mason.”

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Without realizing the transition was taking place, Vahn suddenly found himself seemingly thousands of kilometers away from Ouranos before he was suddenly standing in his own room holding a scroll that had begun to turn into ash. The package that Eina had given to him when she visited the previous day was sitting on the countertop and it seemed as if not even a single second had passed, even though he spent several months inside the Divination. However, none of this was important and Vahn did something that he found very necessary for his own peace of mind as he asked, (“Sis…please answer me…”) Without any hesitation, Vahn heard a confused Sis say, (*Yes~? I’m here, Vahn, did you need something?*)

Vahn felt like a weight had lifted off his very soul as he asked, (“Can you not see my memories from the Divination…?”) As Vahn asked the question, he realized he actually couldn’t remember the majority of things, other than small snippets and his conversation with Ouranos. Sis also seemed to be very confused as the memories repeated through his mind and she said in a concerned tone, (*Vahn, what exactly happened? It’s like a very long period of time passed, but I can’t make sense of the information at all…this makes no sense.*) Shaking his head, Vahn rubbed his hands through his hair and simply said, (“Do your best to sort through the information…some of it might be very important for future breakthroughs. For now, the only thing that matters is that we’re together again. Sis, you have no idea how great it is to hear your voice again…”)

Though he was doing his best to act calmly, Vahn had started to tear up as he spoke and Sis was very aware of the distress he was feeling. Before she could console him, however, a bundle of midnight blue fur burst into the room and shouted, “Vahn, are you okay!?” Without waiting for a response, Fenrir ran over before hugging his body tightly and patting his back as she said in a consoling manner, “There, there, Fenrir is here, don’t be sad Vahn~” Vahn felt a brief moment of anguish after seeing Fenrir and overlapping her current state with the version of herself he had seen in his Divination. After his mind cleared up, however, Vahn leaned down and picked up the adorable wolf girl in his arms and hugged her tightly as he said, “Fenrir, please tell me if you are ever sad or hurting…I will always be here for you…”

Fenrir was enjoying the sudden embrace but tilted her head in confusion after hearing Vahn’s words and stated matter-of-factly, “Vahn is being weird…Fenrir and Vahn will be together forever~! As long as Fenrir can be with Vahn, she will always be happy~!” Then, piggybacking Fenrir’s words, Sis said within Vahn’s mind, (*I will always be here with you as well, Vahn. Together, we can make sure such a future never comes to pass. Remember, The Path will always have the answer you seek as long as you genuinely long for it. You don’t have to worry about such a tragic thing ever coming to pass as long as we both do our best to prevent it…everyone else as well, we’re all here for you.*) Vahn nodded his head while holding on tightly to Fenrir as he said, both to the wolf girl in his arms and Sis within his mind, “Thank you…lets create a beautiful future together.”

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