Chapter 578: Seat of Power

The celebration continued for a few hours, connecting into lunch so the group moved into the back yard to enjoy the nice weather. Loki eventually managed to get Vahn’s ‘seat’ as her own with the excuse that she wanted to talk to him about the Elven Kingdom and the Rakia Kingdom. During their private meetings, it was decided that Loki would take charge of the situation since she had the closest relationship with Freya and Minerva while also having the largest social sphere amongst the other goddesses within the Alliance. Hephaestus was never very social in the past and that hadn’t changed even after her eye had been healed by Vahn. As for Hestia and Anubis, the former hadn’t enjoyed a great reputation in Heaven while the latter simply had no interest in pandering to other gods after taking Vahn as her Master.

Loki and Vahn were currently sitting against the side of Fafnir, using its wings as protection from the sun, while watching over the game that was being played nearby. Vahn had previously researched a bunch of fun activities everyone could play and introduced the concept of Volleyball since he thought watching the girls play a game in their swimsuits would be very interesting. Loki seemed to be in agreement as well since her eyes were parted and she had a lecherous look, almost like a middle-aged man. Vahn felt it was a little awkward hugging a goddess who was ‘steaming’ from her nostrils while looking at scantily clad girls, but that was simply Loki. He had started to learn that ‘love’ was a pretty complex emotion and that, sometimes you simply had to take the bad parts of a person along with the good.

To remind her what they were supposed to be talking about, Vahn nuzzled against Loki’s head and asked, “Didn’t you want to talk about the Rakia and Elven Kingdoms, Loki? If you keep staring at the girls when we’re together, I might get a little jealous…” To emphasize his ‘point’, Vahn nibbled on Loki’s right ear and traced his finger around the area where her belly button was located. Loki cocked her head to the side with a mischevious look on her face and said, “I should be the one that is jealous, after all, all of those girls are your little ‘flower garden’~.” Vahn flinched slightly at Loki’s words before smiling and saying, “One of my flowers seems to have a few thorns…”

Though she had been tempted to refute Vahn’s words, claiming that she was far from being a flower that he was capable of plucking, Loki remembered their first time together with [Enkidu] and swallowed her words. Vahn noticed the change in her aura and held her closely, asking, “Is something wrong, Loki? I wasn’t trying to upset you…” Loki shook her head with enough force to intentionally smack Vahn’s face with her ponytail a few times as she asked, “What do you know about Riveria, Vahn? Has she told you anything?”

Vahn turned silent and contemplated his words for a bit before adopting the same serious mood as Loki, responding, “I now know that she is the daughter of the Elven King…and that she had a previous engagement with another High Elf, Alosrin. As for Riveria herself, I know she is a kind and intelligent woman, even though she can be a bit cold at times when she is embarrassed. She is very considerate of others and has a strong sense of duty, which I guess makes sense considering she was one of the potential heirs to the throne. Like me, she wants to see a world where every race can co-exist alongside each other, fearing that her people will stagnate and bring about their destruction if changes aren’t made soon.”

Loki widened her eyes slightly before nodding her head and saying, “That is a pretty decent summary…I’m honestly a bit surprised. I hadn’t expected Riveria to reveal so much to you…I wonder if she was trying to keep it a secret…?” Even now, Riveria was Loki’s point of contact within the Hearth Manor and she often made reports to her about what was going on. However, one of the things she rarely ever mentioned were the things going on between her and Vahn. Though she knew there was certainly something, even to the point that they had made ‘promises’ to each other, Loki was still surprised to learn how ‘open’ Riveria had been to Vahn.

Presently, Riveria was watching the games from the side, sitting next to Terra, Ryuu, Syr, and Eina. Loki stared at her thoughtfully before saying, “You should know about the elitism of the High Elves and the values they propagate. However, things are never that straightforward and there are power struggles in every society, especially in those that have multiple Dukes and succession lines. Larfal hates the gods because he, along with the ‘elder’ faction, blames our presence for corrupting the world and leading to the stagnation of their culture. He has always taken the stance that Orario should be destroyed, claiming it is something akin to a melting pot of inferior beings that is being spoiled by the existence of the gods. Of course, the truth of the matter is they simply desire control over the Dungeon and its resources for themselves…kukuku.”

Vahn had already been thinking about the various countries surrounding Orario and knew that the Elven Kingdom wasn’t unique in their beliefs at all. Telskyura, the country of the Amazons, also wants to destroy Orario for the same reasons, while the Dwarves from the Iron Hills simply treat the existence of the City as a convenient place to obtain slaves and sell their merchandise. As for the Beast Human tribes, they usually kept to themselves but had formed a large alliance to protect each other whilst the Pallums were the ‘universal’ slave race that didn’t even have a country of their own. Orario was a place of ‘hope’ for many people, regardless of age, sex, or race, but it was also the only access point to the Dungeon and its resources. Either for political reasons, cultural reasons, or economic reasons, every other country on the Continent eyed Orario as a ‘prize’ to be won.

Loki had paused for a while, knowing that Vahn was likely ruminating over his own thoughts, before saying, “As I said, things are never straightforward…one of the things you probably didn’t know is that the only thing keeping Riveria from claiming the throne is the fact that she is female. Though she was the most capable heir, she had been forced into a situation where she eventually left the City and joined my Familia in order to escape the power struggle of the various Duke families. Alfred Els Lainu, the father of that idiot Alosrin, had been the heir to the second most powerful family within the Elven Kingdom, the Lainu Duke Family, and enjoyed a close relationship with the current King, Larfal, ever since they were young. Because Larfal’s unwillingness to remarry after the death of Riveria’s mother, he was forced into a situation where he needed to find a husband of suitable status for her to marry…”

Vahn released a heavy sigh as he listened to Loki’s words, looking toward the sky and wondering what kind of foolishness allowed such policies to ever come into existence. Originally, all of the High Elves were females, which meant there were several Elven Queens long before any Elven King cames into existence. However, nearly a thousand years ago, the Elven Queen, Celdia, had fought alongside Albert Waldenstein, Ais’ father, and presumably lost her life soon thereafter. Previously, the High Elves weren’t such an abrasive species that spread the idea of racial superiority and they simply protected the various forests that used to dot the Continent.

After the first Elven King came into power, this had changed drastically and their society had become patriarchal in nature, stating that the ‘decline’ of the Elves had been related to their interactions with other species and the diminishing purity of their blood. In the past, the person to become the Elven Queen had been ‘elected’ that position as a result of their efforts and magical power, but now the position of ‘King’ was fought over by seven different families that all undermined each other to gain greater benefits for their individual families. They treated their own people, the Elves, as ‘conveniences’ and had forced a system that painted the High Elves as some ‘superior’ race while the other Elves served them loyally and did their bidding…

The fact that Riveria, who likely would have made an exceptional Queen, had been denied the right simply because she was a ‘woman’ made absolutely no sense to Vahn. What kind of ‘cowards’ would those in power have to be to use gender as the justification for why someone wasn’t qualified for a position? Why was it that, for several thousand years, the Elves had thrived as a species when rallied behind their Queen? How could they not see that their policies for the last 998 years were the exact reason for their stagnation? Vahn felt that he would never understand what was going through the minds of such people, seeing them as greedy fools who lusted for power instead of showing the capacity to lead and guide their people to a better future.

Loki hummed in intrigue when she saw the solemn look in Vahn’s eyes, feeling that the ‘shadow’ of his ‘Emperor’ self was showing on his face. To make sure he understood the situation completely, Loki continued, saying, “By entering into a relationship with Riveria, you have essentially taken away one of the ‘chess pieces’ that had been part of the political game within the Elven Kingdom. Without an heir, the King will eventually be forced into a difficult situation where he would need to select his successor from amongst the other noble households. They will likely fight and squabble, trying to promote their own progeny as a contender for the title…buuuut, that will not be an easy thing for them to do, fufufu~.”

Reaching up, Loki stroked Vahn’s face with a mischevious look and explained, “Riveria is simply too ‘popular’ within the Elven Kingdom after all of her accomplishments. As long as she exists, the people wouldn’t easily accept someone taking the throne unless they were married to her. Alosrin likely lost his engagement to Riveria after this fiasco, so she will be the ‘focus’ of every faction within the Elven Kingdom. However, they won’t be able to take action as long as you, and the Alliance, exist as her backer. Once it becomes known that Riveria is pregnant, however, things will definitely come to a head and it could result in a War…”

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Though she didn’t say it, Loki could see them forcing Riveria to have a miscarriage and then trying to cover up the situation completely. If they couldn’t force her to take a vow, they would likely try to put her to death and claim it was the result of the other races that ‘betrayed’ her. She would become a ‘martyr’ to continue propagating their foolish ideals all because a bunch of old and egotistical men were afraid to lose the power and status they desperately clung to. If it weren’t for the existence of the Sage Council and the High Priestess of the Sacred Trees, the Elven Kingdom likely would have collapsed long ago.

Vahn stared at Riveria from a distance, apparently with enough intent to draw her attention as she looked over and made eye contact with him. Though she couldn’t be certain, Riveria had a good idea what Vahn and Loki were talking about and felt compelled to support Vahn by nodding her head. Vahn’s eyes opened wider when he saw this and a confident smile appeared on his face as he said, “I believe it will be possible to avoid war if we win over the larger Elven communities. Also, the Elven Kingdom simply doesn’t have the forces necessary to launch an attack against us so they will likely fight amongst themselves for several years before we are forced to take action. Riveria’s father is still relatively young, so they couldn’t force him to abdicate the throne so quickly unless he made large policy changes…”

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Loki nodded her head and said, “Yes, that is true, but you may be underestimating how desperate old men who cling to power can be. They will likely try to spin things to their advantage, even claiming Riveria to be a traitor by trying to pin various crimes on her in order to sway public opinion. It wouldn’t be that effective at first, but people will believe anything if they hear it regurgitated endlessly…you will need to take action sooner, rather than later, if you want to avoid things getting out of control.”

However, contrary to her expectations, Vahn shook his head and said, “If the Elves within the Kingdom believe the words of such fools, walking the path towards their own destruction, that is the fate they decided for themselves…if necessary, I will create an entirely new Elven Kingdom to give sanctuary to those that can see through the lies and seek a better life for themselves. Though I wouldn’t make the argument they are superior because of it, many Elves are very intelligent and they have an intrinsic love for nature…I believe that more of them will pursue the path of peace rather than wage war because of propoganda…it is our duty to simply outlast the hate and fight fundamentalism with the truth. We can bring about change by impacting the future generations, allowing the hatred and egotism of the past to fade into irrelevance.”

Loki looked at Vahn like he was an idiot before her shoulders began to tremble and a loud cackle sounded for her throat, causing several people to look over out of curiosity. She knew Vahn was something of an idealist, but she didn’t think he would come up with a solution like ‘outlasting’ hatred and simply letting it die of old age. It wasn’t actually an exaggeration to say they could slowly build a foothold in the Dungeon, maintain a defensive embargo against the Elven Kingdom, and just accept the refugees that would eventually come streaming out. It would likely take decades, but more and more Elves would seek to escape the ‘rotting’ core of the Elven Kingdom in order to make better lives for themselves once they know of the lives their fellows were leading.

Because it was very unlikely for the High Elves that had seized power to take a step back, they would crack down on those that remained behind, forcing them into more difficult positions simply as a result of their inability to give up the frivolous paradise they had created for themselves. It was either that, or they would eventually get pushed back by the Rakia Kingdom until they eventually had to compromise and seek an Alliance with the other races, likely making large concessions simply to survive. No matter what, the current Elven Kingdom couldn’t persist for long from the very moment Vahn decided to better the lives of Elves that left that ‘rotting’ Kingdom behind.

Though things would likely not go as smoothly as Vahn expected, Loki was interested to see how he would handle things as they continued to develop. She, along with the rest of the Alliance, would do their best to support him. Depending on how things played out, especially if they took a defensive stance instead of acting as the aggressors, the Guild would likely back them as well. With public opinion constantly changing to show further support for the Alliance, their momentum would continue to increase until the point where the City itself supported Vahn’s decisions. Though he may not rise to the position of an Emperor, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the position of ‘Leader of the Alliance’ would give him even more authority. Orario was the strongest ‘nation’ within the Continent, and it had been for nearly a thousand years. Though he may not ‘rule’ over it directly, Vahn would undoubtedly be pulling the strings from behind…

Remembering that their daughter had actually become the Governor of Orario in the Divination, Loki’s eyes gleamed with various schemes. She was starting to understand what her original self had likely been thinking around this same time…it was very likely that a conversation like this had played out at some point and, after hearing what Vahn wanted to accomplish, she probably became determined to raise their daughter to be a capable politician. If Vahn was the head of the Alliance, while their children were the ones regulating the laws and tariffs within the City, they would have ‘absolute power’ when it came to making decisions about how to interact with other countries. It would certainly take many years, but Loki was beginning to see several paths forward, each more interesting than the next…

After she managed to calm down, Vahn and Loki discussed the matter regarding Rakia, which was a little less complicated than the Elven Kingdom. The Rakia Kingdom was established as the Empire’s arm into the Continent of Eden. The Empire itself was located on a Continent to the far west, taking nearly two years across the dangerous Poseidon Sea to reach. When it had been discovered by the mortals of the Continent of Eden, they had named it the ‘New World’ and expected to find a completely unexplored land, rich in resources and new discoveries. Instead, they found that more than 70% of the continent had belonged to a massive Empire who, after finding out about the existence of a ‘magical continent’ across the ‘ocean’, immediately set out to conquer it for themselves.

Though there was little known about the Empire itself, at least amongst mortals, almost everyone on the continent knew of the Ares Familia and the Rakia Kingdom. They were considered the largest Familia in the entire world, having more than 100,000 members, and the Rakia Kingdom was notorious for its terrible living conditions and its hierarchal society. However, they actually weren’t considered a major threat by most countries since they had a severe lack of resources and typically destroyed the lands they conquered, making them infertile and inhospitable to life as a result of killing the spirits in the area.

Right now, the Rakia Kingdom posed almost no threat to them since there were thousands of kilometers of forest separating the Rakia Kingdom and Orario. Even if they could march troops this far, they wouldn’t be able to maintain a supply line and it would open them up to attacks from both the Iron Hills and the Elven Kingdom. They were essentially stuck turtling up on the western coasts of the continent while periodically trying to probe into other areas by constructing ships to get around the large mountains and cliffs of the continent. All Vahn had to do, at least for the time being, is ‘harass’ them a bit so that larger amounts of refugees could escape.

Since the Rakia Kingdom relied on forced conscription to maintain their numbers, there was no end to the number of people trying to escape and find better lives for themselves. They prevented this by maintaining powerful borders and harshly punishing those that tried to escape, typically forcing them to their deaths or having them become criminal slaves that worked in the mines. This type of mentality was obviously unsustainable so, harassing them over a long period of time would eventually wear them down to the point where they had to try a ‘suicide’ invasion or cease hostilities. If Vahn continued to pressure them, which wasn’t that difficult with Fafnir as his mount, he could eventually force them into negotiations and force them to change their policies or flee the continent.

In order to make sure their options were limited, Vahn decided he would wait for a while, so that information could travel, before charging over with Fafnir and destroying the outposts along their borders. Many of the people that manned such outposts were members of the Ares Familia itself, and most of them were zealots that had killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Vahn would give them a chance to evacuate at first, but it would be up to them to take his words seriously before the attack. Afterward, Vahn would hit their supply lines directly by targetting their shipping lanes and destroying their drydocks. This would likely lead to greater famine within the Kingdom, but that was something Vahn couldn’t avoid given the nature and policies of the Ares Familia. Regardless of what actions he took, unless he could destroy the leadership of Rakia Kingdom directly, their citizens would continue to suffer since the society itself was created to weed out the weak while promoting the strong…

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