Though there was a torrential downpour outside, the City was abuzz as a result of the phenomenon that had occurred earlier in the day. Everyone was wondering what had happened at the Hearth Manor for such a massive barrier to have been erected which, even after several hours had passed, remained. It was barrier magic on a scale that nobody had ever seen before, making many assume it was some kind of new formation, and not actual magic. For those in the know, however, it was clear to see that the elemental energy feeding into the barrier wasn’t powered by a formation at all. Many of them speculated that Riveria had made some great breakthrough in her magic, with some foolish people even spreading rumors that Vahn had ‘lured’ Riveria to his side in exchange for such power.
However, it wasn’t the barrier that had garnered the most attention. No, that honor belonged to the ‘second sun’ that had illuminated the sky early in the morning. It had only burned for a few minutes, but its heat was enough to increase the entire temperature of the City by a few degrees. The same mages that were awed by the barrier, were completely gobsmacked by the terrifying might of that magic spell. If something like that had been loosed upon a City, a section spanning several kilometers would be incinerated until nothing remained. As for the City around the impact site, there would be uncontrollable flash fires that would likely spread out in a much larger radius.
It was hard to imagine what had created such a phenomenon, or what had ‘required’ such a terrifying magic spell to be used. For those that remembered the previous ‘flare’, they began speculating that Vahn was experimenting with a new tactical-class magic that he had just perfected. The fact that it had, even temporarily, changed the very weather above left a deep impact on a lot of people. Since rumors had already started to circulate that the Alliance-run School was going to be teaching children magic, many parents were hoping to get their own children enrolled..
As for the boy in question, Vahn was currently sitting on the third-floor balcony with Hestia, Fenrir, and Ina. They were looking towards Terra’s barrier overhead, which had been left in place because it would have taken more effort to remove than just letting it expire on its own. Seeing the rain impact it, sending very tiny ripples across the surface, was actually a very beautiful sight to behold. Ina, sitting in his lap, had bright eyes and an awed expression on her face as she mumbled, “It’s so pretty.” in a soft voice. Vahn couldn’t help but agree with her, but his thoughts were preoccupied with the discussion that took place earlier.
The Zeus Familia had been ‘banished’ from the City around thirteen years prior and, though he wasn’t disallowed from entering its borders, Zeus had been ‘missing’ ever since then. Him showing up in the skies above the Manor was a very troublesome event, as Loki speculated he may be considering a comeback. It wasn’t likely that he would be able to muster up enough forces from outside of the City, so Loki had guessed Zeus wanted to try and use the Alliance as a platform for his own rise. She believed that Zeus had intended to try and ally with Vahn, using his former fame to try and ‘lure’ him with his ‘Hero dogma’. It was either that, or Zeus had simply been trying to gather information for some greater scheme he had been cooking up.
Vahn felt like it was a combination of both, considering the ‘amicable’ aura Zeus had when he first revealed himself. Until he let Zeus know he wasn’t buying into his b*******, the elderly god had an appreciative look on his face. Afterward, however, the stone-cold expression he had possessed showed that this was likely no longer an option. Vahn didn’t really care, either way, as the only thing that really mattered was that his family was safe. If Zeus thought he could just do whatever he wanted, just because he was a god, Vahn didn’t mind ‘correcting’ that misconception. He might still care about public opinion a bit, as it made opening things like the School a possibility, but it didn’t mean he wouldn’t take decisive action if he was pushed into a corner…
Noticing that Ina had gone quiet, Vahn looked down and saw her glowing blue eyes gazing up at him with curiosity and intrigue. Vahn smiled lightly at her, earning a radiant smile from his pristine and pure daughter that seemed to wash away any negativity clouding his mind. Accompanying her smile, Ina suddenly said, “Papa is very cool…” without explaining what she had seen. The glow fade from her eyes and Ina gave him a hug while giggling amusedly at something only she knew about. Vahn laughed along with her, out of habit, patting her back as he quietly asked, “What did you see, Ina~?”
Turning her face up to stare at him, Ina happily explained, “I saw Papa surrounded by rainbows, standing high in the sky with dazzling lights shining all over. It was even cooler than the green bubble~!” Vahn tried to imagine what Ina had seen in her vision but she didn’t really give him too many clues to work with. He knew asking her wouldn’t really alleviate this either, as the images Ina saw were like a kaleidoscope. It was hard for her to really understand what she was seeing, so her descriptions were always a little vague. One thing he did know was that the images were specifically things she would have seen herself. This meant, at some point, she had seen him flying in the sky surrounded by rainbows…
When it came to ‘rainbows’, the only thing that really came to mind was his source energy. Whenever he observed it directly, source energy was like an amalgamation of every color, shining resplendently together in a very dazzling manner. He wondered if, at some point in the future, if he had managed to make a version of his [Magia Erebea] powered by pure source energy. It didn’t really seem possible though, considering that it couldn’t really exist outside of his body easily without first being converted into other forms of energy. There were no spells that would have a ‘source’ element, as such a thing was likely beyond any conceivable record…still, it was an interesting idea that Vahn intended to look into.
Seeing that the rain probably wasn’t going to let up any time soon, even though Zeus had long disappeared from the sky, Vahn decided to head back inside. He carried Ina in her favorite princess carry while Fenrir jumped up to the top of the roof to continue watching over the Manor for the time being. Hestia followed after him, already returning to her gentle and lively disposition instead of the cold and solemn look she had earlier. During their discussion, Hestia had surprisingly pitched the idea of increasing the number of powerful and influential goddesses living within the Manor. Juno and Epona had already moved out at this point, but they weren’t exactly the type of goddesses Hestia was intending.
She wanted to recruit goddesses from the first generation, so that arrogant gods like Zeus didn’t even try to target them in the future. Given Vahn’s ‘popularity’ with most goddesses, it shouldn’t be that difficult to convince a few of them to take up residence within the Manor. This naturally brought up the conversation from the past, when Vahn had talked about ‘needing’ goddesses with Divinities related to Time, Space, and Fate. He was a little surprised by the fact that Loki had mentioned Kali as a potential candidate but, remembering Lili’s confession the previous night, he knew they must have discussed it through the network, or during one of their ‘Vahnatus’ events.
The reason why Kali was considered a potential candidate was due to the face that Vahn would likely have to compromise with her in the future, regardless of how things turned out. Unless he planned to ‘force’ the Amazons to change their ways, the only practical means of doing so was to either win over the goddesses supporting their culture, or convincing their Queen to implement the change. Unfortunately, the latter was almost impossible since each successive Queen had been personally trained and groomed by the previous generation.
The one absolute policy of the Amazon Queen had always been protecting the culture and traditions that had been passed down for thousands of years. This meant that their culture had almost frozen in time since the first generation Hippolyta. As a result, Amazonesses looked like tribal women who still wore very traditional outfits, almost completely forgoing other forms of clothing in public. It was a little strange to consider that the skimpy outfits they were when walking around the City were considered ‘proper’ clothing, when wearing something like a simple tunic in private could be considered inappropriate…
Thus, without being able to have much of an impact on the Queen, the only method available would be changing the minds of the goddesses and their Familias. It wouldn’t matter if the Queen decided to take a hard stance on the issue if the belief systems that allowed their country to exist for such a long period of time began to shift. As for how this was possible, it was due to the fact that most gods and goddesses didn’t actually care about mortal affairs that much. They were more interested in simply enjoying their lives in the mortal world, meaning they were very prone to being influenced by things that interested them. If this happened, Hippolyta wouldn’t really be able to do anything because, if she actually tried to do something like kicking the goddesses out of her country, her people would riot.
Without the blessings of their various goddesses, the Amazons would have severed their ability to grow stronger. It would also set a precedent that could never be rectified once the decision was made, meaning the Amazon country would slowly walk towards the path of collapse. Thus, though it was a little roundabout, the ‘only’ methods to bring about change in the Amazon country was to either force change, or win over the goddesses presiding over the Amazonesses faith…
Assuming that he somehow did manage to win over Kali, something that made Vahn’s spine tremble just thinking about, that meant they would only need one more goddess to match his conditions. Ideally, they would be able to find a goddess that had a Divinity related to Space and, after his meeting with Tenjin previously, that made Amaterasu to most suitable candidate. When he realized this, Vahn felt the machinations of fate in full effect and began to wonder if The Path actually had some influence over them. The fact that two goddesses that he would inevitably have to interact with also happened to possess the Divinities he needed to complete the quest couldn’t be a coincidence.
Vahn’s impression of Amaterasu, even though they had yet to meet, was already positive. She seemed to be rather wise and showed great concern for her people, to the point that she was actively trying to bring about change in the Far East. After asking Loki to investigate, Vahn learned that Amaterasu was supposed to have a calm and gentle disposition, possessing a beauty that made the radiance of the sun pale in comparison.
Strangely, the actual physical characteristics of Amaterasu were relatively unknown, with even gods like her sworn-brother Tenjin having never had the opportunity to see her directly. As a result of this ‘quirk’ of her’s, Amaterasu was one of the ‘Seven Sacred Maidens’ in the Far East, being one of the few virgin goddesses in both Heaven and the Mortal World. Vahn just prayed she wasn’t another ‘diminutive’ goddess but, given the precedence of Hestia and Kali, a part of him had already given up hope that this was the case. At the time, he even toyed around with the idea of convincing Freya to make a vow to him, as her Death Divinity was also related to Fate. Yet, the moment this thought crossed his mind, something truly shocking happened that made Vahn’s mind dull for several long seconds…
//Optional Quest Updated//[Quest: I Shall Return]
Objective: Complete [Quest: Origin of Heroes](0/9). Establish ‘Eternal Bonds’ with gods that possess Divinities related to Time, Space, Bonds, (and) Fate (1/3->4). Current: Hestia
Rewards: Reduction of requirements for [Quest: I Shall Seal The Heavens]. 10x Reduction in necessary Origin Points.
Failure Condition(s): Death, Exiting the Record Before Completion
Penalty: Danmachi Record inaccessible until Tier 8, 10,000 karma based on conditions (11/12)
When he saw the quest update, Vahn was absolutely certain that The Path had more sentience than it lets on. The fact that the Objectives had ‘increased’ and, instead of having to find any combination of goddesses, he had to find ‘each’ different kind made this very apparent. This meant that, even with Hestia, Kali, and Amaterasu, he still needed to find another goddess related to Fate. Freya would be able to meet this requirement, which seemed to be why The Path had updated the requirements themselves to match the number of Divinities…it was almost like he was being ‘forced’ to go with both Kali and Amaterasu…
While he had been dealt a critical blow by the system notification, Sis chimed in with a strangely hesitant and apologetic tone as she explained, (*Vahn…I’m being told that things will be more beneficial for you this way…also, I don’t think Freya matches the requirements. Though she has a Divinity related to Death, it isn’t that strong as even Kali’s Death Divinity doesn’t quite make the cut. The quest will still recognize it, but I think you should find a God or Goddess with a more powerful Divinity related to Fate than one that possesses a fragment of Death Divinity…*)
Vahn had been brought back to awareness by Sis’ words and knew that The Path had likely revealed something to her, even if indirectly. In truth, he knew The Path didn’t actually possess sentience, but it possessed something very similar, just without a ‘will’ of its own. Sis was the mediator created by The Path because he wouldn’t have been able to comprehend its use and how to interpret the information it needed to disclose. As a result, Vahn had always been very reliant on Sis and, hearing her actually speaking hesitantly, made him feel more than a little concerned.
Chiming in to ease his worries, Sis’ soothing voice sounded within his mind, (*Sorry, Vahn, I’m not trying to force your hand or mislead you…even I don’t know what The Path is trying to tell me. It’s just ‘urging’ me to have you choose gods with more powerful Divinities. My remark about Freya and Kali is just my speculation…I’m sorry if I made things more confusing for you. Just remember that this is still an ‘Optional Quest’, meaning you can abandon it any time before you leave the record if you don’t want to complete it.*)
More so than he was bothered by the Quest’s changes, Vahn didn’t like Sis apologizing and sounding so sad. He calmed his mind as best he could and said, (“Sis, you don’t have to apologize. Ever since I entered this world, you’ve always looked after me without taking a single break. I know you’re trying to be considerate of my feelings…thank you. I will treat your advice very seriously and think about the decision I want to make.”) Even before his words had finished, Vahn felt like a part of him that he couldn’t quite pinpoint the origin of had become happy. When Sis’ voice sounded out again, she seemed to have recovered completely as she said, (*Thank you for understanding, Vahn. You really have grown so much since our time together in the forest…it makes me feel happy seeing your progress.*)
Hearing Sis happy made Vahn feel a lot more confident about the future and he decided to seriously consider his options, separating them between wants and needs. He wanted to be happy, which meant he needed to protect the source of his happiness, his family, friends, and companions. He also wanted to be able to elevate the Tier of the world so that he could break, or even rewrite, the laws that were binding the gods to their Divinity. This meant he ‘needed’ to either link the record of Danmachi to a higher Tiered record, or elevate the Tier of the record internally by increasing the number of elements that had the potential to grow beyond its restrictions.
It was far safer to link the records together, so this meant the best option was to complete his quests so he could purchase the [Dimensional Anchor: Stasis]. This would allow him to travel through other worlds, including Eva’s, to increase his strength without having to worry about the passage of time in Danmachi. When he finally managed to reach peak Tier 6, or step into the realm of Tier 7, he would then be able to link the Danmachi record to whichever record he was in at the time. He didn’t know how this would be done, but Sis had informed him it would be possible through one of The Path’s functions when he reached that point.
The second option, other than simply being safer, also meant he would be one of the strongest beings in the linked records. Danmachi would still only be a Tier 4 world, but its ‘potential’ would be increased to Tier 6-7. This would bring about great changes, including the fact that the gods would no longer be restricted in their growth by the Laws of the world. With those restrictions removed, they would even be able to reach higher Tiers in the future while Vahn helped elevate them further. Though they would likely have to contend with whatever forces emerged to ‘balance’ the amount of positive Karma in the world, Vahn was confident in being able to overcome it when the time came…
Considering all of this, Vahn knew he needed to complete the two Quests, [I Shall Seal the Heavens], and [I Shall Return]. Without completing the second Quest, it would be nearly impossible to complete the first, even if he stayed within the record for more than a hundred years. It simply took too much OP and, even if he stopped spending completely, he was still likely never to reach that point. Having the OP requirement reduced to 1/10th made the quest far more practical to complete and, depending on the circumstances, he would be able to finish in around 15-20 years. This would require him to restrict his own growth and remain as a Tier 3, however, as he would lose access to the Dungeon once he reached Tier 4. Even his Emperor self had been bound by this restriction, so Vahn didn’t doubt it was almost impossible to circumvent. After all, he was still a far cry from the capabilities possessed by his Emperor self, who had conquered the Continent and even built an entire City in the sky…
After thinking this far, Vahn began to organize a plan of action within his mind that would increase the chances of success in the future. He wouldn’t make a decision right now but he would still consider how he wanted to deal with Kali, Amaterasu, and whichever goddess of Fate managed to cross his path. If they would be too troublesome to associate with, he would re-evaluate his plan and makes changes as needed. As for how he would accumulate OP, Vahn would continue his plans with the School, take care of his children, help the girls train, and then, once Bell came to the City, switch his focus on Enyo, the Xenos, and the Dungeon itself. He would begin construction of Haven, find a way to link it with the Hearth Manor, likely through the ‘Tree of Life’ and Terra, and then begin construction of his Academy. Since he would also be exchanging items from the system shop for various materials collected by Adventurers, his OP reserves would naturally expand and, regardless of the amount of effort it took, he would definitely get to the bottom Floor of the Dungeon this time around…