While Vahn was happily going about his life, spending time with his children, making love to beautiful girls and goddesses, and working hard to improve his strength, there were some places where the atmosphere was not so pleasant. One such location was Fokvangr, the main residence of the Freya Familia, located near the richest section of the business district. It was a huge mansion, constructed in the form of a large temple with a solemn atmosphere, even at the best of times. Today, however, this generally solemn atmosphere had turned incredibly tense, almost to the point where the tension was palpable. The weaker members of the Familia, who usually held their heads high with pride, now hung them low, avoiding eye contact with the stronger members to avoid any potential trouble.
As for the reason behind this tense atmosphere, it had been because Freya, who rarely visited the main residence, was now at the central region, having gathered all of her Elites. Generally, if she deigned to grace them with her presence, everyone in the Familia would have been beyond ecstatic. Today, however, even the newer members could sense there was something very wrong with the usual Freya, even though there were no visible changes. She still radiated a noble, indomitable aura, and was possessed of an unrivaled beauty that could sway the hearts of both men and women to do her bidding. Unlike her normal self, however, it was like she didn’t have any of them in her eyes at all and, though it wasn’t as if she had shown them much attention before, it was almost like there was disdain and contempt in her crystal clear, silver eyes…
Freya, after gathering all of her Elite members, now sat on her throne as she looked out at all of them neatly gathered in a formation. Ottar, faithful as always, stood at her side radiating an oppressive aura, even without her asking him to do so. There were no servants present so, contrary to her typically behavior, Freya poured a glass of wine for herself. Seeing this, many people became even more tense, especially when Freya turned her eyes towards them. Currently, she didn’t quite know what she was feeling but, seeing all of these people that she used to consider interesting, Freya couldn’t help but find them…sorely lacking.
These were the Elites she had gathered over the years, many of which she had groomed from a very young age into capable Adventurers to serve her will. Just three days ago, Freya would have looked upon these people as her precious treasures, things to be cherished, polished, and displayed proudly. Now, Freya felt like they were all lacking substance, each weaker than the next, severely limited in their potential. All of the effort she put into grooming them now seemed wasted, as if she were a fool blinded by her own restricted view of the world. The only ones that stood out among the two-hundred people she had gathered, other than Ottar at her side, were Allen, Hogni, Hedin, Grer, Afrigg, Dvalinn, Berling, and, the only female holding her waning interest, Helun.
Allen Fromel was a Cat Person she had picked up in the past, essentially a stray kitten she had taken pity on after his clan was wiped out. She had high hopes for him as, in order to seek vengeance and protect his sister, he had trained tirelessly to become stronger. As for the Dark Elf, Hogni, he served as a fine counterbalance to Hedin, a handsome Elf she had shown favor to. Freya had originally scouted them both, as she found that pairing them together, even though they hated each other, was very interesting. Then, there were the Gulliver Brothers, each rather unimpressive alone, but having incredible potential when together…at least, that is what Freya used to believe…
The last among them, completely ignoring the other one-hundred-ninety-one gathered ‘Elites’, was Helun, a beautiful Human woman that Freya had raised as her protege after Syr left her care. She was another demigoddess that Freya had stumbled across, though her fate had been inarguably more tragic than the grey-haired beauty she had been fond of in the past. Much like Syr, Helun had been raised as an orphan, even possessing similar attributes with an intrinsic ability to charm other people. Unlike Syr, however, Helun hadn’t been so fortunate in her youth, suffering at the hands of the people who were supposed to have cared for her. By the time Freya discovered her existence, Helun had been a very high earning prostitute in a private brothel that served men with more ‘deviant’ tastes, typically targetted towards younger ‘women’
Contrasting Syr, once again, Helun had been far more willing to be sculpted, all so that she could get revenge against the people that had wronged her. She willingly embraced everything Freya taught her, learning to manipulate others with the same ease as some people drew breath. At the same time, Helun also worked hard to increase her strength, reaching the peak of Level 4 after only a few years of venturing into the Dungeon. Now, after having completely slaughtered the people that had peddled her as their personal property, Helun had become one of the few females Freya had been interested in grooming. Now, however, much like she was feeling towards all her other Elites, Freya no longer thought she was very interesting…
Though it had been more than an hour since everyone gathered, silence continued to dominate the tense atmosphere until Freya finally said, “I have gathered you all here for two reasons. The balance of power within the City has begun to shift in favor of the Alliance and, regardless of what external forces attempt, it is unlikely they would be able to stop the already built momentum. Now, I had always prided my Familia as the strongest, hand picking each member and helping you develop your potential…Unfortunately, with fewer exceptions than fingers on my two hands, I have been left largely disappointed…”
Hearing Freya’s words, nobody within the formation moved at all, even though the majority of those gathered began to feel as if they had suddenly lost all their value. There were some, however, that could barely contain the smiles that were trying to creep onto their faces. This was especially so when Freya continued, saying, “I do not owe you an explanation, but know that the quality and potential of the next generation is already slated to far exceed the vast majority of you. Within the next few years, I intend to slim down the Familia until it is filled with only those I deem worthy…if you wish to stay, you will have to prove your worth to me. Those that show they have value will be groomed to become even stronger in the future…those that fail to meet my expectations, however…ufufufu~.”
Everyone present knew exactly what happened to the people that didn’t meet Freya’s expectations. It didn’t matter if they were in her Familia, in other Familias, or even normal civilians. If Freya took an interest in you, and you failed to meet her expectations, it almost exclusively ended in death. It was either that, or you would be forced to flee the City, never returning lest you face your death at the hands of others willing the prove themselves where you failed. Even so, without exception, be they men or women, everyone present wanted to show their worth to this goddess before them, having long given their hearts to her in exchange for power.
At this point, Freya’s silver eyes were glowing with a violet light as she smiled towards the formation before saying, “Simply put, I will have the two-hundred of you gathered here challenge each other. What kind of challenge you wish to conduct, I will leave that to each of you…however, know that I will only be keeping the top twenty of you. For rules…lets see, I’ll make it so that nobody is able to refuse a challenge after they have thrown their nomination into the mix. For those that fail to earn a position after one hour, you will be relegated to logistics until you are able to prove you are worth the effort I’ve put into grooming you. However…well, I’m sure I don’t need to explain myself~.”
Though there were some that had been thrown into the logistics groups in the past, they typically ended up stuck there indefinitely. After all, everyone within the support troops of the Freya Familia had very clearly defined roles, many of which never offered you a chance for rising above your position. The only thing that could change your fate was to earn some kind of achievement or impress Freya during one of the times when she decided to promote people. After all, Freya considered it troublesome to update the Status Boards of those that hadn’t ‘earned’ the right to receive her attention. However, there were times when she would look for suitable people to serve as replacements for former Elites that had died, meaning it wasn’t impossible to rise up again…
The first to rise to the challenge was none other than Allen, currently bereft of his spear, who turned to the rest of the Elites and shouted, “Come at me you fuckers! It doesn’t matter how many of you weak s**** try to step up. Now that Lady Freya had decided to cull the pack, I’ll be the first to take the lead and rid her of you mongrels!” However, the moment Allen issued his challenge, a deep voice rose to accept. His ears twitched, as the deep baritone voice had come from behind him, while he had previously been facing the rest of the formation. Turning his head slowly, Allen saw Ottar removing all of his equipment, revealing a simple black, form-fitting shirt that clearly displayed all of his muscles for others to bear witness to.
Repeating his previous statement, Ottar matched gazes with Allen and said, “I, Ottar, will challenge you, Allen Fromel. Come.” Allen felt like every bit of rationale that had remained inside of him had been broken, as if a powerful and unbridled rage had consumed him. However, his instincts kept him from immediately moving to attack Ottar, knowing exactly how he would end up as a result. If not for the fact that Freya had laid out the rule of not giving up a challenge, Allen would have simply dismissed Ottar’s blatant provocation. Now, having already thrown out his name in such an overbearing manner, Allen had no choice but to face against the man known as the King. The fact they were both unarmed seemingly put him at a disadvantage but, after witnessing what Ottar was capable of with a sword, Allen knew it wouldn’t have made any significant difference.
Seeing things play out as she had expected, Freya smiled and said, “Ara~? How interesting…I didn’t think two of the favorites to win the first seat would fight each other in the first round. This is exactly the type of motivation I wish to see in my Elites…ufufufufu~.” Freya’s words were the final nail in the proverbial coffin, at least that was how people felt as they watched Ottar and Allen get into their positions at the center of the arena they had gathered in. Everyone knew Ottar would come out ahead but they were still interested to see how far Allen could go before he had to swallow his pride and back out.
Facing Ottar, who was standing nearly 50m from his position, Allen had a scowl on his face as he cursed, “You big bastard…those at the top shouldn’t be fighting against each other. Why do you have to try and f*** me over from the very beginning!?” Without responding to Allen’s statement, Ottar got into a stance, arms raised, legs spread, which gave him the appearance of an immovable mountain. There was a serious expression on his face with an unwavering, resolute look in his eyes. Seeing this, Allen felt even more pissed off and, using his superior speed, tried to get in close enough to land at least one hit on Ottar’s smug face.
Though they had expected Ottar to win in the end, nobody was expecting to witness the sight happening before their eyes. Allen’s speed made him famously the ‘fastest’ Adventurer in all of Orario, to the point that there weren’t even any contenders for the spot, as many had already died at the tip of his spear. Before Ottar, however, this speed didn’t seem to phase him at all as, in one fell swoop, Ottar managed to grab Allen’s leg with the precision of a hawk. Though Allen shifted his weight, making use of his incredible flexibility in the process, and tried to smash Ottar’s wrist, he wasn’t even afforded the opportunity as Ottar suddenly moved with a tyrannical momentum.
As if Allen were a sledgehammer that was used to drive a stake into the ground, Ottar flung the lithe Cat Person over his hand, slamming him into the ground below with enough force to actually collapse the floor of the arena. There had been a storage area underneath, but it had been separated from the surface by three meters of reinforced marble, which had now crumbled like a flaky stroodle. Everyone that had witnessed the scene was completely gobsmacked, never expected that Ottar would be so…decisive. That type of attack could have easily killed another Adventurer, terrifying those that had witnessed it to the core.
Without any change in her expression, Freya watched the event she had constructed play out along with the rest of her Familia. Currently, there was a cloud of dust obscuring everyone’s vision but, after a few seconds had passed, it began to clear. Moments after that, a shadow could be seen climbing out of the smoke, far too big to be Allen, not that he wasn’t present. As if he had performed a very simple feat, such as throwing a cloth into a hamper, Ottar walked out of the marbled debris, still clinging to Allen’s horribly twisted leg as he dragged the limp Cat Person behind him. After coming to a stop, Ottar ‘lightly’ threw Allen’s mangled body towards a woman with cropped green hair, standing on the periphery of the group of Elites. She was someone that had proficiency with healing magic, though not nearly appropriate for repairing the damage Allen had sustained. Looking at him, it was hard to believe he was still even alive…
Turning his head away from the woman, as if he weren’t at all concerned about the matter of Allen’s survival, Ottar looked towards everyone else and plainly said, “Do not overestimate yourselves. If you lack the confidence to rise into the top twenty, do not waste Lady Freya’s time with your half-hearted resolution. Come with the intent that, if you fail, you will die…now, stay or leave, this will be your last opportunity to consider. After one minute, I will begin choosing who is able to leave by their own efforts…”