Chapter 752: Responsibility

For a King’s procession, Larfal’s escort was rather small, consisting of only three carriages and around forty guards. At the front of the procession, riding on the back of a majestic albino deer, much larger than any normal stag, there was a mature High Elf with pale blond hair. Without any pretenses, he jumped down from his mount and bowed low the moment he saw Vahn and Riveria arriving, though it was clearly for the latter as he said, “Princess Riveria, it eases my heart seeing you in good health…”

Riveria gave a polite nod before casually explaining, “This is Lendal Wisteria, the cousin of Aina and one of the elders of the Wisteria family, the retainers and distant kin of the Ljos Alf family…” With this introduction, Lendal lifted his head with an amiable smile, turning to Vahn with his jade-green eyes, which were closer to a leaf green compared to Riveria’s. Walking forward, he extended his hand and said, “You must be Princess Riveria’s Husband, the Sage Aldrnari, Vahn Mason. I must say, you are a great deal different than the rumors…I am impressed.”

Vahn returned a polite smile of his own before shaking Lendal’s hand, recognizing that the man’s words weren’t a simple formality when his Affection displayed as 71(Trust). As someone traveling with Larfal, Lendal was likely very aware of the fate that awaited them on their return trip. The fact he had still come, regardless of the danger, showed that he had a high degree of loyalty towards the Ljos Alf family. However, Vahn knew it was most likely his appearance that had made the elderly High Elf favor him, as he was currently in his Progenitor form. This wasn’t just his emulation of the form either, but the ‘true’ form of the Progenitor race, even though the appearance was different than what he had assumed in the Divination.

Knowing that he would need to play his own part in the events to come, Vahn had endeavored to make Riveria’s claim about him being a Progenitor true. They ‘key’ to everything had been his experience turning into a Doppelganger, as Vahn was able to emulate a ‘flow’ that allowed him to free transition into almost any form he could think of, even if it was seemingly inanimate. Using this same principle, he incorporated that as part of his natural flow, not quite to the extent of a Doppelganger, but very close. Now, his cells were highly adaptive and, instead of having to spend several minutes changing his form, Vahn could do so almost instantly.

This was why, when he was in the Divination, he had almost immediately turned from his ‘Emperor’ form back into his child-like form. The only requirement for him to change was to simply ‘will’ it, and it would be so…this was the true form of the race known as Progenitor, having the ability to emulate ALL races. This explains how, in the distant past, the original race of Progenitor Humans had been able to intermingle with spirits, producing offspring and giving birth to every other species in the world, even though it was supposed to have been impossible to do so.

As for his current form, Vahn allowed his complexion to become lighter, brought his ears to a subtle point, and increased his height to 180cm. While not overly muscular, he assumed an incredibly athletic figure and allowed his [Eyes of Truth] to stay perpetually active while his [Will of the Emperor] spread from his body, infusing it with natural energy to give him both a suppressive, yet gentle, aura. To protect Riveria’s dignity, Vahn had put a lot of effort into his appearance, making it impossible for even the notoriously arrogant High Elves to find fault with him.

When Lendal felt the firmness of Vahn’s handshake, almost like he was shaking hands with a mountain, his impression of the young man had increased marginally. He had been wondering what type of man his niece had given her favor to and, after meeting Vahn in person, Lendal had to admit, he was quite the capable young man. Just his presence alone inspired feelings of majesty and, as there was a massive amount of natural energy forming around his body, Lendal believed that the rumors of Vahn being a legendary ‘Progenitor’ were true. It was very difficult to believe but, seeing it with his own eyes, Lendal felt vindicated about his decision to head this procession.

After the guards had organized themselves, one of the Elves wearing ceremonial armor moved to open the leading carriage’s door, revealing the weathered figure of Larfal, smiling proudly even with his tired and weary expression. Even with the appearance of a man nearing his end, Larfal still had the ‘presence’ of a King, however, causing all the guards to proudly salute as the jade-haired man descended the steps and placed his foot on foreign ground for the first time. Without any hesitation, almost as if he couldn’t wait to get closer, Larfal walked towards the gate and stopped outside its boundaries, smiling towards Riveria in a manner Vahn was very familiar with…it was the same way he saw himself smiling when he interacted with his children.

With a wave of his hand, before any words had been said between them, Vahn removed the barrier prevented the King from walking forward any further. As if he just realized Vahn’s existence, Larfal turned his jade-green eyes towards him, a glimmer of appreciation contained within his pitch black pupils. Now, with the barrier removed, Larfal took a few steps forward, saying, “Riveria…you have grown up so much since the last time we met. As your father, I can’t help but be sad, having missed so many important moments in your life…I hope, after all of this is over, you can forgive this foolish old man who had wronged you so…”

Surprising almost everyone, though they kept their bearing and did their best not to show it, Larfal bowed apologetically towards Riveria. As a King, this was a serious breach of etiquette but, from Vahn’s perspective, this was the least Larfal could have done to apologize for the grievances Riveria had suffered. For Riveria, however, the feelings she had been trying to keep bottled up began to show through and a layer of moisture spread over her eyes as she sniffled slightly, whimpering, “Father…” in a soft and pained tone. Hearing this, Vahn felt his own heart twist in his chest and, even though he felt indignation about all of these events, he couldn’t keep hating the man before him, Riveria’s Father, the sad and tragic King of the Elves…

Releasing a sigh, Vahn placed his hand comfortingly on Riveria’s shoulder, giving her a supportive smile before turning to Larfal and saying, “There is much I’d like to say to you, Larfal, King of the Elves. However, for the time being, just allow me to welcome you as your son-in-law…” Giving a polite bow of his own, Vahn matches gazes with Larfal, seeing a bit of accusation contained in the man’s eyes as the latter said, “I must say, Vahn Mason, it is somewhat troubling that our first meeting is after the deed has already been done…but, I suppose that is my own fault…haaaa…”

As if the years were weighing heavily on his heart, Larfal suddenly appeared even more aged than before. Still, as he looked at the boy his daughter had chosen, he couldn’t help but approve of her decision, even if he lamented it as her Father…after all, it was much better than his own choice, a regret he would carry to his death…

Making an exception, Vahn allowed the Elven procession to move their carriages and station them within the confines of the Manor’s estate. There was a large staging area on the western side, located near the Guild Branch, so there was plenty of room for them to even set camp if they chose. Since there was no danger of them roaming about on their own, with Terra paying close attention to everything within her Territory, Vahn overlooked their presence and even allowed Larfal and Lendal into the Hearth Manor itself, instead of taking them to the Guest Residence. Larfal may have made many mistakes in his life, some of which Vahn could never come to terms with, but the man had already resolved to pay for them with his life. If he still held resentment towards someone with that level of conviction, Vahn felt he would have needed to reflect on his own life a bit…

After sitting down within the large study on the first floor, Larfal had a dulled expression since, behind Vahn, most of the girls had gathered just to see the Elven King for themselves. Also, though Vahn and Riveria were at the forefront of the group, Hestia, Hephaestus, Loki, and Anubis were all present as well. Even the Vanir were present, with Hephaestus holding the hands of Ina and Vana while Erika sat at the side, watching the proceedings with slightly parted eyes. Doppel was laying next to her, on her stomach while she used a crayon to draw nothing in particular on a piece of paper.

Though he knew of Vahn’s ‘exploits’, Larfal hadn’t quite mentally prepared himself to see such a large group of women, goddesses amongst them, standing behind his daughter and son-in-law. The fact that there were young children that were already around 3-5 years old was a big surprise for him, as the information he had access to claimed that Vahn’s oldest children should be around 9-10 months in age. However, none of that was as important as the small bundle in his daughter’s arms, the strange belt around her ‘exposed’ abdomen, and the boy sitting to her left, the instrument of change that may lead to the salvation of his people.

Coughing lightly to clear his throat, Larfal asked, “Riveria, my daughter…is that my grandson…?” Having regained her composure over the last few minutes, Riveria nodded and, ever so slightly, moved aside the covers to reveal the sleeping face of Masonia. When Larfal saw the jade green hair, long pointed ears, combined with the powerful aura radiating off from his grandson’s body, a large grin appeared on his face. As if he was unable to stop himself, Larfal began to laugh in an unrestrained manner, slapping his knee in the process as he said, “Risteria, my love, our daughter has blessed us with a grandson…I wish you could be here to see this…”

As if having spoken a magical spell, the father-daughter pair of High Elves both became slightly misty-eyed, even though neither shed tears. For the second time, Larfal cleared his throat before saying, “In the future…I…no, let me be honest for once in my life. Riveria, Vahn…I know you may see me as a failure, a coward who couldn’t protect any of the things he cared about…but, the one thing I can take pride in is the fact that I have such a capable daughter. Since she had chosen you, I will respect her wishes and, though it should not be your burden to bear, I will entrust the future of our people to you. Even if that future is only within the confines of this Manor, I am happy knowing that my daughter found her happiness here…”

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Over the last nine and a half months, Larfal had been allowed to consider things in much greater detail and realized that his understanding of things hadn’t been on the mark. His daughter had, time and again, tried to help him come up with solutions that would help him tide through the civil strife facing the Kingdom. Though this could have just been an elaborate setup for the future, he had long-since realized she was genuinely pained by the plight of her people and, even though he didn’t deserve it, she was worried about him. Even so, they had both resigned themselves to things at this point and, now that he could see his grandson with his own eyes, Larfal was content. He could see the love shared between his daughter and Vahn and, having failed her so many times before, Larfal was happy that she had found a real family in this warmth-filled Manor…

Hearing Larfal’s heartfelt words, Vahn felt indignant, even though his expression didn’t change much. He knew that, if he took action, it wouldn’t even be that difficult for him to save Larfal’s life, deal with the various Nobles within the Elven Kingdom, and even bring about the change they wanted to see by working alongside Larfal towards a better future. However, there would always be strong resistance to these changes since the number of people that clung to the past was simply too great. They would see his interference as just a power grab made by the ‘outside’ world, trying to force change in their home forests. It would take a very long period of time to weed out dissent unless he decided to take similar actions to his Emperor self and truly force the change…by killing those that opposed it…

While paying attention to the conversation going on in the real world, Vahn was also talking to Sis, asking, (“Why does the world have to be such a complicated mess…? Why can’t just happily live alongside each other without trying to live at each other’s expense? How can greed be so rampant? What allows people to even consolidate enough wealth and power to become cancer upon the very society their ancestors painstakingly built up? Will my own children, and their descendants end up just like this…?”) Though he didn’t want to believe this was the case, Vahn found it hard to believe that the founding ancestors of various clans and families had intended for their progeny to become as corrupt as they had…

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After a period of silence, Sis’ guiding voice sounded out in his mind, calm and soothing as she said, (*Over the course of eternity, you will undoubtedly face such difficulties…this is something that can’t truly be avoided, Vahn. However, unlike the Ancestors that created a system that could be exploited by their descendants, you have the potential to live eternally, helping to guide and regulate things so they never develop to that point. Though some of your own descendants may turn against you, they are, in essence, unique and solitary individuals. Family ties are powerful bonds but, much like you have met good and bad people in the world, your own descendants are also just ‘other’ people. Just as you had once wanted to be objective in how you raised your children, you must keep that in mind in the future…everyone has their own path to walk and, as much as we try to help guide them in the right direction, some people are simply drawn to different paths…*)

Sis’ words caused Vahn to remember some of the information that had been stored away in his mind from the Divination. He had been informed by Loki that two of his children had actually ‘betrayed’ him, though the details behind that event hadn’t been revealed. That meant, even in as short as a few years, he may have to face one of the situations Sis was talking about. As she explained, no matter how he felt about the situation, other people were responsible for living their own lives. Just as he had pushed girls like Lili, Naaza, Preasia, Maemi, Emiru, and Haruhime to grow stronger in the past, it was ultimately up to the people themselves which path they wished to walk. If, one day, his children diverged away from the path they were all currently working together…Vahn would have to accept that. And, if the path they walked ended up being at the expense of others, he may also have to cut off future paths to them with his own hand…

The realization that he may one day have to cross blades with his own children made Vahn feel solemn and lonely inside. However, he also knew that there was no such thing as someone being born into the world that was inherently evil. Evil was something created, comprised of all the events that shaped the perspectives of the individual that walked down that dark path. If his children ended up like that, it would have been because he had failed them so, in order to prevent such a tragic outcome, Vahn was determined to be a good father.

He already worked hard to never truly spoil his children, so they were able to develop a healthy and independent perspective, so he just needed to make sure his future descendants had similar upbringings. If their family creed was always focused on bettering themselves, sharing happiness, and helping other people, Vahn believed he would be able to reduce the chances of darkness and corruption seeding themselves within his family. Even if his family became very extended in the future, as his children would eventually have children of their own, the core principles that their family was based on would unify them…at least, that was his hope.

After having talked for a while, Larfal eventually turned to Vahn and asked, “So, are you truly a Progenitor…? I do not doubt my daughter’s words, but it is very difficult to believe that a Demigod Progenitor exists within the modern world…” Vahn smiled lightly, asking, “Are you able to read the god’s language?” Larfal chuckled lightly, shaking his head as he said, “I’m afraid we can’t all be like my exceptional daughter. The fact that my grandson has such an appearance…and this aura…I can’t help but believe your words are the truth…” Though tempted to ask Vahn to make a vow, Larfal decided against it, as he wanted his final days to be spent believing wholeheartedly in his daughter.

Next, Larfal ruminated over his words for a bit before saying, “There is another matter I wanted to leave in your hands, though you are well within your right to refuse…” This time, Vahn sighed externally, dismissively waving his hand as he said, “Just get on with it…you don’t have to keep up these pretenses when you’re here in our home. If you have something to say, just be out with it already…” This whole situation with Larfal had started to leave an impression on Vahn’s heart and mind, causing him to want to just resolve all these minor issues as quickly as possible.

Issuing a light chuckle, Larfal smiled in response before saying, “I’m certain you have noticed, but we brought along two extra carriages. Because of the strife within the Elven Kingdom, I was afraid that the other Noble families would do some drastic. In order to prevent an even greater tragedy, I brought along a few of the promising younger generation and would ask that the Alliance give them asylum in the future. The pretense we’re using is that they are meant to be an expression of our goodwill, allowing them to attend the School you’ll be opening soon. To pay their expenses, we have brought a variety of treas-“

Holding his hand up, Vahn stated simply, “The Alliance has already built a community of Elves within its territory, so a few more shouldn’t matter that much. As long as they don’t act in an unrestrained manner, the Alliance will offer them the asylum you seek. Don’t worry about the cost, as the School’s expenses are all fronted by my own personal assets. I do not accept bribes, even in the form of tuition and gifts…keep your treasures, or give them to the children and their guardians, if you can trust them.”

Even though the School would cost him a few hundred-million Valis a year, Vahn basic earnings made it easy for him to earn several billion valis in that span of time. He could pay the salaries of all the staff, cover the expenses for the children’s clothes, food, personal belongings, and any other miscellaneous things. Accepting the treasures of a dying man just to protect people his wife would have wanted to protect regardless didn’t sit well with him at all.

Hearing Vahn agree so readily, while even saying to give the treasures to the children, Larfal’s impression of his son-in-law increased greatly. He could already tell that Vahn had a righteous and just character so, seeing how quick he was to refuse the treasures for himself, Larfal felt vindicated. In truth, there were a lot of things he was worried about but, seeing his daughter, his grandson, and the man who protected them both, Larfal knew he could entrust the future to them. When he heard the explanation about the [Sage Aldrnari’s Blessing] alone, Larfal was absolutely certain that the Elves would not fade into obscurity in the future. No, instead of the path of the destruction they had set themselves upon, this boy before them was slowly pulling the entire Elven people back towards the light…

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