Chapter 758: Intermission

Everything that existed within the records, regardless of if it was a simple grain of sand, or the very fabric of reality itself, was governed by various Laws. There were simple Elemental Laws, which governed the composite elements that allowed for all matter to exist, such as Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water. Then, there were the more complex Laws, such as how Elemental Laws could be merged together to make Creation Laws possible. Mastery of this ability would, quite literally, allow a person to create objects out of ‘nothing’, using only the Elemental energies pulled from the void itself to produce matter.

However, there were various other Laws that were constantly at play as well, including ‘conceptual’ Laws such as Space, Time, and even Dreams. Everything, without exception, was governed by the Laws, including the very concepts of Life and Death. These were very powerful Laws and, much like Destruction, Devouring, and Gravity Laws, there were very few ways to actually counter them. You either needed to have resistance against the Laws themselves, or you would need to counteract them with opposing Laws to prevent their effects from taking hold. Lacking the capacity to do so, the only thing you could do was accept the reality of the situation, suffering at the hands of Laws beyond your comprehension.

At least, that was the case for some people, with anomalies like Vahn being obvious exceptions, even if the general populous was entirely unaware of this fact. Without any hesitation, even though all living creatures should have an instinctual fear of Death, Vahn charged towards the creepy man. He began to cackle madly, spreading his arms wide and exclaiming towards the sky, “Witness, the death of Vahn Mason! Kyaaakukukukukukuku!!!” With his shout, a cloud of formless purple energy exploded from his body, carrying the stench of corpses and creating illusory skulls that caused the spectators to exclaim in fear and shock.

Even so, Vahn was entirely undeterred as he moved directly through the cloud without using [Shundo] to evade it at all. The creepy Death-man’s eyes began to glimmer with a chaotic red glow, the light of absolute madness present within. He seemed assured of his victory as the crooked smile on his face grew, making his already creep visage look inhuman, twisted, and cruel. That being the case, he still managed to side-step the extended palm of Vahn, knowing that people were capable of almost anything upon death’s door. He just continued to cackle madly, opening up a distance between them while emitting more of the sickly purple aura from his body.

Vahn felt the Death energy try to enter into his body but, as expected, it wasn’t even able to overcome the influence of his own unique blood, much less that of [Magia Erebea]. Still, to prevent the man from doing anything that might endanger the crowd, as there was no way the surrounding barrier could prevent ‘Death’ from passing through it, Vahn decided to end the fight quickly. The man was very fast, using a strange movement technique that was hard to read, but it wouldn’t be able to outmaneuver his [Shundo]. As for his variable Level, Vahn had noticed there were multiple forms of energy in the man’s body, almost as if he had ‘absorbed’ the essence of other people. It was…very disgusting…

Just as the cackling man looked as though he was about to gloat, his expression turned into one of abject shock as the boy he had already proclaimed to be dead appeared right in front of him. His body moved instinctually to dodge but, unlike Vahn’s previous attack, this one seemed to move much faster, homing in on his chest with more than twice the speed of his own movements. Then, the moment Vahn’s palm came into contact with his chest, the man felt a powerful warmth flow into his body that absolutely terrified him, allowing his previous limits to be broken as he desperately evaded, screaming, “No, what have you done!? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!?”

Instead of answering, Vahn used [Shundo] to appear behind the man this time, striking his back and sending him careening across the arena’s floor before smashing into the wall on the opposite side. When the man tried to rise to his feet, Vahn, holding two spears seemingly made of light, appeared once again, this time pinning the man to the wall as he howled like a banshee. What Vahn had been doing to the man was using energy that countered Death, being Vital, Life, and Light. When he had hit the man in the chest, Vahn sent a flood of healing energy into his body which, as a result of being filled to capacity with Death energy, began to cause him immense pain.

Vahn watched as black tendrils spread from the man’s wounds, trying to consume the spears of light he had formed but, as they were powerless against his source energy, they just began to fizzle out and dissolve moments later. The man continued to scream, desperately trying to remove the spears before realizing he couldn’t even hold them without the skin on his fingers and palms boiling and melting away. Then, hearing Vahn’s voice for the first time, the man looked into the magical blue eyes of the boy he had intended to kill, hearing the latter say, “There is no inherent evil in Death, but you have defiled that concept entirely…you will pay for the way you have treated the lives of others…”

The only way a person could have the ‘essence’ of other people in their body was if it had been ‘stolen’ from their victims. Vahn could feel the negativity, the pain, the suffering, almost like the energy cried out for vengeance against an unjust world. It was a disgusting and sickening feeling, one which Vahn couldn’t tolerate now that he had sensed it. Thus, while he continued to burn away the energy in the man’s body, Vahn placed a spell ward deep within the core of man’s mind. By this time tomorrow, before he even awoke from the deep state of consciousness he would be forced into, the man would no longer be among the living.

After the man had passed out, Vahn left him pinned to the wall and began making his way towards the trio, now staring at him with shock and fear in their expressions. The rules of the event stated that Vahn couldn’t kill anyone but, seeing how he had dealt with the previous contender, even though the latter was ‘very’ creepy, people felt like this rule wasn’t exactly a ‘good’ thing for them. Vahn hadn’t killed the man, as had been confirmed by a member of the Ganesha Familia, but, seeing the state he had been left in, it was easy to see that he wouldn’t survive for very long without help.

This ‘shift’ in the perspective of people caused those that had still been intending to throw themselves into the fray to sit firmly in their seats. Though there were some that were still raring to go, the weaker members of the audience knew this wasn’t a fight they could join. It was obvious that Vahn was showing leniency to most people but, if they had somehow managed to offend him, nobody wanted to end up like the man who was, even at this moment, being pulled off the spears of light that continued to cook his insides…

When Vahn stepped before the large and honest looking man, who had multiple [Shock Arrow]s penetrating his shield and embedded in his arm, he couldn’t help but nod respectfully. Though it was obvious that the man had a defensive Innate, and potentially one related to pain resistance, it was still very commendable that he had protected his companions with his own body. As for why they had never attacked, it was because he couldn’t even move more than a few centimeters due to the pain and, unwilling to leave his side, the younger man and woman behind him had been trying to help heal his body.

While the young woman continued to send healing energy into the stout man’s body, the young man with brown hair and honey-colored eyes brandished a sword and shield, taking up a stance in front of his companion. Vahn just smiled in response before shaking his head and saying, “The three of you are good people, I can tell. I’m sure you have your reasons for joining this competition, but I’m afraid it won’t go as you expect. If you simply came here to try and strike it rich, you should just back out here and now…I don’t want to hurt you.”

The brown-haired youth furrowed his brows but, even though there was a look of indignation on his face, the resolution in his eyes had long since faded. Though he had prided himself as a rising star, reaching Level 4 at only 17 years of age, he knew there was nothing he could do against Vahn. Even the Captain of his Familia had used his body to protect him and his sister, not being able to muster any real resistance against the seemingly insurmountable existence before them. Still, he didn’t want to back down without at least trying so, though he knew it would end badly, the boy charged forward and swung his blade in a beautiful arc towards Vahn’s leg.

Without losing the smile on his face, Vahn pulled out an unnamed template sword, which was still graded as an A-Rank weapon through the system. He was waiting for the cooldown of his [Keeper of the Akashic Tome] to be over so he could name the sword, which had been designed to match a legendary sword that appeared in ‘a lot’ of records, [Excalibur]. After learning that the sword commonly made the user unkillable in battle, Vahn had wanted to see how much of the original legend he could imbue into the blade. If it was truly able to make its user unkillable, Vahn would scour legends until he found similar items, forging one for each of the girls in the Manor.

For a few minutes, allowing the tension and unease in the crowd to transition into something more festive, Vahn traded blows with the youth. He wasn’t in any hurry to end the fight as, for the time being, nobody else had jumped into the arena to join the fray. Since he was stuck here for an entire eight hours, Vahn decided to let the boy before him fight till his heart’s content. He had to admit, the youth possessed great skill with a sword and, if not for the ‘drastic’ difference in their parameters, Vahn might not have been able to get much of an advantage. This was something he had noticed during his fight with Siegfried but, even though his [Swordsman] was Rank-A, his skill with swords left something to be desired.

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Still, the difference between a Level 4, and someone near the peak of Level 5, was almost as great a difference as a Level 1 trying to fight a Level 4. The return on Parameters increased exponentially at higher Levels and, after training his skills against people like Tiona, Ais, Tione, Lili, and Arnya, Vahn wasn’t a pushover, even if his swordplay was lacking. When the boy had, as a result of his fatigue, overextended in his sweeping blow, Vahn tapped his wrist with the flat of his blade and forced him to drop it. Though he could have continued fighting, the boy fell onto his hands and knees, breathing heavily with clear indignation on his face.

Seeing this, Vahn lightly shook his head, throwing the template [Excalibur] into his Inventory before walking over and extending his hand to the boy, saying, “Good fight. You did well.” His impression of the boy was that the latter was a very earnest and hard-working man, even if his power seemed to have given him a touch of pride. This could be seen clearly as, even though he looked dissatisfied with how things turned out, the boy still accepted the hand and allowed Vahn to pull him up. Thus, with a curt and appreciative nod, Vahn asked, “What is your name…?”

Realizing he had never even introduced himself, the boy flustered slightly before saying, “Ah, I’m Tristain…an Executive member of the Polemos Familia…” This name was actually familiar to Vahn, as it should belong to a god within the Alliance, more specifically one of the few War Gods making up their number. Realizing this, Vahn wasn’t surprised that the three before him were members of the Polemos Familia, as it wasn’t uncommon for those hailing from such Familia’s to be a little prideful. Still, it was easy to see that they hadn’t truly let it go to their heads as all three of them seemed to be good people that cared for their companions.

Turning his head towards the viewing platform of the gods, Vahn saw a proud looking man with steel-blue hair and silvery eyes, smiling appreciatively towards him. Tristain followed his gaze and, seeing his god looking down at them from above, couldn’t help but hang his head in shame. The moment he did so, however, Vahn heavily struck his shoulder and said, “Raise your head, Tristain. This is exactly the moment you should carry yourself with pride and dignity, or else it was just hubris and arrogance…look, Polemos is more upset now that you hang your head in shame than when you actually lost!”

Hearing this, Tristain looked up at his god and saw that, as Vahn had stated, there was now a slightly exasperated expression on Polemos’ face. Before he was able to apologize, or embarrass himself further, a hearty laugh sounded out as the shield-bearing man walked over and also struck his back with a little too much force. Following this, there was a bell-like giggle that made the young Tristain blush as he turned to his sister and asked, “Rebecca…you would laugh at your own brother? I’m heartbroken…” In response to this, the similarly brown-haired young girl turned her head up with a ‘hmph’ before saying, “My brother isn’t some crybaby who pouts every time he loses a fight…!”

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This earned another bout of laughter from the shield-bearing man, who then turned to Vahn was an appreciative smile and said, “You’re really something, Vahn Mason. The names Gawain, by the way…I look forward to seeing how far you’ll go in this challenge of yours…” Then, without sticking around to chat, Gawain pat Tristain’s shoulder and said, “Go pick up your sword, boy! What kind of swordsman leaves his partner laying on the ground!?” With these final words, Gawain began walking towards the exit while Tristain tumbled across the ground for a few meters. His sister, Rebecca, then surprised Vahn slightly by looking towards him with a light blush and saying, “T-Thank you for going easy on my brother…”

Vahn just gave a polite smile in return, somehow causing the young girl to blush even more as she went to help Tristain before they both made their way towards the exit. Though there was a fair amount of laughter coming from the crowd, Tristain kept his head high and his back straight, refusing to let his embarrassment get to him a second time. Vahn made a mental note to reward the Polemos Familia latter as, considering Polemos had been able to groom such capable and honest Adventurers, he was likely worth supporting further. One of the things he was intending to do in the future was help the Alliance Familias become even stronger, with a special focus on those capable gods that could produce upstanding ‘children’ that wouldn’t shame what the Alliance represented…

After seeing the three exit the arena, Vahn returned to his spot at the center and pulled out his [Laevateinn] this time, planting it into the ground before him as crimson flames began to spread across the ground. They weren’t nearly as hot as his Zhūquè form flames, but it was still very intimidating for those that were considering jumping into the arena. At this point, everyone seemed to be waiting for everyone else to enter into the fray. Nobody wanted to be the ‘next’ victim to fall and, as a result, there was a long period of time where Vahn just stood silently at the center of the arena. It even got to the point where he closed his eyes, almost as if he had started to meditate and relax while waiting for his next challenger.

This behavior caused some people to think he was actually just putting on airs to try and recover so, after overcoming their hesitation, a group of five people jumped into the arena. Sensing this, Vahn slowly opened his eyes and turned towards the five women, asking with an amused tone, “Are you sure about this…?” The group that had jumped down were none other than the Rose Quintet that he had encountered in the Dungeon, the group that was hunting down Fatina, the Silver Unicorn he had converted into a Pegasus.

While getting into their formation, having two girls take up the vanguard, two break off to the sides with crossbows, with their leader, Amalia, at the center, the latter explained, “We owe you a debt of gratitude for giving us the items we needed last time, but we can’t just give up on such a prize…even if we don’t stand a chance against you, we still want to try our best…!” As she spoke, Amalia created purple electricity that danced across her fingertips. Vahn hadn’t seen her chanting during their last encounter so, seeing her create electricity out of her body, he understood it was related to her Innate. She had a very rare ‘Pure Lightning’ affinity so Vahn wasn’t surprised when she had blasted him the last time. However, using magic, and casting lightning from your body, there was a ‘very’ big distinction between the two…

Before he began, Vahn tossed [Laevateinn] into his Inventory and said, “The five of you have a lot of potential for growth, especially you, Amalia. Instead of risking your lives as Freelance Adventurers, you should join one of the Familia of the Alliance. I can’t accept you into the Hestia Familia, but I can make sure you are treated well in one of the core Familia. If you’re worried about things like money, your living conditions can be greatly improved if you consider my offer…” Not too surprisingly, all five of the girls showed contemplative expressions on their faces. In truth, after their last encounter with Vahn, they had started to reconsider their way of life. If he hadn’t been lenient towards them the last time, they would all likely be corpses within the Dungeon at this point…

Amalia, though she had also waved with the rest of the girls, snorted through her nose and put on a haughty expression as she said, “Beat us and we might consider it. We’re not going to listen to someone who-” In the next instant, Vahn had appeared right in front of Amalia, a casual smile on his face as he tapped her forehead with his index and middle fingers, asking, “Do I win…?” Amalia was only Level 4, and not even that far into the Level, while all the other girls were only Level 3. He had just finished fighting against Tristain, who likely would have been able to defeat all five of them, so it wasn’t really a match from the very beginning.

Not expecting the sudden development, Amalia had completely frozen, mouth still parted slightly from the last word she had been speaking. When she realized what had happened, a crimson blush covered her face and, against Vahn’s expectations, she tightly gripped her skirt, hung her head, and muttered, “You bully…stupid jerk…meanie…” Though he was slightly confused, Vahn noticed that Amalia’s affection was actually 83(Amore) within his system. Realizing he had dodged a bullet by clarifying that he couldn’t let them join the Hestia Familia, Vahn just smiled and said, “I guess I’ll be seeing the five of you around. You should consider joining the Loki Familia, they could always use promising young Adventurers in their ranks…I’ll make sure you’re all treated well.”

With the same crimson blush on her face, Amalia looked up with a face full of ‘resentment’ before she snorted and walked off with the other four girls. Vahn noticed that they all had light blushes on their faces as well, including the Pallum and Chienthrope girls. He gave them a casual wave and smiled, causing their reactions to become a little more extreme as they quickly made their exit. Vahn felt a little guilty on the inside, knowing that he had ‘won’ the fight based on his relative good looks. It wasn’t really that surprising for him when girls had ‘extreme’ reactions anymore, as even goddesses had pestered him quite a bit recently. Fortunately, he had built up a solid resistance against such things and, instead of just accepting every girl that held their heart out to him, Vahn had started to mature…just a little bit…

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