Although the Monster Feria had officially concluded, the town was still abuzz about the events that had taken place, especially during the final battle between Ottar, known as ‘The King’, and Vahn Mason, now being referred to by some as ‘Emperor of Flames’. This was made easier by the fact that, much like the previous events, there were recordings of the flight being looped constantly in various regions of the city. People would gather together, even long after the sun went down, trying to glean insight from the fight between the two monstrously strong individuals. In the end, the one take away that almost everyone had was rather simple, ‘Vahn Mason is the strongest Adventurer in the city now’.
Though the title of ‘strongest’ fluctuated with time, the reason it was so meaningful in this instance was that Vahn, according to general knowledge, was simply a boy of 15-16 years old. Ottar was nearly twice his age and was considered to be in his prime while Vahn, just a little more than a year ago, had only been around Level 2. In fact, there was a clear record of Vahn’s growth at the Guild, allowing people to see just how quickly not only Vahn, and everyone in the Hearth Manor was growing. Before, though some ‘knew’ this through rumors, it wasn’t that big a deal, just a bit of interesting gossip. Now, however, almost everyone knew that they had grossly underestimated the growth of the people around Vahn who, now, was understandably the ‘heart’ of the Alliance.
As for how that heart was currently spending his time, well, that likely would have made several people develop stomach ulcers, or perhaps even cough up blood. After his triumphant return to the Hearth Manor, Vahn had instantly been greeted at the door by Ina and Vana, with the later practically tackling him as she exclaimed, “Papa, that was so incredible! Please, teach me how to use fire like you!”
Picking up the two girls, Vahn laughed jovially and said, “Once you’re a little older, I’ll teach you all kinds of cool tricks with fire. For now, you need to continue developing your control so I can give you a special gift I’ve been holding onto, okay~?” Though not entirely satisfied, Vana eventually nodded with a vibrant smile and said, “Okay, Papa, thank you~!” before giving him a kiss on the cheek and tightly squeezing his neck. As for Ina, she was hugging him from the other side, a dreamy and star-stunned gaze in her eyes, almost like she was looking at her idol.
After things settled down a little while later, Vahn learned that, during the screening of the event, the girls had been watching it intently the entire time. Whenever he would ‘seem’ to be at a disadvantage, Vana and Ina would both be out of their seats, screaming at the projection and trying to cheer him on. Erika sat quietly at the side but, much to her chagrin, Loki kept making comments about how she would tense up, ball her fists, and get a fierce look in her eyes like someone contemplating ‘vengeance’. It was in this matter that, for the first two hours of the broadcast, the girls watched with a mixture of excitement and tension as they prayed for his victory…
By the time his fight with Ottar had started, few people were able to stay seated and, much like Vana, several of the other girls had joined in as they practically screamed at the projection. Though there were quite a few details missing, as the orbs couldn’t really capture everything going on, they were still able to see the moment when Vahn had transformed into his ‘Imperatoris Ignis Mk 1’ form. Vana, unable to contain herself, actually burst into flames of her own, fortunately avoiding setting any of the furniture on fire. Then, when they saw him almost immediately lose an arm after that, Ina had nearly fainted, fortunately with Hephaestus there to support her. In the end, she was glad she didn’t as, much like everyone else, they were able to witness how ‘invincible’ her Papa truly was…
Now, the same evening after their reunion, Vahn, the man publically considered the ‘Strongest’, was dressed in an adult bear costume with three little bear cubs clinging to his body. Ever since the start of the Monster Feria, the girls had, understandably, had a bit of trouble going to sleep at night. They would periodically imagine themselves fighting against monsters, especially Vana, as she genuinely wanted to become a Hero in the future. However, as rambunctious as she was, Vana was a very kind-hearted girl and, even though she hadn’t given up on her dream, it made her sad just thinking about killing anything, monster or otherwise.
Since then, Vahn had been sleeping in the same bed as the three girls, with Hephaestus and Loki often joining them. Tonight, as a form of parent-child bonding, Vahn had them all dress up in tiny bear pajamas and, being the Papa bear, he also wore a plush and comfortable costume as they all snuggled up together and went to sleep. Since they had been watching the entire broadcast, the girls were all very tired so, for tonight, Vahn had just been sleeping with them alone. Loki had a number of things to ‘take care’ of and, being the fiery and overprotective goddess she always had been, Hephaestus was helping out.
Of course, that didn’t mean Vahn was just leaving everything to them, as he had also split his body into two in order to help track down some priority targets trying to flee the city. There was one group in particular that he had taken note of and, after conferring with Loki, he immediately set out to track them down before they missed the timing again. Thus, after moving through Daedalus Street, following a few twists and turns through various buildings, Vahn found his way into a rather gaudy ‘throne room’. Before him, doing his best to appear nonplussed, Apollo sat on his golden throne while a rather handsome man nursed two broken arms and tried to protect him with his body.
Tightly gripping the armrests of his throne, Apollo glared towards Vahn with his golden eyes as an icy voice escaped his lips, “Vahn…Mason…why have you come here…? Why are you attacking my Familia!?” While speaking, a sun-like radiance began to shroud Apollo’s body as his Divinity began to shine forth, ready to activate at a moment’s notice. Vahn, being influenced by the inherent state of his [Magia Erebea] cells, felt like his skin was tingling but kept his composure as he said plainly, “You have harbored ill will towards myself, my family, and the Alliance…you have even tried to send assassins to kill me during the Monster Feria today and, most importantly, you are supposed to have already fled the city. The fact you’re here, without reporting your activities to the Guild, shows that you’re operating illegally…and this place…disgusting…”
Vahn hadn’t come into Apollo’s den on his own and, for the first time since he started proactively fighting his enemies, the ‘combat’ group of the Hearth Familia had come along with him. Though he had penetrated directly to the heart of Apollo’s stronghold, Ais, Tiona, Tione, Lefiya, Chloe, Arnya, Lunoire, Haruhime, Mikoto, Emiru, and Maemi were all wreaking havoc on their own. With their current Levels, combined with their [Pactio] forms, there hadn’t been any real opposition the entire time. Even the Captain of the Apollo Familia, the man with two broken arms trying to protect his errant god, was simply around the peak of Level 3…
While he had been dealing with Apollo, the girls had been raiding the stronghold, defeating the members that tried to fight back, and securing all of the people held captive by Apollo. The fact there had been more than fifty Elven slaves had been a great surprise to them and, after he had heard this through his shared telepathy with the girls, Vahn’s visage had become icy. One of the things he hated the most was when people were forced to serve other people against there will, especially when that person was some arrogant god like Apollo. Some of the female Elves had even been found locked away in what was obviously a pleasure dungeon, chained and gagged as they awaited a fate some considered worse than death.
Apollo, now shining like the very sun in the sky, rose to his feet and said, “You pathetic mortal…do you truly believe yourself the equal of a god…? That power you pride yourself for, do you believe it to be inviolable…?” Without holding anything back, Apollo allowed the aura of his Divinity to fill the hall as his eyes began to glow like flames. With a wrathful expression, he shouted out at the top of his voice, “You are just a brat that understands nothing of true power! How dare you try to usurp a right given to us gods!? YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL, VAHN MASON, YOU ARE A ABHORATION THAT THREATENS THE BALANCE OF THE WORLD!!! NOW, FACE MY DIVINE WRATH AND KNOW YOUR PLACE!!!”
Though he would get ejected and forced back to Heaven, Apollo ‘needed’ to destroy the boy in front of him completely. Vahn didn’t just threaten his own ‘right’ as a god, but the rights of all gods that had been formed in Heaven. Apollo simply couldn’t tolerate the idea of a mortal doing whatever he pleased, especially if it prevented him from doing what he wanted. The fact he had to act so cautiously, just because Vahn existed, had infuriated him to no end.
Unable to contain himself any longer, Apollo sent out a wave of energy, almost like a solar flare, that incinerated his own Captain, Hyakinthos Clio, and turned the latter’s body into ashes in an instant. Though Apollo felt a bit of pain in his heart, he continued to glare towards Vahn with a vengeful expression and ‘willed’ the boy before him to get incinerated into nothingness. Even Vahn’s soul wouldn’t escape his wrath as, on his way back to Heaven, Apollo swore he would do everything in his power to tear apart and imprison it for as long as he could…
Vahn was a little stunned by the terrifying might of Apollo’s Arcanum being fired towards him, even if it was much weaker than it would have been in Heaven. However, he wasn’t remotely afraid of the attack and, surprising the proud Sun God, Vahn stepped ‘into’ the attack. Though it made every cell of his body feel like it was itching, Vahn didn’t take any actual damage since, as a result of his bond with the ‘eternal flame’, Vahn was completely immune to all Yang based flames. Since the flames from the sun were exactly that, Vahn couldn’t be damaged by Apollo’s attack at all, even though it made him want to gouge his flesh with how absolutely irritating it was.
Seeing Vahn walk through his attack, something which should have completely annihilated the mortal boy before him, Apollo was completely awestruck. This was something that was simply ‘impossible’, so far outside the realm of probability that it would have never even crossed the minds of any god, including himself. However, he was forgetting that the vast majority of things that Vahn had accomplished over the last 21 months were supposedly impossible.
Now, Apollo was beginning to regret not treating Cassandra Ilion’s ‘prophecy’ even more seriously. Time and again, she had told him that his actions would lead to their destruction but, no matter how he had ‘tried’ to change this, the prophecy never changed. Apollo was simply fed up with it all and, much like the Elves he had been trying to break, she had been chained up with them as punishment for her ‘failed’ divinations. One of the last thoughts that crossed his mind, as Vahn’s fist tore through the void towards his face, was that he shouldn’t have doubted her at all…
Though Apollo was getting ejected from the world for using his Divinity, Vahn wanted to make sure he wasn’t able to return to the mortal world any time soon. Having your ‘avatar’ destroyed would require you to spend nearly a hundred years just to form a new one and that would earn them plenty of time to change the world before the arrogant god could even think about returning. He also had a lot of regrets about how Chloe had borne the weight of his indecision against Laverna, the small goddess he had confronted long ago in the escape tunnels beneath the city.
This time, Vahn would bear the weight on his own shoulders and, even if there was a backlash from the godly community, he was positive they could tide it over. After all, Apollo was undoubtedly in the wrong right now and, even if he tried to hide it, everyone in Heaven would be able to discern that he had already used his Divinity against a mortal. The fact he had failed, and had been attacked, as a result, would undoubtedly earn him even greater ridicule. Though some gods, especially those that already disliked him, might try to find trouble in the future, the Alliance had already reached a point where its momentum simply couldn’t be halted anymore.
Thus, without any hesitation, Vahn buried his fist into Apollo’s face, feeling the bones break beneath the force of his punch as the once-handsome god’s face distorted around his fist. In the next instant, a shockwave began to transmit from the force of the blow and caused Apollo’s head to disintegrate into red mist as his now headless body fell to the ground and started to dissipate into particles of light. Vahn, not entirely satisfied with the result, placed his palm against the Apollo’s remnants and, much like he would store a monster’s body, stowed it away in his Inventory. Even if he couldn’t make use of the body for anything meaningful, Vahn knew it would at least make it more difficult for Apollo to recreate his avatar in the future…
With Apollo dead, Vahn turned his eyes to the human-shaped shadowy blotch on the ground where the Captain of the Apollo Familia had once stood. The fact the man had defended his god, even as the latter burned his body to a crisp, made Vahn respect his convictions. Even if they couldn’t see eye-to-eye, on a fundamental level, Vahn knew there were some things in the world that simply deserved respect, especially in relation to the dead. Thus, bringing his palms together, Vahn prayed that the man would find happiness in his next incarnation. Hopefully, if his loyalty held true in the next life, Hyakinthos Clio would find a much better master to serve…
After finishing his prayer, Vahn focused his mind and sensed the stress levels of each of the girls he shared a [Pactio] with. None of them seemed to be in a heightened state of duress so he asked the person most likely to answer his questions clearly, (“Lefiya, can you explain the situation to me?”) In response, Vahn felt the peculiar ‘delay’ once again, squinting his eyes slightly as Lefiya’s voice sounded within his mind, (“Ah, Master, everything is under control here! We noticed that the slave crests on all the girls’ bodies had deactivated and are now freeing them from their contracts~!”)
If a slave’s master had died, without any clauses within the contract to ‘free’ them, their contracts would become ‘open’ at that point. Generally, such slaves would immediately become the property of whoever found them next, an aspect of the system that Vahn thought was highly flawed. Fortunately, there were some benefits to it as, right now, the slaves had all fallen under the ownership of the girls and could easily be released as a result. This brought a small smile to his face until, shortly after Lefiya’s voice faded, Chloe’s sounded out in his mind, saying, (“Vahn, there are two girls here I think you should speak with. One of them says she has something very important to tell you and won’t reveal any of the details until you show up…”)
After sending an affirmation, Vahn quickly made his way over to where the girls were, not bothering to loot any of the items within the throne and adjacent treasure rooms. He would leave them for the Alliance to sort out later, as his own wealth and resources were nigh-infinite if he wanted to exploit his own body to the limits.
Ever since he became a Progenitor, that could also emulate the abilities of a Doppelganger, Vahn had been able to use his own body as a ‘factory’ to produce any material he had an understanding of. Though it would produce negative karma if he tried to use these materials to generate wealth, there were no consequences for creating materials that he could use in forging. He couldn’t sell the materials, nor the resultant equipment, for OP, but he still earned a sizeable amount from creating the items themselves. (A/N: This means Vahn can’t grow an Adamantine Ingot from his body and just feed it into the system for a few thousand OP. Items harvested from his own body, just like his blood, would sell for a whopping 0. Trying to sell those items to other people, for petty wealth, would lead to gaining negative karma.)
After moving through a few corridors, heading down a few flights of stairs, and passing through a heavily reinforced gate, Vahn found himself inside of a foul-smelling dungeon. He knew exactly what purpose this place held and, before he even started talking with the girls Chloe wanted him to meet, Vahn turned to Ais, Tiona, and Lefiya, saying, “Get these girls out of this hell hole. You can free them on the surface after taking them to safety…” Just the smell alone annoyed Vahn and, considering they could have been here for months, he knew the girls probably wanted to get out of this dark place as soon as possible.
Without questioning his words, the three girls began escorting the former slaves to the surface while Vahn passed each of them cloaks to conceal their bodies. Many of them were shedding tears and, as the majority of the girls were Elves, Vahn felt like he had an exposed nerve that had been touched. The matter of Riveria’s father still weighed heavily on his mind and, knowing the man was about to be heading off to his death, Vahn was sensitive to any matter concerning Elves. Seeing the girls like this, made slaves for the benefit of people who were supposed to protect them, he felt an icy sensation spreading through his mind…