Not long after taking a few steps away from the King, the latter reached out his hand and exclaimed, “Wait…!” Vahn, having taken less than five steps, turned around with a simultaneously plaintive and solemn look, asking, “What is it…?” With his hand still in the air, Larfal remained silent for a few seconds before saying, “Vahn…thank you for saving my life…however, this is something that is nec-” Before Larfal could finish, Vahn interrupted him, asking, “How is it necessary? Why is it that good men have to die at the behest of greedy and despotic individuals? Tell me, Larfal, what would you have done if you weren’t ambushed along the way…!? Cut off your own head!?”
Larfal’s face turned into one of confusion, as he hadn’t expected Vahn to have such a sudden outburst. All of his experiences with the boy had made the latter out to be a very calm and rational individual, not the type of person to suddenly argue against the convictions of another. At the same time, however, Larfal considered Vahn’s words, wondering, what would he have done if there wasn’t an ambush waiting…he would have returned and, until the situation had worsened, continued working hard to help as many of his people as possible. There were many things in his life he had regrets about, one of the biggest being that he knew his people would continue to suffer for a while after his death.
Seeing Larfal unable to come up with an immediate response, Vahn squinted his eyes slightly and stated, “The future is limitless. As long as you draw breath, you should be doing whatever you can to create a better future for yourself, and others. You are a King, Larfal…you owe it to your people, not just your daughter and grandchild, to do everything in your power to defeat the enemies that would lay them low. Even if my assistance causes misunderstandings, we can focus on bringing change slowly, just like what I’m doing with the School…besides…” At the end of his words, Vahn pulled out a crystal object that was now very familiar to Larfal, a [Projection Sphere].
Because he thought it could be helpful to the King’s cause, or serve as a memento for his family, Vahn had been recording Larfal’s last moments. It was one of the things that had prevented him from taking action sooner, as his focus on ensuring the quality of the recording had helped to distract him, even if just a little. Now, though some of the sounds were hard to make out, he had almost irrefutable proof of the conspiracy to take the King’s life, even if people tried to spin things against them later on. Though some might still argue the the [Projection Sphere] is fake, they would have no way of proving it as there weren’t any similar items in the entire world. The few gods within the Elven Kingdom would easily be able to verify that authenticity of the item and, as long as they had even a small amount of support from the High Priestess Faction, things should proceed in a positive light.
Larfal was finding it very difficult to form any words to explain the various thoughts running through his mind. He had been so ‘determined’ to face his death that, now that he was alive, he actually didn’t know what the best course of action was. From the moment he had used the emergency escape teleportation circle, nearly two weeks prior, he had been anticipating his own death. Now, after having lost a large number of his most faithful men, he was giving another chance at life…? It just felt so empty, like he didn’t deserve the chance after having so many failures. The most problematic thing, however, was that he knew Vahn’s words cut through to the truth of the matter. Unless someone else took his life in a plot, his death would have no meaning, other than serving as a means of escaping a difficult situation…
Suddenly, while the two had been staring into each others’ eyes, waiting for the other party to give in first, a loud explosion resounded through the forest. Based on how the sound was muffled, it had to have come from hundreds of kilometers away, at the closest. Giving the distance, and direction, it was very easy to understand that the source had been the Elven Kingdom itself. Vahn had jerked his head back before leaping into the sky to get a better vantage but, after remembering that the Elven Kingdom was hidden by a massive formation, he returned to the ground and asked, “Will you stay here, brooding, or will you go to your people…?”
At the same time he was speaking to Larfal, Vahn, back at the Manor, was also taking actions of his own. He had been previously cuddling with Riveria but, now that things had developed so suddenly, he grabbed her shoulders and answered her confusion, “The Elven Kingdom is in danger. I’m going to help…” For a moment, Riveria’s confusion increased even further before her eyes suddenly opened wide and she asked, “Vahn…did you save…my father…?” Though he didn’t truly feel guilty, probably, Vahn still averted his eyes before nodding his head, saying, “I couldn’t just stand by and watch…”
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Riveria wasn’t angry at all and, instead of reprimanding him for doing something unnecessary, she tightly hugged him, exclaiming, “Vahn, than you…thank you so much…” In response to this, Vahn hugged Riveria tightly, stroking her long and silky smooth hair as he muttered, “I couldn’t stand to see you in such a state any longer…we had promised each other previously, to shoulder the burden of the future together…I can’t let you bear such a heavy weight on your own. I’d rather bear the weight of an entire Kingdom, together with you all, than watch a single one of you suffer…especially when I have the power to prevent it…”
Riveria’s expression turned especially soft upon hearing these words but, as if it had been an illusion, became very serious an instant later, asking, “What is the situation?” Vahn experienced a momentary pause before explaining, “There was an explosion coming from the direction of the Elven Kingdom. I’m currently helping your father and his men get prepared and intend to investigate the source of the explosion soon. Once I get a better understanding of the situation, I may bring Terra, Fafnir, and Fenrir to support…” Nodding her head in agreement, Riveria said, “If things get out of hand, make sure you call me as well…I’ll make sure our son is taken care of…go, Vahn, help our people…”
With a final nod, Vahn made his way over to Terra’s Garden while using his telepathy to communicate the situation with the other girls. Terra herself had already been called to the side of his main body so Vahn immediately submerged himself into the wellspring and began to meditate. This was a method he had come up with for emergency situations, as he could share energy with his other body through the link they shared together. By submerging himself in the wellspring, his natural recovery would be accelerated even further and, if there were a multi-pronged attack that targeted the Manor, he could use the Unit Management function to immediately call Terra back…
Back within the Western Forests, Vahn had quickly helped the 21 remaining Royal Guards get into fighting shape as three figures appeared nearby, startling everyone except Vahn himself. To prevent any problems, Vahn explained, “These are my trusted companions; they will help.” Without further explanation, Vahn turned to Terra, Fafnir, and Fenrir, explaining, “Terra, Fenrir, the two of you will accompany me to the Elven Kingdom. Terra, if there are any people that are injured, please do what you can to help them. Fenrir, you’ll deal with any fires that might have resulted from the explosion. If there are any people trying to attack you, try and incapacitate them without killing them. However, if you feel genuinely threatened…do not hesitate…”
Terra’s wings rustled slightly, nodding her head with a solemn expression, while Fenrir’s scarlet eyes just began to glimmer. Though Terra was a pacifist, it didn’t mean she would turn a blind eye to those trying to claim her own life. As for Fenrir, though she had never killed anyone, the only people she even placed in her eyes were those in the Manor, and those her Master wanted to protect.
Using Terra’s [Void Transferance], the entire group was teleported to the edge of the Elven Kingdom’s barrier, leaving only five men behind to tie up and escort the surviving attackers. Vahn was a little surprised to find that, even though they were right on the edge of the barrier, and there must have been conflict occurring on the other side, he only saw empty forest before him. Of course, the moment he opened his [Eyes of Truth], this was no longer the case. Instead, Vahn saw a thick membranous barrier and, on the opposite side, a sight that chilled his heart and mind slightly.
Larfal, not affected by the barrier in the first place, nearly fell to his knees but was prevented from doing so by one of his Royal Guards. They all had pale and almost hopeless expressions on their faces as, in the distance, two massive trees were currently burning amidst a much larger forest fire that sent plumes of smoke into the sky from various locations.
Looking to Fafnir, Vahn said, “Protect the King as best you can. Get him to the Palace and prevent anyone from trying to bring him harm…” Fafnir nodded, diving into the shadow of Larfal while Vahn began chanting his [Dios Tukos], meaning Axe of Lightning, and absorbing it into his body with [Magia Erebea]. Turning to the King, and his escort, Vahn stated in a commanding tone, “Protect his Highness and make sure he reaches the Palace safely. I will try to find the source of this attack and deal with it. Terra, Fenrir, you both know what to do.” The latter both nodded their heads, Terra taking to the sky while Fenrir dashed off like a phantom into the forest proper. Even though they were already within the Elven Kingdom, the majority of the area was still woodlands, with most of the houses congregated towards the center and made of natural materials.
In the sky, storm clouds began to form as a result of Terra coalescing a massive amount of water elemental energy and trying to cause a rainstorm. Vahn had already taken off into the woods himself at this point, following the sounds of fighting as he made his way towards one of the burning Sacred Trees. He didn’t know what was going on and, considering how important the Sacred Trees were to the Elves, it was hard to believe anyone would actually attack them. This would have been an outside attack and, considering the entourage that had accompanied Alfred, Vahn had an idea of who it could be. Presently, the Elven Kingdom was blockaded on the southern and eastern sides of the forest, leaving their only means of getting ‘reinforcements’ were the Dwarves to the North…and the Rakia Kingdom from the West…
Because he was in his ‘Lightning Raiment’, Vahn reached the closest Sacred Tree in only a few seconds time, even though it had been a few hundred kilometers away. Another reason he assumed it was the Rakia Kingdom was that the two burning Sacred Trees were located on the Western area of the forest, putting them in the closest proximity. When he got there, however, Vahn saw a small army of Elves besieging the burning tree while the fires within were constantly put out by those on the opposite side of a large barrier. There was an older High Elven woman maintaining the barrier, holding a jade-white staff adorned with five beautiful jewels before her. Vahn could tell she wouldn’t last long, however, as her energy had already begun to flicker under the constant bombardment of fire and lightning elemental magic spells.
There was no question in Vahn’s mind who was at fault in this situation so, without waiting for a single moment longer, he kicked off against the ground and dashed ‘through’ the besieging formation. It was a very difficult to describe feeling, having people ‘break’ around you, but Vahn didn’t really care at this moment and just used his Xuánwǔ form to increase his offensive and defensive capabilities. Along the way, as the group struggled to even understand what was going on, Vahn saw an especially arrogant looking group of men and appeared before them. They tried to counter using their magical artifacts but this was only because their brains hadn’t caught up with the fact that their legs had already been sliced clean through by his hand.
The three men, and one boy, all released blood-curdling screams, almost like pigs being slaughtered by a butcher. Their cries had caused the surviving attackers to shout things like, “Dal Alfan-Sama” and “Els Lainu-sama”, while lunging at him with their weapons. Vahn simply extended his hand out, releasing some of the lightning elemental energy from his body and attuning it to the magic power contained within the bodies of the Elves. As if seeking a ground, but unable to find one, the lightning traveled from his hand, extending into the body of one Elf and then bouncing to the next one in their formation. In what seemed like an instant, the lightning had bounced to each of the closest Elves before arcing towards the ground, melting an area of the dirt as it flickered and tried to arc towards the next Elf.
While he was chaining his lightning between the attackers, Vahn had already turned his attention to the woman maintaining the barrier. As if she had seen a ghost, her face became very pale and, as a result of her break in concentration, the barrier surrounding the based of the massive 10km tall tree had dispersed. Seeing this, Vahn extended his right hand, causing the woman to loudly exclaim, “No, please, do not harm the Sacred Treed further!” Without even chanting, the woman had produced a small purple pendant from her bosom and directed towards his body. Vahn suddenly felt like his weight had multiplied several times as a brackish-purple column of magical light appeared around his body, crushing him into the ground and breaking apart [Magia Erebea] form.
Though his immortality was enhanced to an extreme extent, Vahn’s actually defensive capabilities were severely reduced while in pure energy forms. Gravity was a very mysterious force and, even though it shouldn’t have affected his lightning elemental energy, each molecule of his body still contained mass at the moment. As a result, he couldn’t really resist the sudden gravitational well and was constantly having his body torn apart, causing him to internally retort, (“What the hell is this woman’s problem!? I just saved her and she immediately attacks me!?”)
Pumping more energy into his Xuánwǔ form, even though it was starting to drain his reserves very quickly, Vahn solidified his body and tried to disperse the gravitational force acting on him. Unfortunately, though he was able to stop the resistive force at the areas where he was contacting the ground, it didn’t really do anything to the force acting on each individual cell. Vahn felt like all his blood, capillaries, and even his nerves, were being weighed down and torn apart. It was a very infuriating feeling as, if he hadn’t possessed his [Magia Erebea] form, this foolish woman’s attack likely would have taken his life. Fortunately, the moment he was able to get his feet against the ground, Vahn used every fiber of his being to initiate a [Shundo], appearing next to the woman’s side in an instant.
Unable to resist the unbridled fury welling up inside him, Vahn brought the back of his hand across the woman’s face and shouted, “What the f*** is your problem!? I’m here to help you!” Though he had ‘tried’ to hold back, Vahn saw the woman spit out a molar while she shakily held her hand to her face. Seeing the severely swollen cheek, and the sheer terror in her expression, Vahn started to feel a little guilty but, considering what she just did, his expression stayed firm. Resisting the urge to apologize, he turned his palms back towards the Sacred Tree and, to the shock of the terrified High Elf, began to ‘pull’ all of the flames towards himself. Though he might not be able to cast other forms of magic in his [Magia Erebea] state, it didn’t mean his external elemental manipulation was affected. He had always had excellent control over fire elemental energy and it wasn’t that difficult to extinguish, move, or even absorb it, once it was within his domain.
After extinguishing the majority of the flames, leaving on a few areas that would naturally disperse on their own, Vahn turned back to the woman and snorted. He understood she was likely part of the High Priestess Faction, the same group that had been giving Riveria and the Alliance a cold shoulder recently. Though he didn’t know her reasons, the fact she had attacked him unprovoked had seriously pissed him off and, for the time being, she wasn’t worth the effort of talking to. Without sparing her a word, Vahn turned his attention to the other Sacred Tree and vanished from the area with a thunderclap marking his exit.
For several seconds after his departure, the High Elven woman continued to nurse her swollen cheek with a blank expression on her face. Then, as if remembering she could use healing magic, she uttered a quick chant as green energy began glowing from her palm. At the same time, she rose to her shaky feet and gestured to the young women running towards her that she didn’t need assistance. Instead, she turned to one of the girls with golden embroidery on her robe and said, “We need to send a message to my sister. Tell her that Vahn Mason…isn’t the reason for the Elven Kingdom’s destruction…” As the words left her lips, the woman, Deina Els Lainu, one of the most powerful Mages of the previous generation, couldn’t help but lament their lack of insight.
As the Elven maiden went to carry her message, Deina made her way into the Sacred Tree with the other girls escorting her, wondering what had happened to lead to this current situation. They had already started to implement the countermeasures provided by the King, as their scouts had reported that the procession was nearing the border. However, just as they were beginning to make their move, a small army led by the Noble Houses had started to siege them. The most troublesome thing was, even though they were currently staying hidden, she knew the Sage Council was also helping out. There was almost no magic that could be used by the despotic Nobles that would have been able to suddenly injure the Sacred Trees.
Previously, as a result of Sylfia’s vision, they assumed that Vahn had been the reason for the burning they had seen within the reflecting pool. Instead, it was their own people that had brought about such tragedy and, instead of accepting his help, they had been borderline hostile towards him. The fact she had used a treasure that had been kept safe by her family for generations to attack an ally was now weighing heavily on her heart. Though she was more than a little upset that Vahn had painfully slapped her cheek, Deina was doing her best to bear the tingling sensation that, even now, hadn’t faded from her body. She had constantly been trying to expel the foreign energy but, no matter how much of her own mana she mustered, it was ‘very’ persistent…