Chapter 766: Mastermind

As before, it didn’t take Vahn long to arrive at the next Sacred Tree but, unlike the previous instance, the group responsible for attacking the tree had already been dealt with. Standing amongst a group of very realistic statues, Vahn saw Terra talking with a group of Elves, led by two High Elves. The rain had already started to fall from the sky overhead but there was an almost completely transparent barrier protecting them from the downpour that was slowly putting out the surrounding fires.

Terra, having immediately noticed her Master’s arrival, stopped talking to the smaller High Elf and turned to face him with a gentle smile on her face. When the Elves themselves turned, however, the majority of them became pale when they saw his appearance. Currently, he was still in his ‘Lightning Raiment’ [Magia Erebea] and, to avoid the situation of getting spontaneously crushed by gravity magic, Vahn kept his Xuánwǔ form active. This gave him onyx black skin, radiant white tattoos that glimmered with lightning elemental energy, spikey white hair, black sclera around his eyes, and pure white irises that cut through the rain like two fiercely glowing lanterns.

The larger of the two High Elves raised her staff, causing a magic circle to appear beneath her feet as the surrounding Elves tried to move into a defensive formation. However, the moment they took these actions, a voice that seemed to cut through the void, straight to the bone, sounded out an “Ara~?” Though she still kept her smile, Terra’s expression had suddenly become icy and a very heavy and oppressive aura emerged from her body, completely stunning the group of Elves who had been treating her as a savior previously. After all, unlike the ‘vision’ they had of Vahn, Terra’s presence had a very calm and natural feeling, contrasting the domineering and fierce look of the onyx-skinned boy.

Sensing the overbearing might of the woman who had previously saved them, the smaller of the two High Elves muttered, “You’re a companion of Vahn Mason…?” This caused the bigger of the two to follow up, saying, “I see…it seems we have made a grave error this time around…” As if to accentuate her words further, a small falcon tore through the rain and landed on the taller High Elves staff, bearing a small message in a leather tube tied to its legs. Doing her best to ignore the oppressive feeling of Terra’s aura, she untied the message and read the contents, releasing a deeply profound sigh.

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Vahn understood that the misunderstanding had been cleared up, at least partially, so he turned to Terra and said, “I’ll leave this area to you. Make sure there are no enemies still trying to attack the Sacred Trees. I’ll check the surrounding area and then head to the Palace.” Terra, still releasing her aura, smiled and said, “I understand, Master. Please, leave this area to me…” At the end of her words, Terra raised her index finger towards a spot in the nearby canopy and shot a vibrant white beam of light that tore through the void like a laser beam. Within the area she had targetted, previously concealed by the leaves, an elderly High Elf now stood on the branch of a tree, completely turned to stone.

With a small nod, Vahn pulled out his bow and shot an arrow of his own towards a different location, this time causing the concealed man to try and jump away. However, as though his arrow had a mind of its own, it curved towards the man and, after piercing through a barrier protecting his body, embedded itself into his spine. He released a loud cry, howling like a beast as he tried to remove the arrow that had completely shattered his ‘core’. Unable to make use of his mana, the elderly High Elf began to shiver as the cold rain soaked into his aged body, quickly reducing his body temperature.

As they were the only two ‘threats’ remaining in the area, Vahn made his way towards the very fantasy-esque Palace that was formed of ornate wooden structures that seemed both constructed and natural at the same time. It almost appeared as though the Palace itself had been ‘grown’ into the shape it currently held which, upon checking the information within the books contained within his mind, Vahn knew was the reality. He hadn’t thought about it previously but, if such types of construction were possible, it would be an ideal method to make use of when he builds Haven in the future. After all, his [Seed of the Tree of Life] would become the foundation for Haven in the future, with a large population of Elves and First-Class Adventurers…

Upon arriving at the Palace, Vahn found a number of dead bodies strewn about all over the place, belonging to several distinct groups. The most recent corpses, however, all had something in common, being that the majority of them had been pierced by a sharp object. Vahn knew these wounds must have been caused by Fafnir so, following the trail of his trusted subordinates energy, Vahn quickly arrived at the location of where the King was talking down on a man who was bleeding from the stomach. Fafnir peeked up out of Larfal’s shadow, drawing the attention of everyone in the room as the latter released a sigh, saying, “It seems my haste to throw away my own life almost led to an even greater tragedy…haaaa…”

The High Elf on the ground, spitting up a globule of black blood, turned his crazed eyes towards Vahn and shouted, “You, you, you, you! Why is it always you!? Damnit…!” Previously, Vahn hadn’t even noticed who was on the ground but, after hearing the voice, immediately understood who it was. With an incredulous look on his face, Vahn looked down at the man and asked, “Alosrin…?” However, this confusion didn’t last for very long as Vahn’s expression immediately turned icy and he continued, saying, “You simply never learn…tell me, foolish child, exactly how much are you willing to throw away to continue this despotic lifestyle of yours!? Not only do you bring ruin to yourself, but you bring ruin to your own people, your own family!”

Vahn could see that Alosrin’s body was still crippled but, flowing overtop his previously red and green mana circuits, there was now a sickly black aura. He had obviously consumed something tainted by demonic and cursed energy, likely in an effort to regain his lost power. Knowing this, Vahn knew the man probably did even more unspeakable atrocities, completely disregarding the chance he had been given. Now, Vahn felt like this man needed to suffer as penance for everything he had done, even if some of those actions were only possible because he had been previously spared.

Alosrin, eyes blazing with pained indignation, screamed out like a banshee, “You took everything from me, you piece of filth! I was supposed to be King! I was supposed to marry that bi-” As he was prone to doing, Vahn didn’t let his enemies simply say whatever they wanted, especially since it would only serve to rile him up even further. The moment he heard mention of the word ‘marriage’, Vahn knew he was about to say something offensive regarding Riveria. Unable to tolerate such a slight, Vahn had moved forward with the swiftness of lightning and placed his palm on Alosrin’s head.

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Like a Goblin that had swallowed a Thunder Core, Alosrin began to seize up, froth building at his mouth while a foul smell of ammonia spread through the air. By the time Vahn ‘purified’ the malevolent energy inside the man’s body, as Lightning was one of the most effective elements against negative energy, the once proud High Elf looked like a charred corpse, even though he was still alive. However, this wouldn’t remain the case for long as, sensing a ‘link’ between Alosrin and a mysterious force ‘sever’, the man quickly began to shrivel up like a dried corpse. Though he would have missed it normally, Vahn’s senses were pushed to the extreme in his ‘Lightning Raiment’ and, with his [Eyes of Truth] active, he had been able to discern the slight fluctuation.

Without regard for what else was going on in the room, Vahn sent a telepathic message to Fafnir to protect the King while turning his body into pure lightning energy. The temperature of this energy, while contained to an extreme, could reach a monstrous 30,000 degrees Celsius, even without the infusion of his source energy. With it, however, Vahn’s temperature reached nearly 60,000 degrees Celsius while his speed reached nearly 300,000 kilometers per second. In an instant, literally, he had arrived at a very surprised and withered old man who looked like a living corpse. Vahn didn’t even know where he was at but, sensing the energy from the old man, knew the latter was near the peak of Level 8.

And, just like that, a Level 8 was erased from the world as Vahn bore through nearly 17km of solid ground just trying to slow down his charge. He had launched himself forward with such momentum that an almost perfect cylindrical tunnel had been formed, probing into the earth at an angle of around 24 degrees, carving a vast channel into the subterranean depths below. Vahn almost felt like the flames of a Valgang Dragon, which could make a perfect tunnel through kilometers of hard Dungeon bedrock, penetrating through seven Floors in the process. It was fortunate that his current speed was very fast or it would have felt very awkward climbing out of the 5m diameter tunnel he had just formed.

Upon arriving out of the hole, Vahn looked around the area and noticed he was inside a heavily secured Sanctum located within the roots of a Sacred Tree. He didn’t know his exact location but could feel the presence of several individuals nearby, many of which had strengths ranging in power between Levels 5-7. Using deductive reasoning, Vahn understood he was likely located at a secret meeting spot for the Sage Council, as they were the only group of concentrated powerhouses within the Elven Kingdom. Though he was certain not all of them had allied with the Nobles, Vahn knew that they had to have reached some accord if they had the audacity to try and besiege the High Priestess Faction.

Since he had likely just killed their leader, Vahn used his lightning variant [Shundo] to quickly move through the corridors, destroying any barriers that tried to bar his passage. Now that he had decided to take decisive action on behalf of the Elven Kingdom, Vahn wasn’t going to hold back. He quickly found himself in a room with four individuals, three of them being High Elven males while one was a very unwilling High Elven female, likely kidnapped as a result of the chaos above. Vahn had just enough time to hear the man finish threatening the woman before he blinked next to them, giving the despots the same treatment he had afforded Alosrin.

With only two hands free to fry scum, this left the last High Elf to try and counterattack with a crimson red twig. Vahn didn’t even blink as a red beam of light shot from the twig and pierced straight through his chest, creating a void that was immediately healed a moment later. The man’s eyes started to widen into saucers but, before the muscles were able to reach their full opening, Vahn had already appeared before the man, returning the favor by creating a hole where the latter’s heart had been. His attack had been so fast that, other than a flash of vibrant white light, like lightning striking the earth, there were no other indicators of the attack before it had been completed.

Releasing a stagnant breath, Vahn turned to the scantily clad High Elven woman and threw a blanket over her, saying, “Sorry you had to see that. I’ll leave a change of clothing on the bed and take these two fools into another room. When you’ve fixed yourself up, you can find me or follow the path leading down until you see a huge opening. If you follow that opening, it will take you to the surface and exit into the Palace Throne Room. The King and his Royal Guards are there, along with my companion, and they will protect you…”

Though he wanted to try and comfort her better, Vahn was currently in his [Magia Erebea] form and it would take too much of his energy to revert back to normal and transform again. Thus, after he finished laying out her options, Vahn picked up the two crispy High Elves by the scruff and dragged them out of the room, not minding the few ambient sparks traveling from his hands into their bodies. Though they twitched and seized up every time it happened, Vahn gave them no quarter for their horrendous actions. Even so, when he heard a bell-like voice sound out, “T-Thank you…”, Vahn still turned his head and gave a polite nod, matching the woman’s emerald green eyes for a moment.

After moving to the next room, Vahn threw the two men against the wall and, before they were able to fall, pinned them into the wooden surface with pure black spears. He made sure to miss their vitals, and any important bits that would cause them to bleed out, but they still shrieked in pain as one of the men gnashed his teeth, pleading, “Please, spare us…! We were only doing what was necessary for the survival of our people!” In response to this, Vahn just snorted, twisting the spear as he said, “If this is how your people ‘need’ to live, it would be better off if they were dead. A life of exploitation isn’t living, it is an expression of cruelty and despotism. Don’t give me that s*** like you have some moral high ground to stand on! The two of you are nothing more than swine, wearing the flesh of civilized men!”

At this moment, Vahn felt like something inside of him had ‘broken’, though it wasn’t just now that he had noticed it. From the time he had stepped in to save the King, Vahn had already ‘given up’ on trying to deal with these types of people in a passive manner. The more leeway you gave them, the more advantages they would try to seek as a result. They didn’t even put others in their eyes and only saw the world they wanted to see, from a perspective entirely their own. He couldn’t even understand how a group of people could feel ‘justified’ in their actions after kidnapping, threatening, and trying to **** someone. It was simply ridiculous!

Sending a flow of lightning elemental energy through the metallic spears, Vahn coldly asked, “Tell me…who else is involved with this attack? Did the entire Sage Council ally with those idiotic Nobles to try and stage a coup? Who came up with the idea to attack the High Priestess Faction? Tell me!” After shouting out, Vahn let up on the flow of energy, as they wouldn’t have been able to answer him otherwise. He didn’t care that they were both glaring at him, nor did he mind their pitch-black auras. The only thing that mattered right now was wrapping up this farce and trying to restore some semblance of ‘normalcy’ to the world. Even if he had to gouge out a huge chunk of the rotting flesh that made up the ruling faction of the Elven Kingdom, it would put them on the road to recovery in the future…

The man on his right suddenly adopted a vicious expression, smiling cruelly as he said, “F-Foolish b-b-b-boy! You think you cannnGYAAaaArgKyaaaaaakyuk!?” Not in the mood to humor the idiot’s drivel, Vahn turned his eyes towards the High Elf on his left, bearing his aura down on the man like a mountain as he said, “Answer my questions…” The entire time the man was explaining, Vahn continued to send pulses of electricity into the body of his companion on the right. At one point, he got a notification that he had gained a point of negative karma, which was the only reason he stopped frying the now catatonic and drooling High Elf, charred black with his eyes having pooled into a milky organic mess filled with puss.

Not wanting to end up in the same state as his counterpart, the remaining High Elf explained that the Sage Council had passed a vote to provide aid to four of the Nobles houses. Realizing that their line towards the future was slowly being cut off, as a result of all the female High Elves residing in the High Priestess Faction, it was decided that they needed to take drastic action. Their plan was to burn the Sacred Trees that weren’t under their control, secure the borders of the Elven Kingdom, and initiate a ‘forced breeding’ policy to recoup their dwindling numbers.

As they were unable to defeat the High Priestess Faction head on, they had used specialized explosives purchased from the Dwarves to cause a large amount of collateral damage before gathering together all of the ‘sympathizers’ into a number of locations and holding them hostage. It was their hope that they would be able to get the High Priestess Faction to compromise after giving a demonstration of the bomb’s power but, after their initial attacks, it turned into a siege since the High Priestess Faction refused to compromise. Even so, they managed to keep the population at large under control after threatening to explode the bombs if anyone tried to flee beyond the perimeter they had established.

After listening till this point, Vahn asked, “Then what was the purpose of Alfred attacking the King? If you were planning on conducting an attack within the Kingdom itself, then why bother trying to make it appear as though…” Even as he was speaking, Vahn was able to reason why the Sages Council had done things in this manner. From start to finish, they had actually been hiding in the shadows, supporting the Nobles without ever making their own presence known.

By sending Alfred to attack the King, all while the other Noble families enacted their plot, it would make it appear as though the scheme was wholly a result of the Nobles’ coup. Then, even if the Nobles failed in their attempt, the Sage Council could avoid the majority of the backlash and, instead of three factions of power, there would only be two. As the High Priestess Faction wasn’t trying to take over and lead the policies of the Kingdom, this would have left the Sage Council as the only governing body left. Even if the Nobles had succeeded, it looked like they had orchestrated things to make Alosrin into their puppet, meaning the final victory would have belonged to the Sage Council…at least, if he hadn’t shown up.

As this realization hit him, Vahn turned his attention back to the man and asked, “Who was the old man that had the malevolent energy? He is obviously the strongest member of the Sage Council, so you must have known who he was…did he plan all of this…?” In response to this, the High Elf male’s eyes opened wide as he stuttered, “D-d-d-did y-y-you…kill…him…?” Without any hesitation, Vahn nodded, a firm and fierce look in his eyes as he said, “In a single blow…I’m pretty sure your people will be talking about it a lot in the coming days…” This time, the man looked as though he had just heard the most ridiculous thing in the world, immediately shouting, “Impossible! Even if you’re very powerful, there is no way you could have killed the Archmage so easily…!”

Hearing the phrase ‘Archmage’, Vahn knew it meant the elder High Elf should have mastered the [Mage] Development Ability, making him one of the most powerful Mages in the world. It was unfortunate that, compared to the system of magic that he had learned from Eva, they were simply incomparable. Hell, even Tiona, who still had a whopping 0 Magic parameters, now had the [Mage] Development Ability at D-Rank, even without having to learn it from a Level-Up. Almost all the girls that had been studying magic had the Development Ability now, as it was something that could be obtained just by reaching a certain level of proficiency with magic. For girls like Riveria, Lefiya, and Haruhime, they already had [Archmage] in their Status Boards…it really wasn’t that impressive…

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