Chapter 769: Rebuke

For several seconds, Vahn experienced a blanking of his thoughts before the gears within began to grind at a very fast rate. He realized he had overlooked some things and, seeing the collar around the young woman’s neck, Vahn started to make sense of the situation. Thus, before things could get further out of control, Vahn gestured with his hand and forced Sylfia to stand straight as he gazed into her dark blue eyes and said, “I absolve you of your slave contract. You are free to live as you please; I do not require servants, nor will I accept the responsibility of your life under these circumstances. Instead, as the High Priestess, you should consider what actions you can take to better the lives of your people in the future…”

Since it was within his domain, Vahn flicked his finger and caused the collar around Sylfia’s neck to disappear, stunning the young High Elf, and the already stunned members of the High Priestess faction. Without sparing her another glance, Vahn turned towards the crowd of Elves and began to ascend into the sky as his voice carried across the void and sounded within each of their ears, “Some of you may come to hate and resent me, but know that my intentions are to help you walk towards a brighter future. Change is going to come to the Elven Kingdom in the near future and I cannot promise that it will be easy…however, I will work alongside your leaders to make sure things transition as smoothly as possible…”

Turning back to look down upon Sylfia and Irisalia, Vahn squinted his eyes slightly and said, “The High Priestess Faction has the most stable group right now…you have an obligation to your people to help restore some semblance of normalcy to this situation. Conduct a census and try to find out if anyone is missing. Once that is taken care of, make sure your Faction comes to the Palace so we can discuss the future of the Elven Kingdom…for the time being, access to the Sacred Trees will be closed off…focus on the things you ‘need’ to do, instead of what you want to do in order to secure your own power and authority…”

Vahn had decided to give the High Priestess Faction a ‘test’ to see if they could be trusted as, at least from what he had seen, it was very difficult to put his faith in them. Though their High Priestess, Sylfia, seemed to be a ‘reasonably’ sensible person, that didn’t mean the rest of the Faction was. It was obvious at a glance that, while they placed some importance on her, Sylfia didn’t actually have power and authority yet. The fact they had let her enslave herself to the opposing party, all while gritting their teeth in the back, showed that they didn’t place much emphasis on her existence. Like the Nobles and the Sage Council, it looked like the High Priestess Faction had its own form of corruption…

Without staying to hear if they were agreeing to his words, Vahn flew towards the Palace while sending telepathic messages to the girls at the Manor. At the same time, he communicated his intent to Terra and Fenrir, the latter of which had been wreaking havoc within the territories of the Nobles. She hadn’t killed anyone, but there were hundreds of people who had their limbs frozen solid or had lost limbs due to her claws. When she had been putting out fires and tracking people down, several members of the Noble Faction had tried to attack her, causing Fenrir to follow their scent back to their residences. She didn’t know who was bad so, instead of killing them outright, Fenrir had just disabled anyone that tried to attack her.

After a few minutes of waiting, Fenrir showed up at the entrance to the Palace, body soaked through from the heavy downpour outside. Vahn extended his hand and pulled the water away while stroking her thick mat of midnight blue hair with his palm, smiling as he softly said, “You did well, Fenrir, thank you…” Fenrir just nodded her head, squinting her eyes happily as she enjoyed the warmth coming from her Master’s palm. The two then made their way into the Palace, where only a few Royal Guards and servants could be seen trying to clean things up. Nobody tried to bar their passage along the way, something Vahn appreciated since he was getting really tired of his ‘allies’ showing hostility towards him.

Within the Throne Room, there were several officials that had been gathered together around a large wooden table that was covered in documents. Larfal was arguing with another tall High Elf and, when Vahn saw the dark aura shrouding the latter, he had immediately blinked over with [Shundo]. before the latter could say anything in his defense, Vahn had extended his hand forward and pierce the man’s abdomen, shattering the core where his mana formed and forcing him to the ground. The other people present loudly exclaimed when they witnessed this but Vahn silenced them by passing his eyes across their figures.

Larfal, seeing one of his Royal Court bleeding out on the floor, turned to Vahn with a very tired expression on his face and asked, “So, even those that I’m supposed to rely on have turned against me…?” In response to this, Vahn turned his eyes to match those of his Father-in-Law, explaining, “These eight men seem decent enough…this one, however, has a black aura, just like the men who had been conspiring to seize the throne and exploit the Elven people further…nobody with this black an aura deserves to hold a position of power. I only spared him so you can mete out a proper punishment after investigating his affairs…”

Hearing this, Larfal nodded his head before shouting for two of his guards to take his former Finance Minister to the Palace Dungeon. He wasn’t actually that surprised that the man responsible for monitoring the finances of the Kingdom had been one of the corrupt officials serving the interests of the Noble Faction. The fact he had been trying to force him to reign in Vahn and ‘investigate the truth of the matter’ had been a pretty big red flag. Though it was certainly ‘correct’ to seek justice, now, perhaps, wasn’t the time for such things. Larfal knew Vahn’s methods were a bit extreme but, considering the catastrophe that had nearly befallen the Elven Kingdom, it was undoubtedly the time for extreme measures…

To clarify things, Larfal turned to the surviving members of his court and explained, “This is our son-in-law, Vahn Mason, the Sage Aldrnari. As we previously explained, he is the one who prevented our assassination and, as his presence here suggests, the current catastrophe facing our people has largely been resolved…is that a correct assessment of the situation, Sage Vahn?” Vahn noticed the King was using polite speech and, even though he had just attacked a member of the Royal Court, he was willing to give his Father-in-Law face, bowing politely as he said, “That is correct, your Majesty. I have released the hostages held captive by the Noble Faction, put out the fires burning throughout the Kingdom, secured the safety of the Sacred Trees, and destroyed the Sage Council who had been machinating everything from behind the scenes…”

Hearing this, many of the gathered advisors and ministers drew in sharp breaths, one of them lightly exclaiming, “You destroyed the Sage Council…?” Raising his head, Vahn turned towards the man and stated plainly, “I’m not here to play games. The Sage Council were clearly responsible for many of the events that were plaguing the Kingdom, including the empowerment and manipulation of the Noble families. However, they will not be the only ones I destroy, as anyone who tries to get in the way of progress will be forced to step aside. Those that directly oppose the changes I will suggest will be rooted out, imprisoned, or killed…”

These words caused another one of the men, having rare red hair, to step in and say, “Sage Vahn, though we undoubtedly owe you our gratitude for helping us tide through this chaos, you cannot simply interfere with the affairs of the Kingdom on your whims! We need to focus on restoring order to the Kingdom, not bringing about changes proposed by an outsider! Even if you’re wed to the Princess, neither you nor she has any authority within the Kingdom…!”

Ignoring the man, Vahn turned towards Larfal and asked, “King Larfal, what is the title and occupation previously held by this…?” As the man hadn’t introduced himself, Vahn wasn’t exactly sure had to address him. In response to this, Larfal sighed and said, “This is Mesir Aod Hokai, former members of my council and Minister of Foreign Affairs…” Vahn nearly burst into laughter when he heard this man was supposed to be in charge of the relations between the Elven Kingdom and other countries. However, it put into perspective why the man was trying to take a hard stance on the issue, as he was very likely an Elven Supremacist, even if he hadn’t been eyeing the crown and personal gains.

Even so, Vahn was a little curious about something and asked, “Mesir, do you have a daughter or niece that is currently outside of the Elven Kingdom…?” Hearing this, the previously befuddled man furrowed his brows deeply and asked, “Do you know something about my niece…?” Vahn gestured in a dismissive manner, saying, “Relax, she is just someone I met recently and I noticed you had similar hair colors. She is within Orario, and I can’t really answer any questions about her, even if you asked. Besides, the more important matter right now is that you have been relieved of your position. For the time being, you should clean your own house before I have to come by and do it for you…if you are truly loyal to the Kingdom, you will stand aside on this matter and do as you are told.”

Before Mesir’s blood pressure caused him an aneurysm, Larfal raised his hand to silence the man and, with a stern expression on his face, stated, “Without Sage Vahn’s assistance, the Elven Kingdom itself would have faced destruction and fallen under a despotic regime. We have personally seen the extent of his capabilities and have absolute confidence that he acts in the interests of the Elven people, even if it goes against the interests of those currently holding power. As the Nobles were supposed to be the ‘servants’ of the people, we will extend to him our full support and authority. For the duration of this emergency situation, Vahn Mason, Sage Aldrnari, has been given full administrative rights to the Kingdom, including the right to enact Martial Law and depose officials, irrespective of position. As for his own position, let the court recognize that Vahn Mason is now the acting Prime Minister of the Elven Kingdom!”

Not only were the Ministers themselves surprised, but Vahn was also stunned to have suddenly been made Prime Minister by Larfal. However, it would make his future actions much easier to enact as he would now have a title granting him authority, instead of ‘forcing’ the change as an outsider. There were several policy changes he wanted to enact and, as it would be necessary to ‘clean house’, Vahn would be able to act with impunity. This also made it so, after everything was said and done, his actions could be interpreted as the decision of the Crown, meaning the reform would only strengthen the power of the King in the future. Since Larfal was intending to step down and hand over the crown to Masonia in the future, Vahn would essentially be strengthening the foundation of his own son’s rule in the future…assuming the latter became King.

Since he was linked with her telepathically, Vahn communicated the change in his ‘status’ to Riveria, who almost immediately asked him to bring her over. Though it still wasn’t the best time for such things, Vahn knew Riveria’s presence would also help smoothen things over in the interim. Without refusing her this time, Vahn moved to the side and chanted, “Let me Summon you, Riveria Ljos Alf~!” His sudden exclamation had surprised everyone within the room, sans Fenrir and Fafnir, but not nearly as much as when they saw a strange magic circle appear on the ground. Coming forth from a burst of subtle golden light, Riveria appeared, wearing her [Pactio] raiment, which took on the form of a very regal dress with her artifact being a seven-pronged silver crown on her head.

Larfal had no idea about his daughter’s [Pactio] and just thought Vahn had used a very rare and powerful spatial teleportation magic. The fact he had done something so advanced, using a single line incantation, had completely stunned everyone present. As for Riveria, she tapped the end of her [Magna Alfs] against the hard floor and calmly stated, “I will support my Husband’s decisions and provide aid to the Elven Kingdom and its people. Father, please assign me the role of Special Advisor to the acting Prime Minister…”

Though he had numerous questions, Larfal nodded his head and proclaimed in an authoritative voice, “Henceforth, Riveria Ljos Alf, Princess of the Elven Kingdom, shall hold the duties of Special Advisor to the acting Prime Minister, Vahn Mason, Sage Aldrnari!” Normally, such decisions would be put to a vote by the council but, given the circumstances, Larfal skipped the formalities and made the decisions personally. With Vahn and his daughter working together, Larfal had no doubt things would be resolved in a much smoother fashion than if Vahn had been the only one to act. Riveria’s popularity and rapport with the people were even higher than his own so they would more readily accept the changes proposed by Vahn if she supported him.

Nodding her head in acceptance, Riveria turned to Vahn and, seeing the ‘pain’ hidden in his eyes, her heart twisted in its chest. However, she kept her calm demeanor and asked, “What is your next plan of action, Prime Minister Vahn?” With his own expression softening a bit, Vahn turned to the gathered Ministers and stated, “The path walked by the Elven Kingdom for the last thousand years has led toward decline and stagnation. Not just the Nobles, but the Sage Council and the High Priestess Faction are all responsible for this occurrence. Henceforth, we will be introducing great reforms to the Elven Kingdom, including opening up the borders and renegotiating trade deals with other countries. The Alliance between the Elven Kingdom and the Iron Hills will be absolved, as their hand in the events that nearly caused the Kingdom’s destruction can be seen very clearly. Their bombs not only held nearly half the Elven population hostage, but they nearly burned down two of the Sacred Trees…”

For the next two hours, Vahn went on a very long diatribe, tearing apart all the old policies and verbally admonishing the failures of the Ministers themselves. It helped that, a few minutes after he had started, Terra ended up teleporting to his side while Fenrir continued to glare icily at each of the men who once held their heads up high above others. Vahn gave them all a chance to prove that their loyalty was towards the Elven people, tasking each of them to return to their own houses and imprison anyone they knew of wrongdoing. He gave them two days to clean things up before he would come through and do it for them. For those that tried to escape, or cover up the despotic ways of their family members, they would share in the punishment and responsibility.

Vahn knew it wouldn’t be possible to simply abolish the Nobility at present, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t slowly take away all of their power. Those that placed more emphasis on keeping that power, instead of doing what was best for the Elven people, would be removed from their positions. They would be forced to take vows and publically tried for their crimes, allowing the Elven people to see the truth of the matter as an investigation was conducted, prying into all of their affairs. When everything was said and done, the Noble houses themselves would be ‘purified’ and demoted from Duke status into simple houses that owned property. However, if they had been proven to be incapable of managing said property, it would be seized and forfeited to the country…

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Towards the latter half the discussion, a servant arrived within the Throne Room, announcing the arrival of the High Priestess Faction representatives. This had caused Vahn to reign in his anger a bit, sparing the gathered High Elves his fury for a moment. Though this would likely change, depending on the attitude of the High Priestess Faction, the latter had brought the group a momentary reprieve. Then, when Larfal gave his permission for them to enter, a group of three women came in, consisting of two mature High Elves with matching gold hair and pale pink eyes. Between them, there was a much smaller High Elf, standing at only 158cm tall and possessing white-gold hair and dark blue eyes. Vahn recognized all three of the women, knowing two of them to be named Sylfia Dal Alfan and Irisalia Els Lainu respectively. As for the other woman, she was the one who had tried to kill him with her gravity artifact, leading to the situation where he had struck her across the face.

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Vahn wasn’t surprised to see that the two older women had somewhat hostile auras towards him, filled with strands of red, orange, and a few threads of purple. What he was surprised to see, however, was the fact that the smaller of the three, Sylfia, had a sunny yellow aura, intermixed with a few stranged of sky blue and pink. This was very ‘normal’ for most of the girls he interacted with outside of the Manor, but it was very abnormal for the current circumstances. Vahn couldn’t help but frown slightly, wondering what he had done to leave such a ‘good’ impression on the younger of the three High Elves. Regardless, though it might be troublesome in the future, Vahn knew it would be beneficial to the current situation and just let the matter lay for the time being.

After approaching, Sylfia gave a polite bow towards Larfal, saying, “Forgive me, King Larfal, for not having made introductions prior to this tragic event. My name is Sylfia Dal Alfan, the current High Priestess of the Sacred Heart Tree…” Hearing this, some of the Ministers began to stir but it was Larfal who asked, “Dal Alfan…?” while looking towards one of his remaining Ministers, the Minister of Agriculture, Jericho Dal Alfan. The man looked as if he had just seen a ghost and, against any reasonable sense of propriety, exclaimed, “You are a child of the Dal Alfan family!? How could the High Priestess faction have kept such an important secret from us!? We-“

Before the man could continue any further, Vahn bore his aura down upon him and said, “If you even think about uttering some b******* about someone ‘belonging’ to a family, I will free yours from having to tolerate your idiocy. The High Priestess Faction has likely given shelter to many females from all the noble houses, including the royal family itself. Don’t think you have any right to lay claim to the life of another. If you truly believe that is the case, then I’ll extend my right to lay claim to your life…” Vahn had noticed the man’s aura flare up and begin to gravitate towards Sylfia the moment she announced her name, almost as if she ‘belonged’ to him. Now that he had made his threat, Vahn noticed that the man’s aura actually had a few strands of grey mixed in, slowly taking on a black hue as he scowled with clenched teeth.

The moment he saw this, Vahn had already appeared in front of the man, causing his eyes to widen as he attempted to bring his arms up into a defense position. Being a Level 5 Mage, without ever putting any focus on his physical parameters, Jericho was mid-movement when he felt a painful burning sensation in his chest. He hadn’t been completely crippled, but Vahn would follow-up with him later to see if the man had the lack of foresight to try and stir up trouble. Vahn knew that it was very ‘important’ to the Noble houses to keep their blood purity high and, with the existence of girls like Lefiya and Sylfia, they would do almost anything to get their hands on them.

This realization made Vahn wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to completely get rid of the Nobles outright. After all, though they would certainly spin it to make it appear as though only a few of their members had been part of the coup, there were more than a few reasons to hold them all accountable. When he stripped them of their titles later, it would be on these very grounds that Vahn passed judgment upon them. Before, he had intended to give them a little time to prepare, allowing them to either correct their ways or expose themselves. Now, however, it was looking like he would need to take more decisive action if he wanted to teach them a lesson…

Mid-thought, a bell-like voice sounded out from behind, saying, “Please, Vahn, do not be too harsh on him. I know well of the Minister’s actions, including those of his family. He had served the Kingdom loyally for more than one-hundred-seventy years, please be lenient with him…” Vahn felt like a bucket of cold water had been poured over his mind, causing him to release a sigh while staring down at the man holding his stomach. There was a palm-shaped burn on his chest and all the mana within his body had been destabilized, causing the man to eject the contents of his stomach onto the floor.

Riveria reached her hand out, placing it on his shoulder and mentally communicating, (“Vahn, you have been working very hard over the last few hours…leave the rest to me and just give me input on anything you want to change, okay…?”) Hearing Riveria’s calming words within his mind, Vahn’s tensions slowly began to release and he started thinking about his actions with a bit more clarity. He had given in to violence too easily after saving the King from his assassination attempt. So many things had compounded after the fact that, now that they were beginning to calm down, Vahn was struggling to get out of a battle-ready state. Thus, with a small nod, Vahn moved over to the side, pulled out a sofa for himself to sit on. Fenrir had already moved over and plopped down next to him, so Vahn snuggled up with her and began watching the proceedings with a lazy expression…

Though Vahn’s actions were more than a little ‘awkward’, nobody said anything to reprimand him, including Larfal and Riveria. Instead, they began talking about the changes Vahn had mentioned previously and how they would be dealing with the fallout of this event. Sylfia, even though it went against the will of Irisalia and Deina, agreed with many of the things Riveria had said. During the conversation, she would also send glances towards Vahn, wondering about the identity of the strange Chienthrope girl. She would also look over at the woman who had saved her previously, an existence, unlike anything she had ever encountered. Then, completing the cycle, Sylfia would look to Riveria, who she knew to be Vahn’s wife, and couldn’t help but wonder about the other girls that surrounded Vahn…

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