Chapter 772: Ripples : Waves

While things were trending in a positive direction in the life of Vahn, the Elves within the Elven Kingdom, and the people of Orario, the rest of the world wasn’t quite as peaceful. Though they had never truly taken action to preserve their alliance with the Elven Kingdom, the Dwarves of the Iron Hills were livid suddenly having all diplomatic relations cut off. Now, not only had they lost a lot of their business in the now bustling Orario, but their second trading partner had closed off their borders completely. Vahn, as acting Prime Minister, had publically renounced the policies of the Iron Hills and informed the world that he would not continue to tolerate their affronts to peace and civil society.

This announcement had come shortly after what many had been referring to as his ‘takeover’ of the Elven Kingdom but, considering that he was married to Riveria, and had been steadily improving the quality of life for the Elves, such rumors didn’t last long. The reputation of the Dwarves had been stagnating for a while and, as they didn’t have a positive relationship with Rakia, they suddenly found themselves without any substantial trading partners. Since their territory was severely lacking in agricultural lands, the sudden cut off of trade had been devastating to their people.

In order to prevent a famine, the Dwarves had tried to trade their goods for food, primarily focused on wheat and other grains. However, the Alliance had stepped forward at this point, once against circumventing the plans of the Dwarves when Loki gave them an ultimatum. In order to renegotiate trading deals between the Iron Hills and Orario, the Dwarves would have to return all the illegally purchased Elven Slaves and had to publically renounce all active Slave Farms that still existed within their territory.

Though the Dwarves did not agree to the later, they did hand over nearly 80% of the ill-gotten slaves, with the remaining amount being ‘unaccounted’ for after selling them through traders. Since the Dwarves were notorious for keeping a proper account of trades performed, this type of behavior made it so they were only able to exchange their goods at 40% of the initial value, something that had caused the leaders of the caravans to curse the upper echelons of their society.

Just to turn a profit, they had to mark up the prices of food within the Iron Hills several times, as the oceanic trip alone was very expensive. However, the group most affected by the increase in prices were the slaves that still existed within the territories, something that would come back to bite them very hard when Vahn learned about it later. After a few months had passed, Vahn ended up stepping in and ‘forcing’ the new deal, this time requiring that the Dwarves use their slaves as barter instead of their other products. Though he knew this was ‘beneficial’ for the Dwarves, Vahn had been more concerned about the slaves under their control and, by the time the matters of the Elven Kingdom had started to stabilize, more than 60,000 Slaves had been exported out of the Dwarven Kingdom.

As a result, Vahn was now hailed as the true hero of the Pallums, even more than Finn as the latter was never known to have accomplished any great feats for their people. Though he was very strong, it was easy to see that Vahn was much stronger and, unlike most people with power and authority, he showed a great deal of concern for the Pallum people. As most of the slaves that had been exported from the Iron Hills were Pallums, there was now a large community of Pallums within Orario, ‘affectionally’ referred to as ‘Little Town’ by the residents there. Later, when Vahn would visit there personally, he would end up being embarrassed greatly when he saw a statue of himself had been erected at the plaza they had constructed…

Other than the developing issues between the Alliance and the Iron Hills, there was a major shift occurring within the Rakia Kingdom as well. Though there had been a great deal of propaganda painting Vahn as a ‘Demon’ after the latter had destroyed all the border fortifications, things had escalated even further now. This had been the byproduct of a massive increase in the number of people trying to flee the Rakia Kingdom, exploiting the lack of border security. As a result, the Ares Familia had cracked down hard on the lower echelons of society and everyone below second class citizens had actually been forced into slave contracts or killed.

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Unfortunately, as there had been an absolute information lockdown of the events taking place in the Rakia Kingdom, with only a few rumors circulating about, Vahn had been unaware of these travesties. He had been so focused on the matters regarding the Elven Kingdom, the Alliance, and the internal affairs of the Hearth Manor, that it had slipped under his radar. Now, Rakia Kingdom had been consolidating its forces, performing a mass conscription effort that had increased their numbers from nearly 80,000 to more than 200,000. It almost seemed like they were preparing for a massive invasion, unlike anything the world had ever seen before…

To make matters worse, as a result of their antagonistic relationship with the Alliance, some of the less above-board families from the Iron Hills had started trading weapons and supplies to the Rakia Kingdom. These exchanges were highly illegal, even within the Iron Hills, but it didn’t seem like anyone was making any efforts to regulate them at the present. Officials within the Iron Hills, comprising the eight most powerful families, simply turned a blind eye to these black market dealings. It was their hope that, even though the Rakia Kingdom would likely fail in its efforts, they would be able to benefit from the resultant conflict…

Watching all of this from high atop the world, deep within the heart of the City of Heroes, there were three gods gathered around a circular table. Ultimately, though Zeus still harbored a grudge against Vahn, he decided to listen to Odin’s advice and watch how things play out. Since it could easily be seen that the actions Vahn was currently taking were ‘just’, it would have been counter to the fundamental nature of their organization to interfere before things had stabilized. They also couldn’t exactly try to fight him within the boundaries of the Elven Kingdom, or Orario, as the amount of devastation that would be wrought would be cataclysmic.

It was decided that, as long as Vahn was focused more on positive developments than actual control, he would be ‘allowed’ to continue. If, however, he tried to make a play for power and assume a high political position, they would send him a warning and begin preparing their own forces. Though the Heroes within the City had taken vows to not interfere with the matters of the world, unless it was endangered, Vahn’s presence at that point would become a real threat, at least in the interim. Yes, he might be able to create a much better world for the survivors, but the number of people that would die in the transition would be horrifying. After all, Vahn’s personal kill count at this point number in the five digits, something that made it very difficult to consider him a ‘true’ Hero…

Ultimately, it wasn’t simply Vahn’s actions that had caused Zeus to take a step back, as it had actually been the influence of his grandson that made him momentarily swallow his pride. Bell had ended up hearing of everything Vahn had done, mainly through a positive lens from interacting with people within their small village. As the people to benefit the most from Vahn’s efforts had been the poor, there were a large number of people that were migrating from the border villages and trying to enter Orario.

Previously, people only migrated to Orario if they wanted to become Adventurers, as it was very difficult to get established in the City without joining a Familia. Within the Alliance territory, however, the only thing you needed to do in order to get a foothold was to enter a two-year labor contract. Even if you didn’t want to become an Adventurer, you could earn a living by helping in the construction efforts, or working within one of the businesses within the Alliance’s territory. If you still wanted to become an Adventurer, it was now much easier to join a Familia since you just needed to go to the Guild and they would direct you to any recruiting Familia within the Alliance.

Presently, there were a total of 93 Familia comprising the Alliance, with their members accounting for more than 170,000 people, though the majority were support and logistics personnel. This was because, though there were several powerful Expedition-Type Familia within the Alliance, the majority of their Familia were production oriented. To add to this, the top three merchant Familia were also members and, as a result of the massive focus on production and distribution of items, combined with the large workforce controlled by the Alliance, they now had a monopoly on most of the high-quality goods and services. Almost everything, from small businesses, simple household goods, to high-end equipment, it all carried the mark of the Alliance and the Familia that had produced it.

Bell, after hearing about everything Vahn had done, and how ‘amazing’ a person he was, had become one of his biggest fans. The fact that Vahn was touted as a hero, who was also surrounded by a large number of beautiful women, had left a deep impression on the boy’s heart. After all, his Grandfather had been telling him for years that a true Hero was always surrounded by beauties, especially those they had saved within the Dungeon. Since there were girls like Naaza and Lili involved with Vahn, Bell believed Vahn was the exact type of Hero he wanted to be.

When Zeus heard his grandson fanboying over Vahn, he didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry. Though he had a personal grudge against Vahn, it was hard to paint him in a negative light without having any means to actually justify why Vahn was ‘wrong’. After all, he had been educating Bell to pursue the path of a Hero, very similar to the one Vahn had been walking for the last two and a half years. If he suddenly changed his tune, it could completely ruin the trust Bell had placed in him, as his words would be contrary to years of careful grooming, all without any easily justifiable excuses. Even if he tried to slander Vahn, it would likely come back to bite him in the end after Bell learned of the rumors associated with him…thus, begrudgingly, Zeus had returned to the City of Heroes and compromised with a very surprised Odin.

Now, unless Vahn started making a play for his own power and authority, Zeus had decided to keep his personal grudge close at heart but not allowing it to affect his decisions. Instead, he actually intended to have Bell try to join the Alliance when the latter finally started his journey. Because they were trying to get a foothold in the Dungeon, Zeus knew they would be a useful stepping stone on Bell’s own adventure, allowing him to kickstart his Heroic tale. Zeus also believed that Vahn himself would probably take note of Bell at some point and help promote his strength further. Since Vahn didn’t seem like the type to ‘force’ people into doing things, only making sure they weren’t acting to exploit others, his organization would be very beneficial for Bell’s growth.

At the same time, Zeus believed that Bell’s fate would actually put him in a position to even become Vahn’s protege and eventually rise up to the top of the Alliance’s internal power hierarchy. This would put Bell into a prime position to receive even more benefits in the future, even if it took several years for there to be any returns. After all, though there were several beautiful girls around Vahn, it was also well known that he had a large number of daughters. There were also hundreds of women that were drawn to him, from a variety of different species and, as Vahn had apparently ‘closed’ his doors to additional women, this made it very easy for others to swoop in and pick them up.

Though his grandson was a little girly, Zeus knew the boy had a powerful resolve just waiting to be awoken. After all, the flow of fate around Bell was unlike anything he had ever seen before and, in the future, Zeus knew it would set him on a road where he would reach the pinnacle. As the boy’s legend continued to expand, the number of women around Vahn would eventually shift their focus to the ‘available’ Bell, making him the prime candidate since the latter should be near the heart of the Alliance by then.

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After a few years passed, Zeus even believed his grandson might be able to conquer the hearts of some of Vahn’s daughters, especially those that he had sired with goddesses. Zeus knew the girls apparently grew up much faster than normal and, if rumors were to be believed, the three eldest actually appeared to be similar in age to his grandson. He felt like fate itself had engineered events to benefit his grandson and, in the future, Bell might even become the leader of the Heroes of Legend…

Though Odin didn’t know why Zeus had changed his mind, he was just grateful that the errant god avoided causing them even more trouble. With rumors of Vahn’s exploits also circulating among the members of Legend, some of the ‘troublesome’ Heroes had been talking about going to ‘test’ Vahn themselves. The only thing that prevented them from taking action were the vows that bound them and, unless they were given a ‘mission’ to deal with Vahn, they wouldn’t be able to justify their actions so easily.

Currently, the only way they could fight against Vahn would be to draw him out of the City, much like how Siegfried had done in the past. However, with all the things Vahn was currently involved with, it wasn’t that likely the latter would place any heavy emphasis on the challenges of others. There was also a very real chance that Vahn would be able to seriously injure, or kill, some of their members and, as they didn’t actually have a reason to fight right now, that would simply be wasteful. Presently, other than a few of their more ‘unique’ members, there weren’t any practical means to even deal with the ‘lightning elemental transformation’ of Vahn.

Few people would be able to contend with the speed and power afforded by such a technique and, if Zeus was to be believed, he actually seemed to have a transformation that allowed Vahn to manipulate time, at least with the help of his True Dragon. That was another one of the more troublesome aspects of Vahn, as the latter seemed to be able to greatly increase the strengths of others, including monsters. According to the information they had on hand, it was almost like everyone directly involved with Vahn were able to greatly increase their rate of growth. Many of the girls around him were actually approaching a Level where they themselves could be considered Heroes. This was the main reason that Odin wanted to get Vahn on their side, instead of antagonizing him, as they desperately needed to increase their own numbers.

Odin had put in a lot of effort siring the Valkyries, hoping they would become the companions of Heroes and help bolster their numbers further into the future. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t pan out very well because many of the Heroes were more interested in girls like Helen and, as a result of general incompatibilities, his daughters had essentially become glorified servants and messengers. It bothered Odin that his daughters weren’t actually able to serve any greater purpose, which was one of the reasons he sometimes allowed Zeus to release his tensions on them.

Odin hoped that one of the Valkyries would eventually give birth to a higher form Demigod, similar to what Vahn was purported to be. It also allowed him to release his own frustrations, as watching Hera rage and brood about always brought a smile to his face. The fact she always supported Zeus, regardless of what idiotic decisions the latter made, had always caused him an endless amount of frustrations. If not for the pact they had made long ago, Odin would have recruited more gods into their inner circle, just to avoid the situation where he was constantly forced to go along with their foolish decisions…

Far away from the City of Heroes, on the eastern side of the Continent of Eden, there was a vast forest that protected a fertile plain, completely inaccessible by anyone not of Amazonian heritage. This was the location of Telkyura, the country led by the current generation Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Other than the goddesses that resided within her borders, which were the main faith of her people, she had absolute power and complete control over the laws and regulations imposed upon her people. As the strongest of the Amazons, she was revered and respected by her people and, other than the goddesses themselves, there were none that could question her decisions.

This proud Queen, powerful and terrifying to all that knew her, was currently beating a pillar made of pure Adamantine with her bare fists. The number of Amazons that had been ‘curious’ about the outside world had been continuing to increase as of late. As a result, their ‘core’ strength had been decreasing rapidly and it was all because of Vahn, whose visage was carved into the Adamantine pillar Hippolyta was punching. She didn’t mind that her people wanted to seek out the ‘strongest’ potential mate but, instead of doing their duty, her Amazonesses were just off ‘playing games’.

The ‘purpose’ of Amazonesses leaving the country was supposed to be so they could find powerful mates, conceive children, and then return to their country to make sure the next generation was able to prosper. She hadn’t even cared that many of her people would become prostitutes as, at the very least, this allowed them to fulfill their purpose, their duty. Now, however, a large number of her people were migrating to Orario to play ‘sports’ and serve within the group that should be their enemy, the Alliance.

Hippolyta, by virtue of being the Queen of the Amazons, vehemently hated Orario and everything it represented. Like all Queens before her, she believed that her Amazonesses were the most superior species in the entire world, beneath only the gods themselves. The fact that Orario was a gathering place for many races, who then lived peacefully with each other, seemed like a very bad joke. Peace led to nothing but stagnation and creating an environment where the weak could prosper ran contrary to the very beliefs of her people. Knowing that her Amzonesses were ‘contributing’ to this massive farce, Hippolyta was very discontent…

The only reason she tolerated things thus far is that the Alliance had greatly improved the status and acceptance of Amazonesses within Orario. Instead of being treated as troublesome and licentious women, they were now highly respected and had greater rights afforded to them in the past. A large number of them were also part of the Alliance, which had the greatest concentration of ‘suitable’ males to choose from. Instead of being prostitutes in a brothel, they were often in close proximity to capable mates that would sire the next generation of Amazonesses.

This, however, didn’t mean Hippolyta liked the situation at all, especially when she heard how happily her people were talking about ‘sports’ instead of ‘fighting’. Within Telskyura, the only form of acceptable entertainment was dancing and fighting, often combined together. This allowed them to greatly increase their strength and continue their legacy that had been passed down for nearly ten thousand years. It also prevented their people from becoming stagnant, even if their culture didn’t move forward quickly…

From Hippolyta’s perspective, the changes in the perspective of her people would eventually force them to become stagnant, meaning she would have failed her ancestors. After all, if her people were focused more on ‘playing’ around, instead of fighting and increasing their strength, their mentality would slowly spread like a sickness that affected their entire race. However, as Orario was the only suitable place to send their people, there was almost nothing she could do to change the situation. She had no influence within Orario itself and, forcing her Amazonesses to go elsewhere would simply guarantee their progeny is weaker than they could have been…it was very vexing…

Suddenly sensing the approach of another person, Hippolyta turned around in a blur of motion, unsheathed her golden sword and pointed it towards the neck of the new arrival. Without even flinching, the Amazoness at the tip of her blade simply stated, “My Queen, we have managed to obtain an item known as a [Projection Sphere] after raiding one of the Alliance’s taverns. I have personally confirmed that it has the information you had requested!”

With a curt nod, Hippolyta sheathed her sword and took the strange orb into her hand, her expression not changing in the slightest as she said, “Good work, Myrina. Ensure that our sisters are properly compensated for their efforts. Leave me.” Myrina gave a practiced salute before immediately leaving the chamber and returning to her other duties. As one of the Queen’s personal guards, being one of the few Level 7s within Telskyura, her duties were without end. She also knew that, after witnessing the sports within the orb herself, that her Queen wouldn’t be happy when the latter viewed them. Though Myrina thought they were very entertaining to watch, it probably wouldn’t be seen that way by her Queen…

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