Nearly two hours after he scheduled the meeting, Vahn landed within the courtyard of the McKenneth Family Manor. There were barriers barring entrance to anyone that tried to enter from places other than the front entrance and, though he could have passed through without triggering them, Vahn chose to ‘break’ through the barrier this time around. This caused fluctuations through the barrier that set off several silent alarms, alerting everyone attuned to the formation of his arrival. As a result, several guards rushed towards his position but Vahn maintained a stoic appearance, back straight and chin tilted upward slightly. The guards, realizing who had ‘intruded’, froze on the spot and didn’t know if they should try to apprehend Vahn or make way so he could pass unobstructed…
Looking at the man with marginally more expensive armor, Vahn plainly stated, “Take me to the meeting room. I’m a little late, but I believe your Master should still be awaiting my arrival…?” Vahn had already sensed several presences gathered in what he assumed was one of the safe rooms of the Manor. They were unaware of who had intruded so Marcus must have moved them to safety until a report about the situation could be made. Vahn also sensed the presence of someone he had a slight interest in, causing him to look toward the adjacent wall and mutter, “Did the Smiling Reaper decide to escort me, or is it your hobby to spy on people…?”
Seemingly unconvinced she had been noticed, the Smiling Reaper didn’t reveal herself and instead pulled out a short-range communication crystal, likely reporting his arrival. Vahn chose to ignore her for the time being since she would undoubtedly be present when he met with the ex-Noble Faction. Since he didn’t want to waste too much time with these people, Vahn started walking towards the safe room while the Guards were trying to receive their orders. The man he had originally talked to moved to block the way, saying, “Exc-” before Vahn backhanded him and sent him spinning into the adjacent wall. He wasn’t here to keep playing the game orchestrated by the Nobles and, though he had kept them waiting nearly two hours, Vahn wasn’t going to wait even two minutes for them to prepare for his arrival.
Though some of the guards looked like they wanted to help out their companion, none of them had the courage to draw their swords. Vahn didn’t spare them a glance, walking a direct route to where the former leaders of the Noble Faction were congregating. Nobody obstructed him along the way, likely receiving orders to allow him to move freely. It wasn’t until an Elderly Butler met him at the landing of a stairwell that Vahn even encountered another person. He bowed low the moment Vahn stepped into the corridor, stating in a polite tone, “Allow me to escort you, Master Vahn…”
If not for the rather large black aura surrounding this Butler, Vahn would have been impressed by the commendable display of etiquette. He was slightly curious about how the McKenneths had managed to secure a demigod as their Butler but decided to ignore it for the time being and simply nodded his head. This man was only around the peak of Level 4, which wasn’t ‘low’ by any means, but, compared to even the weakest combatants within the Manor, he couldn’t even compare to Tina and Shizune.
Following behind the man, Vahn noticed he had tried to take a longer path to reach their destination so he immediately broke away and continued along the correct path, causing the Butler’s aura to flare up. As soon as this happened, Vahn had vanished from the corridor and appeared at the flank of the Butler, palm pressing into the side of the latter’s face before hurtling him through the wall. There was a magical ward left where his hand made contact, crackling with a powerful electrical current that kept the Butler from rising to his feet as Vahn pressed onward. He didn’t mind overlooking the man, at least temporarily, but that didn’t mean he would accept animosity openly.
Shortly after leaving behind the paralyzed Butler, Vahn grabbed the ornate handle of a door and wrenched it open, irrespective of the barrier that tried to bar his passage. Inside the room, looking towards him with various expressions of shock and anger, there were eight middle-aged men and one rather old fellow who seemed to have one foot in the grave already. There were several maids and servants present as well, including the disguised Smiling Reaper. Vahn sent her a sidelong glance, causing her aura to flare up slightly, even though her bearing and expression remained unperturbed.
At the center of the group, a middle-aged man with faded purple hair rose to his feet, a tired expression on his face as he bowed slightly and said, “Vahn Mason, welcome to my, Marcus Vale McKenneth’s home…” The moment these words fell, a balding fat man with green hair and a piggish nose immediately exclaimed, “You have a lot of nerve, making us wait for more than two hours to attend a meeting YOU scheduled! Do you think the Nobles will just stand by and suffer your-” When the man’s mouth tried to close, his teeth bit down on the indestructible metal of Vahn’s sword, the tip of which now rested in his mouth as Vahn stunned the foolish man with his domain.
The tension in the room immediately reached as critical level as the servant-c**-bodyguards moved to protect their Master’s, only to find themselves unable to move as the entire room began to creak under an intense pressure. Vahn had constrained his domain, which had become much stronger in the past few days, causing the very void within the room to seize up and tremble. In a solemn and slow tone, ensuring that even idiots like this could understand his words, Vahn said, “I haven’t come here to have a chat. I will speak and, until I am done, you will listen. Now, SIT…!” With his final word, the pressure in the room increased even further, forcing almost everyone that was standing to drop down to the floor unceremoniously.
Though he eased up the pressure slightly, Vahn didn’t pull back his aura as he pulled his sword out of the fat man’s mouth, the only person who had been left standing. Now, he plopped to the ground like a sack of potatoes, greasy sweat pouring out of his pores as the blood drained from his face. He seemed to want to say something but was unable to form any words as Vahn brandished the sword, removing the saliva staining the blade, before returning it to his Inventory. Afterward, he moved to the entrance of the room before turning around, passing his gaze over everyone present before saying, “It must be quite difficult, suffering the tyranny of another…even so, I doubt what you’ve experienced is even one percent of what you have forced upon others. Though there are certainly exceptions among you, the system of Nobility has been corrupt for far too long. From this point forward, there shall be no landed Nobles within Orario. You will be allowed to keep your personal properties and businesses, but your right to govern has hereby been revoked in its entirety. All land rights you believe to be yours have now been returned to the rightful owners, the citizens of Orario. You will be compensated the minimum amount for the property based on the market price per acreage. The exceptions to this will be the McKenneth, Deval, and Reinhardt Families, as your extraneous properties will be seized as recompense for your attempt to destroy Lil Geirr after colluding with the Iron Hills to commit acts of treason, jeopardizing all surface-dwellers as a result of your greed.”
While speaking, the pressure in the room gradually increased, especially on the leaders of the formerly most powerful and influential families. When he was done, however, Vahn gave them some breathing room and hoped at least one of them would take the bait, offering themselves up as an example. Fortunately, the fat man, current Patriarch of the Deval Family, Georg Engi Deval, practically screamed like a slaughtered pig, “Scandalous! What right do you have to slander my family without offering up any proof!? You can’t just steal away the property of the Noble Houses based on false accusations! My Deval Family is one of the founding members of this City, serving the interests of Orario for nearly a thousand years! I’ll not lower my head and accept your libelous claims like some whipped dog! Even if you have the backing of the Alliance, gods have no right to meddle in the affairs of mortals outside of their own Familia. You can’t just do whatever you want, boy…!”
The entire time Georg was speaking, Vahn’s expression didn’t change in the slightest, keeping a small smile until the fat man’s diatribe had come to an end. When he stopped to gasp for air, just as some of the other ex-Nobles looked like they wanted to step forward, Vahn beat them to the punch. Using [Shundo], Vahn appeared before Georg and, before the fat man’s eyes could even widen, chopped down while in his Xuanwu form. Redirecting the force of the attack through the man’s body, Vahn ‘hammered’ Georg into the floor before resting his foot on the fat fool’s face as he said, “I have already given you more mercy than you deserve. From this point onward, you are nothing but wealthy families without any power or authority in the politics of Orario. The Civilian Legislative Branch will now create laws and regulate trade within the City. If you are found trying to act in the capacity of a Noble, your family will immediately be listed as traitors of Orario and exiled. Maybe the Dwarves will show you courtesy if you go to them begging for help…hmph…!”
With his final snort, Vahn put weight into his foot and crushed Georg’s head like a watermelon, punctuating his point and causing the majority of those present to pale. One of the few whose expression didn’t change much was Marcus, looking as tired as when Vahn first entered the room as he bowed slightly and said, “The McKenneth Family will abide by the verdict of the Sage Aldrnari…I understand that our path had diverged from a righteous one long ago…one day, perhaps we will be able to make amends for our wrongdoings…” As he was saying this, Marcus wondered how he was going to deal with his children. Their identity as Nobles was something they had exploited for a very long time and he may have to put them to the sword himself if their family was to survive this catastrophe…
Vahn was slightly surprised by the quick accession of Marcus but, remembering the middle-aged man’s remarks and complaints about his children, Vahn realized he may not have been one of the ‘problems’. His aura was more of a grey than the black present on many of the men in the room, with the elderly gentlemen being the only one with a slightly sunny aura. Vahn knew he was the Patriarch of the somewhat ironically named ‘Savage’ Family, originating from huntsmen. He had a rather terrible reputation after killing off his two eldest sons who, according to rumors, had squabbled over the right of succession before conspiring to poison the current Patriarch, Saxton Cruz Savage. After learning of the scandal, Saxton had ‘cleaned house’ and had nominated his grandson as the next Family Head…
Soon after Marcus lowered his head, many of the other Patriarch’s acquiesced and bowed, even though there wasn’t much sincerity in their actions. Vahn didn’t care if they openly accepted his judgment and expected that he would be ‘personally visiting’ some of them in the next few days. He had already sent a telepathic message to Fafnir to completely trash the Deval Estate, the next destination on his itinerary. For now, however, Vahn turned his gaze to Marcus before looking towards the Smiling Reaper and asking, “Tell me, Marcus, how did you come across a Half-Doppelganger? And you, Smiling Reaper, was it your mother or father who was a Xenos…?”
This time, the Smiling Reaper’s expression changed a great deal, though not in the way Vahn had expected. She suddenly had a very ‘amused’ expression as her form changed back into a very mature and seductive form, completely bereft of clothing as strands of pale-blond hair and feathers covered her delicate areas. Her skin darkened into a healthy brown as the color in her eyes faded into a milky white before turning blood-red. These eyes, combined with her enticing appearance, were rather striking…however, it was all offset by the ‘too large’ grin she had on her face, explaining her epithet as the ‘Smiling Reaper’.
Marcus had a complicated expression on his face when he saw Beatrix turn into her ‘true’ form, especially since she had revealed it in front of the other families, even if they weren’t Nobles any longer. Still, feeling the pressure radiating from Vahn, Marcus explained, “Beatrix has been a servant in my family for generations…she was found by my Grandfather’s Great-Grandfather within an alleyway more than three hundred years ago. I do not know all the details, other than that she had taken a vow to serve the McKenneth Family for the duration of her life after being rescued from a near-death state…” This was one of the closely guarded secrets of the McKenneth Family but, considering the circumstances, Marcus didn’t have a lot of leeway to try Vahn’s patience…
Though she remained quiet when Marcus was speaking, Beatrix released a sensual chuckle before adding, “Back then, I never knew I would live this long…so, I’m a Half-Doppelganger, was it~? Very interesting, ufufufu…” Vahn didn’t believe for a moment that ‘Beatrix’ didn’t know what she was, given that she had more than three hundred years to discover her heritage. The members of the McKenneth Family would have undoubtedly investigated her but, from what he could discern, Marcus wasn’t lying. This meant Beatrix herself must have ‘disposed’ of the records at some point and was trying to cover up something that had happened in the past…
Turning his attention back to Marcus, Vahn stated plainly, “The Xenos are a protected species recognized by both the Guild and the Alliance. You have no right to keep the descendent of a Xenos as a servant or retainer, especially with such a restrictive and unfair vow. All Xenos have biological immortality and, being a Half-Doppelganger, Beatrix’s service would have continued indefinitely without any justification. Her service should have ended with the death of your Ancestor so I will have you release her from this ridiculous vow in its entirety…” Though he knew Beatrix was likely a very cruel and sadistic person, it was because she had been manipulated and taken advantage of. She would have to face judgment, if not outright execution, but Vahn still wanted to liberate her and give the peculiar woman a chance to live a better life.
Marcus’ expression paled for the first time, lowering his head slightly as Beatrix answered, “Little Marcus doesn’t have the authority to free me, as I had been tricked into making a personal life-long vow to serve his ancestor’s descendants. You may find it hard to believe, but my cute little Master actually tried to free me when he was younger. That night, I made sure to ‘eat him up’ to show my gratitude, ufufufu~.” Now, instead of being pale, Marcus’ cheeks actually turned slightly red, causing Vahn’s mind to dull slightly at the peculiar situation he was witnessing. Beatrix seemed genuinely fond of Marcus and, based on his reaction, the feelings were mutual…
Feeling as though he had lost a bit of the momentum, Vahn increased the pressure on the room a bit before turning toward Beatrix with a ‘fierce’ look. Her body tensed up but the smile on her face didn’t fade away, even as Vahn moved to stand before her. When she suddenly licked her lips, Vahn furrowed his brows slightly but, having already made his decision, placed his hand on the center of Beatrix’s chest. Her skin deformed slightly and, like very thick molasses, began to ‘flow’ around his fingers as if she were trying to absorb him. Vahn didn’t pay any attention to this and instead focused his mind, seeking out something he wasn’t exactly sure he would find. He didn’t have the ability to see souls but, as some gods were able to observe the ego, Vahn was looking for any sign of Beatrix’s so he could try and erase the vow she had made. Unfortunately, by the time his hand was completely submerged, Vahn hadn’t been able to sense anything and, unwilling to use the [Fate Severing Knife] in such a circumstance, pulled his hand free.
Beatrix made a slight ‘pouting’ expression before giggling and resuming her rather creepy smile and saying, “Awww, and I thought you wanted to play~.” Vahn ignored her remark, turning to Marcus and saying, “I cannot remove her vow, at least for the time being. So long as you do not try and use her as a tool against others, I will momentarily overlook her presence here…keep in mind, however, that the criminal acts committed by the ‘Smiling Reaper’ will not go unpunished. Given the current circumstances, the McKenneth Family will be held accountable for any verifiable criminal activities and you will be forced to pay reparations to the Civilian Legislative Branch. If you are found to use her to commit any future criminal acts, especially for the purposes of infiltration and espionage, I will personally wipe out the remaining McKenneth Lineage to liberate her from your control…”
Surprisingly, Marcus looked more relieved than anything, bowing his head lower than before as he said, “I understand. Thank you for your lenience…” Hearing this, Vahn resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose and, after sending one last look towards Beatrix, turned to the other Patriarchs and said, “There are ongoing investigations into each of your family’s actions over the last several decades. If you are found trying to obstruct these investigations, your family will suffer the same fate as the Deval Family…” With this last remark, Vahn made his way to the exit and passed through the broken door before continuing straight through the wall without stopping. Eventually, his figure vanished from the Manor entirely, causing the tensions in the room to ease slightly.
Almost immediately after Vahn’s figure had vanished, the youngest man in the group, Leonard Arks Walder, hurriedly muttered, “We need to move quickly to try and spin this in our favor. Vahn Mason’s tyranny cannot go-” Mid-sentence, Leonard’s words were replaced by a mouthful of blood as a resplendent golden chain pierced through his abdomen in an instant. He instinctually tried to pull out the chain as his two bodyguards came to his aid, only to be skewered by a second golden chain, leaving the three figures pinned to the spot before Flame Elemental energy converged around their body. As this happened, the surviving seven Patriarch’s watched with blank expressions as one of their former compatriots burned to ashes…