Chapter 846: Development : Echoes…

After issuing his ultimatum to the former Nobles, Vahn made good on his promise and decimated the properties of the Deval and Walder families. Anyone with a dark aura who stood in his way met their ends while, at the same time as this was occurring, the government facilities and extraneous properties of the former most powerful families in the City were seized. This event had struck Orario like a natural disaster, bringing sudden and unexpected changes to the status quo and everyday life. Fortunately, with the combined efforts of the Alliance, the Guild, and the newly established Civilian Legislative Branch, the transition was proceeding with only a few minor hiccups.

During the days following this transformative event, the Civilian Legislative Branch made public the majority of the former Nobles’ crimes, providing documentation and written accounting of many events, some dating back over a century. This caused a massive public outrage who, now knowing the ‘full extent’ of the Nobles’ crimes, and feeling emboldened by the support of three massive factions, began to rally and protest outside of the various Manors within the City. Public order was maintained by the forces of the Alliance and, in order to ‘appease’ the citizens of Orario, the first trials presided over by the CLB were held. In the end, most of the former Nobles lost the majority of their properties, as many had been illegally seized in the first place, and hundreds of billions of Valis had to be paid out in reparations.

The majority of these funds were accounted for by the newly established treasury, operated in coordination between the Alliance, Guild, and CLB. To prevent Misappropriation, Fortuna was placed in charge of the funds and publically tasked with using them to invest in the infrastructure of Orario. Though she was a goddess belonging to the Alliance, Fortuna had operated for more than six-hundred years as the leader of one of the most influential and trustworthy Merchant Familia in the entire City. She enjoyed a rather extreme reputation as being a fair businesswoman and, as a patron Goddess of Fortune, was considered the best possible candidate to manage the rather massive amount of funds.

This also served to emphasize the fact that the three most powerful organizations in the City were cooperating together, a stark contrast to how the Nobles had rather selfishly regulated things. Since many new laws were established, the majority extremely beneficial for common citizens, there were few people that felt any sympathy for the former Nobles. In fact, the biggest reactions came from the few Dwarven Merchants who still tried to trade within the City, and the remaining criminal organizations. The former was forced to leave the City, packing up their goods on the spot and told to await a detailed evaluation of trade benefits, an audit of goods exchanged over the last 50 years, and the renegotiation of trade treaties. As for the latter, they had already been pressured greatly by the Alliance and, after this ‘power play’, the majority of the powerful criminal Familia issued orders to lay low, seemingly disappearing to tide over the transition since nobody wanted to be Vahn’s next target…

As a result of this latest action, people were genuinely referring to Vahn as the ‘Emperor of Orario’, a nickname that was only made in good humor previously. Though he didn’t hold the actual position, it was an accepted fact that Vahn was not only the most powerful, he was also the most influential person in the entire City. Some even began to claim he was the most influential person on the entire continent, at least in regards to mortals. He could act with impunity, purportedly answering only to his ‘wives’, and enjoyed the full support of the Alliance, the Civilian Legislative Branch, the Elven Kingdom, and, though it has never publically been stated, the Guild. It was even rumored that, if Vahn declared war on the Iron Hills, which seemed rather likely, the entire might of Orario would be at his disposal…almost like the army of an actual Emperor. The simple truth of the matter is, there were actually a number of people who were looking forward to such a development while some taverns were even running odds and accepting bets for whether the Alliance would go to war with the Iron Hills or the Rakia Kingdom first…

While such discussions were occurring, Vahn himself was busy spending time with his family, watching over the construction of both Haven and Spero, and doing his best to research various topics, including the materials produced by his union with Freya, the change in her Avatar, and possible solutions for Diana’s ‘voice’. As he had expected, she quickly became friends with Erika and was actually quite the studious girl, even though her true passion seemed to be drawing and singing. This also made her close with Alexa, Vana, Lenneth, Aisha, and, though he would likely never admit it, Masonia. Syr spent a lot of time watching over her while also educating Vahn’s four new Maids about their duties while helping them to navigate some of the secret passageways of the Manor.

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Keeping his promise to Freya, Vahn also discussed the matter of her being able to spend more time with Lenneth and, though some restrictions were put into place, there wasn’t that much resistance to the idea. So long as she was accompanied by one of the goddesses, or Vahn himself, Lenneth could freely visit the Southern Manor to spend time with her mother. Anubis had volunteered to be her permanant chaperone but, as she still spent most evenings at the School Dorm, Vahn didn’t want to put that kind of responsibility on her. He wasn’t so busy that he couldn’t make time to visit Freya with Lenneth in tow, oftentimes bringing along Diana since Freya treated both girls rather affectionately. During some of these visits, Vahn also got to see the miniature Ottar, though his father was never present since Diana posed a very real threat, even to the ‘King’…

Other than some public appearances to show his support for the Civilian Legislative Branch, the most troublesome matters Vahn had to deal with were the ever-increasing affection of the Xenos, the growing tension of the expedition members on the 50th Floor, and the news of Bell constantly getting into trouble. Though the boy was growing very quickly, it seemed like an ‘event’ would happen every few days, causing Loki to vent her frustrations out on him when they were together. She had redacted his probation on Alicia’s request but, three days after he began delving back into the Dungeon, Bell ended up triggering the spawn of the Goliath on the 17th Floor. He somehow managed to defeat it, activating his [Argonaut] for the first time, but ended up passing out on the 18th Floor after carrying both unconscious girls to the outskirts of the settlement…

Vahn didn’t really know what to do about Bell but, every time he had to pacify Loki, thoughts of using the [Fate Severing Knife] would enter his mind. If not for the fact that his general impression of the boy was more on the positive side, Vahn would have severed Bell’s fate just to prevent him from inadvertently endangering others. However, as this was already within his expectations from the start, Vahn tried to show patience and understanding, especially since the trio had managed to avoid using an [Effigy of the Hero] in their battle. Line and Plum had only passed out from fatigue and light injuries, which was also the only reason Loki didn’t ‘castrate’ the rather peculiar boy on the spot…

In this manner, a surprising ‘lull’ had descended upon Vahn’s life as the days turned into weeks before slowly transitioning into a full month. As though happening in the blink of an eye, stability slowly returned to the City and, without Enyo’s forces showing up even once, the first phase of Haven’s construction had completed. At the same time, Spero had now turned into a rather exotic and fantastical land with massive trees twining about each other, forming strange residential structures that towered over a lagoon-like floor where Marie’s figure could often be seen. There were now several Xenos was ‘humanoid’ forms, being Gros, Lyd, and Gryuu, while a large number had slowly started to naturally make the transition, gaining human-esque features.

During his research with Ray, who had become progressively more ‘troublesome’ to deal with, Vahn quickly discovered that the ‘evolution’ of Xenos wasn’t actually difficult to trigger. So long as they trained hard, consumed a very large amount of mana-rich resources, and genuinely desired the change, the Xenos were capable of rapidly evolving. Since many of them, especially after seeing their leadership change, now genuinely desired such forms, their changes had been happening very rapidly. Vahn noticed that these changes occurred much faster in the female Xenos, specifically those in the ‘troublesome’ category…

One of the very first to evolve under natural conditions was Naho, growing a pair of delicate and pale humanoid legs as her thorax completely vanished, leaving a small abdominal section like a tail above her now perky little butt. She could still weave silk, and had been making great strides towards the production of very high-quality cloth, but now looked closer to a human than an Arachne. Though her clingy personality hadn’t changed in the slightest, Vahn had already adapted to her nature and no longer let it bother him, so long as she wore proper clothes…

Following Naho were two of the Almiraj Xenos, Mlem and Arles, each gaining very dangerous appearances that made Vahn grateful their village was more of a rumor at the moment than common knowledge. As their Almiraj forms were only the size of large rabbits, the two girls assumed forms that were only 88cm and 90cm tall respectively. Though they didn’t exactly look like children, with somewhat more rounded figures with relatively short limbs, Vahn still felt they were ‘dangerous’ with their adorable bunny ears, fluffy tail tufts, and the tiny horns on their foreheads. It took them several days to get accustomed to wearing clothing as well, as only Arles even had experience with clothes as she often wore her tiny blue vest before her transformation…(A/N: Think Lalafells from Final Fantasy 14, or Harvin from Granblue Fantasy.)

This was one of the bigger ‘struggles’ that Vahn had faced with the Xenos, as their propensity towards running around in the buff was deeply rooted in their mentality. It felt a little ‘wrong’ to tell them they ‘needed’ to wear clothes, as none of the Xenos minded the nakedness of their kin, but it was a necessary measure before they could begin interacting with other surface-dwellers. It was fortunate that, so long as he gave them the clothing personally, the Xenos would actually wear it until the fabric turned to rags. Vahn worked around this by making them relatively high-quality clothing that could withstand a lot of active movements, finally ‘solving’ the problem of what had started to quickly develop into a nudist colony…

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One of the happier developments among the Xenos was that their community had actually increased by two members, comprising of a second Silverback and what would be the fourth War Shadow Xenos. They had been found by Gros and Lyd after making rounds through some of the more common Hidden Villages. The two newcomers were very surprised that their desire to live on the surface became a reality almost immediately after their rebirth, quickly blending into the developing society. Vahn had joined the Xenos to celebrate the new arrivals, getting permission to bring along Vana as the first ‘outsider’ to Spero Village. She got along very well with the Xenos, to the point that she could naturally communicate with even the less intelligent members with ease. Vulcan also got along well with Gryuu, though only after they had a spar where the latter came out ahead…

Overall, things were going very well and, as a result of this simple fact, Vahn knew things were actually growing progressively more dangerous. He didn’t know what would ‘break’ first, be it an attack from Enyo, some scheme from an unknown enemy within the City, or if Bell’s ‘fate’ would come into play at an inopportune moment. Since there was a Denatus taking place very soon, Vahn suspected it would happen around that time, considering that it was often during such inconvenient instances that events would take place. With most of the gods gathered at the Denatus, and the majority of Adventurers taking a break from the Dungeon, it was the ‘perfect’ time for something unexpected to occur…

In preparation for this, Vahn discussed the matter with everyone, both within the Manor and inside of the Dungeon, making sure they were all on the same page. As a result, Loki immediately put Bell under temporary house arrest, telling him to ‘explore the City and take the girls on dates’ until after the Denatus ended. Vahn also chose the ‘completion’ of the next event as the time when he would plant the Tree of Life so he began making preparations to ensure everything in the City was relatively stable since Terra would temporarily have to enter the Dungeon. Before then, he would be escorting some of the girls out of the Dungeon so their forces weren’t consolidated in a single area. Once the teleportation ward was established, moving between the surface and the 50th Floor would be much easier, so it was a necessary measure to take in order to avoid the worst case scenario…

During this momentary lull, Vahn also took some time out of his schedule to visit Sylfia back at the Elven Forest before bringing her back to ‘explore’ Orario for an afternoon. Though this caused a small commotion, Vahn didn’t really care as it was also a good opportunity to discuss his intention of procuring ‘retainers’ and ‘subordinates’ for the future. Sylfia readily supported this aspiration though, considering the happy smile she had while clinging to his arm, Vahn felt like he could have said anything and she would have agreed to it. Later that same day, after introducing her to everyone at the Manor and Spera Village, Vahn returned Sylfia to the Elven Kingdom, avoided a lecture from her two caretakers, and declined an offer by Larfal to become the next Elven King…

Vahn had suspected something to happen when he was escorting Sylfia around so he was a little surprised with how ‘smoothly’ things had gone, though he didn’t drop his guard. Even when he was making plans to escort his daughters around during the upcoming festival, Vahn was on high alert and even had Terra fly around the City a few times to make sure there were no signs of Enyo’s forces reappearing. Ever since the first batch was cleared out, there had been no signs of Enyo trying to place forces in hiding and, with Knossos being sealed off, there were few means by which an attack was even possible. Even so, especially since everything was proceeding without incident, Vahn never once dropped his guard, all the way until the day of the festival preceding the Denatus…

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