Chapter 848: Intent

Though he had more than a few questions for Hermes, Vahn didn’t want to cause a scene in front of so many people, especially since this was an ‘official’ event. Every action he took had potentially far-reaching repercussions and, as this was supposed to be a festive celebration for the people, Vahn didn’t want to ruin the atmosphere. Thus, after lightly patting Hestia’s shoulder and earning a small nod, Vahn made his way up to the stage. Hermes’ orange eyes looked slightly troubled and, without Vahn having to say anything, quietly, “I know you’ve been looking for me…don’t worry, I will explain things later…” Then, changing gears in an instant, Hermes gestured grandly and said, “Everyone, give it up for the Sage Aldrnari, Vahn Mason! Let’s show him our support and see if he can’t release the legendary spear from its crystallized prison~!”

As Hermes was riling up the crowd, Vahn was trying to analyze the spear but couldn’t even identify a single one of its properties, nor its composition. The inside of the spear seemed to contain ‘nothing’, almost like it was an illusion, even though it was very clearly a physical object. On the other side of the spear, Hestia was looking up at him with her clear blue eyes, a look of support and confidence in her unwavering gaze. Vahn returned a smile to her and, amidst the cheering of the crowd, placed his hand on the spear’s handle. A thread of energy that would have been indiscernible to normal people tried to enter through his palm, causing Vahn’s eyes to squint slightly as he felt it ‘collide’ against the membrane protecting his soul.

The spear, similar to the [Saint’s Halberd]s wielded by Maemi and Emiru, had tried to inspect his soul, perhaps trying to test its purity, but was ultimately unable to influence it, even a little. When this thread tried to ‘escape’, Vahn caused his Source Energy to restrict around it as his [Eyes of Truth] tried to make sense of the thread’s identity. There was a subtle ‘intent’ contained within it and, having experienced it several times, Vahn knew there was also Divinity present, even though he wasn’t able to discern what kind. Since it had also tried to ‘siphon’ some of his Source Energy, ultimately being unsuccessful, Vahn decided to turn the tables and used [Yggdrasil’s Blessing] to insert his energy directly into the spear.

As if it was truly alive, the ‘thread’ began to wriggle around in a panic as it tried to return to the spear, which now began to peel away its muted grey exterior and gain a golden hue reminiscent of [Enkidu]. Vahn found this interesting and was about to break the spear away from the crystals until a feminine voice, not belonging to Sis, appeared in his head, exclaiming, (“Ano…please let me go…!”) Since there was a great deal of anxiety contained within the voice, Vahn stopped restraining the thread of Divinity and allowed it to retreat back into the spear. As it did so, runes began to light up along its length as a relieved sigh sounded in his mind, followed by, (“I’m not sure if you are my Orion, but the purity of your energy is unlike anything I have ever seen…I will place my trust in you…”)

Following these words, Vahn felt the ‘intent’ leave the spear as the sealing formation contained within the crystals shattered, destroying them in the process. He was left holding onto the spear, which was slowly regaining its dull luster, while the crowd went wild. Hermes had a slightly confused expression on his face but, after a few seconds passed, managed to come to his senses as he shouted, “As expected of the strongest Adventurer! It looks like the winner of today’s prize is none other than Vahn Mason! Now, to bestow him the promised prize, allow me to introduce the sponsor of today’s event, the Goddess of Purity, Artemis~!”

Hermes gestured towards the back of the crowd, drawing everyone’s attention to an inordinately beautiful goddess long blue hair, styled ornately with two pointed bangs framing her face, fringe extending past her collarbone, and a partial braid in the back that was tied together by a white ribbon and fastened with golden accessories. She also possessed beautiful green eyes that, much like Hestia’s glimmered like ‘pristine’ gemstones that felt like they could ensnare anyone that gazed into them for too long. As for her outfit, it consisted of a pale blue and white outfit that exposed the shoulders and snaked around her neck in a loop. Around her waist, she had a white sash folded over a brown belt that was adorned with metal plating on the side. Completing this outfit, Artemis had long brown boots that had crisscrossing straps extending to the middle of her thighs…

Everyone was stunned by her appearance but, having followed the ‘intent’ from the spear, Vahn had witnessed the moment when Artemis ‘appeared’. Previously, the spot she now stood at had been empty and, until the intent had escaped the spear, the only gods present were Hestia and Hermes. However, even with Artemis’ appearance, this fact hadn’t changed and Vahn was able to identify that, whatever was standing before him, was certainly not Artemis. Even so, Hestia’s eyes widened when she saw her companion goddess, shouting, “Artemis…!” as she began running towards her friend.

As if she were responding to Hestia’s exclamation, Artemis also moved forward with a hurried pace, a ‘longing’ gaze in her pristine green eyes as she completely bypassed Hestia’s charge and leaped towards the stage. Hestia’s arms closed on empty air, a face that could serve as the textbook example of sublime confusion as she looked back to see Artemis now resting in Vahn’s left arm. He had caught her out of the air and now held the ‘goddess’ rather ridiculously soft body against his. Though they weren’t nearly as large as Hestia’s, Artemis had two full breasts that could actually rival Hestia’s own softness. Presently, Artemis was pressing the two shapely mounds against his chest as she tightly embraced his body and said, “I’m glad to have finally met you…my Orion…”

The crowd, which had been stunned by the presence of Artemis, now began catcalling and cheering for Vahn, some even stating, ‘another goddess has fallen’ while Hestia continued to stare blankly at the stage. Hermes stepped in at this point, gathering the attention of the crowd as he said, “That concludes this evening’s event! I pray that everyone enjoys the rest of the Holy Moon Festival to the fullest. As a consolation prize to those who feel as though they lost their opportunity to shine, the adjacent shops have all been informed to provide free alcohol for the remainder of the evening! Make sure to toast our young hero, Vahn Mason, and the beautiful Goddesses, Artemis and Hestia~!”

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Hermes’ words caused more than just those who had gathered around the stage to begin cheering, the majority of them dispersing towards the already prepared stalls who had hundreds of disposable glasses prepared to hand out. At the same time, Hestia ran up on the stage with a face of extreme confusion, concern, and moderate relief as she separated Vahn and Artemis, turning to the latter to say, “Artemis, what are you doing here? How do you know Vahn? Why didn’t you tell me you were in Orario? I was very worried, you know!?” As if she had just noticed Hestia for the first time, Artemis showed a face of surprise before it turned into a warm smile, followed by her embracing Hestia as she said, “Hestia, it is good to see you…I’m sorry to have worried you…”

Hestia, being much shorter than Artemis, found her face pressed into the latter’s breasts as she tightly hugged her companion goddess. Vahn, however, had slightly furrowed brows until Hermes stepped close to his side and whispered, “I will explain the situation in detail later. Even if you have noticed it, please do not tell Hestia…it will devastate her…” With Hermes’ words, Vahn’s suspicions were immediately answered and he was barely able to restrain his aura from exploding outward. He had been wondering what exactly this ‘Artemis’ in front of him was supposed to be but, after hearing Hermes’ words, was able to infer the likely answer…this Artemis wasn’t her real self, just a fragment of her intent that manifested itself from the remnant Divinity contained within the spear…

Though he didn’t say anything, Hestia had sensed the changes in Vahn and tears had started to build in her eyes, even as her face showed confusion. She muttered an ‘Eh…?’ before wiping away her tears and asking, “Why am I crying…? Vahn…?” Hermes moved forward like he was going to smooth over things but Artemis beat him to it, hugging Hestia even tighter as she asked, “Hestia, how do you know my Orion? You said his name was Vahn…are the two of you close?” This seemed to be enough of a distraction for Hestia who, upon being asked such a question, immediately smiled radiantly with a blush on her face as she said, “There are so many things I have to tell you, Artemis! Come, you can stay at the Hearth Manor tonight and I’ll introduce you to everyone. We can talk-“

This time, Hermes did step forward, breaking into the conversation as he said, “It’s fine if the two of you play catch up for the evening, but there is a pretty tight schedule we need-” Placing his hand rather firmly on Hermes’ shoulder, bringing a halt to the god’s words, Vahn smiled toward Artemis and Hestia, saying, “I’ll send you two back to the Hearth Manor and hear about the details from Hermes before making my way back as well. I know you have some catching up to do, but please inform the others to gather so I can catch them up to speed when I arrive…” Before his words had even finished, Terra appeared at Vahn’s side with a curious glint in her eyes as she asked, “You called me, Master~?”

Vahn nodded his head, indicating towards the two goddesses as he said, “Take Hestia and Artemis back to the Manor, please, Terra…” As she could sense the ‘urgency’ in her Master’s voice, Terra gave a curt nod and, before Hestia and the somewhat startled Artemis could react, all three of them vanished from the stage. At the same time, Vahn put even more pressure into his grip on Hermes’ shoulder as he said, “You and I have a lot to talk about, Hermes…as for your schedule, I assure you that the mode of travel at my disposal is much faster than anything you could prepare. Now tell me…is the real Artemis still alive…?”

Though he didn’t much appreciate the vice-like grip that felt like it was going to crush his shoulder, Hermes’ expression didn’t change much as he said, “I honestly never expected that the spear would choose you, though, considering you are in Hestia’s Familia…perhaps it is fate…?” Vahn squinted his eyes, a very real threat contained within them that caused Hermes’ smile to break slightly before he answered, “Artemis is still alive…which is part of the issue we are facing right now…you see, she is currently in a state much worse than death itself, Vahn…Artemis has been devoured. We are not sure how, but her Arcanum had manifested itself after a monster named Antares consumed her…if we do not kill Artemis, liberating her from that monstrosity, there may not be any force in the mortal world that could stop all life from being wiped out…!”

Upon hearing Hermes’ words, Vahn’s mind had turned completely calm since he didn’t want to stress out Hestia, even though part of him wanted to rip Hermes to shreds. With a dull monotone sounding from his throat, Vahn said, “Explain to me how such a thing could have happened…how were you involved? Why did you conveniently leave the City right after I purchased the Hermes Familia…? And…what is your connection to Enyo…?” Hermes’ expression didn’t change during the first two questions, nor did it change during the last, but Vahn saw the slightest of fluctuations in the god’s aura. This time, his hand squeezed with a bit too much force and a very loud cracking sound emanated from Hermes’ shoulder as he drew in a cold breath, a slight aura of Divinity radiating off of his body.

Jerking his shoulder free of Vahn’s grasp, Hermes’ expression had turned extremely serious as he stated, “Damnit, Vahn, I’m not your enemy…! I thought you had more sense then this….tsk…!” Hermes couldn’t even lift his left arm right now and there was an incredibly sharp pain radiating from his crushed shoulder as he clenched his teeth, explaining, “I don’t have any connection with Enyo, outside of the fact I had been investigating her on behalf of the Guild. You should know that I’m a neutral party that simply collects information before selling it to the highest bidder. What would I have to gain from partnering up with a crazy goddess who is dead set on destroying the City? I don’t know what you think of me, but you should at least be able to see that I have a vested interest in mortal affairs…damn…your power is starting to affect your rationality…!”

The entire time Hermes was ‘complaining’, Vahn was looking for any signs that the god had been lying. He knew Hermes was the type that was almost impossible to read and, though his words made a lot of sense, Vahn also knew he was extremely manipulative as well. However, considering what Hermes said in greater detail, Vahn did agree that Hermes was the type that enjoyed the ‘games’ and none of his Divinities would point towards him wanting to destroy the City. From the brief contact they had made, Vahn could even see that Hermes’ Affection towards him had been 93(Trust), though it had fallen to 88 after having his shoulder crushed.

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Realizing he had been steadily adapting to ‘violent solutions’ as of late, Vahn felt slightly guilty but didn’t allow it to show on his face. Instead, he extended out his palm and sent healing energy through his domain while saying, “Explain how you ended up becoming involved in this event with Artemis…” Hermes released a sigh, his serious expression turning into one of mild exasperation as he said, “Artemis was the one to contact the Guild and requested help in conducting an investigation. Her Familia had been noticing a large influx in the number of powerful monsters around her territory and they suspected that Antares’ seal was weakening. I was already scheduled to go an investigate before you even purchased my Familia…essentially, it was just a rather unfortunate coincidence…”

With his shoulder now healed, Hermes rolled it a few times before adopting a somewhat ‘sad’ smile as he added, “This is a major incident that none of us have any experience dealing with. The Guild wanted to keep it under wraps while Artemis herself desires a pure-hearted Hero to save her…we’re fortunate that you are the one to have taken up that spear, Vahn, as the chances of success have gone up exponentially. You must journey to where Antares is located and use that spear to end the tragic existence that Artemis has become…if we are unable to act before it is able to fully use her Arcanum, even the combined effort of every god in the mortal world would be powerless to act…”

Though a god could activate their Arcanum in the real world, it would eject them long before they were able to achieve full activation. At best, they would only be able to manifest around 5% of their power before the world itself rejected them, making it functionally impossible to defeat a monster that was able to use the full power of a god’s Arcanum. Nothing like this had ever happened since the gods had started descending into the mortal world and Hermes had already confirmed that Artemis’ statue in Heaven had cracked. Her Arcanum was currently fully manifested and nobody knew what would happen if a monster was able to master its use…if they didn’t kill Artemis and severe the connection between her and Antares, the mortal world itself would fall to ruin…

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