Chapter 855: Hope

For an additional three hours, Vahn and Artemis sat together as Fafnir continued toward the location of the Elsos ruins. Though she didn’t need to eat in her current state, Vahn set out a variety of different foods for Artemis to sample while he sent threads of Source Energy into her body. So long as he was careful with the flow, it was beyond the detection ability of almost any other entity as Source was a concept far beyond their understanding. If he used it normally, people would misunderstand it as the highest form of energy within the record, this case being Divine. Vahn, however, unable to manifest his energy easily in the world, had instead focused on developing subtlety after becoming a little too accustomed to touching the bodies of other people.

Ever since he had learned about Petting Laws, Vahn had actually harbored a slight impulse to reach the pinnacle of petting, as the amount of comfort he could bring to others would constantly increase. Since he didn’t want to bother people too much, Vahn had endeavored to try and make the influence of his skills almost undetectable. Though it could be misconstrued as trying to manipulate people, Vahn was confident that anyone bearing such thoughts would never be able to develop petting laws to the same extent. His only desire was to help bring comfort to people, even though he was also prone to fusing his Petting Laws with skills like [Hands of Nirvana] to achieve very different effects on occasion…

As a result of what could equate to decades of consistent effort, Vahn’s ability to manipulate the Source Energy in his body and keep it in a state that others could detect had greatly increased. Now, he was using it to stabilize this faux-avatar of Artemis since it may be necessary when he freed her main body from Antares. Vahn now understood why she and Hermes thought death was the only solution, as Artemis had essentially fused together with Antares. Though her ego was untouched, the Divinity that comprised Artemis was now linked with Antares, giving them a very similar relationship as Hephaestus and the Eternal Flame.

Even if Vahn separated Artemis from Antares, it would still be able to use her Arcanum to wreak havoc upon the mortal world, all while Artemis would be sealed away. Antares was currently siphoning as much of her power as possible, making her essentially a battery that would power its rampage indefinitely, all while it was wholly indestructible. Even Artemis’ body, after fully manifesting her Arcanum, was impervious to damage so long as the entity trying to harm her didn’t exceed Tier 4. Other gods would be able to activate their Arcanum to damage her, but it wouldn’t be enough before their body was returned to Heaven, resulting in Artemis healing almost instantly…

Under normal circumstances, the only possible solution was to destroy Artemis’ body using the [Arrow of the Orion], as her Arcanum had no defense against itself. Vahn, however, was so far removed from normalcy that he actually had several possible solutions. If it truly came down to destroying her body, the number of methods he could make use of were functionally infinite. It was marginally more difficult to save her but, with an item like the [Fate Severing Knife] collecting dust within his Inventory, Vahn had at least one guaranteed method. Though he would look into other solutions, he had resolved himself to using this inarguably ‘broken’ item to severe the connection between Artemis and Antares…

Vahn had no idea what would happen to Artemis when the link between her an Antares was broken so he was strengthening her faux-avatar as much as possible before then. Hopefully, he would be able to recover her main body and fuse the two of them together before severing their fate. At the same time, he hoped that their fate wasn’t intrinsically tied to their Divinity, even though logic told him this was undoubtedly the case. Artemis may very well lose her Divinity in the process but, so long as she had an indestructible body and maintained her ego, Vahn was certain everything would resolve in a positive manner…even if things became troublesome within the godly community.

As they approached the location of the Elsos Ruins, Vahn understood why Artemis said it would become obvious they were nearing their destination. There was a very oppressive and malevolent aura spreading through the land, even though it also contained the purity and radiance of a god. Though Artemis had sealed as much of her Arcanum as possible, Antares was slowly siphoning more of her power and even the ambient aura was tremendous. The Mortal World simply wasn’t suited to withstanding the existence of a Tier 4 entity and Vahn could feel the Elemental Energy in the world breaking down as the void itself became chaotic…

Artemis had risen to her feet to look at the landscape below, currently appearing no different than it had in the past, commenting, “It may truly be a blessing that we have arrived much earlier than planned…the number of innocent lives my power would have claimed will be greatly mitigated…” The number of small villages around the Elsos Ruins numbered less than three as the increased mana density caused the strength of monsters to increase exponentially. Though some brave souls would venture into the various ruins and temples located around the Dark Continent, no one was foolish enough to live within close proximity. Since it had been less than three days since the incident, the influence of her Arcanum on the world wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been if they had waited…

Vahn walked behind Artemis, wrapping his hands around her waist and kissing the back of her head before saying, “Don’t worry about such things…from this point onward, it is not my duty to bring about a happy ending, not just for you, but for everyone affected by this event…in the future, let’s send an expedition to the Dark Continent to help build a real community in this inhospitable place. For those that want to return to Eden, we will make a world that is more willing to accept their differences…” When she heard this, Artemis’ body tensed up for a moment before she entrusted her back against Vahn’s chest and simply intoned a complacent ‘Nn’.

Once they had picked up the trail, locating the Elsos Ruins had taken less than five minutes, bringing into view a large palatial temple. This was one of the few places in history where a Great Spirit had resided, making it a home for High Spirits and a now extinct species known as the Disir. They were a people that had never numbered more than a thousand, possessing an affinity with time and sealing that earned them the attention of many gods in the Ancient Times. Though they were incapable of reproducing, members of their species would simply ‘appear’ one day, already possessing great knowledge and wisdom. They were a race of Scholars who, much like the Ancient Elves, created several powerful magic, mostly related to sealing. When Antares had burrowed up from the heart of the Dark Continent, the leader of the Disir, the Great Spirit of Time, Osma, worked alongside his people to perform a powerful sealing art that had held the monstrous entity for more than six-thousand years…

Seeing the ancient spires and the timeless city that had withstood the millennia in silence, Vahn couldn’t help but admire the now-extinct people for their determination and sacrifice. If not for the oppressive atmosphere that forced him to activate his [Will of the Emperor], he would have liked to explore the Ruins for a bit. Now, however, he had business with the monstrosity beneath the City and intended to bring a proper resolution to these events. He gave Artemis another long embrace, whispering, “Let me show you the result of placing your trust in me, Artemis…”

After releasing her body, Vahn levitated away from Fafnir and began chanting, “Come from the void, oh thunder, and cut down my enemy! Axe of God~! Fixate, Seize, Load Magic, Thunder Emperor~!” A massive amount of Lightning Elemental energy had condensed in Vahn’s hand before he reabsorbed it into his body with [Magia Erebea]. This was still his most powerful form and, with his main body meditating and feeding his energy reserves, Vahn could maintain it for a few hours if he didn’t do anything flashy.

Artemis was shocked by Vahn’s sudden transformation, feeling the energy radiating from his body as his [Will of the Emperor] began rapidly converging the external energy in the atmosphere toward him. Even the ambient energy of her Arcanum wasn’t spared, something that hadn’t gone unnoticed by her as she absentmindedly muttered, “How…?” Vahn, unaware of the true question on Artemis’ mind, just winked toward her and said, “There is no such thing as ‘impossible’, especially when concerning love…” This caused her eyes to widen as her heart began to beat rapidly in her chest; she had taken Vahn’s words a little too seriously and genuinely believed it was ‘love’ that gave him the ability to absorb her Arcanum…

Since he couldn’t exactly hold onto her in this form, Vahn used telekinesis to help Artemis descend to the ground as Fafnir assumed its human form and dove into her shadow. Even before they had reached the entrance to the underground sealing array, Vahn had sensed hundreds of presences skulking about in the ruins that had started to converge toward them. Artemis had detected them as well, pulling out her bow and preparing for battle until Vahn shook his head and said, “That isn’t necessary…you entrusted this matter to me so I will deal with them, Artemis…”

Shortly after his words fell, a 3m long crystalline black scorpion that was covered in strange red runes broke through the nearby wall, launching towards them with murderous intent. Vahn lifted his index finger, sending an arc of electricity through the air that caused the monster to turn into dust. Lightning was a natural counter to most malevolent energies and had a purification effect on creatures that had been corrupted by Divinity. These monsters were wholly unprepared for an existence like Vahn, unable to even approach within a kilometer of their position after he began infusing Lightning Elemental energy directly into his domain.

Artemis, bow in hand, continued to follow behind Vahn was a dull expression that slowly turned into a gratified smile. Things weren’t going as she had expected, almost to the point that this ‘threat’ seemed negligible with Vahn around. This made her feel a great deal of relief, the bonfire in her heart having long become an inferno after being exposed to this peculiar boy for less than a day. Though part of her questioned why she had waited so long to fall in love, another part of Artemis was grateful she had been ‘patient’ enough to hold out until meeting Vahn…

Though he could have reached Antares in an instant, Vahn made slow progress through the catacombs since he didn’t want to accidentally destroy the Ruins and potentially harm the bodies of Artemis’ Familia. They had plenty of time to deal with Antares and it shouldn’t even be able to move while trying to wrest Artemis’ Arcanum from her sealed body. Vahn had already peeked at it with his [Eyes of Truth], finding a massive four-armed scorpion-like monster. It was ten meters tall and had a body that was nearly 15m in length that was comprised of six segmented legs and a long tail with a very lethal looking stinger. Its offensive weapons were a pair of six pincers, including two pairs on its four segmented arms that allowed it to have a greater reach.

All over its crystalline black body, it had the same red runes as the monsters obstructing their path. However, at the very center of its chest, there was a very different energy that emanated from one of the largest magical cores that Vahn had ever seen. The size of a magic/monster core depending on the amount of mana contained within and, being comprised of the Arcanum of a goddess, this particular core was more than 2m tall, 1.5m in diameter, and comprised of a pure blue that was unlike any core in existence…it was actually very beautiful, though this was largely in part due to the naked Artemis contained within…

Antares seemed to be aware of their presence as well, though it wasn’t reacting to being peaked at by Vahn’s [Eyes of Truth]. Instead, it was sending out tendrils of black crystal from its body that burrowed into the surrounding walls, floor, and ceiling. Vahn could see the tendrils branching out, stabbing into various animals and converting them into the monster scorpions that had been sent to attack them. Fortunately, it wasn’t trying to target the bodies of the Artemis Familia members, which were strangely preserved without any signs of rot. When Vahn had seen the state of their bodies, he felt a powerful melancholy for a brief moment but it was quickly replaced by a slight bit of expectation…

Though it had been more than three days since they had died, some of the girls still had signs of blood that hadn’t even dried yet. It seemed that that same sealing effect that had been preserving the Elsos Ruins themselves was affecting the bodies of the girls as well. Either that, or the flow of time within this place was completely different than the outside world, even though he hadn’t noticed it with the influence of Antares’ aura. The fact that these stone structures had stood for more than six-thousand years without breaking down, even with the extreme weather of the Dark Continent, showed that there was certainly something going on that he would need to look into after this matter was resolved…

He didn’t want to get her hopes up, but Vahn’s feet slowed to a stop as he explained, “There is a strange phenomenon going on here…it may not be impossible to save some of your children, Artemis…” This caused the smile that Artemis had developed to melt away as an expression of abject shock emerged to replace it, followed by her exclaiming, “Is that true, Vahn!? Please, if it’s possible…I…!” Since she had tried to get close to him, Vahn had to side-step to avoid Artemis as he held up his hands and said, “Artemis, you need to remain calm…my body can’t be touched in this state without causing harm to others. For now, just listen to me very closely…”

Artemis didn’t even consider for a moment that Vahn was trying to trick her, relief and excitement welling up inside her as she said, “Please, tell me what I need to do…I will do anything…” Hearing this, Vahn allowed a natural smile to spread across his lips as he said, “It may not make sense right now…but you just need to love me even more…” Vahn was about to explain the effect of the [Tears of the Moon Goddess] but, as soon as Artemis heard the first part of his explanation, a system notification had appeared in his mind that caused him to swallow on instinct…

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//[Hearts Desire: Artemis] Quest Requirements Have Been Voided//

//[Artemis] Affection Has Broken Through Restrictions. Extra Parameter ‘Love’ Unlocked.//

[Artemis]: Love: 439,109,779(Eternal Love)

//Bond Established with [Artemis]//

//Optional Quest(s) Triggered//

//[Hearts Desire: Artemis] Evolved into [Salvation of the Moon Goddess]//

[Quest: Salvation of the Moon Goddess]

Rank: SSS

Objective: Liberate [Artemis] from Antares(0/1), Restore the Bodies of Artemis Familia Members To A Complete State(0/19), Perform ‘Nirvana Rebirth’ on Artemis Familia Members(0/19)

Optional Objectives: Save Lante(0/1)

Rewards: 10,000,000OP, 3x[Unique Gacha Coupon]

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Failure Condition(s): Death, Artemis’ Death, Antares’ Complete Awakening

Penalty: 30,000 Karma, Curse: [Moon’s Mourning] In Effect Until Leaving Record

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[Moon’s Mourning]

Effect: So long as the moon is present in the night sky, suffer a status debuff equivalent to the phase of the moon. During a full moon, those under the effect of this curse have their parameters completely sealed.

[Quest: Origin of Heroes]

Rank: SS-SSS

Objective: Impregnate Artemis (0). Ensure a safe delivery

Rewards: 1,000,000 OP, 1x [Guardian:(Nameless)], 1x [Heroic Tale]

Failure Condition(s): Death, Artemis’ Death, (Nameless) Child’s Death

Penalty: 439,108,779 Karma (0)

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