Chapter 856: Limits

Though he had been surprised by the system notifications at first, Vahn felt the urge to laugh out when he read the information contained within. He knew The Path would give him a way forward and, as his highest priority right now was ‘saving’ Artemis, the quests had changed to meet the circumstances. After this event came to an end, Vahn was determined to get a better grasp of his ‘Quest’ function and see if he couldn’t use it to gain more benefits, specifically those that would grant him more Unique items. They often had effects that ran contrary to the restrictions of the record itself and Vahn wanted to get a better understanding of how he may one day make his own Unique items…

Artemis was aware of the ‘bond’ she now shared with Vahn, causing her to tilt her head to the side before a loving smile spread across her face. Vahn felt his heart flutter upon witnessing this, earning him a small laugh from Artemis as she placed her hand above her own heart, saying, “This feeling…is this the power of love…?” Though she was detached from her main body, Artemis could feel a very powerful bond between her and Vahn that had embedded itself within her very soul. It was like a part of him was now inside of her, filling a hole she had never known existed and making her feel more complete in this one moment than the 349 million preceding years…

Vahn felt like Artemis’ words had hit the nail on the head, nodding as he said, “Love is an amazing thing. Now, let’s go save your children…” Artemis’ eyes widened slightly when she heard this before the most beautiful smile he had ever seen upon her face revealed itself. Vahn found it hard to look at such a radiant smile but couldn’t avert his eyes even a single micrometer as she said, “I believe in you, Vahn…when all of this is over…I…” At this point, Vahn’s heart felt like a drum that was being beaten by an entire battalion of Amazonesses as Artemis stepped towards him, hands together as if she were praying. She stopped right outside the minimum range of Lightning Energy shrouding his body, a natural blush on her cheeks as she said, “I want to try and have a real family next time…”

Even without willing himself to do so, Vahn found his head nodding in response to Artemis as he uttered an affirmative ‘Nn’. Though she didn’t actually use any kind of compulsion against him, Vahn found himself fundamentally unable to refuse such words from someone possessing the ‘Eternal Love’ parameter. Ten thousand years was already a long time but, now that Artemis obtained that particular parameter, Vahn knew their relationship would continue for an incomprehensibly long period of time. Even if he had been a normal mortal that went through the cycle of reincarnation, Artemis would have certainly followed each of his incarnations, no matter how much time passed…

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Now, fired up even more than he had been previously, Vahn entered into the massive stone chamber where Antares had been sealed. Rethusa’s body had been impaled on the other side of the door so Vahn had to make an entrance of his own since he couldn’t store their bodies into his Inventory without their soul and ego leaving. The fact that he could still use ‘Nirvana Rebirth’ on them meant that they actually hadn’t been ‘dead’ for very long. Though he wasn’t sure if it was related to the seal, the flow of time in these Ruins was vastly different than the outside world, growing progressively more stagnant as they approached Antares…

His guess was that the Disir had incorporated some form of temporal distortion to give themselves more time to come up with solutions to deal with Antares. He even started to suspect that the surrounding structures were built after Antares was ‘trapped’ within the formation as the seal was part of the architecture itself. There was no way they would have been able to come up with an underground seal that would have allowed them to lure and trap Antares, meaning they must have used a very powerful time magic to buy time before putting the seal into place…it was honestly quite terrifying since his connection with his real body would have been completely severed if not for the fact that he was in a very deep meditation…

From the moment they entered into the room, the aura around Antares increased greatly as crystalline black tendrils shot towards them. It wasn’t able to move right now but that didn’t stop it from using the strange tendrils from its body as a defensive mechanism. Fortunately, unlike its main body, these tendrils didn’t possess the indestructible quality so Vahn simply held out his hand and sent Lightning Elemental energy racing through them. They immediately broke down into dust fragments as Vahn inspected Antares more closely with his [Eyes of Truth]. Though the power it possessed was unlike anything he had ever seen, Antares’ current state meant it wouldn’t even be a threat to a decently strong Level 3…

Feeling that he had ‘overprepared’ for this fight, Vahn sighed within his mind as the surrounding air became suffused with a golden hue. Artemis felt her skin crawl as an instinctual fear welled up inside of her heart but, compared to the trust and faith she had in Vahn, this was nothing. She watched with intrigue as several resplendent gold chains emerged from the void and began entwining around the immobile Antares. For a brief moment, it actually stopped absorbing her Arcanum and tried to resist the chains but it was already far too late. By the moment [Enkidu] had entwined around its body, the oppressive aura in the air had completely vanished, the ambient Arcanum now restrained completely.

Vahn released a sigh and allowed his ‘Thunder Emperor’ to fade away since he needed to keep his focus and conserve his Source Energy reserves. To make sure he wasn’t in danger of running low, Vahn ingested a few mana potions before turning to Artemis and saying, “We need to deal with your Familia before trying to recover your main body. Time flows differently within these ruins so the girls aren’t beyond hope of a full recovery. I’ll heal their bodies and then restart their hearts using one of my unique abilities…” Even as he was speaking, Vahn was sending energy through his domain, revitalizing the damaged tissue of the girls and gingerly moving them over with his telekinesis.

Artemis was very confused by the situation but she could feel the confidence coming from Vahn, helping her remain calm as she eyed Antares while asking, “Is there anything I can do…?” Seeing her ‘dead’ Familia members floating through the air caused Artemis’ heart to twinge in pain and regret, at least until Vahn said, “Make sure their ‘Falna’ is still present and, if it is weakening, strengthen it with your remaining Arcanum.” Vahn pulled out the [Arrow of Orion], handing it over to Artemis since it was the source of her power, minus his own Source Energy supplements.

Though Artemis was worried that using up the power in the arrow might make this an unwinnable fight, the chains Vahn had brought out gave her the confidence to convert the remnant Arcanum into her own energy. Antares released a shrill growl but it couldn’t even move a single millimeter under the influence of [Enkidu]. It couldn’t even send any signals out to the monsters it had converted since Vahn had destroyed all of the tendrils it had produced beforehand. Other than screaming while trying to resist against the chains with its physical might, Antares was stuck watching the procedures. Unfortunately for it, as Vahn had created a soundproof barrier around the girls, even this was an ultimately futile action…

He had seen them all within Artemis’ [Hearts Desire], but Vahn couldn’t help but note that she had a knack for finding beautiful women to recruit into her Familia. Though they all had athletic and mature figures, honed over years of hunting and fighting in the wilderness, Vahn found their physical appearances very appealing. Given the circumstances, he was certain many of them would follow after Artemis when they returned to Eden and, unless he actively tried to avoid such a development, it was almost as probable that they would become attached to him…well, having more retainers wasn’t exactly a bad thing…

After healing their bodies, most of the girls looked like they were simply sleeping, so long as you ignored the tattered clothes, blood, and grime. Vahn turned to Artemis at this point, saying, “I’m going to have to undress them for this next part…don’t think less of me, this is purely a…” Artemis had giggled lightly, causing Vahn’s words to trail off as she said, “You know, I can sense your thoughts and the stirring of your heart, Vahn…it’s fine, I’m certain these girls wouldn’t mind at all…” During the moment when Vahn was thinking about ‘inevitabilities’, Artemis had been able to sense the change in his thought process and joined him in thinking about how the girls might react once they discovered their lives had been saved by such a handsome and capable man…

To make sure they wouldn’t be disturbed, Vahn began to set up some semi-permanant barriers but was interrupted when Artemis asked, “Vahn…what about Lante…?” There was a tremble in Artemis’ voice as she asked this since she could still vividly remember the explosion that had been set off before she had tried to seal her Arcanum. Only nineteen of her Familia were present within the barrier Vahn was setting up and it caused her legs to feel weak as she waited for his answer. When he was quiet for several seconds, Artemis’ legs nearly gave out, only to find herself falling into Vahn’s arms as he said, “It seems that I almost did things out of order…thank you for speaking out when you did, Artemis…”

Artemis was a little confused as Vahn set out a cushion and guided her to sit upon it before brushing her hair with his fingers as he said, “I’m going to separate your main body from Antares. I do not know exactly what will happen, but never stop believing…understand…?” Feeling the soothing energy entering into her mind, Artemis absentmindedly nodded her head and said, “I believe…” in an almost inaudible voice. Moments later, though sleep impossible in this form, Artemis found herself fading into unconsciousness. She knew this would normally be a terrible development but didn’t resist at all, placing her full trust in Vahn…

The moment Artemis’ consciousness faded, Vahn felt the energy in her body try to dissipate but he instantly prevented this by placing her into his Inventory. She had only been able to keep her faux-avatar active by ‘willing’ herself to exist so, after removing her consciousness, it was impossible to keep her form. Now, the only Artemis remaining was the one sealed away within the massive crystal located within Antares’ chest cavity. Vahn could see her eyelids flicker slightly as the bond between them persisted, allowing them to feel the love each had for the other…

Deciding Artemis had suffered far too long already, Vahn pulled out the barrier artifact that Terra had given to him. Normally, he would power it on his own but, with so many unknown variables to deal with, Vahn pulled out a blood-red crystal and embedded it into the ‘battery’ slot. Since his blood was one of the most powerful sources of energy available, Vahn had a few painfully constructed [Source Energy Crystals] that could power formations for up to 24 hours. It was one of the greatest exploits he had discovered, even if they could only remain outside of his Inventory for 24 hours and would shatter after a single use…

After the emerald green barrier came into existence, capable of blocking even the Tier 5 Eva’s spells for a short while, Vahn popped his neck and stepped outside. Antares couldn’t put up any resistance right now but there was also no guarantee it would die after he severed its connection with Artemis. If it was still a Tier 4 entity, he would have to do something about it since it wasn’t practical to keep it ensnared with [Enkidu]. He was also hoping to be able to release some of the pent up frustrations he had right now and wanted to ‘break’ the massive monstrosity with his bare hands if the opportunity presented itself…

Without wasting any time, Vahn blinked near Antares’ chest and placed his palm against the vibrant blue crystal that encased Artemis. Since he was no longer in the soundproof barrier, Vahn got to hear the incredibly loud and shrill howl of Antares in close proximity. He countered this by creating a thin film of energy around his body, blocking out external sounds as his hand slowly turned a rainbow hue.

Though it shouldn’t be possible to use the skill like this, Vahn had experienced having his body changes an incalculable number of times and had absolute confidence he could completely ignore common sense in this case. He was using his [Hands of Nirvana] while at the same time allowing the energy to feed back into his body, almost as if he were absorbing it with [Magia Erebea]. Vahn knew it was possible to match the energy wavelength of a person’s body to allow him to safely maneuver his hands through physical matter without any obstruction. Since Source Energy comprised up all other forms of energy, Vahn was confident he could match the wavelength of the surrounding crystal and pass through it, indestructible or not…

Over the course of twenty minutes, Vahn made absolutely no progress other than having his entire right arm now suffused with a rainbow hue. His hand was now so bright that it was nearly white but he didn’t relent for even a single moment. Then, though it was almost indiscernible, Vahn felt his hand ‘sink’ into the crystal slightly as a system notification sounded in his mind. His [Hands of Nirvana], which had long since reached the peak of mortality, just upgraded to the SSS-Rank. For the first time, Vahn had raised a skill to the very peak of the record through his own effort and perseverance…!

As if he had overcome some major threshold, Vahn’s hand now sunk into the crystal as if he were submerging into water. When it somewhat amusingly tried to siphon off his Source Energy, just as it had been doing to Artemis’ Arcanum, Vahn nearly burst out laughing. It couldn’t even drain the Arcanum of a goddess without a serious effort yet it wanted to try and siphon away a form of energy that exceeded, not just the record of Danmachi, but all records. Since this was an energy that belonged solely to him through his union with The Path, Vahn couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride for his current accomplishment, accompanied by a great deal of scorn for Antares…

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Seemingly without any obstruction, Vahn’s hand continued forward until it came to rest in the center of Artemis’ chest. He could feel her body heat through his palm and noticed her eyelids had twitched slightly as the edges of her mouth curled into a smile. It was impossible to remove her body from the crystal under normal means, as she was still wholly physical, but Vahn didn’t care about ‘normal’ means at all. His hand began to deform like a film that slowly spread across Artemis’ body like a thin membrane. It was objectively a little creepy, as he was essentially shaping his own body into a caccoon around Artemis’ body, but it was the best method he could think of for the time being…

Though it seemed to be trying to break free from [Enkidu], Antares couldn’t do anything as Vahn completely surrounded Artemis’ body and extracted it from the crystal. As expected, this didn’t actually sever the connection between Artemis and Antares, but it allowed her to open her eyes slightly as she weakly clung to his arm and said, “You’re…full of surprise…haaa…” Vahn smiled in response, pulling out an ornate knife with his left hand as he said, “This next part is where things get interesting…remember, Artemis, never stop believing in me…” To punctuate his words, Vahn leaned in and gave Artemis a kiss, enjoying the uncommon sweetness of her saliva as he swiped the [Fate Severing Knife] towards Antares…

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