Chapter 872: Catalyst

From the moment he knew of Enyo’s capabilities, Vahn had sent a message to the girls back at Haven and had them gather near Yggy. He assumed that Yggdrasil’s aura would be able to resist against any attempts by Enyo to seize control of the girls. At the same time, Vahn had formed a hypothesis that those recognized as his subordinates and retainers through the system would also be immune to such effects. There shouldn’t be any force in any record that should be able to ‘overwrite’ the influence of Loyalty and Allegiance towards him. As powerful as Enyo may be, Vahn didn’t believe for a moment she would have the ability to circumvent the system function of The Path.

As a special exception, Finn was also within the ‘inner sanctum’ of Haven since he needed to be informed about what was going on. Vahn found him seated with an amiable smile on his face but, with the light layer of sweat and the chaotic fluctuations of the Pallum’s aura, it was clear to see he was very nervous. Right now, Arnya, Chloe, Mikoto, Tione, Tina, and Shizune all had very serious expressions while Yggy sat in Ryuu’s lap while the latter held her in a very protective manner. When they saw the arrival of Vahn’s group, a lot of the tensions in the air had melted away as Vahn swept his eyes over every and confirmed they weren’t affected by Enyo.

Tiona was pulled to the side by Tione as Haruhime and Lili went to support and try to cheer her up. Ais and Lefiya made their way to where Ryuu and Yggy were while Vahn approached Finn and immediately got to the point, explaining what had happened. Though he had been nervous before, Finn had become slightly pale by the time Vahn was done recounting what they had discovered. If it was true that almost anyone within Haven could become an enemy, the moment a large scale attack occurred could spell the end of this ambitious project. Were this information to spread to the members of the expedition, everyone would begin to suspect everyone else of being a potential traitor…

Vahn understood this even better than Finn and, though it would reveal one of their most powerful cards, he had been considering evacuating the entire Floor. If he allowed everyone to move through the teleportation ward, it was the safest way to ensure that Enyo wouldn’t have any time to influence them. However, instead of using the primary ward within the Yggdrasil’s trunk, Vahn was intended to use Terra as a ‘proxy’ while establishing a temporary ward within the primary fortress of the Alliance. They could make a big show of the ridiculous cost of using such a service while increasing the reputation of the Alliance at the same time.

By showing how ‘willing’ he was to spend a veritable fortune just to guarantee everyone was safe, Vahn knew he would be able to increase his rapport while diminishing the inhibitions future expedition would have about proceeding this far. Though the Alliance would undoubtedly suffer a hit to its reputation after calling a full retreat, Vahn knew it would be possible to spin things in their favor once he had defeated Enyo. The more troublesome group to deal with would be the Merchants but Vahn had already come up with the idea of giving them each a token that allowed them to return to the 50th Floor in the future. Knowing they would be able to immediately reach the 50th Floor again, while also having the knowledge they may be able to return to the surface with goods contained within an interspatial ring, many of them would practically froth at the mouth for such an opportunity.

Vahn discussed all of these things with Finn while the girls quietly conversed at the side, both listening to what Vahn was saying while also affirming their own resolve for what was to come. Some, such as Ais and Lefiya, were still fully committed to trying to support Vahn within the Dungeon. Vahn could hear them talking about trying to convince him to accept their help and, while snuggling up with Fenrir back at the Manor, he couldn’t help but come up with ‘solutions’. Lefiya may very well be ‘immune’ to Enyo’s influence and, if he could help her awaken the [Child of Destiny] Innate, Ais would likely be immune to it as well. At the very least, Vahn suspected this awakening that particular Innate would make Ais’ fate far more powerful and would allow her to resist such effects. After all, Bell undoubtedly would have had to deal with the influence of Enyo’s abilities at some point and it was likely the influence of his [Child of Destiny] which allowed him to do so.

By the time he was finished going over his plan with Finn, Vahn had a basic plan of action for how he would proceed forward. They would be evacuating the 50th Floor, leaving only those who had already become his subordinate and retainers to protect the five fortresses. As they would also be able to seek shelter with Yggy, this was one of the ‘safer’ options moving forward. Though there were no guarantees they would be outside the influence of Enyo’s abilities, Sis had assured him that, at the very least, he would be able to know very quickly if something happened. She could monitor the Unit Management list and, if someone was under Enyo’s influence, it would reflect as an abnormality within their State. If their Loyalty and Allegiance parameters were high enough, it was very likely they would simply ‘shrug’ off Enyo’s influence after losing a few points…

Though he never intended for things to happen particularly in this manner, Vahn felt like his intentions back when he decided to create Haven had influenced this outcome. Originally, he wanted this place to be a safe haven for the Elves who sought to escape the corruption of the Elven Kingdom. He also wanted it to be a place where the Xenos could roam freely without fear of persecution by the surface dwellers. Now, because his largest following were the Elves and the Xenos, those intentions seemed to be becoming a reality.

Vahn was certain he could man the fortresses using those who were genuinely loyal and had pledged their allegiance to him, turning Haven into the truest expression of his ideals and intentions. This would undoubtedly draw some criticism by some groups who would want to spin it as him using the Alliance to make a seat of power for himself, but those who cried the loudest usually had the least amount of real power. Those with any sense could already see that he acted with impunity within the Alliance and, even if he ‘locked down’ the entire 50th Floor, there wasn’t much anyone could do to stop him.

Once he had made these decisions, Vahn looked to Finn and stated in a voice filled with authority, “Pass down my order, Finn. Everyone will gather in the plaza that had been opened up in front of the Alliance’s main fortress. Do not worry about the defenses of the other areas for the time being as everything has already been compromised at this point. It will take a few hours to establish, but we will make an emergency teleportation ward to move everyone to the surface. I will entrust two spatial artifacts with you so that all of the supplies and materials can be secured before everyone sets out. There will be a lot of paperwork that you’ll need to do but it is better than the alternative of having everyone wiped out because of Enyo’s schemes…”

Without arguing at all, Finn accepted the list that Vahn had compiled, detailing all of the people that could be ‘trusted’, at least for the time being. They would be the ones moving all of the supplies and performing the final checks to make sure there weren’t any people trying to break away while everyone was gathering. Vahn would be confirming with his own eyes if anyone was under Enyo’s influence but, for the time being, his focus was on securing the safety of everyone present.

Once Finn had set out to carry out his orders, Vahn turned to the girls and, before they could say anything, firmly stated, “We were very fortunate that nothing worse happened…I’m sorry, Lili, you should have never had to go through that. Tiona, you as well, please try to cheer up; there isn’t a single person here that blames you for what happened. We will find a solution to prevent things like this from occurring in the future so smile and keep moving forward, just like you always do…”

Vahn always felt bothered when someone like Tiona wasn’t smiling, as it almost felt ‘wrong’ to see her so sad and melancholic.

In response to his supportive words, Tiona managed a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes as she said, “I will become even stronger in the future…but, I won’t neglect to focus on my mental development any longer. I don’t want the strength I worked so hard to cultivate, all so that I can protect the people I care about, to be used to cause them harm…!” By the time she finished her statement, a small fire had already started to burn in Tiona’s eyes. This caused Vahn to also feel a bit of relief as, with Tiona slowly returning to her former self, everyone else would undoubtedly cheer up and continue working hard.

Since it would undoubtedly come up, Vahn seized the initiative and explained, “There are several types of meditation technique and cultivation basics that we can all start to develop together in the future. For the time being, the important thing is making sure we’re not exposed in a situation where Enyo can act to bring harm to those we care about. Right now, there are a lot of things going on within Orario and we should consolidate our forces there. Enyo will be dealt with by me and, though I know some of you will want to help, it is currently safer for me to take action on my own. Ais, I know you have the strongest drive to probe deeper into the Dungeon but, until you awaken your other Innates, I think it is best if you temper yourself and protect what is most important.”

In response to this, Ais showed a conflicted expression and hung her head a bit before tightly gripping her fists as she asked, “Will I be able to help you if I awaken those abilities…?” Without any hesitation, Vahn confidently nodded and, with an encouraging smile on his face, said, “It is as I’ve always said, Ais…so long as you believe wholeheartedly in yourself, and never give up, there are no limits to your growth whatsoever. If you truly believed in the path you were walking, it isn’t impossible that everyone here could one day be stronger than even the gods in Heaven…” As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Vahn found himself trying to use this catastrophe caused by Enyo as a means to push the girls even further. Not only did he naturally begin thinking of ways to spin things in the Alliances favor but, knowing things had taken a very sudden turn, this event could be used as a catalyst for both his growth and the growth of the girls…

Though they were accustomed to hearing Vahn say very similar things, everyone was fired up by his words this time around. They had already seen Vahn do the impossible several times and, though they never believed themselves to be weak, everyone present knew that their beliefs had been shaped considerably by Vahn’s influence. Before, even if decades were to pass, the odds of them reaching Level 7 were nearly impossible. Now, even though they were still relatively young, the majority of their group was already above Level 5 while some of their members were slowly approaching intermediate Level 7. In time, they would undoubtedly reach Level 8 and, so long as they didn’t give up, even breaking through the ‘limit’ was entirely possible…

Vahn’s words were especially effective on girls like Haruhime, Lefiya, and Lili, as they were already Vahn’s disciples and truly believed almost everything he said. It had only been a few years but now, even though they couldn’t even protect themselves in the past, Haruhime and Lili were both monstrously strong Adventurers who had a great deal of fame. As for Lefiya, she had broken through the limits of ‘normal’ Mages long ago and, with Vahn’s help, she was nowhere near the pinnacle she sought. There were no obstacles in her way, so long as she continued to follow Vahn’s teachings and put her all into the research they conducted…

Seeing how everyone was reacting positively to his words, Vahn’s heart and mind were at ease, the calm brought upon by his [Will of the Emperor] finally returning. He had panicked a great deal after realizing what Enyo was capable of but, now that he was relaxing back home, and had seen the resolute lights in each of the girls’ eyes, Vahn’s confidence had returned. Now, he just needed to secure Haven and, once that was taken care of, his ‘hunt’ for Enyo would begin. Vahn knew her information network was powerful but, if he went all out, even she shouldn’t be able to track him easily. Though he would try to never underestimate her again, Vahn knew he hadn’t been going all out this entire time and, now that things had reached this point, there was no turning back…

Back within the Manor, Vahn had detected the arrival of Anubis and, though he had been enjoying Fenrir’s presence, he still wanted to make sure those close to him were outside of Enyo’s influence. Fortunately, Anubis had very rarely left her area of Heaven and didn’t have many connections with the social circles in the godly community. She hadn’t been under the influence of Enyo, making Vahn feel a lot better about the future. If Enyo had been able to influence all eight regions of Heaven, things would have been infinitely more troublesome in the future. Now, he really just had to worry about those who were active in Heaven, those who originated in the Northern Pantheon, and those who had ventured deep into the Dungeon. Amongst these groups, the most troublesome to deal with were potentially Zeus and Hera but, with Enyo showing no signs of being able to actively control gods on the surface just yet, this was only an assumption…

As the day continued, Vahn ended up entering into the Dungeon with his avatar while his main body returned to the surface through the primary teleportation ward. He also had Terra come to his side with Unit Management and help establish a secondary teleportation ward that would be connected to the monster stables within Babel Tower. Loki had already discussed things with Ganesha to clear out a large area that would serve as the evacuation point, at least for the time being. While this was going on, Vahn also met up with Freya at the Southern Manor, clearing up Enyo’s influence within her mind and then pacifying her for a bit since she had been very upset by the revelation.

Later that same day, Vahn confirmed that Demeter had also been under Enyo’s influence so he freed her as well, seemingly without it bothering her too much. Since she was unaware of being affected by Enyo, Demeter didn’t let it get to her much and just promised to assist Loki in the investigations into her own Familia. There was a chance that some of her core members had also been affected and, now that Enyo was losing some of her pawns, she may try to do something drastic that could result in gods being assassinated. As a Goddess of War, Enyo undoubtedly had a powerful understanding of war and tactics…this wasn’t likely the last card she had to play…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘There is just something ‘wrong’ about seeing lively girls sad…’,’Vahn is slowly learning how to be a ‘leader’. Manipulating negative situations to have a more positive outcome…oh my…’,’The best thing Enyo could do at this point is just buy time for herself…’)

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