Chapter 886: Discovery

For a period of nine days after Enyo’s capture, her forces had continued to stage small scale terrorist attacks throughout the City. Though the Alliance had cleaned up a large number of them, those who had escaped thus far were becoming increasingly more difficult to pin down. Their methods became more discreet and, even with the City gates being temporarily locked down, it was likely that several members had left Orario. With their [Helm of Darkness], a weaker and mass-produced version of the [Helm of Hades], they were able to move invisibly, giving off no presence whatsoever, even if the mana cost was rather intense. Unlike the [Helm of Hades] itself, which was able to naturally pull mana out of the air, the [Helm of Darkness] was limited to about an hour of use, though Tiona seemed to be an exception to this rule as her body itself allowed her to power it almost indefinitely…

Because they had been the ones primarily subjugating the enemies, Ais, Tiona, and Tione ended up looting quite a number of [Helm of Darkness]. Since they were very proficient at controlling their own mana, they had been playing around with being invisible, pulling off a few pranks on Vahn to lighten the mood. This resulted in Vahn gaining increased proficiency in detecting invisible enemies so, even with Tiona sneaking kisses and touching parts of his body unexpectedly, it wasn’t really a bad thing. The first time she did it, however, Vahn had been successfully spooked and nearly ended up attacking her, something that only fueled her later actions as she claimed it made things more exciting…

With so many items as research material, Asfi had actually made her own prototype of the [Helm of Darkness], this one taking on the appearance of visored goggle that Vahn intended to issue to the Pallum Scouts that were being specially trained by Chloe. After he had used the [Star Fire Sphere]s against Enyo, Vahn realized there was a great deal of merit to making use of produced goods to make fights easier. Yes, it reduced the amount of Exilia you could gain from defeating enemies but it wouldn’t matter how much experience you could gain if you ended up dead as a result of your own hubris…

Vahn understood the dangers of mass-producing powerful equipment that could be used by weak individuals as, if the technology was stolen and replicated, it would make future wars for everyone more difficult. If Asfi’s, [Stealth Visor Mk. 1] fell into the hands of a thief or a murderer, the amount of damage even a single person could do was monstrous. They had all learned this first hand from Enyo’s forces as the majority were only around Level 1-2 in strength. For better or worse, Enyo’s influence over them made it so that they were unable to join other Familia, meaning their relative strength was rather low. Vahn also had the unfortunate opportunity to discover that, as expected, many of these individuals had been ‘raised’ by Enyo and her pawns since birth and, outside of completely erasing their memories, there was no way to truly free them from her control…

By the time the Xenos had helped to secure the 60th Floor, Vahn had rescued a total of 1,274 victims of Enyo’s ‘birthing’ chambers. Of this total, 102 had been male while the remaining 1,172 were a mixed assortment of females, fourteen of which were High Spirits. Vahn had incorrectly assumed that the largest number of victims would be Elves as, after clearing out the other rooms, it became apparent that Enyo’s pawns had tried to separate the chambers by race. This depended on the specific traits of the High Spirit, as Vahn found a lot of Chienthropes in a room with a dog-like Spirit while another room had an assortment of Pallum and Dwarves connected to a Gnome. (A/N: This isn’t the garden gnome spirits, but an actual Earth Elemental Gnome.)

From Ein’s research notes, Vahn had been able to learn that they were trying to discover how High Spirits had bred with other creatures in the past, as it should have been impossible to impregnate them. It was in these same research notes that Vahn was able to discover the answer to one of the important questions he had wanted to uncover, this time relating to Ais. There was an entire section of research documents relating to her as the ‘alpha subject’, dating back nearly a thousand years, even before Ein had become Enyo’s pawn. It was Ais’ existence, and the cells of her mother Aria, which had laid the foundation for the research into the breeding chambers and trying to cultivate what the documents referred to as Demi-Spirits…

Vahn had stumbled across this information while he was trying to confirm the connection between Enyo’s ‘Familia’ and the victims within those nightmarish chambers. He ended up regretting the discovery, however, as there was no easy way to explain the truth of the matter to Ais. This was primarily due to the fact that Ais may not even be her original self at all, even if her soul and ego had been transplanted in successive generations of herself. In essence, she was essentially just an avatar, or a clone, of the original Ais…someone who had died a very long time ago. If not for the fact that something had gone wrong in the research, causing the ‘clone’ to be spat out in a different part of the Dungeon, Ais likely would have existed as nothing more than a test subject…

Even with his inhibitions, Vahn still revealed the truth to Ais and, as she had been comfortable with them knowing of her origins, everyone else within the Manor. She took the news surprisingly well, even better than Vahn himself had, simply nodding her head in understanding with a small, “I see…” as Tiona, Tione, and Lefiya comforted her. Nobody thought lesser of her after the revelation as, much like everyone that existed, she had simply been a soul that migrated to a new body. Unlike others, however, Ais had been born through the reincarnation process of the Dungeon, much like the Xenos. This made her very unique and, after learning the truth, Ais’ hatred towards monsters had faded greatly while her kinship with the Xenos had blossomed…

From the research notes related to Ais and her mother, Aria, Vahn was able to glean some insights about the Dungeon, Tartarus, itself. Though it felt awkward to look into the particulars, given Ais’ association to them, Vahn had her consent to seek out the truth. This was a very important part of understanding the very nature of the world and could give him insights that even gods would err in their path to obtain. After all, Enyo had been outright obsessed with the Dungeon and, given the nature of her Divinities, this didn’t make a lot of sense…

What Vahn was able to glean thus far was that the reincarnation cycle was something that even the gods themselves didn’t fully understand. Though it was certainly operational within the world, to the point where it was even possible to track a person from one life into the next, there were always exceptions. The biggest ‘unknown’ was the Realm of Hades, as even the gods in Heaven were unable to access it through any known means. Though gods like Hermes could potentially find a way to traverse into the mysterious third Realm, it was unlikely someone like him would tell anyone about what he discovered there…

One thing Vahn knew, ever since the discovery of the Xenos, was that the Dungeon, Tartarus, had a self-contained system of reincarnation. Not only could it take in the budding souls of monsters across the Continent, allowing them to be reborn in its depths, but it now seemed possible that the surface races were also subject to this. The thing about this fact was that it didn’t make any sense, as a physical object like the Dungeon shouldn’t be able to influence souls to such a degree, at least from what Vahn understood. There had to be some greater laws at work and, only by probing into the depths of the Dungeon, could he find any real answers. If it truly did connect to Hades, the chances this mysterious third Realm connected to the cycle of reincarnation were very high…

With even Anubis unable to give him any insight into the cycle of Life and Death, Vahn was left with nothing but a few hundred years of research and a seemingly infinite number of questions beyond his comprehension to answer. One thing he knew was that Tartarus was the name of the Primordial Goddess that connected the three Realms by sacrificing her body. This created another question, however, as Vahn couldn’t understand the reason why she would have made such a sacrifice. History stated that Nuwa and Tiamat, two other Primordial Deities, remained behind in ‘Hell’, which he now believed to be ‘Hades’. It was also documented that ‘Hell’ was the remnants of the Realm that existed before the formation of Heaven and the Mortal World…

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It was this line of thought that gave Vahn insight into the truth of the matter, at least as far as his own comprehension allowed. If the Dungeon was truly Tartarus, which was almost certainly the truth since The Path designated it as such, it meant there was a high chance that…if you were able to descend its depths, you would come out in ‘Hades’, the true nature of which was the Primordial Gods’ plane of existence. It was ‘impossible’ for mortals to ascend to Heaven but, if there was a physical path to a Realm that even transcended Heaven, there was no way of knowing what kind of power one could obtain. Enyo may very well have wanted to return to the ‘origin’ of things…for reasons that Vahn could only guess…

When Vahn had discussed this with the goddesses, they had been greatly shaken by the revelation as the Dungeon’s ‘name’ wasn’t actually common knowledge, even to the gods themselves. The Dungeon had existed long before the creation of most living gods and, though they knew that Tartarus had become the bridge connecting the Realms, they had no idea her ‘body’ had become the Dungeon. If that was true…it both made sense as to why Ouranos kept it a secret, as there was no way of knowing how most gods would react to knowing they had access to the original plane of existence. Instead, he wanted ‘mortals’ to be the one to venture forward and conquer the Dungeon’s depths which, in a way, was actually ‘ascending’ from the Mortal World to one of the godly planes…

Ouranos had always been a silent observer to History, taking action so rarely that his only two notable actions were recorded by History. His first ‘action’ had been assisting the other Primordial Deities to rewind time, restoring balance to the Shattered Realms. After that, he took no major action in Heaven, even when other gods tried to contend for his position. It wasn’t until he had descended to the Mortal World, something that had been ‘necessary’ with the pressure from the entire godly community, that he was once again noted in History. Since then, other than serving his role as a Mediator to maintain balance and order, Ouranos’ only action had been sealing the Dungeon…

Loki had originally thought that Ouranos seal had spelled doom for the Mortal World as, with the increased mana possessed within its walls, the strength of monsters would continue to rise. However, it wasn’t until Ouranos sealed the Dungeon that the Xenos began emerging in the world. In a way, their existence was the Dungeon’s way of maintaining equilibrium as they were ‘neutral’ monsters that often sought to avoid conflict. The Dungeon even changed its own structure, creating safe areas for the Xenos to reside while the continued to feed on the ambient energy of the Dungeon, all while desiring to ‘escape’ and reach the surface. If this had worked as intended, the energy within the Dungeon would have slowly been drained away by the Xenos but, in order to prevent this, Evilus, likely as an extension of Enyo’s will, ensured that the Xenos were treated as true monsters…

Vahn couldn’t help but wonder if Ouranos understood the ‘purpose’ of the Xenos as, before the Guild announced they were a protected species, there were active subjugation rewards posted for their successful slaying. Since Ouranos’ personal policy was that the Xenos’ existence was unique, even claiming they would be able to coexist with those living on the surface, he had remained silent as his own organization hunted them down. It was contrary actions like this that confounded Vahn, even though he could somewhat rationalize this as Ouranos’ way to remain neutral. If he had truly taken action to protect the Xenos, this would have been a clear indicator that he had sided with them, even as the perspective of mortals and gods painted them as enemies…

With as much power as Ouranos possessed, Vahn knew the elderly god would be able to act with impunity in both Heaven and the Mortal World. The fact he was ‘content’ to simply observe was, in a way, something very commendable. His age was arguably twice that of almost every other god and, in that time, Ouranos had watched as each new era began and ended, never wavering in his ‘duty’ to the world at large. Vahn knew this was something he simply wasn’t capable of, as watching the world around him be destroyed was beyond him. Even though he knew this only invited greater chaos in the world, so as to oppose him, Vahn couldn’t back down and just watch as people suffered…

Though Vahn found it difficult to ‘forgive’ Ouranos, he could also rationalize that the elderly god had done nothing wrong. There was nothing that ‘required’ him to take action and, if he had truly been an arrogant god who exploited his power, the world may have been a very different place. In fact, with Ouranos serving as an inviolable power, and a truly ‘neutral’ force, it was possible to keep the other gods restrained. If he hadn’t descended before the others, the number of Nation-Type Familia would likely be far greater, to the point that the Mortal World would truly just be a playground for the Gods. So long as Ouranos simply sat on his throne, helping to seal the Dungeon, other gods would gather around him, building an ‘accepting’ community that couldn’t be found anywhere else on the Continent…

Even so, Vahn still couldn’t truly ‘understand’ Ouranos’ perspective on things, which wasn’t difficult to rationalize considering one of them was nearly a billion years old. Since there was literally nothing he could do to change the way Ouranos acted, Vahn had no choice but to simply accept how things were…at least for the moment. It was very likely he would one day come to understand Ouranos’ position but, at the very least, Vahn knew he would be able to change things when he connected the records in the future. Though a lot would change between now and then, Vahn would do his best to fight against the forces of chaos, even if the Tier of the records were constantly elevated to keep the balance…

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(A/N: Some people may not like how things were ‘wrapped up’ in regards to Ais, but know this isn’t the end of things. Remember, the avatar of the One-Eyed Black Dragon was supposed to be on the 60th Floor…even though Vahn hasn’t encountered it? Ufufufufu~. Also, this will be the last chapter for today since I don’t want tomorrow’s to be late. I’ll probably have out three before I get busy but the day after should be ‘normal’? I’m not entirely sure, so I’ll let you know as things change~! Also, also, though some of you may hate Ouranos, you have to consider that ‘someone’ needs to be in his position in such a world. If even the most powerful gods are corrupt, then it would be borderline impossible for mortals to even exist with any semblance of peace xD…)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘All your base are belong to us…’,’Ais is essentially a Human Xenos with the cells of her Mother spliced into her (T _ T)…’,’The legendary Tartarsauce~! Ouranos’ neutrality, at what cost…?’)

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