Chapter 888: Limbo

With Enyo dealt with, at least for the time being, Vahn found himself within the underground area of the Guest Residence. Though he had talked with Fels a few times, the latter hadn’t given out almost any beneficial information and usually just spent the entire day sitting in silence. The skeletal man didn’t require sustenance at all, nor did he complain about being locked away, irrespective of the Hermes’ request that he be freed. Because of this, Vahn wasn’t entirely sure how to deal with Fels but, considering the man had attempted to kill him, letting him simply walk about freely wasn’t an option…

This time, Vahn had just come over after having a picnic with his younger daughters, Meinya, Sakuya, Anise, Lenneth, Aisha, and Autumn. They had all gathered together under Yggy’s canopy with Diana acting as their ‘Maid’, even though this resulted in her just playing along with the other children after a while. Fortunately, Emiru and Maemi had been in attendance as well, even though Vahn could have easily cleaned up on his own. He noticed that, as time passed, the number of ‘duties’ he had for himself was steadily decreasing. Now, if he tried to take proactive action to plan, prepare, or clean up, one of the Maids would end up shooing him away so that he could spend time with one of the girls or, as was often the case, his children…

Having left the picnic in a pleasant mood, Vahn took the elevator down to where Fels was contained, finding the aberrant Alchemist, once again, sitting silently on the edge of his bed. It was always a bit strange, seeing a skeleton adorned in black plating just ‘sitting’ on the edge of a bed, but Vahn had gotten used to it over the last two weeks. As for Fels, he just turned his head up to see who had entered the room, his ghostly voice echoing, “Vahn Mason…welcome…” While speaking, Fels rose to his feet, standing with a crooked and lazy posture before making his way over to the small table where they often talked with each other.

In response to Fels’ greeting, Vahn just gave a curt nod before sitting at the table himself, saying, “I’m actually not that fond of keeping people imprisoned, even though I’ll do so if necessary…if you would only answer my questions, I don’t mind freeing you from this place…” In response to this, Fels laughed in his characteristically eerie manner before shaking his head and saying, “Though I am able to speak, I am unable to answer most of the questions you have asked. If you do not wish to keep me held here, you are better off killing me, Vahn Mason…”

As Fels had alluded to killing him more than once in their discussions, Vahn wasn’t taken aback by his words in the least. Over the last few days, he had considered killing Fels more than once, as it seemed the immortal Alchemist genuinely desired his own death. However, Vahn was also very aware that Fels had likely made an Eternal Vow to Ouranos, meaning death wouldn’t truly liberate him in most circumstances. If anything, he would have a reprieve of a few hundred years before once again being born into the world. Though this would give Vahn enough time to truly ‘free’ Fels, after linking the records, there were simply too many questions he wanted answering…

While falling silent for several long seconds, Vahn mulled over his discussions with Loki and, after firming his resolve, looking into Fels’ hollow eye sockets and said, “If you are willing to make a vow, swearing not to interfere with matters relating to the Alliance and its members for ten years, I will allow you to return to Ouranos. With Enyo having been dealt with, and Ein no longer a concern, you should be able to perform your duties without causing harm to others…” Other than a very slight fluctuation in Fels’ aura, it was entirely impossible to read the skeletal visage before him. Even so, Vahn was able to glean enough from that small ripple to confidently state, “You have information that I want, Fels, and I’m certain that Ouranos will allow you to expose it in the future…however, I can promise you this, there will come a time when you will be freed from your curse…”

Since there was no point in killing Fels just yet, combined with the fact it would be increasingly more troublesome to keep him imprisoned, Loki had convinced Vahn to at least try to get some benefits out of the situation. Ouranos wasn’t a fool and, even if he just sat by and watched as Fels ‘betrayed’ the Guild, the elderly god allowed it to happen because of his nature. If they returned Fels to him, it would give them some leeway in future discussions with Ouranos. Since they had already dealt with Enyo and were intending to probe deeper into the Dungeon, it was possible that, even without revealing information himself, Ouranos may ‘allow’ Fels to speak freely.

Fels understood Vahn’s intentions and, even if it was just a bit, there was a visible sag to his shoulders. Even so, he knew that the latter half of Vahn’s words held some truth and, having seen the latter kill something that should have been immortal, there was a small kindling of hope lit within his non-existent heart. Thus, without any argument, Fels nodded his head and swore a vow in accordance with the terms listed out by Vahn. With that out of the way, Vahn gave him a shroud to conceal his figure before returning the [Helm of Hades] to him. He and Asfi had already done the necessary research on the Magic Item and having Fels walk around in public as a skeleton would draw far too much attention…

With one less problem to worry about, even though it had potentially created future problems, Vahn was in a rather light-hearted mood. He decided to spend the rest of the afternoon with Syr, as she was getting further along in her pregnancy, before spending another blissful night sleeping alongside his children. Though he was still using his avatar to manage things on the 50th and 60th Floors, there were no longer any attacks from Enyo’s pawns, especially after the ‘source’ was dealt with. Without the pseudo-Spirit fetus parasites, there were no longer any mutated monsters to worry about, allowing the Alliance to prepare a second expedition while shoring up the defenses of Lil Geirr and Haven…

Presently, Vahn ‘biggest’ issue was dealing with the aftermath of Enyo’s actions, more specifically those related to her victims. There were large-scale investigations being conducted to identify each person while the High Spirits, Demigoddesses, and Xenos were all moved to secure locations. The Xenos had been turned over to Spero, where they were starting to get their lives back on track, while the eleven recovered Demigoddesses were being kept with the High Spirits in the sectioned of West Wing of the Manor. Though the High Spirits had ‘recovered’ almost instantly, and would likely end up joining the Alliance Familia or residing in the Elven Kingdom, the Demigoddesses, and other victims, were struggling a great deal.

One of the more extreme cases amongst Enyo’s victims had been a Demigoddess of Elven lineage, having been trapped inside of the Dungeon for more than four hundred years. Since the contraption they were connected to did nothing to rob them of their consciousness, they would spend long hours of each day in great suffering. As a result, many of the victims were ‘broken’ beyond repair, with some outright trying to kill themselves or generally just refusing to eat. Over half of the victims had become completely catatonic, though they had been improving slowly with Preasia’s assistance and Vahn’s daily visits to give them treatment.

Vahn really didn’t know the best way to deal with this large number of victims, outside of erasing their memories or giving them the ‘mercy’ of death. He remembered his resolve upon saving them, fully intending to end their lives if they chose that path, but the reality of the situation had run contrary to his initial resolve. Seeing people suffering, but still alive, Vahn felt compelled to do what he could to help them recover and find happiness. He believed there was always ‘hope’, so long as there was life and, if they truly had surviving friends and family, Vahn thought it would be even more tragic if they gave up on life after having survived through that hell…

Though he did erase the memories of the ‘broken’ individuals, who even Preasia couldn’t help, Vahn often tried to encourage the others to look towards the future and seek a better life for themselves. Now that they had been liberated from Enyo, he emphasized that the best way to get their revenge was to do everything they could to be happy. He promised that, so long as they didn’t walk down a dark path that victimized others, the Alliance would do everything in their power to help them reclaim the life that had been unjustly robbed from them.

In the end, after preliminary investigations were conducted, a total of 93 people had ended up choosing death, a solemn matter that Vahn ensured was completely painless. Though it might have been unfair to the other victims, Vahn made it a relatively public affair within the group since he wanted them to feel a sense of unity while also seeing how painful and sad it was to send off a companion. This was a very draining experience for him but, by the end of things, Vahn could see a stronger desire to live in some of the more worrisome individuals in the group. As for those that had chosen death, it was because they had either lost most of their companions before becoming captives, or they had simply lived too long and had no hope for a better life, even with assistance…

As a result of incidents like this, Vahn found himself cherishing the time he had at home with his own family a lot more. There was so much pain and anguish in the world but, here at the Hearth Manor, almost every day was filled with warmth and happiness. He could choose to spend his time showing affection to his many wives and lovers, watching over his children’s training and education, or just playing around and lazing about. There was so much happiness within his home that, as long as he didn’t let the matters of the outside world get in, Vahn felt like he could spend an eternity just enjoying the time spent with his rather large family…

This was emphasized by moments like now, with Vahn opening his eyes halfway to see the adorable face of his children piled around him. It was already late in the morning but, with nothing concrete planned for the day, he could spend several additional hours just lazing about if he wanted to. If not for the fact he tried to set a good example for this large herd of angelic creatures, Vahn very well might spend the entire morning just cooped up in this warm and comfortable atmosphere. However, as he did try to be a good ‘Papa’, Vahn ended up extricating himself from the younglings before waking them up properly, helping the younger ones get dressed, making sure everyone washed their faces, and, though it took the longest amount of time, even brushed and styled their hair all before breakfast.

Just making his way down the stairs was a bit of a chore, as Vahn had Meinya riding his shoulders while he held Sakuya and Anise in his arms. They were starting to get a little big to carry around, but Vahn didn’t mind it at all, even as the girls’ Guardians caused him a bit of trouble. Tsukyuu, Sakuya’s Three-Tailed Fox, was playing with Meinya while her nails dug into his scalp. As for Chamo, the Tyrant Mountain Bear belonging to Meinya, Vahn was levitating its rapidly growing body behind them as it wriggled around uncomfortably. The only one not causing problems was Argo, Anise’s Steel-Backed Wofl, who followed behind obediently as if Vahn was the pack Alpha…

Vahn didn’t mind the presence of any of the Guardians, so long as they didn’t damage the Manor, so it wasn’t uncommon for a veritable menagerie of unique and exotic creatures to be present within the dining room for meals. There were rather massive entities like Vana’s True Fire Dragon, Vulcan, and Autumn’s Heaven-Bearing Ox while, inversely, there were tiny creatures like Eiko’s Gemcutter Squirrel and the triplets’ Mountain Corgis running around. Though the younger children were still nursing, it wasn’t uncommon for everyone to gather for meals ever since the number of Maids had greatly increased. As a result, there were often more than thirty people present for meals while the seventeen Guardians lingered about. With entities like Shirohime also present, though she would often just cuddle up with Tsukyuu, every meal was incredibly lively…

It was moments like this that Vahn wanted to protect at all cost so, even though he would rather just stay home all day, he knew there were a number of things he needed to tend to. Though he would be busy in the Dungeon for a few months longer, Vahn was very aware that his power wasn’t truly at the point that he could oppose all threats. With Artemis and Enyo both being examples, Vahn knew it wasn’t impossible for other monsters to have potentially fused with the Arcanum of a god. At the same time, it was very possible that there were entities that were infinitely close to Tier 4, just like Yggy was…he knew he needed to increase his power further while putting pressure on his enemies at the same time.

After his confrontation with Enyo, Vahn understood the supreme significance of information, as even just a few minor details relating to your enemy provided an extreme advantage. It would take a few months, at the very least, but Chloe and Ryuu were training a secondary division of Scouts that would be completely focused on gathering information in other countries. To make their tasks even easier, Vahn had managed to convince Fortuna and Minerva to allow these same individuals to ‘apprentice’ within their Familia to learn skills like Trade, Bartering, Terrain Mapping, etc. By the time their training had completed, these select individuals would become Vahn’s personal network of spies.

With his Quest, Vahn was determined to unify the Continent and improve the standard of living for everyone within the seven different regions. He also had plans for both the Dark Continent and the Far East, all while having the intrinsic need to venture deeper into the Dungeon, Tartarus. Since external powers would limit his time to delve into the Deeper Floors, Vahn needed to deal with the Iron Hills, Rakia, and Telskyura in the near future. As for the other Kingdoms and regions, it would depend on the findings of his spies and the Scouting parties sent out by the Haven Defense Force…

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There was still much to do before his time in this record was through…Vahn just hoped that his Karma wasn’t able to keep up with the rate of change he was introducing, as it would become even more troublesome if unexpected events happened. Even then, so long as it didn’t affect his family, Vahn was confident he would be able to deal with it…regardless of how difficult things got…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Fels, in a way, is rather tragic…’,’Never stop believing in the future’,’Maybe Vahn will realize that, as someone with authority, he needs to let his subordinates act if he wants to have real quality time with his family in the future (OwO)~!’)

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