Chapter 891: React

Being one of the backers for the Alliance Faire, Vahn was expected to make an appearance on each day of the event. He had noticed that, as his prestige and authority rose, the number of things he was ‘expected’ to do had increased. Though it was a little troublesome, there were now more than 600,000 ‘moving parts’ making up the complex structure that was the Alliance. Responsibilities needed to be delegated to the appropriate people and, being the Supreme Commander and Head of the Alliance, Vahn knew his place involved public representation. His presence alone could increase the tension in the entire Coliseum and, when he clapped or gave out commendations, the reaction of the public and participants was, for lack of a better word, ‘extreme’.

The unfortunate downside to things was that it gave Vahn a ‘predictable’ nature, as it was very easy to know where and when he would be located in specific places. This made it possible to set traps in preparation of his arrival or, in the more troublesome cases, his enemies had the option of attacking his location or prioritizing targets away from his location. In this instance, as Vahn firmly seated the rambunctious Meinya in his lap, it seemed they had decided to take the bold approach.

Though they were far outside of his detection range, Vahn had seen the small beyond the dense cumulonimbus clouds overhead. His eyesight, though not as extreme as Naaza’z [Eagle Eye], allowed him to spot small targets at an extreme range of over 10km with clarity. Because of this, and the fact the skies were supposed to be ‘cleared’ during events, Vahn had immediately taken notice of the more than two-hundred Drakes flying high above the Coliseum. Though it was difficult to make out what they were dropping, Vahn quickly deduced that the riders had decided to drop explosive ordinance over the Coliseum, indiscriminately…

Given the height they were dropping the bombs, Vahn knew they were intending to release their payload and simply try to fly away before anyone knew what was happening. It would take several minutes for the bombs to impact the City, during which time they would have covered a great distance. At the same time, it was nearly impossible to counterattack because they were simply too far away for even skilled Adventurers to attack. Vahn found this display to be extremely cowardly but, at the same time, he understood that the people riding the Drakes simply wanted to preserve their lives. It was similar to how he would have Fafnir attack from outside the range of enemies, the key difference being that he didn’t just attack innocents and ‘flee’…

Interrupting the battle taking place in the Coliseum, Vahn rose to his feet and began exerting pressure through his domain, his voice silencing the entire crowd as he kept his focus on the sky and said, “The Iron Hills is attacking the City. The Coliseum is a safe area where you can seek shelter. All members of the Alliance, report to your respective Familia and do your duty…” Though his voice was calm, the void around Vahn trembled slightly as everyone listened in absolute silence. He had used his domain to amplify the sound of his voice so that it reached everyone without him having to scream out like Ganesha.

There was a stir in the crowded Coliseum but the calm in Vahn’s voice, combined with the subtle pressure they were feeling, kept people from panicking. Those belonging to the Alliance moved in an orderly fashion while Vahn passed Meinya over to Maemi, saying, “Be a good girl and go with Maemi back to the Manor for me, okay…?” She was a troublemaker in most instances but, when her Papa got ‘serious’, Meinya knew when to be a good girl. Without arguing, she nodded her head and hugged Maemi close as the latter sprouted wings and immediately took towards the sky. Emiru took along Anise, who was almost inseparable from Meinya, while Vahn turned to Hephaestus, the only goddess to come with him on the third day, asking, “Do you want me to send you back with Fafnir? I need to deal with the bombs…”

Hephaestus shook her head casually, a smile affixed to her face as she confidently said, “I’ll wait here to help pacify the crowd if things become chaotic.” Vahn returned a smile to Hephaestus before turning his eyes skyward and ‘vanishing’ from the viewing platform. He had still called Fafnir to Hephaestus’ side, as there was always a chance she could be one of their targets, while sending telepathic messages to the girls back at the Manor to alert them. It could be that the Iron Hills was simply attacking the Coliseum to disrupt the Alliance Faire, likely to hurt their prestige among the public, but there was a good chance they had targetted other areas as well.

If Vahn later found that they had dropped bombs on the Hearth Manor…well, they had already sealed their fates with this attack. That would just speed up their demise as the Hearth Manor and its residents were well-known to be something of a ‘reverse-scale’ for Vahn. You could antagonize him directly without too many issues but, the moment you targetted the people he cared about, it was the same as throwing any chance for reconciliation out the window…

Much faster than the bombs were falling, Vahn ascended into the sky with a monstrous momentum. The moment he detected the bombs within his domain, Vahn condensed a dense membrane of air that smashed into the bombs and caused them to explode far above their intended targets. Then, amidst a veritable cloud of explosions, Vahn burst through as the plumes of flame coiled around his body. He was using Fire Elemental manipulation to prevent the flames from dispersing, feeing them with excess oxygen through his domain. This caused the cloud of Drakes to disperse outward but they were nowhere near as fast as Vahn himself was. He sent waves of flames barreling towards the larger clumps while pulling out his [Khryselakatos] and accurately sniping the Drake-riders without harming their mounts.

Vahn wanted to avoid having the bodies of Drakes smashing down on buildings and pedestrians so he was primarily targetting their riders. They were strapped onto the Drakes and, because of their homing instinct, Vahn would be able to follow them back to wherever they had taken off from. This became even more important as, during the time he was picking off the riders, Vahn got a telepathic message from Syr, stating, (“Vahn, some explosive rained down against Terra’s barrier. Everyone is safe; Fafnir and Khaos have given chase.”) Now, after a momentary pause, Vahn attacks had become even more fierce as he began loosing arrows with enough force to ‘evaporate’ his targets, destroying both the rider and the Drake.

Since it was possible that they were just trying to pull him away from the City, Vahn left the 60th Floor by teleporting to Spero, the destination point for the 60th Floor’s ward. He immediately noticed a thin membrane above the village where small fragments of metal were bouncing against the barrier. They were dancing around against the magical membrane like grease on a hotplate as the Xenos sought shelter within their abodes. The village now extended several hundred meters below the surface so there were plenty of places of them to retreat to during this kind of attack. Even so, Ray and the other bird-type Xenos were flying around to make sure nothing was amiss after the bombs had been dropped.

They had noticed him very quickly but, after Vahn shook his head slightly, none of them came down to greet him. Moments later, as if he had been an illusion, Vahn was already outside the perimeter of the Xenos’ territory, arriving at the Hearth Manor in less than ten seconds. At the same time, he was giving chase to the few remaining Drakes after dawning a [Shadow Visor Mk. 2], the more advanced model that Asfi had recently developed. Its function was the same as the original but the materials comprising it were both lighter and more durable, being almost entirely comprised of Mithril. Vahn’s stock of the rare metal had reached an almost ridiculous amount of the last two months, to the point that Ina was using it as template material in her prototypes…

Vahn followed the retreating Drakes as they slowly began to converge together into a flock, even with their riders dead. He noticed that some maimed strays had come in from other areas and had to send Fafnir and Khaos away since they would massacre the flock in an instant if he left them to their own devices. Instead, the two flew high into the sky, far outside the perception of any detection magic or ocular device, as Vahn continued to give chase. He was a little surprised that they had flown for nearly an hour before descending towards the ‘shadow’ between two of the large pillar mountains making up the Alv Mountain Range to the East of Orario…

The Iron Hills were located far to the North-West of Orario so it was a little unexpected for the Drakes to have fled to the East. Vahn realized the Iron Hills had probably made bases in the surrounding mountains for an inevitable war with Orario, as it would take years to build fortifications without the Guild taking notice of the site. From this, Vahn knew that the Iron Hills had likely been planning to seize control of Orario for much longer than he had been in the record. This wasn’t too surprising though, considering that almost every country that surrounded Orario had been eyeing its resources for nearly a thousand years.

Because of the [Shadow Visor Mk. 2], not even a single Sentry sounded the alarm as Vahn landed in the staging area where several stout men, adorned in Damascus Steel armor, came out to wrangle the Drakes. Their average height was around 145-160cm tall, but their muscle density was more than triple that of a normal human being. Each looked like a part of the mountains they resided in, possessing sturdy and defined bodies, hardened facial expressions, and ornately braided beards. Some of these beards extended halfway down the torso of these men who, without exception, belonged to the Dwarven people of the Iron Hills…

One of the Dwarves that was wrangling the Drakes, noticing every rider was dead, showed a grim expression as he shouted to the others, “Move yer asses and get some more hands out here to deal with these overgrown lizards!” He then pointed towards one of the younger looking Dwarves, shouting, “You! Go tell the Medics to get out here and do their damn jobs…!” The ‘boy’, who looked like a middle-aged man with a full beard, gave a quick salute by pounding against his metallic breastplate before running down a set of hard stone stairs.

Vahn, choosing to investigate the interior without drawing attention to himself, followed soundlessly from behind. Even without the [Shadow Visor Mk. 2], his [Stealth] as SS-Rank while he could even completely conceal his presence from most detection formations and magic barriers. So long as there wasn’t someone with an Innate that was suited for detection, Vahn could stand between two people who were conversing without drawing the attention of either. He had tested this by getting ‘revenge’ against Tiona for all of her pranks using the [Helm of Darkness] in the past…

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As Vahn was thinking about the best course of action to take, he noticed a large number of presences located deeper within the hidden fortress. Using his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn saw that the vast majority of these auras belonged to Pallum and Cat People slaves, two races with great vision in the low light of places like mines. The Dwarves were excavating the mountain for minerals to shore up their defenses and manufacture siege weapons that were hidden within the mountain. Based on how much progress they had made in their mining operation, Vahn estimated that this particular fortress had been in operation for around 6-8 years. It took a long time to reinforce the structure of the mountain as mines were dug and, the deeper you went, the harder the stones and minerals became as a result of exposure to Earth Elemental energy.

Though he hadn’t intended to really spare these Dwarves, who were illegally occupying territory outside of their borders, seeing hundreds of malnourished and emaciated slaves only served to cement their fate. As a result, Vahn moved into an unoccupied area of the fortress and began to locate and mentally ‘mark’ each of the enemies within the range of his minimap. Though physical barriers could influence his domain a bit, Vahn could ‘tune’ it to match the composition of his surroundings and slowly probe nearly 2km into the earth below. Over the last two months, his domain’s radius had reached 1,982 meters, nearly twice what it had been only a year ago…

Once he had identified all of the enemies, Vahn took a deep breath before pulling out a nondescript black dagger that he had named [Mercy]. Though it wasn’t named through the [Keeper of the Akashic Tome], it was still an S-Rank weapon with a very unique effect. Using it, Vahn was able to inflict wounds that didn’t leave an injury, targetting the Mana and Spirit Bodies of the target instead of their physical body. If he moved undetected, the enemy wouldn’t even know how they died before their body was able to hit the ground. It was originally made to cut the mana circuits of his target but, after considering other uses for the weapon, Vahn named it [Mercy] for purposes like this…

Starting from one of the rooms further down the adjoining corridor, Vahn walked forward with absolute silence before slicing [Mercy] across the neck of a sleeping Dwarf. With the flow of mana completely severed, the stout soldier drifted into darkness without even waking from his slumber. Vahn performed the same deed on the others present in the room before throwing their bodies into his Inventory. Vahn intended to give them a proper burial later as the Slaves they had tormented watched. Though he could let the Slaves deal with the corpses, Vahn wasn’t fond of the idea of mutilating the dead and, years from now, anyone he allowed to participate in such acts would likely regret it dearly…

Because there were no signs of struggle at all, Vahn had killed nearly half the Dwarves occupying the fortress, nearly two-hundred people, before anyone realized the abnormality. Alarms began to ring, resonating through the stone caverns with a very high pitched chime. These were similar tools to the bells used by the Freya Familia and were very common when operating in mines and other underground structures. Vahn followed the flow of Dwarves as they were assembling, taking out the stragglers along the way as they began to congregate in a large chamber that served as an assembly and sleeping area for the slaves.

Vahn would never know why so many cruel-hearted individuals thought it was a viable option to take hostages in such circumstances. Though he would certainly do what he could to help them, it wasn’t as if he would allow the Dwarves to kill him in exchange for some arbitrary promise. Other than earning his ire, such actions served absolutely no purpose, as there was no logic involved with the idea…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Vahn is slowly becoming a true Emperor…’,’You done f***** up now~!’,’If you want these slaves you’ve never met to live, you’ll kill yourself without fighting back~! We promise, like for-realsies, we won’t go back on our word…!’)

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