Chapter 892: Control

With absolutely silent steps, Vahn proceeded into the room where the Dwarves were gathering the slaves, many of which were forcibly clumped together by the stressed soldiers. This was a good opportunity for him to take action so, without playing the ‘game’ of negotiating with fools, Vahn focused his intent to the extreme. As a result, everyone within his domain, with the exception of himself, became statuesque in their former positions. Then, as it was also considered a ‘ranged’ attack, Vahn’s eyes were able to easily trace the proper vector as he sent out [Enkidu] to skewer the surviving Dwarves. He had given mercy to those who had no idea they had died but these people, who were intending to take hostages to use as shields, were undeserving of that basic courtesy.

By the time his [Enkidu] had illuminated the dark cavern, lit only by a few Glowstones, 211 of the 212 surviving Dwarves were now skewered through the heart. Though [Enkidu]’s attack power was rather low, critical hits were able to completely ignore most forms of defense. With his [Call of the Reaper] and [Archery Goddess’ Blessing], his attack had been a guaranteed crit on their vitals, stringing together the Dwarves before Vahn tossed their corpses into his Inventory. After completing this action, Vahn removed the [Shadow Visor Mk.2], revealing himself to the sole surviving Dwarf and the six-hundred-forty-two slaves.

To the Dwarven Commander, who Vahn heard called Geof, his appearance was like death itself, an inevitability he could never hope to escape. As for the slaves, who had no idea who the stoic man before them was, they could only lament their fortune as they too awaited death. Understanding this, Vahn gave out a gentle smile and said, “Please, stay calm. Other than that fellow there, I am not going to harm a single one of you. After this event has concluded, you will all be freed from these fools’ tyranny…” While speaking, Vahn waved his hand across the void, sending calming energy through his domain while using his [Grooming] to comfort these unfortunate souls.

As warm and comforting energy washed over them, the more emotionally unstable slaves began to weep in each other’s arms, freed from the suppression of Vahn’s domain. The Dwarven Commander received no such reprieve, however, as Vahn levitated the stone-faced man over to his side. From the moment he entered into close proximity with Vahn, Geof tried to spit out a wad of spit, which Vahn quickly sent back with a flick of his index finger. Then, before Geo could say anything, Vahn had already grasped the man by his dense and bristly beard, using it as leverage to slam him into the hard stone walls of the mine. This caused loose stones to fall from the ceiling as the entire cavern trembled but, with the sturdiness of the mine’s supports, it wasn’t in danger of collapsing any time soon.

Vahn was slightly surprised by how durable the man’s beard was, as only a few hairs were plucked even though he weighed more than 200kg in full armor. Less surprising was how he immediately bounded to his feet, using a stray stone as a weapon to try and bash Vahn’s head. In response to this, Vahn tilted his chin up slightly as dense black scales covered in green runes appeared on his body. The stone struck against Vahn’s temple but, instead of smashing from the forces involved, the only thing that was destroyed was Geof’s hand. He had used his full Power in the blow, the entirety of which was redirected directly back into his hand.

Releasing a guttural cry, Geof then tried to ram his steel-like forehead into Vahn’s diaphragm, this time to less effect than his barbaric stone attack. Vahn’s Agility, unmodified, was over 6000, making him several times faster than Geof could possibly move. With his enhanced perception, the man was essentially moving in slow motion as Vahn took a half step before slamming his palm into Geof’s chest. As if gravity no longer existed, Geof traced a perfectly straight line towards the cavern’s wall, moving so fast that his body had blurred with an afterimage. To prevent a cave-in, Vahn squeezed his palm closed in an instant, anchoring Geof’s body in the air and giving the man a serious case of whiplash. Even this wasn’t enough to kill him, however, as Geof was around the peak of Level 4 and had incredible Endurance…

Once again, Vahn levitated the now limp Dwarf to his side, casually remarking, “I didn’t think the prideful and arrogant Dwarves were the type to play possum. To think, you look down on other races and treat them as slaves but, the moment you meet a powerful enemy, you play dead…?” As many Dwarves were indeed very prideful, Geof tried to grab one of the loose plates of his armor so that he could throw it at Vahn. Vahn ‘allowed’ this attack, keeping a completely calm expression as the plate impacted against him without any discernable effect before falling to the ground. Though his [Rakshasa Body] hadn’t increased in rank, Vahn’s control over the ability had increased greatly in the last few months. Ever since the change to his Zhuque form, giving him an edge against Enyo, Vahn had pursued greater mastery of his Innates in preparation for the future.

Pulling out a non-descript black blade, Vahn decided to set the stage for his future display, remarking, “If you answer my questions honestly, I will make a vow to bury your comrades with the proper honors. I am aware of the customs of the Dwarves and, even though I loathe what you have done here, I am not above giving funeral rites to the deceased. I wonder which is more important to you, Geof…your personal pride, or the honor you owe your kin…?” Though many Dwarves were greedy and fought amongst themselves, it was distinctly different within the warriors of their tribe. Those that fought alongside each other truly considered themselves closer than brothers, as it wasn’t uncommon for actual brothers to backstab each other over business deals…

Geof gnashed his teeth, seething in rage but unable to find words for several seconds before saying in a voice so deep it seemed to resonate from the very earth below, “Yer a bastard, Vahn Mason, but I know you aren’t the type to desecrate the dead. Do with me what you will…I’ll not betray my duty to the Iron Hills and give you any information…!” At the end of his words, Geof actually bit through his tongue before smiling like a madman with bloodstained teeth. Vahn’s brows raised slightly when he saw this, feeling a modicum of respect for the man, even as he used [Wounds Transfer] to invalidate the action. It would have been possible to simply heal Geof with a spell but that would have repaired the damage to other parts of his body, instead of the specific area Vahn had targetted.

Feeling his tongue against the roof of his mouth, Geof showed a face of incredulity as Vahn smiled apologetically and said, “When I go to the Iron Hills, I will tell them of the action you took here. However, before I allow you to die, there isn’t a force in the world that could claim your life…” Before Geof could respond, Vahn placed his palm against the man’s sweaty brow, sending in waves of petting energy until the man was in an absentminded state. Since his confrontation with Enyo, Vahn felt even more uncomfortable about using means like this but, considering that the order to assault the Manor had likely come from this man, Vahn forgave himself…

After a few minutes had passed, during which time the slaves watched on in silence, Vahn extracted a great deal of information from Geof. He learned that they had a second fortress located further south, acting as a stopover for supply ships making the long journey from the Iron Hills. This fortress was located very close to the Serpent’s Pass, the sole point of entry to the Serpent Sea that acted as the primary port for shipping goods in and out of Orario. The Dwarves had been acting as pirates, periodically plundering merchant vessels that were not allied with the Iron Hills. It was a much older fortress as well, having existed for nearly fifty years without drawing any attention to itself.

The most surprising revelation, however, was that the Dwarves had also created three fortresses within the Beol Mountains to the north of Orario. This was an area few ever ventured as, in the distant past, a large number of monsters that had escaped the Dungeon had made these mountains their home. It was so dangerous, with its steep inclines, loose gravel roads, and constant monster attacks, that the few merchants that dared venture through the only mountain pass called it the ‘Trail of Blood’, ‘Evil Mountain’, and ‘The Dragon’s Maw’. The fact the Dwarves had claimed part of the mountain without anyone noticing was difficult to believe, as it meant they had long-since surrounded Orario with their hidden forces. They were actually the reason for many merchant convoys going missing, just as they had been plundering merchant vessels in the Serpent’s Pass…

Learning that the Dwarves thought so little of the other races that they had been indiscriminately building in the territories of other countries was eye-opening. Just the fact this information had been kept a secret for so long was something very difficult to believe but, considering how willing Geof had been to kill himself, Vahn understood that those who knew of these fortresses were very loyal. If not for his ability to easily follow the Drakes to infiltrate their base, it was unlikely they would have ever been discovered before a full-scale invasion had been initiated.

In that regard, there was indeed an invasion planned, though it was scheduled to take place nearly three months from now. The plan had been to conduct aerial raids from several different directions, causing collateral damage to Orario and splitting the focus of its forces away from the main invasion force. Previously, most of Orario’s ‘eyes’ had been focused to the West, not even considering that attacks would come from the North, East, and, with the Rakia Kingdom’s forces taking a route through the Southern Sands, the South as well. These air raids would have split their focus even more, leaving their backs unprepared as Rakia tried to cut a path into the weakened City…

Upon hearing this plan, Vahn couldn’t help but shake his head at the foolishness of it all, as even this wouldn’t have been near enough to destabilize Orario. As powerful as the Rakia Kingdom’s forces were, there was absolutely nothing they could do in a direct engagement against the Adventurers of Orario. Though the City would have undoubtedly sustained damaged from the first few air raids, it would have only served to rile up the Adventurers even more by the time the battle came. With a few Elites leading the charge, Rakia’s forces would be devastated while their extended supply line was destroyed.

Thus far, Rakia had tried to invade five times, each invasion ending in their retreat without Orario even needing to mount a dedicated defense. Even with explosives and siege weaponry provided by the Iron Hills, this wouldn’t change the ultimate outcome even a little, regardless of if Vahn had been in the record. This was because, among their forces, even Generals within the Rakia Kingdom were only at the peak of Tier 3. The number of Level 4s were limited to people leading small factions and criminal organizations within Rakia’s borders. Though things were a little better for the Dwarves, as there were some Level 5-6 individuals leading some of the more powerful families, they were unable to mount an invasion.

Dwarves specialized in building fortifications, mining, and defensive warfare, not conducting large scale invasions. Their actual numbers weren’t that great, with only around 300,000 people, with those dedicating themselves to the life of a soldier making up around 1/8th their population. It was much more profitable to be a merchant, slave owner, blacksmith, or other trade that focused on acquiring revenue and prestige. As a result, nearly 70% of the Iron Hills’ population was comprised of slaves, who would undoubtedly revolt very quickly if the soldiery was sent to invade foreign nations. This was why they needed to rely on a country like Rakia to act as the Vanguard while they focused on destabilizing Orario a direct confrontation…

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Once he had learned everything he needed to know, Vahn used [Mercy] to claim Geof’s life before stowing him away with the rest. Then, after dispelling this soundproof barrier that had been erected, Vahn turned to the patiently waiting slaves. Even though they could have run away while he was dealing with Geof, not a single slave had tried to escape during the fifteen minutes of long silence. To some, the thought of escaping didn’t even exist in their mind, having grown up under the iron thumb of the Dwarves. Since they were operating within a secret fortress, the only fate that awaited them was death due to overwork or mine collapse…escape was entirely impossible with the ever vigilant Dwarven loyalists watching over them.

Understanding that they may not even know who he is, Vahn held out his hand in a placating manner, a gentle smile on his face as he said, “My name is Vahn Mason, Sage Aldrnari, Commander in Chief of the Alliance, and Captain of the Hestia Familia…” As he spoke, Vahn performed the same action he had used when dealing with the scared Elves in the past. He pulled out warm blankets, set out delicious food, and set out several kegs filled with purified water and honey mead. Though they had already been paying attention to him, the appearance of these goods had caused thousands of subtly glowing eyes to shift in an instant, primarily towards the steaming piles of food…

Vahn noted that it was surprisingly eerie to see so many reflective eyes in the dark but he didn’t let it show on his face as he said, “If you have any sick or injured, regardless of how minor the wound, please bring it to my attention. Know that there is plenty of food for everyone so don’t think you will miss out on eating if you want treatment. Also, as difficult as it may be for you to believe, from this day onward, you will be free from a life of slavery. It will be a long journey, but I will give you plenty of supplies to journey to Orario to seek refuge with the Alliance…” As his words trailed, Vahn then bowed low, a sincere expression on his face as he said, “Thank you for surviving…I promise, from now on, nobody will ever treat you like slaves. Every single one of you is an amazing person that has survived a difficult trial…my only regret is that I was unable to save you earlier…”

Seeing this unbelievably powerful man, who could reap their lives without any effort at all, thanking them for their survival, most of the slaves couldn’t quite believe their eyes and ears. Apologizing was one thing, even though he owed them nothing, but he had even thanked them for their efforts while promising them a better life. With the ridiculously fragrant food and the comfortable atmosphere, some of the slaves were entirely incapable of standing. Even those with stronger mentalities couldn’t help but embracing each other in tears as one brave former slave amongst them, a small Pallum boy that was only 73cm tall, hesitantly walked forward to grab some food. Seeing Vahn ruffle the boy’s hair, instead of striking him down, the reality of the situation slowly set in…just as Vahn had stated, against all hope, they had ‘survived’…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Having a weapon that can pierce anything, combined with an effect that ignores defense…SUPER OP’,’When you have forfeited all hope, then you have my permission to die’,’So long as life remains, so too does the promise of a better future’) <-(p.atreon link)

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