Chapter 893: Rise

At the same as Vahn had been liberating the slaves within the Dwarves’ hidden fortress, his avatar was back at the Hearth Manor with the ‘War Council’. He had become very familiar with this group of goddesses over the last few months, as it constantly felt like they were meeting to discuss various matters. This time, the agenda was obviously related to the necessary military response to resolve this matter. With Vahn updating them about the information obtained from Geof, Minerva and Alala had been bouncing ideas back and forth while Vahn tried to think about the logistics of everything. Ultimately, the decision to deploy troops fell on him, courtesy of being the Supreme Commander of the Alliance forces, so he had to seriously consider the best method to proceed.

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The ‘simplest’ solution was to take action himself, bringing a decisive end to things, but that wasn’t necessarily the best method for ensuring society, in general, was able to progress in the proper direction. If he resolved everyone situation on his own, it would undoubtedly increase his own prestige but, at the same time, it made his actions seem almost ‘too fantastical’. Though the general public credited him as being the strongest, very few people could actually give a cohesive answer if asked ‘why’ he was the strongest. After all, even if someone said, “Well, he defeated Ottar.”, that would only truly hold relevance to those who knew of Ottar’s strength…

Vahn realized that his route had undoubtedly entered the path of an Emperor, even if the end result was drastically different than the Divination. The Alliance was growing too fast to simply be an Alliance for much longer, as there was a real need for a more cohesive command structure to be in place. Though the Divine Council would undoubtedly serve this purpose, it would fall on Vahn to act as an overseer, as sitting on the sidelines simply wasn’t an option. This would actually give him ‘less’ responsibility in the end, as his input would only be required to make overarching decisions that influenced the entire Alliance, similar to an actual Emperor who entrusted administrative tasks to his Ministers…

No matter how he spun things, the moment Vahn set out to unify the entire Continent, he would become responsible for maintaining peace and order in all countries. Without a clearly defined role, such as that of an Emperor, there would always be contention in smaller countries and Kingdoms. He would need to form a Mortal Council as well, requiring Kings and Queens to attend to express his authority and pass down Imperial Decrees. The only other ‘solution’ was to place people he trusted in positions of power within those countries, but that was functionally the same thing. For better or worse, the only way to maintain control, in the long run, is if people, both mortal and god, respect the decisions he made based on the authority he possessed…

In an effort to ensure corruption and the concept of Nobility wasn’t able to become the seed of future discourse, Vahn intended to create an oversight council, though that may have to wait until he linked the records in the future. Essentially, he wanted to make it a requirement for anyone that wanted to hold a position of power, regardless of their presumed ‘birthright’, to graduate from both the School and the Academy. Then, only by earning proper merits, would they have the right to claim any title of Nobility. The former systems, that promoted meritless individuals, purporting them as something ‘special’ by virtue of nothing more than birth, was simply ridiculous to him. If a person didn’t even have the basic capabilities to govern and manage a territory, they simply didn’t deserve to inherit a position they didn’t make any effort to obtain.

As a result, Vahn intended to make the Academy one of the most powerful forces in the entire Continent, serving as a furnace of sorts that tempered individuals to pave the way toward a better future, both for themselves and others. This would make the Guild, the Academy, and Vahn’s own ‘Empire’ as the three main powers in the world, reinforcing each other while establishing a basic system for checks and balances. Vahn intended to allow the Guild to remain autonomous because, as much as he didn’t believe in what Ouranos did, there was undoubtedly a need for an objective and neutral party for proper mediation.

The Divine Council would represent the ‘wisdom’ of the gods, setting forth laws and regulations that would govern the mortal world for generations. However, the final decision would always fall to Vahn and, if they were in agreement, it was possible to implement the change. At the same time, the Divine Council could oppose decisions he made and, if Vahn insisted his decision was correct, it would then fall to Ouranos to make the final say. As a god who had lived for nearly a billion years, all while observing the ‘natural’ flow of the world, his counsel was something that couldn’t really be called into question. Though, considering there would be thirty primary gods within the Divine Council, it wasn’t likely that Vahn would disagree with any decisions they made together…

It was with this understanding, knowing he would have to rise up and ‘claim’ the title of Emperor in the future, Vahn held up his hand to bring the discussion to a stop. The fact that three goddesses immediately turned their attention to him, ceasing their cross-talk in an instant, was a credit to the authority he already possessed. This brought a small smile to Vahn’s face as he said, “Rakia’s forces are moving through the Southern Sands to stage their invasion. With the heat and unstable terrain, their pace will be heavily influenced by any changes in environmental factors. I will have Terra delay their advance without causing them too much damage…I want them to get closer to Orario…”

Though he had the option of simply wiping out the entire army, Vahn knew it would be far more effective to make a show of things for the future. He would let Rakia Kingdom’s forces make their way to Orario but, unlike the past, where they were allowed to retreat, this would be their final invasion. He would deal with Ares himself while the entire army would be routed by members of the Haven Defense Force alone. So long as he was in the area, Vahn would be able to use [Wounds Transfer] to protect their lives while a group that may very well consist of ‘just’ Pallums completely devastated the enemy forces.

Finding the thought a little humorous, Vahn internally reprimanded himself before saying, “The more important thing is to intercept, or outright prevent, any communication between Rakia and the Iron Hills. I will be dealing with the matter of the Iron Hills personally while the Alliance will move forces to secure each of the fortresses that have been secretly constructed by the Dwarves. In the future, those mines will serve as an area where tradesmen and laborers within the Alliance will be able to venture in order to collect resources. Those in the Alv Mountains, included the hidden port near the Serpent’s Pass, will fall under the direct control of the Hephaestus and Fortuna Familias while the three located in the Beol Mountains will be shared ownership of the entire Alliance. We will set up a system to manage the flow of ore and resources while ensuring the infrastructure of the mines is not compromised. So long as a person has the proper rank and contribution points, they will only have to pay a tax on their harvest before carrying it away or having it processed on site…”

Vahn knew that controlling the port would be a huge boon for the Alliance in general, especially since the Alv Mountains had several mineral-rich veins. Vahn had detected them through his [Metalurgy] Development Ability when he searched the area with his domain. So long as he mapped out the subsurface, the mining team would be able to obtain a bountiful harvest from the mountain. He couldn’t supplement all the resources of the entire Alliance using the system shop, even though it was very ‘convenient’ for others if he did so. As the number of moving parts within the Alliance increased, their requirements for goods would drastically increase as well. Vahn would never be able to keep up with the supply and demand of millions of people, not if he wanted to have any time with his family in the future…

With his decision and reasoning laid out before them, the goddesses began to talk about the various pros and cons of his choice. Vahn listened patiently, taking note of key details like establishing proper infrastructure to make moving supplies and resources easier. It would be beneficial to build small villages and settlements in close proximity to the fortresses, allowing those traveling to and from the location to rest. So long as there were riches and resources available, there would always be people willing to move into inhospitable environments to settle. If the Alliance provided them with building materials and food, those seeking a more rustic and peaceful life would undoubtedly answer the call…

Once he heard all their counterarguments and counsel, Vahn ruminated for a bit before saying, “It may be better to entrust the management of these areas to the very slaves that were forced to construct them. This would give them a sense of empowerment while also serving as a powerful motivator to successfully settle the area. At the same time, I’ll force the Iron Hills to compromise, providing the building materials necessary at no cost to the Alliance. Though they will enter a long period of restructuring once I’m done with them, the Dwarves will undoubtedly become a powerful industrial machine in the future. However, their national isolationism and racist social structure will be shattered like the very mountain they believe protects them…”

There were motivators more powerful than rising above those that had pressed you down, especially if it was at the expense of the oppressors. Since it was unlikely most of the slaves would adapt well to the rapid changes within Orario, Vahn believed it would be a better option for them to settle the land they were forced to toil over. It would ultimately be up to them but, having already discussed it with some of the older slaves back in the Alv Mountain Fortress, Vahn knew many amongst them would jump at the opportunity. As a result, Vahn gave them the necessary supplies and rations while promising that the Alliance would bring forces to protect them from bandits and Dwarven patrols that may try to reclaim the mines. Then, for the first time, they were able to make a genuine decision for themselves, voting on a Village Chief to represent their budding community…

While discussing the building plans with the aptly named ‘Survivor Village’, Vahn was also pouring over maps back at the Manor while discussing the best method to prevent future attacks again Orario. With its size, it wasn’t practical to provide [Palings] to protect the entire City, so the ‘solution’ would be to protect important structures while building a more comprehensive defense network. It was fortunate that Orario had been divided into eight sections as, even though it would take several months of effort, it was possible to establish a ritual defensive ward that could protect the entire City. Though they would need to build eight rather large towers, it was an easily justifiable expense if it meant the entire City would be protected from aerial attacks in the future. The ‘problem’ was that the estimated cost in Valis was approximated to be 89,000,000,000,000V while purchasing the materials through the system shop would cost close to 3,000,000,000OP.

Since this was a sum that even the entire Alliance wouldn’t be able to shoulder easily, it would delay the construction to the point it would take several years to complete. Even with this being the case, there was no resistance to the plan and, with careful management of funds, it wasn’t impossible to finish the city-wide magic ward without overtaxing the Alliance’s funds. This was accounting for economic growth and the availability of resources in the ‘Frontier Floors’ of the Dungeon, but even Sis was able to calculate a very high chance of success. Just selling spatial artifacts and introducing new products into the market would be able to keep them afloat without too many issues. Since it was meant to protect the entire City, it was even possible to work alongside the Civilian Legislative Branch to issue bonds or increase taxes.

This method was an avenue Vahn didn’t want to pursue, however, as he knew having the public’s support would be important if he truly intended to be an Emperor in the future. If he pressured the CLB to increase taxes before he held that level of authority, there would be greater opposition to any future plans he wants to implement. By showing a willingness to protect the City, even without pressuring its citizenship, Vahn was essentially claiming ownership of Orario while taking a public stance as its protector. In time, this would become common knowledge to the general public and, by the time he made the move to become an Emperor, many would feel as if it was ‘expected’, instead of something they should oppose. When he increased taxes, the general consensus would be along the line of, ‘well, he protected us at his own expense back then, it is only natural we pay him back’…

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With thoughts like this on his mind, Vahn laid out his plans for the future before his War Council, each a goddess he genuinely trusted. Even Eirene wasn’t opposed to the idea as, from her point of view, Vahn was constantly making sacrifices for the benefit of everyone. Since he was even allowing the Guild and something like the Divine Council to exist in order to establish a system to prevent corruption, she wholly supported his vision of the future. As for goddesses like Loki, Freya, and Fortuna, they had somewhat scary smiles as their eyes reflected genuine intrigue. The rest also expressed their support while only goddesses like Hestia showed no concern about such things, simply stating she would always protect the Hearth Manor so that Vahn had a place to rest when he was weary of the outside world and its complex politics…

Thus, without any opposition, Vahn cemented his resolve to begin unifying the Continent and, when the timing was appropriate, rise up to become a true Emperor. Though his conquest had actually started long ago, almost as far back as the first steps he had taken out of the Western Forest, Vahn’s next stepping stone towards the future was the Iron Hills. There were some loose ends, like helping Elily with her revenge and tracking down Tsubaki’s father, his treatment of the Iron Hills would be relatively straight forward. From the moment they targetted his family directly, Vahn had decided to return the favor in a drastic way. He and Terra would literally ‘split’ their ‘mother mountain’ in two, connecting the Iron Hills to the rest of the world, before forcing them to acquiesce by tearing apart the very foundation of their society, starting from its roots…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘The mentality of an Emperor’,’Laying a Stable Foundation for the Future…’,’By tearing away the rotten foundation at the roots…’)

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