Chapter 912: Exasperation

With Paracelsus’ rather light-hearted self-promotion, Vahn felt like his momentum was quickly being sapped away. He knew of the name Paracelsus from History, belonging to a prodigious Physician who existed a little over four-hundred years ago. While most people relied on potions and Magic to heal sickness and injury, Paracelsus had made startling advancements in the now almost extinct field of practical medicine and natural healing.

Many of the ‘rural remedies’ used in villages, combined with the texts on first aid and emergency treatment, were all developed by him in the past. However, as a result of his unorthodox methods, and the enemies he had made amongst the [Mixing] and [Alchemist] community, Paracelsus had fallen into obscurity. His greatest achievement was coming up with a cure for a plague that had wrought havoc through nearly half the Continent, claiming millions of lives before he had publicized a relatively simple mixture that would keep the plague at bay while encouraging proper hygiene and waste disposal practices. When people learned that his methods actually worked, he became relatively famous in a very short period of time though, after that feat, History made no other mention of the man that had saved millions.

One of the things that caught Vahn off guard was the fact that Paracelsus was supposed to have been an old man at the time he had become famous. Though there were undoubtedly more than a few methods to reverse aging, as Vahn had several at his disposal, it was still a little surprising. The fact that Paracelsus ‘acted’ childish was the biggest factor behind the incongruity Vahn was feeling, causing him to be unable to relax as he said, “I’ve read about your accomplishments. How are you still alive after all this time?” Then, remembering his purpose, Vahn’s expression turned slightly icy as he asked, “Where are Zeus and Hera?”

Still unperturbed by Vahn, Paracelsus tapped his chin as if he were in deep thought before muttering, “Ah, you must have had a disagreement with Cú Chulainn…did you kill him~?” At the end of his question, Paracelsus’ light-grey eye began flickering with light as a runic structure, similar to clockwork, was visible for a brief moment. Vahn’s own perception of time caused the world around to became a dull monochrome as the only two sources of color remained Paracelsus and himself. The boy had a curious expression on his face for a moment before his eyes widened in surprise, time returning to normal as he said, “It’s like the axis of time has become fixed…did you…? No, such a thing shouldn’t be possible…”

In the next instant, Paracelsus was already halfway down a long corridor as he turned back to look at Vahn, saying, “You should follow along. There are a few things I’m curious about and I believe you will find the answers you seek at the heart of the city. Ah, you should be wary of Heracles as well, lest you want to put your immortality to the test. If you are going to fight, though, please do it within the Coliseum. I don’t want you destroying my Atelier and I’m certain the others would be bothered if you began rampaging without consideration for the damage you’ll cause to the surroundings…”

Vahn’s eyes had become sharp when Paracelsus ‘teleported’, as none of the information pertaining to the Historic figure hinted that he had such capabilities. It was obvious that the boy had some kind of Innate related to time, though it seemed like he was unable to move backward through time after Vahn had entered into the record. Because The Path was an existence that could only exist in one axis of time, meaning Vahn was also a singularity, the only way to move backward in time was to reverse the entire records time. Individuals would be unable to make the transition as it could lead to parallel or divergent timelines where a second version of The Path would exist. This was something Vahn had been aware of ever since the Divination, as all the events that had taken place ceased to exist in their entirety after he returned to the ‘present’.

Understanding that this peculiar boy calling himself Paracelsus probably wasn’t an easy person to deal with, as he seemed lost in his own thoughts, Vahn decided it was best to ignore him for the time being. The fact he hadn’t answered his questions, even though he should have been able to give him some insight, was a red flag from Vahn’s perspective. Instead of ‘following along’, Vahn made sure the Valkyrie would be out of commission for a while before ascending into the sky once again. His eyes were immediately drawn to a man wearing red robes that matched the style worn in one of the western provinces of the Far East. He was sitting atop a building with a lapis lazuli dome and a golden spire, shouldering a red and gold staff as he waved towards Vahn’s direction.

Seeing yet another ‘peculiar’ individual, Vahn wasn’t sure if his purpose for coming to the City of Heroes matched his previous speculation. Other than the Valkyries attacking, which wasn’t ‘wrong’, considering they were likely the security of the City, Vahn hadn’t met anyone trying to bar his passage. Even though he was outputting an immense amount of energy and pressure, the only two individuals he had seen thus far didn’t seem bothered by it at all. If not for the fact that Paracelsus had mentioned the man named Cú Chulainn, who Vahn knew was a spear-wielding Hero that had vanished around 581 years ago, Vahn would have believed his assumption was groundless from the start…

By the time Vahn had ‘blinked’ over to the man wearing a red robe, he had jumped up to his feet, an amiable smile on his face as he held up one hand and said, “Whoa there, friend, I’m not looking for a fight. Your type is a bad matchup for me, hahahaha…” Though he showed no hostility, the man still tightened his grip on the masterpiece of a staff that currently rested on his shoulder. It seemed to be made of wood but was a glossy red that rival beryl in sheen. The golden caps on the end had several layers of intricate runes that had been painstakingly embedded in super-fine print. From a glance, Vahn felt like it was a weapon that was completely beyond his ability to craft, as there was almost a ‘divine’ quality to it…

Having his staff eyed by Vahn, the man gave a wry smile as he said, “Hey now, I didn’t think you were the type to covert another person’s possessions…give me a break, will ya…?” As he spoke, the Far Eastern man, having slightly bronzed skin, dark brown hair that was parted at the center, a topknot tied with red cloth, and a handsome face, acted as if he was trying to hide the staff behind his body. Since it was around 220cm long, while he was only 175cm tall, he wasn’t doing a good job of it, giving off the impression that he was ‘foolish’ in nature. At the same time, however, there was a serious look in his eyes that made Vahn feel slightly alerted, almost as if he were about to step on the tail of a sleeping dragon if he actually did want to take the staff…

Releasing a breath that caused the void to ripple slightly, Vahn asked plainly, “Where are Zeus and Hera? Do you know why Cú Chulainn attacked me…? Ah, and who are you…?” Since everyone he had met here seemed to be a Hero, Vahn fully expected this man to also have a name recorded in History. As expected, the man introduced himself proudly, exclaiming, “My name is Zhou Yu, though I doubt you’ve ever heard of me, hahahaha…” Toward the end of his introduction, Zhou Yu released a sigh since very few people, even in the Far East, would remember his name. Though he had been one of the people to popularize the use of the staff, to the point that many people studied the style he had developed, few remembered the name of the style’s founder…

Vahn was beginning to feel a little annoyed that the only questions he had answers to thus far were the identities of the people he was talking to. It was almost as if they refused to answer, or were unable to answer…since there was a chance the latter was true, Vahn decided to verify his conjecture by asking, once again, “Where are Zeus and Hera…?” Zhou Yu’s response was to rub the back of his head before saying, “You should try heading to the heart of the city. The answers you seek should be found there…?” As if it were some kind of conversational habit, Zhou Yu started off speaking in a casual tone before sounding ‘uncertain’ at the end of his statement. Given that he should be over six-hundred years old, Vahn wouldn’t be surprised if it was a ‘quirk’ that he had developed with the passage of time.

In order to test what kind of questions these Heroes would be able to answer, Vahn asked, “How many Heroes reside within the City? What are their names…? Who is the strongest…? What is your purpose here…?” Zhou Yu gave a wry smile in response while rubbing the back of his head once again, only answering two of Vahn’s questions, explaining, “The strongest in the City is undoubtedly Heracles. If you choose to fight against him, you’ll need to prepare yourself quite a bit…that form of yours seems pretty strong, but it probably won’t help you much against him. As for our purpose…I guess you could say we’re like insurance…? If something occurs in the Mortal World that the other forces are unable to oppose, we’ll step in to save the day before disappearing again…hmmm…”

Hearing yet another Hero warn him about Heracles, a man recorded in History as the ‘strongest’, to the point that the descriptive for inordinately powerful individuals described them as having herculean strength. There were even Innates related to the name while legends of Heracles were so prominent within Mythos that it was hard to imagine just how powerful a record’s version of the Hero would be. Since Zhou Yu, who Vahn estimated had strength around the mid-tier Level 8, was giving him such a warning, Vahn was certain that Heracles would be Level 9. Even Siegfried had only been at the peak of Level 8 while neither Zhou Yu or Paracelsus had issued warnings relating to the mighty Dragon Knight.

Feeling a headache coming along, Vahn turned away from Zhou Yu, leaving the man showing an awkward smile as he resumed his seated position and began to drink from a wine gourd. Vahn felt the ‘tension’ between the two of them vanish in an instant, even though he knew the man would react almost instantly if he were to show any hostility. Much more so than the Valkyrie, these Heroes seemed both eccentric and powerful, with a fair amount of mystery accompanying them as well. Along the way to the ‘heart’ of the City of Heroes, Vahn detected several other powerful presences, many of which only showed him a momentary interest before returning to their own affairs. Vahn even saw a man sleeping at the base of a Sakura Tree, a bamboo hat veiling his eyes as he chewed on a thin needle-like chopstick. The moment Vahn’s eyes passed over the man, it felt like there were several sharp blades in close proximity to his vitals, even though the only change in the man was his bamboo hat shifting almost imperceptibly…

Though he still felt a permeating sense of ‘contempt’ towards everything around him, Vahn’s logical mind told him that this place wasn’t simple. Previously, his transformation into the Azure Dragon form had given him the confidence to fight against any number of enemies without having to worry. Now that he saw some of the unique individuals present within the City of Heroes, however, Vahn knew his victory, though inevitable, would be hard-won. Cú Chulainn had only fallen as quickly as he did because he had been overconfident while completely underestimating Vahn. As the latter had never shown the ability to tear through the void previously, the proud spearman only knew what little information Siegfried had provided. He had become a victim of his own hubris, one of the most common causes of death for Heroes in all records…

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The very center of the City, from what Vahn could discern, was a Coliseum that had a diameter spanning more than five kilometers. It looked like it could hold more than five hundred thousand people with room to spare. At the very center of the Coliseum, whose structure gave off a subtle glow in Vahn’s [Eyes of Truth], there were four people present, one being a god. Vahn was a little surprised as, instead of Zeus and Hera, the god before him had the same presence as the elderly god who had disguised himself before Vahn in the past. Currently, he had onyx-black hair that seemed to shimmer slightly while his right eye was covered in an eyepatch, even though a phenomenal amount of energy pulsed from within…

Standing with the spiky-haired god, there was a Valkyrian woman that possessed strength near the peak of Level 7 while the other two were people Vahn had already met, Siegfried and Jeanne. The latter had a somewhat pale complexion while Siegfried’s eyes seemed to glimmer with anticipation. With Vahn being in his Azure Dragon form, the famous Dragon Knight could feel his blood boiling as the only thing keeping him from challenging Vahn was the vow he had made during their last encounter. As for the Valkyrie, she had a stoic expression but Vahn felt like there was a glimmer of hatred in her eyes, amplified by the furious red aura she possessed. With her stark blue eyes, glossy onyx-grey hair, and dark-grey angelic wings, she struck a heroic figure, even though her strength was lacking compared to the actual Heroes present.

The moment Vahn touched down in the Coliseum, the god amongst their group showed a slightly mournful expression as he said, “So, another Hero has fallen…Brynhildr, go wake your sisters and prepare for Cú Chulainn’s burial rites. Even if he erred this time around, he was still a Hero deserving of an honorable sendoff…is that acceptable for you, Vahn Mason…?” Since Vahn’s golden eyes had flashed at the mention of Cú Chulainn’s name, Odin decided to err on the side of caution, confirming with Vahn if it was okay to honor the spearman’s death. With his understanding of Vahn, Odin didn’t think he would be against the idea, even if the two had confronted each other…

Vahn felt his own body tense slightly when he heard that Cú Chulainn would be given the rites of an honorable burial, even though he had sneak attacked with the intent to kill both Haruhime and Ioke. The man’s attack had also claimed the lives of the nine Amazoness but, considering he had originally intended to kill them as well, Vahn could let that part slide. Even so, Vahn didn’t feel as though the man truly deserved such honors, regardless of the actions he had taken in the distant past. The only thing that prevented him from refusing was his own ‘reason’, telling him that he should not harbor hatred and resentment toward the dead. Cú Chulainn no longer existed in this world, his soul having moved on to Heaven to enter into the cycle of reincarnation. Going out of his way to prevent others from celebrating his life was a grave injustice that could breed unnecessary hatred in the future…

Withholding another sigh, Vahn closed his eyes for several seconds before nodding his head slightly, choosing the high road of the victor instead of holding onto a petty vendetta against an already deceased man. This caused the auras of the god, Siegfried, and Jeanne to improve slightly while even the Valkyrie, Brynhildr, seemed to restrain her rage. After Vahn nodded in affirmation, she bowed towards the god, her paradoxically deep yet soft voice sounding, “As you will, Allfather. We shall inscribe his name in the halls of Valhalla and recount his tale for three days and nights…!” With a nod from Odin, Brynhildr spread her wings and took to the sky, carrying her silver spear, sparkling like starlight, along with her…

(A/N: No fifth chapter today.)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Heroes are Weirdos’,’Vahn, “I am inevitable.”‘,’Those who harbor hatred for the dead give power to the memory, letting it consume them like an insidious poison that affects both the heart and mind’)

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