Chapter 915: Resolution

As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Jeanne stood on Vahn’s left with her chin raised slightly and a ‘serious’ expression on her face. Right now, Vahn was still in an ‘alert’ state so, as his Knight, Jeanne was prepared to protect him at a moments notice. She even locked eyes with Siegfried who, even while doing his best to act casual, kept flexing his hands to keep calm. His instincts made it impossible for him to relax while Vahn was in his Azure Dragon state, causing the two companion Heroes to end up in a staring contest with each other as Odin laughed at the side, clearly amused by the sudden change.

Taking the opportunity to strike while the iron was hot, Odin controlled his laughter, making eye contact with Vahn as he said, “Truth be told, there is another in our ranks that would benefit from alighting to Orario and enjoying the company of your Manor’s residents. Unfortunately, I fear you do not have the ability to claim her, immortal or otherwise…” As Odin was speaking, Vahn felt Jeanne’s aura fluctuate slightly, even though her bearing made her appear completely unflustered. Thus, even though he knew he was being ‘baited’ by Odin, Vahn still furrowed his brows, saying, “Explain…”

No longer showing a complacent expression, Odin’s face became stern and serious as he said, “I’m certain you will come to learn of each resident in the City of Heroes in time. The three you ‘need’ to be aware of, however, are Heracles, Musashi, and Helen. Even with your immortality, Heracles’ might is something beyond even the Laws of the world. As for Musashi, he is a man you should avoid at all costs, as his mastery of swordsmanship has reached unfathomable depths. Lastly, Helen, the woman fated to be the most beautiful…any words used to describe her would be a severe underestimation of her beauty, putting even goddesses to shame…”

As Odin listed off the names, Vahn was able to pull up information relating to each, including Helen and Musashi. The former was said to be so beautiful that Kingdoms would wage war, brothers would fight to the death, and women would hang their heads in shame upon witnessing her. As for the latter, he was a famous Samurai that had pioneered the Niten-Ichi-Ryu style, meaning ‘Heavenly School of Two Swords’. He was rumored to have been so skilled that, over the sixty-year period of his life, he had won more than ten-thousand duels and destroyed the dojo of almost every single rival school in the entire Far East. Legend stated that he had died when several thousand vengeful students had surrounded the mountain where Musashi resided, burning poisonous herbs for two weeks to smoke out the entire region. Though the feat had cost them their own lives, this was how the tale of Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest Samurai in the Far East came to an end…supposedly.

Though he knew he was taking the bait even harder, Vahn frowned as he said, “I’m guessing most of the Heroes within Legend would try to stop me…I can’t imagine Zeus would let the most beautiful woman in the world go, either. Honestly, I’m surprised that…well…” Vahn nearly commented on the fact that Jeanne was a virgin but realized it was incredibly inappropriate to do so. He wasn’t even sure how a ‘Human’ had been able to live for over three-hundred years but, considering the strength of her Soul and the Level she had obtained, it wasn’t that difficult to believe. Even a ‘normal’ human, once reaching Tier 4, would become biologically immortal while their Soul would also be able to persist long after their body was destroyed. It would take shattering their ego and stripping away the Divinity it had obtained just to force them back into the cycle of reincarnation…

Even without Vahn finishing his words, Odin cracked a knowing smile that made his face seem exceptionally ‘punchable’. Fortunately, his smile didn’t last for too long before he returned to a serious expression and said, “Zeus is admittedly a pain in the ass when it comes to a lot of things, but the bigger issue, as you pointed out, are the other Heroes. Amongst them, it is Heracles who would take the greatest offense to Helen leaving as, even though they are siblings, his love for her would never allow him to accept another man taking her. In fact, Heracles is one of the reasons why the City of Heroes is decidedly lacking in population as, either through their challenge of his title as the strongest, or their pursuit of Helen, many Heroes have died at his hands…immortals included.”

Odin placed a heavy emphasis on the last few words as, much like Helen was ‘impossible to harm’, there had been other Heroes with traits that made them unkillable. Rare skills that made a person immortal almost always led them to become complacent, arrogant, and hubristic. Without any exceptions among them, including those that had ‘intangible’ natures, they all died after a very short fight against Heracles. Even Vali, one of the greatest Heroes that had ever resided in the City, an immortal who possessed the ability to halve the strength of an opponent, adding it to himself, was ultimately taken down by Heracles after seven hours. Their battle had resulted in hundreds of kilometers of landmass on the northern side of the Continent to sink into the sea, creating a massive lagoon which now had a completely unique ecosystem from the energies that had soaked into the underwater terrain…

Hearing the serious undertones of Odin’s warning, Vahn suspected that Heracles must have had an Innate that either allowed him to prevent regeneration or directly enabled him to kill ‘immortals’. Though he doubted Heracles would be able to overwhelm his [Magia Erebea] immortality, as he fundamentally lacked the ability to destroy the Source Energy comprising his body, it didn’t mean he wouldn’t take the warning seriously. Even if the sub-atomic particles making up his body were indestructible, it didn’t mean he would be able to outright ignore Heracles’ Innate and reform his body. There was a high chance his avatar would be destroyed completely while his main body would potentially take several hours to reform. So long as he was able to keep his ego within the record, Vahn would eventually be able to regenerate from ‘nothing’ if it was necessary…

Throughout the conversation, Vahn had noticed Jeanne’s aura fluctuate several times, causing him to restrain a sigh as he asked, “Is she in any danger here…?” To this, Odin shook his head and stated, “Of all the members of Legend, she is likely to be in the least amount of danger, at least physically. I’ve heard the rumors regarding you Vahn…I’m certain you can understand the pain of loneliness. For nearly eight hundred years, she has been the source of many tragedies but, amongst them all, she has been the one to suffer the most. With what you know of the world now, what do you imagine the life of a woman that can inarguably be considered the most beautiful must have been like…?

Even for a normal beauty, regardless of age or race, they would be a ‘prize’ sought after by many men, too often against their will. With the legends regarding Helen, who likely had an indirect body count in the millions, Vahn could only imagine how difficult life must have been. Since her beauty was likely related to an Innate, most people wouldn’t have had any form of resistance against her at all. This meant her only outcome, besides becoming a caged bird that was locked away from the rest of the world, was death or an even greater tragedy. The fact that she had lived this long would have meant that, had she been less ‘fortunate’, lacking an overprotective brother like Heracles, Helen would have experienced suffering that could have lasted centuries…

Vahn’s face had formed into a slight grimace as he contemplated the depths of loneliness that would have lasted nearly eight-hundred years. He had a fair amount of experience with the emotion himself but, compared to Helen, who likely had few people to rely on, his life had been blessed with numerous people to support his actions. If not for the fact he had experienced several goddesses’ [Hearts Desire]s, each feeling loneliness even Helen wouldn’t be able to comprehend, Vahn wasn’t sure if he would be able to truly empathize with what she had gone through. If possible, he would like to help her but, considering the ‘trouble’ that would come with such an action, Vahn wasn’t sure if the benefits would even come close to the detriments…

When this thought crossed his mind, Vahn’s eyes widened slightly as his first conversation with Loki resurfaced in his mind. Back then, he had lashed out against her for considering a person’s ‘worth’ and how many benefits could be gained from a situation. Now, he was rationalizing ‘abandoning’ someone that could use his help, all because he was afraid it ‘wouldn’t be worth it’. He was currently trying to create a world where everyone could be happy, all while ‘allowing’ someone that had lived a tragic life to continue suffering, fully aware that it was going on. In a way, he was acting ‘afraid’ of Heracles and the troubles that Helen might bring, choosing to let her remain in isolation as a result of his cowardice…

Now, Vahn’s blood felt like it was beginning to boil as azure lightning began to crackle and arc along his scales, all while Odin watched with intrigue in his singular eye. Siegfried, however, appeared as if his body was itching as he scrunched his shoulders and said, “I have to get out of here. Next time you stop by, let’s have a drink or something, Vahn.” With these parting words, Siegfried took to the sky, hardly able to resist transforming himself after seeing Vahn’s power amplifying by the second. Even Jeanne appeared to be slightly uncomfortable by the field of energy radiating off Vahn’s body, though she stood her ground without shying away from his side.

Even though Vahn hadn’t said he was going to fight against Heracles, Odin had a small smile on his face as he said, “Heracles is exceptionally arrogant, but he has a lot of reason to be. He also has the qualities of a ‘True Hero’, even though there have been a number of Heroes who have fallen to him. If the world was in danger, he is the strongest weapon on the side of the Mortal World and, for more than eight hundred years, he had defended this world from several threats that could have caused life on the surface world to become a part of History. He is also one of the only people in the whole of the Mortal World who could fight against the Golden Emperor, Gilgamesh, ruler of the Golden Empire in the west. If you try to battle against him, there are only two outcomes…”

Odin had actually harbored a bit of a grudge towards Heracles for a long time as many of the Heroes he had brought into the City had been killed by the ‘Strongest’ Hero. If not for Heracles’ existence, pacifying the remaining Heroes and giving Zeus greater authority, there was a chance that this splendorous City could have been filled with the descendants of Heroes. It was the existence of Helen that made most of the male Heroes simply ‘not care’ about other females and, with Heracles protecting her, it had ensured that not a single child had ever been born in the City he had spent an excessive amount of resources building. In a way, all of the brood of Zeus were a pox that had infected the City of Heroes like a curse, to the point that he had sired the Valkyrie just to try and stimulate the production of Heroes. Instead, they became the playthings of Zeus and, though many were nearing their one-thousandth birthday, none of his daughters had given birth to a single child. It was a very vexing and frustrating situation, both for the Valkyries and for Odin himself…

If Vahn knew how Odin had treated his daughters, even though they themselves ‘accepted’ the role they had been given, the two wouldn’t have been able to negotiate to this point. For the time being, however, the only thing Vahn was thinking about was how he would be able to defeat Heracles. Even with Odin saying there were ‘only two’ outcomes, Vahn knew there was only one inevitable outcome. Odin didn’t know the limits of his immortality and, so long as Heracles was unable to attack Orario, his loss was guaranteed. Even if Vahn was struck down multiple times, he would eventually emerge victorious in their confrontation, assuming Heracles didn’t lose his rationality and lash out at others. Vahn suspected his Innate might even allow him to break through Terra’s barrier but, if things came down to it, the odds of Hestia or Artemis stepping in were extremely high…

Deciding he would need to confer with everyone back at the Manor, Vahn opened his eyes and matched gazes with Odin as he said, “If Heracles is as you’ve described, I imagine he has been wanting to fight me as well…since our battle is inevitable, I’d rather get it out of the way sooner, rather than later. Tell me, Odin, is there any chance of Heracles losing his mind and trying to attack Orario…?”

Seeing that Vahn wasn’t worried at all, Odin felt an urge to sigh, thinking that Vahn was ‘too young’ and inexperienced. From his perspective, Vahn was another person that was too confident in their immortality, even though he also hoped that the young Hero would emerge victoriously. To answer Vahn’s question, he shook his head casually and explained, “Unless someone has been labeled as an active threat to the world, the members of Legend have all taken comprehensive vows that would disallow them to take such actions. There are a few loopholes that can be exploited, but nothing that would allow Heracles to charge into Orario and attack the Hearth Manor, if that is what you’re worried about. Besides, there are a few ‘monsters’ within that residence that even someone like Heracles wouldn’t be able to oppose…”

Though it was very subtle, Odin’s aura ‘trembled’ slightly as his expression became solemn. Even though he was not from the Northern Pantheon, Odin had visited Hestia’s Divine Hearth in the past and, witnessing the unfathomable strength contained within the diminutive goddess, he had never directly antagonized the Olympians since then. He knew that those gods who ‘didn’t act’, such as Ouranos and their own Pantheon’s Ymir, were the most dangerous. Hestia was one of the few existences he wasn’t able to see through, possessing what felt like an ‘infinite’ amount of Divine Power, something only the four Primordial Gods remaining in Heaven could match…

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Upon seeing Odin’s reaction, Vahn was slightly surprised and relieved at the same time as, without the ability to attack the Manor, Heracles wasn’t a major threat. This was potentially an opportunity for him to temper himself against an enemy that was far more powerful and, by the end of things, Vahn was certain his own strength would have increased. Currently, he was only at the early stages of Level 7 while Heracles was presumably around the peak of Level 9.

Being a Demigod that had lived for hundreds of years, polishing his Innates as he tried to reach Tier 4, Vahn assumed that Heracles must have had one or two Innates at the SS-Rank, or higher. This would become one of the most important battles he would fight within the record of Danmachi as, at least until the balancing component of Karma kicked in, there shouldn’t be anyone near Heracles in strength. Though the Golden Emperor, Gilgamesh, could potentially pose a threat, especially since he wasn’t restricted from attacking the Manor, Vahn doubted the man even knew what was occurring in Eden…

Confident that his chances of victory were infinitely close to 100%, even if it required more than one attempt, Vahn steadied himself as he said, “I’m certain your organization has the means to regulate and officiate duels. I need around an hour to recover my mental energies but, once I am at my peak, I want to challenge Heracles for the title of ‘Strongest’…!” The moment Vahn finished speaking, it felt like a predator had locked on to him as his instincts caused the already molten blood in his body to boil. Turning away from Odin, matching the direction both he and Jeanne were looking, Vahn sensed a pair of eyes looking ‘through’ him, even though the owner of the gaze was nowhere in sight. It felt like he had been completely locked onto like a hare beneath the gaze of a lion as, moments later, a figure descended from the sky with enough force that the ground rippled outward in defiance of physics before rupturing with a massive explosion…

(A/N: There are two options for how things will develop from here. I can place emphasis on the fight and the members of Legend for a short while or I can make the fight resolve relatively quickly so we can move on to other plot advancements. Regardless, things within the City of Heroes will continue for another couple of chapters so, even though this is a big cliff, I will be cutting today’s chapters short so I can release the full fight all at once tomorrow. When the daily reset happens, there will be 2-3 chapters released at the same time while another 2 should follow that. I have already cleared up my schedule for the day so there will be no interruptions in the action sequence.)

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(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘I wonder how Musashi and Mikoto would react if they met…’,’Hestia is secretly the final boss!?’,’Vahn seems to have developed a new Innate, [Flagmaster:SSS]’)

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