Chapter 918: Dawn (3/3)

After only a few rounds of arrows, Heracles was no longer suffering any damage from them whatsoever. His body was moving like a blur as each small ripple within the surrounding void would cause him to strike out with a quick blow that would completely collapse the spatial crack. Then, in response to another wave of arrows, Heracles’ singular blue eye blazed with incredible ferocity as he leaped toward an arrow’s emergent point and punched it directly. Up in the sky, Vahn’s slit-like pupils became paper-thin as he used [Shundo] to evade away from the massive feedback of energy that had nearly destroyed his body once again. Heracles had used his own spatial tunnel as a means to attack, allowing four [Yi] arrows to hit his body in an attempt to flush Vahn out.

Almost as soon as he had exited his [Shundo], Vahn’s vision was obscured by the grim visage of Heracles’ blazing blue eye. His fist was already halfway through the motion of punching into Vahn’s face, barely affording the latter the opportunity to pull his [Aegis] out. At the same time, Vahn knew the seemingly indestructible shield wouldn’t be enough, choosing to tear through the void instead of using [Shundo]. As expected, Heracles’ fist smashed into the ornate Adamantine shield before its structure was almost immediately compromised, fracturing into thousands of tiny fragments that rained down like shrapnel over the surrounding City. Some pieces flew with enough force that entire buildings were collapsed after being impacted by the hypersonic debris.

Heracles clicked his tongue when Vahn had evaded him again as he had no way of tracking Vahn when the latter moved through space. His only option was to try and flush out Vahn so that he could strike him down once again, this time permanently. If not for the fact that Orario was thousands of kilometers away, Heracles knew he would have been able to use someone close to Vahn in order to lure him out. Presently, his only option was to use Jeanne but, even after he had attacked her with a half-serious blow, she hadn’t been injured. Her immunity to damage was one of the higher forms of immortality he had seen but, like all skills, Heracles knew there had to be a weakness.

Upon landing back in the destroyed Coliseum, Heracles noticed that his arm and leg, including the chains that bound them, were now missing. This caused him to snort once again before, much to the skulking Vahn’s surprise, he made a ‘knife’ shape with his hand before stabbing it into his own heart. In an instant, the fiery blue light in Heracles’ eyes faded away as his body dropped lifelessly to the ground, becoming completely still moments later. Vahn didn’t know what to make of this as, even with his [Eyes of Truth], it genuinely seemed that Heracles had spontaneously killed himself. Instead of moving to inspect the body, however, Vahn produced several links of [Enkidu] and tried to wrap up Heracles’ corpse…

Before the chains had even managed to flow out of his domain, Heracles’ body had exploded with golden light as a massive shockwave swept through the crumbling Coliseum. At the same time, Vahn felt feedback from his [Enkidu] before his Source Energy reserves took a massive hit. Generally, if he tried to bind entities much stronger than him, excluding gods, the amount of energy required would go up exponentially. Whatever Heracles had done ate through twenty percent of his reserves in an instant as, immediately thereafter, the now living Demigod emerged from the golden cloud as he evaded the pursuing chains.

Heracles now realized that even his power wasn’t enough to deal with these strange golden chains that belonged to Vahn. Even when he struck out with all of his power, causing Space to begin to fracture, the golden spears at the end of the chains had still torn through the obstruction as they tried to ensnare him. For a brief moment, when his fist had made contact with the spearhead, Heracles felt like all of his strength had been ‘negated’ as the spear penetrated into his fist nearly a full centimeter before he jumped away. He believed this was one of Vahn’s ‘rare skills’ and realized it was going to be more difficult to deal with the latter than he had expected…

Currently, both Vahn and Heracles were trying to find out the weakness of the other party, each trying to understand the capabilities of their opponent. Vahn had noticed that, at the moment Heracles’ body had become completely devoid of life, a mysterious golden light had erupted from the very center of his body. By the time it had exploded outward, dealing heavy damage to the surroundings, Heracles had been completely healed. Since he still had one of the Demigod’s arms and legs in his Inventory, Vahn felt like he must have had an Innate that produced a similar effect to an [Effigy of the Hero]. This was because, not only had Heracles healed, but his strength and speed had increased to the point that even his evasive movements were causing the void to tremble…

For several seconds, Vahn had focused on completely erasing his presence, becoming one with the surrounding Space. Previously, this would allow him to even stand amongst a group of skittish animals without causing them to flee, almost as if they couldn’t discern him from the trees in the surroundings. Now, with his Azure Dragon transformation, Vahn felt his body ‘literally’ blending into the surrounding space as even without the [Shadow Visor Mk. 2], he was able to become completely invisible. At this moment, Vahn felt his senses expanding outward, almost as Space itself had become a part of him, instead of the other way around…

Since producing more [Enkidu] to pressure Heracles would heavily tax his reserves, Vahn allowed the chains to disperse as his intent was now ‘everywhere’ within a 200m radius. He could see the front, back, top, and bottom of Heracles all at the same time, giving Vahn the feel as if, for a brief moment, he had become omniscient. He created fluctuations Space a little aways from Heracles, causing the Demigod to immediately leap towards it as another world-rending punch was issued out. At the same time, Vahn equipped his [Mercy] and tried to tear through the void to cut through Heracles’ neck. Strangely, instead of tearing through Space directly, Vahn felt himself wave [Mercy] without his intent shifting back to a singular perspective. While Heracles’ punch caused a chasm to tear through the walls, extending outward for several hundred meters, Vahn’s [Mercy] had passed unnoticed through his neck in an instant.

Vahn wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, only that it felt like he had become the surrounding Space, no longer having a physical body at all. He could even feel his perception of himself begin to slip away as a haze began to cloud his thoughts. If not for the fact he was able to keep his awareness with his main body, Vahn felt like this technique would have caused his avatar to break down. Even though he was able to keep partial focus, however, Vahn felt extremely absentminded as he tried to will [Enkidu] to bind the fallen Heracles. His [Mercy] had temporarily severed the mana circuits in the Demigod’s body, effectively killing him for the second time in their skirmish…

This time, Vahn managed to bind Heracles properly, even as the strange golden light attempted to revive him once again. His glazed eyes began shining with a fierce light once again as he struggled to break free from the binding chains. If he had been a normal Human, Heracles might have actually been able to free himself but, with his lineage as a Demigod, this was impossible. Though his raw power was enough to even shatter mountains, it was still restricted by the fact he was only a Tier 3 existence while, even under the restrictions of the record’s Laws, [Enkidu] was Tier 5. The only thing he could do was gnaw at the indestructible chains with his teeth, eyes glimmering with the light of madness.

Even after capturing Heracles, Vahn felt like it was impossible to even ‘think’ at the moment, finding his focus escaping him as he fought against the feeling of ‘vanishing’. He was trying to use [Will of the Emperor] keep himself from completely slipping away while simultaneously separate himself from the void. Vahn knew that he likely wouldn’t get another chance to capture Heracles, at least without an incredible amount of effort. Now that he knew the true effect of [Enkidu], there was a chance that Heracles would completely abandon the fight, resorting to vicious means to gain the upper hand once again.

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Slowly but surely, Space began to distort in the air above Heracles as the silhouette of a person started to take shape. It took several minutes but, with the passage of time, Vahn felt like he was gaining greater awareness of himself while the ‘omniscient’ feeling began to fade away. When his body finally took shape once again, he was no longer in his Azure Dragon transformation while his head felt like it had been fragmented into several pieces. Vahn felt an intense and irresistible pain that was only kept at bay by the support of his [Will of the Emperor]. Parts of his body were sagging, almost as if he was unable to maintain his shape, with nearly half his face having descended several centimeters…

Vahn pulled out the [Sacred Duplex Nail] from his Inventory and buried it into Heracles’ skull, killing him for the third time. Three seconds later, another burst of golden light had emerged from within the Demigod’s body, causing Vahn’s own figure to distort as he once again struck down with the golden nail. This process continued several times until Vahn’s figure had distorted so greatly that his legs had formed into a lump puddle of flesh as his deformed hand brought down the nail for the ninth time. When the golden light emerged from Heracles’ body, reviving him for the twelfth time, the force was so powerful that it even managed to shake [Enkidu] a bit. Vahn’s on form slumped backward, unable to remain upright after the shockwave passed through him once again.

In his current state, Vahn felt like he was controlling his body through a dense and hazy fog as each limb felt like it was several thousand kilometers away. His perception had been shifting back to his main body, allowing him to understand that his avatar had gone too far beyond its limits. At this point, Vahn was essentially remote controlling his avatar as his ego seemed intent on merging back together to escape the unbelievable pain he was experiencing on the other end. Even Vahn’s main body was pouring blood out of his seven orifices, completely ignoring the regeneration that should come with his [Magia Erebea].

All Vahn could do was grind his teeth with enough force that his molars were fracturing under the pressure, watching as Heracles shimmied out of the loosened [Enkidu]. Right now, the latter’s eyes were blazing with such intense ferocity that the blue sky above seemed dark in comparison. He had an expression that could have only belonged to someone that had completely lost their mind as he looked down upon Vahn’s sorry form and sneered. As if he were crushing a bug, Heracles continually raised his foot before stepping down on Vahn’s body. Even though he could have completely destroyed the latter with a single attack, Heracles was laughing madly as he used a nominal level of power to shatter the deformed bones within Vahn’s avatar.

After trying everything, including turning into his Zhuque form, Vahn realized there was almost no way to recover the state of his avatar as things stood. He couldn’t even use the system functions like his Unit Management and Inventory as even his domain barely extended more than 5m around his body. Vahn could feel his perception begin to fade and knew that his chance of defeating Heracles had slipped through his grasp. Now, if he couldn’t transform into his Azure Dragon form and continue the fight with his real body, Heracles would roam freely and cause mass devastation around the Continent. Next time they fought, there was no way the mentally unstable Demigod would fight him directly once again, making it almost impossible to stop him without coming up with several countermeasures…

As the impact of his failure was weighing heavily on his heart and mind, Vahn saw through his waning perspective a sight completely outside his ability to fully comprehend. Heracles had raised his foot to step down once again yet, as if time had been brought to a stop, the Demigod became frozen in time as the entire backdrop of reality became completely black. Vahn felt like that one moment had gone on for several seconds before his perception was ‘split’, matching what was happening to Heracles’ body. It was like the world had been divided in two, causing part of it to ‘shift’ several centimeters in a perfectly bisected line as Heracles’ body split into two halves. Vahn even felt like his mind, located back within the Sub-Space of the Hearth Manor, had been split in twine as the last image his avatar saw was what appeared to be a vagrant man from the Far East, fit with a ragged robe and a bamboo hat, walking forward with his sword drawn…

Unable to resist the pain that had spread through his mind, Vahn completely blacked out within the Sub-Space orb. His body was quickly collected by Haruhime and Lefiya as they began trying to treat the serious injuries that he had sustained, even though his main body had been nowhere near the conflict. Other than simply ‘feeling’ as if his mind had been split, Vahn actually had a cleft running the length of his face, creating a visceral scene as the girls desperately tried to stimy the flow of blood and mend his wounds. They were pouring several of the highest quality Elixirs over his body while Lefiya poured the shimmering white liquid from her artifact into his bisected mouth. Haruhime had even forced her [Effigy of the Hero] into his hands, praying that it would allow them to avoid the worst case scenario…

Back within the City of Heroes, which had seen much better days, the same Far Eastern man was looking down at the corpse of his former comrade. He had tried to inspect the ‘lump’ of flesh previously but it had dissolved into motes of light almost immediately after he poked it with his sheath. As a result, the man, Miyamoto Musashi, had shifted his focus to the corpse of Heracles as other residents of the City slowly started showing up. The first to arrive had been Zhou Yu, who had been watching the battle from a fair distance, while, nearly twenty minutes later, Jeanne had finally returned to the mountain after having been flung several hundred kilometers away and being forced to ascend the sheer slopes before she was able to return.

Zhou Yu and Musashi had been talking about what had transpired when Jeanne showed up, an expression of incredulity and surprise on her face as she saw Heracles’ corpse. She turned her eyes to the two Far Eastern men, asking, “Where is Vahn…?” Her ‘rare skill’ would have informed her if Vahn had been killed so Jeanne knew he must still be alive. Musashi, however, shrugged lazily as he said, “When I showed up, the only thing I saw was Heracles stomping on a puddle of flesh. Fella had completely lost his mind and had enough bloodlust to drown someone. Aint no coming back from that kind of mindset so I decided to put ’em down. What happened here, lass…?”

Musashi had been napping in his own private courtyard, ignoring the thunderous shockwaves and rumbling earth, at least until the shrapnel from Vahn’s [Aegis] crashed into his residence. The Sakura Tree he had painstakingly groomed over the last fifty years, even though the climate in the City of Heroes made it exceptionally difficult to cultivate, had been completely destroyed by stray shrapnel. No longer able to continue ignoring the conflict, Musashi had come to seek a reckoning, deciding to hold whoever was fighting accountable. When he saw Heracles stomping on Vahn’s avatar, Musashi felt like he had stumbled onto a troublesome situation and decided to put an end to things. Though he understood the flesh pile must have been a person, Musashi didn’t really care and just attacked them both without thinking about it further.

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Jeanne gave a general summary of what had happened, including the fact that Heracles had slain Odin before fighting against Vahn. Zhou Yu showed a surprised expression, even though he had watched the entire event play out from start to finish, while Musashi had a look that practically shouted ‘how troublesome’. Once Jeanne had finished recounting things, he pulled down the front of his bamboo hat and said, “I’m going back to the Far East for a bit…need to get a new sapling…” Musashi had never really cared about the affairs of Legend and, now that Odin, the god who had scouted him, was dead, he decided it was a good time to wander for a bit…

Feeling helpless as a result of Musashi’s actions, Jeanne just shook her head before activating her [Voice of the World] to try and locate Vahn. Strangely, the voice told her that Vahn was no longer in the world, even though her [Fealty of the Knight] told her that he was still alive. Jeanne could only frown as she decided it would be best to descend the mountain and confer with the residents of the Hearth Manor for answers. Before that, however, Jeanne looked out at the various crumbling buildings of the City of Heroes, setting her sights on where Helen should be located. With Heracles dead, there was a chance that any of the Heroes who had fancied her may try and take action. It was even possible that, with the defection of Heracles, Theseus would make a move on his sister…

Knowing that things would become even more troublesome if she delayed things, Jeanne decided to try and help Helen flee the City of Heroes. She needed to act before Zeus and Hera returned as, with the death of Heracles, there was no way of knowing how they would act. The latter knew of Helen’s secret while Zeus, in his rage, would likely lash out and blame others for Heracles’ betrayal. Since Odin would be at the top of the list, there was a fair chance Zeus would vent his frustrations out on the Valkyrie. Jeanne’s loyalty now lay with Vahn and, now that Heracles was dead, she wanted to help her friend and try to prevent a tragedy from occurring.

With this thought in mind, Jeanne departed for Helen’s residence as the sun, which had been hidden by the mountains in the distance, began to crest above the peak. The battle between the Alliance and Rakia’s forces had occurred during the twilight hours of the morning and, even though it felt like a lifetime had passed, less than two hours had transpired since then. Now, as if rising to witness the dawn of a new era, the sun’s majesty began to cast its rays down upon the ancient City, replacing the solemn and tense atmosphere with a subtle warmth…

(A/N: Keep in mind that the next chapter will likely be in around 5-6 hours. Remember, there is usually a two-hour delay between chapters, while these were released together. I hope you enjoyed this micro-arc of sorts (^_^)~!)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Adaptability and Raw Power’,’Omniscience isn’t something a Tier 3 should possess (o,…,o)~!’,’Musashi, “…f*** this, I’m out.”‘)

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