Chapter 945: Stance

After the bloody duel to the death, it was very obvious that the procession of the Kali Familia was just as riled up as the surrounding crowd. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits except for Tione and Tiona, one of the things that made them an ‘exception’ amongst Amazonesses. Though they were both battle junkies, neither was the type that enjoyed killing and, after the ‘high’ from the fight had faded away, both girls had solemn and thoughtful looks on their faces. Vahn had sent them a few comforting words through their [Pactio] link but it was obvious their mood had been ruined. The journey to Telskyura was enjoyable and fulfilling but, now that they were in the place that had caused them no small amount of suffering, it was likely their memories of the past were playing through their minds…

Kali had enough sense to leave Vahn alone for a while, deciding to sit quietly with a rather annoyed expression on her face as she periodically looked toward Tiona and Tione. Vahn knew she probably wanted to say something to her former Familia members but, so long as he was near, things wouldn’t end well if she said something brash. This caused Kali to feel particularly annoyed since part of her regretted recognizing Vahn to have a similar status as her, even though he wasn’t ‘yet’ a god. Thus, while most Amazonesses were in high spirits, their goddess was tapping her knee with a frown on her face as the procession finally reached the grand Coliseum that represented the very heart of Telskyura.

Waiting for the arrival of the Kali Familia were thousands of Amazonesses, each proud warriors and active members of the very same Familia. Since there were only four gods recognized within Telskyura, with Kali being far more influential than the other three, there was a great deal of prestige accompanied with belonging to her Familia. As a result, most Amazonesses that had traveled out into the world would ‘offer’ their children to the Familia, allowing them to go through the warrior crucible in order to become ‘proper’ Amazonesses in the future. Vahn knew what awaited him inside would probably shake him a great deal but, knowing Kali was going to be implementing changes to ‘appease’ him, he could only be patient…

Though there was unconcealed intrigue written on the expressions of nearly every Amazoness in the Kali Familia, none of them barred the passage of the procession. Instead, they joined the group as it made its way towards the center of the Coliseum, entering into a large arena before passing into the opposite side where a staging area for the palanquin was located. Along the way, Vahn passed his perception over the entire Coliseum while using his [Eyes of Truth] to peer into areas that drew his attention. It didn’t take him long to find what appeared to be a waiting room nearby, containing a group of twenty-seven young Amazonesses that aged between four and eight years old…

With the exception of one of the young Amazonesses, every other child in the room had various bruises, abrasions, and cuts over their largely uncovered bodies. Other than a simple cloth to wrap around their chests and bottoms, they were completely bereft of other kinds of clothing. It was only when a young Amazoness was growing into adulthood, or was ‘apprenticing’ under an older Amazoness, that their outfits would begin to deviate. This was intended to remove their original identity entirely, forcing them to shape the person they would become through the efforts they put into growing stronger and surviving…

Though there may be some repercussions for it later, Vahn had noticed some rather serious injuries in some of the girls sitting on the periphery of the group and used [Wound Transfer] to remove them. He didn’t heal them fully, as that could cause problems of its own, but it would prevent the girls from suffering and potentially losing their lives as a result of deeply rooted injuries. This action hadn’t escaped Kali’s notice, however, causing her to frown deeply and clench her teeth a few times before ultimately remaining silent. She didn’t know exactly what Vahn had done but, knowing he had done it without her consent grated on her nerves more than a little…

When the palanquin was finally set down, Kali rose to her feet and, after waiting for each of the Amazonesses to turn their focus towards her, stated, “Make preparations for a feast. We will be celebrating our successful voyage and honoring the achievements of those who contributed the most along the way. Until then, don’t bother me unless its something important. I know you lot want to ask about our ‘guest’, but I’ll get around to explaining it later on. Now beat it…!” Kali had flailed her arm in a somewhat dismissive manner, almost as if she were shooing away the crowd instead of properly dismissing them. Regardless, everyone began to walk away as if it were perfectly natural, many gathering around the Amazonesses who had accompanied Kali on the voyage to make inquiries.

The only people remaining in the large ceremonial room after Kali shooed everyone away was Vahn, Tiona, Tione, Bache, and Kali herself. Even Khodiva had obediently left the room while, unless told to leave directly, Bache still had her duties as Captain to perform. For the time being, however, she just moved to the side, sitting on a red and yellow mat while observing in silence. She could already tell how angry her goddess was and wondered how things would play out between her and Vahn now that they were ‘alone’…

Vahn still had Tiona and Tione at his side when Kali turned toward him with a vicious expression, asking, “What did you do, Vahn…!?” There were few things as blatantly rude and disrespectful as going into a god’s domicile and acting without inhibitions, especially when they were supposed to be ‘more’ than allies. It was only a few hours ago that Kali had been thinking about opening up a bit more to Vahn, only for him to do something ‘unnecessary’ without even conferring with her beforehand. The main reason she was so pissed off was that they had already discussed the matter ‘several’ times, with Vahn agreeing to behave and observe until she could introduce the necessary changes in a way her Amazonesses could accept.

Without showing any discernable change in expression, Vahn withstood Kali’s icy glare and explained, “There was a young Amazoness who had a fragment of her rib poking into her lung. If it was left untreated, she would have died without even getting the chance to fight in the arena. I didn’t do anything excessive and only treated those who had deeply rooted injuries that would prevent them from even having a chance to grow further. Most of it was internal, so they probably won’t even notice the injury had been treated, other than simply ‘feeling’ better…” Since he could have healed them completely, Vahn didn’t feel as though he had broken his promise with Kali. In fact, he had already made quite a few compromises for her at this point, just as she had for him…

Though she still had a fierce expression, Kali’s eyes darted around a few times, representing the thoughts racing through her mind before she eventually snorted through her nose and said, “This is the last time I’ll let you act however you please without consulting me first. If it’s something like that, I’m not going to go out of my way to stop you. The crucible might be designed to put them through life and death struggles, but that isn’t the ‘intention’ behind the process. Next time you do something like that, at least give me the courtesy of even the most ‘basic’ amount of respect. If we’re supposed to be equals, then f****** talk to me before you do s*** that affects all of us…!”

Vahn hadn’t really felt guilty at first but, hearing the way Kali phrased things, he realized that he did overstep his bounds a bit. The girls he had treated weren’t in any danger of dying in a short period of time so he could have waited a bit before taking action. He just couldn’t stand to see people suffering, especially when some of them were even smaller than his own children. Thus, though he didn’t regret what he had done, Vahn lowered his head slightly and said, “Sorry, Kali, I’ll try to do better. This place…it’s a lot to take in so I’m a little tense. I’m trying my…I ‘will’ try my best to be more considerate of the situation. Just…please, don’t put me in a situation where I have to choose between saving a child and giving you the respect I ought to show you. If it comes to that…”

Kali didn’t wait for Vahn to finish his words, snorting to interrupt his sentence before saying, “Yeah, yeah, I know you well enough at this point. Even Amazonesses treat their wounded after a battle so you can do whatever you want, so long as you don’t take things too far. You already know that Amazonesses are very impressionable, even at a young age. If you do anything unnecessary, they will become your responsibility…don’t forget that…” Though there were quite a few reasons why Amazonesses were required to be born in Telskyura, one of the most important was the fact that young Amazonesses could ‘imprint’ onto male figures, even over relatively small things. These Amazonesses would become extremely dependent on the person they had imprinted on, leading to numerous tragedies over the course of Telskyura’s history…

Vahn was very aware of the problems associated with young Amazonesses, as he had to think about such things if they were going to be allowed to live within a community inside of Orario’s walls. This was one of the primary reasons why they would have their own territory, where men would outright be prevented from entering as it could negatively impact young Amazonesses and ‘cut’ off their future. The second reason was simply that Amazonesses had relatively ‘wild’ instincts and, even before they were able to walk and talk, their emotional states could cause them to lash out and attack others, sometimes long after their ‘target’ was dead…

With a solemn nod, Vahn took Kali’s words to heart and, seemingly finding his response adequate, Kali’s anger melted away as if it had never existed in the first place. She pulled off her bone mask, which she had been wearing during the palanquin trip, tossing it to the side in the process. Afterward, Kali plopped onto her raised platform and rather slovenly stretched her body before asking, “Well, what do you plan to do now? That horse brat already knows you want to duel her so she has probably been preparing for the last couple of months. She’ll be waiting for you to issue the challenge and you’ll end up fighting here in the arena after the preparations are made. Until then, I don’t really care what you choose to do, so long as you keep in mind what we’ve talked about previously…”

Hearing Kali’s words, Vahn had a thoughtful expression on his face as he recalled some of the important details of their past conversations. At the very beginning of the voyage, his purpose had been to both ‘relax’ and ‘observe’, seeing for himself how the Amazonesses lived so he could make informed decisions in the future. His perspective had already changed a great deal during the voyage and, because of the relatively positive experience, Vahn had ‘prepared’ himself to deal with some of the things he knew would bother him. Now, he needed to decide if he wanted to wrap things up quickly or if he wanted to continue to observe, laying the foundation for the change he wanted to see…

Knowing Kali would be annoyed if he continued standing around for too long, Vahn released a small sigh before looking between Tiona and Tione to gauge their reactions. Both girls had been standing at his side ever since he descended the palanquin and stepped on this ‘holy land’ where men were not allowed to tread. Their earlier melancholy had completely faded away, replaced by serious and supportive expressions as they patiently awaited his decision. Even if he wanted to wage war against Telskyura, Vahn knew they would stand out his side without any hesitation whatsoever, leaving him to be the one that constantly had to ‘think’ about things…

Finding this thought someone amusing, Vahn’s expression softened a bit as a small smile spread across his face. It felt like a great amount of tension had been released from his body as he looked back at Kali and said, “I will have my duel with Hippolyta in a week’s time. Until then, I will continue to observe how Amazonesses live without directly interfering with their way of life.” Though there were a lot of things he didn’t really understand about Kali’s character, Vahn knew she was someone that he could genuinely trust. Her character had a lot of ‘flaws’, but she was very honest and straightforward, almost to a fault…

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Kali was still lazing about on her platform but her expression now showed an amused smile as she intoned a loud ‘Hnnn’ before saying, “If that is what you’ve decided, then so be it. I’ll have Bache, Tiona, and Tione explain the rules to you so, as long as you follow them, you’ll be able to move about freely. During the resting hours, however, you’ll be staying in my quarters. We don’t have anything like a guest room and your only other option is sleeping on the floor with a few dozen voracious Amazonesses~.” Even though Vahn didn’t need to sleep, he wouldn’t be allowed to roam around after hours as there was a very strict curfew in effect. Rest was equally as important as training hard and battling ferociously so there were heavy penalties for anyone found disturbing the peace within the Coliseum after night had fallen…

Since he knew she wouldn’t really take things too far, Vahn didn’t think about Kali’s words too much and simply nodded his head in response. Tiona and Tione, however, developed slight frowns as they knew what kind of place Kali’s quarters were. It wasn’t a traditional room or chamber where others would sleep and was instead more like a massive canopy tent where Kali would typically laze around while watching various forms of ‘entertainment’. Other than fighting, dancing and wrestling were the traditional past times of the Amazoness people and even Tiona had been selected to entertain Kali more than a few times in the past…

Vahn, unaware of why Tiona and Tione had such a reaction, left the room with the three girls while Kali was cackling in the background. It wasn’t until much later that he would come to regret his decision to accede to Kali’s ‘request’ and, after leaving Telskyura, Vahn would never speak of what he had seen during his week within that aromatic and stuffy place…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Returning to a home that was never a home’,’Angry Obaachama~!’,’Who said Kali isn’t mischevious…? She is also a Goddess of Entertainment, after all…’)

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