Chapter 954: Bottom Line

Several hours after the presentation ceremony had begun, Vahn’s expression had become stone-faced, a sharp contrast to the masked smile he had worn throughout. He watched as the group of young Amazonesses happily made their way out of Kali’s chambers, each having been promised extra portions during their meals and two semi-permanant marks on their hand which would allow them to update their Status Board whenever the opportunity presented itself. It was such a paltry prize that Vahn knew he could have afforded them, even without Kali having gone through so much efforts to try and bother him.

Once the group had departed the chambers, Vahn’s mind continued to buzz as he blankly stared forward, few thoughts running through his tired mind. Kali had kept a slight distance from him during the ceremony but, even though it had finished, she hadn’t made any attempt to try and get close to him. She could tell by Vahn’s reaction that she had gone too far and didn’t know what to say as something like an apology, at least a genuine one, had never really left her lips. In the past, Kali never regretted the few actions she took as, even with a Divinity related to Time, there was no way to change the past and undo things. Thus, after more than a minute of tense silence, Kali began to feel annoyed and wanted Vahn to at least be angry if he was bothered, not just silent…

Sensing the change in Kali’s aura, Vahn’s dull and tired eyes didn’t change in the slightest as a small smile curled up at the sides of his mouth. It wasn’t an expression of happiness but one of sheer incredulity as he mechanically intoned, “None of your Divinities compel you to do things like this…you choose to bring harm because you don’t know how to express yourself. I’ve met people like you in the past…” As Vahn spoke, his mind was filled with the smiling face of Eva but, unlike Kali, Eva desperately sought companionship to escape her loneliness. Kali, because of her long life and her assigned Divinities, simply didn’t care about such things from the start…even if the people close to her were to die, she would accept it as part of the natural cycle and move on without mourning, at least for very long…

Realizing that Kali’s Divinities had affected her in a way that he couldn’t really do much about at the present, Vahn smile turned into a pained expression as he slowly rose to his feet. There was a lot he had wanted to say previously but, understanding Kali probably wouldn’t even take his words seriously, Vahn just felt tired. She was constantly talking about them being equals and he had seen the compromises she had made on his behalf…however, in none of those situations did he ever force her into a situation where she had to compromise. Her words no longer held any weight as, even though Kali had gone through the motions, she never truly treated him with dignity and respect…

As he made his way towards the entrance to Kali’s chambers, Vahn could feel her aura fluctuate greatly but she ultimately remained silent until just before he vanished behind the thick curtains. The words she chose to speak caused Vahn to feel a slight pain in his chest as the dull feeling in his mind spread even further, each word weighing heavily against his heart and mind. Without even turning to face her, or bothering to answer her question, Vahn exited the chambers as the words, “Is this how a man should behave…!?” echoed in his ears. Moments later, as he passed by the stunned and confused guards, Vahn could hear thrashing about in Kali’s chambers as various items and pieces of furniture were destroyed by the raging goddess…

After leaving behind Kali’s chambers, Vahn had moved to an isolated area near the top of the Coliseum and was currently waiting for the arrival of Tiona and Tione. He had sent them both telepathic messages so, after only a few minutes had passed, the two quickly made their way to his side. Tione showed a pained and empathetic look when she saw him sitting on a ledge that overlooked the silent country below but Tiona immediately closed the distance and gave Vahn a warm hug. He hadn’t even realized that his body was cold previously so Vahn felt more comforted by this simple gesture than any other complex display of affection. Back at the Manor, he even set down the tools he had been using to practice forging and decided to go seek out Fenrir, Hestia, Eina, or anyone that would provide him with meaningful companionship for the night…

As a result of Tiona’s actions, Vahn quickly found himself embraced by both sisters as his tired mind was slowly revitalized by their presence. Without them having to ask, Vahn plainly stated, “You know, I really tried…even though there are so many things I don’t agree with, I tried to be understanding and see things from the perspective of the Amazonesses. Even though there were so many cruel components of this society, I can still see the fervor and happiness that many of your kind find through the simple enjoyment of battle. The fact that a society can exist for so long without the need for a complex political and economic structure is genuinely amazing…” Vahn truly had found many positive components of Amazoness society but, knowing there were innocent victims that were consumed by it, combined with the fact that the object of their worship simply didn’t care about their lives…it was too much for him.

Unable to finish his words, Vahn just shook his head and enjoyed the feeling of the wintery air against his skin while the warmth of the two girls flowed into his body. Neither said anything but Vahn could feel their support through their actions, slowly strengthening his own resolution to do what was necessary. In truth, the answer had been in front of him the entire time and, just as Kali had stated, Vahn had been overthinking things out of consideration and respect. Neither of these things was wholly necessary, however, especially if the other side didn’t afford you the same basic respects in turn…

Long after Vahn had left her chambers, Kali was still seething and anxious, having destroyed most of the furniture contained within and even going so far as to extinguish the fire that had been burning inside for more than five hundred years. He guards had come in to try and appease her but Kali had chased them all away with her Divinity and was currently curled up on the spot where Vahn had been sitting, the only undamaged part of the entire room. Though it had long faded, Kali felt like she could still feel a bit of his warmth coming from the cushion and couldn’t help trying to seek comfort from it, even as the simple thought of her own weakness and reliance was driving her mad…

In all her long existence, Kali had never felt like this before and, knowing that she had chased away the one thing that could give her a reprieve, she couldn’t help but curse, “You blasted brat, I can’t believe you would just leave me here like this again. If you were so upset, you could have put an end to the entire situation with just a few words! Why do you have to be an idiot that lets people hurt him just to try and appease them…!?” Kali simply couldn’t wrap her head around why Vahn would let her get away with so much, especially if it was going to do so much harm. She knew it was his greatest weakness but couldn’t fathom why someone with so much power, to the point that even gods nearly treated him as their equal, would give others so much leniency and influence over him…

With a torrent of thoughts racing through her mind, Kali tightly hugged her knees while curling up into the smallest shape she could manage. Just thinking about the situation was causing an intense pain in her chest and a buzzing feeling at her temples so she wanted nothing more than to simply stop thinking about it. For a brief moment, she even regretted setting her petty revenge into motion and, after squeezing her own legs hard enough to form light bruises, Kali couldn’t help but mutter, “You idiot, all you have to do is whatever you want…even I couldn’t go against you if you just beat me in a fight…idiot…stupid…” Following these words, for one of the few times in her long existence, Kali buried her face into knees and began to cry silently…

After spending a long night with Hestia, as she had intercepted him on his way to find Fenrir, Vahn had recovered greatly by the time morning had come. He spent the morning talking things over with the goddesses residing with the Manor and received a large amount of support and advice for his next course of action. Vahn was often given a great deal of leniency in how he chose to act and this time wouldn’t be an exception, even though the situation was arbitrarily complicated by his own sensibilities. Even so, with the support of so many people, Vahn believed that, even if his course of action wasn’t ‘correct’, he simply had to deal with the fallout and do his best to ensure the outcome eventually became positive…

Currently, Vahn was once again returning to Kali’s chambers, the day having already transitioned into the early afternoon. He knew she had been confining herself inside alone and had sent away anyone that had come to visit her while, within his system interface, Vahn could see that her Affection for him had fallen from 99 down to 83 in less than a day. He had never been able to get her Affection to 100 through his past actions and knew it would take defeating her in a battle to finally get her across that threshold. Now, however, Vahn wasn’t sure what direction the future would take, only that his actions would have a direct influence on the outcome…

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The only Amazoness left to guard Kali’s tent, at least for the time being, was Bache herself. Even then, she wasn’t anywhere near the actual entrance and, after seeing Vahn appear, a mixture of emotions crossed her face before she eventually closed her eyes for a few seconds and said, “Kali-sama has always been good to us…even before she had descended into this world, it was her words of guidance that had helped the Amazonesses become what they are today. Her only requirement for us was to always strive for greater power and she even gave us the method to obtain it…Vahn, please don’t hurt Kali-sama…” Knowing Vahn’s character and also understanding that there was nothing she could do to stop him, Bache could only appeal to him while repressing her own emotions and instincts…

After giving Bache a curt nod, Vahn made his way into Kali’s tent and found the diminutive goddess curled up in a ball, her blood-red eyes gazing back at him with a haggard look on her face. Vahn felt a tinge of guilt upon seeing her in this state but quickly dismissed it as he plopped down onto the ground without making any attempt to get closer. Her Affection dropped several points once again as Kali’s brows furrowed into a deep frown. In response to this, Vahn plainly stated, “I have no come here to comfort and pander to you, Kali…not anymore. Up until last night, I could have easily forgiven how you’ve behaved but you knowing crossed my bottom line and now we both have to live with the consequences…”

Though she may not have intended it, Kali’s Divinity had started to leak out a bit as her eyes became almost hollow in appearance. She was still hugging her own legs closely and Vahn could see her nails begin to dig into the side of her flesh as she waited for his next words. Resisting the urge to try and stop her, Vahn hardened his heart and stated, “You taught me a lot over the last three months and allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. Over time, I was even learning to love you, even if the form it had taken was somewhat abnormal and unhealthy at times…but now it is simply too late. You aren’t aware of it, but the path I walk isn’t something simple and straight forward. What I’m trying to accomplish is something that most would say is impossible and-.”

Not allowing Vahn to continue his words, Kali let her Divinity spread out until it had nearly encompassed the entire Coliseum as she shouted, “Leave…!” Though she had been listening at first, Kali’s mind blanked the moment Vahn said that it was too late. She had spent the entire night, and most of the morning, constantly thinking about what she could do to try and mend things between them. Even though she hated thinking about things excessively, Kali couldn’t help trying to come up with a method that would make Vahn show her affection once again. But, much like the warmth she had sought from the long-inert cushion, everything had been a delusion, a false hope that caused her heart to twist painfully as tears began to pour from her eyes…

Vahn’s instincts warned him of the impending danger but, seeing the state Kali was in, combined with his own convictions, he didn’t move from his spot. Instead, Vahn looked directly into Kali’s eyes and said, “I have tried doing things your way…now we’ll do them mine…” Kali, as angry and hurt as she was, hadn’t actually made any attempt to try and attack or harm Vahn. Though she might not admit it, Vahn was very aware of the fact that Kali had become dependent on him after the time they had spent together. As a result, he knew she was instinctually restraining herself, creating a gap that he could exploit, even though it felt wrong to do so…

Kali’s teary eyes widened into saucers as Vahn extended his hand toward her before nine golden chains spontaneously appeared within her chamber. She hadn’t prepared herself at all and was caught unprepared when Vahn’s domain contracted around her like the heavy and dense water at the bottom of the sea. Kali felt a suffocating feeling for a brief moment before the golden chains snaked around her body, holding her firmly in place and completely sealing away her Divinity. She was already aware of the existence of [Enkidu] but had never seen Vahn actually use it, believing it was more of a ceremonial tool instead of a weapon…

Before their battle could even begin, Vahn had brought it to a decisive conclusion as he looked towards Kali’s bound body and asked, “You won’t use the excuse that you were unprepared, right? Even sneak attacks are allowed within the laws and traditions of Telskyura, especially if the two sides are at odds with each other…” Though it was considered shameless and dishonorable, the only thing that truly mattered to most Amazonesses was the outcome of the battle. The victor was almost always considered ‘right’ while the loser, especially in death, was simply labeled as weak and complacent.

Though she felt an indignant rage after realizing what was happening, Kali’s mind blanked out after [Enkidu] was snuggly wrapped around her body. She noticed that the chains weren’t actually that hard and strangely made her feel comfortable, almost like the times she was with Vahn. At the same time, it was almost as if the world had come into focus as even the turbulent waves in her mind were slowly settling. It took her a while to even register Vahn’s question but Kali eventually looked up at him with her face filled with confusion, at least until she looked directly into his eyes.

For a brief moment, Kali was going to proclaim his words to be true and, even though she knew this was the case, she still couldn’t accept it so easily. She had wanted a hard-fought battle where both of them tried to determine who had the dominant role in their future relationship. This was far from the outcome she had imagined and, even though it was strangely calming to be held by [Enkidu], Kali refused to lower her head so easily. Instead, even though part of her screamed out to hold her words, Kali peered up at Vahn and venomously stated, “Coward…is this the result of Loki’s influence? You need to scheme against me, even with all the power you possess…!?” As the words left her mouth, Kali felt a great deal of hurt in her heart since she was very aware of the fact that Vahn always treated her well and in a forthright manner when they were together…

Since he had already expected similar words, Vahn was able to keep his mask from cracking but, deep inside, he knew this wasn’t very fair for her. However, much like his early relationship with Freya, Vahn knew that Kali simply couldn’t be compromised with early on. If he treated her as an equal, she would try to get away with all sorts of things, constantly distancing herself from him only to try and return to his side after the fact. This was an extremely unhealthy relationship and, if she were ever to truly reside in Orario, Vahn knew there needed to be an established hierarchy between them. Though he would one day open his heart to her again, Vahn knew that Kali wasn’t in a state where she could reside inside without wreaking havoc and harming his existing relationships…

Swallowing his inhibitions, Vahn reached down and raised Kali’s chin even further as he looked into her blood-red eyes and firmly stated, “We are not equals…I tried to treat you as an equal and you took advantage of it every chance you got. You expect respect and pandering yet can’t give it out in kind, spoiled by the fact you are a goddess that has the reverence of an entire nation of proud warriors. Now, you are reduced to nothing more than a frail girl that is bound within my chains…if I wanted to, I could even seal you away and prevent your return to Heaven entirely. You may curse me all you want but we both know, deep down, this is your loss. Even if you try to hide it, your body and mind are already accepting this reality, are they not…?”

Even with all the rage and indignity that Kali was feeling, there was a painful and aching heat rising up in her body that was impossible to resist. The more overbearing Vahn was in this situation, the more her body was reacting, even though she tried to resist. It wouldn’t have been that difficult if her Divinity wasn’t bound but Kali was currently, as Vahn stated, just a frail mortal. Her soul may be immortal but, at least for the time being, she was just a normal Amazoness that was powerless against her opponent. Though part of her was stressing out from being bound in chains, it wasn’t nearly as potent as the hormones wreaking havoc in her body…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Rage of a Goddess’,’Resolution of an Emperor’,’Fearsome [Enkidu]…’)

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