Chapter 956: Whim

The battle between Vahn and Hippolyta was scheduled for early in the morning, but there were still a few hours left before the fight would officially begin. Vahn spent much of the remaining time gently embracing Kali after she had changed into more appropriate clothing. Most of her outfits had been destroyed during her earlier tantrum so Vahn purchased an earth-green smock for her to wear for the time being. She would need a bit of time to adapt her mentality and return to normal before the fight would begin but, at least for the time being, reaffirming their current relationship wasn’t a bad way to spend time.

With less than an hour before the duel was supposed to begin, Vahn gave Kali one last firm hug before separating from her and saying, “We should get ready. I probably won’t stay in Telskyura for long after the battle ends but I’ll leave you a means to contact me if there are any issues, or even if you’re just feeling lonely. We’ve already started expanding the area where many of the other Amazonesses had already taken up residence so things should be ready by the time Spring returns. I’ll be waiting for you back in Orario…” Though he had the option to stay even longer, Vahn was beginning to grow restless with all of the new information he had been receiving through the Haven Defense Force.

Over the last fourteen weeks, the HDF had still been gathering information as they went around the fringe territories to trade supplies and help smaller communities survive through the Winter season. The number of ‘slaves’ that had been brought back numbered over six-thousand people, many belonging to various Beast-Human tribes, while more than thirteen-thousand children were also escorted back. Many of these children were disseminated into the various Familia of the Alliance while those that were especially young would begin filling in the available student slots at the Sage Aldrnari School. There were already expansion efforts to increase the capacity of the School and its dorms, but it would take a long time to complete the expansion, hire appropriate teachers, and reform the curriculum slightly to allow for a large influx of newer students.

The most important information that the HDF had brought back, however, was information about the various tribes, clans, factions, provinces, and kingdoms. Though Vahn had sent teams of Valkyries out to deliver his ‘invitation’ to the leaders of the split nations, having more information about the policies and practices of merchants, nobles, and royals within their respective countries was very important. He didn’t have enough time to go around and see for himself how every society lived but, just knowing they had established things like a market, capital, and political status was enough to make a basic determination of the type of nation they were.

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Unsurprisingly, many of the nations that weren’t already involved in proactive trading relations with Orario or, more specifically, the Alliance, were in desperate need of reforms. The so-called Nobles of various countries were simply merchants that had accumulated enough wealth to break away from traditional markets and establish their own. With a few exceptions, most of these individuals were Humans who, at one point in their lineage, had truly capable people paving the way for the establishment of their nation. The adversities they had overcome weren’t inherited by those born after them, however, making each successive generation more despotic than the last since every Noble was almost wholly focused on keeping their own power while reducing the power of others…

Vahn knew things were going to get a bit hectic for a while, likely taking up several years of his time and focus, but it was necessary for the future he sought for all peoples. Kali’s presence, and the presence of every god that would make up the Divine Council, would smoothen things over a great deal. He was even tempted to fill out the positions in the Divine Council before his meeting with the leaders of other nations since Loki had explained it was the best platform to declare himself as an Emperor. It was still far too early from Vahn’s perspective but Loki had explained that, with such a massive influx of people in Orario that supported him, it was best to capitalize on things before the people became complacent with the passage of time. The longer they had to ‘adapt’ to the current way things were, the less open they would be when it came to drastic changes in the short-term.

With many other goddesses sharing Loki’s sentiment, knowing well the ‘folly’ of civilization and its constituent races, Vahn inevitably agreed to their decision. There were still a few key gods Vahn would need to scout personally, but things were quickly progressing towards a future where he would rule over Eden as it’s Emperor. This would bring in a veritable wave of change as each country would begin to integrate into the larger structure of the Empire but it was better to get things started earlier since there was the lingering ‘danger’ of his high karma. It was constantly increasing and, so long as he was taking an active role in the world’s fate, Vahn knew there would inevitably be obstacles that could potentially even force him from the world. There were already ‘Natural Disaster’ class monsters like Charybdis in the world and, even though Vahn was confident he could kill the creature, there were still many unknown threats in this world that even the gods were not aware of…

Vahn had been sitting at the highest area within the Coliseum, overlooking the chaotic arena below with Tiona at his side. He had previously separated with Kali and could now see her back in her risque divine raiment as she conversed with a fierce-looking woman. The latter was standing below Kali’s platform, clearly showing the difference in their status even though the Amazoness adorned in ceremonial battle attire was none other than the Queen of Telskyura, Hippolyta. She was currently in her mid-thirties but still had an awe-inspiring aura that caused many of the other Amazonesses to look toward her with reverence and genuine admiration. Even Tiona’s brows had perked up a bit when she saw Hippolyta, absentmindedly muttering, “She is strong…”

Hippolyta was one of the few Level 7s that existed within Telskyura, with the proud warrior standing to her right, Myrina, being the only other Amazoness that even came close to her strength. Though Tiona would likely be able to defeat both of them, this didn’t mean that Hippolyta and Myrina were weak. Without Vahn’s influence, Tiona would have very likely been around the age of both girls by the time she had the same amount of strength. This showed their monstrous potential which, when compared to others, elevated them to a status most couldn’t even hope to achieve through normal means…

Vahn had noticed the arrival of Hippolyta and Myrina long before they came to stand before Kali, allowing him to peruse the two before their official meeting. After seeing them, Vahn had fallen silent for a short while and, even after hearing Tiona’s comment, his gaze was fixed on the two powerful warriors. The reason for this wasn’t because they were inordinately more beautiful than other Amazonesses but because, though nobody had mentioned it, there was a clear similarity between Hippolyta, Tiona, and Tione. Their facial structure was nearly identical and, even though Hippolyta was clearly more endowed and had matured in a different direction, even the ‘feeling’ of her aura was similar. Though Tiona didn’t have a ‘color’ to her mana, Tione’s was a rich earthen-gold with hints of vibrant green and gentle blues. This was almost identical to Hippolyta, making it very difficult for Vahn not to make a connection between the three of them…

Having noticed Vahn’s abnormal behavior, Tiona had cocked her head to the side, concernedly asking, “Is something wrong, Vahn…?” In response, Vahn lightly shook his head and calmly muttered, “I’ll confirm it later, but I suppose it doesn’t matter that much…” As these words left his mouth, Vahn couldn’t help wonder if this was some kind of fated event or revelation that would have been made in the original manga at some point. Though Tiona and Tione may not be the actual children of Hippolyta, there was clearly a familial relationship between the three of them. At the very least, they shared a very recent ancestor and shouldn’t be more than a single tangential generation distant from each other…

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Resisting the urge to outwardly comment on the whims of fate, Vahn waited for the conversation between Hippolyta and Kali to finish before deciding it was time for his own appearance. Both he and Tiona leaned forward, planting their feet against the side of the wall they had been sitting on before disappearing in an instant. They reappeared a short distance away from Kali, earning a sidelong glance from the blood-eyed goddess while Hippolyta and Myrina both drew their weapons. The former had a golden sword that had strange runes carved into it that Vahn had never seen before. With his ability to translate pretty much any language, however, Vahn could guess their purpose since the ‘literal’ meaning behind the runes was ‘pierce all, sever all, resist all’. As for Myrina, she had what appeared to be a large cudgel that was almost entirely carved from the thigh-bone of a Dragon. It also had runes adorning its surface, translating in Vahn’s eyes to mean ‘destroy all, small all, and cripple’.

With tensions immediately reaching a critical point, Kali released her Divinity and allowed her oppressive aura to spread through the Coliseum in an instant. She wasn’t holding back this time, causing those around Level 2 and 3 to hold their breathes while even Amazonesses as strong as Hippolyta and Myra became slightly pale. The only people unaffected by the deathly aura were Vahn, Tiona, and, having joined them shortly after their appearance, Tione. This was something noted by many of the more perceptive Amazonesses, Hippolyta and Myrina included. Before they were able to make sense of the situation, however, Vahn released his own aura outward, causing an even greater pressure than Kali’s to descend…

Seizing the initiative, Vahn made direct eye contact with Hippolyta as he proclaimed, “I am Vahn Mason, Sage Aldrnari, Supreme Commander of the Alliance, and Captain of the Hestia Familia. I come offering a better future for all Amazonesses, promising they will be able to grow far beyond their current limits. Since you stand in the way of that goal, Hippolyta, Queen of Telskyura, I will defeat you in honorable combat before showing everyone here that my way is the only means by which the Amazonesses will continue to prosper…!” With each syllable Vahn spoke, the pressure weighing down on everyone present, Hippolyta and Myrina in particular, became increasingly heavy…

Hippolyta was glaring at Vahn but he hadn’t missed when her eyes quickly passed over Tiona and Tione before she venomously stated, “Less talking, boy, it’s time to fight…!” She had been waiting a long time to fight against Vahn so even though her instincts warned her against it, Hippolyta still pressed forward. For a brief moment, she even ignored any sense of propriety and attempted to step onto the elevated platform where Kali was seated. The moment she did so, however, long before Vahn took action, Kali had appeared right in front of Hippolyta before kicking her square in the abdomen, sending her flying towards the center of the arena.

Though Hippolyta was physically as strong as Kali, there was a marked difference in their speed and, even without her Arcanum, Kali’s attacks still carried a hint of the Laws of Death. Hippolyta managed to twist in the air and land on her feet but she bent over moments later, vomiting onto the ground with a pained expression as Kali’s glimmering, blood-red, eyes reflected her sorry state. While Hippolyta was still trying to recover, Kali’s icy voice rang out, resonating in the ears of every Amazoness, “I have already recognized Vahn Mason and those closely associated with him. They are able to stand on my ‘altar’ because I have allowed it…I don’t remember ever affording you that right, Hippolyta. Tell me, are you trying to oppose me, here, in my own Coliseum…?”

After having cleared the contents of her stomach, Hippolyta rose to her feet with the slightest semblance of fear in her eyes as she bowed politely and said, “I would never oppose Kali-sama…” Though this wasn’t the entire truth of the matter, Hippolyta knew the futility of actually trying to kill Kali. Not only would this ensure her own death but, after a few years passed, Kali would return to Telskyura and take her place as their idol once again. Her rebellion would ultimately accomplish nothing and, having been part of the Kali Familia herself in the past, the power of her goddess was deeply ingrained in the heart, mind, and body of Hippolyta. She wouldn’t even be the Queen without Kali’s support as it was ultimately up to the later to determine who was best suited for the position…

Kali snorted through her nose before turning her back to Hippolyta and sending a small smile towards Vahn, her eyes practically screaming ‘praise me later’. Vahn’s expression hadn’t changed throughout the incident but he was sweating on the inside as Kali’s behavior was beyond any expectations he had. Now, even if he won, he would ‘share’ part of the victory with her and it was clear to even the rather ‘simple’ Amazonesses that Kali was elevating him above even the Queen. Instead of causing confusion, however, this only increased the fervor in the gazes of many Amazonesses within the crowd as they looked toward Vahn with hungry eyes…

Tiona and Tione had both noticed how odd Kali was behaving but, knowing how ‘capable’ Vahn was, neither was really that surprised. Instead, Tiona had an easygoing and excited smile on her face while Tione simply shook her head with a small smile adorning hers. At the same time, she was looking toward Hippolyta with a complex expression as, unlike Tiona, she was very aware that there was a connection between them and their country’s Queen. Most Amazonesses never knew their mothers and the members of their extended family but that didn’t mean it was impossible to find out if you were related to another Amazoness. Tione had used her time after first entering Telskyura to confirm a few things on her own, mainly by tracking down others with the Hiryute name to learn how she was related to Hippolyta…

Though it was taboo to talk about the life of a Hippolyta before they became Queen, that didn’t mean everyone strictly adhered to tradition. It didn’t take Tione long to find out that her family was originally part of the Fishing Tribe and that Hippolyta’s mother had been a relatively weak Amazoness who had vanished at sea nearly forty years prior. This would usually imply that the Amazoness had died but, after more than a month had passed, Hippolyta’s mother ended up returning, much stronger than when she had left. She was also with child and, eight months after her return, Hippolyta, then known as Toofan Hiryute, was born into the world.

Much of Toofan’s early life was undocumented and, other than Kali showing an interest in her and the fact that she was eventually apprenticed to the previous generation Hippolyta, there was almost no information at all. One of the few things that Tione was able to uncover was that, nearly nineteen years ago, Toofan had left Telskyura to broaden her horizons. Nothing about her return was mentioned, nor what she accomplished on her journey, but it was a fact that she had grown much stronger than before. She managed to defeat Argana and Bache, the two other prodigies that had Kali had taken an interest in, before finally taking down the Captain of the Kali Familia, Myrina. Since the later was several years older and had already made a name for herself, this cemented Toofan’s candidacy as the future Queen, at the relatively young age of fourteen…

With how things lined up, Tione was almost positive that Toofan, before she became Hippolyta, had been their mother. The fact that she and Tiona had always been highly capable in the water, even compared to normal Amazonesses, meant they had to have inherited the capability. Since there were clear similarities between Hippolyta and themselves, almost as if they were looking into a mirror that reflected their future selves, any other possibility seemed unlikely. This didn’t bother Tione that much, as she had already put the past behind her, but seeing the woman that had essentially allowed them to be born into their cruel situation caused her to feel slightly conflicted. Though she knew that her mentality was different than a normal Amazoness’, Tione couldn’t imagine abandoning her child, especially after seeing how happy a child could be when their parents loved them…

Amidst her confusion, Tione suddenly felt a comfortable warmth embrace her body and, even though Vahn hadn’t turned to look at her, she knew it was coming from him. This caused the small smile she had been wearing as a mask to become genuine as the conflict in her eyes faded away. After the battle ended, there was plenty of time to learn the truth as she could always get Vahn to question Kali directly. There was even a chance that Hippolyta herself would openly admit to being their mother, at least in private. It was far too late for them to have a normal relationship, but Tione felt like it would be nice to at least be on amicable terms with the person that had given birth to her…

Seeing the light returning to Tione’s eyes, Vahn’s own worries were alleviated as he stepped forward before jumping into the arena. Myrina had gone to Hippolyta’s side and, even though she didn’t take any action to ‘help’ her Queen recover, it was obvious that she took her duty as the Captain of the Royal Guard very seriously. She had adopted a low squatting position with her cudgel resting on her shoulder, clearly prepared to attack Vahn if he tried to take advantage of Hippolyta’s momentary weakness. He had every right to begin the fight on his own terms, as it was the fault of Hippolyta for breaking decorum, but he wasn’t particularly in a hurry.

Ignoring the icy glares from both Myrina and the quickly recovering Hippolyta, Vahn slowly raised his arms to the side as a confident glimmer shimmered in his eyes. His domain was no longer spread out to its maximum and was instead confined to the arena, causing the air to feel heavy as thin strands of visible mana could be seen building up like a fog. As flashy and awe-inspiring as [Magia Erebea] was, Vahn didn’t want any question to remain in the minds of any spectators that it was his own capabilities that allowed him to achieve victory. His body became even more lean than normal as dense white hair slowly began to spread along his hands, feet, forearms, and calves. A complex taiji diagram appeared on his exposed back as his hair, previously dark brown, became a mix of white and black. Two rounded ears emerged from the top of his head as a long white tail covered in black stripes snaked out from an area above his backside…

When Vahn opened his eyes, his previously aquamarine-green irises had turned stark blue as he got down into a unique stance that had never made an appearance outside of the Sub-Space orb and his own mind. With his slit-like irises contracting, Vahn’s confidence seemed to transition into pure ferocity as the surrounding mana began to coil around his arms. As if to explain to Hippolyta, and the rest of the crowd, Vahn’s voice resonated through space as he said, “Let me show you the power of my evolved Baihu form…it’s time to let the world experience the might of the Sacred White Tiger’s Heavenly Fist…!”

(A/N: Though I wanted to write two this morning, I ended up having to deal with another work-related issue and didn’t have much time. I tried to make this one a bit longer and included some background details to expand upon the story. Don’t worry though, as the chapter count won’t be influenced by the time the weekly reset comes around.)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘The Emperor Riseth…’,’Princess Tiona and Tione…?’,’Meow…!’)

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