Chapter 961: Reflection

Deciding it would be rude to continue gawking at the inordinately beautiful figure of the statue, Vahn began to inspect around the base until he found a few inscriptions carved into the surface. According to the immaculately chiseled text, the mirror held by the woman had the ability to show the user anything their heart desired. Vahn decided to test this by looking into the mirror once again and focusing his mind, only for the surface to remain unchanged. Suspecting that it may require voice commands, Vahn said, “Show me Hephaestus…” Though several other names crossed his mind, Vahn still decided to peek in on Hephaestus since he knew she was currently teaching Ina and Nanu a few tricks back in her workshop…

For a brief moment, the surface of the mirror flashed with a magical light before the reflective surface showed the image of Hephaestus watching over Ina and Nanu with an appreciative smile on her face. Vahn couldn’t help smiling himself when he saw the image, especially since the quality of the reflection was almost as if he were there personally observing things. As this thought crossed his mind, Vahn noticed that the image in the mirror actually changed according to his intentions and he was able to move around as if he was a disembodied phantom within the workshop. This was a very curious discovery and Vahn couldn’t help but feel intrigued as he orbited Hephaestus’ body before testing how far he could zoom in on objects by peering into her face.

The image in the mirror became progressively closer until it almost seemed as though the surface was about to contact Hephaestus’ cheek. Vahn made sure it wasn’t going too fast, as he didn’t want to surprise her if it ended up having a physical component, but something amazing happened just as the mirror nearly reached her skin. There had already been a mystical white light surrounding the periphery of the mirror but, after getting close enough to initiate contact, the light changed to a pink coloration as the surface of the mirror warped slightly. Vahn noticed the slight curvature as if it was part of Hephaestus’ face so he reached out to touch it by instinct…

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Vahn could feel warmth at his fingertip as he pressed into Hephaestus’ slightly squishy cheek and watched it deform. He could also feel her startle slightly so he pulled back the mirror to see if her reaction was based on his touch or something else. When Hephaestus brought her hand up to her cheek in confusion, Vahn’s eyed widened since the mirror seemed far more valuable than the rather plain description below indicated. It seemed to act as a portal that connected two points and, though the radius of the mirror was quite small, Vahn could think of several potential uses for such a convenient artifact…

After failing to communicate with Hephaestus with words, Vahn tried to stick his hand into the mirror, only to notice that he was unable to actually pass through. It was at this point that he noticed there wasn’t any sound passing through the image as he couldn’t hear what Hephaestus and Ina were talking about as he floated around their periphery. Vahn didn’t give up because of these small setbacks and instead moved the mirror over towards the worktable where several pieces of paper could be found. He made the mirror ‘zoom’ in as close a possible until the border had lit up with a pink light once again. Pulling out a pen, Vahn made a few test strokes on the paper and was satisfied to see that the pen did indeed affect the paper on the other side. This showed that the artifact could influence objects through the surface, even though there were a few restrictions on its use.

Once he had finished writing out his message, Vahn zoomed away from the piece of paper and tried to use telekinesis to manipulate it. This ultimately ended in failure and, with the pink light having faded away from the mirror’s periphery, Vahn suspected it needed to be in direct contact with whatever he was looking at in order to influence it. His next test was to see if he could pull things through the mirror or, more importantly, send things through it to the other side. Since the ink managed to imprint onto the paper, Vahn knew it was theoretically possible to send things through. The problem was finding a method of doing so as the mirror seemed to require contact with something before the ‘link’ was established. Vahn had tried focusing the mirror onto a table and, after the pink border activated, he placed a magic core on the surface. After zooming out, the magic core simply fell from the surface of the mirror without any success…

Vahn’s next experiment was to pull out a glowstone to see if, at the very least, the girls were able to notice the items he placed in contact with the surface on the other side. After waiting for several minutes, however, there were no changes to the glowstone and, even though it illuminated the table from his perspective, Vahn wasn’t sure if the girls could see it. He had even moved the mirror back over the Hephaestus and tried to light up her face with the glowstone while she and Ina were talking but there was no reaction from either of them. After this, Vahn decided it would be more productive to focus on himself so he said, “Show me my main body back at the Hearth Manor…”

The image in the mirror quickly changed to show Vahn standing out in the hallway outside of the Library. He had been helping Erika with her studies and decided to excuse himself for a moment to conduct a few tests. Though she had given him a calculating look, Erika hadn’t asked any questions as she watched his departure while playing with a loose strand of hair. She now looked like a woman in her late teens and had matured greatly in ‘most’ aspect. Unfortunately, though she didn’t seem to mind it, Erika took after her mother quite a bit. Other than their hairstyles and eye color, the two were almost a carbon copy of each other while Erika was slightly shorter and had a more intelligent look…

Now that he had access to himself, Vahn extended his palm back at the Manor while his avatar changed the focus of the mirror until the pink hue appeared. Vahn traced his finger around the surface of his own palm, noticing that he did indeed feel the touch with full clarity. He then pulled out a small knife and tried cutting along his palm but the pink hue along the edges immediately vanished. It seemed to have a failsafe that prevented the user from causing harm to the other side so Vahn stowed away the knife and tried to change the focus once again. This time, it took several minutes before the pink hue returned, indicating that the mirror had some other use conditions that he would need to investigate in the future.

With the connection re-established, Vahn pulled out a glowstone and placed it against his own palm through the mirror. On the other side, he noticed that there was indeed no light showing through, even though he could clearly see the illumination from the perspective of his avatar. There was, however, a slight warmth and, though it was almost imperceptible, Vahn could feel a bit of weight in his palm. This indicated there was indeed a connection between his two bodies, even though he was unable to see the glowstone and its influence from the perspective of his main body. As a final test, Vahn pulled out a pen and began writing on his palm this time, noticing that it did indeed update from both of his perspectives…

Vahn was able to conclude that he could indeed influence objects on the other side of the mirror but there were several restrictions that prevented him from doing harm and sending large physical objects through. He was, however, able to send energy through direct contact with others, meaning he could potentially use the mirror to watch over the girls and heal their bodies if they were injured. That was, of course, assuming he was able to move the mirror from the 70th Floor and take it into his possession. This proved to be extremely problematic as the statue didn’t seem to be made of any normal material and Vahn felt like he would be ‘stealing’ the mirror if he seized it by force. After all, without breaking the fingers or cutting off the hands that were holding the small mirror, Vahn wouldn’t be able to remove it. Since the statue almost felt real, and was breathtakingly beautiful, Vahn couldn’t find it in himself to do something so cruel…

After releasing a sigh, Vahn stared up into the beautiful face of the statue and almost felt like it was smiling back at him, even though the expression remained unchanged. He was positive there was ‘something’ watching him through the statue or, at the very least, it had some form of intent attached to it. Much like how he was unable to sense Ouranos, Vahn suspected this statue was likely related to one of the primordial gods and was probably indestructible by normal methods. It was far beyond the means of a mortal to create such a realistic statue and Vahn couldn’t even see through the materials composition, even with his [Eyes of Truth] and [Metalurgy]. There was even a chance that the statue was part of the mirror itself and, based on how it prevented him from cutting his own palm, the intent of the statue seemed to determine how the mirror was used…

Recalling the inscriptions carved into the base, Vahn’s expression turned into a casual smile as he said, “Show me the person who created this mirror and this beautiful statue…” Since it professed to show him whatever his heart desired, Vahn wanted to test the limits of the mirror and see exactly what it was capable of. When the surface flashed white, Vahn’s eyes widened greatly since he had never expected what was on the other side of the image. There, laying absentmindedly on an ornate lounge, Vahn could see the image of Helen staring up at the roof of her small residence. Her pink eyes were unfocused as her silvery-white hair fanned outward from her body like a masterwork painting.

Vahn was more than a little confused by this revelation since it seemed to imply that Helen was the one who created this statue, even though it seemed extremely unlikely. The only way Vahn could rationalize it was if Helen was someone who had reincarnated, meaning she would have made the statue and the mirror in the distant past. This didn’t seem that likely, however, as Helen had never shown any indication that she had memories of a past life. There was also no way that the gods who had been watching over mortals since the Progenitors still walked the surface would have been unaware of her existence. Vahn had no doubts that, with Helen’s beauty, many gods would have been paying ‘very’ close attention to her every movement…

As that thought crossed his mind, Vahn blinked in realization as he looked at the small oval mirror in the statue’s hand and began to ruminate. He knew from the [Hearts Desire]s of various goddesses that they were able to peer into the mortal world through various means, mainly through the use of artifacts like this small mirror. They had also been able to influence people in the mortal world, sometimes giving them powerful blessings that would allow them to overcome adversity. Vahn wondered if this mirror was actually a similar grade to Hephaestus’ Eternal Flame or Freya’s [Brísingamen]…

With his thoughts racing, Vahn decided to try another experiment to confirm something that ‘should’ have been impossible. Temporarily setting aside the matter of Helen’s existence, Vahn gazed into the mirror and said, “Show me what lays within the depths of the Dungeon…I want to see its creator…!” Once again, the surface of the mirror showed a vibrant white light that caused Vahn’s heart to begin racing. When the image clarified, Vahn’s eyes became completely rounded as the surface, for the second time, showed Helen’s lounging figure in the reflection. This caused Vahn’s mind to completely blank as he absentmindedly said, “Show me the final Floor of the Dungeon…” Even though he wasn’t thinking clearly, Vahn realized that his first question might have been confusing for the mirror so it might have shown him Helen after failing to show him the two things he had asked for…

This time, the mystical light of the mirror faded to show a small room where nothing but a small stone table could be seen. Atop the table, there was an ornate crystal cup while much of the table was covered with various books and journals. There were absolutely no other features in the room other than a dark red candle that had a ghostly blue flame illuminating the 5m wide space. It was hovering around the front of the desk but Vahn could tell it was slowly orbiting the area while its ghostly flame seemed to pierce through the surrounding darkness. Using the illumination from the flame, Vahn moved the mirror’s perspective to try and read the surface and the spines of the books but found each of them unmarked. He ultimately gave up on trying to gain any new information from this small room and once again said, “Show me the owner of that room…”

The surface of the mirror flashed with a mystical light and, as it began to clear away, Vahn wasn’t even surprised to see the image reflect Helen’s figure once again. He released a long sigh and knew he needed to have a talk with Helen in the near future, even though the chances she knew anything were extremely slim. There was a good chance she was a reincarnated entity or, more likely, an artificial entity that had been created for the sole purpose of helping others conquer the Dungeon. Vahn knew a bit about Helen’s ‘power’ so it wasn’t difficult to imagine that she was something like the Dungeon’s avatar, meaning there was a fair chance she was created by Tartarus or, as reason would lead him to believe, the Primordial Goddess, Nuwa…

Vahn suspected that the origin mentioned in the previous formation was referring to the realm where the Primordial Gods once reigned, the place now referred to as Hell. Nuwa and Tiamat had remained behind in the old realm, even though all of the other gods migrated to Heaven after balance was restored to the three realms. Vahn didn’t know why she had made such a decision but, knowing that Nuwa was the goddess who had first created sentient life that possessed a soul, she was undoubtedly a unique existence within the record. It was likely that she wanted to create a method by which her creations would be able to rise to her own standing, becoming gods that were able to once again populate the ‘Origin’ realm. This, however, was pure speculation on Vahn’s part but, with an enigmatic existence like Helen at the center of everything, Vahn felt he was close to the truth…

After calming his chaotic thoughts, Vahn looked into the face of the statue once again before saying, “Show me the Primordial Goddess, Nuwa…” He wanted to, at the very least, confirm that Helen wasn’t the incarnation of Nuwa herself. Contrary to expectations, however, the image in the mirror simply faded without showing anything in the reflective surface. Vahn was confused but, upon returning his gaze to the statue’s eyes, his confusion was quickly cleared up when he saw that there was indeed a smile on its face now. It wasn’t a smile of condescension but had a more playful and teasing vibe to it that made Vahn’s heart palpitate a few times in response. From this, he could confirm that the statue did indeed possess intent and his soul simply wasn’t strong enough to allow him to see through its true nature.

With the statue giving him a teasing smile, Vahn felt slightly indignant and wondered if he should tease her in return. It had first reacted when he took a glance at the statue’s butt so Vahn suspected it was, at the very least, conscious of its appearance and could feel slightly flustered. He was certain that he could get an advantage against the statue but, at the same time, feared that he would be unable to make use of the mirror if he upset whatever was linked with it. Thus, Vahn decided not to be too petty and simply reached out his hand to stroke the statue’s head as he said, “Thank you for your assistance. When I meet the real you, I’ll make sure to express my gratitude in earnest…”

Vahn spoke with a teasing undertone in his voice as he practically bombarded the statue with a mixture of petting energy and a veritable tidal wave of stimulating energy. It didn’t have any muscles and nerves, from what he could see, but Vahn believed his understanding of petting laws and [Hands of Nirvana] would allow him to even influence someone through a mental link. As a result, though he wasn’t certain when it happened, the expression on the statue’s face appeared slightly flustered as her brows were furrowed almost imperceptibly. If she had a normal complexion, Vahn imagined it would be beet red as a result of his ‘gentle’ teasing. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like the person guiding the intent behind the statue was too upset with him since, after asking where the entrance to the 71st Floor was located, the mirror reflected a staircase within one of the illusory barriers where the heart would have been on a human’s body…

(A/N: There will be one more chapter today, but it won’t be until later in the afternoon. There will be three tomorrow as well, though I may do four if my focus doesn’t break down.)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘That is a dangerous mirror…’,’Helen really is the ‘key’ to reaching godhood’,’Even statues are powerless against the Godhand…!’)

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