Chapter 963: Acceptance

By the time Vahn deposited the peacefully sleeping Arles and Naho at their homes, the sun had long descended over the horizon. It was already after 9 PM, most of his children were asleep, and Vahn was currently spending time nestled between Hestia, Artemis, and Lante back at the Manor. With his avatar, Vahn found himself on the outside of Naho’s shared residence with Rayne after politely declining the invitation to stay the night. There were still several things he needed to take care of and, having detected that Marie already descended into her underground cove for the night, Vahn decided to pay Helen a visit. He could tell that she was still awake and, though his questions could wait until the following day, Vahn’s instincts told him not to let the matter lay.

After passing his hand through the wind-chime on the outside of the residence, Vahn sensed Helen stirring and was left waiting for a little over a minute before her soft voice reached his ears, giving him permission to enter. He had used the small delay to make adequate mental preparations so, even though he instinctually held his breath upon seeing Helen again, Vahn calmed down much faster than normal as he smiled casually and said, “Sorry for disturbing you so late, Helen. If it wasn’t an important matter, I wouldn’t have come to bother you like this…”

Hearing Vahn’s words, Helen’s expression didn’t change much but she allowed an imperceptible sigh to escape through her nose. She wanted to make a comment that he could come and bother her whenever he wanted but withheld it, instead asking, “What matter is so important? Do you require something of me…?” Since Vahn had a serious expression, even with his smiling face, Helen was steeling her heart for whatever he wanted to talk about. At this point, she knew Vahn was ‘different’ than the other men she had met in her life but Helen couldn’t help but think the worst since he had waited until Marie had left. Strangely, instead of being bothered by the possibility of something happening, Helen felt slightly anxious and was experiencing shortness of breath…

Vahn’s brows raised at Helen’s reaction as, even though it was extremely subtle, he could tell she was harboring some expectations about his visit. This caused his heart to flutter madly but he managed to keep his calm as he explained, “I managed to reach the 70th and 71st Floors of the Dungeon today. There was a complex magical formation present on the 70th Floor and, after deciphering the puzzle, I came across an unbelievably powerful artifact. It was a mirror that allowed the user to see almost anything their heart desired while also giving them the ability to interact with it, albeit with various restrictions…”

Helen tilted her head to the side by a single degree as she experienced a momentary confusion, followed by the return of the ’empty’ feeling she had been troubled by as of late. Understanding that Vahn came here simply to talk, Helen performed a slow blink while taking in a shallow breath before answering, “That sounds like a truly incredible artifact…I wonder what it would show me if I asked it to reveal my own heart’s desire…” As the final few words escaped her lips, a few strands of Helen’s silvery-white hair decided to misbehave, falling from Helen’s ear and giving her a melancholic look that caused Vahn’s heart to seize up for a brief moment.

After taking a moment to calm down, Vahn said, “With your strength, it wouldn’t be difficult for you to reach the 70th Floor and make use of the mirror…” For some reason, Vahn felt extremely awkward as he said this and, as if she was in the same boat, Helen’s pink eyes gazed upon him with a slightly dull light emanating from the runes contained within. It almost felt like she was judging him but Vahn ignored the feeling as he quickly added, “Anyways, I used the mirror to obtain a great deal of information about the Dungeon and its inhabitants. I was able to learn that there were ninety-nine Floors and was able to catalog every monster within after a few hours of select questions. However, the most important thing I came to learn was about the nature and origin of the Dungeon itself…”

At this point, Helen was giving him her rapt attention since there were few people that weren’t interested in secrets that had eluded both mortals and gods since the foundation of the three realms. Though some may know the purpose of the Dungeon, such as Ouranos, Amenominakanushi, Ymir, and Brahma, they had never passed the secrets onto the generations that followed. As a result, Helen buried her melancholic feelings and was closely listening to each word Vahn said, even as he swallowed hard and asked, “Helen…are you a reincarnated individual…?” This had caused her to blink in confusion once again before tilting her head, this time an impressive three degrees. She had been expecting Vahn to tell her about the Dungeon’s secret, not ask about her identity…

As this thought crossed her mind, Helen quickly understood the implication behind Vahn’s question, deciding to follow-up with a question of her own, even as her heart began to race for the first time in hundreds of years. She gazed into Vahn’s aquamarine eyes, something she genuinely avoided out of habit, asking, “Are you saying I have some relation to the Dungeon’s origin…?” Several thoughts were racing through Helen’s mind at this point, similar to puzzle pieces that had been carefully organized in the past but had never been brought together. Her fate as the ‘key’ to godhood now made a lot more sense, causing Helen to feel a mixture of emotions that she didn’t know how to put into words.

Since Helen didn’t answer his question, Vahn felt slightly awkward but still nodded his head as he answered, “I asked the mirror several different questions to confirm it but, assuming the mirror isn’t trying to mislead those that use it, there is a high chance you have some relation to the Dungeon and the two Primordial Goddesses, Nuwa and Tiamat. If you aren’t a reincarnated individual, there is a high chance you were created by the Goddess Nuwa herself…” Nuwa, even till this day, was the only god that could proactively create life that possessed a soul. Though it would have taken her a long time, she had hundreds of millions of years to create something like Helen, all for a purpose that was becoming increasingly clear with the passage of time…

For several minutes after the revelation, Vahn stood awkwardly near the entrance while Helen tried to process this new information. He didn’t know what she was thinking but there were a few strong fluctuations in her aura, a stark contrast to how peaceful and ‘stagnant’ it was in the past. Though they weren’t nearly as active as a normal person, it was obvious to anyone that knew Helen well that she was experiencing tumultuous emotions. Vahn couldn’t comfort her in the same way he would someone he was close to but he still reached out his hand and sent calming energy through his domain so she wouldn’t overstress her heart and mind.

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Feeling the foreign energy enter her body, Helen was more surprised that worried, causing her to give Vahn a questioning look while her thoughts were still racing. She saw genuine concern in his expression and, combined with the calming effects of the energy, Helen quickly regained her composure as she said, “I have long thought about my purpose and wondered why I had been burdened with such a tragic power…” Though she had never met Nuwa, Helen was very aware of the prestige the Primordial Goddess held, as she was the true origin of sentient life within the three realms. Being created by such an entity gave her a small feeling of pride, even though it also cemented the ‘purpose’ she had been given…

Vahn couldn’t help but furrow his brows when he saw the ‘acceptance’ in Helen’s eyes, almost as if she were given some inescapable fate. Though he had the benefit of ‘knowing’ that such concepts were completely asinine, at least when he was within a record, Vahn still felt troubled by the fact that someone he associated with felt as if they were limited in their choices. He believed that there were an infinite number of paths forward and, if she didn’t want to become a victim of fate, the only thing Helen needed to do was ask for help. Instead, she acted as if she were a solitary existence in the world and, even though Vahn knew why she behaved that way, it still annoyed him since he had also lived with similar burdens in the past…

Though he knew it wasn’t really his place to say, as Helen had lived a very different life than him, Vahn still squinted his eyes slightly and said, “From the moment you came under my protection, any fate you think you were burdened by has been completely removed. I cam here because I was curious and wanted to understand the truth of the matter, not because I wanted to make use of you. Even if you proactively wanted to use your power, I would exhaust every other option before ever coming to rely on something so contrived. And you can trust me when I say I have ‘literally’ infinite options at my disposal…” Vahn didn’t know why, but the emotion he hated the most when dealing with people, himself included, was ‘acceptance’ of fate they didn’t orchestrate themselves…

Helen had never seen Vahn ‘angry’ before so she was taken aback by his behavior, causing her mouth to part slightly as her mind blanked for a brief moment. She didn’t know if she should apologize, as she didn’t truly understand what had happened for Vahn to become so upset. As a result, Helen remained quiet and just mulled over his words while issuing a soft ‘Nn…’. Though Vahn had never shown any indication of wanting to ‘use’ her, Helen still couldn’t fully believe his words. She knew that, if he encountered a bottleneck that he was unable to overcome, the knowledge he had obtained would bring him back to her.

Understanding that Helen didn’t truly believe his words, Vahn furrowed his brows and asked rather pointedly, “What is your dream, Helen? Other than the purpose you seem to have accepted for yourself, what do you desire out of life…?” This time, Helen gave him a gentle smile and explained, “After I have served my purpose, I imagine it would be up to my partner to decide how I will live from that point onward. I will do my best to support them, even though I don’t have the heart to increase my strength a second time…” These words caused Vahn’s frown to deepen even further, causing him to shake his head while turning away from Helen’s gaze. He actually regretted coming here to confirm his suspicions as they hadn’t even talked about the Dungeon much since Helen seemed incapable of escaping the ‘fate’ she had accepted for herself…

After reaching the doorknob, Vahn took a deep breath before saying in a stern tone, “If you think your fate it something inescapable, I may come to rob you of it one day. I would rather bear your hatred and resentment than see you accept a fate you have every opportunity to break free from.” Since it wouldn’t even take that much effort for him to ‘seal’ away her power, even if it was the result of an Innate, Vahn was sincere when he spoke. Though it sounded like a threat, it was more of a promise that he would completely destroy Helen’s expectations if she was unable to grow beyond the restrictions she had placed on herself. He wanted her to be truly free and, if she wasn’t able to do it herself, Vahn would destroy the prison she had created through her acceptance…

Hearing Vahn’s words, Helen’s felt as if a hammer had smashed into her mind, causing all of the thoughts that had been present to shatter completely. She was unable to form any thoughts at all as Vahn exited through the door without even sparing her another glance. Now, even more than before, Helen’s heart was thumping madly with emotions she didn’t truly understand. Part of her denied the possibility that Vahn would be able to change her fate but, seeing how ‘serious’ he was, Helen couldn’t help feel there was just the smallest chance that his words were true. Since he had already done many things that should have been impossible, Helen, for the briefest of moments, thought about asking Vahn for help. This thought didn’t last too long, however, as Vahn was long gone from her residence, leaving Helen to deal with the encroaching loneliness once again as she stared at the spot where he had only recently stood…

After leaving Spero Village, Vahn felt as if his convictions about the future had become even more cemented than before as a powerful desire to ‘shatter’ fate itself rose up within his heart. He had also been a victim of Fate, to the point that even now he wasn’t truly free from its influence, but that was something of his own creation. It wasn’t a Fate he had been assigned, but one he had taken upon himself willingly in the pursuit of the future he wanted to create for himself. This realization had been extremely liberating for him in the past and Vahn wanted everyone to be able to undergo the same realization in the future. The reason why he wanted to create a world where everyone could smile, all while helping them achieve their true potential, was for that exact purpose.

Vahn ended up taking to the sky, flying high above the City until he could see the entirety of Orario in a single gaze. It was steadily growing larger and, though the massive external walls hadn’t changed, there were already talks about created a secondary wall after the city-wide barrier was completed. Orario would be the heart of his Empire and Vahn knew that the population of the City would boom over the next couple of years, especially after he united all of the regions of Eden. Those that migrated here would bring with them the hope of a better future and, so long as it was within his power to grant it to them, Vahn would do everything possible to ensure that they had every opportunity all sentient life should be afforded…

While thinking such thoughts, Vahn detected spatial fluctuations and wasn’t surprised when Terra and Alexa appeared from the void at his side. He knew Terra would have been paying attention during his conversation with Helen and, as a result of the powerful bond they shared, she was also sensitive to his mood. As a result, Vahn’s momentary melancholy was completely shattered, replaced by a warmth in his heart as he smiled toward the two concerned True Dragons. It had been a while since the last time he stayed in Terra’s Garden so Vahn extended out his hands to the two, a loving smile on his face as he said, “Tonight, I think I’ll stay in the Garden…will the two of you join me…?” Though he knew the answer, Vahn felt compelled to ask as a simple courtesy that didn’t cost him anything.

Terra’s eyes flashed with a somewhat greedy light for a brief moment but she quickly quelled her urges and showed a genuine smile as she urged Alexa forward and said, “That sounds pleasant…” As for Alexa, she had calmed down a lot with the constant ‘treatment’ from Vahn so she was able to stay relatively calm as she grabbed his outstretched hand and said, “Let’s go, Papa. Tonight, I will take care of you, okay…?” Since he was always bringing her comfort, Alexa wanted to at least support her Papa whenever he was feeling conflicted. Though she could also sense the resolution in his heart, causing her own to flutter excitedly, Alexa knew her Papa well enough to know he wasn’t really the type to be overbearing. It gave her a small amount of pride, knowing she could have him rely on her during the moments when he sought comfort, even if there were limits to what she could do for him…

(A/N: Sorry guys, but my Dad wanted to go out to eat since I’ll be leaving for another eight weeks when I fly out tomorrow. There isn’t much I can do about matters of life, just know I appreciate the constant support from each of you during these rather unstable times. When the Summer season comes to an end, I plan to fully commit myself to EPIC until we are able to bring the story to a natural conclusion together. Hopefully, when I begin to work on my original, I’ll be able to treat writing as my actual career and won’t have work interfere with my releases anymore xD…)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Sometimes, even when there are a lot of people trying to help, people feel as if they are still alone…’,’Nuwa’s true intentions…?’,’*Casually Cuddles True Dragons As If They Were Service Animals*’)

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