Chapter 967: Precipice

After what felt like an incredibly long period of blissful relaxation, the first day of the Denatus had finally come so Vahn had escorted Hestia, Hephaestus, Loki, Anubis, Eirene, Demeter, Artemis, and the first time attendant, Kali to the base of Babel Tower. Today was an important step towards his goals as the framework for the Divine Council had already been established but would become a reality after these three days came to an end. Immediately following the formation of the Divine Council, Vahn would be meeting with all of the foreign leaders to discuss various policy changes while also issuing something akin to an ultimatum. However, even though things were rather serious, Vahn found himself in a lackadaisical mood as he absentmindedly looked toward the massive tower where the goddesses would be spending the next three days…

From a little ways behind him, five tails flickered about in a mesmerizing manner that drew the attention of almost everyone that walked by. This caused several people to end up walking into other pedestrians while those most heavily influenced would even collide with static objects like buildings and streetlights. Even Vahn wasn’t entirely immune to this and he could only blame others for their ‘curiosity’, as Haruhime’s abilities may work passively but still required the other party to focus their intentions towards her. Still, Vahn found the slight chaos rather amusing as he turned his attention back towards Haruhime and asked, “Shall we go…?” This caused all of her tails to flicker simultaneously as a smile blossomed upon her increasingly enchanting face as she replied, “Certainly, Master~.”

With Haruhime holding his left arm, Vahn began escorting her along the more scenic route back to the Manor as the diminutive Shirohime hung from his head and ‘secretly’ sniffed at his scalp. She had mellowed out a lot after exposure to all of his children, especially since she was able to interact with all of the Guardians. Of course, this didn’t stop her from behaving rather spoiled at times, usually sneaking into his room or popping up whenever he wasn’t busy to receive brushing and headpats for a few minutes, sometimes turning into hours. This didn’t really bother Vahn, however, as Shiro was very cute and her presence helped him know the mood of Haruhime since the two were always in sync with each other…

Along the way to the Manor, Vahn and Haruhime politely greeted most of the people they encountered along the way, primarily children and various businesses. As for most people, they knew to keep a distance whenever Vahn was escorting one of his women, which was actually the reason why Haruhime was following along with him this time around. Now that the Denatus had begun, Vahn wasn’t intending to meet with any of the foreign dignitaries until the day of his scheduled meeting as he wanted to let the tension they were feeling increase a bit. Since they were too afraid to offend him, the presence of a woman at his side was a strong deterrent that also allowed Vahn to give an icy stare towards anyone that wanted to bother him incessantly.

Of course, Vahn always had the option of flying through the sky to avoid dealing with people but that was similar to lowering his head or being roundabout, something that wasn’t very Emperor-like. He would rather walk through the City streets with a beautiful woman at his side, knowing there were few who would dare impede his path, as it served to increase his own prestige and allowed him to posture for a bit. This was also a way where Vahn could continue to build rapport with the common citizens, as his presence and general amicability had been steadily increasing his popularity with the passage of time.

In this manner, Vahn and Haruhime made their way down one of the few snaking roads in Orario that were laden with neatly arranged cobblestone streets. It was a shortcut that would put them on the main street to the Manor and was often used by Vahn whenever he was walking on foot. Though there was a certain danger involved with establishing a habit that could be exploited, Vahn senses extended outward far beyond the range of any would-be assassin. On this particular street, the duo, trio if including Shiro, saw a small Pallum girl wearing a frilly pink smock running along with a small bouquet of flowers in her arm. She was only around 74cm tall, making anyone that looked at her small figure feel as though their heart was dealt a critical amount of damage since her toothy smile was on full display…

Upon seeing Vahn and Haruhime, the young girl turned statuesque in the middle of her step, as even Pallum children were able to recognize Vahn. The large statue that had been erected in ‘Little Orario’, which was located relatively close to the Manor, made him an everyday figure in the lives of many Pallum. Since many, even as young as the small girl before him, had been personally liberated as a result of his actions, it wasn’t too surprising that a lone Pallum would get ‘spooked’ upon witnessing the person they referred to as their Savior. As a result, the girl fell face forward and was on a crash-course with the ground before an invisible force wrapped around her body and prevented the fall outright.

Unable to understand what had happened, the girl flailed around awkwardly in a very flustered manner until Vahn and Haruhime appeared right before her, the latter bending down with a gentle smile on her face as she said, “Calm down, you’re going to be okay…” This had the exact opposite effect, causing the young Pallum’s face to practically turn scarlet as she began to stammer, “I-I-I-I…” Haruhime issued an amused laugh upon witnessing this before helping the girl right herself so Vahn could liberate her from his telekinetic influence. With her feet firmly planted on the ground, the invisible force surrounding the girl’s body vanished in its entirety, allowing her to calm down a little, even though her face was still beet red.

Haruhime gave the girl a light pat on the head before rising to her feet and saying, “You should be on your way. Isn’t there someplace you were in a hurry to reach…?” Since the young Pallum had turned into a statue again, Haruhime had no choice but to remind the girl about the situation. This caused her to startle to the point that she leaped off the ground a few centimeters while releasing a surprised yelp. It was Vahn’s turn to chuckle this time, even though he had been keeping a complacent smile during the previous incident. As a result, the girl’s eyes became round as the blush on her face seemed to transition towards a deep crimson that made it appear as if she would faint.

Just as the dizzy feeling began to overwhelm her, the young Pallum felt a rather heavy palm on her head before a wave of comfortable heat spread through her body. The dizziness was whisked away as if it had never existed before as even her rising blood pressure was slowly ebbing until it reached a normal level. This didn’t stop her from blushing rather furiously, however, as Vahn’s gentle smile caused her heart to flutter madly in her chest. From her perspective, he was as big as a mountain and seemed to tower above even the surrounding buildings. His palm against her head felt like an entire roof that would shield her from even the most tumultuous storms while the gentle smile on his face almost caused her to cry, though she wasn’t entirely certain why.

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With the girl having calmed down, Vahn extracted his hand from her head before pulling out another small bouquet of flowers. The previous grouping had fallen to the ground when she was flailing around earlier and, though he had saved most of them, some of the flowers were a bit worse for wear after being flung around chaotically. He handed the new bouquet over to the absentminded Pallum before pulling out a small bag of cookies and saying, “Share these with your friends, okay? They are very healthy for you and will help you grow up big and strong in the future…” Instead of regular cookies, Vahn had given her a dozen animal shaped crackers that were infused with a large amount of vitality. Since many Pallums still got sick, especially in their youth, Vahn had a habit of passing out small snacks whenever he encountered the almost scarily small Pallum children that would often run errands near the Manor.

Knowing what was in the bag, the girl held them close to her chest and began bobbing her head like a chicken as she finally managed to exclaim, “Th-thank y-y-you, Vahn-shama…!” She ended up biting her tongue towards the end of her exclamation, causing her eyes to tear up as another wave of red colored her delicate facial features. Vahn’s smile curled up a bit at the sides as he reached down and lightly poked against the girl’s nose while using his [Wounds Transfer] to alleviate the pain and discomfort she was feeling. From her perspective, it was like a magic trick that had made the pain go away, something incredible that she couldn’t really wrap her head around.

With the same smile on his face, Vahn gave the girl a small nod and said, “We’ll be on our way now, little one. Make sure to take care of yourself, your family, and your friends, okay~?” Since the Pallum had started to build a very close-knit community, Vahn often emphasized that aspect and encouraged their continued cooperation with each other. Being someone that had benefitted from the care of others, the girl nodded her head rapidly once again before running away with her cheeks still a ruddy red color. Vahn asked Fafnir to accompany her safely to wherever she was head while extending his arm out for Haruhime to grab before they once again set out for the Manor…

Around the same time that Vahn was leisurely making his way back to the Manor, the various gods and goddesses that comprised the Alliance were mingling together as they awaited the official start of the Denatus. This group consisted of the vast majority of gods within Orario while only a few outliers avoided the larger agglomeration. There were almost no gods that were hostile towards the Alliance within the City as the Freya, Fortuna, and Eirene Familias had already dealt with most of them. The latter only dealt with Familia that were known to operate in various grey areas, usually by arresting their members for crimes that they would have easily gotten away with in the past. As for Freya and Fortuna, they were far more direct in their approach as Fortuna would often purchase the debts of troublesome Familia before running them into the ground. Freya’s approach was the most direct of all, however, as she had outright eliminated the Familia that were hostile towards the Alliance, often with the assistance of the Loki and Hermes Familias in the shadows.

Compared to almost every previous Denatus, everyone could sense there was something ‘off’ about the atmosphere this time around. As a result, even though things were still relatively lively, several gods and goddesses felt extremely tense as they noticed many of the more affluent and powerful gods were consolidated around the Triumvirate goddesses who, in turn, had Hestia at their center as they spoke amicably amongst themselves. Though it wasn’t rare to see the most influential gods gathered together, seeing them all gathered at once was something that caused other gods to feel a great deal of pressure. With Hestia at the heart of everything, appearing far more serious than usual, it was hard to stay calm and pretend things were normal…

In total, there were twenty-three ‘primary’ deities that had gathered to establish the framework of the Divine Council while most of the core members of the Alliance already supported them. This meant more than three-hundred gods and goddesses were in favor of the Councils existence while those in direct opposition could be counted on a single hand. With goddess like Loki, Freya, and now Kali, there were few that would openly voice their displeasure, however. Just having Kali in attendance caused some gods to feel nervous as, even in Heaven, Kali was an especially vicious goddess if you offended her. After descending to the Mortal World, her Familia had actually crushed several other Familia that resided in small Cities and territories, often over petty disputes that could have easily been settled with words…

Kali was one of the few goddesses that weren’t gathered around mingling with each other as she was currently lounging alongside Ioke as the latter quietly nibbled on a somewhat undercooked piece of meat. Though they had differing Divinities, Kali had developed a kinship with Ioke after finding out that the Slaughter Goddess was residing at the Hearth Manor. The feelings weren’t exactly mutual, as Ioke was a bit off-put by Kali’s presence, but she never vocalized this openly since the latter had never antagonized her. Ioke was just happy to have a place to stay where she wasn’t treated like a tool, as Vahn had never actually required her to go out and deal with his enemies while many of the goddesses at the Hearth Manor took great care of her…

Even though Ioke rarely ever responded to her, Kali didn’t really mind since she knew that her companion goddess simply didn’t like speaking. However, Ioke was always listening to her, something Kali found refreshing since it felt like she could say whatever she wanted without having to worry. As of late, she had been ‘venting’ a lot with Ioke since Vahn, though still treating her well when they were together, had yet to cross the line. Though Kali understood his reasons, and even agreed with them a bit, she couldn’t help but feel a little ‘bothered’ since her instincts weren’t so easily pacified these days…

After taking a sip from a goblet made of bone and gold, Kali exhaled a hot and slightly drunken sigh as she made eye contact with Ioke and asked, “Ioke, what do you think about Vahn…?” Even though she already knew the answer, Kali wanted to tease Ioke a bit with one of the few topics she knew could get a rise out of the demure goddess. As expected, Ioke lowered her head and, instead of taking large bites out of her meal, began to nibble it very rapidly while refusing to answer the question. This caused Kali to snicker mischievously as she moved a bit closer to Ioke and whispered, “You know, if you wait too long, there may not be a place left for you after someone else jumps in to fill it up~.”

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These words brought Ioke’s rampant nibbling to a halt as her blood-red eyes looked up, matching Kali’s own as she stated in an icy monotone, “Vahn isn’t that kind of person…I believe in him…he wouldn’t abandon me…” There was a firm conviction behind each of Ioke’s statements, even though she was, in truth, trying to convince herself this was the case. She had never met someone like Vahn who, even though he could do anything he wanted, showed a surprising amount of restraint. He also treated her well and, instead of thinking about how best to use her, was more concerned with her happiness and well-being. Ioke genuinely believed this would always be how things were…at least, that is what she told herself to remain calm during the moments when her Divinity weighed heavily on her heart…

Though Kali wasn’t intimidated by Ioke’s bloodlust, as it paled in comparison to her own, she still raised her brows in response while many other gods in the wide hall shuddered while looking over with confused expressions. They had drawn a lot of attention to themselves, something that caused Ioke to avert her eyes as she allowed her dense hair to hide her expression. Fortunately, they had also drawn the attention of the would-be Divine Council as Hestia had quickly appeared with an expression of concern on her face before sending Kali a small glare with her crystalline blue eyes. This normally wouldn’t have any effect, as Kali wasn’t easily intimidated, but Hestia was an exception since she possessed an unfathomable amount of power that caused Kali to feel an instinctual panic for a brief moment.

Repressing the urge to try and stir up her own Divinity in response, Kali snorted through her nose and said, “I didn’t do anything wrong…” In response to this, however, Loki had appeared at her side, asking, “Oh, I wonder if you would be able to explain the situation to Vahn and still say something like that~?” Now, Kali felt as if her skin had become slightly clammy as she glared towards Loki with a look that said, ‘if you tell, I will end you’. This caused Loki to laugh mischievously as her own eyes parted, revealing her ruby-like irises that weren’t remotely affected by Kali’s threat.

Realizing she wasn’t going to get an advantage in this situation, Kali snorted once again before emptying the contents of her goblet in one go. She wanted to retort that it wasn’t fair for them to always bully her but, understanding it was her own actions that led to this outcome, Kali buried the resentment in her heart. Later, she would openly confess her wrongdoings to Vahn, knowing he would probably comfort her after understanding the situation. She had just been teasing Ioke and wasn’t actually trying to upset her so Kali felt as though she hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Even so, she would be the first to explain the situation to Vahn since she was afraid Loki would misconstrue the events in a way that would disadvantage her…

(A/N: Sorry about yesterday but I got called in to work early to take charge of a shipment. I was dead tired by the end of the day and didn’t want to leave a chapter as an ‘excuse’. Hope you enjoyed today’s chapter~!)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Poor Haruhime, overshadowed by Vahn’s ‘Papa’ aura’,’The Alliance is rather tyrannical xD…’,’Kali getting bullied (>,…,<)~!’)

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