Chapter 977: Rise

After helping the young Kiyone to vent out all of her grievances, she had become extremely drowsy and had nearly fallen asleep in Anubis’ embrace. Vahn had wanted to let her sleep but, knowing that he would be particularly busy over the next few days, he still needed to explain the situation to her before returning to the Manor. To allow this, Vahn had sent a small tendril of stimulating energy through her back, keeping Kiyone awake even though her eyes were heavily lidded and on the verge of closing. The fact that she tried to stay awake and pay attention, even as her head gently bobbed, caused Vahn and Anubis to practically melt as the latter gently explained, “For the time being, you will be staying with me and helping the other children adapt to this new environment. Later, I will introduce you to someone very important to you so look forward to it, okay~?”

As she spoke, Anubis joined Vahn in stroking the sleepy Kiyone’s hair as the latter nodded her head in understanding. Vahn had wanted to explain things in greater detail but, realizing that Kiyone may not even fully understand her situation, he allowed Anubis to take the initiative. It was obvious she wanted to let the young Kitsune sleep so Vahn stopped keeping her awake, allowing Kiyone to doze off in an instant as her small body fell limply into Anubis’ arms. Her motherly instincts seemed to have been triggered as she embraced the sleeping girl tightly and kissed the top of her head before whispering, “Sleep well, Kiyone…until you wake up, I will stay with you…” Since she was afraid Kiyone would have nightmares, Anubis didn’t want to leave her alone. She wanted to watch over her in order to determine if Preasia would be required to assist in the girl’s recovery…

With Kiyone drifting off to the land of dreams, Anubis showed an apologetic expression as she bowed her head towards Vahn and stated, “Master, forgive me for my selfishness…” In response to this, Vahn produced a soft smile as he pinched the tip of Anubis’ ears and said, “If you consider this selfish, I don’t mind if you become the most selfish person in the entire world…hahaha…” Vahn made sure his laughter was restrained, even though it wasn’t likely that Kiyone would wake any time soon. As for Anubis, her tail began to gently wag from side-to-side after hearing Vahn’s praise while the ear he had pinched flickered playfully in response to his touch. If not for the presence of Kiyone, things likely would have developed even further but both understood that now was neither the time nor the place for such things.

After getting Kiyone situated in Anubis’ bed, Vahn tucked both girls in before making his way back to the Manor to enjoy the rest of the evening. It had been a very long day so Vahn found himself sharing a bed with Tsubaki and Eina that evening, simply enjoying their company as the latter demonstrated her progress in the [Hands of Nirvana] technique. She hadn’t actually developed the skill just yet, but Eina had become adept at giving massages, even if the only recipient was Vahn himself. As for Tsubaki, she just hugged Vahn tightly as they were preparing for bed, allowing him to nestle his face into her rather buxom chest while gently stroking his hair. Every now and then, Vahn needed ‘recharging’ of his own and Tsubaki was near the top of the list for women he would rely on during such circumstances…

Back within the Dungeon, Vahn was in a similar situation, even if the recipient of comfort were the two girls cuddled up against him. Exploring the 71st Floor had taken a bit longer than expected so it was already late in the evening by the time they reached the relative safety of the corridors linking the two Floors. It had been an exceptionally trying day for Shizune so Vahn had pampered her a bit while also ‘rewarding’ Ais for all the hard work she had done since their small excursion had begun. She was their primary vanguard, meaning she had dealt with far more than half the monsters on her own. As a result, both girls were in smallclothes with slightly flushed faces after Vahn had tended to their needs for the better part of two hours. He had even pulled out a makeshift hot tub of sorts, allowing them to soak in a large pool of ‘essence’ as it revitalized their fatigued bodies and minds…

In this manner, another day had passed in Vahn’s life and, while it had far more developments than the average day, it was simply a small event in the grand scheme of what was to come. With the conclusion of the Denatus, the Guild, Alliance, and the newly formed Divine Council had cleared out a large portion of the first floor of Babel for a public declaration. A massive stage was prepared in the hours prior to the Denatus’ conclusion, drawing a fair amount of attention since many ‘rumors’ had already circulated throughout the City. By the time the event was underway, more than two-hundred thousand people had gathered in the area, many belonging to the various Alliance Familias while a large portion consisted of Pallums, Beast Humans, and Elves.

Vahn had arrived early to receive the goddesses who had attended the Denatus, only to be ‘collected’ by the event organizers in a highly respectful manner. They passed him a message from Loki which, after reading, allowed Vahn to make the event even larger than before as he quickly sent notice to Brynhildr. As a result, every available Valkyrie was present in full armor as they brandished polished halberds while standing in an organized and impressive formation. This caused most people to give the ‘stage’ a wide berth as, regardless of how beautiful the Valkyrie were, they were also extremely intimidating in Maid attire, much less full battle gear. Since Terra, Fafnir, Khaos, and even Alexa were all present in their Dragon forms, it caused an oppressive yet awe-inspiring atmosphere to permeate through the area as large groups of people continued to congregate.

By the time the various gods had descended the tower, making their presence known to the massive crowd, the tension in the air had reached a point that even a small stimulus would cause it to explode. At this point, everyone knew exactly what was going on and, though there were a few in the crowd with dissatisfied expressions, most people couldn’t help but feel excited since they were about to witness a historical event. Most of the Alliance Familias had even gathered into relatively neat groups, each holding their banners high in support of Vahn and his rise. Though not all of them truly wanted him to become an Emperor, they would rather stay on his good side and receive as many benefits as possible instead of being one of the few groups that didn’t openly support him…

Upon stepping off the elevator with Hephaestus, Hestia, Freya, Demeter, Eirene, Kali, Fortuna, Artemis, Bastet, Ioke, Takemikazuchi, Miach, Juno, and an assortment of other gods and goddesses in tow, Loki couldn’t help but smile upon seeing the massive ocean of people. The only absentee in their group was Anubis who, after receiving a ‘message’ from Vahn, had left the Denatus early in order to receive the young Kitsune from the Far East. This had caught Loki’s attention at the time but she ultimately put the matter behind her after releasing a sigh. She knew Vahn’s ‘habits’ better than most and, though she wanted him to sit still while they were already involved with ‘major’ events, such words would never be able to restrict Vahn’s actions…

While other gods were a bit awed by the size of the crowd, Hestia completely ignored them all as she made a beeline towards the waiting area behind the stage. Vahn had already opened his arms to receive her, snatching the diminutive goddess out of the air, allowing her to tightly hug his body with her vice-like grip as she exclaimed, “Being cooped up with other gods for three days is too stressful! From now on, I’m going to stay in the Manor unless you reeeeeally need me to do something…!” Hestia had never been the type to go around proactively and, if you allowed her to, she would stay in her own room without moving for days on end. Though she had curbed this habit a bit, at least when Vahn was around, it didn’t mean that Hestia’s true nature, cultivated over nearly five-hundred million years, had changed all that much.

Vahn issued a light chuckle while stroking Hestia’s hair, saying, “Yes, yes, I understand…thank you for your hard work, Hestia…” Having always allowed Hestia to continue acting ‘lazy’, Vahn wasn’t going to push her too hard since he knew Hestia would be the first to take action if she knew it would help their ‘family’. She was also one of the lynchpins that held everything together so Vahn didn’t mind pampering her a bit, regardless of how her antics disrupted the building atmosphere. Fortunately, the waiting area was well out of sight of the crowd and, even though a few people suspected what was going on, nobody caused a commotion over it.

It didn’t take long for the other gods to arrive, causing Loki to release a tired sigh while Kali took the initiative to approach Vahn, putting on the most disturbingly pitiful look she could manage as she muttered, “Vahn, before anyone else makes a mess of the situation, I wanted you to know my side of the story…” Though it wasn’t really the proper time for such things, Kali was never the type to beat around the bush and wait to resolve things. Over the last few days of the Denatus, while everyone else was thinking about how best to capitalize on the situation, her primary concern had been coming up with a viable excuse so that Vahn wouldn’t rebuke her harshly for ‘teasing’ Ioke a little too much…

Vahn was confused by Kali’s seemingly apologetic expression until she rapidly explained the details surrounding the first day of the Denatus, primarily focusing on her interactions with Ioke before trying to divert to more important matters that made her own actions seem insignificant by comparison. During this brief explanation, Vahn had momentarily turned his eyes to Loki to get a better grasp of the situation, seeing a slightly playful and mischevious look on her face that she quickly tried to mask. This was all Vahn needed to know the truth of the matter so, before Kali was able to finish explaining things, he simply plopped his hand down on her head and said, “I know you’re making an effort Kali, so I won’t punish you…so long as you apologize properly…”

Having misunderstood Vahn’s gesture as forgiveness, Kali had been in the process of smiling victoriously before she heard his words. Her expression warped into abject shock before she sent a resentful look towards Loki, believing the latter had done ‘something’. Since Loki simply couldn’t help but smile in response, Kali gnashed her teeth for a brief moment before ultimately turning back to Vahn with a pouting expression on her face. She didn’t refute his words, however, and, even though the presence of other gods made her feel extremely embarrassed, Kali turned to Ioke and, as if a spear had been pierced into her abdomen, barely managed to say, “Ioke…I’m sorry…”

Without so much as a slight change in expression, Ioke gave a small nod in response to Kali before monotoning, “I forgive you, Kali…” Though she had been upset at the time, Ioke genuinely believed Vahn wasn’t the type of person that Kali had described so she hadn’t taken the matter to heart. This was something Kali was well aware of, which made her apology even harder since she believed there was no meaning in the act. The only reason she did so was that Vahn had required it of her, something he himself understood clearly since warm energy began flowing into Kali’s head immediately after she apologized. He knew he had put her on the spot, especially with many other gods present, so Vahn showed leniency by allowing Kali’s rather half-hearted apology, as even that took a lot of effort on her part…

To clear up the atmosphere, or at least change it in a positive direction, Vahn removed his hand from Kali’s head and said, “Though there isn’t any time for it now, we should spend some time together in the coming days. I believe you and Ioke could become much closer in the future if we enjoy a meal or two together…” As Vahn was very aware of the ‘shift’ in how Ioke viewed him, considering that he had her [Hearts Desire] safely stowed within his Inventory, he knew the distance between them would continue to shrink with the passage of time. Since this method would be like killing two birds with one stone, Vahn wanted to close the distance between Ioke and Kali while also getting to know the two goddesses a little better himself.

Kali snorted through her nose when Vahn pulled his hand away but still nodded her head in response before walking over to Ioke’s side and saying, “We should get along better from now on…” Though her tone was rather domineering, Ioke didn’t show any sign of perturbance, so long as you ignored the small blush on her face as she absentmindedly thought about having lunch with Vahn. Even though it was a relatively ‘small’ event, she felt extremely flustered at the prospect of spending more time with him and barely even processed Kali’s words, simply choosing to nod her head in response. This annoyed the similarly blood-red-haired goddess but she could only swallow her frustration as some of the other goddesses giggled playfully in response to Kali’s plight…

With the mood now becoming more mellow and pleasant, Loki seized the initiative to raise her hand as she said, “Okay, enough beating around the bush. We need to strike while the iron is hot and the day is cool. If you’re in the Divine Council, stay behind for the ceremony. Everyone else, go back to your children and keep them in line so that things don’t turn chaotic all of a sudden. There is always a chance something could go wrong so make sure you are on your toes…!” With the recent actions of the Alliance, there were numerous groups that would try to cause a disturbance in order to harm the ‘face’ of the Alliance. There were even members of Enyo’s ‘cult’ that had managed to escape their encirclement in the past who could appear at any moment with their ability to move around invisibly.

Following Loki’s words, most of the gods present began transitioning from the waiting area, each heading towards their respective banners. As for the gods making up the Divine Council, they began discussing the ceremony while moving to their own positions. In the end, the only people left waiting in the wings were Vahn, Hestia, and Artemis. Even Kali had taken to the stage, now wearing a ceremonial dress that covered much more than her normal raiment, while Ioke was relatively close at her side in a blood-red gown that matched her hair and eyes. Many of the gods present were in their best dress while each had a golden ring on the ring finger of their right hand, denoting their status as a member of the Divine Council with an intricate rune that had been personally carved by Hephaestus.

Once everyone was in position, Loki, Hephaestus, and Freya stood at the front of the group while an empty space was left in the very center of the large stage. They were flanked by eight gods on either side, each representing a Major Divinity, with Ioke being the only exception. Her Slaughter Divinity was relatively rare, but it didn’t exactly constitute a primary Divinity, even though her’s was extremely pure. She was only a temporary member that served to keep ensure that there was an odd number of gods on the Divine Council. As for the other gods, there was Kali, Demeter, Fortuna, Eirene, Minerva, Juno, and, after a few troublesome negotiations, Aphrodite. They were all standing on one side, with Ioke amongst them, while the opposite side had Ganesha, Hermes, Tenjin, Takemikazuchi, Baldr, Indra, Tapio, and Dian Cecht.

In order to ensure that the Divine Council wasn’t comprised entirely of goddesses, a little less than half their numbers had been filled with various influential gods, with Indra, Tapio, and Dian Cecht only becoming members during the Denatus itself. The latter simply couldn’t accept that he was not part of such a prestigious organization and, having been at a lower position than his ‘rival’, Miach, Dian Cecht had capitalized on the opportunity to secure his own status. Fortunately, so long as he was provided with access to rare materials, the once-errant god had become rather amenable after joining the Alliance a few years prior.

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The final member, and representative, of the Divine Council was Hestia herself who, after everyone else was ready, gave Vahn a firm hug before smiling radiantly as she made her way up the steps. She nearly tripped on the way but Vahn managed to stabilize her at the last moment, causing Hestia to flush slightly before she caught her balance and proceeded onto the large stage. This left Vahn with Artemis while the atmosphere continued to build to a critical level. The latter placed her hand supportively on his shoulder while confidently stating, “I believe in you, Vahn…” She could tell that, while Vahn wasn’t exactly nervous, there was a small amount of ‘doubt’ reflecting across his vibrant aquamarine green eyes…

Vahn visibly relaxed the moment Artemis spoke, causing him a small amount of surprise since he hadn’t realized exactly how tense he was. Most of his focus had been on the 72nd Floor as the moment drew progressively closer so Vahn had been somewhat absentminded. Now that things were coming to a head, Vahn found a place for him, Ais, and Shizune to rest while shifting his focus to the present as he nodded his head in response to Artemis’ words, saying, “Though I’ve always been walking towards this moment, it is only now that I’m able to take the first step forward…thank you for being here with me, Artemis. It is the presence of capable women like you that allows me to move forward without any real hesitation…”

Artemis giggled upon hearing Vahn’s words before standing on her tip-toes and kissing the side of his cheek. After pulling away, she gave a sheepish grin as she stated, “You’re always such a smooth-talker, Vahn. My only genuine concern about the future is how many women will fall victim to your charms~.” Though she said these words in a teasing voice, without any real intentions behind them, Vahn sharply inhaled through his nose, perfectly aware that things could become even more troublesome in the future if he didn’t restrain himself better. He had made a few small steps in that regard but, considering how things would develop with some of the Valkyrie and many of the other women he associated with, Vahn knew he was sitting on a ticking time bomb…

Seeing Vahn’s reaction, Artemis began to laugh openly this time before she gently urged him forward, saying, “It’s too late to have regrets now, Vahn. Don’t worry, as we will all work together to support you to the best of our ability~.” Knowing full-well that Vahn would likely live forever, the goddesses surrounding him had already had numerous discussions about his, and their combined, futures. Over the course of hundreds-of-millions of years, it wasn’t that rare for gods and goddesses to have thousands of lovers and, though many of them were an exception to this simple truth, they weren’t going to resent Vahn for his nature. He would naturally mature with the passage of time and, even though he may have a lot of lovers now, they knew only a few of the truly dedicated would remain at his side indefinitely. They treated many of his current relationships like flings that would help him mature while they, as goddesses who had already lived for an incredibly long period of time, were already prepared for the ‘eternity’ that would follow…

Pushed forward by Artemis, Vahn had no choice but to collect himself very quickly as he ascended the steps and arrived on stage. Loki had just finished a rather bold speech and, with his presence revealed, the crowd had practically exploded in thunderous cheers that made the very stage below tremble. Vahn felt a surge of power flow into his body but managed to keep his calm as he made his way to Hestia’s side before taking a knee. The latter was holding a pristine white crown that glowed with a subtle golden light, as it was entirely made out of materials that had been harvested from the ‘throne’ in Freya’s manor. It was a truly Divine-grade artifact that had been painstakingly forged by Hephaestus over a two-month period, making it one of the highest quality pieces of equipment in the entire world…

After Hestia placed the rather ‘heavy’ crown upon his head, Loki placed a cloak around Vahn’s shoulders while Hephaestus handed him a scepter made out of the same material as his crown. The last addition to his attire was a pendant placed around his neck by Freya, giving him a truly regal appearance with the ornate clothing he had changed into while awaiting the girls’ arrival. Once he was fully attired, Vahn rose to his feet at the behest of Hestia, causing the crowd to cheer even louder as the Valkyrie raised their halberds high in salute. Though many simply called out his name, the most prominent call that resonated through the area was, “Long live Vahn, Long live the Emperor…!” This caused Vahn to feel an incredible surge of power, even though he internally mused, (“I wonder if they would shout these words if they knew I would live forever…?”)

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(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Anubis is a good girl’,’RIP Kali’,’The Rise of the Eternal Emperor’)

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