Chapter 978: Coronation

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Standing on the large stage that had been set for him, Vahn stared out over the massive crowd of people with a stoic gaze and a slight smile adorning his lips. He let the cheering wash over him while also keeping his senses honed to the surroundings to make sure there weren’t any dangers lurking in the shadows. If something did happen, it would be a serious loss of face if he wasn’t able to deal with the situation as expediently as possible. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like his enemies had the gall to try anything this time around, likely due to the presence of several hundred high-Level Adventurers and Valkyrie. This allowed him to bask in the glow of the crowd while the Divine Council congregated behind him, obviously showing their support for his coming reign…

Vahn allowed the ‘surge’ of power to flow through his body for a while before squinting his eyes slightly as he prepared for his first speech as an Emperor. The moment this thought crossed his mind, Terra, Fafnir, Khaos, and Alexa all released earth-shaking roars towards the sky as their own auras spread through the crowd, quickly bringing the masses to silence. In response to this, as they had rehearsed it previously, Vahn allowed his own domain to flow outwards, suppressing the seemingly irrepressible auras of his True Dragons as they all quickly lowered their heads. His domain also washed over the crowd this time, compounding the energy he had received from them and causing the tension in the crowd to increase at a startling rate. This was one of the most powerful components of his [Will of the Emperor], the ability to draw power from his supporters and then return it to them in kind…

Feeling the surge of energy flow through their bodies, all while bathing in the pressure from Vahn’s domain, the crowd seemed as if it would explode again at any moment. The only thing that kept them at bay was Vahn raising his hand in a silencing gesture, causing the vast majority of the crowd to tense up in silent expectation. Everyone was wondering what Vahn’s first words as an Emperor would be, even though many in the crowd hadn’t actually rationalized what would change with his rise. Orario had always been a ‘free’ place, where members of any race could reside without issue, so having an Emperor ruling over it would be a drastic change compared to the past. Whether or not the future would be positive or negative would depend wholly on the decisions Vahn chose to make as, even if they fled the City to live elsewhere, his influence already covered much of the continent…

With a startling amount of silence permeating through the atmosphere, enough to hear a person awkwardly cough every now and then, the corner of Vahn’s mouth curved upward slightly as his voice sounded out in a deep and resonating tone as he said, “I will make one simple promise to each and every person on this continent, including those who were unable to attend this sudden Coronation…so long as I draw breath, I will never give up on trying to make this world a better place for each and every race. Together, we shall create a future where everyone can hold their heads up high as they strive to achieve greater heights. So long as you put in the effort, I will guarantee that every single person that lives honestly will be provided with ample opportunity to succeed. You will no longer be looked down upon for your race, social status, or familial ties…I will create a world where everyone has the same basic rights and, only through concerted effort, will anyone ever be able to proclaim themselves the betters of others…”

Vahn’s tone didn’t change throughout his speech yet, even without fluctuations and changes in the tempo of his words, each bore into the minds and hearts of everyone gathered below. Many didn’t understand the true meaning of his words but, hearing the promise of a better future for all races, those who had come from the lower rungs of society, including those who had been mistreated simply because of their race, exploded into loud cheering. They had already seen the steps Vahn had taken towards keeping his promise, even before he became Emperor, so knowing he would continue on the same path was enough for them. As for those who truly knew what Vahn was intending, specifically the foreign dignitaries that had shown up for the now ‘Imperial Summons’, many had cold sweat lining their palms and the backs of their heads…

Since Vahn had been paying close attention to the various dignitaries and their emissaries, he had noticed the ‘shift’ in many of their auras. Though his expression hadn’t changed, Vahn updated the color of their icon within his mini-map to serve as a reminder so he would know who to place his trust in later on. This only took a brief moment and, with the fervent cheering of the crowd, most hadn’t noticed the almost imperceptible glint that flashed across his eyes. Then, as if to sweep away any incongruous feelings that might be welling up, Vahn raised his hand once again to bring silence upon the crowd. The fact that he could bring more than two-hundred thousand people to silence in only a few seconds made Vahn feel strangely giddy, though he managed to hide it well enough…

Once silence had descended upon the crowd, Vahn’s smile had faded away in its entirety, causing the common citizens below to tremble slightly in response. Even veteran Adventurers felt their instincts warning them while some even habitually move their hands to their weapons, almost as if they were preparing to charge into battle. This was due to the fact that Vahn’s own fighting spirit was, quite literally, flowing into the crowd as he solemnly stated, “There are some amongst you who may have doubts about my power…there may even be some who have already started to conspire in order to take advantage of my Empire in its budding stages…” Each word that left Vahn’s mouth increased the pressure felt by the crowd, especially on those who actually harbored such thoughts. Vahn paid close attention to each subtle change in the atmosphere before adding, “In order to quell such dissent, I will set an example that nobody would ever be able to refute. Within one weeks time, I swear that the third Great Quest posted by the Guild, the subjugation of the One-Eyed Black Dragon, will be completed…!”

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This time, Vahn allowed his excitement to reach the crowd but, for several seconds after his exclamation, silence dominated the surroundings. The One-Eyed Black Dragon had left a shadow in the hearts of every race, to the point that it even lingered in the minds of many who had never even seen it. Even powerful Familia, who seemed to have no match, was unable to defeat the One-Eyed Black Dragon after nearly a thousand years. Hearing Vahn promise to slay it within one week was almost like hearing that there would be seventeen suns hovering in the sky with the coming dawn. Fortunately, the silence was broken when words sounded through the area, causing the void to tremble slightly as a deep yet ancient voice reached everyone’s ears, saying, “The Guild recognizes the Sage Emperor’s claim and looks forward to the successful subjugation of the One-Eyed Black Dragon. May your hunt be fruitful, Vahn Mason…”

As if emulating a wave, the crowd began to shift as many looked towards the source of the voice, finding the 3m tall Ouranos standing with a few strangely dressed individuals. For many, this was their first time seeing the God who reigned over the former most powerful force on the Continent, the Guild. Even so, they were able to recognize him as a result of the dozens of Guild employees who stood at his side with highly reverential looks on their faces. As for the four strange individuals surrounding Ouranos, one of which was the ‘enigmatic’ Fels, they caused everyone who looked upon them to feel an incomprehensible threat. Even Vahn squinted his eyes slightly in response, causing them to flash with a stark blue for a brief moment before he gave a curt nod and replied, “To usher in this new Era, I will lay to rest the threats from the prior Era…if I cannot do something so ‘simple’, I have no right to call myself Emperor…”

In an almost comedic fashion, the crowd now shifted back to Vahn, this time with a few people loudly cheering in response to his words. This was all it took for the masses to explode once again as the atmosphere had already been like a powder-keg even before Vahn mentioned killing the One-Eyed Black Dragon. The only ones who remained silent were the keen-eyed gods who noticed that Ouranos, someone who always looked down on others, was, for the first time, looking up towards the new ‘Sage Emperor’, Vahn Aldrnari Mason. They knew Ouranos wasn’t the type to overlook such things and, seeing him standing at a lower position than Vahn, caused the hearts of those gods who had yet to fully throw in their support for Vahn to tremble…

Since the Coronation couldn’t continue indefinitely, things were brought to an end of sorts when Vahn announced an impromptu banquet to celebrate the event. The Alliance had coordinated to prepare a large quantity of delicious food and alcohol, allowing everyone to eat and drink freely. So long as nobody caused a commotion, minor offenses would be overlooked as even the members of the Eirene Familia were in high spirits as a result of Vahn’s ascension to the Throne. Even Eirene herself had a flushed face as she removed her armor for once and was heartily drinking in public without any shame whatsoever. Though some looked towards her with lascivious eyes, few were bold enough to make a pass at one of the members of the Divine Council, especially since she was also one of Vahn’s ‘known’ lovers…

The only people who weren’t celebrating, at least amongst Vahn’s ‘allies’, were the members of the HDF, Chloe’s Shadow Corps, and the Valkyries. They were helping to provide security for the impromptu celebration and were dealing with any incidents as they occurred. It was their presence that allowed goddesses like Eirene to cut loose as anyone with malicious intent simply ‘disappeared’ before they were able to cause any trouble. Those who simply got caught up in the festivities were later found in alleyways with hard bumps on their heads while those who had obviously been conspiring to cause trouble for Vahn were either thrown into prison or dealt with in the shadows…

While all this was going on, Vahn was seated in the same banquet hall where the Denatus was usually held, being one of the few ‘mortals’ who had ever been allowed inside without being a servant serving the Guild. He was seated at a private table with the members of his family, including many of his children that had been brought over under Terra’s protection. There was another large table placed next to theirs where members of the Divine Council were supposed to be seated, half of which had found their way over to his table. Lastly, Ouranos was seated within his throne at the far end of the banquet hall yet, unlike the past, there were now three thrones present instead of just one. One had the emblem of the Divine Council engraved on it and served as an ’empty’ seat, emphasizing that everyone within the Divine Council was equal yet their authority was the same as the other two thrones belonging to Ouranos and, as one would expect, Vahn.

Vahn couldn’t help but muse about how quickly they had managed to prepare an impromptu throne for him and wondered what it would be like to attend the Denatus in the future. Since he was now the ruler of Orario, it was obvious that he would have a say during their future meetings as the decisions of the gods would undoubtedly impact the stability of his Empire. Though he could leave most things to the Divine Council in that regard, it was important that he made an appearance to observe things, even if he didn’t directly participate. In time, it would become ‘normal’ from the perspective of the gods to see Vahn, not only in their presence, but in a position of authority above them…

Though such thoughts were running through his mind, Vahn’s actions seemed to contradict the image of himself that he wanted to present to others. Two of his daughters, Eiko and Natalie, were currently seated on his lap as he had a fatherly smile on his face while feeding the two girls. Many of the goddesses had shifted their chairs closer to his end of the table and things were more than a little chaotic with more than twenty children present. As a result, many members of the Divine Council had wry expressions on their faces and it was only goddesses like Aphrodite who threw aside propriety in order to try and take advantage of the situation. Fortunately, she had been quickly wrangled up by Freya and Fortuna and was currently ‘glaring’ at Vahn with amorous eyes from the opposite end of the table…

In order to get Aphrodite on their side, a few compromises were made by both parties, much to the lamentation of the goddess in question. She had to take a vow, swearing never to carry her girdle around in the presence of the Hearth Manor and its residents, while Vahn had to promise that he would allow her into his chambers at least once a month after becoming an Emperor. If not for Freya privately pressuring Aphrodite, telling her how much she would regret missing the opportunity, things wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as they had. The fact that one of her ‘rival’ goddesses, someone that she considered almost on the same level as herself, had said such things was the final straw that caused Aphrodite to stop making trouble, at least openly…

Vahn ignored the goddess’ fiery gaze as he wiped a bit of baby food from Natalie’s doll-like face, causing the young Demi-Goddess to giggle before she playfully ‘spit’ the remainder of her food onto his ornamental robe. Seeing such an expensive piece of equipment spit upon by a child would have caused many to practically choke on their own blood in response. Vahn, however, simply smiled lovingly in response while suffering a few playful quips and barbs from the surrounding girls and goddesses. Syr, Natalie’s mother, was the worst as she began to laugh in a bell-like fashion rather loudly in response to her daughter’s antics…

While the banquet was going on above, Vahn had already delved into the 73rd Floor with Ais and Shizune. He had a complacent smile on his face while entrusting the exploration of the Floor to the two girls, even if it was more accurate to say Shizune was doing all the work. She was sending out a veritable horde of Shadows to scour the Floor while sitting snugly in Vahn’s lap as he fed a constant supply of Source Energy into her body, converting it into a seemingly endless supply of mana. Ais was watching over their surroundings, casting periodic glances towards Vahn and Shizune while killing any monster almost as soon as it had appeared. She knew Vahn would pamper her a lot later so, for the time being, kept quiet about the relatively intimate manner in which he was helping Shizune replenish her reserves.

After the relatively open 71st Floor, the 72nd and 73rd had returned to the traditional Labyrinthine structure found in many of the Dungeon’s more troublesome Floors. The walls were a crystalline form of bedrock that had a slightly blue hue, giving it a density that would rival poorly processed mithril, while the overall structure of the Dungeon grew increasingly complex as they proceeded further. Also, though there were very few enemies, much like the 60th Floor, those that did appear were, individually, very strong. They were a type of monster that Vahn had named Draconids as they had similar traits to Dragons while resembling an evolutionary form of Variant Lizardmen. On average, they were around 250cm tall and had the equivalent strength of a Level 5 Adventurer that had been properly equipped with high-quality weapons and armor.

While gently rubbing Shizune’s stomach, Vahn watched as Ais clashed against one of the variant forms of a Draconid, a 3m tall monster with thick red scales and small wings and sharp pointy horns. It wasn’t capable of flight but the ridges on the wings were capable of cutting through the Dungeon’s bedrock with ease, showing they were incredibly sharp. Every now and then, the monster would send out a breath of blue flames that would actually chase after Ais before her [Ariel] would break it apart with ease. As for why she hadn’t slain it just yet, it was because this particular variant actually had the strength of a Level 6 Adventurer and was fighting defensively with a large black shield and a curved green spear that cast a dangerous light as it cut through the air…

Fully intending to bisect Ais in half, the Variant Draconid spewed forth a mouthful of flames to obscure her vision before slicing forward with its whip-like tail in her blind spot. Ais no longer relied solely on her sight to detect an enemy’s movements, however, allowing her to nimbly twist her body under the tail before kicking off the ground with almost untraceable speed. This was one of the few times the monster had left a true opening but it was all Ais needed to end the fight in a single instant as her [Gram] cut through the thigh of the Draconid as if it was nonexistent. With a blood-curdling howl, the monster attempted to bash Ais with its shield but was only able to hit her afterimage as she had already appeared at its back with [Shundo] before slicing it from head to groin in a single decisive strike.

After the Variant Draconid turned into dust, Ais released a small sigh before using [Gram] to support her tired body. It wasn’t that the monster was actually a threat to her but, in order to temper herself further, she was trying to fight without relying too much on her [Ariel] and the explosive effect of her [Avenger]. Though she was already capable of fighting on par with someone like Ottar, at least for a short while, Ais knew she was actually far behind people like Mikoto in terms of swordsmanship. There was also the fact that, even though she hadn’t witnessed it herself, Ais knew it was possible to reach such a high degree of mastery that you could cut through a person’s ‘ego’, crippling even immortals for a short while…

Upon catching her breath, Ais pulled her sword out of the ground before pulling out a cloth to habitually polish the unblemished blade. Almost as soon as she sat down, however, Shizune’s eyes opened in shock was the entire Dungeon seemed to ‘pulse’. Several seconds later, a loud roar seemed to pass through the walls and floor of the Dungeon without any obstruction, almost as if the creature it had emanated from was right next to them. This caused the light in the surroundings to dim down as a powerful suppression began to spread through the surroundings, causing small fractures in the crystalline bedrock as the mana within the Dungeon began to pool towards a particular location within the 73rd Floor…

(A/N: I wanted to clarify something for those who are confused about the current release schedule. Just know that I will be finished with work around August the 16th where I will be releasing, at the very least, 3 chapters of EPIC and 2 chapters of FJ every day (though the FJ is more of a ‘want’ than a guarantee). So long as I am earning a decent income through *******, which I am forever grateful for, I should be able to have enough funds to complete EPIC within the next year or so, though I’m prepared to continue for two years if necessary. In total, I’m planning to write as much as 9m words to complete the series, though it can end in as few as 7m depending on circumstances.)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘A simple promise…’,’Vahn was a Father long before he was an Emperor’,’Even if you climb to the highest peak, there is still a sky beyond and horizons yet unseen~!’)

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