With two sets of eyes, Vahn awakened to find himself staring at two distinctly different roofs. As was often the case, his body was surrounded by a comfortable warmth but, as was also often the case, the sources were very different from each other. Back in his own bedroom, Vahn had been spread out with his arms wide as Hestia, Eirene, and Artemis snuggled up against his body as if they were seeking out his warmth. Loki had also been present the previous night but had left shortly after their evening ‘event’ had come to an end. As for what his other body was up to, Vahn had participated in an impromptu slumber party within Preasia’s room alongside many of his children. They had played around in the Dreamscape for what felt like several days, enjoying the fantastical world created by Preasia’s Innate to the fullest extent.
Feeling a wet spot on his arm, Vahn turned his head to see that his daughter, Meinya, had been openly drooling on his sleeve. Since he was used to more ‘problematic’ waterworks, this small, albeit rather uncouth display, simply brought a small smile to Vahn’s face. This didn’t last for too long, however, as a small figure lifted out from the area between two pillows, revealing a rounded head that was adorned with a vibrant pattern of scales. In the next moment, Vahn found a small tongue flickering against his cheek before a smooth yet slimy sensation passed across the area where the Rainbow Viper rubbed against him.
Knowing what was about to happen, Vahn had a wry smile on his face since both of his arms were currently pinned by his children. As a result, he was unable to prevent the Rainbow Viper from taking her ‘favorite spot’ within his tunic as she coiled her body into a bundle near his navel. To make matters worse, Vahn felt a ticklish flicker against his bellybutton moments later that made him sweatdrop before he unequipped his tunic to use telekinesis to remove the troublesome creature. She looked as if she wanted to resist but, knowing the outcome of thrashing about when the children were around, the Rainbow Viper became limp as she made the closest expression to a ‘pout’ that a snake could manage.
As if to capitalize on the moment, Vahn caught a silver shimmer out of the corner of his eye that revealed the ‘smiling’ face of the Silvervine Python as it enjoyed the suffering of its fellow reptile. The Rainbow Viper had noticed this immediately, glaring at Natalie’s Guardian with eyes filled with blame. In response to this, Vahn simply stated, “Get along…” in a low voice, causing both snakes to turn their gazes toward him as a result. The Silvervine Python immediately gave a small nod while putting on an ‘apologetic’ expression as she curled up near the nook of Natalie’s neck. As for the Rainbow Viper, she didn’t seem to have gotten over things just yet but, with Vahn’s eyes meeting her own, she gave a few small nods before playfully flicking out her tongue as if she had been ‘playing’ around the entire time.
Releasing a small sigh, Vahn lightly shook his head before deciding it was time for him to go through the arduous process of liberating himself from the veritable pile of tiny bodies clinging to him. He quickly equipped a new tunic while using his telekinesis to gently remove each sleeping girl, doing his best not to disturb them from their slumber. Unfortunately, either as a result of their instincts or the training they had been receiving, Vahn hadn’t been able to complete the task without both Meinya and Sakuya waking. To her credit, Sakuya managed to stay relatively silent as she quietly muttered, “Good morning, Papa…”. As for Meinya, however, she still had a half-awake expression on her face as she began to laugh happily, and loudly.
This time, Vahn withheld a sigh as Meinya’s laughter stirred most of the children in the room awake. He knew he would probably be stuck in the room helping to comb hair and brush teeth for well over an hour now but, if he were to be honest, Vahn didn’t really mind all that much. A gentle smile spread across his face as he began to help his children prepare for the day while, back at his other body, Vahn was manually wearing his clothes with the assistance of Eirene and Artemis. Though he could easily just equip what he wanted to wear, they had developed a habit of ‘taking care’ of him, much like he would take care of them after their long evening session had come to an end. It was a way for them to express their affection in their own way so Vahn had grown rather fond of the short few minutes where the girls would help him prepare for the day…
After enjoying a lengthy breakfast, Vahn found himself away from the comfort of the Hearth Manor as he made his way towards Babel Tower. He had been ‘given’ the top floor of Babel by Freya so, with no better alternatives to serve as the ‘center’ of his Empire, Vahn had accepted her offer. Hephaestus and Hestia had previously talked about having an actual palace constructed but, given the layout of Orario, Vahn didn’t think it would be a worthwhile endeavor since the Tower of Babel was a landmark that would always overshadow other constructs. If anything, he would put in the effort to construct a floating palace once again as, even if the purpose wouldn’t be the same, Vahn understood how useful it was to have a mobile teleportation platform. The most ‘efficient’ methods of teleportation connected spatial coordinates without any obstructions so it was much easier to teleport from the ground to a relay point in the sky before continuing to your destination.
With such thoughts on his mind, Vahn landed at an open balcony on the 50th floor of Babel before making his way through an incredibly thick membrane of magical barriers. As an artifact that had been created in Heaven, the Tower of Babel had many ancient arrays that gave it almost unbreakable defense and inviolable security. Though it wasn’t impossible to break in, a person’s location would constantly be tracked by the Guild while long-term exposure to the mana within would ‘mark’ the person so they could be easily found even after leaving the tower. Fortunately, Vahn had been registered as the owner of the 50th floor so he wouldn’t have to worry about such tedious affairs, not that the barrier would have actually been able to detect him if he chose to remain hidden.
Unlike in the past, where there were very few people allowed within the confines of the 50th Floor, it was currently rife with movement as more than a hundred Valkyrie’s moved around in their Maid attire. As they had taken to learning their new ‘duty’ very seriously, most of the Valkyrie had become very serious about their role as ‘Battle Maids’ after receiving a crash course from Syr, Emiru, and Maemi. Though some of them had been a little twisted by exposure to the two loveable Snow Leopard girls, gaining strange natures in the process, Vahn was happy to see that they had become a little more expressive…
Almost as soon as he had arrived, Vahn was greeted by Brynhildr and Sigrun, both immediately bowing low as they greeted, “Welcome, Master.” in elegant and respectful tones. Vahn gave them a small nod before raising his hand, allowing the two Valkyrie’s to raise their head as he asked, “Brynhildr…how many have shown up at this point?” In response to this, Brynhildr’s wings flickered slightly as a small smile adorned her beautiful face. She seemed happy to have been addressed by name and, instead of the relatively cold tone most Valkyrie were known for, there was a bit of warmth mixed in as she replied, “My Master, everyone on the guest list is already in attendance. They have been gathered together in a small banquet hall where my sisters have been ‘attending’ them.”
With their inherent pride, Valkyries would never serve anyone that didn’t respect, the only exception being if they were given the duty to attend others by whomever they identified as their Master. Since Vahn hadn’t told them to take care of the foreign dignitaries that would be attending his conference, the Valkyries had gathered everyone together before placing out a single barrel of wine that they could serve themselves. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue, if not for the fact that the ‘guests’ hadn’t been provided with anything to hold their beverages. Since they also had the eyes of several powerful Valkyries watching their every move, the banquet hall had been extremely silent as everyone within awaited the late arrival of their new Emperor.
Because he could sense what was happening within the banquet hall, Vahn produced a small smile before giving a small nod in response to Brynhildr’s report. Though he wasn’t against extending courtesies to guests, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to create a tense atmosphere for what was to come. Since he didn’t want to ‘force’ the Valkyrie to serve other people, as it wasn’t even their main duty, Vahn let the small disservice slide. He would hire a few normal servants that would attend to such matters in the future, though only after modifying the current status quo to make a clear separation between the Battle Maid Battalion that would serve as his Imperial Guard and the normal servants that would clean his residences, excluding the Hearth Manor.
With Brynhildr and Sigrun following closely behind, Vahn made his way towards the central antechamber before entering into a large circular hall where an ornate throne now stood. Though the decor had previously been closer to that of an ancient temple, a few makeshift renovations had turned the area into a throne that was truly fit for someone with the status of an Emperor. Vahn even suspected that, until he had constructed his personalized floating palace, this place had held his original throne in the Divination. It was certainly in Freya’s nature to try and bestow upon him such things so Vahn was relatively certain this had been the case during both timelines.
Without worrying about the similarities between his present and Divination self, Vahn sat upon his rather comfortable throne without hesitation. From the side, a Valkyrie named Skeggiold, gave a polite bow as she proferred forth a red embossed cushion that held his crown. Since only gods were allowed to place it atop his head, a rule that had been created by the Divine Council, Vahn reached out to wear the crown with his own hands before accepting the scepter offered to him by another Valkyrie, this one named Gisela. She had a touch of gold to her wings, the result of her Innate, that set her apart from many of her sisters. Vahn gave her a small nod in response that caused Gisela to nearly fluster as she backed away from the throne. Another rule that had been established was that, unless he had given them direct permission, nobody was allowed to turn their back to the Emperor within the throne room.
The last part of his getup was his mantle but, as it was an optional part of the attire, Vahn decided to forgo wearing it since it was uncomfortable to wear a thick cloak while seated. He also didn’t want the fabric to get torn, a completely unnecessary concern as it would take a concerted effort from Vahn to even have a hope of damaging it. Regardless, it was his choice whether or not to wear it so Vahn continued sitting after gesturing towards the two Valkyries that were holding his cloak. They gave a polite bow in response before neatly folding the cloak and placing it into an ornate golden case that was embossed with various gemstones.
His preparations now complete, Vahn took a deep breath before sitting with his back absolutely straight and his head slightly raised. With practiced movements, Vahn turned his eyes towards Brynhildr without moving his head much before saying, “I will now grant an audience to our guests. Brynhildr, I will entrust you and your sisters with keeping order during the coming conference.”
With each of his words causing the void to tremble slightly, even as he spoke relatively quietly, the atmosphere around Vahn had changed drastically in an instant. As a result, the present Valkyries all felt pride welling up inside themselves, Brynhildr being one of the proudest amongst them. Instead of bowing like a Maid, she gave a warrior’s salute by placing her fist over her heart and exclaiming, “This one shall personally see to it that there are no issues…!” Normally, this action would have been rather inspiring as the Valkyrie would be wearing metallic breastplates and gauntlets. This time, however, Brynhildr was wearing a Maid outfit that was predominately comprised of durable fabric so her fist impacted her left breast, causing it to deform and shake slightly as a result…
As if he didn’t notice the red creeping up her face, Vahn gave a small nod before saying, “I will entrust this task to you. You may leave.” In response to this, Brynhildr quickly performed an about-face before exiting the chamber with hasty steps. Since she had been given permission, Brynhildr was able to turn away to hide her shame, something Vahn had intended from the outset. When she had exited the chamber, Vahn was fighting back a smile but, seeing the usually proud Valkyrie’s on the periphery unable to restrain themselves, he allowed the corners of his mouth to curl up slightly. It was very rare to see Brynhildr make such a mistake so Vahn was in a great mood, causing the rather solemn atmosphere to collapse for a brief moment…
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Living the good life’,’A Throne fit for an Emperor’,’RIP Brynhildr xD…’)
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