Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 2027 | einlion
Returning to the city, Vahn was unsurprised to find that it had expanded in the few hours he had been away. The theme they were going for something similar to a modernized 'Elven Forest', so, using her Mokuton(Wood Style), Madara had been rapidly expanding the burgeoning city's borders in preparation to accommodate future residents.
Nodding his head in approval, Vahn expanding his domain as an invisible pulse, instantaneously mapping the layout of the entire city. This was becoming the most frequent way in which he used his domain. As for his reasons, well, the most prominent justification he had come to was that he simply wanted to make Sis's job even a little easier. She was against this, but, as she was also the main person advocating he does what he wants, Vahn made the decision for both of their sakes.
Even as far back as Danmachi, using his domain had made him feel detached from the rest of the world. Now, he felt closer to the world than ever before, so, rather than compromising the peace he had found, Vahn intended to make the most of every moment. His power had also increased to the point that using his domain was simply overkill. Thus, at least for the time being, he intended to see and experience the world using his seven senses alone. (Touch, Taste, Sight, Smell, Hearing, Energy, Emotions.)
Having located the person he was searching for, Vahn teleported to just outside his own bedroom before gently knocking on the door. Immediately thereafter, he heard a soft sigh before the voice of Artoria could be heard echoing from his surroundings as she said, "It's your own bedroom...you do not need permission to enter..."
Opening the door, Vahn found Artoria wearing little more than pajamas. She had also let her long and beautiful golden hair down, so, for a brief moment, he found himself rooted to his position as he instinctually remarked, "Beautiful..."
Though she did her best to appear calm, Artoria was unable to prevent a blush from creeping into her cheeks as she combed aside her bangs and asked, "Is it done?"
Nodding his head, Vahn closed the door behind him before making his way over to Artoria's side, joining her on the bed and embracing her startlingly hot body as he explained, "Shen Long was the last of the Lords who refused to cooperate. The trio was able to make short work of him."
Exhaling a hot sigh in response to Vahn's touch, Artoria habitually rested her head against his chest as she distractedly uttered, "That's good..."
Feeling his own body temperature increasing, Vahn used his fingers to comb through Artoria's remarkably soft hair as he asked, "Do you want me to help...?"
Responding with a rare chuckle, Artoria gently nudged Vahn's chest with her head before replying, "It's just a typical Dragon's Heat. Don't worry, I can manage it on my own. Besides, if you decided to 'help' me, you would need to tend to the others as well."
Unable to refute her words, Vahn held Artoria a little more firmly while resting his head atop her own. At the same time, memories of a few weeks prior resurfaced in his mind. At that time, he had humored Mordred's request to demonstrate the Sage Dragon Emperor transformation he had used during his fight against the Great Mother. This ended up being a mistake, as, due to his most recent and drastic increase in power, he inadvertently triggered the reproductive impulses of nearly every woman with draconic features.
At the time, Vahn had attempted to help them quell the fires burning within their bodies, but, much like Terra, the only permanent solution was to fertilize their eggs. This was something he was willing to do, but, as a result of the desires that initially brought them to this world, most of the girls were being remarkably obstinate. The only exception was Mordred, who, being the closest to him at the time, ended up receiving the brunt of his draconic aura. As a result, she could now be seen carrying around a pale-golden egg that was larger than her head, a proud smile blossoming across her face any time someone made mention of its size...
Fortunately, not that he would have minded, Modred was the only one to wholeheartedly succumb to her instincts. Everyone else decided to simply bear with it, as, according to Da Vinci's research, it would gradually fade away so long as they limited the flow of energy from their Dragon Heart and avoided sexual intercourse. This would cause them to experience flu-like symptoms, but, after a few weeks had passed, they would eventually return to normal.
Understanding this, Vahn made no attempts to help alleviate Artoria's symptoms. Instead, he simply held her for the better part of an hour, gently cradling her in his arms until she broke the silence by asking, "When are you planning to confront Jahad? If you're waiting for me to get better-"
Pressing his index and middle fingers to her lips, Vahn prevented Artoria from speaking further as he softly replied, "Let's not mix personal and private affairs...Jahad isn't doing anything right now that would mandate his immediate destruction. Of course, if my beautiful Empress demands it of me, I wouldn't mind dealing with him right this instant..."
While others might mistake his words as simple flattery, Artoria understood that Vahn was 100% serious. If she asked him to wrap things up, he would immediately trespass the Imperial Palace to confront Jahad. This would spell the end of an era, and, from that moment on, the Aldrnari Empire and its collaborators would be the dominant force within the Tower.
Though she was momentarily cowed by the notion that a single request from her could decide the fate of the entire Tower, Artoria quickly recovered. She wasn't an Empress in name only, so, after a moment of consideration, she adopted a serious expression as she said, "You should go. The people of the Tower have been waiting too long for this day to come. We also need to advance beyond the Tower if we want to anchor the Little Garden to the outside world. This place is far too small to hold us..."
Raising his brows, Vahn was tempted to ask if she were sure, but, knowing Artoria, there were very few moments when she wasn't completely serious. Thus, while he had originally been intending to wait a while longer, dealing with Jahad immediately shot to the top of his list of things to do...
With Vahn and the Aldrnari Empire's forces having 'vanished' three months prior, many within the Tower, specifically those who had been dreading a personal visit from the legendary Sage Dragon Emperor, were beginning to suspect they had already moved on. Thus, when a strange formation suddenly lit up the entire sky of the 134th Floor, the reaction of the Floors residents quickly went from confusion to absolute despair once they realized the Floor had effectively been isolated from the rest of the Tower.
Sensing the disturbance even before the massive spell formation had appeared, Jahad rose from his throne before turning towards a spatial ripple that had appeared nearby. He half-expected Vahn to step out, but, instead, he came face-to-face with none other than Headon. Unlike the white rabbit most people were familiar with, however, this one had multiple mouths superimposed onto various parts of his body, each snickering as the entity in question declared, "It would appear your time has come...Your Majesty..."
Seeing Headon grit his teeth near the end of his statement, a faint smile appeared upon the face of Jahad as he remarked, "I always knew you hated me. Tell me, are you the one who invited the Sage Dragon Emperor into the Tower? I suppose I should have anticipated that a monster like you would eventually discover a loophole to circumvent our contract..."
Unable to suppress his laughter, the mouths all across Headon's body began snickering as Headon spread his arms rather theatrically and announced, "That's the beauty of this situation! I didn't have to raise a single finger! The Sage Dragon Emperor entered the Tower of his own accord. So you see, my dear King, this has nothing to do with any secret plot. No. It is fate that has betrayed you...!"
As Headon continued to cackle like a pack of hyenas, Jahad simply turned away without bothering to continue the conversation. He was someone who had manipulated the fates of countless people, so, even if this was fate's hand, he had no intention of running away. Not only would his pride not allow it, but, more important than even that, he simply refused to bend the knee to fate. He would keep fighting until the very end. After all, long before he became a King, he had been both a Hero and an Adventurer...if he feared what lay beyond the horizon, he never would have left his home in the first place...
With the dual-purpose spatial seal/teleportation ward in place, Vahn used his authority to teleport anyone below a certain level of power to the 2nd Floor of the Tower. This would prevent them from returning any time soon, as, without their Suspend Ships, they would need to travel to each Floor's Warp Gate. As for everyone else, they were prohibited from leaving until Jahad had been dealt with.
Though he knew there were a fair number of earnest and kind people amongst the Empire's upper echelons, the majority of residents who lived on the 134th Floor belonged to the Jahard Family and its forces. They were many of Jahad's most zealous supports, so, once the King fell, they would most likely serve as the backbone of the 'resistance'. After all, Jahad actually had a substantial number of clones spread throughout the Tower, so, even if the man himself was killed, it was only a matter of time before they rallied behind one of his "sons".
As that thought crossed his mind, Vahn briefly considered whether or not he should go ahead and deal with Karaka once he was finished with Jahad. He was among Jahad's eldest 'sons', so, once the Empire lost its figurehead, the Elders of FUG would undoubtedly support him as the 'rightful heir' to the throne. This was the reason Karaka had been chosen as the Slayer to kill Jahad, as, the moment the King fell, a new one would need to take his place. If this person just so happened to be one of the former King's illegitimate children, a lot of the social and political resentment associated with a sudden change in power could be mitigated.
Fortunately, Vahn was aware of at least two other candidates that could easily replace Karaka as the rightful heir to the throne. If he took them under his wing and raised them to be peacekeepers, not tyrants, there was a fair chance the Jahad Empire could be converted into a Republic. This might not be the most ideal outcome, but, so long as he left behind a few Templates to preserve the peace, he should be able to leave without having to worry about some opportunistic 'assholes' stepping in to make life difficult for everyone but themselves...
Sensing a presence, even without his domain active, Vahn ceased thinking about which Templates would be best suited to long-term observation of the Tower. He had other things to worry about right now, and, though Jahad didn't pose a threat, he felt he owed it to the man to send him off with a bit of fanfare. After all, despite his innumerable flaws, Jahad's original reason for becoming King was to help people. He was simply an idealist who had lived far too long, and, as a result, he experienced the trope where a Hero lived long enough to see themselves become the villain. Thus, in response to the meteoric golden rods converging on him from all directions, Vahn smiled as he mused, "A waning candle shines brightest the moment before it is extinguished..."
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'OwO...','I kind of feel bad...the only time Karaka is mentioned is when he is about to be bullied xD...','Time to snuff him out...')
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