Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 2118 | einlion
With seven days passing in the blink of an eye, Vahn received a message from Shiroyasha detailing which of the Gift Blocks they would be using for the Rite of Challenge.
Thanks to spatial compression and all kinds of other neat space-saving tricks, only about 30% of the Little Garden was residential. The remaining 70% was reserved for the various Gift Games that took place as very few Communities actually had the capacity to produce Game Board.
Since it was presently impossible for the members of the Sage Dragon's Hearth to enter the 5-Digit Gates, the Perseus Community was forced to temporarily relocate to one of the Game Blocks leased by Thousand Eyes. This ended up costing them quite a bit, but, when it came to matters concerning his pride, there was no price Laius wasn't willing to pay.
"It's not too late to back out, kid. Don't get me wrong. I'm more than happy to give you a thrashing. I'm just worried people will accuse me of bullying the weak if we continue..."
If looks could kill, Laius, wearing a rather stylish hat to cover his bald spot, might have been able to erase Vahn from existence with how hard he was glaring. Unfortunately, he lacked the requisite Gift so the only thing he accomplished was straining the veins in his temples as he said, "Go ahead and keep talking. We'll see how arrogant you are when I'm grinding your banner beneath my heel."
Rolling his eyes as theatrically as possible, Vahn shifted his attention from the blithering Laius to Shiroyasha, saying, "You can't say I didn't warn him..."
Though she wanted nothing more than to laugh, Shiroyasha maintained a neutral expression as she said, "Indeed. Now then, on behalf of the Thousand Eyes Community, I, Shiroyasha, Floor Master of the East Side, stand witness to the Rite of Challenge between the Perseus Community and the Sage Dragon's Hearth. In accordance with the Laws of the Little Garden, both sides will now attempt to complete each others' Game of Challenge. For the sake of fairness, the Game Board proferred forth by the Sage Dragon's Hearth has been adjusted so that the time spent within does not exceed two hours. If the members of the Sage Dragon's Hearth are unable to complete the Host Community's Game of Challenge within this period of time, they have agreed to forfeit."
As this was the first time he was hearing this, a look of suspicion appeared on Laius's face as he asked, "What's this about? You're not trying to play favorites are you?"
Snorting through her nose, Shiroyasha was about to explain when Vahn beat her to the punch, stating, "I never expected anyone to be dumb enough to challenge me so my particular Game of Challenge is designed as a training assist. Those who enter within are given six years to complete a set of objectives. Depending on their performance, they will be rewarded with various Gifts or have the ones they already possess strengthened. I've adjusted things so that time flows precisely 4,380 times faster for the people inside. I can normalize it if you insist but I doubt my Community would need six years to complete your joke of a challenge..."
Though he both shocked and secretly relieved to learn a bit about Vahn's Game of Challenge, Laius hated how the former continuously insulted his Community. They weren't just a group of no-name rabble without any merits. They were a legendary organization that had hosted innumerable high-brow Gift Games that shook the very foundation of the Little Garden.
Resisting the urge to shave the other side of Laius's head just to balance things out, Vahn rolled his eyes a second time before asking, "Can we get on with this? I have so many better things to do that it would literally take longer to list out than to complete your challenge..."
"You son of a bitch! Fine! If that's how you want to play, let's fucking-!?"
Surprising even Shiroyasha, an unnaturally large smile developed across Vahn's face as he stared at the now statuesque Laius. He didn't really care if people insulted him. That was par for the course in such disputes. Insulting his mother? Even if he wasn't speaking literally, Laius had just crossed a line he never should have approached.
"Good. Good. Very good. Hahahahahahaha~!"
Too angry to continue the conversation, Vahn just turned around and walked away. As for Laius, he literally collapsed onto the ground, his legs giving out due to the pressure that, even now, hadn't let up.
"For someone with daddy issues, you should have known better than to bring someone's parents into this. I went through a lot of effort to convince Vahn to spare you. Now, you only have yourself to blame if you choose to continue with this farce..."
Though Shiroyasha's words implied Laius still had a way out, even she knew it was too late for that. Vahn, undoubtedly as a result of his power, rarely got angry. Sure, there were times when he lashed out at people, but, more often than not, his hostility towards others was driven by disdain for their actions, not hatred. Now that Laius had genuinely offended him, she had no idea what Vahn might do.
Coming back to his senses in response to Shiroyasha's words, Laius's expression morphed into a scowl as he leaped to his feet and asked, "You think I'm just going to back down and run away like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs? Both you and your little pet dragon can go straight to hell. In fact, once this is over, I intend to file an official complaint. I know you had something to do with that vampire bitch's escape. It's only a matter of time before she is returned to me and your title as Floor Master is stripped away."
Under normal circumstances, Shiroyasha might have reacted hostilely in the face of such slanderous insults. Instead, she just shook her head in exasperation before issuing a tired sigh and saying, "Your father was a good man. He wasn't without his faults but he always did his best to better the lives of his friends, his family, and his people. I pray, for his sake, that you survive this encounter..."
Without waiting for Laius to respond, Shiroyasha promptly disappeared with her words still hanging in the air. At the same time, a massive screen appeared high overhead with the numbers 00:15:00 in large digital font. Over that were the words Preparation Phase, an indicator that both Communities had fifteen minutes to prepare their away teams and their respective Game Boards.
Clicking his tongue, Laius leaped into the air, wings manifesting from his sandals as he flew toward the veritable army waiting for him in the rear. There were no restrictions on the number of people who could participate so he had prepared a literal batallion to protect his Game Board. He had also recruited a few temporary members from allied Communities since their agreement only stipulated that members of Perseus and the Sage Dragon's Hearth would become forfeit upon their defeat. In other words, even if he lost, the Sage Dragon's Hearth would get nothing.
"These fucking morons want to mess with me? Let's see how you swagger around after I'm finished plowing the members of your Community right in front of you...!"
Though he was angrier than he had been in a long time, Vahn appeared calm and collected by the time he reached his Community's waiting area. This was Sarina's and Nono's first official Gift Game so he didn't want them to worry by wearing a dour expression on his face. Instead, he caused both girls' hearts to skip a beat as he smiled even more radiantly than usual, his hands gently caressing their heads as he said, "You're up. Remember, you don't actually have to fight them. Just work with the Familias you familiarized yourselves with during your training."
As they had already been exhaustively briefed on what they should do, even Sarina appeared a little exasperated by Vahn's reminder. They had also repeated the same thirty-day cycle a total of seven times, as, prior to Vahn's tinkering, the time dilation had only been 150. In other words, every time they went inside for six hours, approximately 37 days would pass.
Simply put, the girls were now intimately familiar with what they needed to do to get a jump start in the Game Board templated from the anime version of Danmachi. Thus, in response to Vahn's words, Sarina answered, "Jeez, Vahn, you worry too much..." as a blush slowly developed across her face. As for Nono, she maintained a neutral expression on her face but surprised both of them by asking, "Is it okay to stay inside for the full duration?"
Blinking in surprise, a genuinely befuddled, "Huh...?" emanated from Vahn's throat as images of a certain heterochromatic princess spontaneously appeared within his mind. It didn't even take him a microsecond to understand what she was aiming for, his expression hardening ever so slightly as he muttered, "Nono..."
As if she understood exactly what Vahn was thinking, Nono shook her head, her blue eyes clear and devoid of even a trace of deceit as she said, "You misunderstand. I simply wish to work with Miach-sama to further my understanding of medicine and healing. Even if it's only for a few weeks longer, I want to try my best."
Though he knew she was telling the truth, Vahn couldn't help manifesting Loi-chan to hear what she had to say regarding Nono's decision. To his surprise, the usually gossipy girl appeared with both hands covering her mouth, a mischievous glint in her eyes as she playfully mused, "Nuh-uh, not telling~!" before promptly disappearing with a snicker.
Since there was little difference between Nono learning from him and learning from a literal God of Medicine, Vahn ultimately just shook his head in mild exasperation before answering, "Very well. As I have said before, everyone is ultimately responsible for the path they choose to walk. I have done my best to guide you till now. If you sincerely believe in this course of action, you have my full and unwavering support..."
Smiling more radiantly than Vahn had ever seen, Nono's face visibly lit up as she pressed the tips of her fingers together and replied with a happy, "Thank you, Vahn! I knew you would understand~!"
Restraining a dry chuckle, Vahn just continued to caress Nono's head as he shifted his attention to Sarina and asked, "What about you, Sarina? If you want, I can remove the thirty-day fail-safe for you as well. The clock isn't likely to run out but-"
"I'll do it! Nono already has a head start on me! There's no way I'll let her get even further ahead...!"
A stark contrast to Nono, Sarina's intentions were transparently clear. This caused the already wry smile on Vahn's face to grow even more so, as, despite the progress she had made with Jin, Sarina had effectively forgotten about him after seven months in the Game Board. She has also managed to join the Loki Familia in her last three playthroughs, so, as much as he didn't want to admit it, his plan to set her up with Jin was already a lost cause...
Suppressing a sigh, Vahn just nodded his head, saying, "Very well, then. If you believe you can hold out for six years, I'm not going to tell you no. Just promise me you won't get upset when everyone you interact with inside the Game Board inevitably resets..."
Demonstrating an uncharacteristic amount of awareness, Sarina laughed heartily in response to Vahn's words before pumping her right fist and saying, "It's okay! I'm just treating this as practice for when I meet the real deal! You said they were super important to you so I need to make sure I can get along well with everyone! Ehehehehehe~."
Though he got the impression her idea of 'getting along' would change quite a bit when she met the people she currently idolized, Vahn's heart melted when he heard Sarina's words. Unfortunately, the moment was ruined when her nostrils began to flare in a manner reminiscent of Loki when she was trying to grope Ais's breasts...
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'You dun goofed...','Nono is a very earnest young lady...','Looks like Loki found a new apprentice...')(A/N: Sorry for the late post. Today was my birthday and rest day so I was a little busy xD.)
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