Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 1450
Following his opening statement, Vahn ignored Shuten's and Igaraki's stupefied states, accepting Raikou's invitation to enjoy the banquet that had been painstakingly prepared by Benienma. The food prepared by a Yokai was unnaturally delicious, but, unlike normal Yokai, Benienma put a lot of effort into mastering her craft. Since it was difficult to refuse a meal after imagining the petite girl hard at work in the kitchen, surrounded by dozens of fat sparrows, Vahn found himself seated across from everyone else, flanked by Artoria and Musashi.
While still awaiting the food's arrival, Shuten didn't beat around the bush, asking, "This sanctuary of yours...what exactly does it entail? Going by your tone, it doesn't seem like we have any other options~?"
Contrary to her slovenly behavior from earlier, Shuten had a slightly more serious expression, and, though her outfit was still in disarray, she had at least pulled her kimono back onto her shoulders. As for Ibaraki, she had fallen silent as, despite having already decided Vahn was her penultimate nemesis, her dream of a prosperous Yokai community helped to silence her anger. She also got a 'very' dangerous feeling from both Vahn and Artoria, so, while she wasn't afraid of them, building up the resolve to fight against them wasn't that easy...
In response to Shuten's question, Vahn explained, "I'll make an exception and explain myself in a way you should be able to understand. In truth, I don't really care about ruling over humanity. My current actions are the result of several underlying issues that needed to be addressed in order to avoid an even greater calamity. In truth, my only real goal is making the world a safer place where everyone, regardless of their origin and race, has a chance at happiness. When everything is said and done, the Empire will be an isolated regulatory force. The actual governance of the races of Gaia will be managed by a complex system that takes into consideration the needs of every race within the Empire's domain."
Though he didn't expect them to be able to follow along and envision the world he was trying to create, Vahn knew that most Yokai had the inherent ability to discern truth from lies. The moment they thought he was trying to deceive them, he would have lost all of his momentum, so, while it might not make a lot of sense to them, he didn't mind exposing his plan. It didn't really matter if Musashi was also present, as, regardless of how things developed, she would continue to support the Heroes until the fighting ceased.
Confident in his assessment, Vahn took a small sip of the crystal clear sake that had been set out on the table, enjoying its mellow flavor and the way it burned his throat. Then, having given them a bit of time to process his words, he added, "Soon enough, the World will undergo even greater change as a byproduct of events that have already been set in motion. To ensure the survival of all species, including the planet itself, certain measures must be taken to unify and protect everyone. I will provide everything the Yokai need in order to not just prosper, this time without fear of being hunted to near-extinction. I even possess the power to summon Yokai from previous eras, not as Heroic Spirits, but in their original forms."
Hearing Vahn's words, everyone at the table, with the exception of Artoria, had various thoughts racing through their mind. The first to speak, however, was Raikou, asking, "Am I correct in the assumption that your power also extends to other entities? I don't get the impression that Kg-sama is a Heroic Spirit. Rather, she gives off an aura similar to Musashi-dono."
Musashi was slightly surprised by Raikou's words, but, before she could ask for confirmation, Vahn had answered, "It is even possible to summon Gods, Conceptual Entities, and Foreign Existences that others have never even heard of. I will not go into the specifics, but there are few restrictions when it comes to my ability to summon others into this world."
Even before Vahn had finished speaking, Raikou's hazy purple eyes had come into focus, her aura increasing several-fold as she asked, "Can you summon my Kintoki-chan...?" in a somewhat shaky tone. At the same time, Shuten also perked up slightly, her expression showing she was paying far more attention to his response than everything else he had said.
Rather than answer her outright, Vahn allowed his own aura to contend against Raikou's, pushing hers back with a focused expression on his face as he said, "Calm yourself, Raikou. I already had the intention of conferring with your faction to determine which Heroes would be suitable to help expand your numbers. Sakata Kintoki is, indeed, one of the candidates to be summoned. For that to become a reality, however, you must remain calm. This isn't something you can force, and, the more you try, the less likely it is to happen."
Though he was able to overwhelm her aura with his own, Vahn got the impression that Raikou was on the verge of 'exploding'. She seemed to morph into a completely different person, becoming an existence that dwarfed even Shuten's by a considerable amount. Since the latter was rumored to have been the child of Yamata-no-Orochi and a powerful witch, this was quite a feat, resulting in his draconic nature being stirred slightly.
Raikou was tempted to 'force' Vahn to summon Kintoki, but, after processing his words, combined with how powerful his aura felt, she forced herself to gradually calm down. This was the complete opposite of her counterparts, however, as Vahn's aura had the effect of exciting those descended from dragons, leaving even Artoria clenching her fists to avoid fidgeting.
Vahn knew it wasn't exactly a good idea to rile up the trio surrounding Raikou, but, as part of him proactively refused to keep his nature concealed, he allowed his Hunglng aura to mix with his domain. This empowered all of his capabilities to unquantifiable levels, allowing him to react to virtually anything in a calm, yet overbearing, manner. It wouldn't matter if his opponent was one of the most powerful Gods in the entire Nasuverse, as, after fleeing from Tiamat in the past, Vahn had resolved himself never to run away again.
Once Raikou began to calm down, Vahn slowly retracted his aura before mixing in calming energy from his [Hands of Nirvana] into his domain. This didn't go unnoticed by those seated at the table, so, before they reacted adversely, he explained, "This is a technique called [Hands of Nirvana]. It is originally a massage technique that accelerates healing, but, as a result of my mastery, I can use it to disperse calming energy into my surroundings. It has absolutely no negative side effects, as, if I tried to use it in such a way, I would experience a backlash of sorts."
Since everyone present could basically determine whether or not he was telling the truth, simply being forward with them was enough to avoid most problems. This was another thing Vahn liked about many non-human races, as, compared to humans, they were far more 'honest', even if their nature revolved entirely around mischief.
In order to reclaim the momentum, Vahn passed his gaze over everyone present, including the young woman with pale-green hair. She had yet to be introduced, but, based on various context clues, he was able to identify her as Kiyohime. According to Japanese folklore, she was a normal village girl who, after being spurned by the man she fell in love with, ended up transforming into a large serpentine dragon in order to give chase. When she finally caught up with him, she used her newly gained power to burn the man to ashes as he sought shelter within a temple bell. In the aftermath of that event, she ended up taking her own life, following the man she had loved even in death...
Vahn wasn't quite sure how Kiyohime had inherited the blood of a dragon, but, based on how she was behaving, it was clear to see that her human sensibilities had been all but overwritten by her draconic instincts. She was stuck in a permanently delusional state, kept at bay by little more than a facade that threatened to disappear at a moment's notice.
Knowing he would need to deal with her sooner, rather than later, Vahn looked directly into her golden eyes, stating, "I am not Anchin, nor his reincarnation. I come from a completely different world so there is no mistaking it. I can help you to control your draconic blood, but, I will never pretend to be someone I'm not in order to pander to your delusions."
Kiyohime had been trying hard to keep herself under control since Vahn's arrival so, hearing him suddenly speak in such a manner, she was at a complete loss. She could tell he was speaking the truth, as her sensitivity to lies had developed to an unquantifiable level. Thus, in an instant, it felt like her entire world was crashing down around her, causing white scales to begin growing along her hands and feet. At the same time, her horns turned from ivory white to a glossy black color, at least until Vahn released his own aura in full, eyes blazing like suns...
Though it was somewhat cruel to the young woman, Vahn suppressed her weak bloodline with his own, forcibly stopping her transformation as he stated, "Do not throw a tantrum just because I have stated the truth. Behave yourself, Kiyohime. Dragons are prideful creatures so do not allow yourself to be controlled by your urges like some base creature. You will never be able to obtain what it is you desire if you lash out every time something doesn't go your way."
Hearing Vahn's harsh words, Kiyohime was on the verge of tears, her face forming an aggrieved frown as she reverted back to her 'human' form. This earned him a few accusatory looks, but, as the current Kiyohime was a danger to both herself and others, Vahn didn't regret his actions. He had seen a multitude of futures where she transformed into a massive white serpent, rampaging until Raikou managed to seal her away. This was the first of many steps on a long road to helping her break free from her burdens, allowing her to pursue real happiness, breaking free from her delusions.
Ignoring the feeling of guilt that always came whenever he made a woman cry, Vahn took a deep breath to calm himself before saying, "Benienma should be along with the food shortly. Allow me to apologize for my harsh words, but, much like my current actions back on Gaia, it was necessary. Trust me when I say that you will recover, Kiyohime. It might not seem like it now, but you will have a lot of people supporting you as you learn to be happy. Isn't that right, Raikou...?"
Following Vahn's question, Raikou stopped glaring toward him, embracing the crying Kiyohime in her rather voluminous chest as she answered, "Of course. Come, Kiyo-chan, I will bear all of your tears. Don't let that bully's words affect you..."
Hearing Raikou refer to him as a bully, Vahn's expression became slightly dull, especially when he heard Kiyohime muttered, "Mmm...he is a big bully..." in a sobbing tone. At the same time, Shuten was staring at him with an amused expression on her face while, at his side, even Artoria gave him an accusatory look. Though she understood he had done so out of necessity, she still intended to reprimand him later for making a young woman cry.
Fortunately, just as things reached tangible awkwardness, Benienma and a host of chubby, ball-shaped, sparrows frolicked into the room. They were pushing large trays filled with dozens of different dishes, the fragrance of which was enough to elicit an audible growl from nearly every stomach at the table.
Vahn had tried to time his dramatic outburst with the arrival of Benienma's dishes, but, as reading the Flow of Fate was harder than it seemed, he had been off by nearly two minutes. Fortunately, it didn't matter in the end, as, with the arrival of the food, even Kiyohime seemed to quickly recover, her golden eyes glimmering with expectation as a whole pig, nearly as large as she was, was set before her. Though this seemed like way too much food for a normal human, it hardly qualified as an appetizer for most Yokai, much less a True Dragon...
Seeing how quickly everyone's moods improved, Vahn regained his casual smile, watching as the sparrow-like Yokai, despite being much smaller than the dishes they were carrying, managed to set them on the table without much difficulty. As for Benienma, she personally served the dishes she had prepared for him, Artoria, and Musashi.
What Vahn didn't expect, as he hadn't focused too much on the food while peering into the Flow of Fate, was for Benienma to set a peculiar dish in front of him, her face flushed with a ruddy glow as she explained, "As an apology for my past transgressions, please enjoy my rarest delicacy, split kushiyaki-style sparrow-dechi..."
As Benienma explained what she was serving him, Vahn noticed the beady eyes of every sparrow-type Yokai staring at him, threatening him to refuse her offering. It didn't help that Musashi, upon seeing the grilled skewers, commented, "Oh, grilled sparrow? I used to eat that a lot when I was still a brat. If you'd like, I know a few good sake that pairs well with it~."
Immediately after Musashi's bold words, the eyes of everyone sparrow-yokai, with the exception of Benienma, shifted toward her. Their looks seemed to say, 'you had better sleep with one eye open from now on', stunning Musashi into silence just as she was about to uncork her gourd. It was only at that moment that she seemed to realize what kind of birds the several dozen Yokai were, despite the fact they always followed Benienma like she was their leader...
Using the opportunity Musashi had created, Vahn offered a wry smile in response to Benienma's intense stare. Then, after picking up one of the skewers, he unhesitantly took a small bite of the tender meat, causing her to visibly flinch before resuming her intense stare. It was only when he stated, "It's delicious..." that Benienma finally relaxed, an exasperated sigh escaping her lips that didn't quite suit her appearance. Then, just as Vahn took a second bite, he nearly choked when she muttered, "I'm glad...if you didn't like it, I was going to offer myself as compensation-dechi. My meat is quite tender, so I'm certain you would find it palatable-dechi."
After her rather 'dangerous' remark, Benienma adopted a happy smile on her face before taking a large wooden spoon and placing a veritable mountain of rice on his plate. Then, with that same smile on her face, she held up her spoon, remarking, "Ten'n-sama, make sure to savor every last bite-dechi! If you don't, you'll get the chop, ufufufu~!"
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Vahn taking control','Don't bully the snek...!','Benienma is scary-dechi...')
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