Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 1674
Though others might have difficulty finding the gate, Vahn had an absolute advantage that allowed him to locate such things with extreme ease. Thus, after spending a few minutes trying to sense the anomaly using his intent, he simply submerged into his Realm to systematically search for it within his memory. This process took nearly nine hours, but, even if he had decided to stay within for nine years, not even a single zeptosecond would have passed in the 'outside' world.
With his primary objective completed, Vahn decided to spend a few days among his friends, family, and lovers, updating them on the situation and sorting through his thoughts. The best part about this was that, prior to entering his Realm, Vahn moved everyone on the island into the Little Garden. This included Karin, who, as he had postulated, was able to enter the Little Garden without issue. After all, it might use the Laws of the original Record as a template, but, on the most basic level, the Little Garden was directly connected to his 'soul realm', comprised and maintained by his own Source Energy.
Needless to say, Karin, Jinbei, and even Eva were completely gobsmacked, not by the existence of the Little Garden, but by Vahn's power and presence. It didn't matter that his power was somewhat weakened due to the garden's Laws, as, within his Realm, it was impossible to even comprehend the nature of his existence. He was an absolute concept, and, though it would sever their connection to their original world, Vahn explained that he could, quite literally, create new bodies for them within his Realm, effectively transmigrating them.
Unfortunately, though there was nothing preventing him from talking about it, Vahn was unable to explain the specifics of The Path while they were still linked to their original Record. The best way he could explain it was that a separate axis of reality existed within his Soul, and, though it was still in a nascent state, it would gradually evolve to represent an entire Multiverse. This had come as quite a shock to people like Karin, but, as she was well aware of the existence of the Realm, Eva merely fell into deep thought for a few days. As for Jinbei, he didn't seem to really care about anything, using the unexpected 'vacation' to idle at the edge of the island with a fishing pole for a few days...
With the help of Da Vinci, Vahn was able to test several theories he had regarding the removal of Karin's [Penance Seal]. It was a non-standard Innate that had obviously been forced upon her as a result of some greater plot tied to the Record itself, but, with an Omnipotent Genius on his side, it was a simple matter to come up with a variety of solutions. If those didn't work, he could always use a [Fate-Severing Knife] to do the job, as, after an admittedly ridiculous amount of research, it was all but confirmed that this was the original purpose of the blade.
Similar to how Heroic Spirits would always obtain a non-standard Innate related to their legend, the very thing that gave them power, some Innates were intrinsically bound to a person's fate. The best example of this was the [Child of Destiny] Innate while other notable examples included Mordred's, [Sage Dragon Emperor's Pampered Princess], Scathach's [Scathach], Da Vinci's [Pioneer of the Stars], and Tamamo's [Tamamo-no-Mae].
By using the [Fate-Severing Knife], Vahn was able to remove a person's non-standard Innates, and, under certain conditions, he could even assign them a new one. Entities that had their fate severed were not all that dissimilar to [Nameless] existences without any fate at all. Thus, if you had a strong enough Will and a substantial influence on Fate, you could impose an entirely new fate on someone simply through assigning them a new name or purpose.
During his experiments with Da Vinci, Vahn put this theory to the test by severing the fate of none other than Skoll. She had been one of the first Companions to develop an Ego after the Awakening, and, due to her association with him, she obtained a non-standard Innate called [Companion of the Sage Dragon Emperor]. This allowed her to evolve into a chibi-form that resembled a five-year-old version of Fenrir, and, though she still had bio-mechanical components, her evolution elevated her to a similar status as Ark, Mother, and Shadow within the Companion network. In essence, she had become the God of Companions, and, after using the [Fate-Severing Knife] to remove her original non-standard Innate, that became her official title and responsibility.
In the wake of Skoll's ascension, the vast majority of Companions experienced evolutions of their own. This led to the Surface becoming surprisingly stable due to some people having spent more than two decades alongside their adorable little partners. Many had even developed an emotional attachment to their Companions, and, in some regions, Japan being the most notable example, it had become increasingly common to see Human-Companion relationships to develop into happy marriages.
Since it was well-within their calculations, neither Vahn nor Da Vinci was surprised when the first requests to marry a Companion was submitted. Rather, a system to officiate the relationship had already been developed decades prior, so, after a brief period of rising social tensions, most people had come to accept that the Companions were just other residents of the Empire. This led to a few groups trying to advocate for Companion rights, but, with the Companions capable of speaking for themselves, those attempting to inflate the non-issue into a point of contention were never able to build any momentum...
With several days to consider her options, or, more specifically, be convinced by Eva, it wasn't long before Karin found herself seated naked on an examination table. She wasn't even remotely shy, as, due to her unique form of immortality and her propensity for fighting powerful enemies, having her clothes destroyed was 'very' common. Rather, if you were a woman in the Akamatsuverse, especially a combatant, ending a fight without even a scrap of clothing was considered 'normal'.
Vahn used to wonder what went through the mind of their Creator when designing certain Records, but, after remember that Records were given shape by an amalgamation of dreams, he couldn't lay all the blame of them. They undoubtedly shared the blame, especially if they created a world with a significant amount of 'fanservice', but, in the end, it was the desires of the people viewing, playing, and commemorating their creations that gave form to a Record.
While thinking about the functionally infinite ways in which a Record could manifest, Vahn slowly and methodically traced his finger across the tattoo on Karin's back. She didn't so much as flinch in response to his touch, but, considering Eva was sitting mere meters away, she was probably doing her best to appear as disinterested and unperturbed as possible. Despite this, a subtle shade of red had been steadily creeping into her cheeks, not because he was touching her, but because she was being watched by Eva...
In order to finally convince Karin, Eva had, quite literally, pushed the taciturn woman down, sealing her lips to form a Pactio. This had been something Karin coveted for hundreds of years, so, rather than complain, Vahn nearly had to excuse himself when it seemed like the two were going to do a lot more than simply kiss. It felt like he was trespassing on something he wasn't meant to see, and, though Eva was his fiancee, he wanted to give them a chance to strengthen their bond without his interference.
Unfortunately, though he wasn't exactly complaining, Eva had noticed his intentions, 'forcing' him to stay and observe. This caused Karin to visibly pout, but, after some skillful coaxing from Eva, she was quickly pacified. In the end, she even seemed to seriously consider allowing him to participate, a notion that was made even stronger when it came time for her to be the observer...
After tracing a pattern hidden within the roman numeral for thirteen inscribed on Karin's back, Vahn issued a small nod before retracting his hand and saying, "There are a few notable differences, but I can conclusively say this seal functions similarly to the 'blessing' of a God. There are complex Divine Words hidden within a structure carefully designed to conceal both their existence and function. As for their true purpose...well..."
Sensing the hesitation in Vahn's voice, Karin adopted a disapproving frown, emulating her Master's way of speaking as she sternly said, "Out with it. I've already entrusted this matter to you so there is no sense in being roundabout. If you have something to say, say it. If it isn't important, then get on with the treatment."
As Karin had been pretty harsh with him ever since he watched her make out with Eva, Vahn wasn't too surprised by her tone. Instead, he just shook his head while Eva snickered at the side, reveling in his 'misfortune' and Karin's false bravado.
Since she had put on a strong front, Vahn decided to respect Karin's resolution, explaining, "This is not your original body. The seal on your back has nothing to do with your 'Curse of Inviolability'. It is the thing binding your Ego to your current vessel. In other words, you likely died all those years ago, and, after your Soul moved on to the afterlife, you were forced back into a vessel that looked identical to your original body. Your current race lists you as a Cherubim, one of the attendants of the Biblical God...if I had to guess, you entered into a contract with a higher-tiered angel after your death, and, due to the guilt you felt at that time, you agreed to repent for your sin of betrayal by serving as an instrument of God in the physical plane..."
Hearing Vahn's speculation, Karin was completely slack-jawed, her mouth dangling open as her brain failed to find any words to explain her current mental state. If what he stated was the truth, it meant her 'curse' was something she had imposed on herself, not something that had been forced upon her. As for her ability to use Holy Magic and Purification Spells, these were likely related to the fact she was a Cherubim, or, at the very least, a human Soul sealed within the body of one...
Not finished with his explanation, Vahn adopted a thoughtful expression on his face, using the hand he had previously used to caress Karin's back to stroke his chin as he said, "I'm guessing your desire to 'serve' also has something to do with your Cherubic nature. Though it is pretty obvious that your Ego is in full control, the form and function of our vessels often dictate our self-perception and how we engage others..."
Though she was still staring at Vahn, Karin's mental processes continued to move at a snail's pace, her mind struggling to make sense of everything he had revealed previously. She suddenly felt like a stranger in her own body, as, while much of what Vahn said was mere speculation, the one thing he continued to reinforce was that this wasn't her body. It was something she had been bestowed in order to fulfill a purpose...a purpose she had instinctually followed without question prior to her meeting Eva...
Before Karin could fall further into her doubts, her awareness was brought back in an instant when she felt a familiar embrace. She immediately recognized this as her Master, and, though she still had a number of doubts, the one thing she didn't question was that Eva was the most important person in her heart. She never wanted to part with her again, so, even if it meant betraying the purpose she had been assigned, it didn't matter so long as she was able to fulfill the purpose she had chosen for herself all those years ago...
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Hax...','The rise of the most adorable Goddess...','Omae wa mou shindeiru...')
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