Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos
Chapter 2298: Meandering

A stark contrast to the North and East, which were relatively modern and filled with people, the South Side was dominated by massive forests, vast plains, and mountain ranges. There were a few large settlements here and there, but most of the South Side's residents made their homes within the trees or under the ground.

"Now that I see it for myself, I'm surprised you didn't choose to settle in the South. The naturalistic environment and distinct lack of humans give it a more...accomodating feeling."

Sitting astride Vahn as the two of them rode on the transformed Fenrir's back, Sis couldn't help remarking on their surroundings. There were a few Viking-like individuals wandering around in groups, but most of the people they had encountered upon reaching the South Side were 'fantasy' races such as Elves, Dwarves, Beast People, and various Eudemons.

Shrugging his shoulders, Vahn maintained a relaxed smile as he said, "It's not like I hate people..."

Giggling in response to Vahn's words, Sis squeezed him a little tighter as she said, "I never implied you did. You simply have a preference for races that attempt to live in harmony with the environment rather than wantonly destroying it..."

"Hmm...can't argue with that..."

Looking up at the intricate web of treehouses overhead, Vahn would be lying if he said he didn't find it fascinating. Since the Draco Grief Alliance came into power, the South had become progressively more peaceful. It was still bound by a series of Gift Games that promoted endless conflict, but things had calmed down considerably since the fall of Avalon and the weakening of the Norse and Greek Factions.

Thinking of the Draco Grief Alliance, Vahn noted, "I should take Sandora to meet with her sister and tie up loose ends with Leticia..."

Nodding her head in approval, Sis replied, "That would probably be for the best. With so many others getting pregnant and having children, I imagine Leticia has been feeling restless."

Shifting his intent to Leticia, Vahn found the vampire in question taking a nap in the nursery. Ever since Black Rabbit had given birth, she had been spending most of her time helping look after the children.

"It shouldn't take more than a few days to wrap up everything with the Norse and Greek Factions. After that, we'll rendezvous with Ureko before heading to Underwood to meet with Draco Grief and his allies."

"Nn...sounds like a plan..."

Not having much else to say on the matter, Sis allowed her cat-like eyes to wander to their surroundings. There were a growing number of people paying attention to them, so it was only a matter of time before someone either called out to or tried to stop them. After all, even in a place like the Divine Realm, it wasn't exactly common to see a 10m tall wolf wandering around in broad daylight.

Though he could have teleported to his destination, Vahn often went out of his way to make use of more conventional methods of transport. It was an opportunity to see how his enemies would react and, more importantly, a chance to let Fenrir serve as his mount. She genuinely enjoyed carrying him around, so Vahn didn't mind creating opportunities for her to do so.

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Much like Sis, Fenrir was also paying close attention to the people in their surroundings. Everyone was giving her a wide berth, but she knew better than to lower her guard in 'enemy' territory. When a bearded, red-haired man riding a giant, moss-covered stag appeared to bar her passage, she immediately bared her massive fangs until Vahn patted her back and said, "He is here to deliver a message."

Immediately following Vahn's attempt to calm Fenrir, the bearded deer rider declared, "Vahn Aldrnari Mason, Sage Dragon Emperor of the East! My name is Hermóðr! The Allfather has bid me come and escort you to Asgard!"

With an amused smile on his face, Vahn retorted, "I'll get there when I get there. Besides, isn't it the duty of Valkyries to escort people to the halls of Valhalla?"

Furrowing his brows, Hermóðr wanted to chastise Vahn for his disrespect but promptly decided against it. His father, Odin, had warned them not to make an enemy out of the Sage Dragon Emperor. Thor had even been put on house arrest to prevent a confrontation, so, while he did not fear Vahn, Hermóðr knew better than to offend him.

"Very well. I shall relay your words to the Allfather. However, know that a great many people are awaiting your arrival. For their sake, I implore you to make haste..."

Finished with what he had to convey, Hermóðr tugged at the reins of his mount. In response, it leaped high into the sky, its hooves impacting the air as it vaulted high above the trees.

Following Hermóðr with his eyes, Vahn was briefly tempted to return to the Sage Dragon's Hearth and relax. He had never been fond of grand processions and ceremonies, so it was a very tempting thought.

Shaking such thoughts from his mind, Vahn gave Fenrir a firm pat on the back, proposing, "Let's take the scenic route." as Sis giggled from behind him.

Understanding her Master's intentions, Fenrir took a moment to sniff the air before heading in the direction of a river. She didn't really care about reaching Asgard, so she didn't mind taking a few detours along the way.

...

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Hearing the report from his son, Odin dismissed the redheaded God before exhaling a sigh. When Muninn informed him that Vahn would be arriving, he immediately ordered everyone in the Nine Realms Alliance to prepare. He had intended to give Vahn the most incredible welcome the latter had ever received, but it seemed he had no interest in such things.

Seeing her husband sigh, Frigg, a remarkably beautiful woman with olive-brown skin, wheat-colored hair, alluring blue eyes, and a winged helmet forged from shimmering gold, remarked, "Worry not, my love. I'm certain the Sage Dragon Emperor meant no offense with his actions."

Shaking his head, Odin replied, "That was never a concern. What worries me is the possibility that the Aldrnari Empire will not support our claim to the position of Floor Master. With the fall of Avalon, I had hoped to secure our place as the rightful rulers of the South..."

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Since numerous individuals within the Aldrnari Empire had unmistakable ties to Norse Mythology, Odin had wanted to entreat Vahn for his support. With the backing of the Aldrnari Empire, it wouldn't even take a decade to regain most of their strength.

Understanding her husband's concerns, Frigg stated, "We simply need to take action once he weakens the Greek Faction. With Zeus and Avalon out of the way, there is little to prevent us from reclaiming the South."

Though Frigg would be correct under normal circumstances, Odin knew things wouldn't be that simple. The Draco Grief Alliance may not have any genuine powerhouses within their ranks, but that didn't matter so long as they possessed the Authority of the Host Master. Anyone that challenged them would be subject to their terms, so it was nearly impossible to beat them without some form of leverage.

Before Vahn provided a cure, Odin intended to use Draco Grief's sickness to pressure the Alliance. Now, even if he sent them a message, they were more likely to burn it than read it...

...

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After meandering about for several hours, Vahn, Sis, and Fenrir eventually found themselves at the entrance of a walled-off city built adjacent to the sea and into a mountain. Tens of thousands of longhouses could be seen dotting the landscape while bands of Vikings roamed around in little more than leather and fur hides.

Anticipating the arrival of Vahn's group, the remarkably tall and muscular men guarding the gate did not attempt to bar his passage. Instead, they began clearing the path, shouting for people to make way as Fenrir made her way through the densely populated streets.

Giving voice to Vahn's thoughts, Sis remarked, "Unsurprisingly, there are no demihumans or beast people around here..."

Though it was unnecessary, Vahn nodded his head and explained, "The Communities making up the Nine Realms Alliance are segregated by race. Humans are the only ones who actively worship the Æsir, so the only way to access Asgard is to pass over the Bifrost located near the heart of the Midgard Community."

Amused by Vahn's commentary, Sis restrained a giggle as she playfully mused, "My, my, how knowledgeable my little brother has become~."

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Vahn shifted his attention to a group of ax-wielding men and women adorned with ceremonial wolf headdresses and war paint. The person Vahn assumed to be their leader was a fierce-looking woman with one eye and platinum blonde hair affixed into braids. Runes glistened along her exposed arms, but the thing that stood out the most was the large, rune-covered wolf she was using as a mount. It may as well have been a puppy compared to Fenrir, but it was still quite large.

Noticing Vahn's glance, the platinum-haired woman snorted through her nose before commanding her group to follow after her. However, instead of approaching and attempting to seek trouble, she ushered her group in the complete opposite direction.

Once again giving voice to Vahn's thoughts, Sis remarked, "She reminds me of Sejuani and the Winter's Claw. Perhaps you should consider letting them run rampant in Midgard?"

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As tempting as the thought was, Vahn didn't hesitate to reply, "I may have considered it if I wasn't working with a deadline. At this point, it would be better to just support Sandora's sister and let Ureko do her thing. With her power, the only thing preventing her from subjugating the South is a lack of Authority..."

While conversing with Sis, Vahn was also using Loi-chan to ascertain the identity of the woman riding a wolf. He half-expected her to be someone plotting against him, but it turned out she was just envious of Fenrir's size and coat.

Dismissing the woman from his thoughts, Vahn shifted his attention to the gigantic archway that had been carved into the mountain. It was over two kilometers in height, several hundred meters wide, and flanked by statues depicting Heimdallr and Thor in full battle regalia.

With the sky overhead giving way to twilight and a stunning aurora, Vahn figured he had delayed his arrival for long enough. It also didn't seem like anyone was going to seek trouble with him, so he gave Fenrir a firm pat as he mused, "Let's hurry along. We don't want to keep our guests waiting."

Rolling her eyes, Fenrir put a bit of strength into her legs, leaping high in the sky before ultimately landing at the base of the mountain. There, more than a thousand stone sentries, each adorned with silvery gold armor and outfitted with massive halberds, immediately came to life in preparation to repel any would-be attackers.

Fortunately for the statues, they were not the only ones on the platform leading into the Bifrost. Muninn was also there, accompanied by Vor, ten astonishingly beautiful women, and two little girls.

Before the stone sentries could charge to their deaths, Muninn shouted, "Stand down! This man is Vahn Aldrnari Mason, the Sage Dragon Emperor and a respected guest of the Allfather!"

In response to Muninn's command, the giant stone soldiers immediately stopped before standing at attention and performing a warrior's salute. At the same time, Vor and the girls Vahn presumed to be her younger sisters each took a knee, declaring, "It is our honor to welcome the Sage Dragon Emperor and his guests." in unison.

Sliding off of Fenrir's body, Vahn helped Sis down before turning to face Muninn and the thirteen Valkyries kneeling behind her. When he did, the former immediately returned a smile and a polite curtsy as she said, "You certainly took your time..."

Though Muninn's words could be considered a faux pas, Vahn adopted a faint smile as he replied, "It's my first time visiting the South Side. A bit of sightseeing is to be expected."

Nodding her head as if to approve of Vahn's response, Muninn gestured for Vor and the rest to rise before asking, "Will you allow us to escort you to Valhalla?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Vahn linked his arms with Sis and Fenrir before musing, "Better you than some old guy with a beard."

Understanding that Vahn was talking about Hermóðr, Muninn giggled at the latter's expense before leading the way to the city of silver and gold that existed on the horizon.

...

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Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 2298: Meandering
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