99.44% Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos / Chapter 1801: Understanding

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Chapter 1801: Understanding

Even if she had decided it for herself, Vahn's couldn't help feeling slightly annoyed by Nezera's unwillingness to compromise. For a brief moment, he even considered using his [Subjugation] skill in order to give her time to reflect and change her views. This was the same as forcing her against her will, however, so Vahn ultimately decided against it.

In the end, Vahn decided to cremate Nezera's body using flames infused with Holy and Purification energies. This effectively erased much of her Ego but it also removed any lingering resentment that might influence her fate in the afterlife. He didn't want her to have to suffer for thousands of years in some kind of Netherworld just because she obeyed her instincts so it was the least he could do before sending her off.

The 'Transcendental Path to Heaven' actually had a number of Realms where Spirits would reside after death, the most noteworthy being the Divine, Celestial, Mortal, Purgatory, and Netherworld Realms. There were countless others belonging to individual factions, but they were all subsidiary Realms that existed within the Five Major Realms. The most important thing was that the Mortal Realm basically served as a vetting process that determined where you would be sent after death.

According to the Sacred Tome of Prophecy, most Souls were cycled into Purgatory immediately following the death of their physical body. This particular Realm was very similar to a Cultivation World, a place where a person's individual power could easily elevate them to a level above Gods and Demons. Your status and talent in this world were entirely dependent upon the Karma you had accumulated during your life so it was important to live a balanced yet meaningful life unless you wanted to become nothing more than a stepping stone on someone else's path.

Vahn found this particular iteration of Purgatory rather novel but it was nothing compared to his impression of the Celestial and Netherworld Realms. These places seemed completely nonsensical, the former representing a macrocosm of various iterations of Heaven while the latter was a melting pot of countless Realms ruled by beings known as Overlords. As for the Divine Realm, it actually had an entirely separate structure from the other Realms, and, unless you accepted an invitation from an entity that already existed there, it was impossible to access.

As fate would have it, the Tower was actually one of the bridges that connected the Mortal Realm to Purgatory. From there, you would have access to both the Celestial and Netherworld Realms, but, as could be expected, you basically had to die in order to ascend. This wasn't a true death, however, as you would be allowed to keep your memories and any 'inborn talents' you might have possessed.

Unfortunately, your status would still be entirely dependent upon the Karma you had accumulated in life, so, depending on the decisions you had made, you could be reborn into a family that would shun, mistreat, or even kill you for possessing more talent than your 'betters'. Transmigrators were also greatly feared by the various Sects that dominated Purgatory so there was a very real chance your own biological parents might kill you for 'possessing' and 'killing' their child.

There were countless examples of Kings, Emperors, and even 'Gods' from the Mortal Realm being killed shortly after transmigrating into Purgatory. Their own knowledge and expectations actually became their downfall, as, the moment they began behaving strangely or revealing knowledge they shouldn't possess, various factions would immediately attempt to eliminate them. Fortunately, even this was not the end of life as death within Purgatory would result in you being sent to the Celestial or Netherworld Realms.

Simply put, the 'Transcendental Path to Heaven' had a clearly defined circle of reincarnation and transmigration. The Mortal Realm effectively served as a starting point for the countless lives you would experience after death. This wasn't an exaggeration, either, as there were apparently more than thirty-seven-billion subsidiary Realms within just one cosmological system in a macrocosm containing eighteen parallel multiversal structures. Even the Sacred Tome of Prophecy wasn't able to reveal exactly how many worlds there were as an infinite number were constantly being created and destroyed by beings that regard entire universes as subatomic particles...

---

After cremating Nezera's body and taking a few minutes to calm his mind, Vahn teleported near the base of the central island's World Tree. This was where the fifty-nine Regulars he had revived were being kept and monitored. He knew he had to take care of them soon as a few had already tried to wander off numerous times while one particularly bold individual had attempted to carve his initials into the trunk of the World Tree. This resulted in him being launched away by the World Tree itself, deterring any future attempts to haphazardly approach it.

Upon noticing the arrival of the 'God' who had revived them, the majority of the Regular present immediately rose to their feet and attempted to crowd around Vahn. This resulted in a few of them walking face-first into a cushion of air while others were kept at bay by the sudden appearance of Fenrir in her wolf transformation, towering over everyone but still somehow appearing smaller than the man who was barely larger than her paw.

Gesturing for Fenrir to behave, the Vanargandr in question plopped down with her snout near his hand so that he could stroke it as he said, "I know you all have a lot of questions but I'm afraid this is where our paths diverge. I have decided that it will drastically reduce the time it takes for each of you to recover by simply erasing your memories of the events leading up to your deaths. After that, you will be released from this place with materials and supplies that have already been prepared for you. I'm certain you can understand how problematic it would be if my ability was to become public knowledge so please accept my decision without any fuss."

With Vahn possessing a mystical resort world and the ability to resurrect the dead, more than half of the fifty-nine Regulars attempted to protest his decision. They were grateful for the fact he had saved them but the temptation of being on the same team with a literal God was simply too great. Following him virtually guaranteed they would be able to reach the top of the Tower as they could simply stay in his resort world when things got dangerous and be revived if any accidents were to occur.

Unfortunately for them, even though quite a number begged and pleaded to become his servants, Vahn had no need for such things. Team Wolf Pack already had enough members to comprise four full parties despite the fact they hadn't even reached the 20th Floor. Most of the Tests beyond that point only allowed for Parties between 6~8 people to participate at a time. It was possible to work around this by forming Alliances or simply waiting for stragglers to catch up between Floors, but it was almost inevitable that the team was split into multiple named parties at some point in the near future.

Vahn had no intention of forming his own faction before passing the test on the 100th Floor and obtaining the right to rule over a Floor. After that, he would slowly gather the Templates he would leave behind during his climb, rapidly expanding his influence while developing a power that could directly oppose the Jahad Empire and maintain order within the Middle and Outer Floors. He didn't have any particular requirements for the people that would join his faction but there was simply no sense in recruiting below average Regulars who demonstrated greed in the face of mercy...

Since it was never really an option, Vahn ultimately placed the entire group of Regulars into a deep slumber before asking Madara to erase their memories. He could do it himself, but her Mangekyou Sharingan allowed her to peer into a person's mind, read, and erase their memories. She could also use it to cast powerful Genjutsu, but, as he was immune to any techniques that directly affected the mind, Vahn wasn't able to experience them. Only illusions that affected the world around him could bypass the capabilities of his [Eyes of Truth] so he was immune to the Sharingan and the majority of its techniques.

Fortunately, none of the Regulars present shared this immunity so it only took a few hours before Madara had completed the process. Afterward, the groups were ejected from the Little Garden and deposited at various locations on the 8th Floor. This was a boon Vahn had decided to grant them as 'compensation' for not allowing them to accompany Team Wolf Pack up the Tower. He also placed a few essential supplies within their respective Inventories; so, while they were bound to be confused by the fact they had 'skipped' a Floor, they would also be pleasantly surprised when they discovered the free goodies that had seemingly appeared out of thin air...

---

With the Regulars being taken care of over the course of several hours, Vahn visited the rooms of the three human-hating women to hear their answers. They were actually fairly powerful, but, most importantly, Ohta and Alea were a Spear Bearer and a Light Bearer respectively. Team Wolf Pack was in need of both if they were to form three complete Teams so Vahn decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves.

Though it might seem a little unfair towards the Regulars he had refused, Vahn couldn't help but empathize with the trio's hatred for humans. Ohta had been forced to fight in a Coliseum-like arena after bandits had raided her home village, killing the men before making sport of the women. As for Alea, she was a former Priestess who ended up earning the fancy of a King during a diplomatic visit. They had been trying to address the growing issue of humans illegally hunting and gathering within Elven territory. Things were going relatively well up until the point that the King requested that Alea be gifted to him as a 'gesture of good faith' between the two nations. This was promptly refused by the delegation, but, not taking no for an answer, the King commanded his Knights to massacre the group of envoys before capturing, imprisoning, and attempting to **** Alea.

Fortunately, Alea avoided a much worse fate thanks to Headon appearing before her and offering her the opportunity to climb the Tower. He baited her with the promise of freedom and the chance to get revenge on the people who had killed her kinsmen. She immediately accepted his terms, but, due to her weakness and beauty working against her, she ended up spending more than two years on the 3rd Floor. This caused her resentment towards humankind to grow exponentially as she was constantly pressured into either becoming a prostitute or becoming someone's woman just for a chance to move further up the Tower. It wasn't until Tasha came along that she was finally given a chance to move up, and, as a result of her growing hatred, her personality had gradually become a little twisted despite her Pure Light Elemental Affinity.

Vahn didn't want to be just another negative chapter in the girls' rather tragic stories so he decided to give them a chance to turn their lives around. They were far from irredeemable, and, though they had committed a number of atrocities, this didn't particularly distinguish them from other Regulars. Rather, they had actually spared a number of people while guarding the 7th Floors Boss Room, the majority being women. As for why they decided to keep and torture the eleven-year-old boy, it was because he a branch member of the Hendo Lok Family, one of the Ten Great Families.

Though they didn't even know about the existence of the Ten Great Families prior to climbing the Tower, Tasha, Ohta, and Alea had quickly learned to resent them. The descendants of the Ten Great Families treated the Tower as their playground, and, though she had been seriously injured in a few of her fights, Tasha's traits as a werewolf allowed her to heal from most wounds. Her only scar was the one over her left eye, the direct result of offending a pompous member of the Tu Perie Family by refusing to join their party.

What made the Hendo Lok Family unique, other than the fact they had the highest inherent Shinsu Resistance among the Ten Great Families, was that their Leader, Hendo Lok Bloodmadder, siphoned the lives of his own offspring to support his Immortality. He had been denied the same Immortality Contract as the other Great Warriors so he ended up agreeing to sacrifice the lifespans of his own progeny just to sustain himself. This guaranteed that his children would live much shorter lives than the average inhabitants of the Tower so they often had to lie about their identities just to be able to marry into other families.

Needless to say, there were a lot of stigmas associated with being a descendent of the Hendo Lok Family. It was still one of the Ten Great Families, however, so the offspring were just as strong, if not stronger, than the children of other Great Families. The name also provided a number of benefits to those who were willing to bear it so it wasn't uncommon for Regulars descending from the Hendo Lok Family to embrace their heritage for the sake of an easier ascent. After all, they had very limited lifespans so they had a very strong drive to ascend the Tower in order to earn a few hundred years for themselves.

Vahn pitied the young boy quite a bit, but, due to his heritage, his nature was already twisted even before his encounter with the formerly five-woman group. He ended up killing the party's second Scout, a member of the Tabby Cat tribe who, quite literally, looked like a bipedal cat wearing human clothes. His attack ended up injuring the young feline beyond recognition, so, after eliminating the rest of his party, Tasha turned the severely injured youth over the Nezera with the order to torment him for as long as possible without killing him. As a result, he had been kept in a heavily injured and anemic state for weeks, both as a punishment and a precaution against him recovering enough to threaten them...

(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'I smell something spoiled...','Bunch of leeches xD...','The Cycle of Hatred is fueled by tragedy and loss...')

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