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Though Asgard appeared relatively close, that was due to its enormous size. The length of the Bifrost was the same as the distance between the Earth and Sun, so, under normal circumstances, those attempting to cross the rainbow-hued bridge would need to span 150,000,000km to reach the planet-sized city on the opposite end.
Fortunately, not that it would have mattered for Vahn and Co, the Bifrost functioned similarly to an autowalk for those that had permission to use it. The moment they stepped onto its surface, the crystalline bridge beneath their feet glowed with a brilliant rainbow hue before moving them forward at the speed of light.
Breaking the silence, Muninn stated, "It will take approximately eight and a half minutes to reach Asgard via the Bifrost Bridge. Shall we fill the time with introductions~?"
Though he was tempted to refuse, Vahn eventually nodded his head in response to Muninn's proposal. He already knew the names of each of the Valkyries, but he didn't want to appear unnecessarily rude or standoffish.
With a gratified smile on her face, Muninn gestured to Vor, stating, "As you are well aware, this is Vor Odinsdottir, the Herald of Spears."
With her futuristic dress blossoming outward, Vor accompanied Muninn's introduction with a courteous bow, appended, "It is a pleasure to behold Your Imperial Majesty's esteemed countenance…"
Scrunching his brows and nose, Vahn retorted, "Seriously? You can forgo the unnecessary pleasantries. This isn't an audience chamber."
Rising to her full height, Vor adopted a faint but discernible smile as she cooly replied, "My apologies. I just thought I'd set a good example for my sisters to follow."
Restraining a sigh, Vahn shifted his attention to the two Valkyries standing to Vor's left, a diminutive duo with nearly identical appearances. They were a lot smaller than the other Valkyries present, but their most notable traits were their dark hair, clearly mechanical legs, and metallic antennae.
With completely disinterested looks on their faces, the two Valkyries cast a glance towards Muninn before staring back at Vahn and declaring, "We are GÃ¶ll and GeirÃ¶lul, Outriders of the White Raven."
Following the duo's synchronous introduction, Muninn explained, "Their physical bodies are located back at Headquarters. What you see before you are mechanical avatars used for scouting purposes."
Before Muninn had finished her explanation, Vahn had already shifted his intent to the location of GÃ¶ll's and GeirÃ¶lul's actual bodies. When he did, a frown immediately marred his expression as they were little more than heads and torsos integrated into a machine resembling a tree.
Noticing the not-so-subtle change in Vahn's expression, Muninn quickly appended, "So long as the core of a Valkyrie remains intact, their spirits can be transplanted into another container. The Valkyries making up our internal network-"
Shaking his head, Vahn said, "Enough. I know you aren't 'forcing' them to serve as Operators. I don't need to hear your excuses…"
Though the White Raven Community's method appeared significantly more morbid, Vahn was also guilty of creating beings whose sole purpose was overseeing or comprising a network. Will, Ark, Shadow, Mother, and the Companions were good examples, so it would be hypocritical of him to condemn Muninn for doing something similar.
"When you return to the R&D Department, you should speak with Da Vinci about overhauling and upgrading your current network. At the very least, she can help you implement a less…macabre method."
Following a sigh of relief, Muninn regained her smile as she said, "I will do as you say. I appreciate your understanding."
Shaking his head a second time, Vahn cut the exchange short by shifting his attention to the next Valkyrie, a slender woman with pale-blonde hair, synthetic blue eyes, and an outfit reminiscent of a Maid. However, unlike a typical Maid, there were two futuristic-looking cannons flanking her and a number of secondary weapons hidden beneath her skirt.
With Vahn directing his attention to her, the Maid-like Valkyrie performed a curtsy that revealed she also had stylish yet mechanical legs. However, unlike GÃ¶ll and GeirÃ¶lul, hers were clearly intended for offense rather than agility.
"It is a pleasure to make Your Majesty's acquaintance. My name is Herja Odinsdottir, though I am better known as The Valkyrie of Devastation. If there is anything I can do to be of service, please do not hesitate to ask."
Though he was tempted to ask why Herja was dressed as a Maid, Vahn didn't actually care. He was more focused on getting the introductions over with, so he immediately shifted his attention to the next Valkyrie, a strangely plain-looking girl with short brown hair and a glum expression on her face. Unlike the other Valkyries present, the somber-looking girl appeared to blend into the background despite adorning silvery-white armor and wielding a massive claymore.
Answering in the slender Valkyrie's stead, Muninn explained, "This is Pawn, The Valkyrie of Silence. Contrary to her name and title, her voice is so mighty that it can shake the Heavens and rend the earth asunder. As a result, she is unable to speak under ordinary circumstances."
Rolling his eyes, Vahn manifested a tiny rune at the tip of his index finger before flicking it at Pawn's throat. She hardly reacted at first, only staring back at him with a confused expression as he said, "Speak." in a calm yet authoritative tone.
With Muninn nodding her head in approval, Pawn only hesitated for a brief moment before saying, "Yes…?" in a soft, incredibly meek tone of voice. It had a mysterious, resonating quality, but it was nothing like the booming voice everyone except Vahn, Sis, and Fenrir anticipated.
Nodding his head in approval, Vahn shifted his attention to Muninn as he questioned, "You're telling me that Odin couldn't fix such a simple issue?"
Adopting a fairly severe expression, Muninn answered, "In our culture, it is believed that the responsibility of mastering inborn Gifts and abilities falls to those they are born to. We do not live with the expectation that others will appear to solve all of our problems…"
Realizing the flaw in her argument, Muninn's words gradually trailed off towards the end. After all, Vahn had literally come to the Nine Realms to solve a problem they were unable to remedy themselves…
Fortunately for Muninn, Vahn was well acquainted with the hypocrisy of the strong. He did his best never to go back on his word, but there were times when his actions, especially when he was upset, went against his better judgment. Thus, rather than calling her out, he turned his gaze to Pawn, asking, "Should I undo the enchantment, or will you accept it as a gift…?"
Without having to consider her response, Pawn performed a knightly bow as she softly replied, "It is an honor to receive the Sage Dragon Emperor's blessing…"
After nodding his head in approval, Vahn passed his gaze over the rest of the Valkyries present, stating, "I suppose I owe the rest of you a gift…as you introduce yourself, tell me if there is something you desire."
As Vahn's eyes came to rest on a Valkyrie whose appearance strongly resembled the Medusa from the Nasuverse, the spear-wielding woman returned a fairly predatory smile as she declared, "My name is Randgrid Odinsdottir, the Shieldbreaker. If we're able to request anything, I would be remiss not to ask for Your Majesty's favor."
Following a somewhat uncomfortable silence, the world atop the Bifrost seemed to 'jolt' for a brief moment before Randgrid appeared sprawled out on the ground. Her clothes didn't appear out of place, but her eyes were utterly unfocused as she stared up at the sky with an enraptured expression on her face.
Though she wasn't even remotely surprised, Sis covered her mouth as if she were shocked by the sudden change in Randgrid's state. This was a stark contrast to Fenrir, who couldn't help remarking, "Dumb bird…" under her breath.
Seeing their sister sprawled out on the ground, the other Valkyries came to the realization that Vahn would meet just about any of their demands. Fortunately, none of them were as 'brazen' as Randgrid, who, in the end, only tempted Vahn due to her eternal rivalry with Vor…
Observing the events occurring on the Bifrost, Odin couldn't help issuing a light chuckle. There were moments when Vahn reminded him a lot of his younger self, long before he became known as the Allfather.
Hearing the ghostly yet familiar voice, the smile on Odin's wrinkled face faded, replaced by a grave expression as he commanded, "Show yourself, Loki."
In response to Odin's command, an androgynous figure Vahn would have compared to Merlin manifested from within a spatial tear. At a glance, it was impossible to determine whether or not they were male or female, as not only were their features fair, but their outfit consisted of ornate robes, a skirt, checkered leggings, and a shawl.
With hair that flickered like ghostly blue flames, cat-like eyes, and a smile that revealed rows of razor-sharp teeth, Loki approached their father with teetering, almost zombie-like steps as they said, "Long time no see, pops. Did you miss me~?"
While Odin maintained a fierce expression, Frigg adopted a sad smile as she softly muttered, "Loki…" in the kind of longing tone that only mothers could manage. However, before she could speak further, Odin interrupted, asking, "When did you revive, and what is your aim?"
Tilting their entire body to the side, defying physics as they never lost their balance, Loki sullenly replied, "What? No warm words of welcome for your beloved child? And to think, we used to be so close in the past…"
Using their unnaturally long tongue, Loki licked their lips as they placed their hand over their abdomen. In response, Odin erupted from his throne, a three-pronged golden spear manifesting in his right hand as he shouted, "You have no place here! Begone…!"
Instead of trying to dodge, Loki adopted an ostensibly lazy expression of disgust as Odin's spear pierced through their illusory heart. Even though they were an illusion, they could still feel a phantom pain permeating their body as it was Odin's spear, Gungnir, that ended their previous life.
"Seriously, pa? For someone famous for their wisdom, you do some pretty foolish things…"
With his singular eye blazing with a fierce blue light, Odin brandished his spear and said, "Do not tempt me, Loki…"
Despite shivering violently, Loki managed a mischievous smile as they hugged their body and retorted, "You've already pierced me with both of your spears. What more can you do to me~?"
Inhaling deeply, Odin was about to send his spear flying to Loki's actual location before Frigg stepped in, asking, "Why have you come here, Loki? You're not the type to imperil your life like this…"
Adopting a sharp-toothed smile, Loki cast a glance toward their adoptive mother, answering, "I came to warn you. The Community I belong to does not want to see the Sage Dragon Emperor accumulate even greater power and authority. If he extends an offer for you to join him, please refuse…as much as I hate every fiber of your being, you're still my parents. If anyone is going to destroy you, it should be me…"
Furrowing his brows, Odin firmly declared, "Asgard will never bend the knee to another." before asking, "You said you belong to a Community? Which one?"
Holding their index finger up to their lips, Loki replied, "Come now, father. Have you gone senile with your old age? You know I can't answer such a quest-"
Before Loki could finish speaking, Odin slashed his Gungnir through the former's illusion, dissipating it. Then, with his senses spread through all of Asgard, he exhaled an exasperated sigh and grumbled, "That fool…" as he witnessed his second eldest son charging towards the Bifrost.
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