Hestia pursed her lips, nerves starting to get the best of her as sweat matted her brows. Intuitively, she knew the entire dynamic of Orario would change from the moment she first met Shirou and the others, but she'd never anticipated it for it to be this soon.
Forcibly swallowing her panic and unease, Hestia mustered the courage to remain firm for the sake of hearth and family. Hands growing clammy, she took a step forward and put on a brave front.
Judging from the severity of Apollo's expression and the determined eyes of the people behind him, he'd brought his entire Familia for this endeavor. All were armed and equipped with their bows, armours, and weapons while Apollo stood at the helm.
Arguably, the moment pressure from other Familias was lifted from Apollo at the conclusion of Iris's banquet, Apollo regained freedom of movement. Otherwise, the other Gods would not have stopped hounding him about Caster.
"If this is because of the banquet, it's not funny Apollo." Hestia said, staring at Apollo. "Leave. I have nothing to say to you."
A chill traveled down Hestia's back.
The Apollo she knew would have laughed or at least reacted to her rejection, but the one before her was displaying a level of concentration she'd never thought him capable of.
"Does it look like I came for a negotiation?"
Was she really dealing with the same Apollo?
"..." Hestia furrowed her brows. A part of her could sense aspects of her divinity reacting with Apollo.
She was the Goddess of the Hearth and Family, and the only aspect about Apollo that would resonate with her domain was if he was fighting on behalf of his-
"It's strange." Apollo murmured, cutting off Hestia's trail of thought.
No. It wasn't cut off. Hestia just let it.
She just didn't want to consider Apollo's perspective in this as the primary party of blame. Familial ties were her strongest support and strength, but familial conflicts were Hestia's bane.
A father's struggle to reach out to a son, or a son's rejection of the father…family wasn't meant to be like this. Hestia rejected it on a fundamental level because she could empathize with both as the patron of home and family!
"What?" Hestia muttered nervously, trying to prevent hesitation from bleeding into her.
What if Apollo just wanted to make up? W-What if she were perpetrating a continued familial conflict that had the chance to be reconciled? N-No.
In the end, Hestia was biased, swayed by the tragedies she knew Caster had or would soon experience through Apollo's own negligence. The true cause of her doubt and sympathy was the evident one-sided affection Apollo had for a son who clearly hated him. For Hestia, this aspect was the most gut wrenching, but a child's wounds were more pressing than the wounds of the father.
Hestia made her choice.
And that's why she was the best auntie.
Hestia swallowed and hardened her resolve. She would not allow Apollo to make Asclepius feel any worse than he already was about family.
She raised her guard and eliminated any thoughts of giving ground.
Sensing the change, Apollo's lips thinned.
"Why aren't you running?" He asked, more for himself than Hestia as his mind turned. Although free spirited, Apollo was a God of divination and intuition. The oracles of Delphi attested to the claim. "You know you're our target."
Hestia knew she'd made a mistake. She should have run from the moment she saw Apollo and her Familia, not hesitate in front of the forest she came out of.
"The fact you aren't running means there's something behind."
'Shirou and the others were going to scold me. Or not. They weren't the sort. If anything, Iris would for sure. A goddess should know better; well, at least a competent one.' Hestia inwardly wilted. Rather than pump herself up, she was demoralizing herself instead. 'Ugh.'
She was shooting her own foot.
"I live here!" She shouted weakly, unintelligibly.
"Home is where the heart lies, Hestia." Apollo quickly began to make inferrals at Hestia's own haste. "I am no fool. You're hiding something in the forest behind you, and the only thing that would pertain to me is-"
Somehow, she really missed Apollo's old foppish nature, but people change in pursuit of goals. That much was a given.
The jig was up the moment Apollo's attention shifted from Hestia and focused on what was behind her with unwavering intensity.
"You won't get your way." Hestia swallowed, standing her ground not for her sake, but for her nephew's. "…can't you see this situation was caused by your own willfulness?!"
"You're right." Apollo readily agreed, throwing Hestia off.
"R-Really?" Hestia perked up.
"I am too willful. Too caught up in emotion before deciding right and wrong."
"And that's why your attempts at convincing me fall short."
"Apollo!" The glare in Hestia's eyes had never looked so frightening, but unfortunately, it served to bolster Apollo's assumption.
"Capture her." Apollo turned and instructed his Familia. Judging from their solemn faces, Apollo must have shared his purpose with them to so easily convince them to act. Roguish as he was when recruiting Familia members, Apollo never mistreated them, and now he was earnestly asking for their help. "If she runs, ignore her and explore what's in that forest."
Hyakinthos Clio, the lvl 3 Captain of the Apollo Familia led the charge. He was flanked by the executive Daphne and Lissos, while Cassandra, Luan, and two others supported from behind.
Hestia clicked her tongue and raised her arms up. In her hands, embers began to rise and burn, forming a protective flame she controlled to spread around her. Known as the Eternal Torch by Ouranos, its potency was severely weakened in the lower world unless Hestia had access to an altar.
As it stood now, it was a level of divine flame that could be breached by high level adventurers. The problem was that Apollo would surely know of Hestia's power as a member of the Olympian Gods.
Expectedly, Apollo didn't bat an eye. Instead, a golden bow appeared in his hands made of finely crafted wood, stretched animal fiber, and large burning pinioned feathers on either end.
It was the personal weapon of the God Apollo of the Upper World.
Nocking the bow, light gathered into an orange flame that was sleek at the base and white hot at the tip.
Sun Arrows, the very ones said to always hit true. In another reality, it was this very arrow that robbed the mighty Achilles of his invulnerability.
Hestia paled. As confident as she was in her protective flame stemming from her divinity as the Goddess of the Hearth, she knew she wasn't a God oriented towards combat.
"Do it just like practice!" Clio ordered his team.
Before Hestia had much time to react, Clio and the others of the Apollo Familia rushed at her.
Protective flame near instantly created a swath of divine power that spread out with Hestia at the center, forming a defensive wall. Air headed at the worst of times or not, Hestia was a Goddess who lorded over a sacred realm in the upper world of the Greek Pantheon. Her flames, though weakened in the lower world, were too much for most adventurers to handle, more so if she had an altar.
However, there was a key difference in this confrontation.
A divine arrow pierced through Hestia's wall of flames, creating an opening in which the Apollo Familia leapt through. Beyond the opening, Hestia met eyes with Apollo and felt her stomach twist.
Biting on her lip, Hestia dodged an arrow shot by Clio, but the arrow itself was homing.
Shifting trajectory, the arrow redirected back to Hestia.
Lifting her fingers up, she hastily conjured fire in her hand and caught the arrow. Burning the arrow's shaft, the arrowhead and fletching fell apart in the ashes.
Quickly looking ahead of her, Hestia tried to stop Clio's movements, but felt resistance on her body. A restraining ability?
Grunting, Hestia broke through with sheer divinity as a Goddess. You have to remember, but all magic granted from a Falna stemmed from the divinity of a God. In which case, to enact an adventurer's power over another God was to overpower their divinity. Against another adventurer, level would surely come into play, but against a God, a prime source of divinity?
Hestia barely even appeared to have been restrained.
Already with low self-esteem, Cassandra pursed her lips at the failed attempt.
Hestia refocused on Clio and the others supporting him, aiming a hand towards them.
Tongues of fires flickered around her palm, but she was limiting the heat and intensity. It would hurt, but it shouldn't kill them.
"Cassandra, the elbow!" Clio called.
Hestia furrowed her brows as she took aim.
This time, resistance came at a focused point rather than her whole body. Though weak, it still managed to shift Hestia's aim.
Rather than strike Clio with her flame, the fires caught Lissos and Luan instead, forcing the two to retreat.
The problem was- Hestia clenched her teeth.
Clio was rapidly narrowing the distance.
Once more, Hestia tried to create a wall of fire, but again, another of Apollo's sun arrows pierced through.
A-Ah, Hestia swallowed, realizing the gravity of her situation. Maybe she shouldn't have gone here alone?
Flinching, she raised her arms up to shield her face when Clio struck out to subdue her.
A shadow fell upon her, the lumbering form of a bronze giant intercepting Clio's strike and lifting him with a single arm.
"W-What?" Clio blinked several times, unable to register the speed of the adversaries movements.
"That is enough." The giant clenched his fists around Clio's forearm, and hurled him back to his allies.
Clio screamed from the inertia, but quickly righted himself when Luan caught him.
Standing before Hestia was one of Greek Legends mightiest heroes of another reality.
Heracles of the Twelve Labours, summoned in his prime state as an Archer-Class Servant.
Long mane of hair billowing in the wind, the stony expression of Heracles's face, coupled with the very demeanor that screamed 'Hero,' rendered the area silent.
Was it awe, or fear? Pressure was emanated with just that man standing there.
A single movement could mean sever injury.
A wild beast, yet not. A predator, yet not. But a warrior, for certain.
The only one unaffected was Apollo who expected this sort of situation from the moment he linked his son with Heracles, Achillies, and Shirou in Iris's banquet.
"All of you, stand down." Apollo stepped forward, discarding his pompous suit and attire in a blinding light as he met eyes with Heracles.
Suit burning into ashes, what remained in the radiance of Apollo's divinity was a form fitting Greek Hoplite armour fashioned golden motifs of the sun and the horns of a ram.
"A-Apollo!" Apollo's Familia flinched in realization. "You can't?!"
There was something that all should understand. Even the strongest Adventurer borrowed the power of their God.
Which meant to say that it wasn't that Gods were weak in Orario, but rather they were all too strong. Even Hestia could over power the highest-level adventurer if she was willing to sacrifice.
"Apollo!" Hestia was appalled as she saw Apollo's current form, reflecting his true appearance in the Upper World. "Y-You, do you not know what you're doing?!"
Arcanum, the power of a God unleashed in the lower world.
Golden laurels adorned Apollo's head, setting them aflame with the radiant light of the sun.
"I am…a father. I will see my child."
Apollo raised his bow, and the distant stars above illuminated the horizon. Morning became noon, and the sun above stood directly overhead.
Divine pressure charged the entire area with an air of mystics that Heracles was all too familiar with in the Age of the Gods.
A beam poured down from the sun like trickling water, falling over Apollo's bow where arrows of divine flame ignited the weapon. Super heating, the golden bow turned white.
"Step down." Apollo gave his sole warning.
Heracles raised his own bow, his spirit blazing.
Of the twelve labours, none had Heracles face a God. But of his fellow brothers and Demi-Gods, he was the closest to rivaling their strength. On this day, he would be the one to shoot down the sun.
Magic energy erupted out of Heracles in a storm of lightning. The clouds above darkened, dimming Apollo's radiance as thunder clouds manifested over head.
Muted, Hestia couldn't shake the image of Zeus and Apollo's divinities clashing in the Upper World. Hestia had not been absent to witness the rage of Achillies, but she was here now to see the splendor of a hero of her own pantheon of another world who was immortalized into a God.
Was this the true power of a Demi-God?
Clio and the other members of the Apollo Familia paled. It was one thing to hear rumours of what happened in the banquet of the Gods, and it was another to see and verify it.
Apollo narrowed his eyes, feeling his body strain as he calculated the extent of damage a shoot out would cause.
At the very least, the entire forest would be destroyed. Once, he'd nearly killed his son with his own hands, leaving him for dead in Coronis's womb and never knowing he was even there.
But now, if his son was truly in that forest, Apollo could not risk it.
Staring at Heracles, Apollo reeled in his divine aura to an extent and called out to his adversary.
If he was a true son of Zeus, a member of Olympus in the upper realm, then he would understand.
"I am Apollo, God of the Sun and Light, patron of the arts, plagues, and medicine!" Apollo tossed his bow aside. Walking up to Heracles, he stopped a foot away from him, arms raised and hands clenched into fists, one outstretched to Heracles. "Requesting honoured combat."
The area fell silent, the hairs on the back of the neck rising.
Heracles understood and obliged.
"My name is Alcides, renamed Heracles." Heracles tossed aside his own bow and sword. Fists raised; he met Apollo's outstretched fist with his own. "Glory be to my father's name."
("This is ridiculous!")
As the Greeks do, Hestia's voice of reason was tossed to the wayside.
Grunting at each other after bumping fists, they turned their backs and walked five meters away before turning back around in fighting stances.
Light engulfed Apollo's fists, while rippling muscles flexed over Heracles's body.
"Let's have a fair fight!"
Faster than the blink of an eye, Apollo punched Heracles in the face, following with a volley of light speed jabs with unintended side effects.
Faces flashed in Apollo's mind. Scenes, images, all vague, but focused on an overwhelming feeling of despair as a man cried over the bodies of his own wife and children.
Penetrating Divine Sense spurred through direct contact filled Apollo's mind with discordant imagery at every blow.
Apollo flinched from the unexpected scene, before quickly shaking his head only to grunt as Heracles elbowed him in the gut, blurring his vision.
In contrast, the symphony of divine energy caused another peculiar phenomenon as Heracles landed his own strike.
Heracles saw the moment Apollo first met Coronis, Asclepius's mother in the lower world.
Staggering back, both of their faces hardened as they paused and glared at each other.
In another blink, fists clashed once more, sparking shockwaves that violently uprooted trees and shrubs.
Hestia shrieked, hands pressing on the hem of her gown as the force uplifted her over the ground and threatened to flip her dress. Apollo's Familia were no better, all blown away.
'-Heracles. It's not your fault.'
Apollo's lips thinned as he circled Heracles, and struck at the back of his knees, forcing the towering giant to kneel. Eyes flashing, Apollo targeted the neck with his arms, trying to put the giant in a choke hold.
'-Apollo, I've always been faithful!'
Heracles foiled Apollo's efforts and hit Apollo with an uppercut as the God of the Sun lunged.
Spittle flew, and the two exchanged another round of blows.
Apollo was faster, on another level in terms of Godspeed, but Heracles was stronger and more durable. For every three blows Apollo landed, Heracles only needed to hit one to even the damage.
Heracles punched Apollo. Hard. To the gut.
Wrenching over, Apollo backed away trying to catch his breath.
As Apollo looked up and saw Heracles, left fist tight ready to swing another, he flared his divinity and caught Heracles's arm. Rotating around Heracles's massive forearm, Apollo kicked Heracles in the jaw, the impact clacking his teeth and forcing the giant back, disorientated.
Apollo spit the blood pooling in his mouth and gave a war cry as he channeled flame into his fists and released it point blank into Heracles's stomach.
The heat melted the toga Heracles wore, but did little to damage the muscle enhanced with divinity beneath. The bastard didn't even budge.
Heracles suddenly grabbed Apollo in a bear hug and let his lighting surge. Smoke wafted as electricity ate away at Apollo's protective light.
Body spasming, Apollo headbutted Heracles.
Heracles froze, as Apollo looked at him with pity.
'-I've always…loved you. Always.'
Heracles did the same, as Apollo stiffened with guilt, both men feeling a sense of bitterness.
All the more reason!
Apollo ignited his entire body in fire, turning himself into a miniature sun, Heracles had no choice but release.
"So, even this isn't enough?" Apollo murmured, blood and bruises covering his body. However, not a trace of panic entered his expression.
If he was losing now, it just meant that he wasn't putting in enough energy. Heracles was clearly an opponent he could not face lightly like Apollo had hoped.
Hestia felt an onset of concern for the extent Apollo was willing to go.
"Apollo, if you go any further-!"
Hestia shielded her eyes as the divinity in the area continued to magnify.
The moment Apollo's power and divinity exceeded the capacity of his mortal shell, Apollo would be forced back to the upper world.
The zenith of the release was the full power of a God's Arcanum.
Apollo's hardened features, grew resigned. Even if it was only for a moment's meeting, it would be enough.
"Then so be it-"
"Wait." Heracles bowed his head in thought, Apollo stopping in doubt.
If women were known to gossip, then men were known to talk with their fists.
In this case, literally.
"Heracles?" Hestia called out in doubt.
Shaking his head, Heracles sagged.
Madness was a terrible thing, and the worst offense he'd ever committed under it was towards his own family. In his own way, the labours were his recompense, his chance at atonement.
Family at the very least was a virtue Heracles held close to heart. By a pittance of his own empathy, Heracles withdrew his oppressive force, and lost himself in the memory of his own tragedies.
The Greeks were hotblooded fools. Heroes born through strife and conflict, and others made through invoking despair at the whims of the Gods.
As the recipient of his own tragic circumstances.
He would not be the cause of another's.
"I will let him pass." Heracles said to Hestia who blinked in surprise.
Apollo even more so.
This was another world, and this Apollo wasn't wholly the same as the one they knew.
Therefore, the sins of the father were not wholly justified.
Heracles made up his mind using his own initiative.
"I will speak with Caster."
Thanks for reading!
Free web novel :[The Apostate in Grim Fantasy] (For those that asked, the web novel is available on webnovel and the patron main page, leave a review if you'd like! New goal is 20 reviews)
Next update: Birth of a Legend V2
P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious
New Book: Out on Amazon (Remove dash on link)
Survivor's Log Reflection: Amazon.c-om/dp/B08VDDGN7Z?