On the morning of Vahn’s second day in the dungeon, Hephaestus awoke in a groggy state. She felt uncomfortable, and after looking at her disorderly clothing, she began to recall memories of the previous night. Hephaestus was flustered as she tried to fix her clothing, but noticed there was a discomforting feeling coming from within the fabrics. Sighing, she eventually left the couch and changed her clothes at a wardrobe located on the far side of the office
After wearing some fresh clothes, Hephaestus stared at her dirty laundry and powerful embarrassment enveloped her. She couldn’t believe she had used Vahn as an accompaniment to her self-pleasuring. Remembering how innocent and naive he was, Hephaestus couldn’t help but feel ashamed of her actions. She felt as though, just like the clothing she had soiled, she was a very dirty person…
Trying to push the matters aside, Hephaestus tried to get some work done since she had slacked off the day prior. Unfortunately, this was also around the same time Vahn began his escapades on the second floor, and Hephaestus immediately became distracted by his increased heart rate. No matter how much she tried to ignore it, especially after the matters of the previous night, she was unable to do so. Eventually, she gave up trying to work and just put her head down on her desk while using her arms as a pillow.
Focusing her mind, she could feel the various moments of excitement Vahn was going through. Hephaestus felt like he must be enjoying himself, and she wondered what kind of monsters he was facing to be having so much fun. After listening to and experiencing the various emotions, Hephaestus was disturbed by a knocking at the door. With a grim face, she left her desk and approached the door to see who had come by.
Opening the door, Hephaestus recognized the man as one of her security detail. He was a tall man with lanky arms, black hair, and brown eyes named Jakk. “Yes, what is it Jakk? Why disturb my work…I am busy.” Hephaestus asked the question, but she noticed that Jakk just stared at her like he had seen something unbelievable. After a few moments, just as Hephaestus was beginning to get annoyed, the man pointed to her face and said, “Your eyepatch…it’s gone?”
Seeing his pointing, Hephaestus reached her hand up and touched her face. Just as Jakk had said, ever since Vahn healed her eye, Hephaestus hadn’t been wearing her eyepatch. Due to her dazed state, she had completely forgotten about the matter and answered the door out of habit. Hephaestus noticed that, as she was touching her face, the man named Jakk had a change in his expression as he smiled slightly. “I didn’t know you were so beautiful under the eyepatch. It’s a shame you don’t take it off more often.”
Hearing Jakk’s compliment, Hephaestus immediately felt sick in her stomach. In the years he had been working for her, other than a few looks every now and then, most of the security detail didn’t have the courage to speak to her, much less try to flirt with her. His words, though the sounded polite, were nothing by a grating noise in Hephaestus’s ears. “I asked why you are here,” Hephaestus spoke in a cold tone as she stared toward him angrily.
Jakk became flustered after seeing Hephaestus get angry; his eyes grew wide as he put his hands up in a defensive posture. He was just trying to give her a compliment, and he didn’t think she would take so much offense. “A-ah, there was a customer that wanted to establish a contract with you. They are waiting at the negotiations table…”
Hephaestus continued to glare at Jakk, even after he explained the purpose of his visit. In a cold voice, she spoke, “Tell them I am busy working on personal projects right now and am not taking any new clients for the time being. Leave here, and do not disturb me for the rest of the day.” Hephaestus disliked how, even though she was obviously annoyed by his ‘look’, Jakk continued to stare at her face and eye even after she gave him a harsh look.
Jakk nodded his head like a chicken before making his way toward his post. However, after he walked a few steps, he couldn’t help but turn his head to catch another glance at Hephaestus. Seeing the audaciousness of her employee, Hephaestus felt her anger reach a boiling point in an instant. In a cold voice, she slowly spoke the words, “You are fired. If I see you around my workshop in the future, I’ll have the City guards detain you.”
Hearing her words, Jakk’s mind blanked out and he tried to mumble an excuse but, seeing how angry Hephaestus looked, he didn’t have the courage to say anything. Bowing as low as he could, Jakk turned around and quickly left the premises without turning back. After a few minutes, the chief security guard Zaff came by and inquired about Jakk’s departure. Hephaestus still had her face uncovered, but Zaff had enough tact to keep his comments to himself. After hearing the reason, he apologized to Hephaestus and swore such a thing wouldn’t happen in the future.
For the next few hours, Hephaestus was in a foul mood. The fact someone thought they could hit on her the moment her face was healing really pissed her off. Even if they had no ill-intent, she wasn’t the type to take any flattery others were willing to dish out. Now that her face was no longer disfigured, Hephaestus felt an overwhelming sense of pride and confidence inside of her. She wouldn’t defer to anyone that simply saw her looks and planted a target on her without considering their place and capabilities.
In her angered state, the vision of a young boy flashed in her mind, and Hephaestus began to calm down. She released a long sigh and decided today would be another day where she was unable to get any work done. Instead, she decided she would visit the Divine Bathhouse and clean her body while relaxing. Even though she changed her clothing earlier, there was still a bit of discomfort which she wanted to wash away…
After her day at the Divine Bathhouse and a peaceful nights sleep, Hephaestus was in a much better mood than the previous day. When she had left yesterday, Hephaestus did so without wearing her eyepatch. She walked around confidently and drew the eyes of many onlookers along the way to her destination. When she finally arrived at the Divine Bathhouse, many of her fellow goddesses were in complete shock at seeing her uncovered face. Hephaestus spent the rest of the evening talking about Vahn and surrounded by people that teased her for doing so. After returning home, she was very tired and immediately fell asleep while listening to Vahn’s heartbeat.
Hephaestus decided she had to do some work today, or it would begin to pile up and become a problem in the near future. As the most prolific blacksmith in the City, she didn’t have much leisure time to sit around idling. No matter how much Vahn’s heartbeat distracted her, she still had to do her job, so she resolved herself and entered her workshop.
Several hours later, Hephaestus was making good progress on a sword, when she suddenly felt a powerful fear grip her chest. She immediately tossed the sword aside and began to focus on the beating in her soul. She could feel that Vahn wasn’t excited, but very, very afraid. The fear continued to build inside, and Hephaestus knew something was wrong, and Vahn had come across something that scared him terribly. The stronger his fear, the more afraid Hephaestus grew as well because there was nothing she was able to do to help.
Hephaestus immediately sent an emergency message to Tsubaki, who began gathering members for a rescue party. Those that showed up were predominately the members that had been gathered the previous time, and seeing their goddess without an eyepatch surprised them greatly. However, the most impactful part of the scene was how pale and concerned Hephaestus was acting, and they knew the matter was very serious for her to be in such dire straits.
As the members gathered outside of the entrance of the dungeon, similar to the previous incident, Hephaestus’s heart began to calm. She could sense that Vahn was no longer afraid, and realizing this, Hephaestus nearly collapsed to the ground in relief. Tsubaki had been nearby, and she caught Hephaestus before she was able to fall. “Is he okay now?” Tsubaki was also very concerned about Vahn, as Hephaestus had informed her about the connection they shared.
Hephaestus had a relieved smile on her face as she explained what she was feeling to Tsubaki. After understanding the situation, Tsubaki informed the rescue party and, though some of them were a bit annoyed, most of them were happy things had taken a positive turn. They stayed in the area for a while before agreeing to meet up later and have drinks, courtesy of Tsubaki, as repayment for their troubles.
Afterward, Tsubaki informed Hephaestus that there was an expedition heading into the dungeon later that day, so the two met with the representatives and passed Vahn’s information to them. Hephaestus made them vow that, if they met Vahn and he was in trouble, they would do whatever they could to assist him. Grant and Meryl agreed without much resistance, as they could see the concern and worry in their goddesses’ face. They wondered what kind of boy Vahn was to have made such an impact on their usually ‘cool’ and ‘stoic’ goddess.
The next two days passed relatively uneventfully. Hephaestus was still concerned with Vahn, but she could feel his heart beating steadily in her soul, and it brought her some level of comfort. Other than a few instances where he seemed excited, the next few days were much easier to deal with than the previous two. Hephaestus actually managed to get some work done and completed some of her contracts. The ‘eternal flame’ had become much more powerful recently, and Hephaestus even saw wisps of vermillion in the flame from time to time. With its cooperation, she was able to finish her tasks with incredible efficiency, so much so that it even surprised her.
After a relatively peaceful nights sleep, Hephaestus was awoken early the next morning by a knock on her door. As she was much calmer lately, she answered the door without any negative emotions clouding her mind. Instead of Jakk, the man she had fired, the messenger was now a powerful looking female. She was slightly taller than Hephaestus with auburn hair and purple eyes. “Good morning Hephaestus-sama, there is a Goddess named Anubis here who would like to speak with you.”
The woman was very polite, even though she had the build of a fierce warrior. Hephaestus made a note to commend Zaff for his selection of personnel later as she moved to the private meeting area where Hephaestus dealt with her VIP clientele. Entering the room, Hephaestus saw a very beautiful goddess with olive-brown skin, long black hair, large pointed chienthrope ears, a bushy tail, and a very regal attire. The most notable thing though were the eyes of the goddess, which seemed to contain a gentle golden light similar to the full moon.
Noticing Hephaestus’s entrance, the goddess put down the tea she was drinking and gave a polite bow toward the crimson-eyed goddess. “Greetings Goddess Hephaestus, I am known as Anubis, Goddess of the Anubis Familia that recently arrived in the City.” Hephaestus gave a curt nod before sitting on the opposite sofa. It wasn’t uncommon for gods and goddesses that recently arrived in the City to seek her out. Many wanted to form bonds and even establish cooperation with her, as she was the head of the 3rd most powerful Familia and the largest of all the production Familia in the City.
“What can I do for you, Anubis?” Hephaestus expected the normal courtesies and requests but was surprised when Anubis handed her a letter instead. Holding the envelope in her hands, Hephaestus gave Anubis a questioning look. Anubis said, “I was entrusted this letter by a boy named Vahn. He had given it to my children after they had…a misunderstanding.” Anubis frowned after recalling the event as recounted by her children. She felt both angry and thankful to the boy named Vahn, and his action of sparing her children was what led her to Hephaestus.
After hearing that it was a letter from Vahn, Hephaestus immediately opened it while asking,”What kind of misunderstanding? Vahn isn’t the type to approach people and cause trouble.” Hephaestus had noticed the ‘discomfort’of Anubis and thought she was concealing something. Before reading the letter, she wanted to confirm her suspicions. Anubis, hearing the question, sighed before explaining the events. As the recounting the second-hand tale, Hephaestus could feel the blood in her body turn cold as she glared at the goddess in front of her. For Vahn to attack people, he must have felt threatened or had a very good reason for doing so.
Hephaestus began reading the letter, and the cold blood in her veins seemed to drop an additional twenty degrees as a fierce rage began to spread through her mind. Within the letter, Vahn explained the events that had transpired from his perspective. He spoke of a god named Osiris that had been targeting him, and Hephaestus even believed he may have been the cause for Vahn’s fear previously.
Anubis, who had been sitting quietly across from Hephaestus, began to feel a cold sweat on her back as she stared toward the angry Goddess. As she was unaware of the contents of the letter, she had hoped it didn’t complicate the matters since Vahn seemed to be the rational type from her understanding. Eventually, Hephaestus finished the letter before coldly looking at Anubis. “Why are you and that idiot god after Vahn? Even if Vahn says you aren’t a threat if your answer doesn’t satisfy me…” As she spoke, Hephaestus’s expression grew grim as the stared into the frowning face of Anubis.
Anubis wasn’t afraid of Hephaestus, but imagining the danger her children would face, she couldn’t help but swallow her saliva under the pressure. “Even I am unsure of the reason. I was asked to come to the City by Osiris to help deal with an anomaly. According to him…the boy named Vahn does not have a soul. As both our divinities are related to death, we can see the soul of all living creatures. Osiris seems to have a grudge against Vahn, but I only wanted to confirm if the matter was true…”
Hephaestus nodded, but her expression hadn’t become any better after hearing Anubis’s explanation. She said, “For now, I want to meet this idiot named Osiris. As long as you stay out of my way, I’ll arrange for your meeting with Vahn once he returns. I can assure you, this is probably some scheme of that pathetic friend of your’s.” Hephaestus said the words with such confidence that even Anubis believed she had been tricked by Osiris. She already expected there to be a greater reason behind his hatred for the boy, and seeing the firm manner in which Hephaestus spoke, she felt like she had been used.
Later that day, the Hephaestus Familia had surrounded the location of the Osiris Familia, which happened to be in a disreputable location near Daedelus Street. It was a small, run-down facility that looked like a criminal’s hangout. After a brief conflict between the two Familia, Hephaestus ended up confronting Osiris who tried lashing out at her with various accusations and curses. Hephaestus struck the god fiercely across the face before detaining him using a seal specifically created to imprison gods. She would leave him with the Guild as they conduct their investigation, and if it turns out he was plotting against Vahn for personal reasons, she would make sure he received a one-way ticket back to Heaven.
Anubis had been present during the raid, and seeing the unquenchable anger of Hephaestus, she felt like she and Osiris had accidentally awakened a fierce beast from its slumber. She suddenly felt very thankful for Vahn having spared her children and writing the letter to redirect Hephaestus’s hatred away from her own Familia…
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Roller coaster of emotions’,’Don’t mess with bae’,’RIP Osiris’)