Hephaestus woke up early in the morning and felt completely refreshed. All of the fatigue she had been building up as of late had completely disappeared from her body. She could even feel her joints crack in a pleasant manner as she lifted herself from the couch. To the side, she was able to see Vahn curled up next to the couch. Seeing his sleeping face, Hephaestus felt that Vahn was very adorable. He had been so focused on her previously that he never even bothered to put his shirt back on before going to sleep.
Reaching out her hand, she gently poked his cheek like she had done so the first time he slept in her office. Seeing the ‘sad’ look and frown that he had after being poked, she nearly laughed out and wanted to squeeze his cheeks to tease him. Suddenly, while she was distracted by poking him, Vahn’s hand reached out and snatched her wrist. He opened his eyes and looked into the startled face of Hephaestus before smiling. Hephaestus blushed a bit before pulling her hand free of him and rising from the couch. “Good morning, Vahn. I’m sorry you had to sleep on the floor…”
Vahn jumped up from the floor and began to stretch his body to loosen up the tension in his joints. Hephaestus watched him perform his routine and marveled at how quickly his body had been maturing over the last few months. Though he was never skinny, now his muscled had slowly started building up and he cut a slightly masculine figure in the dim light of her office. Hephaestus was in a daze as she watched his muscles stretch and contort, and was genuinely surprised when she noticed how flexible he was.
Because Vahn had been using his Báihǔ form a lot in the dungeon, his body had slowly been changing to assume a more light and muscular shape. His muscles were incredibly flexible, and even his bones seemed to possess some degree of malleability as he contorted his body into uncommon positions. He was even able to nearly turn his torso 180 degrees while twisting his hips to stretch his back. Eventually, he noticed Hephaestus gawking at him, so Vahn assumed what he thought to be a ‘manly’ poses with his arms outstretched and his muscles flexing.
Hephaestus saw his display and nearly snorted before covering her mouth and stifling her laughter. Vahn smiled and said, “It is must better like this. It makes me feel happy when I see you laugh and smile.” After speaking, Vahn finished his routine and wore his tunic while Hephaestus stared at him with a vacant expression on her face. It felt like everything Vahn was saying and doing recently was slowly cementing itself into her heart.
She felt a mixture of emotions well up inside of her, and as Vahn had just finished putting on his tunic, she approached and gave him a hug. “I want to see you happy as well Vahn. Don’t push yourself too hard in the future. I don’t know how long my heart can last if I have to sit helplessly at your bedside again.” She put strength into her arms and prayed to a god greater than herself that he would be safe from harm in the future.
Afterward, Vahn and Hephaestus spent some time talking about various topics including her clients and the matters regarding the Osiris Familia. Anubis was supposed to be coming by soon, and Hephaestus began recounting the events that had happened in the City while Vahn had been away. He was surprised after hearing that Osiris had already been captured and detained by the Guild. Though he had expected Hephaestus to take action, he didn’t think she would make her move the same day the letter arrived…
After another hour-and-a-half, Hephaestus led Vahn to the waiting area where they had enjoyed tea and coffee previously. Just as she had done then, Hephaestus made Vahn some coffee and the two just sat in silence and enjoyed the atmosphere. While Vahn was thinking, Hephaestus looked at him with a lazy expression and a soft smile on her face. He returned the smile and noticed her eyes squint a little which made his heart flutter a bit as he slowly sipped away at his coffee.
Eventually, around 7 AM, Anubis, as well as her children, arrived outside Hephaestus’s workshop. Hephaestus tried to rise from the table to answer, but Vahn set his cup down before motioning for her to stay. She frowned slightly, but let Vahn do as he pleased as she replaced his coffee cup with her own. Hephaestus followed his back with her eyes as she slowly sipped away at the coffee he was previously enjoying.
Vahn opened the door and was greeted by a total of eight people, all of which were dark-haired Chienthropes. He was a bit surprised at the beauty of the woman who he assumed was Anubis, but managed to keep his calm before inviting them in. Anubis cave a curt nod, but her children immediately tensed up after seeing Vahn inside the residence. The last time they had seen him, he had beat them all while two of them, the girls at the very back of the group, instinctively moved their hands to their backsides.
Seeing their goddess enter the premises, they cautiously made their way passed Vahn who was having trouble keeping his smile. The looks the kids gave him made him feel incredibly guilty, especially the two young girls who stared at him with a begrudging expression. Had he known their identities at the time, he never should have shot them with his arrows in such a sensitive spot.
Vahn had learned that chienthropes and cat people were especially sensitive around the tops of their tails, which just so happened to be the spot where his arrows connected. He couldn’t even imagine the pain they had experienced and remembered that they had both blacked-out when he had originally retrieved their bodies.
After everyone entered, Vahn closed the door and secured the lock before making his way to the table where Hephaestus was seated. Anubis had joined Hephaestus at the table while her children scattered around in a loose circle and sat on the floor as they watched the scene with fear and intrigue. Vahn noticed that, after Anubis has originally set eyes on him, she had been staring at him almost exclusively since he arrived and sat with them.
Hephaestus noticed her gazed and made curt introductions, “Vahn, this is the Goddess Anubis. Anubis, he is the boy you wanted to see. Well, is there a problem?” Both Vahn and Anubis could sense the hostility in her words, especially when she asked her question. Anubis continued to stare at Vahn, and he could almost see her pale golden eyes glowing with a strange luminance. He felt like the two perfect circles were very reminiscent of the full moon, and they had a somewhat calming feeling.
Anubis slowly enunciated her words, “Are you human?” Hephaestus’s expression grew a bit darker, but Vahn shook his head slightly before responding. “I’m not sure of my origins, but I can say for certain that I am human.” Though Vahn knew Hephaestus thought he was 3/4 god, he was aware that was not the case but a misunderstanding due to his domain.
Frowning slightly, Anubis looked toward Hephaestus and asked, “Do you not sense anything strange from this boy?” Though Vahn had tried to keep her calm, Hephaestus didn’t like how Anubis was acting after meeting him. She continued to frown as she asked, “And what would that be, Anubis?” Anubis’s frown grew deeper because she knew Hephaestus should be able to sense the abnormality in Vahn, but didn’t see to notice for some reason.
Looking into Vahn’s face, her eyes flashed with a more prominent glow as she said,”He has no soul…or I cannot see it at the very least.” Hephaestus, who had been frowning the entire time, suddenly had her eyes widen in shock. She was aware from their previous meeting that Anubis’s Divinity was related to death, but she couldn’t understand why she would claim Vahn had no soul. If he didn’t have a soul, he wouldn’t be able to receive the falna of a god!
As Hephaestus was about to speak out her point, both she and Anubis were stunned when they saw Vahn nearly plant his face into the table. It was almost like he lost all the power in his body as he began to laugh in a dry voice. “Is that all this is about…?” Releasing a deep and long sigh, Vahn willed his [Veil of the Traveler] to allow others to see his soul. He never expected that his countermeasure against Freya would actually attract trouble to him…now he felt even worse about the situation with the hounds than he did previously.
Though Anubis was confused at first, her moonlight eyes opened wide in shock as she saw Vahn’s soul practically ‘explode’ into existence in an instant. Unlike a normal soul, his was much larger than most mortals, and instead of the calming azure blue color, it was instead a vibrant gold with a rainbow assortment of colors within the core. Before she asked, Vahn explained, “I’m aware that my soul is somewhat unique, so I keep it hidden when I can…”As he spoke, he disabled allowing his soul to be viewed and it seemed to blink out of existence in the eyes of Anubis.
Anubis slowly calmed down and, after a few moments of thinking, began bowing her head toward Vahn. Her children seemed startled at her actions and looked at Vahn with a greater amount of fear than before. Anubis said, “I sincerely apologize for this misunderstanding. I had unfairly put you into a position that brought great inconvenience to not only you but Hephaestus as well. My mistake nearly even cost me the lives of my children…I now owe you a great debt, Vahn Mason.”
Vahn tried to say she didn’t owe him anything, but before he could verbalize the words, Hephaestus spoke up. “That is indeed the case. Vahn has always tried his best to help others and is even known as a hero to many in the City. The accusations of that idiot Osiris might have had some truth based on how Vahn is able to conceal his soul, but the fact that he maneuvered to endanger Vahn cannot be changed. You also got wrapped up in his scheme, yes, but your impatience nearly led to a tragedy that could not be undone. The fact you nearly turned my Vahn into a murderer is unforgivable!” Hephaestus’s soliloquy was spoken with power and conviction, and nobody within the room was able to refute her words.
Anubis seemed to take a lot of damage from the claims Hephaestus made, and she bowed even deeper toward Vahn. “I have done something unforgivable…I only ask that you spare my children. As long as you can accede to that request, I am willing to endeavor to repay you no matter how long it takes.” Anubis always had a powerful sense of responsibility, and her pride would not allow her to leave debts unpaid. She could not allow her children to bear the burden and intended to do everything in her power to redeem her mistake.
//’Anubis’ Wishes to become your subordinate: Y/N?//
Vahn had been confused about how he should deal with the bowing goddess, but he became incredibly shocked after seeing the notification in his system. Hephaestus thought his shock came from the proclamation of Anubis, so she spoke out,”Don’t mind it too much Vahn. Though it’s uncommon, it isn’t unheard of for gods to make a vow of repayment, even to mortals. If you’re concerned, I can always find a use for her…”
Anubis spoke at the end of Hephaestus’s sentence. With a firm conviction in her eyes, she looked toward Vahn and said, “Please, allow me to repay this debt personally. If I have to pay it through other means, I would not be able to satisfy my own pride. Though it may sound arrogant, I cannot go against my own principles.” The moment her words finished, Vahn was buffeted by another notification.
//’Anubis’ Wishes to become your subordinate: Y/N?//
All eyes in the room were focused on Vahn at this moment. The ‘hounds’ all stared at him with a mixture of fear and hatred, but they were unable to speak out against the goddess they adored. They knew better than anyone the type of person she was, and that was the very reason they dedicated themselves to her. Hephaestus was slightly annoyed by the persistence of Anubis and began to suspect there was a greater purpose behind her willingness to repay the debt. Anubis herself stared at Vahn with a serious expression as she said, “Please, Vahn-sama…”
//’Anubis’ Wishes to become your subordinate: Y/N?//
The moment he heard a goddess address him with an honorific, Vahn’s mind practically exploded from the mental damage. He wanted to deny her, but seeing the serious look, combined with his own intrigue at subordinating a goddess, Vahn sighed within his mind while selecting yes. At the same time, he spoke out in the real world, “Okay. I will accept.”
//’Anubis’ has become your subordinate//[Current Units] [Active: 2][Dormant: 2][Active Units]: (Eternal Flame),(Anubis)
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Gotta Catch ’em All, Goddess Edition?’,’A wild fluffy goddess appears’,’Buy 1, get 7 free’)