After settling into their new home, the Hounds, Rasui, Chione, Nou, Maat, Nanu, Akil, and Ata, were now surrounding Vahn in the main dining room as Anubis stood behind him. Unlike Tsubaki’s manor, Vahn’s residence looked more western in design, very much like a small mansion. The total rooms ended up being eleven, with two bathrooms between the west and east sides of the residence. Vahn’s room was located the further east, oriented in the direction of Tsubaki’s manor, while most of the children actually occupied two rooms.
Though Vahn said they could have their own rooms, it seems they preferred to split between genders and stay in two rooms instead. Rasui, Nour, and the twins, Akil and Ata, were both staying in one of the smaller rooms, which Vahn was surprised about. The girls ended up occupying the third largest room in the house located next to the second bathroom. Vahn found it strange that everyone was staying somewhat far apart from each other.
The most notable features of the house were the workshop and the main bathroom. The entire residence was squarish in shape, with all the rooms surrounding the large workshop in the center of the house. Vahn was surprised to find a variety of materials already stocking the shelves, including some rather expensive things like mithril and magisteel. The bathroom wasn’t an onsen like Tsubaki’s, but it was still a very large shallow tub that was 5x5m and had marble tile flooring. Vahn thought the design of the bathroom looked expensive, even more so than everything else in the house. If he had to guess, the entire structure likely cost several tens of millions of Valis when it was constructed.
After investigating everything, Vahn had gathered everyone together and was now sitting in the main dining area which originally had a long rectangular table which Vahn stored into his inventory. Now he sat on the ground with all the ‘kids’ surrounding him and waiting for his words. Vahn felt it was somewhat strange to call them kids, as they were all only slightly younger than he was, but now his position was much higher, at least according to their ‘hierarchy’. Anubis stood behind him at his side, overwatching the entire scene play out with a smile on her face.
Vahn was sitting cross-legged with his arms crossed in contemplation as he tried arranging everything he needed to say within his mind. After several minutes, he opened his eyes and in a firm tone said, “Rasui, as the eldest, you will still be required to look after your ‘siblings’. You know them better than I do, and I trust you’ll handle the responsibilities with care.” As his words fell, the young boy bowed slighting before saying, “Yes, Master Vahn!”
Though Vahn was a bit off-put by the address, he let it be for now as he directed his gaze to the other children. Rasui had been in the center, while the boys flanked his right with the girls on his left. Maat was the oldest of the girls, at 13, so Vahn put her in charge of the matters within the girls ‘den’ as they called it. Maat seemed very excited and her tail was wagging to express her emotions as she too answered, “Yes, Master Vahn!”
Hearing a girl similar in age to him call him Master, Vahn felt a peculiar feeling in his mind. It wasn’t the normal ‘excitement’ he had been experiencing lately, but it made him slightly concerned for some reason. Now that he had assigned ‘leaders’ to the two rooms, Vahn took a note out of Tsubaki’s book and began trying to lay the foundation for their future.
“Though I still need to learn more about everyone and each of your capabilities, from now on you will all be undergoing training in the mornings. Though I am by no means a master, I think I can help improve your skills through sparring and other means. We will start early, every morning except for weekends, and you will be expected to continue your traning until 10 AM each day. From then on, you will have free time until 8 PM in the evening, though you can request an extension if you make any plans.” Vahn slowly spoke the words, and he was satisfied to see that the ‘kids’ were listening attentively.
Nodding his head, Vahn continued, “As for your individual responsibilities, that can wait until I get a better understanding of each of you. You should, however, think of what you’re capable of doing and try to develop your skills so that you are able to become capable adults. As my understanding goes, you will each be considered adults within two years and will need to be somewhat self-sufficient by then. As I am not the leader of your Familia, I will not force you to leave as Anubis told me was often the case back in your country.”
Hearing they wouldn’t be forced to ‘leave’ the Familia when they became adults, all the kids’ tails began to wag and they seemed to struggle to keep their usual ‘calm’ expressions. Anubis had given Vahn a bit of information about her practices, and it turned out she treated her Familia very much like an orphanage back in the Southern Sands. Though she couldn’t take in everyone, whenever she found children that seemed pitiable in her eyes, she would accept them into her Familia. Though she had almost no combat capabilities, she was very knowledgeable and gave them a general education while having them train and become stronger on their own. The primary thing she taught them was discipline, and she developed them into people that were very loyal and considerate of others. Whenever they weren’t performing their duties, they would often be around the various Bazaars passing out food and rations to other orphans.
As Anubis only took care of the children until they were capable ‘adults’, whenever they reached the age of 14, she would ‘release’ them from the Familia and have them travel so they could spread the kindness they had received to others. She never wanted to keep a Familia to develop her own power, and even though many wanted to stay, it was Anubis’s practice to have everyone leave when they reached adulthood. Because of her pride, she was unwilling to make any exceptions previously, but now that she had chosen to follow Vahn, Anubis left the decision to him. Anubis thought he would be a good influence on the kids and expected they could become a part of his own power and influence in the future.
After his ‘speech’, all of the kids were in high tension and went through a small ceremony where they each pledged allegiance to Vahn as their sword master. Though it was a nerve-wracking few minutes, Vahn was confused about why he didn’t receive any notifications to accept any new subordinates. There was still a lot about his system that he needed to discover, but for now, Vahn just assumed it was because they didn’t truly intend to follow him. Either that, or there was something different about them and Anubis which he didn’t yet understand.
Vahn dismissed the kids and told them to familiarize themselves with the grounds as much as they were able. They nearly ran out of the room after his words ended, and Vahn felt like this should be their real selves, not the quiet and patient children that seemed to have very high discipline previously. Anubis giggled while staring at Vahn who was currently smiling due to his own internal dialogue.
Arranging her dress, she sat down slightly to his right and began speaking, “Master is more aware than I thought. The fact you moved the table, in the beginning, was a smart move, and you seem to be adapting to the mentality of an ‘Alpha’ quickly.” Anubis had a gentle smile on her face as she spoke. Her tail gently swayed and lightly patted her own leg in a slow rhythm which distracted Vahn a bit. Continuing, Anubis said, “Ever since I descended three-hundred years ago, I felt like my methods weren’t the most practical. Though I was able to make many children into independent and capable adults, there were very few instances where they seemed as happy as my current children. It always pained me seeing how their tired expressions from when I found them only turned into solemn and serious expressions with my teaching. When I first started accepting children into my Familia, the only thing I wanted for them at the time…was to see them smile and be happy.”
Vahn could see a sadness in her eyes as Anubis recollected her long history. For Vahn, it was almost unimaginable living for three-hundred years and taking care of hundreds, or thousands of orphans in that time. He couldn’t understand how someone could be so ‘selfless’ and dedicated to others, even when it seemed to make them sad in the process. Remembering the loneliness inside Hephaestus’s vision, Vahn began to suspect it wasn’t easy being a god in this world. They seemed bound to follow a strict set of regulations and always had to act based on those principles.
More than the children Vahn felt he owed a debt to, he genuinely began to take pity on the beautiful goddess looking at him with a melancholic expression. Even though she had a smile on her face and was still waving her tail, Vahn could see the sadness in her eyes and the aura slowly dispersing from her body. He even suspected that the smile and tail wagging were practiced habits of the goddess…
Anubis had become lost in her own thoughts as she recollected the past, and she was unprepared for what happened next due to her dazed state of mind. Suddenly, a hand was placed on her head between her two large ears and a gentle warmth began to pass from the palm into her mind as it gently stroked her hair. With surprised on her face, Anubis looked and saw that Vahn had spontaneously started petting her without saying anything.
Gently reaching her hand to intercept his, Anubis grabbed Vahn’s hand and moved it away from her head. With a smile on her face, she softly spoke, “You don’t have to worry about me, Master. The fact that you are taking care of my children is already more than I deserve. After all, I am meant to serve you, not the other way around.” At the end of her sentence, she laughed but Vahn could see the sad aura was still hanging around her.
In a firm voice, Vahn said, “It is my choice to comfort you. Even if it is just to appease my own emotions, I don’t want to see anyone around me with such a sad expression. Unless I am bothering you, I would like you to allow me to comfort you, even if just a bit.” Since Anubis at least seemed to respect him as a ‘Master’, Vahn tried speaking honestly and with a resolute voice.
Hearing his words, Anubis’s expression didn’t actually change, but inside her mind, there were various thoughts running through her head. She was thinking to herself, ‘Is this the actions of someone with such a powerful soul?’. She closed her eyes to ruminate for a moment before opening them and staring into Vahn’s serious face. Even though a bit of time had passed, he continued to look at her without averting her eyes, so she just smiled and tilted her head forward. “If that is my Master’s wish, I will gladly abide…”
With her permission, Vahn reached his hand out and began petting the top of her head again. He noticed her aura fluctuated slightly at his contact, and he continued to observe it as he moved his hand around her head. Whenever he came into contact with her ears, they would twitch which made Vahn feel like his heart did the same. Curious, Vahn tried stroking the ears directly and noticed that Anubis had an immediate reaction. She had her eyes closed since he had begun, but Vahn noticed they flickered slightly as her tail began to beat at a faster rhythm against her legs.
When his hand moved to the back of her ears, Anubis seemed to try and pull away from his hand, but prevented herself from doing so at the last second. Her reaction seemed to awaken something in Vahn, so he began channeling his [Hands of Nirvana] with a soothing effect as he stroked the area around her ears and behind her head. Slowly, Anubis’s face began to scrunch up a bit and Vahn noticed she began to blush a bit. Vahn was incredibly fascinated by her reaction and wanted to laugh after hearing the loud ‘smacking’ sound her tail was making as it struck her legs now.
Suddenly, a notification sounded in his head, and Vahn realized Anubis’s Loyalty had dropped to 83 which made him pull his hand away. He wasn’t sure why the value had dropped but assumed it was likely due to his excessive ‘petting’. After he stopped his actions, Anubis opened her eyes and Vahn noticed they were somewhat watery as she said, “Has nobody ever told you that, if you pet the ears of a chienthrope, you have to be prepared to take responsibility? I may be a goddess, but I still abide by the culture and traditions of the Southern Tribe.”
Vahn listened to her words carefully and recalled a similar saying from both cat people and chienthropes previously. Lili, Naaza, and even the mother-daughter pair of Milan and Tina had said something similar before. Anubis, seeing that Vahn was listening attentively, continued, “I don’t mind receiving your affections, but remember to keep it in moderation. If you go too far, I can’t be held responsible for the consequences you’ll have to face…my Master.” Vahn felt like he could see a light pass through her pale golden eyes, and he suddenly noticed a clammy feeling coming from his palms.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘The Godhand Strikes’,’Household Management’,’Foreshadowing?’)