Chapter 131: Negotiations

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Though Vahn was incredibly angry at Loki’s behavior, he had been in a bit of a daze after Hephaestus pressed his face into her breasts. Though he would have liked to admit it was due to the intimate action, the real reason for Vahn’s current daze was the notifications that had sounded from the system. Since he had come into contact with Loki earlier, he was now able to see her affection for him as well as the existence of a new mission.

[Loki]: Affection: 53(Neutral), Intrigue: 100(Insatiable Curiosity)

//Optional Quest Triggered//
[Quest: Forge an Alliance, Progressive]Rank: I-SSS
Objective: Convince Gods/Goddesses to form an alliance between their Familia(s). Current Allies (0)
Rewards: 10,000 OP x Familia Rank. Currents Ranks (-). Quest completion rank depends on the total number of allies.
Failure Condition(s): Death, Host Familia Destroyed, Alliance Dissolved
Penalty: 100,000 OP

Vahn was rapidly trying to process the new information, but Hephaestus ended up speaking out before he could form a cohesive plan. “Speak, what are you planning Loki?” Hephaestus was holding her glare as she looked at the indifferent expression of Loki. At this point, Loki was leaning against the table and supporting her head with one of her hands as she looked at the interaction between Hephaestus and Vahn.

After staring at Hephaestus for a few seconds, Loki scanned her eyes around the room as she slowly stated, “For now, how about we identify where everyone stands…” Loki stopped her eyes on Naaza and Lili as she said, “You two girls must be people that Vahn saved. Its easy to see the dependency you have for the boy…” Turning her head to Tsubaki, Loki smile a bit and said, “And I’m guessing you’re supposed to be protecting Vahn?”

Before the three girls could answer, Hephaestus said in a sharp tone, “Loki, stop playing games!” After she spoke, Loki looked toward her and opened her eyes slightly as she responded, “I am being very serious right now. Don’t think that, just because you found Vahn first, you are the only one interested in him. We need to make everything clear, or it will be impossible to move forward in the discussion.”

Only allowed on

Vahn picked up on her words, and he finally decided to take action. Though he didn’t have a concrete plan, Vahn knew he didn’t like how Loki was acting, so he pulled away from Hephaestus and glared at the tiny goddess as he said, “I don’t like how you treat people. Even if you’re ‘interested’ in me, I have no desire to be used by someone with such a sickening and chaotic presence. We already made an agreement earlier, and if you try going after the people I care about to gain an advantage, I will never stop opposing you.”

The moment his words fell, his domain spread out and once again started pressuring the goddess who seemed intent on causing trouble. Loki furrowed her brows a bit, but her smile didn’t fade as she said, “That was an agreement between the two of us, this is fundamentally different. Right now I’m trying to negotiate with Hephaestus, and you don’t have any grounds to stand on. If she expects me to keep your secrets, there obviously needs to be something to gain on my end. I’m not going to act just to make things more convenient to others; especially when your matters will involve my ‘children’.”

Vahn maintained his domain, but he felt a bit of his anger recede as he watched her chaotic aura stabilize a bit when she was mentioning her ‘children’. He could understand that she seemed to care about them, but she continued to exploit people regardless. It made no sense to Vahn because it seemed like she was contradicting her own desires in pursuit of benefits. However, Vahn wasn’t willing to let her do as she pleased, so he continued to pressure Loki as he said, “Even you seem to think I will be able to accomplish many things in the future, so why pursue immediate gains and cause strife? We could work together and benefit each other, instead of trying to exploit one another.”

Loki raised her brows a bit and issued a strange response to his statement, “Ehhhh, aren’t you making a bunch of assumptions? I said we were here to negotiate, not take advantage of each other. Even I’m not ambitious enough to try and exploit the third most powerful, and THE most influential production Familia in the City. I’d rather build a relationship that can benefit both parties, as that will guarantee the greatest benefits in the future. I don’t understand why you seem to have such a weird bias against me!”

Vahn’s mind blanked for a bit because, for a brief moment, Loki seemed to genuinely feel ‘wronged’ by his words. She gave him an incredulous look as she continued to explain, “As I said, your secrets may lead to various problems for my Familia in the future. No matter how you spin it, that fact will never change, and you can’t blame me for wanting to protect my ‘children’. Just like Hephaestus is unwilling to allow harm to come to you, I feel the same way about the kids in my Familia. The best thing for both groups is to compromise, don’t you understand that?”

Perhaps because she was very accustomed to ‘dealing’ with people, but Vahn very quickly found himself unable to refute her claims. As he had done so when he first met Hephaestus and Tsubaki, Vahn tried to explain, “I can vaguely sense how people ‘think’ or ‘feel’. Almost every time I look at you, you seem to give off a chaotic and unnerving vibe. Even if you’re speaking the truth, I can’t easily trust a person with such an aura.”

Loki’s eyes opened enough that he could see the full view of her red irises as she looked into his face with undisguised intrigue. Seeming to believe Vahn’s words, Loki said, “So that’s how it is…no wonder you’re always on guard against me. You have eyes similar to the Divinity possessed by a god of Life. And with how Hephaestus treats you, I imagine you also have ties with forging…or maybe fire?”

Seeming to have realized something, Loki nodded her head and Vahn saw an incredulous sight before his eyes. The chaotic aura that was always emanating from Loki’s body completely disappeared. Replacing it, Loki now had the gentle yellow aura with pink accents, very similar to someone that had amiable feelings toward him. In a low and almost sensuous voice, Loki asked, “How about now…Vahn? Do you still feel uncomfortable?” As she asked the question, her smile grew bigger as she saw the dumbfounded look of the boy in front on her.

In an amused tone, Loki explained, “My Divinity is related to trickery and mischief, you can’t expect to be able to see through me so easily. The ‘chaotic’ aura you describe, is simply the manifestation of my Divinity in its natural state. That skill of yours might be very helpful, but if you’re overreliant on it and make assumptions, you could turn potential friends into future enemies.”

Satisfied by Vahn’s blank look, Loki continued after making eye contact with Hephaestus, “Now, shall we continue, or is there anything else that needs to be discussed first?” Though Vahn still wanted to say a few things, seeing the sudden and inexplicable change, he immediately lost confidence in his words. Loki had taken the excuse he had given and immediately turned it against him; Vahn felt like he had been made a fool of, and fell into deep contemplation while Hephaestus and Loki began discussing terms.

Loki stated her terms to Hephaestus in a very businesslike manner, “Vahn has already made a vow to accompany two of the members of my Familia, Tiona and Ais, into the lower floors of the dungeon when they’re on expeditions. I won’t make a silly request like asking you to equip the entire vanguard, but I am expecting a discount on contracts for… let’s say, anyone that is in a relationship with Vahn. From now on, they will receive a 30% discount on contracts, and each contract will be personally handled by you. This will allow the girls Vahn cares about to protect themselves and, in turn, Vahn himself will become safer. I’m sure you have no problems with this much concessions?”

Hephaestus wasn’t happy to be ‘forced’ into contracts with people she hadn’t personally interviewed. She typically chose her customers, but if she gave into Loki’s demand, she would have to accede to, and even prioritize, the development of items for members of Loki’s Familia. However, even though it went against her pride, she did agree that Loki’s idea was the best solution in the present situation. If Vahn ended up dying on the expedition just because the equipment hadn’t been to standard, Hephaestus would never be able to forgive herself.

With a grim expression, Hephaestus nodded and altered the conditions a bit, “I will agree, but only if each concerned party makes a vow to never lend or give the items I forge to others. I won’t stand for a situation where your children continually request items for ‘themselves’ and then they end up in the hands of others.” Loki had expected the request, so she nodded without hesitation.

Vahn, who had been listening in a bit, felt anguished at having Hephaestus have to make concessions for him. It wasn’t until just now that he truly understood the difficulties she had borne on his behalf. Not only was she protecting him and his secrets, but she also helped take care of the problems that could influence his life. He even discovered that, while he was running around and fighting or chasing girls, she had to deal with his emotions and they even interfered with her work. If it wasn’t for his earlier actions, this situation wouldn’t have developed to this point in such a rapid manner where they were at a disadvantage.

Unable to prevent his thoughts from leaking, Vahn interrupted their negotiations and said, “Wait! I won’t let Hephaestus bear all the burden on her own. Though I may not be a capable blacksmith yet, I want to change the terms so that, if the girls are okay with it, I will help provide their equipment. Also, you said our two Familia should work together, and I think it should be more than a relationship based on compromise. You claim that, because of my actions and origin, our two Familia are already irrevocably connected. As long as you and Hephaestus agree, I think our Familia should form an official Alliance and publicize it. It will make any enemies that try to appear in the future more apprehensive, and it will make the negotiations between all concerned parties smoother.”

Vahn regurgitated all the information he had been organizing in his mind. Not only did he want to complete his quest, but he genuinely was unwilling to see Hephaestus continue to make so many compromises for him. He was almost more willing to flee the City and relieve her of the burden, but remembering his various promises, he couldn’t find the courage to do so. Though Vahn didn’t consider himself brave, he wanted to believe he wasn’t the type of coward that would run away and renege on his promises. Just imagining the sad faces of Hephaestus, Tiona, and Ais made Vahn feel like he would rather die than do so.

As Vahn had shouted out the words, everyone in the room was looking at him with a mixture of shock and contemplation. Tsubaki had a smile on her face as she gave an appreciative nod while Hephaestus embraced Vahn from behind as he was currently facing toward Loki. Naaza and Lili, though they weren’t part of the conversation, felt emboldened when they saw Vahn’s conviction.

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Loki, who had been the one addressed, also had her eyes slightly opened as she tilted her head back with her finger on her chin. She seemed to be seriously considering his words, and after a bit of consideration, seemed to agree with what he had said. After a few more moments, she looked at Vahn and said with a sly grin, “Very well, I will agree on one condition. And lucky for you, it’s one that you can easily do~”

Vahn continued to return her gaze without his expression changing in the slightest. He still had all the confidence from his earlier outburst as he asked, almost like he was challenging her, “What is your condition?” There was no hesitation at all in his words, and it made Loki begin to laugh for a moment before she stated, “I want you to work with Riveria to research that ‘Divinity’ you seem to possess. She already told me that it has a lot of unique capabilities, and I think it would benefit everyone if you studied it alongside her. She has far more experience than others, and will also know how to best apply your skills when it comes to a fight in the future. What do you say?”

Vahn knew that, if it came down to it, he would use his [Will of the Emperor] without any hesitation. He had even used it for the purpose of calming the members of the expeditionary party previously, and it was a core part of his strength. When he accompanied the Loki Familia into the dungeon, he would have to follow the order of Finn and Riveria and, their understanding of his capabilities could be vital depending on the situation. As Vahn was also curious about the nature of his domain, and he was constantly trying to understand its functions, he didn’t see any downsides to working with the ‘experienced’ and wise elf.

Looking into the red eyes of Loki, who was waiting for his response, Vahn squinted his eyes a bit before he nodded his head and said, “I accept. But, only if she agrees to make a vow to not disclose the information to others without my express permission.” Vahn didn’t distrust the taciturn elf, but that didn’t mean he would simply allow her to learn his secrets and then spread them at her leisure. Though it was unavoidable that some people would have to know, Vahn wanted to have a say in how the information spread.

Loki laughed for a little while but agreed to his request without modifying the terms any. Afterward, they continued to discuss various other things and agreed to have both Tiona and Ais meet with Hephaestus to get their measurements taken in the future. When Loki brought up the idea, she teased Vahn by saying, “I’m sure you’re very interested in their measurements as well, so maybe you can accompany them~?” Vahn didn’t disagree with her, because he had already become familiar with their bodies and it wouldn’t hurt to know more. If he had to make equipment for them in the future, he had to take into consideration every small detail.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Is Vahn actually gonna start forging now?’,’Loki gets a slight advantage’,’Hephaestus is planning something?’)

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