Eina began forming her own interpretation of the events that had transpired around Vahn, and she wasn’t that far from the truth. Recalling all the things he had explained, she realized there was something that he had left out which contradicted almost everything else he had done. She could feel her heart rate increase a bit as she asked, “Why did you decide to pursue me, Vahn? All of your other relationships with women seemed to have happened due to circumstance, but you’ve acted strangely toward me since the beginning. On the first day we met, you even confessed to me in front of the entire Guild.”
Eina’s words actually surprised Vahn, as he himself didn’t understand how to begin his explanation. He couldn’t tell her she was one of the characters he liked from the manga, and it seemed very awkward to say he liked to tease her unless he had a reason to do so. Vahn thought for a moment, and Eina waited patiently at the side without disturbing him. After hearing her point it out, Vahn realized that she was actually the only woman he had ‘proactively’ approached based on his own decision. He thought she was very beautiful, and the moment they had met he instantly wanted to tease her because it made him feel happy.
Vahn couldn’t think of anything else, so he released a sigh while saying with a bit of apprehension, “When I first saw you at the Guild, I thought you were very cute, even beautiful with your emerald green eyes. I don’t understand the reason myself, but whenever I see your poised and professional demeanor, I want to make you smile or flustered. It…makes me feel happy.”
Eina’s brows raised at his explanation, and she began to realize that she may be the first woman he proactively approached. He clearly didn’t have a grasp on his own emotions, and even when he mentioned his relationships with Tiona and Ais, it was almost like he was being dragged along for the ride. Remembering how he explained his interactions with Chloe, Hephaestus, and Tsubaki, Eina realized they were trying to help him build relationships.
Unfortunately, though they empathized with him and wanted to help, they failed to account for the fact that Vahn was broken, and not simply traumatized. They did well to keep him from being taken advantage of, but after he finally experienced a relationship with a woman, they didn’t reign him in and explain things. Now, almost immediately after his first sexual interaction, he was suddenly surrounded by women and girls that had expectations for him. Since he was so eager to please, he always gave in to their needs and worked hard to make them happy.
Eina was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to take Vahn away from this City and raise him like a normal boy. She understood that everyone around him wanted the best for Vahn, but they had overlooked his character and allowed him to bear their burdens. If it was just one or two people, it might have been okay, but Vahn had mentioned more than ten! He was even learning to forge so he could impress Hephaestus while simultaneously supporting another Familia, and this was all while he was supposed to be recovering from serious injuries.
Vahn noticed that Eina was lost in her own thoughts and had a very serious expression on her face. He could even see that her aura was slightly chaotic, and he felt like he had done something to upset her. As they were very close to each other, Vahn reached out his hand and placed it on her head while channeling his [Hands of Nirvana]. Since she had styled her hair a bit, he didn’t think it would be appropriate to stroke her hair and mess it up.
Feeling a warm energy enter her head, Eina looked toward Vahn who was showing her a gentle smile with a bit of concern in his eyes. She suddenly felt like her heart was wrenching in her chest and she could feel tears welling up in her eyes. Eina, in that instant, felt a powerful regret emerge from her heart as she recalled everything he had said earlier.
She felt like, when he had confessed to her at the Guild, it was almost like a cry for help and she had failed to hear it. Back then, he hadn’t built any of the relationships he had mentioned, and every relationship he had after his confession to her was at the initiation of the opposite party. Eina felt like, if she had accepted his feelings at the time and cared for him, he would be on the road to recovery, and not bearing the burdens of so many people. She could have taken him and bought a small house and lived together while trying to help him live a normal life.
Vahn was surprised when Eina suddenly started crying and he couldn’t help but pull her into his embrace as he starting gently patting her back and softly saying, “I’m sorry, Eina, I didn’t mean to make you sad…” The moment Vahn apologized to her, Eina couldn’t hold back her tears anymore as she hugged Vahn’s waist and cried. The more he comforted her, the more she felt like she had failed him. Now, even though she should have been the one to help bear his burdens, he was trying to comfort and relieve her of the pain and guilt she was feeling.
Eina continued to cry in Vahn’s arms for around five minutes as he continued patting her back like he was comforting a child and gently whispering into her ear. He didn’t know what he had done to set her off, but he knew it was his fault and wanted to make her smile again. Every time he saw one of the girls around him sad or crying, he always felt like the world around him was a little bleaker.
He couldn’t tolerate the atmosphere for much longer, so he did something drastic and tilted Eina’s chin and kissed the teary-eyed elf. He didn’t do anything special and just gave her a gentle peck on the lips in hopes of lifting her mood a bit. Even if she was angry at him for doing so, it would be much better than having her cry into his chest.
Though she still had tears in her eyes, Eina immediately stopped crying as she stared blankly at Vahn’s face. Seeing her expression, Vahn showed a gentle smile and said, “Please don’t be sad, Eina, it breaks my heart to see you like this. I prefer your happy and smiling face a lot more. Why don’t we eat lunch and try to enjoy the date? If not, I can escort you home and we can try again in the future.”
Eina seemed to come back to life with his words as she began processing everything that had happened. She realized she had a very big decision to make, and it could potentially shape both of their lives far into the future. If she abandoned Vahn, he would likely continue to spiral downwards until he was eventually consumed by the weight of the burdens he bore. However, if she chose to be with him, she could very well become one of those burdens in the future.
Seeing the concerned expression on his face, Eina felt her heart twitch a bit and couldn’t help but furrow her brows a bit. She was already too late to help him live a normal life, but if she tried hard, she might be able to relieve some of his burdens. If they started dating and became an official couple, she would be able to interact with the other girls in his life and help them understand the situation.
She also had the opportunity of refusing him and trying to help him fix things by talking to Hephaestus. She seemed to be very concerned about Vahn but was also the source of his greatest burden. However, if she did things in such a roundabout way, she might just be considered a busybody or someone that got in the way of their obvious affection for each other. Eina had no doubt that Hephaestus was as lonely as Vahn claimed, and she had likely placed all of her hopes into Vahn. If she made a mistake, she would earn the ire of the goddess and drive a wedge between herself and Vahn in the future.
If that happened, she would be forced to stand at the sidelines and watch Vahn’s brilliance burn brightly before something inevitably forced the flame to extinguish. She didn’t know if it would be the machinations of his enemies, or if he would be smothered by the burdens and affections of those around him. Turning toward the boy who continued to try and comfort her, Eina said in a very serious voice, “Vahn, have you decided who you are going to marry in the future?”
Though he was a bit surprised by the question, Vahn ruminated for a moment before responding, “I think I might marry Hephaestus, if she’ll accept me. I’m not sure about the other girls since I don’t want to restrict them. If they end up wanting to leave me in the future, I might feel sad, but I don’t think I would be able to stop them.”
Vahn wanted to keep all of his promises to the girls, but he never expected they would all follow him. He was just happy everyone gave him a chance to prove himself worthy, even if it was just temporary. Vahn was the most aware of how rapidly things had developed, and it was impossible to tell what would happen in the future. The only person he had absolute confidence in was Hephaestus.
Eina seemed to have made a decision after hearing his response, so she looked deeply into his eyes as she said, “Vahn, I want you to marry me. I won’t restrict your relationships with other women, but I want to be your first wife. No matter what, I will never divorce you, and you can even leave me whenever you want.” Though Eina knew she was putting yet another burden on Vahn, she believed that it was the best method at her disposal to influence the other girls around him. It also served the purpose of preventing some women from approaching him in the future, and it allowed her to be in close proximity to him so she could help stabilize his life.
To Vahn, it seemed like Eina was dead-set on making him more surprised with each question she asked him. He could tell she was serious, but he couldn’t just agree outright after everything that had happened recently. It seemed like every relationship he was in spontaneously hit a critical point before he realized what was going on. However, seeing the look and concern in her eyes, Vahn didn’t want to outright refuse her, so he asked, “Why so suddenly? This is just our first date, and there is plenty of time to worry about things like that in the future.”
Eina agreed with Vahn’s words, and she was the most aware of how quickly she was rushing things. Since she didn’t want to be one of the girls that imposed themselves on him without explanation, she did exactly that and explained things to Vahn. In a very serious manner, Eina told him everything that she believed she ‘understood’ about Vahn and his past. She even made him consider that all of her deductions could be wrong, and wanted him to work through the matter in his mind to verify if her words were true.
Vahn listened in stunned silence, and couldn’t help but retort in his mind that she had finally succeeded in stumping him completely. However, though he didn’t outright agree with her words, Vahn understood that most of her speculation was actually true. Many of the things she was concerned about were the exact things that had plagued Vahn’s thoughts recently. He knew better than anyone that he worked hard to please others while just being satisfied as long as they were happy. It actually placed a heavy burden on his heart and mind when others approached him, and he would almost rather do things for them than himself.
The thing Vahn didn’t understand, however, was why Eina seemed to think marriage would help solve the problem. When he asked, she explained her reasoning even further and seemed to have a bit of determination in her voice. As far as Vahn could tell, she was essentially volunteering herself to act as his shield while still allowing him to act as he pleased. However, if he got out of control, she would be able to reign him in by exploiting his desire to please others. Yes, she explained that it was her intent to exploit the fact that he was ‘broken’ to help rehabilitate him. She wanted to bring stability to his life and didn’t mind if Vahn never loved her as a wife. She even encouraged him to treat her more like an older sister that would always be around to give him advice.
Her words actually reminded Vahn of someone he had neglected a lot lately. As he had been so focused on his own thoughts and actions, he almost never initiated conversations with Sis anymore. It was only in the times when he was lost or confused that her voice would enter his mind and offer him a reprieve from his own chaotic thoughts. Vahn realized that Eina essentially wanted to take that role, and was willing to carry his burdens just so that he could be a little happier…
Within his mind, Vahn uttered a quiet sentence, (“Sis, thank you…for always being there, even when I neglected you.”) In response to his thought, unlike the cold synthetic voice he normally heard, a gentle and womanly tone sounded in Vahn’s head as she said, (*I will always be here when you need me Vahn. But it looks like I may lose part of my job now. Hahaha~*) For the first time, Vahn heard Sis laughing in his head in a happy tone. She seemed so much more human than he remembered, and was grateful that ‘The Path’ had given him such a great elder sister…
Vahn heard a notification in his mind and noticed Sis had purchased something from the shop without asking him. Within his inventory, there was now a pure golden ring with a faceted green emerald, identical to Eina’s eyes. It looked like Sis was giving him a chance to turn the situation around a bit and act cool so he looked toward Eina and held out his hand before her.
Eina was a bit confused by his sudden change, but she could see clarity in his previously chaotic eyes as he held out his balled up fist toward her. Her eyes were drawn to the fist as it slowly opened and revealed a beautiful golden ring set with an emerald. Eina’s mind exploded at the implication because she suddenly felt like Vahn always had the intention of marrying her at some point. She turned to look into his eyes and noticed his expression suddenly seemed especially affectionate.
Vahn slowly enunciated each word, “Eina, will you marry me?”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Surprise Mother F*ckers!’,’The Vahnguard is now Official’,’How ’bout that subversion of expectations? Do you feel it now, Mr. Krabbs?’)