Chapter 163: Vahnatus (3/3)

After everyone had introduced themselves and settled in, Hephaestus went over the constraints of the vow and had everyone agree before each party formed the contract. Even the tiny Tina said the vow without any hesitation as she began treating the other girls in the area like her rivals. The only person that hesitated was Arnya, but she didn’t want to be the only one left out so she eventually caved in and made the oath. Imagining Chloe alone and surrounded by girls she had labeled as ‘enemies’ didn’t sit well with her.

Once everyone had made the oath, Hephaestus sat down and allowed Eina to take over the discussion. Eina looked at everyone and spoke in a very polite and professional manner as she said, “As Hephaestus said previously, you have all been invited here to discuss the past, present, and future of Vahn. Now you all have a better understanding of each others situations, but there are still two people who have yet to speak.”

Eina scanned her eyes across everyone at the table as she introduced herself. “Greetings, my name is Eina Tulle, and I am currently the fiancee of Vahn.” The moment her words sounded, it was like a bomb had been dropped on the center of the table. Other than a few unaffected people, everyone else looked at Eina like she had just said the most ridiculous thing they could imagine. After all this setup and introductions, she suddenly tells everyone that she is going to marry Vahn?

The two that had the most adverse reaction to Eina’s words were Chloe and Loki. Chloe gave Eina a cold look, almost as if she had marked the beautiful half-elf for death. Loki’s eyes had opened slightly as she looked between Eina and Hephaestus with a contemplative expression on her face. As if to answer the question that had been forming in her mind, Eina continued, “It is true, but it isn’t just me…”

With Eina’s lead, Hephaestus spoke out to piggyback the statement, “I’m Hephaestus, Goddess of the Hephaestus Familia, and I am also engaged with Vahn.” If Eina’s words had been a bomb, Hephaestus’s had been like a strategic class magical spell. Even Tiona, Ais, and Rivieria, who were previously unaffected by the words of Eina, had mildly shocked expressions on their face. However, after a few seconds passed, Tiona began to laugh in a silly manner as she muttered, “Looks like my prestige as Vahn’s first is going to get a massive overhaul~”

Though she spoke in a low voice, more than half the girls present had dog and cat ears which had picked up on the muted words Tiona spoke to Ais. The atmosphere immediately became tense as Hephaestus slammed her palm onto the table to draw everyone’s attention. In a firm tone, she said, “Everything will be explained, and until then I would suggest everyone be patient. Just considering the number of women present for this meeting, you should understand the necessity of Vahn having two first-wives!”

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Everyone was quiet and considered Hephaestus’s words for a few moments before Eina spoke out and interrupted their thoughts, “I have discussed this with Hephaestus, but you all need to be aware of something fundamental regarding Vahn. Though I believe Chloe had noticed it previously, Vahn is a broken individual. He has no brakes and needs to be reigned in, or else he might deviate onto a dangerous path which causes all of us to have regrets.”

While everyone else was quiet, Loki asked, “It has something to do with his origins, right? That must be why you mentioned discussing his ‘past’ and having everyone take a vow.” Loki had set aside her mischevious nature and was now fully serious as she followed the conversation. She had a deeply rooted interest in Vahn and his origin, and now she had the opportunity to hear the words from the most reliable source.

Eina nodded her head in response to Loki and then began recounting the tale that Vahn had told her. Since it had only been a day, the matter was still fresh on her mind and Hephaestus supplemented with her own input on the areas she was somewhat confused about. The duo told the group about Vahn’s origins and that he was likely, at least, 75% god. They went into detail about how Vahn had been taken away from his mother at a very early age and suffered severe trauma and experimentation by various individuals until he was finally rescued by a mystery woman who had taken him to the Western Forests. They recounted how Vahn spent a period of time in intense training while learning survival and hunting skills in preparation for finally becoming an adventurer.

The entire table listened in silence at the tragic tale of Vahn. When some of the lesser aware girls learned about how Vahn had been mistreated for so many years, they couldn’t but cry muted tears as the continued to listen to the story. The reason behind Vahn’s peculiar behavior began making itself known, and there were many that had several regrets about their interactions with the traumatized boy. Even Ais and Tiona, who had heard the tale directly from Vahn, couldn’t help but frown at the recounting of Eina. When Vahn had told the story, he was very dismissive of the facts and played them off, but when it was told by another person they were able to understand the depths of the tragedy that had befallen him.

At this point, Eina paused a bit before taking in the expressions of everyone at the table. Seeing that they were all paying attention, she continued, “And that was only the beginning of his suffering…” Her words caused chills to run down the spines of several girls as Eina gave her interpretation of Vahn’s character and how he was ‘broken’. Though Hephaestus’s actions had been therapeutic for him, it only increased the likelihood of Vahn’s future burdens. She then went into detail about how Tiona and Ais had been the catalyst behind much of Vahn’s recent behavior and discussed the various burdens Vahn currently carried on his shoulders.

After hearing they had contributed to Vahn’s pain, even Tiona had begun to cry a bit as she continually pictured the smiling face of Vahn in her mind. To Tiona, Vahn was a hero that could bear any burden, and she had happily allowed him to carry her’s. Ais also felt bad, but she didn’t cry as Tiona saw fit to. Instead, she hung her head low and had a very sad expression on her face as she considered her past actions. The person that had taken the biggest impact, however, was Anubis, followed closely behind by Nanu.

In the week they had been living with Vahn, the only thing the two girls had seen was him acting stably and reliably. In Anubis’s mind, Vahn was the ideal Master that she had sought for the last three hundred years. Seeing his powerful soul and experiencing the extents he went to in order to guarantee the security of her and her Familia, Anubis had been steadily approaching Vahn, even when he had clearly tried to lay down boundaries. Nanu was in a similar mindset since she had been steadily trying to break down Vahn’s resistance against her. Remembering her action of leaving a musk trail for Vahn, she felt both ashamed and guilty of her immature actions. She now understood why Vahn kept telling her to wait until she was older; she was still acting like a child that just wanted to get her way.

The least affected by Eina’s story were Loki, Riveria, and Tsubaki. Loki was very intrigued by Vahn’s past, and she felt a bit of pity for him, but she had also clearly seen his resolve to overcome his trauma. Though she agreed with Eina’s assessment, Loki felt that the only thing Vahn needed was firm guidance, and she knew that he would likely obtain it after this meeting came to an end. Riveria felt pity for Vahn as well, but she wasn’t too concerned after considering how many women would be helping him. She even felt that he should be somewhat grateful to have such a large defensive network to support his own mentality. Tsubaki herself had long noticed some of the problems with Vahn, and had been trying to counsel Hephaestus about it in the past. As the person that had spent some of the most time with him, Tsubaki had a better understanding of his character than most.

After everyone had settled down, Hephaestus began explaining how things needed to play out in the future. Vahn either had to be separated from Anubis and her Familia, or they needed to be strictly regulated to prevent future problems from arising. Though Vahn was allowed to approach them, they shouldn’t pressure him into the situation just receive his affections. Anubis made a solemn vow, which was repeated by Nanu, Maat, and Chione to show proper restraint in the future.

It was also decided that when it came time for Hephaestus and Vahn to eventually marry, that he would do a conversion and either join the Loki or the Anubis Familia. As their status would change on a fundamental level, Hephaestus and Vahn would be unable to remain ‘parent’ and ‘child’ in the future, since she would be inclined to heavily favor him. Hephaestus’s assets alone accounted for nearly 25% of the total wealth within the City, and having long-term instability could result in catastrophic effects on the economy.

Loki immediately tried to assume responsibility and offered to take Vahn in since he would already be venturing into the dungeon with her Familia in the future, but Hephaestus firmly denied and left the decision for Vahn to make. That was the third provision that had been decided on, that everyone in the group could still approach Vahn, but they needed to let him make the decisions on his own to advance the relationship. Before they had officially confirmed anything, everyone needed to work hard to help reign in Vahn’s behavior so he didn’t stray onto a dangerous path.

Everyone agreed to work together, even though they were all still considered rivals for Vahn’s affection. The two most cooperative ended up being Tiona and Ais, who wanted to take responsibility for pressuring Vahn into a sexual relationship with them. They were given the enviable task of maintaining a permanent relationship with Vahn while trying to abstain from engaging in too many sexual acts. Eina lectured the girls that, until Vahn had returned to a certain degree of normalcy, that it was very dangerous to over-expose him to sexual acts. If he continued to become dependant on that type of activity in his relationships, it would be next to impossible for him to have platonic and stable relationships in the future.

The final decision of the group had been something unexpected by one of the members of the group, but everyone agreed without any serious opposition. Lili had proposed the idea of allowing Tina to stay with Vahn until the marriage had been finalized. Though she wanted to take the role herself, she knew she wouldn’t be able to easily contain herself, so she volunteered Tina for a role that she had labeled ‘Vahnguard’. It was decided that Tina would stay with Vahn while he was recovering before the next Denatus, as it would allow her to spend some time with him as well as keep him from performing any overly sexual acts with other girls. As Tina was just ten years old and Vahn recognized age as a significant factor, she was the ideal candidate for the task. Even Milan agreed but required that both Tina and Vahn would have to stay at the Inn on the weekends.

After hearing the proposition from Lili and the following agreement by everyone present, Tina’s brain had short-circuited as she imagined spending the next three months living inside Vahn’s room. She was excited, scared, and a little bit annoyed by how everyone was treating her like a child. However, she felt really sad after hearing about Vahn’s past and how ‘broken’ he was, so she was willing to do her best to help heal him. There were still more than three years before she became an adult, so she resolved herself to be his little sister for the time being.

The group continued talking and discussing various things for several hours, including how each girl had met Vahn. After the topic had turned to Vahn and their individual interactions, the mood turned a lot more lively and the girls seemed to be getting along well, at least on the surface. One girl in the group still had several misgivings about the situation and intended to try and resolve things when she got a chance. Chloe had agreed with all the provisions, but she still felt like Vahn needed something else to be able to recover. She had initially allowed herself to be his goal, but now Vahn was in a dangerous state that needed further guidance.

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Around 6 PM, the group finally began to disperse after exchanging contact information with each other. They had even agreed to make the meeting a monthly matter for the time being and resolved to keep their eyes peeled for any new girls that Vahn had taken an interest in. The moment Vahn had easy access to a receptive partner, there would be a danger of his behavior suffering a relapse that would undermine their efforts. Though it seemed somewhat strange to be concerned when their group already consisted of eighteen people, the fact there was ALREADY eighteen after less than two months was a red flag that made them seriously consider the matter.

After the majority of people left, the only ones that remained behind were Loki, Hephaestus, and Eina. Though Loki had been very cooperative so far, it didn’t mean she intended to walk away from the deal with any benefits. Now that the other girls had cleared out, there were several matters related to Vahn that she wanted to discuss. However, before she could speak, Hephaestus interrupted her and asked, “There is a matter that you should be aware of, but you must be willing to take an ‘absolute vow’ if you want to hear it.”

Hearing Hephaestus mention an ‘absolute vow’, Loki couldn’t help but frown as she imagined what important matter she may have to discuss. An ‘absolute vow’ was one made using the soul as collateral, so if either party violated the terms of the vow, they would suffer severe damage to their souls. Not long would she have to return to Heaven, but Loki would probably have to spend thousands of years recovering before she could eventually return to Eden. However, though she had inhibitions, seeing the serious look on Hephaestus’s face made her feel an insatiable curiosity well up inside of her. Without too much hesitation, Loki made the vow with Hephaestus and swore to never reveal the information they were about to discuss in any form, fashion, or through any medium either intentionally, unintentionally or accidental reproduction. Even hinting at the matter could result in a serious backlash which would damage her soul for a long period of time.

Though it should have made her feel ‘scared’, the only thing Loki could feel at this moment was excitement and intrigue about what Hephaestus had to say. Hephaestus looked into the eyes of Loki and could see the veiled madness contained within. She knew she wouldn’t be able to keep the matter hidden, but now she could make use of her alliance with Loki to conceal it for a longer period of time. After releasing a long sigh, she turned her vision towards the Goddess of Trickery and said, “Vahn has an item called [Enkidu]…”

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Tiny Tina, the 1st Vahnguard’,’Loki is about to have a seizure’,’Head-Wives Coalition and Concessions’)

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