Chapter 164: Ruminate

Vahn enjoyed the rest of his lunch and made light conversation with Syr whenever she wasn’t busy with other customers. She kept asking him ‘probing’ questions about his past and what he wanted to do in the future, but Vahn only answered with curt responses and a smile. Though he was certainly interested in Syr, he was still a bit concerned with other matters that he had been dealing with lately. However, his dismissive attitude didn’t seem to offend Syr, as she continued to make conversation with him until he paid his tab.

As Vahn was preparing to leave, Syr stopped him and asked, “Will you be coming by again soon? Chloe should be working the rest of the week, and I’m certain she would be happy to see you.” Syr had a gentle smile on her face as she put a little extra inflection on her words when she spoke about Chloe. Vahn imagined the image of the playful cat girl in his mind before nodding his head and responding, “Sure, I’ll try to stop by more often. It was nice to meet you, Syr.”

After giving her a few polite words, Vahn made his way out of the Hostess of Fertility with Syr following his back with her eyes. She wasn’t the only one to do so either, as Ryuu had periodically looked toward Vahn as he was eating. Though she never spoke out to him after their initial meeting, she paid attention whenever he and Syr were speaking. Now that Vahn had left, Ryuu approached Syr and asked, “Did you take an interest in him?”

Syr chucked in a sing-song manner as she put her hand over her mouth and asked, “Aren’t you the one that took an interest in him, Ryuu? I never expected you to let him grab your hand so easily~” As they had been friends for a long time, Syr knew about Ryuu’s personality and past better than anyone, so she couldn’t help but tease the taciturn elf. Ryuu, hearing Syr’s question, allowed her expression to loosen a bit as she averted her eyes from Syr and said, “I couldn’t feel any negative feelings from him…”

Syr nodded her head at Ryuu’s words and, with a cheerful smile, said, “He really is an interesting boy, isn’t he?” After her words, Syr moved away to tend to other customers while Ryuu watched her back with a hint of contemplation in her sky-blue eyes. It wasn’t just Syr who could see through her, but Ryuu had also become well acquainted with how Syr acted. The people she took an interest in were all unique individuals or those with high potential. Turning her eyes to the door where Vahn had left a few minutes prior, Ryuu stared into space for a few seconds before lifting her left hand and recalling the earlier event. As long as she didn’t get in the way of Syr, Ryuu wanted to get to know the boy that had taken hold of her hand so easily.

Shortly after Vahn left the Hostess of Fertility, his steps paused for a few seconds as he looked back in the direction he had come. The system had given him a notification that Ryuu’s affection had gone up an additional 8 points suddenly, and now she had a value of 79(Interest) in him. Though he was surprised when he got the large amount earlier, he didn’t know what had happened for her to have another jump. Typically speaking, unless he did something drastic, most actions would only increase affection by +1 at a time.

Vahn remembered her subtly shocked expression when he had grabbed her hand earlier and the speed with which she departed after the fact. Though he didn’t think much of it at the time, it should have been an indicator that his actions had a greater impact than he expected. The Ryuu he saw in the manga always seemed somewhat cold, but he also knew she had a warm personality behind the taciturn expression. Now that he had somehow gained her interest, Vahn was looking forward to his future interactions with the elven beauty.

In a better mood than when he had set out, Vahn made his way towards Hephaestus workshop to see if anything had been happening that he wasn’t informed about. Surprisingly, after he arrived, Vahn found the workshop had been closed for the day. After he found one of the perimeter security guards, Vahn learned that Hephaestus had left early in the morning for personal matters. At this point, Vahn was absolutely certain there was something going on. The fact that he wasn’t informed made Vahn believe that the matter most likely pertained to him, so he went to his next destination to confirm his hunch.

At this point, the entire Anubis Familia, the trio at Tsubaki’s, Chloe, and now Hephaestus were all nowhere to be found, and Vahn hadn’t been informed of anything. This fact alone made him suspect there was something going on behind the scenes, and when he arrived at the Guild and confirmed that Eina was also absent from work, he became absolutely certain. Given that he had been engaged to Hephaestus and Eina just the previous afternoon, Vahn suspected that hey already made moves to contact the other girls he associated with. He knew they wanted to help him develop ‘brakes’, and now he was made aware of how serious his previous actions had been.

On his way back home, Vahn was thinking about everything that had happened in the last week and comparing it to how he interacted with people before entering the dungeon. His memory of his past self was that of a small boy that was always polite and helpful to those he cared about. He worked hard to improve and tried to treat people kindly, and they too treated him well so that he would be able to focus on what he wanted to do. There were many people that helped protect his secrets and guide him toward the future he had decided upon. Vahn felt indebted to them all…

However, now he was much taller than his previous self, and had matured a lot in just the twenty or so days since he initially set out. Not only was he more mature physically, but his mentality and strength had undergone significant changes after his interactions with the Loki Familia. He learned about the differences between men and woman and developed an interest regarding the female body and things like sex and other intimate acts.

Before he had entered the dungeon and met Tiona and Ais, Vahn didn’t have much of an interest in girls at all. Though he knew the ‘basics’, he lacked the fundamental knowledge for how relationships worked. Even when he lived with Tsubaki and had been exposed to several nude girls, Vahn never had a reaction and always tried to prevent from staring at the girls so he didn’t accidentally offend them. Now, however, his eyes were always drawn to their bodies if they didn’t make an effort to conceal themselves from him.

Vahn realized he had developed an interest in physical intimacy when he had previously had a slight aversion towards it. In just a single week, he had been exposed to so many situations that wouldn’t have affected him much in the past, but now he proactively took advantage of the situation due to his own intrigue and curiosity. While he was previously just satisfied with patting girls on the head, he now engaged in much more intimate acts and had developed a strong interest in things like teasing girls and giving massages.

Though he thought about all of these things before, Vahn was just now beginning to understand why Eina was able to deduce that he was broken so shortly after their first date began. Even he realized there was definitely something strange with his own sensibilities, but Vahn didn’t know what he could do to fix it. Just the thought of one of the girls he cared about being sad because he didn’t treat them well made him feel frustrated in his heart. He already struggled a lot just to prevent himself from giving in to Anubis’s advances, because he couldn’t help but be infatuated with her adorable character and curvaceous body.

On his way toward the Babel Plaza, Vahn once against passed by Hephaestus’s workshop and noticed it was still closed. Right now, it was nearing 4 PM, and according to the security personnel, she had set out early in the morning. Vahn felt a bit guilty that the girls supporting him had to make so much effort just to ensure that he would be happy in the future. Releasing a long sigh, Vahn shook he head and walked toward his next destination. He couldn’t prevent them from acting as they thought best, so Vahn just decided to treat them better in the future.

As his next destination was quite close, Vahn arrived in just a few minutes and stood outside the Hearths Embrace Inn. Remembering the short few weeks he had resided there in the past, Vahn felt a bit of nostalgia as he made his way into the warm establishment. This place had once served as his home and marked the very beginning of his journey within the City. Both Milan and her daughter Tina had treated him very well, and Vahn still had to apologize about the matter regarding the sword she had given him.

The moment Vahn learned from the purple-haired woman named Sasha that both Milan and Tina had gone out early in the morning, he couldn’t help but rub his forehead a bit with his palm as he released an even deeper sigh than before. Vahn was amazed at how quickly Hephaestus and Eina had set everything into motion, as well as how ‘efficient’ they were to even be aware of the Mother-Daughter pair and get them involved. Vahn even started to suspect that every woman he ever met was currently in an undisclosed location while talking about his matters.

After leaving the Inn, Vahn let his mind wander as he imagined what they would be discussing. He also tried guessing who all had been invited, and was surprised at how many names came to his mind. Imagining each of the woman sitting in a room and chatting about him, Vahn couldn’t help but feel a little excited and curious. Though he was a bit disconcerted about the actual topics of discussion, he also had a lot of faith in both Hephaestus and Eina. As long as the two of them were guiding the conversation, Vahn couldn’t help but imagine they would come to a decision that benefited him greatly. Imagining the care and concern on each of their faces made him feel both warm and proud. Warm, because they were so considerate of him; proud, because he was able to garner the affections of two incredible girls.

Two of the people that had been most prominent in his mind, other than Hephaestus and Eina, were the duo of Tiona and Ais. If even Milan and Tina had been invited, there was absolutely no way the two girls that were his current lovers didn’t get an invitation. That would also pull Loki into the mix, and that was the only matter that genuinely concerned Vahn. Imagining the mischevious goddess being involved in a discussion about his well-being made Vahn feel a moderate degree of discomfort.

So far, Loki was one of the few people he couldn’t get a read on at all, because he knew she was considerate of others, but at the same time, she always tried to evaluate people based on usefulness. Vahn hated the idea of people being given value based on their ‘use’ because he still hadn’t gotten over the matters related to his past. But the hardest part of the matter, and the thing Vahn disliked the most about the situation, is that he could slightly understand the points she made.

Though he had confronted her directly at the time, Vahn couldn’t help but consider matters from her perspective later, and even began to draw parallels with her on some issues. Vahn realized that he put in a lot of effort when he was focused on something and, because of his own perception of what it took to improve, he also had that same expectation for others. Because of how he acted, girls like Tina, Lili, and even Naaza were now working hard to ‘earn’ his affection for the future.

After realizing this, Vahn had begun to resent himself a bit, but he couldn’t disagree with their desire to improve either. Even when Eina wanted to quit working at the Guild so she could take care of him, Vahn had her stay purely based on his own opinion and desires. Vahn actually didn’t want people to make sacrifices for him, and he wanted them to improve on their own so they could make their own decisions in life. However, he contradicted himself, because he would confront their decisions based on his personal interests and preferences. The more the thought about the matter, the more confused he became because Vahn didn’t understand which was the most appropriate course of action.

The only thing he truly understood from the situation was that he had his own personal bias in regards to some things, and didn’t want people to drastically change their lives just for his own convenience. He empathized a bit with Loki, because she also wanted people to improve, though unlike Vahn, her intent was to improve them so they would be useful. Even the alliance they had forged was based on how useful both parties were to each other in the future.

Vahn released a sigh and shook his head to try and clear the matters from his mind. He felt like he could ruminate over them endlessly, but also knew that it would serve no purpose to get caught up in his own thoughts. He had learned time and again that it was better to take action instead of constantly worrying and developing self-doubts. Instead, Vahn just resolved himself to do his best to meet whatever difficulties the future might entail head on-

Before he could even solidify his own resolutions, Vahn tripped forward and nearly collided into another pedestrian. The man gave Vahn a strange look before walking away with a disgruntled face while Vahn just stared off into space like a solider that had spent too many years on the frontlines of war. After nearly a minute, Vahn finally turned his attention to the notification that had sounded in his system with a completely deadpan expression on his face as he read the information…

//Loki Has Reached Maximum Affection//

//Quest Completed: [The Hearts Desire:C-SS]//

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Completion Grade: A

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Rewards:10,000OP, 1x[Hearts Desire: Loki]

Grade Rewards: 2x[Transfiguration Lens], 14,000 OP

[Transfiguration Lens]

Rank: Unique

Use: Allows the user to temporarily alter their form regardless of size, shape, gender, or race. Duration: 24H

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Vahn pieces together the puzzle’,’The scariest hearts desire’,’Ryuu has a hand fetish’)

(A/N: I would like to thank the beautiful people that have been supporting my ******* recently. We’re just shy of half-way to the goal of making this my job~!)

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