Loki saw Vahn’s reaction to her presence and just released a sigh as she said in a low voice, “Tiona and Ais aren’t here. They left early this morning with Tione and Lefiya to go meet you. If you’re here looking for them, you must have missed each other.” Her muted tone and calm demeanor caused the majority of people in the surroundings to appear shocked.
Everything about how Loki was acting caused Vahn to feel mildly distressed since it was so uncharacteristic of the confrontational and outgoing goddess he had butted heads with in the past. She seemed more tame and docile, and Vahn could tell that she seemed to be disappointed with how he was reacting to her presence. However, no matter how she acted, or how her aura changed, Vahn couldn’t help but feel a sense of incongruity about the situation.
Frowning slightly, Vahn spoke in a low voice, “I see…that is unfortunate.” Vahn released a sigh and began to turn away to escape the awkward atmosphere. Being the focus of attention of more than a dozen people while confronting Loki in her current state made him feel somewhat anxious and Vahn didn’t want to wait around. He decided to pass the time along the route that the girls would take to return to the Twilight Manor and meet up with them before making plans for tomorrow.
The moment he turned around to walk away, Vahn could feel a slight tug on the back of his sleeve and it immediately made his brain buzz with feelings of exasperation. Turning around, he could see Loki looking at him with an awkward smile on her face as she said, “Why not stay for a while? I’ll get someone to make some tea and we can talk until the girls get back.”
Vahn frowned and prepared to free his sleeve from her grasp, but moments before he did so, Loki’s expression turned a bit sad and she let go of his arm. Even though her eyes were closed into slits, she had a very sad look on her face as she sighed a few quiet words, “Aren’t we supposed to be official allies?”
In response to her question, Vahn spoke in a low tone, “The Alliance is between the Hephaestus and the Loki Familia, not the two of us…” Even as Vahn spoke, he couldn’t help but feel there was something strange about his own words. He had been the one to propose the alliance as well as the person that helped dictate some of the terms. Hephaestus and Loki had just agreed and made a few concessions for each other the unify the two Familia.
Loki’s brows had furrowed at his response, and Vahn could see her aura fluctuate slightly like she was distressed. However, even though he felt bad for her, he couldn’t help but believe it was all an act. Her behavior was just far too different from her past self for Vahn to believe everything happening in front of him wasn’t some kind of scheme.
Since Vahn was bad at hiding his own thoughts due to his expressive face, Loki could almost read everything that was going on in his mind just by looking into his eyes. She could see that the impression she had made on Vahn in the past had been deeply rooted in his psyche. Even if she treated him well and honestly, he didn’t seem to be willing to give her a chance at all. It made her feel a bit of resentment, both toward Vahn and her own Divinity, since they had led to this awkward situation where her own children looked at her like she had gone mad.
Instead of trying to act nice, Loki’s expression changed into her characteristic mischevious look as she asked with a bit of humor in her voice, “Is the boy that stood up to me in the past really afraid after everything that has happened? I didn’t think you were the indecisive type that ran away from their responsibilities. Even if the Alliance was between Hephaestus and me, does that really remove any obligation you have to uphold it? Aren’t you worried that your actions might cause me to lose face and impact the nature of our future relationships?”
Since Loki wasn’t speaking quietly anymore, many people in the area were looking at the event play out with unveiled intrigue and curiosity. Though they had known about the Alliance, it had yet to be approved by the Guild and things were in a state of flux where they could develop in a positive or negative direction. Of course, that was a misconception on their part because they didn’t understand Vahn’s role in the entire thing.
Vahn noticed the change in Loki and couldn’t help but sigh in his mind at how quickly she could change her entire character. One moment, she was acting docile and seemed to be genuinely upset by his reaction, while the next she was back to her usual self as if the previous personality had been an illusion. However, this kind of Loki was someone he could deal with, so Vahn said, “Fine, I’ll wait here for their return. I wouldn’t want you to accuse me of causing friction between the two Familia.”
Now that Loki had returned to normal, Vahn had adopted a more confident demeanor as he looked directly into her slightly parted snake-like eyes. Hearing his response, the grin on Loki’s face grew wider as she led the way to the same sound-proof room they had used in their last meeting. Everyone cleared the path to allow for the two to move without saying a single word. By the time they had disappeared into the connecting corridor, everyone in the reception area immediately began to gossip about what was going on. Many suspected it had something to do with Tiona and Ais, and there was a bevy of criticisms being launched at Vahn for his ‘haughty’ personality in dealing with their goddess.
Vahn and Loki sat opposite of each other on separate sofas as they assumed their own preferred seated positions. Since Vahn had always been taught to be ‘polite’ ever since his previous life, he often sat with his back straight and maintained eye contact with people. Loki, however, acted completely unrestrained and, even though she was wearing a skin-tight top and form-fitting small shorts, sat on the sofa with her legs crossed in a very unreserved manner.
Since Vahn had been working on his self-control a lot, he didn’t allow his eyes to wander as he had done in their previous meeting. Loki had noticed this and asked in a cheeky manner, “Ara~? You don’t want to look?” As she spoke, she spread her legs slightly wider which caused her shorts to bunch up slightly. Vahn just continued to stare into her eyes without acknowledging her behavior in the slightest.
The grin on Loki’s face quickly turned into a frown as she said in a sharp tone, “The you from the past was a lot more interesting. What, does my body not appeal to you at all?” As she spoke, Loki put her hands to the side of her breasts and pressed them together slightly. Vahn frowned since he couldn’t prevent himself from looking at the two almost non-existant bulges and responded, “It has nothing to do with your body; it is your personality that lacks appeal.”
Loki’s frown turned into a mischevious grin again as she said, “That’s right, isn’t it? I guess you wouldn’t mind my breasts since you’re already so close to Tiona.” She then began to laugh in a somewhat sly manner before she continued, “Why are you so cautious against me, Vahn? Didn’t you learn that your ability to see emotions and auras wasn’t reliable?”
Vahn shook his head and responded in a firm manner, “Though I can’t help but still rely on my ability, it has nothing to do with your aura or even the way you behave. If anything, I think it’s more appropriate for people to act unreservedly around others. The thing that prevents me from having any affection toward you is how you only characterize people by their worth. Though I’ve seen that you genuinely care about your children, it still doesn’t stop you from acting in your own interests.”
Loki opened her eyes slightly and had a serious expression on her face as she said, “Name for me a single person that doesn’t act in their own interests.” Vahn could hear the challenging tone in her voice and, even though he didn’t like what she said, he couldn’t help but think about her words.
This was one of the problems Vahn had faced in the past since he realized after their first meeting that he somewhat empathized with her. Even when he considered her words now, Vahn couldn’t find a way to answer her question easily. As far as he could tell, though people made compromises, everyone acted in their own interests. Even he himself wanted to be happy, so he always did his best to do what he thought would bring him happiness.
Vahn looked into her eyes after a brief hesitation and said, “Even if people act in their own interests, it’s wrong to only consider someone for their value and the convenience they might offer toward achieving your goals.” Almost as if she had been expecting his answer, Loki immediately responded, “You’re being a hypocrite, Vahn. I can tell that you don’t believe in your own answer completely. All I’m doing is my best to guarantee that the greatest number of people, including myself, can maintain their happiness. Can you even point out a single instance where something I’ve done was objectively ‘wrong’?”
Vahn furrowed his brows deeply as he answered, “Ais. You turned her into a weapon for your own convenience. You must know what kind of life she would live from now on. Even if she finally killed the One-Eyed Black Dragon, what remains for her after that?” Remembering the vision that he had obtained from Ais’s heart’s desire, Vahn couldn’t help but resent how Loki had forced her current life upon her.
In response to Vahn’s claim, Loki scoffed and looked at him as if he were an idiot as she said, “B*******. I didn’t turn her into a weapon; I just helped her obtain the power she herself sought. Though I might have pushed her hard so that she could achieve her goals, there was no single instance where I mistreated her. I provided for her a safe haven, strong allies, and all of the resources she needed to continue along the path that SHE chose.”
At this point, Loki seemed to be genuinely upset by Vahn’s words. Before he could gather his thoughts to refute her, she continued, “And about your question for what she has after the dragon is finally killed. Do you think all of her friends, allies, and the members of her Familia are just an illusion? What about her relationship with you? Do you think, if I was the evil monster you make me out to be, that I would have let you interfere with my plans?”
Vahn immediately responded, “It’s because you wanted to use me as one of your pawns as well-” Loki snapped and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Utter b*******! Yes, I wanted to recruit you into my Familia, but that is because you’re strong and have a lot of potential! Why the f*** wouldn’t I want someone like that in my Familia, especially if they have a strong relationship with my core members!?”
Loki had stood up and leaned onto the table when she shouted, and Vahn even got a bit of her spit on his face from her outburst. As he reached his hand up to wipe it away, Loki sat back down and said in an annoyed tone, “You’ve acted like you had something against me from the moment we met. Even when you learned that you couldn’t read my aura like normal, you still never got over your own bias. Tell me, Vahn, what did I ever do to genuinely make you dislike me so much?”
Vahn considered her words for several minutes as he tried to find a suitable response. Loki sat across from him with a frown on her face as she waited for his answer with her arms crossed over her almost non-existent breasts. After a while, Vahn finally spoke up in a plain voice, “I feel like everything you do is an act. It is like you’re constantly scheming to try to get an advantage against people. Even now, I can’t help but feel you’re just trying to manipulate me just because I can’t find any flaws in your arguments.”
As he spoke, Vahn noticed that the somewhat chaotic aura of Loki had flickered slightly even though her expression hadn’t changed. Though he couldn’t be sure, he felt like his words had been somewhat impactful. Loki, who had been sitting cross-legged with her arms across her chest sat silently for nearly a minute before she hung her head down slightly.
After a brief silence, she asked, “So…you hate me because of my own existence?” Vahn was confused by her question and wanted to refute, but she continued, “You’re in a relationship with two goddesses, and even engaged to one of them, yet you seem to have no understanding of what a goddess is…Tell me, Vahn, what do you know about Divinity?”
Vahn considered her words for a few seconds before explaining, “Divinity is like the power of a god which allows them to perform deeds far above mortal capabilities.” Loki nodded her head and said, “That is somewhat true, but the actual power a god can use according to their divinity is called Arcanum. The Divinity of a god is something fundamentally different, and you should be somewhat aware of its influence already.”
Loki paused for a moment before she asked, “Do you know why Hephaestus forges?” Vahn was a bit confused, but he still answered, “Because she is a Goddess of Forging.” Loki nodded her head and asked, “But what if she wants to do something else?”
When Loki asked her question, Vahn couldn’t help but recall the vision that he obtained from Hephaestus’s heart’s desire. Within that stagnant world Hephaest was surrounded by countless godly artifacts but, no matter how many she made, she was never happy. Vahn felt a strange feeling of unease emerge in the back of his mind as he responded, “She can’t stop forging…”
Vahn noticed that Loki’s aura flickered powerfully as a sad expression appeared on her face and she explained, “That is exactly how a Divinity works…we gods and goddesses are bound by the nature of our own Divinity. We have a natural compulsion to act in accordance with the laws and principles of our own Divinity. Refusal to do so would cause us to fade away and cease to exist…forever.”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Slaves to the Laws Part 1′,’Compulsion’,’Vahn Loses the Advantage’)