Chapter 197: Calm Before the Storm

Vahn saw the expressions of the gods and goddesses, as well as the various expressions of everyone else around. The matter of a goddess being slain wasn’t a light topic, nor was it something that most people considered commonplace. However, no matter how difficult matters became, Vahn resolved himself to bear the brunt of the pressure without letting everything fall to Chloe.

Loki had a serious expression on her face and let out a tired sigh since she knew Vahn was aware of the identity of the killer and wouldn’t reveal it no matter what. Even if he wanted to, she would take action to prevent it from coming to that point. Looking over toward Hephaestus, she could see the resolute gleam in the fiery goddesses eye and knew they had similar thoughts. After bouncing around various ideas in her head in a rapid manner, she got the attention of everyone present with a clap.

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With a mischevious smile on her face, Loki said, “Okay, we can worry about everything else later~! Right now we should be more concerned with getting the little ones to bed and cleaning up this mess before it gets too late. Leave the important matters to the adults~!”

Vahn knew Loki was probably up to something and could see that even Hephaestus was in agreement as she nodded her head and said, “Loki’s right, we’ll concern ourselves with the aftermath of the situation. Vahn, take Milan and Tina someplace safe for the time being-“

As Hephaestus was speaking, a sound rang out from behind the group, “Umm…” The entire group looked over toward the speaker and saw Syr showing an awkward smile as she approached with Ryuu and Arnya at her flanks. Though she seemed to feel a bit of pressure from all the eyes gathered on her, Syr turned toward Milan and said, “We have plenty of space in the dorms if you’d like to stay at the Hostess of Fertility…I heard about the matter of your Inn, so we can provide you with shelter and work if necessary.”

Vahn wanted to speak out to refute since he wanted the two girls to stay with him, but Milan cut his words short as she accepted Syr’s offer. Seeing his confusion, Milan smiled while stroking the hair of the sleeping Tina and explained, “I can tell there are various matters that need to be dealt with in the aftermath of everything that happened today. For now, I don’t want you to worry about us and I think both Tina and I need some time to process everything that happened. I think staying in a woman’s dorm will be beneficial for her, since I don’t think she’d be able to leave your house if she returned there now…”

Hearing Milan’s words, Vahn remembered that Tina had suffered a severe trauma and would have problems dealing with men in the future. If he took her back to his workshop, she might coop herself up inside as a defensive mechanism. Though it wouldn’t be a problem at first, if she adapted to that kind of life she would never be able to socialize with people easily in the future. Many of the girls at the Hostess of Fertility were women that had suffered trauma in the past, and Vahn also agreed that it would be better if they stayed there for the time being. With people like Mama Mia and Chloe to look after them, Vahn believed they would recover sooner or later.

Vahn stroked the sleeping Tina’s head before giving Milan a hug to comfort them both. He could see that her aura was mildly chaotic and understood it wasn’t just Tina that needed time to recuperate. Milan had lost her home of ten years and suffered the cruelty of several people while stressing about the circumstances of her daughter. Even though she was putting up a brave front right now, he could feel the tension in her body as he hugged her.

After a few parting words and several thanks, Vahn parted ways with the Alliance members before making various promises to meet in the future. Though he wasn’t required, Vahn wanted to escort the girls back to the Hostess of Fertility the ensure their safety personally. They had a relatively large group that consisted of Naaza, Lili, Tiona, Ais, Syr, Ryuu, Arnya, Milan, and Vahn who was carrying Tina while walking next to Milan.

When they departed, Loki turned towards the gods present before staring at Chigusa until Takemikazuchi asked her to stand to the side. The final group that remained was Hephaestus, Miach, Anubis, Takemikazuchi, and Loki herself. All of their surrounding Familia members had been asked to move away as the group of gods and goddesses made their way into a tent that had been erected and acted as a command post. Since there was no telling how many people would be injured, they had set up various medical tents and command tents at the beginning of the operation.

After everyone settled in, Loki began the miniature Denatus with the most important topic, “This matter regarding Laverana won’t blow over easily. We need to come up with a countermeasure and confirm the standing of everyone present.” Passing her eyes over Miach and Takemikazuchi, the two gods spoke out in sequence.

Takemikazuchi had a firm and resolute expression on his face as he said, “If possible, I would like to join the Alliance that had been created between the Loki and Hephaestus Familia. Even if he doesn’t represent the entire Hephaestus Familia, I have developed a sense of respect for Vahn Mason. He has a strong and righteous character and it’s my belief he would be a good influence on my children. I may not have much to offer in regards to power and authority, but I will contribute what I can and hope there will be mutual cooperation between our Familia as allies in the future.” As Takemikazuchi spoke, he bowed low to the rest of the group until his head nearly touched the floor.

Miach himself just had a complacent and gentle smile on his face, but there was also a subtle hint of resolution in his eyes as he said in a soft tone, “Vahn saved one of my important children in the past, and has even cared for her till this day. I would like to return the favor he had paid my Familia and already made a vow to that end in the past. If possible, I too would like to join the Alliance and help resolve this matter.” Though not nearly as low as Takemikazuchi, Miach also bowed politely.

Hephaestus had also been observing the two and responded in a somewhat exasperated but grateful manner as she addressed Loki, “These two have helped me with matters in the past, and I think they would be a good contribution to our Alliance. Though they lack personal strength, they have good characters and I think they’ll be strong allies in the future. We need the support of any gods that we can get if we want to pressure Ouranos.”

Loki nodded her head before turning her eyes to Anubis who had been sitting silently the entire time. Seeing Loki’s attention drawn to her, Anubis showed a smile and said confidently, “No matter what, I will always stand at the side of my Master.” Her words caused Takemikazuchi and Miach to have strange expressions until Hephaestus explained the circumstances that had occurred between Vahn and the Anubis Familia in the past. Loki had also never heard the story before and she nearly facepalmed after hearing how easily Anubis weaseled her way into Vahn’s life. For the first time in a long time, Loki felt like she had been out-schemed by another goddess.

After explanations were finished, everyone present reaffirmed their vows and swore to uphold the terms of the Alliance that had been laid out previously. Even though Anubis had already sworn to follow Vahn for the rest of his life, she was only now joining the Alliance officially. This was to create a stronger sense of unity between the five gods and goddesses present. The moment their vows completed, Vahn, elsewhere in the City, heard a notification in his system and flinched slightly as he continued to gently stroke Tina’s back.

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Now that they had officially allied, it was decided that Hephaestus would be the leader of the Alliance since she had the largest amount of wealth and authority. Loki became the moderator of the group and was given leniency by Hephaestus to hold a similar amount of authority as her as long as she deferred to her for any decisions related to her Familia. Though they might disagree on matters, Hephaestus knew that Loki was the most suited to the role and would always pursue the greatest benefit for the rest of the group as long as she was bound by a vow.

Loki continued the earlier matter and discussed how they would deal with Ouranos and any backlash related to the death of Laverna. Fortunately, since Laverna’s Familia wasn’t officially recognized by the Guild, they had a bit of leverage to use in the coming negotiations. No matter how matters played out, Laverna would have always been forced to return to Heaven for a probationary period while her Familia was stripped of their blessings. The fact that she had plotted, even indirectly, against the Hephaestus Familia and, by proxy, the Loki Familia gave them a lot of leeway to deal with her Familia as they pleased.

The difficult matter was that Laverna had been killed by a mortal as it would become a point of contention amongst the godly community. There were various laws in place to prevent mortals from taking action against gods as the majority of gods were non-combatants. Since the gods were already prevented from using their Arcanum when they came to the mortal world, if there was nothing to protect them, they would be exploited by mortals instead of taking advantage of them. The current system where gods gave blessings to people and received their offerings was an almost irrefutable truth that was required to maintain the status-quo. If the idea that a mortal could go around killing gods without punishment spread, it would lead to chaos and disrupt the established order that maintained the balance between the mortal world and Heaven.

Though everyone present believed Laverna got was she deserved, Hephaestus, Loki, and even Anubis wished they had been the ones to deal the blow. Not just for personal vindication, but because they would be able to accept responsibility and pass it off as a conflict of interests. Even still, they didn’t blame whoever killed Laverna as everyone present understood something had to have occurred for the situation to progress to this point. Hephaestus and Loki even have a good idea of who the assassin had been and knew she likely acted to protect Vahn.

Unable to come up with a permanent solution, it was eventually decided that they would have to take a firm stance and confront Ouranos directly and sway negotiations using their combined authority. Though they would undoubtedly have to compromise so that Ouranos had an excuse to give the other gods and goddesses, nobody present was willing to let harm come to the victims of Laverna’s scheme. Hephaestus herself was willing to accept punishment since it was her purchase of the materials that led to the fiasco in the first place, but Loki forced her to back down after she used Vahn’s words against her.

After everything was decided, Loki and Hephaestus gave orders to their respective Familia as Miach, Takemikazuchi, and Anubis sent their children home. The majority of the people they had brought along were Level 2 or lower, so they weren’t contributing much to the current situation. The only reason Anubis’s children had been called in was due to their ability to track down people and disarm traps. After they had identified the direction that Vahn had went, they split off to assist the other search parties as the main groups of the Loki Familia pursued Vahn. When Nanu found out that Vahn was safe, she was very relieved and led the children back to the house double-time to patiently wait for his return.

Finn was placed in charge as they continued the operation which had turned into a joint investigation with the Guild personnel that had arrived. Using the opportunity when two of the top three Familia had gathered, the Guild had actually requested the cooperation of the Alliance to weed out several other well-known dens of criminals. Though they would have normally refused, Loki and Hephaestus allowed the cooperation to continue since it would give them more leverage in their coming negotiations.

Once everything was taken care of, Hephaestus, Loki, Anubis, Takemikazuchi, and Miach all made their way toward the Guild’s main branch to confront Ouranos before Laverna had any chance to sway things in her favor. Since it took time to rematerialize in Heaven after death, Laverna wouldn’t be able to make use of an Oracle to contact anyone for several hours at the earliest. If they got the initiative, things would be much easier to deal with even if she tried to make things difficult for them.

Without any hesitation, the group made their way into the main hall of the Guild before they were intercepted by Royman Mardeel, the Guild Head and public representative of Ouranos in the mortal world. He was an arrogant, yet servile looking, elderly elf with white hair and green eyes. His face seemed to wear a permanent scowl and he radiated an air of superiority when dealing with mortals. However, if any of them saw his current behavior they would have to perform a triple-take because he was presently bowing low and reverentially towards the group of gods and goddesses.

Though he acted arrogantly toward mortals, Royman had a profound level of respect for all gods and goddesses unless they proved themselves unworthy of their title according to Ouranos, his Master. After hearing the reason for their visit, Royman quickly made way and personally escorted the group to a hidden elevator at the back of the Guild Head’s office. As he was unable to enter without permission, he bowed low as the godly group boarded the platform.

As it was the first time for Anubis, Miach, and Takemikazuchi, they couldn’t help but ask about where the elevator led. Loki’s brows furrowed for a brief moment before she showed an almost crazy smile and responded, “Prepare yourself, as you’re about to witness the greatest testament to hypocrisy in both the mortal world and Heaven!”

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘The Alliance Grows’,’Confronting the Sky’,’Anubis is just happy to be included’)

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