Chapter 201: Comfort

When Vahn awoke early the next morning he could feel a pressure on his chest and, after moving the covers a bit, he could see that Lili had changed her position in the night and was now hugging his body like a koala. Vahn noticed that she was incredibly light so it wouldn’t have been that uncomfortable if not for the wet stain on part of his tunic where her drool had soaked into the fabric.

Turning his head to the right, Vahn noticed that Naaza didn’t seem to have moved a single millimeter while she was asleep and continued to rest on his shoulder while holding his sleeve with her hand. Since his right arm was pinned by her body, and he didn’t want to wake her, Vahn used his left hand to pull out the orb. Before he immersed himself into it, he looked at the tiny white ears on Lili’s head for a few seconds before blowing into them with a puff of air. The small tiger-ears twitched and Lili turned her head to the other side and found a new spot to drool on.

Vahn smiled at her reaction and then inserted his consciousness into the orb to meet Eva and calm his mind. Contrary to his expectations, Eva didn’t drop onto him like all of the recent times he had visited. Instead, she was sitting off to the side in a white sundress with her hair somehow tied into a long braid that reached down to her butt. When they made eye contact, Eva asked, “With how you look, it doesn’t seem like things went that well?”

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Releasing a sigh, Vahn sat up from the bed and rested against the headboard as Eva snuggled up next to him and waited for his explanation. Vahn recounted all of the events of the prior day from start to finish since it had been more than four years since Eva heard everything. She listened in silence all the way until the end while resting her head against his shoulder.

When his story was finished, Eva asked in a quiet tone, “What do you want to do now? Will you continue to forge, or do you want to start training to become stronger?” When she got to this point, Eva repositioned herself before transforming into her adult form and hugging Vahn’s head into her ample breasts. She whispered in a comforting tone, “Or do you want me to pamper you for a bit…?”

Vahn allowed her to hug his head as he his body with his arms around her waist. The moment he embraced her, Eva began to stroke his hair gently and didn’t say another word while comforting Vahn. After a while, Vahn asked in a slight daze, “I’m not sure what to do, Eva…I want to be stronger so things like this never happen again. But, I also want to keep the promises I’ve made as soon as possible.”

Releasing a sigh into her breasts, Vahn continued, “I want to be a hero…I want to be the light that helps people find their way out of the darkness…but I don’t know what that really means. People tell me to just continue being myself, but everything I’m doing feels like it is only delaying the inevitable. The harder I try, the happier people become…but I feel like it just creates a gap in my own mentality that invites terrible things to happen. I want to be happy, but if my actions lead other people to suffer…”

At this point, Vahn began to cry warm tears that trickled down Eva’s cleavage as he hugged her waist tighter. She rested her cheek on his head as she continued to stroke his back and hair while Vahn continued trying to organize his thoughts. After a few seconds of silence, Vahn continued, “I don’t want to be bad…I don’t want to be evil…but I feel like the only way to protect the things I care about is to seek out and destroy the people that might harm them. The only way I can protect them is if everyone is too afraid to take action…but, I also don’t want the people I care about to see me in that way…I don’t want people to be afraid of me.”

Eva continued stroking Vahn’s back as he turned silent for a long period of time. After a while, she spoke in a soft and gentle tone, “This is why most heroic tales end in tragedy…because there is too much darkness in the world for one person to resist. The harder you try, the more reliance people will place on you as they seek the warmth and security you provide. Since there is darkness in everyone, you’ll bear their burdens and become susceptible to the plots and schemes of others…”

Vahn silently listened to her words and knew that she was speaking the truth, at least as far as he could rationalize things. If he had never been involved with anyone in the ‘record’ of Danmachi, he wouldn’t be wrapped up in all of these things…but he also wouldn’t have been as happy as he had become. Lili would have continued to suffer until Bell saved her, and Naaza would have lost her arm. He didn’t regret his actions, and there were so many things he wanted to protect, but Vahn still felt the strain of the burdens placed on him. If not for this secret place where he could vent, Vahn wasn’t sure he’d be able to cope with the rapid changes to his life.

Suddenly, Vahn felt a sense of weightlessness for a brief moment before he could smell various new aromas around. Lifting his head from Eva’s breasts, Vahn noticed she had teleported the entire bed into the lively garden she had been developing over the last twenty or so years. The trees that they planted long ago had already grown by a fair amount, and it looked like a small piece of paradise with the neatly arranged rock formations and the artificial creek that had been carved into the landscape.

Eva rubbed the side of Vahn’s face with her hand and looked at him with gentle eyes as she leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips. Vahn’s mind blanked for a brief moment and didn’t have time to reciprocate the kiss before she pulled away. Seeing his reaction, Eva smiled and said, “There is a simple solution, and I’m sure it’s one you have already thought of but overlooked because of your focus and drive…”

Vahn listened attentively and waited for her to continue; Eva laughed at his eagerness and explained, “Aren’t there plenty of people around you to help share your burdens? Instead of trying to bear everything yourself, you can find those you trust and place your reliance in them. Just like now, when you’re letting me consul and guide you, I’m sure there are others that are willing to do the same. Weren’t you always talking about all the things that Hephaestus woman did for you that you wanted to pay back?”

Eva’s words caused Vahn to think about all of the various people in his life and realized that there were actually a number of people trying to make his life easier. In fact, there were few people within Vahn’s immediate recollection that weren’t trying to help him as he continued trying to move forward. It was their assistance and his willingness to try and make them happy that had been driving him all this time.

While he was recalling all of the people he was in a relationship with, Eva continued, “I think the biggest problem is that you are too reliant on receiving their care and then trying to repay it and live up to their expectations. If you learn to work alongside them and help each other out, you’ll be able to cover for each other’s weaknesses and overcome difficulties together. You don’t have to face everything alone…”

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At this point, Eva turned back into her normal appearance and crawled into Vahn’s lap with her back resting against his chest. She grabbed his hands and placed them around her as she held them with her own. Turning her head to the side and tilting her body, Eva kissed Vahn on the chin and then said, “I’m sure you realize how much I rely on the time we get to spend together, even if it is only for a brief period every few years. It is because of what you have given me and the things we have faced together that I can continue forward and stall the decay of this space. I think that, if you learn to rely on others like what you’re doing in here with me, you’ll have a much easier life.”

Vahn considered her words for a while before releasing a somewhat tired, yet relieved, sigh. Putting a bit of strength into his hands, he held Eva tightly and hugged her against his body as he traced his head around her face and kissed her on the lips. Since she had been staring at his face, Vahn didn’t have to go far before they made contact and kissed for nearly a full minute. When the kiss ended, Vahn looked into Eva’s icy blue eyes and whispered, “After everything you’ve done…I feel like I need to repay you now.”

Eva began to laugh mischievously as she reached her hand up and caressed the side of Vahn’s face and said, “Wrong again, my idiot disciple…we should work together to make each other happy. Every bit of affection you show me, I’ll ‘repay’ it with interest. That way, no matter what, we’ll always be working toward a greater happiness…together.”

In response to her words, Vahn traced his palms along her stomach and felt a gentle flow of mana as her white dress disappeared under his hands. Vahn also discarded his equipment and the two spent nearly two hours affectionately caressing each other without doing anything intense as they had done in the past. They just focused on exploring each other’s bodies and discovering new things about each other that made them happier…together.

When Vahn left the garden where Eva had fallen asleep, he felt incredibly refreshed and revitalized. He had learned that Eva was actually weaker to gentle caresses than she was more intense stimulation and after hugging her body as she drained his blood, she actually fell asleep while he was stroking her long golden hair. It turns out, when her blood pressure increases during excitement, she actually needs to release the pent of emotions and relied on his actions to do so. Since he didn’t give her an easy outlet, her emotions continued to rise until her face was nearly beet red and Vahn felt like she was beginning to let off a small amount of steam. Since it was such a different reaction than her normal mischevious behavior, Vahn had gotten a little carried away and spoiled her quite a bit.

Vahn had also seen (Nameless) sleeping under a tree and noticed that his body hadn’t changed much. Other than its age increasing, there was no visible difference between his former and present self. When he noticed Vahn, (Nameless) rose from the ground and hobbled toward him with uneven steps and Vahn used Shundo to close the distance so it wouldn’t have to struggle. Without any magical ability to speak of, (Nameless) couldn’t substitute its energy by absorbing mana and it was barely able to sustain itself using some of the ingredients Vahn had left behind for Eva to cook with.

Though (Nameless) was still quite ugly, Vahn treated it affectionately and scratched behind its ears as he channeled his energy into its body. (Nameless) seemed to be very pleased by Vahn’s affection since, as Vahn learned later, Eva hadn’t exactly been too fond of it. Though she made an effort to interact with it and even fed it so it wouldn’t starve, she didn’t like its ugly looks or lack of intelligence. Since they had no easy way to communicate and he couldn’t understand her orders well, they had more or less lived in the same space without interacting too often.

After fully replenishing its energy, Vahn made he way toward his workshop as (Nameless) trailed closely behind. Vahn allowed it to do so since it shouldn’t cause any problems if he orders it to stay off to the side while he was working. Surprisingly, even without his order, (Nameless) just stood at the elevated platform where Eva’s desk was and laid down on the floor as it watched Vahn work. If it had been a normal dog, its actions would have appeared cute, but Vahn couldn’t help but feel slightly unnerved to see a dog with human-like arms supporting a dogs head as it stared at his actions with interest.

Vahn resolved that, once the cooldown for [Keeper of the Akashic Tome] was up, he would come up with a name that would either make (Nameless) look very cool, or at least more appealing than the mangy humanoid dog that it currently appeared to be. He had already thought about naming it [Fenrir] based on the same mythos as Fafnir, but Vahn had a few misgivings about naming all of his subordinates after entities known for destruction. Fafnir already looked ‘evil’ and suddenly having a ‘world-devouring’ wolf might make people think he is some kind of evil tyrant.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Poor (Nameless)’,’Vahn is still just a kid’,’Sometimes, being intense isn’t as intense as being gentle’)

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