After his parting words, Vahn actually took off running before Tsubaki could regain her composure. In a manner similar to their last parting, Vahn ran away so she wouldn’t thrash him in a fit of emotional outburst. Seeing him run away, Tsubaki broke out of her confusion before pulling out a hammer that she kept on her person at all times. Lining up the shot, she threw it hard enough to break the sound barrier as it flew by Vahn’s head before smashing into a nearby wall.
Vahn easily evaded the blow since he had expected it to come, but he still sweated when he saw the spiderweb cracks on the hard surface where the hammer had embedded itself. Transforming into his Báihǔ form, he jumped onto the roof of one of the nearby workshops and quickly disappeared from the sights of the five girls.
Tsubaki looked like she was ‘fuming’, but everyone present could see the blush on her face as she turned to give them a reproachful glare. Each of them averted their eyes except for Anubis who laughed quietly while covering her mouth. Tsubaki turned her gaze to her which prompted Anubis to say, “After the incident earlier, it was only a matter of time before he tried to grab your butt. You do have the biggest one out of all the women around him after all.”
Frowning slightly, Tsubaki seemed to be lost in her thoughts for a brief moment before she turned her gaze to the gently wagging tail of Anubis. A smile appeared on her face as she walked toward the unsuspecting goddess before slapping her on the butt with an open-palmed strike. Anubis immediately yelped, but everyone present heard there was a sensual undertone to the vocalization that caused her to blush and avert her eyes. Tsubaki began laughing loudly as she said, “Your butt isn’t so bad either! And it looks like you have some peculiar interests as well~.”
Unable to easily deal with someone as ‘shameless’ as Tsubaki, Anubis ended up excusing herself from the conversation with Nanu in tow. Naaza and Lili had made eye contact with each other and came to an unspoken agreement as they secretly pledged not to tease Tsubaki when she was embarrassed. Though it didn’t seem it did a lot of damage, the slap had been incredible audible and had even caused several passersby to look over with unconcealed intrigue.
After he had gone a few blocks, Vahn returned to normal while keeping his domain spread thinly in a 5m area around him. At this range, he would be able to respond to the majority of attacks even if they were from a Level 5. Ever since the ambush from yesterday, Vahn didn’t want to take the chance of getting caught with his domain inactive again. Even if he might draw the attention of a god or goddess by using it, as long as he kept it contained close to his body there shouldn’t be any issues. Since he was able to differentiate between mortals and gods by the size of their aura, Vahn wasn’t worried about getting found out easily.
It was at this moment, when Vahn was finally away from everyone, that he realized he was homeless for the first time in a while. Though brief, he even had a small desire to return to his forest cave and rest there for a few days. That thought passed quickly, however, when the image of Tina and Milan surfaced in his mind. There was also the matter regarding Hestia’s descent from Heaven and the formation of her Familia. Vahn would be the first member and would be acting as the role of a Captain when it came to recruiting more members. He figured that, by the time Bell arrived more than two years from now, the Familia would have grown to the size of a small organization. Vahn even wanted to try and get it to Rank A or S if he could get enough powerful members to join.
With thoughts of the future in his mind, Vahn wondered if he should purchase a place now or wait until Hestia finally came down so they could choose it together. Though he expected she would want to be spoiled, Vahn actually looked forward to his interactions with the goddess. Much like Eina, he was naturally predisposed to want to associate with her since she had been one of Vahn’s favorite characters in the past. Though he didn’t initially have any romantic interest in her, remembering the words from Loki, Vahn considered that it might happen in the future and it made him a little giddy.
Even though he knew Hestia had liked Bell in the manga, Vahn was more invested in living his own life and trying to respond to the thoughts, actions, and feelings of the people he liked to be around. He might not make any early advances on Hestia, but Vahn expected they would grow close very quickly since she seemed to have a disposition that enjoyed physical contact. In most of the scenes, other than when she was working or interacting with the plot, Hestia could be seen clinging to Bell in some form or fashion. Though he felt the smallest amount of guilt, Vahn didn’t think anyone belonged to anyone else and he had already irreversibly changed fate. Hestia would end up with who she chooses, and Vahn didn’t mind if he became the object of her affections in the future.
After all, it was still more than two years before Bell came to the City, and Vahn didn’t think it was appropriate to try and force a situation just because it had been prominent in the original ‘record’. He had already been engaged to Eina while experiencing his first time with two other prominent girls in Tiona and Ais. Since he also had a potential relationship with Syr and Ryuu, Vahn didn’t feel the need to restrict himself according to a fate that no longer existed. If he had let things progress naturally, Lili would have been forced to suffer for several more years while Tiona would have continued experiencing her loneliness. Naaza would have lost her arm and entered a powerful depression after the collapse of her Familia and Tsubaki would have lived the rest of her life alone. Since Vahn truly cared about each of the girls around him, he had no regrets or inhibitions about trying his best in the future.
Vahn knew Bell had a natural charisma that would draw people to him in the future, so he wasn’t overly concerned about his well-being. He intended to make friends with the young hero and help promote his growth and awakening as a genuine hero. Even if Hephaestus didn’t forge him a dagger by the request of Hestia, Vahn could make him a number of powerful pieces of equipment while letting him make use of the network he would develop in the future. Bell would even be able to accompany the Loki Familia on their expeditions from the outset if he so chose while having a number of people to train with and grow alongside.
After ruminating a bit, Vahn decided to stay at an Inn called the ‘Boars Teeth’ that was near the center of the City. Since he would be moving around a lot in the next few days, Vahn wanted a central location that would allow him to easily reach other areas of the City when he was feeling whimsical. He paid for a week upfront, though he only expected to be staying for the next three days. If nothing else the proprietress, a middle-aged woman with purple hair and green eyes, could use the remaining amount as she saw fit.
Once he had a place to stay, Vahn headed toward the Hostess of Fertility to check up on Milan and Tina. He also wanted to enjoy a long lunch and spend some time with Chloe and pamper her for a while. Though he was trying to break the mindset of ‘paying people back’, Vahn still felt like he needed to tend to her more. Not because he owed her anything, but because he respected her character and enjoyed her company. He also wanted to hear about her past and assumed it might bring them close enough that her affection increases to the cap. If he could see her hearts desire, Vahn felt like he would have a better understanding of how to help her break free from the darkness in the future.
Arriving outside the familiar pub, Vahn was surprised because there was a figure that immediately ran through the double doors before leaping into his arms. Though she was wearing a miniature version of the waitress outfit of the Hostess of Fertility, Vahn still recognized the girl as Tina and caught her smoothly without losing his balance. When he caught her, she immediately began to nuzzle into his chest and Vahn suddenly felt she was acting a lot like Lili had when he first saved her.
Vahn gently stroke her head as he placed her onto the ground so she could stand on her own two feet. However, even though he put her down, Tina still continued to cling to him like she was afraid to let him go. Vahn felt pained by the way she was acting because it was a far cry from her usual behavior that acted more sensibly. Stroking her back gently, Vahn said in a quiet voice, “Everything is okay Tina, I’m not going anywhere.”
Tina didn’t look up at his face as she continued to cling to him as tears started building up in her eyes. She said in a slightly sobbing voice, “When I woke up, you weren’t there. I had nightmares…” Her body began to shake and it made Vahn feel like his heart was going to break. He continued trying to console her and whispered, “I carried you all the way back while protecting you and your mother. It is safe here, and I’ll be able to visit often…”
Her hands around his waist tightened and she raised her teary doe-like eyes as she said, “We’re supposed to be together…I don’t want to stay here. Even though the girls are all nice, I want to come to stay with you. Mom can come with us as well…we can be happy…” Tina’s tears started dripping heavily from her eyes and Vahn felt like she was almost pleading to him.
Kneeling down, Vahn hugged Tina closely even though they were drawing the attention of several people. Milan had also come out from inside the Hostess of Fertility with Syr standing beside her. Both of the girls had sad expressions as they watched Vahn trying to console Tina. They both knew she had been putting on a strong front and trying her best to interact with customers, but the moment she detected Vahn’s scent, she immediately broke down and ran out of the pub after causing a small commotion.
Vahn looked around the area before picking up Tina in his arms and asking Syr, “Can I use the usual room?” Syr gave him a gentle and encouraging smile as she and Milan followed Vahn into the private room he had permanently reserved during the lunch hours. Sitting in the booth, Vahn held Tina sideways on his lap as he used [Hands of Nirvana] to help calm her. He then began to explain everything that had happened recently to the girls present and tried to help Tina understand that a lot of things were changing right now.
He encouraged Tina to stay strong and protect her mother while trying to learn from the girls at the Hostess of Fertility. Though he didn’t know all of their stories, Vahn knew they all had some form of trauma or tragic past they were trying to overcome. Milan needed time away from interacting too heavily with men, and she had taken the role of one of the kitchen staff while Tina tried to maintain her liveliness by working as a waitress that delivered appetizers and snacks.
Though she had trouble agreeing with him outright, Vahn managed to convince Tina to stay here temporarily with the support of Milan and Syr explaining things. The final straw had been when Milan embraced her body and the three shared a sad hug while both of the girls cried in his arms. Syr stood to the side with a gentle smile on her face and spoke encouraging words to the Mother-Daughter pair whole having Vahn promise to stop by for each meal until he found a place to stay permanently.
Vahn agreed and told them about his plans to join the Hestia Familia when she descended three days from now. His words had actually prompted Milan to ask if she would be able to join the Familia sometime in the future. Tina also wanted to join and Vahn agreed to accept them both, but not before he had increased the security of the Familia and recruited some strong members. If they truly wanted to join a Familia soon, Vahn suggested the Loki Familia, since he would be accompanying them on their expeditions in the future and would be spending a lot of time there when his probationary period ended.
Tina outright refused while saying she would only join the Familia he was in, but Milan considered the idea for a few minutes before inevitably deciding to accompany Tina. From her perspective, as soon as Vahn stabilized and became the Captain of a Familia, it would help guarantee the livelihoods of her and her daughter in the future. Though she didn’t like to think in such a pragmatic way, especially in regards to Vahn, the incident the previous night had been an awakening for her. She had almost left Tina an orphan and wanted to guarantee that she had a safe place in the future even if she felt her thoughts were slightly exploitative.
After coming to an agreement, Vahn ate lunch with the two girls after leaving a heavy tip with Mama Mia to excuse their absence. Syr was their server because, when Vahn asked, Chloe had asked for the day off after arriving slightly after sunrise. She had been out late while trying to close up loose ends and needed to recuperate a bit before returning to work tomorrow. Vahn was surprised with how informed Syr was about the situation and she explained that it was her role within the Hostess of Fertility to keep everyone unified. She knew about all the histories of the girls and did her best to make sure nothing happened that would cause problems for them. The only reason she spoke to Vahn about the matters was that she ‘trusted’ him and knew of his relationship with Chloe.
Vahn thanked Syr for all the help she had provided and her response was to pause for a little while as she stared at Vahn’s face. Curious about her actions, Vahn was about to ask when she quickly leaned forward and gave him a kiss right next to his lips without contacting them much. Vahn wasn’t sure if she had tried to kiss his cheek or if she had aimed for his lips and misjudged her approach. Satisfied with his response, Syr chuckled and teased Vahn by saying, “Won’t we all be family in the future~? I’m also drawn to your ‘light’, Vahn, make sure you don’t forget…”
Milan had already returned to her duties while Tina had been given the rest of the day off after lunch had come to an end. This left Vahn to stand blankly for a few seconds as he watched Syr trot away after successfully teasing him. Her actions caused Vahn to ruminate over her words and he realized that Chloe must have talked to her about what they had discussed within the escape tunnel. He hadn’t realized her influence in the Hostess of Fertility until now but recalled that she was often exempt from several things while Mama Mia overlooked her actions.
Now Vahn understood that the person in charge of the Hostess of Fertility all this time was actually Syr, even though Mama Mia was still the proprietress. Remembering that both of the items he had obtained from reaching max affection with Syr were related to ‘Fertility’, Vahn even suspected that Syr was the reason the pub had been established in the first place. He wondered how she would react when word got around that he was considered a ‘demigod of fertility’ himself since he now realized she was very obviously a ‘demigoddess of fertility’…or something similar.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Tina’s Trauma’,’Milan’s Concerns’,’Syr’s Influence’)