After leaving the Hostess of Fertility, it was nearing 3 PM and Vahn didn’t have anything planned. He thought about visiting the Twilight Manor and meeting with Tiona and Ais but didn’t think it would be appropriate at the moment. Vahn started to consider if he should be taking the next few days off in the real world while seriously focusing his efforts in the orb. Since he would be staying near the Hostess of Fertility, Vahn could easily visit Hephaestus and Eina over the next few days while checking up on Milan and Tina.
Vahn spent the rest of the afternoon lazing about the City and taking in the various sights and sounds while he contemplated future matters. In this time, he had been hearing several rumors about himself and the matters that had taken place the prior night. Even though he had only been forced to leave the Hephaestus Familia just this morning, it seemed to be a popular topic of discussion in the general populace. Till now, his name was known but his face and figure had remained relatively obscure and most people didn’t recognize him. Now, however, Vahn noticed several people giving him a variety of different looks.
Since the information spreading around had his normal appearance, Vahn decided to walk through the town in his Báihǔ form to avoid attention. Even though he actually stood out quite a bit because of his striking appearance, most people couldn’t recognize him as the ‘Former’ Vulcan. As he was no longer part of the Hephaestus Familia, his alias had actually been stripped from him and some people were even calling him a ‘God Killer’ even though it was made public that he hadn’t actually done the deed.
Before experiencing it first hand, Vahn hadn’t realized how quickly information spread through the City’s networks and it was somewhat disheartening hearing what some people said about him. Though he wasn’t too concerned with their opinions, it still made him feel a little sad that people he had never met saw fit to pass judgment and draw conclusions about his character. Even though it was known that Laverna was leading a ‘Crime Familia’, Vahn was still painted as a menace that didn’t know how to show proper restraint. Fortunately, Milan and Tina’s names seemed to have been covered up while speculation about the identity of the actual god killer was still a mystery.
By the time 5 PM came around, Vahn was sitting atop a tall building that could overlook a large part of the City. With his stealth and agility, there were few places Vahn couldn’t get to unless they were protected by barriers. Since he could see the magical energies of formations, there wasn’t really any chance of Vahn being detected by normal means. As he sat atop the seven-storied building, Vahn overlooked the City in silent contemplation before finding a flat area to lay down and enter the orb.
Once inside, Vahn spent some affectionate time with Eva and noticed her behavior had transitioned from being overly affectionate to a more supportive and docile temperament. Instead of greedily seeking pleasure and warmth, they spent more time cuddling and talking about the future and each of their various troubles.
It was during the first of many of these sessions when Vahn learned about the issues between Eva and (Nameless). Even though she made an effort to treat it better, she couldn’t communicate with it well and it always seemed to get distracted whenever it was left to its own devices. It had developed the habit of digging up some of the plants in her garden which had irked her a fair amount. Though she still fed it, after a few months of failed attempts to get along with it, Eva gave up trying. The final straw had been when she tried to force it to take a bath, but the water actually made it smell worse.
Vahn had also noticed that (Nameless)’s loyalty had diminished a fair amount in the time he hadn’t seen it, but it quickly replenished to a normal level after Vahn interacted with it a bit. Perhaps because it was feeling neglected within the space, but (Nameless) always reacted positively when he was around. It was likely due to their bond and spiritual link and it’s ability to easily understand Vahn’s thoughts and orders. Vahn also didn’t think poorly of it, and never shied away from giving it a bit of affection.
Even though Vahn also found (Nameless) quite ugly, he didn’t want to be the type of person that neglected those that have chosen to follow him. Since (Nameless) had been his first subordinate and would be one of his long-time companions, Vahn wanted it to be happier. Though it wasn’t much, he purchased a hearty meal for it and even gave it a large collar with a non-descript golden nametag which was currently left blank. It seemed to be very happy and even tried to affectionately lick Vahn’s hand for a while before he just pet its head to avoid the foul smelling breath. Eva even made him wash his hands plentily when it came time for their bath or she wouldn’t allow him to touch her.
Vahn’s resolve to give (Nameless) a good name became more firmly cemented in his mind as he returned it to its magic core state and placed it back into his inventory before leaving. Eva didn’t seem to mind being in the space alone since Vahn had given her a veritable warehouse full of books and items to keep her occupied. They make things easier, Vahn had purchased nearly 100,000OP worth of building materials since he remembered she had once wanted to build a castle. She put a lot of effort into construction and meticulously maintained the garden they had planted together, so Vahn thought increasing the scale according to her interests would be a good idea. They spent a few hours together with Eva in high spirits as they talked about the design which ended up looking like a miniature castle straight out of a fairy tale.
Back in the real world, Vahn was in much higher spirits after interacting with Eva in the orb-space. He went back toward the Hostess of Fertility where he spent dinner alongside Tina and Milan and even had a short conversation with Ryuu before parting. Vahn was somewhat surprised when she seemed to be interested in joining his Familia in the future when he had explained his intentions to turn it into a ‘righteous’ Familia.
He was unaware at the time, but Ryuu had already resolved herself to support him alongside several other members of the Hostess of Fertility like Chloe and Syr. The three girls had, without explaining things fully to Vahn, decided they would help expand his information network and try to manage things on the darker side of the spectrum to prevent Vahn from being overburdened by those with malicious intent.
When Vahn had returned to the Inn, he felt strangely lonely while he was sleeping in the unfamiliar bed. Though he hadn’t realized it before, there had almost always been someone sleeping alongside him for more than a month without an exception. Now that he was in bed alone, Vahn felt like the night air was surprisingly cold and he used his [Heart of the Eternal Flame] to keep himself warm as he conversed with Sis about future plans and possible solutions.
By her suggestion, Vahn decided to spend the next few days using the resources he had available to him to increase the strength of his foundation. Though they wouldn’t offer a great increase in his parameters, they would promote his growth in the future while increasing the number of parameters he could obtain per level. The majority of the items came in the form of various pills that could be ingested immediately, and each of them caused Vahn some degree of discomfort as his body processed the effects. Vahn consumed them all before going to sleep while planning to make use of the remaining powders in his future baths.
Morning came sooner than he expected and Vahn once gain felt somewhat lonely to awake to an empty bed. With a sigh, he returned to the orb and refreshed himself by spending more time with Eva. Since she had four years to manage the construction, the miniature castle had already been completed and Eva expanded the walls of their previous house and garden and turned it into a small courtyard. The biggest impact to Vahn had been the various statues that Eva decided to decorate the area with.
When he had seen the first one, Vahn’s mind blanked because it was a 5m tall nude version of himself striking a heroic pose while cradling a naked Eva in one of his arms. Though the craftsmanship was incredible, Vahn felt awkward every time he saw anything depicting himself. He felt like the version Eva had created in her mind was something much greater than he currently was and Vahn even felt somewhat pressured by her expectations.
Since it was only the two of them that could enter the space, Eva wasn’t shy at all when it came to creating her paintings and sculptures, and the most common medium had always been Vahn and herself in various scenes. There were paintings where they would be sitting amongst nature peacefully while others showed fantastical scenes where they were fighting titanic creatures hand-in-hand.
Eva even had a wing of the castle where she had forbidden Vahn entry and the overly serious look on her face had caused him to swallow hard before making a promise not to. It was fortunate he listened to her as well since the artwork within her private wing was much more intense than anything on display outside. She had seen Vahn’s somewhat inhibited response to her earlier pieces and lost any confidence she had in letting him see what she believed to be her true masterpieces.
By the time Vahn had left the orb again, his mentality had stabilized quite a bit and he was making more progress in his forging, though only by marginal amounts. He had gotten the suggestion from Sis to try and use his [Eyes of Truth] to assist in the creation of items and now Vahn was slowly trying to adapt to the ability. Unfortunately, the expenditure of energy was far too high so Vahn had limited success and couldn’t create any kind of magically infused materials at all.
Once he returned to the real world, Vahn took a bath using some [Intermediate Body Strengthening Liquid] before meditating for a few hours until it was time to head to the Hostess of Fertility for lunch. Since the pub didn’t typically open until 10 AM, they didn’t serve breakfast since they required time to clean up and prepare everything after the close of business the previous day.
Tina always ate while sitting in Vahn’s lap, and he felt like she was becoming overly reliant on him in a manner similar to Lili. Milan always acted more reserved, but she still sat next to Vahn as they all enjoyed their meals together. Vahn missed the playful and teasing nature that she used to have and hoped that she would be able to recover sooner since it would likely help Tina stabilize as well.
During the lunch, Vahn was finally able to reunite with Chloe but she was acting uncharacteristically polite and attentive since she was being considerate of Milan and Tina. Vahn felt somewhat apologetic toward her since he actually wanted to spoil her quite a bit after everything that happened two days ago. Since she was very perceptive of him, Chloe noticed his intentions and teased him a bit when Milan and Tina had finally returned to their duties.
Chloe stepped forward with a mischevious smile as she stroked Vahn’s chest and stomach playfully with squinted eyes. Vahn countered by hugging her waist and trying to kiss her, but she lowered her head slightly and Vahn ended up landing on her forehead which caused the cat girl to laugh in a, ‘Nyahaha’ like manner. Vahn smiled at her antics and just held her closely for several seconds until she relaxed in his arms.
After a while, Chloe whispered in a somewhat sensual tone in Vahn’s ear, “If you still want to know about me…I can come to your Inn tonight…and we can talk~nya.” Her words had tickled his ear and caused Vahn’s brows to raise slightly. When he turned to make eye contact with her, he noticed she actually had a bit of concern in her eyes and her aura was fluctuating slightly. Vahn sighed in his mind because he realized she must have known he was feeling somewhat lonely.
He asked in a low tone, “Is it really that easy to read my face?” His words caused Chloe to laugh cheerfully before she placed her hand on his cheek and smiled. She whispered in a quiet tone that couldn’t be overheard even if others had been listening attentively, “It is indeed very easy~nya. But, it is one of the best traits about you…it makes it easy for people to trust you and allows us to share your concerns. Make sure to keep your window unlocked tonight~nya.”
Vahn smiled and held her closely as he once again planted his lips on her forehead for a while before pulling away and resting his forehead against her’s. Staring at her from so close made Vahn feel like there was no distance between them as he looked into her caring and glimmering green eyes. He felt like Chloe was one of the most significant people in his entire life and wanted to know more about her so they could be even closer. With a light smile on his face, Vahn whispered, “I’ll be waiting…”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Eva’s Artistic Inclination’,’Poor (Nameless)’,’Chloe’s Invitation’)