Since the Inn Vahn stayed at was on the same road between the Hostess of Fertility and the Babel Plaza, the two arrived outside the pub after a short ten-minute walk. Along the way, Vahn held Chloe’s hand just like he had done so on their date long ago. To other pedestrians, they looked like a young couple walking through the City and enjoying each other’s company. Though they were supposed to be in a hurry, Chloe had waited for him outside of the Inn and they leisurely enjoyed the stroll and sunny weather.
After arriving near the Hostess of Fertility, Chloe went toward the side entrance to change into her waitress clothing. She said that it would be a death sentence is she walked through the doors in her current getup while being accompanied by Vahn. Since she was already late, Chloe didn’t want to do anything that might trigger Mama Mia’s ire. Before she left, however, Vahn used the [Proof of Affection] that he had obtained from Chloe reaching maximum affection. The item that appeared was a beautiful blue ribbon.
Though Vahn found it somewhat strange that the item Chloe wanted was something so simple, she seemed to be very happy as she received it with a cheerful smile on her face. She hugged the ribbon to the side of her face with her eyes closed as if it was some great treasure. After a few seconds, she looked at Vahn with gentle eyes before handing the ribbon back to him. Vahn was somewhat confused until she turned around and said, “I want you to put it on for me…”
Vahn ran through the knowledge in his mind to find a hint for what she was implying, but none of the books he had read mentioned anything about a ribbon and cat people. Unsure of what to do, Vahn held the blue ribbon and stared blankly until he noticed Chloe’s tail had been twitching while she silently looked away from him. Inspired, Vahn reached his hands forward and very gently tied the ribbon near the base of Chloe’s, right under the small white bow. Though it clashed with the clothing a bit, Vahn felt like the pure blue color complimented the silken black hair of Chloe’s tail quite a bit.
While he was lost in thought, Chloe said in a quiet voice, “You have to tie it tighter, or it will fall off~nya.” Vahn followed her words and pulled the ribbon marginally tighter until it pressed into the fur a little. When he was done, Chloe’s tail danced about before she turned around and threw her arms around Vahn’s neck and gave him a kiss. Vahn held her by the waist and reciprocated her affectionate display until she finally separated from him. She touched the ribbon with her fingers and made sure it was firmly fastened to her tail before she laughed in a silly manner and walked inside without saying anything.
Vahn decided to ask her about it later or try to find out if there was some hidden meaning from one of the other cat people he knew. Since Milan and Tina were in a unique situation, that meant the only person he could ask was Arnya. Making his way through the front doors of the pub, Vahn looked around a bit before approaching the bar and explaining the situation to Mama Mia. As expected, she had already heard about the matter from Syr previously, but Vahn still left her a tip as compensation for the trouble. She took the money with a boisterous laughter and made comments about how he was growing up into a ‘fine young man’.
Afterward, Vahn ate lunch with Milan and Tina after asking Arnya to be their server. She seemed to be surprised by his request and even acted a bit flustered before eventually accepting. The whole time she was serving the trio, Arnya acted in a somewhat sheepish and clumsy manner and even knocked over the pitcher of juice they had ordered at one point. Vahn immediately contained the spill with one of the towels he had in his inventory while Arnya apologized in an embarrassed manner.
When lunch was finished and Vahn parted with Milan and Tina, he decided to ask Arnya about the matter of the ribbon since they were alone. He approached her and asked in a quiet voice, “Arnya, is there a special significance between cat people and ribbons?” Arnya was acting strangely since earlier and she tilted her head like she was confused about his question for some time. She was always a bit on the clumsy and foolish end of the spectrum, so it took her some time to make sense of what he was asking.
She asked in a curious manner while tilting her head far to the side in a cutesy and contemplative manner, “It depends~nya? Where did you put it?” Vahn, without thinking about his response, pointed at the small brown tail of Arnya that had three lighter colored stripes and a bushy end and said, “I put it on the tail.” Arnya tilted her head to the other side and thought about what he just said before looking at her own tail in confusion. After a few seconds had passed, she became very shocked and began waving her hands from side to side as she stuttered, “Nya-na-na-na-na, I’m nyot ready for that~!”
Without explaining what she ‘wasn’t ready for’, Arnya ran outside the door of the private booth as if she were escaping. She had a strange laughter and flustered expression that caused a bit of commotion in the pub until Mama Mia threw a wooden cork that bonked her on the head. Vahn watched the entire scene play out with confusion on his face that was only made worse after he checked the notifications that had sounded in his head from earlier.
Arnya’s affection for him had always been in the lower seventies, but it just shot up to the upper eighties after he asked her the question about the ribbon. Since she wasn’t one of the girls he had a ‘peculiar’ relationship with, Vahn was somewhat confused by the sudden increase. He almost wanted to retort that she was misunderstanding, but Arnya was often treated like an idiot by those around her and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Seeing that the value was constantly increasing and decreasing and the fact that her status was kept fluctuating between (Curious) and (Love?), Vahn lost any ability to comment. (A/N: Yes, that is Love with a question mark xD)
Syr had approached through the door while Vahn was confused and he decided to explain the matter to her while also asking if she knew anything about tying a ribbon to the tail of a cat person. His question had made her brows raise a bit before she started laughing in a cheerful manner while covering her mouth. She looked at him and Vahn could see a gleam pass through her eyes as she said, “I saw Chloe with that blue ribbon, so you must have given it to her. Though there isn’t any significant meaning most of the time, some cat people let their significant other’s tie a ribbon around the base of their tail. It is kind of a way to show they have been marked…after they marked someone.”
As she spoke, Syr had placed her hand on the collar of Vahn’s tunic and moved it aside to see bite mark Chloe had left in his shoulder the previous night. Vahn grabbed her wrist and pulled it away gently as she gave him a strange and soft look with a small smile on her face. Vahn now knew why Arnya acted in such an ‘explosive’ manner since she might have thought he was inviting her to bite him as well. Since she considered herself and Chloe to be the ‘poster cat girls’ of the Hostess of Fertility, she had an inclination to act similarly to Chloe at times. This was the reason she had taken to serve him on the days Chloe had taken off in the past and how they became friendly with each other over time.
Since she had disappeared to the back of the kitchen where Chloe was washing dishes as ‘punishment’, Vahn assumed she would probably see the ribbon he had tied for Chloe and hoped things would be explained. As an extra precaution, he even asked Syr to try and explain things if there were any misunderstandings. Though he didn’t mind Arnya and probably wouldn’t turn her away if she liked him, Vahn didn’t want their relationship to start because of a misunderstanding. He had learned that lesson because of his interactions with Nanu and wanted things to progress in a more natural manner if possible.
After parting with Syr and leaving the Hostess of Fertility, Vahn once again had nothing significant to do so he wandered around the City and inspected a few of the available properties that were for sale and lease. Though he still intended to take Hestia around and search, there was no harm in investigating things himself. Some places had formations and even escape tunnels that were hidden and were likely used by criminal organizations or disreputable types. Vahn even confirmed his suspicions once when he found a group of four people exit from a house that was supposed to be unoccupied.
Since they all had muted grey auras, Vahn decided to follow them to see if they were up to anything bad. Though he didn’t intend to act as the role of a vigilante that clears the streets in secret, he couldn’t overlook shady behavior if it happened right in front of him. There was also the fact that he was rather bored at the moment, so Vahn had been searching for something interesting to pass the time.
The men eventually entered another building that looked like a bar and Vahn could detect several different types of auras inside. Not all of them were grey as there were some neutral colors and even some warmer colored auras inside. Through his perception, Vahn could sense the men approach the counter as their aura became slightly brighter. Realizing that they had just come to the place to drink, Vahn shook his head and decided to not bother the men. He would just tell the Guild about the hidden passageway and have them investigate the building the men had used.
Just as a precaution though, Vahn returned to the building himself to see if there was anything strange. There didn’t seem to be any traps or anyone else present in the building so Vahn followed the corridor until it came to an end at another building that was also unoccupied. The four men from earlier likely knew the network of tunnels between some of the buildings and used them as a shortcut to evade the foot traffic aboveground.
Exiting the building, Vahn looked around the area and didn’t find anything suspicious even when he expanded his domain to the maximum. There were hundreds of people on the streets at this time, and there were a variety of different auras that could mean anything. Since there was nothing he could do, Vahn decided to just move on from the empty house and walk around for a bit to see if he could spot anything abnormal. It was somewhat exciting for him because Vahn felt like he was a detective tracking down a mystery even if there was no actual trail to follow.
By the time 5 PM came around, Vahn had returned to the Inn before entering into the orb and spending another three days with Eva. Even though he had looked around for about three hours, Vahn didn’t find anything too suspicious so he just reported the existence of the tunnels to the local guardsmen. Though they had wanted to question him, Vahn just used Shundo to disappear from their sights while leaving a few ‘mysterious’ parting words for the confused men.
Within the orb, Vahn continued to improve his forging and even acted as a live model for one of Eva’s paintings. When she was finished, she tried to goad Vahn into painting one of her, but he didn’t have the technical or artistic ability that she had developed over her hundreds of years as a Shinso Vampire. He did give a try, however, though things became overly complicated since he tried to put too much detail into things and got caught up fixing minor mistakes. Painting her face was easy and Vahn thought he might enjoy painting in the future, but when he moved on to try and shape out her body, Vahn couldn’t keep his focus at all and made several mistakes.
By the time he left the orb, he had created something that would have qualified as modern art in his previous world, though he didn’t know this personally. Leaving the Inn, he went back to the Hostess of Fertility to eat dinner with the girls and was tended to, surprisingly, by both Chloe and Arnya. She was still acting in an overly flustered manner and Chloe teased her throughout the entire dinner while playing with Tina. The young cat girl had started to grow closer to the other women at the Hostess of Fertility and Vahn was happy that she didn’t seem reliant on sticking to him as much. Milan always had a gentle smile on her face, and Vahn could see she was still heavily affected by the events, however.
After dinner, Chloe approached with Arnya while holding her hands on Arnya’s shoulders so she couldn’t run away. She had a somewhat devious smile on her face as she pushed Arnya in front of Vahn. Seeing the look in Chloe’s eyes, Vahn felt like something troublesome might have happened as he stared at the sheepish appearance of Arnya. She saw him look at her and lowered her head as she brought her index fingers together in an overly frustrated display of hesitation.
Vahn released a short sigh and asked, “Did Syr and Chloe explain about what happened earlier?” Vahn was somewhat concerned that the misunderstanding had never been addressed, so he wanted to clarify things before they got out of hand. His words caused Arnya to fluster a bit as a blush covered her face and she groaned slightly under her breath. Things had indeed been explained to her earlier, but she couldn’t stop her mind from getting carried away afterward and had been in an extra-clumsy mood all day since then.
Since Arnya didn’t respond, Chloe explained that she and Syr had talked to Arnya earlier but that Arnya still wanted to say something personally to Vahn later. As if prompted by Chloe’s words, Arnya looked at Vahn’s face and said, “Can you…pet my head~nya?” Though he was somewhat hesitant, Vahn showed an awkward smile as he placed his palm on Arnya’s head just as she asked. Since she wanted him to ‘pet’ her, Vahn also stroked her hair and ears gently as she closed her eyes with a slightly frustrated expression on her face.
The longer he stroked her head, the greater the number of notifications about her rising affection sounded in his mind. Vahn felt a bit nervous and pulled his hand away when it had reached 93 since he was afraid of the possibility that it would suddenly reach the cap if he continued. When he stopped, the frustrated expression on Arnya’s face didn’t go away as she gripped her own head with both hands and writhed about in a strange manner as if she didn’t know how to express what she was feeling.
Eventually, Chloe began to laugh at her actions before suggesting, “Arnya, you don’t have to immediately push things so far. Vahn will be coming here to the Hostess of Fertility often, probably for years to come. Just relax and take things slowly~nya.” As if grasping a lifeline, Arnya looked as though she had a revelation as she began to laugh in a cheerful manner. She looked at Vahn before leaning forward slightly and holding up one of her index fingers like she was about to lecture him and said, “You’ll have to pet me a lot more than that if you want to win my heart~nya!”
Vahn almost wanted to retort that he could have brought her to 100 affection if he hadn’t stopped earlier, but he just laughed away her words before saying, “Sure, I’ll pet you lots in the future.” His words caused Arnya’s eyes to widen by a large amount as she stood frozen in her earlier pose. After a few seconds passed and she had processed what he said, she once again ran through the doors in a similar manner as earlier as she shouted, “Nyaa-nya-naaa, I w-on’t let you pet me so easily~nya!”
Her words caused another commotion, especially since there were several people that drank in the pub in the evenings, and Mama Mia shouted as she flicked three bullet-like corks towards Arnya, Chloe, and Vahn’s heads. Though he could have avoided the attack, Vahn had seen the ‘fierce’ look in Mama Mia’s eyes, so he let it impact him right in the forehead as she yelled, “We don’t offer those kinds of services you brat!”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Tiny blue ribbon’,’Petting Fiend Returns’,’Arnya, the Dunce’)