A few minutes after he had returned to his room, Vahn saw Hestia step inside with her hair down and she had already worn her white dress once again. She seemed to look very tired and Vahn thought she had spent too much time inside the bath and exhausted herself. Rising from the bed, he approached her before pulling out a cold bottle of [Vanilk] that he had become fond of in the past. It was a dairy product that tasted like vanilla that was popular in the Far East and Vahn had managed to find it listed within the system for 2OP.
Hestia received the glass bottle with a bit of confusion on her face before Vahn said, “If you remove the top and drink this after soaking in an onsen, it helps rehydrate your body and calm your mind a bit. It’s also pretty sweet and I haven’t met anyone that disliked it yet.” Some of the tension in her body melted away as Hestia removed the seal on the bottle before taking a small sip of the milky white beverage. Noticing it was actually very sweet and creamy, Hestia gulped it down in a few seconds before exclaiming with a, “Paaaaaa~” sound.
As if the earlier tiredness had been an illusion, Hestia handled the empty bottle over to Vahn with a large smile on her face as she said, “That was super delicious~! From now on, we’ll always drink that after we take a bath!” Since it was already a habit he had developed when he lived with Tsubaki, Vahn nodded his head before saying, “It’s getting pretty late, so I’m going to head to bed soon.” In response, Hestia seemed to hesitate for a brief moment before she said, “Since we just got out of the bath and are already relaxed, I wanted to try something unless you’re already tired.”
Vahn turned his head to look at Hestia and saw there was a glimmer of expectation in her eyes even though she also seemed to be nervous. He asked, “What did you want to try?” Since he couldn’t think of anything, the only way Vahn could know was if she answered him. He could see her take a deep breath as if she was mustering up her courage before she responded, “I heard from Hephaestus and the others that you were very good at massages. Since I’ve never had one…I wanted to try it out if its not too much trouble.”
Ever since she had heard the ‘warnings’ from Hephaestus, Loki, and Anubis, Hestia had been curious about Vahn’s [Hands of Nirvana]. She had wanted to ask him back at the Inn the previous night, but hadn’t had enough courage to follow through in the end. Because of the tensions, she didn’t even remember to conduct the Familia induction ceremony until the following morning. Now that they had gotten to know each other better and had even bathed together, Hestia wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Hearing Hestia’s request, Vahn tilted his head sideways and thought about the matter a bit. He knew from experience that his massage skills were very effective and he hadn’t met anyone that had any complaints to offer. Since Hestia was the type that liked to be spoiled, Vahn had already expected her to ask at some point so he wasn’t too surprised. He actually liked giving massages and using his [Hands of Nirvana], so Vahn didn’t have any reason to refuse so he said, “Sure, but you have to prepare yourself. I’ll try to go easy on you at first and you can tell me how you feel during or after the fact. Most of the girls I give a serious massage to end up passing out, so I’d like to receive feedback if possible.”
Hestia’s heart began to beat powerful in her chest after she heard the words, ‘serious’ and ‘passing out’. Though she was very curious, she was beginning to think there was more to the matter than was insinuated by her fellow goddesses. Seeing the gentle and ‘innocent’ expression of Vahn and remembering he said he would ‘go easy’ on her, Hestia mustered up a bit of courage and asked, “W-w-what do I need to do?”
Vahn looked around between the couch and bed before coming to a decision and saying, “You just need to lay on your stomach in a comfortable position. If you’re worried about falling asleep we can use the bed, but if you think you’ll be able to stay awake we can use the couch. Hearing that it was something as simple as laying on her stomach, Hestia released a relieved sigh and said with a smile, “Let’s use the bed, its actually super comfortable and I don’t mind if I fall asleep. I can always tell you my opinion in the morning~!”
Vahn agreed since he had also been laying on the bed earlier. It was the first time since he had purchased it and the mattress seemed to conform to his body a bit even though it had a certain sense of ‘firmness’. It was very soft on the surface and cool to the touch without making his body feel cold at all. It was almost paradoxical, but Vahn couldn’t argue that it was extremely comfortable as Hestia had said.
When Hestia crawled into the bed, Vahn wasn’t far behind her and it actually felt awkward since he felt like he was ‘chasing’ her. Since the bed was rather large, the only way to get to the center was to crawl to it from the sides. Because she was on her hands and knees, Vahn could see up her short dress if he didn’t avert his eyes. After she had finally laid down, Vahn was on his knees next to her body and she was giving him a slightly expectant look.
Warming up his hands, Vahn looked at Hestia and said, “I’ll start off with a normal massage, or did you want me to use [Hands of Nirvana] and give you the same kind as the others?” Hestia thought for a few seconds before swallowing her saliva and saying, “I want to try the same thing as them…if its too much, we can always try something less intense later.” Now that he had her consent, Vahn nodded his head before placing his hands on her lower back.
The first thing Vahn noticed was how small Hestia was compared to the other goddesses he had given a massage. Even Loki was slightly taller than he was, so seeing the petite Hestia laying on her stomach made him feel slightly awkward. It didn’t help that he had to lean forward slightly since it was difficult to massage her back while kneeling at her side. Before he officially began, Vahn frowned slightly before explaining in a slightly awkward voice, “It’s somewhat difficult to massage you like this…”
Hestia had closed her eyes the moment Vahn put his palms on her back and didn’t quite understand what he was saying until she opened her eyes. She saw that he had to tilt his body over hers at an awkward angle since they were on the same level. It wasn’t like a normal massage where he would be able to stand at the side and easily reach around her body. In order to get all the proper angles, he would have to move around and put in a lot more effort to successfully complete the massage.
As if realizing what he was trying to ask, Hestia buried her face into the blankets for several seconds before she said something in a muffled voice that Vahn couldn’t hear. He tilted his body a bit and inclined his ear to listen closer and still couldn’t make out what she was saying so he asked, “Hestia, are you…?” Before he could finish, she turned her head and had a slightly teary-eyed look and an extremely frustrated expression as she spat, “Just do it properly~!”
Her words finished, Hestia turned her head away and refused to look at Vahn while leaving him with a confused expression on his face. After thinking about her words, Vahn nodded his head and found a bit of confidence as he said, “I’m going to straddle your legs a bit so I can line up with your back.” His words made Hestia flinch but she didn’t say anything even as he climbed over her body.
For the second time during the same session, Vahn realized how small Hestia’s body was as he loosely straddled her legs without resting his weight on hers. Since he remembered her light she was, Vahn was somewhat worried about sitting on her legs like had done with Anubis. Staring at the line of her back, which was mostly exposed because of the design of her dress, Vahn leaned forward a bit and placed his hands on her side as he officially began the massage.
Hestia, who had buried her face into the pillow, immediately felt her tensions hit a new high the moment Vahn sat overtop her own body. Even though she couldn’t see where he was looking, she felt somewhat afraid by the current situation. As Vahn placed his hands on her sides, her fear continued to increase until an incredibly relaxing sensation spread through her body from the sides and it felt like she lost all the tension in her lower body. Not only that, but when she tried to move her legs, Hestia realized she couldn’t put any strength into them at all.
Though it was very comfortable, Hestia immediately felt afraid and wanted to put an end to the ‘dangerous’ massage but was unable to turn her head and exclaim in time before her upper body also become completely relaxed. Hestia felt like her entire body had suddenly become paralyzed and she couldn’t even put any effort into her vocal cords to deny his ‘advances’ anymore. For a brief instant, Hestia felt like she had fallen into Vahn’s trap and he was about to have his way with her and there was nothing she could do about it.
Vahn noticed the powerful fluctuation in Hestia’s aura and pressed six different areas on her back to undo the progress he had been making. Functionality returned to Hestia’s body and she immediately curled up into a ball before Vahn could say anything. He could see her aura was flickering chaotically like a flame that was about to burn out and was tinged with a hint of purple as she protected herself with one of the pillows from the bed. Vahn felt like he had somehow wronged her and a painful feeling gripped his chest as he stared at the goddess that had treated him so well recoiling as if she was afraid of him.
Hestia had been so scared that Vahn was going to attack her that she didn’t even think as she escaped out from under his body. She used one of the large pillows as a shield as she looked back with a hint of fear to see how Vahn would react. The moment she saw his expression, Hestia’s fear diminished by a large amount and she suddenly felt very regretful. She could see that Vahn had an apologetic expression on his face intermixed with confusion and a hint of fear.
Hestia immediately understood that he had no intentions to harm her and that she had overreacted because of her own inexperience. She remembered that not only the other goddesses, Vahn himself had warned her before he began. The fact that she, if even for a brief moment, felt afraid that he would take advantage of her was a big breach of the trust between them. She suddenly felt like she had failed him as a goddess and someone that claimed to be his family.
Seeing that Vahn was about to apologize, Hestia’s heart felt like it was going to break so she immediately threw the pillow aside before jumping into his arms and, with tears in her eyes, shouted, “I’m so sorry Vahn, I know you weren’t trying to harm me! I just got scared because I hadn’t expected to suddenly lose control over my own body like that! Please don’t blame yourself and give me such sad look like you want to apologize!”
Vahn had been caught off guard when Hestia suddenly lunged at him and had fallen back onto the bed as she hugged his chest with tears and concern marring her expression. He noticed that her aura had changed from the slight purple one to a sunny yellow intermixed with an azure blue and a tinge of pink. Vahn released a relieved sigh as he began stroking her back gently with the calming effects of [Hands of Nirvana]. For a moment, Vahn had thought he had harmed Hestia somehow so he was incredibly relieved when he heard it was a misunderstanding.
Hestia felt Vahn’s warm caress on her back and could feel the gentle energy spreading through her body and driving away all of the negative feelings she had been feeling. She looked into his expression and saw that it had returned to the same gentle smile that he always seemed to show others. Vahn saw her staring at him silently and used his free hand to stroke her long silken-black hair as he whispered in a gentle tone, “Maybe we can try something less intense next time…I want to help you relax and feel comfortable, not scare you and make you fearful of me.”
Though his words were gentle, Hestia felt them like heavy impacts on her heart because she knew she had wronged him unfairly. Even though he did nothing wrong, it was now him trying to comfort her when she should be the one trying to make it up to him. It was even worse because she could feel the warm energy from his hands and couldn’t hold on to her own sadness and anxiety as he seemed intent on driving it away.
Vahn could see her aura fluctuating slightly and saw the struggle on her face so he put some strength into his body and lifted himself up till she was sitting in his lap. Hestia was confused at first and then Vahn put his hands around her back and held her close to his chest as he rested his head on top of hers. Before she could say anything, Vahn whispered, “Misunderstandings happen, Hestia, we just need to put them behind us and continue moving forward. Didn’t we promise to help make each other happy and become family? Don’t let such a small matter make you feel down…” Finishing his words, Vahn kissed her on the top of her head before releasing her.
Hestia stared up at him with a slight frown on her face and didn’t say anything for several seconds as she continued to sit awkwardly in his lap. After thinking for a bit, she took a big breath before releasing it as a powerful sigh. She bumped her head against Vahn’s chest and remained silent for another couple of seconds before she turned up to look at him with a vibrant smile on her face that caught Vahn completely off guard.
Almost as if the earlier incident had never happened in the first place, Hestia had returned to her cheerful demeanor and her deep blue eyes had turned completely tranquil as a gentle light reflected in them. She spoke in a solemn, yet happy tone, almost as if she was making a promise, “I know you will never harm me, Vahn. From now on, and forever hereafter, I will place my trust in you completely.” Her words finished, Hestia grabbed Vahn’s hands in her own and held them close as if she was uttering a prayer. It was a similar manner as the time when they had first met, and Vahn wondered if there was some significance to the act.
After she released his hands, Hestia showed another vibrant smile that felt like it could banish away bad thoughts and feelings. Vahn suddenly felt somewhat protective of the tiny goddess and instinctively began stroking her head as he smiled and said, “Let’s go to bed, Hestia.” Her eyes squinted a bit before she nodded her head and said, “Yes, but I want to try that massage again tomorrow. No matter what happens, I want to see it through to the end.”
After making the promise to continue tomorrow, the two laid down onto the bed in a much better mood than a few minutes prior. Though they didn’t embrace or cling to each other from the outset, it wasn’t long before Vahn awoke to find Hestia crawling onto his body even though the bed beneath them was far more comfortable than he imagined his stomach to be. If not for the soft feeling pressing against him, and the incredibly light weight of Hestia, Vahn would have muttered a silent complaint before he once again fell asleep with a slight smile on his face.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat(Goddess)’,’Instinctive Fear’,’Terrifying Godhand’)