Chapter 223: Birthday (1/2)

When Vahn woke up to prepare and enter the orb, he was taken aback by the present situation and briefly stunned by what he saw. At some point during the night, Hestia had flipped her body and was laying on top of him on her back. It was the first time a girl had laid on him in such a strange fashion and Vahn could clearly see down her cleavage and the small [Sapphire Star] dangling off to the side. Pulling up the covers to hide her body, Vahn shifted sideways slowly and allowed her to roll off of him without waking her up. As if to rebuff his efforts, Hestia, seemingly still asleep, crawled back on top of his body and hugged around his ribs like she refused to let him go.

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If not for the fact he could see her stable aura and the drool coming from her mouth, Vahn wouldn’t believe she wasn’t awake. Since his awareness of the body, especially any he was in contact with, was very high, Vahn could feel the stability of her pulse and the rhythm of her breathing with indicated she was still asleep. It was almost like she had some kind of homing instinct that sought out warmth while she was unconscious and it made Vahn laugh as he stroked her hair a bit before entering the orb.

Within the orb, Vahn forged the emblem that he was going to place outside of their gate as well as several smaller ones to give to any of their future Familia members. To prevent them from falling into the hands of others, Vahn also purchased thin bangles that he forged the member emblems around. This gave it the properties of a piece of equipment that had been obtained through the system, so only the members he ‘gifted’ the emblems to would be able to make use of them. Anyone else that tried would experience a small backlash and be forced to drop it.

Because he got a little carried away, Vahn forged more than twenty of them and even nearly had to give one to Eva when she found out what he was working on. Instead, Vahn decided to give her something from the system that he thought suited her. It was a hairpin that had a lily-motif with five beautiful white petals with a slight golden coloration in the center. When he placed it in her long golden hair, Vahn felt like his own affection for her had increased by +5. To ‘thank’ him, Eva spent some time treating him ‘gently’ while wearing only the hairpin as they laid in bed together.

When Vahn finally escaped into the real world, he nearly laughed because of how adorable her actions had been. If not for Hestia currently sleeping on his body, Vahn would have wanted to laugh in order to vocalize the feelings he had been bottling up. As if she had ‘sensed’ something, Hestia wriggled about on top of his body for a bit before raising her head and staring at him with sleepy eyes.

Vahn saw her looked and gave her a smile that was enhanced by the feelings he had within. Reaching out his hand, he stroked the side of her hair and ran his fingers through it as he said, “Good morning Hestia…” His words made Hestia show an equally happy smile as she rested her head against his hand before laughing in a strange manner and trying to go back to sleep. Vahn felt a bit awkward because she was holding his forearm with her right arm and using it to support her head. A few seconds later, he noticed she had actually fallen asleep even though her upper body was being held up by nothing by her head. Her breasts were dangling down because of the awkward position and Vahn could clearly outline their entire shape with his eyes. Releasing a sigh, Vahn gently lowered Hestia’s head until she was laying against his body again. Her ‘instinct’ immediately took effect and she once again hugged around his body.

Hestia seemed to be the type that wasn’t a morning person, so Vahn allowed her to sleep for a bit longer as he organized things in his inventory and began preparing for the coming day. Since it was Saturday, it was also the day that had been arranged to celebrate his birthday. Vahn hadn’t heard anything about what was planned, but he knew he was supposed to visit the same cafe where he previously waited for Hestia around 10 AM. There were still nearly five hours until then, so Vahn allowed Hestia to get some more sleep.

Slightly after 8 AM, Hestia finally woke up and Vahn helped wipe away her slobber with a small handkerchief he had prepared. She seemed embarrassed at first before just laughing away the matter and showing a cheerful smile. Afterward, the two prepared for the day and Vahn reminded Hestia of the upcoming celebration. Hearing his reminder, Hestia immediately became bubbly and hugged his arm between her breasts while looking up and shouting, “It might be a bit late, but happy birthday Vahn~!”

After preparing a few things, Vahn and Hestia made their way to the cafe in high spirits. Hestia seemed to be looking forward to the celebration even more than Vahn and he was beginning to be affected by her mood. Instead of letting him lead the way, Hestia was pulling him along in an excited manner while only being distracted a few times along the way. Vahn laughed every time she stopped to experience something new and patiently explained things before Hestia would suddenly ‘realize’ they had stopped before dragging him along at a faster pace.

They arrived at the cafe with about a half hour to spare, but there were already several people that had shown up which made Vahn feel a warmth in his heart. Since Hephaestus had coordinated with everyone, all of the people that had close relationships with Vahn had shown up, including some people he was both surprised and pleased to see. The first of which noticed him the moment he entered and raised his hand with an amiable smile on his face and said, “Yooo, long time no see man!”

The person greeting him had been the crimson haired Welf that Vahn hadn’t seen in a long time. Walking forward, he extended his hand and clasped Welf’s as he responded, “It’s good to see you, Welf, how has the research been progressing?” Though Welf had a smile on his face, Vahn saw it twitch a bit when he asked about the research. After releasing a sigh, Welf put his palms together and bowed slightly as he asked, “Please give me another one of those staves! I broke the last one when I was trying an experiment and things haven’t been going well ever since!”

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Vahn laughed and waved his hand as another [Heal] appeared out of thin air. He passed it over to Welf who had a look of gratitude on his face before another voice shouted out while laughing, “Welf-boyo, what kind of thoughts go through that brain of your’s to be asking for gifts from the person whose birthday we’re celebrating~!?” The voice had belonged to Tsubaki who was wearing a white and purple eastern looking top that showed off her midriff. Though it was still somewhat revealing, it was a much better outfit than just wearing her sarashi while in public.

Welf had a frustrated and somewhat apologetic expression on his face as he turned to her and said, “Mind your own business you old bat. Vahn and I are partners and he asked about my-” Before he could finish, Tsubaki grabbed the top of his head and pushed him down to the floor and shouting, “Who are you calling an old bat!? You sure got bolder in the time I haven’t seen you, haven’t you ‘kid’?”

Though Welf had a forward and something ‘aggressive’ personality at times, he was still only a Level 1 and wasn’t remotely close to a match for Tsubaki’s strength. Vahn didn’t know how he could muster up such courage to even lightly insult Tsubaki since she wasn’t exactly known for her delicacy. To prevent the situation for getting worse, Vahn walked over and placed his hand on Tsubaki’s shoulder and said, “Don’t mind him too much, you’re still quite beautiful regardless of what others might say.”

Tsubaki’s eye widened a bit and Vahn helped Welf to stand before she could say anything to stop him. Vahn helped dust Welf off before saying adamantly, “Never insult a woman for her age, even if you don’t mean it…” Vahn almost mentioned that Welf used to like Hephaestus, even though she was millions of years old, but the thought of vocalizing the words didn’t sit well with him at all. Almost as if Welf had understood something from his words, he released a sigh before placing his hand on Vahn’s shoulder and saying in a solemn tone, “Make sure you treat her well…”

Though Welf had once thought of Vahn as his rival in love, it wasn’t long after their first meeting that he realized there wasn’t even a competition to be had. The rumors regarding his and Hephaestus’s relationship were common knowledge and he had already verified matters previously. Though he didn’t know about the marriage yet, Welf was certain there was more to the relationship between Hephaestus and Vahn than was currently rumored. The moment he saw Hephaestus without her eyepatch, Welf had already given up pursuing the goddess that had deeply rooted itself in his heart.

Vahn understood what Welf was saying, so he nodded his head confidently and said, “No matter what, I’ll make sure to take care of all the people I care about.” Though he wanted to say Hephaestus instead of ‘all’, Vahn couldn’t ignore the fact there were several of the girls he was close to present. Though they hadn’t greeted each other yet, Vahn could see Loki, Eina, Tiona, Tione, Ais, Lefiya, Naaza, Lili, Milan, Tina, Anubis, the entire Anubis Familia, and, last but not least, Chloe. Counting Tsubaki and Hestia, that brought the total count of attendants to 17 females and 6 males. Though he was already aware of it, Vahn noticed that he had few male acquaintances. Since Finn, Gareth, and Bete hadn’t shown up, that left his only actual male acquaintance to be Welf, since Rasui, Nour, Akil, and Ata were all technically closer to his proteges or ‘pack’ than anything else.

After a few polite words, Vahn made his way over to the rest of the group with Hestia, Tsubaki, and Welf as he began to greet everyone in turn. They all seemed happy to see him and Vahn could feel their affection as he had short embraces with almost all the girls present, including Tsubaki and the girls he didn’t interact with much like Chione and Maat. Seemingly unaware of what was going on, Welf looked at Vahn like he was some kind of monster and, once Vahn had greeted everyone, leaned over and asked, “What the hell is going on, did I not get the memo or something?”

Since it wasn’t a secret and he should already know about Tiona and Ais, Vahn began to give a short explanation of his relationship with all the girls present while skimming over most of the details. Some of the people present could pick up on his words, even though he was speaking quietly, and they had a happy expression as Vahn recounting things for Welf’s benefit. By the end, the incredulous look on Welf’s face had turned into one of abject confusion and he had a somewhat strange, yet serious, expression as he asked in a moderately loud voice, “Are you trying to say that almost every girl here besides some of the brats are your women!?”

As if dissatisfied by something he had said, Lili, Nanu, and Tina all stood up and shouted in concert, “We’re not brats you idiot!” Welf gave them an even stranger look and Vahn couldn’t even read what kind of emotions he was experiencing just based off of his expression. Without responding to the trio, he turned to Vahn with wide eyes and asked, “Even these three brats as well?” His words made everyone at the table begin to laugh with the exclusion of the so-called three ‘brats’. They stared at Welf with venomous eyes as if they wanted to rip out his tongue. Even Tina, who was usually a very sensible young girl, looked at Welf as if he was her natural enemy.

Welf could feel the gazes on him and saw the reactions of everyone around him including the somewhat difficult expression on Vahn’s face. Though he was almost positive he wasn’t the one at fault here, Welf felt like he had found himself in a ridiculous situation without the opportunity to prepare himself. All he had heard was this was a birthday party for Vahn; he never expected it to be some kind of convention of Vahn’s current and future women. Even his first love was among the crowd and Welf suddenly felt like Vahn was trying to show off to him. However, no matter how much frustration he felt, Welf’s impression of Vahn was a powerful one in a pretty positive direction. Instead of feeling any resentment, he sighed deeply before looking at Vahn was a peculiar, almost respectful, look on his face.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Bad Sleeping Habits’,’Level 1 Crushed by a Cyclops’,’Get startled boi’)

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