Chapter 234: Precedent

After settling in Fenrir, Vahn accompanied Ryuu back to the Hostess of Fertility. Fenrir wanted to come along, but Vahn knew she wasn’t ready to deal with crowds of people yet. Though it took a bit of coaxing, Vahn managed to convince her to stay behind and ‘protect’ Hestia. Hestia had also wanted to come along, but she also agreed that Fenrir needed to be looked after. Vahn promised to take the two of them shopping in the future and left a large number of snacks for them both to enjoy.

The walk with Ryuu back to the Hostess of Fertility was very quiet because Ryuu was actually very reserved and Vahn still didn’t know how to treat her. He thought she was very beautiful and had a calming personality, but Vahn wasn’t sure if he should even be making advances at girls right now. Not only was he ‘halting’ Hestia’s actions, but he had even delayed his interactions with other girls because he wanted to keep his promise with Hephaestus first. He had been making incredible leaps within the orb, but he still couldn’t cross the threshold required to reach [Master Smith].

Though she was walking ahead casually, Ryuu was actually paying a great deal of attention to Vahn and actually felt very nervous. Since they were close to each other, she had an inclination to hold his hand but couldn’t muster up the courage to commit. Even though Syr had been egging her own about approaching Vahn, Ryuu still hadn’t resolved herself to take any steps forward. She knew how many girls were around Vahn, including some of the ones she was close to, and also knew that he was dealing with a lot of issues in his life. Now that they were in the same Familia, Ryuu wanted to find an opportunity to get closer to Vahn but hadn’t yet found an appropriate method.

When she released a slight sigh, Vahn looked over even though Ryuu was positive he hadn’t heard her. With a smile on his face, Vahn reached out and gingerly grabbed her hand as if he had read her mind. Her heart throbbed a bit, but she just smiled as they walked along the back alleys towards the Hostess of Fertility. Though they hadn’t spent much time together, Ryuu knew that Vahn was quite perceptive and she was grateful he had been the one to reach out and grab her hand. It reminded her a lot of the first time they had met and how he was easily able to approach her…

While he had been hesitating, Vahn heard a notification in his mind and noticed that Ryuu’s aura had been flickering a bit with an almost unnoticeable pink hue. Though he didn’t look directly at her, Vahn could feel that her aura would occasionally gravitate toward him and he understood that she was probably hesitating herself. Remembering that she placed an emphasis on ‘holding hands’, Vahn decided to turn his head when he heard her sigh before grasping her hand gently. When she smiled and put a bit of strength into her grip, Vahn assumed he had made the right decision and walked forward casually with Ryuu all the way until they entered the alleyway at the side of the Hostess of Fertility.

Ryuu had a subtle smile on her face as she stood outside the door and said, “Thank you for walking with me this far…will you be staying for lunch?” Vahn nodded his head so she said, “Please wait a few minutes, I will change into my uniform quickly.” Since he wasn’t in any hurry at all, Vahn nodded curtly and waited patiently outside the door as Ryuu went inside to change. He wasn’t sure if they had ‘progressed’ in their relationship suddenly, but Vahn was already considering Ryuu to be part of his ‘family’ since she had joined their Familia.

After Ryuu came back out into the alley, Vahn smiled and led the way with Ryuu following closely behind. They drew a few eyes from the patrons when they came through the double doors but nothing happened as a result since they weren’t holding hands or anything. Vahn had already developed a ‘reputation’ among the regular clients, even in his Báihǔ form. There were quite a few young men that visited the Hostess of Fertility for the express purpose of trying to court one of the girls there. Since Vahn seemed to be the center of a lot of girls’ attention, he wasn’t really welcomed by most patrons.

Ryuu ended up being their server for the day, and Vahn apologized to Tina and Milan as he explained the circumstances of his previous absence. They had already heard from Sry, but Vahn felt personally obligated to explain things to alleviate any concerns they might have. When they heard he had a new ‘evolved monster’, Tina was in somewhat high tensions since she had grown fond of Fafnir. Even though she wasn’t in danger, Tina knew Vahn had ordered it to protect her so she would often call out to it and feed it treats when nobody was looking.

After lunch, Vahn parted with the Mother-Daughter duo after promising to bring Fenrir by when she had become more stable. When it was just the two of them, Ryuu stood next to Vahn in silence with a small smile on her face. Vahn didn’t know how to read Ryuu well since she wasn’t very expressive and kept to herself, but he understood she was expressing her ‘support’ in her own way. In a low, polite, tone, Vahn said, “Thank you Ryuu. I’m glad you joined our Familia…from now on, we’re a family, okay?” As he spoke, Vahn grabbed Ryuu’s right hand and clasped it between both of his in a relatively gentle fashion.

Ryuu showed a small smile and stared at her hand that was being held by Vahn as she said, “Okay…Vahn.” For some reason, as she said his name, Vahn noticed that Ryuu blushed far more noticeably than in the past. Tilting his head to the side a bit, Vahn recalled that it was only the second time she had actually ever said his name, even though they had known each other for a few weeks. With a bigger smile on his face, Vahn lifted Ryuu’s hand and, as if emulating their first meeting, kissed it for a few seconds before pulling away. When he looked up, Ryuu seemed to have grown several inches taller as she raised her chin and tilted her head back with a moderate blush on her face.

Vahn laughed a few short syllables as he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow…Ryuu.” After pausing for a second or two and taking a shallow breath, Ryuu’s face showed a small smile and she nodded her head as she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow…Vahn.” Though he wasn’t sure it mattered, Vahn decided to start keeping track of the number of times Ryuu called his name. Since it seemed to be a matter of significance, Vahn felt like he would be able to get a rise out of her in the future if he brought it up.

After parting, Vahn returned to his Manor and greeted Hestia and Fenrir before returning to his private forge. As they had done the day before, Fenrir cuddled with Hestia as they read books together. Vahn thought they had great synergy with each other, but he would never explain to Hestia that it was because they were both somewhat airheaded. Even though Fenrir was troublesome in a way, she was also a good restraint on Hestia who had been growing bolder by the day. Hestia’s good-natured and cheerful personality was equally as important for Fenrir, as she was already starting to develop a gentler temperament, at least at home.

During the afternoon, Vahn entered the orb and spent the entire three days stay reading books and designing diagrams for the future equipment he intended to forge. He had recently come to understand why Hephaestus, who was a literal goddess of forging, still designed blueprints for equipment now. Though he was able to use his inspiration to create ‘masterpieces’, Vahn realized that he would need to take a different approach if he wanted to take the final step toward becoming a [Master Smith]. Even Tsubaki, who was somewhat ditzy at times, also drew up blueprints, so Vahn was certain it was the correct decision to make.

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Even Eva, who was far more artistically inclined, helped him draw up the blueprints and came up with a host of ideas for Vahn to improve. Not only had she read all the books he left for her, including things regarding mechanics, engineering, and blacksmithing, but she also had a lot of experience in life and much more time than he had to practice. Though he felt somewhat guilty about it, Vahn was happy to rely on Eva and made a concerted effort to pamper her more often.

After leaving the orb, Vahn continued to forge items until it was time for dinner. He had gotten the ‘okay’ from Milan and Tina to spend dinner with Hestia and Fenrir for the time being. Unfortunately, Vahn had made a slight oversight and, since he had ‘cleaned’ Fenrir earlier, Hestia tried using the excuse that they hadn’t bathed since returning to try and talk her way into the same bath as Vahn. She had even gotten Fenrir on her side and Vahn struggled to come up with a way to refute their combined ‘attack’. The final straw had been when both girls, since they were much shorter than him, gave him ‘puppy’ eyes and Vahn took a critical hit to his mental defenses.

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Their efforts had resulted in Vahn allowing them to bathe with him, but only after having Hestia agree to ‘behaving’ so she didn’t influence Fenrir to develop any strange habits. Since they were quickly growing closer to each other, Vahn knew that Hestia’s behavior would likely be picked up by Fenrir as her mental development continued. She had already gotten to the point, just after two days, where she was already beginning to laze around on the sofa with Hestia spoiling her. Since Vahn also spoiled her quite a bit, he knew she would probably become a somewhat lazy person while at home, but this would also prevent her from being stressed out…at least, that was Vahn’s hope.

During the bath, Fenrir acted normally, almost as if she didn’t care about being seen at all and, she in fact, did not. Since she had bathed with Hestia the previous night and had been cleaned by Vahn more than once, she gave him the sponge and said plainly, “Master clean Fenrir.” Vahn handed the sponge to Hestia, who was also nearby, and said, “Don’t be selfish Fenrir, Hestia will be able to clean you properly.”

Fenrir looked at Hestia and frowned before turning back to Vahn and saying, “Fenrir want Master clean! Master better!” Vahn frowned a bit before looking over and giving Hestia a sidelong glance before saying, “If I wash your body, a certain goddess would try to use it as an excuse to get cleaned as well. Be a good girl…” Before he finished his words, Fenrir squatted down in the water and began scratching the smooth surface of the onsen with her claws as she blew bubbles and ‘ignored’ Vahn.

Vahn could see her eyes were beginning to glow and Hestia spoke from the side, “Don’t worry about me, go ahead and help her out. She is like a child that wants her Papa’s affection~.” Fenrir’s ears twitched at Hestia’s words and she looked up at Vahn while still squatted down, “Papa wash Fenrir, please?” Hearing her words, Vahn felt a pressure in his nose as his temples began to throb. He looked down at the ‘pleading’ eyes of Fenrir before giving Hestia a serious look that caused her to laugh awkwardly.

Releasing a sigh, Vahn sat down and stroked Fenrir’s head gently and explained, “You shouldn’t call me Papa…you don’t have to call me Master either. From now on, just call me Vahn…” As if she had never cared about the address, to begin with, Fenrir responded, “Vahn wash Fenrir?” Though he was somewhat hesitant, Vahn felt like he had dodged a bullet and couldn’t help but smile as he agreed to her request. In a way, he could increase their bond while also enforcing the idea that she should call him Vahn from now on.

Fenrir was very pleased by Vahn’s actions and happily patted the water while squirming about as he lathered up her body. When she was fully covered in suds, Vahn helped her rinse off while also using a plastic brush to get any remnant materials out of her hair and fur. When she was finally cleaned off, Fenrir did something that Vahn didn’t quite expect as she got out of the pool and, on all fours, began shaking her body from head to tail before finally kicking with her back legs to try and get as much water out of her fur as possible. Because she had absolutely no sense of propriety, she had put on quite the ‘display’ for both Vahn and Hestia.

Without Vahn having to say anything, Hestia got out of the pool and said, “I’ll make sure she learns how to properly dry off…” Vahn just nodded without responding as he submerged his head into the hot water to ‘cool’ off. Even though he didn’t feel like he had any attraction to Fenrir, Vahn couldn’t help but get caught up in her momentum a bit because of how peculiar her actions were. He had never seen someone that looked like a human behave in such a unique way and didn’t think he was mentally prepared to deal with Fenrir if she kept displaying such adorable antics. Even if he didn’t ‘intend’ to look, it was hard to ignore such behavior…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Ryuu’s Hand Fetish v.2′,’Imprinting’,’Dangerous Behavior’)

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