Chapter 242: [Spoilers : Title at End]

According to Take’, they used to be a Familia located outside a shrine located in the Far East. It was his assigned duty to teach martial artists to act as guardians of the province as well as protectors of the various palaces and shrines in the area. Though it wasn’t part of their duties, a few of his younger children had grown close to a Renard girl named Sanjouno Haruhime, who was the daughter of a Noble Clan leader that ran the largest shrine in the area. Since she wasn’t allowed to leave the sanctity of the shrine, Haruhime’s only friends had been the children in his Familia and they used to sneak her out in the night so that she could get fresh air and play.

Things had been peaceful for a time, but three years ago Haruhime had been falsely accused of stealing an offering that had been made to the shrine. Unable to find the true culprit, Haruhime’s father was pressured by the other clan heads to pass judgment on his own daughter. In his rage, not at Haruhime but the people that had conspired against him, her Father had entrusted her care to a Pallum guest that had good relations with the shrine for several years. Unfortunately, the caravan led by the Pallum was later attacked by a group of roaming bandits that had pillaged the merchandise and kidnapped Haruhime.

Unable to act on his own, Haruhime’s father had entrusted the task of finding her to his trusted advisor which was none other than Takemikazuchi. Since it was a direct violation of the judgment that had been passed previously, Take’ took some of his more gifted children that were close to Haruhime and set out on a rescue mission to uncover her whereabouts. They followed the trail through several villages until they had found out Haruhime had been sold as a slave and had been transported to Eden with her final destination as Orario. Though they lamented her misfortune, they found out she had been sold as ‘fresh’ goods so they had some hope that she might be okay if they were able to track her down quickly.

Unfortunately, as exiles, the Takemikazuchi Familia had no easy way to pay for transport across the vast ocean separating Eden and the Far East, so they had to act as mercenaries as they slowly built up the funds. After more than a year passed, they had begun to lose hope that Haruhime was still safe until a kind monk had taken pity on them and helped procure their passage to Eden. Since he had saved the son of the Captain of a ship in the past, he was able to convince him to allow the group to board for a much cheaper amount as long as they acted as guards for the duration of the voyage.

After several months on the ocean, they eventually made their way to Eden and followed directions between villages before finally arriving in Orario several months ago. By a stroke of fate, Take’ had been introduced to Hephaestus through their mutual acquaintance Miach. Since she had been in need of assistance at the time, Take’ had taken to her aide in order to establish a relationship with one of the most prolific goddesses within the City. Though he admitted it was a somewhat dishonorable act, Take’s only desire was to track down the daughter of his friend and do whatever he could to confirm her safety. Even though she may never be able to return to her home, they still wanted to guarantee she could live a free life, even if she had experienced suffering due to their ineptitude.

It was through Hephaestus that Take’ learned about Vahn and had taken an interest in meeting the Adventurer touted as a hero. After conducting a personal investigation of his own, Take’ began to grow more interested in Vahn and his exploits and purported that he wanted Vahn to help mentor and grow alongside his own children. Take’ claimed Vahn’s character to be righteous and above reproach but Vahn just waved away his flattery and urged him to finish the story.

Though it was always his intent to eventually approach Vahn, it was the event where Vahn had saved Milan and Tina that inspired him to move up his plans. They had recently heard rumors that might pertain to Haruhime’s location and wanted to seek Vahn’s assistance however he sought fit to aide them. Since he knew Vahn likely saw through his true intentions, Take’ even admitted that the primary reason he approached Vahn was, in the event that the danger was too great, Vahn would be able to rely on his network of allies to potentially save Haruhime. Even though his children had high potential, they were all still very young and even Ouka, the Captain of the Familia, was only Level 2.

Since he had only read up to the 7th volume of the manga, everything Vahn was hearing was new information and he wasn’t sure what to make of things until a notification popped up in his system while he was ruminating over matters. Though he definitely wanted to help them out, since he felt terrible about the tragic fate of the girl called Haruhime, Vahn didn’t want to get involved in anything that might endanger the people he cared about. Looking over the notification, Vahn’s face became somewhat serious and he closed his eyes in ‘contemplation’.

//Optional Quest Triggered//

[Quest: Rescue Sanjouno Haruhime]

Rank: C-S

Objective: Rescue Sanjouno Haruhime from her captors.

Optional Objective: Defeat and/or Kill the captors: 0/10

Rewards: ‘Upgrade’ Function Unlocked, 10x[Upgrade Stones], 14,000OP

Failure Condition(s): Death, Sanjouno Haruhime’s Death, Escape of [Hidden].

Penalty: 600 Karma, ‘Upgrade’ Function Sealed for Duration of Record

After reading through the quest, Vahn was somewhat interested in the rewards but still asked Sis, (“Why would I suddenly get a quest? I know Takemikazuchi existed in the original plot, but I’ve never heard anything about Haruhime.”) Responding to his question, Sis explained in a patient tone, (*Your presence in the record has irreversibly altered fate but that doesn’t mean that karma is balanced within the record. For example, if you alter events to an extent where you would endanger the record, ‘The Path’ would always give you a quest to help rectify things. However, since the quest is Optional, you still have the option to refuse it without penalty; This will likely result in the death of the girl named Sanjouno Haruhime though.*)

Hearing Sis’s words, Vahn frowned slightly as he realized his lack of knowledge regarding the record may become a problem in the future. Though it wouldn’t force him to enact the original plot verbatim, Vahn would still be required to assist those that possessed strong fates that impacted the original story. One example would be, if he changed an event that would lead to the salvation of the world in the original plot, Vahn would then be burdened with fulfilling that role himself. Since he was now getting a Quest related to the girl named Haruhime, that meant she was significant to the original plot and Vahn had inadvertently set her down a path of no return….if he refused to help her, he would have, through his inaction, guaranteed her death.

Though he didn’t do so in reality, Vahn released a long sigh in his mind before opening his eyes with a serious look on his face. He noticed that both Take’ and Ouka were waiting for his response with hopeful expressions. Frowning, Vahn said, “Know this, I will help you, but only after I have settled my own matters. I don’t have the resources or the network you might think to search through the entire City looking for one girl. I’ll need as much information as you can provide and…” Vahn sent a mental command and, a few seconds later, Fenrir burst through the door and cautiously made her way over to Vahn while glaring at the two strangers.

Vahn explained, “Fenrir has the most powerful senses of anyone I have ever met, be they chienthropes or cat people. If you have an article that belonged to Haruhime, we may be able to track her. That being the case, it does not mean I will put my people in danger to guarantee the safety of Haruhime and the successful completion of this mission. It also doesn’t mean I will drop everything I’m currently involved in to help you track her down at the expense of my other commitments.”

Before Vahn even finished, Take’ had already bowed till the point where his head had nearly touched the hardwood table. He exclaimed loudly, “Having your assistance is more than enough! I would not dare ask you to inconvenience yourself in pursuit of an objective that was ours to complete. Even if you only help track down and confirm her location, that would be more than enough!”

Vahn paused and stared at the top of Take’s head for a while before he responded in a somewhat apologetic, yet firm, tone, “If it is within my power to do so, I will save Sanjouno Haruhime from her fate…” Raising his head, Take’ had a grateful smile on his face as he bowed three times while saying, “Thank you, my Takemikazuchi Familia will forever be indebted to you for the leniency you have shown us here today.” Pulling out a small, pouch-like, charm with a strange character that Vahn understood to mean ‘Good Fortune’, Take handed it over to Vahn and said, “This was a personal belonging of Sanjouno Haruhime. We had tried to use it to track her down, but chienthropes are uncommon in the Far East and we have had limited success finding assistance within the City…”

Taking the charm from Take’, Vahn stroked Fenrir’s hair and explained in a patient manner, “Fenrir, there is a poor girl that had been bullied by a bunch of bad people. Can you remember the scent on this charm for me?” After listening to Vahn, Fenrir looked at Take’ and Ouka for several seconds as her eyes began to glow red. Ouka immediately became alert, but Vahn spread his domain and completely locked down his movements with a glance.

Take’ raised his hand to force Ouka to stand down as a bead of sweat began to build on his brow. Vahn turned away and continued to stroke Fenrir’s hair and explained, “These aren’t the bullies, they are the friends of the girl. They are trying to find her so they can protect her and help make her happy, same as you.” Fenrir’s eyes continued to glow as her hair began to rise and she turned to Vahn and asked in a frustrated voice, “Same as Fenrir..?” At this point, Fenrir’s hair was standing on end and her eyes began glowing a vibrant scarlet. Though some might have misunderstood it as hunger, this was actually the form Fenrir took when she activated [Huntress] and pushed her senses to the extreme.

Taking the charm into her paws, Fenrir took several large breaths before glaring at Take and Ouka a bit and sniffing the air. As if confirming something, Fenrir nodded her head and took several more whiffs of the charm before handing it back to Vahn. Though she hadn’t yet found Haruhime, Fenrir thumped her chest and said, “Fenrir remember, Fenrir find and save girl from bully!” With a smile on his face, Vahn pet Fenrir’s hair before ushering her toward Hestia who already had a brush ready. Now that she had stored the scent, Fenrir would be able to track it easily if they came across the trail at any point.

Turning back to Take’, Vahn said, “I’ll hold onto the charm for now. As for payment, since we’ll be acting at our discretion, you don’t have to worry about it. If it is known that our Familias are cooperating with each other during the probationary period it could cause problems for the entire Alliance. Unless we contact you through the network, please try to lay low and conduct your own investigation for the time being.”

Take’ assumed a polite smile as both he and Ouka bowed low before eventually excusing themselves. On their way out, Take asked over his shoulder, “So, what do you think of Vahn?” There was a somewhat humorous undertone to his voice that made Ouka frown as he followed behind. After considering his words for several seconds, Ouka stated, “He is far more mature than anyone his age should be, and his bearing and etiquette are excellent. As far as his power is concerned…I don’t think I could trade a single blow with him.” Take’ smiled and stopped his steps as he looked back and patted Ouka’s shoulder as he said, “Now you understand, there are always greater heights to aspire toward. Though you were very strong back in the Far East, there are several people, some even much younger than you, that are much stronger than your current strength. If you want to protect the people you care about, you must remain level-headed and increase your power further.”

Afterward, they walked along in silence for a while until Ouka said, “He’ll do it, won’t he? I can tell that he had already decided to save Lady Sanjouno even before the second half of the conversation…” Hearing his words, Take’ smiled widely and stated confidently, “Though it isn’t wrong to say we took advantage of him, it is because Vahn has a righteous and heroic character that cannot easily overlook such injustices. I think that, as long as it doesn’t endanger the other people he wants to protect, he will likely track her down much faster than we could have ever hoped to.”

Looking over his shoulder toward the direction of the Hearth Manor, Ouka’s expression hardened as a resolved look appeared in his eyes. He had asked to accompany Takemikazuhi because he was curious about the boy who was touted as a hero while being similar in age to himself. Now that they had met, Ouka felt like he had found a worthy rival to aspire towards and eventually exceed…

Only allowed on

After the two left, Hestia had a concerned expression as she looked up at Vahn and asked, “You will go to help her, won’t you?” Vahn looked over and smiled as he stroked her hair gently for a while before responding, “I won’t easily change my plans on a whim unless it is something I can proactively influence. Right now, my only focus is my family and…” Looking off in the distance, Vahn could feel the connection between him and Hephaestus throb a bit as he said, “I must go to Hephaestus…When everything is over, I will find the girl named Haruhime and return to her the freedom she had been deprived. It is for reasons like this that I wanted to create a righteous Familia in the first place.”

Hestia had a cheerful smile on her face as Vahn was stroking her hair and she, accompanied by Fenrir, both gave him a big hug. Kissing him on the cheek for a few seconds, Hestia pulled away and said, “Make sure you take care of yourself and…and remember that I’ll be here waiting when things get hard and you need to rest…” Vahn laughed a bit as he stroked her cheek with his right hand before leaning forward and giving her a short peck on the lips. Even though it wasn’t their first kiss, Hestia blushed a bit and crawled away from his body while acting far more bashful than usual.

Vahn wanted to tease her since she was suddenly acting as if they had just met for the first time. However, before he could say anything, Fenrir pulled her lip a bit with her claw and said, “Fenrir want kiss.” Though he had thought he had been prepared for anything, Vahn couldn’t help but blank after hearing Fenrir and seeing her actions. The red glow in her eyes suddenly looked far more dangerous as Vahn explained, “Until you finish your education, you can’t do things like that Fenrir. Here, come here for a moment…” Fenrir leaned over as Vahn gestured and he cleared away her bangs and kissed her on the forehead before saying, “Just like your Big Sis, that should be enough for now, okay?”

Holding her paws on her forehead, Fenrir had the closest thing to a ‘happy’ expression that her unsmiling face could manage. Seemingly deriving something from Vahn’s words, Fenrir ran toward the door down the corridor toward the dining room while shouting, “Big Sis, Big Sis, Fenrir got kiss!” Hearing her words, Vahn rubbed his forehead a bit before looking to the side as he heard Hestia laughing mischievously. Since she was still on the same sofa, Vahn wanted to tease her a bit so he shot forward and grabbed her foot before pressing one of the pressure points near her heel. Hestia felt a jolt run through her body and she tried to smack Vahn’s hand away as he disappeared with the use of Shundo.

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Before she could say anything, Vahn showed a natural smile and said, “I’m going to go meet Hephaestus and see if she needs any help. Since Milan and Tina are going to be staying here today, I’ll be back in time for lunch unless anything changes…” Understanding Vahn’s implication, Hestia’s smile changed from mock frustration and transitioned into a gentle smile that Vahn hadn’t expected. In a low, somewhat serious tone, Hestia said, “Take care of her, Vahn. Though she puts on a strong front, I’ve known Hephaestus for a long time…she really was a very lonely Goddess in Heaven…Make sure you treat her well.”

Vahn lowered his head and ruminated over her words before showing a serious expression of his own and responding, “Not just Hephaestus, I will make sure to take care of everyone I care about. When you’re ready, that includes you as well Hestia.” The gentle expression on Hestia’s face froze and she seemed to turn into a statue as a line of blush crept up her body and Vahn thought steam was going to erupt out of her head. After her face had a hue that would make a tomato jealous, Hestia looked upwards at Vahn with teary eyes and said through gritted teeth, “You have to spoil me especially! I don’t want to be just another one of your girls, I want to be something sp-“

Before she could finish, Vahn stepped in with Shundo, lifted Hestia’s chin, and stared into her deep blue eyes as he said in an irrefutably serious voice, “You are my irreplaceable family, the beautiful goddess I have entrusted not only my life but the lives of my loved ones. Never devalue yourself…” Before she could respond, Vahn gave Hestia the first truly passionate kiss they shared. Though she was hesitant at first, Hestia soon caved in and returned Vahn’s embrace all the way up until the point where they both heard a door open and Fenrir shouting, “Ah! Fenrir want kiss too!”

Title: Sanjouno Haruhime

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Fate’,’Takemikazuchi’s Shamelessness’,’Hephbaestus calls…’)

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