While Fenrir playfully splashed water, Vahn and Ryuu were helping to clean her body while Vahn kept his domain extended to the limits. Even though they were in the pantry and it wasn’t the most ideal place for a bath, Vahn knew that Fenrir had become fond of them and they were a good way to help her calm down. She liked being personally attended to, especially if he was the one doing the pampering. However, he never dropped his guard for a moment and even used [Heart of the Eternal] flame to turn a few approaching monsters to ashes without even looking in their direction. He could even loot their drops without stopping his hands at all.
After she was properly clean, Vahn helped Fenrir wear her adorable maid outfit as he and Ryuu protected her on their way to the surface. The entire trip up, Fenrir dangled her arms and patted her sides as she tilted her head from side-to-side. Both Vahn and Ryuu knew this was what she did when she was especially happy, so they both pet her hair a bit before they got to the surface proper. They drew the attention of a few people when they exited, but the trio completely ignored them, at least on the surface. Vahn tagged anyone that seemed dangerous and sent his intent toward them which caused shivers to run up their spines before they turned away.
Vahn ate lunch at the Hostess of Fertility and discussed the matters regarding Haruhime with Ryuu and Chloe. Hearing that he would be going to the red light district, both girls outright refused to let Fenrir accompany him. Since he knew what kind of place it was, Vahn shouldn’t have even considered taking her along, to begin with, and blamed himself for his oversight as he thanked the two girls. With how impressionable Fenrir was, it would quickly turn into a big problem if she saw anything strange. Since Vahn would proactively be tracking down people that engaged in slave trafficking, there was no way to take her into that kind of situation. Though he would try and prevent it from happening, there was a very real chance some deviant might mistake her exotic appearance and make a pass at her like that idiot in the pub previously.
Since both Ryuu and Chloe had experience tracking and dealing with the darker side of society, they offered to help Vahn gather information and complete his mission. Though Vahn considered their offers, he told them that he would only rely on them if things got dangerous. Since they were both aware of his domain, perception, and stealth abilities, they knew he would be able to detect a threat long before it became aware of his presence. Having Vahn promise to be careful, Milan and Tina escorted Fenrir back while being accompanied by Ryuu and Fafnir who was constantly within Tina’s shadow.
After parting ways, Vahn now sat on the roof of a tall building as he released a slight sigh. He chalked this current situation up to the influence of karma since he had lost his best asset to track down Haruhime before he even set out. Though Ryuu and Chloe were great choices to receive assistance from, Vahn didn’t want to expose Chloe to more danger right now since people might connect her to Laverna’s death if they work together often. As for Ryuu, Vahn simply didn’t want to expose her to the darkness at all. Ever since she wiped out several gangs and some of the members of an evil Familia in the past, Ryuu had been ‘retired’ and working as a waitress. If he could prevent her from being exposed to that kind of life, Vahn wanted to do so.
Since his senses were also quite strong, Vahn would have to track down Haruhime on his own and decide how he would proceed from there. If she wasn’t in any immediate danger, Vahn could always retreat and gather reinforcements and pressure her captors through legal channels. Though he couldn’t act openly with the Alliance, Vahn could still spread information through the network which would stir Loki and Hephaestus to action. Though he was concerned about Hephaestus getting wrapped up in things, considering her condition, Vahn knew just mobilizing her Familia didn’t take any effort on her part.
After a few minutes of organizing his thoughts, Vahn changed into casual wear that would prevent him from standing out, at least in a way that might blow his cover. If he walked into the red light district fully geared, he would draw the attention of several of the gangs and potentially cause more problems than he wanted to deal with. If he wore casual wear, he might draw the attention of people, but it would be as a potential client. Vahn had already steeled himself to resist any advances and would be using [Will of the Emperor] to maintain his focus. He knew how much of an interest he had in women, and Vahn was also aware that he might get caught up in their momentum if he let them get carried away.
Since there were many girls in the area that knew how to appeal to men, even to the point where they took advantage of the kindness of some, Vahn had already made several preparations to prevent himself from being a victim. Fortunately, he was immune to any chemical based aphrodisiacs and could resist charm magic using his [Will of the Emperor]. Unless something unexpected happened, like him coming across a girl in distress, Vahn would keep his attention focused on his current quest.
Of course, that was the plan until Vahn actually stepped into the red light district and immediately become the focus of attention for several women, Even with his stealth domain active, he was easily detected by the perceptive women that saw his handsome appearance, well-maintained clothes, and confident gait and identified him as an optimal target. Since many of them had been in the business for a while, they easily recognized the young boy as a first time visitor of the district.
Though Vahn had some experience with being approached by women and politely declining their invitations, there was nothing that had prepared him for the forward, and somewhat dismissive, actions of the girls trying to solicit him. Even though he politely refused, there were several women that would try to hug his arm between their breasts and give him amorous expressions as they tried to guide him toward their brothel.
There was even one incredibly bold Amazon that tried to corner Vahn in an alley and immediately removed the small clasp from her revealing bottoms before giving Vahn what he could only explain as a ‘challenging’ look. Though he was temporarily drawn to the exposed genitalia of the rather beautiful girl, Vahn closed his eyes and bowed politely before he disappeared with the use of Shundo. The Amazon woman had a listful expression on her face as she looked toward the sky for several seconds before sighing, “Why are the good ones so hard to get…”
After his retreat, Vahn stood atop a large brothel that had a flat roof. Because of his enhanced senses and domain, Vahn was able to detect the various antics of the people within and was somewhat disoriented by the sensory overload. There were too many sights, smells, and sounds within the busy red light district for him to easily pick up any singular scent. The only way he could go about things was to walk around in the hopes of finding the trail using purely his luck. Even if he wanted to try and obtain information, Vahn was painfully aware that it would be incredibly difficult to pry anything out of the people within this district. All of the girls seemed intent on soliciting him for sex while all of the men were naturally cautious against him and proactively avoided any ‘competition’.
Vahn was in awe of everything that was going on around him and began to understand why everyone had been cautioning him about ever visiting this place. He had heard from Hephaestus previously that more than 40% of the revenue that ran through the City was done so through the red light district. Vahn hadn’t understood it at first, but now that he saw it personally he quickly began to understand how so much money cycled through this district. Though he also enjoyed sex, Vahn had never considered paying for it and was shocked to see several tens of thousands of people acting outside his expectations.
The most problematic thing was that there were various beauties that Vahn was actually interested in. If he didn’t have a host of women had cared about at his back, Vahn felt like he would likely have spent a lot of his own money here at some point. There were various women, and even girls, that had various shapes, sizes, and races that drew his eye. Since many women exposed themselves openly and encouraged people to look, Vahn was hard pressed to avert his eyes even with the influence of [Will of the Emperor]. It wasn’t that he had lost himself to lust, Vahn was just genuinely curious and wondered what their bodies would look like beneath the revealing clothing.
As he was looking down from above, Vahn saw something he had been wanting to see for a while but wasn’t remotely prepared to see given the circumstance. He saw a relatively fat man through a window and he was being ‘tended’ to by what looked like a child with a big belly. Of course, Vahn instantly understood that it was a Pallum woman since she had a relatively mature body even though she was petite. The thing that shook him to the core was the fact that she looked to be well into a pregnancy and was being ‘mistreated’ by the man that was likely her customer. Vahn was tempted to charge in and save the girl, but he was able to detect her shouts of pleasure and had to escape from the roof before he heard anything else. Though it was possible she was just faking to earn more money, Vahn could see the burning aura coming from her body and knew she was enjoying herself.
After retreating outside of the red light district, Vahn sat with his back to a pillar and used [Will of the Emperor] to calm his mind. Since he wasn’t angry or losing control, the cold sensation in his mind didn’t have much influence on his thoughts presently. Vahn even noticed that he was shaking a bit and realized that he hadn’t actually prepared himself well enough for this mission at all. However, it was the thought of the girl named Haruhime being exposed to that kind of life that made Vahn willing to press on.
He knew that, even if she wasn’t already being exploited, there would be no end to the people lining up for someone so ‘exotic’. Since Renards weren’t native to Eden, she would be highly sought after by some of the more deviant men regardless of her age. That thought alone made the cold sensation in Vahn’s mind increase in intensity. Even though he understood the draw of sex, Vahn couldn’t understand how there were so many people that propagated such acts as if they were a business to generate money at the expense of others. There was obviously something very wrong with the way the red light district was run as Vahn could sense a veritable ocean of negative emotions alongside the shouts of pleasure and vile laughter.
Pushing himself onwards, Vahn continued to investigate around the district for the rest of the day until the sun started going down. Ironically, the darker the night got, the more active the streets became as they were lit up with vibrant lights. Vahn even saw several adventurers, both young and old, walking through the streets with pleased expressions as if they were celebrating some grand triumph before walking into a brothel. Though he didn’t often judge people based on appearance, there were even some rather disgusting men that had foul smells coming from their bodies that were easily accepted into some of the less vibrant facilities.
Because he had an extensive understanding of the bodies of others, Vahn could tell the man was unhealthy and likely had some kind of disease yet he was accepted just the same as any other customer. Just imagining sharing the same woman with such a person sent a chill down Vahn’s spine and he actually grimaced at his own reaction. It wasn’t his place to judge others, and it was the right of the women at the brothel to accept whoever they wanted, but Vahn still felt like it was wrong to see a girl that looked to be in her late teens escort a fat middle-aged man into their brothel with a smile on her face.
By the time he left the red light district, Vahn had a bad taste in his mouth and couldn’t get the negative emotions he had experienced out of his body. There were simply too many instances of Vahn seeing something that shouldn’t exist in civil society. During his investigation, he had even saved three separate girls that were being ganged up on by several men in an alley. The worst part of it all was, in one of the instances, the girl he had saved actually tried to solicit him for sex with the excuse of chasing away the bad memories. If he couldn’t see her poisonous pink aura, Vahn might have fallen for her pitiful expression and become a victim to a person he had just saved. After leaving her a small pouch of Valis, Vahn disappeared from the area while leaving the parting words, “I don’t know what led you to this kind of life, but I hope you’ll find happiness in the future…Avoid dark alleyways from now on.”
When Vahn returned to the Heath Manor and saw Hestia, Fenrir, Milan, and Tina, he suddenly felt both guilty and happy. He felt guilty because he was able to live such a happy life surrounded by amazing people while there were others who could only move forward by exposing themselves to such a tragic lifestyle. Imagining any one of the girls around him in that situation made Vahn shake in anxiety. Vahn couldn’t believe that any person would be happy to have strangers as their partner every day just to make a living…it seemed like an incomprehensibly unfortunate way to get by.
All four girls had noticed the unstable state of Vahn and immediately turned more gentle as even Fenrir pulled out her brush yet again and walked forward saying, “Vahn, no be sad, be happy. Come, Fenrir brush Vahn’s hair.” For the rest of the evening, Vahn was tended to by Hestia and Milan while he sat together with Fenrir and Tina as he read them happy stories about heroes overcoming various trials. Feeling their warmth and reading such inspiring tales slowly pushed away the negative feelings he was bottling up inside. Though he had often thought this in the past, Vahn was truly happy to be living his current lifestyle where he was always surrounded by people that cared about him whenever he had trouble. He wanted to share this feeling with more people and swore to find the girl named Haruhime so she could be reunited with people that cared about her. Though he had never met the girl, imagining her scared and alone while being exploited by others broke Vahn’s heart…
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Into the Red Light District’,’Society Isn’t Always Pretty’,’Vahn was not prepared for today’)