Chapter 261: Reunion

While Vahn was enjoying a comforting lap pillow from Hestia, the other girls were helping tend to Preasia’s condition. After wiping down her body and helping to warm her up, the twins clothed her in a fresh sweater and shorts before carrying her to their room. They thought about taking her upstairs to where Fenrir slept, but navigating the stairs with an unconscious body didn’t seem ideal. Even though Vahn had given them both their own beds, the twins spent most of their time together when they could and only used one of them. They set Preasia in the leftover bed and went about their other assumed duties while Fenrir and Haruhime watched over her.

Since it was still somewhat early in the day, only around 10 AM, it took a while for some of the people on the network to mobilize. Hestia had let everyone know of the arrival of Haruhime earlier and had just informed them earlier about the incident regarding Preasia before finding out about the previous night’s murders. Eina wanted to come back over but was busy with her duties thus the first members to show up at the house were Ryuu, Milan, and Tina. Ryuu was only a temp worker now and both Milan and Tina had the weekends off, to begin with. The only reason they didn’t stay at the Hearth Manor yet was that Milan didn’t want to immediately leave the Hostess of Fertility that had shown she and her daughter kindness.

Maemi had been expecting guests since earlier and politely escorted them to the study where she and Emiru did their best to explain the situation with as many details as they had learned. Milan was somewhat reminded of her own recent trauma and empathized greatly with Preasia while Tina found it hard to hold in her own tears. She didn’t have any outbursts, but she did hug her mother silently with wet eyes. Ryuu had a somewhat cold look to her eyes but was more worried about Vahn’s current state of mind than anything else. She knew Preasia would be fine while staying at the Hearth Manor, so Ryuu wanted to make sure Vahn was okay since he was the core of the group within the Manor.

When she went upstairs, Ryuu lightly knocked on the door before opening it when she heard Hestia’s quiet words. Looking into the interior, Ryuu saw Vahn asleep atop Hestia’s lap while the petite goddess gently stroked his hair in an affectionate manner. A little bit of the worry in Ryuu’s heart diminished as she showed a small smile and bowed politely before closing the door and returning to the study. She was able to tell that Hestia was tending to Vahn’s mental state and didn’t want to interrupt the peaceful atmosphere. In hindsight, Ryuu realized she had never given Vahn a lap pillow in the past and wondered if it should be something she did more often to help him relax.

The second group to arrive at the Manor, slightly after lunch had started, was the Takemikazuchi Familia. Take’ had arrived with Ouka, Chigusa, and a long raven-haired girl wielding a katana. Since they had been waiting for their arrival, Vahn immediately awoke when he sensed their presence and stared up into Hestia’s stark blue eyes for several seconds in a slightly dazed state.

Hestia’s hands came to a stop after she wiped away Vahn’s bang and leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. Unfortunately, perhaps due to her inexperience in the matter, Hestia hadn’t considered the size of her breasts in the equation and ended up pressing them into Vahn’s face before they both had small reactions of shock.

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Vahn enjoyed the incredibly soft sensation until Hestia moved away which caused him to laugh slightly as he sat up from the bed. Leaning over, Vahn gave Hestia a light peck on the lips before whispering, “Thanks, Hestia, I feel a lot better now.” Though her eyes had widened slightly at the kiss, Hestia’s smile returned to normal and even grew marginally as a happy expression appeared on her face. She ushered Vahn out the door and the two made their way down to intercept the Takemikazuchi Familia that was nearing the front door.

Seeing Ryuu in the foyer, Vahn smiled and thanked her even though he wasn’t sure why. She simply returned his greeting politely before returning to inform the others about the arrival of new guests. Before they could know, Vahn opened the door and welcome the Takemikazuchi Familia into the Hearth Manor while taking a look at everyone in attendance. Ouka had once again accompanied Take, as he should, while Vahn also got a glimpse of two different girls, one he had seen, and the other he had only observed in the manga.

Hitachi Chigusa was the girl he had met during the kidnapping incident and she was a petite and docile girl that stood around 149cm tall. She had a gentle and timid disposition with medium-length raven black hair that covered her green eyes. Other than her nearly non-existent breasts, the most striking thing about Chigusa was that, even though her size was diminutive, she had a large shield on her back. Vahn couldn’t imagine the small girl as a frontline vanguard no matter how he thought about it…

The other girl Yamato Mikoto, who was around 151cm and attired in the same type of lavender kimono as Chigusa except, unlike Chigusa, Mikoto had a visible sarashi that wrapped around her growing breasts. Since both girls were only around 14 years old, they hadn’t grown into their manga counterparts yet but Mikoto was quickly approaching her future self. Like Chigusa, she also had raven black hair but with a pair of equally black eyes to accompany them. To contrast Chigusa’s timid disposition, Mikoko had a serious and cool look on her face even though Vahn could see her aura flickering with a bit of excitement.

Take’ bowed politely after Vahn invited his Familia into the Manor and each of his children followed his example and showed proper courtesies. However, the moment courtesies were exchanged, Ouka looked directly at Vahn and asked in a somewhat brash tone, “Where is Lady Sanjouno?” Take’ laughed awkwardly Ouka’s words and politely bowed as he said, “Forgive Ouka, he is in somewhat high tensions after we received your words so suddenly. Since we’ve been on the trail for three years, the fact you completed the task within three days was a bit of an impact on everyone in the Familia.”

As it wasn’t Vahn’s first meeting with Ouka, he hadn’t taken offense at his words and merely bowed politely to Take’ before escorting the group to the study. Vahn held the door for them and revealed Haruhime sitting on one of the sofas while the twins tried arranging tea on a cart to the side with less-than-practiced motions. When she saw the sight of the Takemikazuchi Familia, Haruhime’s eyes watered a bit but her expression remained gentle as she stood up and bowed deeply to the approaching group.

Ouka released a relieved sigh before placing his hand on Vahn’s shoulder and using his deep voice to say, “Seriously, thank you.” After his short words, Ouka followed Take’ into the room with Chigusa close at his back. She bowed politely to Vahn at muttered in a quiet voice, “Thanks, Vahn…” Vahn nodded toward her as Mikoto stepped forward and looked between him and Haruhime. As Haruhime’s best friend, she was the most affected by her safe recovery and felt very grateful to Vahn for his assistance. She bowed low before saying in a serious tone, “This is our first meeting, I am Yamato Mikoto. Thank you for saving Haruhime, if there is anything I can do to return this kindness, please let me know.”

Vahn shook his head with a smile before gesturing toward Haruhime and saying, “We’re allies Mikoto, don’t worry about matters like repayment. I saved Haruhime because I wanted to, not simply because I was asked to. Instead of worry about me, you should go to her and think about other things later.” Mikoto stared into Vahn’s eyes as he spoke and her serious expression didn’t fade at all before she eventually bowed again and made her way into the room. Vahn watched Haruhime hug the two girls as Ouka stood off to the side with a gentle expression with Take’ making polite words to the twins. Vahn noticed the two girls blush slightly and raised his brow a bit at the strange sight.

Hestia had stopped next to Vahn and stared into the room at the sight of the reunion for a few seconds before asking in a low voice, “You’re not gonna try to get close to those two girls as well, are you? I think the small one likes the big guy, but the serious looking one might be a good choice…” Since Vahn hadn’t been thinking about the matter at all, he was surprised to hear Hestia mention it as he turned toward her and saw an expression of mock humor on her face. He realized that she was actually teasing him and laughed a bit before making his way into the room with a smile on his face.

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Vahn didn’t see the expression of humor on Hestia’s face turn slightly serious as she released a sigh and looked at Mikoto before turning her sights to the twins that seemed to be getting smooth-talked by the handsome Takemikazuchi. She could tell that the two girls were receptive to others, so there was a chance they wouldn’t be so reliant on Vahn in the future. The problem was, she had seen the serious look on Mikoto’s face earlier and saw the genuine tears in her eyes when she embraced Haruhime. They seemed to be very close and were likely even near the same age as well.

Since Haruhime would be living in the Hearth Manor, Hestia expected to see Mikoto around the Manor more often in the future and knew something would probably happen because of Vahn’s gentle personality. Even though he had a weakness for girls with a tragic past, most of the girls on the network knew that Vahn actually liked the serious and hardworking type more than the fragile type. This made Mikoto, who was similar in age to Vahn, somewhat of a contender if she decided to enter the circle in the future…

After everyone settled down, the group took their seats and the Takemikazuchi Familia was surprised when Haruhime sat close enough to Vahn that there was zero distance between their hips and even wrapped her tail around his waist without changing her elegant disposition at all. Hesta sat on the opposite side of Vahn and frowned slightly before pretending to ignore the tail. She had already ‘allied’ with Haruhime earlier and could get affections from Vahn when there were fewer eyes trained on them. Scanning over the group, Hestia saw the contemplative look in Mikoto’s eyes and released a sigh inside her mind while Vahn opened the discussion.

Vahn recounted the events of the rescue operation and also brought up the matter of how Ishtar had already anticipated his arrival to an extent. Though they had bought some time, the matter wouldn’t officially come to a conclusion until the Ishtar Familia was dealt with. Though he didn’t mention it to the group, Vahn had noticed that the quest hadn’t actually been completed even though he already rescued Haruhime. This implied there was still a scheme running behind the scenes that needed to be dealt with before the quest was concluded. Since one of the failure conditions now stated ‘Escape of Ishtar’, Vahn knew he would have to do something to deal with the goddess in a somewhat permanent fashion.

When he was finishing up the story, Vahn stated firmly, “Because of her own choice, Haruhime has joined the Hestia Familia and has fallen under my protection for the foreseeable future.” Vahn’s words caused Take’s brows to rise slightly but he didn’t seem against the idea while even Chigusa and Mikoto actually had relieved looks on their faces. The greatest affected seemed to be Ouka, but he just grits his teeth and remained silent because he was aware of his own weakness. They had no easy way to flee the City and return to the Far East and there was nothing his Familia could do to resist the Ishtar Familia at all. Even a single one of their Level 4 members would be enough to take out his entire group…

While a silence had overtaken the atmosphere, Haruhime spoke out with gentle words, “I have decided to stay with Vahn by my own volition. I am grateful to everyone for their efforts…truly, I can’t express my gratitude for all you have done for me. However, I must follow my own heart on this matter because I want to be able to live a happy life from now on. Vahn saved me from that nightmare and it is now my dream to live alongside him…” Though she couldn’t put much force into it, Vahn could feel Haruhime’s tail tighten around his waist and everyone in the Takemikazuchi Familia had noticed her reaction.

Take’ had a small smile on his face as he bowed politely and said, “Vahn, please take care of Haruhime from now on. She is in safer hands with you and I believe she will also be much happier here.” As if to piggyback off of his words, Mikoto spoke out, “I want to join the Hestia Familia as well, at least until this matter is concluded. I might not be strong enough to contribute much, but I want to help protect Haruhime.” Without waiting for Vahn or Hestia’s response, Take’s smile widened a bit and he said, “That is a great idea, it will also increase the bond between our two Familia in the future.”

Vahn wasn’t too surprised since he had seen the look of conviction in Mikoto’s eyes earlier. Haruhime seemed especially happy that her friend wanted to stay with her while Hestia, who had also expected something like this to happen, just stared into the void with lazy eyes and a practiced smile. She knew that, even if Mikoto only meant it as a temporary leave, she would probably stay around just because Haruhime was here. Since Haruhime wanted to support Vahn, that would mean Mikoto would be at his side a lot in the future as well. Simply due to his nature, they would probably grow closer over time as Haruhime whittled down both of their defenses…

After it was officially decided that Mikoto was going to join the Hestia Familia, the Takemizuchi Familia left after a celebratory lunch. They were celebrating the safe recovery of Haruhime and also sending their well-wishes to Mikoto and the prosperity of the Hestia Familia. On their way out, Ouka approached Vahn and had an earnest expression on his face as he said, “I know it won’t be easy, but I will work hard to overcome you in the future. We may not have started off on the right foot, but I think of you as a worthy rival. Lets both work hard to protect the things we care about…” Ouka then reached out his hand and Vahn gave him an appreciative nod before accepting the handshake and saying, “With the right mentality, you can become much stronger. It’s not well known, but I am also a [Master Smith]. If you or the Takemikazuchi Familia have any equipment needs, please feel free to patronize the Hearth Manor in the future. I’ll be more than happy to forge equipment for those I consider friends…”

Ouka’s expression turned especially serious as he nodded his head and briefly thanked Vahn before leaving alongside Chigusa and Take’. Chigusa looked back at Vahn for a moment and had a small smile on her face as she bowed before turning back and standing near Ouka. Vahn could see that not only Chigusa’s but Ouka’s aura gravitated toward the opposite person a bit. Though he wasn’t sure of their relationship, Vahn felt like the two had a mutual liking for each other. With a small smile on his face, Vahn reaffirmed his desire to make a network of male friends to talk to and share advice. He felt like they could learn a lot from each other and Vahn also knew that his situation was somewhat unique compared to many others. If he wanted to relax and take things slowly like people kept telling him, Vahn figured the best method would be to spend more time for himself and make some friends…

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