After the Takemikazuchi Familia left, Vahn introduced Mikoto and Haruhime to Milan, Tina, and Ryuu. Since she was their senior with the Familia, Ryuu was very nice to the two girls while Tina seemed to be a bit standoffish now that there were two more people around Vahn. Milan didn’t seem to mind at all and was mainly focused on the matters regarding Preasia, who still hadn’t woken up. Vahn inspected her condition earlier and knew she was simply fatigued and allowed her to continue sleeping. Fenrir seemed very protective of Preasia, so Vahn left her to look after the small sheep girl.
Milan also stayed nearby while teaching the twins how to properly prepare meals since their cooking was somewhat substandard. Since they were from a nomadic tribe, their cooking skills amounted to the ability to roast and season meat with spices they ground using a pestle and mortar. Tina was focused on interacting with Haruhime and Mikoto and was learning about the past of the two girls. She already knew Vahn was searching for Haruhime, but it was the first time Tina learned of the situation behind her captivity. Soon after, any inhibitions she had towards Haruhime faded away and she decided to become friends with her if she could.
While this was going on, Vahn had moved to the highest balcony within the Manor and was overlooking the premises with a thoughtful gaze. Ryuu stood at his side because they were discussing matters and trying to come up with a way to deal with the Ishtar Familia without being overly reliant on the Alliance. Loki had already started preparing to mobilize some of her Familia and had even sent notice to the main expedition to return early if possible. Hestia was currently in her room writing messages through the network and reading through the logbook to see if anything important had been mentioned since earlier.
Since it was still quite cold, even though it was now the afternoon, the wind blowing through the balcony was somewhat biting. Though he was unaffected, Vahn noticed that Ryuu’s aura was faltering a bit and knew she was probably cold. With a sigh that caused a large cloud of condensation to build up, Vahn turned around and smiled at Ryuu as he said, “You don’t have to stay out here with me Ryuu.” As he spoke, Vahn handed her a three-layered mantle that was lined with dense furs on the inside.
Ryuu accepted the mantle with a smile and didn’t respond to Vahn’s words as she wore it around her shoulders. Vahn gave her a wry smile and notice that her ears were turning red, not from a blush, but because of the cold. Using [Hands of Nirvana] and the warmth of his body, Vahn covered Ryuu’s ears and felt the cold sensation transmitted through his fingers. When he saw Ryuu’s aura flare up a bit, and a slight blush appear on her face, Vahn smiled and the two stood in silence for a while until he had completely warmed her body.
Since elves only allowed their loved ones to touch their ears, Ryuu was somewhat sensitive to the intimate contact. However, she felt very warm from Vahn’s touch as well and didn’t resist his actions at all. She had already allowed him to see her naked body and even allowed him to touch her ears when they took a bath previously. Since she had already made her resolve, Ryuu just enjoyed the warmth and stared into Vahn’s aquamarine eyes with a slight smile on her face.
Now that his mind was a bit calmer, Vahn expanded his domain and used [Heart of the Eternal Flame] to warm up the entire large balcony. Ryuu felt a warmth similar to spring spread through the area and gave a hum-like laugh before she said, “Did you forget you could do that?” Vahn blushed slightly at her words and removed his hands from Ryuu’s ears. He had been so focused on the matters with the Ishtar Familia that he hadn’t paid any mind to the cold until he noticed Ryuu’s condition.
Tilting her head to the side slightly, Ryuu asked, “Do you like lap pillows Vahn?” Vahn turned his head back to Ryuu and considered her words for a short while before nodding his head. Of the things he liked to do when relaxing, laying on the lap of a girl was something that brought him a lot of comfort. He had even fallen asleep on several occasions in the past so there was no way he could refute the words. Seeing Vahn’s nod, Ryuu also nodded her head as if affirming something before taking off the mantle and spread it on the floor. Even if Vahn had warmed up the air, the cold stone of the balcony was still biting to the touch.
After she sat down, Vahn realized what Ryuu was doing and a small smile appeared on his face as he sat next to her. She looked into his eyes for a moment before smoothing her apron with her hands and nodding. Vahn took her offer and rested against Ryuu’s thighs while looking up into her sky-blue eyes from below. Repeating the actions of Hestia, Ryuu began to stroke Vahn’s hair affectionately. Though her thighs weren’t remotely as soft as Hestia’s, Vahn still very comfortable against the somewhat springy and firm thighs of Ryuu. He didn’t fall asleep, but Vahn closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment shared between the two of them.
Hestia eventually showed up on the balcony and saw the scene before locking eyes with Ryuu who had noticed her arrival. For a moment, Hestia felt a little jealous of Ryuu but also remembered her earlier actions of leaving Vahn to her care. While she was thinking of leaving the two to themselves, Vahn raised his body and turned toward Hestia since he had already detected her arrival. Ryuu also removed the wrinkles from her apron before standing and folding the mantle after they stepped off of it. Hestia felt a little awkward since she thought she had spoiled the mood but returned to normal when she saw the natural smile on Vahn’s face.
The trio made their way inside where it was warm and closed the doors of the balcony behind them. Since Vahn always carried around a bit of furniture in his inventory, he set out a sofa which they all sat on so they could discuss what Hestia had learned from the network. Ryuu sat slightly away and showed a small smile to Hestia as if encouraging her. Since Hestia still felt like she interrupted them earlier, Ryuu’s encouragement felt a little awkward but she still accepted the small kindness and even felt a little emboldened as she sat in Vahn’s lap.
As it wasn’t the first time she had done so, Vahn was fine with Hestia’s action especially considering that her body was almost unnaturally light. Though he had inspected her from himself with his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn believed there was a unique quality to Hestia’s body that made her softer and lighter than other girls and goddesses. When everyone had situated themselves, Hestia explained, “There is an ongoing investigation into the illegal slave trafficking ring that you had tipped the Guild off about. They are tracking down several of the people listed in the customer list and are also trying to bust other fake brokerages that had connections to the facility you discovered.”
Vahn nodded his head thoughtfully and wanted to ask about the matters concerning Preasia but Hestia continued, “I talked to Loki and Hephaestus about Isthar, and Loki seems to be planning to challenge the Ishtar Familia to a Wargames to prevent them from approaching us about Haruhime. Though I didn’t originally mention it to Loki, she also knows about Haruhime’s magic because Hephaestus didn’t want to keep it a secret since Haruhime would probably follow you on expeditions in the future anyway. They did stress that her magic is kept confidential in most situations, at least until the probationary period between the Alliance and our Familia expires.”
As he had similar thoughts, Vahn stated, “Don’t worry, I will protect Haruhime until she becomes stronger. I have plenty of allies to help as well…” Vahn gave a glance over at the smiling Ryuu and she nodded her head almost imperceptibly. Hestia had been leaning against Vahn’s chest with her eyes closed, so she missed the look as she nodded her head and continued, “It was the consensus of everyone that, for the time until now and the Denatus, you shouldn’t leave the Manor much. Even though Fenrir might have an urge to kill monsters, I think she will be stable while she is tending to Preasia. Let Loki deal with the Ishtar Familia for now and focus on protecting everyone within the Manor while trying to relax a bit before things pick up and you’re pulled into some other unavoidable trouble…”
Towards the end of her words, Hestia looked up at Vahn and arched her head enough to where he could look down into her eyes from above. He could see the worry in her eyes and even felt Ryuu nod her head outside his line of sight. All of the girls around him, including Eva in the orb, had been telling him to relax more. If not for the matter regarding Haruhime, Vahn would have followed their advice and focused on his personal life for a bit. Now that she was under his protection, as long as Vahn paid attention to the security of the Manor things should be fine. Even if they had a specialist, there was no way for someone to enter the premises of their grounds without Vahn or Fenrir picking up their presence.
Vahn squeezed Hestia’s hands that had been holding onto his and displayed a compliant smile as he said, “I think relaxing sounds like a great idea…I’ll still continue my training a bit, but I want to treat my hobbies more casually for a time. I also want to try and create my own network of guy friends and maybe even spend some personal time to myself and continue my studies…” Vahn’s words made Hestia sigh slightly since his idea of ‘relaxation’ still revolved around performing several actions that others committed a lot of effort to. Unless she and the other girls forced him to relax, he would probably immediately return to some tedious task and place all of his focus on it.
She did note his desire to have more male friends though, and it had actually been mentioned several times on the network. Hephaestus and Eina especially wanted Vahn to interact with more males so that he could experience a different kind of bond than that between a boy and a girl. Because of Vahn’s behavior, it was difficult for him to have actual female ‘friends’ since he always treated girls deferentially and with a lot of empathy. This closed the distance between Vahn and most girls and gave them a somewhat tense relationship that could easily devolve into feelings for each other depending on the situation. It was their hope that, if Vahn relaxed with other guys and saw how they reacted to women, his mentality would change a bit and he wouldn’t be so easily influenced by girls in the future.
Of course, not all the girls agreed with this, at least not in the same vein as the hopes placed forth by Hephaestus and Eina. Though she didn’t consider herself part of the ‘faction’, Hestia somewhat agreed with Syr and the girls at the Hostess of Fertility. She was okay with Vahn having male friends, but she didn’t think it would be good for them to enter the Familia. Since a lot of girls around Vahn had some trauma related to men, they weren’t easily willing to expose themselves to an environment where they were living with a man other than Vahn.
Syr even brought up the rhetorical situation of what might happen if one of the men got jealous and made passes at some of the girls within the network. Though it would be fine if the feelings were reciprocal, on the off chance that something adverse happened it would cause irreversible harm to the group’s unity and would also heavily impact Vahn as a result. Even Eina wasn’t able to refute her words easily since she was also aware of the situation of many of the girls around Vahn. It was his kind and gentle nature that allowed them to be around Vahn easily without fear of anything happening, but that wouldn’t be the case if other men were added to the equation.
While contemplating the matter herself, Hestia asked, “Do you know any guys you want to be friends with?” Since it was something he had thought about recently, Vahn said, “Ouka seems like a good guy and has the drive to become stronger…I think Take’ isn’t bad either, though his actions are a bit offputting at times…I think Welf and I can be good friends and I want to help with his research…I think Gareth would be a good role model, especially since I’ll be a father in the future…”
Hestia had been listening to Vahn and trying to imagine each of the guys he mentioned in her mind as she considered if they would be a good or bad influence on Vahn. She was also somewhat unnerved by Takemikazuchi, since he had the natural tendencies of a gigolo and flirted with girls casually. Hestia felt like he would actually be a terrible influence on Vahn even though she wished he would take away some of the less impactful women out of Vahn’s life. Suddenly, while she was lost in her own thoughts, Hestia felt like a gong had sounded in her mind when Vahn mentioned Gareth and becoming a father in the future.
Even Ryuu’s eyes widened a bit at Vahn’s words, even though she had already heard the news about Hephaestus’s apparent pregnancy. It was still too early to see any signs, but Hephaestus had apparently confirmed the matter with a goddess of fertility that she trusted. Though she believed Vahn’s words, she couldn’t help but get a second opinion and had been in a jubilant mood ever since. Now that Ryuu was hearing Vahn speak of the matter though, it had a slightly different impact. Since elves were long-lived, she hadn’t considered the matter of children but now thought of Vahn being the father of some of her own…
Hestia felt a bit of anxiety welling up in her heart since she realized Vahn was already undergoing a shift in his mentality with a focus towards fatherhood. Though she didn’t understand why Hestia felt like the window of opportunity for them to grow closer together was shrinking rapidly. She affirmed her decision to meet up with Hephaestus more often and even planned to discuss matters with Loki, even though she wasn’t fond of her ‘former’ rival. Though she hadn’t met him, Hestia knew Gareth was a member of the Loki Familia and wanted to vet him to see if he could be a good role-model for Vahn in the future. It seemed that, while Vahn was going to be focused on relaxing, she was going to become progressively busier in the future. However, the more she thought about it, the more excited Hestia felt because she began to realize what she could do for Vahn from now on…