Chapter 292: Intruder

Vahn had been sleeping within his chilled room when he felt a pulse of energy pass through the formation protecting the Manor. It was a small, almost unnoticeable blip, but Vahn had been in an alert state as things grew progressively more peaceful. Expanding his domain, Vahn began to look for the sign of any foreign presences within the 322m area of his perception. Though he couldn’t perfectly map everything within his domain, Vahn was vaguely aware of the structure of the Manor and had memorized its layout because of the efforts he had been putting into redesigning it. Using his mini-map in conjunction with his domain, Vahn was able to detect a presence trying to enter through the first floor of the west wing.

Almost everyone within the Manor slept in rooms on the 3rd floor, but that wasn’t common knowledge and Vahn expected that the intruder was either an assassin or someone sent to scout out the interior of the Manor. The only people on the first floor were the twins, but they were in the central area near the kitchen in one of the smaller rooms. However, Vahn wasn’t going to wait around to see what the intruder was up to, so he jumped out of bed and immediately equipped his combat attire before making his way out of the room. He noticed the Fenrir had awoken, but he sent her a signal telling her to protect the third floor.

Vahn knocked on the door that was usually Ryuu’s room, but she had been sharing it with Aki since she didn’t often sleep over. It was one of the larger rooms, so it was able to easily accommodate two beds and both Ryuu and Aki were used to sharing a room with others. Though she had been asleep, Aki quickly awoke even though Vahn only gently rattled on the door. She answered the door in a nightgown and Vahn had a brief thought wondering why cat girls seemed to wear nightgowns to be before briefing Aki on the situation. He had her stay near the stairwell connecting to the third floor while he made his way down to intercept the intruder who was slowly making their way through the rooms in the west wing.

Vahn had a cold glint in his eyes as he pushed his stealth capabilities to the max and wore dark-colored clothing that had the properties of absorbing light. He could tell by the aura of the person that they were likely near Level 4, so he was certain they hadn’t come with good intentions. There was also the fact that the person had a mute aura mixed with greys and a hint of green which showed that, though they had never met, the person had feelings of envy or resentment toward him.

Since the presence was cautiously making its way through each room, Vahn knew they were looking for something or someone. Though Vahn had likely made several enemies after interfering with matters in the red light district, the only person that would be able to mobilize a Level 4 would be the Ishtar Familia. Even if the person was just a hired assassin, there were few people that would take on a request to interfere with the Hestia Familia which was indirectly supported by two of the top three Familia within the City.

Vahn really didn’t want to destroy parts of his own Manor, so he waiting in the corridor connecting the west wing to the central area and opened up several windows even though it was below freezing outside. He then waited in the shadows and thinned out his presence to the point that most people wouldn’t be able to detect him even if they had powerful detection abilities. He had already tested it previously with Mikoto, but he was able to isolate his presence by condensing his domain and imbuing it with [Stealth]. Just like he had done with the Juggernaut, he was able to fool any magical or mental probes unless they came in direct contact with his body.

After around twenty minutes, the presence entered the corridor and immediately paused when they saw the open windows and felt the chill on their skin. Surprisingly, Vahn noticed that the person hadn’t made any attempt to conceal themselves and could see that it was a relatively handsome brown-skinned man with black hair, placid green eyes, and a noble disposition. He scanned carefully through the area as if he was searching for something before hesitantly making his way forward. Vahn was impressed with the level of caution the man showed, especially considering the current situation. Since he had intruded into several places himself, Vahn knew how disconcerting it could be when you stumbled into an unexpected situation. If not for his ability to scan the area with his domain, Vahn knew he would probably struggle to try and keep himself concealed in most situations.

When the man lined up with one of the windows, Vahn moved forward with Shundo and placed his hand on the man’s chest before launching them both out through the window and into the cold night air. Since he didn’t correctly set the landing point, Vahn and the unknown man carried their momentum before the intruder managed to separate from Vahn and the two opened a distance of around seven meters between each other. Without immediately attacking, the man dusted off his outfit before asking, “You must be Vahn Mason, I’ve seen your picture. I’ve come to deliver a message…”

Vahn pulled out [Lævateinn] and asked, “Oh? What kind of message needs to be delivered in the dead of the night by an intruder that skulks around my Manor as if they’re looking for something?” The ashen blade of [Lævateinn] began to glow with an intimidating red light as if it were about to burst into flames at any moment. The intruder frowned with a look of distaste on his face and stated, “My Mistress wishes to meet with you. Were it up to me, I would much rather see you in a ditch, but I must do as my Mistress commands.”

Without dropping his guard, Vahn looked over the man with his [Eyes of Truth] and noticed there were both ropes as well as unidentified drugs contained within the pouch at his back. Even if what the man said was true, Vahn could tell there was another purpose of his visit that he was glossing over. If the man had come across Haruhime before ‘delivering his message’, Vahn had no doubts he would have kidnapped her without a word. Without asking, Vahn knew the ‘Mistress’ the man was talking about was Ishtar.

Vahn brandished [Lævateinn] and drew an arc of flames through the air that caused the surrounding cold to vanish as an intense heat spread through the area. He stated plainly, “You invade my home in the middle of the night after bypassing the defensive formation I set up to simply inform me that your ‘Mistress’ wishes to meet with me? Curious that you’d need ropes and what I assume to be sleeping drugs to send a simple message.” Hearing Vahn’s words, the man became tense but didn’t lose his condescending glare as he said, “You have no right to steal the property of-” Before he could finish his words, Vahn used [Enkidu] to try and immobilize the unnamed pawn of Ishtar.

Surprisingly, the man was able to side-step the super-sonic chain that tried to wrap around him as he rushed toward Vahn with a pair of gloves that seemed to be reinforced with magical runes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a movement skill within the record of Danmachi that could rival Shundo and Vahn disappeared so quickly that the briefest hint of an afterimage was left in his previous location. The man’s eyes widened as he reached into a hidden pouch and threw a dagger at Vahn’s new location with pin-point precision. Vahn easily deflected the blade with his gauntlets before once again trying to lock down the man’s movements with [Enkidu].

Since it was dark outside, the man was able to react to [Enkidu] easily because it always created a gentle golden light whenever it exited through the void. Vahn frowned since it wasn’t often an opponent was able to react to his [Enkidu] and it took a very large amount of energy to summon the chains. After ingesting a mana regeneration potion, Vahn stopped trying to use [Enkidu] and decided that it was pointless trying to capture the man. If he had come just to deliver a message, Vahn might have humored him since he was interested in dealing with Ishtar himself if possible. However, knowing that the man came with the intention of kidnapping Haruhime, Vahn had already added him to his mental list of enemies.

After failing to hit Vahn several times, the man noticed that the annoying chains that appeared out of thin had stopped appearing. He saw Vahn ingest an unknown potion and thought he had overused his mana with a chantless magic. With a gloating expression on his face, the man resumed his ‘noble’ demeanor and said, “Give up, you’re not able to defeat me at your current Level. You might be strong for a Level 3, but your cheap tricks don’t work on me. I might not be able to hit you, but you can’t hit me either…”

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Vahn looked at the man like he was saying something ridiculous and noticed the expression of the intruder ‘broke’ a little after seeing the look Vahn gave him. With a condescending smile of his own, Vahn said, “Tell your ‘Mistress’ that, if she wants to meet with me, ask for an audience with the Loki and Hephaestus Familia’s first. If they agree, I don’t mind meeting the owner of such a loyal dog.” Hearing Vahn’s words, the man had a bulging vein on his handsome face as he glared in Vahn’s direction. He drew in several deep breaths through his nose and seemed to be thinking of how he could make Vahn pay for his words.

If it were possible to get around Loki and Hephaestus, Ishtar wouldn’t have sent him in the middle of the night to try and infiltrate the Hearth Manor. Even if they were a ‘criminal Familia’, the Isthar Familia still acted above-board on the surface and put in a lot of effort to cover up their crimes. They might have crushed a few minor Familia in the past with sheer might, but there wasn’t any opportunity to target the Hestia Familia with the number of hidden forces surrounding their Manor. Not only had Hephaestus and Loki purchased the surrounding properties, but they had stationed a number of personnel to watch the movements of the Ishtar Familia. There was even a team of investigators that belonged to the Guild watching over the movements within the Manor, and fighting in the courtyard would already create problems if they were seen.

From the man’s perspective, Vahn was using the shield of external forces to get his way and was now ‘taunting’ the entire Ishtar Familia, his Mistress and himself included. If not for the strange technique Vahn used to evade his every attack, the man would have captured him and beat his face until he had become unrecognizable by even his closest family members. Of course, if he actually did that, Ishtar would probably punish him since she had taken an interest in the boy. This was the reason Vahn was able to see ‘envy’ within his aura, because he was jealous that the Goddess in his heart had taken an interest in a boy more handsome than himself.

After calming down a bit, the man said, “My name is Tammuz Belili, I challenge you, Vahn Mason, to a duel. If I win, you will accompany me to meet my Mistress along with the harlot Sanouno Haruhime.” Without saying anything about the conditions of his loss, Tammuz got into a combat stance that looked reminiscent of an out-boxing style of CQC. He had his feet squared up and loosely held both fists up with his left fist forward. Vahn could tell that he would be able to respond to an attack from almost any direction except the blind spots behind him.

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Vahn squinted his eyes at Tammuz and was considering it if was appropriate to kill the man before him. He could tell that he was under the influence of Ishtar’s charm, but it was also a fact that he had invaded his home with the intent to bring harm to those in his charge. It might be true that he had ‘stolen’ Haruhime from Ishtar, but it didn’t make it acceptable to break into the Manor of a Familia and kidnap one of its members. Even if Vahn killed Tammuz, there would be no way for Ishtar to complain about the situation since they had gone about it in secrecy. She might try to pressure Vahn by spreading rumors and accusing him of various crimes, but there was no way she would be able to break through the wall of Hephaestus and Loki while Vahn was also shielded, to a lesser extent, by the Guild.

Shaking his head, Vahn decided that it wasn’t a kindness to himself or the people he was protecting to arbitrarily spare those actively trying to cause them harm. He wouldn’t go out of his way to kill Tammuz, but he wasn’t going to hold back if they were dueling seriously. If Tammuz managed to survive the coming onslaught, Vahn would help dispel the effects of Ishtar’s charm and then heal his body a bit before turning him over to the authorities. Of course, this was assuming he survived Vahn’s expanding wrath. From the moment he referred to Haruhime as a ‘harlot’, Vahn had already bumped him up on the list several tiers within his mind.

Throwing [Lævateinn] into his inventory, Vahn decided to even the playing field a bit and also test his new form in practical combat. The white fur on his arms and legs began to condense into black scales as his skin darkened and the tattoo of a snake coiled around his arms, back, and shoulders. Instead of using his Báihǔ form, Vahn wanted to test his Xuánwǔ form since Tammuz seemed like a brawler. Of course, this didn’t mean that Vahn was going to play ‘fair’ at all, since he compressed his domain and began to condense fire elements into his body until he began to glow red-hot in the cold night air.

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