Chapter 415: Will you…

Vahn awoke the following morning and peeled the sleeping Lunoire from his body before stroking the exposed butt of Chloe, who was laying lazing at the side. After spending the afternoon researching various things with Riveria, Vahn spent the rest of the evening peacefully. He bathed with the girls, ate a hearty dinner where he learned about their adventures, and then wrapped up the night by inviting all the girls from the Hostess of Fertility, with the exclusion of Mona, into his room for the evening. Because she had been ‘visiting’ him a lot recently, Syr actually refused his invitation and had Aki take her place. Since she had been ‘bullied’ by Tsubaki the previous evening, Vahn spent some time with the loveable kitten before ‘suffering’ at the combined efforts of Chloe, Arnya, and Aki. Everything was wrapped up with Aki supporting Ryuu before Vahn ‘finished’ the events of the evening with Lunoire.

Even though it was only the second day since his return from the Dungeon, Vahn was in a great mood now, even more so than he had been after obtaining a great boon from the Bloodsaurus. Spending time with the girls, developing new items for their use, and researching the things he was interested in; these were all far more relaxing than dealing with the potential schemes of his enemies. Vahn felt a strange feeling of ‘liberation’ knowing that he could almost do anything, within the confines of the Manor, without actually being questioned about his actions. Though this wouldn’t be the case if he stepped out of line, he was often able to skirt the line and get away with it without recompense.

Vahn knew he would have to return to the Dungeon, and he actually didn’t mind fighting against enemies, but he preferred the moments like this where he could choose between his options freely. He could spend time at home, take a casual stroll into the Dungeon, fly in the upper atmosphere with Fafnir, or even splurge money within Babel Tower at his leisure. The only thing he was truly ‘missing’ was the kinship between men, but Vahn knew that would be easily accomplished in the future. He hadn’t visited yet, but Vahn knew where Welf’s new workshop was located and it was very close to what would be his ‘clubhouse’.

He had already extended ‘invitations’ to Welf, Ouka, Takemikazuchi, Miach, Gareth, Finn, and even Bete so they could have access to the building. Vahn easily won over most of them by saying he was going to stock the place with [Dwarven Drought], but Bete outright refused his offer on the grounds that he didn’t ‘have time to play around with weaklings’. Vahn knew the Werewolf boy was actually ‘busy’ dealing with ‘girl troubles’ so he didn’t mind much that Bete had refused his invitation. Once he visited the Lakshmi Familia in the future, Vahn intended to extend his offer to Keith as well, though that was a plan much further in the future. He didn’t know why, but Senna’s Affection for him was now at 99(Idolatry) and it had been worrying him every time he looked at the value.

Thinking of his own girl problems, Vahn was reminded of Welf’s current situation and the response he had gotten when he sent the red-haired youth the invitation. He hadn’t met them yet, but Welf was currently being ‘protected’ by four Amazonesses, three of which were Level 3, while one of them was Level 2. Vahn had learned that, though they weren’t in any ‘official’ relationships, Welf had the experience of being ‘taken care of’ by the four girls all at the same time and, ever since that fateful night, he had suddenly become a lot more mature. He had even started venturing into the Dungeon with the girls in order to become stronger and, as Tsubaki had described it, he had a ‘confident glint’ in his eyes.

Knowing that Welf was ‘happy’ made Vahn feel strangely relieved, as he knew the boy once had very strong feelings for the woman he was about to marry, the goddess Hephaestus. Though his feelings amounted more to a crush than anything else, it didn’t change the fact that Vahn had ‘usurped’ a position that Welf would have gladly filled himself. However, Vahn felt like the current Welf was much better than the struggling blacksmith back in the manga. Though he was still a bit arrogant, he was a lot more personable and had opened up a lot after associating with the Amazons. The fact that he was beginning his training to become stronger a full two years ahead of the original timeline, combined with how he was now proactively researching his own [Crozzo Magic Blood], showed that he had a lot of potential for future growth and development.

Vahn spent the first part of the morning helping to allocate Tsubaki’s workshop space within the annex located behind the East Wing. Vahn’s ‘primary’ forge was located within his own room, but he did most of his work in the larger workshop in the main area. They weren’t taking in the same room, since working with textiles was done in an entirely separate room than metalwork, but Vahn and Tsubaki now shared the same workshop with each other. This brought Vahn a strange feeling of comfort since the large workshop had seemed a little lonely as he was the only one using it. He had originally intended it as a place where any blacksmith in their Familia would be able to forge, but that seemed less likely given that Hestia had shut down the thought of having other men join the Familia.

Fortunately, now that Tsubaki lived within the Manor, things were becoming increasingly more lively. Not only was she now in the same workshop as him, but she had also been proactively engaging with all of the girls within the Manor itself. She had taken charge of the morning training sessions and even sparred with Aki and Ryuu to help polish their skills further. Tsubaki was a great teacher and had a keen eye for detail since she was also an accomplished [Master Smith]. Though their training hadn’t actually been flawed before, it was now starting to take on a more cohesive appearance with Tsubaki’s guidance within the group. Even Vahn himself was under her tutelage, though his actual training amounted almost exclusively to sparring with Tiona and Tione presently. They were the most ‘comparable’ to Vahn in fighting style, so he spent the first hour after waking up getting beaten up by the two rambunctious girls…

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For today, Vahn had focused most of his efforts on fixing the dress template to the mannequin and making any necessary adjustments while following the instructions of the books within his mind. When he had first decorated the mannequin with the fabric, Vahn noticed that everything kind of ‘hung’ off of it and it didn’t seem very form fitting and elegant at all. He wanted to make the fabric ‘hug’ the body instead of drapping off of it, so Vahn had to create extra seams on the interior of the dress that would conform to the shape of Hephaestus’s body. Instead of simply covering the breasts and butt, Vahn had it follow the contours and created seams that would place a small amount of emphasis on the areas.

He had designed it to be somewhat delicate, like lingerie, but also very elegant at the same time. By the time he had finished the first pass, Vahn felt like he had actually just created a beautiful red corset, called a bodice, as he hadn’t yet attached the gown or sleeves that would bring it to life. Since it wouldn’t properly cover her ‘bottoms’, Vahn felt like the current form of the dress was strangely erotic and began playing with the idea of making the gown ‘detachable’. Imagining Hephaestus wearing just the bodice, lace panties, a garter belt, and silk stockings covering her long legs made Vahn’s heart palpitate powerfully in his chest. His mind was drawn to the beating of his own heart and he imagined the passionate look on her face as he removed the restraints holding the gown to her waist and resolved himself to make the idea a reality…

After wrapping up his ‘work’ for the day, Vahn made his way out of his workshop and poked the sleeping Ais in the cheek for a short while until she woke up. Vahn had promised to spend some time with her during his lunch period and she had stayed home to wait for him. She spent the first part of the day talking with Preasia and helping look after Shizune and Tina, both of which had taken a liking to Ais because how beautiful and powerful she was. Vahn had detected her arrival about an hour ago and she must have fallen asleep because she had nothing else to do. He felt a little bad that the girls seemed to show up early, and was almost tempted to allow them free access to his workshop in the future. However, he would put that off until he finished working on the dresses for Hephaestus and Eina since he wanted it to be a surprise.

Ais showed a small smile after seeing Vahn and asked, “Are you finished…?” Vahn nodded his head before wrapping his arms around her waist and nuzzling against her forehead with his own. Ais hugged him as well and snuck a kiss on his lips with a smile on her face as she said, “I don’t have much to talk about…I already told you what I remember about my past…and you already know that I want to avenge my family…other than fighting, I don’t have anything…at least until I met you, Vahn. Now I understand what my friends at the Loki Familia had been telling me for the past six years…that strength isn’t a single-minded pursuit for vengeance, but something you seek in order to protect the things you still have…”

Vahn stroked the back of Ais’s hair as she rested her head against his shoulder and mumbled her words in a soft voice. He could tell Ais wasn’t being entirely truthful and, though she likely believed in what she was saying, she still had a powerful urge to avenge her family. She had made marked improvements, both in her perception of the world and how she associated with people, but she still had a long way to go. It was very likely that, unless she was able to see the One-Eyed Black Dragon dead, she would never be able to move beyond her trauma. Vahn also knew her past was far more complicated than what could be observed from the surface and that it would likely become a significant matter he needed to resolve in the future. Since Ais’ father was the hero, Albert Waldenstein, this meant that she had to have been born over a thousand years ago…yet she was alive in the modern day and was currently only fourteen years old…

After thinking of how to best converse with her, Vahn said in a soothing tone, “You’re a strong and beautiful woman, Ais…perhaps the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. We don’t have to talk about the past, as that is something we can take care of in the future, so let’s just talk about everything else instead. Let’s talk about the future…the life we can build together…the family we may one day raise…the places you might want to visit. I’m sure you know this, but there is so much more to life than the revenge you seek…the world is a very big place, Ais, and I’d like to experience it with you someday.”

Ais raised her head and stared directly at him with her beautiful golden eyes as if she were trying to piece deep into his mind and discern an answer to a question neither of them truly understood. Remembering the world she had seen from the back of Fafnir, how the City of Orario had become a small dot within her vision, Ais knew that Vahn’s words were true. The world was a very big place, much larger than the small world that she had lived in ever since waking up and being found by the Loki Familia.

She had been told so many stories by her mother in the past, about the various interesting places that were located all over the world. It used to be her dream to travel the world and visit such locations alongside her mother and father, but that dream had been shattered long ago when both of her parents died in their fight against the One-Eyed Black Dragon. Her father, the man everyone called the Hero King, had often saved her from danger when she was younger and, every time he did so, he would tell her that she needed to find her own hero, someone that would look after her for the rest of her life…someone like the boy that was currently bringing her so much comfort that it made her heart hurt.

Against his expectations, Ais began to tear up and she spontaneously started crying into his chest with sad sobs that made Vahn’s mind blank. He didn’t know how his words had set her off, but he could tell that Ais was both deeply grieved, but also very happy at the same time. Unwilling to press her for answers, Vahn just pulled her into a side room and spent the rest of his lunchbreak comforting the lonely girl. When she had finally collected herself enough to explain what she was thinking, Vahn was very surprised and felt a powerful motivation to become even stronger in the future.

He had already known that she was seeking a hero, as it had been something reflected in her [Hearts Desire], but now he was absolutely resolved to see it through on her behalf. She only sought vengeance because, until she had started opening her heart to others, the only thing she had left of her family in the world was the terrible monster that had claimed her parents’ lives. Ais didn’t want to be lonely anymore and realized that, even if she managed to kill the dragon one day, it wouldn’t bring her family back to her. Realizing this had been a big impact for her, but it was nothing as devastating as the impact Vahn received when she turned her face up at him with a heart-wrenching expression and asked, “Will you…be my hero?”

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Vahn had never seen such a ‘real’ expression on Ais’s face, and it made him mortified that the first true emotion she showed to him was grief, desperation, and only a small amount of hope. Though he had already been embracing her, Vahn put a lot of strength into his arms and hugged her body as tightly to his body as he could manage. He could feel her shaking in his arms and he said in a pained tone that reflected his own indignation at the tragedy Ais had to suffer, “Ais…I will become your hero…I’ll never give up, no matter how difficult things get. I won’t let you down, no matter how heavy the burden becomes…I won’t disappear until a day comes where I can wipe away these tears and see a true smile on your face. I won’t make you cry, Ais, unless its tears of joy…I swear on everything that I am, everything I will become, no matter what it takes!”

(A/N: The last paragraph was kind of a joke, even though it is also relevant at the same time~! If it’s to cringe for you, as it should be, the official end of the chapter was when Ais asked Vahn to be her hero (UwU)~!)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Vahn is Lewd’,’Sleeping Beauty’,’I can be your hero baby~!’)

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