Chapter 417: Pride

For the rest of the week, Vahn continued working on the wedding dress he had intended for Hephaestus. He had completed the bodice of the dress long ago and had spent the remaining time embellishing the details as he overlapped several layers of semi-transparent silk for the gown section. The entire gown flared wider and would eventually drag to the ground somewhat and Vahn had sewn it in such a way that it appeared to spiral slight before branching out into ‘flames’. To conceal the split seam, as it was meant to be detachable, Vahn had gotten the idea to use the feathers from a Firebird, an incredibly rare monster that typically appeared around the 19th floor of the Dungeon.

By the time he had finished the gown itself, Vahn had been inspired to intermix synthetic emerald colored feathers amongst the ‘plumage’ and had altered the dress to be reminiscent of a phoenix’s tail. He then made a second layer, overtop the original bodice, where he inlaid several types of cut magic cores that would act as catalysts for the enchantments Vahn intended to imbue into the dress. Vahn had gotten the idea to actually ‘sew’ the formations that connected each magic core on the inside of the dress, and this was why he had to make it two layers instead of the original one. At the ‘core’ of the formation, Vahn had used one of the Magic Treasure Stones, which looked like a large ruby, that would be seated in the ‘valley’ of Hephaestus’ breasts.

After inlaying all the formations, Vahn spent the remainder of the time he had left to embroider a flame-like pattern into the dress and, though it wasn’t necessary at all, he also made a clasp where Hephaestus would be able to ‘store’ her hammer at the back of the dress. Even though she might only wear the dress once, Vahn still wanted it to have ‘functionality’ and had ensured that the fabric was flexible enough that it wouldn’t restrict her movements at all. The only part he couldn’t really exercise any control over was the gown, as it was intended to stand out and enhance Hephaestus’ natural beauty and draw the eye of onlookers.

To prevent the dress from getting dirty, as it would be dragging along the ground, Vahn had painstakingly rubbed a special oil on the underside of the fabric that would prevent it from collecting dust and debris along the way. It also made the entire underside of the dress waterproof, so Hephaestus wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning it too much after the fact. The last step was to actually finish the ‘mechanism’ that would allow the gown to detach from the bodice at a moments notice. Vahn had interwoven small gemstones between the feathered plumage that were linked together in a locking formation that firmly held the dress together. However, if someone possessed the ‘key’, they could simply touch any of the gemstones and will them to ‘unlock’ and separate the two parts.

Though he hadn’t gotten the real Hephaestus to try it on yet, Vahn took a great deal of pride in the dress he had made for her. It might not be the same quality as the one she had already prepared, but Vahn was confident it would be far more ‘practical’. Assuming, of course, that the final phase of his plan actually succeeded. Vahn had interwoven small threads of sinew into the inner layer of the fabric and had used several precious materials in its construction. Though it hadn’t required any ‘forging’, Vahn knew that sewing could still be generalized and influenced by the [Master Smith] Development Ability.

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It might not have required the use of a hammer, for the most part, but it was still an item he had painstakingly ‘forged’ for an entire week. Confident that everything would go well, Vahn focused his intent and willed that the dress would be able to protect Hephaestus from harm while also enhancing her beauty even further…since she had spent so much time shunned by even her fellow gods, Vahn wanted the whole world to see the beauty that Hephaestus had become, the beauty that belonged solely to him…with that thought in mind, Vahn uttered, “Henceforth, you will be the first ‘masterpiece’ I have created in the form of a dress. Please, protect the woman I love…[Phoenix Fire Dress].

Though it wasn’t to the extent of when he used the [Keeper of the Akashic Tome], there was a very brief phenomenon where the dress glowed with beautiful scarlet light. When the light faded, the dress remained relatively the same, though there was now a subtle sheen to the fabric and each of the magic cores glittered like stars that were affixed to the flame-like bodice that was shrouded by the plumes of the Firebird. All of the colors seemed more vibrant now and Vahn knew that, once Hephaestus wore the dress, they would stand out even more without distracting from the beauty of Hephaestus herself…

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[Phoenix Fire Dress]

Rank: A (Magic)

Slots: 0

P.Def: 370

M.Def: 900

Ability: Phoenix’s Pride(A), Fire Immunity(A), Shock Resistance(C), Weatherproof(B)

A wedding dress created with care by a skilled Master Smith for the Goddess of Forging, Hephaestus. Makes use of a variety of precious materials, as if embodying the feelings the creator had for Hephaestus during its production. When wearing this dress, the user creates a flame-like aura that causes them to stand out from everything else in the world, like a proud phoenix rising to overshadow the sun itself.

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As Vahn held the dress in his hands, he noticed that he was shaking a great deal and slowly put focus into his [Will of the Emperor] to calm down. Not only was this a dress he had created for the woman he loved, but it was also the first piece of ‘cloth’ armor that he had been able to complete with his [Master Smith] ability. Though the physical defense was lacking, as one might expect from fabric, the magic defense was arguably the more important of the two values. It also had, not Fire Resistance, but Fire ‘Immunity’ alongside a powerful effect like Shock Resistance. The ability to absorb shocks almost gave the outfit inherent Endurance parameters, even though it had no actual effect on the body…at least for the time being. Now that Vahn knew it was possible, this had opened up the floodgates in his minds and he began to get very excited about the garments he would ‘forge’ in the future.

Though he was very excited, and even tempted to immediately give the dress to Hephaestus, Vahn contained himself and covered the dress in a protective film before setting it off to the side. He still needed to design a dress for Eina before giving them to both girls at the same time. If not for the combined efforts of the two caring women, Vahn wouldn’t have been able to arrive at the point he currently found himself. He probably wouldn’t have even gotten into forging at all, at least for a very long time. Now, he could create items that would protect himself, the people he cared about, and the people he would come to care for in the future. Equipment might interfere with the growth of the user, especially when it came to weapons, but it was still an important protective measure that could guarantee their safety during an emergency. Taking a small hit to your growth in exchange for preventing potential death was a fair trade any day of the week.

There was only an hour left before he was supposed to be wrapping up things within his workshop, but Vahn started on cutting the fabric for Eina’s dress using the time remaining. Vahn had a bit of trouble choosing a color he thought was suitable for Eina since every neutral and cool color seemed to accent her beauty equally. He inevitably settled on blue, as it would create a contrast between her and Hephaestus while also emphasizing the ‘soothing’ qualities that Eina embodied for Vahn. Hephaestus was like the fire that burned in his heart, literally, that pushed him forward along the path he had decided for himself. Contrarily, though she still supported him, Eina was more like a refreshing spring where Vahn could refresh himself and relax when he needed to ease his tensions.

As for the design itself, Vahn wanted to make them nearly identical to each other though, instead of Firebird feathers, red gemstones, and green magic cores, Vahn was going to use the incredibly valuable Frost Falcon feathers, blue gemstones, and a combination of white and pale blue magic cores. This would make Hephaestus look like a Phoenix, wreathed in flames, while Eina looked like an Ice Phoenix, that glittered like the cool night that calmed the mind and brought thoughts of peaceful sleep to observers. Now that he had a better understanding of the process, Vahn expected he would be able to finish the dress within four days and could use the remaining time to create accompanying garments, such as lingerie, stockings, and other adornments. There were infinite possibilities open to him now and, though he hadn’t paid much attention to it earlier, he had even gained more than 4,000OP after creating the [Phoenix Fire Dress].

Though he hadn’t been entering the Dungeon for the entire week, word had spread on the network that he could absorb the energy in monster cores to fuel his ‘creation’ ability. They weren’t purchasing them from the market, as that would cause a stir within the public, but Vahn had been receiving all of the monster cores from the girls when they return in the evening. The combined efforts of sixteen people were far more than Vahn’s personal efforts and he had been able to increase his OP reserves to 1,984,559, even though he had spent a fair amount buy supplies for the dresses. Now, not only was his personal wealth increasing, but Vahn was passively generating a fair amount of OP through the combined efforts of the girls themselves.

As for other changes that had taken place over the last few days, it had also gotten around that Vahn was showing interest in the girls’ pasts and he had spent a fair amount of time each day speaking with a different girl about their pasts, their current desires, and what they hoped for in the future. Thus far, he had talked to Tiona, Ais, Tione, Syr, Lili, Naaza, and today he would be talking with someone he had been curious about for a while, Arnya. Vahn knew that there were several things Arnya was keeping a secret, but she seemed to be willing to open up to him a bit and was going to explain things to him. She was in her third week of pregnancy, so she had already resolved herself for the future and now intended to clue him in on the ‘important’ bits he needed to know.

Vahn hadn’t completed cutting all the fabric, but his time was coming to a close and he had already detected Arnya’s presence outside of the workshop. After the small ‘fiasco’ with Tiona and Ais, Vahn had installed a sofa outside of the workshop and even set out a pot of tea with a tray of snacks for them while they waited. Once he had finished organizing his tools, a habit he had picked up when he was learning from Tsubaki, Vahn made his way out of the workshop and saw Arnya lazing about on the sofa while nibbling on some fish-shaped crackers that he thought she would enjoy. Though he was certain she had noticed his presence, Arnya continued to act in a somewhat unladylike manner as she ignored his approach.

After several interactions, Vahn already knew many of Arnya’s weaknesses, but he knew the best way to tease her was through a very simple method. Reaching out his hand, Vahn gently rubbed her belly as he kneeled next to the sofa and put his ear to her stomach. Arnya began laughing in mock surprise as she said in a coy tone, “Nyahaha, can’t you see inside without having the check every day~? You’re so helpless~nya.” As she spoke, Arnya stroked the back of Vahn’s head with her hands, without wiping the crumbs from her fingers at all. Realizing her ‘mistake’, Arnya spent a bit of time picking the pieces of out Vahn’s hair as he absentmindedly listened to the sounds of her body.

This had become a habit that Vahn had developed a few days ago when Hephaestus had visited and, after they made love with each other, had Vahn rest on her belly and listened for the sounds of the extra heartbeat that pulsed quietly, but with a steady rhythm, deep within her womb. She was the furthest along in her pregnancy, so Vahn was able to actually ‘experience’ the first signs of the life he had helped to create. Even though there were other girls present, Vahn couldn’t stop himself from crying silent tears before he simply started thanking Hephaestus over and over while they all comforted him.

Ever since that night, Vahn had been taking the opportunity to listen to the bellies of the other girls that were bearing his children. It was this action that had incited Arnya to actually agree to talk with him, so Vahn was also indirectly reminding her of the situation through his actions. He could tell she was still hesitant about the situation, and he wanted to help ease her heart and give her the confidence she needed to put the thoughts that burdened her to words. Not only physical burdens, but emotion burdens were something that others could help you carry. They had created a life together and would spend several years doing their best to raise their child to maturity, so it was a little late to ‘hesitate’ now that the deed had been done.

After several minutes passed, Arnya asked in a soft tone, “Do you hear anything?” Without raising his head, Vahn opened his eyes and smiled at her and replied, “Not yet…it’s still a bit early. From what I’ve read, it’ll take around five to six weeks before the heart begins to beat audibly…” Arnya chuckled silently as she stroked his hair and asked, “Then why do you insist on checking~?” Vahn had already thought about his answer, as he had expected the question, so he said simply, “I feel even closer to you like this…closer to the life we created together. Even if it odds aren’t in my favor, I want to hear the very first beat of our child’s heart…”

Arnya’s expression broke for a brief moment and a bit of moisture began to build in her eyes as she laid back her head and closed her eyes. If not for the small quiver in her lip, it would have looked like she was simply relaxing and letting Vahn do as he pleased. Vahn also closed his eyes and gave Arnya as much time as she needed to find her resolve as he continued to listen for the signs he knew wouldn’t appear for at least another two weeks. He could, however, hear the natural functions of her body, her breathing, and her rapidly beating heart. Vahn could also sense the chaotic fluctuations in her aura and knew she was feeling very anxious, even though she was doing her best to not show it.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Arnya continued to stroke his head and said in a quiet, almost inaudible voice, tinged with a sob, “I don’t want to talk about my past, Vahn…if I could, I would put those matters behind me and never think about them ever again. There are some things you should know though…you have that right.” Though she still had her eyes closed, Vahn could see the tear fall from the corner of Arnya’s eye and he reached out to wipe it away before sitting next to her on the sofa and pulling her into his embrace. He had already felt her body shaking earlier, but it was a lot more obvious now that he was holding onto her.

Arnya took several deep breaths and said, “Most of my family died a long time ago…but the people who killed them are already dead. My only remaining family is my brother, Allen Fromel…the man known as Vana Freya, the fastest spear serving Freya. Though we cut ties with each other long ago, I know he still tries to look after me since Mama Mia scouted me to work at the Hostess of Fertility when it had just opened. Even though he only ever showed up when I was off duty, I know he stopped by every now and then because Syr and Mama Mia had told me about it…” Vahn nodded his head and continued to rub Arnya’s back to help keep her calm with the assistance of his [Hands of Nirvana].

Feeling a warm energy entering her body, Arnya paused for a few seconds as she tightened her grip on Vahn’s tunic and buried her head into his shoulder. After a short period of silence, she continued, “Allen blames me for my failure back when we were younger…when he finds out I’m pregnant, he might try to cause trouble for you…I’m sorry, Vahn. I know…I know I might have any right to be a mother…but I want to have a family again!” Since she hadn’t told him about her past, Vahn didn’t know why Arnya considered herself undeserving of being a mother. It likely related to the ‘mistake’ she had made but, unless she told him about it, he was more likely to learn about the matter through the brother. For now, that wasn’t important at all, however, since he currently had a heartbroken cat girl crying on his shoulder.

While Arnya was sobbing, Vahn spent a bit of time collecting his thoughts before grabbing her shoulders and pulling her away from his shoulder. She had a slightly incredulous look on her tear-stained face until Vahn reached out with both hands and placed them on both sides of her cheeks. With a gentle look in his eyes and a soft tone, Vahn said, “Arnya…the past doesn’t determine our worth as parents…if that were the case, I may very well be the least qualified person to have children. However, I’m doing my best to become a man that can take pride in everything I do, everything I’ve created, and everyone I’ve loved. You’re such a loveable and earnest girl, and I’m certain you’ll make a great mother…I will help bear your burdens until you realize it for yourself.”

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Arnya nodded her head slowly before muttering, “Vahn, please, no matter what it takes…don’t die…promise me…” Vahn smiled in a natural manner and rubbed the sides of Arnya’s face as he said in a casual tone, “Arnya, you don’t have to worry about that at all…I don’t think I’d be able to die at this point, even if I wanted to. I have too much to live for…too much to look forward to…” As he spoke, Vahn lowered his gaze to Arnya’s belly and it was clearly seen in his expression the expectation and pride he took in his ‘accomplishment’. Arnya, seeing Vahn’s expression, nuzzled against his hands slightly after covering them with her own. Vahn could see that her aura was beginning to stabilize and she said in a somewhat playful, yet scarily serious tone, “Vahn…I want to have lots of babies…even if I have to raise them on my own, I want to have lots and lots…sorry for my selfishness.”

Though he might have had a problem with it previously, since he didn’t want to be overwhelmed by having too many children at once, Vahn had recently worked out a plan for creating a school alongside Riveria. He couldn’t reasonably be expected to run an entire school if he couldn’t even manage a few of his own children, so he was feeling more confident about things with every passing day. Though he didn’t understand how many ‘lots and lots’ implied, Vahn nodded his head with a confident smile and said, “Even if you have a dozen, or a hundred, I will do my best to care for them all. I imagine it would be rather lively to have a bunch of adorable Cat Persons running around…we do have a big yard, after all…”

Arnya laughed in a somewhat silly manner as she said, “With a beautiful mother and a handsome father, our children are bound to be more than simply adorable~nyan! Our son’s will be heartbreakers and our daughters will be tyranyacle maidens~nyahahaha.” Vahn felt a cold sweat start to build upon his back, but he laughed alongside Arnya before hugging her close to his body and saying, “I can’t wait, Arnya…I love you.” Arnya began rubbing her head against his chest as she responded in a plain tone, “I know, Vahn, and that is why I love you as well. Thank you for picking up this abandoned cat, nyufufufu…”

Vahn continued to hold Arnya for a while when she suddenly began ‘grinding’ against him slightly and he could see her aura flaring up with a passionate red. He could feel a pressure in the bridge of his nose as his heart begin to itch when she said in a sultry tone, “We’ve never been alone together like this…I’m getting excited…nyufufufu~.” Though he hadn’t done anything with Ais, Lili, and Naaza, it was ‘well known’ that Vahn had a long rendezvous with Tiona and Syr after their discussions in the past. As Arnya said, it was relatively ‘rare’ to get Vahn alone, and now was a period of time that had been allotted to just her. Understanding her desire, Vahn picked up Arnya as she began to playfully laugh as he carried her off into a private room…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Hephaestus about to be looking fiery~!’,’Eina’s ‘watery’ image’,’At least Cat Persons don’t have litters~!’)

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