After making sure everyone understood the significance of the Divination, Loki continued the conversation and explained, “I can tell many of you have different thoughts about everything that was just revealed, but the most important thing you need to take away from all of this is simple. From here onwards, you need to develop an awareness of your current position and where you plan to find yourself, not in the next several months, but in the next several years. Because of your decision to associate with Vahn and continue to be part of the Alliance, you will always be targeted by those that wish to seize power for their own ends. For as long as you live, you may very well always be a target…never forget that.”
Not only the girls, but Vahn was surprised by the solemnity of Loki’s words and decided he needed to speak up as well. If he sat by the side for such an important discussion, it could potentially hurt the confidence of those present. Mustering up his resolve, Vahn showed a serious expression and stated, “If you choose to leave, I will do my best to ensure you have a safe place to retreat to…but, this world, though it has many beautiful sights, is a deceptively cruel place. Many of you understand how cruel the world can be and that isn’t something that is related to our actions here and now. I want to make the world a better place…so if you decide to stay here with me, you will be the enemy of everyone that pursues their own ends at the expense of others…”
Vahn looked around and saw that everyone was paying close attention to his words and the only person that showed signs of wavering was Milan. He gave her an encouraging smile and nodded his head before saying, “However, though our enemies may be numerous, they will never be strong enough to break the bonds between us as long as we work together. Even though not a lot of time has passed, many of you are already far stronger than our enemies themselves and, with continued efforts, you will keep growing the gap between you and them. Know that I will do my best to support your continued development to the best of my ability, no matter how many resources it might require. If you ever need my help, if you ever have any concerns, regardless of how trivial they may feel to you, please always reach out to me. Knowing that my failures had resulted in the deaths of five of the people I care about is a heavy blow…I never want to experience such loss again, especially if it is something that could have been avoided if we worked together!”
Everyone had different reactions to Vahn’s words, though most of them were positive and he could see the signs of resolve kindled within their eyes as their auras flared up. Tsubaki shook her head with a sigh, but Vahn could tell she was also influenced by the atmosphere as she looked around at the other girls with a small smile on her face. Even Loki was laughing quietly to herself while Syr was proactively writing in a notebook and casting glances at everyone else. One girl, however, seemed to have taken special note of his words as Preasia asked, “Does that mean we can go into your workshop from now on?” Vahn blanked for a brief moment and it was Hephaestus who answered, “If Vahn is busy, it’s better to leave him to his own devices since many of the things he develops require intense focus…”
Tsubaki, Loki, Naaza, and Riveria all nodded their heads in agreement, but Vahn shook his head and stared at Preasia and said, “If you have concerns, I’ll never be too busy to address them. However, please remember that everyone here is your support and there are several people that are more qualified to address most problems…” Preasia showed a small smile and nodded her head without saying anything else and Vahn noticed her aura wasn’t the only one that flared up at his words. Hephaestus shook her head with a wry smile on her face but didn’t try to force the issue since it was important that Vahn decide his own boundaries. It was unlikely that many of the girls would actually disrupt his work, though they were very likely to sit in his workshop and simply watch him in the hopes of getting some of his attention later. She decided to leave the matter to Syr, Aki, and Hestia, as they were already taking special note of the potential ‘problem’ children in the group.
For nearly five whole hours, the discussion continued and Vahn did his best to address any concerns that were shared by the group while Loki, Hephaestus, and Eina also pitched in and explained some of the changes that would likely occur around the Manor in the next few months. Construction was about to begin on the Manor and they were going to greatly increase the amount of security as well as reinforce the defensive formations of the entire property. Though this was already the case, everyone needed to be escorted by someone that was Level 4 or higher until they were capable enough to defend themselves in the event of an emergency. They also needed to fill out a basic itinerary when they were going out so that in the event they failed to show up on time, a search or rescue party could be dispatched at the earliest sign of trouble.
Though it would interfere with their growth somewhat, everyone put in orders with Tsubaki and Hephaestus so that they could have suitable equipment made while Vahn researched how to draw out the potential of cloth and leather armors that would eventually replace their equipment. At the very least, every girl was going to be given arm guards, leg guards, and a thin adamantine breastplate that protected the heart. As for Lefiya, as she was a mage, her equipment was going to be forged by Vahn himself so that she could benefit from the amplified magical abilities of his arms. This was another highly protected secret, but the earlier vow was something that even gods wouldn’t be able to break and there was no danger of the information being spread accidentally.
Riveria, learning that Vahn had the capability to make such types of equipment, even asked if he would design some for her. Vahn noticed her behavior was less ‘distant’ now and it made him feel somewhat uncomfortable because it was decidedly different from how she usually acted. He agreed to her request without thinking about it too much before Loki teased Riveria by saying, “You know, if Vahn is going to make clothes for you, he’ll have to get veeeeery familiar with your body~.” Vahn flustered slightly, but Riveria nodded her head without her expression changing at all as she said, “I’ll leave it to you when the time comes.” surprising both Loki and Vahn. The trickster goddess began to laugh loudly while Vahn simply nodded his head and said, “Yes…I’ll do my best.”
After things calmed down at the Hearth Manor, Vahn escorted Hephaestus and Eina back to their workplaces since there were several things they were trying to wrap up in preparation for the wedding. It was hard to imagine, but Vahn would be marrying both girls within forty-eight hours and this realization made him giddy with anticipation. Just knowing the girls would be in the Manor more often, especially Eina, made Vahn feel an incredible sense of relief and happiness. However, when he was thinking about who else would be staying in the Manor from now on, Vahn came to a stop on the roof of a random building.
When Loki had answered his question in the Divination, she mentioned all the girls in the Manor had given birth to his children with the exception of a few. Since Misha’s name was brought up, this meant she had been accounting for the Guild Employees, which also included the werewolf, Ros. Loki wasn’t the type to overlook such things, so it was highly likely that Vahn had gotten the woman he had yet to meet pregnant…
Shaking his head, Vahn decided not to worry about it too much and would simply confide in Eina before things developed to that point. Vahn wasn’t sure what would be the catalyst that brought him and the Werewolf woman closer, but he believed everything happened for a reason. If he didn’t pursue her, she would probably never open her heart to him so it was ultimately a decision he would have to make when the circumstances presented themselves. Vahn was, however, very curious about what she looked like and he felt like many of his inhibitions were starting to slip after experiencing the Divination.
He knew his mental defenses were lowered now and had seen many of the girls giving him ‘contemplative’ looks during the meeting, likely coming up with ways to get closer to him in the near future. Vahn wondered what kind of ‘reasons’ they would come up with and, if he had to be honest, it made him a little excited. They were all girls that had taken powerful vows to protect his secrets and they had all, at least for the time being, made the resolve to stay within the Hearth Manor at his side. Vahn felt ‘obligated’ to do his best for the girls and didn’t see any sense in keeping them at arms-length as long as they were working hard. Knowing that, in the Divination, even the girls closest to him were close to their deaths had changed Vahn’s perspective greatly. It would be tragic if he had the girls continually pushing themselves to get stronger only for them to die before ‘receiving’ the attention they sought from him. Life could be tragically short at times, and Vahn didn’t want to be one of the reasons their life had taken such a sad turn.
Though he had been moving forward at a quick pace once again, Vahn came to a halt atop another building as the image of Riveria passed through his mind once again. He wondered how things would develop between them over the next few months since it seemed like she had made a ‘decision’ to open herself up to him even more. Her affection was even at 99(Interested) now, even though it had generally been in the lower nineties and was locked at (Trust). Vahn felt like the only thing that would prevent them from eventually ending up together were the decisions he made in the near future, as it looked like Riveria herself had become slightly more proactive.
Riveria wasn’t the only girl who had a change in affection either, as almost every girl that had attended the meeting, that wasn’t already at 100 affection, was now sitting at 99. It seems that the knowledge of their future relationship was enough to ‘prime’ the girls and now any major action on his part could bring them to maximum affection. The only exception to this was Milan, which worried Vahn somewhat because she had been at 99(Trust) previously and was now at 94(Confused). Vahn knew she had taken an impact knowing Tina’s fate, but he could tell it was something else that was eating away at her. Since her affection towards him was affected, it meant that the matter had to be related to him and Vahn could somewhat infer what she was thinking.
Tina had obviously made the resolve to become much stronger and pursue him, so Milan was likely struggling to cope with her own feelings and may even potentially be readying her own defenses with the intention of cutting ties with him in the future for the benefit of her daughter. Vahn had been treating Tina like his daughter, something that wasn’t going to change anytime soon, but he knew he would probably give in to her if she continued to pursue him in a few years. Because of this, Vahn wasn’t entirely sure what action he should take because he wanted to respect Milan’s decision without forcing her into anything.
Vahn wasn’t an idiot, most of the time, so he had seen all of the tell-tale signs of her desire to be with him, especially when they took baths together. The ability to see auras made Vahn very perceptive to such things and he could see the tinge of passionate red that would often be present in her aura. Vahn knew that, if he had made advances towards her, Milan would have probably given in to him very quickly. Vahn had done his best to ‘ignore’ such signs, but now he felt like he was being drawn to make a decision in the near future or he might ‘force’ Milan away in the future. He had long ago made the resolve to take care of her for the rest of her life, and he didn’t want to imagine a future where she moved out of the Manor or just remained a caretaker for his other children.
Because of her association with the Hestia Familia, it would be difficult for her to get close to other men in the near future, so this would require her to spend an additional four years ‘alone’ if things continued to progress as they were. Milan was already 33, so that would put her at 37 by the time she was ‘on the market’ once again. Vahn didn’t mind older women, especially beautiful girls like Milan, but there were a large number of men that based their decisions to be with girls based on age and status. If Milan was only able to find a man because of her association with the Hestia Familia, Vahn knew she wouldn’t be happy at all unless she met someone within the Alliance itself…
After stepping into his own courtyard, Vahn shook his head because the image of Tsubaki berating him for worrying excessively came to mind. The simplest thing to do would be to approach Milan and let her make the decision for herself. Letting her brood over the matter for years would just make things even more difficult for her and, even though she might have an outburst of emotion if he confronted her, at least they would be able to work towards resolving the problem. In the worst case scenario, it would open Milan’s mind to seeking a different partner earlier so she wasn’t just sitting in the Manor trying to maintain a status quo that had already been shattered long ago.
As he had been standing outside for a while, Vahn was surprised that Fenrir hadn’t come to ‘retrieve’ him yet. She had been developing a habit of greeting the ‘important’ people lately so it was somewhat surprising that he had been outside for several minutes without her adorable form charging him. Turning his attention to the Manor proper, Vahn scanned the interior and found Fenrir sitting in a room with four other people. After thinking for a moment, Vahn remembered that she was currently receiving a troublesome ‘education’ from Riveria and Milan. The other figures were probably Tina and Shizune since their auras were somewhat smaller than everyone else in the Manor.
Vahn had been intending to talk to Milan, but it didn’t seem like now was the best opportunity so he turned his attention to the other presences in the Manor. Because of the important discussion earlier, everyone was currently present and Vahn felt a strange amount of pressure from everyone now that such things had been revealed. It was almost like each person was a ticking time bomb that could be set off at any given moment and the only thing it required was him taking any action that increased their affection in a meaningful manner. Even girls like Mikoto were no longer ‘safe’, especially since she had made her resolve when they met in the bath a few weeks ago. She was probably struggling with this information a bit, but Vahn knew Mikoto’s character wasn’t the type to back down from such things. He could tell she was currently with Tsubaki and, based on the illusory aura, Haruhime was also with her.
The most ‘troublesome’ girls were the ones skulking around the areas he usually could be found in the Manor and Vahn could even see, who he assumed to be Preasia, sitting in his workshop as if she were waiting for his arrival. Vahn did have the urge to develop more clothing, especially the undergarments for Eina and Hephaestus, so that was currently a ‘danger zone’. Lili and Naaza were sitting in the study with Syr and Vahn could also see the twins, Emiru and Maemi, in their own room moving about with their auras flaring like flames. As for the members of the Loki Familia, they were almost all located in the same room, likely talking with Lefiya or teasing the bashful Elf considering who was present.
The final group of girls consisted of Hestia, Ryuu, and Aki, who were all gathered in the former’s room and probably discussing the matters of the Familia itself since Syr wasn’t present. Vahn didn’t really know how he could face any of the girls right now, but he knew it was pointless to delay such matters and he needed to carry himself with confidence and resolution from now on. The Divination showed him the importance of disposition and how brooding over matters within his own mind only caused problems that would eventually escalate to become tragedies. As long as he believed in himself, and trusted those that supported him, the future wasn’t something that needed to be feared.
Just as he had learned from Ouranos within the Divination, the only thing that existed was the present. Vahn knew life wasn’t going to wait for him to live it, so he stepped forward with resolve and entered the warm embrace of his own home without any further hesitation. From now on, unless it was something that required careful consideration, Vahn decided to simply ‘act’ instead. Hesitation would create gaps that could be exploited by his enemies and there was no need to fear losing the people that would ‘abandon’ him based on his decisions. Everyone had to live their own lives, make their own decisions, and find their own happiness. However, if it was something that he could share with them, Vahn decided he would do everything possible to guarantee they could walk the same path. With this resolve, Vahn headed up the stairs and proceeded toward the room where Riveria, Milan, Fenrir, Tina, and Shizune were located…