Chapter 55: 2 – 99

Vahn awoke due to a peculiar aroma wafting into the room where Tsubaki had laid him to rest. (A/N: Unintentional pun?). Though it didn’t smell bad, there was a strange burning smell accompanying the smell of food. He made his way out of his room and headed towards the source of the aroma.

He entered a kitchen-like area where Tsubaki was currently using a wok to fry rice. She noticed his presence and gave him a cheeky grin while continuing to add seasoning to the dish. “Oh, you’re awake so soon kiddo? Dreamt about me?”

Vahn shuddered and almost retorted that, instead of a dream, it would have been a nightmare given how much she had tormented him earlier. “I’m sorry about earlier, I didn’t mean to touch your chest…” Tsubaki lowered the flame and added a bit of soy sauce before turning towards Vahn.

“Boo, boo, what kind of attitude is that for a man? You should be more assertive even if you make a mistake or women will take advantage of you. What would you do if I was unwilling to forgive you, huh?” As she spoke she walked towards Vahn and hugged her breasts with her arms, lifting them up to make them stand out more.

Vahn turned his head away, unsure of how to answer the question. If she didn’t forgive him, what could he do besides continue apologizing? Could he leave the Familia or run away and avoid making the situation worse? His thoughts were interrupted when Tsubaki chopped the top of his head.

“Such a kid. You’ll break a girls heart acting like that someday. You think I care if someone stares at my chest when I walk around wearing a sarashi? Look all you want, hell, you can even try touching them if you’re brave enough. Of course, I might have to punish you if you do! Tsubaki laughed at Vahn who was rubbing his head with damp eyes. The chop of a Level 5 Adventurer isn’t light.

Tsubaki returned to preparing lunch after harumphing towards the unassertive Vahn. Though she liked cute and adorable things, she preferred men to have a more stable and forward mentality. Even if he apologized, he should still be happy or proud of his ability to not only catch her off guard but even take advantage of the situation to gain some minor benefits. Instead, all she saw was a genuine apologetic expression like he didn’t even consider the act as something significant.

As someone who always lived openly and took pride in herself, Tsubaki was mildly annoyed by Vahn’s actions. She decided to make sure he became more manly during their training, or else Hephaestus would end up being at her wits end in the future. Seeing how Hephaestus had lost herself during their conversation earlier, Tsubaki was certain she had more than a simple appreciation for Vahn and his origins.

The two sat around a short table and Tsubaki served him a large portion of fried rice. Though it had a ‘peculiar’ smell, Vahn found it kind of enticing. Within the bowl, he could see eggs and small vegetables throughout the crispy grains. After tasting it, he began to quickly eat before asking for another serving.

“Well done, at least you know how to eat!” Tsubaki gave him another healthy serving. “Make sure you eat a lot so you can grow big and strong in the future. Eating is a sign of good health and a strong body after all.” Finishing her words, Tsubaki started eating her own ‘healthy’ portion of rice. Similar to Vahn, she was completely unrestrained during the act which should have been off-putting, but Vahn found it very refreshing.

He found her eating methods very ‘like’ her, and couldn’t even imagine her seated in a restrained manner like all the other women he had seen eating. Vahn smiled and continued his own meal in a similarly unrestrained manner, which Tsubaki saw as a sign of a challenge. The two continued eating in a competitive manner until the family sized portion of rice had vanished.

The two laid on their backs from their seats around the table. Since they had both gotten really into the ‘competition’ they ended up eating much more than either of them would normally eat. Tsubaki suddenly started laughing from the opposite side of the table.

“Though you got a bit of a head start, looks like this one was your victory. I guess that makes us 2 – 99! Keep it up and you might be able to close the gap sooner or later.” She continued laughing and Vahn just closed his eyes while enjoying the afterglow of the delicious meal. He began thinking that living here wouldn’t be so bad.

After the meal, Vahn was preparing to leave for the dungeon. He had already informed Tsubaki about his training and partnership with Lili. He explained a bit about her circumstances and that he was helping improve her strength so she could control her own destiny. Tsubaki, after hearing Vahn ask if he could bring her to train with him in the future, willingly allowed him to do so.

“Sure. I want to see the girl that Little Vahn took it upon himself to protect. I wonder what kind of child she is to make you spend so much effort for her? Hehehe, I’m sure Hephaestus would like to know as well.” Tsubaki heavily patted his back repeatedly while laughing at the thought. Vahn, on the receiving end of the heavy blows, began to feel like his spine was cracking under the pressure.

“Oh, speaking of which, I wonder how she’ll react when she finds out you touched my breasts! Hehe, I wonder if she will be jealous?” Hearing her words, Vahn began to feel an impending doom creep up on him. His heartbeat began to accelerate and he could feel a strange sensation present in its depths.

On the other side of the City, Hephaestus was heavily slamming her hammer into a piece of metal. Each strike would send sparks flying from the superheated metal, and she was a bit annoyed at seeing her relative lack of control. She wasn’t sure why, but ever since earlier she began to feel an itchy sensation in her chest that caused her moderate discomfort. She decided to take a break and wiped her brow clean of sweat.

After enjoying a cool drink of water, Hephaestus noticed that her heart rate was increasing. In confusion, she started paying attention only to realize it was not her heart but the connection she shared with Vahn. The gentle rhythm that brought her comfort previously was now chaotic and she could feel subtle feelings of unease and guilt disrupting the steady pulse. She looked towards the direction of Tsubaki’s workshop and displayed a frown.

“Why do I feel like I need to punish them both…”

After leaving Tsubaki’s workshop, Vahn made his way to Babel Plaza where he met up with Lili who was already waiting for him. Though he still had her backpack in his storage, she was really easy to find as her small frame stood out in contrast to the giant hammer resting against her shoulder.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Lili. I got held back after training and lunch.” Vahn smiled and approached her, but started slowing his pace after seeing her expression. Like she had done so previously, Lili got near him and began smelling his body.

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“Vahn, why is it that every time we’re apart you come back smelling like a different woman. Even if you were sparring with someone, you wouldn’t absorb so much of their fragrance!” She was moving around his body and smelling various different locations. Her frown became especially deep when she smelled the subtle scent coming from the small of his back. Instead of the typical body odor, it smelled like a real ‘womanly’ scent.

She couldn’t help but ask the question that came to her mind. “Vahn, did you let someone ride you?” The look on her face was very serious, and she stared directly into his eyes almost daring him to lie.

Hearing the awkward question, Vahn released a long sigh after recalling his period of suffering. He knew her nose was very sensitive in her cat person form, and she seemed especially sensitive to his smell making it hard to hide the truth. He nodded before saying, “Yeah, Tsubaki had pinned me to the ground after I tried to attack her. She prevented me from escaping for nearly half an hour before I ran out of strength.”

Lili listened to Vahn’s explanation, and even though she knew he wasn’t speaking in a sexual context, she almost wanted to smack him for using such misleading words! She lamented at how dense he could be at times and decided she needed to put in more effort so he doesn’t cause any troubles in the future.

After his ‘slip’, Vahn continued explaining everything that had happened that morning as the two made their way into the dungeon. Lili, who had still been angry since earlier, instantly became excited after hearing Vahn mention she would be able to stay at Tsubaki’s workshop in the future. This not only allowed her to improve the quality of her training, but she would also be able to keep tabs on Vahn so he doesn’t end up getting played to death by that Cyclops.

Vahn was very mentally exhausted from the events of the day, so they leisurely made their way through the dungeon at a slower pace than normal. This didn’t mean he dropped his focus, as he was still using [Will of the Emperor], but he found fighting the monsters dissatisfying. After experiencing the might of a peak Level 5 Adventurer, every movement of the monsters seemed basic in comparison. There was no sense of pressure like the helplessness he had experienced earlier.

Instead of their daily sparring, Vahn decided it was best if they left the dungeon early to make arrangements for Lili to move in with Tsubaki. He also needed to coax the young Tina who would probably throw a fit after finding out he was leaving. So far he had been able to avoid directly telling her, but he felt obligated to do so lest she blame him for disappearing in the future.

After leaving the dungeon, they made their way towards the inn when Vahn suddenly stopped. He could feel a penetrating gaze, almost like someone was looking directly through him. Turning towards the direction of the gaze, he looked towards Babel Tower that loomed in the distance. The gaze seemed to intensify and it caused Vahn’s internal energy to shudder before he felt the penetrative force disappear entirely.

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Lili had noticed his change and looked towards the tower as well. “What’s wrong, Vahn? Did you see something?” She was concerned and her voice was quiet. Even though she had seen him struggle, she had never seen Vahn act afraid.

Vahn continued to stare towards the direction of the gaze for a few seconds before shaking his head. “It’s fine Lili. I just thought I felt someone looking at me and tried finding the source. It might have even been my imagination, so don’t let it bother you.” He lightly patted her head but noticed that his hand was shaking slightly while doing so.

Lili placed both of her hands above the one he was using to pat her. It was damp and cold, unlike the warmth she had grown accustomed too. She knew he was lying, but knew that she wouldn’t be able to help even if it was something that terrified even him. Gritting her teeth, Lili slowly nodded her head. “Okay Vahn, if you say so then it must be true.”

Vahn was thankful for her consideration and believed it was a sign that she was slowly growing. He kept patting her head for a few more moments before leading the way towards the inn. But, the entire time they were walking he kept his focus on the tower at his back. He knew, sometime in the near future, trouble would come looking for him.

(A/N: Alternate Title: Premonition)

Einlion Einlion

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