The outdoor picnic continued until a little after 2 PM when Vahn figured it was about time to call things to an end. It was still early in the day, but the weather had become a little overcast and, though it was the beginning of Spring, it looked like a mild chill was settling in the air. It was somewhat ominous and, knowing he was going to be visiting the Twilight Manor a bit later, Vahn had a thoughtful expression on his face as he considered what might happen. Deciding it was better to head out a bit early, especially considering that both Arnya and Aki were pregnant, Vahn made a few plans with the other girls before flying over with Terra, as she had ‘received’ the right to carry him within the City limits unless it was an emergency.
Vahn suspected that Terra was planning to tempt him into allowing her to stay during the evenings but things would get out of hand quickly if he gave in. His worries seemed to be a bit misplaced, however, as she dropped them off after making a little bit of a scene before nuzzling up against him and flying away. A large wind carrying Terra’s fragrance spread around the area and many members of the Loki Familia had distant looks in their eyes as they watched the elegant True Dragon fly away. Vahn realized that Terra didn’t really want to be around a lot of strangers, especially Adventurers, so she had ‘obediently’ returned to the Manor after he helped top off her energy previously.
Since he had the right to enter and move about the Twilight Manor freely, nobody even came to greet Vahn and they simply let him go about his business. Aki, however, drew a lot of attention but she seemed to have prepared herself and had a polite smile on her face as she greeted her former companions. For many of them, this was their first time seeing her in several months and it was very obvious that she was pregnant. Though they had heard the ‘rumors’, there were a fair number of people that hadn’t quite believed them since they always pegged her and Raul as a couple.
Arnya didn’t seem too bothered by the attention and just kept tracing her head around like it was on a swivel as she looked around. The Twilight Manor was one of the largest in the entire City, capable of housing several thousand people with large courtyards and several scenic views. Unlike the Hearth Manor, it had a somewhat ‘ancient’ feel to it since Loki had used the foundation of the Hera Familia residence to build her home. It was a little awe-inspiring for first-time visitors and was intended to make the Loki Familia look even more impressive to outsiders. This was one of the ways they recruited new members, other than proactively scouting the people that Loki took an interest in.
Once they made their way into the open reception area, Aki had a slightly melancholic look in her eyes and said, “Vahn, I’m going to go talk with some of my former companions…” Vahn nodded his head and stroked the side of Aki’s face before placing his forehead against her’s, completely disregarding the various onlookers. Aki took in a deep breath and gave Vahn a short kiss before nuzzling against his face affectionately for a few seconds and walking away. Vahn watched her departure in silence, knowing she was going to go and bid ‘farewell’ and officially set her past to rest. They would likely talk for a while, potentially even sharing a short embrace, but Vahn wasn’t going to pry into the matter because he trusted Aki.
A plain-looking youth came up to Vahn with a hesitant look on his face as he said, “Umm, excuse me, Vahn…Loki-sama wanted me to tell you to look around the Manor for a bit since she was still making preparations.” There were still several people within the Loki Familia that had never met Vahn, but his ‘legend’ had been spreading rapidly and it looked like he had picked up a fan in the guise of a young boy. Vahn smiled and ruffled the youth’s hair, saying, “Thanks for the message…?” Realizing that Vahn was asking for his name, the boy’s pale green eyes lit up and he said, “Alfonse! My name is Alfonse!” Vahn’s smile widened a bit and a playful glint appeared in his eyes before he pulled out his  and handed over to the boy. He could tell the boy was likely a Supporter, assuming he was even old enough to venture into the Dungeon, and there was a sword at his hip.
Alfonse took the sword with shaky hands before Vahn handed over a sheath which he had purchased from the shop and helped the boy properly keep the sword so he didn’t end up hurting himself. Vahn had a good impression of the kid so he said, “Make sure you work hard, Alfonse, but never overestimate yourself. Remember that real strength is something you use to protect yourself and others, so find allies you can trust and do your best to protect them well.” Alfonse nodded his head and hugged the relatively plain sword tightly before Vahn sent him off with a smile. He wasn’t sure if Loki noticed it, but Alfonse’s mana was a light gold with a radiant core, meaning he had an almost pure light elemental mana. Vahn felt the boy had a bit of a heroic glint and was interested to see what kind of path he would walk in the future.
Arnya issued a slight ‘Nyahaha’ laughter under her breath before giving Vahn a playful look and saying, “Make sure you save some of the good stuff for our children~nyafufu.” Vahn laughed along with her before offering his arm so they could tour around the Twilight Manor. Arnya didn’t have the same access rights as he did so she would trigger alarms if she wasn’t escorted closely. As it was a relatively rare occurrence, though she had already spent part of her morning with Vahn, Arnya quickly locked arms with him and allowed him to lead the way. She was a little short, only 150cm, so she looked like a homely little wife walking alongside the relatively tall and stoic Vahn. However, any veteran Adventurer wouldn’t be fooled by her appearance so simply as there was a slightly ‘dangerous’ and ‘wild’ feeling emanating from her body to deter wandering eyes.
Vahn had heard from Finn that he had ‘unrestricted’ access to every part of the Twilight Manor, but it was still a little strange being able to walk through doors and enter unknown courtyards without any of the barriers being triggered at all. He had thought it was a bit of a joke in the past, but it genuinely seemed like Loki had converted her Manor into an area where he could freely wander if he chose. Noticing his peculiar expression, Arnya asked, “Why are you being a weirdo, Vahn~?” Giving her a curious glance and seeing the playful glint in her eyes, Vahn smiled and explained, “Well, when Finn told me about how Loki gave me full access to the Manor, he even made a drunken remark about me being able to go into the women’s bath. I was thinking that it was a bit excessive, but also a little exciting to consider at the same time.”
Arnya’s brows raised slightly and she looked up with a thoughtful expression before saying, “That really does seem like something Loki would do. I wonder if that is something her Divinity compelled her to do, you know, just to rile you up a bit~nya?” Vahn experienced a momentary pause before he realized that may very well have been the case, even if Loki herself hadn’t intended it that way. Though he took it into consideration when they interacted with each other, Vahn had overlooked the secondary influences a god’s Divinity might have over them for situations like this. However, he also felt like Loki would have done this for a reason as things were rarely that straightforward with her.
As if she had been seriously considering the matter, Arnya asked in a bit of a lazy tone, “Well, are we going to go take a bath in a foreign Manor~nya? I might snitch on you to the others unless you seal my lips~nyaahaha!” Vahn shook his head with a bit of a tired expression and said, “If it was a few months ago, I might not even think about it too much. Now, however, I’d rather return home and just take a bath with everyone else instead of worrying about other girls. I’ll admit, it would be interesting, but there are things I’m far more interested in these days~” Toward the end of his words, Vahn gently blew into Arnya’s ear and caused it to flicker as she gave him a slightly amorous look.
Unlike Chloe, Arnya was unaffected by the change in seasons because she already had a baby in her belly. This didn’t mean she was entirely immune to Vahn’s ‘charm’, however, as it was a little exciting to flirt in a place where ‘strangers’ might see them. She was actually a bit of a prankster when she was younger, so Arnya liked to cause a scene and act mischievously even when she was a kid. Though the ‘incident’ in the past had changed her greatly, she became a little reliant on that kind of personality and had even taken it to the extremes when she was trying to ‘escape’ her past. Now, however, Arnya felt like it was very easy to open up her heart because it seemed Vahn’s had an infinite amount of room to contain her entirety…
After wandering around for a bit, and asking passersby for any interesting places to visit, Vahn and Arnya ended up in a giant hall that was actually the remnants of the Hera Familia. As they had reigned for a long period of time, in close coordination with the Zeus Familia, the hall had a very ancient feel to it and there were many statues standing along the sides. These were all the greatest ‘heroes’ of the Hera Familia and many of its former Captains. At the far end of the hall, there was a massive figure that towered over the others and, after inspecting the nameplate, it was a heroic man named Jason. According to the small plaque nearby, which spoke of his many achievements, he was a monstrous Level 8 and possessed a rare skill that caught Vahn’s eye.
As he had been fond of the original Manga, Vahn knew a fair amount regarding the original cast, especially Bell Cranel himself. Seeing that Jason had the rare skill [Argonaut] was a testament to how powerful the man must have been. He was so well-known for it, at least at the time, that his alias itself was ‘Argonaut’ and he had served as the Captain of the Hera Familia for a total of twenty-three years before falling in the fight against the Leviathan, saving many of his comrades and ensuring the beast finally fell. Even Loki didn’t have the ‘gall’ to destroy the statue of a man that had sacrificed his life to complete one of the Three Great Quests, thus resulting in the entire hall being spared.
Arnya leaned against him from the side and muttered, “It’s hard to believe there was such a thing as a Level 8 within the City at some point. I always felt like the ‘King’ was a monster that stood at the apex of power, yet he is only Level 7 with a few achievements under his belt…” Even Vahn could hardly fathom how strong a Level 8 must have been, nor how monstrous the creature that killed him had to be. However, he didn’t feel like it was a wall that couldn’t be overcome, especially since he had been able to reach Level 9 within the Divination, standing much closer to the actual peak of power than either the ‘Argonaut’ or the ‘King’.
As if she could empathize with what Vahn was thinking, Arnya nodded her head and rubbed against his shoulder, saying, “I want to get a lot stronger, Vahn…because I want our children to work hard with the two of us as inspiration. The Divination made it seem like we didn’t have that many kids…so I feel like I need to punish you for breaking your promise~nyahaha.” It wasn’t actually that long ago that Vahn promised to give Arnya as many children as she wanted in order to make a big family, so it was still fresh in her mind. In the Divination, likely due to Vahn’s change in mentality, he seemed to ‘allow’ everyone to have just one child and it made her a little sad knowing that their promise had likely been discarded by him in pursuit of vengeance.
Vahn laughed without inhibitions and pulled Arnya close to him as his laughter echoed through the wide hall. As there was nobody else around, Vahn traced his fingers around her relatively short tail and looked into her eyes as he said, “Arnya, I’ll give you enough children to make an entire school of spearmanship if it’ll make you happy. Just make sure you don’t get bullied by them if you act like an airhead during their training~.” Arnya widened her eyes and gave an ‘innocent’ look that was very reminiscent of how she behaved in the past. She wiggled around in his arms in an overly flustered manner and allowed a flush to cover her face as she said, “Vahnya, don’t bully me, or I’ll beat you up~nya! Nyuuu, you’ll make me regret giving my heart to a playboy~.”
Being called a ‘playboy’, even in jest, made Vahn feel slightly guilty because he had often been thinking about how to make the girls happier. Before he could really think about it, however, ARnya reached up and pinched both of his cheeks and pulled them apart with an ‘annoyed’ look on her face. She pulled his cheeks up to force him into a smile before saying, “Nyahaha, much better~nya!” and tiptoeing to kiss him after releasing his cheeks and framing his face. He really was surrounded by kind and capable girls that were always looking out for his well-being, so Vahn believed it was only right he did the same. Once Eva’s orb awakened, he would study magic seriously until he had mastered everything Eva had time to teach him. Even if it took a massive amount of resources, Vahn would find a solution to his current problem, not on his own, but by making a coordinated effort with the many reliable women in his life…
Thinking Loki had enough time to prepare, Vahn asked around a bit for the location of her quarters. They ended up having to pass through a long corridor that was exposed to the outside on a high bridge-like structure that leads to Loki’s private residence. The only people that could pass beyond this point were a few executives, but Vahn was able to pass freely and could feel the cool afternoon breeze coming in through the window-less archways. He noticed that there was quite the view of Orario from this height, as the Twilight Manor was built at a higher elevation than many surrounding districts. It allowed Loki to overlook the entire northern section of the City, almost like a ruler from on high. Being that he had experienced sitting atop the massive Babel Tower in the past, Vahn didn’t think the view was too impressive, though it was admittedly breathtaking.
Much like the rest of the Manor, Vahn was able to access Loki’s room freely and walked through the dense defensive array before knocking on her door. He could already sense two people inside, as he and Arnya had walked around for around an hour-and-forty minutes, so Aki had likely finished her business. Vahn could see that her aura was a bit mellow, with very wispy undertones of a deep blue color, so he promised himself that he would pamper her a lot later. Vahn felt the thin membrane covering Loki’s door dissipate as her voice sounded out, “Who is it~?” in a mischevious tone. Feeling a bit mischevious himself, Vahn did his best to emulate Finn’s voice and said, “Loki-sama, Vahn has left the Twilight Manor. He wanted me to pass on a message to you…”
Clearly unimpressed by his imitation, Loki began laughing boisterously before shouting, “Get in here you two. Even if you changed your voice better, I can still see your smug little face smiling on the other side of the door you idiot~.” One of the formations Loki had set around her private tower allowed the walls themselves to become transparent because she liked to look out of the City at times. It also unnerved some of the people she had been with previously because it felt like they were making love under the stars, completely exposed for all to see. It was even better when people would walk around on the outside to pass messages to her because sounds traveled into the room without traveling back out. Only the person with the formation key would be able to transmit their voice through the formation, meaning Loki could tease people as much as she wants while having a conversation with someone on the other side of the door.
Vahn had a bit of an awkward smile on his face as he looked to the ‘cheekily’ smiling Arnya and asked, “Shall we?” before guiding her into the lair of the mischevious trickster goddess. As if she were completely unfazed by the ‘terrifying presence’ coming from the interior of the room, Arnya had a casual smile on her face and enjoyed the warmth radiating from Vahn’s body and allowed him to guide her in…