Chapter 560: Life Goes On…

Vahn couldn’t be entirely sure it was the case, but seeing Ash’s ‘Demigod’ race and the fact he had the [Blessing of Ares] made it seem like he was one of Ares’ children. He wasn’t sure if Ash, or Ares for that matter, was even aware of this since his pursuit had been as an assassin instead of an actual warrior. There were many things Vahn didn’t know about Demigods just yet and he wasn’t sure exactly how Divinity manifested itself in people. One thing he knew was that the children sired by gods only had a small chance of being an actual Demigod and, judging by the (sealed) state of Ash’s bloodline, it seemed he had gotten the short straw.

He had originally intended to execute Ash after investigating his Status Board, but now Vahn had a few inhibitions about it since he could potentially be used as leverage against the Rakia Kingdom. However, after considering the information he already had regarding Ares and the cruelty of the Empire, Vahn simply shook his head and placed his hand against Ash’s back. After exhaling a deep breath, Vahn said, “I pray that your next life will be a happy one…please do not walk down such a dark path…” However, even after staying in the same position for several minutes, Vahn couldn’t bring himself to go through with it…

Though he had killed people in the past, there had never been a moment when he took the life of someone while they were defenseless like this. Even though they were enemies, Ash had never actually brought harm to him…though he had certainly tried. If Vahn had been weaker, he would have died in the tunnels after first pursuing Ash, likely even taking Arnya and Chloe along with him. Thinking this, Vahn hardened his expression and said, “I’m sorry…” as he sent a shockwave into Ash’s chest and collapsed the assassin’s heart. Other than a muted thump, there was nothing to mark Ashe’s passing because Vahn had already numbed his senses completely, resulting in a painless death in the man’s sleep.

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Vahn released a long sigh and felt strangely cold until a surprisingly warm presence embraced him from behind and completely enveloped him along with a flash of vibrant green. Terra leaned her weight against him and hugged around his chest as she wrapped her wings around his body as if trying to protect him from the coldness of the world. Soon after that, Fenrir wiggled her way into the ‘canopy’ and cupped his face as she asked in a very worried tone, “Master, why are you sad? Be happy, be happy…the bad man is gone…” Fenrir had wanted to kill Ash so badly, not just because of her own hatred but because of the negative emotions she felt from her Master. She couldn’t understand why he was so upset at having ‘won’ but she could tell he was hurting inside because her own heart throbbed painfully in her chest.

Terra continued to hold Vahn’s body and said, “Fenrir…our Master doesn’t like killing people. He kills if it is necessary, but that doesn’t mean he can’t empathize with his enemies. Though that man over there was a ‘bad’ man, he still had people he cared about and even had children. It is a very sad thing to lose someone you care about, and sometimes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ don’t make dealing with that loss any easier. Master is worried about the woman and child left behind, because he can imagine what it is like to lose the people he cares about…can you imagine how you would feel if we lost Master?” Fenrir had a difficult expression on her face at first but it quickly changed into a look of panic and frustration as she shouted, “Fenrir will never lose Master! Master will never abandon Fenrir…”

This time, Vahn answered by hugging the anxious Fenrir strongly as he stroked the back of her head and said, “Shhh, there is no need to be upset…Terra was just giving you an example…but you can understand what she meant, right? Just imagine that this feeling is the same thing that his wife and son will feel…it is a very sad thing, isn’t it?” Fenrir’s body trembled slightly, though Vahn couldn’t tell if it was out of sadness or frustration because she had buried her face into his chest. After a few seconds, however, she nodded her head and said, “Fenrir’s heart hurts…please don’t leave Fenrir. She will be a good girl, always…gnuuuu…” Though he still felt a bit at a loss as to what he should do about the Rakia Kingdom right now, Vahn’s priorities immediately shifted closer to home and his focus turned to Fenrir and Terra, the only two things that mattered here, at this moment.

Vahn pulled Fenrir away from his chest so he could see her face, surprised to find her eyes were watering slightly, and said in a firm voice, “Long after the stars in the sky burn out, I will still be with you, Fenrir…the same goes for you, Terra…we may be apart at times, but I will never abandon anyone that has chosen to follow at my side. After I gave you your names, you both became important parts of my family…please don’t leave me, even if there are times when I do strange things or break down…” Terra’s wings pulled tightly around them as her arms squeezed Vahn’s body, clearly showing her answer with her actions since she couldn’t seem to find the words. As for Fenrir, she nuzzled up against his chest and squeezed him with a surprising amount of strength. It was almost like she was trying to fuse with his body and it made Vahn feel very comfortable to have the warmth of the two girls here in this dark room…

After cremating Ash’s body, Vahn put the remains into a jar that he intended to take back to the Rakia Kingdom and scatter one day. If possible, he’d like to hand the vase over to Ash’s family, but Vahn imagined he wouldn’t be well liked by the two people even if they didn’t end up as victims of this event. A part of him wanted to rush over to the Kingdom and attempt to save them, but that type of mentality was a never-ending loop that would require him to take responsibility for everyone. Just as Ash had made decisions about his life, Liris had done the same and Vahn had no idea what kind of person she had been to fall in love with a career killer. Their son, Alexander, would likely experience the most hardship from this event but there were countless such children in Rakia that Vahn hadn’t even thought about before now…

Looking around at the devastated chamber, Vahn looked over the various documents Ash had kept out and found a few potentially useful diagrams. The most interesting thing was a large formation that could cover several City blocks, like the same as the one destroyed by Terra. It took an incredible amount of resources to set up, however, so Ash must have used the majority of his funds just attempting to create it. Vahn felt a bit of pity knowing that the man’s hard work had been undone on a whim by Terra, but he couldn’t help but feel grateful to her at the same time. Deciding it was best to act on his thoughts, Vahn reached out and pat the happy dragon’s head for a few minutes and expressed his gratitude.

Once he had looked over everything, Vahn gave the room one last glance before he said, “Bury this place, Terra…” and made his way out of the corridor. He was feeling a little melancholic and wanted to ‘help’ someone so Vahn scanned around the various underground corridors and dropped off food and supplies in the areas where people congregated. The previously busy tunnels were now completely quiet as he walked through them, but Vahn could still sense the various people watching their progress through the maze-like structure of the Daedelus Street underground. After a few minutes, they reached the surface and exited out from an abandoned looking building. Vahn looked over his shoulder and saw a few faces peeking at him through the darkness, many belonging to children that had been interested in him ever since he gave them food.

Because it wasn’t that uncommon for some children to get snatched up and whisked away to become slaves, they all stayed very far away even after receiving various goods from him. Shaking his head with a slightly melancholic expression, Vahn showed a small smile and set out some additional offerings in the building before turning away and deciding it was almost time to head home. Before that, however, Vahn decided to stop over at Maria’s Orphanage since he was already in the area. He hadn’t visited since the last time he accompanied Syr, so Vahn was interested in how the children were doing. His mood made him feel a desire to be charitable and seeing the lively orphans would ease his heart a little.

So as not to draw attention to themselves, Vahn had Terra return to the Manor and entrusted her to explain the situation to Hestia and the others. She was somewhat reluctant to leave him behind, but eventually ‘relented’ after he rubbed her ears with his thumbs and promised to return home shortly. Her ears were somewhat abnormal and were completely covered in emerald-colored green scales. However, instead of being very hard and resistant to stimulus, they were actually full of nerves that connected to each individual scale and this made it one of Terra’s big weak spots. Vahn was starting to enjoy seeing her wings flutter about when she was happy and was looking forward to pampering her properly in the future.

After sending Terra off, which caused a bit of a stir in the relatively empty streets, Vahn picked up Fenrir in a princess carry and vanished from the streets with [Shundo]. He didn’t mind Terra meeting the children at Maria’s Orphanage, as she would likely be very popular with them, but Vahn didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention and cause trouble for Maria. Syr often visited the place wearing a cloak that concealed her head and face so Vahn gave Fenrir a mantle before they approached it from the front. He made sure there weren’t any eyes snooping around beforehand so there shouldn’t be any trouble, at least nothing beyond Maria’s capacity to handle.

Around the front of the Orphanage, there were a few children lingering about that instantly noticed his arrival with curious expressions on their faces before one of them recognized who he was. Without any hesitation, the children ran over and began crowding around him while Fenrir stayed close to his back and tried to avoid them. Though they were all smaller than she was, Fenrir had never really been good at dealing with strangers and, even though she didn’t feel threatened, she didn’t like to be surrounded. Vahn held out his hands to calm the children down and said, “Let’s go inside where we can talk and play in peace. As for this adorable little one, she is Fenrir, my very important companion. Be nice to her and don’t try to horseplay since her paws can be very dangerous…”

As if to emphasize his words, Fenrir held up her paws and showed off her claws which, instead of scaring away the children, made them show starry-eyed expressions of awe. At this age, especially when they were in this kind of environment, the kids didn’t have a lot of common fears and, considering that Fenrir wasn’t hostile towards them, she was more interesting than ‘dangerous’. Vahn allowed Fenrir to climb up onto his back to avoid the small children as she cutely tucked her tail in to avoid having anyone pull on it. Vahn then led the way into the Orphanage though some of the children got ahead of him to go tell the others and inform Maria.

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Not long after he entered the abandoned church, which hadn’t changed much since his last visit, a ‘bolt’ of red came flying at him from over one of the pews. Fenrir gave the young Rye a stink eye but didn’t react since she could tell he posed no actual danger at all. As for Vahn, he stepped back and turned his body to the side as he caught the young boy up in one arm as Fenrir clung tightly to his body like a little monkey. Rye wormed about in his arms and said, “Unhand me, you villain~! Arrrgh!” Vahn felt Rye’s forward behavior was very entertaining so he asked, “And what makes me a villain this time, Rye?” In response, Rye tried to reach out and grab at Fenrir but Vahn flipped him over and disoriented the young boy before setting him down on the floor with dizzied eyes.

Vahn placed his palm on Rye’s head and said, “Don’t tease Fenrir since she isn’t good at such things. You wouldn’t want people you’ve never met to grab you or your friends suddenly, right?” Rye furrowed his brows slightly before nodding his head and saying, “I’m sorry, Fenrir…but you, Vahn! I can’t forgive you so easily after what you did! Aaaah, just thinking about it makes my blood boil!” Before Vahn could ask what he meant once again, Maria’s stern voiced sounded out as she said, “Rye, you know well enough that Vahn didn’t actually betray our Syr at all. She is happy within the Hearth Manor, and Vahn is a capable young man that works hard to take care of everyone around him. I imagine he is here today to make a donation and spend time with everyone here, isn’t that right Mr. Mason~?”

Though he realized she had entrapped him a bit with her words, Vahn didn’t mind since it was actually his intent to make a donation of food and toys for the orphans. With a smile on his face, Vahn nodded and said, “Yes, I figured it had been a while since I stopped by and I happened to be in the area. If there is anything troubling you, or any of the children here, I’ll be more than happy to help out.” Maria covered her mouth and let out a peal of playful laughter that wasn’t suitable for her age as she said, “My, it’s good to have a strong and reliable man around the Orphanage on occasion. If you’re not too busy, there are a few handyman tasks you can take care of before you go.”

Considering that he was a [Master Smith], with very high parameters, Vahn wouldn’t have any trouble with such tasks so he said, “Sure, Maria, I’ll just play with the kids for a bit first.” Maria nodded her head with a pleased look on her face as Vahn once again found himself surrounded by more than twenty children. He noticed there were some faces missing since his last visit while new ones had popped up. However, one thing that hadn’t changed was the stand-out trio of Rye, Fina, and Roux and they were something like the heart of the entire Orphanage.

Rye couldn’t get adopted easily because he was somewhat rambunctious while Fina was like the big sister of everyone and didn’t want to get adopted. As for Roux, she was very quiet and docile as she hung around Rye and Fina while trying not to draw too much attention to herself. She was still pretending to be a boy, which made Vahn feel a little sad for her, but he couldn’t easily help her move forward unless she was willing to take the steps on her own. Vahn had been very tempted to adopt her himself, or at least find her a home in one of the other Familia if that wasn’t possible, but she was very attached to the other children and would likely refuse even if he offered…

Vahn had frowned deeply, interrupting the conversation he was having with the other children so Fina asked, “Vahn, Vahn, is everything okay?” while lightly slapping his face. She had ‘claimed’ his lap as her territory after he sat down so Vahn had been pampering the young Chienthrope girl as he listened to the worries, concerns, complaints, and desires of the various children. With her small slaps breaking him from his reverie, Vahn almost instinctively hugged her but compromised by just patting her head and saying, “I was thinking about how I could help everyone at the Orphanage even if I couldn’t adopt them. What would you all think about attending a school that I plan to open in the future…?”

Rye immediately shouted out, “No way, school is for saps that want to work for the Guild or become public servants! I want to become an Adventurer in the future, so I can’t waste time sitting in a classroom!” He didn’t admit it, but Rye actually thought going to school would be pretty fun. However, unless they had a scholarship by agreeing to work for the guild or becoming workers, it would be very expensive. There was also the fact that he was feeling a little riled up seeing Fina snuggled up in Vahn’s lap since he felt like Vahn would end up ‘corrupting’ her like he did Syr. She was usually a very lively a boisterous girl, but Fina turned completely docile under Vahn’s hand and had a silly look on her face with squinted eyes that bothered him.

Vahn nodded his head and looked around to the other children, each ranging between the ages of 4 and 9, before saying, “The school I want to open has no requirements for after you graduate, meaning you can do whatever you want with your life as long as you work hard and try your best to be a good person. There aren’t any fees that you would have to pay, as I would be waving them for children that come from difficult situations. It wouldn’t be a real home, but it would be a place you can stay until you reach fourteen…since it is affiliated with the Alliance, you can even join one of the related Familia after you complete your training, as we intend to teach everything from basic swordsmanship to magic…”

Rye looked like he wanted to say something, but the person to respond first happened to be Roux as she asked, “Can I…learn how to use magic…?” in a quiet voice that caused everyone in the room to turn silent. She didn’t often speak out, so even the children had learned to be silent to hear what she was saying since Maria had taught them to be considerate of others. Though many people would have shaken their head in response to Roux’s question, Vahn confidently nodded and said, “Yes, I have absolute confidence in being able to teach anyone how to use magic. I even work alongside Riveria, the Nine Hells, the High Elf touted as one of the greatest Mages in the entire continent of Eden.”

Hearing Riveria’s name, Roux’s eyes opened wide because she actually looked up to the famous High Elf quite a bit. Riveria was an inspiration to many people because she was a High Elf that went against general conventions and had created a great deal of fame for herself. Instead of shunning Half-Elves, she was known to treat them with kindness and proactively reproached Elves that acted arrogantly within the City. If she would be the one to teach them magic, Roux believed that even a ‘useless’ Half-Elf like her might be able to have some value to her life, other than monetary gain for cruel and despicable people. With an uncommon face of resolution for the typically silent Half-Elf, Roux furrowed her brows with a serious look and said, “I want to go to school…!”

As if she had set off a chain reaction, Fina leaned against Vahn’s chest and said, “I want to go to school too~! Ah, but I don’t want to leave the Orphanage, gnuuu, hard decisions~!” Immediately after Fina’s words fell, the other children seemed to get excited about it with the exception of Rye and a young purple-haired girl who didn’t seem to understand what was happening at all. She just looked around with her big gem-like eyes and stared at everyone with a clearly confused expression on her face as she yanked on a young boy’s tunic and asked, “Wats is skoohl?”

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