Vahn spent a bit of time explaining the concept of school to everyone present, eventually even winning Rye over to his side after explaining the martial arts aspects and how useful information about monster ecology was to become a successful Adventurer. Though the red-haired boy was a little rambunctious, he wasn’t an idiot and knew it was better to get a strong start than it was to simply try and wing it. Many Adventurers that started out ‘fresh’, without any help, received a small stipend from the Guild, including a pouch for items, a dagger to aide them in combat, and a single smoke ball so they could escape from danger. This was a far cry compared to what they would receive by working their way up through the school, as Vahn guaranteed they would be able to ‘earn’ equipment based on their performance without having to pay a single Valis.
After humoring the children for more than two hours, including snack and story time, it was starting to get late in the day so Vahn did a few tasks for Maria as they talked about the school he wanted to create. She didn’t mind Vahn’s idea much, as it would help the children become better people by giving them the opportunity to work hard for their future, but she didn’t want him to do it half-heartedly. Opening a dorm for the kids wasn’t the same as adopting them, but he would still become responsible for their well-being and, lacking a parental figure in their lives, many of the children would look up to him and the teachers as if they would their actual parents. It wasn’t that dissimilar from how other Familia, and many countries, indoctrinated the youth to sculpt them into ‘useful’ tools for the future. Because the children would become reliant on the structure that they found in their lives, many of them would shape their lives around the structure further into the future much like how those that attended the Guild sponsored School did.
Vahn understood what Maria was trying to say since he had been considering such matters for a long time in preparation for opening up their school one day. He knew he would be subtly manipulating the children but it was better to set them on a path where they worked hard to decide their own futures than it was to simply do nothing. If he wanted to bring about real change in the future, Vahn needed a generation to set the example and it couldn’t be his own children since many would see them as ‘special’ and ‘privileged’. Since he didn’t truly plan to take advantage of the kids that attended his school, Vahn believed things would go well because the teachers he plans to have watching over them were all trustworthy and kindhearted.
After considering the matter for a short while, Vahn turned to Maria and asked in a calm tone, “Ms. Maria, would you like to become the caretaker of the dormitory? It would be hard work, but I believe you are well suited for the position and would be able to help out greatly.” Maria shook her head without considering the offer and said, “No, Vahn, my place is here at the Orphanage…even if you start up that school of your’s, there is no way you would be able to take in all the children within the City. As long as there are those that need a place to call home, my Orphanage will remain here to help them…” Vahn nodded his head and had a thoughtful expression on his face for a while before pulling out a set of communication scrolls for Maria.
Seeing what Vahn pulled out, Maria began laughing as she shook her head and said, “That darling Syr already gave me a scroll a long time ago. Don’t worry, if there is ever any trouble at the Orphanage, such as a shortage of supplies, I will certainly reach out for assistance. I don’t do this for my pride, so I’ll not let the children suffer just because I’m unwilling to ask for charitable donations.” Vahn smiled before keeping away the materials and set out a few bags of fresh produce and a pile of new blankets that would be useful if any new children showed up at the Orphanage. Marina squinted her eyes with a gentle smile on her face and said, “You are a kind boy, Vahn…the children are fortunate someone as magnanimous as you came to this City. Keep doing your best as I’m quite interested to see the future you want to create…fufufu~.”
Vahn fixed up a few holes in the ceiling that had simply been covered up previously to keep out the cold before preparing for his return to the Manor. He expected there would be a lecture waiting for him upon his return but this actually made him feel warm inside just thinking about the concern others had for him. On his way out, Vahn picked up Fenrir, who had been sitting and talking with Roux and Fina, before preparing to depart. He didn’t get too far, however, before Fina shot up and said, “Ah, wait, Vahn~! Don’t leave so quickly~!” Roux also stood up with Fina and trailed behind her as the young Chienthrope girl ran up and grabbed around his waist and nuzzled against him in a somewhat affectionate manner.
Fina continued her playful actions for a few seconds before showing a frowning face as she said, “Pet me you dummy~!” Vahn’s mind blanked for a moment as he reached out and began stroking pale cream-colored hair of Fina as her short curved tail beat back and forth happily. Unlike most of the Chienthrope girls he had seen, Fina’s tail was somewhat short and drew an upward crescent that was actually quite fluffy. As for her ears, they were pointed like a Cat Person’s but drooped slightly at the tips. Vahn realized that he probably shouldn’t pet her ‘seriously’ like he did the other girls or she would likely become somewhat attached to him with time. He was already several concerns regarding girls like Nanu, Tina, and Shizune, so he wanted to avoid having small children falling in love with him unless they simply saw him as a guardian or mentor.
From the side, Vahn could see Rye give him a big-eyed look with a small frown on his face so Vahn chuckled slightly and said, “Fina, I have to return to my home. Look after everyone else and I’ll try to get the school prepared as soon as possible. Be a good girl and take care of your friends properly, okay?” Fina nodded her head with squinted eyes as she loosely held Vahn’s wrist with her hands as if she didn’t want to pull away from his hand. Vahn realized he needed to get a better understanding of the influence of his [Hands of Nirvana] with his [Petting] Development Ability unless he wanted a pack of Beast Humans following him around in the future.
After finally extricating himself from the clingy little Chienthrope, Vahn carried Fenrir and they quickly made their way towards the Hearth Manor without dallying further. Fenrir didn’t seem to mind the children too much, but she was in a much better mood after leaving. Perhaps it was because he had her look after Preasia in the past, or perhaps due to the influence of Tina and Milan, but Fenrir expressed a bit of ‘concern’ for the damaged children at the Orphanage. Though she didn’t open up at first, Fenrir quickly realized the children were something that needed ‘protecting’ and she gravitated toward the traumatized Roux out of concern. Vahn was very proud she had this kind of nature because he was worried she would always be distant when it came to dealing with strangers. It seemed like that was an unnecessary concern, however, since her instincts allowed her to sense if someone had any ill will while also letting her have some insights into people that were ‘hurting’.
There were exceptions to this, of course, as Fenrir didn’t seem too fond of little Fina because she didn’t want even more people around Vahn that ate up his time. She could also probably sense his inhibitions towards the small Chienthrope girl and, though she didn’t show any open hostility towards he, Vahn hadn’t missed the glimmer in her scarlet eyes when she stared at Fina’s back. It was this same glance that caused Fina to tremble slightly as she looked around in confusion and released Vahn’s hand. Like most Beast Humans, she had a bit of a natural instinct towards danger and also possessed an Innate fear of more ‘dangerous’ creatures. Fenrir could even unnerve Vahn, gods, and True Dragons, so a Chienthrope child wasn’t beyond her scope of intimidation.
Vahn carried Fenrir the full way to the Manor on his back before they jumped over the gate and slowly approached the front door. He could sense the movement of several people inside in response to his arrival and released a small sigh in preparation before stepping into the foyer. Almost immediately after he crossed over the threshold of the door, Hestia appeared with an uncharacteristically serious expression on her face as she said, “Vahn, everyone is waiting for you in the study. Dinner will be ready shortly, so don’t tarry…” Nodding his head, Vahn set Fenrir down and said, “Run along and get ready for dinner…” before following behind Hestia and towards the gathered goddesses nearby.
Within the study, Vahn could see Hephaestus and Loki sitting next to each other with Syr and Eina present on the opposite sofa. Riveria was also present, but she stood at the side with her staff and had a stoic appearance. The only person that seemed to not care about the atmosphere too much was Tsubaki, who was sitting in a smaller chair with her legs crossed on the cushion as she absentmindedly stroked her belly with a smile on her face. When they all saw Vahn enter the room, Loki beat everyone to the punch and released a loud and exasperated sigh as she asked, “How is it that, just after I lecture you about relaxing more, your immediate response is to go off and fight unknown enemies within the City and even make promises to the children at Maria’s Orphanage to open up a school? Can you explain this to me, Vaaaaaaahn~!?”
Vahn remained standing, somewhat surprised that Hestia remained by his side, as he nodded his head and said, “The only way I could really relax is if I eliminated the main worry that had been bothering me since before I went on the expedition. I want to treat your words seriously, but that also means I need to resolve other matters in order to do so. We now have a better understanding of the situation and, as far as the children in the Orphanage are concerned, that is…something I had to do for myself as a penance of sorts. I won’t accept responsibility for the assassin’s family, but I will continue to do my best to help the people around me. The school needed to be opened in the future, so telling them they will be allowed to attend will give them a small amount of hope that makes their daily lives easier. Even if I have to fund it myself, I want to start construction on the school and the dormitory in preparation for the future. After all…our own children, and the young kids within the Alliance Familias, benefit greatly from its completion.”
It was a bit of a ‘cheap’ shot, but Vahn dragged his future children into the mix knowing that it would give him the edge in any potential arguments. They could always raise their children in the safety and security of the Manor, but this wouldn’t allow them to become ‘complete’ people that functioned properly in society. Even if it is only for a relatively short period of time, they need to interact with people from various age groups to shape the people they will become in the future. Vahn was especially concerned about the Vanir, because they would grow up exceptionally quickly and only had a small window of opportunity to interact with other children.
Loki had opened her eyes slightly during Vahn’s explanation, clearly seeing through his thoughts before she sat back down next to the smiling Hephaestus and said, “We have already come to a decision to declare the Rakia Kingdom as the enemy of the Alliance. An announcement won’t be made, but the leadership within the Alliance is aware of their assassination attempt and we will begin to make preparations for an all-out war if necessary. I expect you’ll eventually take action to open dialogue with them in the future but focus on other things for now. Don’t go starting wars just as your children are about to be born, Vahn…”
Vahn nodded his head and said, “I want to wait until Eva’s orb awakens before I start taking action against the other countries. I may even put things off for the next 2-3 years since the more pertinent matter that needs to be dealt with are our enemies within the Dungeon. There won’t be many specialists like the ‘earth mage’ that can infiltrate the territory of the Alliance so easily, so I’m not worried that they will be an issue in the interim. If necessary, I’ll take Fafnir into their territory and give them a ‘warning’ by destroying some of their outposts near the border. This would give many refugees the ability to escape the Kingdom’s territory and it would force them to invest time and resources into securing their borders once again.”
After Vahn’s words fell, the entire room was silent for several seconds until Syr and Loki both began laughing in their own characteristic manners. Syr quickly stopped her laughter when she got some looks from the other girls, but Loki continued to ‘cackle’ without concern before she said, “That is actually a very good idea, Vahn~! I almost didn’t think you had it in you…kukuku~.” Hephaestus sent Loki a sideline glance and remarked, “Hmph…I’ve always believed Vahn is a very intelligent boy. After all, some of the innovations he has made in the last few months would have taken decades, or even centuries, for other people to think of…” Tsubaki nodded her head from the side but continued to a avoid the conversation since it didn’t really concern her that much. Eina was much the same, though she had a bit of a sad expression in her eyes when she thought about Vahn potentially going to war against other nations.
Riveria used the opportunity to speak out as she said in an especially serious tone, “If you plan to do something like that, you should delay it until the delegation returns to the Elven Kingdom. They will likely be machinating things behind the scenes in preparation for future events so it would be a good time to take action. The Rakia Kingdom and the Elven Kingdom have been at war for many years at this point, so it will be an effective strategy that forces both sides to take a step back. It’ll give us a bit of leverage against the Elven Kingdom as potential ‘allies’, and it’ll put pressure on the Rakia Kingdom to fortify their borders and increase security. It would likely give us far more than a simple 2-3 years to make preparations of our own…”
Before anyone could respond to Riveria’s words, Eina stood up from the sofa with a slightly melancholic smile and said, “I believe this conversation is going beyond my boundaries a bit. I’ll always support Vahn’s decisions, but I don’t think it would be good for me to be part of a ‘war council’ while I’m still working for the Guild.” Loki waved her hand dismissively and sent a glance at Riveria before saying, “Eh, it isn’t anything so serious, Eina. We’ll put that conversation aside for now so please stay since your insights into Vahn are likely deeper than anyone else’s, even our little Syr here~.”
Syr’s eyes squinted slightly when she heard Loki’s words, but her smile didn’t show any signs of change while even her aura was relatively calm. She focused more on what Vahn ‘wanted’ to do more than his inner turmoils because that had been a job delegated to Eina in the past. Even if he walked down the rather ‘lonely’ road of an Emperor, she would continue supporting his decisions so it was the responsibility of the other women to reign him in. She had the large responsibility of reigning in almost everyone else, so it was a simple matter of assigning the proper personnel in her mind. Besides, she didn’t think Vahn was so ‘weak’ that he needed someone like her to ‘manipulate’ his heart and mind in order to make him happy.
Eina sat back down after Loki’s insistence and the conversation really did take a shift as they began discussing the matters that had been brought up the previous night, and this morning. They also refined the schedule a bit so that Vahn spent the weekend nights with Eina and Hephaestus while the other girls had a month-long rotation. At the end of every month, Vahn would have a counseling session with Eina, Syr, Loki, Hephaestus, and Hestia so that they could have a better understanding of his mental state and how to better his life. If necessary, based on the discretion of Eina, this could be done almost every weekend if she believed it would help him. This would continue until Vahn’s mind stabilized more and the orb containing Eva once again reawakened. Things would have to be shuffled around a bit when the children were being born, but that was something everyone understood intrinsically…