Vahn spent the evening with Hephaestus since Eina actually decided to spend a bit of time with her family at the Guest Residence, even dragging her sister out of her room to accompany her. Hephaestus was well into her pregnancy so they didn’t do anything other than cuddling, not that Vahn complained at all since Hephaestus helped him relax a great deal just by hugging him. Though he didn’t really have a preference for bust size, Vahn felt that it was very comfortable to be hugged by a mature woman with big breasts since it helped calm his mind. Since Hephaestus also seemed quite fond of the action, it was doubly effective and Vahn quickly ended up falling asleep with her stroking his head very lovingly…
Good things are typically short-lived, however, and it didn’t seem like the flies lingering around the Manor had any intention on letting him rest. Around midnight, Vahn felt a ping pass through the defensive formation protecting the Manor. It was triggered by Terra but Vahn knew she wouldn’t activate it unless she wanted to call his attention to something. Waking with a start, Vahn equipped his armor and explained, “I’ll be back shortly, you don’t have to bother yourself with this matter.” before giving Hephaestus a quick kiss and heading outside. A rumbling sound emitted from the northern side of the Manor and Vahn felt vibrations through the ground, using [Shundo] to close the distance in a hurry.
What he saw when crossing over the top of the Manor made Vahn release a sigh before he leaped down to the ground without hurrying along any longer. Terra was currently in her dragon form and there were several Elves wearing dark clothing laying all over the ground. Through his link, Vahn could sense Fafnir as well but it seemed to be using the shadows to seal off any possible path of retreat. At this point, only a single Elf remained conscious and she was pressed to the ground under Terra’s claw. Vahn was somewhat surprised to see a woman but it wasn’t as if the policies of the Elves only influenced men.
Terra turned to him as he approached and said, “Master, this one should be the leader of this little night party~.” Though she was a pacifist by nature, Terra was incredibly territorial and the fact they had tried to invade the Manor earned the Elves her ire. She hadn’t killed any of them personally, but she made sure to punish any of them that tried to cast magic within her dominion. Since Elves primarily used nature-based magic, they couldn’t even form spells completely unless she ‘allowed’ them to. The exception were those few who had powerful wind magic, but they were the first to fall when Fafnir appeared and completely dominated them.
Vahn looked around and saw a big crater that made him grimace and swear to ask for compensation from the Elven Kingdom in the future. Walking forward, Vahn saw the Elven woman who looked like she was a few breaths short of death as Terra continued to press her into the ground with enough force to almost bury her. Waving his hand, Terra moved her foot away before Vahn grabbed the back of the woman’s hood and lifted her up as if she was a stray cat, asking, “Tell me, what allows you to come into my home uninvited in the middle of the night? Is this the Elven Kingdom’s way of declaring war on the Alliance?”
The Elven woman had honey-blond hair and purple eyes, somewhat unique considering she was a full-blooded Elf. She had a fierce look on her face until Vahn mentioned the prospect of war in such a casual manner. Seeing the green dragon standing at the side, she didn’t think they would fare well in a war against such creatures. Their nine members had been completely decimated almost immediately after the fight began, barely managing to cast a single spell even with their combined efforts. However, she refused to show weakness in front of a ‘human’ boy, especially one that was holding one of their nobles hostage, even more so since the one being held captive was Riveria, the daughter of the King…
With a serious look on her face, she said in a cold tone, “Go ahead and kill me, human, but know we will never let you get away with this. Our ancestral spirits will curse you and your entire lineage until there is nothing left! Despicable…fiend!” Vahn arched his brow and asked, “I’m despicable for wanting to protect my home from intruders? Interesting theory…so, are you going to tell me why you came here?” Given how the woman was reacting, Vahn felt like things weren’t quite clear and he was interested to see what ‘excuse’ she might have at the ready. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to be willing to talk and just maintained a resolute look in her eyes as she gnashed her teeth.
Vahn continued to hold her by her cloak and contemplated what he was going to do, audibly ‘hmming’ as if he didn’t really care about her glare at all. He passed his perception over all the unconscious members of the group and saw that, other than some ‘very’ serious injuries, none of them were dead yet. Since none of them actually had black auras, Vahn knew they weren’t truly ‘bad’ people and were probably being misled somehow. He already decided earlier that he didn’t feel like killing people on his day off so he just dropped the woman unceremoniously and let her fall to the ground. Her impression of him really didn’t matter and he saw no need to treat her kindly, especially since she cursed his ‘entire lineage’ with her baseless threats.
While he was collecting all the bodies, the woman actually tried to cast a spell at his back but Vahn ‘theatrically’ snapped his fingers and her magic circle completely shattered, causing her to cough up blood in response. Terra held her claw up and asked, “Do you want me to break even more of your bones~?” in an eerily ‘gentle’ tone. This time, the Elven woman just gnashed her teeth and lay powerlessly against the ground as she lamented her failure. Several of her ribs were broken and, if not for the fact she was nearly Level 4 in strength, she might have been squashed by Terra previously. Of course, Terra had held back her strength as she had no actual desire to kill anything unless it was a ‘real’ threat.
After gathering up all the bodies, Vahn pulled out an ornate staff that immediately caused the woman to close her eyes tightly when a massive magic circle appeared under his feet. She thought Vahn had gathered them up to simply get rid of them all at once but, instead of pain and agony, she felt a gentle and invigorating warmth. The pain in her ribs began to fade away and she was able to breathe normally after a short few seconds had passed. Opening her eyes, she saw all of her companions were being healed at a visible rate and looked to Vahn with confusion. The magic circle faded away shortly thereafter and Vahn tossed the staff back into his Inventory with a wave of his hand.
Seeing the confusion on the woman’s face, Vahn tilted his head and asked, “What, are you really disappointed I didn’t kill you?” At this point, the other Elves began to wake up as well, all showing cautious looks with clear disbelief written on their faces. Fafnir and Terra were both around but they all knew the most dangerous entity was the boy standing right in front of them with an ‘evil’ smile on his face hidden behind a mask of gentleness. Vahn saw their reactions and released a sigh before asking, “Are you really not going to tell me your reason for trespassing my Manor? Well, I can pretty much guess some of the reasons so it doesn’t really matter…well, I’ll be taking you to the guards now, so explain it to them if you feel like it.”
Since none of them seemed evil, Vahn assumed they had probably been led astray somehow and it seemed to be the case given how they were all pretty young, probably between 30-50 years old. The strongest among them was only Level 3 and she didn’t really seem to have the awareness of an Adventurer, meaning she probably spent the majority of her childhood in the Elven Kingdom. As for the rest, they were all Level 2 but that was the ‘norm’ for those that left the Kingdom and Vahn could tell by the density of their mana they didn’t maximize their potential before Leveling up.
Because none of them answered, even after he waited for a few long seconds, Vahn waved his hand and summoned [Enkidu]. The group panicked and tried to react to the sudden ‘attack’, but Vahn just converged his domain on them and, from their perspective at least, it was like having gravity multiple several times and they couldn’t rise. A few seconds later, they were all wrapped up in a shining golden ball that Vahn unceremoniously picked up. He would have gotten Fafnir or Terra to try and move it, but he knew from experience they would lose their strength in the attempt. Heaving them over his shoulder, Vahn ignored them trying to writhe about and let their ‘curses’ wash over him like a light drizzle that couldn’t even harm the earthworms below.
Using [Shundo], which was quite the experience for the Elves who thought he could ‘teleport’, Vahn quickly reached the gate and threw the golden ball into the street where guards were already waiting. Vahn explained, “These people invaded the territory of the Hestia Familia and have kept their identities and purpose a secret. I’ll leave them to the Eirene Familia to investigate, but will be expecting a report so we can follow-up on the matter in the future.” The man Vahn was speaking to was named Gilbert, one of the Level 3 Guard Captains that typically patrolled around the Hearth Manor during the evenings. He quickly had his men bind up the Elves before gagging their mouths with a rope covered in runes, effectively sealing away their ability to chant.
Though most of the people within the Eirene Familia could be trusted, Vahn gestured before the guards dragged them away and brought the group to a stop. Gilbert looked over, asking, “Was there another matter, Sage Aldrnari-sama?” in an almost reverential tone. Most of the senior members of the Eirene Familia had a great deal of respect for Vahn since Eirene often serenaded them with tales of his heroic deeds. When he saw Vahn carrying a bundle of people on his shoulder as if they were a sack of potatoes, Gilbert had nearly burst out laughing at the sight and was very impressed by how ‘casual’ he acted when dealing with criminals.
Vahn locked eyes with three different people in the bundle of Elves, including the purple-eyed woman that was likely the leader of the group. He smiled to Gilbert and said, “These people may have been misled and entered the territory of the Hestia Familia without knowing the severity of their offense. Make sure they aren’t mistreated and have Eirene and Loki deal with them personally if necessary…I don’t want to learn they were mistreated later on, okay?” Gilbert immediately gave a loud salute by clanging his gauntleted fist against his breastplate and saying, “You can leave it to me! On my pride as a Guard Captain of the Eirene Familia, I, Gilbert Motier, will swear to see these Elves are treated fairly and in a just manner!”
Though he knew Gilbert was a commendable man, Vahn was surprised by his earnest behavior and smiled happily when he saw the magical light of a vow emerge and pass into Gilbert’s chest. Pulling a black tab from his Inventory, Vahn tossed it over and said, “Feel free to stop by the Clubhouse in the future, Captain Gilbert.” As he hadn’t expected such a ‘reward’, Gilbert’s face beamed and he hastily pocketed the black slip before urging his men to escort the Elves to the closest outpost, which was only a few blocks away. His colleagues looked at him with envious eyes because the ‘Clubhouse’ was actually growing very famous recently and many people wanted membership. Since the slip would allow him to invite up to two people, assuming they were ‘vetted’ by the other members, many people started considering how best to butter up to Gilbert in the future…
Vahn watched the guards march away before deciding to check the perimeter of the Manor to make sure there weren’t any other places that had been broken through. He could tell they actually used a very rare talisman that allowed them to pass through most barriers undetected and there was a non-zero chance others may do the same. It was a little annoying so Vahn figured he should help Terra expand her dominion further in the future since they couldn’t really fool her senses unless they could completely avoid the ground. Since flight magic would immediately trigger Fafnir’s notice, the Manor would be completely protected at all times as long as it and Terra were present. At least he could guess at the identity of the ‘backers’ of the group since a single talisman cost as much as ten-million Valis, something most people couldn’t afford one of, much less nine.
After checking the entire perimeter, Vahn went to Terra’s Garden for a bit to thank her for her efforts and spend a little time with her. She slept outside far more than she slept inside and Vahn couldn’t really say anything about it since she was simply more comfortable at the heart of her Dominion than anywhere else. He had even offered to help build a large greenhouse in the area and allow her to use a normal bed, but Terra ‘preferred’ her roost since beds actually weren’t that comfortable to her in her humanoid form. She couldn’t easily lay on her back with both her wings and tail in the way and it was actually more than a little uncomfortable to lay flat on her stomach. She preferred to rest at an incline with her legs and wings soaking in the wellspring so Vahn respected her decision.
Though he had already given the ‘clear’ signal through the network, considering that many of the girls had probably woken up after the ‘ping’, Vahn hurried back to Hephaestus’ side after a while and climbed back into bed. He had ‘wasted’ an hour outside at this point and was somewhat eager to return to her warmth, as it was easily one of the most comfortable feelings since their bodies had very high compatibility. She was the only goddess he had been able to completely ‘fuse’ with in the past, as a result of his [Heart of the Eternal Flame] and the perfect fire elemental affinity it afforded him. Her body could actually increase to several hundred degrees when she was very excited, something that incited Vahn to do the same and it was always a very exciting experience even though they had only done it twice.
This time, though, Vahn had no intention of doing something so exciting and was just happy to feel the warmth from Hephaestus’ stomach as she held his head close and hugged him in her warm embrace. The only person that gave him more comfort was Hestia, but that was a result of her honestly ‘ridiculous’ Love parameter and the influence of her Divinity. Vahn had learned at this point that, if it came to ‘Family’, Hestia had a lot of ‘power’ and could say some very compelling things that always reached the hearts of those that were listening. This was why, when they had first met, Vahn would fall into a daze when she comforted him and it was almost hypnotic how pleasant and gentle her words were. Even now, just by thinking about her, Vahn could feel an all-encompassing love suddenly wrap around him and it was almost like Hestia was cradling him alongside Hephaestus…
There was no real need to wake up early, but Vahn still awoke just before 5 AM and checked the status of Eva’s orb before stroking Hephaestus’ hair, saying, “I’m going to check to make sure nothing else tried to slip in while we were sleeping. Go ahead and rest longer since the wedding won’t be for a few hours…” Finished with his words, Vahn leaned over and kissed Hephaestus on the forehead before heading down to do exactly what he said. He wasn’t surprised at all to be intercepted by Riveria along the way and explained the situation to her, including the details and descriptions of all the Elves that ‘invaded’. Riveria didn’t seem to know any of them, as it was somewhat difficult to actually tell Elves apart since many had similar traits if they were from the same clan. For example, if Vahn told her it was a ‘beautiful Elven woman with blond hair and blue eyes”, Riveria would be able to imagine more than a hundred different possibilities, just from memory alone.
Since it wasn’t that important to worry about them right now, they just spent some time inspecting the formation together while making small talk. Riveria had actually calmed down a lot compared to how she had been acting throughout the week so Vahn was happy. She had probably talked with Aina a bit more and, as they were both very close to each other, Riveria likely came to some important decisions and found the resolve she was looking for. This afternoon would be a key moment in Riveria’s life so it was better she was ‘ready’ beforehand, which seemed to be the case based on the stability of her aura and her behavior. Vahn was greatly looking forward to their wedding as well and was uncharacteristically more ‘flustered’ by the idea than Riveria…at least for the time being.