Chapter 65: Return

Vahn continued carrying Naaza while making his way through the dungeon. There were several instances where monsters spawned and tried to attack, but he was able to use [Will of the Emperor] in concentrated bursts while using the burning effect of his [Heart of the Eternal Flame] to injure the monster’s eyes. On this floor the most common encounter was with Frog Shooters, so damaging their single eye made them helpless in trying to attack Vahn as he sprinted through the corridors.

After arriving near the staircase, Vahn was able to see Lili in the distance still waiting for him. When she caught sight of his approach she became very excited until noticing the girl in Vahn’s arms. Lili frowned but didn’t say anything as she knew the girl was likely a victim and someone Vahn had saved. For now, she cleared the path of the door and allowed Vahn to pass unobstructed.

The corridor connecting the stairs is typically considered a safe zone, so Vahn allowed Naaza to rest on the mats that Lili had laid out. After placing her down, he noticed her clothes were in disarray, so he used a blanket to make sure she was properly covered. The air within the dungeon wasn’t very warm, and it would be ironic if she got a cold after everything that happened.

Lili, seeing how much care Vahn was giving the girl, decided to replace him and tend to the unconscious woman. She told Vahn it was more appropriate for girls to help girls in case there were any sensitive matters to discuss. For now, she told him to just rest until the woman awoke on her own and then they would be able to leave the dungeon.

Vahn nodded and rested against the wall. He watched as Lili began inspecting Naaza for injuries and then, seeing his gaze, put up a barricade to block his sight. Vahn was able to hear the sound of clothes being shifted about and imagined that Lili was probably putting her first-aid training to the test. Vahn knew that Naaza didn’t have any injuries, but he allowed Lili to do as she pleased for now.

Lili undressed the chienthrope girl and began to frown. She noticed that no matter where she looked, she was unable to find any injuries on the girl. This meant that Vahn had likely used the same technique he had used to save her previously. Since he had the ability to heal minor wounds, that meant the girl had suffered severe injuries and he probably had to experience a lot of pain when saving her.

She sighed and began to inspect the figure of the girl, though not for injuries. Lili noticed that the girl was pretty cute and had a great figure. Given the efforts Vahn put into saving her, she would likely become a rival in the future. Lili also noticed that, like most chienthropes, the girl had droopy dog ears and a bushy tail. Given Vahn’s propensity for petting girls with such features, Lili was very worried about the future.

She released an even deeper sigh before asking Vahn to hand her a change of clothes. As all of Lili’s clothes were far too small, she had to make do with giving the girl one of Vahn’s tunics. Lili gnashed her teeth at the ‘good fortune’ of the girl and struggled to part with the piece of fabric. After making sure the girl was properly dressed, she removed the barrier blocking Vahn’s sight and then plopped down on his lap.

Vahn was surprised momentarily, but as he had grown accustomed to her actions, he just allowed her to act spoiled for the time being. He knew she was pouting and was probably jealous that he had saved another girl. Though he still wanted to break her selfish tendencies, seeing the small form of the girl and the fact she had waited patiently for his return, he decided to reward her for a bit and began playing with her cat ears.

Lili had been anticipating Vahn’s actions and immediately stopped pouting. She instead rested her back against his chest and mewled silently in response to his affection. Moments like this were the times when she was most happy, and it gave her the energy she needed to continue putting in efforts to grow stronger.

After having been around Vahn for more than a month, she had started to realize a lot of important things she previously overlooked. Though she also built walls around her heart and avoided people, Vahn seemed to almost have a disregard for the existence of others. Unless they directly interacted with him, Vahn seemed to ignore people and made almost no efforts to communicate until he had ‘evaluated’ them.

Yes, ‘evaluated’, is how Tsubaki described it when she and Lili were talking about Vahn. Tsubaki noticed that Vahn had a tendency to observe people he associated with and always made measured responses. His actions were unnatural, and even though he showed moments of insight, he seemed to not notice it himself. This was the reason she had invited Welf over that night because she wanted to see how Vahn was able to deal with a ‘male’ similar in age to himself.

During the moments when Vahn wasn’t around, Tsubaki was constantly speaking with Lili about Vahn’s mental wellness and other important subjects. She shared the speculations held by her and Hephaestus and wanted Lili to understand the significance of what Vahn was going through. Since Vahn treated Lili as something he desired to protect, Tsubaki made sure Lili was to restrain herself until Vahn manages to adapt to normal society.

To prove the severity of the issue, she had dragged Lili to the onsen after Vahn entered to prove he had no interest in the opposite sex at the moment. Lili was surprised at seeing Vahn’s reaction to their intrusion and the indifference he showed in regards to his own nudity and being seen naked by others. Though she was ‘distracted’ at the time, after Tsubaki captured her later she was able to understand things more clearly.

Lili was very sad by the revelation and thought she had been wronging Vahn by acting out, but Tsubaki ignored her melancholy and began teasing her. After playing with her body for a few torturous minutes, Tsubaki finally freed her before explaining further.

Tsubaki actually encouraged Lili to have Vahn spoil her, but told her only to do so when she had worked hard or accomplished something. Since Vahn wanted to protect Lili and help her grow stronger, he would be able to justify his actions as a ‘reward’ and slowly build awareness of other peoples feelings over time. Lili was more than willing to participate and began to work hard the very next day.

After a few minutes, Lili sighed in her mind before separating from Vahn. She knew if things continued for too long it would cause more harm than good. Vahn didn’t prevent her from escaping, he just gave her a gentle smile before turning to face Naaza. Lili sat next to him and also waited for the sleeping beauty to awaken.

While they were waiting, Vahn asked if the five-man party had passed by. Lili affirmed his suspicions and said they only briefly questioned why she had set up camp in the area, but since she had largely ignored them, they ended up moving on. The elf of their party seemed to be offended by her unwillingness to answer, but the boaz man with a sword and shield smacked him in the back of the head before dragging him away.

Hearing that the fool kept antagonizing other people, Vahn began to seriously wonder if that elf had a few screws loose within his head. He couldn’t help but think, ‘How can someone have so much pride that they continually dig themselves further and further into a hole?’ He shook his head and swore to bring up the matter to Hephaestus when they exited the dungeon. Though Vahn didn’t want the entire Familia to suffer, he would have justice for the treatment he received.

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About an hour later, Naaza finally awoke with a confused expression. She looked at her surroundings while inspecting the unfamiliar clothes on her body. To the side, she could see the man who saved her, Vahn, showing a gentle smile as he looked towards her. Beside him, Naaza could see a young cat person who, unlike Vahn, seemed to have a bit of hostility in her gaze. A thought passed through Naaza’s mind as she seemed to understand the underlying meaning.

Naaza blushed slightly and lowered her head. Seeing the clean tunic on her body, she couldn’t help but ask, “Did you change my clothing? Where did this tunic come from?” In response to her question, the small cat person spoke. “Vahn wasn’t the one to change you, it was me. I’m Lili, Vahn’s partner, by the way. The tunic you’re wearing is one of Vahn’s spares. Unfortunately, my clothes wouldn’t be able to fit you so we had to make due with what was available.”

Hearing that the clothes belonged to the boy, Naaza, who still had her head lowered, felt her nose twitch slightly. As a chienthrope, her sense of smell was much stronger than other races and she could faintly detect a ‘manly’ aroma from the garment. Her small action didn’t escape the sight of Lili who began to groan with jealousy. She wanted to say more, but Vahn interrupted her by standing.

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“We need to get out of the dungeon. It’s already pretty late and I’m certain both our Familia are waiting for our return. You should be able to walk, but if you’re feeling any discomfort I can carry you to the surface.” It was already nearing 11 PM, almost a full hour past their curfew. Vahn knew there were going to be problems if they delayed any further, and could even feel a slight discomfort from the ‘eternal flame’ in his heart.

The two girls nodded in response and helped clean up all the currently strewn about items. Naaza was in much better shape after crying herself to sleep and resting for a bit. Though she would still need time to process everything and cope, Vahn hoped she was able to put this event behind her in the future. After everything was ready, the trio began their journey towards the surface.

After arriving on the first floor of Babel, the group was immediately intercepted by a large group of people. Vahn was able to see many familiar faces in the crowd including Tsubaki and Miach. Hephaestus wasn’t in sight, but Vahn learned later that she had stormed into the Tyche Familia and demanded an explanation from their Goddess, Tyche. The culprit behind the incident, the elf known as Rein, was severely reprimanded and forced to take an oath to repay 30,000,000V to Vahn as compensation in the future. He would be stuck trying to repay the debt for years unless Vahn was willing to forgive him.

Tsubaki had a fierce expression on her face, but the moment she saw Vahn and Lili she began smiling. “I’m glad you two are safe. Good work!” Tsubaki then gave them both a big hug that lasted several seconds. Both Vahn and Lili were comforted by the action, as they had expected her to be very angry for failing to return before their curfew.

Naaza had been received by the other group of people and was exchanging hugs with several crying members. The tears she had been holding back since awakening now started flowing freely as she was embraced by her Familia. Miach was comforting her from the side and listening to her recounting the events with a mixture of anger and sadness on his face. Their Familia had suffered a terrible blow today, and if Vahn hadn’t saved Naaza they may have never even known the reason.

Miach left Naaza to the care of his children and approached the Hephaestus Familia ‘rescue team’. He wanted to meet the hero who had saved one of his beloved children. Noticing the young man next to Tsubaki, Miach was surprised. The boy was much younger than he expected and had a powerful aura sleeping within his body. He could see the shadow of greatness slowly taking root deep within Vahn’s soul.

Vahn also noticed the approaching Miach. While Miach was evaluating him, Vahn was doing the same. He noticed that the God was an incredibly handsome man with blue hair and blue eyes. The aura coming from his body was incredibly dense and was a mixture of yellows accented by a deep violet color that radiated out of his body. From Vahn’s experience, this showed that Miach was likely a very compassionate person who harbored no ill will towards him.

The two smiled at each other before Tsubaki loudly spoke out. “Hey, Miach-kami! Looks like our kid ended up doing you a pretty big favor this time. Make sure you give him a good discount in the future!” Tsubaki started laughing at her own words while patting Vahn’s back. (A/N: Other than their own gods, most people don’t refer to gods with ‘sama’. It feels weird to type out “Hey, God Miach…” in a sentence so I added -kami to the end. Let me know if you think it should be changed to sama for future reference.)

Miach nodded in response to Tsubaki before bowing slightly towards Vahn. “Thank you, Vahn. My Familia owes you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. If you are ever in need, please feel free to rely on us. As long as it is within our means I, God Miach, vow to provide no less than my full efforts to return your kindness.”

Hearing their God’s proclamation, every present member of the Miach Familia also bowed towards Vahn. As long as it wasn’t against their principles, they would do their best to repay his favor in the future.

Vahn nodded and returned the bow as Tsubaki laughed loudly at his side. Even as he bent over, she kept patting his back with increased force while Lili anxiously looked on from the side. She was very happy for Vahn, but seeing Tsubaki so riled up made cold sweat pour down her back. Tonight would probably not end until everyone partied themselves to sleep.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Handsome, Manly Gazes’, ‘Miach’s Gratitude’, ‘Vow between men’)

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