Chapter 655: Awkwardness

Rufina ended up eating several times more than normal, causing Vahn to give her a once-over just to see where she put it all. He noticed that her metabolic processes were several times more efficient than normal and her body seemed to store the excess energy in her muscles. It wasn’t nearly at the level of someone like Fenrir, who converted food into marginal amounts of source energy, but it was still an interesting discovery. Vahn speculated it was another one of the side-effects of her transition from a Creature back into a Human. He wasn’t really sure what race she was right now, but that could be looked into at a later date when the opportunity presented itself.

After they finished dinner, Rufina ended up wanting to wash her body in the small pond, but Vahn set out a tub for her instead, complete with a privacy screen and a change of clothing. Her old clothes seemed to be a hodge-podge of several different outfits that hadn’t really been cleaned much for several months. Though the smell of death no longer lingered around her, there was a heavy aroma of blood so Vahn could understand why she wanted to clean herself. He also set up a medium-sized tent for Asfi, Reid, and Tallow to use.

Since they would likely be very hungry when they woke up, Vahn gave her a chest that had thermal retention properties to keep the food warm and on standby. It was mostly lighter foods like porridge and soup, but he also included some flavorful meat and a potent citrus solution that was very high in Vitamin-C. Going a few days without food wasn’t a problem for most experienced Adventurers, but it was another case entirely if you had to spend several days essentially walking around naked. It was typically very cool in the Dungeon, and sleeping on the Floor was an easy way to get sick.

Tallow had created a bed using leaves and dried grass, but it didn’t really do much to keep a chill from taking hold in both of their bodies. Vahn had already healed their bodies, but it would take a bit of time for their minds to recover. Good food, thick blankets, clean clothing, and the relative safety of a tent would go a long way towards their recovery. It also prevented them from catching sight of Rufina the moment they woke up, giving Asfi ample opportunity to explain the situation and keep them from lashing out at the amnesiac. If they could understand she was just another victim, that would smoothen things out a great deal…

Vahn sat around an open fire, stoking the logs inside with Fenrir sitting in his lap, already having dozed off. It was already dark, the only light coming from the twinkling of the crystals overhead, when Rufina came over and sat down. She was now wearing a maroon-red blouse with a thin white breastplate and an off-white skirt that came down to the middle of her thighs. Included in her ensemble was the brown overcoat he had lent to her previously, a set of arm and leg warmers, and lastly a pair of brown boots that went halfway up her calf. Since she was still a risk factor, Rufina carried now weapons on her body whatsoever and didn’t seem to mind it much.

For several minutes, she just sat there in silence a little bit away from them until she eventually said, “Listen…I wanted to thank you. I’m not really sure how much truth there is to what you’ve told me, but I feel like you’re a good kid…” Rufina released a sigh at this point before ruffling her own hair in frustration, clearly finding the words difficult to vocalize. Vahn shook his head slightly before showing a calm and empathetic smile, saying, “I accept your apology, Rufina, but it’s not really your fault. We’re all responsible for our own actions, not the ones we are forced to make beyond our control. Just do your best to live a good life from this point onward and I will ensure you have the opportunity to do so…”

Rufina gave Vahn an appraising look, one brow raised as she asked, “How old are you, kid? I remember you mouthing off a few titles and claiming to be a Captain before…you some kind of official in the military? A medic, maybe?” Vahn lazily stroked Fenrir’s hair, as she had woken up the moment Rufina approached, answering, “One of the races I forgot to mention earlier are gods, the being that created this world long ago. There are some that have descended to the mortal world and they have created organizations known as ‘Familia’, essentially treating the members as their children and giving them a blessing to increase their growth. I’m the Captain of the Hestia Familia, led by a goddess of the same name…”

Though she couldn’t place the memory, Rufina frowned contemplatively with a nagging feeling in the back of her mind. After a few seconds, she grimaced slightly and said, “I think I may have been part of a Familia before…something tells me…ngggh-” Rufina began rubbing her temples, trying to ease the sudden headache that had started to spread through her mind. When a warm energy surrounded her body, helping ease the tension, Rufina opened her eyes and gave Vahn a curious look. She saw the gentle white light flowing from his hand and said, “You’re really something, Doc. So, why was I after you, or is that something I shouldn’t be asking?”

Vahn shook his head, sighing slightly as he said, “I imagine the people you were working with want to make use of my power for their own purposes. Something you’ll learn soon is that I’m…a little abnormal compared to most people. On the surface, I’m part of the Alliance, which is probably the most powerful force on the Continent…and, let’s just say I’m very near the top, even though I’m not exactly in charge.” Rufina’s eyes widened slightly before a cheeky grin appeared on her face and she said, “Ooooh, seems like you’re quite the big shot then? Well, that makes me a lot less worried about how things will go when we get back to the surface…”

Rufina had been more than a little worried about how things would turn out since, without any memories to go on, she didn’t even know what to do in the future. She didn’t really want to burden Vahn, as he was just a kid and had already helped her out a lot, but it was starting to seem like things might work out now. If the Alliance was as powerful as he said, Rufina expected it had a lot of power, resources, and, most importantly, information. Without any other goals to work towards, she decided to try and find out about her past. Rufina figured that it would make her future decisions much easier if she at least had a basic understanding of what kind of person she had been before being mind-controlled…

Understanding Rufina’s concerns, Vahn nodded, saying, “My situation is a bit complicated, but I’ll still do my best to help you out. I know many people that would be able to assist you, but only after we talk to Anubis and have her inspect your soul. She is another one of the goddesses in the Alliance and will be able to identify if there are any vows embedded in your soul. If we’re lucky, she may even be able to identify the terms of the vow, or at least point us towards someone that can provide answers. I imagine a god with a Divinity related to Law, Order, or Oaths would be able to help out…” Eirene crossed Vahn’s mind for a brief moment, but Vahn didn’t think she would be able to help out based on their past interactions.

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Rufina showed a thankful smile but kept her attention focused on the fire in front of her as she mulled over all the new information. She imagined gods weren’t so easily approached, especially if they were the creators of the world, but Vahn didn’t seem to have any trouble in that regard. He seemed very ‘casual’ about things so it wasn’t difficult to imagine that his claims of being ‘abnormal’ were true. Given the fact that he seemed to be much younger than her, Rufina imagined he was some prodigious kid from a wealthy family that had gained a bit of fame as a prodigy. The fact that he could pull nice clothing and food out of thin air seemed to emphasize this, not that it really mattered.

After collecting her thoughts, Rufina yawned very loudly while stretching her body, causing her joints to pop in the process as she said, “Well, I guess I’ll be taking a nap. Seems like there is a lot for me the learn once we reach the surface…” Vahn had already set up a tent for her personal use earlier, so Rufina made her way inside and found a large number of covers and pillows present. Shaking her head with a wry smile on her face, Rufina removed the overcoat Vahn had given her before stripping away the breastplate and falling into the blankets without bothering to remove the rest of her clothing. Part of her was saying that undressing while in the Dungeon was dangerous so she trusted her instincts…

Vahn had watched her departure with a thoughtful gaze, turning away only after she had finally entered into her own tent. It was going to be very difficult for her to adapt to life after losing her memory, but Vahn felt it was a small blessing since she wouldn’t be burdened by all the lives she had taken as ‘Revis’. It also couldn’t have been very pleasant living in the Dungeon for such a long period of time, especially without access to clothing and supplies, so it might be better that she forgets such things. Hopefully, they would be able to find out a little about her past and potentially even reunite her with any family she has on the surface.

Rufina seemed to have a response when he mentioned Familias, so it was possible that her god or goddess was still within the City. Level 4’s were almost all documented by the Guild and Vahn knew they kept reports on missing persons, meaning it shouldn’t be too difficult to find her true identity. Red hair and green eyes were a rather striking combination and there couldn’t be too many people that fit the description…

Vahn stayed awake throughout the night, denying Asfi’s offer to trade places since he didn’t really require sleep, even more so than in the past. He just spent the time cuddling with Fenrir, brushing her hair, tail, and sharing the occasional kiss when she snuck one from him. This made the night pass relatively quickly as an orange light slowly started to emanate from the crystals overhead. Vahn decided to use the opportunity to prepare breakfast the old fashioned way so he began cooking while Fenrir used magic to wash up and clean her armor before changing into a midnight blue sundress with small white ribbons attached to it.

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The smell of freshly cooked bacon, sizzling on the pan Vahn was using, began to waft through their make-shift camp. Soon after he started cooking, Rufina came out of her tent with somewhat disheveled clothing as she released an uninhibited yawn before asking, “Is there anything you can’t do, kiddo? Smells delicious…what’s cooking?” Vahn kept his focus on the bacon, flipping it over with a flick of his wrist as he said, “Bacon, eggs, and maybe some hotcakes. There is also rice porridge or biscuits and gravy if you want something lighter but rich in flavor…” Vahn pulled a table out of his inventory, populating it with plates and snacks as Rufina just stared blankly…

Shortly after Rufina sat down, the flap of the second tent was opened as a seemingly calm Asfi, a somewhat pale Reid, and a glaring Tallow came out. Asfi sat to the left of Rufina, having the other two sit on the opposite side of the table as she explained, “I discussed the details of what had happened. It will take time to accept, but both of my companions have consented to drop the matter entirely…” Rufina had a plain look on her face as she nodded her head, casting a few glances at Reid and Tallow, the latter of which didn’t seem as agreeable as Asfi claimed.

Vahn walked over at this point, setting out plates as he said, “Tallow, Reid, you need to understand that Rufina is another victim of circumstance. I’m not going to tell you to get along, but don’t harbor a misguided hatred that serves no purpose. Here, eat some breakfast and try to relax, it’ll make things a lot easier. You’re both still weak from malnourishment and need to focus on your recovery, not stirring up unnecessary trouble.” Tallow didn’t seem content, but she kept her words bottled up as Reid scratched his head and said, “Yeah, I didn’t really know what was going on after I blacked out. All I know is that you saved me, Vahn, so I’m not gonna cause any trouble. Thanks for that, by the way…”

Though it felt like he was saying it a lot these days, Vahn smiled politely and said, “If you want to show your gratitude, just be good to other people and try to live a better life. Besides, though I’m glad I was able to save you in time, you really should be thanking Tallow. If not for her efforts in trying to stabilize you, even I wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help.” Reid nodded, showing a serious expression on his face as he looked to Tallow and said, “Yeah…thanks, Tallow. I owe you pretty big for this one.” Though she had been glaring previously, Tallow’s expression became complex after suddenly being thanked by one of the people she used to butt heads with in the past.

Tallow released a small sigh, softening her expression a bit as she said, “You’re welcome, Reid…I’m glad you didn’t die, even if you’re an idiot…” Instead of showing any sign of being offended, Reid just laughed as his pale complexion started taking on a more healthy color. Vahn smiled, sending a nod towards Asfi before saying, “Okay, we need to make our way back to Lil Geirr as soon as possible so make sure you get your fill. I know the two of you probably want to get out of the Dungeon, but you’ll have to be patient since the circumstances are complicated.”

Asfi, piggybacking off Vahn’s words, nodded her head as she said, “Vahn is correct. The Hermes Familia needs to do everything in our power to make amends for our actions. Though the two of you had become victims in this scenario, the responsibility still lays with us for how things have turned out. Things will become even more complicated if we try to shirk our responsibilities so we will return to Lil Geirr and explain the situation to Finn before resuming our own duties…” Reid and Tallow both sighed before nodding their heads and saying, “Yes, Captain…” in tired voiced.

Rufina ate her breakfast in silence, taking note of the interactions between Vahn, Asfi, Tallo, and Reid. It didn’t really feel like a good time for her to pitch in, especially since Tallow kept sending her looks of blame that made Rufina feel more than a little awkward. It was difficult facing people you had wronged, especially when you had no memory of the events that had deeply impacted the other person. There was a fair amount of guilt plaguing her heart, but Rufina decided to follow Vahn’s advice and simply try and live a better life instead of harping over things she had no control over. It might have been dodging responsibility a bit, but there wasn’t much else she could do until her memories returned. Though some people might disagree with her, Rufina felt it was ‘unfair’ to be judged for actions she had no control over, regardless of how bad they might have been…

After breakfast came to an end, Vahn stowed away all of the tents and utensils he had left out, cleaning up the area while Tallow and Reid changed into the equipment he had lent them. He had several B-Rank items in his inventory to ‘lend’ out for situations like this, so they would at least be able to defend themselves in an emergency. Asfi had promised that the Hermes Familia would foot the bill so Vahn didn’t really mind if they wanted to keep them for future use. He gave Tallow a pair of daggers, which she affixed to the belt at her waist, crossing them at her back. As for Reid, Vahn gave him a pair of gauntlets and leg guards since he seemed to be the type to fight with his fists and feet. He also outfitted them with some basic armor before they finally began their return trip to the 39th Floor.

Along the way, as they were in the relative safety of the secret passages, Asfi requested that Vahn keep the passages themselves a secret. He had never really intended to make them known, as that would endanger the Xenos if the ‘hunters’ knew of how to track them down, so Vahn readily agreed. Spreading knowledge about the secret passages didn’t serve much benefit from the perspective of Adventurers needing to increase their strength. If the passages become known, most people would become very reliant on them and it was easy to imagine merchants and criminals making use of them for their own ends. Besides, these passages, and the secret rooms the connected to, were the lifeline of the Xenos who had made their home in the Dungeon. Vahn wasn’t going to compromise their livelihoods, nor was he going to allow anyone else to do the same…

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