Chapter 66: Party : Promise

Though Tsubaki invited them along, Miach had his Familia thank the Hephaestus Familia before parting ways. Even though it wasn’t wrong to celebrate Naaza’s return, he wanted to give his children time to mourn the death of their comrades. He also needed to arrange the time to visit the Guild and issue a formal investigation request. Miach would not rest until the duo that leads to the death of his children were brought to justice.

Tsubaki understood his concerns and let Miach know the Hephaestus Familia would cooperate with the investigation. Though it had been an indirect result, the duo almost led to the death of Vahn as well, since the misunderstanding that caused him to be attacked would have never happened without the ‘pass parade’. If Tsubaki got her hands on the two, she would string them both up to dry in the sun if she had her way.

The two groups parted ways and Tsubaki led the members of the Hephaestus Familia to the Hostess of Fertility. Vahn and Lili both visited frequently and it was the best place they could think of to celebrate with a large number of people. Upon their arrival, the group was greeted by Anya who quickly got Mama Mia to settle the matter of seating arrangements while she went to inform Chloe. Whenever she was on duty, Chloe was the waitress that always dealt with Vahn and his accompanying guests.

After Mama Mia learned the purpose of the groups visit, she began to laugh loudly similar to Tsubaki. She looked towards Vahn with a huge smile on her face and said, “You got a real heroic streak in you kid! First the little one and now you got yourself a big one in the bag? At this rate, you’re going to break our Chloe’s heart. Hahaha!” Mama Mia had seen Chloe approaching and said the final few words loud enough the entire pub could hear.

Chloe gave an awkward laugh while trodding over to the group. “Mama Mia~! You’re embarrassing me~nya! I’m happy as long as Vahn is happy you know~?” Though she acted embarrassed, Chloe didn’t display a bashful demeanor or shy expression. She even used the last few words to tease Vahn by giving him a playful wink. Vahn returned a smile and sat between Tsubaki and Lili as the rest of the Familia started placing their orders.

Everyone was in high spirits as they were celebrating the safe return and heroic deeds of their younger Familia members. For many, it was their first time actually meeting Vahn and Lili, so they were very interested to know what kind of people they were. Seeing how much emphasis their Goddess put in his ‘rescue’ and how quickly they were asked to gather, many of them wanted to establish an amicable relationship with the rising star.

Vahn answered many of their questions while Tsubaki intercepted anything that might relate to his secret. She didn’t shut anyone down directly, but always interrupted and changed the topic of conversation. Vahn was really grateful for her help, as he wasn’t accustomed to dealing with so many people at once. Even Lili and Chloe would periodically step in to change the atmosphere or even distract Vahn when he seemed to have trouble responding.

The members of the rescue party quickly caught on that it wasn’t appropriate to ask too many personal questions about Vahn. Most of their members were Level 3 or higher, and they had been familiar with Tsubaki for a very long time. It wasn’t an accident that Hephaestus had arranged for Tsubaki, who is the Captain of the entire Familia, to be the one leading the emergency mission. Instead of prying any deeper, they just gave into the festive atmosphere and drank their curiosity while teasing Vahn for his apparent ‘luck’ with women.

The party continued late into the night before Mama Mia finally kicked everyone out. Tsubaki paid the tab for the entire group which roused a cheer from the whole party as they parted ways into the cold night. After everyone left, Tsubaki escorted Vahn and Lili home before having them take turns bathing and sending them off to bed. Since it was a special occasion, she told them to take the next day off and relax.

Vahn and Lili were both happy to hear that as they had been working hard for the entire three weeks. Tsubaki didn’t give them much free time and even their days off consisted of reading books or performing equipment maintenance. Vahn had become a good assistant and had even forged some mid-grade weapons on his own.

That night, Vahn slept soundly and continued dreaming long into the next morning. It had been a very long time since he enjoyed sleeping in and it wasn’t until Lili knocked on his door that he finally pulled himself from the comfort of his futon. She had come to inform Vahn that it was time for lunch and stated Tsubaki had some news to discuss. Vahn nodded and headed towards the bathroom to wash his face before leaving towards the dining area.

When he arrived, Vahn was pleasantly surprised to see Hephaestus drinking tea with Tsubaki and Lili. They were all waiting for him before eating lunch, which consisted of grilled-fish with rice and a rich vegetable soup. Hephaestus showed a radiant smile when Vahn entered the room, and he bowed in response while greeting her in return. “Good afternoon Hephaestus. Thanks for your help yesterday. I’m sorry to have troubled you for personal reasons.”

Hephaestus gave a helpless sigh as she shook her head. “Its no trouble Vahn. It’s fortunate those idiots weren’t that strong. If anything had happened I would have had to send Tyche back to heaven after annihilating her Familia.” She spoke without a change in expression and Vahn could tell she wasn’t joking. He sat down before trying to calm her.

“Mmm, it was just a misunderstanding. I’m lucky they weren’t stronger or I would have had to kill them instead of just injuring them. I don’t want to become a murderer over something inconsequential.” As Vahn spoke, Lili, who was sitting to his left, flinched slightly. She lowered her head while holding her cup with both hands and slowly sipped at its contents.

Hephaestus nodded in response to Vahn. “I’m glad, Vahn. The fact you’re able to keep your head in that type of situation is commendable. Continue to improve so you’ll never be forced to kill anyone that isn’t threatening the things you wish to protect.” She showed him a gentle and encouraging smile while Tsubaki began to laugh with a cheeky grin on her face.

“Hahaha, you’re not going to mention how you almost forced the entire party to be exiled from the Familia or how you initially wanted that dumb elf to pay 100,000,000V in reparations? I heard Tyche-sama had to beg on her hands and knees just to calm your anger!” Tsubaki was beside herself with laughter. Seeing Hephaestus pretend to act calm was very amusing to her.

Hephaestus blushed and gave a hateful look at Tsubaki who continued to laugh in spite of her reproachful gaze. Eventually, Hephaestus just sighed and recalled the events of the previous day in her mind. She had known something was wrong long before news came from the dungeon.

While she was in her workshop, she could feel Vahn’s heartbeat begin to accelerate rapidly. When she focused on it, she could feel his distressed state of mind and his unease. She knew from the connection they shared he was in danger, so Hephaestus immediately threw aside the metal she had been shaping and used a communication magic tool to immediately inform Tsubaki who then passed the word to the available high-level adventurers.

Hephaestus then spent the next several hours in a state of duress. She even nursed the thought of trying to enter the dungeon herself, since she believed she would be able to track Vahn using their connection. She showed up to meet with the group led by Tsubaki and was prevented from entering by the Guild personnel that had arrived to investigate.

After arguing with the officials for a while, Hephaestus began to grow restless but managed to keep her cool since Vahn’s heart had stabilized a while back. However, even though it had returned to normal, there was a point where his heart had been beating so rapidly she thought it was going to explode within her soul. Immediately after that, the beating nearly stopped and Hephaestus almost collapsed before noticing it continued to beat with a gentle, but steady rhythm. After that, it was a roller-coaster for her which is what led Hephaestus to arrive outside the entrance to the dungeon.

While the group was still arguing with the Guild staff, a party of five adventurers came rushing out of the dungeon. Seeing the Guild personnel, they began to inform them of what had happened in the dungeon. Though Hephaestus ignored it at first, the moment she heard them mention a boy named ‘Vahn’ she immediately took action only to be beaten in response by Tsubaki.

Tsubaki forced the group to recount the story from start to finish and nearly went ballistic after hearing that the group tried to attack Vahn. Hephaestus had also been listening and looked at the party of five with a cold expression. After she found out what Familia they belonged to, she split the rescue party in half before dragging the cowering adventurers straight to the residence of the Goddess Tyche. The rest was very similar to what Tsubaki described…it wasn’t until Tyche made a vow that Hephaestus finally calmed her anger.

Only allowed on

“Thank you Hephaestus. You got angry on my behalf…” Hephaestus was broken from her reverie by Vahn, who had whispered his thanks to her yet again. She could see he was genuinely grateful, so she let go of the anger that still remained in her heart and put on her best smile. “I told you I would protect you Vahn. I mean to keep my word.”

After a few short exchanges, Lili began serving everyone lunch. The group continued chatting about various things including the Miach familia and the ongoing investigation. Hephaestus also had an interest in finding out who the two were, so she pressured the Guild alongside Miach to force them to investigate quickly. Since the Guild had a database of all the recorded Familia and their members, it wouldn’t be long before they were able to identify the culprits.

The conversation continued before Tsubaki brought up the topic she had originally intended to speak about. “Pretty soon you’ll be getting an alias Vahn. Your fame will likely spread after people find out about all the things you’ve done recently. Make sure you’re working hard so some shady characters don’t use you to make a name for themselves!”

Vahn was surprised to hear he would be getting an alias but didn’t mind much since he had long ago reached Level 2. Hephaestus continued the topic and gave her own news. “Tsubaki is right. It’s nearly the time for the Denatus where all the gods in the area gather to discuss various matters. One of the topics that are often raised includes the naming of any adventurers that have reached level 2 or higher. I will be attending for a few days, and when I return I’ll inform you about their decision. Try not to get your hopes up though…not all the alias’ assigned to Level 2 adventurers are very flattering.”

Hearing her explanation, Vahn nodded his head in understanding. He remembered Hestia working hard to get a ‘normal’ alias for Bell when he had reached level 2. Hopefully his wasn’t too strange though, even if it was, Vahn figured he could just work hard for the next three months to obtain level 3 and get a new one…

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Tsubaki chimed in, “Lili, you need to work hard as well. You’re already qualified to reach level 2, so you’ll have three months to improve your foundation before the next Denatus. Once you obtain your alias is when your journey as an adventurer officially begins. You’ll be able to accept missions from the Guild and people will even come to you depending on your reputation.” Tsubaki was very familiar with the influence of an alias. Even her current nickname, ‘Cyclops’, had a big impact on how people saw her. She still wanted to punch the fool that came up with the idea…

After lunch, Hephaestus had to leave to attend to other matters. Before she left though, she hesitated before turning back and embracing Vahn. Though he was surprised, Vahn accepted Hephaestus’s embrace and even reciprocated with his own. He could see her aura had been in disorder since she laid eyes on him earlier. She had likely been worried about him yesterday, and Vahn wanted to help alleviate her feelings of unrest.

Hephaestus gently whispered into his ear, “Don’t go dying in someplace I can’t reach you…”. Vahn nodded, even though his face was currently near her breasts. He put strength into his arms and returned a whisper of his own. “I promise…I will become the strongest so you never have to worry about me again.”

Hephaestus laughed slightly after hearing his words. She put more strength into her embrace and pulled his face closer to her own. “I worry about you because I want to. Even if you become the strongest in the entire world, my heart will only be at ease when you are safe within my sight.”

After the extended embrace, the two parted ways. Vahn continued staring at the back of Hephaestus as a conviction began to take root in his heart. He gripped his fists and headed towards the training area while Tsubaki, who had been watching the situation with interest, shook her head without stopping him. Lili stared at Vahn’s back, lost in thought until he had nearly disappeared. Seeing his body turn the corner, she too headed towards the courtyard.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Come back…with your shield, or on it.’, ‘Two Cyclops and a Hero’, ‘Tyche did nothing wrong!’)

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