Chapter 692: Gratitude : Choices

Making his way out of the orb, Vahn quickly found his way to Tsubaki’s side. Fortunately, after waking up early in the morning, Tsubaki noticed that the crest on her abdomen had started glowing. Taking this as a sign that her daughter was due, she had already moved to one of the delivery rooms near the maternity ward. By the time Vahn reached her, she was already laying down with her legs propped up, waiting for his arrival with a light layer of sweat present on her healthy brown skin. The moment she saw him, Tsubaki smiled with a very soft and loving look in her eyes, saying, “Vahn…it looks like Sakuya can’t wait any longer…hahahaha…”

Seeing Tsubaki in high spirits, Vahn relaxed a little bit, smiling to her in return as he came to her side and said, “Leave it to me…” After placing a kiss on her brow, Vahn stroked Tsubaki’s cheek for a brief moment before getting himself ready for the delivery. After washing his hands, he used an unnamed spell to sanitize them before proceeding to position himself near Tsubaki’s feet. Juno, as had always been the case until this point, was watching at the side. During the long nine-hour delivery, she gave bits and pieces of advice to help guide him along. However, even if she hadn’t been there, Juno, along with Epona, believed that Vahn would have handled things just fine.

Though it had taken a long time, Tsubaki’s delivery was one of the smoothest any of them had ever seen, primarily as a result of the fertility crest located on her lower abdomen. Vahn had seen it glowing with a vibrant pink coloration throughout the entire process while a form of energy he didn’t fully understand ‘assisted’ in the delivery process. This was very fortunate since, when he had first inspected Sakuya within Tsubaki’s womb, she was at a slightly odd angle. Under the guidance of the unknown energy, however, Sakuya was repositioned properly and slowly eased out of Tsubaki’s body without any real complications.

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Vahn, holding his youngest daughter in his arms, once again felt the same overwhelming sense of happiness that had accompanied all the previous births. She was a very healthy young baby with brown skin, much like Tsubaki’s but slightly fairer in complexion. Though sparse, there were tufts of black hair growing near the top of her head and, while her skin was a bit wrinkly, Vahn thought she was a very cute baby. Unfortunately, he didn’t have too much time to look over her himself as Tsubaki, seeming to have recovered some of her energy, impatiently said, “Give me my baby…I want to see her…Vahn…!”

Having just handed Sakuya to Juno, Vahn used a combination of his old cleaning magic with his unnamed sanitization magic to remove some of the fluids from his hands. To ease Tsubaki’s anxiety, he came to her side, holding her hand firmly between his as he softly said, “Shhhh…it’s going to be fine, Tsubaki. She is perfectly healthy…” As if to emphasize this face, a very loud crying sound began to echo within the delivery room. Hearing this, it was almost like all the tension in Tsubaki’s body had been released, accompanied by a very emotional sigh. Tears had long started building up in her eyes and, by the time Juno brought Sakuya over to her, Tsubaki was almost bawling. She held the small bundle in her arms, not minding in the least that Sakuya was practically screaming her lungs out.

Tsubaki, having a great deal of stamina and willpower, didn’t end up sleeping for several hours after the birth, even after delivering the placenta. Vahn helped ease her burdens while accelerating her body’s natural healing processes all while Tsubaki cuddled with her new daughter. During the breastfeeding, which finally calmed the screaming infant down, Tsubaki had been very quiet as tears continued falling from her face. Having given up on having children of her own in the past, Tsubaki felt very emotional now that she was face to face with her own daughter. If she could, Tsubaki would have punched her past self in the face for being foolish enough to have ‘given up’ on creating something so beautiful…

For several hours, Vahn just stayed at Tsubaki’s side, bringing her as much comfort as he could while observing the mother-daughter pair with the most loving expression he could manage. During this period, they talked a great deal about the past, present, and future, both related to themselves and the hopes they had for Sakuya herself. Many of the other girls came by to visit, interested to see the new life that had been introduced into the Manor. However, sensing the atmosphere in the delivery room, few people stayed for long and, after seeing the healthy baby in Tsubaki’s arms, returned to the larger group to prepare for the coming celebration.

Finally feeling the exhaustion catching up to her, Tsubaki handed Sakuya over to Vahn, saying in a quiet voice that almost sounded like a whimper, “Thank you, Vahn…truly. I don’t know how else to express what I’m feeling right now…just…thank you so much…” Though she had cried a lot earlier, tears started pooling in Tsubaki’s eyes once again. Vahn, keeping the same soft and loving smile on his face, leaned down and kissed Tsubaki’s forehead once again before saying, “Silly girl…after giving me a beautiful daughter like this, it should be me thanking you…however, I’ll compromise and tell you something else instead…” Briefly staring at Sakuya, letting the tension build a little, Vahn’s face transitioned into an even larger smile as he said in a firm and decisive manner, “Tsubaki, I love you. From now on, let’s do our best to be good parents…together.”

Tsubaki made a face that bordered on anguish and gratitude, nearly bursting out laughing while crying at the same time. The two contrasting sounds mixed together in a manner that made Vahn’s heart melt and, if not for the fact he was already holding Sakuya, he would have tightly embraced the emotional new mother. Fortunately, Hestia had been silently waiting at the side with Fenrir, both quietly observing everything that had been happening over the last few hours. Understanding Vahn’s intent, Hestia had come to his side, taking Sakuya safely into her embrace so that Vahn and Tsubaki could share a moment together.

Hestia moved to the side, laying Sakuya in the crib while alternating her eyes between the beautiful newborn and the emotional scene taking place between Vahn and Tsubaki. Unlike in the past, where Hestia had been full of insecurities about her own feelings of love, she now felt truly blessed to have descended from Heaven during this period of time. Even though she didn’t have a child of her own, Hestia felt like all the children within the Manor were a part of her family and, witnessing the amount of love shared between everyone, Hestia believed she had found the purpose she had been seeking for a very long period of time. No matter what anyone tried to do, she would protect this place with all of her power…

Several hundred kilometers north of Orario, on the outskirts of a small village called Shalia, an elderly man sat on a large tree stump. After wiping the sweat from his brow, he picked up the rather weathered looking hoe at his side while a young boy with white hair and peculiar red eyes ran over carrying a wooden canteen. With a bright smile on his face, almost as if it was contending against the vibrancy of the sun, the boy shouted, “Grandpa! Here, I brought you some water.” Releasing a hearty laugh, the elderly man accepted the canteen and said, “Thank you, Bell, my boy. You’re always so kind to this old man, hahahaha~.” Bell, beaming in response to his Grandpa’s words, suddenly became very confused with the latter suddenly spat out the water he had been drinking.

With a fretful and concerned expression on his face, Bell began patting his Grandpa’s back as he asked, “Grandpa, what’s wrong? Was there a bug in the water!?” The elderly man shook his head, coughing a few time to clear the fluid from his lungs while simultaneously using his divine power to ease the discomfort. This man was none other than Zeus, currently in the guise of a humble farmer that lived with his grandson, Bell Cranel, on the edge of the village. They generally kept to themselves and, though Bell was a very personable boy, his shy and skittish nature had ensured he had no real friends. Of course, Zeus had actually made sure to pick a village that had just recovered from a famine so there weren’t any children Bell’s age from the start…

After clearing the fluid from his lungs, Zeus smiled towards Bell and laughed, saying, “It’s nothing, my boy, just got a little water down the wrong pipe. Here, be a good lad and go fetch me some more water, will you?” Bell, still showing concern on his face, accepted the canteen and started running towards the river located more than 2km away. Zeus watched him run off with a smile, feeling gratified that his grandson was such a kindhearted boy. However, once Bell had gotten down to the bottom of the nearby hill, the soft expression on Zeus’ face melted away. Within the crystal clear blue skies, where only a few wispy white clouds had been previously, black storm clouds began to brew.

Turning his back towards the direction Bell had gone, Zeus made his way over to the small single bedroom house that he had shared with Bell over the last few years. There was a small well nearby but, as a result of his training, Bell was required to get all of their water from the river. Zeus made his way over, pulling up the bucket of water to wet his parched throat while looking up at the storm clouds overhead, a fierce glint in his sky-blue eyes that crackled with indiscernible bolts of electricity. After having his fill, he allowed the bucket to fall back into the well, wiping his mouth that now had a large grin as he mumbled, “I wonder which god is taking action to bring about such a large shift in the tides of destiny…well, no matter. As long as the flow of fate around the boy remains unchanged, everything should turn out well…”

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Sitting down to wait for Bell’s arrival, Zeus began contemplating the best course of action to take since, as of late, there had been a lot of unexpected changes in the world. Most of these events revolved around the young ‘hero’, Vahn Mason, and, trusting in his instincts, Zeus believed this also had something to do with the somewhat troublesome boy. Remembering the report from Odin, Zeus wondered if he should try to approach Vahn in the future to test his character. If he was a perceptive and good-natured as Odin claimed, Zeus believed Vahn could be a good mentor to help prop up Bell in the future. It helped that Vahn surrounded himself with numerous women since, even if Bell couldn’t meet his expectations, there was a chance his children might inherit his mutation. It was for this reason that he had tried to not only cultivate Bell as a ‘Hero’, but also emphasized the importance of saving damsels in distress and building a harem for himself in the future. Of course, as Bell was still young, Zeus had disguised things so that Bell was more focused on making a ‘family’ than actually gathering girls for the purposes of reproduction…

After waiting for several minutes, Zeus could see Bell beginning his return trip, breathing heavily as his rather frail frame carried him forward. The one thing Zeus didn’t understand was, even though Bell had such a powerful soul, his body itself wasn’t very masculine. He also didn’t possess any of the raw talent seen in most heroes and, even when Zeus had lured Bell into a situation where the boy’s life was endangered by a Goblin, the latter had seized up instead of taking to the fight. Zeus had stepped in to save him at the last moment, fortunately inspiring the boy to begin training in earnest after the fact. Unfortunately, even after nearly two years of guidance, Bell hadn’t made much progress and, if not for the fact that the flow of fate around his grandson had actually gotten stronger, Zeus would have believed he made an error in judgment.

By now, the clouds overhead had turned into a powerful thunderstorm and heavy raindrops began to fall onto the earth below. Zeus stared up unblinkingly towards the storm and contemplated if the action he was thinking about taking was the correct one. Things were changing very quickly within the world right now and it may be prudent to set Bell on his journey sooner, rather than later. Zeus had wanted to wait until the boy reached adulthood in a little over a year but, considering the tensions between all the countries, it may be difficult for Bell to get a good foothold in the City if he waited too long. Sending him into the thick of things while there was so much political turmoil could end up getting Bell killed or, depending on the circumstances, have him exploited for someone else’s personal gain…

Pulling out a strange shimmering piece of parchment, Zeus wrote down a few words before the parchment folded itself into the shape of a bird. Releasing it into the sky, Zeus watched it fly away as he wondered what the answer would be. He was sending a message to Odin, requesting that he get Frigg and those three troublesome girls to divine the future once again. It was unlikely he would get a clear answer, as those bearing a powerful fate seemed to be impossible to predict, but it would at least make his decision easier. The last time he had divined Bell’s future, the young boy had become a powerful Hero surrounded by a large entourage of beautiful women. Unless something happened to change Bell’s own mentality, this was still very likely to be how things turned out. After all, with such a powerful flow of fate surrounding him, Bell would almost undoubtedly reach the goals he had set for himself.

Though completely exhausted, Bell managed to reach the porch of their small house, covered in sweat while shivering from the cold rain that had completely soaked through his body. This far north, only a few hundred kilometers away from the Northern Tundra, the rain could nearly reach freezing temperatures. There were also several pieces of ice raining from the sky, called hail, many of which had pelted the frail-looking youth during his return trip. Even so, Bell had a smile on his face and showed clear concern in his expression as he handed over the canteen and said, “Here you go, Grandpa…sorry it took so long…haaaaaa…” Zeus simply smiled in return, denying the offered canteen as he said, “I’m fine, my boy, please, have some water for yourself. Since its raining, I’ll make an exception and let you draw water from the well for your bath.”

Bell, though it didn’t show on his face, had been lamenting the several trips it would have taken to draw water for his bath. With how cold the rain was, it was necessary to warm up his body and, running back and forth to get the water, would have taken him more than an hour. Thus, with a smile that seemed to make the clouds overhead dim slightly, Bell shouted, “Thank you, Grandpa! You’re the best!” Drinking some of the fresh river water, Bell spent a few minutes catching his breath before taking the pail and filling up the large cauldron-like tub in the shed next to their small cottage. Zeus had already moved over, tending to a small fire underneath the cauldron that would warm up the water that had been added. To prevent the user from burning themselves, there was a thick wooden platform on the inside of the cauldron that kept them from touching the scaling hot base.

Once he had completely filled up the bath, Bell began to take off his water-logged clothing before carefully hanging it up to dry. They lived a very frugal existence so Bell only had a total of four tunics, a single pair of pants, two pairs of shorts, and some very worn-down boxers that he didn’t wear often. Zeus watched as the boy carefully arranged his ragged clothing, making sure it would be able to dry properly to be used the next day. However, after seeing Bell’s frail, almost feminine figure, Zeus couldn’t help but let out a small sigh. His grandson was only around 150cm tall at this point and, though he made sure the boy had plenty of protein in his diet, weighted a meager 42kg. With his fair complexion and slender body, the boy looked more like a young girl from behind than anything remotely resembling a man. However, after stripping off his boxers and turning around, Zeus couldn’t help but grin and comment under his breath, “That’s my grandson…”

After leaving Bell behind, even though the boy had offered to let him take a bath first so that he could wash his back, Zeus went out into the now torrential storm. It was almost like a typhoon had unexpected appeared in the area, leaving most of the nearby farmers seeking shelter inside their homes. At this point, Zeus had completely changed his appearance from a humble farmer into that of his true form, one of the few gods that possessed a Divinity related to Thunder, Lightning, and the Sky itself. He was one of the few second generation gods that possessed such powerful Divinities since Ouranos, possessing the ‘primary’ Divinity of the Sky, was still alive.

Waiting in the middle of a field, letting the cold rain beat down against his powerful looking body, Zeus continued to stare towards the sky until three figures appeared from within the clouds. Moving like the lightning shrouding their bodies, they all landed heavily on the ground in front of him, kicking up a large volume of dirt and grass while a loud thunderclap sounded throughout the area. Once the shockwave faded away, three beautiful women with off-white hair that had undertones of blue in them stood up. Each held ornate halberds in their hands and wore a dark-blue armor that glimmered with a blue hue, accented by silvers and golds along the edges. Their most notable feature, however, was the dark-grey wings that protruded from their backs, glimmering with a metallic light while small arcs of electricity danced between the feathers. These were none other than the prided Valkyries, considered to be amongst the most powerful races in the mortal world.

With a somewhat lecherous grin on his face, Zeus laughed and said, “Truly, Odin is blessed to have such fine daughters. What say you, Róta, care to tend to these tired old bones for a change?” The leading woman, whose armor was adorned with gold, snorted through her nose with a look of profound distaste in her expression. Ignoring his invitation, she coldly stated, “Zeus-sama, the Allfather has sent us to inform you about the inquiry you had made. Lady Frigg and Lady Urd had looked into the future of this boy, Bell Cranel…” From within a pouch at her hip, Róta pulled out a sealed scroll and handed it over to Zeus. She and her sisters waited patiently for him to open it up and read the contents, watching with stoic expressions as the powerful god’s expression changed several times.

Reading the contents of the scroll, Zeus’ hands trembled slightly since, according to Frigg’s and Urd’s findings, Bell was no longer surrounded by women. Fortunately, he seemed much stronger than previous predictions, making Zeus feel a small amount of relief. While Bell had always been very powerful in the future, it wasn’t at the level where he would have ever been a match for monsters like Heracles and Gilgamesh. Fortunately, he seemed to have a way with women, unlike many of the more arrogant and talented Heroes, so there had been many supporters at his side. Zeus even anticipated that Helen and Jeanne would have stood with Bell, making up for what the boy lacked. Now, however, this didn’t seem necessary…at least until he read the last few lines within the message.

Urd’s prediction of Bell showed the boy fighting directly against Theseus, standing within the ruins of the once proud City of Heroes. She predicted, much to Zeus’ shock, that Bell may one day bring about the destruction of all they had worked tirelessly to obtain. There was even a line where Odin suggested potentially ‘culling’ the boy to prevent future problems. However, as fate around such individuals as Bell was constantly changing, it was only a suggestion and the final decision would be left to Zeus. When he read this, Zeus’ eyes had trails of lightning radiating from their center but he still fought to retain his calm. Odin was, after all, a very wise counsel that had shared with him a lot of wisdom over the eons. Zeus had a lot of trust in the god known as the Allfather and, seeing the very last line in the message, couldn’t help but smile slightly as he passed it back over to Róta.

Róta, receiving the message back, frowned slightly as she began reading it over with a look of disbelief on her face. In truth, unlike when Zeus was reading it, there were only a few lines visible for her to read over. There was a very powerful enchantment attached to the scroll that protected the important information from prying eyes. Róta, having carries such messages hundreds of times, understood this very well so, seeing there were lines she could read, a small feeling of dread settled inside her heart. When she got to the line that caused Zeus to smile, she couldn’t help but sigh out in exasperation before matching the lascivious gaze of the elderly god. Her sisters showed very small signs of confusion on their proud and stoic faces but, after reading the letter themselves, released similar sighs. After each understood their ‘duty’, the proud Valkyrian women began undoing the clasps of their armor while Zeus watched with undisguised anticipation in his eyes…

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