As much as he would like to spend all his time with his children, Vahn found his schedule packed to the brim over the next few days. The opening of the School, which was being named the Sage Aldrnari School of Orario, had been scheduled two months from now. It coincided with the traditional end of the harvest season and was also when the Ganesha Familia held the bi-annual Monster Feria. Since people would already be in high spirits, it seemed like an opportune time to announce the School’s grand opening and, as a result of the timing, would ensure that each school session would always come to an end during one of Orario’s few holidays.
Vahn was currently sitting within a small cafe that had been booked for the purposes of interviewing each of the potential employees that would work at the School. It would have been inconvenient to have everyone come to the Manor itself so they had picked a place near the School’s location since that would be the ultimate destination for any potential staff. An advance notice had been given to everyone that would come by for an interview so Vahn just had to wait patiently within the room as people came in one after the other.
After going through nearly twenty potential staff, Vahn finally came across someone he recognized but hadn’t expected to see so soon. It was a middle-aged man with a kindly face filled with laugh lines that had been permanently embedded into his expression over the years. Unlike his curt and professional act when dealing with the other candidates, Vahn couldn’t help but rise to his feet with an amiable smile as he said, “Mr. House, it’s good to see you once again. How has your family been?” Gregory House was surprised that Vahn actually stood to greet him since, after their meetings in the past, they hadn’t interacted with each other much.
Hearing Vahn ask about his family, Gregory couldn’t help but smiled as he ‘complained’, “That little rascal is a troublesome one. Never seems to sit still for more than a few minutes and always disappears the moment you take yer eyes off ’em.” Though he said the words as if they were a negative thing, there was undisguised happiness on Gregory’s face as he talked about his grandson. Vahn gave him a curt nod in response while gesturing for him to sit in the chair opposite him. Unlike the previous interviews, he pulled out a fragrant alcohol and filled a glass for Gregory before pulling out a chair for himself and sitting down.
Gregory raised his brow out of confusion but accepted the offered drink without minding the difference in their status. When he tasted the contents of the glass, the middle-aged man’s face couldn’t help but express shock as he took several more sips before releasing a hot sigh. With an appreciative look, he raised the glass towards Vahn and said, “I heard you also have a few kids of yer own running around these days. Hard to believe that the young orphan boy from back then already has a big family of his own…time sure flies.” Vahn, sampling the contents of his own cup, nodded his head in response before saying, “Yeah, you wouldn’t even believe it, even if I told you…it seems like only yesterday that I came to the City…”
As he was speaking, the image of his children passed through his mind and Vahn honestly couldn’t believe how much had changed within the last twenty months. He also had several years worth of memories related to the use of Spirit-Time orbs so, though a seemingly insignificant amount of time had passed, Vahn had experienced a great deal during his stay within the City. Not only did he have seven children, he also had three beautiful and capable wives with a ‘host’ of other women at his back. Considering that there were several goddesses making up that number, Vahn knew he was truly blessed in how he had lived within this world.
Releasing a gruff laugh, Gregory had an amused look on his face as he said, “You have a mature look to you now, kid. Becoming a father seems to have helped you grow up quite a bit~.” Vahn nodded his head in turn, taking another swig of his drink before saying, “This job I’m offering, it might be my own bias, but I believe you’ll be suitable for it. I know you want to take care of your family so I’m willing to help move them into one of the residences in the Alliance territory to make your commute easier.” Gregory was surprised by the offer and, seeing how serious Vahn was, knew the latter wasn’t just playing around with him.
Before coming to this interview, Gregory had a few inhibitions since it required him to travel nearly an hour by carriage just to reach this cafe. With Vahn’s offer, however, these worries faded away very quickly and, as the position offered a very nice salary, Gregory couldn’t help but agree almost instantly. His impression of Vahn had always been positive and, seeing that the boy hadn’t let his status go to his head, Gregory felt like it would be a great benefit to his entire family by throwing their lot in with the Alliance. He was beginning to feel like his good deeds of the past were now starting to pay dividends, making the middle-aged man feel incredibly vindicated.
Vahn spent a few minutes talking over the specifics with Gregory before sending the kindly man off to give the good news to his family. In truth, Vahn intended to extend similar offers to everyone that passed the screening process, as the welfare of his employees and their families was very important, but he couldn’t help but be upfront with Gregory. This would require him to fill out some paperwork a bit earlier than expected, but it wasn’t a big issue in the long run. Vahn believed that kindness, though not accruing a debt, should always be repaid if the opportunity presented itself. There was already so much pain and sadness in the world so Vahn appreciated it when he met people that went out of their way to help others…
After his interview with Gregory, Vahn went through another batch of prospective employees, some of which hadn’t been in the original list that had been compiled. Loki had added quite a few people to the roster and, after discussing it, they also decided to allow people that lived in the area to interview. After all, even if they weren’t qualified to teach any advanced classes, they needed caretakers to look after the children living within the dorms. This resulting in a lot of mothers coming in, some even bringing along their young children because they had been unable to find a sitter.
Vahn, being a relatively new father, had a bit of weakness towards these mothers and continued doing interviews several hours passed the originally scheduled time. It wasn’t until he got a telepathic message from Syr that he finally decided to call it a day. There were still several people waiting patiently for their own but Vahn had already stayed much longer than the time that had been announced. Thus, while some wanted him to stick around and give them a chance to interview, nobody really stopped him, at least at first…
Not long after he left the cafe, Vahn was preparing to leap into the sky so that he could use [Koku Shundo] to hurry back to the Manor. However, just as he was about to do so, Vahn stopped in his tracks since he sensed an abnormally strong presence approaching him. The reason why he took notice of it, instead of simply moving on, was that the presence was very obviously trying to keep its power concealed. However, though the aura radiating from their body only appeared to match that of a Level 2, the density of the aura was almost at the level of someone like Finn or Gareth.
A few seconds after he had stopped, a mature looking beauty with blue-grey hair and dark blue eyes walked out of an alleyway, leading a small girl by hand. When she noticed him, the woman seemed surprised and worried as she said, “Ah, you’re Vahn Mason…did you already stop the interviews for the day…?” Even as she asked the question, the woman’s expression turned almost mournful as she released a sad sigh and pulled the young girl’s hand, saying, “Sorry to bother you. I’ll try to get here earlier tomorrow…”
The entire time the woman was speaking, Vahn’s expression hadn’t changed much and he was curious about what scheme she was concocting. Yes, while her act itself was almost flawless, Vahn had easily seen through it because of the nature of the woman’s aura. Even when she appeared to be saddened by the realization that he was done for the day, her aura hadn’t fluctuated at all. He could even tell that, though the young girl didn’t seem bothered by the woman’s guidance, they weren’t actually mother and daughter. It was possible she was just looking after the young girl for someone else but, given the fact that they had similar hair and eye colors, Vahn assumed the mature woman was currently disguising her true appearance.
By the time the woman reached the end of the alleyway, her pace had slowed down marginally and, just as she was preparing to turn the corner, she shot a look back at him. For a brief moment, her aura fluctuated slightly as a glimmer of intrigue crossed through her eyes. Vahn just gave a small smile in response before vanishing from sight, surprising the woman even further as her head inclined to the place he had leaped to before using [Koku Shundo]. She then pulled the little girl along before laughing lightly while the small girl began to tremble. Though the laugh sounded elegant and would be appreciated by most people, the young girl knew it was very ‘dangerous’ when the woman escorting her found something amusing. However, she didn’t say anything at all and just continued following along since it may not end well for her otherwise…
Though Vahn had initially moved away at a high speed, leaving the area behind until he was confident the woman wouldn’t be able to sense him, he eventually doubled back to trail her. After completely concealing his presence, Vahn changed his face and aura before donning a change of clothes and trying to track the woman. Seemingly unaware she was being followed, the woman continued at a leisurely pace while the young girl next to her struggled to keep up with her pitter-patter of steps. There was a big difference in their gaits and it annoyed Vahn more than a little that the mature woman wasn’t showing consideration for the young girl. However, as this frustration surfaced in his mind, the woman turned her head slightly.
Vahn continued forward, even after the woman had turned her head to look directly at him. He showed a startled and confused expression on his face while she scrutinized his face and body, now seeming to be in his late twenties and much taller than normal. As if he was flustered by the fact that a beauty was looking at him, Vahn asked, “Excuse me miss…is there something I can help you with…?” Since he had a lot of experience with such situations from the past, Vahn put on a nervous appearance before smiling towards the young girl and waving. She was currently hiding behind the long dress of the mature woman but, seeing his kind gesture, returned a wave as a small smile appeared on her adorable little face.
Even though he was confident he couldn’t be seen through by her, the woman suddenly said, “That is quite the transformation ability. I had heard the rumors, but seeing it personally…I must say, I’m very impressed~.” Vahn put on the most confused look he could manage, made easier by the fact that he was genuinely confused about how she could see through him. However, she seemed to misunderstand and believed he was still putting on an act so, after letting go of the young girl’s hand, the woman stepped forward as a powerful killing intent radiated from her body. If it were in the past, Vahn would have tried to dodge and potentially issue a counterattack. However, believing this was an opportunity to actually fool her, he instead stumbled with a terrified and confused expression on his face.
Stopping her knife-hand strike just a centimeter away from his eye, the woman seemed to be genuinely surprised that he hadn’t made any efforts to dodge. Her perception was very high and she noticed that his muscles, other than seizing up, made no efforts to evade her attack. It was almost like he wasn’t seven aware of it at all and, judging by how his eyes widened after the fact, this seemed to be the case. However, even though the reality seemed to contradict her assumptions, the woman’s instincts told her this man was the same boy she had met previously. His appearance, smell, and aura had all changed but, trusting her instincts, she still believed this was Vahn. Thus, after pulling her hand away and seeing him sigh in relief, she then stepped forward once again and buried her fingers into his thigh without any hesitation.
At this point, Vahn could safely assume this woman was his enemy or, at the very least, someone unhinged enough to attack people based on her assumptions. However, he made no attempt to dodge the attack and, as he was currently in his pseudo-erebea state, allowed her to wound his leg without immediately healing the wound. Instead, he shouted out like a wounded animal while screaming, “What the hell are you doing!? Aaaargh, my leg…!” This time, even though her instincts were still telling her the man before her was undoubtedly Vahn, the woman finally began doubting herself. Vahn was known to be a very powerful Adventurer and, regardless of how skilled an actor they might be, people wouldn’t just let unknown enemies injure them. Even now, she could see him trying, and failing, to stymy the flow of blood while a crowd began to gather around them.
With a frown marring her previously ‘gentle’ face, the woman continued watching him for several seconds until it started to become troublesome with how many people were gathering. She could see that he was becoming very pale, the result of the heavy loss of blood after she tore his artery, and hadn’t made any efforts to heal the wound. It almost seemed like he was a normal man who she had attacked and, if things kept up like this, it wouldn’t be long before he bled out and died. The most annoying thing, however, was the fact that she still believed this man was Vahn, even though every one of her senses was telling her otherwise…
Suddenly, from high in the sky, beams of radiant light rained down onto the section of the street while a group of guards poured into the area from the surroundings. The woman shielded her eyes from the light with the same hand she had used to pierce Vahn’s leg. Seeing this, the guards pulled out their weapons and surrounded her while a womanly voice sounded out from the light source above, “You have disturbed the order of the City and attacked another citizen. Place your hands above your head and stand down until we can get to the bottom of this situation. If that man had wronged you in some way, we will deal with that when the time comes. You, hurry up and use a potion to stop the bleeding before he passes out. We need his testimony to make a fair judgment.”
As the voice faded, so too did the light. Without the radiant light shining down on them, everyone could see a majestic winged horse slowly descending from the sky with a rather heroic looking woman riding on its back. Since she was the only person possessing a Pegasi within the City, everyone immediately identified the rider as the goddess, Eirene. She quickly commanded the guards to action while the primary suspect, the mature woman with blood on her hands, continued to look at the man curled up on the ground. Just as some guards moved to restrain her, she grabbed the shivering girl next to her and, against anyone’s expectations, leaped towards the closest roof with such speed that it almost looked like she teleported. Her next movement carried enough force to shatter the tiles of the roof she had landed on while Eirene raised her sword and said, “Scoundrel! Don’t let her escape!”
The surrounding guards released a loud affirmation before giving chase while Eirene herself took to the sky to direct everyone from above. However, before she was able to get far, the man that seemed to have been on death’s door, suddenly stood up and said, “You won’t be able to catch up to her, Eirene. She is already far beyond the range any of the guards would be able to pursue her…” While he was speaking, Vahn resumed his normal appearance, stopping the words Eirene had been about to speak in her throat. She paused for several seconds while the majority of her guards disappeared, still giving chase as a result of her last order. Only a crowd of pedestrians remained along the perimeter they had previously established while a few of her guards looked toward Vahn with confusion.
Releasing a small sigh, Eirene stroked the blue mane of her Pegasus and urged it back to the ground before she leaped off and asked, “Mind explaining to me what just happened, Vahn? I can’t say I appreciate you making a scene like this and disturbing the public order…” Though she was giving him a light reprimand, Eirene had a look of concern on her face as she followed up by quietly asking, “Is your leg okay…?” Vahn smiled while gesturing with his hand, causing an invisible barrier to spread around them that prevented sounds from traveling while simultaneously obscuring their figure from onlookers. He then explained, “Sorry for troubling you, Eirene. That woman had some method to conceal her Level and had been lingering around the cafe where I was conducting interviews. I tried to follow her to discover her identity but…well, its as you can see…”
Eirene furrowed her brows slightly and was about to inquire further as a haughty voiced sounded out from behind her, “I was wondering why I felt so strange when we were flying through this area. It turns out my Master was the cause…” This voice came from the Pegasi standing nearby, Eirene’s mount and none other than the Silver Unicorn, Fatina, now named Fatina Pegasus through the use of his [Keeper of the Akashic Tome]. Vahn had found that Fatina was a name of power after researching some texts through the shop but, remembering that he wanted to give Eirene a flying mount, tacked on the name Pegasus to influence the outcome.
At first, Fatina had been hesitant about following an unknown master but, after meeting Eirene, it willingly became her mount. Unlike his other subordinate, it had no intention of letting Vahn ride it as he was neither a pure, a maiden, or a goddess. Vahn didn’t really mind that much and was just happy that the two seemed to get along well with each other, at least much better than Khaos and Loki did. Eirene’s nature had even started to rub off on Fatina a bit, though not enough to make them pleasant to talk with unless, of course, you were one of the ‘pure maidens’ it was fond of.
With a somewhat helpless expression on her face, Eirene turned to Fatina and said, “Fatina, you should be more polite towards Vahn. Weren’t you very happy when he allowed you to evolve into a Pegasi?” Fatina just snorted in response but didn’t say anything further that might cause offense. Both Vahn and Eirene just shook their heads slightly before the latter remembered her purpose and asked, “Do you have any leads on what she might have been up to? I can try to investigate…” Vahn raised his hand, causing Eirene to trail her words as he smiled and said, “She seems to be a very cautious and capable individual so I don’t think she will be easily traced. I can’t even sense any fluctuations left behind by her earlier movements and she probably has means to avoid detection if we ended up pursuing her…”
Eirene’s expression didn’t improve with his words so Vahn increased the strength of his ‘privacy’ barrier before reaching out and stroking her silky blue hair. This unexpected action caused Eirene’s face to blush slightly as she pulled away from his palm and mumbled, “Don’t do shameless things in public…” Releasing a small chuckle, Vahn went on to explain, “The next time she shows up, I’ll be able to capture her easily. This time around, I gave her the benefit of the doubt since she didn’t seem evil. However, the fact she left me to bleed out shows she doesn’t have any problem with killing innocents…” Vahn frowned when he thought about the woman’s reactions while she was watching him bleed to death. He could see the hesitation in her actions but, peering into her eyes, Vahn felt like she was still sure about his identity to the very end. It was very likely she had some form of Innate that allowed her to ascertain his identity, though it could have just been the ‘legendary’ women’s intuition…
Knowing Vahn was perfectly capable of making good on his words, Eirene gave a curt nod while staring at the hole in his trousers. All of the blood that had previously stained the black fabric was nowhere to be seen and, though he had bled out onto the cobblestone pavement earlier, there weren’t any signs remaining. Vahn, following her eyes, adopted a serious expression on his face that seemed to give Eirene the wrong impression as she waved her hands and said, “I wasn’t thinking anything dirty…” Vahn stalled for a moment when he heard her words, giving the stoic goddess a questioning look that caused her to fluster slightly and explain, “I was just worried that you still had an injury…”
Vahn chuckled lightly and, though she had avoided him earlier, reached out his hand and habitually stroked Eirene’s head. She furrowed her brows slightly and, just as before, moved away from his hand with a small look of blame on her flushed face. Vahn’s laughter increased in volume on the outside but his sub-process mind was still mulling over his earlier realization. Since he had allowed his regeneration to take effect, all of the blood he had lost earlier evaporated or returned to his body. This was an oversight on his part because, like the blood on his trousers, hands, and ground, it meant the blood on the woman’s hand would have also faded away…