Vahn entered into the dining room and noticed nobody was there. As he had expected everyone to be eating breakfast together, he was a bit confused seeing the room empty. After straining his ears, he could hear sound coming from the front of the house towards the courtyard. Curious, Vahn decided to investigate to see what was going on.
Entering the room where Tsubaki always welcomed her clients, Vahn noticed several people other than Tsubaki, Naaza, and Lili. Though he had never seen them before in the real world, Vahn was easily able to identify the visitors. They were the members of the Loki Familia or, more specifically, Gareth, Ais, Riveria, Tiona, and Lefiya. Vahn was surprised to see them here but was more interested in knowing where Hephaestus had gone to.
“Tsubaki, where did Hephae-“
“Are you the Vulcan, Vahn Mason?” Before Vahn could finish, he was interrupted by the lively shout of a young girl. As he had entered the room, the eyes of everyone had been drawn to him, including Tiona Hiryute. The moment she saw Vahn, she was easily able to recognize him based on the information she had obtained. She quickly moved towards him and looked him in the face as she asked her question.
Vahn was surprised to see how excited she was, so he just nodded his head before looking towards the smiling Tsubaki. She was a lot calmer around guests but Vahn could see she was laughing in her mind.
Seeing that he had nodded, Tiona smiled widely and introduced herself. “Hello, it’s nice to meet you~ I’m Tiona Hiryute, the adventurer who goes by the alias ‘Amazon’. After I heard the stories, I really wanted to meet the person everyone called a ‘hero’! Let’s be friends from now on.”
Vahn took a breath before introducing himself in turn. He could see her aura was a very vibrant yellow and seemed to be dancing around excitedly. Since she seemed to be really excited to meet him, he didn’t want to leave a bad impression. “Hello Tiona, I’m Vahn Mason. It’s nice to meet you.”
Hearing Vahn introduction, Tiona was very pleased as she continued to inspect his body. He was smaller than she expected, even shorter than she was, though, according to the rumors they should be around the same age. She noticed that his small frame was very well built and seemed to hide a powerful energy that made her instincts tingle with excitement.
“I’m really interested in hearing your stories Vahn. I heard you saved a damsel in distress…” Tiona looked towards the two girls that were giving her somewhat hostile looks. “Was it one of them? Or maybe even both!?” Seeing how the girls were reacting, Tiona saw they both had a natural draw towards Vahn.
“Tiona, that’s enough. We’re here on business, so find time to talk later.” A taciturn voice cut in before Tiona was able to speak further. Vahn noticed it was the green haired elf, Riveria. He was surprised at how remarkably flawless her face was, but it was a shame she seemed to lack the expressiveness to display it properly.
Tiona was dejected a bit but turned to Vahn before rejoining the group. “Hey, Vahn lets meet up sometime, okay? Vahn nodded and Tiona stood with the rest of her group. She looked towards Ais before whispering something into her ear. Whatever she said seemed to catch the interest of the beautiful doll-like girl as, for the first time since her arrival, her expressionless face changed somewhat.
Ais walked towards Vahn while Gareth and Rivera both let out sighs while glaring towards Tiona who was laughing cheekily. Lefiya seemed to be concerned with Ais as she watched her approach the handsome young boy. She frowned somewhat, but there wasn’t any hatred in her aura.
“You are strong?” Ais asked very frankly the moment she was directly before Vahn. Vahn thought about the question and was surprised to realize he didn’t have an answer. Though he had made a lot of progress since he arrived in this world, he was still nowhere near the level of people like Tsubaki. Vahn also knew that the young and frail looking girl before him was also much stronger than he was.
Vahn shook his head, causing Ais to frown slightly. “I am not strong…but I will become the strongest,” Vahn said the words with conviction which caused the expressions of the older generation to change. They all smiled and seemed to recognize the power of the conviction behind his words. Ais too had noticed he was serious, so after a few seconds of consideration, she spoke again.
“Why?” Ais had a powerful desire for strength, so she was very interested to know why other people could become stronger. Vahn knew what she was asking, even though she didn’t speak much. Though he hadn’t completed the series and didn’t know the full story, he knew she had a fierce hatred for monsters and wanted to avenge her mother.
Vahn looked around at everyone in the room. Ais followed his eyes as they rested on each person, including those of her own Familia. Eventually, Vahn’s eyes rested on Ais herself and she matched his gaze with her own. “To protect those I care about…and to alleviate their concerns for my safety. I want to become strong enough to alter my fate and clear a path for others to follow behind without fear for the future.”
Everyone in the room smiled, even the taciturn elf Riveria. Ais considered Vahn’s words before nodding and giving him her opinion. “You are strong.” With those parting words, Ais returned to the Loki group and stood between Tiona and Lefiya. Tiona seemed pleased by Ais’s statement, but Lefiya showed a somewhat vexed expression as she periodically glanced towards Vahn.
The next half hour was spent with Gareth discussing gear specifications with Tsubaki. She was taking notes and even pulled out a measuring tape to record Gareth’s proportions. “Your body hasn’t changed much since the last visit, except for this-” Tsubaki patted Gareth’s stomach and he exhaled through his nose in disapproval.
“Hasn’t been much going on lately. It’s been nearly half a year since the last expedition.” Gareth was a stout middle-aged dwarf with brown hair. He was almost the same height as Vahn, but his figure was solid as a mountain. He specialized in defense but possessed the incredible physical strength that was a characteristic of his species.
Tsubaki continued taking notes before moving on to the requests of everyone else. Ais had been breaking all of her weapons since obtaining level 5 and had become a nightmare for all the veteran blacksmiths within the City. She requested Tsubaki to forge her a sword that was both durable but resistant enough to withstand her blows. Tsubaki let out an exasperated sigh as she wrote down the specifications.
After everyone had placed their orders, Tsubaki gave them an invoice for 273,000,000V. Vahn, Lili, and Naaza were all shocked to see the number, but everyone in the Loki Familia remained unperturbed. As they were predominately first-class adventurers, it wasn’t uncommon for them to spend several tens-of-millions of Valis on a single piece of equipment. They even immediately produced the required funds, as it was common to pay someone of Tsubaki’s repute up-front for private contracts.
Vahn was blown away by the disparity between what he considered common-sense and what was shown by the members of the Loki Familia. He began to worry about his own lack of strength since even Lefiya, who seemed to possess almost no combat potential, had recently become Level 3. Everyone else in the group was Level 4 or higher, including Ais who was a year younger than he was…
As the group was preparing to leave, Vahn spoke out to stop them. “Wait. I have a request.” Seeing them stop and look at him curiously, Vahn continued, “I would like the chance to spar with each of you…I know it may be rude, but I’d like to know how I compare against first-class Adventurers other than Tsubaki.”
Immediately after his words came to a stop, both Ais and Tiona’s eyes lit up as they looked towards Riveria with pleading gazes. Riveria put her palm to her forehead as she released an exasperated sigh. She didn’t think the young boy was so hot-blooded, and now that he spoke those words there was no way to stop the two battle maniacs. “Fine, but it will only be Tiona and Ais. Lefiya isn’t specialized in close-combat, and Gareth and I aren’t a good metric to measure yourself against due to our specializations.”
“Aha, alright! This is going to be great!” Tiona was in high spirits the moment Riveria gave her permission. Ais simply nodded her head with an ‘Un’, but Vahn could see the fighting spirit ignited in her eyes.
Tsubaki expected this to happen and didn’t show any surprise on her face. She looked towards the two girls behind her and whispered, “Looks like you girls might have some competition in the future. Better work hard~” She then laughed after seeing their shocked faces and led the way towards the training grounds.
As Tiona was the weaker of the two, she was the first up to fight Vahn. They both took a distance of 10m away from each other and assumed their stances. Vahn got into a low stance with his left hand raised while holding his right fist close to his body. He already expected Tiona to be much faster and stronger than he was, so he would have to be serious from the get-go. Tiona noticed his stance and entered what looked like a loose sumo stance with both palms facing toward Vahn like she intended to grab him.
Before Tsubaki signaled the start of the fight, she looked towards Vahn and drew his attention. “Vahn, go ahead and go all-out. If you hold anything back you’ll end up regretting it, and the Hephaestus Familia has always had good relations with the Loki Familia.” Hearing her words, Vahn nodded while Tiona seemed to get excited after hearing he would be going ‘all-out’ against her.
Vahn focused his mind and activated his [Will of the Emperor]. The domain spread to encompass the entire area, shocking the entire Loki Familia when it overlapped with their position. Rivera had a curious expression as she tried sensing the effects of the field. She noticed it was very similar to a god’s divinity and seemed to loosely affect the mana in the atmosphere…
“This boy will be very powerful one day…” Gareth spoke in a quiet voice as he said the words just loud enough for Riveria to hear. She nodded before saying, “Yes, we should try to build good relations with him in the future. If he can get to Level 3, we should scout him for the next expedition.” They both looked into each other’s eyes and understood that Tsubaki was having Vahn show off to leave an impression on them.
Vahn began condensing his domain into a second layer that spread 5m around his body. Tiona had been waiting for him to complete his preparations, even though only a few seconds had passed. The pressure she felt from the domain made her blood boil and she was itching for the fight to begin. Vahn was even better than she expected, and even though he was only Level 2 he made her heart beat throb anticipation.
Ais was also watching from the side and subconsciously drew her sword. She too wanted to jump in and fight the mysterious boy that seemed to possess a strange and boundless potential.
Tensions began to increase as Tsubaki raised her hand before taking a deep breath. Looking at both Tiona and Vahn, they gave slight nods indicating they were ready so she dropped her hand and shouted. “Begin!”
The moment her voice sounded, the two immediately set into action and the first fight between Vahn and the Loki Familia began.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Cliff-sama Descends’, ‘Two girls, One guy’, ‘Naaza and Lili’s premonition’, ‘Gareth and Riveria’s Frustration’, ‘Lefiya’s Vexation’, ‘Where did Hephaestus go?’)