Once all the girls had been taken out of the room, Vahn sat down in an adjacent room with Chloe, Haruhime, and Mikoto as two unknown girls sat across from him, both wearing thick and comfortable blankets he had given them. They had previously been chained to walls, held up by their wrists and left to hang limply without a single shred of clothing to cover their bodies. Lefiya had already healed their physical wounds but Vahn knew it would probably take a while for their emotional and psychological states to recover. Fortunately, it seemed like one of the women was mentally strong and seemed to care deeply for the girl who had originally requested to meet him.
The woman, who had introduced herself as Cassandra Ilion, had long dark hair and eyes that seemed simultaneously dark blue and also very pale at the same time. She had a thin, almost emaciated, figure with modest breasts and a strange posture that made her back arch slightly, even though she was slouching forward. The woman supporting her, Daphne Lauros, had burgundy hair, styled in a short, almost boyish style, and light yellow eyes. Unlike Cassandra, who had droopy and sad eyes, Daphne’s were sharp and angular, possessing a confident glimmer even though she had likely experienced great hardships. Though her figure was also very modest, she seemed like a strong girl at a glance, especially with how she appeared to be trying to protect the demure Cassandra to her right.
Once the introductions had completely, Cassandra, looking up with slightly glowing eyes, explained the reason why she had wanted to meet him. It wasn’t the first time Vahn had seen such a glow, as it was very similar to Ina’s, so he patiently listened as she said, “It may be difficult to believe…but I have the ability to see the future…” When Cassandra said this, her body tensed up and she even closed her eyes, almost as if she were waiting to be ridiculed. Seeing this, Vahn just blinked once before turning to Daphne with a questioning look before turning back to Cassandra and saying, “That is a powerful ability. I’m sorry you had to suffer at the hands of Apollo because of it…”
Opening her eyes, Cassandra had a face full of confusion as she asked, “You…believe me…?” Without any real thought on the matter, Vahn nodded his head and explained, “Sure. You wouldn’t be the first person I’ve met with such an ability, after all. The only real questions are, how does your ability manifest, and how accurate are the visions…?” For the first time since they had met, which hadn’t really been that long, Cassandra and Daphne both smiled as the former brought her hands together, as if she were praying, and said, “Thank you for believing me…”
After a small bout of crying, Cassandra eventually collected herself and said, “I don’t understand my own ability that well, but I’ve been having a lot of visions about you, Vahn. It was me who had warned Apollo about the eventual destruction of his Familia and it is also my fault that so many people had to suffer…” At this point, Daphne comfortingly grasped Cassandra’s shoulder, supporting the downtrodden girl who seemed to blame herself for everything that had happened. This was one of the pitfalls of having the ability of foresight, as it made people rationalize that everything they failed to prevent was somehow their responsibility…
Raising his hand, even though both girls flinched, Vahn began to pat their heads and diffused calming energy into their minds while using his [Grooming]. In a calm and soothing voice, he smiled and said, “One day, you will learn that these things are generally beyond your control. There are no absolute abilities and, even if you have the power of foresight, you should have noticed that the future is constantly changing. You cannot blame yourself in a situation where you were made into a victim, especially if that situation was something outside your control from the start…just the fact that you feel guilty about what had happened shows that you are not truly the one at fault. If you had the power, I’m certain you would have done everything you could to help them…right?”
Cassandra tightly gripped the blanket around her while even Daphne began to crinkle her nose slightly, moisture building in her eyes. In truth, they had actually tried, time and again, to oppose the decisions made by Apollo. Unfortunately, the contract he bound the members of his Familia to were almost inviolable, essentially making them slaves from the very moment they had been forced to join. Hearing someone tell them it wasn’t their fault, while comforting them at the same time, was a little overwhelming for the traumatized girls…especially since Vahn was very different from the men they had interacted with in the past…he was calm, gentle, and seemed to empathize with their plight…almost like he truly understood the pain they had experienced…
It took a little longer this time, but Cassandra managed to calm down enough to explain, “I had a vision where giant plant-like monsters were wreaking havoc within the City. In my vision, I saw you leading many of the girls that had come here to save us, fighting back against these monsters…” Vahn nodded his head, urging Cassandra to continue, leading her to hesitantly explain, “You must not kill those monsters within the city. If you do, the number of deaths that will come about, as a result, is unfathomable…I don’t know the details, but I’ve seen so many people dying right after the vision of you fighting against those monsters…please, you have to think of a way…please…I don’t want to see so many people dying…!”
Letting go of the blanket covering her body, Cassandra clung to Vahn’s hand with the expression of someone that had seen far too much tragedy in one lifetime. Considering that she was only around seventeen years old, while also possessing an almost Pure Light Affinity, it couldn’t have been easy for her to bear such a heavy burden, especially while suffering under the hands of Apollo. Though there wasn’t much strength in her grip, Cassandra still tightly grasped Vahn’s hand as if she were afraid that letting it go would be the end of everything.
Seeing the blue glimmer in her eyes, Vahn kept his calm and simply asked, “Tell me…can you see it right now…?” The moment his words fell, Vahn noticed that Cassandra’s look became distant, as though she were viewing something far beyond the perception of normal human beings. At the same time, Vahn ruminated over her words and wondered what could have happened for so much death to occur, even though the enemies shouldn’t have been that powerful. The most probably causes should be related to poison, disease, or curses…considering it was the fight that resulted in the deaths, Vahn figured it could potentially even be all three. If the monsters released some kind of chemical that could contaminate the air, or get into the water supply, it wasn’t that difficult to imagine a great many people dying. However, if that were the case, there were numerous countermeasures that could be implemented…
Cassandra’s distant look turned into one of confusion as she muttered an ‘Eh?’ while still lost in her vision. Through this, Vahn could confirm several things, including that Cassandra’s ability was actually very strong. As an experiment, Vahn ‘decided’ that he would burn the city down to quarantine it if things got out of hand faster than they could be contained. At the same time, Cassandra’s face became pale and Vahn immediately dashed the thought from his mind before she saw something truly terrifying. The only reason he could even harbor such thoughts is that he ‘knew’ what kind of person he could become if he stopped caring about the means and focused entirely on the results.
When the image of the city burning was instead replaced by a pristine city, where people were walking around with happy smiles on their faces, Cassandra released a heavy sigh of relief and slumped even further. Vahn suspected that her issues with posture were actually related to the ‘burdens’ that she had been bearing, weighing down her physical body along with her mind. He knew that Preasia would probably be able to help her, and most of the other girls, and planned to ask if she would provide therapy for them in the future. Having similar experiences, Preasia would undoubtedly be able to help all the girls that had become victims slowly move forward…
It seemed like it would take Cassandra a while to collect herself, so Vahn calmly stated, “I won’t put either of you into a dangerous situation, but I think you should consider joining one of the Alliance’s Familia. I know some people that will be able to help you and, as long as you are within the Alliance’s territory, we can protect you. This will also allow you to inform me if there is something in a vision you think could be important. My dream is to create a world where people can be happy, so your gift will be very helpful…though, even if you choose not to use it, I will never give up trying to make the world a better place.” To punctuate his words, Vahn gave the most heartfelt smile he could manage, hearing notifications within his mind informing him that his Affection with both girls had increased marginally.
Cassandra seemed more than willing but, before she could agree, Daphne suddenly asked in a stern tone, “What happened to Apollo…?” Without missing a beat, Vahn plainly stated, “He used his Divinity to try and kill me, taking the life of his own Captain in the process. At this point, I imagine he is in Heaven raging about in his temple…” Daphne’s sharp eyes widened slightly as she asked with an incredulous tone, “You…survived against a god burning his Divinity…!?” To this, Vahn just laughed in a light-hearted manner and explained, “You’ll understand later, but I’m not so easily burned, Divinity or not. Just consider it an unfortunate matchup for Apollo that will remove him from the mortal world for a good hundred years, at the earliest.”
Hearing this, it was Daphne’s turn to release a sigh of relief before she nodded her head and said, “Cassandra is my best friend, and I’ve promised to protect her as best I can. I’ll follow her wherever she chooses to go. Thanks for saving us, by the way…” Vahn was a little surprised by how calm and collected Daphne was, even though her appearance made her seem like a bit of a hot head. Still, he smiled in response to her before turning his eyes to Cassandra, awaiting her decision. When the latter saw him look over, she brought her index fingers up and began pressing them together as she sheepishly asked, “Can I…I mean we…join your…Familia…?”
Feeling his brain buzz a little at Cassandra’s behavior, Vahn continued to smile before breaking the bashful girl’s heart when he said, “The situation within the Hearth Manor makes it almost impossible to accept new members into the Hestia Familia…” These words caused Cassandra to slump even more than before, making Vahn avert his eyes to avoid the pale white flesh that was on full display. His reaction caused Daphne to pay closer attention to Cassandra’s state and, seeing that the latter never covered herself since earlier, a blush covered her face and she tightly pulled the blanket shut while saying, “Pay better attention…haaaa…”
This time, Cassandra’s face turned beet red and she tightly clung to the blanket while sneaking peeks at Vahn through the gap in her bangs. Her hair was long and sleek, with long bangs that covered her left eye, even though Vahn could clearly make it out with his own [Eyes of Truth]. He was starting to feel that she was somewhat similar to Preasia, especially with how her pale dark-blue eyes were firmly affixed to his face, almost imploring him without saying anything. Even so, Vahn calmly explained, “You’ll understand in the future…just know that there are too many factors that prevent people from joining the Hestia Familia, chief among them being that it is the heart of the Alliance…”
Seeing that Cassandra wasn’t entirely convinced, falling into a deeper melancholy, Vahn released a sigh and decided to bit the bullet as he honestly admitted, “Listen, I’ll be as frank as I can out of consideration for the two of you…honestly…I can’t really be trusted around women that have tragic pasts and begin showing affection for me. Though I wouldn’t actually do anything, I’m weak against girls that fall in love with me after I start taking care of them…I can’t let the two of you stay in the Hearth Manor because you’re both attractive young women that I would probably become romantically involved with at some point…I’m a father now, and there are already numerous women around me that I love…so please, forgive me this time…I will do my best to help you find happiness, but I can’t be the one to give it to you…”
Vahn bowed low to both girls, causing Chloe and Haruhime to snicker and giggle since they were very aware of the ‘truth’ behind Vahn’s words. As for Cassandra and Daphne, the former seemed to be lost in a vision while the latter had a flushed face as she pulled the blanket covering her body securely around her shoulders. Even so, Vahn was aware that her Affection had increased again, nearly causing him to sigh while he kept his head bowed. At least this way, even though it was very embarrassing and borderline shameless, he would have a ‘reason’ to refuse their advances if they genuinely started falling in love with him. He couldn’t just take in every attractive girl with a tragic past into his home and eventually knock them up…with the standards of beauty in this world, there would never be an end to things if he didn’t show more restraint…
Ultimately, it was decided that Cassandra and Daphne would both join the Loki Familia, which seemed to be the ‘go to’ Familia that Vahn kept ‘throwing’ people into. However, unlike normal Familia members, Cassandra would have a unique ‘protected’ status and Daphne would simply be assigned as her personal caretaker. Though Cassandra was a very skilled healer, making her an incredible asset on Expeditions, her prophetic powers were simply too useful to endanger her life. She also disliked fighting and, though Daphne looked like the type that would pummel monsters with her bare hands, she actually confessed that she hated fighting and was more suited to the role of a bodyguard. She had several support-class magics and skills that allowed her to increase her Agility and Endurance, especially in a pinch.
Once that had been decided, the Alliance started helping the Elven women get situated within the Elven Settlement and, after making a few other preparations, Vahn ended up in a room with Cassandra, Daphne, and Loki. The two girls had been informed about his ability to discern more from a Status Board than even gods but, even without being told that, neither had seemed to mind too much if he was in the room. They had already been given a change of clothes and it wasn’t a big deal to expose their backs, especially after everything else they had already experienced. It was also a simple truth that both girls considered Vahn a ‘safe’ person to be around, even after his earlier ‘admission’.
Daphne, being the more confident of the two, had volunteered to go first and, after covering her front with a cloth, exposed her back that currently had the Apollo Familia emblem on it. The most notable thing, however, was the fact that Daphne’s body was covered in scars and clear indications of torture though, fortunately, not as badly as Preasia’s had been. When he saw this, Vahn released a heavy sigh and said, “If you want, I can help you get rid of all those scars later…it will be a little embarrassing, but I can promise you that there won’t be a single mark left when I’m finished…”
When she heard this, Daphne looked back with an unperturbed expression, remaining silent for a few seconds before she said, “I’ll leave it to you…” After that, she turned her face away and Vahn did his best to ignore the jump in her Affection as he watched Loki modify the crest until there was a strange clown on Daphne’s back, indicating she was now a member of the Loki Familia. Finished with this, Loki looked up with an uncharacteristically serious expression and asked, “See anything I missed?” Though she was a mischevious trickster by nature, Loki knew the girls had already gone through a lot and now wasn’t the best time to mess around. Vahn gave her an appreciative nod in turn and looked at the hieroglyphs on Daphne’s back, more than a little surprised at what he saw…
Name: Daphne Lauros
Skills: [Endeavor:Innate(sealed)], [Elios Passion:C], [Laurus Wreath:E], [Riposte:D]
Magic: [Guardian Eos:Innate(sealed)], [Raumure:D], [Faerie Healing:E]
Development Abilities: [Abnormal Resistance:D], [Mind Fortification:(sealed)], [Escape:(sealed)] [Elios Passion]
Use: Raises Agility, especially when fleeing from an enemy.[Laurus Wreath]
Use: Heavily increased Endurance when exhausted or in a near-death state. Efficacy of skill based on the mental state of the user. Modifies physical appearance slightly.
(Active and Passive Trigger)[Riposte]
Use: Allows the user to deliver a precise counterattack after deflecting a blow.[Raumure]
Use: Self-Enhance Magic that raises Endurance and largely increased Agility based on Magic.
Chant: Follow the sky of the sky. Everything is to escape from the haze-blooms, laurel bushes, Raumure~![Faerie Healing]
Use: Provides light healing effect to target, allowing minor wounds to be treated. Also cures weak poisons.
Chant: Faerie light, gentle breeze, recover, cleanse, purify~!
After reading her Status, Vahn had no doubt that Daphne was definitely ‘suitable’ to being a protector, especially considering that almost all of her abilities modified her Endurance and allowed her to help others. He could even imagine her wearing one of the black suits worn by the guards in the high-class shopping district within Babel Tower. However, when this thought crossed his mind, so too did another thought. Vahn began to wonder what form Daphne’s [Pactio] would take and if it would be beneficial for the two girls if he broached the subject. Unfortunately, as a result of his earlier admission, Vahn knew it would be an exceptionally awkward and misleading situation…
At this moment, Cassandra, who had been lost in her own little world, released an ‘Eh!?’ and began to blush deeply as focus was restored to her eyes. She looked directly at Vahn with her one revealed eye and began pressing her fingers together as she said, “I…I don’t mind…” Both Daphne and Loki were confused by Cassandra’s words but Loki quickly picked up on what was going on. The mischevious grin she had been keeping at bay appeared on her face as she lightly elbowed Vahn’s ribs and asked, “What, not satisfied with the flower garden you’ve already gathered~?”
Loki’s words caused Daphne to misunderstand and, though she hadn’t cared that Vahn was observing her bare back previously, she hung her head and shrunk into the chair while closely protecting her front. Seeing this, Vahn pinched the bridge of his nose and simply stated, “I was thinking that a [Pactio] would help guarantee their safety. It would enhance their capabilities and allow Cassandra to inform me if she had any important revelations…” As she had already been thinking about it previously, Loki nodded her head and said, “Yes, it is undoubtedly a good idea. However, I heard about your little ‘confession’ earlier…seems like you’re inadvertently bullying these girls~?”
Before Vahn answered, Daphne, who had been listening closely, keyed in on how Vahn said it would help protect them. Judging by Loki’s words, she would have to do something embarrassing, she doubted it would be as embarrassing as having Vahn treat her body later. Considering that Vahn would talk himself out of it, even though it could potentially guarantee their safety, Daphne looked up and plainly stated, “This thing, [Pactio], I want one…if it can help me protect Cassandra, I don’t want to pass on the opportunity…” Jumping in, even though it didn’t look like she would ever be able to muster that much energy from her frail body, Cassandra shouted, “Yes, me too, please!”
With Loki’s laughter as the background music, Vahn had released a long sigh and began explaining the specifics of a [Pactio], including how it was a closely guarded secret. Both girls had already accepted contracts to protect Familia secrets when they agreed to join the Loki Familia, so it was ‘relatively’ safe to disclose the information to them. Neither seemed like the type to release such information anyways, so Vahn was open and honest with them, even though it earned him a ‘glare’ from Daphne. Even so, she still agreed after Loki asked Ais to come in and demonstrate her own [Pactio].
Following that, Vahn drew two [Pactio] circles and shared a kiss with Daphne and Cassandra, putting both of their Affections for him firmly at 84 and 92 respectively. It had been a very ‘transformative’ day for the two girls, especially after they literally transformed into their raiments. Cassandra ended up have a one-piece purple dress that had a ‘very’ high slit on the left side. She also had a pointed-purple hat that made her look like a witch out of a fairy tale. As for her artifact, it happened to take on the form of a crystal ball which, unsurprisingly, enhanced her foresight and made it closer to actual Divination.
Daphne’s outfit wasn’t quite what he expected, as she didn’t end up with a black bodyguard outfit and instead ended up looking more like a knight. She had an ornate metal cuirass that covered her torso, matching pauldrons on her shoulders, and gauntlets that completely covered her arms with plating, leaving on the joints exposed. She also had sabatons, covering her feet, calves, knees, and the lower half of her thighs. However, somewhat embarrassingly, earning him Daphne’s ire, there was no armor protecting her ‘bottom’ at all. Instead, she had what looked like a pair of small red shorts that were barely larger than underwear protecting what remained of her dignity. As for her weapon, it took on the appearance of a straight silver rapier with a rose-shaped guard. It’s effect allowed it to pierce almost anything and, based on how much power she put into the thrust, the length of the blade could increase greatly.
After suffering under the stink eye of Daphne for a short while, Vahn explained the other benefits of the [Pactio], demonstrating his ability to buff them, call him to his side, and telepathically communicate. Though she was a little bothered by the fact he could ‘summon’ them whenever he wanted, Daphne could understand how useful the abilities were. If they were ever in any danger, they could just send a message to Vahn and he would be able to immediately save them. Truthfully, it was one of the best protective measures she had ever heard of, making the fact that she had to kiss Vahn more tolerable. Besides, as she melancholically reminded herself, it wasn’t as if he had taken her first kiss…
Once the matter of the [Pactio]s was settled, Loki finished converting Cassandra into her Familia before allowing Vahn to inspect her Status. Like Daphne, Cassandra also had two Innates, meaning she was capable of reaching the peak of Tier 2, including the one related to her foresight. Also, as she had professed before, Cassandra had numerous support skills and possessed a high talent for healing. Given the fact that she had a Pure Light affinity, this was easily justifiable and, as she wouldn’t be entering into the Dungeon, Vahn had suggested she begin studying medicine. He would also be giving them both some basic study manuals for advancing their Magic skills, which would be the same as the ones used by future students…
Name: Cassandra Ilion
Skills: [Five Dimension Troia:Innate:D], [Healing Palm:E]
Magic: [Soullight:C], [Cure Ephialtes:D]
Development Abilities: [Midnight Harlot:Innate:(sealed)], [Treatment:E] [Healing Palm]
Use: Accelerates natural regeneration and stamina recovery when applied to a region.
Use: Area healing spell that increases in both efficacy and range based on mana consumed.
Chant: Cleansing light of purification. Extend a hand to the drowning. Hear my words and grant me the power to save those experience misfortune. Please, return the light of the Sun to this land. Soullight~![Cure Ephialtes]
Use: Purification magic that can cure any ailment if the user has enough mana. Cleanses the body of poisons, abnormal status effects, curses, and other impurities.
Chant: Light of Purification, Cure Ephialtes~![Treatment]
Use: Increases the efficacy of all healing and support abilities, skills, and magic.