Chapter 796: Willingness

Hearing Asfi suddenly refer to him as ‘Darling’, while her aura was flaring about chaotically, Vahn resisted the natural urge to sigh and internally vowed to never get wrapped up in things like this in future records. Though he would undoubtedly favor some women along his journey, as it could continue for thousands of years, Vahn never wanted a repeat of what happened in the record of Danmachi. He considered everything that was happening a result of his own childishness and inexperience, the fact that he simply didn’t have the heart to watch others suffer.

Since he didn’t want to have to link together multiple worlds, nor did he want to build a massive harem that transcended dimensions, Vahn swore that he would be more resolute in the future. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like most records were as ‘open’ to the idea of so many women being involved with one man, nor would have the ‘foundation’ that had been built by the girls in the Manor to rely on. He would never want to put people he cared about in a situation where they doubted the love he had for them as a result of his inability to get involved with troubled girls. If not for the fact that the girls had established their ‘network’, and worked so hard to support each other, Vahn knew things would have never reached this point…

While he was thinking about other worlds, Asfi’s mind was wholly focused on the moment and, seeing Vahn adopt a thoughtful expression after her address, her heart felt like it was being gripped. She believed he was aware of the fact that they would be officially wed after their vows were completed, even if they didn’t have a ceremony. However, though he would be her Husband, Vahn would also be her ‘Owner’ at the same time. Though he didn’t have a reputation for exploiting others, quite the opposite, Asfi had believed he wouldn’t be opposed to the form of address. Now, however, she wondered if she had overstepped her boundaries a little…the fact that he had shown no interest in her previously, outside of their first meeting, now weighed even heavier on her heart…

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Sensing the change in Asfi, Vahn’s distracted mind regained its focus and he habitually smiled while explaining, “Well, I know you don’t really have the option to refuse my purchase, so I’ll explain something so you’re not misunderstanding things. Not many people are aware of this, but I’m actually able to exist as two bodies simultaneously after learning a unique technique. Currently, I’m a little preoccupied with something happening back at the Manor, so please don’t misunderstand. How you choose to call me is up to you, but I’d prefer if you simply call me by name, as I will do the same for you…Asfi.”

Hearing Vahn’s explanation, though it was very hard to believe, Asfi released a sigh of relief. She knew he was a very honest boy and, as it would likely become apparent later, there was no reason for him to lie about such a thing. He may not invite her to live within the Hearth Manor, but there was a good chance she would spend the night there a few times in the future…when this thought crossed her mind, Asfi had to pinch her own thigh to try and stop a blush from reaching her cheeks. She didn’t understand it herself, as she actually had an aversion to such activities, but just imagining being under Vahn’s ‘care’ made her heart race…

After Asfi had calmed down, the two exchanged their vows, Vahn promising to do whatever it took to help Asfi achieve her revenge by the means she had chosen, so long as it didn’t endanger himself, the people he cared about, or the Alliance. As for Asfi, she pledged herself to serve Vahn in the capacity of a wife and, should he desire the actual status in the future, she would establish him as the King of the Aethiopian Kingdom in the future. Ultimately, though she cared dearly for the well-being of the subjects she had intended to lead, Asfi was willing to compromise even her own integrity for vengeance. The fact that the person she had dedicated herself to was a compassionate and benevolent person like Vahn was a blessing she could never truly express her gratitude for…

As their vows were vocalized, a blood red chain formed between the hearts of Vahn and Asfi as they brought their lips together to finalize the vow. Though Asfi regretted not being able to give her first kiss to Vahn, she did her best to make up for it by accepting his invasive tongue and reciprocating it to the best of her ability. Even if he wanted to push her down on the table right now, the fact that they had already made the vow was enough of a reason for her to accept him willingly. It was infinitely better to be ravished by the man she had sworn herself to than a giant sea monster that would have shamed her grievously before killing her…

Contrary to her mild delusions, Vahn pulled away a few seconds later and smiled gently before reaching out his hand and stroking the side of her face. Asfi felt her heart twist around in her chest as the most flustered feeling she had ever experienced rose up inside of her. Turning her face to the side, Asfi muttered, “You don’t have to be so gentle with me…since you’ll have to purchase my contract no matter what, I don’t mind, regardless of what you want to do with me…” To this, Vahn nodded in understanding and said, “Look at me, Asfi…”

Though she still had a will of her own, for the time being, Asfi found herself unable to refuse Vahn’s gentle words and, even though she felt embarrassed to make eye contact with him, turned to meet his gaze. When she saw Vahn’s smile soften, Asfi was certain both her heart and stomach had done a flip, surprising her greatly. She didn’t know why she was feeling this way as, even though she was determined to do whatever Vahn requested of her, it was only because of her own selfishness, not because she loved him. However, as the reaction of her body and mind were so drastically different from her own expectations, Asfi began having doubts about her actual feelings towards Vahn…

Asfi might not be aware of it, but Vahn knew exactly what she was going through, as he had seen similar reactions a little too often over the last few months. His [Charm] was very effective of members of the opposite sex and, as a result of the vows they had made, Asfi was simply too aware of him to think clearly at the moment. Even if she intended to act out of ‘duty’ and ‘vengeance’, Vahn knew those feelings would quickly morph into something else after he took action. Since he would care for her, just like all the girls he had given his favor to, Vahn was confident he could get Asfi to truly love him one day. At the same time, he would allow his affections for her to grow and, by the time the matters in her Kingdom were resolved, Vahn believed she would truly have a place in his heart…

Running his fingers through Asfi’s aqua-blue hair, Vahn gently said, “There will undoubtedly be a time for things like that…but there are other pressing matters to attend to right now. I can sense that Pot and Elilly have already gathered almost everyone that was within the Traveler’s Inn at this point, and I don’t want to make things difficult for you when we explain things later. Since you’re my wife now, I will do my best to protect your dignity and never allow you to experience shame brought about by my actions…I like the cool and intelligent you the most, so please don’t try to force yourself just to pander to me, okay…?”

Hearing Vahn’s kind words, Asfi felt a strange feeling rising in her chest as a hard to suppress moisture began to spread across her eyes. She knew what kind of boy he was, so his words weren’t that great a surprise, but the fact that he was saying them in this situation made it hard to hold back the emotions that had been weighing on her heart for the last six years. There were so many things she regretted but, knowing that he would not only shoulder the burdens alongside her, but one day truly liberate her from the burden on her heart…it was a lot to take in. Before he had shown up so suddenly, her biggest concern on her mind had been what to each for lunch this afternoon…things had taken a very sudden turn.

Though she got infinitely close to shedding tears, Asfi managed to keep them bottled up and produce a small smile as she said, “Very well…if that is your wish, I will do my best to meet your expectations. Still, if there is ever anything…I won’t refuse you…” This time, Asfi averted her eyes and swallowed audibly, something that caused her to blush as she turned away and brought out her own contract, passing it over to Vahn as she collected herself and explained, “As I’m sure you’re aware, my true identity is Asfi Al Andromeda, eldest child of the King of Aethiopia, Cetheus Al Andromeda…”

Since Asfi had already sat down behind her desk, Vahn sat across from her and perused her file, and the contract contained within. It was much the same as the others, with a few stipulations pertaining to Asfi’s special circumstances, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. While he was reading over the information, Asfi began recounting her tale, many of the details matching his own speculation of events.

The apparent truth of the matter was that Cassiopeia, Asfi’s mother, had been envious of the fact that Asfi was apparently growing to be more beautiful than she was. As a result of her vanity, and the fact that she simply didn’t get along with her intelligent daughter, Cassiopeia had hatched a scheme to have Poseidon, known as a vindictive and wrathful god, to deal with her. Since Cassiopeia herself was quite attractive, she managed to earn Poseidon’s favor by cheating on Cetheus, who was so beguiled by his wife that he couldn’t see the truth of the matter. She then managed to convince Poseidon to help dispose of Asfi in a high profile manner that would cause people the never speak of her daughter in a positive light…

As for the reason why Cassiopeia couldn’t outright kill Asfi herself, it was because the latter was the heir to the throne and, even though Catheus was a fool to trust his wife, he still cared deeply for his daughter. He had watched her grow up and groomed her to be a suitable heir, not minding the fact that she wasn’t male in the slightest. Cassiopeia, knowing she wouldn’t be able to fool him using ‘common’ methods, had devised a ridiculous scheme that would invite ruin upon her own Kingdom, all so that she could feel personal vindication and proclaim herself as the most beautiful woman in the Kingdom…

The rest of the story was much like what was discovered in Loki’s investigation, with the added fact that Cassiopeia had tried to spin things by claiming that she had only said that Asfi was more beautiful than Poseidon’s concubines after her daughter had made the claim herself. She tried to make Asfi out to be a vain girl who prided herself as being superior to other people because of her intelligence and looks. She claimed that the only reason she had made such a public announcement of her daughter’s ‘foolish’ words was to show the latter that the people wouldn’t be fooled by her ridiculous claim. With this as her justification for why she wouldn’t apologize, laying the blame on Asfi to pay for her mistakes, Cassiopeia had openly endeavored to increase the pressure on her husband to dispose of their daughter…

When he heard the full story, Vahn felt like an endless icy abyss had taken root in his mind and, if not for the fact he promised to let Asfi seek a reckoning for herself, he would have gone to the Aethiopian Kingdom to immediately expose the truth of the matter. He couldn’t believe that a mother would be so cruel to her own flesh and blood and if Asfi wasn’t under a vow that compelled her to speak the truth, Vahn didn’t think he would ever believe such a story. The indignation on Asfi’s face also emphasized the fact that she had been grievously wronged and, now that they were bound to each other, Vahn would see to it that she had her vengeance in the future. Cassiopeia would face justice and, though he wouldn’t pass it himself, he wouldn’t mind dragging the vain woman out by her hair in public so that Asfi could deal with her mother personally…

Seeing how angry Vahn was getting on her behalf, Asfi produced a rare smile and said, “In truth, I had never expected to meet anyone that would be able to help my dream become a reality. I’m glad to have met you, Vahn…truly…thank you.” If not for the fact they were separated by her desk, Asfi felt like she would have liked to embrace the boy who had just become her husband. She didn’t really know how to express herself properly, especially after her own mother had tried to kill her, but she swore to do her best to at least show Vahn a little of her gratitude.

Hearing Asfi’s words, Vahn took a deep breath to calm himself and, taking a few minutes to conduct the official transaction, became the ‘Owner’ of the Hermes Familia. It cost him a little over four-billion Valis, but that was only around a third of his expendable income. His actual finances were far greater than what he kept within his Inventory, as the Alliance actually had a treasury that easily accounted for assets in the trillions of Valis. Though he couldn’t exactly liquidate everything himself, the decisions he made could dictate how the Alliance allocated a large portion of its funds with a few simple words.

Once all the contracts were signed, Vahn was feeling a little playful and wanted to lighten the mood a bit so he suddenly said, “Just this once, why don’t you give me a quick pirouette so I can get a good look at you~.” To accompany his words, Vahn sent a wink towards Asfi who, with a slightly flustered face, immediately spun around with surprising finesse. Since she had taken years of ballroom dance lessons, Asfi’s pirouette was executed flawlessly and Vahn couldn’t help but swallow a little awkwardly when he saw the contents of her skirt. Even though he hadn’t looked directly, it was almost impossible for such things to escape his sight since they would be imprinted in his head perfectly…

Asfi, seeing Vahn’s stupified expression, covered the front of her skirt in a sheepish manner and asked, “Did you see…?” in a somewhat icy tone. Vahn felt a little guilty for his prank but still nodded his head in the most casual manner he could manage, saying, “They suit you…very mature.” Hearing this, Asfi took in a deep breath with clear frustration on her face and, just as Vahn thought she was going to contradict herself and start yelling at him, he nearly fell flat on his butt when she instead lifted her skirt, saying, “If you want to look, then just look…!” As if compelled to do just that, Vahn let his eyes wander to the pale blue lace panties Asfi was wearing, tied together by a string that looked like it would fall apart with just a light tug…

Pulling his eyes away from the tantalizing sight, Vahn rubbed the back of his head and said, “You can lower your skirt now…thanks for the treat…?” Though he wanted to apologize for making her do something that was obviously embarrassing for her, Vahn felt like Asfi would blame him even more if he did. Instead, he chose to do the opposite to see if it had a better effect and, to his pleasant surprise, Asfi nodded her head in a curt manner and said, “You’re welcome.” It was this small action that showcased that, not only did she have to listen to him if he gave her an order, but Asfi was perfectly willing to do ‘more’ as a result of the vows they had shared. She took her promises very seriously and, after already saying he could do whatever he wanted, Asfi would rather he be direct than roundabout on the matter…

Understanding that the other members of the Hermes Familia might also have similar mentalities, as they would undoubtedly try to appeal to him in their own way, Vahn felt a slight headache coming. He comforted his mind by reminding himself that he now had a cool beauty, who was also a Princess, as his fourth bride. Though he had already married one princess with similar features, Asfi was a unique beauty that had quite a few distinct features that set her apart from Riveria. Not only did she have uncommon aqua-blue hair, but she also had clear cyan-blue eyes, fair skin, a rather shapely figure, and a pair of white-rimmed glasses that made her appear even more intelligent.

Seeing Vahn ‘appraise’ her, Asfi felt a little flustered but, instead of shying away from his gaze, puffed out her chest slightly and nearly turned around so he could view her backside before he held up his hand and said, “I appreciate your willingness…haaa…” Vahn realized he would need to control himself around Asfi as, at least for the time being, she seemed a little ‘too willing’ to try and appeal to him. He didn’t know that, as a result of her upbringing, the grievances she had suffered, and the constant stress of having to deal with Hermes’ teasing, Asfi wasn’t that accustomed to directly appealing to men. The only thing she could think of was to openly show that she was willing to do whatever was necessary, even though it made her heart race like she was staring down the maw of a dragon just as it was about to breathe fire…

After placing all of the duplicate contracts into a safe that only Hermes and she would be able to open, though Vahn could now tell her to open in for him, the two made their way to the large gathering hall located just under the first floor of the Traveler’s Inn. With the exception of a few members who were out on missions, and Hermes himself, Pot and Elilly had gathered everyone together to announce the big news. Other than when the Guild wanted to conduct special missions in the past, nobody had ever purchased the entire Familia before so it was pretty big news, especially for the women in the Familia.

As Hermes was considered to be a renown womanizer, a total of 82 of the 117 members of the Familia were females of various different races. Because of their circumstances, they believe they might have a chance at getting in Vahn’s good books and, instead of just a year of service, there was a chance they could ‘win’ in life and become one of the various girls within the Hearth Manor. Many of them were carefree girls who were hopelessly drawn to gambling, as a result of trying to buy their freedom, so there were quite a few of them that wanted to go ‘all in’ during the next year…

Of course, not all of the girls were thinking along these lines and there were a few, who had pushed the price of their ‘services’ into an extreme range, who were currently very nervous. Everyone was fully aware of the fact that, even if Vahn suddenly ordered them to choke themselves to death, they would be compelled to do so regardless of their thoughts on the matter. By that same logic, if he suddenly ordered every woman in the room to strip down and line themselves up, the girls who had done their best to hold onto their virginity would undoubtedly have to give it up to their new Owner…

One such girl, the leader of the Rearguard Supporter group, a young Human named Nelly, had a sad look in her eyes. She had been in the Hermes Familia since she was eight years old and, being seventeen currently, she was only a few months away from being able to end her contract. Though she would be saddled with a large debt, Nelly didn’t mind working hard to make the payments since she would still be able to live the way she chose.

For the last nine years, she had done her best to avoid having to do any shameful acts and had tried to avoid drawing attention to herself. Now, depending on the whims of a boy she actually respected in the past, she would have no choice but to swallow her tears if he asked her to do shameful acts.

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One thing that wasn’t discussed openly was the fact that, if the person who purchased them decided to ‘work’ them, it wasn’t impossible for them to end up in a brothel or servicing the friends and clients of their Owners. Just imagining this made Nelly feel like her heart was going to break…at least until she saw the object of her fear enter the room, carrying with him a warm aura and displaying a smile that felt like he could purify all the negativity in her heart…

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