Chapter 847: Mood

In Orario, there were very few festivals and holidays as the culture had simply never developed to the point that it celebrated specific events. Other than the Harvest Festivals, New Years, the Denatus, and the Monster Feria, there were simply no organized events that people came together to celebrate. With the change of governance, however, one of the ideas that the Civilian Legislative Branch had come up with was organizing more holidays to bring people together. Not only was this a good way to circulate currency and goods into the markets, but it was a good method to at least create the illusion that things were going well.

From the perspective of normal citizens, the only reason such holidays could be celebrated was that things were stable enough that large events could be organized without any major issues occurring; essentially, it was a means which a governing body could show their ‘confidence’ and dictate the general atmosphere within the City. Of course, this didn’t mean they could just shoe-horn in a new holiday without any preparations so the CLB had decided to schedule the current festival during the period where the Denatus would generally be held. Even the Guild had stepped in to help prepare the festival, borrowing from an ancient festival that was sometimes celebrated after long periods of peace, the Holy Moon Festival.

When this festival was brought up, however, Vahn felt that something was definitely afoot, especially with how Hestia had been behaving lately. She would spend long periods of time just watching over the children in the maternity ward or simply staying cooped up in her room. Though she didn’t give a reason for her behavior, it was plain to see that ‘something’ was very wrong. When the name of the festival was released, Loki and Hephaestus had actually gone to the Guild in order to pry out what exactly was going on from Ouranos. His only response was that they should try to enjoy the festival and, even though Hestia hadn’t been brought up during their conversation, he advised that she get out and breathe in some fresh air…

As a result, though he mainly just wanted to put a smile on her face, Vahn asked Hestia to accompany him during the Holy Moon Festival, even though the looks on his daughters’ faces had been very heavy. This put Hestia in a slightly better mood but, even though she had a vibrant smile on her face while Vahn was leading her around the various stalls, it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She would also turn absentminded periodically and he kept having to guide her around obstacles and release a subtle aura to make people walk around them. Most people already kept a fair amount of distance from them but there were children, drunkards, and general festival-goers that weren’t exactly paying attention to their surroundings.

Eventually, seeing that Hestia simply wasn’t feeling the festival, Vahn reached out his hand and stroked her silky black hair, drawing her crystalline blue eyes toward him as he softly said, “If you’re not feeling well, why don’t we head back, Hestia…? We can just relax on the Manor’s balcony and watch the moon together…” To this, Hestia tried her best to appear happy, smiling as she said, “No, I’m fine…really…we don’t get many chances to go on dates together so, even if I’m a little distracted, I’m still enjoying our time together…” Though she had started off strong, Hestia’s expression became progressively more melancholic as she was speaking. Vahn gently pulled her into his embrace, resting her head against his chest while stroking her hair in a gesture of comfort…

So she wouldn’t feel bad about them heading back early, Vahn continued to guide Hestia around the lesser populated areas while moving closer to Babel Plaza. Though it was a city-wide festival, most of the larger events were taking place in the open area of the Plaza while the majority of the streets were filled with temporary stalls. To get people out and about, most restaurants were serving customers outside so it felt like all of Orario was out and about, creating a very lively atmosphere. Of course, none of this really mattered to Vahn as he was more concerned with Hestia state of mind…at least until a group of four people walked out from an alleyway and immediately caught his attention.

Seeing this group, Vahn released a sigh that caught Hestia’s attention, causing her to look at the approaching group with mild interest. She saw a strange boy with white hair and red eyes, a very uncommon set of features that immediately allowed her to discern his identity. Surrounding him were three girls, one bespectacled human girl with a very prim and proper appearance, a rather diminutive Pallum, and a tomboyish looking Amazoness with a large grin revealing a slight snaggletooth. The Amazoness and the Pallum didn’t seem to get along very well while the intelligent-looking human girl had a very tired expression that spoke volumes about the situation…

Not long after Vahn had noticed him, Bell also noticed Vahn, seeing him as something of a savior as he broke free from the two arguing girls and waved his hand, exclaiming, “Vahn~! Hey, it’s me, Bell, over here~!” The fact he was shouting like this, even though they had already established eye contact, gave Vahn an urge to flick Bell’s forehead. His body seemed to agree with this sentiment as, without thinking about it too much, Vahn intercepted the charging boy, causing the latter’s head to snap back like he just dodged under a crossbow bolt. Somewhat amusingly, this didn’t actually knock Bell down and he managed to find his footing in an instant, rubbing his forehead as he said, “Ow…that wa-“

No sooner than Bell had opened his mouth to complain, a brown fist zipped past his face, landing squarely in Vahn’s hand as he flipped his wrist and tossed the unknown Amazoness into the air. Her eyes widened as she uttered a ‘Wha…?’ while trying to flip in the air and correct her center of gravity. Vahn didn’t allow this, however, extending his hand outward and stabilizing her mid-air with telekinesis as he calmly stated, “I see you’ve made a new friend, Bell…” Instead of Bell responding, the Amazoness began kicking around in the air, screaming, “Ah, what the heck is this!? Let go of me you asshole…! Grrr, I’m going to…”

Midway through her thrashing, the Amazoness became strangely silent, eyes widening as she moved her head in an appraising manner, getting a better look at Vahn before asking, “Hey…is your name Vahn…?” This brought a small smile to Vahn’s face as he nodded his head, noticing the cold sweat building up on the yet unnamed Amazoness. Fortunately, Bell had managed to collect himself by now, waving both hands in a placating manner as he said, “Taliah didn’t mean any harm, Vahn…she just…umm…” Not waiting for Bell to finish, Vahn flicked his hand up, sending Taliah barreling skyward with an ‘Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh~!?” while the surrounding crowd watched on with both shock and amazement.

Vahn watched as the girl disappeared toward the sky for a few seconds before turning his attention to the surprised Bell and patting his shoulder, saying, “It’s good to see you, Bell. That goes for the two of you as well, Line, Plum…I’m glad you’re all okay after that last fiasco…” Line and Plum had both looked skyward, turning slightly pale when Taliah’s figure disappeared, but immediately snapped their attention to Vahn when he spoke their names. Both girls bowed politely as a somewhat awkward laugh issued from Line’s through as she said, “Thank you for your concern…” As for Plum, she didn’t seem to have any words suitable for the occasion and just kept glancing towards the sky for any sign of her bickering companion…

Eventually, Hestia gently tugged at Vahn’s sleeve and with a slightly reproachful look, said, “Vahn, it isn’t nice to bully girls…” Since he had already taught her a lesson, Vahn knew it wouldn’t be fair to Taliah to play around too much so, after nodding his head to Hestia, allowed her to begin falling. She wasn’t in any real danger, even if he let her fall freely, but Vahn slowed her descent when she was nearing the street as a frantic ‘Eeeeeeeeeeei-‘ slowly became audible to the onlookers. Deciding it would be ‘for the best’, Vahn looked towards Bell and said, “Make sure you catch her properly, okay…?”

This caused Bell’s eyes to widen before he adopted a humorously serious expression and said, “Right!” A few seconds later, the pitch of Taliah’s scream increased exponentially as her figure came into view, falling like a heavy stone towards the ground. She was actually falling much slower than the normal acceleration of gravity so Bell managed to catch her in a bridal carry as the young Amazoness breathed heavily like a startled rabbit. Vahn was just about to tease her a little but his words got stuck in his throat as, contrary to her appearance and behavior, Taliah’s eyes began to water as she tightly clung to Bell and began to bawl rather loudly…

Realizing he had taken things a bit too far, Vahn kept his teasing words to himself and nearly reached out his hand to placate her before Hestia ‘swatted’ it away and said, “You’ve done enough, Vahn~! Come, let’s leave these four to their date in peace…!” Hestia no longer had an absentminded look on her face, which was a good thing, but Vahn couldn’t help but hang his head in shame as she dragged him away amidst the laughter of the crowd. Vahn supposed the ‘lull’ over the last few weeks had been getting to him and, as the feeling of something ‘wrong’ still persisted in the back of his mind, it had slightly affected his judgment…maybe…?

As this thought crossed his mind, Hestia’s steps slowed to a crawl until she eventually came to a full stop and asked, “You did that to try and change the moody atmosphere I created…didn’t you…?” Without waiting for his response, Hestia released a long sigh before turning around and tightly hugging Vahn’s waist as she said, “I’m sorry for making our date so difficult for you, Vahn…I know you are working hard, even now…I should…” Not waiting for her to finish, Vahn tilted Hestia’s chin upwards at a better angle, overlapping his lips with her’s without minding the surrounding ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.

They kissed for a few seconds until Hestia, caught unprepared for the intimate gesture, snorted through her nose and tried to draw in air, without making an effort to actually break free from the kiss. Vahn eventually gave her a reprieve after a short while longer, noticing the slightly hazy look in her eyes as he said, “You can feel it…can’t you…?” Hearing this, Hestia swallowed rather hard, nodding her head as she buried her red face into his chest to avoid having anyone see her directly. Because of the link they shared, Hestia could feel the care, concern, and ‘love’ that Vahn had for her right now, understanding her words were entirely unnecessary. Even so, she also had a small urge to beat him up because, just after she told him not to ‘bully’ girls, he ‘bullied’ her in public…

Knowing she was embarrassed, Vahn just hugged Hestia against him and was preparing to fly off towards the Manor before a very familiar presence appeared within his domain. His body mood immediately soured before a ‘calm’ settled into his mind that caused Hestia to lift her head in confusion. She turned to face the same direction as, atop a stage set up on the edge of the Plaza, none other than Hermes began shouting in a very theatrical manner, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mortals and Gods alike, please, may I have your attention…!”

With his arms spread wide, and an exaggerated smile on his face, Hermes gesticulated to draw attention to himself as he continued, “Listen if you stand far; Watch if you stand close! My friends, lend me your ears and, should you find yourself emboldened, call out your name if you’ve got what it takes! Here before you, for one night only, a legendary spear rumored to answer to but a single owner lays embedded in an indestructible crystal. Should the spear find you worthy, not only shall you receive the blessing of the Goddess of Purity, but the Guild has decreed that he or she that is able to wield this spear will be invited on an all-expenses trip to explore one of the most sacred regions of the entire world! Now, come forth, test your fate against this spear and prove to the entire City that you have what it takes to be a true hero~!”

Following Hermes’ shouts, the large group of Adventurers and citizens that had gathered all shouted out, cheering in response. Hermes had produced an official document that was signed and sealed by the Guild, proving the validity of his claims and guaranteeing the reward was legitimate. Since most people rarely ventured outside of Orario, leaving the City on a Guild-sponsored trip was a rather exciting prize. Several people immediately shouted out their names, trying to scramble up to the stage to be the first to pull the ornate spear that was embedded into a mound of mystical blue crystal. Vahn had already inspected both of them with his [Eyes of Truth], shocked to see that the spear was actually impossible for him to inspect while the crystals had an incredibly powerful sealing formation, unlike anything he had ever seen before.

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Hestia, however, was much more focused on Hermes himself, her aura flaring up as the generally calm and gentle expression she was known for turned icy. Hermes seemed to have sensed this as well, shivering noticeably as his words got caught in his mouth, mid-sentence. He had been trying to rile up the current Adventurer to try his luck against the spear and now focused his gaze towards Vahn and Hestia, the smile on his face twitching slightly. He recovered very quickly though and, likely in an effort to smoothen things over, pointed theatrically towards Vahn and shouted, “Aha, if it isn’t the famous Vahn Mason~! If anyone has a chance to free this spear, it must certainly be the strongest Adventurer within the City, no~?”

Though many people had long-since noted Vahn’s presence, they now got caught up in the momentum of Hermes’ words and began cheering to get Vahn up on the stage. The man who had been struggling to pull out the spear previously used the opportunity while everyone else was distracted to sneak away from the stage while those who had been waiting in line made room. As for Vahn himself, his expression was calm as a placid lake, staring down Hermes with an unwavering gaze. He had already expected something to happen during this festival, especially with how the Guild had been acting, and it looked like Hermes had indeed been involved…meaning the ‘Goddess of Purity’ he mentioned had to be Artemis…

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