Chapter 859: The Dawn of Endless Troubles…?

It took a short while, but Vahn was able to slowly understand how his Karma had increased so much. Though it could simply be the result of using the [Fate Severing Knife], granting the Karma of the target unto himself, Vahn felt it was directly related to the fact that he had prevented Artemis’ destruction. Not only was she a goddess with an incredibly long lifespan, but the fact that he prevented her Arcanum from ‘literally’ destroying the world likely factored in a great deal. If Antares hadn’t been defeated, it would have quickly assimilated all other monsters, animals, and surface dwellers into itself. With an unrestrained Arcanum, it could very easily overwhelm the Mortal World, forcing the gods back to Heaven until they came up with a solution…

In essence, Vahn had saved the entire world and, as a result, he knew things would only get more hectic in the future. Karma was already a heavy influence in his life before and now he had a level of Karma that should only be accessible by the gods themselves. Until he left the record, he had no reliable means of reducing his Karma, other than the absolutely horrid thought of allowing one of his children to die and failing an [Origin of Heroes] quest. If he managed to earn the ‘Eternal Love’ of a goddess near his own Karmic value, it wasn’t impossible to ‘reset’ his Karma, though he would never, ever, in a million years, do such a terrible thing…Vahn just hoped his Karma itself didn’t compel Fate to make things more difficult…

Though he didn’t externally sigh, Artemis’ eyes practically snapped towards him, clear concern on her face as she stopped talking with her Familia and asked, “Is everything okay, Vahn? Is there anything I can do to help…?” Then, as if a dam holding back a mighty river had been breached, several members of the Artemis Familia also expressed their intentions to help him. Vahn found himself sandwiched between two rather buxom members of the Familia as Artemis herself came before him, grasping his hands out of concern. This brought a slightly wry smile to his face as he explained, “Well, I was just thinking about the future and how best to guarantee everyone can be happy. Though I already have some expectation…will your Familia return to Eden, or will you stay here and continue to help the people of the Dark Continent…?”

This question was immediately answered, though not by Artemis, as Lante’s body sat up with a start as she exclaimed, “There is no way we’re not going to follow you! This is fate, I just know it!” Lante had been pretending to sleep for a while, enjoying the ‘feel’ of her new body while listening in on the conversations with her sharp ears. As a girl who had thought it to be ‘fate’ when her hand brushed against a man’s, the fact that Vahn had not only revived them, but gave her the chance to become one with her goddess was a veritable mountain of ‘fate’ crashing down on her whimsical brain.

Almost immediately following Lante’s outburst, many of the other girls expressed that they wanted to follow him as well, appealing to Artemis in the process. This made Vahn feel a little helpless but, as he had already expected such a situation, his expression just softened slightly. As a result, several of the girls that were focusing on him blushed while Artemis, without showing any signs of due consideration, stated, “Of course we will follow Vahn. The Artemis Familia will become part of the Alliance so that we can make a better world for everyone…!” With these words, the entire Artemis Familia released a celebratory cheer before an impromptu group hug was initiated with Vahn at the center. He didn’t mind this so much, if not for the ‘curious’ hands that found their way to his butt, stomach, and inner thighs…

Artemis made an effort to get her Familia under control but, the moment Vahn was ‘liberated’, she made a point of plopping down into his lap with a serious expression on her face, saying, “I know everyone is heavily impacted by this event…but we must take into consideration Vahn’s situation as well. Not only has he married goddesses, but Vahn is already involved with several women, many of whom have already had children. In the future, I will no longer prevent you from seeking out someone to love…I understand now that it is a very important and precious thing. However, as capable as Vahn might be, it would be unfair to him, and his family, if everyone here thought their only path towards happiness was through loving Vahn…”

Though there were a few things he’d have liked to add, Vahn remained relatively silent while Artemis was speaking. His [Allure] and [Temptation] weren’t things he needed to activate for them to have an effect, especially with the positive impression of almost every girl present. He knew, as ‘scary’ as it may seem, just a few tempting words would be all it took for things to develop in a very…intimate way. This was especially true for those who were staying closer to him, their auras gravitating towards his position with tinges of pink and red. The only exceptions to this were Rethusa and the rather unfortunate Amazoness, Shadie, who was watching the proceedings with a bit of confusion as two other Amazonesses, Vera and Kinoa, supported her.

She didn’t have all of the information about Vahn’s lifestyle at the Manor, but Artemis went on to recount everything she had learned from Hestia and Hephaestus. Though some of the things she said bordered on the unbelievable, most of the girls didn’t seem too surprised by these revelations. After all, those who hadn’t been unconscious after their procedures had seen the state of their other Familia members. From their perspective, the friends and allies they had for several years had all died, themselves not being an exception. Vahn, however, had not only completely healed their bodies, but also brought them ‘back to life’. He had even given Lante what appeared to be another body of their goddess, Artemis, though there were some very noticeable changes…with these facts being their first introduction to Vahn, none of the girls were genuinely surprised by anything Artemis revealed to them…

By the time Artemis finished her explanation, Lante once again was the first to speak out, raising her hand as she exclaimed, “Question!” Artemis, seeing ‘herself’ raise her hand, returned a gentle smile as she asked, “Yes, what is it, Lante…?” This caused Lante to point towards Vahn, currently acting as a seat cushion for Artemis, asking, “What is your relationship with Vahn-sama? Also, won’t you tell us how you feel about this situation? You know, I really believe it was fate that brought us all together and I reeeeeally feel like I would regret it for the rest of my life if I gave up on these feelings…!” Instead of being deterred by anything Artemis had explained earlier, Lante was even more convinced that Vahn was essentially her knight in shining armor…

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Being pulled into the conversation, Vahn put on a thoughtful expression while Artemis answered, “I love Vahn…more than I ever thought possible. It is just as you said in the past, Lante…love has the power to change people and, with the love he and I share…I…” As she spoke, Artemis’ face became slightly flushed and she began to wriggle around in Vahn’s laps, causing his brows to rise slightly as he hugged her waist, explaining to Lante and the other girls, “My intentions are more in line with Artemis’ on this matter. You are all beautiful girls and, though I will not deny having an attraction towards you, my situation is only getting increasingly more complicated as time passes. I want all of you to be able to live happy lives and, though you may feel a lot of affection towards me at this moment, you should be more considerate of the future…it may be difficult to believe, but I am a person who has obtained immortality and, if you worked hard enough, I could help you become immortal as well…however, that kind of thing can be a curse if you can’t even plan a few years ahead…just imagine living for a thousand years…or ten thousand years…will the feelings you have at this moment really last that long…?”

These words by Vahn had caused a bit of discussion within the girls as even Lante didn’t seem to know how to answer his questions. Most of them had only ever thought about the present, or how they would be able to gather enough food and supplies for the coming winter. They had never thought about things like planning decades ahead, much less how they would spend what could possibly be an eternity. However, there were some girls, such as the Amazonesses, who quickly answered, “Meh…if not for you, Vahn, we’d all already be dead. Much less planning for the future, we wouldn’t have even been able to plan for lunch. Besides, even though we aren’t part of the main tribe, we still have the instinct to crave a powerful mate. If our presence might become troublesome than you in the future, that is in the future…even if it is just for a short while, I’d like to at least experience love with the first man to win my affections…”

The person speaking had been the Amazoness named Vera, a twenty-three-year-old woman with a very mature and athletic figure. Her breasts were on the larger side of a C-Cup and her long dark-brain hair was styled into a long ponytail with her bangs framing her face. She had a very serious look in her eyes and, much like how Tiona, Tione, and most Amazonesses in general, looked at him, there was an almost ‘predatory’ glint in her gaze. Vahn was very aware of the state she was in and it almost felt like Artemis was the only thing preventing him from being attacked, not just by Vera, but by several of the girls present…

For a brief moment, Vahn felt tempted to just go with the flow of things but, strangely, the image of his children played through his mind at this point. By the time they had cycled through, settling on the lonely visage of Alexa, Vahn felt like his heart had hardened slightly as he opened his eyes and firmly stated, “I will explain my stance very clearly. I will not pretend to be principled, nor will I deny I’ve sometimes given into licentiousness and debauchery, but I ‘cannot’ keep living in this manner. Though I want to respect these feelings you all have towards me, can you imagine what it would be like for a single person to try and manage a relationship with nearly a hundred women at once…? There may very well be a time when I return your affections…after all, I do feel a great deal of responsibility towards you all…however, we cannot have a real and lasting relationship. I can’t do that to my children…my family…”

Vahn knew he had walked off the more ‘normal’ route a long time ago, giving in to his curiosity and suffering from an inability to refuse the affections of those who had placed their trust in him. These were all girls he would likely interact with for decades to come and, though he would be there for them at times, he simply couldn’t be there for them in a more meaningful way. If it came to choosing any single one of his girls over the entire group gathered before him, Vahn would be conflicted after the fact, but he wouldn’t hesitate at all. Artemis was the only real exception to this as their relationship would likely continue for a period of time that was almost incomprehensible to mortal minds…

With Vahn’s sudden transition into a more serious persona, the atmosphere became a little tense and some of the girls even lowered their heads slightly, ashamed of their behavior. Before these feelings could progress too far, however, the sound of someone’s stomach rumbling broke through the atmosphere. Everyone’s attention immediately turned towards the culprit, a Half-Elf girl with somewhat wild brown hair and blue eyes. Vahn knew her name was Lunalia, a twenty-eight-year-old Half-Elf who had been found by Artemis in a destroyed village as one of the only surviving children. She had been in the Familia for longer than almost any other member and was something of a ‘Big Sis’ within the group with her generally calm and caring disposition…

Currently, Lunalia’s face had turned beet red and her ears had drooped down slightly as she quietly muttered, “Sorry…I get hungry when stressed…it’s been a long day…” This reaction caused the tension in the air to completely shatter as Artemis clapped her hands together, a happy smile on her face as she said, “Yes, we have all just overcome a great trial and should be celebrating, not talking about such serious matters~!” After extricating herself from his lap, Artemis turned to Vahn, her happy smile immediately softening a great deal when she looked directly at him. Vahn felt his heart throb powerfully once again, even though she simply asked, “Can you give us some ingredients and help set up camp? Knowing you, we could probably return to Eden very quickly…but, at least for tonight…let these girls celebrate life, okay…?”

Though he had been planning on calling Terra over so they could teleport back to Eden, Vahn nodded his head in response to Artemis’ plea. This caused her smile to blossom even further as she turned to her Familia and began assigning duties in high spirits. As this was very different from how she would normally act, most of the members of the Artemis Familia were more than a little surprised. They got caught up in their goddess’ momentum very quickly and hastily began preparations for a feast, not even questioning how Vahn was able to produce ingredients, tents, blankets, and just about anything they asked for…

As she was assigning duties, Artemis turned her attention to Rethusa, one of the few girls who had been lost in thought during the previous discussions. Artemis had a good idea about what was bothering her generally loyal and serious Captain. Even before they had entered into the sealed chamber, Artemis had tasked Rethusa with escaping if things went south so that she could warn the surrounding villages of Antares’ awakening. She trusted that her proud and capable Captain would be able to flee, even if everyone else was unable to do so…instead, they had been trapped inside of the chamber and Rethusa ended up impaled into the door by Antares’ tendrils. Not only had she been unable to help her Familia, but Rethusa had failed to perform the task that was assigned her, helpless as she watched her Familia slaughtered…

Artemis didn’t blame Rethusa for what had happened, not even a little bit, but the trauma her Captain had experienced as a ‘spectator’ was quite extreme. If she had been able to fight and die alongside everyone else, her perspective on the situation likely wouldn’t have been so dire after the face. Now, instead of the proud and capable woman of the past, Rethusa seemed like a shadow of her former self, unable to even help out in the celebratory preparations because she was lost in her own thoughts. This was a very saddening thing from Artemis’ perspective so she turned to Vahn with a slight smile before walking over to Rethusa’s side and whispering into her ear…

Though she had been somewhat absentminded at first, Rethusa’s face flushed slightly and a bit of light was restored to her eyes after she heard Artemis’ request. This didn’t last for long, however, as Rethusa’s head hung slightly, stating, “I do not think that would be appropriate…there are-” Instead of waiting for Rethusa to finish speaking, Artemis pulled her by the hand, surprising the red-haired beauty who quickly became redder whilst her goddess dragged her over to Vahn. Upon arrival, Artemis surprisingly pushed Rethusa towards him, causing Vahn to catch the startled girl as Artemis explained, “You have been working very hard these last few days, Vahn. Rethusa here will wash your back, so go take a bath in a nearby stream or something. I’m certain you can find one very quickly with your capabilities~!”

From the moment she ended up in his arms, Rethusa hid her face but made no actual attempts to move away while Vahn and Artemis looked into each others’ eyes. He understood that Artemis was very worried about Rethusa and, having shared her experiences, Vahn couldn’t help but be a little worried himself. Since it was very possible for him to help her, Vahn withheld a sigh and just gave a small smile in response before saying, “Sure, but I think I’ll just make a bath in one of the side rooms that everyone can use later. I’m sure everyone would enjoy a nice hot bath after everything that has happened…” This caused Artemis’ smile to widen as she mused, “My, how thoughtful of you, Vahn. I’m certain everyone will be ecstatic when they hear about it. For now, the two of you should go enjoy yourselves… let’s see, the food should be ready in about an hour, so there is no rush.”

The entire time their conversation had gone on, Rethusa kept her head lowered and didn’t resist when Vahn gently pulled her hand along. Their departure drew a lot of attention but none of the girls called out to them as they too had been very worried about their Captain. Even Lante, who had heard what Artemis had whispered to Rethusa, kept her silence…at least until the two were out of sight. Once Vahn’s and Rethusa’s figures had disappeared, Lante practically jumped on Artemis, hugging her tightly as she complained, “Artemis-sama, that isn’t fair at all, you know? I want to take a bath with Vahn too~.” In response to this, Artemis surprised Lante by hugging her tightly and saying, “I’m certain, so long as you believe in love, that time will come…now, let’s make a delicious meal to impress Vahn. If we all work together, we may one day be able to become a real family…!”

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