Chapter 938: Atmosphere

After evading the natural-disaster class monster, Charybdis, the way the Amazonesses viewed Vahn had undergone a very noticeable change. Though they had always eyed him like a prize to be won, the few inhibitions they had been developing over the past two weeks had been thrown away completely after things had settled down. Previously, they had given him a bit of distance and it seemed like they were struggling to get close to him, even though he hadn’t particularly tried to keep them away. Now that they had survived an ordeal that would have spelled their deaths in normal circumstances, the ‘instincts’ of the entire crew had been triggered all at once…

By the time the afternoon meal had come around, Vahn found himself practically swarmed by several Amazonesses, with even Tiona and Tione unable to keep them at bay. Instead of him feeding them, everyone was ‘literally’ fighting for the opportunity to feed Vahn this time around, including the youngest of the crew, an Amazoness named Myahi. She was only eight years old but had already reached Level 2, making her an ‘adult’ within the eyes of Amazoness society. Because she was still a little ‘too young’, however, she was being groomed much like Tiona and Tione had been in the past.

Much to Myahi’s lamentation, though she was also slightly happy for the opportunity, Vahn treated her like the child he considered her to be. This meant he allowed her to sit in his lap and, so long as she behaved, he didn’t mind pampering her a little. Even Tione and Tiona gave her a bit of leeway, the latter of which eyed the young Myahi in much the same way that the various mother’s at the Manor eyed their children. Soon, Tiona and Tione would both be mothers themselves so it was obvious that Tiona was thinking about the future, something that was particularly ‘rare’ for her…

Most of the Amazonesses in the crew were relatively easy to deal with, leaving Bache, Khodiva, and the young Myahi as truly ‘troublesome’ ones. Bache was a Level 6 Amazoness who had never left Telskyura to find a mate, making her one of the few that had reached her late twenties that had yet to give birth. She already had a good impression of Vahn because of Tiona but, now that he had moved their ship through the sky and evaded the Charybdis, it was ‘very’ obvious that the way she viewed him had changed greatly. Previously, she had kept a bit of distance and simply watched the other Amazonesses interact with Vahn. Now, however, Bache had sat alongside Tiona with a small gourd of fermented wine, offering Vahn small saucers of the rather potent alcohol. He noticed wine had the qualities of a natural aphrodisiac but didn’t refuse the offer outright, enjoying the lively atmosphere with a humorous smile that caused Bache to breathe a little heavily…

The last of the troublesome Amazonesses, Khodiva, was the one that unnerved Vahn the most as she didn’t overtly approach him and continued to ‘glare’ at him from the periphery. Though she might have tried something if it was just Tiona and Tione, as they were ‘outsiders’, the presence of Bache around Vahn made it impossible for her to get close. Normally, this would have applied to Myahi as well but, with Vahn having shown a great deal of leniency towards her over the last two weeks, most of the Amazonesses present weren’t surprised that she was allowed near him. They knew Vahn didn’t view her as a ‘suitable mate’ so her behavior was largely ignored since she wasn’t an ‘active’ competitor just yet, yet another thing that frustrated the young Amazoness…

Vahn kept Myahi pacified by lightly stroking her head as she ‘brooded’ in his lap with a light blush on her cheeks. Her pride made her want to lash out but the comfortable feeling coming from Vahn’s hand made her hold back and ‘tolerate’ the offense of her fellow crewmates. She knew that she was still luckier than the rest of the crew as, even though Vahn didn’t treat her like a woman, he at least allowed her to be near him. If he truly treated her like an adult, she would be stuck watching from the side, unable to breach through the defense of Tiona, Tione, and now even her Captain, Bache. Thus, swallowing her pride, Myahi bottled up her negative emotions and just enjoyed the small benefits she was able to gain…

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As the afternoon slowly turned into the evening, Vahn continued enjoying the lively atmosphere as Bache, seemingly realizing her wine had no effect, commented, “It isn’t nice to get a woman’s hopes up, Vahn…” She now understood why he had an amused smile and a teasing look when she would refill his cup, causing her to feel a little annoyed and embarrassed. In response to this, Vahn’s expression remained casual as he said, “I’m trying to be conscious of the situation at large, Bache. How do you think things would play out if your wine actually had an effect…?”

Hearing Vahn’s question, Bache showed momentary confusion before Tione released an exasperated sigh, pointing to the group of scantily clad Amazoness in the cabin, saying, “We’re on a ship in the middle of the sea with only a single large sleeping area. Even if Vahn was okay with you, do you think he wants to have a gallery of spectators watching…?” This caused Bache’s eyes to widen slightly as she habitually glared towards the other Amazonesses before lowering her head in embarrassment. Tiona saw this, laughing uninhibitedly until Bache pinched her exposed side and said, “Don’t laugh at me, you brat…!”

Bache’s words only caused Tiona, along with several other Amazonesses, to laugh even louder as their Captain, a woman who they generally revered and respected, was left furrowing her brows in frustration. If not for the veil covering her face, everyone would have been able to see Bache’s deep blush as she could only glare back a warning toward her Familia members. If Vahn hadn’t been present, she would have thrown them overboard and beaten them for their disrespect. Though she wasn’t as ‘mad’ as her sister, Bache shared a similar love for battle and would usually never allow them to act out of line like this…

This was something that the only person not to join the evening meal, Kali, was very aware of as well. She had been watching the small ‘celebration’ in silence, not really thinking about anything in particular and just waiting to see how things played out. When Vahn had started drinking the wine offered by Bache, Kali’s brows had raised slightly in amusement before turning to a frown a few minutes later when it had no effect. Now, she was just taking note of how ‘strangely’ the children of her Familia were acting around Vahn, not that she could really blame them. As he had suspected, Kali was very aware of the fact that it had been her that drew the attention of the Charybdis. She would never apologize for this, however, and simply accepted it as a mistake she had made and should avoid making in the future…

In this same silence, Kali watched as the evening meal went on far longer than normal before Khodiva finally wrapped things up, reminding everyone to rest properly. If Vahn had been affected by the wine, things probably would have played out very differently but now it was starting to get late and they would need to be up very early if they wanted to stay on schedule. It was her personal pride, ever since being made the Helmswoman of Kali’s ship, to try and make each journey as short as possible.

With Khodiva ordering them, many of the Amazonesses made small groans and complaints but ultimately did as they were told, transitioning from the galley into the sleeping quarters below deck. There was a messy network of hammocks present within, allowing the crew to sway with the bowing and rocking of the boat as it was turned by the waves. Along the inside of the hull, there were also a series of red oars that were placed in racks, ready and waiting in the event that they needed to avoid something like a whirlpool or navigate through difficult sections of the sea where coral reefs and rock formations threatened to capsize unsuspecting ships.

One of the last to retire for the night, other than the seven members that would be manning the ship for the first night’s rotation, was the young Myahi. She had already fallen asleep in Vahn’s lap so he entrusted her to Bache, causing the mature Amazoness to frown slightly but still accept the responsibility. Vahn gave her a gratified smile, commenting, “If that scar bothers you, I can treat it for you later…” Though he hadn’t seen it directly, Vahn had been able to peer through Bache’s veil with his [Eyes of Truth] and saw the rather ghastly scar. He couldn’t use [Wound Transfer] on a long-healed wound, but that wouldn’t really stop him from being able to remove it with [Hands of Nirvana].

Bache showed an expression of momentary surprise before furrowing her brows slightly and saying, “Tiona had mentioned it to me previously, that you were able to heal scars that even powerful Elixirs were useless against. If you were to treat my wound…you have to be willing to take responsibility. I’m not a weak woman who can’t keep her instincts in check but that is something that I wouldn’t be able to ignore…” Generally, the older Amazonesses were far more skilled at keeping themselves under control. So long as they weren’t in direct combat, they could keep their instincts in check during most situations. If it was something that left a deep impression on them, however, even the most stoic and steadfast of their race wouldn’t be able to restrain themselves…

Knowing that, if things progressed as they were ‘supposed’ to, Bache would be the mother of one of his children, Vahn smiled in response, saying, “I’ll keep that in mind…good night, Bache.” These words caused Bache to inhale audibly through her nose as she turned away and retreated into the cabin with her fellow Amazonesses. She deposited the sleeping Myahi into a small hammock before crawling into her own, ignoring the heat of her body as she regulated her breathing. From a nearby hammock, Tiona had been observing since the moment Bache had entered the cabin, a small smile on her face as she curled up in her own hammock and went to sleep…

With the majority of the Amazonesses either going to sleep or manning their posts, Kali had used this opportunity to enter into the galley, making herself and Vahn the only two present. Vahn was aware of almost everything Kali did so he wasn’t surprised by her presence, turning toward her with a casual smile as he said, “Even if you didn’t want to apologize, that is fine. We both made a mistake this time, Kali, so I won’t force the blame on you…” Because she had been acting out as a result of the way he was treating her, Vahn couldn’t truly blame Kali for the appearance of Charybdis. He decided that they shared responsibility for the event and chose to bury the matter instead of trying to reproach her for it.

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Kali had anticipated many responses from Vahn but had never expected the first words out of his mouth to be ‘sharing’ responsibility. She had nearly remarked that she didn’t owe anyone an apology after hearing the first half of his statement. His latter words, however, had caused Kali to frown slightly since she didn’t really know how to respond to them. Since she wasn’t the type to mull over such things, Kali decided to just drop the matter entirely, saying, “I never expected you would be able to make my ship fly through the air. That was quite the impressive feat…it looks like you ended up taming my entire crew as a result, shishishi~.”

Seeing how Kali had reacted to his words, Vahn’s smile curled up at the corner of his mouth and he couldn’t help but chuckle lightly. This caused Kali’s smile to immediately turn into a frown until Vahn reached out his hand, plopping it on her head as he said, “You’re pretty cute sometimes, Kali…” As he spoke, Vahn rubbed the top of Kali’s head, finding it a little difficult because of her bone mask. Because of this, before Kali could respond, Vahn added, “I’m not sure why you wear this bone mask…hmmm…” These words caused Kali to regain her senses, explaining, “It is to represent my true form and status as a Goddess of Death. In Heaven, I am able to manifest my Divinity and produce a total of eight arms, each representing an aspect of death…”

Kali’s words were left trailing as Vahn casually removed the mask, revealing her rather childish and pouting expression as he commented, “Sorry, but it’s getting in the way…” Vahn resumed petting the top of Kali’s head, causing her brows to furrow even deeper a rather annoyed smile spread across her face. The edge of her mouth twitched as she balled up both of her fists, trembling slightly as her icy voice stated, “Don’t you dare treat me like a child, Vahn Mason…!” Even though she wasn’t trying to manifest it, Kali’s aura began to leak out as a result of the incredulity and rage that she was beginning to experience.

Vahn knew he was skirting the limit of Kali’s patience but remained undaunted as he said, “I’m not treating you like a child. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how big you are, or what your status is, I’ve always had a habit of petting people I think are cute. Don’t worry, as even Loki and Freya have been subjected to the same treatment…” Towards the end of his words, Vahn surprised Kali by bringing his left hand, caressing her right cheek and tracing his fingers through her hair. He then moved his right hand to her left cheek, slowly moving his thumbs across her face as threads of energy dispersed into the soft tissue of Kali’s face. This was inarguably a kind of petting that would be considered highly improper under normal circumstances…

Kali struggled with deciding if she wanted to be angry or if she wanted to just let Vahn do as he pleased. Her pride made her want to strike his exposed abdomen while the comfortable feeling in her face, head, and neck made her want to just enjoy the moment. Eventually, she did come back to her senses enough to shake away from his hands before observing their surroundings, noting that there weren’t any prying eyes that had seen her shameful display. This caused Kali to inhale deeply before snorting as she manifested a new bone mask, protecting her head and face from Vahn’s wandering hands. She noticed the wry undertones in his smile, causing her ire to fade rather quickly as a small smile spread across her face.

Vahn was a little confused by Kali’s reaction until she stepped a little too close, leaning against his body as she looked up into his face and said, “I’ve already given you several chances to try and stand on the same level as me, even in front of my own Familia. If you’re going to act like this, you have to be willing to give and take, Vahn. I’m not going to let you do whatever you want without putting up any kind of resistance at all…” Kali had been tempted to warn him that, depending on the circumstances, she would have to kill anyone that saw him embarrass her. Knowing Vahn’s character, these words wouldn’t have been very conducive to her situation so she instead loosely wrapped her arms around his neck, adding, “Don’t forget, I have a cabin if you think you have what it takes to ‘tame’ me…”

Kali felt Vahn’s body tense up, causing her to release a mischevious cackle as she pulled her hands away, tracing her fingernails across his chest and leaving a few thin red lines. She noticed they almost immediately healed, causing her to frown slightly and remark, “You’re no fun…” With these parting words, Kali turned her back to Vahn and ambled over to her elevated platform. She made an effort to tease him by snaking her hips, knowing that Vahn was still unnerved by her physical appearance. As expected, Vahn averted his eyes, causing Kali to snort as she muttered, “Hypocrite…” before turning away completely and climbing onto her platform to lounge once again…

(A/N: Kali is essentially calling Vahn a hypocrite because he knows she isn’t a child, yet still acts like she is, all while having a Pallum as one of his lovers.)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Myahi’s major loss, minor victory…’,’Bache is a little sneaky…’,’Difference in perspective…’)

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