Chapter 36: Decision; Hephaestus’ Surprise

Hearing Hephaestus ask him to join her Familia, Vahn began seriously considering the idea. He knew if he wanted to grow stronger without drawing too much attention he would need a strong backer, and the Hephaestus Familia was one of the best. There was also a chance that he can convince Hephaestus herself to forge him a weapon since many of the ones within the shop were higher quality than his current sword. If he could get a weapon that can grow, he would have a much easier time in the future when he delves further into the dungeon.

He began to consider his other options, such as the Loki Familia. He was really interested in joining that Familia, as it was home to many memorable characters like Finn, Riveria, the Amazoness twins Tione and Tiona, as well as the infamous airhead Ais, who Bell had fallen for in the manga. His main reason for not joining was because he wanted to join the Hestia Familia later, and there was an ongoing discourse between Loki and Hestia.

Seeing him in deep contemplation, Hephaestus didn’t know why, but she began to get a little nervous. She wanted him to join her Familia, but didn’t want to pressure him too hard since he may end up being pushed away if she was too firm. Thinking it was due to how she expressed interest in the whetstones that was causing his indecisiveness, she tried explaining things in a manner that would help alleviate his concerns.

“If you’re worried I just want to use you for your access to the whetstones, then don’t be. My reasons for asking you to join the Familia have nothing to do with any of that. I’m just…curious about your potential. I won’t force you to reveal your secrets without your consent, I just want to see how far you can go with my support.” Towards the latter half of her words, she began to feel her face heat up. This wasn’t like her usual self.

Hearing the reason she had come up with, Vahn couldn’t help but let out a smile. Maybe he was overthinking things too much, as there weren’t really any downsides to being in a Familia in the first place. He also knew Hephaestus wasn’t the type to divulge secrets about the people she cared about. This would also allow him to get close to people within the Loki Familia, since the two different Familia often teamed up together when going on expeditions into the dungeon.

“Thank you, Hephaestus…sama. I would very much like the opportunity to join your Familia.” He gave the most polite bow he could manage and waited for her response.

Staring at the boy bowing before her, Hephaestus felt an uncomfortable feeling in her chest. Though she didn’t mind him calling her ‘Miss’ earlier, now that he was agreeing to join the Familia at her request it felt awkward having him address her with ‘Sama’. It was almost like a wall was built between them, and she wanted to smash it down to prevent future complications.

“Call me Hephaestus.” She stated firmly, causing Vahn to look towards her in confusion. Seeing his expression, she turned her head as a warmth crept onto her cheeks. “I said, you can call me Hephaestus. There is no need for sama or anything like that…”

Vahn nodded in agreement but found her actions to be very peculiar. It was almost like she was…shy? He knew she had a soft spot for people due to her trauma, but he didn’t imagine it had such an immediate effect on their relationship. He actually felt a bit guilty but shook the thought away since he genuinely didn’t find her eye to be disgusting. In fact, he wanted to help her heal it, but the only solution Sis came up with was to learn alchemy.

Noticing she had started looking at him as if waiting for his response, Vahn smiled while gently calling, “Hephaestus.”

Hearing the intimate way in which he spoke, it felt like electricity went up the back of her spine. She could feel her heartbeat accelerate, and tried to cover her embarrassment with a cough. “Hmmf, anyways. Let’s go ahead an perform the crest ceremony. I want to see how strong you are and if you have any potential in becoming a blacksmith. Don’t worry though, even if you can’t become one, I’ll still allow you to be my assistant…or you can venture into the dungeon and collect materials. Though most of the members in my Familia are craftsman, we aren’t completely without capable explorers, else we’d be at the mercy of other Familia to procuring materials.”

As she spoke she pulled out a chair and positioned it in the center of the room. She was trying to remain calm but still noticed that her heartbeat had yet to normalize. Gesturing for Vahn to sit, the next words actually got caught in her mouth.

After waiting for a few seconds without anything happening, Vahn looked curiously towards Hephaestus who seemed to be in a daze. “Hephaestus?” When he spoke he saw her flinch before giving him a weird look.

“It’s nothing…You just need to remove…your shirt.” She didn’t know why she had such a hard time saying such simple words. Though she appreciated the fact he didn’t shy away after revealing her eye, she didn’t think she had fallen for him. He wasn’t even a fully grown man yet!

As she watched him remove his clothes, she could help but have her eyes drawn to his body. He had a very athletic figure and wasn’t overly muscular. His physique was likely the result of intense training, and she could see the lines of his muscle drawn into his lean frame. She began to feel like she was developing a devious tendency as she struggled to pull her eyes from his body.

After removing his shirt and cloak, Vahn sat with his flesh exposed to the air while leaning against the backrest of the chair. Waiting a few moments, he began to turn around as a voice interrupted him.

“Stay facing forward, I’m going to begin. Try to relax, since the ceremony can sometimes cause discomfort.” Hephaestus couldn’t understand what her own expression might be, and she didn’t want Vahn to see the look on her.

Staring at the well-developed back muscles, she slowly placed her finger to his back after pricking it with a needle. She began to mutter an incantation as she draws the crest of her Familia onto his back. Though she is a bit distracted by the physical contact she manages to complete the ceremony without incident. Throughout the entire duration, she noticed Vahn was able to maintain his posture without flinching in the slightest. ‘He must have good tolerance’, she thought as she began to inspect his new status board.

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What she saw just about sent her soul back to Heaven.

Name: [Vahn Mason]-Level:1
-Power: SS1001
-Endurance: SS1108
-Dexterity: A887

-Agility: S940
-Magic: SSS1611

Skills: [Bow Mastery:C], [Stealth:D], [Chainbreaker:S], [Yggdrasil’s Favor:S], [Veil of the Traveler: S]Magic: Empty
Development Skills: [Wound Transfer:B], [Spirit Healing:B], [Blacksmith:F]==========================================================

His lowest parameter was A, and even possessed three stats over the limit!? And how did he have so many skills related to stealth and concealment!? She remembered he claimed to come from the Western Forests, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to have a way to survive, but his current skills seemed a bit obsessive. He even had three skills she had never seen before, and each of them had incredible effects that would incite jealousy from other gods.

However, what she didn’t expect was that Vahn still had skills she couldn’t even detect through reading the status board. Had she known, she may have passed out on the spot due to the sheer ridiculous of the situation.

Though she desperately wanted to ask what kind of circumstances he had, Hephaestus decided it could wait till a later date. He had already joined her Familia, and there would be plenty of time to question him when he opened up on his own.

“Vahn, your stats are incredible for a Level 1. They’re some of the highest I’ve ever seen, and your magic stat is probably some kind of record…When I infuse my Falna into you to complete the ceremony, it’ll consume all the exilia you’ve obtained from slaying monsters and increase your level. Are you okay with that?”

Vahn thought for a moment before nodding. Ever since he rescued Lili earlier, there had been an ache within his body even after the full recovery from the effigy. After asking about it, Sis told him it was due to overtaxing his body as a result of his rampant growth. Without leveling up it would become increasingly difficult to increase his parameters, and even if he could it may result in his body exploding due to the stress.

Hephaestus dripped another drop of blood and updated Vahn’s Status board. She looked for any changes that may have appeared as a result of the increase and was surprised to see he had gained an additional two skills, bringing the total to seven normal and three development.

Vahn could feel the change in his body as his pressure in his abdomen broke through some kind of floodgate that had been preventing the energy of his body from properly dispersing. It felt very refreshing, and he could see the two new skills that had been obtained through the system.

[Swordsman:D]Increases comprehension of sword skills and techniques. Provides a slight increase to the kinetic vision and spatial awareness of the user.

[Featherfoot:E]Increases comprehension of movement abilities and footwork. Provides a moderate increase to stealth related abilities.

As he was reading the newly acquired skills, Hephaestus had used some kind of parchment to transfer his information. When she was finished she handed the paper to Vahn with a tired look.

“I knew there was something special about you, but you’re really something else. I don’t even know what to say when you’ve managed to acquire so many skills while still being level 2. Even with my eye, I can’t see the limit of your potential. Fortunately, you have the [Blacksmith] development ability, so I can at least guide you with that. I can also introduce you to a swordsmanship instructor later if you want.”

Only allowed on

Vahn dressed while listening to the Hephaestus speak. He looked over the paper she had given him and saw that all his parameters had reset to I10, which was also reflected in the system. Fortunately, he had the advantage of seeing his hidden stats, so it wasn’t too sorry a sight.

He turned towards Hephaestus while giving a slight bow. “Thanks, Hephaestus. I look forward to your guidance.” Vahn could see her look away, and couldn’t help but smile.

Seeing how Vahn was seemingly taking advantage of her, she got a little annoyed but decided to ignore it. She grabbed a hammer from the wall next to her desk before triggering a mechanism which revealed a secret workshop. Gesturing for Vahn to follow, he began to trail in her direction before they both stopped next to a forge that burned with an eternal flame.

“You might have a monstrous level of talent for combat, but let’s see how much potential you have as a blacksmith.” She turned towards Vahn with a unrivaled confidence on her face. Unlike all the emotions she had shown to him previously, this was what Vahn felt to be her most suitable expression.

Vahn nodded, taking a seat next to the forge to observe her actions. It wasn’t every day a person had the chance to watch an actual ‘Goddess of Smithing’ display her skills. He began to focus on her every word and movement as she began to process of teaching him how to forge.

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