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Finished with the morning's scheduled audiences, Vahn decided to spend the rest of his morning with Black Rabbit. She had been spending the vast majority of her time helping Usalia look after the kittens ever since she got pregnant. Her original intent was to apprentice under Usalia, but, thanks to her experience with the No Name Community, Black Rabbit was already exceptionally suited for child-rearing. In fact, more often than not, Usalia was the one going to her for advice.
With his senses making him aware of everything taking place within the newly renovated Sage Dragon's Hearth, Vahn was unsurprised to find Yo, Asuka, and Lily within the nursery alongside Fenrir, Usalia, and Black Rabbit. The trio had developed the habit of stopping by to check up on Black Rabbit two to three times a day, as, ever since she had started showing signs of pregnancy, the latter had only left the Sage Dragon's Hearth twice.
"Did I accidentally stumble into paradise…?"
Seeing the six girls relaxing quietly as the kittens used their bodies as pillows, Vahn couldn't help smiling. Things were still tense between him and Asuka but there was something captivating about seeing the excessively prideful woman watching over his children with an affectionate smile on her face…
Since the kittens were currently asleep, none of the girls greeted Vahn in the usual manner. Instead, Usalia adopted a glower that was more adorable than threatening as she half-growled, "Keep your voice down…"
Holding his finger up to his lips, Vahn's expression practically melted when one of his daughters, a quickly developing kitten named Prima, issue an adorable hiccup. In response, Yo gently rubbed her back, a tender smile developing across her face as Prima nestled closer to her.
With each of the other girls saddled with two kittens, Vahn approached Usalia to retrieve Shiro from her embrace. The pout she presented upon being separated from her mother's warmth was beyond adorable, but, the moment Vahn cradled her in his arms, a contented smile immediately developed across her face.
Hearing Asuka's whispered remark, Vahn cast her a glance before rolling his eyes when she quickly averted her own. He then made himself comfortable between Usalia and Black Rabbit, thoroughly enjoying the rare moment of serenity where all the kittens were simultaneously asleep. It didn't last very long, but Vahn wouldn't have traded even a single moment for all the riches in the Universe…
Though they were more than capable of returning on their own, Vahn accompanied the trio of No Names to the Consultation Office connected to their territory. This was usually Leticia's duty, but, as their paths just so happened to cross, Vahn figured he may as well ask how they were doing before sending them off with a few gifts.
Contrasting Asuka's usual standoffishness, Lily and Yo had absolutely no filter when speaking with Vahn. It was a little awkward at times, but, as he was technically the No Name Community's Primary Care Physician, Vahn didn't bat an eye even when they consulted him about extremely sensitive and physiological matters. Lily, in particular, was constantly asking Vahn to help regulate the seal on her body as it had been going haywire ever since she and Jin began 'experimenting' together.
In truth, things hadn't been going particularly well between Lily and Jin. The barrier between friends and lovers was proving more difficult to overcome than either of them anticipated. Both were trying their hardest but Jin still struggled with taking the initiative. The times they had tried to have sex, he ended up suffering from performance anxiety. Vahn could have easily remedied this, but, as a result of Jin's self-esteem issues, he couldn't bring himself to ask for help regarding such a sensitive topic.
When Lily mentioned 'experimenting', it was generally her taking the initiative to perform various services. The most the latter had been able to manage was holding her hand, kissing, and asking her out on a few dates. The one time he tried seizing the initiative himself, he ended up having the kind of 'accident' that was best forgotten to time.
Had they been a normal couple, the relationship between Lily and Jin wouldn't be anything to be concerned about. The problem was that Lily was descended from a Goddess whose origins could be traced back to Inari, a Goddess associated with foxes, fertility, rice, tea, and sake. They were also the Patron Goddess of Actors and Prostitutes, so, while Lily was a very distant descendant, she was not wholly unaffected by Inari's influence.
The crux of Lily's problems lay in the development of her Spiritual Energy and her growing interest in the relations between men and women. If Jin had been a little more proactive, there was a good chance that things would progress smoothly between them. Instead, Jin was inhibited by his lack of confidence while Lily was too kind and caring to 'force' the matter. She didn't want to pressure him before he was ready, so, using the excuse that her seal was going haywire, she would consult Vahn for physical, mental, and spiritual relief.
As inappropriate as this may sound, Lily's 'treatment' was more of a therapy session than anything else. She would talk at length about all the things that were troubling her while Vahn either combed or caressed her head. There had been a single incident where she tried to talk him into giving her a massage, but, out of respect for Jin and as a professional courtesy, Vahn politely declined. He didn't mind helping to suppress or dissipate her developing urges. He had no intentions of becoming the outlet she used to release them.
Ever since the first time Vahn had refused her offer to escalate things just a 'little' further, Lily never broached the subject a second time. Instead, she began spending more time with Yo, who, despite a developing interest in the opposite sex, felt more comfortable around women. Neither had come out to say anything just yet but pretty much everyone in the No Name Community assumed there was 'something' going on between the nearly inseparable friends.
As the confidant of both girls, Vahn knew exactly how far the two had gone. He even suspected they went out of their way to keep him informed, not because they had any malicious intentions, but because it was equally well known that Yo had developed a crush on him. It started out as a mild intrigue and a fascination with the many animalistic women in his entourage, but, during her time in the Game Board, it quickly developed into something more.
Though Asuka accused him of using it to 'trick' Yo into falling in love with him, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was the Companion Vahn had gifted her, the Maneki-neko. It not only served as Yo's day-to-day clothing but, at several points during her stay in the Danmachi-inspired Game Board, it ended up saving her life. The two of them had developed an incredibly close bond, so, as the person who had gifted the Maneki-neko to her, Vahn was held in extremely high esteem by the bubbly brunette.
The only thing preventing Yo from surrendering to her feelings was her friendship with Asuka and Lily. She didn't want to hurt either of them, so, until they managed to find happiness for themselves, she wanted to support them as best she could. As for the kinds of mischief she got up to whenever she and Lily were alone, it was a lot more wholesome than most people assumed. They had kissed a few times, but, more often than not, their interactions involved gratuitous amounts of hugging and petting. This was the reason the two of them had never been 'caught'. Whenever someone walked in on them, they would simply find the two of them snuggling up together or sleeping.
Yo wasn't aware of it but it was this type of behavior that prevented Vahn from even thinking about doing anything 'untoward' to her. She was way too adorable and wholesome, so much so that there were times when he felt guilty about 'corrupting' her with the occasional flirtatious remark. It didn't help that Yo's periodic attempts to 'seduce' him involved her wearing 'adult' underwear beneath her onesie and simply cozying up to him.
Did she inform him about her particular choice in undergarments? No. She just believed he would take notice due to the 'lessons' he had taught them in the past. More specifically, she recalled that he had once mentioned that even a thousand layers of clothes couldn't conceal their bodies from his senses. This was a point against him in Asuka's book, but, from the perspective of a maiden in love, it was apparently something to be excited about. At the very least, Yo seemed to enjoy it quite a bit as she would often leave messages on her body. In one instance, she even had Lily draw a pair of cat-like eyes on her butt along with a misguided message asking if he wanted to pat the kitty…
Needless to say, Asuka had been pretty upset when she saw the playful message in the changing room. Yo was pretty good about erasing the marks she left on her body, but, due to that particular message's location, she had completely forgotten about it. The same could be said for Lily, so, ever since then, the duo had been careful to make sure the messages were small or located in areas that Asuka wouldn't easily notice.
On the subject of Asuka, things were actually going surprisingly well between her and Izayoi. They never really talked about it but it wasn't uncommon to find them watching the moon together or sneaking off to discuss things in private. It was rumored that one of the children had seen the two of them kissing, but, due to how reserved Asuka was, most of the details regarding hers and Izayoi's relationship were a closely guarded secret.
At the very least, that's what Asuka wanted to believe…
In reality, Vahn knew pretty much everything there was to know about the relationship between the two Heroes. Asuka may be tight-lipped around the No Names but she regularly complained to the aptly named 'Nursery Group'. Everyone needed an outlet to vent their frustrations, so, whenever she was helping to look after the kittens, Asuka would often confide in the growing group of girls. This was actually one of the reasons she was still hostile towards Vahn. Whenever he showed up in the nursery, she couldn't help feeling though he was intruding upon their girl time…
Fortunately, Asuka was the only person who thought that way. Every other girl recognized Vahn's right to be there. Rather, without him, Usalia and Black Rabbit would be at their wit's end once the kittens started throwing a tantrum. When one cried, it would set off a chain reaction that couldn't be stopped without Vahn popping in, splitting into multiple versions of himself, and coaxing them to sleep.
Though she could be exceptionally brash at times, Asuka was far from stupid. She may view Vahn as an 'enemy of women' but the only times she openly voiced her grievances towards him was back in the territory of the No Names. More accurately, she would complain to Lily and Yo in the bath while asking what the two of them saw him. When she was around people like Fenrir, Usalia, Black Rabbit, and the other members of the No Names, she generally kept her opinion to herself.
As much as she personally disliked him, Asuka knew better than to slander Vahn around the people he had helped during some of the most trying times in their life. Lily was the singular exception in that regard as Asuka viewed her as a remarkably mature and dependable woman. Around the other children, there were times when Asuka outright praised Vahn. After all, in their minds, he had saved their lives. Insulting someone's savior was a remarkably quick way to undermine the trust they had in you, so, for the sake of the Community and her position within it, Asuka did her best to 'tolerate' Vahn's existence…
Fortunately for everyone involved, Asuka didn't truly hate Vahn. She was just really persistent when it came to holding grudges. Knowing she was basically naked whenever he was around didn't help. In fact, it was 95% of the reason she didn't like being around him. As for the remaining five percent, it was actually a genuine appreciation for Vahn as a character…
It was surprisingly difficult to hate people that went out of their way to help virtually everyone they met…
(Alternate Titles: 'I need to get my blood sugar checked…','I would say to call an ambulance but I think Jin would be better served by a coroner…','95% Tsun, 5% Dere…')
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