Chapter 34 - Hephaestus Familia (1/2)
Vahn continued running in the direction of the Guild while checking the time within the system. At his current pace, he would still need around 20 minutes to reach the Guild, which would leave him less than an hour and a half to make his way to the City gates and back to the Inn.
He began to sweat after realizing he would most likely be unable to finish everything in time. It would take several minutes to wait in line at the Guild, and even if he was seen immediately upon his arrival it would take time to process the exchange. As his worries began to compound, Vahn felt energy begin to slowly release from his abdomen as his speed began to slowly increase.
("I can use [Will of the Emperor] to increase my speed!?") Because he hadn't been switching between the two recently, he was unaccustomed to the differences between his normal state and empowered state. He knew the skill seemed to increase his speed, but thought it was just a result of the increased perception and mobility within the domain.
While fully activating the skill, Vahn resolved to perform more experiments over the next few days as he trains Lili. After completely activating [Will of the Emperor] he noticed his speed more than doubled and began to have hope that there was enough time to complete everything.
In his gleeful state of mind, he hadn't been paying attention to the looks of the surrounding pedestrians. The moment he activated [Will of the Emperor] they felt a suppressive wave pass through them. They stared in horror as the boy ran with a terrifying speed through the City streets with a demonic grin on his face. Weaker civilians even had hallucinations that the boy was the grim reaper himself come to collect their souls, which resulted in some of them passing out on the spot.
Vahn continued forward blissfully unaware of the rumors he would cause to circulate in the following days. His only focus was arriving at the Guild as fast as possible, so he began using some of the alleyways he had previously mapped to circ.u.mvent the populated roads. With his minimap and the mobility he had polished within the forest and dungeon, he was able to easily navigate through the various corridors without losing speed.
When he was close to his destination, Vahn began to further increase his speed due to his excitement. Unfortunately, even with the increased perception brought about by the skill, he was unable to prevent himself from colliding with the body of a person that had just walked by the entrance of the alleyway. At the last moment, he tried to shift his weight to avoid a direct collision and ended up losing his balance after bumping into the unsuspecting passerby and slamming into the ground. Hard.
He sat on the ground in a daze, unable to recover from the near head-on-collision. From an area behind him, he could hear the sound of a woman addressing him.
"Hey kid, are you okay?"
After shaking his head a bit, Vahn looked towards the source of the voice. He fell into a daze after seeing who had been speaking to him. Looking towards him with an expression of intrigue stood a character he was familiar with from the manga.
Probably due to her identity as a Goddess, she looked nearly identical to her manga counterpart. She stood at 165cm with matching red hair and eye. She was garbed in casual attire, wearing a loose linen blouse and black pants which seemed to hug her figure. On her arms and legs were a pair of brown knee-high boots and black gloves that went past her elbows. Her most striking features were her large b.r.e.a.s.ts that peaked through the open collar of her blouse, and the large black eye-patch covering the right half of her face.
It was Hephaestus, Master Smith and Goddess of the 3rd ranked Hephaestus Familia. Vahn knew that she would be the one to receive Hestia in the future and that she would one day forge the living dagger for Bell which would aid his monstrous growth.
While he was staring at her, Hephaestus was also evaluating the boy that had nearly crashed into her. He seemed rather young but had a handsome face with a bit of a naive and detached look. What caught her eye, and the reason she hadn't simply walked away, was the aura being emitted by the boy and the sword that was on his back.
His aura was remarkably similar to that of a god releasing their divinity, albeit on a much smaller scale. It seemed to have a repressive force that even made her soul tremble slightly. She suspected that he was likely the descendant of a god, but she couldn't identify which. Her main interest was the sword at his back...
As a goddess of forging, she had seen and practiced almost every technique between the heavens and earth. This was the first time she saw such a uniquely forged blade, and the most surprising thing was the materials used in its construction. Given her eye's unique ability, she could easily discern between the grade and constituent materials used to forge a blade. Though it seemed similar to a magical composite of iron and heavier elements, she couldn't see through the make-up of the blade or its grade!
"Hey kid, if you're not in a hurry I'd like to take a look at that sword on your back. You can treat it as my accepting your apology for nearly tackling me. What do you say?" She really wanted to get a better look at the sword, so tried to come up with an easy compromise that wouldn't harm either party.
Hearing her speak yet again, Vahn quickly got to his feet before bowing. "I am very sorry for nearly running into you, but I'm in a hurry right now so I can't stick around." He began to turn away to make his way towards the Guild which was just a few blocks from his current location. From behind, a hand grasped at the collar of his hood and prevented him from moving forward. Vahn was surprised at the amount of power in the grip.
"Come on kid, I'm sure whatever it is can wait for a few minutes. What's the rush?" Hephaestus didn't know when she would get a chance to inspect the blade in the future and seeing how the boy trying to leave without introducing himself or explaining the situation left a sour expression on her face.
Vahn noticed the look she was giving him so he quickly explained his current predicament. He was hoping she would be understanding and allow him to leave, but her reaction surprised him.
"Hahahahaha, is that it? Then it's no problem at all. Let me introduce myself, kid. My name is Hephaestus, and I'm the Goddess of the Hephaestus Familia. You should have heard of me, right?" She gave a cheeky grin which irked Vahn a little, though he wasn't sure why.
"My name is Vahn Mason, and yes, I've heard of you and your Familia." He could see her expression light up a bit at his words, and she nodded as if to say, 'of course, of course~'.
"Then how about a trade, Vahn? My Familia has something called a 'guest pass' that can be issued to the merchants that transport materials for us from outside the City. As long as you hold the pass you'll be treated as a guest of the Hephaestus Familia, and none of the City guards would dare harass you. In exchange, I'd like you to accompany to my workshop nearby so I can inspect that sword on your back. Deal?"
Vahn weighed her words for a moment before finally nodding. If he could get around having to run back-and-forth between the guild, gate, and Inn, that would be helpful. It would also give him the opportunity to build some rapport with Hephaestus which would make it easier to approach Hestia in the future.
Hephaestus nodded, expecting his agreement before leading the way to a building nearby. Vahn was surprised when he realized the workshop was in the same commercial district as the Hearth's Embrace. He began to realize why so many businesses in the area seemed to be named after fireplaces and forges...It turns out the main workshop of Hephaestus was within the same district.
She continued to lead him through the lower floors of the shop that showed a variety of uniquely designed weapons and equipment. Vahn noticed that none of the items on display had a price listed, and the security of the store was incredibly tight. Even with his use of [Will of the Emperor], he could feel a sense of danger coming from each of the shops' guards as they gave him a cold glare in response to his curiosity.
"Hey kid, when are you going to stop emitting that aura of yours? Don't tell me you can't control it?" Hephaestus had been growing a bit annoyed at how much attention Vahn had been drawing to them. She began to suspect the kid behind her was missing a few parts inside his head.
"Ah, sorry, I had forgotten about it..." Vahn laughed awkwardly while Hephaestus just released a big sigh while placing her hand on her forehead.
"Anyways, we're here. Make sure not to touch anything without permission." She had led him into a room within the most secure area of the workshop. When he entered he could see weapons and armor that almost seemed to possess life. Though they weren't presently being used, he could feel an aura of danger emitting from the blades while the armor seemed to possess the unassailable qualities of a mountain. He could see a large disparity between his own equipment and the masterpieces in front of him.
While he was staring in awe at the items, Hephaestus gave an appreciative nod seeing his expression. She sat behind a large desk where several blueprints and designs could be seen spread out along its width. After cleaning the designs and storing them away, she tapped the table to get Vahn's attention.
"Go ahead and place the sword here. And if you don't mind answering my questions, that would be helpful." Vahn nodded, but before placing the sword on the table he asked about the guest pass. Though she seemed a bit annoyed, she removed a metal emblem from her desk that depicted two hammers crossed over a volcano. She tossed the emblem towards him, and Vahn stared at it briefly before putting his sword on the table.
Hephaestus inspected the make of the metal closely and even used various tools to knock along the length of the blade. She would lightly tap while listening for something Vahn wasn't able to hear, and she would nod her head on occasion as if realizing something from her actions. Vahn was very curious what she was able to discern from the blade and began to get nervous...
Seemingly satisfied with her investigation, Hephaestus turned towards Vahn with a curious expression on her face. "Where did you obtain this sword?" This was the most important question in her mind, as she was genuinely curious about its origins.
Since he had agreed to answer her questions, Vahn told her the lie he had prepared while she was inspecting the sword. "It was an heirloom of my deceased Grandfather. I'm not sure where he got it." Using his 'grandfather' as an excuse again, Vahn began to feel indebted to the man he had never met.
"Hmm, and when did he die? What was his profession?" Hephaestus could sense a feeling of incongruity in his words so decided to pry more deeply. It was very difficult to hide anything from her eyes, and she was determined to see through the boy in front of her.
Vahn became nervous seeing the look in her eyes and began to regret agreeing to come here...