"I don't want to fight...I-"
Waving his hand dismissively, Vahn adopted a friendly smile as he said, "No worries. If I needed to force children to fight for me, I wouldn't be much of a God. All I really expect from you and Sarina, at least for the time being, is that you grow up happily and healthily. Let adults worry about adult problems."
Though she was still a little apprehensive, Nono only hesitated for a brief moment before nodding her head and answering, "Okay..." in a meek tone of voice.
Nodding his head in approval, Vahn rose from his chair and gave Sarina's head one last pat as he said, "I'll leave the two of you to rest. We'll go and register our Community in the morning. Until then, the two you should get to know each other better. You'll be sisters from today onward. Try to get along..."
Blinking in surprise, Sarina appeared as if she wanted to say something but couldn't quite find the words. In the end, she just returned a smile and intoned an affirmative, "Nn~!" before scampering over to Nono's bedside and saying, "I'm looking forward to working with you, Onee-chan~!"
Pulling the blankets up to cover the lower half of her face, Nono simply nodded in response to Sarina's enthusiasm. Her experiences over the last seven months had left her less than enthused about living in the Divine Realm, so, while she was feeling hopeful for the first time in a while, she was significantly less optimistic than Sarina...
After closing the door behind him, Vahn placed his own protective charm on its surface before heading to his own room. This Cafe didn't have anything like a bath, and, despite being the Realm inhabited by the most powerful beings in existence, civilization within the Little Garden appeared to be stuck around the middle ages. There was an underground sewer system, but most toilets just fed straight into it without a more comprehensive water system. In fact, freshwater was actually rare, so much so that a number of Communities literally specialized in its production and sale...
While this might sound a little counterintuitive for a society that could literally pull the geniuses of various worlds to their side, the simple truth of the matter was that the Little Garden prohibited the advancement of civilization unless it was 'inherently constructive'. The people in charge, specifically those among the Buddhist Communities, believed that suffering was the natural state of all beings. It was the trials they faced to overcome their suffering that led people to Nirvana, and, more than anything else, they repudiated progress for progress's sake. Thus, unless something contributed to the universal good of all things, they believed it was better for people to have to fetch water and hunt their food rather than having it brought to them.
At the present moment, the Buddhist Faction was among the most powerful in the Divine Realm. It was so influential, in fact, that even Shiroyasha had converted to Buddhism approximately 200 years ago. Thus, while several opportunists had attempted to elevate their status by improving the quality of life of common citizens, they simply lacked the resources, manpower, and, most importantly, the authority to do so. After all, even if they knew how to construct factories, production facilities, and machines, it wasn't like they could just wander outside the Little Garden's gates, pick a spot of their choosing, and begin strip-mining it for resources.
With the exception of Community grounds and self-created territories, modifying the natural world was prohibited by the Laws of the Little Garden. As a result, most food, natural resources, and even water originated from Gifts. This wasn't an exaggeration, and, more often than not, the first priority of any burgeoning Community was obtaining a Water Tree Sapling and forming a contract with an Earth Spirit so you could begin cultivating the land for farming.
Though he could basically skip all the foundational steps of building a community and just focus on increasing his influence, Vahn knew he wouldn't be able to just ignore people, or, more specifically, children in need. He also knew that Sarina and Nono wouldn't be able to keep up with his progress, so, before they made the mistake of trying, he was intending to instill in them a sense of duty and obligation before entrusting them to watch over other children.
Understanding his nature better than most, Vahn knew it was only a matter of time before he found a woman or ten that garnered his interest. He didn't really have time to babysit children and he had never enjoyed the feeling of 'grooming' young girls into potential lovers. He could still vividly recall the discomfort he felt regarding Tina, Asuna, and, to a lesser extent, Mordred, Mash, and a handful of others. He wasn't going to tell Sarina that she wasn't allowed to love him, but, unless something pretty drastic happened, he had no intention of making things 'easy' for her.
With such thoughts on his mind, Vahn replaced the bed in his room before sprawling out with his arms and legs spread wide. It had been years since he simply relaxed in a bed on his own, so, for a very brief moment, he actually felt a little lonely. This caused the Law of Identity to manifest out of thin air, and, though she didn't make an appearance, Sis made her presence known by giggling in the back of his mind and instigating a conversation as the adorable redhead curled up next to him...
Perhaps as a result of the Community in charge being called Twice Twilight, nighttime never came to Gate #2105393. Thus, after idling about for the better part of ten hours, Vahn went to wake up the two girls before heading downstairs for some breakfast.
Producing an A-Rank Gift Card, Vahn managed to convince the owner of the establishment to let him borrow the kitchen. He also provided all the ingredients so they had no problem letting him use their stove and oven in exchange for a few tips related to their own recipes.
In the end, most of the items Vahn prepared were modifications to the existing menu. This included a few types of danishes and an apple pie made from his personal stockpile of Avalon Apples. Today was an important day for Sarina and Nono, so, even if it was a little excessive, he wanted to make it as memorable as possible. The stronger their feelings were at the formation of the Community, the more they would want to protect it later in life. Thus, for the sake of themselves and the children they would be protecting, he intended to make sure today was one of the happiest of their lives.
Emerging from the kitchen, Vahn surprised both Sarina and Nono by appearing in a stylish barista outfit, complete with a bowtie and apron. This earned the attention of several other patrons, but, paying them no mind, he approached the two girls with a silver tray filled with pastries, smiling as he said, "Breakfast is served~." in a soothing baritone.
As could be expected, Sarina blushed crimson, stammering, "T-T-Thank you...!" in an overly excited tone. Nono, however, just returned a delicate smile, a nearly indiscernible pink hue to her cheeks as she softly replied, "Thank you..." in her characteristically meek tone.
Chuckling lightly, Vahn arranged all the items on the table before snapping with his left hand. This caused a golden pulse to spread through the interior of the Cafe, a pleasant aroma lingering in the air as a comfortable warmth settled into each of the patrons. At the same time, he produced a chair for himself out of thin air before taking a seat and casually explaining, "Once the two of you have finished eating, we'll go and register our Community at the Gate. Still, that's no reason to rush. Take your time and enjoy the meal. I'm pretty proud of my cooking ability."
"You made all of this...?" asked Sarina in an ostensibly surprised tone.
Surprised by such a question, Vahn couldn't help raising his brows slightly as he answered, "Today is an important day and I intend to make it memorable. Please, give it a try and let me know what you think."
Nodding her head, Nono picked up a tiny cookie in the shape of a lotus flower before tentatively biting the edge. It wasn't especially flavorful, but it had a uniquely balanced taste reminiscent of vanilla and honey. This caused Nono to tear up slightly, as, despite the shape appearing markedly different from what she remembered, the taste was something she was intimately familiar with...
Smiling sadly in response to Nono's soft utterance, Vahn resisted the urge to reach out and caress the girl's head. The cookies were actually a special recipe developed by Rindo, and, as a result, the recipe had manifested as a D-Rank Gift known as [Flavor of the Heart]. This caused the cookies to, quite literally, taste like nostalgia.
With the intent of cheering her up a bit, Vahn adopted an even gentler tone than usual as he said, "Don't worry. I might not be able to do anything about it in the near future, but I can promise that you will be reunited with your parents. The Divine Realm is unique in the fact that it exists above the principle axis of all other realities. This is what allowed your former Community to learn about your future achievements before summoning your younger self. In that same vein, both of your parents are still alive and well at some point in space and time. We just have to bring them here."
As if a switch had been flipped in her heart and mind, all of Nono's shyness appeared to disappear in an instant, her expression visibly brightening as she excitedly asked, "Mommy and Daddy are still alive!? Can you really bring them here...!?"
Not expecting Nono to practically pounce on him, Vahn's smile became marginally more awkward as he gently guided her back to her seat and answered, "Of course. The hardest part is just finding out where your reality is located. After that, we just need to prepare a catalyst and everything else is relatively straightforward. Until then, you should focus on doing everything you can to live your life to the fullest. As a parent myself, I can assure you they would be a lot happier if they came to the Divine Realm and discovered you were living happily."
Offering the first genuine smile he had seen on her face since her rescue, Nono practically beamed as she answered, "I understand..." in a bashful yet happy tone. Her complexion had improved quite a bit, and, though there was a fair amount of red coloring her cheeks, Vahn pretended not to notice as he continued to caress the girl's head with a gentle smile of his own.
"You already have children...?"
Hearing Sarina's question, Vahn retracted his hand from Nono's head before answering, "Of course. You would be hard-pressed to find a God that didn't have a few dozen children. Heck, I even have a few who are older than me if you can believe it..."
Recalling Xysteria, Sylva, and Krona, Vahn's smile became noticeably more affectionate as he briefly considered bringing them out to play. He had spent some time with them after the merger between his Realm and the Little Garden, but, compared to the millions of years they had lived, a few months seemed negligible.
Noticing the change in Vahn's expression, Sarina felt a twinge of pain and envy. She couldn't even remember her parents as they had abandoned her when she was still a baby. Thus, even though she did her best to suppress it, she couldn't help feeling jealous when Vahn mentioned his children and bringing back Nono's parents. She was trying to look forward to the future, but, based on how Vahn was behaving, her prospects, at least in terms of love, were looking grim...
Understanding Sarina's thoughts, even without the Law of Identity, Vahn reached out to caress her head, his expression softening as he said, "You worry a lot for a ten-year-old..."
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Buddha be like, "Life is suffering..." while donning a pair of jadeite knuckle dusters...','Vahn could use a hundred different Gifts every day and never have to use the same one twice...','Nono is precious. Sarina is precocious. Both are adorable yet troublesome (UwU)...')
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