And So, Bell Became a Hero Volume 2

DISCLAIMER: Danmachi belongs to its respective owners. Everything that occurs in this story is of my own creation and the characters abide by the fictional laws in the setting.

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Chapter 24: And So, The Hero is also The Villain

Part 34

He was not wrong.

But he wasn't right, either.

Or was he?

Was it even a question of whether he was right or wrong?

He had forgotten about that specific moment – he was helped to forget about that specific event – but now, the earring in his hand bitterly returned every detail of that memory.

But he was not wrong back then.

Rose carefully guided Bell back inside her home, the rest of the Familia curious as to what made the boy look so ashen and remain silent. The werewolf sat him down on the couch and took the spot beside him. "Bell, what did that woman want with you?"

Bell wanted to reply, he really did, but one look at the urgency inside Rose's golden irises sent his mind reeling back to the earring he still held inside his hand.

"Is… everything okay?" Rose asked him again, her tone softer, she placed a hand on his knee to show her support.

'No'

But he couldn't voice his response.

At least, not to her.

But he couldn't continue worrying her so much, he didn't want to hide things from her, but he just couldn't say it, so all he could do was reach for her hand and pull.

Rose followed his need, climbing sideways onto his lap where her weight almost made him forget the weight of the earring, but even when Rose's warmth didn't calm his erratic mind, he couldn't help but bury his face inside her bosom in an attempt to escape his thoughts.

"Bell, what's wrong?" Rose worriedly asked him again.

But Bell didn't reply, couldn't reply.

"My mate, please talk to me." Rose stroked his hair, trying to breach his turmoil with her care, but it was a futile attempt.

Because she was the same kind of weight that he had taken.

Bell couldn't tell Rose; all he could do was hold onto her much tighter and remind himself that the choice he made back then wasn't the wrong one.

No.

His choice had nothing to do with him being wrong or not, he didn't need to validate his choice with the concepts of right or wrong.

All that mattered was that he had chosen Rose and he would always continue to choose those he loved before others.

"Please… let me stay like this for a little longer," Bell mumbled into Rose's cleavage.

Rose sighed in relief once her mate had finally spoken, "Take all the time you need, my mate." She moved to embrace his head and bring him deeper into her bosom, to try and drown whatever ailed him with her intoxicating warmth.

He would always choose those he loved.

No matter the consequences.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


The Hestia Familia plan remained mostly unchanged, the only shift being the schedule. Instead of enjoying an early lunch, they postponed the meal for an hour until Bell had finally let go of the werewolf who was in charge lunch.

After eating with the silent white-haired boy, with none being able to coax any words out him, the four loaded the boxes they prepared during the morning into a cart just outside their home, one drawn by a donkey and prepared by the former Poseidon's attendant.

Such relocation of the Familia was up to the three female adventurers and Bell since both Goddesses were busy; Hestia working to pay off her debt to Hephaestus whereas Hekate was Goddess knows where. They would've been accompanied by the two honorary members, namely Eina and Shakti, had either of the two not been busy with their own duties for the day.

Unknown to Bell; Rose, Eden and Alicia had a match of rock-paper-scissors to decide who would walk by his side and try to get him to talk. In the end, it was Rose and Eden who sat on the cart to guide the donkeys while Alicia victoriously took his side.

Her joy didn't last long, however.

Halfway into their journey, Bell was so lost in his own little world that he ignored everything Alicia had done to get his attention, though he did respond to her holding his hand by locking their fingers together, but that was as far as he'd gone.

His silence did not stop Alicia from trying, though. "Bell?"

He'd made his choice, he just had to come to terms with it.

"Beeeell~"

There really wasn't much else to think through but accepting that was the hard part.

"Fine! If it's like that, then…"

Something pulled on his hand, forcing his left shoulder downwards before he felt warm air tickle his left ear.

"D-dear h-husband."

"Eh!?" Bell stumbled. He whipped around to look at an extremely red-faced Alicia covering her mouth and not believing what she'd said either. "Al-Alicia!?"

"Finally!" Alicia huffed out, her voice muffled by her hand, but her reddened cheeks still visible despite her turning to look away. "You've been ignoring us for the last hour, did something happen?"

"Oh," Bell oh'ed; he made a mental reminder to tease Alicia before the day was over. "I guess something happened. I was given something important so I'm just… sorting my emotions out, I guess."

"Oh…" Alicia uncovered her mouth and leaned closer into his side, slightly increasing the pressure from her grip on his hand, "Do you want to speak about it?"

Her caring nature made Bell forget his issues momentarily, enough to give him a fond smile from her care. "Not now," He scratched his cheek. "I think this is one of those things I have to figure out for myself."

"Are you sure?" Alicia questioned him again, making him almost cave in.

"Thank you for worrying," Bell grinned and used their closeness to lean into her ear and whisper, "dear wife."

"!" Alicia's face lit up; her mouth flailed silently. "Y-you!" She feebly punched his side before pressing her reddened face against his shoulder to hide from him, her free fist never stopped delivering feeble punches to his side.

Bell laughed which only made Alicia's protest louder and stronger, but he'd gotten exactly what he wanted.

Yes, he had told himself that he wouldn't hide things from them, that he would trust and rely on them, but that didn't mean he would needlessly make them worry about something that was entirely his fault to deal with.

Bell much preferred to make them smile and keep them happy rather than burden them with what was his torment to carry alone. "By the way, how are you feeling? I know Miss Teasanare said you're almost back to normal but…"

"I'm feeling fine." Alicia mumbled into his shoulder before moving away with a pout, obviously still riled up from his teasing. "Miss Eden helped me with the ointment today."

"That's good." Bell hummed. Thanks to how Alicia and Shakti reacted to his feeble attempts at teasing them, Bell was starting to understand why Miss Kat and Rose found it a fun pastime to tease him as much as they could. "If you start feeling bad or anything, let me know, alright?"

"Yes!" Alicia agreed, her anger at his teasing seemingly forgotten.

And just like that, the nauseous thoughts that whirled around in his head were replaced with the desire to continue making those he loved happy. Since he was finally speaking, Alicia pulled him closer towards the cart where the two redheaded relatives were trading stories and joined their conversation.

In that moment, Bell focused on his, and their joy… but never forgot about the weight of the earring in his pocket.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


"Welcome to My Lord's Holiday Home!" Eden presented with wide arms the estate behind her. "Now personally belonging to Bell Cranel and the Hestia Familia." She smiled at Bell, one hand to her heart. "It may be a little small compared to other Familias homes, but I swear on My Lord that it most definitely is more homely and fun than any other you'll find in Orario!"

"Small…?" Alicia bafflingly whispered to herself.

Bell felt like his definition of 'small' was very much different from Eden's as he guided the cart to a stop just outside the gates.

"Of course you'd call that small," Rose growled out and marched forwards to pinch Eden's cheeks.

"Ow, ow, Rowse that hwurts." Eden mumbled and seized Rose's breast in a counterattack. "Stowp!"

"Ak! You!" Rose squeaked; she delivered the same attack to her relative's chest and moments later, their scuffle turned into a cloud of smoke as the two struggled to gain the upper hand.

All the while, Bell and Alicia turned to one another, shrugged shoulders, and tried to take in the 'small' home that now belonged to them.

Bell could easily compare the estate before them to one belonging to any of the richest Familias in Orario, while maybe not in height compared to the Twilight Manor which was where he'd been and seen in closest before, their current new home was not too far off.

The entire estate's perimeter was made of a low fence of white stone that reached up to Bell's knees, with black bars jutting up top and reaching at least three times his height making up the rest of the fence. The gate was similar to the fence, with an arched top and the bars woven in intricate designs that easily pointed out the previous Familia's ownership.

"Enough!" Eden barked out and stopped playing around with her relative, she used her true strength to womanhandle Rose, throwing the werewolf over her shoulder, and giving a solid slap to her ass. "We're burning daylight and I want Bell and the rest of you to see everything before the sunset."

"Grr! Fine! Let me down." Rose wriggled until Eden released her, both redheads glaring at one another before huffing and walking away, both fixing their clothes as if nothing occurred. "One of these days…"

"Hmph!" Eden turned her nose before doing a 180 and smiling sweetly at Bell and Alicia, "Shall we?"

Bell and Alicia traded looks and shared an awkward laugh before nodding at Eden, with their confirmation she moved closer to the gate and tapped an azure gem embedded in the middle of the arched gates.

There was no creak or metal shrill as the gates slid to the sides, giving the Hestia Familia true entrance to the estate's land. A wide granite path extended from beyond the gates, with several smaller paths to either side that led to pools adorned with fish-shaped statues sprinkling water to the garden and hedges around them.

For a home that had not been inhabited, it was very well maintained, as seen by the well-cared state of the green grass and neatly trimmed hedges to the sides of the main path.

As the Familia walked forward, Eden pointed at the various sideways path, "The garden at the front of the estate is smaller for faster traffic. Each of those side paths wound up around the various small pools to either side of the main building, however the back garden is much more ample with a small section dedicated for farming."

Their red-haired guide placed a hand to her bosom, her smile dripping with pride and eyes speaking of fond memories, "The estate was built as both a proper Familia residence but also a touristic attraction, if need be, something you may understand once we enter the main residence."

Said main residence was almost upon them, as two rows of columns spread diagonally to either side in a V-shape, leaving an open portion in the middle that showed a glimpse of the main residence.

"The columns spread in a square pattern around the main residence, serving as the division between the outside garden and the inner area while also giving privacy from possible prying eyes."

While massive and slightly dreadful, the architecture aesthetics changed as soon as they got past the columns.

"This plot of land used to be a small mountain, so My Lord and I tried to maintain as much of the original environment." Eden folded her arms and admired, along with the Familia, said main residence.

There was a vast expanse of flat land from where they entered, covered in granite with various sections cut-out either in circle or square shapes for small gardens and decorative trees, and at the far back was the remains of the 'small mountain'.

The mountain was carved and shaved into a fine rectangular block that took ¾ of the back end of the estate, with two stairs carved into the stone, one in the left end and another at the right end. In between both of the stairs was a large pool whose crystalline water flowed like a waterfall from the level above.

To the left side of the estate, taking the remaining 1/4 of the space, was a rather simple if tall building made of stone blocks of different white shades.

"The building on the left has three floors, each matching the levels on the outside, with the first floor serving as the barracks, the second floor as the armory and the third floor the main-warehouse." Eden then pointed to two buildings directly to their right, "Those two building over there serve as the changing room and bathrooms for those enjoying the pool."

The group took the stairs on the left side and walked onto the second level of the mountain, wherein the stairs continued onto seemingly another rectangular block of the mountain, but they stopped on the 2nd level first wherein another flat expanse of land awaited them with another pool whose crystalline water flowed into the first level, across the pool and on the right end were another two buildings.

Unlike the first level, there were three staircases onto the level, the one they were standing on, another in the middle which led to the pool and another almost next to the buildings at the far end.

"This is the second level of the estate; This pool is meant for the Familia alone. The two buildings across are my personal winery and an open restaurant/bar." Eden signaled at the stairs below their feet, "The entrance from the armory into the second floor is below these stairs, now let's continue to the final level."

Unlike the stairs from the first level to the second level, the ones to the third were far more steps, but once they walked onto the third and final level, the reward was worth the effort.

Unlike the first two levels where the floor was mostly made of granite, the third level's floor was entirely green; a grass patch that stretched over the entirety of the flat land. As soon as they stepped onto the third level, there was a double set of doors leading into the building to the left.

In between the building to the left and the only other massive building to the right, there was an empty section that resembled a dead-end alley however it was filled with another small well-cultivated garden. There was a small yet solid fence of stone blocks at edge of the 3rd level to protect anyone from mistakenly falling off into the lower level.

As for the massive building on the right, "And that is our true home, the former Poseidon's vacation manor."

Aquamarine blue were the walls of the manor, with a formidable height, and some carved decorations of marine life, giving the building a rather seaside feel. The door to enter the manor was at the same position as the stairs to the second level were, with the doors themselves being a set of double doors with more exquisite marine-life carvings on it.

The red-haired former Poseidon attendant plucked a key from inside her cleavage and introduced it into the blue-gem on the doors, the lock clicked open, and she pushed the doors inwards.

"Welcome to our new home," Eden spoke softly and waited for Rose, Alicia, and Bell to enter into the main hall before closing the doors behind them. "My apologies for the emptiness but My Lord collected most of the previous furniture after making his deal with Lady Hekate."

The main hall was massive, with a column spread here and there across the entirety of the hall supporting the weight of the building, with few decorations on any of the walls. Bell judged that from the door to the wall opposite them, it would take almost a minute of walking, then he looked from one side of the hall down to the other end and knew it would take a lot longer to walk from one end to the other.

"Since there's not much to see without the furniture, I'll explain the floors and general architecture." Eden pointed upwards, then downwards. "There are four floors in the mansion; the main floor is this one, wherein we have this main hall and to the right end, there's the kitchen and dining room which is connected together into one room. There are three bathrooms in this floor, one at the left end, one near the center, and one near the kitchen/dining room."

Then she pointed downwards again, "There's one floor below us, technically the basement since it was carved into the stone, wherein there's a total of fifteen rooms: 13 living quarters, 1 warehouse and 1 library. Oh, and every living quarter in this manor has its own bathroom."

She started walking towards the left side of the empty hall, the Familia quickly walking behind her. "We'll head to the second floor; we're taking the left set of stairs since they're closer to the manor's door. As for the second floor itself, there's a total of twenty rooms spread out, all of them without furniture currently, and meant to be living quarters for the Familia."

The stairs had a slight circular shape to them and where at the same side as the main door, however once they get into the second floor, Eden stopped them from walking into the long hallway with several doors. "Again, since there's no furniture, for now there's no reason to see anything in this floor, let's continue to the third floor."

The next flight of stairs was across the hallway, they took them to reach the third floor of the mansion and came into another rather long hallway but this one had a red carpet stretching from one end to the other.

"There are only seven rooms in this floor: The master bedroom, my personal office, 3 living quarters for high-ranking quests, one bathroom near these stairs, and the last room is the one I'm most proud of…" Eden paused to recover her breath before quickly guiding her Familia to said room she was most proud of.

They passed the three set of single-framed doors meant to be living quarters, before they came upon another exquisitely carved double set of doors which Eden didn't hesitate to push open and smile at her Familia.

"Behold, my pride and joy!"

Just from glance alone, Bell knew what exactly this room was.

A massive bathhouse.

There were two sections of the room; the changing-rooms section that had various lockers and racks with bins lined against the left and right walls, whereas the 'wall' diving the changing room from the bathing section was made of a foggy, barely see-through, glass wall except for the double doors that were entirely see-through.

The see-through doors slid to the sides, and they walked forward into the bathing section were, with the exception of the pristine white toles on the floor, every other wall and even the ceiling was one giant painted mural of life beneath the ocean.

On the right side of the room there were several 'open' cubicles to wash oneself, every cubicle having a person-tall mirror mounted on the wall, a stone stool to sit on, a faucet below the mirror and a showerhead above it, with a box carved into the wall where they could put the soaps and hair products.

To the left side of the room were four stone Ofuros spread out, though with how big each one of them was, they might as well have been called pools. What caught Bell's attention was not only the ofuros size, but that all four of them were filled with water and from two of those, there was steam coming off from them.

"This is my pride and joy." Eden's irises glittered as she spoke. "I've always dreamed of living the indoors thermal waters experience therefore I arranged for this room to become like this." The redhead excitedly turned to her Familia and asked, "How is it!?"

Alicia was the first to give her opinion," Why is there no division the male and female section?"

Eden's face fell at that, "Well, uhm... You see… I… uhm… was the only one allowed into this floor of the mansion and My Lord hates warm water so… this… uh…"

"You've been using this all for yourself…" Rose summarized what Eden wanted to say.

"Yes…" Eden sullenly nodded. "I can arrange for another renovation to create the division between male and female sections, but it may take a couple of weeks to get the work done…"

"We do not have the valis for that." Bell finally spoke after what felt like the longest tour of his live.

Eden perked up at that, "The Hestia Familia doesn't, but as I explained to you when I rearranged for this to be our home, I will take care of all previous and current existing expense that are not related to the Familia." Eden hummed and continued, "That includes renovations, previous debts of My Lord, the magical cores for all appliances and the appliances themselves, and of course, the heaviest service of all, the clean supply of water required for the estate."

That gave Bell pause; there was the bathhouse, every bedroom with its private bathroom, the two massive pools on the first and second level of the villa, and the other several massive pools decorating the garden outside of the villa…

"Eden," Bell suddenly grasped Eden's hands, startling her. "Have I told you how much I love you already?"

Eden laughed demurely, "Mfufu~" knowing that Bell probably tried making a quick count of just how much she was actually paying for them — No, for him — "No, you haven't… but I wouldn't mind hearing that more often."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


"Since there're no other furnished rooms besides the master bedroom and two guests' rooms in this floor, we'll end the tour with the master bedroom, which will be yours from today onwards, Bell." Eden continued with a light smile and guided the group towards the right end of the hallway.

"Eh? Where are you all sleeping?" Bell regretted his question when all three women stared at him like he was an idiot, "Right, with me, should've known."

"Mfufu~ Don't worry, it won't be as tight as sleeping on Rose's bed." Eden assured him. They walked past two ornate doors, ignoring the staircase between them, until "We're here."

She stopped on the last set of double doors in the hallway, one with gold decorations, which she lightly pushed open.

Massive didn't even begin to describe what Bell glimpsed of the master bedroom, just from where they stood by the doors until the other end where sliding glass doors separated the room from the balcony, there was enough space to fit in four times Rose's bedroom. What's more, the ceiling was so high that Bell could probably put Eden on his shoulders, then stack Rose on top of her, and then stack Alicia on top of Rose, and they still wouldn't reach the ceiling.

Bell paused about five steps into the room, very much overwhelmed by the sheer expanse of what technically belonged to him now, whereas Alicia and Rose had no such trouble and started inspecting the furniture all around the room, namely the bookshelves and drawers with decorative items stacked on top.

A simple sweep of the room overwhelmed him further because there was a similar L-shaped couch around a coffee table with two nightstands at either end. Near one corner of the room, there also was an entire portion of the wall seemingly replaced by a ceiling-high mirror with a dressing table next to it, and a giant closet right beside it.

'Okay, I think Poseidon might've a little too much vanity…'

"I believe this bed size will be comfortable enough, Bell?" Eden whispered right beside him, snapping him out of his thoughts and he looked where she pointed to see the equally massive bed with golden embroidered covers.

Again, Bell felt like he'd stepped into the most luxurious place on earth, because the bed alone could probably hold his entire Familia, including Shakti and Eina, and still have enough room leftover for everyone to roll in their sleep without falling.

"Uhm, is it to your liking or should I change it? If I leave now, I can make the order bef-"

"Eden, this is amazing." Bell interrupted with a quick wave of hands. He glanced at the various white pillows and touched one of them, his hand sunk until the resistant texture gave him pause. "Is it really fine for us to get all this?"

Eden's features softened and she cupped her cheek as she spoke, "If I was to be honest with you, which I forever will, yes and no."

Her answer confused Bell, though he didn't need to voice his confusion because Eden immediately continued.

"Most Gods wouldn't own homes like this one unless they had a Familia that prospered well for at least a hundred years. In fact, I'm almost certain there will be some Gods who will be jealous when they learn that this home now belongs to the Hestia Familia, a recently formed Familia."

"Then…" Bell tried but paused when Eden grinned far too devilishly.

"Because while this residence is under My Lord's name, in truth, all the funds for the construction came from my own accumulated wealth." Eden giggled into her hand. "Orario is my homeland and I always intended to return to it, whether it be as My Lord Poseidon's Familia or when I found the one with whom I wish to spend the rest of my life with, which is…" She trailed off, glancing at Bell before quickly looking away.

"Oh." Bell felt his face heat up at that.

"That said…" Eden started fiddling with a strand of her long reddish hair, "Is it to your liking? I may have givens some rights to My Lord for the conception of this residence but now that it's ours, if there's anything you want to change…"

Bell quickly realized that the best way to get his gratefulness across was to be as direct as possible, "It is to my likings, I really, really like it a lot. Thank you, Eden."

He knew those words alone weren't enough, so he used the same emotions as last night to act. He took one of Eden's hands firmly. "I'm not sure if I will ever be able to give you back as much as you've just given me, but I swear I will try my best to do so."

Eden rewarded him with a brilliant, relieved, smile that made his heart falter.

"I'm glad," Eden sighed in relief, the tension in her shoulders dropped. Soon after, her features turned curious, and she grabbed both of Bell hands into her own. "Say Bell?"

"Hai?"

"Would you like to lay down together for a short while?"

"Huh?"

"I couldn't help but notice how anxious you've been since earlier and well…" Eden glanced around the room until she found a certain red-haired werewolf walking out into the balcony with Alicia right behind her. "Rose told me that sharing our warmth with you helps you relax, so…"

"Oh," Bell smiled sheepishly, "Sorry if I made you worry, I just had a lot to process."

"Really?" Eden inquired with eyes that said she didn't quite believe his words and he couldn't fault her, because they had a similar conversation the previous night.

"Yeah, but it's alright, it's nothing like last night, just something that I had to come to terms with." Bell honestly but evasively replied, Eden still seemed like she didn't believe him just yet, so he added. "And about laying down, I… would like that a lot actually, but first we have to bring in our luggage."

Eden stared at him for a minute longer before releasing a long breath. "If I asked you again to tell me what's wrong, would you?"

"Yes." Bell instantly replied.

Because it wouldn't hurt her, because Eden had been nothing but honest and upfront with him, because he knew…

"Then I will wait until you're ready to tell me."

That she wouldn't push him for answers.

His heart became heavy when she behaved the way he expected, the guilt over not speaking about his emotions weighed him down just as much as the earring in his pocket did, and the only way he felt like he could've lessened it was…

"B-Bell!?"

Embracing Eden the same way as last night, one arm over her lower back while the other brought his face to rest over her bosom, where her erratically beating heart calmed his erratic mind.

"Sorry, once this is all over, I promise to tell you everything."

"Mm, you apologize too much, Bell." Eden took a few seconds to recover before returning Bell's hug. "Just don't make us wait too long, yes?"

"Hai."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


After a rather tiring workout of going up and down the many set of stairs of the estate to bring into the manor at the top level all the belongings they brought from Rose's apartment, and then helping all three, Rose, Alicia and Eden, sort out their items inside of their chosen bedrooms on the second floor, Bell happily accepted Eden's offer to lay down on his new, gigantic, bed and rest however much he could his weary mind and aching body.

Miss Teasanare hadn't lied when she said straining himself past the ten-minute mark would make all his muscles hurt, those boxes weren't even that heavy and his muscles twitched as if he'd pulled something.

Thankfully, his mind wasn't given enough time to drown in the torturous thoughts of the earring the blonde elf gave him in the afternoon because all three women of the Familia made it back into the master bedroom in record time and joined him on the vast expanse of his new bed.

What really surprised him was how Rose willingly pushed for Alicia and Eden to take his arms as they laid down together, but she didn't take her spot on top of him, something he'd come to get used to and actually look forward to since he loved feeling her body so close to his, instead she laid behind Eden and watched him over her relative's shoulders.

Bell would never say it loud but just this one time, he was glad that Rose hadn't actually taken the spot on his chest because he wasn't certain if he could've continued hiding from her what worried him. Though, knowing his beloved werewolf, she must've already figured out that he wanted to try and solve whatever troubled him on his own and was giving him the space to do exactly that.

Rose caught his gaze as those thoughts crossed his mind, and when she smiled reassuringly at him, he knew that he'd hit the nail on the head.

That loving trust of hers, combined with Alicia snuggling his arm and Eden exploring comfortable she could be with his left arm, eased his weary mind into one comfortable deep slumber that he really needed.

For once, his dreams were free of the being that communicated often with him. His sleep wasn't restless, either. If anything, his body felt lighter, so much that when he caught a tinge of tenderness with an earthly scent surrounding him, there was no resistance when he gave search to feel more of that tenderness.

It even brought old memories and replayed them through his dreams, from a first person perspective and at the same time from third person; a memory of the time when he gardened with his grandfather, cupping dark soil with his bare hands to fill an empty pot where he'd plant his first seed, of his old man's laughter when he screamed bloody murder because a worm wriggled out of the soil and touched his palms with its slimy texture.

The earthly tenderness surrounding him fleeted away, his mind reflexively went after it before it could fully disappear. His search was fruitful, but he tried so hard that he couldn't remain asleep any longer.

The first thing Bell noticed when his senses returned to his body was the incredible heat inside his arms, one that spread over his whole body and breathed in rhythm with him. No sooner had he registered the heat that he found the source; a dozy Alicia snuggling against him, her arms wrapped around his neck and pulling him into her collarbone, from where the earthly scent of his dreams emanated from.

"Ali…?" Bell hoarsely whispered out, his lungs taking in a healthy dose of the golden-haired elf's scent.

"Mmm?" Alicia mumbled in her sleep, she shifted until her nose touched his forehead and she giggled before continuing to sleep.

'Moving all those boxes must've tired her a lot.' Bell didn't have it in him to wake Alicia, but he needed to get up because he couldn't feel neither Rose nor Eden's presence in the room.

Fortunately, Bell had spent enough time around Alicia, and with a few taps here and there, and a fluttering kiss to her exposed collarbone, he was a free man victoriously watching a giggling Alicia search for him in her sleep on the bed.

Again, it was really hard to move away from the adorable golden-haired elf, but after pecking her cheeks which calmed her down, Bell managed to leave the bedroom to search for the rest of his family.

He tried the empty office next to his room, then the bathhouse just in case, but found nobody.

Eden and Rose's bedroom were on the floor below his, so he went down the stairs to look for them in their rooms but when voices came up from one floor lower, he discarded that thought and went in search of the voices. He stepped into the empty main floor of the mansion, the vacant expanse carried the voices farther than it normally would and he quickly found the source coming from the kitchen.

"Is that Skills of yours really that potent?" Shakti's voice echoed within the kitchen; Bell leaned over the entrance and saw the blue-haired captain leaning against the wall in her orange cheongsam, there was a scowl on her features, and he followed her scowl to see it set on one of the two redheads preparing dinner on the counter ahead of her.

Said redhead put the knife in her hands down and she turned around to meet the Ganesha's captain scowl with one of her own, "Is this home not proof enough of what my Skill can achieve?"

Shakti scoffed and looked away. "Yeah, and it's also the reason why you're all in this mess too, no?".

Eden's gaze fell as she looked away.

'No.'

"I don't believe that to be the case." Eina's voice came from somewhere further in the room. He found her beyond the counter where Rose and Eden worked on, sitting on one of the closest round wooden tables with various papers strewn about. "There's no mention of an exchange between members of the Familias in the War Game rewards."

"But there's nothing stopping them from requesting an exchange if they win." Rose replied to her work junior. The werewolf placed a bowl filled to the brim with washed vegetables in front of her relative and dried her hands. "Remember they still insulted Alicia and then tried to kidnap Eden."

"If it comes down it, I will fulfill my promise to Bell of surrendering myself to keep him, and the Familia, safe." Eden placed a hand atop her chest as she retold her vow.

That was the point where Bell had heard enough, "You'll never have to do that, Eden." Bell's voice startled them, all four jumped and turned towards him. "This War Game is something personal between the Soma Familia and me."

The meaning of his words flew over their heads, and he could see how some misunderstood his explanation, but until the War Game was over, he was fine with them not understanding him nor knowing what was at stake for him.

"Sorry, I couldn't help but hear what you all were saying." Bell sheepishly scratched his cheek while he entered the spacious room. He only had a moment to view the long counter where Rose and Eden were preparing dinner, a counter that also served as the division between the kitchen side and dining side of the room, before Shakti and then Eina filled his sight.

"Hey there," Shakti was the first to reach him since she had been standing closer to the entrance, she greeted him with a direct quick kiss to the lips before hurriedly moving away since Eina rushed at them.

"Bell!" Eina's greeting was just as direct, but entirely different, and it was only thanks to his current Status that he didn't fall over when she tackle-hugged him. "I'm so glad you're awake, there's something very important you need to see!"

He didn't get to ask what it was before Eina dragged him back towards where she'd been sitting, to the round table with various papers strewn about, he heard three set of footsteps follow behind.

"The Soma Familia accepted the War Game; it will be held tomorrow after midday on Daedalus Street." Eina presented him one paper with the Guild Insignia stamp. "The War Game type is an all-out fight between Familias with no outsider interference allowed."

Had Bell not known they already accepted; he would've been more worried. As it was, his immediate concern was, "Does that mean that everyone in the Familia is forced to participate."

Not getting Rose, Eden or Alicia involved.

"No, only those selected by the Familia's captains can participate." Rose replied, taking one of his hands into her own. She wasn't the least surprised to see Bell sigh in relief after she replied.

"That's good…" Bell exhaled out loud, but it seemed those were the wrong words to say.

"Good?" Shakti slammed one hand on the table and glared at him. "Don't you understand just how bad this is for you?"

Bell shook his head. "It doesn't matter how bad it will be for me as long as Rose, Eden and Alicia aren't forced to fight."

"Bell, as lovely as your care for us is, this time is really not one to put our wellbeing before yours." Eden placed a hand on his shoulder and pointed at another paper titled 'War Game Conditions

"Why would you… oh."

Victory Conditions.

Captain of the opposing Familia surrenders.

Captain of the opposing Familia dies.

Note: Due to the victory conditions, the Familia Captains are the only unpunishable death during the course of the War Game.

"Everyone out there will be aiming to kill you to win the War Game." Shakti's nails scratched the table as she closed her fist.

Now he understood why Shakti was so on edge…

However, the only 'unpunishable' death…?

"So that's how it is…" Bell murmured to himself. He took another deep breath to calm himself before raising his gaze. "I will fight alone."

"What!?"

"Bell did you not hear what I just said!?"

"Are you out of your mind, Bell?"

Bell shook his head again, his heart both heavy and light. He couldn't say out loud the reason for his stubbornness, at least not yet. "Please trust me."

"No! I refuse to lose you too!" Shakti vehemently denied, Eina nodding along. "If they made it so you can't ask other Familias for help, then I will have Lord Ganesha transfer some members to the Hestia Familia!"

That would indeed solve the numbers problem, but it wouldn't have the same impact to the statement he wanted to make - no, not wanted - Needed to make. So, even if it would make it easier for him…

"You can't transfer more than once per year, right?" Bell asked and received a quiet nod from Rose beside him.

"That doesn't matter Bell!" Shakti growled out in frustration. "Don't be stubborn on this."

"Sorry Shakti but I can't drag your Familia into something personal like this." Bell apologetically replied and tried to reach for Shakti's hand.

"Fine!" Shakti snapped her hand away from his reach, "If you want to go and get yourself killed, be my guest!" Her words cut deep, her shimmering irises shattered something inside him, but the worse sensation came when she marched out of the room without looking back.

Bell was rooted to his spot from the numbness and increased weight in his heart. His hurt was seen by the other three, but only one moved to try to amend it directly.

"Miss Varma, please wait!" Eden left his side and rushed after the retreating Ankusha, "I'm sure there's a reason Bell is rejecting your ideas, please try to-"

"Save it! I don't want to hear it, especially not from you whose fault it is you're all in this mess!" Shakti's loudness echoed from the corridor.

"Miss Varma, please, I'm certain that if you ask Bell-"

Slap

Flesh hitting flesh echoed before silence deafened the halls.

"If it wasn't for you," sniff "I wouldn't have to see the man I love run headfirst into his death, again." Venomous, but deeply wounded.

"… My apologies…" The rustles of clothes and two clicks of heels on stone. "Would you like me to show you to your room?"

"No need, I know where it is."

"Eina, can you go and check on Eden, please?" Rose asked the fumbling wide-eyed half-elf.

The bespectacled girl hesitated for a moment before nodding and leaving the frozen Bell alone with his werewolf.

"My mate?" Rose draped herself over Bell's side, her voice low.

"I… deserved that," Bell breathed out and collapsed into Rose's embrace.

"Yes, yes you did." Rose quietly admonished him, "You knew Shakti would react like that and still did it… why?"

"Because this is something I have to solve on my own…" Bell replied forlornly, he took another deep breath before moving away from Rose's embrace. "Sorry Rose, I need…"

"Some time alone?" Rose completed for him; disappointment clear in her worried gaze. "I don't like any of this either, Bell."

But she still trusted him enough to not question him.

"I'll make it up to you, I promise." Bell gave his best attempt of a smile before leaving the kitchen too, his beloved watching him go in silence.

"Lady Hekate… You were right…" Rose clutched at her chest, "Loving him so much… it hurts." Rose spent a long time feeling her heartbeat before returning to making dinner for the disjointed Familia in the hopes that at least a warm meal would help soothe their wounds.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Bell had no idea where to go after all that, he couldn't go after Shakti and apologize without hurting her further because he wouldn't change his decision of fighting alone no matter what.

Neither could he go look for Eden and make it seem as if he cared more about her than the others, an emotional problem that could spiral out of control if he was to continue loving them all as equally as he could.

But equality wasn't something he cared about if it came to unwarranted pain, the redhaired relative of Rose did not deserve that slap, regardless of what Shakti believed his actions to be based upon.

Maybe his way of trying to solve his personal issue was wrong, but it was already too late to think of another solution.

"Bell…" Eina's voice snapped him out of his thoughts, his brain finally taking in where his body had taken him.

The twilight sky graced him just outside the door of the manor, Eina was a few steps away looking down the stone railing to the second level of the villa, the half-elf was still dressed in her Guild uniform but most of the buttons of her vest were undone.

"Hey," Bell walked until he was next to Eina. His elbows slumped on the railing as he looked down at the pool on the second level. "Are you… angry too?"

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't," Eina huffed before glancing at Bell. "I can't understand you, Bell, so please help me understand why you are doing this…"

"…"

"You know… I always have to steel my heart every time you head into the dungeon?" Eina rhetorically asked and continued, "You're an adventurer with an unheard track record and that still scares me so much… I have nightmares about you disappearing again and never returning…"

"…"

"I'm scared that you won't return from this War Game, Bell…"

Bell bit his lip, maybe he really was wrong with the way he was dealing with his issues. If only Miss Ka…

Ah.

He had gone back on his words of relying on others besides Hekate.

Why did life made it so easy to slip back into old habits?

Regardless of the answer, he couldn't allow himself to think that way again, and he had to make the first step into correcting his wrongs.

Starting by, "I swear I will win the War Game; I promise everything will make sense once it's over. I know it's hard to trust me when the odds seem against us, but I will selfishly implore you to do so."

Bell picked himself up from his slouched position and fully faced Eina, "Could you that for me, Eina?"

"You're so unfair, Bell." Eina looked away from his willful gaze. "Of course I will trust you, it's my job as your advisor…" Her long ears reddened slightly, "… and as your… lover…"

He knew he was being unfair, but that was part of who he was at his selfish core, therefore the least he could do to ease those worries was to give his half-elf lover an affectionate act that would raise her spirits.

Eina didn't shy away from his fingers on her cheeks. In fact, when they touched the base of her ears she nuzzled against his palms and followed his pull to meet his lips halfway.

Bell kept the kiss simple but still tried to pour as much emotion into the act, as much affection as he could into his caresses of Eina's earlobes and cheeks. The meek moan that escaped Eina's lips were the proof that his love did indeed reach her, and he pulled away but remained close for their eyes to meet.

"Thank you, Eina." Bell whispered to the glassy-eyed half-elf who dumbly nodded in return, he took a second longer to enjoy the moment before fully moving away. "Eina?"

"Mmm?"

"Do you know where Shakti and Eden are?"

"Miss Eden said Miss Shakti went up to her guest room on the third floor, as for Miss Eden herself, I'm not certain. She came out here and I lost track of her."

Bell nodded, "Thank you, Eina… Can you do me a favor?"

"Mmm?"

"Could you… help Rose with dinner? I don't want her to be alone right now…"

"Yes but… umm… could we… um… k-kiss again?"


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


He was certainly wrong.

Not about the weight in his pocket, but for his way of bearing what the earring meant.

And he had to make that right.

Ten minutes of search and with the help of Insight, Bell found his first target doing a swan dive into the pool on the first level of the estate. He walked towards the pool's edge from where she jumped and waited for her to return to the surface to talk to her.

And waited.

And waited.

Panic quickly set in after more than a minute of her not resurfacing and he jumped in after her.

Only to find her sitting at the bottom of the pool with her dress floating about, legs tucked between her arms; her golden gaze went wide when she saw him.

'Bell?' Eden mouthed underwater, she stood up as if on land and walked towards him.

Only when Bell watched the ease with which Eden moved did he remember her Depth Skill and he felt like a fool for not remembering that she could essentially live underwater.

She grabbed one of his hands to keep him from floating back up to the surface and tilted her head in curiosity.

'Why are you here?' Eden mouthed again.

He wanted to reply, but unlike her, he did not possess a Skill that allowed him to breathe underwater. He pointed to the surface and thankfully, Eden quickly got the message. Within five long strokes, she swam past Bell and reached the edge of the pool, she made to pull herself up when Bell, in his hurry to resurface, hadn't paid attention to where he was swimming.

And ended up smacking his head against Eden's rear just as she was pulling herself up.

It would've been comical if not for the fact that Bell opened his mouth to apologize and swallowed a good chunk of water for his foolish mistakes, reflexes kicked in and he grabbed the closest thing near him to pull himself above water.

Which, again, just so happened to be Eden's hips.

Had someone, anyone, else walked into that scene, they would've seen Bell holding onto Eden from behind and pressing her against the pool's edge, with Bell coughing out the water he swallowed by mistake, and Eden panting from bearing the weight of both of them on the edge.

"B-Bell you're heavy!" Eden grunted but couldn't move lest the two fall back into the water. She would've been fine, but the coughing Bell wouldn't.

"Ack- Sor- Ackh- rry!" Bell slid his hands across her back and beneath her armpits to hold his own weight with the stone edge, his forearms mushing the voluptuousness between them. He continued coughing for a solid minute until it finally felt like his throat and lungs weren't on fire, only then did he sigh in relief and lay his head on the quiet and unmoving Eden's back.

"Sorry…" Bell whispered.

"Mh~ R-right, are you alright n-now?" Eden's voice trembled as she spoke.

"Haii," Bell breathed out again.

"Mhh!"

Bell blinked twice at the noise made by the woman in his arms, he blinked two more times before realizing the position they were in, and one last time when he learned that the back of Eden's dress had a skin-window for her shoulder blades.

Which just so happened to be where he had breathed on, twice.

"Eden?" Bell breathed out again, on the same spot.

"Mhhh! Yes?" Eden shivered against him.

Had it not been for the pressing matters of the situation Eden had unjustly suffered under Shakti's well-deserved anger at him, Bell would've paid more attention to their positions, to the curves and volume of the woman in his arms, to her ragged breath that had nothing to do with the exercise of swimming.

However!

It did not mean he wouldn't burn the feeling into his memories.

"The War Game is not your fault." Bell whispered directly into Eden's weak spot, the exposed skin between her shoulder blades.

"Ahh?" Eden moaned out her confusion and tried to look back at Bell, but it was impossible to do so with the way he pressed her further against the pool edge. "B-Bell!?"

As much as he really wanted to hear more of Eden's tones, he needed to get his point across so he, regretfully, moved his lips away from her skin and spoke. "I promise everything will make sense tomorrow, and that I will win the War Game."

For a moment, there was no response from the heavily breathing Eden until she suddenly relaxed and pressed her back against him.

"You… already promised to tell me earlier…" Eden put her hands over his on the edge, she smiled nervously, not that he could see. "And I know you will win."

It was Bell's turn to be confused, "Huh?"

Cautiously, Eden twirled in place, her voluptuousness teasing Bell's forearms as she twisted until she was face to face with him, her legs locked around his hips to keep the two even closer while Bell held their combined weight.

All of that, Bell's brain recorded as second priority, because the first priority was making sure it didn't crash at Eden's extremely provocative lust-filled golden gaze.

"I know you will win tomorrow," Eden whispered with a voice that would've made mermaids proud. "You would do anything for us, no matter how insane or tough it may be, because you love us that much, right?"

It was both scary and arousing how she knew his intentions and creed so well, but it may have to do with how he'd said those words to her so many times already.

"Hai." Bell nodded in response.

Eden smiled, "Then I have no reason to doubt your words… however, if I could please ask of you two things…"

"Hai?"

"Allow me to be by your side tomorrow."

He shouldn't…

He really shouldn't…

But Bell understood why Eden wanted that - no, needed that.

"Only if you don't leave my side for even a second."

The lust in her golden gaze became even more enticing, her face inched closer as her legs pulled his hips, the wetness of their clothes making it rather easy to feel the heat of their cores.

Bell gulped, his thoughts screeching to a hard halt in both the figurative and physical sense, "And the second thing?"

Her lips moved, slow and charming, "Don't leave me… wanting."

'Oh.'

The distance for his response was so short, it didn't surprise either when Bell replied without words in less than the blink of an eye.

Again, they lost themselves trying to feel as much as they could from the others' lips; Bell being mindful of not getting too lost in the sensations so as to forget they weren't exactly in a private setting.

That thought went out the window when Eden bit his lower lip, painful enough to make him gasp, and shoved her tongue when his lips parted.

He really shouldn't have forgotten who was her relative, but as her tongue intertwined around his and her hands went underwater, under his shirt to rack her nails across his chest, that seemed more of a blessing than anything else.

If only his hands weren't busy holding the pool edge to keep them afloat, he would've replied in kind, but as it was, Bell could only try to win the tug of war between their tongues.

Bell was so caught up in trying to catch Eden's slippery and smooth tongue that he never noticed when her fingers stopped exploring his chest and went down until he felt her grinning into the kiss.

Then he felt her hands, her smooth fingers curling around the heat inside his pants and tickled everywhere her fingertips could reach.

He wasn't prepared, his entire body froze, then she captured his tongue between her lips and deliberately slow stroked his length. That made him shudder, groan, and almost lose his grip on the edge of the pool.

He was completely at Eden's mercy and they both knew it, but where she could've tortured him with pleasure… She withdrew her hands from his hardened problem, set her fingers on his chest and stopped the kiss.

"Now we're even." Eden sighed out, chest heaving.

Bell took a few seconds to process what she meant until the problem in his pants throbbed painfully and lonely.

Now he had two choices, he could take Eden's payback like a man and go see Shakti to ease her worries and fix his mistake or…

He could give Shakti a little more time to sort her emotions before talking to her and spend it dealing with his own current problem and the eagerly awaiting source of it.

"Ed-"

"Bell, are you here?" Alicia's voice came from the second level.

Bell's gaze zoomed in on the golden-haired elf walking down the stairs and knew the choice was taken out of his hands then and there, though he still wanted to have a last taste before he was forced to let go.

The idea wasn't his alone, because when he leaned in to give one last kiss to the heaving Eden in his arms, she'd already tilted her head to receive him with open arms.

"Beeell~ oh there you a- Ah! Sorry, I didn't mean to!"

That was his cue to separate from Eden, the redhead mournfully released him, and he swam away, closer to where Alicia was standing by the edge.

"Hey…" Bell started awkwardly.

Alicia refused to meet his gaze, "Sorry, um… I… Miss Rose said dinner would be ready soon."

"Oh," Bell lifted himself out of the water, he sat on the edge of the pool to hide his problem and tried to twist his clothes dry. "Thank you for letting me know."

"Yes…" Alicia ignored him to follow Eden with her eyes, seeing the redhead lift herself out of the water, much like Bell, but where Bell remained sitting, Eden walked over to her. When the redhead was face to face with her, she noticed the redness to one of her cheeks that had nothing to do with what Alicia caught her and Bell doing. "Miss Eden?"

"… Yes Alicia?" Eden tilted her face in a way her wet hair hid away the bruised cheek, that however made the slight puffiness under her eyes become more visible to the caring elf.

"Did something happen while I was asleep?" Alicia quietly asked and reached out for Eden.

"Yes." Eden smiled and held Alicia's hand, "But it's been already sorted out, for the most part. Would you like to speak about it during dinner with me?"

Alicia glanced at Bell who had yet to sit up and merely watched what went between them, "If… you'd let me know?"

"Of course," Eden nodded happily then turned to Bell, she curtsied to him before dragging a confused Alicia upstairs, back into the mansion.

Bell, alone, finally released a long sigh containing his dejection at being, effectively, blue balled and knowing he'd have to speak with Shakti before she had enough time to herself.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


When Bell made it back to the mansion, one of the girls had left a towel for him folded at the doorstep. That helped with not leaving a water trail when he went up to his new room to change into dry clothes, which reminded him that he really needed to get some new ones.

Not because he wanted to look better, which would be nice if he was to be honest, but because he needed more clothes if he was to continue getting them shredded with his foolhardiness.

There was only so much Eden could do to fix his clothes before they truly kicked the bucket.

Dressed and somewhat more prepared, Bell headed towards Shakti's chosen guestroom on the same floor as his. He imagined how his lovers would react if he told them he wanted to go clothes shopping and wondered if he would survive the ordeal, that is if his gramps tales of how ladies became incredibly troublesome when clothes were involved.

His chuckles at the mental image of what that would be like became quieter the closer he got to Shakti's door until only his footsteps echoed in the silence of the hallway.

'How do I start this conversation' Bell asked himself before knocking on the door, but as no response came to him, he decided to simply go with what felt right.

Knock

"Shakti, are you there?" Bell's voice echoed.

...

No response, Bell sighed and lowered his fist.

To stay and be persistent or to leave and give Shakti more space?

Either choice had both good and bad, just like…

No.

It was not about his choice being good or bad, it simply was a decision.

And he had to make it.

Bell placed his palm on the door, took a deep breath and said, "Shakti, thank you for worrying about me and sorry that I have given you so many reasons to worry about me… I'm … not sure how much this will mean to you, but I promise that you won't lose me tomorrow or the day after that or anytime soon for that matter."

He let his hand fall back to his side, took another deep breath, and added in a much softer voice, "I love you."

Click

The door lock clicked, Bell looked up just as the door flew open and barely reacted to the two hands that pulled him inside the room.

"Gods damn it, Cranel." Shakti's voice was hot on his face, from so close he could clearly see the redness around her azure eyes. She moved with him until his back hit the wall, hard. "Gods… you… you… stupid…"

Bell cautiously placed his hands over Shakti's hips, no sooner did his fingers touch the skin between her tank top and shorts did she sag against him, her forehead finding the crook of his neck.

"I'm so angry at you, Cranel. So. Gods. Damn. Angry." Shakti hotly whispered against his neck. One of her hands left his shirt to grip his hand on her hip, "Why must you hurt me this way?"

"You say I won't lose you, but I already almost lost you once. You almost died in my arms! Gods damn it!" Shakti moved back to glare at him, tears pooling in her azure eyes. "And now you're asking me to see you fight alone against a whole Familia that will try to kill you and believe you're going to come out of it alive?"

Her body started trembling, he didn't know whether it was from anger or pain.

"Gods fucking damn it, Cranel!" Shakti cursed, her weight on his body increased as she started sliding down and he went with her until they both sat at the ground. "Tell me, how am I supposed to believe you when the last time you gave it your all, it was a miracle you pulled through!?"

"Because I made a promise to always return to those waiting for me, no matter what." Bell recounted one of his old promises as he searched for Shakti's hands. "I'll always return to you and the others."

"You…"

"Remember the second time we met?" Bell continued with a fond smile. "I had been down in the dungeon for two days straight fighting my way out because… Rose, Eina, Miss Kat and Goddess Hestia were waiting for me."

Shakti scoffed at the memory but couldn't deny his words because a certain werewolf had told her something similar a long time ago.

"I'm a lot stronger than I was back then and there are a lot more waiting for me to return to them after the War Game, and it's not just that you know…" Bell grinned, "I also have to make it out alive so we can go on those dates, remember?"

"Pft," Shakti snorted and immediately pursed her lips, but it was too late, Bell was already grinning.

"I know I'm asking a lot of you, and I'll try to not worry you like this ever again in the future if I can help it, but just this one time, can I selfishly ask you to blindly believe in me?" Bell met her teary gaze with pleading crimson eyes.

Shakti closed her eyes and released a long sigh before meeting his crimson gaze again. "You don't play fair, Bell."

"I know."

"You hurt me quite deeply too."

"I know."

"You made me cry too."

"Thank you for loving me enough to cry for me."

"That – I" Shakti groaned and hid her face behind her hands. "That was unfair."

"I love you."

"Shut up, I'm still angry at you."

"I love the angry you."

"…"

"…"

"…"

"I lov-"

Shakti shut him up with a kiss from which she quickly moved back with more redness to her cheeks. "I love you too you stupid, foolish, man."

Bell chuckled; relieved that the tension in his shoulders was gone. "Guess those dwarfs were right about me, after all."

"Damn right they are! You, bravely stupid boy." Shakti quipped before leaning forward onto him, "I'll believe in you Bell, just… try not to become another bloodied mess, please?"

"Eden won't allow me to," Bell felt how Shakti tensed upon hearing Eden's name. "She'll fight with me tomorrow."

"But you said…" Shakti fumbled and scowled, "She's not a fighter."

"But she has a reason to be there tomorrow, even when it's not her fault that we're in this mess." Bell wasn't surprised when Shakti looked up at him, confused. "This War Game is of my own making and it's one I have to see through to the very end, and once it's all over, I promise you'll understand why I did things so… stupidly?"

The blue-haired captain remained quiet for a few seconds before looking away, "I wish you were a better liar… So, it really isn't her fault…" Shakti rubbed her forehead.

"Damn, I made a huge mistake, didn't I?"

Bell shook his head.

"No."

Shakti had done no such thing, because the only one at fault for everything that had happened.

Was himself.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Their Goddess, Hestia, arrived just in time for dinner that day. Eden fetched the Goddess at the doors' estate and smiled at how childish Hestia became when she was given the same tour around their new home as the others.

It was thanks to their Goddess' rather childish antics that when Shakti and Eden crossed paths again near the kitchen, there was not that much tension. Though it was clear that something had indeed happened between the members of the Familia from the way they sat.

Alicia and Eden together and quite far away from Shakti and Eina, whereas Hestia and Rose sat by either of Bell's side.

The white-haired boy ate in silence, but this time he didn't ignore those around him. Bell took one of Rose's hands beneath the table while they ate, and while somewhat uncomfortable, the act seemed to be enough to reassure one another that there was no conflict between them at least.

That was not to say that Bell had made up for what he was doing to Rose, as he knew very well that she wanted to help him but had no way without him telling her. For once, he didn't think about what he did wrong but of how he would make it up to Rose and the others in the near future.

Once dinner was over, there was an uneasiness of who would leave first, but in the end, it was the golden-haired elf followed by the redhead besides her that stood up first.

"If you'll excuse us," Eden curtsied to the group and made to leave with Alicia.

Shakti quickly clambered up from her seat, "Wait, Miss Eden!"

Eden and Alicia paused, the former quite surprised, "Yes, Miss Varma?"

"Could we speak for a little bit?" Shakti asked.

Eden showed her a small smile, "Of course, would you mind if we spoke while we bathe? I'm quite… eager to test the bathhouse's thermal waters."

That caught Eina's attention, "Bathhouse? Thermal waters!?"

"Yes, Miss Eina, I take it you would like to join us then?" Eden asked the half-elf who quickly nodded.

Shakti seemed to think her options before snorting, "Sure, that actually sounds like a good idea. Please lead the way… Eden."

"Of course… Shakti." Eden smiled more animatedly.

And just like that, the four women left the room talking to one another.

"Hm, that does sound like a good idea…" Rose spoke from his side after a moment of silence, she let go of his hand and started picking the dishes from the table. "I take it you will not join us this time, Bell?"

Bell shook his head, "I think it'll be better for all of you if I'm not there this time."

Rose sighed, "That's twice you've denied bathing with us Bell, you best believe I'm not allowing you to skip on us the next time, alright?"

"Yes," Bell scratched his cheek, knowing very well that his beloved werewolf would one way or another be true to her words.

"What about you, Goddess?" Rose turned to Hestia who had yet to finish eating.

"Nu-uh, just took a bath! You girls have fun!" Hestia swallowed a mouthful of her meal.

"Very well," Rose drifted to Bell's side to get herself a kiss before leaving the dirty plates on the sink and followed after the girls that had already left, leaving Bell and Hestia alone in the dining room.

"Bell." Hestia stopped eating and turned to him. "Did something happen?"

"Yes, Goddess." Bell scratched his cheek. "I made a mistake, a big one, and I hurt them."

Hestia sighed, "Was it intentional?"

Bell lowered his head, "I… don't know…"

Hestia sighed for a second time, "You know… You and Hekate are not so unalike."

That; made Bell look up in confusion at his Goddess.

"Both of you don't think things through before deciding on something, it's always a spontaneous explosion of emotions…" Hestia shook her head and smiled. "it's not a bad thing, but sometimes… the both of you make mistakes because you believe to be able to do everything on your own, or am I wrong?"

Bell sheepishly laughed, recalling how a certain royal elf had told him similar words not too long ago "Heh…"

Hestia laughed lightly with him, "I know you're trying your best for all of us, I know tomorrow you will do everything to protect those you love, but Bell, I need you to remember something alright?"

Bell waited for his Goddess words.

"We also want to protect you, Bell." Hestia reached for Bell's hand over the table, "But we do not have the same strength to do so as you do, Bell… That's why, you also have to protect what we love, and that is yourself, alright?"

To protect what they loved… himself…

"… I can do that," Bell smiled. "Yeah, yeah! I can do that, Goddess. Thank you."

Hestia smiled and leaned back into her chair, "Now, about tomorrow… I'm not sure if the girls told you but…"

Bell raised an eyebrow.

"Gramps Ouranos will watch tomorrow's war game…"

"Oh." Bell oh'ed. "Why?"

"Gramps' interested in you I guess," Hestia shrugged. "So do your best tomorrow, yes?"

Bell hummed, "In that case, Goddess… I know I said we should wait but… would you…"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Before the dawn of next day, Bell Cranel left his lover's embrace to prepare for the long day ahead of him. The white-haired adventurer stood by the bed's edge for a long time, merely watching his lovers' sleep.

'To protect what they loved'

In his hands was the earring he was given the previous day, he fiddled with the little, green-studded accessory until he'd finally made his mind.

A click and a drip of blood later, Bell had made up his mind and accepted wholeheartedly the memento.

His decision made, the adventurer moved to the woman closest to the edge of the bed, one that was holding a certain blue-haired captain from behind. He didn't know how Shakti and Eden had made up the previous night, but he was glad they did.

"Eden," Bell whispered the name of the one he needed at the moment, causing the redhead to shift in her sleep. "Eden."

"Mm?" Eden turned her head to him, rubbing one eye open, "Bell?"

"Do we have equipment in the armory?"

Eden took a moment to process Bell's question before nodding, she untangled herself from the mess that was Shakti, and sat on the edge of the bed. "One moment…"

Bell didn't look away from Eden as she worked the cobwebs in her brain, mostly because he couldn't look away. The redhead had most likely turned a lot in her sleep because the clip at the front of her sheer negligee was unclipped.

And proudly exposing her voluptuousness.

Eden, unaware of her clothes, raised her arms above her head to stretch herself awake with Bell following her movements, then the bounciness when she let her arms drop to the sides. She stood up, and that's when Bell really looked away.

"Eden your clothes…"

The woman glanced at herself and laughed softly, yet demurely, she fixed the clip on the front, hiding both the smoothness between her legs and her voluptuousness, "My apologies, you wanted to see the armory?"

Bell nodded, not soon after they were out of the room. It was as they walked side by side that she noticed something new on Bell.

"Bell, why are you wearing that?" Eden asked and gingerly touched his earlobe.

"As a reminder." Bell winced since the flesh was still fresh.

Eden didn't press him for answers, "Did you clean it before putting it on?"

"Yeah, back in my hometown I had to pierce one of my friends' ears so…" Bell replied before changing topics, "Are you ready for today?"

"Yes, I believe so." Eden's fingers shined for a moment before she started massaging Bell's earlobe. "Better?"

Bell sighed in relief, "Hai."

The two soon reached the armory building, with Eden fishing a key from somewhere inside her negligee to open the building's door.

Unlike the manor, which was mostly empty of furniture, the armory had more than three dozen of racks with various pieces of equipment, some looking a little older and requiring far more maintenance than others, and the various stands with different sets of full armors.

"My apologies Bell, but most of the equipment has not been given any maintenance since it's not usable under water so I'm not certain you'll find anything you can use here…" Eden trailed behind Bell as the two looked at the various worn-out gears.

"It's fine, I'm looking for weapons actually. I don't think my spear and dagger will be enough for today." Bell replied.

"Oh, this way then," Eden stepped in front of him, which made Bell realize that unlike the front of her pajamas that were almost see-through, the back of her negligee was nonexistent.

No, not non-existent, it seemed her negligee was more like an apron that one tied at the back of the neck and around the shoulders, leaving most of Eden's back and lower back exposed.

And jiggling.

And bouncing.

And-

"Here are the weapons, Bell." Eden turned around, "I hope you find something that may be useful to you."

"Ah, hai," Bell snapped himself out of his hormone induced stupor and moved past Eden to inspect the literal stash of decrepit weapons thrown on the floor.

From glance alone, he knew most of the weapons were unusable. Salvageable yes, but not usable in their current state. Dulled edges, splintered handles, chipped blades, missing pieces, and many other important errors that would cost him his life if he depended on those weapons.

A five minute search quickly turned into ten with no luck, and Bell had almost given up.

"Oh, that was there?" Eden stepped in front of him, bending over to pick something on the floor which Bell couldn't pay attention to until she'd stood back up to present it to him. "Maybe this one will work?"

Small, thin, twisted and straight, meant for piercing through any type of armor…

"Yeah, this will work."

Eden laughed lightly, handing him the weapon's sheath. "Do you wish to continue looking?"

"No, I don't think I'll find anything else there," Bell replied, he leaned forward to strap the knife to his right thigh.

"Allow me" Eden moved forward at the same time and made his face literally bounce off her bosom.

"Ah."

"Ah."

"My apologies."

"S-sorry."

"Mfufu~ We apologize too much, don't we?"

"Heh, hai."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Thankfully, for Bell's hormones, the rest of the morning was very uneventful. No sooner had him and Eden returned to the manor that the rest of the Familia was filtering in and out of the kitchen, half-asleep.

As soon as his beloved werewolf saw him in the main hall, Bell was dragged to the kitchen to be spoon fed by Rose a hearty breakfast she prepared herself. He didn't dare make a single protest at her actions, because while Rose was all smiles and laughter, he knew she was incredibly worried for him.

Just all his other partners were.

But time continued flowing, the world continued spinning, and live had to go on. Ending what gave comfort to those who worried about him and made their fears loom closer by the hour.

They trusted Bell, they knew he would come back to them, he'd promised as much.

But…

How much of him would come back?

Only Mistress Fate knew the answer to that question, and she wasn't keen on answering any of Bell's lovers their question.

Then, when mistress Time declared it was time, the Familia had no choice but to head out and simply…

Believe in their Hero.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


The meeting place for the Familias was the Pantheon. There, they would be given one last check over to make sure both Familias would fight under the proposed conditions and given a place to prepare themselves before moving over to the selected battlefield.

That's where Bell's first expectations of the Soma Familia were proven wrong, and he knew his self-imposed task would be a lot harder to accomplish.

Where he expected the Soma Familia to have twenty fighters at most, the group that entered the lobby of the Pantheon was easily above the fifty in numbers.

And for once, it seemed that there was no missing his presence.

Men, women, young, old, human, demi-human; their characteristics went on and on.

Were it not for the fact that half of them regarded him with pity in their eyes, Bell would've been mesmerized by the sheer cultural mix that a Familia could become. As it was, Bell could only hope that she was true to her words and relayed his message to them.

Because he was not going to hold back.

Those thoughts seemed to be reflected by the man walking at the front of the Familia; he wore clothes that wouldn't be too out of place on a schoolteacher were it not for the sword on his hip and simple equipment pieces.

The man fixed his glasses before approaching Bell.

"Bell Cranel?"

Cold, detached, but hatred still leaked through the man's voice.

"Zanis Lustra?"

Both men measured one another, Zanis being the first to move by fixing his glasses, again, and looked at the group behind Bell, specifically to the only one that was wearing armor.

"Hm, unexpected but not unwelcome." Zanis muttered before looking back at Bell, noticing the green on the boy's ear. "… You…" Zanis growled but held himself back, he turned around with another and walked away.

"Hestia Familia." A man wearing the Guild Uniform stepped up to them, "Those who will be participating in the War Game from the Hestia Familia, please follow me."

Words and tight hugs of encouragement from those who would stay behind were exchanged before Bell and Eden followed the Guild Attendant who was kind enough to wait for them, he took them outside the pantheon and asked, "Is this your first War Game?"

"Hai." Bell replied honestly, whereas Eden decided to remain quiet and walk one step behind him.

"I see, then let me explain the process while we walk to the designated area." The man fixed his necktie. "Both Familias are guided to the selected battlefield by a representative from the Guild, once we're certain both Familias are ready, we'll sound the buzzer signaling the start of the War Game."

"The type of War Game to be fought between the Hestia Familia and the Soma Familia has the following conditions to it: There is no time limit for the War Game, so it can last anywhere between an hour up to a week or more if the victory conditions are not met."

"There is no outsiders interference allowed, that is to say, if another Familia were to interfere during the War Game to help either side, the helper and helped Familia will be penalized and immediately be called as the loser of the War Game."

"In the case that one of the Familia is discovered to have asked another Familia to interfere with the opposing Familia so as to disqualify and automatically win the War Game, they'll be penalized, disbanded and all members be publicly known to have been complicit in such unfairness."

"As for the Victory conditions, there's only two. The captain of the opposing Familia surrenders or is killed during the course of the War Game."

The man paused to make sure Bell and his companion had understood what he'd spoken so far, "Any question so far?"

"Just one," Bell glanced at Eden. "What happens if someone else besides the captain of the Familia is killed?"

"While against the rules, there won't be more than an economical penalization for every intentional death. If there's an accident where a life is lost, then neither Familia will be penalized as it's an accident."

"Accident?"

"Self-harm, for example." The man adjusted his tie again. "Penalizing the opposing Familia for a case of suicide is not something the Guild will allow, unless of course, a hypnotic or mind-controlling skill is involved."

"Oh," Bell oh'ed and made a mental note of that.

"As for the selected battlefield this time, we've chosen the Daedalus Street as it'll provide both Familias a fair ground to battle. It isn't so farfetched to call Daedalus Street a natural labyrinth from how it was constructed and there also the fact that there are magical appliances already installed in place that will record and broadcast the War Game to those interested in it."

"Wait, broadcast?" Bell asked.

"Yes, almost all War Games are broadcasted to the entirety of Orario with the help of some Gods affiliated with the Guild. This War Game will also be broadcasted." The man replied and confirmed Bell's fears.

"I see…" Bell breathed out. "What about injuries?"

"For this War Game, the Dian Cecht Familia will take care of the treatment for the injured after the War Game is over. The Dian Cecht Familia will then send a bill to the Familia with how much debt they've accrued for their services, from which the Guild will pay a small fee."

"And we've arrived at the designated place," The man stopped in what seemed like a plaza with a water fountain in the center surrounded by tall buildings with various alleys leading to who knows where. "Now, we just have to wait until the Guild sounds the buzzer and the War Game will start."

"Oh, and best of lucks."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Five minutes went by after the Guild attendant left Bell and Eden to their own, both adventurers had sat down by the fountain to wait for the buzzer to go off.

As they waited, Eden hummed a small tune that Bell often heard from her, one of her hands lazily swirled the water from the fountain. She wore a one-piece dress of the darkest blues with a deep v-cut at the front, the skirt of the dress was longer on the left side, covering down to her left ankle, whereas the right side exposed her hip line.

Beneath the dress, she wore a skin-tight dark body suit with long sleeves. The inner piece made it so that the various skin windows on her dress didn't reveal too much of her skin but still drew enough attention to her curves.

On her lap was her weapon, a book with a blue gem incrusted on the cover, and beneath the longer side of her skirt and strapped to her left thigh was a pouch with their healing items.

Bell, on the other hand, didn't have such fancy equipment and it hadn't been given any actual maintenance besides a wash since the last time he used it in the coliseum and the stitching Eden had done to repair it.

At least his weapons were certainly in better shape, as neither his short trident nor his curved dagger had been used since Welf gave them to him, and the weapon he'd found in the morning with Eden was safely secured to his thigh.

The sun hit its highest point in the sky, making its reflection bounce of the water's surface and blind Bell momentarily.

And at the same time, an inhumanly loud screeching noise reverberated throughout the entirety of Daedalus Street.

"Eden," Bell stood up. "Don't leave my side, no matter what." He offered his hand to the woman in question.

"Understood." Eden firmly nodded and took his hand, "I will remain one step behind you and use my magic to support you however I can."

Bell helped her stand up, the two did a quick overview of one another's equipment, making sure everything was in the right place, before they started moving.

The white haired adventurer walked ahead, spear in his right hand and ready to be used at a moment's notice. He moved in the opposite direction the guild attendant had left, where more than 5 alleys awaited them.

He knew it didn't matter which alley he chose because with the numbers disadvantage, they were bound to find opposition on any alley. Therefore, he decided on one at random and picked an alley where the shadows were the thickest.

Bell made sure Insight was passively feeding him information about his surroundings as him and Eden made their way through the shadowy alley, taking careful note of any kind of shift in the sounds around them.

The streets were not silent, as the sound of the breeze running through the narrow passages switched hums at every twist and corner. There were also muffled voices coming from within the walls — no, from inside the buildings.

So not only was Daedalus Street a maze, but also a living place for the habitants of Orario — Bell would have to be even more careful so as to not confuse the voices coming from the buildings for those of the Soma Familia.

He couldn't let his guard down for even a minute.

Twists and turns, walls that lead to nowhere, and buildings with no shape or form came and went without sign of Hestia Familia's opponents, as they entered another long passage between two extremely off-putting buildings, Bell started to feel something was wrong.

"Eden." Bell called for the one behind him, "Do you know the layout?"

"No." Eden replied straight to the point without an explanation, as in the battlefield there could no room for words. "There are hidden pathways, that's all I'm aware of."

Bell paused in his steps to process Eden's words before pushing Insight to work as far as it could, the details of the walls around him flooded his mind until he found something slightly ahead. He walked forward, feeling the wall as he went until he found a loose brick.

He pushed the brick and the mechanism behind the wall whirled alive, the wall sunk in before lowering itself to the ground, creating a small entrance in which the two could crawl into.

"How many are there?" Bell asked, deciding against testing where the secret passage led.

"Too many." Eden replied and the two watched the wall rumble back in place, hiding what should remain hidden.

'Fair ground to fight, right…' Bell sighed. 'Whoever knows the layout of this place has too much of an advantage' He continued moving forward along the alley, Eden one step behind him as she promised. 'When Eina said 'all-out' battle, I expected an open field. This is going to be a lot harder than I expected.'

The adventurer felt along the wall of the alley again, focusing Insight into providing him information about any other hidden passageway near them, what the Ability gave him instead was a warning of sounds reverberating across the walls further up ahead.

And not a moment later, the sound of footsteps echoed from beyond the corner.

Problem was, said corner had four more alley entrances and Bell didn't know from which one the footsteps were coming from as the maze made it seem the noise came from all of them at once.

He had two options, pick one at random and hope for the best, or wait.

The footsteps became louder, the eerie environment carrying the sound for a longer distance and forcing Bell to choose an option faster.

For a second time that day, the sunlight reflected off one of the building's directly into the young man's eyes, blinding him momentarily and he looked upwards to see from where light bounced off.

His decision to look up rewarded him with a third option.

At ground level, the wall of the buildings had no real discernible future from one another, but a quite a few meters above them, that changed.

All buildings were connected by drying clothes wires, wires that were connected to windows ledges, balconies, metal rods jutting from the stone, and Bell found one such balcony without railing right above them.

Bell turned around to Eden who had an arm ready in the direction of the alleys' entrances, her eyes met his before he pointed upwards, and she followed his direction. There were no words spoken, but she understood Bell's message and immediately hooked her arms around his neck, pressing her voluptuousness against him.

He was quick to lift Eden off her feet into a bridal carry, take a deep breath and then leap at the wall in front of him.

His high agility, dexterity and strength made the task of wall hopping an easy, if loud, affair but the two made it safely to the rail-less balcony from where they could see the alleys' entrances perfectly.

And not a moment later, a group of three adventurers appeared from one of them.

Two men and a woman; the taller man walked ahead, a broadsword resting against his shoulders, the second bald man walked at the end of the group, he held a staff, and the woman with bronze skin walked in between them, wielding dual daggers.

The trio stopped just below the balcony, searching for the source of the sound Bell made when he'd wall-hopped, and before they could figure out, Bell and Eden made their move.

Bell aimed his short trident at the man wielding the broadsword, with one strong thrust, he threw the spear and then jumped off the balcony with the curved dagger in hand.

"Thrum!" Eden's voice echoed along the alley, alerting the trio to her presence, but by the time they looked up at her, it was too late.

Her spell hit the staff of the man at the back, wrenching the wooden cane away from him with an explosion of air at the same time as Bell's spear pierced through the unprotected shoulder of the man at the front.

Bell ignored the anguished scream released by the man as he met the eyes of the bronze-skinned woman who raised her daggers to parry his attack, but by the time she managed to raise her weapons, Bell was already past her guard.

He maneuvered the curved dagger so it would only cut lightly into her body from her shoulders, across her chest, all the way down to her hip.

It made it not the less painful, enough that the woman stumbled backwards to ease her wound.

Bell capitalized by tackling her by the midsection, sending her crashing against the mage behind her and making both adventurers tumble backwards in a screaming heap. Insight triggered and warned him off danger coming from his back, he turned around and-

"Thrum!" Eden's voice echoed again, an explosion of air burst at the face of the man behind Bell, stopping him from finishing the slash of his broadsword against Bell's back.

"Ak!" The bald man stumbled back in pain, giving Bell the chance to get inside his guard and deliver a crunching punch to his jaw.

The bald man and his broadsword clambered to the ground, useless for the rest of the fight.

"Phoo," Bell released his bated breath and turned to the two still struggling behind him, the woman was face down over the man, whimpering in pain despite his best attempt at not hurting her too bad.

He was not going to kill anyone, he decided so from the start.

Bell knew that many of the Soma Familia were most likely unaware of why the War Game even started, but he couldn't spare them from the fight if they fought back.

They all had their pride as adventurers and that was reason enough to stand against him.

Therefore, he had to meet that pride head on… and crush it.

Bell took advantage of the woman's neck becoming exposed, he delivered a hand chop to the back of her neck that set her free from consciousness before he looked over her shoulders at the man nervously smiling back at him.

Before, he too, joined her in the dark.

"Haa…" Bell exhaled again once the scuffle was over, he turned around the woman and searched inside both of the unconscious people's bags until he found a potion that he poured over the woman's bleeding wound.

Once her wound sealed shut, with only the blood and a faint scar as the reminder of what happened, Bell collected his spear and wall-hopped back up to the balcony to pick up the awaiting Eden.

"She may wake up faster because of the potion." Eden warned him as soon as his feet landed on the balcony.

"Not taking the chance of letting her bleed to death." Bell replied honestly as Eden's arms wound up around his neck again, he lifted her into a bridal carry again.

"You're too kind, Bell." Eden admonished and praised him. "Here they're trying to win by killing you, yet you still worry about their wellbeing."

But it was exactly because he hadn't worried about the wellbeing of others beyond what was important to him that the War Game had started in the first place.

"Do you think we'll have a better view if climb onto the rooftops'" Bell glanced upwards while readjusting Eden's lightless weight.

"Yes, but we'll also be easier to spot." Eden pressed herself closer to Bell to give him an easier time carrying her.

Even if they were spotted, it was unlikely that the Soma Familia would climb to the rooftops fast enough before Bell had left the area. Besides, with how little he knew of Daedalus Streets, it would be more dangerous to continue walking along the alleys and be attacked from one of the many hidden passageways.

The white-haired adventurer walked backwards until his back hit the wall, giving him enough space on the balcony to run forwards and propel himself at the wall in front of him. As soon as his feet touched the vertical surface, he kicked upwards against the other wall, and again, until one final jump threw him over the edge of the building, and he landed safely on the rooftop.

Most of the buildings weren't at level, some weren't even square in shape, but that gave Bell the advantage of seeing farther than he normal. He neared the edge of the building to look towards the lower block of buildings ahead of them, seeing a few open spaces that probably held more plaza-like sections of Daedalus Street.

Those were the first places Bell headed towards, jumping from building rooftop to rooftop, while also trying to remember as most as he could from the twisting streets of Daedalus Street below them.

Yet, despite his best attempt at finding his foes with the eagle vantage view, there was none to be found which was starting to worry him more, as it either meant Soma Familia wasn't moving from their original position or they were using the many hidden passageways to set up on ambush on him.

"Weird…" Eden's voice in his arms made him pause at the center of another building's rooftop. "We should've seen at least another group of scouts with how much ground you've covered."

Bell frowned, glad that he was not the only one with that idea. "What do you think?"

"From my experience, Familias usually send scout groups to the cardinal points and whichever group does not return, it'll give the Familia a general idea of where the opposing Familia is." Eden bit her thumbnail in thought. "There's always two to three waves of scouts to continue keeping track of the enemy general direction but…"

"We haven't found any other group." Bell finished for her.

"Yes… They should already be aware of our general direction, I don't believe Zanis to be that incompetent when it comes to tactics." Eden added and sunk into her thoughts.

"Do you think they're using the hidden passages?"

"Unlikely." Eden shook her head. "I believe they are aware of your strength, or have a good idea of it, therefore trying to ambush you would result in quick losses. The best way to deal with you is by using a big group to wear you down as fast as possible until you slip and make a mistake."

Well, that was comforting to hear.

Eden glanced past Bell's shoulder at the Sun that had reached its highest point in the sky, "Perhaps, we should hide and wait for a while until they make their next move. That way, even if they were waiting for you to appear, but we don't come to them, they'll be forced to look for us once more and we can try and take out the next wave of scouts."

Bell nodded and decided to trust Eden's experience with War Games.

The adventurer readjusted Eden's weight again and started moving in the direction of an alcove he'd seen earlier, one decently sized and with a good shade that would protect them from both the Sun and being spotted if someone were to come from the rooftops.

A few jumps over and the two Hestia Familia adventurers huddled together inside the alcove.

"Bell?" Eden quietly called his name and he looked towards her. "Will you… kill Zanis?"

"I'm… not sure yet." Bell honestly replied, he started fiddling with the memento on his earlobe. "But if it comes down to it, I will."

Eden continued staring into his crimson eyes for a moment longer before shuffling closer and pulled his head onto her bosom where she started stroking the back of his head. "Do you want to kill him?"

"No." Bell whispered.

Again, he was not going to kill anyone, he decided so from the start.

But if it came down to it… He would make the decision… again…

"You sure this is the right direction?" A voice in the alley below them made Bell and Eden separate and quietly look down from the alcove.

"Yeah, Lina's group came this way and Master Zanis said they were the only ones that didn't return." A demi-human woman with cat ears replied to the three men besides her.

"Bah, why did Zanis even accept the fight in the first place?" One of the men crossed his arms. "Hasn't he heard of the rumors going around about that kid? Wouldn't it have been better to get him hooked up with Soma Wine and add him to our ranks?"

"Those are rumors, you idiot." The largest man replied, a battle axe dangling from his back. "There's no way a kid like him is capable of taking down a monster like the one in the arena, that was a show, Lord Ganesha said so."

"Rumors or not, we still gotta' take this seriously guys." The last male replied, unlike the other three who had weapons in their person, he had a giant backpack. "Remember Master Zanis said whoever brought the two adventurers to him would get a barrel full of Soma's wine."

The group of four continued walking down the alley, not knowing that Bell and Eden were already preparing their next move after gathering that little tidbit of information from them. Again, their plan was almost the same as last time except the supporter would be the last one to be taken care of.

Bell carefully aimed his spear at the shoulder of the large man with the axe on his back and threw it before jumping towards the group. Eden waited until Bell was just upon them before acting herself.

"Thrum!"

The ground in front of the group exploded, alerting them of the attack and they prepared to counterattack, but with how Eden had set up the explosion, the group ended up looking the wrong way believing their ambusher to have failed their attack.

Until the sound of steel cutting flesh from behind them alerted them to their true attacker's position, the large man groaned in pain and toppled forwards to hold onto his injured shoulder while Bell weaved past him.

The other man tried to unsheathe his sword to slice Bell, but he was too slow, Bell blitzed through his personal space and struck his stomach with all the momentum he'd gathered from his run towards them.

Spittle and blood flew from the man's mouth before he crumpled down into himself.

Insight warned him of the moving demi-human catwoman running towards him, a falchion mid swing that would slice at his neck if he didn't move out of the way.

"Thrum!"

Another explosion of air hit the falchion's blade on the side, sending the weapon off course and giving Bell the opportunity to disregard an evasive dodge into an offensive strike. Bell grabbed the woman's wrist and turned his body around before pulling her over his shoulder.

The demi-human was lifted off the ground, surprised, before her back connected with not the ground, but the large man that was still recovering from the wound to his shoulder. Pain exploded all across her back, yet before she could open her eyes to assess what happened, she also received a punch to her jaw that left her unconscious.

Twang

The sound of wire snapping, a projectile sizzled through the air, its target being the white-haired adventurer's back.

It missed.

Bell turned around at the man with the big backpack and an arm extended with a crossbow in hand. Unlike the other three, he was younger, a lot younger, probably even younger than Bell himself, yet he hadn't hesitated in firing the arrow towards where his heart would've been.

Bell couldn't blame him; they were at war after all.

The young supporter would never remember what happened after Bell disappeared from his vision, but he would remember it as one of the most powerful blows he'd ever received before he became of age.

"Fucking hell." The large man spoke from the side, being the only one left conscious of his group. "Why do the rumors gotta' be true this time, urgh."

Bell approached him, "I've got some questions for you."

The large man glared at Bell before slumping his shoulders, "Take your goddam spear out of my shoulder and then we can talk."

Bell plucked the spear and pointed it at the man's face just in case he hadn't still given up.

"Fuck man, I ain't looking to die today, ask and we'll stay outta your way for the rest of the game."

Bell nodded, "Did the Soma Familia receive my message yesterday?"

"You mean what the blonde elf friend of Zanis told us yesterday?" The large man asked to make sure he'd gotten the question right, when Bell nodded in the affirmative, he continued. "Yeah, there were many who thought of it as a joke, but I can see she wasn't bluffing on her words."

"What's Zanis plan?"

The large man looked behind Bell, at the redhaired woman with an arm pointed in his direction ready to fire another spell in case he tried anything funny. "No idea man, Zanis's been bonkers for a few weeks now and just told us to get you to him, and if we couldn't then to just take you out and kill you on the spot."

"If I asked you about your Familia's position…"

"Sorry man, can't do that one." The large man shook his head, "I don't like Zanis, but I ain't betraying my Familia like that."

Bell nodded and retracted his spear, "Thank you for being honest, sorry about the wound."

"All good, nothing a good ol' potion can't heal."

The white-haired adventurer turned around and made to leave but the man called for him one last time.

"Hey, about your lady friend over there…"

Bell merely turned his neck to show the man had his attention.

"Zanis offered a huge reward if we took her out before taking you down, thought you should know that."

"Yeah, I'm already aware of that." Bell nodded in gratitude for his honesty before leaping towards Eden in the alcove.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Dark clouds rolled across the sky as time went by, the Sun's light no longer reached the streets of Daedalus Street, casting unto darkness most of the land with the sole exceptions of the widest plaza in the human built labyrinth.

The breeze had long since picked up, a coldness that danced across the skin as a warning of the deluge that was to come.

But such warning was unheeded by those running through Daedalus' alleys. A group of five adventurers chased after a redhaired woman, and behind that group was a white-haired adventurer exerting himself to catch up to the group.

"Thrum!"

Eden spun as she ran, one hand pointed at the ground in front of the Soma Familia following her. The stone exploded, showering the men with pebbles and stones, slowing their chase enough for Bell to catch up with the furthest one behind.

An elf which Bell slammed on the side with the shaft of his trident, his powerful swing cracked something as it hit and threw the man against the alley wall, down for the count.

"Shit, he's caught up!" A woman wearing daring clothes with a lance in hand screamed to her partners, hesitating whether they should continue chasing after the promised reward or try and deal with the monster that had taken down half of their group already.

"You two catch her, we'll stall him!" The man besides her, a buckler and short sword in hand with a bandana over his head ordered the two other members behind him.

Bell ground his teeth and threw his spear at them.

"Yes si-"

The woman and man dodged the dangerous projectile, however the man behind had not seen it and the weapon pierced him through his shoulder, the momentum and strength with which the weapon was thrown lifted him off his feet and sent him sailing through the air.

Eden widened her eyes at the human missile and threw herself to the ground to avoid the man who screamed bloody murder until he'd essentially hit the end of the alley and was stuck to the wall.

"Go!" The bandana man screamed at the remaining boy behind him, snapping his out of his stupor while Bell ran towards them. He charged at Bell, buckler first intending to slow him down, but Bell jumped over him, stepping over his shoulder and ignored the woman who tried to pierce him from bellow.

In that moment, Bell cared less about the lance's tip scratching his forearm as he battled it aside and focused more on making sure his aim was true.

The boy had started running towards Eden who was recovering from her dodge, leaving his back exposed to Bell who threw his dagger at his ankle.

Another anguished scream bounced of Daedalus alley as the boy collapsed forward, holding onto his ankle which had a dagger going through the bone and muscle. He rolled forward in pain, long enough to end at Eden's feet.

The boy's face met her heel, and that was the eighth member of the group hunting them down.

Bell rolled forward when his feet touched the ground, the bandana man and the daring woman following right behind to try and take advantage of him recovering to his feet.

"Thrum!"

A vacuum of air exploded behind Bell, scattering more pebble and slowing the two's attack, enough for Bell to get back on his feet and face them.

He had no weapon, but to take care of the remaining two of the ten, he didn't need them.

The daring woman went for a thrust at his midsection which Bell easily dodged by twisting to the side, his elbow came down on the shaft of the lance and broke the weapon apart, the weapon's damage surprised the woman and she tried to backpedal but Bell had already moved forward into her space.

An uppercut to her jaw sent her body flying backwards, leaving her unconscious before she even hit the floor.

"Sweet Soma Wine!" The bandana man swore out loud, his left arm that held the buckler started trembling. "Just what the fuck are you man."

Bell's crimson eyes targeted the bandana man, his angered gaze making the man backtrack.

"Fuck, I wasn't told about any of this!" The bandana man swore again and feebly raised his short sword at Bell.

"Don't care." Bell spat out; he kneeled down to grab the broken piece of lance that had the tip, his crimson gaze never leaving the trembling man's. "Where is Zanis?"

"Fuck if I know!" The bandana man replied. "Bastard only promised sweet amounts of wine for whoever killed the girl first before leaving us to our own!"

Bell grit his teeth and leveled the broken lance at the man.

"Look man, I was just following orders, you can't."

Bell blinked out of sight.

"Shut up."

And pierced with the broken lance through the man's buckler, through his forearm, all the way across his shoulder.

"AGHHH FU-"

Bell twisted the broken piece of equipment, effectively shutting up the man with the pain, he dropped his short sword to hold onto the broken weapon to alleviate the pain.

TWANG

"Thrum!"

An explosion of air blocked an arrow that would've hit Bell's back at the last moment, the white-haired adventurer blinked and released his grip on the lance and let the man fall to the floor moaning and cursing in pain.

He looked upwards, to the low rooftops above them, and saw two more members of the Soma Familia with crossbows and bows aimed at him, luckily, they both were reloading.

In his momentary anger at the bandana man's words, Bell had forgotten to heed Insight's warning of the projectiles.

"Bell!" Eden called for him and he turned around just in time to see her pull out the dagger from the unconscious boy ankle in a spray of blood and throw it towards him. He caught the dagger at the same time as another two arrows sailed towards him.

The redhaired woman raised her hand to use her magic again to protect Bell, "Thru- Aghk!"

"Haha! Gotcha!" The man that had been taken down by Bell's spear at the start had somehow made his way back into the fight, though severely bleeding from the shoulder with the arm essentially unusable.

He was still able to throw his own knife at Eden's back with the other arm.

Though Bell couldn't do nothing to him just then, as he had to block the two arrows on his own with his dagger, he could only spare a momentary glance at the injured man waddling towards Eden while the bowmen reloaded.

He was not going to kill anyone, he said so at the start…

But as Eden's blood flowed from her right shoulder down her arm from the knife stuck in the muscle, Bell was pretty damn close to foregoing his words.

Insight warned him that the bowmen had reloaded, and Bell made his decision.

He threw the dagger at the injured man behind Eden with all his strength, the weapon dug deep into the man's remaining uninjured shoulder just as Eden pulled out her own dagger from inside her dress and struck the man in the stomach.

And two arrows struck Bell for his choice.

"Ghk." Bell grit his teeth as pain flared from behind his thigh and hip, his right hand wound around the arrow lodged on his hip and pulled it out despite it being a bad choice.

The two bowmen celebrated with a cheer their hit before they started reloading, however it was that cheer that delayed them enough for Bell to grab the short sword from the agonizing bandana man at the floor and throw it towards one of the two bowmen.

The sword sailed through the air, the man with the bow leaned back to avoid being impaled by the weapon, but his hands weren't fast enough to pull back the ranged weapon from the sword's path. Steel cut through wood, snapping the bow in two.

"THRUM!"

As for the other man, his foothold exploded in a shower of debris as Eden's spell hit the building, interrupting his actions and made him fall with the destroyed part of the building.

Right into Bell's path.

A kick to the stomach and the man was down for the count.

Eden ran towards Bell as he pulled out the arrow on his thigh, the moment she was beside him, she plucked the knife on her shoulder. "Gh!" A muffled gasp of pain escaped her lips as she gave Bell the bloody knife.

The white-haired adventurer took the weapon, offering a silent nod of thanks before throwing it at the bowman who peeked to see what else he could try to do.

He received a dagger to his stomach for trying to continue the fight.

"They must be over here!" More shouting and footsteps bounced off the alleys as more men of the Soma Familia approached the location Bell and Eden where at.

Bell ignored the pain in his limbs and back to lift Eden off her feet again and started running in the direction he had thrown the spear; he only stopped the pluck his dagger from the shoulder of the man who had injured Eden and kick his face to render him unconscious.

"Sorry… for being a burden… Bell." Eden huffed out as her hands went below her skirt, towards the pouch strapped to her thigh with their potions.

"You're my support, not a burden." Bell replied as he ran while looking ahead for wherever his trident had landed. "I'd probably have way more injuries by now if it wasn't for you."

Eden giggled, "Well… you're more durable… than me." She brought out two potions from her pouch, one of blue color and the other one half-green half-red. She uncorked the blue one with her teeth and downed it as Bell finally found his spear at the corner of the alley.

He slowed down to kick the spear off the ground, readjusted Eden so one of his hands went over her back and grabbed the spear before it fell back down and rounded the corner of the alley.

Into a dead end.

"Shit." Bell cursed and glanced around as the voices and footsteps grew louder behind them. Insight flared alive out of his own will, flooding his mind with information about his surrounding and he was lucky to find another pressure plate on one of the walls which he kicked to activate the mechanism.

The wall sunk into itself, and Bell literally dove into the secret passageway, regardless of wherever it would lead to.

Thankfully, the passageway was lit, and once he processed the information of his surroundings, realized that it was more like the back entrance of a warehouse than a passageway. His stroke of luck continued in the form of a dozen boxes piled just next to the entrance he came from.

"Eden, I'll-"

"Do it." Eden jumped off his arms, knowing what he wanted to do.

Bell nodded his head as quick thanks before moving towards the boxes and pushed them to block the entrance, his efforts weren't wasted as the two heard the mechanism open again, a dozen angered voices over the wall screaming that it was blocked.

The two waited with bated breath for a few seconds, until finally the voices went away. Only then did the two dropped down to the floor to catch their breath. Bell with his back against the boxes, just in case someone tried to push through them, and Eden right in front of him.

The redhaired woman uncorked the second potion she had taken out earlier and drank half of the liquid before scuttling forward until her knees touched Bell's.

"How are you feeling?" Eden asked as she raised the potion to his lips.

"Drained…" Bell huffed out and tilted his head upwards to drink the potion, immediately he felt the signs of his strained muscles relax ever so slightly and the throbbing pain on his hip and thigh diminish.

Ever since they had taken down the second group of scouts, the Soma Familia had upped their pace and sent bigger groups in their general direction, which while at the start, Bell and Eden had no trouble on taking down the three to four man groups.

But when they had taken the fourth group down and not a second later been found by a fifth group, the fights took a turn for the worse.

Just as the man who'd made Bell lose his cool had said, most of the members of Soma Familia didn't really go after him but after Eden because Zanis had essentially put a prize to her head, therefore Bell had no choice but to fight not just to avoid killing his enemies but also keep Eden as safe as possible.

True, he was a higher level with higher stats than those of the Soma Familia, but just as Miss Teasanare had warned him, fighting without resting would eventually make his muscles lock up, which was why his movements had become more sluggish by the time the group of ten people had found them and went after the redhaired woman as Bell finished off the previous group.

Even then, he had strained himself to his limits to take them down as fast as he could before they could get to his redhaired supporter, but as evident by the blood she was cleaning from her shoulder, he was starting to slow down too much.

"Will you be alright?" Eden asked him, taking his left forearm and cleaned the blood on it from when he'd batted aside the lance from the daringly clothed woman.

"Yeah," Bell sighed out, both Hestia members seeing no wound remaining on his skin thankfully. "That was our last high grade health potion, wasn't it?"

"I still have one left." Eden palmed the pouch on her thigh. "There's one more Magic Potion and two Stamina potions left."

Bell reached forward for the pouch, neither minding his hands touching Eden's thighs before he pulled out both Stamina potions. He took one for himself and gave the other to her.

"We'll take the potions of the next group we take down." Bell explained before downing the Stamina potion and feeling some of his energy return back into him.

"Will we have the time to take their potions?" Eden fiddled with the cork of her Stamina potion.

Not likely.

"I hope so." Bell scratched his cheek. "Even if we can't, it'll be better that we take them now rather than later when it won't do us much good anymore."

His explanation made, Eden heeded his words and downed her potion. Within the minute, her skin regained a healthier color, and she wasn't breathing as heavily as earlier.

"Say Bell… What are we going to do now?" Eden asked him as she scuttled to sit beside him and lean her head on his shoulder.

What indeed…

"You wouldn't happen to have some unknown magical spell that deals damage to a big area?" Bell asked, already expecting a negative answer.

"If I were to charge Echo to the limit, I may be able to take down five to ten adventurers, but I will immediately get Mind Downed." Eden surprised him with her answer, as he didn't know that she could the something like that at all.

"Let's… not do that." Bell sighed out.

While a good idea to deal with the numbers disadvantage, it was a terrible idea when it meant that she would be unconscious for the remainder of the War Game.

If only he knew how to activate his Special Skills, something like The Broken King doubling his current Stats would essentially make the fights a walk in the part. As it was, he could only continue relying on Insight and Nihil.

"We don't have many options, Bell."

"I know."

Silence befell both adventurers huddled together, with only the distant rumbling of thunder across the sky.

"Say Bell, do you like the rain?"

Bell hummed in thought, "As long as its not an endless downpour, I'd say I like the rain." He tilted his head in Eden's direction as she moved away from his shoulder to stand up. "What about you?"

"I hate the rain." Eden giggled. "But I love the sound of thunders. Weird, is it not?"

"Just a bit." Bell admitted with a light smile.

Almost as if on command, another distant powerful echo made the land tremble as thunder struck somewhere in Orario.

"It'll rain soon…" Eden whispered to herself, one hand to her bosom. "I'm feeling better, shall we start moving again?"


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Little by little, the last rays of sunshine disappeared, the dark clouds claiming more and more of sky's territory. The echoes of thunder and lighting became more frequent, just as the sound of steel meeting steel echoing in the alleys of the human-made labyrinth known as Daedalus Street.

Two adventurers fought against seven as they ran through the narrow passages of Daedalus Street, for once Bell was not carrying Eden on his arms, instead she was sitting on his shoulders, supple thighs squeezing his neck for dear life, as she used her vantage point to cast her magic augmented by her magical book at their foes.

All the while, Bell balanced their combined weight and parried off their opponent's attacks with his short trident. Eden's job was to take care of anything above them, whereas Bell would take care anything at ground level.

Their new position worked better, at least for the last two skirmishes where they took down two more groups of three people from the Soma Familia.

Problem was that this third group of seven people found them just as they had finished off the last group and didn't give either Bell or Eden a chance to catch their breath before they started chasing after them.

"Slow them down already!" One of the men running after them shouted at the mage of their group, a woman who was quick to point her staff at the tower of two people known as Bell and Eden.

"O' Fiery Lord, I beg of you! Turn my enemies in-"

"Thrum!"

The staff of the female mage exploded into splinters as Eden's spell struck true taking the mage out of the equation, however from the feeling of Eden's thighs losing some of the strength around his neck, Bell knew the redhaired woman was starting to run out of mind.

Thus, he turned on the dime of his feet to face off against the group of seven recovering from being so close to the magical explosion. His lungs and legs burnt as he dashed forward; two quick thrusts of his trident disarmed the two vanguards at the front, one wide swipe with the shaft hit both in the side and smacked both men against the wall that cracked on impact.

The other four melee users of the Soma Familia recovered from the explosion just as Bell finished taking his stance with the trident again, shoulders burning in agony as the muscles strained with the continued punishment Bell was placing them under.

Two of the remaining five moved forward, a man and woman with curved, shorter swords than normal. Bell used the length of his spear to keep them at bay with a flurry of wild thrusts.

"Ha… THRUM!" Eden shouted over his shoulders again, an invisible impact of air hit the woman in the chest, pushing her back and allowing Bell to capitalize on the man left alone.

Bell hooked within the tri prongs of his trident the man's shorter sword and twisted, breaking the less durable weapon before slamming the end of his staff between the man's legs.

'Sorry.' Bell apologized in his head as the man crumpled to the floor holding his injured jewels.

Twang

Insight triggered, warning him of the rocky projectile shot from the enemy supporter's sling. A projectile that wasn't aimed at him, but at the woman in his shoulders.

Bell was quick to kneel as Eden's fingers gripped his hair and she ducked over him, letting the pebble sail harmlessly over them as the remaining woman with short sword and the two other fighters moved towards them again.

The white-haired adventurer made a wild, wide swept of his spear at their feet, keeping them back from reaching him as he jumped backwards, something akin to electricity coursed through his entire thigh at the movement and he winced in pain but still pushed on.

There were only four remaining enemies in front of them, yet Bell knew that with how exhausted Eden magical reserves were, and his own muscles burning in pain, he couldn't afford to finish this fight and risk getting caught by another group.

Thus, he turned on the dime of his feet and started running again, regardless of his right leg flaring in pain every time his feet hit the ground.

With the massive difference in agility between him and the group after them, Bell managed to outrun them quite fast, however, his troubles weren't over just yet. At every corner he turned, there were members of the Soma Familia blocking the narrow passages and forced Bell to twist and take another route.

That's when he noticed that the Soma Familia's pattern of attack changed.

The groups weren't chasing after him anymore, instead they seemed to retreat into the alleys he found them, then reappear blocking his path again a few alleys up ahead, almost as if they were guiding Bell towards something.

His question was answered in the form of the narrow passage slowly widening in size until Bell finally realized where he was led.

Another plaza, much bigger than the one his Familia had started in.

"About time you arrived."

And the bespectacled captain of the Soma Familia sat at the fountain in the very center of the new plaza. Around him, and blocking all other streets, were the remaining members of the Soma Familia.

"It's surprising that you managed to take down a third of our forces before getting here." Zanis continued talking while Bell's eyes swept through his surroundings.

He noticed there were some members of the Soma Familia that seemed none to keen on being there, others looked at him with pity in their eyes since everyone was aware of how the War Game could be won, while the remaining weren't looking at him, but at the exhausted woman on his shoulders.

"But your strength was to be expected, otherwise there's no way that would've happened." Zanis fixed his glasses before glaring at Bell. "Right?"

Bell didn't deign giving the other captain a response, instead he carefully kneeled to allow Eden to climb off his shoulders, no sooner had her heels clinked against the stone that her hands grasped his shoulders to support her weight.

"Tired, aren't we?" Zanis continued with a gloating tone, he extended his arms as if talking to an audience bigger than just them. Probably to the ones that were watching that War Game broadcast.

Again, Bell didn't respond, he rose back to his feet and moved Eden to stand by his front-left side, her shoulders slumped forward as her trembling hands held onto him. There was a ton of sweat built up around her flushed cheeks, she tried to give him a reassuring smile but they both knew she was extremely close to getting a Mind Down.

"Sadly for you, my vengeance is just starting." Zanis growled and raised his hand to command his Familia. "Members of the Soma Familia, I once again remind you… Whoever takes the Holy Grail's head will receive a year's worth of our precious Soma Wine."

The captain's proclamation made, Eden whirled around to look into Bell's crimson eyes, surprised, confused, and with the slightest hints of fear in them.

"Bell…?" Eden huffed out his name, fingers clenching his shoulder. "Is this… why…?"

Again…

He was not going to kill anyone…

Bell's left hand snared around Eden's waist, pulling her flush against his side as he brandished his trident with his right arm; the prongs scrapped the plaza's floor as he lifted and pointed it at the captain of the Soma Familia with arms extended.

"I'll remind you again," Bell spoke out loud, not at Zanis, but at the members of the Soma Familia preparing to attack him. "If you lay down your weapons, I won't strike you."

Perhaps, if Bell had been taller, older, and looking less like a battered boy who'd seen better days, his words would've incurred more fear in those around him. As it was, only the few who believed the rumors about his feats weren't the ones to laugh at Bell's proclamation.

Life was meant to always be unfair.

Whether it be through hardships created by one own's hands, or by hardships that Mistress Fate would put at one's path.

It was up to the human in question how they would deal with that unfairness.

"Big words for a murderer." Zanis uttered with such disdain, "Let's see if you can keep that disgusting ego of yours after someone murders what you hold dear."

"Men, kill them."

Yes, life was meant to be unfair.

Men, women, human, demi-human, adventurers, supporters, magicians moved, a variety of weapons and spells readied to finish what Bell had started, despite his last warning.

The odds were always against him, and this time was no different.

Eden golden irises met his for a second, despite being exhausted, at the verge of falling unconscious to a Mind Down, there was no mistaking the hopeful glint in those tired orbs of hers.

'To protect what they loved, himself'

"Eden, do not move, no matter what."

To save those he cared about…

"Yes." Eden released his shoulder, she tried to stand as straight as she could while the Soma Familia moved closer and closer intent on taking her head for their reward.

He would have to…

Insight went into overdrive the moment the first person stepped inside Bell's ability perimeter, then the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one after that.

Become the villain, again.

Thunder struck the fountain in the plaza, its powerful light blinding everyone who had been moving, its echoing might deafening everyone around momentarily.

Everyone, except the white-haired adventurer.

Just as fast as the lighting had come and gone, Bell bolted towards the first person that had entered Insight range. He didn't spare a single thought into what the person wore, who she could be, how she would attack him, how she would try to fight back… because he didn't need to.

The flat end of his trident went through her stomach.

And the thigh of the man behind her.

And the stomach of the man behind the man behind her.

Yes, he was not going to kill anyone, but he would not hold back.

In the time it took for sight and sound to return to the Soma Familia, Bell had already pulled out his spear from the human skewer and had moved towards the person closest to Eden.

Again, Bell did not spare his strength, the side of his trident connected with the man's ribcage that cracked on impact, the strength behind his blow lifted the man off his feet and threw him against those beside him, mowing them down.

"What the-"

The woman next to that man exclaimed in surprise as Bell's left hand was already moving towards her face, she tried to lean back to avoid the punch, but Bell continued forward with his elbow instead, hitting her square in the jaw.

Her body fell to the ground, giving pause to the Soma Familia who stared wide eyed at the boy who took down seven in the span of a three seconds.

But it was still one person against sixty, and they weren't exactly aiming for him.

Thus, they tried to rush past him to strike the defenseless redhead who trusted and obeyed Bell's order.

Tried.

The muscles at Bell's back shifted painfully as the boy moved again, the irritating throbbing in his thighs reminding him that he was pushing his legs past their limits as he dashed for the next person closest to his lover.

Bell's ankle twisted just as he reached the man, the boy ground his teeth and swung his spear in a wide arc, the prongs cutting through the man's sword as if it was made of wood and cut deep into his chest.

Insight flared in warning, impending doom closing in on his lover from the opposite side he was at, another woman with a halberd poised to strike down at Eden.

His shoulder twisted, the bone creaked as Bell threw his trident at her, the powerful weapon broke the raised halberd and embedded in the woman guts. The spear's momentum continued, taking the injured woman along and piercing into another two that didn't move from behind her fast enough.

Fate, for once, was by his side, as another thunder struck the fountain.

Blind and deaf, Bell grabbed the man closest to him by the arm and pulled. The sound of a shoulder dislocating went unheard as the man sailed through the air after Bell threw him at those close to him. Seconds of the thunderous weather on his side continued, with Bell running around Eden in a circle, delivering however many incapacitating blows he could to the recovering enemies.

But it was still only one person against fifty-five.

Yes, Bell could continue pushing himself to protect Eden from those that breached Insight's perimeter, but he could do nothing against those outside of it.

"Light of Guidance!"

"Florvette!"

"Ignis!"

Therefore, all he could do was throw himself over Eden before the magical spells could reach her. A rain of thorns pelted his back before a ball of fire impacted his silverback equipment resulting in a fiery explosion that propelled him off his feet, thankfully, away from the light beam that burnt the ground he'd been seconds earlier.

The white-haired adventurer rolled across the ground with his supporter in his arms, Insight warning him yet again that he would be given no respite from his opponents. A group of two close to where they landed rushed at them, and Bell barely managed to look up as they came closer.

"THRUm!" Eden's shouted beneath him; her gaze set on the two approaching foes. Her spell hit them both square in the stomach and threw them off their feet. "Heh… I'm your… supporter, right?" Eden tiredly whispered.

Bell couldn't help snorting at her comment, the opportunity she created allowed him to bring himself and her back to their feet before more people entered Insight's perimeter.

"I… have… one more." Eden slumped forward in his arms, exhaustion almost taking her then and there.

Bell bit his lips as six people came closer and closer; he abandoned an immobile defense for a mobile one. The white-haired adventurer lifted his supporter off her feet again and prepared himself to take on the six.

The first one to meet him halfway was a young boy with a longsword, the weapon came diagonally downwards at Bell who moved along and inside the boy's arms. The two teens only had a moment to lock eyes before Bell smashed his forehead against the boy's nose with a sickening crunch.

Bell continued forward, pushing the boy to fall on his back and trampled over him to get at the next person behind him. A demi-human who hadn't expected Bell to literally barrel through her friend and tried to move away from him.

Bell put his entire weight on his left feet, which casually landed on the fallen boy's face, as he spun. His right leg came forward and kicked the retreating demi-human on the side of her shoulder.

What she hadn't expected was the strength behind the blow as it cracked her shoulder, made her curl into herself, and threw her aside as if she was paper being blown by the wind.

Twang.

Unluckily, Bell didn't manage to recover in time to dodge the arrow that pierced into his upper back.

"Gh." Bell grit his teeth and ignored the pain to deal with the next two that were upon him; He entirely forewent taking in any of their futures except the two axes of difference sizes coming at him from either side.

He couldn't dodge backwards nor sidewards, therefore he went forwards again.

The white-haired adventurer angled his right shoulder forwards as the axe came at him from above, and he barreled right into the man's chest. By tackling the man, Bell successfully weakened the severity of the blow from the axe, enough for his burnt equipment to take the blow without going through the resistant material.

The adventurer with his supporter toppled along with the man, entirely dodging the other axe attack. As they fell, Bell hooked his legs with the second man's legs and twisted, making all four people tumble to the ground.

No sooner had everyone landed, Bell raised his protesting legs to deliver an axe kick at the second man's jaw and use the moment to pull himself forward and back to his feet, acrobatics that made his back twitch painfully with the added weight of Eden in his arms.

There were still more coming towards them when he'd barely recovered, endless possibilities went over his head over how he should continue his offense before another thunder struck the fountain for the third time.

His sight exploded in white as did everyone's else this time, but Insight allowed him to 'see' past the burning in his eyes and he moved as everyone else recovered, the white-haired adventurer kicked the other man's jaw to render him unconscious before switching his hold over Eden.

"Eh!?" Eden, despite her exhaustion, couldn't help but yelping as Bell threw her over his shoulder, one hand quite literally smacking her ass to hold her steady as he took the unconscious man's axe in his free arm. "B-bell!?"

He didn't reply except for gripping tighter at her bottom as he started moving again towards the next person.

Slowly, but surely, what seemed like an impossibility became a reality as Bell continued fighting with the most unorthodox of movements, all the while using the weather that seemed to be on his side, and the yelping woman on his shoulder.

But it still was only one person against fifty.

Slowly, but surely, Bell's movement became more sluggish as the muscles in his body tightened, twisted, and twitched painfully with him pushing his body past its limits.

Until he finally slipped.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


It was a small mistake.

Just a simple, small mistake.

Bell had meant to let Eden fall from his shoulder to avoid her getting cut in the back.

It was a simple movement.

Just open his fingers, release her supple flesh from his hand, and justle his shoulder forward to move her away from the attack.

That is all he had to do.

That was all he had to do.

'Fighting for any longer than ten minutes without rest will cause your muscles to lock up'.

Bell had been warned.

But he didn't expect it to happen at the most crucial of times.

"AHH!"

The world slowed to a standstill as her normally velvety voice release a piercing scream of agony.

Ba-dump.

Red.

Ba-dump.

Her fingers curled around his back as the weapon continued leaving its mark across her back.

Ba-dump.

Tears, a muffled scream of agony against his skin when he finally moved her away from receiving the end of the attack.

Ba-dump.

Red.

Ba-dump.

"Ahahaha! I got first blood!"

Ba-dump.

She seemed to be in so much pain, no - she was in so much pain, yet she still smiled at him as if he hadn't just failed to protect her from the attack.

Ba-dump.

"S-sorry… for being… a burden." Eden slumped forward into his arms, the pain taking the last of her energy from her.

Ba-dump.

He was not going to kill anyone…

Ba-dump.

She trusted him, she shouldn't have been here with him in the first place, he should've fought alone.

Ba-dump.

He was not going to kill anyone…

Ba-dump.

He was not going to kill anyone…

He was not going to kill anyone…

He was not going to kill anyone…

But he would not blame himself again if someone died after he was done with them.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


The atmosphere shifted ever so slightly after Colm had managed to wound the girl they were supposed to kill.

The clouds grew darker, yet the lighting and thunder disappeared, the wind had momentarily stopped blowing as the white-haired captain of the opposing Familia gently laid down his partner on the ground.

At the start, it had seemed like an easy deal to deal with him and his partner, but once he started moving around in the unlikeliest of ways, taking them down one after the other while suffering little to no injury…

The words he said before, "I won't strike you if you lay down your weapon."

Perhaps, there was some true to them…

The ambient became heavier, a stifling silence that nobody of his Familia dared to cut through as the white-haired captain brought out a potion from his unconscious's partner's pouch and carefully fed it to her.

He was so vulnerable then…

Yet nobody dared to move.

There was that sense of danger they felt only when down in the dungeon, when something was about to go wrong, so incredibly wrong. That sense that if they even so much as breathed, a monster would appear and crush them under their feet.

The rumors about him, about the Hestia Familia captain defeating a mutated monster that almost killed several Gods in the Coliseum not so long ago…

Perhaps, there was some true to them.

"What are you all waiting for?" Zanis's voice broke through the silence. "Doesn't nobody want to get their precious Soma Wine?"

Hesitation.

Despite Zanis encouragement, the Soma Familia did not move to disturb the white-haired boy caressing his partner's cheek.

Fear.

For nobody wanted to be the one interrupting the moment that went between them, for the retribution that would come if someone dared to do so.

And foolery.

Because there always had to be someone who didn't care about their intentions, didn't care about what their actions would lead to.

Colm, who had cut the Holy Grail's back, ran forward to accomplish their foolish captain's orders.

Drip

A droplet of water fell from the sky, its splattering noise echoing in the momentary silence that followed after Colm had raised his sword to impale the unmoving white-haired captain on the back.

Drip drip drip.

A split second, a splattered droplet, the sizzling of rain on roof and stone alike.

And the scream of a man.

There was no lighting or thunder this time to blind the Soma Familia from the unholy movement the white-haired adventurer made.

His kneeling body twisting as if he possessed no spine, the glint of something coming out of his thigh before two limbs flew into the sky.

Splat

Two thuds, two red splatters on concrete, and the scream of a man.

The scream of Colm, the weaponless, armless, Colm.

The atmosphere shifted ever so slightly again as Colm fell to his knees, screaming while looking at the stumps on his shoulders… While everyone else was paralyzed at the boy who hadn't really tried to irreparably injure them.

Yes, they were aware of the rules of the War Game.

Yes, they were aware that the boy would not kill them.

Yes, they had been using advantage of that and knew all his strikes were meant to disable.

But those crimson eyes that swept across them once more…

Those were not the eyes of the boy who had been trying to avoid killing them…

Those were the eyes of a man fully intending to end anyone that opposed him.

"For the last time…" His voice was low, it could almost be lost under the pelting rain's noise, yet it still carried over to all who were watching him stand over Colm. "If you lay down your weapons…"

Bell Cranel raised the twisted, bloodied, dagger he had found with Eden in the morning towards them.

"I promise you will live."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Life was unfair.

Because to become someone's Hero, there had to be someone in peril.

Life was unfair.

Because to save someone in peril from another human being, there were choices that had to be made.

Life was unfair.

Because to end the life of someone who put others in perils, meant that there would be someone else who would be losing somebody.

Life was unfair.

Because to save Rose Fannett from the dwarf and the elf all those weeks back, Bell Cranel had mercilessly killed someone.

Life was unfair.

Because the blond, lanky elf whose jugular had been punctured by Bell; the elf who stared into Bell's crimson eyes as he died…

Was also someone's else loved one.

Life was unfair.

Because his fiancée had given Bell the item the dead elf had promised they would be married with, a green-studded earring that now was a memento of their relationship.

Life was unfair.

Because that woman had tried to change the elf Bell killed into a better person, but she didn't change him fast enough, didn't manage to make him become a better man before he did something incredibly stupid and irreparable.

Life was unfair.

Because that elven woman, despite having the love of her life taken away from her, regardless of what kind of man he was, could still find it in her to forgive Bell for protecting those he loved… Because she could understand why he had taken her lover away.

Life was unfair.

Because that elf was also Zanis Lustra best friend.

To Zanis Lustra, Bell Cranel was nothing but a villain in his eyes.

A man who murdered his best friend.

A man who took away the beloved of one of his precious friends.

A man who paraded his relationship with those he wooed despite being a murderer.

And had the gall to wear his friend's last prized possession as if it was his own.

He would never forgive Bell Cranel, unlike his precious friend, for murdering someone he held dear.

But life was unfair.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


The captain of the Hestia Familia moved past the screaming, bleeding, armless being that had injured his loved one.

Bell would not kill him; he had no need to.

Being unable to use a weapon ever again in his life was more than punishment enough for hurting his loved one.

But make no mistake.

Bell would've taken that man's life, along with everyone's else in the plaza, had he killed Eden with his strike.

But the Soma Familia didn't know that Bell wouldn't kill their fellow member, so even though fear encompassed their very beings from the merciless crimson gaze of the white-haired captain, they moved to attack him and try and save their friend.

Of course, Bell didn't blame them.

He couldn't.

They were at War.

He could see the fear in their eyes as the first man swung a hammer at him, the realization that he had made a mistake as soon as Bell's gripped the weapon, stopping it dead in its tracks despite the blades digging into his palm, and wrenched it off the man's hand.

The man stumbled two steps as he received his mace back…

Straight through his stomach.

Bell would not kill them, but if they died before the War Game was over… Well… He would deal with the consequences later.

Insight warned him of an arrow flying towards his hand, the white haired boy raised his arm and let the projectile sink deep into his muscle as another member of the Soma Familia came to defend his friend.

Two daggers, one in each hand, with poison coting the blades, Bell noted absently minded as he snapped the arrow shaft from his shoulder and stabbed it through the man's wrist as he tried to swipe at Bell's neck.

The man dropped one of the two daggers, Bell grabbed it in the air, and stabbed his other wrist, causing the other dagger to drop, for him to grab, and then stab him in the side, right below his ribcage.

"Ignis!"

Bell lifted the man through his grip on his shoulder and the weapon in his ribcage, positioning his back right against the oncoming projectile and used him as a shield from the magical attack. The resulting explosion left the smell of charred skin, yet Bell could still feel the unconscious man breathing.

More of the Soma Familia went for him, trepidation mixed with anger for how he was dealing with them.

Bell simply threw the charred, poisoned, wounded man at them.

Their care for their fellow men came in the form of them stopping their attack to catch him, and Bell's ruthlessly used such care to run behind their back and slice at the back of their legs, to their tendons, and to render them immobile for the rest of the war game.

Bell's sudden attack left him in front of a group of two supporters, both holding onto a set of throwing knives. Their hands started trembling as Bell gazed down at them.

The knives clattered harmlessly to the ground.

The white-haired adventurer kneeled to pick the knives, giving the two supporters a look into his face. There were some cuts to his cheeks, quite a lot of flowing blood from his own and dried blood from others marring his forehead and nose.

But there was no mistaking his grateful smile for them having given up.

And just like that, Bell was gone from their sight, and only the scream of someone else in the Familia gave them the location of the boy using their very own knives on someone else's back.

"Florvette!"

A hail of thorns made Bell twist the knives on the man's back, making his scream as the two whirled around and creating another meat shield out of the Soma Familia to the magical attack.

No sooner had the spell ended that Bell located the demi-human mage at the back, cat ears and wide eyes realizing what was about to happen.

She dropped her staff to ground as soon as Bell had raised his hand to throw one of the knives at her.

He still threw it.

The blade sunk into the mage beside her, deep into his stomach, she watched in fear as he doubled forward to hold onto his injury and begged her to help him, but one look back at the white-haired captain that had essentially forgiven her for using her magic, and she ran away from the plaza.

It was collectively decided then, by the remaining members of the Soma Familia who hadn't acted yet, that fighting against Bell, was a losing affair.

Only those hired by Zanis to participate in the war game continued to after the captain of the Hestia Familia.

And he mercilessly took them down.

Bones were broken.

Limbs were sliced.

Blood flowed freely through Daedalus Street, the rain carrying the pools of blood all across the plaza and with every step of the white-haired adventurer, more pain and life liquid flowed through the streets.


- 0 - AsBBah Vol 2 - 0 -


After he was done with thirty three adventurers of the Soma Familia, and fourteen of the helpers Zanis had hired for the War Game; adventurers that ranged from high level one, level two, and even two level three…

Bell Cranel had finally stopped.

Not because there wasn't anyone else left of the Soma Familia.

But because Zanis was the only one with his weapon still in hand.

At no point during the fight after the holy grail was taken down, had anyone dared to even look in the unconscious woman's direction, the sole exception to that was Zanis himself.

"Rivel!" Zanis shouted one of his hired men's names, but the man flipped him the bird.

"Pheron!" Another name, another hired men, another rejection.

Bell started walking towards Soma, intent on ending the farce of a War Game once and for all.

"Arde! GET YOUR ASS RIGHT HERE IF YOU WANT TO BE FREE!"

Another demi-human stepped in front of Bell, he noted she was young and could clearly see the fear in her eyes.

She still raised her trembling dagger against him.

"STAB HIM ALREADY, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?"

Even under the rain, Bell could see the tears pooling in her eyes.

She knew what was going to happen if she acted.

Yet she still kept her weapon raised against him.

"Move."

He raised his hand; fear encompassed her as the crimson monster toucher her shoulder.

"Move, please."

But unlike his covered-in blood appearance, his words came out soft. Her chestnut eyes went up to meet his crimson gaze and she found forgiveness in them.

Her daggered clattered uselessly to the ground, just as her knees did.

"Thank you."

Bell walked past her, despite Zanis insistent berating until the two captains of the Familia were finally face to face under the rain that picked up strength.

"I'll… commend you for surviving thus far." Zanis snapped back into focus and unsheathed his sword. "But this is as far as you'll go, bloody murderer."

Zanis swung first.

"I swore I would get my vengeance back!"

Bell dodged by tilting to the side.

Zanis swung again.

"You killed my best friend days before his wedding!"

Bell crouched under the swing.

Zanis swung again.

"I'll make you pay!"

Bell tilted to dodge again.

Zanis swung again.

"I'll make you suffer the same as I did!"

Bell finally swung back, one simple swing of his twisted dagger against Zanis sword broke the latter's blade.

"You think this will scare me!?"

Zanis swung his broken weapon again.

Bell parried it to the side.

"You think I'll surrender because of this!?"

Zanis tried to punch him.

Bell slapped his fist away.

"I'll never give up on trying to make you suffer, Bell Cranel!"

And he tried again.

"Murderer"

And again.

"I'll never forgive you!"

And again.

"I'll take everything you love from you!"

And again.

"DIE!"

Steel finally dug into flesh.

"Heh, heheh, hahahaha!" Zanis laughed madly, his gleeful gaze locked onto Bell's hand that he'd used to stop his broken sword.

Blood flowed from behind Bell's palm, from where the broken sword had pierced through his hand.

"I will apologize for killing your best friend." Bell slid his hand forward to grasp as Zanis's sword hand so he couldn't move it any longer.

"But I will never regret killing him and if I had to do it again, I would."

"And for what it's worth…"

"To keep my loved ones safe from you, I won't regret killing you either."

Steel pierced through the flesh.

"Goodbye Zanis."


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 - 0 -


Darkness…

"Hey!"

A small light danced over his sight, one that quickly grew and turned into a certain face…

"Man, what took you so long!?"

Same lanky build, same unrepentant grin, same blonde hair with long ears.

"Krietz?"

"Who else would I be, you four-eyed bastard!?"

Wha-?

"Is he finally here?"

Another light, another face, so similar…

"Mira?"

Long blonde hair that almost hid her equally long ears.

"Wh-what?"

"Man, I've been waiting for you for so long, come on let's go!"

"W-wait."

Both elven lights grabbed onto his arms and pulled him along.

"Come on, the party has already started!"

"P-party?"

"Yeah! It's the party of a lifetime!"

Ah…

"That… sounds fun."

Zanis Lustra stumbled backwards, a bleeding hole at the center of his chest.

"Is there… booze?"

Zanis Lustra stumbled backwards again; one hand extended towards the raining sky.

"Soun…ds… like a… good party…"

Zanis Lustra smiled.

"Yes… let's go… drink together… again…"

And the Captain of the Soma Familia finally fell onto his back.

Bell Cranel grasped the earring and took it off. He kneeled beside the smiling captain and gently placed it on his chest before standing back up and solemnly looking down at him.

Bell Cranel was victorious; the Hestia Familia was victorious.

But to Bell, this was no victory.

What he had done was not wrong.

He had killed, again, to protect his family from those that threatened them.

But he was not right either.

No.

Because it was not about him being right or wrong.

The world was not balanced about rights or wrongs.

It was balanced around decisions.

Two soft hands pressed against his back, making turn around to see a barely recovered Eden lean off against him. Wordlessly, he turned around to embrace her under the rain as it continued falling harder.

At least in the rain, nobody would see the tears of the boy who not only carried the weight of those he loved, but also the weight of the three lives he had taken from this world.

And so, Bell Cranel had become Hero of his story… at the cost of being the Villain in another's one.


- 0 - AsBBaH Vol 2 Part 34 End - 0 -


Author's Note: … um…

Yeah.

Review your thoughts on this chapter… if possible, thank you.

- Jas / Shiiva