Chapter 117: Life Lessons

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After settling matters at his own residence, Vahn left his own house as if he was fleeing a scene. The ‘warning’ Anubis had given him was still on his mind, and he began to worry about his past actions a bit. He wasn’t sure when, but he had developed the habit of patting/petting girls whenever they seemed sad. Vahn always thought it helped placate them and improve their mood, but now he began to worry that his actions had been improper.

Making his way alongside the walls of Tsubaki’s manor, he eventually arrived at the main road before turning into the entrance of Tsubaki’s courtyard. The front door was almost perpetually open, and Vahn entered to see Tsubaki performing maintenance on some equipment. The moment she saw him enter, Tsubaki smiled widely before saying, “I heard from Hephaestus-sama, you’ll be staying at the house behind my manor from now on?”

Vahn nodded and began explaining, “I ended up accepting…something a bit troublesome. For now, I’ll be helping Anubis’s children increase their strength while I try to improve my forging abilities. There are many things I need to do…” The more Vahn spoke, the less energy he seemed to have.
In response to his worries, Tsubaki seemed to find his ‘suffering’ to be interesting as she began to laugh loudly.

Vahn looked at her with a begrudging look, but she just furrowed her brows with a ‘predatory’ smile. “You’ve changed a lot since I last saw you Vahn, how about a spar?” Hearing her words, Vahn was slightly surprised and wanted to refuse. However, before he was able to respond, Tsubaki had already started leading the way to the training area while saying, “Let’s go.” Vahn didn’t hear any room for argument in her tone, and he followed behind her while feeling even worse than he had previously.

Much like their previous spars, Tsubaki stopped at an appropriate distance before waiting for Vahn to make his preparations. Vahn sighed before getting into a defensive stance and preparing for the thrashing that he would likely receive. However, no matter how long he waited, Tsubaki just continued to look at him as if she was waiting for something. Vahn began to get worried, so he asked, “Tsubaki?” The moment he spoke, he prepared his defense as he had expected her to attack the moment he ‘dropped’ his guard.

Tsubaki had a serious expression instead of her usual playful and smiling look. She frowned a bit while creasing her brows as she asked, “Are you taking this seriously, Vahn?” Vahn had rarely seen Tsubaki angry, so he was a bit concerned seeing her current appearance. After a while, he responded, “I am ready to spar…even though I don’t really want to.” Tsubaki continued to stare at him with her fierce look and he began to sweat a bit as an apprehensiveness began to build inside him.

Suddenly, Tsubaki’s expression changed from anger to one of condescension. She lifted her head like she was looking down on Vahn and had a snide smile on her face as she said, “I thought you were growing up, but it looks like you have actually become more immature.” Her words were sharp, and they even angered the usually calm Vahn. As he had been making efforts to improve, hearing someone say he was actually getting worse made him upset.

Dropping his defensive posture, Vahn balled his fists as he said in an aggrieved manner, “What do you mean, Tsubaki? I’m trying my best!” In response to Vahn’s shout, Tsubaki just laughed with a single loud ‘HA!’ as she looked at him coldly and said, “Tried your best, so what? What are you doing right now, is this YOUR BEST!?” Almost if challenging Vahn’s tone from earlier, Tsubaki shouted her words this time. From the corridor on the side, both Naaza and Lili had appeared and watched the scene with concern on their faces.

Once again, Tsubaki’s words weighed heavily on Vahn’s heart as he couldn’t think of a way to refute her. He had shown up at her residence in somewhat low spirits, and she immediately challenged him to a spar even though he wasn’t in the mood for it. Now that he joined her, instead of beginning the spar she started to berate him instead. Vahn began to feel a frustration in his mind and he wanted to shout, so he did. “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO THEN!?”

Tsubaki waited for a few seconds after his shout, and just started into Vahn’s eyes as he began to grit his teeth in frustration. The moment it seemed like he was about to explode, she said plainly, “Do whatever you want, Vahn, but never get so caught up in the moment you stop moving forward. Seeing you lost in your thoughts and worrying about matters within your control is pathetic. You’re acting like a spoiled child and actually lamenting that so many things are going on around you? Well, who is the person driving those events, have you thought about that? Is this the same conviction you had when you confessed to Hephaestus-sama!?”

For the third time, Tsubaki’s words struck at his mind, but this time they were like an explosion that cleared away all of Vahn’s emotions. He had just, this very morning, spoken so confidently to Hephaestus. But, now that only a few hours had passed, because of events he had set in motion himself, he was now losing confidence in himself. He began to realize why Tsubaki seemed to upset with him…he really was acting like a spoiled child. Everyone around seemed to be responding to his actions and desires, but for some reason, he had started treating it like a problem he had no control over.

Vahn lifted his hands and stared blankly at his palms as he muttered in a low voice, “I…don’t know what to do. So much is changing around me, and I feel like I can’t keep up with it all…” Vahn just wanted to do what he liked, and he wanted to make those around him happy at the same time. But, his actions were also increasing the tensions that were building up inside of him, and it made him feel incredibly tired the moment he removed himself from the ‘problem’ he had created.

Just from a general recollection, there were now nearly twenty people that he had to pay attention to, and it was rapidly developing to a point beyond his control. Though he put the matters to the back of his mind, for now, Vahn knew there would likely be a lot of issues that would arise in the future because of his actions. Hearing Tsubaki’s words, Vahn began to feel very lost…

Breaking his reflection, Tsubaki said plainly in a firm tone, “Fight, Vahn. No matter what you choose to do, fight for it. The moment you stop and get caught up worrying about things, the less you’ll be able to act when you’re required. So, win or lose, you need to fight. That is the only way to live without regrets.” Tsubaki got into a combat stance like she was about to attack.

Vahn kept repeating her words in his mind like a mantra. She said he should fight, regardless of if he wins or loses. It was almost like she was implying it was okay to make mistakes, but Vahn couldn’t accept that so easily. He felt he needed to take responsibility for his actions…and that is when it hit him. He already knew what he wanted, but for some reason, he was ignoring his own intentions. Vahn…wanted to win. He didn’t want to escape the responsibility, but instead, he wanted to meet their expectations as best he could.

Seeing Tsubaki standing before him patiently, Vahn realized what she had been trying to tell him. She wanted Vahn to move forward confidently, and not forget his own reasons for why he chose the path he was walking. With a smile and a ‘confident’ look, Vahn began to transform into his Báihǔ form while spreading his domain throughout the entire training area. Unlike the times where he held back the repressive aura of his domain, Vahn now concentrated it on the surroundings and it felt like the pressure in the air had greatly increased.

Tsubaki saw the renewed confidence in Vahn’s fierce blue eyes and smiled at him as she said, “Seems you are beginning to grow up…” She tightened her fists and lowered her waist. Vahn assumed a crouching stance as he said in a confident manner, “I have a lot of great people that have been helping me. If I stay a kid forever, they’ll be disappointed.” Vahn and Tsubaki both smiled at each other as their figures vanished from the sights of Naaza and Lili.

Unlike all their previous fights, with Vahn’s increased parameters and the improvement in his Innate abilities, he could now match Tsubaki’s speed. Noticing this, Tsubaki had an excited expression on her face as their fists collided mid-air. Vahn could feel a shockwave emanate from the point of contact, and with his enhanced senses he even saw the transition of the shockwave through both of their arms.

The strike knocked them away from each other, and Tsubaki immediately dashed forward in a blink and tried to strike Vahn in his kidneys the moment he landed. Vahn, using his increased flexibility, turned his body in a bow and evaded the hit as he flipped over the top of Tsubaki. The entire fight felt like it was playing out in slow motion, and while he was upside down he could see her head turning slowly toward him. Kicking off from the ground with her foot, Tsubaki performed a front-flip and tried to intercept Vahn’s head with her foot while he was still in the air.

Vahn received the blow with his hands and used the force to vault away from Tsubaki before landing firmly on the ground 10m away. Tsubaki stood away from him with her back facing his direction as she gazed over her shoulder with a ‘mad’ look. Vahn too was feeling excited by the fight and, before she reassumed her stance, he kicked off from the ground with an explosive force that caused winds to disperse through the surroundings.

Aiming his palms at her lower back, Vahn prepared to strike her unprotected body with his full strength. He felt a powerful desire for victory building inside of him, and there was no hesitation in his strike that could rival the strength and speed of a Level 4. The expression of Tsubaki changed slightly as her smile grew wider at seeing Vahn’s decisiveness. Unfortunately, that was the last thing Vahn saw as his hands passed through the image of Tsubaki without any feeling of resistance on his palms.

With his body extended forward with both palms striking out, Vahn was completely defenseless as he heard a voice coming from his left ear. “Good effort…Vahn.” The instant the voice sounded, he felt a powerful force grip his legs and his forward momentum was immediately brought to a halt as he crashed face-first into the ground. Before he was able to recover, he felt a heavy, but somewhat pleasant sensation on his back as Tsubaki sat on top of him.

Tsubaki sat on his back with her legs and arms crossed while she laughed loudly and said, “I believe that makes our total score 6,148 to 24. Looks like it will be a while before you start catching up!” Vahn, hearing her words, exhaled his breath and just collapsed onto the ground with his arms spread out helplessly. This wasn’t even the second time Tsubaki had sat on him, as she seemed inclined to do so whenever he got ‘overconfident’. However, unlike all the previous times, Vahn was now vaguely aware of the sensation on his back and it made him feel strange.

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Noticing his silence, Tsubaki look sideways and saw his expression which made her brows raise. “What, don’t tell me I’m in your strike zone too!? Hahahaha, I think you’ll have to grow up a bit if you want to ‘conquer’ me, Vahn! I’m not lovey-dovey like the other girls around you.” As she laughed, Tsubaki began slapping his lower back with her palms. Vahn felt aggrieved at her actions because he didn’t think of her in that way. To Vahn, Tsubaki was more like an older sister, or even a mother figure. He was even feeling guilty about enjoying the sensation, but now he began to feel frustrated at her teasing.

Vahn swore in his mind, one day he would even the score between them. He didn’t know how long it would take, but as long as there was an opportunity, he would slowly close the gap between them and make her recognize his efforts. Every strike that she was currently landing on him would be paid back in time. With that thought, Vahn waited patiently for Tsubaki to get bored and finally get off of his back. Tsubaki offered her hand and helped him up from the ground, but the moment Vahn rose, he reached his free hand forward and, using [Hands of Nirvana], traced his index finger up the line from her navel to below her breasts.

Tsubaki’s eyes widened at the sensation that sent a shock up her back, and she gripped Vahn’s hand and powerfully slammed his body over her shoulder. When his body impacted the ground, it actually made a large crater which spread out like a spider web. Surprised by her own actions, Tsubaki stared down at Vahn who was looking at her like a child that just succeeded in a prank. Even though he was coughing blood, Vahn smiled and said, “6,148 to 25.” Immediately after, he passed out and left the blushing Tsubaki dumbfounded on the spot.

Tracing her hand along her own stomach, she looked down at the mischievous boy in a contemplative manner before turning her eyes to the two girls that had been watching the events play out. “Take this idiot inside and get him cleaned up.” She then walked away as Naaza and Lili quickly ran over to dig Vahn out of the ground.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Nothing escapes the hand of God’,’Problems? Suck it up!’,’What it means to be a man’)

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