Chapter 278: Be Water My Friend

Once Loki finally stopped laughing, she looked over at Hestia and Vahn cuddling together before yawning and moving to the edge of the bed. Vahn noticed her actions and kissed Hestia on the forehead before asking, “Are you not going to stay longer?” Since Vahn’s bed was very large, Loki had her backside to him as she crawled away. She looked over her shoulder and wiggled her butt before saying, “There are people always watching the movements between the Hestia Familia and the Alliance. If I stay the night, it’ll cause even more problems when there is already a lot of things on our plates.”

Loki jumped out of the bed and began to wear her clothes, starting from her leggings. Vahn watched her actions and frowned a bit because he knew her words were accurate. Before he said anything though, Loki turned around while wearing nothing but black stockings and said, “As I said, I don’t want to step on Hephaestus’s toes, so I’ll probably stop by again after a week or two passes. As long as I get a baby in the oven before the Denatus, everything should progress smoothly.” When Loki was speaking, she rubbed her stomach with a seductive look in her slightly opened eyes.

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Vahn released a sigh before wiping down Hestia’s unconscious body and tucking her into the covers after he replaced them with a new set. Loki continued to dress and would occasionally look over to see Vahn meticulously performing the ‘after-care’ while being attentive to the sleeping Hestia. She felt a little jealous but slid her shorts overtop the panties she had worn earlier. When she finally finished dressing, by wearing her arm warmers, Loki popped her neck and rubbed it a bit before heading towards the door.

Because she had been far away for a while, Loki couldn’t hear Vahn approach her from behind and didn’t notice his presence until he placed his arm gingerly around her hip. She looked to her right and gave him a curious gaze as he said, “I’ll at least accompany you part of the way…” Vahn didn’t feel like it was right to just let Loki leave with such a strange atmosphere around her. His words caused Loki to laugh as she overlay her hand atop the one Vahn had put around her waist.

When they got to the foyer, Loki peeled his fingers away before stopping in front of Vahn and staring directly at him. Because they were the same height, their gazes matched perfectly and Vahn felt a small amount of inspiration as he wrapped his hands around Loki’s lower back before holding her close and kissing her lips. It wasn’t nearly as passionate as their earlier kisses, but Vahn felt like there was a lot more emotion in their embrace. Just as he was thinking about teasing her a bit, Vahn felt Loki’s hands grab his own butt and he snorted through his nose and laughed a bit. Without hesitating further, Vahn slid his hands down and gripped the toned and springy butt of Loki and held her body up against his in an awkward fashion.

After a couple of seconds passed, Vahn set Loki back down and she released a hot sigh before pushing away his chest. Before she left into the cold night air, Vahn gave her a warm cloak event though she could resist the chill with her own powers. Loki wore it with a cheeky grin on her face before saying, “The next time, we should do things privately, maybe with a bit of wine and a warm atmosphere~! I’ll leave it to you to prepare everything, so make sure you come up with something interesting before then.” Just after she opened the door, Loki looked back and squinted at Vahn one last time before heading out into the dark night.

When she finally left, Vahn released a sigh and shook his head because he wasn’t sure what to think when it came to Loki at all. He felt like he could trust her, but also knew it was her nature to scheme and eventually deceive those that did. Vahn wasn’t sure where the line between truth and lie blurred, but he believed that Loki would act in his interests since he was aware of her heart’s desire. Even if her compulsion made her take actions to trick others, Vahn knew she couldn’t trick her true desire and change the foundation of her own character so easily. With the thought that there wasn’t much he could do besides remaining vigilant, Vahn began to absentmindedly plan his next private meeting with Loki…

Since Hestia was exhausted from the long session and the intense stimulus, she had entered a deep state of unconsciousness but Vahn was happy to see she had a smile on her face as she clung to the pillow next to her. The moment he laid down, even though she was both tired and asleep, Hestia seemed to have detected his warmth and climbed atop his body while still naked. While marveling once again at how light and soft Hestia’s body was, Vahn pulled the covers up to her shoulders and gently cradled her as he too went to sleep.

The next morning, Vahn awoke in a slight daze before quickly regaining his senses and looking down into the glimmering blue eyes of Hestia who was supporting her face with her hands and staring at his face with a gentle smile. Before he could tell her good morning, Hestia shifted her body, grabbed the sides of his face, and began to kiss him in a very proactive manner. Vahn held her waist loosely and they continued their embrace for nearly a full minute before Hestia pulled away, still holding his face, and said, “Vahn, I love, love, love you~!” Seeing her excited and happy expression, Vahn smiled and said, “I love you, Hestia, thank you…”

As Vahn’s words finished, Hestia gripped his head tightly and hugged his face into her breasts as she made a happy squeal while nuzzling against the top of Vahn’s head. It took quite a while for Hestia’s affections to stabilize and she only stopped when Vahn said, “We should take an early bath before the training begins. I don’t mind too much, but it’s a little embarrassing when the girls give me strange looks.” Though she hadn’t been there for the incident, Hestia had heard about it previously and also felt somewhat embarrassed by the fact.

After snuggling up for a bit longer, they both made their way to the onsen and shared a small pool together. Hestia yelped a bit when she entered the hot water, but shook her head when Vahn offered to help ease her pain. Though she didn’t glare at him like the previous night, Hestia said in a very serious manner, “I want to experience everything…it makes me feel like a normal girl that has dedicated everything to the man she loves.” Afterward, Vahn gently tended to and washed her body while acting very lover-dovey with a gentle Hestia. She didn’t act nearly as spontaneous or clingy and just enjoyed his care with a peaceful and loving smile on her face.

Once the bath was finished, Hestia returned to the room to sleep for a bit longer while Vahn went into the backyard and began training with the girls. Milan and Tina were present, though they would be leaving after the training ended to return to the Hostess of Fertility with Ryuu and Fafnir escorting them along. They usually stayed in the girl’s dorm during the week while working in the pub during the afternoons. Though there wasn’t a real need for them to do so, Milan and Tina got along well with the girls there and enjoyed the environment so Vahn didn’t have any complaints. Most of the girls there, other than Syr, were between Level 3 and 6 while there was a lot of support behind the scenes that kept everyone inside protected.

Since Vahn didn’t participate in the basic training that Ryuu was having the girls undergo, Vahn was off to the side watching and performing his own routine. Since it was difficult to increase parameters without gaining exillia, the only purpose behind training was to enhance technical skills and master things like magic and abilities. It was also a good opportunity to train martial skills by sparing with other people and increasing your combat awareness while developing and honing your senses. The best example was someone like Mikoto, who also trained alone off the side.

She would hold her katana in a very stable stance while focusing her mind and breathing to an intense degree. The moment when it felt like her presence had reached the peak, she would immediately strike out with an incredibly fast flash of her blade while trying to cut through the wooden pillars that had been planted in the ground in her personal area. Vahn could see that her actual technique was incredible, but it took her way too long to increase her focus and she would often waver in her actual strikes. Though she had incredible mental discipline, there seemed to be a feeling of ‘hesitation’ every time she brandished her blade.

Vahn felt somewhat inspired by her discipline and wondered if he should work on improving his own sword abilities. Though he didn’t have any techniques like Mikoto, Vahn’s [Swordsman] skill was Rank A and he had a very high adaptability when using the sword in combat. Since he usually fought using his instincts and Innate abilities, Vahn had never really needed to learn actual techniques since he had been trained specifically by Tsubaki to adapt to anything. Developing actual styles gave you incredible potential, but it also made you less fluid when actually fighting against enemies that didn’t conform to the rigidity of your style. Vahn kind of wanted to convince Mikoto to focus more on actual fighting instead of just practicing a ‘theoretical’ combat style that left gaps in her movement and made her attacks predictable.

Though it wasn’t a fair comparison, Vahn couldn’t help but recall the sword dance of Tsubaki and how it flowed like an incessant current while Mikoto’s attacks were very precise but inflexible. Perhaps it was the difference between a Level 5 peak adventurer with a lot of experience versus a Level 2 adventurer who was still just a very young woman. Even though her body was maturing rapidly, Mikoto will still only fourteen compared to Tsubaki’s thirty-six years of age. However, since there were girls like Tiona, Tione, and Ais, who were far stronger than Mikoto, Vahn knew it wasn’t necessarily the age of a person that determined their strength…

After watching her movements for a bit longer, Vahn pulled out the large katana he had purchased a long time ago when he first went weapon shopping with Lili. Because the weapon was rather weak, Vahn had never really used it in the past and never had any need to rely on it during his actual fights. Since Vahn could detect even the minor movements of Mikoto’s muscles when he focused his attention, he could almost emulate her form perfectly after a little practice. He even tried copying her breathing and could feel that his mind became somewhat calmer and he could feel the oxygen-rich blood flowing through his body.

Vahn continued to focus his mind while emulating Mikoto’s stance and felt the different sensations in his body to try and find any flaws that seemed obvious. The very first thing he noticed was that there was a severe restriction to any sidewards mobility since he was focusing a lot of his weight on toes of his left foot while relying on his back foot as a pivot, likely to deflect any approaching blades. Vahn realized the stance was excellent for fighting against other swordsmen, but it would be very difficult to apply to other forms of combat. Perhaps the biggest weakness, however, was the fact that the stance seemed to be more responsive than actually offensive in form. Though he could see from Mikoto’s strikes that there was a powerful force in the slashes, Vahn noticed that it would be next to impossible to chain together the attacks without fixing his stance first. This created a gap in his movements and made it difficult to adapt if his opponent was even slightly faster than he was.

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Though he hadn’t paid it any mind at first, Vahn was aware that Mikoto was focusing her attention on him and had even sheathed her sword with a serious expression on her face. Vahn took several slow and steady breaths and, instead of holding the katana in front of him with two hands, he adopted a loose stance while lowering the katana toward the ground. Instead of tensing and focusing his body, Vahn continued to breath used the method he observed from Mikoto while switching his weight from his toes and even distributing it on both feet. With just a slight shift of his body, Vahn could use either foot as a pivot for the next set of actions and, when he finally felt like he had achieved a proper fluid state, Vahn moved his body toward one of the wooden pillars.

Since Vahn lead with his body, instead of the katana, it looked like a motion full of gaps but Vahn knew he would be able to change direction instantly if necessary. Shifting his weight, Vahn leaned in with his shoulder as the katana trailed slightly behind his movements as he let the tip of the blade flow naturally from his right hand, across the front of his body, and angled toward the ground. Using his shoulder to control the rotation, Vahn flared his arms until the motion traveled through his elbow and began to accelerate forward until his tensionless wrist followed the motion as well and he cut through the wooden pillar in front of him with a beautiful arc. Vahn smiled before swiping the katana down as if he were dislodging any blood that might have marred the blade if his opponent had been a living entity.

After he put the katana away in his inventory, Vahn nodded politely toward Mikoto and said casually, “Attacks should flow like water or move about freely like the wind. If you focus too much of your attention on practiced movements, you won’t be able to adapt to changes in the situation if your opponent is stronger and faster than you are. There are also monsters that have higher durability and powerful strength that wouldn’t give you the time to display your techniques…”

Mikoto had an especially serious look on her face as she bowed low and said, “Thank you for your guidance!” Vahn saw her overly serious response and shook his head slightly before sighing, “A sword is motionless without the intent of its user to swing it. If you maintain such a rigid personality, it will reflect in your swordsmanship…” Taking a deep breath, Vahn pulled at the katana again and faced toward the sky as if he weren’t focusing his attention on anything in particular. Shifting his weight almost imperceptibly, Vahn used Shundo before taking a few complacent steps and disappearing again. Mikoto watched his movements with a shocked expression on her face as the other girls in the training area also looked over. By the time Vahn had repeated his actions eight times, he threw the katana back into his inventory before looking at everyone in the area with a smile on his face. Without saying anything, Vahn sat down on the ground and began to meditate, pleased with his actions because he thought he had acted cool in front of everyone.

Though his movements and attacks seemed impressive, Mikoto had an incongruous feeling in her heart as she walked over to the closest wooden pillar that Vahn had attacked earlier. At first glance, it seemed to be untouched but as soon as Mikoto touched it, it fell over with an almost flawlessly cut surface. Compared to her own attacks, which always left a slight wavey pattern in the wood, Vahn’s attacks were much more precise even though they seemed almost lackadaisical in their execution. Mikoto had never compared her strength to Vahn before, but she suddenly realized that there was also a monstrous gap in their skill and technique as well. The worst part was, up until he vanished, Mikoto could see all of his movements clearly…this indicated that his initial attacks weren’t something that was beyond her parameters to execute…

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