Chapter 363: Strain

Not long after he had fallen asleep, Vahn was stirred awake by fluctuations in the security formations surrounding the Manor. He immediately expanded his domain and detected a number of presences near the front gate before taking a few seconds to make sense of the situation. Since there were four familiar auras, Vahn could guess who they were so he patted Fenrir awake before saying, “I have to go receive some guests, Fenrir, I’ll be back in a bit. You can stay here, okay?” Fenrir yawned widely before bobbing her head and saying, “Fenrir will wait. Fenrir is a good girl. Hurry back, okay?” Finished with her words, Fenrir plopped down onto the bed before immediately dozing off again in an adorable fashion. Vahn smiled before stroking her head a bit and it made her curl up into a ball with a ‘smile’ on her face.

Vahn had gone to sleep rather early, so there were a number of people still up and moving around the Manor. By the time he got outside to see what was happening with his own eyes, the incident had come to an end and Vahn saw several unconscious people laying about on the street outside his manor with swollen faces and a few twisted limbs. Riveria, Ryuu, and Aki, had shown up to help sort the mess out and Riveria was lecturing the four girls that had arrived carrying large backpacks that reminded Vahn of the first time he met Lili. The moment they noticed his presence, one of the girls simply ignored Riveria as she ran over in a cheerful manner before picking up Vahn in a hug and saying, “Aaaah, Vahn, we get to live here now, isn’t that awesome~!? Ehehehehehe~!” The girl that was currently squeezing his ribs to the point where they were on the verge of fracturing was none other that Tiona.

Releasing a slight gasp of pain, Vahn said with an awkward laugh, “It’s good to see you, Tiona. Tell me, what happened here?” Tiona set him down on the ground as the rest walked over and Riveria explained in a plain tone, “Some of these idiots tried to bar the passage of the girls to ask questions and ended up insulting Tiona and Ais…well, they got what they deserved. You four, head through the gate and get situated while I explain what happened to the guards.” Riveria shook her head before gesturing everyone to leave as there were a number of armed guardsmen running over.

Other than Tiona, the others that had arrived were Ais, Lefiya, and also Tione. They were all wearing large backpacks and Vahn could tell they were full of clothes and other necessary items and they had probably moved over in a hurry after Loki returned to the Twilight Manor. After they made their way into the foyer, Aki asked, “Are you going to return to bed, or do you plan to help the girls move into their rooms? I don’t mind showing them around if you’re tired, Vahn.” Vahn smiled before shaking his head and saying, “It’s fine, Aki, I’ll take care of it. I’m not so exhausted that I can’t spend some time with new arrivals to the Manor. Thanks though, I appreciate your concerns…you as well, Ryuu, get some rest when you can.”

The two gave him smiles before Aki said, “Okay, Vahn, you know where I stay if you need me for anything…” Vahn nodded his head before seeing the two off with his eyes as Ais asked, “Are we causing trouble for you…?” She had her head tilted to the side and there was clear concern written on her relatively blank expression. Tiona also had a nervous smile on her face while Lefiya didn’t seem to be able to bear the atmosphere and said, “I-I’m sorry for showing up so late!” She then bowed at a low angle that caused her body to fall forward because of the giant backpack she was wearing. Vahn chuckled as he reached out and stored away the massive pack before catching Lefiya with his right arm around her stomach. She immediately blushed a fierce red before separating from him with a ‘wawawawawa’ sound before saying, “Thank you for catching me, I’m sorry~!”

Vahn then casually stored the other packs into his inventory before smiling and saying, “I’m glad you all came, regardless of what time it is. I’ll go ahead and show you around for a bit before helping you pick a room. Riveria is staying in the west wing, but most of the second floor in the central area is still available.” Hearing his words, Ais tilted her head to the opposite this time and asked, “Can I…stay with you?” Vahn blanked for a brief moment before saying, “Everyone needs to have a room of their own, and I decided to rest with Fenrir and relax for the evening. Sorry, Ais, I’ll make it up to you in the future…” Ais shook her head before a small smile appeared on her face and she said, “No, you should relax when you are tired. I just wanted to spend some time with you…” Though he knew she was trying to be ‘nice’, Ais’s words caused Vahn to suffer a bit of mental damage because he hadn’t spent much quality time with the girls ever since their first time together.

Looking over, Vahn could see the ‘understanding’ smile of Tiona and noticed that even Tione had an awkward expression on her face. Lefiya was behaving as bashfully as normal, but Vahn could also see she had an apologetic expression after the earlier incidents. Vahn thought to himself for a brief moment before remarking in his mind, ‘Well, I imagine it would be nice to relax together from time to time…’ Resolving himself, Vahn showed a gentle smile and said, “After I show you around, and help you choose rooms, I’ll show you my room…if it’s okay with Fenrir, I don’t mind if we stay together for the night. It hasn’t been easy for me either, especially after the two of you had gone on the expedition. Let’s enjoy some quality time together, just as long as it’s actually relaxing and sleeping, hahahahaha.”

Perhaps she had been ‘infected’ by Vahn’s laugh, but Tiona pounced forward before hanging around his neck and rubbing her cheek against his as she said, “Aaaaah, Vahn, you’re the best~!” Vahn then led the girls around the Manor with Tiona hanging from his body as they casually greeted anyone they crossed paths with along the way. It was only a half hour past 9 PM, so there were still plenty of people up and about. It wasn’t their first time at the Manor, so Vahn just showed them all the ‘important’ locations they should be aware of. He showed them his workshop and briefly talked about the various designs he was working on. Lefiya and Ais had helped him work through some of the designs in the past, but Lefiya still had a fierce blush on her face when she looked at the outfit Vahn had been working on for her. The final straw had been the pure white panties with a small red ribbon on it that made ‘steam’ come out of her head as she fell to the ground.

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After Lefiya’s revival, Vahn took them to the west wing, a location that hadn’t been visited by the girls in the past. He showed them the library, which happened to be next to the room Riveria had chosen for herself. Lefiya was excited at the selection of books while the two Amazon sisters, Tiona and Tione, looked at them with awkward expressions. Though they could both read just fine, the two weren’t really fond of books since it didn’t really appeal to Amazon sensibilities. Tiona just liked to read hero stories while Tione primarily focused on love stories and dramas. Vahn had noticed Ais staring blankly at the books and, when he asked if she liked books, Ais turned to him with a melancholic smile and said, “I like…when others read them to me.” Because he had seen her heart’s desire, Vahn knew about Ais’s past and that she had grown up having her mother read for her. He nodded his head and said in a comforting tone, “I’ll read for you sometimes…if you’d like.”

Ais showed a smile and looked like she was about to agree before Tiona laughed cheerfully and clung to him again as she said, “Read for me too, Vahn~! I think anything would be interesting as long as we’re together, ehehehehe~.” Vahn smiled wryly at Ais before saying aloud, “Sure, I’m pretty fond of reading myself. When there is time, I don’t mind sharing the experience with others.”

After leaving the library, Lefiya was considering staying in a room near Riveria’s until she learned that most of the girls liked to room up together for company. Hearing this, Lefiya immediately changed her mind and decided to be Ais’s roommate after getting her consent. The elven girl was over the moon at the thought of staying with the girl she idolized as she had stayed in the girl’s dormitory away from Ais in the past. Though she adventured with the main party of the Loki Familia, Lefiya was still considered more of a ‘rookie’ than a capable combatant. Because of this, she stayed with the other junior members of the Familia and had been rooming together with a Level 2 human girl named Elfy Colette.

Vahn then showed the girls to the 2nd floor in the central area and Ais, after confirming where Vahn was staying, picked the room directly below his as she said, “We will be closer together…if I stay here.” Though he was certain she wasn’t doing it intentionally, Vahn felt like all of Ais’s words tonight were like arrows that caused mental damage. He knew she had something akin to ‘separation anxiety’ because of the fact she had lost both of her parents in the past. Though he had never thought he had ‘abandoned’ her in the past, Vahn felt guilty for not spending more time with the taciturn girl. He actually wanted her to open up more and show a wider array of emotions so he needed to put in more effort if he wanted to make that thought a reality.

Since the room was rather large, Tiona and Tione also wanted to stay in the same room and quickly received permission from Ais while Lefiya ‘lamented’ her misfortune. In total, the room was nearly 1200 square feet so there was actually more than enough space for the four girls so Vahn began to set out beds for their use. The first one he had set out was a normal sized bed that could accommodate two people easily, but Tiona said in a playful tone, “It will be inconvenient if there are a bunch of beds in the same room. Won’t it be more fun if everyone sleeps in the same bed~? We can put the extras in the other rooms and reserve them if anyone wants to sleep in their own bed, ehehehe.” Once again, Ais was quick to agree while Tione didn’t seem to mind at all since she was accustomed to staying with Tiona. She knew her sister was the type that liked to hug people to sleep and she had a similar trait as she had often complained to Tiona when she was rejected by Finn. Lefiya, however, was completely overwhelmed by Tiona’s words and Vahn wasn’t sure if it was because she was going to be sleeping in the same bed as Ais, or if she was lamenting having to share a bed with three other girls.

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Ais walked over to the ‘distraught’ Lefiya before squatting down and asking, “Lefiya, do you want your own bed?” Hearing Ais’s question, Lefiya came back to reality before squeaking out the words, “No-no-no-no-no~! I want to stay in the same bed as Aissssssuuuuuuuuuuu~” Lefiya’s own words seemed to overload her mind as she fell back onto her butt as if her soul had escaped her body. Unlike her ‘normal’ blush, Lefiya had a somewhat loose expression on her face and seemed to be smiling as a strange laugh sounded from her throat. Tiona had been standing next to Vahn laughing before she said, “Lefiya reeeeeeeeeaaally likes Ais, ehehehehe~!” Vahn nodded his head with a complacent smile because it wasn’t anything he hadn’t realized for himself. It was mainly Ais’s relationship with him that brought Lefiya progressively closer to Vahn in the past.

Vahn knew that she wasn’t actually a lesbian, as it was common practice for elves that were traveling outside of their home country to associate with members of the same sex before they returned home. Ryuu and Riveria weren’t the only elves that didn’t like to be touched, as it was a trait that was shared by nearly every single elf traveling about in the outside world. This was pushed to an extreme limit when it came to the opposite sex and most elves sought companionship with the same sex since it wasn’t considered a ‘taboo’ since they were unable to bear children through such relationships. It was actually very rare for elves to have children with races other than elves since it was considered ‘shameful’ as the union often resulted in a child without ‘purpose’. Half-elves usually didn’t have much magical potential, if any, and they were also nearly incapable of bearing children. Since it was the custom of elves to support the continuation of life, it was considered a grievous offense to actually be responsible for the creation of a half-elf.

This pretty much meant that, for the 60-80 years Lefiya would be wandering about in the outside world, the majority of people she would associate with would be other girls. Unless it was ‘necessary’, most elves didn’t even allow members of the opposite sex to touch them. Since she didn’t have any resistance to him, this showed that Lefiya actually considered him in high regards, even though he still lost out to her idolization of Ais. She wasn’t an exception either, as Ryuu had even joined an all-female Familia in the past to avoid having to associate with men at all. If not for the circumstances of her ‘promise’ with Alise, it would have been difficult for Vahn to actually approach Ryuu.

To facilitate the girls’ request, Vahn set out a massive bed that was similar in size to his own, though it was much cheaper since he actually couldn’t afford anything more expensive with his current OP. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to care at all as Tiona happily jumped into the bed before rolling around. Tione also moved over to sit on the edge of the bed as she felt its softness with her hands and said, “This is a very nice bed…” Then, with a somewhat fervent look in her eyes, Tione turned to Vahn and he immediately raised his hand and said, “It’s getting late, so I’m going to return to my own room soon. I promised Fenrir I wouldn’t be away for too long, and I don’t want her to get upset by breaking my promise.” Hearing his words, Tione frowned before plopping down on the bed face-first and saying a few muffled words that Vahn couldn’t understand.

After hearing Vahn’s words, Ais began quickly undressing before dumping out the large backpack she retrieved from Vahn onto the ground. She began digging through the pile of clothing that had been contained within while she was wearing nothing but a pale-white pair of lingerie. The other girls started preparing for bed as well, including Lefiya who bashfully received her own backpack from Vahn. Unlike the mess of Ais’s clothing, all of Lefiya’s had been neatly folded and she quickly found her own sleepwear before blushing furiously after giving a sidewards glance at Vahn. Noticing her reaction, Vahn turned his head away and could hear the rustling of clothes for a few minutes before Lefiya managed to wear a pair of light-pink pajamas. Ais was still going through her massive pile so she walked over and helped sort through them before finally finding the article of clothing Ais had been looking for.

Seeing what she had picked up, Lefiya blushed furiously before making another ‘wawawa’ sound as Ais retrieved the garment from her hand. Vahn had noticed what she had picked as well and wondered why she hadn’t simply decided to sleep in her underwear. What she had been looking for previously turned out to be a light blue babydoll dress that was transparent except for the area that covered the breasts. Ais quickly discarded her own bra before wearing the transparent cloth and saying in a plain tone, “Okay, I’m ready now…time to go to bed?” From the side, Tiona opened her eyes wide and said, “Ooooooh, nice going Ais~!” Tiona herself had just removed the large cloth around her waist before removing all of her accessories and placing them off to the side. The only thing she was wearing was her white band-like top around her breasts and a pair of super small shorts that hugged her butt perfectly.

After they were ready, Vahn was preparing to lead the way to his room before he noticed an incongruity as Lefiya was trailing behind Ais and Tiona in tiny steps with her head down. Noticing they had stopped, Lefiya looked up with a blush on her face and said hastily, “I-i-i-if you’re not going to d-d-do anything….umm…I just wanted to…wawawawa~” Lefiya crouched down on the floor and held her head as her ears drooped low and waggled up and down to emphasize her embarrassment. Ais looked at her for a few seconds before turning to Vahn with what he could only interpret as a ‘pleading’ look. Releasing a short sight, Vahn shook his head helplessly before saying, “It’s okay, Lefiya, you can come with us…” Before Lefiya responded, Tione shot up from the bed and shouted, “Eh, are you telling me I’m going to have to stay in this giant bed by myself!? Nooooo way, I want at least Lefiya to help comfort my heart~!”

In a very uncharacteristic manner, Tiona turned to her sister and said in a low tone with a serious expression on her face, “Tione, your promised…” Though he wasn’t sure what they had promised each other, Tiona’s words seemed to have an impact on Tione as she quickly bent over in a defeated manner before plopping back down on the bed. Vahn might not have known, but she knew exactly what Tiona was talking about. Before they had left, she had to sit down and get lectured by Loki for nearly an entire hour about what she was ‘allowed’ to do. Because she had ‘nearly’ killed Vahn in the past, she was actually prohibited from getting close to him until he was strong enough to protect himself in the event she lost control. This meant that, until Vahn was at the peak of Level 4, she wasn’t allowed to approach him regardless of how frustrated she felt in her heart. At least she knew it was only a temporary thing, unlike how Finn had shunned her advances for years and would have likely continued doing so for many more.

After Tione crawled into the bed, Tiona grabbed Vahn’s arm before guiding him out of the room before things got out of hand. Ais and Lefiya were also aware of Tione’s punishment, so they didn’t take pity on her at all and followed along without a word to the bereaved Amazon. They had been present for Loki’s lecture and were required to promise not to show leniency on her or it wouldn’t be considered a punishment. Loki had also asked them that, unless Vahn was the one approaching her on his own initiative, they should prevent him from showing leniency on her as well. He was highly empathic by nature and didn’t really consider Tione’s mistake to be a big deal, even though it would have been disastrous if he hadn’t possessed a miracle item like the [Effigy of the Hero].

When the arrived at his room, Vahn opened the door and Fenrir immediately sat up from the bed with sleepy eyes before frowning after seeing the other three girls with Vahn. Before she could cause a scene, Vahn held out his hand in a ‘calming’ manner and said, “Fenrir, these three are all very close to me, just like Hephaestus and Hestia. Since they don’t get to spend much time with me, I decided to let them sleep with us tonight. Please try to understand…don’t you feel sad when we aren’t together?” Though he felt guilty to use Fenrir’s emotions against her, Vahn didn’t want the situation to escalate into a problem since it was starting to get late.

It wasn’t Fenrir’s first time meeting the girls, and she already knew they were very close to Vahn yet had to live far away. Even with her relatively simple mind, Fenrir understood what Vahn was saying but it still made her upset since they were sleeping together alone before the girls had shown up. After a few seconds of gnashing her teeth, Fenrir looked at the closest person, which happened to be Ais, and asked, “Do you…feel sad?” Ais cocked her head to the side and contemplated the question for a bit as she locked eyes with Fenrir. They were both somewhat ‘simple’ girls that lacked common sense and weren’t very communicative, so it was a little awkward that Fenrir had directed the question to her.

After careful consideration, Ais nodded her head slowly and said, “I miss Vahn…sorry…for taking your time…” Even though it was a broken sentence, it was actually easier for Fenrir to understand Ais’s simple words so she patted the bed next to her with her paw and said, “Fenrir will let you stay, but you have to be a good girl.” Ais nodded her head before showing a small smile and saying, “Thanks…” She then walked over and crawled into the bed as Fenrir watched her before turning to Tiona and asking, “You also, feel lonely?” She tilted her head to the side and Tiona mirrored the action before saying in a strangely melancholic tone that made Vahn’s heart twist in his chest “I waited for Vahn for a very long time…and every night we’re apart is very difficult for me. Without someone stopping me, I don’t think I’d be able to avoid running over in the middle of the night…ehehehe~”

Fenrir nodded her head before shooing away Ais a bit and patting the spot next to her and saying, “You can stay here, close to Vahn. Fenrir will be nice to you from now on.” Ais had a slightly dejected look on her face as Tiona happily ran over before jumping into the bed. Feeling how ridiculous soft Vahn’s bed was, Tiona laughed out loud and said, “Wow, this is the best bed I’ve ever felt~! Thanks, Fenrir~!” Hearing Tiona’s words, Fenrir nodded her head before turning her attention to Lefiya and squinting her eyes. Caught under the gaze of the ‘terrifying’ wolf girl, Lefiya’s body turned jittery as she tried, and failed, to stutter out a response. Just as Fenrir looked like she was about to get angry, Vahn stepped ‘protectively’ in front of Lefiya and said in a soothing tone, “Fenrir, Lefiya wants to spend time with Ais. You don’t have to worry about her causing any trouble…”

When Vahn stepped out to protect her, Lefiya felt a powerful sense of relief before freezing up after hearing his words. Though what he said was true, Lefiya couldn’t help but feel like there were something ‘wrong’ contained in them. Even if she wanted to be together with Ais, she wouldn’t sleep in the same bed as a boy if she didn’t want to spend time with him as well. She began to wonder if Vahn didn’t actually see her as a woman anymore after she failed to show any ‘interest’ in him. After their experience together in the bath, Lefiya had thought they had become much closer but now realized Vahn didn’t seem to feel the same. Even though she wasn’t in a relationship with him, Lefiya felt a little saddened since he worded his response like she was only here as a tagalong to Ais…

Vahn had noticed Lefiya’s aura waver greatly and he turned around to see the somewhat sad smile on her face and the slight moisture in her eyes. His mind blanked for a moment before he heard Fenrir’s somewhat husky voice say, “Ah, you are sad as well~? Fine, Fenrir will let you stay with Vahn also.” Though it wasn’t ‘close’ to where Vahn would sleep, Fenrir still patting near the area since she had apparently understood something from Lefiya’s reaction that even Vahn seemed to be unaware of. Lefiya nodded her head before slowly crawling into the bed next to Fenrir who waved her hand awkwardly before reaching out and using her paw pads to pat Lefiya on the head while saying, “No cry, no cry…be happy, Fenrir will not bully you.”

Seeing the considerate behavior of Fenrir, Vahn began to wonder if there was something wrong with his brain today. He had just inadvertently offended Riveria previous, and now he had done something similar to Lefiya even though he had just rationalized her behavior earlier. If she just wanted to be with Ais, there is no way she would have agreed to stay in the same room, much less the same bed, as a boy. Vahn suspected that spending so much alone time with the transformed Haruhime had whittled away at his sensibilities somehow. Now that there were a lot of changes suddenly happening around him, Vahn’s brain seemed to be filtering out things and his focus was severely lacking compared to the past. This was the original reason he had wanted to sleep with just Fenrir earlier and now he realized it was probably a mistake to force himself to receive the girls given his current mental state.

Vahn lowered his head and held his left hand up to gently rub his temples as he explained in a tired voice, “I’m sorry…I don’t know what wrong with me today. I didn’t mean to make you upset, Lefiya, and I know you’re not just here because of Ais…for some reason, I just can’t think straight right now.” Noticing they were also about to try and apologize, Vahn dropped his hand before shaking his head with a smile and saying, “No, none of you are to blame…I’m just a little overwhelmed because of all the changes recently. I think that spending time relaxing with everyone will help calm my mind…” As he spoke, Vahn walked over before climbing into the bed himself and plopping down into the spot Fenrir had ‘reserved’ for him earlier. She wasn’t the type to care for conversation, so Fenrir immediately crawled onto his chest before balling up into a small form and snuggling against Vahn’s chest. She lazily said out loud, probably for the other girls’ benefit, “Vahn is tired…we have to let him rest. Be good girls and behave…” Her words finished, Fenrir closed her eyes and almost immediately began making the sounds of someone that had fallen asleep.

Vahn began to casually pat Fenrir’s hair while looking to his left and locking eyes with Tiona. She was staring at Fenrir before sticking out her tongue playfully and snuggling up against his left side with a cheerful smile on her face. Ais was sitting behind her and seemed to be somewhat sad since she was on the ‘edge’ of the bed compared to the other girls. Because of Fenrir’s arrangement, Lefiya had ended up to the right of Vahn, which was the opposite of Ais’s expectations. She had expected Lefiya would snuggle up with her while she was resting against Vahn but now she was separated from him by Tiona’s body. However, when she saw Lefiya’s flustered face Ais showed a small smile before saying, “Lefiya…lucky…” Without any other words, Ais hugged Tiona’s body from behind and the Amazon girl giggled a bit after feeling Ais’s hands wrap around her belly.

Lefiya’s mind blanked for a moment because she had wanted to swap spots with Ais but had lost the initiative. Fenrir’s head had been tilted toward her and, even though she appeared to be sleeping, Lefiya could see Fenrir’s eyes open slightly and staring at her. It was very obvious since the room was somewhat dark and Fenrir’s eyes were glowing with a gentle scarlet light that shone through the slightly open eyelids of the wolf girl. Lefiya swallowed a bit of saliva before whispering quietly, “Ano…excuse me…” She then awkward laid down next to Vahn without actually touching his body directly. Lefiya could feel the heat coming from his body and felt very embarrassed by the current situation since she had expected to have Ais as a barrier earlier. Vahn had closed his eyes and was resting and Lefiya could see the tired expression on his face ever since earlier. After a great deal of hesitation, Lefiya decided she needed to put more ‘effort’ into making things clear so she gingerly reaching out her hand before loosely placing it on Vahn’s arm. She noticed that his eyes opened and he turned toward her slightly so she lowered her head with a fierce blush before squeezing his arm a bit without saying anything…

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