Chapter 397: Lady in Black

By the time Tsubaki finally released him, Vahn had learned various lessons about how scary a mature woman could be. Fortunately, Tsubaki hadn’t continued to spank him until he had apologized entire one-hundred times, but she did lecture him quite a bit after releasing him. Vahn sat with his back straight in a seiza position as the beautiful half-dwarf woman from the Far East paced back and forth before him completely naked. If his eyes averted from her face, Tsubaki used a reinforced bamboo fan to smack the top of his head and continued her lecture until it was nearly 5 PM. There weren’t many people that were ‘restraining’ Vahn in his current life, so Tsubaki took it upon herself to discipline Vahn properly for doing things excessively.

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When the lecture finally came to an end, they both took a bath before changing into clothes that Tsubaki had set out previously. Tsubaki helped Vahn wear an indigo blue yukata with a white symbol on the back that displayed the Hephaestus Familia Emblem. Vahn had asked why it was necessary for her to help him get dressed, especially considering that he could equip clothing much faster, but Tsubaki flicked his forehead and said, “If you don’t want my help, go ahead and refuse. Sometimes a woman just wants to help her man get dressed…” Without explaining further, Tsubaki pulled the sash around Vahn’s waist tight before giving him a crimson red haori to wear over his yukata.

Vahn liked the style of the Far East and had read up on it a bit, so he actually understood exactly what Tsubaki was doing and just wanted to tease her a bit. Though he wasn’t going to do it in ‘excess’, he still liked to rile up the mature woman a little. It was a tradition in the Far East that, after you consummate a marriage through intercourse, the woman would help the man dress in a new set of clothing to emphasize the change in their relationship. Vahn also knew there was another part to the ceremony, though they had skipped it previously since they had never actually mentioned getting married beforehand.

There was a type of formal wear called a Furisode, which was a type of kimono worn by unmarried women in the Far East. Since Tsubaki wasn’t a maiden and prided herself as a warrior, she wore a red hakama, which was typically associated with men. It was a tradition that, before you consummated the marriage, the man would slowly strip the newly wedded wife of her furisode before they had sex for the first time as husband and wife. After the fact, the wife would wash the husband’s body and help him wear a different set of clothing depending on the occasion. If it was their first marriage, they would wear a white haori and, if the woman was still a virgin, there would be red sewn into the sleeves. The red haori that Tsubaki gave Vahn was indicative that she had dedicated herself to him as his mistress…

Vahn wanted to release a sigh, but he just showed a polite smile and accepted Tsubaki’s resolve as he continued the final part of the tradition even without Tsubaki having to explain anything. She gave him a wry smile after understanding that he knew what was going on and allowed Vahn to help her wear a velvety black kimono known as a Kurotomesode. This was the traditional garb typically worn by married women and consisted of a crisp black fabric with the pattern of a phoenix and a dragon embroidered into the lower half. There was also a beautiful crimson obi that Vahn wrapped snuggly around Tsubaki’s waist before helping to tie up her hair into a styled ponytail. Tsubaki was a little surprised that he was so capable at styling hair and allowed him to pin two crimson red hairpins into the top of her hair to accent the ribbon tying up the ponytail.

By the time she was completely dressed, Tsubaki had been turned from a fierce warrior, and capable blacksmith, into a beautiful young woman with a confident disposition and crystal clear red eyes that shone like gemstones between the silky black hair that framed her face. Seeing Vahn ‘appraise’ her, Tsubaki showed a wide grin that somewhat spoiled the elegant image as she crossed her arms and said, “Well, that’s that I suppose. I might not become your wife, but I can become one of your mistresses at the very least. Besides, this way I can support you and Hephaestus while also helping to take care of the household and the children when you’re away. Be grateful, okay?”

Vahn released a short sigh through his nose as he walked forward and took Tsubaki’s hands into his own as he said in a gentle tone, “I have been grateful for everything you have given me Tsubaki, including yourself. No matter how much time passes, no matter how difficult life may get at times, I will never forget moments like this. They will become my power and help me push forward towards a brighter future for our entire family…thank you, for everything you have, and everything you will do for me in the future. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without your guidance…” Tsubaki showed a wry smile with glittering eyes as she leaned forward and said, “Vahn, you really do talk too much…” before kissing him deeply for nearly an entire minute afterward.

When she finally released him, Tsubaki showed a happy smile and said, “You give me strength too, Vahn, and so much more…but those aren’t things we need to say each other. In fact, there is a simple way that saves a lot of time, you know~?” Seeing the cheeky grin on Tsubaki’s face, Vahn blinked twice in confusion before his expression turned soft and he hugged Tsubaki’s waist as he whispered, “Tsubaki, I love you…” Hearing his words, Tsubaki began to laugh boisterously for several seconds before she shouted, “It would be problematic if you didn’t, you already put a baby in my belly, you idiot! Hahahahahaha!”

Before he left, Vahn spent a bit of time sitting alongside Tsubaki in the open air corridor as they both sipped on tea and watched the waning sun begin its descent from the sky. They talked a little bit about the future and Vahn discussed his plans to go into the Dungeon and hunt Bloodsaurus on the 30th floor. If he had let her know sooner, Tsubaki said she would have gone with him as she also wanted to test out a new weapon she had forged recently. She also made a comment about ‘refusing’ to let Vahn die until he came up with a name for their child and told him to take better care of himself.

The final part of their conversation related to her moving into the Hearth Manor in the future and Tsubaki said she would take care of a few things before packing up and heading over once all of her supplies and tools were moved. She would likely have everything taken care of before he returned from the Dungeon and promised to ‘reward’ him plentily when he got back to the surface. However, she also went into detail about having Vahn restart his training since it seemed like he had been slacking off ever since he moved away. Tsubaki had a lot of experience training others, so she would likely become the head instructor for the girls since she was far more capable than Ryuu and Aki.

Tsubaki finally kicked Vahn out of the Manor soon after their conversation wrapped up when he tried to cop a feel of her butt while they were sharing an embrace. Since she was still wearing her tight kimono, she couldn’t move around easily and just hit him with a flat sandal before shooing him away. Vahn protected the top of his head with his hands and escaped from the ‘angered’ Tsubaki who had a big grin on her face as she watched his departing figure until he eventually disappeared from the streets using Shundo. She released a hot sigh before absentmindedly placing her hands on her abdomen and walking back into the warm interior of the Manor. Though she had never thought about it previously, the once familiar residence where she resided for nearly ten years now seemed somewhat large, silent, and lonely…

Vahn had made his way back to the Hearth Manor wearing the yukata and haori that Tsubaki had given to him. The thought of removing it so suddenly made him feel a little awkward, but he knew it might cause a stir with girls like Mikoto and Haruhime present. He eventually changed out of the ‘ceremonial’ clothing and stared it safely within his inventory for future use. There was no special significance to actually keeping it on, Vahn had just felt like he should have worn it for a longer period of time. He knew Tsubaki wouldn’t begrudge him for such a thing and would probably reprimand him for not showing consideration to the other girls by keeping it on.

When Vahn arrived at the Manor, he was met at the door by Fenrir, Hestia, and Syr before they made their way into the dining room where dinner had already been prepared. Vahn apologized to everyone for his late arrival and joined everyone since he had skipped lunch earlier. During the conversations that followed, many of the girls gave him ‘knowing’ looks as they asked about how Tsubaki was doing. Vahn eventually caved under the pressure and told them that he had used the [Matryoshka of Fertility] and she was now pregnant as well. Both Aki and Arnya were present at the table and had thoughtful expressions on their faces as everyone offered various congratulations and started talking about celebrating in the future.

Vahn had been paying special attention to Arnya and Chloe ever since he got back and could see that Arnya was still somewhat absentminded. She usually pretended to be a ditzy girl, but Vahn knew she was actually a prodigious talent when it came to combat. He could tell there was something on her mind as of late and hoped it was just the pregnancy weighing on her mind. Vahn knew she didn’t have any problem getting pregnant, or she would have taken the contraceptive with everyone else, so there must be another reason. Unless, of course, Arnya got pregnant intentionally and was now brooding over a matter that had yet to come to light…

Mealtime in the Hearth Manor usually turned out to be closer to an ‘event’ than a normal meal as there was always a moderately festive atmosphere as everyone talked happily amongst themselves. Many of the girls got along well with each other and Vahn could see the budding relationships shared between everyone, even the newer additions to the group. One of the most problematic girls that were constantly on his mind, Lili, was even happily sitting with Lefiya and Preasia as they talked about various topics, many of which included him.

Vahn credited the success of things to Syr’s efforts and the existence of the network. Even now, the girls would periodically open up the little logbooks they carried around with them everywhere and briefly write something inside that would be transmitted to the other girls at the table. Vahn was somewhat jealous of this and thought about extending his own network through Ouka, Welf, Gareth, and maybe Keith, Finn, and the yet unseen Raul. Vahn was actually beginning to worry if he would ever meet the man that might have ended up as Aki’s lover if circumstances had been different. There was a good chance they had already met and Vahn was simply unaware of it because they had never been introduced.

After the long meal came to an end, everyone split off into their own small groups to do various activities before bed as Vahn made his way to his own room. Typically, when he sent an invitation to the girls, they would usually arrive at his room after making their own ‘preparations’. He had sent his offer to both Chloe and Arnya since he wanted to spend time with them before entering the Dungeon, but neither had shown up even after he was inside his room for twenty minutes. Vahn could track the auras of everyone in the Manor and could tell that both Chloe and Arnya were in her room and he assumed the slightly larger aura with them was Syr. Vahn wondered what they were talking about but knew he couldn’t get involved with everything or it would cause problems in the future. Everyone needed to have their secrets and, unless she willingly revealed the information, Vahn couldn’t force Arnya, or any of the girls, to reveal the matters they wanted to keep secret.

Vahn had decided to lay down in his bed and simply enjoy some rare time alone, if that ended up being the case. Though his tensions had been high throughout the day, he had relaxed a lot after his time with Tsubaki and actually wasn’t in the mood for doing anything else. Of course, he wouldn’t back away at all, especially since Chloe was one of the girls he invited. Chloe was actually one of the girls closest to his heart, and Vahn was always worrying that he didn’t spend enough time with her. She didn’t seem to mind it at all, and her Love parameter was constantly increasing, but Vahn still wanted to do more for her when he could. Arnya was in a similar situation, but she and Vahn had always been closer to friends than actual lovers. Though Arnya’s affection was 99(Love), Vahn felt like she had distanced herself from him after their first time together…

Though he had been somewhat lost in thought, Vahn still detected the presences outside his door and sat up around the same time as they knocked. Soon after, the door opened to show Chloe with a smile on her face as she playfully shouted, “Nyahaha~! The beautiful Cat Person Duo, Chloe and Arnya have arrived~!” Behind Chloe, Arnya was also present in a set of peach pajamas that were covered in small cartoonish figures. She had a slight blush on her face and her ears were twitching about periodically as she walked into the room and closed it behind them. This was one of the things that Vahn found confusing because he could clearly see Arnya pink and yellow aura, which implied she felt both happy and affectionate, but she also had an awkward and almost melancholic look on her face as she hesitantly walked over with Chloe.

Chloe was wearing a white nightgown that barely reached her waist and each of her movements gave Vahn a glimpse of none other than the pair of stark white panties he had gifted her in the past. She came ‘battle ready’ compared to Arnya, who was wearing pajamas that covered her top and bottom, and Vahn could also see the line of an undershirt and shorts beneath the loose fabric. Unlike Chloe, she didn’t seem to want to be here and Vahn felt a bit pained by this realization and wondered if there was something unique about her aura that made it harder to read than others. Her aura seemed normal, so she shouldn’t be a demigoddess, but her actions were a clear contrast of the aura radiating from her body.

Vahn snapped to attention when he heard Chloe laughing playfully as she said, “See, we told you he would be worrying, didn’t we?” Arnya nodded her head slowly and stared at Vahn with an apologetic expression before bowing and saying, “I’m sorry, Vahnya! Please don’t worry about me too much, I’ve just been thinking about the past a bit is all~! Ever since…” Arnya placed her hands on her stomach and blushed a rosy pink before continuing, “Ever since I got pregnant, I’ve been thinking a lot about my past family and friends…I’m just worried that this happiness won’t last…that I won’t be strong enough to protect my…no, our child…”

The worries that had been starting to root themselves in Vahn’s mind vanished entirely after hearing Arnya’s words. He showed the best smile he could manage before shaking his head and saying, “It’s not a worry you have to bottle up inside of yourself, Arnya. There are plenty of people that will help you carry your burdens, myself included. There are many things in life that, as individuals, we are unable to accomplish yet, when we work together, they suddenly become very easy to manage. Please, confide in me when you are feeling worried, I will do my best to bring you some comfort and ease the burdens in your heart…”

Arnya had glittering brown eyes as she stared at Vahn while Chloe had started laughing from the side after having already crawled onto the edge of the massive bed. Vahn and Arnya looked over at her and she said, “Though it isn’t the same, you said something very similar to what Syr said you’d say. That girl knows you better than she knows herself, nyahahahaha~.” Arnya seemed to recall what Chloe was talking about as her eyes opened wide and she began laughing as well. Vahn was left there staring at the two Cat Persons that were sharing a laugh on his behalf. He just shook his head in mock exasperation before patting the bed and saying, “Here, let’s relax tonight instead of doing anything intense. I feel like spoiling the both of you…”

Chloe’s tail twitched after hearing Vahn’s words and his eyes were drawn to the blue ribbon tied around her tail for a brief moment. A sudden realization hit Vahn and he turned his eyes to Arnya’s tail, which was also twitching about but was without the promised ribbon. Vahn mentally remarked, (“Sis, if I make a promise with a girl, please periodically remind me about it so I don’t forget…”) An elegant laughter sounded in his head before Sis said, (*Certainly, Vahn, leave it to me…however, it’s not very ‘manly’ that you have to rely on my help to keep promises with girls…fufufu*) Vahn felt embarrassed by Sis’s words and waited for Chloe and Arnya to crawl into bed before he pulled out a green ribbon.

Arnya saw the small ribbon and blinked several times before her eyes widened and she pointed at herself and asked, “Mi~nya?” Vahn originally tried to show an honest expression and thought about making an excuse but decided to instead say, “Sorry, I had forgotten about it previously…” Arnya began to laugh in a cheerful manner as she waved her hand dismissively and said, “Nyo problem, I was beginning to worry a bit, but you managed to pull through in the end~nyahaha.” Vahn took a bit of a mental impact from Arnya’s words until she turned around and waggled her butt at him as she said in a mischevious tone, “Put it on me, Vahnya~!”

Vahn got on his knees and approached Arnya’s behind and got momentarily distracted by her somewhat plump rear that was marginally larger than most Cat Person’s. During his momentary lapse, Arnya asked playfully, “I don’t mind, but how much longer are you going to make me wait~?” As if to emphasize that her tail was still lacking a ribbon, Arnya flicked it once and it lightly whipped Vahn’s tunic. Without making her wait any longer, Vahn reached out and began to tie the green ribbon around the base of Arnya’s tail. Her body flinched when he tightened it snuggly but she said, “Ah, I can understand why other girls do this…it makes my heart feel at ease for some reasonya~?”

From the side, Chloe reached over and gently pulled on the stray end of the ribbon and said, “Ah, it’s nice and tight. You’re lucky, Arnya, when Vahn first gave me my ribbon he didn’t know how to tie it properly at all~.” The two girls began to laugh in their characteristic ‘nyahahaha’ manner as Vahn still kneeled behind Arnya. Even though he had already tied the ribbon for her, she seemed to be ‘pretending’ to be ditzy and had ‘forgotten’ to stop waggling her butt even when she was laughing with Chloe. Vahn would have felt she was trying to seduce him if not for the fact that her aura was very stable and had more yellows and blues in it than pinks and reds. In other words, she was just being playful and wasn’t trying to actually stir him up at all.

Deciding to take the initiative a bit, Vahn nodded his head and said, “Okay, I’ll spoil the two of you a bit and then we’ll go to sleep. We’ve all got big days tomorrow, so I’ll make sure your body is in pristine condition for your Grand Opening. As an apology, I’ll start with Arnya so you can stop wagging your butt and lay on your stomach for now.” Arnya began to laugh in a coy manner after hearing Vahn’s words before saying, “Nyaaaa? I heard you were fond of butts and just wanted to apologize to you for making you worry about me~nyahaha.” As she spoke, Arnya flopped down onto her stomach and left Vahn slack-jawed after hearing what she said. He looked over and saw that Chloe had a gentle, yet mischievous, look as she watched him with her beautiful green eyes.

Like all Cat People, both Chloe and Arnya had a playful and mischevious personality and they fed off of each other well. Even Aki and Milan were very similar and Vahn realized it would actually be very fun if they spent more time just enjoying each other’s company. He didn’t have to spend all the quality time with the girls just having sex with them. Just like he had done with Tsubaki, at least after they had sex, it was actually very refreshing to simply talk and drink tea with each other. Since he hadn’t been visiting the Hostess of Fertility, Vahn had almost forgotten about how he simply used to spend time pampering Chloe while she laid down in his lap and ate his ‘offerings’.

Vahn nodded his head with a thoughtful smile as he began to massage Arnya’s back while only partially relying on his [Hands of Nirvana]. When Chloe asked what he was thinking about, Vahn explained, “I just realized something very important…I think I want to try being friends with everyone, not just their lovers…” Chloe’s brows raised slightly and she cocked her head to the side as she said, “I think it would probably depend on the girl, but I think it would be a good idea to get closer to them as well. We all know so much about your past, but I think there is a lot about the girls that you haven’t learned yet…” As Chloe spoke, she gave a glance down at the ‘drooling’ Arnya who was very much so enjoying the massage and seemingly unaware of their conversation…

Vahn traced his thumbs along Arnya’s spine and caused her pajamas to rise up a bit and reveal her lower back. She wiggled her legs slightly as her tail flickered about and she released a mewling cry even though Vahn wasn’t overly stimulating her. Since he wasn’t going to try and undress her, Vahn changed from rubbing her back to using his fingers to ease the tensions in her muscles. Because they had experienced his massage before, many of the girls around Vahn didn’t actually have any strains he needed to take care of, but he still went through the motions just because he didn’t like to cut corners on things like this.

All the while he gave Arnya a massage, Vahn was thinking about Chloe’s words and knew she was completely correct. Just as Tsubaki had said earlier, Vahn knew almost nothing about many of the girls, other than the small tidbits he had picked up through casual conversation. He knew about Chloe’s past, because she had told him, but Vahn had almost no information about any of the girls unless he had viewed their [Hearts Desire]. He knew a lot about Lili because she too had told him about her past, but Vahn didn’t even know the girls he was close to like Hephaestus, Tiona, Ais, and several others. Yes, he had seen their important memories, but they had never told him directly and were entirely unaware that he knew the traumas hidden deep inside of their hearts…

Vahn had been thrown into a very unique situation and, because of his empathetic nature, character, capabilities, and even wealth, he had somehow gotten close to a large number of women in a very short period of time. The strangest part was how they had actually created the network and ‘expanded’ their own numbers a bit through their own careful moderation. Because they had been looking out for him, they held their private ‘Vahnatus’ and spread his information to the girls that were previously unaware of his past. His empathy, combined with their sympathy, and various other factors, had brought them very close together in a decidedly short period of time. Even the number of girls he was sleeping with increased exponentially after he finally fulfilled his promise with Hephaestus…

After coming to this realization, Vahn made a firm resolve deep within his heart that, until he was able to better understand the girls already involved with him, he would avoid situations where he might get close to others. He didn’t want to become someone that simply created bonds with people without regard to their past and where they’d like to go in the future. Vahn wanted the girls to be self-reliant, but he also knew they would likely get wrapped up in the major decisions he made in the future. Since there was a very real chance he would be involved in wars, it meant there would very likely be some of the girls standing at his side during the trials he would face.

Vahn wanted to become closer to the girls he cared about, as he had started to truly love several of them. When he returned from the Dungeon, Vahn had decided to talk with Hephaestus, Eina, Hestia, Loki, and Syr, about his concerns so he could try and get a better understanding of each girl. Though he wouldn’t force them to share, Vahn still wanted them to have that level of trust with him. He would put off using any of their [Hearts Desire]s that he might obtain until hearing directly from them what they wanted. This would allow him to justify using the item, as there was a very real chance that some of the girls might not even truly know what they want.

Once he had finished up with Arnya, she lazily climbed up from the bed and, before Vahn could start tending to Chloe, Arnya hung from his neck and pressed her deceptively large breasts into his chest and began to lick around his chin and neck. Vahn looked over at Chloe with a mild panic on his face, but her response was to simply laugh as she helped Arnya push him to the bed as they both started licking around his body with their rough tongues after stripping off his tunic. Vahn was very confused by what was happening and tried to respond to their strange actions, but both girls straddled one of his arms and sat on it with their butts as the continued to lick his body in a playful manner for nearly twenty minutes. When they were finally finished, Arnya simply said, “You spoiled me, why can’t I spoil you~? You have strangely sweet sweat, it’s very peculiar~nya.”

After they released him, Vahn began massaging Chloe as well, but now there was an added element to things as Arnya kneeled behind him and hugged his body as she continued to absentmindedly lick him. She had even moved up to his hair at one point and didn’t seem to be bothered by it as she licked the base where his hair connected to his neck. Vahn didn’t understand how such a simple thing could be so pleasant but just did his best to ignore it while he continued to massage Chloe. When her time had come to an end, Vahn ended up getting jointly assaulted by the two girls once again. Arnya seemed to have become fond of licking around his hair and ears, but Chloe was far bolder and licked around his lower abdomen and even tongued his navel several times.

Eventually, Vahn noticed the passionate red that had started to emerge in their auras and knew they had also had their switched flipped after nearly two and a half hours of affectionate contact. Though he had initially said they were going to just going to spend some time together, that changed very quickly when Chloe went even lower down his body and began to sniff and lick around his trousers as if trying to get at something contained within. Arnya had also been pressing her chest to his and Vahn could feel hard protrusions scratching against him so he changed his mind and the three began an additional two hours of lovemaking. Arnya and Chloe worked very well together and made the entire experience very fun so Vahn ended up losing out and getting caught in their combined momentum. At the end of things, Chloe had come full circle and Vahn had to grit his teeth as she dragged her rough tongue around his glans…

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(A/N: This volume was originally supposed to end around the Monster Feria, but I decided to wrap up a few things in preparation for the Dungeon ‘Expedition’. There are a lot of overlapping subplots going on, as well as a few major events that have been set in motion. Look forward to the future~!)

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