Chapter 420: Control

Now that he had the [Petting] Development Ability, Vahn had spent the rest of the day trying to get a better understanding of the skill. Like all Development Abilities, the comprehension of the user is what determined its level and, with enough practice, they would even be able to evolve the ability once it reached S-Rank. Since he had just obtained it, the ability was currently only ranked I but, after spending about three hours with the youth troupe, it had increased to H. Since all the girls were Beast-Humans, they each had ‘animal’ characteristics and were very pettable. Though it looked like hair, Fenrir’s head was actually covered in a dense, and somewhat bristly fur. She also had fur on her forearms, calves, and part of her lower back that connected into her bushy tail. Vahn discovered that, by brushing all of her fur, he could obtain around 270 OP in about twenty minutes of effort. It wasn’t much, but it was better than obtaining nothing for doing something he would have likely done regardless.

As for the other girls, Tina was a Cat Person, so her hair was actually rather smooth and she had a pair of cute little cat ears atop her medium length chestnut brown hair. Though she also had a tail, Vahn knew that was an ‘off-limits’ territory, as he didn’t want to trigger the small cat girl, especially with how ‘aware’ she was after having her period. She always blushed slightly whenever they interacted in the past, but now her face would turn crimson and she would appear to be ‘struggling’ after Vahn stroked her head for a while. Shizune was a bit ‘dangerous’ to pet, since her mentality was somewhat unique, but she had a very fluffy tail and a pair of large ears atop her head that were also very soft to the touch. Her reactions when getting pet were a bit much, so Vahn didn’t often spend too long pampering her.

The most ‘problematic’ girl, however, was still Preasia. Vahn couldn’t ‘ignore’ her when he was pampering the other three girls so he ended up, for the very first time since she had started staying in the Manor, petting her head for a fair amount of time. Throughout the process, she angled her head up with both of her eyes closed and Vahn could feel her aura surging out like a flame as she enjoyed the sensation of his hand atop her head. As he had been using [Hands of Nirvana], since it rewarded more points, she enjoyed it quite a bit. Though most girls enjoyed his touch, Preasia was especially sensitive since he had once used the skill to remove all the horrible scars that had marred her body.

After he had stroked around her curly, and remarkable ‘fluffy’ hair, for around ten minutes, Preasia opened her eyes and asked, “Tail…?” Vahn stopped his instinctive feeling to swallow before shaking his head gently and saying, “Your tail is a bit small…” Because she was a Sheep Person, Preasia tail was rather small and looked more like a tuft, similar to a Rabbit Hume, albeit somewhat longer. For Vahn to ‘pet’ her tail, he would almost be stroking her butt at the same time just by proximity. Lifting it up and ‘fondling’ it seemed a bit dangerous as well, so Vahn didn’t think it was a good idea since he didn’t have that type of relationship with Preasia.

Preasia continued to stare up at Vahn for several seconds before a light blush covered her cheeks and she said, “I…don’t mind…” Vahn released a very small sigh through his nose without letting the smile fade from his face as he shook his head and said, “Sorry, Preasia, I don’t think you’re ready for things like that. I…” He wanted to say that he couldn’t bear the emotional burden of having to take care of her right now, and that he wanted her to become more stable, but Vahn also knew about the efforts she had been putting in lately.

Other than when she was around him, Preasia had been getting along well with the other girls and often spent time going about and helping out with various tasks. She was also earnestly studying with Riveria while also learning how to mix potions and treat wounds with Chloe and Naaza. Preasia wasn’t the type of girl that wanted to ever go into the Dungeon, so she wanted to be ‘useful’ by being able to take care of everyone back home…even though Vahn would likely be the one called in an actual emergency.

This was one of the reasons why Vahn didn’t know how to deal with Preasia because he didn’t know when it was ‘appropriate’ for them to actually become closer. Even though Haruhime and the twins were in the same category as her, Vahn had actually shared a number of intimate moments with the other three girls. It was because he had ‘seen’ the efforts they were putting in while he only ‘heard’ about the efforts Preasia was making. Realizing this, Vahn began to feel like he had wronged the petite young girl, even though she was older than he was…

Seeing the somewhat melancholic look on Preasia’s face, Vahn commented in his mind, (“Vahn Mason…you’re way too weak against the tears of girls…”) Then, without too much hesitation, Vahn tried to keep a straight face as he gently caressed Preasia’s relatively small tail. Her body startled for a brief moment before she tried to stand closer to his chest. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem accustomed to such an action and Vahn took her horns straight to his diaphragm. His endurance was far higher than any threshold she would be able to overcome, but it still felt like a hard thump that made her become muddleheaded after the fact as she said, “Awaaau, I’m sorry, Vahn…”

Vahn chuckled at her cute reaction and placed his hand atop her head and said, “It’s fine, we’ll try it again next time. Riveria is probably waiting for me, so I’ll head over there soon. Watch over the little ones for me, okay?” For a brief moment, the melancholy had returned to Preasia’s face before her expression normalized and she said, “Yes…I’ll do my best too…” Vahn nodded his head and remarked, “I know, Preasia, you’re doing great…” before patting all the girls on their head one last time and making his way towards the Library where he researched various things with Riveria.

They were still studying what she had named ‘Essence’ since it seemed to be capable of absorbing pure elemental energy into the complex molecular structure. Unfortunately, though Vahn could see the molecules themselves, he couldn’t push his vision to the extent where he could see the complex structure that comprised them. It was hard to believe, but Vahn suspected that each molecule actually had a formation that allowed it to absorb mana, perhaps made up of the atoms themselves.

Of course, he had no way of verifying this presently and it might just be some kind of special liquid that had been made through alchemy, something he hadn’t really studied that much yet. It would be easiest to ask the red-haired woman, but Vahn didn’t think she would be too open for civil discussion. At this point, he was almost positive that the only thing that kept her from attacking him was the presence of the other girls around him at the time.

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As he had been unable to understand how the liquid actually worked, Vahn had been trying other experiments while Riveria tested several hypotheses she had come up with. Vahn knew that the Essence was incredibly responsive to his domain and he had become increasingly adept at controlling it. After seeing how easily Riveria was able to channel her mana into it, Vahn had gotten the idea to try and infuse the elemental energies from the atmosphere into the Essence and had managed to make several simultaneous breakthroughs immediately thereafter. Though he couldn’t infuse his own source energy into the liquid, he could use his domain as an intermediary and give it the properties of the elements in the air. The curious thing was, it didn’t just have to be water elements as they were receptive to all types of elemental energies.

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When he had first tried the experiment, Vahn used what he was most adept at and tried infusing fire elements into the water while expecting it to evaporate into steam. However, to his and Riveria’s surprise, the Essence actually just turned ruby red with an orange glow contained within. Curious, Vahn pooled the fluid in his hands and could feel that it was incredibly hot to the touch, not that it was able to burn him. When he poured it into a basin that he had filled with water, it began evaporating the contents rapidly until the only remaining was the ‘Fire Essence’ at the bottom. After a while, it even started to melt the metal basin and Vahn quickly removed it before dispersing the elemental energies contained within. From this experiment, they understood that the Essence was definitely not water, even though its basic appearance was very similar, albeit with a subtle blue glow.

Though he had much less control over them, Vahn tried infusing other elements into the Essence and had varying degrees of success, but remarkably no failures. Just like it was able to absorb pure elemental energy from the air to replenish the contained mana within the molecules, it was perfectly capable of adapting to each individual elemental energy as well. When he put water elements into it, the Essence became a deeper blue color that left behind a cloud of condensation as Vahn manipulated it through the air. When he tried earth elements, it became similar to mud and could quickly transition from a fluid state into a solid state. Vahn had found this very interesting since it was almost like having a, very fragile, transformation weapon.

The coolest experiment of all though was when he infused air elemental energy into the Essence and it became a vibrant green color with a subtle azure core. When Vahn moved it through the air, it created a small tempest and, when he moved it very quickly, it even served as a ‘solid’ blade of air. Though he had already seen a lot of potential uses for the Essence, Vahn understood it had a high potential to be used as a weapon if he could mass produce it. Since it didn’t take much of his own energy to manipulate, Vahn could theoretically have an entire pool full of the Essence and freely use it to fight his enemies. Since it didn’t get evaporated from fire, it didn’t seem to have any major weaknesses besides entering a clear, and inert, state when it was out of mana.

Vahn currently had around 5,000kg of the Essence in its base state and, after a fair amount of experimentation, knew he could exercise control over the entire volume if he didn’t do anything complex. The only downside to this was that it took a very long time to actually infuse elemental energies into such a large shape and the speed of the fluid slowed down a great deal if he tried to keep it all together. Vahn had tried a complex experiment by creating smaller orbs that could revolve around him, but his perception couldn’t keep track of so many objects at once and they would quickly break down. This didn’t really deter him, however, and he actually found that it was an excellent way to improve his control over his own energy in the future.

When he had discussed how ‘inefficient’ his magic was with Riveria, even though his control was actually very high, she speculated that it was likely that his control was actually skewed a great deal and not nearly as developed as he claimed it to be. Vahn was very good at focusing on specific things very intensely, and could even ’emulate’ things that he had observed after simulating it a lot within his mind. However, even though he could do this, his adaptability was actually terrible and his control over a broader spectrum of energy was nearly nonexistent. He had always been making use of his domain as an intermediary for his control and, now that he was having to do things manually, his skills were subpar at best.

If Vahn could learn to control his source energy properly and filter it several times to the point where it was more compatible with mana, he might very well be able to use magic ‘normally’. Even though the system was flawed, it was still very powerful since Vahn’s capacity for using magic was inordinately high with his imaging capabilities. Source energy was simply ‘too strong’ to be used normally within the record and this was the reason he struggled when it came to things like mixing and using magic. He had been able to avoid trouble when it came to blacksmithing only because it took a very intense focus and he was able to make use of his domain throughout the entire process.

Magic was an internal process and mixing was closer to chemistry than anything comparable to forging. Using his source energy to enchant the regent simply caused it to explode, regardless of the amount he used. Unless the ingredients were very high quality, Vahn would never be able to make use of his [Mixing] ability without learning how to better control his energy and convert it into a useable form. Fortunately, his practice with the Essence may very well prove to be the key to improving his control in the interim and he was certain that Eva’s training would be the penultimate solution. Besides, it was cool to be able to manipulate a fluid that could turn into any element since it looked very similar to telekinesis and was incredibly versatile.

During the evening, after his research, and subsequent training, was completed, Vahn had taken a bath with the girls before they all sat down and enjoyed a meal together. Vahn noticed that both Tsubaki and Milan were sitting with the youth troupe now and this brought a smile to his face because he knew that word had quickly spread through the network. Speaking of which, the popular topic of conversation seemed to be related to the upcoming wedding and everyone was in a buzz about it and it was one of the only things anyone was talking about during dinner.

As they were speaking, the girls would give Vahn amused glances and ask if he had made any ‘preparations’ regarding the event and he knew they were insinuating that he had been working on a surprise for Hephaestus and Eina. The frustrating part is, even though he tried desperately to keep it hidden, the girls could easily see through his facial expression and seemed to derive some pleasure from making him fluster about and evade answering them directly. Vahn kept note of how many times each girl teased him and promised that, when he was making outfits for them in the future, he would get even with them at the time.

After dinner had finally come to an end, Vahn became incredibly motivated and wanted to put his new [Petting] ability to the ‘ultimate test’ and invited Chloe, Arnya, and Aki to spend the night with him. Every time he was with the three cat girls, it was always a very ‘exciting’ experience and Vahn had quickly developed a ‘unique’ appreciation for the grooming habits of the girls. Though it would undoubtedly devolve to the point where they were having sex with each other, Vahn knew that a great deal of their time together would be pure ‘petting’.

The girls would reciprocate his actions by licking all over his body and it had become mildly addictive since their rough tongues were surprisingly pleasant against his bare skin and they proactively licked almost every part of his body. Aki hadn’t had the habit before, but the moment she saw Arnya and Chloe doing it, she had immediately joined in on the fray and now it always turned into a situation where Vahn would end up being ‘groomed’ by the three girls after they were done making love. He would also spend a fair amount of time listening to Aki’s and Arnya’s bellies, while Chloe teased him about getting pregnant herself…eventually.

By the time the night had come to an end, Vahn had increased his [Petting] Development Ability from H to G and he had learned a great deal about how to properly use it. It seemed to enhance almost all touches he performed on the girls, including his massages, and they had complimented him several times for his ‘increased skill’. Even though he hadn’t been bad at petting them before, each girl noticed a marked difference and couldn’t help but bring it up after experiencing the change. Vahn just explained that he was trying new ways to make the girls happy and they accepted it relatively easily, even though he knew they suspected there was more to his words.

Regardless of everything else, this brought his total OP gain for the entire day, excluding the amount he gained from converting magic cores and completing Eina’s dress, to 17,393. Since this was a result of him just ‘petting’ the girls, Vahn was very satisfied with the result and he knew that he would be able to earn even more in the future. There was even a very real chance that, if he managed to get the ability all the way to S-Rank, it would evolve into something even better…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Petting Fiend, Vahn Mason’,’Birth of the first bender~!’,’Licky licky~nya?’)

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