Chapter 502: Loose Ends (1/3)

Vahn spent the rest of the morning in the Library with Riveria and Lefiya before it was finally time for the second block of his schedule. He enjoyed a light lunch with the two girls as they made light conversation for a while before eventually parting ways. With the amount of information he had given Riveria, the two had a lot of things to discuss and ruminate over so he was now looking to settle a few other matters. With his return to the surface this time, Vahn felt like he had some ‘loose ends’ that required wrapping up and he wanted to take care of them before he returned to his normal schedule.

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Though she was okay with ‘delaying’ things for a bit, Vahn still wanted to tend to Tione in the near future because he felt somewhat guilty having her wait since she had already waited quite a while. He already made plans with Syr, Ryuu, Chloe, Arnya, and Lunoire for this evening, but Vahn decided that he would spend the following night with Tione, Tiona, and Ais. He imagined things would get a little intense at the time, but that shouldn’t be a problem as long as he put in the effort. Even without Haruhime’s buff, Vahn knew that parameters were actually higher than depicted when he made use of [Will of the Emperor]. If he made proper use of his [Hands of Nirvana] and [Petting], Vahn was confident he would be able to gain an advantage against them.

As for the other things he needed to tend to before things returned to ‘normal’, Vahn wanted to sort out matters with Haruhime, talk to Maemi, Emiru, and Preasia about the concerns they likely had, and eventually check out his ‘clubhouse’, talk with the people he wanted to add to his network, and then inspect the ongoing construction efforts. The thing at the top of his list, however, was spending a bit of time with Milan, Tina, and Shizune because he knew the original mother-daughter pair had likely been some of the most worried about his safety. Though Tsubaki was in a similar boat, she was a lot ‘stronger’ than the two girls and Vahn could tell she was ‘stable’ during the earlier bath.

The ‘family’ group could typically be found around the first floor, near the kitchen, as they often studied there and helped Maemi and Emiru with chores. This time though, Vahn found several presences in the central courtyard, which had previously been their backyard, and he could see Milan, Tina, Shizune, Preasia, Fenrir, and Ryuu all in outside training together. Vahn realized there was another matter he probably needed to deal with very soon, which was deciding whether he would allow the girls to enter the Dungeon for training. Though Shizune was in a younger body now, she was technically still an adult and Vahn didn’t have a strong case to stop her from entering the Dungeon. As for Tina, she had already brought up the matter of Tiona, Tione, Ais, and even Lefiya and Lili, as points to use against him as a reason to allow her to grow stronger sooner. Lefiya and Lili had yet to reach adulthood and Lili’s actual start was lower than Tina’s current which made it difficult for Vahn to rationalize stopping her…

After making his way to the training area, Vahn sat at the side with Preasia since the girls actually continued their training even though they had taken note of his presence. This showed they were trying to follow the proper ‘discipline’ expected of someone that wanted to enter the Dungeon and Vahn knew they were trying to show him this. As for Preasia, she had a small smile on her face when Vahn sat next to her and asked, “Vahn…can you…?” Not knowing how long he would be waiting, and considering that he hadn’t spent much time with her, Vahn nodded his head and reached out his hand. Preasia, however, took ‘advantage’ of the situation and ‘stole’ his lap and leaned against him with a surprising deftness that caused Fenrir to cast her a glance.

Vahn issued a silent chuckle and began ‘fluffing’ Preasia’s hair as he played around with her droopy ears and pet her head plentily. Since she was a Sheep Person, her ears were similar to an actual sheep’s and they were somewhat long, rounded, and drooped down slightly in a manner that made her seem even more…sheepish. She was also a very petite girl, so it was easy to handle her when she was sitting in his lap, even when she wriggled around a bit under his movements. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, Vahn asked, “What have you been up to while I was away, Preasia?”

Preasia uttered a silent ‘Uguuu’ sound before muttering, “I studied with Chloe a lot…but she is only good at poisons…and a few medicines. Without Naaza and Fenrir around…I spent most of my time reading books…and waiting for you to come back. I also spent a lot of time…with Milan…Tina…and Shizune…” Though she had started to get along with everyone in the Manor, Preasia had spent the majority of her time with Fenrir, Naaza, Lili, and Haruhime as her close friends so she had been a little lonely when they all went into the Dungeon. Because Hestia had ‘claimed’ Vahn’s room as her own while he was away, she couldn’t sneak in easily and even spent some of her nights staying with Milan because she was a little afraid of staying on her own.

Vahn could feel the subtle fluctuations in Preasia’s aura and gently hugged around her stomach to comfort her body as he rested his chin against the top of her head. It was a little peculiar feeling her breasts resting against his arms, but Vahn didn’t mind it and just hugged her until her aura stabilized a bit. Though he was ‘disturbing’ the training a bit, Ryuu just used it as an opportunity to make the girls work on improving their focus. If they couldn’t keep their senses about them during emotional turmoil, they could end up losing their lives in the Dungeon. They also needed to simply get used to Vahn’s interactions with other girls if they truly wanted to be with him in the future, so Ryuu herself put in a little more effort.

After around an hour of hard training, which had including things like sprinting, evading attacks for several minutes at a time, and actual sparring, it was finally time for a break so the girls approached Vahn and Preasia. Contrary to expectations, Fenrir didn’t say anything about Preasia sitting in Vahn’s lap at all and just sat down near him, obviously making room for Tina and Shizune to be at his sides if they wanted to. Preasia was aware of this as well and eventually wiggled her butt a little before climbing out of the comfortable seat with a bit of hesitation.

With the ‘seat’ currently freed up, Vahn earned a peculiar look from Fenrir, Tina, and Shizune but none of them moved forward to take it since they were covered in sweat and feeling more than a little self-conscious about it. Milan didn’t seem to mind too much, however, as she sat down next to Vahn in a casual manner before asking, “Can you lend us some towels, Vahn?” Though the children seemed to have forgotten about it, Milan knew Vahn had towels that could help mask scents completely which would solve the current ‘predicament’ easily. Understanding her intentions, Vahn produced enough towels for everyone, including Ryuu, who accepted it gratefully and wiped down her own body.

When they smelled the ‘scentless’ towel, Tina and Shizune understood its purpose and dabbed at the sweat on their bodies as if they were racing against each other. Both girls were wearing training garb that consisted of a black tunic and small shorts for ease of movement. They also had on a pair of black spats-like undershorts with long socks that made the small shin guards they were wearing more comfortable. As they were both ‘agility’ type fightings, at least for the moment, they were practicing with daggers and short swords since longsword and greatswords were a bit much for them at the moment. Tina also wore a small breastplate atop her tunic, similar in structure to the one her mother was wearing and had a small buckler to guard against attacks.

Tina seemed to be following the same route as her mother and fought primarily with a sword and shield while Shizune made use of a pair of daggers, one marginally longer than the other. She actually practiced with Chloe a lot on her days off and also had a pouch on her hip that would one day hold things like smoke bombs, poisons, and other tools. Because of her rather unfortunate past, she was somewhat similar to Chloe and was drawn to the darkness a bit and her developing combat style showed it. Vahn wouldn’t be surprised if she became something akin to a ninja or assassin in the future, though he would try to keep her closer to the light instead of letting her fall completely in the darkness.

Perhaps due to her experience in life, Shizune finished wiping her body down much faster than Tina and ‘proudly’ claimed Vahn’s lap as her reward. Tina had a ‘devastated’ look on her face but bottled it up as she took her spot in her Mother’s lap instead. Since they were all sitting together, it made her feel like they were a real family and it wasn’t ‘too’ bad. Just as she was thinking about how to start trying to convince her ‘Papa’ about letting her go into the Dungeon, Vahn had beaten her to the punch as he smiled and said, “I’ll be taking a two-week break to focus on other things, but I’ll take both of you into the Dungeon in the future if you get passing marks from Tsubaki, Ryuu, and Chloe.”

Tina’s ears perked up and she leaned over toward Vahn and grabbed his arm as she excitedly asked, “Is nyat really true~nya!?” As a result of her excitement, her verbal tick showed up which made the small cat girl blush fiercely but she continued to stare hopefully at Vahn regardless. His smile turned especially gentle as he nodded his head and said, “Yes, though I think I’ll have Milan accompany us when I train you while I’ll leave Chloe to help watch over Shizune. The two of you will continue training together, but I want you to pursue the paths you choose instead of feeling like you’re forced into making a decision. If you’d like to learn anything specific, please let me know from now on and I’ll do my best to take care of it.”

Vahn’s words were very well received by the two girls as Tina launched herself at Vahn and rubbed her cheek against his affectionately while Shizune took the opportunity to ask, “Does that mean we’ll get one of those flame seeds soon? Since I was born as a kitsune, my magic is somewhat weak and I’d like to develop it further in the future…” Vahn pat Tina’s back to help her calm down as he explained, “I’ve almost reached the threshold of using that skill, and I think it’s a bit too early for the two of you to receive a seed. Because you’re so young, I think it would be better for you to naturally develop your abilities instead of having them increase too quickly. We can focus on unlocking your rare skills and promoting your growth through your own efforts. Don’t worry though, I’ll give you flame seeds one day, just not right now. I can’t even give them to all the other girls that ‘need’ one, so please be a little patient…”

Shizune didn’t seem to mind at all as her ears bobbed a few times and she remarked, “That’s fine with me, as it means we’ll get to spend even more time together, ufufufufu~.” Without the growth promotion of the flame seed, Vahn would have to look after them even more as they fought to increase their strength the ‘normal’ way. Unbeknownst to the two girls, however, Vahn was planning to promote their growth through other means while also discovering the ‘actual’ effects of his [Mentor] Development Ability. It was hard to know exactly what benefits it offered since most of the other girls he trained had flame seeds. With the Level 1 Tina and Shizune, combined with the Levels 3 and 4 Milan and Chloe, Vahn would be able to collect more accurate data.

Though Milan had a few inhibitions about her daughter entering the Dungeon so early, knowing that she would be there alongside both Tina and Vahn made her worries seem negligible. She knew it was important for her daughter to get stronger for the future, and it was a great opportunity for them to spend time together. Vahn might put her daughter through a few trials, but Milan knew he would never let anything happen to her and there shouldn’t be any actual danger. He had already been strong enough to fight against Level 4s and 5s as a Level 3, so Milan had confidence that Vahn had become unimaginably strong after reaching Level 4 himself.

For the two-and-a-half remaining hours of the second block of his schedule, Vahn spent his time with six girls and helped guide their training. Mikoto had shown up at one point, but she ended up making her way into the forest in the back so as not to disturb their training. Her destination was the clearing that she had heard about and she already knew the correct path from Ryuu. She knew the ‘heritage’ Vahn had given her was actually far more advanced than her initial expectations and, after reading it through to the end, Mikoto understood she could reach a level of swordsmanship never before seen in the world. Knowing that the skill relied on speed, perception, and reaction timing, Mikoto had even taken the [Acrobatics] Development Ability to increase the flexibility of her body and her spatial awareness.

By the time Vahn’s schedule was transitioning to the third segment, he had promised to help design outfits for both Tina and Shizune in the future as well help them choose a ‘proper’ weapon. Vahn had an idea about making growth weapons for the two girls, but he was somewhat worried it would skew his own research results. However, it was far more important that the girls were safe and able to grow properly so Vahn was going to consult Hephaestus on the matter as growth weapons didn’t actually exist in the record yet. Vahn couldn’t even find the [Hestia Knife] through the system shop, since it was a ‘unique’ weapon that was directly connected to Hestia. He would likely be able to purchase it in another record, but that wasn’t very helpful given the current circumstances.

Fortunately, Vahn knew that Hephaestus had the potential to make such weapons and she would likely be more than willing to help out. If he assisted her during the forging process, he could potentially even learn the skill himself while also spending time with the loveable goddess of the forge. They would also need Hestia’s support during the process, as her ichor would be the catalyst that made the weapon function, but there was little chance she would refuse. She was actually very fond of Tina, Shizune, and Fenrir since her motherly instincts were quite developed. As one of her divinities related to ‘Family’ itself, she had a soft spot for children and would probably be very motivated to assist them.

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As there was no time like the present, and knowing that Hephaestus had said she would be in the Manor in the afternoon, Vahn made his way toward the workshops after parting with the girls. Knowing they would need to getting ‘passing marks’ from several people, their motivation for training had been ignited and they were planning to spend the afternoon studying about the Dungeon and training with Ryuu, Fenrir, and Milan. Though Fenrir might not be the best teacher, she was very strong and could demonstrate her fighting methods to the girls, which they were both interested in considering her foundation was built on ‘copying’ Vahn. She had even taken the [Mimickry] Development Ability when she increased her Level and was able to emulate Vahn’s voice if she put in the effort. The first time Vahn heard her practicing it, it made him feel a little bit of a chill, not because she was copying him, but because he was afraid who else she would copy in the future…

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