After ‘suffering’ in Terra’s grasp for a short while, Shirohime had a somewhat sad expression on her face as she said, “Please let us go…” Since the moment she had materialized, Shirohume felt like she had suffered endless setbacks and it had started to dampen her confidence a bit. Not only was Vahn ‘abnormal’ and somewhat immune to her powers, but the girls around him were all scary ‘monsters’ that made her feel suppressed. She even contemplated returning back to her body, but a part of her she couldn’t explain didn’t want to go away from the annoying boy that looked at her with intrigue and, when she was genuinely upset, concern.
Terra’s eyes squinted slightly as she held out Shirohime and said, “It seems Shirohime isn’t too fond of me, Master…how heartbreaking.” Vahn reached out and accepted the limp Shirohime from Terra’s arms and cradled her in his arms once again as she curled up into a small form and ‘ignored’ everything else. Vahn knew she wasn’t as ‘fragile’ as she was letting on, especially after the trouble she caused earlier, but she genuinely didn’t seem to like being put into unexpected situations. Even Terra, someone that was a ‘pacifist’ and had a gentle nature couldn’t break through her defenses just yet.
Vahn gently pat Shirohime as he looked to the smiling Terra and asked, “So, how are you enjoying the surface? Is there anything I can do to make you happier?” Terra’s smile widened marginally as she swayed her hips and turned her body. She walked toward the wellspring and gestured to it before saying, “I much prefer this garden than the dreary life in the Dungeon. Even if I’m not truly free, I don’t feel like my life would have as much substance if I left this place. Everyone seems very nice and accepting, even though I’m a monster and they should have at least a little animosity toward me. I can see your influence in each of them, Master, and it makes my heart feel at ease knowing I’m surrounded by people that share your beliefs…”
As she spoke, Terra passed her fingers through the emerald-green essence as pulses of energy passed from their tips and diffused into the liquid before enriching it even further. Vahn could see that Terra’s ‘efficiency’ was somewhat bad, even compared to Fenrir’, as nearly 30% of her energy had been drained since the previous evening. She was likely taking his previous words seriously and doing her best to spread her influence as much as possible, which Vahn could confirm with his [Eyes of Truth]. The swirling domain beneath the ground now stretched out to around 370m instead of the previous three-hundred.
Terra turned to face him with her ever-present smile and said, “If I had any complaints…I suppose it would be the restrictive feeling of clothing. I’m certain I will get used to it with time, but it’s rather awkward to have to cover my body with fabrics much weaker than my own resistances. Fortunately, I have a Master that gifted me something rather high quality, as it is much more comfortable than the other girls that I’ve tried on~.” Since she would have been able to detect most people passing through the barrier, Terra had been sunbathing in the buff since it felt better to expose herself to the sun in order to absorb even more energy. Though she had the appearance of a humanoid, while being a True Dragon, Terra shared many similarities with plants and it felt unnatural to cover her body.
Though he could tell she didn’t mind too much, Vahn cocked his head and seriously considered the matter for a few minutes, even asking Sis for a bit of advice. She actually recommended making an outfit that had similar properties as the panties he had made for Hephaestus to use during their wedding night. He already confirmed that it was possible to make fabric turn transparent, so he could make her comfortable and breathable clothing that could also either turn transparent or make it so that she could absorb energy from the sun and atmosphere more easily.
After thinking it over for a bit, Vahn asked, “Do you absorb energy through your entire body, and is it simply the feel of the clothing that bothers you? I think I can make you something that is form fitting that doesn’t feel restrictive at all. I’ll have to put in a bit of effort, but I can even make it turn transparent if you want to make use of it when you’re sunbathing in private.” Terra released a peal of laughter that reminded Vahn of the sounds of nature. Her leaf-like feathers rustled like trees in a gentle breeze as she moved her hair to the side of her face and said in a soft voice, “My Master is very thoughtful…I feel truly blessed. Regardless of what you make, I will wear it with pride and treasure it forever~.”
Vahn could feel a cool breeze touch his skin as a fragrant aroma spread around the area as a result of Terra’s mood. When she was happier, the aroma she emitted carried similar traits and it made Vahn feel like he was reclining in a field of flowers while even Shirohime closed her eyes slightly with a complacent expression on her face. Vahn smiled and said, “Fortunately, your current appearance is suitable for a variety of different types of clothing. I’ll come up with something that will enhance your natural beauty even further. As for your sunbathing, it’s fine if you do it at your leisure just make sure you stay aware of your surroundings.” Vahn could tell that Terra’s aura had absolutely no influence over anything off of the ground, which seemed to be her only real weakness. Even her flight speed was around 940km/h at her maximum speed, which meant she could even be shot down by a skilled archer above Level 4.
Since he didn’t want to disturb her too much, Vahn walked forward and said, “I’ll help recover your energy before I go…” Terra’s eyes squinted slightly as she ‘proudly’ puffed out her chest and closed her eyes and said, “As you will, Master~.” Vahn knew Terra’s intent, but he wasn’t sure if she was trying to save him time or she had learned something strange from the other girls. She obviously wanted him to infuse his energy directly into her core, which was in the center of her chest, right next to her heart, but Vahn already knew a way to keep it from being awkward. He wasn’t at the stage where he wanted to take ‘advantages’ with Terra, especially considering the matters he was currently involved with.
Vahn walked around behind Terra’s back and she cracked her eyes slightly as the smile on her face grew marginally without her uttering a word. He placed his palm in between her shoulder blades and used his [Hands of Nirvana] and [Yggdrasil’s Blessing] to infuse his source energy into her body. Unlike most races, whose ‘source’ of mana was around their navel, Dragons had theirs located in their hearts. Terra also had a magic core, which would potentially result in her death if it were destroyed, located right next to her heart. Both vital organs were protected by a durable plate of bones that Vahn suspected could easily rival Adamantine in durability. Even with his [Eyes of Truth], the could see that the molecular structure of the bone had a very stable structure that radiated with small bands of pure source energy. Most physical and magical attacks wouldn’t be able to even put a scratch on that plate and the tissues underneath it created a protective membrane that also resisted shockwaves. Even her bones were segmented in a strange manner, and Vahn felt like Terra’s bones could actually ‘bend’ without breaking easily…
After he topped off her energy, Terra opened her eyes and fluttered her wings before bowing politely and saying, “Thank you, Master, for once again bestowing your kindness upon me~.” Vahn nodded his head and returned a polite smile of his own and said, “I’ll be going to visit some of the other girls now, so I’ll talk to you during dinner.” Terra, however, shook her head and said, “I promised to play with my ‘Big Brother’, so I’m afraid I’ll be absent from dinner unless you would like me to attend, Master.” Hearing that Terra was going to spend time with Fafnir, Vahn felt pleased so he shook his head and said, “No, it’s fine if you want to spend time with your siblings. Fafnir doesn’t really get to spend that much quality time with everyone, so it’s good that he has a reliable companion to look after him. I plan to go play with Fenrir tomorrow, so you should come along with us then.”
Terra’s wings fluttered again and Vahn felt like this was one of the ways she displayed her own satisfaction. Since she always had a smile, it was a little harder to read her than most because he couldn’t see the auras of his familiars in the same way as the others. Other than sensing their presence, as it was the same as his own, Vahn couldn’t read their emotions so the only metric he had for their satisfaction was the Loyalty value. Even though it had only been a short period of time since she was released from her core, Terra’s current Loyalty was at 319 and their current conversation had started with her at 306. As ‘expected’, Terra nodded her head slightly and said, “I would love to go out and play with everyone, Master. I can already feel my heart rate increase in anticipation~.”
Though it was very subtle, Vahn could ‘see’ that Terra was telling the truth so he felt like she really was excited. After patting her head for a bit, Vahn left the secret garden which he was contemplating renaming to Terra’s Sanctuary since it really would become her own personal dominion in the future. He would have to consult her about the name since she should be the one to ultimately decide on what she wants to call her home, but he thought it was suitable. Thus, while supporting Shirohime like a baby that needed to be burped, Vahn made his way through the illusory forest and headed toward his next destination.
Vahn quickly found his way at the clearing at the center of the forest and saw Mikoto training hard as a dense layer of sweat covered her body. Even though it was around 18 degrees outside, Mikoto’s kimono had become somewhat damp from her exertions and there was even steam rising from her body. She was currently standing in a very stable stance that made her presence feel much larger than normal with both of her eyes closed. Her hand was held loosely on the handle of her katana and she was completely stationary with the only movement of her body coming from her ponytail gently swaying with the wind.
For several long seconds, Vahn could feel the tension in the atmosphere continue to increase and it was almost like the very air around Mikoto’s body was solidifying. Just as it reached a tangible level, Mikoto’s eyes opened at the same time as a flash of light appeared. Within the blink of an eye, Mikoto had drawn her sword in a beautiful arc before immediately resheathing it a moment later. She then fell to her knees and began gasping for air as a result of the exertion. Vahn could see that many of the muscles in her body had been strained a great deal and she had obviously been at her training for a while.
Vahn walked out of the cover of the trees in front of Mikoto causing her to raise her head before pulling her slightly open kimono closed. She had been overheating and had loosened up her obi slightly to make breathing easier and hadn’t expected Vahn to suddenly appear. Given his stealth capabilities, Mikoto realized he could have been watching her for a while and it made her flushed face take on a slightly more vibrant hue as she rose to her feet and fixed her clothing before bowing and saying, “Forgive my shameless display…” Vahn waved his hand dismissively and asked, “Mikoto, I know you’ve said before that you intend to stay in the Manor and follow me, but do you really mean that?”
Mikoto’s expression turned serious and she nodded her head firmly and said, “I won’t abandon my own convictions. Unless you force me out of the Familia, I will continue to walk the same path for the rest of my life!” Vahn showed a light smile as he nodded and said, “That is indeed the case…so you really shouldn’t continue acting so ‘distant’ when we’re supposed to be getting closer, not further apart. I’m not going to force you into anything, but you already recognized me as your Lord, Master, and even your future Lover. I won’t ask you to throw away propriety, but you shouldn’t be so tense since your growth with be accelerated even further if you relax your body and mind.”
Just as he had done in the past, Vahn pulled out a katana before moving Shirohime up to the top of his head. Even if he moved very quickly, it was almost like she was anchored to him at times and he believed she would be fine. Mikoto looked like she had wanted to say something but immediately swallowed her words when she saw Vahn pull out his own katana. It wasn’t nearly the same quality as her own, but she felt a ‘wave’ spread from Vahn’s body the instant he wielded it. Vahn loosened up his shoulders and said, “I’ve looked over the [Flying Heavenly Sword Scroll], but I’ve never trained in any of its techniques. However, there are some things that I’ve gleaned that match with my own ideologies…”
Vahn pulled out one of the giant boulders he had stowed away in his inventory during the expedition and let it fall heavily in the center of the clearing. He planned to build a gazeebo there in the future, so he didn’t mind if the grass in the area got flattened a bit. Terra could always regrow it if he asked, so Vahn followed his own advice and began to relax his mind and body. After taking several deep breaths, Vahn said, “The secret to the Flying Heavenly Sword is a combination of speed, perception, and the control of your own body. However, if you forcibly try to exercise control, you will continually damage your body and wear away at the tendons and joints. Increasing your parameters allows you to bypass some restrictions, but it doesn’t make your body impervious to wear and tear…”
After loosening up all the joints and muscles of his body, Vahn felt like he would simply fall down like a marionette if he relaxed and further so he lazily walked toward the stone as he said, “I once taught you that fluidity was the ‘secret’ behind a true sword strike…it makes use of the entire body as a series of incremental pivots to create a flow through the body itself, allowing for greater speed, precision, and potential output…you’ll notice that I emphasized speed, just like the Flying Heavenly Sword. Even a reed, if moving at a fast enough velocity and at the right angle, could pierce through a plate of Adamantine…”
Vahn entered the effective range of his blow and allowed all the tensions of his body to release at the same time, resulting in him falling forward slightly. Instead of outright resisting this motion, Vahn guided his ‘fall’ and used his own speed and footwork to accelerate it forward in a natural motion. At the same time, Vahn shifted his weight slightly starting from his feet, following up his legs, accelerating from his hips, before the twisting of his spine and the swing of his arm had accelerated to a monstrous level. He had tried to restrict himself to around Mikoto’s speed, but he found that his own movements were much faster than anticipated as the acceleration of the blade through his sheath had ‘forced’ his motion to reach around eight-times the speed of a normal slash. Instead of restraining it, however, Vahn allowed the motion to complete naturally and ended up spinning around several times from his own momentum. He didn’t sheath the sword as Mikoto had done, but he believed he had proved his point.
Mikoto watched the scene play out, all the way up until Vahn entered what she referred to as the ‘initial’ phase of his strike. The Battōjutsu techniques in the scroll were all at least two-phase techniques and Vahn’s initial phase could only be understood as ‘flawless’ from her own limited perception. She saw the beginning of the move, but the next thing she knew Vahn was already beyond the boulder and was spinning around in a somewhat awkward manner. Mikoto understood he had underestimated his own speed but the result hadn’t changed much, even though his follow-through was a bit lacking.
Because of sword laws, one of the strange things that Vahn didn’t entirely understand, a strange phenomenon occurred when strikes were performed skillfully. His katana was around 95cm long, marginally longer than a normal katana, but the boulder he had sliced was more than 400cm in diameter at the widest points. However, when Vahn walked over and pushed against the seemingly undamaged boulder, the phenomenon he had expected had occurred and the top of the boulder slid off the base at a 37-degree angle. It touched the ground without sliding off completely, so Vahn stowed away the upper half as Mikoto walked over and observed his result while gulping audibly.
Though it wasn’t a ‘perfect’ cut, the boulder had still been cut through completely and more than 80% of the surface was nearly level, albeit slightly askew as a result of his posture. As for the parts he hadn’t cut through cleanly, they were still split from the ambient force from the blade and were still relatively flat, though the surface was somewhat grainy compared to the smoothness of the rest of the rock face. Mikoto passed her palm across it and it felt almost like a polished stone with strange wavy patterns that sheered in the direction of Vahn’s strike. She released a sigh because she realized Vahn was still several times more capable with a sword than she was, even though he didn’t truly specialize in it.
Vahn walked over to Mikoto’s side and placed his hand against her shoulder in a casual manner as he infused energy into her body. He used his free hand to channel a healing magic spell to recover her muscles strains and internal injuries at the same time while saying, “Flow, Mikoto…like ‘water’…” When he finished topping her off, Vahn pat her shoulder again before walking off toward the forest to give her time to contemplate his words on her own. She was the type that needed to come to an understanding through her own efforts to be satisfied with her progress, so Vahn was intentionally vague while also being direct at the same time. Mikoto had the perfect weapon to learn how to make her strikes flow, so she should be pushing as much emphasis in mastering it as she did into mastering the [Heavenly Flying Sword Scroll].
Mikoto watched Vahn’s back from the corner of her eyes until he disappeared through the illusory mist that permeated throughout the forest. She knew he was ‘showing off’ a little bit, but also knew he had more than enough reason to act that way considering his age and skill. She released a sigh that caused a lot of condensation to cloud up around her. Vahn’s words were slightly cryptic, but his demonstration and the emphasis he placed on water were obvious indicators of what he wanted her to do. Since it hadn’t really been that long since their return, Mikoto had been focused entirely on [Battōjutsu] but now decided to ‘relax’ and expand her mindset. She grabbed the hilt of her katana and pulled it out slightly, causing the cloud of condensation to disperse in an instant…