Chapter 516: Griffin

Vahn sat atop Fafnir’s back with his eyes closed, doing his best to pick up any signs of life as Fafnir ‘slowly’ ambled through the sky around 3,500km/h. Because they needed to comb the area, Fafnir had to its speed so that Vahn could process the information passing through his mind like a blur. Fortunately, Sis’s processing capabilities were much higher than his own so she was helping pick up the mass amount of slack on Vahn’s behalf. Since the Griffin shouldn’t be too far away from its hunting grounds and should have made its nest at a high elevation, Fafnir primarily focused on areas that were high above the ground. There were several rocky outcrops in the Western Forests but few should host a creature as territorial as a Griffin.

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Terra watched Vahn from the side with a bit of concern on her face before wrapping her wing around him in an attempt to comfort him. She didn’t like seeing the ‘cold’ Vahn very much because it didn’t seem to suit him very well. Though she understood his reasons for being upset, she couldn’t comprehend why he was so angry at the potential loss of people he had never met before. Just as the various surface races domesticated animals and grew crops to survive, Terra felt like the Griffin was simply doing what it could to avoid starving. Yes, they had to kill it to prevent further loss of life, but that didn’t justify Vahn’s reaction in her opinion. It was the nature of the world that the strong preyed on the weak, something she had experienced herself in the past…

Feeling the strangely comforting sensation coming from Terra’s wing, Vahn looked toward the gentle looking woman and saw the concern in her eyes. He released a small sight and focused his mind, doing his best to calm down by making use of her comforting aura and the fragrance emanating from her body. His anger didn’t benefit the situation at all, so Vahn could somewhat understand why Terra was worried since his mentality had even affected Fenrir. She was sitting in his lap with her hairs on-end as she flexed her paws open and closed, almost as if she were ready to pounce at a moments notice. Though he didn’t know how he would be able to manage it, Vahn knew he would have to learn how to remain calm so that he didn’t make as many mistakes in the future. He would avoid becoming like the ‘Emperor’, who seemed detached from everything, but the maturation of his mind was necessary if he wanted to be a good father and capable leader…

Fafnir came to a near-instantaneous stop as a pulse of wind spread out from its body, dispersing the force of its rapid deceleration. A powerful aura spread through the area that was only a few magnitudes weaker than his own [Will of the Emperor] as Fafnir opened its mouth and released a powerful roar that shook the void. A short ways away, atop a small cliff leading into the side of a larger plateau, there was a young griffin that had just been about to take flight. It released a shrill whine before shrinking away and retreating back into its nest as Vahn exhaled a chilly sigh and jumped off of Fafnir’s back. If it had made the ‘mistake’ of taking flight, the Griffin likely would have immediately died after Fafnir tore its body apart. The average flight speed of an adult Griffon was only around 650-700km/h, so it would have been completely dominated by Fafnir in an aerial battle.

Vahn crashed into the Cliff without making any effort to disperse the force of his fall, causing cracks to spread under his feet as he walked into the cave’s entrance. Fenrir had been in his arms when he leaped down while Terra had followed behind shortly after his descent. Even if she was a [Pacifist], it didn’t mean she would sit idly by if Vahn was in danger. All of his subordinates, Lefiya and Anubis included, had an instinctive desire to try and protect him. She was also curious about how Vahn would deal with the situation since his mentality worried her much more than the nature of the Griffin and the fate of its victims.

The cave only stretched into the plateau for around twenty meters so the three had quickly arrived at the Griffin’s nest as it shrieked loudly, aggressively fronting in an effort to scare them away. However, it was still ‘spooked’ by Fafnir’s earlier roar and couldn’t muster up the courage to fight back even though it was cornered. It instinctually felt that all three of the invaders before it were much stronger than it so a sense of impending doom had started to settle in its mind. It scratched away at the ground and continued to retreat until its back reached the wall, causing it to jump and flap its wings aggressively.

Vahn looked around the area and saw no signs of life which made his mind numb slightly as he released a sad sigh and asked, “Fenrir…do you smell the scent of blood from earlier?” Her eyes were already glowing fiercely as she glared at the Griffin and nodded her head. With her confirmation, Vahn felt momentary anguish before bringing his hands together, almost as if he were going to pray. The truth of the matter wasn’t too different, as Vahn truly lamented the minor injustice while also mourning the loss of the various children and livestock. Over the course of nine days, the Griffin had claimed four victims and nearly twenty smaller livestock. While it may be true that they often kept ‘live’ prey for late consumption, it was also a sad fact that young Griffins often hunted for ‘sport’ without intending to eat their prey at all…

After bringing his hands together for several seconds, Vahn opened his eyes and ‘collapsed’ his domain, converging the entirety of his pressure against the body of the Griffin. As a Level 2 monster, he could have easily stunned it but Vahn wasn’t content with such a roundabout way of dealing with this issue. Though it was typically invisible, the space within the cave became dense with energy as the Griffin’s body was squeezed tightly before it fell to the ground. Vahn spoke out in a low tone as he continually increased the pressure, saying, “Hunting for sport is wasteful…”

Though it had temporarily tried to resist, the Griffin ended up uttering a weak and pitiable cry as it completely gave up any form of resistance. It couldn’t even raise its head to ‘plead’ for its life as the budding intelligence contained within its mind collapsed. Even though it was still alive, its eyes had glazed over with a blank look as Vahn’s began to emit a ‘divine’ light. The atmosphere of the cave became very solemn and neither Fenrir or Terra could move a single muscle in their body as they waited for what was to come. His voice took on a powerful reverberation as he said, “Though I resent what you have done…I will still show you one last mercy…” Vahn had nearly uttered the word ‘Vanish’ but remembered his promise to Graft and said, “Rest in peace…”

A pulse of energy spread through Vahn’s domain along with his words and the Griffin immediately turned statuesque before becoming completely limp. The light had already faded from its eyes previously, but now it seemed like a shell of its former self as even its body heat had completely faded. Other than the minimal amount of mana used to keep its body from turning to dust, everything else had dispersed into the air as the pulse passed through its body. The previously vibrant colors in its plumage had now dimmed greatly and took on a grey and ashen tone.

Vahn stowed the Griffin into his Inventory before looking at the still-stunned Terra and Fenrir as he said, “Let’s bury the bodies…this will no longer be a cavern, but a mausoleum to honor the dead.” Terra showed a sad smile on her face as she flapped her wings to breath life into the stagnant cavern that had become eerily silent. Moss because to spread from her bare feet as Fenrir lead the way for Vahn by following the scent from earlier. The cave hadn’t been uniform and there was a natural division that split it in to along the right side. Though he had ‘prepared’ himself, Vahn still shuddered when he saw what was left of the victims. When they hunted for sport, young Griffins would bring back ‘trophies’ to adorn their nests and it was a sickening sight that made Vahn feel nauseous.

After averting his eyes, Vahn swept his hand toward the remains and cremated them using the ‘eternal flame’. Since it was a divine flame, Vahn felt like it was the best way he could honor them while also serving to ‘purify’ the area of any negative energy and resentment. He brought his hands together again as he prayed toward the crimson-golden flames, hoping that the children would find happiness in their next incarnation. Long before his prayer came to an end, the remains had been completely broken down into fine ash so Vahn washed over them with water before pulling them all together and dispersing the water elemental energy in the orb he had formed. As if they had never been soaked, a small sphere of ashes had formed in the air and was kept solid by Vahn’s domain.

Vahn took the orb over to where Terra was standing like a goddess of nature since the cavern around her feet had already started to sprout small shrubbery and vibrant plant life. Vahn spread the ashes over the ground before covering them with a layer of fertile soil that quickly converged with Terra’s energy and sprouted new life. Since this sight marked a grave, Vahn spread out a handful of lily seeds as he watched them quickly grow before blooming less than a minute later. He then pulled out a marble slab and carved the names Benny, Sully, Julia, and Keil into the surface and setting it on the floor. After releasing a heavy sigh, Vahn looked around the area before saying, “Let’s return…”

On the way out, Vahn took a large boulder from his inventory and sealed off the gave before having Terra cover it with moss and vines. This place was around 219km away from the nearby village, so Vahn didn’t expect anyone to make a pilgrimage to pay respects. It was a sad truth that the bodies were likely located elsewhere, so it would be better to allow them to mourn with their community…

Turning his head up, Vahn looked to Fafnir and said, “Fafnir, I want you to destroy any visible monster nests in the area before rendezvousing with us when I call you. Make sure you stay high and away from any potential dangers…” Fafnir released a light roar and said, (“Leave it to me, Vahn~!”) before taking off toward some of the areas they had previously passed. Before it had even gone more than five kilometers, Fafnir released a small burst of energy that shot like a laser toward the ground. An explosion rumbled through the forest as a nest of goblins was annihilated before Fafnir moved on without paying special attention to the result. Vahn sent it an order advising it to stay away from the deeper forest so it wouldn’t unnecessarily provoke any Elven scouts.

Terra had already turned back into her dragon form and was waiting so Vahn jumped up onto her back and immediately plopped down on the ‘grassy’ area. Fenrir had jumped up shortly after and immediately cuddled up to him, saying, “Master, don’t be sad…we came out to play, remember?” Clever as she might be, Fenrir couldn’t easily empathize with what Vahn was going through and only understood that he was sad from his actions and the emotions shared through their bond. Vahn smiled before hugging her tightly and saying, “We’ll go play in a bit…” as he stroked her hair. As she was already used to ‘comforting’ Vahn, Fenrir turned quiet as she closed her eyes and nuzzled against him so that he could relax…

With the therapeutic Fenrir and the calming fragrance of Terra, Vahn was able to relax much faster than he expected. They reached the village after twenty minutes, as Terra had been flying slowly to let him relax more easily, and Vahn had resumed his calm demeanor before jumping down to the awaiting crowd. Graft had come out with a hopeful looking woman but she immediately broke down in her husband’s arms after seeing that Vahn was only accompanied by Fenrir and Terra. Graft stepped forward with an understanding look in his eyes as he observed Vahn and asked, “Did you get that bastard?”

Vahn nodded his head before waving his hand and leaving the corpse of the Griffin in the open town center for all to see. Though it would likely only bring them a small comfort, Vahn said in a gentle tone, “I cremated the remains and sanctified the area before erecting a marker to honor the deceased…this time, don’t worry about the reward. I can’t accept a reward for a mission like this…” Since his presence wouldn’t make things easier for those present, Vahn stroked Terra’s snout before climbing back on her body and taking to the sky once again. Graft followed his figure with his eyes, shaking his head and remarking, “He is still a young boy…” before turning to go comfort Martha and Barnes.

After being in the air for a few minutes, Fenrir tilted her head up toward Vahn and asked, “Master, were those people important to you?” For Fenrir, failing to protect the people important to her Master was a big ‘failure’ so she was beginning to feel very worried. Vahn, however, shook his head and said, “I had never known them…but you must always remember that all life is precious. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people, is important for mental and spiritual maturity…never forget this, Fenrir, and always do your best to preserve life…unless it is someone trying to bring harm to you and the people you care about…”

Though she didn’t understand it completely, Fenrir nodded her head and ruminated over Vahn’s words as she enjoyed his caress. She decided to ask some of the other girls in the Manor about ’empathy’ and how they believed it was important so that she could understand it better. Seeing that her Master had placed so much importance on it, Fenrir felt compelled to understand it so that she could also ’empathize’ with him. The lonely look in his eyes made her own heart feel strange as her tummy felt anxious and ’empty’. It would also allow her to ‘mature’ faster, so Fenrir wanted to do her best to make Vahn happier however she could.

Vahn had Terra land in a small clearing within the Western Forest as a pressure began to bear down on them from above. Fafnir appeared moments later and landing in the clearing next to Terra before it strangely ‘sized’ her up. Out of nowhere, Fafnir suddenly said, (“Sis is a very beautiful dragon~!”) before turning to Vahn and saying, (“Vahn, I destroyed eleven nests~! Praise me, praise me~!”) Vahn held out his hand and rubbed Fafnir’s snout before it plopped down on the ground and rolled over onto its back. As for Terra, she had ‘smiling’ eyes but didn’t comment on Fafnir’s words as she laid on the ground in a strangely elegant manner, still in her dragon form. She spread her massive 20m wide wings and created a large canopy as she absorbed sunlight.

After spending some time pampering and praising Fafnir, Vahn was sitting on its stomach stroking the ‘scar’ on its chest as he said, “Fenrir and I will ‘walk’ back to the City, so I want you to take Terra back to the Manor and wait for us.” Fafnir had been laying with its mouth open and tongue dangling out before it snapped to alertness and said, (“Okay, Vahn, leave it to me~!”) Terra, however, didn’t seem too fond of the idea as she remarked, “If possible, I would like to stay with Master. I am worried about your safety and well-being…” Vahn smiled in return and said, “I’ll be fine, Terra, so just wait for me patiently at the Manor. I’m going to play with Fenrir for a bit and there isn’t any real danger within the forest to either of our lives.” Since both he and Fenrir were now Level 4, there were few things in the entire region that could actually threaten them. Those that might be able to would never be able to match his speed if he focused on fleeing, so Vahn wasn’t concerned at all, especially with a [Hero’s Reprieve] available if he needed to ‘teleport’ away.

Terra seemed like she wanted to issue a rebuttal but eventually just let out a sigh before turning back into her human form and flittering up to Fafnir’s back. She looked down at Vahn, still in his Vanargandr form alongside Fenrir, and said, “Master, please take care of yourself…Big Sis, please look after our Master well.” Fenrir raised her head pridefully and thumped her chest as she said, “Leave it to Fenrir~! Fenrir will protect Master properly!” Even at the cost of her own life, Fenrir wouldn’t allow any harm to befall Vahn as long as she could prevent it. Of course, Vahn would never let such a thing come to pass and it was generally his job to look after her.

After watching Fafnir fly off into the distance, Vahn placed his hand atop Fenrir’s head and ruffled her hair as he said, “Here, I’ll give you ride on my shoulders and we’ll look for something fun to do. For now, let’s just walk through the forest and enjoy the scenery for a bit…” Without even waiting for the full explanation, Fenrir had already climbed up Vahn’s back, leaving a few holes in his tunic as a result before sitting atop his shoulders happily. Since she knew there was no danger of accidentally cutting him with her claws, she set her paws on top of his head as he held her legs and started to walk forward. Vahn knew that Fenrir had been jealous of Shirohime riding on his head, so he decided to balance things out a bit. He had come out here today to help her relax so he wanted to make good on his promise even if he felt a little melancholic. After all, it was far more important to care for the living than it was to mourn the death of those you had never known…

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