Chapter 541: Late Night : Early Morning

On their way out of the forested area, Vahn carried the ‘bubbly’ Fenrir on his back as her tail tangled around in an obvious effort to interlink with his. She was in a very good mood after receiving his ‘attention’ for more than two hours and it had triggered her clingy personality, at least until they reached the edge of the forest. The moment she heard the sound of others, Fenrir’s ears perked up and she obediently climbed from Vahn’s back before running off to do something else. Vahn watched her trot away with a smile before pulling out a journal and documenting everything that he had learned for future reference.

Though his memory was great, it didn’t mean his thought processes always aligned to match what he wanted to think about. It was like have a massive collection of books that you’ve read previously. Yes, you might remember the contents of each, but picking up the book itself would remind you of its contents. Memories weren’t just internal, but took cues from sights, sounds, smells, and the sensation of touch when combined with powerful emotions. Even Sis was prone to making small oversights, though this was actually a result of the fact she was often analyzing things for Vahn and couldn’t split her focus on a large number of tasks at once.

With nothing better to do, Vahn entered the Manor and ‘wandered’ around until he came across two presences in a study in the East Wing of the original Manor. He was actually a little riled up from interacting with Fenrir for so long so Vahn decided to head over without checking who the auras belonged to. Curiously, it ended up being someone he didn’t expect alongside someone he didn’t mind coming across in his current state. Leaning against each other, almost as if they had been friends for a very long time, were Haruhime and Preasia as they both read a book together. His presence had instantly been noted by the two girls, but the first to react to his presence was Shirohime who had somehow found her way to the top of his head without his notice.

Vahn reached up and grabbed Shirohime, who was sniffing around his large ears since he hadn’t made an effort to return to his human form yet. She writhed about in his paws, complaining, “Ah, don’t poke us with your claws!” even though he made sure to hold her with the fleshy paw pads on his hands. Haruhime had approached in a surprisingly elegant yet deceptively fast motion as she received Shriohime from his hands, saying, “It seems like little Shiro doesn’t like your Vanargandr form, fufufu~.” Vahn nodded his head, closed his eyes to focus, and activated his [Thria*Mimos] in an effort to match Haruhime’s racial traits and energy flow. He couldn’t immediately become a Renard, especially one with multiple tails, but he could still look like one relatively quickly.

Haruhime watched his transformation with interest before remarking, “You make a very handsome Renard, but I still think the original Vahn is the best~.” Then, as if remembering where they were located, a slight blush started to appear on Haruhime’s cheeks as she asked, “What brings you to this area of the Manor, Vahn~?” She wasn’t the only one that was starting to get antsy either, as Preasia, who technically wasn’t supposed to be in this area, had started to fidget about as she stared at Vahn with an unwavering gaze. Vahn took their reactions into account as he smiled and said, “Well, Fenrir managed to rile me up a bit and I was thinking of either releasing my tensions or finding a place to relax. I detected your auras when I was wandering about and decided to see what was going on…”

The more he said, the faster Haruhime’s body ‘transformed’ and her eyelids became covered in the red makeup-like blush as her eyes turned a pale gold in color. She knew what Vahn was trying to say and somewhat regretted the fact she had decided to lounge around with Preasia. They had previously ‘joked’ about Vahn coming when they were present, never expecting that it would turn into a reality. Haruhime and Preasia both knew that the latter wasn’t supposed to be in this section of the East Wing, as the ‘implications’ should Vahn arrive were very obvious. Had she been alone, lounging about and enjoying a book, Haruhime would have been able to enjoy some ‘quality’ time with Vahn…

Vahn noticed the fluctuations in her aura and stretched out his hand, plopping it onto her head and gently stroking her silky blond hair. In a soft tone, Vahn said, “You should stay with me tonight, Haruhime. Though, I had been planning to invite some other girls…” Haruhime’s smile bloomed and she nodded her head, saying, “I don’t mind, fufufu~.” As she had actually helped ‘educate’ some of the girls, Haruhime was relatively close with everyone and didn’t have any real inhibitions about group play at all. However, their relatively quiet conversation had been noted by Preasia who showed a somewhat downtrodden expression knowing that her ‘luck’ hadn’t been favorable this time around.

Seeing Preasia reaction, Vahn shook his head with a small smile and said, “Don’t worry, Preasia, I’m not going to just leave and make you feel sad. Why don’t we all read and spend some time together before dinner? We’ll probably have to take a bath if we do anything too serious though…” Vahn couldn’t meet Preasia’s ‘expectations’ this time, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t change her expectations a bit and still satisfy her. Knowing she was getting along with Haruhime was a good thing, as Vahn often worried if she was making connections and bonds with the other girls. He knew she got along well with Fenrir, Tsubaki, Hestia, Milan, Tina, Shizune, and, to a lesser extent, Naaza and Lili, but Vahn wanted her to open up to everyone with time.

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Vahn ended up spending the rest of his afternoon cuddling up with Preasia, who he had allowed to sit on his lap, and Haruhime, who had been more than fine with simply leaning against him from the side. She actually had her focus on the evening activities at this point, so she didn’t mind Preasia getting a bit of Vahn’s attention for the time being. As for Shirohime, she rested atop Vahn’s head and played around with his fox-like ears in a clearly pleased mood. Though it was a bit of a distraction, she stuck her snout into the white tufts of fur within and sniffed around for a bit before ‘nibbling’ playfully around the base. Vahn felt like she was subtly telling him ‘useful’ information because her ‘antics’ were actually very pleasant and Vahn felt an urge to just lay back and let her play with his ears for hours. He could potentially use this against Haruhime and Shizune in the future, or potentially even Shirohime herself…

The rest of the evening went relatively ‘uneventfully’ if the night time battle wasn’t taken into consideration. Since it was somewhat ‘odd’ for girls from the different generations to seek Vahn’s affection at the same time, he ended up having a ’bout’ against Haruhime, Ais, Tiona, Tione, and, though she had never participated with this specific group before, Syr. Vahn knew she had ‘helped’ him out with Riveria and wanted to show her some of his ‘appreciation’ for what she had done. She had picked up on this fact before he had even asked the question as well, potentially even ‘planning’ for things to develop this way.

With Syr’s participation, and the inclusion of Haruhime amongst the group, things had gotten a bit intense and, even though the bed he purchased was of incredible quality, they actually ended up breaking it when Tiona had gotten a bit out of hand. It was actually somewhat ‘commendable’ that the bed had lasted for as long as it did, considering the climactic battles between mortals and gods that often took place upon it. However, there was something ‘interesting’ about continuing even after the bed had been broken because it felt like a bit of an accomplishment. Tiona had even started laughing pleasantly as she attempted to ‘crush’ his hips after the fact with her efforts.

Tiona and Tione had calmed down a lot ever since he ‘defeated’ them, but it didn’t mean they were able to properly control their strength at all. In fact, every time he was with the two girls was like a competition which, unsurprisingly, was often won by the patiently ‘skulking’ Ais. This time, however, the penultimate victor had been the ‘tireless’ Syr who, even though she was the weakest girl present, had a pseudo-divinity related to sex that seemed to ‘give’ her energy instead of expending it. She ended up competing with Ais quite a bit as she ‘stirred’ up the beautiful golden-haired girl’s competitive spirit. As they had done previously, Tiona and Tione actually ended up ‘retreating’ to go sleep with Lefiya, leaving only Ais and Haruhime to ‘contend’ against the indomitable Syr.

Only allowed on

It was nearly 4 AM before Vahn was the one to throw in the towel, not because he couldn’t continue, but because he was supposed to be going into the Dungeon with Tina and Milan this morning. Ais still had a competitive inferno blazing in her golden eyes as she looked into Syr’s endlessly deep light-grey eyes. Both girls were completely covered in sweat but Syr had still secured the greatest number of victories because she could ‘always’ match Vahn’s pace while Ais was somewhat a ‘victim’ to her body’s reactions. Competing against a demigoddess that had a sex divinity was very ambitious and Vahn suspected that this wouldn’t be the end of their ‘rivalry’.

As for Haruhime, she ended up passing out when things had escalated to the point that Vahn was the one proactively trying to bring an end to things with his [Hands of Nirvana]. Shirohime had also been present, but she eventually ended up ‘bursting’ into a cloud of particles around the same time Haruhime passed out. It had been a very strange experience having the little white fox climbing around on his body when he had been with the girls, as she often tried to ‘compete’ in her own way when he wasn’t directly tending to Haruhime. This was essentially Haruhime’s subconscious desire to be spoiled combined with the clingy split personality she had cultivated when she was a young girl, just as she had started to ‘give up’ on life. Vahn didn’t mind Shirohime’s actions too much, especially considering it was very fun to tease her because she had very human reactions even though she looked like a fox…

Finally extricating himself from the two budding rivals, Vahn went and took a long bath while focusing his mind with the [Mantra of Eternity]. Other girls had shown up while he was there but, after they noticed his calm and focused state, they decided against bothering him. Even Lili, who was usually very proactive and lingered around Vahn in the bath had enough sense to just sit off to the side with Naaza. The two had essentially become best friends after their association and cooperation with each other back at Tsubaki’s Manor. Because Lili had no friends, while Naaza’s had actually shunned her a bit after the incident, they had learned to rely on each other and had worked together to seek Vahn’s affections. Vahn even suspected that the reason Naaza hadn’t been more proactive in approaching him, even though it was very clear she sometimes experienced a ‘heat-like’ state, was that she was waiting for Lili…

Once he had ‘awoken’ from his meditation, Vahn climbed out of the bath and noticed that he was somewhat pruned before a quick stretch, and the infusion of some energy into his pores, fixed this minor issue. He then equipped his clothes and headed to the backyard, where many of the girls had already started their morning training. Because the vacation was officially over, the training would only be for the standard hour before everyone started splitting off into groups. Vahn wanted to talk to those that would be venturing into the Dungeon again so he could remind them about the potential dangers and make sure they were adequately prepared.

Just as before, everyone had certain ‘limitations’ for entering into the Dungeon based on the minimum strength of the members. They also needed to have an ‘escort’ of at least one Level 5 and and two Level 4’s within the party. Thus far, the strongest enemy they had observed from Enyo’s forces was around Level 5 and, as long as they weren’t lured into a trap, Ais, Tiona, Tione, and Arnya would be able to contend against most opponents, even if they were slightly stronger. With the support of a party, it was almost a guaranteed victory, especially if accounting for the existence of the [Effigy of the Hero]. Though it was a bit of a limiter for their growth, knowing they had a powerful fallback that could double their parameters for a few minutes meant the girls could cut loose and fight their enemies head-on.

Even if they took a potentially fatal blow, the three minutes that followed would be the nightmare of almost any opponent. Just imagining an Ais, who was already a serious threat to his own life, having more than 34,000 parameters sent a shiver down Vahn’s back. The same could be said for a Tiona who, after her skills and abilities were triggered, would be able to reach a truly monstrous 15,576 Power for that three-minute interval. As parameter growth wasn’t linear, but exponential, Vahn imagined she would even be able to punch through entire Dungeon Floors at that point. If she managed to trigger her [Crush] Development Ability and her [Crushing Blow] on the [Dance of the Amazon], Vahn imagined her enemy literally turning into particulates in the aftermath…

As this would be her first time entering the Dungeon, Tina actually wasn’t participating proactively in the morning training and was just at the side stretching and talking with her mother. Vahn saw them and used [Shundo] to startle the small cat girl before as she stuttered, “V-Vahnyaa~!” in a tone several octaves higher than normal. Milan laughed with slightly squinted eyes as she said, “Tina had been complaining about her body being very tense due to nervousness. She had even stayed awake very late last night…I’m a little worried…ufufufu~.” Hearing her mother’s ‘betrayal’, Tina blushed and tried to find an excuse but Vahn knelt down in front of her and asked, “Do you want me to help bolster your stamina and ease your tensions?”

This time, Tina blushed for entirely different reasons as her eyes opened slightly wider and she bobbed her head. Vahn smiled and reached out both of his hands, setting one atop Tina’s head while taking the index and middle finger of his right hand and placing it overtop her blouse, right around her navel. There was a small gap of skin that he could of ‘accessed’, but Vahn wanted to treat Tina as her age suggested, like a child. He knew she would be a bit overly conscious of all of his actions, but he adopted the mentality of a practiced physician when he was touching her body. As she had started to tremble a bit, Vahn said in a gentle tone, “Tina, take deeeeeep breaths, hold them in for a few seconds, then breath out at a slightly faster rate…keep doing this ten times in a row, okay?”

Instead of forming actual words, Tina ‘mewled’ a ‘Mnyaaauuu~’ as she released her first breath and started to take deep breaths from then onwards. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the warm and calming sensation coming from her head and the very ‘ticklish’ sensation radiating through her tummy. Her tail flickered about happily as Vahn turned to look at the smiling face of Milan who was doing her best to not laugh at her daughter’s adorable antics. Unlike Tina, who was wearing similar attire as before, Milan was wearing more armor than Vahn had expected. It was the same style as Tina’s, meaning it was predominately white, but, unlike Tina, Milan wore a thinly plated skirt, arm guards, leg guards, and plated sabatons on her feet. The largest piece of armor Tina wore was her white breastplate, but her’s just cover her chest and back whilst Milan’s was a full breastplate that even had small pauldrons adorned with feathers. The biggest difference, however, was that Milan’s weapon was both thinner and longer than Tina’s and her shield was a kite shield compared to the round buckler of her daughter.

Understanding Vahn’s curiosity, Milan explained, “I had talked with Hephaestus-sama, and Tsubaki, about upgrading to a more permanant armor set so that I can better protect my daughter and proactively increase my strength again. My lighter equipment had been because I was trying to get back into the swing of things, but I actually used to wear heavier armor because my role in the party had been as a Defensive Vanguard. As for my daughter, she has adapted my fighting style a bit but has also benefited from training with the other girls. I’d say she is more a reactive fighter that leans towards the offensive than a Defensive Vanguard as I had been. Besides, I believe it is correct that she become more agile since the benefits she enjoys within the Hestia Familia will allow her to grow along the route she chooses to follow~.”

Vahn smiled appreciatively at everything Milan had said while Tina, who had finished her breathing exercise and recovered her stamina, opened her eyes and said, “Even if I wanted to protect everyone, I nyow that the person that I nyeed to worry about the most is m’nyself. Everyone is already so strong, so I will do m’nay best to grow as strong as possible while also developing my own style~nya!” Vahn listened to Tina’s tiny outburst and just absentmindedly stroked her head as he mentally remarked that she could be very adorable at times. After this passed, however, Vahn smiled and nodded his head, saying, “Very good, Tina. With that kind of motivation, you can become very powerful in the future. One day, even vaulting a hundred meters in the air would be a simple feat for you~.”

Though there was already a flame burning in her eyes, Tina’s golden eyes glowed with excitement after imagining what it would be like to leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Out of excitement, Tina fidgeted about and asked, “Vahnya, how high can n’you jump~nya!?” Vahn opened his eyes slightly and looked toward the sky as he thought about his answer, not quite sure of how he would fair normally. He expected he could easily clear 100m, but it would probably be at the expense of the ground. Even so, Vahn wanted to properly motivate Tina so he rubbed her head and said, “How about we find out?” and then picked her up in a princess carry as she flushed in excitement and embarrassment.

Giving Milan a playful wink, Vahn walked over to a stable area of the yard and bent down slightly, transforming into his Xuánwǔ form in the process. This was a maneuver he had only done once in the past, but Vahn was going to greatly increase his momentum by redirecting the residual forces of his movement through his legs and into the ground. He was essentially transferring the shockwave that would be absorbed by his body, as a result of kicking off from the ground and using it to accelerate him higher with nearly twice the amount of force as his initial action would have allowed. He held Tina tightly and said, “Brace yourself, Tina, but make sure to keep your eyes open. And don’t worry, I won’t let any harm come to you at all.” Tina bobbed her head like a small chick and tightly clung to his body.

Vahn’s actions had drawn the eyes of almost everyone that was in the training field, as they knew he was probably doing something ‘eccentric’ and trying to show off. After a few seconds or preparation, Vahn kicked off against the ground with as much force as he could generate through his legs, causing the ground beneath him to collapse nearly a full meter as a radial shockwave passed into the ground for almost ten meters away from him. As for Vahn himself, and the completely stunned Tina, they had shot off into the sky in an instant before coming to a stop around 270m above the ground. Just as he was reaching the peak of his arc, Vahn materialized a length of [Enkidu] and used it as a foothold to come to a stop at the apex of his jump. He felt a bit of cold sweat on the back of his neck because he knew he had caused a bit of strain on the formation protecting the tunnels beneath the Manor. His jump had generated a bit more force than he expected since he hadn’t replicated this feat in almost an entire Level.

Doing his best to play it off, Vahn smiled at Tina and said, “Well, I made it to around 270m, not too bad, right~?” Tina, however, didn’t actually seem that impressed by his feat and furrowed her brows slightly as she lectured, “Vahn! You can’t just go around damaging the property like this! Nyuuuu~!” She had managed to say the first part of her words without letting her verbal tick show, but the groan of frustration at the end had been her limit. Tina knew she was the reason for Vahn ‘showing off’, so she was also to blame for not considering his propensity to do relatively ‘dumb’ things on occasion. She had originally imagined him leaping up casually and carrying her through the sky like a princess, not create a huge hole in the ground!

The smile on Vahn’s face froze and he turned his face towards the rising sun to experience the cold breeze that was still flowing through the air. Things really were beautiful at this height and the coming of spring made the entire world appear as though things were beginning to come to live. Trees had started to regain their green vitality as flower buds started to, ever so slightly, bloom with a variety of colors. It was like the world had started to wake up from a long period of stagnation and was beginning to show the signs of change. Vahn felt like now was a good opportunity to bring about great change in his own life as well, so he promised to be more thoughtful in the future as the cold morning air touched his fiery hot cheeks…

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