Chapter 557: Doing what one wants…

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Vahn ended up leaving the Twilight Manor alongside Arnya and Aki after preparing breakfast for the three girls. As cooking was something he liked to do recreationally, Loki didn’t have much to say about it other than the compliments she had for the food itself. He was in no way a qualified chef, but Vahn’s attention to detail and his knowledge of recipes allowed him to make most dishes to a reasonable degree. Many of the foods he cooked used recipes from different records, so they had always been popular which made Vahn feel happy. He liked seeing the girls eating the food he cooked, just as the girls that cooked for him loved watching him eat.

Deciding to enjoy the cool morning air together, Vahn walked hand-in-hand with both girls as they slowly made their way towards the Hearth Manor. It would easily take them more than two hours to travel there on foot, but the journey was peaceful and pleasant so there was no need to hurry. As he had decided to make the trip in his Cat Person form, as it made him feel closer to the two girls, he got to experience the rather interesting event of walking with their tails intertwined. Arnya’s tail was a bit short, because she had apparently had the end cut off when she was younger, but it was more than enough given how close together they were. Even when people gave them strange looks, as it was rather uncommon to see someone escorting two pregnant girls through the City, they just returned polite smiles or outright ignored them.

By the time they reached the Manor, the sun had already peeked up over the surrounding hills and had begun to cast its gentle rays upon the land. As if the cold front from the previous day had been an illusion, there was a warmth in the air and, as Vahn’s sense of smell was very strong right now, he could smell the fragrance of the grass and trees as they emanated subtle ripples of natural energy. Once they reached the front gate, Arnya slowed her steps and Vahn felt a little at a loss when her tail separated from his. She gave him a gentle smile and said, “You should go spend some time with the others, unless you really want to spend time with me~? I don’t mind, but I’m certain there are other things you could be doing right nyow.” Aki used this as an opportunity to separate her own tail from Vahn, albeit with a little bit of difficulty as they had ‘coiled’ around each other. Vahn’s control over his tail was subpar at best, so she giggled as she peeled his tail away from her’s.

Vahn smiled and took one last deep breath of the morning air as his body visibly began to change into his human form. After undergoing a shift in his mentality, Vahn realized Humans were as much an animal as any other race and had been able to use [Thria*Mimos] to accelerate his transformations. Instead of spending almost an hour to make the change, Vahn could manage it within five minutes, though drastic changes would take a much longer period of time. When he opened his eyes, Vahn said, “Before we part, I would like to embrace you both and give you a kiss…” Aki and Arnya made brief eye contact with each other before simultaneously walking forward and giving Vahn a hug. He was a little surprised, but loosely held their waists and gave them both a fairly long, yet admittedly tame, kiss on the lips.

Before they went on their way, Arnya placed her palm over Vahn’s heart and looked into his eyes with a soft expression as she said, “Vahn, you really are one of the strongest people I’ve met in my life. However…it is never the role of one person to bear the burdens of another. Just like when we first promised ourselves to each other, let’s do our best to share the burdens…together.” Vahn nodded and gave Arnya’s face one final caress before seeing her off as she followed behind Aki and ‘retreated’ toward the Manor. Vahn felt a little awkward because, unless he went a different direction it would almost be like he was following. Of course, with his [Shundo] it wasn’t difficult to avoid such awkwardness so he vanished from the front courtyard and walked back out into the street to think about his next course of action.

His mind was in a peculiar state right now, but Vahn also felt a sense of liberation knowing that things would stabilize a little. He was looking forward to spending time with the girls individually because there were many he had actually never been alone with. They way they acted in a group was always distinctly different than if they were alone, so Vahn was looking forward to the quality time they would share in the future. Before that, however, Vahn had decided to put another matter to rest because one of the biggest points behind his frustration were the enemies lurking in the darkness.

Walking down the street with his hands in pocket, Vahn aimlessly watched the random passersby as he sent a signal to Terra, Fafnir, and Fenrir. As he hadn’t been that far away, Vahn could hear the sound of footsteps less than a minute later as Fenrir came trotting out of the front gate wearing her adorable little maid outfit and carrying an unpeeled banana between her two paws as she made her way over to him. Vahn cocked his head to the side and asked, “Why do you have a banana, Fenrir?” As if he just asked her the most difficult to answer question in the entire world, Fenrir’s eyes turned round as saucers and she stared at the banana in her paws with abject terror in her expression.

Vahn arched his brow in confusion before a fluttering silhouette dropped down shortly thereafter, belonging to the ‘naturally beautiful’ Terra who smiled elegantly and said, “Good morning, Master~.” She flicked her wings to before tucking them up behind her and walking forward to receive head pats from Vahn. He absentmindedly reached out his hand to stroke Terra’s head as he once again asked, “Fenrir, why do you have a banana?” Fenrir’s ‘terrified’ expression slowly turned a little darker as clear frustration built up on her face and she furrowed her brows deeply. Her scarlet eyes began to glow and, for the first time in his life, Vahn saw Fenrir’s face show a very light blush as she said, “Gnuuu, Fenrir was practicing…”

It took a while for the gears in his head to begin spinning fast enough to understand what Fenrir must have been ‘practicing’. As if to demonstrate, Fenrir opened her mouth and tried to take the banana into her cheek but, while she had some small success, the part nearest to her teeth began to dissolve away which made her expression turn sour as she chomped the entire banana down in one ‘large’ bite. Vahn released a sigh and just plopped his hand down on her head, saying, “Fenrir, keep working hard, but don’t push yourself to do strange things. If you’re lonely, just let me know and we can spend time together. Just like in the past, you can always come and watch me in my workshop if you want…”

Fenrir squinted her eyes and enjoyed Vahn’s caress as random passersby looked at their interaction with a bit of incredulity in their gazes. Some of the men had seen Fenrir’s actions with the banana and had sly grins on their faces at first until immediately becoming pale after seeing the final state of the banana, complete annihilation. There was even one rather unfortunate middle-aged man that looked like he had dislocated his hip and was using a nearby wall as support as he held his thighs together…

Vahn looked around and inspected the nearby shadows before asking, “Where is Fafnir?” since he figured Terra would probably have the answer. Terra nodded her head and explained, “Fafnir was playing with Tina in the inner courtyard and I told them I would find out the situation since you could always call him over very quickly.” Hearing her explanation, Vahn nodded his head since Fafnir was just a ‘failsafe’ for what he intended to do. Fafnir could cross the entire City in less than a minute if it was going full speed, with a similar rate of speed if it took the shadows as a medium, so there was no real need to pull it away from Tina if they were having fun.

After considering the matter, Vahn pulled his hands away from Terra and Fenrir so they could focus properly and explained, “Terra, Fenrir, I want to see if we can find any traces of the earth mage that has been annoying me lately. We’ll go inspect the tunnels where I encountered them last to see if Fenrir can pick up the scent. Since your mastery over the earth should be far greater than their’s, I will always rely on you to counter them if they try to trigger a trap. They seem to have some basic control over earth elemental energy and had even been able to escape through the earth previously…” Terra’s eyes squinted slightly and her tail flicked against the ground with a surprising amount of force that cracked one of the cobblestones.

Vahn was somewhat confused by her action until she explained, “That little ant actually tried to burrow into one of the side tunnels while you were away last night. I tried to capture them, but they were outside of my domain and I don’t have that much power when I leave my territory…”Terra was very annoyed by the ‘pest’ that had been antagonizing her Master and she was looking forward to helping squash it if necessary. Vahn was surprised to learn there had been an attempt to infiltrate the Manor last night and asked, “Who else knows about this, Terra?” She blinked her eyes in confusion before saying, “Everyone~? I told Hephaestus, Hestia, Riveria, and Syr, and I believe they told everyone else.”

Vahn released a sigh and realized that it must have been kept from him since it would have made the earlier explanations more difficult. After all, it didn’t make a big difference when he learned about the attempted infiltration since there wasn’t much he could do about it without picking up the trail directly. Just knowing that the earth mage had tried something was a ‘good’ sign though. as it showed that they were still actively trying to interfere with the Hestia Familia and hadn’t left the City, at least before this morning. It also showed they were paying attention to his movements and may even be watching him now, though hopefully not to the extent they were able to hear his rather quiet conversation with the two girls.

After thinking about it for a moment, Vahn realized there was a ‘sharper’ mind present so he asked, “Terra, what do you think we should do to try an capture this person? I’d like to interrogate them to find out where the came from but, if they turn out to be too much trouble, we can kill them if necessary.” Terra’s wings twitched open a bit before she caressed her left arm with her right hand and said, “Sorry, Master, but I would like to avoid being involved in any killing. If they attack the Manor, I think I could do it, but I don’t want to hunt them down. If it’s just finding them, however, I believe I could follow their scent just as well as Fenrir if I trace the ambient earth elemental energies they left behind.”

Terra was still a pacifist, both by nature and by virtue of her own Development Ability, so she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of tracking someone down just to kill them. Capturing wouldn’t be a problem but, unless she ‘had’ to protect her Master, she wouldn’t kill anyone. Even if the earth mage was a ‘pest’ that she wanted to squash, that enmity was restricted to wanting to protect her home and didn’t carry over when they were outside her territory. However, she could strangely imagine killing them if they affronted her Master, which made her feel a little strange and scared about the changes in her own mentality. Vahn blew these away, however, when he reached out his hand and gently stroked her head, saying, “I won’t allow you to become a killer, Terra. I also don’t appreciate unnecessary killings, so I’ll try to capture them and reach a compromise if possible…”

Vahn didn’t even like the thought of Fenrir killing an actual person, even going so far as to place severe restrictions on her in the past. If he could avoid having them take the life of another, that would be the most ideal situation as they were both relatively ‘pure’ beings. Fenrir might be a little ‘fluffy murder machine’, but that was something he wanted her to direct towards monsters and not people. She had made great strides in her mental growth and Vahn wanted to protect her paws from becoming tainted with the blood of villains if at all possible. As for Terra, he had originally promised her a life where she wouldn’t have to fight and he wasn’t going to push her forward out of his own selfishness.

After coming up with a plan of action, Vahn took Fenrir and Terra down into the underground passage that had been restored after its previous collapse. As the network of tunnels was more problematic to remove than it was to make use of, the Alliance had been sending patrols through it and actually used it to cut across some other properties as a short cut of sorts. Vahn activated his [Eyes of Truth] and sent pulses of energy through the tunnels as Terra placed her bare hands against the wall and touched around various spots with the tips of her wings. She also stepped forward in a strange manner and Vahn could feel her energy dispersing into the floor, walls, and ceiling before it retracted back into her body. As for Fenrir, she was smelling around the tunnel with her [Huntress] active and was determined to hunt down the earth mage to make her Master happy.

For more than two hours, they continued progressing through the tunnels, even crossing paths with a three-person patrol group that was very surprised to see Vahn. Even though he wasn’t in charge of them, the three men gave him a respectful salute so Vahn exchanged a few pleasantries with them before moving on. They were some of the lower rung troops in the Eirene Familia, so they had a lot of respect for Vahn’s accomplishments. Eirene often showed up during their mass dinners and recounted Vahn’s tales as a form of inspiration and she wasn’t shy when it came to laying on the praises regarding his character and accomplishments. Vahn felt a little embarrassed to hear about this from the three guards and told them to give Eirene his regards if they came across her before he did.

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Once the small patrol had left, in much higher spirits than they had been in initially, Terra commented, “Master, I believe I should be able to trace the earth mages mana now. We just need to find a fresher trail and they wouldn’t be able to escape my senses~.” Fenrir’s large fluffy ears perked up at Terra’s words and she seemed somewhat upset because she hadn’t found any scents that would be helpful. There were many different aromas in the tunnels, but Fenrir wasn’t confident any of them belonged to the earth mage because they smelled very ‘normal’. Since she didn’t have a base scent to work with, as the original site hadn’t offered them any leads, she was at a significant disadvantage compared to Terra.

Vahn ruffled Fenrir’s head and said, “Don’t be jealous of your own little sister, Fenrir.” before turning to Terra and asking, “What would be the best method to find their trail? Do you have anything in mind?” Having Vahn defer to her about her opinion made Terra feel very fluttery and she couldn’t stop her own wings from wiggling in satisfaction as she smiled and said, “Even when I fly above the City, I can still sense the flow of mana through the earth. If there are any large fluctuations or concentrated areas where the mana density is higher, we could check there and potentially find the trail. I believe we can even pinpoint their location over time if Big Sis discovers any scents that match the ones she already picked up in the tunnels~”

Hearing Terra’s words, Fenrir’s ears twitched and a crude smile appeared on her face as a result of the fact she was in her [Huntress] form. She had actually gotten much better at smiling recently, but her [Huntress] made her look far wilder since her teeth became very sharp, her hairs raised like the hackles of an animal, and the claws on her paws became much longer. Vahn shook his head slightly with a smile because this was another incident of Terra showing how well she could ‘handle’ other people, especially her own siblings. Unfortunately, he had no idea that Terra also played him quite hard on occasion, though she had ‘suffered’ for it a few times as a result of underestimating him.

After leaving the tunnels, Terra turned into her dragon form, effectively spooking surrounding Adventurers before they realized what was going on. She was sometimes seen flying around the sky above the Alliance so Terra was one of Vahn’s known ‘tamed’ monsters. Few people had seen her human form, however, even though the rumors about its existence had already spread through the City. Fenrir had become a bit of a mascot for the Hestia Familia after many of the older men talked about how adorable she was when they had gone out drinking.

Many of the older generation said Fenrir reminded them a lot of their adorable granddaughters and it was amazing how Vahn was able to help monsters evolve into a human form. The Ganesha Familia had heard the rumors as well so Ganesha had actually been negotiating with the leaders of the Alliance to get Vahn to put on another exhibition in the future. Though it irked her to no end, he had even tried to use Shakti as a ‘bargaining’ chip at times, saying that she really needs to find a man and settle down if she didn’t want to end up as an old maid…

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