Chapter 558: Tracking

Vahn was slowly flying around above the City atop Terra’s back with Fenrir sitting snuggly in his lap with her ears angled back so they wouldn’t flop around in the wind. They had already been flying around for more than two hours at this point, but Vahn enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere as he loosely held Fenrir with one of his palms against Terra’s back to make sure she had enough energy.

With everything that had happened the previous night, extending a bit into this morning, Vahn had felt very reflective and he wanted to start ‘enjoying’ things as Loki had said. Since both Fenrir and Terra simply liked to be around him, Vahn wanted to bring them some small comforts when they were together…

Unfortunately, peaceful times never seemed to last long enough and Terra eventually started to circle around slowly within an area before spreading her wings wide and coming to a stop mid-air. Her feathers gently rustled with the wind and they remained nearly stationary in the air as she said, “Master, I believe we can find the trail here…” Vahn activated his [Eyes of Truth] and looked beyond Terra’s body to see where they were currently located and it seemed to be a simple market and grocer where people could buy agricultural goods and other common items. There were numerous people that were looking toward them, many even pointing as it was still rather uncommon to see a dragon in the airspace above the City, especially outside of the Alliance’s territory.

After thinking for a short while, Vahn ran his palm along Terra’s ‘grassy’ back and said, “Let’s land…it doesn’t matter to me if it causes a bit of trouble. If the earth mage is in the area and tries to escape with their magic, we’ll be able to track them more easily.” The rustling in Terra’s wings became a bit louder as their elevation began to drop at a relatively slow and steady pace. She was giving the people below enough time to clear out but, though a large circle had opened inside the small market, there was still a large crowd. Unlike the intimidating Fafnir, Terra was very elegant and beautiful even in her dragon form so many people were curious about her since she didn’t seem hostile.

Once they landed, Terra returned to her humanoid form in a blinding green light and caused an even larger stir when, instead of an elegant and beautiful dragon, an exotic woman with similar qualities took its place. Vahn extended his domain as a pulse and gave the crowd a bit of a start but didn’t put any pressure to intimidate them. He wanted people to have a better impression of him, though not to the extent they simply ‘swarmed’ him whenever he was out and about. His own calming aura, combined with the actual calming aura of Terra, permeated through the area and gave people a warm and reminiscent feeling even though Vahn was very clearly ‘cautioning’ them to stay away.

Though she was still in her cute little maid outfit, Fenrir crouched down and began to smell around in the area, fortunately remembering that she shouldn’t keep her butt up in the air since she was in public. As for Terra, she was sending pulses through the ground as her eyes wandered about until she found what she was looking for and said, “Master, it’s over there~.” The ‘trail’ that Terra had discovered was near a small shop that sold potatoes, cornmeal, and other relatively cheap winter vegetables and goods. Vahn approached the vendor, a homely woman who looked to be in her late fifties, and said, “Good morning, ma’am, have you seen any strange characters around this area lately?”

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The old woman raised her brow in a curious manner and smiled in a kindly, yet teasing, manner as she asked, “You mean, other than yourself and your little entourage?” Vahn turned to look at Terra, wearing an elegant robe, that made her look like a Noble, and the adorable little Fenrir that was sniffing around the produce while making sure not to touch anything. They were indeed a little ‘strange’ compared to the norm, himself included, so Vahn chuckled and said, “Sorry to both you like this, but yes, someone ‘other’ than us.” The woman’s smile widened marginally and she explained, “Well, I don’t get too many customers lad, other than a few of the desperate sorts. As for any strange ones, there has been a rather stressed-looking fellow comin’ about lately who always seemed a bit worse-for-wear. The poor dear looks like the world ‘as come crashin’ down on his head so I gave him a few of my spare stock to give him a bit ‘a hope that things’ll get better.”

As if the woman’s words were a trigger, Fenrir’s hair stood on end and became marginally more pointy as her eyes began to glow with a fierce scarlet light. The woman shuddered as Vahn blocked Fenrir’s line-of-sight so she wouldn’t feel as intimidated. With an apologetic expression, Vahn explained, “I’m Vahn Mason, Sage Aldrnari and Captain of the Hestia Familia. These are two of my ‘tamed monsters’, so please don’t hold it against Fenrir. We’re currently trying to track someone down, so you’ve been a great help to us. It’s not much, but please accept this as compensation for your troubles and as gratitude for the information you provided.” Vahn handed the woman a small pouch that contained ten platinum coins worth a total of 10,000 Valis each. When she saw the amount, the woman seemed to have forgotten her fear entirely and showed a smile as she said, “You’re very welcome, Mr. Mason. I’ve heard many stories of your kindness and benevolence, but I never expected to be on the receiving end one day. I hope you find what you’re lookin’ for…”

After leaving behind the stall, which the woman immediately began closing up, Vahn led Terra and Fenrir a bit away from the crowd and asked, “Did you lock on to the scent, Fenrir?” She was already flexing her claws as if she was ready to pounce so the answer was very obvious. When she heard him ask, Fenrir nodded her head with a fierce glint in her eyes and said, “Fenrir smells the dirty mage! Fenrir won’t let them get away, no matter what!” Once something had been identified by Fenrir, it didn’t even matter if they tried to hide behind formations of buried themselves deep into the earth, she would eventually be able to track them down because her [Huntress] would become increasingly more effective the more she wanted to find them.

Terra had her characteristic smile on her face, but she didn’t seem content simply standing idle so she said, “When the mage left the stall, they used their earth magic to tunnel into the ground nearby and there are still traces of their mana disturbing the natural elemental energies. I believe they are hiding underground, Master, so we may have to set a trap unless you want to try and capture them another way?” Vahn’s eyes squinted at Terra’s words and asked, “Can you sense where they might have gone based on the flow of mana? I can’t imagine they are deeper than five-hundred meters so I should be able to find them unless there is something obscuring my detection…”

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Hearing Vahn’s words, Terra’s wings flickered and the released a somewhat ‘mocking’ laughter as she said, “I doubt that little rat could burrow that deep without putting themselves at great risk. I’ll follow the trail and inspect the ground while Big Sis can try to pick up the trail on the surface. Master, I know your eyes and domain can penetrate through solid structures, but don’t force yourself too hard. When I find their burrow, I’ll let you know where it’s at~.” Vahn hadn’t discussed it too much, but it was a fact that his domain and [Eyes of Truth] weren’t perfect. The deeper he looked into an object and the more he ‘focused’ his vision to see specific things, the greater the consumption of mental energies. As for his domain, it could subtly be interfered with by any physical object, especially those with large amounts of mana, but it was typically not that great an issue since his source energy would simply push beyond it if he pushes his [Will of the Emperor] to the limits.

After considering the matter for a short moment, Vahn nodded his head with a smile and said, “Let’s go for a walk. It’s quite nice outside and it’s a good chance to get the two of you a bit of public exposure.” Hearing the phrase ‘walk’, Fenrir got a bit excited because walking with her Master was usually a very ‘fun’ thing for her. Seeing the change in her expression, Vahn smiled and ruffled Fenrir’s fur before turning his back to her so she could climb on. This wasn’t the first time he had given her a piggyback ride in her maid outfit so, at some point in the past, Fenrir had started to wear white satin knickers that Milan called ‘pumpkin pants’. This allowed her dress to ride up a bit without exposing her butt for the world to see, something Fenrir had become sensitive about over time.

Terra titled her head slightly and watched this interaction between Vahn and Fenrir with a strangely ‘distant’ look in her eyes that Vahn hadn’t missed. He sent her a wink, causing the intelligent beauty to raise her brows slightly before he said, “When we get back to the Manor, I’ll help you groom your wings and you can tell me about everything you’ve been learning recently.” Though her expression didn’t change much, Terra’s wings wiggled about happily and she said, “That sounds wonderful, Master~.” as a strangely ‘fierce’ look appeared in her eyes. She hadn’t been too motivated about finding the mage before, but now Terra looked like the mage owed her a great debt, which she now wanted to collect…

Since Terra’s ability to sense the mage’s mana was suited for the task of tracking down the mage a little better than Fenrir’s nose, Vahn walked alongside her while Fenrir took the opportunity to play around with Vahn’s ears, as he had turned into a Vanargandr to pacify her. She seemed especially fond of the large midnight blue ears on his head and, though she tried to play it cool as if it hadn’t happened, there was one point where Fenrir licked his right ear out of curiosity. As long as she didn’t try putting it in her mouth, Vahn didn’t mind her antics too much and just made conversation with Terra as they slowly made their way through the alleyways.

Because she was sending pulses into the ground, Terra would stop every few meters to make sure she was going the right direction and they eventually found their way into the outskirts of Daedelus Street after almost three hours of ‘leisurely’ strolling through the City. It bothered Vahn a bit that they were near Daedelus Street, but he assumed it wasn’t for the reasons he was concerned about. Syr still came into this area on occasion to visit Maria’s Orphanage, but she always used the secret passageways and usually had the escort of Ryuu and Fafnir. If it turned out the mage was targetting her or, even worse, eyeing the children of the orphanage to get leverage against her, Vahn would bring down his wrath upon their head without any mercy…

The population density of Daedelus Street was very high and there were numerous despotic individuals, scoundrels, and others that were involved in criminal activities. Though the vast majority were relatively peaceful, as they had ‘fled’ to Daedelus Street for various reasons, there was no end to the number of people that would congregate together to take advantage of such people. As they stood out a great deal, several of such individuals had eyed up their three-person group as potential marks only to find themselves wavering at the last moment when Vahn turned his attention to them. He hadn’t seen a single person above Level 2, so they were a bunch of rabble in the grand scheme of things. They couldn’t even sense the vast disparity in power between themselves and their ‘targets’ so Vahn gave them a ‘light’ punishment depending on the color of their aura.

For those with black auras, Vahn converged his aura on them in an instant to cause them to experience something akin to a mental collapse. They would eventually recover, but not without the help of other people. To have an aura that dark, they must have been intending to cause serious harm or had potentially even done things like ‘murder’. Vahn knew it wasn’t exactly his place to judge people, unless he caught them in the act or had solid proof of their wrongdoings, so he simply punished them for the slight against him. However, they got off very easy compared to the people that had dark auras intermixed with greens, pungent yellows, and sickly pinks.

Every time Vahn saw someone with such a disgusting aura, he knew they were people that had likely ruined many lives and committed horrible acts to the living. Seeing the way they ‘eyed’ up Fenrir and Terra from a distance made him sick to his stomach while both girls had cold and fierce looks on their faces. Such people were often things like rapists, slave traders, or deviants, so Vahn showed them absolutely no mercy at all and used [Enkidu] to pierce them directly through their hearts. It was much easier for Vahn to forgive someone that had cruelly murdered another person than it was for him to show leniency towards those who brought great burdens to the living. The denial of freedom, be it physically, mentally, or even emotionally, were things he couldn’t tolerate and he wouldn’t hesitate to pass his own form of judgment on them for even ‘considering’ such acts in regards to his companions.

After making their way deep into the labyrinthine structure of Daedelus Street, Terra came to a stop and showed a somewhat cold expression as she said, “Master, it should be below…” Vahn had already sensed the presence of many people under the streets, but this was normal as the artificial labyrinth also existed beneath Daedelus Street. He planned to explore it when he learned Magia Erebea, but it seemed he might have an earlier opportunity of the earth mage was hiding in the area. It made sense they would pick such a place as their base of operations as the sheer complexity of the corridors below gave them a distinct advantage.

Using his domain, Vahn tried to identify any energy signature that could belong to the earth mage based on the color of their mana and the size of their aura. He knew the mage was only around Level 2 or 3, and there was a good chance they would have a pure earth elemental affinity. Vahn suspected there was little chance they would always be using the item that conceal their presence and, after dismissing several hundred other signatures, Vahn found one in a room that was isolated from the others. His [Eyes of Truth] activated at the same time as his domain became entirely indiscernible from the surrounding environment.

Without creating any fluctuations that might be detected, Vahn peered into the room and saw a scene of devastation, almost like the room had undergone a fierce battle. Vahn furrowed his brows because he could see a thin man sitting on the edge of an earthen bed holding his head, clearly frustrated as they were currently crying. If not for the dark aura and the deep ‘seething’ red permeating through it, Vahn would have felt pity for them. For now, the only thing he felt was a bit of intrigue and an urge to thrash the fellow that had caused him so much stress over the last few months. It was clear they were likely hired to kill him but, depending on how things played out, several other people would have gotten involved. Vahn had no doubt the man would have tried to target those close to him if they had given him the opportunity so he couldn’t really feel much empathy for the crying man.

Though she had likely already locked on to the area herself, Vahn explained, “He is around 73m below us in an isolated room away from the other underground corridors…” Terra nodded her head and muttered, “I can’t extend my domain here without dispelling the one at the Manor, but I can prevent them from trying to escape through the earth. Even the sun rose from the West, I still wouldn’t believe they have greater control over the elements of nature than I do~.” Vahn gave her a curious look that caused Terra to laugh in a playful manner as she spread her wing tips to the ground and sent pulses of energy through the earth. Vahn could sense the relatively stagnant energy within the various underground corridors become ‘alert’ as they awaited Terra’s orders.

It was extremely difficult to interfere with the control of another person, which is why Vahn’s own abilities shocked Riveria greatly, so there was little chance the earth mage would be able to wrest control away from Terra. The fact that she used source energy also gave her an edge that couldn’t be overcome unless the earth mage really did rely on a powerful Innate ability for their mastery over the earth. However, even if that were the case, Vahn wasn’t too worried because he had his own means to prevent the earth mage from escaping…

Pale golden energy began to spread through his domain, a phenomenon he couldn’t prevent from occurring whenever he used [Enkidu], and Vahn used all nine chains to assault the distraught earth mage who had absolutely no time to prepare himself. Before they could even rise from the bed, Vahn had coiled their body up with [Enkidu] before releasing a long sigh of relief. With Terra’s superior capabilities, the earth mage was much easier to deal with when he proactively hunted them down rather than waiting for them to take action. Given that there was a massive difference in their capabilities, there wasn’t even a fight to be had and the poor fool couldn’t even move an inch under the immovable bindings.

Shaking his head, Vahn scanned around the area to make sure he hadn’t overlooked anything before turning to Terra and saying, “Let’s go find out who sent this assassin to target us. I already have a good idea of who it was, but it wouldn’t hurt to verify things directly.” Terra’s smile had brightened greatly when she sensed what had occurred below the ground. Her Master had very easily captured the annoying list pest that tried to sneak into her territory, without having to go to any extremes that caused them to have to fight. If things could be settled peacefully, Terra believed that was for the best…unfortunately, Vahn wasn’t thinking the same thing and he believed with was simply the opening act for what would likely be a war between himself and the Rakia Kingdom…

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