Chapter 586: Sensibilities

Shizune was very surprised to see how much her Magic parameter had grown since she didn’t actually use any abilities that should help develop the parameter. Vahn used the opportunity while she was distracted to rinse off his body before explaining, “A lot of the time, parameters can be influenced by other factors, not just the exillia you gain. If there is strong enough inspiration or emotional development, your parameters can have massive leaps…” This was something Vahn had often talked about during their lessons so Shizune understood what he was trying to say. She tried to think about what could have triggered the shift and immediately recalled the image of Vahn mowing down more than a hundred monsters with the wave of a hand…

Though he wasn’t looking at her, Vahn sensed the subtle change in Shizune once again and nodded his head, “As long as you possess the willpower to obtain what you desire, there are no restrictions on your growth. It depends on your effort and how much you believe your actions have a purpose…” Simply training often didn’t lead to real growth, as many people that trained ‘desperately’ actually had little confidence in themselves. The reason why many people were considered prodigies is simply a result of a difference in ‘perspective’. By believing their actions brought about real change, the record itself would respond to their desire and allow them to grow much stronger. Though they couldn’t influence change as much as Vahn could, as a result of The Path, there were several instances of the girls getting huge boosts in their strength after undergoing a shift in their mentality.

Checking the system time, Vahn figured that many of the girls should be returning home soon so he decided to get out of the bath and make his final preparations to receive Riveria. They hadn’t specified where the procedure would take place so Vahn needed to track down Riveria so it wouldn’t be as awkward for her. Though she was a very dutiful woman, Vahn could imagine her struggling to actually show up unless he made things very clear and set a specific time. Since she hadn’t gone into the Dungeon today, Vahn knew she was probably at the ‘Secret Garden’ with Terra.

Thinking till here, Vahn turned to Hestia and Chloe, explaining, “I have some things to take care of this afternoon, so I’ll be leaving first.” As they had already learned about the matter through the network, neither girl was surprised by his words, leaving Shizune as the only one out of the loop. Presently, she was lost in her own thoughts and hadn’t heard Vahn’s words, allowing him to escape before she understood the situation. She followed his back with her amethyst-like eyes and, though he couldn’t see it while looking away from her, Vahn was aware of a mild fluctuation in her aura. Deciding to let her mentality develop on its own, he pretended he hadn’t noticed anything and casually exited the onsen area as clothes materialized around his body…

As expected, Vahn found Riveria soaking her bare feet within the wellspring while Terra was, as usual, sunbathing with her naked back exposed to the air. Though she detected his presence, Terra just lazily moved the tips of her wings through the water and turned her head lazily in his direction. She knew he was here to ‘retrieve’ Riveria and likely wouldn’t be ‘spoiling’ her any even if she tried to incite him. Terra knew Vahn was pretty easy to ‘handle’ at times, but this didn’t apply at all when he already had plans or had decided to focus on his work. She had tried visiting his workshop once and he only spared her a glance and a smile before returning to work. Though his serious expression was very interesting to see, Terra didn’t like staying inside and even preferred laying in the rain over being within the Manor itself.

Since Terra didn’t move much while she was sunbathing, Riveria turned her head in the same direction before taking a deep breath when she saw Vahn’s arrival. She had spent the entire day ‘preparing’ her mind for what they were going to do but it hadn’t helped much. Even soaking her feet in the wellspring, something that usually made her feel very peaceful and calm, had a greatly diminished effect compared to normal. Riveria didn’t mind Vahn seeing her body naked, as they often bathed together, but it was an entirely different matter to have him touching her, especially around her stomach. However, she had no intentions of avoiding the situation and resolved herself to try and get used to the intimacy they would likely share in the future.

Walking over with a smile, Vahn helped Riveria stand up and helped support her arm and shoulder, even though she could easily stand on her own. She gave him a plain look and didn’t decline his assistance even though part of her wanted to reprimand him. As he was very receptive to the changes in her aura, Vahn gave a wry smile and explained, “I remembered that we never specified when we would be conducting the procedure and thought you might be here…sorry for making you wait, Riveria.” Though he didn’t mean anything else by it, Riveria’s mouth became small and she had a light look of blame in her eyes as an almost imperceptible blush touched her cheeks. The way he worded it made it sound like she had been ‘waiting’ for him, which wasn’t inherently wrong if she actually considered it…

Releasing a sigh, Riveria separated from Vahn’s hands and turned her back, asking, “Have you already completed the preparations…?” as she walked over to the table. Vahn set out some fresh tea for her and tossed the cold tea into his Inventory before saying, “I have all the materials and I’ve memorized the process from start to finish. Whenever you’re ready, we can-” Riveria turned her head toward Vahn and caused him to swallow his words when he saw the light blush on her face become increasingly red. He wasn’t trying to tease her so her reaction was somewhat unexpected, causing Vahn’s heart rate to accelerate quickly as the words got stuck in his throat.

Riveria frowned deeply when she saw Vahn’s expression because it only made her feel even more ‘nervous’ than she had been previously. One of the things she ‘hated’ the most about Vahn is how easy his face was to read, as he was always way too open about his thoughts and emotions, causing Riveria to get flustered far more easily than she’d like. Yes, they may have promised themselves to each other, but she didn’t think that was a justification for how ‘uncouth’ his actions were. The worst part of it all was how his look actually made her feel a little happy and ‘proud’, not because she was a High Elf, but because his affections were the only ones she had ever allowed to reach her heart. Nothing in her 97 years of life had prepared her for how to deal with her actual emotions, so Vahn’s actions were very ‘vexing’ for Riveria…

Seeing her reaction, Vahn became much calmer and decided he needed to be more decisive since Riveria would probably ‘react’ to it better than if he was roundabout. Thinking about his words, Vahn asked in a very calm tone, “Riveria, do you love me…?” This time, Vahn got to see a reaction that normally would have made his brain buzz and force him to enter a daze. This time, however, he used [Will of the Emperor] to keep his calm even though Riveria’s blushing face made him feel like immortalizing this image in a painting. Other than her eyes opening slightly, her expression hadn’t changed much except for the almost crimson blush that was ‘threatening’ to expand into her ears.

For several seconds, Riveria didn’t say anything at all until she finally averted her eyes and said, “The way I feel about you is something I don’t understand myself, Vahn, but I believe it is very close to love…” As she had seen other women in love, especially by observing the girls within the Manor, Riveria was certain she felt ‘something’ for Vahn. He had freed her from her somewhat tragic future and was now working hard to help create a better future for her entire people, something that she was infinitely grateful for.

Vahn smiled when he heard Riveria’s response and simply said, “Though it might not mean much coming from someone like me, know that I care for you deeply, Riveria…it may not be to the extent of some girls, but I do love you. You are very intelligent and have been a great mentor and companion to me…” Riveria took a deep breath through her nose and Vahn could see that she was holding her breath while listening to him. She was likely wanting to ask why he was saying all of this now, so Vahn explained, “In the future, we may have much time to spend together like this…I will likely be progressively busier as time passes and I would like for us to use these rare moments together to become closer. I don’t want our child to grow up seeing their parents acting distantly around each other…I will do my best not to tease you excessively, but I wish you would open your heart to me, Riveria…”

Since Riveria was a very rational woman, Vahn figured being direct and explaining what he was thinking would be the best method to get through to her. Though she seemed to be struggling with his words, Vahn could see a sunny yellow and a wispy pink flowing through her aura that meant she was seriously considering the matter. He had essentially used her own words against her, saying they should be loving so that their children grew up having empathy, compassion, and love. With an ‘excuse’, Vahn was confident Riveria would slowly open up to him as a matter of principle…it was a bit of a shameless tactic, but Vahn knew Riveria was a very dutiful woman and would do her best if she had the right ‘reason’.

Though Vahn’s intelligence might be lacking at times, he had become very perceptive to the thoughts and actions of others, especially the women around him. As he had anticipated, Riveria was currently mulling over his words and progressively opening up to the idea. She knew his words were true and that, regardless of how much she tried to resist her own emotions, Vahn would eventually break down her walls. Putting it off didn’t benefit anyone and only made it more difficult for her to interact with him because of her own thoughts. Riveria already worried that she was taking advantage of Vahn and sometimes got lost in her own guilty thoughts when she was going over the research journals he had given her.

Vahn had actually given her many things…a brighter future for herself, a path for her people, magical knowledge, insights into her own research, and various kinds of other support, both emotional and physical. She, however, had given him next to nothing and only burdened the relatively young boy with, not just her problems, but the problems of her entire Kingdom. The one thing she had given him, other than a bit of advice, was a ‘promise’ to be with him so that he wouldn’t have to bear her burdens on his own. However, even after making such a promise, Riveria hadn’t actually opened her heart to him and, being the somewhat sensible boy he was at times, Vahn hadn’t actually pushed her to accept him and often ‘behaved’ solely out of consideration for her mentality…

Putting everything into perspective, Riveria was shocked to realize that she had actually been one-sidedly gaining advantages from Vahn while he constantly exercised patience on her behalf. Because of her own inhibitions, Vahn had been ‘giving’ to her constantly while she just sat in the garden he made…talking to the True Dragon he had created…drinking the expensive and delicious tea he had given her…reading the books and notes that he had taken…all because she couldn’t ‘tolerate’ the idea of exposing her heart so easily. Even goddesses had given themselves to Vahn, yet her own pride and sensibilities made her act like she was ‘special’ and ‘unique’ when the only thing she had been was ‘present’ in a very convenient situation for herself…

Vahn shook his head at this point and said in a gentle and guiding tone, “Riveria, you are an incredibly intelligent woman…but let me give you a bit of advice that one of my greatest mentors had given me in the past…I’ve found that it has made life a lot easier at times, hahaha~.” Riveria raised her somewhat pale face and it was very clear she was confused, both by Vahn’s words and her own thoughts. Vahn smiled before standing with his arms akimbo, just like Tsubaki always did when she was lecturing and teasing others, “You think too much…loosen up and be more decisive. Why have regrets about the actions you’ve taken when you can simply make better decisions in the future?”

Hearing Vahn’s words, Riveria’s mind actually blanked and she gave him an incredulous look as if she had just heard the most ridiculous thing in the world. She could actually imagine Tsubaki saying something like that to Vahn, as even Riveria believed he overthought things at times. Most of the things he said, at least when he was trying to motivate people, sounded like the foolish words of an idealist, or a boy trying to ‘act’ the role of someone with great insight. The difficult thing to comprehend was that Vahn obviously said his ‘silly’ words very seriously, almost like he was giving a speech without actually thinking about the context of his words. This time, however, his words were very easy to understand and Riveria felt like there was more truth in the simple statement than anything they had previously discussed.

Seeing Riveria’s expression soften and the color return to her face, Vahn showed a gentle smile and, even though every instinct in his body told him not to, pushed his luck and said, “I promise that I won’t do anything strange to you during the procedure…even though I’ll admit, it is very tempting to see how you would react…” Though he had already prepared himself for one of Riveria’s outbursts, the only thing she did was look at him with a slightly complicated expression on her face, almost as if she was in seriously thinking about his words. Vahn couldn’t stop himself from swallowing his saliva, this time causing Riveria’s blush to slowly creep up on her cheeks like watching wine spread through a satin cloth.

At this point, the atmosphere had become strangely tense and it wasn’t until an unexpected element was introduced that the tensions ‘broke’. Terra had been watching the scene play out with interest but grew increasingly frustrated the more she saw Riveria hesitating. She couldn’t comprehend why Riveria, who often talked about Vahn’s research and the ‘future’ he would create, was hesitating when it was very clear she wanted to move their relationship forward as well. As one of the few people that couldn’t easily get close to Vahn, Terra was very annoyed by the proceedings because she would have immediately taken the leap if she had been in the same situation. When Riveria looked over, Terra squinted her eyes slightly before laying her head back down on her roost, as if she had ‘lost interest’ in the farce that was taking place.

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Riveria felt awkward for a very different reason now because she had actually ‘forgotten’ about Terra’s presence when she had been talking with Vahn. This time, her blush crept into her ears and she didn’t miss the fact that the corner of Vahn’s mouth raised slightly the moment the heat touched her ears. After taking a quick breath and ‘huffing’ it out, Riveria mustered up her resolve and raised her head ‘proudly’, saying, “You are the ‘man’ that is going to be my husband…the father of my children…and the Master I have recognized as a result of your incredible capabilities…if that is your wish, I will abide by your desires and do my best to…satisfy you as both your wife and disciple…” He had already been a little overwhelmed by Riveria’s blushing face but her words had completely pushed him over the edge. Vahn originally expected that Riveria would make some mild concessions but now it was sounding like she was ‘allowing’ him to do whatever he wanted…

Deciding he would rather ‘discover’ the limits of her words instead of asking her to clarify them, Vahn pushed his [Will of the Emperor] a bit so he could keep his focus and said, “Very well, Riveria. Though we aren’t married yet, from this point on you are my fiancee…since we don’t have a sacred tree to pledge our vows to, I will leave the decision to you for how you want to proceed. If you’d like me to decide, however, I already have something in mind I believe is suitable…” At this point, Riveria’s blush had reached the tips of her very long and pointy ears and there was a ‘pouting’ expression on her face as she asked, “What did you have in mind…Vahn?” Realizing she was essentially asking how he’d like to marry her, Riveria could feel her heart beating in her throat and swallowed hard as if she could force it back down into her chest.

Vahn pointed toward the sky, causing Riveria to look up habitually only to see nothing but clear blue skies overhead. To answer her question before she even answered it, Vahn smiled and said, “We should get married in a private ceremony high above the rest of the world…what we’re trying to do is reshape the destiny of the entire continent, so I believe it is very suitable…what do you think, my fiancee~?” With her ‘permission’, Vahn couldn’t help but tease Riveria a bit because he wanted her to slowly get used to it. He had no intentions of riling her up, but simple words like these shouldn’t be something that sets her off in the future…

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Remembering the overview of the world from high in the sky, Riveria’s mind entered a bit of a daze because it really had been a beautiful and awe-inspiring sight. If she took Vahn’s words into consideration, it really did seem like a suitable place to make vows that could quite literally impact the future of the entire continent below. However, when she remembered her other memories related to that past even, Riveria’s blush reached a critical level because she recalled her embarrassing freefall and her hour-long embrace with Vahn. Since the atmosphere had been very cold, even with her barrier, Riveria could distinctly recall his warmth and the massive aura he had spread out to protect her from the wind.

Seeing Riveria’s aura turn a very hot pink in color, Vahn thought she found the idea very interesting and released a sigh of relief before nodding his head and saying, “That settles it then…when you’re prepared, we will ascend to the skies above this world and pledge ourselves to each other. If you’re worried about your image, we can have just the gods and goddess of the Alliance to stand witness. I believe Eina, Ryuu, and Lefiya would like to come along though…and maybe those two from the Guild…Sierra and Pram…?” Riveria came back to her senses halfway through Vahn’s words and realized he had already ‘decided’ they would be getting married in the near future. Her heart was beating powerfully in her chest and Riveria felt like her vision was beginning to get hazy…

Vahn’s eyes widened and he stepped forward with [Shundo], catching Riveria’s body as her legs buckled. He had never expected her to nearly faint all of a sudden since she typically had strong willpower and should have been able to resist the urge just by stimulating her mana a bit. She didn’t seem to be thinking straight and Vahn immediately felt regret for ‘teasing’ her too hard, placing his hand on her forehead to help calm her mind. Riveria’s eyes slowly opened a few seconds later and she just stared blankly at his face as the warm and calming energy passed through her mind.

Riveria normally had Vahn channel mana into her back and had never allowed him to ‘pet’ her like he did the other girls. Unexpectedly, Riveria found his touch neither repulsive or taxing to her sensibilities…no, the only thing she could feel was a gentle warmth and a very pleasant and calming sensation as the ‘threads’ of Vahn’s [Petting] Development Ability spread through her body. Completely contrary to her usual character, Riveria squinted her eyes slightly and Vahn’s brain began to buzz when he saw the contented smile on her face. Though it wasn’t the first time he marveled at his own ability, Vahn felt awed by how ‘effective’ his [Petting] was for it to even affect someone like Riveria…

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//[Petting] Development Ability Increased To Rank A//

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