Vahn let the small ball of flame energy hover just above his hands and realized there wasn’t actually any heat radiating from its surface, as would be emitted by a normal flame. When he held it in his palms, however, Vahn noticed that the surface itself was easily several thousand degrees and, if not for his immunity to fire, he likely would have burned himself severely, if not making a hole clear through his hand. Many potential applications of the orb came to mind but, with his [Eyes of Truth] active, Vahn could see that the flame elemental energy was slowly returning to the void over time without anything to keep it stabilized. It slowly started to expand after a few minutes had passed and Vahn realized it was trying to disperse as heat began to radiate from it once it reached around 10cm in size from its original 4cm.
This ‘accidental’ discovery showed that it was possible for pure elemental energy to exist, at least temporarily, in a stable form that wasn’t bound by conventional laws. Flame energy typically radiated a great deal of heat yet, when it was ‘pure’ flame elemental energy, it was almost perfectly contained. Vahn suspected it was the introduction of other elemental energies, such as when the ball came into contact with the ground, or even his own hands, that began to destabilize it. Instead of being bound solely by flame elemental laws, it was now coming under the influence of various other laws and needed to obtain a state of equilibrium by expanding and absorbing other elemental energies. Given enough time, it would simply disperse back into the void, likely by exploding or expanding to a point where its density made it able to slip back into the imperceptible gaps of the void itself.
Not knowing how big the resultant explosion might be, Vahn controlled the expanding ball of flame elemental energy and shot high up into the sky at several times the speed of sound. If not for the fact it took nearly half his energy reserves to make the 4cm ball, Vahn speculated it would be a powerful means of attack since it should be able to burn through almost anything. Now, he just waited to see what would happen to the ball once it left his control so he shot it out of his domain and allowed it to continue upwards until, nearly a minute later, a bright light exploded in the sky thousands of meters above the City. It was almost like the twinkle of a star except that it was currently early in the morning and the sun had already started to rise in the east.
Vahn felt a powerful ripple crash into his domain as the temperature of the air for several kilometers was increased by a few degrees in an instant. As it was early in the morning, the air temperature was very cool and there was even a light layer of fog in many areas of the City. Now, at least in the airspace above the Alliance, most of the fog dissipated completely and there was a slightly turbulent airflow as the cooler air surged to replace the small pocket of warm air, pushing it up higher into the atmosphere to dissipate harmlessly. Vahn watched this entire phenomenon happen from start to finish, even drawing the attention of almost everyone that was sensitive to mana within several kilometers.
Lefiya chose this moment to come over as she asked in a low voice, “Master…what kind of Magic spell was that…?” Since she was confident nobody could hear her question, Lefiya had ‘defaulted’ to calling Vahn Master, something he knew was common for those that subordinated themselves to him. Shaking his head, Vahn smiled and explained, “That was closer to pure elemental control than actual Magic. I created a sphere of pure flame elemental energy, around 4cm in diameter, and it expanded to several meters before releasing its energy into the environment… it’s not at a level where I can control it freely, though, so don’t ask me to teach you how to do it just yet.” Lefiya nodded her head and looked toward the sky where the light had been previously. Most people couldn’t sense it, but Elves would be able to feel that the mana had become very turbulent and it was actually quite beautiful to observe, almost like a rainbow expanding from a singular point that still glowed with an intense radiance…
Vahn was also able to see it and he felt like it was similar to watching a star explode, something he had previously experienced when he had the ‘dream’ of eternity. The small ball of pure flame elemental energy was actually very similar to a star as well, though the balance of mana was one-sidedly in favor of flame elemental energy instead of being a composite of other forces. If he could achieve the correct balance between the other elements, or perhaps glean an understanding of higher elemental laws, Vahn could potentially create small stars in the palms of his hands. He decided to study a few of the physics texts that existed within the system later to see if he could get a better understanding of the energies involved.
After their morning training came to an end, Vahn paired up with Chloe and Shizune to eat breakfast while making their preparations to enter the Dungeon. Shizune, though sensitive to the flow of mana like the Elves, had seen the phenomenon created by Vahn and her eyes had been drawn to it with clear intrigue on her face. Chloe had sparred with her at first but, seeing the inspired look in Shizune’s eyes, didn’t punish her for the lapse in concentration. Vahn had previously told her about the changes happening in Shizune’s body so Chloe understood it was important to allow her to have insights during moments of inspiration. She was also interested in ‘rare’ skills, so there was no way she would stand in the way of her own disciple when it came to awakening such an ability.
When Vahn had updated her Status Board, he noticed there had been an increase in her Magic parameter once again, though not as drastic as the previous instance. Her Innate was very obviously related to Magic and Vahn was interested to see if it was her [Tamamo] or her [Moon’s Prayer] that was spurring the growth of her Magic parameter. All of the information he had obtained about Tamamo was that she was a fox goddess, though not from the record of Danmachi, and that she had been a courtesan spirit of several Emperors, Kings, Generals, and Officials. It was a bit ‘saddening’ to know that one of Shizune’s Innates might have some connection to being a courtesan goddess, as this meant her ‘fate’ as a slave may have been brought about as a result of her Innates existence.
One of the things Vahn had deduced from his research into Innates is that people often found themselves in situations where they ‘could’ awaken if there was a powerful stimulus. This meant girls like Lili, with an Innate that allowed her to bear immense burdens, experienced tragedies that caused them to carry heavy physical and emotional burdens. In Shizune’s case, she was almost ‘fated’ to always be a courtesan or a concubine the majority of information Vahn obtained about Tamamo seemed to indicate such a fate. Most of the stories ended with Tamamo herself being betrayed as a result of severe misunderstandings, forever in the pursuit of a love that could never be as many of the men she favored lacked an understanding of her existence. They feared the power she had at her disposal and tried to seize it for themselves or, if they were unable to, kill her to prevent her power from maturing to its full extent…
As for her [Moon’s Prayer], Vahn had absolutely no idea how it would be awakened and there were few insights he had gained even after scouring a few hundred texts. There was a lot of symbolism related to the moon, some even related to Tamamo herself, but that was pure speculation at this point and Vahn would have to pay close attention to Shizune if he wanted to truly understand the activation requirements. Without a ‘flame seed’, he wasn’t sure if her affection for him had any influence on the development of her Innates at all, but that just made it all the more important to find out how Shizune’s awakened since it would help him understand how other’s might develop their Innates in the future. Presently, both of her Innates were still (sealed), but Vahn expected one of them to make an appearance in the near future if Shizune’s mentality underwent a strong enough stimulus.
To allow Shizune’s Magic to develop further, or at least allow her to become familiar with the flow of mana in her own body, Vahn gave her a bangle that allowed quick-casting of a simple ‘Fireball’. It was much weaker than even Bell’s [Fire Bolt], but it was enough to give her an edge against some enemies by surprising them. She was already the type that put a lot of thought into combat and having a backup attack that could be used from a medium range was a huge boon for her. Since it was also ‘magic’, Shizune had been very excited and Vahn had to replenish her mana quite a few times by the time they returned home. When he checked her Status Board in the bath, Shizune’s Magic parameter had grown even further, although it had slowed down to a relatively normal pace at this point.
Name: Shizune Yuel
Skill: [Tamomo: Innate(sealed)], [Featherfoot:H], [Stealth:I->H]
Magic: [Moon’s Prayer: Innate(sealed)]
Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance(sealed)], [Insomnia(sealed)]
To reward Shizune’s hard work, Vahn gave her head, ears, and tail a good grooming, but only after the bath had come to an end since he wasn’t trying to stir her up. She was in the category of girls that were very weak to his [Petting] Development Ability, so she was much easier to keep under control compared to the past. All he had to do to make most of the Beast Girls calm down was pet them for a few minutes and they would turn completely docile, oftentimes even dozing off after a bit. Vahn was very fond of [Petting] since it was much ‘tamer’ than [Hands of Nirvana] and it also allowed him to get a better understanding of the peculiar ‘petting laws’ and its unique energy. He figured that, if he could learn how to create the energy and infuse it into his domain, Vahn would be able to ‘pet’ everyone around him simultaneously…
Once her impeccably soft tail had turned a glossy sheen, Vahn tickled the bottom of Shizune’s feet to wake her up, causing the ‘young’ girl to startle in surprise as she pulled her foot away in a panic. Vahn laughed and said, “You are becoming much stronger, Shizune, keep up the good work.” while stroking her head and the inside of her fluffy ears. Shizune’s face showed a great deal of comfort, causing her eyes to squint happily as she said, “Yes, I will keep getting strongerrr…” Her words trailed off at the end as she nearly fell asleep even though she was sitting upright. After her head bobbed, Shizune’s eyes widened slightly and she lifted it back up before almost immediately letting it bob again. Vahn had a large grin on his face and decided to stop teasing her, pulling his hand away and saying, “Make sure you rest properly, as it is just as important as pushing yourself during training.”
Shizune nodded her head and rubbed her eyes, even though she really hadn’t been that sleepy previously. Vahn’s hand was just too comfortable and, though her mind was that of an adult, her body was still a child’s, meaning her stamina was still lacking and she had bouts of tiredness after exertion. Vahn sent her off to her room before making his way over to check on Riveria, Terra, and any of the other girls that might be in the garden. He expected that Riveria would want to inquire about the ‘flare’ he created earlier and Vahn was also curious about her own understanding of the phenomenon. He expected that Riveria would be one of his more capable students, at least in the beginning, so her ability to understand elemental control would be the key to helping the other girls understand it.
Unsurprisingly, Vahn found Terra leaning against her roost and sunbathing while Riveria was also soaking at the side of the wellspring, allowing her body to recline against the smooth earthen surface along the edges. Activating his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn could see natural energy gently flowing into her exposed abdomen, which had completely healed at this point. Her fair white skin now had an intricate flowery formation on her abdomen and Vahn felt that it enhanced Riveria’s almost ethereal beauty. It was much like how the green runes on Terra’s body enhanced her exotic qualities, though Vahn felt like it would be difficult to convince Riveria to do something similar on her own arms, legs, and back…
Terra had noticed his arrival almost immediately and had a rare ‘frown’ on her face as she fluttered her wings and said, “Master, please don’t go around destroying parts of my territory without warning me…” Since fire elemental energy was very effective on many of the natural elements, the amount of damage done to Terra’s formation was much greater than the actual size of the hole. The fire elemental energy had dispersed into parts of her dominion and it took a great deal of energy just to remove the ambient energy to repair it. Knowing this, Vahn had an apologetic smile as he walked into the wellspring and made his way toward Terra.
Riveria had been somewhat startled by Vahn’s sudden arrival but quickly tried to relax after seeing that he was dealing with Terra. She had been present when Terra was repairing the formation earlier and knew that she had been uncharacteristically upset about the damage that was done. Since there wasn’t much she could contribute to the conversation, Riveria did her best to remain calm and just relaxed her body into the water once again. It was extremely comfortable to feel the cool wellspring water against her skin and she was very aware of the influx of natural energy being absorbed through the formation. However, now that Vahn had arrived, Riveria could feel a bit of heat rising up in her body and it made her heart begin to beat a little faster…
Though he was interested in the reaction from Riveria, Vahn knew he needed to deal with Terra first or she would probably be upset with him and pout later on. She didn’t show it much through her actions, but Terra was a little prone to jealousy and Vahn had been slowly learning how to see the signs through her body language. The fact that she spoke out to him the moment he arrived showed that she was very distraught about his earlier actions and, if he didn’t make it up to her now, she would probably brood over it when she was alone later. At this point, she no longer slept in her room at all and, even when it rained and stormed outside, she still spent more time in the garden than in the Manor. Vahn didn’t like the thought of her feeling melancholic while dragging the tips of her wings through the water so he wanted to apologize through his actions while also replenishing her diminishing reserves of source energy.
Once he reached her side, Vahn unhesitantly placed his left hand near Terra’s lower back, just above her tail, as he said in an apologetic tone, “I’m sorry, Terra…I had been trying something new and was unable to control it properly. Next time I try something like that, I’ll make sure you know about it beforehand.” Terra had already relaxed her body against her roost again, seemingly ignoring his words but doing nothing to stop his actions. Vahn knew she was just taking advantage of the situation to get pampered by him but that had been his intention from the start. Instead of trying to continue the conversation, Vahn pulled out the thin fibrous brush and began the painstaking process of grooming Terra’s wings without using the essence to speed things up. Realizing this, Terra’s feather fluttered in a way that told Vahn she was very happy…
More than two hours later, Vahn finished grooming Terra’s wings, even having her turn over her body halfway through so he could get both sides. Terra spent most of her time naked, to the point that everyone that visited her garden was completely ‘immune’ to the sight. As for Vahn, he appreciated her beauty greatly and knew she would be happier if he let his eyes wander around a bit. She really was ‘unique’ in many aspects and Vahn found his interest in her only increased with time, wondering when things would develop to the point where he was able to share more intimate moments with her.
There was actually nothing standing in the way, if he wanted to push things forward, but Vahn felt that Terra simply wasn’t ‘ready’ for that type of relationship just yet. She was still stabilizing, much like how Fenrir had taken several months to adapt, and Vahn felt that it would be better to allow her to get closer to other people before taking things further. He also knew that Fenrir would probably be very upset if she ‘lost’ to Terra in that regard, and he didn’t want there to be a conflict between them. Though Terra was good at ‘handling’ other people, even getting a few advantages against Syr and Riveria, she couldn’t really deal with Fenrir very well since many of her actions were irrational and based on instinct. Since Fenrir would get ‘hostile’ if Terra tried to talk around her, they didn’t spend much time together and Fenrir had only rarely come to the Garden, even though Fafnir was often around when it wanted to soak up some sun itself.
After he had finished combing through all of her feathers, Vahn rubbed Terra’s very firm stomach for a bit and said, “Don’t be angry with me anymore, okay…?” in a soothing voice. Terra’s eyes opened in response to his words before her characteristically gentle smile appeared on her face and she said, “I can’t stay angry at you, Master~.” in a playful tone. Vahn knew she hadn’t truly been angry with him, just ‘upset’ by his actions and the unexpected consequences. From the moment he apologized to her directly, Terra had already forgiven him, something they were both aware of. Him helping her groom was just to thank her for all the efforts she put into repairing the damage and allowed him to replenish her energy while his own naturally recovered. If he tried to restore all of Terra’s energy at once, Vahn would be completely drained so he used the grooming as a way to make the process more natural while also ‘apologizing’ to Terra.
Terra’s wings now felt very refreshed and there was a subtle tingling going through her body, which she was very fond of and only happened whenever her Master treated her. She had a high affinity with natural elemental energy, but her Master’s source energy was several orders of magnitude more pleasant. Every time he topped her off, Terra felt like she could sleep for days with the pleasant energy radiating through her body and making her feel happy. However, she just sat up and turned around so she could relax against her roost again before diffusing some of the energy he had given her into the formation below. She was determined to make her territory expand to the periphery of the Alliance’s Territory in the future and using her Master’s energy was the best way to increase it quickly. It also accelerated the time until she would next experience his care so, while keeping it subtle so as not to draw too much attention to her actions, Terra allowed the tingling sensation to slowly fade as the warm rays of the sun bore down on her leafy-green feathers…