Chapter 627: Ice Palace

After sending Asfi off with Haruhime and Mikoto, Vahn dealt with a few other representatives of various Familias and groups, refusing most of the personal requests made. Most of them simply wanted to get extra benefits while trying to make a connection with the Hestia Familia, something Vahn had no intention of allowing. If they wanted to work with the Alliance, it would have been better to simply join beforehand, benefitting in the long term through cooperation. The fact that they specifically tried to make a connection with the Hestia Familia showed they were less interested in ‘cooperation’ and were trying to take ‘shortcuts’ to gain benefits.

By the time 5 PM was coming around, Vahn moved from the Command Tent and headed one tent over, where the Hesta Familia Tent was located. It wasn’t really that accurate a description, as four members of the Loki Familia were also using it, but it was better than the name some had given it. Because Vahn shared the tent with ‘only’ women, some people in the Expedition called it the ‘Heaven Tent’ or ‘Harem Tent’, some in jest while others in jealousy. Vahn had become somewhat ‘notorious’ in the City, not because he had done anything bad, but due to the fact he was the only male member in a Familia comprised almost entirely of women. There were even some that had started calling him the ‘Flower Collector’ since there was such ‘variety’ within the girls surrounding him…

Vahn ignored the majority of these comments since it didn’t really matter too much how other people saw him, so long as they didn’t actually try anything. Most people had enough sense to not even try and approach the girls around Vahn, as another one of the ‘rumors’ surrounding him was that he could be very overprotective. Since the only people he lashed out at were despicable people, often devoid of normal sensibilities, Vahn didn’t really consider himself overprotective. From his perspective, it was ‘normal’ to get annoyed when arrogant or abrasive men tried to approach the girls, seeing them more like a ‘trophy’ than anything else. Those that were lascivious by nature were generally bad people and were more prone to causing harm than offering anything constructive through association…

After entering the tent, Vahn saw Haruhime sitting with Asfi, both drinking tea in a very practiced manner that betrayed their origins to those perceptive to such things. Seeing his entrance, Haruhime smiled and said, “Welcome back, Vahn. Thank you for your hard work~.” Vahn gestured to prevent Haruhime from rising, asking, “Where are the other girls?” out of curiosity. Haruhime blinked in a strangely slow manner before answering, “Ais, Tiona, Tione, and Lefiya had all gone to Rivira to see if there was anything interesting in the stalls. As for Mikoto, I imagine she will be back soon…”

Understanding the implication behind Haruhime’s words, Vahn smiled wryly before nodding to Asfir and making his way into the area where they would have been sleeping. He would probably have to change their arrangements out of consideration for Asfi, but it likely wouldn’t make much of a difference. This tent had enough space for twenty people to rest comfortably and Vahn could always attach an extra room later on. By the time they reached the 39th Floor, it wouldn’t really matter much since he would create a makeshift residence for them with earth magic, potentially relying on Terra when the time came. Though she would probably spend the majority of the time in the orb, Vahn didn’t think she would be against staying outside for a few hours every couple of years…

Though it would only cause him to become ‘unconscious’ for a few seconds, Vahn made sure to use the orb in a secure location where Asfi couldn’t see him. She may have been sent to spy on them, simultaneously trying to get closer to the core members of the Alliance, but Vahn didn’t expect she would try to impose on them much. It seemed like she and Haruhime were having some kind of ‘confrontation’ at the moment and Vahn decided to trust in her judgment. Thus, after relaxing in a seated position for a few minutes, Vahn pulled out Eva’s orb and inserted his intent inside, preparing himself for the potential changes that had occurred with Fenrir and Terra…

The moment he entered the orb, Vahn was reminded why he generally laid down before entering the past since Eva immediately ‘pinned’ him from his seated position and forced him back on the bed. She had a playful and borderline seductive smile on her face as she licked her lips and said, “It’s good that you’re on time, Vahn. I had a lot of time to think about ‘punishments’ for you over the last few years…such a shame~.” At the end of her words, Eva chomped down on his neck and began draining his blood, a ritual he was very accustomed to. As he hugged her body, Vahn closed his eyes and noticed that she was draining a fair amount this time around, likely as a result of consuming her mana while training the girls…

Almost as soon as he started thinking about Terra and Fenrir, Eva bit him a little harder than normal before separating from his neck and saying, “Don’t think about other girls when I’m sucking your blood…” Vahn wasn’t sure how Eva had been able to glean what he was thinking but he just smiled and said, “Sorry, Eva…” as he stroked the back of her hair. Eva released a small ‘hmph’ sound and carefully bit the same spot where she had previously bitten him. She couldn’t really read his mind, but Eva could tell if Vahn was thinking about other things since the flow of energy in his body would change. Since he passively resisted her influence when his mind wandered, Eva knew he wasn’t thinking about her, even though they were together like this. It made her a little frustrated since she had spent the last few weeks looking forward to their reunion and Vahn didn’t seem to mind that much. She knew it hadn’t been very long for him since their separation, but it was hard to consider things rationally when she was feeling emotional…

For nearly two hours, Vahn pampered Eva and tumbled around with her in the blankets as a means of apologizing for his inconsiderate actions. He could understand why she was upset with him so Vahn wanted to make it up to her by focusing entirely on the adorable little vampire. Compared to his last visit, she was back to wearing white clothing again so Vahn believed she was actually in a better mood than before. Though this made him curious about what changes had occurred, Vahn wasn’t in too much of a hurry, even if he was worried about Fenrir…

While they were taking a bath, Eva eventually released a sigh and said, “You don’t have to worry so much about those two…well, at least the big one. Jeez, this is why I didn’t really want those girls to stay inside here from the beginning. I already get so little time with you and now your focus is all over the place, even when I’m naked right in front of you~!” Eva had a frustrated face with a healthy blush as she leaned against the side of the tub before climbing out of it. After walking a few steps with her long blond hair dangling behind her, it suddenly self-dried before Eva was wearing a soft blue gothic dress. Looking back, she had an expression of blame on her face as she said, “Come along my foolish little disciple…”

Vahn felt apologetic to Eva but he couldn’t deny he was really worried, especially concerning Fenrir and her mental state. Ever since he entered the orb, Vahn had a strange feeling in his heart that was difficult to describe, almost like he ‘craved’ something. The reason why it was so ‘strange’ was because Vahn knew the feeling wasn’t his own and, though he couldn’t trace back the source, he was almost certain it belonged to Fenrir. Eva also didn’t really seem to blame him too much for his concern, causing Vahn to feel a little nervous since she was typically more ‘forward’ than this.

When they reached the courtyard of the castle, Vahn noticed that the amount of vegetation had actually greatly increased compared to his previous visit. Most notably, however, was the fact it looked very organized and almost ‘pristine’ in its arrangement, almost as though he had wandered into a paradise of sorts. As if to explain away his curiosity, Eva looked around and said, “Terra has a very high affinity with nature and has helped convert the area around the castle into a massive garden. How peculiar…” Eva brought her fingers to her chin in thought, curious as to where Terra had gone since she had been here earlier. Remembering why she was currently showing Vahn around, Eva realized why Terra had probably ‘hidden’ herself so she grabbed Vahn’s hand and said, “Let’s go…” in a somewhat dull tone.

Seeing Eva’s behavior, Vahn felt even more nervous and it didn’t take long for this emotion to reach a peak since, after Eva brought him into the sky, Vahn saw that a large area of the orb’s ‘island’ had been converted into pure ice. Once again, Eva seemed to realize what he was thinking as she said, “That little wolf of your’s has a natural affinity with Water, Ice, and Devouring laws…she really has been a troublesome disciple.” Though Eva seemed to be complaining about Fenrir, Vahn could tell from her ‘soft’ expression they had grown somewhat close over the last four years. Eva liked to put on a cold and resistant front but she was actually a kind-hearted girl that cared about the people she was close to, seemingly more than she cared about herself.

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After a very short flight, as Eva could even outpace Fafnir is she was serious, they landed in front of what looked like a poorly designed ice palace. It had a ‘wild’ feeling to it, almost like it was a mixture between a man-made structure and the wrath of nature itself. There were ice spires and twisted landscapes all over the place, accented by what Vahn could tell were supposed to be statues of him. It was honestly a little creepy, but Vahn was more concerned about the inhabitant of the palace than the decor. With his domain, Vahn identified a very small signature within the heart of the palace and quickly made his way forward using [Shundo].

Since the internal structure wasn’t that complex, Vahn quickly found his way into a large central area where he could see the figure of Fenrir laying on a large bed that had been frozen over. She was clutching a very worn-down version of the [Dakimakura] and didn’t seem to be moving at all. Vahn could tell she was alive and quickly made his way to her side using [Shundo], picking her seemingly fragile body up and embracing her tightly as he replenished her nearly depleted energy. Fenrir’s eyes fluttered and her startlingly vibrant scarlet eyes opened slightly as she mumbled, “Master…Fenrir has been waiting for you…” in a husky and tired voice.

Vahn had already identified that Fenrir wasn’t injured so he felt a great sense of relief as a warmth flowed from his chest, answering, “Fenrir is a good girl…” as he stroked her hair. The ‘craving’ in his heart completed faded away in an instant as Fenrir closed her eyes and showed a happy smile on her face before nuzzling into his chest. From the side, Eva explained, “As her magic power increased, Fenrir’s consumption of food reached an unsustainable level. She spent less and less time near the castle, constructing this place as a means of coping with her hunger until asking me to seal her power until your return. Though she could have returned to her core, she wanted to be here when you returned…” Eva felt a little awkward about being here during this reunion because she knew how ‘difficult’ things had been for Fenrir, and even Terra.

Hearing Eva’s explanation, Vahn showed a smile that was full of pride and appreciation for the little Vanargandr in his arms. He could also tell that her power had increased greatly since, even after giving her more than half of his energy, Fenrir seemed like a bottomless pit right now. He was tempted to check her Status Board right now but knew it wouldn’t actually reflect her growth since the Magic parameter wasn’t a perfect indicator of how much mana/magic power a person had. A thousand Magic for an Elf could be significantly more than a thousand Magic for a Human. This was due to the fact that the parameters gained from a Falna didn’t always reflect the base parameters of a person properly, which was why Vahn once had the misunderstanding that it didn’t matter how much he trained his body in the past. He previously believed that the only important thing was the parameters themselves but, after seeing several signs this wasn’t necessarily the case, Vahn believed there was more to it that he needed to research in the future…

Fortunately, Vahn didn’t have to replenish all of Fenrir’s energy for her to regain her ability to move around, allowing her to hug him tightly as she rubbed against his chest. The glow in her eyes had faded a great deal and they now appeared somewhat hazy as a result of the moisture covering them. Fenrir sniffled in a manner that made Vahn’s heart ache as she said, “Fenrir missed Master so much…I don’t want to stay here anymore, it’s too lonely. I’m sorry, Eva, but I want to stay with Master from now on…” Over the last four years, Fenrir had grown closer to Eva and, even though she was still ‘scary’, Fenrir knew she was a ‘good’ girl. As for Eva, she had slightly furrowed brows since she was a little bothered by the act that Fenrir was putting on.

Though Fenrir had some difficulties communicating clearly at first, Eva had put in a great deal of effort to ‘fix’ her bad habits. Fenrir could now speak, read, and write in three different languages and they had often conversed together to practice speaking properly. Since Fenrir was able to ‘mimic’ people very easily, she had been able to fix most of her problems within the first year, meaning she spent the last three years conversing relatively normally. Eva could tell that she was ‘pandering’ to Vahn a bit, either trying to earn his pity or…thinking till this point, Eva realized that Fenrir may actually be trying to make Vahn feel relieved by pretending not to have changed much…

Releasing a sigh, Eva shook her head and said, “I’m going to go find Terra so make sure to head back to the castle after you’re done playing around. You’re the one that was supposed to learn magic in this orb, Vahn, so make sure you take my lessons seriously later on.” With her words finished, Eva teleported directly to Terra’s location without bothering to point out Fenrir’s little act. Everyone had their own ways of coping with things and Eva wasn’t going to get in the way of their little reunion, especially since it was a little annoying to be the third wheel in such situations. She found Terra sitting at a wooden table, sipping on an emerald green tea with a soft smile on her face and a knowing look in her eyes…

The moment Eva left, Fenrir’s tail began to ‘wag’ from side-to-side in a natural and steady manner as she looked up and said, “Fenrir has become much stronger, Master…but, Fenrir isn’t sure if she has become mature enough…?” Since she hadn’t wiped her eyes earlier, there was a fair amount of moisture in Fenrir’s eyes as she looked up with a ‘puppy-like’ expression. Vahn felt like his heartstrings were being plucked at as he looked at her pitiable expression and stroked her head, saying, “I’m sure Fenrir has become much more mature than before…” As the words left his lips. Vahn felt a little unnerved because things would probably progress in a direction he wasn’t sure he was ready for.

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Fenrir turned her head down and just nuzzled against Vahn’s chest as a glimmer passed through her scarlet red eyes. She could tell that her Master still wasn’t ‘ready’, even though she knew her own maturity had already passed muster. If she didn’t behave childishly, Fenrir knew she would finally be able to become one with her Master, something she had been dreaming off for the last few years. However, her maturity also gave her ‘perspective’ and Fenrir was able to understand better the reasons why he had been delaying things. He was very reliant on her for his mental stability, almost like one of the ‘anchors’ that Eina had talked about in the past. If she pushed things forward before he was ready, Fenrir felt like she would be taking advantage of her Master and introducing more chaos in his life…

After collecting her thoughts, Fenrir hugged her Master tightly and said, “Fenrir thinks it will take a little longer until she matures completely. When we return to the Manor, Fenrir will talk with the other mature girls and try her best to learn more…Eva is a good teacher, but Fenrir can tell she isn’t good at being ‘mature’ yet…” Though a shiver ran down her back when she badmouthed Eva, Fenrir apologized to her second Master in her heart. She knew how to read people better now and, after watching Eva for nearly four years, Fenrir knew she was a ‘damaged’ girl, just like her Master was a damaged boy. They both needed companionship and understanding to function properly or they would potentially be corrupted by the loneliness. Now that her understanding of loneliness had also increased, Fenrir felt empathy towards both Eva, and her Master…

Completely unaware of what Fenrir was thinking, as she was one of the few people whose aura he couldn’t see, Vahn used his [Petting] as he gently stroked her back, saying, “I’m so proud of you, Fenrir…you’ve really grown up a lot. In the future, I think you’ll be able to grow even more, but…I’m glad you haven’t changed too much, even if its a bit selfish of me to say…” Vahn knew that Fenrir had probably worked very hard while she was in the orb, especially since Eva gave her some indirect compliments. He was certain things would eventually progress to the point where they ended up together in the future but, for the time being, Vahn felt very relieved that she hadn’t immediately wanted to advance things.

Fenrir could sense the ‘relief’ coming from her Master so she just closed her eyes and enjoyed his [Petting] in silence, promising to protect him well with all of her heart. She had worked very hard to increase her strength and even believed she would be able to defeat her Master if they fought, not that she would ever do such a thing. The reason she had worked so hard to become strong was so that she could protect her Master from others, both physically and emotionally. She was now one of the strongest people around him, something that gave Fenrir peace of mind since it had been very frustrating to be surrounded by so many strong people. Now she had the opportunity to stay at his side, protecting both his body and his mind from harm…

Opening her eyes slightly, Fenrir suddenly turned her head up to look at Vahn and decided she deserved a bit of a reward for her dedication, saying, “Master…Fenrir has thought about it a lot and wants you to know that she loves you…for now, please just give me a kiss…okay?” Since she already decided not to pressure her Master too much, Fenrir at least wanted something small to tide her over. After all, she waited for him for a whole four years…that’s longer than the other girls even knew him, something Fenrir felt gave her the right to ask for a small reward. Fortunately, her Master seemed to agree as he smiled before leaning down and giving her a kiss on the lips, causing Fenrir’s heart to flutter as she wrapped her arms around his neck and enjoyed being selfish for a little while longer…

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