Chapter 640: Tough Love

Before everyone went to sleep, Vahn went into greater detail about the [Pactio], classifying the armor as a ‘raiment’ for the time being. As they had already noticed, activating their cards greatly increased the physical parameters of the girls, though the full extent was currently unknown. The most important thing was that, though it wasn’t as reliable as their aegis armor they usually wore, the raiment provided them a great deal of protection against physical attacks and even enhanced their natural regeneration, meaning they would automatically recover from minor wounds. When the contract was activated, they were borderline ‘immune’ to damage as long as Vahn had enough energy to provide for them.

They would need to study the efficacy and conversion ratios later, but it was a major boon knowing they had a form of temporary invulnerability during emergency situations. Since Vahn could also summon them to his side, it meant most of the girls wouldn’t be endangered ever again because they could telepathically communicate with him to escape. There was a good chance the Dungeon would interfere with this transference, but that was something that could be tested at a later date. Just knowing it worked, with a remarkably small cost, already fundamentally changed the way they could fight and reposition. If Vahn could learn how to teleport around like Eva and Terra, he could move great distances and then just call the girls to his side in an instant…

Though everyone wanted to give their new cards a try, Vahn brought a stop to that and told them to keep it a secret for the time being unless they were in a dangerous situation. They could pass it off as an item like Tiona’s wand, but Vahn wanted them to keep their true capabilities a secret since it was always better to have an element of surprise when facing enemies. He did, however, have each of them promise to use the card if they had even an inkling that the fight would be dangerous. Vahn never wanted to come across a situation where one of them sustained grievous injuries just because they were trying to respect his decision to keep secrets. He also briefed them about all of the people with less than ‘clean’ auras within the Expedition so they wouldn’t do something silly like falling for some scheme. If there was ever any doubt, they could now just communicate telepathically with Vahn for an update on the situation and should ‘never’ trust the words of those they aren’t close to.

Vahn knew he was being a little over-protective of the girls but he was also on the precipice of becoming ‘unstoppable’ within the record of Danmachi. Though there would certainly be things that could defeat him, Vahn would be unkillable by most means and could always gain an advantage in the end. He wanted to help the girls get to a point where he wouldn’t have to worry about them in this life while also preparing them for the ‘evolution’ of the record in the future. There would undoubtedly be forces in the world that would rise up against them, especially when the record became a higher tier, and Vahn wanted to avoid tragedy this time around. He harbored no illusions that he could protect everyone, knowing full well he would have to accept losses over the course of eternity, but Vahn wanted to do his best to try…after all, they were the first family he truly knew and Vahn cared deeply for each and every one of them.

After everyone calmed down, the rest of the evening was relatively peaceful, coming to an end with Fenrir snuggling up with him while Ais and Lefiya took the spots at his sides. Lefiya had become a lot more ‘bold’ these days and didn’t seem to mind using his shoulder a pillow now, even though she had to deal with teasing from Tione and Tiona. The latter of the two twins ended up snuggling up to Lefiya’s back and using her as a hug pillow while Tione, Mikoto, and Haruhime all laid in a line at the flanks. Tione tried to get away with hugging Ais but was denied by the taciturn girl because it was too stuffy and Tione had bad sleeping habits. This caused a fair amount of giggling to occur, causing Tione to flush a great deal as she slept with her back to Ais instead…

As usual, Vahn entered the orb at the proper time and spent a few hours celebrating his reunion with Terra and Eva before he moved on to his training once again. Eva was drilling him very hard, forcing him to fight against her while she would generally barrage him with spells. She knew it was more important for Vahn to learn how to fight against powerful Mages since he would always have time to work on the ‘theory’ part of things later. Though the dangers of [Magia Erebea] would likely be circumvented by the nature of his existence, she didn’t want him to be a pushover since it would embarrass them both.

Terra usually watched at the side while Vahn and Eva were fighting, painting or reading books depending on her mood. Associating with Eva for several years gave her many of the same hobbies and she had already become a very powerful Mage in her own right. Though not nearly as strong as Eva, who had the classification of an SSS-Rank ‘Calamity’, Terra was now at the S-Rank, which is what Vahn would be at once he learned [Magia Erebea]. Her Status Board now showed more errors than actual stats and, though her Level hadn’t increased over 10, it was very obvious she was breaking the limits of the Falna. The biggest change, however, was the fact that her Soul Tier had increased from 2 and reached the same Tier as Vahn himself, making her a Lord Soul.

Eva watched as Vahn dodged another barrage of ice spears before disappearing from sight and intercepting his vector. She had been teaching him how to use [Koku Shundo] more skillfully and had been ‘punishing’ him for how long it took to create his anchor points. Once again, she landed right where he exited his technique before smacking him with enough force to send Vahn crashing into the ground. Since his body was wrapped in a golden aura, as a result of using [Molodia Bellax], Vahn didn’t take much damage at all, even though the crater he created was nearly 20m in diameter. Standing up, Vahn rolled his shoulder, wincing with a smile on his face before using [Koku Shundo] to evade Eva’s tireless assault.

Because of the way Vahn fought, Eva had been drilling him on speed and perception, making sure he would never be caught unawares by attacks. He had a big advantage over other people with his domain so she wanted to make sure he was using it properly instead of letting it go to waste. Currently, he used it more for detection than anything else, which made Eva a little annoyed since it meant he was more reactive than ‘proactive’. A ‘true’ Mage, at least in her opinion, was something that could remain relatively untouchable and simply outmaneuvered their opponents, overwhelming them with unstoppable magical might. Vahn wasn’t a ‘true’ Mage, as he was closer to a Magic-Knight, but Eva still wanted him to be a passable Mage by the standards of those at the peak. After all, though she had taught Terra and Fenrir, Vahn was her first disciple and she couldn’t tolerate him being looked down on by others…

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For nearly seven hours straight, Vahn continued dodging ‘most’ of Eva’s attacks and was starting to get the hang of what Eva ‘seamless transitioning’ into and out of each [Koku Shundo]. He had a habit of thinking about where he wanted to move instead of ‘knowing’ where he wanted to move, meaning his time between movements caused small gaps. Since the technique also made an ‘anchor’ where he intended to move, skilled Mages could sense the subtle fluctuations and intercept him if they were fast enough. This was why Eva wanted him to be able to make seamless transitions to where he wanted to move so he wouldn’t end up getting caught in traps. Though it was very painful to get knocked around by her, Vahn knew it was necessary since it made him far more battle-hardened while ‘ incentivizing’ him to improve faster.

Seeing Vahn’s [Koku Shundo] improve so rapidly made Eva smile because she knew he really did have a lot of talent for physical enhancement and movement skills. It took most Mages several months to even get to the point where they can use [Melodia Bellax], yet Vahn had been able to do it after a few days. Now, he could already sustain the aura for nearly ten minutes and had reached a stable 18x increase in most of his physical parameters while his agility was around 24x. Since she knew Terra was already reaching the pinnacle of existences in the world Vahn came from, Eva had a good idea of where he needed to be to become ‘unstoppable’. [Magia Erebea] would already put him near the peak, but Eva knew things were never that clear cut and there were plenty of ways a capable Mage could work around ‘immortality’…

Just as Vahn’s [Melodia Bellax] was about to end, Eva smiled slightly before creating a massive ‘spear’ out of lightning. It was nearly 30m long and comprised almost entirely of lightning elemental energy, throwing it towards Vahn at 107,925,284km/h, around 1/10th the speed of light. This wasn’t the first time Eva had tossed one of her spears at him so Vahn did his best to try and evade it, erecting a wall of earth in front of him to obscure her vision before trying to use [Shundo] to move at the same moment her body twitched. Unfortunately, as had been the case every other time, Vahn felt a powerful impact against his body as all of his muscles and nerves clenched up. Electricity danced around his skin, frying parts of his body before he fell to the ground, smoke emerging from some of the cracks before they were replaced with a vermillion light a few seconds later.

Eva landed next to the charred body of Vahn, watching how rapidly he healed with the passive influence of his Zhūquè form. Though she forbade Vahn from using the forms actively, there wasn’t too much he could do to stop their passive activation. Since she knew very well how much his body could take, Eva made sure never to push him to the limits and only dealt enough damage to cause his Zhūquè form to begin activating. As it had a ‘ridiculous’ consumption rate of magic power, Eva knew it wouldn’t be that dangerous since his body didn’t have enough energy to complete the transformation. This meant he would get the enhanced regeneration to recover his wounds without actually turning into what she called a ‘fiery chicken boy’…

Terra appeared next to them shortly after, leaning down to lift up her Master’s body as she, for what felt like the tenth time, fed him a potion concocted using her Nectar. She quickly learned that her talent in forging was lacking so instead decided to learn chemistry and alchemy with Eva, converting her Master’s former workshop into her own personal lab.

As Vahn ingested the contents of the bottle, steam began appearing from his wounds as the vermillion light faded away and was instead replaced with the sight of mending flesh. Terra’s potions, when inspected, had the ability to heal most wounds while replenishing 30% of a person’s vital energies. They couldn’t be consumed too often, by most people, but had a similar effect to a Master-Grade Elixir, meaning each of the small green bottles she carried could be worth up to 10,000,000 Valis each.

Combined with her using healing magic, Vahn was up and ready to continue training after just a few short minutes. Of course, it took significantly longer for his mental energies and source energy to replenish so he usually spent that time letting Eva suck his blood while meditating. This was how he spent the majority of his time within the orb since, even though it would be nice to just seek comfort in each other, there simply wasn’t enough time to do so. Other than when he first entered, and exited the orb, Vahn didn’t get to spend too much quality time with Eva or Terra. He did his best to make it up to them during the moments they were together, but it never felt like enough since he knew they would be waiting another four years for his return…

These thoughts were going through Vahn’s mind as he lay with the naked Eva against his body, causing her to pinch him and say, “Vahn, stop worrying so much…just make sure you treat the real me properly and stop worrying about the present so much. Focus on training and becoming stronger so that you can use the trial scroll and learn [Magia Erebea]. That is the best thing you can do right now…” As Eva finished her words, she sealed Vahn’s lips with her own, playfully moving her leg to intertwine with his. They had just finished a rather intimate session but there were still a few more minutes until he had to leave the orb. Not wanting to waste it by watching him ‘brood’, Eva took the initiative this time around while Terra laid limply at the side, watching with an amused glint in her sky-blue eyes…

Upon returning to the real world, Vahn felt his body warm up as he was momentarily caught in the aftereffects of Eva’s ‘playful’ nature. Feeling the warm bodies of the girls around him, Vahn slowly calmed down before everyone started getting ready for the next leg of the Expedition. He had somewhat selfishly delayed things so that he wouldn’t miss the timing of the orb, but most of those on the Expedition didn’t really mind since it was always preferred to have more time to rest. The fact that Vahn provided high-quality food, access to baths, and even some wine with a low alcoholic content made the majority of people praise him, offering no complaints whatsoever. Though some of the more ‘veteran’ members teased the younger members for being ‘lazy’, they generally did so with a smile before joining the relatively festive atmosphere and sharing their stories and cautionary tales.

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As they were readying everything, Asfi came out of her own room with a peculiar expression before sitting down and enjoying a very quick breakfast. She noticed that all the food was already cooked, even though nobody had cooked that morning, and knew there was far more to Vahn’s storage magic than had been revealed. Asfi was also aware they had stayed up very late the previous night and had sensed large magical fluctuations and mild tremors before her perception was completely cut off from the room. Seeing all the other girls in high spirits made her curious about what had happened but there never seemed to be a good opportunity to breach the conversations of everyone else.

Vahn, noticing Asfi’s ‘discomfort’, just offered a wry smile since there wasn’t much he could do to help her fit in while she was still ‘spying’ on them. Though the girls made conversation with her, it was almost like they were ‘teasing’ her instead of actually trying to get along. Vahn wondered if Haruhime had said anything to them but Asfi herself didn’t seem to be bothered by anyone, with the exception of Fenrir. Though Fenrir wouldn’t actually do anything to her, Vahn had to admit that Asfi wasn’t wrong to fear the small Vanargandr since, with Terra in the orb, she was probably the most dangerous ‘person’ to make an enemy out of.

Sensing the arrival of Finn, Vahn jumped up and smiled to the girls before saying, “Go ahead and wrap up breakfast so I can put the tent into storage. You don’t have to clean up just yet if you want to leave everything out for snacks later. Asfi, Fenrir, please come outside as soon as you’re ready.” Asfi gave him a sidelong glance before nodding her head in a curt manner and rising to her feet, quickly falling into pace with Fenrir following close behind her. She was already used to Fenrir ‘watching’ her and did her best to ignore the glowing scarlet eyes that followed her with an unwavering gaze.

Finn smiled the moment the three stepped out of the tent, saying, “Good morning, Vahn, Asfi, Fenrir. It’s good to see you’re all in high spirits so early.” Vahn smiled and asked, “How soon until everyone is ready to move?” while Asfi just nodded politely towards Finn. Fenrir didn’t return the greeting and instead just flopped her head from side-to-side, almost as if she was bored but rarely removing her eyes from Asfi. Finn saw this and felt a little awkward but kept it to himself as he said, “Everything should be ready within the next ten minutes so we’ll probably start moving within fifteen. Did you want to do any extra checks…? Also, we never really got the chance to talk about it previously, but is there anything I need to consider for pacing purposes?”

Understanding that Finn was asking if Fenrir was going to be clearing out the majority of monsters again, Vahn just smiled and said, “Fenrir will protect the convoy today so the others have a chance to gain some experience. I’ll provide support, healing, and utility while she uses ranged attacks to target any problematic enemies. I know Ais, Tiona, and Tione probably want to move their bodies and gain some exillia as well…” Remembering the scene of Tiona flying around and raining down magic on enemies the previous day, Vahn couldn’t help but smile as he considered purchasing a wand for each of the girls. Though Vahn thought it would make them look ‘cute’, he also knew it wasn’t really ‘appropriate’ and he didn’t want any strange rumors to begin spreading…

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