In the days to follow, Vahn had increased his training intensity. He was now up to the sixth level on the weighted bamboo course which Tsubaki equated to being able to react to a veteran Level 3’s attacks. Since he had been unable to evade the attack of the previous Level 2 adventurer party, Vahn wanted to greatly enhance his mobility. At this point, his [Featherfoot] ability had increased from E to D, and Vahn knew it wouldn’t be long before the skill increased again.
Lili was also making an increased effort and started a strange practice with Tsubaki that had her put weights on her legs and walk on her hands through an obstacle course. Every time she arrived at a post, she was required to kick ten times before she was allowed to continue. After Vahn asked why she had Lili perform such a strange training, Tsubaki told Vahn it was to help increase her omnidirectional movement abilities and core strength.
Since Lili had a small stature, her center of gravity was low to the ground which allowed her to use many unorthodox combat styles. As Lili had a unique skill like [Artel*Assist], it was actually much easier to condition her body than normal people. While other people had to struggle and adapt to increased weights, Lili was able to actually improve her stats instead. As long as she continued increasing the intensity, Lili would be able to slowly convert her entire body into a weapon.
It wasn’t long after this strange training started that Tsubaki had Lili and Vahn begin sparring with each other. Lili was hesitant at first but quickly threw her inhibitions aside before charging Vahn. Unlike their previous spars a month ago, Lili now had greater agility and used her flexible body to attack Vahn from several tricky angles. Instead of the awkward stances and weak strikes used in the past, now Lili used her entire body to maneuver and attack.
As Vahn’s parameters were much higher, he was able to easily deal with the attacks. However, he was caught off guard in one instance where Lili had actually vaulted off her hand to kick towards his face. Vahn caught the leg, but Lili twisted her body and used her second leg to nail Vahn directly in the chest. Vahn released the captured leg, and Lili used the rebounding force of her attack to somersault back to her feet.
Vahn was so surprised by the acrobatic movement that he was nearly unable to receive the follow-up attacks. He began to laugh and enjoy the fight while Tsubaki, who was spectating from the side nodded in approval. Her training with Lili not only increased her versatility but also helped polish Vahn’s skills in dealing with unorthodox attacks. It also allowed him to practice controlling his strength, which Vahn seemed to struggle with when under pressure.
The spar continued for twenty minutes before Tsubaki stopped them. Lili was gasping for air, but she still had a smile on her face for being able to perform much better than she expected. This was her first time sparring with Vahn since their training began, and she was very satisfied to see her own improvements.
Vahn was also happy and had been enjoying the fight since her initial acrobatic display. He approached and infused energy into his hand and placed it on Lili’s back. Activating his [Hands of Nirvana], he was able to help ease her breathing difficulties. When he was finished, he playfully ruffled her hair before sitting off to the side and taking a break.
This was the first time Lili had seen Vahn act so happily, and she was experiencing a mixture of excitement and bashfulness after Vahn used his skill to ease her fatigued state. Tsubaki started laughing from the side before teasing the two for their interaction. “You two are almost like a brother and sister! How adorable~!”
Vahn smiled, but Lili seemed to take damage after hearing the words. She kept muttering ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ under her breath for the entire duration of the break. Before the break ended, however, a guest had arrived. It was Miach, and he had been accompanied by Naaza who was dressed in casual attire consisting of a beige shirt, light red shawl, and a green pleated skirt accented by white stocks and tan boots.
After seeing Vahn enter the room alongside Tsubaki and Lili, Miach showed a gentle smile while Naaza displayed a slight blush. Vahn was curious at her behavior, as it was far different than the detached character she displayed in the manga. It’s likely that healing her arm had prevented her personality from deteriorating and this was most likely her original character. As she was only a sixteen-year-old girl, it would have been sad to see her depressed and melancholic.
Miach and Naaza both bowed. “Once again, Vahn. I, Miach, God of the Miach Familia, would like to thank you for saving my precious child Naaza.” After he finished his words, Naaza spoke as well. “Yes, thank you, Vahn. I may not be here today if it weren’t for you. Also…” Naaza looked towards Miach and saw him nod with a kind smile.
“I..wanted to confirm something. I know it may not be appropriate to ask, but I’m certain that before I passed out that I had been missing my arm. Though I’d like to pretend it was just a dream, the image is so clear in my head that I…I…” Naaza began to tremble as she began to recall the scene. The image of the White Shadow slowly grinding away at the stump of her arm had left a deeply rooted trauma in her heart.
Tsubaki listened at the side, and when Naaza began to ask her question, she too became curious. She looked towards Vahn and saw he was in contemplation before he made eye contact with her. Tsubaki understood from his question if he was allowed to speak, and she slowly nodded her head before interrupting.
“You two should know it’s taboo to ask someone about their skills or parameters. Vahn might be willing to talk, and though we’re not distrusting you, you’ll have to guarantee absolute secrecy if you want to hear the answer.” Tsubaki looked towards Miach sternly, and he nodded without changing his expression at all.
“I, Miach, Patron God of the Miach Familia, hereby swear on my Divinity to protect the secrets of Vahn Mason at risk of destruction of my mortal body should I dishonor my vow.” As he spoke, Miach drew a strange crest which seemed to record his words. When he was finished, he looked towards Naaza who made a similar vow. “I, Naaza Erisuis, hereby swear on my Familia Crest to protect the secrets of Vahn Mason at risk of losing my falna and sealing my skills.” After she spoke, they both added a drop of blood to the floating crest which flashed with a brilliant light before vanishing into particles.
Tsubaki, seeing that the ritual was completed, nodded towards Vahn and asked if she and Lili were allowed to listen. Vahn nodded, as he already trusted the two who had developed affection values exceeding 90 with him. Lili was even holding strongly at 98, and Vahn had often considered what was required to earn the last two points.
After nearly an hour, Vahn had explained everything that happened from his end. He excluded anything related to [Rakshasa Body] but explained the functions of [Wound Transfer] and how he was able to use a combination of his other skills alongside healing magic to re-attach his arm. Naaza, hearing him recount the events had tears in her eyes after realizing the effort he had put in to save her. She hadn’t expected Vahn had cut off his own arm in an attempt to help restore her own…
Miach was surprised to learn the existence of such a skill. If used properly, Vahn would be able to save countless lives! But, after hearing the amount of pain and suffering the user had to experience, Miach knew it was not such a convenient skill. If the person using it lacked willpower they would succumb to the very wounds they were trying to heal. And, without a method to rapidly heal themselves, overuse of the skill would inevitably lead to death or disability.
“It seems the debt my Familia owes you is even greater than I expected.” As he spoke, Miach bowed low until his forehead nearly touched the ground. It was almost considered blasphemous for a God to bow to a human, but Miach never cared for such formalities. The boy before him was deserving of his respect and admiration. Not many people his age, or even those much older, would be able to willingly sacrifice themselves or suffer on behalf of others.
Naaza also tried to bow, but Vahn spoke up interrupting the two. “Stop! I acted at my convenience to do something I wanted to do. Even if you’re grateful, it doesn’t make me happy to see people bow to express their feelings. From now on just do your best to live well and enjoy life, that is more than enough to pay your debts.”
Miach’s impression of Vahn grew even more, and he ceased bowing to show his assent. Looking to his side, he could see Naaza still on the verge of tears as she struggled with her internal emotions. Miach showed a gentle smile before addressing Vahn. “Vahn, I would like you to visit my Familia when you get a chance. I guarantee we will greet you with open arms, and I’d like to introduce you to all of my children. If you’re interested, I would also be willing to teach you and your companions how to make various medicines and concoct potions.”
Vahn nodded his head. It had been his intent for some time to learn alchemy and brewing. He had purchased some basic manuals on it but hadn’t been able to learn the [Mixing] or [Alchemy] development abilities. Without proper guidance and experience, there wasn’t a lot of progress he could make on his own.
Seeing Vahn agree to visit, Miach nodded and prepared to leave. Naaza rose to follow, but Miach stopped her. “It’s okay Naaza, stay for as long as Tsubaki allows you. When the time comes, you can be the one to escort Vahn back to the Familia. I’ll entrust his basic training to you.” Naaza froze after hearing her God’s words. Though she didn’t mind helping Vahn learn how to mix potions, she never expected Miach to allow her to stay outside of the pharmacy.
Miach shook his head. “I understand you have your concerns Naaza, but you should be enjoying your youth more. I’ve seen how uncomfortable you are around the rest of the Familia right now. You still blame yourself for what happened in the dungeon and are avoiding getting close to anyone. I think staying here will be good for your mind and body. Treat it like a vacation and return whenever your heart finds balance.” As he spoke, Miach was gently patting Naaza’s head. She blushed at the affectionate action and seemed to be confused as she snuck peaks between her God and the boy who saved her…
Tsubaki laughed loudly at the sudden series of events. “Good for you kid! Looks like its going to get more lively around here. Feel free to stay as long as you want Naaza. If Vahn or Lili bully you, just tell me and I’ll beat them up!”
Tsubaki had started patting Vahn’s back and gave him a thumbs up while winking with her only uncovered eye…Vahn couldn’t help retorting in his mind, ‘Isn’t that just a blink!?’.
Naaza bowed her head low with a bright blush on her face. “Please…take care of me.” Though she was still worried, she couldn’t help but feel a slight anticipation for the future.
(A/N: ‘Giving away one’s daughter’, ‘Miach is secretly the best wingman’, ‘Emo puppies make my heart cry’, ‘Lili’s new combat style: Capoeira?’, ‘Heartwarming case of domestic assault’)