Vahn spent the better part of the morning within Terra’s Garden, satiating the carnivorous dragon’s ‘appetite’ before leaving her laying peacefully against her perch. She had held up for a decent amount of time but, given his endless stamina, Vahn emerged victorious against the powerful True Dragon once again. It helped that his [Grooming] was now D-Rank, making it his highest ranked Development Skill, even surpassing his [Master Smith]. Relying on the ‘threads’ of petting laws, Vahn could target all of her weak spots, even if she tried to resist the influence of his ability with her own internal energy. By the time he was done, Terra looked like she had been fighting for three days and nights before falling into a peaceful slumber with a content smile on her face…
The moment he exited the illusory forest, a small figure appeared in front of him as Fenrir leaped down from the roof and suddenly asked, “Was it a boy or a girl~?” in a curious voice. Vahn blinked, surprised by the question before he smiled and said, “Neither, at least for the time being. I named it Alex Eva Evergreen Mason though, so it could one day become Alexander or Alexandria.” Fenrir nodded her head, bringing a rather humanoid finger to her chin as she seemingly processed her thoughts. After a short while, Fenrir said, “Master, please help me become stronger without having to separate from you. Terra is already much stronger than me and I don’t want to see her baby outgrowing me too…”
For the second time, Vahn blinked in surprise and then realized that, after as little as two months, even though Alex wouldn’t have matured, it would actually be older than Fenrir. She was his first companion and had suffered in the past because of his negligence, even though he never treated her badly when they were together. Ever since her naming ceremony, Fenrir had constantly been working hard to control herself while simultaneously striving to increase her strength. However, because of the nature of her existence, and her attachment to him, she was slowly falling behind in power compared to the others. With the four years she spent with Eva, Fenrir was currently the second stronger but, if Vahn allowed Fafnir and Khaos to spend time in the orb, that would no longer remain true…
After thinking it through in silence for a short while, Vahn took on a serious look as he reached out and stroked Fenrir’s hair, saying, “I will find a way to help you increase your strength, Fenrir, I promise…” Fenrir rubbed her head against his palm in response while bringing her ‘paws’ up to grab his wrist, much like the first time he had pet her in the past. This made Vahn feel very nostalgic because, just as he had in the past, he was once again promising to help her become stronger. He wondered if she had actually calculated this or if it was just a natural response because, like him, she too was feeling nostalgic.
Carrying Fenrir on his back, Vahn wandered into the Manor and wasn’t surprised to find that almost everyone had gathered together in the dining room. It was around lunchtime and, though Terra and Alex weren’t present, there was still a celebratory atmosphere in the room. Fenrir, though enjoying the ride along the way, ‘obediently’ extricated herself from his back as she scampered over towards Preasia. Vahn followed her for a few moments with his eyes until a flaming red-headed figure ran over like it was trying to take out his legs, shouting, “Papa, where is my new brother or sister~!? Show me, show me, show me~!”
Vana clung to his leg, sitting down on his foot as she laughed in a slightly mischevious and playful manner. As for Vulcan, which had current shrunk itself down to the size of a puppy, it hovered in the air and just glared towards him, like always. Vahn, deciding to let Vana play around, walked over towards the table while she screamed with a ‘kyaaahahaha’ sound while holding onto his leg. Everyone at the table smiled as they watched the interaction between the father-daughter pair, all except for a slightly pouty Ina. However, when her Papa finally sat at the table next to her, Ina was all smiles when she hopped into his lap with a ‘victorious’ look on her face, beaming even more when he gently stroked her head.
After explaining the matter of Alex’s existence, which had surprised a fair number of those present with how ‘peculiar’ it was, Vahn enjoyed the festive atmosphere while playing with his daughters. Ina, Vana, and Erika were all at the stage where they could eat simple foods and Vahn enjoyed spoonfeeding them whenever he had the opportunity. Still, though he was mainly focused on the three, Vahn continued to make conversation with everyone at the table while part of his mind considered the matter of Fenrir’s strength. His ‘secondary processing’ capability was usually used to monitor his domain but, as there was little chance of any enemy being able to threaten them within the Manor’s bounds, Vahn was currently using it to talk with Sis and think of a solution.
Fortunately, Sis was very helpful in situations like this as she surprised him by explaining, (*You know, Vahn, the best solution would be to make use of Fenrir’s current Innate ability or, though it would be somewhat difficult, helping her increase her Soul Tier further. I’m sure you’ve noticed it but, mastering one’s Innates seems to be the key to increasing Soul Tier. Fenrir has always been on the cusp of obtaining Soul Tier 2 so, by helping her breakthrough that bottleneck, she may even evolve further, solving several ‘other’ issues that have been plaguing you both.*) If not for the fact he was happily wiping pudding off of Ina’s nose, Vahn imagined his facial expression would have blanked. As Sis said, he had actually made the connection in the past since his own Soul Tier always increased when he had major breakthroughs in his Innates. He also noticed that, while Fenrir and Fafnir were both only Tier 1 Souls at their creation, Khaos and Terra were now both Tier 2, with the later progressively getting closer to Tier 3.
Fafnir only had a singular Innate at present, strangely sharing a similar name to the record it had obtained, called [Fafnir’s Legacy]. As for Fenrir, she only had her [Insatiable Hunger] and, while it was a ‘rankless’ Innate, Vahn knew she hadn’t been making full use of it. In truth, Fenrir could have used it to become incredibly powerful, growing without any true limitations as long as she ingested energy-rich sources. However, because she had been unstable at the time, it had been necessary to have Fenrir work on controlling her hunger rather than exploiting it. After all, the more her strength increased beyond her control, the ‘hungrier’ Fenrir would get as a result. This would make her increasingly more frustrated and potentially even cause her to lash out and go berserk.
Vahn realized that he needed to come up with a method to help Fenrir increase her power while simultaneously developing her control of said power. Fortunately, as this thought crossed his mind, Sis’s ever-helpful voice chimed in, saying (“Vahn, why don’t you just buy equipment from the shop that can help stabilize the mind and prevent emotions and mental instabilities from clouding one’s judgment? You can also make her an accessory, much like Hephaestus’ [Promise] that would be able to nullify and restrict the influence of her Innate, at least to an extent. If you take this route, it is very likely that Fenrir herself would develop an Innate that allows her a greater form of control by the time her Soul Tier increases.*)
This time, though he had been doing well to keep his processes separate, Vahn dulled in both his mind and reality. Erika, who had just asked him a question, tilted her head slightly with an embarrassed expression since she didn’t understand how her question had caused such a reaction from her Papa. Vahn, noticing his daughter’s reaction, smiled in response as he said, “Sorry about that, Erika, I just had a sudden realization and a bout of inspiration. To answer your question, yes, I intend to have everyone meet with Alex in the future. I already discussed it with Terra so all you have to do is visit her Garden and she will let you enter inside the orb. However, since you, Ina, and Vana are all very young, you can only stay for a few hours each day.”
Vahn was somewhat afraid that his children’s mental development would become even faster if they started spending long periods of time within the Spirit-Time orbs. Someone like Erika, who had a powerful thirst for knowledge, would undoubtedly want to make use of such a ‘convenient’ tool. If she could read and study for an extra one-hundred hours every day, Vahn had no doubt she would do just that. After all, her physical body wouldn’t have changed much as only ten minutes would have passed in reality, meaning it was a powerful tool for anyone that had scholarly pursuits. Fortunately, Erika was a very well-behaved girl and seemed to realize what he was getting since she nodded obediently and said in a quiet voice, “Don’t worry, Papa…I know you don’t want us growing up too fast…”
For the rest of the afternoon, Vahn spent his time playing with his daughters, helping out with a bit of Naaza’s research, and thinking of how he would help Fenrir with her breakthrough. Most of the girls, after enjoying the festive lunch, wandered off to the Garden to visit Alex and get their first look at one of Vahn’s memory fragments. By the time they had returned, there seemed to be a unanimous agreement that there was definitely something ‘strange’ about interacting with a memory fragment of Vahn. Loki had even gathered many of the ‘senior’ members of the group together in private, apparently realizing there may be a few issues if they truly intended to make use of Spirit-Time orbs in the future.
Ultimately, after a great deal of discussion with Sis and talking it over with Fenrir, Vahn decided that the best method for her to become stronger was to ‘exploit’ the system. Though he often ‘wasted’ OP, Vahn still saved up a large amount of it since he wanted to be able to purchase the [Dimensional Anchor: Statis] in the future. However, as Sis had said, there was always a solution through using The Path and, after referencing a few texts he had obtained a long time ago, Vahn came upon the solution of having Fenrir ‘cultivate’ her spirit, mind, and body. There was already no limitations on her actual Innate so the only thing they needed to worry about was keeping her stable and allowing her to have greater control of her increasing capabilities.
Late that night, after spending some ‘quality’ time with Syr, Lunoire, and Chloe, Vahn went up to the roof where Fenrir had been sitting, staring towards the full moon with glimmering scarlet eyes. Vahn plopped down next to her, somewhat surprised that she didn’t try to sit in his lap, instead, asking, “Master…do you not mind if I change…?” Fenrir knew that, if she made use of the methods they had talked about previously, she would become far different than her Master’s previous expectations. She didn’t mind being an ‘anchor’ for him, even if it was a role she had to take up for all eternity, so it made her somewhat hesitant about moving forward.
Vahn released a sigh, causing a small amount of condensation to spread out through the somewhat chilly atmosphere. Because of Fenrir’s current mood, her magical energy had actually dropped the surrounding temperature a fair amount. So she didn’t misunderstand his reaction, Vahn pulled her over to his side, hugging her seemingly frail and petite body firmly in his embrace as he said, “I have been thoughtlessly cruel to you, Fenrir…you really are too good for me and have done things on behalf that should have never been required of you. Just like I said in the past, long ago during a similarly cold night, my only hope is that you are able to be happy. This will allow you to pursue the path you seek and, even if I lose you as an ‘anchor’, I know you will always be my most loyal and trusted companion…though, if it is your wish, we can also be much more…” At the end of his words, Vahn leaned down and kissed Fenrir’s exposed shoulder, feeling her body tremble slightly within his embrace.
Fenrir remained quiet for a very long time, thinking about the future path she wished to take and how it would affect, not just her Master’s life, but her own. Ultimately, after remembering the smiles on all the other girls’ faces, Fenrir found her resolve as she tightly hugged her Master’s arms and said, “I want to become stronger…I want to be with Master always…Please, help Fenrir…” During the latter part of her words, Fenrir had turned her head upwards, looking towards him with watery eyes that made Vahn’s heart twist inside his chest. Vahn knew that, though unintentionally, he had severely wronged Fenrir, even though she had always been working hard on his behalf. In fact, he had a habit of wronging many of his ‘subordinates’ even though he often told them they were like family to him…
Holding Fenrir’s body tightly in his embrace, Vahn leaned down and kissed the teary-eyed Vanargandr on the lips, almost getting caught up to the point that he forgot about her [Devour] ability. Fortunately, Fenrir was ‘very’ aware of her own skills and turned her head away when she felt her Master’s tongue try to snake its way between her lips. Still, she felt happy knowing that he had gotten caught up in the moment enough to treat her like a ‘normal’ girl. Thus, deciding to take advantage of the moment, instead of holding herself back, Fenrir turned around in his lap and pushed her Master down, enjoying a very long session of kissing and mutual ‘petting’. Her Master had turned into his Vanargandr form to make matters easier for her, something Fenrir was very thankful for since it was very hard to hold back at the moment…
Several hours later, Vahn and Fenrir could see the horizon beginning to light up with the approaching dawn. It was still an hour or two away but it showed very clearly that they had gotten a little carried away in their actions, something that earned him a ‘very’ rare blush from Fenrir when he commented on it. Fortunately, Vahn hadn’t completely lost himself in the moment and had, while his main focus had been on Fenrir herself, his ‘sub-process’ had been looking over the possible solutions with Sis.
The only reason Vahn knew about ‘Cultivation’ was as a result of the various strengthening items he had purchased in the past while, though only briefly, it had also been mentioned within the [Hands of Nirvana] manual. Vahn knew, from reading various resources after the fact, ‘Cultivation’ was one of the best methods to increase your internal energy, strengthening the meridians, forming a dantian, and potentially even ascending to godhood through martial practice, meditation, and spiritual enlightenment. Through understanding the various laws of the universe, gleaning insight into the ‘dao’ of all things, a person could increase their lifespan exponentially while simultaneously experiencing a monstrous growth in their physical and spiritual power.
Presently, Vahn’s understanding of the principles behind ‘Cultivation’ was very shallow as even cheap cultivation manuals seemed to cost several tens-of-millions of Origin Points. As they were techniques that could allow one to potentially reach godhood, or even exceed it according to some texts, it wasn’t too surprising. Fortunately, much like the [Flying Heavenly Sword Manual], it could technically be read by multiple people, meaning he could potentially allow multiple people to study it in the future. The only real restriction was, each cultivation technique was heavily dependent on the nature and affinity of the user. Also, unless you had a strong soul and a great deal of willpower, some phases of the cultivation process could be lethal to the practitioner. After all, the ‘purpose’ behind cultivation seemed to be an effort to directly oppose fate, meaning there were several heavenly tribulations the user would have to face depending on their karmic alignment.
Though it was possible to get lucky and obtain a cultivation manual through the gacha system, Vahn knew it was very unlikely unless he managed to procure some ‘Premium Gacha Coupons’. Thus far, he had only ever managed to accumulate two of them, one from the Goliath and another as a lucky drop from his and Ais’ fight against the Balor. Currently, other than as a ‘Grade Reward’ from quests, Vahn’s only way to get ‘Premium Gacha Coupons’ was from slaying Monster Rexes, generally without assistance. With his [Magia Erebea], this became far more practical than in the past so it looked like he would need to treat it seriously in the future. If he could accumulate ten coupons, Vahn would be able to exchange them for a 10+1 pull from the system, with the bonus pull having a much higher rate of being the type of item he was looking for. Just like his own [Mantra of Eternity], which Vahn suspected to be related to ‘Cultivation’, there was a very high chance he could obtain something beneficial for Fenrir’s growth.
The main reason Vahn decided to use the Premium Gacha was that it wouldn’t cost him any Origin Points, meaning he could save tens, or even hundreds, of millions of OP. However, this didn’t mean he was unable to help Fenrir almost instantly as, after reading up on various matters related to Cultivation, Vahn knew where were several support techniques that would be very beneficial to her. These included special meditation methods, spiritual refinement medicines, soul-strengthening pills, and even tertiary support methods like treasures, artifacts, and equipment.
Fenrir, in order to increase her affinity with ice elemental energy, had actually slept on a bed of ice when she was in Eva’s orb. Vahn discovered that such methods were actually very common in cultivation resources since it allowed a person to increase their understanding of specific laws by constantly immersing themselves among their respective elements. Thus, Vahn decided to convert one of the subterranean rooms of the Manor into a ‘Cultivation Cave’ for Fenrir’s use, fitting it with a bed of ice, made of a material called [Pristine Jade Ice]. He also gifted her a meditation technique called [Mind of Still Water, Heart of Eternal Ice], which would supposedly allow Fenrir to have better control over her emotions while also increasing her elemental affinity with Ice…
———————————————————————-[Pristine Jade Ice Bed] (390,000OP)
Rank: A (Earth-Grade Treasure)
Use: Allows the body to absorb ice, water, and yin elemental energies, further increasing the user’s affinity with said elements. For users that do not possess said elements, causes yin-ice toxins to build up in the marrows and restricts the flow of energy through the meridians.
An Earth-Grade Treasure used by disciples of a sect that cultivates Ice Elemental techniques. Disciples of the Sect are known for their calm dispositions, ethereal beauty, and cold hearts that become detached from the world. However, rumors also say that anyone able to melt the heart of these disciples would win their favor for all eternity, even becoming dao companions on the long road of cultivation.[Mind of Still Water, Heart of Eternal Ice] (250,000OP)
Rank: B (Mortal-Grade Meditation Technique)
Use: Manual detailing specific breathing techniques that allow the user to have better control over their emotions, making the cultivation of water, ice, and yin elemental techniques easier. However, prolonged use of this meditation technique, without counterbalancing it with fire, star, or yang elemental energies can make the user become as cold and detached as the techniques they cultivate.
A meditation technique created by a young practitioner in a foreign record, having grown within an area surrounded by water and ice. It is said that she had been inspired by the ever-present chill of her homeland and watching how icebergs were able to slowly carve a path through the land, almost as if they had limitless patience and an infinite amount of time. In the same way that rivers can create canyons, this technique emphasizes patience, perseverance, and, most importantly, attunement with the elemental laws of water, ice, and yin energy.