Chapter 689: Tea Time

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A few days after his return from the Rakia Kingdom borders, the specifics of what Vahn had accomplished had begun to circulate. Initially, common knowledge was that his actions had been somewhat tyrannical and, by making use of his Dragons, Vahn had indiscriminately claimed the lives of thousands of people. While Rakia Kingdom was looked down upon by nearly every country on the continent, it was still somewhat unnerving knowing that a single person commanded enough power to ‘invalidate’ the defenses of an entire country. This news was especially troubling for the countries that had ongoing enmity with the Alliance, chief among them being the Elven Kingdom and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. While the former was somewhat relieved that they no longer had to worry about defending the western front, especially while there was so much internal turmoil with the Kingdom, the latter had started to genuinely regret ever allying themselves with the Elves.

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Because of the Alliance coordinating with many of the powerful merchant Familias, who had all been under pressure by the recent market changes, the Dwarven caravans no longer had an easy way to profit off of their goods. Though many people couldn’t help but try to pry into how the Alliance managed to come up with so many rare items and materials for exchange, it was a highly protected secret and it almost felt like the materials were simply appearing out of thin air. The Familia that benefited the most during this time was the Fortuna Familia, as Fortuna herself had become the one responsible for facilitating the exchanges and keeping the market stable. After all, there were several people that tried to take advantage of the seemingly endless availability of rare goods that flowed out of the Alliance at present.

With the efforts that were being made, some of the smarter Dwarven merchants began making deals with some of their long-time business partners so they could offload their goods and sell them at the original market value. This didn’t go well in most cases, however, as the trust between the Dwarves and the merchants of Orario had already been betrayed. Ultimately, it was only by trying to bribe and appeal to the various Noble families within the City that the Dwarves had any real success during these chaotic times. When he had learned that the Nobles had, once again, gone against the interests of the Alliance, and the CIty itself, just to make some profit, Vahn was very frustrated…

It was similar to how the Nobles simultaneously backed the blockade and supported economic sanctions against the Elven Kingdom. However, at the same time they were making their support known, they were also using their power and influence to circumvent the policies to reap profits for themselves. It wasn’t uncommon to see Elven slaves in the entourage of various affluent and wealthy families, even though the acquisition and distribution of such slaves had been heavily restricted. Unfortunately, as they were the ones that voted and put the laws into circulation, there were a seemingly endless number of loopholes that they exploited, essentially making all of their ill-gotten slaves ‘legal’ purchases.

Vahn did his best to not mind it too much, even though it bothered him a fair amount, choosing instead to focus on his family and the matters of the Alliance. Currently, the Alliance enjoyed a very high degree of favorability with the public since, even though they initially thought his actions to be someone tyrannical, it became known that Vahn had saved a lot of people. With a bit of ‘assistance’ by some of the more successful entertainment Familias, it was publicized that Vahn had actually saved thousands of lives, liberating slaves and people that had suffered under the tyrannical rule the Rakia Kingdom.

Through the careful manipulation of information, Vahn’s actions became ‘heroic’ in nature once again while also showing that he wouldn’t simply stand by and let Rakia Kingdom attack him and his family. After all, while he was ‘supported’ by the Alliance, his actions against the Rakia Kingdom were made out to be a personal matter, justified by the reasoning that Rakia Kingdom had sent ‘several’ assassins to kill, not only Vahn, but his children. When it became known he had been ‘forced’ to take action to protect his family, many people saw Vahn in a very positive light, especially those that had children of their own that they cared deeply for. His reputation became that of a doting father that was willing to go to the extremes to protect his family, even if it meant facing off against an entire army on his own…

As for Vahn himself, almost as if giving validity to the claims, he was currently having a tea party with Ina and Erika, the latter of which had been ‘dragged’ into things at Ina’s insistence. They were gathered around a table that was suitable for children, Vahn sitting on the floor due to the difference in their size. Most notably, which would have drawn bug-eyed looks from anyone that witnessed the scene, Vahn had sloppily done makeup on his face as he casually sipped his tea. Ina, with her back straight as a board, gingerly lifted up her own teacup to take a very small sip before producing a small smile and returning the ornate cup to its saucer. She was currently wearing a prim little princess dress that had a lot of ribbons and frills.

With a ‘too excited’ smile on her face, Ina put on a pretense of elegance as she said, “Father, pray tell, will you have free time on this eve~?” Vahn raised his head, emulating the etiquette of a gentleman as he said, “Indeed, Princess. If it is your request, I will make myself available to attend you.” Erika, seeing the act they were putting on, rolled her eyes as she also took a sip of her own tea. To her left, she saw the small winged tiger cub wearing a pink hat with what Erika believed to be a very confused and regretful look. It also turned its eyes to match her and, for a brief moment, it was almost like the two had established a link of understanding and camaraderie between each other.

Ina giggled happily, seemingly forgetting about her little act as she nearly knocked over her teacup while saying, “That’s great! I want you to read me more stories about heroes and princesses~!” Vahn smiled in return, patting his daughter’s head as he said, “Sure. Tonight I’ll read to you a story about a princess who had beautiful blond hair, trapped in a tower guarded by a dragon until her prince came to save her…” With glittering eyes, Ina seemed to be imagining the scene as she dreamily asked, “Papa, do you think a prince will one day come and sweep me off my feet? I know I’m not a real Princess, but it seems like such a beautiful dream…” Strangely, as she spoke, Ina’s eyes began to actually glimmer, this time with a magical light as a dreamy look appeared on her face.

This wasn’t actually the first time in recent days that Ina had such an ‘episode’ so Vahn and Erika just waited patiently for her to return to reality. Not knowing how long it would take, Erika decided to make use of the opportunity to ask, “Papa, can I really not use the spirit time orb more? It bothers me a little bit that Alex has so much time to read and research things…” Erika, being the little scholar she was, found the existence of the Spirit-Time orbs to be very interesting, much as Vahn had expected. However, just as he had said previously, Vahn shook his head slightly and said, “Erika, I understand you are very passionate about gaining knowledge, but it isn’t healthy for you to place such emphasis on such things while you’re still so young. As a Vanir, you already develop much faster than normal and…well, just take it easy every now and then. You know I worry about all of you a great deal…”

Hearing her Papa’s words, Erika blushed slightly and nodded, not really surprised by his refusal since it hadn’t been the first time she asked. Even her Mother had disallowed it, something that had surprised Erika at the time. After all, her opinion of her own Mother was that Loki would do whatever it took to gain an advantage in any given situation. Having a method to acquire a vast amount of knowledge over a very short period of time was exactly the type of thing that could have lasting benefits if applied correctly. As for why Erika was so interested in such things, it was due to the fact that many of the goddesses she had spoken to all agreed that ‘knowledge is power’. Since she currently lacked any true power of her own, Erika wanted to be as knowledgable as possible…

Reminding herself why she wanted to become so capable, Erika peeked at the somewhat silly face of her Papa and muttered, “Papa, I don’t think makeup suits you…I like your normal face more.” Vahn had previously turned his eyes to check on Ina, missing Erika’s momentary glance but hearing her words loud and clear. With a wry smile on his face, Vahn pulled out a mirror and noted that, while Ina put an earnest effort into her attempt, she was still a ways away from being able to apply makeup properly. She honestly didn’t need any, as all of his daughters were flawless in his opinion, but had taken an interest in it after seeing the red markings around Haruhime’s eyes.

Whisking the mirror away, Vahn chuckled lightly and said, “Well, it’s not bad for a first attempt. Thanks for the compliment, Erika.” Vahn hadn’t missed the second half of his daughter’s words and, even though he knew it would embarrass her a little bit, couldn’t help but tease her. Erika hung her head low, hiding the blush on her face as Ina, fortunately, returned to her senses. Puffing up her cheeks, Ina said, “Booooo, boys are stupid!” Vahn was a little surprised by Ina’s outburst, tilting his head slightly as he asked, “What did you see, Ina?” With the same pouting expression as before, Ina huffed as she explained, “Hmph, those smelly boys aren’t handsome at all. They just say flowery words and lie all the time. None of them could even look at Papa and Mama in the eyes for more than a few seconds!”

At this point, everyone in the Manor knew about Ina’s power of ‘foresight’, which allowed her to see a kaleidoscopic view of events. It wasn’t entirely reliable, as fate was constantly changing, but it did allow her to see multiple outcomes of certain events that may take place. This time around, it seemed like her interest in being whisked away like a Princess caused her to see a variety of different situations where people were trying to court her. Vahn felt a little bothered that she had such an ability but, rather than trying to prevent her from using it, he just cautioned her from becoming reliant on the skill. After all, he wouldn’t really be a good ‘Papa’ if he suddenly put restrictions on one of his daughter’s natural capabilites, especially as it was something that would give her more power and longevity in the future.

With a soft smile on his face, Vahn ruffled Ina’s light blond hair, saying in a gentle tone, “Well, there is still a very long time before you have to worry about anything like that. Even if you want to stay at the Manor for a hundred years, we’ll always be here to support you.” Ina, though smiling happily at first, opened her eyes in confusion at the latter half of her Papa’s words. With an almost incredulous look on her face, she asked, “Eh? Did you think I was going to leave one day, Papa? There is no way, you know~? Even if I got married one day, I’ll never leave Papa!” Vahn, hearing Ina’s words, felt both dull and warm at the same time, deciding to focus more on the secondary emotion as he began laughing. Ina, thinking he was laughing at her, put on a pouting face and shouted, “Papa! You won’t make me go away one day, will you!? If that is the case, Ina will never ever get married…!”

Seeing Ina begin to tear up, Vahn immediately stopped laughing as he opened his arms slightly with an apologetic expression on his face. Ina sniffed loudly once before jumping into his lap and hugging him tightly, a very unwilling expression on her face that made his heartbreak. Vahn knew there were still a lot of things he needed to work on in order to be a good father. Because of how smart and capable his daughters were, he sometimes forgot they were only around ten weeks old, chronologically. Saying things that might imply she would one day have to leave the Manor was bound to be upsetting, causing Vahn to regret his choice of words, even though he had intended to be supportive.

Vahn continued to soothe Ina, doing his best to console her casting periodic glances towards Erika so she didn’t think he was ignoring her. Erika just continued to quietly sip her tea, not minding the somewhat awkward atmosphere since she was used to Ina being a little ‘peculiar’ at times. In truth, she was a little envious of how straightforward her ‘elder’ sister could be around their Papa, seemingly without feeling any embarrassment whatsoever. Fortunately, her Papa was always very perceptive so, as this thought crossed her mind, Erika made the smallest smile she could manage when her Papa gestured for her to come over. As it was just the three of them right now, excluding the lamenting tiger cub, Erika didn’t mind getting pampered a bit…

Later that afternoon, after the tea time had come to an end, Vahn found himself out in the backyard looking for his more troublesome daughter. It was the consensus of everyone in the Manor that the girls should be allowed to express their independence and curiosity without restriction, assuming it didn’t endanger themselves or others. After all, they had a very limited period of time for their childhood and it would be unfair for the Vanir if they had so many restrictions placed on them during their formative years. This, unfortunately, meant that Erika liked to wander about the Manor quite a bit while Vana, ever the little Adventurer, was constantly roaming around and playing in the illusory forest.

Vahn had been tasked to go find her since it was nearly time for lunch and Vana’s afternoon nap. If she didn’t take an early nap, Vana would eventually fall asleep around dinner time, meaning she was up around 2-3 AM unsupervised. During one such instance, Vana had gotten bored since she didn’t have anything to do, setting fire to her own tiny bed on accident. Fortunately, Vana herself was fireproof and the incident had been noticed almost instantly. The rooms where the girls stayed were all within the range of his domain so Vahn had snapped into awareness the instant he detected the abnormality.

Wandering around in the forest, following the fluctuations of mana in the atmosphere, Vahn eventually came across Vana. With his perception, combined with his [Eyes of Truth], it hadn’t really taken that long to discern her location. What surprised Vahn was the fact that Vana was currently feeding one of the small Pygmy Deer that had been released into the forested area. They were naturally very skittish creatures so it was very surprising to see that Vana was able to get one of them to eat out of her palm. She had a very natural smile on her face that made Vahn’s heart melt as he continued watching the scene for several minutes.

After feeding the deer, Vana stroked its head as if it were perfectly natural, something that the Pygmy Deer uncharacteristically allowed. Then, after a few more seconds had passed, Vana looked toward the sky as if she were checking the location of the sun. Vahn thought she had actually figured out how to tell time by the sun’s position but, though it seemed to be what she was trying to do, he nearly fell over when she nodded confidently and said, “Good, I still have a few hours before Papa comes to capture me…” Vahn, finding his footing, looked towards the sky and could easily tell it was around 11:40 AM, meaning Vana was already late to lunch since they normally ate around 11:30. Shaking his head, Vahn waited for the Pygmy Deer to scamper off before appearing silently behind Vana and standing with a ‘cheeky’ grin on his face.

Vana had been watching the deers retreat, smiling all the while until it had completely disappeared into the treeline. Nodding her head in satisfaction, she turned around only to find her vision blocked unexpectedly. Realizing it was a person, Vana startled as she shouted, “Ah, Papa!? Nooooooo~!” and began running away. At the same time as she ‘fled’, Vulcan popped out of her body, seemingly intending to buy her some time as two tufts of flames came out of its nostrils. Vahn laughed, playfully asking the resolute looking dragon, “So, what will you try this time, Vulcan~?” During their last ‘climactic’ encounter, Vulcan had actually tried to attack him with a moderately powerful flame breath, not directly aimed at him but targetting the surrounding area. Vahn, however, just gave a wry smile at the time, surprising Vulcan by simply walking through the sea of flames as if they didn’t exist…

This time around, Vulcan just stood its ground, only moving whenever Vahn tried to walk around it to pursue Vana. Since it seemed to know its flames wouldn’t have any effect, Vahn assumed Vulcan just wanted to bar his passage with its physical body. Unfortunately for the pony-sized dragon, Vahn wasn’t exactly slow enough that it could simply stand between him and his daughter. After giving the latter a proper head start, Vahn smiled at the alert dragon, waving his hand before completely disappearing from sight. Vulcan’s eyes widened in shock, swinging its head from side to side in an attempt to find out where he disappeared to before spewing a pillar of flames towards the sky out of frustration.

Running through the illusory forest at the highest speed she could manage, Vana zipped around various trees, dove through bushes, and hid behind rocks. She would periodically look back to see if her Papa had caught up to her, giving a mischevious laugh when she saw that the path was clear. There was a very prominent gap in her smile compared to the past, the result of her slipping in the onsen after ignoring several of the girls’ warnings not to run around. It gave her an even more mischevious appearance than normal and, as her hair was somewhat curly while being short, much like her mother’s, Vana had a very tomboyish appearance. This was accented by the fact that she already dressed like she was preparing to be an Adventurer, wearing small brown shorts, a light brown tunic, and a small belt fitted with a pouch and wooden dagger.

After waiting for a few seconds, and seeing no signs of her Papa’s pursuit, Vana began laughing triumphantly as she decided on her next course of action. Unfortunately, just as before, the moment she turned around to find a new spot to hide, a figure entered her sight as she walked straight into her Papa’s hug. Instead of lamenting the fact she had been caught, Vana began laughing even more as she wriggled around in his arms, saying, “Ahahaha, let me go, let me go, I don’t want to go back yet~!” Vahn laughed along with Vana before picking her up and placing her around his shoulders, pacifying her a bit since she really liked high places. Still, after taking a few deep breaths to calm down, Vana asked, “Do we reeeeaaaally have to go back so soon, Papa? I want to play more…!”

Vahn nodded his head, saying, “Well, if it were up to me I might let you get away with playing around as much as you want. But, you know how your mother can be…also, its very important for your growth that you eat properly and get a lot of rest. Don’t you want to grow up big and strong?” While holding his head with her tiny hands, Vana rocked from side to side as she contemplated her answer. It was very dangerous to move around in such a manner but Vana had absolute confidence her Papa wouldn’t simply let her fall as his grip around her ankles seemed unbreakable. Deciding that he was right, which often seemed to be the case, Vana released a sigh unbecoming of her age and said, “Okay, Papa…but next time you have to play with me lots, okay? I made a lot of new friends recently and I want you to meet them all~!” Understanding she was talking about the various animals residing in the illusory forest, Vahn smiled as he said, “Of course.” in a calm and happy tone of voice…

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