Chapter 698: Free-Spirited, Like a Flame

After watching over Erika’s studies for a little more than an hour, she eventually ‘chased’ him out of the room because he had been ‘distracting’ her. As if he was a dog beaten by its owner, Vahn slowly trudged through the hallways of the Manor. Though he could detect the person he was about to cross paths with, Vahn still felt slightly dejected and didn’t both perking up just yet. Of course, by the time he actually saw them, Vahn had put on a calm smile as he said, “Good morning, Milan. What brings you to the West Wing?” Milan was slightly surprised to come across Vahn since it was nearly impossible to detect him by smell after he learned Magia Erebea. After all, he no longer sweats and his body, while still containing his natural aroma, no longer radiated it outwards.

Patting her chest to alleviate her surprise, Milan gave him a slight look of blame before smiling and saying, “I passed by the dining room and Loki asked me to retrieve Erika for her. Is she inside the Library?” Vahn nodded his head while simultaneously reaching out his hand, stroking Milan’s ears as the mature beauty flushed slightly. As difficult as it was, she managed to swat his hand away before hurrying down the corridor. Vahn chuckled slightly and continued on his own way, feeling slightly better after teasing Milan a little. He knew well how ‘effective’ his [Grooming] was on the various Beast Girls and it was always very refreshing to get a rise out of them.

Vahn made a brief stop-over at the dining room to find out if there was anything he needed to worry about before inevitably heading out the back and entering the illusory forest. Ina was taking a nap on the sofa in his workshop so Vahn decided to go see what Vana was up to. The last time he picked her up in the forest, Vana introduced him to a variety of different animals she had befriended. Vahn was curious if she had made even more friends this time around and, after tracking her for a few minutes, found her surrounded by several Pygmy Deer, Forest Hares, and a small blue bird he had never seen before.

Vana was currently holding the small bird in her palms, bringing it very close to her face as her fiery eyes glimmered with a happy light. Afraid of scaring off the animals, Vahn spent a few seconds calming his mind and infusing his aura with the surroundings. The same technique that allowed him to hide his presence from others also made him seem at one with nature. When he was done, Vahn walked forward with soundless steps as all the animals ignored his presence, almost like he was just a byproduct of nature itself. He emitted no aura and there wasn’t a single thread of hostility radiating from his body that might have alerted them. Animals relied heavily on their instincts so, as he didn’t trigger their awareness of danger, the animals didn’t react to him at all.

Though he was tempted to ‘surprise’ her, Vahn remained silent and just watched over Vana until she eventually released the small bird back into the air. With a happy smile on her face, she stood up from the ground and dusted off her shorts before turning around. Showing a surprised expression and nearly jumping out of her britches, Vana ‘glared’ towards him for a few seconds before smiling once again as she said, “Papa is always so sneaky~. Did you come to play?” Vana looked towards the sky to see the time, this time positive she still had a few hours left before needing to return. She didn’t seem to be suspicious of the fact that the animals didn’t run off when he arrived, nor was she surprised when he began petting one of their heads.

With a calm and gentle smile on his face, which he knew was effective against Vana, Vahn said, “Since I was away yesterday, I wanted to spend some time with all of you today. If you want to play, I’d be happy to…” Vana showed a surprised expression for a moment and nearly asked if he had actually been gone. However, as the words reached her lips, Vana seemed to realize her words were very rude and she felt strangely guilty for not noticing her Papa had been missing. Unaware that he had seen the various changes in her expression, Vana grabbed his hand and began pulling him along as she said, “There is something I want to show you. Come with me, Papa~!”

Vana was never the type to stay in a dour mood for very long so, though she showed an apologetic expression for a brief moment, she had completely recovered in the next. Vahn smiled at his daughter’s behavior and just allowed her to drag him along at her own pace. Unless they were playing, she didn’t like to be carried around and preferred to move around on her own. This generally caused her to get various cuts and scrapes but Vana never cried or complained about them. In fact, she seemed to think it was cool and was always a little upset whenever her wounds healed after a few hours. All of the Vanir had exceptional regenerative capabilities but Vana’s were another level compared to her sisters.

After walking for a few minutes, seemingly unaffected by the illusory formation covering the forest, Vana brought him to a clearing with a few toppled trees that had been covered with vines and flowers. Vahn was somewhat surprised to find fallen trees since this was a very young forest that also benefitted from the nourishment of Terra’s energy. However, seeing the burn marks and signs of explosive damage present, Vahn knew exactly what had knocked them over. He had a slight urge to give Vana a light reprimand but decided against it, at least until he knew why she brought him here.

Letting go of his hand, Vana walked over to the central fallen tree before dropping down to her hands and knees. She wiggled into a small hole as Vahn activated his [Eyes of Truth] to see what she was up to. He was surprised to find out that she had dug a surprisingly large crawlspace for herself and wondered if Terra had helped her out. After all, the latter had reinforced the terrain and it would always regenerate after a while. Vahn decided to ask her latter but for the time being just waited until Vana popped her dirt-covered face out with a beaming smile and said, “Papa, I’ll let you into my secret base. You have to promise not to tell anyone else about it though~!”

Vana had decided to make it up to her Papa by inviting him to her secret base so they could play together. Since it was something special to her, Vana believed it would make her Papa happy to learn about it. When she saw the smile on his face, her own doubled in size as she giggled happily and dropped back into the hole. As for Vahn, he noticed outright that the hole was far too small for him to enter so, after thinking for a short while, decided to adopt a more suitable appearance. This was also a good way to expose Vana to his ability to change form and, given her personality, Vahn believed they would be able to play more often if he could assume a smaller appearance.

Focusing his mind, Vahn used an unnamed spell that he had derived from his mental imaging and [Thria*Mimos]. His form quickly shrunk down, along with his clothes, until he had taken on his Pallum appearance. In total, it only took him around twenty seconds to complete the transformation so Vana hadn’t noticed just yet. Vahn dropped down into the hole rather quickly, startling her as she suddenly shouted out, “Who are you? Where is my Papa!?” In an instant, Vana pulled out her wooden sword and got into an amateurish stance. Though she was putting on a brave front, Vahn noticed there were tears beginning to build up in her eyes so he quickly waved his hands and said, “Vana, wait, it’s me! Please don’t cry!”

Hearing the familiar voice, Vana’s tension eased a bit as she curiously asked, “Papa…?” while taking note of his appearance. Now that she got a better look, the young boy in front of her did look a lot like her Papa, including the fact they were wearing the same clothes. Vahn smiled in response, dropping his hands as he explained, “Yes. This is another one of my magic spells. It allows me to change my form into any race I choose, regardless of size and shape.” Vahn left out the detail that he could also change genders since it really wasn’t that pertinent to the situation.

Vana’s fiery eyes glimmered in excitement and curiosity as she exclaimed, “Really!? That’s so cool!” Without much hesitation, Vana came very close to him and began patting around his body out of curiosity. She was currently around 64cm tall, around half his height since he was 120cm in his Pallum form. After confirming he was the real deal, Vana strangely picked up his hand and place it against her head with an expectant look in her eyes. Realizing what she wanted, Vahn smiled and began to stroke her head as his [Grooming] took effect. Vana laughed, squinting her eyes in the process as she happily mused, “You really are Papa. How amazing~!”

For Vahn’s daughters, none of his actions were really that surprising since, from their perspective, he could literally do anything. As for Vahn, he wanted to always make his daughters happy so, even if it wasn’t something he could do, he would eventually learn how to do it. This time, transforming his body seemed to be enough so Vahn began to look around the secret base of Vana as he made an impressed ‘ooooh’ before saying, “I like your secret base, Vana. It is pretty cool~.” Hearing his comment, Vana began laughing giddily before opening her eyes with a start and running off to the side. She reached her tiny hand into a small compartment before pulling out a poorly carved wooden sword and handing it to him. With a happy smile, Vana raised up her own sword and said, “Papa, lets play knights!”

Though it was a bit too soon for her to begin training, it didn’t mean Vana couldn’t play around. Vahn happily nodded while adopting a loose stance and saying, “Okay, but your Papa is pretty strong. Don’t be upset if you lose, okay, Vana?” As if losing wasn’t even in her frame of mind, Vana just charged towards him with an eager look on her face and swung her sword towards his. Vahn shook his head slightly and just let her strike his lesser-quality ‘stick’ to the side. Vana seemed happy to have ‘overpowered’ him and lowered her guard slightly while laughing. Vahn didn’t correct her outright and just lifted his sword again so Vana could bat it to the side a few times.

No matter how many times she hit his ‘sword’, Vana didn’t seem to get tired of it at all. In fact, her excitement seemed to build as her laughter turned into her characteristic ‘shishishi’. However, Vahn noticed something else that made his eyes take on a magical glow, inspecting the phenomenon before him with keen interest. He had noticed that the interior of her secret base had been coated with a waxen substance that she had probably ‘borrowed’ from his workshop. It gave fire resistant properties and Vahn had been wondering why Vana had set things up in such a way. Now, seeing wisps of flames begin to rise from her hair, he understood how this section of the forest had been burned.

While breathing in a very excited manner, Vana became more aggressive in her strikes until the point that her hair created wisps of flame every time she moved. He already knew her flame generation ability was tied with her emotional state but, having never seen her fight so earnestly before, Vahn had been unaware of this aspect of his eldest daughter. Still, he didn’t panic or show any signs of fear and concern since he knew it could potentially result in a trauma if someone’s abilities were ‘feared’ by their parents. Vahn just continued to show a casual smile while ignoring the increasing temperature of the secret base.

Much like how his own attacks could be imbued with a burning effect, Vana’s strike suddenly made a trail of flames as she shouted, “Ataaa~!” in an exuberant voice. However, when she saw the trail of flames, her excitement was replaced with panic as she released her grip on the sword. Vahn quickly reached out, grabbing the flaming blade while dispersing the lukewarm fire in an instant. Vana was confused at first but, after realizing what happened, releasing a small sigh before saying, “I’m sorry, Papa…” After burning a few other things in the past, Vana knew her power needed to be controlled or she would trouble others. Vahn, however, just smiled as he sat down on the ground and patted his lap. Vana felt a little awkward to sit in the lap of her ‘shrunken’ Papa but, after sitting down, stopped caring about it as she patiently listened to his words.

Vahn never wanted his children to fear their power and, understanding Vana was already making a lot of effort to control her abilities, he decided to say, “Those flames are very impressive, Vana. Your attacks are also very lively and, while they could use polishing, I think you have a lot of potential. When you’re a bit older, I’ll help you practice your swordsmanship and teach you a few cool moves that I think you’ll enjoy…” Vana cocked her head to the side, showing confusion on her face as she asked, “I’m not in trouble…?” Vahn surprised his daughter by laughing lightly and hugging her with a firm embrace, saying, “Silly Vana, Papa thinks you are amazing and I can tell you are working very hard to control your abilities. Though I’d like you to be more open about your training, as it can be very dangerous to train alone, I’m not going to say you did anything wrong. The most important thing to me is that you’re safe and happy…”

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Vana enjoyed the hug, even though it felt ‘strange’ compared to what she was used to. Her memory made her Papa out to be like a mountain, completely covering her whenever he held her. Now, however, he didn’t seem much bigger than her and his hands were tiny. At this point, she had completely gotten over her momentary melancholy and, though she had listened to his words, already seemed to have forgotten them. The only thing Vana cared about was that her Papa wasn’t upset with her and had instead ‘praised’ her. Thus, with a happy smile on her face, Vana jumped up and gave him a kiss on the cheek before hugging his neck and saying, “I love you, Papa~!”

In no real rush, Vahn spent a few hours playing with Vana and teaching her a few methods to help control her flames. Since she was very interested in becoming an Adventurer in the future, Vahn also demonstrated a few basic strikes with a sword that she would be able to execute with practice. Also, as she had torched her previous sword, Vahn purchased her a new one from the system that had basic fireproofing capabilities. She was very excited to receive a new weapon and, without any delay, asked him to play ‘Knights’ again. Thus, until she was tuckered out, Vahn became the practice dummy for his daughter while she practiced the skills he had taught her.

Having exhausted her energy, Vana ended up falling asleep on his back as he carried her through the illusory forest. Vahn had already returned to his ‘human’ form and had a very contented look on his face as he felt the small figure and negligible weight of his daughter against his back. He noticed her body temperature was much hotter than normal, nearly 100 degrees Celcius, but it didn’t seem to affect her any. Like him, she had a ‘perfect’ fire immunity and could channel fire elemental energy through her body without any detrimental effects. The only real downside, as a result of her young age, was that it taxed her stamina a great deal.

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Not minding the Vana’s slobber soaking through his shoulder, Vahn carried Vana through the Manor until he came across Hephaestus. She had been thinking about coming to look for them so smiled radiantly when the two people shared cared about more than anything suddenly showed up. A light layer of moisture covered Hephaestus’ eyes when she saw the sleeping figure of her daughter happily drooling on Vahn’s shoulder. Reaching out, she gently stroked her daughter’s face while saying, “She looks so happy…Vahn…” Turning her eyes up at him, Hephaestus showed a very loving expression on her face that made Vahn’s soften a great deal.

Walking alongside each other, Vahn explained Vana’s ability to Hephaestus in a calm and casual manner while the latter had a somewhat fretful expression on her face. She was somewhat worried that Vana would end up hurting herself but, seeing how calm Vahn was, decided to trust in him. If necessary, she could always ask Terra to look after Vana and, considering how ‘loyal’ she was to Vahn, Hephaestus believed she would agree. Of course, as Vana was always in her territory, Terra had long since started protecting her Master’s daughter without being asked. She found all of Vahn’s children to be adorable and, even more so than her own child, wanted to keep them safe so that her Master could be at ease.

Once they reached Vana’s room, which she shared with Ina and Hephaestus, Vahn laid her down on the sofa while Hephaestus began stripping away the dirty garments covering her body. Vahn prepared cloth and a warm bucket of water before handing it to Hephaestus so she could wipe down Vana’s body before putting her in bed. The latter would probably nap for a solid two hours and it would be troublesome if she tracked dirt and debris into the place where they slept. When she was finally cleaned, Vahn handed Hephaestus a pair of light green pajamas that were a perfect fit for Vana. She gave him a strange look after noticing the pajamas had a frog-like design but Vahn just chuckled lightly and scratched his cheek with a wry smile. He couldn’t help but want to dress his daughters up in cute clothing and it wasn’t his fault Vana was so adorable while she slept…

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