Chapter 700: Identity Crisis?

Vahn spent a few hours playing around with Ina and Alex, even though Ina herself wasn’t really the type to enjoy physical activity too much. Even so, she enjoyed flying around through the sky with her Papa while Alex flitted about and evading his pursuit. Now that Alex was around ten years old, it had become far more proficient at flying than before so it was a pretty exciting and relatively high-speed game of tag. Vahn could, of course, capture him whenever he wanted but, much like when he was with Vana, Vahn always toned things down a lot to make it more enjoyable for his children. Alex knew this as well but still used it as an opportunity to hone their skills further, especially since Ina’s presence also brought a smile to the young True Dragon’s face.

Eventually, the time for Ina’s return came and, though she was more than a little reluctant to leave, Ina obediently listened to her Papa and returned to the real world. After all, it wasn’t as though she would have to wait for very long before they could play more. Also, while he was ‘sleeping’, she would be able to snuggle up in his arms and enjoy a short nap herself. Even though the Spirit-Time orb didn’t really affect her physically, Ina was still very young and the mental strain of playing around for a few hours tuckers her out. Thus, after sharing a hug with Alex and her Papa, Ina broke down into small particles of dust as she vanished from the orb’s interior.

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Alex and Vahn watched the small particles ascend towards the sky until Ina’s presence had completely disappeared from the orb. With her departure, Alex released a small sigh and said, “All of my sisters are so cute. It makes me wonder if I should become a boy so I can protect them…” Vahn turned to Alex, raising one of his brows in curiosity as he asked, “Have you been thinking about your gender lately?” Alex nodded while flapping its wings to jump up to his shoulders, resting against the top of its Papa’s head as it said, “It is very difficult to choose if I want to be a boy or girl, even though I know I can probably change it later if I want to. Papa is surrounded by so many girls already and, though I also want to be pampered, I think I want to become a strong man as well…”

Vahn reached up, ruffling Alex’s hair while minding the two sharp horns poking out of their head. In a calm and gentle tone, he said, “Whatever you choose, I will always treat you as my precious child. Even if you become a boy, I don’t mind pampering you just like your sisters. You don’t have to feel that, as a boy, you also need to be ‘manly’. Just like your Mama, you can become strong enough to protect people while also being a female. It isn’t impossible to find a balance between the two and, though it’s a bit early to talk about such things, your gender only loosely affects your relationship when you finally search for your own partner. Even then, it ultimately isn’t that important what the gender of your partner is, however, as the most important thing is that you care for them dearly…”

Alex listened very patiently to its father explanation, nodding when Vahn was finally finished speaking. For several minutes, Alex fell into deep thought before commenting, “You are a very open-minded person, Papa, but I’m not sure I can ignore my own ‘pride’ so easily. Whenever I see Fafnir and Khaos improving, I can’t help but want to compete against them and become the alpha among the True Dragons. However, I also know that role belongs to you and, unless she stopped training, I don’t think I could ever surpass Mama without your assistance…” As they were speaking, Alex turned towards two large mountain-like hills where Fafnir and Khaos could be seen perched. They had both decided to take up residence in the Space-Time orb, for the time being, occasionally learning from Terra and periodically playing with Alex.

Pulling their eyes away from the two figures, Alex played with its Papa’s hair while muttering, “If I become a male, I feel like Papa’s existence will actually suppress me. However, if I become a female, I don’t think I could ever find a better mate than Papa. Since I know you treat me like your blood-kin, that isn’t really an option…” In truth, True Dragons had no blood ties to each other and Alex was entirely comprised of the energies that had melded between Vahn and Terra. Even so, though they had no genetic relation, Vahn still treated Alex like they had a biological connection to each other. Alex understood this very well and, after talking to its Mama about it, learned of the existence of ‘Lenneth’. It didn’t want to burden its Papa in such a manner but, as it had never kept anything hidden from him, felt compelled to properly discuss it. After all, its Papa had always given it good advice, a fact that was deeply rooted at the core of Alex’s existence.

Vahn couldn’t help but release a sad sigh because he already had memories from his memory fragment discussing the matter with Terra. He knew Alex was likely worried that, if they truly decided to be a female, it would eventually cause tension and discourse within their family structure. After all, it was incredibly difficult for a True Dragon to deny their instincts, even for someone as calm and composed as Terra. She had nearly lost her mind after her body began producing eggs and, if not for him fertilizing one for her, Terra might have ‘broken’ at some point. However, the real problem was the fact that Alex sought the ‘pinnacle’ and had an instinctual desire to become the strongest. Knowing it would never be able to truly surpass him made Alex struggle between the choice of its own gender since it couldn’t ‘succeed’ in its biological purpose, regardless of the gender it chose.

As was common between them, Vahn also had a period of long silence where Alex just absentmindedly played with his hair. Once he managed to sort his thoughts, Vahn reached up and grabbed Alex, bringing the young True Dragon to his front and seating them in his lap. Gently stroking the small pointy ears at the side of Alex’s head, Vahn smiled and explained, “The future is full of limitless possibilities, Alex, and, though it may seem impossible to find a solution now, there is always one if you seek it earnestly. There is no rush to choose which gender you want to be and, even if you never make a choice, that is also okay. I will continue to support you, regardless of the path you wish to follow…the only thing I hope for is that you’ll be happy and always care for your family…” Grabbing the sides of Alex’s face, Vahn gave the large-eyed child a simple kiss on the forehead with the most caring and supportive look he could manage.

Alex spent a few minutes just snuggling up in its Papa’s lap, allowing the feathers on its tiny wings to rustle happily while its tail tapped against Vahn’s leg. Though it was somewhat difficult to believe, Alex had confidence that its Papa’s words were the truth. One of the things it had been taught very early on was that there were no ‘impossibilities’ so, hearing its Papa say something similar, Alex felt inspired to try harder. After all, as it previous stated, Alex could always change its gender later on if it wasn’t satisfied with how things were going. For now, Alex decided to try and catch up to Fafnir and Khaos in strength and, as it was still very young, experiment to see which gender was most comfortable. By setting goals thousands of years in the future, Alex figured there was plenty of time to ruminate over the decision before firming its resolve and deciding what it wanted to stay as.

After making up its mind, Alex nodded its head before wiggling out of its Papa’s arms and standing about a meter away. It was only wearing a green tunic, black shorts, and tanned britches, each quickly discarded to reveal the genderless ‘template’ body beneath. Currently, Alex had a very androgynous and cute appearance but, under Vahn’s slightly startled gaze, its body quickly began to morph into a more feminine appearance. The emerald green hair around its head grew slightly longer while their facial features softened slightly. Ultimately, there wasn’t a major change in Alex’s appearance, other than the obvious changes since it had seemingly decided to be a girl, at least for the time being.

In a casual manner, Alex smiled slightly while reaching out ‘her’ hand and saying in a softer voice than before, “Papa, give me some panties. I always wanted to try them on.” Vahn returned a smile of his own while handing over a pair of mint-green panties for Alex to fit into. Because of the changes to her body, Alex nearly fell over while trying to get her legs through the elastic fabric. She furrowed her brows slightly and said, “The bone structure around my hips is completely different…it feels weird just standing.” However, while she was speaking, Alex seemed more curious than actually bothered by the changes. It didn’t take long for her to wear the child-like panties and start stretching to see how they felt.

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Seemingly satisfied, Alex turned towards him and said, “They are actually more comfortable than what I was wearing previously. I always noticed that girls’ clothes were made of more delicate fabrics and it feels nice to be able to wear them like this.” Picking up the clothes she had previously discarded, Alex felt the differences between the fabrics before eventually turning back to him and asking, “Papa, can you pick some clothes you think would suit me? I want to go for a ‘cute’ look for the time being.” Vahn found it somewhat amusing that Alex was so casual about the changes to her body but, as requested, picked out a few outfits for Alex to choose from.

After trying on a dress, Alex played with the hem for a bit before commenting, “It feels very breezy, almost like it doesn’t really serve any purpose as clothing. My stomach and bottom feel completely exposed like this…I wonder why girls wear such clothing?” At this point, Alex wasn’t really speaking towards her Papa and was just asking questions of herself. She had a habit of talking to herself whenever she was thinking about things, a habit she had picked up while playing around in the surrounding forests. As a result, she often came to conclusions through self-exchanges, much like she had just determined that girls must wear this type of clothing to simply appeal to others. After all, Alex also found Ina’s appearance very adorable and lively whenever she was running around.

Ultimately, as a dress was ‘too advanced’ for the time being, Alex decided to wear a white blouse with red rings at the edge of the sleeves and hem. To adapt to the ‘breezy’ feeling, she decided upon a dark-pink frilled skirt. Alex never developed a habit of wearing shoes so she moved around barefoot while testing the feeling of her new clothing. As for Vahn, he watched her with a slight smile on his face before explaining, “Being a female, there are numerous things you have to be aware of. It may not be a problem while you’re inside the orb, but the way people look at and behave around you will heavily depend on how you present yourself. I won’t lie to you, Alex, but there are a lot of perverse and disreputable men in the world that would look at you with selfish and despotic intentions. You are very strong, but your second mother, Eva, always taught me that you can never assume things will always go as you expect. Make sure to ask your Mama about how to properly behave like a girl, okay?”

Alex had been pulling the edge of her skirt, trying to cover a little more of her legs before stopping to listen to what her Papa was saying. She knew the differences between males and females, including the ‘purpose’ for said differences. Since she had also received some of her Mama’s memories about Adventurers and other things to be wary of, Alex treated her Papa’s words very seriously. Just imagining the possibility of falling to someone’s scheme made her feel very frustrated and she resolved herself to never become a victim to such circumstances. In order to avoid such an outcome, Alex intended to train even harder to become someone strong like her Mama. She had seen the latter completely dominate Fafnir and Khaos several times in the past and knew that wasn’t even the ‘limit’ of how strong someone could become.

To ease some of the very obvious discomfort Alex was showing, Vahn gave her a pair of spats and explained that many girls wore them to protect their dignity and also deal with the ‘breezy’ feeling. Alex happily accepted them because they were very similar to the shorts she often wore before, even though the fabric was much thinner. One thing that she had already noticed was, even if the materials were the same, girls’ clothing was much thinner than boys’. Though it made the clothing far more comfortable to wear, Alex felt like it was somewhat wasteful since it seemed to invalidate the basic purpose of clothing, which was to resist the elements and ‘conceal’. She was very aware of the fact that the two tiny rose-buds on her chest made very small bumps on the fabric’s surface and it was somewhat annoying. Fortunately, just as he had given her some spats, her Papa also gave her an elastic strap that he called a sports bra for her to wear. It was a little restrictive to wear but Alex didn’t really mind it too much since it got rid of what had been bothering her.

Once Alex was comfortable in her new clothing, Vahn picked out a variety of other outfits she could try on later. Alex threw all of them into her own pocket dimension before seeming to realize something as she said, “Papa, for the time being, please call me Alexa or Alexandria. Alex is fine too, but I want to try and get used to a more feminine name while I’m in this form.” Vahn nodded his head, stroking Alex’s silky emerald green hair as he asked, “So, is this just a temporary thing then, Alexa?” Alexa showed a contemplative look on her face before saying, “Well, I figured I could try it out for a year or two before swapping to a boy and seeing if it is more comfortable. I don’t really know what I’ll decide upon in the future but, if I can’t really choose between them, I think I may remain genderless when I go to the real world. Since you said it didn’t matter which form I wanted to take, that will let me wear whatever kind of clothes I want without making things too awkward for other people.”

Vahn laughed, impressed by how ‘thoughtful’ Alexa was, even though she was making decisions that are far beyond what would be expected of someone so young. However, she did indeed possess the natural ability to change her gender so Vahn wanted to encourage her to do as she pleased. Thus, after talking for a few minutes longer, Vahn carried off his daughter and they played around for nearly the entirety of the remaining time left to them. Alexa emulated Ina a bit, meaning Vahn had to carry her around and pamper her, but this didn’t last long since she had a far more independent nature than Ina possessed. Ultimately, he ended up playing tag with her and playing a variety of other games. When she was tired, he would snuggle up with her, something he always did regardless, and they talked about various subjects Alexa was interested in. She had very recently started her basic magic training and, as a result of her potential being ridiculous, was already near the middle of Level 3 in strength, even without a Falna.

Before he left the orb, Vahn took Alexa back to the small cottage where the two memory fragments were surprised to receive their ‘daughter’. Vahn didn’t miss the small glimmer and the soft smile on his fragment’s face while Terra’s seemed to find the unexpected change amusing. She grabbed her daughter’s hand and pulled her to the side before chuckling towards the two Vahn’s and saying, “Sorry, but I’ll need to borrow Alex for a moment. We need to have some girl talk~.” Terra sent a wink towards them before dragging Alexa into a side room before erecting an emerald green barrier that barred passage and blocked sound.

Vahn had a wry smile on his face as he followed the two girls with his eyes, only turning away once the barrier had been erected. Then, as if they had some mutual understanding, Vahn matched gazes with his memory fragment as they both smiled and simultaneously said, “She is adorable…” before bursting into laughter and going out onto the terrace to share a few drinks together. Vahn, possessing all the memories of the fragment, felt a very strong kinship with his counterpart and they had been good drinking buddies on the occasions where he had some free time in the past. It wasn’t often, but being able to share a drink with someone that had the same tolerance as him was a very refreshing and relaxing experience.

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