Chapter 703: Picking Up The Trail?

Though it actually made his return trip take longer, Eirene ended up ‘escorting’ Vahn back to the Manor. She had also wanted to discuss things directly with Loki instead of hearing about it later through the network. Vahn didn’t mind that much, if not for the fact that Fatina tried to ‘race’ him back to the Manor. There was a massive difference in their maximum speed so Vahn had easily won the race, at the expense of two points of Fatina’s loyalty. When Vahn saw the notification, he nearly fell out of the sky with a moderately incredulous look on his face. Fatina simply snorted in response as they landed on the outskirts of the training area. Vahn and Eirene then proceeded inside while Fatina wandered into the illusory forest to enjoy the scenery and explore a bit.

While they were walking along, Vahn gave Eirene a slightly exasperated smile while muttering, “That prideful pegasus is going to give me an aneurysm one of these days…” Eirene giggled in response, squinting her blue eyes in humor as she responded, “He really isn’t that bad once you get used to him…at least not as bad as he used to be~.” Vahn couldn’t help but agree with Eirene since, shortly after Fatina had received its name, the arrogant and proud Unicorn started acting like it was some sacred creature that deserved reverence. Fortunately, as both Terra and Fenrir had been present at the time, Fatina quickly adopted a moderately more ‘civil’ method of addressing him.

As they made their way through the Manor, Eirene continually looked around before eventually commenting, “It seems less lively around here than in the past. Did everyone go out…or maybe they are all in the dining room?” When she had asked this, they had been very near the dining room so Eirene was sure this wasn’t the case. Till now, the only people who knew of the orbs’ existence were the residents of the Manor itself. Though Eirene would undoubtedly learn of it in the future, as she was intending to one day bear his child, she was currently in the dark about the matter.

Vahn wasn’t fond of lying so he just smiled before opening the door for her while bowing politely. Eirene gave a small smile in return, muttering, “How polite~” while entering into the dining room and seeing only a few people present. Currently, it was after the normal dining hours so the only attendees for the coming discussion were Loki, Hephaestus, Hestia, Anubis, and Syr. Most of the girls were currently within the Sub-Space orb while all of the children had already been put to sleep for the evening. Of course, Vahn didn’t miss the fact that Erika was spying on them from one of the crawlspaces so he gave a very subtle wave that caused her body to flinch.

After sitting down, Emiru and Maemi poked their heads out of the kitchen before bringing out a tray of snacks and tea while Vahn explained, “Sorry I’m late, there was a suspicious woman that was lingering around the cafe when I was leaving.” Loki had just been about to ask since she had already gotten word that something was wrong from Hephaestus and Hestia before Syr informed them he wanted to talk while bringing over Eirene. Vahn then went on to explain everything he had seen and experienced while interacting with the strange woman, including how powerful she was, the fact she could hide her strength, and how she was able to intuit he had disguised himself.

Loki listened until the end while Hephaestus, Hestia, and Anubis all showed slightly cold looks when Vahn mentioned how she had accurately severed an artery in his leg. The fact that he was immortal didn’t make them any fonder of the idea that the woman had essentially been willing to watch him bleed out. As for Loki herself, she keyed in on a few of the important details before inevitably saying, “It’s difficult to ascertain if she really has an ability to see through disguises, or if her perception is just abnormally high. You’ve been making noticeable improvements in your facial expressions and disguising your emotions, but it’s not as though your ‘act’ is entirely convincing. She might have memorized the way you moved or taken note of a specific gesture you might be prone to using…”

Like Loki had said, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that his act had simply been seen through by the woman. After all, she showed genuine confusion and surprise when he hadn’t actually defended himself. The reason why he believed this wasn’t necessarily the case was due to the fact that, even while she had acted in such a way, the woman still seemed ‘certain’. At this point, Vahn knew he had an uncanny ability to read people through their expressions, especially by gazing into their eyes. It was almost like an invisible light would shine when people were feeling or thinking certain things, something he had strangely been attuned to even in his previous life.

Hephaestus had a thoughtful look while showing a deep frown on her face. She had been listening very closely to Vahn’s recounting of events and, as far as she could discern, there were only a few possible candidates behind this plot. She sent a look towards Loki, earning a curt nod from her fellow goddess before saying, “This is likely something that has been machinated by the Noble factions. That woman you described matches some of the information we have about potential dangers that might pop up from their side. Though the records aren’t clear, there are a few instances from around twenty years ago about some ‘monster’ from one of the Noble households cleaning up several gangs within the Entertainment District.”

Eirene seemed to catch on to what Hephaestus was getting to, suddenly asking in an incredulous voice, “You mean that woman was the ‘Smiling Reaper’…?” When she saw the serious expressions on Loki’s and Hephaestus’s face, accompanied by the curious look on Vahn’s, Eirene explained, “She is an urban legend that pops up every decade or so, goes on a rampage, and then disappears once again. Not just a few gangs, she is purportedly responsible for the destruction of several smaller Familia and hundreds of unconfirmed deaths. The most surprising thing is, if you trace back the records kept by the Guild, reports of her exploits date back nearly three-hundred years. She was even rumored to have killed the Vice-Captain of the Hera Familia within their own bedchamber.”

Adding on to what Eirene was saying, Loki continued, “Most of the rumors say she is the secret trump card of the Noble faction but nobody has ever been able to verify the claims. Because she had never targeted any large Familia in the past, and reports of her exploits were unverified, the Smiling Reaper had gone largely unnoticed until now. It’s only when she does ‘big’ feats that the name goes back into circulation for a few months before vanishing once again. It’s very likely that she works for one of the top three Noble houses and, given her presumed age, is either a Demigod or an Elf.”

Vahn immediately shook his head when he heard Loki’s words, explaining, “If she is a Demigod, it isn’t a first-generation offspring. The aura doesn’t possess the same quality as other Demigods I’ve seen…” Vahn looked towards Syr while also recalling his encounters with Ottar and Ash in the past. Fortunately, he had a way to verify her race pretty easily so, after gesturing for silence and closing his eyes, Vahn began to alter the flow of energy within his body. She had restricted and condensed her aura, but Vahn had still been able to identify the woman’s elemental affinities and the structure of her mana. By emulating it, while keeping his image as a male, Vahn would easily be able to discern her race by checking his status.

In just under a minute, Vahn had finished his transformation while everyone present looked towards him with intrigued expressions. For Eirene, this was the first time she had actually watched Vahn transform, just like the eavesdropping Erika. When he had finished the transformation, Vahn’s skin became fair and his hair had taken on an onyx-black hue with slightly pointed ears. Most notably, however, was the fact that the sclera of his eyes had turned completely black while his pupils had taken on a pale golden hue. Even before Vahn confirmed it for them, a small figure popped up out of thin air with a curious look on her face as she grabbed and squished his cheeks with her tiny hands.

With Doppel revealing herself, Erika came out of the crawlspace with a combination of guilt and embarrassment on her face. However, instead of being upset with her, Hephaestus, Anubis, and Hestia just smiled while Loki and Syr chuckled lightly. The only person that seemed confused was Eirene but that didn’t matter much since the thing everyone else was curious about was confirmed by Vahn a moment later. He grabbed Doppel’s tiny hands into his own while she made a happy ‘Aaauu’ sound when he said, “It seems our opponent this time is a Doppelganger, though only a half-breed. In other words…” Piggybacking off os his words, Loki squinted her eyes and said, “She is a Xenos-Human hybrid…”

(A/N: Oh, hi there…)

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[[Stats]]

Name: [Vahn Mason]

Age: 15

Race: Half-Doppelganger, *sealed*

Parameter: [Danmachi: 1-4]

-Level: 5(+)

-Power: 3193+(I0)->(H108)

-Endurance: 4536+(I0)->(H177)

-Dexterity: 3839+(I0)->(D517)

-Agility: 3561+(I0)->(F331)

-Magic: 9291+(I0)->(C620)

Total:24,421+(1,753)

Soul Tier: 3 (Lord Soul)

[Karma]: 13,692->13,777

[OP]: 15,318,499->18,005,739

[Valis]: 3,901,832,592->4,882,545,901

Skills: [Will of the Emperor:SSS], [Rakshasa Body:D], [Keeper of the Akashic Tome:B], [Eyes of Truth: B],[Bow Mastery:S], [Stealth:A], [Chainbreaker:S], [Heart of the Eternal Flame:SS], [Prometheus:A], [Call of the Reaper:A],[Yggdrasil’s Favor:S], [Veil of the Traveler: S], [Featherfoot:S], [Hands of Nirvana:S], [Metallurgy:B], [Fist Strike:A], [Friend of Spirits:A], [Void Ward:E](new)

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Magic: [Thria*Mimos:A], [Shundo:S], [Koku Shundo:D->C], [Cantus Bellax:S], [Mellodia Bellax:B], [Vis Maxima:E], [Sagitta Magica:B], [Pactio:A->S], [Magia Erebea:SS]

Development Skills: [Wound Transfer:S], [Well of Spirit:C], [Swordsman:A], [Master Smith:H], [Mixing:C], [Mentor:A], [Grooming:I->D], [Arch Mage:I] [Void Ward]

Rank: E

Use: Allows the user to create magic wards and send them across vast distances before activating their effects.

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In actuality, though sentient monsters were all classified as ‘Xenos’, it wasn’t the actual name of their race. Instead, it would detail the ‘species’ of Xenos they were, meaning a Minotaur Xenos would simply be labeled as a Minotaur within the system. Since he had ‘subjugated’ both Terra and Fatina in the past, both easily classified as Xenos, Vahn had been able to confirm this through experience. Thus, even though it didn’t specifically state she was a Xenos through the system, the woman would still be classified as one by the world’s standards.

Doppel seemed very fond of the fact that he was a Doppelganger now and, until Erika eventually pulled the giggling guardian away, she kept trying to shape and distort his face. Vahn was actually quite curious about what abilities he might possess in this form, especially since they didn’t show up through the system, so he tried channeling his source energy through his face and hair. Loki had just been about to speak but, seeing the sudden changes in Vahn, remained silent as she watched his onyx-black hair grow till the center of his back. It began moving around in an awkward manner like tendrils as Vahn blinked several times, almost as if he was very confused.

The moment he started using his energy to try and activate the racial skills he should have, Vahn felt like all of his senses ‘mixed’ together and it was a very large sensory overload. He could ‘see’ through each fiber of hair while his face and body actually started to melt as a result of his inability to hold his form properly. It wasn’t until he activated [Will of the Emperor] and reversed the changes that he was able to regain his senses. His quickly recovered his mental faculties before giving an awkward smile and saying, “I now have a much greater appreciation for how incredible Doppel is…” Vahn sent his glance towards the small Guardian, earning a happy ‘auuwaaau’ as she squirmed about in Erika’s arms.

Vahn went on to explain what it was like to try and use his abilities, surprising everyone while both Loki and Erika looked at him with contemplative expressions. In truth, Vahn wasn’t exactly sure how to explain what he had experienced because it was like each of his cells became their own entities. It was like he could see, hear, smell, and taste through all of his pores. He had no idea how Doppel, or the Smiling Reaper, were able to keep their wits about them when using their abilities. And, as he had said, this made him feel appreciation and understanding towards Doppel now. Though she could emulate speech, it was very obvious she wasn’t at the same level of intelligence and awareness as the other guardians. Vahn now knew it wasn’t because she was actually ‘simple’, but because the amount of information she had to process was ridiculous compared to others. It had to be said that a body was comprised of trillions of cells and, if they actually all became sensory organs, it was enough to overload more other creatures’ brains…

After he had returned to his ‘normal’ appearance, Vahn sat with a slightly blushing Erika in his lap while Doppel played around behind his back, pulling at his hair and face with curiosity and confusion. While this was going on, Vahn maintained a calm expression as he explained, “Now we understand why she has been able to evade detection for so long. If she can manipulate her shape and form, it would be almost impossible to actually track her down. Fortunately, now that I know how the energy in her body is structure, she wouldn’t be able to evade me next time. Still, as she seems to be around Level 6 in strength, we need to make sure nobody is wandering around the City alone. I’ll try to scout around some of the Noble residences and see if I can pick up her trail in the next few days.” Though the girls spent most of their time in the orb, they still went out to get some fresh air and explore the City on occasion.

While they had been speaking, Syr was inputting all the important details into the network so the girls would be able to reference it later. When she understood the conversation was beginning to come to an end, she even snapped the notebook shut with a happy smile before alighting from the room. Vahn could detect her going to the room where the orb was kept, likely to explain the situation to the girls directly so as to avoid any accidents. With her departure, the tension in the conversation slowly started to relax as Loki smiled in a teasing manner, saying, “That should be enough for the time being. I’ll also touch base with some of my contacts and see if they can discover something. For now, what I’m most curious about is what my daughter is doing up past her bedtime~?”

Erika hung her head while looking up into her Mother’s eyes, uncertainty and hesitation flashing across her green pupils. However, when her Papa hugged her in his gentle and warm embrace, Erika felt more at ease, explaining, “Since Papa had been late coming home, I was worried something might have happened. I saw how Mother was acting and wanted to know what was going on…I thought I might be able to help…just a little…” All the while her daughter had been speaking, Loki watched her very carefully with her slightly parted eyes. It was somewhat strange, seeing the mother-daughter pair with their slit-like eyes having what could be misconstrued as a staring contest if you didn’t understand the context.

Seemingly satisfied by her daughter’s answer, Loki nodded her head with a smile and said, “That’s good then. If you’re doing it for your Papa, I don’t mind if you misbehave and break a few rules~.” Loki actually wanted her daughter to be free of restraints and restrictions, at least once the young Vanir reached maturity. Though she sometimes lectured and teased her, she never truly prevented Erika from acting as she pleased. After all, with her daughter’s intelligence and the potential influence of her pseudo-divinity, Loki didn’t want to ‘hurt’ her development by interfering too much. As long as she didn’t veer onto a ‘dark’ path, Loki was actually happy that her daughter had ‘disobeyed’ the rules a bit, especially since she did so out of concern for her family.

Vahn also felt very warm when he heard Erika’s words, even though Doppel was tugging at the loose skin below his right eye and making it awkward to show a normal expression. Since it seemed like a good opportunity, Vahn sent a glance towards Hephaestus, Hestia, and Anubis, almost as if he were seeking their permission. They all gave him gentle smiles in return so Vahn turned to the snickering Loki while hugging Erika as he said, “It’s been a little while, so Papa will sleep in Erika’s and her Mother’s room tonight…” Erika’s face became apple-red, especially after seeing the amused looks everyone was giving her, before mumbling, “As long as Papa doesn’t try to make me wear those embarrassing clothes…”

Loki began cackling without restraint while Hephaestus released a sigh, completely understanding what Erika meant by ’embarrassing clothes’. Vahn was a very doting father and, because he wanted his already adorable daughters to be even cuter, he always tried to get them to wear cute pajamas. Erika wasn’t really a morning person so there was an event a few weeks ago where she had walked through the hallways in a koala outfit, causing the hearts of all the girls in the Manor to melt when they saw her. As for the culprit behind the incident, he was currently making a very dejected and hurt face after taking a critical impact from his daughter’s words. When she saw this, Erika felt very guilty and, after biting her bottom lip for a few seconds, eventually whispered, “Nnnuuu…fine then, but I won’t wear them when I get older…!”

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Though she had whispered it quietly, everyone present heart Erika’s words and sent her amused smiles with gentle expressions. This caused her already apple-red face to turn a deeper shade of crimson as Eirene, who had been standing patiently at the side, murmured, “I want one…” in a voice only she could hear.

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