Though he spent the largest portion of his time focusing on his children, Vahn never felt like it was enough. This was emphasized during moments like this, where his adorable little Erika was sleeping on his chest while wearing her equally adorable koala pajamas. Because she was hugging him, Vahn felt like it was a very suitable attire and it always warmed his heart to see her sleeping face. She was always so ‘serious’ when she was awake so seeing Erika completely relaxed was very refreshing. The fact that she had a small smile on her face and was tightly holding on to him made Vahn wish moments like this could last forever…
Loki, who had been sleeping to his left, squeezed his arm a little tighter while slightly parting her eyes, quietly saying, “You know, if you skip breakfast, you can stay here for a good two hours longer~.” Vahn, truthfully, didn’t really require food any longer so Loki’s words were ‘very’ tempting to him. However, he had a habit of waking up early and always being available around this time of day. Sleeping in almost felt ‘wrong’, especially since he would have used the time just to watch over the two red-headed beauties sleeping. Loki seemed to understand this as well, snickering quietly before tightly hugging his arm, almost as if she had made the decision for him.
Vahn heard the silent *suuu* *suuu*’ sounds of her sleeping and, based off her aura and the state of her body, he knew she had actually gone back to sleep. With a small smile and a ‘helpless’ expression on his face, Vahn gave up resisting and just brought up his right hand to gently stroke Erika’s back. Though she was still asleep, Erika instinctually hugged him tighter as the smile on her face grew marginally. This made any doubts Vahn had about his decision completely fade away since that small smile made everything feel like it was worth it…
After spending the morning in a quiet and casual manner, surrounded by the warmth of his family and children, Vahn finally headed towards the cafe. He felt completely refreshed but also stayed on his guard while Fenrir, wearing a frilly white dress, followed behind him. However, though her dress was cute, it was the much thinner layer of midnight blue fur around her forearms and legs that would catch the attention of those that knew her. Though she still had paw pads at the tips of her fingers, the upper part of her palms, and only her toes and feet, Fenrir was looking decidedly more humanoid than before. She still had the problem of possessing claws, but it wasn’t that obvious compared to the past and it was very apparent she was making progress in her transformations.
Today, Fenrir was carrying a satchel-like purse along with her and her bushy tail had become marginally shorter, bouncing up and down as she walked along with a happy smile. If not for the fact that her ears would twitch occasionally, the casual observer would believe she wasn’t in an alert state. The truth of the matter was that Fenrir, much like her Master, had been working hard to control her facial expressions so that she wouldn’t give away any obvious signs of her mental state. Fortunately, she had a lot of experience being willful and free-spirited, so it was very easy for her to act in such a manner as she hummed a happy tune at her Master’s side.
Just as he had done the previous day, Vahn used the room he had booked at the cafe to begin interviewing potential staff for the School. Fenrir sat at the side, changing into a gothic-style outfit as she silently sipped away at her tea while eating snacks. Whenever a new person would show up, she would give them a casual glance while many of the candidates looked at her with confusion and curiosity. Vahn actually found that her presence helped him weed out some candidates since, as a result of being able to read expressions and auras, Vahn could tell if some of the people interviewing had ‘dangerous’ tendencies.
Fenrir, though around seventeen years old, had a petite and adorable appearance, especially when she was wearing clothing to emphasize these traits. Most people would have a positive impression of her at first glance, as she really was quite adorable, but there were a few that had ‘other’ thoughts. One such example was a man who had come in, not part of the original roster, who gave Fenrir an appraising glance and amiable smile. However, Vahn could see his aura gravitate towards her as it took on a sickly pink hue while a very subtle light flashed over his eyes. Before he was even able to sit down, Vahn held up his hand and said, “You can leave.” Though it looked like he had wanted to make a case for himself, the man found his words got stuck in his throat when he saw the cold and icy look in Vahn’s eyes, almost as if he was ‘daring’ the man to test his patience…
When the man retreated, much faster than when he came in, Fenrir snorted through her button-like nose and said, “People that pretend to be good on the surface while hiding their true intentions are despicable…” Vahn nodded in agreement while feeling a strange incongruity in Fenrir’s words, as he still wasn’t quite adapted to the change in her behavior over the last couple of weeks. Though she still had moments where she acted in a cute manner, it wasn’t nearly as prevalent as before. Most of her selfish behaviors from the past had ceased in their entirety and, much like many of the other girls these days, she didn’t even sit in his lap unless he offered…
It was fortunate that most individuals, with similar tendencies as the man, were people that hadn’t been vetted previously, meaning Vahn didn’t have to deal with too many of them. After all, though he did make time for anyone that wanted to interview, the priority were those who had been asked to come by. Almost every person on his list, at least after Loki modified it, seemed to be properly suited for employment at the School. It helped that, as the benefits they were offering could make even some moderately successful Adventurers rethink their career choices, most of the people that showed up were more than happy to begin working at the School.
Not only was the pay much more than they expected, it was a stable job that also gave them ties to the Alliance and ‘insurance’ in the event that anything went wrong. Vahn wanted to make sure all of the workers were satisfied with the benefits they received, as it would help to ensure they treated their work very seriously and looked after the children properly. Doing well would reward them greatly and pave the way towards both financial gain and job security.
As for those that failed to meet expectations, there would be personnel evaluations every six months to replace problematic staff. Vahn wanted to make sure there was never any staff that were proactively trying to exploit the children so he would personally be looking for any changes in how the treated and interacted with the students. If he got so much as a whiff of exploitation, or anything even remotely ‘worse’, Vahn would rain down very swift and decisive justice on them. This was clearly laid out in their contracts and, if anyone wanted to become a permanant staff in the future, they would have to take very strict vows that would be in effect until their contracts expire…
With noon approaching, Vahn got to see one of the people he had been looking forward to interviewing. In truth, she didn’t actually have to come by and interview with him directly but, as she wanted to take on a different position than what was previously offered, Renka had taken the initiative to stop by. However, based on the slight glimmer in her tiger-like eyes, Vahn expected she had some ‘selfish’ motives for stopping by. She approached the table with quick and decisive steps before bowing in a very polite and respectful manner while saying, “I hope my presence isn’t an inconvenience for you, Master.”
Fenrir’s ears twitched when she heard Renka’s words and she began training her scarlet eyes on the unknown Weretiger woman. Sensing the gaze, as a result of her instincts warning her of impending danger. Renka’s tail and ears twitched as she immediately adopted a defensive posture. The tension in the air increased greatly until Vahn laughed, gesturing for both girls to calm down. Fenrirs hair slowly lost its ‘edge’ as she picked up a nearby cracker and crunched it somewhat violently with her sharp canines. Renka continued to remain on guard but, after sensing Vahn’s eyes upon her, did her best to ignore Fenrir as she sat down in front of him.
Still obviously unnerved by Fenrir, Renka awkwardly moved her fingers through her ashen-grey hair as she adopted a practiced smile and said, “I was grateful when Terpsichore-sama informed us that we had the opportunity to work at the School you’re opening, especially since the pay and benefits are very enticing. However, I don’t think my dance is suitable to teach to children and I’m not really proficient with any instruments. If possible, I wanted to try and get a position as a combat instructor or join the security detail protecting the School…” Though she didn’t say it, Renka actually wanted to pitch the idea about her joining the Hestia Familia as well. However, after getting ‘spooked’ by Fenrir, Renka had lost her confidence and was afraid she would be shot down the moment she brought it up.
Vahn put on a thoughtful expression, stroking his chin slightly as he contemplated Renka’s words. She was more than qualified for the positions she was volunteering for but Vahn also knew she ‘deserved’ an opportunity for further growth. He always felt partial to her, as a result of her exotic appearance and tragic background, so Vahn was tempted to help elevate her to a higher position than normal. There was also the fact that, though she seemed to be interested in him, Renka showed a strong sense of propriety and was very respectful during the times they had interacted with each other in the past.
After collecting his thoughts, Vahn gave an encouraging smile towards Renka as he said, “You’re very young and have high combat proficiencies, making you very suited to the positions you’re applying for. However, it almost feels unfair to have you squander your talents in a position where your future growth would be limited. How about I have you work as the assistant of the Department Head, Tsubaki? She might not be as skilled as a god like Takemikazuchi, but I believe the two of you would get along well. You’ll also be charged with teaching the children survival skills and helping watch over their basic training…”
Since she had lost her companions in the past, Vahn felt Renka would be suited to a position where she was directly involved with ensuring that the children were taught how to increase their chances of survival. Though she might suffer an emotional burden when some of her graduates inevitably die, much like how Rose had become somewhat jaded, Vahn believed Renka was a strong enough girl to bear the burden. After all, there would undoubtedly be people that felt gratitude towards her as a result of the teachings she imparted them. Tsubaki would also be able to look after her and, as Sakuya would one day begin her own training, Vahn believed Renka would be a good influence on his daughter.
It wasn’t exactly what she wanted but Renka was still happy that Vahn showed such consideration towards her. The most important thing to her right now was simply securing a position outside of the Clubhouse while not having to outright abandon the Terpsichore Familia. This would allow her to potentially approach and befriend Vahn in the future and, as she would now be the assistant of one of the girls closest to him, Renka believed fortune may favor her in the future. She didn’t particularly have any expectations towards Vahn himself, it was just that she felt he was a suitable Master to dedicate her spear and life to. Her mission in life was to save as many people as she could and, seeing how much change Vahn was bringing to the world, Renka wanted to help him as much as she was able.
Even before she agreed, Vahn noticed that Renka’s tiny tiger-like ears were wobbling slightly while periodically twitching happily. This made the smile on his face soften slightly before she happily exclaimed, “Thank you for your consideration, Master! I’ll do my best to meet your expecations~!” Vahn released a light chuckle before standing up and shaking Renka’s hand, saying, “Welcome aboard, Renka. I’m certain you will have numerous accomplishments to your name in the future. Please take care of the children properly and impart unto them the wisdom and expertise you have accumulated over the few years you had been active as an Adventurer.” Renka nodded her head with a resolute glow in her pale-amethyst eyes.
//Renka Silverclaw: Affection 50+44(Respect), Intrigue 50+29(Curious)//
Vahn was surprised by the system notification but it didn’t show on his face as he escorted Renka to the door and saw her off. Their handshake had actually been the first contact between them so Vahn was somewhat surprised that Renka’s Affection was already at 94. The fact that the bracket parameter was ‘Respect’, however, made Vahn’s impression of her increase even more since she wasn’t just another girl that had fallen for him. Though there was an obvious desire belying some of her actions, it didn’t seem like Renka’s ‘reason’ was simply her pursuit of him.
After seeing off Renka, Vahn returned to his seat as Fenrir murmured in a husky tone, “That girl is a lot like us. She would make a good subordinate for Master…” Vahn experienced a momentary pause in his thought process before giving Fenrir a curious look. As if understanding his question, Fenrir explained, “Master needs more people that will follow his orders and never betray him. Many of the girls in the Manor don’t have the right mentality to truly stay at Master’s side forever. That girl seems like the type to dedicate themselves to the things they believe in, a lot like Lefiya…” As she was speaking, Fenrir noticed the reaction on her Master’s face and decided to add, “She also seems like the type that could become good friends with Master. There are already a lot of girls around Master but only a few of them can be considered friends. Master needs more people he can interact with without dependence on emotions like love and affection…”
Vahn had started to lapse into thoughts about the impending problems he would have to face in the future, especially after a few decades had passed. However, hearing the second half of Fenrir’s words, Vahn snapped back to the present and asked, “You think I need more friends…?” Fenrir unhesitantly nodded her head, explaining, “Yes. Most of Master’s relationships are too ‘heavy’. There aren’t enough people in Master’s life where you can just cut loose and relax, especially now that you have children to take care of. After all, Master hasn’t gone to the Clubhouse other than to drop off supplies and I don’t think you’ve gone to visit that red-headed man in a long time…”
Hearing Fenrir’s words, Vahn was surprised to realize he hadn’t even been thinking about maintaining his ‘friendly’ relationships with other people lately. He had also stopped making his rounds to the primary Familia making up the Alliance, meaning he hadn’t even seen Ouka and Chigusa in nearly six months. As for Welf, it had been a little over four months, as Vahn had simply never made time for the boy that was supposed to be his friend. He had seen him at the Clubhouse on occasion but, as Fenrir had said, Vahn left after talking with Sebas and replenishing the supplies. It was because his ‘relaxation’ time had now been almost entirely dedicated to his daughters and, as they were so important to him, Vahn had stopped paying attention to ‘less important’ things…
Thinking until this point, Vahn realized he also hadn’t truly followed up on his promise with Rufina and, after dropping her off at the Ganesha Familia, he hadn’t even seen her again. Now that he thought about it, Vahn felt like he had just thrown her to the Ganesha Familia and stopped considering her matters seriously, even though he had made a promise to investigate her past. However, other than mentioning it to Loki, he hadn’t really done anything to follow-up on the matter at all. Since her current lifestyle was a result of his meddling, Vahn had an ‘obligation’ towards the girl that he hadn’t treated with the seriousness she deserved.
Releasing a sigh, Vahn looked to Fenrir and said, “I think I see what you mean. It just feels like there isn’t enough time in my life to split between what I ‘need’ to do, and what I ‘want’ to do. Even with the orb, which was supposed to give me more time to spend with everyone, I’ve been staying in the real world more often since I want to watch over my children. It looks like I need to change my perspective a bit in the future…” Vahn knew friends and colleagues were important if he wanted to achieve true balance in his life. If all his emotional connections were with his family, lovers, and children, he wouldn’t truly be a stable existence. In time, he would probably become even more defensive of them since his overexposure to the people he cared about would make him equally overprotective…
Now that he had Fenrir’s ‘advice’ as a guide, Vahn was starting to wonder if it would be better to move the children into the orbs as well, spending most of his time inside so he could balance his lifestyle more easily. Yes, this would mean they grow up faster, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing since he would have spent a very similar amount of time with them. After all, there weren’t any real downsides to them being able to mature ‘faster’ in preparation for the ‘real’ world. The only problem is, this would give him even less time within the real world and it would be difficult to balance his relationships with the goddesses who were unable to enter the orbs. He would essentially be creating his own private world to spend time with his family, becoming increasingly detached from the ‘troublesome’ matters he had to deal with in reality…
While he was thinking, a knock came at the door that sounded the arrival of the next person seeking an interview. Vahn called for them to enter and began discussing the job specifics with the new arrival while his sub-process mind was discussing the matter with Sis. Her advice was actually something he hadn’t quite expected, as it contradicted his past intentions somewhat. In a calm and guiding voice, she explained, (*Using something like shadow clones may not be the solution you’re looking for, but there are other techniques at your disposal if you’re stuck between the real world and your time in the orb. Though it’s not as developed as Emiru and Maemi, you’ve always had a means of linking together with other instances of yourself, even to the point that you were able to bond with your memory fragment when you first met.*)
Though he was certain he didn’t try to pull up the memories, visions of the time he had spent in Preasia’s dreamscape and his first interaction with his memory fragment passed through his mind. This was obviously Sis showing him the evidence of her claim as she said, (*It might be a serious mental strain, but you can consider trying to make an avatar for yourself and split your body and mind into two. You already have the ability to think simultaneous thoughts and, with the support of your Innates, the mental strain shouldn’t be intolerable. The only downside is that you might have trouble doing complex actions while controlling two bodies simultaneously.*)
The ‘solution’ Sis was proposing meant that Vahn wouldn’t simply be using a ‘clone’ to take care of matters he couldn’t deal with personally, as both versions of himself would be intrinsically the same person. He would need to control both sets of limbs, think each thought, breath each breath, and make each decision for both of himself. It was almost impossible to imagine the complexity of such a thing but, after experiencing what it was like to be a Doppelganger, Vahn didn’t think it was actually that difficult. If he mastered the ability, he would even be able to fight against his opponents with two versions of himself, each equally as strong as the other and having flawless teamwork between themselves…
While he was thinking about this, Vahn also wrapped up his other interview and shook hands with the person before asking them to send in the next interviewee. The fact he was able to carry on a conversation while seriously thinking about something else showed he already had a basic proficiency in splitting his thoughts. The only thing is, instead of just controlling a single body, he would be ‘piloting’ two in the future. Even so, he still had some inhibitions about it because it almost felt like he was ‘cheating’ circumstances as a result of being incapable of managing things himself. Though they would both be him, Vahn felt like it would actually be harmful since he might never truly be able to focus on two different things at once. Since he would constantly be ‘split’, with one of his halves in a world where time moved much faster, Vahn could already anticipate several issues.
Ultimately, Vahn decided to bring up the matter with the girls and, even if he never truly intended to rely on the ability, he would at least learn how to use it. After all, if there was ever a moment when he ‘needed’ to be in two places at once, it was better to have that ability than regret having passed up on increasing his capabilities. One of the things he had learned from Tsubaki in what now seemed like the distant past was, ‘It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have. If you have the ability to increase your knowledge and capabilities, you owe it to yourself and the people you care about to expand upon your existing foundation.’ Thus, after following Sis’s advice, Vahn purchased a technique manual from the system shop called [Avatar Creation] for 5,000,000OP…
Rank: S (Heaven-Grade Support Technique)
Use: Details the requirements to create an ‘Avatar’ that allows the user to split their soul into two halves so they can control two bodies simultaneously. When either body is destroyed, the remnant half of their soul will always return to the surviving half, thus allowing the user to once again create an Avatar.
‘This technique had been created by a spirit-practitioner who feared the mortality of their body and wanted to come up with a way to live forever. By using precious resources to construct a body with higher potential, they managed to greatly extend their lifespan and slowly climb the ranks within their record. Unfortunately, as a result of a heart demon, developed from experiencing multiple deaths, the creator of this ability never managed to reach the pinnacle of power. Ultimately, this ability became a secondary support technique that was passed down through his descendants who tried to carry on the will of their master and obtain true immortality.’