Chapter 724: Curiosity

Though he had been making great progress in his use of two bodies, there was one activity that required Vahn’s ‘entire’ focus, which was visiting his young daughter, Alexa. It wasn’t that difficult to set aside time each day to enter inside the orb and see how she was doing, so Vahn always made sure to do so around 10 AM every morning. He tried to keep it consistent so she would always know when he was arriving. This allowed for the memory fragments to go about their own business without interruption as well, something Vahn himself was grateful for since he inherited the memories of the fragment.

Things could get awkward if he suddenly showed up and then monopolized Alexa’s attention when his memory fragment had been playing with her. Since Vahn inherited the awkwardness, and any negative emotions contained within, he had tried to be more considerate towards himself. As for what his memory fragment had been up to, he spent most of his time forging the template pieces for the Aegis set items, which had now actually started to stockpile since nearly twelve years had passed within the Spirit-Time orb at this point.

After materializing, Vahn looked over to see a completely flattened tree stump where Alexa was currently seated. She still had a lot of the same habits from her time as a genderless entity so Vahn smiled lightly and said, “Alexa, sit properly…” Though she was wearing spats, Alexa had been sitting with her legs crossed while wearing a skirt. There weren’t really many people for her to interact within this space so she had yet to develop the awareness necessary for a young lady. Of course, if he went by her physical age, it would have actually been somewhat strange for Alexa to have that kind of awareness as a three-year-old toddler.

Without showing any appearance of shame or embarrassment, Alexa tucked her knees under herself and sat the way her Mother had taught her. Still, sitting like this on a hardwood surface wasn’t that pleasant so she eventually just flicked her wings and jumped off of the stump as she asked, “Will you teach me something new today, Papa?” She hovered in the air around him, slightly below the height of his head so she could look up into his face. Alexa knew this was supposed to be a method to act cutely and, after having seen Ina use the same method in the past, she was confident it would work on her Papa.

Vahn felt like Alexa had reached her tiny hand forward and squeezed his heart with her hands since her look had dealt critical damage to his mind. Reaching his hand out, Vahn began patting Alexa’s head as he said, “It’s ultimately up to you, Alexa. I know my fragment has taught you a lot of things, so I’m personally fond of just spending time with you. How that time is spent, though, that is for you to decide…” Because Alexa had to spend nearly 56 days apart from him every time they were together, Vahn had always left it up to her to choose what she wanted to do. For these one-hundred hours, he would do his best to make sure she was happy and content.

Alexa ‘giggled’ in a somewhat awkward manner before flittering away from his palm and moving near his shoulder. Vahn habitually raised his arm, letting Alexa sit down while wrapped her left wing around his shoulder for stability. With a happy smile on her face, she said, “Today, I just want to spend time with Papa. Even if it’s just sleeping under a tree, that is good enough for me…” Vahn smiled enough that his eye squinted slightly. He reached out his thumb and index finger, lightly pinching Alexa’s button-like nose as he said, “Let’s go for a walk and find a good spot to nap then, shall we~?”

Vahn walked along for around twenty minutes, following the directions of Alexa until they came to a tree that was around 5m thick. There was a nook in between two of the larger roots and Vahn could see that the canopy overhead had been cleared out. Though there wasn’t a sun in the sky, there was gentle while light that radiated down from above and illuminated the worlds below. Vahn found the temperate atmosphere of the completely silent forest to be both eerie and calming at the same time. Of course, with his adorable little dragonling at his side, the eerieness quickly faded away, replaced by a content feeling.

After sitting in the nook, Vahn noticed a bit of moss on Alexa’s wings so, before they took their nap, he smiled and said, “Here, let me groom your feathers…” He knew Alexa had probably avoided cleaning them in preparation for his arrival and, as expected, she happily consented to his assistance. Alexa spread her wings, which could now stretch outwards for nearly 140cm, and held onto her knees while resting her chin against them. It wasn’t a very lady-like way to sit but, considering that her Papa was behind her, Alexa knew he wouldn’t comment on it.

Using a very fine comb, Vahn went through each of Alexa’s feather individually, confirming there were precisely 23,808 feathers present. He noticed the number had increased slightly over the years and it would probably get close to 29,000 when she reached maturity. Unlike her mother, Alexa had beautiful black feathers instead of the leafy-green one’s possessed by Terra. They were also very glossy and had a subtle metallic sheen to them, creating a tinkling sound as he moved the comb through. She also had little black horns growing out of her emerald green hair, now looking like two round nubs, while the scales covering her tail, ears, hands, and feet were a similar glossy black to her feathers.

As if she had read his mind, Alexa fluttered her wings with a satisfied expression on her face before asking, “Papa, will you help clean my scales too?” Holding up her hand, Vahn could see the gentle black gradient of the paper thin scales on Alexa’s forearms and the backs of her hands. Like Terra, she had small runic markings all over her body with a small swirl near the palm of her hand. Vahn accepted her hand and began looking over the glossy scales, noticing they didn’t really require his attention at all. As for the scales on her feet and tail, Vahn didn’t want Alexa to develop any habits so he had to reluctantly shake his head, explaining, “You’ll have to ask your Mother how to take care of sensitive areas on your own. Sorry, Alexa…”

Without arguing, Alexa just nodded her head in understanding, blinking her leaf-green eyes that were as placid as a lake. Vahn, however, noticed that she distinctly flicked her tail when he refused the request. Currently, Alexa’s tail couldn’t really touch the ground just yet or she would have tapped against it, just like her mother did when she was upset. Vahn realized that Alexa, for better or worse, seemed to be developing a temperament similar to her mother. He wondered if this was because Alexa had become a female, or if it was just a trait all True Dragons had. If he got some alone time with Fafnir and Khaos in the future, Vahn would have to ask them.

Before she sat down, Alexa began to wiggle in a strange manner and Vahn could see that her features began to distort slightly. The horns on her head became sharper, instead of rounded, and the emerald green hair around her head began to shrink towards the scalp. When she was done, Alexa surprised Vahn by saying, “There. Now I’m no longer a girl, so it should be fine.” As if it was a signed and sealed matter, Alexa sat down on the ground in front of Vahn and raised up its tail. It was very clear that ‘Alex’ was waiting for him to grab its tail and begin grooming it. Vahn had never seen Alex so willful before so he was a little taken aback by the sudden change.

After holding its tail up for a few long seconds, Alex looked back and released a small sigh before standing up and saying, “Look. See?” Vahn wanted to facepalm when Alex lifted its skirt and pulled down its spats, revealing that it was, in fact, genderless at the moment. Still, though he avoided facepalming outright, Vahn massaged the bridge of his nose and explained as calmly as he could, “Alex, I understand how sensitive a True Dragon’s tail can be, especially after dealing with your Mother. Regardless of your gender, it would be inappropriate for me to touch your tail haphazardly. You should understand this…which makes me wonder what you’re thinking to make such a request so suddenly…?”

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Alex took a deep breath and released it, obviously putting an effort into calming themselves before saying, “I saw the memory fragments of Papa and Mama…and I got curious…” Even without Alex detailing anything, Vahn had an idea of what it had seen. He knew personally that he had always sealed off the area whenever he and Terra had sex. However, this was not always the case if it was just something like a massage, or grooming. Alex must have peeked in on one of the massage sessions and, since Terra could be very…sensual, Alex’s curiosity must have been triggered. It had always been a very curious child, after all, which is likely why it had snuck a peek in the first place…

Much like Alex, Vahn took a deep breath and exhaled, likely why Alex had the habit in the first place. Once he collected himself, Vahn gestured for Alex to sit in his lap and began stroking the young dragonling’s head as he calmly explained, “It’s fine to be curious, Alex, but you have to always consider things from multiple perspectives. If you selfishly try to force people to act in accordance with your will, it is very likely you will put yourself, and others, into tricky situations in the future. As for the thing you’re currently curious about…well, I can’t really help you with it. In fact, you’re far too young to even start experimenting with that kind of thing. Please, talk to your Mother about this kind of thing when you’re older…if you stress over it while you’re young, it will only increase your frustrations in the future…”

Vahn didn’t really know how to deal with this kind of situation so, like he always was with his children, he tried to be honest and explain things as clearly as he could. Alex had been paying close attention to each of his words and, though it wasn’t entirely convinced, it still nodded its head before leaning into its Papa’s chest. In truth, Alex knew it probably wouldn’t have had any luck and that its expectations for the future would also never be met. At this point, it had experimented with being both a boy and a girl a few times but, after interacting with Fafnir, Khaos, and the memory fragments of its Mother and Papa, Alex knew it would probably want to stay a girl. Everyone treated it better when it was female and, for the few months it had spent as a male, Fafnir and Khaos had been more ‘aggressive’ towards it.

Alex, or Alexa, had almost decided that its future gender would undoubtedly be female, if it even decided on a gender in the first place. Since it would never be able to fulfill its instincts, Alexa believed it would probably be better to stay genderless. If it’s Papa couldn’t even tolerate ‘small’ things, Alexa didn’t think she would be able to stay happy in the future. Just the thought of other people touching her tail and wings, with perhaps the exception of her younger siblings, didn’t sit well with her at all. It was beginning to look like the only way forward for her was to stay genderless while assuming a more feminine appearance. At least, that way, it wouldn’t have to contend against Fafnir and Khaos, nor would it have to ‘suffer’ being a female without a future mate…

Even so, Alexa didn’t want to make its Papa’s life more difficult, especially after everything he has done for her. One of the memories deeply rooted into her very existence was her Papa tearing out his own heart, bathing her in his life essence to ensure she would have the greatest potential he could afford her. She had a lot of respect for him and, remembering in his words from the past, Alexa decided to believe that her Papa would find a solution for her problem. After all, he had ‘made’ Fafnir, Khaos, and her Mother…Alexa believed that her Papa could do anything, even if it took him a while to figure it out. She just needed to be patient…

Vahn had noticed that Alex had assumed its female form again but he didn’t comment on it as he laid his head back against the tree and let the warm rays of white light whine down on his face. He wanted her to be happy and would need to come up with a solution in the future, just as he would have to do for each of his daughters. The easiest ‘solution’ was simply to help Alexa become much stronger, just like he was helping Fenrir. If she reached a higher Soul Tier, Alexa would be able to change her fate and, if it was intolerable staying a True Dragon, she could even overcome that.

It was also very possible that, once he linked Danmachi to a higher tiered record, Alexa would be able to find a mate the natural way. Vahn assumed this would be how most of his children found their partners in the future, as it didn’t seem too likely they would be involved with mortals, or anyone significantly weaker than themselves. He was ‘almost’ positive that Ina and Erika wouldn’t even look for partners any time soon, leaving Vana as the only one among the Vanir that would likey ‘explore’ her feelings. As for his ‘relatively’ normal children, they would probably fall in love once they found someone they could put their trust in. Still, even if this was the case, Vahn intended to support them all to the best of his ability. If anyone tried to exploit his daughters…

Releasing an adorable yawn, Alexa rubbed her eyes and asked, “Papa…?” in an inquisitive tone. Vahn lightly chuckled before stroking her shoulders in a small circle, saying, “Sorry, I just let my thoughts get carried away. Go back to sleep…” While he had been speaking, Vahn diffused calming energy through Alexa’s body, bringing a small smile to the girl’s face as she nuzzled into his chest. Her tiny rounded horns rubbed against him and, instead of feeling hard, Vahn noticed they were surprisingly soft and springy. He had never actually touched Alexa’s horns in the past and wondered if it was because they were still growing, making them slightly malleable.

The rest of his time in the orb was decidedly less ‘eventful’ than the first few hours. Vahn and Alexa just played together, explored the woods, and talked about a variety of things she was interested in. She also had enough decorum that, whenever they would go swimming or take a bath, Alexa would adopt her genderless form. Vahn wanted to comment that she didn’t really need to worry about such things, as he didn’t really harbor any feelings or thoughts on the matter, but that would have just made it more awkward for her. The fact she was trying to develop a sense of propriety was a good thing, after all, and he didn’t want to discourage her.

Towards the end of their session together, Vahn carried back the sleepy Alexa in his arms and tucked her into the circular shaped ‘nest’ she had back at the cottage. He gave her a large magic crystal to hug while she was sleeping before moving to where his and Terra’s memory fragments were waiting. After explaining everything that had happened, his memory fragment had a distant look on his face while Terra’s had a surprisingly guilty look. She realized that her efforts in raising Alexa would need to be stepped up unless the latter ended up going down a ‘strange’ route. Though Tera herself didn’t actually mind if Alexa pursued Vahn, she understood that Vahn was ‘very’ uncomfortable with the idea. This meant she needed to teach Alexa how to behave properly and, when the time came, how to deal with some of the urges she had in a ‘healthy’ manner…

As always, Vahn spent the last hour or so just talking with himself, explaining everything that was going on in the real world. It was no longer strange for him to have these ‘introspective’ conversations with his memory fragment and, after putting in so much effort to control two bodies, Vahn felt like his adaptability had increased greatly. He still had a few flaws to work through, and a few quirks to work out, but his progress seemed to be going well. Even his interactions with people had gotten much better, as he was far less reliant on reading their auras and instead looked at their body language.

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After all, with someone as difficult to read as Terra being his conversation partner for twelve years, he was bound to pick up a few things. Since she was also very clever, almost scarily so, Vahn rarely got thrown off by other people and, unless it was one of the girls living in the Manor, or his own children, everyone else would be hard pressed to break through his mental defenses. Indeed, or at least he would like to think so, Vahn had started to mature…

“So, I finished the prototype for ‘that’ project you wanted me to work on…I have to admit, I think it will be perfect…” Hearing his memory fragment’s words, Vahn felt his cheeks heat up slightly because he had just been thinking about how much he had matured. When his fragment suddenly mentioned ‘that’, however, Vahn knew that there were a few quirks that he had actually ‘developed’ after becoming a father. He liked to play with his children and, because they were already so cute, Vahn tried to make them even cuter. As a result of Alexa tried to adopt that type of nature, Vahn had asked his memory fragment to work on a project he had designed the list time he stopped by. Hearing that it had been completed, Vahn couldn’t help but feel a little excited, and a little guilty at the same time…

Following his fragment into the nearby workshop, Vahn watched as the fragment, wearing a large grin on his face, pulled out the prototype. All of Vahn’s own feelings of guilt completely vanished when he saw the finished product, absolutely convinced he had made the right decision. Walking forward, wearing a matching smile as his memory fragment, Vahn picked up the emerald green cloth and marveled at its quality, complimenting ‘himself’ for a job well done. Then, carrying it along with him, Vahn lightly shook Alexa’s shoulder to stir her awake before handing her the one-piece garment in his hand, a pair of pajamas with an emerald-green dragon design that even had holes for her horns, wings, and tail…

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