Chapter 903: Respect

Taking Loki’s advice seriously, Vahn stayed at Tsubaki’s side and, instead of busying himself in the Dungeon with his avatar, decided to spend time with his family back at the Manor. He really didn’t need to be ‘rushing’ everything so much and, so long as he wasn’t caught wholly unprepared, it wasn’t as if there were any great threats that required his attention. Now that they needed time to get the refugees settled, Vahn knew he should focus more on internal affairs instead of seeking conflict with other countries. They still had a little more than five weeks until the Rakia Kingdom’s invasion forces arrived, so now was a good opportunity to get his personal life sorted out.

With these intentions, Vahn spent nearly three days caring for Tsubaki, rarely leaving her side except when she needed to perform her duties at the School. During that time, Vahn would play with Sakuya, Meinya, Aisha, Lenneth, and Anise, watching over their training and just spending time playing games with them. At the same time, he had found the opportunity to check on his older children, helping Erika with her never-ending studies, teaching Vana how to manipulate external Fire Elemental energy, and helping Ina test her inventions. The latter had developed a prototype suit of armor that covered the entire body, complete with size-changing functionality. Most impressively, however, was that Ina had discovered how to create and exploit ‘slots’, something that Vahn had overlooked in other people’s work.

Depending on how a ‘slot’ was assigned, it was possible to use equipment in conjunction with other equipment, such as how a bow could make use of unique arrows depending on the number of slots. Ina had found a way to increase the number of slots in her armored suit, copying the basic structure of the Aegis Armor that Vahn had produced for the girls. With all the pieces of her suit together, including helmet, breastplate, pauldrons, arm harnesses, gauntlets, ‘belt’, leg harnesses, and greaves, Ina’s [Aegis Prime Mk. 2] had a total of twenty-nine slots. The armor itself only had the Abilities ‘Auto-Sizing’ and ‘Shock Absorption’, but the additional parts that could be slotted into it gave it infinite functionality.

Currently, Ina was proactively trying to learn how to ‘engineer’ gemstone constructs, using a combination of [Lapidary] and, after learning from Asfi, the [Mystery] Development Ability. All of the Vanir seemed to have a natural ability at learning Skills, Magic, and Development Abilities, much like how Vahn had been able to learn them in the past. So long as they set their minds on a goal, each had been able to achieve a great deal in a very short period of time. Vana already had [Swordsman], [Tamer], and [Acrobatics] while Erika had reached A-Rank in her [Mage], and [Analysis] Development Abilities. Vahn had never even heard of the latter before it popped up in her [Heroic Tale], which explained that it allowed her to analyze targets, identifying their strengths and weaknesses at a glance. She could even, to an extent, gauge the power output of a target, claiming that Vahn’s ‘aura’ made it seem like he was a massive ocean of power…

Ultimately, Vahn was incredibly proud of each of his children, even though the Vanir stood out as especially exceptional. The fact that his three eldest already appeared to have reached adulthood still caused him to feel slightly melancholic but, seeing how much they had grown along the path they had chosen, he could only smile with pride. His only complaint, though it really couldn’t be considered one, was that there seemed to be a ‘gap’ in their awareness that he wasn’t sure how to address. Even Erika would sometimes want to receive a bit of pampering, causing Vahn to feel awkward whenever they would make requests for things like massages and other types of spa treatments. He didn’t mind it so much, as he felt no deviant feelings towards his daughters, but a part of him wished they would show a bit of propriety at times…(A/N: Keep in mind that Vahn is also the family physician, does beauty treatments, etc. Don’t be weird about it :P)

From the period between 4:30 AM, as Tsubaki had to be at the School’s training field by 5:00 AM, until around 2:00 PM, Vahn would spent his day watching over his children and interacting with the other residents of the Manor. When Tsubaki eventually returned, he would always be there to greet her with Sakuya in his arms, spending the rest of the day together and showing her as much care and concern as she could tolerate. This ended up being the key word, tolerate, as Tsubaki eventually started teasing him for being overly concerned, trying to drive him away and make him spend time with other people. Even so, Vahn had gotten good at handling most of the girls, Tsubaki being no exception, so he managed to coax and pacify her until she became docile in his arms once again…

It was the evening of the third day when, after having what amounted to a tickle fight, Tsubaki was leaning into Vahn’s chest with the sleeping Sakuya in her embrace as she muttered, “I think I’m ready… let’s go tomorrow afternoon…” Vahn had already moved Jorfaic’s body to where Tsubaki had wanted him buried, erecting a large prayer shrine where people from the Far East would go to honor their ancestors. Tsubaki had a smaller shrine inside her room, where they would return to at the end of the year to pay respects to Sakuya. Now, the shrine inside Tsubaki’s old room, which had belonged to her mother before her, had two pictures enshrined inside. The first showed a vibrant Sakuya, still the picture of perfect health, while the second showed a stern-faced Dwarven man who, if you looked closely, had a soft light in his eyes…

Vahn responded by rubbing Tsubaki’s arm as gently as he could manage, not wanting to wake Sakuya, while he kissed the top of Tsubaki’s head and said, “Whenever you’re ready…there is no rush, Tsubaki…” She nodded her head slowly in response before muttering, “The longer I wait, the guiltier I will feel…besides, aren’t I always telling you not to overthink things? As sad as this ended up being, it is actually a positive outcome. Instead of abandoning us, my Father cared for both my mother and me very deeply…I have wronged him greatly and it has already been far too long since I have paid my due respects…” The only reason Tsubaki had waited an additional three days was that she had been trying to think about why her mother had kept the truth from her. However, no matter how much she thought about it, any answer she could come up with didn’t seem to be the truth of the matter. Now, after watching over the various orphans in her change at the School, Tsubaki felt that she ‘needed’ to pay respects to her deceased Father soon or the guilt might tear her apart…

Without saying anything, Vahn just held Tsubaki a little tighter, knowing she was trying to sort her own thoughts, not really expecting him to have a response. This was something she could only work through herself and, for the time being, his duty was to show her as much support as she needed from him. Tomorrow afternoon, they would go and pay respects as a family, taking Sakuya along with them so she could come to understand that both of her grandparents were loving parents to her mother. Though she was still a little young to understand such things, Sakuya would one day learn the significance of these truths, giving her strength and direction in her own life down the line…

True to her word, Tsubaki had arrived punctually at the Manor after completing her duties at the School. Vahn was already waiting for her with Sakuya, dressed up in an adorable red kimono, holding his hand at the side. Tsubaki, seeing her own daughter in such a getup, couldn’t help smiling affectionately as she too made her way inside to get changed. Vahn was also wearing a black yukata with red lines, designating him as the ‘head’ of the household while Tsubaki eventually dawned a similarly colored Kimono. Though she looked very stylish wearing such clothing, there were no adornments or embellishments to be seen, as they would be going to mourn and pay respects. This wasn’t the case for Sakuya, however, as Vahn had spent nearly two hours helping her style her hair and look even more adorable so that he could show her off to his in-laws…

Though they would have flown during most circumstances, this was a solemn event that Tsubaki would need time to prepare herself for. As a result, the three walked hand-in-hand the entire distance, even stopping to peruse a few stalls when Sakuya showed an interest in something. By the time they reached Tsubaki’s Manor, the adorable little Half-Dwarf was happily nomming away at a candied stick while Tsubaki’s expression had softened a great deal, a natural smile displayed on her face. When they went inside, Tsubaki showed no hesitation as she stepped into the shrine and, though it was long overdue, she paid her sincere respects to her father while praying for the health of her daughter…

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Vahn waited patiently outside with Sakuya since, even though he was the head of the house, he had no right to enter into the Ancestral Shrine dedicated to Tsubaki’s ancestors. His time came later, when the three of them entered into Tsubaki’s room and opened the partition where the shrine that was dedicated to both Sakuya and Jofraic was located. Here, Vahn paid his respects together with Tsubaki before they had a long conversation with the two pictures, introducing the confused Sakuya to her grandfather. Even in her confused state, however, Sakuya did an adorable little bow and happily began chatting with the two pictures as, for a brief moment, it felt like the five of them were all in the room together as a family…

That night, the three of them stayed within Tsubaki’s Manor while Tsubaki, for the first time since learning the truth about her Father, shed tears on his behalf. In the past, she had cried tears of indignation, blaming her father for the suffering she and her mother had to go through alone. Now, knowing she had misunderstood the truth of the matter, Tsubaki shed tears that had been bottled up for forty-two years, crying for the father she had never known. All the while, Vahn lent his shoulder to her, stroking Tsubaki’s silken black hair until, several hours after she had started, the proud and strong woman he had fallen in love with cried herself to sleep…

The following dawn, Tsubaki had returned to her normal and upbeat self, an honest and caring smile on her face as she cooked up some fried rice and eggs for Sakuya. Vahn knew she was still hurting, and would likely be for a while, but he also displayed a happy smile. He knew that now, after coming to terms with what had happened, the healing process could finally begin. Just as Sakuya and Jorfaic had hoped, Tsubaki would be stronger after knowing the truth and, with the [Sakuya-no-Tsubaki] at her side, her happiness would continue to grow. Even their daughter seemed to understand this as, during breakfast, with pieces of rice sticking to her face, Sakuya happily asked, “Mom, will you teach me how to use a sword like that…?”

Tsubaki had already started teaching Sakuya some of the fundamentals but, as the latter was too young for real training, they hadn’t started on anything more difficult. When she heard her daughter’s question, however, Tsubaki smiled lovingly before adopting a ‘serious’ look as she said, “If you start down the path of a warrior, you will not be able to deviate and slack off later on. I’ll teach you everything I know until you are strong enough to grow beyond me and begin teaching others. It isn’t a path you should walk if you lack the conviction so, until you are four years old, you should seriously consider if that is what you truly desire, Sakuya…”

Even though her mother’s words sounded serious, Sakuya just giggled playfully as she held up her spoon and shouted, “Don’t worry, Mom, Sakuya will be the strongest~!” With her exclamation complete, Sakuya scooped up another mouthful of fried rice and shoveled it into her mouth, squinting happily as she did so. Tsubaki, hearing her daughter’s words and observing her actions, simply began to laugh out heartily while Vahn, watching the interaction between mother and daughter, felt like his heart was going to melt. With the bonds of family, and a willingness to do whatever it took to make the other party happy, it was possible to whether any kind of setback. Tsubaki would normally need the support of many people to put this matter behind her and face the future but, with just a few choice words from her daughter, the road to recovery would become much shorter.

Since Tsubaki had taken the day off, having Arnya fill in for her, the three spent the first half of the day lounging about and simply spending time together as a family. In the afternoon, after having Sakuya wear some casual children’s clothing, the three went around the various interesting areas of Orario, including the very top of Babel tower. It worried Vahn a little, that none of his children seemed to have any fears while he was around, but it also made him feel like a capable father at the same time. Even when Sakuya was walking around the edge of Babel, completely ignoring the high winds that could easily sweep her off her feet, Vahn just created a wind barrier around her while anchoring her with his telekinesis. Since even Tsubaki allowed her to play around, enjoying the sight of Orario from above, Vahn allowed his daughter to do as she pleased while saving his lecture for later…

Once Sakuya had played around for a bit, the three made their way to a rather high-end restaurant within Babel Tower before taking Sakuya to view the various weapon and item shops on the 16th Floor. Along the way, Vahn found a small shop that sold children’s toys and souvenirs, which had been growing in popularity, and decided to buy something to commemorate the event. When they entered the shop, however, Vahn felt his face heat up as Tsubaki’s laughter echoed throughout the entire Floor. As for Sakuya, she beamed upon witnessing the adorable plush dolls that were on display, labeled under a sign that boldly touted, ‘Best Selling Children’s Toy, The Little Emperor of Orario!’. There, in a display bin that was surrounded by various women and children, a veritable pile of Vahn plushies could be seen…

In the end, Vahn had to purchase several of the rather intricately designed dolls while those who had already been there to buy one ended up asking for autographs. Some of the bolder women, at least until Tsubaki scared them away with a deadpan stare, even tried to ask for a lock of Vahn’s hair to sew into the backing. His popularity with Amazons, Elves, Pallum, and Beast People had been peaking for a while now, though they typically had enough sense not to bother him when he was with family. This time was a bit of an exception, however, as the group of girls fawned over the adorable Sakuya while happily flaunting their dolls and paying him more than a few heavy compliments…

Along the way back to the Manor, Tsubaki teased him incessantly about the dolls while Sakuya happily hugged her 40cm tall plush that had cost Vahn a surprising 60,000V. It used rather high-quality materials in its construction and, after asking the store owner about who created them, Vahn learned they were produced by a goddess named Rhapso, possessing a ‘literal’ divine level of skill when it came to sewing. Her Familia was relatively new, only existing for around eight months, and she currently only had four total members. Since she hadn’t joined the Alliance yet, and Vahn had never heard of her previously, it was likely that she had only descended in the Mortal World around the same time. Now, Vahn planned to give her a public endorsement and invite her into the Alliance, as the popularity of such items had a lot of potential within the ever-evolving markets of Orario…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Ina Inherited Tony Stark’s Will xD’,’Four decades of saved tears…’,’Rhapso is about to become famous, producing an entire line of Vahn-type plushies~! I imagine they would be very popular with refugees and the girls at the School…’)

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