Chapter 936: Dual Lifestyles

While on his sea voyage towards Telskyura, Vahn wasn’t idle back at the Manor and, though he was supposed to be taking a ‘break’ from external affairs, it didn’t mean he was completely unaware of what was going on. With the coming of winter and the drastic increase in the population of both Orario and the budding settlements near the former Dwarven Fortresses, there were a few food shortages expected as the large caravans that had previously traversed through various countries had yet to reform. Vahn had found himself in a meeting with Fortuna, Minerva, Demeter, and another Goddess of Agriculture, Annona.

Annona was one of the key suppliers of cereals and grains to all regions, not just Orario, and had been a long-time associate of Demeter. She had a rather unique appearance with fluffy pink hair that curled naturally, framing her rather gentle facial features. As all gods were considered ‘unblemished’, the thing that stood out the most with Annona was the fact that she had speckled freckles that were a light pink and soft brown coloration. She also had greyish eyes that had a tone of yellow and blue mixed in, giving her one of the more unique appearances Vahn had ever seen amongst goddesses. This, combined with her rather shapely figure, motherly nature, and gentle disposition made her very easy to associate with, even though she seemed a bit airheaded at times…

Vahn had been listening to them give an account of the supplies that were likely to run short, especially on the fringe territories. Just as Emiru and Maemi had experienced in the past, there were many territories that would experience short famines during the winter months if hunting, gathering, and trade hadn’t been favorable to them. Though they weren’t yet his responsibility, Vahn didn’t feel comfortable with the knowledge that small villages and tribes would struggle through the coming winter months. This meant that the elderly would likely starve while the young, especially if they were female, may end up being sold by their villages as slaves, trading lives for a small amount of grain and supplies…

The problem was, even if he wanted to do something about it, the only ‘viable’ option was to either pass through each village himself, or send out members of the HDF to deliver supplies. This could have other detrimental effects, however, as it could potentially create a series of misunderstandings that could cause these villages to expect ‘free’ goods every winter. The people on the fringe territories weren’t well educated and most led very simple lives where it was relatively rare for even a handful of villagers to be able to read and write. Some tribes didn’t even speak the native language of Orario, and most of the Continent, Koine.

Fortuna had come up with a potential ‘solution’, which wasn’t too different from what would normally happen during such circumstances. The HDF members that were sent out to the fringe territories could exchange supplies for the very same people that would have been traded away by their villages, allowing them to become temporary slaves under a two-year contract, serving as an additional labor force for the Alliance. At the same time, Vahn had the option of training and educating these people before allowing them to return to their homelands later, taking farming techniques and knowledge back with them. These people would also serve as the catalyst to encourage migration and proactive trade with the Alliance in the future, allowing the flow of goods in and out of the City to slowly increase with the passage of time…

Since Vahn knew that, under the right circumstances, slavery wasn’t exactly a bad thing, he ended up agreeing with Fortuna’s suggestion. The contract the Alliance used was significantly different from a normal slave contract so they wouldn’t be mistreated and exploited as ‘property’ by those who thought themselves above others. Those that were already adults would be given work, shelter, and a steady pay that would allow them to save enough to finance themselves if they decided to stay in Orario after their contract expired. As for those who had yet to become adults, they would either be accepted into the School or incorporated into some of the smaller Familia. They would not remain slaves and would instead be given a proper education or apprentice within a Familia to learn a trade that would allow them to make a living when they were older…

With these decisions made, Vahn had filled 100 storage artifacts that were filled with grain and preserved meat that he had obtained through the system shop. These would be ‘issued’ to HDF members who had already reached the rank of Lieutenant, meaning they were already Level 3 and had earned enough contribution points to be trusted with important assignments. There were now around 14,000 members of the HDF so Vahn had plenty of suitable candidates to choose from, each leading small platoons of twenty that would easily be able to fend off attacks from monsters and bandits. During the months before winter, the number of bandits that roamed the countryside increased exponentially as some poor farmers would take up robbing small merchant groups instead of trying to obtain a higher yield from their overfarmed plots of land…

Though he had arranged the artifacts and supplies, the task of choosing suitable candidates was left to Finn who, when Vahn and Haruhime weren’t in Haven, acted as a Commander in the HDF. Gareth usually presided over Lil Geirr so, after working with Finn for a long time, Vahn had come to trust his judgment and leadership capabilities. Though Finn’s ‘wives’ had migrated down into the Dungeon, bringing their children along with them, Finn seemed in relatively high spirits after Vahn gave him a pendant that doubled his stamina regeneration. With some of the other ‘benefits’ Vahn had given Finn, even some of his wives had come to express their gratitude whenever he would stop by to discuss various matters…

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After arranging everything, Vahn entrusted the supplies to Yggy who was easily able to move inorganic objects between her other selves. It still consumed a lot of energy, but it was nothing compared to teleporting a person, allowing Yggy to easily complete the task and inform Finn about Vahn’s arrangements. As for Vahn himself, he had spent a few minutes pampering Yggy before returning to where Fortuna, Demeter, and Annona were still waiting for him. During their earlier discussion, they had asked if he would accompany them for tea after he had finished his arrangements. Since Fortuna was also a goddess he was steadily growing closer to, Vahn didn’t refuse the offer while Minerva, having her own matters to attend to, ended up parting ways with the group while Vahn was taking care of things.

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With nothing else planned for the day, Vahn spent around forty minutes enjoying the company of the three goddesses and, after she ambled into the room, his adorable little Autumn. She already had the physical appearance of a young girl of around eight years old, but her disposition made her seem far more mature. Autumn always seemed to have a gentle smile on her face and, much like her mother, she had eyes that drooped at the ends while even her movements seemed slow and elegant. She never seemed to be in a rush and would often spend well over an hour just staring out windows or quietly listening to the sounds of nature along the periphery of the illusory forest…

When Autumn slowly made her way into the room, her natural smile blossomed even more when she saw who was inside, stating in a soft and quiet voice that was difficult to hear unless you were listening closely, “Father…Mother…it is good to see you. May I join you…?” Just after these words left her mouth, Autumn also gave a polite smile and a slight bow towards Fortuna and Annona, lifting the edges of her vanilla-colored dress in the process. Vahn, rarely able to refuse when his daughter’s asked something of him, returned a smile of his own as he said, “I don’t see any problem with having you join us, Autumn…” This was followed by Fortuna and Annona nodding while Demeter simply laughed softly before making space on the sofa so that Autumn would be able to sit between her and Vahn.

Unlike his other children, Autumn was significantly less ‘attached’ to him, often sitting on her own and keeping a bit of distance between herself and others. During conversations, however, this would change a bit as she was also quick to make gentle and supportive contact with people, even though it was hard to tell if she was actually listening at times. Vahn didn’t really know what to make of this kind of behavior but, as Autumn seemed to be happy, he allowed her to do as she pleased. Thus, after smiling radiantly towards Demeter, Autumn slowly ambled over to the sofa before fixing her dress and sitting in the spot that had been emptied for her. She folded her hands in her lap as her eyes seemed to peer off into the distance, seemingly content with just being present without even attempting to take any tea or snacks for herself…

This was something Vahn was used to so he took the initiative to fill a ceramic teacup with a fragrant tea that was filled with honey. Autumn, though never really stating her likes and dislikes, always seemed happier when she had something sweet to eat or drink. Vahn placed two teaspoons of refined honey into her cup and swirled it around with a fine silver spoon before handing her both the teacup and the saucer. Autumn’s eyes gained a momentary focus as her smile grew slightly, happily accepting the teacup as she said, “Thank you, Father…” before sampling the contents with an even happier smile.

Like this, Vahn enjoyed a quiet and peaceful teatime with the company of three goddesses and his inexplicably quiet and elegant daughter. She only spoke a few short sentences when directly addressed, spending the rest of the time simply listening in on other conversations while staring into the contents of her teacup. If not for the fact that her Love parameter was at 8,017, even Vahn wouldn’t really know what was going through Autumn’s mind. He had tried asking her before but her only response was a somewhat amused smile as she answered, “This place is very warm…” without explaining the meaning behind her words. Since many of her answers were similarly as vague, Vahn had grown accustomed to just lightly pampering this peculiar daughter of his, doing his best not to ‘disturb’ the peace she seemed to have found…

Back on the Kali Familia ship, Vahn had a gentle smile on his face as his mind was focused on the tea party in the Manor. He was vaguely aware of the looks the surrounding Amazonesses would give him but it didn’t do anything to particularly spoil his mood. Since his previous rumination, Vahn had decided to just go with the flow of things instead of fretting over them unnecessarily. Though this was a somewhat ‘cyclic’ habit he had developed, Vahn wasn’t bothered by this fact as it was just another part of what defined the person he had become. He was happy with the life he created for himself in this world and didn’t see any need to change. As a result, Vahn was sitting with nothing but a pair of waterproof bottoms and a few tribal accessories, blending in well with the surrounding Amazonesses, so long as you ignored the fact he was a man.

Vahn enjoyed the feeling of the cool air against his skin while the warm and revitalizing rays of the sun kissed his healthy brown skin. During his previous rumination session, Vahn had decided to try and experience a similar way of life as the Amazonesses themselves, even though he was still just an ‘observer’. He wanted to truly understand their perspective before making decisions that could impact their entire culture and way of life. Just as he had done with the Xenos, Vahn wanted to respect the unique society they had created and, though he would undoubtedly change some things, he wouldn’t continue to force his perspective and bias.

With these kinds of thoughts on his mind, Vahn stared out over the deep blue sea before shouting, “Sea monster, twenty degrees starboard side! Distance, 700m, depth 90m!” His alarm was followed by a series of orders from Khodiva, each setting groups of Amazonesses into motion as they quickly prepared for the coming battle. Now, other than a skeleton crew that kept the ship moving, most of the Amazonesses on deck had gathered near the starboard side, quickly gearing up with spears before releasing war cries and jumping into the water. Even though the monster had yet to appear, none of them questioned whether or not Vahn was telling the truth, instantly following through on the information he had provided, even as an ‘outsider’.

Shortly after the first batch of Amazonesses jumped into the water, there were a series of thumps that caused plumes of water to shoot up. Almost immediately thereafter, a large black squid-like monster that was covered with white speckles broke the surface of the water, flailing its tentacles as it thrashed about and tried to attack the ‘swarm’ of Amazonesses agilely cutting through the water and surrounding it. Seeing them easily evade the tentacles that could weigh several tons, all while acrobatically vaulting out of the water to throw their spears, was truly a sight to behold. They all worked together, coordinating their efforts to systematically overwhelm the squid-like monster without exposing any individual member of their group to danger…

Vahn continued to watch the battle from atop the ship’s deck, Tiona, Tione, Bache, and even Kali joining him. The stronger members would only interfere if the weaker members were unable to deal with the threat, allowing those with less experience to grow and mature. If Tiona, Tione, and Bache were to step in, the fight would have been over after a very short period of time. As for Kali, she rarely took action directly and was simply using the opportunity to linger around Vahn, saying, “This is how we Amazonesses live and die, fighting for supremacy against the natural world instead of trying to escape it…” Even now, Kali would say such words, almost as if she were trying to convince Vahn that their way of life was ‘correct’.

Hearing her, Vahn just gave a small nod without answering her directly, knowing that Kali didn’t actually expect one from him. This caused Kali to lick her fang-like tooth with an amused smile on her face before she leaned against the ship’s railing and shouted, “You brats, Vahn said he would personally feed the person who gets the killing blow~!” This time, Vahn’s brows furrowed slightly as he gave Kali a sidelong glance, earning a mischevious ‘shishishi’ from her as the previously coordinated Amazonesses became like a school of piranhas. Amongst them, there were even two Amazonesses who leaped out of the water and mounted the squid-like monster, digging their hands into its slimy exoskeleton and forcibly trying to tear apart the plating with brute strength.

Kali had turned to match Vahn’s gaze, asking, “What, are you going to refuse after seeing them work so hard? I didn’t think you were-” Before Kali could finish her words, Tiona had vaulted off the deck, flipping through the air with a playful smile on her face. This time it was Kali’s turn to frown slightly as she watched the Level 7 Tiona performed an ax kick into the massive squid’s head, causing a massive concave indentation that caused the surrounding water to ‘drop’ slightly before sending out a shockwave. The squid was smashed into the water while the surrounding Amazonesses were pushed away by the shockwaves wake, some flipping and tumbling through the water a few times as they tried to orient themselves again…

When the squid’s emerged once again, it was long dead as Tiona stood on the surface of its corpse, giving a sheepish laugh as she waved her arms and said, “You’ll have to try harder than that if you think I’ll let you have Vahn, ehehehehe~!” This caused Kali to click her tongue while Bache laughed from the side, covering her already veiled mouth with her hand with an amused light in her eyes. As for Tione, she had a stupefied expression on her face, realizing that Tiona had ‘stolen’ the limelight before she could even act. Even so, she didn’t say anything and instead cross her arms with a ‘hmph’ that caused Vahn to produce a wry smile in response. He knew he would have to feed her too, causing a competition between the two sisters that would require him to pamper both until they were satisfied…

(A/N: Reminder, Vahn’s children have the bracket parameter (Familial Love), nothing more ‘sinister’. Also, if there is a third chapter today, it will be later in the afternoon. Tomorrow will probably have four regardless though since it is the reset. Also, how is everyone liking the mini-arc with the Amazonesses? I’m not sure if it is interesting, even though I like the idea of sailing quite a bit…?)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Winter is coming…’,’The peculiar, yet adorable, Autumn…’,’Tiona is a very honest girl xD…’)

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