Chapter 941: Changes, Inside And Out

During the last leg of the seas voyage, as the atmosphere on the Kali Familia ship had been undergoing various changes, winter had quickly settled on Orario. Shakti had gone into labor without incident, giving birth to Vahn’s third son, a rather lumpy baby with a thin matte of deep blue downy hair on his head. Vahn felt just as proud as always while the ‘exception’ to the event, Rufina, made a comment about how his and Shakti’s son looked like a potato. This had earned her a deadpan stare from Vahn while Shakti, having grown very close to Rufina, just laughed it away in good humor. In truth, it was most of Vahn’s other children that were ‘abnormal’, as it was actually very strange for newborns to have fair complexions and ‘pristine’ appearances…

Shakti ended up deciding on the name Rudé Mason, a rather peculiar name that had the meaning ‘little storm’ and ‘tiny howler’ in an ancient language. Vahn suspected this was because, until he had fallen asleep, Rudé showed off his vitality by crying non-stop for around half an hour. It wasn’t until Vahn had called out his Guardian, which ended up being a small Cobalt Monkey, that Rudé finally calmed down. Shortly after that, Shakti herself ended up falling into a deep slumber, fatigued from the laborious event and the over taxation of her emotional state. As was often the case, Vahn spent the following days watching over her and his newest child as both he and Shakti suffered the tireless presence of Rufina and her teasing…

It was around this time that one of the HDF squads that had been conducting an investigation in the Land of no Sun returned, reporting on the location of Shiva. Vahn lamented the timing, especially after learning that Shiva was the leader of one of the small insurgent groups seeding the civil war in her homeland. It had been her act of assassinating various clan leaders that created a power vacuum, causing infighting amongst the tribes and leading to the long conflict that had been going on for nearly three years at this point.

Because winter had already fallen over the continent, the fighting had come to a temporary stop so Vahn decided to put off their reunion until he could take care of other matters. He was only a few days away from Telskyura when he received the news and, with Shakti having just given birth, Vahn didn’t really feel like getting embroiled in a civil war. He had already drafted missives and sent them out to the various Kingdoms, Nations, and Provinces, scheduling a large gathering that would take place near the end of the spring. Even some of the most influential Chieftans within the Land of no Sun had been given an invitation so Vahn felt like he could deal with most problems after the event had concluded.

The HDF had been compiling a truly monstrous amount of information on the various regions of Eden, giving Vahn a much better understanding of the political situation of every major country. He wasn’t surprised to learn that, other than a few Kingdoms that had originally sought alliances with Orario, many nations were governed rather poorly. Corruption was deeply rooted in almost every nation that had been founded by Humans, especially if there was an aristocracy comprised of generational Nobles. Things got a little better with the other races, as most of the Beast Human tribes generally kept to themselves, but each community had their fair share of problems as well.

With this information, Vahn’s determination to do what was ‘necessary’ in the future had been steadily growing. Though his journey with the Amazonesses had changed his perspective slightly, Vahn knew that most cultures were intrinsically different, on a very fundamental level. This was because, while some of the Beast Human tribes were undoubtedly influenced by their instincts, it wasn’t nearly as prominent as the Amazonesses. They also proactively engaged in trade and sought prosperity, choosing nomadic lifestyles as a result of past tensions and fear they would suffer under the pre-existing systems, even in Orario. All of that was changing and, to smoothen the transition in the future, Vahn needed to get everyone on the same page…

Vahn intended to implement his reforms on a much larger scale by holding the various leaders that would attend his ‘mandated’ gathering in the future. Though some exceptions would certainly be made, all those that sought to avoid adhering to the changes he wanted to introduce would be dealt with depending on the severity of associated crimes. Those that were willing to adapt to the changes and begin transitioning towards a more positive future for their nations would be given leniency, so long as they incorporated the necessary changes. This would undoubtedly be exploited by some of the more clever and insidious leaders, but Vahn had only intended the meeting to be a stop-gap measure that was meant to ‘inform’ than anything else.

By observing how the various nations acted after the meeting, Vahn would be able to determine how they should be treated in the future. Those that actively resisted the changes, trying to hold onto power that they had no right to claim, would be removed entirely. As for the countries that tried to take advantage of the transition for their own benefits, Vahn would allow them to dig their own grave for a while until they could be publically exposed and held accountable for their crimes later on. He knew it was impossible to bring about change quickly so, even if it took a few decades for a proper ‘balance’ to be achieved, it wouldn’t matter that much. Eventually, every existing nation and culture would see what Orario had become and do their best to keep pace, fearing they would fade into obscurity if they failed to keep up…

With thoughts of the future on his mind, Vahn had stopped by Spero to see how each of the Xenos was doing. Their numbers had crested over 500 members at this point and were steadily growing, each day seemingly giving rise to a new ‘humanoid’ Xenos. Even the relatively weak Xenos, such as Goblins, Kobolds, Horned Rabbits, had pseudo-human forms. Their exposure to other humanoid Xenos had steadily been changing the perspective of the entire community, making it much easier for others to transform. Though it would take them a while to become fully humanoid, it was still easy to see the progress the entire community was making, especially those that closely associated with Vahn…

Though he didn’t try to show any preferential treatment, it was a simple truth that the ‘fluffier’ Xenos were able to get much closer to Vahn. As a result, many of the Almiraj and Horned Rabbit Xenos now had faux-human forms, looking like young children that were still predominately covered in fur but becoming progressively cuter as time passed. Fortunately, as a result of Rayne, Naho, and another Arachne-Xenos, Silky, many of the more humanoid Xenos had adopted the habit of wearing clothing. It wasn’t really ‘required’ just yet, but Ray and Lyd had been setting the trend that, if you ‘wanted’ to become human, you needed to emulate them when you could. By wearing clothes, their transformation could actually be sped up and, since Vahn would generally pay heavy compliments to those with interesting outfits, it was becoming more popular with every passing day.

Long before his arrival in the village proper, Vahn was crowded by a few figures that swooped down from the air, latching onto him without any regards for personal space. These were three Harpy-Type Xenos, one of the groups that had the most humanoid figures since their base form wasn’t that dissimilar from humans from the start. Vahn was pulled toward three different directions as the girls practically fought over him, saying things like, “Vahn, come play with me~.” and, “No, I want to show him the new clothes Naho had sewn for me~.”

As much as he enjoyed their affections, Vahn used telekinesis to pull the three away from him, earning a few pouts and complaints until he said, “I’ll stop by the nest a little later, though only if you promise to behave…” The last time Vahn had visited the domicile of the Harpy-Type Xenos, he felt like a henpecked rooster and had to completely dispose of the shredded clothes he had worn at the time. They still had a habit of getting carried away and, though nothing had happened just yet, Vahn knew there were ‘many’ amongst the Xenos who had ‘very’ high affections for him. Since he didn’t want to treat Spero as his own personal ‘playground’, Vahn had put off doing any risque with most of the Xenos since their village was founded…

Just as one particular Xenos had crossed his mind, Vahn detected a fourth presence moving through the air and, after a flash of gold covered his vision, a pair of soft wings wrapped around his body. He was used to her greetings and, even though it would cause the other Harpy-Xenos to throw a fit and complain later, Vahn allowed Ray to rather aggressively kiss his lips. At this point, her features were almost entirely human and, instead of being connected to her arms, Ray’s beautiful golden wings gave her the appearance of a beautiful golden-haired angel. Since the tips of her hair and feathers were still tinted blue, though not as striking as her eyes, she had a very unique and ephemeral beauty that was hard to ignore…

After several long seconds, Ray finally extricated her tongue from Vahn’s mouth, a fervent and teasing look on her face as she said, “You should have told me you were coming by. I would have come to meet you at the gate…” Vahn had a smile on his face but didn’t get to answer as the surrounding Harpy-Xenos complained, “Ray, that isn’t fair~! You can’t keep Vahn to yourself…!” They issued several other complaints but Ray simply laughed it off as she linked arms with Vahn and guided him toward the village. As for the three Harpy-Xenos, they simply gave up after Ray ignored them and took to the skies, flying ahead to let everyone know that Vahn was on his way.

Vahn and Ray watched the girls fly overhead, the latter commenting, “There have been a lot of rumors back at the nest, accusing me of stealing you away from everyone. Even Naho has been giving me the stink eye as of late~.” Though they had done a lot of kissing, and a few more intimate things, Vahn had yet to have sex with any of the Xenos. There were certainly more than a few who were willing but, in order to prevent any larger issues from occurring, he had never allowed things to progress to that extent. If there were just one or two, it wouldn’t be that big of an issue, but the fact that a large portion of the female Xenos had their eye on him made Vahn exercise extreme caution…

Fortunately, the time was fast approaching where Xenos would begin to mingle with other races, at least within Haven. Vahn hoped that their exposure to other surface dwellers would shift the focus of the larger population of Xenos, especially after having mild success with his current experiment. With that thought in mind, Vahn and Ray approached a small cottage on the distant outskirts of Spero where he could sense the presence of three auras. This was outside of the primary barrier that would prevent access to the main village of Spero as, for the time being, the larger community hadn’t accepted the presence of another human within their ‘heart’ just yet.

Without bothering to knock, as things like shame and privacy weren’t really central components of Xenos society, Vahn and Ray made their way inside the small cottage. Of the three presences inside, only one showed a panicked reaction as Bell quickly let go of the blue-skinned Xenos woman and hopped to his feet, hands raised as said, “I’m not doing anything…!” in a fluster. Vahn’s expression didn’t change at all from Bell’s outburst while Ray released his arm, commenting, “You’re a strange one, Bell…” as she made her way over to the large bed where two Xenos girls were seated. The first was the same blue-skinned, amber-eyed, Xenos with silver-blue hair, sporadic scales, long pointy ears, and a red gemstone on her forehead. This was the Vouivre-Xenos, Wiene, that Bell had saved from pursuers in the past…

Currently, Wiene was wearing clothing similar to an Amazonesses, comprised of waterproof fabric that was dyed a deep blue. It had an appearance similar to a swimsuit with an Ability called ‘Moisturize’, as Wiene’s skin would become dry and cracked if she didn’t moisten it periodically. As for her companion, who was currently hiding behind Wiene’s long sapphire blue tail, it was a small Almiraj-Xenos who had the appearance of a very young girl with snow-white skin, red-eyes, and similarly white hair to Bell. Like all Almiraj-Type Xenos, she was incredibly petite, only 103cm tall, but most of her body was still covered in fur. She had two half-length rabbit ears on her head and a bushy tail, poking out the back of her frilly blue dress that was accented with lace and ribbons.

Vahn gave a smile towards the diminutive Xenos, causing her to hug Wiene’s tail tighter until the latter released a heart-tickling moan and said, “Carla, please don’t grab my tail so tightly…” This caused the small Almiraj-Xenos to release Wiene’s tail as she sheepishly grabbed the hem of her dress, saying, “I’m sorry, Wiene…! Kyuuu…” Since she hadn’t really been angry, Wiene reached out her hand, rubbing Carla’s head with a happy smile on her face while Ray sat on the bed next to them, asking, “Has Bell been bullying the two of you~?” This caused Bell to turn pale in an instant, at least until Wiene showed an embarrassed smile and said, “No, Bell has been very good to me…” There was a dark purple blush rising on her face as Wiene’s long scaled ears wobbled, much like an Elf’s when they were embarrassed…

Leaving the girls to talk, Vahn had dragged Bell outside before walking a bit away from the small cottage, the young hero trailing behind him. When they were a fair distance away, Vahn began laughing out loud, causing Bell’s expression to turn beet red as he began to stammer a ‘wawawa’ at the side. What Vahn and Ray had walked in on was Bell holding the sides of Wiene’s face, gently stroking her ears with his thumbs as she blushed deeply and allowed him to do so. Carla had been laying on the bed next to them, her own face flushed as her ears were twitching about happily. Vahn knew that Bell had just been ‘petting’ the two girls, a habit he had ‘copied’ from Vahn, so it was a rather humorous situation to stumble in on.

With a teasing smile on his face, Vahn asked, “I wonder if the other girls know about your private petting session~?” These words caused Bell’s face to go from scarlet to pale white in an instant, giving him a look as if he had just awoken from a nightmare. At this point, Vahn reached out his hand and flicked Bell’s forehead, sending the latter tumbling backward a few times before rubbing his head, a teary-eyed expression as he asked, “What was that for…?” Vahn just shook his head before walking over and helping Bell to his feet, dusting off the boy’s clothes as he said, “Remember what we talked about last time…? You need to be more decisive if you don’t want to hurt the girls’ feelings. They’re not idiots, so you shouldn’t treat them like they have no idea what is going on…if you really care about them, you should be more forward. You know, the reason they lash out at you so often is precisely due to your indecisiveness…”

Even without him extending the invitation personally, Welf had invited Bell to become a member of the Clubhouse, something Vahn had allowed without the necessary investigation. Though it had only been twice, Vahn had met up with the two for drinks, trying to counsel Bell a bit so the young hero would have more backbone. Even the arrangements with Wiene were so that the Xenos could get exposure to another human while the relationship between him and the demure Vouivre continued to blossom. Things had been going relatively well thus far but, much to the chagrin of girls like Plum and Taliah, Bell hadn’t taken more ‘decisive’ action in their relationships just yet…

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Since this wasn’t the first time he had heard such words from Vahn, Bell just released a long sigh, hanging his head as he explained, “I really did try, you know…?” These words piqued Vahn’s interest, causing his brows to rise slightly as he asked, “Oh? What happened…?” Though he wasn’t the type to gossip, Vahn couldn’t help but feel a slight intrigue when it came to Bell and his rather ‘peculiar’ relationships with his companions. Bell also looked up to him greatly and treated him as a confidant, unhesitantly answering, “Taliah and I had reserved a room at an Inn on the outskirts of the Red Light District. We went on a long date and had a lot of fun but, when we entered into the room…”

At this point, Bell’s expression was a mixture of incredulity, confusion, and embarrassment as he explained in a quiet voice, “She attacked me very aggressively and I got a little panicked, falling backward out of the bed and knocking myself out…when I woke up, Line and Julienne were lecturing Taliah while I ended up being teased by Rana…” Rana was the name of the Cat Person within Bell’s group, a woman near the peak of Level 4 who Bell ended up saving after she got poisoned by a Voltimeria variant on the 27th Floor. Voltimera were a fish-type monster with purple bodies made of stone that was covered in sharp protrusions. Generally, they weren’t poisonous, so Rana had gotten caught off guard when one of the sharp spines cut her side, causing it to fester after only a few minutes. If not for the arrival of Bell’s party, she would have died then and there, even though her only reason for being in the Dungeon was simply to deliver a parcel to Lil Geirr…

Vahn could imagine the rather mature Cat Person laughing at Bell and understood why the latter would have been upset by the event. He had finally mustered up his courage but, unaware of the ‘mating ritual’ of a virgin Amazoness, Bell had been wholly unprepared for the event. This was probably why he was here on the outskirts of Spero instead of venturing into the Dungeon. Usually, Bell would only visit late in the afternoon or on the weekends, making it exceptionally odd that he was here early in the morning on a weekday…

After sorting his own thoughts, believing he had a decent understanding of the situation, Vahn said, “You can’t let these kinds of things set you back, Bell. Those girls probably know you better than you know yourself so they won’t really hold this kind of thing against you. If you pout and run away, that is how you’ll end up upsetting them…besides, don’t you think it is a bit strange that the girls showed up after you got knocked out? How did they know you and Taliah were even at the Inn…?” If his intuition wasn’t wrong, Vahn suspected that the event had been a ‘setup’ of sorts to try and get Bell to act a little more decisively in the future. Their mistake was allowing an Amazoness to be the one to take the lead but, considering the makeup of girls, Vahn could understand why they would have chosen her. If Bell had known beforehand what to expect, things likely would have played out very differently than they had, which is why Taliah ended up getting the lecture instead of Bell…

Bell, with a confused expression on his face, tilted his head to the side with an, “Eh…?” This caused Vahn to also feel his own body tilt as he looked into Bell’s innocent eyes and saw genuine confusion within. Resisting the urge to comment on Bell’s denseness, Vahn explained, “It is highly likely that the other girls had given Taliah permission to take action. You were just unprepared since you don’t know the habits of Amazonesses and were caught by surprise. In the future, you should endeavor to get a better understanding of the racial traits and habits of the people you are involved with…” When these words left his mouth, Vahn brought his fist against his palm, realization hitting him as he smiled and said, “Actually, if you’re not against it, I can give you some advice…?” Since Bell already had a habit of trying to emulate him, Vahn figured he could give the young boy some ‘useful’ advice that would aid him greatly later on.

Surprisingly, Bell shook his head as a strangely resolute light appeared in his red eyes, quickly turning into a blazing fire as he said, “No, but thank you, Vahn. Now that you pointed it out for me, I believe you’re right…if the girls are trying so hard because of my indecisiveness, I need to put in more effort on my own. I can’t just rely on you for everything, especially when it comes to dealing with the people I’m supposed to care about…!” At this point, Bell had both of his fists tightly clenched, almost as if he were preparing to head into battle against a Monster Rex. Vahn was left feeling a strange emptiness as he stared blankly back at Bell before eventually smiling as he said, “That is probably for the best. Honestly, though I’m confident in the advice I could give, it is also true that I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Everyone’s relationships are something completely unique to themselves so I’m happy you made this choice…”

In hindsight, Vahn felt like it wouldn’t have been appropriate if he started giving Bell sexual counsel, as it would have made the actual moment less ‘real’. If he was only able to succeed because of a script written by someone else, Bell would never be able to have full confidence in his own actions. Though he would invariably fail a few times, there was nothing wrong with experiencing a few setbacks while you were young. In fact, Vahn felt like it was the fact that he didn’t experience great failure early on that caused him to make as many mistakes as he had. If the girls hadn’t worked so hard to make things work on their own, which should have been his responsibility, things would have turned out very differently…

Realizing this, Vahn’s smile softened as he spent a few more minutes talking with Bell, this time from the perspective of a friend instead of a mentor. He knew there was a lot he could learn from talking with Bell and, hearing some of the simple insights the young boy had, Vahn couldn’t help but feel as if he had made a mistake by not developing his other friendships more proactively. Though he didn’t regret the path he had walked, as that would be an insult to himself and the people that had walked alongside him, Vahn still wondered what it would have been like if he had focused more on his friendships than his relationships…

The conversation between Vahn and Bell continued until some of the Xenos from Spero, who had been waiting for Vahn to show up, came out to look for him. They also greeted Bell, albeit with far less fervor, before Vahn parted ways with the white-haired hero and reunited with Ray. There was a large crowd of Xenos waiting for him, even though there were no major events going on, causing Vahn to feel that his path had been fulfilling in its own ways. Though the Xenos were certainly some of the most dedicated and loyal towards him, Vahn now had over 15,000 people within his Unit Management while ‘literal’ millions revered him. Though he had missed out on some of the simpler things in life, what he had experienced was something that most people could only dream of…

Almost at the same moment that thought had passed through his mind, Vahn habitually opened up his arms as a petite girl with a very intricately designed dress practically tackled him. She had short white hair that had been styled into two small pigtails as she rubbed her face affectionately against his abdomen, blissfully ignoring the comments from some of the other Xenos. Vahn allowed a smile to spread across his face as he reached down, picking up the small girl in his arms and allowing her to sneak a kiss on his cheek as he said, “I’m come to visit, Naho…” After that, Vahn made his way towards the heart of the village, the crowd of Xenos following along with him as a lively and festive atmosphere began to spread in his wake…

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(A/N: I’ll try to get another chapter out later, but I’ve already been up since around 10 PM the previous day and could use a nap. I made this chapter extra long to compensate, even though it is somewhat fluffy in nature. I wanted to show that Vahn still has a lot to learn, even from people he sometimes looks down on~.)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘I feel like Rufina wants her own potato (UwU)…’,’RIP Bell…’,’If you have an open mind, you will never stop learning and improving (^_^)~!)

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