Chapter 974: Confrontation

Seeing the devastation his attack had wrought, Vahn felt his temples buzzing and couldn’t withdraw his hand, even after several seconds had passed. He knew that Space Elemental magic would be very powerful but had drastically underestimated both the cost and output of the impromptu ability that he had forced upon the group of soldiers and guards below. Though many had dark auras, there were some who had muted greys, meaning they weren’t people he should have killed outright. Yes, he had wanted to set an example that would be able to become a rumor throughout the Far East, but he hadn’t intended to push it to such an extreme. If not for the fact he had made sure the younger Kitsune wasn’t within the area of his attack, there was even a chance he would have accidentally killed the unfortunate young girl…

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With his mind racing, Vahn had become almost catatonic until he felt a soft and gentle touch against his hand, courtesy of a very worried looking Fenrir. She didn’t particularly care about the loss of life below but, seeing her Master ‘freeze’ in such a way made her feel extremely anxious for his well-being. This only made Vahn feel even more guilty, however, as he knew he had gone too far without actually confirming the situation. The more prudent action would have been to send Fenrir to retrieve the girl and liberate the other captives while he went to mark the older Kitsune woman with his ward. With the amount of power he had, and the vast disparity between him and the guards that had gathered, Vahn could have disabled the entire group without shedding a single drop of blood…

Knowing there was nothing he could do about it at this point, Vahn took the only true course of action left to him and brought his palms together in prayer. He knew that they would return to the cycle of reincarnation and, hopefully, live a better life in their future incarnations. This didn’t justify his actions but, at the very least, Vahn felt some small amount of relief as he also promised to make the world a safer and happier place for when they inevitably returned. There wasn’t anything he could do for them now but, by making the world into how he envisioned it, Vahn was certain they would not resent him, at least not for long…

After releasing a long sigh, Vahn descended to the edge of the abyss he had created before slowly ambling towards the interior of the Manor. There were several servants cowering within rooms along the way but he completely ignored them as he passed through several sliding doors until reaching a more secured structure near the building’s central area. Upon coming across a barrier formation, Vahn simply raised his hand and pressed against the barrier, causing a loud crashing sound to echo about before he walked casually into the now unsecured room. Even the large locks keeping the door closed were unable to slow his progress as Vahn simply ripped the door free, reinforced metallic bolts and all.

Even though the manor had been relatively large, it was much smaller than the Hearth Manor so it hadn’t taken long for Vahn, Fenrir, and Lili to make their way towards the most centralized region. Then, without even having to look around, Vahn pulled a hidden lever that caused a panel in the door to shift, revealing a small room on the other side where a panicked woman and two bare-chested male servants could be seen. They both had incredible physiques and were each around 180cm tall, a little shorter than Vahn but still commendable compared to the average height of most people. Each had a stern and determined look on their faces as they shielded the rather petite woman behind them who, compared to the image he had seen reflected in the mirror, had become several shades lighter due to her face paling in an extreme manner.

After having taken so many lives unintentionally, Vahn wasn’t really in the mood to kill without it being absolutely necessary so he used [Shundo] to close the distance in an instant before firmly pressing into acupoints near the men’s necks and shoulders. They didn’t even have time to process what had happened before they were already falling limply to the ground, once again reminding Vahn of how unnecessary his earlier actions were. Since the entire purpose had been to leave a strong impression on the guards, the fact he had killed them all made the act extremely foolish. The only thing he could do about it now was promise to do better in the future as, from an objective viewpoint, Vahn could tell he had deviated a little too closely towards his apathetic Emperor self while transformed into his Qinglong form. He would need to practice controlling the form better in the future and had already come up with a training regimen that involved a lot of meditation and internal reflection…

With such thoughts on his mind, Vahn turned his somewhat dull and tired eyes towards the cowering Kitsune woman and asked, “Do you know a Kitsune woman named Shizune…?” In response to this, the woman showed nothing but confusion as she tremblingly shook her head and said, “This esteemed Sir…I know not of the woman you are searching for…please…” Though he hadn’t done anything to her, the woman had already started to plead for her life as a mask of fear had firmly overtaken her earlier expression of contempt and amusement. Vahn could see that she was the type that put self-preservation above almost everything and, even though she had a fretful and traumatized appearance, her aura told the truth of the matter…

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Vahn squinted his eyes, causing a genuine shudder to run through the woman’s body as she realized he wasn’t so easily fooled by her act. The only thing she could do was bow low and hope he showed her some leniency as, even if she tried to appeal to him in other ways, her instincts told her such actions would be futile. Even without knowing the relationship between the three people before her, she could easily smell that their scents were interlinked, meaning they had a very intimate relationship. If she tried the ‘normal’ means to appeal to the man that now held her life in his hands, reason told her that the only thing that awaited her was an even harsher end.

Seeing that she had started to actually fear for her life, Vahn nearly gave a small nod in approval but kept it restrained as he said, “I have come to liberate the people you have imprisoned beneath this Manor and warn you that, should you continue to live in such a way, you will one day find yourself facing a nightmare you may never escape…” Though Vahn didn’t know exactly how the woman had lived up until this point, the fact that her aura had thick strands of black and sickly pink gave him some insight into the type of person she was. He unhesitantly held out his hand, sending forth a small golden ward that passed into the body of the woman with such speed that only Fenrir had been able to discern exactly what had happened.

Holding her hands over her modestly endowed chest, the woman could feel her heart racing as she was unsure of what had just happened. Nothing felt different but, remembering the man’s words, she knew that she had now been ‘marked’ for a truly terrible end if she didn’t try and change the way she lived, at least on the surface. She didn’t know how much he knew about her, nor how he had come to know of those that had been isolated in the prison below, but felt it wouldn’t be wise to try and inquire. It currently felt like an irresistible chill was settling into her body while a heavy pressure was weighing her down, courtesy of Fenrir and Lili since Vahn was restraining his domain after the earlier incident.

With no other options available, the woman simply bowed her head low and demurely murmured, “I swear, I will become a better person. Thank you for your mercy and guidance…!” Though she didn’t genuinely mean the words, the woman felt like it was best to at least speak them, almost as if saying things like ‘mercy’ openly would guarantee her safety. In response to this, Vahn sighed through his nose while Lili outright snorted, a disgusted look on her face. As someone who had deceived several people in the past, she could easily see through the woman’s act, tempting her to give the Kitsune a few slaps when Vahn wasn’t looking…

Since he didn’t actually care about the relationship between the woman and the girl below, Vahn decided it would be more prudent to ask the victims themselves instead of listening to the lies of such a deceitful woman. He didn’t even bother to learn her name before stepping forward and pressing into a point below the center of her collarbone. This caused her body to seize up painfully before she crashed to the floor, curling up into the fetal position as she gasped for air.

Though he had decided not to kill her, as it should be left to Shizune and the younger Kitsune to decide her fate, that didn’t mean he was going to let her walk away without some form of punishment. Thus, while she was gasping for air with lungs that never felt full, Vahn pressed his palm against the woman’s lower back and began planting ‘seeds’ of Source Energy that would feed into a small runic formation that he had come up with on the spot. Since she seemed to enjoy engaging in the pleasure of the flesh, Vahn decided the harshest punishment for such a person would be making such acts either impossible or outright painful. He constructed a formation so that, any time her body released a large amount of oxytocin and endorphins, specifically related to sexual pleasure, it would instead cause her extreme pain for a short period of time…

Once he had finished the task, Vahn pulled his hand free from her back before leaving the room, never sparing a second glance towards the Kitsune woman. Then, when they had left the area, Lili suddenly asked, “Vahn, what did you do to her at the end…?” Though Lili suspected she didn’t truly wish to know, it was the hope that she could share the ‘burden’ with him that caused her to inquire. She knew that there was a chance that Vahn would feel guilty about any harsh actions he might have taken once things had calmed down and wanted to be able to alleviate some of the potential backlash by having him open up to her. This was a technique she had learned from Syr so Lili had high expectations for its efficacy and wanted Vahn to be comfortable with sharing such things with her.

Without thinking too much about why Lili would inquire about such things, Vahn released a small sigh before explaining, “I made it so that sex would be painful for her, at least for the time being. Since she is the type that derives pleasure from hurting others, I felt it was a just punishment that she would also experience suffering whenever she tried to pacify her urges. It won’t trigger from general arousal, however, as the ‘activator’ for the formation would require her to actively have sex with someone before it would take effect…” Since feelings like love and excitement released similar chemical responses in the brain, Vahn thought it would be taking things too far if he made her suffer even when she felt ‘happy’…

Lili was a little surprised that Vahn had punished the woman by making her unable to have sex, causing her own lower body to tense up slightly since, by her own admission, she had grown rather fond of the act. She suddenly felt a little bad for the woman but, rationalizing things from Vahn’s perspective, Lili agreed that it was a rather suitable punishment. When Vahn gave her a questioning look, Lili mustered a sheepish laugh and explained, “It serves her right…I just thought about what it would be like if I had to experience the same thing…haaaa…” Lili was reminded of the time when she had to ‘wait’ before Vahn would finally have sex with her, a period in her life that she would still have nightmares about on occasion…

Not really understanding the complexity of Lili’s aura, Vahn decided to play it safe by extending his hand and rubbing her pink hair and adorable cat-like ears. Since he didn’t want Fenrir to feel jealous, he did the same with her while a gentle smile spread across his previously stern and melancholic expression. In the softest tone he could manage, Vahn stated, “I would never go out of my way to punish those close to me, not unless they did something truly horrible. Even then, I’m certain it is something we would be able to overcome together so please rely on me when the time comes instead of letting negative emotions guide your actions…” Since he didn’t really know what Lili was experiencing right now, Vahn decided to speak broadly in the hopes that he would hit the mark somehow.

Lili felt slight incredulity as she heard Vahn’s words but, understanding his character, she couldn’t help but giggle after the fact. Even if he was saying something rather nonsensical, she knew he was just doing it out of concern for her, causing Lili to forgive his strangeness as she wrapped her arms around him and nuzzled into his chest for a short while. They would have stayed together far longer in most circumstances, while there was a non-negligible chance something ‘more’ would have happened, but Lili knew now was neither the time nor the place. Thus, after a bit of skinship between the three, they all headed into the rather hot and muggy prison below…

Vahn had previously assumed that the underground area would be cold, as the mirror showed the young Kitsune girl trembling as if she were freezing, but the reality was the complete opposite. Because of the poor air circulation, the air within the prison smelled of rot and refuse while the temperature easily exceeded 35 degrees Celsius. There was a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the air while the humidity felt as if it were in the upper eighties as Vahn could feel palpable moisture against his skin, comparable to his time in the Amazoness country of Telskyura.

Fenrir showed a frown on her face, as her nose was especially sensitive, while Lili would have gagged if not for the fact that she was intimately familiar with such smells. As for Vahn, he decided that everyone would benefit from some fresh air so he began to manipulate the surrounding mana with his domain, causing cool and fresh air to stream into the dank prison while forcing the stagnant and humid air outside. This caused the manor above to begin smelling like sewage but Vahn’ didn’t particularly care as he made his way towards the cells and began to inspect the people imprisoned within…

As he had expected, most of the people within the cells were young children but, much to Vahn’s surprise, they were almost predominately Kitsune. As both Kitsune and Renard were rather rare, even in their homeland of the Far East, Vahn couldn’t understand why seven young children had come to reside within this small prison. The only thing he knew, at least for the time being, was that the ‘punishment’ he had bestowed upon the Kitsune woman above was rather light in comparison to what these children had gone through. They were all extremely emaciated and, if not for the small store of spoiled rice and bread, each infested with small insects, Vahn would have assumed they were simply forced to starve…

Since all of the children were unconscious, and far too young to provide any significant information, Vahn began healing everyone within the prison while having Fenrir and Lili collect the seven young girls and feed them a nutrient cocktail made from ingredients harvested from Yggy and the honey-like sap that was produced by Terra. Though it might make some people feel nauseous to learn where the sap came from, it was extremely good for the body and Vahn knew there would also be some people that would get excited at the prospect of having a taste. This wasn’t really relevant to the situation at hand but Vahn couldn’t help allowing his thoughts to wander to such things at times…

While Fenrir and Lili were taking care of the young Kitsune girls, Vahn found a middle-aged man in a nearby cell who, compared to the other prisoners, seemed in good health but poor shape. His body was covered in bruises and one of his eyes no longer had any light in it, even as the other iris showed a glimmer of resolve as he stared back at Vahn with an unwavering gaze. Though the man was only Level 2, Vahn could feel the smallest amount of ‘pressure’ coming off of his body, showing he had very strong willpower, making him suitable to, at the very least, answer a few questions.

Pulling out a golden apple, Vahn tossed it to the man as he walked over and said, “I have a few questions that I would like you to answer. When we’re done here, I will guarantee your freedom and, if you are worried about being unable to escape the area, I can even escort you to a nearby town or village as compensation for the information…” Since few things were free in life, Vahn had decided to give the man a bit of an incentive from the outset in order to loosen his lips. Though there was still a chance the man may refuse to answer his questions, the corners of Vahn’s mouth raised slightly as he watched the man bite into the apple, his eyes widening into circles after experiencing the extremely nutritious and delicious fruit…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: “Vahn’s surprised Pikachu face…’,’I wonder if she’ll become a masochist now…?’,’Golden Apples OP’)

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