After Vahn entered the room the atmosphere became very tense. Lili sat on the bed with her back towards Vahn, and he could see she was trying her best to hide her face which had turned scarlet. He could even see the blush had crept down her neck and started fading into her back.
Vahn tried to prevent the atmosphere from affecting him, so he moved to the edge of the bed and sat facing towards Lili. Taking a deep breath, he looked at the uncovered skin and his mind went blank.
All over Lili’s back, he could see faded wounds and scars that had marred her uncovered skin.
Though Vahn knew she was treated poorly, he wasn’t prepared to see the evidence of her suffering and the toll it had taken on her body. Since their first meeting, she had made many efforts to be cheerful and lively which caused Vahn to drop his guard without considering the long-term remnants that he would need to deal with in the future.
Lili seemed to sense his sadness hung her head. The blush began to fade from her cheeks as she issued a quiet voice. “You must think it’s ugly…I did my best to treat most of the injuries when I could, but it’s hard to apply medicines to the back.”
Hearing Lili blame herself for things she had no control over, Vahn sighed. He reached out his hand and used his index finger to trace one of the larger scars near her shoulder blade. In response to his touch, Lili shuddered but didn’t say anything further. She began to feel a searing heat trace along the scar of her back, but even though it felt so hot it wasn’t an unpleasant sensation.
After seeing the scars on her back, Vahn had asked Sis to purchase a skill that would allow him to heal or remove the evidence of their existence. After spending 2000 OP he obtained the weakest form of a skill called [Hands of Nirvana] which allowed Vahn to stimulate dead and damaged tissues and revitalize the human body. With the support of [Yggdrasil’s Favor], he was able to channel energy into his fingertip and slowly wipe away the scar. All that remained after he was finished was a slightly red mark that was warm to the touch.
Vahn continued tracing over each and every scar while Lili sat in silence. Though she couldn’t see it with her own eyes, she knew he was doing something to heal the scars on her back. With each searing sensation that touched her skin, more tears would collect in her eyes, but not as a result of the heat.
Once he was done, Vahn moved on to reading Lili’s Status. He could tell by her reaction that she realized what his actions might entail, and there would be time to talk about it later if she asked. Following the procedure laid out by Sis, Vahn made a small cut on his finger before placing it into the center of Lili’s crest. When the blood came into contact with the somewhat faded goblet-crescent-moon motif, the entire crest began to issue a brilliant light. Though Vahn couldn’t make sense of the symbols, he was able to interpret their meaning through the system interface.
[[STATUS]]Name: Liliruca Arde
POW: I63 ->I91
END: I98 -> H107
DEX: H170 -> H183
AGI: G223 -> G250
MAG: F351 -> F353
Skill: [Artel*Assist:E], [Atlas: Innate(sealed)]
While he was reading her Status Board, Vahn was also channeling his energy into the crest to awaken the dormant falna. Since Lili had the crest since birth and never updated it, the falna had long since entered a weakened state which further restricted her growth. Now Lili should be able to make progress like a normal adventurer in the future.
What caught his eye was a skill he had never seen present in the manga. Lili hand a skill called [Atlas] that was currently sealed away. The most surprising thing was the fact it was evaluated as an Innate ranked skill. After asking Sis why he was able to see the skill, she explained that ‘The Path’ was of a much higher tier than Innate abilities, so it was able to detect anything that was not intentionally hidden.
After updating the Status Board, Vahn listed out the changes to Lili. For now, he kept the existence of [Atlas] a secret as Sis had informed him it was very difficult to awaken innate skills if the wielder was aware of them. They could only awaken if the wielder made efforts to improve and faced various challenges on their own.
Lili was very excited after hearing the changes in her parameters. She still had trouble believing Vahn would be able to do as he said and seeing the results had made her incredibly happy. In her excitement, she ended up tackling Vahn which caused the two bodies to tumble off the bed and onto the hard wooden floor.
To protect her from the fall, Vahn had used his own body to cushion the blow. He struggled to breathe and just helplessly pat Lili who had been lost in her feelings of jubilation. After some time had passed, she seemed to calm down but hadn’t separated from his body. Vahn began feeling worried, so he tried standing and bringing the affectionate act to an end.
Lili refused to release his body, and continued hugging his waist with her head rested against his abdomen. Neither person said anything for a while until Lili finally released his body and looked directly into his eyes. “Vahn, I will become stronger. Strong enough to repay everything you’ve done for me…” After saying those words, she turned towards her bed and submerged herself under the covers.
//[Liliruca Arde] Affection +5//
Vahn continued to stand in silence for a while before deciding to leave the room. As he turned away he was unaware that the blankets had shifted slightly in response to his footsteps. A small cat-eared head poked out of the covers and stared at his back as he left the room…
//[Liliruca Arde] Affection -3//
The moment Vahn stepped into the hallway he nearly fell face-first onto the floor. (“What did I do!?”)
Using what remained of his strength he ambled towards his room and fell heavily into his bed. He couldn’t fathom how he was able to earn such a large amount of affection and then lose some immediately after…
The next morning the two woke up before the sunrise, same as the previous day. Vahn had slight bags under his eyes as he was lost in contemplation for a large portion of the night. When he met up with Lili she seemed to look at him with a mild resentment before leading the way towards the gate. Vahn just followed after her in silence while trying to have Sis explain what had happened. In response, she just commented on how he needed to put more effort into understanding women’s hearts.
At the gate, Vahn was finally able to reunite with Gregory. The two exchanged words and Gregory congratulated him on his success in joining such a highly regarded Familia. Vahn also tried to return the money Gregory had lent him, but he just laughed loudly in response while heavily patting Vahn’s back. He told Vahn that if he wanted to repay him, then live a reputable life that he could brag to his friends about. If Vahn was able to become a highly esteemed Adventurer it would give him face when drinking with his fellow officers.
After parting ways with Gregory, the two continued towards the previous day’s training site. Vahn demonstrated more techniques and they both warmed up before performing the same set of exercises. Though it wasn’t much, Lili had made some progress since the day before. She was more receptive to each new form of training and put in a commendable amount of effort in trying to execute everything properly.
They continued in this manner, only stopping to take short rests and eat breakfast. Once 10 AM came around, they began heading towards the dungeon to begin the next phase on the schedule. They were beginning to build familiarity with the gate guards, so after a cursory screening, they were able to easily enter the City. On the way towards Babel, they decided to purchase the seafood crepes Vahn had enjoyed the previous night. He even purchased a few extras and stored them away in his inventory when nobody was looking…
Once they entered the tower Lili began trying to solo monsters while Vahn covered for her using his [Will of the Emperor]. He noticed she was a lot more daring than the previous day and the increased confidence allowed her to perform to a much higher standard than her earlier attempts.
During one of the breaks, Vahn told her she was improving rapidly and at this rate, she would be able to accelerate her growth even faster. Lili was excited after hearing Vahn’s praise and tried even harder after the break came to an end. Unfortunately, due to her unstable emotions and overzealous attitude, she ended up nearly losing her hand to a goblin wielding a rusty dagger.
The wound had cut to the bone of her wrists and it was bleeding profusely which caused her to become lightheaded and dazed. Just as she felt like throwing up due to nausea, the pain suddenly vanished and a shadow appeared in front of her intercepting the attacking goblin.
Vahn had seen Lili’s mistake and quickly used [Wound Transfer] in conjunction with his [Rakshasa Body] to absorb and mitigate the damage. Though there was still blood dripping through the bands of his gauntlets, he could feel a tingling sensation that told him the wound was rapidly healing. Before the goblin was able to launch a second attack, he locked it down with his domain and intercepted to swung dagger.
In his hand, Vahn now held the mutilated wrist of the goblin. He twisted his body before slamming the struggling goblin into the dungeon wall. Seeing it turn to dust on contact, Vahn turned towards Lili to see if she had any other injuries. He could see shock and surprise on her face and thought she was still disoriented from the previous incident. He reached out with his hand to help her up and froze…
Lili stared at the outstretched hand that had now changed shape. Instead of the smooth tanned skin, she was used to patting her head, it was now a size larger and covered in fine densely packed hairs. The hair was very short but completely covered the top half of the hand. It was a dark grey in color with undertones of white drawing a strange pattern along its surface.
The two just continued staring at the strange hand that was connected to Vahn’s body. After coming to his sense, Vahn lifted the hand and inspected the changes. From what he could see, it had morphed into the claw of an animal, though he still had all five fingers. While he was observing it, the hairs began to recede slowly into his flesh until, after seven minutes, they had completely disappeared returning his hand to its normal appearance.
He used his now normal hand to help Lili stand. She seemed to want to ask about it but held herself back from doing so. Vahn understood her concerns, as he too wanted to know what happened. From inside his mind, he could hear the voice of Sis explaining it was due to the activation of his [Rakshasa Body]. According to her, the more damage he took the more his body would change to empower his abilities to prevent further damage.
(“Does that mean I would turn into a monster in a prolonged fight?”) Vahn was very worried since he knew even humanoid monsters were treated very poorly by most people. Without being able to explain the transformation was a result of a skill, he would face serious consequences when using it in the future.
(*You won’t turn into a monster, though you would possess some animalistic qualities. According to analysis, your [Rakshasa Body] seems to incorporate the features of a tiger, though the exact type is hard to determine. As you rank up the skill you should have more control over the transformation, but if you’re worried about creating a misunderstanding you can acquire another skill that emulates the effects of the change.*)
After giving her permission, Sis ended up purchasing a magic called [Thria*Mimos:C] for 7,000 OP. The description stated he could use the skill to alter his body parts, and with mastery even completely transform into an animal. The downside was he would be unable to activate other skills without breaking the transformation.
Vahn used the newly acquired magic and demonstrated it to Lili. He credited its activation due to how angry he was after seeing her injured. Before then he had never been aware of the magic and it seemed he was able to use it without a chant.
Of course, the only thing Lili was focused on was how happy she was when Vahn acquired a similar magic as her own.