Nearly three weeks had passed since the birth of his daughters, the majority of which had been spent helping the girls train while tending to his own duties. However, if you were to ask anyone in the Manor what Vahn had been focused on, it was none other than his children. If he wasn't busy with other things, Vahn could be found lingering around the maternity ward or following Loki and Hephaestus around like a lost puppy. Presently, however, Vahn was flying through the sky holding Ina as a small kitten-like white tiger ambled through the air and chased after them. Ina, though only three weeks old, had the appearance of baby nearing four months of age. Most surprisingly, however, was the fact that she could already form rudimentary words, with the first, second, and third words all being some form of Papa, Daddy, and Father...
Unsurprisingly, Ina reached 100 Affection naturally and, to his relief, Vahn hadn't actually received any benefits or quests from the achievement. Instead, Ina obtained the hidden parameter (Familial Love), which now hovered around a value of 300. Though he didn't think about it much, there was a small part of his mind that feared one of his children would fall in love with him, much like Lenneth had within the Divination. Fortunately, he hadn't learned of any problems, other than Lenneth, so Vahn assumed it had never been a concern until the latter had been born.
Suddenly, after Vahn dodged the small winged-tiger for the umpteenth time, earning a peal of bell-like laughter from Ina, he heard a voice of indignation from below. Hephaestus had been holding Vana, playing around with the energetic toddler who already had a head of short red hair. She had been perfectly content playing with her mother but, after casting a few glances at Ina playing around above, Vana began to cry in a loud voice. Hephaestus had a wry smile on her face, giving her eldest daughter a hug as Vahn blinked next to them, holding Ina in his right arm while carrying the tiger cub in his left hand.
After setting the cub next to the sleeping red dragon on the edge of the picnic blanket, Vahn kneeled down and stroked Vana's cheek with the back of his hand, asking, "Did you want to play with Papa~?" in a soothing voice. Ina, however, answered for Vana, saying, "No!" while squeezing his neck as if refusing to give up her spot. This wasn't the first time Ina had acted somewhat selfishly but, after a bit of coaxing, she agreed to let Vana play with them. The final straw had been when Vahn had Ina stare at her big sister, seeing the teary-eyed girl with snot dripping from her nose. Though she showed a tiny frown, Ina relented and, under the guidance of Hephaestus, apologized to her big sister for being selfish.
Vana, happy to get her way, clapped her hands together before raising them up so Vahn could carry her properly. She hadn't been able to speak just yet, only making baby sounds, but Vana still managed an "Ooooowaaaaah~" when they started to fly around in the sky. The small tiger and dragon both became alert the moment Vahn took to the sky, giving chase with worried expressions on their faces as they struggled to keep up. This earned laughter from the two girls while Vahn gave the two guardians an apologetic smile as he dodged around them. He knew this was good training for them and, since his daughters seemed to enjoy the 'game', Vahn continued playing with the two guardians until they got tired.
By the time he landed, both girls had laughed to the point of exhaustion and were now sleeping peacefully in his arms. The tiger and dragon landed on his shoulders, giving noises of complaint as they plopped down into the two girls' bodies and became crests once again. Vahn smiled, internally promising to make it up to the two guardians in the future once the girls had matured and given them names. He then passed Vana over to Hephaestus since Ina, even while sleeping, clung to his tunic with her tiny hands as if she were unwilling to part with him. If not for the need to feed, bathe, and be changed, Ina probably would have continued to cling to him the entire day.
As they walked to the maternity ward to let the girls rest, two small figures came barreling around the corner, one chasing after the other before crashing into the back of the leading figure when she suddenly stopped. This was none other than Erika, looking like she was nearly nine months old and already running around the Manor like it was her own territory. However, whenever she came across Vahn, Erika always became somewhat shy and reserved. She hung her head, showing an embarrassed expression on her face as she said, "Good morning, Papa, Mama..." Though Hephaestus wasn't her mother, Erika still referred to her as 'Mama', while Loki was called 'Mother'. It was actually Erika who spoke her first words, nearly a week ago, as she had the fastest growth amongst the Vanir.
Vahn smiled as he knelt down, stroking Erika's hair as she made a small pouting expression before easing up into a small smile. She was a very brilliant and already had an air of 'pride' around her that extended towards almost everyone, with the only exceptions being Loki, Hephaestus, Eina, Mona, Syr, and Vahn himself. It made her upset knowing that Vahn could manage her so easily, even though she was inarguably at a point in her life where it was perfectly normal to be doted on by her father. The most 'difficult' part, which she had complained to her Mother about, was the fact that it made her very happy to be pampered by her, even though she wanted to be a strong and independent girl...
While he was stroking Erika's hair, the small brown figure that had crashed into her back stood up, rubbing her forehead with a teary-eyed expression as she tried to stifle the urge to cry. With a sobbing tone, the Doppelganger repeated Erika's words, muttering "Good morning, Papa, Mama..." At this point, the Doppelgangers white hair extended all the way to the floor and she was able to freely change its shape and rigidity to protect Erika. Since the latter had an adventurous spirit and was constantly roaming around the Manor, the Doppelganger, named Doppel by the young Erika, constantly had to protect her charge from harm.
Vahn smiled, stroking Doppel's head for a few seconds, giving Erika an opportunity to retreat away as she said, "Papa, please me...I want to read." Though she had picked up speaking at a ridiculous rate, primarily as a result of sticking around Loki, Juno, and Syr, Erika still struggled with reading. Strangely, she couldn't find it in her to ask her own Mother for assistance so, without any better alternatives, Erika wanted her Papa to teach her how to read. She believed this was the best course of action and would also allow her to surprise her Mother, who always seemed to be testing her in some way.
Unwilling to deny his daughter's request, Vahn nodded his head with a smile, saying, "Very well, I'll read you some stories tonight and start teaching you how to read and write tomorrow." Erika gave a curt nod, something unexpected for someone so young, before showing a small smile as she grabbed Doppel's hand and ran off. The pitter-patter of their small feet made Vahn's smile widen and he nearly burst out laughing when he saw the light blush on Erika's face when she turned the corner. It was actually very refreshing not being able to see the auras of his own children and it made Vahn feel grateful for every day he spent with the lovable little angels.
When they reached the maternity ward, Mona was resting on the sofa with an open book resting on her stomach. She had been up late the previous night and, since Vahn had taken the girls out to play, Mona decided to take a short nap. Hephaestus giggled lightly, causing Mona's droopy cow-like ears to twitch as she startled awake. With a flustered and terrified expression, Mona fixed the wrinkles in her dress as she stood up and bowed, saying, "My apologies, Hephaestus-sama, Vahn-sama, I didn't mean to-" Before she was able to finish, Vahn gestured for her to stop, showing a calm expression as he said, "Mona, you are almost like family to us at this point, so stop with the formalities. If you're tired, please rest more and let us know if we can help. I'm sure Tsubaki and Aki would help out more if you need it..."
Mona gave a slow nod in response but didn't say anything as she walked over to Hephaestus and asked, "Have they eaten since this morning?" Hephaestus shook her head, handing Vana over to Mona as she said, "No, but it looks like the period between their bouts of hunger is beginning to open up. I think Vana may need a bit more time, but Ina may start weening in the next month or so..." It was very strange to talk about newborns weening within two months of being born but, by the time designated by Hephaestus, Ina and Vana would be the equivalent of a year old by then. It made Hephaestus somewhat sad knowing her daughters were growing up so fast but, seeing them happy and healthy was all that really mattered to her.
As if she realized what was happening, Vana woke up in Mona's arms and began to show a frustrated face that was on the verge of crying. Vahn had already turned his head, even though Mona eventually told him not to mind the matter so much a couple of days ago. She unhesitantly pulled the cloth around her chest, revealing one of her massive mammary glands and feeding the voracious Vana before the latter started crying. She consumed far more milk than both Erika and Ina combined, but Mona didn't mind it since it made her feel closer to the small bundle of energy. Though she had intended to completely cut ties with the Manor in the future, Mona had been finding the idea almost 'unthinkable' in recent days. Even though they weren't her children, Mona felt close to all three girls and a strong desire to protect them had already deeply rooted itself in her heart.
After Vana had gotten her fill, Mona burped the young girl and began rocking her body back to sleep, a pattern that had repeated more than a dozen times per day over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, as she went to put Vana in the crib, a pungent aroma spread through the room as Vana woke back up and began crying like she had been wronged by the world. Mona just smiled in response, stroking the young girl's red hair to calm her before quickly changing the soiled diaper. While this was going on, Vahn stood at the side and rocked Ina's body, smiling at his daughter's attempt to pretend she was still asleep. Ina knew that, once she was found out, her separation with her Papa would come and she would once again have to be away from him for a few hours...
Unfortunately for her, as a young infant, Ina couldn't deny her own urges easily and the desire for sustenance had almost exceeded her desire to stay with her Papa. Knowing he would be worried for her, Ina eventually opened one of her eyes, pretending like she had just woken up before smiling towards her Papa. Vahn played along, touching noses with Ina as he said, "Hello there, sleepy head. It's about time for your lunch and then you'll have to take a nap, okay? Don't worry, I'll be here later to play with you again before bed~." Ina had a slight moisture in her eyes but still nodded her head, muttering, "Okay, Papa..." in an almost sobbing tone.
Vahn felt his heart twist in his chest but, following the advice of Loki, Hephaestus, Juno, and even Hestia, he kept his composure and just comforted his daughter before passing her over to Mona. Until she had fallen asleep in her crib, Vahn stayed within the room, spreading a calming energy through his domain to make them feel as comfortable as possible. When they were both completely asleep, Vahn let Mona get some rest as he accompanied Hephaestus to find a replacement for the tired Cow Person. Fortunately, Aki, Arnya, and Tsubaki had already moved to the West Wing in preparation for their own deliveries, as they only a few short weeks away from the event.
Arnya, though starting with larger breasts than normal, didn't actually produce that much milk during her pregnancy, so it fell upon Aki and Tsubaki to help out, assuming Epona wasn't around. Fortunately, Tsubaki immediately agreed and, as if she didn't have a pregnant belly to worry about, quickly alighted from the room as she made her way to the maternity ward. She loved watching the sleeping faces of the girls and it made her progressively more excited for the birth of her own child. Since she just had to rest on the sofa and tend to the girls' needs, Tsubaki didn't mind helping out whenever she was available.
Since she understood Vahn would probably want to spend time with Aki and Arnya, now that he was in the area, Hephaestus give him a kiss on the cheek and a firm embrace before saying, "Okay, I'm going to go prepare a few things in my workshop. Ina and Vana will probably want to start working on their own projects in the future so I need to make sure everything is prepared so they don't injure themselves." Vahn nodded his head, understanding Hephaestus' concerns since they had talked about it in great detail. Though she spent most of her waking moments with him, Ina had a propensity to disassemble anything she could get her hands on while Vana could already make tiny flames appear on her fingertips. She learned it after watching the flame dragon pup release a small spout of flame towards Vahn, frustrated by his actions when they first began 'playing'.
After seeing Hephaestus off, Vahn entered the room where Arnya resided, not surprised by the presence of Lunoire and Chloe, as he had already detected them long ago. Arnya had a happy smile on her face as she laid in the bed while Lunoire and Chloe both turned to him with small lights of expectation in their eyes. They had both been thinking about having children of their own and, after seeing how incredible Vahn's current children were, this desire had only grown stronger. A lot of things had changed over the last few weeks, after all, including the fact that their own power and increased exponentially. Though they wouldn't be able to reach the same peaks as some of the younger girls, the women from the Hostess of Fertility were all rather exceptional and had been able to start developing their own magic power under Vahn's guidance.
Without minding the presence of the other two, Chloe adopted a mischevious smile on her face before vanishing from sight. Vahn shook his head in mock exasperation as his own body tensed up as a result of Chloe latching onto his shadow. She then appeared at his back, hugging him from behind as she playfully licked his ear and asked, "I wonder if I'll be fortunate enough to get a baby of my ownya~?" Chloe had been toying with the idea of avoiding contraception over the last few months but, knowing about the new magic system Vahn was introducing, and the amount of power and influence the Alliance would have in the future, Chloe had made her resolution. She wanted her children to be able to see the world as it changed so they would have a greater appreciation for the lives they were blessed with...
Though it was difficult to move, Vahn made it look easy as he turned around and snatched up the giggling Chloe in his arms, play biting the tip of her pointy ear as she mewled in his grasp. If she wanted a child, he didn't mind giving her one but knew she would be happier if it happened naturally. Fortunately, he had returned to his nightly habits and it would be a simple thing to invite her to stay in his room for the evening. Given the look that Lunoire was giving him, Vahn decided to extend the invitation to both of them, earning a blush from Lunoire as she nodded her head in agreement. She wasn't really ovulating right now but didn't want to miss the opportunity to spend time with Vahn, especially since he was the one offering.
After spending the rest of the day circulating around and visiting most of the girls, Vahn spent some more time with his daughters, this time reading them stories before helping Erika write the alphabet on a piece of paper. When they were getting tired, he took them to the bath with Loki and Hephaestus, spending some quality time with the two as they watched their daughters play around in the shallow pool of water. Loki was already busy with other affairs but now resided within the Hearth Manor permanently after moving some of her forces into the estate she had constructed to the north. It would be her official home in the future but, for the time being, Loki knew it was important to spend time with both her daughter and, perhaps more importantly, Vahn. Her maternal instincts were in full force these days and she had been proactively arranging to have any potential enemies eliminated before they could even think about causing harm to the Alliance or, more specifically, her 'family'...
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'No bulli Guardian-chans (TT_TT)','Erika's Growth : Tsundere Syndrome?','Mama Bear is on the Prowl')
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