Toward the end of the conversation, and having everyone's statuses updated, Hestia had asked in a 'hopeful' tone, "So, what will you be doing from now on?" Vahn knew she had been somewhat lonely, and even more worried, about him as he had been away for nearly an entire month. In response to her words, Vahn showed a soft smile as he looked around and said, "Until the next expedition, I'll be staying around the Manor and working on various projects during the first block of my schedule. Though it may vary somewhat, I plan to use the four-hour period in the second block of my schedule to spend some time with everyone, similar to what I had been doing before. As for the afternoons, there are simply too many things I have to research and I want to make some headway on them. As for the evenings..." Vahn had seen some of the auras flaring up around him and he sent a playful wink to Hestia as he said, "I'll leave that up to everyone else for the time being. After reaching Level 4, I'm even more confident in my stamina."
A rudy blush appeared on Hestia's face a result of Vahn's teasing and she gripped the hem of her dress tightly as she said, "I've also been working hard..." before swallowing her words as a maroon blush appeared on her face. She didn't want to admit that she had talked to Hephaestus and Loki to learn 'coping' methods while Vahn was away. Hestia had even been exercising in the mornings by running around in the backyard for a few laps in an effort to improve her stamina. She wasn't the only one either, as Hephaestus' 'training' techniques had propagated on the network and had become popular. They had even gathered together to perform the routine a few times, something that would probably be put on a back-burner now that Vahn was present.
With a lull appearing in the conversation, Vahn felt the atmosphere become somewhat awkward because he could sense the 'intentions' of several girls in the room, all focused on him. It was still somewhat early in the day, just barely after high noon. Unless someone else brought up a topic of discussion, the tensions would continue to increase but Vahn wasn't quite sure of what to say. In an attempt to 'escape' the atmosphere, Vahn turned to Terra and said in a tone that was addressed to everyone, "Terra, I've been curious about your [Avatar of the Earth] and I was wondering exactly how it functioned. The Hearth Manor will be your home in the future, so you can set up your domain in the backyard if you wish..."
Vahn felt the tensions in the air 'break' instantaneously, though he earned a few looks of blame as a result. Instead of asking them more questions, Vahn had diverted the topic to a girl that he had just brought home. Knowing this would happen before he spoke, Vahn accepted their temporary ire and promised to make it up to them later. He didn't mind listening about their day for several hours, but being a single person involved in a discussion with twenty people was rather difficult. Though it felt like his mind was 'splitting' these days, Vahn only had one body and couldn't hold a conversation with several people all at once.
Terra had a perpetual smile on her face as she squinted her eyes slightly and observed the reaction of the other girls in the room. Though it was nearly indiscernible, the scales on her arms and legs raised ever so slightly as a pleasant aroma permeated throughout the room. She felt a bit of hostility directed toward her and wanted to avoid conflict outright if possible. In response to Vahn's question, Terra angled her head with a thoughtful expression on her face as she said, "It's strange...I think I need a fertile area?" As her Innates were related to records obtained from other worlds, Terra had a basic instinct about how to make use of them, but it would likely take her decades to truly understand the proper use of the abilities.
Vahn had expected Terra would need open ground and he mentally gave her a thumbs up as he turned to the group and said, "How about we all move to the grassy area behind the bath, there should be plenty of sunshine there and I remember there was even a small garden in the area?" As the person that had been tending to it, Ryuu nodded her head as a slight smile appeared on her face as she said, "Yes, I've been tending flowers there...spring is coming soon, and they should be blooming in the next month or so. Chloe has also been growing some herbs while tending to the plots that Naaza had set up previously."
Hearing there were even herbs in the area, Vahn's smile became even wider because he had high expectations for Terra's presence in the garden. There was even a high chance she would be able to get close to several of the girls in the Manor simply because she was able to promote plant growth. Accepting Vahn's 'invitation' to go view the garden, everyone moved to the back yard with the exceptions of Hestia, Syr, and Aki. They still needed to supervise the construction efforts, especially Hestia, and it was already bad they had been missing for over three hours. Vahn gave them all short embraces while patting the slightly bulging belly of Aki. Vahn felt like she had become even more beautiful in the month he was away and it made him feel giddy seeing her stomach bulge.
After a brief trip to the back yard, which was now contained by the Manor itself, Vahn led the group behind the tall wall that fenced in the bathing area and obstructed it from view. Though it wasn't that large, a plot of land had been neatly maintained by the girls as a private garden that grew behind the wall. It was around 500x400m wide and Vahn could see that a large part of it had been designated as an herbal patch where a variety of different medicinal plants were growing. As for the rest of the garden, there were numerous different types of plants that were pleasing to the eye including several bushes that had small buds that had recently started to open slightly with the warming weather.
Seeing the garden, Terra's expression turned somewhat gentle before she looked up at the clear blue sky and stared directly at the sun. Vahn was tempted to caution her about the dangers of such an action, but he could see a light layer of energy cover her eyes and it didn't seem to bother her much. Walking to the center of the garden, Terra looked around before spreading her wings wide and crouching down with her palms against the ground. Her tail tapped up and down in a steady rhythm as the 'feathers' on her wings began to rustle. With his [Eyes of Truth] active, Vahn could actually see that Terra was absorbing energy through her wings, including energy from the sunlight itself. Vahn felt like she was similar to a plant, and this process made it seem like shared even more similarities with them.
From Vahn's right, Ryuu had an expression filled with intrigue as she commented, "She is very attuned to nature...it's almost like she is a spirit of the forest itself..." Though it hadn't been that obvious when they were walking over, Ryuu could see the color of the grass had grown more vibrant around Terra as small flowers peeked up before blooming, irrespective of the fact that it was still somewhat chilly. Vahn nodded his head in response and continued to watch the strange phenomenon as he recorded every detail within his mind.
After a few minutes passed, Terra stood up straight before wrapping her wings around her body and emitting a green glow that caused the entire area to warm up slightly. Though it appeared as though the light was coming from her body, Vahn was aware that she was actually absorbing even more energy from her surroundings and was infusing it into her hearts before powerful bands of energy trickled down into her body before spreading out through her feet and into the soil below. Terra actually started to sink into the ground slightly, almost as if she were taking up root before the energy began to spiral around in the ground. Small threads of energy spread out, almost as if they were searching for something and Vahn had some expectations for what it might be.
Thinking that Terra actually needs 'seeds' or other forms of plant life to begin the process, Vahn took out something that shared a similar fate with her previous Green Dragon form. Sensing the presence of the vibrant life energy, Terra opened her eyes and smiled at the small Treasure Tree Vahn had pulled out of his inventory. Surprisingly, even without Vahn transplanting it into the ground for her, Terra reached out her hand and a thread of energy ran from her feet until it anchored itself to the Treasure Tree. In front of the startled expressions of everyone present, the tree began to 'walk' toward Terra.
Once it had reached its destination, the Treasure Tree actually split from its top and bisected itself into two parts that coiled around Terra's figure. Placing her palms against the green bark, it was almost like Terra was synchronizing with the Treasure Tree as it's roots dug into the ground and began to coil in the same pattern her energy had formed earlier. Adding to the two segments that currently coiled around Terra, several other sections of Treasure Tree grew out of the ground, similar to the roots that had protected the previous cacoon. Vahn could see that her energy was actually depleting rapidly, so he turned to the onlookers and said, "I'm going to help her..." before appearing behind Terra and placing his palms against her back, right behind her heart.
Feeling Vahn's energy enter her body, Terra's smile blossomed at the same time as three thick roots sprouted up from the ground and coiled alongside the previous two. They created a water-tight basin that could barely fit Terra's figure with her wings coiled up. With the addition of Vahn, it was an even tighter fit but he didn't mind it too much if not for the fact that his legs were more-or-less straddling Terra's tail. He was sure she wasn't doing it on purpose, but her tail twitched about slightly in between his legs and, as a result of her height actually being slightly greater than his, it was a moderately stimulating experience.
Vahn could sense tendrils of energy spread through the ground rapidly as runes similar to the ones on Terra's body appeared within the soil beneath the grass before 'disappearing'. As they dissolved into the ground, the entire area became full of natural energy which actually absorbed the weaker elemental energies from the air to increase the quality of the soil. Pulses of energy began to emerge from Terra's heart that spread through her body before passing through the ground through her feet. Each pulse carried out for about 300m before dissipating and the entire area around Terra's location began to be filled with plant life. There was even a small tree that had started to emerge from the ground, like from a stray seed that had lain dormant, and it was a captivating sight to behold.
Terra's wings fluttered slightly as she turned her head and asked, "Master, do you have any water?" Though he could produce water on his own, Vahn harbored a hope that the 'essence' would serve her purposes even better as he asked, "What do you need it for? I have plenty available." Terra squinted her eyes slightly and said, "I need to fill this wellspring to nourish the land around me and establish my territory...please, if you would be so kind." Understanding her intentions, Vahn resolved himself to get a little wet as he began filling the three-meter wide 'basin' that Terra had formed. Its height was around 80cm and Vahn filled it until it had reached around 74cm.
With her emerald-green 'tub' filled with water, Terra lowered her body slightly and it was almost like her leaf-like feather were losing their color slightly as it fed into slightly glowing 'essence'. Terra commented, "This water is very good...it can hold much greater energy than normal. It seems that my Master has many mysteries about him...how reliable." Terra's feathers had actually become an off-green color that was beginning to turn closer to yellow. If not for the fact he could see the individual follicles of the feathers, Vahn would believe they were leaves because they looked almost identical. Even now, it almost looked like Terra was going through Fall as the vibrant green faded from her feathers and was slowly becoming yellow and orange. Even her hair began to change slightly at the roots and Vahn felt like she was pushing herself quite hard to complete his request.
The 'essence' eventually took on an emerald color similar to the liquid that had encompassed Terra's body during her transformation and Vahn could sense an incredible amount of vitality within the liquid. It was slowly absorbed by the treasure tree through osmosis and fed into the surrounding along the unique formation that had been created by Terra previously. Not just the plant life that had 'emerged' from the ground earlier, but the plants in the garden, including the herbs, looked as though they were full of life and the weaker ones even began to grow at a visible rate until they reached maturity and simply became vibrant and impeccable quality herbs.
As she had crouched down earlier to submerge her wings, Terra had to stand up to end the ceremony but found that her legs were somewhat shaky. Though it was a bit awkward for him, Vahn lifted Terra up by her arms and pulled her out of the water since it seemed like she had lost her strength. Even with his support, Vahn's own energy had drained by a great deal and it would take him around an hour or two to recover naturally. Ryuu, Haruhime, and Naaza had come forward to help Vahn support Terra's body, but she just shook her head and said, "Set me down on the ground, I'll be fine in a short while." Following her words, Vahn settled Terra onto the ground and she rested on her knees before spreading out her wings wide.
Unlike the leafy-green color they had been previously, the majority of Terra's wings had become yellow while some of her plumage had turned orangish-red. The only thing that remained green were the tops of her wings, which hadn't been submerged in the water, and the majority of her long hair. After she kneeled down, however, the green began to spread from the tops of her wings and slowly diffused into the rest of her wings at a slow rate. Since he wouldn't be doing anything strenuous for the rest of the day, Vahn consumed a few mana potions from the system shop and placed his palm against Terra's head to speed up her recovery. As she had hung her head low previously, Terra turned up her expression to look at Vahn before smiling and closing her eyes.
Ryuu had taken a moment to observe the liquid in the 'wellspring', which was now down to around 50cm deep with Vahn and Terra having removed themselves from the inside. Elves were very sensitive to the fluctuations of mana, but they were especially sensitive to the presence of natural energy like what could be found right in front of her. The essence had a similar feeling as the sap of the Sacred Trees her family had tended to in the past. However, Ryuu felt somewhat 'guilty' about comparing the two because the essence in front of her had a much greater concentration of energy than any of the sap she had seen in the past. If they left this pool as is and came back in fifty years, Ryuu had no doubt the Hearth Manor would have long been reclaimed by forests and plant life.
After twenty minutes, Vahn had managed to help Terra restore the vitality to her wings before plopping down onto his butt and wiping his brow. As if she had been waiting for him, Haruhime actually stepped forward and handed him a towel, which Vahn accepted gratefully. She had seen him exerting himself and had leaped over the nearby wall and taken a towel from the nearby changing rooms. Vahn started wiping away his sweat as Terra lifted her body and rose to her feet in a 'sweeping' motion as the tips of her wings draped across the ground. When she stood up completely, Terra looked around before stretching out her wings after confirming she wouldn't hit anyone.
Vahn watched her actions with interest before asking, "What kind of effects will the wellspring provide? How does your 'dominion' work exactly?" Terra fluttered her wings a big before coiling them behind her body and saying in a slightly confused tone, "I'm not really sure, but this place will die after a while if I leave it. The wellspring is to make sure the plants don't die since my dominion would break if that happened?" Though she had only been using her [Avatar of the Earth] at first, Terra had been afraid her actions would kill the beautiful garden. The wellspring she had created was actually a product of her [Guardian of Nature], which was intended to nourish the plants around and keep them from wilting. The only part of her ceremony that had anything to do with her [Avatar of the Earth] had been the spiral formation she set up at the beginning.
Though she was very intelligent, Vahn could tell that Terra didn't know how to explain her actions properly, even though she seemed to have some understanding of them. He had seen everything she had done from start to finish, so he could always try to make sense of it later when her education level has increased. It was somewhat unfortunate that his [Eyes of Truth] couldn't see through Innates, as it meant Vahn had probably missed out on several key components of the ceremony. Hopefully, by the time she became more familiar with the skill, she would be able to intuit a bit of her own abilities and help him to understand them.
Taking advantage of the temporary lull, Ryuu stated in a serious tone, "We need to make sure this place is off-limits to other people in the future. Even a single ounce of that fluid would probably sell for several thousand Valis. The entire wellspring itself would be worth hundreds of millions of Valis. I would compare it's potency to the Cadmus Spring Water, but the quantity is completely different..." Vahn had already determined this as well, as he had been given the opportunity to see the coveted liquid during the expedition. A single drop of the wellspring essence could easily be used to make a high-quality Elixir, which would be worth around 10,000V. The entire pool could probably fund an Rank Familia for an entire year without having to enter the Dungeon even once.
As there wasn't any chance of the people present spreading information about the wellspring, the only thing they had to be wary of was other people stumbling into the area in the future. Though it was unlikely to happen under normal circumstances, there were situations like the present where construction was being performed on the Manor and there were people walking around at times. The girls had been vigilant about allowing people to wander, but there was never a 100% chance of something being completely secure. As a result, Vahn had the interesting experience of planting several trees in the back yard around the garden as Ryuu set up an illusion formation to protect the garden from people wandering into the interior.
Vahn found it interesting to have a small forest in his back yard, as he could set up a gazebo in the center of a clearing, so he didn't mind helping out. When they were finished, Vahn had jumped up into the sky for a better view and saw that, even though there had previously been a large clearing for the garden, it now looked like the forest took up the entire area. Even if people had the ability to observe the Manor from above, the only thing they would see is a miniature forest that in the clearing of the Manor. To make it look even better, Vahn filled out the 'empty' half of the space and only left a small 20m clearing in the center where they could have picnics and stuff in the future.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: '1 vs 20','Less than 4 hours as a human, already bathing with Vahn','Sure, Vahn is going to have 'picnics' in the clearing...')
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