Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 1672
With the 'departure' of Juuzou, Vahn took the initiative to invite everyone back to the hideout. He wanted to give the new residents a chance to get settled in, and, though she was currently on her best behavior, Asuna still needed her punishment. Leaving her fate to Eva wasn't exactly fair, but, as it served as a decent segue into the topics of the Little Garden and his future plans, Vahn left Jinbei to the Chacha sisters before alighting to the large library on the northern side of the estate.
As could be expected, the moment Eva was out of sight from people like Jinbei and Juuzou, an air of confidence radiated from her as she briefly inspected Asuna before pointedly stating, "I can't say I'm surprised...still, mind explaining how the brat turned into a breast-demon in a single month?"
Hearing her Master's words, Karin instantly adopted an accusatory frown, but, before she could so much as utter a syllable, Eva, with a very serious expression, turned to her and said, "Vahn isn't the type to lie and wantonly manipulate others. Give him a chance to explain himself without throwing out accusations."
Surprised by her Master's words, Karin was caught with her mouth slightly agape, her lips failing to form words as her mind floundered about for a response. She didn't expect Eva to snap at her, and, though she could understand the reason, it made her feel a little bitter knowing the former didn't hesitate to speak out in defense of Vahn.
In the end, Karin gave up trying to speak out and simply bowed respectfully in acknowledgment of her Master's words. Then, with her hands neatly folded across her lap, she stood like a dutiful young attendant at her Master's side, her eyes staring off into empty space as if the discussion no longer had anything to do with her.
Seeing how Karin was behaving, Eva had to suppress a sigh as she shifted her gaze back to Vahn, clearly expecting an explanation. In response, Vahn didn't beat around the bush, lifting his hand to show a brilliant blue orb of light as he explained, "I came into possession of a portable realm known as the Little Garden. Everything inside is governed by the Laws of Progression, and, though the flow of time is only ten-to-one near the center, it effectively increases a person's growth rate by a factor of one-hundred. There are a lot of finer points, but, simply put, it drastically accelerates growth, aids comprehension, and provides a sort of biological immortality since entities inside never age beyond their biological prime."
If anyone else was saying these things, Eva would have looked at them as if they were completely full of it. When Vahn said such things, however, she always took them at face value, as, unless it was related to the things he couldn't tell her, he simply couldn't lie to her face.
Shifting her attention to Asuna, Eva already had an idea about what had happened, her expression visibly darkening as she plainly stated, "I am disappointed in you, Asuna. You undoubtedly have all kinds of logical arguments to justify your behavior, but, even without being present, I can guess you went way overboard. Though Vahn has his fair share of the blame, taking advantage of his nature to get what you want isn't an act of love...it is pure selfishness...tell me, how old are you right now?"
Hearing Eva's words, Asuna couldn't help but avert her eyes, unable to answer Eva's accusation and subsequent question. She wasn't used to being reprimanded or accused, and, even if she wanted to try and justify her actions, she couldn't deny the truth contained in Eva's words. She was well aware of the fact that she had been the one pushing Vahn, willfully taking advantage of his inability to stay mad at her...
Seeing Asuna's reaction, Eva didn't need an actual answer to know the faux-woman was still just a brat. Since Vahn mentioned the center of the Little Garden experience a ten-to-one flow, she could easily intuit that there was a varying rate of flow within the miniature realm, likely increasing as you moved towards the outer edges. Asuna had probably found a way to sneak into the region without notice, and, by the time Vahn became aware of what had happened, the damage had already been done.
Shaking her head, Eva turned her attention back to Vahn, her arms akimbo as she maintained her accusatory glare and said, "You're too much of a pushover...tell me, how do you go from being one of the most domineering people in the entire world to a floundering idiot who gets tyrannized by a little girl? I know you don't want to hurt the feelings of the people you care about, but letting them do whatever they want just isn't healthy! You are supposed to be the one in control, Vahn! Where is your dignity as a Master and an Emperor!?"
Though he didn't avert his eyes like Asuna, Vahn's expression morphed into an apologetic frown as he listened to Eva's words. He knew she was right, and, given Asuna's nature and temperament, she would have adjusted her behavior accordingly if he put his foot down. She was a very obedient and rational young lady, and, prior to her Eva's departure, the only action he needed to take in order to correct her behavior was explaining his reasoning and expectations...
Realizing his fault in the situation, Vahn solemnly lowered his head, stating, "I understand where I have erred and will commit myself to do better moving forward...please forgive me..."
Though she had heard similar promises before, Eva didn't actually blame Vahn, as, even before her departure, she expected something like this to happen. She knew what kind of person he was, and, in the absence of someone with greater expectations for him, he was susceptible to falling into the pace of others. He just couldn't help but try and make everyone around him happy, and, though it often caused him stress, he could bear any burden if it was for the people cared about.
Feeling her anger rapidly diminishing, Eva wasn't able to maintain her accusatory glower any longer, a tired sigh escaping her lips as she crossed her arms and muttered, "I forgive you..." while casting a communicative gaze at Asuna. The latter easily understood the meaning contained within her gaze, so, without needing to be told, she bent down and performed a faultless dogeza, forehead pressed to the ground as she said, "I have also realized my wrongs...I owe an apology to everyone. I'm sorry for taking advantage of your kindness, Vahn...I just like spending time with you...I..."
Seeing Asuna perform a dogeza, Vahn felt like a cold sweat had spread across his skin as he looked between her and Eva. The latter just rolled her eyes when she noticed his gaze before giving him a shoulder shrug as if to state, 'do whatever you want'.
With his fiancee's consent, Vahn leaned down and placed his hand upon Asuna's shoulder, silencing her apology by sincerely stating, "I accept your apology, Asuna...now, stand up. You need not lower yourself to such an extent. The most important thing is to remember the lesson you learned and do your best to avoid repeating the same mistakes. You are an exceptionally bright and capable young woman, and, though you are not without fault, I believe you will become even more amazing in the wake of this incident..."
Hearing Vahn's words, Asuna raised her head to reveal a thin layer of moisture covering her eyes. It was clear she had been on the verge of tears, but, now that she had been pardoned, the glistening layer took on a new meaning as she looked up into the face of the man she loved. This made Vahn feel a little helpless, not because she hadn't learned her lesson, but because he could tell Asuna had resolved herself to greatly exceed his expectations...
Though it seemed like everything had been settled without incident, Asuna insisted that Eva met out a suitable punishment for her recent behavior. She immediately came to regret this decision, but, rather than complain, Asuna had a defeated look in her eyes as she helped the Chacha sisters move all of her stuff into a spare room. She had been barred with sharing a bed with Vahn until her birthday, and, unless it was for training purposes, she wasn't allowed to make physical contact with him unless he was the one patting her head or tending her wounds.
Feeling guilty about the situation, Vahn was tempted to commute Asuna's sentencing, but, before he could utter a single word, Eva silenced him completely with a gaze shaper than any spear. After that, he found himself back in the library, and, though he wasn't exactly complaining, Eva elected to use his lap like a throne as she explained the situation to Karin. The latter had yet to be informed of the existence of his Harem, so, as could be expected from someone that admired Eva as their most important person; Karin wasn't at all enthused by the presence of Asuna and the mention of others associated with her Master's fiance.
Truth be told, Karin had already prepared herself to 'assist' her Master, and, if necessary, she was even willing to dutifully serve her Master's husband. She couldn't lose her virginity, and, if it made things easier on her Master, she was willing to suffer some indignation on her behalf. After all, they would be together for thousands of years, if not longer, so Karin wasn't foolish enough to think that 'nothing' would happen between her and Vahn. Her Master had also been behaving 'strangely' ever since their reunion, so, even if she was sorely lacking in experience, Karin hadn't lived for more than two-thousand-years without developing the ability to intuit certain things.
Hearing her Master segue into topics such as parallel worlds, alternate dimensions, the flow of fate, and tangential timelines, Karin felt like her brain was gradually beginning to melt. There was far too much information to process, and, in the end, none of it really mattered. All she took away from the explanation was that her Master's fiance had come from a different world with the singular purpose of saving her Master. In that world, he had an expansive harem filled with actual Gods, Heroes, and a bevy of mystical and legendary entities. In the present world, there were at least five other women besides her Master, two of which were legendary monsters while the others were the Princesses of the most powerful nations in existence...
Needless to say, Karin was incensed by Vahn's lack of fidelity, but, more than anything else, she was frustrated by the fact that her Master was completely smitten with the man. To make matters even worse, she could tell that the reverse was also true, as, even when he was just looking at her Master, Karin could see the love, respect, and admiration he had for her. He was also completely deferential toward her, a trait Karin both respected and felt increasingly confused about. She didn't understand how someone could be completely smitten with another person, yet, in spite of that, have a massive harem that seemed to span more than a hundred people...
In the end, Karin couldn't help but voice her perturbation, waiting until her Master asked if she had any questions to glare at Vahn and ask, "What makes you so special that my Master chose you over everyone else in the world? I don't understand it. Even if you were able to treat her condition, I can't see my Master falling in love with someone so-"
Before Karin could finish her words, Eva silenced her with a simple gesture and a pointed look. This filled the dark-haired woman with a bit of indignation, but, trusting that her Master would explain things, she remained silent and attentive. What she didn't expect was for a crimson hue to spread across her Master's face as she explained, "Explaining the reasons I love this idiot would take even longer than my previous explanation...the only thing that really matters is that I chose to fall in love with him. It might be difficult for you to understand right now, but believe me when I say it isn't all that different from your decision to follow me all those years ago...the love I now feel has given my life new meaning...even though I have the option to live a normal life, I'm no longer afraid to face eternity because I know a certain idiot will always be there to watch over me..."
Though she was sitting with her back to Vahn, Eva couldn't help but bury her face into her hands as she uttered the final few words. This was a little contrary considering her statement that she was no longer afraid to face eternity, but, rather than point it out, Vahn earned the most profound pout he had ever seen on a grown woman's face as he embraced Eva from behind. Karin was glaring at him with a look that could even rival the release of his sword intent, but, rather than angry; it would be more accurate to say she was 'extremely' envious, not of Eva's position, but his...
If looks could kill, Vahn was pretty sure he would, at the very least, be extremely injured by Karin's gaze alone. He could even feel his skin tingling slightly when he whispered, "I love you." in Eva's ear, his Magia Erebea constitution causing him to feel actual pain due to the rather ridiculous amount of holy energy exuded by Karin's body...
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Eva be like, "Only I can say bad things about my husband!"','RIP Asuna','Karin about to go Biblical on this fool...)
(A/N: I'm taking my break today. I'm feeling a little lethargic and want to decompress. Take care of yourselves.)
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