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Observing Sandora's actions from the relative comfort of his suite, a fairly exasperated sigh escaped Vahn's throat. Sandora's inability to trust was even more severe than he presumed. She was so used to shouldering everything on her own that the moment she is presented with a situation that makes things easier for herself, she instinctually rejects it.
In Sandora's mind, the notion of requiring help was the same as being seen as weak or inadequate. As someone responsible for the safety and wellbeing of billions, she couldn't allow herself to show even a hint of weakness. The moment she did, her innumerable detractors would immediately try to use it against her. They didn't care that she was doing her best despite carrying responsibilities that shouldn't have been hers to bear. Instead, they beat her down over and over again in order to make her easier to control.
"I really hate politics and political intrigue…everyone deeply involved with them does everything in their power to compromise those bearing responsibility while simultaneously avoiding it. I wonder if Sandora would feel more at ease if I just deposed everyone that has ever stood in her way…?"
Despite his words, Vahn knew there was a much higher chance that Sandora would actually side with the very same people who had caused her so much pain and anguish. It was one of the things that annoyed him most about situations like this. The people pulling the strings were unrepentantly burdensome to those publically in charge, yet, in spite of this, they wholly expected to be protected by the very people whose lives they made difficult. They weren't simply cowards. They were harmful tumors that often jeopardized the very society they were duty-bound to preserve.
(*Don't do something both you and Sandora will regret. Once you are married, you will have every right to get rid of those who represent a danger to both Salamandra and the Aldrnari Empire. If you really want to teach people like that a lesson, expose them as the frauds they are. Strip them of the power they cling to and let the people they took advantage of sort them out.*)
Calming down in response to Sis's carefully chosen words, Vahn retracted the aura he had been subconsciously exuding. From the perspective of the various officials loitering around the Royal Palace, it was like a substantial weight had just been removed from their shoulders. For everyone else, they hadn't even noticed anything was wrong.
"Karmic justice, eh? I imagine those old codgers will be beside themselves with excitement when Sandora announces our engagement. They probably think I'll be too busy managing the affairs of the Empire to concern myself with matters in the North. I can't wait to see the look on their faces when I interrupt their future attempts to 'advise' Sandora…"
(*You could always adapt and modify your previous plan to govern the North. Take advantage of the fact that the Elders of Salamandra view Sandora as a child by assigning someone like Artoria or Luvia as her Governess. I'm certain the latter would jump at the opportunity to become a Dragoness and teach Sandora everything she needs to know about governing a territory.*)
Imagining Luvia with a dragon tail, curved horns, and maybe even wings, a knot began to form in Vahn's throat. She had retained her humanity thus far, yet, even as far back as their first meeting, Luvia and her family had always possessed the pride and temperament of Dragons. The members of the Clock Tower may have referred to her family as a group of hyenas, but, far from the politics of London, the Edelfelt Family were known globally as the Dragons of the North. They certainly had the wealth and power to back it up…
Though he supported Sis's recommendation, Vahn pointed out, "While the idea is solid, Sandora is bound to take issue with the notion of being 'babysat'. Her detractors may also accuse me of trying to weaken Salamandra in order to install a new Floor Master…"
(*So? As long as that isn't your intent, it doesn't really matter what others say or think. Besides, once Sandora escapes the burdens of Salamandra and spends a few years in the Game Board, she should mellow out quite a bit. Her biggest issue right now is something you brought up. She has never had the opportunity to live free from the constraints of duty and responsibility. To that end, it might not be such a bad idea to accept her previous proposal. A few years away from the hustle and bustle of society would do that girl a lot of good.*)
"You mean the thing about holing up in the mountains…?"
Though he couldn't see it, Vahn could 'feel' Sis nodding her head before saying, (*Indeed. Though you are correct to be 'concerned', spending a few years alone with Sandora would do wonders in regard to her trust issues. With her present mentality, she may actually lose confidence if she sees you interacting amicably with 'imaginary' women.*)
Realizing his rather serious mistake, Vahn took a moment to comb through his hair before staring up at the ceiling in a manner not all that dissimilar to Sandora. He knew full well that she had trust issues, yet, despite having the means to remedy them with surprising ease, he allowed her to think she was worthless. Setting aside a few years to convince her otherwise wasn't even difficult. In fact, just a few days ago he had spent seven months cycling through Actualized Worlds just to check in on the people living within…
"Who would have thought that my desire to be considerate would actually exacerbate things…?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Sis resisted the urge to inform Vahn he could have easily reached these conclusions on his own if he just stopped to think. The problem was, whenever Vahn encountered someone suffering from emotions such as longing or loneliness, his brain would basically shut off. This was especially true when he encountered children beneath the age of 14, as, even after all this time, he still saw his past self reflected in each and every one of them. Since he had been given the opportunity to realize his dreams, Vahn did everything in his power to guarantee others, especially children, were afforded the same right…
Catching Vahn completely by surprise, Sis manifested next to him for the first time in quite a while, saying, "There is no reason to beat yourself up over your desire to help others. If you truly lament your decision, you need only to approach Sandora and demonstrate your willingness to help and support her through actions rather than words. For now, however, I believe it's about time you had a nice long rest…"
Without waiting for Vahn's response, Sis practically forced his face into her breasts before falling backward. Under normal circumstances, this would have placed them in a rather precarious position on the sofa, but, due to her power and authority being linked to Vahn, Sis was able to pull both of them outside the Standard Axes of Time, Space, and Reality itself. It had actually been months since he last took a nap, so, while she was normally content with letting Vahn do whatever he wanted, Sis felt compelled to get him to rest. She understood why he was in such a rush, but, as someone who had all the time in all the worlds, Sis wished Vahn would take more time for himself…he, much like Sandora, shouldn't have to bear everyone's burdens all the time…
"Go to sleep…when you wake up, you can play hero as much as you want. For now, just let this big sis take care of you, okay…?"
Instead of responding to Sis's words, Vahn kept his face buried in her ample bosom as his hands instinctually wrapped around her body. Sis tensed a bit when he suddenly grabbed her butt, but, instead of chastising or scolding him, she simply giggled before running her fingers through his hair with a smile…
After an inordinately long yet impossibly brief period of time, Vahn opened his eyes to find that he was currently lying on the floor of his suite. All the stresses and tensions that had been building in his body and mind were now a distant memory. In their place, Vahn experienced a feeling of calm on par with the times he had delved a little too deeply into the Mantra of Eternity…
(*Don't go making connections that don't exist. I have absolutely nothing to do with that little chant of yours. In fact, even though our minds used to be one and the same, I have never once been able to hear the mantra. I assume it is automatically filtered out by The Path so that I can pull you back if you somehow lose yourself in its verses.*)
Surprised by Sis's casual mention of The Path, Vahn couldn't help asking, ("Did something happen? You aren't usually this talkative about the inner workings of the system…")
Giggling in response to Vahn's words, Sis took a moment to collect her thoughts before explaining, (*It likely has something to do with your spiritual and emotional growth. You may not have noticed it, but you have changed quite a bit ever since you reclaimed your title as Emperor. If I had to guess, it is your gradual acceptance of the responsibility you will soon bear that allows me to converse so candidly. I'm not entirely sure.*)
Nodding his head in implied understanding, Vahn earned another giggling laughter from Sis as she teased, (*You don't have to be so serious about it. This is actually a good thing. Once your mentality has developed beyond a certain threshold, there will no longer be any secrets between us. Truth be told, I'm equal parts terrified and excited. I fear I won't be able to remain 'just' your big sister in the near future…*)
Hearing Sis's sultry voice echo through his mind, a powerful shiver coursed through Vahn's spine before spreading through the rest of his body and causing goosebumps to develop across each of his limbs. He was used to Sis teasing him, but, 'feeling' the sincerity contained within her words, a sudden and intense feeling of expectation arose from the very depths of his being.
(*Oh my…it would appear my words have inadvertently moved up that particular deadline. Calm down, would you? If you grow any more excited…things may become rather dangerous…*)
While Vahn was doing his best to calm down, Sis was looking around at the veritable army of cat and bunny girls staring at the projection of Vahn's thoughts with borderline carnivorous looks on their faces. She was also in rather dire straights, but, as the representative of her other selves, she was the last thing standing between them and complete takeover of Vahn's harem. The moment Vahn became aware of and released them, absolute chaos would unfold…
As that thought crossed her mind, Sis casually transported one of her alternate versions out of the observation room. The overexcited cat girl was attempting to sneak up on her, and, following that, several other versions of herself directed their attention her way.
Snorting through her nose, Sis grumbled, "You brats…you really think you can take me on?" whilst popping her fingers. This was enough to deter the vast majority of her offshoots, but, powered by Vahn's lust, a few of the feistier girls stepped forward, arguing, "Vahn needs us…" as they adopted various combat stances…
Squinting her eyes, an oppressive aura exuded from Sis's body as she asserted, "You have things in reverse. It isn't Vahn who needs us, it's we who need Vahn. Putting your personal desires before his growth is the antithesis of everything the Sister Corps stands for. Don't think I won't destroy you if you dare to impede Vahn's path…"
As each of the people around her was ultimately an extension of herself, Sis would not hesitate to destroy them if they threatened Vahn's growth. When Vahn granted her an Ego, she had even been willing to erase herself if it meant ensuring the fulfillment of his dream. This was a sentiment shared by each and every one of the Sisters, but, due to Vahn's current emotional state, they were willfully neglecting their shared responsibility…
(*I suppose this is the pitfall of having a little brother whose desires manifest as females capable of entering into heat…haaaaaa…*)
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Politicians…','Onee-san Secret Technique: Surprise Abduction…!','Bunch of naughty kittens…')
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