Chapter 80 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
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Miria was the first one to wake up. An adorable yawn escaped her lips as she stretched her arms upwards. That movement made her bare chest rub against something pleasantly warm and she opened her eyes.

She was hugging Ast’s left side and partially lying on his chest, with Selene taking the right, tightly embracing his arm along her whole, naked body, and snuggling her face into it. Both she and Asterios seemed to still be asleep.

Realizing that all of them were completely naked, she blushed instantly and remembered her embarrassing actions made in the heat of the moment, squirming a little. 

She had thought it would have been fine to stay and watch over the duo in case something unexpected were to happen, being sure that she would be okay thanks to Asterios tending to her needs regularly, but she had completely underestimated the effect the scent of a yearning, beastfolk girl in the peak of their heat could have on her. And the fact that it had been suppressed for so long because of Selene’s suffering only made it stronger

A slow and deep breath from ahead brought her out from her thoughts and Miria watched Selene’s eyelids lift lazily, revealing her sapphire-blue eyes. She blushed even harder when their gazes met and the older woman gave her a mischievous smile. Miria instantly hid her face in Ast’s shoulder, evoking a chuckle from Selene.

“I really can’t get enough of how different you are under a full moon.”

“Selene, please…”

“Fufufu~”

Selene raised herself and stretched, making Miria glance at her bountiful bosom. She, of course, didn’t miss that and cupped her breasts up while giving the panthergirl another sly grin.

“Are you still worried about that? I would have thought you would be convinced how much he loves your charming figure with how hard he did you last night~”

Miria averted her gaze while hiding her chest behind her furry arms. Her gracefully dancing tail betrayed how happy she felt to hear that, even among all this embarrassment.

“Nyah?!”

Something grazed her tummy, making Miria squeal in surprise. She noticed Ast’s hand gently rubbing it and moved her eyes up. It looked like their conversation had woken Asterios up and he was now smiling at her.

He rolled onto his side and pulled her close, planting a soft peck on Miria’s forehead. “Selene is right, you know? I love every single part of your beautiful body. Including your slightly lewder side.”

Miria almost hid her face again, but she managed to stop herself this time. They stared each other in the eyes for a brief moment until she wriggled herself up to leave a quick kiss on Ast’s lips before raising herself too.

“Fufufu~ What about me, my Lord?”

Asterios rolled himself onto his back and glanced to the other side. Selene was grinning at him with her fingers naughtily pressed over her elegant lips. The way she angled her whole body as she sat there on her side was nothing but seductive.

He shook his head with a smile. “I’m not sure. It was quite dark yesterday. I haven’t seen much.”

She chuckled at his attempt to tease her back and pushed Ast’s chest down when he was starting to raise himself too. Pinning his wrists above his head, Selene loomed over him with confidence, entering her Awakening to make herself look even more appealing.

“I guess it’s in my best interest to make sure you have the opportunity to take a good look at every inch of my body then, my Lord, fufufu~”

He stared straight into Selene’s white eyes—spotting a glint of mischief in them—trying to oppose her little game, but unfortunately, it was just impossible not to glance down at her exquisite body placed on full display right above him, and his gaze wandered over her noble peaks at the top, reaching peaceful valley at the below.

She smirked at him in victory and was just going to withdraw her Awakening and sit back up when Ast’s eyes suddenly widened in a clear indication of surprise.

“Weren’t there four last night?”

“What?” Selene’s brows furrowed in confusion.

“Oh. I thought so too,” Miria added from the side.

Asterios raised himself with Selene on top of him, resulting in her sitting over his thighs. She then felt something pleasant prodding her mind and quickly realized that it was Ast’s consciousness. Selene broadened their connection and he started sharing his vision with her.

The moment she saw herself from his perspective, Selene’s eyes widened in shock too. She quickly turned her head to the back, once from one side and once from the other side.

There was no mistake. There were five extravagant tails merrily swishing behind her back.

“What… How… I...”

She returned her head to the front and closed her eyes. Asterios noticed Selene starting to focus deeply so he withdrew himself from her mind and waited. Selene scanned herself with her spiritual sense all over to verify it, and the result was completely unbelievable.

What they had done last night must have not only helped her consolidate her fourth stage but also boosted Selene straight into the fifth one. Her source was now much more powerful. 

When she was pondering why, she spotted traces of Ast’s essence still being absorbed by it. That made her realize how much he had actually shared with her. He had not stopped pouring his essence into her after the initial two or three times but kept transferring it most likely for the whole time they had mated.

Selene slowly opened her eyes and was greeted by Ast’s warm smile. It was obvious that he had realized this too, and that he definitely hadn't just forgotten to stop sharing his essence with her back then. That had to be done intentionally.

“Looks like our little fun had some unforeseen side effec—mhhhmmphh?!”

Selene suddenly lunged at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and sealing his mouth with hers. He fell onto his back with a soft thud. Selene’s ample breasts pressed against his chest, making their presence even more clear with the subtle squish when he hit the ground.

He didn’t fight back and let the enthusiastic fox lady present him with a passionate kiss, putting his arms over her waist and starting to comb through the fur of her tails. She continued smooching his lips for a while longer before releasing them from her clutches with a wide smile.

“You foolish man… Did you even leave anything for yourself? You should know very well how dangerous it is to overspend your own essence.”

Asterios chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’ve left just enough not to hinder your contracts with me. I might be a little useless for a day… or three… but I wanted to make sure you won’t have to experience that pain again. I did not expect you to absorb it so fast though. These external circuits truly are something else...”

He grazed the dark blue marks over her arms, now glowing a little bit due to a lot of spiritual energy coursing through Selene’s body from her fifth stage.

Selene sighed. “This idiot master…”

“Enough about me. Shouldn’t you withdraw your Awakening? You were in it for almost the whole night yesterday.”

“Surprisingly—most likely thanks to all the essence you’ve given to me—I feel as if I’ve completely recovered from that. And, from the fifth stage and up, it does start to be different a little. I will be able to stay like this longer than before with a lesser drawback. And it seems that these circuits help with that too, now that they are completely opened.”

She leaned forward and pressed her soft lips against his again, starting a gentle and affectionate kiss. Asterios reciprocated it with his own efforts while raising them back up. Selene’s tails soon dispersed into the air, leaving only one behind, and her eyes returned to their natural, blue color.

After they broke off, she drew a deep breath and sighed slowly. 

“Thank you for everything, my Lord. For not refusing my plea for help, for doing so much to deal with my condition, and finally, for accepting me. I now have no doubts that you are my destined Soul Mate. I’m really happy to have a chance to be with you. And, of course, with you too.”

She glanced to the side at Miria, who was sitting there quietly, trying not to intrude on the moment between the two.

“Eh?”

The panthergirl yelped in surprise when Selene grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards them. She was quickly caught by Asterios, joining them and turning this into a group hug, with everyone closely pressed against each other.

“What do you think you are doing there on the sidelines?”

“But…”

“I appreciate you allowing me to join, but from now on, we both are going to be competing for his attention. You are the first mate, so act like one. Unless you want me to hog Master all to myself, fufufu~”

Asterios shook his head with a smile. He knew very well it was just Selene’s way of helping Miria turn a bit bolder by her teasing attitude. It was obvious with the clear gratitude from the foxkin towards the pantherkin that he felt. He was glad she had overcome her initial doubts and nervousness and returned to her usual, mischievous self.

He was brought back from his mind by a warm sensation pressing against his lips coming from Miria who just closed onto him with a heavy blush, clearly instigated by Selene’s words. The perpetrator was staring at them with a wide smile.

She exchanged a few pecks with him, then Selene wrapped it up with one more from her, and the snuggly duo finally stepped off Ast’s thighs.

“Oh.” Miria slightly jerked, making everyone glance at her. “I think… our clothes… may still be outside…” she said, starting to blush again.

Asterios and Selene looked at each other and chuckled together.

“That reminds me, I pretty much destroyed your dress yesterday. Sorry.”

“It was a necessary sacrifice, so don’t think too much of it, my Lord. I have many spares, of course. I wouldn’t mind even if you wanted to rip my clothing into pieces each time we are going to get a little intimate, fufufu~”

He shook his head and Selene went out of the tent to find Miria’s clothes since the panthergirl was too embarrassed to walk naked in full daylight, even if they were in the middle of a forest. She stayed behind and had her ears caressed by Asterios while they waited.

Selene was quite astonished to find Miria’s panties and hot pants on the top of a nearby tree. It took her a bit of time to search for the missing underwear. She had no idea how the panthergirl managed to fling them up there.

After collecting all the pieces from everyone, Selene brought them back to the tent and returned to her realm with Miria for a quick bath and to get a new set of her clothes. 

Miria then brought out some water back to Ast’s realm and helped wash him before going to her own home to pick fresh clothes for herself too. She first wore her pants and top to avoid appearing in front of her parents completely exposed.

She prepared some simple breakfast, now getting better at it with the help she had been getting from her mother, and offered it to Asterios and Selene while they were checking his current state after overexerting himself both mentally and physically.

A low level of essence, which fortunately managed to recover a bit already thanks to Ast’s quick regeneration, was quite a serious issue. He had gone way past the limits taught at the academy and generally assumed by Summoners. 

And this meant that he not only shouldn’t use any stronger techniques if he didn’t want to make things worse, but it also came with quite a bit of pain every time he drew on his mana and circulated it inside his body as the source was the main generator of spiritual energy, working on spiritual essence.

Just as Dungeon Cores could turn mana released into the air into the essence at a very small ratio, spiritual cores—or in other words sources—spent a tiny bit of essence to produce and store spiritual energy.

Therefore, with Asterios running very low on his spiritual essence, and in turn also on spiritual energy, his core was trying to replenish both of these resources as quickly as possible, resulting in it straining his whole spiritual system.

Selene berated him for unnecessarily going too far for her, but she couldn’t stop a soft smile from occupying her face the whole time she tried to act serious. In the end, she could only sigh and thank him again. Both girls told him to take it easy and leave everything to them and Umbra for the next few days.

Asterios kept insisting on resuming their journey back to Tyrienheim, but the girls were adamant about staying at the camp until he completely recovered. No surprise that, in the end, they won the argument.

For the next three days, he was tended to by both of them, either in turns or together. There wasn’t a moment when he would be left without someone by his side. 

But, it wasn’t something bad. All of them enjoyed leisurely spending some time together. They talked more about Selene and what more she could now do after she had reached the fifth stage, equal to the current Matriarch of her tribe. 

Miria also reported feeling stronger during these days. That was natural. The reason Asterios was running so low on essence was also due to the fact that he had filled Miria with it too. She had been so much into it that she hadn't even noticed at that time. But, neither she nor Selene had paid attention to such things in the latter part of their session.

Now, the girls weren’t the only ones that were growing from serving as Ast’s contracted summons and additionally receiving more of his essence than stated in the contract, through some more intimate means. 

With them getting stronger, and with the bond between them and Asterios deepening, thanks to not only experience but also feelings, he could sense himself increasing in strength too. Because the Summoner grew alongside his summons. 

That process usually took a long time since it required a strong rapport between the Summoner and their beast, and them going through a lot of fights and other experiences together. Fortunately, Asterios was constantly filling all of these requirements, and even additional ones, such as aforementioned deep feelings and intimate contact, not possible in most cases.

Another thing that shouldn’t be forgotten was his aptitude revealed after the barrier had beeb broken and with the emergence of his second source. That surely had a big effect on everything too. Especially the quality of his—purified, as he had stated—spiritual circuits and the sheer potency of that scorching hot mana.

So, Asterios now felt like he was able to prepare more complex techniques he previously could only dream about or imagine while learning or reading about them. More of his knowledge was starting to be turned into actual practice.

But, not all of it was always turning exactly as he had learned, with how his Haste had first worked in the past or how the fire-based enhancement he had passed onto Miria changed recently. He couldn’t now rely only on the previously amassed knowledge. The discrepancies were too big.

Fortunately, he was starting to figure out a thing or two on what could be causing these changes. One of them being the fiery source, of course. Another one, as he was starting to suspect, was his ancestry. It was beginning to be obvious that it certainly wasn’t normal with the amount of secrecy surrounding his past.

At one point, Asterios was worried that he was an actual successful attempt at creating homunculi, which had been banned tens of centuries ago and branded as a subject of Forbidden Magic. 

Because since the human body had never been able to hold two sources, the next logical thing would be to assume that an artificial one had been made, far superior to any magic based on creating Golems from any other material. And all the meticulous steps to hide everything about it, even from himself, only aided that theory.

The girls were quick to disregard it, not believing that Asterios could be a 'fake'. They couldn’t argue with him that he did come off as slightly abnormal when considering everything weird about him and his past, but they insisted that it definitely wasn’t it. 

Unfortunately, the only way to make sure was to figure out more details about him. And that wasn’t going too great recently. They did learn some crucial information, but even that wasn’t exactly completely confirmed. It was still based on Ast’s feelings when staring at the female figure, potentially being Kaguya.

After these three days had passed, the girls finally agreed on heading back. Miria wanted Asterios to rest at least one more, but she gave in after he employed his secret strategy of very affectionately cuddling with her while caressing her ears and tail and showering her face and neck in endless kisses. Not even ten minutes had passed before she melted completely and could only agree to everything he said.

They waited until she recovered and moved out. Selene decided to return to her realm and bring the good news to the Matriarch. She was really excited to show her progress to her friend and senior, Lerisse, and also to ask for some guidance.

 

※ ※ ※

 

Stepping through the crimson portal, Selene found herself back in the main bedroom of her mansion. It was still before noon, the perfect time to catch the Matriarch in her chambers. She only hoped she wouldn’t run into Ronye again. That stubborn girl would most likely make herself believe that Selene had somehow hidden her real stage.

One of the main benefits of being in the fifth stage was the ability to use much more spiritual energy in a much more efficient way without entering the Awakening. Selene had already tested that with a few techniques during the time Asterios had rested to show him her new performance, but she still had one thing she wanted to check.

Drawing on her mana, she broke into a run and jumped outside through the balcony, immediately condensing a translucent blue platform under her feet to stop her from falling. Her shoes landed on the thin, circular surface with pleasant-to-the-ear, ceramic tink. 

She made a few little skips and tried pressing harder onto the platform, but it remained unchanged. A smile formed itself on Selene’s lips. Previously, without using the Awakening, she could step on these for barely a second or less without them breaking. Now, she didn’t have to expend too much effort to uphold the spiritual platforms.

“I wonder if the stories about Kaguya being able to fly with just her energy are actually true. Maybe I’m not that far from it myself, fufufu~ I really shouldn’t have hesitated for so long.”

Leaning forward, Selene rushed ahead and began to sprint through the air, tens of meters above the roofs under her, thanks to her own mansion being located on a small hill too. She kept creating spiritual platforms under her feet and using them to propel herself further. This had been hard to achieve even under the Awakening when she had been at the third stage. But now, it was nothing but simple fun.

She reached the main temple in a flash, effectively avoiding any possible clashes with Ronye on her way there. Making a circle around the premises, Selene made her way to one of Lerisse’s office chambers, aiming to land on an open veranda.

Fortunately, lady luck was with her on that day.

Approaching the ledge, she noticed the figure of her friend sitting by the desk inside the room, with her back facing the empty window frames. She slowed down her descent and deliberately raised the volume of the sounds released by the platforms under her steps.

Lerisse’s long ears twitched when hit with faint ceramic taps and she looked behind her. Selene was making her way down onto the veranda a bit further back, descending onto the marble shelf with slow, graceful steps and a gentle smile, making her brows raise in curiosity.

A moment later, the two women met on top of the ledge and Selene made a courteous bow.

“Matriarch.”

“Oh, stop it. I know well you didn't come here on an official business. That proud smile is utterly giving you away.”

Selene chuckled softly. “Looks like I still have a long way to hide my emotions from you properly.”

“Dream on, girl. I spent enough time taking care of you to read you in an instant. So, why do you look like you want to lunge to hug me at any moment? That’s completely not like you—”

Selene suddenly disappeared in a blue flash and Lerisse’s eyes widened when her body was embraced from the front by her friend, just as she had joked earlier.

“Ethereal Shift…? But ho—”

If they weren’t already as wide as possible, the next sight surely made Lerisse’s eyes reach their limits when she spotted a fan of not three but five bushy tails dancing in front of her. And they certainly weren’t hers.

“Thank you so much, Lerisse. I was such a fool for not listening to you much earlier.”

Selene’s arms tightened around her body while she was still deeply confused. Lerisse patted her friend’s back, slowly starting to regain her composure. She brought the younger fox lady back in front of her and was met with a bright smile.

Selene then stepped back and walked around while showcasing all five of her tails.

Lerisse sniffed the air a little and cocked her head back in understanding. “You finally did it, you stubborn girl.”

“Yes.”

“And what’s this about? Fifth stage? How?”

Selene chuckled. “It’s all thanks to him. He filled me with his essence to the brim,” she spoke, grazing her underbelly with a reminiscing smile. “That idiot almost overspent himself. Oh, gods and goddesses, what kind of a man have I fallen for...”

Lerisse shook her head. “This is unprecedented. I can’t fathom how much essence he must have shared with you to completely skip the fourth stage. How is the foundation of the fifth?”

“Fully consolidated. I think I’m way past the initial segment.”

“Unbelievable. That explains how you can use Celestial Step so easily. With that speed, you will reach Kaguya’s level in a blink. I’m starting to get really interested in that youth.”

“Keep your hands off my Soul Mate, grandma,” Selene smirked at her friend and expanded her aura a little.

“Oh? Are you getting frisky after losing your virginity, little rascal? You are a hundred years too early to challenge me,” Lerisse responded and entered her Awakening too, calling forth four more ginger tails.

Both women grinned at each other, and with a single step, disappeared in blue and orange flash respectively, appearing in the middle of their previous positions with their hands joined in a contest of strength. A loud thud echoed through the air.

“Looks like I need to show you… how to respect your seniors… you cocky brat…”

“Then please… enlighten me… oh so honorable senior…”

Their auras kept steadily growing the more spiritual energy they released into the air, increasing the pressure around them by leaps and bounds while actively trying to push each other back with their hands. Both women had excited smiles on their faces; Selene was delighted to check the extent of her power while Lerisse was thrilled to try herself against someone who could potentially rival her.

They quickly reached the point where their mana began being clearly visible to the naked eye and both Selene and Lerisse was surrounded by a short pillar of spiritual energy—one blue and one orange—clashing against each other.

“You are strong… I have to admit that… But… you lack experience... foolish junior…” Lerisse declared with some struggle.

“I don’t need experience… when I have… these!”

The marks on Selene’s arms and legs glowed brightly, making themselves clearly visible through the material of her sleeves and knee socks. Her aura exploded by a huge margin, almost snuffing out Lerisse’s, but she managed to reclaim control over it and match the younger woman's power again. The flooring under them cracked in the diameter of around four meters and even the items inside the office were starting to get affected by the spiritual storm created by their clash.

“I have to… commend you for that… You almost got me there… But… It’s time to end this…”

“I concur…”

Four blue, ethereal limbs materialized over Selene’s arms and legs and shrunk down to cover them like gauntlets and greaves. Her smile grew when she began pushing the Matriarch back a little.

Lerisse smirked at her and closed her eyes for a brief moment. They opened abruptly and flashed with profound light.

Selene’s body shuddered. Five orange orbs appeared behind Lerisse, forming a pentagonal shape without the outline. The longer Selene stared at them, the more an ominous feeling gripped her heart.

“Be proud of yourself… You are the first one… to force me into using this… Five Topaz Pillars Uphold the Firmament of Hea—”

*BOOM*

“Matriarch! I’m here to he—”

The door to Lerisse’s office was kicked inside and flew through the whole room, crashing into the desk. The figure of Ronye in the fourth stage of her Awakening showed up in the doorway, with one leg raised. 

“—lp…”

She froze when she recognized who the Matriarch was facing and couldn’t believe her eyes.

The two contesting women glanced at her from the large balcony, then looked back at each other, sighed in perfect sync, and withdrew their auras. It seemed that they had created an unnecessary commotion with their little competition.

“And it was just starting to get interesting.” Selene chuckled.

“You mean, I was just finishing my preparations to send you flying.” Lerisse shook her head.

“You can’t know that for sure.”

They chuckled together and started heading into the chamber. Lerisse sighed.

“Looks like I will need a new desk.” She pulled up the heavy brass door from between the rubble of wood with a single hand.

“My sister-mate’s father is an amazing carpenter. I’ll see if he can spare some time for an order from a friend. It’s partially my fault this happened.”

“That Pantherkin girl?”

“Yes. She has such a sweet family. Her mother is the alpha in that relationship.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. No wonder he is a great woodworker.”

While the two women casually chatted with each other and even giggled a little, Ronye just stood there, completely unable to process what she’d just witnessed. That was until Lerisse turned to her.

“Ronye.”

“Y-Yes!”

“Are you still against Selene being your sparring partner? I don’t think she used some cheap trick to knock you out four days ago. My offer still stands.”

Ronye glanced at Selene, who waved at her with a kind smile. The white-haired woman's arms and legs were still wrapped up in demonic-looking apparitions and five fluffy tails danced behind her back. For some reason, Ronye started sweating a little.

What kind of a monster did I offend?!

 

You reap what you sow ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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Enormous gratitude towards our S-rank Guild Members - Magiwarrior, Chicken Abodo, Kevin Y., Soen Kigi, Fandley, Skyell and EESD! We wouldn't be able to have such epic adventures without your support! This Guild Master is greatly honored by your presence!

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