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Endless Path : Infinite Cosmos Chapter 1671

Chapter 1671: Passion


Seeing the familiar island enter her vision, Eva couldn't prevent a smile from spreading across her face. This didn't escape Karin's notice, but, before she could question what had made her Master so happy, her forward momentum seemed to disappear as her surroundings instantaneously changed.

Thinking they had fallen into some kind of trap, Karin didn't hesitate to draw her weapon alongside Juuzou. Fortunately, before they could do something lamentable, Jinbei, appearing just as lazy and relaxed as usual, performed a twisting gesture with his hand, muttering, "Switcheroo~". As a result, both Karin and Juuzou found themselves reappearing next to him, allowing the man to grab both of their shoulders as he said, "Relax. I don't think Eva would be too happy if you got in the way..."

Having known and trained under Jinbei for hundreds of years, Juuzou immediately resheathed his katana. As for Karin, she just stared wide-eyed at the scene playing out before her, the hand she used to grip her katana tightening along with Jinbei's grip on her shoulder...

Ignoring the looks being cast their way, Vahn and Eva continued to hold each other close in the middle of a small clearing. As for why Karin was so upset, this was largely due to the fact that she had seen Eva initiate their rather passionate kiss, and, though he held himself back, it was possible to see Vahn's fingers moving slightly as if he were massaging the former's waist.

Truth be told, Vahn had nearly grabbed Eva's butt on instinct, but, feeling the gazes of both Asuna and the black-haired woman, he managed to restrain himself. As for the two men present, he did his best to keep his back toward them, habitually shielding Eva from view while combating the urge to simply teleport all three of them away...

After a passionate embrace lasting nearly three minutes, Eva seemed to remember there were other people present, her impassioned look giving way for an embarrassed fluster as she began to lightly hit Vahn's chest. She was trying to make him release her, but, while it had only been a month or so for Eva, more than two years had passed since the last time Vahn saw his beloved fiancee. Though he did eventually allow her the chance to breathe, he didn't immediately release her from his grasp, choosing to continue holding her for several minutes before muttering, "I missed you..." in the most heartfelt tone he could manage.

Though she was beginning to feel a little upset by Vahn's excessive display of public affection, Eva's tensions relaxed the moment she heard his words. She was well aware of the existence of his Realm, and, if the appearance of the woman behind him was anything to go by, it had probably been a few years since he last saw her. He had always been the sentimental type, so, while her embarrassment grew with each passing moment; Eva did her best to ignore it, placing her ear against his chest to listen to his powerful heartbeat as she muttered, "I missed you too...idiot..."

---

Realizing he couldn't keep ignoring everything else to keep holding Eva, Vahn eventually relaxed his hold after more than ten minutes had passed. Before he could greet the trio, however, the man he assumed to be Jinbei smiled back at him, a teasing look appearing in his pale-grey eyes as he said, "Don't mind us. Please, continue..."

Though he had heard a lot about all of Eva's former companions, Vahn was still a little taken aback by Jinbei's teasing. He could also feel Eva's aura begin to surge outward, and, though he had briefly shifted his gaze away from her, he could tell her face had become beet red as she lowered her head to hide the evidence...

Suppressing the urge to release his own suppressive aura, Vahn did his best to return a smile as he said, "You must be Jinbei...Eva has told me a lot about you. Though it is hard to put sincerity in my voice right now, know that I am deeply grateful for everything you have done for my fiancee...that goes doubly for you, Ms. Karin Yuuki. If there is ever anything you need from me, never hesitate to ask. So long as it does not go against my principles, you have my word that I will do everything in my power to aid you."

Hearing Vahn's words, Karin released the death grip she had on her katana while Jinbei, showing no real changes in his expression, just replied, "You're pretty serious, ain't ya? Well, if I had to make one request, how about a life-time supply of alcohol? I've always wanted to try the alcohol produced by the Gods~."

As his status as a God wasn't really a secret, Vahn wasn't all that surprised by Jinbei's words. Rather, even if Eva told them everything she knew about him, he wouldn't have cared. These three people were the closest thing she had to family, so, without any hesitation, he extracted a large gourd from his Inventory, tossing it to the man as he explained, "That is a rare liquor known as [Ningyo's Blood]. I'm certain you will find it palatable..."

For the first time since his appearance, Jinbei showed a rather drastic change in expression when he heard Vahn's words. His Immortality was derived from devouring the flesh of a mermaid more than thirteen-hundred-years prior. Though modern Japanese had popularized the western version of the creature, embracing the idea that they were beautiful women with the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish, their true nature was far more sinister. Japanese Mermaids were actually a type of Yokai known as Ningyo, a man-eating demon that lured countless people to their deaths by appearing as a beautiful face floating in a river...

Despite his initial shock, Jinbei still managed to catch the gourd, and, after his expression gradually returned to normal, he fearlessly uncorked it before downing half the contents in a few large gulps. It was infinitely better than the poisonous meat he had consumed all those years ago, and, though it was subtle, he could actually feel some of his old wounds beginning to mend...

Seeing the man down the contents of the bottle with great vigor, Vahn issued a light chuckle as he shifted his gaze between Karin and Juuzou. He knew both of these individuals were bound to give him some trouble, but, regardless of what the future held, Vahn was compelled to thank them for everything they had done for Eva. The former was probably the closest person to Eva's heart before they met, and, though Juuzou hadn't done that much, he still helped her alongside Jinbei whenever she requested their assistance.

Noticing his gaze, Karin caused Vahn's smile to strain when she instinctually covered her chest. As for Juuzou, he showed absolutely no hesitation or restraint as he said, "Eva has mentioned that you are a transcendental blacksmith and an even greater swordsman. Though I am fond of my current weapon, I am very interested in a blade that can grow alongside me. If that is not possible, I would ask that you afford me the opportunity to test my skills against your own."

Though a Zanpakuto was probably off the table, Vahn didn't have any problems forging Juuzou a weapon that could grow stronger. As for his second request, that aligned with his own desires, so, without needing to consider his response, he simply nodded, smiling as he said, "For a blacksmith, it is a great honor to see our creations in the hands of those who can draw out their full potential. I will see to it that your weapon rivals those wielded by the Gods. As for your other request...I would be a fool to refuse a duel against another Grandmaster..."

Hearing Vahn's response, the atmosphere around Juuzou seemed to stagnate, and, though neither of them drew their weapons, a visible tearing of space could be seen as their gazes intersected. This was a phenomenon derived from pure sword intent, and, though it gave others the impression that the world itself was about to be cut in twain, neither Vahn nor Juuzou was expending any strength.

Unfortunately, thanks to Asuna's previous antics, Vahn was far from his peak, so, after several tense seconds, a very thin line appeared on his left cheek. This actually startled Juuzou quite a bit, his eyes widening slightly before a shadow of disappointment appeared over his face. After listening to Eva's words, his expectations for Vahn were exceptionally high so he never expected the man to suffer an injury from a simple exchange of intent...

Recognizing the disappointment on Juuzou's face, Vahn released an internal sigh as he decided to stop holding back. He very briefly closed his eyes, and, after opening them, it was like his gaze itself had become a blade, compelling Juuzou to draw his sword on instinct. Before he could so much as draw it a single centimeter, however, the lower half of his mantle and military-style blouse fell away as nearly every tree behind him collapsed due to a cut at their center...

Seeing the man freeze in place, a wry smile spread across Vahn's face as he rubbed his temples and explained, "I expended a lot of mental and spiritual energy earlier so I'm currently not at my peak. If you give me an hour or so to recover, I'm confident I can give you an even better demonstration of the difference between us..."

Contrasting his previous calm demeanor, Juuzou surprised nearly everyone present by sheathing his sword and bursting into laughter. For a brief moment, he actually thought Vahn had already cut him in half, so, realizing it was just his intent, he couldn't help but feel 'extremely' happy. This wasn't due to the fact he had survived, but, after nearly five-hundred-years without a proper opponent, the fact there was someone so far beyond him was both a relief and a wake-up call...

Bringing Juuzou's crazed-sounding laughter to an end, a red-faced Jinbei heavily slapped the man on his back, forcing him to nearly trip as he said, "Hey now, don't go losing it after seven-hundred-years. I always told you there were some real monsters in this world~."

Though he was momentarily tempted to cut off the arm of his former Master, Juuzou managed to control himself after seeing the light glowing in the Jinbei's eyes. This was enough to cool his head, as, despite greatly exceeding Jinbei's mastery in the sword, Juuzou knew he would lose if they both went all out. He had great confidence in the former's strength, and, though Jinbei was indolent to the point of sitting in a single spot for more than a year at a time, his power, speed, durability, and raw talent were all beyond comprehension...

Restoring his image as a cool and unperturbed swordsman, Juuzou respectfully nodded to Jinbei before turning to Vahn and performing a courteous bow as he said, "Forgive me. I get excited at the prospect of battling against powerful foes. I pray my behavior did not offend you..."

Rather than feel offended, Vahn actually felt relieved by Juuzou's outburst. He was thinking he had gone too far by incorporating the concepts of Infinity and Nothingness within his gaze. Fortunately, he seemed to have acquired himself something of a male rival and protege, two things he would benefit from having more of.

Gesturing for Juuzou to raise his head, Vahn couldn't hide the anticipation in his smile as he said, "I am also excited for our future battles. Though it will have to wait until tomorrow, I have the perfect venue for us to exchange pointers. I'm greatly looking forward to seeing your Shishimi-Ryu with my own eyes."

Though he would normally ignore such compliments, Juuzou couldn't help but smile in response to Vahn's words. He couldn't even put into words how excited he was for their coming battle, so, after a few seconds of silence, he lowered his head a second time before stating, "Expect my return with the dawn...". Then, with one of the most seamless versions of Shundo Vahn had ever seen, Juuzou vanished from the clearing, reappearing behind a boulder about three-hundred meters away before cutting Space with his katana and hiding within the void...

(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Gimme gimme...','She knows...','Imagine being a 700-year-old Chuuni...')

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