Chapter 269: Expedition

(A/N: This is also an intermission/side story)

In the depths of the 30th floor of the dungeon, a beautiful golden-haired swordswoman stood facing three giant monsters that were more than five meters in height. They were covered in blood-colored scales that were incredibly resistant to both physical and magical attacks and appeared reminiscent of large dinosaurs and pseudo-wyverns. Not only were their sizes great, but their power was awesome as they thrashed about trying to crush the relatively small, by comparison, girl. Each of their strikes shattered the floor of the dungeon and sent small clouds of smoke and debris shooting through the air like lethal shrapnel.

The creatures were known as Bloodsaurus and they were typically hunted by an entire party of adventurers. Though they weren’t fast, they were incredibly powerful and most attacks weren’t very effective unless the person was capable of penetrating through their thick hides. However, seemingly unaware of the supposed durability of their scales, the small girl dashed along the ground before kicking off with enough force to shatter her foothold. Shooting like a bullet, the girl was wrapped in small green particles of wind as she used the holy looking sword within her grip to instantly behead one of the monstrous creatures.

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Ignoring their fallen comrade, the other two Bloodsauras tried to crush the girl but she managed to evade their lethal blows easily. While they were distracted, a loud shout came from above one of the Bloodsaurus as a small, brown-skinned, girl fell from the sky and smashed her gigantic weapon into the back of the second monster and shattered its spine. From the impact point, an invisible pulse of energy radiated outwards before collapsing in on itself and crushing the internal organs of the Bloodsaurus. This was the [Crushing Blow: A] function of the gigantic weapon and something that always caused the brown-skinned girl to laugh gleefully. Her job done, she vaulted off the Bloodsaurus and flipped upside down in the sky while drawing a smooth arc through the air before landing lightly on her bare feet.

For the final Bloodsaurus, there was another brown-skinned woman garbed in red, very revealing, clothing who attempted to decapitate the monster with her twin blades. Though she managed to cut through the thick hide easily, she wasn’t able to sever the entire head without performing a sweeping spin, landing back on the ground, and then kicking off with force to attack the same spot for the third time. The last Bloodsaurus collapsed to the ground as she stared at the powerful blades in her hands with a mild grimace on her face.

Off to the side, the main group of the Loki Familia had been watching the engagement with unveiled intrigue on their face. Ever since they had set out on the expedition, the three girls had been a force to be reckoned with and had been tearing through the monsters much faster than normal. Finn was very impressed with their performance and even thought to request Vahn to forge him a more powerful weapon in the future. He was currently using the spear Vahn had forged, but it wasn’t nearly as strong as the weapons used by the three girls. Even Lefiya had an incredible useful staff that had caused Riveria’s eyes to light up when she had seen it in action.

Once the three monsters were taken care of, the support party moved forward and began to harvest the resources from the corpse before it dissipated into ashes. The hide from the Bloodsaurus could be treated and turned into low-grade communication scrolls while their blood could be converted into the magical ink necessary for their use. It took about 40 liters of blood to create a single liter of ink after it had been processed. Since it was almost impossible to refine within the dungeon, most people didn’t waste time trying to collect the blood even though it was an incredible source of income.

Finn approached the three girls, who were Ais, Tiona, and Tione respectively and said, “Very well done, you three are performing excellently lately.” In response to his words, Ais showed a happy smile as she stared at the unblemished [Gram] that Vahn had made for her. Tiona had a somewhat silly smile on her face as she remarked with a laugh, “Did you see me crush it~? Every time I smash a monster, it gets my blood pumping~.” As if giving homage to the name, Tiona spun around happily with [Dance of the Amazon] in her hands. Even though it didn’t have the incredible endurance of [Urga], Tiona liked [Dance of the Amazon] much more since it made her feel light on her feet. There was also much less impact on her hands whenever she hit something and the ability [Crushing Blow] was very satisfying.

The only person who seemed dissatisfied by Finn’s compliment was, surprisingly, Tione. Even though she would normally love to hear him say complimentary words to her, she couldn’t help but frown as she looked at Tiona and Ais before sheathing her twin swords. Though she was fond of the two blades, since they were quite beautiful and intricately designed, she became increasingly aware that they were a much lower quality than the weapons wielded by the two girls.

Finn had an awkward smile on his face, because he was the most aware of the changes in Tione as of late. She was always trying to compete with Ais and Tiona but seemed to be falling behind a bit compared to the other two girls. Since she considered herself the ‘older’ sister, Tione’s pride had taken a bit of a hit during this expedition and she had been complaining to him when they set up camp in the evenings.

After turning things over to Raul, Finn returned to their encampment with the rest of the main party, including Gareth, Riveria, Bete, and Lefiya. Though he had made rude remarks when he first saw the weapons, Bete had quickly learned that his comments were misplaced. He thought that the weapons were either baubles created by an incompetent blacksmith or something that Vahn had purchased to try and woo the girls. When he learned that Vahn had personally forged them and saw their efficacy in combat, Bete couldn’t help but keep his silence around the girls while he vented his concerns to Gareth over alcohol in private. Ever since he was, more or less, spurned by the girls, Bete had been in a tense mood and had required ‘outside assistance’ from an Amazon girl at the red light district to ease his tensions. Now that he had been away for so long, Bete wanted to return to the surface and relax away from the ‘pink’ mood of the two ‘idiot girls’.

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When they were settling in for the night, the girls had gathered together in their shared tent and started talking about various matters until the conversation eventually transitioned to a topic they had discussed often lately. Tiona had a happy expression on her face and was polishing her [Dance of the Amazon] as she remarked, “I can’t wait to see Vahn again~! It feels like it has been so long, I wonder if he has become even stronger~?” Tione heard her sisters comment and nearly spat the words, “Bah, all you do is talk about that kid non-stop lately! Look at you, you’re behaving like more of an idiot every day…”

Without taking any offense at all, Tiona laughed in a silly manner and said, “You’re just jealous that Vahn gave me and Ais such powerful weapons~. Even Lefiya got a pretty good staff and all you got were a pair of butter knives, ehehehe~!” Piggybacking off Tiona’s words, Ais smiled and said, “Nnn, very powerful. I like this sword…it is my favorite.” There was a confident glint in Ais’s eyes as she stared into the reflective surface of [Gram]. Unlike her other swords, which always broke after a certain amount of time passed, [Gram] seemed completely capable of resisting her techniques. Even without polishing, its luster never faded and Ais had never seen so much as a drop of blood mar its beautiful white surface.

Tione gnashed her teeth at the two girls and looked at her intricately designed swords as if they were useless. If not for the fact they were actually much stronger than her previous pair, Tione would have thought Vahn had pulled the wool over her eyes. She knew he had gifted her the blades with good intentions, but now his kindness was a constant reminder of her own failures as of late. Even if she knew that Vahn wasn’t ostracizing her, Tione felt a little annoyed that he didn’t show her at least as much attention as her own twin. It didn’t help that Finn continued to deny her advances and had even plainly stated that he would only ever marry and have babies with another Pallum.

Even when she promised to use the medicine so she wouldn’t get pregnant, Finn still denied her constantly and didn’t fall for any of her ploys to get him drunk. She had even tried to slip him an aphrodisiac, but he managed to trick her into drinking the glass she had offered him before having Riveria heal her while Tiona and Ais detained her. Ever since that incident, Tione had felt the distance between her and Finn grow marginally and she had nobody else to blame but herself.

Lefiya had seen the tensions increasing in the atmosphere and tried to ease the mood a bit by saying, “When we return to the surface, we’ll be able to put in a request with Hephaestus-sama and have some custom equipment made. I’m certain she would be able to make you a pair of swords that would even exceed Tiona and Ais’s weapons.” Though she had said the words to encourage Tione, it didn’t help that she was constantly carrying around [Heal] like it was a precious treasure.

Tione released a long sigh after looking at Lefiya ‘cradling’ her staff and said, “Even if Hephaestus forged me a pair of powerful weapons, I feel like Vahn would give them something more powerful than anything I received…Graaaaah~!” Unable to release her own frustrations, Tione fell back onto the ground and rolled around while clutching her head. The other three girls in the tent stared at her like she had lost her mind until Tiona began laughing mischievously. Hearing her own sister laughing at her suffering, Tione glared at her and said, “Don’t laugh at me, I’m still the big sister! Even my boobs are getting much bigger than your’s!”

After Tione’s outburst, Tiona just began to laugh loudly as she playfully said, “I might have cared before, but I know Vahn doesn’t care about that kind of thing at all~! All I have to do is walk up to Vahn and ask him to kiss me and he would willingly do so. If we’re alone, he might even fondle my butt…or maybe a lot more ya know~?” Tione shot up from the ground and had tears in her angry eyes as she shouted, “Don’t rub it in Tiona! You’re not so special to Vahn after all. Hell, I bet if Lefiya or I tried, Vahn would willingly have sex with both of us as well!”

Suddenly being dragged into such a dangerous conversation, Lefiya blushed so quickly and fiercely that a ‘pah’ sound came from her head and she collapsed backward with her eyes spinning around. Instead of refuting her words outright, Tiona nodded and said, “I don’t think Vahn would just sleep with anyone, but I think he’d consider you and Lefiya. I think it might be a long time until then though since Lefiya is still too young for things like that~?” Since Ais had waited until her birthday, she also nodded and said, “Lefiya needs to wait…maybe in a year?”

Hearing Ais’s words, Lefiya flustered even more and said, “I-I don’t think…I don’t think that Vahn and I suit each other…waaaaaah.” As Lefiya spoke, Ais looked over at her and cocked her head to the side and asked, “You don’t like…Vahn?” Ais suddenly seemed to have become a bit sad as she turned her head down and began to polish the flawless surface of [Gram]. Before Lefiya could say anything to ‘console’ Ais, Tione looked at Tiona and asked incredulously, “What makes you think I would even let him sleep with me? You know I like the Captain and want to have his children.”

Tiona still had a smile on her face, but she stopped laughing as she said plainly, “I want things to work out between you and the Captain, but I don’t think things will ever go the way you want. There is more than a twenty-five year age gap between you and the Captain is completely dedicated to his ideals. Unless he eventually married a Pallum girl and raised an heir, I don’t think he would ever sleep with you. I can’t imagine you waiting another ten, or more, years without losing your patience and doing something you regret. Besides, you have to be pretty dense if you think we haven’t noticed the way you act around Vahn. Even if it’s because of jealousy or you just wanting to tease him, you definitely don’t have your guard up against him at all, do you?”

The whole while Tiona was speaking, Tione furrowed her brows low without responding. Everything her little sister was saying was the cold, hard, truth of the matter and there was nothing she could do to change it. Even if she pushed things even further, it would only widen the gap between her and Finn instead of shortening it. Vahn, however, was always nice to her and paid her plenty of compliments even when she was pushing the boundaries a bit to get even with Tiona. If not for the fact she was in love with Finn, Tione would have pursued Vahn as well since he also had the self-sacrificing mentality that she found to be attractive. Tione just didn’t want to give up on her first love, even though, as her sister said, there was more than a twenty-five year age gap between her and Finn. When compared to Vahn, who was actually similar in age to herself, it seemed to be a much more sensible to pursue him instead of Finn…

Tiona watched her elder sister silently contemplate matters for a while before saying, “Vahn promised that, when we finally have children together, that we would be able to raise them as a family.” Tione raised her head and frowned as she said, “That isn’t possible, you know the customs…” Tiona immediately shook her head and said confidently, “No, I believe in Vahn. If he says it is possible, I know it will come to pass somehow. You’ve seen it as well, how much effort he puts into things. Vahn wouldn’t say something like that unless he had a plan of action that had a certain degree of success. If it’s him, I think our children can live free from the tragedy of growing up in Telskyura.”

Before Tione could respond, Ais nodded her head and said, “Vahn always tells the truth. He will become the strongest.” Hearing Ais, Tione looked between the two smitten girls and could see a fiery confidence burning deep without their eyes. Though she had trouble believing their words, Tione also thought that Vahn was a pretty reliable guy, just not to the almost fanatic extent of Tiona and Ais. Looking over, she saw Lefiya had a thoughtful expression on her face so she asked, “What do you think, Lefiya? Do you think Vahn is as reliable as these two idiots claim?”

Though surprised to be addressed, Lefiya calmed down and considered her words before holding up the [Heal] in her hands and saying, “An item like this staff, according to Riveria’s and my research, shouldn’t be possible. No matter how much we try to understand it’s structure, we only get closer and closer to an infinite number of complexities instead of finding any answers. If Vahn created this staff, he is capable of things that fundamentally alter thousands of years of magical research and study…I think…I think he is very reliable.” Toward the end of her words, Lefiya blushed beet red and lowered her head while holding the staff to her budding breasts.

Tiona frowned further because she knew that Lefiya was a magical prodigy and that Riveria was the most preeminent mage in the entire City. If they weren’t able to crack the logic behind the staff, it meant that Vahn’s capabilities were revolutionary. She also knew he had invented several things that revolutionized forging in the past as well…Though she had never considered it before, Vahn seemed to defy common sense and always pushed himself ever closer to his goals. If he really told Tiona that he would guarantee they could raise their children, even she was beginning to believe there was some truth to the claim. Releasing a sigh, Tione looked toward the direction of Finn’s tent and muttered to herself, “Captain, if you don’t take me soon…”

Before Tione could finish her utterance, Finn entered through the flap of the tent next Riveria and said, “We’ll be returning to the surface sooner than expected. Loki-sama sent notice that there might be an incident going on related to Vahn and the Alliance. Make sure to head to sleep soon since we’ll be heading out very early.” Without waiting for their response, Finn nodded his head with a smile and left the tent with Riveria. Before they left, Riveria looked back and saw the various degrees of excitement on each girls face and said, “Looks like you’ll be able to enjoy a date with Vahn again pretty soon.”

Ais had a contented smile on her face as Tiona placed away her [Dance of the Amazon] and shouted, “I’m going to sleep~!” Lefiya had a slight blush on her face and began to change into her sleepwear as well while Tione, the only one who had been excited for a different reason, stood blankly and stared at the flap where Finn had just exited. Since she had just been thinking about him, Tione got excited when he showed up so suddenly. Now that he left without even giving her any personal words, she felt slightly bereaved and shouted, “Captain, you idioooooot~!”

Finn, who had just left the tent to inform the rest of the encampment paused for a moment and had an incredulous look on his face as he asked Riveria, “Riveria, did I do something wrong?” Hearing his word, Riveria had a thoughtful expression for a moment before explaining, “Maybe she thought you were going to do some night crawling? It’s hard to tell when it comes to Tione at times…” Finn released a deep sigh and rubbed his temples as he began walking away from the tent once again. After a few seconds, he remarked, “I hope she doesn’t stress herself out too much. Even though I respect her feelings, I wish she would respect mine a bit…it isn’t a simple matter for me to make such concessions. I guess that’s just a part of youth…”

Since Finn was 38 and Riveria was 97, they were both some of the more mature members of the Familia alongside Gareth who was 54. When Finn had defeated Tione a few years ago, he never expected that she would become so obsessed with him and it was one of the matters that plague his thoughts on several nights. He almost wished someone would come along and defeat her so she wouldn’t be so stressed out all the time…for a brief moment, the figure of an aquamarine eyed boy passed through Finn’s mind before he shook his head and muttered, “I hope he doesn’t cause us even more trouble…”

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