While Vahn was being ‘sorted’ by Mama Mia, the other girls had helped Shizune change her clothing into a smaller outfit. Since Tina had started working at the Hostess of Fertility in the past, they had custom made a few waitress outfits for her used and Shizune was able to wear them easily. She was actually a little downtrodden when she noticed that her breasts had completely vanished but knew they would eventually return in time. In fact, now that she knew how her body would develop, Shizune wanted to take advantage of that fact and try out a variety of new outfits to make the best use of her newfound youth. Though she was still considered an adult ‘chronologically’, Shizune decided to act the age of her body and abstain from any relationships until she became an adult again. Her youth had been deprived from her previously, so she wasn’t in a hurry to lose what she had the fortune to regain.
When Vahn saw the two ‘young’ girls standing side-by-side in their matching waitress outfits, he showed a genuine smile and said, “You two really look like sisters.” Both of the girls’ ears twitched about and Vahn’s smile grew marginally wider as he habitually reached out and stroked Tina’s head. He had almost done the same for Shizune but hesitated mid-motion until she stepped forward into his hand and said, “You don’t have to hold back on my account~.” For a brief moment, Vahn saw a glint in Shizune’s eyes before her expression turned into a youthful and cheerful one. If not for the fact he could see her aura flaring up, Vahn would have thought he imagined it. He refused to say it aloud, but Vahn expected that Shizune might try to join his Familia in the future when she ‘tags along’ with Milan and Tina as their step-daughter/step-sister. He didn’t really mind much but had firmly protected his heart from any actions she might try to take to approach him until her body had matured properly. Though her affection value was only 91, she did have a strange parameter within the brackets called (Beholden).
After things settled down a bit, it was decided that Tina and Shizune would become ‘poster girls’ for the Hostess of Fertility and support each other in their duties. Shizune had the bad habit of flirting with the patrons a bit because of her ‘prior work experience’, so Tina was going to be looking after her in order to correct her sensibilities. Shizune had decided to tease her a bit and began referring to Tina as her ‘Big Sis’ which made the tiny cat girls tail flicker about excitedly even though she tried to control her expression and act the part properly.
Vahn had decided he was going to be venturing into the dungeon before returning in the afternoon and seeing how things had been progressing by checking up with Hephaestus and Loki. Ryuu, Fenrir, and Haruhime were going to accompany him after they escorted Mikoto, Emiru, Maemi, and Preasia back to the Hearth Manor. Along the way, the girls were in much higher spirits and Vahn brought up the idea of having them go shopping for equipment and necessities with Aki when they finally returned. Since he didn’t want Haruhime to fight much yet, she didn’t require powerful gear but Vahn asked Mikoto to pick out some appropriate equipment for her that she could use until he finished her actual equipment. Mikoto had wanted to tag along and venture into the dungeon with them, but Vahn asked her to look after the girls and safely escort Hestia if she decided to go shopping with them. To support their expenditure, Vahn gave each girl a golden card that was worth 100KV for personal items.
When they finally reached the Hearth Manor, Hestia was still sleeping but Aki had long awakened and returned to her usual self. Vahn did notice, however, that she was already wearing the black band around her abdomen and she was giving him a strangely ‘loving’ look when they made eye contact. Vahn was actually very curious if she was pregnant and decided to take a peek inside of her body to see if there were any signs. Since he hadn’t completed her heart’s desire, he didn’t receive the quest to impregnate her so it was impossible to tell through the system. Vahn did confirm that there was actually a fair amount of his own fluids still within her body and it made his eyes widen a bit because he wasn’t able to identify if there was an actual egg within the jumbled mess. He decided to check again later, or maybe even wait for the signs to naturally appear with time.
After explaining things to Aki, Vahn gave her a platinum colored card with a single orichalcum strip that was worth 10MV and would be more than enough to gear the girls adequately. Since Aki had a lot of experience procuring supplies and equipment, she was more than happy to take the girls shopping and Vahn had even given her a few extra gold cards for her personal use so she could buy clothing and other necessities. Though she accepted them at first, Aki returned the majority and told Vahn that they should go shopping together in the future. Vahn nodded his head with a smile before returning the cards to his inventory and making the final preparations before heading toward the dungeon.
Vahn gave Haruhime the [Fox Maiden’s Bracelet] and the two [Fox Maiden’s Anklet](s) and she happily wore them on her left wrist and both ankles. She had already been wearing the one he previous forged for her and was happy to have so many accessories that matched. Vahn then asked her what kind of accessory she would like around her neck, to which she pitched the idea of a choker or a collar of some sort. Vahn furrowed his brows at the idea, since he knew her request had nothing to do with her being a Renard or from the Far East. Though she didn’t explicitly say it, Vahn felt like Haruhime was trying to make herself ‘belong’ to him and wanted a way to prove her status.
Since he didn’t like the idea of Haruhime in a collar, Vahn told her that he thought it would be suitable if she wore something that would accent her future equipment and the current accessories. As he spoke, Vahn actually remembered the charm he had obtained from Takemikazuchi in the past and pulled it out and said, “If you’d like, I can make you a necklace version of this charm?” Haruhime saw the small charm in Vahn’s hands and had a happy smile on her face with a touch of melancholy in her eyes. She gingerly took the charm from Vahn’s hands and held it like she was praying for several seconds before saying, “Yes, I’d like that very much…”
Vahn could see that Haruhime’s eyes had misted up a bit and showed a concerned expression on his face that made her wipe away the brewing tears with her sleeve before she explained, “Sorry, this charm was given to me by my mother before she passed away. I had thought it was lost forever…thank you for returning it to me.” Even now, Haruhime was still holding onto the charm as if she had obtained something precious and it inspired Vahn to reach out his hand and affectionately stroke her hair and ears. She showed a happy expression on her face before placing the charm into a concealed pocket within her red kimono.
When everyone was finally ready, Vahn left for the dungeon while accompanied by Ryuu and Fenrir. Vahn had discussed how to make the best use of his [Mentor] skill previously, and he was now going to be trying to test the efficacy of the skill. Both Fenrir and Haruhime had growth related skills, Fenrir’s being her [Devour:SS] while Haruhime had the benefit of his ‘flame seed’ in the form of [Prometheus’s Blessing:A]. Vahn wanted to see how his [Mentor] skill affected both of them since he already had Fenrir as a good baseline for what would be expected from hunting weaker monsters. Before he left, he checked both girls Status Boards, even though it had been a little awkward since he hadn’t brought it up until Haruhime had initially gotten dressed and ready to go.
Name: Sanjouno Haruhime
Skill: [Inari:Innate(sealed)], [Prometheus’s Blessing:A]
Magic: [Uchide no Kozuchi:B],[Kokonoe:D]
Development Skill: [Moon Priestess:Innate(sealed)], [Spirit Healing:D]
Skills: [Lunar Cry:C], [Freezing Roar:C], [Chainbreaker:C], [Devour:SS],[Huntress:A]
Development Abilities: –
Even though Fenrir had killed thousands of monsters, and eaten hundreds of magic cores, her parameters hadn’t grown by much since they had only ever gone down to the 7th-floor pantry. Vahn and Ryuu had wanted her to adapt to the changes in her body and become accustomed to fighting before she tackled any serious threats. As for Haruhime, she had never even seen a monster in person and this would be the first time she fought one as well. Ryuu had cautioned him that a lot of novice supporters typically froze up at the sight of monsters and things typically got much worse when they saw blood. Since Haruhime had a somewhat elegant and timid nature, Vahn was worried that she might suffer something similar and was prepared to step in at the first sign of a problem.
After they arrived within the dungeon, Vahn gave Haruhime what they were referring to as the ‘Mentor’s Mark’. She had tried to get him to place it on her thigh, but Vahn put it on her hand and she justed waved her tail in a wispy manner and enjoyed the momentary contact regardless of the fact that Vahn hadn’t conceded to her request. Since she didn’t have the weapon he intended to forge for her yet, Vahn gave her a B-Rank sword that was named . Though he had forged more than 200 of the series, Vahn sold the majority and only kept the first seven for emergency purposes. It looked a little unnatural for her to be holding a weapon, but Haruhime still swung it about as if she were familiarizing herself with its range and weight.
Not long after they had entered, the first floor, Vahn led the party through a side corridor before arriving in a room with two goblins present. Unexpectedly, Haruhime immediately got fired up and Vahn could see her aura blazing a bit as she muttered in a voice not intended for them to hear, “Now I can finally get stronger and become closer with Vahn~!” Vahn had a wry smile on his face as he reminded Haruhime, “Even if they are just level 1 goblins, you must never, ever, drop your guard. Though it shames me to say it, I actually almost died when I first encountered a goblin. The fight ended in an internecine exchanged that nearly cost me my left arm…”
Vahn hadn’t intended to scare Haruhime, but he noticed that her aura waved a bit so he said, “Don’t worry, I won’t allow any permanent harm to come to your body. I just want you to develop an awareness that every enemy must be treated seriously, even if they are something as weak as a goblin. I know it’s been explained to you several times, but I’ll repeat it again since this is no longer practice…you can’t become stronger if you expect there are no consequences to your mistakes. Fight with your life on the line and overcome the trials before you if you truly wish to become stronger!”
Because of his shout to hype up Haruhime, Vahn drew the attention of the two goblins and discreetly expanded his aura just in case. Fenrir’s eyes began to glow scarlet at the sight of monsters, but she was standing behind Ryuu because they had explained that Haruhime needed to train without help. Seeing the goblins approach, Haruhime’s aura flared up again and she moved toward them with the sword trailing behind her body a bit. Vahn immediately realized she was trying to copy his actions when he was ‘showing off’ to Mikoto in the past. Unfortunately, she wasn’t very fast with her meager 37 Agility so it looked a little strange for her to try and emulate his maneuver.
Haruhime had primarily been focusing on developing her footwork and stamina during the training, so she was actually quite nimble on her feet even though her agility parameter wasn’t that high. Renards were naturally agile and Vahn learned that her ‘dance-like’ moves had come from her background as a noble heiress, with a fair amount of training during her tenure as a ‘prostitute in training’. Each of her attacks, though clumsy, had a peculiar elegance to them and she was able to easily sidestep the first goblin before tracing her foot in an arc across the ground, flaring her hips a bit, and swiping with the black blade across the goblin’s neck. It didn’t immediately die, and a spurt of blood shot out from the severed artery and splashed onto Haruhime but she didn’t flinch at all as she engaged the second goblin.
Ryuu nodded her head approvingly and said, “She has the potential to become strong. Though she lacks practice, there is a unique polish already present in her movements and her resolve already makes her better than most starting Supporters.” Vahn nodded his head as well but didn’t take his eyes off the fight as he watched both Haruhime’s movements, as well as the small caricature of his own face on her hand. He hadn’t seen any signs that it had been doing anything, so he was almost certain it meant that ‘allies’ needed to be more than 2km away from them for it to take effect.
The second goblin had put up more of a struggle than the first as it became slightly alert after its companion had fallen in one blow. It tried using a stone club to intercept the blows of Haruhime, but she had the height, reach, and weapon advantage and was able to eventually cut through the club after performing a full spin where she arced the blade over her body and drew a beautiful path from the heavens to the earth and bisected the club through the center. As if she were following his words to never drop her guard, Haruhime didn’t get excited after successfully destroying its weapon and leaned down a bit before stepping in and stabbing the goblin accurately in its magic stone and turning it into dust.
After the goblins were dead, Haruhime scanned the area without dropping her alert status before confirming there were no enemies present. During the fight, she had a very serious and focused expression, but now her gentle smile returned as she casually walked over to Vahn with a glimmer in her eyes. Vahn knew what she was expecting, so he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped off the blood from her cheek while wtroking her hair and ears and saying, “Excellent, very well done Haruhime.” Ryuu nodded her head and piggybacked Vahn’s words and said, “Indeed, very commendable for a Level 1. You have a lot of potential for improvement, but you’ll be able to go far as long as you remember the resolve you showed today.”
Haruhime’s smile bloomed like a flower as she bowed low and chirped, “Yes, thank you both very much for your kind words~! I promise I’ll meet your expectations in the future!” After she finished her words, Haruhime stood ramrod straight and had a very happy expression on her face that caused Vahn to have an urge to pet her even more. After ruminating for around .003 seconds, Vahn gave in to the urge and began to stroke Haruhime’s ears as he talked about his findings from observing the fight. Since there hadn’t been any indicator of the skill activating, Vahn had put forth the idea of splitting into two groups while staying on the first floor unless Ryuu was confident she could reign in Fenrir if she lost control. It was either that, or they could continue as a group of four and let Fenrir vent any frustrations she had been bottling up before they returned to the surface later. Ryuu would then be able to take her back and then Vahn could wrap up the day by conducting the experiment to test the skills effect.
They discussed it for a bit as Vahn pet both Fenrir and Haruhime in a very casual manner before inevitably deciding to split up. Since it would be more beneficial to test the skill while Haruhime’s stats were low, Ryuu agreed that it would be best if she became the focus of the experiment and then Vahn could train the twins as the control later. Vahn wasn’t too sure he’d get accurate results, since Haruhime had [Prometheus’s Blessing], but he figured the twins actually had a unique trait that would invalidate the experiment anyway. He wasn’t sure how their sealed Innate skill [Gemini] worked, but there had to be something more to it since both girls had the exact same stats. Vahn was tempted to have them do two different training regimens just to see if there was a point where they would diverge but he wasn’t sure that would be beneficial to awakening the skill. Though they were ironically the perfect pair to conduct the experiment, Vahn didn’t want to prevent their Innate skill from awakening just to sate his curiosity.
Just to be safe, Vahn gave Ryuu the [Rallying Whistle] which would alert him if they encountered a problem. Ryuu was surprised to hear about its use and Vahn got to see a rare moment where her expression broke a bit and her brows raised. She noticed his look and immediately returned to normal before tucking away the whistle in her pouch. As long as she blew into it, not just Vahn, but everyone within the Hestia Familia would be able to hear it regardless of where they were. It would then boost his agility and he would be able to track them quickly by following the magical trail that would appear after its use. Before they left, Vahn stroked Fenrir’s head a little heavier since she actually liked ‘firm’ pats more and promised her a reward if she behaved. In response, she patted her washboard chest proudly and said, “Leave it to Fenrir! Fenrir will beat all the smelly monsters into meat paste~!”
Vahn sent the pair off with a smile and was actually something glad to see Fenrir leave with Ryuu since he didn’t really want Haruhime to see the sight of her eating still-living monsters and getting covered in their blood and gore. She might be fine with getting a bit of blood on her body, but even Vahn had felt a little nauseous the first time he watched Fenrir engorge herself in the past. Since he had actually been completely covered in monster bits in the past, Vahn felt like he had a much higher tolerance than Haruhime and had few expectations that she would be okay after witnessing such a sight.