Vahn escorted the twins to the fourth floor of the dungeon before allowing them to take the lead and go at their own pace. His duty was to help them recover their stamina, praise them when they did well, offer them advice, and pick up all the loot using his domain. If they suffered any injuries, Vahn could heal them, but only after the fight was over or they were in serious danger. Not just the twins, but all the girls needed to develop some pain tolerance and suffer blows or their Endurance parameter wouldn’t increase by much.
While he was watching Maemi and Emiru fight, Vahn noticed their cooperation and synergy was rapidly developing and there was a strange ‘tempo’ to their movements. He knew this would probably be exploited by stronger opponents, but it was a great tactic when teaming up against monsters. It was really interesting how one of the sisters would attack with a feint to draw a monsters attention to create an opening for the other to exploit. They were quickly learning how to deal with monsters, even when they were outnumbered. The biggest problem was their lack of stamina and ability to continue fighting for long periods of time.
Since they were Snow Leopards, their actual stamina wasn’t bad at all…the problem came from the fact that they were synchronizing with each other and it put a serious strain on their bodies and minds. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that, when they fought at the same time, it was like their stamina drained at more than twice the expected rate. It was like they were always pushing themselves well beyond their limits, even though their actual movements were relatively normal. Vahn knew this would likely cause their physical parameters to develop well, but it would potentially stunt their magical development.
After around two hours on the fourth floor, the twins had managed to defeat 39 Dungeon Lizards, 17 Kobolds, and 11 goblins with only a few short minutes of break in between each room clear. During the breaks, Vahn would place his palms on their heads and use [Hands of Nirvana] to recover their energy at the same time, since he noticed it actually made the process much more efficient. When he healed one twin, it would consume about twice the normal amount of energy, but only around 40% would be transmitted to the second girl. When he healed them both at the same time, the energy consumption was even greater, but the rate at which they recovered was far more than twice as fast. Vahn noticed that, if they were receiving the same treatment, they would synchronize even further and it would greatly enhance the efficacy of his [Hands of Nirvana].
Because he was curious about how this principle worked, Vahn wanted to see what would happen if the twins wore different clothing, or used different weapons when they fought. He gave Emiru the , while Maemi used her normal heavy dagger. For Maemi, he let her use his [Xuánwǔ Protector]s and a light cloak to force her to change her fighting style slightly. They complied to his request because the twins understood that Vahn was trying to help them understand the skill better so they could improve faster. When they eventually started fighting again, Vahn noticed a ‘severe’ drop in their cooperation and ability to adapt to each other’s movements. This allowed him to confirm that their synergy was improved when they were ‘matching’ in equipment and didn’t allow much leeway for variations. It made sense, in a way, since the feedback would be very different if one twin used a greatsword, while the other wielded a spear and they used completely different attack patterns and movements.
When asked about what they felt afterward, the twins explained that there were ‘phantom’ sensations like things were ‘different’ in their own bodies and it was a big distraction. However, Vahn learned that the strength of the sensations hadn’t changed and this made him wonder if his observations and deductions weren’t entirely correct. It could be that, since the skill was still a low level, it made it difficult for the twins to adapt. It was something worth looking into in the future, but Vahn allowed them to return to their normal fighting style for now. As their parameters improved, and they Leveled up, the twins would naturally be more capable of using other weapons. There was no need to force them to change early on, as there was no guarantee it would benefit the development of their Innate ability, or their own combat capabilities so soon after they started training.
Though he was able to ‘record’ the information in his mind, Vahn also documented all of his observations, and speculations, inside a journal as he watched the twins fight monsters. It wasn’t necessarily for his own use, but so that he could let Ryuu and Aki look over the information alongside the twins. Vahn had no illusions that his perspective was always the correct one, and he knew it was often better to consult others that had more experience than himself. Besides, he had shown the journal to the twins earlier, and they were very happy to see the detailed information and sketches he had been drawing inside the journal. Though he didn’t consider himself a capable artist, Vahn was able to rough out a relatively accurate representation of the girls in mid-combat and point out his observations.
With how much praise the twins gave him, Vahn felt like it was a perk of his [Mentor] skill that had been ‘correcting’ the information that he picked up while watching them. He realized this might be the case when he read over the information he had just written and noticed it wasn’t a thought that had actively passed through his mind. He just wrote it down on ‘instinct’ as he observed how Emiru’s dagger deviated a bit when she was cutting through the thick hide of a Dungeon Lizard. His hands had naturally written down the importance of weapon maintenance and proper follow-through for strikes while casually drawing a dull dagger next to the description with a picture of a whetstone underneath it.
Though he could easily repair their weapons with a [Whetstone], Vahn had been using his [Master Smith] ability to perform maintenance instead. [Whetstone]s were great for emergencies, but they weren’t necessary for simple wear and tear, so Vahn had taken to sharpening their blades manually while performing on-site maintenance for their other equipment. It was moments like this when his inventory really came in handy because he could give the girls a change of equipment and immediately start repairing the damaged bits. Everything that he repaired with his [Master Smith] ability would receive a 3-7% boost to their stats, so Vahn was very satisfied and wanted to develop the skill even further in the future.
After enjoying a light lunch, while flanked by the twins, Vahn led the way down to the fifth floor so that the twins could go through what he mentally called the ‘Ant Hell’. He had gone through his own ‘trial’ back when he first started venturing into the dungeon, and Haruhime had experienced something similar the previous day. Though it wasn’t ‘necessary’, Vahn felt like it was a rite of passage for new adventurers and wanted to see how the twins would fare given the fact that didn’t have magic weapons to use. Vahn mentioned his own experiences with the ants, while also telling the twins how well Haruhime had performed.
Hearing how Haruhime, someone nearly three years their junior, had killed 139 Killer Ants made the twins feel a bit conflicted. Vahn wasn’t the only one to notice their lack of stamina, as they were the ones actually experiencing it. They wanted to ‘beat’ Haruhime, especially since there was two of them, but they also knew they likely wouldn’t be able to fight for very long and their weapons weren’t suitable for monsters like Killer Ants. Per their request, Vahn gave them the swords  and , which were both B-Rank, much stronger than their D-Rank heavy daggers. They spent a few minutes practicing with the swords before eventually mustering up enough resolve to step forward into the fifth floor.
Vahn watched their backs and gave an approving nod as he followed silently behind them and observed the changes in their bodies and auras. When they were synergized well, Vahn noticed that their auras became slightly stronger and their emotions compounded off of each other’s, much like his own interactions with Hephaestus at times. This could be a good thing, as long as they were both motivated, as it would prevent them from faltering easily. However, such a thing could also be a double-edged sword, since if they both felt fear and apprehension, it would be much more powerful than what would be experienced by a normal person.
Unlike how Haruhime had let the Killer Ants swarm, Emiru and Maemi focused on killing them as quickly as possible in order to pace themselves and preserve their stamina. They wanted to kill as many as they could without having to rely on Vahn helping them recover, so they took turns moving and attacking while the other focused on exploiting gaps and regulating their breathing. They obviously couldn’t breathe for each other, but by relaxing their bodies, they didn’t put any excess strain on whoever was fighting at the time. Vahn had noticed this tactic they had developed, probably through their ‘mental link’, and couldn’t help but smile appreciatively at their progress.
Though he kept it primarily concealed from them, Vahn decided to use [Hands of Nirvana] to sneakily help replenish their stamina while they were distracted by fighting. As long as they didn’t realize what was happening, the twins would think they were pushing themselves further and growing beyond their limits. Since exilia and parameter development was influenced by mental perception, Vahn was certain this would be one way he could help the girls within the Familia develop further.
With his support, the twins started to grow more motivated over time after realizing how well things were going with their conservative strategy. Though they still didn’t mass any ants intentionally, their blades had long been covered in pheromones and it made errant ants track them down and their numbers had steadily been building up. After nearly three hours, the twins had managed to killed precisely 150 Killer Ants before Vahn had to step in and finish the job and protect them. Of course, Killer Ants weren’t the only things they had fought, because they had been traveling through the dungeon instead of staying in one area, the twins had also killed 19 Frog Shooters along the way.
Vahn didn’t bother to bring up the fact that Haruhime had killed her large number of ants within a twenty-minute window, he instead just pampered the girls a bit while paying them a few heavy compliments for performing well. It was actually ‘more’ correct to use the method that had been incorporated by the twins, instead of the somewhat suicidal method used by Haruhime the previous day. If he hadn’t been there to save her, she would have inarguably caused her own demise because she had been exceeding her limits by a fair amount. The twins, though less educated, were older and more sensible than Haruhime and took a more conservative approach that would likely preserve their lives in the future.
After helping them recover completely, Vahn brought up the idea of having them fuse while he tried to help sustain the transformation by infusing his own ‘mana’ into their body. Without much thought, they twins both agreed with excited expressions on their faces as they mentioned wanting to understand the form better as well. A few seconds wasn’t enough to truly understand what was going on, and they were interested in the changes their body underwent during the transformation. Vahn was relieved to see their excitement and waited for the twins to finish their preparations before they performed the experiment. It took them several minutes to calm their minds and perfectly synergize with each other, so Vahn understood it wouldn’t be a viable skill for combat unless they had made some drastic improvements.
Eventually, Emiru opened her eyes and Vahn noticed they had turned the beautiful, snowy blue, color as she locked eyes with the lilac-eyed Maemi and they placed their palms together. Emiru immediately vanished in a magical light before a heterochromatic ‘Maemi’ appeared in front of him. Other than her eyes, there was no noticeable change in her body, though Vahn had confirmed irrefutably that their aura had increased by a large amount. Since it was the most efficient location, Vahn placed his palm over the navel of ‘Maemi’ and began channeling his energy almost immediately after the transformation completed.
Maemi felt the powerful flow of energy enter her body as she stared down at the kneeling Vahn and muttered in a strange voice that sounded like when she spoke in concert with Emiru, “Vahn-sama…we feel very warm…very strong…” Vahn looked up into her blue-lilac eyes and asked, “Can you describe any other changes you can feel in your body?” While he asked the question, Vahn noticed that his energy wasn’t draining nearly as fast as he suspected, which allowed him to understand that the form didn’t actually require too much mana to sustain, at least if they were standing still.
‘Maemi’ placed her hands overtop the hand he had placed on her stomach ‘casually’ before closing her eyes and saying, “Everything…everything is so much more…it’s like our skin is so sensitive that we can feel the air…everything we smell is so much more pungent…every sound so much more clear…and…” ‘Maemi’ opened her eyes as a strange smile appeared on her face and she continued, “Everything we feel…it’s like everything is amplified…like we’re going to explode…” Vahn understood what ‘Maemi’ was saying because her aura was much larger than normal and he knew what kind of things she was ‘feeling’ at the moment. He had already checked through the system out of curiosity but noticed that both Emiru and Maemi’s affections had ‘vanished’ after their fusion. It might be because they were combined through an Innate, but Vahn couldn’t see the ‘values’ behind their emotions and it made him feel strangely unnerved with how she was looking down at him.
Though Vahn could continue channeling energy into ‘Maemi’ for several minutes, he decided to bring the experiment to an early end as he said, “Okay, that should be enough for the time being. Try to remember the sensation and practice when you can. As long as you’re able to develop your Magic parameter a bit, you’ll be able to sustain this form for longer. This could be a powerful trump card for the future and allow you both to become much stronger.” For the entire duration of the transformation, ‘Maemi’ had continued to rest her hands atop his with that same strange smile her face. Hearing Vahn’s words, she nodded her head and said, “Yes, Vahn-sama…we will become much stronger…together.”
When Vahn removed his hand from her abdomen, ‘Maemi’ touched the spot as if she were trying to feel the ambient warmth before her body split into two a few seconds later. Vahn caught their bodies and released a relieved sigh before setting them on the ground after laying down a futon. He sat on the edge of it with his back against the wall and checked his system to see if there had been any changes. Both Maemi and Emiru had affection values of 92 for him and Vahn was wondering how the parameter was influenced when they fused. Though their aura was predominantly yellow, Vahn noticed that the small amount of pink along the edges was tainted with a passionate red.