After reuniting with the main group, everyone headed towards the stairs leading down to Rivira, the settlement in the safe zone of the 18th floor. Everyone wore cloaks that covered their body and obscured their heads since Vahn was rather ‘famous’, and not in a great way. There was a high chance they would be denied access to the settlement, so Vahn had made the decision for everyone to camp in the nearby forests. The group followed behind Ryuu, since she knew a clearing near the site of the burial grounds of the Astrea Familia. Along the way, Fenrir cocked her head and said, “Fenrir smells lots of smelly girls.”
Hearing her words, Vahn looked in the direction she was facing and couldn’t sense anything so he asked, “Who is it that you smell?” He had some expectation and his intuition was confirmed when Fenrir waved her arms and said, “Fenrir smells the girls that were with Vahn. They smell like the stinky Loki.” Other than Haruhime, Loki was another one of the girls that Fenrir disliked, and Vahn felt like it was almost her ‘instinct’ to act that way around her. She is very sensitive to people’s thoughts and feelings, so someone with a chaotic aura like Loki would naturally stress her out just by being around. It didn’t help that Loki was constantly trying to get closer to her and had even tried to brush her in a casual manner without permission.
Vahn turned to Ryuu and said, “Take everyone along and set up camp. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, so go ahead and wash up before preparing for dinner. I’ll make sure to be back before nightfall…” Ryuu nodded her head and said, “I’ll protect everyone.” Vahn smiled and saw them off before heading over to the likely location of the Loki Familia encampment. He didn’t think they were on an expedition so they were probably camping in a small group located within one of the various forests. The Inn prices within the actual settlement were exorbitant, and the furnishings weren’t that great, so most people avoided staying there. The Loki Familia had a small lodge in the inner circle of the tree, but they probably didn’t let normal Familia members stay there and chose to camp outside. There was also a very real possibility they were camping to avoid wandering eyes since they were planning to meet up with him later.
After a few minutes of travel, Vahn was able to detect several presences within the area of his domain, so he picked up Fenrir and used Shundo to close the remaining distance. When they arrived in the small clearing, there were a few small tents that had been set up with a total of eight presences within his detection range. Four of them were off in the forest, and Vahn saw the tell-tale signs of a small stream and assumed it was likely Tiona, Ais, Lefiya, and Tione bathing. He was tempted to re-experience a moment from his past but decided it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of dealing with the potential joint attack of the Amazon twins. Instead, he made his way to the slightly larger tent where there were three people staying but was intercepted when the final aura, which belonged to Bete, stepped outside of his personal tent.
Vahn realized he had made a bit of a mistake and, before Bete could say something that would cause problems, he grabbed Fenrir and used Shundo to dash away. Bete looked toward the direction he had ‘fled’ and shouted, “What kind of pansy s*** is that!? The f*** did you bother showing up for when you’re going to run away like a little bitch!?” Unfortunately for him, Vahn had long retreated into the distance to avoid his snide and condescending act. Even if he understood Bete was just acting out, there was no way Fenrir would have been able to accept hearing someone speak so rudely to him. He just spent the better part of an hour-and-a-half calming her down, and he didn’t want her to get incited by the irrational behavior of Bete.
Fenrir was always happy to be carried by Vahn, so she didn’t have any complaints as she lazed about in his arms while tucking in her hands and feet so that she didn’t accidentally scratch him. Vahn set her down after opening up more than three kilometer’s distance from the Loki Encampment and told Fenrir, “I want you to go to where Tiona, Ais, Lefiya, and Tione are, okay? Tell me I want them to help you clean up, and I promise I’ll wash you again later before bed. I have to go and talk to a few people, and they’ll bring you back to me after your bath.” Fenrir looked like she was going to ‘pout’ for a moment before eventually nodding her head and saying, “Fenrir will go. Fenrir is a good girl.” After patting her chest confidently, she ran off in the direction of the bathing girls and would hopefully avoid any trouble along the way.
After confirming that she joined up with the others, Vahn returned to the Loki Encampment where Bete was complaining to Finn, Gareth, and Riveria about how Vahn had ‘run away’. They all noticed his arrival before Bete tried to say something but was shut down by Gareth as Finn walked over and said, “Greetings, Vahn, it’s good to see you again.” Vahn nodded his head and accepted Finn’s handshake as he explained, “I was traveling with Fenrir, and I didn’t want her to go berserk listening to Bete. She is with the other girls right now, so I’ll probably leave when she gets back to avoid trouble.” Finn laughed complacently before saying, “Sorry about that, I hope Bete hasn’t caused you any trouble.”
Hearing Finn’s words, Bete shouted out, “He is the one coming into our camp without warning before running off! I didn’t do jack s***, so why am I being blamed!?” Since Bete had never met Fenrir before, he didn’t know anything about her. Finn had also never met her, but he had probably been filled in by Loki while Riveria, who was somewhat interested in Fenrir from their prior meetings, looked toward Bete and said plainly, “It’s your brash and thoughtless nature that is the problem. If you had met that girl, you probably would have said something to upset her. Vahn did the right thing by avoiding the confrontation, so you’d do well to remember that you were irrefutably the cause of the current situation.”
Bete looked like he wanted to say something, but Gareth smacked him on the back and said, “Just drop it Bete, let’s go have a drink. I’ve got a new brew that I think you’ll be fond of…” Gareth looked over to Vahn and made the motion of drinking alcohol with his hand before saying, “You can come along if you want. There is a bit of time till the little ladies return, Grahahahaha~!” Vahn nodded politely and said, “Sure, I’d like to spend more time hanging out with a few guys…I feel like my life is a little oversaturated with women lately.” Gareth began laughing heartily while Finn showed an awkward smile since he knew he had probably added to Vahn’s problems to an extent. Bete seemed to be triggered by Vahn’s words but was pulled along by Gareth who said, “Don’t get yer britches in a bunch, don’t you have girl troubles of your own these days?”
Vahn raised his brows and saw the somewhat blushing, yet pissed off, face of Bete as he said, “Mind your own business you old coot! F***, whose goddamn idea was it to let a bunch of prostitutes join our Familia…that little s*** is so weak…” Gareth gave Bete a stern look and said, “It is the duty of a strong man to protect the women around him, just do your job and there won’t be any issues. Besides, if you’ve any real complains you don’t have to sleep with the lass, do ya?” Bete clicked his tongue but didn’t say anything as he put his hands in his pockets and headed toward one of the larger tents near the main tent alongside Gareth.
Finn watched them for a while before turning to Vahn with an amiable smile on his face as he asked, “So, you’ve come for the Goliath subjugation, right? I heard from Riveria and the girls, so I was wondering when you might show up.” Vahn nodded his head and explained, “If possible, I wanted to try and solo it again. I brought along my entire Familia to gain experience, and I’d like them to see what it is like to fight against a Monster Rex. I’m willing to give all the drop items and the majority of the magic cores to the Loki Familia.” Finn laughed in a casual manner and said, “I thought that might be the case. Very well then, that should be acceptable. It’s good to be working with you for the time being, Vahn.” They shook hands again before Finn walked off toward the same tent where Gareth and Bete left to.
Riveria looked toward the distance for a while before saying, “I’m interested to see what other unique abilities you’ll use tomorrow. You can leave the protection of your Familia members to us and focus wholly on the upcoming fight.” Vahn smiled and thanked Riveria before the politely separated and went to their own respective tents. Riveria moved to the main tent while Vahn went toward the large tent where the other guys were waiting and enjoying some rather strong alcohol. Vahn still remembered Tsubaki’s words of never drinking in the dungeon, but that was retracted when it was discovered he was immune to the effects of alcohol. If anything, it wasn’t a bad idea for him to drink since he could use it to get people to lower their guards around him.
When he stepped through the tent flap, Vahn saw Bete with a flushed face and Gareth laughing in a jovial manner while nudging his side. Finn had a glass of his own and Vahn could detect the scent of honey in the air as he walked over and sat down. Bete had noticed his entrance and waited for him to sit before asking, “So, can you even drink alcohol!? You look like a bit of a lightweight to me…” Vahn couldn’t help but laugh which made Bete shout, “What the f*** are you laughing at!?” Without concerning himself with Bete’s outburst, Vahn moved to the small stump next to Finn and pulled out a bottle of translucent brown alcohol he had purchased from the system called [Dwarven Drought]. It went for a total of 8,000OP and had even taken down Loki after just a few shots.
Even though he hadn’t removed the cap, Vahn saw a sheen in Gareth’s eyes as he correctly guessed, “That’s the so-called [Dwarven Drought], ain’t it? I saw Loki-sama lounging about for an entire morning after sipping on that for a bit the previous night. Grahahahaha, let’s see if the rumors are true!” As a pure-blooded Dwarf, Gareth had an incredible tolerance and instinctual love of all forms of alcohol. He even carried a flask on his person at all times that was full of a highly concentrated base liquor that he mixed into other types of drinks. Vahn smiled and opened the cap to allow the nutty aroma to spread through the tent with a powerful aroma that smelled so strongly that you might get drunk just by exposure to the ambient scent. Finn’s eyes widened while Gareth has a fervent expression on his face as he poured the current contents of his glass onto the ground below. Bete looked like he wanted to say something, but there was a severe lack of confidence in his expression after getting a whiff of the [Dwarven Drought]. As a werewolf, he had a very powerful nose and Vahn noticed the rudy blush on his face had already started to deepen.
As Vahn poured a glass for Gareth, Finn laughed before downing his own flagon and setting it to the side. He stood up from the small stump and dusted himself off before saying, “I know when I’m beat, so I’ll excuse myself from this round. Please, feel free to enjoy yourselves in my absence.” Bete looked like he wanted to follow Finn’s retreat, but he couldn’t easily give up when Vahn was the one offering the alcohol. He finished off his glass before slamming it down and saying, “Smells like piss, I wonder if it even has any taste at all!?” Gareth, who had just been admiring the smell with a contemplative look gave Bete a glare and said in a hard tone, “If you’ve that kind of attitude, this alcohol is beyond you. This is some of the finest whiskey I’ve ever smelled, don’t tarnish it by trying to put on a strong front! Hmph!” Finished with his words, Gareth took a long swing of his flagon before closing his eyes and savoring the experience. After he was done, he released a long sigh and actually breathed out a small cloud of alcoholic fumes as he said, “Damn, that’s some good stuff!”
Bete’s brows furrowed low and he gnashed his teeth for a brief moment until eventually asking, “Hey, can I get a taste of that…?” Vahn nodded and filled Bete’s cup to the brim before topping off Gareth’s and his own glasses. Raising the glass, Vahn said in a happy tune, “To the Alliance, and our continued friendships.” Gareth immediately raised his own glass, but didn’t clink them together since he was afraid to spill any of the alcohol onto the ground. He shouted out in a hearty, “Hear, hear, that’s the way, Grahahahahahaha!” Bete didn’t seem interested in the toast but he still nodded his head in an almost indistinguishable manner before taking a swig of his glass alongside Vahn and Gareth.
The moment the rich, flavorful, and fiery alcohol hit his tongue, his eyes widened and he began to cough painfully after breathing in a small amount of the liquid. It tasted delicious, but it was far stronger than anything he had ever tasted before. He couldn’t think of how anyone would be able to drink such a thing as, after a single sip, he already felt a little light headed. He looked around and saw Vahn and Gareth easily working away at the contents of their glasses without seeming to pay attention to his somewhat embarrassing performance.
Gareth gave him a sidelong glance when Bete looked over and said in a stern tone, “Don’t push yourself too hard kid…this is some expensive brew. Savor it as much as you can, there is no rush.” Bete frowned as if he wanted to say something, but he saw Vahn refilling his empty glass and swallowed his words down. He had been thinking of challenging Vahn to a drinking competition, but now he realized he had nearly walked face-first into an immovable surface. Even after downing the entire glass, nearly a full pint of the powerful alcohol, Vahn didn’t even have a light blush and seemed to be capable of drinking the whiskey like it was water. Even Gareth gave him an approving nod before savoring the contents of his own cup. Bete, unable to make any headway against the two ‘seasoned’ alcoholics slowly sipped on the burning liquid until he passed out a few minutes later with more than half the glass spilling onto the ground.
Seeing the sight, Gareth released a sad sigh and said, “Damn, what a waste…” Vahn laughed before placing down a cloth container onto the ground with a thud. Gareth eyed the package until Vahn gestured toward it. When he opened the large cloth, Gareth’s eyes opened wide as he saw a miniature keg that looked like it could hold around 5 gallons of alcohol. He uncorked the side and smelled the contents when an appreciative smile appeared on his face and he began laughing heartily. He raised his own glass, as if making a toast, and said, “Yer a good lad, Grahahahahaha!” Vahn took the initiative to do what Gareth had avoided earlier and clinked his flagon against the middle-aged dwarfs before remarking, “We should do this more often after the regulations from the Guild loosen. I’m trying to put together a group of guys to create a small network…well, if nothing else, just know that I’m good to my friends, hahahaha.” Though he couldn’t get drunk, Vahn was in a good mood drinking alongside Gareth and the two were in high spirits until the girls eventually returned from their bath.