Almost immediately after he returned to the interior of the Manor, Haruhime was already standing in the foyer with fiery eyes and a large amount of luggage and consumables she had prepared for their descent into the Dungeon. Vahn saw her green eyes glowing with anticipation so he laughed as he reached out and patted her hair as he said, “Looks like you’re ready to go…” As he was speaking, Vahn realized something and asked, “Where is your katana?” Hearing his words, the happily smiling face of Haruhime froze before her eyes opened wide and she looked around at all of the items she prepared and realized she had forgotten the most important part.
Haruhime made a bashful smile before bowing her head and saying, “Excuse me for a moment, I need to grab something from my room, Vahn.” After bowing, Haruhime turned around and walked elegantly up the stairs until she had disappeared from Vahn’s sight. He could hear her footsteps hurrying up the stairs the moment she thought he couldn’t see her and began laughing as he stowed away all of her luggage into his inventory. A few minutes later, Vahn heard quick footsteps running down the stairs before they came to a stop. There was silence for a short while, likely because she had to catch her breath, before Haruhime walked around the corner of the stairs landing with an ‘elegant’ smile on her face and her katana fixed in her customized black obi.
After everything was prepared, Vahn and Haruhime left the Manor and headed to Babel Tower before descending into the dungeon for their three-day training mission. There were two purposes behind this, the first being to make sure Vahn wasn’t able to be ‘reached’ at the Manor by external forces and gods during the Denatus. The primary reason, however, was to have Haruhime fulfill the conditions to unlock the [Hunter] Development Ability before she hit Level 2. Sharing exilia with another person invalidated the acquisition requirements, and it would also prevent Vahn from using his [Mentor] skill to help support her growth. Just like when he had experienced massive leaps in development in the past, Vahn was preparing to put Haruhime through what Ryuu and Aki had named ‘The Crucible’. Fortunately, due to his ability to update status boards without having to return to the surface, Haruhime had a massive advantage compared to other Adventurers.
Once they entered the Dungeon, the two made their way down to the 9th floor before stopping just outside the connecting corridor leading towards the floor proper. Vahn turned to Haruhime with a smile and said, “From this point onwards, unless you are in mortal peril, you’ll have to pay your way forward on your own Haruhime. Whenever you think you’ve reached your limits, let me know and I’ll update your Status Board before we press onwards. This isn’t going to be easy, but I trust you’ll be able to become much stronger if you perform well. Though it might be difficult to believe, I reached Level 2 after a single short stint into the Dungeon…you share part of my own potential for growth because of that flame seed in your heart. What an Adventurer needs, more than anything else, is the desire to seek the unknown and the spirit to never give up when facing adversity.”
Haruhime had an uncharacteristic serious expression on her face as she listened attentively to each and every one of Vahn’s words. When he was finished, she bowed in a serious manner reminiscent of Mikoto before saying, “I’ll do my best Vahn…!” There was a blaze of confidence in her eyes that would have easily been misunderstood as confidence and resolve if not for the fact that her aura was blazing with a pink hue. Vahn shook his head with a small smile on his face because he knew that she would indeed try very hard, but only because she wanted to be ‘rewarded’ after the fact. Since it would help drive her to become stronger, Vahn urged her onward without calling her out for her tangential thoughts.
Vahn kept a fair distance behind Haruhime and eventually even disappeared from her perception entirely. Her goal was the go as far as she could without his assistance so his presence nearby defeated the purpose of the training entirely. She needed to have the wherewithal of an Adventurer and hone her senses to the limit or it would be too late for regrets if something happened in the future. Of course, it didn’t stop Vahn from sneaking an [Effigy of the Hero] into the pouch on her waist before he had given it to her. It put him down to 18,309OP, but it was better than actually risking her life.
The reason they had decided upon the 9th floor was due to the fact that the majority of monsters were only Goblins and Kobolds. Though they were much faster than their surface counterparts, it wasn’t too difficult for experienced Adventurer to take out a medium sized group without difficulty. Since Haruhime was ‘alone’, the spawn rate of monsters would be restricted to a maximum of two people unless there was another party in the area. Vahn was confident that, as long as she paced herself properly, Haruhime would be able to slay more than two-hundred monsters before they took their afternoon break. The requirement for the [Hunter] Development Ability was to slay 1,000 monsters within a 72-hour window, so there was a very high chance they reached their mark in time.
—Sanjouno Haruhime’s PoV—(A/N: Since it’s Vol 10, I want to try a few new things to make the story more interesting. Please bear with me and let me know what you think as the Volume progresses further (O,…,O)~!)
Though she regretted having to part with Vahn, even though she knew he was still nearby, Haruhime moved forward with conviction while straining her ears. As a Renard, she had powerful hearing and eyesight that allowed her to easily see within the low light of the Dungeon. Every time she picked up a sound, her ears twitched before orienting toward the sound in a manner that Vahn would have found adorable. She knew that this was an important test for her and, if she were unable to overcome this trial, Vahn ‘might’ lose confidence in entrusting her with important matters in the future. The thing she couldn’t tolerate, more than anything else, was the thought of Vahn losing his trust in her. She wanted to stay together with him far into the future, so she couldn’t allow herself to falter at one of the first steps…
After traveling through a few confusing tunnels, Haruhime heard some guttural sounds that she immediately attributed to Goblins. Her nose twitched slightly as she smelled the air before squinting her eyes and squatting low to the ground. Based on what she could discern from her senses, there should be at least seven goblins nearby and Haruhime also smelled the foul smell of Kobolds in the air. She wasn’t sure if they were near the Goblins, but they would likely come running if they heard the sounds of battle. One of the most dangerous threats to any Adventurer was monster reinforcements when parties dropped their guards on the verge of victory. Since the smell was rather pungent, she knew they had passed through the area not long ago and should still be nearby.
Following the sound of the Goblins, Haruhime peeked around a corner before sighing silently to herself because there were eleven goblins instead of her presumed seven. She suspected there could be more present, but she was still somewhat disappointed and knew there was a lot of work she had to do before reaching the proficiency of someone like Aki. Haruhime noticed two of the goblins had battered weapons, likely obtained from other Adventurers, while the rest had makeshift clubs using small stalagmites found around the Dungeon. She spent a few seconds determining the best method to defeat them before taking a deep breath and stepping out from the shadows and drawing her katana. Though she could eliminate them from afar with her magic, each cast cost between 30-50 mana and she would deplete most of her personal reserves before the fight came to an end. It was more dangerous to fight up close, but it allowed her to develop her physical parameters and was far more efficient than using a single target magic.
When she drew the beautiful katana Vahn had gifted to her, Haruhime saw the small, dark-brown, caricature of Vahn on the back of her had and felt a rush of confidence burst from within her heart. She knew that the flame seed was supposed to be based on her feelings for Vahn, so Haruhime did her best to cultivate her feelings whenever she was alone. Every monster she struck down took her closer to her ultimate goal of standing at his side and she wouldn’t let any of them bar her passage toward the future. Without any hesitation, Haruhime’s eyes widened in excitement and she shouted, “Dance, fading effervescence. Blossom, petals of spring. ~Blossom!” When she saw a total of seventeen petals dancing around her, Haruhime’s face bloomed into a smile because it was two more than her previous limit.
The goblins charged at her, but Haruhime was not the rookie Level 1 that could barely keep pace with the diminutive creatures. She leaned forward before kicking off forcefully against the grassy floor and running to the flanks of the group of goblins so they wouldn’t be able to surround her. The two nearest her body tried to leap toward and attack her, but Haruhime simply plantest her heel in the ground before spinning elegantly through the air without even swinging her sword through the bodies of the attackers. Stopping meant potentially getting surrounded, so she made use of the fact that the sakura petals followed her movements to send the razor-sharp pink petals through the bodies of the two foolish creatures. Neither of them died, but both were taken out of commission which left only nine left as combatants.
Every time she was with Vahn, he always complimented her on her elegance, beauty, and the fact that her movements were like a dance. As the daughter of a noble clan leader, Haruhime had spent years in her childhood practicing etiquette and dance. When she became a ‘prostitute-in-training’, they had also taught her how to ‘dance’ for a man, but she had fortunately avoided ever having to perform like that. Since Vahn enjoyed her ‘dance’, she wanted to dedicate it to him, and no one else. If he saw her fighting style as a dance, she would polish it further and further until the point where not even a single drop of blood could mar the beauty he complimented her for…
The only thing missing from her ‘performance’ was the sound of music, but Haruhime supplemented the lacking instrumentals by dancing to the tune of the Goblins’ cries. They weren’t pleasant, but it was enough to keep a steady tempo as she traced a complex pattern around their small group and cut them down with beautiful arcs of her katana that passed through flesh, organs, and bone, as if they weren’t even there. Three minutes later, Haruhime brandished the katana once before slowly closing her eyes and sheathing it, as if she were drawing the performance to a close. Though it wasn’t an impressive feat to slay eleven Goblins, anyone watching would likely have clapped and complimented Haruhime for her efforts.
After sheathing her katana, Haruhime’s ears twitched as she habitually looked around for Vahn to receive his praise. Realizing her own actions, Haruhime chuckled at herself before walking over and picking up the small magic cores that had been dropped from the monsters. Unlike when Vahn was accompanying her, Haruhime had to pick up the loot on her own unless she decided to leave it behind. Since she was currently trying to save up enough points to be able to sit next to Vahn and have him feed her, Haruhime made sure to pick up every magic core and safely stash them away. As part of their ‘incentive’ to work harder, Ryuu and Aki had come up with a list of ‘rewards’ that could be received from Vahn.
The top prizes included things like taking a bath together, taking a nap while cuddling, and the ultimate prize of receiving one of Vahn’s legendary massages for an entire two hours. There was even a perk that, if you were willing to give up part of the time, Vahn would have to wear nothing but a pair of tight bottoms throughout the session. When Aki had shown off the black pair of underwear that looked like something a woman would wear, every girl present had fiercely blushing faces after imaging the image of Vahn’s tanned figure wearing nothing but a pair of small black bottoms.
For a brief moment, Haruhime felt a pressure in the bridge of her nose before her ears twitched and she looked toward one of the adjoining corridors and saw a medium sized group of Kobolds charging toward her. Instead of shying away, Haruhime pulled out her katana again with a small smile on her face as she said with a practiced elegance, “Dance, fading effervescence. Blossom, petals of spring. ~Blossom!” Though there were no instruments present, Haruhime’s ears twitched and she felt like small bells had sounded and signaled the beginning of her dance. Unlike the guttural sound of Goblins, the tempo of the Kobold’s growls and howls were far more pleasant to the ears…