Chapter 352: Elegance : Progress

While Haruhime had been ‘dancing’ around and slaying monsters, Vahn had been following behind her wearing a brackish brown cloak that, when used with his [Stealth] and domain, obscured other people’s perception of him. Even someone with a powerful sense of smell, or those sensitive to magical fluctuations, wouldn’t be able to detect his presence unless they were within his domain. Because he had compressed it a great deal, he lost the functionality of mapping large areas, but he was easily able to keep track of Haruhime and observe her progress. Though her attacks didn’t have the ‘liveliness’ of Tiona’s, they were similar in the vein that both girls appeared to be ‘dancing’ about when they fought. Vahn could even tell that Haruhime was trying her best to move at the same tempo as the monsters and it allowed her to exhaust them while conserving her own stamina.

After nearly four hours, Haruhime had slain a total of 61 Goblins and 33 Kobolds as she cut a somewhat random path through the ninth floor of the Dungeon. The numbers were far fewer than Vahn expected, but he considered it was due to the small party size and the fact that Haruhime was progressing forward very cautiously. He was satisfied to see her polishing her capabilities, but it did make things feel a little ‘slow’ as he was more accustomed to a faster clear speed. Normally, though he let the girls fight, Vahn was the one picking the route they took and always went directly towards enemies without long gaps in between. This was one of the reasons why he often had to help the girls recover their stamina, but Haruhime didn’t have that ‘benefit’ at this moment and had slowed her pace to a reasonable speed.

Of course, though he thought the pace was ‘slow’, Vahn didn’t notice the passage of time clearly because he had been training his focus and intent on Haruhime the entire time. Though it was a little narcissistic, he felt like she was putting on a performance meant for him and her movements were somewhat ‘mesmerizing’ as she continually pressed forward and cut through her enemies. The red kimono, black obi, beautiful blond hair, fluffy tail, curved ears, and Haruhime’s elegant, dance-like, movements overlapped with her swordsmanship and created a scene that was strangely alluring. Vahn felt like the only thing needed to elevate the experience to an idyllic level was a bit of accompanying music and some fragrant tea…

While he watched her fight, Vahn had started to tap his finger to the ‘tune’ of Haruhime’s dance before realizing he had uncharacteristically fallen into a daze and stopped paying attention to his surroundings. It wasn’t until a Kobold lost its leg and began wailing that Vahn snapped out of his temporary daze and increased his alertness. Haruhime cleaned up the group of Kobolds a few minutes later and brought her new total to 50 before continuing onwards with Vahn on her tail…

—Haruhime PoV—

After clearing several rooms of enemies, Haruhime had started to get into a natural ‘rhythm’ and each of her actions became more fluid as she continued deeper into the Dungeon. Though she never dropped her guard and always scouted for the enemies using her senses, Haruhime felt a lot less concerned about the enemies on the ninth floor and had considered progressing deeper into the Dungeon. Since it had been explained to her that the only practical way to increase parameters was through trial, killing the same enemies over and over actually had diminishing returns after a while. To test her limits a bit further, Haruhime followed the trail of a pack of Kobolds silently before drawing their attention and kiting them to another group she had discovered nearby.

Haruhime decided that, if a group of 17 Kobolds wasn’t enough to ‘challenge’ her, she would move on to the tenth floor after taking a short rest in the adjoining passage leading further down. Because she had pulled one group by having them chase her, Haruhime ended up surrounded by the two groups from the moment she entered the room. Instead of feeling afraid, a small smile appeared on her face and her pure green eyes became somewhat lighter as they began to glow with a gentle light. She unsheathed her katana and muttered in a sing-song like voice, “Dance, fading effervescence. Blossom, petals of spring. ~Blossom!” This time, she had used some of the magic power contained within her bracelets to enhance the effect and managed to summon a total of twenty petals. As she had been expecting, the moment Haruhime took a step and spun her body, she heard the sound of bells and whispered toward the darkness, “Please watch me…Vahn.”

Though she didn’t know where he was, Haruhime believed Vahn was watching her attentively to ensure that she would be safe in the event of any mishaps. She felt like this moment, when it was just the two of them, was one of the few blessed moments she had experienced in her life. Previously, Haruhime had spent her entire life locked away from the world, be it when she was a noble’s daughter, or when she had been turned into a slave and trained as a prostitute. Vahn had not only given her the freedom she so desired, but he also gave her a safe place to stay and also helped increase her strength so she could fight against any injustices she might face in the future. Now that she had his attention, Haruhime wanted to ‘dedicate’ her performance to him because the thought of having him watch her made her attacks feel smoother, more powerful, and more elegant.

As Haruhime swayed like a willow in the wind, she cut a path between three Kobolds and severed one of their legs before it fell to the ground with a painful howl. She actually felt pity for the poor creature, but there was also a strange feeling of contempt inside of her because it’s cry had disrupted her dance for a brief moment. However, it was the energy fluctuation that caught her attention as she spun around and severed the head of an attacking Kobold before sliding back in a smooth pattern that kept her on the outside of the group of Kobolds. Though she didn’t turn her attention fully to the location, Haruhime had seen a silhouette in the shadow of a boulder and for a very brief moment, she saw Vahn’s aquamarine eyes watching her. Haruhime didn’t know why he had revealed himself, but she suddenly felt like all of her parameters increased marginally as happy feelings spread through her heart. There was a big difference between ‘assuming’ someone was watching and ‘knowing’ they were watching and now that Haruhime knew his location she did her best to always angle her attacks to better appeal to the boy hidden in the shadows.

When she cut through the final Kobold, Haruhime brought her body to a slow stop before smoothly sheathing her katana as she angled her body casually towards Vahn’s location without showing any other signs she had discovered his presence. After her breathing had returned to normal, Haruhime turned around and swayed her hips a bit as her tail drew an S-shaped curve through the air, almost as if it were inviting Vahn to continue his ‘pursuit’. Now that she ‘knew’ he was nearby, Haruhime felt less tense and emboldened to delve deeper into the dungeon. It wasn’t that she was becoming overconfident, she just wanted Vahn to watch her defeat even stronger enemies to show him the results of her efforts.

She wanted him to know that, without having to say anything to him directly, Haruhime feared nothing within the darkness of the Dungeon. Even if she inevitably fell to the attack of an enemy, Haruhime believed her life would have been worthwhile because she died ‘pursuing’ the things she desired. Unlike her fate of being forgotten after having been sacrificed as a tool for Ishtar’s plot, Haruhime knew that not only Vahn, but several people would grieve for her loss. This thought alone made any fears and inhibitions she had about fighting vanish and inspired her to continue forward without any hesitation.

After traveling for an additional twenty minutes, Haruhime found the path leading towards the stairs and continued forward while clearing an additional two rooms full of enemies. By the time she ‘cleared’ the floor, her total count had been 72 Goblins and 59 Kobolds. The numbers weren’t too high, but Haruhime was still full of energy and hadn’t depleted much of her personal mana stores. Other than some general fatigue, she was good to keep going for several more hours as long as she got a little bit of rest and ate some food. She initially planned to rest against the wall for a few minutes and enjoy a light meal, but got a pleasant surprise when Vahn walked out of the door she had just exited a few seconds prior. Though she had been about to sit, Haruhime jumped back up to her feet and did her best to appear as elegant as possible as she bowed politely and said, “Thank you for your efforts, Vahn.”

—Standard PoV—(A/N: This means it focuses on Vahn’s perspective, but can jump around to other characters depending on dialogue. Pretty much, if Vahn is present it is ‘standard pov’ since he is the main character.)

Since she had made her way towards the side-passages at a much faster pace than she had been advancing earlier, Vahn assumed Haruhime intended to head deeper into the dungeon. Though he didn’t mind letting her progress at her own pace, he was curious about her Status and wanted to make sure her supplies were topped off one last time before she continued forward. He walked over and Haruhime’s smile bloomed further before she walked forward in small steps and closed her eyes before bending forward slightly. Vahn laughed once through his nose before reaching out and petting the top of Haruhime’s head. He had been planning to reward her, and she must have seen it in his expression because she instantly moved to appeal to him further.

While continuing to stroke her head, Vahn thumbed the base of Haruhime’s right ear to make it twitched slightly before he said, “You’re doing very well, Haruhime…but before you continue deeper into the dungeon, I wanted to update your Status Board and make sure you were properly supplied. From now on, I’ll let you progress at your own pace until you decide to rest for the day. We still have a few hours left in the day so continue doing your best, okay?” Haruhime opened her previously closed eyes and Vahn noticed an almost imperceptible glow pass through them before she smiled and said, “Certainly, Vahn~.” Without any hesitation at all, Haruhime began to loosen up her obi while continuing to look up into his face.

Vahn felt his eye twitch before he averted his eyes and removed his hand from Haruhime’s head as it was somewhat awkward to pet a girl that was undressing. After several long seconds, Vahn heard Haruhime giggle before she said, “Okay, I’m ready.” Vahn turned to look at Haruhime who was standing with her back exposed to him and her kimono hanging around her arms while covering her chest. She had pulled her hair to the side and was currently looking back over her shoulder with the same subtle glow Vahn had seen earlier. His eyes squinted slightly because he knew there had to be a reason for the glow since such phenomenon was always related to magic. He pricked the tip of his index finger with a pin before tracing a line of blood down the lovely curve of Haruhime’s back.

———————————————————————————–

[[STATUS]]

Name: Sanjouno Haruhime

Race: Renard

LV. 1

POW: H133->H185

END: H174-G206

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DEX: I98->G233

AGI: G201->F314

MAG: C665->B748

Skill: [Inari:Innate(sealed)], [Prometheus’s Blessing:A], [Heroic Strike:G], [Featherfoot:I->E]

Magic: [Uchide no Kozuchi:B],[Kokonoe:D],[Icicle Edge:G]

Development Skill: [Moon Priestess:Innate(sealed)], [Spirit Healing:D->C]

———————————————————————————–

For a moment, Vahn had harbored hopes that Haruhime’s Innate might have awakened, but he suspected it was at least somewhat close, even though he didn’t know which one it was. Fortunately, though his expectations were incorrect, Haruhime had experienced a massive leap in her Dexterity, Agility, and Magic while her [Featherfoot] had jumped an entire four ranks since her last update. After she fixed her clothing, Vahn showed the status sheet to Haruhime and said with a pleased smile, “It seems your parameters are increasing rapidly based on the fighting style you’re trying to develop. Your footwork is making incredible improvements and your mobility parameters and magic are progressing in a good direction. By the time you learn [Concurrent Chanting], you’ll be a force to be reconned with.”

Haruhime stared at her own Status with an elegant smile and slightly squinted eyes before turning to Vahn and bowing politely while saying, “If not for the guidance of Ryuu and Aki, I would not be able to progress so quickly…” Haruhime wanted to credit everything to Vahn’s presence while watching over her, but she decided to save it for later when it would be more ‘impactful’. It was also an undeniable truth that, without Ryuu and Aki’s guidance during their morning training, Haruhime’s foundation would be unstable. They taught her how to move her body, make proper use of her senses, and also helped educate her on the dangers associated with the Dungeon. Of course, if not for her desire to follow Vahn, Haruhime wouldn’t have been nearly as interested in their teachings.

Before letting her continue deeper into the Dungeon, Vahn decided to ‘reward’ Haruhime for her efforts by brushing her hair and tail for her while she ate lunch. She happily accepted his offer before sitting on the pillow he had placed on the ground for her use. Of all the girls Vahn knew, including most of the goddesses, Haruhime had the longest and most beautiful hair. When she sat down, it trailed all the way down her back and even touched the ground and it had a beautiful sheen with a satin-like quality to its texture. While fighting, Haruhime’s hair danced about with her movements and, if not for the fact that she had a natural grace, would have likely gotten in the way.

After entering the Dungeon the first time, Haruhime had considered cutting it but asked him what he thought and Vahn openly admitted he thought her long hair was very suitable for her. He had actually been researching a way to help damaged hair grow and retain its sheen ever since the incident with Milan, and now he had an added incentive because the idea of a Haruhime with short hair seemed ‘strange’ to him. To get around the issue of it getting in the way, Haruhime typically wore her hair in a loose ponytail with a large red ribbon holding it together.

Because of his interactions with Hesti and Fenrir, Vahn had grown accustomed to brushing the hair of girls and he found it to be a very therapeutic experience. It also seemed to be enjoyed by the girls, so Vahn felt encouraged to continue since he couldn’t see any downsides to the dual-purpose experience. It helped him relax and also served as a reward for the girls, so Vahn was happy to perform the act and had also wondered about trying other things. Now that he was getting into making clothes for the girls, Vahn considered other things he could do to compliment their beauty. He was surrounded by so many unique, beautiful, and literally godly beauties that Vahn wanted to put in a bit of effort himself to nurture their traits further. While researching other massage techniques, he also looked into beauty treatments and learned about things like manicures, pedicures, and even cosmetology and hairdressing. He hadn’t had the chance to use it yet, but Vahn suspected there were a few girls that would be willing to let him try it out on their bodies. If he did well, it would allow him to interact with each of the girls and offer them the individual treatment Vahn felt they deserved.

By the time he was finished, Haruhime’s hair and tail were very glossy and Vahn helped tie up her ponytail for her before she turned away with a gentle expression and resplendently glowing eyes. Her normal eyes were a natural shade of green, but they were currently much lighter and appeared closer to glowing green jade than normal eyes. Vahn didn’t draw any attention to the change and helped Haruhime perform the final checks on her equipment before using a whetstone on her [Sakura Blossom] and allowing her to delve into the tenth floor. As she crossed over the threshold of the door, Vahn pulled out a journal and documented Haruhime’s changes, including the number of monsters she had slain and. Because he had a strange obsession for details, Vahn even noted a few hairstyles that might suit her in the future…

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