Chapter 376: Slow and Steady

—Maemiru PoV—(A/N: So many people asked how their names would ‘combine’ when they fuse…I thought it was obvious by the fact that they were named Ma-emi and Emi-ru…(O,…,O)

After separating from Vahn, the twins made their way into the tenth floor proper in a similar, yet distinctly different manner than Haruhime had proceeded. As the two were Snow Leopards, they had excellent vision in the low light of the Dungeon and also had powerful noses and enhanced hearing. They skulked forward through the Dungeon as silently as possible but, instead of both focusing on the same direction, the twins actually split their focus and held hands as they progressed through the corridors leading to the various rooms where monsters awaited. Maemi completely focused on leading the way by sight, while Emiru walked forward with her eyes closed and concentrated on her sense of smell and listening for any fluctuations she could detect in the air. Because of their shared senses, the twins were able to make use of this unique method to enhance their detection capabilities while also strengthening their bond at the same time.

The tenth floor was considered one of the safer floors since the majority of monsters that appeared were simple Gobline and Kobolds. Between them, they had killed more than three-hundred of such monsters, so they weren’t afraid at all of what was to come. They knew Haruhime had been able to progress down to the 17th floor through her own efforts, so Maemi and Emiru had set a similar goal for themselves. As there were two of them, they believed they would be able to achieve much more than a single person and, now that they had flame seeds warming up their chests, they were even more confident. However, it had been stressed to them countless times that overconfidence resulted in mistakes so the twins maintained their focus and proceeded forwards with caution.

It wasn’t long after they separated from Vahn that the twins encountered their first group of monsters and Emiru immediately snapped open her eyes as they both dashed forward at the same time. The strategy they often incorporated was to ‘herd’ the monsters together in a similar manner to how they helped to herd the flocks of reindeer back in their village. By forcing the monsters together, it prevented them from easily changing the direction of their attack because they were almost unable to harm each other. Even though the monsters didn’t seem to fear death, they still tried to avoid taking damage and were prone to retreating when pressured.

Emiru was running forward at a somewhat low angle before jumping to evade a Kobold that tried to launch itself at her legs. She cut down with the vibrant red dagger Vahn had given her and easily sliced through the back of the Kobolds neck. A stream of blood shot out from the severed arteries and covered her legs as she continued her original trajectory and vaulted back to her feet after rolling twice on the ground. Though she frowned from the unpleasant liquid that had gotten on her legs, Emiru didn’t stop since the fight was still ongoing. Other than exhaustion, the worst part of fighting monsters was always how ‘dirty’ they got in the process.

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Not just Emiru, but Maemi also preferred cleanliness and neither girl was fond of the various bits and pieces of monsters that would get stuck to their bodies and clothing during combat. It was their preference for cleanliness that was part of their motivation to become maids in the first place since they didn’t want to live in a dirty household. The absolute worst was when blood got on their long tails since it would soak into their fur and dry up which made it hard to remove later. Fortunately, it was also an opportunity for them to get spoiled by Vahn, so they tolerated it as best as they could.

Maemi, on the opposite side of the group of monsters, was also enjoying the functionality of her new dagger while doing her best to avoid the blood spatter that would result from inaccurate strikes. The best way to deal with monsters was to destroy their magic core, as this would instantly dissipate their bodies without any gore whatsoever. The downside to this, however, was that the magic core would be lost in the process. Of course, there was an upside as well, since drop items were much more common when a monster was instantly defeated. Maemi preferred to instantly kill the monsters when she could considering the smell of dried blood was very unpleasant and, without Vahn to clean their bodies, they would have to deal with the odor for several hours at the very least.

A Goblin tried to exploit an opening that had been created when Maemi thrust her dagger into the neck of a Kobold, but she didn’t even react to it at all as Emiru appeared at the Goblin’s flank before stabbing it straight in the temple. Though it drained their stamina much faster than normal people, Emiru and Maemi were able to share their senses and always cover each other’s blind spots during combat. They knew that, when they became much stronger, they would be a force to be reckoned with in the future and were committed to developing their cooperation to a level nearly inconceivable by most people.

After the ‘first blood’ of the trial, Emiru and Maemi continued cutting a rather gory path through the Dungeon and slowly made their way towards the stairway leading down. Their bodies were already very exhausted and they knew they needed to take a break before things took a turn for the worse. They had been fighting for more than three hours at this point and had slain a total of 71 Goblins and 42 Kobolds after passing through more than twenty rooms. They hadn’t been able to stop and rest for too long since there were time constraints and it was very probable they would need to kill a total of 2,000, or more, monsters to achieve the requirement of the Development Ability.

The two safely made it to the connecting corridor before using the canteen Vahn had given them to help each other try to wash off a bit of the blood that had soaked into their clothing and fur. Even though they wanted to rest, it wasn’t very pleasant to sit ‘peacefully’ and recuperate when you were covered in smelly blood and bits of gore that had been flung away from the wounds of the monsters they fought. This was one of the downsides of having enhanced senses, as it was very difficult to ignore foul smells and abrasive sounds. Fortunately, they could help ‘groom’ each other instead of having to worry about cleaning off their own bodies…

—Godhand PoV—

Vahn had been trailing behind Emiru and Maemi for the entire duration of their stint through the tenth floor. Their movements lacked the elegance and ‘dance-like’ quality of Haruhime’s, but it was very interesting seeing how well they coordinated with each other. While he was watching them effectively sharing senses, Vahn began to wonder if there were some way to emulate the method to link the senses of two other people. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to discern anything even with his [Eyes of Truth], and it seemed like their connection wasn’t something that was transmitted, but something they happened simultaneously regardless of distance. It was very similar to his connection with Hephaestus through the ‘eternal flame’, and how he shared a bond with the girls that had obtained the ‘Love’ and ‘Loyalty’ parameters.

After experimenting with it a bit, Vahn knew his intent was communicated perfectly to his subordinates regardless of distance. This meant that, just like the twins, it wasn’t something that was transmitted through space, but more like it was instantly entering their minds at the very same time he was thinking the order. Though he had tried to make sense of it, Vahn couldn’t wrap his head around how something was able to travel great distances without any interference or time lag. If he could understand the principle behind it, Vahn wanted to create communication devices that would be able to keep everyone connected without having to worry about distance whatsoever.

The communication scrolls were very helpful, but the costs were immense and almost unsustainable since the materials weren’t that common. After discovering that the Loki Familia Expedition had literally been to procure more ink, Vahn knew he would have to come up with a more practical solution. Of course, if that weren’t possible, Vahn would accompany the Loki Familia down to the lower floors and store as much of the Bloodsaurus blood into his inventory as possible. His inventory inarguably made him one of the best ‘Supporters’ that could possibly accompany an expedition, since he now had a total of 173 unique slots for items and could store the entire corpse into his Inventory if necessary. Each ‘slot’ could store up to 1,000m3 and could even store multiple of the same item if they were similar enough.

After around two hours, Vahn noticed that the fatigue of the girls was starting to affect their ability to deal with monsters easily. If not for the fact they were covering for each other, it was very likely they would have suffered several injuries from some of the mistakes they were making. In fact, because they were covering for each other in moments of duress, it increased the stamina consumption of both of them from the strenuous movements made to assist each other. This was one of the major downsides Vahn had discovered about [Gemini] since it was very taxing on the girls both physically and mentally. Since their bodies responded to each other’s movements, it meant their muscles got tired faster and, as their senses were also shared, it meant the amount of information their brain had to process increased exponentially.

Vahn watched as they persisted on for nearly an entire hour after they were exhausted and he found their efforts commendable. When he saw them enter into the corridor connecting to the stairs, Vahn considered if he should help them recover faster. Unfortunately, though he could heal their bodies and help recover their mana and stamina, there wasn’t much he could do for their mental strain other than calm their minds a bit. He ultimately decided to wait and see how long it took for them to naturally recover their energy so he could use it as a baseline for the future. Helping them too much, in the beginning, would change their perception of the trial and make them more reliant on him to take care of their needs when things got tough. They needed to have a certain degree of self-reliance if they wanted to be able to break through the barrier that prevented them from growing rapidly.

After resolving to let them progress at their own pace, Vahn turned his attention away from the wall and deactivated his [Eyes of Truth] since they had started to take turns cleaning each other’s body. Vahn sat with his back to the wall and expanded his domain through the ninth, tenth, and eleventh floor to make sure there were no dangers approaching. The last he wanted was for a group of Adventurer’s to make their way up, or down, the stairs to find the two in the middle of cleaning their bodies. Even though the twins weren’t presently ‘his’, Vahn still considered them wards in his charge. Until they were self-sufficient, Vahn would protect them from harm and ensure they, at the very least, had the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Surprisingly, Vahn did actually detect another party on the floor below them but it was fortunate that they didn’t seem to be making their way up for the time being. They were currently just wandering around through the corridors, likely looking for rooms so they could hunt some monsters. Their party consisted of four people and Vahn decided to check in on them to identify if they might be a threat. Using his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn peered down through the floor of the Dungeon and pierced through several layers of obstruction before his vision arrived at the misty eleventh floor below.

Vahn saw the group sneaking around while using the rocks and tree as cover as they hunted for monsters within the mist. It was a group of two males and two females, and they all looked to be around 18-20 years old. Based on how they cooperated with each other, Vahn figured they were likely third-class Adventurer’s around Level 2. Their composition had the men acting as vanguards, both using spears, while one of the girls carried a rather large crossbow. The final member of their party was a rather petite looking girl with somewhat tanned skin and she looked to be the supporter of the group with the relatively large backpack on her back.

Since they all looked like kind people and had neutral auras, Vahn decided they weren’t a threat and stopped his observation for the time being. Unless they made their way through a series of rooms, there was little chance they would follow the same staircase that connected to where Maemi and Emiru were located. There were actually a number of staircases leading down, so it was somewhat uncommon for Adventurer’s to meet each other unless they followed common routes. This is why Vahn had the confidence to sleep within the safety of the corridors and had never once been disturbed. The fact that he had met Lili when he was ascending in the past showed how whimsical fate could be, though Vahn didn’t resent this fact much since he was happy to have saved her. Imagining that she would have spent another two years in those conditions made Vahn very uncomfortable, especially considering what he knew of her past.

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Emiru and Maemi ended up resting for nearly two hours before deciding to proceed, not towards the eleventh floor, but back into the tenth. Vahn nodded his head before rising to his feet and disappearing from view before they exited the room. They made the correct decision to focus their efforts on the tenth floor for the time being since they would face more than a little danger on the eleventh floor with their current strength. Orcs weren’t easy enemies to deal with using weapons like daggers, and their stamina would deplete quickly while trying to deal with the ambushes from Imps. Taking it slow on the first day and testing their limits was actually a correct decision and Vahn intended to commend them for it later.

This was something he had noticed was distinctly different between the twins and Haruhime since the very first time he accompanied them in the Dungeon. They were always safe, rational, and typically thought about the situation in detail before making their decisions. Haruhime, however, was far more ‘heroic’ in her approach and typically pushed forward without giving into her own inhibitions. This meant her growth was always stretching her limits, but it also put her life in constant danger if she wasn’t properly monitored.

The twins might not grow as rapidly, but their behavior would preserve their lives and likely allow them to steadily grow stronger in the future since, when they were actually put under pressure, they would experience large increases in their parameters if they could overcome the situation. Of course, if they were never put in those types of situations, they would continue to move forward at a relatively slow pace and most likely get left behind by the more ‘talented’ girls like Haruhime, Fenrir, and the hardworking Mikoto.

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