After Haruhime and Fenrir finished cleaning up the monsters, the two girls ran over to Vahn with sparkling eyes that were accented by the fact both girls’ eyes were also glowing. When her [Inari] was fully active, Haruhime’s eyes glowed with a pale golden light while Fenrir’s almost always had at least a partial glow in her gem-like scarlet pupils. Vahn habitually stroked both of their heads and said in a gentle tone, “Excellent job…” as he surveyed the state of the Dungeon. With his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn could see mana flowing into the damaged terrain as it began to rapidly repair the damage that had been sustained by the hard bedrock. Just like he wanted to understand how monsters were formed by the Dungeon’s mechanisms, Vahn also had an interest in how it was seemingly able to convert raw mana into physical matter.
Since he couldn’t make sense of it currently, Vahn turned his eyes to the two girls that were standing obediently under his palms with their eyes closed. His [Hands of Nirvana] in conjunction with his [Petting] Development Ability was very comfortable to experience and Vahn had even been tempted to pass on the ability to Eina since he kind of wanted to experience it himself. He had tried to use [Petting] on himself, but there had been no discernable effect so Vahn wasn’t exactly sure how the skill worked. It almost felt like it ‘compelled’ him to pet a specific way, but it didn’t seem to apply to when he touched himself.
As it was beginning to get near lunch time, Vahn decided it was a good time to call their short excursion to an end. When he removed his hands from their heads, Haruhime and Fenrir had somewhat sad looks that made Vahn want to laugh but he instead said, “You both worked hard, so I’ll make sure to reward you plentily later. For now, let’s return to the encampment or the other girls might blame you for being greedy…” Hearing his words, Haruhime startled slightly before covering her mouth and laughing like a bell. Fenrir was going to be accompanying Vahn in the afternoon too, so she didn’t really mind returning for a meal. Since she was covered in grime, Vahn would likely clean her body if she acted ‘cutely’ in front of him, so Fenrir was actually looking forward to the return trip.
Along the way, Vahn allowed Haruhime and Fenrir to take point as he followed behind them with the [Seal of the Challenger] displaying four golden links. His Dexterity was a bit lower than he’d like, so Vahn was trying to gain some boost it a little by practicing his archery. He was already at the point where he could make arrows curve in flight, even without a homing ability, so he was now trying to target specific joints and tendons within the bodies of the monsters. Since he had the ability to peer into them using his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn already had a fair understanding of their physiology and could easily disable them with a few well-placed arrows.
Almost as if she weren’t satisfied with how dirty she was, Fenrir had been ripping apart monsters with somewhat unnerving ferocity. Vahn could see that she seemed to have awakened a new ability because her attacks stretched much further than her claws could reach. As he was walking with his [Eyes of Truth] active, Vahn could see a strange energy coiling around her paws that was unlike anything he had seen in the past. There were plenty of laws at play in the world that was beyond his comprehension, so Vahn assumed Fenrir had awakened an ability related to a relatively rare or obscure law he had yet to encounter.
Knowing that there was still much left to discover made Vahn feel a strange sense of comfort since his earlier state made him feel like he had reached an ‘apex’ he hadn’t expected to arrive at so soon. Though there hadn’t been any great change to his parameters after the encounter, Vahn felt like there had been a truly qualitative change to his domain and the efficacy of his [Will of the Emperor]. It was now firmly at 500m in diameter and Vahn could almost ‘feel’ everything that was inside of it without even passing his intent over it. It was very similar to the awareness of space he had in the Divination so Vahn felt like he had peered into the secrets of spatial laws a little after his minor breakthrough.
As for the ‘attack’ he had used, Vahn wasn’t sure exactly what had happened and he had been playing the image over and over in his mind while discussing it with Sis. It was her words that had ‘awakened’ Vahn from the strange reverie he found himself in, but she didn’t really seem to understand what had happened either. Just as Vahn had felt compelled to act, Sis had also felt a strange compulsion to speak at the time. As they were both the same entity, though Vahn wanted her to become something more unique in the future, Sis was under the influence of Vahn’s Innate abilities just like he was. His [Will of the Emperor] was already at the pinnacle of its development and was a skill that truly transcended the records.
The only limitation to the skill was Vahn’s own comprehension of its uses and, if his earlier experience was anything to draw from, Vahn was far from understanding the true nature of the skill. He knew it could influence his mentality and force him to act in a hyper-rational state, but he had no idea what the warm energy that spread from his chest was. He had believed, for a very brief moment, it had something to do with the eternal flame. However, no matter how he looked at it, the eternal flame didn’t seem to be the source and it was almost like Vahn’s heart itself had created the energy.
Though he described it was ‘warm’, it wasn’t actually a temperature that Vahn felt and more like a strange comprehension, just like the chill brought by the [Will of the Emperor]. Since Vahn’s body could increase several hundred degrees in temperature, it was obvious that his brain wasn’t ‘icy’ when the skill was active. It was simply a feeling he had and Vahn was beginning to believe that he needed to pay more attention to it in the future. Being able to ‘vanish’ more than one-hundred monsters with a wave of the hand was inarguably a ‘useful’ ability to master.
As they hadn’t gone that far from the stairs, and Vahn had a perfect map within his mind, the three managed to return to the 50th floor after traveling for an additional forty minutes. They hadn’t really been in a hurry and Vahn was letting the two girls gain more exilia because he was interested to see how much they had grown over the relatively short period of five hours. He had high expectations for them both as their auras had visibly grown within his eyes. Just as Bell was able to experience rapid growth in accordance with his mental development and accomplishments, both girls had undergone something similar and, just as Vahn had experienced for himself, they too seemed to have experienced a qualitative change.
There were no people remotely close to them, as the actual encampment was nearly 70km away, so Vahn had Haruhime and Fenrir expose their backs so he could update their Status Boards. Since she had obviously been wanting him to help her bathe, Vahn set out a wash basin for them both to use, as he expected Haruhime would also want to partake of his pampering. Even though they got into the same bath as each other, Fenrir simply pretended like she didn’t see Haruhime at all as she lathered up her own body to make Vahn’s task easier. Haruhime acted like she was in an amicable relationship with Fenrir, even though she was being ignored, and Vahn could tell it was making the little wolf girl somewhat frustrated since she wanted to be a ‘good’ girl, but also didn’t like Haruhime much…
Skills: [Insatiable Hunger:Innate(-)], [Lunar Cry:B->A], [Freezing Roar:A], [Chainbreaker:C], [Devour:SS], [Huntress:S->SS], [Endeavor:G->E], [Severing Claws:G](new)
Development Abilities: [Chain Attack:G->E] [Severing Claws]
Use: Infuses claws with severing laws that greatly enhance the efficacy of attacks. Applies only to naturally formed claws. Wounds inflicted by this skill heal at a much slower rate.
Name: Sanjouno Haruhime
Skill: [Inari:Innate(E)], [Prometheus’s Blessing:A], [Heroic Strike:F->E], [Featherfoot:A]
Magic: [Uchide no Kozuchi:B], [Kokonoe:C], [Icicle Edge:B]
Development Skill: [Moon Priestess:Innate(sealed)], [Spirit Healing:A], [Hunter:H->G], [Mage(sealed)]
Vahn was very pleased with both girls’ growth, as it hadn’t been that long since they delved into the 51st floor. Fenrir’s growth, especially, was borderline shocking because she was a higher level than Haruhime but had gained a large increase in her parameters alongside obtaining a new skill. As for Haruhime herself, Vahn knew her Innate wasn’t far from increasing in rank so he wasn’t too worried about her at all. She was already much stronger than almost any other Level 2 in the City and was at a point where she could fight against several Level 4 monsters without assistance. Once she obtained her third tail, her abilities would be even more potent and it wouldn’t be surprising to Vahn if she managed to get an advantage over the majority of the other girls, including Ryuu and Aki, within the near future.
After showing them their new status sheets, Haruhime had a somewhat complex expression on her face as she looked over Fenrir’s shoulder and saw the difference in their growth. Vahn reached out his hand and plopped it down on her head as he said, “Fenrir’s growth rate is completely different than a normal person’s, so you shouldn’t compare yourself to her to the point that it bothers you. You’re becoming stronger rapidly and could even reach Level 3 by the time we return to the surface. However, I would advise you to reach the limit of your parameters before you make the decision to level up…” Haruhime’s negativity faded in an instant as she enjoyed Vahn’s touch and listened closely to his words. Remembering their past promise, Haruhime was very tempted to level up right this instant, but she also knew it would be a ‘foolish’ decision that would irreparably damage her future. She wanted to exceed her future self from the Divination, so she couldn’t afford to cut corners just because her body ached a little.
Since she would probably brood if he ‘ignored’ her, Vahn also paid Fenrir a few heavy compliments that caused her moderately crooked smile to get progressively closer to something more natural. Though she was happy to receive his praise, Fenrir still managed to ‘convince’ Vahn to give her a piggyback ride on the way back as they ‘leisurely’ moved through the forest around 120km/h. However, though they were moving at a relatively quick pace, both Vahn’s and Haruhime’s footsteps were nearly silent, with Haruhime’s being the quieter of the two. Though his expression didn’t change, this bothered Vahn somewhat and he considered if he should put more focus on his own [Featherfoot] in the future…
The group arrived at the encampment around 1:20 PM before Vahn carried both girls up to the plateau with his [Shundo]. They could have come back much earlier, but Vahn wanted to scout around the area a bit to see if anything had changed along the way. As they had all just experienced a rapid spurt of growth, Vahn’s instincts had been ‘itching’ a bit and he felt like something would happen in the near future. Though he wasn’t absolutely certain, Vahn believed the enemies had some way to observe them within the Dungeon so he expected they had started to move against him since he had ventured into the 51st floor with a relatively small party.
Almost as soon as they entered the tent, Vahn saw a ‘black’ figure lazing about on the ground and realized it was Lili who seemed to be brooding as she leaned against a large plush beanbag Vahn had set out as furniture. When she saw his entrance, her eyes glittered a bit before she released a sigh and continued to brood. Just as he was about to ask, Naaza put down her teacup and commented, “We assumed you would be back around lunchtime, so we already drew lots to see who would accompany you. Lili is a little…down because she didn’t manage to pull the winning lot.” A wry smile appeared on Vahn’s face after he heard Naaza’s words and watched Lili roll over as she hugged the plush beanbag tightly and muttered, “Naaza is a traitor…”
Hearing Lili’s utterance, Naaza’s smile twitched a little as she looked toward Vahn and said, “It looks like I’ll be accompanying you this afternoon…please take care of me, Vahn.” As he had never actually been able to accompany Naaza into the Dungeon, Vahn’s brows raised slightly as a genuine smile appeared on his face. She had grown much stronger after receiving his flame seed, and her skill with the bow made her a capable backline specialist that would benefit any party. Though Vahn would like her to develop her close combat skills more in the future, he didn’t mind if she wanted to pursue the path of archery to its pinnacle.
Fenrir patted her chest in an excited manner after hearing that Naaza would be the one accompanying them and said, “Okay, Fenrir will protect Naaza so let’s go, quickly~!” Naaza gave Fenrir a slightly perplexed look before Vahn said, “Fenrir has grown much stronger in a short period of time, so you can have some confidence in her…” Just as he was about to compliment Haruhime as well, she walked forward before gesturing to Naaza and saying, “You can also become stronger if you believe in Vahn…work hard, Naaza~.” Then, without stopping, Haruhime did something rather unexpected as she leaned down and picked up the pouting Lili, beanbag included, and carried her lazy figure into one of the side compartments.
Vahn followed her figure with his eyes and a fair amount of confusion written on his face before Fenrir patted his side and whispered, “Harume and Lili talk a lot in private…” Hearing her words, Vahn had even more questions but it didn’t seem like Fenrir or Naaza were going to answer them. When he gave a questioning look to the relatively mature Chienthrope girl, she simply averted her eyes and looked at Fenrir as she said, “It’s a secret amongst girls…” Surprisingly, Fenrir nodded her head in agreement and Vahn could feel his mind dull slightly as a numb sensation spread through his temples. He had never imagined a future where Fenrir would keep secrets from him but he was also happy that she was getting close enough to the other girls that she had that level of trust with them…
As he didn’t often get to spend time with her, something that Vahn felt guilty about on occasion, he decided to make it up to Naaza by giving her a princess carry as he used [Shundo] to arrive at a different entrance than the one they had used earlier. Though he was interested in confronting his enemies in the future, Vahn didn’t want to meet on their terms and instead wanted to keep the momentum in his favor. By avoiding setting trends, it would be more difficult for them to interfere with his actions and would expose the girls to less danger.
Along the way, Naaza tucked her head into Vahn’s chest and listened to his heartbeat while doing her best to ignore the fuzzy paws that were resting against her ribs. Her feelings for Vahn had never changed, regardless of the number of girls that had surrounded him, but she did sometimes feel a little lonely. She often thought about working alongside him in his research since he would also be able to help her make breakthroughs in her [Mixing], but she had never worked up the courage to ‘distract’ him from the other things he was working on. Now that they could spend time together like this, while also growing stronger, Naaza felt a gentle warmth spreading through her chest that reminded her of the flame seed that had taken root there long ago…
Once they arrived at the stairs, Vahn paused for a moment as he looked at Naaza’s relatively ‘complete’ attire. Unlike the other girls, that wore relatively thin clothing that allowed them to move about easily, Naaza wore a medium length skirt and had several layers of clothing on her torso with a burgundy cloak that concealed her figure somewhat. She was the girl that dressed the most reservedly amongst all the girls Vahn knew and he was somewhat hesitant to ask her to reveal her back to him. Even during the bath, Naaza usually sat at a ‘safe’ distance as she washed her body so Vahn felt like asking her to ‘expose’ herself in the forest was a little inappropriate.
Naaza, however, had seen the look on his face and a slight blush appeared on her’s as she asked, “You wanted to check my Status…right?” She had heard the stories from all the other girls that entered the Dungeon with Vahn so she already had some expectations of her own. When he hadn’t mentioned it at the encampment, Naaza was actually somewhat confused but she now realized he had simply overlooked it. Just like in the past, though Vahn was a surprisingly insightful person, he was still prone to making mistakes and oversights. He had been so reliable in the past few months that this simple truth had temporarily escaped her mind. However, this realization actually made Naaza show a small smile on her face because she realized Vahn was still the same ‘innocent’ boy that she had fallen for in the past.
Vahn mechanically nodded his head with an apologetic look on his face before Naaza began the relatively arduous process of removing her layers of clothing. Not only did she have on a cloak, but she also wore a thick leather breastplate that covered her heart as well as several bands. When she unbuckled the straps and removed the breastplate, Naaza then pulled her beige tunic over her head and revealed that she was actually wearing a corset and another thin piece of clothing underneath. With a rosy blush on her face, Naaza muttered, “I’ve been worried about my figure lately, so I decided to start wearing a corset to help out…” She was a lot less active than the other girls and was ashamed to say that one of her favorite past times was eating sweets. Though she wasn’t remotely fat, Naaza had noticed a bit of loose skin around her sides and had been worrying about it over the past few weeks.
Seeing her tail droop low in shame, Vahn raised his brows slightly as his own heart throbbed a few times within his chest. Though she wasn’t the most beautiful girl he had laid eyes upon, Naaza had a natural and gentle beauty that few people would harbor any complaints about. Her bashful behavior amplified a bit of the guilt he felt so he awkwardly said, “If you’re worried about it…I can help you…” as he lifted up his hands and emitted a gentle glow from them. As someone that had been privy to Vahn’s massages in the past, Naaza knew exactly what he meant so the blush on her face increased in intensity as she averted her eyes. Her tail, however, betrayed her as it began to waggled about behind her back while her aura flared up slightly.
After loosening what Vahn considered to be an ‘unnecessary’ corset, Naaza peeled off the white undershirt she had been wearing before turning her back to Vahn to conceal her growing breasts. Unlike the other girls, Naaza was one of the few that actually wore a bra into the Dungeon and she was currently clothed in a light green lace bra that was almost ‘inappropriate’ for Dungeoneering. Vahn instantly realized she had worn it to appeal to him so a wide smile appeared on his face as he reached forward and said, “Let me help you…” and skillfully unfastened the clasp on the back. Naaza’s blush had completely covered her face at this point as she hung her head down low, refusing to make eye contact with Vahn. Her tail, however, once again betrayed her and actually brushed against Vahn several times, each causing Naaza to flinch slightly and ‘force’ it to stop.
(A/N: I didn’t realize how long it’d been since Naaza got a status update o_o)
Name: Naaza Erisuis
Skill: [Bow Mastery:C->B], [Eagle Eye:G->B], [Prometheus’ Blessing:A]
Magic: [Awen:Innate(sealed)], [Darbh Daol:D->A]
Development Skill: [Mixing:C->B]
Though she was already at the point where it wouldn’t be a surprise for her to level up, Naaza had been delaying the event until Lili caught up with her. She also wanted to break the ‘limits’ of her own parameter growth and was hoping to do so for both her Dexterity and Magic in the near future. As for Vahn’s take on the situation, he saw her still inactive Innate and a small spark ignited in his eyes as he began to think of ways to help it awaken. He knew that her Innate was likely related to Alchemy, as all of the information he had obtained from the shop about directly correlated with the subject. It would likely be very difficult for her to awaken it in combat so Vahn said a few words that made Naaza’s shaking tail, which she had been fighting to keep under control, spin like a propeller, “When we return to the surface, I’d like your help on my research, Naaza. There are various things I’m unable to make any progress on because my own [Mixing] is limited…”
Toward the end of his sentence, Vahn’s words had trailed off a bit as Naaza’s tail hit against his lower abdomen like a hammer. He quickly took a step back to evade the ‘dangerous’ object because it had made his heart itch a little with how adorable her actions were. As for Naaza herself, she seemed to be especially aware of her own ‘traitorous’ tail and quickly squat down as she began to cloth herself once again. Seeing that she was struggling with her bra, Vahn quickly stepped forward once again and repeated his earlier words, “Let me help…” as he put his Dexterity to great use and affixed the clasp in the blink of an eye. Naaza’s body twitched at the momentary contact as she lowered her head slightly and muttered, “Thank you…” before wearing the rest of her clothing…
Fenrir had been watching the interaction between her Master and Naaza attentively without averting her eyes for a single moment. Ever since she had received her ‘education’, Fenrir had been ‘studying’ how the other girls acted around Vahn because she now knew what the scent he emitted meant. She could see that he was ‘excited’ by Naaza’s behavior while the Chienthrope herself also began releasing a somewhat ‘annoying’ smell. However, Fenrir knew it was ‘bad’ to be jealous of the other girls around Vahn because it would make him sad. Thus, using her ‘brilliant’ deductive abilities, Fenrir had instead decided to study each girl around Vahn and memorize the behaviors that made him happy. One day in the future, Fenrir wanted to use everything she learned to get the ultimate ‘victory’ against the other girls by making Vahn happier than all of them combined…