When Vahn awoke from his reverie, the first thing he thought about doing was checking his new parameters but he got a little distracted when he opened his eyes and saw Lefiya taking a nap while hugging Fenrir. As for the wolf girl herself, her eyes had been focused on him, probably during the entire hour he was unconscious. When he ‘awakened’, Fenrir muttered, “Master has gotten even stronger now…Fenrir is happy.” Her words caused Lefiya’s slightly drooping ears to snap back up as she slowly opened her dark blue eyes and turned her attention to Vahn as well. As she was still a little absentminded, Lefiya said, “I wish Master would pat my head more…” Since Lefiya was still under the ‘order’ to speak her mind, her delusion had come out of her mouth once again, though she didn’t seem to notice it this time.
Understanding that Lefiya was probably mentally fatigued from casting so many magic spells today, Vahn didn’t stress her out by commenting on her small faux pas. Instead, he rose up to his feet and extended his…paw in an attempt to pat the two girls. Though his claws weren’t the unstoppably sharp ones of Fenrir, Vahn was still a little worried about scratching people on accident. Instead, he placed his paw pads atop Lefiya’s head and used [Hands of Nirvana] to reinvigorate her while ruffling Fenrir’s hair with his other paw. Afterward, the three made their way out of the tent since Vahn couldn’t return it to his Inventory if they were inside. Though he ‘could’, it would make all the items in the tent spill out to the ground since the tent acted as their ‘container’. Since it couldn’t ‘contain’ living entities, like the three of them, Vahn had to exit the tent unless he wanted to store everything individually.
After stowing away the tent, and the basin of water outside, Vahn gestured to the two girls and said, “Let’s return to the others.” Fenrir ran over before climbing onto his back and hugging his neck once again, while Lefiya hesitating for a brief moment before walking over and saying, “E-Excuse me…” before stopping right in front of him. Vahn smiled before leaning down and placing his right arm under her knees and picking her up in a princess carry once again. Her hands immediately went to her skirt to keep it from rolling up as Vahn shifted his weight and used [Shundo] to make his way to the expedition’s encampment. Though she still flushed a fair amount, Lefiya didn’t turn her face down as she had done previously and instead watched Vahn’s face with her somewhat reflective dark blue eyes…
Even with Vahn’s hour-long meditation, it wasn’t even noon yet so they didn’t have to hurry back so Vahn stopped in between each use of [Shundo] to inspect the area carefully before the next jump. He didn’t want to overlook any potential signs of impending danger since his instincts were messing with him again. They had been going off several times over the past few days, usually right after something good happened, and Vahn didn’t want to simply believe it was a delusion he carried. Believing it was better to be on the alert, rather than be complacent, Vahn trusted his instincts even if there were no clear signs of trouble.
Once they arrived at the encampment, Vahn set Lefiya down on the ground so she wouldn’t be too embarrassed when others saw her. She pat her chest to calm her heart for a little while before saying, “Thank you for carrying me…Vahn.” As they were back near other people, Lefiya needed to pay more attention to her form of address, even though it wasn’t wrong to call Vahn, Master, as he would be teaching her magic, and various other things, in the future. Just imagining people giving her strange looks made her face begin to blush a deeper shade of red as she followed behind Vahn as they made their way to the tent.
Since they had their own duties to perform, Ais, Tiona, and Tione were all away and the only people left in the tent were Haruhime and Lili. Mikoto was in the forest closest to the Hestia Familia tent and, when Vahn looked over to observe her, she was training in a new sword stance. Her face was covered in sweat and she had a very serious expression on her face so Vahn decided not to disturb her for the time being. She was probably trying our the techniques from the [Flying Heavenly Sword Scroll] since her stance seemed to match with the images from his memory.
After entering through the tent flaps and showing their presence, Haruhime and Lili both smiled as the small Pallum girl bounded up to her feet and said, “Welcome back~!” as she closed the distance in an instant and hugged Vahn’s waist. Vahn pat the top of her head and said, “I’m back, Lili…” before looking over to Haruhime and continuing, “Haruhime…” as the two others made their way inside. Fenrir gave Lili a squinty-eyed look but didn’t say anything while Lefiya surprisingly opened her small mouth and said, “Lili, Haruhime, from today onwards I am also one of Vahn’s apprentices. Please take care of me from now on~!” Lefiya had bowed low with her hands crossed as Haruhime and Lili stared at her with very different expressions. Haruhime seemed to be amused while it appeared as though Lili struggled to process the information for a short while.
Haruhime slowly rose to her feet before walking forward and clasping Lefiya’s hands as she said, “Welcome, Lefiya~.” which awakened Lili from her stupor. She looked up to see Vahn’s smiling face before releasing her hug and turning to Lefiya to say, “That makes you the sixth…welcome, Lefiya…”
As the ‘first’ apprentice of Vahn, Lili was especially aware when any new girls joined the ‘ranks’ because she knew they were both her rivals and competitors. As for the other apprentices, they were Nanu, Haruhime, Fenrir, Mikoto, and now, Lefiya. Lili noticed that it was typically all the girls that were younger than Vahn and wondered if she should start counting Tina and Shizune into the mix pre-emptively…
Though they had already eaten lunch, both Fenrir and Lefiya could continue eating indefinitely while Vahn was feeling a little hungry after his body underwent changes during his Level-up. Instead of the ‘full’ feeling he had previously, Vahn felt like he had become noticeably stronger even though his parameters were all currently at 0, with the exception of his Magic which had snuck its way up to 38 already. Though his Endurance increased slowly over time as well, especially when using [Rakshasa Body], it was his Magic that always increased the fastest. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as it meant that all the girls could increase their magic parameter even if they focused on physical training.
While they were eating lunch, Lili kept staring at Lefiya who was seemingly a bottomless pit now and felt a little envious because, since she thought her eating appearance was cute, Vahn must have thought so as well. She had already changed into her own mock-Vanargandr form, as Vahn had changed, but Lili was wondering how else she could appeal to him to be ever closer. As for the person in question, Vahn, he was thinking about something very different and might have even received a punch from the small girl if she knew what was on his mind. Since his increase in parameters, Vahn’s Power total had reached 2,746 and which meant that, after receiving Haruhime’s buff, Vahn’s Power reached an impressive 3570. This put his power at about 250 points lower than Tiona’s, but around the same level as Tione…
Since they obviously wouldn’t use any ‘skills’ to overwhelm him, this meant Vahn was a fair match for both girls now and he could probably even get an advantage against them if he pushed himself. He often thought about how Tiona was still waiting for him to get stronger while Tione carried a burden that made it hard for her to approach him because of her own punishments. Now that he was officially stronger than the elder twin, at least in raw parameters, she would be free to start making advances against him. This somewhat worried Vahn, as he knew how crazed she was regarding Finn in the past, but he didn’t feel like he needed to worry that much. He might have to use some underhanded methods, but he was confident in being able to tame the eldest of the two Amazoness twins.
Though they were all perceptive of Vahn’s thoughts, based on his expression and demeanor, Haruhime was especially sensitive to when people were thinking ‘adult’ things. Even though it might not be directed at her, the heat in her chest had already spread and her eyes turned a pale gold as she looked to Vahn and asked, “Vahn, what are you going to be doing from now on? Will you keep helping us increase our parameters or…do you just want to play around for a few days until the Loki Familia moves to break the record?” As they would be left behind if their strength was too low, most of the girls had been talking about becoming as strong as possible before Vahn went deeper into the Dungeon.
Hearing Haruhime’s words, the glistening brown delusion faded from his mind as he looked into her slightly glowing eyes and said, “You and Lili are nearing the peak of Level 2 and should be able to reach Level 3 before we return to the surface, even without my help. I’d like to train with Mikoto and Lefiya a bit more over the next few days since their parameters are a bit behind everyone else’s. Lefiya will be going on the expedition deeper into the Dungeon and I don’t want Mikoto to feel like she is falling too far behind…” Realizing that Haruhime was probably wanting to venture deeper into the Dungeon with them, Vahn shook his head and explained, “Other than Fenrir, I won’t be taking anyone else deeper into the Dungeon with me. You are all much stronger than normal Adventurer’s your Level, but that won’t make a big difference in the deeper floors. Even the Loki Familia has to leave behind the majority of its veteran Adventurers simply because the danger is too great…”
Vahn saw the somewhat melancholic look in Haruhime’s and Lili’ eyes, even though they both still had different types of smiles on their faces, so he released a slight sigh and said, “I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be probing deeper into the Dungeon at all, at least not yet. Given what we know about our enemies, they are still in their preparation phase and it could be disastrous if we pressure them before we’re strong enough to fight against whatever might appear. Though it would be to our advantage to force them to accelerate their plans, we have no idea what that actually entails and it could lead to many people losing their lives. Until I train with Eva, I don’t want to force the issue just yet…so please be patient.”
Haruhime nodded at Vahn’s words and said, “I will keep growing stronger, Vahn, so that you won’t have to worry about me so much…” Lili seemed slightly startled hearing Haruhime’s words as she lifted herself from the table slightly and shouted, “With my new rare ability, I will become the strongest of all, Vahn! When that time comes, you’ll have to take me with you everywhere, okay!?” Vahn was about to answer but Fenrir, who was snuggled up in his lap, raised her head and stared at the two girls and said in a somewhat icy and provocative tone, “Fenrir will become the strongest of all in order to protect Master…smelly Harume and Lili only think about themselves…” Though Fenrir’s motivation were more than a little ‘selfish’, she still had the earnest desire to protect Vahn from harm while the other girls simply wanted to stay at his side.
Neither girl seemed to be willing to refute the scarlet-eyed wolf girl but it didn’t mean the resolve in their eyes had faded any. Instead, Vahn could see the competitive spirit ignited in both girls as the looked at Fenrir sitting in Vahn’s lap with a mixture of resolution and slight envy. Though she often kept quiet at times like this, it was a fact that Fenrir had been around Vahn a lot recently and could almost always be found curled up in his lap. Most of the girls associated with Vahn would willingly take her place but they knew it would cause tensions with the rest of the group if they tried. Fenrir, however, was a special exception and everyone knew it.
Though she reigned it in a fair amount, Fenrir was a very ‘problematic’ girl that constantly required Vahn’s attention in order to not lose control. Since it was her ‘nature’, there wasn’t much anyone else could say about the matter since she was constantly making efforts to improve. However, it didn’t make them feel any less envious of the matter since she got to enjoy privileges that others could only experience on occasion. Even if they acted ‘troublesome’ to garner Vahn’s attention, it would be a greatly negative thing since it was expected of them to be more ‘stable’ existences instead of the inverse. This meant that, even if they copied her, it would only cause Vahn real trouble instead of making him fond of them…
Interrupting their three-way staring contest, Vahn showed a casual smile as he hugged Fenrir a little tighter to make her drop the matter. He then looked around at everyone and said, “We all have a great potential to become stronger, even to the point where we may one day find yourself at the pinnacle of power in this world. However, that doesn’t mean we’re already there so keep that in mind and focus your efforts properly. It is safe to assume that there is ‘always’ someone stronger than we are, so never slack off and become complacent just because you are satisfied with your power…” Everyone present were his apprentices, so Vahn used a lecturing tone when he was speaking with them. Understanding his words, the three girls nodded with firm expressions on their faces because they knew it was true. Even in the Divination, they had yet to reach the bottom of the Dungeon after 22 years. This showed that, even though they had Level 8’s and 9’s in their midst, the enemies they faced in the Frontier Floors were troublesome.
Then, as if answering Haruhime’s earlier question once again, Vahn smiled and said, “I’ll find out from Finn how many days it is until the expedition into the deeper occurs. If there is time, I’ll help Mikoto catch up a bit and then spend the rest of the time having fun with everyone at the encampment. I can’t help but feel like something might happen soon though, so stay on your toes and try to be aware of your surroundings at all times…” Since Haruhime and Lili had ‘beaming’ smiles on their faces when he talked about having fun for a few days, Vahn wanted to emphasize that they were still in enemy territory, at least until they ‘took’ it from them and made this place their own little ‘Haven’.