After Eina and Vahn took their seats, it was officially time for the celebration to begin so Hestia raised up a glass mug full of alcohol called [Honey Stout] as she proclaimed in a loud voice, “Everyone, you did a great job on the expedition this time around. Not only did you increase the reputation of the Hesta Familia, but you also worked hard to increase your strengths and now our Familia has become much stronger than in the past! Most importantly, you all came home safe and sound, so thank you all so very much for your efforts~!” With Hestia’s words as the trigger, everyone else raised their own cups and gave various hurrahs before everyone downed the contents of their glass and the festivities officially began.
Other than Tina, Shizune, and the pregnant Hephaestus, Tsubaki, Aki, and Arnya, everyone else was allowed to drink as it was a special occasion. The only people ‘too young’ were Lili, Fenrir, and Terra, but Vahn wouldn’t be able to stop any of them from drinking. Lili put her life on the line as a vanguard in the Dungeon, so it would have been strange if Vahn said she wasn’t old enough to drink, while Fenrir couldn’t get drunk at all and Terra’s body simply didn’t process the alcohol in the same way as everyone else.
Terra didn’t have a normal digestive tract, nor did she even have intestines. Instead, her body had two ‘stomach-like’ organs that processed what she ate and she seemed to be restricted to organic produce and lighter ‘meats’ like fish. Essentially, she was another girl that couldn’t get drunk because the enzymes in her stomach broke down the alcohol into parts and then simply filtered it out instead of letting it enter her bloodstream. Vahn suspected it would make her ‘sap’ slightly alcohol based but he decided not to worry about that kind of thing for the time being…
As Eina had yet to be introduced to Terra, she kept sending curious glances as the mature dragon girl, who always returned a smile as if were her natural expression. Vahn saw this happen a few times before he realized he should be the one to explain such things and said, “It’s a bit late, but this celebration also includes the addition of our newest Familia member, Terra. Like Fafnir, she is a True Dragon that I had tamed within the Dungeon and her original form is that of the Green Dragon that I had subordinated during the Bloodsaurus hunt. She is Level 4, but she won’t really be a combatant and will instead help to guard the Manor with Fafnir in the future.”
Because of her wings, which were spread out behind her since she was sitting low to the floor, Terra was a very ‘obvious’ presence at the table even without anyone pointing her out. Several of the girls had yet to meet her earlier, including Eina, Chloe, Arnya, Lunoire, Anubis, and Nanu. They had spotted her immediately upon entering the same room since Terra’s leafy-green hair and wings stood out a great deal. It was easily understood she was another one of Vahn’s ‘tamed’ monsters, but the fact that she was a woman caused the interest in her to increase a great deal.
Terra smiled at everyone present and said, “Greetings, everyone, my name is Terra Evergreen. I have come to reside in the Manor today after my Master helped me evolve. I will do my best to get along with everyone, so please treat me kindly and teach me many things.” After Terra introduced herself, everyone went around the table and made a short introduction of their own as well before the atmosphere of the celebration became decidedly less awkward. It was difficult to open up when there were ‘strangers’ present, but now everyone had relaxed a lot more after knowing what type of girl Terra was. She seemed to be very popular with the girls, as her hair, wings, and tail, were all somewhat unique and interesting. Since her personality was the ‘kind and elegant’ type, combined with the fact she had an air of nobility while being highly receptive, made her easy to talk to and befriend.
Though their dinners usually ran very late, things continued deep into the night this time around as the festive atmosphere had become even more so after people began to get a little tipsy. Some of the girls, including Hestia, Lili, and Chloe, got outright drunk while only a few, such as the pregnant group and Syr, remained completely sober throughout. The obvious exceptions included Vahn, Fenrir, and Terra, but that was a result of their constitution and not the amount they had to drink. The truly surprising thing was that even Eina got a little drunk and eventually ended up falling asleep against Vahn’s shoulder after a few glasses of beer.
When the atmosphere had slowly started to die down, as a result of several of the younger girls falling asleep, Vahn looked to Chloe, Arnya, and Lunoire, the first two of which were currently teasing each other, and said, “I’d like to check your Status Boards in the near future. I may not be able to give you flame seeds right now, but I might be able to infer some things from your-” As Vahn spoke, the drunken Chloe ‘boldy’ pulled off her black t-shirt and revealed a cream-colored bra as she said, “Nyahaha, nyou can chyek it nyoow~!” Fortunately, Arnya still had her awareness as the grabbed Chloe around the ribs and picked her up before saying, “I’ll take this mischevious cat to her room. We’ll see you tomorrow, Vahn.”
Arnya was in the pregnant faction, so she was completely sober and surprisingly ‘thin’ compared to the other pregnant girls. If not for the fact that Vahn could see the small bundle of vitality within her stomach, he might not have even believed she was pregnant. Chloe, though drunk, wasn’t going to put up in major resistance and just allowed her body to go limp as Arnya carried her under her arm and left the room. This left less than half the original attendees present, if excluding those that had passed out, and Vahn knew it was time to call the celebration to an end and help everyone back to their rooms. Since it was his first official night back, Vahn retired to his room with just Eina while Hephaestus took the ‘initiative’ to stay with Hestia, who had been in the faction of girls that had passed out.
Once they were alone in the room, Eina had a deep flush on her face that was enhanced by how ‘out’ of it she felt at the moment. It was a lot harder to think in her current state and she was wondering how things would play out now that it was just the two of them. Vahn, however, didn’t like to take advantage of people when they were drunk so he simply helped Eina wipe down her body before cuddling up with her in the bed. Eina gave him a loving smile for his care and hugged him against her chest as she stroked the back of his head. There was no need to have sex every time they were alone, and Eina actually just wanted Vahn to relax a bit since she knew he probably exerted himself a lot in the Dungeon.
There were very different thoughts running through Vahn’s mind, however, as he knew he hadn’t actually exerted himself much at all. Other than the ‘stress’ of wondering when their enemies might attack, and the interesting interactions he had with the girls, there was nothing that exciting about the recent expedition at all. Vahn had felt somewhat constrained, but even when they were free to take action the monsters weren’t actually that great a threat, at least to himself. He knew his stamina wouldn’t be able to hold out in the long run, but there were few monsters at any Level that could actually threaten him currently.
This was one of the reasons Vahn wasn’t as focused on the Dungeon right now, as it couldn’t actually provide much stimulus to him presently and there were far more things he was concerned about. He was more interested in his research and working on the prototype armor he had been developing before he left. With his focus also invested heavily in the girls, Vahn was simply ‘uninterested’ in the Dungeon, at least during expeditions. Since his own capabilities outstripped the ‘common sense’ of the world, Vahn felt it wasn’t that productive at all until he was free to act with just the girls alone. When they made the Dungeon a part of their ‘territory’ in the future, Vahn wouldn’t be taking orders from other people at all. He might not be the most capable leader, likely far from it, but his capabilities more than made up for his lack of leadership qualities. He also had relatively ‘devout’ girls that followed him, so it wasn’t really a concern if he could inspire others to action…
Though Vahn found his own leadership qualities lacking, this wasn’t a sentiment that was shared by other influential people. Completely unaware of the situation, a stir had been passing through the Loki Familia after the triumphant return of the expedition. Finn had shown up leading the convoy back to the Twilight Manor with their banner waving proudly in the wind, but he couldn’t help but feel things were distinctly different than normal. Their members would usually be ‘relieved’ and happy to return to the surface, not that they didn’t show signs of this, but now there was an underlying current of excitement and anticipation. Instead of simply talking about what they were going to spend their earnings on, people were already talking about how the next expedition would go…
One of the most common names that spread around the group was Vahn’s, though the girls had their fair share of ‘fans’ amongst those spreading gossip. The fact that most of the girls were only Level 2, but showed capabilities far greater than their level, impressed many people, even more so because they were all cute girls. Though they ‘jokingly’ said all the girls were part of Vahn’s ‘harem’, they couldn’t ignore the achievements they had earned. Not only Vahn, but all of the girls had a massive boost to their reputation while Vahn himself was talked about almost with a reverential undertone. Those that had been ‘saved’ by him made their respect very clear and it had quickly spread through the whole convoy.
Since Vahn had been fair and just during the entire trip, even sharing his own supplies with the convoy to make things better for everyone, there were few people that could actually dislike him. He was a handsome boy with a kind disposition that showed care and concern for everyone around him, even if it brought harm to himself in the process. This type of character wasn’t the type that sensible people could hold a grudge against, and most of the members present now had a great appreciation for his existence itself. They had never been on an expedition that had gone so smoothly, and it almost seemed ‘impossible’ that things had actually gone so well.
This was the first time they hadn’t lost at least two carts while suffering a number of casualties, with a few fatalities in the mix. Instead, they hadn’t lost a single cart at all and actually managed to fill each of them to capacity, increasing their earning by nearly 20%. Other than three unfortunate deaths, there were no other casualties within the group at all because Vahn had been able to heal their wounds flawlessly. As for the three that had died, they had all lost their lives accomplishing missions away from the encampment. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say, given the evidence, that Vahn had ensured the expedition hadn’t suffered a single loss, be it in supplies or personnel. There wasn’t anything he could do about those that died as a result of mishaps, especially if he wasn’t there, so those numbers could be removed from consideration on the matter.
Hearing the various rumors, Finn didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and simply resolved himself to get along better with Vahn in the future. His position as Captain wasn’t threatened, but the number of expeditions he leads would probably be on the decline from now on. Since the majority of their main members were in Vahn’s ‘faction’, Finn didn’t really have much of a choice and simply intended to go with the flow from now on instead of trying to oppose it. He could even see that Bete had an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face, as his ears were far more sensitive and he could hear the discussions people were having.
Vahn already had the support of Riveria, Gareth, Ais, Tiona, Tione, and even Lefiya at this point, leaving the only two ‘on the fence’ as Finn and Bete. Finn had already taken a step back on his own volition, but Bete’s personality wasn’t the type that could make such decisions without coming to a head against the things that troubled him. At this point, Bete knew he was probably in for a ‘thrashing’ and his demeanor had become somewhat solemn amongst the expedition that was full of a celebratory atmosphere.
When the Loki Familia reached the Twilight Manor, the rest of the Familia was waiting to receive them, including a somewhat ‘disconcerting’ looking Loki. She would be completing her first trimester in the coming weeks so her belly had also started to swell up a fair amount. As she was already a thin and petite girl, even though her height was normal, Loki looked somewhat ‘odd’ as a pregnant woman. However, even though it was a strange sight, she seemed much more vibrant than normal and her expression actually looked somewhat soft as she said, “Welcome home. You all did well.”
As many people had already been talking about Vahn, Loki’s appearance had reminded them of another ‘important’ fact about the boy. Not only was he surrounded by girls in his own Familia, but he also had the affections of several goddesses, including their own. Though their impression had already been high, the respect people had felt for Vahn expanded a great deal, even though there was a fair amount of envy mixed in. Vahn enjoyed the ‘benefits’ of his current lifestyle because of the efforts he put into his life, combined with his character. Given that he was only 15 years old, much younger than many of them, this showed how hard he truly worked to get to where he was. Though they could envy him slightly, the majority knew it would have been impossible for them to take his position as it would have likely overwhelmed them long before they reached that point.
Finn smiled proudly and reported, “This time around, we made it back with all the carts and only suffered the loss of two Adventurers and a Supporter. There are no other casualties to report, and I’ll submit the official paperwork after exchanging the materials at the Guild in the morning.” Loki nodded her head but was somewhat surprised by the numbers that Finn had reported. She knew Vahn’s presence would have been a great asset to the expedition, but she hadn’t expected things to go so well. Looking around, she saw the ‘atmosphere’ of the group and her eyes opened partially as she said, “Good work, Finn. I look forward to your report…for now, get this stuff to the staging area and let’s celebrate everyone’s return!”
Finn gave a hand signal to the convoy and they once again began moving forward as they took the carts near the massive warehouse at the back of the Twilight Manor. As for the first and second groups of the Loki Familia, their duty officially ended at the Gate and they were free to roam around at their leisure. However, it was typically considered poor taste to avoid a celebration where you were one of the guests of honor, so everyone stayed at the Twilight Manor and made their way inside to bathe and change into casual wear. One exception to this was Riveria, who had followed Loki into her personal study since she was the one that would be reporting the matters regarding Vahn.
Loki sat down in her cushioned chair and released a sigh of exertion as she placed her hand on her stomach and stroked absentmindedly as she asked, “So, anything interesting happen? I can tell something major must have gone down with how everyone was reacting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Finn with such a bad poker face before, kukuku~.” Riveria was standing in front of Loki’s desk and watching her rather uncouth behavior with a straight expression as she nodded her head and said, “Vahn’s influence on the expedition had been greater than we anticipated. Even without making full use of his capabilities, just his support made everything run much smoother. He also managed to take down the Udaeus and Balor, the last of which was just him and Ais…”
Hearing Riveria’s words, Loki wasn’t actually that surprised and simply asked, “Did he use the chains?” As Riveria had been assisting in Vahn’s research, she knew a great deal about [Enkidu] and nodded her head, saying, “Yes, but only when he fought against the Balor. He was about to suppress it long enough for Ais to finish it off with her [Ariel] and there were no others present to witness it.” A flash passed through Loki’s eyes for a brief moment before a satisfied smile appeared on her face. Vahn’s [Enkidu] was undoubtedly one of his most dangerous secrets at present, and Loki was happy he had enough sense not to use it around the expedition. If she had known he used the aura from [Enkidu] as a ‘torch’, Loki might have run over to the Hearth Manor and strangled him…just a little.