Vahn returned to the Hearth Manor early the next morning in high spirits, satisfied with his ‘accomplishments’ the previous night. Anubis was always highly receptive to his desires, so Vahn was able to ‘push’ her a bit harder than the other girls. Since she was an exotic beauty with a long bushy tail, beautiful brown skin, and pointed fluffy ears, it made the experience far more interesting since her ‘stressed’ appearance was quite beautiful…
Reaching the Manor, Vahn made his way to the inner courtyard, which had previously been the backyard, and attended the morning training as usual. He had been watching the progress of Tina and Shizune ever since his return from the Dungeon and they really had put in a lot of effort. Though they hadn’t been able to gain exilia yet, both girls had some small growth in their parameters which showed how much they were pushing themselves. When he had checked their status last, Shizune had even awakened the [Featherfoot] ability. She trained at Chloe’s protege and had also been putting in a lot of effort in the ‘dance’ lessons of Haruhime. Because she had been a slave for several years, she was already good at moving her body around to simulate a dance so it had come quicker to her than most girls…
Today was an important day for both girls because it was time for their ‘graduation’ from basic training. Hephaestus had already started on the development of their weapons, a process Vahn could do nothing but provide the materials for, and they would be using the next two days to relax before entering the Dungeon for the first time on Thursday. To prepare them for their first battle, Vahn would be taking them to the Western Forest today in order to hunt some weaker monsters, so they were already in very high spirits. Milan and Chloe would be coming along as well and they would be relying on Terra for transportation, as she had ‘arranged’ things with Fafnir to alternate between acting as his mount.
Fafnir had very obviously been ‘tamed’ by Terra at this point and it often spent time sunbathing within the garden as they talked with each other. It had even retracted its sharp scales to appear more streamlined, almost as if it were trying to copy Terra a bit. When Vahn had asked why Fafnir was so fond of Terra, it simply responded that ‘she smells very nice and is fun to talk to’. However, when Vahn talked to Terra about Fafnir, she said that he was ‘very cute, but a little ‘peculiar” and ‘not to worry about Fafnir’. Terra was actually far more intelligent than anyone had expected and she spent a lot of time talking with Riveria and Lefiya, making great strides in her studies. It wasn’t at the same level as himself, but her memory was amazing and she absorbed new information like a sponge. As for her reasons for doing so, it was very obvious that she wanted to get closer to him in the future by being recognized as ‘mature’.
The final part of their training required Tina and Shizune to spar against their respective ‘teachers’, meaning Tina fought Milan while Shizune did battle with Chloe. They obviously weren’t expected to win, but they needed to put up a good effort for an entire twenty minutes while evading the periodic counter attacks. To make matters even more difficult, they would have to answer questions about various monsters during the fight and only had thirty seconds time to consider their response. This was meant to develop the habit of ‘thinking’ during combat while also moving their body instinctively. There were a lot of stimuli experienced during combat, especially against multiple enemies, so being able to split your focus was a very important ability to adapt to. If you zoned in on a single enemy, you left yourself exposed to sneak attacks and this was how many new Adventurers died to monsters like Imp Assassins, War Shadows, and basic traps.
By the time their test had come to an end, Tina plopped down on the ground covered in sweat while Shizune collapsed backward and splayed out her arms and legs. Because of Chloe’s influence, she had been developing some ‘unladylike’ habits lately, much to Milan’s lament since Shizune had been making a lot of progress recently. Seeing the result, Tsubaki, who had been acting as referee and asking the questions, nodded her head with a large grin and said, “You both worked very hard! Congratulations on completing your basic training~! As a reward, we’ll give Vahn to give you some ‘special’ treatment until it is time to go fight your first monsters~!”
Though she had nearly planted her face into the ground from exhaustion at this point, Tina’s ears and tail twitched when she heard Tsubaki’s words. There wasn’t much strength left in her tiny frame, but she still managed to rise to her feet after a great deal of effort. As for Shizune, she continued gasping for air on the ground but there was an expectant smile on her face. Vahn wasn’t sure what Tsubaki had in mind, but he rose to his feet and walked over to hear her say, “They have plenty of cramps and strains in their bodies, so help them out a bit and pamper them properly. Motivation is very important early on since the majority of Adventurers make mistakes in the early levels.”
Tsubaki’s ‘request’ wasn’t really difficult so Vahn walked over to Tina and reached out his hand to pet her on the head. However, the moment he touched her head, Tina’s legs gave out once again so Vahn had to reach forward and grab her to prevent the fall. She blushed in embarrassment and said, “Sorry, Vahnya…” before her ears twitched in frustration. Vahn chuckled and just lifted her up under his arm before walking over and throwing Shizune over his shoulder. Both girls were exhausted so Vahn was going to let them freshen up by taking a bath. It was almost time for the morning training to come to an end, which meant almost everyone would be taking a bath, so heading over a little early didn’t make a big difference.
During the bath, Vahn helped wash the girls’ hair and ears while also taking the opportunity to check their Status Boards once again. Knowing where their official starting point was would be very important since he wanted to document their growth under the influence of his [Mentor] Development Ability as accurately as possible. Neither girl really minded having him update their status in the bath because he also washed their backs afterward and it was a pleasant experience. Shizune had a lot more ‘tolerance’ than Tina, even managing to keep her composure after convincing Vahn to help groom her tail. As for Tina, she flushed a healthy shade of red since it had only been the three of them in the bath at first and she felt a little self-conscious until the other girls started to show up.
Name: Tina Yuel
Race: Cat Person
Skill: [Eclipse: Innate(sealed)]
Development Skill: –
Name: Shizune Yuel
Skill: [Tamomo: Innate(sealed)], [Featherfoot:I](new)
Magic: [Moon’s Prayer: Innate(sealed)]
Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance(sealed)], [Insomnia(sealed)]
Since he was supposed to be ‘pampering’ them as a form of motivation, Vahn helped Tina and Shizune pick out their clothing and equipment and dressed them up in preparation for their short field trip. Even though she was a ‘sensible’ girl, even Tina ended up wanting a thin black tunic that didn’t completely cover her stomach. Though it wasn’t on full display, her navel would peek out a bit if she made large movements. She also wore a white rounded breastplate that had a larger plate on the front and two smaller plates on the back covering her heart. It hugged her body tightly, but the bands were somewhat elastic and it didn’t bite into her skin.
As for the rest of her ensemble, she wore a pair of black spats underneath white shorts and had a looped belt with a pouch for storing consumable items. For leg protection, she had a pair of white shin guards overtop a pair of black socks that came to an end beneath her knees, just enough to prevent the straps from the shin guards from cutting into her. She also had a pair of dark brown boots with patterned soles, which was relatively rare, and wielded a small round buckler and a double-edged sword that had a 50cm blade. To accent the look, as she wanted to look cute, Tina wore a big red bow around her neck that gave her a somewhat childish appearance.
Shizune’s outfit was actually much simpler than Tina’s, though it was difficult to tell simply based on appearances. Much like Haruhime and Mikoto, she wore a small purple kimono that was a little ‘too short’ in Vahn’s opinion. However, she made sure to wear the same type of black spats that had become popular amongst the girls recently. The downside is, she wasn’t fond of any kind of restrictive clothing so she didn’t wear anything else other than the kimono and spats as her basic protection against the elements. Because her breasts hadn’t started to develop yet in her current form, she didn’t even wear a sarashi to protect her dignity and instead wore ‘tape’…
To complete her outfit, she wore thin guards on both her arms and legs with a pair of black stockings underneath her shin guards. Instead of normal boots, she wore a type called ‘tabi’ that made her appear similar to a ninja since her weapons of choice was a katana-like dagger called a ninjato and a curved dagger that was the same as the type used by Chloe. She had become skilled at throwing it and there was an oil applied to the blade that could paralyze weaker monsters. She wore her dark-brown hair in a high ponytail, to prevent it from interfering with her movement, and had it pinned together with two red chop-stick like needles that also qualified as hidden weapons.
By the time the girls were ready, which had taken a while since they tried on several different outfits until Vahn gave them the ‘correct’ compliment, it was nearly 8 AM and almost time to depart. He hadn’t been sure what to say to ‘convince’ them because they seemed to be basing it off his expression than his actual words. Fortunately, they were aware of the time and were very much looking forward to the small excursion and wanted to depart sooner rather than later. After helping fix their attire properly, Vahn led the two girls to the front yard where he got to see something he hadn’t quite expected. Fafnir was laying on its back as Terra sat on top of it and flickered her wings gentled, almost as if she were showering Fafnir in the aroma. She had a small ‘chisel-like’ object in her hand and was freeing up the lighter colored scales off Fafnir’s stomach. Unlike its black scales, which it could freely shape, Fafnir had no control over its underside scales and it appeared that Terra was helping groom and clean the dense arrangement of scales.
Fafnir cocked its head to the side in an obviously pleased manner considering that its tongue was dangling out of the side of its mouth. Seeing Vahn’s arrival, its tongue darted back into its mouth and it said, (“Vahn, good morning~! Sis was helping clean my scales, ehehehe~”) Terra stood up from Fafnir’s stomach and gently flapped her wings once before jumping over and landing next to Vahn after fluttering about briefly. She had a gentle smile on her face and said, “Unless you return Fafnir to his core, you need to make sure to clean his scales properly. He may not get any infections, but it would cause some minor discomfort after a while~.” Though she had a kind tone, Vahn felt like he was being lectured a bit so he nodded his head with an apologetic expression and said, “I’ll make sure to help Fafnir groom every now and then…”
Terra giggled at Vahn’s response and said, “Master is a good boy, very kind, fufufufu~.” as she reached out and tried to pat his head. Vahn gave her a curious look that made her eyes squint slightly as she retracted her hand and giggled. Seeing the expressions of the two small girls behind Vahn, Terra gave them a ‘playful’ look before returning to her grooming of Fafnir. Vahn followed behind shortly after since they still had a few minutes before it was time to leave and the other three girls had yet to arrive. However, though it was still a bit early, the others appeared less than a minute later and Vahn decided it was better to leave early so they could return before lunch. He promised to help Fafnir clean its scales later before having Terra transform into her dragon form.
Terra actually wasn’t that fond of having the other girls ride on her, but she didn’t offer any complaints during the few times it had happened. Vahn wouldn’t have even known if she hadn’t casually mentioned only wanting to have him ride her when he was wiping down her feathers in the past. The only exceptions seemed to be Fafnir and the Elves, apparently due to the fact that the ‘energy’ she felt from the other girls made her feel a little uncomfortable while the Elves had affinities related to nature. Vahn could understand this somewhat since the color of each girls mana reflected their affinity and none of the non-elf girls had ‘natural’ elements. Chloe and Naaza even had the rare ‘darkness’ elemental affinity while the closest person to match Terra’s ‘preference’ was Lili, who had an incredibly vibrant earth elemental affinity. Unlike the normal brackish-brown color, her’s was closer to a yellow-brown and seemed to have a higher degree of purity than normal. Even so, Terra didn’t like Lili that much because she could sense the somewhat selfish nature of the small Pallum and the ‘darkness’ contained in her heart.
As they weren’t going that far, the flight was only twenty minutes combining the time it took for them to check out at the West Gate. They were only going to be looking for monsters like Goblins and Kobolds, so there was no need to venture that far into the depths of the forest either. Vahn humored the idea of revising his home, as this was a good opportunity, so he passed the idea through the other girls who unanimously agreed. Everyone was very interested in seeing where Vahn had lived prior to coming to the City, and he also wanted to share a bit of his life with them. They set his previous cave as their destination and took their first steps into the forest, allowing Tina and Shizune to take the lead…
Though monsters weren’t actually that common within the Western Forests, unless you went into specially marked danger zones, Vahn quickly guided the two girls toward their first opponent under the pretense of giving them directions to his cave. Shizune was the first to notice the presence of the goblin, other than Vahn, Tsubaki, Milan, and Chloe, so she gave a signal to Tina and they both crouched down. When they were together, they needed to carefully consider their plan of attack since it was actually dangerous for both girls to fight with their current parameters. Shizune’s ears twitched about and she said, “There is a Goblin around twenty meters in the two o’clock direction…I can hear the movement of another creature, but I’m not sure what it is…”
Both girls sniffed around in the air and tried to pick up any scents that might be helpful and Vahn could feel his heart itching because they were both very adorable. Because he wanted them to both have a chance to fight, while also showing their ability to plan properly, he had led them to an area where there were actually three Goblins present. Even though one of them had a small wooden club as a weapon, Vahn wasn’t too concerned about the girls because they were already ‘experienced’ in fighting humanoids after spending more than a month sparring and training every day. He could also use [Wounds Transfer] and stun the Goblins with his domain if necessary and, though they weren’t aware of it, both girls had an [Effigy of the Hero] in their packs. At this point, every girl in the Manor had an effigy and Vahn made sure they always carried it on their person, especially when they entered the Dungeon.
Shizune nodded her head slightly and said, “I can smell two different scents…they are quite pungent…” Tina, however, shook her head and confidently said, “I kyan smell three, but oneya them is much lighter thyan the rest~nyafuu…” Perhaps due to her nervousness, Tina’s verbal tick was in full force and he had to rub his temples to keep his focus as Milan silently giggled from his side. As for Shizune, she trusted in Tina’s nose and nodded her head saying, “I will draw their attention and try to kite them around. I want you to wait for them to show up when I cause a commotion and then try to flank the furthest one. With their attention split between us, we’ll be able to confuse them and whittle them down…”
Tina nodded her head and held her sword and shield tightly as a fiery expression appeared in her eyes. However, it was very clear that she was nervous since the sword was jittering slightly and her tail was standing rigid like a pole. Shizune was much calmer, likely a result of her life experience, which is why she volunteered herself as the bait to draw out the enemies. It was actually Tina’s role to take to the frontline, but the differences in their age made Shizune lenient toward the young cat girl. After taking a few deep breaths, she ran forward and jumped over the nearby brush to create a loud sound. Vahn noticed small scratches appear on her exposed thighs and sighed because this was one of the reasons he wanted her to wear ‘proper’ clothing.
Shizune reached up and pulled one of the hairpins from her ponytail and threw it at the closest Goblin, hitting it in the arm and lodging the projectile deep into the emaciated flesh. She then gave a strange cry like, “Shaaaaaaa~!” before jumping from side-to-side, waiting for the goblins to aggro onto her, and then bolting toward a series of large trees. Though they hadn’t been visible at first, two more goblins emerged from the forest and joined their injured companion as they chased after Shizune. Just after the cleared the brush though, Tina kicked off hard from the ground and ran forward with her shield low before smashing it up towards the head of the third goblin. It was knocked off balance and, just as it landed on its back, Tina stepped forward and stabbed her sword directly into its chest before stepping back and taking a distance.
Unfortunately, Tina’s attack hadn’t done nearly enough damage to a vital point to instantly kill the Goblin so it thrashed about and released a loud feral scream that made the young cat girl tremble with a pale complexion. However, she still held up her sword and shield properly, a clear sign of the effectiveness of her training, and stood her ground. She might not have killed it, but the Goblin wasn’t going to be going anywhere as it slowly bled out. Its shrieks also had the effect of causing the other two goblins to panic slightly because they weren’t nearly as ‘mad’ as the ones found in the Dungeon, possessing a minuscule amount of intelligence.
In the resultant confusion, Shizune had run forward at a very low angle, making use of her diminutive size and combat style, and sliced the backside of the Goblin that had turned to face Tina. It released a loud shriek as well and tried to reach its arms behind its back in an attempt to stop the blood before Shizune’s second attack, using the dagger she had obtained from Chloe, stabbed into the heart of the Goblin. It had a hooked curve so, as Shizune dragged it back and kicked away from the Golbin, it tore a huge piece of flesh away and the goblin quickly collapsed before turning to dust. This effectively made the fight a two-versus-one, with the only remaining enemy being restricted to a single arm.
The final Goblin spun around in a panic and swung its small club at Tina and Shizune as they encircled it. Shizune’s eyes darted about before she made eye contact with Tina and nodded slightly before shouting, “Shaaaaa~!” once again and pretending to attack the Goblin. It flinched at the loud noise and turned to attack Shizune as Tina, having understood the signal from earlier, stepped in and stabbed the Goblin through the back. This time, her strike was true and she managed to nick the small monster core near the Goblin’s heart and it immediately turned to dust. Both girls released a sigh before another shriek was issued by the slowly dying Goblin. As they looked over, however, they saw Vahn standing over it as he stabbed forward with his  sword and finished it off.
Seeing their confusion, Vahn smiled and said, “Remember that the fight is never over, just that there are moments of peace and quiet between an endless series of battles. Also, though monsters may be considered ‘evil’ by society, it is always the kinder option to put them out of their misery sooner. No creature deserves to suffer, even those created to wreak havoc and chaos. Remember that this isn’t a life they chose for themselves, but a purpose they were assigned by powers higher than themselves. When we kill monsters, their sacrifice it was allows us to grow strong and gain the power to protect the people we love. Giving them a painless death is the simplest courtesy we can afford them…”
Tina and Shizune had attentive expressions on their faces and nodded their heads when Vahn had finished his words. They weren’t the only ones either, as Tsubaki, Milan, Chloe, and Terra all had thoughtful expressions. Terra, especially, understood Vahn’s words and appreciated the kindness he showed to creatures that simply had ‘no choice’ in their lives. Without having the fortune to develop her intelligence in her previous life, Terra would have also been a mindless killing machine and this made her feel grateful for every day she lived. She would also kill monsters, if necessary, but never because she enjoyed killing or resented them. Hearing Vahn’s words made her show an appreciative smile on her face as Vahn heard the notification in his mind that Terra’s Loyalty had increased 32 points…