Chapter 562: Moving Forward

Though they weren’t simply going to drop their guards now that the earth mage had been taken care of, everyone had become a lot less tense knowing he was no longer a threat. There had been a slight stir as a result of the scheduling changes, but there wasn’t really any resistance since one of the topics they had discussed during the previous Vahnatus was about overtaxing Vahn all the time. They also thought the idea of having time alone with him was very nice and knew that, even if they didn’t go out of their way to ‘pester’ him, Vahn would likely come to them on his own accord. If he was taking proactive actions, he wouldn’t get nearly as stressed out as if the girls showed up and interrupted his natural momentum. It made Vahn feel more than a little guilty, but he also knew it was for the best to slow down and relax instead of constantly pushing himself, and the girls, forward…

There were several girls that were more than a little happy about the changes that occurred, chiefly Maemi, Emiru, Preasia, and, to a lesser extent, Lili, Naaza, and Lefiya. The former group was excited to be able to get closer to Vahn without the ‘pressure’ and ‘anxiety’ involved with waiting around and ‘suffering’. As for the latter batch, though Lili was a bit of an exception, they simply looked forward to being able to spend more time with Vahn since he wouldn’t constantly be ‘flirting’ with other girls. It was a little awkward for Naaza to show affection around other people, even though she didn’t particularly have any problems with anyone, so she spent a lot of time with Lili or in her own atelier working on her [Mixing]. As for Lefiya, she was still easily flustered and figured she would be able to ‘relax’ more around Vahn if he wasn’t always actively considering how to best satisfy everyone all the time…

The person that was taking things the ‘hardest’ amongst the residents of the Manor was, surprisingly, Mikoto. She did consider herself to be one of Vahn’s future lovers but she had never had an easy way to actually get closer to him. During the moments when she meditated, she often wondered if he had been observing her training in secret and it made her try her best in the hopes of meeting his ‘expectations’. Though she wouldn’t admit it, her conversations with Haruhime and the other girls had caused her to think ‘inappropriate’ thoughts about him on occasion and she often wondered when he would push things to the next level. When the opportunity to put her name on the schedule appeared, Mikoto nearly caved in and added her own name to the list before backing out at the last moment. Almost immediately afterward, she had made her way back into the forest to work up a sweat in order to release the tensions in her body in a vain attempt to calm her heart and relax her mind.

As for Vahn, the source of the drastic changes that often took place in the Manor, he spent the immediate days thereafter accompanying Tina, Milan, Shizune, and Chloe into the Dungeon. They would always stay for around 3-4 hours before returning to the Manor for lunch and it had become a common sight within the City to see Terra or Fafnir flying around, especially above the territory of the Alliance. The two hard-working girls had been making steady progress and Tina had even been able to reach the 3rd Floor on her own efforts. Her first fight against a Kobold had been a little scary, as they were very fierce and quick, but she managed to take them down even though her clothes got stained with a fair amount of blood. As for Shizune, she made an earnest effort to improve and hadn’t experienced any major difficulties even when fighting new monsters. Her progress wasn’t as fast as Tina’s, as her Endurance parameter was developing somewhat slowly, but it was more than what most people her ‘physical’ age would be able to accomplish.

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[[STATUS]]

Name: Tina Yuel

Race: Cat Person

LV. 1

POW: I65->H128

END: I86->H157

DEX: I74->H135

AGI: I80->H140

MAG: I5->I11

Skill: [Eclipse: Innate(sealed)], [Shield Bash:I](new)

Magic: –

Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance:(sealed)]

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[[STATUS]]

Name: Shizune Yuel

Race: Kitsune

LV. 1

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POW: I40->I79

END: I36->I68

DEX: I73->H126

AGI: I97->H142

MAG: I26->I47

Skill: [Tamomo: Innate(sealed)], [Featherfoot:I]

Magic: [Moon’s Prayer: Innate(sealed)]

Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance(sealed)], [Insomnia(sealed)]

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Both girls were making steady progress and Shizune had actually started to calm down a bit more now that she had a way to ‘vent’ some of her stress against monsters. She likely wouldn’t become a battle maniac like Tiona, Tione, and Ais, but she certainly had a disposition that treated combat as if it were ‘normal’. It may have been a result of her trials throughout life, but Shizune’s ‘expectations’ were a little skewed and she adapted quickly to new situations. Tina struggled a little against new enemies, but she worked incredibly hard and it warmed both Vahn’s and Milan’s hearts to see the tiny cat girl fighting against monsters that were almost the same size as her with a fierce resolution burning in her golden irises.

While Shizune ‘relaxed’ a bit after releasing some of her pent up tension, Tina was actually the opposite and had the disposition of seeking Vahn’s affection whenever she overcame strife. She was a lot like a child that wanted the praise of her parents, so Vahn appeased her as best he could while listening to her talk about the things she wanted to improve upon in the future. They would often take breaks when Tina finished difficult fights and would sit together as a small little family while Tina droned on and on while relaxing in Vahn’s lap as both he and Milan stroked her head and pampered her. She seemed to really enjoy the time spent in the Dungeon and her eagerness to become even stronger had been ignited as a result of the positive reinforcement she received and the existence of powerful girls all around her…

When he wasn’t in the Dungeon with the girls, Vahn was either in his workshop or wandering around to see what the others were up to. He had finally completed the formation layer for the ‘bottoms’ of the prototype armor, which he had gotten Ais to try on, so the only thing that remained was finishing the tertiary layer before field testing it. Because it was meant to be worn at almost all times, Vahn had cut away a large section in the center of the bottoms, effectively making them ‘crotchless’ as Loki so readily pointed out. He then made a third piece of elastic cloth that almost seamlessly covered the area and wrapped around to the sides before connecting together on loop. He had gotten the idea from the side-tie panties that Loki and Aki had worn previously and this would allow the girls to quickly remove the central cloth in the event of an ’emergency’ without having to completely remove the armor. It also had the benefit of being a bit ‘tantalizing’ since Vahn often felt a strange urge to try and pull away at the looped clasp at times…

Since the prototype would likely only be used by Ais until she had ‘tested’ it out thoroughly, Vahn made sure it was designed according to the specifications she was most concerned with. She was still in the phase where she wore a bit more armor than her future self, so Ais wanted the chest and back to have the thickest armor. Vahn ended up making the outside layer out of Cadmus Skin and used a fourth layer to reinforce the areas that Ais wanted to protect while also making it look more aesthetically pleasing. The armor was designed to be comfortable and could even be worn without other clothing for when they were sleeping or relaxing. To make sure it didn’t look like actual underwear, Vahn embellished the design and made it look more like a thin leather armor of very high quality.

When everything was done, Ais had an almost stark white bodysuit that covered her neck, torso, pelvis, thighs, and part of her upper arms. It looked a bit ‘alien’ compared to the armor worn by other Adventurers, but that was because it was intended to be worn underneath other clothing and was only a part of her full ensemble. He had offered to color part of it but, other than a bit of blue that Ais wanted out of personal preference, she liked the white color quite a bit. She said it was very comfortable to wear and almost walked out of the workshop with nothing but the prototype in order to show it off to the others. Vahn managed to stop her, though he expected she would still show it off later on, as he still needed to ‘finish’ the prototype by naming it.

Hearing that the armor wasn’t yet complete, Ais tilted her head to the side and asked, “Does naming the armor make it stronger?” Vahn nodded his head and explained, “Even a normal [Blacksmith] can pull out a few of the attributes of the materials they work with, but [Master Smith]s can make items with powerful skills and abilities simply by having the intent to do so during their work. I also have a bit of a unique ability to infuse strength into objects by naming them, so the armor isn’t finished until I come up with a name for it.” Ais tilted her head adorably to the other side and asked, “Have you picked a name?”

Vahn experienced a light mental pause because of Ais’ adorable actions and her rather frank question. He already understood he was somewhat bad at naming things but he had plenty of time to think about the prototype armor before he actually completed it. Though he intended to make stronger versions in the future, Vahn had decided to name the armor [Aegis Top Mk 1] and [Aegis Bottoms Mk 1]. One of the greatest defensive treasures in the Danmachi record was the Aegis Shield that was a divine artifact that Hera often bestowed to the Captain of her Familia in the past. It had the ability to withstand almost any physical blow and even protected its wielder from mental attacks and magic. Vahn felt that naming the armor worn by the girls as one of the most powerful defensive artifacts in the record would give them greater protection.

After collecting himself, Vahn smiled and gently rubbed Ais’ silky golden hair as he explained, “I’m going to name the line of armor ‘Aegis Mk 1’ since there will be other versions of it in the future. When I make other pieces of equipment for you in the future, I’ll ask for your opinion on the names and we’ll go over a few legends to pick out the most suitable one for you, okay?” Even though she was a Human, albeit with a Spirit bloodline mixed in, Ais didn’t really have any immunity to his [Petting] and actually greatly enjoyed the warm energy from his [Hands of Nirvana] even before he awakened the Development Ability. She closed her eyes and uttered a simple ‘Nn’ in response and didn’t offer any form of rebuttal about Vahn’s somewhat lackluster naming sense.

When it came time to actually name the armor, Vahn ended up getting a fair amount of OP as a reward but the most interesting thing was the final stats of the armor itself. He hadn’t made Ais remove it before naming it because he believed it would make the armor more suitable for her, leading to a bit of a major discovery as a result. Not only did the armor become slightly sleeker than it had been initially, essentially conforming perfectly to the shape of Ais’s body, but there were a few unexpected attributes that had been awakened along with the physical changes the armor had undergone…

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[Aegis Top Mk 1]

Rank: A (Magic)

Slots: 1

P.Def: 410

M.Def: 800

Abilities: Aegis Set Effect(A), Weatherproof(A), Unblemished(C), Stamina Boost(B), Auto-Regen(D)

A prototype armor created by a skilled [Master Smith] that sought new and innovative ways to protect the people he cared about. Uses high-quality materials from multiple records while borrowing the record of ‘Aegis’ to imbue the armor with greater defensive might. Nullifies a portion of the damage received by all physical and magical attacks with a small chance of completely mitigating it. Effects are amplified when paired with other items containing the ‘Aegis Set Effect’.

Soulbound:(Ais Wallenstein)

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[Aegis Bottoms Mk 1]

Rank: A (Magic)

Slots: 2

P.Def: 640

M.Def: 490

Abilities: Aegis Set Effect(A), Weatherproof(A), Insulated(A), Unblemished(C), Shaping(C)

A prototype armor created by a peculiar [Master Smith] that took into consideration the needs of the wearer. His obsession with the complex structure of this garment gives it greater gluteal support than normal undergarments and helps keep the shape of the muscles with the passage of time. Uses high-quality materials from multiple records while borrowing the record of ‘Aegis’ to imbue the armor with greater defensive might. Nullifies a portion of the damage received by all physical and magical attacks with a small chance of completely mitigating it. Effects are amplified when paired with other items containing the ‘Aegis Set Effect’.

Soulbound:(Ais Wallenstein)

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Vahn’s brain buzzed at the description of the [Aegis Bottoms Mk 1], but he did his best to ignore it and just accepted that he probably cared a little more than he realized about the girls’ butts. He hoped that Hephaestus and Tsubaki wouldn’t be able to see through it and simply asked, “How does it feel, did you notice any changes?” Ais nodded her head and had a very curious expression on her face as she touched various parts of the armor before commenting, “It almost feels like I’m not wearing anything…but it is very comfortable and warm at the same time? Very strange…but I like it. Thank you, Vahn…” Vahn smiled and said, “You are very welcome Ais…” but there was another matter on his mind and a bit of excitement in his voice when he asked, “Can you try imagining removing the armor using your mind?”

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Since most Soulbound items could actually be stored within the Soul itself, Vahn was very hopeful that Ais would be able to materialize the armor. However, this didn’t seem to be the case as Ais shook her head and had a confused expression on her face as she said, “I don’t think I can do it…?” Vahn released a slight sigh but he wasn’t too surprised as, other than [Enkidu], there was always a catalyst for other items that had that effect. Though the basic structure was ‘memorized’ by the Soul, almost every item he had seen that could be ‘materialize’ had something like a gemstone, or another storage medium to act as a catalyst. Vahn expected he might be able to use his blood gems, or other magical storage mediums, as a solution for future armor designs.

After making a few notes in his research logs on the ‘Aegis Series’, Vahn turned to Ais and said, “If it isn’t too much trouble, I would like you to wear the armor as much as possible and inform me about its functionality. It’s actually as strong as some metallic armors with its multi-layered structure and it shouldn’t get dirty even if you sweat or get blood on it. However, make sure to wash it properly or bring it to me for maintenance if it starts to become uncomfortable…” Ais was currently off to the side stretching her body and familiarizing herself with the armor and simply gave an ‘Nn’ as confirmation to Vahn’s words. After finishing her small routine, she looked over with a small smile and asked, “Are you…hungry?”

Vahn smiled and cast a glance over at the small bento box that Ais had brought with her when she came into the workshop earlier. Other than studying about how to be a good mother, Ais had also been considering how to be a ‘proper’ housewife and had taken up cooking under the guidance of Milan and Lunoire with Lefiya as her assistant. She was ‘very’ good at cutting vegetables and filleting fish, but Ais didn’t seem to have much patience or focus regarding the actual cooking part. She had made a bit of progress, but her meals were still at a very basic level so far and often including simple rice balls, sashimi, and salads. Even this was very satisfying for Vahn, however, because he loved to eat the cooking that the girls had put in painstaking efforts to make solely for his enjoyment.

As had often been the case recently, considering Ais was in her experimental cooking phase, Vahn joined her on the sofa and accepted the food she offered to him. Though he pandered to her a bit by embellishing his reactions, Ais was very happy to see how much Vahn enjoyed the food she had prepared. She had tasted it herself and knew it wasn’t very good compared to the things he made, but it still made her heart feel warm and fluttery seeing his pleased reaction to every bite. Times like this were very pleasant and Ais was beginning to think it would be better if things continued like this in the future. Ever since she had learned that the One-Eyed Black Dragon in the Dungeon wasn’t the real thing, her resolve to slay it had been slowly fading and she just wanted to keep the happiness she had found for herself at Vahn’s side. They would eventually confront the monster in the future, alongside other enemies, but that was only a small part of the life they could build together…and she wanted to try harder to make sure the happy times continued for as long as possible.

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