Lefiya’s sudden actions had not only surprised Vahn, but she earned a few strange looks from the nearby Emiru and Maemi as well. As for Ais, she tilted her head slightly in curiosity before displaying a slight smile and continuing to wash her body. Since Lefiya often ‘hovered’ around her, Ais had already noticed the abnormalities in her Elven companion but she didn’t mind the change at all, seeing it as something that was bound to happen eventually. She and Lefiya had often talked about Vahn when they were reading together and Ais knew how fond of Vahn Lefiya had become recently.
For a few seconds, Vahn became distracted by the unexpected sensation against his back before turning his head in a mechanical fashion. Lefiya had been ‘fine’ when she was comforting him but, the moment Vahn looked back at her, the young Elf’s face became beet red in an instant as she finally seemed to realize what she was doing. However, instead of trying pull away in a bashful manner, Lefiya just lowered her head slightly and muttered, “I want you to be happy…Van…” as her ears drooped before ‘waggling’ up and down. Seeing this, Vahn smiled and said in a low voice of his own, “Thank you, Lefiya.” before turning away so she could calm down.
Though she likely hadn’t intended it, Lefiya released a hot sigh of relief against Vahn’s back when he turned away, still pressing her own body against his for several seconds after the fact. Vahn just closed his eyes and focused his mind on other things, including the Dungeon and his future arrangement with Riveria. Today he would be watching over Shizune and they were going to be taking her down to the 5th Floor for the first time since she had become very adept at killing Goblins and Kobolds. This would take up the majority of his morning, potentially stretching a bit into the afternoon, and then he would be meeting up with Riveria to tattoo the formation onto her stomach. Today would be a busy day full of interesting developments, so Vahn wasn’t going to let Lefiya’s unexpectedly affectionate display knock him off kilter.
Sensing that Vahn had calmed down greatly, Lefiya released his body and was happy that she had been able to help comfort him. However, the gaze of the twins was very heavy so she eventually ‘retreated’ toward Ais for the remainder of the bath. Even so, she would periodically cast her gaze to Vahn just to check up on him and there were also moments when Lefiya would close her eyes as if she was trying to sense something. Ais watched her actions with interest and was curious about what she was trying to do, saying in a quiet whisper, “Lefiya had become bolder…” Hearing this, Lefiya became very red and looked to Ais with a pitiful expression, explaining, “I’m just worried about Vahn…please don’t misunderstand, Ais, I…” Though she intended to say something to refute Ais’ words, Lefiya remembered her earlier actions and couldn’t find the words to excuse herself…
After the bath had come to an end, Vahn headed to the backyard while the girls returned to their own rooms to prepare their clothing and equipment. HIs ability to equip clothing always saved him a great deal of time, earning him ‘envious’ looks for the girls on occasion. This only encouraged Vahn to try harder in his own research since he figured it would be far more convenient for everyone when he managed to crack the method of ‘storing’ items in gemstones. He could clearly remember the basic structure of Hephaestus’ dress from the Divination, including the fact that she had used ’emeralds’ to store the rather beautiful palatial outfit. Since her necklace had more than one emerald, Vahn even suspected it was possible to store multiple items in a single piece of equipment, though the method for doing so eluded him for the time being.
Though he had arrived a bit earlier than normal, someone else had beaten him outside and Vahn could see Mikoto doing her morning stretches. She sent him a glance when he arrived, nodding in a polite manner before returning to her own training. Vahn showed a wry smile and just transformed into his Báihǔ form and began stretching his own limbs. During the morning training block, Vahn had been doing his best to familiarise himself with his [Rakshasa Body], often spending the first half of the day in one of the forms he had awakened permanently. He finally realized what the runic marking on his Báihǔ form allowed him to do, surprised to find that it allowed him to manipulate wind elemental energy.
Vahn hadn’t realized it in the past, as he had become somewhat more reliant on his Xuánwǔ form after awakening it, but his Báihǔ form had actually become much stronger than in the past. Not only were his senses more enhanced than they had been, but he could ‘sense’ the flow of the wind almost instinctively while also being able to compress it into various different shapes. Just like when he manipulated water, Vahn had to ‘will’ the movement of the energy through movements but he had thus far been able to make small tornadoes and vortexes of air. He had also tried to create a wind blade, as he thought it was a cool idea and had seen similar attacks in a variety of Manga, but he simply couldn’t make ‘air’ condensed enough to cut through objects.
Things within the record of Danmachi could be very hard and his wind seemed better suited to destabilizing and moving things than it was at cutting things. However, this didn’t mean it wasn’t very powerful in a combat scenario as Vahn had been able to ‘fuse’ his [Heart of the Eternal Flame] with his wind elemental control, creating vortexes of flames and superheating his flames much faster than normal with the introduction of a higher concentration of wind energy. It was to the point that, if he pushed it to the extremes, Vahn could become a Báihǔ that was completely shrouded in flames and his attacks could send out waves of fire with every attack. Since he had been fond of Fairy Tail in the past, Vahn felt like he could fight a lot like Natsu and it was a very ‘fun’ and ‘freeing’ way of fighting, even though it was somewhat ‘unfriendly’ to any allies that might be around him.
The other girls began arriving for their morning training, causing Tiona and Tione to make their way over to him since they had typically been his sparring partners in the past. After their ‘battle’, both girls knew better than to underestimate Vahn and he often fought the two of them together since Tione couldn’t keep up with him easily anymore. As for Tiona, her instincts were very surprising and Vahn had trouble even coming to a draw against her if she was fighting seriously. He had been able to glean a bit of understanding about her inactive Innates through their fights and it was very terrifying to realize what she may one day be capable of.
He wasn’t sure if it was her [Titan Virga] or her [Magic Devouring King], but Tiona seemed to get ‘stronger’ the longer a fight went on. Not only did her parameters increase, but she seemed to be able to absorb the elemental energy from both his attacks and the environment itself, giving her greater stamina and enhancing her perception greatly. Vahn speculated it was both abilities working in conjunction since he was almost certain her ability to absorb elemental energy was related to her [Magic Devouring King]. It was very strange that, even though her body seemed to have no ‘flow’ at all, Tiona could still use magic weapons and absorb elemental energy to enhance her attacks. There was something going on with her body that he couldn’t understand at all, making Vahn feel both excited and worried at the same time since her combat capabilities were already somewhat scary.
Fortunately, they didn’t go all out during their morning spars so Vahn just got to ‘play’ around a bit as he worked up a sweat with the two lively Amazon sisters. They fought without the use of weapons and just practiced their close-quarters combat since Vahn had become somewhat over-reliant on [Shundo] in the past and wanted to make sure his combat instincts hadn’t waned. It was interesting to see how the girls grew to match his fighting style and it was like they were all ‘polishing’ each other, with Tiona typically becoming the most vibrant since Vahn couldn’t beat her at all without using ‘underhanded’ methods…
Once the morning training had come to an end, everyone began to break off into their various groups after eating a hearty breakfast. Vahn paired up with Chloe and Shizune but also had little Shirohime with him since she didn’t invalidate the Mentor’s Mark and could inform him if Haruhime was in danger. Since he could also send energy through Shirohime to Haruhime, there were almost no negative benefits at all after Shirohime had ‘mellowed’ out a bit. She was arguably even more clingy now but typically remained silent much like how Fenrir had behaved in the past. Most of the time, Shirohime just coiled up around his neck and ‘slept’ with her eyes closed, but she was also very fond of ‘sleeping’ inside of his tunic as well. Though it was more of an illusion, Vahn could sometimes feel her wet nose against his body and felt her tiny breaths tickling against the moistened area.
After receiving Shirohime from Haruhime, Vahn placed her on his head and endured her wriggling as he updated Shizune’s Status Board. With the change in the atmosphere of the Manor, Shizune had calmed down a fair amount as well, knowing better than to try tempting and teasing him as she had done in the past. Though her aura often showed very ‘dangerous’ colors, Shizune seemed to be practicing patience since Vahn already ‘spoiled’ her a bit whenever she worked hard. Thus, she very obediently lowered her kimono to reveal her small back and just hummed a tune as Vahn traced a line of blood down her fair a youthful skin.
Name: Shizune Yuel
Skill: [Tamomo: Innate(sealed)], [Featherfoot:I->H], [Stealth:I](new)
Magic: [Moon’s Prayer: Innate(sealed)]
Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance(sealed)], [Insomnia(sealed)]
Shizune had been making steady progress in her ‘assassination’ techniques and could generally take out small groups of monsters before they even knew what had happened. Instead of just using her dagger, Shizune fought with a variety of different weapons, including throwing knives, senbon, and consumables like smoke balls, flash bombs, and paralysis powder. She also had poisons that had been mixed by Chloe, typically using it to coat her curved dagger to give her an edge against difficult foes. It had a strong paralytic effect on weaker monsters and could numb the reaction time of stronger monsters, not the Shizune had actually fought any just yet. As for the biggest change in her general combat system, Shizune now wore a cloak that had large holes for her ears to poke through. This allowed her to finally awaken her [Stealth] because Vahn had purchased one that enhanced stealth capabilities from his shop and gifted it to her.
(A/N: Btw, Senbon are a type of needle used by ninjas.)
Abilities: Shadowstep(C), Stealth Enhancement(C), Sound Dampening(C)
A cloak once used by a feared assassin in a foreign record. Allows the wearer to blend into the shadows as if they were one and the same. Provides a moderate enhancement to speed when moving under the cover of darkness.
Once she had her status updated, Shizune fixed her pitch black kimono before tightening the muted purple obi around her waist. When she was ‘decent’, Shizune turned around and looked at her own parameters with a light frown because she had been falling progressively further behind Tina as of late. Vahn smiled before reaching out his hand and gently stroking her head, saying, “You’re doing very well, Shizune. Remember, your path may align with Tina’s, but it isn’t the same…keep doing your best to refine the combat style you’re comfortable with and you’ll one day become much stronger.” Chloe also nodded her head from the side and said, “That’s right, Shizune~! You have to remember that those who walk amongst the darkness are typically weaker than those that are drawn to the light. We get the advantage using subterfuge and sneak attacks, so keep refining your skills further unless you want to deviate. I’m sure Vahn would help you, even if you did stray a bit, nyahaha~.”
This wasn’t the first time Chloe had ‘reminded’ Shizune that she always had the opportunity to walk a more ‘straightforward’ path in life. However, she knew that there were people that couldn’t easily be exposed by the light and wanted to become an assassin, just like Chloe. After returning the paper to Vahn, Shizune’s amethyst-like eyes had a glimmer to them as she said, “This is the path I’ve chosen for myself…please watch over me, Vahn, Chloe…” Vahn had been stroking her head the entire time but had turned to Chloe since she seemed to want some head pats as well. Hearing Shizune’s words, Vahn smiled slightly before nodding his head, saying, “I will watch over you for as long as you’re willing to let me do so…”
After talking for a short while thereafter, Vahn ended up letting Shizune ride his shoulders as they made their way toward the Dungeon. Since she was typically well-behaved, Vahn had started treating her like a child again and she had simply learned to accept it. Even though she had the mind of a mature woman, it was hard to experience the ‘joys’ of being a child and she wouldn’t be able to do things like this when she got bigger. As for Shirohime, she had ‘retreated’ into Vahn’s tunic and it made him look a bit lumpy, drawing some curious gazes from random passersby. He didn’t mind them at all and just passively scanned the surroundings with Chloe for any signs of danger…
Once they reached the Dungeon, the trio took the stairs down to the 5th Floor because they had passed through it previously to save time in the future. Shizune was made to take the lead after being cautioned about the various dangers that would be present. Since she was walking the path of a stealth assassin, Shizune couldn’t easily fight against large groups of enemies just yet and had to be ‘smart’ in how she fought. Since Killer Ants began to appear on this Floor, she would have to be even more cautious and Vahn was interested to see how she would progress. Fortunately, her weapons would be able to easily penetrate the hard carapace of the monsters so she shouldn’t have too many issues.
Shizune had been preparing for this trip for the last three days and had already steeled herself for the dangers she could face. Killer Ants were known as the ‘Rookie Killers’, even overwhelming entire parties of weaker Adventurers. Since she was more of a ‘support’ specialist instead of a vanguard fighter, she was at a very big disadvantage if she got their pheromones on her weapons or armor. To counter this, she had coated her blade with oil that could counteract the scent to an extent and had one of the ‘masking towels’ that Vahn had provided upon her request. If possible, Shizune wanted to avoid fighting the Killer Ants directly so she was also carrying a high-quality crossbow with her that she had obtained from Tsubaki.
All of Shizune’s preparations were made by herself, even though she was very reliant on the ‘wealth’ of the people surrounding her, so it was very clear to Vahn that Shizune was much like the former Lili and was prone to planning for everything. Though their expenses had been very great, especially during the ‘migration’ phase of the Alliance’s establishment, their actual wealth had been steadily increasing. Vahn’s personal assets accounted for 2,317,804,020 Valis and had very rarely ever gone down. If anyone were to tell him he would be a billionaire after being in the City for less than a year, Vahn would have looked at them like they were mad. Now, however, Vahn felt like Valis was almost useless and typically just used his to give some of the girls an ‘allowance’.
Since 20,000 Valis was the basic earning for a normal adventurer party, Vahn allowed Shizune and Tina to have an allowance of 200,000 Valis per week so they could buy their own things. As for the other girls, most of them had their own earnings and Vahn just bought them gifts on occasion. After all, even the ‘low earners’ like Maemi and Emiru were easily able to earn around 70,000 Valis a day just by exchanging their magic cores to him to feed his OP reserves. None of the girls had any money problems at all, while the Alliance itself was easily the wealthiest organization in the entire City, even exceeding the Guild by a fair amount.
Fortunately, this didn’t cause any major issues since the Alliance didn’t compete with the Guild and the majority of the Alliance still exchanges materials, magic cores, and other resources with the Guild to maintain a proper ‘balance’. Even Vahn accepted commissions from Eina and turned over a large number of materials for exchange. Though they kept the majority of the monster cores they earned, this was only for those within the Hearth Manor and not the entire Alliance, meaning they were easily able to cover up the ‘filtering’ of magic cores into Vahn as simple ‘upkeep’ costs. The Alliance currently had more than 160,000 personnel, though the vast majority were farmhands and City guards, so the resources of 20-30 people weren’t missed at all…