For around six hours, Shizune progressed further into the 5th Floor under the direct tutelage of Chloe while Vahn watched over them from the back. Until Shizune was able to fight the enemies on her own, Chloe had been helping her out a bit while demonstrating different ways to dispatch opponents. One of the ‘problems’ that Shizune had was that she focused too much on the preparation before combat, which wasn’t a ‘bad’ thing in normal situations. If she were just fighting a few enemies on a ‘mission’, the items she had in her pouch would be more than enough to get her through. This didn’t translate well into the Dungeon, however, and she was limited in the number of tools she could bring with her, assuming Vahn wasn’t replenishing her supplies.
Chloe was trying to teach Shizune that her tools should be used when her abilities aren’t enough to easily deal with the situation. If she was too reliant on them from the beginning, her own strength would never develop to the point it needed to be at in order to fight stronger enemies. Like Vahn, Chloe had also noticed the subtle change in Shizune’s mentality so she wanted her to build her confidence and only use her tools situationally instead of proactively. Right now, Vahn always escorted both her and Tina into the Dungeon, but this couldn’t continue indefinitely as he needed to help the others and would be delving deep into the Dungeon in the future. This meant Shizune wouldn’t have a way to restock and, unless she never planned to go further into the Dungeon, her own strength would have to be increased or she would fall further behind Tina.
Vahn actually intended to have Tina and Shizune team up so they could grow alongside each other, but he had been putting it off because there wasn’t anyone else around their Level to make an actual team. Preasia might be a suitable member, but Vahn had doubts about her ability to actually venture into the Dungeon and knew she didn’t have the right mentality to fight monsters. He had even considered ‘scouting’ Rye, Fina, and potentially even Roux, as they were similar in ‘age’ to both Tina and Shizune. Tina was nearly twelve years old right now, with Shizune having the physical body of a girl around ten. Rye and Fina were both nine years old right now, but Roux was only around eight, meaning she was the biggest concern. However, if she became a pure Mage, she wouldn’t really have to fight in the frontlines and could use the equipment he made for her to protect herself.
The problem with this plan was that Vahn wouldn’t really allow them to enter the Dungeon so soon and would require them to attend the School for a while before they began venturing into the Upper Floors. This meant Shizune and Tina didn’t really have anyone near their age to help them venture deeper into the Dungeon, not that this was a bad thing as Vahn wanted them to take it slow to begin with. He was just thinking of ‘solutions’ to help the girls get stronger because they were already working very hard and he felt a little guilty slowing their potential progress. Without ‘flame seeds’, their growth was already ‘normal’ but was still much faster than the average Rookie Adventurer. At their current pace, both girls would reach Level 2 in a few months, which was still much faster than the majority of Adventurers starting out…
Seeing Shizune accurately shoot a Purple Moth out of the air with a crossbow bolt, Vahn raised his brow because it was an impressive feat for someone that didn’t practice archery. Judging by how happy she was, Vahn realized it was a bit of a ‘fluke’ but still praised her by saying, “Nice shot~!” in an encouraging voice. Shizune’s ears twitched and she looked over with a smile on her face before Chloe snuck up right behind her like a predator and snatched her up, tickling Shizune’s body while saying, “Nyahahaha, you dropped your guard again~nya!” Shizune had flinched when she was first grabbed but Chloe had deftly knocked the dagger out of her hands before she could spin back. One of the things they had been training was her muscle memory to respond to attacks from behind, so Chloe had already been prepared to avoid an accident before she snuck up on her.
Vahn smiled as he watched Shizune flail around in Chloe’s hands, laughing like a bell that was being fiercely shaken about. Shirohime wriggled around in his tunic before peeking her head out through his collar and observing the scene with her pale golden eyes. Vahn scratched the bottom of her throat, causing the little white fox to tilt her head back with squinted eyes, clearly pleased by the contact. Since she had come out on her own, Vahn asked, “How is Haruhime?” without minding the curious gazes of Chloe and Shizune. Everyone knew of the existence of Shirohime at this point and were used to Vahn ‘talking to himself’.
Shirohime rubbed the back of her head against his chest and enjoying his petting as she muttered, “Haru is fine…she is currently on the 22nd Floor with the golden one and the orange one~.” Ever since they had first been introduced to each other, Haruhime and Ais had gotten along very well with each other since the latter was very interesting in Haruhime’s unique style and rapid growth. As for the ‘orange one’, Shiro was obviously referring to Lefiya, who usually acted as a backline and ‘Supporter’ for Ais. She usually carried the drops items for the other girls since her combat style didn’t currently emphasize speed, something Vahn wanted to change when he taught her ‘real’ magic in the future.
Thinking of Haruhime and Lefiya, Vahn placed his palm against the scruff of Shirohime’s chest, making the little fox tremble a bit as he injected his source energy into her body. Since their bodies were linked together even more so than Maemi and Emiru, anything Shirohime felt was immediately sent to Haruhime. This worked for energy transference as well, so Vahn could judge Haruhime’s state based on how Shirohime was behaving. Since the little white fox was acting a little tired, Vahn helped replenish their energy with his [Yggdrasil’s Blessing] and [Hands of Nirvana]. Haruhime had grown accustomed to the ‘sudden’ contact and Vahn knew that she would probably be happy to get the sudden influx of source energy. As for Lefiya, Vahn just sent her some encouraging thoughts since he was confident the huge boost to her Loyalty made her more receptive to his intent.
Shirohime began licking his wrist in a gentle and affectionate manner, causing Vahn to stroke between her ears and say, “Behave, Shiro…” If she got too riled up, that would mean Haruhime also got riled up and Vahn didn’t want any accidents to happen. Though Haruhime’s strength was derived from her emotions, specifically directed toward Vahn himself, a little bit of ‘contact’ was very motivating for her. If it got too intense, however, Haruhime might push herself to her limits out of excitement. This had actually happened in the past, causing Shirohime to freak out a great deal until Vahn calmed her down by ‘flooding’ her with his source energy.
When he had seen the small red stain on her fur, Vahn had also been rather worried, finding out later that Haruhime had been clipped by the natural weapon of a merman. The cut hadn’t been deep, but Haruhime’s ‘illusory aura’ typically made her impossible to hit, meaning she had erred as a result of her excitement. Vahn had apologized for his actions, though Haruhime didn’t seem to blame him for it and simply said she would become even stronger in response…
Vahn let go of Shirohime after a few seconds, causing her to yawn before diving back down into his tunic once again. He knew she was ‘enjoying his smell’, but such a small motivation was all it took to make Haruhime a monstrous force in normal circumstances. With the little fox dealt with, Vahn smiled to Chloe and Shizune, saying, “Let’s go home…” while extending his hands to the two girls. They had already eaten a light lunch, but it would be better to get something up on the surface since Vahn knew Shizune probably had to go to the bathroom based on how she fidgetted around. She was bad at relieving herself in the Dungeon, even though Chloe seemed to manage it with ease and had tried to get her to ‘relax’ more.
On the way towards the surface, Vahn had carried Shizune as her ‘reward’, secretly pressing into one of her pressure points and inserting a threat of energy to make sure she didn’t accidentally pee on him. In total, they had spent a little more than six hours in the Dungeon, one of the longer stints for Shizune given her lacking stamina and combat style. Tina had been lasting for around six hours on ‘average’, even lasting as long as ten before Vahn urged her back to the surface. Each time they would return, Vahn carried them back because he knew their legs were probably sore from running around for so long. Tina usually fell asleep very quickly, since he usually gave her a princess carry, while Shizune seemed to like high places and usually asked to ride his shoulders. Since he was in his Báihǔ form often, Vahn had once smelled a powerful aroma of urine once and had been somewhat cautious about the matter ever since…
Once they reached the surface, Vahn sent for Fafnir since Terra was actually somewhat bad with both Chloe and Shizune. Their affinities clashed a bit and it always made Terra feel very uncomfortable when she was giving them a ride, something Vahn was very aware of. As for Fafnir, it was attuned to the darkness and didn’t really seem to mind the aura of anyone, since the only clashing elements for darkness were light and purification. If it was exposed to either element, Fafnir could actually tolerate it quite easily and it just restricted its abilities a little. The only ‘bane’ of Fafnir was barrier magic, though only if it covered the ‘scar’ on its chest. Fortunately, most magic wouldn’t get beyond its nullification sphere and the only true danger was if its allies tried to put a barrier over its torso for some reason. Vahn had long ago discovered that Fafnir had absolutely no immunity to close-range magic spells, meaning if you could get within the sphere around its body it was very vulnerable.
As it was common for Fafnir to appear in the area, the Guild had actually designated an area in Babel Plaza and asked Vahn to make use of it to avoid problems arising. Vahn respected the relatively simple request but made sure to check the area to make sure there weren’t any traps that had been lain. He wasn’t too fond of the idea of creating a habit for people to exploit but his own confidence had been steadily increasing as of late since his domain was currently at 598m. Unless they had a way to completely conceal their presence, Vahn was confident in being able to detect any enemy within his domain. Most Mages couldn’t cast magic beyond 500m and, even if they could, Fafnir’s anti-magic aura would completely invalidate the attempt.
Fafnir popped up out of the ground, causing curious passersby to look over and open up a bit of distance when they realized what they had seen. Most Adventurers that frequented the area were already adapted to Fafnir’s existence, but it was still very ‘spooky’ to see a dragon appear out of the shadows for ‘normal’ people. Taking this into consideration, the Guild had actually posted signs around the area ‘cautioning’ people that it was a landing zone of the Alliance and there would be dragons in the area.
Vahn walked forward and rubbed Fafnir’s snout as the girls climbed onto its back using the ‘steps’ it had made for Shizune. Fafnir had ‘slimmed’ down its body a great deal after interacting with Terra and looked decidedly less ‘evil’ now, assuming you didn’t stare at its ‘vicious’ and ‘icy’ gaze. Vahn, however, found Fafnir very cute and muttered in a comforting voice, “Fafnir is a good dragon~” while ‘scratching’ the base of its neck with his [Petting] skill working in overdrive. Fafnir cocked its head to the side and ‘mewled’, (“Gnuuu, feels pleasant~!”) as a throaty rumble resonated from its throat and caused people to open a greater distance from their position.
After constant use, Vahn’s [Petting] had reached B-Rank at this point and he was now aware of a ‘peculiar’ energy that flowed from his hands that had nothing to do with his source energy at all. It was a little strange to consider, but Vahn referred to it as ‘petting laws’ since it was something that seemed to transcend everything else he knew about mana and energy. When they felt this ‘petting energy’ enter their bodies, even Fafnir would find the sensation very pleasant and Vahn often used it to make the Beast Girls released their characteristic sounds of ‘contentedness’. It was his desire to make Arnya purr more than had pushed the skill to the next level and ‘awakened’ Vahn’s awareness of the strange energy. Ever since then, his hands had truly become ‘godly’ since he was even able to make Fafnir ‘purr’, even though it didn’t actually have nerves attached to the surface of its scales.
Once he had topped off Fafnir’s energy, Vahn released a heavy sigh before ingesting a mana potion and jumping atop Fafnir’s back. Even though his own reserves had greatly increased, Vahn still had less source energy than the amount that constituted both Fafnir’s and Terra’s bodies. Fortunately, he had never been forced to return them into their core state recently and hadn’t had to reform them from scratch, saving him a rather strenuous effort and what would typically amount to several tens-of-thousands of OP…
Less than thirty seconds later, the trio arrived overtop the Hearth Manor and Fafnir ‘slammed’ into the ground without stopping the majority of its momentum. Though this would have made a crater in the ground in the past, Fafnir had gotten the idea from Terra to use its ability to dive into the shadows to cushion its landing. This had saved the various craftsmen that performed maintenance on the Manor a lot of efforts because Fafnir generally did a bit of damage even when it walked around normally. Now, however, Fafnir’s feet were often enshrouded in shadows and it created a large ‘pool’ of shadows when it took a nap. This consumed more of its energy, but it hadn’t damaged the Manor ever since then, at least not directly.
As usual, Hestia greeted them at the foyer before Shizune dashed off to the bathroom to relieve herself. When he helped her get off Fafnir’s back, Vahn inserted a small thread of energy into the pressure point he had numbed earlier, allowing it to slowly return to its normal function. This made Shizune need to pee very badly and he didn’t do anything to stop her while Hestia and Chloe laughed at her actions. Shizune almost always did the same thing every time they returned to the Manor, so neither girl was surprised as they all made their way towards the onsen. It had become a habit for everyone in the Manor to bathe whenever they returned home while Hestia typically used it as an opportunity to spend time with him before returning to her own room.
Vahn helped wash Hestia’s body while Chloe very affectionally washed down his body, which had returned to a normal state at this point. He knew most of the girls actually liked when he was more ‘handsome’ than muscular, so Vahn had toned down his physique a great deal, making him look far more youthful than he had in the previous months. The desire to be more mature and powerful had slowly shaped his body to become somewhat tyrannical and he looked closer to twenty than his actual age of fifteen. Now, however, Vahn looked like a handsome youth with healthy brown skin and a very lithe and nimble figure, something Chloe was especially fond of. She liked to playfully stroke his butt on occasion, but Vahn didn’t mind it that much since she typically ‘restrained’ herself very well.
Shizune eventually showed up in the onsen a few minutes later and trotted over, causing Hestia to lazily say, “Don’t run, Shizune…” since Vahn had been [Petting] her while washing down her body. Following Hestia’s words, Shizune began walking over before dipping her small and delicate feet into the water. Without any inhibitions at all, she made her way over towards them while Vahn minded his eyes and made sure not to ‘gawk’ at her youthful body. One of the habits he had developed when bathing with the youth troupe was to simply let his eyes wander on the other girls’ bodies or simply close his eyes. Shizune still had a bad habit of trying to draw his gaze, so Vahn had learned to interact with her using his spatial awareness instead of his sight. Yes, he could still perfectly outline her body using this method, but at least he wasn’t ‘staring’ at her…
Knowing better than to try anything, Shizune lowered her body into the water and turned her back, saying, “Excuse me…” in a low voice. Vahn looked over at her small back and pricked the tip of his index finger before drawing a line down her back. Hestia looked over out of interest when her own crest appeared and tried to glean more information than she could see with her eyes. One of the reasons she often ‘intercepted’ Vahn when he returned was out of curiosity since most of the girls didn’t actually come to her to get their Status Boards updated. She didn’t really mind, as it required her to do less work, but still wanted to see how the ‘children’ of her Familia were progressing.
Name: Shizune Yuel
Skill: [Tamomo: Innate(sealed)], [Featherfoot:H], [Stealth:I]
Magic: [Moon’s Prayer: Innate(sealed)]
Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance(sealed)], [Insomnia(sealed)]