Chapter 637: Subtle

Fenrir had only taken around forty seconds to kill several hundred monsters before ‘blinking’ to Vahn’s side, landing in his lap with a happy smile on her face. Vahn immediately began playing with her ears as he said, “Great job, Fenrir…I really am so proud of you…” before giving her a kiss on the forehead. Fenrir, understanding what was about to happen, then hopped out of Vahn’s lap and gave a cheeky smile to Asfi before fixing her attention to her Master. Asfi stared blankly for a few seconds before doing much the same, which seemed to be the trend since the vast majority of the Expedition was looking towards them right now.

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It was ‘very’ quiet amongst the members of the convoy and it only seemed to be getting quieter as the surrounding temperature continued to drop as a result of Fenrir’s attacks. Vahn stood up with a smile on his face and changed the density of his aura to allow sound to transmit further as he said, “Sorry for any inconveniences my companion has caused, Finn…allow me to clean up.” Though Fenrir wasn’t in the wrong, especially since she was following his orders, Vahn needed to play his own part so he apologized to the Commander and waited for Finn to nod before taking action himself. At this point, all the enemies were dead and there were several large areas that had been completely frozen over as a result of Fenrir’s display.

In front of everyone’s eyes, Vahn did something he had wanted to do for a very very long time and slowly began to float, stunning the crowd below as he levitated into the air. One of the unnamed magic he had put the most effort into was learning how to levitate using psychokinesis because Vahn truly wanted to be able to fly through the sky on his own. By changing the flow of air around his body, he would even be able to move at very high speeds and, once he learned [Koku Shundo], Vahn would be able to dominate the skies if he wanted to. Unfortunately, the ceiling was only around 40m high in this section of the Dungeon and it was almost entirely comprised of wood, meaning it was very dangerous to show off his Zhūquè form, at least for now. Instead, he did something that truly awed everyone and had even stunned Eva the first time he pulled it off…

Since ritual spells and wards were the most powerful, meaning those that were formed as permanant constructs instead of simple magic circles, Vahn came up with the idea of creating a semi-permanant ward using his own elemental manipulation. With his ability to form nearly perfect images within his mind, Vahn pulled the reference for one of the wards he had created, causing a flaming magic circle to appear behind him, condensed of pure flame elemental energy. To everyone else, he looked like a stoic young man with a calm expression who floated about 20m above the convoy with an 8m magic circle hovering behind his body…

Vahn smiled as nine small magic circles bordered the perimeter of his ward and began revolving around it at a slow speed, each one forming the ward for [Sagitta Magica], an elementary level spell that allowed people to create homing bolts of elemental energy. Since Vahn was using his own eternal flame as his foundation, the nine circles produced bolts of fire that began raining down on the frozen areas of the Dungeon without actually contacting anything. Instead, the beams swirled around and began melting all of the ice before doubling back towards Vahn, feeding into the magic circle behind his body, making the next volley even more powerful. The best part of all of this was, other than the source energy used to ‘guide’ the magic and maintain his ‘flight’, the entire spell cost him next to nothing since it was almost entirely comprised of external elemental energy.

Everyone watched Vahn’s ‘performance’, completely in awe without being able to mutter a single word. The only exceptions to this were those that prided themselves on their magic and the few girls that lived within the Hearth Manor. Those in the Mage squad had almost reverential looks on their faces because Vahn’s magic was something they each aspired towards. As for the girls from the Hearth Manor, they were looking forward to being able to learn such magic for themselves, with the two most exuberant girls being Tiona and Lefiya. While everyone else was staring, almost slack-jawed in their appearance, Tiona was literally vaulting around and cheering, shouting, “That’s so cool, Vahn! Teach me how to fly later~! Ahahahahahaha!”

Seemingly requiring no effort to sustain his display, Vahn turned his attention away from his own magic and smiled to Tiona as he said, “If I’m not wrong, you should be able to fly if you use that wand I gave you. There was an aura around your body that was similar to Terra’s when she uses flight magic…” Hearing Vahn’s words, Tiona’s eyes began burning with an excited light, though Vahn suspected it might just be the reflection of his magic circle. She pulled out the wand and surprised everyone when the magical light shone so suddenly in their midst. Once again, the bubble that distorted time emerged from Tiona’s body and she began the process of transforming for Vahn’s eyes only.

When the magic light faded, Tiona once again struck a pose while standing atop the cart and shouted, “Magical girl, Tiona-chan has appeared~!” He wasn’t sure why her address had changed from ‘Mirakurun’, but Vahn didn’t really care since he preferred Tiona’s real name. There was also the fact that she looked very cute in her current form, as mint-green hair strangely complimented brown skin when the rest of her outfit was very vibrant. He didn’t get too much time to admire her, however, when Tiona ‘vaulted’ towards him happily and tackled him in the sky at a velocity easily exceeding the speed of sound if the shockwave was any indicator.

Presently, there were two tiny angel-like wings around Tiona’s lower back, not comprised of feathers but more of a ‘bubbly’ magical energy. They even looked almost cartoonish in design, though it didn’t seem to interfere with their ability to allow Tiona flight. She was laughing happily before ‘stealing’ Vahn’s lips without any care about the shocked crowd below. Suddenly, Tione jumped up on a cart of her own and shouted, “Hey, that isn’t fair at all!” with a huge angry tick mark near her temples where the vein was bulging angrily. When Tiona finally released him, Vahn just chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you learn to fly once we reach the 39th Floor, Tione.” Most people present felt something in their stomach sink when they heard how casually Vahn mentioned teaching such an incredible magic like ‘flight’…

Tione pumped her fist triumphantly and said, “Yosh, don’t forget! And Tiona, get down here you gorilla girl! You’re ruining Vahn’s moment to show off!” Vahn nearly fell out of the sky when he heard Tione’s words but had fortunately been supported by Tiona since she was still clinging to him. He gave her a wry smile as she laughed in a cheeky manner and let him regain his footing before flying off. She didn’t, however, return to the ground and instead began flying around in circles above the convoy, clearly pleased by the ability to fly. As for Vahn, he was just shocked by how quickly Tiona adapted to it since she almost seemed like a ‘natural’ at manipulating mana, even though she had gone her entire life without it. Yes, she was able to naturally make use of Magic items in a similar manner, but Vahn hadn’t expected it to apply to complex magic like flight. Even he could barely levitate, and that was after practicing it for several hours within the orb…

Tiona’s laughter caused the somewhat tense atmosphere to quickly mellow out as Finn shook his head in an exasperated manner before giving the order to move out once again. He had also realized Vahn was trying to show off and didn’t mind letting him do so since they were still in the relatively safe 19th Floor. Seeing the young boy get embarrassed by Tiona made him want to laugh but he managed to hold it in until one of the girls next to him, a young Pallum by the name of Milli asked, “Finn-sama…is that really the Sage Aldrnari? I didn’t expect him to be so…youthful?” One of the reasons Finn had ‘recruited’ Milli was because she was very mature for her age and was very receptive to his teachings. Seeing the ‘incredulous’ look on her face, Finn couldn’t help but laugh as he ‘mimicked’ Vahn’s action of petting a girls head and said, “He is rather young, after all~.”

After clearing out all the ice, Vahn descended next to Asfi and began pampering Fenrir a bit while the intelligent young woman just eyed him like he was an incomprehensible existence. Like most of the stronger people present, Asfi understood Vahn was showing off but she could tell there was far more to the display than what was gleaned from the surface. Though it could be her pride talking, Asfi felt like Vahn was trying to ‘tease’ her because of his words before taking action, even having Fenrir set the stage for him. It was almost like he was saying, ‘We are all strong, and will continue to get stronger. Choose carefully which side you want to stand on…”

Asfi knew Vahn was very protective of all the girls within the Hearth Manor and it felt like he was warning her to properly consider her actions. He didn’t seem to mind the fact she was ‘spying’ on them, but Asfi could tell he would probably take immediate action if she actually endangered the people he cared about. Though the Hermes Familia wasn’t at odds with the Hestia Familia, and likely never would be, it wasn’t unheard of for their Familia to take advantage of their connections, sometimes causing conflict since they pandered to ‘both’ sides. They followed a principle of neutrality so she had been very surprised when Hermes originally agreed to join the Alliance, as it would make some of their missions become contentious by association with the Alliance…

Seeing that Vahn’s eyes had taken on that eerie blue color once again, Asfi found herself shuddering slightly as she muttered, “Believe me, Vahn…I-” Before Asfi was able to finish her words, Fenrir ‘snapped’ towards her, causing the words on her lips to be swallowed into the pit of her stomach as Fenrir said, “Fenrir advises you to choose your words carefully and only make promises you’re willing to ‘swear’ by. If you say such words and ‘betray’ them later, that will not end well for you…” As she spoke, Fenrir’s eyes glowed with a ‘dreadful’ red light that made Asfi avert her own and remain quiet. She was beginning to think this mission had been a mistake and wanted to beat Hermes for even having her approach such a ‘difficult’ target.

Vahn hugged Fenrir tightly to his chest, pulling her eyes away from Asfi as he said, “Asfi, I’m certain you have your reasons for each action you take and I can tell you are a good person. If you need my help in the future, simply ask and I will do my best since we are already allies. However, don’t expect me to make concessions and allow my loved ones to be exposed to danger just to suit the needs of others. If your god intends to exploit my Familia in the future, please advise him to reconsider as I’ll not hesitate to ‘force’ a compromise if necessary…” Vahn had no semblance of a threat in his voice at all and it made Asfi feel even more unnerved because of how ‘casual’ he was speaking. It felt like he was saying something that was ‘common sense’, even though it could potentially lead to the abolishment of an entire Familia in the future…

While still looking towards the front, Asfi slowly nodded her head and said, “I will tell him…” in a quiet monotone. She was beginning to understand what kind of person Vahn was and knew he wasn’t really a danger unless the people he cared about were provoked. Because of his own strength, he probably wouldn’t care at all if you tried to do anything to him but, from the moment you began to maneuver and exploit the people he cared about, you likely signed your own death warrant. This meant he could be a very powerful ally, especially if you could earn his friendship, but also implied that he was ‘impossible’ to exploit since he didn’t seem to be the type to let such matters lay. Remembering that he said she could ask him for help, Asfi calmed down but kept silent, simply observing things without trying to seem invasive…

Though the 2nd Party was still leading the vanguard, Tiona was also raining down magic from above so the progress of the Expedition was going smoothly. They weren’t escorting a bunch of heavy carts this time around so they were able to reach the Great Falls on the 25th Floor after just six hours of travel. This was usually one of the most difficult parts of the entire journey but Vahn’s detection, Fenrir’s ‘ice magic’, and the relatively small amount of cargo made the trip go quickly. Fenrir shared Vahn’s perception through their bond but it didn’t actually matter that much since she simply froze over every lake they came across. What would have taken Riveria a large amount of mana to pull off, Fenrir was able to do just by being ‘near’ the water. Since many in the Expedition had seen Riveria perform similar feats, as they were also in the same Familia, they understood well that Fenrir was actually ‘much’ stronger than the woman they believed to be the most prodigious Mage in the City…

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The Main Party, led by Finn, actually didn’t have much to do since Tiona and Lefiya were destroying all the aerial enemies while everything in the water was frozen solid by Fenrir. It was almost ‘scary’ how fast they were progressing and Finn felt like there was a deep chill in his body, not brought about by Fenrir’s ice magic. The strength of the Hestia Familia was quickly beginning to open up a gap with every other Familia and Finn didn’t have the confidence to be able to defeat Fenrir anymore. Though he could track her movements somewhat, she was far more agile than he had any confidence to cope with and he already knew her claws could even cut through Adamantine as if it were paper. It had only been a few months since the last time he saw her so the ‘drastic’ increase in her strength was absolutely terrifying since she would likely grow even stronger in the future…

Looking around, Finn saw that Ais, Tione, Lefiya, Haruhime, and Mikoto didn’t seem surprised, or even awed, by how strong Fenrir had become. This made Finn feel somewhat numb and he recalled Vahn promising to teach Tione how to fly later, meaning they would likely become much stronger as well. His position as Captain suddenly felt far less secure and he somewhat lamented the fact he had ever butted heads with Vahn in the past. Given how things were developing, the strength of the Hestia Familia would quickly exceed that of the Loki Familia and they would lose their Rank 1 spot very quickly. Though his own members would certainly become stronger, it wouldn’t be a secret where they obtained such capabilities and Vahn would quickly become the focal point, not just of the City, but for the entire world when they saw what he can do…

Watching Fenrir turn into a midnight blue blur and smash into a Crystal Turtle, causing its shell to collapse and instantly killing the monster, Finn suddenly felt his throat become very dry. He recalled that Vahn actually intended to open up a school in the future and, even though it didn’t seem like such a big deal in the past, Finn realized that he probably intended to teach some of what he knew to the children there. His dull eyes began to glimmer until the vitality deep within had completely returned, causing him to look towards his three Pallum companions with his characteristically amicable smile. All three girls flushed and began to fidget when he smiled towards them, making Finn feel especially pleased as a thought crossed his mind.

Finn remembered that Vahn was the one talking about nurturing the future and encouraging him to groom suitable women instead of trying to ‘steal’ them from others. Though he didn’t put too much extra thought into it at the time, Finn was starting to believe that Vahn knew he would ‘fail’ in his own ambitions and had guided him onto a subtly different path that actually had a much greater result. He had always been focused on producing an heir for the Pallum people and now it seemed like an especially ‘prudent’ time to do so since he could likely have them educated at the school Vahn was building. Combined with his own training, Finn believed his children would certainly rise to the challenge and potentially even exceed his own capabilities, not in their later years, but in their formative ones…just imagining his children being stronger than him in their early teens made Finn nearly burst out laughing.

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