Opening his eyes in the ‘real’ world, Vahn took a few moments to collect himself as he watched the Expedition continue to set up their encampment. Every time he exited the orb, it always took a short while for him adapt and recall everything that had been going on before he left. Once he managed to relax, made easier by the presence of Fenrir sitting in his lap, Vahn turned to the rest of the girls and said, “I’ll set out our tent and everyone can take a bath. I imagine the others on the Expedition would want to do the same, so I’m going to set up a few temporary bathing areas before going to the Command Tent. We’ll probably be heading out in around 10 hours, so make sure you get proper rest…”
Since she was his ‘charge’, Vahn had Asfi accompany him on his rounds while Fenrir protected her when he entered the Command Tent. Though she might be able to bring up the fact he was supposed to be the one protecting her, Asfi currently lacked the courage to make such claims. Fenrir had already proven she was ‘monstrously’ powerful and had very high perception. Standing outside the tent with the small Vanargandr as a bodyguard put her in one of the safest spots since she was also within the range of Vahn’s domain. There was also the simple fact that the slightly glowing eyes of the girl were very unnerving so Asfi just sat in the small chair provided by Vahn, completely silent while Fenrir dangled her legs in her own chair…
Soon after he entered the tent, Finn greeted Vahn and made a comment about how envious he was regarding Vahn’s ability to set up his tent in an instant. Though Finn didn’t have to put his tent up himself, it made him feel a little guilty having other people do it for him. He never felt this way in the past, but Vahn’s influence was hard to avoid if you associated with him for a long period of time. Finn had always been a very dutiful man, and it was hard to stand at the side of someone as selfless and ‘uncontained’ as Vahn. Fortunately for the Pallum, he had already made the decision to simply stand aside and go with the flow instead of trying to pointlessly resist it.
After discussing a few things, chiefly the ridiculous pace they were setting, Vahn left the Command Tent and watched over the patrols that had been established before retiring for the night. Fenrir may be tireless, but Vahn expected Asfi was probably eager to get some sleep after such a ‘stressful’ day. Every time Fenrir had come back to the cart to get her energy replenished, Asfi would become statuesque and it was very obvious she couldn’t tolerate Fenrir’s ‘animosity’ easily. Vahn wanted to give her a chance to relax, maybe talk with Haruhime and the other girls, before she went to sleep in preparation for the coming day.
Out of consideration, Vahn had set up an ornate divider in the center of the tent that separated the area where the bath was. He parted ways with Asfi, who gave a polite bow, before heading into the sleeping area where Tiona was already out like a log. She had been very excited to cast magic of her own, especially since it allowed her to fly, and had taxed her own mind a great deal. Though she wasn’t suffering from Mana Exhaustion or Mind Down, she had burned through a great deal of stamina and mental energy over the 11 hours of travel.
Almost as soon as he sat down on the massive futon, Ais and Lefiya appeared with their hair still wet and towels covering their bodies. It was obvious they had chosen to cut their bath short when he arrived so Vahn smiled and said, “Good work today, Ais, Lefiya.” Ais showed a small smile while Lefiya practically beamed before the moved to the side and began changing into their sleepwear, making no effort to conceal themselves from his view. Vahn rested his head against his palm and just appreciated the sight for a while, using his other hand to caress around Fenrir’s chin, cheek, and neck. She was currently laying across his lap with her eyes squinting, clearly enjoying the opportunity to get pampered.
Once they had changed into their sleepwear, Ais in her Aegis and Lefiya in a frilly vanilla nightgown, the two girls sat at his sides, leaning into his shoulders. Lefiya was the first to speak as she asked, “Has everything been going well inside the orb? I think everyone can tell that Fenrir’s power has increased greatly, almost unbelievably so…it makes me giddy with excitement…” Vahn could feel Lefiya’s body trembling slightly even though her aura was relatively stable, evidence that she was indeed excited about the prospect of growing stronger. Though he would have to properly train her later, Vahn knew there were more than a few ways to give her a quick increase in power so he smiled and said, “Things have been going great, honestly. Terra actually reached Level 10 and there is now a strange ‘artifacting’ going on with her parameters, almost like she is breaking the limits of the Falna…”
Ais became very alert when she heard his words, sitting up straight and looking into Vahn’s eyes with an indescribably eager look. Since they weren’t currently having sex, Vahn correctly assumed she was very interested in how Terra had become so strong. Ais only ever gave him ‘that’ look whenever she wanted to try something interesting in the bed so Vahn could feel a gentle heat rising in his body as he explained, “Don’t worry, Ais; I’ll help everyone grow much stronger and I already have a way of doing so.” Vahn sent a wink towards the over-eager girl, causing her to flush slightly as she nodded with an ‘Nn’ sound. Once she calmed down a bit, Vahn explained the other matters of the orb, causing Fenrir to fidget a bit when he mentioned the egg produced by Terra. Though she said it very quietly, everyone present heard her call Terra a ‘sneaky lewd dragon’, causing Lefiya to giggle in amusement.
Once everyone else had returned to the sleeping chamber, leaving Asfi to her own devices in her private room, Vahn also explained the [Pactio]. He discussed the benefits, the intended purpose behind the [Pactio], and how it made the bonds between them even stronger. Vahn already speculated that their [Prometheus’ Blessing] would benefit even more from the [Pactio], as both were based on the strength of their bonds. When they heard that most people that obtained ‘Permanant Pactio’s’ were typically lovers and married couples, Mikoto hung her head with a blush while Tiona bolted up from unconsciousness and began to cling to Vahn, laughing cheerfully in the process.
Haruhime, always one of the more level-headed girls, as a result of her attempts to retain an elegant demeanor, had a small smile on her face as she asked, “Is there not a limit to the number of [Pactio]s you can give out, Vahn?” Shaking his head, Vahn explained, “No, and it’ll actually help me increase my own energy reserves as long as I don’t force the [Pactio] on anyone. There are a few mental burdens involved, especially if you overuse the energy I provide, but I have skills that can protect my mind from such things. Also, my natural regeneration is much higher than all of you and it should never be an issue unless everyone was fighting at the same time, completely reliant on the energy I provide. As you’re all already exceptional girls, the [Pactio] will be more of an enhancement and growth modifier than anything else. Also, as I’ve explained, the benefits far outweigh any potential downsides and we may even be able to use it to enter and exit the Dungeon freely in the future…”
Vahn had already explained the ‘summon’ function of the cards and how he would be able to send them his energy over great distances. Just the fact that they would be able to telepathically communicate made it an incredible magic, though Vahn also speculated the Dungeon might interfere with such functions. He was hoping, however, that the [Pactio] would be able to get around such limitations since it was magic from a Tier 5 world, even though he hadn’t quite pushed it beyond the limits of the Danmachi record yet.
After a lively discussion, followed by a very tense game of pulling strings, Mikoto became the fateful first to sit before Vahn and receive a [Pactio]. She had a rare blush on her face and sat ramrod straight in a perfect seiza that would have earned praise from Takemikazuchi, had he been here to see it. Vahn put on a gentle expression and asked, “Mikoto, are you sure about this? You know, I’ve never tried to force you into anything before…honestly, I worry about you…” Since he didn’t really spend much time with Mikoto, Vahn was constantly worried about the progress of their relationship, as it almost felt like she was avoiding him at times.
Mikoto’s bearing broke a little when she heard Vahn’s words, suddenly feeling very guilty because she had, in fact, been trying to avoid him recently. Though he didn’t point it out, Mikoto felt like Vahn was hurt by her lack of presence since she had been so focused on her training and trying not to bother him. The simple truth of the matter is, she wanted Vahn to come find her and had even tried talking things over with Haruhime and Syr to ‘orchestrate’ such an encounter. Both girls refused because they wanted her to be more honest with herself instead of relying on such a roundabout way to ‘approach’ Vahn. Syr even told her that, as a result of her character and mentality, she would only feel greater guilt and apprehension if she ‘waited’ for Vahn, the man that was supposed to be her Master, Lord, and Lover…
Gritting her teeth with a bit of frustration, Mikoto turned her onyx black eyes to match Vahn’s concerned gaze and said, “I know, Vahn…you’ve always looked out for me and have been very respectful, even though I haven’t done anything to earn it…” Mikoto took a deep breath to calm herself, gaining some peace of mind when she saw the encouraging looks on everyone’s faces, especially that of her best friend. Doing her best to smile, Mikoto said, “Honestly, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be the first person to receive a [Pactio]. I may not be good at all this…emotional stuff…but, I know what my heart wants, and my mind is in agreement. Just…umm…p-p-please be…”
Mikoto’s face had become as red as a tomato at this point and she lowered her head, pressing her index fingers together in bashful manner, unable to continue further. Though she couldn’t form the words, Vahn understood what Mikoto was trying to say and realized she ‘needed’ him to be more proactive in approaching her. She had always been a very principled and disciplined woman so it would be very difficult for her to open up unless he slowly broke down her walls on his own. Thus, after hastily drawing the [Pactio] magic circle, Vahn tilted Mikoto’s ruddy face up and whispered, “Mikoto, be mine, now and forever…” In response, Mikoto bit her lip in clear frustration before nodding her head in a resolute manner.
Vahn’s smile widened greatly as he leaned in and kissed Mikoto’s cherry blossom lips, causing her body to shake as a result but making no effort to pull away. The vibrant magic circle created a veritable pillar of light around them that was fortunately contained by the tent, a phenomenon Vahn didn’t quite understand with how much energy was being emitted by the circle. It was almost like there was a tempest within the small tent but it seemingly only affected the girls’ hair and clothing while everything else remained perfectly unaffected. Though he wasn’t looking at it, Vahn could sense Lefiya bashfully trying to keep her nightgown down while Tiona simply laughed uninhibitedly.
When the light faded, the magic circle had completely vanished before a card emerged from Mikoto’s chest, showing a strangely high-resolution image of her wearing a very ‘unique’ outfit. Instead of traditional clothes worn by those from the Far East, the version of Mikoto in the card looked like she was wearing a long grey trenchcoat that had fur around the collar, sleeves, and hem. There was a small choker around her neck and she wore a simple black t-shirt with small white shorts underneath. The most noticeable thing, however, was the fact that she was holding what looked like the handle of a katana, completely bereft of a blade. At the bottom of the card were the words ‘Yamato Mikoto’ and ‘The Unseen Blade’.
Tiona tried to snatch the card out of the air but her hands went straight through it, causing Vahn to snap back to reality as he laughed, saying, “The only person that can touch the ‘Master’ card is the Magister Magi.” Vahn then placed his index finger against the front of the card and made a slightly faded version that he handed to a stunned Mikoto, explaining, “This is your card, Mikoto. To summon your artifact, you have to say ‘Adeat’ while imagining if you want to fully equip everything on the card, or just specific parts of it. Also, how are you feeling…?” Even without ‘activating’ the contract to give her a boost, Mikoto should have already been feeling the passive effects from the moment the card was created.
Mikoto swallowed hard when she saw her picture on the card before answering, “I feel very light. It’s almost like my body is weightless but there is also a great deal of power inside of me…” Vahn smiled happily before asking, (“Can you hear my voice?”) while holding her card against his forehead. Mikoto startled a bit before trying to do the same but Vahn explained, (“You just have to focus on trying to convey your intent to me, Mikoto. Only I need to activate the card to establish the connection.”) This time, Vahn heard Mikoto’s hesitant voice inside his head saying, (“This is amazing. I feel…”) Unable to complete her words, Mikoto averted her eyes with a blush on her face, causing Tiona to shout out, “Hey, hey, it’s not fair if the two of you start flirting while we’re all waiting for our own [Pactio]s~!”
Tiona’s words caused Mikoto to hang her head while Tione smacked the top of her sister’s head for being impatient. Vahn produced a wry smile before turning back to Mikoto and saying, “Try saying the chant, ‘Adeat!’ while focusing on the image in the card.” Mikoto calmed down a bit and held up the card to look at the image, frowning slightly before saying, “Adeat!” The instant she did so, it was like her clothes burst apart and she ‘appeared’ naked with all the features of her body shrouded by light. Less than a second later, Mikoto was wearing the same outfit as on the card, panicking for a moment before realizing her weapon was fortunately spared, though there was also a secondary one present now.
Mikoto waved around the bladeless katana in her hands with a curious expression on her face as Vahn explained, “Your artifact is called the Unseen Blade, so be careful with it, Mikoto. I’m not sure if it’s invisible, but that is a very powerful weapon and you shouldn’t play around with it…” Seeing Mikoto casually wave around what might be a super deadly weapon made Vahn sweat a little, though Mikoto’s embarrassed reaction as she pointed the sword away from everyone helped him relax. She then spent a short while familiarizing herself with the sword before realizing she could actually ‘sense’ the length of the blade and even modify it according to her preferences. It also seemed to be incredibly sharp though she commented that it felt like there was something ‘flowing’ out through her palms whenever she cut something. Vahn explained this was mana and that the weapon itself likely used it to enhance her attacks, meaning the sharpness and durability of the artifact was almost entirely dependant on her magic power.
Overall, Mikoto was very excited to have such a unique katana and she was also surprised to find that, though she previously expected the clothes to be uncomfortable, they were anything but. It almost felt like a second layer of skin and, though she would have to get used to having a coat that went to the middle of her thighs, it wouldn’t take much effort. Having an ‘invisible’ sword for her techniques would make it impossible for anyone to adapt to her during a duel so Mikoto was excited for the future, something shared but all the other girls in the room who took the opportunity to get their own [Pactio]s formed before bed.
Once again, everyone pulled strings before lining up in order, starting with Tione, Lefiya, Haruhime, Ais, and, much to her chagrin, finishing off with Tiona. Tione’s card showed her wearing an exotic outfit that looked like something a dancer would wear, meaning it was ‘very’ revealing. As for the artifact itself, it was called Saltatione Solis, taking the form of a ringed chakram that could be thrown like a boomerang. The most impressive feat was the fact that it increased in speed as it flew, which was a little strange and would require testing in a more ‘open’ environment later.
Lefiya’s [Pactio] was, unsurprisingly, very tame and made her look like a cute little fairy, including two small butterfly wings on the back of her pink dress. The most notable feature was the fact that caused her hairstyle to change into twin tails, similar to Hestia, with butterfly shaped pins holding them up. As for her artifact, it was called Ros Sanitatem, taking on the form of a glass pitcher that seemingly produced an infinite amount of liquid that could heal wounds. The efficacy of the liquid depended on the amount of magical power Lefiya used and it was quickly discovered that it couldn’t be stored within vials as it simply ‘vanished’ after a few minutes.
Haruhime’s [Pactio] was easily the most ‘peculiar’ as it showed a picture of her wearing very long court robes that extended to the ground and flared out behind her. It was very obviously not suited for mobility but made Haruhime appear like an Empress since there was also an ornate hood framing her elegant face. The robes were predominately white, accented by reds that formed crescent shapes around the hem and sleeves. Instead of a normal obi, Haruhime had a large red rope around her waist that created two large loops behind her back. As for her artifact, it was the robe itself and was called Luna Dea. It was a powerful defensive artifact that a barrier of moonlight that seemed almost impossible to break, stop both physical and magical attacks for an apparently small mana cost from Haruhime.
Ais’ [Pactio] was easily the least impressive, at least visually, as it took on the form of a simple white dress that came down to the middle of her thighs. Instead of panties, there were small white form-fitting shorts that seemed to be made out of a very elastic material, even though it perfectly protected Ais’ dignity. Like the other outfits, Ais’ reminded Vahn of the raiments worn by the gods and wondered if there was some kind of relation between the two. To test this, he cut a small part of Ais’ dress and watched as it completely regenerated a few seconds later. This wasn’t as interesting as her artifact though, which took on the form of wings of light, Lux Alis, allowing her to become the second girl in the group to attain flight. She could already emulate it with [Ariel], to an extent, but this allowed her to maintain stable flight without much effort at all. It was also far more visually appealing because the wings were formed of radiant white light that branched out beautifully behind her back.
Wrapping up the [Pactio]s, Tiona ended up having an outfit that made everything flinch when they first saw the image. Though Tione’s had been revealing, Tiona’s was even ‘worse’ as it took on the form of a white tiger fur band that tied around her chest, furry panties, and a loincloth, all made of similar fur cloth. It made her look like very ‘wild’ and even caused her hair to gain frosted white tips as it grew slightly longer. As for the artifact itself, it was called Regina Animalium, meaning ‘Queen of Beasts’. It took on the form of a pale yellow tattoo on her back and two small, whisker-like marks on her cheeks. The most startling change, however, was the fact that her previously round pupils had now turned into slits that gave her a predatory look.
When asked about how the artifact worked, as only Tiona herself would be able to answer, she explained that it seemed to make her stronger as she took more damage. This meant it worked in conjunction with her other skills and would probably turn her into an unstoppable force on the battlefield. When she used her wand to transform, just to see if she could, everyone quickly realized Tiona would become a truly terrifying combatant in the future. Though the outfit was still cute, it took on a more ‘feral’ design now and even gave Tiona a white tiger hair band and a too-small tail sticking out of the back of her dress, making a somewhat crooked shape between the two small angel wings. The fact that it changed shape based on Tiona’s feelings, which Vahn learned after it formed into a heart shape, was very adorable…