It was early in the morning, during the period of time when Vahn had been helping guide the girls in their studies when Vahn got a telepathic message. There was a small ping within his mind before Lefiya’s voice sounded like a whisper in his ears, (“Hello, Master, can you hear me?”) Vahn had paused in the middle of his sentence, earning curious looks from the girls as he smiled and explained, “Lefiya is sending me a telepathic message. Give me a moment…” After that, Vahn relaxed his mind and said, (“Yes, I can hear you, Lefiya. Are you almost at the surface?”) Since the Dungeon blocked messages under normal circumstances, they must have already been within the Upper Floors of the Dungeon.
There was a short delay before a small ping sounded once again, followed by Lefiya saying, (“Ah, I’m glad I was able to reach you~! Yes, we’re on the eighteenth Floor right now and I was curious if my messages would be able to go through so many Floors. It looks like the weakened density of mana makes the transmission carry further in the Upper Floors as compared to those deeper within the Dungeon.”) As this was already their expectation, Vahn wasn’t too surprised by the information and simply asked, (“How is everyone? Were there any emergency situations that occurred after I left?”)
Once again, there was a small pause, causing Vahn to wonder if there was some kind of lag or interference with their messages. When Lefiya finally responded, he could sense a bit of tension in her words while a fair amount of pride was also present in her tone, (“Yes, there was a small attack by some strange green caterpillars that were able to spew acid. Fortunately, Ais and I were able to eliminate a large portion of them while the acid attacks weren’t able to break through the defensive wards we had established. By the time reinforcements showed up, we had already beaten back the enemies and were able to set up a defensive perimeter around the entrances to the Floor while Finn arranged a patrol using the newly acquired reinforcements~!”)
One of the things Vahn had done upon his return was to request the reinforcements he had promised to Finn, though Lok had managed most of the details. She had even arranged a few concessions from Hermes, forcing the god to disclose a great deal of information about the Xenos in exchange for accidentally leaking information about the Alliance to their enemies. Asfi, Tallow, and Reid were also being held personally responsible for the failure and were required to pay a compensation of 100,000,000V each over the course of the next ten years, with Asfi having the inclusion of forging three magic items at Vahn’s request.
Asfi wouldn’t be allowed to disclose any of the information she obtained during the production process, nor would she be able to share the details of the items he would have her produce. Though it was obvious that Hermes didn’t mind such an outcome, even showing signs that he somewhat anticipated things to happen this way, it was still very beneficial to the Alliance. There was also the fact that Vahn also took responsibility for his own failure, showing leniency towards them since the original terms were 500,000,000V and 10 magic items. Tallow and Reid had suffered a pretty severe trauma and he had also been able to save Rufina, effectively eliminating a powerful enemy while increasing the strength of their own forces…
Knowing that the girls had worked hard in his absence, Vahn smiled toward the void, not missing the small reaction from his bond with Lefiya that showed she was happy. Her Affection actually shot up ten points when he said, (“You did great, Lefiya. A lot has been going on at the Manor these days but I’ll make sure to reward you properly when you return.”) Vahn could practically feel Lefiya’s giddiness when she hesitantly responded, (“Ano…Master…I think I want to try and use my ‘Heavy Petting’ coupon when I return. Please treat me kindly…!”) Though he was momentarily dazed, Vahn nodded his head towards the void, sending Lefiya his affirmation before explaining to the spectators what was going on.
Initially, Vahn was supposed to accompany the reinforcements into the Dungeon but, after learning about the birth of the Vanir through Hephaestus and Loki, Freya had taken the initiative to mobilize her own elites. With Ottar at the lead, followed by the Gulliver Brothers, the Freya Familia led a large Expedition, comprised of ninety of her own forces with more than three hundred people from the Loki and Hephaestus Familias as ‘support’. In total, with the number of artisans set to accompany them, the Expedition had more than six-hundred people. The only downside was that they had to quickly make their way to the 39th Floor on limited supplies, choosing to forego carrying a lot of equipment since the stocks within the Lil Geirr were plenty to cover them.
With the loss of only seven people, mainly as a result of traps within the Dungeon, the Freya Familia had successfully reached the 39th Floor, providing defense for the Supply Depot while Gareth led the return Expedition towards the surface. Unsurprisingly, with Ais, Tiona, Tione, and Lefiya at the vanguard, they were able to reach the 18th Floor without a single loss, though there were a number of casualties and small injuries. It was very possible for them to reach the Upper Floors without a single casualty but, as they were short on supplies, the speed they had traveled was faster than recommended. Perhaps as a result of having Vahn’s support, but many of the people on the Expedition had a slightly skewed sense for the pace they should be traveling at. It was fortunate that the girls were now much stronger than in the past, or their haste may have caused a lot more problems than it had.
Since it wouldn’t take long for them to reach the surface, Vahn decided to go wait for the girls at Babel Plaza. It was a good opportunity so Vahn took along Tina and Milan to do a bit of shopping, as he had promised the young Cat Person a ‘date’ in the past. Tina was very excited to go exploring around Babel Tower with Vahn, as she had never had the opportunity to venture into the higher floors in the past. Though most people could enter the first few levels, you were barred entry to the higher floors unless you belonged to a reputable Familia, had high personal strength, or were escorted by someone with the clearance to do so.
After waiting for Tina to change, which took a bit longer than expected since she somehow forgot her skirt the first time she came out, the three made their way into the City. Vahn had a basic grasp of telekinesis so he was able to lift both girls into the sky, giving them a beautiful view of the City from above while Tina embarrassedly held the front and back of her skirt, fearful that people below would see her Vahn-print panties. Milan shook her head but didn’t show any other changes, clearly used to her daughter’s behavior now that a few months had passed. Fortunately, nothing major had happened and, as a result of Vahn always tending to his daughters, they had avoided any significantly awkward situations.
Though it was considered rude to do so, Vahn landed on the tenth floor of Babel, helping Tina and Milan land on their feet before escorting them into the Tower proper. Generally, nobody was allowed to enter the upper floors without passing through the security checkpoints at the elevators. Vahn, however, was a bit of a unique existence within the City and could take small liberties like this since he already inconvenienced himself a great deal out of respect for the Guild. In exchange, they tolerated minor grievances and, unless he caused a major scene, most of the security detail would completely ignore his actions.
As it was her first time in the markets located on the upper floors, Tina was full of energy and kept running between the various stalls and shops with glittering eyes. Vahn, holding onto Milan’s hand, followed behind her and, if it was an item that might be useful, purchased anything Tina took an interest in. Knowing that Vahn could easily make better items, she avoided most of the various weapons and armors on display. Instead, Tina focused on various interesting toys, accessories, and a few books that seemed interesting. Vahn was a billionaire so spending a few tens-of-thousands of Valis on the various small items wasn’t much. However, when Tina stumbled upon a stall with an old man selling small books, Vahn was utterly shocked when one of the items she picked up happened to be a grimoire.
The old man only had one good eye but, seeing Tina take an interest in the grimoire, both of his stark blue orbs focused on her before turning towards Vahn with a smile. With a wry grin on his face, Vahn asked, “How much?” in a calm voice. When the man held up two fingers, Vahn didn’t bother assuming he meant 2,000V and instead pulled out two purple cards, each representing a value of 1MV. The man gave an appreciative nod, saying, “You’re a good lad. Generally, people that accumulate a lot of wealth tend to be greedy. It makes this old man feel gratified knowing you aren’t such a character…” Without any great flair, the man wrapped up the grimoire for Tina, not even bothering to explain the contents.
Though he was using some kind of artifact to hide it, Vahn could tell that this man was a god that was doing his best to conceal his presence. Since there were numerous enigmatic gods, and Vahn didn’t detect any form of negative energy coming from the Grimoire, he simply gave a polite bow to the disguised god before leading the mother-daughter pair away. The man, understanding that Vahn had seen through his guise, produced a wry grin before his complexion softened, revealing a handsome face with onyx black hair and an eye patch covering his right eye. Then, as if he was completely invisible to the crowd, he began walking through the streets while people absentmindedly walked around him, unaware they stood in the presence of one of the most powerful gods within the mortal world, Odin.
Vahn didn’t know the god’s identity so he temporarily confiscated the Grimoire so that his Inventory could analyze it. He also intended for Riveria to scan it with her artifact, curious to know if it was able to analyze ‘unique’ grade objects. They had already tried to do so with the [Seed of the Tree of Life], but it hadn’t been able to get any information other than a picture. The rest of the page was full of question marks, showing that Riveria’s capabilities weren’t at the level where she could identify such high-grade items just yet.
After running around for the better part of an hour, Vahn sensed a fluctuation in his bond with the other girls, hearing several pings in his ears simultaneously. Tuning in to one of them, Vahn heard Tiona’s happy voice shouting, (“Ya-ho~! We’re on the surface, Vahn~! Come pick us up, hurry, hurry, hurry~!”) Vahn smiled, informing Tina that it was time to meet up with the others, nearly allowing her to ride on his shoulders before Milan reminded him that she was wearing a skirt. Tina seemed to have suffered a mental impact because she had been excited to be able to ride on Vahn’s shoulders. She regretted wearing a cute skirt for her ‘date’ with Vahn and had a strong desire to pout until Vahn began rubbing her head with his [Grooming] in full effect…
It didn’t take long for them to rendezvous with the other girls, already waiting for them a bit away from the Expedition. Unlike previous Expeditions, they weren’t carrying back a lot of supplies and there was no need to report back to the Guild with their findings. However, this didn’t do anything to the festive atmosphere and, even though they had already been dismissed by Gareth, several people were lingering about as they formed smaller groups, each heading to various bars to celebrate their return to the surface. Even Gareth, after grouping up with some of the other members of the Clubhouse, had already gotten into a carriage with a solemn look on his face as he prepared to sample any of the new alcohols that might be available.
Vahn caught the Tiona-shaped projectile in his arms, returning her embrace without minding the crowd that was eyeing them in the distance. It didn’t take long for the other girls to approach either, drawing even more attention to their small group as many envious eyes settled upon Vahn’s figure. Though it would have bothered him in the past, Vahn was almost entirely unaffected these days, deciding he needed to have greater composure to set a good example for his daughters. The girls seemed to notice his change as well, prompting Tiona to give him a somewhat sloppy kiss that nearly caused him to trip over Tina, who had been standing slightly behind him. This caused her to fall back, ‘dodging’ the attempts of Vahn and Milan in catching her so she could land on her butt, pristine white panties on full display with a cartoonish Vahn ‘smiling’ back at him…
After their short reunion, Vahn sent for Terra since he was unable to fly so many people under his own efforts. Unlike before, where she would have flown over to them, Terra appeared at his side in an instant, showing a gentle smile on her face as she said, “Welcome back to the surface…” before turning to her Master and saying, “Master, I have come to pick you up~.” She had a somewhat teasing tone in her voice since, just the other day, she had commented about being able to ‘ride’ her whenever he wanted. Since she had been naked at the time, tracing her beautiful green feathers through the wellspring, the image and words were still fresh in Vahn’s mind. Though his expression didn’t change much, there was a light blush on his cheeks that earned him a peal of laughter from Terra as she changed into her dragon form.
Terra could have teleported them all back, as the distance wasn’t that great, but enjoyed serving as Vahn’s mount, earning the right from Fafnir, who had now recognized her as its ‘temporary’ superior. Fafnir, though somewhat childish, was still very intelligent and it knew that Terra had made a large sacrifice in order to protect their Master. Since she was now more than 150 years old, Fafnir gave her the responsibility of protecting their Master and instead focused on its own training. In exchange, Terra had been teaching it personally, starting from the basics since Eva had only taught it a few select abilities as a result of its unique capabilities. Right now, Fafnir wanted to learn transformation magic, learning it alongside Fenrir, who wanted to get to the point that her claws wouldn’t cut through anything she touched.
After a relatively short flight, made longer by Terra lazily flying around the territory so the girls could take in all the changes, the group landed in the large training area in the back yard. Everyone was already waiting for their return, including the rarely seen Risna and the somewhat sleepy Eina. She had taken the morning shift and had only been sleeping for a few hours, deciding to forgo sleep in order to celebrate the girls’ return since she could always ask for Vahn to help replenish her stamina before work. It wasn’t that uncommon for the girls working in the Guild branch to sometimes ask for his assistance, as he would stop by occasionally to check the updated quests to see if there was anything important going on.
Though the atmosphere was already very festive, it became even more so when the girls dismounted and saw Loki, Hephaestus, and Hestia all carrying a baby in their hands. Tiona’s eyes shimmered like stars as she jumped over, nearly shouting her words before she noticed that two of the younglings were sleeping. Catching the warning look in Loki’s eyes, Tiona laughed quietly while rubbing the back of her head, saying, “Sorry, they are just super cute…” As if on some practice cue, almost everyone present nodded at the same time, even Tione and Ais. Lefiya, one of the few exceptions, had a very red face on her head as the aura from her body wavered, almost like steam. She suddenly got caught in a loop, imagining what it would be like to have a cute daughter of her own before remembering what was ‘necessary’ to obtain one…
Ina, being the only one awake right now, extended both of her small arms towards Vahn, not minding the other two sleeping children as she shouted, “Papa!” with a teary-eyed expression. Not only Vahn, but everyone present felt their hearts melt as he practically blinked forward, accepting Ina from Hestia’s arms while Hephaestus continued holding Vana. Having played all morning, and eaten her fill, Vana was in a deep slumber. However, the outburst from Ina had caused a small head to peak up out of Vana’s body, looking around at the new faces with a small amount of apprehension before retreating back to the interior of its host. With the ‘annoying’ male around, it knew that its host wouldn’t be in danger so it decided to sleep in preparation for the next time they would ‘play’. If possible, it really wanted to burn the annoying male, at least once…
Unaware he was being plotted against by the tiny dragon, Vahn went inside with everyone as they began to celebrate the safe return of the Expedition. Lefiya and Tione took it upon themselves to explain the details since Tiona struggled to form cohesive sentences when she was excited. As for Ais, she had her eyes glued to Ina the entire time, sometimes matching gazes with the small child who shied away by hiding her face in Vahn’s chest. Though it wasn’t the first child she had ever seen, Ais felt that Vahn’s daughters were exceptionally cute. Part of her wanted to just reach out and poke the chubby cheeks of the adorable little girl but, after seeing the inhibitions on Ina’s face, Ais held herself back. Instead, much like how Chloe and Lunoire had, Ais began wondering if she should try to have a child of her own in the near future…