Chapter 678: Rumors…

Though Mikoto’s skill was commendable, Haruhime stood out more so than the silent and stoic swordswoman. While Mikoto’s attacks were fast, almost impossible to follow, Haruhime’s were elegant and gentle, almost like she wasn’t enthralled in combat. The monsters tried attacking her but not even the Variant Lizardman Elites could penetrate through her barrier. As a result, Haruhime moved in an elegant manner as an illusory aura radiated from her body, seemingly causing all of her movements to appear as though she were moving in slow motion. Ice elemental energy spread from her body, causing the monsters surrounding her to become slowed as Haruhime continued to build greater momentum. Though she didn’t use it as often these days, Haruhime was still fond of her [Sakura Blossom], now using it to create more than thirty sakura petals, covered in a light layer of frost that cut through the surrounding enemies.

Vahn and Fenrir watched as the two girls rapidly dealt with enemies that would have previously overwhelmed them in the past. Though Haruhime would have likely lasted for a very long time, even before obtaining her [Pactio], Mikoto had experienced an explosive increase in strength. Vahn also found her outfit to be kind of ‘cool’, even contemplating wearing a trenchcoat of his own to emulate the style of her clothes. He often wore relatively simple clothing, sometimes even forgoing the use of upper body armor, so Vahn didn’t think it would be a bad idea to change his style a bit. The only thing that kept him doing it was the fact that all the girls seemed to like when he was bare-chested, often earning appraising and ‘hungry’ looks from them that made Vahn feel strangely proud.

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After a period of about seventeen minutes, Haruhime and Mikoto cleared out all of the enemies. They were both breathing a little heavily but, from Vahn’s perspective, could have continued fighting for the better part of an hour if necessary. He blinked forward with [Shundo] patting Haruhime’s head as he gestured for Mikoto to come forward. She hesitated for a short moment but still walked over, blushing slightly as he reached out to stroke her head. At the same time, Vahn helped replenish their energy while simultaneously enhancing their parameters and helping to calm their minds. This was a very common sight whenever he was accompanying the girls as his [Grooming] was simply too useful not to make use of…

Mikoto was still a little embarrassed by the treatment but Haruhime seemed to enjoy it greatly, happily smiling as Vahn rubbed his thumb along the inside of her ear. When he was finished, she seemed sad to part for a brief moment but just smiled before linking together their arms and leaning into his shoulder. Mikoto opened up a small distance, looking around as if an enemy could appear at any moment but still showing a light blush on her face. As for Fenrir, she ended up taking linking together with his other arm, causing Vahn to chuckle slightly as he led the way further into the Dungeon…

A little more than two hours later, the group arrived at the entrance to the 39th Floor, being stopped momentarily by the guard post that had been set up in the area. Though anyone was allowed to enter the Floor, they now had to pass through a checkpoint since this area had now almost completely fallen under the control of the Alliance. Seeing that it was Vahn and his companions, the guards just made a small note and allowed him to pass without even questioning his purpose for being there. After all, Vahn was the person that personally delivered all the supplies used by Lil Greirr, and that was entirely excluding the fact he was one of, if not the, most influential members of the Alliance itself.

After reaching the outskirts of the outpost, Vahn marveled at the changes that had come about over the last two months. Now, there were more than 1500 people residing on the Floor, including some smaller groups that had been allowed to take up temporary residence within the safety of reinforced walls. Nobody was allowed to live within the Alliance-controlled territory, unlike how things were managed on the 18th Floor, but they could still stick around for short periods of time before being sent on their way. This was to prevent people from trying to lay roots within the Deeper Floors as it greatly increased the chances of criminal activity and corruption.

Passing through the large glowing gates, enhances by glowing silver wards, Vahn made his way directly towards the Central Command area without being stopped by any of the guards. Along the way, he saw the Gulliver Brothers sitting at a table with their helmets off, each looking nearly identical to each other. The only discernable differences were that they had all styled their hair slightly differently and had a variety of scars marring their faces, hands, and, very likely, the rest of their bodies. Though they were very powerful Adventurers now, it hadn’t always been easy for them since they were Pallums that had been born into slavery. Vahn had learned from Freya, during one of their somewhat awkward talks, that she had picked them up after they staged a small movement to free a lot of slaves in the past. She had been impressed by their perseverance and teamwork, bringing them into her Familia and grooming them into the powerful Adventurers they were today.

Vahn was somewhat interested in getting to know the Gulliver Brothers but, much like all the previous times he had seen them, they all glared at him as if he had stolen the last morsel of food on a year-long sea voyage. Like the majority of the Freya Familia’s Elites, they showed a great deal of distaste towards him and, if not for Freya’s orders, Vahn imagined they were far more likely to attack him than help out. Fortunately, their loyalty to Freya was very high and, even though it was a bit awkward to be glared at, there hadn’t been any major issues. However, there was one person amongst the group of Elites that didn’t seem to mind his presence at all…

Nearing the room where Finn spent more than half his time, Vahn saw a tall man that appeared to be carved by godly artisans. He had healthy brown skin that, when viewed using Vahn’s [Eyes of Truth], glimmered with a pale yellow light. Vahn waved, earning a nod and an almost imperceptible smile from the behemoth of a man, recognizable as none other than the ‘King’, Ottar. When he approached, Ottar spoke out in a throaty and deep voice, “I didn’t have the chance to congratulate you the last time we met. Congratulations on becoming a father, Vahn Mason.” Vahn smiled in return, feeling a sense of pride spread through his chest that made it hard to keep his emotions in check.

Extending his fist out towards Ottar, Vahn bumped against the seemingly immovable fist of the King and said, “Your child should be born pretty soon as well. I know things might be a little difficult with Freya, but please take care of your son…” Ottar gave a curt nod, already fully intending to make sure his son became a strong warrior that, if necessary, would one day replace him as the Captain of the Freya Familia. Even if Freya never cared for their child, Ottar still felt proud to have sired a son with the goddess he loved and had dedicated his life to. The fact that she cared more for Vahn, and any future children she would have with him, didn’t matter to Ottar at all. To him, Freya’s love had always been like the wind, free and unrestrained, so he was actually thankful she had decided to settle down a bit and focus on just one person, even if it wasn’t him.

As Vahn passed by him to enter into the Central Command Room, Ottar spoke out, saying, “Allen may try something in the next few months. I don’t think he would be able to defeat you, but there is a chance he may do something regrettable…” Ottar scanned his eyes over Fenrir, Haruhime and Mikoto as he spoke, making it clear that Allen may not necessarily target Vahn directly. However, as he evaluated the girls before him, Ottar felt a small part of his instincts making his fingers twitch. He could tell they had become much stronger in the very short period of time since he last investigated the Hestia Familia.

Vahn had paused for a short moment when he heard Ottar’s words, giving him a questioning look that caused the later to issue a small nod as he said, “Maybe my advice is unnecessary…” with a small smile on his face. Then, turning his back to reveal the almost ridiculously sculpted back muscles beneath his broad shoulders, Ottar went about his own business without another word. His own duty was nearly finished and he wanted to make sure everything was taken care of by the time he returned to the surface. As Vahn said, his own son would be born within the next few weeks and, to prevent any of the other suitors from trying to harm him, Ottar would protect the child personally. After all, even if she might not care for it much, it was still a child produced by his union with Freya, something he would sacrifice his life for if necessary…

Stepping into the CCR, Vahn saw Finn going through a small mountain of paperwork. There were slight bags under the Pallum’s eyes, a clear indicator he hadn’t been getting much sleep. However, since there weren’t any major issues, from what Vahn could see, it likely wasn’t a result of overwork that had been the source of his lack of sleep. Vahn shook his head slightly, earning a sigh from Finn as he set his pen down and complained, “I have no idea how you’re able to deal with so many women, Vahn. Though they started off so compliant and understanding, my girls have been becoming increasingly more headstrong as the days pass. I’m not sure my body will be able to keep up with their youthful energy…hahaha…”

After taking Vahn’s advice, Finn had started grooming capable women to bear his future children, finding it more interesting than he expected. With his guidance, their strength had increased in strides and, as all the girls were people he had personally saved, they were all very devoted to him. However, things had changed a bit when they entered an actual relationship, with all the girls banding together against him on occasion. Though they were only around Level 3 in strength, Pallums were always known for their stamina and it had become a problem, especially in the evenings. Finn had always been confident in his own stamina but, with his general workload being quite heavy, he had been slowly losing out to his companions as the days passed.

Vahn waved his hand, sending a small ivory vial onto Finn’s desk as he explained, “Those pills were created by Naaza and verified by the god Miach. They have the effect of replenishing stamina and increasing the natural recovery rate of mental energy. Using them would allow you to feel as though you got a full night’s sleep with as little as three hours. Just make sure you don’t become over-reliant on them since, while there are no adverse side-effects, the efficacy of the pills will fade if used too often.” Finn gave a vibrant and grateful smile, causing Vahn to feel slightly awkward as the Pallum pocketed the ivory vial full of tiny blue pills as if it was a great treasure.

Noticing the awkwardness Vahn was feeling, Finn laughed in a somewhat sheepish manner and stroked the back of his head as he asked, “So, what brings you down to Lil Geirr this time around? Supplies? Mission?” As he spoke, Finn started grabbed the list of supplies and passed them over, understanding that it was one of the obvious reasons Vahn would make the trip. Vahn accepted them, gleaning over the updated inventory and comparing it to the previous list he had seen during his last visit. Finn hadn’t been trying to ‘trick’ him into producing new items out of nowhere anymore since Vahn generally only replaced the issued supply order during his following visit. This time around, he would be filling out the stuff they had requested previously so he just took the current supply request and stowed it into his Inventory.

Sis began populating his Inventory will all the items from the previous list as Vahn explained, “You haven’t seen it yet, but I named a new dragon, called Khaos, and have been letting it escort Loki around. Also, the children are growing up super fast so make sure to visit when you return to the surface or they might even be bigger than you in the blink of an eye…” Vahn sent a slightly playful look towards Finn that made the latter grimace slightly as he pulled out a bottle of hazel-red alcohol and poured them both a cup. Vahn sat down in a wooden chair while Fenrir, Haruhime, and Mikoto all moved to the sofa at the side of the room.

After savoring the rich alcoholic beverage, Vahn released a hot sigh and said, “This time around, I plan to try and capture a Unicorn, or any interesting Variant species we might come across. If we can’t find anything today, we’ll probably return to the surface tomorrow, however.” Finn nodded, sampling his own drink with practiced tolerance before saying, “If you’re after a Unicorn, there have actually been signs of one on the 43rd Floor recently. Reports say it is actually a Variant species too so you might be able to hit the veritable jackpot if you take a look. Still, it never ceases to amaze me knowing how easily you can tame monsters and help them become Xenos…” Finn cast a glance at Fenrir as he spoke, turning his eyes away when she squinted towards him. At this point, Finn was almost positive he wouldn’t be able to fend off Fenrir if he accidentally offended her. Her momentary glare had caused his instincts to practically explode into alertness, causing him to squeeze his hands together to stay calm.

Vahn hadn’t missed Finn’s change since the latter’s aura had flared up and was currently burning like a vibrant flame with a few threads of purple inside of it. He issued a wry smile in response, sending a sidelong glance towards Fenrir as he said, “Thanks for the info, Finn, I’ll look into it. However, if it had already been seen, I imagine the Unicorn would have moved to a new area by now. Still, it’s not a chance I’ll pass up since it could be fate that-” Vahn paused in mid-sentence, staring at the notification that had popped up within his system with a bit of intrigue and a fair amount of caution.

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//Optional Quest Triggered//

[Quest: Secret of the Silver Unicorn]

Rank: S

Objective: Investigate the rumors of the Variant Unicorn seen between the 40th and 43rd Floors (Incomplete). Find the Variant Unicorn and discover the secret of its origin, capturing or killing it in the process (0/1).

Rewards: Unit Management Function Upgraded (or) 1x [Blood of the Silver Unicorn], 100,000 OP.

Failure Condition(s): Death, 48 Hours pass (47H59M49S), Variant Unicorn Flees the Dungeon

Penalty: (none)

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Finn had been asking him if anything had happened so Vahn just waved dismissively and said, “Sorry, I just had a momentary thought and got a little distracted. Anyways, I plan to at least check up on the rumors and see if we can chance upon the Unicorn. It’ll be a good opportunity for Mikoto and Haruhime to train as well so we may end up staying down for a day or two.” Though he knew Vahn was keeping something from him, Finn just nodded his head without inquiring further. He had already learned his lesson about trying to pry into Vahn’s affairs and, after witnessing the explosive growth of the girls around him, Finn didn’t want to offend Vahn further. It was his hope that, under Vahn’s guidance, his children would one day become much stronger than he was, taking upon the mantle of Braver for themselves and inspiring the next generation of Pallum to greatness. If possible, Finn wanted the title to expand from a singular individual and become an organization, thus making a group of Braves instead of just one ‘Braver’…

After leaving Finn’s office, Vahn passed through the several layers of security that protected the supplies that were used by Lil Geirr. There were still plenty in stock but Vahn still added all the requested items, shuffling things around a bit to ensure that the older items would be used up first. Before he left, he also checked to make sure none of the wards had been compromised since his last visit as it wouldn’t be uncommon for the supplies to be the priority target for anyone trying to undermine the Supply Depot. Fortunately, other than a slightly damaged ward, there were no real signs of sabotage so Vahn just repaired it, passed on a message informing Finn of the ‘abnormality’, and then retired to the area that had been set aside for the Hestia Familia.

Vahn swept through their quarters for a few minutes, making sure there weren’t any small formations set up to transmit sound and spy on them. It seemed like Finn had been relatively prudent, however, as there weren’t any signs that anyone had entered the area since his last visit. As there was an anti-personnel barrier surrounding the quarters, it wasn’t that surprising but Vahn didn’t want to underestimate his potential enemies. Once everything was taken care of, he kicked off his boots and sat on one of the plush sofas, snuggling up with Haruhime and Fenrir while Mikoto excused herself into the sleeping quarters. Haruhime giggled when her friend had left, squeezing Vahn’s arm as she mused, “Even though she had already made her resolution, Mikoto can’t be honest with herself. I think she wants to get more powerful before she commits to anything…”

Nodding his head, Vahn pulled Haruhime and Fenrir close, embracing them both as he said, “Yes, I know…this is the best time for us all to be increasing our strength and it’s understandable that someone like Mikoto wouldn’t be as open to developing a relationship just yet. She doesn’t seem like the type to be too interested in the relations between men and women but I know she will eventually want to start a family of her own…” Vahn knew that Mikoto was somewhat ‘afraid’ of having sex, not simply because she was afraid to get pregnant, but because she wasn’t confident in keeping her disciplined nature after experiencing such a thing.

Mikoto had a bad habit of letting her thoughts run wild, though not to the extent of Lefiya, so she inadvertently ‘shamed’ herself into inaction. Vahn had considered giving her a push in the past but, after talking to her about it when they had been alone, he decided to respect her desire to grow stronger. Even if he had to wait until she was nearly twenty to have a child, it really wasn’t a bad thing. After all, she was still very young right now and, as he said previously, this was indeed the best time for them to increase their strength…

Haruhime nodded her head in understanding as she had also resolved to wait until her own strength had increased before having Vahn’s child. However, she didn’t have the same ‘tolerance’ as her friend and wouldn’t have been able to wait for nearly five years to be with Vahn. Even Fenrir, sitting on Vahn’s right, didn’t seem to truly empathize with Mikoto since she had followed the girl’s retreat with a subtle annoyance in her scarlet eyes. Were she capable of giving birth to her Master’s children, without causing him any excess stress, Fenrir wouldn’t keep putting on this act of her’s out of consideration for his mental wellness. Unfortunately, her ageless body made it impossible for her to carry a child so, much like her Master had started to do in the past, Fenrir was pursuing her own evolution and this was the only reason she hadn’t taken the next step…even if it was really difficult at times…

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(A/N: Clarification, even though I’ve explained it a few times. Fenrir’s body itself is ageless, giving her biological immortality that is entirely separate from the form of immortality granted by Divinity. The goddesses Avatars, the form they take in the human world, are only prevented from aging and dying as a result of their Divinity. That’s why, if it is sealed away, the Avatar can become temporarily mortal and capable of bearing children, nurtured by their Divinity after the fact. However, Fenrir has no such mechanic so, even if Vahn bound her with [Enkidu], it wouldn’t allow her to get pregnant. She doesn’t even possess the basic functions at present and, as her body would constantly be healing during something like sex, it would be a very painful and bloody affair (.____.)…)

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