Though she was in a ‘heated’ state, Lili didn’t lose her senses as a result of the accessories Vahn had created for all the girls. They had a very high resistance to almost every status abnormality and, though it was obviously affecting her a bit, the main reason was that Lili’s own excitement from the previous hour of fighting had gotten her blood to boil a little. Understanding this, Vahn stowed away his [Laevateinn] and came next to her with [Shundo] before, not minding the ground at all, tracing his fingers through Lili’s hair and stroking the side of her cheek. She whimpered and made a pouting expression but accepted his assistance in helping rid the effects of the aphrodisiac on her body.
Once he had removed the spores in their entirety, Vahn traced his thumb along Lili’s lip and, with a casual smile on his face, reminded, “There is a time and a place for everything, Lili…” This caused her to take a deep breath and, after looking around at the more than one-thousand people, blush fiercely before surprising him with a punch to the gut and running off. Vahn felt the wind forced from his lungs but recovered almost instantly as he followed Lili’s retreat for a few seconds before turning his attention to where the monstrous plant-like monster had been.
It wasn’t surprising to find plant-based monsters within the Large Tree Labyrinth section of the Dungeon, as they were quite common in this area, but this was his first time seeing this particular species. Waving his hand, Vahn pulled a large magic core from the rubble and noticed it had a peculiar yellow coloration, distinctly different from the amethyst purple of almost every other monster core. Though there were some exceptions, such as in the case of variant species and large monsters like Dragons, this was the first time he had seen this type of core before. It had malevolent energy and, though he wasn’t sure how he was able to discern this, Vahn felt like there was a lot of pain and anguish coming from the core…
Deciding to keep it for further study, Vahn tossed it into his Inventory without selling it to the system shop, the final resting place of most cores and Drop Items that weren’t generally useful. Afterward, he turned to Fenrir and Alexa, who had already come to his side, and said, “Let’s go. Fenrir, I’ll leave freezing the water on the 25th through 27th Floors to you. If you run low on energy, come back to me and I’ll help top you up.” Fenrir nodded her head, saying, “I understand, Master. Leave it to me.” As for Alexa, she was breathing a little heavily from getting too excited so Vahn smiled before picking her up in an embrace carry and rejoining the expedition. There were still thousands of monsters present, but the majority were burned by the flames immediately after spawning while the rest were picked off by the ranged units in the expedition…
Passage through the Water City, notoriously one of the more difficult legs of any expedition, went relatively smoothly with Fenrir literally freezing every lake, causing several meters of magically reinforced ice to prevent monsters from taking action. Though it cost him much of his own reserves to top her’s off, Vahn wasn’t that active on these Floors and just acted as a sentry while Alexa snoozed across his lap. He could replenish the majority of his energy after resting for a few minutes, a fact that would cause any other Mage to vomit blood if they learned about this terrifying fact.
While passing through the Floors, Vahn was wondering just how much of the monsters’ response to their presence was the Dungeon itself and how much was orchestrated by Enyo. The strange plant monster was an obvious anomaly and the species of flower wasn’t documented in any of the compendiums compiled by the Guild. Even his Inventory would take a few hours to completely analyze it, showing that the flowers were likely something that had been cultivated and engineered, not something naturally occurring within the record. They were either the product of an Innate, or someone on Enyo’s side had the relatively rare [Botanist] skill at a very high degree of development…
Just as the Vanguard Unit had passed from the 27th Floor and began heading down the stairs to the 28th, a very loud rustling sound could be heard echoing through the Dungeon. If not for Ais creating a massive wall of tempestuous wind in an instant, this surprise attack would have likely caused many casualties, if not death, amongst the Rearguard Unit. Vahn sent a telepathic message to the first strike team to explain the situation to Finn and make sure they didn’t stagger and instead continue moving forward. At the same time, he startled awake Alexa by taking to the sky in an instant, causing her to dig her rather sharp nails into his arm.
Vahn just gave her a wry smile and allowed her to fly on her own before he joined Ais in creating a barrier that the massive cloud of sparrow-like monsters. These were the same Iguazu that had nearly wiped out their party in the past and, the fact they were so far away from dangerous cliff region showed that this was undoubtedly an orchestrated event. Unfortunately for the suicidal birds, other than their broken forms and blood raining from the sky, they were unable to pass through his 780m wide barrier as Ais began chasing around a large blue Iguazu that was guiding the rest of the pack. Her [Ariel] protected her body completely and tore apart anything that got even remotely close to her.
It took a few minutes, but Ais eventually managed to catch the hypersonic bird, completely destroying its body in a single strike. As a result, the cloud of Iguazu dispersed and become significantly more disorganized as they doubled back before turning around and slamming head-first into Vahn’s barrier. Even as this was happening, Vahn didn’t pay them any attention and instead focused his [Eyes of Truth] on the small golden particles that had emerged from the body of the variant Iguazu. He could sense the same malevolent energy and was now absolutely certain that the yellow monster cores had something to do with Enyo.
Ais came to his side while Alexa continued to show a rare blush as she averted her eyes away in embarrassment. Vahn had never actually seen her embarrassed before, even after observing her for one-hundred-twenty years. He found this reaction of her’s a little refreshing but was pulled away from this thought as Ais said, “It’s like they are all one monster…very strange…” Vahn nodded his head, understanding what Ais was saying and wondered if the Killer Ant Queen that nearly killed Bell was actually a similar entity. If these weren’t isolated events, and Enyo had started to indiscriminately release her strange monsters into the Dungeon, things would become problematic in the near future…
With thought crossing his mind, Vahn turned his attention away from his son, Masonia, who he had been helping study. Even though the boy wasn’t even two years old yet, he had already learned how to read and, though Riveria wasn’t truly pressuring him to become King, Masonia himself had become strangely focused on the idea after learning of his heritage. He knew that it was no longer his birthright, as the crown was no longer inherited but based on power and merit, so Masonia was studying hard and wanted to become capable enough to one day succeed his grandfather, Larfal. As he was an exceptionally perceptive boy, he immediately noticed the peculiarities with his father and asked, “Father, is there something you need to attend to…?”
Vahn felt a small pang of guilt but nodded his head and explained, “I have discovered some important information in the Dungeon and need to investigate it as soon as possible. However, I don’t really need to leave and have already sent a telepathic communication to Syr. She will let Loki know and that should get things started…” Masonia nodded his head in understanding but then asked, “If you went yourself, wouldn’t it go much faster?” To this, Vahn became silent for a moment before Masonia produced a small smile and said, “Father, if it is something important, please see to it yourself. I will be fine here on my own and I have Sherry to accompany me if I need to take a break. Please, don’t ignore your duties on my behalf…”
Hearing his son speaking words that were far more mature than his age would suggest, Vahn felt a mixture of pride and conflict. Then, deciding to ignore the fact that Masonia didn’t like to be doted on, Vahn snatched up this intelligent son of his and gave him a firm hug. Having long learned of the futility of resisting, Masonia produced a wry smile and just accepted his fate as the adorable little Sherry, Masonia’s Dryad Guardian, giggled off to the side. She was wearing a dress entirely comprised of leaves, banded together with vines, and adorned with small flowers all over. Though she couldn’t speak fluently yet, barely stringing together 2-3 words at a time, she still showed a great deal of awareness about the world around her.
After cuddling his adorable son for the better part of a minute, Vahn set him back on the ground and said, “I’ll have to ask your mom for permission, but I’ll take you back with me to the Elven Kingdom the next time I visit. I’m certain your grandfather would love to see his brilliant little grandson~.” This caused Masonia’s long ears to perk up slightly, as they had been drooping down a little previously, and a large smile spread across his face as he asked, “Really!?” Vahn nodded without any hesitation and, thinking he needed to try and set a good example for his son, placed his hand on Masonia’s shoulder and said, “The only time a man lies is if it is necessary to protect the people he cares about. If we can avoid it, we never speak falsehoods and, so as to never call into question our integrity, it is important to always mean what you say. Though the decision will rest on your mother, I’m certain I can convince her with a little coaxing…”
Masonia’s smile suddenly transitioned into a very ‘serious’ expression as he nodded his head and said, “I understand, Father. Since that is the case, I will make my first promise now…as long as it does not conflict with me protecting the people I hold dear, I will endeavor to never tell a lie!” Though it felt a little awkward to hear his son parrot his words, Vahn couldn’t help but smile as he stroked Masonia’s head and said, “That’s my boy…you make me so proud, Masonia…” This caused Masonia to puff up his chest and raise his chin slightly, not minding the fact that he was currently getting his head pat by his Father…
Before leaving the room, Vahn also gave Sherry some head pats, eliciting another giggle for the adorable little girl as some of the vines making up her dress coiled around his hand. As an entity that was perfectly attuned to natural energy, Sherry was especially fond of his petting since his [Yggdrasil’s Blessing] was doubly effective against her. In fact, it was because of Sherry that Vahn learned that his [Yggrasil’s Blessing] could be used to greatly accelerate the growth of plants, something that made a lot of sense but he had never even thought to use it in such a manner.
So that she didn’t ‘root’ herself to his arm, Vahn had to pull his hand away, pinching her nose as he said, “Make sure to take care of my son, Sherry…” This caused the small Dryad to bring both hands to her face, giggling happily as she nodded her head. Afterward, she ran over to Masonia who had already started taking evasive action by moving to the other side of the table with a face asking, ‘Father, why have you betrayed me…?’ To this, Vahn just began laughing and headed towards the door as the sounds of his son’s struggles emerged from behind him.
The reason Sherry had been sitting by herself is that Masonia, perhaps as a result of having so many female influences in his life, was strangely intimidated by women. Even his own Guardian, who was ‘extremely’ attached to the natural energy radiating from his body, wasn’t an exception. There was even a time when Vahn had wandered in on them in the library with Sherry essentially ‘growing’ off of him. If he truly wanted her to leave him alone, Masonia could ‘order’ her away, or even keep her in his body, but just the thought of it would make him slightly pale. When asked about the reason, Masonia had sheepishly explained that he always felt very fluttery when Sherry was inside his body and could feel her ‘moving’ around as she ‘played’ inside of his body…
Since the two would be together for thousands of years, Vahn knew his son would have to get used to Sherry’s presence as, even if he ended up getting married, it was simply impossible for him to escape the clingy Dryad. He and Riveria had already talked about it and fully expected that Masonia and Sherry would probably end up together at some point and, though that was several years down the line, Vahn felt strangely proud of this firstborn son of his. Though he would educate Masonia about never biting off more than he could chew, a hard-learned lesson that he himself couldn’t adhere to, Vahn still wanted his son to be a capable man who could make many girls happy.
Following up on his suspicion, Vahn ended up flying through the sky in a rather peculiar manner, this time with Loki riding on his back. Though they could have called Khaos to give them a lift, Loki had cackled madly before saying this would be her preferred method of travel in the future. She kept wiggling around on his back and trying to tease him, even going so far as to nibble on his ear and asked if he wanted to try and have sex in the sky. As a result, Vahn arrived at the Twilight Manor in record time, but not before giving in to Loki’s teasing and returning the favor doubly so. By the time they reached the balcony outside her personal quarters, she couldn’t even stand on her feet without his support, mumbling, “Cheater…that isn’t fair…”
During the flight, Vahn had tossed Loki up in the air and flipped over so that he could catch her in his arms. The remaining flight had been both disorienting, as he zig-zagged through the sky, but he also gave her butt a ‘deep tissue’ massage that had turned her legs into jelly. Now, as she clung to him for support, Vahn reached around and pinched the slightly exposed flesh around the cutoff of her shorts, causing Loki to flinch as she wiggled to try and escape. With furrowed brows, she complained, “You always pinch my butt…I’m going to pinch something of yours if you keep getting carried away…” To this, Vahn ‘lightly’ pinched her butt again, smiling as he said, “Who is the one that once claimed that she was proud of her butt…? Can you blame me for wanting to sample such a tantali-“
Unable to finish his words, Vahn evaded Loki’s attempt to grab at the area below his belt, quickly moving around behind her and giving her body a hug as she calmed down. They stayed like that for a while, Vahn sending waves of calming energy into her body, before Loki finally released a playful laugh and said, “Let’s go. I’m sure that idiot you pawned off on me is getting some high-quality instruction around this time~.” Vahn nodded his head in affirmation and since Loki had complained about her legs being sore, he ended up having to give her a piggyback ride as the members of the Loki Familia looked on with amused expressions on their faces. Some of them even went out of their way to try and greet him with a bow while Loki would periodically try to start conversations with random members.
Eventually, though Loki seemed to be in anything but a hurry at this point, Vahn ended up carrying the troublemaking goddess into an inner courtyard that was used as a training area. As if on some divine cue, their arrival in the training ground was marked by a white-haired boy spinning in a beautiful arc through the air as a trail of saliva coiled around his body like a work of art. Across from him was someone that Vahn hadn’t quite expected to see, sending Loki a questioning gaze as she frowned and said, “This isn’t the arrangement I made…Raul, I’m going to strangle that spineless brat~!”
Instead of Raul, who Loki had arranged to be Bell’s teacher since he had just returned from Lil Geirr around a month ago, the person currently beating the young hero to a pulp was instead a beautiful Elven woman with muted gold hair and green eyes. This was none other than Alicia Forestlight, one of the main members of the 2nd Party of the Loki Familia, a skilled swordsman that was currently around the peak of Level 4. She was currently wearing her very stylish Adventurer attire, consisting of a muted pink-beige leather armor that ended in a skirt around her knees. There were ornately designed leather plates covering her abdomen, propping up her modest breasts, and covering her shoulders and neck. Her legs and arms had purple warmers that were similar in color to the belts, pouches, and sheath for her medium-length rapier. Completing the outfit, she had ornate boots that were adorned with gold motifs that matched the other hard leather sections of her armor. Overall, and this was an opinion Vahn had ever since their first meeting, she was a very beautiful and stylish Elven beauty.
Currently, Alicia had a very amused expression on her face as she beat Bell with her sheath while Line and Plum spectated from the side. Vahn noticed that Plum seemed very worried about Bell but it appeared that Line was enjoying the boy’s suffering a little, at least until she saw their arrival. Alicia also noticed Vahn and Loki, her smile blooming into a more natural one as she said, “Vahn-sama, Loki-sama, it pleases me to see you. Did you come here for me, or did you have business with my foolish little apprentice~?”
Ever since he had married Riveria, Alicia had insisted on addressing him as ‘sama’, leaving no room for discussion as the amount of respect she had for Riveria wouldn’t allow her to neglect such courtesy. After he made a big impact back in the Elven Kingdom, this became even more prevalent and, much like many Elven women, Alicia always had a very reverential look on her face when she saw Vahn. In fact, Loki had even teased him about it in the past, saying that all the Elves in her Familia wished he would extend his favor to them…
Vahn felt a little guilty that Alicia had simply turned away, leaving Bell sprawled on the ground as she now placed her full attention on him. Though she didn’t have the (Love) bracket parameter, Alicia’s Affection was currently sitting at 99(Exalted), a very common parameter he had been seeing pop up in those that had a great deal of respect and reverences towards him. She had even started to walk over to meet them halfway as if waiting for them to approach her would be an unacceptable affront, leaving Bell for Plum and Line to attend to.
After sending a glance towards Bell, who strangely seemed uninjured after getting knocked 10m from a hit to the face, Vahn smiled at Alicia and said, “We needed to confirm something with Bell about the Killer Ant Queen subjugation. Sorry for interrupting your training, Alicia…tell me, how has Bell been as a student?” To this, Alicia returned an even more radiant smile and said, “Ahhh, he is actually improving at a faster rate than anyone I’ve ever seen before. The only problem is, he had a tendency to ‘slip’ and…haaaa…” Just remembering the incident, Alicia didn’t know if she should blush or vent her frustrations directly on Bell with her rapier.
Moments before Vahn and Loki had arrived, Bell managed to evade on her attacks and catch her off guard. She managed to disarm his weapon but that ended up knocking him off balance, allowing the airheaded boy to cop a feel of her chest before she sent him flying on instinct. The strange thing was, before Vahn arrived, she didn’t really mind the small slip and it was only in hindsight that she felt bothered by it…after all, she, like most Elves, didn’t allow people to touch them, especially in such an ‘intimate’ manner…
Even without Alicia explaining in greater detail, Vahn had a good idea what had happened and he couldn’t help but look towards Bell like he was a very ‘dangerous’ existence. If Alicia had been behaving ‘normally’, she probably would have genuinely injured Bell for such an affront and harbored a small grudge towards him for the indeterminant future. However, Bell seemed to be able to avoid such repercussions and, much like how it had been in the manga, the boy was able to get away with things that would have earned any other man the ire of various women…
Loki also didn’t really want her members being ‘poached’ by Bell passively so she asked Alicia to find someone skilled with daggers that could instruct Bell, preferably a male. Alicia, however, showed a slightly complicated expression and explained, “I had already agreed to train him…it would not be very dignified for me to go back on my word. Please, forgive me for this, Loki-sama…” In a very polite fashion, Alicia bowed with a slightly apologetic expression on her face. She didn’t give her word easily and, once she had made a promise, it was her creed to follow it through till the end. Besides, or at least she was telling herself this, Bell hadn’t ‘intentionally’ touched her breasts.
Feeling like Alicia was spiraling into a trap that had been machinated by fate, Vahn wasn’t sure if he should help her avoid it or allow her to slowly fall for Bell. Given the boy’s nature, he would actually be a pretty good man for her but, by the same machinations of fate, Alicia may be exposed to danger in order for Bell to ‘grow’ further. Since he wanted her to at least have more control over future developments, Vahn smiled and explained in a quiet voice, “He may not intend to do it, but Bell has the [Luck] Development Ability. Unless you’re adamant about preventing it, those types of slips may happen occasionally, usually in situations where you wouldn’t mind. Please, remember that as you’re training and there shouldn’t be any problems.”
Alicia’s eyes widened when she heard this, her long ears perking up slightly before realizing exactly what Vahn had just told her. She suddenly felt a little worried about training Bell but, with Vahn’s warning, could at least prepare herself. The next time Bell made a ‘slip’, she would properly ‘educate’ him so that he learned to respect the boundaries of other people. At the same time, she resolved herself to not simply pass it off as an accident in the future and bowed at an even lower angle towards Vahn than she did her own goddess. Loki didn’t seem to mind this and just snickered slightly as she leaned next to Alicia, whispering, “You know, Vahn might seem hard to approach at times, but he has a soft spot for Elves…trust me, his touch is something you’d never be able to forget. Even Riveria turns into a very ‘honest’ girl whenever she is with Vahn, you know~?”
For the first time since he had met her, Vahn watched as Alicia’s ears began to waggle adorably as her face turned scarlet red. From the side, Bell saw this and also blushed slightly, muttering, “Cute…” in a small voice that was heard by both Line and Plum. The former, who had been applying a salve to some of Bell’s wounds, suddenly poured the remaining contents onto his head while Plum, teary-eyed, complained, “Bell-sama, why are you looking at other girls all the time…Plum is broken-hearted…” This caused Bell, creamy white salve staining his face, to turn completely pale as he began trying to explain that it was a misunderstanding…