Chapter 831: Preparations

In order to make sure the Xenos were able to safely live on the surface, there were several things that needed to be taken care of before the migration could begin. Though Vahn managed to pacify Terra, it didn’t mean the other girls were open to the idea, chief amongst them being Hestia. He also needed to make sure the Xenos were able to replenish the mana within their bodies but, as Terra’s ‘territory’ now extended party into the Dungeon, it wasn’t that difficult for her to incorporate the Dungeon’s structure with the underground of the Hearth Manor. In the future, the Hearth Manor would become a third entrance to the Dungeon, one which allowed it’s residents, and the Xenos themselves, to freely move without drawing attention to themselves.

Though this idea wasn’t exactly ‘safe’ under normal circumstances, the fact that the area in question would be under Terra’s dominion made it much safer than the Artificial Dungeon, Knossos. It would also allow Vahn to avoid drawing too much attention when his bodies were moving about, as he would be able to enter the Dungeon without even having to leave the Manor. The only ‘real’ danger was if any of his children wandered into the Dungeon but, given the fact that the girls, the Xenos, and Terra herself would be watching over them, this wasn’t likely. Vahn even intended to create a powerful barrier at the actual entrance to the Dungeon that couldn’t be passed through without a keystone, so the odds of anyone ‘accidentally’ passing through were functionally negligible…

The most ‘difficult’ part of the Xenos’ migration was Hestia, who was adamant about not allowing men into the Manor’s territory, Xenos or not. At the same time, she argued that having an influx of hundreds of people would simply cause too much chaos while also unnecessarily exposing the children to danger. Though the Xenos weren’t monsters, it didn’t mean they were beyond following their instincts when angered or stressed out. If they were residing within the Illusory forest, even with Terra keeping tabs on them, there was always a chance they could injure one of the children that played there. Since Vana practically spent more than half her time within the forest, Hephaestus took Hestia’s side on the matter and was afraid the influence of the Xenos would be largely negative on her eldest daughter.

Since his children were inarguably the most important thing in the world, at least from Vahn’s perspective, he had no grounds to stand on once this discussion had taken place. It was fortunate that Terra’s territory extended far outside the bounds of the Manor these days or the first news he would have to bring the Xenos would have been ‘bad’. Thus, after Loki brought up the solution, it was decided that the Xenos would instead reside in the confines of Loki’s Manor to the north. Terra would fill the entire region with trees and plants, essentially turning the massive plot of land into a forest that would keep the Xenos concealed.

With the underground tunnel system already connected with the Northern Manor, they could just extend it into an artificial construct that connected to the Dungeon from there instead. This also made it less likely that any of the children would ‘wander’ into the area, as there were numerous failsafes in place, so Vahn readily agreed to the changes. In a way, it was better for the Xenos as well since the Alliance could turn over the land to them in the future, allowing them to create a small settlement that could house a few thousand of their species. If they had been within the confine of the Hearth Manor, the Xenos would have been forced to migrate a second time once things had started to calm down and they were more accepted in society.

Once all the preliminary details were worked out, which also included negotiations with the Ganesha Familia, Vahn enjoyed some leisure time with his children and the remaining girls within the Manor. Since Meinya had been left in the care of Aki, the latter had been somewhat fretful trying to keep up with the energetic kitten, who had also started to influence her own daughter, Anise, a bit. The two had been trying to sneak away and cause trouble every chance they could get, causing Vahn to have to snatch them up on Aki’s behalf when it was time for bed. Fortunately, they turned into adorable little angels while sleeping and, though she was in a panic trying to keep up with them, it was easy to tell that Aki was actually very happy…

When she was busy with her duties at the School, Tsubaki was spending a lot of time looking over Sakuya and helping girls like Vana, Lenneth, and Aisha in their basic training. Though the latter two weren’t exactly ready to begin training in earnest, their rapid development meant that it wouldn’t be long before they were. Tsubaki wanted them to have all the basic knowledge down before practical training and used Vana as both her student and assistant for demonstration purposes. Since Vana loved being a ‘good big sis’ for her siblings, she happily took to the task and was improving very quickly, even without fighting against any monsters just yet.

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Vahn had joined the girls for one of their training sessions and got to spar against his rather fiery daughter for the better part of an hour, showing that her stamina was already much higher than a novice Level 1. She was even able to use her [Genesis Flame] to create a few openings by producing small explosions meant to disorient her opponents. If not for Vahn’s completely fire immunity, and ability to track her movements through his domain, she may have even been able to land a blow or two against him. Fortunately, his thousands of hours of spars against the girls had honed his senses to an extreme so, even after being blinded, Vahn easily parried all of his rambunctious daughter’s sneak attacks. By the time she had tuckered herself out, Vana actually had a large grin on her face, commenting, “Of course, Papa is the strongest…haafuuu…”

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When he wasn’t busy running around after his more energetic children, Vahn also spent a fair amount of time watching Ina in her workshop, marveling at the ingenuity behind her creations. Though she was also developing the habit of letting her body sweat out freely, wearing nothing but a simple band around her chest and tying her coveralls around her waist, Vahn couldn’t exactly tell her it was ‘wrong’ to do so. Seeing her hard at work, making huge strides in her progress almost every single day, the only thing he could really do was encourage her to keep pushing her ‘art’ to the next level. Besides, since many of his children still had the habit of wanting to take a bath with him, he couldn’t exactly start fretting over some exposed skin when they were in deep focus…

One thing Vahn found very refreshing was how Erika had started to help out in the education of the other children, following the principle that you only truly understood something if you could convey and teach it to others. She and Alexa spent a lot of time together helping to educate their siblings, with Masonia now following his big sisters around like a puppy. Vahn felt a little strange seeing his eldest son listening so adherently to his sisters because, even though he was a polite and intelligent boy, it was a bad habit to fall into if he let others walk all over him. This was especially the case as Sherry seemed to be taking after the older girls and it almost felt like the young Masonia was getting ‘bullied’ by his own Guardian…

When Vahn confronted his son about the matter, Masonia simply stated, “Since Father is such a capable man, even while listening to others, I believe I can be the same. Don’t worry, even if it is difficult to deal with at times, I never allow anyone to tell me to do something I am unwilling, or unable, to rationalize. My sisters are kind and intelligent girls, worthy of my respect and trust, so I do not mind it, even if they want to tease me a little.” Thus, unable to really refute his son’s logic, Vahn could only shake his head when he stumbled into the study one day and saw his son dressed up in a gothic style dress while his sisters styled his hair and put makeup on his face… (A/N: Like father, like son…xD…)

As much as he would like to remain within the Hearth Manor indefinitely, Vahn knew he needed to return to Lil Geirr to prepare for the continued expedition to the 50th Floor. He had already been away for more than two days and, though this was ‘necessary’ with the preparations he had been making for the Xenos, it was closing in on the time he ‘needed’ to return. Right now, the motivation of the expedition members was relatively high and that would be a very important factor that determines how quickly the construction is able to proceed. Since it was likely that Enyo’s forces would attack again, they would need to work almost tirelessly to establish the foundation for Haven in the shortest period of time. Working conditions like those would be heavily dependent on the amount of motivation owed by the construction crews and Vahn knew it was important to act while their motivation was highest.

Before he returned to the Dungeon, however, Vahn spent the final evening with Hestia, Hephaestus, Loki, Anubis, and Eirene. Demeter was often away, managing the affairs of her own Familia, so she was unfortunately absent from the ‘godly sendoff’ that Vahn had received. At the same time or, more specifically, after things had calmed down, Vahn also had a discussion with the goddesses about the ‘enemies in their midst’. Though it was likely to be an unfounded claim meant to cause internal tension within the Alliance, it wasn’t something that could be ignored either.

It was relatively easy to eliminate almost everyone that resided in the Manor, regardless of if they were mortal or god, as there was simply no feasible means to keep such a matter secret. Not only were the girls themselves very perceptive, but Vahn had witnessed the [Hearts Desire] of almost everyone within. The only exceptions to this were Mona, the girls that worked at the Guild Branch, and Vahn’s children. Mona was simply an ‘impossible’ candidate, given her background and the vows she was placed under, and the girls at the Guild Branch had no actual power or influence within the Manor. This meant the ‘enemy’ was outside of the Manor and, with the being the case, it wasn’t actually that big of an issue at all. Since the majority of the Alliance’s power was consolidated within this centralized location, it didn’t really matter what was going on outside…

To be safe, Loki said she would start investigating the internal affairs of every Familia with any meaningful influence within the Alliance. The most ‘obvious’ person that would betray them would be Ouranos himself but, considering the vows he had taken, combined with nearly a billion cumulative years of acting as a bystander, it wasn’t likely. Though the people beneath him were still suspect, the Guild didn’t actually have that much influence in the Alliance and they were actively supportive of each other. It wouldn’t make much sense for Ouranos to allow for the establishment of Orario, supporting its growth and regulating its affairs, only to want to destroy it after nearly a thousand years.

The biggest thing Loki would be investigating was how ‘Enyo’, a goddess that must have resided in Heaven at some point, was able to avoid detecting by ‘literally’ every other god. Though there were certainly some gods that didn’t know the names of every other god, it wouldn’t make sense for the pantheon Enyo was created into to be unaware of her. In total, the number of gods only numbered in the thousands, with the creation, death, ascension, and descent of every god a relatively major event that was documented and noted immediately as it occurred.

It was simply impossible for a goddess to have been created in Heaven and gone unnoticed unless, at the time of their creation, they were already being concealed. This was especially true if she descended to the mortal world, as there were only a few means of doing so. The only ‘path’ was by using the bridge created by Babel Tower and, unless you could somehow piggyback a god like Hermes, there were simply no other means to reach the mortal plane. This simple fact made Hermes seem like the most likely candidate but, as many of the goddesses knew him for a ‘very’ long period of time, it wouldn’t have made any sense for him to do such a thing…even so, he fell into the crosshairs of Loki and she intended to cross-examine every member of his Familia to find out what they had been up to over the last few decades…

The one thing that made it hard to deny Hermes’ involvement was the fact that he had ‘disappeared’ around the time the expedition was set to occur. Though he had the excuse of Vahn purchasing his entire Familia, the fact he hadn’t appeared since then was a minor flag. However, given how ‘clever’ Hermes was supposed to be, the fact that most of the signs pointed towards him actually made it less likely. It wouldn’t have made any sense for him to spend hundreds of years plotting in secret only to now draw so much attention to himself. He was likely involved with whoever was working with Enyo and, for one reason or another, drawing attention to himself at their behest…

Deep within a ruined city, long forgotten in the flow of time, a blonde haired god wearing a feathered hat sneezed loudly before wiping away his nose and staring into the distance with his slightly parted orange eyes. With a perpetual smile upon his face, he murmured, “I wonder if a beautiful girl is talking about me~?” At his left, a beautiful woman with blue hair tilted her head to the side slightly, muttering, “Hermes…you should show a greater sense of propriety as a God. Your bad habit of playing with the hearts of maidens…haaaa…”

In response to his companion’s complaint, Hermes released a light-hearted laugh before musing, “Love is one of the most powerful and influential forces in the entire world, my darling Artemis. If you ever fell in love, I believe you would agree with my sentiments~.” Hearing this, Artemis furrowed her brows slightly and said, “I am a Goddess of Chastity, Hermes…I will not lower myself to partake of the wanton desires of the flesh. You would do well to hold your tongue and not say something so blatantly offensive…” To this, Hermes maintained a casual smile and continued walking down the dark corridor with Artemis in silence. There was little he could say to change her mind on the matter and, though he had an idea as to whom might be able to break down the walls of her heart, that was a story for another time…

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