Chapter 833: Perception

When he had arrived on the 39th Floor the prior evening, Vahn had a short meeting with Finn to get a better understanding of the expedition’s preparations. He learned that, for the most part, everyone was ready to depart and, instead of the approximately 1300 original members, there were now closer to 1800. This was a combination of the fact that Lil Geirr no longer felt as safe as it was in the past, making people want to follow the ‘stronger’ group, and the motivation everyone had to essentially become part of history. Knowing what was at stake, a larger group than expected had rallied behind the Alliance’s banner and were determined to help establish a foothold, not just for the Alliance, but for all surface dwellers.

In order to facilitate the additional unit’s worth of people, the first three units had been shuffled around and now Aisha, representing more than 100 Amazonesses, would be the leader of the new 3rd Unit. Finn would still be leading the Vanguard while Haruhime would be taking command of the Rearguard. Shakti would remain in charge of the 2nd Unit, leaving the largest congregation of Adventurers within the 3rd Unit as a response force. Vahn’s task remained that of the Supreme Commander of the expedition, but his main duty would be providing assistance wherever it was needed.

Aisha had decided to accompany the expedition down to the 50th Floor both as a means of supporting Vahn, and watching over her people. Since the 50th Floor would undoubtedly become the ‘goal’ of many Amazonesses in the future, she knew it was important to establish a foundation early on to ensure there wouldn’t be any problems. In a way, she would become the head of the Entertainment District within Haven and, with Vahn giving her a flame seed, her strength would continue to increase in the future. Vahn also promised her that, once things with Telskyura were dealt with, if she wanted one, he would like to have a child with her…

This news had caused Aisha to laugh quite a bit, catching Vahn a little off guard until she came close enough that their noses were practically touching each other and said, “If not for the fact those two were exercising patience, I would have already gotten a baby from you, Vahn~.” Aisha, licking her own lips, also traced her tongue just barely across Vahn’s. Though she had been a very ‘patient’ woman, it was primarily out of respect for Tiona and Tione, concern for Haruhime, and a desire to take care of her people. If Vahn had already had children with Tiona and Tione, Aisha would have already talked things over with Haruhime before sneaking into Vahn’s bedroom in the middle of the night if she needed to…

After that rather sensual encounter with Aisha, Vahn had a moment of reflection and wondered if what he was doing now was really the most important thing. However, almost as soon as this thought crossed his mind, Vahn remembered Enyo’s provocation and the attack on Lil Geirr. She was far more dangerous than he had initially expected and, even if her forces couldn’t contend against the Alliance directly, the amount of damage she could cause was catastrophic. Vahn could tell that her minions were growing stronger and, if he didn’t personally throw a wrench into her plans in the near future, the death toll would weigh heavily on his mind for a long time.

Currently, Vahn was helping the girls get ready for the expedition and, as things had been rather quiet over the last couple of days, they had been lounging around a bit. He had Fenrir, in what he now referred to as her bunny-wolf form, sitting atop his head much like how Shirohime was fond of doing. This impression was very strong as, with a jade comb in hand, Vahn was slowly combing through Haruhime’s fluffy tails as she sat in nothing but a pair of crimson red silk panties. Most of the other girls were also in nothing but their underwear, causing tantalizing flashes of youthful skin to fill Vahn’s vision. It was difficult to have any negative thoughts when witnessing such a scene so Vahn’s expression showed a calm contentedness and a subtle smile instead…

After nearly two hours, as it required a fair amount of time to comb through every girl’s hair, ears, and tails, Vahn was finally able to set down his comb and stretch his legs. At the same time, Maemi brought over a hot cup of black tea, smiling as she said, “Here you are, Master…” Vahn graciously accepted the tea as Emiru stepped behind his back and began massaging his shoulders, even though there was no real tension in his body. Even so, Vahn didn’t stop her efforts and instead enjoyed the momentary comfort as he finished his tea, handing the empty cup back to Maemi as he smiled to the girls and said, “Let’s go ruin Enyo’s plans, shall we…?”

Tione was the first to raise her fist, shouting, “Let’s teach that bitch a lesson!” with an expectant glimmer in her eyes. Tiona also laughed, holding her hands behind her head as she mused, “I hope they have some strong guys to at least put up a fight~.” Other than the Variant Juggernaut, the rest of the enemies had gone down rather quickly. Even the strange Viscum were only around the strength of a peak Level 5, making them a non-threat to most of the girls. With their battle instincts as Amazonesses, Tiona and Tione were a little more excited for the coming fights than most…

Following the two rambunctious Amazons, Ais surprisingly smiled as she said, “Make sure not to defeat Enyo too quickly…I have a lot of questions for her.” Tiona began laughing even more when she heard this, clinging to Ais with a jubilant smile on her face as she rubbed cheeks with the doll-like beauty. Lefiya also show her support, balling her hands into fists as her star-shaped pupils radiated confidence as she said, “As long as everyone works together, there is nothing we can’t overcome~!” This exclamation got pretty much everyone fired up, including the rather quiet Rufina who had been sitting with Chloe, Arnya, and Haruhime previously. She, much like Ais, had a lot of questions she’d like answered and, even if it was impossible for her to fight on the frontlines, Rufina was determined to uncover the truth.

With Fenrir gently wagging her tail, still clinging to his head, Vahn nodded slightly and said, “I’m not going to let Enyo get away so easily next time…well, let’s go get ready. Everyone has their own duties to take care of but make sure to stay in contact at all times. Remember, Enyo will probably try to deceive you the first chance she gets and, given what we know, she may even have methods to alter your memories. Never believe anything the enemy says, especially if it sounds too good to be true or pertains to something you want to know about. We will find the truth together…never forget that…” Vahn was more than a little worried about both Ais and Rufina, especially the former as she likely had a direct connection with Enyo…

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After one final hurrah, followed by a rather comfortable group hug, everyone left the Hestia Familia’s compound and went to their own Unit to make final preparations. There were still more than two hours before the departure was scheduled, but Unit commanders like Haruhime needed that time to get things properly organized. Lefiya would also need time to communicate her orders and intentions to her Mage squad while everyone else performed checks on the carts, supplies, and people that they would be protecting. Vahn also met up with each of the Unit Commanders to make sure everything was good to go before having a short briefing with Finn before final checks were made.

By the time the expedition was ready to move out, Vahn was sitting at the front cart of the 3rd Unit with Shizune and Tina sitting on his flanks. Things would get very chaotic in the Deeper Floors and, though they were more than strong enough to protect themselves, Vahn felt better with them at his sides. This arrangement had been well-received by both girls so Vahn felt less guilty about treating them like children, even though they were far older than he and the other girls were back when he first began entering the Dungeon. To make it up to them, Vahn had a hand on both girls’ heads and used his [Grooming], both to pacify them while also bolstering their parameters for any dangerous fights that may occur…

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With one final shout from Finn, which was repeated by Shakti, Aisha, and Haruhime, the expedition began moving forward while the majority of Lil Geirr’s residents saw them off. There was a slight bit of solemnity in the atmosphere, but everyone still cheered loudly and wished the expedition good fortune in its endeavors. It wasn’t an exaggeration to call this one of the most important events to take place in the last thousand years so everyone at least made an effort to appear supportive. Then, as the last cart had exited the gates of Lil Geirr, a massive barrier covered the entire enclosed region.

Vahn had left enough resources to power the barrier for nearly a month straight and, unless something like the Dungeon ceiling collapsing occurred, there were few things that would be able to damage the powerful magic dome. This type of barrier was called a [Paling], a type of magic barrier that was powered by a massive crystal that was kept within the heart of Lil Geirr. As long as it was powered, the barrier it produced was nearly indestructible and, out of consideration for a repeat event, Vahn made sure it was a type of barrier that could redirect kinetic energy and withstand much greater physical pressure than the previous one. It cost him 6,000,000OP to purchase but, with the remnants of the Variant Juggernaut netting him nearly 4,300,000OP, Vahn didn’t believe it was a waste of resources. (A/N: Vahn also killed several tens of thousands of monsters, leaving a veritable floor full of drop items and crystals behind after the fighting had ended xD.)

With the pale white barrier at their backs, lighting up the rather dark dungeon floor, the expedition continued forward until they arrived at the entrance to the 40th Floor. The journey to the 50th Floor would be conducted in one fell swoop, starting from the 40th Floor, continuing through the Blazing Hell between the 44th and 49th Floors, and then ending after the slaying of the Balor. After entering the 50th Floor proper, it was very possible that a veritable ocean of monsters would await them but, no matter what it took, the expedition would press forward.

This time, Vahn had decided to enter into his ‘Lightning Emperor’ form the moment a major threat appeared. He didn’t want a repeat of what happened with the Variant Juggernaut, where he got thrashed pretty badly until Ais and Ryuu helped out. This was also why he wanted Shizune and Tina at his sides as, even though their [Effigy of the Hero] would have protected them, Vahn had been a little shaken when he saw the malicious monster immediately set its sights on them in the previous encounter. Without his ridiculous number of blessings, the quick reaction of Chloe, and the existence of his [Aegis], there was a non-negligible chance the two could have died…

Thinking how close the two had come to losing their lives, Vahn hugged the two girls close and kissed the tops of their heads. They didn’t really know what he was thinking and just accepted his care and affections without any complaint. As for Fenrir, who had some idea of what was going through her Master’s mind, she hopped down onto the back of the wagon and returned to her ‘combat ready’ appearance. There was a fierce glint in her eyes as wisps of midnight-blue and a mystical white light began to spread from her pupils. With her Master prepared to act at a moments notice in order to protect the two girls, Fenrir shared the same mentality and her hair began to become slightly rigid as her body became tense like a spring that was ready to release.

Though he had noticed Fenrir roll off his head, Vahn just looked back for a moment without questioning what she was up to. She had a habit of being ‘considerate’ of other girls at times and he assumed this was her way of letting him spend time with Shizune and Tina. Sending her his gratitude through their shared connection, which caused Fenrir to slightly nod her head, Vahn continued to pet the two girls without restraint. Shizune even moved to his lap, causing Tina to ‘curse’ under her breath slightly as the mature Kitsune laughed triumphantly. Vahn immediately moved her back to his side, pinching her button-like nose as he said, “I need to be able to move during an emergency…”

Shizune had been slightly surprised by the fact that Vahn had moved her away from his lap but, hearing his reasoning, she blushed slightly and lowered her head, saying, “Sorry…I…” Vahn reached out his hand and ‘plopped’ it onto her head, whispering, “Shhhh…it’s fine…” while doing the same to the now ‘triumphant’ looking Tina. Neither girl really looked like a child anymore but, with nearly 30cm of height on the two of them, Vahn could easily stroke their heads in much the same way as in the past. However, even while he enjoyed gently playing with the girls’ ears, Vahn’s eyes remained sharp as his massive domain scouted an area of 1,083m around him…

Vahn had noticed that the range of his domain had started to increase very quickly over the last few days and had a few speculations about why this was the case. It could be the change in his mentality, but Vahn had felt a slight change when he had used his [Keeper of the Akashic Tome] on Gros. After that, he noticed that the improved affections of others seemed to have a minuscule effect on his domain and, considering the nature of the quest he had received, Vahn started to understand why The Path assigned him to get 10,000 followers, subordinates, or retainers. He had always known that his [Will of the Emperor] actually became stronger based on the devotion of his followers but, until recently, never saw the skill for what it truly was. Now, if his suspicion was true, Vahn knew the best method to strengthen himself in this, and all future records…

He may not become the ‘Emperor’ he had seen within the Divination, but Vahn was beginning to understand that, with his personality, it was impossible for him to pass through a record without bringing about change. Since he couldn’t simply ignore injustice and corruption that existed right in front of him, his path would always be marked by numerous tyrants, kings, and nobles that he had deposed. Even gods would likely fall in his personal crusade to make the worlds he visits a better place and, in order to make sure such a dream became reality, he would need the support of the people he was trying to save. The more support he had, the faster his growth would become and, once he had linked together several records, Vahn knew his power would reach an unfathomable extent that his current mind simply couldn’t comprehend…

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