Chapter 873: Defenders

Shortly after the ‘evacuation’ of the 50th Floor had been completed, the City was in an uproar as everyone wanted to know what kind of methods the Alliance had that allowed such a feat. Though teleportation existed in the record of Danmachi, it was ‘impossible’ to use that kind of Magic within the Dungeon. Even basic communication scrolls wouldn’t work so the fact the Alliance could move nearly two-thousand people, even though the cost was near four billion Valis, was a big deal.

Vahn, however, simply issued a statement to pertinent parties that he was under no obligation to use such a method on anyone’s behalf. He explained that it wasn’t a simple means and that the cost was extremely expensive, listing out all the required items and having the entire expedition validate his claims. Around the same time, he welcomed anyone else that had that capability to create a teleportation ward of their own as the one established within Haven was solely the property of the Alliance. It didn’t matter if others tried to pressure the Alliance to gain access to the teleporter, as they simply lacked the power and authority to make such demands from the start.

There were numerous rumors circulating around about how Vahn was essentially trying to claim the 50th Floor for his own personal use, especially once large groups of Elves and Beast Humans began moving into Haven. It was still a little too soon for the Xenos, as their numbers were simply too few, so Vahn relied on his influence with the Elven Kingdom and his popularity with the Beast Tribes. There were also quite a few Pallums who easily met the requirement to become his retainers and, though they were on the weaker side of the spectrum, Vahn still selected a very intelligent and reliable Pallum to help them create a foothold in Haven for the future. He was using this opportunity to establish a solid power base for himself, using people that he could ‘trust’ to lay the foundation.

While this was going on, Vahn’s main body had ‘relaxing’ back at the Manor, except for when he was dealing with various Gods and Merchants. He had been vetting many of the previously impregnated goddesses after Loki convinced them it was just a measure to make sure there were no side-effects that had gone unnoticed. Through these ‘examinations’, Vahn discovered that quite a few goddesses had Enyo’s influence inside of them and quickly got rid of it. This had been taking place over the course of five days and, thus far, there hadn’t been any major issues. It was seeming more likely that Enyo either didn’t have the means to influence those on the surface or was taking action in a way they weren’t able to trace just yet.

All the while this vetting process was taking place, Vahn remained ever-vigilant within the Dungeon while Haruhime, Chloe, Ryuu, Lili, Mikoto became the ‘leaders’ of each Fortress. Their main purpose at the moment was simply training the relatively low-Level defenders how to activate formations, respond to orders, and operate the basic defensive mechanisms of the fortresses. Vahn had made some pretty excessive purchases, equipping the majority of the Elves with Magic-grade bows that were each B-Rank or higher. For the Pallums, as they surprisingly had a decent affinity with Earth and Water magic, Vahn had given C-Rank [Green Mage Staff]s to the majority while the few with Darkness and Light elemental affinities received [Void Staff] and [Noah Staff] respectively.

Though they may not become powerful Mages in the future, using the new system, they would still become respectable assets that would also serve as the inspiration for other Pallum in the future. With pendants and accessories to increase their mana regen, supplement their mental energy, and increase the amount of experience they acquired, it wasn’t impossible for them to become relatively strong in a short period of time. As for those that didn’t have a suitable constitution for Magic, they still had very good eyesight that made them suitable with crossbows and, with their small sizes, they were able to maneuver quickly and unseen for laying traps. Lili and Chloe had started giving a group of seventy Pallum a crash course in Scouting and omnidirectional fighting maneuvers. Though it would likely take them several months to become proficient, just having the basic skills was enough for helping maintain the defenses of Haven…

By the end of the fifth day, Vahn had migrated approximately 800 Elves, 500 Beast Humans, 300 Pallums, and nearly 400 assorted races, primarily consisting of Demi-Humans, the colloquial name for any Half-Breeds between Humans and other races. Because of the rumors associated with Eina, Tsubaki, and the Elves in general, Vahn was very popular with most Demi-Human communities. As they had always been plagued by the issues of their low birth, Vahn represented the hope for a better future and, with that very future promised to them for their service, there had been more than a few willing to pledge their allegiance earnestly. The only thing that stopped even more from joining, as there had been no specific Level requirement for the task, was the fact that Vahn had limited the number of people to 2,000. Even having this number of ‘followers’ was already mind-boggling as seeing the massive list of names, statuses, affections, and other values were rather intimidating…

One rather unexpected addition to his forces had been Finn who, upon learning of the situation, had kneeled down in front of Vahn and pledged his allegiance as well. Since Vahn had been relying on Finn’s leadership and management abilities for quite some time, he happily brought Finn into his fold and even bestowed a flame seed into the now much younger Pallum. Though his appearance hadn’t changed much, it was a fact that Finn was starting to age and had been feeling its effects for a while. Being an Adventurer for a long period of time slowly wore down the body so Vahn had reduced Finn’s physical age to 28 years old, even though it had cost a little more than 400,000OP to do so.

With Finn serving as the Supreme Commander of Haven’s defense, Vahn’s confidence about heading into the Dungeon to deal with Enyo had been steadily increasing. He didn’t know how many days it would take but, so long as he was putting pressure on her, Vahn knew he was also buying time for Haven’s defenses to become even stronger. After all, though it did stunt the growth of their parameters a bit, the amount of experience that could be gained from killing monsters around these Floors was immense. Even if their Endurance and Power might stagnate a bit, just being able to grow their Dexterity, Agility, and Magic were great boons that many of those selected as defenders would have struggled with for their entire lives.

Now, with the equipment that had been provided to them, it wasn’t impossible for even Level 1 ‘Defenders’ to kill the Level 3-4 monsters that roamed in from the 49th and 51st Floors. As for the name ‘Defenders’, it was the simple term used to represent what Finn had named the Haven Defense Force. Since the majority of those who had come to protect Haven weren’t actually Adventurers, it was good for their morale and sense of unity to give them a unique designation. Now, with their military-style garbs, the patches designating their ‘rank’ and ‘Level’, and the high-quality equipment everyone carried with them, there was a strong feeling of ‘purpose’ within this hodge-podge of people…

Though it was never his intention, seeing the group of rather ‘zealous’ people walking around in orderly formations and interacting with each other in a rather serious manner, Vahn felt like he was building an army. The first thing that was being ‘beaten’ into them by the girls, which everyone strangely seemed to accept, was ‘discipline’. Since everyone within Haven had pledged their loyalty or allegiance to him, Vahn had given them some simple orders that had been taken very seriously. His words were for them to work hard to create a future for themselves as he would help to promote their strength without limit, so long as that was their desire.

Vahn also provided very large monetary rewards, insurance for their families and, with the defeat of Enyo, everyone who had volunteered would be able to keep all of their equipment, even if they left the Haven Defense Force afterward. With girls like Lili and Haruhime giving them pep talks after the fact, Vahn noticed that the Loyalty and Allegiance values of the Defenders were increasing rather quickly. He had even gotten a [Leadership] Development Ability when he had ‘recruited’ his 100th follower and, even without doing much, it was already at D-Rank with Finn and the girls doing most of the work…

With these things taken care of, Vahn was sitting in Yggy’s branches with the tiny Spirit dozing away in his lap. Fenrir was snuggled up in Yggy’s arms using her Wolfbunny form while Fafnir, unable to stay within the area of Yggdrasil’s influence without feeling a burning sensation, dozed off in the shadow of the surrounding wall. Though it was comprised of Source Energy, Fafnir’s Innate served as something of a ‘curse’ that made it difficult for Fafnir to tolerate Yggy’s domain. Vahn had even tried to modify Fafnir’s Affinity but, trying to give it anything ‘positive’ affinities costs several hundred million OP. The one he had in mind was giving Fafnir ‘Light Elemental Affinity’, but that actually cost a total of 1,000,000,000OP, which was more than a little outside Vahn’s spending range…

From over the wall, Vahn saw Lefiya flying towards him so he poked Yggy’s cheek to wake her up, even though she didn’t actually sleep. This didn’t mean she was unaware of the concept of sleep, however, and, after watching Fenrir snooze in his lap a few times, she had to try it herself. Now, Yggy stretched somewhat theatrically while releasing a loud yawn as she said, “Good morning, Papa~.” As was the case with all of his children, Masonia being the only exception, Yggy ended up calling him Papa after talking with her ‘Mama’, Ryuu for a bit. He had promised to let her meet Alise once things had settled down, to which Yggy had more than happily claimed she didn’t mind waiting for a ‘few hundred’ if necessary…

Ruffling her golden hair, Vahn smiled as he said, “Good morning, Yggy…and Fenrir…did you two enjoy your nap?” Fenrir had been stretching like a cat in Yggy’s lap and Vahn couldn’t help but pull up the sides of his mouth a little more upon witnessing this. Neither girl answered by the time Lefiya arrived, however, as they were focused on the latter’s fairy-like figure. Lefiya waved towards Yggy, a natural smile on her face, before turning to Vahn with a slightly more serious expression as she said, “Master, there were a few issues with the defensive wards that had been created in some of the key areas of the fortresses. I believe Enyo’s victims had been manipulated to try and undermine their integrity before she attacked later…”

During the investigation, there were a number of people who were under Enyo’s influence, even though they hadn’t tried anything when he cleared the ‘mark’ from their minds. From this, Vahn had concluded that Enyo could only ‘actively’ control a single person at a time and, having already experienced how difficult it was just to control two bodies, Vahn understood the reason. This was likely why she relied on ‘corrupting’ monsters and using layered brainwashing to control the Xenos and her Creatures. By using the corrupted magic cores as a catalyst, she was able to manipulate people without having to take direct control, making her power considerably less scary than before…

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Vahn nodded his head in response to Lefiya but there was a small smile on his face as he said, “If you ever want my affection, you just have to let me know, Lefiya…” Because she could have simply informed him through telepathy, Vahn felt that Lefiya had wanted him to praise her so she had come to inform him directly. Surprisingly, Lefiya became very flustered as she waved her hands back and forth, saying, “Waaah, Master, I just remembered you mentioning that Enyo might be able to intercept our communications. I wanted to let you know in person so she wouldn’t have any way to know that the wards had been fixed…!”

Hearing Lefiya’s words, Vahn realized she was right and, perhaps because of how ‘easy’ things had been going, he realized his habit of becoming complacent had gotten to him once again. It wasn’t even a week ago that he committed to never underestimating his enemy again but here Lefiya was, ‘reminding’ him about a very simple fact. He had even been the one to tell the girls to only rely on using the telepathy in an emergency and to try and communicate important issues within Yggy’s domain to avoid detection…

Currently, Vahn had been taking a nap back at the Manor with Aki, Meinya, and Anise while he had also been relaxing with Fenrir and Yggy. Though he was paying attention to his surroundings, it was now rather obvious that he had lost focus somewhat. Even so, his expression didn’t show the slight perturbance he felt as he laughed lightheartedly at Lefiya’s outburst before saying, “You were right to do so, Lefiya, thank you for covering for my oversight. I am constantly reminded by how capable everyone is that my own training can never cease…hahaha~.” Vahn had been told by the goddesses that he ‘needed’ to relax as much as possible before confronting Enyo, or else he would be prone to making even more oversights. Right now, he was slated to be venturing into the Dungeon in two days and, while that was going on, his main body would likely be in deep meditation within the Sub-Space orb. If he didn’t relax now, there might not be any time to relax later…

Though she already had a red face, Lefiya showed a bashful blush as she brought her fingertips together and said, “Thank you for saying such kind words, Master…but…umm…” This time, Vahn laughed for real as he gestured toward Lefiya and invited the bashful Spirit to sit in his lap. Then, for a good twenty minutes, Vahn enjoyed the flowery aroma of Lefiya’s hair while embracing her from behind. Though she could get him very ‘excited’ in many circumstances, Lefiya’s aroma had the same calming effect as girls like Terra, Riveria, and Ryuu. This was a natural quality of Elves and, though Lefiya was now a Spirit, this ability had only been amplified, not reduced…

(A/N: The standard outfit of the Defenders is essentially a false-aegis coat, their choice of trousers, shorts, or skirt, and a mantle that gives them naturally enhanced stealth abilities and provides protection from magic attacks. They each have badges, pendants, and two accessories of their choosing that have very similar effects. The badges are a simple soulbound item that can only be carried by the person it was issued to and work similarly to ‘Guild Cards’ in other fantasy settings. The pendant boosts their experience gain and increases the replenishment of mana and mental energies while the other two accessories work as ‘batteries’ to power the various defensive formations while giving them an emergency means to use their Magic items. As for the color palette, you can essentially imagine everyone wearing grey/black outfits, similar to Vahn himself, while their mantles would be an off-white that matches the surrounding Floors and helps them blend into the background (UwU)~!)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘You can shove your rumors up your bum (UwU)~!’,’And so, the HDF fought…’,’The Calm Before the Storm…’)

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