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In preparation for the upcoming expedition, the girls had decided to schedule one of their 'Vahnatus', a name that, till this day, Vahn had never really gotten used to. Still, as the event often helped direct the momentum of everyone in the Manor, Vahn looked forward to them, this time being no exception. The topics of discussion were the expedition itself, including who would be going with him, the matter of Bell, Alexa's emergence from the Space-Time orb, and the upcoming Denatus. At this point, the Alliance was the primary focus of every Denatus so it was important to discuss anything that they wanted to address during the assembly of the gods.

Vahn had arrived in the dining room a bit early and, seeing Hephaestus sitting alongside Ina, he smiled happily before joining them. Ina, though she was getting a little big for such behavior, immediately crawled into his lap as if it were the most natural thing in the world while Hephaestus released an amused laugh. She leaned on the table, supporting her head with her hand and mused, "Even though your body and mind have developed quickly, it seems like you'll never outgrow that clinginess of yours~." Ina, without so much as a light layer of blush, just nodded her head in response and said, "I've seen so many different futures, and Papa is the only constant that I've been able to observe. After talking to Erika, I don't mind if I never end up getting a boyfriend, as long as I still get to create my babies and spend time with Papa..."

While Ina was speaking, her eyes were glimmering with a magical light, obviously focusing on something in the future that only she could see. Vahn, hearing her words, released a soft chuckle while gently hugging Ina's body and saying, "Ina will always be my Little Princess, even if she became 300cm tall..." This caused Ina to produce a rare frown while Hephaestus began to laugh heartily while they both imagined what it would be like if she was actually 3m tall. Ina never wanted to be bigger than her Papa, as she felt comfortable whenever he was holding her. As for Hephaestus, she just thought it was amusing and, knowing Vahn was just teasing Ina, went with the flow of things.

For a few minutes, the three of them just talked amongst themselves, enjoying the atmosphere until it underwent a subtle shift when the others began to arrive. Maemi and Emiru had walked in to begin setting the table and, seeing the three of them sitting there, began to fluster a bit as they said, "Master, forgive us for making you wait. We'll prepare some tea and snacks..." Bowing together, the twins then whisked away to the kitchen while Vahn produced a wry smile. He had made efforts to get them to relax a little but, as their strength continued to increase, the twins actually became more devoted to their work as maids. It was a little strange but, as they genuinely seemed to enjoy their current lifestyles, Vahn didn't try to force them.

They weren't the only ones in the Manor with quirks, as everyone had something unique that defined them, including their thought process and general mentality. There were girls like Mikoto, who were almost always serious and dutiful, while, inversely, there were girls like Tiona, who seemed to be completely incapable of treating anything in a truly serious manner. The only time she restrained herself was when other people were solemn, or if something impactful had just happened. Then, probably the most unique amongst them all, were girls like Preasia and Risna, the former spending the majority of her time sleeping, while the latter holed herself up in her own room and pumped out a number of novels on various subjects.

At this point, Vahn had nearly a dozen books that Risna had written 'to' him, each detailing various different ways their relationship could progress. He had noticed that, as time passed, the details within the books had become progressively more bold, making it very clear he would have to start treating their relationship seriously, sooner, rather than later. She wasn't the only one, either, as girls like Mikoto, Nanu, Shizune, and Tina were also waiting for him to initiate things. Among them, the only two that showed genuine patience were Mikoto and Nanu, but Vahn knew it had been a little unfair for him to put things off this long. Though he was very busy, it wouldn't have taken that much effort to at least show that he cared for them in a more 'meaningful' way...

After a few minutes had passed, Maemi came out pushing a tray full of snacks, enough for everyone that would show up later, while Emiru carried an ornamental teapot that had a very fragrant aroma wafting from within. Vahn could smell mint, a trace of honey, and the special black tea leaves that the girls had been cultivating after they found out he enjoyed them. Though he could easily purchase them through the system shop, Vahn appreciated the efforts that they would go to in order to try and please him, making a mental note to express his gratitude when he got a chance later.

Slowly but surely, the other girls began to show up, starting with a rather large group that was comprised of Haruhime, Mikoto, Ais, Tiona, Tione, Lefiya, Lili, Naaza, Milan, Tina, and Shizune. When they entered into the room, most of the girls happily greeted him but Vahn hadn't missed the somewhat 'envious' look that Tina gave towards Ina. At the same time, Vahn also took note of how much Tina had changed over the last year, now looking much more mature than in the past, with her secondary physical characteristics developing just fine. She often took the nutritional supplements that he had provided for the girls who stayed within the orbs, though never more than a single dose per day. He knew that she wanted to be mature enough to bear his child in the future, which was one of the reasons Vahn was somewhat hesitant about allowing things to progress further...

Vahn had long ago resolved himself to treat Tina as one of his lovers and, after having several years to think about it within the orb, it seemed like Milan had accepted it completely at this point. Just a few weeks ago, after the two of them had finished having sex, Milan had actually asked him to consider removing the restriction on Tina and Shizune, as they were both, chronologically, much older than most girls would be when having their first time. At this point, Tina was actually seventeen years old, even though she wasn't actually treated as an adult yet, while Shizune was twenty-four. The only thing holding them back at this point was the 'restrictions' that had been enacted when the orbs were first created, now seemingly far less important than they had been in the past...

With this thought passing through his mind, Vahn considered addressing it during the Vahnatus but decided that, instead of doing things in such a roundabout manner, he owed it to the girls to simply seek them out. There was plenty of time within the orb to spend time with them, so Vahn made the decision to do away with some of the restrictions, though he would still have Tina wait for a little while before they took the final step. Still, just like his interactions with Lefiya and Preasia in the past, there were plenty of things he could do with her that should help release some of her tensions. In fact, just being 'open' to the idea of being more intimate with her would almost guarantee her [Luck] caused an event to occur to that effect.

At this point, they had been able to observe the effects of Tina's [Luck] for more than a year, giving Vahn an incredible amount of insight into how the skill actually works. Essentially, the skill worked by altering the perception of the user slightly, making them more susceptible to triggering events that would coincide with their innermost desires. This meant, if the person wanted to get more drop items, they would end up killing monsters in such a way that it would increase the odds of them dropping items. At the same time, if they had somewhat perverted mentalities, which seemed to be one of the 'requirements' for having [Luck], they would often trigger events that allowed them to interact with the object of their affection.

That wasn't the limit of the ability though, as it actually influenced the people around the person that had the [Luck] Development Ability as well. In the event of facing off against an enemy, this could result in things like 'critical' strikes landing, the opponent's weapon breaking, or a monster tripping over itself. When it came to the object of their affection, assuming that person wouldn't get offended by an 'accident' happening, it would guarantee that something would happen between them. If the 'target' was resistant to the idea, the [Luck] would trigger, as that would potentially harm the development of their relationship. Inversely, if the target was 'open' to the idea, the effect of [Luck] would become more pronounced, something Vahn had learned personally...

Around the time when Tina had, chronologically, reached fourteen years of age, which she had earnestly been keeping track of within the orb, Vahn got to experience the extremes of her [Luck]. The topic of her unique item, [One of Heart, Mind, and Body] came up in conversation, becoming a matter of intrigue for the girls within the orb. Tina had taken it out to show it off to them and, after talking about its potential uses for a while, she ended up getting riled up. Later that evening, after a fair amount of hesitation, she ended up using the item without truly considering the repercussions of her actions...

Though his instincts had been warning him that something might happen, Vahn happened to be busy with diplomatic affairs at the Elven Kingdom while, back at the Manor, he was making love with Milan. These events had been enough of a distraction that he hadn't noticed the strange energy the 'overlapped' Milan's body, continuing to make love to her for several hours as she too was completely oblivious to what was happening. As a result of these oversights, Tina ended up in the orb for nearly thirty hours, linked with the feelings, thoughts, and sensations of her mother back in the real world. For nearly a week after that, Tina had kept completely silent about the incident until, after being confronted about her strange behavior, she finally confessed what had happened...

Ever since that incident, Tina started training even harder than before and started taking the nutritional supplements to help her still immature body develop further. She had a strangely 'resolute' disposition after that and, though she had initially been perfectly fine with 'waiting', it was obvious that her patience had slowly worn down with time. Unfortunately for her, it was actually this incident that had kept Vahn from taking any further action with her later on, as thoughts of what she must have experienced made him feel more than a little awkward. Milan could be a very 'needy' woman in bed and, as a result of her increasing stamina, she could go for a few hours without any significant rest...knowing that Tina had experienced all of that had caused Vahn to develop a few inhibitions about the future, though that wouldn't matter now that he had made up his mind.

She shouldn't have known what he was thinking, but Tina used the opportunity when Vahn's left side was open to 'skip' over and try to take the seat for herself. From her perspective, Tina figured, even if she couldn't sit in his lap, sitting next to him was better than nothing. As this thought passed through her mind, a very different thought passed through Vahn's, causing the hair on his neck to raise as he internally remarked, ("So quickly!?") Then, as a result of Ina sitting in his lap, Vahn was unable to move fast enough to prevent Tina from tripping over 'nothing'. He reached out his hand to prevent her tumbling head-first towards Ina, somehow missing her shoulder completely and feeling a soft and plump sensation against his hand.

Tina, startled by her sudden fall, had reached out her hands to try and use Vahn's arm as support, the very act that caused him to miss her shoulder. When she felt a hot and firm sensation press against her right breast, the momentary gap in her mentality caused her to release a mewling "Nyaa~" while clinging to his arm. It was almost as though she was actually 'holding' his hand against her chest, even though she was simply trying to prevent herself from falling down. As a result, Vahn's hand was firmly pressed against Tina's chest and, attempting to remove it, just made the absentminded Cat Person writhe about slightly as her tail flickered happily.

Cursing himself for not using his head, Vahn then used telekinesis to lift Tina away from him so she would let go of his hand. Her face was a little flushed and she seemed to be a little embarrassed after realizing what had just happened. However, she didn't seem capable of hiding the smile that was creeping onto the corners of her mouth, nor could she control her tail that was dancing around happily even as Vahn set her back a few meters. Vahn, using his telepathy, then sent her a message to help her calm down, causing Tina to remember where she was as she bashfully hid her face from view. All the while this was occurring, Ina had been observing the event with slightly glowing eyes and a small frown on her face, though it didn't persist for very long as she just released a small sigh and leaned against her Papa's chest.

With Tina losing the initiative, Lefiya had quickly slipped into the spot on Vahn's left while the other girls began to fill in the empty seats and begin having lively discussions about what they would be talking about later. Vahn felt it was somewhat amusing, that they were actually 'already' talking about the matters that would be covered in the Vahnatus, but he still pitched in his own take on matters whenever they would ask. The biggest concern on most of the girls' minds was if they would be able to go on the expedition, or if they would remain back at the Manor. Following that, the majority of the conversation revolved around the topic of magic, any new insights others might have had in their training, and what was going on with their favorite sports teams...

Though there had been a bigger focus on increasing their strength in the beginning, as learning Magic had been a very interesting idea for most of the girls, this had no longer been the case after a few years had passed within the orb. Most of the girls weren't very studious so they were unable to make significant progress in their studies, leading to the situation where they spent more time learning how to use their [Pactio]s and becoming 'Knights' instead of 'Mages'. Since training could get stale, this meant that the girls had started going into the Dungeon while he had been busy with his own personal matters. The only times he had gone in with them were when he made a quick stop at Lil Geirr, replenishing their supplies, but the girls had been spending a fair amount of time fighting monsters to polish their skills.

As a result of their efforts, the Hestia Familia had been promoted to S-Rank, making it the fastest Familia to achieve the rank within the history of Orario. At the same time, Vahn had been able to greatly bolster his OP reserves with all the rare drop items they would bring back. Though he was able to earn a fair amount from the exchanges through the Alliance, Vahn also spent a lot on the materials that were requested from them, meaning his actual gains weren't that great. With the girls' efforts, however, he had been able to break one hundred million OP, a monstrous amount, even if it wasn't even 1% of what he needed to purchase the [Dimensional Anchor: Stasis]...

During the upcoming expedition, he would need to decide who would be accompanying the main group and providing security for the construction crews that would be helping jumpstart the construction of Haven. Though he had humored the idea of just going down with only the girls and building the core structure themselves, Vahn scrapped that idea very quickly. That would ensure they would be able to develop it in the way they wanted, while also making it a special places for themselves, but that wasn't the point of Haven. It was meant to be the 'frontier' City for those that were brave enough to try and probe into the deepest depths of the Dungeon. At the same time, it was the first line of defense against any terrifying monsters that would try to break free from the Dungeon and cause destruction on the surface.

Though it would undoubtedly become his pet project, Vahn wanted Haven to become a 'symbol' for people all over the continent. It would be the place where, if you wanted to reach the peak of your potential, you would have to make a pilgrimage down to its depths just to take your first steps towards the top. If you couldn't even make it to Haven, you fundamentally lacked the qualifications to become truly strong, meaning you would need to refine your capabilities further before trying again. In the future, Haven would be the place where the strong would gather, aspiring to become even stronger by having access to the resources that would only be available within the City. At the same time, it would be the location of what Vahn believed would become the 'heart' of the entire world, the Academy, where the most powerful Mages, Knights, and Scholars would emerge...

To ensure his dream was able to become a reality, Vahn knew he would have to invest a lot of time and effort into personally overseeing the development of Haven. This would also serve as the catalyst for future conflicts between the Alliance and the forces of Enyo, as there was no way the errant goddess would simply watch as they build a fortress so deep within the Dungeon. After she fails to stop them, Vahn believed she would undoubtedly try to draw them away from the Dungeon's depths by targetting the surface, something he had 'confirmed' with Cassandra, Sylfia, and Ina.

Though every decision he made altered when the attack would happen, the Alliance had already started making several preparations, including the distribution of specialized potions that Terra had synthesized with his blood. If Enyo truly tried to use chemical and biological attacks against the City, they were already prepared to deal with the fallout. A single potion would be able to cure more than ten people and, as a result of the mass production of the potion over the last fourteen months, they had more than enough for almost every citizen of Orario, according to the most recent census.

Vahn knew that Ais, Haruhime, and Lefiya all had fates tying them to the Dungeon, as he was now able to see a very subtle flow that had started to follow them around, so they were almost guaranteed members for the expedition. At the same time, he would 'have' to take along people like Tiona, Tione, Lili, Ryuu, and Arnya, as their capabilities were simply too significant to overlook. Tiona was borderline unkillable, though she seemed to push the boundaries a lot, while Lili, Ryuu, and Arnya had an almost 'ridiculous' amount of offensive strength. Lili would probably be able to punch clear through one of the Dungeon's Floors while Ryuu's [Pactio] would be a counter to almost any large monsters that might appear from Enyo's side. As for Arnya, her [Pactio] and combat prowess made her one of the most terrifyingly effective 'anti-army' fighters within the Manor.

Though Riveria, Lefiya, and Fenrir would be able to 'nuke' a mass of enemies, this would also eat a lot of their mana reserves. Arnya's [Pactio], more specifically her artifact, used very little energy to produce a seemingly endless amount of spears that could be shot forward with the same strength as she would have thrown them. These spears would then explode after contacting an enemy, releasing the terrifying might contained within, dealing catastrophic damage that could easily rival the attacks of a Level 7...

With these candidates in mind, Vahn just had to balance out who would stay back on the surface to protect the Manor, and who would be staying inside the Dungeon to assist in the defense of Haven. Fortunately, it shouldn't be too difficult to establish a teleportation magic circle within the Tree of Life itself, linking it to a second teleportation ward within the illusory forest. Though each use of the ward would likely cost a large amount of mana, and the resources supplying such mana, it meant they always had a way of traveling between the 50th Floor and the surface in an instant. They wouldn't be able to use it 'leisurely', but it would be a very powerful asset in the event of an, Vahn just had to see how Enyo would react...he also couldn't help wondering if things might be over as soon as they began...

(A/N: As there will certainly be people that ask, "Why doesn't Vahn just go [Magia Erebea] and conquer the whole Dungeon!?", I will explain...first of all, that isn't how you write an interesting story. Secondly, that would be the same pitfall he has fallen into before, the same thing Eva had cautioned him against. The only reason Vahn would take such an action was that he either 'stopped caring', or 'assumed he was able to resolve it with his own strength'. As one of the most prevalent lessons Vahn has learned is 'there is always someone stronger', he wouldn't simply go into the situation without thinking, especially since it ties into the flow of fate within the record. It would always be the more prudent act to meet the enemy on your own terms, forcing them to act in a situation where you have greater advantages. Thus, even if Vahn's personal strength is very high, the actions he is taking are, inarguably, the more 'correct' choices to make. For any 'real' person that somehow managed to get a lot of power, hubris and egotism would be the main way most of them meet their end xD...)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Ina has no need for smelly bois~!','Damn, calm down, Tina (O_O);','Vahn has been playing too much chess...already thinking several steps ahead...') <-(p.atreon link)

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