Chapter 1011: Comprehension

After diverting his focus to the surface world for a few hours, Vahn’s avatar within the Dungeon, which hadn’t moved since his ‘rest’ began, now twitched into an active state. It felt like his limbs had been set with lead but, after rising to his feet, Vahn had recovered his full faculties once again. Even so, he began to stretch in order to better his circulation while musing, “Now I have even more reasons to leave this world…I must return as soon as possible…” As much as he was enjoying his time spent in the Far East, Vahn was already beginning to feel something akin to separation anxiety, even though he could easily return to the Manor at a moment’s notice. The only thing stopping him was his conversation with the goddesses who, knowing it would be ‘easier’ for him, advised Vahn to strengthen his resolve and focus on the journey ahead instead of giving himself more reasons to hesitate…

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Only Hephaestus, Loki, Hestia, and Artemis knew the truth, at least to Vahn’s knowledge, and they were doing their best to keep it a secret themselves as they continued to go about their lives and duties without letting the matter distract them, at least openly. Vahn knew it wasn’t easy for them to pretend nothing was wrong as, even without entering into the Manor, he had stopped by on occasion to peek in on his children. During these visits, Vahn always found Hestia holed up in her room with Artemis while, spending most of her time away from the Manor, Loki had been rushing to take care of various tasks she knew Vahn ‘required’ to ensure his trip was successful. Seeing them like this made the time Vahn was spending within the Far East feel less ‘real’, even though he was doing his best to show his affection to Kali and Amaterasu…

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Vahn began focusing on the coming fight and what he needed to do in order to defeat Achron. He had two trump cards that would almost certainly guarantee victory but, upon starting his descent on the 90th Floor, Vahn had decided that he would rely on his own capabilities to further hasten the strengthening of his Soul. This included using items form The Path’s shop as, even though it could be misconstrued as ‘outside’ help, Vahn knew The Path, and everything contained within, was a part of him. When he moved to other Records, The Path would forever accompany him while, regardless of how powerful they were, Artifacts like the [Sword of Evil’s Bane] would be left behind. Even so, now that he had failed to defeat Achron after nearly two full days of fighting, Vahn was highly tempted to use the sword to at least deal some lasting damage to it…

After inspecting the immaculate blade for a few minutes, Vahn inevitably threw it into his Inventory once again before releasing a heavy sigh. He believed that Achron’s purpose was to serve as the final ‘push’ needed for someone to reach godhood. If he started treating the battle with contempt, Vahn felt it would be the same as limiting himself as, compared to anything he had ever come across, Achron had fostered the most noticeable growth with him. Even though his parameters weren’t changing much, it almost felt as if the numbers meant nothing at this point. True power was embodied by a person’s understanding of the Laws while, as useful as they were, parameters merely served as a crutch that allowed people to glean insight into them. This was why two people with the same Agility might have drastically different speeds, especially if one focused on the concept of Speed itself when delving into the Laws…

Knowing his own ‘specialty’, Vahn held up his palm before activating his [Eyes of Truth] and condensing a cube of Pure Fire Elemental Energy. Though a sphere was the most stable form, Vahn liked how the cube would break at the points, dealing highly penetrative damage to anything that was unfortunate enough to get caught within its area of effect. He had even tried making a cross-shaped ‘Star’ to deal even greater damage but, with how thin each segment was, Vahn ended up destroying part of the Dungeon and dealing a significant amount of damage to his own body for the effort. Though his instincts told him it wasn’t impossible to make more complex shapes, Vahn had defaulted to basic geometric shapes with an even number of faces and sides. These were the most stable forms energy could take when brought together, something many Mages quickly learned when they were delving into the craft…

After preparing a few surprises for his next encounter with Achron, Vahn’s eyes sharpened as he brought both palms together and tried something a little more ‘drastic’. His arms naturally transitioned into his Zhuque form, vermillion feathers extending all the way to his elbows, as a small marble of Pure Yang began to condense in his palms. Vahn was far more attuned with the higher-tiered elemental force in his Zhuque form, allowing him to grow the ‘star’ to the size of a walnut before it was on the verge of collapse. As even this wouldn’t be enough to deal any real damage to Achron, Vahn muttered, “With how much time I’ve spent with the girls, there is no reason why I should fail…”

As he spoke, Vahn’s body underwent a peculiar change that would have caused him to sweat bomb in almost any other situation. While maintaining the shape of the Yang Elemental Star, Vahn’s body became increasingly more feminine until, at the very end, one of the things he had come to pride himself in had simply ceased to be. This wasn’t enough to distract him, however, as Vahn ignored his now slender and delicate arms as he began to infuse Pure Yin, intermixing it with the Yang contained within the Star. Though the two forces were natural counters to each other, Vahn knew, with absolute certainty, they were capable of existing in a perfect balance. Not only that, they would further enhance what made each unique Element great, leading to a situation where their power was compounded several fold, not just arbitrarily doubled…

Though he wasn’t sure if it helped, Vahn focused on the time he melded with the goddesses as he infused the Yin Elemental Energy into the Yang Elemental Star. This caused his own body to heat up rapidly but, without losing focus, Vahn continued to fusion of the two elemental forces until, nearly twenty minutes later, he held a peculiar violet sphere in hand that, while being a quarter the size of what he started with, held an unfathomable amount of power. Even though he had been the one to create it, Vahn sensed ‘nothing’ from the tiny violet sphere other than an instinctual fear of letting it go. Since Yin Elemental Energy was considered the product of the Spirit, significant enough damage by anything suffused with enough energy could even damage the Ego, effectively ‘destroying’ the Soul from some people’s perspectives.

After tossing the small Star into his Inventory, Vahn breathed a sigh of relief as he used the back of his palm to wipe away a layer of glistening sweat from his forehead. Vahn’s eyes were drawn to the fairness of his own hand, causing him to pay attention to his body for the first time since the process had started. Immediate realization hit him as he saw the two budding mounds protruding from his chest, causing Vahn’s body to rapidly morph back into his default Progenitor state. Then, even though it was almost impossible that anyone had seen what had occurred, Vahn turned his eyes to the surroundings. Fortunately, he had been in an isolated area of the 97th Floor and, even with some of them having nigh-omniscience, Vahn was confident that his actions had gone unobserved…

Just as he came to this conclusion, Vahn felt a tingle in the back of his mind that represented his ‘instincts’ tell him he was wrong. This caused an exasperated sigh to escape his lips as he wondered which of the Primordial Deities was observing him. Upon considering he was the only challenger to make it this far into the Dungeon, it was highly possible that they were ‘all’ observing him from somewhere. Vahn was even fully expecting that, upon clearing the 99th Floor, he would find the gods and goddesses waiting for him on the other side. This meant he may be having a reunion with Tiamat sooner than he’d like, causing Vahn’s scalp to tingle slightly as he transformed into his Qinglong form and tore a path through to the 98th Floor…

Though the 98th Floor was nearly 50,000km across, making the Continent of Eden seem small in comparison, Vahn could sense an ‘intent’ lock onto him the moment he entered the Floor’s airspace. He had chosen a place that was far enough away from Achron that the massive True Dragon wouldn’t be able to immediately attack him from, at least in any meaningful way. This didn’t prevent Vahn from having to quickly begin dodging a few lasers, however, as their speed made it possible to attack anywhere on the Floor in an ‘instant’. Fortunately, Vahn had a fair amount of leeway to dodge as they lost a significant amount of power and accuracy the further they traveled away from Achron.

After using the laser barrage as a means to ‘warm’ himself up, Vahn’s lust for battle had been stirred so, without further hesitation, he tore through the void before appearing above Achron’s body once again. While muttering, “Still a big bastard, aren’t you…?”, Vahn brought out a large ‘cube’ before throwing it towards the base of Achron’s wings. Though not as fast as the speed of light, the attack still traveled fast enough that it seemed to ‘teleport’ the short distance before rapidly destabilizing. Vahn chose not to wait around to see the result, however, as he vanished from his location just as Achron’s tail tore through the area with unstoppable momentum.

This time, Vahn appeared near the base of Achron’s tail but, seeing that it didn’t possess the orifice he had expected, a new plan quickly concocted itself within his mind as he was forced to dodge once again. Fortunately, he still had a surplus of OP available after mowing through the previous Floors, giving him a bit of leeway in his options. As a result, Vahn purchased another [Yi’s Judgement] before appearing less than a meter away from one of Achron’s oversized eyes. It’s pupil contracted to a ‘point’ that was still larger than Vahn’s entire body as an intense amalgamation of mana began to form from its depths. This attack would never find purchase, however, as Vahn unceremoniously stabbed the black spear into Achron’s eyes before ejecting the star formed from Yin and Yang Elemental energies. With that task completed, Vahn moved so fast that time seemed to stop around him as his instincts warned him to clear the area as quickly as possible…

Just as the gravitational well caused by [Yi’s Judgement] began to bloom, the black sphere actually fractured into pieces as the oppressive gravitational surge was simply no match for the combined forces of Yin and Yang. The moment the tiny Star began to expand, it was as if the influence of other Laws was simply overwritten as, without even contacting any part of Achron’s flesh, his head began to vanish as if it had been erased from reality. An area a thousand times the diameter of the Star had become ’empty’ as it continued to float in the air, completely bereft from Gravity’s pull. Curiously, instead of becoming ‘unstable’ and growing in size, the star kept its structural integrity with the only discernable change being the ‘field’ surrounding it…

After moving more than a thousand kilometers away, Vahn had used his intent to observe the after-effects of his [Yin-Yang Dual Elemental Star]. He watched with dull eyes as Achron quickly moved away from the Star’s influence, a large section of its head now missing. Though this section wasn’t growing back, it was able to outrun the influence of the Star as the latter, while unbelievably destructive, wasn’t very fast. It made up for this lack of speed by ‘deleting’ everything that came into contact with it, but Vahn couldn’t understand why his instincts had reacted the way they did. It wasn’t until nearly an hour had passed, with Achron fleeing in the complete opposite direction, that Vahn began to sweat a little…

While the Star’s influence continued to grow, the Star itself showed no signs of destabilizing or diminishing. Instead, it simply hovered in the exact spot that Vahn had released it, pulsing with a gentle violet light that was unceremoniously destroying everything around it. Though the rate of destruction was rather slow, it showed absolutely no signs of stopping whatsoever. Vahn was beginning to realize that merging two elements to the point that they had achieved ‘balance’ wasn’t necessarily the best way to create a consumable weapon of mass destruction. Though the Yin and Yang Elemental energy were certainly enhancing each other’s aspects, they were simultaneously keeping each other in check, allowing for what seemed like ‘infinite’ growth…

Though it was hard to imagine, Vahn could visualize this small Star of his growing to the point that it would one day destroy the entirety of the 98th Floor. Then, though it would take an astronomical amount of time, its influence might even stretch to the entire Mortal World. Realizing this, Vahn released a self-deprecating sigh as his right arm morphed into his Zhuque form. If the Star existed in a perfect state of balance, he needed to forcibly create an instability before it grew to the point that he could no longer take action. Though he could easily deal with it upon his return to the Record, Vahn felt like he was going to ‘fail’ the Dungeon’s challenge if he simply chose to ignore it…

Taking in a deep breath to prepare himself, Vahn leaned forward slightly before musing, “Well, at least I learned something new from this experiment…” Since Yin and Yang were able to exist in a ‘perfect’ balance like this, Vahn’s mind was buzzing with infinite possibilities for the future. He had failed to make a cross-shaped construct with unstable Elements but, seeing how the [Yin-Yang Dual Elemental Star] retained its shape, he was contemplating making an actual weapon out of it. If he could control the area of its influence, there would be little that would be able to resist an arrow that could seemingly ‘delete’ anything it came into contact with…

Imagining the possibilities, Vahn allowed a smile to adorn his face as, unbeknownst to him, an invisible pulse radiated from his body. He was so focused on wrangling in the [Yin-Yang Dual Elemental Star] that he had missed the phenomenon entirely. Fortunately, Sis had documented it, much like everything else that happened around Vahn. Though she didn’t have a body to perform the action, she imagined a smile on her non-existent lips as she silently encouraged, (*You can do it Vahn…!*) in a voice that, even within his head, Vahn couldn’t hear. This didn’t stop him from instantly moving into action, however, as if the words gave him the power needed to do what his instincts screamed was an extremely foolish action.

Unable to teleport within the area of the Star’s influence, Vahn emerged just outside of the invisible aura before charging into it without any hesitation. Vahn could best describe what he felt as the same kind of feeling a person would have if they dropped from an incredible height and crashed into water. It felt like his body was being torn apart by an incalculable number of needles but, unlike everything else that came into contact with the Star’s influence, his Source Energy wasn’t so easily dealt with. At nearly the same speed that his body was being broken apart, Vahn was regenerating under the combined influence of his Qinglong, Zhuque, and [Magia Erebea] forms. It only took a single instant for him to reach the violet star at the very center of the phenomenon, causing Vahn to extend his vermillion hand forward to grasp it in his palm.

Though not the result of his Yang Elemental Energy destabilizing the star, Vahn felt as if time had come to a stop the moment he formed his hand into a fist. He was vaguely aware of the fact that the star had tried to absorb some of his blood before, in less time than an instant, Vahn’s connection with his avatar had been completely severed. Back on the surface, Vahn had been in a meditative state with Amaterasu curled up in his lap while Kali was passed out at the side. Her tails were gently snaking about as a contented smile adorned her sleeping expression, something that would have caused Vahn to smile in almost any other situation. This time, however, he released a sigh before reaching out his hand and stroking her silky black hair while thinking about what had happened…

It was at this time that Sis’s voice echoed within his ears, causing Vahn’s brows to perk up as she said, (*Congratulations, Vahn, your Soul has finally reached Tier 4…!*). Then, understanding his confusion, Sis explained, (*I’m not sure if it was your comprehension of ‘balance’, or your willingness to stop the Star’s destruction, but your Soul has undergone a qualitative change. Take a look…*)

Following Sis’s advice, Vahn submerged his intent until he was outside of the rainbow-colored space that represented his Soul. He could see Eva’s memory fragment sleeping peacefully within but, instead of being cradled by his Soul, it was almost as if she was a tiny nucleus as, compared to before, Vahn’s Soul felt ‘massive’. Even [Enkidu], which seemed to take up a large portion of his Soul before, now coiled around in a much larger arc that made it seem tiny compared to the past. Most importantly, Vahn could sense something new within his Soul that hadn’t existed before and, even though it was hard to ‘understand’ what it was, he instinctually knew it was his own Divinity based on the connection they shared…

Extending his ‘hand’ outward, Vahn condensed the strange ‘something’ within his Soul until it formed into a tiny white shard. Since Divinity within the Record of Danmachi was fragmented, Vahn wasn’t that surprised by the fact that his own only seemed to be a ‘piece’ of something greater. He would need to develop and nourish his Divinity further if he wanted to truly make it his own but, even this small fragment filled him with an overwhelming sense of ‘completion’. Vahn couldn’t really describe what he was feeling right now but, as if the destruction of his avatar had been a small matter, a feeling of supreme bliss welled up from within his heart before extending outwards to his surroundings…

Though they were sensitive to Vahn’s emotions in his normal state, Amaterasu and Kali were both startled awake when they felt this particular pulse of energy. Amaterasu, who had been having one of the best dreams of her long existence, nearly hopped out of the bed in surprise as her golden eyes reflected the image of Vahn deep within. As for Kali, her eyes showed an extreme amount of excitement as her mouth formed into a vicious and predatory smile. Watching what was happening to Vahn’s body made her own feel like it was suffused with liquid magma and, if not for her unwillingness to ‘disturb’ whatever process he was undergoing, she wouldn’t have been able to contain herself.

Sparing each other a quick glance, Amaterasu and Kali could see understanding in each other’s eyes as they both began to stir up their own Arcanum to mask the aura radiating from Vahn’s body. Then, with shimmering eyes, they continued to watch as light radiated from each of Vahn’s pores, casting his figure in a subtle blue glow. His hair, which had been moving as if a gentle wind was blowing it, changed from its traditional dark brown into a pure and untainted white. On his chest, in the same location as Freya and Artemis, a small glowing symbol emerged, this one emanating a radiance that even Amaterasu, a Goddess of the Sun, couldn’t directly look at. It wasn’t until the light began to fade, allowing Vahn’s floating body to gently lower to the bed, that both goddesses were able to see that the symbol on Vahn’s chest had taken the same appearance as his Maker’s Mark. The only difference was, instead of being black, Vahn’s glowed a sky blue on the edges while pure white light shone from within its depths. Neither girl stared at it for too long, however, as Vahn’s eyes slowly peeled open to reveal a pair of blazing blue eyes that caused Amaterasu to gasp while, diminishing the impact of the moment, Kali released a sensual moan…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Preparing for a Raid be like…’,’Achron noped the f*** out’,’Kali, “My body is ready…!”)

(A/N: Sorry for the late chapter. I’m a bit busy today, but I’ll try to get out another when I can.)

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