It was still a while before the Goliath spawned, so the two Familia mingled and got to know each other a little better. Fortunately, Bete and Gareth were missing and Vahn learned it was because Bete had gotten blackout drunk the previous night and was temporarily out of commission. This was a fortunate coincidence since Vahn didn’t want any trouble to occur when the anti-social Werewolf met the anti-social Vanargandr, Fenrir. Vahn knew there would eventually be an incident caused between the two, but he was hoping to put it off for as long as possible, at least until Fenrir had stabilized even more.
As for his strategy for the upcoming fight, Vahn was intending to use none of his equipment at all. Impaling Goliath with [Lævateinn] might not immediately end the fight, but it would deal enough damage over time that the Monster Rex would inevitably fall even if the entire party retreated. It was stuck within the room containing the Wall of Grief, so it wasn’t too difficult to simply retreat and allow the flames to slowly consume its body without putting anyone in danger. Vahn wanted a true test of his own abilities, so he was standing off to the side stretching his body in his Xuánwǔ form wearing nothing but a pair of black trousers.
When he had demonstrated the skill earlier, Riveria had been curious about the tattoo so Vahn removed his tunic and allowed everyone to see the strange pattern on his back that looked like a yin and yang symbol surrounded by eight trigrams. Though she had the ability to decipher godly hieroglyphs, to an extent, Riveria couldn’t make sense of the symbols at all. The only thing she understood was that each contained powerful elemental energies that were unlike anything she had seen before. For the duration where Vahn was preparing for the fight, she sat at the back with a small notebook as she drew out the patterns, with Vahn’s permission, for future study. In exchange, she agreed to demonstrate the magic circles derived from the [Mage] skill later on. Because of the nature of his system, Vahn could actually read hieroglyphs and break down the structure of magic circles since he could almost perfectly record them in his mind for later review.
While he was preparing himself, Tiona was off to the side with the rest of the girls as she stared with a happy smile at Vahn and said, to Ais, “Vahn looks better and better each time I see him~. Aren’t those tattoos amazing? I wish I could transform, it would be super cool~!” Ais nodded and said, “He keeps getting stronger…it makes my heart beat quicken.” Their small dialogue started a conversation between the other girls nearby as they discussed the various ‘aspects’ of Vahn and what they liked about him. Fenrir adamantly claimed to like Vahn the best, though she couldn’t give any particular reason other than the fact he was himself. Tione thought he was very ‘manly’ and had an incredibly fit body, which was a sentiment shared by all the girls present. Emiru and Maemi said they liked his gentle personality, handsome appearance, and the fact he pampered them on occasion. Haruhime thought Vahn was very ‘heroic’, which made her an instant friend with Tiona as the two girls began discussing Vahn’s various acts of heroism. Mikoto said he was a qualified leader, even though he wasn’t always that reliable and easy to approach. Her answer caused some of the girls to be confused because Vahn seemed like one of the easiest to approach people they had ever met. As for Lefiya, the only thing she could manage was a blush and a very dismissive answer about how hardworking Vahn was.
After a few hours had passed, the shadow within the wall had reached a critical level as cracks began to emerge on the Wall of Grief. Vahn rolled his shoulders one last time as Finn shouted to the entire group, “Okay, everyone, let’s fall back to a safe distance. Please, everyone under Level 4, do not exit the safety of the adjoining corridor. Riveria, I’ll be relying on you if we somehow pull the Goliath’s aggro.” The entire group retreated to the corridor before Ryuu squatted down next to Fenrir and got her attention before explaining, “Vahn is going to fight alone this time, so make sure you behave properly. The monster he is going to face is much stronger than you, so if you tried to help it would only make Vahn’s fight more difficult as he tries to protect you. Try to stay calm, we’re surrounded by strong and capable allies that will help him if things take a bad turn.” Fenrir’s eyes glowed a bit, but she nodded her head and said confidently, “Vahn will always win, Fenrir believes….”
When the group pulled away, Vahn followed them with his eyes before asking himself with a wry smile, “I wonder if I can make myself look cool since there are so many onlookers? Hahahaha…” The last time he had fought the Goliath, he was far less experienced and only had his Báihǔ form mastered. Now he could use both Báihǔ and Xuánwǔ freely and also had an unrivaled movement magic that far exceeded the capabilities of most people. Though it was a bit presumptuous, Vahn wanted to end the fight without taking a single hit, excluding the ones he planned to counter. Since he struggled so much during the previous fight, Vahn wanted to completely dominate the new Goliath without giving it a single moment of reprieve…
A loud explosion spread through the room as the titanic Goliath broke free from the Wall of Grief with a monstrous shout that caused the air to tremble. For the lower level girls, they had to cover their ears and could barely resist against the terrible might of the Goliath and its roar. Vahn, however, remained standing without flinching in the slightest. He lowered both of his arms to his sides with clenched fists that began to glow with a green light as he stared unblinkingly at the Goliath.
Free from his constraints, the Goliath targeted the closest thing within the vicinity and charged over with a tremendous force that shook the ground with each mighty step. It closed the 30m distance between itself and Vahn in less than two seconds before raising both arms and smashing down with the intent to crush the small foe before it. A green light flashed and exploded out with enough force to create a large cloud of debris as the Goliath was pushed nearly 8m off the ground with both of its arms missing from the elbow down. When it had tried to smash Vahn, he used [Fist Strike] in conjunction with redirecting the Goliath’s shockwave back at itself. Though he hadn’t developed a skill for it, Vahn called this technique Countershock. Though he took a large burden on his body, and had sunk several centimeters into the ground, Vahn was mostly unaffected while the Goliath destroyed its own arms in the process.
Though he knew she wasn’t trying to distract him, Vahn heard a loud shout from Tiona from the side and he felt emboldened further. Using Shundo, he created a link between the ground and the chest of the massive Goliath before activating the magical ability. Since it was currently without arms, the Goliath couldn’t defend its torso at all as Vahn appeared flushed against its body and slammed both of his fists powerfully toward the magic core within its chest. He didn’t plan to give the Goliath a single moment to respond to his attacks because Vahn wanted to have a true understanding of what it was like to go ‘all out’ against a monster stronger than he was without relying on his equipment.
The moment his fists collided with the body of the Goliath, it’s natural shock resistance tried to activate but a green light flashed along Vahn’s scales and forcibly converged it about a meter within the Goliath. Just like when he fought against Tione, he caused a shockwave to explode within the body of the Goliath, with its magic core as his target. The chest cavity of the Goliath expanded into a sphere for a brief moment as Vahn kicked away from its body. Though it wasn’t immediately destroyed, the Goliath released a large puff of purple smoke from its mouth which showed that it had been heavily damaged. Its arms began to rapidly regenerate, but it was temporarily unable to move from the sheer amount of damage Vahn’s two attacks had done to its body.
Vahn released a somewhat disappointed sigh, because he found that the fight was far easier than he expected. The Goliath was rated as a Level 4 monster, albeit one that equated to several dozen other Level 4’s. Vahn was only an intermediate Level 3 and wasn’t even boosted by Haruhime’s Level-Up magic. Because of the large size of the Goliath, and the fact it was almost exclusively a physical fighter, there was next to nothing it could do against Vahn. He had at least hoped that the fight could get his blood boiling a bit and the realization of his own power made Vahn feel a strange loneliness that he had to shake away before putting strength in his legs.
Though it was mostly blocked by his trousers, a green light flashed at Vahn’s legs as he kicked off mightily from the ground before inverting his body to land, upside down, on his feet after reaching the roof 100m overhead. It was a physical feat that even a Level 6 wouldn’t be able to perform easily, but Vahn was able to manage it by compressing the shockwave through his feet without absorbing almost any of the resistive force into his own body. This greatly increased the force of his jump and allowed him to perform a physical feat that shouldn’t be possible for a Level 3, regardless of how much power and agility they possessed.
The Goliath slowly raised its head to meet Vahn, still unable to move its body even though it was trying its best to regenerate quickly. It’s red eyes glowed with a chaotic light filled with hatred as it tried to use its pressurized air cannon to attack Vahn. Unfortunately for it, with it’s damaged core and ruptured mana channels, it couldn’t compress the energy properly and destroyed it’s own lower jaw while sending its teeth flying about for its efforts. Vahn shook his head pitifully as he kicked off from the roof with enough force to create a 10m wide circular crack in the durable bedrock. His velocity reached nearly 250 meters per second, or approximately 900km/h as he spun through the air twice and dropped a powerful axe kick into the forehead of the Goliath that sent a shockwave through its body that caused the ground to crack open beneath it.
The body of the Goliath swelled up for a brief instant before the contained shockwave overwhelmed its resistances and caused its entire body to explode in a massive cloud of purple dust. Since he didn’t burn any with his Vermillion Flames, there were thousands of small magic cores that exploded from the gigantic core of the Goliath as well as a few meters of skin that had been preserved as a drop item. Vahn stood amongst the look with a conflicted expression for a brief moment before putting on a confident appearance as he waved toward the approaching girls with a smile. All-in-all, Vahn had managed to end the fight with a single Countershock and a mere two physical attacks, excluding the maneuvers he did to reach the roof and then descend for the actual attack. It might have been a bad matchup for the Goliath, but he was still somewhat disappointed by the ease with which he destroyed the Monster Rex that was considered a nightmare by some smaller Familia.
Vahn caught the Amazon shaped bullet that flew at his face with enough force to knock him back nearly seven meters. He took more damage from her tackle, and follow-up kiss, than he had suffered in his actual fight against the Goliath as his bare back skidding along the rough and abrasive floor of the dungeon. Tiona had a heated expression like she was about to devour him as she eagerly sought Vahn’s lips in greedy kisses. Ais showed up almost immediately and grabbed the belt-like sash around Tiona’s hips and pulled her back with enough force to separate her from Vahn’s body. Tiona flailed around for a short while as Tione, who was also showing a dangerous light in her eyes, dragged her away with Ais so she could calm down.
Ryuu arrived not long after Tiona had been pulled from Vahn’s body and extended her hand to help him rise while the rest of the group began to gather around and compliment him for his battle. The girls within his own Familia had reverential expressions on their faces, like they were meeting their long sought-after idol. Finn had walked over as well and said with an approving smile on his face, “Very well done, Vahn. Truly, you are becoming stronger at an exponential rate. The Loki Familia is fortunate to consider you amongst our list of allies.” Vahn laughed as he accepted Finn’s handshake and they began discussing the distribution of items. The Hestia Familia allowed the Loki Familia to take 70% of the magic cores. As for the drop items, Finn asked Vahn to keep them since they would be valuable materials that he could use to craft equipment for the girls in the future. Since it was something that would benefit his allies, he had no reason to keep the Goliath Hide from Vahn, who was known within the Executive members of the Familia as a capable [Master Smith]. It never hurt to increase the rapport they had with a [Master Smith], especially one that beat the previous record for the youngest [Master Smith] by nearly 16 years.
To prevent any problems from arising, the two Familia separated after loot distribution and Vahn’s ‘parting ceremony’ with the various girls within the Loki Familia. Though he didn’t mind too much, it felt awkward having the girls of his own Familia staring at him when he exchanges hugs and kisses with the girls from another Familia. He knew they were all somewhat ‘eager’ to be with him and he could feel their penetrative gazes on his back throughout the entire process. When he finally finished, Vahn bade farewell to the Loki Familia before leading the Hestia Familia through the 17th floor and starting their ascent to the surface. Along the way, they made short stops on each floor so the girls could experience the various monsters that appeared on each. Since Vahn wasn’t a ‘good’ example of how to fight monsters, Ryuu and Aki had taken point for the demonstration and had allowed the girls to fight the smaller groups as a team.
It took them significantly less time to exit the dungeon than it had for their descent, so it was only 9 AM by the time they reached the surface. They reported the successful subjugation of the Goliath and took credit for the kill under the name of their own Familia. Since they were only ranked I, the lowest rank a Familia could have, it caused a small stir within the Guild until they got a message from the headquarters giving them permission to validate the claim. When Vahn learned this, he showed a small smile because he understood that the Guild was probably trying to butter up to him after understanding the situation better. Now that the top 3 Familia within the City were behind him, there were few options available to them other than backing down and compromising.
Though he didn’t know her actual wealth, Vahn knew that Freya was likely the richest person in the entire City since she heavily consolidated wealth and assets. Hephaestus’s Familia was one of the largest, and wealthiest, Familia in the entire city as well while the Loki Familia was the current Ranked 1 Familia due to their achievements in the Dungeon. When the three were considered together, they controlled more than half the wealth and power within the entirety of the City. If the Guild tried to pressure them, without a justifiable reason, it would cause discourse throughout the entire City and lead to political turmoil and economic decline. The benefits were far fewer than the losses they would sustain by trying to take a hard-line policy against the Alliance to try and suppress Vahn and the Hestia Familia.
After the group arrived at the Hearth Manor, the entire Familia had a gathering, combined with a small celebration, as they discussed how everyone performed and the necessary steps for improvement. Now that the girls understood what a fight against a Monster Rex was like, their perspective had broadened greatly and their desire to become stronger had increased to match. After a bit of persuasion, Vahn agreed to escort the girls on trips into the Dungeon so they could meet the requirements for unlocking the [Hunter] Development Ability. If they wanted to be part of the main party in the future, they would need to start walking the path of an Elite now, since the longer they waited, the more difficult it would be to correct their flaws.
When their long lunch had come to an end, Vahn gave everyone the next few days off to prepare themselves mentally for the coming trials. They were also making a few preparations for the upcoming Denatus, which was now only three days away. Hestia would be attending it from Monday-Wednesday in the following week, and that would serve as a pivotal moment for the entire Familia depending on how things played out. Everyone listened to his words carefully before splitting off into smaller groups to go about their own business. Vahn himself had decided to go take a bath, which was a desire shared by the majority of those present as well. He went to the men’s changing room while most of the girls left for the women’s side. The exceptions had been Hestia, as she wanted to spend time together after being apart for a brief period. To prevent her from getting ‘out of control’, Aki had decided to join them as well while Ryuu stayed with the larger group.
Vahn enjoyed a long bath surrounded by the two beautiful, black-haired, girls as they playfully bantered in the hot water while washing each other’s bodies. Aki knew how to twist Hestia’s words around on herself, so she was good at controlling the rambunctious little goddess, likely a result of Loki’s influence. Since they had ‘shared’ Vahn in the past, she used it as an excuse to play around with Hestia’s body a bit and tease her every time she tried to do something ‘untoward’ during the bath. When Hestia complained to Vahn about Aki’s ‘disrespectful’ behavior, Vahn caressed her long hair gently before playfully pinching her soft buttocks with his fingers. Though she called him out for being a ‘traitor’, Hestia didn’t take any actions to part from him as the trio spent nearly a full hour together in a humorous, somewhat pink, atmosphere.