An hour after they stopped ‘playing around’ in the artificial Dungeon, the group finally found the passageway leading down to the 25th floor. Vahn noticed that, even though they had all gone much deeper in the past, Riveria, Ais, Tiona, Tione, Ryuu, and Lefiya all became tenser the deeper they proceded down the stairs. Tiona didn’t seem to be too affected, but her cheerful demeanor had become more reserved and she wasn’t speaking much along the way. Vahn understood that the 25th to the 27th floors were considered the ‘bottleneck’ for most parties due to the unconventional battle conditions and the difficult enemies one would have to face.
The 25th floor was known as the ‘Great Waterfall’ and it consisted of a massive wall of water more than 400m wide that extended all the way down to the basin on the 27th floor 800m down. There were various slippery platforms, a variety of small lakes and ponds, and a veritable horde of monsters contained within their depths. Unlike the floors above, which typically only had 2-5 different types of enemies you would have to be wary of, the 25th through the 27th floor had at least a dozen. The most problematic thing, however, was the fact that many of them were either aquatic or amphibious creatures and were capable of barraging unprepared parties with ranged attacks.
To make matters worse, there were moderately intelligent creatures that could fly around overhead and use both physical and magical attacks to rain down on the heads of a party. The combined assault from so many directions had overwhelmed many parties in the past and, unless you had enough forces to ‘discourage’ the monsters from attacking, it would be a constant assault until you reached the exit of the 27th floor. During that time, not even the ground you stood on would be safe since there were even monsters, known as Crystal Turtles, that disguised themselves as the platforms you would be able to stand on.
Fortunately, Vahn was the natural enemy of monsters trying to sneak up on the party and they also had two people with the relatively rare Development Ability, [Diving]. Both Tiona and Tione had the skill and could even outpace many fish-type monsters in their own natural habitat. Tione herself claimed she could even hold her breath underwater for nearly 40 minutes, assuming she wasn’t engaged in strenuous combat. Tiona had something of a disadvantage because of how heavy her weapon was and often fought underwater after leaving it behind with the backline support group.
Before they entered the 25th floor proper, Vahn brought everyone to a stop and began to discuss the various enemies they would face and the methods he had thought of to deal with them. Though the girls from the Loki Familia didn’t need the lecture, Vahn still covered everything so that everyone was on the same page and knew their respective duties. They even discussed the possibility of simply jumping into the basin on the 27th floor, now that the girls knew that falling from great heights wasn’t actually that dangerous. However, Vahn knew it was actually a very serious issue to jump into water than it was to land on the ground. After explaining how surface tension worked and how it was even possible to get water ‘stuck’ inside orifices, the girls quickly gave up on the idea.
Of course, Vahn didn’t think was entirely a bad idea and considered various ways they would be able to make the descent. It simply wasn’t worth staying on the three annoying floors, and bypassing them would always be better than dealing with the constant barrage. They might have to face it on their way out of the Dungeon, but it didn’t mean they had to deal with it right now. One option was to use his newly acquired Green Dragon to try and guide them all down, but it wouldn’t have any easy way to deal with the aerial assault of other monsters. Though it was Level 4, that didn’t mean it was immune to the damage build-up that it would have to face. Vahn thought about having Riveria use her barrier to surround the dragon on its descent, but he learned the barrier magic required the user to be standing on solid ground.
Unable to come up with a ‘practical’ solution, other than simply trying to jump to lower platforms, Vahn made the decision to proceed forward normally for the time being. If he found platforms within his domain that were within his line of sight, he could use Shundo and ferry the girls across, but that would depend on the situation. Since he was rather strong, it was actually possible for them to all cling to his body simultaneously, but the energy consumption would go up a great deal as a result. It was, however, one of their best options if they wanted to get through the floor safely.
Since they would likely face assault from several directions, Vahn rearranged the formation to have Ryuu and Tione in the back, Tiona and Ais in the front, while he and Riveria flanked Lefiya, Haruhime, and Fenrir. Fenrir had absolutely no ability to fight within the water, though her [Freezing Roar] would be very effective, so she was relegated to a support role for the time being. She couldn’t actually swim, so Vahn decided he would teach her when they returned to the surface. When it came up, Vahn actually learned that Ais had a phobia about water, even though she could somewhat tread water. Riveria had averted her eyes when the topic was brought up and Vahn assumed she was likely the culprit behind the trauma. Once again, he realized he knew very little about the girls around him and resolved to remedy this when he was focused on forging and training in the future.
After everyone was ready, Riveria used her [Veil Breath] on everyone which created a thin barrier that protected them against physical and magical attacks for a while. Unless the attack could overwhelm the defensive properties of the magic, it actually worked as ‘immunity’, so they would be able to tank any pot shots that might break through their defensive setup. Vahn had the ability to help Riveria replenish her mana, so it was possible they could break through the three floors without ever suffering any damage, though they would probably be soaked from head to toe in the process. With his [Wounds Transfer], they shouldn’t be in too much danger unless they make a mistake and were caught off guard. Luckily, Monster Parties didn’t spawn on these three floors and Vahn’s detection ability should allow them to navigate the complex structure of the floors with ease.
Without any further hesitation, the group proceeded into the 25th floor and Vahn was surprised to see ‘sunlight’ shining down from the crystalline structures jutting out of the walls. There was a massive waterfall that entered his sight which created an awe-inspiring sight as well as an explosive sound that made it nearly impossible to hear anything else whenever you were outside. He immediately understood why this place was a challenge for many parties, as it would be nearly impossible to coordinate with each other through spoken word. Vahn, however, took exception to this and altered the density of the air around the periphery of the group to create a ‘sound dampening’ barrier to block out the explosively loud waterfall. Riveria, once again, gave him a serious look before simply sighing and progressing forward without saying anything.
Not even one minute after they entered the floor, a group of three Raider Fish jumped out of a pool and attempted to knock everyone off the narrow passageway they were walking on. Vahn had long noticed their presence so, the moment they exited the water, they were greeted by three arrows to their heads. Raider fish averaged between 1-2m long and could swim more than 80km an hour inside the water while exceeding 300km/h in short bursts. They had dense bluish-green scales along their bodies and very hard heads with a maw of razor-sharp teeth. Though they were the weakest monsters on the floors, they could be very deadly if they managed to surround you after knocking you into the water. They liked to ram their enemies over and over with their hard heads to weaken them before using their razor-sharp teeth to tear them apart.
Unfortunately for them, and many of the monsters that would bar their path, Vahn’s detection wasn’t blocked by the water at all. The moment they entered the 471m range of his domain, he would inform everyone of their approximate location and be ready to meet them with his bow. Though it wasn’t as strong as the [Yi’s Bow] he had forged for Naaza, Vahn was using an A-Rank bow called [Yoichi Bow] that he had obtained through the premium gacha. He hadn’t noticed it at first, but Vahn had been awarded a premium gacha ticket in his inventory after defeating the Goliath during the Hestia Familia excursion. It sat unnoticed in his inventory until he had been clearing things out in preparation for his current delve.
Rank: A (Magic)
Abilities: Visual Acuity(B), Anti-Air Proficiency(B), Impeccable Accuracy(A)
A bow owned by a proud warrior from a foreign record famed for having accurately shot a fan said to block all arrows while on horseback. The original user was so skilled he was said to be able to shoot a diving falcon out of the sky from a distance exceeding 300 meters.
Vahn also had an advantage enjoyed by no other archer, being that he was able to produce a nearly infinite number of arrows through his shop, store them all within his inventory, and nock them on his bow without having to draw them from a quiver. He could fire an average of one arrow every .2 seconds and, when he pushed himself to the limit, could even loose fifteen in a single second by nocking three arrows simultaneously. For a bow, the slots assigned to the weapon allowed him to ‘queue’ up quivers within his inventory and mount multiple arrows simultaneously.
Though he didn’t use it often, Vahn’s skill with the bow was nearly unrivaled, simply because he had too many advantages with the benefit of his domain, several archery skills, and his enhanced vision with the passive effect of [Eyes of Truth]. With [Bow Mastery] increased to Rank-S through the use of a skill enhancement scroll, Vahn was able to see a ‘projection’ of the target’s destination and accurately hit them by tracing their trajectory with nearly 100% accuracy, enhanced even further by the corrective ability of the bow itself.
It had been a while since Vahn was able to display his archery skills to such an extent, so he was ‘madly’ shooting any enemies that were appearing around them. Even though they were currently much stronger than he was, Vahn’s efficiency in dispatching monsters on the 25th floor even exceeded Ais, Tiona, and Tione. When a group of five Harpies showed up and tried to rain down razor-sharp feathers at them, Vahn had accurately pinned an arrow in between their various sized breasts. Though he knew of their existence in the compendium, Vahn was surprised to see monsters with humanoid torsos that looked like mature women while their lower bodies and arms were that of a raptor. They weren’t very ‘beautiful’, considering their skin was a greyish blue covered in scales, but it was still a little distracting to see exposed breasts flittering about in the air. (A/N: For those that are confused, carnivorous birds of prey are all considered to be species of ‘raptors’. So Falcons, Eagles, Vultures, etc, are all considered species of raptors.)
The only enemies Vahn was having trouble dealing with were the massive Blue Crabs and Aqua Serpents that would randomly shoot jets of water at the group without leaving the safety of the water. The Blue Crabs were massive crustaceans that could exceed more than 3m in height and had one massive claw that protected the area where their magic core was located. They were in the class of monsters known as ‘Metallic Creatures’, and were highly sought after for their bio-organic metallic carapaces for use in the creation of armor. Though his bow was very powerful, Vahn was surprised to realize that he couldn’t actually penetrate through the thick blue armor and had to leave it to the excited Tiona to, quite literally, crush them with her monstrous strength.
As for the Aqua Serpents, Haruhime got an opportunity to shine as she pelted the water where they were located using her [Icicle Edge]. Though Vahn’s arrows could pierce the water, the resistance of the water itself would quickly diminish the force behind the arrows. When he tried to put more power into the arrows, Vahn was surprised to see that they actually ‘broke’ the moment they contacted the water surface instead of actually penetrating through. Though he didn’t understand the entire principle behind it, he considered it to be similar to how a body would break apart when falling into the water at a high speed.
Haruhime’s ice magic, however, made use of ice and water elementals and was capable of penetrating through the water relatively easily due to the sheer size of the projectiles. The 4m long Aqua Serpents that were badgering the group would be impaled by her magic as Vahn helped to replenish her reserves in between fights. Knowing that she was being useful, Haruhime was very excited and continued her magical barrage without ceasing, at least as long as the monsters were alive. Riveria and Lefiya had been surprised by Haruhime’s ‘dual casting’ and Vahn explained that she was able to use her tails as a catalyst to ‘duplicate’ the magic spells. To demonstrate this principle, Haruhime used her [Kokonoe] to grow an additional three tails and used a total of five [Icicle Edges] to deal with a large Crystal Turtle that had been disguising itself as a platform in the water.
Crystal Turtles could be more than 10m in diameter and typically had incredible defenses, but they were somewhat weak to magical attacks. As if mocking the crystalline structures on its back. Haruhime’s target ended up having five 3m long spears of ice sticking out of its shell as it wailed in pain and tried to escape into the water. Tiona, however, seemed to take exception to this and leaped the 40m distance before spinning several times through the sky and smashing her [Dance of the Amazon] into the durable shell. Not only did her own [Crush] Development Ability trigger, but the [Crushing Blow] of her weapon activated simultaneously and left a massive crater in the turtle’s back, instantly killing it.
Though he had initially wanted to skip the troublesome floors, Vahn was glad he had made the decision to navigate through them. Even the relatively weak monsters, like the Raider Fish, awarded upwards of 25-40OP when he looted their magic cores. For the larger monsters, like the Crystal Turtles and Blue Crabs, they were worth several hundred, to even several thousands, of Origin Points when looted. Vahn had explained that he was able to absorb the energy contained within the magic cores to fuel his ability to ‘create’ items, so he was allowed to ‘consume’ them all while collecting the drop items for the entire group. By the time they cleared the 25th floor, the group had killed well over a thousand monsters and Vahn’s OP reserves had shot from 98,316 to 317,844.
Vahn knew he would be able to earn a large amount of OP in the lower floors, but this was far beyond his expectations and he was very excited at the prospect of being able to build a large reserve for the future. Anticipating he would be able to make a large amount in the near future, Vahn used 300,000OP to purchase an additional three [Effigy of the Hero] and passed them out to the group. Tione was happy to receive a new effigy and placed it, to Vahn’s surprise, in between her breasts as if it was the safest place to store it.
Including himself, Lefiya, Fenrir, Tione, Tiona, Haruhime, and Ryuu all had effigies at this point. Ais didn’t really need one, as her [Ariel] protected her from almost any attack that came her way, except for powerful physical blows. Riveria’s ‘Elf King Robe’, though it looked like a normal cloth armor, actually had incredible shock absorbing capabilities and was highly resistant against magic. Unless it was a surprise attack from something like a floor boss, she was the least likely to actually suffer a fatal attack in the entire group.
Though Vahn always knew armor was very helpful, he had never really considered it imperative since many combatants actually didn’t use much at all. Since the armor generally restricted movements, most Adventurers at higher levels only wore things like breastplates, to cover their heart, and arm guards. As for restrictive armors, it was typically unnecessary since it was better to avoid damage entirely than it was to ever receive a blow. Knowing that Riveria was able to get such a powerful defensive effect from a piece of ‘clothing’, Vahn was inspired to develop a ‘uniform’ for the girls even more now. If nothing else, he could finalize his idea of an undergarment that could be worn beneath other clothes that would also provide strong resistance against physical and magical attacks. Then, if the peculiar situation of the girls having their clothes destroyed occurred, their dignity would still be protected by the ‘bodysuits’ he would develop for them…
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Like getting a 10-gallon enema UwU’,’Vahn’s Archery Prowess’,’Vahn wants to play dress-up. Someone call Loki and Anubis~!’)
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