Chapter 411: Know your enemy…

After getting about six hours of rest, Vahn woke up because he had detected a presence within his domain. From what he could tell, it seemed to be similar to the red-haired ‘monster’ woman he had seen in the past. She was skulking around in a passageway that ran adjacent to the corridor that connected to the stairs and appeared to be coming towards their position. Though he was tempted to investigate on his own, Vahn knew he probably wasn’t a match for the woman and his awakening had already stirred Fenrir, and subsequently Ais and Tiona awake.

Vahn sat up and explained for the benefit of everyone else, who was now also waking up, “That woman that I had seen on the 24th floor is heading in this direction. If she turns out to be hostile, let’s do our best to try and capture her. However, if she proves to be a dangerous opponent, don’t hesitate to kill her. From what I can tell, she seems to be around Level 5, but I can’t see through her aura that easily and can’t be certain that is the extent of her power.” Following Vahn’s words, everyone began to prepare while Vahn cleaned up the futon and the additional supplies.

However, even after waiting for several minutes, the woman stopped her advance and had been waiting around 300m away, separated from their position by a wall that was more than 80m thick. Vahn had been training his eyes on her and, though he wasn’t sure how she was able to do so, she was returning his gaze with her glowing green eyes that were affixed with verticle slits like a reptile. Since she was just standing there, Vahn took the opportunity to investigate the interior of her body and confirmed she was definitely not human, or anything remotely close. Though she had the appearance of a woman, the internal structure of her body was far more complicated, almost compact in its structure, and there was a resplendently glowing magic core right next to her heart.

After staring at each other for a while, the woman began walking backward while maintaining eye contact until she stepped just outside of the range of his domain. Vahn squinted his eyes because, the moment she was beyond his perception, even his [Eyes of Truth] could no longer see her. A few seconds later, Vahn could see a hand emerging from the ‘darkness’ outside of his vision before a lazily smiling face appeared soon after. Vahn frowned as the woman waved her hand and moved beyond his perception once again, this time without reappearing even after waiting for several minutes.

Vahn realized what she had done, so he said, “That woman has to be an enemy…it seems she was scouting out the limits of my perception. Damn…” Since he hadn’t confirmed if she was an enemy before, Vahn was unwilling to use his [Enkidu] to try and capture her when he had the chance. Though it was very unlikely he would have been successful, it was still frustrating to know the ‘enemy’ had discerned information from him when he didn’t even know who they were, nor the purpose behind their actions. They not only had his name, but now knew the current range of his domain and would likely use it against him in the future.

Riveria saw the frustration on Vahn’s face and said, “Can you describe, in detail, what she looks like? We can spread her information through the network later and try to find out where she comes from. Don’t let the enemy’s schemes get to you, as it will create gaps they would be able to exploit later. For now, we make our way to the surface and try to get a better understanding of the situation. The enemy obviously can’t confront us directly, so there isn’t any need to worry about a danger that has yet to arrive. Focus on building your strength and collecting information. You can even use their ‘knowledge’ against them by increasing your capabilities in the future.”

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Vahn nodded his head and cleared his mind of the negativity that had begun to take root as he said in a firm tone, “We move, as fast as we can manage without tiring ourselves out. I want to be out of the Dungeon, or at least near Rivira before night falls again. The rest of the formation stays the same, but we’ll have Fenrir in the vanguard to gain experience and to try and detect any abnormalities.” Fenrir thumped her chest with her paw and said in a confident voice, “Leave it to me, Vahn! Fenrir will find the enemy and kill them!” Vahn ruffled her bristly hair before doing as Riveria requested and drawing up a quick sketch of the woman while they were ascending the stairs.

Though his skills weren’t to the extent of someone like Eva, Vahn’s ability to focus his mind, his high dexterity, and his ability to perfectly visualize an image, allowed for him to create a near-perfect sketch of the woman. As he had drawn it inside of his personal communication scroll, her sketch, and the details Vahn had picked up from observing her, would be passed through the network. He also gave the scroll to Riveria so she could fill out several lines of information that would be read by the ‘leaders’ of the network when they reached the surface. After they were done, Vahn had the party progress into the tree-like Dungeon of the 24th floor and they began their rapid ascent towards the surface.

After leaving behind Vahn and his party, the red-haired woman made her way through several secret passages that connected to various parts of the actual Dungeon. She had been given the simple assignment of trying to establish contact with Vahn but, after sensing the alert state of the party, she decided against approaching them directly and had given up her assignment since it was too troublesome. Instead of doing as she was ‘ordered’, the woman made her way through several passageways before exiting through a hole hidden behind a giant boulder that was covered in invisible runes.

Yawning, the woman walked towards the large crystalline structure that looked like red quartz and began to tear off huge chunks of it as she started chowing down on the hard crystal as if it were candy. Several monsters had shown up, as she was currently located at the ‘Pantry’ of the 24th floor, but she quickly dispatched them before adding their magic cores to her menu. She could tell that there were many people in the group around Vahn that would be very ‘troublesome’ to deal with and she needed to increase her own power since her ‘boss’ would probably make her fight against them in the future.

While she was eating, an annoying presence showed up nearby and she released a frustrated sigh before continuing to bore a hole directly into the large red quartz that was the typical ‘food’ of monsters in the Dungeon. Though she only weighed around 43kg, she had already eaten more than 200kg of the red quartz and didn’t show any signs of having consumed a greater volume of the crystals than comprised her entire body. Her body was able to almost instantly metabolize the energy contained within the red quartz and convert it into energy that revitalized the cells that constituted her body. Unfortunately, a large portion of it escaped out of her faulty mana circuits and the pores of her skin, so she had to eat a ridiculous amount of the material, supplemented by magic cores, to experience any real growth in her strength.

A few minutes after she had detected it, the masked figure showed up and released a discontented sigh before saying, “I gave you an assignment…why have you disobeyed my orders once again, Revis?” The red-haired woman, Revis, chewed on another piece of red quartz for several seconds before saying in a cold tone, “That boy, Vahn Mason, he had the ability to detect my presence before I arrive. He is very cautious and the people around him are too troublesome for me to deal with on my own. My instincts were telling me that, if I actually tried to approach him as you suggested, I would either die or be captured. If you want to play around with him so much, feel free to do it yourself…”

The masked figured smashed it’s black, gauntleted, hand against the wall of the Dungeon and said in a shrill tone, “Our Master will be displeased to hear that you are neglecting your duties! What was the point of confronting those foolish Xenos if we can’t even make use of them!?” Revis rolled her eyes before throwing the quartz in her hand like a bullet that flew by the masked figures head and penetrated clear through the Dark Fungus, a mushroom-like creature, that had been trying to sneak up behind it.

Seeing the monster turn to dust behind it, the figure released a sigh and said, “Enyo-sama wants to capture that boy, regardless of the cost. Even if you have to sacrifice your life, you should be honored to do so for our Master. My purpose far exceeds your own, I cannot expose myself to such a dangerous situation…” Hearing the words of the figure, Revis glared at it and said, “Ein…I don’t care at all what you think. I may listen to you, but it is only when you are carrying the words of that troublesome woman. If she wants me to do something, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to put myself in a disadvantage just because of a scheme you cooked up on your own. Tell me, did you ask Enyo-sama if you were allowed to involve the Xenos in your plot?”

The masked figure, Ein, turned away from Revis as its body shook in rage before saying in a cold tone, “Enyo-sama trusts me to carry out her orders without having to defer to her on every matter…if you are faithful to our Master, you would do as you are told and listen to my commands!” In response to its harsh wards, Revis just turned away and tore another huge chunk of red quarts from the massive pillar and ignored it completely. Ein saw her action and reached into its cloak before another bullet of quarts ripped off part of the cloak protecting its head. Revis looked back with her glowing green eyes and said in an icy tone, “Leave here, before I decide to add you to my menu…Ein.”

Ein placed its hand to prevent the wispy black mist from escaping its slightly cracked mask before retreating into the corridor it had arrived from. Though it was incredibly angry at Revis’s behavior, it knew she too was pivotal to its Master’s plan and couldn’t simply be sacrificed at this time. For a brief moment, Ein had considered killing Revis but had decided against it after her ‘display’ of strength. She was one of the more useful pawns at its disposal, especially for dealing with Adventurers. Unlike that zealous fool, Olivias Act, Revis was able to infiltrate into places like Rivira and exploit the male Adventurers that patronized the settlement. There was nobody else that could fulfill her ‘purpose’, so Ein decided to spare her for the time being.

After passing through several hidden passages, Ein came across a structure that would make almost any Adventurer, if they knew of its existence, drool. It was an elevator that connected the 24th floor and the surface above. Instead of using the elevator, however, Ein continued through another series of passages that lead back into the actual Dungeon and allowed him to bypass several floors without having to worry about monsters at all. Though it was generally believed that there were only shortcuts for the first seventeen floors, this was actually a misconception. The Dungeon simply kept the shortcuts hidden and, if you knew where they were located, it was very easy to descend deep into the lower floors without having to worry about facing any danger at all.

More than an hour later, Ein arrived at the natural village that had been created by the Dungeon which it ‘affectionately’ referred to as ‘Ein’s Observatory’. Over the course of a thousand years, their combined efforts had resulted in establishing a network all throughout the Dungeon and, using the magic mirrors installed on the ‘Observation Room’, it was able to peek into thousands of rooms. It used the mirrors to collect information and observe events taking place in the Dungeon and passed on its findings to its Master, Enyo-sama. The unfortunate downside was that it couldn’t pick up sounds through the mirrors and had to pass messages from its Master to the rest of her subordinates manually…

Once it arrived back at its personal domain, Ein made its way into a side room where there were two figures that could be seen imprisoned within cages. The first was the warrior Xenos, Silverspear, now bereft of its namesake and the powerful arm it used to wield the weapon. Fortunately, as a Xenos, he would eventually recover to his normal appearance with time and, even though he appeared to be on the verge of death, it wasn’t the end of his path as a warrior. As for the second figure, it was the small Goblin Xenos, Ecks, that had been given the ultimatum by Revis. She had chosen to hold on to her life, not because she was afraid of death, but because she wanted to have a chance to avenge her friends in the future.

Ein stared at the two figures for several minutes in silence before stating in a cold tone, “I will release you…if you live, or die, it will be up to your efforts. This situation is a huge farce, a massive blunder…if you would like to blame anyone for what has happened to you, your friends, and your people, blame the so-called ‘Sage’ Aldrnari, Vahn Mason. If not for his existence, none of this would have befallen you at all…what a pity…” After it finished speaking, Ein brought out an ancient looking book that seemed to be made entirely of rusty metal and had several gears slowly spinning around on its cover.

Opening the book, Ein uttered a short chan and passed its gauntlet over the runes contained within as cracks began to appear beneath the two Xenos. Just like how the Dungeon spawned monsters, but this time in reverse, the two Xenos passed into a rainbow-colored abyss before disappearing from the cages they had been kept in. Ein didn’t really care where they ended up at all and snapped the book shut before walking over to its chair and sitting down. After several minutes passed, it reached out and sunk its hand into the void before pulling out a massive black crystal ball. Reaching up, it unfastened the clasp holding its mask in place and a large amount of wispy smoke escaped through its hood as it looked into the crystal ball and said, “Enyo-sama…I have a report.”

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(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Master yourself, master your enemy’,’Carnivorous woman’,’This Ein is not the same as me, I swear~!’)

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