Chapter 414: Research

Even though they had cleaned up in one of the private baths, Vahn noticed that almost every girl that came across her realized he had spent ‘time’ with Tiona. Though he didn’t understand it entirely, even Vahn could see that she was practically ‘glowing’ after the fact and, even though they hadn’t said anything about it, it was easy to infer from how she was acting. Vahn felt like, after she had talked to him about her past, she was in a much better mood and it was obvious in her demeanor and how she spoke to others. When Ais had finally returned from the Dungeon, even though he was studying with Riveria at the time, she showed up in the Library and similarly asked the same question as Tiona had the previous day, “Vahn, can we have fun tomorrow?”

Before Vahn answered, Riveria shot a glance at Ais and said, “If you’re not going to contribute to the conversation in any meaningful way, please leave Ais.” Ais frowned slightly and looked over toward Riveria and their eyes seemed to lock for a brief moment before Vahn deescalated the situation by saying, “Sure, Ais, we’ll talk about the specifics after dinner.” Ais squinted her eyes before a small smile appeared on her face and she said, “I’ll see you later, Vahn…I look forward to it.” Without tarrying any longer, Ais briefly looked toward Riveria as she exited the room.

When she left, Riveria released a sigh and said, “That girl has changed a lot ever since she met you, though it doesn’t seem like her competitive spirit has undergone the same evolution…” Vahn laughed at Riveria’s words before remarking, “I think it’s her way of getting closer to people…she doesn’t want to be left out things, and it’s not like she is competitive with all the girls. Tiona and her have a bit of a rivalry…” This time, Riveria released one of her exceptionally rare laughs before turning back to her notes and saying, “I can’t infer anything from the sample you collected in the Dungeon…I’m not sure how you can get a liquid to maintain magical properties after being exposed to the air. If the body absorbs the energy when people are bathing in it, reason states that it should lose its properties over time…”

Though there were arguably more pressing matters to consider, such as further developing his magic system, Vahn’s hands were tied until he could reunite with Eva. Riveria might be able to offer him advice, but it would primarily be up to him to make any significant improvements to his magic. Vahn knew she would probably be willing to help him, but having Riveria watch over him as he trains and meditates, all while she stood at the side and took notes, made him feel a little queasy. He hadn’t thought about it much recently, but Vahn didn’t like the idea of someone ‘studying’ him like that. Though he trusted Riveria, for the most part, he still had an aversion to the idea due to his past life’s trauma.

Avoiding that situation, for the time being at least, Vahn had brought up the idea of magic ‘vessels’, specifically how different items were able to contain mana, and potentially even absorb it through the atmosphere. He had gotten the idea from the ‘bathwater’ he had ‘stolen’ from the red-haired monster girl as, even after using it several times, it still retained its healing properties and mana density. Vahn had ‘observed’ the liquid while the girls were bathing and noticed that it, very very slowly, absorbed mana from the surroundings. Other than organic compounds, there were no other liquids that could retain mana so well, and none of them were able to continue absorbing it from the atmosphere without a catalyst. Vahn had confirmed that, though it was full of elemental energies, there was no ‘vitality’ contained within the fluid at all.

This raised a lot of questions in Vahn’s mind, and also served to make him feel somewhat unnerved about his ‘unknown’ enemies. If they were able to create such a liquid, for the simple purpose of using it as bathwater, Vahn wondered what else they would be capable of. Just the fact they were making use of the artificial Dungeon was something that worried Vahn a great deal. For the structure to reach all the way to the 24th floor of the Dungeon, it would have to be more than 5km deep, and likely connected to several parts of the actual Dungeon. Such a structure boggled the mind and Vahn couldn’t understand how such a thing was built without drawing the attention of ‘literally’ everyone. Instead, it was simply a rumor that had apparently never been verified even after nearly a thousand years of speculations, investigations, and probes…Vahn didn’t think this was possible at all, which meant that the Guild, or more appropriately, Ouranos, had to be aware of it.

Vahn had separated samples of the liquid into more than a hundred vials and both he and Riveria had been testing how it responded to different stimuli. Vahn noticed that, even with the use of [Yggdrasil’s Favor] and [Hands of Nirvana], he couldn’t actually get the fluid to absorb his source energy at all. Instead, there would be a chaotic reaction, much like when he tried mixing, and Vahn would have to clean up the mess that resulted from his attempt. As a result, he was now sitting inside a large basin as he continued trying to insert varying levels of his energy while trying to understand the principles behind it.

Riveria has some small degree of success in her own experiments, as her mana was easily absorbed into the liquid. Even without a skill like [Hands of Nirvana], Riveria was very skilled at controlling her mana and could easily infuse it into magic items. Whenever she inserted her mana, the glowing blue liquid would become brighter and eventually turn an off-shade of white after enough exposure. Vahn didn’t have any problem with her success, but he noticed she would give him a ‘gloating’ look every now and then while also asking if he needs help. After he broke the tenth vial, she even teasingly asked if he would like her to wash his back.

Thinking he would be able to get her back, Vahn accepted her offer and Riveria unabashedly walked over to the basin, while holding an entire rack of vials, before dumping it on top of his head and saying, “Looks like you’re getting a little hot-headed, maybe you need to cool down? Your clouded mind is interfering with your ability to focus…let me guess, you’re thinking about your playdate with Ais tomorrow?” As he felt the chilled liquid passing through his hair and covering his scalp, Vahn showed a wry smile and simply shook his head. He could tell by Riveria’s aura that she hadn’t been affected by his teasing at all so he considered this small exchange his loss…

After ‘cooling his head’, Vahn was using his elemental control, with his domain as the medium, to shape and manipulate the water within the basin. He had only tried it on a whim earlier, but now Vahn realized it was actually very easily influenced by his domain. After a bit of practice, he had even gotten the liquid to ‘appear’ solid and turned it into a small figurine that was similar to Ais, at least as far as the silhouette was concerned. He couldn’t make any of the finer details at all, but it was still an impressive display, if Riveria’s expression was anything to go by. Even if she didn’t look at him directly, Vahn could detect the fluctuations in her aura and was able to read the changes in her typically cool expression. He had a lot of experience after associating with Ryuu, so Vahn knew what to look for when an elf was trying to hide their emotions.

Realizing he had garnered her interest, Vahn decided to push his experiment further and used the same technique he had ‘invented’ to clean clothing, to remove all the liquid that had soaked into his clothes. Since she wasn’t currently using it, Vahn also exercised his control over all 100 vials, nearly one liter of liquid, and shaped it into a miniature version of Riveria herself. Because he wasn’t able to emulate the ‘finer details’, such as clothing, Riveria saw a 12cm tall version of herself, seemingly naked, that Vahn was doing his best to make walk around atop the table. Riveria’s brows twitched at the sight, but she still observed the scene with interest and even started taking notes after a while.

Once she had finished scribbling into her journal, Riveria sent a pulse of mana in the direction of the miniature Riveria and caused it to disperse across the desk. As if she hadn’t just destroyed his painstakingly constructed creation, Riveria began to write again as she commented, “So, it seems like your control over elemental energies can still be interfered with…” Vahn felt an urge to chuckle, but then he paused and furrowed his brows as he considered Riveria’s words. If Riveria could ‘interfere’ with his elemental control, why couldn’t he interfere with the flow of other people’s mana, such as when they were chanting spells?

Riveria noticed Vahn’s look and snapped her journal shut as she asked in a curious tone, “Another epiphany? I wonder what kind of groundbreaking concept you’ll introduce this time…” Though she hadn’t intended to, Riveria released a slightly exasperated sigh before furrowing her brows slightly at her own lapse in decorum. Vahn hadn’t paid any real attention to her slip at all, so Riveria squinted her eyes and waited for him to eventually tell her what he had ‘discovered’ now. He got this way at times, even though she knew he was aware of everything going on around him, and he would simply blank and get lost in his own thoughts for a while. Riveria knew from experience that most ‘prodigies’ were somewhat eccentric and, since this wasn’t the first time he had done so, she patiently waited for his ‘awakening’.

Vahn had been playing the image of Riveria casting her magic over and over within his mind as he observed the flow and its influence on the magic circle. He already understood that the magic circle was just a language that was influenced by chant, the image the person had in their mind, and the belief they had in the spells functionality. Since it was ‘language’, it should actually be very easy to ‘interrupt’ their words with his own, just like in a real conversation. Though he might not have that much proficiency when it came to casting magic, Vahn’s source energy was a much higher tiered energy than mana itself. By influencing a spell with his own energy, Vahn should be able to do several things, such as interrupt it, change its structure, or even cause it to backfire…

The spell Vahn was focused on, since it seemed to be the ‘safest’ option, was Riveria’s [Veil Breath]. He could tell that there were subtle changes in the structure of the magic circle, even though the chant didn’t change at all. Vahn was able to interpret this as Riveria designating a ‘target’ and he was focused on the part of the magic circle that was changing to reflect her intent. After he was confident he understood it well enough, nearly twenty minutes had passed and he noticed that Riveria had a somewhat icy look for a brief moment before she returned to normal and asked, “Did you realize something?”

Vahn laughed awkwardly before saying, “I think I might have found out a way…to counter, or change, the structure of magic…?” Riveria’s expression didn’t change at first, but she slowly hung her head before bringing her right hand up and rubbing her temples after closing her eyes. Vahn felt a brief bout of pity for Riveria before saying in as casual a manner as he could manage, given the situation, “Can you try using your [Veil Breath] on me? I want to see if I can change how the spell functions…” Riveria raised her head slowly before taking a deep breath and asking, “What exactly do you intend to change about the spell? I don’t want my own magic to blow up in my face like your experiments with the vials…”

Vahn felt a bit of an impact at Riveria’s quip before shaking his head and saying confidently, “Your magic…shouldn’t backlash. If I tell you what I’m trying to change, it might alter how you cast the spell and interfere with the experiment. Please trust me, Riveria.” Riveria released an almost imperceptible sigh through her nose and began to chant her magic without asking any more questions, “Assemble, breath of the land – my name is Alf.” Though she wasn’t quite sure what had happened, Rivera felt a strange incongruity in her magic circle, even though her mana flowed according to her intent. However, she immediately noticed that something was very wrong as a magical light covered her body for a brief moment and her [Veil Breath] activated…on the wrong target.

When Riveria had started chanting her magic, Vahn had ‘seized’ control of the elemental energies within her magic circle and altered the part that designated himself as the target. Since he had seen Riveria use the magic on herself several times, Vahn knew how to change it so that she became the new target. Seeing the light cover her body, he couldn’t help but smile widely as this confirmed a variety of his speculations. Riveria, however, interpreted his smile as something completely different and flicked her pen at Vahn’s face before he easily tilted his head to the side and evaded it.

Riveria frowned slightly before recovering her normal expression and saying, “You…somehow changed the target of my magic…through the magic circle? How…” Riveria held her fingers to her chin in deep contemplation and Vahn knew that, like himself, she was also lost in her thoughts a bit. Unlike him, however, Vahn knew she was paying close attention to his words so he explained, “This further proves that magic is based on intent, or image, and how it influences the ‘language’ that you use to communicate with the elemental energies within the world itself. Even though you use the same chant, your spell never misfires and hits the incorrect target, at least for your [Veil Breath]. I can tell that, even though it is minuscule, there is a small change in the flow of the mana within the magic circle and, after replaying it multiple times in my mind, I was able to infer that this change designated the target. By altering the flow of energy within the magic circle itself, I was able to emulate the flow to designate you as the new target…”

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Hearing Vahn’s words, Riveria felt her brain begin to buzz due to how incredulous she felt at the present moment. What he was saying, even though it made sense, was simply far too ridiculous for her to comprehend at the moment. He was basically saying that, as long as he had seen a magic circle once, he would be able to change it however he likes. Not only could he change the target, but he could outright prevent the magic from working…or much worse, cause an ‘Ignis Fatuus’ which would make a mages spell backfire and explode. Riveria had thought that Fafnir was a ‘Mage’s Nemesis’, but it turns out that its Master was the true monster between the two…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Bathing is important’,’Riveria’s ‘revenge”,’Vahn can put a skilled mage in a ‘Mind Down’ state just by speaking to them…RIP Riveria’)

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