While Vahn helped Lefiya replenish her mana, the rest of the expedition made their way into the Coliseum and looted all the drops items before the group continued forward without delay. Vahn managed to acquire some Barbarian fur for himself but didn’t think it would prove that useful so he tossed it onto the pile of other loot items. Afterward, the convoy progressed through several more Coliseums until the vanguard unit discovered a corridor that connected into the interior district, known as the Soldier District. Though Barbarians, Lizardman Elites, and Loup Garou still appeared there was now the inclusion of Obsidian Soldier in the mix.
Obsidian Soldiers were massive misshapen monsters with obsidian bodies and a glowing purple light representing the location of their magic core. They fell into the golem classification of monsters and the vast majority of them were highly resistant to magic with some being outright immune. Vahn noticed, however, that their resistances didn’t seem to apply to his own magic so he had made a game out of sniping the lumbering monsters long before they fell into the range of the expedition. Riveria had taken note of this and, when asked about it, Vahn explained that he was simply compressing the magic spell into a form that could break through their resistances before allowing the projectile to explode inside their bodies, just as he had done with the Barbarian.
Along the way, a presence fell into Vahn’s perception but when he looked toward the location the only thing he saw was a slight smear against the backdrop of the White Palace. Knowing that his detection wasn’t so easily fooled, Vahn loosed a volley of arrows toward the location before the blur suddenly turned into a skeletal creature wearing what looked like a cloak that tried to charge toward the expedition before greeting the tip of one of Vahn’s arrows. Finn smiled when he saw this and remarked, “Skull Sheep, they are a bit troublesome because they like to hide away and ambush Adventurers. Since they don’t have an odor that can be detected by the Beast People within the expedition, it isn’t uncommon for us to suffer some casualties from their assaults.”
Vahn nodded his head before drawing his bow and targetting another nondescript area and loosing a single arrow this time. Unlike the previous ones, this arrow had a mithril tip and allowed Vahn’s to channel his Source Energy into it. When it struck the camouflaged creature it let out a shrill wine before it’s upper body detached from its lower body. It made an attempt to crawl towards the group before its body turned into purple dust that stained the floor of the dungeon before being absorbed. Seeing this, many people within the expedition gave out short cries as they jeered at the ‘cowardly’ monsters that couldn’t fool Vahn’s detection ability. Though they didn’t cause too many deaths, most ambush monsters were severely disliked by Adventurers that have experienced their troublesome attacks.
Like the Beast District, the Soldier District also had several Coliseums that broke from the relative monotony of the journey. Vahn found the brief moments at the beginning of the battles to be quite exhilarating because there were a large number of moderately powerful monsters that could be engaged simultaneously. It became a little game that he shared with the other girls as they all tried to kill the largest number of monsters before Lefiya cleared the room with her magic later. Because she had the protection of Riveria and Gareth, Lefiya had been given the opportunity to deal with the larger mobs since Vahn could easily replenish her mana reserves after the fact.
Before this expedition had started, Vahn had given Lefiya one of his flame seeds through her back so she was more fired up than normal when it came to gaining exilia. As he had given seeds to Nanu, Lili, Naaza, Haruhime, Maemi, Emiru, and now Lefiya, Vahn’s pain threshold had been increased to 64% and it had been a rather intense experience when he gifted her the seed. Vahn was hoping that the orb would reactivate soon so he would be able to ‘exploit’ the cooldown a bit more and gift a flame seed to all the girls in the future. The correction provided by the [Prometheus’ Blessing] was simply too significant to overlook, especially since it allowed the recipient to break through the supposed ‘limits’ of their parameter growth.
By the time the expedition had reached the Warrior District, nearly three hours had passed without any major incidents occurring. The main group of the Loki Familia was simply too dominant while the floor didn’t provide any difficulty to them whatsoever. It might have been harder if they proceeded on their own, but they had plenty of time to rest as the convoy made its way forward and Vahn’s ability to replenish stamina and mana was simply a godsend. Instead of having to split their stamina and mana potions across the entire party, they just had to funnel them into Vahn himself and he would easily be able to help everyone else recover.
The veteran members of the expedition were very aware of Vahn’s influence this time around and he had received several heavy compliments from various people. There weren’t many people that would complain about things progressing smoothly, after all. As for the other members of the Hestia Familia, they had been getting friendly with the 2nd team which and had become something akin to ‘mascot’ characters of the expedition since they were all cute girls. Vahn had noticed that the majority of the 2nd team was comprised of females and learned this was primarily becuase of Loki’s ‘bad’ habits from Tione.
Since she had wanted to surround herself with strong women, Loki invested a fair amount of the Familia’s resources into scouting them when they were young so they could be cultivated into capable Adventurers later on. Though there weren’t many that had actually given into Loki’s ‘scheme’, there were a fair number, other than Aki, that had fallen into her clutches. It was surprisingly more difficult for strong women to find suitable partners, since there was the factor of a man’s pride and the pressure of the Loki Familia bearing down on them, so many of the girls didn’t have long-term relationships while they were still under contract.
Like most Familia, Loki required the members that received heavy benefits from the Familia to take vows that guaranteed service for a varying number of years. This was the main reason why Ais, Tiona, and Tione hadn’t actually join the Hestia Familia already because the contract was structured in such a way that it was nigh impossible for them to actually leave for the duration of ten years. Loki had never considered the possibility that her Familia would join an Alliance later on so there hadn’t been any wiggle-room to make exceptions to this.
The basic contract was for ten years, which would earn the Adventurer a hefty severance package, and the closest to completing theirs was Ais, who would be able to leave the Familia when she was nineteen. Tiona and Tione would be in the Familia until they were both twenty-two and Lefiya was an exception that would have to stay within the Loki Familia until she groomed her replacement, just like Riveria. It didn’t really matter which Familia the girls belonged to, however, so Vahn didn’t let this information bother him since he was inextricably linked to Loki for the entire duration he spent inside the record.
Once the expedition had proceeded into the Warrior District, Vahn noticed a sharp increase in the number of monsters that spawned compared to the two outer walls. There weren’t any new monsters that he could see but there were a surprising number of variants that had been added to the fray. Vahn even got to see a Loup Garous Variant that was more than 200cm tall and had four arms with red fur. When he had tried to shoot it with his arrows, it was able to evade the majority of them relatively easily and, when they actually did hit, the majority of them simply bounced off with a magical light. With his blood boiling, Vahn signaled to Finn his intent before using [Shundo] to close the distance with the powerful looking monster.
Since the average Loup Garou was around Level 3, Vahn could safely assume that this four-armed variant was at least Level 4. As monsters typically had higher parameters than Adventurers, this meant it would be a relatively ‘even’ fight just based on the numbers. This was, of course, assuming Vahn didn’t use his relatively overpowered equipment and simply fought with the use of his body. Thus, after stepping in with [Shundo], Vahn slammed both of his fists into the monster’s body and felt the shockwave dissipate on contact. This showed that the monster either had very high endurance or was capable of using an ability to absorb shockwaves and mitigate damage.
Vahn disappeared from sight as the variant monster tried to grab him with its second set of arms before throwing a small black shortsword into the exposed flank of the creature. Just like the arrows had previously, Vahn watched a magical light shine from the monster’s fur before the sword bounced off after having lost its momentum. This allowed Vahn to confirm that it was most likely a skill associated with the monster that allowed them to resist ranged attacked below a certain threshold. It was possible it had ranged immunity, but Vahn didn’t expect such a rare ability to appear on the 37th floor unless it was a floor boss.
The variant Loup Garou had high battle instincts so it was able to keep up with most of Vahn’s movements but was unable to actually reach him. Just like when he fought Tione in the past, Vahn was able to evade its attacks in an instant while the monster had to close the distance the old-fashioned way. Though it could perform strangely acrobatic maneuvers with the addition of extra arms, it wasn’t enough to egg out any significant advantage against Vahn. Eventually, Vahn transitioned into his Xuánwǔ form before deciding to put the monster’s ability to the test. When it leaped toward him once again, Vahn used [Shundo] to move back a single meter outside its range as it slammed into the ground. Seeing how close Vahn was, the monster spread its arms wide in an attempt to grab him but the only thing it received for its troubles was the same attack Vahn had executed previously.
Unlike his initial strike, however, Vahn’s fists slammed into the monster’s body and a spiral pattern began to appear in its muscular abdomen before the temperature against Vahn’s fists changed drastically and he felt a cool breeze. Using the same ‘air cannon’ technique he had developed in the past, Vahn was easily able to overcome the mitigation of the Variant’s defenses and, as the two opposing vortexes of energy fused together, it had opened up a large hole in the monster’s stomach before Vahn disappeared from sight. As a result of its resilience, the variant didn’t die immediately and made an effort to swipe at its surroundings as the hole in its body slowly started to close up.
Vahn was briefly tempted to allow it to recover completely but didn’t want to be the reason why the entire expedition was stalled. With his bows in hand, Vahn charged an arrow very near its breaking point before loosing it towards the monster’s head in an attempt to test the limits of its anti-ranged capabilities. Unexpectedly, there was no magical light at all so the only thing Vahn got to experience was his own arrow creating a tunnel through the monster’s body before slamming into the ground and causing a mild explosion. The monster immediately turned into purple mist from the severe trauma and left behind a large hide of red fur as a drop item. After stowing it away in his inventory, Vahn rejoined the expedition and the group continued forward without delay.
When Tiona asked about Vahn’s feelings regarding the fight, he explained the unique qualities of the variant and his speculations about its abilities. He was hoping that, if he used the fur it had dropped to make a cloak, Vahn could emulate it’s anti-ranged capabilities a bit. Wolf fur was somewhat popular for cloaks as well, since it had natural insulation and looked somewhat ‘wild’ compared to normal fabrics. Though he hadn’t thought much about it in the past, Vahn understood that many Adventurer’s proactively tried to look ‘cool’ so they could leave an impact on other people. It wasn’t actually that uncommon for some people’s first aliases to be related to how they dressed. According to Tiona, there was once an up-and-coming Chienthrope girl that wore a red hood every time she ventured into the Dungeon. When it came time for her to receive her first alias, she became known as Little Red Riding Hood because of how petite she had been.
Aliases like Vahn’s ‘Aldrnari’ were the type that stuck for life and he was grateful that he had never received a strange name since Hephaestus had always supported him. Everyone else seemed to be pretty satisfied with their own aliases as well, with the exception of Tione and Lili. Tione’s current alias was Jormungand which she complained made her sound like a gluttonous woman. As for Lili, being known as the ‘Super Supporter’ had been a heavy blow for her pride and she outright refused to introduce herself as such. When strangers brought it up in jest, they would earn a glare from the small Pallum girl until they dropped the subject entirely…