Chapter 462: Tensions

Entering the 49th floor, Vahn looked around and saw that, as Finn had stated previously, the entire floor was one massive room that stretched more than 200km in diameter. The entire floor was desolate with no signs of life and there was a hot wind that blew through the air and caused the rust-colored sand to billow and obstruct the view. Other than massive rock formations, there weren’t any walls and, like the floors above, there were several monsters lying in ambush waiting for the expedition to enter their range. However, just as before, Vahn was able to notify them of the presence of most monsters so the group progressed forward with relative ease.

Unlike before, however, the convoy was linked together in a tight formation with shieldbearers taking up the outer perimeter as archers readied their bows. Even though it hadn’t appeared yet, there was a subtle vibration that could be felt through the ground so everyone knew the ‘wave’ would be making its appearance. They would only have a few short minutes to prepare the defensive line when the monsters finally showed up so they had to be on high alert.

Though Finn was performing his role as Commander of the expedition, Vahn had been the one guiding the way as he could see the flow of mana through the floor and could trace it to the exit. Since there was a Monster Rex like the Balor present, the Dungeon fed a high amount of mana to a specific area and Vahn was able to deduce that the Balor would be found there. He also had the benefit of mapping out the area with his domain and could reference the minimap in his system interface for any upcoming obstacles. As a result, the expedition had been progressing steadily until the rumbling in the floor had increased greatly in magnitude.

Finn held his hand up to his face and commented, “My thumb is itching…” before waving his spear up high and shouting, “Form the defensive line! Use the surroundings as a vantage point for our archers! Mages, ready your chants and prepare to target the largest concentration of enemies!” On the low end, a ‘wave’ of Fomoire would have more than two-thousand monsters with several ‘commanders’ that would try to sweep over the expedition. Unlike the normal Fomoire, the commander class were generally capable of using magic and would have to be dealt with quickly before things got out of hand.

As one of the designated ‘archers’, Vahn had leaped atop a 14m tall boulder to get a better vantage point and saw a large cloud of dust kicked up by the approaching wave. When they began entering into his domain, Vahn was surprised by the sheer number of enemies and could approximate their numbers to be around 3500. To thin the herd, or at least slow them down, Vahn began using his inventory and placing mines beneath the feet of the Fomoire as they mindlessly charged forward. The explosives weren’t enough to deal lethal damage to most Level 3 monsters, but it interrupted their momentum greatly as Vahn began to loose arrows toward what he believed to be the commander class enemies.

Ais had followed Vahn’s arrows with her eyes and dashed toward the location where his arrows had broken against an invisible barrier before a wall of Fomoire began blocking for the relatively small ashen grey Fomoire behind them. Unlike the normal goat monster, this one was covered in runes and had a crooked staff in its hands as it began to chant a magical spell. Vahn’s arrow had been deflected by its barrier earlier, but it also managed to caused the barrier to collapse as a result. The other Fomoire were trying to buy it time but Vahn simply placed explosives around their feet while directly breaking the chant of the mage.

Moments later, Ais passed through the group like a humanoid blender as a vortex of blood and gore spun around her body before being discharged away from her. Even though she had killed more than thirty monsters with her charge, Ais was completely unscathed and there wasn’t a spot of blood on her body as she leaped up through the air and landed atop one of the large boulders effortlessly. As for Tiona and Tione, they were guarding the flanks and thining the herd that had started to surround the convoy and assault them. Finn was skewering monsters with an elegant precision while Gareth’s axe cleaved through large swaths of enemies with a surprising momentum. Even though his Agility was somewhat low, compared to his monstrous Power and Endurance, he was still a Level 6 and could pass through the horde of Fomoire as if he were an unstoppable force.

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Vahn shook his head with a wry smile on his face as he interrupted the cast of another mage, which was the same as marking it for death by the perceptive sword princess. Eventually, large veins of fire spread through the ground in a giant conal shape and Vahn had to retrieve the waiting Ais using his [Shundo] before the ground erupted in destructive tornadoes as a result of Riveria’s [Rea Laevateinn]. Her spell had wiped out the entire group of Fomoire in a single direction while Lefiya, who completed her own version of the chants moments later, targetted the second largest concentration of enemies. Every time Vahn saw their destructive magic, he was always a little jealous since they were able to clear out more than a thousand monsters with a single spell. However, he knew his own magic would one day far outstrip their own so he was looking forward to the future.

After the two destructive spells, there were only small groups of enemies remaining but they continued to charge toward the expedition as if their numbers had never diminished in the slightest. Even compared to the vast majority of crazed monsters, the Fomoire were in a league of their own and many of them were even frothing at the mouth as they charged forward with a suicidal momentum. Vahn pitied the creatures somewhat but his hands never rested as he skillfully executed more than eighty enemies on his own.

From start to finish, the entire engagement took less than seven minutes but it was still rather stressful on the convoy. Many Fomoire had broken through to the flanks and had charged headfirst into the linked shields of the Loki Family. Since they were goat monsters, they had powerful horns on their heads and rigid backs that allowed their charging force to reach somewhat terrifying heights. Several people had broken bones, primarily wrists and forearms, while the mages in the group were moderately exhausted from spamming their quick cast magic on any enemies that broke through. Fortunately, even without Vahn using [Wounds Transfer], there weren’t any fatalities even though there were several casualties.

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As the expedition began to regroup and prepare to move forward, many of them were aware of the subtle vibrations that were spreading through the ground and their expressions had become stern and serious. While a single ‘wave’ wasn’t that dangerous, it was the fact that an expedition would have to face multiple of such waves that eventually wore them down. They couldn’t simply hunker down and set up a defensive line either, as that would make them sitting ducks and would inevitably result in them being surrounded and overwhelmed.

Vahn helped Riveria and Lefiya recover their mana by injecting his own source energy through their backs. It was most ideal to inject it around the navel, but Vahn correctly assumed both girls wouldn’t appreciate such contact when there were so many people around. As for himself, he was chugging down a blood-colored potion that he had purchased from the shop known as an [X-Ether]. It was an incredibly expensive consumable item that cost 40,000OP but it had the amazing effect of recovering all of Vahn’s current source energy reserves. There was a downside that it could only be consumed every four hours, but it was still a very useful item for such situations.

Since they couldn’t afford to stay in one spot, the expedition had started moving forward at the same time as they healed the wounded. Vahn had a functionally infinite number of [Senzu Beans], and other recovery items, at his disposal so he absorbed the majority of injuries from the expedition members and earned their thanks as a result. It was no longer a secret that Vahn had a miraculous ability that allowed him to transplant injuries onto his own body, which healed at a phenomenal rate. Knowing that he was willing to bear their pain made their impression of Vahn much stronger than normal and there were more than a few in the expedition that had grown quite fond of the famous ‘Sage Aldrnari’. Though some might have questioned if he was worthy of such titles, that was no longer the case for anyone on the current expedition.

After progressing for another half hour, another cloud of dust began to appear as the vibrations through the floor increased in intensity. Vahn had been thinking about possible solutions along the way so, after jumping atop another tall rock formation, he looked into the horizon and targetted the largest clumps of enemies that had just reached the periphery of his domain. There were several inert boulders located all over the place and Vahn had the ability to store them within his inventory, as long as they were smaller than 1,000m3. Vahn had seen the efficacy of shrapnel and collapsing rocks on the enemy forces earlier so he wanted to see if he could use the own Dungeon against the monster horde.

Instead of wasting his OP to buy explosives, which rarely did fatal damage to the monsters, Vahn collected large boulders and then began to remove them from his inventory several hundred meters above the enemy. When the members of the expedition so ‘meteors’ rain down from the sky they had been brought to a solemn silence as they watched the massive rocks smash into the defenseless enemies below. Though not every rock was exactly 1,000m3, the average weight of the boulders Vahn dropped on the encroaching army weighted between 2-2.5 million kilograms, more than enough to overwhelm the majority of enemies. It wasn’t a tactic that could be easily employed in most areas of the Dungeon but, in an open area like the 49th floor, there was nothing preventing him from doing something ‘showy’.

Through his efforts, Vahn managed to kill several hundred Fomoire before they got anywhere near the expedition and also managed to disrupt their momentum as they had to re-route around the rocks. Since it actually took a surprising amount of energy to put away such objects, something Vahn had never paid much attention to in the past, he couldn’t continue his ‘performance’ and had to take a knee before using his bow to target nearby enemies. Vahn typically only placed small objects into his inventory and he hadn’t expected it to take so much of his energy to ‘drop’ the twenty large boulders onto the enemy. After he thought about it, however, Vahn realized that it made sense for there to be a ‘conversion’ based on the volume of objects or there would be no need for him to have individual ‘slots’. His inventory grew along with him so, if he could truly make use of it without restrictions, Vahn could theoretically store away entire oceans in the future. If such a feat didn’t have a ‘cost’, Vahn would have had some serious questions regarding the laws governing the records that allowed such things…

After a much shorter fight than the previous engagement, Vahn returned to the convoy and sat on one of the carts after he helped replenish the mana of Riveria, Lefiya, and Haruhime. Riveria had a complicated expression on her face when she had asked him about the giant boulders he had used against the enemies but Vahn just explained it away as using his storage magic to ‘displace’ objects using his domain as a medium. As she had seen Vahn ‘materialize’ objects far away from his body in the past, Riveria knew such things should be possible but it had still been a bit of a surprise to see it actually implemented. (A/N: To put it in perspective, imagine rocks the size of an Olympic swimming pool being dropped on the enemies. Not nearly as impressive as Grandpa Madara stacking meteors, but still pretty awe-inspiring if you don’t expect such a scene.)

After dealing with three waves of Fomoire, the expedition had arrived at an area where the rock formations had started to increase in density. As the majority of the members were veterans of previous expeditions, they knew this was indicative of the fact they were nearing the entrance to the 50th floor. The Balor had yet to make an appearance thus far so everyone was on high alert as Finn considered trying to break through the region in one push and ‘escaping’ into the passageway leading down. Unlike the 39th floor, which would become sealed off during the fight with Udaeus, there was no such restriction on the 49th floor so it was very possible to bypass the Monster Rex and then deal with it later.

Since his [Shundo] allowed him to move relatively uninhibited, Vahn volunteered to scout ahead and find the exact location of the Balor while also looking for the entrance to the 50th floor. Even if he managed to trigger the aggro of the Monster Rex, there would be plenty of time for the expedition to react to the impending attack once they knew of its existence. Finn had agreed to Vahn’s reasoning but had him take Ais with him since there was no way of knowing what might happen. Ais might only be Level 5, but she was one of the most agile and capable fighters in the entire Loki Familia. She would be able to buy time for the expedition to reach the entrance of the 50th floor while the main members of the Loki Familia congregated to defeat the Balor.

Vahn agreed to take Ais, who had an excited smile on her face, along with him since he knew it was better to travel together than alone at times. Unlike Finn, however, Vahn didn’t think the Balor would prove as great a threat as they thought. Just like the Udaeus, Vahn was confident he would be able to restrain the Monster Rex with his [Enkidu] if it wasn’t fast enough to evade the chains. The Balor was a large golem monster and it was even possible that, while it was waiting in ambush, Vahn would be able to get the jump on it and ‘capture’ it without incident. He had even stored away five large boulders into his inventory and was planning to smash them into the titanic creature to see if they could do enough damage.

After grabbing Ais around the waist, which wasn’t really necessary, Vahn disappeared from the sight of onlookers before reappearing near the periphery of his domain and getting his bearings. Ais had gotten a bit caught up in the mood as well and rested her head against Vahn’s chest as she hugged around his back and enjoyed the brief moment of togetherness. Other than the rough outlines of her armor, Vahn found Ais’s presence to be very comfortable so he held her close as he passed his perception over the area before using [Shundo] once again. Using his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn was following the flow of mana within the Dungeon until he eventually arrived at a point where it had reached a critical level. Though it looked like a large rock from the distance, Vahn could tell that the amalgamation of chaotic energy belonged to the floor boss. Since he had been concealing his own presence with [Stealth], the Balor had yet to react to their arrival nearby and this brought a smile to Vahn’s face…

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