Chapter 489: Fiery Wrath

For an additional two days, the group continued to explore the 54th Floor until they had mapped a large majority of the Floor. Other than a few variant monsters, which were simply stronger versions of present enemies, there were no major discoveries made. Though Vahn could see through large sections of the Dungeon, his vision was still limited to the range of his Domain and the floor itself was more than 350m thick, on average. As for the walls, though they were much thinner, many of the corridors simply connected to others to create the larger labyrinth. Other than a new plant, which Vahn had discovered was named [Vitaelilia] through his Inventory, there were no other major discoveries thus far.

The group was currently encamped in one of the stairwells they had discovered, this one leading up to the 53rd Floor. Vahn had confirmed that the stairwells all ‘continued’ further above and below the Dungeon, but he hadn’t been able to see where they lead. Though he could see the path of mana, it continued on further than his perception reached and was almost entirely comprised of the bedrock that made up the Dungeon Floors. He wanted to try tunneling through them one day, but only when he had enough confidence to be able to defeat a Juggernaut without assistance.

Vahn had been making the night watch easier for everyone present and not even Bete had any rude remarks to say during most of the meals. Though there was a spot prepared for him at the table, he spent the majority of the time eating his food in solitude. The only exception to this was during the evening meal when he would sit silently in between Gareth and Finn as he brooded over his own thoughts. When it had been his watch, Vahn had ‘compromised’ with him by setting out some tea and snacks to accompany him during his shift. Though Bete didn’t thank him for it, it seemed to improve his mood a bit.

As dinner was preparing to wrap up, Finn got everyone attention by clapping his hands a few times before saying, “I believe we’ve just about discovered the majority of the prominent features of the 54th Floor at this point. Though there are likely secret passageways and unexplored regions, we haven’t found any ways to access them and I believe it is about time for us to return to the 50th Floor. Our supplies have been holding out splendidly, something we all owe our thanks to Vahn for, but I see no purpose in continuing as we are. Tomorrow morning, we’ll begin our journey up before making a decision about whether or not to return to the surface…”

Hearing Finn’s words, everyone was in a much better mood, especially the girls that had spent the last few days without an opportunity to enjoy a long bath. Vahn had been helping clean them with his magic, but they had grown accustomed to the comfort brought by the hot water. Tione was especially happy, though for ‘moderately’ different reasons than everyone else. She didn’t so much care about the surface itself, as she was the type that didn’t mind fighting every day, but she was looking forward to being able to spend some ‘personal’ time with Vahn.

During the night watch, the order had been decided as Riveria, Tiona, Ais, Bete, and, to wrap up everything and awaken everyone for the return trip, Finn. Just as he had been doing, Vahn added some small comforts for those on watch, including study materials for Riveria, a Vahn-shaped doll for Tiona and Ais, as he had been fond of the one Ais made for him in the past, and a mug of lukewarm cocoa for Bete. As for Finn, Vahn figured he was the overly serious type so he just woke up a little after Finn’s watch began and started preparing breakfast for everyone. The majority of members present were relatively poor chefs, so Vahn found himself preparing the meals ever since the first day.

As he was coating some small sausages with a light layer of butter and honey, Vahn allowed his mind to wander a bit because of how ‘uneventful’ things had been. He started to believe that his presumption that the enemy wouldn’t take action until the ‘original’ events were scheduled to take place. Though Enyo seemed to have an interest in him, she didn’t seem to be willing to compromise her plans just to try and plot against him. Vahn even felt like the only reason the red-haired woman had ‘stalked’ them was because he had spied on her in the bath and even ‘stolen’ her bathwater. The earth mage that had attacked him might not even be related to Enyo at all, so it was possible he had just made several assumptions and come to misunderstand a few things.

Vahn was certain the red-haired woman was an enemy since the vibe she gave him was something he had only ever seen from ‘villains’. Though her aura had been somewhat neutral, this could simply imply that she was relatively ‘disinterested’ in him, though her impression had fluctuated a bit when she last parted with him. Vahn felt like she was a predator that was stalking him from the shadows, but his domain was much larger now and he had yet to see a single sign of her ever since. Unless she was somehow able to account for his growth, something that seemed incomprehensible to Vahn at present, there shouldn’t be any way for her to circumvent his constant vigilance.

After sitting down next to Tiona and Fenrir, Vahn took over the role of helping feed the voracious wolf girl as he looked around the table and asked, “How is the food?” Tiona immediately held out her fork with a piece of sausage on it and shouted, “This is delcious~! It’s savory and sweat at the same time. I think it might even be my new favorite breakfast food~!” Everyone else seemed to have a similar opinion and complimented Vahn for his culinary skills. Even Lefiya, who had become quite the glutton these days, seemed fond of the small mountain of biscuits he had made for her. Just like the sausage, Vahn had glazed them with honey and she had gone through more than twenty of them in the short period where they had been eating breakfast.

As everyone was highly motivated to return to the 50th Floor, breakfast came to an end earlier than normal when Finn said, “Okay, everyone, I’d say it’s about time for us to return. I’m certain everyone else would be able to relax when we appear on the 50th Floor.” Since the record-party consisted of every executive of the Loki Familia, it was rather unnerving to have them probe into the ‘unknown’ without having any means of maintaining contact. If they were ‘missing’ for more than a week, the expedition would have been forced to make the dangerous journey to the surface without their strongest members. The only other option was ‘waiting’ but, without a way to replenish supplies, this was simply a death sentence if something had actually happened.

Because they had slept in the adjoining corridors leading to the stairs heading to the 53rd Floor, the group only had to clear two Floors in order to reach the relative safety of the 51st. Vahn once again took up the rear of the group with Lefiya, Fenrir, and Riveria as they started their miniature marathon to break through the Floor. Shortly after they began, Vahn felt raging flames enter his domain without missing a beat as they tried to intercept the group. He hadn’t had any luck diverting the flames thus far, and it had grown somewhat ‘annoying’ to constantly be barraged by them. Vahn had even been tempted to split from the group to jump down the hole and eliminate the Valgang Dragons below. Since he had the [Hero’s Reprieve], Vahn would be able to escape easily but decided against it as the item was rather precious. However, he promised to clear the entire 58th Floor in the future because it was supposedly one giant room. This meant he could seek ‘vengeance’ against them to his heart’s content once he made his way down there naturally.

Only allowed on

Just as they had done hundreds of times over the last few days, Ais easily dodged the pillar of flames as Vahn picked up Lefiya and Fenrir under his arms and leaped over the hole with the rest of the group. They could both make the jump easily, but Vahn wasn’t going to let any potential accidents happen like them slipping into the hole. After reaching the other side, Vahn set them down on their own feet and they continued running forward without hesitation. Though she still flustered a bit, Lefiya had gotten very used to Vahn suddenly picking her up lately and no longer thanked him every time he helped her. She also knew she could make the jump easily, but it made her heart flutter whenever Vahn grabbed around her waist and jumped forward with her…

At this point, Vahn was certain the flame breath of the Valgang Dragon had nothing to do with their actual perception and it was almost guaranteed the Dungeon was ‘telling’ them where they were located. Vahn had tested this by compressing his domain and infusing [Stealth] into it to the point where he was nearly indistinguishable from the air itself. Vahn could even move right through a detection formation like this, yet the Valgang Dragons still targetted him regardless. He couldn’t imagine their perception was greater than a Juggernaut’s, so the only explanation that he could think of was that they had a way to detect movement, pressure, or their location itself after the Dungeon pass the information to them. After all, monsters typically had little to no intelligence so there had to be something helping them make the calculations.

Vahn wanted to try increasing his [Featherfoot] to S-Rank in the future, or potentially learning a way to prevent his weight from being ‘detected’ by the surfaces he stood on. At the very least, this would allow him to test his theory and, even if he was wrong, it would put him one step closer to understanding the mechanic behind it. Since he was sure there was a secret contained on the troublesome Floors, Vahn wanted to explore every nook and cranny of them in the future. Though he didn’t care about the secret that much, even though it was interesting, it was the fact they had gone through so much trouble that made Vahn feel compelled to learn what it was.

A few monsters bared their passage along the way, but the group eventually reached the stairs leading to the 52nd Floor after a short four hours of travel. Though it was a bit early, the group took a short break and replenished their stamina before continuing on to the 52nd Floor. Once they managed to clear this one, they would be on the ‘safe’ 51st Floor and then take their time to return without having to worry about any major threats appearing. Almost everyone present, even Lefiya, could potentially slay the Cadmus with proper preparations, so even the strongest monster of the 51st Floor wasn’t a concern.

Unlike the fast clear of the 53rd Floor, it took the group nearly ten hours to find a staircase leading upwards, almost as if the Dungeon was playing with them a bit. Toward the very end, Vahn had even come to a stop out of frustration and said, “Lefiya, Fenrir, move into the corridor…” before coming to a stop. Though they looked back at him, both girls listened before the entire group became aware of Vahn’s peculiar behavior. Finn looked back with a complicated expression on his face from across the threshold leading into the stairs and asked, “Vahn, what are you intending to do?” In response, Vahn gestured dismissively and said, “I’ll be perfectly fine…if I’m not back within ten minutes, send Fenrir down and we’ll return to the surface on our own.”

Finn frowned deeply and wanted to rebuke Vahn for his behavior, especially since he had been so ‘obstinate’ about not going beyond the 54th Floor. However, he let the matter slide when Riveria said, “Vahn has a way to instantly reach the surface, though it can’t be used very often…we should wait for him, he’ll be fine.” Though they wanted to accompany him, the other girls knew they would potentially just escalate the matter into a real problem so they just looked at Vahn and wished him luck. Seeing how much confidence they had in him, and hearing Riveria make a rather ‘bold’ claim, Finn felt somewhat exasperated but didn’t say anything to stop Vahn. Even if he wanted to, he had run out of time since the floor beneath Vahn’s feet turned red-hot before a pillar of flame erupted and consumed him.

After the flame faded, Vahn was floating in the air wearing nothing but a pair of red shorts that were covered in scales while in his Báihǔ form. Almost as if he had absorbed the flames themselves, Vahn’s arms and legs were glowing red hot now and even his chest was glowing bright enough that the shadow of his heartbeat could be seen through it. Without any hesitation, he allowed himself to fall into the hole that had been created as everyone watched him disappear through its mouth. Finn released a sigh before looking around and seeing that the only people that were actually concerned were himself and Bete. Even Gareth was just stroking his beard with a small smile on his face while the girls all had looks of trust and confidence. Shaking his head, Finn moved off to the side and sat against the hard Dungeon wall while remarking in his mind, (“Ah, the wall and floor are rather hard…”)

Vahn didn’t really consider himself ‘hot-headed’, but he felt like the constant harassment of the Valgang Dragon’s had progressively eaten away at his patience. It was annoying having to constantly evade attacks that did nothing to him, and he also wanted to implant the idea inside Finn’s mind that they could simply reach the 58th Floor at any time by jumping down the holes. In fact, if they timed it properly, they could easily reach any Floor between the 52nd and 58th by using the holes created by the Valgang Dragons as a shortcut. The only thing they had to do was prepare a method to stop their descent when they reached the level they wanted, as the fire breath itself wasn’t a major threat to them with Riveria’s [Veil Breath] active.

After falling for about forty seconds, during which Vahn let two more breaths pass over him, he finally reached the hole in the ceiling of the 58th Floor. Unlike the Floors above, the 58th was very bright and there were strange yellow-orange crystals that illuminated the entire massive room as if it were daytime. Beneath him, Vahn could see a ‘herd’ of giant red dragons that were more than 14m in length from the tip of their snout to their tails. In the air, there were also a few other bluish-purple dragons known as Ill Wyverns. They were relatively small, around 3m, but they were capable of supersonic flight and supposedly tormented Adventurers by making strafing passes with their toxic breath.

Before Vahn reached the floor, the Ill Wyvern flock charged at him with a terrifying velocity as the pelted his body with toxic fumes that broke against him without effect. Though Vahn felt his body itching, the fumes themselves were dispersed by the intense heat of his body while anything he inhaled was completely filtered by his body itself. When another powerful breath targetted him, the flock cleared the airspace and Vahn once again became enveloped in flames. However, before the dragon was capable of closing its mouth, Vahn had closed the remaining distance and ‘helped’ it do so by smashing down on its snout and causing its head to cave in. For a brief moment, Vahn had transformed into his Xuánwǔ form before immediately transitioning back into his Báihǔ form and using [Shundo] to begin his slaughter.

Valgang Dragons had incredible resistances and their firepower was some of the strongest amongst all monsters, or else they wouldn’t be able to emit a pillar of flames for several kilometers. However, their attacks were completely useless against Vahn and they were somewhat over-reliant on their flames and ignored most other methods of attack. However, though their flames were fierce, Vahn found them to be mild compared to the temperature of his own body. On average, they were outputting around 2,000-degree flames while Vahn could push his body far beyond and was currently clocking a solid 4,500 degrees. His body was so hot that, every time he stepped on the ground to use [Shundo], there would be a 3m wide area of liquid bedrock where his foot had briefly touched.

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As they were so ‘proud’ of their flames that they spewed them incessantly, Vahn wanted to show them what real firepower was like and used his white-hot claws to slice through the incredibly fire-resistant scales of the Valgang Dragons as if they were non-existent. It wasn’t until a much larger dragon spawn from the ground that Vahn ‘cooled’ down a bit. However, much like its smaller counterpart, the Red Dragon spewed forth a veritable ‘laser’ of fire at Vahn that was more than 15m wide and completely consumed several Valgang Dragons in its path. Vahn, however, was completely unharmed by the attack and landed in the huge channel it had created before using [Shundo] to appear at the center of its long neck. Vahn could see where the monster core was located, so he appeared right next to its location before reaching his claw into its body and removing it as the entire dragon vanished in purple smoke.

Satisfied with how things had turned out, Vahn looked the items that were littering the ground while also picking up those that were raining down from the sky. As he had been pushing his [Heart of the Eternal Flame] to the extremes, including infusing it into his domain, Vahn had created an aura that was hot enough that it had been heating up the entire floor around him for around 513m. The Ill Wyverns were only at the peak of Level 3, and their defenses couldn’t tolerate the several thousand degrees of Vahn’s domain as they writhed about in pain before falling from the sky. Vahn thought it was quite the apocalyptic sight but had already appeased his frustrations and needed to return to the floors above.

The height of the ceiling was nearly 500m, but Vahn had a way to negate that as his domain turned a pale gold color as a link of chain emerged from the void and created a rigid line in the air. Vahn used [Shundo] to leap up and used his [Enkidu] as a foothold to reach the hole in the ceiling. It would take some time for other dragons to spawn in the area and ‘pester’ him, so Vahn wasn’t worried about being interrupted. He needed to get out before the holes started to close up, which was why he set such a short time frame for his small venting session. Using his Báihǔ form, Vahn created footholds in the walls of the hole before bounding up with jumps that were strong enough to cause cones of air to break around his body. In less than a minute and a half, Vahn had passed through six floors before arriving at the original hole he had leaped down. With one final leap, Vahn emerged from the hole before extending his hand and placing a barrier between him and the leaping Tiona.

Because his body had yet to cool down, she would have burned herself if she got close to him so Vahn had no choice but to prevent her actions as expediently as possible. Tiona smashed into the relatively invisible barrier before rubbing her nose with teary eyes as she said, “Vahn, how cruel…” Vahn became flustered by her words but the other girls had already stepped forward as Riveria scolded, “Look at his body, Tiona, you would have burned yourself quite badly if you continued forward…” Hearing her words, Tiona frowned slightly before saying, “I don’t mind getting a little burned though~!”

Ais walked over and placed her hand against the barrier before looking down at Tiona and saying, “But Vahn would feel bad if you got burned…and then he would have to heal you…” Tiona reacted as if she had just heard a devastating piece of news and looked at Vahn was an apologetic expression and said, “Sorry, Vahn…cool off quickly, okay~?” Though she seemed genuinely sorry at first, Tiona quickly recovered and bounded up to her feet as she pounded her fist against the barrier. She wasn’t the only one either, as both Riveria and Lefiya had walked forward to inspect it as well. Vahn alleviated their curiosity by saying, “It’s not as strong as your [Via Shilheim], but it is a practical solution to stop some physical attacks. It wouldn’t work if Tiona was serious, but it…was enough at the moment.” Vahn still felt awkward seeing Tiona collide into the barrier and walked forward after dispelling his heat and immediately embraced her as he said, “I’m sorry, Tiona…”

From the side, Fenrir had been watching the events play out from start to finish and couldn’t help but feel that Tiona had been a little ‘sneaky’ this time. Her Master would have come into the stairs when he was ready, but she had jumped out regardless and caused a small incident that guaranteed that her Master would take care of her for a short while. They had all been a little worried about him, which meant they would want to welcome him back when he returned, but Tiona had beaten them all to the punch. Though she had ‘suffered’ a little, she now got to enjoy Masters’s pampering as an apology…Fenrir thought she was indeed a very sneaky girl…

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