Chapter 62: Progress : *Spoilers*

For three weeks, Vahn and Lili continued to train with Tsubaki and hone their skills. Within this time Vahn had managed to increase his [Blacksmith] skill to A after using one of his skill enhancement scrolls after getting it to B. He was also about to impress Tsubaki by displaying some of the otherworldly techniques he had learned from the manuals.

Tsubaki was really surprised at the innovative methods and even recorded them for submission and review by other veteran blacksmiths within the Familia. The most notable thing Vahn had shown her was the creation of an ‘automated hammering’ system. Vahn had grown very familiar with the mechanism behind the swinging bamboo and used the knowledge he possessed to create a rig that could reliably and consistently strike a surface without requiring physical exertion. He even carved mana circuits into the body of the rig so the user could still infuse their mana into the hammer strikes.

Almost immediately after she had submitted the designs to the Familia, Tsubaki’s workshop started getting barraged with visitors. Everyone wanted to meet the person who had developed such a unique method, as many were even claiming it would revolutionize the process of forging and allow for mass-production of standard-quality items. Unfortunately, Tsubaki wasn’t willing to let anyone in and even beat up some of the bolder ones for trying to sneak into her house.

Eventually, Hephaestus herself put a stop to the troubles after submitting a patent through the guild using her mark as well as Vahn’s on the form. Everyone became interested in the mysterious blacksmith that was being groomed by Hephaestus. Even some gods tried visiting her personally to acquire information, but she was tight-lipped and refused to comment.

One of the people that weren’t turned away, however, was Welf. After hearing the news, he immediately came by to celebrate Vahn’s achievement. Welf considered Vahn someone worthy of respect and even thought of himself as his rival. Seeing the ingenious design in person and many of Vahn’s other innovations, Welf was fired up. They spent the entire afternoon talking and enjoying sake alongside the boisterous Tsubaki. Lili, who was the only one to refuse the alcohol, spent most of the time preparing various snacks for the rowdy trio.

After things had calmed down, Vahn and Welf were sitting in the courtyard looking up at the moon. They had been talking about their dreams and how far Welf’s research had progressed. Welf shook his head in dismay saying, “I’ve made some progress in the actual circuit, but I can’t seem to make the item preserve the mana for a long enough period of time. The complexity of defensive and healing spells is much higher than attack spells.”

Vahn nodded before taking out the [Heal] staff he had used last time. Because Welf had a high appreciation and respect for Vahn, their affection level had exceeded 80 which allowed Vahn to ‘gift’ a single item to Welf with a month-long cooldown. “You’ll need to keep the origin a secret, but I want you to use this staff to help in your research. You don’t have to worry about returning it, just make sure you don’t forget your purpose and I’ll be happy.”

Welf accepted the staff and held it firmly in his hands. With a serious expression on his face, he looked into Vahns eyes and nodded. “I will prove to the world my blood isn’t a curse. Thanks, Vahn.”

Vahn wasn’t the only one to grow in the three weeks of hellish training. Though it wasn’t as drastic, Lili had also been making marked improvements. Her training with Tsubaki had begun to show its effects, and she was now able to fight freely without much assistance on the first four floors. Afterward, she had Vahn check her status and confirmed that many of her parameters had exceeded D, with her agility and dexterity reaching C. If she wanted to, she could even level-up, but chose to wait and improve her foundation after consulting both Vahn and Tsubaki.

The weapon she ended up choosing was a crimson naginata that was far larger than her body. The overall length was 200cm with the curved-blade comprising 40cm of the total length. Tsubaki was quite proficient in its use and encouraged Lili to learn how to use it since her small stature would actually be a benefit once she increased her mastery. After she tried it out, Lili realized it suited her well and began training alongside Tsubaki to learn the various offensive and defensive forms.

Though she still had a lot to learn, Lili was able to use her improving mobility to quickly deal with small groups of enemies. Whenever she was in a pinch, she also carried a dagger which she had Vahn forge. Overall, she was already much stronger than the Lili Vahn had seen in the manga. He looked forward to seeing how far she could progress using her newfound confidence and skills.

Today, the duo had decided to venture into the deeper floors. Lili freaked out when she saw the giant one-eyed frogs, but managed to defeat one after a bit of effort. As her stats weren’t particularly high, this was the point where she was unable to fight without support. After discussing it with Vahn, the two continued into the dungeon using their usual method. Lili was acting as a Vahnguard(A/N: I’m leaving this typo because it made me laugh) while Vahn used [Will of the Emperor] to scout for traps and monster spawns.

Their progress was much slower than the first four floors, and by the beginning of the sixth floor, Lili began failing to cope against the monsters. She came across a War Shadow, and after a fierce fight only managed to defeat it with Vahn blocking several of its lethal attacks. If he hadn’t have been protecting her, Lili knew she most likely would have died. War Shadows were much harder to deal with than she expected.

“Let’s call it for the day. We made it much further than our previous visits and you’re quickly improving. In another few months, you’ll probably be able to fight on the first seven floors without my help.” Vahn smiled while patting Lili’s head. It had become a habit between them when Lili performed well, Vahn would pat her on the head while praising her.

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They made their way towards the stairs leading out of the dungeon when Vahn suddenly stopped. Lili, confused, asked what was the matter and Vahn shook his head while looking deeper into the dungeon. Though it could have been his imagination, after confirming with Sis, he knew what he had heard wasn’t false. Somewhere, further in the dungeon, someone had screamed out.

Vahn put on a serious expression and explained the situation to Lili. Though she wanted to accompany him, she knew from all their previous experiences together that she would only get in the way. If Vahn was going to save someone, it would be better to leave the matter to him. Since she wasn’t proficient enough to protect herself on the 6th floor, she would just be a liability.

There wasn’t a lot of time, so Vahn gently pats Lili’s hair before leaving her in the relative safety of the stairs. She had decided to stay in the area until he completed his task, and began preparing items for emergency treatment if he brought any injured people to her. One of the skills she had been studying in the last few weeks was how to make medicinal powders and apply basic first aid treatment for wounds.

Vahn ran deeper into the dungeon towards the direction where he had last heard the ‘sound’.

The reason he had been able to pick up the ‘sound’ while Lili, who was still in her Cat Person form, couldn’t, is because what Vahn had detected wasn’t an actual sound. As he always had [Will of the Emperor] active within the dungeon, Vahn was able to feel a ripple of intent pass through his domain and he was able to interpret that as a plea for help. He could feel the fear, pain, and anguish in the cry and thus couldn’t ignore it. (A/N: Credit to ‘Frozen’, my guardian diety~)

Vahn was moving at an incredible pace through the sixth floor and had equipped his bow to quickly dispatch any enemies that dared cross his path. Even when he passed a pair of War Shadows surrounded by Frog Shooters, he annihilated the entire group without breaking stride. His training with Tsubaki and using the bamboo weights had enhanced his perception to the point he didn’t even have to directly look at enemies within a 10m range.

Eventually, Vahn found his way to the site of a battle. There was blood everywhere, much of it belonging to humans. Corpses of monsters were strewn about, signs that the adventurers hadn’t been able to accurately destroy the magic cores. But what irked Vahn the most was, the corpses of the fallen adventurers were being torn apart and mutilated by the monsters who had begun devouring them.

Among the group of monsters, there was one that stood out from the rest. All of the others stayed far away from it, almost as if they were afraid of being its next victim. Vahn’s vision began to turn dark as a coldness started spreading through his mind.

The monster, a War Shadow variant with a white coloration was currently torturing the only living adventurer in the area. It was using its claws to slowly impale parts of her body while grating the flesh around her missing arm. Though she would try to scream out, the only sound was an anguished and muffled croak likely due to internal bleeding.

Only allowed on

Vahn spread his domain to the maximum and locked-on to the White Shadow*. It stopped torturing the girl and she slowly began to pass out now that the constant pain had ceased. Before she lost consciousness, she saw a handsome boy glowing with a golden radiance as a warm heat spread over her body.

Due to his rage, Vahn’s [Heart of the Eternal Flame] had begun to infuse its effect into the domain of [Will of the Emperor] causing the entire room of the dungeon to glow with a golden light. The monsters within the domain began to sizzle as the ‘burning’ effect was applied to their bodies. They screamed in pain while trying to protect their eyes, but none of their efforts could alleviate the burning sensation that continued to increase in intensity.

The White Shadow was also under the effect of the domain, and it quickly charged at Vahn to tear him apart for ruining it’s fun. It was much faster than a normal War Shadow and the claws on its hands were nearly twice as long. It intended to impale the interloper before slowly pulling out the intestines while they were still alive.

Before the White Shadow could close the distance, Vahn began a charge of his own. The bow within his hands disappeared and was replaced by an ornamental straight sword with the motif of a lion. This sword was the one he had received from Milan, and it was identified by the system as [Lion’s Pride:S]. Though the make wasn’t as complex as his previous Tamahagane blade, the conductivity of the metal when channeling magic was far stronger as it was comprised entirely of mithril.

As Vahn swung the sword towards the White Shadow, it tried intercepting the blade with it’s claws. The moment before contact, time seemed to slow for the two as Vahn could see his sword cut through the White Shadow’s claws like a plasma blade. It slowly moved through each claw with almost no resistance as each severed finger flew off with a glowing red hue where it previously connected to the White Shadow.

Due to the combined effects of his energy and [Heart of the Eternal Flame], his sword had become super-heated which spelled the end for the arrogant monster. It could only look helplessly as the sword continued unobstructed toward its head and core. By the time the blade had passed, there were two separate halves of a White Shadow still left standing with a glowing cross-section. After another few milliseconds, the two halves turned to dust in a small explosion as Vahn continued forward without taking notice.

He dispatched the few remaining monsters before approaching the barely breathing girl. He could tell she was a young brown-haired Chienthrope, likely only a few years older than himself. Vahn quickly purchased another [Heal] from the system and began using its effects to try and save the unfortunate adventurer. He noticed that while the skill was active, her wounds began to slowly regenerate, but Vahn stopped channeling because he noticed a problem.

Though the staff was healing her wounds, it was only healing the remaining tissue. If Vahn continued using his current method the staff would heal the injury around her arm and leave only a stub behind. As someone that had lived for several years without armor or legs, Vahn knew how difficult it was to live with the loss of a limb.

Vahn’s thoughts spun rapidly through his head as he tried searching for the lost limb. No matter where he looked he couldn’t find anything, and he was quickly running out of time. Much longer and the girl would likely die of blood loss, so Vahn needed to think of an immediate solution. Suddenly, a dangerous thought entered his mind as he quickly read through his skills.

Making his decision, Vahn grits his teeth while switching his sword to his left hand…and slices off his own right arm.

Title: Progress : Cry for Help

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘The Stranger’, ‘Hold my beer’, ‘Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon?’, ‘That’s a little too still’)

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