Chapter 642: Shock and Awe

Though there were several Coliseums barring their passage, the Expedition continued forward setting an increasingly greater precedent for others to follow. She didn’t clear all of them, but Fenrir took out over half of the Coliseums entirely on her own, saving several hours of travel. Vahn was determined to reach the 39th Floor before it was time to re-enter Eva’s orb so he let her cut loose in order to increase her reputation and ‘awe’ the Expedition itself. A large number of the Adventurers present remembered Fenrir from the previous Expedition so her performance had a greater impact since the difference between then and now was very ‘drastic’. By the time they returned to the surface, Fenrir and, by proxy, the rest of the Hestia Familia, would become the stuff of legends.

After reaching near the center of the 37th Floor, which was the Throne Room where Udaeus would reside, Vahn stepped forward while the Expedition began setting up the defensive line. Approaching Finn, with Fenrir and Asfi at his sides, Vahn had a smile on his face that made the Pallum shake his head in exasperation as he asked, “Are you wanting to fight the Udaeus alone?” Vahn chuckled before saying, “Actually, I feel it would be a waste of time setting up the defensive line so I was going to suggest we continue the march. If you recall the last fight, I can stop the Udaeus from using its massive AoE attack and I’m fully confident Fenrir and Ais can eliminate it shortly after the engagement begins. If necessary, I’ll provide support and shield the convoy.”

Vahn could see the edge of Finn’s smile twitching a bit but the veteran Pallum still followed Vahn’s suggestion, surprising everyone when he gave the order to march forward. As for Vahn himself, he kept Asfi at his side as they entered the Throne Room with Ais, Tiona, Tione, Lefiya, and Haruhime. Mikoto would have probably accompanied them but she was currently with the rear guard, following Raul’s orders for the time being. It wouldn’t really make a big difference, however, as Vahn didn’t expect the fight to take long at all. Previously, they managed to defeat Udaeus in a few minutes and they had all become much stronger since then.

Ais tightly gripped her [Gram] before asking, “Can I…fight it alone?” in a quiet voice. Vahn was a little surprised but quickly shook his head, making Ais show a pouting expression for a brief moment. Reaching out his hand, Vahn stroked her glossy golden hair before kissing Ais’ forehead, saying, “Don’t worry, Ais, you’ll have plenty of chances to fight it later on. Remember, it’ll respawn before we’re supposed to be returning to the surface and I don’t mind if you want to fight it on your own next time. Since we already have everyone following behind, it isn’t a good time to try and solo the monster because its attacks might stray and cause unnecessary injuries.”

Though she still wanted to be able to fight against the Monster Rex on her own, Ais nodded her head before sneaking a kiss from Vahn. By the time she separated, her pouting expression had turned into a small smile as she said, “Okay, next time then…I’m looking forward to it.” Ais held up her gloved fist with a fiery resolve burning in her eyes as she visualized the future fight she would have. Her behavior caused Tiona and Tione to laugh at her, causing Ais to blush slightly while maintaining her resolute look. After that, Vahn explained the strategy they would employ while the rest of the convoy slowly ambled into the Throne Room.

The reason he had wanted them to be present, which most of the senior members immediately realized, was simply to show off the might of the Hestia Familia once again. This was meant to be both a deterrent and a ‘challenge’ to those that might be plotting against them. Most of their enemies would back down once their current capabilities were known while the truly dangerous ones would feel compelled to take action sooner. Since Vahn’s own strength was rapidly increasing, while Fenrir and the girls themselves hadn’t actually shown off the extent of their might, it would allow them to deal with most threats by causing their enemies to overextend based on ‘faulty’ information.

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By the time the rear guard had made its way into the Throne Room, complete with Mikoto, Vahn smiled before gesturing towards Udaeus’ location. Everyone in the convoy was very tense and had more than a few inhibitions about the current situation. The senior members, with the exception of Bete, weren’t worried at all though and simply held their weapons loosely while watching the fight. It started by Ais flying forward with her Wings of Light in conjunction with [Ariel]. She created a large vortex of wind before striking towards the ground where Udaeus was hiding, causing it to explode with a shrill cry as it tried to use its massive skeletal claws to swipe at her. Though she might have trouble dodging from the air in the past, Ais now easily flittered about as she evaded its swipes before opening up a distance.

As soon as Ais was out of range, a vibrant blue light appeared 50m above Udaeus as Fenrir’s small figure ‘blinked’ into existence, shouting, “Master, give me strength! Come spirits of ice! Tundra and Glacier, Spread Forth into the Air, in the Realm of White Night! Frozen Earth!” Though her chant had taken a while, Udaeus had been more focused on retaliating against Ais and trying to summon its spikes. Thus, perhaps overconfident about its famous magic resistance, Udaeus allowed Fenrir to finish her chant as a massive wave of magical energy converged on its body. The black skeletal frame of Udaeus became covered in ice before a pillar more than 50m in diameter and 70m in height came into existence, completely freezing it.

There were numerous murmurs amongst the members of the convoy, including several exclamations of disbelief. As for Vahn, he had a small smile on his face as he saw the glowing eyes of Udaeus burning with rage. Unfortunately, though its strength was phenomenal, it couldn’t easily break Fenrir’s ice, which was becoming increasingly more vibrant as she channeled her mana into it. Several smaller ice pillars slowly started growing around the first one and Vahn could see the glowing red eyes of the Monster Rex begin to waver as its magic resistance was overwhelmed by the chill. Even Vahn had been overwhelmed by Fenrir’s magic when his constitution was a natural counter to her attacks. Udaeus was virtually powerless and, though it could resist normal magic attacks, it couldn’t do anything in the face of Fenrir’s might.

As the ember eyes of Udaeus slowly burned out, Vahn called Fenrir back before looking toward Ais, who was already channeling a tempest of air elemental energy around her [Gram]. The moment Fenrir used [Koku Shundo] to clear the area, Ais moved forward at nearly seven times the speed of sound, shattering clear through the pillar erected by Fenrir as the tempestuous blades of wind tore through Udaeus’ frame, destroying its magic core in the process. Ais had moved so quickly that she went clear through the pillar and slammed into the wall behind, causing spiderweb cracks to spread out for several hundred meters before she, unharmed, jumped out of the hole she created.

Though Fenrir’s display was overwhelming, inspiring many to believe there was no way to resist her might, Ais’ attack caused many people to feel one single though in regards to her power, simply that it was unstoppable. There was nothing anyone could think of that would be able to stop her blade and it brought a quiet over the entire group, broken only by the congratulations of Vahn’s group. Many people eyed Fenrir and Ais, both very young and youthful looking girls, with abject terror and shock on their faces, including some of her own allies. Though the strong gave her looks of respect, the weaker members of the Expedition were outright terrified of the two…

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Vahn exchanged a few words with Finn before heading back to his cart, causing several people to give him or, more specifically, Fenrir a very wide birth. Asfi had become a little pale as she followed along, absentmindedly accepting Vahn’s hand when he pulled her up into the cart. Shortly after, Finn gave the order to continue the march since Vahn had already looted all the drop items from Udaeus, leaving nothing but icy devastation behind to prove it existed in the first place. Perhaps more terrifying, however, was the still-collapsing wall where Ais had struck previously…

Without any major flair, the expedition reached the 39th Floor around 3:40 PM, giving Vahn plenty of time before he needed to attend to return to the orb. Since they were going to be setting up a permanant settlement this time around, the expedition moved towards the large flat plateau at the center of the Floor and immediately set up a perimeter. Construction efforts wouldn’t officially start until tomorrow, but that didn’t mean they could slack off on the defense. Though some people made comments about it being pointless, especially with people like Ais and Fenrir around, Finn kept order and had everyone get to work.

To ease tensions, Vahn took several large stone slabs and cut them into shape, creating a semi-permanant bath for each gender. Instead of creating a normal formation to heat the water, Vahn drew a magical ward at the bottom of the stone basin that served the same purpose. Though formations were very effective, Vahn knew it was far more practical to draw wards and create ritual magic circles instead. They used significantly fewer materials and, as long as you understood the formula properly, they could be set up a lot faster than standard formations. Instead of spending twenty minutes fortifying things, Vahn finished the entire ward in less than three minutes, only because it was his first time drawing it.

After that was finished, Vahn set up some tents to cover the area, ensuring they were well ventilated, before erecting stone walls in the periphery and drawing wards that barred entry to anyone that wasn’t the appropriate gender. By the time he finished both baths, it was around 4:30 so Vahn started unloading the extra supplies at the center of the camp while everyone else was setting up their tents. He had already erected the Hestia Familia tent nearby and was just depositing things that would be used for the meal preparation. There were already several chefs standing by, each giving up a gratified cheer when Vahn gave them a variety of fresh and high-quality ingredients to make use of. Tonight was going to be a small celebration to congratulate everyone for making it to the 39th Floor in record time, avoiding casualties along the way.

People were undoubtedly a little tense after watching Fenrir tear through the Floors, but that would pass once the mood livened up a bit and they had good food in their bellies. After a few weeks, Fenrir’s display wouldn’t be as impactful and would instead become something talked about with excitement and appreciation. Once they saw how cute she behaved normally, Vahn was certain they would open up to her, just like the members of the previous Expedition had. Since Fenrir was far more stable than the past, there shouldn’t be any problems unless someone directly antagonizes her, which wasn’t very likely. Worst case scenario, at least Vahn hoped, she would probably just knock them out with her martial arts and break a ‘few’ bones…

Vahn left Finn in charge of things before heading into the Hestia Familia tent, giving Asfi leave to rest in her room or wander about the encampment. He warned her not to wander off without informing him, however, as their agreement didn’t cover her proactively trying to circumvent his protection. If she wandered off and got attacked by monsters, that was entirely on her and couldn’t be held against him since it would be a fate she brought upon herself. Vahn could easily track her if she tried to leave, and would likely do so, but he didn’t want Asfi to have the mentality that she was allowed to do whatever she wanted. He didn’t even mind her spying on them that much, as she couldn’t get any ‘important’ information, but that didn’t mean he intended to become her patsy and allow himself to be used.

Asfi gave a firm nod in response before retiring to her room, likely to take a nap before dinner. She hadn’t had to fight during the journey to the 39th Floor, but it had been very taxing her mind being next to Fenrir. There was also the fact that she had a lot to think about at the moment and it was difficult to be around Vahn since he seemed to react to the subtle changes in her mentality. Vahns words, though naive and idealistic, were very heavy and impactful since his capabilities meant that they weren’t simple platitudes. It was obvious that Vahn was very serious when he spoke and it was apparent she would have to make a decision by the end of the Expedition, lest the ‘wave’ that was Vahn Mason swept by and left her in its wake…

Before entering the orb, Vahn sat around with Haruhime, Mikoto, and Fenrir as they talked about their upcoming training. They were going to be on the 39th Floor for two months and it would be a good opportunity to begin their magical training since it was better to start sooner. Vahn gave them several additional language textbooks so they could study up and, in a strange twist of fate, Fenrir became the person tutoring them. She had been illiterate only a few months prior but could now read, write, and speak, four different languages.

Haruhime and Mikoto knew how to speak and write in two, which surprised Vahn a bit until he remembered they both hailed from the Far East. There was no ‘universal’ language within the Danmachi record and it wasn’t uncommon for different races to have completely unique languages and dialects. Vahn had overlooked this entirely at first because his brain, likely as a quirk of The Path, automatically translated everything into a format the could understand. The fact he conversed with them in their own languages, completely unaware he was doing it, had been eye-opening, to say the least. Thus, while Fenrir taught them ‘Latin’, ‘Germanic’, and ‘English’, they were also going to teach her ‘Ya’nese’ while refining her ‘Koine’, which was apparently the language used in Orario.

While the girls were having a small study session, Vahn watched them with a smile while palming Eva’s orb in his hand. The moment the light changed, Vahn sunk his intent into the orb to once again continue his training with Eva. Of course, before they got started, he had to pamper a needy Vampire princess and a progressively more seductive True Dragon…

Much like the previous sessions, Vahn spent the majority of his time sparring with Eva, which meant he was usually her punching bag or desperately evading her attacks. His [Koku Shundo] was currently sitting at D-Rank and Eva wanted him to get it to B-Rank before the moved onto the next part of their training, which would be working on his internal control. He already had great control over his source energy, but Vahn needed to be able to supplement his capabilities with external mana since it was very apparent he wouldn’t be able to convert his source energy into a usable form to cast magic. The efficacy was simply terrible and Eva recommended he conserve his own energy for reinforcement while making use of his domain to absorb external mana and temporary channel it through his body. This would also allow him to have greater mastery of his [Magia Erebea] while simultaneously making it easier to master other types of control magic in the future.

Of course, all of that was assuming he could get his [Koku Shundo] to B-Rank before Eva turned him into a perpetual popsicle. Her attacks became increasingly more fierce and it felt like he was never really adapting since he always seemed to be on the receiving end of a pummeling. Eva had even created an ice wall to split the entire space in two, one side vibrant and lush under the influence of Terra, while the other was a frozen wasteland. On the last day, Eva even required him to meditate completely naked in the -90-degree weather, without using his [Heart of the Eternal Flame]. The only thing he was allowed to do was cover his body with a very thin layer of [Cantus Bellax], which wasn’t really enough to resist the cold.

The reason for this was because Eva was worried about his ability to continue fighting for long periods of time since his ‘mana’ would be used up after just a few short minutes. He needed greater control and obtaining such mastery under harsh conditions was a common practice in her world. There were several phases to the training, starting by having a person traverse through a tundra wearing nothing but light clothing, surviving only on what they obtained during the journey. The second phase was to meditate at the top of a mountain, where the oxygen was thin and blizzards were common. As for the last phase, it took a drastic turn and required the person to meditate within the mouth of a volcano, finished only when the student managed to submerge themselves within the magma up to their neck for twenty-four hours…

Unsurprisingly, Vahn wasn’t able to complete Eva’s trial at first and ‘accidentally’ cheated when his body adapted to the temperatures without protecting himself with mana. Since his form could change to whatever he wanted, Vahn had naturally adapted to the cold since it had been very uncomfortable. This earned him Eva’s temporary ire and a bit of ‘punishment’ before she left his tired and drained body out in the cold again. She lectured that it wasn’t wrong to rely on the capabilities of his body to overcome difficult situations, but being overreliant on ‘shortcuts’ would only harm him in the long run. Thus, with a few frozen lines of blood draining from small puncture wounds all over his body, Vahn sat and meditated within the cold until his time in the orb had come to an end…

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