Chapter 679: Encounter?

After giving the girls plenty of time to rest, they set out towards the 40th Floor to begin searching for the Unicorn. Since it was just an optional Quest, Vahn wasn’t too worried about completing it and, if they were unable to find it after searching around for a few hours, he intended to return to the surface. As interesting as a Variant Unicorn was, the Quest didn’t seem to be a matter of great importance and Vahn would rather return home earlier to spend time with his daughters instead of wasting it away chasing after a phantom…

The 40th Floor, continuing down to the 43rd Floor, were another one of the ‘dead zones’ in the Dungeon, meaning there weren’t many monsters that spawned. Other than the occasional monster party, or the roaming variant, there weren’t too many things to bar the passage of normal parties. As for Vahn’s, with his domain allowing him to easily sense monsters, Fenrir’s nose being able to pick up almost any scent, and Mikoto’s search magic, they were able to progress forward at a very quick pace. However, this was only until Vahn sensed a very fast moving object in his domain, not coming from the Floor they were on, but from the Floor above.

Looking up, Vahn calmly pulled Haruhime and Mikoto back as Fenrir leaped towards the roof to intercept the approaching creature. Around the same time as a massive blue-skin snake pierced through the Dungeon ceiling, Fenrir tore through its face with her claws. Without even having time to issue a cry, the notorious creature, known amongst Adventurers as a Lambton, also called a Worm Well, fell to the Dungeon Floor as its body continued to twitch around for a few seconds before dissipating into dust. Vahn shook his head, disappointed in how weak the Lambton had been though, after remembering how strong Fenrir was, he decided to extend a small amount of condolences towards the now deceased monster.

Fenrir ran over, carrying a large magic core that was nearly as large as her torso, happily passing it over to Vahn in exchange for some headpats. There were also a few Drop Items littering the ground but Vahn had already stowed them away in his Inventory, allowing the system to analyze them before breaking the materials down into OP. Vahn had the habit of converting non-essential items into OP these days, only choosing to keep rare materials and herbs that could be used by the others in their [Mixing]. After all, though the conversion wasn’t great, Vahn could often earn more OP than he spent on materials if he took the time to forge them into high-quality goods. Thus, he didn’t mind purchasing materials directly from the system shop instead of relying on hunting them down in the Dungeon.

With the Lambton dead, the group picked up their previous pace as they continued making their way towards the area where the Unicorn was said to have appeared. Though the 44th Floor became covered in a black bedrock with fiery cracks running through it, the 43rd Floor still had sparse areas of grass and water that could be found periodically throughout its rooms. The Unicorn had initially been seen near a small pond within a large chamber near the entrance of the 44th Floor. It took a bit of searching, but Vahn believed they had found the area since there was a subtle fluctuation in the mana, making it feel refreshing and pure compared to the stagnant energy within the Dungeon. Unfortunately, though the trail seemed very strong in the room, Vahn didn’t notice it leading through any of the passageways, almost as if it vanished into thin air…

Fenrir sniffed around the area while Mikoto and Haruhime also looked around for a bit, each searching for any signs that the Unicorn had been present. As for Vahn, he decided to look in the pond itself, using his domain and [Eyes of Truth] to peer into the pristine blue pool of water. There were numerous crystals inside, causing the water to be illuminated by making it difficult to peer into the deeper regions since everything blurred together. Vahn, however, was able to look into the depths unobstructed, finding a few rare medicinal herbs but no signs of the Variant Unicorn.

Haruhime, seemingly remembering something from the past, brought her finger to her chin as she said, “Legends say that Unicorns only appear before pure maidens…Vahn, did you ask Finn about the Adventurers that discovered the Unicorn previously?” Shaking his head, Vahn realized he probably should have followed up on the information a little better, especially since part of the Quest was to investigate the rumors. Since the Adventurers in question had likely been at Lil Geirr, he could have gotten a lot more information if he learned about them. Of course, with Haruhime’s reminder, Vahn scanned through the information in his own mind and found out a lot of details regarding Unicorns, including the claim that they only appeared before Pure Maidens.

After looking through the details a bit, Vahn turned to Mikoto and Fenrir, saying, “There is a chance that the Unicorn has some form of detection that allows it to evade notice. Since there is still the presence of calm energy in this room, it may mean the Unicorn had somehow hidden within the void, or potentially teleported to another part of the Dungeon. We can try leaving the two of you here to draw it out…” Since Mikoto would be able to telepathically communicate with them in the event of an emergency, Vahn wasn’t too worried that something would happen to them. After all, there were few things that would actually pose a threat to Fenrir and they both had an [Effigy of the Hero] on their bodies.

However, shortly after speaking the words, Vahn changed his mind and said, “Actually, if it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like for you to stay here alone, Mikoto. There shouldn’t be any real danger and, if something shows up, I can always summon you through your [Pactio] card.” Vahn, though confident nothing would happen, still felt a little worried. If Mikoto was alone, he could easily teleport her through a single Floor, but that would have left Fenrir to fight on her own. She would likely be able to hold out well, but Vahn didn’t really want to expose them just to complete a Quest…

Fenrir nodded her head, showing a slightly relieved expression on her face since she never liked being too far away from her Master. As for Mikoto, she too nodded, saying, “Leave it to me, Vahn. I’m not sure if I qualify as ‘pure’, as I have taken lives before, but I am still a maiden…” Mikoto blushed slightly at the end of her words, sending Vahn a glance that caused her ruddy complexion to become more pronounced. Vahn smiled in response, feeling a little awkward but appreciating Mikoto’s unique reaction and the slightly ‘expectant’ glint in her eye before she turned away. Then, with Fenrir and Haruhime in tow, they left the area while Mikoto sat atop a smooth white stone and began meditating.

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Assuming that the Unicorn had some way to know if it had been detected, Vahn made his way through the Dungeon until he was unable to sense Mikoto’s location within his domain. They then continued walking around, updating his map of the area while waiting for Mikoto’s telepathic message. If she didn’t send them anything within an hour, Vahn planned to double back and discuss their next course of action, which would likely be to return to the surface. Fortunately, around forty minutes later, Mikoto voice appeared in his mind along with a gentle ping, (“Vahn, the Unicorn appeared. What should I do?”)

After collecting his thoughts, Vahn focused his mind and said, (“If possible, try talking to it to see if it is sentient. Unicorns are known for their intelligence and gentle nature so it should listen if you stay calm. If it is receptive to your words, try inquiring about its origins and see if it is willing to accompany us to the surface.”) Mikoto sent back a quick affirmation but, before he was even able to explain what was going on, Fenrir suddenly squinted her eyes and said, “Master, enemies…” in a cold voice. Vahn had been focusing more on his communication with Mikoto so he had temporarily lost his focus, now feeling the presence of several people passing through one of the passages they hadn’t been through yet. Judging by their auras, they seemed to be a team of Adventurers around Level 3-4 in strength. As for why Fenrir referred to them as enemies, it was because they had a ‘murderous’ aura around them and, even though their auras weren’t completely black, they didn’t seem like good people.

Since he didn’t know the best path to connect to the adjacent passage, Vahn decided to ‘make’ one. A golden aura surrounded his body as he pushed forward with raw speed, seemingly blinking the short distance to the wall as he transformed into his Xuánwǔ form and compressed the shockwave to create a tunnel. Traditionally, a shockwave would disperse through a medium, much like a wave that spread out evenly. With his ability to control shockwaves, however, Vahn forced the shockwave to continue forward in a 3m radius, carrying the terrifying energy of his blow along with it. Thus, instead of creating a crater that spread out for several meters, Vahn shattered the wall in an almost perfect circle that extended the 13m distance that connected to the next passage.

When he appeared inside the same tunnel as the ‘enemies’, Vahn was immediately attacked by a bolt of electricity that smashed into his chest and made it feel like a path of destruction had been carved through his body. The bolt exited out through his foot, grounding into the Dungeon floor below while Vahn continued to stand, ignoring the smoke rising from his body as he glared towards the five people and said, “I understand why you might attack someone that appeared out of nowhere, but you should still try to get a better understanding of the situation before you actually engage the enemy. Now, I’m more than a little annoyed and feel less inclined to talk…” Though he was actually speaking much more than normal, this was a result of his inhibitions about taking lives after wiping out the fortress the previous day. These people also didn’t have completely black auras so, until he learned about their purpose, Vahn decided not to outright kill them.

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Uncharacteristically, all five Adventurers present were women, each possessing rather attractive faces and shapely figures. The oldest among them, who happened to be the mage that attacked him, only appeared to be in her late twenties. As for the youngest, though it was hard to tell since she was a Pallum, Vahn guessed she was around eighteen years old. Their party composition seemed to be two scouts, two vanguard units, and a single Mage, easily identifiable as the leader of the group with how the others looked towards her periodically.

Surprised that her attack didn’t seem to actually harm Vahn, the Mage swallowed nervously and said, “Sorry about that…my name is Amalia, and this is my party, Rose Quintet.” Though she was still nervous, especially after failing her surprise attack, Amalia noticed that the boy before them was very handsome. He also didn’t really seem like a bad guy so she decided that it would be better to make use of their appearances to earn some leniency. Though they were all still virgins, as was necessary for their trade, each member of her group was very confident in their physical appearance.

Vahn raised his left brow, giving Amalia a curious look as he asked, “Are you Freelance Adventurers? It’s rare to see a group of four Level 3’s and a Level 4 that don’t belong to a Familia…” The members of Rose Quintet tensed up when Vahn accurately mentioned their Levels before they had even started fighting. Their instincts were telling them that there was no way they would be able to fight against him. Amalia herself, having thrown out the large bolt of thunder magic, began to feel even more nervous as she explained, “We used to belong to a Familia, but our Goddess returned back to Heaven after accruing a large debt. To avoid getting saddled with the debt, we became Freeland Adventurers and perform missions to get by…”

Even if a god was ‘forced’ back to Heaven, it didn’t mean the Falna they bestowed upon others would fade away. However, most people that had belonged to a Familia, especially if there were already decently Leveled, would have gone to a different Familia. Vahn suspected that the girls may have had something to do with their goddess’ debt. It was either that or they had a different reason for deciding against joining another Familia, likely related to the missions they were taking. None of them seemed like ‘bad’ people yet, seeing their ‘tainted’ auras, Vahn knew they didn’t live as honestly as they could have.

After listening to Amalia’s words, Vahn calmly asked, “Are you here to try and hunt down the Unicorn?” The moment he mentioned the Unicorn, Vahn saw the girls tense up while Amalia’s fingers produced a small amount of electricity. This caught his attention and, with his [Eyes of Truth] active, Vahn noticed that Amalia had an off-blue aura that seemed to radiate with electrical energy. She seemed to have a pure lightning affinity, something that was exceptionally rare since it was a relatively high-tier element. However, knowing they hunted Unicorns, Vahn felt a bitterness on the tip of his tongue and said, “This Unicorn is a bit unique, so I’ll have to ask you to give up. I’m not going to berate you for doing what you have to in order to get by, but hunting gentle creatures isn’t any way to make a living…” Shaking his head, Vahn turned away and decided to let the five girls go free. After all, there wasn’t really anything wrong with hunting animals and monsters, at least not to the extent that they deserved to die for it.

Amalia felt very offended by Vahn’s words, especially when he turned away from them as if there were nothing more than air. However, her instincts were screaming at her to remain quiet and, after seeing a pair of scarlet eyes peer at them through the hole that Vahn had created, she decided to let the matter lay. It was obvious that the man before them was far stronger than they were and, even if a Unicorn’s horn and blood were worth a great deal of Valis, it wasn’t worth their lives trying to obtain. Gesturing to her allies, Amalia said in a quiet and shaky voice, “Let’s go back. We’ll try to find a new mark…” Her companions all nodded, having the same sense of impending doom as their leader and not wanting to try their luck. They quickly fell into formation and began making their way back, not even sparing a glance towards Vahn after deciding to retreat.

Vahn continued to follow them with his intent for a bit, nodding slightly before searching through the system shop and purchasing a Unicorn horn and marrow. The combined cost was only 17,000OP so Vahn didn’t feel it was too much as compensation. He set the items in the girls’ path, including a note telling them to treat their lifestyle choices with the same severity they placed on their own lives. If they had decided to force the issue, attacking him without regards to the difference in power, they would have all been severely injured, if not killed. The horn and marrow were their rewards for making the ‘correct’ decision, causing the girls to feel a bit of confusion before they increased the speed of their retreat.

Haruhime giggled after seeing Vahn nod slightly, musing, “You’re very soft on women, Vahn. If you didn’t have [Magia Erebea], that thunder magic might have crippled and severely injured you. I can’t imagine you were the first person they had ever attacked for standing in their way…” Without belonging to an active Familia, the Rose Quintet was able to attack other Adventurers without obtaining a curse. However, they also had the detriment of being unable to update their parameters, meaning they would continue to be stuck at their Level unless they joined another Familia. They had likely been exploiting this loophole since many Adventurers wouldn’t expect a sudden attack during normal circumstances.

Releasing a small sigh, Vahn turned to Haruhime and said, “I can tell that those girls aren’t beyond salvation so I wanted to give them a chance. Don’t worry, though, as I intend to follow up on the matter with the Guild later on.” It wasn’t illegal to hunt Unicorns, but it is very frowned upon since they often help guide lost and injured Adventurers to safety. However, as the materials that could be obtained from a Unicorn were used in powerful salves and Elixirs, even the Guild sometimes put in requests. These were all documented though, with all the materials being used as efficiently as possible while an Elf usually performed burial rites out of respect for the fallen Unicorn. If it was known that a Freelance group was proactively hunting Unicorns, the Guild would take action and impose heavy fees upon the Rose Quintet if they continued trying.

After dealing with the unexpected arrival of the Rose Quintet, Vahn sent a message to Mikoto, asking how things had been going. There was a slight delay, causing Vahn to squint his eyes before Mikoto’s voice sounded in his head, (“…it seems to be called Fatina. I got permission for you to come by, but only after taking a vow swearing that we would not cause it harm.”) Vahn was somewhat surprised to learn that Mikoto had taken such a vow but, after considering the type of person she was, he didn’t find it too odd. Nodding his head, Vahn explained the details to Haruhime and Fenrir before they all made there way over to meet what Vahn assumed was a Unicorn Xenos named Fatina…

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