Vahn spent several minutes consoling the crying Hephaestus. Once she was finished she immediately began asking him how he had healed her eye when even the power of the gods was unable to do so. He explained how he was able to heal wounds and scars using a skill called [Hands of Nirvana] with the support of his other healing abilities. What he didn’t tell her was that he had infused his blood with the skill after evaporating part of it using the ‘eternal flame’. Vahn suspected his blood would be able to remove the mark and was happy to find his conjecture was correct.
Hephaestus suspected there was more to the story, but at this point, her trust toward Vahn was far greater than her curiosity. She knew he would tell her when and if he was able to do so. Seeing the compassion and care in his eyes, she buried her worries deep in her heart before rising from her desk. She walked around the table and embraced Vahn in a powerful hug. She had never been more thankful to someone in all her millions of years of existence.
Vahn returned her embrace and felt the connection shared between them increase as the ‘eternal flame’ within his heart danced about excitedly. The two continued to hold each other for a long while when Hephaestus suddenly pulled away slightly without letting him go. As she was nearly 15cm taller than Vahn, it was quite awkward hugging the small boy as his face was in line with her breasts. She didn’t care that much, but feeling his breath against her made Hephaestus’s heart itch.
After creating a bit of distance Hephaestus locked eyes with Vahn before leaning forward and kissing him on the forehead. “I will wait for you to fulfill your promise.” Hephaestus smiled before continuing, “Don’t take too long.” She then gave him a tight hug before releasing the dazed boy. He rubbed his head like a fool before smiling and heading out of the workshop at a fast pace. His heart was beating wildly and he wanted to immediately set out to increase his strength.
Hephaestus watched him leave and collapsed into her chair. She rested her head on her workbench and began to play with the diagram she had been working on previously. Sighing, she began to blame Vahn. “How am I supposed to get any work done today…” She continued fiddling with the documents before getting fed up; Hephaestus closed her eyes and just listened to the rhythm of Vahn’s heart and shared in his excitement as a smile adorned her now flawless face.
Vahn virtually ran towards Babel with a fast pace. The crowds parted to allow him passage while giving him curious gazes. From their perspective, they saw a smiling handsome boy that made his way through the traffic of the City streets without any concern or care. Some of the girls that caught sight of the boy became infected by Vahn’s atmosphere as they smiled towards his direction and tried to garner his attention. Vahn nodded towards each person that made eye contact with him, but he kept moving forward without a single pause in his stride.
He arrived at the plaza outside Babel in record time before gazing up at the heaven-defying tower. Without further hesitation, Vahn began making his way inside before a thought suddenly passed through his mind. He turned back towards the direction he had just come and remembered he hadn’t stopped by to visit Milan and Tina. He contemplated if he should backtrack, but as he had already arrived with so much impetus he didn’t want to turn away before he managed to even enter the first floor.
Shaking his head, Vahn entered the first floor of Babel and decided he would buy Tina a present before his next visit. Since she didn’t know he had been in the area she wouldn’t blame him for failing to stop by. Little did he know that at the time he was running through the streets, a small chestnut-brown haired cat girl had tried and failed to get his attention. She resentfully stared at his fading figure while stamping her foot on the ground. (A/N: RIP Vahn.)
Before heading into the dungeon, Vahn approached the information counter and purchased every map and compendium available for the first 18 floors. He also recorded his information, and when the Guild staff noticed him write down the alias ‘Vulcan’ they gave him a strange look before wishing him well in his endeavors. Vahn thanked them, but after seeing the greyish aura emitted from their body he frowned before turning away.
Vahn didn’t know what he did to offend the young man but began preparing his mind for any potential troubles that may arise in the future. He knew his alias would bring him attention from people that had both positive and negative intentions. The staff member was likely someone that resented his rise to fame or was related to one of the groups that would be plotting against him in the future. Unfortunately for them, as Vahn was able to see their intentions through their auras, he was not so easily deceived.
After entering the first floor of the dungeon, Vahn took a deep breath of the cool and stagnant air. This would be the first time he entered the dungeon solo in more than a month. He was looking forward to how far he would be able to go before being forced to return. With a confident smile on his face, Vahn took his first steps towards his second attempt to conquer the dungeon.
During this attempt, Vahn wanted to complete his weapon quest as he was very near the 100,000OP restriction. Since the time he had received the quest nearly two months had passed and Vahn had now spent 81,700 of his 100k restriction. If he couldn’t finish it soon, there would be a lot of problems if Vahn wanted to make use of the shop in the future.
(A/N: A refresher for anyone that forgot about the quest)
———————————————————————————————[Quest: Birth of a Legend]
Heroes are as famous as the weapons they wield. Even a lowly squire can become a Legend when wielding a sword forged by the Gods. Condition: Exchange 1,000,000 OP with the system to obtain a random weapon.
Rewards: ‘Gacha Function Unlocked’, 10+1 Premium Gacha pull, 1000 Karma
Failure Condition: Death, 12 months pass [302D16H28M], Spend more than 100,000 OP [81,700/100,000]
Penalty: All items within the inventory destroyed. Shop Function disabled for 12 months. Equipment items become cursed for 1 month [cursed items cannot be removed]
As Vahn wanted to use this attempt as a metric for his growth, he decided to clear each floor in sequence instead of skipping to the furthest floor he had unlocked thus far. There were several skills he had developed in secret that he was unable to use when Lili had been present, and he wanted to experiment to see how viable they were before he encountered any real threats.
The first was a function Vahn had discovered only recently and it used a trick with his [Will of the Emperor]’s domain to essentially allow him to auto-loot any items that had traces of magic. As long as Vahn was able to detect the object within his domain he could lock onto it with his aura and place it into his inventory. The most useful aspect of this feature was that Vahn was able to retrieve his weapons immediately if he had to discard them for any reason.
Vahn cut his way through the first four floors of the dungeon without any difficulty at all. Even though his stats hadn’t increased nearly as quickly as when he first entered the dungeon, his general awareness and techniques had improved exponentially. After his encounter with the 5-man party, Vahn had polished his [Featherfoot] technique all the way to C after managing to adapt to the 7th stage of the weighted bamboo mechanism. Now he moved uninhibited through the monsters and efficiently slew everything that crossed his path.
After passing through the fifth floor in a similar manner as the first four, Vahn finally arrived on the sixth floor where he encountered his first real challenge. It wasn’t that the monsters had suddenly become a threat, but Vahn had developed a vendetta against War Shadows since the incident with Naaza. He wanted to cull their numbers while testing a second ability he had developed after obtaining [Heart of the Eternal Flame].
Vahn had learned from the compendium about the existence of the ‘pantry’. Though the main body wasn’t found until the 7th floor, there was an extension that branched into the 6th floor where War Shadows and other monsters were known to congregate. They gathered to feed off the substance that emitted from the crystalline structure and it was considered a forbidden zone for small groups of adventurers.
It happened that his new skill was perfect for fighting a group of enemies and Vahn found it the most practical way to test his hypothesis. Ignoring the warning of the compendium, he followed the map he had obtained for the sixth floor and eventually arrived at the pantry. The crystal pillar penetrated through the floor of the dungeon and had an off-green color similar to the walls. Surrounding the pillar were dozens of monsters included a total of nine War Shadows that were hugging the pillar while driving away other monsters.
Vahn put his plan into action and contracted his domain to around 10m, the maximum range he had been able to successfully test his new ability. He began to activate the ‘eternal flame’ in his heart as his body began to pump with energy-rich blood. The fire elements in the air began to condense and the domain became a hazy gold color that started to blacken the walls and floor. Vahn continued absorbing the fire elements and channeling them directly into his body.
As he now possessed an immunity to all fire below Soul Tier 4, Vahn noticed his body was extremely receptive to absorbing heat without any detriments. This discovery came when he was soaking in the onsen one night and Tsubaki tried to join him. The moment she put her foot in the water she quickly jumped back at the scalding temperature that Vahn simply found ‘pleasant’. Before she had arrived he arranged several cores to bring the water to a near boiling point.
Ever since then he tried seeing if he could channel the ‘burning’ effect of [Heart of the Eternal Flame] into his own body. As he continued absorbing the flame elemental energy into his body he could see the veins within his arms begin to glow in an eerily reminiscent manner. Though Vahn was displeased at the sight, he continued channeling the energy to see if he was able to effectively apply it to any practical use.
After a few minutes, his skin began to glow like super-heated metal while his hands had turned a vibrant golden color that actually began melting his gauntlets. Seeing the peculiar sight, Vahn also became aware that the clothes he was wearing had long dried up and began to smoke. Since then he had purchased flame resistant clothes and had learned to channel the energy into his forearms instead of his entire body.
Now he was able to condense the effects to a greater extent while maintaining an absolute domain around his body that spread out for 10m. Anything within the domain would begin to burn as the flame elemental energy began to take root in their body. This included any exposed soft tissue and sensitive organs like the eyes, nose, and ears of the monsters. Anything that managed to survive through the fire would be dealt with by Vahn’s flaming strikes and swordplay.
At this point, the monsters had recognized the change in atmosphere. They turned towards the brilliantly golden boy that had begun to illuminate the surroundings. In a rage at having been disturbed, all the monsters began fiercely charging towards the interloper that had ruined their meal. The first to arrive were the War Shadows, the target of Vahn’s current vendetta.
The moment they entered the area of the domain they began to wail with a shrieking voice as they tried protecting the core behind their ‘eye’. Using their claws, they tried to prevent the heat from damaging their weakness, but the only thing they got for their troubles was Vahn’s flaming fingers sinking deep into their exposed bodies.
In a manner similar to the method used by the White Shadow to torment Naaza, Vahn began slowly dismembering the shadowy figures. Though they were generally able to regenerate and reform their bodies, they were unable to do so in this instance due to Vahn’s third discovery. He had learned that the ‘source energy’ within his body had a repressive effect on the mana and magic of this world. If he used the same skill or ability as someone else, his would always appear several tiers higher even at the same level.
As the bodies of the War Shadows were magical constructs, any wounds they sustained from Vahn’s hands were slow to heal. Instead, the ‘burning’ effect only increased the damage they received as they desperately tried to escape from the monster before them. At this point, every monster that had tried to come to their aid was similarly writing on the ground. Some of the weaker monsters had even begun to dry up as their eyes began to burn black with smoke.
Vahn continued slaughtering every monster that appeared in the pantry until his wrath had been appeased. By the end of the day, he had killed a total of 43 War Shadows and more than three-hundred miscellaneous mobs. Calculating his spoils, Vahn had collected a total of 4760OP before he set camp in the corridor connecting the stairs to the rest of the dungeon.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Calm down there kiddo…’,’All the world shall turn to ashes, burn [Heart of the Eternal Flame]’,’Frog Shooter’s Natural Enemy’, ‘RIP Vahn’, ‘SHINING FINGER!!’)