Chapter 757: Fodder

For several seconds, likely waiting for the pool of molten stone to cool, nobody had tried attacking Vahn, still standing silently in the center of the arena. Thus, realizing nobody else was trying to seize the initiative, Vahn decided it was time for him to take action. They might not be able to kill him, but it would become annoying very quickly if he continued to allow the number of people in the arena to build. If he didn’t start thinning the herd a bit, it would also make fights against stronger enemies more difficult, as their internecine strikes would do collateral damage to the surroundings. Anyone who had lost consciousness within the bounds of the arena could potentially lose their lives and, though there were likely some that deserved such a fate, Vahn wanted to avoid that kind of outcome.

After equipping some new clothing, yet another thing that stunned the onlookers, Vahn stopped restraining his domain and allowed a natural pressure to exude from his body. Though he could have kept it confined inside of the arena, Vahn allowed it to spread out through the entire Coliseum, even extending outside it bounds slightly. This caused some of the people who had been about to jump into the arena to immediately reconsider their options, with some returning to their seats after they saw what was to follow.

No longer standing in his place amongst the center, Vahn ‘vanished’ from the arena before appear next to a group of four people. There was a gentle smile on his face as he used his index and middle fingers to lightly tap the foreheads of each member, none of which were able to react to his presence with their strength at Level 2. Before their bodies even hit the ground, Vahn was already at the next group, this one slightly better prepared than the previous. Their leader, a man with dark-purple hair immediately attacked with a spear, showing no signs of hesitation as the silvery tip drew a lethal arc directly towards Vahn’s heart.

Vahn issued a small smile, showing no real concern for the deadly weapon as his hand seemed to move in slow motion, diverting the blade to the side before, in the next instant, he was already behind the man. Nobody knew what happened as the purple-haired spearman continued forward for a few steps before releasing a wailing shriek, both arms hanging loosely after Vahn had shattered his collarbones. Though the man had shown killing intent, and had a dark aura, Vahn wasn’t going to use this battle as a platform to go on a massacre, especially since his own rules prevented it…

Instead, at the moment when he had shattered the man’s bones, Vahn had planted a small tracking ward in his body and would be giving the information of who his would-be killers were to Loki after the event had concluded. After all, there was a difference between warriors who had resolved to go all out against an enemy and those that had clearly come with the express purpose to kill. The former were deserving of respect whereas the later, for their intent, would be investigated and, if found guilty of unjust crimes against those weaker than themselves, would pay the price for their transgressions.

With unnatural ease, Vahn dealt with the man’s companions, treating them less harshly since it looked like they had been roped into things based on their auras and expressions. Then, without giving them a second glance, Vahn moved on to the next group. Now, those that had banded together, realized it hadn’t really offered them any advantages. Vahn was simply too fast and, being close together, actually restricted their own attack options instead. However, even dispersing wouldn’t help too much as Vahn suddenly become like a phantom that had split into multiple illusory bodies. If used fast enough, [Shundo] could even create false bodies to confuse enemies and, with their semi-impermeable nature, they could even trick skilled warriors into thinking they had attacked the original.

With what seemed like a ‘gentle’ touch, Vahn went around the arena touching the backs of people’s necks, causing them to drop to the ground several seconds after he had already moved on. He had sent a small pulse of energy into their bodies, disrupting the nerve impulses that allowed their brain to communicate with their bodies. As most of these individuals were just around Level 2-3, they couldn’t even react to his attacks before they had already felt something touching the backs of the necks. Then, a few seconds later, one of the Ganesha Familia members would come and retrieve their body, disqualifying them from the fight.

After dashing around the battlefield for a short while, Vahn came across the same red-haired Elven woman who had previously attacked him. It was more than a little rare, seeing a red-haired Elf, especially one that had light freckles on her face. Vahn didn’t know her story, or why she seemed to hate him so much but, much like the other people who showed the intent to kill, Vahn placed a marker inside of her body. She hadn’t even tried to defend herself, instead, showing a resolute expression like a warrior who was ready to face death. Vahn shook his head slightly and just robbed her consciousness without being too harsh on her, leaving her unconscious body for the Ganesha Family to deal with…

For several minutes, Vahn had whittled down the number of people within the area, deterring those that were trying to enter by converging his domain on them when they were preparing to jump down. When people saw that contenders just go ‘limp’ mid-jump, crashing into the floor of the arena below, those that had been preparing to follow had reconsidered. Those that were more perceptive notice that Vahn hadn’t even looked in the direction of those that had fallen, causing them to try and inspect the barriers surrounding the arena for any ‘tricks’. As for those with even higher perception, they had already deduced that Vahn was ‘aware’ of everything going on around him, likely through the tangible aura that was putting pressure on each of their bodies…

One such man, having a height of nearly 200cm, snorted through his nose as a pressure emerged from his own body. He leaped down into the arena, hefting a massive cleaver-like sword on his back as he prepared to join the fray. Though his speed wasn’t remotely close to Vahn’s, the man, a famous Adventurer known as ‘The Mountain’, believed he wouldn’t go down in one hit like everyone else. Unfortunately, even though he was Level 5 and had a ‘rare skill’ of his own, expectation was very different from reality. The pressure that had erupted from his body was almost immediately repressed and, at the same time as his feet landed in the arena, The Mountain saw Vahn standing in front of him.

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With widened eyes, the sturdy and muscular man swept his cleaver at an angle while jumping backward without enough force to cause cracks to appear on the arena’s floor. At the same time, even surprising Vahn a little, he threw four stun grenades and a smoke bomb against the ground. Vahn couldn’t help but admire how quick the man’s reaction was, though it wasn’t too surprising considering he was around Level 5. Even so, Vahn ducked under the blade, allowing it to pass just two centimeters above his head before landing an open-palm strike on the man’s chest. He had already been carrying a lot of backward momentum from his jump but, added to Vahn’s strike, this caused him to fly like a cannonball. His massive frame collided with the barrier protecting the periphery of the arena, sending a blue pulse through the previously invisible membrane.

Not too unsurprisingly, the man didn’t fall to the ground from the first hit and, instead, used his cleaver to support his body. Since he didn’t have a dark aura, Vahn just gave him a polite nod, making his respect for the man known before moving on to his next target. Seeing this, The Mountain just released a sigh, shaking his head before making his exit without being obstinate. Vahn’s strike had broken several ribs and, though he could continue fighting, he knew it would just lead to his embarrassment. Since Vahn had already given him a bit of respect, the man decided to save face and leave the battle willingly.

It was unfortunate that The Mountain was one of the exceptions, as most Adventurers seemed to possess a great deal of pride, even though they had realized the disparity in strength. The majority of those Level 4, or higher, seemed to take offense if Vahn didn’t defeat them in a single blow. Instead of backing down, they would press forward and, as a result, end up suffering a far more embarrassing defeat than the sensible few who had excused themselves. There had even been a Level 4 Dark Elf who tried to get ‘vengeance’ against Vahn by using a purple sphere that caused a cloud of poison to erupt within a 20m radius. Seconds later, the cloud has miraculously been shrunk down by an invisible energy whereas the Dark Elf had been ‘planted’ like a tree into the arena floor. He was still alive, though only because Vahn had transferred a portion of the man’s wounds onto himself the moment he impacted the ground…

By the time ten minutes had passed, of the eight hour challenge period, Vahn had already dealt with more than two-hundred contenders, including more than a dozen people ranked higher than Level 4. At this point, those who thought they could get lucky and ‘overwhelm’ Vahn had started to realize the truth of the matter. Even after moving around like a phantom, defeating people with an ease that rivaled the proficiency of some people breathing, Vahn didn’t look tired at all. He hadn’t even taken a single attack directly and, it didn’t seem like even those at Level 5 could exchange more than a few blows with him. Since the intensity of the battles had started to increase, most of the weaker people decided to stay back and observe for the time being. They determined that it would be better to wait until Vahn had already fought against the stronger enemies, hopefully tiring himself out in the process.

Seeing that the number of people within the arena had sharply dropped, Vahn produced a small smile and returned to his spot at the center of the arena. Those remaining in the arena, and those still watching from the stands, entered an alert status as they wondered what action Vahn was going to take. None of them had expected him to pull a bow out of thin air, especially the groups of individuals still within the confines of the arena. Thus far, Vahn had been very ‘lenient’, only using his hands and feet to deal with people, even if they still ended up with broken bones as a result. Seeing him pull out a weapon had unnerved people, especially since it happened to be a bow, one of the things Vahn was ‘famous’ for after rumors of his exploits had circulated in the past.

Vahn’s smile clearly showed that he was somewhat amused, especially after some of the contenders immediately bolted for the exits. Nocking a special arrow onto his bow, Vahn fired it towards one of the people fleeing, as they had a negative aura that showed their intent clearly. The arrow flew much faster than the naked eye could see and, in less time than it took the man’s foot to rise and fall, an arrow had buried itself into his side. Having the wind knocked out of his body, the man flew a few meters and began to seize up into a small ball, gasping for breath as he clutched the arrow’s shaft. Onlookers were surprised by how ruthless Vahn’s attack was but there were a few people that considered the man’s actions equally surprising.

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It was common knowledge that you shouldn’t pull an arrow free without a means to treat the wound, as this would only exacerbate the bleeding. Strangely, though most people hadn’t noticed just yet, there wasn’t even any bleeding to be seen, however, and the man’s actions were perfectly understandable. The arrow Vahn had used was known as a [Shock Arrow], a misleading name as its actual effect was to immobilize and cause pain, not injury. It had a semi-immaterial quality that allowed it to pierce through the defenses of a target and embed itself into the body, causing intense pain until it had been removed. Unfortunately, it would ‘bind’ with the body on contact and, unless you completely stopped resisting, it was impossible to remove without also pulling a large chunk of your own flesh.

For those that had negative auras, Vahn didn’t show them any leniency and, even though a single [Shock Arrow] cost 800 OP, he wanted the people he targetted to reconsider their lives. Though they would still be investigated later, Vahn knew that not everyone that had bad intentions towards him were genuinely bad people. There were numerous reasons why people might hate him and, it was very possible for some of the people that had targetted him to be ‘innocent’. After all, it only took a change in perspective for a person’s aura to turn black, at least for a moment. Some of the people he had marked could have just lived normal lives and, as a result of some kind of misunderstanding, had come to harbor ill intent towards him.

Thus, like an automated-turret, with nigh-perfect accuracy, Vahn began loosing arrows that would send their victims flying before forcing them to curl up on the ground, screaming in pain. It didn’t matter if they were man, woman, young, or old…anyone who had stepped into the arena had to prepare themselves for the consequences. Of course, Vahn wasn’t actually that indiscriminate as he allowed those trying to flee, assuming they didn’t have negative auras, to reach the exit without harassment. There was no real honor in injuring people that had already given up the fight, especially if they harbored no hatred or ill will…

While firing arrows of his own, Vahn detected another arrow entering his blind spot, much like the one from earlier. Without turning his head, Vahn twisted his body, loosing an arrow towards the incoming projectile. As if his hands had created an ‘echo’, a second arrow shot out after his first, traveling a reverse trajectory towards the woman who had been skulking around the edge of the arena. Vahn had noticed her at the beginning of the match but, after she had fired her first arrow, she actually managed to disappear from his perception. Because she always hid near others, he had been having trouble detecting her, even by sending out pulses that allowed him to detect invisible objects, usually.

It was obvious the woman had an Innate related to stealth, or an artifact that allowed her to conceal her presence, so Vahn needed to eliminate her. Both of her attacks had been released with the intent to kill and, even though her aura wasn’t really filled with negative emotions, it was very likely that she had been hired to assassinate him. The look on her face when the second arrow had accurately targetted her diaphragm was rather priceless, especially since it had knocked her completely out of her stealth. She had a face full of disbelief and, even though there was intense pain wracking her body, managed to utter, “H-h-how…!?

While targetting someone on the periphery, Vahn had looked over at the woman, raising his brow as he said, “You’re pretty sneaky, but it isn’t like your arrows possess that same trait…well, not really…” It could be said that her arrows were indeed very sneaky, especially since she targetted blind spots, but it simply wasn’t effective against people like him. After all, she was only Level 3, likely limited in her growth by her profession, much like Chloe had been. Stealth abilities could be very powerful, especially if you had an Innate like her’s. The fact that she had picked up a bow meant she was also rather intelligent but, much like he had experienced as a hunter in the path, your growth would be very limited following that path. She probably relied heavily on her skills to kill monsters and had likely never gone any deeper than the Great Falls area in the Dungeon.

Since he hadn’t really come here to converse with people, Vahn punctuated his words by deciding to do the woman a favor. His [Yoichi Bow] had the effect of giving his arrows a basic homing function and, as a result of his own skills with the bow, Vahn could push this even further. He nocked five arrows onto his bow simultaneously and fired them towards the sky, immediately replacing them with five more arrows and repeating his action seven times. The arrows flew high into the sky, beyond the perception of most people, before, several seconds later, they began raining down. Each arrow accurately buried itself into the shoulder, back, or leg of one of the remaining contenders, whittling their numbers further. This entire time, Vahn just looked towards the woman with a casual expression on his face before turning away from her shocked expression and continuing his attack.

Though he had turned his back to her, Vahn had already ‘locked’ the woman’s position in his domain and was keeping tabs on her. When she stood up and began walking towards the exit, his smile relaxed a little. It was very likely that she was an assassin by trade but, after seeing how calm her aura was, Vahn didn’t think she was a bad person. She could be someone like Chloe, who became an assassin at a young age and simply treated it like work, not as something she enjoyed. It was even possible that she wasn’t an assassin at all and had just wanted to use her unique skill set to try her luck against him. As for her tendency to shoot towards the head, that could have simply been a result of her ‘inexperience’ fighting with people, as she lacked true killing intent…

By the time his shooting spree had ended, the majority of people in the arena had already been cleared out. The only ones left were a man with a large white shield, defending his two companions, and a ‘lazy’ looking man with sunken eyes who had dodged all the arrows fired at him. The strength of the trio were all at Level 4 while the rather creepy looking man actually had a ‘fluctuating’ level of strength. At times, he seemed to be as weak as a Level 2 while, at the moment when he would dodge the arrows fired his way, his aura would sike up towards the peak of Level 6. Vahn wasn’t sure if he was intentionally trying to obscure his strength, or if it was just the result of the man’s Innate, but it was a little disconcerting being looked at by his dead-fish eyes.

Since the man with the shield obviously had a defensive Innate, while the young woman behind him seemed to be able to heal others, Vahn decided to deal with the creepy man first. As if he had realized this, the gaunt man began to smile eerily as he raspily mused, “Oh, are you sure you want to fight against me so soon, Vahn Mason~? You might not be able to put on this farce any longer if I take action, you know~?” While he was speaking, the man lifted both of his arms, almost like he were a marionette with stiff joints. Vahn tensed his body slightly, straining his [Eyes of Truth] to see the flow of strange purple and grey energy in the man’s body. Because he had been around Anubis and Freya, Vahn was easily able to understand what this strange energy was…it would seem that his opponent had an Innate related to ‘death’…

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