Vahn knew for certain that normal monsters and animals wouldn’t be listed in the ‘View Affection’ function of the system and, even though he couldn’t see the ‘aura’ of the Xenos, this at least allowed him to confirm that they weren’t monsters. Monsters were simply mana constructs that had been created by the Dungeon and served no greater purpose than mindlessly attacking anything, other monsters being the one exception. The Xenos, however, should at least have the foundation for a soul and Vahn was tempted to confirm this by trying to make one into his subordinate or retainer. Since the system interface showed the Soul Tier of his ‘units’, Vahn would be able to confirm conclusively if the Xenos were entities possessing a soul. If this was true, and they didn’t have a name, it meant their potential was functionally limitless through The Path…
While thinking of the possibilities, the small Almiraj began licking the hand Vahn was using to scratch its chin, bringing a smile to his face as he picked it up in his arms and turned to the other Xenos, explaining, “I’m not sure what you have planned, but I’d like to open dialogue with the Xenos directly and talk about incorporating them into the Alliance. We’ve already been establishing the framework to allow the Xenos to exist on the surface but, without a few brave individuals that are willing to set the precedent, there is only so much we can do. If you can take me to your leaders, if you have anything like that, I’d like to begin negotiations with them…”
The Almiraj that had been snuggling up in his arm, which had yet to speak a word before now, suddenly spoke out in a childish voice, “Can we really leave the Dungeon…? I want to see the sky…” Vahn wasn’t entirely sure if the small Almiraj was a boy or a girl, but he returned a smile and scratched under its chin as he said, “I can’t promise it will be easy, but I will never stop trying to make the world a better place for all sentient races to coexist. I also have the power to help the Xenos evolve further, giving them more humanoid appearances that will let them blend into society more easily. This cute little Vanargandr, Fenrir, and that adorable True Dragon, Fafnir, they used to be a Kobold and Wyvern in the past…now, they are my important companions who I would risk my life to protect.”
Fenrir thumped her chest with pride while Fafnir gave a happy smile in response to it’s Master’s praise. As for the Xenos, some of them had heard the rumors of Vahn giving ‘power’ to their kind and it was a very big impact for them to see the very human-like Fenrir and Fafnir. For many Xenos, power is the one thing they craved even more than the surface as it was only by obtaining a great deal of power that they would be free to go where they please. Unfortunately, even this wasn’t enough in normal circumstances as, from the moment they left the Dungeon, they would start to lose energy after their connection with the Dungeon was severed.
It would require an incredible amount of resources for them to exist on the surface and, with the hatred most Adventurers showed them, most Xenos had long given up truly leaving the Dungeon. This was why it meant a great deal, seeing existences like Fenrir and Fafnir, two ‘Xenos’ that had managed to evolve to the point that they were able to at least appear humanoid. Many Xenos set this as their goal and it was only by spending years training, fighting other monsters, and consuming a large number of monster cores that they were able to evolve further. Xude was a good example of this, being a Xenos who had managed to survive for a total of 13 years, which was ‘very’ long considering how fervent the people hunting them were.
Suddenly, the purple-haired woman who had been clinging to her severed leg shouted out in a shrill and deranged manner, “Go ahead, listen to that liar all you want! Become his slaves and do his bidding for the rest of your lives like the beasts you are! Yo-.” This time, instead of Fenrir hurling the small spike of ice towards the woman, Fafnir, opened one of its wings and sent a volley of black scales careening towards the crazed woman. Her eyes widened as nine different sized scales pinned her to the wall, including two that had pierced through the leg she clung to her chest. Vahn just shook his head slightly when he saw this and waved his hand, using a pulse of psychic energy to rattle her mind and instantly kill her. Though most people would be able to defend against such attacks in an active state, she was in no position to do so after losing a leg and being impaled through the body nine times…
Before things became more chaotic, Vahn caused calming energy to spread through his domain, forcing the people laying on the ground to slowly fall asleep while he looked towards the Xenos and explained, “I hope you won’t simply believe the words of one of the women who brutalized you and tried to make you into slaves…” To this, Xude shook its head and said, “We may not have the same level of intelligence as some of the surface-dwellers, but we’re not fools. Even if you truly ended up trying to use us for your benefit, we Xenos would still follow you. It is no secret, everything you have done on the surface, and we believe you are not blackhearted like these cruel people…”
Vahn smiled when he heard this but still clarified, “Though it isn’t in the manner she made it out to be, there is a small amount of truth to her words. You see, in order for my abilities to take effect on a person’s body, they would have to sincerely become my subordinates or retainers. For the Xenos, I’m even able to use a skill that will allow you to evolve in an instant, even though the time it takes between using the skill can vary greatly. Thus, if you truly desired power over normal freedom, the route forward would be at my side…” As he spoke, Vahn gently stroked the Almiraj in his arms, who had long since fallen asleep with a contented expression on its rabbit-like face.
The Goblin-Xenos, being the smallest and weakest of the group, raised its hand slightly and had a hesitant look on its somewhat ugly face as it said, “I no want die…but, if get stronger, me follow…” Though most of its speech sounded indecipherable, Vahn was even able to interpret normal monster speech, making it relatively easy to understand the Goblin’s words. It had a lot of reason to be worried about ‘living’, as it was one of the weakest of all monsters, so Vahn could understand why it sought power over freedom. In the past, he would have simply ignored the offer of a ‘Goblin’ from trying to join him, much like he almost refused Fenrir in the past, but a lot had changed since then…
Passing over the sleeping Almiraj to Fafnir, Vahn reached out his hand and rubbed the somewhat oily scalp of the Goblin and said, “Even without my help, the desire to grow strong and the willingness to make your dreams a reality are all you need…if you truly wish for my help, I will offer it in exchange for your fealty. However, we’ll worry about that later, as there are more pressing matters to attend to…okay…?” Vahn didn’t like the feeling of petting a Goblin but this distaste actually bothered him more than the simple contact. Fortunately, the calm in his mind made such thoughts melt away and he managed a casual smile, eliciting a somewhat crooked one from the Goblin.
Turning to Xude, Vahn asked, “Do you know the way back? How did you come to be captured by these people?” Xude didn’t have any expression whatsoever, but Vahn felt a strangely amicable vibe coming off the War Shadow c** Xenos as it said, “The Xenos avoid this place since many of our enemies reside here. We do not know the layout of this place but, if we can return to the Dungeon, we will be able to show you the way. All Xenos have an instinct that allows us to find the safe areas of the Dungeon that are rarely visited by Adventurers…”
Vahn nodded his head but, as his instincts hadn’t really calmed down just yet, he asked, “You said your enemies use this place…is it just the Hunters like this group, or are there other enemies I need to be aware of…?” As he asked this question, Vahn noticed a ‘shudder’ run through the body of nearly every Xenos before Xude answered, “There have been many Xenos who have been kidnapped within the last two years…instead of being taken to the surface, they have been pulled deeper into the Dungeon. On occasion, those that were taken would come back…changed…far different than they were before they were taken away. Some of them have even tried to slander you, Vahn Mason, and our community has slowly been divided as a result of their efforts…”
The Silverback-Xenos nodded ‘her’ head and added, “Xude speaks the truth. Many of our kin have been ‘changed’ into something horrible…some even becoming worse than the actual monsters within the Dungeon. When we refuse to go with them, they would often slaughter the weaker Xenos and it has taken a lot of effort for us to protect ourselves against them. The worst part is…those bastards have even brought the Hunters directly to our homes…!” By the time ‘she’ was done speaking, the Silverback-Xenos was trembling with indignation as many of ‘her’ fellow Xenos showed very similar reactions.
Standing next to Xude, the second War Shadow Xenos placed its shadowy claw on the Silverback’s shoulder in a comforting manner as it spoke in an eerily similar voice to Xude, “Jude, it is okay…let us believe in the Savior…perhaps the future of the Xenos will no longer be within the darkness any longer…” It was hard to imagine that a deathly whisper could be comforting, but Jude seemed to calm down, nodding towards the second War Shadow as she said, “Thank you, Mest…I am calm now…”
Seeing the camaraderie between the Xenos, Vahn felt like they were actually more civil than some of the people on the surface. Even though they were drastically different in appearance, the Xenos seemed to genuinely care about each other in a way that most people only cared for their direct kin. Vahn felt like it was incredibly unfair that they were forced to live in the darkness of the Dungeon while greedy fools exploited and took advantage of each other on the surface. In the world that he envisioned, the Xenos would be able to take their rightful place alongside the other surface-dwellers, setting an example that Vahn wished others would be able to follow…
With a confident expression and an expectant smile, Vahn looked around at the injured members of the criminal Familia and wondered if their god was nearby. He couldn’t sense the powerful aura of a god within his domain but, with how massive this floor of Knossos was, this wasn’t too surprising. There were so many overlapping corridors within his perception, many belonging to the Dungeon itself, and it would likely take him several days to even map a Floor this size. For the time being, he sent a mental command to Terra to see if her teleportation could penetrate through Knossos. He quickly got his answer as, only six seconds later, a vibrant spatial distortion appeared as Terra ‘broke’ through the void and emerged before them.
She rolled her shoulders and flexed her wings, appearing as though the teleportation had been rather taxing on her body, before smiling radiantly and asking, “You called for me, Master~?” The Xenos were terrified by Terra’s presence as, even though she wasn’t trying to pressure them, her existence as a True Dragon that had exceeded the limitations of the Falna was enough to trigger the instincts of normal people, much less, the somewhat animalistic Xenos. If not for Vahn diverting the majority of her natural pressure, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the Xenos fell to the ground and bowed before the monstrous existence that was Terra.
As if it was the most natural thing in the world, Vahn extended his hand, causing Terra to giggle as she trotted over and enjoyed his petting. Unlike Alexa, Vahn didn’t shy away from Terra’s horns, stroking them casually before tracing his palm along the side of Terra’s face as he said, “I’m afraid I will have to trouble you with taking these people to the surface. Have the Freya Familia hand them over to the Eirene Familia for processing. I’ll entrust the matter to Eirene but let her know I want a full report if there is anything important her investigation uncovers. I may be away for a few days longer, so let the girls know for me…will you?”
Terra’s wings were fluttering happily but she still put on a ‘pouting’ expression as she teased, “Ara, I made so much effort to come down here and you’re sending me away so quickly~? Muuuu, Master is a big bully tonight…I got all excited for nothing~.” To this, Vahn laughed in a lighthearted manner before shocking the gathered Xenos by tightly embracing Terra and giving her a very long and passionate kiss. At the same time, Vahn stroked her body with his hands, sending a large amount of source energy into her since she had surprisingly used up nearly half of her reserves for the teleportation. With this being the case, it took him more than fifteen minutes to top her off completely, during which time she had completely surrounded him with her wings…
Vahn knew that Terra was trying to give them a small amount of ‘privacy’, but she also seemed to be enjoying the spectators or, more specifically, the reaction from Fenrir. When they finally parted, she released a sensual laugh and sent a wink towards the frowning Vanargandr before waving her hand and pulling the unconscious criminals over. She let them land pretty heavily near her feet before an emerald green formation began to spread from her feet until it had extended a full ten meters. After licking her lips one last time, Terra lightly pushed against her Master’s chest and moved him outside of her teleportation ward as Vahn maintained a casual smile on his face. Before she left, Terra giggled once again and said, “Please hurry back, Master…I’m not the only one who will be waiting for your return~.”
With those parting words, the ward beneath Terra’s feet glowed vibrantly before everyone within its boundaries vanished from sight. The gathered Xenos was still shocked to the core after everything they had witnessed, causing Vahn to chuckle lightly. This drew their attention to him, just in time to watch Vahn raise his hand and witness him consolidating an incredible amount of Flame Elemental energy. However, even as it shifted from red and became a bluish white, the ball of flames didn’t emit any heat at all, kept at bay by the thin membrane of pure source energy that gave it a slight rainbow hue. This was similar to Alexa’s technique and he wasn’t afraid to admit he had been inspired by her in its creation. When it was finished, Vahn sent the sphere of flames forward at speeds much faster than most eyes could follow, causing it to crash into a far wall…
The moment the sphere touched the wall, instead of exploding into a massive ball of fire, it instead shrunk down until it had nearly become a point. At the same time, the protective membrane expanded outward for around twenty meters and, very similar to Alexa’s technique, everything within this protective membrane was completely incinerated. It wasn’t simply turned into hot slag and broken down but literally turned to ash in an instant as the small ‘point’ of flame continued to radiate a phenomenal heat. By the time it had burned out, there was absolutely nothing remaining within the sphere of source energy as it ‘popped’ like a bubble.
With the dispersion of the bubble, the temperature in the room skyrocketed several tens of degrees, even heating up the iron cages closest to the attack until they had turned red hot. As for Vahn, Fenrir, Fafnir, and the Xenos, they were completely unaffected. Vahn had created a small barrier using his domain and kept the heat at bay as he turned towards the slack-jawed group of Xenos, smiling as he asked, “Shall we go~?”