Chapter 824: Trap

Dropping down next to Haruhime and Arnya, Vahn placed his palms on the girls’ backs and said, “It looks a little troublesome, but I don’t think you need my help here…” Though the surrounding area was being devastated, Ais’ presence on the battlefield alone had made short work of any of the larger plant-like monsters. As for the strange caterpillars, they were very slow and seemed to lack any significant intelligence as they bumped against each other. They were even devouring those that were injured, showing none of the behavior expected of ‘normal’ monsters at all…

Haruhime’s ears twitched and her tails flickered behind her as she said, “I’m sorry, Master, I may have panicked a little after seeing so many enemies…” Vahn nodded his head while Arnya snickered from the side, cutting into the conversation a little as she explained, “Ryuu and Mikoto went to support the southern gate while Lili and Tione went towards the north. What is it like in the regions you’ve visited? Should I go support another area?” Right now, the western front was the most heavily besieged but, as long as the barrier remained standing, the monsters wouldn’t actually be able to climb the plateau’s steep sides.

Vahn squinted his eyes, watching as Tiona’s almost naked body tore through hordes of enemies like they were paper mache. She had already ‘evolved’ skin that made her immune to the acid and was conserving her energy by fighting with her bare hands and feet. Though her Aegis would have been able to resist the acid relatively easily, her raiment didn’t have that property and she was on the verge of being completely naked pretty soon. Since he didn’t want anyone gawking at her body, even if it was a state of emergency, Vahn rubbed Arnya’s head and said, “Go to the north and help Lili and Tione. Even with Tione’s artifact, they lack ranged support…”

Arnya nodded her head without any argument and almost immediately vanished from his side with [Shundo], not wasting any time in going to aid the other two girls. As for Vahn, he was also rubbing Haruhime’s head and said, “Send a message to Shirohime so she can let-” Haruhime started laughing with an amused expression on her face as she interrupted, saying, “I have already informed everyone back at the Manor. Go help Tiona before she does something shameless~.” Being one of the people with the highest Loyalty towards him after becoming his subordinate, Haruhime was able to ‘understand’ what Vahn was thinking, especially when they were this close.

Vahn released an almost silent laugh, tracing his fingers through Haruhime’s silky blond hair one last time before taking to the sky and practically ‘tackling’ the berserk Tiona with a mantle. Since his presence was almost impossible to detect through normal means now, Tiona had panicked a little but quickly calmed down when she felt the familiar energy spreading through her body. She lifted her now feral looking face up, a predatory look in her eyes as she bared her sharp teeth and asked, “Did you want to play, Vahn~?” His response was to trace his fingers along her almost completely exposed skin, coming to a stop near her neck as he said, “Call me jealous…but I don’t want other people gawking at your body…”

As if she realized just now that she was practically naked, with only her bottom and a part of her top covering one breast still remaining, Tiona ‘bashfully’ covered herself and began to laugh sheepishly as several spouts of acid crashed ineffectively against the barrier Vahn had created. He helped her reset her ‘magical girl’ transformation and then gave her one of the spare Aegis sets, helping her put it on while they stood within the air, completely unaffected by the chaos below. When she was finally clothed, Tiona gave Vahn a powerful hug and they shared a long kiss before he lightly pinched her butt and sent her back into the fray.

Ais had been splitting her attention on what was going on with Vahn and Tiona so she puffed out her cheeks slightly and telepathically retorted, (“Don’t play around in the battlefield, Vahn…”) As she said this, a tempest of Spiritual Wing coiled around Ais’ body like a hurricane, cutting apart any enemy within 100m from her in an instant. Vahn saw this and sent her a wink, responding with, (“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to reward you plentily after this battle ends. Stay on your toes and let me know if you see anything weird…”)

An almost indiscernible blush touched Ais’ cheeks as she nodded her head and returned to the battle in earnest. She, like most of the girls after their ‘training evolution’, would get heated up after an intense battle. It was probably his fault, as their training in the orb almost always ended with a long bout of intimacy afterward, but Vahn didn’t mind helping them relieve their stress after the fact. For the time being, however, Vahn decided to try and bring the current situation under control by using [Shundo] to return to Haruhime’s side.

Though Lefiya would be the better choice, Haruhime’s own prowess as a Mage was rather high, allowing her to cast powerful ice magic that Vahn could use to enhance his [Magia Erebea] transformation. He swapped spots with Haruhime, powering the barrier ward with his Source Energy while Haruhime began ‘dancing’ as she chanted, “Heed the Contract and Serve Me, oh Queen of Ice! Come, Unending Darkness, Eternal Glacier. Bring Death to All That Has Life, Eternal Rest! Frozen Cosmos~!” This was none other than Eva’s [Kosmike Katastrophe], a powerful Forbidden magic spell that Vahn had helped Haruhime emulate after nearly two years of continuous practice. Though it was much weaker than Eva’s, it was still able to achieve temperatures of -270 degrees, getting dangerously close to an absolute zero derived from Ice Elemental energies.

Vahn absorbed the massive spell that could have easily destroyed Lil Geirr in its entirety, containing the energy within his body as his figure became icy blue with swirling tattoos of pure white energy. The sclera of his eyes became black while his irises glowed with a fierce icy blue that seemed like it could cut through to the bone in an instant, which wasn’t far from the truth. His most striking feature, which seemed to be a trend when using Forbidden Magic, was the icy raiment that covered his body, giving him the appearance of an Ice Emperor with a divine garb. There were six icy blades rotating slowly behind his body and a crown had even formed on his head, framing his white hair that had a translucent quality to it…

Haruhime had collapsed after using a spell that was beyond her in normal circumstances, as she was only able to cast it while in her [Pactio] form and drawing energy directly from Vahn. He prevented her from falling to the ground by supporting her with his telekinesis, giving her enough time to pull out a mana potion from her interspatial ring and ingest it. At the same time, Vahn helped ease her fatigue, smiling gently as he said, “I’m going to end this…” Haruhime nodded her head, a look of absolute trust on her face as she replied, “Go, Vahn, show them that hell is a very cold place~.” Seemingly pleased with her own words, Haruhime giggled, covering her mouth with her sleeve as she found her footing and resumed her elegant appearance. If not for the fact she would probably freeze over in an instant, Vahn would have reached out and stroked her ears. Instead, he had to settle with using his [Grooming] through the medium of his domain before taking to the sky once again.

In this form, adequately named ‘Ice Emperor’, Vahn’s body carried an immense amount of Ice Elemental energy while his natural body temperature was almost absolute zero. Since he could further enhance the energy in his body with Source, this meant he could freeze the entire 39th Floor if he stopped restraining his aura. As this would kill his allies in normal circumstances, Vahn obviously didn’t have this option…at least without proper preparation. He had already sent the order to have everyone retreat into the boundaries of Lil Geirr’s walls and, though there were likely a few ‘innocents’ still remaining within the forest, Vahn brought his hands together as if he were praying.

Around a minute after he had ascended several hundred meters above Lil Geirr, a massive barrier came into existence, protecting the entire plateau with a nigh-indestructible magical membrane. Vahn knew he could shatter it if he attacked directly but that wasn’t really his goal so he instead slowly pulled his hands apart and allowed the energy he had been nourishing inside of his body to begin escaping. The surrounding temperature dropped so quickly that a layer of ice actually spread across the barrier protecting Lil Geirr and made a dome as it instantaneously dropped to a temperature infinitely close to absolute zero. By the time Vahn’s hands had completely separated outwards, consuming a great deal of his energy in the process, the entire floor had now turned into a crystallized ice forest. All of the strange monsters were now statues that had been frozen in time while anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the forest joined them…

Vahn allowed himself to slowly drop from the sky until his feet came to rest on top of the icy dome he had created, so cold and durable that it could easily support his weight. He stood there with his eyes closed and allowed his energy to slowly replenish while still maintaining his Ice Emperor form. Since his instincts hadn’t settled down, Vahn knew this fight wasn’t over just yet and, as if on a divine cue, a powerful rumbling began to shake the entire Floor. Since it was more than 100km in diameter, Vahn’s senses couldn’t accurately identify the source but he got his answer a few moments later when the crystals lighting up the Floor overhead suddenly turned dark.

As it was nowhere near evening time, this was very unnatural and Vahn’s instincts flared up in an instant, just as the massive building-sized crystals overhead began to fall down from the ceiling. Some of these crystals would easily weigh tens-of-thousands of tonnes, causing the hairs on the back of Vahn’s neck to raise as he bolted towards the falling crystals and began smashing them apart into smaller pieces. If the barrier below suffered a direct hit from a crystal weighing millions of kilograms, it wouldn’t last very long at all. He needed to break them down into much smaller pieces for the barrier to be able to withstand the brunt but, just as this plan of action was affirmed within his mind, several explosions sounded in the surrounding icy forest.

At all four cardinal directions of Lil Geirr, massive flowering plants that were nearly 100m tall emerged, each containing a flower bud that was around 20m tall and 10m in diameter. These flowers immediately began to bloom, revealing four vaguely humanoid figures that lacked eyes and had massive toothy maws. It almost looked like they were wearing masks as they immediately released roars that could shake the souls of mortal men to the core. Unfortunately, Vahn could only spare a brief glance towards them, confirming they were some strange derivative of Viscum that had humanoid traits. He then tried to release more icy energy from his body to freeze them over but this immediately drained what little remained of his reserves, turning him back into his normal form as he quickly pulled out a [Max Ether] and ingested it.

Though he had been relatively calm the last few days, Vahn was actually beginning to feel a little excited as the ‘ocean’ within him began to turn chaotic and swell, creating massive waves that crashed against each other. Using the ‘bomb’ that had been brought along by the Noble Faction, Vahn sent it veering towards the collapsing crystals and detonated it with an explosive arrow, causing a large explosion that, sadly, didn’t do much to the falling crystals. This caused Vahn to laugh as he sent a telepathic message to the girls so they knew to deal with the four strange creatures while he created a ‘web’ using [Enkidu].

Even with their massive weight, the moment the crystals came into contact with [Enkidu] their momentum was stopped almost completely. Though the golden chains deformed slightly, and Vahn felt like his brain nearly split apart, he still managed a smile as cracks began to emerge on his skin. He might not have been able to divert them with the explosion, heck, it even caused ‘more’ crystals to rain down, but Vahn didn’t care at all. With [Enkidu] buying him a small window, Vahn completed his Zhuque transformation and launched himself towards the crystals as a sphere of vermillion flames erupted from his body. He expanded this sphere until it almost completely filled his domain, creating a vermillion ‘sun’ in the sky that was more than 2k wide.

The heat from this ‘sun’ was enough to instantaneously shatter all of the frozen sculptures below as the crystals supported by [Enkidu] began to melt down almost instantly. Vahn tossed some of the smaller chunks into his Inventory, selling them into his system for some extra OP, as the temperature within the 39th Floor was rapidly climbing. Even the four strange monsters had curled up their petals in a protective measure while the girls that had gone to engage them protected themselves with Vahn’s own magic power. This caused his reserves to drain even faster, making Vahn only able to maintain his Zhuque form for around twenty seconds before he had to transition back to normal.

Most of the crystals overhead were now nonexistent, having melted into molten crystal that crashed against the barrier surrounding Lil Geirr before sliding off and pooling around the perimeter. This made the fortress look like an island floating in the middle of ‘lava’ but Vahn didn’t really have the time to worry about that as he ingested several other expensive potions and dealt with the remnant crystals that were still weighing heavily on his [Enkidu]. The girls had already engaged three of the strange creatures, with Ais alone going towards the one to the south. She looked like a green laser that created a perfect line through the sky and, even though the monster had created a very intricate looking barrier, Ais’ [Ariel] cut through it like paper.

Vahn realized he didn’t really have anything to worry about, asking Ais to come and give him a hand while the other girls got some practical experience fighting the titanic enemies. She very quickly obliged and, with the vortex of energy surrounding her body, managed to reduce the remnant crystals into scraps as Vahn released a peal of wry laughter. He stored the chunks into his Inventory and watched as Tiona ‘dive bombed’ one of the large monsters with Lili as a projectile. Her fist shattered through the barrier protecting the monster in an instant and, even though it seemed like the monster was extremely shock resistant, Lili’s attack still annihilated its upper body. Once the core was exposed, a projectile spear smashed directly into it and created a large explosion that dispersed the strange monster into a cloud of black and yellow energy.

The other two fights were going rather smoothly as well, with Lefiya sending a mass telepathic message, communicating that the monsters seemed drawn to magic while also having no resistance to it. Almost immediately after that, the Variant-Viscum to the west was impaled by dozens of icy projectiles before Mikoto vaulted through the air and created a sword wound nearly 30m in length that bisected the upper third of the monster. To the east, where Lefiya had been located, another massive explosion occurred that created a pure white sphere of magical energy. By the time the brilliant flash of light had cleared away, there wasn’t a single sign any enemy had been present in the first place…

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This seemed like the end of things but, just as Tiona happily communicated, (“Yay, we won~!”), it was almost as if the world itself was mocking her as another loud roar sounded throughout the entire Floor. Vahn released a sigh as Tiona’s awkward laughter sounded inside his mind before she said, (“Sorry…?”) Then, just as Vahn was about to tell her not to mind it, a very powerful ‘intent’ locked onto him that caused his head to naturally turn, eyes focusing to a point as a skeletal black creature that had a demonic skull affixed with two pitch black horns locked eyes with him…

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Unlike the one he had seen in the past, this monster had a pure black body and possessed an aura stronger than almost anything else Vahn had ever experienced before, with only the Divinity of gods and the True Dragon Aura from Terra outclassing it. The most striking feature, besides the ‘too thin’ limbs that strangely seemed to contain infinite power, were the scarlet red goat eyes that looked toward him, almost as if there was recognition contained within. This was a feeling Vahn shared as well, causing a fear he had long forgotten to well up inside him as he muttered, “Juggernaut…it’s a Variant Juggernaut…!”

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