Though Vahn had his focus on Gros, it was Lyd who spoke out first, exclaiming, “Whoa, did you really just turn into a Lizardman? Are you actually a Xenos, Vahn!?” This outburst caused Vahn’s brow to twitch slightly as he gazed into Lyd’s orange reptilian eyes and said, “I just explained it, Lyd, I’m a Progenitor and I can change my race at will. Besides, Xenos is just a generic term used to define your people, not what you actually are…the only thing that matters is that you have souls, possess sentience, and aspire for a better life. This gives you the same rights as everyone else and, as long as you don’t live by exploiting others, I will always be an ally to each of you…”
As serious as his words were, it didn’t seem to matter as everyone in the room was simply too excited after witnessing Vahn transform. Naho had actually tried to jump from Rayne’s back, arms and legs spread like a grappling claw before Rayne snatched her back with a lasso of silk. Naho wriggled around in her arms, failing to break free so she instead asked, “Can you turn into an Arachne!? Show me, show me~!” Rayne hugged her close, covering Naho’s mouth as she said, “Hush, Naho, you’re being silly…” However, even as she said this, Vahn could see a bit of expectation and curiosity, not just in her eyes, but everyones.
Releasing a silent sigh, Vahn produced a wry smile and said, “If I practiced, I could probably turn into an Arachne. However, I’m not going to practice it, as the form is simply too complex and I have no desire to become a female…sorry, Naho.” As he had tried and failed to even turn into a True Dragon in the past, at least one with wings like Terra, Fafnir, Khaos, and Alexa, Vahn wasn’t even going to try and become an Arachne. Without the ‘instincts’ associated with the race, he wouldn’t even know how to begin moving around on six legs…
Naho deflated like a balloon when she heard this, asking in a pitiable tone, “Do you hate Arachne…?” Fortunately, Rayne began patting her head, explaining, “Don’t be silly, Naho. Your Big Brother would never hate Arachne…besides, if he turned into a girl…” The last part of Rayne’s words was said very quietly and Vahn felt his body become tense when both girls looked at him with their compound red eyes. He already knew that Naho was actually ‘older’ than Rayne and, even after several years pass, she wouldn’t change at all. This was one of the ‘troublesome’ aspects of a Xenos, as their age didn’t always match their appearance, nor would it change over time. In fact, unless they are outright killed, it could be said that most Xenos had biological immortality, even if it wasn’t quite at the level of possessing an ‘Ageless’ constitution like Fenrir.
Changing the topic, Vahn turned his attention back to Lyd and said, “I wanted to discuss the terms of our cooperation in the future and also had some questions I wanted to ask…” Lyd was still a bit riled up from watching Vahn transform into a Lizardman but he managed to calm down enough to ask, “What did you want to know? Go ahead and ask away, Vahn.” Not missing the opportunity to successfully change the topic, Vahn nodded his head before asking, “How exactly do the Xenos become more humanoid? I thought it was based on intelligence and strength, but I can tell you are the strongest in the camp, even though you still have the form of a Lizardman Chieftain…?”
Instead of Lyd, it was Ray who answered, explaining clearly, “This has been something discussed among the Xenos ever since the first of our kin stepped foot in the Dungeon. From what we have been able to gather over several generations of knowledge, passed down from one leader to the next, is that the Xenos’ appearance is highly dependent on if they ‘want’ to be human. Those of us who have the strongest ties to humans, after enough time has passed, typically become more humanoid in appearance. Those that prioritize their strength, their dreams, and the basic desire to see the surface…their appearance doesn’t change much. From this, we have determined that the appearance, or perhaps the existence of the Xenos itself, is entirely dependent on our desires…our hopes and dreams for a better future…”
As poetic as the words sounded, Vahn actually wasn’t that surprised by the revelations given by Ray. One of the things he had learned ever since entering this record, which was a predominant lesson he was constantly being reminded of, was that ‘intent’ was one of the most important factors behind progress. If you could focus your intent, believing in the thing you desired while constantly working towards it, there were ‘literally’ no limits. Even those that had become common knowledge, passed down for thousands of years as something ‘impossible’ to achieve, could be broken with just a simple change of perspective. Thus, the fact that Xenos might exist solely because they ‘wanted’ to exist…Vahn found this very easy to believe…after all, this entire record came into existence because enough people ‘wanted’ this world to be real…
Since Ray seemed like a relatively intelligent woman, Vahn smiled and said, “As it may not be appropriate for me to conduct all of the research myself, I’d like your help in studying the Xenos in greater detail in the future. I can already help those who desire strength and change to evolve into an entirely new form, but I’d also like to document the development of those that simply want to live freely. When we return to the surface, the Xenos will probably have to live in a closed-community until the perception of society can be changed in our favor. Don’t worry, with the influence of the Alliance, it shouldn’t take more than a generation for people’s views of the Xenos to change completely.”
When he finished speaking, the corner of Vahn’s eyes twitched slightly before he turned his gaze upon Gros with a slight ‘warning’ contained within his aquamarine irises. He noticed that the Gargoyle-Xenos wanted to say something and, given the latter’s track record, Vahn’s goodwill towards him was fading. This time, however, Gros lowered his head slightly and said, “Though you may not trust me, know that I have only ever considered what is best for my kin. If what you say is true, please allow me to be the first volunteer to experience this ‘evolution’ you mention…I do not care how you change me, so long as my mind and memories remain unaffected…”
This had surprised Vahn a little but, given how Gros had presented himself thus far, it wasn’t that difficult to believe the ‘man’ was willing to ‘sacrifice’ himself. The diminishing goodwill Vahn had towards Gros began a slow climb once again as he smiled and said, “There are three different methods that would allow me to help a Xenos evolve. Also, as I stated previously, there is a long period of time where I wouldn’t be able to use the ability. Once I help you change, you also won’t be able to return to your original appearance any longer…are you certain?” In response to this, Gros just nodded his head without saying a single word, no hesitation visible on his generally expressionless face.
Vahn smiled when he saw how resolute Gros was and, though he wasn’t really the first choice he had in mind, Vahn still explained, “There are two designations for people that choose to follow me, being ‘subordinates’ and ‘retainers’. The difference between the two is that the first requires you to either willingly subordinate yourself to me, or that your ‘loyalty’ reached a certain threshold. As for the latter, it would depend on the bond we share and if your feelings lean more towards ‘allegiance’ and ‘fealty’ than true ‘loyalty’. Keep in mind that, if you become my subordinate, I would actually be able to order you through mental commands. Though you aren’t forced to follow my orders, the amount of loyalty you have towards me can heavily influence your decision making…”
This time, Gros’ expression changed slightly, appearing to ‘soften’ before he said, “My allegiance will always lay with my people so, as long as your dream of creating a better future for the Xenos exists, I will give you my loyalty, Vahn Mason, no, my Master…” At the same time that these words left Gros’ mouth, Vahn got the notification through the system and accepted it immediately. He had already confirmed during their first ‘encounter’ that Gros, like every other Xenos, was actually (Nameless). This meant he could give Gros any kind of name and, considering that he was already rather humanoid, the potential options were almost limitless…
Thinking this would be a good chance to make an impression on, not only Gros, but everyone present, Vahn asked, “Tell me, other than the desire to protect your people and live on the surface, is there anything else that drives you? Like, have you ever envied another creature, wanted a specific kind of power, or desired any particular trait?” In response to this, Gros remained quiet for nearly an entire minute before saying, “As I said, Master, I will leave my fate in your hands. However, if I am allowed freedom of choice, I would like to no longer be made of stone…it makes it…difficult to comfort others…”
Vahn was a little surprised by Gros’ words but a smile quickly spread across his face moments later as he said, “Very well then…I will give you an appearance that is suitable for comforting others. I’ll also try to imbue you with a name that increases your potential further…even if you don’t desire power, I’m sure you can understand its usefulness after being a leader for so many years…” Gros nodded his head, understanding that power was always necessary if he truly wanted to protect the things he cared about. Though he had failed many of his kin, it never stopped him from trying to use his ‘meager’ strength to keep his people safe…
After sorting through various texts in his mind, with a lot of help from Sis, Vahn decided on a suitable name and then formed both an image and ‘intent’ within his mind, both instrumental if he wanted to ensure Gros’ form was ‘suitable’. Vahn had a fair amount of experience with naming at this point and had even created Fenrir just by wanting her to be ‘cute’ when naming her. Thus, for Gros, Vahn imagined a stalwart guardian who protected his people, defended their homes, and brought comfort to all that resided within. Then, with these feelings filling his heart, Vahn smiled and spoke in a voice that shook the hearts of every Xenos present, “From this point forward, you shall be known as Gros Terminus, Guardian of the Xenos…”
With Vahn’s words still resonating through the room, Gros’ body became enshrouded by a powerful sphere of bluish energy with a rainbow hue suffused over the surface. Everyone that was nearby had to back away, causing Vahn to realize he should have taken the location into consideration. He had gotten a little wrapped up in how ‘motivated’ Gros was and now had to stand with a stoic and casual expression on his face as the surrounding residence shook and started to fall apart. Fortunately, this only persisted for a few minutes before the energy began to compress, taking on the shape of a rather tall and muscular man who was, not too unexpectedly, completely naked…
Soul Strength: Tier 2 (Named Familiar)
Skills: [Terminus:Innate:B], [Titan’s Physique:Innate:D], [Malleable Muscles:B], [Vigilance:C], [Harden:C], [Sacrifice:A] [Terminus]
Rank: Innate(B) *Innate skills cannot be identified. Attempts to do so will result in a backlash.*
Passive: Greatly enhances capabilities within a designated area.
Active: Allows the user to place four immovable and indestructible pillars, designating the space without as their dominion unless removed by the user.[Titan’s Physique]
Rank: Innate(D) *Innate skills cannot be identified. Attempts to do so will result in a backlash.*
Passive: Growth of all physical parameters is greatly enhanced. Use of external magic becomes impossible.
Active: Use internal energy to further strengthen physical parameters without any upper limit. Energy is expended after executing an attack or performing a block.
Use: Allows the user’s body to absorb physical blows and shockwaves.[Vigilance]
Use: While active, the user does not feel fatigued for the duration of skill usage. When deactivated, all of the stress and fatigue experienced during use immediately take effect. This skill has been known to lead its user to self-destruction.[Harden]
Use: Greatly enhanced Endurance in exchange for a sharp decrease in Agility.[Sacrifice]
Use: Designate a target and absorb any wounds that would have been inflicted upon them. This skill takes into account the defenses of the target, not the defenses of the user.
Gros’ new appearance was that of a 220cm tall man with light blue skin stretched tight over muscles that would make an Adonis blush. He had pointed ears, appearing similar to an Elf, with long black hair that hung loosely around his ‘chiseled’ face. His eyes had strange white irises without any discernable pupils and, much like Fafnir’s and Khaos’ wings, Gros had two light blue reptilian wings folded behind his back. Vahn also saw that there was a whip-like tail snaking around behind his back, coming to a spear-like point at the end. Lastly, at the very center of his chest, Gros had a large red crystal that pulsed like a beating heart, something Vahn hadn’t really expected, nor imagined…
Looking at his new figure, and feeling the power contained within his body, Gros couldn’t help but squeeze his fists tight and flex his muscles a bit. Vahn stepped forward at this point, holding out some clothes for the naked ‘Titan’ as he asked, “So, how do you feel, Gros Terminus…?” Hearing his new name spoken by his Master, Gros inhaled deeply, puffing out his chest in pride as he said, “I feel like I could break apart the entire Dungeon with just my bare hands…thank you, Master…I never expected things to end up like this…simply incredible…” Though his Level hadn’t actually changed, Gros now had Source Energy comprising his body and it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that he was several orders of magnitude stronger than before.
Vahn had Gros wear some proper clothing, not really giving him the option to remain naked since he had been very ‘thoughtful’ towards his newest subordinate. Though it probably wouldn’t help, Vahn wanted some of the Xenos to potentially focus their ‘intentions’ towards Gros in the future, as it would save him quite a few hassles from some of the more promiscuous women. To aid in this endeavor, must like Gros had asked for, Vahn made sure that his muscles, though looking stout and indomitable, were actually very soft and pliant to the touch. Though they would actually become harder than his previous stone skin when he got serious, their default state was like a tender marshmallow that was smooth as polished marble…