Chapter 835: 50th Floor

After the initial barrage from Vahn’s fingertips, the Fomoire below entered into a panic, rushing forward in a mad frenzy in accordance with their base instincts. However, his elimination of the Variant-Species and Mages had crippled the threat level of the wave of monsters while also buying time for Fenrir, Haruhime, and Lefiya to finish their chants. Fenrir’s and Haruhime’s magic caused massive explosions of ice and snow to decimate large groups of Fomoire within a blast zone of several kilometers. As for Lefiya, she completed her chant and summoned seventeen aetherial Valkyries that were formed from wind. They charged into the horde of Fomoire and began cutting through the mass of enemies like a gale sweeping through a field of wheat. The attacks of the Valkyries were extremely lethal while any attempt by the Fomoire to retaliate had their attacks pass through the Valkyries’ formless bodies without any effect.

Not content with just seventeen summons, Lefiya consumed a mana potion and summoned another seventeen, repeating this process several times until there were more than a hundred unstoppable Valkyries of wind cutting through the flood of goat-like creatures. Vahn noticed how hard she was working and sent her a bit of his own source energy to make use of, empowering her to continue while he focused on keeping his reserves relatively full. He wanted to stay in his transformed state until the expedition had completely cleared out the Floor and planned to annihilate the Balor once it showed up. Though he didn’t mind leaving it to the girls, so that they could gain experience, Vahn didn’t know what was waiting for them on the 50th Floor and wanted everyone at their peak.

With the window of opportunity provided by the girls’ bombardment, Vahn looked over the supplies remaining in the wagons and began to purchase bulk goods from the system shop in order to replenish the reserves. Even if some individuals within the expedition were weak, it was difficult to discredit the might of nearly two-thousand people firing magically enhanced crossbows. At the very least, they would be able to take out most of the fodder enemies that would spawn during an emergency situation. Since there were barrier wards placed within each wagon, which only prevented attacks from entering, they would be able to hold out for a few hours against anything below the strength of a Monster Rex.

After topping up the supplies, Vahn looked towards Tiona and saw her practically dancing around with the banner in her hands. She seemed to be riled up quite a bit so he sent her a small nod that caused the giddy Amazoness to charge into the horde of Fomoire without any hesitation. Since she was already in her [Pactio] form, Tiona was an unstoppable force within the group of Level 4-5 monsters, brandishing the banner as if it were a weapon she had used for years. Vahn felt a little awkward, as he had intended for her to return the banner to his hands, but he remained stoic and expressionless without calling her back. Instead, he tried to familiarize himself with the six wings at his back, noticing they responded to his thoughts but didn’t actually seem to have any function outside of aesthetics.

Until now, he didn’t really know why the ‘armament’ took on the various forms it did and assumed it had something to do with the structure of the spells. He wanted to look into it more in the future as it would be pretty interesting to be able to control the form he took without having to forcibly change it after transforming. Still, he found his current appearance to be rather inspiring and, given the fervent and reverential looks some of the expedition members were giving him, Vahn didn’t make any alterations. Instead, he just continued to target any Variants that popped up and, when his reserves were near full, sent energy to the girls to keep them supplemented for the duration of the battle.

As their progress hadn’t been slowed by much, the expedition continued towards the center of the Floor and Vahn was finally able to sense the Balor within his range. It was currently waiting to try and ambush them with its explosive emergence strategy, something which brought a small smile to his face. He extended his hands forward and noticed that his six wings also curled in slightly, alerting Vahn to their ‘purpose’ as the feathery tips began to condense mana. It seemed that his wings also served as a catalyst for producing the beams of light from [Sagitta Magicka] so Vahn cracked and even larger smile as he sent forth a volley of sixteen lasers with Source Energy contained within.

The Balor, which had been biding its time and waiting to assault the expedition, now found itself with several beams of light penetrating straight through its magic core, continuing into the Dungeon beyond as if it’s body had been nothing more than an illusion. This time, Vahn didn’t even need to use [Enkidu] and, as he had targetted the magic core directly, the Balor immediately turned into dust before most people were even aware it was present. Since it had still been underground, this caused a geyser of purple dust to explode from the Dungeon Floor as monster core fragments began to rain down. Vahn couldn’t help but laugh out a little, unable to even hear his own voice with the chaotic explosions and loud cheering coming from the expedition…

Knowing that there was an enemy within the Dungeon that had the means to influence monsters, nobody on the expedition was expecting the 50th Floor to truly be a safe zone any longer. Instead of relaxing their tensions and celebrating their successful conquest, everyone remained on guard as the carts and wagons were brought closer together. The pace they had been moving at caused a bit of a slinky-effect and Vahn wanted to make sure everyone was properly formed up before making the final push. This was also an opportunity for people to eat rations, drink some water, and tend to any damaged equipment. Vahn never really managed to crack the mechanics behind what made a [Whetstone] work, but there were more than a hundred Hephaestus Familia members present that could perform spot-maintenance.

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After around an hour, as Vahn also wanted to give them time to eat and do things like use the bathroom, always an awkward affair, he took up the banner again and pressed forward into the 50th Floor. Tensions immediately reached a critical level and Vahn could feel his own bubbling up as he descended the large staircase leading to the 50th Floor and passed through the massive natural archway that served as its entrance.

Vahn had used the hour-long rest to transition into his ‘Lightning Emperor’ form so he was ready for anything that might appear before him. There was a shroud of bluish-white electricity crackling around his body while his long and spikey hair would periodically crackle with sparks. This was, inarguably, the strongest form he could manage as it provided the greater offensive potential than almost anything in the record could conceivably deal with. Not only was his power output immense, but the sheer speed he could achieve was simply beyond the perception of even powerful Level 8 enemies with developed Innates of their own. This gave Vahn the confidence that he could deal with whatever Enyo would throw at them. Thus, without any hesitation, Vahn chose to enter the 50th Floor, finding that the only thing awaiting them were ashen trees, white stones, and complete emptiness…

This had caught Vahn slightly off guard but he didn’t show any discernable changes in expression as he turned back and said, “Fenrir, Ais, Tiona, do a quick sweep of the Floor and see if you can’t find any enemies in hiding. I’ll keep watch and react if there are any changes…” With his current speed, Vahn would be able to react to anything that happened within the 200km wide room in an instant. If he didn’t restrain himself, it was possible to achieve speeds near 300,000km/s, even if he wouldn’t really have any control outside of ‘aiming’ himself.

While the three started flying around and looking for enemies, Vahn descended to the Dungeon floor and gestured Finn to his side, handing the banner back to the confused Pallum as he said, “Given Enyo’s behavior thus far, this could very well be a trap meant to lull us into a false sense of security. We will begin laying the foundation for the settlement in accordance with our original plans…though they don’t have to be on high alert the entire time, make sure there is a proper guard rotation. Let people get plenty of rest, but advise them to only do so if they are half-geared or greater…”

Since Enyo was supposedly a goddess of War, Vahn suspected she was employing a tactic to try and drain their morale by having them remain tense for a long period of time. Given how much of a hassle it was to even reach the 50th Floor, the tensions of everyone within the expedition were already very high. If nothing happened for an extended period of time, it was almost an instinctual response for people to become complacent. It was during such moments, when the defenses were lax, that an ‘army’ was the most susceptible to an attack. If something to the extent of what happened as Lil Geirr occurred, before proper defenses could be established, the number of casualties would be far greater…

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Finn understood Vahn’s concerns, giving a curt nod as he said, “Don’t worry, though I can’t speak on behalf of the construction crews, most of the Adventurers here are seasoned veterans. So long as we help bolster positive morale during meal times, everything else can be addressed based on the ‘mood’ within the encampment.” This current situation wasn’t that dissimilar to previous ones, the only exception being that they had an ‘enemy’ that was proactively targetting them. Even so, as they couldn’t exactly retreat after coming this far, they would simply have to deal with any changes as things developed…

While Finn was organizing the somewhat confused expedition, Vahn continued to watch the small lights that represented the mana shrouds around the girls’ bodies. They had already been flying around for a few minutes and were beginning to slowly double back, searching for any enemies hidden within the ashen forests below. Since they hadn’t found anything in the first pass, Vahn gave the order to proceed forward and began doing his own sweep of the Floor while the expedition marched the 100km to the center of the Floor. Vahn made sure to check the location where Haven would be built before anything else, confirming that there were no discernable signs of sabotage. Even the small encampment they had built in the past was still present, looking almost unchanged since the last time they were on the 50th Floor…

Since it would be the location of Haven, Vahn closely inspected the area and even used his [Eyes of Truth] to probe into the ground. Though he found some incredibly rare mineral veins, which he promptly looted into his Inventory, Vahn didn’t see any indicator that Enyo’s forces had made any preparations at all for them. It was almost like she was doing the opposite of almost everything he expected or…if he considered it in greater detail, it was possible that Enyo may have a better understanding of him than believed…

Other than the plant-like mutated monsters, and the Variant species under her control, it didn’t seem like Enyo’s actual forces were that great. The Variants may have the restriction of only being able to command monsters on specific Floors and, as he had already demonstrated the ability to wipe out an entire wave of the caterpillar monsters, Enyo may have decided it simply wasn’t worth throwing away her forces without any gains. Since it was impossible for Enyo to have control over the entire Dungeon, these conclusions seemed to make sense and, given how things had progressed till this point, Vahn believed he might actually have gleaned some understanding of the mysterious goddess…

If his deduction proved correct, Enyo would likely go with his original speculation and try to trap them in the Dungeon instead of fighting directly. They would need to send scouts into the upper Floors to make sure their path wasn’t cut off and, in order to keep Enyo on her toes, Vahn was contemplating venturing into the 59th and 60th Floor to cause some havoc of his own. He had several attacks that could pierce through Floors and, even without fighting against her directly, Vahn was certain he could cause her some problems.

The downsides to this course of action was the fact that he had almost no information about Enyo’s reserves. There were also numerous people that were likely being kept as captives for Enyo’s schemes and, knowing they wouldn’t all be like Olivas, Vahn didn’t want to unnecessarily take the lives of ‘innocents’. After all, any one of those people, including Enyo herself, could have information about Ais’ and Rufina’s past, something Vahn had promised to help uncover. If he shot lasers or pillars of lightning into the 60th Floor, there was no way of knowing who would get caught in the crossfire…

Realizing he was beginning to fall back into his cycle of overthinking things, Vahn focused internally and saw the ‘ocean’ within his body was currently very tumultuous. He was now beginning to understand why so many texts related to being a good Ruler discussed assigning capable personnel to contemplate over these types of matters. It should be his duty to make decisions based on the available variables, not try to analyze and create variables within his mind that would drive his actions forward. Since there were so many ‘unknowns’ right now, the only thing he ‘needed’ to do was obtain more information.

With a small nod of his head, directed towards no-one in general, Vahn opened his eyes and felt the ‘ocean’ within stabilize. He looked down towards the spot where Haven would stand and made a solemn conviction within his heart to protect what it represented, hope. If Enyo wanted to play these games, he would slowly tear apart all of her plans until the only things remaining were broken plans and, if necessary, an even more broken goddess. He would systematically analyze and wipe out any of the forces she had seeded in the surrounding Floors and slowly claim this territory as part of the Alliance. Though she might have some influence over the Dungeon, Vahn knew she wasn’t in control and, with a certain True Dragon at his side, Vahn knew that influence could be taken from her…

Though he didn’t have an image to associate with Enyo in his mind, Vahn still imagined an angry and frustrated goddess pulling her hair out in frustration after he tore apart what could have been a thousand years of planning. He even sent a silent prayer, wondering if she would be able to hear it as a goddess, encouraging her to reflect on her future decisions if she wanted to avoid an even harsher punishment…

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