After entering the Inn, Ryan asked how long Vahn was intended to stay as they made their way to the bar. The owner of the Inn was a stocky boaz man with ruddy-brown hair. Though he had a stern expression, he was still smiling as he made drinks for the customers at the bar.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying. It will depend on how things go.” Vahn was somewhat distracted as his eyes glanced at the other patrons. Seeing there were no extra malicious auras, he continued tracking the three men from earlier. After Vahn entered the Inn, they all started heading further into the settlement towards the direction of the large tree. Eventually, the exited the area of his domain, which caused Vahn to frown.
“Hey, boss, two rye beers and somethin’ strong to get us started!” Ryan flagged down the owner and placed an order loudly next to Vahn. Turning towards the amiable man, Vahn shook his head before separating slightly. “Sorry Ryan, I never drink in the dungeon. No exceptions.” Vahn had been told by Tsubaki previously that alcohol was a very dangerous thing. Unless he was celebrating with people he knew or in the comfort of his own home, he should never accept alcohol, especially in a place like a dungeon.
Vahn had never been drunk before, but he had seen the effects on others. He knew it had a debilitating effect on a person’s mental state and even caused drowsiness and nausea. Most like as a result of his unique blood, but Vahn had been able to drink almost everyone he drank with under the table. Even a goddess like Hephaestus and the heavy drinking Tsubaki couldn’t match him.
Ryan shook his head, “Come now, kiddo. You gotta loosen up on occasion. Even if yer not of age, the fact you’re this far in the dungeon more than makes you a man. Let’s celebrate our reunion.” Ryan still had an amiable smile on his face, and Vahn could see his aura was stable and kind. However, even if it was a fact he couldn’t get drunk, Vahn wouldn’t put himself at risk with unknown dangers lurking around.
After seeing that his insistence had failed, Ryan gave a sad smile before throwing back a long swig of his beer. Vahn noticed the look and gave an apologetic smile before explaining, “Sorry, Tsubaki, the Captain of my Familia, and the person who helped me train, forbade me from ever drinking inside the dungeon. Even if she never found out, I wouldn’t be able to lie to her. As someone far more experience than I am, I listen to her advice, as it will probably be what keeps me alive.”
Hearing Vahn, Ryan smiled and nodded while sipping at his drink. “Good kid. You’ll live a lot longer than most with that kind of discipline. Here, even if you can’t drink, you can still share a toast with this old fool.” Lifting his glass towards Vahn, Vahn used his own glass of water to accept the toast.
“Cheers!!”,”Cheers.” The two said at the same time which caused Ryan to laugh after seeing how serious Vahn was. They continued to make small talk and discuss the results of their recent ventures. Ryan explained how his sons were just recently promoted to Level 2, and that they belonged to a C rank Familia run by the God Caerus.
Ryan’s role was the lieutenant of the Familia, and he had brought his sons to the middle-floors so they could get some experience. Who would have thought that, on the same trip, he nearly lost the both of them due to their encounter with the Purple Wyvern? Claiming his god’s Divinity was based on ‘luck’, Ryan toasted loudly to the bar and ordered drinks for the other nine customers.
Vahn enjoyed the atmosphere before refusing the offer to stay at the Inn. Though they only charged 18 magic cores a night, Vahn had no intentions of staying in the area. After the men he was tracking left his domain, he had been intending to leave the vicinity after eating a hearty meal. Vahn wasn’t willing to stay in the area the men had last seen him, especially if he didn’t know their purpose or where they had gone. He intended to leave the settlement entirely and seek refuge in the forests until things became clear.
After parting with Ryan, who tried insisting that he stay, Vahn made his way around Rivira and marked every building on his map. He was also looking for the men with the dark auras, but after identifying all 118 buildings within the area, he was prevented from continuing his search. Further down the main road of Rivira, there was a gate that was manned by a large group that was much more organized than the entrance to the settlement. They prevented Vahn from venturing further inwards unless he was accompanied by a large party or was able to identify himself as a Level 4 or higher.
After investigating a bit, Vahn completely ignored the men and made his way to a secluded area before entering stealth and jumping over the wall. He noticed there was some kind of mechanism to detect intruders, but it didn’t seem to trigger with Vahn’s presence. He looked around and noticed most of the buildings were far apart and much higher class than the ones in Rivira. It seemed like these were the camps/buildings that had been set up by the stronger Familia as a staging point for further exploration into the lower floors.
Vahn assumed there were likely Level 3 or higher adventurers within the area and that it would be dangerous to go further. If he was caught infiltrating a forbidden area, it would cause a lot of problems when he visits the 18th floor in the future. There was also the matter that, Vahn didn’t have confidence in concealing himself from people much stronger than himself. There were all kinds of people with unique skills and abilities that could help them discover his presence. Not to mention any mages would be able to detect the presence of his domain if they were strong enough.
Resolving himself to increase the level of his [Stealth] in the future, Vahn leaped back over the wall and made his way to the entrance of Rivira. He left them a ‘holding’ fee and registered his identification so he would be able to enter without difficulties in the future. To prevent any trouble, he also demonstrated his ‘magic’ that allowed him to transform. The men were surprised, but Vahn made certain they annotated his transformation so that others don’t randomly attack him in the future.
Vahn had grown accustomed to being in his Báihǔ form, especially in places like the dungeon where he always had to remain cautious. It was hard giving up the enhanced senses and reduces parameters when he was walking around with unseen enemies lurking. After making his way several hundred meters from Rivira, he split off into the woods and disappeared into the depths.
Several minutes after Vahn left the settlement, a group of seven figures appeared along the route he had taken. They were each wearing dark clothes and had cloaks that concealed their faces. After coming to the spot where Vahn had entered the woods, one of the figures bent down low and inspected the ground. Noticing the tracks had turned to the woods, they sniffed around in the air before making hand signs to the other cloaked figures.
They all nodded before branching out and entering into the woods. If Vahn had been in the area, he would have noticed that each of their eyes reflected the light coming from the crystals. Like him, they too could see in the dark. Without being restricted by the overgrowth of the forest, the group continued into the darkness, heading towards the direction Vahn had left in.
Vahn hadn’t been going at a very fast pace, as he had not expected people to follow him outside of the settlement and into the forest. This didn’t mean he had dropped his guard though, as he had dispersed his aura into the forest and was actively using his stealth as he made his way further into the forested trails. He was looking for a clearing or a water source so that he could bathe and clean his clothing before finding a nice tall tree to rest in.
While he was making his way forward, Vahn detected ‘anomalous’ presences in his domain. Unlike normal presences, they seemed to be somewhat ‘transparent’ and hazy, but Vahn was still able to detect them. He slowed down and equipped his [Scout’s Guille Suit] while crouching low to the ground. For a group to be trying to conceal themselves while following his path, Vahn didn’t expect they had good intentions.
The group of seven continued tracking their target before slowing their advance to a crawl. The ‘leader’ of the group made a hand sign and they slowly started to fan out. As they specialized in tracking, they were very capable of following their prey undetected. The fact that the forest had suddenly become ‘silent’ triggered the instincts of the leader so they split their team into a wider net.
Following the trail, the hooded figure slowly crept forward with perfectly silent footsteps. They kept their eyes open to the smallest movements and perked their ears to listen for any hushed breathing. It was uncommon for their target to simply vanish, so the leader assumed they had been detected which caused their prey to hide in the vicinity. The curious thing was the fact that, even with their enhanced senses, the group was unable to find any sign of the boy other than his trail.
Vahn had identified a total of seven people within his domain and they seemed to be on very high alert. Though they had yet to find him, Vahn was impressed with how much caution they showed the moment he stopped moving. From his perspective, Vahn could see the figure closest to him moving silently through the underbrush. It was actually amazing how the person seemed to meld into the sounds of nature and moved without disturbing any loose twigs or grass.
After watching the group slowly advance, Vahn began to realize that none of them triggered his ‘instincts’. Every time Vahn had ever fought someone stronger than him or entered a dangerous area, something inside of him seemed to react and cause him to act more cautious. The fact none of these people made him feel that way made Vahn believe they were weaker than he was.
By now the closest figure was within 7m of his position, a distance Vahn could cover in the time it took to blink. Tensing his legs and putting strength into one of his palms for support, Vahn launched himself forward with his maximum velocity. The moment his feet left the ground, the sounds of wind tearing exploded through the area as the trees and grass began to rustle furiously.
The leader that had been closest to Vahn’s position was shocked hearing the explosive sound but still managed to keep their cool as they tried taking evasive actions. Unfortunately, just as Vahn assumed, they were all Level 2 and much slower than Vahn was. Unable to evade, the figure tried attacking towards Vahn with a dagger, but Vahn received it with his left gauntlet before driving his claws into to the figure’s stomach.
Groaning, the cloaked figure collapsed to the ground while trying to put pressure on their stomach to slow the bleeding. Vahn wasn’t simply faster than they were, he was also much stronger as well. Since the group specialized in speed and stealth, they had no hope of receiving his attacks head-on, so the hooded figure paid the price.
The rest of the group immediately tried surrounding and attacking Vahn, but due to the seven months he had spent in the forest, and the fact he had increased his [Featherfoot] to rank B, Vahn was able to make excellent use of the terrain. Within two minutes, more than half of the group had been maimed or disabled, and the rest began feeling intense fear inside of them. They didn’t expect the young boy who had only recently become Level 2 to be so ferocious.
After Vahn took out another one of their companions, the remaining two figures tried to retreat in opposite directions. Seeing their attempt, Vahn scoffed before equipping his bow. He took aim at the figures who had abandoned all thought of attacking him and entered his stealth state. Even if there were other people nearby, as long as his target was unaware of his presence, Vahn could make use of a skill he had grown fond of recently. Loosing the arrow, Vahn activated [Call of the Reaper] and fired toward each retreating figure.
Unable to sense the approaching arrow, the two fleeing figures ended up taking the hit straight into the back of their pelvic areas. Vahn had targeted a non-lethal spot that would prevent them from recovering even with the use of a potion. So far, he hadn’t killed any of them as he still wanted information. As everyone was still within the area of his domain, Vahn would be able to sense if anyone recovered or tried to sneak attack him.
Vahn made his way toward the first figure who was still clutching their gut. The person had tried to pour a potion onto the wound, but it was healing at a very slow rate. As Vahn had imbued his ‘burning’ effect into the attack, just like with all his previous enemies, the wound was slow to regenerate. The figure noticed Vahn’s approach and tried attacking with a concealed weapon that was as black as the night.
Vahn, with his night vision and high perception, easily detected the attack and caught the blade out of the air. It was a strangely shaped blade that was solid black in color and had a subtle, yet foul smelling, odor wafting from it.
Frowning, Vahn threw the small knife into the knee of the hooded figure. The blade shattered the kneecap and embedded itself deeply into the area between the two bones. The figure, who Vahn had identified as a man by the scream, began writhing in pain as froth built up in their mouth. It seems like the poison was a fast reacting kind, and without an antidote, the man would probably die within a minute.
Without any hesitation, Vahn pulled out his tamahagane blade and severed the man’s leg. The man screamed out, but Vahn focused his intent through [Will of the Emperor] and caused him to freeze. Using his [Hands of Nirvana] Vahn helped ‘pull’ the poison from his system while also taking the time to sever the tendons in the man’s arms using his claws.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Spooky’,’Assassins vs. Reaper’,’Wrekt’)