Chapter 870: The Enemies Within

The sudden attack by Tiona against Lili had caught everyone by complete surprise and, until a loud ‘snapping’ sound broke the silence, nobody had been able to move. However, instead of Lili’s neck being broken, Vahn slumped over slightly before using [Shundo] to break into Haruhime’s barrier forcefully. She would normally have to ‘allow’ people to enter but Vahn didn’t have time to wait, grabbing the enraged Tiona who was desperately trying to choke the life out of Lili. As if she were being attacked by another enemy, Tiona’s eyes became fierce as she swung Lili’s body like her own weapon and attempted to hit Vahn.

Seeing this, Vahn clenched his teeth and allowed his [Magia Erebea] to fade away while replacing Haruhime’s broken barrier with his own. Lili’s body hit him with an incredible force but, instead of resisting it at all, Vahn allowed his body to be broken apart before completely regenerating after Lili had passed through him. He used the gap created by Tiona’s surprise to cut forward with a blade of Source Energy coating his hand, cutting through Tiona’s wrists to free Lili before use [Wounds Transfer] to sever his own. Everyone was greatly confused by what was happening, Tiona included, as Vahn’s hand landed on her forehead, inserting enough energy to completely disperse the foreign influence affected Tiona’s mind.

In total, less than five seconds had passed from start to finish but Vahn felt like a heavy weight was pressed against his mind as he slumped down with Tiona’s unconscious body while Haruhime renewed her own barrier to replace his. Lili, no longer looking as ‘betrayed’ as before, rubbed her already healed neck and asked, “What happened, Vahn…?” She had been good friends with Tiona for ‘years’ at this point and knew that the latter would never attack her under normal circumstances. Everyone else was equally as curious, though their worries about what had happened outweighed these thoughts by quite a bit…

While scanning the girls’ minds to make sure they weren’t being influenced by Enyo, Vahn explained, “Enyo has a way to alter the minds of other people. She may even have the ability to influence gods, based on how none of them are able to remember her…this is the worst possible outcome…” Even as he was speaking, a realization hit Vahn and he was now able to understand the ‘delay’ that would sometimes appear when he was sending telepathy in the Dungeon. Enyo had been watching them much closer than he had expected, even repeating some of his own words back to him…words that were spoken in extremely secure and private locations…she had even been able to intercept their telepathy…

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Vahn swallowed hard since he had actually given all of the girls accessories that should protect against such influence. However, if it was truly an Innate or even a Divinity, there was no way the equipment he had forged would be able to protect them. This was an unprecedented disaster and, if his intuition proved correct, Enyo could, at the very least, temporarily brainwash almost anyone. There had to be a limit to the ability, or she would have been using it far more often, but the fact remained that Enyo had just become far more dangerous than before.

Knowing now wasn’t the time or place to think about such things, Vahn immediately lifted Tiona’s body and said, “We need to return to Haven. At this point, it is actually worse for our powerful members to be within the Dungeon…dammit…!” Now, Vahn was even more determined to deal with Enyo and, even if he had to go alone. Just as he was thinking this, however, Sis interrupted his thoughts, saying, (*Enyo must have been defeated within the restrictions of this record, so her ability can’t be as dangerous as it seems. There must be ‘requirements’ to trigger the effect and it may not necessarily be permanant either. I believe that her influence grows stronger based on proximity and the mental state of the person she is trying to influence…haven’t you noticed it, Vahn, the ‘acid’…?*)

Since Sis could only use his senses to perceive things, Vahn knew exactly what she was talking about, allowing a bit of calm to return to the chaotic ocean in his mind. Not only was the acid now resistant to fire, but burning it away caused a hallucinogen to release into the atmosphere. Enyo very likely needed her target to already be in a compromised state and, based on how she had ‘taunted’ him by mentioning his loved ones, Vahn knew this was likely the case. As for Tiona, she had a habit of losing her focus after a battle and, witnessing him destroy the Mutant Cadmus, had probably caused her ‘instincts’ to trigger. There were too many gaps to exploit for someone like Tiona and if she had succeeded in killing Lili, it is very likely she could have exploited the others as well…

Realizing there were some ‘positives’ to gain from this incident, chiefly the new information he had been able to obtain about Enyo’s abilities, Vahn began to quickly calm down. Even so, he still followed his original intentions and began breaking through the surrounding walls. The room had been sealed to prevent the ‘acid’ from flowing outward and, instead of the normal white stone, there was a strange waxy substance coating most surfaces. Vahn took one of the coated stones as a sample and stored it away in his Inventory as they quickly made their way towards the nearest stairs that led to the 50th Floor. The map he had compiled over the last two days was around 60% complete and, though they hadn’t investigated every corridor, it was easy to identify stairwells and the like…

While he was making his way back with the girls, keeping a close eye on everyone’s mental state, Vahn was also exiting the Sub-Space orb back on the surface after calling an emergency meeting. This was a major development and they needed to try and come up with some kind of defense against to prevent Enyo’s influence from affecting them. Though he had reason to believe her influence couldn’t reach the surface so easily, or she would have probably destroyed the City long ago, it wasn’t a ‘safe’ assumption at all. At least one thing was now clear, which was the reason why the Dungeon was now ‘inaccessible’ to gods.

Ouranos must have known Enyo had this type of ability or at least assumed there were some means by which she could even influence gods…if any god were to enter the Dungeon, the chance of them coming under Enyo’s influence likely increased the deeper they went. Since Innates could outright overpower even Divinity in some circumstances, especially if Enyo was a goddess, there were very few gods that would be able to resist her abilities. This could very well be how she had managed to get the gods of the Evil Organization, Evilus on her side. The most terrifying part of this all was that, at least in Heaven, Enyo had very likely used her ability to erase her existence from the memories of almost every god that would have known her…

After his emergency summons, Vahn quickly found himself in a room with Loki, Hephaestus, Hestia, Artemis, Syr, Tsubaki, and, as she hadn’t yet gone on her patrols, Eirene. Anubis was usually at the dorms around this time so Vahn wasn’t surprised that she was missing and intended to go inform her personally about what had happened after the fact. The one person he was worried about, as she would often be away for days at a time, was Demeter. Vahn hadn’t suspected her even for a moment in the past, as he had even seen her [Hearts Desire], but this new ‘information’ he had obtained about Enyo was a game changer. It was very possible that her influence may not even be ‘remembered’ by people at all, making almost every single suspect they ever had back in the running…

Loki, having been up late the previous night, released a loud yawn, asking, “What is this about, Vahn…?” Since she had plopped down next to him for the discussion, Vahn put his hand on Loki’s head to help remove her fatigue as he seriously explained, “Enyo has an ability to influence the minds of other people and, based on what I’ve been able to gather, the chance of her power working against gods is very high…” It didn’t take much time at all for Loki to realize the seriousness of Vahn’s claim, causing her expression to immediately harden as thoughts raced through her mind. With this new information, hundreds of unanswered questions she had stumbled across during her investigations suddenly made a lot more sense…

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Biting the nail of her thumb with a vexed expression upon her face, Loki stated, “Damn, we’ve been played hard this time. Now, all of my investigations need to be organized and reconducted from scratch…!” Previously, there had always been information that had strangely been ‘missing’ and, even after discussing things with Ouranos several times, Loki had been unable to glean any insights. If Enyo truly had the ability to influence the minds of others, she could very well even get around some basic vows to get people to act as her arms and legs. The information that had ‘vanished’ from the Guild’s records could have been removed by one of her pawns and they may have simply been unaware of their crime from the outset…

Vahn felt a little guilty knowing that Loki’s workload was going to increase a great deal but he once again emphasized, “The fact she can influence gods is a major factor that can’t be overlooked. We have no way of knowing the extent of her control but I’ve been able to analyze some of the info to get a basic understanding of how the process works. Though these are not ‘verified’ pieces of information, the chance that she can influence people outside of the Dungeon are slim. That narrows down the number of people under her influence as those who have ventured into the Dungeon, especially into the Middle and Deep Floor. Her influence seemed to get stronger the deeper people delve into the Dungeon, which is why she needs to have people act for her on the Upper Floors…”

Hephaestus, understanding the severity of the situation, asked, “Is there any way to tell if someone is under Enyo’s control? Did the items you prepared have no effect at all…?” As she often checked the equipment Vahn had forged, both out of curiosity and to appreciate his progress, Hephaestus was very aware of almost everything he had produced. In response to her questions, Vahn answered, “My [Eyes of Truth] are able to discern if someone is under her influence, but only if I’m able to observe them in close proximity. The problem is, my abilities aren’t nearly effective against gods and I don’t know if I would be able to determine if they are under her influence at all…as for the accessories I made for the girls, they seemingly had no effect whatsoever…haaaaa…”

The only way Vahn could determine if a god was being affected by Enyo was to bind them with his [Enkidu] as it was almost impossible to glean any major insights while their body was protected by their Divinity. There were so many strange energies already present within the gods that it would very likely take him several hours just to come to a conclusion. At the very least, he was able to eliminate most of the people who had a close relationship with him. The only point of contention towards this was Demeter, as Vahn had only ever used [Enkidu] on her in one instance. Since then, Demeter was often away and there was a non-negligible chance that she had been affected by Enyo. After all, for the gods to have ‘forgotten’ about her, it meant they had all been under her influence at some point, at least within the Northern Pantheon…

With that thought in mind, Vahn looked to Loki and said, “I can verify if a god is affected by Enyo if I bind them with [Enkidu] and analyze the energy within their minds. We should reach out to those that have the most influence in the Alliance and vet them before she has the chance to get the jump on us. Now that Enyo knows I’m aware of her abilities, she may have already started moving her pawns to take action…we need to act quickly. Once this meeting is over, I will go to Anubis and Demeter personally to make sure they are okay…” Vahn had already checked both goddesses’ Status within his logbook, showing that Demeter was supposed to be visiting the Plains while Anubis was located at the School’s Dorms.

Loki caught on to what he was getting at very quickly, asking, “Do you think Demeter is being influenced by Enyo…?” When asked this directly, Vahn winced slightly before saying, “Enyo shouldn’t have the ability to manipulate plants and the like on such a large scale. There may very well be some mortals or Xenos under her control that have such an ability but, with how quickly the creatures have been adapting, their level of skill would have to rival the gods. Demeter is a ‘soft’ target that has been in the mortal world for a long time and, if something happened to her Familia, or the food production was compromised, there would be widespread famine across the entire continent…I wasn’t looking for such things previously so we need to make sure she is free from Enyo’s influence before something terrible happens…”

Though the Demeter Familia wasn’t the only Agriculture Familia, it was easily the largest and, if something were to happen, the food shortages would cause severe problems. If this happened during a time of war and strife, the consequences would be truly disastrous. There was also a chance that, if any of the gods that had access to the Manor were under Enyo’s influence, they could pose a very real threat to the Vanir and all the other children. Vahn didn’t need to explain this to those who were already gathered and, always taking the lead in such circumstances, Loki boldly stated, “You need to use your [Enkidu] on all of us. Though I’m not from the Northern Pantheon, I operated there for a long time before descending to the Mortal World. I have no memory of Enyo at all and want to make sure that bitch isn’t in my head…!”

With Loki’s words as the catalyst, all of the other goddesses present wanted to be wrapped in [Enkidu] as well, just to be safe. Thus, knowing it was necessary to do so, Vahn produced five links of [Enkidu] and had them coil around the goddesses until their Divinity was completely sealed. Then, starting with Loki, Vahn activated his [Eyes of Truth] and immediately felt his skin become clammy. There, swirling around Loki’s mind like a serpent, there was an almost indiscernible purple tendril that was deeply rooted within her brain, inserted between the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex. This meant that, at any point in time, Enyo could potentially exercise her influence over Loki and she wouldn’t even be aware of it, as no new memories would form once the energy was active…The most terrifying thing, however, was the fact that Vahn saw the same thing in almost every single goddess, Hestia being the only exception…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Never Underestimate The Enemy…’,’State of Emergency…’,’Horrifying Revelation…’)

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