Chapter 876: Solitude

Though the matter with Yggy had set back his departure for a short while, Vahn was even more confident about dealing with Enyo now. Instead of her aura being restricted to 40x her height, Yggy now affected an area that was always the cube of her height. This meant Yggy already affected an area of 1,000m but, unlike before, she could no longer spread her aura to be thin. Even so, the fact that her aura had 100% of its effect within a much larger region than previously already made her evolution incredible. Vahn had even been able to pluck one of her new leaves, simply called [Yggdrasil Leaf], a Unique item that had a similar effect to an [Effigy of the Hero].

The difference was that, while the [Yggdrasil Leaf] had no boost to a person’s parameters, it also had no detriments to speak of. So long as you had one on your person, you could stand up after suffering a fatal wound based on the number of leaves in your possession. If not for the fact it took Yggy a hundred years just to sprout a single leaf, they would have had access to one of the most beneficial utility items Vahn had ever seen. Presently, Yggy had eight leaves on her main body, after giving one to Vahn, while her body back in the Hearth Manor had sprouted with nine. This meant, at the very least, they would have access to up to 81 leaves for emergency situations. However, as these leaves also served to enhance the effects of Yggy’s aura, Vahn decided it was best they were left unplucked for the time being, as the benefits provided to everyone within her area of effect weren’t something to look down upon…

With Haven’s defenses shored up as much as they could be, Vahn spent a relatively long period of time parting ways with the girls before dawning his equipment, transforming into his Baihu form, and then absorbing Shizune’s [Lanceae Umbrae] with his [Magia Erebea]. This was one of the few Magic Spells she had been able to learn over the last few years, allowing her to create spears out of Shadows that had the ability to penetrate through even Haruhime’s magic barrier. Vahn had only used this form a few times before, and it was one of his ‘secrets’ that he had kept close to his chest for a long time. When combined with his Baihu form, Vahn called this particular raiment, ‘Shadow Emperor: Nether Tiger’ form.

Without making it known to the normal members of the Haven Defense Force, including even Finn, Vahn skulked through the shadows without any discernable presence whatsoever. Not only was he blending into the environment naturally, but Vahn was pushing his [Stealth] to the extreme. Though his appearance was rather striking, with the normal coat of fur having inverted to be black with white stripes. Vahn was able to move through the Dungeon’s corridors without disturbing the mana in the surroundings even a little. He wanted to discern if Enyo’s ability to track people was directly tied to the Dungeon’s own detection systems or if their forces were entirely reliant on a separate system.

Thus, like a living shadow, Vahn made his way through the Dungeon with his [Khryselakatos] drawn as he silently moved outside the perception of most creatures. He had even managed to walk right by a Deformis Spide, passing within just a few meters of its hiding spot, without triggering its aggro at all. From their perspective, Vahn imagined he was like an ‘illusion’ or a ‘daydream’, something they were able to see but paid no real attention to, almost like a figment of the imagination. He had been able to conceal his presence even against very sensitive animals in the woods, walking right up to them, and it seemed to work just as well against monsters.

From these observations, Vahn wondered if the reason why monsters didn’t attack each other was because of how they ‘sensed’ the presence of other monsters. They fundamentally lacked an ego so there had to be something governing their reactions and behaviors. Now that his presence matched the Dungeon itself, Vahn was able to pass without drawing any of their attention. He had even, in an effort to verify his hypothesis, walked right up to a Deformis Spider before placing his hand against its head. Though it twitched and began to move its mandibles, the rather large spider didn’t make any attempts to attack Vahn at all, causing a small smile to spread across his face…

With this discovery, Vahn began to move like an actual shadow through the Dungeon, no longer concerned that he would draw the attention of monsters. Though he wasn’t using [Shundo] to maneuver, as it would be a waste of energy in this instance, Vahn’s natural speed in his Shadow Emperor: Nether Tiger form was rather extreme. It wasn’t nearly as fast as his Lightning Emperor form, but the stealth capabilities and adaptability were far higher while the cost to sustain the form were significantly lower. This, added with the fact that the Dungeon itself was relatively dark, made Vahn’s progress through the Floor unmatchable, at least while moving undetected…

After having mapped a large section of the 51st Floor previously, Vahn quickly reached a staircase leading down to the 52nd Floor without having to fire a single arrow. He wondered if things would continue in this manner as, from the 52nd Floor to the 58th Floor, Vahn would have entered into the Dragon’s Vase. Under normal circumstances, the Valgang Dragon’s on the 58th Floor would begin to bombard him with their pillar-like flame breath. Had that been the case, Vahn would have gone straight down to the 58th Floor, bypassing the six preceding Floors entirely. Now, however, Vahn had already stepped into the 52nd Floor for a few minutes without a single sign that the Valgang Dragon’s had detected him…

This confirmed his speculation in the past, that the Dragon’s were likely linked to the detection system of the Dungeon itself. He had trouble believing that their natural detection range would have broken through several kilometers of Dungeon and, with no attacks coming his way, Vahn was able to confirm they were indeed reliant on the Dungeon. This opened up the possibility that other monsters were also tied to the Dungeon more intrinsically than was currently understood. Though entities like the Juggernaut were already evidencing that this was the case, the fact that the Valgang Dragons were currently ignoring him was a much larger credit to this fact…

Vahn realized that, by moving along through the Dungeon, his curiosity about many things had been piqued once again, much like when he first entered. When he started traveling with the girls, his focus had always been on protecting them and efficiently killing the enemy. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had simply ‘enjoyed’ traveling through the Dungeon, outside of the time he spent with the girls. There were actually so many things that he was interested in and wanted to learn about, just like when he had first entered this record…yet, it was only at a time like this, when he was in deep meditation back at home and fully focused on the Dungeon that Vahn was reminded of this simple fact…

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Feeling strangely melancholic being ‘alone’, Vahn released a small sigh before musing, (“Ever since I made my avatar, I don’t think I’ve ever been alone…it feels rather strange…”) In response to this, Sis giggled lightly before asking, (*Do you not consider my presence adequate company~?*). Hearing this, Vahn felt a slight bit of guilt before Sis added, (*I’m just teasing you, Vahn…besides, this is a good opportunity for you to experience being ‘alone’ once again. It is a feeling you will have to get used to at some point…after all, even if you take some of your subordinates with you to another world, it won’t be easy summoning them to your side. Until your own power reaches the point where you can sustain them, it would cost a great deal of OP just to maintain their presence for short periods of time. Depending on the world, it may not even be prudent to summon them at all, even if your ‘modify’ will fix many of those problems.I’m just saying, if you truly wish to become strong enough to return to this world one day, much of your journey will be a very solitary path…*)

Though he had already had similar thoughts in the past, hearing Sis lay things out in such a manner caused Vahn to lightly nod his head in response. He had actually thought about it long and hard for what was very likely several hundred hours at this point. Since he didn’t know how long it would take him to move through other records, Vahn had often thought that it would be ‘better’ for those like Fenrir if he simply left them behind. They wouldn’t be aware of the separation at all whereas, if he took them with him, the chances of them spending long periods of time in their cores were very likely. Even summoning them wasn’t necessarily a good thing, as it would put them in real danger and drastically increase the chances of something terrible happening…

Vahn knew that, as he moved to progressively higher tiered worlds, the amount of danger they would face increases exponentially. Since there were very likely to be entities that have some degree of omniscience, calling them into the world would draw a great deal of attention to Vahn while he is in a weakened state. Though they would undoubtedly try to protect him, there were some enemies that his subordinates simply wouldn’t be able to face until Vahn himself grew stronger. In some worlds, it may take him hundreds of years to reach a point where they could safely be introduced into the world and, without a means to ‘seal’ away their perception, it would be a very lonely existence for any subordinates that traveled through the records with him…

Thus far, the only person Vahn had considered always taking with him was Fenrir, as he had promised not to leave her behind long ago. Though she would accept his decision, Vahn didn’t want to be gone for several thousand years, only to return and have ‘betrayed’ the trust of one of his most faithful companions. It was also a simple truth that, even if he tried to deny it, Vahn had become very reliant on Fenrir, even when she had first transformed. She had also done so much for him over the past few years that Vahn simply couldn’t see himself traveling through other records without her. It was a bit selfish of him but, for both of their sakes, Vahn didn’t think he would be able to truly move into future records alone…

In response to his concerns, Sis chimed in with a rather pleasant tone, saying (*You know, you don’t have to put Fenrir into your Inventory when you move between records. Remember, you can always put her into an [Inactive] state through the Unit Management Function and store her away there. Her perception would be completely sealed in that case while the only requirement to call her back out would be 50% of her Loyalty. Though that sounds like a lot, Fenrir’s Loyalty is always increasing at a rather extreme rate…I’m certain she wouldn’t mind, either.*) Even now, Fenrir’s Loyalty was generally increasing around 100 points every second, having long crossed over the boundary of one hundred million.

Hearing Sis’s words, Vahn’s pace slowly decreased until he was stationary within the 54th Floor. He then asked, (“Is it possible to use the Unit Management function to call my subordinates to other records…?”) This time, even though he couldn’t see her, Vahn felt like Sis shook her head as she explained, (*It should be possible to summon them to your side in between two records but, once you move into a second record, everyone on your Unit Management would grey out until you were between records once again.*) Just as there had been before he entered the record of Danmachi, there was a ‘hub’ that Vahn would return to, the place in his memory he referred to as the stone dais.

Though he felt a great deal of excitement at these new revelations, Vahn also felt a strange sense of incongruity and awkwardness as he muttered, (“I need to put more effort into learning the potential of my system functions. There are some I haven’t even used a single time since unlocking them…”) Because his focus was generally on other things, Vahn rarely spent much time wholly focused on trying to learn the ins and outs of his system functions, even though they were his most powerful asset. In fact, he was constantly learning new things about them, almost like each function was an Innate that he could master to great effect. Every time he ‘realized’ something new about them yet, until this day, things like the Upgrade function had gone untouched for what now amounted to years…

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Once again, Sis gave sagely council, advising, (*This is why loneliness isn’t always a bad thing, even if it is sometimes difficult to bear. Though you should never become accustomed to such feelings, it is during these moments when you have the most time to reflect. If you are able to maintain your focus, your self-mastery, the mastery of your Innates, and the mastery of your system functions…all of these will show a marked increase. After all, is it not when you are alone and trying your best to return to the people that you care about that your growth is the fastest…?*) Because Vahn’s growth was highly dependent on his intentions and desires, he inarguably grew much faster with the proper motivation. When you were accustomed to being surrounded by the people you cared about, the desire to break away from loneliness could be a very powerful motivator…

Knowing that Sis’ words were the truth, as she was inarguably more observant of his own life than even he was, Vahn found himself looking down at the floor. He wasn’t thinking about anything in particular and just focused on ‘experiencing’ and trying to comprehend this one moment. Then, as if finding the answer to a complex question that had eluded him for a very long time, Vahn’s face adopted a natural smile as the shadowy shroud clinging to his body slowly began to expand. As if it were a dense black liquid trying to fill up every available space, the shadows around Vahn continued to spread until they had filled every empty section of the 54th Floor in a 1.7km radius.

Those monsters unfortunate to get caught within this shroud of darkness found their bodies dissolving rapidly, just like the ceiling, walls, and floor itself. Vahn knew that this wasn’t where he was meant to be and this entire fiasco with Enyo had gone on for too long…it was time to end this once and for all. Now, no longer concealing himself from the Dungeon, Vahn could sense several massive pillars of Fire Elemental Energy converging upon him. Though this wouldn’t have been a threat to him, even under normal circumstances, this time the flames ate through the Floors below Vahn until they came into contact with his shadow. The moment these seemingly unstoppable pillars of fire made contact with the endless darkness, it was as if they had disappeared into nothingness. By the time they had faded away, this darker than black ‘cloud’ began to descend down the tunnels that had been created by the Valgang Dragon’s breath, carrying the promise of death along with it…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Yggy-chan, banzai~!’,’Vahn is bad at exploiting the system~’,’Just imagine a 3.4km wide cloud of pure darkness falling towards you…spooky…’)

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