Chapter 878: Push

After falling for around twelve seconds, and passing nearly 800m, Vahn landed rather explosively on the 60th Floor of the Dungeon. Looking around, he found that many of the corridors were very cramped and, instead of appearing like an organized structure, it was almost like he was in a system of tunnels used by ants. The ceiling itself actually dropped below 100cm at some points, making it almost impossible to pass through quickly while causing a slightly claustrophobic feeling to begin welling up inside his mind for a moment before being suppressed. Vahn imagined that, with the number of blind spots, the tight and cramped spaces, and having no idea if the tunnels you crawled down might lead to a dead end, this Floor would be a nightmare…for most people.

While looking around, Vahn was mapping the complex Floor and quickly noted that, unlike previous Floors, the flow of mana within the surroundings was fundamentally different. Instead of flowing naturally, it was like the surrounding corridors were ‘siphoning’ away the Dungeon’s mana and redirecting it. Though almost anything was possible beyond this point, Vahn didn’t believe this was a natural occurrence within the Dungeon and, having passed through Knossos, Vahn speculated this was an artificial construct. It seemed like another method that Enyo had come up with to make passage into the Dungeon more difficult, as it would be impossible to travel with large groups in such confined spaces.

After getting his bearings, Vahn’s form began to shrink rapidly until he was only 110cm tall, looking very much like a young Pallum, even though his ears were slightly pointed. As a Progenitor, he could easily change his appearance just by shaping his body to match the image within his mind. Now, though it still appeared a bit cramped, Vahn was able to quickly begin moving through the snaking tunnels without much difficulty. However, after proceeding through a few dozen meters of rather abrasive bedrock, Vahn was brought to a very quick stop when a metallic rod jutted out from a small hole and nearly pierced his abdomen. He had been sliding down a chute of sorts and hadn’t sensed the trap until it had been triggered. Fortunately, not that it would have mattered too much, Vahn’s reaction speed was faster than the mechanism itself and he managed to create a small foothold to stop his momentum before sliding any further.

Releasing a small sigh, Vahn looked up towards the direction he had come from while muttering, “This place is annoying…” If Enyo was truly on this Floor, and it continued like this the entire time, Vahn didn’t know how many days he would be crawling around in these tunnels before finding her. Since the chances of this structure being artificial were very high, it was possible that these tunnels didn’t connect to any important locations at all. She may have created this troublesome labyrinth just to make those that venture forth experience a sense of futility as they wandered aimlessly through the cramped spaces for weeks on end. He hadn’t even sensed any monsters, as the flow of mana was being directed towards specific channels instead of reacting to his presence…

At this point, Vahn had a choice to make about how he could proceed from this point onward. It wouldn’t be that difficult for him to assume a form that allowed him to simply tear through the complex structure of this artificial Dungeon, such as his Zhuque or Flame Emperor Forms. Even if the surrounding stones were flame resistant, his flames would still burn through the walls and slowly melt them into nothingness. The downside to this was that Vahn knew for a fact that there were likely several victims of Enyo present somewhere on these Floors. If possible, he would like to remove her influence from them and, much like Rufina, give them another chance at all. Being forced to act against their will was a cruel fate and, so long as they weren’t people like Olivas, Vahn wanted to liberate them.

There was also the simple fact that Vahn had absolutely no idea what exactly Enyo had been up to while she was within the Dungeon. He didn’t know what circumstances would result in a goddess being sealed away, nor why she would be seeking to bring ruin to the surface world. She had to have come up with this plan back in Heaven and, with how old the gods were, Vahn knew that Enyo had likely been scheming for millions of years. There had to be a greater reason behind her actions and, as she also held the secrets to Ais’ past, Vahn didn’t want to indiscriminately destroy the clues that would contain the answers he seeks. After all, Enyo may not even be the ‘biggest’ threat within this world, especially since entities like Leviathan, Behemoth, and the One-Eyed Black Dragon originated from within the Dungeon’s depths. Vahn still had no idea how such creatures had even escaped the Dungeon, as there was simply no way for them to move through the confines of the upper floors with their colossal size…

While he was thinking, Vahn also shrunk his body even further, gaining the appearance of a very young child who was only 80cm tall. He had to stow away his [Khryselakatos] long ago and now slipped passed the metallic protrusion to reach a small corridor below. Though there was almost no light within these suffocating chambers, Vahn’s Baihu enhanced eyes were able to see relatively easily as he began to move forward once again. He had decided to at least try to map the area for a bit to see if he could find any enemies or potentially even reach the 61st Floor. If Enyo’s words were true, she should be somewhere on the 60th Floor so he could at least surmise that he had gone too far. If he was unable to find any leads after a few hours of searching, Vahn would proceed with a secondary plan of action, chiefly destroying the surroundings while making his way towards the points where the Dungeon’s mana was flowing…

Shortly after Vahn had cleared the 59th Floor, the swift-footed Pallum Scouts, who had been patrolling along the outer perimeter of Haven, noticed movement in the surrounding ashen forests. WIthout delaying and trying to confirm if there was an enemy attack, the first to notice this abnormality immediately pressed their palm to a small magic ward. Every similar ward around the entire wall lit up, as a result, causing those on the walls to beat a swift retreat toward Haven’s inner walls. They had been trained that, even if it caused inconveniences, never delay the report as it was better to make a mistake than suffer the consequences of indecision.

This ended up being the correct choice as, moments after their retreat had begun, thousands of the strange caterpillar monsters began to emerge from the woods as they charged forward. They hadn’t triggered any of the proximity wards near the Floor’s entrances and exits, instead, burrowing up from select parts of the Floor where mutated Viscum had bored through. They had first tried to emerge within the inner walls of Haven but found it impossible to do so with the reinforced magical wards that covered the surrounding Floor. Though forcing their way through was possible, this would actually cause the inevitable Juggernaut that spawned to target them, something Enyo would rather avoid since a Level 8 Variant wasn’t easy to deal with.

By the time the caterpillar-like monsters reached the outer walls and began trying to melt through them with their acid spouts, the Pallum Scouts had already retreated into the five fortresses. With their arrival, a large white barrier, more than 3km wide, spread out to surround Haven. Shortly after, five blue barriers emerged to protect each individual fortress while the adjoining walls had several layers of magic circles, each representing a [Reflexio] magic barrier. In total, it had taken less than five minutes for the entire Haven Defense Force to ready the defense, each wielding Magical crossbows, Magic Staves, Bows, and Ballistae. On the main rampart of each Fortress, Haruhime, Ryuu, Arnya, Mikoto, and Lefiya could be seen, a fearless glint in their eyes as they issued orders through a sound amplifying ward that directly transmitted their voices to everyone with a Defenders badge.

Slowly but surely, the thick outer walls were being melted through by the caterpillar monsters but, just as the first group nearly broke through, the wards lining the inner walls activated. In an instant, all of the progress made by the monsters’ acid was undone as the Dungeon Floor below rose up to repair the damage. This caused the giant Viscum to release guttural and wispy howls before large magic circles appeared neared each of their flowery openings. When she saw this, Lefiya’s brows couldn’t help but raise slightly as she activated her communication ward and said, “The enemies seem to have the ability to cast a form of artillery magic. Ryuu, please deal with them while I prepare a large-scale magic spell…!”

Based on the structure of the magic circles, Lefiya knew the approximate effect of the Viscums’ impending magic. It was the type that would cast beams of light that would explode and ignite on contact, much like her [Fusillade Fallarica]. It wouldn’t be that useful against their defenses but the barrier would end up using a larger amount of energy trying to withstand such a wide-spread artillery strike. Though there weren’t any major threats of their defenses being breached any time soon, Lefiya knew it was important to be conservative in a defensive fight. They just needed to hold out until Vahn had dealt with Enyo, something Lefiya believed wouldn’t take too long since he had been rather fired up before leaving…

After hearing Lefiya’s message, Ryuu pressed her heels to the ground and activated the effect of her Magic boots. Four wings of light sprouted out from their sides, much the same as Asfi’s, allowing Ryuu to take to the sky and stabilize herself before she drew back the glimmering string of her [Meteoron Imber] and loosed a beam of shimmering starlight towards the Viscum furthest from her position. Her arrow moved forward at around a third the speed of light, piercing through the monster’s head and disintegrating it in a single shot as she prepared her second arrow. It took a few seconds for her to charge the attack but, by the time she released the arrow, it would spell the end for almost anything within her line of sight.

Much like Ryuu, Lefiya also took to the sky, using her own fairy-like wings to support her as she held out, not one, but two different staves and began chanting, “Gather, 199 spirits of light, strike my enemy. Magic Arrows, Series of 199 Lights~!” Lefiya felt her mana immediately tank as a massive magic circle appeared behind her, forming 199 individual arrows of light. Her star-shaped pupils contracted into small points as Lefiya’s eyes began to focus on each of her targets and releasing what she believed to be an adequate amount of magic arrows to deal with them. Once they began moving forward, several small shockwaves were created in sequences as the devastatingly powerful arrows instantly accelerated to hypersonic speeds. Before Lefiya even brought a mana potion to her lips, the majority of the Viscum had been obliterated as hundreds of the green caterpillars joined them…

As awe-inspiring a sight it was to see Lefiya fling forth 199 arrows of light, it was impossible to see the outcome of her attack with the massive outer wall blocking their vision. The Defenders instead focused on their own tasks, even though there were several amongst them who were clearly worried. For many, this was their first real battle and, if not for the ‘discipline’ that had been drilled into them over the last week, some would have wanted to flee. It was their sense of unity that kept them at their posts, following the orders of those with higher ranks than their own while awaiting the surging enemy tides. Of course, for every nervous individual that was present, there was an equal number of people who were excited about the coming fight. They were one of the main reasons the morale had been kept high as, even without seeing the result of Lefiya’s and Ryuu’s attacks, the sound of explosions and the shrill howl of monsters was music to their ears…

Unaware of the battle that had begun on the 50th Floor, Vahn continued mapping out the complex tunnel system for around three hours before stopping for a moment to think. Other than a few traps, the most annoying of which was acid flooding the tunnel he was in, Vahn hadn’t come across any enemies. He had been following the flow of mana for a while now and had begun to suspect that Enyo was altering the flow to keep him moving in circles. It was when he zoomed out from his three-dimensional minimap that Vahn realized what was going on. The flow of energy was making a spiral shape and, though he was going deeper into the Dungeon, Vahn suspected he was moving further away from his goal. There was a large ‘gap’ within his map, almost as if he had been moving around on the edge of the Dungeon’s Floor instead of venturing into the inner catacombs…

Deciding that he would rather not continue going around in circles, Vahn took in a deep breath through his nose and, by the time he had exhaled, he had transitioned from his Baihu form into his Zhuque form. Now, though he remained in his Shadow Emperor raiment, Vahn’s figure had wisps of vermillion flames that formed runes over his body. He could see his own appearance through his domain, having a shadowy visage with glowing vermillion eyes and a mixture of black and red feathers covering areas of his body. Though he had to change out of the equipment he had been wearing, Vahn’s ‘petite’ figure looked strangely tyrannical with his forearms and feet glowing with a fierce vermillion light…

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To avoid wasting his Source Energy, Vahn had contained as much of his Zhuque flames as he could inside of his own body, fusing it with the Shadow Elemental energy of his [Magia Erebea]. The expenditure was still rather extreme, eating around 2% of his reserves every minute, but Vahn was able to supplement this with his main body meditating in the Sub-Space orb while the dual blessings from Yggy also provided a minor assist. She had mentioned giving him the blessing all nine times in order to ‘help’. something Vahn found rather adorable at the time and was especially grateful for now…

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Once his energy had stabilized, Vahn allow the heat to emanate from his body until it had created a small sphere of Yang Elemental energy 5m in diameter. He then began to fly forward at a moderate pace, instantly melting the obstructive Dungeon and clearing a path for himself. Shortly after he had done this, Vahn felt the Dungeon trembling around him as a large volume of whitish-purple liquid began filling up the porous caverns, almost as if it was trying to extinguish his flames. From this, Vahn could conclude that Enyo had not only been watching him, but she had some degree of control over this artificial Dungeon. He noticed the flow of mana in the walls change, now spreading in all directions, while parts of it began to flow into nearby chambers. Instead of spawning monsters, however, a tidal flood of the whitish-purple fluid began to fill every available space.

Though this could have been disastrous for others, Vahn continued to fly forward at the same pace while the liquid that came into contact with his sphere was immediately evaporated. This caused a very powerful explosion due to the difference in temperature and the instantaneous conversion of the liquid into a gas. However, other than making the sphere feel slightly more compressed, Vahn didn’t experience any real setbacks as he pressed forward until, after a few minutes of flying, he broke into a vast cavern as a veritable waterfall of the whitish-purple liquid emerged from the hole he had created.

Ignoring the high-pressure flow, Vahn moved into the giant chamber and began to look around, noticing that his surroundings looked ‘normal’, with healthy mineral rich stone making up the surrounding walls. There were also numerous blue and green crystals, very similar to to the roots found in a monster pantry, which created a rather pleasant ambiance that lit up the caverns. Vahn assumed this was the ‘real’ 60th Floor, as the flow of mana within the walls was being absorbed by the ashen grey bedrock that seemed to be encroaching on the main Dungeon. Seeing this, Vahn felt like Enyo had to have a Divinity related to Corruption or something, as she seemed to be trying to assimilate and corrupt the very Dungeon itself for her purposes…

Releasing an exasperated sigh, Vahn looked around with his [Eyes of Truth] and began to move towards what he felt to be the ‘center’ of the Floor based on his earlier spiraling. He didn’t make it that far, however, before mana began to coalesce on the nearby surfaces, shattering the walls as monsters began emerging en masse to attack him. They had the appearance of 3m tall red Minotaur with pitch black horns and dark red eyes. Similar to Lizardman Elites and Mermen, they actually had equipment covering their bodies, consisting of shiny black armor while the majority dual-wielded battleaxes. The only exception was the Onyx-Black Minotaur in the back, who had blood red armor and a spiked mace that seemed to be made of several hundred kilograms of pure Mithril…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘By the time Vahn reaches Enyo, he will only be 30cm tall~!’,’Defenders, to your positions! Here, at this moment, we stop the forces of Evil in their tracks…!’,’Enyo keeps leading Vahn around…’)

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