Chapter 879: Nothing

Without any fear, the red Minotaurs, which Vahn had chosen to classify as Berserkers, charged toward him with incredible momentum. Based on their movements, Vahn approximated their speed as just above Level 4. Their strength, however, remained a mystery since the moment they entered into the effective range of his Zhuque flames, they immediately burst into flame before dissolving into ash in an instant. Those that came in behind their kin showed a bit more caution, throwing their axes with enough force to create multiple shockwaves which, upon reaching Vahn’s flames, once again turned into molten slag before breaking down and dispersing.

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Vahn was somewhat interested in the ecology of these monsters but knew now wasn’t exactly the time to hold back and simply observe. Around the same time that the Onyx-Black Minotaur, which Vahn had decided to call a Berserker Chieftan, lifted up its colossal spiked-mace, Vahn had moved forward with [Shundo] and punched the 3m tall monster in its chest. His fist went straight through the blood-red armor of the Berserker Chieftan before continuing unobstructed as Vahn grabbed it’s monster core and crushed it. This resulted in the Chieftan bursting into dust while Vahn looted the massive spiked-mace into his Inventory, comprised of enough Mithril to make more than a billion Valis worth of equipment.

The surviving Berserkers, as if to give credit to the name Vahn had bestowed upon them, began to howl in concert with each other as their red fur began emanating light. Their size rapidly increased as they ran forward with an enraged charge, seemingly forgetting the results of their previous attempts to do so. Upon seeing this, Vahn shook his head disapprovingly before increasing the temperature of his surrounding and manipulating the Yang Elemental Energy to sweep through the chamber. This allowed Vahn to see a rather strange sight as the flesh and muscles of the Berserkers turned to ashes slightly faster than their skeletons. Seeing their skeletal figures for a brief moment, still in the midst of their charges, was a peculiar sight that had embedded itself into his mind…

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With the monsters dead, Vahn began to scan around the area with his [Eyes of Truth] before deciding it was best to follow his previous course of action. As a result, Vahn began moving ‘through’ the Dungeon’s walls, cutting a direct path towards the center of the Floor. He knew there was a fair chance that a Juggernaut might spawn but, even if it was a little annoying to deal with, Vahn was confident in coming out ahead. Without needing to protect others, the means with which he could attack were functionally limitless…

While doing his best to conserve his energy, Vahn cut through several walls of the Dungeon, ignoring the majority of monsters that spawned along the way. It wasn’t until he came across an entirely new creature that Vahn advance was halted. He had entered into a large room that was a few hundred meters across with a ceiling nearly 200m tall. At the very center of the room, almost as if it had been waiting for him, there was an oblong spherical mass with a ruby-red coloration and a slightly translucent appearance. It looked very similar to a snack the girls liked to eat, known as jello, and it was jiggling slightly from the moment Vahn had entered the room. As for how he knew it was alive, Vahn could sense a very large amount of mana flowing in the creature’s body, almost as if it was entirely comprised of pure Fire Elemental energy…

It didn’t take long for Vahn to realize this was either meant to stop him, or to determine exactly how powerful his fire-based attacks are. Since he was admittedly curious if his attacks would be effective against such a strange creature, Vahn created a fireball at the tip of his finger before aiming it towards the rotund monster and shotting it out like a vermillion laser. His attack struck against the surface of the monster, causing ripples as its color changed from ruby red to a slight vermillion coloration as hundreds of tendrils suddenly exploded outwards towards Vahn. This caused Vahn’s brows to raise as he used [Shundo] to evade to the side, watching as the tendrils smashed into the walls and floor, leaving molten stone wherever they passed.

This was an interesting development and, now that he had a better look, Vahn noticed that the monster was on a black platform of sorts that seemed resistant to the heat it produced. As for his attack, Vahn could see his energy coursing through the creature as it tried to ‘tame’ his flames and absorb them into its own body. Unfortunately, though it made some headway with the flames themselves, his Source Energy was wreaking havoc and Vahn could see its trembling had increased a great deal until it ‘spat’ out the foreign energy. From this, Vahn determined that this creature has an incredible fire immunity and, even though his Zhuque Flames could be classified as Tier 4, they couldn’t completely ignore resistances while he himself was restricted to Tier 3.

Now that his little experiment had concluded, Vahn evaded a few of the molten tendrils before sending a Shadow Lance towards what he had decided to call a Molten Slime. Vahn knew of the existence of Slimes, as they would very rarely appear within the large basin of water that was fed by the Great Fall. They had the same appearance and coloration as water and, while submerged, were nearly impossible to detect until you had the ability to sense mana. If you chose to swim around in the large basin, you could find yourself being swarmed by the ‘invisible’ creatures as they constricted your body and tried to slowly dissolve your flesh…

Without any suspense, the Shadow Lance embedded itself into the Molten Slime before exploding outwards. Though it likely had basic immunity to physical attacks, Vahn’s Shadow Emperor forms were an almost perfect counter to any creature that was dependent on magical barriers and general magic resistance. His attacks completely ignored such defenses and, being able to see the shiny red-hot core with his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn had easily dealt with the 5m diameter Molten Slime. Curiously, instead of turning into dust, it spread out like water from the bottom of a broken bucket and began to melt through the surrounding Floor before cooling down and turning into a black puddle a few minutes after Vahn had recovered the core fragments, nabbed the black slab, and took a sample of the ‘slime’ before continuing his journey.

Ignoring the layout of the Dungeon itself, Vahn continued to make his own path once again until several auras entered into his perception. Since there was a big difference between an ‘aura’ and being able to sense something’s mana, Vahn immediately identified these had to be sentient creatures. His ability to see aura might have been influenced by his general perception, but Vahn knew it was the ‘View Affection’ function that allowed him to see them in the first place. Since the creature would have to possess some degree of sentience for him to see their Affection, Vahn knew he had to be on the right track.

Using his [Eyes of Truth], Vahn focused his eyes and began to peer through the walls until he was able to see into the room where the auras were. What he saw in that dark chamber was something Vahn would never forget for the rest of his life. It was such an extreme image that, even with his [Will of the Emperor] supporting him, Vahn felt extremely nauseous and began to dry heave mucous and stomach acid. He hadn’t eaten anything in quite a while so his stomach had been completely empty, something he now regretted as it was more painful than expected to have ‘nothing’ in your stomach while vomiting.

After regaining his balance and taking a few deep breaths, Vahn wiped his mouth and muttered, “Enyo, if you can hear me…know that I will make you pay for this…you’ve gone too far…!” Within the chamber Vahn had peered into, there had been dozens of Adventurers and what Vahn had assumed to be Xenos ‘fused’ together with a strange plant-like monstrosity. They had roots going into their bodies and seemed to be providing a constant supply of mana to the horribly misshapen entity, all while tubes pumped nutrients and water directly into their stomachs. These were enough reasons for Vahn to feel horribly perturbed by the existence these people had to suffer through, but it was the fact that each of them had their arms and legs amputated that caused Vahn’s soul itself to tremble…

As if to answer his words, a peal of laughter sounded from inside of Vahn’s head before fading away with the word, (“Come…”). When he heard her laugh, Vahn felt like the ocean in his mind had become fiercer than the waves sailors would encounter during a hurricane. Each wave seemed like the size of a mountain, crashing against other mountains as Vahn’s body trembled with rage even greater than what he had experienced after seeing Milan’s state in the past. Though he had accepted his past when obtaining the [Magia Erebea], Vahn couldn’t accept that others were put into a similar situation as himself. These people were being used for their mana, just as he had been used for his blood, all without their consent…they were living a nightmare without even the reprieve of death being an option…

Before he even realized it, Vahn found himself in the room with these tragic people, tearing apart the mannequin-like monsters that possessed several mechanical blades and traps within their structure. None of these bought them any time, however, as Vahn mowed through them in an instant and was about to tear apart the monstrous flowering plant that had assimilated all of these people for its own use. Enyo’s voice entered his mind at this moment, warning, (“If you kill my baby, all of these people will die. What will you do-“). Completely ignoring Enyo’s words, Vahn tore apart the bulbous ovipositor of the giant plant, destroyed the small embryo-like eggs within, and destroyed the gigantic core that was located near the center without a second thought. Even if everyone outside died, Vahn knew they would likely be ‘glad’ for the relief, as some amongst them were even Elves with greying hair…

As the massive plant turned into dust, the people and Xenos it had assimilated fell limply to the ground, painful moans and croaking voices sounding out wordlessly. Though they would undoubtedly die if left alone, Vahn could tell from this that Enyo’s words had once again been a lie. Now, he had to choose if he wanted to save these 83 unfortunate souls and return them to the surface world. He could erase their memories and give them hope for a better life moving forward or take mercy on them now, putting them out of their misery and returning them to the cycle of reincarnation. They were likely considered dead back on the surface and he had already seen from how Rufina lived that it wasn’t exactly easy to adapt to life without any memories, barring heavy support from others…

Without thinking about it too much, Vahn decided it was only right to give them the option themselves, instead of choosing for them. Some of these people could have been trapped down here for hundreds of years, living the life that someone else had decided for them. He could return to them the freedom of choice and, though some would undoubtedly choose death, that was their decision to make, not his. There was also a chance that these people had living friends and family that would sincerely appreciate the safe return of their loved ones, even though the road to recovery would be very long…

After releasing a deeply exasperated sigh, Vahn set about stabilizing these unfortunate souls, even though it was certainly unpleasant to experience having his own arms and legs ripped away several times in sequence. As for the people themselves, Vahn had put them into a very deep sleep with his [Hands of Nirvana] and temporarily blocked their pain receptors before the procedure had started. He had to go through a process of cutting apart their atrophied muscles and opening up their wounds before he was able to perform a [Wound Transfer] to replace their missing limbs. Even so, Vahn tolerated the pain, ignoring Sis’ advice that he could dull his own pain receptors so that the burden was lessened…

During the very long process of stabilizing these people, there were several auras skulking about in the surroundings while a veritable army of the mannequin monsters tried to interfere with his efforts. Vahn didn’t even turn his attention away from his work, instead, using one of his other trump cards by making use of his telekinesis to lift and spin things until they were broken apart by the centrifugal forces. There were very few things that had any resistance to telekinetic powers in this world, so long as their physical abilities weren’t outright about to overcome the forces applied to their bodies. With Vahn’s understanding of a target’s body, however, the chances of them breaking free once he had caught them were incredibly low. All he had to do was make anchor points near someone’s ears, the joints of their fingers, their eyes, or even individual teeth and any movement they made would be excruciatingly painful…(A/N: Jeez, imagine a psychic lifting your body up by your eyes…)

After more than five hours of operations, Vahn wiped non-existent sweat from his brow before releasing a profound sigh and rising to his feet. His now greater understanding of the situation had caused any emotions he had been feeling to fade away by now. In the record of Danmachi, it was a simple truth that females had higher mana reserves than males. Of the 83 people he had ‘rescued’, a total of 74 were female and, amongst them, eleven had been pregnant. Vahn realized Enyo hadn’t simply been collecting Adventurers for her purposes, but ‘breeding’ them for efficiency. Of those that had been collected, the majority were Elves while there were even two Demigoddesses and, at the very heart of everything, a High Spirit.

Enyo had been using what Vahn identified as a Tree Nymph as a breeding bed and, even though she wasn’t able to bear children herself, Enyo had found a way to artificially produce pseudo-spirit offspring. She had somehow been extracting the egg cells from Elves, fertilizing them, and then nourishing them with nutrients and energy from the High Spirit that Enyo had imprisoned. This didn’t exactly make them the offspring of Spirits, but Enyo had been warping the minds of the strange embryonic Spirits to make them parasitize monsters, producing the plant-like creatures that had been assaulting the Alliance’s forces…

With these new revelations, the ire Vahn now possessed towards Enyo had reached an extreme and even he wasn’t sure what he would do when they finally came face to face. For now, he was just taking a short break to recuperate his energy while watching over the sleeping figures of these tragic individuals. Though they had been kept alive by the nutrients pumping into their stomachs, the inability to move had made each of their bodies emaciated and lanky. Vahn had helped to stabilize them but it would be a very long road before they were able to recover completely. They would need months of physical rehabilitation while no amount of therapy would ever truly remove the trauma they had experienced in this dark and stagnant place…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘I’ll be taking that…//[Steal] Development Ability Unlocked//’,’Well, at least it survived more than one hit…?’,’Empathy, Sadness, Rage, Nothingness…’)

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