Chapter 883: Against The Darkness…

As he lay upon the ground, visions and voices assaulting his mind, Vahn was actually very calm, at least the version of himself back within the Sub-Space orb. Though he had been in deep meditation previously, Vahn now found that his mind had become crystal clear as he experienced what was happening to his other self. It seemed that Enyo’s ability, or whatever was happening to him, was something that was proximity based. Now, Vahn could watch what was happening as it played out six times slower than reality, analyzing every minor detail to get a better understanding of the situation…

For Enyo to have overpowered his [Will of the Emperor], at least for a moment, she would have to have an Innate that was at the very peak of the record. This, combined with the difference in their Soul Tier, had given her a momentary advantage. However, even as her influence tried to taint his mind, nothing Enyo did had any effect on his ego whatsoever. Vahn was now trying to ‘separate’ his thoughts from his mind, something he knew was possible since his body wasn’t ‘real’ from the very beginning. He could even collect himself and regenerate from minute particles of mana, maintaining a sense of self through his domain instead of relying on his brain. If he could simply ‘sever’ the connection and reliance of his mental faculties from that of his ego, Vahn knew he could possibly gain a basic immunity to Enyo’s influence.

It was fortunate that whatever was going on with his avatar, the entity looking down on him seemed to be enjoying his suffering with sadistic glee. The creature, who very well could be Enyo herself, kept poking and prodding at his defenseless body, almost as if she were trying to understand his make and composition. Small tendrils of oily black corruption would pierce into his skin, only to be ‘rejected’ by his blood after a very momentary contact. This seemed to intrigue ‘Enyo’ and, at least for the time being, she hadn’t done anything too drastic like trying to destroy his body. Based on how she had behaved thus far, Vahn assumed she was likely trying to seize control and even brainwash him for her own purposes…

Seeing her actions, Vahn was reminded of the Scientists and Doctors of his previous life, doing whatever they wanted without consideration for what their ‘subject’ was going through. If she only knew the wrath he was going to bring down upon her, Enyo would have likely destroyed his body in an instant. She was looking down on him a great deal and, though Vahn knew he had also erred quite a bit in this engagement, he was gaining more information by the second. The only thing he needed to do now was ‘cut’ the connection between his mind and his ego and, hopefully, it wouldn’t cause his body to break down and dissipate…

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In order to execute his plan, Vahn tried to shift his body from being a normal Progenitor into a full Doppelganger, thus making his ‘brain’ no longer necessary for interpreting external stimuli. This ended up making him feel very disoriented but, after a few seconds had passed, Vahn’s mind sank back into a deep meditative state while, deep within the Dungeon, the ‘visions’ Enyo had been forcing into his mind faded away in an instant. Vahn chose this moment to compress his domain down to only 20m, instead of the 1.7km radius it had been previously. His mistake had been stretching his domain outward and creating a gap within his own mind by having part of his focus split on the surroundings. Now, not even a whisper of Enyo’s could be heard as Vahn bounded to his feet and used the [Sacred Duplex Nail] to shatter the eerie white mask.

Though he had stabbed it in the forehead, causing a small fracture, the previously sculpted mouth now cracked open, revealing two large rows of molar-like teeth. As if it wasn’t affected by the golden nail at all, the oily-black entity lurched forward like a snake that was trying to devour its prey whole, a grating laugh echoing through the entire chamber. Vahn opened some distance with [Shundo], dodging the attack while transitioning into his Zhuque form and creating a column of fire to counterattack. He couldn’t sense whatever the black entity was but, based on appearances, Vahn felt it was akin to pure Darkness, Corruption, or an outright representation of Evil. Yang fire should be the natural counter to such entities, especially with his Source Energy fueling the attack, so Vahn intended to burn the creature with purifying flames…

The creature laughed, it’s voice sounding like several overlapping tones all echoing simultaneously as it agilely evaded the column of fire. A loud thunderclap then sounded out, but not before Vahn had already dodged the attack heading towards him, carrying a velocity several times the speed of sound. His attack, however, hadn’t stopped in its path and, even though the ‘snake’ had evaded, Vahn watched as the vermillion flames impacted the massive black dome before seemingly being absorbed. This caused the ‘snake’ to pull itself out of the rubble, laughing evilly as it said, “Your flames are quite hot, Vahn Mason…ahh, I can feel my body burning up, kukukuku~.”

There was a sadistic undertone to the voice but Vahn completely ignored it as he observed the area where his attack had landed. Though it seemed to have absorbed his flames, Vahn saw small bubbles emerging from the mirror-like surface while, at the base of the dome, there was a small puddle of inert black liquid. ‘Enyo’ might be trying to play it cool but it was obvious his attack had done ‘something’ to her, as a mere Tier 4 entity wouldn’t be able to resist an attack powered by his Source Energy. It might not have done much, but this was all Vahn needed to see to understand his endeavor wasn’t futile…

As if ‘she’ had understood what Vahn was thinking, the white-masked snake actually separated from the larger dome and began morphing very quickly until it had the figure of a 5m tall humanoid, the same white mask now adorning its head. It had four arms and, before Vahn could get a better look at it, the masked figure launched itself forward with seemingly impossible speed. Vahn’s eyes had widened slightly as he instinctually moved to defend himself while dodging backward with [Shundo]. Though this bought him a very short window of opportunity, Vahn hadn’t been able to exploit it before one of the massive fists ‘stretched’ forward, growing larger as it traveled, trying to slam into him.

Without any time for thought whatsoever, Vahn instinctually manifested his [Aegis] to block the attack, causing a massive shockwave that made the surrounding crystalline structure fracture. Large shards started to fall, though Vahn wasn’t truly able to see this as the world had currently lost most of its light. Time itself had slowed to a crawl and, even after several ‘seconds’ had passed, nothing around him had moved. Vahn experienced profound clarity as he felt the black substance making up the golem slowly breaking through his [Aegis], slowly but surely trying to destroy his indestructible shield. Through his domain, Vahn could also sense more entities forming from the larger black dome and he knew things were going to get very difficult, very quickly…

At the moment time seemed to have returned to normal, Vahn had already stored his [Aegis] back into his Inventory as a second fist slammed forward, finding nothing by empty air before it smashed into the wall, causing a large portion of the room to explode outward. ‘Enyo’ looked around the area, the white mask completely expressionless as she tried to make sense of what had just happened. By the time the large shield had vanished, Vahn’s presence had disappeared completely. Now, even with eight extra bodies, each taking on the appearance of large and misshapen monsters, he was nowhere in sight…

Seeing that ‘Enyo’ hadn’t been able to tell what had happened, Vahn released an echoing sigh of relief as he stroked the black scales of Fafnir and said, “You saved me this time, Fafnir. Now, let’s teach this repugnant goddess a lesson…” Since he had been in his Shadow Emperor form from the start, Vahn was easily able to traverse safely through Fafnir’s shadow dimension, even if it was almost impossible to get his bearings. Fafnir, however, had no such issues and just laughed happily as it said, (“I’m glad I could help out, Master~!”) with an excited tone. It then moved through the shadow dimension, avoiding the ‘black sphere’ that represented the dome in the real world, before allowing Vahn to exit through the shadow of a pillar.

‘Enyo’ immediately sensed Vahn’s emergence but, instead of attacking with one of her nine forms, said, “That is a very interesting ability you have…moving through shadows~?” Then, as if to prevent him from using the ability a second time, the black dome began to flatten slightly as the bottom section spread out like water, slowly encroaching upon the surrounding surfaces. Seeing this, Vahn’s expression hardened as he once against transitioned into his Zhuque form and charged towards the dome itself. One of the ‘creatures’ moved to intercept him, possessing a white wolf mask and a form similar to a Loup Garou’s, albeit much larger.

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This time, Vahn taxed his reserves a great deal, putting nearly half of his remaining Source Energy into an attack that caused his surroundings to immediately fill with vermillion flames. Though wisps of shadows also suffused through the small ‘star’ that had formed, his attack was predominately pure Yang fire, the bane of all things evil. Vahn even felt his own body begin itching madly as if his Zhuque form was trying to expel the [Lanceae Umbrae] powering his [Magia Erebea]. At the same time, the black mass with the wolf mask ‘dissolved’ away in an instant as the mask itself turned into ash. Something similar was happening to the larger dome as well, appearing to slowly evaporate, black mist rising from its boiling surface…

Compared to ‘Enyo’, the large crystalline room had taken the brunt of Vahn’s attack, the blue crystal now suffused with a vermillion glow as every surface seemed to melt under the intense heat. The other eight constructs had to shield themselves with the black dome while five of them directly returned to it, causing the rate of destruction to slow greatly. Even so, the heat didn’t fade away for several minutes as, back within the Sub-Space orb, Vahn downed a vial of his own blood to replenish his reserves. It had a strangely sweet taste but also carried the heavy metallic taste of iron as Vahn unhesitantly drank large gulps. Though his stomach felt a bit squeamish, and the conversion wasn’t as fast as he’d like, Vahn was still able to bolster his regeneration for a short period of time…

By the time his attack had ended, Vahn was no longer in his Shadow Emperor form, as it had been dispelled by the purifying energy of his pure Yang elemental flames. However, compared to his past transformations, Vahn’s arms were now covered in vermillion feathers all the way to his elbows. Usually, there would just be a few feathers that emerged from the ‘cracks’ that would appear in his body, a stark contrast to the natural appearance he currently had. Even his hair had more than doubled in length, extending past his shoulders, as wisps of vermillion flames caused it to dance around without the wind’s assistance. His eyes had also changed a great deal, burning like pure flames while his pupils were now suffused with blue light, the illusion of a majestic Emperor pointing his sword towards the Heavens contained within…

While resisting the urge to laugh, Vahn followed his instincts and inhaled deeply as a smile spread across his face. Then, with a surge of vermillion flames, two wings burst from his back, the same vermillion color as the rest of his feathers. From Vahn’s perspective, however, there was an obvious rainbow hue and, though Enyo couldn’t see it, the amount of confidence this subtle glow gave him was immense. He clenched his fists, causing two heavy shrouds of vermillion flames to form around them as his wings flicked once, instantly increasing his velocity to hypersonic speeds…

The remaining masked constructs tried to attack, each striking forth with incredible momentum that could shatter Dungeon walls with ease. Vahn simply ignored these attacks, allowing them to near his body without even making an effort to dodge them. Unable to get close to his body, the black liquid split apart and disintegrated in an instant as Vahn spun around in the air, using his wings as if they were blades. His feathers had already started to disintegrate the enemies before his attack had reached but, as fast as he was moving, Vahn still got to experience cutting through two of the malicious constructs. At the same time, Vahn sent two fist-shaped projectiles of vermillion flames towards the final enemy, the one possessing a woman’s face, which was now horribly misshapen with an expression of unadulterated rage…

In an incredibly short period of time, Vahn had found himself within a furnace-like room with nothing but the black dome to keep him company. He was no longer relying on his eyes to stare into it, having learned his lesson, and instead made use of his domain to sense his surroundings. So long as he didn’t know the trigger for Enyo’s mental control, Vahn couldn’t take any risks as he began sending a constant wave of pure Yang flames to bathe the black dome. It began to sizzle and burn away but, no matter how much he seemed to destroy, Vahn noticed that its overall volume wasn’t decreasing.

So as to conserve his energy, Vahn created a bit of distance with the dome and began coalescing flames to produce vermillion spears. For the moment, Enyo didn’t seem to be attacking, causing Vahn’s instincts to trigger as a slight hesitation entered his mind. Even so, he sent the wave of spears into the dome, concentrating Source Energy in their tips. Similar to his previous attacks, the spears impacted silently against the dome before vanishing entirely upon contact. Other than a pool of watery black liquid, there were no other signs that his attack had even done anything. One thing for sure, however, was that Vahn’s instincts were sounding the alarm, his skin practically crawling from the resultant discomfort…

Now, instead of attacking, Vahn began to focus on replenishing his reserves while trying to understand the situation. Shortly after he began to inspect the surroundings, however, a needle-thin tendril shot out of the dome, soundless and impossible to detect. Vahn felt a twinge of pain in his chest before thousands of hair-thin strands of the black liquid ‘exploded’ inside of his body. Fortunately, as painful as it was, Vahn’s body repelled the liquid a moment later while his wounds recovered at the very next instant. He felt Enyo try to establish a link with him but, failing to probe into his mind, the side of the dome instead opened up like a massive maw…

From within the darkness, Vahn saw a pitch black void before several white masks emerged, numbering in the hundreds. Their mouths cracked apart, revealing vicious rows of teeth as they began to laugh eerily in concert with each other. At the very center, a feminine mask once again appeared, showing a smiling expression as viscous black liquid poured down from its blank eyes in a steady stream of tears. Then, as Vahn was trying to make sense of what was happening, the hundreds of masks all simultaneously chimed, “Come play with us, Vahn Mason~!”

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Observation…’,’Zhuque Form Descends’,’Come play with us~!’)

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