Chapter 905: Structure : Discipline

In preparation for Rakia’s ‘invasion’, the Haven Defense Force had been training in earnest, even though only a few of their members had been selected to repel the 100,000 troops slowly making their way through the Southern Sands. It was important to select appropriate candidates, as this was an event that would serve as the basis for future expansion and Vahn’s rise to the status of Emperor. The members that represented the HDF to repel Rakia’s invasion couldn’t be well-known individuals and, as much as possible, they should be readily identifiable as ‘weak’ from the perspective of observers. Vahn was trying to create a scenario where even normal citizens, after witnessing what the Haven Defense Force was capable of, would be inspired to work harder to reach their own potential.

Currently, the School was already serving as a means to elevate the ‘standard’ that others would aspire towards but it would still take several years for things to reach that point. It wouldn’t be until the next generation that things truly took off so, for the time being, Vahn needed an impetus for change in the interim. The Haven Defense Force served that role well but, until now, they hadn’t really accumulated any achievements in the eyes of society. By using a punitive force of only one hundred individuals to repel more than one-hundred-thousand, all while ‘appearing’ relatively weak, the perception of people would begin to change. This would also make the transition of power to those graduating from the School and Academy easier in the future, so it was important to select each member of the punitive force properly…

The simplest ‘solution’ was to use Pallums, as society still hadn’t quite ‘accepted’ the fact that Pallum weren’t the weakest race. There were many who still looked down on Pallums, causing some to remain in the Pallum Paradise at all times. So long as they were within their community, where even the buildings were designed to make their lives easier, most Pallum were content. This was because they also believed themselves to be weak and wanted to avoid confrontation entirely, even though there were several powerful Pallum within the City that ran counter to this misconception.

Unfortunately, unless Vahn had a hand in promoting their strength directly, it wasn’t incorrect to say that Pallum were weaker, even if their potential in certain categories was higher. Though there were certainly some exceptions, most Pallum lacked the physique to become powerful over a short period of time, as the growth of their Strength, Endurance, and even Agility were below average. Inversely, their Dexterity and Magic increased rapidly, while their racial traits made them exceptionally suited to becoming scouts, thieves, archers, and assassins. At the same time, so long as they had magic items and equipment, Pallum were capable of becoming impromptu mages that could wreak havoc for short periods of time…

This was another problem, however, as their accomplishment would be credited to the existence of the magic items, not their own capabilities. Though the same argument could be said for their equipment, it wasn’t difficult to spin things in a positive direction since it was significantly less flashy than using magic. As a result, thirty Pallum that had been training specifically under Ryuu, focused on developing their speed and archery, had been selected for the punitive force. There would be a force of ten Pallum supporting them, specializing in the use of Magic Staves that allowed them to cast barrier and support magic. They simply didn’t have enough time to learn ‘real’ magic, so the HDF was restricted to using Magic Items and equipment purchased by Vahn through the system shop.

Since having Pallum make up the entire force could cause other issues, as the misconception that Vahn was preferential to their kind could be reinforced, the remaining sixty members were selected from a variety of other races. Amongst this group, there were eight Cat People that had been given passing marks by Arnya, each wielding spears that allowed them to exploit the natural nimbleness, balance, and flexibility of their race. There was also a mixed assortment of Beast Tribe members who wielded swords and shields, having learned from the increasingly confident Tina, who would be acting as the vanguard. As for the rest of the punitive force, they were made up of a group in the HDF classified as ‘Technicians’, a new classification that specialized in setting up and disarming traps.

There were a variety of classifications within the HDF, including numerous designations that only existed within their organizational structure. This was a result of the unique training methods used to allow the members of the HDF to increase their strength over a short period of time. At the same time, because of their standardized equipment and the availability of magic items and resources, there were some classifications that specialized specifically in their use…

Amongst these classifications, Technicians, generally comprised of Chienthropes and Elves, were experts at tracking, detection, arming magic devices, and disarming traps. Those that had earned the classification had been equipped with spatial artifacts that were filled with a variety of consumables like [Burst Oil], [Flash Grenades], [Smoke Grenades], [Thunderburst Oil], [Blinding Powder], and other useful items. Their job was to cause chaos while controlling the enemies’ movements, supporting the other members of the punitive force in the process…

Presently, with less than two weeks until the invasion force arrived, the punitive force was conducting combat drills together while Vahn overwatched their movement from above. With the benefit of elevation, Vahn was able to easily keep track of their movements and provide support during an emergency. This was very necessary as most members were only around Level 2, with only a few amongst them having reached Level 3 in the few short months since the HDF had been created. Even with the benefit of their equipment, it wasn’t impossible for enemies to get the better of them, especially on the 49th Floor where Fomoire, the goat-like monsters known for massing in huge waves, were located.

Because they would be fighting against a force more than a thousand times their size, fighting against Fomoire was the best possible training for the punitive force. On average, even a weaker Fomoire was the equivalent of a Level 3 Adventurer. They also spawned in groups numbering in the thousands meaning, so long as they were able to fight against an ‘army’ of Fomoire, it should be easy to defeat Rakia’s forces. After all, even a General in the Rakia Kingdom was around mid-to-peak Level 3 in strength, while the vast majority of their army was between upper-Level 1 and lower-Level 2. With the difference in equipment, coordination, and general combat proficiency, it wouldn’t be that difficult for the Fomoire-tested punitive force to clinch a decisive victory.

Vahn watched as the vanguard, maintaining a loose concave formation, stood their ground against the tide of Fomoire, deflecting attacks with their shields and accurately piercing vital points. The style of swordsmanship that Tina had inherited from her mother was focused on precision and reactionary strikes, making use of a minimal amount of movement for the maximum amount of efficacy. Since these HDF members had been trained by Tina, who had used rather ‘hellish’ training methods that involved having them dodge omnidirectional attacks, they were cutting down the Fomoire like wheat.

Though they might have been overrun by the vast disparity in numbers, the other members of the punitive force were doing their jobs well, preventing the vanguard from being pressured too greatly. Most large groups of Fomoire would be scattered by [Burst Oil] thrown by the Technicians while the few Variant Fomoire that spawned were quickly barraged by the crossbow-wielding Pallum archers. When things got tense, the faux-Mage corps would step in, using their Magic Staves and Wands to either provide a reprieve to the vanguard or push back the wave of Fomoire with offensive magic. The rest of the punitive force, including Arnya’s eight spear-wielding Cat People, served as a flanking force or coordinated with the Vanguard when the Pallum faux-Mages were replenishing their mana.

During the battle, Vahn would sometimes have to use [Wounds Transfer] when someone made a mistake or was caught by a stray attack they were unable to deal with. If the punitive force got pushed back, he would step in and help to clear the wave while they retreated, as it was also an important maneuver to master. As for how they knew when to move, it was because Haruhime had been acting as the Commander of the punitive force. By now, she had several years of leadership experience, making managing a small group of one hundred people relatively easy. She also had the [Command Howl] skill, making her voice carry easily if the communication devices used by the HDF members were compromised.

As had been the case in almost every other instance, the punitive force was eventually pushed back by the Fomoire wave, though not before taking down tens of thousands of the crazed monsters. Though this could be considered a ‘failure’ in some instances, the fact they were capable of fighting against so many enemies after around four months of training would have made them famous back when Vahn first entered the record. By the time Rakia’s forces arrived, it was possible that most members of the punitive force would be Level 3, meaning the majority would have gone from Level 1 to Level 3 in around four months. This was an exceptional speed, wrought by their unwavering persistence and an environment that was constantly polishing their skills in live combat.

While the punitive force was retreating, Vahn was firing upwards of forty arrows per second, all while appearing extremely casual as Fomoire burst into purple dust. So long as he made any effort at all to aim, his arrows would always strike the intended target. This was because, from Vahn’s perspective, he could see the path the monsters themselves were taking, all while their movements appeared painstakingly slow. Even when he first entered the Dungeon several years prior, Vahn had been able to ‘read’ the movements of enemies, almost as if he was seeing into the future. This ability, at least when he was using the bow, had only increased with the passage of time. Now, if Vahn increased his focus and perception to their limits, it was almost as if the world had slowed to a crawl while even the subtle movements of individuals muscles and hairs were not overlooked within his eyes…

In less than three minutes, Vahn had killed a total of 6,492 Fomoire, looting their magic cores and drop items before converting them into more than five-million Origin Points. It would take a while for the next wave to spawn but this was an excellent means of increasing his reserves which, at this point, had reached a ‘monstrous’ 491,334,005 points. Having thousands of people accumulating magic cores and drop items to exchange for ‘contribution points’ had greatly increased his gain of OP. Since he could also hunt Berserker, Berserker Chieftain, Cobalt Terror, and various elemental Slimes, each of which was worth between 3-10k OP, it had been a long time since Vahn felt pressured by his available OP. He was still a long way away from the 10,000,000,000 required for his Quest, Vahn knew he would be able to make the required amount in under two years if he stopped spending his OP, assuming no other factors changed.

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Once the area was completely bereft of any sign of Fomoire, Vahn used [Shundo] to reach the location of the punitive force which was currently conducting inventory on remaining supplies while performing routine maintenance on their equipment. There wasn’t a single person slacking off and, after Vahn arrived, all one hundred members rose to their feet in salute, shouting, “We greet the Supreme Commander~!” in a sonorous chorus. Since more than half their members were females, the shout was relatively high-pitched while even the men in the punitive force had fervent looks when saluting Vahn. Amongst them, the lowest Allegiance was 7,411 while some, especially amongst the Pallum and Elves, was well over thirty thousand. Vahn knew that, if he ordered it, each of these one hundred people would follow his order without question, even if it led to their inevitable death…

Raising his hand to put them at ease, Vahn allowed a small smile to reach his lips as he said, “You’ve all been working hard. In the coming fight, all of Orario will stand witness to your growth while those within the Haven Defense Force will look toward you for inspiration in their own paths. I have full confidence in each and every one of you, my brave and loyal comrades…together, we will pave the way towards a better future for everyone…!” At this point, Vahn’s [Leadership] had reached A-Rank while his words, influenced by their Loyalty and Allegiance towards him, resonated deep within the hearts and minds of the punitive force gathered to fight against seemingly insurmountable odds. Amongst them, there wasn’t a single person who was afraid that fighting against odds greater than a thousand-to-one put them at a disadvantage…

As if they had rehearsed it beforehand, the entire punitive force raised their weapons, shouting, “Together, towards a better future for everyone…!” Following this outburst, everyone cheered loudly, riling each other up as the fatigue that had been present previously had been an illusion. Even under these circumstances, however, it only took Haruhime making a hand gesture to get everyone to fall silent before she said, “Everyone, make preparations for the next engagement. We have less than an hour to prepare for the next wave. Squad Leaders, make sure you perform secondary and tertiary checks on the important equipment. If your members are running low, coordinate with the other Squad Leaders to make sure there is an even distribution within each squad.”

This time, the punitive force saluted Haruhime before immediately setting about to perform their tasks, no longer paying attention to Vahn. From the very beginning, the largest focus in the training of the HDF had been ‘discipline’. Though individual thinking was encouraged, those that held higher ranks generally got there through their efforts and qualifications. Unless you had significant reason to believe your idea was better suited to the situation, countermanding orders was a serious offense that could cause you to lose your position within the HDF entirely. As a result, every member of the punitive force immediately followed Haruhime’s orders without question or complaint. Though Vahn could easily override her orders with his own, he generally communicated with Haruhime through the [Pactio], allowing her to constantly retain command to prevent confusion.

While the punitive force was busy making their preparations, Vahn and Haruhime moved into the Command Tent without anyone even sparing them a glance, at least until the two had disappeared behind the tent’s flap. Once this happened, some of the members of the punitive force exchanged ‘knowing’ looks and amicable smiles before the Squad Leaders lightly reprimanded them. Even they had smiles on their face, however, causing a few chuckles and silent laughs to echo around the temporary encampment. All the while this was going on, Haruhime was happily cuddling with Vahn as the two shared a laugh of their own, fully aware of the happenings outside since the tent only blocked sounds from escaping, not entering…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘For a moment, Vahn essentially considered making a full loli/shota army xD…’,’Machine Gun, Vahn Mason’,’Discipline takes time (^_^)~!’)

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