Chapter 960: Probe

Deep within the Dungeon, far further than anyone before him had ever tread, Vahn was currently pinned to a wall with a massive black spear in his chest. There was blood pouring out from his mouth as intense pain radiated throughout his body. Even so, his expression remained focused as a powerful aura radiated from his body, all while the ‘thing’ that had thrown the spear observed him with its head tilted to the side. It was a strange monster that looked like a slime that had been comprised of the fabric of space. There were swirls of magical energy and small star-like lights making up the inside of its vaguely humanoid figure that stood more than eight meters tall. At the center of what could be called it’s head, there was a swirling vortex of light that looked like a small galaxy that lobbed to the side as it asked, “Who are you…?”

Vahn was trying to remove the spear that was made out of the same material as the humanoid slime’s body but it kept clinging to him as it slowly tried to devour his inside. It was, fortunately, making very slow progress since his own body was rejecting the foreign matter while the Source Energy contained within was simply beyond the scope of what the slime could have absorbed. This was the main reason behind why the monster was confused and curious, as it had expected Vahn to die after its first attack. The fact he had persisted was something it couldn’t rationalize, causing it to wonder what kind of strange creature the small figure before him was.

Hearing the monster speak, Vahn knew it was either a Xenos or something far more unique so, while still trying to wrest the spear from his body, he answered, “I am Vahn Mason…do you mind removing this spear so we can have a proper talk? I won’t attack you if you show no animosity towards me but, if you keep trying to devour my body, I will have to destroy you…” As he spoke, Vahn’s aura became even denser, causing the humanoid slime to tremble like gelatine before it’s arm morphed into another long spear as it said, “I am Umbra, Guardian of the 70th Floor. For trespassing my territory, you must pay with your life…”

With a wry smile on his face, Vahn muttered, “This is only the 69th Floor…” as a second spear, this time aimed for his head, tore through the air with a vicious momentum. Vahn shook his head slowly, even though seemingly no time had passed, as his body transformed into his Qinglong form. He had probed into the 69th Floor after performing his daily check on Enyo’s seal. Since the girls had been steadily venturing deeper into the Dungeon, Vahn had been entering ahead of them to get a general feel of the area so they wouldn’t be caught off guard. It was fortunate he had been the first to enter the 69th Floor as this strange monster was nearly impossible to detect, even with his senses. It had the exact same energy signature as the Dungeon itself and, though it seemed intelligent, it lacked the aura that would have given away most truly sentient life.

Now in his Qinglong transformation, Vahn’s grip on the black spear tightened, causing stark blue tendrils to snake across its surface. Though they looked like lightning, this energy was actually comprised of Space Elemental energy and couldn’t be resisted through normal means. The spear was torn apart in an instant while the second spear collided with a barrier that had emerged in front of Vahn’s head. He could tank the spear if he wanted but suffering injuries to the head were always annoying since it would cause him to feel disoriented. As a result, the spear impacted against the barrier before the space around it collapsed, causing a spiral to emerge behind the strange monster as its own spear pierced into its body.

Though Vahn tried to respect sentience, it didn’t mean he would completely ignore those that were trying to proactively kill him. Just as he would deal with a human that harbored ill will towards him, Vahn turned his cold azure blue eyes on the strange monster as a small light of contempt flashed across his slit-like pupils. As if emulating the monster, Vahn formed a spear of his own but, instead of the space-like ooze that comprised his enemy, it was a vibrant blue that looked like azure lightning. It was extremely taxing on his reserves but Vahn ignored it as he spent the spear towards the concealed core near the base of its body. Whenever it came to Slime-Type monsters, the only practical way to deal with them was by destroying their cores so Vahn wasn’t going to beat around the bush and waste his time breaking its malleable body.

Having been distracted by its own spear, which dealt practically no damage to its body, the monster was unable to react to the impossibly fast spear of Space Elemental energy. It seemed to move faster than even time itself as an imperceptible amount of time had passed before the core it made sure to keep safe was already destroyed. The monster didn’t even have time to issue any death howls as its body exploded into a veritable tidal way of purple and black dust particles. After the dust dissipated into nothingness, the only thing that remained was a large black gemstone that had starlight shining on its inside while tens of thousands of monster core fragments, each decently high quality, littered the surroundings.

Vahn looked the unidentified gemstone before selling the monster cores for a startling 3,900,017 OP within his system. He currently had 2,493,551,892 OP making up his reserves, meaning he was already nearly a quarter of the required amount for purchasing a dimensional anchor. With the HDF and Alliance filtering magic cores and rare items into him, Vahn was passively gaining well over a million OP every day so the number had been steadily increasing. If he continued to encounter powerful monsters, which was guaranteed the deeper he went, the amount he could gain with each passing day would continue to increase.

Removing his transformation, Vahn released a heavy sigh while stretching his tired muscles and popping his joints. Using the Qinglong transformation without his other body supplementing his reserves was extremely taxing and he could only keep it up for a few minutes before the pain grew too intense for his body and mind to tolerate. Fortunately, few enemies could last against his Qinglong transformation and, even though the strange creature seemed to be around Level 7 in strength, it died like all the rest. Now, Vahn had to decide if he wanted to probe into the 70th Floor, which the creature seemed to be protecting, or if he wanted to return to the surface and call it a day…

After thinking for a few minutes, Vahn shook his head before continuing deeper into the Dungeon. It was still early in the day and he had already cleared up his schedule so he would have time to go as far as possible before returning. Though he had grown accustomed to spending quality time with his family, Vahn knew it was ‘necessary’ for him to conquer the Dungeon and he couldn’t put it off indefinitely. Since he was an immortal, he had the responsibility of scouting ahead of those that would follow so that they wouldn’t become the victims of monsters and traps that they weren’t prepared to deal with. Information, individual combat capabilities, and proper preparation were the keys to venturing beyond the 60th Floor and Vahn intended to reduce the chance of a tragedy occurring.

Because the ‘Guardian’ had been near the entrance to the 70th Floor, it didn’t take long for Vahn to find the massive crystalline staircase that spiraled downward well over a kilometer. Unlike the Floors before the 60th, the staircases in the ‘Frontier Floors’ weren’t safe zones where you could easily rest. There were a variety of different traps you would have to deal with, such as stone steps giving way, spikes protruding from the walls, and even poisonous fogs that would linger about like mist. Vahn had been keeping a proper account of everything he encountered along the way and intended to sell the information to prospective Adventurers that wanted to probe into the depths of the Dungeon in the future.

During his descent to the 70th Floor, Vahn had to evade several relatively easy to evade traps before one particularly dangerous one finally caught him unprepared. He hadn’t dropped his guard but, after evading a series of crystalline arrows that rained down on his position, Vahn felt his body pass through an invisible membrane that caused his skin to tingle. A moment later, a massive magical explosion consumed his body as it spread outward for more than 100m in an instant, collapsing the staircase in the process. Vahn couldn’t help but retort that the trap was a bit ‘extreme’ as he extricated his undamaged body from the resultant rubble. Even his equipment was undamaged since the vast majority was S-Rank at this point, courtesy of Hephaestus, Tsubaki, Nanu, and his own memory fragment.

Eventually, Vahn finally reached the 70th Floor, noticing that the crystalline structure was replaced with nigh-absolute darkness. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all pitch black and filled with small porous holes that seemed to be able to absorb light. Vahn created a fireball to try and light the way but, other than the light emitting in his immediate surrounding, it didn’t cast its influence upon the structure of the Dungeon at all. Even his night vision capabilities and [Eyes of Truth] didn’t allow him to see too far, forcing Vahn to have to rely on the information he was receiving through his domain to know which way to go.

Experiencing this ‘absolute darkness’, Vahn couldn’t help but feel more than a little unperturbed as he hesitated to venture forth. This was an environmental hazard that most parties would never be able to deal with since you would need incredible magic perception or a powerful Innate just to cope with the darkness. Vahn couldn’t help wondering if this was why the party led by Bell hadn’t been able to probe that much deeper into the Dungeon as traversing several hundred kilometers of pure darkness would be extremely taxing on the mind. He didn’t sense any monsters just yet but, if there were enemies lurking within, Vahn felt like just the psychological effects of fighting unseen enemies would wear down even the most hardened veterans. At the same time, however, Vahn couldn’t help wondering if the Dungeon was trying to hide something on the 70th Floor since this type of layout didn’t seem to make much sense otherwise…

Overcoming his momentary hesitation, Vahn focused his mind before infusing [Enkidu] into his domain. Since the ‘light’ from [Enkidu] wasn’t part of the electromagnetic spectrum and was closer to a Divine Phenomenon, Vahn could use it to illuminate the way with relative ease. This would also allow him to deal with any particularly tricky enemies as he cataloged the inhabitants and structure of the 70th Floor. At least, that was what Vahn intended when he first allowed [Enkidu]’s golden light to spread nearly 4km outward from his position. He quickly realized things wouldn’t be quite that simple as, shortly after leaving the connecting tunnel between the 70th and 69th Floor staircase, Vahn found that the Floor itself was one expansive space. There was nothing at all within the influence of his domain as even the Floor below was almost perfectly flat…

Vahn wasn’t quite sure what to make of the situation until Sis decided to chime in, explaining, (*There are several powerful illusory wards built into the structure of the Dungeon that would cause people to wander aimlessly until their supplies ran out. If there were walls and landmarks to keep their orientation, it would theoretically be possible for people with high perception and patience to navigate the interior. I believe your intuition about there being something hidden on the 70th Floor is accurate, though I can’t say for certain until we reach the 71st…*)

With Sis’s explanation, Vahn quickly understood why walls were simply unnecessary for the structure of this particular Floor. Now, he just needed to determine if there were any real enemies while trying to come up with methods to ensure safe passage through this incredibly unnerving terrain. Few had the means to pass through such an area on their own so Vahn wanted to test a few methods that could be used to help them navigate. The most obvious method would be to leave a trail of glowstones, using them like breadcrumbs to help keep his orientation. When Vahn tried this, however, he noticed that several other glowstones seemingly appeared out of nowhere. There seemed to be invisible barriers that would reflect and emulate other areas of the Floor to ensure that people using such methods would never be able to progress very far…

Shaking his head in vexation, Vahn began to make his way deeper into the Floor to personally experience what other hazards the darkness had to offer. He could easily keep his own orientation with the golden illumination in his domain while his Minimap was constantly updating within his system interface. Sis was marking the borders of each illusory barrier, allowing Vahn to navigate the terrain without any real issues. Though this Floor might have been a nightmare for most, even unnerving him a bit, Vahn was able to make quick progress with The Path and the ever-reliable Sis to help guide him forward.

Using the Minimap and Map function, Vahn quickly noticed there was a ‘pattern’ emerging within the barriers and decided it would be best to check on them periodically over the next few weeks to see if there were any changes in their orientation. Since magic formations weren’t easy to move around, there was a good chance that these were semi-permanant, meaning it would actually be much easier than anticipated to pass through the Floor if you had a proper map. Since there had yet to be a single monster showing up, even after more than two hours of walking, Vahn suspected this particular Floor was purely focused on taxing the intruder’s psyche…

When he eventually reached a wall on the opposite side of the Floor, Vahn felt like that had confirmed things so he took to the sky and began to systematically map the entire area. Many of the illusory formations were shaped like bubbles and, though there were some formations that extended all the way to the roof, it was possible to navigate the area by flying if you had the confidence to do so. After all, it was nearly impossible to keep your orientation when there was literally ‘nothing’ to see…

In this manner, Vahn managed to map out much of the 370km wide Floor, noting that the layout of the illusory wards themselves actually made a much larger magical formation. It covered the entirety of the Floor and was nearly indiscernible from the natural mana that permeated through the air so Vahn hadn’t even noticed he was under its influence until he translated the larger formation. His eyes reflected a curious light as he mused, “Thou who seeketh the road to Origin, know that thine path forward is a spiritual journey. You can find the key at the spot where your physical journey ended, marking the transition from mortality to godhood…”

Though it would have taken others years to decipher the meaning behind the intricate formation that spanned the entire 70th Floor, Vahn had managed to complete it in a single afternoon. He imagined how many decades Adventurers would have wandered aimlessly on this Floor without understanding that the hazards they sought to desperately avoid were actually just part of a message. As for where the key lay, that was something Vahn could determine with relative ease since the ‘core’ of the formation actually emulated the structure of mana circuitry in the human body. The reason why he had quickly noticed the ‘pattern’ when he started mapping the area was the result of his extensive knowledge of the human body and all aspects pertaining to it.

Vahn flew to the area on his map that would have represented the location of the ‘dantian’, or the ‘core’ where a person’s mana emanated from. Before learning how to channel your mana, it wasn’t incorrect to say you were extremely limited in your growth and would have to rely wholly on your physical strength to progress. Upon learning how to muster your mana, generally through intense training, focus, or even meditation, you would truly begin to walk an endless path that allowed for unlimited growth. Saying it was the transition from mortality to godhood wasn’t incorrect either, as it would truly require intense spiritual development and a distinct change in perception to make true progress on this never-ending path…

Only allowed on Creativenovels.com

There was a small formation located at his destination but Vahn entered it without any hesitation since he doubted that whatever entity had developed the formation would have gone through so much effort just to mislead someone. Upon entering the formation, Vahn found himself in an area that, unlike the endless darkness outside, was pure white. At the very center of the area, Vahn saw the statue of a breathtakingly beautiful woman who looked eerily reminiscent of Helen. Though their features were actually very different from each other, they both had indescribable beauty that made Vahn instinctually compare the two while being unable to decide which was truly the more beautiful woman…

Dear Readers. Scrapers have recently been devasting our views. At this rate, the site (creativenovels .com) might...let's just hope it doesn't come to that. If you are reading on a scraper site. Please don't.

Shaking his head to clear stray thoughts, Vahn made his way over to the statue and peered into the small oval-shaped mirror held by its two pristine white hands. The surface of the mirror hadn’t been reflecting anything and, even after peering into it, Vahn noticed that his own image was distinctly missing from the scene. He didn’t know what to make of the mirror so Vahn decided to inspect the rest of the statue to see if there were any clues. Strangely, as he paced around the inordinately beautiful work of art, Vahn felt his heart begin to palpitate and, for a brief moment, he was certain the statue had moved slightly when he saw the rather pert rear sculpted on the backside…

Vahn activated his [Eyes of Truth] and noticed that the statue, instead of being a single layer of sculpted stone, was actually comprised of several layers. The clothing and accessories were all unique pieces and, beneath the stony garments, Vahn’s eyes were able to discern the statues extremely ‘realistic’ features. If not for the fact there was no aura at all coming from the statue, regardless of how long he looked at it, Vahn would have thought she was like Gros, an entity that had been comprised of stone. He even suspected that, at one point, the figure holding the mirror had once been a biological entity that had been turned to stone at some point in the distant past…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Surprise…!’,’You think the darkness is your ally…?’,’Even statues aren’t safe from the piercing gaze of the Godhand…’)

https://bit.ly/2XBzAYu <-(p.atreon link)

paypal.me/Einlion

Discord Invite: https://discord.gg/mn5xMbE

You may also like: