Chapter 990: Collision

Though the purpose of this particular expedition was for Vahn to reach the lowest Floor of the Dungeon, he once again found himself in a situation where he was watching others battle instead of taking up the vanguard himself. Jeanne and Fenrir had both wanted to lead the way, the former saying she would ‘protect everyone’ while the latter simply wanted to test the limits of her own power. As a result, Vahn stood with Terra and Helen flanking him as Fenrir dashed about, tearing apart any monsters unfortunate enough to cross her path. Other than Ais and Mikoto, she was the fastest amongst the girls that resided within the Manor and, with her claws that could ‘literally’ cut through just about anything, most monsters didn’t even know how they died before they had turned into fine particulates of purple dust.

While Fenrir was cutting loose without inhibitions, Jeanne combat style was markedly different than the rather wild and chaotic movements of Vahn’s most loyal subordinate. Though her own speed was remarkable in its own right, Jeanne fought in a manner very reminiscent of Tina and Milan. She used her shield to easily deflect every attack that came her way, knocking monsters ten times her size off balance before her sword deftly cut through each and every one of them. Even when facing against one of the colossal Adamantoise Turtles, a monster that easily weighed over 300,000kg, Jeanne simply stood her ground as the titanic black creature smashed into her kite shield. Though the charge sent out a large shockwave, Jeanne wasn’t even pushed back a single centimeter before shifting her weight to bisect the massive monster’s head in a single decisive blow.

With Fenrir and Jeanne taking the vanguard position, Vahn found himself holding onto his [Khryselakatos] with a loose hold, enjoying the ‘performance’ without dropping his guard. As for Terra, she had never been fond of fighting so she was perfectly content just absentmindedly looking around the area. She would periodically make small comments about the ongoing battles and, whenever they would stop to take a small rest, Vahn would find himself being wrapped up by her wings as Fenrir curled up in his lap to replenish her energy reserves. During moments like this, Helen would sit a short distance away from the group as Jeanne, ever the faithful knight, stood with her sword and shield at the ready. Throughout the entire seven-hour journey thus far, Helen hadn’t uttered so much as a word as she mechanically followed along with the group…

Vahn knew that Helen was waiting for him to ask, or perhaps outright tell, her what to do but, after dealing with her delusions for the last couple of months, Vahn had grown somewhat tired of her behavior. Though he wanted to help break her away from the fate she clung to like a life vessel, there was nothing he could do without outright showing her that she was wrong. Everything he said to her seemed to be misconstrued within her mind and, even when it felt like he had made some progress in breaking through her shell, follow-up visits would prove this was false. During the time when he wasn’t around, Helen would twist his words to have a completely different meaning and, even though she would sometimes appear to be genuinely considering what he said, she would revert back to her ‘default’ self the moment you looked away. Even their short stop at the peculiar statue holding a mirror, a place Vahn was certain held some significance to Helen, didn’t seem to catch her interest too much and, other than glancing into the face of the statue for a short period of time, Helen didn’t even make a single inquiry for the mirror…

Sensing her Master’s wayward thoughts, Fenrir rolled over in Vahn’s lap so that she could look up into his face with a questioning look of her own. Vahn returned a small smile to her in response before lightly pinching her rather adorable nose as he said, “We’ll be heading into the 73rd Floor pretty soon so make sure you are properly prepared. I have no idea how the One-Eyed Black Dragon will react when we enter into her ‘territory’ once again…” Though she hadn’t taken any action after her previous outburst, Vahn knew there was no way the One-Eyed Black Dragon would simply let the matter lay. Even if there had been a small chance she would have done so, assuming he had come by alone, matters would undoubtedly inflate when she encountered Terra. Vahn fully expected the two to fight for dominance and, depending on the circumstances, he would immediately side with Terra to guarantee that no harm would befall her.

Though he hadn’t addressed his words towards her, Helen decided to use this as an opportunity to make her presence known, her elegant voice resounding through the corridor as she plainly asked, “Will you kill it…?” As someone who had experienced the ‘tremor’ caused by the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s outburst, Helen was aware of the danger posed by a creature that possessed such a large degree of power. She was curious to know if, now that the One-Eyed Black Dragon had become an ‘inconvenience’ to Vahn, whether or not he would simply remove it from the equation entirely. Being fully aware of how Helen’s thought process seemed to work, Vahn released a small sigh through his nose before responding, “The One-Eyed Black Dragon within the Dungeon is simply the avatar it uses to maintain a connection with the Dungeon. Killing it would either result in it sending a second avatar or, in the worst-case scenario, bringing its main body back to the Continent. Though I could probably stop its rampage, I’d rather not deal with a colossal True Dragon that has nearly reached godhood unless it becomes absolutely necessary…”

Since he shared the blame for the recent deaths caused by the One-Eyed Black Dragon, Vahn knew it would be an extremely selfish decision to slay her in response. Ultimately, however, it would be up to the One-Eyed Black Dragon herself whether or not their battle would escalate to the point where she would have to be put down. Vahn knew that the One-Eyed Black Dragon, while possessing an extremely pure Darkness Elemental Affinity, wasn’t actually an ‘evil’ tyrant that simply slaughtered everything in its path. Most of her actions were in response to external stimuli and, though she was undoubtedly a very dangerous existence, Vahn couldn’t outright use the existence of something as justification for whether or not it should be allowed to live. This was especially the case as, if she had been left alone, the odds of the One-Eyed Black Dragon going out of her way to kill ‘lesser’ creatures was close to zero percent. Her biggest fault was that she simply didn’t care about any existence that she deemed inconsequential to her own, a trait that was loosely shared by almost every True Dragon…

In response to Vahn’s words, Helen just stared into his eyes for a few seconds before turning her head away with a thoughtful glint in her eyes. Vahn couldn’t help but wonder how her mind would twist what he said to suit her own perspective as he lightly shook his head while stroking Fenrir’s. In a way, Helen was infinitely more troublesome than the One-Eyed Black Dragon but, much like the latter, Vahn knew he could have avoided the trouble entirely if he chose to. The simple truth of the matter, however, was that he had a weakness for people that seemed ‘broken’ in a way as, even though their situation was entirely different, Vahn was reminded of his past self when looking at them…

Deciding it was time to face the consequences of his slight against the One-Eyed Black Dragon, Vahn ran his thumbs along the inside of Fenrir’s ears, causing her body to tremble lightly, before he released a small sigh and said, “Okay, it’s time to go…” He then helped Fenrir rise to her feet while Terra removed her wing from around his shoulders and gently levitated back to her own. She had been closely observing the interactions between Helen and Vahn with slightly squinted eyes but, now that she knew they would be facing the One-Eyed Black Dragon, Terra’s expression had become uncharacteristically serious as she flicked her tail and said, “Master, please allow me to teach that little brat a proper lesson…”

Sensing the peculiar bloodlust contained within Terra’s words, Vahn raised his brow lightly in response before giving a small nod. He knew that, just as the One-Eyed Black Dragon would be unable to tolerate Terra’s presence, the latter felt much the same way. Until one of them had established dominance over the other, it would be impossible for two powerful True Dragons to coexist together. Since Terra should, theoretically, even be able to fend off the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s main body, Vahn knew she would undoubtedly come out on top in the coming fight. The real question was whether or not the One-Eyed Black Dragon would accept her loss or, unable to accept losing with her avatar, bring her main body to contend against Terra. If she chose the latter course of action, Vahn knew he would need to intercept and, more than likely, strike her down permanently…

Without delaying any further, the group quickly made their way down the long spiraling staircase that connected the 72nd and 73rd Floors. At these depths, there was nearly a full kilometer’s distance that needed to be descended before you would finally reach the next Floor, not that it took the group very long. The only thing that slowed them down was the fact that, each successive step caused an even greater pressure to descend upon everyone present, causing Vahn’s expression to turn slightly melancholic before a face of determination masked his hesitation. It was obvious that the One-Eyed Black Dragon was still angry with him and, now that they had entered into her territory, it was only a matter of time before things escalated to violence.

Almost immediately as that thought crossed his mind, Vahn could sense the pressure in the air increase exponentially as the ‘intent’ contained within seemed to consolidate around Terra. In response to this, Terra flared out her wings with a cold expression on her face as a powerful and domineering aura radiated out to contend against the tyrannical pressure emitted by the One-Eyed Black Dragon. As if a bomb had been set off, a loud rupture emerged within the surrounding void that sent a massive shockwave away from Terra’s location, forcing back even Vahn with the residual energy. Terra never really let all of her energy bear down on others, as she was simply too powerful to go ‘all-out’ against even girls like Fenrir, so this was Vahn’s first time ‘feeling’ just how strong she had become…

With Jeanne protecting Helen, Vahn and Fenrir created footholds in the air while Space around Terra continued to fluctuate and fracture in response to the two powerful auras. Terra’s horns had grown slightly longer while the runic patterns on her arms and legs were glimmering with an emerald green light. Her nails had extended to form claws as her tail, instead of snaking low to the ground, protruded outwards to maintain her balance as she leaned forward slightly with both wings extended. It was a version of Terra that Vahn had never seen before as, instead of a teasing and intelligent light contained within her captivating blue eyes, Terra’s pupils had turned into long slits as a cold light reflected across them.

From within one of the cracks created in the very fabric of Space, a small black claw tore through the void as it veered towards a location nestled between Terra’s breasts. Vahn knew this was where her ‘reverse scale’ was located so he couldn’t help but take in a sharp breath since he knew how vicious such an attack was for a True Dragon. Terra was also very aware of this and, even though the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s speed had slightly startled her, she simply snorted through her nose before curling in her wing to defend against the strike. Though this would have been a terrible idea under most circumstances, as any entity capable of manipulating Time and Space generally couldn’t be blocked, Terra didn’t have to worry about such ‘insignificant’ details as a layer of dense magical energy covered her wing.

The One-Eyed Black Dragon was slightly surprised by the fact that the ‘whelp’ before it was able to defend against its attack but, before it was able to make sense of the energy Terra had made use of, the latter flared her wing to push the One-Eyed Black Dragon back before extending her palms outward. The runes on Terra’s arms began to glow with increasing intensity as a grey mist gathered around her claws before erupting outwards to form a pillar of light. Even though it was the first time the One-Eyed Black Dragon had seen such an attack, her instincts told her she needed to evade the attack at all costs. As a result, the One-Eyed Black Dragon literally pulled the fabric of Space to cover her body as the near-lightspeed attack slammed into the nebulous membrane that was tearing apart the surroundings with increasing intensity…

With her attack being scattered around indiscriminately, causing large swaths of the Dungeon to immediately turn to ashen grey stone, Terra released another snort before bringing her palms together in a prayer gesture. The One-Eyed Black Dragon, believing this was a chance to counterattack, ignored the tingling feeling in the areas that had been hit by Terra’s magic as she condensed her own magical energy to form ‘electricity’ similar to Vahn’s in his Qinglong form. Everywhere the bands of energy passed, Space in that area would be violently distorted, indicating that the lightning was formed, not of electrical current, but the amalgamation of pure Space Elemental energy.

Knowing the ‘danger’ that Terra possed, the One-Eyed Black Dragon didn’t hesitate at all to release the condensed bolts of Space energy, ignoring the fact that Vahn’s cold eyes had locked onto her every action. Fortunately, Terra wasn’t so easily caught off guard a second time so, as the phenomenal energy tore towards her, several layers of magical barriers instantly emerged to protect her body. Since she had known of the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s affinities before the fight had begun, Terra had created a magical formula that allowed her to deflect Space elemental energy instead of simply trying to defend against it. As a result, the lightning bounded off of the barriers before tearing through the Dungeon as if the super-dense bedrock was nothing more than an illusion. Terra had formed multiple barriers, just in case, but, seeing that the One-Eyed Black Dragon had only destroyed two, a mocking look plastered itself upon her face as she intoned, “Ara, Ara, Ara~?”

Hearing Terra’s ‘Activation Key’, Vahn’s previously serious expression broke as his left brow began to twitch in response to the rather ‘casual’ utterance from Terra’s lips. Fortunately, she quickly followed up by adorning a serious expression as she loudly chanted, “Gaze into Eternity! See the passage of History before thine Eyes! Let Nature reclaim all things within its Motherly embrace! Pillar of Eternity, Gaia’s Grace, Heaven’s Pillar~!” Following Terra’s chant, the Space around the One-Eyed Black Dragon gained a misty white hue as the latter gared menacingly at Terra and exclaimed, “You want to contend against me in dominion over Space and Time, you whelp!?”

Though she didn’t understand what Terra’s magic was supposed to do, the One-Eyed Black Dragon could sense the familiar energy contained within and couldn’t help but feel indignant as a result of her fellow True Dragon’s ‘audacity’. When she was about to tear through the surrounding Space to attack, however, the One-Eyed Black Dragon received a surprise that overshadowed anything she had ever experienced in her long life. As she brought her claws up to rip apart the fabric of Space, she noticed that her previously glossy black scales had become a muted grey color that began to flake at the edges. Her eyes widened to form complete circles as, even though her instincts weren’t alerting her to any danger, the One-Eyed Black Dragon was certain being trapped within the peculiar white space was extremely dangerous.

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From the perspective of everyone outside of Terra’s ‘barrier’, they saw the One-Eyed Black Dragon turn into an untraceable blur before she shot out of the barrier with impossible speed. Even the One-Eyed Black Dragon seemed to have been caught off guard by her own momentum, causing her to smash into the Dungeon’s walls, resulting in a massive shockwave that caused large sections of the surrounding ceiling to collapse inward. In response to this, Terra raised her hand, sending a pulse of green energy into the surroundings that caused massive trees to begin sprouting from every exposed surface, stopping the collapse and filling the previously barren area with greenery. The once dark Dungeon was now filled with an abundance of plantlife as Terra released a tired sigh and turned her attention back to the gaping hole that had been created by the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s charge. As for why her speed had been elevated to such an extreme, it was due to the fact that the ‘barrier’ Terra had created was accelerating the flow of time around the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s body, specifically targetting her limbs and wings.

Though everyone, Terra included, had expected the One-Eyed Black Dragon to immediately return to the fight, it wasn’t until nearly a full minute later that the large pile of rubble began to stir. Some of the stones weighed thousands of kilograms but, as if their weight was completely negligible, they were moved aside like pebbles by the small figure that crawled its way out of the pile of debris. Upon seeing the figure in its full glory, Vahn could hear Jeanne take in a sharp breath while his own mind was having trouble processing what he was witnessing. Though the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s basic features were exactly the same, proof that the transformation of a True Dragon was dependent on how they ‘wanted’ to be seen, her scales were now a muted grey in color, covered in small cracks, while her left arm was now completely missing…

With her one good eye, the One-Eyed Black Dragon glared back at Terra as if she had met her most hated enemy as she icily stated, “That pup was right…I have been in this isolated place for far too long. It seems that, in my absence, other True Dragons have been able to rise to prominence…” Holding up the stub of her left arm, the One-Eyed Black Dragon stared at the fragmented pieces of her own scales as a peculiar energy began to form around the area, causing Terra’s eyes to widen this time as she quickly began to chant, “Basilisk, Lizard with Eight Legs and Evil Eyes-” She only managed to finish part of her chant, however, by the time the One-Eyed Black Dragon had completely disappeared from sight before reappearing in the void next to Terra’s left side. There was a vicious look in her eye as, almost as if time had reversed, the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s arm began growing back with an exceptional speed as it tore through the air, seemingly intent to cut off Terra’s in retribution…

Terra was, by no means, fast. Though her reaction time allowed her to keep up with the movements of even the fastest girls within the Manor, she relied on her powerful defensive abilities to deal with attacks, not her ability to respond to the. This attack by the One-Eyed Black Dragon was completely outside of her perception and, even though her defensive magic was still in effect, it was powerless against the peculiar energy that had formed around the vicious Black Dragon’s claw as it tore towards her extended left arm. Just as it was about to cleave through Terra’s tender flesh, however, an oppressive force descended upon the One-Eyed Black Dragon, dwarfing the momentous force that had been created when she had previously clashed auras against Terra. It was almost like comparing a single raindrop to a small basin of water, an analogy that didn’t seem to match the situation but, when taking into consideration the outcome, was remarkably close to the truth…

Unable to complete her attack, the One-Eyed Black Dragon was pressed into the Dungeon’s Floor and, as if she was nothing more than a nail in the hands of a Master Artisan, she found herself planted into the durable bedrock as she was continuously forced downward by the irresistible pressure. It wasn’t until she had been launched into the confine of the 74th Floor that the pressure subsided a little, allowing the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s body to smash into the ground as she began to tremble slightly in response to the phenomenal power that she had just been subjected to. Though she wasn’t injured in the slightest, her body felt as if it was filled with liquid metal that was burning her insides as she looked up into the sky to see Vahn, tearing through the void with his own azure claws, looking down on her…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Jeanne OP’,’Terra Vs. One-Eyed Black Dragon’,’The Emperor Descends…’)

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