Chapter 991: Frustration

Vahn had underestimated the battle prowess of the One-Eyed Black Dragon and, even though Terra should have had a distinct advantage, the fact she was fighting outside of her dominion meant her power was significantly reduced. Instead of drawing from an almost unlimited source of mana, with the support of Yggy, Terra was completely dependent on her own reserves to contend against an entity who had far more powerful Innates. Though their battle experience shouldn’t have been that different, as Terra’s training with Eva should have more than prepared her for a battle of this magnitude, it was a simple truth that Terra spent most of her days in peaceful observation, proactively avoiding battle…

The moment Terra’s spell had hit the One-Eyed Black Dragon, Vahn had been quite surprised since there was a very real chance the fight could have ended then and there. Since the One-Eyed Black Dragon had been caught off guard, he watched as the luster from her scales quickly faded away but, just as he was about to stop Terra from taking things too far, the former was able to escape with her magnified speed. After that, Vahn could sense the tension in the air begin to build rapidly as, with his [Eyes of Truth], the surrounding mana was rapidly drained from the Dungeon’s mana circuits. When the One-Eyed Black Dragon crawled out of the rubble, he could see a peculiar grey aura mingling with her other energies, causing alarm bells to sound within his mind since it was undoubtedly ‘Time’ itself coiling around her body…

Just as Vahn had started to analyze the peculiar nature of the Time Elemental energy, the One-Eyed Black Dragon had moved so quickly that he wasn’t even able to perceive the transition in his base state. Fortunately, it seemed her movement was closer in nature to a [Shundo], meaning she wasn’t able to execute complex movements during the motion itself. In order to attack Terra, she needed to ‘stop’ and perform the attack, allowing Vahn to react quickly as his own perception of time was distorted to the point that everything around him, the One-Eyed Black Dragon included, seemed to stop in its tracks. In that same instant, Vahn willed himself to change into his Qinglong form as the full force of his empowered domain was brought down upon the One-Eyed Black Dragon like a hammer, smashing her through more than a kilometer of reinforced bedrock in an instant…

With his own rage beginning to boil over, Vahn tore through the void with his claws as his body emerged from the spatial fabric above the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s impact point. She hadn’t been injured by his domain but, as Vahn bore it down on her once again, it was obvious that the difference between their respective strengths was an order of magnitude beyond both their expectations. Vahn knew he needed to test the limits of his new powers and, finding the One-Eyed Black Dragon practically offering herself up on a silver platter, his draconic eyes flashed with a cold light as he stated, “I do not wish to kill you…though you have caused harm to others, my people included, I understand you are not wholly to blame for your actions. However, even if I can’t place the blame squarely on your shoulders, that does not mean I will stand at the side and allow you to act as you please. If you intend to harm those close to me…I will destroy you…”

To punctuate his words, Vahn gripped the claw of his right hand tightly, causing the azure lightning dancing across his scales to increase in size as they tore through the surrounding void. While this was going on, he held eye contact with the stationary One-Eyed Black Dragon who, after being repressed by his domain, simply stared back at him with her one good eye. Her lack of response was beginning to annoy him but, before he could act on the bubbling emotions, Vahn nearly fell from the sky when the One-Eyed Black Dragon just plopped to the ground and snorted with her arms closed. She twined her long tail around her waist, bringing it to rest in her lap, as she began to systematically remove some of the greying scales that weren’t regaining their luster.

After collecting himself, Vahn furrowed his brow as he asked, “What are you doing…?” in a rumbling voice that caused the surrounding void to tremble. In response to this, the One-Eyed Black Dragon raised her head up in a somewhat mocking manner as she complained, “That whelp isn’t bad. If she trains seriously, she might even be able to threaten me in the future. Just look at this, even now some of her energy is lingering in my body like a maggot gnawing at a bone. So troublesome…!” Though she was able to remove the majority of Terra’s magical power from her body, there were traces of Source Energy contained within that, no matter how hard the One-Eyed Black Dragon tried, continued to persistently try and fulfill their purpose.

Vahn’s mind was abuzz with conflicting emotions as, though he understood the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s answer, it didn’t explain why she would suddenly sit down and start pruning herself when he was very obviously angry at her. Though she was being suppressed by his domain, something that couldn’t have been comfortable, she just tolerated the pressure with a slight grimace as she seemingly ‘ignored’ the lingering threat he posed. Realizing what must be going through her mind, Vahn inhaled through his nose before asking, “Do you think I will not-” Before he could finish his question, the One-Eyed Black Dragon looked up at him once again with a questioning gaze. Silence persisted for what felt like several seconds before she simply snorted through her nose and said, “You’re a weird one, pup…” in an admonishing tone.

Hearing the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s words, Vahn didn’t know what to say as anything that came to mind would make him sound like a child that was lashing out. He had wanted to use the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s avatar to test the limits of his power but, as she had likely sensed his intent, it didn’t seem as if she was willing to play along. Though Vahn had been full of rage when she had tried to cut off Terra’s arm, he would have sounded like an indignant despot if he faulted her for wanting revenge after Terra had caused her own to break apart. Since Vahn had the bad habit of trying to ‘understand’ everyone, his enemies included, his rage had quickly subsided when he knew the situation was under his control. Now that the One-Eyed Black Dragon showed no intention to fight back, Vahn felt like he had unfurled his sails with great vigor, only for the seas to profer forth absolutely no winds in response…

Just as his confusion reached a ‘dangerous’ level, causing Vahn to feel incredibly anxious, large cracks began to emerge in a 90m tall wall nearby. The One-Eyed Black Dragon only spared the location a momentary glance before giving Vahn another questioning look that asked, ‘What are you going to do?’. Since he needed ‘something’ to release his stored power against, the lightning around Vahn’s body began to dance madly as a very familiar visage appeared from within a vortex of rainbow-hued light. With how much damage the Dungeon had sustained, Vahn wasn’t really surprised by the fact that a Juggernaut would be spawned to ‘clean’ out the area. The moment he saw the familiar creature, however, Vahn’s rage seemed to boil over in an instant as he extended his palm forward and loudly intoned, “Heaven’s Fall…!”

Recognizing Vahn, the Juggernaut had immediately entered into an enraged state but, just as it was preparing to liberate itself from the confines of the wall, an irresistible force collided against it. Its body, which was supposed to be completely immune to magic, began to flake away like grains of sand that were being propelled by the wind. It didn’t even have time to release its characteristic earth-shattering roar as darkness claimed its vision, leaving the Juggernaut to wonder what exactly happened as its consciousness slowly faded away into nothingness. The only thing marking its existence was the sixty-meter wide hole that had cut through more than three kilometers of the Dungeon’s walls…

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Breathing heavily from the exertion, Vahn withdrew his hand and allowed his Qinglong form to naturally dissipate as he lowered himself to the ground. He had used far more than the necessary amount of energy required to dispatch the Juggernaut but, remembering his last encounter with the beast, Vahn didn’t take any chances. Seeing the devastation his attack had caused, Vahn knew that his power had indeed reached a point beyond his expectations as even the One-Eyed Black Dragon had a slightly shocked expression after witnessing the almost ‘instant’ destruction wrought by the attack. She knew her own resilience better than most and, seeing the Juggernaut literally break apart into ‘dust’ wasn’t something that could be ignored.

Realizing that Vahn may very well have used that attack against her, the One-Eyed Black Dragon felt its skin tingle with beads of cold sweat as she gazed toward Vahn out of the corner of her eye. Though she didn’t believe he would be able to defeat her main body, as she simply couldn’t accept such a thing, there was nothing she would be able to do against him in her current state. At the same time, the heat in her body had reached a dangerous point and, knowing she couldn’t claim Vahn for herself, the One-Eyed Black Dragon felt both anxious and frustrated as her mind raced with potential solutions. There was already an agonizingly painful pressure beginning to build within her body and, even though she had never produced an egg before, her instincts made her fully aware of the process her body was undergoing…

After waiting for more than a minute, Vahn realized that the One-Eyed Black Dragon wasn’t going to try and take advantage of his momentary weakness so, after releasing a small sigh, he downed the [Turbo Ether] in his hand, completely replenishing his reserves. Looking back, he saw the One-Eyed Black Dragon still plucking away a few scales here and there before her natural regeneration quickly produced a new one in response. The only thing that hadn’t healed was her left arm as, even with the dense mist-like energy around it, it was regrowing at a very slow rate. Based on what he could discern, it would take at least two days for the limb to fully regenerate, meaning the One-Eyed Black Dragon was considerably weakened in her current state…

As if she could read his mind, the One-Eyed Black Dragon glanced over at Vahn with her singular pupil glimmering as she stated, “If you plan to do something, get on with it. This one won’t even resist…” Though she was quickly learning a great deal about Vahn, including the fact that he didn’t seem to know how to deal with her, the One-Eyed Black Dragon couldn’t help but try and rile him up. She was hoping that, if he could become incensed enough, Vahn’s ‘instincts’ would force him to try and dominate her. Though the idea of being submissive wasn’t something she had ever even considered in the past, the One-Eyed Black Dragon had already ‘determined’ that Vahn was her only suitable mate. Since he had been the only one to activate her own instincts in such a manner, she didn’t mind playing the part if it meant she could fulfill her biological need…

Understanding the intent behind the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s words, Vahn simply shook his head before whisking out a black dress and tossing it at her. As if to prove that she was willing to let him do whatever he wanted, the One-Eyed Black Dragon didn’t even make an attempt to grab the dress out of the air, allowing it to, instead, hit her square in the face without even flinching. When the fabric fell into her lap, she picked it up with a curious expression on her face until Vahn explained, “If you’re going to stay in a humanoid form, you need to wear clothing. Even children know better than to run around naked…” Feeling as though he had ‘lost’ something as a result of his interactions with the One-Eyed Black Dragon, Vahn couldn’t help but shake his head in admonishment of his own actions. At the same time, however, Vahn was thinking about taking Fafnir and Khaos into a Space-Time orb in order to help them increase their power…

Though she didn’t see the point in wearing clothing, the One-Eyed Black Dragon still pulled the dress over her head since her own admission of not resisting whatever Vahn wanted was still fresh in her ears. Once she had, rather sloppily, managed to get the dress on her body, the One-Eyed Black Dragon realized the fabric was both soft yet highly durable as, instead of ripping against her claws, small white cuts were left instead. Upon closer inspection, she could see that even those small cuts were rapidly mending themselves at a visible rate. As for Vahn, he had watched her struggle to wear the dress with her one arm and, barely resisting the urge to help, managed to restrain himself as he explained, “My purpose here is to conquer the Dungeon, not to play around with you. If you swear to behave, I will allow you to accompany me-“

Before Vahn was able to finish, the One-Eyed Black Dragon had already started to shake her head as she plainly stated, “It is impossible to conquer this place. Besides, even if I wanted to follow you, I can’t go beyond the 80th Floor. This place has restrictions on the creatures born within, especially its Guardians. If I try to leave, the density of the mana wouldn’t be able to sustain my form without causing me extreme pain. Going deeper would be even worse as, without adapting to the change in mana density, even creatures as powerful as I am would lose their minds…”

Hearing the One-Eyed Black Dragon ‘confidently’ state she was incapable of going deeper into the Dungeon had caught Vahn by surprise. He never expected such a prideful entity to openly admit that she was incapable of something but, considering she had spent nearly a thousand years just to reach the 73rd Floor, he quickly recovered and began to analyze the rest of the information she had revealed. Though her existence as a Guardian was known to him, the fact that the mentality of monsters was influenced by the mana density was new, even if it should have been apparent from the start. Several of the texts he had collected from Ein’s research into Enyo’s abilities were directly related to controlling monsters using specific types of mana, after all…

Seeing Vahn fall into a silent and contemplative state, the One-Eyed Black Dragon thought he was trying to think of a method to bring her along and, not wanting to be left behind, she too began thinking of possible solutions. Unfortunately, other than reverting back to her core state, nothing came to mind so she instead turned her attention back to the black dress Vahn had given her, finding it increasingly charming as time passed. It wasn’t until she caught Vahn shaking his head out of the corner of her eye that she began to pay attention to her surroundings again, asking, “Did you think of something…?”

Having decided that it was a waste of time to think about such things in the present, Vahn made a few notes and put the matter to the back of his mind for the time being. If he were being honest, it was actually better for everyone if the One-Eyed Black Dragon wasn’t able to follow along with them as she would undoubtedly cause problems along the way. Quite a large part of him actually wanted to set aside the matter of the One-Eyed Black Dragon indefinitely, pretending she didn’t even exist. Thus, when Vahn saw the strangely hopeful expression in her eye, he was momentarily confused before absentmindedly responding, “I can’t come up with anything right now. Since I’m in a hurry, I’ll be going ahead with the others before looking into the matter when I return…”

Though she wasn’t surprised that Vahn couldn’t come up with a way to ‘help’ her out, hearing him say he would continue into the depths of the Dungeon annoyed the One-Eyed Black Dragon a great deal. She had just told him it was impossible and, though she didn’t doubt he had a few tricks up his sleeves, knowing he was ignoring her advice caused her to scowl as she reminded, “It is impossible for you to conquer the Dungeon. You shouldn’t waste your life trying to do something that serves no purpose. Besides, that whelp and those brats would end up dying as well if you end up taking them along. You should stay here with me and train instead of throwing your life away over something pointless…!”

Hearing the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s words, Vahn simply shook his head in response before saying, “I will conquer the Dungeon, regardless of whether or not you have determined it to be impossible. There are many things in this world you haven’t even made an effort to understand so don’t preach to me about what is and isn’t possible. Did you ever stop to consider that it is because of your lack of insight that you’ve been unable to break through for all of these years…?” Though he knew it was a ‘dangerous’ topic to reveal that he knew about her main body, Vahn felt that it was necessary in order to avoid the One-Eyed Black Dragon getting in his way in the future.

Without even considering that he was talking about her main body, the One-Eyed Black Dragon snorted through her nose while internally rebuking Vahn for his own lack of insight. At the same time, deciding it was a wasted effort in trying to convince him to stay back, she reached her remaining arm into the void before pulling out a pristine white sword that radiated a mystical light. Vahn had immediately become alert when she pulled out the sword but, instead of showing any hostility at all, the One-Eyed Black Dragon clenched her teeth tightly before holding it out as she said, “Take this with you. This is the same sword that managed to wound my eye. I don’t know what it is made of but there shouldn’t be anything it can’t cut through. If you do manage to conquer the Dungeon…”

Realizing what she was about to say, the One-Eyed Black Dragon allowed her words to trail as, no matter how strong Vahn was, he would still be unable to conquer the Dungeon. He would eventually reach a point where, even if he could continue forward, his other companions would become a liability. Two of his companions were entities that should have originated from the Dungeon, meaning they would inevitably become obstacles, while the other two females didn’t seem particularly special from her perspective. As the mana density continued to increase, not only would they find far more powerful monsters, but their own minds would become influenced by the pervasive energies. Eventually, they would reach a point where they would be forced to turn back or, far more likely, they would all lose their lives in the attempt…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘This feels like a Joker vs. Batman situation…’,’RIP Juggernaut-chan’,’So many people telling Vahn what he can and can’t do…#ThePathHasNoLimits’)

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