Chapter 992: Idle

While Vahn and the One-Eyed Black Dragon were idling around in the 74th Floor, the rest of his party had quickly passed through the 73rd and were well on their way to reaching his location. Though it would have been possible to pass through the hole Vahn had created with the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s body, they didn’t know how things would progress and, considering that Vahn might fight all out, it had been much safer to move to another area of the Dungeon first. When they finally arrived, however, Jeanne released an exasperated sigh upon witnessing Vahn and the One-Eyed Black Dragon just talking casually while Terra and Fenrir both glared towards their collective enemy. The One-Eyed Black Dragon had already noticed their presence, long before they actually reached the chamber, but she turned her head to match the gazes of the two girls upon realizing they were showing hostility towards her.

Before the One-Eyed Black Dragon was able to say or do anything, Vahn’s domain had already spread throughout the chamber as he plainly stated, “No more fighting. We have more important things to do than waste time on pointless conflict. The next time you want to battle against one of my companions, I’ll be at their side without hesitation…” Though Terra still had a fair chance at winning against the One-Eyed Black Dragon, Vahn knew she wasn’t even at half of her full power while outside of her domain. The One-Eyed Black Dragon was also restrained by the fact that she was a far more inefficient avatar than the one he had produced, but that wasn’t of particular concern to Vahn. He knew he was biased towards the people he cared about and, seeing the One-Eyed Black Dragon nearly cut off Terra’s arm had done away with any patience he had toward allowing them to settle things.

Terra, hearing her Master’s words, gave the One-Eyed Black Dragon one last glance before turning her head away and adopting a disinterested expression on her face. At the same time, however, she made her way to Vahn’s side before casually nuzzling against him in a display that was obviously intended to ‘mock’ the One-Eyed Black Dragon. The latter deeply furrowed her brows but, having already passed over her ‘hated’ treasure to Vahn, she no longer felt like squabbling with Terra. Instead, she spent a few moments looking between Vahn’s various companions before she had seemingly determined something. With everyone’s attention focused on the One-Eyed Black Dragon, they couldn’t help wondering what she was up to until, after coming to her conclusion, the One-Eyed Black Dragon became shrouded in a magical light that illuminated the low-light of the 74th Floor.

Recognizing the ‘structure’ of the light, Vahn felt a strong urge to sigh but withheld it as he threw the sword he had received into his inventory. He already had some expectations about its origin but, seeing the name and description contained within the artifact-grade piece of equipment still came as a great shock to him. The fact that the One-Eyed Black Dragon had given him such a powerful piece of equipment had annoyed him, as it showed she had absolute confidence he wouldn’t kill her, but seeing the stats pacified this frustration almost completely. After all, he was about to conquer the Dungeon and, much like the One-Eyed Black Dragon had alluded to, there were quite a few powerful enemies that would bar his passage. Though his current power had reached limits he had yet to truly comprehend, it was never a bad thing to have a powerful and reliable weapon at his side…

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[Sword of Evil’s Bane]

Rank: SS (Artifact)

P.Atk: 2000(+200)

M.Atk: 3100

Abilities: Sword of Evil’s Bane(-), Indestructible(SS), Impeccable Edge(S), Magical Amplification{S), Last Breath(A)

A sword bestowed upon a chosen Hero by a Primordial God who rules over the sky. Grants the weilder the ability to strike down all malevolent creatures that originated from the Dungeon, Tartarus. So long as the weilder is pure of heart, this sword grants them the ability to withstand otherwise lethal blows and, for a brief moment, greatly increase their potential. It is also rumored that any wound dealt by this weapon will never fully heal, regardless of the passage of time.

Restrictions: Albert Waldstein

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Upon reading the full details of the blade he had just thrown into his Inventory, Vahn’s mood became somewhat conflicted as he realized he may not actually be able to use the sword, at least to its full potential. The moment this thought crossed his mind, however, Sis cleared up any doubt by stating, (*Unless it is Soulbound, you can theoretically use any kind of equipment, regardless of restriction and requirement. You have no inherent genetic structure and, regardless of the craftsmanship of the sword, it has no way of disproving you are not Albert Waldstein. If it were sapient, there could be some issues, but it is currently nothing more than an inert sword that is restricted by the Tier of the record.*)

Hearing Sis’ words, Vahn allowed a small smile to emerge on his face but it didn’t last long as the magical light surrounding the One-Eyed Black Dragon had just dissipated. Though her height hadn’t changed that much, her black hair now had a glossy sheen to it while the rest of her body had become somewhat streamlined. Instead of the rather plain appearance she had possessed previously, it was obvious that the One-Eyed Black Dragon had put a great deal of care into her new appearance as her features had improved greatly. Vahn, however, didn’t waste time gawking as he exhaled an imaginary sigh before saying, “We should be going now. I’ll make sure to pay a visit in the future so don’t cause any trouble while I’m away…”

Seeing Vahn give her new appearance a casual and dismissive glance, the One-Eyed Black Dragon felt moderately annoyed but, considering she didn’t really understand the aesthetic of the surface races, she decided not to mind it too much. Instead, without minding the presence of Terra at Vahn’s side, she made her way over to Vahn before staring up into his face and saying, “You aren’t allowed to die without my permission. If you end up losing your life in the Dungeon, I will eventually seek you out in Heaven before dragging you back…” Being an entity that was infinitely close to becoming a god herself, the One-Eyed Black Dragon reasoned that the loss of her ‘mate’ might just be enough of a stimulus to allow her to breakthrough. If that was the case, even if it took several thousand years, she would guide Vahn’s soul back into the mortal world before raising him under her own protection and guidance…

Though he was tempted to remark that he would never die, Vahn was more than a little tired of dealing with the One-Eyed Black Dragon so he simply shook his head and said, “You don’t need to worry about me. As I said before, your understanding of the world is extremely limited…as long as you are stuck in the mentality that you are the only thing that matters in the world, you will never be able to reach the heights you aspire towards.” Even knowing his words weren’t entirely true, Vahn felt that they weren’t wrong either. Though it was certainly possible to become the strongest by abandoning everything else, he couldn’t see the purpose of pursuing strength if you didn’t have anything you cared about. You would only become a progressively lonelier existence and, with the passage of time, the odds of you being surpassed became increasingly higher as your own disinterest in the world caused you to stagnate and regress.

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Hearing Vahn’s words, the One-Eyed Black Dragon scrunched up her nose in dissatisfaction but, instead of arguing, flicked her tail backward to create a tear in the fabric of Space. The chaotic forces within pulled her back and, as she hadn’t made any effort to resist, it was only a singular moment before the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s presence had faded away. Vahn was slightly taken aback by the sudden departure but, as there were far more important matters to attend, he turned to the others only to pause when Terra sneakily snaked her hand under his tunic. She had been using her wing to conceal the act while her facial expression had one of the most perfect examples of a poker face that Vahn had ever seen.

Now that the One-Eyed Black Dragon had departed, Vahn was made ‘very’ aware of the current state of Terra’s body and, remembering the fact that he had transformed into his Qinglong form previously, his scalp began to tingle as her rather smooth and cool palm traced his abdomen. Turning his head, Vahn saw the hunger contained within Terra’s eyes and, knowing what she wanted, Vahn couldn’t help but release a sigh that immediately caused Terra to quickly remove her hand and behave. Knowing she had misunderstood his response, Vahn prevented Terra from stepping away from him as he pulled her into his embrace and kissed her forehead. To allay her confusion, he smiled gently and whispered, “I was worried about you…try not to do anything so reckless in the future, okay…?’

Terra’s body already felt like it was melting from the inside so, hearing her Master’s words, combined with his warm embrace, quickly sent her over the edge. She was doing her best to control herself but it was simply impossible to remove the image of his Qinglong form from her memory. The momentary instant during which he had appeared to protect her was ruthlessly carved into the most sensitive and tender part of her heart and it was almost painful to resist the temptation to push him down, others be damned. Since Vahn was aware of this as well, he traced his fingers through her emerald green hair before whispering, “Return to the Manor. I can call you back to my side at a moment’s notice so you don’t have to worry about our safety…”

As if she had just heard a set of magical words, Terra’s wings flickered excitedly before, moments later, she vanished so quickly that it was almost as if she had never existed in the first place. Vahn had called her to his side with Unit Management so the transfer had been instantaneous as, from the perspective of The Path, Space, Time, and distance, were entirely inconsequential. It didn’t matter if he were a billion lightyears away from his other half and, regardless of what obstacles were in his way, transferring his allies with Unit Management didn’t seem to have a limit outside of the marginal Source Energy cost. It was one of the simplest but, irrefutably, most powerful functions that he could currently make use of with The Path’s grace…

While tending to Terra’s ‘instincts’ back at the Manor, Vahn turned his attention to the other girls present, only to find Jeanne’s face fully flushed while Fenrir had a small pout visible on her otherwise expressionless face. As for Helen, she showed absolutely no physical reaction at all and, if not for the fact her aura had flickered slightly, it would have been impossible to discern if she were affected. Even that wasn’t entirely reliable, however, as Vahn’s perception of the auras around him had been diminishing rapidly ever since his ‘proclamation’ about not needing to rely on such things. Since then, he could only see the auras of people if he were paying very close attention and, much to the surprise of the girls around him, his various ‘charm’ related abilities no longer existed at all. The only exception to this was the benefits he had received from Freya’s blessing as he simply couldn’t part ways with something he had received from a woman he cared about.

Feeling the tension in the atmosphere, Vahn attempted to smoothen things over with a small cough before saying, “We should progress forward and see if we can’t reach the 77th Floor before the day ends. We’ll make camp in one of the safer areas there before probing into the 78th Floor and facing its Guardian. Fenrir, you’ll take the lead for now while Jeanne will support you in the mid-line. I’ll protect Helen in the rear and provide support with my archery and [Wound Transfer]. Helen…well, you can just continue watching until you feel your support is necessary…” Though he didn’t want to rely on her at all, Vahn wasn’t going to tell Helen not to help out if it meant her powers could be useful in helping Fenrir and Jeanne overcome danger. He wasn’t even remotely worried about the latter, as even the [Sword of Evil’s Bane] probably couldn’t injure her, but he wouldn’t risk Fenrir’s life by being obstinate.

As she hadn’t expected Vahn’s words, at least this early on, Helen was slightly taken aback but still nodded her head in response. Her mind then began to race about the ‘meaning’ contained within Vahn’s words but, having long grown accustomed to Helen’s airheadedness, Vahn ignored her absentminded expression as he gave the order to head out. Helen obediently followed behind him as the group, once again, began their excursion into the Dungeon’s depths. There weren’t many enemies on the 73rd and 74th Floors, likely due to the One-Eyed Black Dragon’s presence, so it didn’t take them that long to reach the stairs that led down to the 75th. The only enemies they encountered along the way were various types of Drakes and Wyverns, many residing alone in their own territory, so there was practically no danger along the way.

Upon reaching the 75th Floor, Vahn reminded Jeanne and Fenrir of the enemies they would face and, after discussing potential weakness and countermeasures, the group proceeded forward without hesitation. Fenrir had been riled up ever since the encounter with the One-Eyed Black Dragon so, as soon as a peculiar Griffon-like creature made its appearance, she immediately sent out pillar-sized spears of ice to impact its body before using [Shundo] to close the distance. It was a creature that was nearly 3m tall while possessing the fierce head of an eagle, the front claws of a dragon, and the back paws of a lion-like monster. As for why Vahn couldn’t exactly call it as Griffin, it was due to the fact that the monster had scales covering most of its body and, though it wasn’t wrong to call its head eagle-like, the predominant features of this particular monster made it appear almost completely reptilian. Even the back half, which was reminiscent of the musculature of a large cat, was covered in fine brown scales while its wings were segmented with a thin membrane of skin covering them, much like a bat…

Though it had managed to withstand the impact of Fenrir’s barrage with its tough body, the Griffin-like creature, which Vahn had decided to name a Drakin, was taken by complete surprise when Fenrir’s claws tore through its neck like paper mache. Even with its powerful regeneration and vitality, it was powerless to resist the frustrated Vanargandr’s assault as Fenrir quickly followed up her initial attack with a series of vicious strikes that tore its body asunder. Her [Severing Claws] allowed her to produce blades that were longer than the Drakin was tall while her speed and agility made it impossible for the rather unfortunate monster to even follow her movements. As a result, the fight ended almost as soon as it had begun so Fenrir quickly looted the magical core before tossing it into her mouth with a loud crunch. She had been given leniency to eat any magic core she had obtained, as it was essential to her growth, so Fenrir didn’t hesitate at all since her desire for strength had been stimulated after seeing the skirmish between Terra and the One-Eyed Black Dragon.

Seeing Fenrir make short work of what should have been a Level 5 monster, Vahn gave a small nod of approval that seemed to transmit directly to his voracious companion as her ears perked up in response. Vahn found this rather humorous but, before he was able to comment on it, a loud explosion sounded through the area as a humanoid monster slammed a hammer-shaped natural weapon into Jeanne’s kite shield. It was only around 230cm tall but, compared to Jeanne, it seemed monstrously tall with its lanky yet muscular figure. As for its other characteristics, it had hoofed feet, much like a goat, while its head was vaguely humanoid, albeit covered completely in fur. The most prominent feature of the creature that Vahn had named as Silenos, were the two curved horns on its head and the peculiar braided beard that protruded out from its angular chin…

While Fenrir had quickly dealt with the Drakin, Jeanne had unhesitantly moved to deal with the other three enemies that had been present within the room. They all had slightly unique features but it was easy to see that each of the monsters were Silenos based on their physique and other racial characteristics. As for their composition, there was the one attacking Jeanne, wielding a black stone hammer that was even larger than its body, while the other two had produced spears from the Dungeon’s walls as they attempted to pierce Jeanne’s sides. The moment they initiated their attack, however, Jeanne slightly shifted the angle of her immovable kite shield, causing the straining Silenos to fall off balance as she deftly cut through its waist. In the exact same strike, Jeanne traced her blade through the impromptu guard of the second Silenos before twisting her body around like a ballet dancer and sending a blade of light to bisect the body of the third. From start to finish, the battle had only taken eight seconds as Jeanne brandished her blade to dispose of the nonexistent gore before sheathing it into a slot located within her kite shield.

Even without being asked, Jeanne gave a small salute to acknowledge that Vahn was watching her before she reported, “The enemies here are quite strong but I do not foresee them being an issue in small groups.” Vahn gave a nod in return before complimenting, “Good work, both of you. The only other monster we have to worry about on this Floor would be the Dungeon Maggots, but that shouldn’t be an issue as long as we avoid the areas where the humidity increases drastically.” Though he didn’t know how strong they were, Vahn had seen in the mirror how the large larvae-like creatures congregated in overwhelming numbers. They were very similar to the strange caterpillars that had been used by Enyo’s forces and, after cross-checking the research of Ein, Vahn knew the errant mage had used cells harvested from one of the Dungeon Maggots as the template to create the acid-spewing monstrosities that had caused the Alliance so many issues in the past.

Hearing Vahn’s words, Jeanne gave an affirmative nod while Fenrir chimed in, adding, “Even without encountering one of them, I’ll be able to tell if we are near one of the colonies. With Master’s guidance and my nose, we will not have to worry about getting caught off guard…!” Following her words, Fenrir gave an admittedly adorable pump of her paws in an obvious attempt to earn Vahn’s praise so he readily smiled before commenting, “That’s right; with Fenrir leading the way, we don’t have to worry about anything. How reliable~.” At the same time, as she had already walked over to his side, Vahn roughly stroked Fenrir’s ears as, deep in the back of his mind, small alarm bells began ringing in response to his own words…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Vahn just got his first Orange drop (UwU)…!’,’Terra emerges victorious against the One-Eyed Black Dragon!?’,’Ringa-ding-ding, Vahn-boi~!’)

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