Chapter 994: Pride

After extricating himself from the impossibly cold water, Vahn took a deep breath of warm air before inspecting the changes to his body. He had managed to prevent the majority of the energy from invading his body by using [Cantus Bellax] to form a membrane over his skin. Since it was infused with Source Energy, only a fraction of the Yin Elemental energy managed to invade his body whenever the energy membrane became thin during movement. As a result, his skin had become even fairer than before while his previously muscular frame had shrunken down into a more lithe and flexible form. Fortunately, his preparations were enough to avoid the worst-case scenario so Vahn was in a pleasant mood as he allowed the Yin Elemental energy to slowly fade from his body after stirring up his own Yang to counteract it.

While ‘recovering’, Vahn took a moment to inspect how the girls were doing and wasn’t surprised to find that the water had also affected them slightly. Fenrir had actually become slightly taller while her body, which had already been rather thin, now looked soft and willowy. As for Jeanne, she almost looked comical in her armor as, instead of a chivalrous female knight, she almost looked like a model that had been done up with equipment that was one size too big. She was the most aware of the changes in her body so, upon noticing Vahn’s gaze, Jeanne’s face gained a healthy blush as she somewhat sheepishly hid behind her kite shield. Vahn couldn’t help but release a small chuckle that caused the proud knight to turn a deep scarlet before he turned his attention to Helen…

Unlike Fenrir and Jeanne, Helen’s appearance hadn’t changed in the slightest. This confirmed a suspicion that Vahn had as, with his [Eyes of Truth] active, he could see the peculiar energy in her body had become even denser than before. It was almost as if her entire constitution was comprised of Yin Elemental energy which, considering the ‘purpose’ of her Innate, made a lot of sense. With what he knew of ‘dual-cultivation’ from reading several manuals, Vahn knew that the first person that slept with Helen would receive a remarkable increase in their strength. This was due to the fact that everyone, be they male or female, was born with a seed of either Yin or Yang in their body. During sexual intercourse, this seed would be transferred to the partner and, after situating itself in the body of the other person, it would empower and nourish them. Though discerning this ‘seed’ was nigh impossible, Vahn felt like he was slowly beginning to learn how to distinguish them as his familiarity with various physiologies continued to build. One thing he was absolutely certain of was that, unlike other people, his body seemed to lack this seed. Since neither Tiona or Ais seemed to have ‘inherited’ it from him, Vahn suspected he may never have had one from the start…

Noticing that Vahn was eyeing her with a curious expression on his face, Helen felt confused and uncomfortable. Though she was used to men ogling her body, as even her own siblings hadn’t been an exception, the way Vahn looked at her was very different. Instead of having a possessive look in his eyes, there were times like this when there was nothing but curiosity and, even worse, a look of understanding contained within his gaze. Fortunately, just as the discomfort began to build, Vahn would always snap back to his senses before politely turning his head away. This was yet another thing that disturbed Helen, however, as the moment he looked away always made her feel a strange feeling of loss.

Without letting the peculiarity of the moment delay their progress too much, Vahn changed into a set of equipment that had a size-changing feature before giving the command to resume their expedition. It was beginning to get late in the evening and, though sleep wasn’t entirely necessary for this particular group, Vahn wanted to make sure they were well rested to face any unforeseen troubles that might bar their passage. As a result, the group quickly proceeded into the 77th Floor proper which, unlike the Floor’s above, had a very distinct change in structure. This was due to the fact that the walls, ceiling, and floor all had various motifs carved into them like massive unending illustrations. It was as if thousands of skilled craftsman had spent hundreds of years painstakingly embellishing the 77th Floor, especially since each surface was relatively flat compared to anything found above. If not for the random rocks and destroyed pillars, giving the Floor the appearance of a ruined temple, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine they had stumbled into the ruins of a long-lost civilization…

After passing over seven kilometers along a single passageway, the party stepped through an ornate door that connected to a massive room whose roof was nearly 2km from the floor. Thus far, there hadn’t been a single enemy barring their passage but, upon stepping through the threshold of the door, the reason as to why there had been no enemies was made apparent. Though Vahn already suspected things would turn out this way, he couldn’t help but whistle in admiration as he looked out over the large formation of armored monsters. They had formed into four large battalions that held around 3,000 ‘soldiers’ while an ornately armored Captain stood at the front of each individual grouping. At the very back, protected by four more Captains, Vahn could see a figure wearing rather plain robes as it sat upon a highly embellished golden throne. While the rest of the army that had gathered seemed to be highly disciplined, the figure in the robes was leaning to the side with an arm supporting its veiled head, almost as if it was incomparably bored of the situation…

Standing to Vahn’s right, Jeanne had also been overlooking the army that had been gathered to repel them. Her usually stoic gaze showed a rare grimace as she tightly gripped the hilt of her sword in preparation for the battle to come. Her eyes locked upon the robed figure as she venomously stated, “Please leave that one to me, my Lord…I will never allow such a malevolent entity to continue existing…!”

Hearing Jeanne’s uncharacteristic words, Vahn couldn’t help but shake his head lightly before stating in a commanding tone, “Though they are undoubtedly our enemy, you shouldn’t take things so personally, Jeanne. I may not be the best person to give this kind of advice but I can still say that there is no such thing as an ‘evil’ ability. It depends entirely upon how the ability is used…” Even as the words left his lips, Vahn felt a strange incongruity in his heart since he knew exactly why Jeanne was so upset. Though the army before them looked rather impressive, they were undoubtedly still monsters as, with the exception of the Captains, each soldier gathered revealed a skeletal visage instead of one adorned with flesh. Vahn could also tell that they weren’t the same kind of entity as Fels and Ein as there was a distinct lack of ‘vitality’ contained within their bones. Instead, there was an aura of ‘death’ shrouding them that directly linked each soldier to the entity sitting in the back…

Never one to argue, Jeanne loosened the grip she had placed on her sword as she issued a small nod in response. Though she didn’t outright agree with what Vahn had said, Jeanne considered him far wiser than herself since many of the things surrounding Vahn were ‘impossible’ if she held onto her previously held perspective. Though the robed figure seemed to command the dead, something that seemed inherently wrong, Jeanne knew the way her Lord saw the world was far different than others. To aide in her efforts to match his line of reasoning, Jeanne considered for a moment how she would act if one of Vahn’s children was born with a similar ability. If it came down to it, she would do everything in her power to protect the child while Vahn, and everyone else in the Manor for that matter, would undoubtedly love them dearly…

While Jeanne was lost in her own thoughts, the largest of the ‘Captains’ raised a 4m long spear towards the sky as it released a shrill battle cry. In response, four thousand of the skeletal figures raised malevolent-looking black bows before releasing stark black arrows towards the location of Vahn and his party. Though this was impressive in its own right, Vahn’s eyes widened slightly as, upon reaching the apex of their trajectory, the in-flight arrows suddenly increased in number as each individual arrow seemed to split into five. He could even see a thin membrane of black mana around the arrowheads that showed they were infused with magic that allowed them to penetrate armor, not that this would pose a threat to anyone in the party.

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Even without giving her the command, Jeanne hefted up her kite shield in the same instant that the arrows had left their bows. By the time the lethal projectiles reached their position, they clashed harmlessly against a white dome that had been formed by Jeanne’s Innate. Though the arrows would have been able to penetrate normal magic barriers, the natural counter to such an ability was the very same Light Elemental energy that Jeanne naturally commanded. The arrowheads were rendered inert upon contact while the seemingly paper-thin membrane of light didn’t even fluctuate in the slightest. By the time the light faded away, Vahn had knocked an arrow of his own which, much like the black arrows, split apart upon reaching the apex of its trajectory. Unlike the black arrows, however, Vahn’s split apart into a total of 99 beams of light that rained down upon the enemies with a far more devastating outcome…

At the same time that Vahn had started his bombardment, Fenrir had launched herself forward with a fierce momentum that wasn’t at all affected by the terrible might of the arrows raining down upon her enemies. She instinctually knew where her Master’s arrows would land and, knowing he would never harm her, Fenrir had no fear as she began to shred through the army with the same ease as a veteran farmer harvesting wheat. Though their armor was durable enough to be considered as B-Rank equipment by most Adventurers, it didn’t matter at all when it came to Fenrir’s unstoppable claws. A single swipe of her paw was able to cut through half a dozen closely arranged enemies without any resistance whatsoever.

Keeping a close eye on Fenrir’s movements, Vahn continued to rain arrows down upon his enemies with seemingly no effort. He ‘knew’ each of his arrows would strike true and, as if responding to his confidence, there were instances where the beams of light would appear to miss an agile enemy before immediately bounding back and piercing through their backs. Simply dodging Vahn’s arrows served no purpose as, unless you had the ability to deal with them outright, they would continue to pursue their mark irrespective of distance. This was a combination of his equipment’s effect and the boons he had gained after earning Artemis’ love. Since the potency of her blessing had only increased after the birth of their child, Vahn had absolute confidence that his archery was second only to Artemis herself…

While the common soldiers were being slaughtered, the Captains of the undead army hadn’t been idling around. Two had tried to converge upon Fenrir with swords drawn but, as they only had the speed of an average Level 6, Fenrir had evaded the swipe of the first Captain by a hair’s breadth before severing the mummified head from its shoulders. Then, as the second Captain attempted to stab her from behind, it’s sword ended up piercing through the abdomen of its comrade as Fenrir’s figure faded from view. It had attacked her afterimage but, before it was able to process what had happened, a pair of icy claws tore through its functionally useless armor before sending its body flying apart in frozen chunks of decayed flesh…

As if she hadn’t just killed two Level 6 entities, Fenrir continued to slaughter every undead that crossed her path, her scarlet eyes glimmering with an intense light that cut through the low-light of the room. Everywhere this light passed, causing angular streaks throughout the ranks of the undead, only destruction would remain. By the time ten minutes had passed, more than 20,000 undead had turned into dust while the only remaining Captains were the four ‘guards’ surrounding the robed figure. Even as its army was being destroyed, the figure continued to look bored as it sat upon its throne with a disinterested permeating through the area. Deep within its veiled hood, however, two icy blue eyes were following Fenrir’s figure with clear intrigue visible within its gaze.

Vahn had been watching the robed figure through his domain and had even sent a few arrows toward its direction throughout the fight. Unfortunately, each of these arrows simply ‘stopped’ after breaching an invisible membrane that created a 30m wide bubble around the robed figure. Since it should be ‘impossible’ for something to affect his archery in such a way, Vahn credited the phenomenon to an Innate as, unlike its army, the figure was undoubtedly sentient. It wasn’t the only one either as, unlike the other Captains in the area, the one wielding a spear had an oppressive air lingering about it while the ghostly green flames sporadically emitting from its eyes glistened with the light of intelligence.

Not content to allow the robed figure to just sit idly by, Vahn knocked a [Yi] arrow before drawing his bow to the point that is arms formed a perfect circle. This caused the robed figure to pull its eyes away from Fenrir for a brief moment as it locked eyes with Vahn, ridicule and challenge contained within. Sensing this, Vahn’s expression didn’t change in the slightest but there was an overwhelming feeling of ‘contempt’ welling up in his heart as he readily accepted the figure’s challenge. Just as Fenrir arrived at his side, as she had already sensed the ‘danger’ present within the arrow, Vahn loosed the relatively plain-looking arrow that had four vibrant suns glowing along its shaft. The fourth sun was slightly less vibrant than the other three, as Vahn was still limited by his own Tier, but the power contained within this single arrow wasn’t something that could be looked down upon…

Instead of aiming at the robed figure, Vahn set his target as the void itself, something that few would ever be able to emulate. As a result, his arrow hit ‘nothing’ before erupting into a spherical black void that tore apart everything in the immediate surroundings with its irresistible gravitational pull. The robed figure, scorn no longer visible within its eyes, raised two gauntleted hands towards the gravity well as it desperately tried to resist the seemingly unstoppable phenomenon. It didn’t care that most of its army was being devastated by the attack as it sent out massive golden runes that collided with the black gravitational sphere. These runes persisted for several seconds and seemed to have a small effect on the [Yi] arrows gravitational pull but, much like everything else in the surroundings, they were ultimately destroyed. The robed figure didn’t relent, however, buying it just enough time to avoid being consumed by the arrow before the gravitational well naturally receded…

Just as ‘relief’ seemed to spread across the robed figure’s visage, the two icy eyes contained within the hood became slightly dull as it looked towards the two arrows that impacted the ‘void’ just outside of its area of nullification. As two gravitational spheres began to obscure its vision, the last thing it saw was the image of Vahn’s Qinglong form standing in the air on the opposite side of the vast chamber. The same ridicule it had directed towards him was now visible in Vahn’s azure-blue eyes as, seemingly finding two arrows lacking, a third [Yi] arrow left his bow. Though this left Vahn with barely enough energy to resist the effects of the arrows himself, he simply tossed an undiluted emerald green ‘gem’ into his mouth that caused his reserves to rapidly replenish. Unlike the [Sage Aldrnari’s Tears] that she produced for general consumption, Terra had created a special ‘candy’ for Vahn’s personal consumption after partnering with Yggy. It was suffused with enough life energy to practically revive someone on the brink of death but Vahn used it as nothing more than a supplement when he was unable to use a [Turbo Ether]…

By the time the three [Yi] arrows lost their effect, much of the 20km wide chamber had been completely destroyed. If not for the strange energy membrane between the 76th and 77th Floor, the attack would have undoubtedly caused the former to collapse as, in hindsight, Vahn knew he had once again gone overboard. As he stowed away his [Khryselakatos], Vahn resumed his Progenitor form before releasing a heavy sigh. Ever since becoming an Emperor, he had often taken things to an extreme, even that was not his intent from the start. If things kept up in such a fashion, Vahn was afraid he would become the same as his counterpart from the Divination and simply deal with all potential issues with overwhelming force…

While lost in his own thoughts, Fenrir, Helen, and Jeanne approached Vahn from behind, the latter showing a vibrant smile on her face as she complimented, “That was an incredible attack, my Lord. I fear that even my own defenses might not be able to contend against such a powerful gravitational well…” Though the truth of the matter was that Jeanne would have been able to tank the attack without much issue, it was still a testament to the [Yi] arrows power that it could cause her to make such a remark. As even Helen showed a momentary expression of awe on her face, Vahn allowed a small smile to spread across his own as he once again looked around at the devastation his attack had caused. Though he decided it was necessary to train and discipline himself further in the future, the part of him that enjoyed being praised had never fully faded away. With a smile on his face, Vahn turned to his three companions and simply stated, “Let’s go…” before once again stepping forward, this time leading the way himself…

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(A/N: I am officially home~! Though there were several issues that caused me to arrive more than nine hours later than planned, I’m finally free from the work that has kept me busy. The downside to the situation is that I’m still fatigued from the travel so this may be the only chapter for the day since I didn’t really get a day off. There will probably be another in the afternoon, once I get some food in my belly, but the official start of my schedule will be tomorrow. Saturday’s will be my day off but, as I wasn’t really able to output the promised chapters for today, I’ll end up posting 3 on the upcoming Saturday as well. I’ll be slowly increasing the amount of content until I’m back in the groove of writing 100k words a week so look forward to it~!)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Helen’s Mystery Revealed…?’,’Spooky, scary, skeletons…’,’Vahn is a Tsundere who likes being praised (UwU)~!’)

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