Chapter 24 - Will of the Emperor (1/2)
Vahn had gone to sleep early the previous day, so he had awoken at 2 AM. Since he was unable to make much progress yesterday, he wanted to immediately head back into the dungeon. He might have been able to slaughter his way through the 2nd floor, but since he wasn't in full control at the time he wanted to better understand the uses of [Will of the Emperor].
He checked out of the ward and they issued him a bill for 20,000V, which he would have to repay within 30 days. Though it was more money than he had ever possessed, he wasn't too worried about being able to earn enough. 20,000V was considerably less than the 1,000,000OP required for his quest after all...
The medical ward was located within the first floor of Babel and was run in cooperation with the Guild. They took care of any adventurers that were rescued and even sold potions and items to aid continued progression into the dungeon. This also meant that the ward was located relatively close to the entrance of the 1st upper floor, so Vahn didn't have to travel far after leaving.
As he passed the registration booths near the entrance, a familiar face caught his attention. He noticed Nicholas staring directly at him with an intimidating expression. Since Nicholas seemed to be dealing with another adventurer, and he also wanted to avoid a lecture, Vahn gave a slight bow before continuing down the stairs. He could feel a gaze on his back as a chill crept down his spine which caused him to shudder a bit.
Vahn made his way through the corridor that had been registered as 'The Beginner's Road' on his map and continued along his previously explored path. He wanted to try his hand at dealing with the 2nd floor, so he put off mapping the rest of the dungeon until later. As he descended the stairs, he discovered the barrier barring his entrance to the third floor had vanished. Resisting his urge to investigate, Vahn following his original intention and entered the door to the second floor.
He noticed that the spawn rate of monsters on this floor was marginally higher than that of the previous level. Due to the fact paths began to diverge after passing the main corridor, there were very few situations where those venturing into the dungeon crossed paths. This meant there were plenty of monsters and Vahn would have to fight them alone.
He equipped his sword into his main-hand equipment slot and mentally activated [Will of the Emperor]. He felt a surge of energy swell from his abdomen and extend to every part of his body. A cooling sensation similar to when he was using [Pain Tolerance] spread in his mind and he could feel the presence of an invisible force extending around him. He was vaguely aware that this was his 'Domain', and any kobolds nearby seemed to hesitate to approach within 20m.
As none of the monsters seemed willing to approach, Vahn took the opportunity to check and see if any of his parameters changed while the skill was active. Unfortunately, they had all remained the same, but Vahn was able to discover that the cone displaying his line of sight in the minimap had now grown into a full circle.
The circle spread out for 21.8m from his position, and Vahn became aware that any creatures within the radius had their location indicated on the map. As long as the skill was active he would be able to track monsters, even if they were behind him. Due to the spiritual nature of the domain, it could even pass through solid objects allowing him to see rudimentary details of corridors beyond walls. (A/N: It doesn't let him 'map' things like his minimap, but more like the vague way his larger map does things. He would still have to look at things closely to enhance the details...at least for now~)
Vahn walked towards the closest kobold and began to channel mana into the blade. He was surprised to notice that the runes began to glow instantly, but wasn't sure if it was due to his greater magic capacity or a byproduct of [Will of the Emperor].
The sword became light in his hand and he charged towards the kobold who seemed reluctant to fight back. It got on all fours and tried to lunge at Vahn in a manner similar to his first encounter. Unlike then, Vahn was now able to easily keep track of the movements of the monster due to the increase in his attributes. He was easily able to intercept its path and bisect the kobold at the waist.
With the fall of their brethren as a catalyst, the remaining four kobolds began to charge at Vahn. Even without looking at the minimap he was able to vaguely feel their presence.
Without retreating, Vahn began trying to use his footwork to maneuver around the charging kobolds. He noticed they were able to make single rapid turns, but couldn't handle simultaneous changes in direction. Using a combination of his agility and low sweeping strikes, Vahn was able to dispatch three of the remaining four kobolds.
The final kobold seemed to succ.u.mb to the pressure of facing Vahn alone and fell to its knees trembling. It put its head to the ground and tried to hide its eyes using its malformed paws.
Vahn realized that when the others had fallen his domain seemed to focus entirely on the last kobold. Unable to withstand the pressure caused by the difference in strength, it decided to submit instead of fighting.
Vahn was able to vaguely feel that the kobold was trying to establish a connection with him through [Will of the Emperor]. He knew that if he desired it, the monster before him would become his subordinate and follow his will.
The longer he continued contemplating the decision, the more he could see the kobold shake. He almost felt pity for the creature but denied the feeling since it had previously tried to kill him.
No matter how much time passed, Vahn couldn't think of any benefit in accepting the kobold as a subordinate. It was one of the weakest monsters in the dungeon, and he had no way of caring for it if he wanted to take it outside.
As if coming to a realization, the kobold sprawled out on the ground. Moments later it turned to dust, succ.u.mbing to the oppression generated by the domain.
Picking up the magic core, Vahn couldn't help but feel a little guilty. Even if he didn't want to accept it, he could have let it go since it had surrendered. Sighing, he collected the remaining cores and continued deeper into the second floor.
Along the way, he kept slaying every goblin and kobold as they appeared. Any group smaller than three was dealt with simply. The larger groups were more challenging, but as his experience with [Will of the Emperor] grew it became progressively easier to advance. He also noticed that if he focused all of his attention on a single monster it would become slightly stunned and temporarily unable to move. He could use the moment after they froze up as an opportunity to deal a lethal blow.
Two hours later he had finally arrived at the stairs leading further into the dungeon. Before continuing downwards, he decided to rest for a while. Since he had been using [Will of the Emperor] for the entire duration, he consumed and mana recovery potion (100OP) and waited for his slight migraine to completely dissipate.
During this brief period, he checked his spoils. He had obtained a total of 73 magic cores: 51 from kobolds and 22 from goblins. With an average value between 15-20 OP, he had netted a potential 1100 total OP. This, combined with the 'drop items' that were still being identified in the inventory would likely bring the value towards 1200-1300.
Vahn was surprised knowing he had obtained over 1,000 origin points within a short two hour period. That was nearly a quarter of the total OP he had obtained (minus Quest) during his entire seven-month stay in the forest! At this rate, he would easily be able to obtain the 1M OP required to complete his current quest.
After thinking for a moment, Vahn separated the cores into two equally sized piles within his inventory. He still needed to exchange some with the Guild to earn living expenses, and it was his intention to frequent the Hostess of Fertility whenever he had the time.
Thinking of the food he had enjoyed previously, Vahn could feel phantom pangs of hunger and anticipation from his stomach. Taking some jerky from his inventory, Vahn had the thought of convincing Mama Mia to allow him to store some dishes. Though he knew that exposing his inventory was dangerous, he was very tempted by the idea...
("If only storage magic was able to preserve items as well. I wouldn't have to try to think of a way to hide its existence so much!") That was the biggest difference between Vahn's inventory and known storage magic. His inventory had the ability to halt the time of objects and preserve them perfectly whereas storage magic slowed the decay but could not prevent it.
After resting for twenty minutes Vahn's mana had completely recovered. He made his way towards the third floor and activated [Will of the Emperor] again. Though he was secretly worried about becoming too reliant on the skill, he wanted to become accustomed to its use as quickly as possible. Though it didn't enhance his parameters, the increased perception allowed him to rapidly improve his combat capabilities. The longer he fought, the easier it was to adapt his body to the various situations he'd find himself in during combat. He assumed that if he were to fight a group between 4-5 monsters he would be able to eliminate them easily, even without relying on the skill.
The entrance of the third floor opened into a very wide area approximately 50m in diameter. Along the wall were around twenty tunnels that lead further into the dungeon. Vahn knew he would probably have to investigate several of them if he wanted to find the way to the next floor...but first, he had to deal with the situation in front of him.
Since the room was much larger than normal it was occupied by a total of 19 kobolds. He knew it would be a tough fight, but he should be able to overcome the situation. That is if it was just kobolds he had to worry about. Among the kobolds, he could see three large lizards. They were 2-3m long and covered in a dense assortment of warts and scale-like protrusions. Vahn recognized them from the ecology book he had purchased previously. They were 'Dungeon Lizards' and were considered the strongest monster on the first four floors.
Due to the size of the group, they did not seem to suffer any constraints from [Will of the Emperor]. Vahn decided it was best to retreat, but stopped after a realization hit him. "Damn, how can I forget something so obvious!"
Mocking his own foolishness, Vahn swapped his sword for the magic bow he used to assassinate the goblin Chief. He knocked an arrow that had a strange protrusion on the end. Taking aim at the closest lizard, he let the arrow fly...