Chapter 718: A Journey’s End

Roughly one year after the monster attack against Gate’s Rest in the twenty-sixth floor of Fyor, the convoy was still pressing onwards, carefully advancing. They knew by now that they were extremely close to the next gate, and merely had to wait for a closer path to open. Some people had suggested digging to cover the distance, as the scout reported the direct path would be no more than ten kilometers.

However, they were unwilling to take that risk. Any power capable of blowing open a hole that deep in one shot would cause powerful aftershocks which could injure or even kill their guide. And if they took it slow, they might not even make it to the gate before the path closed up around them, splitting their group.

Thus, every thirty minutes they would check for a new path. At the current moment, the most direct path required them to backrack and circle around for over three days to reach the end. Sadly, in that amount of time, it was entirely possible that that path might close up, causing their trip to be in vain.

Only when a path opened that led closer to the gate did they move forward, keeping their eyes peeled for any monsters ambushing them. Everyone’s nerves were on edge, feeling like this was the last hurdle for their long voyage. They did not know if any boss monsters inhabited the gate room, or what would be waiting for them once they moved to the next floor. All that they knew was that they had been making this journey for too long already.

Most of the convoy couldn’t wait for this to be over, ready to be done with the glowing crystal walls and the constant need to drink the potions. Although the alchemists had done their best to improve the flavor of those potions, that did not change the fact that the Maxers were getting sick of them.

Seeing that the others were looking at him, Jordan nodded his head, closing his eyes and focusing. As he had already done so many times in the past, he sent out a ping of energy to locate the gate. As the gate was extremely close, the results were returned in under a minute, allowing him to open his eyes and report. “There’s a new path that opened up. It’s a slight detour, but we should make it at our normal speed within two hours.”

The convoy looked ecstatic at this news. The maze did not typically shift that quickly, so it should be entirely possible to get through the path before it changes again. If not, they would be close enough to be able to dig through without worrying about the blast hurting Jordan.

Without delay, the convoy packed up what they needed to and got on the move. They marched through the tunnels, eliminating the few monsters that they saw along the way. And then, finally, they reached their destination. A black slab of stone standing dozens of meters high, and half as wide. When they saw it, several members of the convoy looked as if they wanted to fall to their knees and weep in joy.

Jordan, meanwhile, had something else on his mind. The moment that they arrived in the room, he received a new message from the system. His special title, the one which granted him the energy to find this place, had leveled up due to him completing a long term search. He did not know if the increase in power had unlocked any new effects, but it was clear that the energy was more abundant than before. Perhaps it was as simple as a range increase? Though, he had never noticed a problem with the energy’s range before, as it was able to sense the location of this gate from so far away.

“Alright, everyone!” The convoy’s leader called it, attracting the group’s attention. “You all know what happens now.” As he said that, he walked forward, placing his hand on the surface of the black slate. “Time to see what lies beyond.”

The surface of the gate shifted, opening up to reveal the spatial portal that they were all too familiar with. Beyond the portal, they saw a black field. However, it was hard to tell if the area was dark because of a permanent effect like the light of the twenty-sixth floor, or because it was simply night time for this level.

Night… that thought brought a nostalgic shudder to several people. They had not seen proper darkness in so long. The knight hesitated for a moment before slowly stepping through the gate, officially becoming the first person of Fyor to reach the twenty-seventh floor.

Following his lead, the rest of the convoy moved forward one by one, leaving behind the eternal light of the twenty-sixth layer and its crystal prison. When they emerged, they were within a vast valley, lush plant life as far as the eye could see. The knight in the lead took a deep breath, closing his eyes and just basking in the darkness.

“Let’s send people back now. We need to share the teleport point with other priests, and get a proper survey team out here. This layer is bound to have more resources available to us than the last, so I think most will happily move if the danger is not too great.”

The others agreed, and two priests immediately opened portals. One traveled to Gate’s Rest at the twenty-sixth floor, while the other traveled to the central layer in order to report their findings. Although the Council was no longer around, the true headquarters for the adventurer’s guild had been moved to this layer. Using their authority as a neutral organization, they took over that floor for the sake of protecting the central spire.

However, unlike the council that preceded them, they had no intention to obstruct those wishing to submit orbs. Instead, they had guards posted to ensure that the orbs did not have any ill effect on the spire, allowing the person who brought it to personally submit them. Better yet, as long as the effect of the orb was announced and the system accepted it, they would offer a substantial reward to those who did so.

Although there were people who were uneasy with a single organization occupying the center floor again, it was clear that they had no desire to form a government body to try to rule the planet. Instead, they kept themselves entirely out of politics, maintaining their stance as a collective of adventurers and mercenaries who would do most any task for the proper amount.

When the priest of Aurivy appeared before the gate, and walked the short distance to the guild headquarters, people naturally took notice. There were only a few reasons for someone to go to the headquarters without wearing the guild’s uniform. Either they were turning in an orb, posting an emergency job, or submitting valuable information.

The receptionist within the guild quickly straightened her back and looked at the halfling priest. “Is there something that I can help you with, sir?” She asked with a professional smile, able to feel the energy radiating from the man. Clearly, he possessed the aura of a Maxer.

The priest nodded his head. “I’d like to report that Expedition Twenty-Seven has reached its goal. We are requesting a survey team be dispatched at the earliest convenience.” The receptionist’s eyes went wide, clearly knowing the significance of this report.

“Right away!” She nodded her head, focusing on sending communication via mana. “Do you have any information to report? Any immediate terrain hazards that we need to be aware of?”

The priest thought about it for a moment. “We didn’t encounter any monsters as soon as we passed through the gate. It seemed to be night time there, however. Aside from that, we saw abundant vegetation. There wasn’t anything else from what I had seen.”

The receptionist nodded, passing along the information to the central guildmaster. “I understand. I have passed along your report. As per the agreement, all surviving members of the expedition will receive the full payout upon their return to a guild branch. If any members are reported as not surviving, we will issue the payment to their next of kin.”

Thinking back to the various comrades that had died in the many battles along the way to the gate, the priest nodded his head with a solemn expression. “Then, I will thank you on their behalf.” After he said that, he began listing out names from memory. These were people that he had spent months traveling with. Even after they died, he had engraved their names in his memory to ensure that they were not forgotten.

The halfling receptionist wrote down each name, making sure not to miss anyone. “I’ll pass this report along as well. If you would like to wait for a little while, we can have your payment delivered.”

The priest shook his head. “Just add it to my account. I need to gather some priests to open the portal access.”

The receptionist understood with that, and did not press further. Most adventurers had their own accounts with the guild, not wanting to carry their money around with them all the time. Doing so would just be asking for them to be robbed. If they happened to need money for anything, they could just visit any guild branch to withdraw from their account.

After the priest left, he thought about something. There was one other person he wanted to inform. “I wonder if she’s still there.” He asked with a bitter smile, opening up another portal. This one led to the twenty-fifth layer, where the world was divided cleanly into two halves to separate the land and sea.

Once he made his way to this floor, he was able to blend in with the crowd and make his way towards a tavern. Inside, he saw the sulking figure of a young demon woman. She was hunched over a table, arms sprawled out as if she were napping. Her face was stuck in a constant pout.

Petra had made such a big name for herself when she started the expedition to find the gate to the twenty-sixth floor. However, with the enhancement to the scout class released shortly after they got started, a lot of their momentum was lost. Still, she soldiered on and led the charge, eventually guiding a smaller group to find the gate in the end.

However, ever since the twenty-sixth floor was unlocked, she had yet to be able to make any achievements for herself. It was only natural, as her abilities were almost perfectly restrained on that floor. The Demigoddess of Shadows could hardly play a leading role in a land of eternal light.

He had heard that she could usually be found sulking in this tavern, listening to everyone else’s stories as they came in and out. She never really drank, just listened and wished that she could have been on the front lines herself. He walked over to her table, pulled over a chair and sat down next to her.

“I swear, if you’re trying to flirt with me, I have ways to make you regret it.” Petra said with a half-groan, causing the priest to chuckle.

“Nothing like that. I just have an interesting piece of information that I thought you’d like to know.” He said with a mysterious smile, causing her to glance in his direction. “We’ve reached twenty-seven.”

Her eyes briefly went wide, before recovering their listless state a moment later. “And? Another light-floor or something? I swear by the Gods, if it’s another light floor…”

“It was night time when we entered.” The priest told her. “I don’t know if it will always be night time, but I can confidently say that light is not this floor’s theme.”

Gradually, Petra seemed to recover her energy, taking another moment to look at the priest. “You’re serious… how did you guys already manage to navigate that maze? I thought we’d be stuck there for decades.”

“We found someone with a pathfinding ability. It was still a long trek, but we finally made it. If you’d like to go visit..?” The priest left the offer open, his smile growing just a touch wider.

Petra immediately shot to her feet, attracting the attention of the rest of the tavern’s guests. “Take me.” She said with wide, passionate eyes, causing many of the patrons to glance away as if they had seen something that they shouldn’t have.

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