Because they were able to use the stairs all the way to the 17th floor, it took less than an hour to reach the 18th floor and arrive at the settlement Rivira. Along the way, Vahn got to experience the capabilities of Tiona and Ais for the first time. He had seen them fight in the past, when they were against the Juggernaut, but Vahn had never actually fought alongside the girls in normal circumstances. Though he wanted to do his best and try to command from the backline, they simply dealt with everything immediately after it showed up.
Ais was like a living typhoon that cut through her enemies and turned them into dust with simple movements while Tiona used her [Dance of the Amazon] to literally smash everything effortlessly. Tione was also able to deal with entire groups of monsters in a short period of time, so Vahn hadn’t actually done anything other than fire arrows at some of the monsters further away from the main group.
Though he hadn’t dropped his guard at all, Vahn spent the majority of their excursion through the 17th floor talking to Haruhime and Lefiya about what they would be doing during fights. Haruhime had yet to learn any real support magic and there was no need for her Level-Up magic in the current situation. She just periodically used her [Icicle Edge] to target monsters in the periphery while Lefiya just held her staff without doing much at all. When he had asked about it, Lefiya explained hesitantly that mages typically saved their mana for emergencies and serious threats so, unless the situation called for it, she just stood in the back and waited for the proper timing.
Vahn didn’t agree that this was the best course of action, but he also knew that most of the traditional magic cost an exorbitant amount of mana. The current Lefiya could only cast her most powerful spells a handful of times and could only copy a single one of Riveria’s before she was completely drained. Vahn was beginning to realize that the efficacy of magic, in general, was terrible and there had to be a better way. Though he already wanted to meet her, as he thought about her often, Vahn was seriously hoping that the orb would reactivate soon. There was so much he could learn from Eva and it would serve as the foundation for the new system he would help to establish in the Danmachi record.
Until then, the best thing he could do was the forge mana batters for Lefiya, and potentially Riveria, as long as they signed an exclusivity contract with him and never allowed other people to study the items. Even though there was a negligible chance anyone would actually discover the secret of his blood contained within the items, Vahn wasn’t trying to popularize their existence at all. Until he established a strong enough power to resist any of the forces that would try to oppose him, Vahn didn’t want to unnecessarily spread knowledge regarding such items as there would be countless evil and cruel people that would cause endless tragedies in order to obtain them.
Once the group had arrived at Rivira, Vahn made the decision to proceed directly to the 19th floor without tarrying at the settlement. There were a number of disreputable types that made Rivira their home, as it was a relatively lawless area that wasn’t privy to the same restrictions as the surface world. Though the Guild tried to regulate things, they had no actual jurisdiction within the Dungeon itself and merely managed access to it on the surface. It would be far too troublesome to establish a permanent settlement of their own in the Dungeon, as the severe lack of infrastructure made it more of a liability than anything else. Vahn didn’t necessarily agree with this, but he also had the benefit of purchasing building materials from his system shop if he wanted to build a base of his own.
One of the things Vahn had been considering for the future was establishing an actual base within the Dungeon, not on the 18th floor, but all the way down at the 50th. Though the base would likely become the target of whatever evil forces actually called the Dungeon home, Vahn knew it would be easier to deal with them in the interim than it would be to oppose other forces on the surface world. If he could establish an actual foothold in the relative safety of the 50th floor, Vahn would be able to easily protect his future children from harm and also train them up in the hopes of further descending into the Dungeon.
The 50th floor was nearly the same dimensions as the entirety of Orario on the surface, nearly 200km in diameter, so there was more than enough space to build a fortified residence that could also serve as a major checkpoint for any adventurers strong enough to descend to that level. There was also the fact that Vahn just thought it would be cool to have a ‘secret base’ of his own deep within the Dungeon for his research. He had the benefit of transporting the required resources without any major difficulty, so there wasn’t any real reason not to. It was better he created a foothold for himself and the Alliance since they would be the main forces delving deeper into the Dungeon in the future anyway.
The entrance to the 19th floor was in the root system of the giant tree in the center of the 18th floor. There was a group stationed at the entrance where you could accept requests to gather materials between the 25th and 30th floors, but Vahn’s group just bypassed the checkpoint without bothering to leave their names in the logbook. Though it wouldn’t prevent the various informants from knowing they entered, it was better that they didn’t give away extra information since it was always better to keep their enemies guessing. Even though there were restrictions in place that typically prevented direct conflict in the Dungeon, as it could cause your blessing to become a curse, it didn’t mean there weren’t loopholes that could be exploited by the various criminal Familia that also patronized the Dungeon.
After descending more than 300m of stairs, Vahn finally took his first steps onto the 19th floor and noticed the entire structure seemed to be composed of wood, almost as if it were a part of the giant tree above. Instead of the glowstones that illuminated the Dungeon in the upper floors, there was now a moss growing along the ground, walls, and ceiling that created a gentle bluish-green light that lit up the area.
Riveria, who had been standing at the side, said, “From here onwards, the Dungeon becomes what is known as the ‘Large Tree Labyrinth’. Many of the gathering requests issued by the Guild take place between the 19th and 30th floors and it is one of the best ways to generate income for the Familia while also increasing it’s rank. Though, I imagine you won’t have as much trouble as some groups with your storage magic…” Vahn laughed at Riveria’s remark before waving his hand and saying, “Okay, everyone, keep your guards up and stay focused. Tiona, Tione, I’ll be relying on you to prevent any monsters from getting through to the backline. Ais, you’ll be the primary vanguard, but make sure you don’t get too far ahead of the group, okay?”
Hearing Vahn’s words, Tiona and Tione gave surprisingly motivated responses while Ais just nodded with a complex expression on her face. Though they had only been traveling as a group for a short while, Vahn was already very aware of Ais’s propensity to move ahead as if she turned into a mindless killing machine during combat. Seeing the intensity in which she slew monsters, Vahn was beginning to realize that her trauma was actually far greater than he expected. Fortunately, she seemed very receptive to his orders and had been staying back with the main group instead of running too far ahead.
Seeing their affirmation, Vahn nodded with a smile and continued, “Fenrir, I’ll let you fight freely, but you have to make sure you’re always near Tiona and Tione, okay? I’ll support everyone using my bow and issue orders as needed, so make sure you’re always maintaining some awareness of the situation so you can respond when necessary. Though I’ll trust in your judgment, since you’re all capable Adventurers, I won’t tolerate any failure to respond to my words in a timely fashion. I may not be a qualified Commander yet, but I’ll learn better if you work with me instead of directly opposing my commands…”
Though he hadn’t directly been speaking to her, Ais frowned slightly before saying, “I want to get stronger…much much stronger…but I will trust you, Vahn.” Vahn’s brows raised slightly at Ais’s words before Tiona bounded over and hugged the beautiful golden-haired girl and laughed in a playful manner as she said, “Ahahaha, Ais following orders is a very rare thing, Vahn, make sure you reward her properly when we return to the surface~” Though she didn’t seem to mind Tiona hanging from her body, Ais frowned at her words and asked, “Am I really…so bad at following orders?”
Hearing Ais’s words, everyone from the Loki Familia began to laugh in an amused manner while Riveria just rubbed her temples. As the Vice-Captain of the Loki Familia, she had been the ‘victim’ of Ais’s inability to follow orders for nearly six years at this point. Though very subtle, Ais blushed at everyone’s reaction to her words before walking forward around 20m as if she was going to run ahead once again. Instead, she stopped at the 20m mark and patiently waited for everyone else to start moving forward at Vahn’s order.
Vahn hadn’t given any orders to Haruhime, Ryuu, Riveria, and Lefiya, as they had very specific roles and were already very capable of performing them. Riveria stood to his left like a stalwart guardian while Lefiya and Haruhime stood at his right. Vahn had been surprised at Haruhime’s behavior since, against his expectations, she had remained relatively composed ever since they entered the Dungeon. She was showing an elegant demeanor and even her use of magic was very casual, almost emotionless in its execution. Vahn had thought she might cause problems and try to stick to him, but she seemed to be in control of her emotions and actually stood on the opposite side of Lefiya away from him.
Because he wanted to hunt a variety of monsters as they progressed, Vahn guided everyone along the path that had numerous enemy signatures. They came into a room where there were more than twenty monsters and Vahn could identify them as Bugbears and Lizardman. A Bugbear was a large bear-like monster that stood nearly 4m tall and had a massive head that was nearly as large as its torso. It had a massive maw full of sharp teeth and humanoid hands capable of using natural weapons that spawned within the Dungeon. Though they looked like brute-type monsters, they were actually known for their agility and ability to catch parties by surprise. As for the Lizardmen, they were actually one of the more dangerous monsters faced by parties first venturing into the 19th floor as they were some of the first monsters parties would face that fought with tactics.
Lizardmen typically stood around 2m tall and traveled in groups of 5-12 depending on the composition of their ‘party’. They were covered in a variety of different scales colorations including blue, green, and red, and this generally indicated the elemental attribute associated with the breath they could shoot out from their mouth in a pinch. The reason they were such a big problem was the fact they had a rudimentary form of communication and proactively fought together in fights. They also used nature weapons that took the shape of spears, swords, axes, and even shields. The many variations could be overwhelming for inexperienced parties but…
From the moment she entered the room, Ais took off with an explosion of wind and jumped directly into the large group of Lizardmen without any hesitation whatsoever. The green aura surrounding her body cut through the monsters in a manner similar to Haruhime’s [Sakura Blossom], albeit much stronger. Ais used her [Gram], which actually had a greater effect against Lizardman, to cut through five with a single swipe before making short work on the remainder of the group. As for the three Bugbears, Tiona had taken out one in a single blow while Tione had severed the legs of another. The last one was the most unfortunate of the three as it had been designated by Fenrir as her prey.
Fenrir was actually much slower than the Bugbear, but Vahn had loosed a total of seven arrows in the span of a single second, all targetted at the knee joints of the Bugbear. Though his attacks didn’t do any major damage, as he wasn’t trying to kill it, it allowed Fenrir to get the edge and she was eventually able to get to it’s back before pouncing on from behind. The most terrifying thing about Fenrir was, even if the monster was made of hard scales and thick hide, the moment she got her hands on it, the fight quickly came to an end. She was easily able to cut out large swaths of a monster’s body with each swipe of her claws as she quickly tore away at the ‘defenseless’ interior. Because of her fight against the Mammoth Fool, Fenrir knew that injuring the spine was a very quick was to incapacitate monsters and used the same method to deal with the current Bugbear before she eventually found the location of its magic core and ripped it out.
As per usual, Fenrir held up the magic core proudly so that Vahn could put it in his inventory before waving at her and sending her off to continue her ‘happy’ slaughter. She used to bring the cores all the way to him, but now she simply ‘presented’ them to him from afar and did her best to stay in the ‘formation’. During the Hestia Familia’s first ‘excursion’, Fenrir had learned the importance of fighting in a group and never breaking away from her assigned roles. Even if she didn’t fully understand why it was important, Fenrir still did her best to perform the role assigned to her so that she could get Vahn to praise her late. When she had seen Ais get ‘lectured’ for going far ahead, much like she used to do in the past, Fenrir had proudly puffed out her almost non-existent chest in pride since she had already ‘learned’ better.
Watching the four girls make short work of what seemed like strong monsters, Vahn couldn’t help but show a satisfied smile, even though he also had an urge to fight on the front lines himself. Once they made camp near the 30th floor, he knew he would have ample opportunity to get his own hands ‘dirty’. He could also use this experience to familiarize himself with the monster’s ecology through observation so he could make better determinations for how far it would be safe to progress when he was helping train the other girls in the future. Vahn’s [Mentor] Development Ability had increased from C to B when he was training with Emiru and Maemi, and he could now leave his mark on two people at the same time. Since it was relatively ‘safe’ to go as deep as the 25th floor, there was nothing to stop Vahn from slaying as many monsters as he wished in the future.
There was also the fact that Vahn actually liked ‘sniping’ monsters at a distance with his bow. Whenever they came into larger rooms, Vahn had the advantage of his domain to detect the position of enemies and was able to accurately target the magic cores of several monsters. The ease with which he dealt with them let Vahn know they weren’t really worth fighting up close. He had long known that his own growth outscaled most monsters, and this would likely be the greatest restriction on his parameter development in the future. Fortunately, he had the [Seal of the Challenger], somewhat awkwardly, placed around his neck like a jet black collar. There were currently four golden links hanging down from it and Vahn had them tucked into his tunic. He didn’t really understand why Anubis and Nanu liked collars since it felt very awkward wearing one himself…
Each link of the chain ‘doubled’ the amount of exillia he got from monsters while also doubling the amount of damage he would receive. The number of links seems to be restricted by the Tier of the record, so Vahn was currently only able to use four. Since it only affected base exillia gain, this meant that Vahn was gaining a total of 400% exilia, but it also meant that, on the off chance he did get hit, he would be taking 1600% more damage. Since it also increased the likelihood of him receiving a critical hit, it was actually very possible for Vahn to get instantly killed if he dropped his guard. This made Vahn’s tensions very high and, even though he wasn’t fighting in the front lines, he still felt a bit of pressure every time a group of monsters showed up.
Because he had the benefit of seeing his parameters updating in real time, Vahn was able to track his growth without having to go through a ceremony like everyone else. This was one of his greatest strengths, but also his biggest weakness as it would be a constraint to his growth as he didn’t have the option of fortifying his foundation like others. Without the use of shop items, such as pills and elixirs, Vahn wouldn’t be able to enjoy the growth rate he was currently managing. Fortunately, he had a ‘cheat’ like The Path, so there was a conceptually infinite number of ways for him to increase his strength without ever truly experiencing a bottleneck…
Name: [Vahn Mason]
Race: Human, *sealed*
Parameter: [Danmachi: 1-4]
Total:11455+(2313)->(2838)(A/N: AKA 5.5 canon Lefiya’s per level. I’m still super tilted knowing this!)
Soul Tier: 3 (Lord Soul)[Karma]: 7,907->8,004 [OP]: 33,115 [Valis]: 419,583,990(A/N: This number alone could allow Vahn to have an even larger harem, kappa.)
Skills: [Will of the Emperor:SSS], [Rakshasa Body:E], [Keeper of the Akashic Tome:B], [Eyes of Truth: B],[Bow Mastery:A], [Stealth:B], [Chainbreaker:S], [Heart of the Eternal Flame:SS], [Prometheus:A], [Call of the Reaper:B],[Yggdrasil’s Favor:S], [Veil of the Traveler: S], [Featherfoot:B], [Hands of Nirvana:S], [Metallurgy:B], [Fist Strike:B], [Friend of Spirits:A]
Magic: [Thria*Mimos:C], [Shundo:B]
Development Skills: [Wound Transfer:S], [Spirit Healing:A], [Swordsman:A], [Master Smith:I->H], [Mixing:C], [Mentor:C->B]