Chapter 464: Adventurers

During the evening, Vahn was invited into the main tent where all of the decision makers within the expedition were gathered. Since he was not only considered a member of the main party, but also the Captain of the Hestia Familia, it was unquestionable that Vahn should be present. Accompanying him was Haruhime, as she was actually being groomed to be one of the future Commanders of the Familia, while the representatives from the Hephaestus Familia were also present. Thus, Vahn sat around a table, provided by him, as they started to discuss what actions they would be taking in the future.

Finn sipped on the expensive tea Vahn had set out on the table before breathing a relaxed sigh and saying, “Things have been going exceptionally well thus far…I believe everyone present is aware of the contributions Vahn, and the Hestia Familia, have made during this expedition. I would like to personally thank you for your efforts, Vahn, as I’ve never experienced such a smooth journey to the 50th floor in the past.” Vahn had been sitting next to Gareth as they made small talk so he raised his glass of [Dwarven Drought] to accept Finn’s gratitude.

Seeing Vahn and Gareth in ‘high spirits’, Finn’s smile twitched slightly since there was no way either of them would listen to him if he told them to stop drinking. He knew from past experience that Vahn was ‘immune’ to the effects of liquor and Gareth, being a pure-blooded Dwarf, also had a seemingly bottomless tolerance. After deciding to ignore the matter, Finn looked around at those gathered and said, “Henceforth, we’ll have to be selective in the actions we take while also ensuring that the defenses of the expedition can be maintained. As there are new faces present, I will discuss how previous expeditions have gone and then we will make our decisions as a group afterward…”

When Finn began detailing the experiences of previous expeditions, Vahn had given the Pallum his full attention and also took special note of key subjects. According to Finn, it was nigh impossible for the expedition itself to actually proceed beyond the 50th floor because it was simply too dangerous. The main party would be able to defend themselves against the relatively small hordes of monsters, but there was no way for them to deal with the thousands that would spawn as a result of the expedition trying to breach the deeper floors. Black Rhinos, the most common monster beyond the 50th floor, could easily be Level 4 in strength while some of their variants reached Level 5. As the average strength of the expedition members was only Level 3, it was ill-advised to proceed as a larger group.

The way they typically handled matters was to set up a strong defensive line within the 50th floor and then send smaller parties into different parts of the Dungeon. Since the spawn rate was based on proximity, things were much more manageable in smaller groups. The main party itself would proceed into the deeper floors in order to finish some of the missions they had accepted before returning to the 50th floor every day and depositing their earnings. Once they had completed their missions, they would then rally their strongest forces and make a push into the deeper floors in the hopes of breaking the previous clear record.

Currently, the record belonged to the Zeus and Hera Familias, which had been able to penetrate into the 59th floor before they were forced to turn back since the harsh climate was too much for them to push through. According to their records, the 59th floor was a frozen wasteland where the temperatures could easily drop below -60 degrees. Since the floor itself had never been mapped, and visibility was terrible, there was no way of knowing exactly how far you would have to travel under such harsh conditions before reaching the next floor. Since it was the trend that most floors carried the same theme for several levels, you might find yourself having to cover several thousand kilometers of a frozen hell before you finally broke through.

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As for the Loki Familia’s own record, they have been able to clear up to the 54th floor before having to turn away as a result of the constant barrage from the Valgang Dragons. Starting from the 52nd floor, the party wouldn’t be able to stop for even a few seconds as the dragon’s breath was so powerful that it could penetrate through kilometers of bedrock and strike the unwary with a pillar of flame that could even melt down Adamantine. Without barrier magic, like Riveria’s [Veil Breath], tanking such a hit could prove fatal for most Adventurers, regardless of their resistances.

Just imagining the ‘pillar of fire’, as described by Finn, penetrating through more than six floors of Dungeon bedrock, and all the empty space between, made Vahn swallow. It wasn’t that he was afraid of the fire, as it would be useless against him, but he was concerned about his companions. Vahn decided that, once he returned to the surface, he would create accessories that would be able to resist such flames to protect the girls in the future. Since Haruhime’s accessories could already create localized barriers, Vahn knew it should be possible to create more effective barriers that could shield the entire body, just like Riveria’s [Veil Breath].

Once Finn finished going over the information they had collected from their past experiences, he looked toward Vahn and said, “Vahn, I know it may be a strange request to make, given the circumstances, but I would like you to look into potential solutions for clearing the deeper floors. Your capabilities are rather unique amongst other Adventurers and you also have the wisdom of a [Master Smith] at your disposal. I will make available all materials gathered by the expedition for your use if you believe it would be beneficial in clearing the deeper floors.” As they had a plethora of supplies remaining, it wouldn’t be difficult to stay within the 50th floor for more than a month. Finn was optimistic Vahn would be the key that would allow the Loki Familia to gain the glory of setting a new record.

Contrary to Finn’s initial expectations, Vahn nodded his head without any argument whatsoever as he said, “Sure, I’m very interested in what exists beyond the 59th floor. However, you need to remember that our ‘enemies’ likely exist in that area as well so we’ll need to take precautions against them if we want to break beyond that point. I would suggest trying to create a more permanant settlement within the 50th floor and consolidating supplies over a long period of time before we actually try to move forward. However, that will also allow our enemies ample time to react to our actions so it may be necessary for us to take a step back and increase our individual strength before we progress further…”

Vahn knew that the Enyo must have a way to see what is going on in the Dungeon so there was little hope they would simply ignore the efforts to make a permanant settlement. However, Vahn was tempted to try anyways since they would potentially be able to draw out Enyo’s forces and then they would be able to deal with them. Regardless of how many resources were available to them, Vahn knew they couldn’t have an ‘infinite’ amount and he was confident in winning a war of attrition. Since he could gain OP from the monsters they would send at him, Vahn could constantly replenish their own supplies. Defensive fights were always much easier than offensive ones, especially if you were able to break into enemy territory, so it could be a practical method.

Finn had a complex expression on his face when he heard Vahn mention setting up a permanant settlement on the 50th floor. With a wry smile on his face, he explained, “We simply don’t have the resources to set up a permanant settlement on the 50th floor and, by the time we returned to the surface and came back, any fortifications we established would likely be broken down. Unless we can make the settlement self-sustaining, in a short period of time, there is no way of getting a foothold in the deeper floors. We’d be better off trying to create a small base on the 39th floor, since it is much safer and could serve as a relay station for future expeditions…”

At this point, Finn took a deep breath before continuing, “However, we simply don’t have the manpower for such a momentous undertaking and there are few people that would want to live inside the Dungeon for long periods of time. The stress alone would wear away at them and it would feel more like a prison after enough time passed. Even from a logistical standpoint, there isn’t any practical way to move enough materials to construct fortifications and we can’t simply quarry stone from the Dungeon as it would be subject to changing shape over time. There is a very real possibility that monsters would be able to spawn within the fortification itself in that case…”

As Finn spoke, Vahn was taking note of several details and considered everything the experienced Pallum had to say. However, by the time Finn had finished, Vahn felt slightly annoyed since there were several things that simply didn’t make sense. After looking around and seeing that most people were in agreement with Finn, Vahn felt slightly unnerved until he saw that both Riveria and Haruhime seemed unperturbed. As they knew of the existence of ‘Haven’, they were aware that it wasn’t as ‘impossible’ as Finn was making it out to be. With renewed confidence, Vahn smiled before asking, “Why are we here?”

Finn blinked in a confused manner before placing his fingers on his chin and saying, “We’re here to discover the secrets of the Dungeon and to complete the missions we have accepted to bolster the reputation of our own Familia and to reach greater heights as individuals…” Vahn was a little surprised by Finn’s response but nodded his head in agreement before asking, “How deep is the Dungeon?” Hearing his words, Finn paused for a brief moment before saying, “Nobody knows…it has existed longer than the continent of Eden itself and nobody has ever been able to reach the bottom.”

Vahn nodded his head once again as a firm resolve appeared in his eyes and he said, “We also have a duty to those on the surface to prevent the monsters contained within from ever seeing the light of day. As you said, nobody knows how deep the dungeon goes, nor what monstrosities await us within its depths. We do know, however, that all three of the major threats to mankind had emerged from the Dungeon in the past and had wreaked havoc that resulted in the loss of millions of lives…” Other than the One-Eyed Black Dragon, there were two more S-Class threats that had appeared in the past, known as the Three Great Quests. Thus far, the Behemoth and Leviathan had been defeated by the Zeus and Hero Familias, but the One-Eyed Black Dragon was still at large. What Vahn was hinting at was the fact that all three monsters shared a common origin within the Dungeon and there were very likely even greater dangers lurking deeper in the depths…

A solemn atmosphere began to spread through the tent as the reality of Vahn’s words settled on each person present. In the same firm tone as before, Vahn continued, “It is ‘necessary’ for the safety of all those on the surface world for an elite few to probe into the depths of the Dungeon and unlock its secrets. There is simply no way around it since the potential dangers are far too great to overlook…even now, we know of at least one organization that has managed to take up roots within the Dungeon. If we continue to wait around passively as they continue to spread their influence, who are we to blame when things reach the point of no return?”

Finn’s expression had turned serious after hearing Vahn’s words and he said in a somber tone, “What you say has a great deal of truth to it, Vahn…but most people won’t be willing to see things that way. Sacrifices may be necessary for progress, but there are few people that ‘want’ themselves to be included in such statistics. Though we may be called Adventurers, most people that venture into the Dungeon to become stronger simply do so to increase their own quality of life. You would be hard pressed to convince a large number of people to venture into the depths of the Dungeon simply because it is ‘necessary’ to do so…”

Against his expectations, Vahn actually nodded in agreement with Finn as a smile appeared on his face. He knew Finn’s words struck at the truth of the matter and, as he claimed, few people would be willing to make such sacrifices unless the incentive was compelling enough. This was one of the reasons why he said they needed to take a step back earlier since it wasn’t really practical to plant their own roots any time soon. As Finn suggested, it would be better to make a base on the 39th floor first and then slowly establish a supply line over a long period of time. If they could establish settlements progressively deeper into the Dungeon, and create enough incentive for people to reach them, it wouldn’t be impossible to one day reach their goal of progressing deeper into the unknown floors of the Dungeon.

The average level of Adventurers might be relatively low for now, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be increased over time. Vahn knew that, once his own Academy was founded, there would be an influx of capable Adventurers and mages roaming around the continent. Since the desire to grow stronger would be embedded into each of them, they would likely endeavor to reach depths of the Dungeon that had never before been seen. If they created an organizational hierarchy that supported the development of such individuals, everything else would simply sort itself out with the passage of time. Just like those gathered presently, there would always be those that seek greatness and wanted to carve their names into history by making new discoveries…

Vahn spent about two hours explaining his own plans to everyone present, including his intent to create the relay point that Finn mentioned on the 39th floor. Though he didn’t give too many details, Vahn explained the potential of his ‘storage magic’ to those gathered and how it wasn’t actually as difficult as he mentioned to move mass amounts of supplies. As for the base that would eventually be created on the 50th floor, Vahn wanted it to become the ‘core’ of the Alliance and to serve as a ‘goal’ for others to reach in the future.

Even by simply propagating the message that you could only be considered a first-rate Adventurer by reaching the 50th floor, there would be innumerable people that would aspire to reach it. By creating supply points in the Dungeon, the confidence of many people would increase greatly and the average level of Adventurers would go up over time. Vahn’s plans weren’t trying to make such things a reality in a short period of time, but they were designed to take place over several years, or even decades. Regardless, it was something that was ‘necessary’ for the future of all people and Vahn was able to convince those present that it was better to be the ones leading the way for such movements as it would guarantee their own power and authority in the future.

Just as Orario was currently the strongest City on the entire continent, Vahn’s ‘Haven’ would one day take that title for itself since the only people capable of even reaching it were those that had become strong enough to do so. By the time people were born within the Dungeon, and the City became self-sustaining, they would have a nigh-unstoppable momentum. Once they had a better understanding of the artificial dungeon, and came to a compromise with the Xenos, the Dungeon would become a central hub for activity within the entire continent. It would no longer be a place where a select few had access to, but a place where people aspired to see for themselves in order to create their own legacy.

Rather than through ‘conquest’, Vahn was thinking about unifying people through ‘progress’ instead. If he could create the strongest organization in the continent, the power base of Orario would also increase as a result and Vahn could influence regulations to make the City a better place to live for all people. Though they were bound to face opposition from outside forces, they would eventually be forced to compromise or else they would be swept up by the momentum of progress. Failure to adapt would likely result in the deaths of many people, and the potential collapse of entire nations, but the resultant changes would bring people ever closer to a world where the only difference between people was the amount of effort they put into becoming stronger. Vahn’s own children would be entities that could grow beyond the bounds of the record itself, so he was already starting to think of how the future would be shaped by future generations for the thousands of years that would follow…

In summary, Vahn was planning to ‘destroy the world’ by forging a path that forced people to walk forward or be swept away by the momentum of those that sought a better future for themselves. Of course, he didn’t go over these plans with Finn, and the others present, but it was something he had decided for himself and was now proactively seeking. To ensure things would devolve into chaos, as there were bound to be people that used their power to oppress others, Vahn would have to create an organization that possessed the greatest amount of power in the entire world. He wouldn’t ‘force’ anyone to adopt his ideologies, but by making a ‘safe’ place for refugees that sought a better life, Vahn knew things would eventually change for the better. If corrupt forces took offense to the future he wanted to create, Vahn wasn’t opposed to showing them the error of their ways…

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