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48 Deeper in the abyss

While John was pondering these matters the unfortunate bunch encountered two goblins who seemed to be arguing over something. The humanoid beasts immediately stopped, looking at the humans in front of them, eyes turning malicious and hostile. One of them opened a wide mouth, filled with broken yellow teeth, trying to scream for help.

Betsy immediately activated her skills and successfully decorated their faces by putting an arrow through their eyes into the brain. The duo died before noticing something was wrong, not having any chance to have last thoughts. As professional adventurers how would the team allow this incident to escalate; surviving in this line of work was no accident. Luck only assisted in small matters and could not be relied on as a trump card. Even with high stats in luck, if Betsy did not possess enough power, her demise would arrive sooner than later.

The team performed their routine of patience and passing under the cover of darkness, getting far from the village. This time out of fear, since the distance between two villages were not significant, in case they needed to run. It would be a tragedy if they became surrounded from both sides, leaving no exits.

As they were passing, John was hard at work, trying to locate other small routs around; they were crucial for his backup plans. As expected, he found many of the hidden passages, since petty tricks and illusions did not fool his immense control over the energy. Finding fault in the covers was easy, most of them had mana movements in contrast to the walls, while some were mere spells, which he peered through without breaking them.

John concluded: "I have found many small passages around, which would be logical for the dungeon master to create. After all, in case of an assault the troops need to hold the advantage of home ground, it also provides the possibility of escape. However, I suspect there to be more escape hatches and plans around, based on the cautious characteristics of the owner. As I become stronger, I feel the ominous presence more, the binds and surveillance of the system are becoming more strict. Abnormal activities at higher levels will rise a forceful response, thus abiding by rules is recommended. As for current vessels; I have been tricking their senses to presume improvement in their cultivation by moving forward, and even told this feat to Link via his amulet. Yet they are steadily losing their research values as more data is gathered, once it arrives at zero disposal will be in order"

By disposal John meant using them for more inhuman tests, he would not simply let any scrap of them go to waste. It could be said the moment he laid eyes on the unfortunate crowd; their fates were sealed. Due to the absence of a mark from deities, showing a lack of backers; he was free to perform forbidden techniques.

Regardless of time or place, if his experiments were known to anyone, it would raise the wrath of masses and tribulation from heavens. Yet he persisted in such dark acts, fully prepared and confident in dealing with repercussions, relying on many backup protocols formed.

The group passed another hurdle, going further inside the lion's mouth in hopes of finding gains. No reward came without risk; this was a common belief between many, but if no hope was found acting would become more difficult. Thus, John channeled some energy into their organs, increasing the stats slightly.

One had to know the values presented in the stats were not compatible with mathematical concepts. For example, the agility of 8 was not twice faster than 4, rather they represented a difference in their level. Someone with all stats fixed at two was not twice stronger than a normal adult with values around 1; rather it was similar to a professional athlete against a normal person.

John had found the bodily functions to be increasing with each improvement; after a breakthrough other organ adjusted to the new pressure by reinforcing themselves. If this feat was not accomplished, how would they be able to support the needs of the muscles, the person would die from heart or kidney failure long before enjoying the fruit of their labor.

What John did in his vessels were similar, by injecting a smaller dosage of targeted energy to the proper places he enhanced their power by simply stabilizing them. Of course, the control and knowledge he had far surpassed their normal transformation, so there was much room for improvement. However, why would he care for such expendable subjects, thus, only the minimum was allocated to them. In truth, the allocation was the share they received from killing each enemy, with him only repurposing and channeling it to the desired place.

If such expertise were known, experts from all over the land would come to be blessed by John, paying any price for this treatment, to break their limits increasing longevity. The mightier one became, the scarier death seemed; even selling their soul may seem a reasonable price. In Jonathan's past life, there were many tales of dealing with the devil in hopes of attaining immortality. Now he could easily impersonate demons; just by moving their natural flow of life force or injecting it from outside sources, prolonging human's life was very possible.

After a good distance was passed, John took the life of all the elders of the village they had passed again. Since it was wasteful to let such fine opportunity slide, he calculated the odds of alarming the mainframe and acted in this manner when it was in his favor. He cultivated his core some more with the attained loot; growing more powerful had brought some issues for him. First, it took much more force to successfully advance, or breakthrough. Second, he suspected his vessels to show signs of instability soon; even if he covered everything the undeveloped mind and spirit of these 7 could hardly contain him. Third, he was beginning to feel more auras around, which meant they would soon feel him as well; stopping a threat in birth was the way of wise.

All the issues he had to deal with were solvable once he reached higher the higher levels of the dungeon. With his calculations, his mounts became obsolete few villages down the road. Since the average strength was increasing, he used the previously attained information to estimate the average of upcoming communities and their numbers before reaching the rank of hobgoblin. So, strengthening his subjects by helping them advance was required, this feat was akin to putting more gas in his car to go a little further.

John allocated a small portion of stolen life energy to do something that many dreamt of, helping the team in their transformation!
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Meanwhile, the adventurers had set up a temporary camp without fire to rest, as their journey had been extremely stressful, they were all exhausted. Suddenly they felt hot inside their bodies, making them cry in joy. One had to know of the difficulties of any improvements, the five thought to themselves:

"No wonder the young masters come here to receive a boost, just by some fighting and walking we improved"

Dahlia looked at the rest of her group, witnessing the look of shock and happiness in their eyes, she addressed them:

"From now on, we do not look for loots, just advancing deeper to improve our strength, later we can take all we want with ease. Like taking candy from a baby"

"I am down for it; power is everything" Betsy replied excitedly.

Looking at her idol's reaction Beryl smiled and nodded her head vigorously.

Link knew of this in advance, as the kind amulet of his had mentioned it, so accepting without objections was only natural.

Alvin opened his mouth to say a comment, but no words escaped, in the end, he just weakly nodded.

John found Alvin to be worried about the killed royal soldiers, but since he wanted to gather raw data, no reaction was made by him.

The heat continuous in their bodies, keeping them warm and lighting flames of hope in their hearts. This was John's plan indeed, giving them a small bait and once hooked they would rally, running after the dangling carrot.