Chapter 192: Remembering What’s Important

After clearing her mind, Milan noticed that Vahn was cradling her gently in his arms as he stared at her face with clear concern in his expression. She smiled briefly, but it faded quickly as she asked, “Did you save Tina?” Even though she was happy and felt a bit of relief, Milan wouldn’t be able to relax until her daughter was safe. She sat up from Vahn’s arms and looked around and recognized the room as well as the seven bodies covered by the blanket.

Vahn put his hand on her head and spoke in a soft tone, “Don’t worry, I already have her within the range of my senses. I’ll be going to save her now…I just couldn’t leave you here alone.” Milan heard his words and felt a pang of warmth in her heart, but it didn’t do much to suppress her anxiety. She noticed that she had been clothed in a dark blue cloak and removed Vahn’s hand from her head before noticing a strange sight. The tail that she had lost had grown back, and even though it was hairless, Milan couldn’t help but release a relieved sigh.

In her daze, Vahn stood up and embraced her body and stroked her back in a caring manner as he said, “Leave through the window and guide the others here. Hephaestus had been gathering a rescue party and is probably searching for this location. I know you’re worried about Tina, but my stealth and skills allow me to move undetected. If you don’t want to leave, you’ll have to stay in this room for the time being.” As he spoke, Vahn pulled out one of the short swords he had forged in the orb.

Milan wanted to refute his words, but she couldn’t argue against his serious expression. Even though she had recovered her strength, her mind was in an unstable state and she knew she wouldn’t be able to help him. Since she didn’t want to wait in the room, Milan decided to follow his advice and go get support. However, before she left, she looked at the cold and sad eyes of Vahn that couldn’t be concealed even though he was trying to act comforting. She knew he would blame himself for what happened and wanted to assure him but couldn’t find the words.

Vahn saw her hesitation and just shook his head as he put his hand back on her’s and stroked the hairless ears that served as a reminder of his failure. In a tired, yet angry, sounding voice, Vahn said, “I have no regrets…other than the fact that I was too weak to prevent this from happening. I will make them pay dearly to make sure nobody ever tries to harm the people I care about again…” A cold light flashed through his eyes as he stared through the walls and floor toward the aura of Tina.

Seeing his expression and hearing his response, Milan furrowed her brows and gave Vahn a strong hug. Though he was a bit confused, Vahn just caressed her back for a bit until she said, “Don’t become a monster because of other people…save Tina, that is the most important thing. If you fall down to their level, you will only have regrets in the future. That isn’t the way to obtain strength…that is the path towards cruelty…don’t lose your kind and gentle self for the sake of evil men.”

Milan’s words made Vahn feel a terrible sensation in his mind and caused the cold feeling that had rooted itself in his consciousness to fluctuate. He could feel his anxiety begin to build but it was soon suppressed as the cold sensation became stronger. Though he knew she was right, he just couldn’t let the people that had done this off without releasing his frustrations somehow. Vahn felt like, if he showed mercy now, there would only be more people that would find trouble for him in the future.

As she had been paying attention to his expression, Milan had seen the struggle in his eyes as she cupped his face in her hands and whispered, “Let them be judged and suffer in prison for the rest of their lives. You don’t have to be the one to pass judgment on them, Vahn. Just find the mastermind and turn them over to the authorities…but, most importantly, you still need to save Tina. She needs a hero, not someone that lacks mercy. Don’t let her hold the image of you tormenting others in her mind, even if it is to enact justice for everything that happened.”

Milan’s words caused Vahn to imagine Tina looking at him with fear in the future. Even if it was an unnecessary concern and she didn’t fear him, Vahn couldn’t tolerate the idea of her being comfortable with him killing people either. Though the cold sensation in his mind didn’t leave, it dissipated slightly and Vahn released a sad sigh. He had already killed the men that tormented Milan so, as long as he could save Tina, he didn’t have to punish the rest personally. Considering there were people like Loki and Hephaestus that would be involved. Vahn didn’t need to be a vigilante that enacted his own brand of justice, he just wanted to protect the people he cared about.

Seeing his expression soften a bit, Milan showed him a gentle smile and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Before exiting through the window, she turned back and stared at him for a few seconds before saying, “Go, she is waiting for you…and…thanks for saving me and helping to regrow my tail. Once the hair grows back, I’ll let you touch it as a reward…” Though it wasn’t the most appropriate situation, Milan wanted to lift Vahn’s spirits a little and encourage him.

Vahn nodded his head slightly and, with a smile on his face, said, “It’s a promise…” He had seen her aura fluctuated slightly and knew that she wasn’t actually trying to make a pass at him. Vahn knew she was just trying to help him cheer up, so he reciprocated and gave an adequate response before turning his back as she leaped out the window. Though the future was an interesting thing to consider, Vahn needed to focus on the present and get to the bottom of the current situation.

Presently, there were two people guarding Tina’s room as well as several other auras spread throughout the safe house. Though not everyone had a black aura, Vahn could see that the majority were filled with negative emotions. This meant that, though they may not be directing their malicious intent toward him presently, they were still inherently predisposed against him.

The thing that had caught his eye long ago were the four larger auras that were deep underground, even further down than the room Tina was kept in. Though Vahn couldn’t sense the entire layout of the building, he knew it likely had several layers he had yet to explore. His mini-map showed him minor details, but it couldn’t let him see through walls unless he used [Eyes of Truth].

Since Tina hadn’t been kept too far from the room Milan was in, Vahn managed to sneak through the safe house while using his stealth and staying low to the ground. He was still in his turtle form, so he didn’t have night vision, but he could still easily see through the low-lighting of the corridors.

Coincidentally, his turtle form actually made his skin darken while hardening his forearms and legs, so Vahn was nearly indistinguishable from the background while he was using [Stealth] and his domain to conceal his presence.

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The moment he got into range of the connecting corridor where Tina was being kept, Vahn stepped into the corridor and immediately used Shundo. Since the two guards were slacking off due to being inside the safe house, they were completely unprepared as Vahn appeared in front of them before using his [Fist strike] to give them both severe concussions. Since he didn’t want to make a lot of noise, Vahn had used the benefit of his turtle form to converge the shockwave and localize it to the center of their heads. Even though he didn’t put a lot of strength into the strikes, it forcefully rattled the brains of the two. If they were unlucky, they may never fully recover in the future, but it was still considered a small mercy compared to Vahn’s original intentions.

After setting the two ‘unconscious’ men on the ground silently, Vahn used fire elemental energy to increase the temperature of his hand as he melted through the locked door. Though he could have searched the men for a key, Vahn didn’t plan to waste any more time so he used what he believed to be the most efficient option available. Once it had melted through completely, Vahn entered the small room and saw Tina unconscious on the ground.

Though it wasn’t a far distance, Vahn immediately appeared next to her body using Shundo before picking her up in his arms. Fortunately, other than some scrapes and a minor swelling on her cheek, Tina was otherwise unharmed. The cold sensation in his mind dissipated by a large amount and Vahn couldn’t stop himself from sighing in relief as he stroked the small cat girl’s head while using [Hands of Nirvana]. Even though he could heal the swelling quickly, Vahn still used [Wounds Transfer] since he felt it was only right for him to experience the suffering she had gone through.

Not long after he healed her body and was inserting his energy into her head, Tina woke up with a start and flinched after realizing she was being held. She immediately tried to escape, but calmed down soon after once she realized it was Vahn holding her body. Though she should have recognized it from the familiar warmth, she was still on edge from everything that had happened. Now that she saw Vahn, Tina hugged his body and started crying loudly.

Vahn compressed his domain a bit and used the sound dampening properties of [Stealth] to contain her cries as he consoled the bawling Tina. He continued to stroke the back of her head while softly explaining the situation to her. He told her that Milan had already been saved and was ‘unharmed’, and now he would be able to take her away from this place as well.

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Tina, hearing Vahn’s soothing words, began to withhold her crying voice as she continued to sob into his chest for several minutes. Even though she felt a great deal of relief after hearing the explanation, she couldn’t do much to repress the fear and unease in her heart. Though Vahn’s warm embrace helped to calm her mind a bit, she couldn’t relax until she was able to reunite with her mother. After seeing her mother carried away earlier in a badly beaten state, she was severely traumatized and had trouble believing that she was okay.

Vahn continued to soothe her patiently until he noticed a change in the auras around him. One of the larger auras separated from the other three and began to run through the building while alerting everyone else. The three remaining auras began retreating further into a space Vahn couldn’t see and they were quickly moving toward the edge of his detection range. Though he hadn’t been detected, Vahn assumed that word had gotten to the mastermind about the situation happening on the surface. Right now, there were several teams from the Hephaestus Familia converging around this area with Milan’s guidance. The main team of the Loki Familia had also shown up since around fifty minutes had passed since Vahn parted with Hephaestus.

Though Vahn was unaware of what was happening outside, he could intuit a bit based on everything that was happening. Before the men made their way to the room where he and Tina were, Vahn pulled her away slightly and looked into her eyes with a serious expression. Tina, though she was still scared and anxious, immediately ceased her crying as she returned his gaze. She could see the seriousness in his eyes as he explained, “There are bad men coming here right now, so I need to get you out of the building. A lot of our allies, including your mother, are heading this way and they will protect you.”

Tina nodded her head and asked in a sobbing tone, “What about you…?” In response, Vahn gave her a gentle smile and ruffled her hair as he explained, “I can’t let the people that did this get away. Even now, I can sense them running away from this location. I will buy time for the rest of the rescue party to show up, so I need you to be brave and go to them. Don’t be afraid, Tina, as I won’t leave you on your own…”

As Vahn finished his words, he looked toward the ceiling and held Tina close as he said, “Fafnir, open a hole in his damnable place. Let’s get some fresh air…” In response to his words, Fafnir slammed up from the shadows on the floor and accelerated toward the roof and tore through it like paper. Though there was a lot of debris raining down, Vahn was able to completely protect Tina in his arms by using his turtle form to dissipate the force of anything that contacted them. Even heavy debris contacted his body and just rolled off without even budging him.

Tina was very afraid by the chaotic scene, but she just hugged Vahn’s waist with her eyes closed and believed that he would protect her. Even though it seemed like the sky was falling, she noticed that Vahn stood firm against everything without budging as he shielded her body. After a few seconds, Tina could feel the cold night air enter into the stagnant room as Vahn used his domain to generate small bursts of energy to clear the dust that was still around them.

Picking her up in his arms, Vahn jumped through the hole that Fanfir had made before vaulting off the higher floors and arriving at the roof. Turning toward the dragon floating in the air, Vahn held out Tina and said, “Fafnir, protect her with everything you have. Take her to the others before returning to the shadows. If anyone tries to harm her or Milan, make sure they pay the price.” Fafnir nodded its head before responding in a childish voice, (*Leave it to me, Master~!*). It then bent down and reformed its scales to allow for Tina to fit comfortably on its back.

Though she was scared of the giant black dragon, Tina had also heard the cute and childish voice as it responded to Vahn. Even though it looked ‘evil’, she suddenly felt a lot less intimidated as she allowed Vahn to seat her on its back. Vahn rubbed her head affectionately one last time before giving her a kiss on the forehead and saying, “Milan is waiting for you, go to her…” Tina nodded her head before hugging Vahn’s neck for a few seconds. When she finally let go, she had tears in her eyes as she said, “Please don’t get hurt…”

Vahn took her hand into his as he showed her the most confident smile he could manage and said, “No matter what happens, Tina, I will always come back in one piece. Make sure to prepare some nice food for me when I return; the three of us can eat it together just like before.” Then Vahn ruffled her hair a bit before jumping off Fafnir’s back and down into the hole.

Though several men had shown up at the room where Tina had been kept, the moment they saw the huge hole and Fafnir, they immediately ran away. Vahn was going to follow their trail all the way back to the source since, if you trace the tail of a snake, you will always find its head eventually. From his time back in the forest, Vahn had learned that the best way to kill a snake was to cut off the head and watch the body die…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Author-Style, Triple-Cliff Summoning Jutsu~!’,’The Hunt Begins’,’Tiny Tina’s Tears’)

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