Chapter 196: Reunion Above Ground

As Vahn was making his way back towards the surface, it wasn’t long before he came across a group of people that were slowly making their way through the escape tunnels. Since the majority of people weren’t adept at detecting and dealing with traps, it meant they weren’t able to clear the path quickly. Seeing who was in the group, a lot of the negative feelings that Vahn had been feeling began to disperse.

Noticing Vahn’s presence, two of the members of the group immediately ran forward to intercept Vahn with varying degrees of happiness on their faces. The first person to arrive and tackle his body had been Tiona and she immediately used her monstrous strength to stress Vahn’s ribs as he rubbed her hair with a pained smile. Soon after, Ais showed up next to him with a smile on her face and asked, “Is it over?”

Tiona finally stopped squeezing Vahn, but she didn’t let go of him as she stared at his face waiting for the answer. Vahn smiled and began explaining everything that happened as the rest of the group caught up. The members comprised of the entire first and second parties of the Loki Familia as well as a few powerful looking adventurers Vahn had never seen before.

When he approached, Finn had an amiable smile on his face as he said, “Good job, Vahn, it looks like things will wrap up smoothly after this. We’ve already sent groups to inspect each tunnel, so you should make your way to the surface and explain the situation there. We’ll continue clearing the area before making our way back and regrouping with everyone else.” Then, after tilting his head for a few moments, Finn smiled and said, “There don’t seem to be many strong enemies, so those two can accompany you back.”

Finn had been staring at Tiona who was literally dangling from Vahn’s neck while Ais stood close to his side and split her attention between the surroundings and Vahn’s face. He realized that the two would be useless for the rest of the operation, not that they were very helpful in the first place. Since they had been rushing through the corridors, they actually set off a number of traps that had caused problems for the rest of the group.

Hearing Finn’s words, Tiona laughed out and said, “Hahaha, good going Captain~!” Ais also seemed to be pleased as her smile widened by a marginal amount and she grabbed Vahn’s hand and said, “Let’s go, everyone is waiting.” Vahn nearly dropped Tiona when Ais pulled him forward, but she managed to correct her own balance before jumping onto his back.

Vahn was surprised by her action and barely managed to prevent himself from falling over as he used both of his hands to support her legs. Ais looked back after Vahn let go of her hand and stared at Tiona with slightly furrowed brows. Tiona saw her look and smiled wide enough that both of her eyes were nearly closed. She pressed herself against Vahn’s back and nuzzled against the side of his face as she said, “I want to feel like a damsel that got saved by the hero as well~!”

Ais’s mouth became very small and it looked like an upside down v as her brows furrowed to a degree Vahn had never seen before. She looked toward Tiona and muttered, “Unfair.” In response, Tiona giggled and before patting Vahn’s shoulder and climbing down from his back. She walked forward and poked Ais’s cheek which caused the taciturn girl to puff out her cheek in response.

Everyone in the area, including Vahn, looked at the sight and felt like laughing. Tiona leaned forward and stepped back a few steps before spinning around on her heel and trotting over next to Vahn. Grabbing his arm, she looked toward Ais and said, “This is better, right~?” Ais stared at her for a few seconds before her expression loosened a bit and she nodded her head before grabbing Vahn’s right arm.

After storing the two girl’s weapons into his inventory so it wouldn’t get in the way, Vahn made his way through the corridors while flanked by Tiona and Ais. Though he felt happy to be escorting him, he couldn’t stop himself from blushing every time they passed by one of the rescue operation members. Each time he met someone they would give him a strange look before staring at the two girls he was leading. Most of the time, they would immediately move on after giving a curt greeting while other times Tiona would shoo them away to keep them from spoiling the mood.

More than a half hour later, the trio had made their way into the room where Laverna had indulged in her interests. Vahn turned his head toward the bed and all the strange instruments which caused Tiona to ask, “Are you interesting in that kind of thing~?” Vahn shook his head and explained, “Not really, I was just thinking about a few things and got distracted…”

Tiona cocked her head sideways with her finger on her chin as if she was contemplating something. Deciding to keep the matter to herself, she just smiled before hugging Vahn’s left arm tighter. Vahn was confused by her reaction and wanted to ask when Ais muttered something in a low voice that he couldn’t hear. Turning his head toward her, he noticed she had a ‘confident’ look on her face as she looked towards the bed.

Vahn could feel his brain buzz a bit and he began dragging the two girls away from the stagnant air and low-lighting of Laverna’s den. Along the way, he explained a bit of the detail related to Laverna and cautioned the two girls about over-indulging in things. Though the words felt strange coming from his own mouth, he wanted to make sure the two girls didn’t walk down a strange path out of curiosity. They listened to his words attentively and nodded every time he made a point, but Vahn noticed the gleam in Ais’s eyes hadn’t diminished by much.

Once they got in the actual safe house area, it wasn’t long before the three made their way out through the front door of the compound. There were nearly a hundred people outside and Vahn could see a number of individuals spread about and searching nearby buildings as well. His eyes widened as he observed the chaotic scene and realized that matters had exploded to a larger extent than he had realized. It wasn’t until the two girls holding his arms released him that Vahn broke away from his absentminded state of mind.

Tiona grabbed his hand as she pulled him toward the group of people that had been making their way over. It wasn’t long before she was forced to release him, however, as Vahn had to open his arms and catch the small body of Tina who had launched herself at him with tears in her eyes. As he was consoling her, the larger group showed up and Vahn gave them a somewhat apologetic, yet grateful, smile as he said, “Thank you…everyone…”

The group consisted of Hephaestus, Loki, Anubis, Miach, Milan, Naaza, Lili, and various other gods and adventurers Vahn recognized but had never actually met. They were Takemikazuchi, a tall eastern-looking god with black hair and eyes. He had very gentle and well-defined facial features and there was a shy looking girl with black, somewhat short hair, that covered her green eyes. She was wearing an outfit similar to a purple kimono and had a very docile expression on her face as she accompanied her god. Though she didn’t have much of an impression in the manga, Vahn still recognized her as Chigusa. Since he didn’t see the other members of the Familia, Vahn assumed that Ouka and Mikoto were part of the search teams.

Off to the side, but not approaching, Vahn could even see Ryuu in her combat attire which consisted of a white blouse, small green shorts, a leaf-like mantle that framed her face, and a strangely shaped wooden sword that looked more like a staff. She noticed his gaze and showed a gentle smile before nodding her head slightly before walking toward an alleyway where Arnya and Syr were waiting. Vahn locked eyes with Syr, who had a gentle and cheerful expression, and gave a grateful bow to the group.

Hephaestus was the first to speak as she crossed her arms and had a happy smile on her face, “You did good, Vahn.” Vahn turned toward her and could see the hints of a fiery wrath behind her gentle smile. Even though she had let him do as he pleased earlier, Hephaestus had a lot of hatred towards the people that had caused this incident.

Loki had her characteristic scheming smile on her face as she stared at the chaos around her before asking about the details of what had happened. Her words caused everyone to turn their attention toward Vahn as Milan picked up Tina’s body after she had cried herself to sleep. She gave Vahn a grateful and caring look as she joined the rest of the crowd and listened to his recounting of events.

Vahn explained everything from the beginning, starting from the ambush that he had experienced after leaving the Twilight Manor. He talked about how he had obtained the information about Milan and Tina’s capture and how he was able to use his tamed monster, Fafnir, to quickly arrive at the scene of the fire. Using his enhanced senses from his Báihǔ form, he managed to lock onto the girls’ scent before meeting up with Hephaestus outside and explaining the situation. From there, he tracked the scent to the safe house where the girls were being kept before saving Milan and Tina.

Since it wasn’t pleasant, Vahn left out the details related to Milan’s situation though several people had already intuited something terrible had happened considering her hairless ears and tail that Milan tried to keep hidden with the hooded cloak Vahn had given her. Naaza and Lili were especially sensitive to what must have happened since they had benefited from Vahn’s [Wounds Transfer] in the past.

Vahn continued explaining what happened after he parted ways with Milan and used Fafnir to evacuate Tina. Though everyone present was aware of its existence, Vahn sent a mental command for Fafnir to exit from the shadows while turning his attention to Ais. As the giant body of Fafnir came out of the ground, Vahn noticed that she twitched slightly but otherwise maintained her calm as she continued to lock eyes with him. Vahn smiled before reaching out his hand for her to hold onto as he continued his story.

When Vahn got to the point about his fight with the drugged up Kuji and his confrontation with the goddess Laverna, almost everyone present had angry and conflicted expressions on their faces. Hephaestus had the biggest response because she had just heard that the reason behind the kidnapping in the first place had been the materials she had given Vahn in the past. Even though she had taken action to prevent it from becoming a problem, she had overlooked several details since she didn’t have a proper understanding of the relationships of Vahn.

Vahn saw Hephaestus gritting her teeth and fists with a face of regret on her face. Furrowing his brows a bit, Vahn said in a serious and firm tone, “Hephaestus, don’t even think for a single moment you are to blame for this. You have no control over the actions of others, and evil people will always do as they please regardless of our intentions.”

Feeling empowered by his own words, Vahn continued as he held Hephaestus’s gaze firmly with his own, “Even I want to blame myself, but I know it serves no purpose. Though I have regrets about my own actions and the events that have happened, I’d rather focus on becoming stronger to prevent things like this from happening again. If we get caught up in the past and let fear control our actions, we’ll never be able to move forward and face the future with a smile on our faces!”

His words finished, Vahn began to breathe heavily as everyone in the surroundings looked toward him with expressions of surprise on their face. Vahn didn’t know what came over him, but after he recalled everything that had happened with Chloe, he couldn’t allow others to hold any blame, even himself. Though he empathized with her, Vahn knew Laverna and her children were to blame for everything, regardless of her reasons and the nature of her Divinity.

Though she still had her own doubts, Hephaestus smiled and affirmed Vahn’s words with a smile on her face. From her side, Loki was laughing in an almost ‘evil’ sounding manner while people like Takemikazuchi and Miach gave approving nods to Vahn’s words. Takemikazuchi seemed especially impressed by all of the events that had transpired this evening. He found Vahn’s words to resonate with his own principles and wanted to get to know him better after everything concluded. Takemikazuchi believed Vahn would be able to influence his children positively, and he might even be able to help with their problem given Vahn’s influence within the Alliance between the Hephaestus and Loki Familia.

Loki stopped her strange laughter and opened her eyes slightly as she asked a question that caused everyone to turn silent, “So, what happened to that goddess, Laverna?”

Vahn’s expression changed and he began to explain everything that happened, including the death of Laverna. The moment they heard his words, the expressions of all the gods and goddesses present became complicated. Though Vahn told them she was killed by a masked assailant, everyone present knew there would be a backlash from the incident.

Laws required that the children of a Familia deal with other children while gods dealt with other gods. It was a taboo for a mortal to kill a god and, even if Vahn wasn’t the one to deal the blow, it would be difficult to resolve the matter unless someone was held accountable. Even when a god killed another god, there was always some form of punishment or restriction placed on them, since it was the duty of the Guild to resolve such matters through mediation. Since Laverna hadn’t received a ‘proper’ judgment, it would fall to the gods and goddesses involved in the situation to be held responsible.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Many people, such wow’,’The Dangers of Overindulgence’,’The Situation Isn’t Over Yet…’)

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