Since she had never actually seen Vahn use Shundo before, Tione was briefly caught off guard before kicking back powerfully with her long legs. Even though Vahn was must faster than her in bursts, just like when he fought Tsubaki, he couldn’t outmaneuver the reaction time and instincts of Tione at all. He had tried to get behind her and use a palm strike, but he ended up catching her bare foot before a wave of energy passed through his hand and he could feel his bones creaking under the strain. Though he initially began to slide back from her titanic strength, Vahn’s feet were still in contact with the ground and he managed to completely override the knockback force using Shundo to reposition.
Tione’s eyes opened wide since she had expected to knock Vahn back before following up with another attack. Instead, the moment she kicked him away, Vahn reappeared near her unguarded abdomen in an instant and struck forth with a very recognizable [Fist Strike], that was the bread and butter of her unarmed combat as well. She tried to use her pivot foot to twist her body and offset the strike, but Vahn fist still collided with her abdomen, even though it was slightly off-center.
However, though he had landed a powerful blow that sent Tione through the air around five meters, she landed back on her feet in a nimble manner before red glint shone through her eyes. Without any words, Tione charged forward with a terrible momentum and smashed into the ground where Vahn had been standing. He evaded her charge using Shundo and then ducked low to avoid her roundhouse kick before dashing away once again. Vahn quickly realized that Tione’s strength wasn’t the only monstrous thing about her seeing as how he couldn’t find an opening now that she had evaded his first blow.
The best advantage he had was his ability to spontaneously change direction and outmaneuver Tione who could only charge in a single direction quickly. It took time for her to find her footing before literally flying several meters through the air with her powerful leaps and crushing small craters into the ground below. If Vahn used his [Xuánwǔ Protector](s), he might be able to trade blows with her, but he was currently in a contest of pure strength, skills, and abilities. With that thought in mind, Vahn didn’t evade the next attack but received the dropping heel of Tione that landed powerfully on his guard from above.
A fervent, maddened, gaze appeared in Tione’s eyes after successfully landing a strike on the nimble Vahn. His feet planted several inches into the ground as spider-web cracks spread out from beneath him. Vahn knew both of his arms were broken, but he managed to receive the blow with a confident smile on his face before leaning into Tione’s body with his own. She instinctively tried to grab around him in a grapple, but Vahn used Shundo to propel them both forward without doing anything to stop his momentum. Just like when he was learning Shundo, if he didn’t properly connect the two points he would continue forward and trip, usually for several yards, due to the speed.
Tione hadn’t expected the situation at all as the both crashed heavily into the fortified walls of the Manor. The defensive formation activated and red runes spread through the area preventing any actual damage to the structure. However, it was the inviolable nature of the defenses that made the surface even harder as Vahn smashed Tione’s back into the wall. She exhaled a painful gasp before trying to lock Vahn’s body down only to find him vanishing from within her grasp. Spitting out a bit of blood, the red glint in her eyes increased in intensity as she glared at Vahn more than twenty meters away with a crazed expression. Though he had never seen it in action, Vahn knew this was Tione’s [Berserk] skill which increased her power based on the amount of damage she had taken.
However, even though she had hit the wall with thousands of kilograms of force, Vahn hadn’t actually done much damage to her at all. Since he had an expert level understanding of the bodies of others and things like injuries, Vahn could see he hadn’t even fractured any of Tione’s ribs in their collision. Because of the nature of physical laws, Tione’s body had a powerful ability to disperse attacks and she could even resist things like acid and flames with just her skin for several minutes without issue.
Though he couldn’t be sure, Vahn quickly tried to calculate Tione’s Endurance parameter as he evaded her barrage of heavy blows that had become much stronger than before. Since she was one of the few that aspired toward mastery before increasing her Level, Tione should have around 4300-4500 Parameters per Level-up. Just accounting for Endurance as being 20% of her Status, Vahn could conclude that Tione had a base Endurance of around 4000. With his current strength being 2544, there was almost no way for him to deal damage to her without relying on his skills. Even the powerful shockwaves coming from his hands simply broke down the moment he made contact with her tender, yet incredibly resistant, healthy brown skin.
Of course, it wasn’t simply his inability to hurt her that was the biggest issue…it was the fact that more than a quarter of Tione’s total parameters likely came from her tyrannical strength. Now that she was using [Berserk], each of her blows were enough to break bones while he would be lucky to bruise her body. Though he didn’t have any regrets about his own status distribution, Vahn was beginning to realize the downside of specializing in Magic as his primary stat. Without any magical spells to cast, he was at a bit of a disadvantage unless he used a few tricks.
By now, more than a minute had passed and Vahn’s arms had begun to mend to the point where they were usable again. However, before he could try to get a hit into one of Tione’s vitals, she suddenly dropped her guard with a smile on her face. Because it was an abnormal development, Vahn was momentarily caught off-guard even though he remained on high alert. In a completely ‘casual’ manner, Tione made a motion as if she were going to toss something over to Vahn but, instead of ‘gently’, the rock flew out of Tione’s hand like a bullet which smashed into Vahn’s thigh with enough force to leave a large gash in his leg.
Vahn winced while Tione shouted, “Let’s see if you can dodge with one leg! Graaaaaagh!” She had leaped high into the air and looked like she wanted to smash down on Vahn with both fists clenched. With a slight frown, Vahn used Shundo without any major difficulties while Tione planted herself nearly a foot into the ground before bursting out of it like a crazed lioness. Debris flew everywhere and she charged at Vahn with a fierce gaze as if she had completely lost her mind. Vahn knew that [Berserk] not only depended on the damage she took but was also influenced by her anger in a similar manner to Fenrir. Since he hadn’t been fighting her ‘directly’, Tione’s frustrations continued to compound and she seemed to genuinely intend to bring him harm.
Shundo didn’t require the use of two legs, since it was just connecting two points within his domain, so Vahn was still able to use it while he tended to the wound with [Hands of Nirvana]. Tione saw his actions and gnashed her teeth before beginning a furious chant that Vahn didn’t recognize. With a bit of panic, Vahn used Shundo to close the distance and try to interrupt her cast, but Tione just tanked the blow to her diaphragm without stopping her words at all. The only thing Vahn’s strike accomplished was making her exhale slightly through her nose.
Tione finished her chant by shouting, “Capture time, stop time, and trample over time!!!” Vahn tried to dash away with Shundo, but the moment he reached the end point of his movement powerful bands of energy wrapped around his limbs and prevented him from moving a single inch. For a brief moment, Vahn felt like he understood how his opponents would feel if he used [Enkidu] on them, but that thought was set aside in an instant when Tione charged toward him low the ground as if she was going to tackle him. If she managed to mount his body, Vahn would suffer her tyrannical strength in a position where he couldn’t easily defend himself.
Instead of panicking, Vahn converged fire elements into his body and quickly increased his own temperature to nearly 1500 degrees Celsius while simultaneously using [Chainbreaker] in an attempt to break free from his restraints. Because of the intense heat, and the fact it was very cold outside, there were waves of energy coming off of Vahn’s body as his clothing incinerated into ashes that revealed his naked Báihǔ form for all the spectators to see. Though it wasn’t his intention, his actions made Tione falter a bit while the other girls in the area all had varying reactions.
Tiona literally got ‘fired up’ at the sight and had a blazing passion in her eyes as she shouted, “Oooooooooohhhh~!” Ais had a ‘fierce’ look in her eyes as she stared at Vahn while holding Tiona back with the assistance of the slightly befuddled Anakitty. Haruhime had her usual elegant demeanor except there was a strange glint in her eyes as they squinted slightly. Even though she had an aversion to men and a fierce androphobia, it didn’t seem to extend to Vahn at all. As for Mikoto, she maintained her disciplined and serious look, except there was a slight twitch in her brows. The most drastic reaction was, of course, Lefiya, who had squatted to the ground with a shrill squeak and had a fiercely blushing face as she stared through the gaps of her fingers.
Vahn had only heated his body with the intent of increasing his offensive power and make Tione slightly apprehensive, but he wasn’t going to waste the opportunity he had created so he dashed forward with Shundo and struck forth with a kick to Tione’s side. Her eyes wavered for a brief moment before she made a passive attempt to try and defend herself by compressing her body instinctively. Unfortunately, her temporary daze made her unable to process things clearly so she received Vahn’s blow, which was hot enough to melt steel, with her exposed side.
The daze she had been in vanished completely as she rolled to the ground and tried to disperse the heat in her body before bouncing back to her feet with a mad look and started to shout before Vahn appeared right in front of her again. Since he knew she would be fine with the effigy, Vahn wasn’t pulling his punches at all even though the smell of burnt flesh was very nauseating. If he didn’t have the physical power to break through Tione’s defenses, he needed to rely on his other abilities to do so.
Unexpectedly, Tione gnashed her teeth and swallowed her words as she reached forward to grab Vahn’s red-hot shoulders as he drove his fist into her gut. Vahn could feel her fingers pierce into his shoulders and also noticed that, though his body was hot enough to melt steel, it only caused a nauseating smell to come from the blistered skin of Tione as she cocked her head back and leaned forward to give him a powerful headbutt to the crown of his head. Vahn’s vision blackened in an instant, but he still managed to instinctively use Shundo to send them both careening through the courtyard.
When they stood up, Vahn’s body was already changing into his turtle form and he had a powerful urge to pass out as he started into the fierce eyes of Tione who didn’t even blink when blood dripped from her forehead and into the open eyes. Vahn was having trouble forming any thoughts at all and was relying on his instincts and willpower to prevent himself from passing out. The familiar cold sensation had long spread through his body, and it seemed to be the only thing supporting him at the moment. Since it wasn’t the first time he had received a heavy blow to the head, Vahn imagined that he had a severe concussion or maybe even some slight hemorrhaging as blood dripped from his hair.
For a short period of a few seconds, they both just stared at each other before Tione released a bestial warcry and began her attack with renewed intensity. Vahn was in a strange state where he was unable to form thoughts, so he trusted his instincts and used the enhanced defenses of his turtle form to receive the heavy blow of Tione. She also seemed to have lost her mind a bit, because she didn’t seem to care that he was responding contrary to her expectations. When her heel collided with the palm of Vahn, a green glow emerged from the scales on his body before he struck forward with his free right hand upwards toward Tione’s abdomen.
The green glow increased in intensity as Vahn’s fist connected with Tione’s torso and there was a powerful pulse that spread through her body that was difficult to dissipate. She could feel her organs trembling as she spat out an ‘unhealthy’ amount of blood and kicked off Vahn’s face before flipping through the air and trying to land upright. The moment she contacted the ground, Tione’s strength left her legs and she fell heavily to the ground. However, she wasn’t worried about her own condition as her [Berserk] state was immediately broken and she stared over toward Vahn’s position with a powerful anxiety clearly present on her face.
Tione had a very rare ability called [Backdraft] which greatly enhanced her power to ridiculous levels when she was in a pinch. Since she had suffered a serious, debilitating, blow, Tione’s parting kick to Vahn’s face had carried the effect of her [Backdraft] and she felt nearly no resistance from his head before she kicked away from him. Now that she looked over, she had seen Vahn still standing with his back arched and she nearly had a mental breakdown at the sight of his face after her attack. There was a literal indentation in Vahn’s previously handsome face and she could tell that most of his facial bones had been crushed while both eyes bled profusely. The attack hadn’t carried through his body at all, so it almost looked like Vahn had died…still standing firmly on his feet.
She wasn’t the only one to have a serious reaction as Haruhime immediately passed out and was caught by the nearby Mikoto who had a look of disbelief on her face. Lefiya, who had been bashfully staring at Vahn through her fingers, had a completely blank look on her face while Tiona and Ais had the most drastic reactions of everyone present. Ais shakily walked over to Lefiya after releasing the delirious Tiona and kept muttering, “Lefiya…help…Lefiya…” Ais wanted Lefiya to use [Heal] in order to help Vahn but was unable to actually form the sentence in her mouth. Lefiya’s mind had completely blanked and she couldn’t even hear the words of the girl she idolized more than anyone else.
Tiona shouted loudly like a wounded animal, “Tioooooooooneeeeeeeeeee!” Without hesitating, she charged at her catatonic elder twin with a fierce look in her tear stained eyes. As Tione looked between Vahn and her younger twin, she also started to tear up but couldn’t find the words to express her current emotions or make any excuses. Seeing the aggrieved look in her own twins face, Tione felt absolutely terrible about her decision and closed her eyes to accept whatever happened next.
Before Tiona could close the distance, a dark silhouette appeared in her trajectory and caught the tyrannical blow of the enraged Amazon. Tiona immediately tried to attack again before coming to a pause as she stared into Vahn’s face with a look of utter disbelief. Since Tiona had kicked forward, Vahn had grabbed her calf in an awkward position, but instead of letting her go he hiked her leg up further before embracing Tiona’s body to prevent her from taking any further actions. Right now, his parameters far exceeded everyone present, so he could easily overpower Tiona’s current strength.
The entire area became silent as Vahn gave a gentle kiss to Tiona’s forehead before saying, “I’ll pass out soon, don’t do anything strange to my body…even if I can’t move, I’m still aware of everything going on around me.” Vahn released Tiona’s leg and her foot thudded to the ground as she continued to stare blankly into Vahn’s face. Even Tione had a look of disbelief until she saw a small effigy where Vahn had previously stood…it looked like a tiny, disfigured, heroic figure that was currently blazing with a powerful flame that seemed to Tione to be the flame of hope itself. She placed her hand over the silver locket at her neck and remembered Vahn’s words at the start of the fight…
“That is a very rare item called [Effigy of the Hero]…I created it using a special technique that requires the accumulation of exillia of slain monsters. Whoever has that item on their person, as soon as they take near-fatal damage, they will immediately heal all injuries and have their parameters boosted by a large amount before entering a temporary inactive state a few minutes later…”
Though she felt a powerful sense of relief that Vahn was okay, Tione also knew that she had made an error that could have affected the lives of everyone around her. There were so many people that had expectations for Vahn, herself included, and she had dealt ‘near-fatal’ damage to him because of her own negligence. If the item he had given her wasn’t as powerful as he had claimed, Vahn would have died because of an error she had made in a moment of panic…Opening the locket at her neck, Tione held the tiny effigy Vahn had given her in her palms before staring at the picture of Finn that she kept hidden within.
Tione released a sigh and looked over at, not only Tiona, but Ais and a blond-haired fox girl hugging Vahn with relieved expressions and tears in their eyes. She could see that Lefiya also felt a lot of relief and had fallen to the cold ground with a happy expression on her pale face. Tione realized she would have to make it up to everyone present later, or they might never be able to forgive her for what she had nearly done. However, while she was thinking of what to say, Vahn looked over and had a gentle expression on his face as he asked, “Are you okay, Tione?” She could see that he had a genuine concern in his eyes as he looked at the areas that still throbbed in pain on her body.
For a brief moment, Tione frowned before releasing an exasperated sigh and saying, “You win…I can’t fight you anymore. Do whatever you want with me…” Tione fell back onto the cold ground with her arms spread and looked towards the cloudy sky overhead. She felt a powerful melancholy in her heart, but also a bit of relief accompanied by a healthy amount of expectation. It was almost like a heavy burden had been removed from her shoulders and all the tension in her body was released all at once. There was even a gentle warmth that began to spread through her body…
With a frown on her face, Tione looked over and saw Vahn using a staff similar to Lefiya’s and casting a healing spell on her body. Without a few seconds, her burns had completely vanished and she could feel the aches from her body dissipating rapidly. Vahn was also wearing clothes again, even though she didn’t see when he put them on. The last thing that happened, before this event came to a conclusion, was Vahn smiling and saying, “Let’s call this one a draw…” As his words finished, Vahn fell face-forward toward the ground before he was quickly caught by Tiona and Ais.
(A/N: I know some people will ask, so know that [Effigy of the Hero] costs 100k OP, and Vahn used 200k, of his 268,399 OP to purchase them. This brings his balance to 68,399OP remaining.)