Chapter 314: And they all…

After her chant, Haruhime began to skirt around the edges of the Killer Ants that had started to swarm. She knew it was dangerous to charge into their center and focused on using the fact they were clumped together to interfere with their ability to move. Due to the quality of [Sakura Bloom], Haruhime was able to cut through their hard carapaces easily as the sakura petals danced around her body and passively damaged any of the Killer Ants within their path. The petals were just as sharp as the katana itself and they drew beautiful arcs through the air as if they weren’t influenced by the Killer Ants at all.

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Haruhime’s green eyes had an excited glint to them and she continued to pump more of her mana into the blade as she swept up bits and pieces of the ants within the wind generated by her magic and they started swirling around her body along with the petals. It wasn’t long before there were tiny pieces of Killer Ant bodies marring the surface of her outfit and staining her waist-length blond hair. Vahn frowned at the sight and wondered if he could come up with a method to prevent similar things from happening in the future. Though it would probably be best to have Haruhime cut her hair, Vahn thought her current hairstyle was very suitable for her since it was rather elegant, and incredibly rare for hair to grow to that length. It had probably taken her several years, and her hair was very glossy and well maintained before she entered into the dungeon.

After slaying more than fifty Killer Ants, exploiting the fact that they were clumped together, Haruhime had started to breathe heavily and had long activated her accessories to supplement her expired mana. Vahn was able to see how they affected a person, and he realized that waiting until their mana was diminished wasn’t a viable option. When the mind was weakened from having low mana, it wasn’t easy to make decisions, nor was it reliable to use external mana sources to supplement your own lack of mana. He was now able to understand that it was more practical to use the mana within the accessories first, since waiting until you were already tired caused unnecessary troubles. However, even though she was struggling, Haruhime continued to ‘dance’ around the Killer Ants and whittle away at their ever-increasing numbers.

Though she knew something like this would happen, Haruhime gnashed her teeth with a pained expression on her face and continued to push herself even further. She kept repeating encouraging words, almost like she was screaming in her own mind, so that she wouldn’t back down just because things were difficult. The only way she could pursue her dream was to follow this difficult road, or else it might be several years before she was able to stand at Vahn’s side. Haruhime knew what kinds of monsters he would face in the deeper floors, as she had been reading up on the information within the books. She knew that the current her would die with a single glancing blow from something like a Monster Rex, or even weaker monsters like Silverbacks and Minotaurs. Haruhime was aware of Vahn’s achievements, and the things he had done to get to his current level of strength, and none of what she was going through came close to his struggles. If she wanted to catch up to him, she couldn’t back…down…

Haruhime’s eyes started to glaze over as she took a step back to evade a Killer Ants mandibles and collided with the dungeon wall behind her. She snapped out of her daze and glanced around her in an instant to realize she had been completely surrounded and had no means of escape. Mustering what power remained in her body, Haruhime ignored her plight and released a loud shout while swinging [Sakura Blossom] toward the group of Killer Ants. The petals tripled in number as a small whirlwind passed through the closest ants within the encirclement before dicing through their bodies as if they had been put into a blender. It was the first time she had been able to ‘throw’ the magic of her katana and Haruhime had a contented smile as she collapsed forward into Vahn’s embrace as he used Shundo to close the distance. Though she couldn’t see what was happening, Haruhime felt a pulse of magical energy in the air as the shrill cries of the Killer Ants’ deaths lulled her to sleep.

Vahn held the unconscious Haruhime loosely in his arms and had an affectionate smile on his face as he roasted the more than two hundred Killer Ants that had surrounded them. Within twenty seconds, the entire horde had been destroyed and the only thing that remained were several drops items and hundreds of magic stones. Vahn ignored them all and embraced Haruhime for a while as he inspected the injuries in her body. She had several muscle cramps, and even some tearing in her left leg and arm since she was still somewhat over-reliant on her left hand. As the fight got progressively harder, she had switched to using nothing but her left hand and it had created a lot of gaps for the Killer Ants to exploit.

However, even if she had made matters more difficult for herself, Vahn didn’t blame Haruhime at all. He had been counting the total number of ants she had slain, including the large number that was diced apart by her final attack. Against expectations, Haruhime had killed a total of 139 Killer Ants, even though most adventurers her level would have fallen to a tenth of that number. A lot of it was attributed to [Sakura Blossom], but it was an undeniable fact that she had pushed herself far beyond her limits to create the small miracle. Vahn couldn’t help but feel immensely proud of her as he removed any sequelae that could remain in her body through excessive exhaustion.

Before he laid her down, Vahn pulled out a large brush similar to the one he used to deeply clean Fenrir’s fur and removed all of the monster bits from Haruhime’s hair. He wanted to clean her body, since he didn’t really have an aversion to such things, but Vahn wanted to wait for Haruhime to awaken instead of doing anything untoward. He was almost positive she wouldn’t mind, but Vahn always felt a powerful inhibition stop him from ‘exploiting’ a girl that was asleep. He felt like they were very defenseless and it just seemed like a shameless thing to do so he just wiped down the exposed parts of her face and neck before lifting her up onto his back. It was already around 3 PM, so there wasn’t a need to stay in the dungeon any longer. He wanted Haruhime, when she woke back up, to be a comfortable place that was warm and safe. Even he felt a bit melancholic whenever he awoke in the dungeon, so Vahn expected a delicate girl like Haruhime to experience something similar.

After arriving at the stairs, it only took Vahn around two minutes to actually get to the first floor, even without using Shundo. They had only gone down to the fifth floor, so there were only a few hundred meters of spiraling stairs to follow before arriving at the surface and following the path to the dungeon’s entrance. Though he drew a few ‘concerned’ glances from the surroundings, Vahn just gave the actually concerned people a polite smile as he carried Haruhime through the first floor of Babel and exited into the Babel Plaza. There were some people that had given him ‘strange’ and ‘menacing’ looks along the way, since he was somewhat famous in the City and was currently carrying an unconscious, relatively young, girl on his back that was covered in blood and monster bits.

There was even a group of three relatively strong adventurers that tried to approach him and call out, but Vahn saw they had no good intentions so he sent a burst of intent at them before disappearing from the spot with Shundo. The group had consisted of a relatively handsome elven male with green hair and blue eyes, whilst his two companions were somewhat beautiful girls, one with silver, the other with blond hair, that had an air of arrogance to them. Vahn didn’t know, or care, what they had wanted and, even though they were Level 3, they flinched and dazed for more than a second after he vanished. The handsome elf looked around the area for a few seconds before scoffing at turning away with his hands around the two girls’ waists.

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Because he was using Shundo, Vahn arrived at the Manor within ten minutes before making his way through the foyer. He noticed that Hestia seemed to be out, and she had taken Fenrir and Preasia with her. The rest of the girls were probably still in the dungeon, because the Manor was currently empty. Now that they weren’t restricted to the grounds, Vahn didn’t blame the girls for wanting to get out more since he had also started to feel a little suffocated even though it had only been about a week that he was stuck at home. Unfortunately, since there was nobody to help him with Haruhime, Vahn was in a bit of a predicament. Instead of worrying about it, however, Vahn just shook his head before taking Haruhime to the west wing of the Manor.

The real renovations hadn’t started yet, but they had already designated an area as a medical ward within the west wing to treat any injuries that might be suffered by their members in the future. Though Vahn could heal most wounds, there were some things, such as broken bones and illnesses, that needed more specialized care. Vahn carried Haruhime to one of the small beds they had set out for patients before gently lowering her body onto its surface. Her clothes immediately blemished the white sheets, and this was the reason he had avoided setting her down on the furniture and carried her all this way.

Vahn could tell that her mana was slowly recovering, and the only thing that was keeping her unconscious was the mental strain she had gone through. He knew the proper procedures for dealing with an unresponsive patient, but Vahn wasn’t an actual physician so he had to take a roundabout method and wake her up before he did anything. Using [Hands of Nirvana], Vahn placed his palm on Haruhime’s forehead and channeled his energy to help calm her mind and ease the influence of all the chemicals and endorphins pumping through her body.

After around a minute, she slowly opened her sleepy green eyes before a gentle smile appeared on her face. Vahn returned her smile and explained in a soothing voice, “You passed out after releasing an incredible attack and defeating a total of one-hundred-thirty-nine Killer Ants. Your performance greatly exceeded my expectations Haruhime, I’m very proud to be your Captain and ally. It was truly an amazing sight to behold…great job.” As he spoke, Vahn gently stroked Haruhime’s hair and continued to channel his [Hands of Nirvana] to comfort her.

Haruhime enjoyed the pleasant feeling for several long seconds before saying, “I told you, I’ll become much stronger…no matter what it takes, I’ll chase after my dream until I can catch it with my own two hands~.” As if to emphasize her point, Haruhime raised her hands and gingerly grabbed Vahn’s wrist as she closed her eyes with a contented expression on her face. Vahn gave a short sight through his nose as a gentle smile appeared on his face. He knew exactly what Haruhime was trying to do and it made him feel a little blessed that she was putting in so much effort for him, no, them. Since he had put forth the restriction, just like he had done for Lili, Emiru, Maemi, and Preasia, Vahn wouldn’t back down. Just like Ais had been Bell’s motivation within the original series, Vahn didn’t mind acting as Haruhime’s motivation if it would help to guarantee her happiness in the future. He could tell, even though she had only been to the dungeon twice, that she had an amazing amount of potential and more than a few ‘heroic’ traits herself. She was no longer the damsel waiting for a hero to save her; she was now slowly walking toward the path of creating a legend of her own. Vahn knew it was within his power to help her, so he would do his best to make sure her story had a happy ending. Maybe one day, in the distant future, children would read her story and be inspired by her tale, just as she had been when reading fairy tales in the past…

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