Chapter 932: Settling Debts…

With Kali taking the lead, properly wearing her disguise, the four made their way towards the docks where a group of Amazonesses were waiting. Though Kali could have easily swum through the water, their Brig Sloop did have a few smaller boats for transferring supplies and, in order to receive Vahn, they had unloaded one to transport him and Kali over. That would have to wait until later, however, as there was currently an ‘incident’ occurring at the docks that caused Tione’s eyes to glimmer with a murderous light…

Currently, there were a few seriously injured fisherman laying around on the ground as an Amazoness with white hair, braided with golden twine, and a very revealing outfit. She had blood staining her hands and, with a predatory gaze, stared back at the surrounding fisherman as she licked the blood clean from her fingers. Vahn frowned when he saw this and, after confirming the men were only injured, not dead, he looked to Kali and said, “She can only blame herself for what is to come…” To this, Kali just shrugged dismissively before saying, “Our law is survival of the fittest. If she is too weak to survive then, just like those who have fallen at her hand, she too will die. It isn’t anything to be upset over…”

As a Goddess of Death, Kali didn’t particularly care if any of the children, or anyone else for that matter, ended up losing their lives in battle. To her, death was a completely natural thing and, if you didn’t have the power to stave it off, then the only person to blame was yourself. Since most gods were fully aware of the cycle of reincarnation, she had no real attachments to any of the children in her Familia, knowing that they would simply return to the cycle and live anew. Her only real interests were fighting, watching people fight, and observing the ‘unique’ Amazonesses that went against the grain and chose a different path from their sisters. It was this same mentality that allowed her to let Bache give Tiona books in the past, curious if the young girl that loved Heroes would be able to make her dream a reality…

With Kali’s words signifying her ‘consent’, Vahn gave a small nod towards Tione who, like a blue, vanished from sight before appearing near Argana. This movement caused Kali’s brows to rise slightly as she uttered an ‘oooh~?’ in a small voice. As for Argana, her vicious gaze turned into one of surprise as she quickly twisted her agile body, kicking outward as her shin collided with Tione’s hard enough to make a small shockwave. Vahn winced slightly upon seeing this, knowing both girls’ shins probably had micro-fractures after contacting each other with such a forceful impact. He was tempted to transfer the injury from Tione to himself but, considering this was her personal fight, he decided to watch patiently from the side, trusting she would emerge victoriously…

Now that she saw who it was, Argana’s expression change from surprise to scorn as she intoned an amused, “Hooo? Look who’s grown up. You know, I was hoping you would tag along with that boy, my sweet little disciple…” As she was speaking, Argana had gotten into a loose stance with both of her bloody hands up in a grabbing motion. Her style of fighting relied solely on her physical body, choosing to forgo the use of a weapon unless she was hunting monsters. Against human opponents, she preferred to rip them apart with her bare hands, bathing in their bloody and reveling in the act of slaughtering those weaker than herself.

Tione chose not to respond to Argana’s words, long having entered her berserk state, increasing her parameters further. Though she was actually more than strong enough to fight against Argana, the mental trauma Tione had suffered in the past was causing her to push herself from the outset. As a result, she launched herself towards Argana, shattering the paved stone of the port as she vaulted through the air and dropped her heel towards Argana’s head. The latter, as arrogant and vicious as she was, wasn’t a slouch when it came to actual combat. Her instincts warned her not to block the blow so she stepped back rapidly, spinning on her heel as she attempted to counter Tione’s attack after the latter missed.

With Argana having dodged, Tione’s foot slammed into the dock and caused spiderweb fractures to spread out in an instant as her right hand shot up to catch Argana’s foot. This caused Argana to tuck in her leg, turning her kick into a feint as her body twisted around in an instant. Her long braid came to an end with a solid gold ring that now sliced towards Tione’s face with the intent to maim. It was this same attack that had cut open Bache’s face in the past and, unless you were expecting it, most opponents would be caught by surprise. Tione, having ‘trained’ under Argana for years, was one of the few whom the attack was completely useless against…

Argana hadn’t been the only one twisting her body as Tione had also turned her attempt to grab the former’s leg into a complete motion, turning her body and grabbing out with her left hand this time. For a brief moment, Argana had her back to Tione and, though she was preparing to vault away and get her distance again, her actions were one step slower. Tione had grabbed the long braid that her former ‘Mentor’ had prided herself over, causing Argana’s attempt to jump away to fail. Instead, she was pulled off her feet as Tione jerked her hair, pulling Argana into a spin as she slammed the latter toward the ground with bone-breaking force.

To Argana’s credit, she reacted very quickly to being pulled by her hair, pulling up both of her legs to change her center of gravity as she moved with the motion of Tione’s attack and landed on her feet. Even so, Tione hadn’t let go of her braid just yet and now used it as a ‘leash’ that kept Argana in her range as she kicked towards the latter’s abdomen with an explosive kick. Argana’s expression had turned especially vicious since the moment Tione had grabbed her hair, screaming, “You bitch!” as she tried to meet the base of Tione’s shin with her elbow. The elbows and knees were significantly harder than the straight bones of the body so Argana was trying to break Tione’s shin with her counter attack.

The moment Argana initiated her counter, Tione pulled the golden loop toward herself, knocking Argana’s balance off-center and changing the vector of her elbow. This caused Argana’s eyes to widen slightly as she tried to follow with Tione’s pull while tucking in her arms to protect her ribcage. Tione’s attack landed against Argana’s guard, causing a ripple to pass through the latter’s body as a pained grunt escaped her lips. Though Tione hadn’t been using any weapons, the magic circle on her back was releasing a subtle glow that signified she had enhanced her parameters. It didn’t reflect any changes on her Status Board, but Vahn knew the enhancement was very nearly 30%, though the effect would decay with time. This meant that, for the first few minutes of a fight, Tione’s base Power easily eclipsed 6300 while Argana’s maximum possible Endurance was only 5,994.

Tione’s attack wasn’t enough to send Argana flying, but it had been enough to completely disrupt her balance for a brief moment as the wind was forced from her lungs. In that brief window, Tione had shifted her weight forward, planting her left foot heavily against the ground as she used the hand holding Argana’s braid to smash the golden loop into the latter’s teeth. Argana had tried to jerk her head back to evade the attack but Tione was slightly faster, causing the loop to slice through the soft tissue of Argana’s mouth as several of her teeth were fractured and dislodged. She was then knocked backward by the attack but, with Tione still holding her braid, the latter simply yanked Argana’s head forward again for another follow-up attack.

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Argana’s expression had turned into completely murderous at this point as she completely ignored the injury to her face, grabbing her own braid as she brought her head forward and attempted to bite Tione’s neck. Even with teeth missing, Argana’s habit of trying to bite away chunks of her opponent was deeply ingrained into her attack patterns, something Tione was fully aware of. She responded to Argana’s attempt by cutting her left fist upward in a short uppercut, forcing the latter’s mouth shut before she slammed her head forward, slamming it into Argana’s nose.

Even after taking several painful hits, Argana didn’t seem willing to back down as she quickly yanked her own braid away from Tione’s vice-like grip. This caused the hair to rip, freeing her from Tione’s grasp as her long hair slowly began to uncoil, blown chaotically by the cold coastal winds blowing inward from the sea. For a brief moment, the two Amazonesses stared each other down as Argana moved her tongue around inside her mouth before spitting out several fragments of teeth and a fair amount of blood. The inside of her cheek was ripped to shreds while the corner of her lips now extended several centimeters further than it should…

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As if it was someone else who was injured, Argana’s expression remained vicious as she ignored the pain and spat, “You really have grown up, brat. I’m glad I didn’t kill you back then…now, you will become part of my own strength…!” At this moment, Argana’s pale-golden pupils became crimson red as her figure moved forward at several times the speed of sound in an instant. Like a spear, her hand tore through the air as it drew a fierce line towards Tione’s neck. The only thing it contacted, however, was Tione’s afterimage as she had completely avoided the attacked with the use of [Shundo].

Argana had lunged forward with her fastest momentum, extending her body forward to try and end the battle with a single blow. With Tione evading her attack, her body was left completely exposed as a blur formed into existence at her side, turning into the image of Tione kicking upwards with similarly fierce momentum. Argana’s body folded over Tione’s leg as a powerful shockwave rippled through her abdomen before she was launched high into the sky. Her forward momentum from her lunge hadn’t been lost, causing her to spin as she flew through the air for several hundred meters before smashing into a building on the port’s periphery.

After this attack, Tione was left breathing heavily but was otherwise in good condition as she looked towards the section of the building Argana had smashed into. She didn’t think for a moment that the woman who had tormented her for years would be done in with such a simple, albeit effective, attack. As expected, there was the visual of the building ‘exploding’ outward, sending supersonic pieces of shrapnel outward as Argana’s raging figure charged toward Tione once again. It wasn’t until after Argana arrived that the sound of the building’s explosion reached bystanders, as her speed was much faster than the sound of her movements.

This wasn’t something that Tione couldn’t cope with, however, causing her to evade with [Shundo] once again. Argana wasn’t caught off guard this time and, as she had kept low to the ground during her charge, he was able to palm against the ground and pivot quickly to reorient herself towards Tione. This showed remarkable adaptability on her part but, being weaker, less durable, and slower than Tione, it didn’t provide her too many benefits. To her credit, she had made sure her back was facing towards the water this time so, when Tione’s fist collided with her cross guard, Argana was sent barreling backward, skidding across the water a few times before sinking into the port’s depths.

Amazonesses could fight just as well in the water as they could on land and, being one of the Captains of the Kali Familia, Argana’s aptitude in the water was above most. She had the [Master Diving] Development Ability, something Tione, with her [Diving: A], wouldn’t be able to match. When Argana didn’t emerge from the water, Tione knew she was being baited to chase after her but, even in her berserk state, she knew this wouldn’t end well for her. Instead, surprising both Kali and the other Amazonesses, Tione held out her hand and shouted, “Adeat~!”

Deep beneath the water’s surface, Argana’s crimson eyes glowed within the murky water of Lolog lake, patiently awaiting Tione’s pursuit. She was genuinely surprised by how strong Tione had gotten in only nine years, causing her to momentarily reflect on her own path towards power. Since she had known Tione since the latter was born, Argana knew it couldn’t have been her own talent that had allowed her to reach such heights in such a short period of time. Tione hadn’t lacked talent, but it was a far cry from the truly prodigious Amazonesses that would periodically appear within the younger generation. Compared to Tiona, she had always been subpar and, with her emotional instability, it was easy to exploit the gaps in her attacks…at least it used to be.

Now, Tione seemed to be stronger, faster, and tougher than she was, causing Argana to feel slight envy but even more excitement. She believed that defeating Tione would allow her strength to grow exponentially and, since Vahn should have been the source for Tione’s quick rise, Argana believed she would be able to receive similar benefits in the future. For so many powerful people to come into existence around Vahn, he had to have the means to promote the strength of others and, now that he would be on their ship for the next three months, there would be ample opportunity to find out what he…

Without being able to finish her line of thinking, a flash of gold tore through the water’s surface, catching Argana off guard as she twisted her body to try and evade. She was extremely agile in the water so it wasn’t too difficult for her to dodge a surprise attack, at least in most circumstances. Unfortunately for Argana, the blade of Tione’s artifact could reach several thousand degrees and, cutting through the salt-filled water, a variety of detrimental things happened all at once. The surrounding water was explosively boiled while the super-heated salt became almost like a highly corrosive acid that pelted Argana’s skin, causing chemical burns over a large portion of her exposed flesh. This had highly disoriented her while forcing her body to seize up slightly from the unexpected pain that now wracked her body. In this state, Argana was completely defenseless as the backwash of the water pulled her body back into the path of Tione’s artifact, just as it was on its return vector…

Argana didn’t even know she had died as the last thought to pass through her mind was genuine relief that the pain she had been experiencing had ceased. The two split pieces of her body, charred and cauterized, sunk towards the bottom of the port as large fish, generally her prey, began tearing away chunks of her body. Just as she had lived, devouring the flesh of others, Argana’s death was celebrated in much the same way. Her flesh would become the nutrients that nourished new life in the lake’s depths, causing several large fish to explosively increase in size and strength over a short period of time. Just as she had consumed others to grow stronger, now Argana was being consumed by others, supporting the natural cycle even in death…

On the surface, Tione had felt the feedback of her blade cutting through flesh and, after a few minutes of silence, it was Kali who announced, “Looks like Argana was the weaker one this time around. It’s a shame you aren’t still in my Familia, Tione, or I would have made you into my Captain. Congratulations on your victory; I hope you are satisfied by the outcome~.” As if it was a stranger she had never met, Kali seemed completely unaffected by the death of her Captain, someone she had watched grow up over the last twenty-seven years. She gestured to the other Amazonesses, equally as unaffected by Argana’s death, saying, “Prepare the boat so we can head back. I don’t really feel like dealing with the Guild and Melen’s Familia if I can avoid it.”

The members of Kali’s Familia quickly set into motion, preparing for the departure while Kali lazily walked over to Tione’s side and joined her in looked down at the water below. They didn’t really say anything to each other, standing in silence as the sunlight cast its warm rays down upon the now devastated port. Vahn had sent Tiona to pass on a literal slab of Adamantine to the Guild, which should be more than enough to pay for the damages that had been done. He also took care of the injured and reimbursed the middle-aged couple who had their shop destroyed during the battle. All the while, he continued to pay attention to Tione, sending her comforting words through their [Pactio] link as she stared absentmindedly towards the cold water below…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘A deeply rooted hatred…’,’The Student overcomes the Master…’,’What lays beyond vengeance…’)

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