Vahn would normally feel empathetic whenever he saw someone crying. In Rachel's case, however, he just continued to stare down at her even as her screams of agony turned into conflicted sobs. It was clear she was in a lot of pain, but, unlike a normal person, there was more anger and hatred in her aura than anything like sadness or remorse.
Resisting the urge to release a sigh, Vahn interrupted the crying woman's pity fest, his voice lacking even a marginal amount of his own as he said, "You are not beyond redemption. Just like Hoh, Grey, and many others before them, I am willing to give you a second chance. The final decision is not up to me, however...I will leave that choice to the one you have betrayed..."
Without waiting for Rachel's response, Vahn gestured with his hand, seemingly manifesting Baam from thin air. In actuality, he had been inside the Little Garden for more than an hour, digesting the fact he had been betrayed while sprawling beneath the canopy of the World Tree. This allowed him to appear almost eerily calm as he met Rachel's gaze, his voice heavy with emotion as he asked the most important question, "Why...?"
Though her first instinct was to make up some kind of excuse to justify her action, the presence of Vahn standing behind Baam caused Rachel to hang her head in silence. This caused Baam's aura to become chaotic, but, before he could erupt, demanding she answer him, Vahn placed his hand on the boy's shoulder, shaking his head as he stated, "No. The more unstable your emotions, the easier it will be for her to exploit you. At times like this, you should just observe silently, remain calm, and, most importantly, think about what you want. You are not the one who has done wrong here. If she cannot even apologize, you should not be the first to compromise. Also, no matter what happens, it is important to remember that you are no longer alone...there are plenty of people who care about you, many of which would be willing to put their lives on the line to protect you. Do not throw them away for the sake of someone who would betray and murder the person that cared about them the most...what do you think she would do if the others were in the way of her dream...?"
With Vahn preventing the sound from reaching Rachel's ears, the woman was completely ignorant of the fact she was currently being lambasted. She was still trying to sort through her own thoughts while waiting for Baam to lose his patience, unaware of the fact that the boy in question was doing much the same. Vahn's final question, in particular, had stuck with Baam, as, over the last month, he had met a lot of people, befriending several, and learning all kinds of new, exciting, and interesting things. They treated him well, and, at this very moment, were even putting their lives on the line to help someone most of them didn't even like...all because they were his friends...
Feeling indescribable conflict well up inside of him, Baam was unable to prevent tears from building in his eyes. Rachel was still the most important person in his heart, someone he had been willing to sacrifice everything for. However, these sacrifices had to come from him. He would not just sacrifice other people on her behalf, as, even if they were his enemies, Baam didn't believe people should be forced to suffer. Thus, with tears streaming down his face, he said something Rachel never expected to hear, his voice heavy and grief-stricken as he stated, "Tell me why...or I will have no choice but to leave you here. I won't risk everyone else's dreams just to make yours come true...I will climb up the Tower and open the way for everyone..."
With the most incredulous look that Vahn had ever seen on another person, Rachel turned her face up to stare back at Baam, eyes rounded and mouth slightly agape. She couldn't believe Baam, of all people, was the one saying these words to her. He was supposed to be someone that followed after her like an abandoned puppy, desperately clinging to her no matter how poorly she treated him. He was supposed to remain the one person, who, no matter what happened, would continue to regard her as the most vibrant and luminous existence in the entire world...
Seeing the look of conviction contained within the boy's teary eyes, Rachel felt like she had just lost something important. At the same time, she got the impression that something had 'broken' within her mind, darkness creeping from the edges of her vision a cold and nauseous shudder ran through her body. In the next moment, without needing to pretend, she collapsed against the surface of the small platform, completely losing consciousness. She couldn't even feel the warmth of the boy who had immediately come to her side. Instead, her mind sank even further into a bottomless abyss of despair, her entire world seeming to crumble around her as the voice of a hateful yet caring woman echoed within her mind...
Since she couldn't leave without the Black March in hand, Yuri decided to kill time by asking about Endorsi's and Anak's pasts. Unfortunately, Anak wasn't in a great mood after having the Green April taken from her, and, though she did answer a few questions, Endorsi deflected most questions. As for Gandr, he used informing Vahn as an excuse to sink into the ground, seemingly leaving but in actuality remaining nearby, just in case.
Yuri was a little annoyed that Gandr had run away before she could get even with him, but, without knowing the secret behind his immateriality, it wasn't like she could do anything to him. She might be able to override the ability using Shinsu, but, without permission from the Floor Administrator or Guardian, using more than 1% of her true power was very difficult. Even her status as a High Ranker and a Princess of Jahad wouldn't protect her if she violated the Guardian's Contract, so, for the time being, Yuri decided to let Gandr off with just her earlier warning.
With the fluffy-eared boy coming to mind, combined with the fact that Endorsi kept deflecting, Yuri turned to Anak and asked, "So, what's the deal between you and the wolf boy? Do you have a crush on him~?"
Though she had ignored most of Yuri's other questions, Anak's brows furrowed in response to the hateful woman's question. This wasn't the first time she had been asked something similar, but, no matter how much she denied it, people never seemed to believe her. It was extremely annoying, so, with the most threatening tone she could manage, she replied, "You're an idiot..." before following it up by saying, "And he isn't a wolf boy. He is a Vanargandr...there is a difference..."
Even if she didn't know what the difference was, Anak was certain that Gandr wasn't a normal boy. He had a voracious appetite, and, every time she challenged him to a drinking contest, he managed to win without even turning red in the face. This was yet another extremely annoying thing, as, even if it was something as arbitrary as drinking alcohol, Anak hated to lose...
Causing the frown on Anak's face to become even more potent, Yuri adopted an amused smile on her face as she issued an annoying, "Hoooo~?" in response. What Anak didn't know was that it was her propensity to defend Gandr that led to people assuming she had a crush on him. After all, when you were rude and abrasive to pretty much everyone else, being defensive regarding one particular person stood out quite a bit.
Finding Anak's 'pouting' face rather adorable, even if was actually a murderous glower, Yuri couldn't help issue an amused laugh before shifting her gaze to Endorsi and asking, "And what about you? I know you were just bullshitting earlier so tell me how you really feel."
Rolling her eyes in response to Yuri's inquiry, Endorsi remained silent for several seconds, crossing her arms before ultimately answering, "If I had to describe it...he is like an annoyingly adorable yet mischievous younger brother. Though I feel like he is always hiding something, my instincts tell me he would never do anything to hurt any of us. He is also very capable and understanding, so, even if I can only see him as a brat right now, I know he will become a dependable man in the future..."
Though part of her wanted Gandr to remain pure and childish, even if it was just a facade, Endorsi couldn't help but look forward to his future. He might lose the qualities that made him adorable, but, even in his present state, Gandr already had the makings of a very handsome and athletic man. She had seen him without his shirt on, and, though he wasn't that muscular, there was 'something' about the structure of his body that gave people the impression he was 'flawless'.
Noticing the appreciative glimmer within Endorsi's eyes, Yuri's smile became more prominent as she turned back to face Anak and asked, "What do you think? Do you agree with Ghosty's words?"
With the conversation having previously shifted away from her, Anak had defaulted to her usual uncaring expression, staring off towards nothing in particular. As a result, she didn't immediately reply to Yuri's question, her head tilting to the side as she asked, "What are you two idiots talking about now...?"
Resisting the urge to give her scatter-brained niece a 'light' slap on the head, Yuri adopted a less-enthused smile as she explained, "Endoris was just saying that Gandr had the potential to become a dependable man in the future. I was wondering what your opinion was."
Annoyed that she was, once again, being asked about Gandr, Anak immediately regained her earlier frown as she replied, "Stupid...". Shortly after that, however, she shifted her attention away from the two enraged Princesses, adding, "Gandr is already dependable..." in a lazy monotone.
Though she was still tempted to give Anak a 'slight' beating, Yuri's anger quickly faded when she heard her younger niece's addendum. In its place, a strong desire to tease the girl welled up inside of her, a massive grin spreading across her face as she stated, "Wow, I'm a little jealous. It must be nice to have someone to depend on. You're a lucky girl, Anak~."
Confused by Yuri's words, Anak tilted her head to the side, a slightly incredulous look on her face as she asked, "What are you talking about? You're really starting to get on my nerves..."
Finding the girl's threatening response rather amusing, Yuri laughed at Anak's expense while rising to her feet. They had been sitting with their back to the cave's wall so her butt was starting to feel a little cold after sitting for so long. She had also received numerous private messages from her team, so, before they could completely lose their marbles, Yuri decided to wrap things up by saying, "They say you can find 'everything' at the top of the Tower. However, ever since Jahad became the King of the Tower, the way forward has been closed off. I don't believe my warning is necessary, but know it is going to be very dangerous climbing alongside multiple Irregulars. You never know what is going to happen in the future, so, rather than regret your indecision, never be afraid to push forward and secure the things that make you happy...the burden of failure is a lot lighter than the regret you feel from never trying..."
Finished giving her advice, Yuri began slowly walking away from the silent duo, casually gesturing to bid farewell as her body vanished into motes of bluish-white light. This left Endorsi and Anak as the only ones left in the rather damp and dreary cave, the former contemplating Yuri's words while the latter just tilted her head back and muttered, "Show off..." in an annoyed tone.
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'RIP Rachel...','Anak be like, "I'm surrounded by idiots..."','Yuri's advice is very dangerous xD...')
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