Chapter 1020: Tea Time

As he was still in his partial Qinglong transformation, Vahn understood why Rin’s first question directly related to his ‘species’. Fortunately, even as he reverted to what appeared to be a genuine human form, Rin just watched the process with slightly intrigued eyes without reacting hostilely. At the same time, Vahn continued to smile in a disarming manner as he explained, “As I said before, my name is Vahn Mason. As for what I am…it would be most accurate to refer to me as a Progenitor. I’m not sure if that concept is a thing in your world, however, so you may not have heard of it…” With the Nasuverse having a multi-versal structure, Vahn wasn’t too worried about alerting anyone within to the presence of ‘other’ worlds. Though he still couldn’t explain anything regarding the existence of The Path, the Laws wouldn’t punish him for talking about the general multiverse as a whole.

Rin didn’t even seem surprised by the fact that he was from a different world, instead, seeming to focus on his race as she held her chin in thought, muttering, “Progenitor…how peculiar…” When she next turned her attention back to him, Rin asked, “What exactly are you the Progenitor of? Those horns…are you some kind of Daemon, or perhaps a Nature Spirit..?” Then, without actually waiting for his response, Rin shook her head, causing the two twin-tails framing her face to bob before she muttered to herself, “No, he seems to possess an actual physical form…but then how did he break through my barrier…?”

Seeing Rin talk continually talk to herself, Vahn realized her personality wasn’t all that dissimilar from Lefiya’s, especially when the latter was researching Magic. In a way, he had been fortunate that the first person he came across seemed rather ‘serious’ about Magecraft, even if this also meant she could prove a bit troublesome to deal with in the future. If he were to reveal just a few of his secrets to her, Vahn could imagine her pestering him to the ends of the earth in order to learn the rest. She had a natural air of ‘curiosity’ about her that, combined with the slight arrogance she had revealed during her introduction, indicated she wasn’t the type to take no for an answer…

Finished with her monologue, Rin walked a little closer to Vahn before leaning forward and looking directly into his face. She was only around 162cm tall so she was already looking up at him, even before she began to scrutinize him more closely. Fortunately, like most people he had seen thus far, Rin wore rather modest clothing, consisting of a long-sleeved red blouse, complete with a high collar, and a long skirt that extended past her knees. Overall, she had a very high-class and mature appearance, even if her hairstyle, consisting of twin-tails tied up by rather large ribbons, was somewhat childish. Based on the structure of her body and the feeling of her mana, Vahn estimated she was around twenty-seven years old, give or take a few months.

As if she had sensed his ‘evaluation’, Rin furrowed her brows before stepping back and crossing her arms, inadvertently pushing up her rather modest breasts. Vahn felt as if she were ‘testing’ him somehow so he continued to stare into her aqua-blue eyes, not too dissimilar in color to his own. In response, her frown actually deepened as she squinted her eyes and asked, “Well, what exactly do you want to know? Don’t think I’ll just answer any question you want answered, though, as I’m not a library that you can just access at your convenience. If you want information from me, you’ll have to answer my questions in turn. I also want to know how you expect to compensate me as, from what I can tell, you don’t seem to have anything of value…”

Finding it surprisingly hard to get a read on Rin, Vahn wondered if his sensibilities had been affected after traveling to a new record. After dealing with Loki, merchants, politicians, nobles, and foreign dignitaries, Vahn was a little surprised by the fact that he couldn’t simply see through her intentions. She seemed to be constantly analyzing him while, at the same time, seemed to be prepared to dismiss anything he said. This, combined with the fact that she still hadn’t truly dropped her guard, gave Vahn the impression that Rin was the type that lived at her own pace. She seemed like a solitary existence that worked independently of others, making it difficult for her to communicate normally with people…

Just as Rin’s frown began to deepen further, Vahn quickly answered, “I want to know about this world, including the organizations you mentioned. If possible, I would like to learn about Magecr-” Before Vahn could continue, Rin had already started shaking her head before stating, “There is no way I’m going to teach you Magecraft. I might be able to explain the basics to you, but there isn’t a Magus alive who will just teach strangers their techniques. I might make an exception if you were able to provide something useful in exchange, but I doubt you have anything that I need, regardless of if you are actually from another world.” After having completed her studies at the Clock Tower, the most prominent Magus Academy and the Headquarters of the Magus Association, Rin was well aware of the existence of other worlds, including the existence of parallel and tangential timelines.

Hearing Rin’s words, Vahn couldn’t help but find her claims rather amusing as, regardless of the pride she possessed, he knew there were ‘literally’ an infinite number of things he could provide her in exchange for information. He had already found several accounts of the Tohsaka Family, including their techniques, within the system shop. Though their more important secrets would be recorded in texts and grimoires that were considered Unique items, meaning he couldn’t simply purchase them through the shop, there were numerous texts their family had published throughout history that he had access to. Vahn even found a plethora of information on Rin herself, including the men she had married, the number of children she had, and even her future descendants. He was a little surprised to learn that she often became one of the most prolific Magus of her time, in far more than a few timelines, but that only made him more confident that she would value what he had to offer…

Before Vahn could say anything, Rin’s expression had soured even more before she finally burst out, asking, “Okay, what the hell are you doing? Are you using some kind of technique to analyze me!?” Even though she couldn’t understand why Vahn’s gaze annoyed her, Rin had the distinct impression that his eyes were able to see through her. Though she had certainly been evaluating him since the beginning of their discussion, it made her uncomfortable to feel so ‘exposed’, especially since she didn’t understand what he was doing. She suddenly recalled how he had been able to ‘sneak’ into her Manor without even setting off any alarms, causing her pigtails to strangely levitate as her anger continued to build…

Vahn once again raised his hands, this time in a placating gesture, as he quickly remarked, “I’m not going to ask you to divulge any of your family’s secrets. Even a basic explanation of Magecraft will be more than enough for my purposes. As for what I’ll offer in exchange, will this suffice…?” As he spoke, Vahn quickly purchased a high-grade [Mana Crystal] from the system shop before manifesting it in his palm. Rin quickly adopted a pseudo-battle stance in response, as it was abnormal to see objects appear out of thin air, but she immediately dropped her guard, for real this time, moments later. Her eyes widened into full circles as she saw the crystal in Vahn’s hand, asking, “Where on earth did you get a catalyst like this? It almost has as much mana as a Brand…”

Without asking for permission, Rin tried to grab the sky-blue crystal from Vahn’s hands but he quickly threw it back into his Inventory before plainly stating, “I am confident that I can adequately compensate you for your time, Miss Tohsaka. Now, perhaps you would like to move this discussion to a more appropriate venue…?” As it didn’t seem conducive to the situation to stay within the relatively dark basement, Vahn gestured upwards as he asked his question. This, somewhat amusedly, caused Rin to follow his finger with her eyes, temporarily confused after Vahn had exploited the ‘gap’ in her awareness after stowing away the [Mana Crystal]. She had transitioned from expectant to annoyed before finally reaching a state of confusion, all within the period of a few seconds.

Realizing her mistake, Rin’s face darkened slightly before she coughed a few times to cover up her embarrassment. Vahn’s expression remained unperturbed throughout, giving her all the time she needed before she eventually nodded her head and said, “Very well. For the time being, I will treat you as a guest. Allow me to prepare some tea and we’ll have a proper discussion…” Though she had been on guard before, Rin’s desire for the [Mana Crystal], combined with the fact that Vahn didn’t seem threatening in the least, had caused her to relax more than she normally would around strangers. He didn’t seem like a ‘normal’ existence so she had decided to treat him in the same way she would treat other Nature Spirits, what Rin believed to be his true identity.

After moving upstairs, Vahn found himself seated within a study that wasn’t unlike what he was accustomed to back in his own world. There were two comfortable sofas at the center of the room, separated by a highly polished wooden table that was set with a vase. Since it was empty, Vahn placed some fresh flowers to complete the scene before turning his attention to the surroundings. There was a fireplace on the northern side of the room while, towards the western section, a large wooden desk occupied the area before a large bookshelf. There was a standing lamp that served the purpose of providing reading light as the chandelier hanging from the ceiling only cast a gentle light over the room’s occupants. Curiously, there was a loft-like mezzanine on the east side of the room, accessible by a wooden ladder. Vahn saw more bookshelves located at the top of the mezzanine while a lounge-type sofa, decorated with plenty of cushions, likely served as a place where you could read while relaxing…

Resisting the urge to explore the room, Vahn remained patiently seated on the sofa until Rin returned with a silver tray, complete with a gooseneck tea kettle and two ceramic teacups, each adorned with a golden leaf pattern that screamed ‘expensive’. Rin set the tray down before turning her attention to the flowers Vahn had placed in the vase, asking, “What kind of flowers are these? I’ve never seen anything like them…” As they were flowers he had obtained through the shop, even Vahn wouldn’t have been able to answer her question a week ago. Now, however, he could trace the origin of items purchased through the shop so he smiled politely before explaining, “They are known as [Winter’s Kiss], a breed of lilies that cannot be found in this world. I thought they would accent the browns and beiges in the room well. They also have the benefit of increasing the air quality without you having to worry about them wilting away like normal lilies…”

Hearing Vahn’s words, Rin’s expression became a curious one as she leaned forward and smelled the [Winter’s Kiss], seemingly without any caution. It had a gentle smell, akin to vanilla mixed with citrus undertones, causing Rin to produce a smile as she remarked, “They smell pleasant. It is a shame they are from a different world, as I would have liked to procure some for myself periodically.” As she could tell the flowers were ‘abnormal’ at a glance, Rin harbored no illusions that they were easy to come across. She didn’t know how Vahn was able to materialize items out of thin air but, as spatial magic wasn’t unheard of, she also didn’t question it. Just as she had secrets she wasn’t willing to disclose, Rin assumed had more than his fair share if he was truly from a different world.

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After waiting for Rin to take her seat, Vahn took his own before grabbing the teapot and skillfully filling their cups. Rin’s brows perked up in response, especially when Vahn handed her the cup and saucer, but she still graciously accepted it before saying, “Thank you.” Vahn followed this up by taking his own cup and answering, “It is I who should be thanking you, Miss Tohsaka. I consider it my fortune to have met a capable and understanding Magus so soon after my search began. From what I know of this world, the odds hadn’t been particularly in my favor…” Though he had little concrete information about the organizations within this world, as anything he obtained from the shop didn’t necessarily relate to his timeline, what Vahn had come to know thus far didn’t paint them in a positive light.

With an understanding nod, Rin sampled her tea before releasing a tired sigh, followed by her adding, “Well, you aren’t wrong. Most Magus are a pain to deal with, especially if you get involved with any of the larger organizations. Every time I have to meet with those smelly old men, I feel like I’m going to suffocate…haaaaa…” As if her earlier caution had been an illusion, Rin no longer considered Vahn to be a threat, at least for the time being. Though she could tell he was taking measured actions when talking to her, this wasn’t that abnormal, even between Magus who had known each other for years. Besides, like the vast majority of women he had come across, Rin seemed to be weak to compliments, even indirect ones.

Allowing a light-hearted laugh to escape his lips, Vahn steered the conversation away from Rin’s complaining as he asked, “What can you tell me about this world’s Magecraft and its Organizations? As an outsider, I want to avoid causing any misunderstandings that could be otherwise avoided…” Even if he wasn’t afraid of any future enemies that would cross his path, Vahn didn’t want to make enemies for no reason. He was already tasked with ‘returning’ seven of the most troublesome existences in the Record back to the Root so it was best to avoid getting wrapped up in the affairs of extraneous organizations. Of course, if they did come seeking trouble with him, Vahn had no intentions of standing down without a fight…

Though she could sense something ‘wrong’ about the way Vahn phrased things, Rin still went on to explain, “In this world, there are three major factions you need to be cautious of. Among them, the most troublesome faction is the so-called Holy Church. They have been around since the Age of Gods came to an end, supposedly guiding humanity towards prosperity through faith. Over the course of History, they have systematically eliminated any factors they are not able to directly control. Though they have an active cease-fire agreement with the Mage’s Association, there are constant squabbles between the two forces while war usually breaks out every hundred years or so. As for the Mage’s Association, they are an organization that advocates the development of Magecraft and the study of Thaumaturgy. The most important thing you need to consider in regards to the Mage’s Association is that they have three official branches, the Clock Tower, which I am affiliated with, the Atlas Academy, and the Wandering Sea. I can’t go into too much information about them unless you join but I can warn you about some of the things you need to consider if you are acting as an independent Magus…”

When she reached this point, Rin suddenly became a lot more serious as she added, “If it is true that you are from a different world, there is a high chance you would be given a Sealing Designation, even without joining the Mage’s Association. Though you seem to be pretty strong, that is the same as being given a death sentence, even if they wouldn’t actually harm you. It is closer to being put under house arrest as they typically treat you well, even if you’re not allowed to take action on your own. Depending on the circumstances, however, you would be required to ‘assist’ in the Mage Association’s experiments…” As these words left her mouth, Rin’s expression had become extremely dour as she tightly clenched her teeth. This only lasted for a moment, however, before she took another sip of her tea and exhaled a profound sigh…

Vahn was tempted to ask if something had happened but, even without hearing it from her directly, some of the accounts of Rin’s life showed that she had been given a Sealing Designation at times. In one timeline, she even campaigned to have the system abolished in its entirety, only having success after a large scale war broke out between the various Magus Factions. Vahn didn’t think she had been given such a classification in this timeline, as she wouldn’t be sitting here with him, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a candidate up for consideration. The Tohsaka family seemed to be one of the most prominent Magus families but, with the exception of Rin, and a girl named Sakura, there didn’t seem to be any other descendants within the main family line. Since she was obviously a very talented Magus, it wasn’t beyond reason to assume that she would be given a Sealing Designation after accomplishing something that set her apart from other Magi…

After collecting herself, Rin’s expression returned to relative normalcy as she continued explaining, “The last organization you need to be wary of are a group of individuals known as the Dead Apostle Ancestors. Though there are exceptions, many are evil entities who have obtained some form of immortality that makes it difficult for both the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church to deal with them. They are associated with many underground organizations, with most of their members being classified as Vampires, Ghouls, Necromancers, and other problematic existences. If you someone manage to get on their bad side, you may not even know how you died…” For a brief moment, a pained look flashed across Rin’s eyes as she stared down into her tea, almost as if she was looking for something infinitely in the distance…

Having seen and experienced loss himself, Vahn recognized the look in Rin’s eyes as the look one had after losing someone dear to them. As a member of the Mage’s Association, it wasn’t hard to imagine that she had been involved in any conflicts between the Clock Tower and the Dead Apostle Ancestors. Perhaps the reason she lived alone in such a large Manor, without even a single servant, was due to the fact she had lost someone near and dear to her heart. Vahn, however, chose not to pry into her past as, while a part of him wanted to help ease her pain, he was currently dealing with his own separation anxiety and loneliness. He knew that, if he became too invested in helping her deal with her pain, there was a non-negligible chance he would begin to develop a dependence on her in an effort to alleviate his own.

With an expression of sincere empathy on his face, Vahn silently sipped his tea without commenting on Rin’s current state. When her eyes finally came back into focus, she quickly showed an embarrassed expression but, after seeing Vahn sitting calmly across from her, she regained her own composure rather quickly. Then, having answered one of Vahn’s questions, even though she failed to disclose anything related to Magecraft, Rin showed an expression of intrigue as she asked, “Now, tell me about yourself. I want to know about the world you came from and what the significance of being a Progenitor is. If your answer satisfies me, I may find it in my expansive heart to give you a few introductory lessons in Magecraft…” As the last words left her lips, Rin showed a somewhat haughty expression as she puffed out her modest chest, confidence radiating from her body…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Vahn’s common sense is skewed’,’Rin is raising so many flags, just to have Vahn mercilessly break them xD’,’A game of twenty questions…?’)

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