Chapter 1029: Flexibility

Though Vahn had wanted to start Rin’s training in earnest, they hit a snag almost immediately as, even though Rin was already in decent shape, her conditioning was geared towards very specific movements. The martial arts she had learned, combined with the combat style she had developed as a Magus, caused certain muscle groups to develop more than others. This meant the balance of her body needed a lot of work as, even for a woman, Rin’s flexibility left something to be desired. Vahn had grown accustomed to the fluid, borderline ‘formless’ styles that were used back in the Record of Danmachi. There were few actual schools of martial arts so everyone refined their own style from scratch, often focusing on flexibility and speed as the core of their fighting techniques…

While guiding Rin through some simple stretching exercises, she ended up giving him one of the more incredulous looks he had seen on her face when he performed a simple split and extended his body parallel to the ground. This wasn’t even close to the limit of Vahn’s own flexibility so he was a little surprised when Rin openly admitted, “There is no way my body can bend like that. I’m not a gymnast or an acrobat, I’m a Magus…!” When he heard this, Vahn countered Rin’s exclamation with a hard gaze before simply stating, “Balance and flexibility, both in body and mind, are the most basic foundation for martial arts and magic. Unless you think you’re going to suddenly start throwing around True Magic without following my menu, you will perform the exercises I expect of you.”

To punctuate his words, Vahn rolled forward before lifting his body with nothing more than the index, middle, and thumbs of his hands. Then, causing Rin’s face to pale, he twisted just his hips around until his backside was facing her, all while he maintaining direct eye contact. If he pushed himself, Vahn could even go ‘beyond’ a 180-degree rotation so it was quite the sight to behold, even if it also looked ‘wrong’ from Rin’s perspective. Pushing off from the ground, Vahn twisted nimbly through the air before landing almost soundlessly on his feet. Then, before Rin could find any words to argue, he adopted a serious expression before saying, “Watch closely. I will move slowly so you can follow my movements.”

Rin swallowed whatever words she was about to say before watching in shock and awe as Vahn began to ‘shift’ around the area, leaving behind subtle afterimages. From her perspective, it was almost like he was appearing in multiple places at once, each version of himself in an athletic pose that helped to emphasize the credibility of his statement. Though [Shundo] didn’t actually require much flexibility, one of the key aspects to executing it was having impeccable balance. Without it, there was a chance you would ‘slip’ in between the two points, causing you to go tumbling painfully several tens of meters. As for the benefits flexibility would provide, at least in regards to [Shundo], it allowed the user to exploit the gaps in an opponent’s defense by appearing in their blind spots more easily.

After keeping up his pace for around a minute, Vahn came to a stop right in front of Rin before exhaling a muted sigh. His legs and the core muscles of his abdomen felt like they were on fire but it was a ‘good burn’ that meant he was making progress in his own physical development. He didn’t let the pain show on his face, however, as he looked directly into Rin’s hesitant eyes and stated, “No matter how long it takes, I will make sure your understanding of the basics reaches the point that, no matter what heights you seek, you foundation will never fail you.” Then, causing Rin to fluster, Vahn turned to Fenrir, who had been showing off her own flexibility at the side, saying, “Fenrir, I will give you the task of helping Rin improve her body’s flexibility. She doesn’t need to be at the level of Tiona, but I expect her to at least reach Lefiya’s standard…”

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With a thump of her chest, Fenrir stated, “Leave it to me…!” before moving towards Rin with a somewhat mischevious glint in her eyes. Rin held up both hands, waving them from side-to-side as she said, “Wait, wait, wait. I can do it myself. There is no need for Fenrir to assist me!” To this, Vahn just shook his head and said, “There are a lot of tensions in your muscles and joints. It is obvious that you don’t properly stretch before you train so Fenrir will make sure your body ‘remembers’ how it ought to move. I would do it myself but…well…” Since Rin was wearing a skin-tight bodysuit that exposed her navel, it left little to the imagination when she stretched. Vahn didn’t mind the sight but, deciding it was best he conducts his own training regimen, he left Rin’s care to Fenrir since the latter would treat it ‘very’ seriously.

Not affording Rin the chance to refuse, she and Fenrir ended up moving into the basement to use the yoga mats there. Vahn could swear he heard Rin’s voice was echoing through the entire Manor, penetrating soundproof barriers, as Fenrir forced her body into positions she never thought possible. Fortunately, though Rin had been lax in her prior training, she still had the inherent flexibility of a woman, combined with the fact she actually did take care of her physique. This meant that, while it was certainly painful, Fenrir was able to ‘help’ her perform the entire routine without too many issues. It helped that Rin was able to use [Restoration] Magecraft as it relied on increasing the body’s natural regeneration, meaning it was repairing and rebuilding the damaged muscles quickly. Vahn wondered why Magi didn’t use a combination of [Restoration] and intense physical training to build up their bodies but, much like many of the things he had observed in this world, there seemed to be a distinct lack of ‘awareness’ about how to reach the pinnacle…

By the time lunchtime came around, Rin was walking on shaky legs as Fenrir helped to support her body. When she plopped down in her chair, she nearly missed her mark and fell over but Fenrir quickly snatched her up as if she were wrangling a child. Vahn couldn’t help laughing out loud at this because Rin, intuiting what he had been thinking, showed an embarrassed blushed as she ‘glared’ back at him. This faded quickly when she began eating, however, as Vahn was using ingredients that contained a fair amount of mana to further promote her growth. Rin was perfectly aware of this, as she was sensitive to the existence of mana, so she savored each bite without leaving any scraps. After all, trying to procure produce that had mana contained within would cost a small fortune on the market so she wasn’t willing to refuse food that was both ridiculously delicious and extremely nourishing.

When lunch came to an end, Vahn was preparing Rin’s second training menu when she preempted him by saying, “I have somewhere to be this afternoon. Don’t forget that I’m still an active member of the Clock Tower so I have my own duties to attend. Your arrival here just happened to coincide with the start of something akin to a ‘vacation’ for me. Pretty soon, I’ll be busy doing my job so you’ll have to stay here with Fenrir while I return to work.” Though she recognized Vahn as her Master, at least as far as Magecraft was concerned, Rin still hadn’t talked to him about the Holy Grail War. She was even intending to have him and Fenrir stay with a friend just before the event officially took place as, even though Vahn’s assistance would be extremely helpful, Rin didn’t want to expose him and Fenrir to the larger Magus Community, at least for the time being.

Though Vahn’s expression didn’t change much, Fenrir furrowed her brows in response to Rin’s words since she knew the latter was trying to ‘fool’ her Master. Fortunately, Rin had averted her eyes as a result of her own guilt, making it even more apparent that she wasn’t quite sure about her actions. Since it was ultimately her choice, as Vahn was just a single new variable in her life, he lightly stroked Fenrir’s back to keep her calm before saying, “I expect you’ll put twice the effort into your training later on. Right now, your increased Magical Power could result in a serious backlash so make sure you avoid ‘dangerous’ situations, at least for the time being…” Even though Rin likely wouldn’t be fighting any time soon, as Vahn suspected there was no way he would miss the start of the Holy Grail War, there was no way of knowing what would happen.

In response to Vahn’s concerns, Rin crossed her arms while continuing to avoid eye contact, saying, “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Vahn. Don’t worry about me, I’m a big girl who knows what I’m doing.” No sooner had Rin finished saying this line that Fenrir added, “More like a big baby who whines over just a little bit of pain…” As the one who had born witness to how ‘whiny’ Rin could be, Fenrir wasn’t at all convinced by her attempts to put on a strong front. This caused Rin to react as if she had been struck by lightning, causing a strange expression to appear on her face before she eventually exclaimed, “How can you be so cute, yet so vicious at the same time…!?”

Without missing a beat, Fenrir puffed out her chest with pride, a haughty smile on her face as she proclaimed, “I am my Master’s first creation, the companion that has stood at his side longer than anyone else! No matter what I do, I always put in the maximum amount of effort to make sure I can be helpful to Master~!” Though these words flowed from Fenrir’s mouth without any hesitation, even Vahn felt a little strange hearing her proclaim them in such a way. He was starting to wonder if his ‘education’ of Fenrir had been a little skewed, especially as Rin look towards him with a deadpan expression, accusation clearly visible in her eyes. This wasn’t well-received by Fenrir but Vahn had brought her to silence by placing his hand atop her head, smiling wryly towards Rin as he said, “You should understand the significance of context, Rin. Don’t make assumptions that could cause any misunderstandings…now, how soon until you need to be leaving?”

With Vahn’s reminder, Rin looked towards a nearby grandfather clock, releasing a sigh as she said, “I should have already left twenty minutes ago. Now I’m going to have to listen…” Towards the end of her sentence, Rin’s words trailed as a ‘scheming’ look adorned her face. She began to laugh in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of Loki before running upstairs to change without another word. Vahn and Fenrir were left in the dining room, the latter showing a pouting expression while Vahn had a wry smile on his face. He had seen the small skirmish between Rin and the blonde-haired girl, one where they were almost equally matched, so it was obvious to him that Rin was intending to ‘teach’ her friend a lesson…

For the rest of the afternoon, Vahn and Fenrir continued their own training in earnest, even though their breaks often involved the latter curling up in his lap. Overall, it was a very pleasant way to pass the time, leading Vahn to curse his past self for failing to be more decisive. Though he knew his decision wasn’t wrong, as it perfectly overlapped with the moment that Rin would be actively seeking to increase her strength, Vahn didn’t know how he had functioned without Fenrir at his side. Her presence alone made it feel as if his training was twice as effective, even though the number of breaks they took was far more than he would have otherwise. This was the result of his body and mind being in the state of ‘balance’ that he mentioned to Rin as, before Fenrir’s summoning, Vahn’s heart and mind were obviously lacking ‘focus’…

Around the time Vahn was expecting Rin to return, he was instead alerted to the presence of another Magus that had a distinctly different signature. Not only was it even larger than Rin’s, but there was also a malicious and heavy feeling present within, constrained by a terrible darkness. As he knew that having a Darkness Affinity didn’t necessarily make a person evil, Vahn didn’t immediately take action as he sent his intent outside the walls to observe their ‘guest’. He was no longer as easy to detect as when he had first spied on Rin but this didn’t seem to matter at all as the visitor looked ‘towards’ him with what could only be described as lifeless purple eyes. For a brief moment, there was a look of genuine confusion on the woman’s face as she tilted her head to the side and asked, “Are you supposed to be Tohsaka’s hidden card…?”

At this point, Vahn could tell that the woman, while showing no open hostility, harbored a deeply rooted resentment towards Rin. Though her face lacked even a hint of emotion, Vahn could feel the mana in her body swirl about chaotically after identifying his presence. Even worse was the fact that, after getting a better look at her, Vahn could see several overlapping mana signatures within her body that, at a glance, caused a sick feeling to rise up in his stomach. She may look relatively normal on the outside, but it was almost as if the interior of her body was crawling with dozens of grotesque worm-like creatures. Though she seemed to have obtained some form of symbiosis with them, Vahn could tell that the creatures writhing about under her skin weren’t designed with benevolent intentions…

Previously, it looked as if the woman was here to visit Rin, as she had walked up to the front gate without any discernable hesitation, but now Vahn couldn’t help but feel that her intentions weren’t pure. Though he didn’t tear through the void with his Qinglong form, Vahn used [Shundo] to appear next to the woman like a phantom as he asked, “What are you doing here?” Unlike how he would normally appear, Vahn currently had ashen-grey hair and sharper facial features, given him an older and battle-hardened appearance. He didn’t want to expose his actual identity as, even though Rin knew he could change forms, she seemed to determined to keep him hidden. Vahn wanted to respect this sentiment so he had even changed his race and the internal structure of his mana to make it impossible to distinguish him from his ‘true’ self.

As if she wasn’t even remotely surprised by Vahn’s sudden appearance, the woman turned towards him with a smile on her face that seemed extensively practiced. Vahn’s brows furrowed in response to this before he unhesitantly stated, “If you are an enemy, know that the only thing that awaits you is a bad end if you attempt to harm Rin.” These words caused the woman to laugh in a somewhat dry manner before she muttered, “Rin always gets everything…hahaha….” After these words left her mouth, the woman acted as if she hadn’t just shown a ‘dark’ expression, smiling even more so than before, saying, “It is nice to meet you…ah, I didn’t catch your name?” Then, as if realizing her own faux pas, the girl crossed her hands in an overly polite manner before bowing slightly and saying, “My name is Sakura Matou, the acting Head of the Matou family. Miss Tohsaka and I, we must discuss a matter of great importance. Tell me, Sir, would you happen to know if she is in…?”

Hearing the woman mention the ‘Matou’ family, Vahn’s expression didn’t soften in the slightest as, from the texts he had within his memory, he knew exactly who Sakura Matou was. She was the biological sister of Rin who had been adopted by the Matou family when she was only six years old. Though most of the details regarding her were vague, almost every account that mentioned Sakura presented her as an antagonistic force within Rin’s life. Even though the Tohsaka and Matou families were supposed to be close allies, working alongside the Einzburn Magus family in order to establish the Holy Grail War, this didn’t seem to be the actual case in reality. Not only were the often reputed to use vicious means but, even without knowing what the entities inside of Sakura were, Vahn could tell they were ‘evil’ in nature…

Seeing that Vahn had no intention of answering her questions, Sakura moved her bangs aside so that they fell behind her ear. She had a peculiar hairstyle where one side was neatly tied with a small red ribbon. This gave her a somewhat innocent and youthful appeal, even though Vahn felt that letting your bangs hang on one side would just unnecessarily obscure your vision. He had never understood the draw to such a hairstyle, even if it seemed to suit Sakura’s peculiar purple hair. Of course, no matter how innocent she tried to act, Vahn could literally sees several of the eyeless worms ‘looking’ toward him beneath her skin. Their standard appearance was grotesque enough but it made his skin feel like it was covered in grease as they followed his every movement…

After more than a minute of awkward silence, Sakura’s eyes sharpened ever so slightly as she mused, “I’ve never seen a Servant like you…I wonder how strong you are? Well, not that it matters…please tell Rin that I stopped by, would you? Regardless of what happened in the past, I would sincerely like to reconnect with her at some point…we have so much to discuss.” Though her expression conveyed no ‘sincere’ emotions, Vahn could feel murderous intention in Sakura’s final words. She seemed to have mistaken him as a Servant, however, as she tried to walk by him with her over-practiced smile. For a brief moment, Vahn considered whether or not he should kill her but, as she was undoubtedly Rin’s kin, the latter might come to resent him if she learned of the truth. Though Vahn could bear her ire if it meant saving her life, he didn’t know the full story so it would be hasty to eliminate Sakura outright…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘What do you mean you can’t do a 270-degree split…?’,’Fenrir is very prideful’,’I wonder how the other Masters will feel when they realize Vahn isn’t a Servant…quality prank’)

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