Chapter 1034: Plan

After a short discussion about the basic capabilities of everyone present, the conversation quickly transitioned to the more important discussion they had originally gathered for. Lord El-Melloi II, who had come up with the original plan to destroy the Greater Grail, gave a surprisingly well-informed accounting of the previous two Holy Grail Wars and their ‘projections’ for what to expect this time around. From him, Vahn learned that the Servants who participated in the Fourth Holy Grail War were the Heroic Spirits of Iskandar, King of Conquers, Lancelot, Knight of the Round Table, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, Arturia Pendragon, King of Knights, Gilgamesh, King of Heroes, Hassan-I-Sabbah, and Gilles De Rais.

Though Vahn’s wasn’t too surprised that Lord El-Melloi II had been the Master of Iskandar, the revelation that Arturia, derived from the legendary ‘King Arthur’, was actually a female. Even more surprising were the revelations that Gray, who essentially acted as the protege and ‘knight’ of Lord El-Melloi II was descended from the Line of Kings, a descendent of Arturia herself. When she was introduced as such, Gray seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the attention, pulling her hood to hide her face for reasons Vahn wasn’t aware of. It was obvious that she also had a past shrouded in darkness but, as now was not the time to probe into such things, Vahn continued to listen to Lord El-Melloi II’s explanation.

With the Fourth Holy Grail War ending without a decisive victor, primarily as the result of the Lesser Grail’s destruction, the Fifth Holy Grail War took place only a decade after its conclusion. Much like the Fourth, the Saber-Class Servant ended up being the King of Knights, Arturia, once again. This time around, she was the Servant of Rin’s deceased friend, Shirou Emiya, the adopted son of Saber’s former Master, Kiritsugu Emiya. As for the other Servants, there was Rin’s Archer-Class, Ishtar, the Assasin-Class, Sasaki Kojirou, the Lancer-Class, Cu Chulainn, the Caster-Class, Medea, the Berseker-Class, Heracles, and the Rider-Class, Medusa. Vahn was more than a little surprised that the names Heracles and Medusa both appeared, but he quickly set wayward thoughts aside since he knew they were fundamentally different existences.

During the discussion regarding the Fifth Holy Grail War, Lord El-Melloi II went out of his way to talk about various theories that were common within the Magus Community. This was primarily related to the ‘unstable’ nature of the fifth ritual as, for the first time since the Grail Wars had started, a Goddess had manifested. Now, as a result of external interference from Masters and Servants that had bided their time since the completion of the Fourth War, the Fifth had also ended without a victor. With how quickly information traveled in the current age, it was impossible to keep this fact hidden from the rest of the world so, unlike past Grail Wars, the number of people expected to try and participate had increased exponentially. Not only that but, due to the growing instability within the Grail’s mana, it was expected that other gods could manifest, further complicating things…

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The primary reason behind Lord El-Melloi II’s and Rin’s decision to destroy the Greater Grail, other than the trauma they had both experienced, was out of concern for the World’s safety. With the Grail now having increased its internal mana to an unfathomable extent, the power gained by whoever managed to complete the ritual would be monstrous. If they actually managed to have their wish granted, while happening to have malicious intentions, there was a very real chance the entire world could be thrown into chaos. After all, the only restriction of the Greater Grail was the fact it could only grant wishes that were within the scope and power of the World itself. Though this seemed like an arbitrary concept, those that knew what resided at the ‘pinnacle’ were very aware of how dire things could come if such individuals got their hands on the Greater Grail.

Transitioning from the discussion of the Fifth Holy Grail War, Lord El-Melloi II went on to explain, “This time around, the Mage’s Association has placed the significance of securing the Greater Grail as one of their highest priorities. Unfortunately, after the failure of the previous two wars, it is expected that the Einzbern family, the creators of the Lesser Grail, have tweaked the ritual to benefit their side. At the same time, Magi from all over the world have begun to flock to Fuyuki and its surrounding territories in order to try their luck at gaining access to the Grail. Since the previous War manifested Sasaki Kojirou, a fictional Hero from an eastern legend, and the Goddess, Ishtar, it is obvious that the rules presiding over the ceremony have become discordant. Previously, the Grail was only supposed to be capable of summoning Heroes from western legends, so as to even the playing field for participating Masters…”

At this point, Lord El-Melloi II opened a briefcase full of documents, each detailing a potential Master and the expected catalysts within their possession. This allowed them to predict which Servants may appear, effectively giving them ample opportunity to come up with countermeasures. One of the most important factors of every Grail War was secrecy, not only from the public, but from the participating Master’s themselves. Having your Servant’s name and legend known could provide a significant disadvantage as, depending on their legends, they could have easily exploited weaknesses. Now that the world was in the ‘Era of Information’, the availability of information, primarily as a result of the internet and telecommunications, made it much easier to research and counteract your opponents’ Servants…

After passing around the documents, Lord El-Melloi II explained, “Much like previous Grail Wars, the families involved in the establishment of the ritual have priority when it comes to participating as Masters. The Einzbern’s have given their privilege of participation to a foreign Magus named Alex Everdale. He is a mercenary who made a name for himself killing high-profile Mages, making him one of the more dangerous Masters that will be participating. As for the representative of the Tohsaka and Makiri families, they will be Rin and, if the information you have provided proves accurate, the current head of the Matou family, Sakura Matou…”

When Lord El-Melloi II mentioned Sakura’s name, Rin’s expression turned dour but, as there was nothing she could do to change the reality of the situation, she remained silent. Seeing this, Lord El-Melloi II’s expression turned empathetic but, as now wasn’t the time for such things, he quickly moved on, explaining, “Unlike past Grail Wars, the Einzbern’s haven’t been too cooperative with the Mage’s Association. They blame the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church for the failure of the previous two wars, even though it was their own agent, Kiritsugu Emiya, who ordered his Servant to destroy the Lesser Grail. Regardless, the other participating Master’s could be any of the Magi currently located within Fuyuki. So long as they have a proper catalyst and access to the ritual required to summon a Servant, practically anyone has a chance at participation…”

Without wasting any time, Luvia leaned a little closer to Vahn as she added, “Regardless of if a Magus gets selected as a Master at the start of the War, you can be sure that this won’t stop others from trying to get in on the action. It is common knowledge now that the theft of a Master’s Command Seals, the crest used to compel a Servant’s loyalty, would grant you the right to claim the Grail for yourself. As a result, there are more than a hundred sharks swimming around, each waiting to step in at the moment an active Master shows any sign of weakness. We’re not the only group that is planning to game the system but, fortunately, the vast majority are just ignorant fools trying to fish in troubled waters.”

Piggybacking off Luvia’s words, Flat laughed in an easygoing manner before saying, “It’s like watching a bunch of noobs trying to steal a rare drop while more skilled players are distracted. This is turning out to be the bloodiest Holy Grail War ever, hahahaha~.”

Earning a glare from both Rin and Luvia, Flat laughed it off while rubbing the back of his head, giving Lord El-Melloi II the chance to sigh before going on to explain, “Originally, our goal was to secure the position of Master for each of us, even if it required ‘stealing’ Command Seals from others. However, I can’t help but feel that your presence, especially at such a sensitive time, has greater significance than even you yourself are aware. You are something the other factions couldn’t have possibly factored into the equation…tell me, Vahn, are you willing to play the part of an extra Servant to sow discord amongst the other Masters?”

With Vahn’s power already being at a level above many Heroid Spirits, Lord El-Melloi II felt they could use that to their advantage to fool the other Masters. Vahn, however, instantly shook his head before explaining, “It is impossible for me to play such a part, even if I were willing. Instead, I have every intention of being one of the participating Masters. Even if my Servant ends up being on the weaker end, I am certain I would be able to empower them to the point that other Master’s have no chance at victory.” Following this, Rin also added, “Even if Vahn is unable to become a Master through the normal method, I intend to transfer my Command Seals and Servant to him. I have a better understanding of his power and character than everyone else so trust me when I say this is the best chance we have at victory.”

As Rin hadn’t discussed this with him previously, Vahn was a little surprised by the fact that she instantly supported him, even at the expense of being a Master herself. He couldn’t help giving her a small smile in return before saying, “The moment I learn the identities of the other Master’s, I will move to secure their Command Seals for our faction. It is my intention to move independently for much of the Holy Grail War, so I can still achieve the purpose of being an unexpected variable for the other Masters. I also have a method of allowing Rin to appear as a Master, though it will be up to her if she is willing to go through with it…” To this, Rin gave a nod of approval as everyone else present showed faces of confusion in response to the two’s ‘selfish’ antics.

From Vahn’s right, Luvia had the most ‘extreme’ expression as she muttered, in much the same way as Rin, “How does Rin keep getting all the good ones…am I doing something wrong…?” Following this, Luvia looked down at her rather buxom breasts before using her arms to press them together. This caused her to immediately shake her head before whispering, “There is no way I’m lacking in charm compared to that gorilla girl…” Though these words were spoke to herself, everyone present could hear Luvia’s soliloquy, Rin included. Her twin-tails were beginning to ‘ripple’ as her anger continued to rise but, not wanting to spend his whole afternoon discussing plans that may not even matter after first contact, Vahn leaned his body forward to obscure each girls’ view before saying, “If there are no other pressing concerns, I would like to discuss when the summoning ritual is to take place. Based on Sakura’s words, am I wrong to assume it is already possible to summon a Servant?”

Understanding Vahn’s intentions, Lord El-Melloi II cleared his throat before answering, “The official start of the Holy Grail War is scheduled to begin in ten days. Before the three families summon their Servants, others will be unable to conduct their own rituals. Because of this, there are a large number of Magus who have been lingering around in an attempt to gather information. Everyone wants to be the first to summon a Servant so they do not lose the chance. Since many catalysts can only be used one time, they are forced to wait until Rin, Sakura, and Alex summon their Servants. Though there are some advantages to summoning a Servant early, the Overseers of the Holy Grail War could enact a severe punishment on anyone that exposes the existence of the event to the public…”

As the Holy Grail War made use of a City-wide formation that would basically hypnotize people to retiring indoors early in the evening, keeping the streets clear for any conflict that would occur, it was highly frowned upon to begin fighting early. Without taking these measures, the death toll during the Holy Grail War could easily extend into the tens of thousands given how powerful some Servants could be. Though this had the downside of making it easy for disreputable Mages to take advantage of the common citizens during the event’s duration, they were considered ‘acceptable’ sacrifices for an event as major as the Holy Grail War…

After hearing what he wanted to know, Vahn then asked, “Do we know if the other two families have summoned their Servants?” In response to this, it was Gray who shook her head lightly before answering, “At the end of the last Holy Grail War, the Einzbern’s managed to recover the stone earrings of Cu Chulainn after coming to an agreement with the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church. We don’t know if they used them as a catalyst to summon Cu Chulainn as a Lancer-Class Servant, but we know they have already completed the ceremony. As for Sakura Matou, it is almost impossible to determine if she has completed the ceremony due to the secrecy surrounding the Makiri family…”

With her sister being mentioned once again, Rin released an audible sigh that caused a small lull in the conversation. When she saw everyone was focused on her, she showed a resolute expression on her face before saying, “We’ll know once I summon my own Servant. If she genuinely mistook Vahn as a Servant, there is a good chance she had already summoned one for herself. If that is the case, we may be able to get away with several summonings before anyone realizes the battle has already begun.”

Following up Rin’s words, Gray once again spoke out, drawing attention to herself as she said, “Now is the best time to move forward with that plan. Last night, many of the Mages that had been sent to investigate Miyama Town quickly left the City. Something must have happened behind the scenes that spooked them all…” As she spoke, Gray’s eyes were locked on Vahn, even as she shrunk away under the combined gazes of everyone else present. This caused them to also turn their heads to Vahn, resulting in the latter smiling as he said, “I may have gone for a walk last night…”

Since she hadn’t known about this previously, Rin showed a dissatisfied expression on her face but, choosing not to discuss it in front of everyone else, she kept mum. This didn’t stop her from using her heel to dig into Vahn’s foot though, even if it had absolutely no effect on him. As for the rest of the people present, Gray gave an approving nod to Vahn while Flat just laughed in an easy-going manner before remarking, “Your actions have probably caused others to think that the Assassin-Class Servant is already in play. Nice going, hahahaha~.” As the Assassin-Class Servant was often the weakest amongst the other Heroic Spirits, it was far more common for their Master’s to have them target other Master’s while acting from the shadows.

After Flat, Luvia held her chin with her index finger in thumb, smiling with a thoughtful look on her face as she mused, “Knowing the Makiri family, there is a good chance their Servant is actually of the Assassin-Class. This is something most people should be aware of so there is a good chance most of the focus of other potential Master’s is placed on them at the moment. With the precedent set by the Einzbern family, we can assume they have either summoned the Berserker-Class, Heracles, or the Lancer-Class, Cu Chulainn. There is a good chance their move to secure Cu’s catalyst was a misdirection, especially when considering they hired a Mage-Killer. Logic would indicate they once again summoned the Hero fo the Twelve Labors, Heracles…”

Agreeing with Luvia’s conjecture, Rin nodded her head, even as a fearful look passed across her eyes. Having born witness to the awesome might of Heracles with her own two eyes, Rin cautioned, “With Heracles charing from the front, it would create an easily exploitable gap for Alex Everdale to take out enemy Masters. Heracles has the ability to resurrect eleven times after death, all while gaining immunity to almost anything that previously killed him. With a skilled Master commanding him, their combination would be one of the hardest to deal with…” As she knew this information was well-known by everyone else present, Rin’s words were primarily intended for Vahn. Even if she knew his own existence was greater than Heracles’, she harbored no illusion that it was ‘impossible’ for him to die…

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Knowing Rin was worry about him, Vahn adopted a gentle smile before saying, “If Heracles is truly who the Einzbern’s have summoned, I already have the means to deal with him outright. Please trust me Rin…” After fighting a previous Heracles, with surprisingly similar abilities, Vahn knew what he should expect going into the fight. If he used [Enkidu] from the start, it should be possible to bing a Heracles that has been blinded by the Mad Enhancement. Then, regardless of if he had twelve, or even twelve-thousand lives, Vahn was confident he could kill the enraged Demigod. As for his Master, Vahn didn’t think the Einzbern’s would have hired him if he didn’t possess quite a bit of skill. Vahn wouldn’t underestimate him but, at the same time, he also didn’t believe the purported Mage-Killer would be a threat without his Servant.

With the atmosphere suddenly becoming a little awkward, Lord El-Melloi II made a show of clearing his throat before saying, “We’ll leave the decision of when you want to summon your Servant to you, Rin. Once the ceremony has completed, make sure to update us before informing the Overseer at the Fuyuki Church. Up until the official start of the Holy Grail War, we’ll be keeping an eye out for any Master’s that appear in the area. If we get any news about any Servants who have appeared, we will contact you immediately.” As there was little they could do other than provide support indirectly, much of the fighting would be left to Vahn and Rin unless they could keep their involvement a secret from the Overseer assigned by the Holy Church. Though other, lesser-known Magi might be able to simply lay low for a while, even if they got caught breaking the rules, Lord El-Melloi II’s status made it much harder to take a more proactive role.

Nodding her head in understanding, Rin radiated confidence as she stated, “No matter what it takes, let’s make sure this is the last time this bloody ceremony ever occurs…!” In response to her outburst, Lord El-Melloi II gave a decisive nod of his own while Flat, once again, just laughed in a light-hearted manner. As for Gray, she gave a curt nod without uttering a single syllable while Luvia, not wanting to be outshone by Rin, raised her head high before saying, “Using something like the Greater Grail to have there wishes granted is an action only cowards would seek out. If they have the power to obtain the Grail, they might as well use the same resolve to improve themselves. There are no limits to a person’s growth so relying on such shady methods is simply irreprehensible…!”

Surprisingly, of the two arguments, Vahn actually found Luvia’s to align closer to his own thoughts on the matter. He might not be the best person to speak on the subject, as having access to The Path afforded him opportunities others couldn’t even imagine, but Vahn genuinely believed that people should always put in the effort to grow stronger. If they relied on their family, background, or external resources, it would never be ‘their’ power. Since so many disreputable types relied on power they had ‘recieved’, compared to power they had obtained for themselves, Vahn’s impression was that power you didn’t earn was often what led to corruption. There was an incalculable number of examples to pull from, each seeming to affirm this theory, so Vahn had a bit of confidence in his conjecture…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Vahn be like, ‘Why not da Queen of Knights…?’,’Rematch of the Ages, the Emperor vs. The Strongest Hero…!’,’Standing at the precipice…’)

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