Chapter 1039: Self Loathing

After Nobunaga’s departure, Vahn sat at the dining room table alone, his mind in a state of deep contemplation. The most troubling thing was the fact that he knew Nobunaga was right and, even if he had been back in the Record of Danmachi, Vahn was certain many of the girls would agree with her. His mind had recorded all of his previous conversations with girls like Hephaestus, Loki, Tsubaki, Hestia, Artemis, Ryuu, Eina, and pretty much every girl he associated with. Because of their care and guidance, he had lived a relatively uninhibited life that few people could even imagine, much less make a reality. Though this had forced him to bear a burden that even he couldn’t withstand in the end, now Vahn found himself in a world where the only limiting factor that remained were his own inhibitions…

The crux of the issue was that, even with Fenrir’s presence, Vahn still felt homesick more often than he would like to admit. Even if he placed most of his focus on his interactions with her, his other sub-processes would find him aimlessly thinking about everyone he had left behind. At the same time, Vahn remembered all of the promises and oaths he had made to himself, each serving as a link in the chains that currently prevented him from taking more ‘decisive’ action. Unlike other bindings, however, Vahn didn’t want to break these chains because it felt like one of the few things that kept him bound to his previous world. Though he told himself that his feelings for the girls wouldn’t change, regardless of the passage of time, Vahn was afraid that his own weakness, his inability to be ‘alone’, would cause these emotions to slowly fade away within the vast stream of eternity…

With dark thoughts clouding his mind, the emotions Vahn fought hard to keep restrained were slowly beginning to break through the carefully constructed container he had constructed to repress them. He even started to feel a boiling rage surfacing within his mind as part of him wanted to blame Rin and Nobunaga for ‘forcing’ himself into a situation that he simply didn’t want to face. Though he had come to care about Rin’s well being, the efforts Vahn had put into making sure there was an appropriate distance between them existed for a reason. He just didn’t want to have sex with a ‘random’ woman, regardless of how well he had come to know her, so soon after leaving behind the people he cared more about than his own life. The fact that it felt like he was being ‘forced’ to do so, regardless of his feelings on the matter, even gave Vahn the thought of bringing the Grail War to a conclusion and simply leaving before anyone realized what had happened…

Vahn knew it would be so ‘easy’ to simply leave and do, essentially, anything he wanted to do. At the same time, however, one of the things Vahn wanted to do was protect and help Rin. He even knew that, if the circumstances had been different, he wouldn’t even mind having a temporary relationship with her. There was even a chance that he could come to genuinely love her, as her kind, caring, and steadfast personality were some of his favorite qualities in a woman. This was one of the problems with getting involved with anyone that had any form of fate within their Record as, with his nature, Vahn found himself inexorably drawn to them. They almost always had a tragic backstory that would weigh heavily on his heart, inevitably causing him to drop his guard around them until things developed to the point that he would practically fight a war on his own if it meant they would be happy…

Knowing this was undoubtedly their fate itself at work, as they were often simply ‘too’ likable to ignore, Vahn could only lament that he would likely be a victim to its influence for a very long time. It would take him several hundred, perhaps even thousands, of years to grow beyond the point that fate would no longer have an influence on him. This awareness was also another factor that caused Vahn to waver as, knowing he was barely at the start of a very long journey, he would constantly find himself feeling uncertain every time he began ‘enjoying’ life. He was worried that he would become ‘too’ attached to each world he visited, getting involved with every ‘significant’ person he met along the way. This would invariably lead to the terrifying reality that, by the time he finally returned home, he might have to link tens of records, bringing hundreds of star-crossed lovers back with him…

Even with the truly unbelievable tolerance the girls within the Record of Danmachi had shown him, Vahn didn’t delude himself into thinking they would be ‘okay’ with him bringing back hundreds of extra lovers with him. Just the fact that he would eventually be traveling with Eva, who Vahn knew wasn’t the type to appreciate the presence of other women, already nipped that possibility in the bud. This meant that, the only ‘real’ option available to him, as he still intended to travel through several worlds before his inevitable return, was to forgo relationships entirely. He would have to isolate himself from pretty much everything within the worlds he would visit, focusing solely on his desire to grow stronger so that he could shorten the interval between now and his return…

Knowing that such a thing was simply impossible for him, as he was unable to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, Vahn let his head drop to the table in exasperation. The only thing it would take to break his ‘resolve’, unless he changed himself on a fundamental level, was finding a single child that needed his help. If he became the type of person that turned a blind eye to the suffering of a child, Vahn knew he would come to deeply hate himself. Though this would ultimately fade with time, the thought that he would become desensitized to his own self-loathing was even more terrifying…

As this wasn’t even remotely the first time Vahn had these kinds of thoughts, he already knew the supposed solution to all of his problems. Ultimately, just as his desire had been before he even descended into Danmachi, Vahn needed to live freely. Not only would he be happier, but there was a good chance his strength would increase demonstrably while trying to protect others than if he were to seclude himself from the world. The moment he began distancing himself from the very moral compass he had created for himself, turning his back on people he could easily have saved, was the same moment the person known as ‘Vahn’ would die. He had put in so much effort into becoming a person that several people loved, that all of his kids looked up to, that entire nations aspired to be like. If he turned his back on all of that, it wouldn’t even matter if he was finally able to return home as, by then, he would have become a completely different person from the man he had painstakingly forged himself into…

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While these thoughts continued to haunt him, Vahn raised his head to stare into the glowing red eyes of Fenrir who, for quite some time now, had been watching him from the door’s threshold. She was one of the people that, regardless of the decisions he made, would inevitably support him. Even if he became an evil tyrant that destroyed millions of worlds to increase his power, Fenrir would still stand at his side without even questioning it. This knowledge would, on occasion, fill Vahn with a pang of deep guilt that was only lessened when Fenrir would express her resolve to stay at his side for all eternity. Even if he tried to push her away, to the point that it drove her crazy, Vahn knew she would never stop appearing at his side to try and be of use to him…

Releasing a deep sigh that actually caused the void around him to tremble slightly, Vahn produced a wry smile as he said, “Your Master is a terrible person, Fenrir…” In response to this, she firmly shook her head in denial before saying, “Master is a ‘big’ person. Bigger than anyone else…you have so much to give to everyone and, even if it hurts you, you never stop giving. Since you only rarely take what others want to give you, I do not believe you are a bad person, no matter what you say. Not just me, everyone back at the Hearth Manor knows this to be true…it is why, even if you make mistakes, everyone still loves you…”

Allowing a dry laugh to escape his throat, Vahn ruminated over Fenrir’s words and knew they weren’t false. Even if he felt like a pathetic scumbag that couldn’t even be faithful to the women he loved, they still forgave him for it and tried to help him become the best version of himself he could be. This was especially true for all of the Goddesses as, even if he made mistakes that would lead him down a path of ruin, they had literally made Eternal Vows trusting that he would always find his way back into the light…

Turning his eyes towards the roof, Vahn allowed his perception to peer into Rin’s room where, more than an hour prior, he had detected Nobunaga’s presence. With hos close they were, it didn’t take any imagination at all to know what was happening, all because he had been too much of a ‘coward’ to do what was necessary to help the person he cared about. He had simultaneously forced Rin to face a difficult situation alone, something she had constantly been forced to do throughout her life, all while losing the trust of his newly gained Servant. Just as Nobunaga had implied, he had been the textbook example of a hypocrite, all because he simply didn’t want to bother facing Rin’s problems alongside her…

It was at this point that Fenrir, having fallen into an observant silence once again, carefully explained, “Before we left, I talked a lot with everyone about how best to take care of you. Knowing that you would be ‘alone’ on such a long journey, everybody was worried that you would break without their support. I wanted to try and make up for everyone else but I now understand that Loki was right…no matter how hard I try, I lack the stability for Master to truly rely on me. Even if I do my best to comfort you, you’ll always turn things around until the only thoughts on my mind are the comfort Master brings me…”

Seeing Fenrir trying to blame herself for his weakness, Vahn’s expression hardened as he said, “You haven’t done anything wrong, Fen-.” The moment these words began to leave his lips, Fenrir’s eyes began to glow like hot coals, a look of pain and anguish on her expression as she shouted, “That isn’t right! I’ve done so many things that Master should have punished me for, but you always take it upon yourself without ever truly punishing me. You’re so afraid that I will become even more unstable that you are constantly bearing Fenrir’s burdens…!” At this point, Fenrir had tears welling up inside her eyes as her body began trembling beyond her means to constrain it.

Vahn found himself forced into silence by Fenrir’s words as it had never even crossed his mind that Fenrir had bottled up such thoughts in her heart. She always acted openly, rarely filtering what she said or did unless she was ‘expected’ to. Vahn felt that she had made a lot of progress since her feral days, causing him to feel genuinely proud of how far she had come. Now, however, it seemed like Fenrir had actually wanted him to be more stern with her, causing Vahn’s heart to feel a pang of guilt that made her give a frustrated whine when she sensed it. Then, clutching her head with her clawed hands, Fenrir groaned, “Master…Fenrir doesn’t want to be the thing that holds you back…Fenrir wants to be by Master’s side, always. Not just as someone Master needs to take care of, but someone Master can rely on when things get tough. Fenrir doesn’t want to be Master’s subordinate forever…Fenrir wants to be Master’s partner…Master’s equal…”

With the chaotic state of her mind, Fenrir’s speech patterns were beginning to revert back to how she would speak prior to their promise under the moonlight, what now felt like eons ago. It was then that they had decided to walk this path together but, at almost every possible moment, Vahn usually only considered what ‘he’ could do. Fenrir was included in many of his plans but was almost always relegated to a support role since he didn’t want her getting hurt. He was so afraid something would happen to her outside of his control that Vahn had been placing increasingly heavy restrictions on everything she did. This was the main reason he would pamper her when they were alone as, while it was highly therapeutic for him, Vahn was of the mind that he needed to make it up to Fenrir for how he treated her…

Before he had instructed his body to move, Vahn was already tightly embracing Fenrir’s body, finding she now felt particularly frail within his arms. In response, she was lightly headbutting his chest while sobbing, one of the few times she ever allowed tears to escape her eyes. Seeing this was the last straw for Vahn as, compared to almost anyone else, Fenrir was a central part of his life that he couldn’t stand to see suffering. Just as she would do anything for him, there were no lengths Vahn wasn’t willing to go to in order to ensure she was happy. Even if it meant he would have to let her be free to act as she pleased, something that had rarely crossed his mind before, Vahn would rather regret when something did happen than stand by and watch her suffer because of the restrictions he had placed on her…

In the most gentle tone he could manage, Vahn whispered, “I’m sorry…” while stroking Fenrir’s had and rubbing her back in a small circle. Then, so she wouldn’t misunderstand his meaning, Vahn reluctantly added, “From now on…I won’t hold you back anymore. You are free to do whatever you want, even without asking my permission…if you make mistakes, I will make sure to lecture and punish you properly from now on…please don’t be sad, Fenrir. It breaks my heart to see you cry…”

Though the moment was more than a little ruined by the fact that Nobunaga was now spying on them, Vahn decided he would deal with her later as Fenrir was infinitely more important right now…

Though her face was still stained with tears, Fenrir used her Master’s T-shirt to wipe them away before nodding her head in understanding. Then, as if she were determined to shatter what remained of his grasp on reality, Fenrir showed a resolute look in her eyes as she said, “I will go into the City and hunt on my own tonight. Watching Master fight alone is very frustrating…I want to prove that I can move around on my own, just like Nobunaga. Since Master always says you trust me the most, you can’t let others do whatever they want without supervising them if you refuse to let me do the same. I won’t accept it any longer…!”

Each word spoken by Fenrir felt like a hammer striking the back of his mind but, after just promising to let her do as she pleased, Vahn could only nod his head in response. This caused Fenrir’s sad and demure expression to immediately transition into a radiant smile, something she used to struggle with in the past. Seeing the freshly dried tear stains, overlapped with her happy expression, caused Vahn’s heart to twitch as he instinctually pulled her closer into his embrace and said, “Promise me that you will stay safe. I’m not going to follow you, so you have to swear that you will alert me as soon as something happens. If I lost you, I don’t think I would be able to-.”

Without letting her Master finish, Fenrir covered his mouth with her paw as she confidently stated, “There is nothing Master can’t do. Even if it is painful, you are stronger than anyone. You will be able to return to everyone one day, even if Fenrir isn’t strong enough to accompany you the entire way. No matter what happens, though, I will never stop trying to return to Master’s side. Even if my body breaks and my memories fade, my soul will never forget the mark you have left on it. Till the ends of time, always and forever, I will be the person most loyal to Master…this is my way of expressing my love…” With that said, Fenrir moved her paw aside before standing on her tip-toes and kissing Vahn’s lips. Though it was only a small peck, there were more emotions contained within that expression of intimacy than most of their more ‘passionate’ exchanges…

After giving one last smile, Fenrir’s clothes magically changed into a dark bodysuit that was adorned with small accents of white and gold. Then, pulling out a spear that her Master had previously prepared for her, Fenrir wore a hooded cloak to conceal her face as she quickly left the Manor. This was the first time she was being allowed to ‘hunt’ on her own and, even without the ability to see auras, Vahn knew that Fenrir was excited. He had done everything he could to make sure she didn’t develop the habit of killing indiscriminately so, now that she was left to her own devices, he could only pray that the lessons had stuck…

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Shortly after Fenrir left the Tohsaka Manor, Vahn turned his attention to the empty space where Nobunaga had been spying on them ever since Fenrir’s outburst. His expression had now become almost ‘scarily’ calm, even as Nobunaga revealed herself wearing nothing but a pair of blood-red lingerie that was far more adult than he would have expected. Since Nobunaga seemed to prefer men’s clothing, Vahn had never expected her to wear such intricately designed lingerie, nor had he imagined her figure to be even more mature than he had initially believed it to be…

As if understanding his thoughts, Nobunaga gave a somewhat taunting smile as she said, “Oh? You’re only just noticing this now? Don’t tell me you’re beginning to have regrets only now, kiddo…” What she didn’t say, even though Vahn had already began to piece things together, was that Nobunaga’s body seemed to ‘adapt’ and change depending on the amount of energy she had in her body. Though the ‘container’ for most Servants had a fixed size, there were numerous ways in which their growth could be promoted to allow them to compete against more powerful Servants. These were often heinous practices, such as having the Servant consume the mana and ‘souls’ of normal citizens, but that wasn’t a restriction Vahn had to face. His Source Energy was like pure nourishment for her body, giving Nobunaga a new height of 155cm while her breasts, hips, and waist were all more pronounced than before…

With a condescending snort, Nobunaga manifested a set of clothes to conceal her figure as she stated, “Even with a woman standing in front of you wearing nothing but her undergarments, you just stand there gawking. Well, not that it really matters, does it? Anyways, I already dealt with your little girlfriend upstairs so you owe me one, brat.” As the last sentence left her lips, Nobunaga’s expression became even more condescending than before, almost as if she were ‘daring’ Vahn to take action. His reaction surprised her, however, as he simply looked towards the direction of Rin’s room before saying, “I’ll deal with you later, Nobunaga. There are more important things I have to deal with than stand here and listen to your lies…”

Though ‘something’ had obviously happened between Nobunaga and Rin, lasting for quite a while, it was obvious by the aura radiating from the latter’s body that Nobunaga’s claim lacked credibility. Rather than ‘help’ Rin, it looked like she had only made matters worse as all three presences within her body were currently vying for control. Though Rin could use her Command Spells to reign in the two errant Goddesses, she seemed to be holding back on their use, likely due to the fact that the Holy Grail War hadn’t even started. If she used two of her Command Spell from the outset, she would have no contingencies when an emergency situation required the use of a Command Spell…

Without waiting for Nobunaga’s response, Vahn passed her by before determinately making his way up the stairs. He knew that the reason why Fenrir had wanted to go out hunting was due to the fact that she simply didn’t want to be present for what he ‘needed’ to do. As she wasn’t particularly close to Rin, at least for the time being, Fenrir would much rather hunt down any errant Mages lingering in the Miyama district than wait quietly in their room for his return. As for Nobunaga, she just followed his retreat with her eyes, an expressionless mask replacing her usual confidence. It wasn’t until Vahn’s footsteps had faded that a smile slowly grew on her lips, followed by Nobunaga vanishing into thin air…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Hello Darkness my old friend…’,’Fenrir is too good for Vahn (T_T)’,’Nobunaga is a very forward person…’)(Reference for Nobu appearance: https://bit.ly/2Um2t9T )

(A/N: Vahn is essentially having a ‘Superman’ dilemma. He has so much power, enough to practically do anything he wants, but forces himself to behave a certain way so that he doesn’t compromise the person he has become for the sake of others. I have never intended to present him as a flawless character and, even though it feels like he periodically has these little breakdowns, you have to remember what kind of life he lives. Isekai novels that present their MC as some kind of non-feeling machines that, for reasons that are never explained, have the self-confidence and determination to turn an entire world upside down, even though they lacked the motivation to even succeed back in their former world are full of s*** xD. Those MC’s always seem like psychopaths that treat others as if they are an integral part of ‘their’ story, rarely hesitating to do morally reprehensible things because there are no consequences. Vahn’s problem is, even though he knows his involvement isn’t required, he simply can’t treat people as if they are essentially NPCs in a game that revolves entirely around him. It is his inherent desire to be good, using his power responsibly, that consistently leads him into this cyclic state of anxiety and self-loathing.)

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