Chapter 1045: Hindsight

Hearing Scáthach’s words, Vahn found himself at a loss but, as this wasn’t really the best time to stand around talking, he adopted a serious and confident expression before saying, “I am sure you have your reasons. Very well, Scáthach, If death is truly your end goal, I have the means to grant it to you…” As he already knew several ways that he could claim Scathach’s life, even without having to purchase items from the system shop, Vahn was confident he could grant her ‘wish’. He didn’t know why a Heroic Spirit would have such a ‘peculiar’ desire but that was something he could unearth after getting Rin safely back to the Manor.

With her ability to see through all things and determine their ‘value’, Scáthach was able to discern the inherent truth contained within Vahn’s words. At the same time, more than anyone else she had ever seen prior, Vahn’s potential seemed beyond her ability to quantify. She could neither determine his limits, nor see any lines of fate that would lead to his death. As even Gods were not beyond the ebb and flow of fate, this was of particular interest to her. Thus, finding a strange solace in Vahn’s words, Scáthach surprised Vahn by taking a knee and proclaiming, “I will keep your words as a precious treasure, Master…”

Even with Scáthach bowing before him, Vahn didn’t receive a notification through The Path so, before things grew too awkward, he asked, (“Sis, how do I contract additional Servants?”) Her response, given just as quickly, came as something of a surprise, even though he might have been able to intuit it with a bit more time. Just as when he had contracted Nobunaga, Sis explained, (*You can establish a link by having her ingest your blood directly.*) As blood contracts weren’t even a rare thing in the Record of Danmachi, Vahn unhesitantly sliced the tip of his finger with a [Sacred Duplex Nail], one of the very means at his disposal if he intended to kill Scáthach…

Before Vahn even explained, Scáthach already seemed to understand his intentions, even if she took it much further than he had expected. Without any hesitation at all, Scáthach opened her mouth before closing her lips around his finger, licking the tip with her tongue as she ‘dutifully’ sucked his blood. Though he had grown accustomed to beauties, there were few women that Vahn had ever met that even came close to Scáthach in terms of appearance and sheer ‘presence’. Vahn suddenly felt like his neck and cheeks were growing hot as, instead of pulling away, he found himself transfixed by the sight of Scáthach drawing his blood. Fortunately, he had a virtually infinite amount available as, much like Eva, Scáthach had a surprisingly voracious appetite…

If not for Fenrir’s sudden appearance from the nearby compound, Vahn wasn’t sure if Scáthach would have ever stopped sucking his blood. When she opened her eyes, it became readily apparent that she had ‘benefitted’ a great deal from his energy-rich blood as, instead of glowing a subtle crimson color, Scáthach’s eyes were now like glimmering rubies that cut through the darkness. If not for her distinct lack of fangs, Vahn would have believed it if Scáthach told him she was a Vampire…

After rising to her feet, Scáthach flexed her hands while turning them around a few times as if inspecting for any change. She then turned her eyes towards Fenrir, causing the latter to stare back as their two sets of scarlet red eyes became locked in an impromptu staring contest. Scáthach didn’t really seem like the expressive and competitive type but, without any change in expression, she unerringly stared back at Fenrir without her eyelids so much as flickering a single time. Knowing this could take a while if he left them to their own devices, Vahn gestured to Fenrir, saying, “We need to head back. The appearance of a second Lancer-class Servant is a greater anomaly than we expected.”

Though she was ‘unwilling’ to forfeit the challenge of her own accord, Fenrir immediately broke eye contact with Scáthach after hearing her Master’s words. She gave an understanding nod before walking over to his side, glaring at Scáthach the entire way. This seemed to intrigue Scáthach a bit but she was more focused on what Vahn had said prior, asking, “You said there is a second Lancer? From what I can tell…though this one has a lot of talent, she lacks even a basic foundation with the spear…” Using the same advanced [Clairvoyance] that she had used to appraise Vahn, Scáthach was able to see through Fenrir’s lesser, but still ‘limitless’ potential…

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Knowing full-well he would have to discuss the topic at length after returning, Vahn just pointed towards a building in the distance instead of answering Scáthach’s question. This caused her to turn around, the pupils of her eyes contracting to points as she gazed into the gem-like maroon eyes of Ereshkigal in the distance. As someone who had killed several Gods in her time, Scáthach was able to immediately understand the ‘nature’ of Ereshkigal’s existence. Though she didn’t have a spear in hand, her intuition told her that Ereshkigal would not be a simple opponent. This was even more so because, to a degree much greater than her own affinity, Ereshkigal seemed to rule over the very concept of Death…

Suddenly feeling as if she had missed her opportunity to die, Scáthach lightly shook her head to clear such thoughts before turning back to Vahn and saying, “I can tell that you do not wish to squander time here. Forgive my forestalling our departure. Let us alight, my Master…” Mistaking Ereshkigal to be Vahn’s means of ensuring her death, Scáthach mentally resolved herself to protect the former at all costs. There was nothing more she could ask for than the opportunity to die a warrior’s death, even if Ereshkigal ultimately proved weaker in spearmanship. The fact that there was a ‘chance’ that the latter could kill her caused a small stirring in Scáthach’s heart, much like kindling that was on the verge of becoming an inferno with a simple spark…

With Scáthach turning into a Spirit, Vahn and Fenrir reunited with Ereshkigal while Nobunaga, who had been lounging on a rooftop a few kilometers away, also vanished into magic particles. When they reached her side, Ereshkigal quietly stated, “That woman is abnormal…her body lives, but she has become one with death…my kin, you must exercise caution. To become such an existence, even this Goddess cannot fathom how much death she must have wrought…” As the Goddess of the Underworld, presiding over death since the very moment of her creation, Ereshkigal was genuinely awed by the anomalous existence of Scáthach. Most humans would become phantoms, wraiths, or demons after being exposed to death for a long period of time. Scáthach, however, had become something bordering on the incomprehensible, even for a goddess who presided over the very thing that Scáthach seemed to represent…

Vahn gave an understanding nod in response to Ereshkigal’s concerns before asking in a voice of concern, “How is Rin…?” This caused Ereshkigal to place her hand atop her heart, closing her eyes as she answered, “She is shaken, but otherwise okay. I believe it is more so related to her inability to act that has her upset than the fact she had almost lost her life…” From the moment Rin’s heart had been pierced by the Gae Bolg, the [Effigy of the Hero] Vahn forced her to carry activated. Though there was a powerful curse contained within the strike, it had been purged from Rin’s body in an instant before doubling her capabilities. Instead of allowing her to fight, however, Vahn forced Rin to retreat as, even with her increased power, there was no way she would survive a second blow from Scáthach.

After the duration of [Effigy of the Hero] had expired, she lost control over all of her bodily functions but, fortunately, this had no effect on Ishtar’s and Ereshkigal’s ability to possess her for themselves. Vahn even suspected that she might even be able to make use of up to three [Effigy of the Hero]s at once, something even he couldn’t accomplish without the use of even more treasures obtained from the shop. This caused him to ‘theorize’ whether or not it would be possible to change the structure of his body to allow each of his ‘processes’ to essentially pilot his body, allowing him to bypass some of the restrictions and cooldowns of various items…

Deciding to leave such matters until latter, Vahn surprised Ereshkigal a bit by stroking the top of her head and saying, “You can return Rin’s body. She might feel better if I carry her back to the Manor…” Though Rin would probably deny his words if she were awake, Vahn knew that her heart would feel very different about the matter. Even girls like Tiona and, though she would never admit it, proud women like Riveria were weak to being carried by the person they cared about. Since there likely wouldn’t be many opportunities to experience such a thing, Vahn wanted to give Rin a good ‘excuse’ to make the most of the moment.

Ereshkigal stared blankly for a few seconds, likely listening to something Rin or Ishtar was saying, before ultimately nodding her head and saying, “I leave it to you…” After that, the blond faded from her hair in an instant before Rin’s body collapsed like a marionette with its strings cut. Vahn deftly snatched her up before supporting her body in the traditional princess carry. He knew this would be the most effective means of ‘attack’ and, even though she couldn’t move at all, Vahn could feel Rin’s heart begin to beat furiously in her chest. This caused him to smile before holding her a little closer, an action similar to a hug, before planting a kiss on her forehead and saying, “When you wake up, I’ll make you your favorite cheesecake…don’t let this set you back too much, okay…?”

Though Rin couldn’t answer him, Vahn imagined she would have nodded her head if she were able to. She was a strong woman who had faced death several times so, even though this would have resulted in her death under normal circumstances, the fact she had survived it had the potential of becoming either a ‘limiter’, or a source for motivation in the future. In truth, once Rin got a bit stronger, Vahn would have incorporated real life and death fights into her training as, even though the [Effigy of the Hero] might teach bad habits, it was still better to adapt your mentality to the concept of death so that, in a situation where it is your final trump card, you will be able to use it properly…

Carrying Rin in his arms, Vahn made sure the memory was even more exhilarating for her by jumping through the sky, using the buildings as his preferred mode of travel. At the same time, Vahn made sure he was constantly nourishing Rin’s body with his Source Energy while protecting her against the cold with his domain. He wanted to shorten the interval in which it took for her to become stronger as, after what happened tonight, Vahn was even more aware of the fragility of the people he cared about. Since he wanted to avoid becoming overbearingly overprotective once again, Vahn was determined to help, not just Rin, but Fenrir to become much stronger. The latter could receive a pretty substantial boost through the consumption of various treasures but, based on what Scáthach had said, Vahn knew that the best method to increase Fenrir’s strength was more comprehensive battle training…

After only twenty minutes, made longer by Vahn reducing his speed so as not to harm Rin’s body, Vahn touched down in front of the Tohsaka Manor with completely muffled steps. At this point, Rin’s hair gained a slight purple hue as her eyes opened to reveal the characteristic wine-red of Ishtar. She immediately produced a smile before commenting, “When time allows, I too would like to be carried through the sky in your arms. The veil of moonlight certainly adds to the romanticism and impact of the moment, ufufufu~.” At the same time as she said this, Ishtar rested her ear against Vahn’s heart for a short while before motioning for him to let her down. The whole reason she had ‘ruined’ the moment between Vahn and Rin was because the later had asked her to deactivate the proximity barrier since she had never gone over the process with Vahn…

Though Vahn was perfectly capable of modifying even the basic structure of Rin’s formation, he kept mum on the matter as Ishtar quickly ‘unlocked’ the Manor’s gate. She then looked back, a playful look on her face before ultimately bending over slightly as she backed herself through the gate. Since she was wearing her raiment, which barely served the function of lingerie, Vahn knew that Ishtar was trying to seduce him as the fabric covering her breasts fell under the influence of gravity and allowed full view of her dainty breasts. Even if they hadn’t shared a bed together the previous night, Vahn would have found the sight more than a little tantalizing. However, as there were more pressing matters to attend, he reluctantly shook his head before saying, “Make sure to wash her body and get her into bed soon after. I need to contact Luvia and explain the situation before any more surprises occur…”

Ishtar laughed lightly in response to Vahn’s words before saying, “Even if it is late in the evening, our door will be open to you. I’m certain Rin will recover even faster if she has a warm body to lay next to…” With these parting words, Ishtar waved her fingers in a playful manner before ‘skipping’ to the Manor’s front door. This was Vahn’s first time seeing how Ishtar acted outside of the bedroom and, even though it wasn’t all that different, seeing how much she enjoyed the simple act of ‘being’ was rather refreshing. It still felt rather uncanny, borderline wrong, but he was quickly adapting to the new reality he had found himself in after using the [Page of the Akashic Tome].

With Rin’s care being entrusted to Ishtar, something he never would have even imagined pre-page, Vahn found himself in the study with three red-eyed beauties staring at him. As it was an uncommon eye color, Vahn actually felt his skin tingle with the gazes of Fenrir, Nobunaga, and Scáthach all focused on him. This was especially awkward as he was currently talking on the phone with Luvia who, upon picking up the phone, immediately began asking a host of questions that weren’t related to the purpose of his call. It wasn’t until he released a small sigh and sternly said, “Luvia, focus…” that she finally stopped rambling on and started listening to his ‘report’.

Unsurprisingly, as she was part of the team investigating other Master’s, Luvia had a fair amount of information to provide after Vahn explained the situation. According to her, outside of five Masters, the others had gone to neither the Mage’s Association nor the Holy Church to declare they would be participating. Though this wasn’t particularly surprising, it was the fact that battles had already occurred at several places throughout the city. From the information they had been able to gather, there were at least eight unidentified Servants that had been involved in the skirmishes, not even counting Scáthach. This implied that, at the very least, there were twelve Master’s participating in the Holy Grail War…

Though this was the conclusion Vahn had come to, Luvia surprised him by clarifying, “During the Fifth Holy Grail War, the Assassin class had actually been summoned by another Servant. After his death, another Assassin had appeared before losing its life against Rin and her Ishtar. Before that, in the Fourth Holy Grail War, the Rider-Class Servant, Iskandar, was able to use a Reality Marble to summon an entire legion of entities that were near the standard of Heroic Spirits. Though it is not the incorrect mentality to assume there are ‘more’ enemies, it is just as possible that a unique Heroic Spirit is creating fake Heroic Spirits to serve as a distraction. We won’t know the true answer until the existence of a Ruler-Class can be verified…”

Whenever there was an anomaly that seemed to ‘break’ the established rules of the Holy Grail War, it was possible that a Rule-Class Servant would be manifested to help keep order. Their purpose was to ‘ensure’ the Heaven’s Feel ritual was able to be completed. Since Rin’s entourage was determined to destroy the Greater Grail, it was highly possible that the same system that ‘scanned’ the Masters was able to determine their true intentions. In order to protect itself, or perhaps guarantee there wasn’t a third failure, Lord El-Melloi II and Rin had already accounted for the possibility that a Ruler would appear. The biggest problem this posed was the fact that, when summoned, a Ruler-Class was often far stronger than the vast majority of summoned Servants. Since there were ‘literal’ Gods being manifested, the odds of the summoned Ruler-Class being a more powerful entity were extremely high…

As much as he was loathed to admit it, Vahn realized he had underestimated the seriousness of the Holy Grail War. Though Scáthach was still unable to harm him, she was far stronger than he had expected any of the enemy Servants to be. His willingness to allow Fenrir and Rin to take a proactive role in the event was quickly beginning to fizzle out and, if not for the former watching him with her unwavering gaze, Vahn felt like he might have come to the decision to deny them participation. Instead, he decided he would just take a more proactive role during the moments he moved alone, entrusting Rin and Fenrir to deal with other matters under the protection of Nobunaga and Scáthach. With their combined prowess in ranged and melee combat, Vahn knew they would be a truly terrifying duo in most situations…

Towards the end of his conversation with Luvia, immediately following him wishing Luvia a good night, the latter quickly exclaimed, “Wait! Don’t hang up just yet…!” Though Vahn was tempted to do just that, Luvia had provided him with quite a bit of information so he reluctantly asked, “What is it, Miss Edelgard…?” When she had been given the opportunity to speak, Luvia’s voice sounded a little happy through the speaker as she said, “Please call me Luvia from now on. Go ahead, try saying, “Goodnight, Luvia~”.”

Feeling his mind blank for a brief moment, Vahn then shook his head before deciding to humor Luvia as he plainly stated, “Goodnight, Luvia…” This elicited a happy squeal from the other end of the phone, causing Vahn to immediately hang up before holding down the power button. His intuition told him that he would have a veritable wall of texts to read in the morning but that would have to wait until then. For the time being, Vahn turned his attention to the three red-eyes girls before taking a deep breath and saying, “Let’s talk about our battle strategy for the future. Things are going to get a lot more hectic from this moment onward…”

(A/N: ‘[Effigy of the Hero] is the real MC’,’Ishtar’s peculiarity…’,’Luvia’s persistence…?’)

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