Chapter 1052: Larval

After getting everyone up to speed on the function of the Sub-Space Orb, Vahn found himself excavating the surprisingly durable ‘white’ flooring in order to install a large bath. Due to his focus on stability and the tiered separation of Space, the ground was far more durable than he expected. Though this would prove to be a boon during their intense training sessions, it made his job a lot more difficult as there was no Earth Elemental Energy within the ground in which to manipulate. Since it was an opportunity to exercise his body a bit, Vahn had elected to purchase a durable pickaxe from the system shop and was currently working tirelessly as a dense layer of sweat formed across his body. Since he had failed to find an opponent to vent his frustrations on, Vahn was exerting his muscles to their limits, creating small fissures in the super-dense white material with each strike.

Contrasting Vahn’s ‘serious’ efforts, Nobunaga and Rin both sat at the sides of a low wooden table, cushions between them and the hard ground below. It was clear there was a bit of ‘distance’ between them, both literally and metaphorically, as Nobunaga had a bored expression on her face as she pretended to ignore Rin’s presence. As for the latter, she had originally been watching the rather exciting training session between Scáthach and Fenrir occurring a few hundred meters away. With the passage of time, however, Rin’s attention had shifted periodically until she now found herself supporting her head with one hand, watching Vahn work with an absentminded expression on her face…

By the time five hours had passed, Vahn stretched his back before releasing a contented sigh as he looked around at the much larger than anticipated hole. He had practically made a medium-sized lake without even realizing it as, after getting in the groove, Vahn just kept going until his pickaxe fragmented. Considering it had a low-grade Indestructible quality, this was both a testament to how much he was putting it through and the durability of the floor material.

Almost as soon as Vahn had stopped causing microexplosions with his now broken pickaxe, Nobunaga tapped the table hard enough to draw Rin’s attention before jumping to her feet. Before the latter could react to what she was doing, Nobunaga jumped down the slope of the bath before landing next to Vahn and asking, “Think you might’ve overdone it a bit?” At the same time as she asked the question, Nobunaga came very close to Vahn, making no attempt to hide her gaze as she eyed up and down his body before remarking, “Not bad…feel any better?”

Vahn gave a muted chuckle after hearing Nobunaga’s words, tossing the remnant of the pickaxe into his Inventory as he answered, “At least until you, Scáthach, or Ishtar set me off again. You know, you should get along better with Rin, she-” As she listened to Vahn’s words, Nobunaga crossed her arms before interrupting as she plainly stated, “You do you, Vahn. Us women, well, we have our own way of doing things. Until you decide to be more decisive, it’s best you just keep being eye candy to keep us motivated.” Towards the end of her words, Nobunaga tried to touch Vahn’s abs with her index finger but quickly found her wrist within his grasp as he exasperatedly said, “Don’t. I’m trying to relax and work off stress, not build up even more…”

As if to punctuate his words, a loud explosion sounded from beyond the ridge that denoted the side of Vahn’s 8m deep ‘bath’. This caused him to release Nobunaga’s wrist before using [Shundo] to appear at the side just in time to see Fenrir skidding across the white terrain before coming to a stop. She didn’t immediately bound to her feet and instead stayed on the ground for several seconds, her chest heaving noticeably, even from a distance. At this time, Nobunaga had already appeared at his side once again, commenting, “You’re not the only one stressed out. That kid, she hasn’t experienced many setbacks, has she…?”

Hearing Nobunaga’s question, Vahn released a heavy sigh before explaining, “A long time ago, I had entrusted Fenrir’s care to one of my lovers, an Elven woman named Ryuu. Back then, she was a lot more independent than she was now, even though her stress levels were all over the place. When we began facing powerful enemies…well, there is a reason why my archery was able to overtake most of my other skills. In order to let the girls around me grow, I relegated myself into a support position where, even if the battle seemed dangerous, I would always be there to protect them the moment things got out of hand…”

Nobunaga laughed in a borderline mocking manner, causing Vahn’s brow to twitch slightly when she said, “I’m not even surprised to know you coddled others, not just Fenrir. Let me guess, even when the girls became powerful, you still fought all the difficult enemies yourself, right?” As she had seen first hand how Vahn ‘guided’ the girls during their time within the Dungeon, Nobunaga’s question was more of a condescending statement than anything. She didn’t really expect an answer, nor did Vahn intend to provide one as he sent a look her way before vanishing from the spot with [Shundo]. Nobunaga’s expression didn’t change throughout though, after Vahn used his movement technique to leave her behind, she mused, “If you look at me like that, don’t blame me for wanting to tease you even more…hahahaha~.”

Without hearing Nobunaga’s parting remark, Vahn appeared at Fenrir’s side, causing the latter to twitch before weakly raising her body. At this time, Scáthach appeared like a shadowy phantom, her red eyes glimmering as she said, “She can keep fighting. Do not interfere.” This caused Vahn to frown but, before he could say anything, a thin mana shroud surrounded Fenrir’s body as she rose to her feet. She coughed a few times, nearly falling back down in the process, before showing a resolute expression as she said, “I will fight. I must…!” With this said, Fenrir leaped past Vahn as she attempted to tear into Scáthach’s body with her claws. The latter moved back at the exact same speed, using one of the moments where Fenrir had to step forward to create a gap in the latter’s form. Fenrir’s body tensed up in preparation for the coming blow but, instead of an impact, she found her body pulled forward by Scáthach, throwing her off balance and causing her to fall face-first into the ground again…

Showing a complete lack of emotions, Scáthach silently watched Fenrir slowly rise to her feet, using the moment when she recovered her balance to immediately begin her attack. Currently, she was only using her bare hands to battle against Fenrir, defeating the latter with her own style and techniques. Fenrir tried to roll to the side, feeling intense pain in her ribs, but was ultimately unable to escape as Scáthach, even without willing it, was able to predict all of her opponent’s moves by instinct and the passive functionality of her [Clairvoyance]. The moment Fenrir was twisting her body around to try and defend, her opened hand, forming the shape of a claw, hit the much smaller Vanargandr in her already bruised ribs before sending her careening across the ground like a projectile fired from a canon. With the durability of the floor material, Fenrir’s momentum didn’t easily transfer into the ground as she skid much further than normal, this time coming to a complete stop…

With an approving nod, Scáthach began to make her way over to Fenrir’s side before, as if she had just remembered his presence, turning her gaze towards Vahn. In her characteristic monotone voice, she warned, “When I am teaching, you will not intervene. Your methods will only bring greater hardships to both of you. If you do not agree with my way of doing things, you may try to change my mind when our training begins…” With this said, she vanished with a natural speed that could even rival [Shundo] before appearing at Fenrir’s side. The latter had lost consciousness with nearly half the bones on the left side of her body being broken. During the battle, Scáthach had continued to target Fenrir’s left side due to her balance, seemingly ‘perfect’ from the perspective of others, leaving a lot to be desired from her point of view…

As he watched Scáthach gingerly pick up Fenrir’s body, Vahn kept himself calm by gripping his fists tight enough to caused blood to drips from his knuckles. Though it turned into small particles soon after, returning to his body due to the influence of [Magia Erebea], the pain was enough to keep him from lashing out. He knew Scáthach was right and, based on how determined Fenrir was, the latter likely agreed with the rather ‘foreceful’ methods. The one thing that worried Vahn to no end was the fact that Scáthach had ‘refused’ to allow for anyone participating in her training to use an [Effigy of the Hero]. She cautioned that, while the ‘artifact’ was quite powerful, relying on such methods was a mental crutch that would prevent true growth. As Vahn had often ‘hidden’ the effigy’s on the girls during their earlier training, for the very same reasons, he could only watch Fenrir desperately trying to increase her strength in silence…

Somewhat unexpectedly, Scáthach had carried Fenrir over to his side, something that had been rather awkward due to how Vahn was glaring at her. Her calm made him feel an incredible feeling of perturbance, causing him to eventually avert his eyes until she was right in front of him. Without leaving any room for argument, Scáthach pushed Fenrir’s unconscious body toward him, saying, “She worked hard. Take care of her until she wakes up.” Then, just as Vahn’s expression softened a bit, Scáthach added, “My mana is low. When you get a chance, I will require your assistance in replenishing it. This place has more mana than the outside world, but I am unable to absorb it into my body without Magic Circuits. If you do not want to use the previous method, fill a bowl and I’ll take it off to the side…”

Though she might have put it off until later under other circumstances, Scáthach could see the blood on Vahn’s hands, even though it was ‘evaporting’ at a discernable rate. She had never particularly liked the taste of blood in the past but, after sampling Vahn’s a few times, Scáthach found that she had become somewhat fond of its peculiar and sweet flavor. Since it also made her feel ‘alive’ after the fact, a feeling she had all but forgotten to the sands of time, it was somewhat frustrating to see it ‘wasted’ due to his misguided anger.

For a brief moment, Vahn was tempted to hold out his palm and have Scáthach lap up his blood like a dog. Immediately following this thought, however, Vahn felt shocked by his own thoughts, finding them uncalled for, regardless of his current state of mind. As he used his sub-processes to try and figure out if anything was wrong, assisted by Sis, Vahn’s expression on the outside became calm and implacable as he answered, “When it is time for my training to begin, I’ll make sure to top you off. For now, return to the outside and revert back to your Spirit form. I’m expecting Astolfo to show up any time now, so it will be helpful if there is someone to receive him…” Vahn had given Astolfo the task of escorting Catherine to the Fuyuki City Hyatt Hotel previously but, now that a little more than an hour had passed in the real world, he expected the flamboyant Paladin would probably be showing up soon…

Showing no discernable change in her expression, Scáthach gave an understanding nod before saying, “I will carry out your orders.” In the next moment, her body vanished without any form of argument, showing how she effortlessly transitioned between her Teacher and Servant personas. This left Vahn holding Fenrir’s body as his own face maintained an expressionless visage, contrary to the chaotic state of his mind. Then, pulling out a thick cushion, comparable to a modern beanbag, Vahn plopped down into its plush embrace while holding Fenrir close to his body. Since Scáthach wanted her to recover on her own, apparently to train Fenrir’s regeneration, he settled on trying to bring her as much comfort as possible so that she could rest easy…

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With the time dilation of the Sub-Space Orb, something that had blown Rin’s mind when Vahn explained the process, it was another five hours before Scáthach eventually appeared within the orb. At this point, Fenrir had already recovered, instantly resuming her training as Vahn meditated at the side with an intense aura surrounding his body. Since she didn’t want to interrupt either of them, Scáthach made her way over to where Rin was sleeping before squatting down next to her body and poking her cheek. This caused Rin’s eyes to snap open, resulting in her nearly falling off of the small bed Vahn had brought out for her use.

As if she hadn’t just startled Rin awake, Scáthach plainly stated, “Our companion has arrived. They are skulking around the Manor’s perimeter with a terrible disguise on. You should let them in before any of our enemies decide to eliminate him.” Though Astolfo was perfectly capable of entering the Tohsaka Manor without assistance, especially with the ability to revert to Spirit form, he wasn’t fond of the idea of hiding away. Unless he was ‘forced’ to do so against his will, Astolfo preferred being the center of attention whenever he could get away with it. He wouldn’t dress up in cute clothing while styling his hair similar to a Princess if he wanted to skulk around in the shadows.

Having recovered from her initial shock, Rin lazily rolled out of bed while commenting, “You know, Scáthach, you could show a little bit of tact after what you did to me…” In response to this, Scáthach lightly shook her head and, as if correcting Rin’s misguided views, stated, “You will recover faster by facing your fears head-on. I am not your enemy; this is something you are aware of. I do not believe you would react positively if I treated you with unnecessary kindness.” With this said, Scáthach turned her attention back to Vahn and Fenrir before walking away from Rin without sparing her a second glance. The latter was just left blankly staring at Scáthach’s back, at least until Nobunaga commented, “If you work hard, I’m sure your ass with develop nicely. Don’t gawk too much or you might develop strange tendencies…”

With a light flush, Rin glared towards Nobunaga, shouting, “You’re one to talk…you…you…rrrrgh…!” Deciding there were no benefits in even humoring Nobunaga with a response, Rin departed the orb in a huff. This left Nobunaga laughing in a boisterous manner before picking up one of the small animal-shaped crackers Vahn had given them and biting its head off. She then directed her gaze towards Scáthach but, as much as she ‘wanted’ to try and tease the cold beauty, Nobunaga felt that she would be the one to suffer. The only reason she was spared from having to participate in any training was due to the fact that a ‘container’ couldn’t become any stronger without absorbing the life essence of living humans. Since there was little chance of Vahn using such methods, Nobunaga was wearing blood-red pajamas as she lazily watched other people working hard.

Having detected Scáthach’s return to the orb, Vahn’s focus shifted back to reality as he peeled open his eyes and saw her staring at him in the distance. In the next moment, Scáthach was standing right in front of him, temporarily creating the illusion there were two of her as the one in the distance faded away soon after. Vahn had no idea how she was able to move at such speeds as, even though he could ‘see’ her, for some reason it felt like he was never looking at her directly when she moved at high speeds.

Understanding what she would inevitably ask, Vahn rose to his feet before unhesitantly cutting his finger. This elicited a rare smile from Scáthach as she used her left hand to move aside her hair before bending forward slightly and suckling on his finger. Much like Scáthach herself, Vahn chose to close his eyes during the process as it was too easy to let his eyes wander when she was draining his blood. Even if it wasn’t intended to be intimate, it undeniably felt that way so, with Scáthach’s attire essentially comprised of a purple leotard, Vahn felt it was easier to just focus on the indiscernible sounds caused by the [Mantra of Eternity]…

After a few minutes had passed, Scáthach released his finger with a light ‘pa’ sound that made Vahn’s heart twitch as he dropped his hand to the side and allowed the wound to close up. Then, as if she could not tolerate delaying the matter, Scáthach asked, “What do you want to learn…?” As there was, quite literally, nothing she couldn’t teach, Scáthach left it up to her students to choose their own discipline. Even if they pursued a specific kind of magic or skill, she would help them master it with a proficiency rating between B~A. This would ultimately depend on their potential but, seeing that Vahn had ‘no limits’, Scáthach was admittedly a little excited to see how far he could go.

Feeling a strange pressure radiating from Scáthach’s gaze, Vahn had to fight the urge to take a step back as he decisively answered, “Everything. I want to know what it means to truly master oneself…I want to see the pinnacle that you were able to reach.” As Scáthach had reached Tier 4 through pure skill, even if her Innates helped, Vahn felt she would help him lay a strong foundation that he could rely on in all Records, not just the Nasuverse.

For the first time since they had met, Scáthach’s face showed an expression of genuine surprise, to the point her brows raised and she drew in an audible breath. Immediately following this, Vahn felt a dreadful shiver pass through his body as a determination even greater than his own was reflected in Scáthach’s eyes. Without mixing her words, Scáthach’s weight began to shift slightly as she used her characteristically monotone voice to state, “So be it…” Following this, Vahn tried to jerk his head to the side but, even though he was sure he had dodged the attack, Scáthach’s fist still hit him squarely in the face before sending him flying backward. For a brief moment, Vahn’s vision was obscured by a ‘flash’ of light, leaving him to rely on his external senses and domain to evade Scáthach’s follow-up attack with [Shundo].

When his vision had recovered, Vahn’s eyes widened in shock as he found his view obscured by Scáthach’s hand before it tightly gripped his face and slammed him into the hard white floor. It was only at this moment, when a searing pain ran through his head, that Vahn realized that Scáthach was able to damage his body. Since he should be outright immune to most attacks, this meant that she was either using her [God Slayer] from the outset, or her raw power had reached the A-Rank. As some Noble Phantasms didn’t even reach this point, Vahn knew that his training with Scáthach wasn’t something that Tsubaki’s could even come close to…

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Appearing within the Sub-Space Orb with a confused-looking Rin standing at his side, Astolfo used his hand as a visor as he excitedly exclaimed, “Woooow~! I never expected a place like this to exist! Does it really go out-.” Without finishing his question, Astolfo was brought to silence in an instant as, in the distance, he watched as a purple-haired woman moved like a machine with infinite precision as she hammered Vahn with heavy blows. His face had swollen up like a pig’s, blood dripping from various parts of his body as he was continually pushed back by her seemingly unstoppable rush. Since Astolfo had, technically, lost to Vahn, his mind currently drew a blank as he internally exclaimed, (“What the heck did I just get myself into!?”)

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Diggy diggy hole…’,’Fenrir is the goodest girl (TT ^ TT)…’,’I feel like there is some kind of catharsis to be had in knowing that Vahn is taking a beating…’)

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