Chapter 1053: Nightmare

After being ‘folded’ by Scáthach’s fist, Vahn’s legs felt like they were about to give out as, by attempting to stand upright, overwhelming nausea overtook him. If not for the fact he hadn’t eaten anything recently, Vahn had no doubt he would have been forced to greet his lunch. Instead, he preferred forth stomach acid and spittle as he released a pained groan, even before Scáthach’s next hit landed. This time, even with both arms crossed, Vahn failed to defend against the attack at all when Scáthach moved her hips with the litheness of a snake, changing the angle of her kick like a whip as it bypassed his guard and caught him in the side of the neck. Vahn felt the sickening sensation of her boot sinking into his flesh, breaking bones and rupturing arteries before the larger impact force sent him careening across the landscape…

It hadn’t even taken five minutes before Vahn realized there was almost no resistance he could provide against Scáthach’s attacks. She never even seemed to blink as she watched for even the most minute movements of his body, seeing through them immediately thereafter. He couldn’t even fool her with a feint as, with her speed and strength, both of which were beyond his expectations, Vahn was simply too slow to keep up. The worst part of it all, serving as irrefutable proof of her absolute mastery of all skills and abilities, Scáthach had immediately shrouded herself in a red aura after he tried to match her pace with [Cantus Bellax]. Not only did she instantly copy the skill for her own use, but Scáthach’s seemed much larger and more stable than his. Instead of matching his C-Rank version, Scáthach was using a form that was near mastery from the getgo…

Vahn felt he would never quite regret anything as much as trying to use an unmastered ability against Scáthach. There was few things comparable to the ‘nothingness’ that Vahn experienced whenever he would try to hit her with a ‘surprise’ attack using one of his skills. Not only would she evade it with ease, but the follow-up attack would undoubtedly be his own skill thrown back at him with far greater proficiency. Immediately following that, her beatdown would continue without a single break while, on occasion, she wouldn’t even let him fall to the ground after starting a series of chained attacks that forced him to stay upright. The one time he had tried to complain about it, Scáthach had plainly answered, “You can still fight.” before hitting him in the diaphragm hard enough to leave an indentation of her foot in his body…

Now, if not for his ability to keep track of time using the system interface, Vahn felt that he wouldn’t be able to accurately measure how much time had passed. It felt like there had never been a time before Scáthach had started beating him and, with her mechanical movements and complete lack of expression, it felt like a time when he was free from her beating would never come. It wasn’t until she led with her right foot, shattering his left kneecap before stepping in faster than Vahn’s eyes could follow as she formed a ‘knife’ with her left hand and pierced his torso, right below his heart. To her credit, Scáthach had never dealt ‘potentially fatal’ damage to him, even knowing such attacks wouldn’t actually kill him. Her reasoning for this was that, regardless of how unique his body was, he should never become accustomed to having his vitals struck. If an enemy happened to have a skill that could override his immortality, the only reward for his hubris would be death…

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Unceremoniously pulling her hand free from his chest, Scáthach allowed Vahn to fall to the ground as she stared at her blood-covered hand. Then, sending shivers down his spine, she began to lick her palm and fingers clean before looking down and saying, “You are improving.” After this, she rolled his body over so that he was facing towards the endless sky above before squatting down at his side. Vahn mustered what remained of his strength, accelerating his healing with [Magia Erebea] as his depleted reserves failed to support the action. This caused Scáthach to remark, “You have amazing willpower. Even though you are completely drained, you still fight…or is it fear…?”

As if to confirm her suspicions, Scáthach pushed down Vahn’s shoulder before moving partway across his body and sitting on his stomach. This immediately caused a powerful pressure to radiate outward from Vahn’s body as he gnashed his teeth before asking, “What are you doing…?” Before she answered, Scáthach cupped the sides of his face with both of her hands, answering, “You do not like to be in a submissive position. If you fear being dominated by others, you should improve more quickly. As your Teacher, I am inclined to help you overcome this fear…” Having removed her hands from Vahn’s face, Scáthach traced her finger over one of the holes in Vahn’s clothing, a place where she had pierced him in the past.

Vahn felt like he was on the verge of exploding, causing strength he didn’t know he had to rise up as he struck aside Scáthach’s hand before trying to headbutt her in the chin. In response to this, she simply leaned forward slightly and, instead of hitting her chin, Vahn’s face found itself snuggly between her two large breasts, immediately followed by her hugging his head and saying, “It is not my intention to break you. I can’t see it, the heights you can reach…use this power to overcome yourself. You are already very powerful but your mind is filled with hesitation and doubt. You must learn to move without thought, act without hesitation, and follow-through with conviction. The first step on the path to self-mastery is the mastery of the mind…”

After finishing her ‘lecture’, Scáthach released Vahn from her embrace before rising to her feet. There was a bit of blood staining her skintight bodysuit but, much like the blood Vahn had littered about the battlefield, it was already beginning to ‘evaporate’ into nothingness. Scáthach then turned to Fenrir who, from the time the battle had come to an end, had been taking deep breaths at the side to prevent herself from attacking. When Vahn had felt fear, frustration, and rage, Fenrir had felt each of them alongside him, amplified by her own emotions. As Scáthach could sense this unique bond they shared, she gave Fenrir a light nod before saying, “I will entrust him to you. Take care of him properly.”

With these parting words, Scáthach closed her eyes before disappearing to conserve her magical power. She had wanted to replenish her reserves at the end of the battle but, seeing the state Vahn was in, she changed her mind. This wasn’t because she lacked the resolve to take what she wanted, but because it seemed as if Vahn was experiencing an internal struggle, one which threatened to break him if she exacerbated it further. By allowing Fenrir to take care of him, his mind would regain its clarity and, by the time he had recovered his energy, Scáthach believed Vahn would already have become much stronger. The amount he had improved in just four hours was far beyond her most optimistic estimates, even though it was simply him familiarizing himself with his own body. She could tell, even without Vahn expressly explaining the situation, he had experience wielding even greater power. Right now, it was almost as if he was trying to learn how to use his own body, an intriguing thought that only added to his seemingly endless mysteries…

The moment Scáthach had vanished into thin air, Vahn felt all of his muscles relax as he sprawled himself out on the hard ground with a blank expression on his face. Towards the very end, Vahn had nearly used one of his Command Spells to order Scáthach to stop. He was pretty sure this was the only reason she decided not to have her way with him, causing Vahn to feel conflicting emotions of shame, fear, and relief. When Fenrir moved to sit next to his body, these emotions were amplified for a brief moment, only fading when she began to gently stroke his head. This single calming action caused his heart, which felt like it had been gripped by a vice, to completely relax. A warm sensation washed over him as Vahn managed to roll onto his side. Fenrir, understanding his intentions, snuggled up with her back against his chest, allowing them both to experience the comfort they had come to expect from each other…

At this point, nearly fourteen hours had passed within the Sub-Space Orb, giving Rin enough time to take a nap and eat two full meals. Watching Vahn fight against Scáthach had shaken her more than she expected, causing even delicious food to taste surprisingly bland. Any feelings of resentment she harbored towards Vahn regarding the severity of his training had disappeared within the first half and hour. Since he seemed like an unstoppable existence within her mind, Rin had been shocked into subdued silence as she watched him get thrashed like a ragdoll. The worst part of it was, when the beating first began, Rin felt like Vahn was finally getting his comeuppance. Now, she felt an extreme level of guilt as she watched him and Fenrir lay down together, not even bothering to use a bed for additional comfort…

Sitting near Rin, though not exactly with her, Astolfo and Nobunaga were actually in high spirits as the former happily poured drinks for the latter. Nobunaga found Astolfo’s existence interesting as, unlike how she had worn men’s clothing to fit in, Astolfo wore women’s clothing to stand out. This actually made Nobunaga feel both envious and appreciative of Astolfo’s existence, especially since the latter seemed weak to compliments. If not for the fact that she had set her sights on Vahn, Nobunaga felt it wouldn’t have been beneath her to lay with Astolfo a few times. Though it would undoubtedly lose its novelty very quickly, it was still an interesting, albeit whimsical, notion…

After having adapted to the background noise of Vahn’s beating, Astolfo had kicked it off with Nobunaga very quickly. He felt as if she were something along the lines of a kindred spirit, even if their reasons were a complete contrast to each other. She reminded him a lot of her former comrade, Roland who, after being rejected by the woman he had fallen in love with, threw off all his clothes in a mad fit before rampaging around town. He went from being one of the most well-liked and noble amongst the Paladins to a man who would unashamedly engage in ‘plays’ which, at the time, were highly scandalous. Before Astolfo had managed to restore Roland’s sanity by obtaining a [Bottle of Reason] from the moon, he had actually lain with him several times, the incident which caused him to begin dressing as a woman in the first place. Though they didn’t actually have sex, Roland’s possessive nature and ‘greediness’ in the bedroom were memories that brought a smile to Astolfo’s face whenever he saw his reflection in the mirror. The hair ornaments he was so fond of had been a gift from Roland during the time of his madness, something that had become the irresistible proof of their friendship after the fact…

With two ‘very’ different reasons for enjoying each others’ company, Nobunaga and Astolfo both had ruddy faces as a result of their heavy drinking. Astolfo was even leaning against Nobunaga’s shoulder, laughing effeminately as Nobunaga, perhaps due to muscle memory, had her arm around his shoulder as he groped Astolfo’s non-existent chest. It was around the time that Astolfo released an audible moan that Rin, twin-tails flaring, jumped to her feet and shouted, “Can the two of you cut it out!? I can’t even form a coherent thought with the two of you acting so…so shamelessly!”

Rin’s interruption caused Astolfo to make a pouting expression as he brought both of his index fingers together, a powerful display of cuteness that even caused Rin to feel apologetic. As for Nobunaga, she just craned her head back to give Rin a deadpan stare before remarking, “How is it that a man had more feminine charm than an actual woman? You should take some lessons from that Goddess of Beauty hiding in your tits. She might be able to teach you a few things…fuuuu…” Since she wasn’t even remotely intimidated by Rin, Nobunaga felt like getting even with her for the slap Ishtar had bestowed upon her previously.

Feeling Nobunaga’s words like a hammer on her heart, Rin began to grind her teeth in frustration before deciding to just move to a different location herself. After throwing a few snacks onto her comforter, Rin rolled it into a ball and tied off the end before storming off to the other side of the ‘crater’ Vahn had dug. Nobunaga followed her with an incredulous look on her face while Astolfo, having sobered up a bit, issued an awkward laugh as he rubbed the back of his head. Rising to his feet, Astolfo patted imaginary dust off his skirt before saying, “I’m going to go patrol around the Manor to get some fresh air. It feels weird to be in here for too long, almost like the ‘real’ world is actually the fake…”

Waving her hand in a dismissive manner, Nobunaga plainly stated, “Do whatever you want, brat. I’m going to stay in here and keep an eye on our would-be Master. When you finish up playing around, let’s have another drink or two. There isn’t much better to do while we wait for the Holy Grail War to start again.” Since only fourteen of the one-hundred-twelve hours period Vahn had said they would stay in here had passed, Nobunaga was already beginning to feel bored. Though it was extremely useful to have the Sub-Space Orb to make their preparations, she wished there were more ways to pass the time than just eat snacks and drink sake alone. Astolfo had alleviated a bit of her boredom but, now that he would be going to patrol for a while, Nobunaga knew she would probably be stuck doing nothing for around two-to-three hours…

In response to Nobunaga’s words, Astolfo just laughed in an easy-going manner before the casual wear he had been wearing, consisting of tight shorts and a thin blouse with ribbons, changed into his Paladin’s attire. As Servants summoned to participate in the Holy Grail War, they were all given the intrinsic ability to manifest any clothes they could conceptualize with a simple thought. This had come as a great surprise to Astolfo during the hours immediately following his summoning as he had spent quite a few of them dressing himself up in front of a mirror.

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With Astolfo vanishing from within the orb, Nobunaga laid on her side in a somewhat slovenly manner before unceremoniously scratching around her exposed navel. Following this, she gave a bored yawn before rolling onto her back and sprawling out in much the same way as Vahn had earlier. Then, though Servants couldn’t experience ‘true’ sleep, Nobunaga decided to relax her mind and take a short nap to pass the time. She wondered if her ‘dreams’ might overlap with Vahn’s again, allowing her to alleviate her boredom by observing what he had been up to in his previous world. It had been very entertaining to see the efforts he put into becoming strong, eventually reaching a point where few could match him…

Thinking of her thrashed Master, Nobunaga sighed through her nose before getting a somewhat mischevious idea. Since they were already in a relatively ‘private’ area, Nobunaga formed a mental image that caused her pajama’s to change into a set of blood-red silk lingerie. Though the chances of Vahn doing anything to her while she was asleep were infinitely close to zero, Nobunaga felt like she would have pulled off a successful prank if he showed even a small reaction to her sleeping figure. This was enough to cause her to snicker a bit as darkness unlike normal unconsciousness slowly descended upon her mind. Towards the end, just as she began to lose awareness, Nobunaga saw the familiar image of a workshop as a boy tirelessly worked away with a look of absolute focus upon his face…

It took the better part of three hours, even with the increased mana density within the orb, but Vahn eventually replenished his reserves naturally. Neither he nor Fenrir had been sleeping while they lay together as their focus had been on ‘experiencing’ the comfort, not falling prey to it. Now that Vahn had recovered, he felt a lot better than before as he gently inhaled the fragrance of Fenrir’s hair before saying, “That woman doesn’t know the meaning of the word restraint…” To this, Fenrir nodded her head before complaining, “It is even worse than when I fought life and death battles with Tiona and Ais…” Since ‘death’ would normally lead to a quick recovery with an [Effigy of the Hero], it wasn’t nearly as ‘scary’ as being beaten to the point that you want to quit but, so long as you have even a small amount of strength left, are unable to…

As ‘odd’ as it might seem, at least from the perspective of a normal person, Vahn couldn’t help but agree with Fenrir’s assessment. Even so, as he had spent the last three hours deeply considering things, Vahn lightly rubbed the inside of Fenrir’s paws as he said, “But we can both become much stronger if we listen to her. Though it was impossible to notice while I was getting beaten, I feel like I’ve improved a lot in a short period of time. At this rate, I feel like I may even be able to reach my previous level of power in less than a year’s time…” At the rate his reserves had been increasing, Vahn’s initial estimates indicated he would take around three years to even stabilize his power. Now, it was actually hard to accurately determine how much he would grow as, compared to any of his previous training, Vahn felt significantly stronger after just one sparring session with Scáthach.

Once again, Fenrir nodded her head in agreement before saying, “It is painful…but not nearly as painful as the frustration I felt having to run away. I want to become much stronger so, no matter how much it hurts, I will keep standing back up. One day…one day I will surpass her…” Since she knew that the power she and her Master sought was something far beyond Scáthach, Fenrir felt that she would never be able to keep pace with him if she couldn’t even beat a single woman. She could also tell that Scáthach’s skill in close-quarters-combat was quickly refining her own techniques. This was due to the fact that, while Fenrir’s fighting style was somewhat unorthodox, Scáthach was able to emulate the nearly perfected form of the style when she was beating her…

Having come to an accord, Vahn and Fenrir both tensed up a little before moving to a seated position. The reason why they would have such a reaction was, almost as if she had known they were prepared to begin anew, Scáthach had appeared like a phantom right next to them. Her crimson eyes had a slightly dull color, the result of her diminished reserves, but she still emitted pressure like an indomitable mountain as she looked down at them with her expressionless face. Then, like a Judge passing a sentence upon convicted criminals, Scáthach looked to Fenrir before saying, “I will have you fight against Astolfo. You need to fight against people that are only a bit stronger than you in order to stabilize your current progress. This will also allow you to familiarize yourself with the combat style of your allies so make sure you pay attention.”

Fenrir’s faced formed a frown but, having experienced the detriments to trying to argue with Scáthach, she reluctantly rose to her feet before running over to where Nobunaga and Astolfo had resumed their drinking. At the same time, Scáthach had turned her attention to Vahn, saying, “You need to replenish my magical power. Fenrir is only trying to master a single style so she can gain much from fighting similarly skilled opponents. Since you are greedy and want to master everything, I will be giving you the special attention you require. Until you reach the point where nothing can shake you, I will continue to break you down over and over again…prepare yourself.”

Since Vahn hadn’t stood up yet, Scáthach punctuated her words by suddenly materializing her [Gae Bolg] and striking towards his shoulder. At first, the spear bounced off an invisible membrane but, before Vahn was able to roll to the side and leap to his feet, Scathach had struck a second time with even greater force. It felt like the blade literally curved to match his trajectory, piercing Vahn in the shoulder regardless of his efforts. Following this, Scáthach twisted the spear while pulling it towards her, jerking his body forward at the same time as she kicked him in the stomach. This, once again, sent Vahn flying a great deal but, instead of chasing him directly, Scáthach had stopped in place before licking the edge of her spear with the same blank expression that was beginning to imprint itself deep within Vahn’s psyche…

As if to explain her purpose, Scáthach stated, “You are not through with the first lesson, but I will begin teaching you the second starting now…” In the midst of saying this, Scáthach pulled out a second spear before vanishing like a phantom from view. Vahn felt two sources of incredible heat, one in his back and the other across his leg as Scáthach added, “Once you have mastered the mind, the next step is mastering the heart. You must reach a point beyond instincts, using your feelings to guide your actions without requiring excess thought. If you can maintain a clear mind and a serene heart, it won’t matter what your enemies throw at you…” At the very end of her words, Scáthach actually skewered Vahn through the chest using a spear that had a rounded disk at the base of the blade. As a result, Vahn’s heart was ripped from his chest, allowing him to see it still pulsating at the end of her spear…

Even though he had become accustomed to extreme levels of pain, there was always a powerful sense of incongruity whenever he saw scenes like this. Vahn wasn’t afforded any time to contemplate how absolutely nightmarish his current situation was, however, as Scáthach unceremoniously pulled her spear free, taking his heart with it. Then, in a voice that caused Vahn to once again experience a profound ‘nothingness’, Scathach calmly stated, “You have a powerful heart…” before placing her lips over one of the valves and sucking the blood from within. It was at this moment, much like before, that Vahn felt his convictions slipping away as, even if he managed to last through Scáthach’s training, would he even be the same person…?

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘It turns out Scáthach’s red eyes are actually…the Mangekyou Sharingan!?’,’Two abnormal Servants…’,’Dayum, Scáthach, you scary (O______O)…’)

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