Chapter 1054: Information

Though it had not been long, less than five days, Vahn felt as if the last hundred hours or so could be directly compared to a several-year period. Currently, he was laying at the bottom of the now filled miniature-lake, enjoying the pressure of the water and the cool sensation against his skin. Almost as if he were meditating, his mind was in a state where the only ‘thought’ gracing his consciousness were the nigh-imperceptible sounds from the [Mantra of Eternity]. He did not move, not even to breathe, while his heart rate had slowed so considerably that it would have been more conducive to measure its rhythm in beats-per-hour than beats-per-minute…

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In this state, where he simply existed, Vahn could feel every subtle vibration from the surroundings, including the gentle ebb and flow of the water, the distant echo of voices, the sound of water being displaced as people swam through it. If he chose to focus, in this state of borderline ‘nothingness’, Vahn could even perceive the heartbeats of others, a gentle yet consistent vibration that seemed to spread through his body like a healing wave. In a way, these vibrations were very similar to the [Manta of Eternity], as it would seem to not exist the moment you truly tried to focus on it. The only way to experience it was to let things go, freeing your mind from all other distractions so that you could simply be as one with the natural and gentle rhythm of the universe…

Even Vahn wasn’t quite sure how long he had been laying at the bottom of the lake, at least not before his finger twitched slightly when the sound of water breaking echoed through the water. This brought his awareness back from the nothingness, causing Vahn’s eyes to slowly open as the swift figure of Fenrir, wearing what appeared to be a traditional school swimsuit, appeared in his vision. For a brief moment after their gazes overlapped, neither Vahn nor Fenrir made any attempts to move as they simply ‘understood’ each other completely in a single instant. Vahn then proceeded to nod before rolling to position his feet under himself in order to gentle kick off from the lakebed and ascend to the surface.

Breaking through the surface of the water, Vahn suddenly felt the world was a lot warmer than before as he took in his first breath over the last six hours. It tasted crisp and refreshing, causing him to issue a natural and gentle smile as he extricated himself from the water, directing his gaze to the nearby Rin before his words got caught in his throat. Though this could have been misconstrued as shock, due to how Rin was wearing an intricate red bikini, it was the fact that someone Vahn hadn’t expected to see was standing next to her. During the moment when he was laying at the bottom of the lake, Vahn had completely turned off his domain to cut himself off from outside distractions. Rin seemed mildly surprised by his confusion at first, as it always felt like Vahn ‘knew’ everything, but she quickly explained, “Gray came to pass information directly to prevent any information from leaking. Since you said this is essentially an isolated space, I thought it would be best to bring her inside so she could report directly…”

Vahn had already assumed much the same so he wasn’t surprised by Rin’s words in the least. What he really wanted to know was how Gray had the time to change into an off-black swimsuit. Deciding to let the matter lay, Vahn just gave Gray, who was still wearing her hooded cloak, a curt nod before saying, “Your swimsuit suits you well.” Then, without missing a step, Vahn cast his glance over Rin’s body in an ‘obvious’ manner before smiling as he said, “You look amazing, Rin.” Since he had little doubt that Rin would have worn something more conservative at a beach or pool, Vahn knew that she had specifically worn a bikini to catch his attention. Though he wasn’t quite at the level Scáthach wanted him to be at, not by a longshot, Vahn decided it was a lot easier to just say whatever was on his mind without worrying about the potential ramifications.

Rin’s face turned slightly red while, somewhat unexpectedly, Gray pulled her hood down to cover her face before closing her mantle in an apparent attempt to hide her body. Vahn withheld comment about her peculiar actions as he had some idea as to the reason why she was acting bashfully. To make things easier for them both, Vahn changed from wearing nothing but a pair of tight swimwear, not all that dissimilar from a professional swimmer, into a set of casual clothing. He then gestured to the side, where a series of furniture was loosely arranged to accommodate anyone wanting to relax within the Orb’s confines. In passing, Vahn spooked Rin a bit by snaking his hand around her waist and leading her along with him as if it were the most natural thing to do…

Gray, hugging a penguin-shaped pillow to hide the front of her body, was seated across from Vahn, Rin, and Fenrir as she explained, “Last night, a Magus hailing from China, named Wu Lim Shi, was eliminated from the Holy Grail War. His Servant was the Assassin-Class, a Heroic Spirit named Yan Qing. We are unsure of what happened with Assassin, but it is almost guaranteed that he has been contracted to the Master of the second Assassin-Class Servant, Hassan I Sabbah. Like you, some of the enemy Masters seem to be trying to expand their forces…there is a good chance alliances have already been made as well.”

Hearing Gray’s report, Vahn realized that the Grail War was becoming even more twisted and complex than ever before. Though it wasn’t unheard of for Master’s to take in additional Servants, it was counterintuitive to the completion of the Heaven’s Feel ritual. At the same time, unless they had means he was unaware of, it was nearly impossible for other Master’s to manifest more than a single Servant. They could certainly have more than one bound to them, but they were unable to establish an ‘active’ link with two manifested Servants without overburdening themselves. This was one of the mechanisms that Holy Grail used to ensure that situations like Vahn’s, where he was hoarding multiple Servants, wouldn’t provide an even more ridiculous advantage…

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Without thinking too deeply into it, Vahn gave a curt nod before explaining, “We can deduce that these changes are either caused by the Einzbern’s modifications to the ritual…or due to the current abnormalities within the Grail itself. Now that the trend has been established, there is a good chance this Grail War will become a competition to see which Master can consolidate the greatest number of Servants under their influence…even then, I imagine they will still have multiple Masters on their side. We will have to prepare to fight against teams and alliances in the future…”

Vahn knew that, unlike him, even if a Master could cheat the system by manifesting a second Servant, it wouldn’t be easy. He could mitigate the negative influences without any effort at all, either due to the nature of his own body and mind or as a ‘hidden benefit’ provided due to his status as a ‘Moderator’. Even when he had Nobunaga, Scáthach, and Astolfo all manifested at the same time, Vahn didn’t feel even the smallest burden on his mind and body. To make matters even more advantageous for himself, Nobunaga, Astolfo, and, using her ability to make use of any skill, Scáthach; all three of them had the [Independent Action] skill. So long as they avoided combat, they would be able to stay manifested for well over a day without having to resupply, an affair that Vahn was becoming increasingly desensitized to…

In response to Vahn’s words, Rin had a thoughtful expression on her face as she suggested, “Maybe it would be best to lay low and let the other Masters take each other out. There still hasn’t been any sign of the Ruler-Class Servant appearing and, other than both Assassins, we don’t really know the identities of the other Servants.” Rin felt a strange incongruity in her own words as, going by common sense, the Assassin-Class Servants should have been the hardest to identify since they would rarely fight directly.

Shaking her head, Gray quickly corrected, “We know the identities of several other Servants now. It is one of the things I came to report…” These plainly stated words caused Rin to startle slightly, followed by her exclaiming, “Come on, Gray, that is the kind of thing you mention earlier…!” This outburst caused Gray to bury her face into the top of the penguin-shaped pillow, resulting in Rin becoming slightly fretful as she waved her hands and said, “Hey, I’m not blaming you or anything. I…” Before Rin could continue, Vahn placed his hand on her shoulder before lightly shaking his head to get her to quiet down.

With Rin falling silent, Vahn looked towards Gray before gently asking, “Gray, can you please tell us about the other Servants? It will be very helpful…” In response to these words, Gray peered back with her stark blue eyes before nodding her head and somewhat sheepishly explaining, “We have been able to confirm the identities of one of the Saber-Class Servants, the second Rider-Class Servant, and one of the Berserkers…also, based on the information you provided, there is a good chance that the Caster you encountered previously is someone the Mage’s Association has an interest in…”

Though he was a little bothered by the fact that Gray hadn’t actually named any of the Servants when she was speaking, Vahn remained patient and simply nodded his head in response. This seemed to get Gray to relax a little more as she sat a little straighter before explaining, “The Saber-Class is a Servant by the name of Lakshmibai, also known as the Jeanne d’Arc of India. She had fought against the Berserker we’ve identified, a troublesome Servant identified as Asterios, the Minotaur. From what we’ve been able to collect, it seemed that Lakshmibai was seriously injured in their battle before ultimately managing to escape. The last Servant, the Rider-Class, could prove even more troublesome…he is a Servant named Ozymandias, the man known as Ramesses II, or the God-King…”

As Gray was giving her explanation, Vahn was already sorting through the information on all the named Servants with the assistance of Sis. Lakshmibai seemed like she would probably join their side if he managed to encounter her Master, but the other two would undoubtedly prove troublesome. Asterios’ legend already made him out to be a monstrously powerful figure so, with the [Mad Enhancement] of being a Berserker-Class, he would be difficult to deal with head-on. As for Ozymandias, it wouldn’t really matter all that much if the man himself hadn’t been that powerful in life. With titles like ‘God-King’, the Heroic Spirit manifested by the Grail would undoubtedly be on a level all his own.

While his subprocess mind was sifting through the legends to try and discern any exploitable weaknesses the three might have, Vahn kept his attention on Gray as he asked, “What can you tell us about the Caster we encountered? He doesn’t seem like an evil individual, so I plan to try and recruit him to our side.” Though they were quickly running out of ally slots, as they still needed to sacrifice six Servants in order to summon the Greater Grail, Vahn felt like the Caster that had bested Fenrir would be a powerful ally. At the same time, Vahn had already realized that things were developing in a similar way to his experience within Danmachi. It hadn’t been his intention outright, by he quickly found himself surrounded by girls and, though Astolfo was ‘technically’ a male, Vahn felt he didn’t serve the role of a stop-gap in the least…

In response to Vahn’s question, Gray showed a rare smile before explaining, “If his appearance is as Rin previously described, that Caster-Class Servant should be a man by the name of Paracelsus Von Hoenheim. When he was alive, he was one of the most prominent Alchemist and Magecraft researchers in the entire world. Some even credit him as being the ‘Father of Modern Alchemy’, due to the vast knowledge he freely shared with everyone. Even the production of modern [Philosopher’s Stone]s uses the formula he had provided, requiring no sacrifices in order to achieve a similar result to the original…!”

Vahn was a little surprised by Gray’s enthusiasm as, other than when they fought, she seemed like a quiet and demure girl. Knowing that revealing his surprise would cause her to fall silent, Vahn kept a gentle smile on his face as he commented, “He sounds like an amazing person. Now I have even more of a reason to try and recruit him…” This sentiment seemed to be shared by Gray who, since the moment she began talking about Paracelsus, had an expression of adulation on her face. As for Rin, she had a completely blank expression at the moment as she looked between Vahn and Gray, internally asking herself, (“What the heck is going on here? I’ve never seen Gray talk so much before…”)

For a few minutes straight, Gray continued to talk somewhat enthusiastically about all the accomplishments that Paracelsus had accumulated in life. As Vahn had already sorted through the man’s information in his mind, her actions were more than a little redundant, but he decided it wouldn’t hurt to humor her. By the end of her story, which made Paracelsus out to be a figure that even gods show bow before, Gray wasn’t even using the penguin to hide anymore. Since she had a youthful figure, even while being in her late twenties, Vahn felt this was the ‘best’ way for her to be. Seeing a woman walk around in a solemn and demure state was a little saddening as, compared to almost anything else, nothing quite added to the natural beauty of the world quite like the sincere expression of happiness people were capable of showing. It was the kind of thing that people would fight tooth and nail to protect, regardless of the nightmares they might have to face…

Unfortunately, Gray’s smile didn’t last for too much longer as, much like the legend of other Heroes, Paracelsus didn’t have a ‘good end’. Because he had been publishing his research freely, both within the Magus, Church, and Civilian communities, he caused a lot of the ‘traditionalists’ who believed that Magecraft should be kept a secret to turn against him. Paracelsus seemed to genuinely believe that Magecraft, if freely propagated, would allow humanity to reach true prosperity. He ignored the warnings and threats, all the way until the very moment the Mage’s Association sent its Executors to assassinate him. According to Gray, he offered no resistance to the very end, even saying to his murderers, “When all of you return to each of your homes, please be affectionate to your children. Even showing it to your neighbors’ kids is fine. As the light that I sought, is in them…”

Vahn had to admit that he was a bit shaken by Gray’s words as, if they were true, the people in power had essentially killed one of the kindest and most noble people he had ever heard of…all to protect their secrets and secure their own power. He even suspected that the only reason they allowed Paracelsus to live as long as he had was to benefit from his research for themselves. The order to kill him must have come from someone who had learned about a recent breakthrough that Paracelsus had made and, not wanting it to be ‘freely shared’ with other members of the Magus Community, ordered his murder before stealing the research for themselves…

Seeing Gray suddenly drop into low spirits, Vahn’s own smile grew to compensate as he stated in a calm and serious tone, “I will make sure that Paracelsus is able to achieve his dream this time around. In this modern era, the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church would be hard-pressed to suppress information spread through the internet. I can help Paracelsus establish a workshop in secret, using this Sub-Space Orb to keep his presence concealed from the rest of the world. Every breakthrough he makes, I will make sure it spreads to each end of the globe…though his dream may not be the most realistic, I can’t help but want to believe that the path he saw was the correct one…”

As Vahn’s most sincere desire, other than returned home, was to help people that were suffering, he found Paracelsus’ ideals worthy of his envy. Unlike the path he had chosen, which seemed to be one filled with bloodshed and slaughter, Paracelsus had walked the path of a true pacifist. He seemed to sincerely believe in the goodness of mankind, even if it didn’t exist in the present. By focusing his efforts on making the world a better place for the generations to follow, Paracelsus believed that the world would eventually become a place where everyone could be happy, much the same as Vahn himself believed. Though their means were nearly polar opposites of each other, as Vahn believed in merit, effort, and balance, their end desire wasn’t all that dissimilar…

Though not nearly as vibrant as before, Gray returned a gratified smile in response to Vahn’s claim before saying, “I will choose to believe you…” As these words left her lips, however, Gray seemed startled by herself as practically jumped to her feet before asking, “How do I leave this place…?” in a hurried tone. Vahn did his best to prevent his expression from changing in the slightest as he wrote the word in the air, doing his best not to focus on it. As a result, Gray, Fenrir, Rin, and even Nobunaga all vanished from within the Orb. This caused Vahn to instantly burst out laughing, even when all three returned a few seconds later with slightly reddened faces…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Man, Scáthach f***** Vahn’s s*** up xD…’,’Paracelsus is bae’,’Ha, got’em…!’)

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