Chapter 1056: Sunset

With his surroundings suddenly changing so drastically, it didn’t take a grand feat of deduction to conclude that Vahn had found himself within a Reality Marble. Vahn could remember Rin describing it as a phenomenon that centers around the materialization and projection of one’s inner world, often taking a form and function that provided the user an almost insurmountable advantage. In legend, Ozymandias was known to have built several grand Temples, many dedicated to the various gods that supposedly inhabited his body. Because of his ambitions, it was recorded that Ozymandias had declared, “all temples of past, present, and future exists for my divine purpose”. As a result, it seemed like every temple, regardless of when, where, and for whatever purpose, had found itself within this infinitely vast space…

Instead of moving to attack, both Vahn and Ozymandias stared at each other from a distance, the latter now having a far more serious expression as he said, “I commend you, Sage Emperor. To force me to this extent, know that you have earned the right to raise your head high in the afterlife. I will have your body enshrined within my grandest mausoleum, a resting ground reserved for only the greatest Pharaohs recorded in the annals of history. Now, quake in awe at the might of all the Gods of Egypt…!” With his words echoing through the area, each of the temples in the surroundings seemed to come alive with an overwhelming magical aura. Vahn could see seven giant Sphinxes ascend towards the sky while, from the ground below, green tendrils coiled towards him at an almost imperceptible speed.

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Vahn, still in his Qinglong form, attempted to teleport in an effort to evade but, much to his surprise, the fabric of Space-Time in the surroundings seemed immovable. As a result, his only option was to abandon his Qinglong form and attempt to evade using the enhanced agility of his Baihu form. This ultimately proved a futile effort, however, as the tendrils of green energy moved close to 30,000kmh without being affected by rapid changes in trajectory. Vahn lamented more in this one moment than ever before that he was unable to use Lightning and Light Elemental Magic without a lot of preparation. The only thing he could do was tuck in his arms and legs, shrinking his body as much as possible as the green energy slammed into his body before, as if containing a mind of its own, it attempted to enter through his ears, nose, and mouth…

With the foreign energy invading his body, Vahn was beginning to panic before, nearly causing him to laugh out loud, the energy was broken down far faster than it could invade him. Understanding that the ‘sentient’ green energy was just an advanced poison containing a curse, Vahn relaxed and just let the tendrils coil around his body as he leaped through the sky to attack Ozymandias. The latter was slightly surprised that Vahn hadn’t immediately died, as even Servants would eventually succumb to his curse rather quickly. Even the most powerful would be severely weakened so he misconstrued Vahn’s attack as the last-ditch efforts of a dying man as he commanded, “Go. Give him the honorable death he seeks…”

Six of the seven Sphinxes that had formed a defensive formation around Ozymandias immediately moved to intercept Vahn the moment they heard their God-King’s order. The one at the very front, seemingly made of a composite of bronze and marble, attacked Vahn with its golden teeth and claws. As the creature was more than 10m long, and relatively slow, Vahn spun through the air like a competition flier before scraping his claws along the underside of the Sphinx’s stoney torso. He was a little taken aback that his claws were only able to form thin lines on the stone but, instead of going for a second strike, Vahn slipped through the gap in the Sphinx’s legs before targetting the next one.

Seeing Vahn unhesitantly charge at it, the second Sphinx, this time covered from head to claw in golden flames, released a loud roar that carried with it a heatwave easily reaching more than 3,000 degrees celsius. Vahn, however, was completely undeterred by this as his body became shrouded in vermillion flames while both forearms were covered in black scales. As the heatwave slammed into his body, Vahn created another foothold before twisting jumping headfirst into the pressure while forming a penetrative membrane with his [Cantus Bellax] magical shroud. This gave him more than enough momentum to overcome the powerful roar, allowing Vahn to uppercut the bellowing Sphinx, forcing its mouth shut in the process.

Though Vahn was able to send it flying back several meters, he realized that his attacks weren’t actually doing damage, at least to the two Sphinxes he had attacked. While doing his best to dodge their combined attacks, Vahn’s second process was quickly sorting through the information stored within his mind while trying to come up with a solution. It was possible that the other six were tied to the one laying next to Ozymandias, meaning he would need to kill it in order to deal with the other seven. The next most likely scenario was that they were the manifestations of specific Temple Spirits, requiring Vahn to destroy their temples in order to defeat their avatars. Lastly, though this was a terrifying prospect, it could be the Noble Phantasm itself that granted them their immortality. This would require Vahn to destroy a seemingly infinite space, or at least force Ozymandias to use up his reserves so that it would naturally dissolve…

Even if his second process wasn’t providing any real distractions to Vahn’s main process, one of the Sphinxes finally landed a clean hit on his body. It had a long tail that was nearly 15m long and covered from base to tip in black scales. At the very end, instead of barbs or hair, the tail formed into the head of a massive cobra that had a golden pattern on its ‘cloak’, forming the shape of two eyes that had caused Vahn’s mind to blank for a brief moment when looking at them. He was already colliding with one of the surrounding temples when he realized something had happened, a gap that wasn’t missed by one of the other Sphinxes within the group. This one had sapphire-like fur with amethyst eyes and a mane comprised of mystical blue energy. Using the momentary gap in Vahn’s focus, it opened its maw wide before biting down, taking his entire torso in its mouth due to the difference in size.

Fortunately, while a mechanism seemed to make them impervious to damage, it didn’t seem to provide them any offensive power. Though Vahn was being shaken around like a chew toy, the Sphinx’s teeth were unable to penetrate his flesh. The only worrisome factor was the icy energy trying to invade his body but, as Vahn’s Source Energy could adapt to any form of energy, he was able to guide it along his mana circuits without taking any damage. Instead, Vahn was using the Sphinx’s attack as a means to recover his severely diminished reserves. It took several long seconds before the creature realized something was wrong, throwing Vahn from its mouth to be dealt with by its kin.

Using the momentum of the ‘Ice Sphinx’s’ toss, Vahn faced down the same Stone Sphinx that had started the attack, a resolute light in his eyes as he pulled out a small nail. As the Stone Sphinx tried to crush him with its massive muscular maw, Vahn stabbed upward with the [Sacred Duplex Nail], successfully stabbing the roof of the Sphinx’s mouth. At the same time, Vahn, already in his pseudo-Xuanwu form, directed the entire force of his attack at the very tip of the nail. This created allowed him to experience the surprisingly satisfying phenomenon of watching the Stone Sphinx’s head exploding. Though it didn’t shed any blood at all, the explosive ‘crunch’ of stone being fractured apart caused Vahn to smile excitedly as he faced down the other five Sphinxes.

Instead of moving to attack again, the remaining Sphinxes circled around Vahn with greater caution as, high in the skies above, Ozymandias watched the battle with a casual smile on his face. Though Vahn couldn’t hear him, Ozymandias stroked the head of the Sphinx at his side, the one seemingly comprised of the very fabric of Space. It had an ephemeral black body that was filled with an incalculable number of stars and spiraling galaxies. The only physical components, as everything else appeared nebulous and almost ‘liquid’ in structure, were its solid gold wings, shimmering with a metallic sheen, and the ornate gold-lazuli Pharoah’s crown that served as its mane. To this most trusted companion of his, Ozymandias lightly stated, “He is quite something, isn’t he?”

Without making a single sound, a ‘ripple’ began to spread across the Sphinx’s nebulous face that seemed to communicate its intent as Ozymandias began to laugh in a boisterous manner. Once he had finished, Ozymandias nodded his head and said, “If that is your desire, I will not hold you back. It seems I will need to bestow even greater honors upon him when he dies…fuuu…” With that said, Ozymandias began to contemplate how best to immortalize his battle with Vahn while, at his side, the peculiar Sphinx rose to its feet before becoming absolutely still. Then, several parts of its body began to expand before, similar to an amoeba, it began to split into smaller versions of itself. By the time it was done, its 15m long body had shrunken down to 4m in size as twenty similarly sized clones leaped into the fray alongside the, now four, Sphinxes…

Vahn had just gotten his revenge against the Sphinx with the snake tail when he sensed an amount of energy that created an illusion as if the sky was falling. Looking up, Vahn saw the twenty Sphinxes, each appearing as if they were cut from the night sky, descending towards him. The moment he saw this sight, Vahn’s second and third processes completely ceased functioning as his mind simply ‘blanked’, once again experiencing the peculiar ‘nothingness’ that had been his companion as of late. In this state of mind, Vahn felt like a passenger in his own body as he began to move like a high-precision machine. It wasn’t nearly at the same level as Scáthach, but Vahn felt like he had turned his brain off, his sole focus the annihilation of his enemies…

From atop his golden throne, Ozymandias felt the change in Vahn as small instabilities began appearing in the space comprising his Noble Phantasm, Ramesseum Tentyris. This caused him to click his tongue as it indicated his Reality Marble wouldn’t hold up for much longer. He had to expend a lot of energy to allow his companion, the Wehem-Mesut Sphinx, to split so many times. It was a Noble Phantasm all it’s own so, in order to keep it manifested, Ozymandias needed to supply his own magical power. Though he was receiving a fair amount from his would-be Master, even that was quickly drying up as Vahn simply refused to die…

Seeing Vahn pull out a rather plain-looking spear that could apparently even cut through the flesh of his pseudo-immortal Sphinxes, Ozymandias released a sigh as the gold making up his Arc, another Noble Phantasm named Mesektet,’ The Solar Ship of the Dark Night’, began to liquidize. Near his feet, a pillar began to emerge before forming into a lever when it reached the same level as his armrest. Though he was reluctant to use his final card against the same opponent, as it felt like a pyrrhic victory at best, Ozymandias saw Vahn absorb the attack from one of his Sphinxes, converting it into his own Od. This was all Ozymandias needed to see as his commanding voice echoed, “Sun’s wrath, serpent that devours serpents, light of judgment, Uraeus…!”

The moment Ozymandias finished his words, he pulled the golden lever without hesitation, causing the front of his arc to open. Located within his arc, serving the function of its core and engine, a massive emerald-green crystal could be seen. There were several rings of gold, each covered with thousands of small runes, fixing it in place. The ring towards the very tip of the massive crystal began to flicker before they eventually turned dark moments later. These rings usually served the purpose of a stabilizing the cosmic energy contained within the crystal. With the one at the end no longer active, a massive beam of green energy, tinged with a golden radiance, rained down on Vahn’s location at the speed of light…

Vahn had sensed the massive buildup of energy but, even before his brain could probably communicate with his muscles, his vision was already completed shrouded by emerald green light. Almost instantly thereafter, Vahn could no longer see anything at all as his eyes were liquidized from their sockets as his body, his body following course soon after. He didn’t know it at the time but Ozymandias’ Uraeus could, for a brief moment, reach the EX classification for a Noble Phantasm while within his Reality Marble. It was a degree of power that wasn’t even quantifiable within the Root, serving the purpose of an Anti-Fortress level attack that simply couldn’t be blocked without an even more ridiculous Noble Phantasm…

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The beam from Ozymandias’ arc continued to fire for a full thirty seconds before his own expression began to pale. At this point, the surrounding space was filled with spatial fissures while, caught in the crossfire of their own Master’s attack, the Sphinxes that had been engaging Vahn were all destroyed along with him. This was extremely taxing on Ozymandias but, at the very least, it seemed his final card had managed to finish the job. Thus, with a tired yet appreciative expression, Ozymandias muttered, “You were a far more worthy opponent than I could have ever anticipated. I wonder what kind of Servant such a capable Master was able to summon…?” At the same time that these words were leaving his lips, Ozymandias allowed his Reality Marble to break apart naturally as he released a tired sigh. In this exact moment, just as he had dropped his guard the most, Ozymandias’ eyes widened in shock as the words, “Gae Bolg” reached his ears…

Like a bolt of red lightning, Ozymandias’ body was ripped from his arc before he was unceremoniously slammed into the ground moments later. On contact with the asphalt, he coughed up a mouth of blood before clutching his chest with a pained expression on his face. Brackish-Red energy had started to spread from where his heart had been pierced, carrying with it malicious energy that felt like thorns spreading through his body. These thorns pierced all of his organs as they quickly spread through his body, even reaching his mind. If not for the fact that Servants were made up of mana, he would have died almost instantly from the unexpected attack from Scáthach’s Noble Phantasm.

With what remained of his strength, Ozymandias glared up at Scáthach, his gold eyes locking with her crimson red gaze as he spat, “You mongrel…you dare sneak attack…this…God-King…?” To this, Scáthach plainly stated in her usual monotone, “There are no such things as sneak attacks. You were caught unprepared. If you are so quick to seek someone to blame for your own folly, you will never be a true King.” Even before she finished her words, Scáthach had started to look around the area, no longer paying attention to the dying Ozymandias. This caused him to laugh, not because she was looking down on him, but because her words held a grain of truth within. They were currently at War and, with Servants often having distinctly different strengths, the fault of being ‘caught off guard’ lay squarely on his shoulders.

Even though it felt like there was no power in his body, Ozymandias began to rise to his feet with an extreme amount of effort. Scáthach turned her attention back to him but made no attempt to stop his actions as, with her eyes, she knew what he was doing. Thus, even as Ozymandias pulled out a golden necklace, Scáthach just watched him with her expressionless face as he said, “That man, the Sage Emperor, was annihilated by my last attack. If he has anyone that was close to him, give them this necklace…it is my most precious treasure in all Creation. It may not hold value to them, but I would rather they keep it than entrust it to the hands of some random Magus…”

Much like every other Servant, Ozymandias had required a catalyst in order to manifest according to the Grails’ requirements. His took on the form of a partially shattered golden necklace that had belonged to his one and only wife, Nefertari. Though he had lain with hundreds of women in his time and had more than thirty concubines, the only woman he had ever loved was Nefertari herself. He had lived a life without any regrets but, if given the chance, he would have liked to walk this land once again with her at his side…

With that thought playing through his mind, Ozymandius began to dissolve away into particles of golden light as a contented expression adorned his face. The necklace in his hand began to fall under the pull of gravity but Scáthach deftly caught it out of the air before muttering, “That man would not die so easily. I am not sorry to have defeated you, but I will apologize for interrupting your battle. Thank you for taking care of my student…” Though he may not have heard her words, Scáthach felt like the God-King, who died standing on his feet, deserved to know the truth. Then, when his body had completely vanished, so too did hers, though for decidedly different reasons…

Appearing like a phantom near the edge of a parking lot, Scáthach squatted down to pick up a small rainbow-colored gemstone that was only around the size of her thumb. Even then, it seemed to possess limitless vitality as a powerful energy that she couldn’t even comprehend radiated from within. Though she didn’t know exactly what had happened, Scáthach was able to intuit that this tiny gemstone was none other than Vahn. When he had been attacked by Ozymandias, something that also could have qualified as a ‘sneak attack’, Vahn had compressed a part of his body before surrounding it with as much Source Energy as he could muster. This had coalesced into the nigh-indestructible gemstone within Scáthach’s hand and, as his reserves gradually recovered, so too would his body…

Knowing how close her student had come to death, Scáthach, for the first time in a very long period of time, felt slightly annoyed. Her expression didn’t change but, once he managed to regenerate, Scáthach swore that she would give Vahn twice the thrashing as he had previously received. For now, however, she decided to both punish and reward him at the same time, taking the rainbow gemstone in her palm before placing it snuggly between her cleavage. Her instincts told her that Vahn was still ‘aware’ of what was going on around him so, as punishment for having to clean up after him, Scáthach wanted him to reflect on his actions while growing accustomed to situations he had no control over. When he finally relinquished control and focused on his actions themselves, she believed he would become a truly powerful warrior…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real’,’Ozymandias would be unstoppable if Vahn was his Master…’,'( Y )~*angry emperor noises*’)

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