Chapter 1059: Relax

Though he had realized it as early as his first ‘beating’, Vahn noticed that his state of mind was always much calmer after the fact. He wasn’t sure if it was Scáthach’s intent, but there was a strange feeling of release whenever the pains and aches reached a critical level. It was almost as if his brain shut off, forcing Vahn into a state of clarity where everything just ‘was’. In those moments, he was able to offer the most basic amount of resistance to Scáthach’s attacks and, even though he had yet to accomplish anything with it, Vahn felt like he was getting closer to ‘something’…

The most useful part of this was that, even after he was in a recovery phase, Vahn’s clarity would persist for several hours longer, allowing him to focus on tasks such as building a house within the Sub-Space Orb. Though it didn’t bother him that much, Vahn knew it could be stressful for others if they were stuck in the infinite white space of the orb without anything to serve as a central hub for their focus. This was one of the reasons why he had created the small lake first and, now that he had a bit of time in between training sessions, Vahn had started making the Sub-Space Orb into more of a second home, even if he originally wanted to avoid having people lounge around when he had first created it…

With every strike of his hammer, Vahn felt a vibration pass through his body that bounced around his organs and bones before spreading through his mind, bringing with it a strangely satisfying sensation as each nail was driven into place. He almost felt like a machine that had been given purpose as he moved used abilities like telekinesis and Elemental Manipulation to quickly give form to the design he had in mind. Vahn had purchased a few schematics and blueprints from the system shop before settling on a more traditional eastern-style residence. He had come to prefer this style of architecture long ago so, if given the choice, Vahn would always default to such a style as it always made him feel more at ease than the somewhat plain and spartan designs found in western architecture…

After finishing another line of reinforcement, Vahn nodded in approval at his own work before hopping off the wooden beam he had been sitting on. The flooring and foundation had already been completed so he was now working on the sub-structure that would serve as the supports for the walls and roof later on. Currently, the house was nothing more than a series of neatly arranged red beams and struts that was reminiscent to a skeleton, albeit one belonging to a building. Though there weren’t any pipes and electrical wiring, Vahn didn’t particularly mind such things since even the Tohsaka Manor only had gas and a few electrical appliances. Most Magus families shunned the advancement of Science and Technology, choosing to instead use Magecraft to create things like perpetually burning candles in lieu of using lightbulbs. The only reason the Tohsaka Manor had electrical wiring and the like was due to the fact that it had been ‘required’ during the construction process for compliance purposes.

Almost as soon as Vahn had stored away his hammer, a presence appeared at his side that caused him to lightly chuckle before asking, “Is it already that time…?” To this, Scáthach surprisingly shook her head, followed by her explaining, “You have been working hard. For the next couple of hours, I want you to take a proper break. It has been three days since you rested and, even though you may not require it, relaxation is an important part of any training regimen.” With that said, Scáthach gave a small nod before vanishing once again. Unless she was helping them train, or answering Rin’s questions, Scáthach spent most of her time in her Spiritual form. This was both to conserve energy and, even if she didn’t explain it as such, Vahn believed she was trying to be considerate of others. Whenever she was around, people would be more tense than normal so, in order to allow them to relax, Scáthach simply removed herself from the area before concealing her presence completely…

With his newfound free time, Vahn momentarily considered returning to work on the house before ultimately deciding against it. Scáthach had very clearly told him to relax and, though it felt rather refreshing to work hard on the temporary home everyone would be using, Vahn understood she actually wanted him to interact with the others. With this in mind, Vahn made his way out of the nascent building before turning his eyes towards the ‘lake’ located to the east. He could see Fenrir swimming around like a dolphin as she dove in and out of the water while, laying near the ‘shore’, Nobunaga and Astolfo were both wearing swimsuits. Since the latter was wearing a pink bikini with a pareo, Vahn felt as if he had subtly tilted a few degrees before quickly setting aside the incongruous feelings spread through his mind.

Noticing that Rin wasn’t present, Vahn extended his domain in a pulse to see if she was anywhere within the immediate vicinity. Since this proved fruitless, Vahn assumed she had gone out of the Sub-Space Orb, likely to make a call or prepare a few things before night fell on the outside world. They still had a little under two days left within the orb before the sun set outside but that didn’t mean they could completely ignore the passage of time in the real world. Rin was still, technically, the leader of their group. She was also the best candidate for exchanging messages with Lord El-Melloi II and Luvia as, for the time being, Vahn would rather not have to worry about such things. His role was that of an active combatant and, though he was probably the best at gathering information individually, the network of the Mage’s Association was still leagues above his own capabilities.

Even if they were both lazing about, Nobunaga and Astolfo both noticed Vahn’s approach while Fenrir reacted by dipping deep beneath the water’s surface before shooting out like a salmon. Her motion carried small particulate of frigid water which, hitting the two ‘sunbathing’ Servants, caused Astolfo to loudly exclaim while Nobunaga furrowed her brows and said, “Hey, think about what you’re doing, you brat…!” In response to this, Fenrir snorted through her nose before, similar to a dog, shaking her body from head to tail to dislodge the water soaking into her fur. This made Astolfo protect his face as he laughed in a good-natured manner while exclaiming, “Ah, it’s so cold~!” in his characteristically high-pitched voice.

Vahn joined Astolfo in laughing while Nobunaga produced a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes as she seemed to contemplate her next action. Before she could start a fight, Vahn ceased laughing before shaking his head and saying, “Fenrir, you know better than to go out of your way to pick a fight. You didn’t have to jump out near Astolfo and Nobunaga, even if I was over here. If you can’t be considerate of others, you lose the right to complain when they show little consideration for your feelings in turn.” This was enough to get Fenrir’s ears to droop somewhat pitifully while, at the side, Nobunaga’s smile turned a little more genuine, even if there were mocking undertones visible in her eyes.

In the momentary lull in the conversation, Vahn gave a brief glance at Astolfo before asking, “Do you really prefer women’s clothes to the point that you even wear them when swimming? Though your other outfits look cute, I feel that this one is a little…extreme?” Though Astolfo had a very thin and lithe body, his body structure was still distinctly masculine in structure. This could be hidden when he wore frilly clothes that broke the lines of his body but, now that he was only wearing a thin swimsuit top, it was very easy to tell that he was male. In response to his question, however, Astolfo playfully pulled the fabric of his top before saying in a mischevious voice, “If I just wore the bottoms, it would look even stranger, don’t you think~?”

Finding Astolfo’s words held a surprising amount of credibility, Vahn gave a light chuckle before casually remarking, “You know, if you wanted to complete the appearance, I could probably help you. Though I may not be able to alter your gender through the normal methods, I can lend you an item that would allow you to pull off a more feminine look.” To this, Astolfo’s eyes began to glimmer before immediately causing Vahn a bit of awkwardness when he teased, “Oh~? Does ‘Master’ want to see Astolfo-chan as a girl~?” This immediately nipped Vahn’s suggestion in the bud as, instead of responding to Astolfo’s words, he sat down on one of the pool lounges before gesturing for Fenrir to sit at his side. When she happily took the spot next to him, Vahn took her hand into his own, stroking her’s with his thumb as he looked towards Nobunaga and commented, “That swimsuit suits you more than the bikini you were wearing last time. Sometimes showing less if even more impactful than putting everything on display…”

Previously, Nobunaga had the habit of wearing what could only be described as a string, T-back, bikini. Now, however, she wore a top that properly hugged her chest and waist, accenting her figure without ‘screaming’ for attention. This was ultimately for the best as, with her previous swimwear, Nobunaga’s tendency to ‘shrink’ over time could easily cause a wardrobe malfunction. Her physical appearance seemed to fluctuate between a girl in her late teens to a woman in her mid-twenties depending on how much mana she had stored up. On the night she had used her Noble Phantasm, she had even shrunken down from 153cm to a disconcerting 135cm, looking more like a child soldier than a proud warrior…

Never one to deny a compliment, Nobunaga’s mood seemed to improve a bit as she leaned forward and asked, “Are you starting to realize my charms? Or do I need to wear a school swimsuit like your little pet to get your attention?” As she spoke, Nobunaga looked Fenrir up and down with her blood-red eyes. Her gaze ultimately came to rest on the former’s chest where, for reasons Vahn himself wasn’t aware, Fenrir had decided to inscribe her name on the white section of fabric located in the center. She had spent a bit of time browsing the internet on Rin’s laptop to research various clothing designs, picking out plenty of cute and frilly outfits that allowed her to masquerade as a cosplayer if she wanted to walk around town. It was likely that, during her research into cosplay, Fenrir had stumbled upon the ‘traditional’ school swimsuit, keying in on the fact it was her favorite color, dark blue.

Since she was only bad terms with Nobunaga, Fenrir just snorted in response to her words before leaning her head against her Master’s arms. This caused the smile on Nobunaga’s face to fade a bit, at least until Vahn mused, “In your ‘small’ state, I think it might suit you surprisingly well. Still, your current swimwear is probably the most ideal form I can imagine. The only suggestion I’d made is to change from a shiny fabric to something more matte and natural. You might be trying to draw attention, but it looks a little weird seeing light refract off a swimsuit…” Right now, if Vahn got close enough, he was sure he would be able to see his actual reflection in the fabric of Nobunaga’s swimsuit.

Taking his advice quite literally, Nobunaga’s swimsuit immediately transitioned into a more neutral appearance, giving her greater appeal than before. Vahn gave an approving nod that seemed to satisfy her as she rolled over on her stomach and commented, “You should create something like an artificial sun in here. It is super dreary seeing white in every direction. If you can pull that off, I’ll allow you to apply sunscreen on my back, ufuu…” Towards the end of her sentence, Nobunaga flexed her butt while watching Vahn’s face with a ‘taunting’ expression on her own. Vahn rolled his eyes when he saw this before remarking, “I might be tempted to do it just to channel some extra mana into your body. Watching you try to flaunt your flat butt is a strangely heartbreaking…” The moment these words left his mouth, Vahn had to angle his head to the side as a reddish-black beam of light passed through where his face had been previously.

Making matters even worse, though they were all just messing around, Astolfo fed Nobunaga’s frustration by commenting, “Vahn is right, you know? You need to eat more if you want to grow up ‘big’ and strong. I think even my butt is plumper than your’s, Nobu-chan~.” To emphasize this, Astolfo turned sideways before pinching the unnecessarily plump flesh of his rear end. This caused Nobunaga’s face to pale as, emerging from the void behind her, several vicious black matchlock rifles slowly took form. Wasting no time at all, Astolfo changed into his Paladin’s attire before kicking off the ground with enough force to crush his pool lounge with the resultant shockwave. Nobunaga, with the expression of a hunter that had just found its prey, quickly jumped after him as she screamed, “It’s too late to run now you brat…!”

Following Nobunaga’s outburst, she began to pepper the area with her matchlocks as Astolfo dodged around rather deftly with his superior speed. During an especially close shave, his face became even more playful than before as he commented, “Ara? Isn’t your butt shrinking even more?” Since Nobunaga was using up her mana, her body was, ever so slightly, beginning to regress in age. She had originally started off with a moderately shapely appearance, standing around 157cm and looking to be around 18-19 years old. After firing a few barrages, however, Nobunaga had already reduced to 155cm as her breasts and butt, at a rate only those with a discerning eye would be able to notice, were surely shrinking along with her.

With her expression now forming into one that most would only use to look at their mortal nemesis, Nobunaga swiped her arm across the front of her body before extending it outward to the side. In response to her action, a total of one-hundred matchlocks formed in the air before priming simultaneously. This caused Astolfo to pale a bit, realizing he had gone a little too far as he waved his hands and said, “Wait, wait, wait, I was just kidding~!” Though he could easily dodge a few shots with relative ease, it was a completely different thing to try and evade a hundred shots all fired simultaneously. Astolfo would be forced to seriously go on the defensive just to avoid being injured by any of the stray shots fired from Nobunaga’s Noble Phantasm.

Just as Nobunaga seemed to be considering whether or not to let Astolfo off, an unexpected occurrence happened that caused everyone present to fall silent. Due to her body shrinking in size, Nobunaga’s bottoms were no longer clinging to her hips. Instead, in the midst of her battle pose, the red fabric unceremoniously slipped down her legs before coming to a stop near her ankles. Immediately following this, Nobunaga’s expression darkened as, even though she knew her Master would reprimand her, Fenrir couldn’t help snickering. As a result, half of the matchlocks reversed direction, pointing towards Vahn and Fenrir, while the other fifty all opened fire on Astolfo…

Unaware of the chaos occurring within the Sub-Space Orb, Rin had indeed been in the process of contacting Lord El-Melloi II. They couldn’t exchange any sensitive information, as there was a chance their communications could be intercepted, but Rin could still issue reports about the war and ask if there were any major developments. Though the Overseers couldn’t directly tell Master’s where the others were located, at least publically, that didn’t stop them from sharing news about battles that had occurred and whether or not any Masters had been eliminated. This was how Rin came to learn that the third Master, a man named Lyasin Karl Afanasievich, had been eliminated. As he was never seen with his Servant, it was impossible to know for certain but, given the circumstances, it was highly like he had been the Master of Ozymandias.

Though Vahn, Scáthach, Nobunaga, and Astolfo hadn’t gone into all the details, they made it very clear that Ozymandias had been killed by Scáthach. Vahn had even given her a small golden necklace after returning, something that Rin now kept in a small jewelry box located by her bedside. According to what little they had revealed, causing Rin endless frustrations, Ozymandias had been a phenomenally powerful Servant. Though he had an arrogant nature, it didn’t seem as if he was a bad guy so, unless they had pulled something, it meant their Master must not have been that bad either. The fact they had been killed, even after their Servant had been eliminated, pointed towards a larger conspiracy of sorts that was happening behind the scenes. It was most likely that, whoever Lyasin had been allied with, decided to steal his Command Spells through the use of lethal force…

Putting together the information she had, it wasn’t difficult to discern that the most likely culprits were the Einzbern family. The only other family that would have gone out of their way to kill the son of an Aristocratic Magus family were the Makiri or, more specifically, the Matou family. Since Rin was almost certain that the Assassin-Class Servant had been summoned by the Sakura, as the Makiri almost always summoned one of the variations of Hassan, it almost guaranteed that the group involved in Lyasin’s death were the Einzberns. As it wasn’t in their nature to take actions that would draw unnecessary attention to themselves, this meant the person who had killed Lyasin must have been the Magus-Killer, Alex Everdale…

Knowing that one of their enemies had a professional Magus-Killer, while another now had two Assasin-Class Servants, Rin felt a strong headache coming her way. She really didn’t want to have to confront her own sister as, after their awkward parting ten years ago, the idea of robbing Sakura of her ‘wish’ filled Rin with apprehension. Even now, she could remember Sakura’s teary indignation as she accused her of stealing the one thing she ever cared about, Shirou. Though Rin didn’t know what Sakura wanted with the Holy Grail, that didn’t make it any easier knowing that her actions would ultimately guarantee Sakura was denied the chance to obtain her wish. As for the matter with the Einzberns, that was perhaps even more troublesome as, more than almost any other Servant, Rin had come to fear the destructive might of Heracles in his Berserker state…

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Though she had lost her life to Gilgamesh ten years ago, Rin recalled her first meeting with the ‘Ultimate Homunculus’, Illyasviel Von Einzbern. She had been elected as the 9th Head of the Einzberns and was a unique existence whose entire body was comprised of magic circuits. If not for her untimely demise at the hands of the ‘Hero-King’, she may have gone on to be one of the most prolific Magus in history. With Berserker at her side, seemingly without any equals, it was almost guaranteed that she would be the final victory in the Grail War. If not for the cheat-like existence of Gilgamesh, who was only defeated due to the combined efforts of Caster and Saber, there wouldn’t have been anything standing in the way of Illyasviel obtaining the Grail…

Imagining the seemingly unstoppable Heracles allied with a notorious mercenary who had made a name for himself killing Magi, Rin couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. Even though their side had numerous advantages, including the almost ridiculously strong Scáthach, Rin felt it wasn’t enough to emerge victoriously. Her intuition, which was often proven correct, told her that the real battles hadn’t even started yet. If not for the existence of the Sub-Space Orb, Rin felt they wouldn’t even have the time to recuperate properly before being worn down by their enemies. Fortunately, more than anything else, their side had the anomalous existence of Vahn to rely on. Without his presence, Rin wasn’t sure she would be able to bear the burden of the mission she had accepted for herself…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘*Hamming Intensifies*’,’RIP Astolfo-chan…’,’Rin’s Innate, [Type-Moon Heroine] seems to be in full effect xD…!’)

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