Chapter 1061: Intent

While periodically dodging sneak attacks from Nobunaga, Vahn had extended his search for Paracelsus to the south of Fuyuki city. According to Ishtar, there was a high chance he was located in the region but, even with her abilities, the various magical formations and concealment barriers made it impossible to know for certain. Since Paracelsus was one of the most well-known Alchemists in history, his Master shouldn’t be someone incompetent. After they had been discovered the first time, Vahn didn’t think they would be easy to locate until they were making their play for the Holy Grail. With his ability to produce golems, homunculi, and an apparently ‘infinite’ number of Philosopher’s Stones, Vahn wouldn’t be surprised if they showed up with an entire army by the time the war was reaching its climax…

After around an hour, Vahn found himself staring out over a rural farming district, admiring the rather homely domiciles. Suddenly, feeling a tingling sensation on the back of his neck, Vahn side-stepped another one of the reddish-black lasers fired from Nobunaga more than 2km away. He could see her standing atop a cellphone tower that was around 70m tall, using the vantage to get a better view of the surroundings. With her red mantle and long black hair flaring about with the powerful wings, she created quite the sight to behold as she manually operated one of her Noble Phantasms, the Tanegashima-style arquebus. Though she could summon up to three-thousand at once, assuming he provided her with a direct line of mana, the unique matchlock rifle was far more powerful when she operated it manually.

Since she could hit him if she put in a serious effort, Vahn knew that Nobunaga was just ‘reminding’ him that she didn’t forgive him for grabbing her butt and running. This didn’t stop her from doing her job though, even if she would periodically take potshots at him whenever he stared too long at once of the unique statues littering the rural area. Vahn’s behavior was similar to that of a tourist and, though they were supposed to be seriously investigating the area, Nobunaga didn’t want to dally too long. Though Vahn was tempted to tease her a bit, as it was almost as if she were rushing him, he ultimately decided against it since now wasn’t the time for such things.

Finding nothing amiss, Vahn’s last stop was at a small temple where residents of the small town would go to pray for health, wealth, and fortune in their love lives. It had a small shrine at the back of the temple where a bell, fixed with a thick ceremonial rope, hung over a small wooden donation box. There was an air of mysticism surrounding the small temple and, though there didn’t seem to be any Magus nearby, Vahn could feel the spirituality contained within the land itself. Though this world was currently in the Era of Men, with most of the Gods, Spirits, and Lesser Deities retreating to the Reverse Side of the World, their presence could still be felt when enough believers frequented the same area.

With his [Eyes of Truth] active, Vahn could see the almost imperceptible silhouette of a fox laying atop the donation box. Since it reminded him a bit of Shirohime and Tsukyuu, Vahn dropped a solid gold coin into the donation box, catching the ghostly entity’s attention. Then, after filling up a cup with some high-quality sake, Vahn set it next to the nascent spirit, smiling as he said, “Take care of the people here, okay…?” His words and actions seemed to surprise the small spirit but, as it lacked the ability to speak in its nascent state, it simply nodded its head before using its tiny tongue to lap at the cup of sake.

Sensing nothing else worthy of his attention, Vahn began heading north towards Fuyuki City as Nobunaga reverted back to her Spirit form to keep pace. Their next destination, after skirting around the periphery of the city, would be near the large beach located on the eastern side of the island. This was where, during the Summer, most of the younger residents of the island would spend their recreational time. Since the Record of Danmachi didn’t really have the concept of beach faring, Vahn was interested to see the sigh of hundreds of people dotting the white sands as they socialized and generally enjoyed each others’ company.

After traveling a little under 800km, Vahn found himself at the furthest eastern part of the island, an area spanning around 22,838km², according to the information stored in his mind. According to legends, which always had some basic foundation of truth in the Nasuverse, Japan had been the culmination of the efforts of Izanagi and Izanami. The island where Fuyuki City was located was supposed to have been one of their offspring, named Kyushu, becoming the fourth of Japan’s eight principal islands. It formed the southernmost tip of the main chain of islands, having the highest concentration of mana and spirit energy due to the still active leylines running under Fuyuki City itself…

Staring out over the slightly tumultuous ocean, dark due to the waning moon overheard, Vahn felt some of the saltwater spritz against his face. It surprisingly smelled worse than he expected, the product of its high salt concentration and the presence of malignant elements such as waste runoff and pollution. This was one of the things that annoyed Vahn the most about this world as, even though there was much beauty to behold, it was ‘spoiled’ by the inconsiderate nature of humans in their pacified states. Though there were undoubtedly many exceptions, Vahn had observed that the vast majority of humans were wasteful and self-indulgent. This wasn’t necessary ‘wrong’, as everyone was entitled to live as they please, but that was only insofar as their actions didn’t negatively impact others. Since humanity as a whole was rampantly polluting the planet, solely for the sake of wealth, Vahn felt as if the only reason they produced such beautiful and vibrant structures was to distract from the destruction their errant habits had wrought upon the world…

Appearing in a flash of light at Vahn’s side, Nobunaga joined him staring out over the sea, absentmindedly stating, “In the past, my only ambition was to unite the people of Japan…even though I knew there was a much larger world outside my country’s borders, my efforts ultimately proved meaningless as humanity has continued along its path, the many propping up the few. I would have liked to see it, you know, the world you had aspired to create before stepping foot on this land.” As she was speaking, Nobunaga held her hand out, fingers spread wide as if she could grab the horizon and claim it for herself.

Hearing the melancholy contained within her voice, Vahn used his hand to pat Nobunaga’s shoulder as he plainly stated, “Regardless of the outcome of the Holy Grail War, I can promise you that, one day, you will be able to experience the world I envisioned. Concepts like Space and Time lose their meaning once you obtain adequate strength. Even if I have to track down and steal away the real you one day, that time will inevitably come…” Though he didn’t intend to let Nobunaga disappear at the end of the War, Vahn didn’t mind making such a promise. Since she was only a fragment of her ‘real’ self, it would ultimately be necessary to unify the two if he intended to keep Nobunaga as his ally and companion in the future…

In response to Vahn’s words, Nobunaga began to laugh boisterously before teasingly stating, “I think you might be a little disappointed to see the ‘real’ me. I was going on 48 years old when I died. I even had one of my retainers comb through my hair every morning to make sure there weren’t any gray hairs visible. Any sign of weakness would have empowered my enemies so I had to put a lot of effort into fighting against the tireless advance of aging…” With the Holy Grail restoring a Heroic Spirit to their ‘prime’, Nobunaga looked much younger in the present than she had in the past. As for why her appearance would change depending on the amount of energy she possessed, this was due to the rapid increase in her strength after reaching puberty. Though she hadn’t been a Magus, Nobunaga had been born with a ‘anti-spiritual’ body, the very thing that led to her being declared a Demon King by propagators of the myriad Shinto religions…

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Surprising Nobunaga, Vahn immediately laughed in response to her complaints about ‘being old’. This caused her to frown, at least until he pointed out, “Didn’t you see my memories? If you think things like age matter to me, how would I have ended up with Tsubaki? Hell, most of the goddesses I was with were several-hundred million years old. You’ll need a better excuse than that if you think you can keep me away, Nobu.” Vahn made sure to place extra emphasis on Nobunaga’s pet name, essentially calling her similarly to how her childhood friends would refer to her. Though she required them to call her full name when she got older, Vahn wanted to emphasize the fact that Nobunaga’s age didn’t matter to him in the least…so long as she leaned towards the mature side.

As expected, Nobunaga didn’t seem to enjoy the sudden shortening of her name, commenting, “I don’t care if you are over 150 years old, Vahn. If you think you can get away with treating me like a child, I’ll make you suffer for it.” With an absolutely serious expression on her face, Nobunaga placed just as much emphasis on the word ‘suffer’ as Vahn had on the name Nobu. In response, Vahn had a teasing expression on his face as he asked, “What are you going to do, start calling me Old Man Mason…?” Since this was a rather amusing thought Vahn couldn’t help but smile, something he immediately came to regret when Nobunaga seriously stated, “I will use up all of my mana until I am mana starved. Then, using the last bit of my power, I will wear a sailor’s uniform and a bright red randoseru before climbing into your bed in the middle of the night…”

Any desire to tease Nobunaga was immediately exorcised from Vahn’s body, followed by the smile on his face forming an expression that would give Scáthach a run for her money. Seeing this, Nobunaga’s eyes squinted before an evil grin spread across her face. Vahn knew this was her way of expressing that she had just found his weakness. Knowing such information was in the hands of a ‘Demon King’, Vahn felt like his future had just become more troublesome. At the same time, he internally swore that, if Nobunaga ever tried such a thing, Vahn would ‘pet’ her into oblivion. He could tell she was genuinely fearful of the experience so, if she tried such a thing against him, all gloves would come off…

Feeling a shiver run through her body, Nobunaga’s smile faded in much the same way as Vahn’s. For several long seconds after that, they both stared at each other, slowly coming to an understanding that pushing things too far would benefit neither of them. Then, as if to make peace, Nobunaga took in an audible breath before saying, “When we’re alone like this, I will permit you to call me Nobu. Just know that I’ll be counting each time, so be prepared to pay for it later on.” Though she didn’t mention how Vahn would have to pay, he already had an idea of what she might request of him. Since this was another way in which someone else was deciding how he would act, Vahn felt a little annoyed but, remembering it was his decision to call her Nobu, he let the matter lay for the time being.

Finding nothing of interest on the coast, Vahn moved towards the northern region of Fuyuki to see how the others were doing. Along the way, he established a connection with Scáthach, asking (“Have you been able to locate the enemy?”). To this, she almost immediately responded, answering, (“We have not been able to identify if they are the cause, but we are currently tracking the Berserker-Class Servant, Asterios. Fenrir was able to detect his aura before Ishtar managed to pinpoint his location. Currently, they seemed to be engaging the Saber-Class Servant, Lakshmibai. We are waiting to see how the fight progresses before deciding whether to intervene.”)

Hearing Scáthach’s words, Vahn’s brows perked up slightly as, among the Servants he intended to recruit, Lakshmibai was just under Paracelsus. Her title as the ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ of India wasn’t for show as, during the 1850s, she had led an uprising and rebellion against the combined might of the East India Company and the British Empire. Leading a force that was predominately comprised of females, she was able to rally a large amount of support as she fought for her homeland against the tyranny of expansionism and capitalist ideologies. Though she ultimately lost her life in the Battle of Gwalior, she was celebrated as a modern Hero whose efforts were paramount in weakening the influence of the British Empire in India before the Industrial Revolution.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Vahn quickly added, (“Do not allow Lakshmibai and her Master to perish. To be able to summon someone on the level of a Saint, Lakshmibai’s Master can’t be a simple person. If you can’t deal with-.”) Before Vahn could finish his words, Scáthach plainly stated, (“It will not be a problem.”) This had surprised him a bit as, given what he knew of Scáthach, she wasn’t the type to simply interrupt people without reason. It wasn’t until her voice came back a few moments later that Vahn realized she had already entered the fight and wanted to avoid the distraction…

With their connection still live, Scáthach had sensed Vahn’s intentions before he even put them into thought. Since Lakshmibai had already been injured the previous night, she was already on the verge of losing the fight as Asterios’ strength was nothing to be scoffed at. Knowing a single mishap could result in the defeat of a potential ally, Scáthach moved like a blur, somehow moving in such a way that she didn’t even create a shockwave after breaking the sound barrier. Then, as the enraged Asterios, standing a monstrous 298cm tall, tried to use its massive ax to cleave into Lakshmibai’s sword guard, Scáthach fell into a stance where her breasts nearly caressed the ground as she muttered, “Gae Bolg~!”

Moving with a speed comparable to lightning, Scáthach’s [Gae Bolg] traced a direct path towards Asterios’ heart. However, as the skill was only B-Ranked by default, the only thing Scáthach’s attack had accomplished was knocking Asterios off balance. This didn’t influence her decision to engage, however, as Scáthach, now wielding two spears, began a dance of death as she accurately pierced the gaps between Asterios’ thick muscles with the tip of her spear. With the aid of her [God Slayer], it didn’t matter if Asterios’ natural resistance would have allowed him to ignore any attacks under A-Rank. She might not be able to deal a large amount of damage at once, but wounds dealt by her [Gae Bolg] couldn’t be healed, instantly eliminating one of Asterios’ only advantages.

With a loud roar, Asterios used one of its twin axes to try and dissect Scáthach’s body but, almost like a spring catapult, she simply bent backward before immediately launching herself forward once again. It was around this time when Lakshmibai realized that Scáthach had come to her aid but, without knowing her true purpose, she chose to create a bit of distance from the fight before pulling out an ornate musket rifle. She began firing towards Asterios’ eyes, aiming for the gaps in its bull-like helmet. This seemed to only make Asterios even madder, causing his body to glow with a red aura as he snorted out a dense cloud of vapor.

As even a normal human would be able to see that Asterios was powering up, Scáthach and Lakshmibai both decided on a temporary retreat. It was impossible for Servants to fight without rest so it was often the wiser choice to pull back whenever they used mana-intensive skills. Scáthach, however, had a slightly different reason for pulling back as, even if Asterios were to go all out, she could already see its defeat in her eyes. Without needing to communicate anything at all, Scáthach retreated towards the same direction as Lakshmibai as a massive purple projectile slammed into Asterios’ face, courtesy of Ishtar floating in the sky above. Surprising even Scáthach, however, the mad Minotauros vanished in a small explosion of magical energy, indicating that his Master had used a Command Spell to forcefully summon him away.

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Though she did not know the exact timing of Asterios’ death, Scáthach had clearly seen one of Ishtar’s arrows finishing the monstrous Berserker off. This seemed to be Ishtar’s intent as well, considering that she began charging another arrow while taking aim at the distance. Seeing this, Scáthach understood that Asterios would still meet its end, just at it’s Master’s side. Even if Ishtar couldn’t accurately locate Paracelsus’ position, that was due to the preparations he had made to avoid discovery. For a Magus that had exposed themselves in the pursuit of an enemy Master, they could not hide from her eyes without a powerful artifact.

Entrusting the task to Ishtar, as the latter’s pride would never allow her to let an enemy simply run away, Scáthach intercepted Lakshmibai’s path before holding up her spear to bar her passage. This caused Lakshmibai, who was nursing a serious wound on her abdomen, to hold up a thin saber that glimmered with a subtle silver glow. As a Saber-Class Servant, her parameters were supposed to be on the higher end of the spectrum. Scáthach, however, simply shook her head and said, “I would rather not strike you down. My Master wishes to meet with yours, desiring a peaceful agreement that will benefit all parties. If you choose to battle against me, your pseudo-Divine nature has already guaranteed your loss. I am Scáthach, the Queen of the Land of Shadows. Stand down, inheritor of Alakshmi…”

Hearing Scáthach’s introduction, Lakshmibai despaired internally, even as her expression remained stoic and determined. What confused her was the fact that Scáthach had referred to her as the inheritor of Alakshmi, even though she was possessed by the Goddess, Lakshmi. It was almost as if Scáthach was indicating she had terrible luck which, considering her encounters with Servants much stronger than herself, didn’t appear far from the truth. Since Scáthach was a ‘true counter’ to her, leaving almost no chance for victory, Lakshmibai could only pray that their intentions were truly pure as she slowly lowered her saber.

Seeing Lakshmibai acquiescing, Scáthach gave an appreciative nod as she too lowered her spears. Now, they needed only wait for the arrival of Lakshmibai’s Master and Vahn, the latter of which was moving at a startling speed towards their location. Though Scáthach couldn’t see much value in having Lakshmibai as an ally, considering the latter was shrouded in a Divinity that guaranteed misfortune, there was no way of knowing Vahn’s means. He seemed to be able to produce a plethora of items that didn’t exist within her infinitely expansive knowledge base so Scáthach wouldn’t discount the possibility that he could find some use for the brown-skinned beauty…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘*Sniping Intensifies*’,’M*** Nobunaga stressing about gray hairs makes me smile…’,’TFW you think you are the avatar of the Goddess of Luck when its actually her sister, the Goddess of Misfortune…’)

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