Chapter 1062: Conviction

Using his current speed, it only took Vahn eighteen minutes to cover the 840km distance between his starting point and the location where the battle had taken place. Though he had been capable of making the distance in a much shorter period of time, most of the tension had drained away when, less than two minutes after the fight had started, Scáthach informed him that it was over. This hadn’t been too surprising, as the presence of Scáthach and Ishtar on the same battlefield would generally mean certain doom for whoever was unfortunate enough to face him, but it had still helped to put things into perspective for Vahn. As they were not even close to the pinnacle of power within the Record of the Nasuverse, he knew the distance between the current him and the top was a vast gulf he would need to tirelessly pursue if he wanted to have any chance of reaching it in a short period of time…

Upon arriving at the destination, Vahn found himself stumbling into a rather awkward scene where Rin, Scáthach, Fenrir, and Astolfo had all practically surrounded who Vahn intuited to be Lakshmibai and her Master. The former stood around 159cm tall, possessing dark brown skin, sand-colored hair, and pale pink eyes. Her hair easily extended past her waist while two thick braids flanked both sides, flowing down her shoulders before coming to an end with two silver bands. She also had uniquely styled bangs, two perfectly arranged fringe bangs that broke into three separate pieces while, covering her ears, two large clumps forming what almost appeared to be droopy ears could be seen. Most notable, however, wasn’t the woman’s unique and exotic beauty, but the fact that Vahn could see the presence of ‘fate’ around her…

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Though she might have misinterpreted his gaze, Vahn gave Lakshmibai’s body a once over, observing her white, military-style garb that had been structured in a way that the back and shoulders were completely exposed. This was completed with a pair of white, borderline skin-tight pants that were somehow tucked into form-fit boots that miraculously extended up to her thighs. Swirling around her body, however, was a powerful flow of ‘fate’ that, no matter how Vahn looked at it, seemed to be lingering around her body similar to an evil aura than anything beneficial. More troublesome was the fact that her ‘aura’ seemed to be flowing into the young boy that undoubtedly served the role of her Master…

Seeing that Lakshmibai’s Master only appeared to be around 13-14 years old, possessing light-brown hair, piercing green eyes, and a slightly lighter skin tone than Lakshmibai’s; Vahn couldn’t help wondering how they had gotten wrapped up in the Holy Grail War. What bothered him the most was how the boy was practically hiding behind Lakshmibai as if she were a human shield, cowering under the gaze of Scáthach with his frail and surprisingly delicate features. Though not nearly as bad as Catherine, this boy seemed more than a little ill based on the thick bags under his eyes and the fact that his breathing was audible, even though he didn’t appear to be exerting himself…

With Vahn’s arrival, the tensions in the air shifted slightly, primarily the result of how everyone’s focus seemed to be directed towards him. Thus, without missing a beat, Vahn put on his best smile before greeting, “Good morning. I am the Sage Emperor, Vahn Aldrnari Mason. May I ask, what are your names…?” Though he still introduced himself as an Emperor, Vahn decided to go with a polite approach as Lakshmibai seemed like a serious woman while her Master would likely respond better to kindness than any form of pressure. Then, as expected, the former gave a polite bow before saying, “My name is Rani Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. Thank you for your assistance in dealing with Berserker.”

Returning a polite nod to Lakshmibai, Vahn’s gaze then fell upon the youth who, also as expected, barely managed to stammer out, “My name is Vihaan Reddi…why…why did you want to meet with us…?” Though it wouldn’t have been impossible to avoid having to meet with Vahn’s group, the fact that Vihaan only had a single Command Spell remaining had essentially forced his hand. Due to a constant stream of bad luck, they had been targetted several times by other Masters and Servants since the very start of the Holy Grail War. To prevent Lakshmibai’s defeat, he had been forced to use one Command Spell to empower her for a short period of time while, during the first battle with Asterios, the second had been used to teleport her to safety.

Understanding the boy’s apprehensions, Vahn maintained his smile and simply asked, “Tell me, Vihaan, Lakshmibai, what is the wish you desired to make upon the Holy Grail?” Though it didn’t appear as if the former was that thrilled to answer, the pressure coming from Scáthach’s perpetual gaze eventually compelled him to answer, “I’m tired of the broken system in my homeland that treats certain people as if they are ‘untouchable’…like they are less than human…! My wish was to truly abolish the caste system that is still in place to this day, even though the rest of the world pretends everything is okay…!” Though he lacked confidence at first, Vihaan’s convictions showed through by the time he had finished revealing his wish.

Smiling gently towards her Master, Lakshmibai used her white-gloved hand to stroke his head as she softly answered, “My wish in life was for the independence and prosperity of my people. Now, my most sincere desire is to see the world of equality that my Master wishes for.” It was obvious at a glance that Lakshmibai was very considerate towards her young Master, even though Vahn could see her aura practically invading his body, something he intuited would have dire consequences if he was continually exposed to such a thing. Since he found this strange flow of fate confusing, Vahn established a connection with Scáthach, asking, (“Do you know what the strange energy around her body is? It doesn’t appear to be evil, but…”)

Without showing no discernible signs of surprise in the real world, Scáthach continued to stare unerringly at Lakshmibai and Vihaan as she answered, (“Though not to the same extent as Rin, Lakshmibai’s body is possessed by a Goddess. Her’s, however, is the Goddess of Misfortune, Alakshmi, even though she herself seems to believe it is the Goddess of Luck, Lakshmi. As a result, her fate is tied to the misfortune of herself and others, making her a potentially dangerous ally to keep around. Unless you have a use for her, Master, I would suggest we avoid becoming involved with these two. The boy is already on a downward spiral so it would take a miracle to even guarantee he was able to live another five years.”)

Hearing Scáthach’s explanation, Vahn took in an audible breath through his nose, feeling more than a little shocked that someone known as a borderline Saintess carried a literal aura of misfortune around with her. He had already experienced the influence of fate in two different Records, finding it to be an extremely troublesome existence to deal with. This made him extremely apprehensive to even approach Lakshmibai as, unlike normal fate, the energy around her seemed to guarantee that misfortune would come their way.

Doing his best to prevent a frown from forming on his face, Vahn answered the Master-Servant duo’s convictions by saying, “You have a very noble dream. However, using the power of the Holy Grail in its current state would not be able to grant such a wish. Forcibly changing the minds of hundreds-of-millions of people could only have disastrous consequences. The change you seek is something that can only be brought about through policy changes and a shift in how people are educated from a young age. Though I have yet to visit India myself, I am certain the social and political climate would only become more difficult to manage if you tried to introduce spontaneous change. At the same time, your actions would draw the attention of the entire world due to their nature, meaning you would be targetted by the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church for a swift elimination if you try to follow through on such a wish…”

The Holy Grail, while possessing a phenomenal amount of power, lacked the ability to alter the way in which such a massive group of people thought. Though it could alter causality, to an extent, what Vihaan was trying to accomplish was a nigh-impossible feat as the backlash from introducing such a massive change would echo throughout the world. If one of the largest countries in the entire world suddenly had a ‘shift’ in perspective, it would catch a lot of attention in the media, something all three of the major powers seemed to want to avoid. This sudden shift would also severely impact the balance of power in a country that had over a billion people, exposing them to groups that would jump at the chance to secure power within India for their own selfish ends…

Finding Vahn’s words unacceptable, Vihaan balled his hands into fists as he shouted, “You’re wrong! You can only say things like that because you didn’t have to grow up there…! If someone doesn’t change things, more and more people will continue to suffer. Even if I have to die in exchange, I would rather live life as a piece of grass to be trampled on than watch as my people continue to suffer due to their idiotic focus on traditional and religious views…!” At this point, Vihaan was no longer standing behind Lakshmibai and, as if she was in complete agreement with him, she had a determined expression in her eyes and a gentle smile on her face as she looked towards her Master from behind.

Vahn now understood how these two had become Master and Servant as, regardless of whether or not others were in agreement, they unhesitantly looked towards the most ‘ideal’ future that they sought for their people. Since this wasn’t all that dissimilar to how he had acted at times, Vahn could appreciate what Vihaan was trying to accomplish. However, Vahn knew it would be infinitely ‘better’ if Vihaan just wished for something along the lines of absolute power. If he worked to change the system by influencing those at the top, there was a chance that things could improve considerably after a generation or two. Using the Grail to essentially brainwash a billion people was an extreme method that would only have disastrous consequences, perhaps wrought by the aura of ‘misfortune’ that flowed around the two’s bodies…

Releasing a small sigh, Vahn stared into the young boy’s green eyes before saying, “There are no shortcuts to bringing about lasting change. Your dream will not unite your people, it will undermine your entire country. If you cannot handle the aftermath and cleanup, your dream is nothing but the selfish desires of a child who fundamentally misunderstands how the world works. Though I will not admonish you for desiring a better life for your people, your method simply creates another problem to replace the current system. The sad truth of the matter is, people have probably adapted to the current system so they can function within it without much trouble. In the world you would usher them into, tens-of-millions might die in the transition alone…”

Though he wasn’t intending to put too much pressure on the boy, Vahn couldn’t completely restrain his aura as he simply couldn’t agree with Vihaan’s ‘lazy’ methods. Then, before she could speak on his behalf, Vahn stared down Lakshmibai, sternly stating, “There is nothing wrong with supporting the dreams of the younger generation, but it is extremely foolish to push them down a path that will inevitably lead to tragedy. You are poorly equipped to understand the complexity of the modern world, yet you would spur your Master to follow through with his misguided actions without giving him proper counsel. I did not expect you to place more emphasis on the ‘goal’ than the people who were supposed to benefit from the changes you would force upon them…”

Vahn’s words seemed to have some degree of influence on both Vihaan and Lakshmibai as, even though the latter didn’t seem to outright agree with him, her brows furrowed in reflection instead of showing a desire to pointlessly argue the issue. This moderately improved Vahn’s opinion of the two so, to make matters easier for them to accept, he added, “I’m sure you are the most aware of your current situation. Regardless of how competent Lakshmibai is as a Saber-Class Servant, you cannot hope to obtain victory in the Holy Grail War in your current state. There are at least three powerful factions still at large and, even if you used your final Command Spell to empower her, Lakshmibai would not be able to defeat the more powerful Servants that have been summoned.”

Just as Vahn’s rebuke had torn apart their dream, his recounting of the most basic fact of the matter was what really struck at the very heart of the matter. Even if they tried to insist they were correct, they had virtually no hope of actually obtaining the Holy Grail. If things continued as they were, the only thing awaiting this idealistic Master-Servant pair was the former’s death and the latter’s return to the Holy Grail. They would become the stepping stones for another person’s dream, dying so far from their country that they couldn’t even be considered true martyrs, just fools.

Seeing that they understood his words, Vahn eased up the pressure a bit, regaining his smile as he said, “So long as you still hold life within, there is hope for the future you wish to see. You will undoubtedly find like-minded people that agree with your views so, instead of foolishly chasing something like the Holy Grail, you would be better suited to leading a revolution internally. Focus on changing the hearts and minds of the people at the lowest rungs of society before working your way up to those who purport themselves to be their betters. Without a foundation to stand on, the so-called wealthy elites are only capable of blathering and resulting to military force in order to deal with their problems. If you control the people, however, even the military would be hard-pressed to take action against their own family members…”

With the current political climate of the world, it wasn’t all that impossible for someone with Vihaan’s ideals to garner a lot of attention. Though there was a chance he would be targetted for elimination by those in power, he had an advantage in the fact that he was a Magus. Even if he ultimately lost his life, at least he would have died for his cause and, depending on the people he had drawn to his side, there was a fair chance his legacy would outlive him. Since Vahn also intended to introduce great changes to the world, the status quo of most countries would be altered significantly by the time he was done. If Vihaan took advantage of the situation, the revolution he desired had a better chance at success than their odds of claiming the Holy Grail…

After hearing Vahn’s words, the light in Vihaan’s eyes had returned, even if it wasn’t as intense as the blazing conviction he held previously. Then, in a slightly somber tone, he asked, “What would you have me do…?” To this, Vahn actually paused for a brief moment because he still had apprehensions about inviting someone who literally brought misfortune with them onto their team. Though The Path would undoubtedly have a solution, now was a critical time within the progression of the war. If Lakshmibai’s presence immediately brought trouble to their doorstep, it would cause them more than a few troubles in both the short and long-term. However, at the same time, Vahn felt like he ‘needed’ to confront things like fate directly, or he would always be at its whims in the future…

Though Scáthach and Rin would likely rebuke him for it later, Vahn ultimately decided to see if he could alter Lakshmibai’s imposed misfortune. It was an opportunity to see if he could put in a more concerted effort into ‘manipulating’ the influence of fate. Since he already had a few ideas about how to change the aura around Lakshmibai, Vahn wanted to put them to the test in order to gain even a small advantage against the concept of fate in the future. With that in mind, he looked into the woman’s pale-pink eyes and said, “I will have you join our group in exchange for guaranteeing your Master’s safety and ensuring he will have a better chance at fulfilling his dream. As he currently seems to lack connections, we can put him into contact with people that would allow him to grow his own network of support back in India. It will not be easy, but if he truly believes in his dream, hope will never fade.”

Since there wasn’t much meaning in convincing Vihaan, as he was simply too young to fully understand the situation, Vahn decided that addressing Lakshmibai directly would have the desired result. She was a dutiful woman who was considerate of others so, using both her Master’s life and dream as leverage weren’t things she could simply ignore. Though Vahn wasn’t threatening them, his involvement in the war itself was a constant threat to both his life and dream, things she had proven incapable of protecting. It was this awareness of her inadequacies, combined with the fragments of ‘hope’ contained within Vahn’s words, that ultimately caused Lakshmibai to nod her head in agreement. Though it wasn’t her decision to make, this small nod was enough to give Vihaan a slightly deflated appearance, leading to his own agreement shortly thereafter…

After transferring Vihaan’s Command Spells, bringing Vahn’s count to six in total, they made sure he was safely escorted to the Fuyuki City Hyatt Hotel so that he could be placed under the protection of the Mage’s Association. Rin used the opportunity to directly discuss what Vahn had promised with Lord El-Melloi II, taking it upon herself to get the boy an ‘in’ so that he could become a student at the Clock Tower. Any Magus capable of summoning a powerful Servant at such a young age had a lot of promise for the future so it wouldn’t take much to get him accepted into the prestigious academy. At the same time, Astolfo went to spend some time with his former Master, Catherine. Even without Vahn healing her himself, she had been able to receive treatment from the Mage’s Association or, more specifically, Luvia’s personal team of Doctors. With their efforts, she was currently going through physical rehabilitation in the hopes of recovering her ability to walk in order to make her journey around the world easier…

On the subject of Luvia, Vahn felt rather fortunate that she had actually flown back to London in order to manage some of the affairs of her family, leaving him free to focus on other things during their visit to the Hyatt Hotel. This took the form of a short discussion with Gray, primarily involving the information their team had secured about the Grail War thus far. They also talked a bit about Paracelsus, ending with Vahn promising to find him before the completion of the ritual. Though it was hard to determine how things would progress, Vahn knew they still had the leeway to recruit two more Servants without compromising the completion of the ritual, at least in accordance with the available information.

With Lakshmibai, they now had one Saber, two Lancers, one Rider, and one Archer within their ranks. Vahn could ‘recruit’ a total of seven Servants to their cause, though, considering the assortment of Servants that remained, it didn’t seem all that likely anyone but Paracelsus could be convinced to join them. The Servants remaining were the remaining Berserker, likely under the influence of the Einzberns, a yet-unseen Archer, Saber, and Caster, likely all belonging to the same faction, followed by the two Assassins and the as-yet-to-be-revealed Ruler-Class. With the war being nearly halfway done, at least compared to past wars, the lack of a Ruler appearing was becoming more troubling by the day. Since there was more than seven Servant, there essentially ‘had’ to be a Ruler in order to make sure the destruction of the Grail War was kept to a minimum. They also had the responsibility of making sure the Heaven’s Feel ritual could be completed but, even after Ishtar’s attacks had done a little ‘too much’ collateral damage, there has yet to be a single sign of the Ruler-Class appearing…

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As was often the case in such situations, Vahn knew that there was something afoot behind the scenes. There were three major forces still in play, coincidentally belonging to the three main families that had created the ritual in the first place. The fact that the Einzberns hadn’t sent their Master and Servant into the battlefield yet seemed to imply they were waiting for the other forces to weaken each other, or they had something greater planned. As for the Matou’s, Vahn had no doubt that Sakura was the Master of Assassin given the strange vibe she had given off during their first encounter. In order to prevent Rin from having to confront her sister directly, he needed to find an opportunity to confront Sakura before her two Assassins came to them. Though this had always been his intention, Vahn felt as if the inclusion of Lakshmibai in their ranks almost guaranteed that things were going to ‘explode’ at any moment…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Poor Vihaan xD…’,’Vahn decides to confront fate directly…!? More like his ‘tragedy’ detector is going off the charts…’,’Only three factions remain…?’)

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