Chapter 1070: Haunt

With only five hours left until evening fell, Vahn found himself outside of Rin’s room as he gently rattled on her door. Since he was really the only one who would bother to knock, Rin could be heard sighing inside as she had yet to place any formations or barriers to prevent sound from leaking out. Following this, subtle vibrations could be felt through the floor before Rin ultimately opened the door and asked, “Are we going to discuss strategy?” In response to this, Vahn shook his head before taking a step into the room as he said, “There isn’t much to discuss at this point. We’ll need to go on the offensive sooner or later so tonight we will go to the Einzbern Castle. The only other place I can think to check is the Ryuudou Temple…”

Since the Holy Grail was supposed to manifest at one of four locations in a loose sequence, the most likely places for it to appear this time around were Ryuudou Temple or the Tohsaka Manor. As there had been so signs of it appearing anywhere near Rin’s house, this implied that it would either appear at Ryuudou Temple or that the Einzbern’s had messed with the system even more than expected. With how things had been going thus far, there was little doubt they had done something drastic to try and gain an edge in the current war. Just the fact that they hadn’t sent out their Master-Servant pair until now, even though the war was nearing its end, seemed to indicate that they were holding out for something to occur…

Hearing Vahn’s words, Rin gave a subdued sigh before asking, “If we’re not going to talk about our plan of action, then why have you come here? Don’t you have more ‘important’ things to deal with right now…?” Since Vahn had been missing when she was looking for him earlier, Rin already knew what he had been up to during the time he was supposed to be resting. Though this didn’t come as too much of a surprise, the fact he was only just now showing up at her room caused her to feel a sour feeling in her heart. The fact he had come to her last made it seem as if he treated her as something troublesome or, at the very least, a lower priority.

Looking back at Rin, Vahn’s expression softened a bit as he said, “If you really want me to leave, I will not trouble you, Rin. However, I’d like to stay…” In response to this, Rin crossed her arms in a huff before muttering, “Won’t trouble me? All you do is bring me trouble…!” under her breath. However, she didn’t outright tell him to leave so Vahn took it as permission to stay as he made his way over to her desk and perused the papers she had been glossing over. Rin followed his movements with her eyes, feeling a mixture of frustration and anxiety since she was pretty sure Vahn had come here for a specific reason, even if he hadn’t made a move just yet. Around this time, Rin felt her consciousness sinking into her body until she found herself in the small room with Ereshkigal and Ishtar.

Before the lounging Goddess could say anything, Rin stamped her foot and shouted, “I know, okay!? Can’t I at least pretend to be upset for a bit? Jeez…!” This little outburst caused Ishtar to laugh in amusement while Ereshkigal stared back at rin, adorably tilting her head to the side in moderate confusion. Then, exacerbating Rin’s frustrations even further, she innocently stated, “I want to spend more time with Vahn…if you don’t want to, please trade places with me…” Now, Ishtar was laughing even harder while Rin, red in the face, bit her lip a little forcefully as she complained, “I don’t want to play second fiddle to my own Servants…even if the two of you are Goddesses who live inside my body, I don’t want to lose out to even you…!”

By the time her words had finished, Rin found herself back in reality with Vahn staring back at her, his brows slightly raised. The last part of her words had been shouted in reality, causing Rin’s face to become several shades redder as she averted her eyes and asking in a complaining voice, “Are we going to do it or not…? Isn’t that what you came here for?” To this, Vahn surprised Rin a bit by giving a small nod in response. She had expected him to foot around the issue for a bit, trying to butter her up to the idea with fancy words. Now, her heart began to race even faster as, unlike the last time they were together, she was in full control of her faculties…

Closing the distance between himself and Rin before she could ‘run away’, Vahn proceeded to pull her gently into his embrace before whispering, “I know you feel I haven’t been fair to you, Rin. With everything that has been going on with the Holy Grail War, my focus has been all over the place. But, regardless of all that, I know you know that I do care about you. I may not be able to give you all my affection, but I can promise you my full focus when we are together like this…” Vahn knew that Rin’s main struggle right now was the fact that, immediately following their first time together, he had been very busy with all kinds of things. Since his relationship with other people was developing, all while she was left ‘unattended’, it wasn’t difficult to understand why she had been growing more frustrated with the passage of time. It probably didn’t help that she had two voices inside her head and the random tidbits of ‘advice’ Scáthach would dish out…

In response to Vahn’s words, Rin released a hot sigh against his chest before muttering, “You’re an asshole…you know that?” Though Vahn was almost tempted to laugh, as Nobunaga had called him as such several times, he resisted the urge and just held Rin’s body a little more firmly. Then, feeling her begin to steadily relax, Vahn slowly progressed things in the direction she had expected. Though Ishtar and Ereshkigal couldn’t benefit directly from his mana, that didn’t mean he couldn’t nourish Rin’s body. Since it was guaranteed they would be apart for a time, Vahn wanted to make sure that Rin was able to become as strong as possible before their separation…

With the sun having descended over the horizon, Vahn, Rin, and Fenrir were slowly making their way towards the Einzbern Forests. Compared to before, Rin was in a much better mood while, at the side, Fenrir also had a bit of pep in her step as she looked around the area, sniffing about for any signs of trouble. The only one who didn’t seem to be in a good mood was Nobunaga who, every few minutes, would establish a mental link with him to say, (“Asshole…”) before cutting it off again. As part of her ‘punishment’ earlier, Vahn had pushed Nobunaga a little harder than he probably should have. This was one of the problems with him ‘letting go’ as, even though Vahn wasn’t a sadist, he did have the propensity to take things too far at times. For strong women like Nobunaga, she practically painted a target on herself to be ‘teased’ when he was riled up…

After two hours of travel, during which no enemies had shown up, the group arrived at the periphery of the Einzbern Forest. Unlike other wooded areas, whose leaves had long started to develop the characteristic browns, reds, and yellows that accompanied Fall, the Einzbern forest had more of an ashen-gray appearance. There was a dense fog that rolled through the area, giving the whole area a distinctly ‘haunted’ fealing, especially with several posted signs with the words ‘do not enter’ printed in several different languages. As this was hardly enough to dissuade the more ‘couragous’ sort, there were several warnings posted about the presence of toxic fumes, many adorned with a skull and crossbones motif…

Though Vahn hadn’t asked, Rin took it upon herself to explain, “Though they are foreigners, the Einzberns had strong ties with several daimyos before the establishment of the Heaven’s Feel Ritual more than six-hundred years ago. They own a large section of land that is considered sovereign territory where the Japanese Government doesn’t have any jurisdiction. Because of this, there have been several crimes committed in the area by idiots who thought they could get away with crimes just because they took place on ‘foreign soil’…”

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Shortly after Rin finished speaking, Nobunaga suddenly manifested with a skeptical look on her face as she said, “I do not recall the presence of any foreign families during my lifetime. I died less than five hundred years ago and there is no way in hell I would have just ignored foreigners owning land on Japanese soil.” In response to this, Rin just shook her head before explaining, “Nobody has a full understanding of how the Holy Grail Works, nor how people get their names inscribed on the so-called ‘Throne of Heroes’. One thing we know for certain is that it can call a Heroic Spirit from any world or timeline, not just the one we find ourselves in. Though you can guarantee the Heroic Spirit summoned is from your timeline by using a catalyst from the present world, Vahn had used his own blood to summon you. There is a good chance you are from the Era of Men after the end of the Age of Gods within Vahn’s future…”

Nobunaga didn’t seem to fully understand Rin’s words but she still nodded her head before glaring at Vahn and complaining, “To think I share the same blood as an idiot…” With that said, Nobunaga vanished into thin air once again, leaving Vahn shaking his head while Rin, apparently agreeing with Nobunaga, gave him a look of blame. Knowing better than to stir up the hornet’s nest, Vahn began heading deeper into the Einzbern Forest instead of idling around in the open. Though there were undoubtedly various traps within, it would, at the very least, provide them with a form of cover due to the thick fog, dense shrubbery, and the large variety of different trees present.

Without harping on the subject, Rin also followed along in short order while Fenrir, knowing her own role, was walking a little ahead of the group without her cloak obstructing her ears. With Vahn’s domain, combined with her sharp senses, there were few things that could get the drop on them. This was especially true since Fenrir could sense anything Vahn was able to detect through his domain, making her the ‘ultimate’ scout whenever they were paired together. As a result, she deftly navigated even the most indiscernible magical traps until, after traveling for a few minutes, the group arrived at a large swath of devastated landscape…

Vahn had seen what forest fires were capable of so he wasn’t that surprised by the devastation as he focused his senses to search for abnormalities. It didn’t take him long to detect the presence of landmines planted in the ground, each having a high enough yield to take out a tank with their combined explosives and the magic circle drawn on the top. If not for the presence of magical energy, Vahn might not have noticed them so easily without looking into the ground with his [Eyes of Truth].

Gesturing for Rin to slow down, Vahn whispered, “I’m not sure if he was involved in the previous battle, but this place has been rigged with several landmines, presumably by Alex Everdale. You should swap out with Ereshkigal for the time being…” Since Rin wasn’t even remotely explosive resistant in her base state, Vahn would rather have Ereshkigal take to the field since there was always a chance they would get separated. Though he would do everything in his power to protect Rin, it would be a lot easier if he didn’t have to worry about her getting killed by a stray sniper bullet or a randomly placed landmine…

Choosing not to argue, Rin released a tired sigh before opening up her bag and pulling out a large mantle to cover herself with. She went through the awkward process of removing all of her clothing while Vahn and Fenrir continued to watch the surroundings for any sign of the enemy. Then, once she was down to nothing more than the mantle, Rin’s hair quickly shifted into the characteristic blond of Ereshkigal before her eyes opened, revealing a maroon color with an appearance that could humble the highest quality gemstones.

Seeing Vahn looking at her, Ereshkigal surprised him slightly by bashfully averting her eyes and muttering, “Vahn…I am happy you wanted me…” in a soft tone of voice. This caused him to blank for a moment before realizing that, in almost every prior circumstance, it had been Ishtar that had manifested for battle. The only times Ereshkigal had appeared outside of that was during an emergency, or when he was off exploring elsewhere. Realizing this, Vahn felt a little apologetic so he reached out his hand and lightly caressed Ereshkigal’s face. Her expression didn’t change all that much, but she still leaned into his hand with a small smile on her face…

At the very instant Vahn seemed to have dropped his guard, he lifted his right hand without even diverting his gaze. The bullet that had struck his hand exploded into red fragments as a small electrical surge spread harmlessly across his arm. At almost the exactly same moment, Vahn muttered, “Fenrir, prey…” in a cold tone of voice. Then, like a midnight blue blur, Fenrir vanished from where she had been standing as Vahn moved to block Ereshkigal from the line of sight. The bullet that had been fired actually caused his arm to go numb, even if it was ultimately unable to deal any damage to his body. This meant that the round either had an Anti-Divine property, which was the more likely case, or possessed the ‘Holy’ attribute. Both of these would be effective against Ereshkigal as she was not only a Goddess but a Goddess of Death.

Though she wasn’t even remotely afraid, Ereshkigal still gripped Vahn’s cloak while ‘hiding’ behind his body. The feeling of being protected was something she only ever got to experience with him and, even if her expression didn’t show it all that much, she was happy for his consideration. With Fenrir giving chase to their attacker, however, his protection was ultimately unneeded as the sniper, who Vahn assumed to be Alex, wasn’t afforded the opportunity to fire a second time. Even if he was competent enough to take out normal Magi, that didn’t mean his senses were beyond superhuman. With Fenrir’s speed and the cover of the surrounding trees, his only option was to call out his Servant for protection while trying to retreat to a safe distance…

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There were few things that Fenrir excelled at more than catching ‘prey’ so, after hearing her Master’s orders, she was bounding around off trees and through shrubs with startling speed. Though Alex was using something like a ghillie suit that could hide his presence, he had already shown his hand after the first shot. Now Vahn had already locked onto his position, meaning Fenrir knew exactly where he was trying to run to while trying to escape. She didn’t drop her guard, however, as the prior encounters with Scáthach and Paracelsus had humbled her a bit. This ended up being the correct course of action as, detecting Fenrir hot on his trail, Alex suddenly shouted, “Damnit! Get out here you bitch…!”

In a flash of golden light, a woman wearing a highly revealing maid outfit, complete with cuffs around her wrists and ankles, appeared out of nowhere. She had a mask covering her eyes but, as if this did not interfere with her vision in the least, she immediately engaged Fenrir with a blade that seemed to be formed out of air. To her credit, Fenrir used the gauntlets she was wearing to grab at the blade in an attempt to divert its trajectory to the side. This was surprisingly effective but, in the same motion of her first strike, the scantily dressed maid stepped inward before impacting Fenrir’s face with her shoulder. Though this didn’t deal that much damage, it was enough to cause most people to flinch but, instead of being caught completely by surprise, Fenrir used [Shundo] to create some distance as the invisible blade cut through where her neck had previously been located.

From a bit of a distance behind his Servant, Alex shouted, “F*** her up, Saber. If you can’t even take out one f****** Servant, what use do you have other than a meat hole!?” Though he was shouting vile curses, Alex was actually lingering close to Saber as he pulled out a large-caliber handgun while observing his surroundings. At the same time, he used his unique Magecraft, causing his eyes to gain a blue hue as phantom images appeared within his vision. Though not even remotely close to the level of Scáthach, he had a basic amount of foresight that would allow him to read the movements of his enemies. This gave him an edge against most opponents since most Magi were far below the speed required to dodge bullets…

While Alex was waiting for an inevitable attack, Fenrir was glaring with burning scarlet eyes at the Saber-Class Servant standing before her. The surrounding temperature was rapidly decreasing as ice began to build upon every exposed surface. Though she could sense an impending ‘danger’ coming from the strangely dressed Servant, Fenrir actually felt that she was much weaker than normal. It was almost as if there was something holding her back, a disadvantage Fenrir intended to exploit to the fullest. She was getting really tired of losing every battle so, now that she was against a Servant who couldn’t even fight back at full strength, Fenrir refused to back down…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Resistance is Futile (O___O)…’,’Spooky Forest’,’Is it finally Fenrir’s time to shine!?’)

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