Chapter 1072: Return

With everything that had happened, Vahn made the executive decision to return to the Tohsaka Manor in order to get their bearings. Before that, however, he had noticed several things that were worthy of attention, even if they caused even more questions. The most notable amongst these was the fact he now had an additional Command Spell, bringing his total to seven. Though he didn’t have much use for Command Spells, it never hurt to have extra in the event that he would need to empower or teleport one of his Servants. As for other things that had caught his attention, Vahn noticed that the Saber in his arms was almost identical to Gray.

The only thing that differentiated them was that Saber looked much younger while the color of her hair and eyes were different. However, the internal structure of their body was more similar than even twins like Tiona and Tione, the only ‘major’ difference being that Saber’s heart was set with a powerful gemstone, much like a True Dragon. Even with this, however, it was easy to see that the two had some relation to each other, a fact that provided some insight into Gray’s tragic past. Vahn felt she was either a clone or, based on the dual-networks that previously existed in her body, a girl that had been modified to emulate Saber’s body…

Without making his speculation known, Vahn actually got a surplus of information that seemed to verify his conjecture as, after returning to her human form, Rin looked at the sleeping Saber with a pained expression as she muttered, “It looks like our fates are still intertwined…” Then, seeing Vahn looking at her, Rin furrowed her brows deeply before explaining, “This Saber-Class Servant is the same Artoria Pendragon that I told you about previously. She has been summoned during the previous two Holy Grail Wars and served as the Servant of Shirou during the Fifth. I should have known she would have been summoned this time around as well…haaaaa…”

After her preliminary explanation, Rin went into much greater details as she recounted some of the events she had kept secret regarding the previous Holy Grail War. This included the fact that Artoria was a ‘living’ Servant, meaning she had a ‘real’ body that was unable to assume a Spirit form. At the same time, this meant that she had a distinct advantage over almost every other Servant as, instead of having her memories erased, Artoria retained her memories from previous Wars. This would have been a blessing in most other circumstances but, after having failed to obtain the Holy Grail twice, Artoria had apparently given up on her dream. Rin revealed, somewhat apprehensively, that Artoria had previously developed feelings for her former Master, Shirou Emiya. She had died putting her life on the line to take out Gilgamesh at the end of the Fifth Holy Grail War so it was rather tragic for her to be brought back to fight in the Sixth…

With her explanation finished, Rin stared listlessly at Artoria’s sleeping face, apprehension clearly visible deep within her eyes. She didn’t delude herself into believing that Artoria hadn’t been forced into a difficult situation during the weeks leading up to, and following the start of the Grail War. The way she had been dressed when Alex summoned her spoke volumes about her treatment, including the fact she had been forcibly manipulated with Command Spells. When Artoria learned that Shirou was already dead, betrayed by his own allies, Rin imagined that the proud King of Knights would not be very ‘enthused’…

Unlike Rin, Vahn’s own anger had subsided a great deal at this point as, after inspecting Artoria’s body very closely, he noticed that she was still a virgin. He had no idea how this was possible but, remembering the mystical silver chains that bound them previously, Vahn felt it had something to do with the strange man who had put a taken Illya and Berserker away. He seemed to have some kind of relationship with Artoria and, as Vahn could sense no malice at all from the man, it didn’t seem as if he was an actual enemy. If anything, Vahn got the same impression from the white-haired man that he got from Scáthach, minus the aura of death.

After mulling over his words for a few minutes, Vahn decided to try and console Rin by placing his hand on her shoulder and explaining, “I don’t think things are as bad as you are assuming. Unless Artoria has the ability to regenerate back to a ‘default’ state, I don’t think she experienced what you may be imagining. Though I don’t doubt that she was treated terribly, I think that man may have intervened somehow…” These words only seemed to confuse Rin so Vahn gave a wry smile before clarifying in a low voice, “She is still a virgin…”

Hearing Vahn’s words, Rin issued a confused ‘Eh?’ before furrowing her brows and saying, “That is impossible…unless…?” Perhaps it was her desire to find a silver lining in the situation but Rin’s mind instantly jumped to a possibility. She knew that Artoria certainly had the means to completely heal any wound, but that was only if she possessed Avalon. Since she lacked it at the time she lost her virginity to Shirou, Artoria should no longer be a virgin. Though not as big as Vahn, Shirou was far beyond average in size, a thought that caused Rin’s cheeks to tinge red for a brief moment in recollection.

Feeling a strange ‘twinge’ in his brows, Vahn frowned slightly until Rin explained, “Artoria’s body is preserved in a state just before her death. When she is summoned to take place in the Holy Grail War, it transfers her mind into a body that matches her state prior to being summoned. Since Saber is a virgin back in her halted timeline…” Without needing Rin to explain further, Vahn finished her sentence, adding, “She is always a virgin after being summoned anew…that is a bit…” In a way, if Artoria hadn’t been protected by the white-haired man, her fate would have been inarguably more tragic. If she had to deal with the thought of losing her virginity to a despot like Alex, any trauma she may have developed would be amplified considerably…

Now in a much better mood, Rin released a sigh of relief before almost immediately furrowing her brows once again, directing an accusatory gaze at Vahn as she asked, “How did you know that Saber was a virgin…?” This caused Vahn to shake his head in mild exasperation before explaining, “My eyes can even see the structure of mana in a person’s body, do you think I can’t see other things? Besides, just by being in contact with a person I can pretty much understand the structure of their body in an instant. My words about being a capable physician with few equals weren’t just me trying to brag…”

Rin blinked a few times as she tried to make sense of what Vahn was saying, the implications of which were a little frightening. It meant he had a better understanding of her own body than even she did, causing Rin’s face to become ruddy when she remembered their time together just a few hours prior. Vahn certainly seemed to know how to handle her, giving a frightening amount of credibility to his words. Still, knowing he could essentially see through her clothing whenever he wanted, Rin couldn’t help but ask, “Is that when you’re eyes turn blue and start glowing…?”

In response to Rin’s question, Vahn activated his [Eyes of Truth] before making a point of eyeing her up and down. This caused her face to turn even redder as she pointlessly covered herself, exclaiming, “Now isn’t the time for things like that…!” To this, Vahn stroked his chin thoughtfully before saying, “I don’t know about that…I don’t imagine Artoria would be waking up in the next hour or two. If you wanted, we could head into the Sub-Space Orb and-.” Before Vahn was able to finish, Rin pulled out one of her jewels before lobbing it towards his head like a baseball pitcher. She didn’t empower it with her magic so Vahn made no attempt to dodge, frustrating Rin further when it just rebounded off his head without actually coming into contact with his skin…

Releasing an amused chuckle, Vahn rose to his feet and said, “We should head into the Sub-Space Orb regardless. Staying outside is a literal waste of time…” Then, turning towards the ‘air’, Vahn said, “Scáthach, I want you to guard the Manor and inform me if anything happens. We’ll resume our normal schedule once the sun comes up. Since there are still a few hours until then, give us some time to settle Artoria in before she has to witness watching me get my head blown off…” With his new Command Spell, Vahn knew that he had been made the Master of Artoria. The troubling part of this revelation, however, was that Artoria’s body seemed to consume energy nearly as quickly as Fenrir. Though the core in her heart actually provided slightly more than she naturally consumed, meaning she could almost stay manifested indefinitely, Artoria was a major liability if her reserves dipped below a certain threshold…

Since their training was supposed to take place after the sun came up anyways, Scáthach didn’t offer any argument against Vahn’s words. If nothing else, she was reliable when it came to ‘doing what one should’. As they were still during the ‘active’ hours of the Holy Grail War, she would follow his orders, assuming she hadn’t determined it would be a good training opportunity to do otherwise. Thus, without even bothering to appear before them, Scáthach moved through the Manor like a ghost before coming out on the roof in her Spirit form and taking a seat.

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Assuming Scáthach had listened to his orders, Vahn picked up the sleeping Artoria, eliciting a small frown from Rin. This caused Vahn to give her a glance out of the corner of his eye while making a mental note to ‘remind’ Rin that her jealousy was somewhat ridiculous. She knew he didn’t ‘belong’ to her and, regardless of her efforts, it was impossible for her to ever monopolize him with the presence of Fenrir and knowledge he would one day return to his world. Vahn felt her anxiety was a bit senseless as, unless she herself wanted to leave his side, it was pretty much a guarantee he would always treat her well. When they got to the Sub-Space Orb, he was going to cook her up some delicious food and, once she dropped her guard, ‘deal’ with her properly…

In response to Vahn’s thoughts, Sis chimed in with her own, saying, (*Though I can’t help but feel you’re getting a little out of hand, it is much better to see you like this, Vahn. Still, you should know better than to bully girls too much. Rin is still just a normal human, with modern sensibilities, so don’t take things too far. If you put too much pressure on her, you can’t be surprised when she breaks…*) Though she spoke plainly, it was clear that, while she wasn’t exactly telling him to restrain himself, Sis was cautioning him against taking things too far. At the same time, her reminder about Rin being a ‘normal’ human seemed to indicate that, if he did intend to push her, it should only be after changing her into something ‘more’…

After entering the Sub-Space Orb, Vahn made good on his intentions to cook up a feast after setting Artoria to rest inside of Lakshmibai’s room. Though Rin had wanted to use her own room at first, she was very aware of the smell lingering in the air as the circulation inside of the lakeside residence wasn’t the greatest. As a result, Lakshmibai offered up her as-of-yet unused room while Vahn pulled out an entire kitchen’s worth of appliances to prepare their meal. He hadn’t been cooking much ever since they started using the Sub-Space Orb so Vahn felt that Rin’s poutiness might be due to the fact he wasn’t sating the beast within her stomach any longer. As a result, he spent nearly two full hours preparing a meal, creating more than a dozen mana-rich dishes that even the Servants would be able to enjoy.

As expected, Rin was in a much better mood after sitting down at the low dining table that Vahn had brought out for their use. She had also been able to secure the spot to his left while, as usual, Fenrir sat on his right. The other side of the table was occupied by Nobunaga and Lakshmibai, both still ‘glowing’ after the time they had spent together prior to the evening’s events. Nobunaga seemed to be in high spirits as she filled her gullet with delicious food and alcohol while, almost the complete opposite, Lakshmibai sat rather quietly with her head slightly lowered. Whenever Vahn would look directly at her, she would lower her face even further, a pink hue touching her cheeks as if she had yet to recover from the state he had left her in previously…

With how Lakshmibai was acting, Vahn felt as if the tensions in his body were steadily beginning to build since there was just something about a strong woman acting bashfully that riled him up. There were still close to twenty-six hours until his ‘thrashing’ was scheduled so Vahn had a lot of free time to use if he chose to spend it in that manner. Though it made him feel a little shameless to think about such things at a time like this, Vahn felt he wasn’t entirely to blame. Due to the expectations and ‘willingness’ of the girls around him, Vahn believed that any man in his position would fail to show even half the restraint he had imposed upon himself. He knew that, with just a few words, almost any of the girls in the room, Rin included, would whisk away with him without any real resistance…

As if to volunteer herself, Fenrir leaned into his side, staring up at him with her scarlet-red eyes glimmering in the room’s lighting. This brought a smile to Vahn’s face and, for a brief moment, he was very tempted to excuse himself from the meal to go spend some quality time with Fenrir. One of the things that kept him from doing so was the fact that Nobunaga had a ‘vengeful’ look in her eyes, clearly intending to get even with him after what he had done to her earlier. At the same time, Rin had ‘gently’ elbowed him a few times before reminding in a stern tone, “Saber should be waking up soon…”

Nodding his head in understanding, Vahn decided to distract himself by asking, “So, what do you think about that Illya girl? Even if she died in the previous war, I think it’s pretty obvious that she has been resurrected. I could sense a powerful vitality in her body while her internal structure was actually impossible to discern…” In response to Vahn’s words, Rin frowned deeply as she thought about Vahn ‘inspecting’ Illya’s body. Though the latter was actually older than she was, the fact she seemingly hadn’t aged a day in the last ten years gave her a ‘very’ youthful appearance. Since she had also seen the scars on Illya’s face and chest, Rin knew it was undoubtedly the same person she nearly allied with during the Fifth Holy Grail War…

To answer Vahn’s question, Rin took a few more bites of her meal to calm down before answering, “The Einzberns have always excelled at creating Homunculi, Golems, and other Artificial Humans. In fact, compared to any other known family within the Magus Community, they have attained the highest mastery in their form of Magecraft. A long time ago, their ancestors had been able to reach the Root, the origin of all things, obtaining what is colloquially known as the ‘Third Magic’. Since they have allied with several other families, it is known that the Third Magic, whose true name is Heaven’s Feel, has the ability to allow the soul to survive outside of the body. Though they currently lack the ability to realize the Third Magic, it is possible their research had allowed them to preserve Illya’s soul after her death. As for acquiring a new heart and repairing the damage to her body, those are a simple matter for a family specializing in the production of Homunculi…”

As she spoke about Illya, Rin began to feel somewhat heartbroken as she imagined what kind of life the girl must have been living over the last decade. She was actually the half-sister of Shirou but, just as they were going to ally together during the previous war, Illya had been brutally murdered by Gilgamesh after the latter took down Heracles. Remembering how panicked Illya had become after seeing [Enkidu], something that had surprised her as well, Rin felt even more heartbroken than Vahn. She knew exactly why Illya had gone into an enraged state after that strange transformation as, from Illya’s perspective, [Enkidu] was the most precious belonging of her most hated enemy. Not only had Gilgamesh ruined her chance at a happy life with her only surviving family member, but he had also killed her cherished Heracles before ultimately robbing her own life shortly thereafter…

Remembering Gilgamesh, Rin felt the scar on her abdomen begin to burn painfully as a deep and throbbing heat spread through her body. Fortunately, almost as soon as the pain appeared, Vahn’s hand had snaked around her side before coming to rest right above her scar. The heat was replaced by a gentle and relaxing warmth that caused Rin to release a contented sigh as she leaned against him without even thinking about it. It wasn’t until she saw Lakshmibai staring at her with unblinking pale-pink eyes that Rin realized what she was doing, slapping Vahn’s hand away from her waist in the process.

Though Vahn was tempted to tease Rin for her behavior, he instead turned his head towards the wall, facing the direction of Lakshmibai’s room. It didn’t take Rin any time at all to guess why he would do such a thing, asking, “Is she awake?” To this, Vahn gave a small nod before rising to his feet and saying, “Shall we go meet our new companion?” Though he said these words harmlessly, Rin’s face became serious as she said, “Vahn, if things are taking place chronologically from Saber’s point of view, it wouldn’t have even been a month since she separated from Shirou. Once she finds out about Shirou’s death, I know she will be pained…even if she is the one to ask, please, make sure you consider the matter properly before doing anything. Saber is the type that accepts heavy burdens on herself, even if it brings her great pain as a result…”

Knowing what Rin was implying, Vahn released a tired sigh before helping her rise to her feet. Once she was standing, Vahn raised her chin with his hand before gently caressing the side of her face and neck. These actions seemed to confuse her a great deal, especially after what she just said, so Rin felt more awkward than anything, at least until Vahn said in a calm tone, “I’m not going to make a promise I may not be able to keep. Your worry for Artoria shows that the two of you must have had a strong bond…however, if she decides for herself to follow that path, I will support her. If she is half the person you’ve made her out to be, I can guarantee she would be far more stressed out if I had her wait here while we fought without her.”

Hearing Vahn’s words, it was Rin’s turn to sigh as, even without Vahn pointing it out, there was nobody as aware of Saber’s personality than she was. In fact, during the previous Holy Grail War, she had been the one to essentially ‘force’ the relationship between Saber and Shirou. Before that, she actually had ‘sex’ with Saber herself while, after things developed further, all three of them shared the same bed numerous times. Since all of this took place over an extremely short period of time, barely covering two weeks, Rin could still vividly recall the unstable nature of her heart during the Fifth Holy Grail War. Even if she tried to insist against it, there was no way Saber would take her words at face value after what they had both experienced together…

Seeing the conflict in Rin’s eyes, Vahn decided to bring her back to the present by giving her a gentle yet extended kiss on the lips. They actually hadn’t kissed all that often, a strange thing to consider since they have already had some long and intense sex sessions. This was a combination of the fact that Rin actually seemed to feel a little guilty when they kissed while, even more than sex, Vahn felt the act was particularly intimate. Sex was a way to link hearts and bodies, yes, but a kiss was akin to a pure expression of affection and, when the emotions were strong enough, love. As a result, Rin seemed to calm down considerably as Vahn pulled her into his embrace until she was standing on the tips of her toes. After nearly three full minutes had passed, Vahn loosened his grip a bit, allowing their lips to separate before he placed his forehead against Rin’s and said, “Let’s go…I imagine Artoria will feel a little better after seeing someone she recognizes…”

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Secrets Revealed…?’,’Poor Illya o_o…’,’Never underestimate the suspension bridge effect…’)

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