Chapter 1084: Instant

With an impact comparable to a small-scale nuclear warhead, an area of 700m had been turned into a small sun that illuminated the dark night of Fuyuki City. Accompanying this light, a powerful shockwave spread through the area and, even with the city-wide formation limiting its destructive capabilities, several blocks surrounding the Matou Mansion were effectively leveled as a result of Gilgamesh’s attack. If not for the fact they were in an area where only a few affluent families lived, the death total would have easily reached in the tens of thousands as, by the time the golden sun had vanished, the only thing still standing within the area was a black shield covered with the emerald green motif of a turtle.

Feeling that his reserves had been overtaxed, Vahn resisted the urge to pass out as he released Artoria’s body and downed a [Turbo Ether]. He had put his all into defending against the strike, only realizing later that he could have actually held back. This was a small revelation, allowing Vahn to understand that his durability was even higher than expected, but that was something that could be looked into later. From the area where the Matou Mansion had previously stood, there was a malignant black and red puddle that was slowly forming into the familiar figure of Sakura, now covered from neck to toe in black markings. Her hair had reformed into translucent white strands as the glow of her eyes had more than doubled in intensity compared to before.

High in the sky, a visible vein had now appeared at Gilgamesh’s temple as he frustratedly tapped his gauntleted finger against his own bicep. He had crossed his arms, assured of his own victory, only to see Sakura rise up without being any worse for wear. Feeling slighted by her mere presence, the proud King of Heroes stared into her blood-red eyes with his crimson gaze as he coldly stated, “Very well then…though you are unworthy, allow me to show you true despair…!” At this point, Gilgamesh pulled a strange golden key from a golden ripple in space but, before he was able to cause even greater devastation, the golden cubes protecting his body were forced to defend him against a series of black arrows.

With an enraged expression, Gilgamesh shouted, “You dare try and sneak attack this King!?” Even with his blustering, however, Gilgamesh was forced to retreat backward as the [Yi] arrows exploded into dense and all-consuming gravitational wells. Surprisingly, he seemed to be able to ‘ignore’ gravity in its entirety as he ascended higher into the sky and attempted to use the key in his hands. Once again, Gilgamesh was not afforded the opportunity to execute his plan as, appearing like a phantom, a version of Vahn with an expressionless face appeared right behind him. With a spear not all that dissimilar to Scáthach’s, but possessing a silver hue, ‘Vahn’ slammed the tip directly into Gilgamesh’s elbow, denting the golden plates protecting the vulnerable joint inside.

Feeling the bones in his left arm break, Gilgamesh’s expression turned fierce as more than a hundred golden ripples surrounded him and Vahn as he shouted, “Die, you pretender…!” As if these words had no impact on him at all, Vahn continued to stare blankly at Gilgamesh, his spear snaking forward at an almost impossible angle as it stabbed into the latter’s right wrist. Immediately following this, Vahn vanished like a phantom as more than ten hypersonic projectiles pierced his previous location, skewing the afterimage he had left behind. With this taking place, Gilgamesh’s expression became that of a crazed madman as, instead of continuing his bombardment, all the golden ripples around his body vanished in an instant.

Though it was only a single moment in time, Gilgamesh felt as if he was experiencing the passage of eternity as his brain simply refused to process what was happening. He watched in slow motion as golden gates began to open in the air, not behind his back, but behind the figure standing in the air across from him. This most incomprehensible aspect of what he was bearing witness to was the fact that the ‘Pretender’ had now even copied his appearance. The only difference between them was the lack of armor and the impossible cold green eyes that reflected no light. Then, as if to spite him even further, Gilgamesh felt his arms and legs bound by an immovable force that caused his brain to buzz with madness as the resplendent light of [Enkidu] filled his vision…

Since Gilgamesh was showing an unbelievable amount of hostility towards him, Vahn, under the influence of [Laplace’s Key] unhesitantly sent several projectiles from the hijacked [Gate of Babylon]. Since Gilgamesh had no treasures to protect him, the only thing keeping him in the sky [Enkidu], he was unceremoniously torn apart as more than ten Anti-Divine Noble Phantasms shredded his body to pieces. His head was severed from its body, an incredulous expression on his face that simply refused to believe what was happening, even as a speared pierced through the bridge of his nose, causing his entire head to explode in a cloud of red mist.

In total, Vahn had eliminated Gilgamesh in only seventeen seconds, including the time it took for his brain to ‘process’ how to use the key he had robbed from the Hero King’s grasp. Unfortunately, now that Gilgamesh had been eliminated, Vahn stood in the air like an emotionless automaton as the key in his hands dissolved into golden specs, vanishing from the world. Though he could have continued using the key while Gilgamesh was manifested, there was nothing anchoring the incredibly powerful artifact to this timeline after the Holy Grail absorbed Gilgamesh’s mana. Had he still been ‘aware’, Vahn might have cared a lot more but, now that it had already escaped his grasp, he would have to be content with the vast amount of knowledge he had obtained just by owning the key for a few seconds…

Now that her primary target had vanished, Sakura had turned her gaze towards Vahn as a Shadow Giant more than 30m tall extended its arm in an attempt to knock him out of the sky. The only thing it got for its trouble, however, was Vahn turning into his Zhuque form, giving him a ‘true counter’ to the black mud with his Yang Elemental Flames. At the same time, nine links of [Enkidu] burst into existence around Sakura’s body before tightly binding her in place moments later. This caused the Shadow Giant to lose its structure, plopping to the ground with a force akin to seven hundred-thousand gallons of thick and destructive mud. It quickly spread through the area and began to corrode the surroundings but, for better or worse, Gilgamesh’s earlier attack ensured there was nothing to affect.

It was around the time that Vahn was being brought back to awareness by Sis that Scáthach appeared next to Artoria, two children tucked under her arms as she looked up at Vahn and muttered, “That is a dangerous power he has obtained. We must both do our best to make sure it does not consume him.” In response to this, Artoria, who had been feeling strangely anxious due to her inability to actively participate in the fight, nodded her head firmly in response. She recognized Vahn’s state as the same thing he had used against her during their spar. It gave him a level of power that was beyond comprehension, meaning the chances of it corrupting him were extremely high. Since she had promised to always be there to guide him back on the right path, Artoria tightly gripped [Excalibur]’s handle as she redoubled her resolve…

After regaining his senses, Vahn felt a strange incongruity as he replayed the scene of his surprisingly short battle with Gilgamesh. Though he had certainly sneak attacked the King of Heroes, he hadn’t expected the latter to go down so quickly. What he didn’t know was, much like Scáthach, Gilgamesh relied on a powerful form of [Clairvoyance] to know how to deal with most enemies. Since Vahn was inherently ‘immune’ to such abilities, Gilgamesh fundamentally lacked the means to see through Vahn’s sudden attacks. This, combined with the face he had already used up a large amount of mana to bombard Sakura, meant Gilgamesh was in a severely weakened state at the time his ‘key’ had been stolen. From that point onward, the fight had already irreversibly shifted in Vahn’s favor…

By the time Vahn touched down on the ground, Sakura’s hair and eyes had returned to normal as she lay limply within the immovable embrace of [Enkidu]. Though the mud in the area was still damaging the surroundings, it was quickly beginning to turn into an inert black sludge since there was no ‘intent’ guiding it after Sakura’s powers were sealed. So long as nothing entered the area of influence for the next hour or two, it should die out completely before either dissolving away or fusing with the soil below. How the Mage’s Association and Holy Church intended to cover up such devastation was something Vahn didn’t really care about though, after what had happened, he was tempted to use his own ‘wish’ to restore the lives that had been lost…

Deciding to worry about such things when the Holy Grail War had been concluded, Vahn placed his palm atop Sakura’s head and began to systematically seal each of her mana circuits before placing a thick membrane of Source Energy around her ‘core’. In a way, it was fortunate that Gilgamesh had shown up when he did as, if Vahn had started to use ‘Nirvana Rebirth’ on Sakura, she undoubtedly would have caught him off guard with her ‘Shadow’. Though it likely wouldn’t be able to kill him, Vahn didn’t imagine it would be very pleasant to have much of his body dissolved as she desperately tried to break him down and consume him…

Once Sakura was adequately sealed, Vahn removed one of the links of [Enkidu] before anchoring it to his hand and coiling it around her body. After she was wrapped up ‘snugly’, Vahn dismissed the other eight chains before wrapping a large blanket around Sakura’s body. He needed to move her to a secure location in order to perform the ‘Nirvana Rebirth’, especially since the Mage’s Association and Holy Church were undoubtedly flocking to the area. With Gilgamesh destroyed, Vahn knew the Holy Church would be quick to lay the blame on him, regardless of whether or not he told them the truth of the matter. Since telling the truth would undoubtedly lead to them ‘demanding’ he hand over Sakura, Vahn would rather leave the area and deal with them on his own terms later on…

After throwing Sakura over his shoulder, Vahn floated through the area towards where Scáthach and Artoria were waiting for him. Without him needed to ask, the former immediately explained, “I was only able to save two of the children after the unexpected explosion that occurred.” Since he had already sensed this, Vahn wasn’t all that surprised by Scáthach’s emotionless words. Still, hearing her say them directly caused him to wince as he looked down at the two sleeping girls hanging limply in Scáthach’s embrace. Vahn hoped that the Mage’s Association would be able to track down their families but, considering that Sakura was the primary culprit in the disappearance of more than three thousand people, he assumed their families were amongst that number.

Shaking his head to clear negative thoughts, Vahn hardened his expression as he said, “We should move to the Fuyuki City Hyatt Hotel to explain our side of events before they get twisted out of proportion. We’ll leave those two girls in the custody of the Mage’s Association while I use their medical facilities to treat Sakura’s body.” Contrary to expectations, neither Scáthach nor Artoria seemed to fully agree with him, the latter outright saying, “It would be better to attack while our enemies are off-kilter. After dropping off these two girls, I believe it would be best to place Sakura in a safe location before heading to Mount Enzou and dealing with Circe before they are able to come up with any countermeasures.”

Though Artoria took pity on the two orphaned girls, she knew there would only be more victims if they didn’t bring the Holy Grail War to an end. The fact that a large section of the Miyama Town Foreign Residential District had been destroyed all but guaranteed that the Mage’s Association and Holy Church would begin interfering proactively. Their window of opportunity was rapidly shrinking as, even if they weren’t the primary culprits behind the devastation, the blame would undoubtedly lie on all participants of the war. There was a good chance that Executors of the Mage’s Association would appear at the Tohsaka Manor in an attempt to ‘reign’ in Rin and Vahn, even though this would undoubtedly just be a power play on their part to obtain the grail for themselves…

Understanding Artoria’s concerns, Vahn gave a curt not before saying, “We will return to the Tohsaka Manor for the time being. We can buy time with the Sub-Space Orb while Astolfo comes over to pick up the two girls. After I treat Sakura, she can be left in the care of Rin while we go and storm Mount Enzou and try to bring this all to an end. There have already been too many victims…let’s do our best to ensure there aren’t any more added to the count…”

As this was a far more agreeable plan, both girls nodded in response before the entire group ran back on foot. Since she had been engaged in battle, Scáthach was unable to assume her Spirit form for the time being. This meant she was carrying the two unconscious girls under her arms as she ran through the streets in her characteristic skin-tight bodysuit. Vahn was tempted to tell her to wear something that didn’t stand out but, considering they were carrying three unconscious bodies, it wouldn’t really matter how they were dressed. He even had Rin wrapped up in a blanket while, with the exception of some foul brown clothes, neither young girl in Scáthach’s arms were wearing anything that remotely resembled clothes…

Though the distance between the Matou and Tohsaka residences were something that could quickly be traversed by the group, Vahn wasn’t at all surprised when a pulse of magical energy spread over the area. Immediately following this, he could sense several figures rushing towards them with a commendable pace of around 310kmh. Though this was unbelievably slow in comparison to the speed of most combatants he associated with, Vahn could tell these four people were ‘normal’ humans. One of them even seemed vaguely familiar, causing Vahn to feel an extreme amount of exasperation when a white-haired, golden-eyed beauty appeared to block their way. He was almost tempted to ask how a skintight leotard and a half-dress that didn’t even cover her lower body was considered suitable attire for a Nun but Vahn didn’t think Caren would appreciate the comment…

Contrary to expectations, Caren was actually standing at the back of a group consisting of two other women and a tall man that reached 194cm with his thick-soled shoes. Unlike Caren, the other two women were wearing clothes that were similar in structure to business suits, complete with pants, while the man leading the group had a clerical collar designating his status as an ordained priest within the Holy Church. He even carried an archaic-looking bible in his hands that made Vahn’s skin feel like it was turning inside-out just by being near it. Because of this, he was starting to feel more than a little bothered by the existence of the Holy Church and their various ‘troublesome’ artifacts.

With a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, the man leading the group passed his gaze over the two girls in Scáthach’s arms before resting his dark brown eyes on Sakura. Then, in a deep voice that didn’t leave any room for argument, he plainly stated, “I am afraid you will have to be detained until an Inquisitor of the Holy Church is able to determine your involvement with that blast. This is a clear violation of the restrictions that you had agreed to after making your participation in the Holy Grail War known. Do not resist or we will be forced to apprehend you through methods I am certain you will find far less agreeable…”

Refusing to simply bow down to the whims of an organization that was quick to lay blame on others, Vahn fixed his gaze on the man as he answered, “Without any conclusive evidence, you lack the right to hold us at your convenience. Do not pretend that the Holy Church has jurisdiction to act however they please without any evidence to support your claims. We are the ones who put an end to the Servant who had caused the devastation, not the culprits behind it. You are more than welcome to seek out the master of the Archer-Class Servant Gilgamesh if you want to seek some form of recompense.”

As if Vahn’s words were inconsequential, the man inclined his head towards the unconscious girls before saying, “You are fleeing through the night with three unconscious victims yet insist on your innocence…? Very well then…” Though his tone had started off stern, the man suddenly put on a more ‘agreeable’ expression before adding, “You need only turn those girls over to us and we will let you be on your way. Depending on the information they reveal, however, we may be forced to seek you out for an explanation later…”

Without Vahn needed to answer, Scáthach suddenly stated, “Father Alexander Crowley, 2nd Class Executor of the Holy Church. Specializations include Exorcism, Sealing Scriptures, and Memory Alteration. We will not trust you to do as you please behind the scenes. If the Holy Church intends to make a play for the Holy Grail once again, please come to an accord with the Mage’s Association first.” Though she said these words in her characteristic emotionless tone, Scáthach had already pulled out two shortened versions of her [Gae Bolg], making it clear that she ‘knew’ these people couldn’t be trusted.

With a stern expression on his face, the man named Father Crowley looked at Scáthach, eyeing her up and down as he asked, “Which Master managed to summon a harlot as a Servant? If you wish to slander the Holy Church, do not think we will stand idly by and watch as you carry out your evil deeds…” In response to this, Artoria seemed like she could no longer contain herself, pointing her [Excalibur] directly at Father Crowley as she exclaimed, “Insolence! You would play at righteousness, knowing full well your own sins!? Has the Holy Church truly fallen so far…!?” As a King who had been bestowed her title by providence, Artoria hated ‘false priests’ more than anything else. Since she was well aware of how their actions had negatively impacted the previous two Grail Wars, she was less than enthused to hear another pretender speak righteous platitudes while literally plotting to lay false blame on them…

Though he hadn’t been that perturbed by Scáthach, courtesy of not knowing who she was, Father Crowley was very aware of Artoria’s identity. Since she would likely be able to take out their entire group on her own, he was considering whether or not he should antagonize Vahn further. Their only actual advantage was the knowledge that Vahn and his cohorts weren’t actually responsible for the devastation. They were also the strongest party remaining in the Holy Grail War, putting an end to the schemes of several other Masters through relatively peaceful methods. On the surface, this made it appear as if they could be exploited rather easily but, with the purple-haired woman apparently able to see through people’s identities, things had become far more troublesome…

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Deciding that a tactical retreat was the best course of action, at least until they could receive backup in a few hours time, Father Crowley gave an overly polite bow that was repeated by his two female associates and Caren. When he raised his head, an ‘amicable’ smile was present on his face as he said, “Seeing as how the legendary King of Knights is willing to speak for you, I can only assume that this was a case of mistaken identity. It was not our intention to lay blame on an innocent party for the atrocities of another. However, please be aware that we will be by to question you about the specifics of the incident at a later date…” With that said, Father Crowley nodded towards his group before squeezing a silver cross around his neck, dissolving the isolation barrier they had created to try and entrap Vahn’s party.

Without sticking around to make small talk, Father Crowley and his two associates began to make their way towards the sight of Gilgamesh’s attack, leaving behind a lingering Caren who looked at Vahn with a ‘sad’ expression as she said, “If you continue to lead such a sinful life, the judgment of our Heavenly Father will undoubtedly be brought down upon you. Please reconsider the life you have chosen, Vahn Mason…I do not wish to see you destroyed due to your ignorance…” With that said, Caren gave a much lower bow than the false politeness her group had expressed previously. Then, with a mournful expression on her face, she struggled to try and catch up with the group of Exorcists that had left her behind. Unlike them, she lacked active magic circuits, meaning she had to rely on artificial circuits engraved into her outfit just to keep pace. This was undoubtedly a heavy strain on her body, causing Vahn to shake his head as, contrary to Caren’s expression, he could tell she seemed to ‘enjoy’ the pain her body was experiencing…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Surprise, Mud-F*****…!’,’It is impossible to save everyone (T ^ T)…’,’The Holy Church’s schemes…’)

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