Chapter 1086: Before Sunrise

After helping Rin put Sakura into bed and having a ‘very’ long discussion about what to tell the young girl when she awoke, Vahn found himself outside the Sub-Space Orb once again. At this point, it was only a little after 10 PM so there were still around seven and a half hours until the sun would begin peaking over the horizon. Vahn was seriously considering trying to bring the Holy Grail War to and end before then but, as there were other pressing matters to attend, he ended up standing in the garden with Fenrir, Scáthach, Artoria, Lakshmibai, and Nobunaga. His plan was relatively simple, though it would require them to stretch their forces relatively thin in order to accomplish…

Having already made up his mind on the matter, Vahn turned to Scáthach, a resolute light burning within his eyes as he said, “I know you do not find enjoyment in taking the lives of others. However, you are the only one I can entrust the task of dealing with the Makiri family. I would do it myself, but it will be better for everyone if I go to Mount Enzou and try to put an end to this war. So long as I have a Command Spell, I would be able to recall you if there is any danger. Until then, I want you to use your ability to see through people to determine who within the Makiri Family deserves death. I will not ask you to wipe them out, but I do not want them to be able to recover and make use of their disgusting methods ever again…”

Surprising Vahn more than a little, Scáthach didn’t even offer any form of argument, simply nodding her head as she said, “I will go.” With those three words, she had already vanished from the garden, leaving Vahn at a little bit of a loss. Then, as if she found his reaction amusing, Nobunaga began to laugh before snidely saying, “That woman may be harsh during training, but she never pushes her students beyond their breaking point. Seeing the methods used by the Makiri, I can’t imagine she is all that happy with them. Even if she is an emotionless purple monster, that doesn’t mean she had abandoned her humanity…umuu…”

Though Vahn didn’t think Nobunaga’s words hit the truth of the matter, he still nodded his head before saying, “With Scáthach taking care of the Makiri and Rin looking after Sakura, it’ll be up to the rest of us to bring an end to the Holy Grail War. Nobunaga, Lakshmibai, I know you may resent me a bit for having you wait here, but I want the two of you to protect the Tohsaka Manor. There are too many rats skulking about for me to leave Rin and Sakura here by themselves.” Vahn knew that, as his main Servant, Nobunaga was more than a little annoyed that he relied on others more than her. If not for the fact she was the most aware of how she matched up against existences like Artoria and Scáthach, it was highly unlikely she would have been content to just ‘stay put’.

Releasing an annoyed grumble, Nobunaga took a page out of Scáthach’s book as she turned her back and jumped to the top of the roof in a single bound. Then, as she often did whenever she was annoyed, Vahn watched her pull out one of her matchlock rifles and begin polishing it. Fortunately, Lakshmibai was far more agreeable as she gave an affirmative nod before boldly stating, “Leave it to me, Master. Even if it costs me my life, I will not let a single enemy through…!” After she ‘accepted’ the type of woman she was, Lakshmibai had regained her previous bravado and was no longer dragging her feet around in a demure manner. Though this gave Vahn a strong desire to tease her, for the time being he just settled with reaching out his hand and rubbing her head. He found it interesting how the small ‘tuft’ that stuck out from above her bangs, something Rin referred to as an ‘ahoge’, would move about happily whenever he rubbed her head. With how Rin’s twin tails would also defy gravity at times, Vahn felt like there was some strange ‘Law’ at work within the Nasuverse that governed how hair behaved in accordance with a person’s emotions…

With Nobunaga and Lakshmibai watching after the Manor, Vahn turned to the somewhat giddy Fenrir before nodding his head. Without needing to say anything, she knew this meant her Master would be bringing her along for the ‘final’ battle. Unable to contain her excitement, Fenrir pounced on Vahn and began peppering his face with machine-gun kisses as her tail waggled happily from side to side. As this was going on, Artoria just watched with a spaced-out look in her eyes before turning her head towards the sky and deciding to stare at the moon until it was time for them to head out…

While running towards Mount Enzou at a steady pace, Vahn was explaining his plan to Fenrir and Artoria, starting by clarifying the reason he was bringing Fenrir along. Though she would be given the chance to fight if it seemed like there were enemies she could take on, her true purpose was to ‘devour’ the Greater Grail. Vahn felt it would be an incredible boost to her power if she were able to consume the phenomenal mana contained within the wish-granting device. Since he didn’t really have a reliable means to destroy the grail without seeing it first, Vahn felt that her ability to more or less eat anything would suffice. Even if the Greater Grail ended up being an SSS-Rank item, the fact that there were some timelines where Rin and Co had been able to destroy it would indicate it wasn’t that durable…

As she was just happy to be brought along, Fenrir didn’t mind that she was essentially relegated to the role of support while her Master and Artoria handled most of the fighting. Her strength was quickly improving under Scáthach’s tutelage so she was actually looking forward to increasing her capacity in order to power up even further. Then, one day, she would no longer have to run away from any enemy, regardless of how powerful they were. So long as she could beat Scáthach, Fenrir believed that there would be few enemies within this world that would pose a threat to her. She even intended to learn how to use [Primordial Rune]s after being shocked to witness the seemingly endless functionality they contained…

With her mind wandering to the future, Fenrir nearly slipped on a loose tile before adjusting her balance slightly to avoid drawing attention to her mistake. Unfortunately for her, both Vahn and Artoria were very perceptive, even if they did their best to appear as if they had missed it. This would have worked in most situations but, considering the strength of their bond, Fenrir’s face became beet red as she sensed the ‘amusement’ that briefly flashed across her Master’s mind. Fortunately, they were coming up on their destination so she didn’t have to bear her embarrassment for very long before her Master said, “This is it…” in a serious tone of voice.

Surrounded by a slopping autumn forest, a traditional Shinto-style temple could be seen at the top of a long set of stairs that ascended the entirety of the small mountain. Though it couldn’t compare to even the smallest mountains in Danmachi, Vahn wasn’t going to question why the people of Japan felt that a small hill next to a river qualified as a mountain. The only thing that really mattered right now was the pink barrier that surrounded the entire temple, something he was only able to see with his [Eyes of Truth]. Vahn recognized this as a domain, not one manifested by magic, but the product of a God’s Divinity. Though Circe was only a Demi-Goddess, it didn’t seem like they could completely underestimate her…

Before ascending the mountain steps, Vahn spread his senses through the area to make sure there weren’t any hidden enemies they needed to be wary of. Strangely, other than a single presence at the very heart of the temple, known as Ryuudou to the locals, there were only animals present. This didn’t slip by Vahn, however, as he had already done his research on Circe after learning she was one of their enemies. Realizing what was going on, Vahn released an exasperated sigh before plainly stating, “Let’s just walk up…I don’t even think we’ll have to fight. Don’t drop your guards though, as there is a chance Paracelsus or Berserker could appear…” Though Vahn had serious doubts either man would show up, it was better to be prepared than suffer due to complacency.

Curious about what Vahn meant by not having to fight, Artoria asked, “Do you not believe Circe to be our enemy…?” To this, Vahn just shrugged his shoulders before explaining, “In her legend, Circe is more of a trickster than a truly malicious existence. Other than a propensity for turning people into animals, she is known to be hospitable. Even if she was fond of Gilgamesh, her nature should be the whimsical sort who falls in love quickly and gets jealous easily…if I’m not wrong, she has probably prepared a feast to welcome us…haaaa…” Since Circe’s ‘feast’ should only work on men, Vahn wasn’t worried that Fenrir or Artoria would fall victim to Circe’s plot. The thing he was most worried about was, now that she had lost the object of her affection, Circe would be quick to imprint on him after he undoubtedly proved immune as well…

Vahn comforted himself by remembering that Circe, while known to be fickle and playful in love, was an eternal maiden. Her power was drawn from Hecate and Artemis which, in this world, meant she would lose her magic power if she lost her chastity. Thus, other than her acting like a playful nymph, Vahn wasn’t worried that Circe would become another woman he needed to worry about. If she really did decide to come to their side, the most he would have to worry about is her periodically butting heads with Fenrir. In exchange, he would have an immortal Demi-Goddess on his side that should be able to create items and mixtures that could mutate even normal animals into powerful magical creatures…

Without him noticing it, both Fenrir and Artoria were giving Vahn a deadpan look as they followed slightly behind him. Fenrir knew exactly what her Master was thinking, causing her to immediately identify Circe as an ‘enemy’ while, even though she had only known Vahn for around five days, Artoria was quickly beginning to understand the type of person he was. In a way, he reminded her a lot of Merlin except, instead of being an airheaded and unreliable idiot, Vahn was almost too reliable, willing to do whatever it took to try and make others happy. Even now, though nearly a full day had passed, Artoria could still feel a pleasant heat running through her body that she had to make a concerted effort to ignore, courtesy of Vahn’s Source Energy.

Matching Vahn’s expectations, their surroundings changed completely from the moment the group passed through the invisible pink membrane. Vahn had sensed the fluctuation of Spatial Laws from the start, the primary reason why he assumed Circe was ‘manifesting’ her legend. She seemed to have a Reality Marble, much like Ozymandias. Unlike the infinite Temples of Ozymandias, Circe’s took on the form of a vast banquet hall that was made of pure gold and ornate wooden carvings. There were wisps of clouds floating around the area while, spanning the length of the massive hall, long tabled adorned with a plethora of delicious food seemed to stretch towards the horizon. If not for the fact that he could sense a room full of fat pigs on the other side of the cloud coverage, many still wearing parts of human clothing, Vahn would have been far more enamored by the sight…

From the moment they had entered into the banquet hall, the sound of ruffling feathers could be heard before, in a shroud of pink light, a small girl with obvious inhuman features dropped down around fifty meters from their position. She was only around 147cm tall, adorned in what appeared to be a thin white cloth that hooked around her neck and hips like a sheet. This left her back, shoulders, navel, and a dangerous amount of exposed skin between her two modest breasts. If she moved just a little bit to either side, Vahn was certain he would be able to see her exposed breasts, even if they were rather small. As for her bottoms, she had a skirt that didn’t follow any kind of logic as, though it wasn’t even a palm’s length, it flared out slightly while hanging from a pale gold band around her hips. If Circe was at any elevation at all, it would have been possible for anyone to see up her skirt but, as if protecting some great secret, the cloth actually seemed to move around as it actively blocked the view of what lay beneath.

Even with his [Eyes of Truth] active, the only thing Vahn was able to discern was that she wasn’t wearing panties, even if what should be beneath them was obscured. Completing her outfit, she had several pale gold accessories, a strange wing-like ornament that actually seemed to grow out of her body, two tall clogs that formed a peculiar pillar shape, and a tiara that seemed fixed to her head. Two wing-like ornaments adorned the sides of the tiara while, just below those, a pair of extremely long ears, both around 10cm long, poked out from a face that could only be described as a perfect blend between ‘cute’ and ‘beautiful’. With her peculiar pink hair, matching the hue of expensive Rosé wine, and her peculiar blue-green eyes, Vahn had to admit she was a rare and exotic beauty not all the dissimilar to Lefiya after her transformation…

Though Vahn’s eyes didn’t break from her face, Circe’s intuition told her that he was sneakily taking liberties. This caused her to tease Vahn a bit, spinning around in a small circle to make her skirt flare out even more yet, against all rhyme and reason, it still obscured what lay beneath. At this point, however, Vahn was more interested in the wing-like mantle that snugly wrapped her shoulders, much like an actual pair of bird’s wings. They had the golden-brown hue of a falcon, making them surprisingly attractive to look at. What caught his eyes, however, was the larger-than-average Magic Circuits flowing from Circe’s body and into the wings. She was obviously concealing their interior but, with the brief glances he could get during her spin, Vahn saw a flash or reddish-pink set within a subtle golden hue that was decidedly more artificial than the external appearance of the feathers…

Sensing that Vahn wasn’t trying to see under her skirt anymore, Circe covered her mouth with her dainty little fingers before giggling playfully. At the same time, she frolicked over without even the smallest hint of hostility until she came to a stop right in front of Vahn. As if she couldn’t even see Fenrir and Artoria, Circle began to fidget from side-to-side, making the thin fabric covering her chest sway with her motions, Much like her skirt, however, the fabric ‘always’ covered what it needed to, a fact Circe was well aware of as she began to happily laugh before saying, “Come, I have prepared a banquet to celebrate your accomplishments in the war thus far~! Since you are a special guest, I’ll even make a suuuuuuper exception and hand-feed you myself! I want you to tell me all about yourself until you have eaten your fill! If you are able to eat enough to satisfy me…I may even let you take a peek~?” When she said the last sentence, Circe grabbed the edges of her short skirt and pulled them up slightly in a teasing manner.

As this was well within his expectations, Vahn nodded his head without hesitation before saying, “We have limited time, so I’ll only stay until midnight at the latest. After that, you’ll have to answer my questions…deal?” Though Loki had taught him to never underestimate people, especially when they appeared ‘simple’, Vahn had a distinct impression that Circe wasn’t trying to trick them, at least outside of her ‘main’ trick. She obviously wanted to feed him her legendary wheat porridge while shoving all kinds of other delicacies down his throat. For most people, this would guarantee they became some kind of animal, usually representing their ‘character’. Powerful and heroic figures would become lions while those of lesser status would become sheep, lambs, or pigs. Then, if they had slighted her, Circe would let the banquet come to an end, causing the animals to enter into a frenzy that usually ended with the ‘leader’ of the group slaughtering and devouring everyone else…

Never suspecting that she was walking into a trap herself, Circe smiled so radiantly that Vahn felt like a gentle ‘pulse’ passed through his body. At the same time, she stepped close enough that she was nearly looking directly up at his face as she said, “Okaaay~! You have to eat everything I give you though, no exceptions~! I don’t like picky eaters!” With that said, Circe fearlessly grabbed Vahn’s hand and began pulling him along like a child wanting to show their parents something interesting they had found. As for Artoria and Fenrir, they just gave each other helpless stares before following after the two at a much slower pace than Circe was dragging Vahn. Though it felt like the banquet hall stretched out forward, it actually took them less than a minute to reach what appeared to be the far end of the room.

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There was a pale golden throne situated at the very center of the far wall, various dishes surrounding it at arm’s length. Circe guided Vahn to sit in the throne before happily clapping her hands and picking up a small pot filled with a subtle-green wheat porridge. Then, as if it was her right to do so, Circe flitted up before softly plopping down on Vahn’s lap as if she had no weight whatsoever. Then, using a silver spoon, Circe scooped up a mouthful of porridge before teasingly intoning, “Aaaaaaahn~.” Following this, Vahn made her smile grow even wider when he unhesitantly leaned forward and bit down on every offered spoonful…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Nobunaga is not pleased…!’,’Stay strong, Fenrir. Fight on…!’,’A Unique Form of Hospitality’)

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