Chapter 1089: Accompaniment

Though Merlin claimed it would only take a few minutes, Vahn and Co had already been waiting for more than twenty as a rather awkward atmosphere permeated through the area. Fenrir kept herself distracted by playing with the dozen or so piglets running around in the room while, near the center, Vahn sat lazily next to Circe while Artoria sat in a far more ‘proper’ manner at his side. The sleeping Demi-Goddess had yet to wake up but, as a result of her relatively defenseless state, Vahn was able to see the strangely arranged Magic Circuits on the inside of her wings. Though he could understand their structure, there were a few principles that he wasn’t able to comprehend at his current level. As he couldn’t even figure out the mechanic that made her thin tunic and skirt automatically obscure the vision of others, however, this wasn’t all that surprising…

Artoria was usually a very patient woman but, as if Merlin was her natural weakness, she eventually muttered, “That fool probably got sidetracked by a stray cat or something…” This caused Vahn to laugh in a lighthearted manner, resulting in Artoria showing a slightly embarrassed expression since she had been talking to herself. To keep the conversation flowing, Vahn leaned back so that he was supporting himself on his palms as he mused, “This all feels a little anti-climactic, doesn’t it? I’m half expecting an army of golems or something to show up at any moment…”

With a curt nod of affirmation, Artoria quickly responded by saying, “That would be nice. Though I do not wish for any innocents to be harmed, the fact I have barely even fought during this Holy Grail War leaves me feeling uneasy. It felt like I was the central figure in the previous two instances…haa…” Remembering how chaotic things had been previously, Artoria felt like something was ‘wrong’ with how smoothly this Holy Grail War had been. Though she knew this had a lot to do with Vahn and the various anomalies that had been present this time around, it felt strange to simply be waiting for the arrival of Merlin and Illya. Even if she knew there had been a very real possibility the world could have been destroyed, Artoria had the impression that would never happen with Vahn around…

Turning her head, Artoria found that Vahn had been watching her with half-lidded eyes and a small smile on his face, causing her to swallow instinctually before asking, “Is there something, Master…?” In response to this, Vahn playfully mused, “To think my King of Knights is sad that she wasn’t able to be the center of attention…don’t worry, I’ll make sure to pay lots of attention to you later.” At the end of his words, Vahn gave a small wink that caused Artoria to inhale a deep breath before saying, “You…you should discipline yourself better…this is neither the time nor the place for such remarks…”

Giving a small shrug in response, Vahn then laid back against the floor with his hands behind his head as he stated, “Unless you’re someone like Merlin or Scáthach, you never know what the future might hold. Leaving things unsaid will just lead to regrets if something did happen…besides, other than a few piglets, there isn’t anyone here to complain about a few flirtatious remarks…” Since he was currently monitoring everything in an 8km diameter, doing his best to try and detect Merlin, Vahn wasn’t worried about being caught off guard. Even if he was in a relaxed state, he was fully prepared to engage any enemies that might appear before them.

Though she had a look of conflict on her face, Artoria eventually released a sigh before saying, “It is important to rest when one can…even during long campaigns, I always tried to encourage my men to relax between battles. I suppose this is just another example of the same principle…” As someone who had lost to Vahn in an extremely short period of time, Artoria realized she didn’t have too much room to criticize him. She was very aware of how powerful his senses were so, if an enemy were to attack, he would be prepared to engage them even before she was. With that in mind, Artoria let her shoulders sloop a bit as she allowed her armor to dissipate.

Seeing Artoria relax, Vahn’s smile increased in size as he remarked, “Though you cut a striking figure in armor, I still think you look far more elegant in that dress…hahaha…” Since he had seen her flinch at his compliment, Vahn felt an irresistible urge to laugh. Then, as he was genuinely curious, Vahn sat up before asking, “By the way, Artoria, can you tell me what kind of battles you fought during your time? Since you were born during the Era of Man, I find it difficult to conceive what kind of enemies would have required you to lead an army against. If the Knights of the Round table were even half as strong as you are, I can’t help but wonder what kind of enemies you had faced…”

Even though Nobunaga’s memories had cleared up a bit of his confusion, the fact that powerful figures seemed to all but ‘disappear’ from history bothered Vahn. He knew the powers behind the scenes had been altering events to make them seem less ‘fantastical’, but the fact that such battles had been forgotten to time didn’t make that much sense to him. After all, there were millions of people who had been there to witness events like Lakshmibai’s revolution while the entire country of Japan had been subjected to Nobunaga’s conquest. The fact they became relatively ‘weak’ in the history books, even though word of mouth alone should have been enough to carry their legacy, was something that genuinely confused Vahn…

As a result of Vahn’s inquiries, Artoria began detailing some of the battles she had participated in to try and unite the British Isles. Though she wasn’t particularly fond of talking about the past, the fact she had spent the last few days trying to learn about Vahn made it hard to refuse. If nothing else, it was a better way to pass the time than simply watching Circe sleep. Since it also prevented Vahn from randomly flirting with her, Artoria decided to keep him distracted by answering his questions without embellishing too many details. Surprisingly, after around half an hour, Artoria found it was strangely therapeutic to talk with him, almost like she was ‘releasing’ tensions that were deeply ingrained into her body…

By the time Vahn sensed an almost imperceptible fluctuation within his domain, it was near 3 AM. He was starting to get worried whether or not Merlin was even going to show up. Though listening to Artoria talk about her past was rather insightful, tonight was supposed to be the last night of the Holy Grail War. If they continued delaying things, the involvement of the Holy Church would only increase, making it far more difficult to end the war on their terms. Fortunately, with a little under three hours left before sunrise, Merlin appeared out of thin air, the sleeping Illya curled up in his arms. She was only around 135cm tall so, while Merlin wasn’t all that tall himself, she looked like a small child when wrapped up in a blanket…

As if to answer an unasked question, Merlin showed a slightly awkward expression as he explained, “I have been dealing with other small issues so I never had the opportunity to secure any clothes for the young lady. I’m certain you can help to facilitate, yes…?” Since Illya’s clothing had been destroyed during her transformation, the best Merlin had been able to do was provide a blanket to wrap her body. As he ‘technically’ existed as a Ruler-Class Servant right now, he lacked the [Item Construction] ability so, unless he went out and stole some clothing for her, something he ‘literally’ couldn’t do, Merlin was rather helpless to deal with her situation.

Artoria quickly took Illya from Merlin’s arms before moving her far away like a mother fleeing with her child from a criminal. At the same time, Vahn handed over a change of clothes to Fenrir before looking Merlin directly in his eyes and saying, “Try not to peek this time, Perverted Old Man…” Since now wasn’t the time to get ‘even’ with Merlin, Vahn was allowing his rage to mature within his heart until they were in a less tense situation. Though he might not even be able to do anything against Merlin, at least under normal circumstances, Vahn felt like it wouldn’t be all that difficult to ensnare him in a trap before exactly ‘vengeance’ against the so-called ‘Magus of Flowers’.

Feeling as if he was currently the target of everyone’s ire, Merlin awkwardly scratched his cheek with both eyes closed and an awkward smile on his face. Then, while Fenrir and Artoria were helping Illya get dressed, he turned his attention to Circe and saying, “She should not have slept this long. Maybe the dream I gave her was too pleasant…?” When he asked this question, Merlin’s eyes began to glow with a subtle pink and purple hue, something Vahn saw flowing around in Circe’s head a moment later. As he had seen how Preasia’s abilities affected other people, Vahn could confirm without any doubt that Merlin had the ability to manipulate people’s dreams. Unlike Preasia, however, he was an extremely powerful Illusionist who could even drain energy from people while they slept as a result of being Half-Incubus…

Though he wasn’t sure if Merlin could hear him right now, Vahn warned in a serious voice, “If I ever find you sneaking into any of my companions’ dreams without their permission, do not think I will let you off. Had the circumstances been even slightly different, there is a good chance we would have already become enemies after what you pulled. Even if you think you are unkillable, I can promise you that there are worse things than death in this world…”

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With his eyes still glowing, Merlin looked at Vahn with a slight smile on his face as he remarked in a somewhat hazy tone of voice, “That is good…and yes, I am very aware of that fact…I will take your…” As if he forgot what he was going to say, Merlin’s eyes lost focus towards the end of his words as an amused smile quickly spread across his lips. Then, before Vahn could inquire, Merlin suddenly said, “I almost feel guilty about having to wake you up…now, now, all good things must come to an end my dear. If you spend all your happiness in memories and dreams, the flavor of life will become bland…”

Vahn had no idea what Merlin was talking about but he was able to deduce his words were directed towards Circe. The latter had started to roll around as if she were uncomfortable, a frown on her face as she apparently refused to wake up. Unfortunately for her, Merlin wasn’t a novice in his profession, resulting in Circe releasing a frustrated groan before lifting her body lazily and rubbing her eyes. Her ears drooped somewhat adorably and, after rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Vahn got to see the sight of Circe yawning with both arms outstretched before she began to stretch her body, seemingly without regard to her surroundings. If not for her clothes working in overdrive to protect her dignity, both Vahn and Merlin would have gotten quite the view by the time Circe turned her pink-green to her surroundings.

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When she saw Merlin standing on the side, Circe’s face formed into a pout but, no matter how hard she tried to place who he was, she had no memories of ever meeting him. The only thing she knew was that he was annoying, resulting in Circe quickly ignoring him as she beamed towards Vahn and mischievously inquired, “Did you do anything to me while I was sleeping? I’ll know if you’re lying~.”

With a clean conscience, Vahn shook his head but, after remembering this wasn’t entirely true, he quickly explained, “Your wings were sprawled open while you were sleeping so I studied them a bit. I didn’t touch you though, at least after laying you down on that futon…” Following Vahn’s finger with her entire head, Circe saw she was laying on a surprisingly comfortable black mat that was far softer than any bed she had ever slept on. Though she was a little ‘troubled’ that Vahn had peeked at one of her most sensitive secrets, she instantly decided to forgive him, though not before saying, “Since you peeked, I’m going to take this futon as compensation. But really, Vahn, you shouldn’t pry into a lady’s secrets without her permission…I’m a…maiden…” As these words left her mouth, Circe blinked in confusion before a rosy blush crept up on her cheeks.

Vahn was about to ask what was wrong but, before the words left his mouth, he heard a voice echo in his mind, (“My…you are hard to contact…fumuu…well, anyways. If you are willing to hear it, I would advise that you not pry into what Lady Circe is thinking about. She is a delicate woman so it may not end well if you pressure her too hard…”) Then, before Vahn could send a telepathic message of his own, Merlin brought him to stunned silence by explaining, (“I felt bad for her so I allowed her to have a dream where she was able to experience the ‘happiness’ of a woman. Since she seemed fond of you, I decided to have you be her partner. So long as you don’t mention it, everything should be fine…”)

‘Hearing’ what Merlin had said, Vahn didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he stared back at the man with an incredulous light in his eyes. He couldn’t fathom how Merlin thought it would be a good idea to allow Circe to have such an experience, even in her dreams. The fact she had been unwilling to wake up was like seeing an entire army of flagbearers marching across an open plain. Because of this, Vahn was almost certain that Merlin was messing with him, even if he didn’t really understand the man’s reasons for doing so. It could be a way to ‘test’ him but, considering his actions thus far, Vahn couldn’t even fathom why the errant Magus would do such a thing. The only thing that seemed to make sense, at least from a certain perspective, was that Merlin was being passive-aggressive toward him after he slept with Artoria. Though he would probably do the same towards any boy that wanted to get with one of his daughters, Vahn never expected to be on the receiving end of such treatment out of the blue…

Uncertain if he should even follow Merlin’s advice, as the Magus could just be setting him up even further, Vahn repressed a sigh before reaching out his hand and just patting Circe’s head. This made her ears twitch adorably but, instead of focusing his attention on her, Vahn continued to stare at Merlin as he asked, “When will we be entering the territory of the Greater Grail?” As a result of him ‘ignoring’ her, Circe began to glare at Merlin with an accusatory look, even as her ears waggled up and down. This caused Merlin to blink in surprise before allowing his characteristic smile to appear as he replied, “We can go after the little lady wakes up. You still need to transfer her Command Spells over to your body. Though you may be intending to destroy the Greater Grail, having more Command Spells could prove useful if there are any unforeseen incidents.”

After hearing Merlin’s explanation, Vahn gave Circe’s head one last rub before rising to his feet and saying, “Let’s get this over with. The sooner everything is resolved, the faster we can move on to more important matters.” With that said, Vahn helped the pouting Circe rise to her feet as, regardless of whether or not he was trying to divert her ‘hatred’ towards Merlin, it would be rude if he just left her seated before walking off. This brought a happy smile to her face as she flittered behind him, a little too close for comfort but not really in the way.

Seeing Illya wearing a pair of animal pajamas, Vahn felt a brief twinge of pain in his chest before suppressing it moments later. Though she wasn’t one of his children, seeing a small girl that he knew had struggled her entire life was enough to break Vahn’s heart. Just the fact that she had a scar running across both eyes and the bridge of her nose, even though it was faded, made him wish he could kill Gilgamesh a second time. With that in mind, Vahn slowly traced his thumb across the scar on Illya’s eyes, a gentle rainbow light flowing from the tip and into her skin. By the time he had swept his thumb across her face, Illya’s scar was nowhere to be seen. Later, depending on how comfortable she was with it, Vahn intended to heal the scar on her chest as well…

From the side, where he had been watching with a surprisingly serious expression, Merlin suddenly muttered, “That energy…you are capable of using True Magic in its purest form…how peculiar…” As his Source Energy was always interpreted as the highest form within a Record, Vahn wasn’t surprised that Merlin would also misidentify it. Since there was no reason to correct him, Vahn ignored his remark before ‘stealing’ the Command Spells on Illya’s arm. This brought his total to seventeen, a somewhat ridiculous amount from any normal standpoint. If he used them all, Vahn felt that even Circe would be able to beat down someone like Berserker with her bare hands…

With that in mind, Vahn focused on two new connections that had appeared, one belonging to Heracles and the other, much larger presence, belonging to Illya. Though it was technically Cath Palug that was supposed to be under his control, they were essentially one and the same unless he intended to use yet another [Fate Severing Knife]. Since this would have the effect of releasing the currently genocidal ‘Primate Murder’ on the world, however, Vahn elected to save his billion OP for more pressing matters. His current priority was destroying the Greater Grail, completing his Quest, [Cup of Heaven] in the process. He had actually fulfilled most of the objectives already so, after gaining access to the Greater Grail, Vahn would be able to earn a few additional rewards.

After picking up Illya’s exceptionally light body in his arms, Vahn focused his mind and used two of his Command Spells to summon Scáthach and Heracles to his side. Scáthach had informed him several hours ago that she had completed her mission so Vahn had her guard the Manor with Nobu and Lakshmibai while they were waiting on Merlin. Now that they would be entering the space of the Greater Grail, he figured it was best to have their strongest fighting potential available. After all, with the form the Greater Grail had taken in Merlin’s illusion, Vahn didn’t expect it would willingly allow itself to be destroyed.

With the sound of a small thunderclap, the colossal Berserker and the comparably petite Scáthach appeared right in front of him. The former had a steamy red aura flowing around his body as he stared down at Vahn, almost as if he were trying to intimidate him. As for Scáthach, she turned her head to look at Merlin before wordlessly pulling out a weapon Vahn had never seen before, even if it was similar in form to her [Gae Bolg]. Instead of being red, however, it was a deep purple color that caused Merlin to frown slightly as he held his staff in a slightly defensive posture and said, “Now, now, there is no need for such hostility…I assure you…”

Without returning a word of her own, Scáthach continued to stare directly at Merlin, making it very apparent she was prepared to strike him down if he tried anything. Though she had been caught off guard previously, that wouldn’t happen a second time. To Merlin’s credit, he seemed to quickly intuit that Scáthach wasn’t going to suddenly skewer his body. Though it wouldn’t have been able to kill him, it was hard to stay calm in the face of the legendary [Gungnir]. Now that Scáthach had set him as her target, there were no actions he could take to evade her blow. Even if he teleported to the other side of the world in another dimension, the spear would still find purchase and cause him an extreme level of pain…

Deciding it was best to hurry things along, Merlin gave a wry smile before tapping his staff on the ground a few times and saying, “Well now, shall we move on to the final act? I wonder if this will be the overture to a new heroic tale…or the symphony accompanying the end of the world~?” With that said, Merlin tapped the ground one last time, causing a massive spell circle to encompass the entire room for a brief moment. Then, in a flash of light, the only ‘people’ left within the room were a group of piglets piled up around Circe’s futon as they silently snoozed without regard to the severity of Merlin’s words…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Knowing Merlin, he probably rode the train…’,’Never underestimate the petty nature of a Father when it comes to their Daughter…’,’Scáthach be like, “Try me, bitch…”‘)

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