Chapter 1094: Adapt

Though she would have liked to give Artoria and Gray the opportunity to continue talking, Rin apologetically nipped that possibility in the bud by stating, “Sakura could be waking up soon. I don’t want her to panic if I’m not there when she wakes up…” Since Sakura was just a six-year-old girl at the moment, it would certainly be discomforting for her to wake up to an empty house. Even if Illya, Circe, Nobunaga, Lakshmibai, and Scáthach were all nearby, they would currently be strangers to the young and confused Sakura. Having people she didn’t know in her house, especially while her Okaa-chan was missing, would probably cause her to cry her eyes out. Illya might be able to wrangle her in pretty easily, but she was also in a rather ‘peculiar’ state of mind right now so it wasn’t necessarily the best idea to rely on her…

Gray seemed saddened by Rin’s words while Artoria, understanding the sensitive nature of Sakura’s situation, gave a polite bow before saying, “Some other time.” This was immediately followed up by Vahn, however, smiling as he said, “You are free to stop by the Tohsaka Manor whenever you’d like Gray. Artoria and I will still be staying there until Rin returns to London…” With the completion of the Holy Grail War, Vahn knew that Rin’s time before ‘having’ to return was already limited. This was even more so for people like Lord El-Melloi II and Gray as, now that their ‘duty’ was completed, they could be back in London before sunrise of the following day. Since it would probably be difficult for her and Artoria to contact each other later on, Vahn felt it was better the two talked about whatever was on Gray’s mind before their separation.

With a sudden hopeful expression on her face, Gray looked toward Lord El-Melloi II with big eyes, eliciting a sigh from the middle-aged Magus before he said, “It would be better if you aren’t here when Madam Barthomeloi is around. At this point, I’d argue that you have a few months of vacation days if you want to take them. I understand how important an existence Artoria is to you…take your time, Gray…” Then, after saying that, Lord El-Melloi II alternated his gaze between Vahn and Rin before adding, “I trust you will better explain the situation before we have to face the Tribunal back in London. For the time being, I will entrust Gray to your care…” The last few words were directed to Vahn, causing Lord El-Melloi II to have an uncomfortable feeling in his heart as his intuition told him this might not actually be the best idea. His intentions were to have Gray collect information on Vahn before flying back to London with Rin but, seeing the casual smile on Vahn’s face, Lord El-Melloi II slumbering paternal instincts, even though he wasn’t Gray’s father, began acting up…

Unaware of the sudden internal struggle of her Mentor, Gray had one of the largest smiles Vahn had ever seen on her face as she brought her hands together and exclaimed, “Thank you~!” This seemed to actually ‘impact’ Lord El-Melloi II as, though it wasn’t by much, his whole body flinched when Gray directed her lethal smile towards him. Now, even if he wanted to change his mind, the thought of seeing her suddenly heartbroken forced him to bury the words deep in his heart. He did, however, glare at Vahn in some vain attempt to keep the man from doing anything ‘suspect’ towards his protege. The only thing he got in response, unfortunately, was a confused blink, followed by Vahn tilting his head slightly as if to ask, ‘Was there something?’.

Now with a plus-one accompanying them, the group was drawing even more attention as, even though there were differences in their appearance, seeing two ethereal qualities ‘western’ beauties walking side-by-side had quite the impact on the average Japanese person. Gray had lowered her hood after Artoria had asked, showing that they even had similar hairstyles, both with long fringe bangs framing their youthful and doll-like faces. Instead of letting their hair hang naturally, as it would get in the way during combat, both girls had neat french-style braided buns that Vahn had yet to identify how Artoria was able to style on her own. What stood out the most, at least to him, was the fact that both girls had a prominent ‘ahoge’, a tuft of hair that poked out from the tops of their head in defiance of the laws of gravity. When they excitedly talked to each other, Vahn could see how the ahoge moved about as if they had minds of their own, much like how a Chienthropes tail would wag when they were happy…

After deciding he would need to explore this peculiarity at some point, as there were obviously some Laws at play he didn’t understand, Vahn left the two to their own devices. They were walking a little bit behind the rest of the group but, if something did happen, Vahn could tell that both girls were still paying close attention to their surroundings and would be ready to react on a moment’s notice. With that assurance, Vahn ‘escorted’ Rin through the cold morning traffic by holding her arm as, on his right side, Fenrir held his hand without minding the looks of passersby in the least. Other than Alaya, who she would periodically stare at for long periods of time, Fenrir didn’t particularly care about the pedestrian traffic walking about. So long as they did not direct any disgust or hostility towards the group, which she was extremely perceptive to, she wouldn’t bother with them…

Though the entire trip took more than an hour, including a rather awkward train ride, Sakura was still sleeping soundly in her actual bedroom from childhood. Rin went to check on her immediately after they returned while Vahn went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for everyone. Though Gray tried to offer her assistance, even Artoria prevented her from ‘interfering’ in Vahn’s ‘creative process’. She had been genuinely shocked by Vahn’s cooking skills and, as meal preparation had always been one of her pet peeves, Artoria’s opinion of him had improved by leaps and bounds since she first tasted his highly nutritious food.

One person that couldn’t be kept out of the kitchen, however, despite Artoria’s insistence, was none other than Circe. As if she had sensed that Vahn was cooking, she had quickly appeared at the door of the kitchen before immediately joining in. It wasn’t until Vahn asked Artoria to go keep Gray company that the fretful Knight left them to take care of breakfast. This obviously made Circe very happy as, with it being just the two of them in the kitchen, she misconstrued Vahn’s dismissal of Artoria as ‘special treatment’. The truth of the matter was, as he intended to have Circe essentially become their organization’s Chef, he merely wanted to see her cooking process up close…

With Vahn ‘peeking’ over her shoulder, Circe was in a great mood as her wings flitted about happily while she used a combination of various spells to expedite the cooking process. Even at a glance, it was easy to see that she was far more comfortable in the kitchen than even Vahn was. He relied on extremely high-quality ingredients and a heavy focus on each phase of the meal preparation while Circe, as if it was easier for her than breathing, would handle dozens of ingredients at the same time. She skillfully handled most things with her telekinetic abilities while the surrounding tools and appliances ‘literally’ seemed to gain life as they began processing things for her. Vahn never realized how ‘magical’ making breakfast could be, causing him to watch in fascination as Circe completed a meal that could easily feed ten people in less than seven minutes…

Being especially sensitive to others giving her attention, Circe was in an even better mood by the time she had finished cooking everything. With a playful smile on her face, Circe tossed the frilly apron she had been wearing toward Vahn, giggling as she said, “I normally don’t let people watch me cook, so be grateful, okay~?” After finishing these words, Circe waited for Vahn to remove the apron from his face before jumping up and sneaking a kiss on his left cheek. Then, like a child who had successfully completed a prank, Circe quickly alighted from the kitchen, laughing like the Nymph she was all the while. This left Vahn the duty of carrying the surprising volume of food but, with a simple hand gesture, he easily stored it within his Inventory to make sure there were no ‘tricks’ hidden within the food’s description…

By the time Vahn reached the dining room, almost everyone was present, including Rin and a very sleepy-looking Sakura. She was still wearing the animal pajamas from the previous night, looking like an adorable tanuki as she bobbed her head without seeming to mind the presence of everyone else in the room. This all changed when she looked toward him, however, her big blue eyes showing a small amount of intrigue and confusion until Rin gave a somewhat awkward smile and whispered, “That is your Otou-sama…” Though Rin allowed Sakura to call her Okaa-chan, she knew it would be easier to explain Vahn’s relationship with other women if Sakura was already used to addressing him with honorifics. In time, she intended to explain that Vahn was an ‘Emperor’, though she was still working out the details of that particular conversation in the back of her mind…

As her memories of her father had effectively been erased after Merlin’s ‘intervention’, Sakura seemed genuinely surprised by what her Okaa-chan had said. She suddenly became extremely bashful, hugging Rin’s waist and burying her face into her abdomen without looking directly at Vahn. This caused Rin to look at Vahn for help, causing his own smile to soften as he made his way over and knelt down next to the two before stroking Sakura’s back. The unfamiliar contact caused Sakura to peek out of the corner of her eye, seeing Vahn’s face in close proximity with a gentle smile spread across his kindly expression. Eventually, Sakura seemed to summon up a bit of courage as, while still hugging Rin’s waist, she sheepishly asked, “Are you really my Otou-sama…?”

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Without letting any hesitation or apprehension show on his face, Vahn nodded his head in response before gently rubbing Sakura’s head as he answered, “Of course, my precious little cherry blossom…” Though showing her too much affection would probably cause Sakura to feel a bit of separation anxiety when she flew off to London, Vahn still wanted her to open up to him before then. Thus, after watching Sakura look to Rin for ‘confirmation’ once again, Vahn gently pulled the small girl in his embrace, hugging her frail body in much the same way he would his own children. This seemed to be all the confirmation she needed, causing Sakura to rest her head against his shoulder as she somewhat sleepily muttered, “Otou-sama…my Otou-sama…”

—-

Using Sakura as a ‘natural barrier’ to prevent Circe from trying to forcefeed him breakfast, Vahn enjoyed having his new surrogate daughter sit in his lap as she somewhat messily ate her meal. Though Illya seemed to envy Sakura somewhat, the fact she had already called Vahn her Onii-sama made it hard for her to try and ‘steal’ the position from his ‘daughter’. She knew he and Sakura weren’t actually related but, as her own situation was already more than a little peculiar, she elected not to cause any drama for the impromptu family. This was largely due to the fact that she knew Rin and Sakura would be leaving for London in a few days, but that was beside the point. For now, she enjoyed the unexpected companionship of Fenrir who, for reasons she couldn’t quite ascertain, was very kind to her…

Though everyone had their own thoughts on various matters, breakfast proceeded in a relatively festive manner with everyone in high spirits by the meal’s completion. Gray had originally just wanted to get along with Artoria but, after seeing the two of them talking amicably, most of the other Servants quickly joined the conversation. Nobunaga made a few less-than-appropriate comments but, understanding Vahn would probably be annoyed with her if she took things too far in front of Sakura, she made sure they were heavily layered in innuendo. This was still enough to get a bashful response from Gray while Artoria, having already gotten used to Nobunaga’s uncouth behavior, lightly reprimanded her in response. As for Lakshmibai and Circe, the former also got along well with Gray and Artoria while the latter, finding herself seated next to Scáthach, was on her best behavior as she tried to make polite conversation with Fenrir and Illya. The only person who wasn’t present was Heracles but, as he took a monstrous amount of mana to keep manifested, he would spend most of his time as a Spirit when Illya wasn’t in danger…

In this manner, breakfast proceeded without incident, punctuated by Vahn giving Sakura a kiss on her forehead before entrusting her to Rin once again. Afterward, he went into the Sub-Space Orb with everyone except Fenrir and Illya, as the latter would probably have a bad reaction to seeing him get brutalized by Scáthach. To her credit, Illya didn’t make any attempts to argue against her staying outside the Orb, something Vahn would later learn was due to her desire to separate from Sakura and Rin ‘sooner’. Though she didn’t fully blame the two sisters for what she had experienced in the past, it was a simple fact that Rin had not only failed to prevent Gilgamesh from murdering her, when they were supposed to be allies, but she had also ‘let’ Shirou, her last real family, die as well. As a result, the ‘shorter’ the interval before she no longer had to see them, the better…

Unaware of Illya’s surprisingly level-headed analysis of her own trauma, Vahn was more focused on evading each of Scáthach’s seemingly undodgeable thrusts. Unless he prioritized ‘running’, it was virtually impossible to avoid having her [Gae Bolg] pierce into his body. Since she knew it wouldn’t actually kill, Scáthach wasn’t shy when it came to using a weakened form of her Noble Phantasm to try and ‘encourage’ Vahn to dodge better. Since it would feel like hot thorns would branch through his body with even a light wound, Vahn really was pretty desperate in trying to evade her blows…

Stepping back on his left foot, Vahn managed to avoid one thrust with Scáthach’s spear only grazing against his cheek. At the exact same instant, however, a second spear cut through his Achilles tendon, sending him tumbling to the ground before Scàthach quickly followed it up by stabbing him through the chest. This was far from the first time Vahn had been skewered by Scáthach, but this time she added insult to injury by saying, “Stay focused. Do not pay attention to her.” With this said, she flicked her wrist and, as if Vahn’s weight was completely negligible, sent him flying several tens of meters through the air before slamming hard into the ground.

Knowing that staying down would afford him no reprieve, Vahn instantly bounded back to his feet as he complained, “Yeah, I’m trying…” in an exasperated and pained tone. At the same time, he gave an annoyed glance toward Alaya who, from the start of the training session, had been hovering around like an annoying fly. Not only was she able to easily keep pace with his and Scáthach’s movements, but even powerful shockwaves seemed to have virtually no effect on Alaya as she continued to stare unblinkingly at him getting thrashed by Scáthach. The latter didn’t seem to appreciate the fact he had turned his attention away once again, breaking into Vahn’s range in an instant as she stabbed both spears mercilessly into his abdomen…

At the very same instant that Scáthach stabbed him, Vahn severed his connection with [Will of the Emperor], somewhat excited at the prospect he had ensnared his Teacher in a trap. To Scáthach’s credit, she immediately let go of her spears but, as ‘Vahn’ obviously associated her as the reason there were two spears in his gut, his automated defenses had been activated. As a result, Vahn’s pupils shrank to small points as he pulled out both [Gae Bolg] and almost instantly transformed into an exact replica of Scáthach. This caused Alaya’s purple eyes to begin glowing, an obvious indication that she was both recording and analyzing the battle with even more scrutiny than before.

Like a mechanical whirlwind of death, Vahn used smooth and precise movements that he couldn’t even come close to emulating under normal circumstances. Scáthac, for the first time, was almost purely focused on defense as she used two short spears to deflect the majority of Vahn’s blows. This wasn’t enough to completely stop Vahn’s assault, however, causing a few nicks and tears in the fabric of her bodysuit when he struck from a particularly difficult angle. Unfortunately for Vahn, this was an ultimately futile effort as, instead of piercing flesh, the spears passed across Scáthach’s skin like a gentle caress without even leaving the shallowest of injuries…

When Vahn performed a low sweeping spin, his body so low that his face nearly touched the ground, Scáthach seemed to have lost her patience with his little stunt. Though he wasn’t able to appreciate it until later, a small smile spread across the cold beauty’s face as time around them seemed to slow to a crawl. Immediately following this, Scáthach stabbed towards Vahn’s chest with the most basic thrust imaginable, something even a novice would be able to perform. As he naturally moved to try and deflect it, however, [Laplace’s Key] seemed to ‘fail’ him as Scáthach’s spear continued forward undaunted as his own parry struck empty air. When he viewed the ‘memory’ latter, Vahn experienced one of the most severe shocks of his life as, every time he looked at the memory, the trajectory of Scáthach’s spear would change. The only thing that didn’t change was the outcome, resulting in her simple stab entering into his chest before fading into a deep state of unconsciousness…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Sending a little lamb into the wolf’s den…’,’Otou-sama…?’,’What it means to have spearmanship beyond comprehension…’)

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