Chapter 1101: Depth

Deciding to track down Paracelsus before the ‘Thread of Fate’ expired, Vahn, Artoria, and Nobunaga began heading towards the coast following the Mion River to the east. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Magecraft and ‘superpowers’ were a closely guarded secret within this world, Vahn was forced to move at a leisurely pace since Artoria was unable to use [Shundo] and would draw too much attention running at high speeds. If not for the fact that it was actually fun to walk around with the two beautiful girls, even if Nobunaga tried to push him into the river by surprise, Vahn would have felt like they were wasting time. He knew his sensibilities were a bit strange, as part of him actually wanted to enjoy a ‘normal’ life for a while, but that simply wasn’t an option…

While Nobunaga would occasionally pick up stones to toss into the River, pelting a few unfortunate fish with impeccable accuracy, Artoria seemed to be enjoying the peaceful moment in silence. She was wearing casual clothes, including a pair of form-fitting blue jeans, riding boots, and a rather expensive looking winter coat she had seen in a shop along the way. She looked like a very high-class young lady as she walked slightly behind Vahn with her hands crossed over her lap. Whenever he would look back at her, Artoria would return a small smile, causing Vahn to feel that spending time like this wasn’t all that bad. Of course, any time it felt like he was having a ‘moment’ with Artoria, Nobunaga would gently elbow his side or pull him along to look at something she had taken an interest in.

After being dragged off by Nobunaga once again, they both noticed a group of youths, all young men around 14-16 years old, messing with something near the riverbank. Though Vahn had already sensed them in his domain, he hadn’t been paying much attention to them until he noticed what they were doing. Before he even took action, however, Nobunaga practically flew through the air, planting her military-style boots into one boy’s face and sending him flying into the river. Though she held back a lot of her strength, as it would have otherwise killed the youth, it was a pretty vicious strike. In response to this, the boy’s friends all freaked out as one, having dyed blonde hair and an earring, shouted, “Who the f*** is this crazy bitch!?”

Before anyone could answer his question, Nobunaga’s foot drew a perfect arc into the boy’s testicles before she threw a precise punch into another boy’s face. By the time any of them really understood what was happening, all five members of their little posse were on the ground with various injuries, some far more serious than others. At this point, Vahn had already arrived at the scene, ignoring the boy’s almost completely as he bent down and placed his palm against a ragged cat’s body. The group had been torturing the unfortunate animal, leading to several of its ribs being broken as it twitched about against the embankment releasing small and wheezy mewls of pain…

Nobunaga didn’t look like she was anywhere near satisfied with the punishment she had dished out but, before she could break one of the boy’s legs, Vahn shook his head and said, “Stop…they may have done something cruel, but they are still just children. With those injuries, it will be their parents who have to pay the price for their hospital bills. Though they bear some responsibility for what their children have done, there is no need to take things too far…” As he was speaking, Vahn quickly set the broken bone’s within the cat’s body before drawing a few [Primordial Rune]s to heal it. He might not specialize in animals, but Vahn’s medical skills were more than enough to treat a juvenile black cat, even if it was on the verge of death…

Though Nobunaga looked like she wanted to argue, Vahn picked up the cat’s body before handing it over to her and saying, “She should be fine…” Since the cat was otherwise healthy, even though it seemed to be a stray, Vahn knew it just needed a bit of rest to recover completely. To aid in this, he purchased a small fish from the system shop that had a small amount of mana in it. Though the cat was still in Nobunaga’s arms, Vahn wiggled the fish in front of its nose while she watched his actions with her blood-red eyes. The moment the cat smelled the unnaturally fragrant fish, it’s eyelids peeled open, revealing a pair of sapphire blue eyes that immediately came into focus as it eyed the fish in Vahn’s hands.

With a smile on his face, Vahn gently stroked the cat’s body as he held the fish close enough for it to quickly nom down on it as if it hadn’t eaten in days. Though it should have developed a trauma from being tortured by humans, the cat seemed to understand they weren’t a threat to it as, shortly after it finished eating the fish, it began to pur under Vahn’s caress. This caused Nobunaga to give Vahn a teasing look as she muttered, “You don’t even spare animals with those evil hands of your’s…” In response to this, as Nobunaga was holding the cat right in front of her chest, Vahn used the back of his hand to stroke her breast, sending a small ‘jolt’ through his knuckle as he passed over the area where her nipple was located.

Startled by the unexpected stimulus, Nobunaga quickly turned away from Vahn as if she hugged the cat, both shielding it with her body and using it to shield her chest. Seeing this, Vahn released a soft chuckle before pulling out his cell phone and calling an ambulance. At the same time, Artoria had already fetched the boy that Nobunaga had kicked into the river. He had lost consciousness and, though Vahn was going to pull him out before he drowned, Artoria had beaten him to it as she pulled the boy by his collar before throwing him onto the embankment. His nose and left collarbone had been broken by Nobunaga’s sudden attack but, as Artoria was quite fond of cats, she didn’t feel too guilty tossing him aside like trash…

Deciding not to stick around and be questioned by the police, Vahn, Artoria, and Nobunaga quickly left the scene, now with a plus-one in the form of a black cat. It seemed like Nobunaga had decided to make the six or seven-month-old cat her pet, letting it rest in her embrace as she stroked its black fur with her right hand. As if it understood its position, the cat obediently purred in accordance with its new Master’s caress, resting its head against her arm as it went with the flow of the situation. By the time they reached the coast, Vahn even heard Nobunaga calling it by the name Susu as she lightly poked its nose, much to the cat’s frustration…

Upon reaching the sea, Vahn held out his hand and saw that the thin blue strand continued forward at a slight angle towards the wintery water that seemed to stretch out into infinity. Nobunaga saw this and, understanding its meaning, remarked, “I’m going to return to the Manor with Susu. If you need my help, you can summon me with one of those Command Spells.” Since she didn’t want to leave it on the shoreline, Nobunaga was intending to take her newfound pet back to the Manor so it couldn’t wander off. If Paracelsus and his Master had made a base underwater, she wouldn’t be much help anyway since her matchlocks had a trait that made them impossible to use when wet…

Since he wasn’t planning on starting a fight in the first place, Vahn nodded his head before saying, “Tell everyone that we should be back before nightfall.” With a nod of her own, Nobunaga changed her outfit into a neutral gray coat before hugging Susu tightly in her embrace and bolting across the sand. With the speed of a Servant, it wasn’t difficult to travel alone as they would often be mistaken for a strong breeze by all but the most perceptive humans. With clothes that didn’t stand out that much, at least compared to the general color of buildings, Nobunaga quickly approached a low-rise building before leaping directly to the roof. From there, she began to leap from roof to roof like a phantom, the cries of a cat echoing in the wake of her high-speed movements…

Shaking his head in mild exasperation and amusement, Vahn then proceeded to quick-change into what looked like a diving suit. Only his face, hands, and feet were left bare while his muscular body was perfectly accented by the dark-grey, skin-tight, fabric. He didn’t miss the fact that Artoria’s eyes glanced over his body, causing Vahn to smile as he asked, “What will you do?” In response to this, Artoria looked around to make sure there were no people paying attention to them. It was late Fall at the moment so the only beachgoers were those who ran along the beach for the purpose of physical fitness. Since there weren’t any onlookers, Artoria closed her eyes before her clothes burst apart with magical energy before reforming into a diving suit not all that dissimilar to Vahn’s. Instead of dark-grey, however, Artoria’s was a royal blue color with accents of white and gold, almost as if she simply couldn’t help but stick to her ‘base’ color pallet…

Admiring Artoria’s figure without making any effort to appear discreet, the proud Knight sheepishly covered her breasts and crotch with her hands as she mumbled, “We should be going…” Since she had a point, Vahn simply nodded his head in response before taking a deep breath and saying, “I don’t know how far away they went, so we’ll have to pick up the pace a bit. Here, this will help…” Though the formula was a bit different, Vahn was able to cast an ‘unnamed spell’ that allowed a person to breathe underwater for a few hours. There was a good chance that Paracelsus had made his workshop on the seabed so they would likely have to dive pretty deep to be able to reach him.

Though it felt like she was breathing through some kind of filter, Artoria quickly adapted to the strange sensation before taking a few steps forward and diving into the sea. Vahn had followed her back with his eyes for a few moments before quickly diving in after her, knowing he would need to lead the way. Fortunately, though there was a bit of silt obscuring their vision near the shoreline, the water quickly cleared up after a few hundred meters as it transitioned into a pristine blue color. Vahn was momentarily distracted by how ‘pronounced’ Artoria’s figure had become after exposure to the cold water, but the look of blame in her green eyes made him regain his focus. Then, at a speed that would put most submarine’s to shame, Vahn began to follow the glowing blue string attached to his hand…

The fact the ‘String of Fate’ glowed ended up being a huge boon as, after traveling a few hundred meters into the sea, there was a steep dropoff where the water quickly became dark. After diving down nearly eight-hundred meters, there was absolutely no sunlight as Vahn had to use his [Eyes of Truth] to see ahead of him. Strangely, Artoria didn’t seem to suffer from the lack of light either but, remembering she had even been able to fight against Fenrir with a blindfold, it wasn’t all that surprising. She was likely following him by feeling the vibrations in the water, a fact made apparent by how she had closed the distance between them considerably compared to when they could still see.

As they continued to dive deeper, Vahn knew that Artoria wouldn’t be able to keep up with him for much longer as, even for him, it was getting difficult to pull air into his lungs. At a thousand meters, they were experiencing an atmospheric pressure of nearly a hundred bar, or 10,000kPa of pressure over every centimeter of their body. Though Artoria had persisted with her Mana Burt and her super-human levels of Endurance, she eventually exhaled a large plume of bubbles before struggling in the water. Vahn immediately doubled back to guide her to an area where she would be able to breathe again, sending waves of Source Energy into her body to help her stay calm. It was clear he would need to proceed alone so, after reaching around 800m, Vahn placed his forehead against Artoria’s while holding her body in his embrace for a few minutes. They couldn’t communicate at this depth and, as Artoria was too strong for him to give a [Pactio] at his current level, he could only express his intentions through actions…

Once Artoria had calmed down considerably, Vahn slowly separated from her before pulling out a large and radiant mana crystal. This caused a blue glow to light up the endless darkness around them, allowing Vahn and Artoria to see each other clearly. He then handed it over to her, pointing towards the surface before tapping the back of his hand to remind her not to ascend too quickly. Though she couldn’t really suffer from something like decompression sickness, it was still better to be safe than sorry when it came to such things. Since his spell would last for ten hours, Artoria had plenty of time to make her way back to the surface as he continued the search for Paracelsus.

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Nodding her head in understanding, even though there was a conflicted expression on her face, Artoria eventually turned around as she began to slowly rise toward the surface. Vahn felt a little guilty that she couldn’t come along with him but there wasn’t much he could about it since her existence as a [Spirit Vessel] made it impossible for Artoria to learn new skills. If she could use [Cantus Bellax] in conjunction with her [Mana Burst], she would have experienced a qualitative increase in strength. This was yet another reason justifying the recruitment of Paracelsus as, with his and Illya’s combined assistance, it wouldn’t be difficult to make extremely high-quality Homunculi in the future…

After watching Artoria for a while, Vahn eventually turned his attention toward the darkness below before following the thin blue string even deeper. Ironically, after continuing to around 1300m, Vahn found that the string passed through the seabed, continuing into the deep and slimy mud that dotted the entire landscape around him. Though his domain could extend far into the surroundings, it was decided less effective when it came to penetrating solid objects. Vahn’s senses only allowed him to see at inconsistent depths, the deepest not extending more than 150m into the subsurface soot that seemed like it could easily swallow up an entire ship if they were unfortunate enough to sink into the area.

Since he didn’t feel like diving blindly into the thick mud below, Vahn thought about the best course of action before ultimately deciding to make Alaya do some work. Though he would be hesitant to interact with her around the others, there was nobody to see what he might do at the bottom of the sea. With that in mind, Vahn called out, “Alaya, come out.” even though his voice didn’t really carry underwater. This didn’t stop her from appearing, however, illuminating the area for a brief moment as she popped up right in front of him. As if the water had absolutely no effect on her, Alaya asked in her cold monotone, “Do you have orders for me, Master?” Her voice reached his ears without any difficulty, causing Vahn to release a curious ‘hnn’ since it seemed like a useful ability to master.

Setting aside other matters, Vahn asked through a plume of bubbles, “How much Magical Power would it take for you to either teleport me into Paracelsus’ lab or expose it so I can access it more easily…?” This question caused Alaya’s eyes to flash with lines of runes before she answered, “There is a spatial lock around the structure that would cost 4,107 units of Magical Power to breach without destroying it outright. To remove the pelagic sediments obscuring the structure, it would cost between 323,412 and 419,221 units of Magical Power.”

Hearing Alaya’s words, Vahn briefly imagined her shifting the entire seafloor aside to expose Paracelsus’ base, an almost incomprehensible display of power. Though he was capable of attacks that would devastate several kilometers back in Danmachi, the way Alaya talked about performing incredible feats as if it required no effort was strangely unnerving. He knew she was well over Tier 5, making her one of the strongest entities he had ever met, but that didn’t make him feel any better about the situation. Vahn hated feeling inconsequential compared to the greatest powers in the world, to the point he had even ‘fled’ the Record of Danmachi just to avoid potential danger to his family. Now, he was slowly starting to develop bonds with several people in the Nasuverse so Vahn felt nervous around being like Alaya since the level of power she wielded was simply beyond his current ability to comprehend…

Shaking his head to clear such negative thoughts, Vahn moved closer to Alaya before asking, “You know what a Shinso Vampire is, right? I heard this world has something called True Ancestors so you should be able to transform into one. Come, I’ll let you suck my blood until you’re able to stockpile a few thousand units of Magical Power. You can use that power to help me out if anything unexpected happens that I’m unable to deal with due to circumstances beyond my control.” Since Alaya would eventually ‘sample’ most of his bodily fluids, Vahn felt it would save a lot of time if he just let her suck his blood like Eva often did. If he let her drain him for a good hour or so, this would equate to a few hundred thousand units of Magical Power without even causing him to feel anemic.

Contrary to Vahn’s expectations, Alaya shook her head before clarifying, “I am unable to alter my race, even if I can change my features. True Ancestors are closer in nature to Creatures of Gaia so I am unable to emulate their capabilities through normal methods. I can still suck your blood, however, so that will not be an issue.” As she finished saying this, Alaya opened her mouth to reveal two sharp canines that extended to well over a centimeter in length. Vahn gave her a wry smile in response as, seeing a blue-skinned ‘Artoria’ baring her fangs at him at the bottom of the sea was a rather peculiar sight…

So she wouldn’t get carried away, Vahn said, “If I tap your back twice, it means you can speed up your suction. If I press into your spine you need to slow down…when I want you to stop, I’ll push your sides so make sure you are paying attention. If you try to take more than I allow, don’t expect me to cooperate in your data collection in the future…” With that said, Vahn closed the distance between himself and Alaya, pulling him into her embrace as her teeth sank into the flesh between his neck and shoulder. At the same time, her hands grabbed his ribs with an uncomfortable amount of strength that showed Alaya had probably never touched anyone before. Fortunately, she adjusted her strength almost instantly, letting Vahn exhale a few bubbles in relief before double-tapping her back a few times…

While Alaya was draining his blood at a rate just a bit slower than his regeneration, Vahn was feeling a strange twinge in his heart due to the contact between their bodies. The moment he embraced Alaya, Vahn could feel a warm and comfortable pulsing sensation spreading through his body that made the surrounding pressure and coldness disappear entirely. It didn’t even feel like he was in a body of water anymore as a perfectly weightless feeling accompanied the warmth emanating from her body. At the same time, he could feel a powerful heartbeat that resonated through her chest and into his, causing Vahn’s to slowly synchronize with Alaya’s as she continued to persistently suck his blood. If not for the fact he didn’t feel any ‘intent’ from her at all, Vahn would have believed that Alaya was trying to rile him up…

Unbeknownst to Vahn, the vessel that Alaya had been given was perfectly synchronized with his natural biorhythm at all times. Even the smell that emanated from her body was something that only he could sense, perfectly engineered to entice him in order to facilitate smoother data collection. They didn’t want to ‘force’ him, however, so the engineers that had produced Alaya’s body only reduced the effectiveness to the point that it wouldn’t interfere with Vahn’s ‘free will’. Against their expectations, however, Vahn had been able to show a surprising amount of restraint, at least compared to their preliminary analysis of his nature. From what they had observed, Vahn should have already had sex with Alaya during the first night she had been assigned to him. What they could not account for was the fact that Vahn was constantly channeling his [Will of the Emperor] and, as a result of how perturbing Alaya’s disposition was, Vahn’s inhibitions towards her were stronger than his ‘instincts’ to seek her out…

Now that Vahn was holding Alaya in his arms, he had a feeling that their compatibility was much higher than it should be, alerting him to the fact that ‘something’ was wrong. The longer they were in contact, the harder it was to prevent his hands from wanting to explore her body. Though he certainly had the bad habit of petting and touching, the fact he had no such intentions toward Alaya raised a few red flags within his mind. As a result, Vahn put more focus into his [Will of the Emperor], allowing himself to remain relatively calm for a full half-hour before he began to feel his tensions reaching a dangerous level. He actually had to cut off the ‘connection’ between his brain and p**** as, regardless of his intentions, it seemed to be reacting in response to Alaya’s body…

Feeling that she had absorbed around 200,000 units of Magical Power, Vahn placed his hands on Alaya’s sides, feeling strangely giddy as he gently pushed her body away from his. She made no efforts to resist the movement, separating from him without issue before explaining, “I was able to process 203,663 units of Magical Power. Would you like to transfer now, Master?” Though she spoke plainly, Alaya was analyzing the state of Vahn’s body, monitoring his heart rate and measuring the release of chemicals in his brain. His ability to retain his focus and willpower was something she needed to document as his resistance to her body was beyond expected parameters.

Making a mental note that he shouldn’t let Alaya suck his blood too often, Vahn nodded his head in response to her question. Then, in much the same way that Tiamat had been able to forcibly teleport him, Vahn’s surroundings changed in an instant. He found himself in a well-lit laboratory that had the distinctive appearance of a chemistry lab with the complex arrangement of beakers, flasks, and tools for refining materials. Standing at the table was a handsome man, bordering on ‘beautiful’ who had long black hair and brown eyes with a golden hue. With a flask in his hand, the man who Vahn assumed to be Paracelsus looked up at him with a curious expression on his face before smiling as he asked, “Greetings…May I ask what brings you to my Atelier? I had not expected any guests, at least not so soon after the Holy Grail War had come to an end…”

Just as Vahn was about to return a greeting of his own, a woman wearing nothing but expensive-looking lingerie and a lab coat walked in, yawning in a rather uncouth display as she asked, “You talking to yourself again…?” As these words left her mouth, the woman looked toward Vahn with a blank expression, her body turning statuesque in an instant. At the same time, Vahn briefly scanned her body, internally noting that her figure would make most models green with envy. She had a pair of shapely breasts, bordering on an E-Cup, while the line of her waist leading into her wide hips would have caused most men to gawk. With her peculiar dark-purple hair, pale-yellow eyes, and red-rimmed glasses, Vahn had the impression she was a mature and intelligent beauty. The only thing that shattered this image, not that he was complaining, was the fact she had lacey black lingerie that didn’t leave much to the imagination, even if she was still wearing a white lab coat…

At the point when things were beginning to reach their tensest state, Alaya seemed determined to give Vahn an aneurysm as she asked, “Is this the type of woman you prefer?” Accompanying her question, Alaya’s body changed into that of a far more mature version of Artoria, having shapely breasts, a tight waist, perfectly shaped buttocks, and plump thighs. Even her height had increased from around 154cm to a rather tall 170cm as she gently landed on the ground next to him. At this point, Vahn was one-hundred percent certain that Alaya was trying to get him to have sex with her but, as the purple-haired woman had just grabbed a flask of green liquid to throw at him, he didn’t have time to address the errant World-Tier Spirit…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Susu means ‘Soot”,’Alaya is super dangerous…’,’I just imagine Paracelsus watching from the side with a perpetual smile on his face…’)

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