Chapter 1120: Balance

With the Sub-Space Projection Orb established, the only way Vahn could ‘balance’ his life was to come up with, at the very least, a loose schedule to follow. He needed to spend time being a good father to Mordred, taking care of Illya, and splitting himself between the girls based on the situation. Fortunately, with how the day/night cycle was split within the Orb, Vahn could split his focus so that he was training and spending time with Mordred and Illya during the ‘day’ while, once night fell upon the Orb, Vahn would focus on learning and getting intimate with the girls. Though this wasn’t set in stone, as it would obviously depend on the situation, it was the easiest template to work from since the atmosphere within the castle varied greatly between day and night.

When it came to his training, Vahn spent the majority of his time ‘learning’ from Scáthach, often spending upwards of ten hours at a time being beaten by her as, after his ‘success’ with [Laplace’s Key], she never showed any openings. Now, though she had alternated between using her fists and spears int he past, Scáthach completely changed up her fighting style at times. She would use bows, scythes, flails, bo staffs, swords, daggers, and even katars to cut his body into ribbons. This was to ensure he was used to fighting against all kinds of different opponents instead of unilaterally getting ‘used’ to being beaten in a specific way.

On one occasion, she had even used a set of bladed pistols at close range to break through his guard before firing spherical bullets that had various effects into his body. The purpose behind this training was to allow him to ‘counter’ different kinds of Magecraft on the spot as, much like Illya, Vahn had the ability to deconstruct Magecraft and prevent its activation. As a result, Scáthach would embed various different spells into the bullets, giving Vahn only microseconds to react before his body would be torn apart by explosions, shocked to a charred state, or even frozen solid in an instant. She never once gave him any quarter and, the worst part of it all, Vahn knew she still wasn’t going all out. Since he had believed her thrashing him in the past was her being serious, when it wasn’t even a tenth of his current beatings, Vahn knew she was increasing her strength to prevent him from ever ‘adapting’ to her current level…

Fortunately, Mordred was never allowed to watch his training as it always took place in a third Sub-Space Orb that had been created. In total, there were now three Sub-Space Orbs and seven Space-Time Orbs present around Avalon. The third Sub-Space Orb had been created specifically for training with Scáthach, existing as another empty white space where there was no danger of damaging the surroundings. As for the Space-Time Orbs, five of these were used almost entirely for growing herbs and other useful ingredients, each having a dilation ratio of 100:1. These lacked Memory Fragments to regulate the space, meaning they were ‘anchored’ using a five-elements formation, while the other two Space-Time Orbs had time dilation effects of 50:1, each with a version of Vahn and Fenrir within.

Since Fenrir did a lot for him in the ‘real’ world, she was the first person that crossed Vahn’s mind when it came to having a companion Memory Fragment. Though the purpose of the orb was for research and production, Vahn fully intended to ‘download’ and ‘update’ the Memory Fragments periodically so that he could expand his knowledge further. Since he wanted to avoid ‘losing’ himself to feelings of loneliness and apathy, Vahn needed a companion to keep him focussed and allow him to relax. This would allow him to spend a lot of time with Fenrir and, even though it might not be the same ‘quality’ as reality, they would eventually share thousands of years between the two of them…

As a result of these changes, Vahn didn’t spend nearly as much time with Fenrir in reality as, the more ‘focused’ he was, the more emphasis she placed on her own duties. Unless he wanted to see her, she would always be off training, playing with Mordred, or spending time with Illya and Cath Palug. She also acted as a ‘Big Sister’ to Medusa who, somewhat against expectations, became really good friends with Astolfo since she spent most of her time with Catherine. Though Medusa wanted to get stronger as well, she was going down a completely different route than Fenrir as, instead of pursuing the path of a ‘Magic-Knight’, she was focused entirely on being a ‘True Mage’. As a result, Medusa spent a lot of time studying with Catherine before expanding her ‘circle’ to include Circe and Merlin.

One of the things Vahn appreciated the most about his current situation was that everyone, for the most part, helped each other out. Though it was ‘extremely’ common for Magi to keep secrets and only care about themselves, even Tristana had exchanged knowledge with Medusa and Circe, albeit rarely. Of course, the two people literally everyone sought out for advice and knowledge were the duo of Merlin and Scáthach. The former could be extremely roundabout, talking circles around the questions you wanted answers to, but he would eventually help you understand if you continued making an effort. As for Scáthach, she was marginally more difficult to approach unless she thought you were ‘worth’ teaching. For the Heroic Spirits, as they couldn’t really increase their parameters and obtain new skills, she had no interest in even sparring with them. The only people she showed an interest in were Vahn, Fenrir, Medusa, Mordred, and, as a member of the ‘Imperial Family’, Illya.

With her [Wisdom of the Haunted Ground], Scáthach was suitable for teaching practically anything, including the method to obtain skills she herself couldn’t emulate. The only pre-requisite for learning from her was that, once you become her student, she had borderline sovereignty over your actions. If she wanted you to have a specific diet, or wake up at specific times, there was absolutely no room for debate. Though you were allowed to quit whenever you like, that would be the same as losing your value in the eyes of Scáthach since it showed you simply lacked the willpower to reach your full potential. After all, though she pushed you far beyond what you believed your limits to be, Scáthach never pushed you beyond the breaking point. Thus, so long as you had enough willpower, there was no limit to the amount of growth you could achieve by studying under her…

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Of the people that Scáthach was willing to teach, Medusa had only lasted a few hours before she ultimately quit. She had been given the task of inscribing a magical formation either one-thousand times or within five seconds. Though this in itself wasn’t that difficult, Scáthach would periodically flick you with a thin red switch, often drawing blood as a result. This was enough to break the focus of most people, especially someone who lacked patience like Medusa. After that, Vahn was forced to console the pouting Gorgon, both after the lesson had ended and when Scáthach refused to teach her a second time. Even if Medusa also had ‘limitless potential’, it didn’t matter to her at all since she placed more focus on her own emotions than her desire to improve…

Fortunately, Merlin was far more agreeable so, even after losing Scáthach as a teacher, Medusa was able to pester him to teach her every now and then. Since the airy Magus had a penchant for cute things, he wasn’t able to hold out long whenever Medusa invaded his tower and refused to leave without learning something new. As a result, though her progress wasn’t all that remarkable, Medusa was steadily growing stronger in her own way. The most important thing was that she was learning and having fun, at least from Vahn’s perspective. Though he might need Medusa to increase her strength at some point, the main reason Vahn had brought her with him was to observe her hidden Innate. He still had the distinct impression that Medusa’s fate was somehow linked to him through an Innate, even though there wasn’t even the subtlest fluctuation of ‘Fate’ around her body…

When it came to Innates, Vahn knew there was no end to the amount of research he could put into them without fully comprehending them. The only thing that was ‘absolute’ was that they were linked to the soul yet, even if there were infinite instances of a person with the same Innate, each could have subtle differences. Ultimately, the only thing that seemed to matter was the individual’s understanding of their Innate as, so long as it was within their comprehension, there were seemingly infinite ways in which Innates could manifest. As even The Path wasn’t able to see through them, even though it was an existence beyond Tier 9, Vahn could intuit that Innates were the product of something on the same level as The Path itself…

With that in mind, Vahn actually spent a great deal of effort on training his own Innates, using his [Will of the Emperor] and [Eyes of Truth] almost constantly throughout the day. As for things like [Rakshasa Body] and [Keeper of the Akashic Tome], Vahn’s reserves couldn’t sustain prolonged use of the former while the latter had only been useful for test-naming a pendant he had forged back when he was working Rin’s basement. Since it was actually his most Source Energy-intensive skill, Vahn had only been able to elevate the pendant to the B-Rank, meaning it was around A-Rank if going by the standards of Danmachi. Though this wasn’t that bad, Vahn had been going for S-Rank yet had ultimately failed to achieve it. Now, his Od was steadily increasing and, with the time dilation of the Sub-Space Projection Orb, Vahn was intending to get some use out of it when he tries to produce equipment of similar grade and quality to a Noble Phantasm.

One of the things Vahn wanted to try was reproducing Artoria’s [Excalibur] and, though it was a bit ambitious, the ‘key’ that was used to access the [Gate of Babylon]. Even if he couldn’t steal Gilgamesh’s [Gate of Babylon] itself, having access to a similar ability to essentially weaponize his Inventory was something that fascinated Vahn more than a little. Though the speed left something to be desired, Vahn felt he would be able to improve upon this weakness by using [Primordial Rune] Magecraft to multiply the speed and momentum of objects in motion. He already had some marginal success by pulling swords out of his Inventory but it was difficult to control the orientation of items placed into his Inventory without ‘setting’ them in certain positions when he placed them inside. It was significantly different from the golden spatial gates that were produced by the [Gate of Babylon] so Vahn knew he had a bit of work ahead of him. Fortunately, with the knowledge he had obtained just by having access to the key for a short period of time, Vahn was confident he would be able to pull it off if given enough time…

In what felt like the blink of an eye, nearly three months had passed within the Sub-Space Projection Orb, equating to just over two weeks since the end of the Holy Grail War. Vahn found himself laying on a slopped hill beneath the canopy of an apple tree, one of the most common types of trees on the island of Avalon. He was relaxing with his hands behind his head, enjoying the warm rays of the sun shining down from above, even though the air temperature made it very clear that it was Winter. This didn’t really bother him at all and, based on how she was drooling on his chest with a silly smile on her face, it didn’t seem to bother Mordred either. She had really embraced being a child over the last couple of months and, though she trained hard every day to become a Knight, the times they spent together as father and daughter had been increasing lately. Though she still had a ‘slight’ preference for her mother, the fact that the latter always forced her to train hard, while Vahn often played with her, had slowly been shifting the odds in his favor…

Seeing the happy face of his sleeping daughter as she lightly clung to his tunic, Vahn couldn’t help but smile as he allowed the gentle breeze, made warmer by his domain, to wash over them. The only ‘complaint’ he had about Mordred was, after realizing she could get away with quite a bit, she had defaulted to wearing form-fitting shorts, often with a ‘cut’, punk-rock style, while her tops usually consisted of a loose camisole or a tank-top. Though he had convinced her to wear sports bras and tube tops underneath, Mordred never liked wearing restrictive clothing and even ran around without shoes on more often than not. She reminded him a lot of how Fenrir used to behave in the past, a fact that brought the two ‘wild’ girls together as Mordred considered Fenrir her ‘best’ friend. They would even take naps together, cuddled up in a sunny area within the castle, much like what he and Mordred were doing right now…

There were only two things that could make Vahn ‘happier’ right now, excluding having Rin, Sakura, and Gray coming to stay with him. He finally had an understanding of how often the Summoning System could be used, at least without a catalyst to reduce the interval. The standard cooldown was a startling three years in real-time, meaning twenty-one years within the Sub-Space Projection Orb, while the only reliable means to reduce the amount of time was to use something on the leve of the [Divine Energy Cube] he had been given by Akasha. This could ‘instantly’ reduce the amount of time, something she had likely taken into consideration when giving it to him in the past. Because of this, Vahn was able to quantify how much a Heroic Spirit cost from the perspective of OP, making a single summon worth around 2,000,000,000OP.

One of the things Vahn needed more than anything right now was a means to increase the amount of OP he was able to earn, something that was surprisingly difficult even though he was in a Tier 5 Record. The only ‘reliable’ means seemed to be striking a deal with Akasha and her superiors or, acting as the second biggest issue he was facing in the present, getting the help of Alaya. After a series of rather peculiar events, Vahn now had a good idea of how much each of his body parts and their constituent biomass were worth. He also knew that his semen had a startling 300 times the amount of ‘mana’ compared to his blood, making it only marginally less valuable than outright exchanging his heart or brain to Alaya for Magical Energy. His heart had been worth around 400 times the amount of his blood, by volume, while his brain had beaten it out by having an exchange rate of 418 times blood alone.

Since it wasn’t exactly viable to continually produce brains and hearts for Alaya to process, the most cost-effective and ‘efficient’ means was to give Alaya his semen. Using a manner similar to what he had previously used with Scáthach, however, proved that there was a significant reduction in the ‘energy’ contained within the vital fluid. His mentality and intentions seemed to considerably affect the potency of his semen, much like how his blood was more effective when he was ‘happy’ during the time he was still imprisoned in his first life. With Alaya taking in concentrated spheres of semen or sucking on his finger, the ratio was reduced to between 60-100, making it three-to-five times less efficient than more ‘direct’ means. However, this was still far more efficient than having her suck his blood so Vahn had created a specialized ‘pouch’ with a vein that ran near his neck. Alaya would latch onto his neck in much the same way as before, sucking a cocktail of blood and semen from his shoulder with a persistence that would make a leech blush…

Though he had gotten used to her presence, Vahn was also troubled by Alaya as it almost felt like she was slowly becoming a part of him after more than three months together. During the moments they were separated, Vahn would have the strangest feeling that ‘something’ was wrong as he rolled his shoulder to release tension that didn’t go away until she latched onto him again. Even now, as he looked down at Mordred’s sleeping face with a smile, Vahn had a small blue furball tucked into the nape of his neck, even smaller than she had been in the past. She looked like a baby squirrel that was latched onto his neck like a pup suckling a teet. Her eyes were closed as if she was ‘very’ focused on the process, at least until she knew Vahn was paying attention to her. During moments like this, Vahn could see her glowing violet eyes silently asking, ‘Do you need something?’ as if he was the one bothering her…

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Of the two things Vahn needed a ‘solution’ to, dealing with Alaya was a slightly higher priority as he had a growing urge to just be separated from her again. Even if he knew it was for the best that she continued to drain his bodily fluids, as more Magical Energy meant more potential uses, Vahn felt like he was developing a strange dependency on her. His body would feel colder when she wasn’t near and he was always ‘aware’ of his movements so as not to disturb her too much or dislodge her from her perch. The only occasion in which this incongruity went away was whenever he was training with Scáthach as, during moments like that, he simply had no time to think about such things…

The worst part of his current situation was that Vahn could ‘rationalize’ things in a way that had him having sex with Alaya, potentially increasing the efficacy of his semen beyond 300:1. Since he could extend his ejaculation virtually without end, having her intake his semen ‘directly’ for a few hours each night would be the same as having her latched to his shoulder for the whole day. He had even suspected that she had ‘skewed’ the numbers a bit to make this apparent but, as his own analysis with Sis had confirmed things, Vahn knew it was the truth. Unless he could alter his mentality to place just as much emphasis on having sex as having her suck fluid from his neck, it was impossible to bring the potency to the same level. It was all a mental thing but, as Vahn simply couldn’t place the two on the same level, for various reasons, there was no simple solution to the problem…

Though Vahn had increased the rate of Magical Energy transferred to Alaya from around 200,000 per hour to around 12,000,000 per hour, it was still a far cry from the potential 60,000,000 he could be transferring. As he grew stronger, this number would increase and, if he placed more ’emphasis’ on the exchange, it was possible to greatly increase the exchange rate. This would, however, require him to actually develop feelings for Alaya but, as she fundamentally lacked the means to reciprocate such things, it would always be a one-sided dependency on his part. He had even tried to use his [Hands of Nirvana] on her previously but, unless she ‘let’ him affect her, Alaya had no reaction at all. Then, just as quickly, she could dismiss what little progress he had made the moment she determined there was no longer any value in continuing.

As a result of Alaya’s unique nature and constitution, Vahn knew that anything between them would almost be akin to him having emotionless sex with a doll. He felt this would pervert his experiences with the other girls, especially if he was sacrificing time that could have been spent with them just for the sake of ‘efficiency’. Since Alaya already had now stored around 22 billion units of Magical Energy on his behalf, a number that was both massive and infinitesimally too small, Vahn found himself unable to make a decision. As a result, Alaya continued to leech off his shoulder while, as much as possible, Vahn pretended she didn’t exist. Though this reduced the efficacy of the transfer even further, he would rather focus on his happiness rather than dealing with a source of potentially infinite stress.

Fortunately, Vahn had plenty of sources for happiness and, even though twenty-one years was a long time, it wasn’t as if he ‘needed’ to summon more Heroic Spirits. Increasing his power and spending time with everyone he was currently involved with was more than enough for the present. As he began to get involved with the affairs of the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church, Vahn felt that most of his problems surrounding the Summoning System and Alaya would gradually resolve themselves. The Clock Tower was apparently built atop the corpse of a mountain-sized True Dragon that had tried to dig its way through to the Reverse Side of the World in the past. As a result, there was a structure not all that dissimilar to the Dungeon of Orario located beneath the Clock Tower, filled to the brim with progressively more powerful monsters the deeper you went…

In much the same way, the Holy Church had a ‘trial ground’ that was used to help train prospective members of their Exorcism department. By sealing away powerful Daemons throughout history, regardless of whether or not they were good or bad, there were a lot of deeply rooted ‘grudges’ and ‘living curses’ located in their trial grounds. As a result, various ‘demons’ and other forms of pseudo-spirits like ‘ghosts’ would manifest in the area, allowing Exorcists to practice their Sacraments, the most powerful form of Thaumaturgy in the world due to the Holy Church’s influence. By using verses that were powerful by faith and conviction, they were able to kill demons and spiritual entities using nothing more than words and holy-elemental Magecraft that they claimed to be divine providence.

Vahn knew there were several Spiritual Lands located all over the world so, once he entered open conflict with the current powers of the world, it would be possible to secure a few for himself. He had no doubt that things like monsters, demons, and spirits would be able to grant him OP while also providing him a means to gather resources and train. Since he had been able to bestow his ‘blessing’ on Rin, Fenrir, Medusa, Mordred, and even Illya, Vahn knew they would be able to increase their strength considerably if they fought against enemies and gained ‘experience’. Even though he was in a different world, the blessing should work in a relatively similar way as, much like all forms of thaumaturgy, such things were strengthened by belief. Since Vahn ‘knew’ his blessing worked, there was absolutely nothing to prevent anyone with his blessing from becoming much stronger than normal, in a significantly reduced time. After all, even more so than something like the Welsh Dragon, he could be considered his own source of Mystery, rivaling other gods even without an active Divinity…

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘This chapter feels like a fever dream’)

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