The Yggdmillennia had predicted that the Masters of the Association of Magi… in other words, the Red camp would attack them and had prepared plans to counterattack from all directions.
They might suddenly launch an attack from the city of Trifas, or they might attack from the east with a large army. The possibility that they might launch a surprise attack from the sky wasn’t low either. But—
“…For them to attack with their own fortress is truly beyond expectations.”
Archer of Black—Chiron sighed. His gaze was locked on Assassin’s prided Noble Phantasm, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as it floated in the air far above.
“Archer, what is that thing’s current status?”
Fiore asked that in a thin voice from next to him. Archer could perceive a slight tremble in her voice, but that was only because he was a Servant. A normal human would not have sensed even the smallest tremble in her voice. Archer smiled at his Master as she tried to remain as calm as she could.
“It has come to a standstill in midair… This is just conjecture on my part, but it appears that the Erythros1 camp intends to use these grassland plains as their battlefield.
“So it’s going to be an all-out battle.”
“Yes. You and the other Masters should head somewhere safe. The other side likely intends to encamp themselves with their Servants and familiars.”
“—So it seems. They appear to have summoned Dragon Tooth Warriors. Probably in order to face our homunculi and soldiers.”
Darnic landed on the castle rampart with a soft tap. He seemed to have boldly gone around looking at that floating fortress.
“Let’s head inside, Fiore. We have no choice but to leave the battle to them now.”
“Precisely, Darnic. What follows from here is the domain of us Servants.”
Particles of light resolved and gathered together, regaining human form. Lancer of Black—Vlad III wore a savage smile as he gazed at the floating fortress.
No, it wasn’t just Lancer. Berserker of Black, Frankenstein, and Caster of Black, Avicebron, also stood on the ramparts, glaring at the floating fortress.
“On top of intruding into my territory in that kind of ugly thing, they’ve scattered filthy skeleton warriors everywhere.”
Lancer openly laid bare his displeasure. The moment they trespassed on his territory, they were enemies, conquerors, Ottoman Turks. A strong sense of duty that obligated him to massacre them all bound his entire body.
“My lord. We will take refuge inside the castle. But if those grassland plains become the battlefield, we will fight with our backs to the town. So you may wield your power to your heart’s content.”
Darnic respectfully bowed, and Lancer nodded placidly.
“Indeed. Also, release Rider and Berserker of Red. We’ll have them added to our forces as well.”
“Is that all right? Leaving aside Berserker, Rider is—”
“I don’t mind. They’ve come this far seeking an all-out showdown. It is only good manners to throw out all our forces as well.”
“…Understood. I’ll go release them right away.”
Darnic disappeared from sight. Fiore also followed after him and retreated into the castle.
“Archer. Take command of the organized formations of homunculi along with Rider.”
“Understood, Lancer. However, should Rider of Red take the field, I will have to go in order to stop him…”
“I don’t mind. It’s fine as long as you take command at the beginning. The battle will eventually become chaotic anyhow, and the homunculi will merely be expended along with the golems.”
Archer nodded. Lancer was correct. Once the opening strike of the battle ended, the situation would immediately turn into a battle between Servants.
“As for you, Caster, remain on standby here. I’ll leave the timing to release Berserker of Red’s shackles to your judgement.”
“Understood. Ah, that’s right. Lancer, there is no way you can go to battle on foot. I’ve prepared a horse for you.”
At those words, Lancer looked at Caster with great interest in his gaze.
“Of course, it’s an artificial imitation, but—”
“That’s quite satisfactory. An ordinary horse could never accompany me in this war.”
What Caster brought out was, naturally, a giant golem horse of metal. It was made of a combination of iron and bronze with an uneven design. Its eyes consisted of a red ruby and blue sapphire, which each carried a bewitching shine.
Smiling in satisfaction, Lancer climbed onto the horse. The horse didn’t even whinny and obediently stood upright.
“Huh, Lancer’s riding on a horse? My position’s been taken!”
That somewhat loud voice made the atmosphere turn tense. It belonged to the Servant who had just been released, Rider of Black—Astolfo. He wore a carefree smile on his face and greeted Lancer, who had ordered him to be imprisoned, with an unconcerned attitude.
“Rider. I won’t ask if you’ve reflected on your actions at this point. Now is the time for you to show your power to me. Your power as one of the Charlemagne’s Twelve Paladins.”
Rider reassuringly struck his chest.
“Yeah, leave it to me! That is that, and this is this. Fighting in this war is my mission, after all!”
“If you’re aware of that, then there’s no problem. Rider, join with Archer in commanding the homunculi.”
Lastly, Lancer turned his eyes to Berserker, who was still glaring at the floating fortress.
“Berserker. You are free to do as you wish. Fight and wreak havoc until you’re exhausted.”
Berserker gave a single, light nod. She had both her hands on the castle rampart, appearing ready to jump over them even now.
“—Now then, everyone. Saber has vanished, and Assassin is not on our side. In return, we managed to get a hold of Berserker of Red, but he is merely a disposable [weapon]. In other words, we are the entirety of our battle power.”
“On the other hand, the other side most likely has all six of their Servants excluding Berserker. Lancer of Red fought evenly with Saber, and Rider of Red did not receive a single wound from Saber’s attacks. Caster and Assassin, who have yet to be seen, are undoubtedly fearsome enemies as well.”
Those were words that acknowledged the disadvantage of their side. They were inferior in pure numbers, and while the enemy’s overall quality was unknown, at the very least, they no longer had Saber, so it would be a hard battle.
Yes, they were overwhelmingly outmatched—if this was a normal battle, the difference between their forces was sufficient to guarantee that they would be defeated first.
“Now then. I have a question for you all. Do any of you intend to accept defeat?”
Everyone present rejected that notion with their words and actions.
The difference in battle power was overwhelming, and the chances of their defeat were high—in the face of that truth, Lancer and the other Servants didn’t act agitated at all. Heroic Spirits were such beings. Against an overwhelming disadvantage and a despairing situation, they would laugh and overturn such things. That was what made them worthy of being called heroes.
“Yes, exactly right. We will win! As if anyone who falls before this degree of difference in battle power, this degree of despair could call themselves heroes!”
His words were correct. After all, Lancer’s true name was Vlad III, the great hero who had protected his country over and over again from the soldiers of the approaching Ottoman Turks.
What was definite was the fact that, in 1462, the Ottoman Turks invaded. Against the Turks’ forces of one hundred and fifty thousand, the Wallachian army that Vlad III commanded consisted of only ten thousand. However, he had exhausted the Turks with thorough guerilla warfare and scorched-earth tactics, and then evacuated the citizens in order to empty the country’s capital and ambush the enemy.
The one who had commanded the Turks was Mehmed II, the Ottoman sultan known as ‘the Conqueror’ who had felled Constantinople with its threefold defensive walls. Even he, widely known for his bravery, paled when he arrived at the capital of Bucharest.
Countless stakes stood surrounding the citadel. Impaled upon them were his comrades, subordinates, and commanders—twenty thousand members of the Turk army. The instant he saw them, anything like hatred for his comrades being killed was blown away. He was terrified. Someone who could not only think of such a thing, but put it into practice was terrifying. The plunder, violations, and atrocities his own army had committed were merely the result of having their lusts and desires accelerated in the heat of the moment. This was different, committed under a completely different way of thinking.
This was truly a method of warfare that didn’t treat people as human beings. After all, his men had been skewered merely for the sake of display…!
The morale of his army having plummeted to nearly zero, Mehmed II had no choice but to withdraw and return home. At that time, Mehmed II muttered this.
—I fear no human being. But Dracul2 alone is a separate matter.
“Those are savages. Fools who dirty my dominion and laugh crudely in arrogance can only die. Kill them while laughing. We must thoroughly re-educate those who lack the knowledge of fear with an ox-hide whip.”
Lancer’s words were extreme, but were in fact easy to understand.
Don’t let the enemy go home alive. What he wanted to say was simply that. And that was exactly as the other Servants wished as well.
“Then, I’ll lead the vanguard.”
Lancer grasped the reins of his horse and jumped off from the castle ramparts along with his steed. The height of the cliff that rose up beneath the ramparts was over a hundred meters, but the metal horse that Caster of Black had created wouldn’t be damaged by something of that degree.
Like a lone general with but a single army—Lancer rode his horse towards the enemy formation. The grassland plains were tranquil, but they would probably be transformed into scorched earth by the time this battle ended.
Resurrected into the present day with new subordinates, the stern king once more challenged the enemy in a disadvantageous battle. But that was how it always was for him, so there was nothing for him to fear.
Eventually, the homunculi commanded by two Servants and the golems massed together into troops. Archer and Rider’s commands were splendid, and in a flash they were all arranged into orderly formation.
At the flank of the troops was Caster, who had brought along the still-sealed Berserker of Red. The plan was for him to choose the timing to release Berserker at his own discretion. Berserker’s mind was completely ruined, but he retained just enough reason to distinguish enemies from allies.
Now that he had changed Masters, his enemy was the Red camp. And standing alone far away from the homunculi and golems was the mad warrior with reason—Berserker of Black.
The ones who could truly be counted as part of their battle power were the ten golems who had been selected for being especially excellent even among Caster’s creations and all the other Servants besides Caster.
Caster thought from behind his mask—the situation couldn’t be called that disadvantageous for them. Archer’s strength and discernment were both excellent, and now that Caster had obtained a [core], his own Noble Phantasm was already capable of being activated.
However, there was but one decisive reason for being confident of their chances of victory.
Because Lancer of Black was Vlad III. Here in Romania, and moreover in Transylvania, his fame was nearly at its max. The boost in power due to fame was not that great, but here Vlad III’s fame was on the level of devoted piety.
Yes, he was a great hero who had saved his homeland. And he was a terrifying being. The tragic man who, despite being the cornerstone of this nation, was betrayed and lost everything—this county’s king who was known by everyone from children to the elderly.
His current form was exceedingly close to that of his heyday. Furthermore, due to his skill [Demonic Defender of the State], the entire surrounding region including these grassland plains had been turned into his personal ‘dominion’.
Indeed, Rider of Red’s true identity, which they had all heard from Archer of Black yesterday, was certainly shocking and devastating. He was a Servant who boasted of worldwide-class fame and was as top rank as a Heroic Spirit could conceivably be.
But even so. Even so, Vlad III still had some degree of advantage over him.
The two armies advanced towards each other little by little. As Lancer wondered what Servants the opposing side had, he saw only Dragon Tooth Warriors at the front of their forces.
Puzzled and suspicious, Lancer halted his forces. At the same time, the Dragon Tooth Warriors also stopped moving.
Knowing that trying to talk to the Dragon Tooth Warriors was pointless, Lancer turned his gaze to the floating fortress above.
“—Hmm. What are they planning?”
She couldn’t have heard his mutter, but as if in reply—Archer of Red’s bow fired the first shot.
(1) Here, Archer uses the Greek word for “red”. The spelling might not be quite right, but unfortunately I’m not well-versed in Greek, so the best I can manage is to directly write it as it’s pronounced.
(2) Underneath “Dracul” in katakana, the kanji reads as “devil”.