Though somewhat hesitant, Rider of Black rode his hippogriff towards the Hanging Gardens. The only one who could fly through the sky among the Black camp was himself, so first he should restrain that thing. That was the conclusion he came to after straining his non-existent wisdom.
However, he had one concern. He had summoned the hippogriff and was simply using it as a mount. At this level, its prana consumption wasn’t that much. A single homunculus was enough to cover the cost. The problem was if he recited its true name and displayed its full power.
Its prana consumption then would equal that of unleashing the full power of an A rank Noble Phantasm. Moreover, the prana consumption wouldn’t decrease after firing it once. It was a Noble Phantasm with an exceedingly bad fuel consumption that would continue expending prana non-stop as long as he continued to keep the hippogriff deployed.
…In his mind, he recalled the homunculi who were being sucked dry of prana without their consent. He remembered Sieg’s extremely feeble plea.
After wavering over it for a short while, Rider of Black decided to seal away the use of his Noble Phantasm’s true name. After all, right now, he didn’t want to use it. So he had no choice but to choose an alternative option where he didn’t need to use it.
Yes, he truly was a fool. What a foolish thought. And weak as well. He should unleash his Noble Phantasm’s true name without minding the homunculi who served as prana batteries. Even Sieg wouldn’t condemn Rider for it. He wouldn’t ask that much of a Servant who was summoned in order to fight and win.
But Astolfo was that kind of Heroic Spirit. Since he didn’t want to do it, he wouldn’t do it no matter what anyone said.
“…All right, let’s go!”
In front of the floating fortress, Rider lightly clapped the nape of the hippogriff’s neck with his usual carefree manner. The hippogriff responded with a shrill bird-like cry and strongly flapped its wings. And so it flew forward—with particles of light flowing out from the wings along with a raging wind and lighting up the air, like countless fireflies, before disappearing immediately after.
Rider flew towards the Hanging Gardens… Though naturally, the mistress of the floating fortress wouldn’t allow his thoughtless actions.
“—Hoh, it seems the other camp’s Rider also has a mount that can fly across the heavens. In that case, these ones I’ve prepared won’t go to waste then.”
The only remaining person within the floating fortress—the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—Assassin of Red, smiled faintly and released ‘them’ into the sky.
“Go, ugly winged ones. Fly and devour the enemy to your hearts’ content.”
Along with those words, countless big humanoid [things] flew off from the gardens all at once.
Rider flew across the sky over the battlefield. He saw that the second powerful clash between the two armies had already begun. Dragon Tooth Warriors, homunculi and golems. Additionally, the other Servants were clashing with each other and fighting life-or-death struggles.
“All right. I have to work hard too…!”
As Rider renewed his fighting spirit, monsters appeared and swooped down to attack him with good timing. Their upper halves were the same as the Dragon Tooth Warriors, but these had wings sprouting from their back and their lower halves were clearly bird-like.
“Harpies…? No, modified versions combined with Dragon Tooth Warriors?”
Harpies, avarice-filled flying beasts, were creatures that couldn’t help being easily led astray by their appetite, possessing cruel habits and a cowardly nature that made them unsuitable as soldiers. But Assassin of Red had fused them with Dragon Tooth Warriors. Rather than Dragon Tooth Warriors, perhaps it would be more appropriate to call these Dragon Wing Warriors. Either way, considering they were named after ‘dragons’, they were very thin and ugly-looking soldiers.
But they were great in numbers. The sight of over a hundred Dragon Wing Warriors attacking down was just like the scene of a sky burial with birds rushing to eat the offered corpse. With their claws sharper than metal, they swooped down all at once to eliminate the insolent intruder who sought to trespass on the gardens.
—But they were facing the worst possible opponent for them.
After all, their enemy was a hippogriff, a creature counted among the Phantasmal Species. There was no way it would lose to mere small fry like them. And the one who rode it was also the worst possible enemy for them as well.
Rider of Black, Astolfo of Charlemagne’s Twelve Paladins. He, who had gone through many adventures, possessed various Noble Phantasms that displayed effects under restricted conditions. His lance that specialized in throwing down the enemy, his book that destroyed all magecraft, and a phantasmal steed that possessed a power worthy of special mention in regards to a certain point.
And the hunting horn he currently held in his hand was the most extreme of his Noble Phantasms.
“Please line up in a row, won’t you? Here we go—La Black Luna: Magic Flute That Calls Panic!”
Along with that shout that contained no tension at all, the hunting horn hanging from his waists expanded and became huge.
He sucked in a huge breath—and then released it all in one breath into the horn. The high-pitched call of the horn resounded through the battlefield. All homunculi and Dragon Tooth Warrior instantly looked up at the sky above.
The roar of a dragon, the cry of a giant bird, the neigh of a divine horse—an enchanted sound which was comparable to all those things made the Dragon Wing Warriors, who should have numbered over a hundred, vanish like mist in an instant. They had been literally blown away. It wasn’t something as simple as “The harpies ran away in fear after hearing that sound” as told of in myths. The horn was a genuine weapon of wide-scale destruction.
“All right, straight ahead, straight ahead. Let’s go!”
Hanging his now miniaturized horn back on his waist, Rider of Black once more gripped the reins with both hands—
—Things won’t go that well for you, lovely battle maiden.
He noticed a black-clad woman standing at the front of the gardens. She was without a doubt a Servant. Rider of Black guessed her class based on her clothes.
“…You look to be Caster of Red! Prepare yourself!”
The black-clad Servant smiled wryly at Rider of Black’s shout.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I am Assassin of Red. However—just as you surmised, I have some small amount of confidence in my skill with magecraft. Let me test to see if you have the qualifications to enter my [gardens].”
She snapped her fingers once. Instantly, waves of prana unfolded around her. Perhaps due to the spell having already been set up beforehand, shining purple magic circles that gave the impression of pre-loaded cannons suddenly appeared in the air around her.
“Ah, by the way, there are more of these above and below. Please be careful.”
Rider of Black reflexively looked at the sky above and below and was left dumbfounded. The magic circles weren’t limited to just the four that had appeared around her. There were four more above him and four more below. They were all loaded with huge amounts of prana and were impatiently waiting for Assassin’s order—!
With the order to fire given, the cannons fired all at once. With sounds similar to ferocious roars, pillars of light easily broke through the barrier of the air and shot at Rider of Black.
“Just try it…!!”
Rider of Black had the continuously-active type Noble Phantasm, Luna Break Manual: Universal Magic Guide—though the name was just temporary—and as such was granted A rank Magic Resistance. In practice, this effectively meant that he couldn’t be harmed by modern magi.
That’s why he chose to attack like this. If he didn’t have that book, even he would falter over conducting a direct assault.
But Rider of Black did not know. The Assassin in front him actually possessed a rule-breaking double class that allowed her to simultaneously act as the Caster class as well. And she was currently standing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a great Noble Phantasm which surpassed the highest-grade [Temple] that could be created with the class skill [Territory Creation] of the Caster class.
In other words, she had basically barricaded herself in a solid fortress that deployed fiendish weapons of mass destruction. Approaching her was the same as throwing oneself before her to be killed.
Unable to dodge, his entire body was struck by EX rank blasts of prana, and as if unsatisfied with just that, the blasts ransacked the inside of his body and relentlessly and thoroughly violated him.
The hippogriff vanished with that cry, and Rider of Black fell towards the ground below. Watching him fall, Assassin of Red murmured with sober eyes.
“What’s this? I did say to fall, but even so, there’s a limit to how quickly you should be defeated. How boring. I thought you had a bit of promise when you instantly annihilated my Dragon Wing Warriors, but—”
She switched her gaze to the battle below. Seen from above, the flow of battle seemed to be going back and forth between the two sides. Their Rider was facing Archer of Black, while Lancer and Archer were facing Lancer of Black. And her own Master, Shirou was—
A smile peeked through her expression as she watched that particular scene. Though it was regrettable that his opponent was Berserker, his expression didn’t look perturbed at all.
“Very well then. Show me, Shirou, the first bright and clear battle campaign of my Master.”