Achilles. A great hero who rivaled the legendary Greek hero Heracles in terms of fame. There were probably less than ten heroes, including him, whose names were known on a global scale. However, the number of people decreased when it came to those who knew the story of the rushed and short life of this great sprinter.
Born from the sea goddess Thetis and the hero Peleus, Achilles was blessed by the gods from birth. His mother Thetis, having greatly loved her son, had warmed him within holy flames in order to try and make him immortal. But her husband Peleus had opposed it, saying “Then that would destroy Achilles as a human”, and in the end Achilles grew up while only a certain part of him remained human.
Eventually, when war broke out between Troia and Achaea, Achilles was asked the following by his mother Thetis.
—Do you wish to live a long and peaceful life without having your name recognized by the masses? Or do you wish to live the short life of a hero with brilliant achievements in battle?
Achilles’ choice went without saying. At the same time as his mother felt pride in his decision, she also felt heartbreakingly sad. Because his fate had been predetermined since he was born. If he lived as a hero, he would have a short life, as if sprinting through it at full speed.
After having grown up, he participated in the Trojan War as part of the Achaean army and continued achieving many great feats. His body, blessed by all the gods, never received any wounds, and the spear that his father had given to him pierced through all other heroes. With his chariot led by three steeds, consisting of two divine horses given to him as a gift from the sea god and a famous horse he stole while assaulting a certain city, no one could chase after him from behind.
But during the one-on-one fight between Achilles and the greatest hero in the Trojan War, Hector, who was equal in strength and skill with Achilles, his weak point was exposed. Even if Hector was the killer of Achilles’ close friend Patroclus, the way Achilles insulted him by dragging his corpse around with his chariot was a foolish and intolerable act.
As a result, he incurred the displeasure of the sun god Apollo, but despite being repeatedly warned to restrain himself, Achilles continued slaughtering the Trojan army. So the enraged Apollo aided the Trojan army’s bow expert Paris, and guided him to shoot Achilles’ only weak point—that is, his heel.
Having his heart pierced by arrows one after another afterwards, Achilles sensed his own death, but continued fiercely fighting and using all his strength to kill the soldiers of the Trojan army around him. Just as predicted, he had a short life, but his legend as a hero was carved into the world.
A human who was exceedingly close to the level of the gods, a fast-sprinting hero with an invincible body. But his heel alone—was this hero’s vital weak point.
And Archer of Black, Chiron, served as Achilles’ teacher. When Achilles was a young child, his mother Thetis returned to her home at the bottom of the sea due to discord with his father Peleus. Chiron, who had raised many heroes, was an old friend of Peleus, and happily accepted the role of training Achilles.
…Yes. It was only natural that Achilles had wavered for an instant. Chiron had been an absolute figure and symbol to his younger self. His gentleness, seriousness and words had been engraved like magic into the young Achilles.
For nine years—Chiron was a father, teacher, older brother and close friend whom he spent his childhood with, when he was at his most sensitive. For Achilles, who was the son of a hero, had received the blessings of the Olympian gods and had been given looks of awe, respect and admiration from many young warriors, there were few people he could truly call his friends or teachers.
Chiron was, beyond a doubt, one of those few people. He was someone Achilles could trust just as much as his close friend Patroclus.
That hero was now blocking his way in search for the Holy Grail.
As Archer of Black, as an enemy, and as an opponent to be killed—
“—Here I come, sensei.”
“Such words are unnecessary, Rider of Red.”
Though he withered slightly at being spurned by those harsh words, Rider of Red fiercely swung his spear. The two of them began fighting while keeping sufficient distance between them to talk with each other. In other words, the bowman was allowing the attacking, lightly-armored warrior to get up close to him.
Even while Rider was gripped by a little regret, his spear tip didn’t dull and aimed at the enemy’s heart. However, with reckless courage like that of a mad warrior who knew no fear, Archer of Black took a step forward at the same time as the spear was thrust.
The skill of the famous sprinter Achilles with the spear was so great that he would have no trouble being summoned as a Lancer. Normally speaking, he would have had easily gouged out Archer’s heart.
But Rider had fatally forgotten one point.
Instead of gouging his enemy’s heart, his spear tip ended up passing by Archer’s flank.
“Did you forget, Rider? Who gave you this spear and taught you the basics of using it?”
Rider received a shock from Archer’s words. Just as he said, Rider hadn’t refined his spear skills with self-taught training. In the beginning, he was taught the basics by his teacher Chiron. Therefore, it was only natural that Archer would see through all his body’s movements and habits. Furthermore, this spear was originally given to his father Peleus as a wedding gift for him and his wife, so he could also completely grasp its distance and reach.
And Archer had displayed an even more shocking technique than that. At the same time as he stepped forward, he had nocked an arrow on his bow. Truly a quick draw. He had set up an unavoidable shot from zero-distance.
“—You’re going to die, you know, Rider?”
Fixing his aim on Rider’s skull, Archer fired the arrow without hesitation. Rider bent backwards right away to dodge it. With movements capable of unbelievable quickness and readiness, he managed to just barely avoid it so it only grazed his skin.
But then Archer shot a kick at him at that moment. With his stance destroyed, Rider was blown away and impacted against a tree. The instant the distance between them had widened, Archer nocked and fired another arrow.
Within Rider, some kind of switch was thrown. Gritting his teeth, he glared at Archer with determined eyes. He ran straight towards the arrow Archer fired at him. Dodging the arrow by bending forward, he swung his spear in a sweeping slash—but Archer dodged it.
A feeling of joy ran down his spine. Howling fiercely, he thrust his spear again and again. Archer dodged the continuous bullet-like spear attacks and nocked more arrows while skillfully controlling the distance between them.
It was impossible for a bowman to fight at close range, and if Rider could get him within the range of his spear, he would win. Rider was furious at his own shallowness for thinking that. His opponent was Chiron, the great sage who had taught not only Rider himself, but other heroes that were like shining stars, such as Heracles, Jason, Castor and Asclepius.
Getting close up only made them equal. From this point on, if Rider didn’t muster everything he had into his attacks even further, his defeat would be inevitable…!
Rider attacked Archer while thrusting, slashing and cleverly using feints with his spear. Archer avoided the attacks and occasionally defended with his bow, and furthermore, added in his own kicks and punches while shooting arrows whenever there was an opening.
Rider’s body was greatly wounded by Archer’s point-blank shots. Even with his body blessed by the gods, he was defenceless against the attacks of Archer who possessed the same [Divinity] as himself.
All of Rider’s attacks were read, while on the other hand he couldn’t read his opponent’s attacks well. He somehow managed to maintain a balance in the fight with his natural sturdiness, but at this rate he would end up being driven into a corner.
Rider detached his thoughts from the battle before him for a moment. The reason his techniques were being read was because he had learned the basics from the very Archer in front of him. Everything from setting his stance to timing his thrusts to making sweeping slashes with his spear.
—Don’t be deceived.
It was true that Archer had taught him the basics. But Rider hadn’t managed to keep winning since the time he threw himself into battle at a young age with just the basics. He had learned how to apply those techniques in a fight and how to survive in the midst of desperate battles. He had fought many heroes and sharpened his skills in the process.
How had he found a way to survive in every battle and critical situation? Yes, like that time he—
Rider’s movements changed. He stopped using basic techniques and trying to overwhelm his opponent with his overwhelming speed, and instead started changing his attacks with tricky moves.
Just when he seemed to let go of his spear, he kicked Archer and sent him flying using his own fatal weak point, his heel.
He then kicked up his spear as it fell and grabbed it once more in the air, and then fixed his aim and thrusted with it. The spear grazed against Archer’s neck, causing blood to spout out.
Finding himself deeply cornered, Archer widened the distance between them. Rider waved his spear as if to say, “How’s that?”
As their eyes met, they both gave fearless smiles.
“—Hmm. So you really did earn your place as a Heroic Spirit.”
“Of course. Unlike you who simply taught others, I ran through numerous battlefields, after all.”
He had crossed blades, fought to the death, and exchanged friendships of the soul with many heroes. It was true that he had learned the basics from Chiron. But the corpses that Rider had piled up in battle—were also another truth for him.
“No, I’m really glad. It would have left a bad aftertaste in my mouth if I one-sidedly slaughtered a student of mine.”
Archer smiled, and Rider smiled in return.
Rider had already thrown away his hesitation over fighting against his teacher. All that was left was the joy of a death match against a strong opponent.
Rider wavered over whether or not he should close the distance between them. It was standard tactics for him to charge at his enemy, but this might be a good time to throw away those standard tactics.
The main purpose of the spear he held was originally for throwing. It was a weapon that destroyed all defenses and pierced the chests of heroes. Chiron understood the fearsomeness of that spear better than anyone else. After all, he was the one who had given it away as a gift.
—Now then, what to do?
Their gazes met. Both Rider of Red and Archer of Black planned their next moves while watching each other’s every action.
Rider smiled, and Archer smiled in return. There was definitely a bond between them. Teacher and student, friend and friend who trusted each other from the bottom of their hearts. Even if they trampled on those feelings, vast ‘joy’ over facing each other that surpassed their other feelings definitely existed in their hearts.