Saber had needed five seconds to regain her footing after Archer’s shot. But by the time those five seconds had passed, Assassin had already withdrawn.
She clicked her tongue—her regret over not killing Assassin and her hatred towards Archer for getting in the way made Saber’s face twist in anger.
“Master. Assassin has run away, while Archer’s over there. Who should I attack? I personally recommend Archer who’s so full of himself on the clock tower.”
Saber asked that question while pointing her sword at the clock tower, and Shishigou just scratched his head with a sigh. His answer was already decided for him. In addition, it’d be very difficult to chase after Assassin now that she had run away. Anyhow, they wouldn’t be able to catch her by sight at all due to her [Presence Concealment] skill.
“…You seem pretty intent on fighting Archer yourself. Well, that’s the correct decision. I’ll take care of his Master.”
“Sorry about this, Master. Then, I’m off to crush Archer.”
Saber grinned happily. She could also tell with her eyes that Archer was nocking his next arrow. Her normal full-throttle speed wouldn’t be enough to reach him in time. However—
Saber had the [Prana Burst] skill. By taking off her Noble Phantasm helm, she could clad her body in prana even further and could explosively accelerate herself by instantly releasing it all in a jet burst.
“All right… Saber, go and get him!”
The instant after she yelled out her agreement to Shishigou, she disappeared in a flash. She had taken a single, powerful step forward. She was like a human-shaped cannonball. She flew towards where that distant bowman should be.
Archer didn’t move. Saber glanced at Archer’s Master as she headed towards Shishigou while circumventing around Saber. However, an arrow flew towards Saber to prevent her from touching the female Master.
As she cut the arrow with her sword, Saber smiled.
—You don’t need to worry, Archer. The one I want to crush is you.
Archer’s Master was going to face Saber’s own Master, Shishigou. He wouldn’t lose before her. She felt a little surprised when she realized that she believed that. She had never trusted those known as magi before now. She had thought of magi as all being shut-ins with extremely twisted personalities. No, in reality, the magi that she had met until now were generally like that.
But there were also the sort of magi that get along well with her. The type that was foolhardy and reckless, thinking 90% on attack and 10% on defense.
Speaking of which, the catalyst that summoned her was a fragment from the Round Table. In other words, it wouldn’t have been strange for any of the other Knights of the Round Table—like Lancelot, who slighted her father, or Gawain, that annoying honor student—to have been summoned instead.
And yet, the one who was summoned was her. She considered the meaning of that. She thought that, at some point, she would have to properly think it over. In order to obtain the Holy Grail for herself.
At that point, Saber stopped her extraneous thoughts. She was heading for the sixty-meter-tall clock tower. She only needed twelve steps to reach it. Instead of ascending it with both her hands and feet, she dashed straight up the 90-degree-angle outer wall with just her two feet.
Archer was already right before her. She could see not only his form, but even his expression. He was a man of delicate features clad in leather armor. Indeed, the style of his appearance was truly that of a bowman. But now that she had gotten this close, there was no longer anything that Archer could do.
Archery was the most superior when it came to long-range sniping. Even when compared to modern guns, it still had a huge advantage due to being able to shoot almost completely silently. Of course, in order to hit the target with an arrow, one requires unimaginably harsh training and innate talent. But there was no way a Heroic Spirit summoned as Archer would lack those. So the Archer class was nearly invincible as long as it remained at long range from the enemy.
But if there was a Servant fast enough to close him from long range to close range, the situation would be completely overturned.
A bowman also naturally has several weak points. Firstly, it was nearly impossible to shoot consecutively. Secondly, his location was easily exposed from the path of his arrows. Thirdly, a bow was extremely fragile at close range.
It was natural for Saber to feel confident of her victory. When the enemy had gotten so close, there was nothing a bowman could do—that’s how it should have been.
Completely unfazed by Saber’s violent charge, Archer smoothly loaded his next arrow.
The nocked arrow was shot at Saber’s face as she came at him right from below, but she flicked it away with her sword held in both her hands.
“I got you, Archer…!!”
There was no time for him to nock another arrow. Just like with Assassin earlier, Saber was certain that she would kill him in a single strike.
But Archer was a Heroic Spirit with a long history of experience as a warrior. At that precise moment, he did something so unexpected that it surpassed even Saber’s instincts. Without hesitation—he threw himself off from the small and unreliable foothold into the air.
As Saber was paralyzed in shock, Archer nocked another arrow and fired it at Saber even as he fell towards the ground below. His target was naturally her chest, which should be thinly armored. However, an arrow shot by Archer—Chiron of the Sagittarius—would definitely kill everything in its path.
The arrow, clad in the light of the stars, forcibly smashed through Saber’s armor. Something cold crept into her shoulder, and flashes of dizzying pain ran through her entire body one after another. But, probably thanks to her heavy armor, the arrow that had been aimed at her chest seemed to have been deflected and pierced her shoulder instead.
But such a thing wasn’t comforting at all for Saber, who had been certain of her victory.
Saber managed to drown out the intense pain, spreading like ripples from her shoulder to the rest of her body, with just her anger. Without hesitation, she went into a bullet dive straight at the still-falling Archer using [Prana Burst]—!
She’s like a shooting star, Archer thought. She wasn’t graceful at all, but she was excessively strong and excessively violent, and so she possessed an enchanting light.
Indeed, Saber was a magnificent Heroic Spirit. She had to have a strong will to launch a counterattack immediately upon receiving his attack, ignoring the pain and impact from it.
In just several fractions of a second—Saber would probably cut him down this time beneath her blade the moment he landed on the ground. Now then, what should he do to prevent that?
He couldn’t use his archery. No matter how fast his arrows were, he was already at a disadvantage against a sword that would finish its motion just by being swung down. He had no sword or lance, he couldn’t use his bow, he had no mount, there was no way he could go mad and rampage, and he couldn’t stop this course of events with magecraft or dirks.
—In that case. He had no choice but to fight with his final remaining weapon.
His sixty-meter fall, and his landing—just before it came to an end, he vigorously struck the ground with one leg and slightly shifted his body to the side.
He extended both his arms. The roaring Saber noticed his inexplicable action, but she didn’t have the time to take it into consideration.
With her sword brandished to strike combined with her explosive accelerated speed due to [Prana Burst] and with her being in her normal state excluding the release of her Noble Phantasm, there was no winning blow as perfect as this.
However, against what would definitely deal a fatal wound if it hit, Archer did something dreadful—or rather, something ‘crazy’ like Saber herself would do.
He extended both arms, and before the charging Saber could swing down her sword, he coiled his arms around her. The instant her wrists were seized in a hold, her senses rang out in alarm. Forcefully halting her slash as it bit into his collarbone, Archer didn’t negate the momentum of her charge but instead cleverly transferred her body weight and—
A throwing technique…!?
The instant that Saber realized what he was doing, she was flung through the air upside down. It was similar to a one-armed shoulder throw in judo, but the way it immobilized the joints of her wrists was completely merciless.
Archer… Chiron was the greatest sage among the centaurs and received various teachings from the gods such as learning medicine and music from the sun god Apollo and hunting from the goddess Artemis. And so, young and immature heroes gathered around him and learned various teachings and fighting techniques under his wing.
The sword, lance, and bow—besides those, Archer had also acquired techniques for fighting bare-handed as a matter of course. They consisted of perfect hand-to-hand combat techniques that combined boxing and wrestling.
That fighting style was Pankration1—the world’s oldest mixed martial arts spoken of in Ancient Greek tales.
Hitting the deadly weapon known as the ground, Saber’s eyes widened as she experienced an impact that seemed to make her very guts reverberate. Her entire body froze for just a few seconds as if she was tied down with chains. It was an extremely lethal situation for her—however, despite the fact that Saber had fallen down, Archer didn’t finish her off; instead, he fell down to his knees in anguish. The wound from the blade that had bit into his shoulder, even if it wasn’t a fatal wound, was extremely close to being so.
Normally, there was no strength behind the part of the blade close to the handle, so Archer had judged that it would probably only be strong enough to cut his leather armor. But he had underestimated it too much. In spite of receiving Saber’s strike under most likely the very best of conditions possible, the wound on his collarbone was too deep.
Most likely, his right shoulder wouldn’t move until it was mended with healing magecraft. In other words, he couldn’t use his bow until then. Archer smiled bitterly. He had intended to corner her, but he ended up being cornered instead. The decisive chance he had received in return had been reversed into a fatal situation for him.
He came to a decision without hesitation. He could not think of a way to deliver a final blow to Saber in this situation no matter how he moved or fought. If he effectively used the slightly less than three seconds it would take until Saber got back up, withdrawal was probably the best plan here.
Archer decided to report the situation to Fiore who was fighting a fierce battle of her own and recommend retreating.
(1) Pankration is written in katakana, while above it in furigana it is written as the “power of everything” or “all strength/power”.