—It was overwhelming.
“…As I thought.”
Speaking with a dispassionate voice, Lancer of Red was cornering Lancer of Black. His precision, which didn’t show the slightest bit of mercy, was truly cold-hearted, suitable for a great hero.
However, the hero Vlad III, who had equally fought against him just a little bit earlier, was greatly inferior to him.
Lancer of Black himself could also sense that abnormality. He had become weaker. If his earlier self was rated 10, his current self was at best a 6.
Stakes were being created from Lancer of Black’s own body. But their force and sharpness were not as great as before. Even without covering himself in flames, Lancer of Red was able to repel all of them with just his spear and armor.
“These Hanging Gardens are the domain ruled by our camp’s Assassin. It’s not your territory. In other words—as long as you are within these gardens, you aren’t the great patriotic hero who saved his country.”
Assassin of Red’s Noble Phantasm, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was a fortress Noble Phantasm that ruled a defined domain. To put it another way, that place wasn’t Romania where Vlad III was revered as a hero. Accordingly, the level of his fame became equal to zero.
Naturally, Lancer of Red, Karna, also had close to zero fame here. But there was a difference in basic power between Karna and Vlad III.
Even if his fame was equal to zero, as long as his legend existed somewhere in the world, Karna was unmistakably a great hero. On the other hand, outside of Romania, Vlad III was only known as a blood-sucking vampire.
Having been summoned with the characteristics of a hero, Lancer of Black’s fame didn’t give him any power. Rather, it inhibited his ability to display his original specs.
As he faced against Lancer of Red who wielded a spear, Lancer of Black had lost the refinement, splendor and even sternness that he had always maintained. Only the fact that he had pride and dignity as a hero supported him.
That alone gave him the power to fight.
But it was far from enough to cut off the head of Lancer of Red.
If the fighting spirit that Lancer of Black had due to his pride as a hero weakened even slightly, the battle would end with the force and speed of an avalanche.
The two Lancers understood that very well. In that case, Lancer of Black should just retreat, turn back and run away. Though, if he could do that, he wouldn’t have become a Heroic Spirit in the first place.
—I’m going to die.
That thought, dyed with certainty, suddenly welled up inside Lancer of Black. His defeat would naturally mean the defeat of the entire Black camp. But it couldn’t be helped. He had been unable to win and had chased the enemy too far. Most of all, he had never imagined that the Greater Grail would be stolen.
If only Saber of Black was alive. He had such thoughts as well. Shame, despair and regret threw his heart out of order like an overflowing river.
It really couldn’t be helped.
The moment he thought that, was certain of it, and resolved himself to it, the Master who had contracted with him appeared there as if through magic and whispered to him like a devil.
“No, we can still win. —If you release that Noble Phantasm, that is.”
All the Servants present there stopped moving. The one standing there was a single Master, the head of Yggdmillennia, Darnic.
Lording over the Servants from atop a temple-like pillar some distance away from the open space where the Servants were in the midst of fighting, Darnic was strangely irritated by Lancer of Black.
But what he had said just now was a far greater problem. With a strong blow, Lancer of Black took distance from Lancer of Red and glared at his Master.
“…Darnic. What did you say to me just now?”
He wasn’t playing around this time; he was radiating genuine killing intent. Receiving it coolly, the magus continued speaking even more disrespectful words.
“My lord, I said to release that Noble Phantasm. We have no chance of winning besides that.”
“What are you saying!? I told you I wouldn’t use that Noble Phantasm, have you forgotten!? I will die here! I will crumble away in death with regret! But that is the fate of the defeated! Darnic! I will never even consider using that and turning into an unsightly existence! Never, never!”
“You’re the one who has forgotten. We must obtain the Greater Grail by any means possible! In order to turn it into a symbol and retaliate against the Association of Magi. Or to reach the Root. As a king, your wish should be fervent as well. In that case—there’s no other way but to use that Noble Phantasm.”
Saying that, Darnic held out one hand. On top of it were three red and shining Command Spells.
As Lancer of Black widened his eyes, Darnic laughed at him and spoke in a penetratingly cold voice.
“I order you with a Command Spell. Heroic Spirit Vlad III. Activate—your Noble Phantasm, Legend of Dracula.”
Even Lancer’s shout, which was filled with the deepest hatred and despair, didn’t reach Darnic.
“—I’m, not, a vampire… I’m, not…!”
That trembling mutter was the last of the reason of Heroic Spirit Vlad III. And then his Master Darnic smashed it into tiny pieces.
“No, you are a vampire. The vampire Dracula, a creature pitifully burdened with infamy due to literary works. I order you with a second Command Spell. Continue to survive until you obtain the Greater Grail.”
Lancer of Black howled and leapt at his Master Darnic. While giving a faint smile, Darnic let himself be struck in the chest.
In the span of a second, his chest was pierced through. His body collapsed. Fresh blood flew through the air and rained down on Lancer’s face. And the one who laughed loudly at it—was Darnic.
“Hahahahaha! How rude of me, my Servant! As an apology, you can drink my blood! You really are a blood-sucking vampire, the king who rules the night! Your wish is unnecessary. I will bequeath you my dream, my wish, my very existence! I order you with a third Command Spell. Engrave my existence into your soul, Lancer!”
Did that whisper came from one person or everyone present there? Regardless, they were all shocked by Lancer of Black killing his Master and the third order that Master had spoken with a Command Spell.
Servants could devour the souls of humans and convert them into prana. This was their privilege as spiritual beings. Humans could only transfer souls between vessels or observe them.
But this magus Darnic was an exception. He had devoted his attention to the soul which should have been impossible to convert and transform with magecraft and was useless as nourishment.
…Most likely, it was due to having fought alongside a Servant in the third Holy Grail War. Or perhaps he had accomplished this great exploit out of fear of that prediction a certain magus had told him.
Darnic had worked out a spell to turn the souls of others into nourishment for himself… However, it was a form of curse that was exceedingly close to being taboo. It wasn’t a matter of ethics. If it was for the sake of his own life, he wouldn’t balk at even crushing the head of a baby.
But this spell was far too dangerous. It was a risky piece of High-Thaumaturgy that, if something was off even by only a few millimeters, would instantly lead to his own death. The actual number of times he had consumed souls during the past sixty years was only three times.
He had held the ritual under as perfect conditions as conceivably possible each of those three times, but even so, the precision ratio of his body and soul had been reduced to sixty percent. ‘Someone’ who wasn’t himself was gradually coming to rule over him little by little.
Most likely, even if he perfectly accomplished the next ritual, he would no longer be ‘Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia’, but someone else instead. Even if he had his memories, even if every detail was perfectly recorded—it wouldn’t be him.
In other words, for Darnic to consume the soul of Lancer, a Servant, without even conducting the ritual was nothing other than a genuine suicidal act.
After all, it was the soul of a Heroic Spirit. A vast and enormous soul of the finest quality that could activate the Greater Grail with seven of them. Therefore, it should have been impossible for a human who wasn’t a [vessel] or anything else to consume such a thing.
“No way, that’s impossible…!!”
That’s why it was only natural for Archer of Black to murmur in shock.
“—A Command Spell. No, even with that it’s impossible. Darnic… no, the current you… is neither Darnic nor Vlad III.”
Lancer of Black… no, the ‘person’ who was neither Lancer nor Darnic smiled fearlessly.
“Exactly, Archer. Even if, with, the third, Command Spell, I took the soul of the, Heroic Spirit Vlad III into myself, to the utmost limit… it isn’t possible to control a Heroic Spirit. Let alone take one into oneself.”
His thin sneering voice was already difficult to distinguish between that of Darnic’s or Vlad III’s.
“But, but. I can engrave into it. I can engrave, my thoughts of a hundred years… my tenacity for the Holy Grail… I am no longer either Darnic or Vlad III! I am just a monster that only seeks the Holy Grail, and I don’t care about being one…!”
In the first place, even if the summoning of the Heroic Spirit was accomplished using a holy relic as the foundation, their spiritual nature tended to be close to that of their Master. Darnic and Vlad III, who wanted to wipe away their disgrace and infamy… in other words, held excessive confidence and pride in themselves, resembled each other closely on the level of the mind and soul.
Furthermore, even if it was for a short time, they had spent many days together as Master and Servant. If the binding of the third Command Spell was added to that, it became possible to even engrave the identity of [Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia] into the tremendous soul of a Heroic Spirit.
The tenacity of this magus had, even if just slightly, surpassed that of the Heroic Spirit.
“Stop!! Stop, stop, stop, stop, please stop…!! I am the King of Wallachia, the son of Vlad II—don’t enter inside meeeeeeeeeeeee!”
Lancer of Black cried out, his form already filled with hatred. But his face was already rearranging to an extremely vague visage that was both like that of Darnic and of Vlad III. It was just like an amorphous monster.
“Now with this, you are me and I am you. My lord! No, vampire! Your power will become our shared property! Everything is for the sake of the Holy Grail! My dream, my wish will take root within you and continue on for eternity!”
Darnic Prestone Yggdmillenia. He had now become a parasite within the soul of the Heroic Spirit Vlad III with the viciousness of a cancer.
—This isn’t good.
As someone who had devoted himself to [looking at others], Lancer of Red immediately drew near and with his spear, tried to pierce through Lancer of Black’s chest from the back. He didn’t think it was cowardly; in the first place, the one who had looked away in the middle of battle was Lancer of Black.
He pierced the heart where the spiritual core was. Almost all servants would die without question at this point. Heroic Spirits who were recognized for their stamina could still remained connected to the current age even after that, but Vlad III, who had unfortunately lost his fame, wasn’t such a powerful Servant.
That’s right. If the Servant that Lancer of Red had stabbed was Vlad III, that is.
Lancer of Red should have definitely pierced the heart of this land’s lord who had shown his defenceless back.
But he neither vanished nor even turned around. Instead of blood, a black shadowy something began leaking out from the spot he had stabbed.
Lancer of Red stared his spear and murmured.
“…I definitely felt feedback, but attacks like that have been reduced to having no effect, huh?”
“Lancer, your spear had no effect?”
Archer of Red couldn’t hide her shock. Like her bow, Lancer’s spear was a great weapon bequeathed from the gods. For it not to have any effect after being driven into an enemy Servant’s spiritual core meant—
“If it was before he became a vampire, it probably would have destroyed his spiritual core like normal and killed him.”
Bats gathered together and combined together into the form of a person.
“But what stands before us is not Lancer of Black, Vlad III. It is the creature known and feared throughout the world—a vampire.”
Vampires called Dead Apostles existed in this world. Some slipped in among people and sucked their blood while others remained in isolation without coming into contact with anyone, but either way, Dead Apostles possessed their own unique concepts and culture and lived quietly in the shadows of the world.
Right now, the one in front of the gathered Servants wasn’t such a vampire. In terms of the concept of mystery, it was only a hundred years old. But the terror of it covered the entire world. When people heard the word ‘vampire’, what they first thought of wasn’t the Dead Apostles who hide themselves from the rest of the world, but the one who had been created using the great hero of Romania, Vlad III, as a base—the ‘vampire Dracula’.
“—It’s a monster.”
Lancer of Red’s frank feelings were agreed with by all the Servants gathered there.
Having completely regained human form, the vampire faced the Servants. There was cruelty in his eyes, but his gaze wasn’t brimming with intelligence.
His elegant, black aristocratic clothes were torn to shreds—and from within them, shadows with mass began to spill out instead of blood or flesh.
The spear Lancer of Black had held vanished like dust at the same time as his aspect as a hero was extinguished.
“…Now then, return my Holy Grail. I must grant my clan’s dearest wish with that Greater Grail. Yes, in order to grant my longstanding desire, I must infinitely and inexhaustibly survive. I must increase my bloodline. I must gather talent, effort and a nurturing environment and give birth to those who will follow after me. So, give back the Greater Grail… give it back, give it back, give it back, give it baaaaaaaaaaaack!!”
—That shout had Darnic’s selfish dream and his instincts as a vampire mixed together into it.
He had thrown away all of his humanity not for the sake of reaching the Root, but rather for the preceding step—to increase one’s clan.
He had to increase his bloodline—for the sake of his clan.
He had to become stronger—for the sake of his clan.
The wish he would ask of the Greater Grail was to propagate himself, augment himself and increase himself. The man who had confused his love for his clan and his own deep-rooted and delusional convictions refused to understand how destructive his dream was.
All that was left was merely a creature that didn’t hide his cruel, blood-red eyes and bared his fangs. He slowly looked around as if surveying his surroundings and then focused on a single point.
This ‘nameless creature’ had already sniffed out the location of the Greater Grail where it had been brought into these gardens.
“Hah. Regardless, the fact that you’re a monster far off from the gods doesn’t change!”
Rider of Red stepped forward. Holding his hero-slaying spear in one hand, he closed the distance between himself and the vampire in an instant with his swift feet. He threw his spear at the same time as he leapt forward, and it closed in on the vampire with the speed of a bullet.
The voice of restraint came from Archer of Black. But it was too late. The spear had already been brought to a halt.
It was a sure-kill spear that he had thrown fast enough to surpass the sound barrier. And yet the spear that should have been close to impossible to evade had been stopped by one of the vampire’s hands.
It was like grabbing a flying missile bare-handed. Naturally, his hand’s flesh was torn to shreds, his nerves were snapped apart, and his bones were smashed loudly.
But the vampire’s regenerative ability worked far faster than the speed at which he was wounded. Even the sight of his hand regenerating from its snapped ends looked disgusting.
The vampire laughed and jumped at Rider of Red. Having just jumped himself, Rider couldn’t stop himself from being pushed down to the ground. But even so, Rider was still composed. As long as the enemy didn’t have the blood of the gods, no attack would affect his body, so it was only natural he would feel that way.
The instant the vampire bared his fangs, Rider immediately held out his arm to protect himself, most likely due to his abundant accumulated battle experience and survival instincts warning him. The moment he was bitten, he felt a strange itchiness.
The next instant, he was sent flying by a strong kick from Archer of Black. The fangs came out of his arm and the itchiness disappeared.
After standing up while groaning, Rider of Red protested to his teacher Archer.
“What are you doing all of a sudden, sensei!?”
“…It’s true that attacks against you won’t have any effect without the [Divinity] skill. And due to your Bravery skill, not even bewitching spells that interfere with the mind will affect you. But even without the blood of the gods, there exists ways to turn you into an ally.”
Archer nocked an arrow to his bow and, without hesitation, fired it at the vampire who should have been his ally only minutes ago. But even after the arrow pierced him, the vampire calmly pulled it out. Not a single drop of blood came out, and his wound closed at once.
“That wasn’t an attack just now, but rather the act of blood-sucking. It wasn’t intended to kill you, but to transform you into his comrade. Your body is virtually invincible against ill will and killing intent. But it was requested that part of you be weak. Yes, in other words—”
Rider of Red’s—Achilles’ mother, the goddess Thetis, had tried to extinguish his human blood and turn him completely into a god by bathing him in holy flames when he was a baby. Though it had been stopped midway by her husband Peleus, his entire body except his heel became immortal.
As a result, no form of attack would have any effect on Achilles, but… that special characteristic of his had two pitfalls. First, he could be wounded by those with the blood of the gods like himself. And second, when faced not with an attack, but instead—
“…Against an act that displays friendship, my invincibility does not apply.”
Rider of Red made a displeased expression as he finished Archer’s explanation himself. Archer of Black nodded without smiling.
The vampire turned to face an unexpected direction with a twitch. He grimaced with displeasure and threw Rider of Red’s spear from his hand. He aimed not at any of the gathered Red and Black Servants, but at a girl who had just come running here.
—There was a shining flash that seemed to tear through the darkness.
Rider of Red’s spear was knocked down without reaching the girl. Her flag that fluttered in the wind was a first-rate holy weapon that could smash any kind of darkness.
At Archer of Red’s shout, everyone else turned to gaze at her. Lancer of Red, who had tried to kill her once before, was also among them, but Ruler took no notice of him—she just glared fervently at the vampire that had just been born here.
“Vlad III… no, you are a vampire, and Darnic as well…”
The vampire, who had abandoned even his existence as a Servant, couldn’t be bound with Ruler’s Command Spells. Lancer of Black was in a state close to vanishing, and even if she ordered him to kill himself with a Command Spell, the parasite within him, Darnic, could reject it.
Ruler had already deemed this vampire as being the greatest threat that could destroy the Holy Grail War.
He was neither a proud Heroic Spirit nor even a Servant. He was simply a ‘nameless creature’ that had gained the power of a vampire and lost any trace of morality.
The most troublesome part of all was his ‘concept’. Even under normal circumstances, Vlad III—was mixed with the legend of Kaziklu Bey, the Lord of Impalement, and the legend of a vampire that was associated with him. It was possible that the power and fame of Vlad III would be adopted by the vampire here as well.
If he reached the Greater Grail and he was released from the Hanging Gardens… Romania would likely turn into hell in a single day.
It was something that mixed, joined and fused together history and legend. It would become a Grand Guignol1 that simply slaughtered the people who dwelled in this country. Someone with a heart might call this tragedy thus.
That is————the [Night of Wallachia]2.
Just as Assassin of Red had said, Ruler had to take him down before anything else.
“In order to safeguard the conductance of the Holy Grail War, I ask that you all temporarily join forces.”
“…Hoh. So our enemy is this vampire, huh?”
Ruler nodded at Archer of Red’s words.
“Yes. I request that we maintain a truce amongst each other until he is defeated. We cannot let this vampire reach the Holy Grail… Absolutely not.”
The vampire seemed to wait in anticipation even as he heard those commands, simply glaring at Ruler. Ruler raised her left hand and spoke clearly.
“In the name of Ruler—of Jeanne d’Arc. I order all Servants gathered here with my Command Spells! Defeat the vampire who was once Vlad III!”
The Command Spells engraved on her left hand released an intense light. Chains of commandment coiled around Archer of Black, Caster of Black, Archer of Red, Lancer of Red and Rider of Red.
Those chains weren’t an impediment if they fought the vampire—rather, they would raise the abilities of all the Servants as long as they were fighting him. But if they tried to fight the group that had temporarily joined together to oppose the vampire, their movements would dull, and the strength to wield their weapons would weaken at once.
In that case, it was obvious whom they should fight. In the first place, they were heroes, men and woman of valor who fought to defeat monsters, demons and man-eating fiends.
“—Very well. I’ll provide support along with Archer of Black. Rider, Lancer, you two move as you wish.”
“Roger that, Nee-san. So that’s how it is, Lancer.”
“…I don’t mind.”
“Caster. Can you make shackles with golems like you did when we captured Berserker of Red?”
“It’s not that I can’t, but it won’t work like it did with Berserker. It will only dull his movements a bit. Also, it’ll be pointless if he changes form into mist or bats.”
Caster of Black manipulated his fingers in the air, and ten golems started moving smoothly. One finger for each golem. With just that, the ten golems attacked the vampire, each with completely different movements.
Compared to this, the golems that had operated autonomously on the battlefield were mere puppets.
While dodging the arms that the vampire lashed out with, the golems struck at him with their bronze fists. Even after being hit by strong blows that would considerably damage even a normal Servant, he just casually counterattacked.
But now that Ruler had given an edict with her Command Spells, he had not a single ally, and everyone that stood around him was his enemy.
Rider and Lancer of Red matched their timing and attacked with each of their spears. On one hand was a hero-slaying spear bequeathed from Rider’s teacher, and on the other was a spear of light that was said to be capable of even killing gods.
Furthermore, the two Archers, who boasted of talent that reached the domain of the gods, fired arrows in succession through the gaps between their two spearmen allies without minding them as they approached the enemy.
And in addition to this, Ruler, Jeanne d’Arc, was also added to their forces. She used her holy flag which the vampire was weak against and systemically knocked down the vampire’s arms as he tried to extend them.
They were six in total. Six Servants who were all worthy of being called the strongest. However, there was not the slightest bit of relaxation shown on any of their faces. It wasn’t in order to stop themselves from being negligent. They really were desperate.
“Kuh, he’s turned into mist again—!!”
Vlad III had been summoned as Lancer of Black, and had been given the Noble Phantasm Kaziklu Bey: Lord of Execution that came from his affinity as the Lord of Impalement as long as he was within his dominion.
By becoming a vampire and taking in Darnic, those had all been sealed away, but he had been given new weapons. The various unmatched abilities possessed by those known as vampires.
A black cloak that melted into the night and stakes that stabbed out from inside it had been summoned forth. Since they weren’t summoned from the ground, there was no fear of a surprise attack, but—the stakes were thrown with the superhuman strength of a vampire, breaking the sound barrier as if it were extremely natural.
“Tch, how troublesome…!!”
Rider of Red stepped into range and rapidly snapped them away with his spear. Generally speaking, there was no one among these Servants present who could beat him in terms of speed. It was the same even if he wasn’t mounted on his chariot. There was no one, either before or after his death, who had beaten the great hero Achilles of the Trojan War in speed.
Though he was one step slower than Rider, Lancer of Red was also quick-witted and agile. He smashed all the stakes that had been shooting at him since earlier.
But—at last, one of the mass-produced spears seized Lancer of Red’s foot. It pierced through the top of his foot with power equal to that of a Noble Phantasm. The moment he tried to pull it out, Lancer’s movements stopped slightly.
With his terrifying superhuman strength, the vampire simply hit him with a punch. Just that was enough to send Lancer flying into a wall. The damage itself was insignificant, but Lancer couldn’t hide his surprise at how the vampire had overpowered him with just his overwhelming physical strength.
Rider of Red reflexively turned his gaze to the wall that Lancer had collided against. When he did that, the vampire attacked Rider as if he had intentionally aimed for that. He bared his fangs in order to suck Rider’s blood and turn him into one of his kind.
Lancer of Red prevented him from doing so by throwing his spear at him.
“—Tenacity, malice, or perhaps conviction based on flawed beliefs. Neither a magus nor a hero, you are no longer anyone now. Your agony over having become ‘something not yourself’ isn’t half-hearted. Don’t leave any regrets or lingering attachments behind, monster. Just swiftly disappear.”
It was true that, just as Lancer of Red had pointed out, the creature’s agony was extraordinary.
The sensation of his very self completely disappearing. It couldn’t be helped that even his own name, which could be called the foundation of a human being, felt like someone else’s to him.
Who am I, what am I—even those questions faded away.
What he clung to was solely the order that had been given to him with the second Command Spell. Even when surrounded by six Servants and with his core self fading away even now, the vampire still howled loudly.
“…Ha, haha! No! As if I’ll let myself die or be killed yet! No, I won’t die until I obtain the Greater Grail!”
When arrows pierced him, he would turn completely into mist and bats, and on top of that would turn into a giant savage dog baring its fangs. He continuously changed his form, and his superhuman strength and claws tore through not only the golems, but even occasionally the two Archers, approaching them with speed that resembled teleportation.
—However, with all six Servants attacking him together, the situation wasn’t at a disadvantage for them. Considering the battle as a whole, the Servants led by Ruler could be said to be the ones dominating in this situation. After all, it would be fine as long as they could buy time. When dawn came, the vampire’s power would drop sharply. It would be easy to kill him then.
The problem was that he was trying to head towards where the Greater Grail was stored. Even while fighting, the vampire continued to remain obsessed on the Greater Grail due to the second Command Spell his Master Darnic had used and also Darnic’s own will.
What should happen if he reached the Greater Grail? What would he wish for with that swirl of prana that had been accumulated over sixty years? If he had even a fragment of reason left, his wish would be definitely be the final goal of magecraft—in other words, to reach the Root.
But, if even that fragment of reason had been lost, his wish would probably be something exceedingly destructive.
—It will definitely be the latter.
And Ruler had a premonition. That he would wish for destruction with the Greater Grail. As long as the Greater Grail wasn’t completely activated, there was a chance it wouldn’t grant his wish, but Ruler was not so foolish as to simply hope for the best.
The six Servants split into vanguard and rear guard and continued fighting efficiently.
We can do it.
All the Servants gathered there were certain of it. It was slow going, but the speed of their attacks had started to win against the regeneration of his wounds. Even when he turned into mist, the flames from Lancer of Red’s [Prana Burst] didn’t give him the leisure to run away.
The vampire unleashed an attack with a hateful gaze, but it was blocked by Lancer of Red coming to the forefront. However—
Far too abruptly and without any warning, all the Red Servants fell to their knees with anguished expressions and stopped moving.
“Is it, our Masters…!?”
Though it was only for an instant, their existences terribly weakened. The vampire didn’t overlook that short opening and jumped over them to begin running towards the Greater Grail.
Ruler and Archer of Black began running after him at the same time. Was the chill Ruler had felt since earlier due to fear of the vampire having his wish granted?
Casting aside such thoughts, she concentrated on running with intense speed and chasing after the vampire. Fortunately, the prana of the Greater Grail could be sensed even from here. There was no way they could miss it.
But—the vampire was fast!
“Archer of Black, stop his legs!”
At Ruler’s order, Archer nocked arrows on his bow without saying anything or decelerating at all, and shot five of them in succession as strafing fire. All the arrows pierced through the vampire’s legs and waist, just as he had aimed for. But then the vampire changed into bats.
His speed had dulled a little, but it hadn’t managed to stop him. Shaking his head, Archer of Black focused on pursuing him.
“…Archer of Black, do you know the reason why the Red Servants stopped moving just now?”
“No. I thought the effect of your Command Spells might have worn off, but—it doesn’t seem so.”
Archer of Black sensed power gushing from inside his body that was separate from the prana supply from his Master. This was most likely the boost effect from Ruler’s Command Spell.
Ruler was also bothered by it. Had the Red Masters disagreed with fighting together with the Black camp? …No, in that case, they would have first told their Servants. What happened just now was if—
The bats flying ahead of them were suddenly shot down one by one. Contracting lights like fine threads were shot one after another from far down the hallway ahead.
“Kuh… so she doesn’t care if they hit us either!”
However, those lights were also inevitably strafing Ruler and Archer who were chasing after the vampire. The shooter, Assassin of Red, probably didn’t take that into account at all. She seemed to think that her own power alone was enough to take down the vampire.
But that was negligent. The bats returned to the form of the vampire once more and, even with his entire body being torn apart by the lights, he regained his speed by prioritizing the regeneration of his feet alone.
Rather than running, he simply advanced forward determinedly by repeatedly crashing into walls like a flexible ball. Eventually, the vampire found a door. If he passed through it, he would find what he sought there. The almighty wish-granting device that would release the violent emotions gushing inside his chest was behind that door.
—Just a little more, and my wish will be granted.
Three Servants, consisting of Berserker of Black, Berserker of Red and Saber of Black, should already be stored in the Lesser Grail. Saber of Black had been re-summoned due to a miraculous phenomenon, but there were still two Servants collected in the Lesser Grail. If it was a small-scale wish—in other words, as long as it wasn’t a wish as great as wishing for the world itself to change and transform, he should be able to forcefully activate the Greater Grail and have it grant his wish.
The propagation, augmentation and supplementation of his flesh. There should be no problem with a wish of that level.
Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia. That name already seemed like that of someone else to him now.
But he understood that that man had sought the Holy Grail and he was now here at the end of that search. So—rejoice, Darnic. Your wish will soon be granted!
He opened the door without hesitating for an instant, and there lay precisely what he wished for. The broad stairway of sun-dried bricks before his eyes headed straight down and, at the bottom there was a gigantic structure standing there that seemed to pierce through the top floor of the building in which it was contained.
Filled with pale white light, it was the almighty wish-granting device—Fuyuki’s Greater Grail.
He had stolen the march on not only many Servants, but even Ruler. The vampire had reached it at last. Now he just had to forcefully activate the Greater Grail and grant his wish…
“That’s far enough, Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia.”
A person stood halfway down the steps to the Greater Grail. Judging that it was a Master and not a Servant, the vampire had decided to kill him.
But he reflexively came to a stop when he heard those words, as if held back by them. Though it would have been better to just go down and kill him without breaking a sweat, ‘something’ about that voice bothered him.
“…Who are you?”
At the sound of the person’s footsteps, the vampire reflexively drew back. He felt a chill. His instincts were telling him that he mustn’t meet with the person in front of him. It was a bomb. The fuse had already been lit and a shattering explosion was less than a few seconds away.
Standing before the vampire was a tanned-skinned youth. He wore a gentle smile and declared thus solemnly.
“Or perhaps I should call you the remains of Darnic. I honestly admire that tenacity of yours. But I’ll never hand over the Holy Grail to you. Much less now that you’ve been reduced to a vampire.”
It exploded. Within Darnic were memories of the past that he absolutely wouldn’t forget even if he forgot his own name. The Third Holy Grail War that he had desperately fought to the bitter end in as a magus—he would absolutely never forget that battle which had been the start of everything.
That’s why he was shocked now.
“Oh my. Those are truly banal words, coming from you, Darnic. Since you managed to survive, then there’s nothing to be surprised about me surviving as well.”
“That’s, impossible! No way! Why!? Why are you here!? Why are you still alive…!?”
The youth shrugged his shoulders and spoke in a very aloof manner.
“—Naturally, it’s because I’m participating in this Great Holy Grail War. As a Master of the Red camp.”
It was an absolutely impossible declaration to the vampire. Ignoring the speechlessness of vampire, the youth shouted in an increasingly louder voice.
“I’ve waited for this moment, Darnic! Fuyuki’s Greater Grail belongs to me! Whether you be a magus or a vampire—I will never hand over this Greater Grail to the likes of you who can do nothing but drive the world to destruction!”
At those words, the vampire was freed from the shackles of fear that had unconsciously bound him.
“…Don’t screw with meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”
Enraged, the vampire took a step forward to rush at him—and fell down in an ungainly manner.
When he looked down, something sharp and pointed was stabbed into his knees. These were the thrown-type Conceptual Weapons that were favored by agents of the Church— [Black Keys].
“You are a vampire. Unfortunately, vampires must also have various weaknesses as compensation for their unmatched strength. Sunshine weakens them, and they are weak against holy symbols. And—they are also weak against weapons meant for purification like Black Keys.”
Yes, what the youth said was certainly correct. A Church agent’s Black Keys were Conceptual Weapons strong enough to purify Dead Apostles.
But the power of his Black Keys was far too extraordinary… no, abnormal.
Coolly and solemnly, the tanned-skin youth spoke in praise of another.
“No, compared to Ruler who was chasing you, someone like me is worthless. I’m just a worthless, unacknowledged sham of a saint. However, I have enough power to pulverize your current self.”
His red holy shroud fluttered, and silver blades flew out. The Black Keys stabbed around the vampire, suppressing any counterattack, and the youth grabbed the vampire’s face.
The youth’s presence suddenly transformed. He was no longer a Master now, but someone different. Yes, this was the one who had fought to the death against the Servant Darnic had summoned in the past—
“Then, it’s time for prayer. —Nameless vampire.”
“I will kill. I will let live. I will harm and heal. None will escape me. None will escape my sight.”
The vampire shrieked and struggled with his limbs.
But the hands grasping him tightened on the face of the vampire as if in a vice.
“Be crushed. I welcome those who have grown old and those who have lost. Devote yourself to me, learn from me, and obey me. Rest. Do not forget song, do not forget prayer, and do not forget me. I am light and relieve you of all your burdens.”
The youth quickly lifted the vampire up the stairs and dashed through the hallway while still holding him. Physical strength wasn’t an issue here. This was a clash of conviction and faith.
So there was no way that this ‘unknown person’, who had been reduced to a vampire, could match this youth’s faith that was as hard as steel and as sharp as a sword.
—His existence was being erased with just a few words. The Greater Grail that should have been in reach of his hand just earlier was getting further and further away before his eyes. That filled him with regret.
“Do not pretend. Retribution for forgiveness, betrayal for trust, despair for hope, darkness for light, dark death for the living.”
The youth’s dark and ageless eyes, together with the chant, stabbed into the vampire like a blade. It was an extraordinarily powerful Baptism Rite that wasn’t possible for a human.
—And why did he have to be killed by him of all people? The vampire could understand if it was a Servant. He would be tormented by regret if it were a Master. But this was too incomprehensible. A meteorite crashing into his head would be more understandable than this.
“Relief is in my hands. I will add oil to your sins and leave a mark. Eternal life is given through death. ——Ask for forgiveness here. I, the incarnation, will swear.”
—Ah, ah, ah! My Holy Grail, my dream (illusion)! My Holy Grail! My dream (wish)! It’s still unfulfilled, unfulfilled, unfulfilled!!3
The vampire crashed against a door as he was pushed along. Not minding the details, the youth simply continued running forward at full speed. The door was smashed apart and the youth stepped inside. The room was a chapel. The youth ran through the chapel’s nave—and, in the presence of God, he spoke the final holy words with a gaze filled with compassion and pity.
“Kyrie Eleison: I grant compassion onto this soul.”
The entire body of the [nameless monster], who had once been a devout believer and king of a land and who had also once been a magus before becoming no one in the end, began to emit white smoke. He was melting. Not his flesh, but his very existence was melting away.
While leaving behind moans of regret and gasps of despair, the vampire evaporated away right down to the final fragment of himself. The hero who saved his homeland and the leader of a clan who commanded many magi were already dead.
The past kings were dead, and the current king raised a loud song of victory.
And it was then that Ruler and the other Servants that had been chasing the vampire stepped into the chapel.
Strangely enough, those two met in a chapel, a place suitable for the two of them. The vampire, having melted away in the center of the chapel nave, no longer moved or spoke. He had evaporated away. His soul had returned to where it should be.
Standing calmly beside his corpse was a youth. He had tanned skin and white hair like silver, and he wore a red stole and mantle over his cassock.
The instant she saw him, Ruler understood everything.
Because she understood, she gasped. Impossible, it couldn’t be. The youth in front of her—was a Servant. No, if it were just that, it would be fine. A Master being a Servant deviated from the rules, but at the very least, it would be a conceivable possibility.
But the problem was his class. He wasn’t Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Berserker, Caster or Assassin.
“—How do you do? Ruler of this war.”
“…A sixteenth Servant…!?”
Even the calm and collected Archer of Black couldn’t hide his surprise. The same went for the Red Servants who had arrived after frantically following behind Archer and Ruler.
The youth they had thought was a Master was definitely openly exuding the spiritual nature of a Servant from himself.
“I’m not the sixteenth, Chiron. The sixteenth is Ruler beside you. Strictly speaking, I am the first Servant.”
“Master of Assassin… What have you done to our Masters!?”
In response to Archer of Red’s enraged question, the youth chuckled and held up one arm, rolling back the sleeve covering it. Everyone gasped as they looked at it.
Engraved on it was all the respective Command Spells for Archer of Red, Lancer of Red, Rider of Red, Berserker of Red, Caster of Red and Assassin of Red—eighteen Command Spells in total.
“I peacefully had them turn over their rights as Masters and each of their three Command Spells. Don’t worry, the prana necessary to keep you all in this world is a trivial amount to supply now that I’m connected to the Greater Grail.”
The youth nodded at the murmur spoken by someone, and spoke while glancing at Lancer of Red.
“After all, our camp’s Lancer is a hero of charity who excels at seeing through people’s lies. That’s why I had to have things proceed according to our plan without lying as much as possible. The reason I purposefully had my orders conveyed via your Masters was for the sake of that. Yes, your Masters didn’t lie. They think that they gave directions according to their own judgement… even now.”
“—Yes. What I sensed, what God warned me of was you, I see now.”
“I wonder about that. I have no intention of defying God, though.”
Even without thinking deeply about it, everything about Jeanne d’Arc’s summoning had strange from the beginning. A possession summoning by borrowing a human’s body. At first she had thought it was because this war had an unprecedented summoning of fourteen Servants, but when she thought about it, it was the opposite. If it was a situation where it was inevitable that chaos and mayhem would be caused by fourteen Servants, the Greater Grail would have correctly accomplished Ruler’s summoning at all costs.
The reason it couldn’t do so was because the Greater Grail’s identity recognition was confused by the absolutely impossible situation of there being two Rulers existing at once.
In that case, it was obvious that it would be confused how to properly summon the one being summoned second. And the reason this priest had run away from her was also because she was Ruler. Because of the skill that Ruler possessed as one of her privileges—[True Name Discernment].
This skill, which exposed the class and true names of other Servants, was naturally effective even on Servants that had achieved incarnation. In the worst case scenario, if he had met her on the battlefield, the youth’s plan would have failed.
“You are… the Ruler who was summoned in the Third Holy Grail War in Fuyuki.”
Every Servant gathered there gasped at Ruler’s words.
“Yes. It would have been troublesome if I met you face-to-face before I became their official Master. After all, you have Command Spells. If you realized who I was, everything would have come to nothing, right? I won’t let you get in the way of my dream.”
There was no hatred in the youth’s voice. But there was a resolute will in it. Persuading him was impossible, and this youth wouldn’t stop unless he was killed—Ruler was certain of that.
Ruler gazed at the youth with her amethyst-like eyes, and called him by his name.
“—What is your objective, Amakusa Shirou Tokisada?”
“That’s obvious. It’s the salvation of all humanity, Jeanne d’Arc.”
The boy and the girl were famed and extolled for creating ‘miracles’ by the unrewarded masses and the soldiers who chased after their backs.
Unable to forgive each other’s existence, they quietly glared at each other.
CHAPTER 3 END
(1) Grand Guignol: The name of a theater in Paris that played horrors shows in first half of the 20th century. The kanji beneath it reads as ‘masterpiece tragedy’.
(2) As a Type Moon trivia side note, the “Night of Wallachia” is also the name of the Thirteenth of the Twenty-Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors who appears as the antagonist of the Type Moon game Melty Blood, who gained his title due to first manifesting as the image of the vampire that was falsely believed to haunt the province of Wallachia in Romania, Vlad the Impaler.
(3) Thought it isn’t shown well in English, these thoughts are meant to be a mix of Darnic’s and Vlad’s. It’s divided into two halves that each use different first-person pronouns, the first of which is what was used by Darnic earlier in the text and the second by Vlad. Also, each says “dream” in furigana, but the kanji translates as “illusion” for Darnic and “wish/aspiration” for Vlad.