The Fortress of Millennia. The Masters there viewed the battlefield through their familiars and Menorah, and either gave directions to their Servants or had nothing more to say and simply watched the battle while holding their breaths.
Among them, Darnic suddenly spoke up.
“—I’m going out. Fiore, I leave commanding the Masters to you. Henceforth, you are all to obey her orders.”
Darnic didn’t respond to Fiore and leapt out from a window. Flight wasn’t a very difficult spell for a magus. He stepped through the sky as if walking up a set of stairs.
—Like I thought, I suppose I’ll have to activate it.
While looking down at his Command Spells, he carefully examined the current situation of his Servant… Lancer of Black. He considered Lancer of Red, who had fought evenly against Saber of Black, the hero Siegfried, and also Rider of Red, Achilles, who Archer of Black had concluded couldn’t be killed except by Heroic Spirits with the blood of the gods.
In addition to those two, Saber of Red was also a formidable enemy. Even now, she was one-sidedly fighting against their camp’s Rider. At this rate, Rider of Black would be defeated.
But Darnic still had a last resort. Lancer of Black’s other Noble Phantasm.
It was a truly certain-kill Noble Phantasm that, once activated, would allow him to easily tear apart Lancer of Red and kill even a Heroic Spirit with divine blood.
Of course, the price for using it was high. Rather, it was something that he absolutely did not want to use.
“Legend of Dracula: Tradition of Blood…”
Once used, Lancer of Black would transform into a blood-sucking vampire that was only told of in folklore. Instead of a Heroic Spirit, he would be reduced to a literal monster.
The price of activating that Noble Phantasm was Darnic’s ‘life’. Because Lancer of Black had formed a contract as a Servant with Darnic in order to erase Vlad III’s blood-tarnished legend—that is, the vampire Dracula—from history.
“—In other words. Making me use that Noble Phantasm is the same as spitting upon me. Even if I am about to die, I will absolutely not use it. And if you force me to do so with a Command Spell, I don’t need to tell you what will happen to you after that, do I?”
That was the warning, no, the order Lancer of Black had given immediately after being summoned. In other words, if Darnic made him use this Noble Phantasm, he would pay for it with death.
“…But if we lose, I’ll die either way.”
That was the truth. If he ran away, he could probably extend at least his life, but the magus Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia would die. That alone was an option he would not choose.
If it was for the sake of grasping victory, Darnic would permit any and all sacrifices. But the problem here was that the Master of Lancer of Black was himself.
He could force Lancer to use Legend of Dracula with one Command Spell, and then make Lancer kill himself with a second one. This would remove all problems. But if he did that, Darnic would lose his Servant.
Even if Lancer annihilated all the Red Servants during that time, what followed was a battle between the Masters of the Yggdmillennia clan. Even if Darnic was the clan head, this was a war surrounding the Holy Grail which could grant all wishes.
Even the most sensible clan members like Fiore and Caules wouldn’t listen to his orders then.
Then, should he take over another Servant from someone else?
That was also a difficult problem. Would anyone really comply with an order to hand over their Servant? Also, there was no Heroic Spirit besides the already-vanished Saber among them who could oppose Fiore’s Servant Chiron.
No matter what he did, it was a situation filled with great risk.
He was being cornered. Darnic understood that very well. But he had experienced that many times in the past one hundred years.
Among those experiences, the Third Holy Grail War sixty years ago had been an uncannily harsh battle, so much so that, even now, he rejoiced at still being alive like this.
Back then, he had the unexpected fortune of finding a path that led to the Greater Grail from a hole he had happened to fall into. He then enticed the German Nazis with skillful words, getting them to send in, under the direct orders of the Führer, a huge military force that one wouldn’t expect to be sent to an allied country like Japan, and had them steal the Greater Grail.
And then, he intentionally arranged for the transport carrying the Greater Grail to pass through Trifas on the way to Germany, and then killed all the magi and soldiers whom he had fought alongside. Following that were days of research and politics. Outwardly towards the Association, he feigned to have the Yggdmillennia clan content itself with the duty of being a receptacle for drop-out magi.
He altered the Greater Grail little by little to adapt it to Trifas. His achievement in making it possible to summon not only pure Heroics Spirits, but also ‘those who only have the aspect of a Heroic Spirit’ could be called an unexpected by-product of the alteration process.
At any rate, time was the one thing he had plenty of. Ten years, twenty years, thirty years, forty years, fifty years, sixty years—
What was the origin of this tenacity of his?
The driving force of all magi, to reach the Root? Of course, that played a big part in his reasons. As long as one lived as a magus, to aim for that was natural. But had he really struggled on until this point for such a ‘pure’ wish?
…A bitter memory from over eighty years ago surfaced in his mind.
At the time, he had been decorated with a brilliant debut as an up-and-coming young magus, and had suddenly obtained a marriage proposal. It was a good match for marriage. Darnic would be tying himself to a clan of long lineage that stood amongst the aristocratic Lords of the Clock Tower.
But then it all came to a halt there. The Yggdmillennia blood was polluted and impure, and couldn’t maintain itself past the fifth generation. ‘All that’s left is ruin for your clan,’ a certain magus had warned him.
—Ridiculous. As long as the clan continues past the fifth generation, any number of counter-measures can be thought of.
But it seemed the only one who thought that way was Darnic. The clan he was about to marry into didn’t like risks, and so to them, he immediately became an outsider that had to be excluded.
Even his future brother-in-law, who had slapped his back with a smile and sworn friendship with him, and the woman who was to be his spouse, who had shyly whispered her love to him, had both turned away from him.
—That’s fine. Such things happen.
But at that very instant, Yggdmillennia was cut off from their dream of rising to the ranks of the Lords. Even if they overcame ruin past the fifth generation, the label that had been once slapped on them would never come off.
He could live with what happened to himself, but those magi had taken away even the futures of those who followed after him. At that instant, Darnic abandoned the idea of reaching the Root through the normal approach—in other words, by accumulating diligent research as a magus and gradually climbing up the political ladder within the Association—as a wish that would never be granted.
Therefore, he first had to think of a method to stop the ruin of his clan. And then he had to search for a path to reach the Root.
There was also the option of simply withdrawing from the Association of Magi and continuing his clan’s research while hiding themselves amidst the world. But Darnic refused to do that.
Naturally, remaining in the Association was humiliating. But Darnic carved that humiliation into his heart without forgetting any bit of it for even a second—and used it as nourishment.
At that time, he coincidently learned about the Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City. He involved Nazi Germany, who were interested in the occult, obtained the power of their army, and participated in the war as a Master.
It was fortunate for him that the situation had turned extremely chaotic due to the Einzberns, who had committed an act of foul play that broke the war’s rules.
…The Third Holy Grail War concluded with no definite victor, and the exhausted Einzbern, Tohsaka and Makiri families had possessed no means by then to stop Darnic and the German Nazis.
According to rumors floating around, the Einzberns apparently still hadn’t given up on the Holy Grail and were trying to make a new one. The Tohsaka gave up on the Holy Grail and searched for another method to reach the Root in Fuyuki. The Makiri was a clan that had already begun falling into decay even back then. There was no news of them, but the Third Holy Grail War had most likely dealt a decisive blow to them.
Darnic no longer felt any resentment towards the clan who had forsaken him. When he considered the present, he even felt like thanking them. Though, they had already fallen to ruin as a clan long ago, without leaving their names in history at all—
It wasn’t that Darnic had a direct hand in bringing about their ruin. They were simply cornered politically. They had merely invested funds into a futile experiment, leaked the details of the hidden ritual, and the child who had inherited their clan’s Magic Crest had coincidentally and unfortunately died in an accident during the experiment.
They, who flattered Darnic and were even prepared to sell themselves to him now that they had come to ruin, were the only clan to whom he refused the request to join Yggdmillennia. Following that, he knew that they had headed to Japan in the Far East where the Holy Grail War had once taken place, but their whereabouts were unknown after that. Most likely, they had lived out their lives while lamenting everything until their death.
Human life consists of continuing to defeat someone else. And right now, the ones he must defeat are the Association of Magi and the other magi of his clan.
Of course, he felt no hesitation. Whether it be defeating members of his own clan or making his Servant use a Noble Phantasm that he had deemed taboo.
Darnic’s expression right now was enough to terrify anyone who knew his usual self. It was inhumane and cold, as if frozen in place, with not even a fragment of emotion showing through it.
Right now, he was thinking of something terribly crafty and vicious. If necessary, he wouldn’t hesitate to fall to any and all sorts of corruption. The reason he purposely went outside was because of this. So that he wouldn’t inspire any unnecessary wariness in the others.
“—Now then. What to do?”
He thought it over for a short while. And then, Darnic came to a single conclusion. The decision and determination to not balk at dirtying himself with blood was necessary, but that was surely something that he hardly had to be asked to do at this late hour.