At almost exactly the same time, Assassin of Red opened her eyes as she sat upon her throne.
“—Hmm, so they’ve come.”
She’d anticipated the enemies to come eventually, but they were slightly later than she’d predicted. Did their preparations take more time than expected, or was there another reason for their late arrival?
Either way, it didn’t change what had to be done.
“Archer, Rider… They’ve arrived. Intercept them. I don’t know what means of flight they used to get here, but there’s nothing that can withstand your attacks. Rider, crush them with your flying chariot.”
“Ah, I plan to, but it’ll probably take some time to take them all down.”
“…What? Did they use such a large-scale spell?”
“You’ll understand if you see.”
Assassin projected an image of the outside world onto the throne room’s ceiling—and was dumbfounded by what she saw.
“What is this——?”
From the knowledge she’d been given by the Holy Grail, Assassin knew what an airplane was. A mechanical bird that petty humans had put together somehow or other to fly through the sky.
They were heading towards the gardens using that. That much was fine. It was a far more rational choice than using an enchanted tool that could go malfunction. But—there were far, far too many of them.
There were a total of ten large jumbo jets, approaching the Hanging Gardens like a flock of ravens. The prana signatures coming from them were vague and ambiguous, making it impossible to precisely detect who and what was on each plane.
“Those damn Black Servants…!!”
Archer of Black was standing on the roof of one of the planes. His preparations for battle were already complete and he was searching through the surrounding skies with eyes that overlooked nothing.
Rider of Black was riding on top of the plane next to Archer’s. He was atop his hippogriff, with the homunculus who was his new Master sitting behind him.
And standing atop the center plane was the arbitrator of the Great Holy Grail War and the absolute enemy of the Red camp. The young woman who was acknowledged as a true saint and who opposed the young man who never managed to become a saint.
Class Ruler—Jeanne d’Arc.
“Relying on pure numbers… Hmph, what a foolish plan. But that’s precisely what makes it hard to deal with.”
The ten planes were approaching fast, so close they were almost on the verge of colliding with the Hanging Gardens. But conversely, felling one plane wouldn’t be enough to destroy their foothold. With Archer and Ruler’s physical abilities, they could jump to the next plane before the one they stood on fell.
“However… even that’s not enough to approach my Hanging Gardens.”
It was true that Assassin would have some difficulty dealing with this. But that was all. She could destroy all those lumps of iron merely by activating the garden’s defense functions.
However—that wouldn’t be tasteful. Proudly displaying her great power was soothing in its own way, but the other heroes of the Red camp wouldn’t agree to just slaughtering the enemy like that.
“Rider. I don’t intend to attack until the enemy reaches a certain distance near the gardens. However—”
“Hey, Miss Empress, is that supposed to mean that I’ll also get caught in the crossfire if I get close too?”
“Precisely. Does that dissatisfy you?” Assassin of Red replied calmly.
Rider of Red happily accepted that provocation.
“No, no problem at all… I’ll kill Archer of Black, and while I’m at it, I’ll take apart those flying pieces of scrap iron too.”
Rider’s voice, like that of a ferocious beast, caused a chill to run down Assassin’s back.
A demi-god born from a hero and a goddess, the great hero of the Trojan War—but if you peeled those titles away, he was actually a monster who devoted everything to battle.
“Very well, I’ll leave it to you.”
However, that was an indispensable component for a hero. Cruelty, arrogance and a sense of pride that asserted that one’s strength was absolute were what made heroes truly heroes.
“Archer. I’ll leave the rear support to you. Make sure to shoot down each one of those planes.”
“…No. I’m going to kill that annoying girl first.”
Archer of Red’s voice sounded as if it rang out from the very depths of the earth. Rider’s voice had been that of a beast excited in a blazing frenzy, filled with only joy—the pure delight at fighting someone strong.
But Archer of Red’s voice was different. It was clearly filled with hatred, decisively different from the cruel cheerfulness that most heroes possessed.
It was only natural that Assassin furrowed her brow suspiciously. From her point of view, Archer of Red was the type of hero who was easy to understand.
She enjoyed fighting the strong, had no dislike for battle in and of itself, and had no interest in good and evil or government. She treasured invisible things like honor and pride—
If she hated someone, it would only be the killer of her loved ones. However Ruler—the holy maiden of Orleans, Jeanne d’Arc—was far from being a person who would do such a thing. In the first place, Archer of Red shouldn’t have had anyone she cared about enough to love in this world.
“I’ll kill that woman! I have to kill that filthy murderer who pretends to be a saint. Don’t get in my way, Assassin…!”
And yet—Archer’s voice was filled with rage.
Assassin understood. This kind of hatred couldn’t be controlled. It was the kind that took precedence over anything, most likely making Archer deem not only the Red camp but even her own life meaningless in comparison.
Such hatred always caused chaos on the battlefield. Of course, if she could successfully defeat Ruler, then it wasn’t a problem.
“Let her be, Miss Empress. Either way, my own opponent remains Archer of Black.”
Rider interjected into the telepathic conversation. Just as he said, Rider’s pride made him desire to fight his former teacher.
“…Very well. Rider of Black likely intends to try and invade the gardens with that meager monster of his. I’ll take care of him.”
In her eyes, Rider of Black was no more a threat than a fly.
“Lancer, you are to remain on standby until any of them manage to board. I’m busy with controlling the gardens, and it goes without saying that Caster cannot be relied upon. You’re entrusted with the final defense line.”
Hearing that quiet reply made Assassin feel relieved. Even if one of the three Red Servants in charge of intercepting the enemy were defeated in the worst case scenario, as long as he was here—the enemy wouldn’t be able to take even a single step near the Greater Grail.
“In that case—slaughter them. The Greater Grail is ours!!”
“Aye!” Rider and Archer replied affirmatively.
The Black camp would win this battle if they reached the gardens.
And the Red camp would win if they prevented them from reaching the gardens.
Amakusa Shirou Tokisada aimed to save humanity, while Jeanne d’Arc was trying to prevent him from doing so. The final battle between the two sides began in a magnificent manner at the dead of night, seven thousand and five hundred meters above the Black Sea.