“You have your back to the wall now, Archer of Black!”
As Rider of Red’s booming words echoed through the sky, Archer of Black smiled coolly and shot an arrow. However, Rider’s chariot closed in on Archer faster than the arrow could reach him.
From the start, it was a battle Archer had no chance of winning. There was no way a bowman who had to fight at long range could stand up to a mounted warrior who could close the distance between them to point blank range in an instant.
—However, Archer of Black wasn’t a bowman who was limited to fighting at long range.
Even if one possessed the fastest speed, there was a drawback that accompanied it.
“The proper time, the proper coordinates, and the proper speed—those are the only things I need.”
Archer knew the speed of his arrows.
He could calculate the time it took to reach its target.
And he could predict the coordinates it would pass through.
Then, if he could figure out the speed of the chariot as well, the rest would be simple. No matter how overwhelming fast the enemy was, he just had to fire his arrow before Rider moved.
This was a form of future sight, but it wasn’t a particularly special skill. It was simply a technique naturally gained from accumulated training over time without being discouraged by setbacks and thorough calculation that predicted what would happen next.
However, from Rider of Red’s perspective, it was just as if the arrow had suddenly appeared before his eyes. Right after Archer had shot the previous arrow, he’d shot another arrow at the coordinates Rider would definitely pass through. It truly was a nightmarish situation for Rider.
The arrow hadn’t been fired after Rider moved.
Rather, Rider had moved to the coordinates that the arrow passed through—
There was no way for him to dodge. It was as if Rider had moved to stand in the bull’s eye himself.
Blood gushed out as the arrow pierced his shoulder. The arrow penetrated down to his bone.
Rider of Red pulled out the arrow and glared at Archer of Black, who had already swiftly moved to a different plane. He steered his horses to chase after him—and immediately after, the head of his horse Pedasos jolted.
Two of Rider’s three steeds were immortal divine horses. However the third one—Pedasos—was a famous horse who was legendary for his swift feet, but was not immortal. A single arrow had pierced Pedasos’ head, where his spiritual core was located. Even if the horse was a Noble Phantasm, this killing blow forced him to vanish and die.
Gritting his teeth, Rider of Red glared at Archer of Black.
His options were limited now. If he continued to destroy the airplanes with his now two-steed chariot, he could easily force the enemies to withdraw. Most likely, Rider of Black alone would remain with his hippogriff, but Archer of Red could probably shoot him down without much trouble.
However—this was only if Rider of Red was able to destroy all the planes.
His actions were anticipated. After the battles in the open field, in the forest and now in the air, Archer of Black could predict what he would do with virtually perfect accuracy.
That presented a much bigger problem. However—was it really best to discard this current situation in the air that was overwhelmingly advantageous for him?
As his thoughts pondered over his options in the span of an instant, his instincts as a warrior whispered to him.
You don’t need to ride your chariot. You’re a warrior stronger than anyone else.
“—Xanthus, Balius. You’ve done enough. Leave.”
He lightly tapped the heads of his horses. The horse called Xanthus turned to face his master and opened his mouth.
“That’s a wide decision, my master. If you continue to fly through the air in this chariot, you will eventually end up facing the same fate as back then.”
Xanthus had been given the ability to understand and even speak human language by a certain goddess. However—
“Hmph. Then you mean to say that what I’m about to do is the right choice?”
“Who knows? I don’t know such things. I only know which choice will lead to your death if you do nothing.”
However, his personality was completely rotten.
As Xanthus let out a laughing neigh, Rider hit him with the butt end of his spear. After letting out a shriek, Xanthus vanished along with Balius in a clearly exaggerated manner. And that was it. Having discarded his overwhelming advantage in the air, Rider of Red jumped down to the plane where Archer of Black was with only his spear in hand.
The jumbo jet was at an altitude that would make any normal human lose consciousness, but the two heroes stood on it unperturbed as they finally faced each other directly for the second time in this war.
The two Servants slowly began to walk over the steel roof to approach each other. Then, Rider of Red let out a hearty laugh that seemed to blow away the wind itself and asked a question.
“Now then. Did you already predict that I would come stand here, sensei? Or is this outside of your calculations?”
In response, Archer of Black smiled calmly. However, he already had an arrow nocked on his bow. If Rider tried to leap at him, he would instantly sense it and shoot the arrow. Meanwhile, Rider was waiting for an opening to attack. Depending on the situation, he would leap forward in an instant.
They were at a stalemate—but it wouldn’t last long. There was no way they would be able to hold themselves back from the feast before their eyes after they had waited so long for this moment. Keeping his ferocious and eager fangs at bay for the time being, Rider of Red waited for the answer to his question.
Archer of Black spoke up.
“Hmm, who knows? Though I did think it might come to this.”
“If possible, I hope that this was outside your calculations. I’m tired of having my path decided by the gods. This time, it doesn’t matter whether my side is right or not. I’m fighting because I want to fight.”
“So that’s why you sided with Shirou Kotomine… no, Amakusa Shirou Tokisada? And chose to help accomplish that absurd, delusional dream?”
Archer of Black’s gaze was stern. Amakusa Shirou had spoken of the pipe dream of ‘saving humanity’—and yet Rider had overlooked the absurdity of it and chosen to help him. Before he had his showdown with Rider of Red, Archer had to question him on this matter at least as his teacher.
But Rider refuted his words in a firm tone.
“It’s true that it’s an absurd dream. But it can be done. At the very least, we were convinced so after hearing our Master’s explanation.”
“Don’t be foolish. Something like saving humanity—”
“With his method, it’s possible… It really is a plan that’s worthy of the word ‘salvation’. He doesn’t intend to annihilate humanity, select the chosen from the unchosen, or destroy anything. It truly is a method you’d expect from a saint.”
Unlike his usual calm attitude, Archer’s voice turn heated.
“There’s no way such a method exists! It’s something many sages, heroes and saints have continued to search for and piled up various thoughts and actions to achieve without any success! Even if he’s a saint, Amakusa Shirou Tokisada shouldn’t be able to achieve it either!”
Rider of Red waved his spear and pointed straight at the Hanging Gardens.
“It’s possible—using the Fuyuki Greater Grail, sensei.”
When summoned to this world, each Servant had been granted some general knowledge about the Holy Grail besides common knowledge about the current era. Archer of Black in particular had managed to figure out the Greater Grail’s original purpose with his great discernment.
Using his vast knowledge, Archer dissected Rider’s words, connected the information and constructed a conclusion.
The Holy Grail War, and its origin and source.
The three familiars who had created the Holy Grail, the Einzberns, Tohsaka and Makiri. Their true objective.
The Greater Grail… and its true power.
Seven Servants, and the true meaning behind that number.
And the five Outsiders1 who still existed even in the modern era—
Archer turned speechless.
Everything led to one conclusion. It was impossible. Impossible, but…
That might actually bring about the salvation of humanity
“…It, can’t be…”
Archer of Black involuntarily let those words slip out—while Rider of Red laughed.
(1) Here, it says “Outsider” in furigana above and “crystallization of abnormality” in kanji below.