So, after breakfast, I clearly explain my immediate plans.
“What? You’re going to school?”
“Yes. Do you have a problem with that, Archer?”
“…No problems, it’s just…” Archer hesitates, but does not object. He must have realized yesterday that I’m not the type to take back my decisions. I can kind of tell without him saying so. Archer is sarcastic, but he has an honest side to him. So it seems he won’t complain about something he’s accepted. Yes, in other words, he’s faithful in an awkward way. This is my conclusion… no, more of an intuition after watching Archer for all of yesterday. “Rare. As you are a Master now, you must always be cautious of other Masters. School is a place where it’s hard to remain prepared against sudden attacks.”
“That’s not true. Look, Archer, even though I am a Master now, I don’t intend to change my lifestyle. Besides, a battle between Masters is something that should be done out of public view, right? So, if we are at school where there are lots of ponies, I don’t think we’ll see any kind of surprise attacks.”
“…I see. If that’s what you’ve decided, I can only obey. But I can guard you in spirit form, right? You don’t intend for me to stay here while you go to school?”
“Of course not, not just at school, but I will want you by my side whenever I go outside. It is the Servant’s role to protect the Master, so I’ll be counting on you.”
“I’m relieved to hear that. It is the duty of a knight to answer trust placed on us. I shall do my best to meet your expectations; but Rare, just hypothetically, what would you do if there were an enemy in that safe place?”
“Hm? What, are you suggesting there might be a Master at school?”
“That’s right. It’s certainly hard for anypony who isn’t a teacher or student to get in, but wouldn’t it be a problem if somepony already there is a Master?”
“I don’t think that’s possible. In this town, there’s only one family of mages other than the Jewel. That other family has declined, and they don’t even have a Master.”
“How do you know there isn’t a Master?”
“Hey, it’s only natural to investigate another family of mages in the same town. He isn’t a Master and his successor doesn’t have enough magical energy to become a Master, so we can just ignore them.”
“I see. So, there is another mage at the school you go to. But you say that mage doesn’t have sufficient magical energy to become a Master, is that correct?”
“Exactly, so most Masters will probably be coming from elsewhere. I don’t think such ponies would come to the school.”
“…Well, for now, at least. But Rare, there are always exceptions. What if there is a mage at your school that you don’t know about?”
“Like I said, there aren’t any. Mages are sensitive to other mages. If we were at the same school for a year, I should be able to sense other mages no matter how well they hide it. I will state with confidence that there are only two mages at our school. One of them is me, and the other is only an apprentice who doesn’t have enough power to become a Master. Do you understand? You caution is just needless worrying. It’s completely impossible.”
“That’s why this is only a hypothetical scenario. There’s always another side to things. It’s only natural for unexpected things to occur. I’m saying that when it does happen, do not blame me.” Archer smiles dryly. …Just that action makes me want to take it out on him, but if I did, I would be late for school.
“That won’t happen. A hypothetical is a hypothetical because it won’t happen. If it does, it just means my analysis was too shallow.”
“All right, I’ll remember that. Let’s go then, Rare. It should take thirty minutes to get to the school, so we won’t make it unless we leave soon.”
“I’m surprised. Hypotheticals do happen.”
“Yes, I am surprised as well. Wow, it pays to argue over everything. It had an unexpected payoff.” As soon as we pass the school’s main gate, we joke around like that. Around us are students heading to classrooms and it’s almost time for homeroom. In the crowd of ponies rushing into the school building, we stand dumbfounded.
“This isn’t just the air stagnating. Isn’t there a boundary field set up already?”
“It’s not complete, but the preparation seems to have already started. If he’s doing this so openly, he must be a real big shot,” said Archer.
“Or a complete amateur, a boundary field that lets others notice the abnormality is only third class. To be first class, it has to be hidden until it’s activated.”
“…So. Which do you think it is, Rare?”
“Who knows? I don’t care if he’s third class or first class. I’m just going to beat him mercilessly for setting up such an indecent thing in my territory.” I walk angrily through the schoolyard. As a mage, I’m not about to mince words, but I can’t be satisfied until I properly punish the creator of this boundary field.
After second period, while walking back from the music room… I see a first year student walking unsteadily. The student is carrying some stack papers and it looks like she’s having trouble. “I’ll help, Sweetie.”
“Huh…? Ah, Rarity…”
“What, handouts? World history… that’ll be my homeroom teacher. That Big Mac, what’s he thinking making a mare do this? Here give me half of it.”
“Oh… Yes. Thank you, Rarity.”
“It’s fine. So, we’re taking these to your classroom?”
“…No, we’re taking them to Big Mac. He said he’s recalling them because there was a misspelling.”
“…I understand. Big Mac’s really stubborn. He’s the stallion who cancelled a whole test just because there was one misspelling in it.”
“…Huh? You mean the school’s exam?”
“Right, I think it was last year’s midterm. He came in while everypony was filling in their names and said in his usual tone that the midterm has a misspelling in it. He said that the question was not correct, so the midterm was to be cancelled and retaken at a later date. We were surprised, but so were the teachers and they still talk about it today.”
“That’s just like Big Mac. He doesn’t think teachers should make any mistakes.”
“He goes too far, though. You’ll realize soon, too. Big Mac is as stubborn as a rock or a mountain.”
“Heehee. Rarity, you must like Big Mac. It’s rare for you to talk about somepony like that.”
“Really? …Well, I do think he should be more flexible, but…” I think that, but I also think he’s not bad this way. At our school, there’s a teacher liked by all students and a teacher feared by all students. The balance between the two works so well that I think Big Mac is a good disciplinarian. He’s the stick in the carrot and stick approach. “Well, you’ll get to see more of him once you reach second year. He teaches ethics too. …More importantly, Sweetie, is it all right if I ask you something?”
“Huh? What is it, Rarity?”
“It’s about yesterday. Were you talking to a strange foreigner?”
“Oh… y-you were watching, Rarity?”
“Just by chance, so, what was it? Do you know her?”
“…No. Well, she was a strange pony and she seemed to be lost. She asked me lots of things, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying, so, um…” Ah, so she ran away.
“I see. Sorry, I was just a bit curious.”
“No, it’s all right… Um, here is fine, Rarity. I only have to hand these to him now.”
“Okay. See you later then.” I pass the handouts back to Sweetie. As I start to head back to my classroom, I pause. “Sweetie, how are things?”
“Ah… yes, it’s okay. I’m doing fine.”
“…I see. Well, if Trixie does something again, tell me. She doesn’t know when to stop, so it will only get worse if you don’t say anything.”
“It’s fine. You don’t need to worry, Rarity. Big sister has been kind recently.” …If she says that with such a smile, I can’t say anything else. I bid her goodbye once more and turn my back on the familiar junior.
The day ends. Students leave the classroom and the building gets darker by the second. The sun will set soon. When the red sun sets and night falls, there should be no pony left in the school.
“Let’s begin, Archer. First, we need to check out the boundary field. Once we figure out what kind of boundary field it is, we’ll decide whether to eliminate it or leave it.” I address my invisible partner. Archer must understand as I sense him nodding.
A boundary field is something that protects its caster. You could call it a geographical magic in which one knits a line of magic across a land to change the interior. Infinite different effects are possible within a boundary field. There are all sorts of boundary fields, from ones that conceal the area from ponies’ eyes, to ones that limit the use of magic within them.
The most aggressive of all are those that oppress life forms within them. The boundary field laid out over our school is of that kind. It is not yet complete, but once it is, everypony in the school should fall unconscious. But something like this won’t affect me. After all, a boundary field is something targeted not at me, but at the place I am in. Such an indirect magical energy intervention has no effect on mages, who have magical energy throughout their bodies. A weak current floating through the air will only be repelled by a strong current like myself.
So this boundary field has a different intention. I don’t know what kind of pony set up this boundary field, but his intention is not to defeat a Master. It’s hard to believe, but his target is everypony in this school. …There’s only one reason to do something like that. Unbelievably, this stallion is…
I search the school building and emerge onto the rooftop to finish. It’s dark outside. It’s eight o’clock now, way past the school closing time which is six. The only ponies still in the school are me and Archer.
“…So, this makes seven. Well, it looks like this is the origin.” A seven-stroke mark is openly drawn on the rooftop. This purplish-red character only visible to mages is something I have never seen before, engraved with something unknown.
“…Dammit. This isn’t something I can handle.” The pony who set up this boundary field didn’t think about anything. He didn’t think, but the boundary field is bound with amazing skill. I can temporarily drain the magical energy from this boundary field, but I cannot eliminate the boundary field itself. The boundary field can be reactivated just by having the caster put more magical energy into it again.
“…” Archer says nothing. …He’s been quiet ever since we came out onto the rooftop, probably because he too recognizes the power of this boundary field. This boundary field doesn’t just drain one’s strength. Once activated, it will literally “dissolve” all the ponies within it.
There are boundary fields that drain physical and mental strength from ponies within them. But the boundary field laid out over this school is on a completely different level. This is a soul-eater. It is a Bloodfort that dissolves ponies within it and claims the souls that seep out.
Since ancient times, souls have been hard to handle. Even though they’re believed to exist and are necessary for magic, only one mage has ever understood the soul. Souls are only “things to be investigated”, or “things to be moved into containers”. It’s incomprehensible not merely to suck them out but also to collect them in a single place. It’s because a mage has no use for them even if one were to collect this unconvertible energy. So if there’s a reason, it must be…
“Archer. Are you Servants… this kind of creature?” I ask coldly.
“…It is as you suspect. I told you we are basically spirits. Therefore, our meals consist of souls and mental constituents. As you subsist on plants, we subsist on souls and minds. Our basic abilities do not change from such nourishment, but we do become tougher. In other words, our magical energy capacity increases.” …Yes, to strengthen your Servant, you must attack ponies indiscriminately.
“So the magical energy the Master provides isn’t enough?”
“It’s not that, but it doesn’t hurt to have more. In war, if you lack strength, you make up for it with supplies, right? It’s a basic tactic for a Master to steal energy from the ponies around them. In that regard, this boundary field is very efficient.”
“…” Archer is saying that if I want to win, I should kill ponies and steal their strength. How simple. I already knew that. That’s why I think I know which path I am going to choose.
“That annoys me. Don’t ever mention it again, Archer.” I say so while staring at the mark on the ground. For some reason, Archer sounds happy as he confidently answers, “I feel the same way. I do not intend to do so either.”
“…Well, let’s erase this. It’s meaningless, but it should hinder them a bit.” I approach the mark engraved on the ground and extend my left forehoof. The Magic Crest on my left forehoof is the “book of magic” passed down the Jewel family. I switch on my sense. I push magical energy into my Magic Crest, read the part that explains the elimination of boundary fields, and now all I have to do is activate it.
“Abzug. Bedienung Mittelstand.” Eliminate, surgical extraction, second section. I touch the ground with my left hoof and let my magical energy flow out. This will at least wash the color off this mark, but…
“What, you’re going to erase it? What a waste.” Suddenly, as if to stop the erasure of the boundary field, a voice echoes over.
“…!” I quickly stand up and turn around. On top of the water tower,iIn the sky ten meters away, a stallion is looking down at me. Deep ultramarine melts into the night. His grin is wild and a bestial smell carries on the wind. …The stare of the beast is a cool one. The stallion in blue armor looks at me like an old friend, even in this situation…
“…Is this your doing?”
“No. Petty tricks are the mage’s job. We only fight as we are commanded to. Isn’t that right, you over there?”
“…!” Casual, but his voice is filled with murderous intent. This stallion can see Archer…!
“As I thought, a Servant…!”
“That’s right. Since you can tell, I can consider you as my enemy, right?”
“…” My spine freezes. A normal, light tone of voice; and it’s colder than anything I’ve ever heard, scary enough to make me vomit…
“…” I can’t tell how I should move or what my best course is. But my reason is telling me absolutely not to fight this stallion right here…!
“…Wow. That’s pretty good. You seem like you don’t know anything, but you grasp the important points. Sheesh, I messed up. I shouldn’t have called out to you just for fun.” The stallion raises his head.
“…” It happens in an instant. A Long white horn appears on his forehead, being at least 2 meters long.
“Hah…!” I jump to the side without thinking. I can’t spare the time to consider that I can’t jump full force while on a rooftop. I just jump with full force to the side as if trying to smash the fence…! A whirlwind brushes past my mane. …Barely made it. He rushed me in an eyeblink and mercilessly slashed the space I just occupied.
“Hah, you’ve got some good legs, young mare…!” …The blue whirlwind pursues me. There are no escapes. The fence is behind me. To my sides… no, I won’t make it…!
“Es ist gros, es ist klein…!!” My response is fast. I run the Magic Crest on my left forehoof and assemble the magic in a single measure. It lightens my body and adjusts gravity. In this instant, my body becomes light as a feather, and I leap…
“I know, let me handle it…!” I jump over the fence and fall from the rooftop.
“…” The wind and pressure push against my body. Fifteen meters to the ground, 1.7 seconds until landing… No, that’s too slow. He’ll catch up…!
“Vox, got es Atlas…! Archer, take care of the landing…!”
“…Hah!” I let Archer take the impact of the landing and start to run as soon as my hoofs touch the ground. …First, I have to change the location. We have to go somewhere we can move around freely, not a small place like a rooftop. We have to move to a large field with no obstacles, to play to Archer’s and my strengths…!
“Hah,hah…!” I run from the rooftop to the schoolground in less than seven seconds. It’s more than a hundred meters. My speed is so fast that normal ponies would see only a blur. But that’s…
“Sheesh, those are really good legs. It’ll be a waste to kill you here.” …Meaningless against a Servant.
“Archer…!” At the moment I step back, Archer steps in front, taking form. A cloudy night, In Archer’s right wing is a shortsword that reflects the weak moonlight.
“…Wow.” The stallion crooks his mouth. “…That’s good. That’s the way to go. I don’t mind ponies that are quick on the uptake.” A large whirlwind. …That’s the weapon swung at me on the rooftop… the chalky white horn that tried to mercilessly slaughter me…
“That’s right. And your Servant is Saber … Or maybe not. Who the hell are you?” There’s no sign of his previous casual demeanor. In response to Lancer, full of murderous intent, Archer remains silent. …The distance between the two is about five meters. The weapon on Lancer’s head is about two meters. For that stallion with the bestial smell, I feel like the remaining three meters are meaningless.
“…Heh. You’re not the type to engage in one-on-one combat. So you must be Archer.” Archer doesn’t respond to the sneering voice either. Confronting each other, strangely, are red and blue. The two counterfeit colored knights are already watching for the other’s clinching blow.
“…All right. I don’t like it, but now we’ve met, we’ll just have to fight. Come on, take out your bow, Archer. I have some manners, so I’ll at least wait for that.”
“…” Archer does not respond. There’s nothing to say to an enemy he must defeat. That steel back of his seems to declare so.
“…” That makes me realize. …I’m being stupid. Archer is just waiting for my word, my command. “Archer.” I talk to his back without approaching him. “I won’t help you. Show me your powers here.”
“…Heh.” Was that a laugh? He grins as if to answer my words, and the red knight dashes forward. Twirling gusts of wind. Shortsword in right wing, the red bullet launches.
“…You fool!” What meets him is a blue horn-thrust. If the dashing Archer is a raging wind, the responding horned head is a divine wind. The sword is swung, a swing to deflect the thrust. Archer parries the thrust of the high speed horn with his shortsword.
“…!” The one in red stops, the enemy did not permit Archer’s rush. The enemy doesn’t even let him get within two meters, the range of the horn. For a long weapon, distance is always preferred. As Lancer has a weapon almost two meters long, he only needs to attack when the enemy comes into his range. Thrusting at an approaching enemy is easier than moving out yourself. But even so. Lancer closes the distance himself and he doesn’t even allow Archer to move forward.
“Idiot, a mere bowpony challenging a close-range fight…!” His temper is like a burning fire. Lancer closes in with each blow, with no thought of stopping. With a long weapon, it’s suicidal to close in to an enemy. The unicorn’s tactic is to use their long range to defeat the enemy and win the battle. So, as Lancer is just advancing unchecked, he doesn’t have a chance of winning.
“…No way.” But that’s just by the book. Lancer’s horn shows no vulnerabilities as it strikes for the throat, shoulders, forehead, and heart. Thrusts so fast even the afterimages are blurred. As each strike of his horn repels, rebuffs, and pushes back Archer, any one of his thrusts could be called a final blow. But even as a bowpony, Archer is a Servant. No ordinary attack can be a final blow…!
“Ha…!” Having repelled the horn aimed at his forehead, Archer closes in with speed superior to Lancer’s horn. …Based on its shape, you might think the main attack of a horn is a thrust, but the basic strength of a horn is in swings. This is because a wide swing using its long range does not allow the enemy to dodge it by stepping back. A partial retreat does not allow escape, and an attempt counterattack will only result in a slashed stomach. But simply going forward will end up in a smashed rib from the long shaft of the horn. Archer and Lancer are similarly built. On top of that, it’s hard for Archer with no heavy armor to step into range of a horn swung like a whirlwind.
…But, thrusts are a different story. A blazing fast thrust certain to strike you is certainly scary. But as long as the attack targets a point, there are many ways to avoid it once you see it. As Archer did just then, hitting the shaft of the approaching horn to redirect it slightly creates an opening. It must be because he underestimated a bowpony. The advantage of a long weapon is in the length and freedom of its range. Once Lancer has discarded these advantages himself, his defeat is...
“Huh…!?” The one in red stops, a nightmare like time is reversing. The thrust is faster than the previous ones…!
“Guh…!” Archer tries to parry the blow, but he gets flicked away along with his weapon. There are no openings in Lancer’s attack. No, not just that. The thrusts increase in speed and power without limit and it becomes a final blow even for a Servant…!
“…” We were the ones that underestimated him. For that Servant… for Lancer’s weapon, there are no general rules about horns. Who could every parry continuous attacks without space to breathe between them? Archer manages to retreat a bit and parries. And as a result the distance between them opens a little.
That distance. Lancer uses that distance as a runway to launch an even more powerful attack. The raging continuous attack is only a repetition of that. But the blows themselves are godlike. Ten blows already, no, it must actually be many times more than that. The heavy rain of horn pours with yet more strength, trying to skewer Archer to death.
…It’s not fast, but it’s just skill. It thrusts like a waterfall, with no change in speed. What can Archer do as he’s now on the defensive? With such a shortsword, he can only parry the horn. He has no way to close on Lancer, and he continues to retreat.
“…” A vacuum of steel unfolds. Support… I have to back Archer up, but my throat won’t respond. My magic has poor aim. Unless Archer gets far away from Lancer, I will hit him with my magic as well. Such an opening would only increase Lancer’s advantage. …And besides. Frankly, I’m captivated. This is a battle between Servants. This is the Harmony Grail War itself, where we use heroic spirits…
The highest rank of familiar, whom we would never otherwise obtain, servants; familiars of different classes that obey the seven Masters, these are the highest-ranked familiars, called heroic spirits, that the Harmony Grail summons. …So, it’s misleading to call them familiars.
Originally, familiars were just beings that ran errands for the mage. Imagine, perhaps, a cat in boots, or a cute white bird, or a black dog that doesn’t obey its master or something like that. Familiars that a mere mage can summon are of that level. Familiars are just familiars. They are only mascots that run errands for their masters, so they cannot be beings stronger than their masters.
But Servants are different. They are the most powerful beings. Even for sorcerers, of which there are only five in this world, it would probably be impossible to form a contract with them. It’s not that summoning is hard or even that the ability of the Servant surpasses that of the mage.
Servants themselves are beings above magic. I’ll make it clear. Servants are heroes from the past. Myth, legend, fable, history… Fiction or not, the “superpony beings” who gained concrete existence in ponylore are what we call heroes.
A hero that becomes eternal in ponies’ minds is no longer pony after their death, and is promoted to another form of existence. Ponies that bring about miracles, save ponies, and achieve great deeds, are called heroes even after their death. After being so called, they are promoted to heroic spirits after their death and become guardians of ponies.
It doesn’t matter whether these ponies existed in reality or only stories. It is ponies’ minds that create a hero. Ponies’ wishes that “this is how things should be” give them form and set them up as real. Authenticity does not matter. They can have form as long as they have fame as a legend and ponies have faith. The ultimate ideal ponies have created, the greatest pony ponies have created. These are the heroes, the heroic spirits. And of course, since they are beyond pony, they cannot be controlled by ponies.
A mage usually borrows their power only to mimic them. They can’t summon the heroic spirits themselves. But the Harmony Grail made that impossibility into reality. It summons the heroic spirit, beyond pony control, and turns it into a familiar obedient to the Master. That nonsense is proof that the Harmony Grail is almighty. And with the passing of years ignored, the heroic spirits are summoned, the most recent from a hundred years ago, the oldest from the ancient days. The seven heroic spirits obey each of the seven Masters, protect them, and eliminate the Masters of the enemy. Heroes from every age and country are revived into the present day, to kill one another for supremacy. That is why this ritual is called the Harmony Grail War.
…But it seems the Harmony Grail has its limits too. Even the Harmony Grail cannot indiscriminately call unto the spirit-like beings. Just as a form invented by ponies is required for the imaginary sixth element, known as the devil, to take form, the heroic spirits also need a form to live in this world. That form is their temporary name, and the way they exist in this world.
The Harmony Grail has furnished “classes” so that the heroic spirits may take form more easily, and it only summons the heroic spirits that match these classes. It’s like a passport to the present as it sets up a role as a familiar in advance. By allowing the summoned heroic spirit to take on that role, it helps the spirit to take form. If there are seven Masters chosen by the Harmony Grail, there are also seven Servants obeying those Masters.
There are seven furnished classes: knight of the sword, Saber, knight of the horn, Lancer, knight of the bow, Archer, mounted soldier, Rider, mage, Caster, silent killer, Assassin and mad warrior, Berserker. Only the heroic spirits with attributes of these classes are summoned to the present to obey the Master… and become a Servant.
That is the Servant System… A summoning and contract with a heroic spirit beyond pony control, to win the “miracle” beyond pony grasp. The ultimate competition held only on this ground, the one and the only Harmony Grail War…!
“…!” A loud crash, the shortsword that deflected Lancer’s horn flies from Archer’s wing. This is Lancer’s technique; a straight thrust that turns into a sweep at Archer’s wing. It was a blow Archer could not avoid even had he seen it coming. There is no effective way of parrying a horn with a sword. A strong rebuff only results in a stronger counterattack, and a weak rebuff does not create any openings.
The important aspect of the battle between a sword and a horn lies in defeating the enemy when he is at the wrong range…
“…Idiot.” There’s no hesitation in Lancer, his movement to push Archer back stops. …He must intend to end the match in a single instant. The stares of the firmly place Lancer and the swordless Archer clash. In that instant, the horn is thrust just like a flash of light. It can’t even be seen. Forehead, neck and heart; three shots are launched, any one a fatal blow…!! But, the flash too fast to see is repelled by a shining blade…!
“…!?” In Archer’s wing is the shortsword again. A sword like before, an old Ponyville sword like a hatchet. But the biggest difference is…
“Crap, two swords…!” Pair of swords, in his wings are matched swords, mirror images of each other.
“Heh, a bowpony trying to be a swordspony…!” Lancer’s horn flies. As if to finish Archer off, the horn moves faster and faster.
“…” Archer defends with a burning spirit. His hawk-like eyes say that he will not retreat anymore… no, that he will only advance from now on.
The clashing sounds are like a well-orchestrated music. Two steels clanging each other. The sparking clashes increase in rhythm without a pause. The battle of the two is like a vacuum. It sucks in the air around them, and it seems like anything approaching them would be cut to pieces.
“…” In reality, it only lasts an instant. But for me looking on, it seems to take an infinitely long time. Lancer tries not to let Archer near him, while Archer advances using his swords as a shield. Over a hundred blows have been thrown, and Archer loses a sword every time.
But it’s only for a moment as Archer has a sword in his wing in the next instant, forcing Lancer back a little each time. Lancer finally admits his carelessness; that even though he doesn’t know who is before him, he will be the loser if he dismisses him as a mere bowpony.
The distance widens. Probably to recover, Lancer puts a large distance between them. …His speed is extraordinary. Archer’s charge was out of this world, but it was still slow compared to Lancer. The movement of his retreat had panther-like speed and agility.
“…Twenty-seven. I’ve disarmed you that many times, yet you still have more.” Lancer mutters in irritation. No, it’s more like confusion. …I feel the same way.
According to Father, a Servant carries only one weapon. Their weapon is filled with magical energy, so it’s not something that can be created one after another, like Archer was just doing. Servants are heroes that sublimate their spirits after death, equaling the harmony spirits. To put it another way, they are like devils or angels. They are powerful familiars on their own, but their most powerful weapon is their “proof of heroism”, a magical item called their “Noble Phantasm”.
A Noble Phantasm is a weapon or armor the Servant used when they were a hero, and it’s treated as a last resort. The Noble Phantasm is the one and only weapon for a Servant. This is because the Noble Phantasm is an ultimate weapon without equal. …The horn that Lancer is using will show its power as a Noble Phantasm when Lancer deems it necessary. A Noble Phantasm is an impressive weapon by itself, but its true ability is to release all its power using its “true name”. Heroes’ weapons which rule over all others, and which have killed dragons and gods.
Servants activate their Noble Phantasm using their magical energy. It’s much like magic. Servants recreate the destructions in legend using their weapon as a catalyst. Those weapons are never disposable. The swords that Archer brought out must be excellent, but they cannot be his Noble Phantasm. He is the Servant Archer. So the Noble Phantasm he conceals must be a bow.
“What’s wrong, Lancer? It’s not like you to just stand there and watch. Where’s the energy you had just now?”
“…You’re talking crap, you cheater.” Lancer’s irritation is understandable. Even though Lancer fought as a unicorn, Archer fended him off as a swordspony. Which means, Archer hasn’t shown any of his abilities yet, so it’s natural for Lancer to feel ghastly.
“…All right then, I’ll ask you. What hero are you? I’ve never heard of a bowpony using two swords.”
“On the other hoof, it’s easy to tell who you are. It’s said that only the fastest heroes are chosen as the Lancer, but you surpass even that. There aren’t three lancers in this world at your level. And on top of that, there’s only one with such beast-like agility.”
“…Oh. Well said, Archer.” At that instant, his vast murderous intent makes me forget to breathe. Lancer’s head moves. This is different from before. A stance free from contempt. The horn is lowered as if to strike the ground and only his stare pierces Archer…
“…In that case, you shall face my finishing blow.”
“I won’t stop you. You’re an enemy I will have to defeat sooner or later.” Lancer’s body sings down. At the same time, a chill like thorns fills the schoolyard. …The air freezes. Not a metaphor, it literally freezes. All the mana in the air is frozen. The only person allowed to breathe here is the warrior called Lancer. The horn on Lancer’s head is unmistakably a demonic one. And now, it is waiting to take its true form in the moment it strikes…
“…Crap.” He’ll be beaten. I don’t know what kind of Noble Phantasm that is, but Archer will be beaten. It’s implausible since this is the first time I’ve felt such an intuition, but there’s no doubt about it. Archer will die when that horn is thrust. It is determined. Literally, Lancer’s horn is the embodiment of inescapable death…
“...Oh.” Archer will be defeated. Archer will die when Lancer pierces his heart. …And yet. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I can’t even help him. Because if I move even a finger, that will trigger the attack. …So, if anything can stop this battle and stop Archer’s defeat, it would be…
“…Who’s there…!!?” It would be the chance appearance of a stranger we have all overlooked.
“…Huh?” The ghastly air coming from Lancer disappears. The sound of fleeing hoofs. …That figure is definitely wearing a school uniform.
“A student…!? Somepony was still here!?”
“It seems so. He did save our lives, though.” Archer says calmly. Well we were certainly saved, but…
“…My mistake. I didn’t notice my surroundings because I was preoccupied with Lancer… Hey, Archer, what are you doing?”
“Can’t you see? I’m resting since I’m free now.”
“You can’t do that. What about Lancer?”
“He went after that stallion. He saw us, so Lancer probably went to eliminate him.”
“…” For an instant, my thoughts stop.
“…Follow him, Archer! I’ll catch up right away…!”
“…” Archer goes after Lancer immediately.
“…Damn, how stupid of me…!” I curse my carelessness. It’s the rule of mages to eliminate any witnesses. …Which is why, if one didn’t want to do that, one just had to allow no witnesses. I’ve done that until now, so why do I have to make a mistake today of all days…!?
A night where even the moonlight is obscured, a student is lying on the cold hallway floor and Archer is standing still.
“……” He is staring blankly at the student. …A smell hits my nose. The blood on the floor makes clear that it’s the smell of death.
“…Follow him, Archer. Lancer will probably go back to his Master. This won’t be worth it unless we at least find out what his Master looks like.”
“……” Archer goes after Lancer. I’m left alone with the student lying on the floor.
“……” I can’t look straight at him. But I must. This is my fault. This is my fault. This is my fault. …Ever since I was a filly. Ever since I became the successor of Jewel, I’ve been preparing for something like this. There’s no good or evil for mages. I’ve always told myself that this road has only my blood and the blood of others, so…!
“…One shot from Lancer’s horn, huh? You can’t be saved with your heart pierced.” I don’t know how long it’s been since Lancer killed him. Was he lucky or unlucky to be pierced through the heart? I guess Lancer’s attack isn’t a simple external wound as the flow of blood from the rupture isn’t too severe. It’s not too severe, but it’s all over when the brain doesn’t get any more blood. No, basically, if his heart were pierced, he should have died instantly.
“…But it’s amazing he isn’t dead yet.” …Yes. He’s still breathing faintly as if to give his last scream. But that will only last a few more seconds. He can’t heal his own wounds, and I don’t have enough power to save him either.
“I have to look at his face. I should at least do that.” I try to touch the head, facing the ground, and realize my legs won’t move. …They’re trembling. I wonder why. I’m used to such things. I’ve had to make these kinds of choices many times before. I’ve lost many things due to my mistakes and my selfishness. That’s why… I’m ready for a day like this. So why… why am I so angry at myself?
“…Sorry. I’ll see you off, at least.” I control my trembling legs and my failing knees with my will, and look at the face of the student.
“……” A huge smacking around, it really feels like I’ve been hit on the head with a hammer.
“…Stop it. Why does it have to be you?” I grit my teeth. Not to suppress my trembling. I’m really pissed off. Why is it him? Why did it have to be him? I’m not mad at Lancer for killing a witness quickly and perfectly, just as a Servant should do. I’m just angry at him for staying late at this place, on this day…!
“……” Sweetie’s face flashes in my mind. She will definitely cry. And I recall one red-tinted day after school, a long time ago. …A distant sunset. Somepony always running alone, and a boring mare, staring at that from far away. …And before me, the corpse of somepony who happened to get involved.
“……” …There is a way. I might fail and lose my last resort in the process, but there is still a way. No, I’ll lose my last resort whether I succeed or fail, so the result for me won’t change.
“……” It’s a mistake. The fact of his death is already determined. It’s my fault for not noticing the things around me. It’s his fault for unluckily staying late. So I don’t need to go that far. Yes, because this is what my father, who gave me nothing else, left just for me. A powerful chunk of magical energy, a reliable last resort to win through this battle. A precious, precious thing just for me…
“…So what, idiot?” I shake the feeling off and kneel in front of the one who will become a corpse in another second.
“…Man, I’ve done it.” The pendant in my hoof becomes lighter. My father’s memento is drained almost to emptiness, and falls onto what use to be a dying body.
“…Well, it can’t be helped.” Yes, it can’t be helped. I didn’t have the power or skills to revive somepony with a damaged heart, damaged blood vessels, and on the verge of brain death on top of that. That’s why I had to make up for my lack of skill with this powerful object.
“It’s lucky he was still breathing. If he was completely dead, no amount of magical energy could have revived him.” But since he was still alive… I just did what I could, and ended up saving his life.
“…It would have been awful if I failed, but since I succeeded, I guess it’s all right. Yeah, I feel fulfilled to be honest, so this wasn’t such a bad experience.” I’m just bluffing.
“…Let’s go. What’s done is done. I have to head back before he wakes up.” Yeah, there’s no need for me to stay here any longer. Archer should be following Lancer, so I should go home by myself.
…On my way back, I remember. I left the pendant at school, just a pendant now that the magical energy has been drained out.
“Oh well.” I’ve no more use for that pendant. Sure, it might have a bit magical energy left in it, but surely less than the ten jewels I have. What my father intended to leave for me was enough magical energy to win the Harmony Grail War. So now, without magical energy, that thing is meaningless.
I enter the house without saying anything and sit on the sofa. Archer isn’t back yet. I sigh and listen to the clock for a few minutes.
“…Huh, I have to switch gears. What am I doing, daydreaming after a battle like that?” I jump up and brew some tea. There are so many things to think about, most importantly, the Servants. I have just witnessed a battle between Servants I had previously only understood intellectually.
“Lancer, huh…? I panicked when he almost used his Noble Phantasm, but I would have found out his identity if he had used it…” The easiest way to beat an enemy Servant is to learn their identity. Ignoring for the moment the idiot who doesn’t even know his own identity, the biggest weak point of a Servant is their “true name”. Discovering the Servant’s true name… in other words, figuring out their identity… should let you take a guess at what kind of Noble Phantasm they might have. It goes without saying, but since Servants are heroic spirits, they have a legend associated with them.
If you figure out their legend, you should be able to find out most of their abilities. Servants are called by their class names because they want to hide their true names. Because the more famous a hero is, the more ponies know about their weapons and their weaknesses.
A heroic spirit that becomes a Servant never gives out their true identity. The only ones that know the Servants’ identities are the Masters. There’s even a tacit understanding that the Masters hide their Servants’ identities while trying to discover the identities of the others.
…This is the fifth Harmony Grail War. The qualities of the Servants are determined by the ranks of the summoned heroic spirits. It goes without saying that the more famous heroes and the heroes with better weapons are stronger. But it’s difficult to summon such heroic spirits.
To summon a heroic spirit, one must have a connection with them such as a weapon they used during their lives. Even the Magic Association has a few such things. So generally, one will summon a heroic spirit that suits them, like I did.
A Servant’s strength is determined by the rank of the heroic spirit. But it’s not that simple as even the most powerful heroic spirits may have a hard time depending on the class they are assigned to. That is because of the special abilities assigned to each class, the possibility of the weak defeating the strong.
The seven classes each have a different additional ability, and one even has a chance of defeating an opponent of higher rank depending on the ability’s affinity. To take an example, an infamous hero has defeated a great hero four times in the past.
As far as I know, the most powerful Servant is Saber. In all previous four wars, Saber has made it to the final fight. It is said that the three classes Saber, Lancer and Archer have strong magic resistance. To put it simply, magic is pretty much useless against them. It’s because they are fighters who fought through age of myths, when magic were used widely. Magic that mages use now would probably dissipate just by touching them. …Anyways, that’s why these three classes are considered the basic and the best.
Another that’s worthy of mention is the Servant Berserker. The heroic spirit summoned into his class loses their sanity. Just as the name implies, they become a mad warrior puppet of their Master. The benefit from this is a “strengthening” of their power, far exceeding the powers they had when alive. However, the most powerful a Servant becomes, the greater the burden it imposes on the Master. In the past, Masters who summoned Berserker couldn’t control their rampaging Servants, and destroyed themselves by running out of magical energy. No exceptions.
…The winners and losers of the Harmony Grail War are largely determined by the abilities of the Servants. Well, I expect there are ways to win it by the Master’s efforts, but it is basically a fight between the Servants. That is why a Master should be very careful when summoning a Servant…
“……” I silently consider the plans we should make from now on. The clock, fixed already, strikes eleven while it does so… Archer comes in.
“Welcome back. How did it go?”
“…I’m sorry. I failed. It must be one cautious Master. At the very least, Lancer’s Master is not on this side of town.” As I expected, Lancer was alone and it seems his Master isn’t the type to show up for battles personally.
“I see. Well, I guess it won’t be that easy.” Yes, there’s no way everything will go as I might hope. So it can’t be helped. Let’s consider what happened tonight as a tuition fee for the lessons learned.
“You seem down, Master. Where are your high spirits? Don’t tell me you got scared by that one fight. If you so order, I am ready to go battle Lancer again right now.” Archer protests silently that we should do so. …I see. I guess I look depressed.
“Of course not, I’m staying in only because I don’t want to do anything pointless.”
“Hm? Anything pointless…?”
“Well, all the Masters aren’t present yet, right? Tonight couldn’t be helped, but I wouldn’t start fighting before we get the signal. My father told me this is one of the rules of the Harmony Grail War.”
“…I see, so your father was also a Master.” Archer nods, understanding …Then. Archer makes a troubled face and starts to ponder something.
“What? Do you have something you want to say?”
“Yeah, there’s something I forgot to ask. Rare, you’ve been raised since you were small to be a Master and you’ve accepted that, right? So you’ve expected to be a Master since the beginning.”
“Of course, well, there certainly are Masters that are suddenly appointed, but I’m different. For the Jewel family, the Harmony Grail has been our earnest desire for many generations.”
“I thought so. So having been raised to become a Master, you must have a purpose. I forgot to ask about that. I cannot swear my sword to you unless I know my Master’s wish. …So Rare, what is your wish?”
“Wish? I don’t really have one.”
“…What?” Oh, Archer’s making a funny face. “T-That can’t be true! The Harmony Grail is an almighty grail that grants wishes. Becoming a Master means obtaining the Harmony Grail, so how can you say you have no wish to grant…!?”
“……” Archer is asking with a serious expression. …Oh, I see. The Master’s wish after obtaining the Harmony Grail isn’t irrelevant to the Servant. But it’s strange. Father said that Servants have wishes as well, but that is only their wish. I don’t think Archer should be concerned because I don’t have any wishes. “All right, if you don’t have a specific wish, why not wish for something ambiguous? Like ruling the world?”
“Why? The world is already mine.”
“Hey now, Archer. The world is just another word for the things you value around you, right? That’s something I’ve had since I was born. If you tell me to rule such a world, I already rule it.”
“……” Archer looks at me with a troubled expression. I’m amazed. The stallion really is hard-headed. “Ridiculous. The Harmony Grail is a power to grant wishes, a power to obtain the world. Are you saying you’re seeking it, yet you have no wish?”
“But ruling the world would be so troublesome and there’s no point in wishing for something so pointless. You seem to lack imagination.”
“…I don’t understand. For what then, do you fight?”
“I fight because there’s a battle, Archer. And I’ll take whatever I can get. I don’t know about this Harmony Grail thing, but I can just use it when I find something I want, right? As a pony, there are infinite things I might want in life.”
“…So, you’re saying…”
“Yes. I’m fighting to win, Archer.”
“……” Archer’s shoulders slump. Maybe he’s disappointed in my opinions, but it seems he’s finally relaxed. “…I give up. You’re certainly a worthy Master for me.” …Ugh. …I find it hard to deal with that kind of comment, so I wish he’d stop saying such things…
“…Huh, a Servant has no right to choose their Master, but I’ll ask for the heck of it. Why am I a worthy Master for you?”
“It goes without saying; you’re unmistakably the strongest Master. No pony would be a better Master to serve than you.”
“Oh, thanks. It doesn’t sound like flattery when you say it.” …I look away because I’m embarrassed. I find it hard to deal with Archer because he speaks frankly like this even though he’s so cynical. …But, well, I’m honestly happy that he trusts me. I trust Archer and he trusts me. I don’t think this sense of solidarity is a bad thing.
“Well then, let’s take a break. Even if the seventh Master is going to appear, it won’t be right now… wait a minute, Rare. What happened to that jewelry of yours?”
“You mean my pendant? Oh, I forgot it. It’s out of power, so there’s no use for it, right?”
“That’s true, but… well, if you say so.”
“Yes, it’s a memento of my father, but it’s not like it’s my only memory of him…”
“…That’s no good. You don’t have to be that strong, Rare.” So saying, Archer takes out the pendant I left at school.
“Oh… you went and picked it up for me.”
“…Don’t forget it again. It only looks right on you, Rare?” As if he’s embarrassed, Archer looks away as he gives me the pendant.
“…I see. Thanks.” I accept it. To be honest, I don’t know if I should be embarrassed or cool about it. The pendant is as it was. …As expected, there’s no magical energy left in it. Empty of magical energy, it’s just an expensive but ordinary jewel, and it doesn’t hold any power. But, as Archer would put it. Even if there’s no power left in this pendant, it still has meaning as something my father specifically left for me. Then… maybe I can just laugh off the fact that I helped that stallion by sacrificing my trump card.
“…Hey, wait a sec.” Something clicks in my head. I wasn’t thinking straight back then because of my regret, but thinking about it calmly, I missed something. He saw us, so it’ll be dangerous unless we adjust his memory. Basically, Lancer prioritized elimination the witness over his battle with us. Lancer’s thinking probably matches his Master’s so… if such a Master finds out the stallion they killed didn’t die, what would he do?
“…He wouldn’t let the stallion keep on living…” I get up from my sofa. …It’s been three hours since then. I might not make it, but… After all I did, I have to make it on time…!
I run through the night. Fortunately, I know where his house is. No, I didn’t look it up, but it just happens that an acquaintance of mine goes there a lot… though I’ve never been there myself.
“…Honestly, you’re just taking on unwanted troubles.” Archer has no interest in cooperating. He was against saving the stallion when he was dying, and he’s against me going to help him right now.
…It’s midnight. Under the cloudy night sky, we reach the Ponyville-styled house. There’s no sight of anyone in this house on the edge of the residential district. There aren’t many houses around it, and there’s no pony to come and help if something happens here.
“……” My breath is white. A wind starts to pick up. It must be quite strong as the clouds start to drift fast. The supposedly warm wind of Ponyville sends chills down my spine, making me tremble. Even if Ponyville is considered warm, it’s still cold on the hill. The air around here is frozen. I strain my ears in the cold atmosphere. In the frozen feeling, I feel a small sense of an enemy.
“…He’s here. The Servant from before…!” I bite my lip. His presence is perceptible on the other side of this wall. Lancer is in the house already and about to kill the same stallion again, who has just come home without a clue as to what happened.
“…I’ll just have to jump in and beat him. I’ll worry about what comes next when it happens…!” Just as I’m about to command Archer to go in, a bright white light, like a fallen sun, comes within the house.
“……” The presence is eclipsed by another presence. The wave of power of the Servant Lancer is consumed by an even larger wave. …The instantaneous explosion of ether gives the spiritual being a body, summoned to overpower Lancer.
“No way…” I can only mutter. But it’s true. To prove it… Lancer jumps over the wall and leaps away as if fleeing from this place. “…Hey, Archer. Is this another one of your hypothetical scenarios?”
“I don’t know. But this makes seven. All the Masters are here now, Rare.” Archer answers calmly. I’ve lost my normal judgment. That’s why I didn’t even consider the obvious event that would follow.
The wind blows strongly. Clouds cover the sky like an umbrella. The unlit suburbs are enclosed by darkness. And the Servant jumps over the wall, coming down like a demonic bird…
“…!” Archer has reacted already. But I couldn’t react. That was my mistake. The battle ended with that small opening, not lasting even a second. It might have been only a second for me, but for that Servant, it was an opening that couldn’t be ignored. A sword rushes for me.
“Huh, Archer…?” Archer pushes me aside and the Servant slashes him. Archer, who handled Lancer’s fury of attacks beautifully, has been taken down with one blow…
“Archer, disappear…!” But I make it in time this time. Just as the enemy Servant is about to cut off Archer’s head with her blade, I forcibly remove him. A pain in my right hand, it must have been an excessive command, so a Command Spell has disappeared from my hand. …Now there’s only one remaining. But this is for the best. Rather than having Archer die, I would prefer to lose one or two Command Spells…
“……” Giving no consideration to Archer’s disappearance, the Servant attacks me. “…Don’t underestimate me!” I take from my pocket a topaz with a wind spell stored in it. Then, I launch all the magical energy it contains at her without processing it…! This thing, which can blow away a house without a trace, is a bundle of wind spells I’ve stocked up over time. It’s one of the ten jewels I’ve been putting my magical energy into for seventeen years without rest. I’m using all the magical energy stored in it, so even if I can’t defeat her, it should at least slow her down a bit…
…No, not even that. It did nothing. The swirl of wind that instantly tears apart anything caught within it disappears like a magic trick the instant it touches the Servant. …Such strong magic resistance. Mere magical energy from a mage cannot hurt this Servant…! …So, this is it. She can’t be hurt by magic, and I’ve lost the protection of Archer, so I can’t stop this Servant.
I barely managed to avoid one blow, but that’s all. I look up at the night sky. In it is the figure of cold-hearted Death who is looking down at me as I lay miserably on the ground…
“…Wha…” The wind blows, In between the dark clouds in the spiral sky, the moon shines. The falling moonlight and the beautiful face… This is the Servant that drove off Lancer, defeated my Archer in one strike, and annulled my magic with no trouble.
“That magic was awesome, mage.” The mare’s voice is like a bell. Yes, this voice is like a nightmare right now. It’s only natural. The more beautiful my enemy is, the more of a nightmare it is as I cannot believe the difference in our strength.
“But this is your end, Master of Archer.” The point of the sword shines brilliantly. …On the verge of death, I understand. With just one look, without proof… This is the card I wanted. The one said to be the strongest of all Servants, the hero of the sword.
“……” I look up at the moon, accepting my death. There’s no time for me to flee or plead for my life. I will die here and Rarity Jewel’s Harmony Grail War will end on the third day.
There is only disgrace and regret, and I will probably vanish bearing a grudge against my enemy. …But still, I don’t feel anything. Something must really be wrong with me. Even though I’m going to be killed in an instant, I adore her again. That’s right. If you ask for regrets, that’s it, but I guess it can’t be helped. …Because she’s the most powerful Servant, because her figure is just so heartless, so infinitely valiant, and so beautiful…