The armies were still doing battle in the large field. Corpses of Homunculi and pieces of golems laid about. And the number of bones that made up the dragon-toothed warriors was uncountable as they littered the ground.
The battle continued but it was clear at this point that it was winding down to the last. Neither side truly held the advantage as the servants were paying attention and would casually lend a hand if given the opportunity. Neither side wanted to be swarmed by minions, so the armies served their purpose.
The activation of noble phantasms, and the explosive sound of steel meeting steel still echoed throughout.
The Red side could possibly be construed as on the losing end. They had to fight their own berserker, and in the processes, their archer was hurt. Their Rider suffered a loss at the hands of the Black Rider, and their saber was nowhere to be seen.
It was a familiar thought held by the entire black faction, until a large explosion occurred that drew the eyes of the entire battlefield.
Floating overtop the castle Yggdamillennia, a large fortress-like construct sat. Even from the distance that they were, most eyes could see the deployment of spell formations as the fortress rained down magical bombardment onto the castle.
The castle wasn't without its own defenses. Though the initially surprise attack had damaged it heavily, the remaining magi were quick to activate their own counter attacks.
A large bounded field was deployed around the entire castle and dozens of what could be described as magic artillery were revealed and started to return fire.
The castle Yggdamillennia was hundreds of years old, surviving countless armies and attempts to breach its walls. The magus family had fortified it since it's foundation and it showed at the sheer magical prowess that was being displayed.
Yet, it was clear they were on the losing end. They were fighting against a noble phantasm that was in of itself a fortress in the sky. And if that wasn't enough, it was using magic from the age of gods. Something that just held a higher authority than modern day magecraft.
The castle was outmatched and the magi were trying desperately to keep their defenses up under the bombardment.
Vlad looked at his castle being wittled down, little by little as they tried their best to mount a defense.
"You....this was all a ruse!?" Vlad shouted as he turned back towards Karna.
The incarnation of the sun just smiled slyly as he leveling his lance.
Vlad's thoughts started racing, while it was their stronghold and it would be a large hit to their overall forces, was it really worth the losses they suffered tonight? They could easily retreat back to the caslte and salvage the whole situation before anything of any true signifigance was lost. The main thought that crosses his mind were the homunculi being used as prana batteries. If that whole lab was destroyed, that would be a large hit to their power.
Suddenly his eyes widened and a rage overcame his being. "THE GRAIL" He shouted.
Vlad turned around and was about to take off towards the castle until a wall of flames blocked his path.
"Our battle is not finished yet."
Vlad turned around back at his opponent, his face sneering in rage. "Rider, go back to the castle, secure the grail." He said over the mental link
Rider acknowledged the order as he began to fly back towards the castle, only for a familiar burst of prana to shoot at him.
Achilles was back on his chariot and launched it straight into Astolfo's hippogriff.
The phantasmal beast was sent hurling into the ground as the Greek hero jumped off his chariot and activated his noble phantasm.
His figure shrouded in a green energy as his prana pulsated and he disappeared from the spot he was standing in. Accompanied a sonic boom a moment later, his charge connected with the black rider who let out a yelp as he was knocked back hundreds of feet, leaving a trail of destruction in the wake.
Achilles was rather angry, he didn't have his usual snark or loftiness.
Rider stood up from the crater he was resting in. His mount was a bit far away, fighting off the horses of Achille's chariot.
He wasn't in a good spot, his body was bloodied as he knew he was no match for this hero on solid ground. He was a fool, but he was not stupid. Any insults that could be thrown his way, no one would say that he was not a warrior.
Achilles didn't give him a moment of respite as he was once again on the paladin with his spear in hand.
The two Riders met in battle on the ground as Astolfo did his best to block each blow. His only advantage at the moment was his higher strength, his monstrous strength allowed him to barely keep the attacks at bay even with the absurd speed. Though many began to slip through as the wounds were beginning to pile up on the rider.
"Duck" A voice echoed out through the mental link towards Astolfo. He didn't question it, his years of combat had ingrained on him the unconscious reaction to follow orders.
He ducked as Achilles approached him, spear ready to impale him and his expression turned odd as he noticed his opponent not attempting to block but merely ducking, even though the spear would continue to hit.
Maybe it was because of the previous encounter, but he was very much on guard against this weird foe. His odd style of combat combined with his ability to seemingly cause confusion with his actions. Achilles instinctively forced his charge to stop, causing his movement to become awkward as he stabbed his spear into the ground, causing the accumulated prana it built up to blow both riders back.
It was in that moment, that a dozen arrows had swiftly pierced through the air where he was only a moment ago. They would have intercepted him right before he was able to land a killing blow on his opponent.
Achilles quickly took a combat stance, knowing this archer was able to damage him, he needed to be on guard.
The other rider also stood back up, his condition not as good but was still able to continue the fight.
Achilles watched a few more arrows fired at him, probing him for information.
He swatted them away with his spear, noticing the lack of power behind each one. The Greek hero took a step for and shot off, feinting several steps to the right before abruptly pivoting and going left.
He had a small smile on his face as a few arrows whizzed past him, knowing the archer had fell for the feint as he approached the other rider.
Or atleast that was what he thought was going to happen as another seven arrows were waiting for him. He quickly jumped to the side, most flying past but two penetrating his flesh. Only into his shoulder and another into his left thigh.
Achilles had come to an abrupt stop, not just his movement but his whole combat readiness. Something was amiss, the archer had predicted his movements.
It was unwise for a spear wielder to be flat footed, yet he couldn't help but sit there was contemplate. A moment passed by as his mind began to quickly go through what had just occurred.
"Teacher..." He muttered after a moment of revelation.
There were very few people Achilles would never want to fight, and this archer landed right into the category.
A few moments later, a figure astralized next to Astolfo. Carrying his bow, Archer looked towards the Rider of Red.
"Its been awhile, Achilles." Archer stated.
The mentor of heroes, one of the greatest teachers in history, and the teacher of Achilles; Chiron.
"Go back to the castle, Rider. I'll handle my student." Archer stated.
As his words finished, Astolfo whistled to bring his mount back to him. He quickly hopped up and made his way towards the castle.
At castle Yggdamillennia, the remaining forces were scrambling after the initial attack. Their scouts and scrying methods had not been able to detect the fortress that was currently hovering above them.
A possible hole in their security? No one would expect such a potent magical fortress to appear above them.
"STATUS" Darnic yelled from what looked like a 'control room'. With how much magi disdain modern society, they often mirror society regardless.
There were dozens of magical screens in different locations. Homunculi and magi alike were manning the controls to their own defenses.
"The first hit had ruptured a prana tank on the northwest section, we lost about 20% of our prana batteries." A magus stated.
Darnic tensed with an angry expression. Prana batteries, their disposable homunculi in the tanks that supplied the necessary prana for both their servants and their fortress defenses. They were disposable, but that didn't mean that they could replace them at the drop of a hate.
"Castle's bounded field is holding for now though we don't know how many more hits it can take."
A screen was pulled up with a dozen magi sitting in a circle with various runes and magic formulas around them as they focused on supporting the shield.
"It appears as though the flying fortress has deployed some kind of monstrous beasts, possibly harpies."
"A diversion, possibly infiltration. The only thing of value for the red faction would be the prana batteries or the....." Darnic's eyes widened at the thought. "WHAT SERVANTS DO WE HAVE AVAILABLE?"
"Sir, Caster and Berserker are here currently, though Berserker is not currently at full strength."
"Caules, send your berserker to guard the grail, the red faction is going to make an attempt on it." Darnic hastily relayed over the mental link.
"Understood, Fran is on her way." The master of Berserker replied.
Darnic began to quickly think about their options. The black faction had yet to show their assassin and caster, their saber was supposedly indisposed. The fortress was obviously the work of their caster, the amount of prana rolling off of it meant that it was most likely a powerful form of territory creation.
He looked down at his own hand, the command seals in particular. He weighed his options and pushed the thought aside, he wouldn't jump to rash decisions quite yet.
"Caster, what is the status on your noble phantasm?" Darnic quickly asked.
"I need several more hours to complete it." He replied.
Not what the master wanted to hear. It was a gamble but he didn't bother the caster with anymore thoughts. That noble phantasm could win them the war if what he believed of it to be true.
"Lancer, were are under attack what do you suggest?" The magus asked. He was a proud magus of a long line, he was arrogant like most others who practice the craft, but he only knew his own flaws. He would never proclaim himself to be a strategist or warrior on par with the ones summoned. He wasn't against asking for advice where his experience was limited.
"I noticed, I sent Rider to help. Though Lancer of Red seems intent on keeping me here so this was their plan all along. I've deduced that they are after the grail." Lancer replied, his tone was forced, cleary focusing on his battle for the most part.
Darnic wanted to continue the line of question, but he quickly squashed the thought. The battles between beings of that caliber only required something small to turn the tables, it was best he not distract his servant any longer. Though he was relieved somewhat that they were of similar thought to the plans of the Black faction. And his servant was smart enough to send back rider to assist.
More explosions shook the castle as their people continued to run around.
"Switch tactics, we only need to stall for time. Shift all available prana into the bounded fields, tell all remaining forces to scout the castle and find any invaders."
It was going to be a long night.
Just one for now, others should come tomorrow (or later today depending on time zone). Quick confession, i usually write a bit every day when i do a release like this, but i've kinda just kept putting it off all week so now i'm scrambling to write :p. Anyways, shit be going down and things are going to get crazier in the plot. Alex should be rejoining the action soon enough, theres just been so much to cover so quickly that several chapters have the main character absent.
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