Silence stretched for the longest time as many digested what they'd just seen, but for those directly in line for the next sparring it was different. They couldn't afford to be distracted by the capabilities of an opponent they wouldn't be facing. Rather, it was the known opponent they had no choice but to prioritize.

"Hah, finally my turn!" Rider grinned, beckoning for his challengers to follow him through the mist gate.

Finn, Riveria, and the few people who had the courage to face Rider after his display in Orario, suddenly developed a case of cold feet. It was to the point, that only Finn and Riveria mustered the courage to step through and onto the same battlefield pelted by Shirou's weapon rain.

Finn was largely able to step through due to ignorance, having not witnessed Rider's rage, but Riveria had gone through in order to test herself. The deeper an adventurer travelled through the dungeon, the tougher the adversary and the greater the pressure. If she couldn't overcome Rider's natural suppression, then Riveria concluded there was no hope to enter the dungeon's deepest floors.

Besides, the Gods were watching, including Loki herself.

By the time Riveria and Finn were mentally prepared, Rider was warming up, doing a set of punches and kicks that blurred his limbs as if seen through a filter. Riveria blinked, and the fuzziness stopped as Rider began finishing his warm up.

'What level is that?'

Riveria hastily wracked her brain for an accurate comparison to known knowledge. Based on Rider's prior feats, Riveria was thinking that he was either comparable to the Hera and Zeus Familia's lvl 9s, or dare she say even higher at an unheard of lvl 10?

Riveria's expression sharpened with worry and trepidation.

Beyond Rider's easy-going and cheerful attitude belied a monster that far outstripped even Riveria's impression of Ottar.

As such…

"Finn, stay on your guard," Riveria heavily warned.

Ignorance would be Finn's largest obstacle in this endeavor, and it was clear that it hadn't exactly gotten through to Finn yet.

Archer Heracles was one thing as Riveria had noted Finn incredibly tense around the natural oppressive demeanor around Archer, but Rider was different.

Although Rider possessed a divinity comparable to Archer's, approaching him was far easier as his aura wasn't actively suffocating the area.

It wasn't like it was Archer's intention to be imposing, but one of Archer's Noble Phantasms pertaining to his body was always active, so there was no helping it unlike Rider who could summon and unsummon his fabled armour and chariot.

Staring at Finn, Riveria watched his expression harden as he took a battle stance, but the level of vigilance could not compare to Riveria's. After all, she was treating this match as if she and Finn had been plunged into a level of the dungeon's deep floors, while Finn appeared to be treating it as sparring between Familia.

"Finn." Riveria stressed.

"Right," Finn shook his head and put away the skepticism inside him. Riveria had never used a harsh tone unless it warranted it.

"Oi! Someone, declare a start time!" Rider called out to the dazed expressions of Shirou's challengers sitting on the sideline.

Stiffly, the many gazes focused on a hollow-eyed Ais who mechanically lifted her arm up.

She only flinched when Riveria and Finn's eyes landed on her, but there was not much time for anything else.

Miserable, Ais didn't waste time swinging her arm down to start the match as Rider had asked.

-Match start.

Riveria pursed her lips, several mixed feelings regarding Ais coming to mind about things she couldn't just voice.

Regardless, Riveria refocused.

The match had started, and she was quick to gather the divine energy of her Falna. She and Finn were two of the Loki Familia's highest leveled members sitting at the border of lvl 6 and 7.

She could do this!

She inwardly clapped her cheeks, trying to muster the courage and determination to seek victory even if the chance was low.

What did she leave the elven village for if not to pursue her goals?

There was no way she could allow herself to just stop here.

With burning vigor and will, Riveria turned to Finn as the match started in order to coordinate with a comrade who knew and trusted her as well as she knew and trusted him.

Sadly, things weren't going to go her way.

A gale of ferocious wind suddenly pressed heavily against Riveria's eyes, forcing her to squint.

"Finn-!" She called out, only to choke.

Riveria's pupils dilated in dumbfoundment as Finn's body recoiled; his chin clacked up and his stomach curled into a shrimp, as the momentum momentarily held him standing in place. An instant later, he suddenly slumped into the dirt, knees giving out as another shockwave of wind soon caught up and rung in Riveria's ears.

W-What?

Her mind couldn't catch up. For such wind to be generated would mean a considerable level of power or speed had to be exhibited.

Riveria flinched and reacted in reflex as a noise echoed from beside her. There wasn't even time to turn her head or register what was happening.

Reacting by instinct was all that was somehow possible.

Riveria craned her gaze up, numerous spells and countermeasures rising to the forefront of her mind, but just as quickly, such thoughts were discarded.

'I-Impossible…'

Riveria had less than a fraction of a second to realize and affirm, no; even less than that to the point it was practically instantaneous.

The shadow of a fist was rapidly enlarging within Riveria's gaze until the entirety of Riveria's vision quickly grew black. Her cheek numbed, her jaw feeling loose and aching. Worse, in the span of time it took to even register the pain, a feeling of inertia assailed her as she grew nauseous.

S-Something. She had to do something.

Flailing her arms out, her actions were immediately read as resistance.

As Riveria felt her legs get kicked out from under her, and a knife-hand strike the back of her neck, she bitterly lamented reality.

From an outside perspective, it seemed as if she'd suddenly collapsed just like Finn did, but the footsteps printed on the ground spoke of another story.

In the end, Riveria finally understood what she'd seen happen to Finn and then experienced herself.

'T-Too fast!'

It was an overwhelming speed that toppled any resistance before magic or blocking force could even be put up- To the point where it was if Rider had vanished from the moment the match started.

H-How long had it been?

Quick chant times, reflexes, or not, what did they matter?

One second, two? Barely enough time to roll one's eyes and Rider was already capable of striking.

'…Ridi..cul..uo..s….'

Rider appeared behind both Finn and Riveria as they collapsed, moving from his starting spot to his ending spot in an instant and leaving visible wind to chase around him.

It was the first open display of the power of Rider's God Speed unlike the brutality Rider had displayed in Orario.

Rather, this method of combat was truer to Rider's nature.

It was only when enraged that the beast of madness emerges and reason retreats.

There were many reasons why the human body's strongest tendon was named after Achilles aside from his origin story. Only Atalanta in a foot race was comparable to him.

"Tch, over already?" Rider tapped a foot over the ground.

He was the fastest and most agile hero of all of Greece.


With Rider's bout settled, all that was left was Archer and his challengers who would soon enter the sparring ground through Iris's mist gate.

The silence in the audience was now growing palpable. There weren't even any cheers or whispers, just a muted din that continued to grow since Shirou's showing.

Then there was Archer Heracles.

Standing opposed to a two-and-a-half-meter giant, did not come easy. With a body that rippled with strength and power stemming from pure magic energy, divinity laced every fiber of Archer's muscles and skin to create a bronze tinted bare-chested warrior.

The energy itself was top-class, exhibiting a suffocating pressure that weighed on the mind and body.

Most of the people that had lined up in front of Archer were already breaking out into cold sweat even before Rider had defeated his own challengers.

A pity.

Heracles hummed in thought, his long mane of black hair billowing in the wind.

He could tell that most that had come to line before him considered themselves amply strong, but to lose in the face of momentum even before combat revealed a weak Valor, of which Archer's was exceedingly high. No amount of mental contamination or bewitchment could affect his judgements, and even then, he was confident that his mentality would eventually break through.

For one to be worthy of truly facing him in combat, one would need the valor to stare him in the eyes, of which only one did.

Bell Cranel.

Hestia's patron who had excitedly lined up in front of Archer with the rest was the only participant who appeared eager even while Hestia's complexion drained of colour in the background.

Ah, an impulsive act then, Heracles concluded.

Rather than see the current bout as a ticket into the One-Eyed Black Dragon's subjugation which Hestia would vehemently oppose, Bell was looking at it like another of their training spars.

The naivety was innocently endearing, but the will to continue to seek Heracles out for improvement was a boon in Bell's favour.

As for the others…

Heracles swept his eyes across the rest of his odd competitors, resting on Ottar of the Freya Familia.

Different from the almost warm gaze of encouragement Heracles leveled on Bell, the way Heracles stared at Ottar was much firmer.

At a glance, Heracles could decide whether Ottar was fighting for himself, or at the behest of his Goddess.

The views were mixed. Loyalty and hesitation existed in Ottar's expression, and that was why the strongest Adventurer in Orario could not meet Archer's gaze. Instead, Ottar was privy to certain information he'd heard from his Goddess that was causing him even more turmoil.

Awe, longing, self-suggestion, and determination.

Heracles could read a multitude of emotions on Ottar's face, all of which told Heracles that Ottar was not focused on combat alone- a fatal mistake for a warrior.

Quirking a brow, Heracles said nothing as Ottar subtly approached him and whispered tersely.

"Zeus?" He asked with a warble in his tone.

Heracles stared into Ottar's eyes and relented, allowing the divinity of lightning to speak for itself.

The scent of ozone wafted within an enclosed area around Ottar, the familiarity all too apparent as the Zeus Familia members Ottar had once trained with all possessed a similar nature of magic.

Ottar's mouth shut, recalling the seniors he once and still looked up to. In the end, even his level had yet to catch up to Zeus and Hera's former lvl 9's. What was he lacking?

"Self-awareness beyond loyalty," Archer said, and nothing more. Whether Ottar could gleam something from it was up to him.

Ottar froze, but there was nothing more to say as Archer moved towards Iris's mist door, ready to join Rider and Shirou on the other side with the other participating challengers.

From there, he simply took his place and adopted the demeanor fitting for the task ahead of him.

"Will I come to you, or shall you come to me?" He asked, watching as Ottar, Bell, and the other challengers appeared through the mist door and merely stood in place.

Bell's eyes shone in particular, and having gotten used to training with Heracles, he showed no reservations about charging in.

Watching Bell's eagerness, a wrinkle formed on Heracles brow as he noted that Bell had yet to internalize Heracles's lesson on 'prudence,' and 'battle sense.'

This wasn't another training lesson, but a competitive duel, and as Master Chiron once said, Pankration was to mercilessly target weakness.

It was disrespectful in any duel to hold back against a challenger. That principle was engrained into both Heracles and Achilles by Chiron.

The moment Bell misjudged the atmosphere, was the moment he would have to learn consequence.

Inwardly sighing, Heracles refrained from drawing his bow or sword, and instead chambered his right index finger against his thumb.

Looking at the sheer confusion that crossed Bell's face, the boy must have thought Heracles was playing with him.

However, reality was different.

Archer was trying not to kill him, as Archer's entire body was a weapon due to the nature of his passive Noble Phantasm God Hand.

Pausing mid charge to open his mouth for an explanation was Bell's final mistake.

This compromise was Archer's consideration for Hestia watching from afar.

Without another word, Archer's right hand appeared in front of Bell's face, before he flicked his index finger onto Bell's forehead.

A miniature explosion echoed as the impact generated a miniature shockwave that formed a ring of wind over Bell's face before he went flying. Tumbling over the grass field a distance away, he groaned as the illusion of his soul leaving his body escaped from his mouth.

("B-BELL!")

Archer pretended not to hear Hestia's voice somehow echoing all the way from Orario to their current location. His aunt babies Bell too much. Only with hardship will he turn into a strong warrior.

Besides, Caster could fix it. A good warrior always has his share of battle scars.

Turning his attention back to Ottar and the others, Heracles drew his towering axe-sword, watching many suddenly surrender.

If a mere flick of his finger had enough power to fling someone of Bell's size over the hills and to the plains, they shuddered at what Heracles could do with a sword.

Only Ottar remained, shackled by his Goddess's orders, his loyalty, and the burgeoning desire to prove himself.

"One sword," Heracles decided to concede some leeway, gesturing that he would allow a free strike.

Ottar swallowed, palms sweaty.

If Rider had ended his bout in an instant with his speed, Heracles was the exact opposite. Ottar had every right to be concerned about his chances of surviving a blow from Heracles, but Heracles's proposal at least gave a chance.

Ottar steadied his breathing and maximized the magic energy flowing from his Falna supplied by his Goddess Freya.

Hubris was downfall.

Although Ottar considered himself a greenhorn compared to the powerhouses of the former Zeus and Hera Familias, he knew that not even they could be careless with Ottar's full power strike.

"Do not regret this choice," Ottar muttered, strength pouring into his grip.

Archer said nothing.

Veins bulging, Ottar funneled his monumental strength capable of overpowering huge monsters with minimal resistance all for this one swing.

"Hildis Vini." Ottar enchanted his weapon with super strengthening magic that coated the blade in a golden hue. "Vana Arganture!"

Ottar continued buffing himself, this time, his body undergoing beastification. His nails grew into sharp claws, his hair began to elongate, and his eyes sharpened into a feral glare.

Briefly, Archer hardened his expression while assessing the level of divinity and magic Ottar was suing to buff himself.

Upper B-Rank, Archer concluded before nodding his head.

"Come," Archer beckoned, bearing his chest out, sword arm raised for retaliation.

Archer would allow Ottar to strike, but it didn't mean he wouldn't strike back immediately afterwards. No, rather, Archer was already in a position to maximize his retaliatory strike to the point it irked Ottar.

Beastification frayed logical reasoning, but Ottar, through training, had reasonable control to be angered.

What Heracles was doing, was nothing else but provocation in Ottar's eyes.

Archer had raised no defence against Ottar, insinuating his strike would be worth nothing…!

Ottar's opinion of Archer finally consolidated. Of all members hailing from Zeus, Archer was the most arrogant!

And pride comes before a fall!

Ottar's mental fatigue violently dipped as he put his full power in, but the result spoke for itself.

Ottar struck like lightning, his swing generating a shockwave of power that cleaved through the ground on route to Archer's position.

Aiming for Archer's broad chest, Ottar made an expression of satisfaction as his expert swordsmanship assured him of a direct hit. His sword would land on Archer's bare chest and-

Clang!

Sparks grated as the strength of Archer's body alone, his flesh and bones, repelled all damage. The shockwave of the strike created a cutting wind that continued from behind Archer and cleaved a modestly sized valley onto the earth. Yet, that wasn't what was important.

A-Armour?

Dumbfounded, Ottar's pupils dilated in disbelief as he starred at the point his sword's edge made contact with Heracles's body.

God Hand: The Twelve Labours was Heracles hidden Noble Phantasm that was always active.

Representing the legend of the twelve labours in Archer's legend, he was a Heroic Spirit that had lives equivalent to his completed tasks. Therefore, he had twelve lives, and an immortal body that 'refuses' any attack below A-Rank Servant Parameters.

And Rank matters.

If a C-Rank attack had the power of an A-Rank attack, God Hand would go 'beyond the rules of reality' and nullify the strike's damage to zero. Moreover, he'd gain 100% resistance to any attack that had taken one of his lives.

Sadly, for Ottar's attack-

"Its rank is too low," Heracles muttered before his sword arm came down on Ottar.

Ottar could not fathom the meaning, but it mattered little as Archer's sword came down. Barely able to place his sword in between for defence, the sheer force cratered the ground and pressed Ottar hard.

The durability of Ottar's body became both a blessing and a curse, as the impact grated his bones, shifted his innards, and buried him in a pile of rubble. If not for Heracles showing mercy and pulling Ottar's limp form out of the pile, Ottar would have suffocated to death.

"A valiant effort," Heracles acknowledged the will to attack. "But judgement is lacking. Against a beast or monster that you stand no chance to face, it's not power or skill that wins, but intelligence and wit. The offer of one strike wasn't to you alone."

Heracles tossed Ottar in the direction of the other challengers who'd already given up. "You should have persuaded them to share their divinity and increase the rank of your attack."

Standing alone, waiting for his next adversary, none came to challenge Heracles again.


The plan had been straight forward in order to inspire confidence in the subjugation. However, plans never fully seemed to go as intended.

Scratching the back of his head, Shirou made eye contact with Rider and Archer in their respective sparring fields with moaning bodies and people barely conscious.

The effect of their showing was effective based on the expressions of their challengers, but both Rider and Archer had ended things to quickly.

Part of the nature of the plan was to put something of a 'show' to demonstrate ability. Being flashy was the best, and that was why Shirou had opted for strong visuals in his Tracing rather than just showing a single Noble Phantasm or two.

The problem was Archer and Rider, both taught by the Hero Trainer, Chiron.

Neither of the two held back in respect for their teacher's lessons.

Rather than a show of their capabilities, only a fraction of what they were capable of to stand against the One-Eyed Black Dragon was revealed…

Monstrous speed and strength were all the two showed to the point that Shirou was garnering more interest with his Tracing than the two and their abilities. Of course, Shirou had proved that he wasn't just some blacksmith that would provide equipment, but that didn't mean his primarily role had changed.

Rider and Archer would be a part of the primary attackers of the Dragon, and their monstrous speed and power could only go so far against the target of a Grand Quest.

They needed to show more, but there was no one left or willing to stand to face them-

"Oi big guy!"

Rider cut Shirou's train of thought off as Rider suddenly called out to Archer.

A sinking feeling entered Shirou's stomach all at once.

He knew. He just knew there was a headache coming.

"Get behind me! NOW!"

Shirou quickly ran and gathered the defeated challengers behind him as divine energy began to swell in the area. Lightning writhed in the clouds, and moisture was gathering to signal a coming storm.

No, perhaps it was inevitable from the moment 'Achilles' and 'Heracles,' Greek legend's most revered heroes were both summoned at once.

Rider had been itching to do this from the start. He'd only been waiting for the opportunity.

"Shall we determine who's better between us?" Rider wore a vicious grin as he summoned his lance and pointed it at Archer.

Worse, by principle of honour as a Greek-

Archer did not refuse and finally took out his bow.

The image of a radiant lightning bolt naturally flashed over Archer's back in correlation to his divine power. In contrast, the symbol of a star and dolphin hovered over Rider's.

/-/

Staring dumbly at the symbol of Zeus that appeared, an old man spectating from Orario staggered in place, while a certain water Goddess clasped her hands and was unreservedly cheating by sending her divine power through the bond she shared with Rider.

Unaware, the two were standing next to each other.


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