Lancer was outmatched. That much could be said. The opponent standing before her was Rider; her first opponent, and in some twist of fate, her final opponent.
They didn’t see eye to eye. Figuratively, this was because they were competing to be the sole victor of the Holy Grail War. Literally, this was because Rider sat entombed with his Master within an enormous red suit of armour that towered over Lancer. Under normal circumstances, any Servant should have trembled with fear, but Lancer didn’t. She had experience with beings like this one.
So the fight began. Rider’s armour was quick for its size, but its mobility was limited by the site of the battle: the Fuyuki Bridge—a marvellous feat of engineering that spanned the full width of the Mion River with a single arch. Rider’s armour was so tall that its head almost reached the rafters at the peak of the arch. Similarly, it was so broad that took up two of the four lanes of road on the bridge surface. Rider was cramped, unlike Lancer, who was much nimbler and freer to leap between the supports.
As a result, the expected David and Goliath battle became a game of cat and mouse. Lancer had the advantage here, which swayed the odds of victory closer to being in her favour. If she could use the environment to keep out of Rider’s reach, she could snatch victory even from the jaws of defeat. And if she couldn’t, she could at least stall long enough for Rider’s Master to run out of the mana projecting that armour. That was the reason Lancer’s Master had chosen the Fuyuki Bridge as the stage for her final battle.
As Lancer bounded around the bridge’s structure, Rider tried fruitlessly to hit her. She was too fast—too small—and to attack recklessly would risk destroying the bridge. In contrast, Lancer was enjoying the opportunities to attack, throwing her twin-pronged spear at Rider again and again. After all, a spear was able to be used as a ranged weapon as well, which meant that Lancer needn’t even get close to her opponent to be dangerous.
It was frustrating for Rider. Last time he and Lancer met, he had managed to emerge victorious by donning his smaller, single-pilot armour. But now it seemed that doing so was a mistake; a surprise attack only worked one time, someone once told him. And now Lancer had had all this time to come up with a strategy to counteract him. She could read him like a book.
If there was one thing Rider was known for, however, it was improvising. His Noble Phantasm embodied the ability to adapt oneself to a challenging situation, and this situation was definitely challenging. If he couldn’t attack Lancer directly here, then he would have to attack indirectly. Like Lancer with her spear, he would have to find a way to use his weapon to strike from a distance.
With a resounding war cry, Rider pointed his arm towards Lancer, leading his target. In his mind, he envisioned a weapon that launched from his wrist, and at the same time that weapon manifested itself on his armour. He clenched his fist; a golden conical projectile burst out of the newly-formed cannon and shot towards Lancer like a missile.
She dodged by the skin of her body suit, watching the projectile zip by her in apparent slow motion. It was followed by another, and another, and an unease settled within the pit of Lancer’s stomach. Rider kept finding new ways to become more powerful with every opponent he fought. If she didn’t end things soon, he would be too powerful to overcome—or avoid.
Lancer thought back to before the fight began, when her Master detailed a plan for defeating Rider. Though she nodded calmly, accepting her Master’s wishes, she didn’t want to enact his plan. For her, it was a last resort; the end result was mostly likely to be mutually-assured destruction. Even though, as a Servant, she was required to be subservient, she still retained a sense of self-preservation that compelled her to continue fighting as she was now, knowing it would only serve as a stay of execution.
Then she heard a voice in her head that sent a chill down her spine. It was her Master’s voice, audible purely because he was activating one of his Command Spells. The order he issued now would be unrefusable; no matter how powerful the Servant, the Command Spell’s influence was absolute. The words he spoke filled Lancer with dread. She no longer had any choice in the matter. On this night, Lancer was going to die.
Against her will, Lancer dove down from the protection of the bridge’s rafters and landed on the road below. She dashed back as many metres as she could manage before Rider took note and started to turn towards her. Then, winding up her body with all the tension she could muster, she took a throwing position. Finally, with an ear-splitting crack that signified the sound barrier shattering, she flung her spear at Rider’s head.
The speed at which the crimson spear flew was imperceptible by human eyes. Quicker than the beating of her pounding heart, the distance between Lancer and Rider was closed. Rider didn’t even have time to raise his arms in self-defence. There was nothing he could do to stop the impact of the supersonic polearm. Rider was going to die.
Except, he didn’t. A pregnant pause loomed over him as he comprehended what had just happened. Lancer had missed. Her spear had just barely grazed the side of his helmet and disappeared into outer space. And, unlike her regular throws, the spear didn’t immediately reappear in Lancer’s hand. She was completely defenceless.
Rider seized his chance. He reached out with his armour’s hand and picked up Lancer like she was a tiny doll. Only her head was visible above his massive clenched fist. But Lancer didn’t struggle. It seemed that she had accepted her fate. Rider knew he had to squeeze the life out of her, but something about the situation hade him hesitate. He raised his hand in front of his helmet and looked Lancer square in the eyes through its visor.
Rider didn’t need to explain what he meant. A throw like that shouldn’t have missed. One didn’t use their Noble Phantasm only to waste it with poor aim. Lancer had to have missed on purpose. But for what reason? To what end? Why?
Lancer’s Master knew why. He was the one who gave the order. If they were still alive, Saber and his Master would also know why. As for Lancer, she said nothing. For a whole minute the Fuyuki Bridge was silent. Then, struggling against the binding of the Command Spell, Lancer replied.
‘Erase me from this world. If you don’t, you will be the one who is erased.’
It was a plea. A show of compassion. Rider deduced that Lancer had been violated by the use of a Command Spell into doing something she did not wish to do. So then what had her attack aimed for, if not him?
Before Rider could arrive at an answer, however, Lancer’s spear hit its mark. Having completely circumnavigated the Earth, it now returned to its launching point to pierce Rider’s armour cleanly through the torso, plunging through it, the bridge beyond and deep into the riverbed. In doing so, the spear also pierced Rider’s Master cleanly through the torso. Blood exploded within Rider’s armour, painting the interior as red as the exterior.
Rider screamed. The shock of losing his Master made his body tense up, and he inadvertently crumpled Lancer’s body in his fist. The shock of losing his mana supply made him stagger, his armoured body falling to its hands and knees and vanishing completely soon after. Mere seconds after impact, Rider was already feeling his existence begin to fade away, its tether to this world now eviscerated. Nearby, Lancer’s body also began to fade. But for her it was permanent. She was dead. Rider was alive. Just barely alive. He had won the Holy Grail War.
‘Wonderful effort, Rider. Truly wonderful,’ someone said to him.
He looked up to see a man with a chinstrap beard and glasses. It was obviously Lancer’s Master.
The bearded man adjusted his glasses with a gloved hand and continued, ‘But you haven’t won yet. There is still one other Servant left for you to defeat.’
‘Who?’ Rider sputtered, gasping for breath.
‘That would be me,’ said another unknown voice. Rider turned his head to see a man in a suit and a young woman dressed in purple jump down from the top of the bridge. It was Assassin and his Master.
Fate/Cross features elements originating from Fate/Stay Night by Type-Moon