Horizon:GT1 Chapter 6

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Chapter 6: Tricks and Trickery[edit]

HorizonGT1 145.jpg

Is standing up to something

The same as

Challenging it

Point Allocation (Intent)

Mitotsudaira was battling in the fog.

Her opponent moved nimbly about and they would trade places whenever they saw an opening. They had a fairly distinct form for a ghost. She could see they were…

A ninja!?

They had a simple silhouette and they were armed with a straight sword. They almost seemed to be breathing smoke from their mouth, but that may have actually been a scarf.

“Mito, please don’t push yourself too hard. The guards and our upperclassmen are on their way.”

Unfortunately, learning that made her feel more pressure to finish this before they arrived.

But not because she was feeling inadequate.

I have confidence in my own skill.

She saw it as a good thing because it let her respond proudly when her king asked something of her.

She could not respond to everyone in that way yet, but she could with the people she trusted.

Understanding that was good enough for her.

“But this is not an easy opponent with such poor footing!”

She had no weapon.

Since she had the shorter reach, she tended to be chasing after her opponent, but…

“–––––”

The enemy let out a short groaning sound reminiscent of a breath and then jabbed their sword in at high speed. And while still on the move.

They’re pretty good at this!

If she was being honest, she was on the defensive and mostly dodging. She was only attacking less than half as much as they were.

Either they really were a ninja or they were accustomed to fighting on natural terrain.

They primarily stepped on their heels, which was well-suited for moving in the wilderness, on a mountain, or in a forest.

They must have been trained that way in life. That was not too surprising since they might have been a warrior or even name inheritor.

She too was a name inheritor, but she was a middle school student with almost no combat experience.

It would have been unusual for her to stand a chance here, but on the other hand…

“They are a ghost!”

The indefinite existence of a ghost would have inferior speed, power, and decision-making to their living self.

This was an empty shell that had lost most of what they had once been.

In that case, she thought. I can’t fall back here. Not if I want to test my skill.

She was a knight, so she had not been trained in wilderness movement like a ninja would be.

Wilderness movement classes were taught in high school, but that was only meant for noncombat withdrawal. The middle school classes taught in the nature district were only about gathering food and setting up camp.

But a wolf would not fear the darkness or a forest. Nor would she be afraid of an ether entity like a ghost.

Her main flaw was found in…

My speed.

She relied on her strength, which reduced her speed. But her Loup-Garou healing would quickly eliminate any minor injuries, so it was easier to rely on strength since she could win as long as she got a hit in.

But strength alone was not enough for this opponent.

Even as a ghost, they were finding solid footing on the Musashi ground which had to be unfamiliar terrain to them.

And their speed was…

“Impressive!”

She raised her right arm in defense and the sleeve dropped down.

They passed each other by in a split second and the enemy brought their blade alongside her arm with perfect timing. If she had not quickly pulled her arm back, the ether blade would have reached her flesh.

Asama was right that this enemy had a solid physical presence.

She needed to speed up her own movements, but…

How do I do that?

She realized something while crossing over a height difference in the crust blocks.

She knew the land here.

Asama moved to provide a situation report and to tune the crust as the guards and other cooperators approached.

The academy was on Okutama and Mitotsudaira was approaching it as she fought, so the academy had its officers fortify its defenses just in case while the guards, youth organizations, and club groups were sent out here.

That provided plenty of people.

Now she only had to tune the disturbed ether of the nature district’s surface to create a foundation for them. If she did not adjust the ether pathways to allow for the activation of divine protections and the like, they would be unable to use their equipment on the scene and some would even have their physical abilities reduced considerably.

The ground never took a direct hit, but when the trees were flattened, it seems to have torn up the crust blocks a fair bit.

She could tell where that was forming natural barricades. But…

“I hope Mito is okay.”

“Yeah, I hope she doesn’t get injured too badly,” said Toori. “Wolves like to play pretty hard. And I swear that side of her is only growing.”

“I know what you mean,” said Asama while his mention of Mito “growing” made her think of something else. “Um, Toori-kun? About Mito.”

She hesitated for a moment, but ended up telling him anyway.

“She’s facing an important question about, um, a massage, so give her time to speak with you afterwards, okay?”

“Sure, that’s fine. …Wait, what kind of massage? The fun kind? The gropey kind!? Then what are we waiting for!? Hurry it up! Bring on the massage! …Oh, whoops. Got a little carried away there. Anyway, is it time yet!? Is it, mom!?”

“I am not your mom. And you could be a little less creepily thrilled about this, you know? But anyway, it’s a complicated issue, so it can wait until later, okay?”

“Sure,” he said with a tilt of the head and a nod.

Hm?

She noticed a slight movement in his finger.

He was tapping his finger to…

A beat?

Her confusion must have shown on her face because he raised his hand and smiled while still tapping at the empty air.

“You can’t hear it?”

Hear what? she wondered while stopping herself from typing on her sign frame. For a brief moment, she heard a quiet sound coming from the fog in the forest up ahead.

It came from closer than the distant alarms or the approaching voices.

“Dancing feet?”

“Nate found an answer. Probably cause my sis would force her to dance with her.”

So…

“This will let her speed up her footwork.

Mitotsudaira’s movements were picking up speed.

Her enemy seemed focused on landing a decisive blow, so they could not let her get too far away. That meant…

I get to choose where we go!

So she chose to place her feet on…

“The walls!”

The different heights of the crust blocks created a narrow valley and she placed her feet on the walls on either side of it.

The top of the crust blocks was flat and they remained fairly level even with dirt on top.

So when she planted her feet firmly down or kicked off the ground, her feet would slip a bit and her strength would escape.

But these walls were different.

If she kicked off the corners, her strength would push directly at the sole of her foot. That would push her body directly forward.

Giving me speed!

It was not quite like springing off the wall, but it was close.

It only worked between these equal height differences, but she was free to choose just such a place since the enemy was pursuing her.

She moved her slow body.

“There!”

She could do this. She picked up speed as if closing in on them.

Between the higher crust blocks, she spun her body in midair and pursued the enemy along a path that zigzagged like a saw blade.

And her opponent…

“–––––!”

They let out a groan and rushed her with blade ready to attack. But…

“Okay.”

Her diagonal back-and-forth path using the corners naturally allowed her to feint to the left or right.

I just wish I could do this on normal ground.

Was it wrong to see that as part of the pros and cons that everyone had? Regardless, she was getting used to this way of moving. So…

“Here I go!”

After dodging, she immediately shot forward.

To defeat this enemy.

Mitotsudaira had been focusing on the enemy’s attack timing.

She aimed for the instant the enemy pulled back their blade.

That ghost used their straight sword with compact movements. Instead of making wide swings, they generally jabbed it forward.

After pulling it in with their elbow and wrist, they jabbed the blade out with the back of their hand pointed downwards.

It was a simple movement, but understanding it did not mean she could do anything about it.

She had to focus on when the ghost pulled the blade back.

They could not attack during that process, so she would wait for that moment of safety.

Some might call that cowardly, but while she was confident in her skill, she had decided not to overestimate herself. So…

I want to avoid rushing in while they’re making their attack!

She would dodge the enemy attack and then strike. That was the way the powerful did things – they did not care about their enemy’s circumstances.

She knew she did not qualify as “powerful” yet.

She did not think she could win this with a single attack made while rushing past her foe, even if they were a ghost. And if she did manage it, it would be thanks to something other than her skill.

She wanted to avoid any careless actions since this enemy’s blade had a physical form.

After all, she was not a wild wolf. She was knight wolf who served her king.

That service would be meaningless if she grew careless and failed to return to him.

Her victory had to be a precise thing. That principle seemed to suit her current reserved personality.

So…

“There!”

She made a luring attack and fell back to get the enemy to pursue.

And once the enemy had pulled back once, she pushed in a second and third time.

Now!

Her timing was good.

The enemy pulled back the blade in their right hand, so she immediately kicked off the edge of a crust block.

She launched herself forward and swung her right arm back for the briefest of moments.

My right sleeve!

She purged her right sleeve that had been cut away at the shoulder. The movement of her arm flung it into the empty space behind her, lightening her jabbing hand.

“You’re mine!”

She only had to move forward to be in range for this attack.

She could do this. Or so she thought.

“…!?”

All of a sudden, she felt some kind if wind blowing on her left shoulder from behind.

Something had rapidly flown in along a sharp path.

A gunshot!?

“Oops! Sorry about that, Mito-tsan! I screwed up my ether detection lock!”

Naito was looking down on the destroyed forest and mist from the sky above Okutama.

That didn’t work!

Her firing spell was a traditional Technohexen spell she had modified for her own purposes. It was a sniper spell that focused on stabilizing the gun instead of providing guidance or homing.

However, the targeting spell used with it had not been good enough.

To lock onto a target at night and in the fog even with some thin obstacles in the way, she had added ether detection on top of the optical data, but…

I didn’t expect her to throw away her sleeve!

The sleeve thrown forcefully behind Mitotsudaira had defensive divine protections applied.

Through the ether detection targeting spell, it had looked like Mitotsudaira split in two.

One part moved forward and the other back, but which was the real one?

In the heat of battle, Naito had decided on the one moving back.

Mitotsudaira was cautious now that she had a king, so Naito had assumed she would not charge forward here.

She also should have informed Mitotsudaira she was providing covering fire. However…

“How could I tell her? She would have just refused the help and then she would have held back in the fight out of concern and doubt.”

That was why she had cut off her divine transmission while taking the sniper shot.

Besides, she had a good enough reason to fire: the enemy.

The ether detection had shown her the enemy’s movements before Mitotsudaira charged in.

After waiting as a part of their rhythm, the enemy would move in or fall back, attack Mitotsudaira, or dodge.

That rhythm remained unchanged and Naito had seen it only growing deeper. In other words…

Are they luring her in!?

She had sensed danger when the enemy pulled back more strongly than before.

So she had fired. But I screwed up, she thought.

Partially because the sleeve had confused her, but also…

“That enemy is really good!”

The bullet had missed.

The enemy had sped up further than she had predicted when taking the shot.

And at the same time…

My ether detection sight shows Mito-tsan isn’t moving!

Naito sensed danger.

Next to her, Naruze started jotting down some notes for a doujinshi, but she tried to ignore that.

Gold Mar: “So what doujinshi were you coming up with back then, Ga-chan?”

Silver Wolf: “Wait, that’s your only question!?”

Mar-Ga: “It wasn’t about you. You know how porn doujins have to quickly set up a scenario on Page 1? I was thinking ‘trapped alone behind enemy lines due to failed covering fire’ could work for that.”

Hori-ko: “They do say failure is the greatest teacher. I hope to learn a lot from you all in that way.”

Tachibana Wife: “Um, I hate to interrupt, but I don’t think that saying was talking about learning from other people’s failure.”

Mar-Ga: “Better than having your failure go to waste, right? Anyway, I used that scenario for AsaShoots3. It began with Asama providing covering fire and blowing everyone away. A neat twist on the idea, don’t you think?”

Asama: “Wait, so I was trapped alone behind enemy lines due to my own failed covering fire!?”

Mitotsudaira saw the bullet fly between her and the enemy.

It was a 10-yen coin and she had heard Naito’s voice over the divine transmission earlier.

That Technohexen is providing covering fire!?

And she had screwed it up. That much was clear.

The enemy had managed to fall back and dodge the shot and she had reacted to the unexpected shot.

She had hesitated.

Instead of moving forward as planned, she had pulled her upper body back.

She could no longer pursue the enemy.

Instead, she needed to pull back and reset their respective positions. Then she could aim for the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, the enemy was still falling back. Their right arm was pulled back at the elbow in order to send out another jab of the straight sword.

In order to put distance between them again, Mitotsudaira tried to swung her center of gravity back while at the top of the narrow valley of crust blocks.

Just then, the enemy took action. They let go of the straight sword as if leaving it there in midair.

Eh?

The enemy let go of their weapon.

Practice and classes had left Mitotsudaira with a decent knowledge of how to handle a blade, but this was her first time seeing someone do this.

The enemy’s pulling right hand let go of the sword and tossed it to the left.

Wait.

She could tell what they were doing.

While pulling back their right arm, they were also moving their left shoulder forward.

Past the forward-leaning shoulder, their left arm was jabbing toward her.

And the hand now held the sword that was tossed to it.

“–––––”

Their action had been a simple one.

By pulling back their right arm, their upper body rotated, pushing their left side forward.

They had used that movement to create a jab with their left arm.

The hand switch-up allowed them to attack half a beat faster than otherwise.

That movement required training and actual combat experience. And…

“Kh.”

Her confusion had been a critical mistake while trying to fall back.

The enemy’s blade was going to reach her. She could tell the straight sword would hit nearly to the hilt.

Her center of gravity had not yet been shifted back far enough to pull her body back, so she had only one option remaining.

“Power!”

She threw all her strength into her next movement.

Instead of dodging, she attacked. But her opponent was not the target.

The crust block!

She threw a hard kick at the crust edge she had been preparing to dig her right foot into.

Suzu heard a loud noise.

Huh?

She was on Musashino, the Musashi’s 1st central ship, but that had come from the direction of…

O-Okutama?

She was pretty sure that was where the sound had originated. She had to assume sounds would weaken and scatter when traveling between ships. But…

“Mitotsudaira is making a lot of noise out there.”

Kimi tapped her heel against the floor while handing out bottles of coffee milk from a wooden container in the plaza out in front of the bathhouse.

The short sound was solid and sharp yet it carried warmth too. Kimi smiled bitterly at it.

“How many times have I told her to use a lighter step? …Still, she’s doing better than before since she’s putting her emotions into it now.”

Mitotsudaira wanted to unbalance her opponent, so she destroyed their footing.

“…!”

She stuck out her right heel and scored a direct hit.

Reach your target, my power!!

Her mental cry led to exactly what she wanted.

Her power did indeed reach its target.

She fully extended her leg and her power left her right heel and bounced back into her left heel.

With a solid sound, sparks flew while the enemy’s blade approached.

“––––––”

Just as she thought it would hit her, she saw the ground tear up and fly out.

Surprisingly, it happened to her left even though she had kicked with her right leg and used her left leg to support herself.

The crust blocks must have been stacked up over a broader area to her right. The trees swayed and the piled-up dirt launched upwards, but…

“W-wait, Mito! Please don’t tear up my neighborhood!”

Just as Asama feared, the crust blocks over a width of 3m and a length of more than 8m to her left tore up and flew into the air.

The damage was more to the things on top of the blocks than the blocks themselves. The trees, underbrush, and dirt scattered and flew skyward.

She felt the solid blow in the sole of her foot, but her main thought was…

“The crust block connections are surprisingly loose.”

“Well, ether pipes pass through there and the terrain can be rearranged for training, so they’re only held in place by hooks,” said Asama.

“Whoa, watch out!” shouted Naruze. “Hey! Who launched these trees up at us!?”

Mitotsudaira did feel bad for that one.

She checked on her surroundings.

The space to her left was now empty. The crust block she had placed her left foot on had been blown away as well.

Only her right foot remained digging into the edge of the crust block to her right. As for her opponent…

“–––––”

As experienced as they had seemed, having the ground destroyed out from under them must have been a first.

They had lost their footing just as they tried to attack.

They had lost their balance. No, they had lost the ground below them and ended up airborne.

The blade in their left hand had lost its speed so they were simply holding its hilt in hand.

This was her chance.

She sent an attack there.

She had raised her right arm, so she pulled it strongly back.

Just like the enemy did!

That pushed her left arm forward and toward her opponent’s head.

She hit.

It was not a clean hit since she only had her right leg to support herself, but it had hit all the same.

However…

“They dodged it!”

That ninja-like opponent had leaned back in midair to bring their head back and down.

Her attack had hit the left side of their forehead instead of slamming straight into their face. And…

“…”

It felt different than the other ghosts.

Like rock!?

Her hand felt something horribly hard but it was also shattering.

At the same time, the enemy spun around.

They rotated through midair as if making use of her strike.

“Wait!”

She cried out just before the color white arrived below her feet.

A mist!?

Something was suddenly blasted upwards from below Mitotsudaira, but it was not the ether fog from before.

It was pure water. It had the smell of the water circulating through the Musashi in the water pipes.

“Mito! The damage to the crust blocks caused a water pipe to burst!” said Asama. “It’s highly pressurized, so be careful!”

That much was obvious already.

The spring night air may have helped, but the mist sprayed straight up more than in the horizontal directions.

“Kh!”

Just to be safe, she raised her guard to the front and took a step back.

She quickly left the mist and took a breath.

“Honestly.”

She could see Musashi’s night sky in front of her.

The surrounding trees were sinking into the rising white mist, but the trees and dirt she had indirectly launched could be seen lying on top of the forest in the distance.

She detected a scent similar to the dirt after a rain. And…

“I may have gone overboard here.”

Several transport ships were shining their spell lights down on her, so she thought to herself in that glare.

What happened to being a good little girl to make up for my past?

“But it seems my king prefers things on the exciting side.”

The enemy had disappeared at some point.

Vice President: “I bet you didn’t have time to adjust Aoi’s spells after that, huh?”

Asama: “No, I didn’t. I had to do some inspecting and tuning of my own there, so I had Toori-kun head home while Mito and I dealt with the inspection work.”

Unturning: “Was the Asama Shrine accused of providing poor security after that?”

Asama: “No, we were using the standard settings for docking. And by we, I mean the Musashi as a whole, not just the Asama Shrine. In other words, we did everything right, but the ghosts were an exceptional case. If there was a problem, we had to put together a countermeasure to ensure it did not happen again, but that requires money and personnel. And more importantly, we had to figure out why it had happened in the first place.”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. There was an official investigation into why the hostile ghosts had appeared on the Musashi, but I was treated with great care since, even though I was a knight, I was only in middle school and yet I was forced to handle the ghosts on my own due to the delayed reaction from the guards.”

Flat Vassal: “Yeah, but they questioned me until really late into the night since I had some witness information for them. It was a real pain in the rear.”

Smoking Girl: “I was swamped with work getting things ready for docking in the engine division down below, so while I heard there was some trouble up top, I never heard about most of this.”

Vice President: “It is quite the story. But something weird was going on, wasn’t it?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. We began investigating that the following day. The Musashi managed to dock at Totomi and the ship filled with trade-fueled life.”

Mitotsudaira was stuck at the Asama Shrine until midnight being questioned by the guards and the Chancellor’s Officers.

Her right shoulder was bare since she had lost that sleeve.

Asama had suggested she stay the night, but she had still not been at a point where she could let herself do that.

“Toori-kun told me to look after you.”

Mitotsudaira had not known what “taking care” of her meant in this case, so she had declined.

Once Asama left to deal with some of her duties, Mitotsudaira had left.

Okutama’s central nature district was located behind the Asama Shrine. The investigation and recovery had already begun there, so transport ships and personnel were moving around and working with spell lights active.

Once in the surface city and outside of the Asama Shrine’s spell barrier, the sounds of the city quickly returned to her. And…

“Ah.”

Even from Okutama, she could tell how low in the sky they were.

The 3rd port and starboard ships blocked her view of the horizon, but she could see a mountain range and some lights in the distance. She could also see the distant ocean “below” the night sky.

They had finished docking.

When did that happen? she wondered, but that would explain why Asama was able to take a break during the questioning.

Naito and Naruze were probably flying through the sky for their night deliveries.

“Hm? Is that Mitotsudaira?”

Some workers were carrying lumber and pallets toward the nature district. One of them was a half-dragon.

“Urquiaga?”

“Judge. Are you headed home?”

“Isn’t that obvious?”

“It is.” He shook his dragon horn as he answered. And, “Toori was waiting for you at the guard station between ships back there.”

“He was?”

That question left her because she had not expected that at all.

Not because it was a surprise for her king to do that kind of thing for someone.

It was a surprise for her to let him do something like that.

“But he said he was leaving because he received a divine transmission from Asama saying she was having you stay the night,” continued Urquiaga. “Is that not what happened?”

“Well, um.”

“Don’t tell Toori you went home. I won’t tell him I met you here either.”

He nodded as if to make it a promise.

“Then,” said Mitotsudaira while taking a breath.

That must be why my king told Asama to take care of me.

“If my king left me with Asama, then I will go along with it. That will honestly be easier for me anyway.”

“Excellent. True happiness can be found by sharing people’s company.”

Urquiaga wished to become an inquisitor. He lived by centrist Tsirhc values.

“Urquiaga,” shouted one of the other workers. “Get a move on or we will never finish by tomorrow!”

“Judge. I will be right there, Nenji.”

Urquiaga started running and she called out to him as he left.

“Thank you for telling me what my king was doing.”

She thanked him and felt relief in her heart. Maybe that relief came from how dark it was even with the spell lights everywhere. And…

“Ha.”

She let out a breath that might have been a laugh, might have been an embarrassed sigh, and might have been an exhausted breath. She moved her bare right arm to bring the hand to her chest and opened a sign frame.

“Asama, I changed my mind. I will be staying with you after all. Thank you for the offer.”