Horizon:Kimitoasamade 1B Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Hasty Ones of the Passing Shadows
What did we do
When we were beginners?
Point Allocation (Sleep, Maybe?)
The sky was white.
It was a vast, oblong, and cocoon-like sky.
An aerial ship with three port and starboard ships and two central ships floated in the center of that sky. The name “Musashi” was printed on the bows of the ships.
It was a giant white and black ship, and below it…
“Margot! Take care of things from behind! This is the last one for today, so let’s try working together!”
Black wings rode a giant white feather duster below the second port ship on their way to the third ship.
The wings belonged to a black-haired girl wearing Musashi’s girl’s uniform A Magie Figur license plate was opened on the back of the feather duster. It gave her name as “Malga Naruze”, identified her as both a second year at Musashi Ariadust Academy and a Technohexen belonging to Musashi’s aerial delivery guild, and…
“Currently in training. Use caution when nearby.”
Naruze moved forward, leaving Naito behind her.
She tore through the wind and looked to the white stealth barrier below her and the ships’ hulls lined up overhead.
“I see him!”
Up ahead, a figure flew quickly below Murayama, the second port ship. It was a half-dragon with a mostly white shell.
His arms were sticking forward and his legs were rotated ninety degrees outward for his flight form. He was flying using his arms’ main thrusters.
“Leave it to Urquiaga to not hold back even in training!”
Naruze held her right hand forward and drew a crop mark frame Magie Figur.
She sketched the half-dragon in the center and added effect lines, but…
…He isn’t turning around?
In her image, Urquiaga showed no sign of looking back her way. That made it look like he had not noticed her approach, but at the same time…
“I’m not so sure.”
Half-dragons had a wide field of vision. By moving his eyeballs in his eye sockets, he could check behind him without having to turn his head in midflight.
Thus, Naruze decided approaching him from behind or the sides would be dangerous.
After all, this was not their first time joining him for early morning aerial mobility training.
This was the eighth time. For Urquiaga, it acted as combat training as an inquisitor. For the Technohexen, it acted as training for the races and mock battles they used to determine their ranking in the delivery business.
Their opponent was an aerial half-dragon. It would be hard to find another human-sized race with more aerial mobility and physical combat skill. It was a rare race, so they were fortunate to have him as a training partner.
…It really is strange.
Naruze thought back to middle school.
Back then, the Technohexen and Urquiaga had not had any clear connections.
They had of course all joined together in the jokes and discussions with the others, but that did not mean they had ever directly faced each other.
Then the previous year, he had suddenly asked them if they were willing to join his combat training as Technohexen.
Naruze had wondered what had led to that, but she had known that the half-dragon had been undergoing personal training since middle school…no, even before.
During elementary school, Urquiaga had run across the ships each morning.
By middle school, he had been flying between the ships on his own. Because the Technohexen had been undergoing training and instructions to join the delivery business, they had seen the half-dragon receive warnings from the guard stations and transportation guild a few times. A license was needed to fly above, between, or outside the Musashi’s ships. One could earn a license at twelve, but Urquiaga had not had one at the time.
The initial license to fly within the Musashi’s airspace was restricted, but those restrictions were removed after spending two years without a flight infraction, logging a total of 1100 hours of flight time, and passing a test.
When the Technohexen, Urquiaga, and the other hopefuls had arrived at the testing location on Asakusa…
…A bunch of those idiots showed up.
Asama and the others had carried in a ton of boxed lunches. Naruze still remembered that Mitotsudaira, who had joined the others again by that time, had carried most of them.
When eating lunch before the results were announced, she remembered finding the unfamiliar Far Eastern food surprisingly good.
…I didn’t feel like asking who exactly those idiots had shown up to root for, though.
“But,” said Naruze as she instructed the feather duster to accelerate. “With all of them there, we could hardly hold back when we flew.”
Naruze soared toward Urquiaga who flew ahead and above.
The half-dragon had a wide field of vision, but he still had a blind spot when flying: below his lower stomach.
During his high-speed flight, the half-dragon had his stomach oriented down and his face pointing forward. In order to find and attack a target in the sky or on the ground, his eyes had the clearance needed to see everything on his level and everything on down to the ground, both in front of him and to the sides.
He could even see behind him, but not even a half-dragon could see through his own body.
When flying, his shoulders and torso were in the way, and he could not see the area from his lower chest to lower stomach.
Naruze felt this was a weakness born of the half-dragon’s great power.
…When flying, no enemy can catch up to them from behind.
Only fellow half-dragons could catch up, so their vision reached to the sides and behind to check on everything at the altitude they lived in.
The lower stomach blind spot was where an enemy would attack from the surface, but taking flight from the ground provided poor initial speed. Nothing taking off from the ground could catch up to an airborne half-dragon.
Naruze had once asked Urquiaga how he dealt with that blind spot.
“Your stomach’s wide open when you fly. You might be able to ignore anyone that flies after you, but aren’t high-speed flying objects like anti-air cannons a problem?”
“In those cases, I can descend to the surface and wreak delightful havoc on the anti-air equipment. Flying right into anti-air fire would be a poor strategic choice.”
“But not everyone can pull that off.”
“You can, can’t you?”
“Um, anti-air equipment tends to be pretty strongly defended. Only races with sturdy shells can head there without issue.”
“No need to hold back. Go ahead and say how cool I am.”
This was why she hated half-dragons. But…
“Why are you worried about strategy? Don’t you want to be an inquisitor?”
“Judge. If I pass the inquisitor trainee test in the second year, the path to becoming the 2nd Special Duty Officer will open.”
“…What are you talking about?”
“Well.” The half-dragon nodded. “The 2nd Special Duty Officer is in charge of administering justice. If I become an inquisitor with that on my resume, my future is essentially assured. Of course, as you two have trained with me, I will overlook the fact that you are Technohexen.”
There was something in his tone that made her think he was lying. It was like the words themselves were accurate, but his true feelings were different.
However, it was not the Technohexen way to interfere with others. So…
“We’re not going to let you win next time just because you’ll overlook us in the future, so prepare yourself.”
That “next time” was now.
This was their eighth match. They exchanged attacks while making a circuit below the Musashi and then discussed the results. They repeated the process from five to six in the morning. Each circuit, they would swap out who was in the lead. Partway through, one of them would reverse their circuit for a head-on confrontation. Lately, they had grown more accustomed to reading the currents of the morning sky, so they would move out from under the ships and fly between or above them as well.
And this was probably their last confrontation for this match.
…So we need to use everything at our disposal.
Urquiaga was just about to arrive below Takao.
He was going to take a gentle right turn to pass below Okutama without slowing down.
The half-dragon pulled back his shoulders. He always tensed up like that before a sudden ascent or descent.
Seeing that, Naruze lifted the corner of her mouth a little. She raised her ether drawing pen in her right hand.
“Ridding yourself of the blind spot? Not bad!”
From further behind, Naito saw Urquiaga eliminate his blind spot.
The half-dragon’s vision was restricted by his arms and torso, so he could not see below his lower stomach when flying.
“He moved his vision by tilting his body to ascend!”
If he could not see below his lower stomach, he could bend his entire body back to see everything behind him at once.
The method was easier said than done during high-speed flight. After all, he was still below Takao. Ascending here would mean colliding with the bottom of the ship.
Also, simply checking behind him would not hold his opponent back. He would need some kind of show of force to keep his opponent out of the blind spot in the future.
His choice was not simply to ascend.
Like riding a wave, he bent his body back but did not immediately ascend.
“He adjusted his output to continue forward while positioned diagonally!?”
He had taken his ascension position, but he was using the inertia of his great speed to continue forward without rising or falling.
His vision now covered everything behind him.
Their eyes met. They were too distant to actually see each other’s eyes, but Naito was still certain of it.
So she activated a spell and targeted his tilted back and main wings.
She used a double acceleration spell. It was a spell she was developing for long-distance sniping.
The acceleration fired a one yen coin meant for mock battles.
The wind roared.
“It doesn’t fly as far because it’s light, but it can make it this far!”
The bullet flew forward.
As he flew ahead, Urquiaga realized how troublesome his opponents were.
…They’re firing now!?
This was not the same firing technique as in their previous matches. It was from nearly twice the distance and it was extremely accurate.
This was a Technohexen sniper shot.
He understood how it worked.
Before, Naito had only used one Magie Figure for her firing acceleration spell. She had placed it near her hands at the brush of her broom and she had thrown the coin in there to fire it.
But this time, she had used two.
One on the broom’s brush and one at the other end.
“She thought this through.”
The one near her hands had accelerated the coin and the one at the other end had reaccelerated it. Raising the initial speed allowed for a longer distance shot and stabilized the ballistic trajectory.
The extra effort needed to activate and control the double spell meant it was likely meant for use on the surface.
If she was testing it literally “on the fly”, then…
“She’s a diversion!!”
Urquiaga was certain that Naito’s attack was a diversion.
She was sniping him from further away than ever before, but that was meant to draw his attention.
A half-dragon had a wide field of vision, but that was based on his eyeballs’ range of movement. If his eyes were fixed on a single target, his vision narrowed.
That was Naito’s intent here.
She was a diversion.
Even if she was using a double acceleration spell sniping technique, she was not on the surface. The wind would be too strong, and…
“She has to worry about the ocean!!”
Overhead, Takao’s hull was thinly surrounded by the virtual ocean. That ocean was constantly being created from below to provide buoyancy to the giant ship. It would break up or whip up air currents, creating gentle but unpredictable gusts. So…
Naito’s ballistic trajectory wavered and veered off course. The light 1 yen coin for mock battles probably played a role. A ten yen coin probably would have reached him.
However, this was based in the rules of a mock battle.
The attack did not matter if it did not reach him. Its only purpose was as a diversion.
Urquiaga guessed the other one was trying to reach his blind spot.
He moved his right eye and found Naruze.
She was trying to force her way below him.
“So you’ve come, Naruze!”
One hundred meters below him, a set of black wings was matching his orientation as it approached his blind spot with forceful speed. She took a descending course and raised her right hand toward him.
That hand held an ether pen, and…
…A guided firing spell!
A nearly hand-drawn arc sent two white bullets flying his way.
Naruze saw the movement Urquiaga took.
The sub-thrusters on the sides of his waist turned her way.
The two small armored wings were meant to release acceleration ether light, but during this mock battle, they did more than just provide acceleration.
The half-dragon used his sub-thrusters to fire down and to the back. He fired the masses of compressed air that had gathered inside the thrusters. It truly was an air cannon.
The shells had an effective range of about one hundred meters. The ether light surrounding them made them visible and they moved slowly. They were meant to crash into the enemy at extreme close range during a battle.
Normally, they would never have hit from this distance, but she was trying to enter his blind spot.
…So he knew my trajectory!!
Even as the compressed air came apart in the air, it flew right into her path. At this rate, she would collide with the bursting pressure, so she made a decision.
“Margot! …Let’s swap out!!”
Urquiaga realized the black wings flew back and away from his blind spot.
She was likely trying to escape the range of his air cannon as its shells burst, and he observed the action she chose.
However, Naruze did more than just descend. She forcibly spread her six wings to brake. As she was pulled backwards, she stood up and performed a downward roundhouse kick on the acceleration brush of her feather duster.
She was forcibly slowing down and turning so she could ascend as soon as possible.
Urquiaga was impressed, but he also felt her decision was dangerous. After all, when moving so quickly, allowing a shockwave to envelop the tips of the wings or other external points would strain her skeleton with the intense inertial force. Spreading her wings like that could pull a muscle, dislocate a joint, or even break a bone. But…
How troublesome, he thought.
He was training to be an inquisitor.
That profession was meant to oppose Technohexen.
But if Technohexen were willing to fight with such reckless abandon, his future might not be as peaceful as he had hoped.
In this early morning training, he was at a slightly higher level than them.
But even if they had to work together, they were still improving each and every time.
How troublesome, he thought again.
The worst part was how his future as an inquisitor was starting to look different to him. If possible, he had wanted to defeat a cool Technohexen elder sister, win her heart when he showed off how cool he was by sparing her younger siblings, and earn both a conversion and a wife in the process. That was his glorious and gracias-tier vision of the future, but now it was looking like he would have to fight a serious battle against her, which left decent odds that she would end up hating him.
How troublesome. Why must these Technohexen so cruelly destroy my vision of the future?
However, it was true Technohexen were combat-oriented.
Naruze had already corrected her position and was soaring along in an ascension pose, just like him. Her acceleration caused her to overshoot him and move out ahead.
She may have been aiming for a pincer attack between her and Naito.
“What a troublesome duo!”
Urquiaga gathered his strength. They were about to move out from under Takao on the Okutama side. He decided it would be fun to ascend, pass over Okutama, and fly under Oume.
Naruze had moved forward, but her trajectory took her on a descending line. If they were both going to ascend, he would have the upper hand. He would finish his circuit of the Musashi without taking any damage and ahead of them, so he would have won.
Something suddenly crashed into him from behind.
He had been hit.
Urquiaga had only been hit by a light impact, but the unexpected attack shook him and caused him to miss the timing for his ascent.
His shaking vision saw Naruze rise ahead of him. The black wings rose straight up into the sky between Okutama and Takao.
After regaining control, Urquiaga followed.
After receiving an attack, he would have to get in one of his own or he would lose this circuit. He pursued her while also looking back to the one who had hit him.
She had only fired one sniper shot, but it had veered off course and missed.
It had not been a guided shot, so it could not have made a course correction.
He realized just how that bullet had reached him despite that.
“Did Naruze guide it!?”
…We did it!
Up ahead, Naruze clung to her ascending feather duster and confirmed their results.
Urquiaga had been hit because…
“Yes. It was thanks to the guiding line I drew.”
White Technomagie created positive power and black Technomagie created a negative power, so a guiding line drawn with Weiss Techno could pick up the Schwarz Techno bullet and send it back on track.
They had recently finished training the timing and how to draw the guiding line.
Drawing a straight line in midair was unexpectedly difficult.
However, Urquiaga would not have seen the line directing the bullet toward him. At most, he would have seen a point of light. She was confident that was just how straight she had drawn the line toward the center of his vision.
“Do you know why I moved ahead of you?”
She swung her right hand along Urquiaga’s path of ascension.
Her right pointed toward the half-dragon and then toward Naito behind him.
“Time to draw.”
She drew the line.
An image was drawn in Musashi’s sky.
White lines raced along to draw the lines representing the wind.
They were accompanied by the sound of firing and an explosion of air.
The few people on the morning roads looked up to the white sky.
A white line rose from the valley-like gap between Takao and Okutama. The line drew a gentle spiral, but it also occasionally took quick, tearing movements.
Cannon blasts and vibrations of air were exchanged by the three joined by the line.
The black wings did not give up her lead, the half-dragon forcibly tore at his opponent, and the golden wings kept her distance and fired as if the result was already decided.
The flying bullets and powers were dodged and adjusted as they flew between the three who seemed to dance above Okutama.
They all laughed out loud in the air.
“Let’s settle this by using everything at our disposal!!”
Naito released her attack and began a new tactic.
The mock bottle had devolved into melee, so it was not time for sniping, so…
“Activate three at once!”
This was an unguided single-acceleration firing spell, but she used three of them.
She had one on the broom and one on either side of her. Part of her hoped she could bring it up to four in the future, but…
She fired three shots: one along the guiding line and two to hold her opponent in check.
She wanted it to hit, but Urquiaga was more skilled in the air. She and Naruze had yet to fully combine their aerial mobility and firing, but his race was meant for the skies. Even when surrounded, he freely cut through the air to pursue Naruze.
…He’s pretty good!
They had a powerful classmate. She and Naruze had to work together to just barely catch up to him. Having someone like that so close filled her with some impatience and with some relief. After all…
“We have a future.”
Despite the talk about the Apocalypse, they had their work in the delivery business. After this match, she would leave for the morning shift and Naruze would make a boxed meal for their evening work.
They were busy, but…
Those in the delivery business – especially the Technohexen – had begun some new activity lately.
They had bought their equipment from Edel Brocken and that company was making an additional request to hire a Musashi Technohexen as a tester for newly developed equipment. Something similar was probably happening in the other nations, but since Musashi’s Technohexen already had one tester, everyone was talking about it recently.
Of course, Naito and Naruze were a part of that.
…Ga-chan’s giving it a lot of thought, too.
They also had to think about how stiff they had been during the previous night’s rehearsal.
She groaned and saw Naruze shaking her head up ahead.
Urquiaga’s air cannon was coming, so…
Naito quickly rolled downward in Okutama’s sky.
Musashi Ariadust Academy was below her. It was only six o’clock, so not even the athletic clubs had begun morning practice and there would be no one in the schoolyard. However…
A familiar face was looking up at her from below the bridge in front of the academy.
It was Asama.
The girl waved and Naito considered waving back, but…
Urquiaga had fired an air cannon while she was distracted, so she dodged it and reaccelerated her broom.
Asama-chi must be thinking about the future and other things too, she thought.
Asama looked up at Naito, Naruze, and Urquiaga’s morning training.
Naito had nearly been hit by Urquiaga’s attack while looking her way.
…That was close!
Had it been her fault for waving? Thinking she had been careless, she followed the battle unfolding in the sky.
Konoha, her false left eye, suddenly detected something in the distance.
When a weapon or ill will was directed her way, Konoha would automatically detect the shape pattern and ether reading. Based on the pattern, this reading was a weapon.
This was nothing unique. The Technohexen and other delivery workers were often former warriors from other nations and they would use equipment bought from those governments. Even if the weaponry was deactivated, Konoha would often react to the overall shape. But…
It was the real deal.
A woman in an orange jacket rode a black schale besen in the distant sky above Musashino. She was Edel Brocken’s tester in Musashi. Her Urban Name was Wild Kamelie.
Her schale besen was a prototype from Edel Brocken. It was built to oppose the Technohexen trials, so it contained enough weaponry to accomplish that.
She was looking at Naito, Naruze, and Urquiaga, but why?
…I think I heard that Naito and Naruze have risen pretty high in the delivery business’s races and mock battles.
They were allowed to work together as a handicap for being newcomers, but they had apparently had a series of victories over the past six months.
Wild Kamelie was first in that ranking, so did this mean Asama’s two classmates had grown enough to enter that woman’s field of vision?
They’re really working hard, she thought while watching them soar through the sky and fly below Oume.
She too had something she needed to do.
Asama once more thought about what was coming. Once Mito and Kimi arrived at six, she would invite them to form a band with her.
However, even though she had asked them to meet her below the bridge, they might mistakenly show up on top of the bridge. If that happened, there was almost no chance of them noticing her under the bridge. To make sure that kind of mistake did not occur, she was planning to wait on top at least until the first one showed up, but…
Someone circled in from the side and moved underneath the bridge without noticing her on the top.
The girl letting out a thoughtful sigh was Mitotsudaira.
Asama just about called out the girl’s name and ran down, but then she stopped. After all…
Mitotsudaira did something without realizing Asama was watching.
She shouted a complaint and punched the inner wall below the bridge.
Meanwhile, the white sky was growing brighter.
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