Horizon:Kimitoasamade 2A Chapter 14
Chapter 14: Position-Taker atop a Rectangle
Front and back
Enemy and ally
Dragon and person
Point Allocation (It’s a lot like an RPG, isn’t it?)
“A Hidden Dragon appeared outside? There was no sign of that happening, but it is true, isn’t it? Over.”
On the stairs up to Okutama’s academy, “Musashi” rested her hips on the railing as a divine transmission from a fellow automaton raced through her mind.
A Hidden Dragon was a rare ether creature and mysterious phenomenon and she understood perfectly well why one would appear.
It was due to the Non-God Sword from the previous day. And a report from the Asama Shrine confirmed her thoughts.
The Provisional Council’s economic faction, which was centered on Konishi who was trading with Aki and the coastal nations, was currently sending protests to K.P.A. Italia.
Since this was related to the Non-God Sword, the Hidden Dragon would be due to K.P.A. Italia’s failure to tune the stagnation. So Konishi was taking advantage of their situation by using an open divine transmission channel for their negotiation because “it’s an emergency and I’m on a trade ship”.
And as a merchant, Konishi was very, very humble in his negotiations.
“Umm, Italia? Might I speak with you? We seem to have run across a problem. And well, um, the thing is…yes, there seems to have been a bit of an accident that is not our responsibility. Yes, we have not held a detailed investigation, so we aren’t entirely sure whether or not it is an accident. But for the time being, I see it is an ‘accident’ and I think we were simply unlucky here. Ha ha ha. …Oh? I certainly couldn’t determine what nation caused this accident. I was simply telling you that it seems to have been an ‘accident’.”
“Musashi” worried he would run out of time and it would all be over before he even got to his main point.
But K.P.A. Italia insisted that this was not their mistake and that Aki was to blame because they owned and directed the Noh Stage. Furthermore…
…Do they intend to simply call this an unpredictable mysterious phenomenon?
Musashi was investigating the ley lines and their stagnations with the Asama Shrine. K.P.A. Italia was bringing out Aki’s Itsukushima Shrine to confront them.
Of course, trouble on the level of a Hidden Dragon – while not common – was expected for the Musashi. There was no point in beginning a conflict between the Asama Shrine and the Itsukushima Shrine over that.
So K.P.A. Italia was prepared to compromise by calling it an “unpredictable mysterious phenomenon”.
Everyone knew that was an excuse.
But if Musashi accepted that excuse, K.P.A. Italia would likely make it worth their while and K.P.A. Italia had the negotiation ability to get their own people to accept some slight inconvenience.
That left just one problem.
“Asama-kun, Tamako, and the others out there.”
Someone spoke from the top of the stairs. This time it was not Torii doing an impression. It was the real one.
“Sakai-sama, what brings you here? Over.”
“Musashi” heard Sakai’s voice.
He was looking port where Asama’s group was likely fighting the Hidden Dragon outside.
“To be blunt, isn’t this kind of bad? And how did something as powerful as a Hidden Dragon show up out of the blue like this?”
“Judge. The details are not known, but it has undoubtedly appeared. We can only wait for Asama-sama and the others to return with their investigation results. But I am worried about Asama-sama and ‘Okutama’ out there because they are somewhat overpowered. Even if a Hidden Dragon is a mysterious phenomenon created from a stagnation, it still has the traits of a dragon. They will have received the lessons on flying a ship against a dragon in the third year of middle school and the lessons on fighting against a dragon are part of the second year high school curriculum, but… Over.”
“Judge. I asked Makiko-kun and she said they haven’t made it that far yet.”
“Judge. As Principal, what do you intend to have them do? Over.”
“If things start looking bad, run away.”
After a three second pause, “Musashi” gave some sporadic applause.
“Well done, Sakai-sama. I believe that is a very Far Eastern answer. Over.”
“Is it? You’re making me blush.”
“Judge. After all…that means they are to fight if it does not start looking bad. Over.”
“You shouldn’t twist people’s words. Don’t you think, ‘Musashi’-san?”
“Twisting your words? But isn’t that what it means to ‘teach’? Preparing them for anything they might encounter is what it means to teach them and raise them. …Regardless, I would like for Asama-sama and the others to do their very best. Over.”
“You’re really strict, ‘Musashi’-san.”
Sakai scratched his head and placed his kiseru in his mouth. And…
“Why aren’t you moving from the railing there?”
“You saw? Over.”
He tilted his head as he removed his coat and placed it over the back of her shoulders.
“Now, let’s go, ‘Musashi’-san.”
“Judge. Yes, let us go. Over.”
“I guess I’ll ask. Go where?”
“I intend to visit Tama’s main deck. Is that a problem? We must wait for Asama-sama and ‘Okutama’ to return through the stealth barrier. And in the meantime…”
“You can help me kill some time by drinking the tea I serve you and praising me while we hold a pointless conversation. Over.”
The ship immediately became a battlefield.
Asama reacted by clapping her hands for an auditory activation of an instantaneous divine protection. Everyone within earshot was provided three Blessings’ worth of protection against physical and ether attacks for one minute. And…
…A Hidden Dragon!
It was a type of stagnation. It ranked at the mid-level, but it was extremely close to reaching the high-level. After all, the stagnation was using a dragon “mold” to appear. It was made of stagnant ether, but its abilities were much like those of a dragon.
“What is going on!? It wasn’t just the Non-Dragon Sword!? Was there any sign of this?”
Naruze shouted her questions while sweeping her pen around to activate several firing spells. Asama responded while staring at the Hidden Dragon from the deck on the bow of the ship.
“There was no advance warning! This Hidden Dragon suddenly appeared here without any metamorphosis process for the ether stagnation!”
…A mysterious phenomenon – especially one this large – should have shown some kind of movement in advance.
Even the Non-God Sword from the day before had gone through a formation process to appear. But this Hidden Dragon was different. It had suddenly appeared just as they left the stealth barrier.
There has to be some trick to it, thought Asama. Kimi must have realized the same thing because she smiled bitterly.
“Perhaps it was the remnants of yesterday’s Non-God Sword. If a local god with a dragon form created the Non-Dragon Sword and attempted to consume it, the remnants of the Non-God Sword may have obtained the dragon ‘mold’ from the Non-Dragon Sword and become a Hidden Dragon.”
“If so, the only mystery is the speed with which it appeared…”
“That’s right,” replied Kimi as the enemy charged in. And…
The original Non-Dragon Sword had wings, so the Hidden Dragon did as well. It spread the wings that were also its front legs, shook them, and made a high-speed charge.
As the red giant rushed toward the bow of the ship, someone moved out in front.
Mitotsudaira realized her own mistake after activating three spell shields.
…This isn’t an opponent you can defend against, is it!?
She had not trained for a battle against a dragon. She had some knowledge on the subject, but it was not enough to put together a real strategy and it was certainly not enough to plan for a Hidden Dragon in particular.
That had led her to fall back on the fundamentals, but that had been a mistake.
She had thought she could handle an attack from the front legs or a swing of the head. She had trained against defense barriers meant to emulate a god of war and she could endure strikes on that level. But…
…This is far more massive!
If the ether had been incarnated, it had to weigh over sixty tons. That was more than five times a god of war and it had achieved some impressive acceleration with its wings.
This was not something an individual could defend against. So…
Mitotsudaira twisted her body to dodge. But…
…I’m too slow!
She had already known this, but she lacked speed. But even so…
There was no point in stopping her evasive action. She moved toward port. Of course, she could not just dodge. The others were behind her and it was a knight’s duty to protect them.
…I can’t just run away!
She abandoned the shields in midair. Those shields could defend against a bullet, but she doubted they would be any more useful than paper against this charge.
But she still hoped they would buy the others enough time to dodge.
And even as she made that knightly action, the rational part of her mind told her she was not going to make it in time.
Her body was not going to escape one of the Hidden Dragon’s claws. But…
She decided to trust herself. No matter what result awaited her, she had done her very best.
As soon as she shouted that, a voice answered her.
“Judge. No one as softhearted as you would leave anything to regret!”
She saw the golden color of wings and hair.
It was Margot Naito.
As Mitotsudaira rolled out of the way, she saw Naito in the center of her vision.
Naito was a classmate, she worked as a pair with Naruze among the many skilled people in the delivery business, and she was a Schwarz Hexen on the way to the upper levels. Just like Asama and Ohiroshiki, she already had a future to look forward to after graduation.
Mitotsudaira had been fairly good friends with this Technohexen, but…
…I didn’t know we were close enough to rely on in a deadly battle!
Naito’s voice cut away Mitotsudaira’s hesitant thoughts.
Hearing that, Mitotsudaira reflexively reached out her hand. She was not even thinking as she did so.
And in that instant, Mitotsudaira had a thought.
Have I taken the first step away from my former relationship with the others?
But her question was swept aside by the tug on her hand that felt like it would pull her shoulder from its socket.
Mitotsudaira allowed Naito’s acceleration to pull her to safety.
As Asama ran out of the way, she saw Mitotsudaira dodge. The girl’s silver hair swayed behind her as she leaped to the left, rolled, and was picked up by Naito.
From Asama’s position, it was impossible to tell if she had escaped the Hidden Dragon’s claws, but…
Asama heard Naruze speak while flying out of the Hidden Dragon’s way. That Weiss Hexen classmate’s voice contained no sarcasm and it was obvious to what it referenced.
Long ago, from a certain incident until middle school, Mitotsudaira had distanced herself from the others.
It would be wrong to simply say she had been violent. After all, her power had been used to save the weak and crush the strong.
At school and in the streets near her home, she had enacted the justice of a knight and a feudal lord. And she was also provisionally second in line to ruling the Far East, so…
…She seemed to be proving to herself that she was a noble person.
She had not wanted to become a mere replacement for someone who had been lost and so she had rebelled, but she had simultaneously tried to act nobly so she would be an appropriate substitute.
But that had been stopped by a certain opportunity and by a certain person. She was still trying to make up for it.
Everyone else felt Mitotsudaira had punished herself enough, but she was still not satisfied.
But sending herself rolling along the deck was not something she had done while trying to be “noble”. And while she had saved the weak and crushed the strong, she had not tried to protect her classmates who were her equals.
Mitotsudaira was still punishing herself, but a formerly unthinkable version of herself was emerging on the other side. So to help her…
Asama raised her voice after reaching safety. She wanted to further ensure Mitotsudaira’s escape.
“I’ll send some defenses, so move out of the way for now!”
The battlefield’s first action was complete.
Everyone on the deck had avoided the Hidden Dragon’s charge.
The Hidden Dragon turned to glare at the bridge that rose from the back of the deck like an iron. After finding no moving enemies there, it looked back toward the bow.
There was an enemy there.
I have been noticed, thought “Okutama”.
As the Hidden Dragon looked back, its gaze landed on her.
But when she looked to the arrangement of people on the deck…
“I have determined that is a poor arrangement. Over.”
Mitotsudaira had become their vanguard, so her inability to resist the Hidden Dragon’s charge had been a serious blow. Even after everyone dodged the charge by moving to the left or right, the overall layout had essentially been rotated 180 degrees.
Currently, “Okutama” was on the right of the vanguard and Naruze was on the left.
About fifteen meters behind them, Kimi and Adele formed the starboard side of the second row and Asama formed the port side.
The third and final row was another fifteen meters behind the second row and it was made up of Naito and Mitotsudaira on the port side.
“Okutama” had a general idea what strategy the Hidden Dragon would use next. Her knowledge as an automaton of course contained methods of fighting dragons. But…
A summary of their school lessons showed the high school second years had yet to learn how to directly fight a dragon. That was also evident from Mitotsudaira’s earlier decision.
After seeing Mitotsudaira’s response and the result, it was possible the others would be frozen in fear. As a knight, Mitotsudaira was the superior of a vassal like Adele, so Mitotsudaira’s failure had an especially high probability of leaving that girl unsure what to do.
…That’s it! Adele-sama!!
Adele had quite a few fans among the automatons. She made two laps of each ship during her daily running, so a lot of the automatons saw her on a regular basis. And when she was running, she would pick up a lot of animal fans among the stray dogs and pet dogs allowed to wander free, so an impressive dog train could be seen in the mornings and evenings. But she also extended her running course on a daily basis, so a lot of automatons also found it worthwhile to record that “daily measurement”.
“Okutama” determined she had to protect Adele for the sake of her fellow automaton’s measurements. To do that, she determined she should escort everyone on this battlefield. And then…
“ ‘Okutama’-san, can I ask something of you?”
She heard Adele’s voice from behind. Was the girl placing her in command?
“Okutama” made up her mind and nodded just as Adele continued speaking.
“Can you take care of the vanguard? As a captain automaton, you have a weapon, right?”
She prepared to ask, “You aren’t placing me in command?” But…
The Hidden Dragon roared.
But this was more than just a roar. A beam of light shot from deep within its throat.
This was a dragon cannon.
It was a textbook action for a dragon battle. After making a high-speed charge to scatter its enemies, it would use a dragon cannon to sweep them all away.
…And once the scattered troops are blown away, they won’t be able to communicate with each other.
Then the dragon could take its time hunting them down, starting with the most powerful. It would not start with the weak. It was a dragon.
And to do exactly that, the dragon’s soft neck bent like a whip and released its dragon cannon.
The beam of light swept across the deck in a fan shape.
“Okutama” leaped into the air to jump over the dragon cannon and then quickly checked her surroundings.
Heatless light raced past below the feet she pulled up toward her body.
That was the dragon cannon.
A hit from that would destroy her, but she had gained enough height to clear it. However…
…What about the others!?
Her fellow automatons did not have an answer for her in her shared memory. They were on the Musashi inside the stealth barrier. That said, a few of them were operating the investigation ship.
“ ‘Okutama’-sama, we will play the role of those on the Musashi. Over.”
“I predict 32% of them would say, ‘Adele-sama is deeeeeeeead!!’ Over.”
“I predict 18% of them would say, ‘I expect Kimi-sama blocked it with her Giant Breasts Defense.’ Over.”
“I predict 40% of them would say, ‘How will “Okutama” respond?’ Over.”
“I predict 10% of them would say something else or be too busy to respond. Over.”
Surprised that so many would be focused on her reaction, “Okutama” completed her jump over the fan-shaped sweep of the dragon cannon and looked to the others.
They had not known how to react to a dragon, so she was worried. Especially because the dragon cannon had been fired without any charging up first.
They could easily have been hit. But…
They were all okay.
Some had ducked and some had jumped, but they had all avoided the dragon cannon.
…They are unharmed!
“Okutama” determined their safety was a wonderful thing, but she worked at analyzing what had happened. Then she noticed something on the Hidden Dragon’s face and shoulders.
“Defense barriers!? Over.”
Asama had made a split second decision.
Even if she was a shrine maiden of the Asama Shrine, she was still only mid-level. She managed Musashi’s ether pathways, contracts, and divine protections for her job, but fighting mysterious phenomena was too much for a mid-level shrine maiden.
And dragons were high-level beings.
To pass the high-level shrine maiden exam, one had to know how to deal with that sort of high-level mysterious phenomenon, but Asama had only just reached the mid-level. So…
…I need to find a way to use my more fundamental abilities!
So she had used a spell.
“I cast the weakest of the defense spells on various parts of the Hidden Dragon!”
Protecting their enemy with defense barriers seemed like a bad decision, but she had a reason.
“This will make it easier to see what the Hidden Dragon is doing!”
…They used that in the vassal training too, didn’t they?
Naruze used her wings to fly out into the sky even lower down than the deck.
There was no hesitation or waste in her flying movements.
That was because she could see the Hidden Dragon’s movements.
She did not even need to ask why. Her vision told her everything.
“The defense barriers!”
The defense barriers created by the spells were giant flat panels.
Asama had cast them on the Hidden Dragon. There were positioned in five different locations: the front of the snout, the shoulders, the tip of the front claws, and the base of the tail.
This seemed to benefit the enemy, but it did not.
The defense barriers were set high, so a close-range attack was unlikely to hit them. And since they were on the front, they were poorly positioned for facing an opponent.
They had been set there for a reason.
…To show its movements more clearly!
The giant rectangular panels displayed the dragon’s movements with their angle and corners. The glowing panels picked up on the slightest movement and telegraphed it for all to see. They could predict the angle at which it would swing its head and they could guess the point at which it would charge forward after hunkering down. This allowed them to predict its movements from the earliest stages, so those who could fly could fly and the rest could duck.
Basically, they were carefully observing their enemy. No matter how powerful it was, its attacks were meaningless if they could not hit.
Since they were not used to dragon opponents, Asama’s method was very effective. Knowing how their opponent would move gave them an important advantage.
But, thought Naruze. While it was Asama who came up with and implemented the idea, the core of the idea must have been Adele’s training.
…For the vassal training held in the second schoolyard, “Musashi” uses defense barriers to represent the movements of a god of war.
Adele always took the lead and ran out ahead, but that was not just because the girl was quick on her feet. She also knew how to read the movements of the defense barriers.
The giant panels told her more than just whether or not they were about to move. They also told her how they would move.
This was the same.
So Naruze and Margot had flown off of the ship, Adele had gotten down on the deck, Asama had done the same, and Kimi…
“…Huh? Wait, Asama! With the boobs part of the shrine maiden uniform pressing in on the sides, my boobs prop me up when I get down on the deck. I can’t get down any lower than this. …What’s that look for, Adele?”
“K-Kimi! Press the button on the side of the chest to free the side restraints! Do that and you can squish them down! …What is that look for, Adele?”
This should help with my storyboard.
…And Mitotsudaira is giving you two the same look over there, so why not look her way too?
With that thought, Naruze felt the wind move as the scorching light passed by overhead.
Having briefly dipped down below the deck, she flipped backwards, spread her wings, and let the wind fill her main wings.
With a single flap of her main wings, she flew up to thirty meters above the deck.
She could see the red Hidden Dragon on the back of the deck below.
“Okutama” was the starboard side vanguard and Naruze was the port side vanguard.
She and “Okutama” were unharmed, so if they looked powerful, the Hidden Dragon would prioritize attacking them. Dragons had a natural preference for the strong.
So to stay in motion, she flew in a wide square wave pattern.
And she fired coins at the dragon as homing rounds. “Okutama” also took action.
“Here I go! Over.”
“Okutama’s” method of attack was simple.
She used water. Hardened bamboo sprinklers were installed in several locations across the top of the ship for cleaning purposes, but…
“Release all cleaning standards on the upper deck. Open #1-32. Over.”
The water started spraying out even as she spoke. The sound was reminiscent of scattering sand or tearing paper, but it was clearly that of spraying water. However, none of it reached the deck.
As it fell randomly toward the deck, it formed a series of curving lines that looked like sheet music behind “Okutama” while also spiraling around. Standing in front of it, “Okutama” gently spread her arms and then brought them back together to weave the empty air.
“Ship purification spell – Ice River. This barrage is made to remove all impurities from the surface of a ship. Please prepare yourself. Over.”
With that, she swung her arms forward.
Immediately, the five lines of sheet music raced through the air.
They struck the dragon’s side from the front left.
Asama watched the battle while continually casting divine protection spells on everyone.
“Okutama” and Naruze were making rapid-fire attacks.
“Okutama” used high-pressure water attacks and Asama knew just how powerful they were. The purification of the ship surfaces was a joint project between the ship shrines and the automatons.
But each ship was about two kilometers long, so the Musashi’s sides were more than eight kilometers long in all. Normal methods were not enough to remove the impurities in a short period of time.
The Asama Shrine would use ether emissions to separate the impurities from the surface, but the automatons were the ones that used their gravitational control to actually remove the impurities. However, that gravitational control only worked on points, so they were poorly suited for a wide area.
That was why they used water as a medium.
Even with the power distributed over the wide area, it could break the ice stuck to the hull armor and split the caked-on sandstone. If that was focused together at close range…
She clearly heard the solid sound of flesh being struck. The Hidden Dragon’s giant body swayed and then it was hit by Naruze’s attack from the air.
Naruze targeted its face.
As “Okutama” repeatedly struck from the left, the guided coin rounds shot down from the sky. The coin rounds were a little weak, but that was why Naruze aimed for the face.
…To blind it!
Even as Asama thought that, she focused on her own job.
“Made it in time!!”
As soon as she shouted that, the dragon roared.
This was different from the previous dragon cannon. The ether used for the dragon cannon was placed on top of the roaring voice for…
…An explosive dragon cannon!!
The attack arrived.
Asama saw the surrounding scenery bend as the atmosphere grew distorted. The dragon’s ether-carrying cry swept across everything.
It was a lot like a massive purification.
That was why the ether light providing Naruze’s shots with their homing power was swept away and the water of “Okutama’s” Ice River was scattered.
Asama knew what would happen next.
Now that the roar had nullified their attacks, the next dragon cannon was coming. But Asama spoke before that could happen.
“We made it in time.”
Three things had made it in time.
The first was the divine protection spell that would protect Naruze and “Okutama” from the explosive roar. Asama had also cast the spell on herself and the others.
At the mid-level, she could not use a spell meant for a high-level opponent, but since she cast multiple spells together and made adjustments based on the element of the attack, Naruze only had her feathers somewhat ruffled as she flew through the air.
And the second…
“Kimi, take care of this!”
Kimi got up across from her on the starboard side.
She began to dance. She had already activated Turning Point and begun to sing.
That allowed her to use a spell, but it was not something she cast on herself.
“Heh heh. I can preserve your spell, Asama, and it will last as long as I continue my song and dance. …I can only preserve it for the length of a single song, so hurry up and end this, you silly girls!”
Someone moved in response to Kimi’s voice.
It was the last person who had made it in time.
Adele raced straight toward the Hidden Dragon in her generic shrine maiden uniform.
And she was using a Far Eastern acceleration spell.
Adele felt light.
She held a vassal’s training spear and something had opened in front of her.
…A Far Eastern acceleration spell!
It was named Crocodile Crossing. Each of her steps grew as long and surefooted as a hopping rabbit. For someone as short as her, it extended each step by quite a bit.
“Here I go!”
She ran forward.
Asama had sent Crocodile Crossing to her and its control sign frame was open next to her face. She of course did not know how to control it and her user privileges limited her, so it was being adjusted by Hanami, Asama’s Mouse, who was inside the sign frame so it would not be affected by the ether outside.
…And it’s there to prevent the spell from growing too powerful.
Adele was Catholic.
In Musashi, Catholicism was against the rules. That was due to the first rebellion at Shimabara fifty years before and the second rebellion by the remnants twenty years before. Together, those were known as the Shimabara Rebellions held by the Far Eastern Catholics and that had led to the history recreation of the Far East’s ban on Catholicism.
So officially she was a “hidden” Catholic. The Asama Shrine handled Musashi’s contracts, so they acted as an intermediary for people like her and allowed them to use a fake “hidden” god.
This was the same.
Shinto was open-minded, so they would accept any religion even after the ban. Even if the other religion did not accept other religions, Shinto was willing to permit even that way of thinking.
So Asama had sent the acceleration spell through that “hidden” god. And the power was regulated to ensure it did not violate Adele’s Catholic faith.
She felt this was showing too much consideration for a vassal like her. So…
“Vassal Adele Balfette will show you her very best dash!!”
She did not need to fear the Hidden Dragon.
It had leaned forward and extended its face forward and down to prepare for its explosive roar, so Adele raced toward its throat.
She made a quick slide.
She was briefly reminded of that afternoon.
In her vassal training, she had been too slow for “Musashi’s” defense barriers.
If the same thing happened here…
She raised her eyebrows and her voice.
“I have everyone with me now!!”
Asama saw Adele raise her spear.
She was making a charging jab.
But Adele was light and weak. There was no point in throwing the spear and it only gained destructive power when she slammed it into her target using her entire body.
She had the speed and solid footing needed for that.
But the dragon released the voice deep in its throat.
It could not fire a dragon cannon again so soon. It could try, but it lacked the power for the previous explosion or a traditional dragon cannon. All it did was release the dispersing light from its mouth.
Then, thought Asama.
…It’s trying to…
The defense divine protections cast on Adele were revealed as sign frames when they were hit by the weak dragon cannon. The single blast had smashed around a dozen of them, but Crocodile Crossing and several of the defense spells were still active.
But the Hidden Dragon had roared for a different reason. It used the recoil to…
Lift up the front of its giant body.
It dodged Adele’s attack, causing her to pass below it.
Adele was already preparing to hit with the spear, so she would trip. But then Asama raised her voice.
“We made it in time!”
Their true attack had arrived.
By charging forward, Adele had created a gap in the air and broken a tunnel through the dragon’s roar.
A black shrine maiden uniform raced along that line on a broom.
But she was not the attacker.
“Ga-chan!” shouted Naito.
Two things happened.
First, Naito lifted her left leg from the broom and raised it high into the sky.
Second, something struck the bottom of her raised left foot.
It was Naruze’s homing shot. The ten yen coin accurately struck the sole of her shoe, providing her with its momentum.
Naito’s straight line path shifted into a triple roll toward starboard. Her head nearly spun right into the deck.
So she hunkered down and added on another half rotation. She kicked at the deck to launch herself back into the sky.
Then two more things happened.
First, Adele turned the momentum of her dodged spear attack into a forward roll.
As the vassal’s head rolled forward and her legs pointed skyward, she used the rolling momentum to throw her weapon backwards.
It was a long vassal’s spear.
Adele had thrown the large piercing weapon toward…
“Extra Special Duty Officer!!”
And second, Mitotsudaira, who had been carried here by Naito, caught the spear while running.
Mitotsudaira did not hesitate to run after landing from the broom.
Several defense sign frames appeared and disappeared around her. The defense barriers cast on her by Asama were reacting to the pressure of the dragon’s very presence.
She was being protected and the Hidden Dragon could not move so soon after dodging another attack.
…Here I go!
She had poor speed, but Asama cast an acceleration spell on her. She was only given three steps with Crocodile Crossing, but that was enough to fill her with speed. When she took the third step, she felt more weight behind her stride than ever before.
The long spear was originally a knight’s weapon. She was reluctant to throw it, but she wrapped even her wrist around the handle. For a close-range attack, she rolled it from her wrist to her palm and threw it. That added a spin to the spear.
…What happens if I have both power and speed!?
She slammed it forward.
…Way to spear it with some real spirit!
Ah, I’m turning into Masazumi, thought Asama as she cast the final spell in time.
This would have been difficult for Catholic Adele to do.
It had only been possible with a Shinto musician like Mitotsudaira as an intermediary.
…I added an anti-mysterious phenomenon divine protection to the spear!
The spear was wrapped in bluish-white light. That would purify the ether composing the target, and…
“That will be a fatal blow to a stagnation!”
It was a direct hit.
The spear strike properly permeated the Hidden Dragon. The purification power tuned the ether that formed its dragon body. As a result, the stagnation that acted as the catalyst for its creation fell apart. And…
…It is released!
That was exactly what happened on the investigation ship’s deck.
The attack pierced the bottom of the Hidden Dragon’s chest all the way to the handle.
The dragon’s body bent up and back while the hole in its chest grew.
A red light was visible through the hole. But the light grew the deeper one looked inside the hole and the Hidden Dragon’s body bent in that same direction.
Asama heard a sound. It reminded her of a receding wave and the color white.
Beyond the repeated popping sounds, the rumble of the Hidden Dragon’s breath sounded like an extended flute note. But it was no longer preparing for a roar. As its body expanded and split apart, it sucked in air to expand the torn area where its lungs had been.
The expansion of power soon reached its limit.
The Hidden Dragon’s entire body came apart and burst like a popping balloon.
It no longer had a dragon’s form. It split apart and the fragments glowed as they vanished into the air. The remnants of its legs came apart and scattered like pillars of rolled paper.
Naruze descended from the sky with her eyebrows raised in a smile. But then…
Asama heard a slight sound. But it did not come from the sky or the sea below. It came from the air.
It came from the rear deck where the ether light was scattering.
The dull creaking sound reminded her of a long, long inhalation.
As Adele left the remnants of the Hidden Dragon and caught her breath, she heard what sounded like a receding wave.
And she saw the light moving. The ether light that had scattered, fallen, and danced was now gathering back together.
It was moving back where the Hidden Dragon had been. And…
Naruze landed on the deck in front of her, frowned, and asked a question.
“Wait, what? …Two!?”
It was obvious what she meant.
Like a wave pulling back into the sea, two new forms stood where the Hidden Dragon had been defeated. And…
“There are three!?”
The defeated Hidden Dragon stood in the center.
An additional two had formed on either side. They were a little smaller, but they had largish wings.
It had been resurrected and it had multiplied.
…What is going on!?
Asama looked at the three Hidden Dragons standing in front of them.
She knew she could not just write this off as “impossible”, but she honestly did not understand what had happened.
The Hidden Dragon they had defeated as a stagnation had been resurrected and in greater numbers.
She intuitively understood this was strange. After all, they had purified the ether stagnation. The Hidden Dragon had been created from the ley line stagnation, so it should not have been able to regain its original form and multiply right after that stagnation was purified.
Naruze spoke from the deck.
“I’ve been thinking…the name ‘Hidden Dragon’ sounds kind of lewd. What’s with Shinto’s naming sense?”
“Well, Demonic Dragon would be more accurate, but I think we don’t like using that because a strong-sounding name might give it some kind of divine protection.”
“I’m amazed you could give a serious answer to that, Asama-chi.”
“C’mon, it’s not that amazing. …Oh, that wasn’t a compliment, was it?”
Meanwhile, the three dragons’ bodies were fully established.
The ship creaked under the dragons’ combined weight.
…These Hidden Dragons are definitely being created from a stagnation as mysterious phenomena.
To Asama’s left, “Okutama” removed her sleeves. This revealed her semi-lifelike arms which had shimmering heat rising from different points near the joints.
“Asama-sama, I have determined this is outside the norm. Musashi has sent Aki a request for help, but…”
“I’ve never seen a defeated mysterious phenomenon immediately recover and multiply into three, and I doubt we’d find anything like it in the Catholic records.”
“Former boy, I am somewhat glad that we were able to witness this rare event.”
“U-um, Papa-Schola? Lord Galileo? This is occurring in the sky near Aki, so shouldn’t you be a little more worried…?”
“No, those are Sakai’s students. And we have Aki as a buffer, so don’t you think we should watch this in case it can help us in our future battles against and examinations of mysterious phenomena, hm? But…”
“Three minutes. …If they can last that long, approve their request. I’d rather not anger Sakai here, even if it is indirectly. The mysterious phenomenon will not be the winner here. That role belongs to Catholicism, the Testament Union, and K.P.A. Italia.”
Asama saw “Okutama” send over the value of “Three Minutes”.
If they could last that long, reinforcements would arrive. But…
“Here they come!”
As soon as Mitotsudaira raised her voice, the dragons on the left and right started forward. They made the standard high-speed charge.
They reacted just fine. Asama had already cast the defense barriers on them just like before, so they were able to predict the path of the charges. And “Okutama” sent a divine transmission.
“Leave this to me. Over.”
“Heh heh heh. You can last three minutes with ease? Then tell us how! If it is with ease, they will do so, but if it is with difficulty, they will try their best!”
“You’re part of this too, Kimi!”
“Now, now,” said “Okutama” as everyone gave her hopeful looks. “I have prepared evacuation routes into the ship. I have also set up anti-ether barriers, so please move behind them. However, there is only one route on the bow and one on the stern. Over.”
Naruze immediately raised a hand.
“Are they high-speed shutters? Are there triple locks on the inside and do they connect directly to some vital shelters?”
“No, they are only pathways into the ship.”
“With ships this size, you often hear about people fleeing inside only to have a dragon cannon blasted into the entrance or to have the entire ship sunk from multiple dragon cannons.”
“No, this ship can-…” “Okutama” paused for a moment. “Oh, right. This is not the Musashi. This is an investigation ship that would roast anyone inside if it was hit by a dragon cannon. I mistakenly went with the usual response. Please ignore my plan. Over.”
None of them hesitated to give the automaton an accusatory look, but that did not solve anything.
“Here they come!”
The two dragons were charging in on the left and right. The girls could see the path the dragons would take, so the two Technohexen flew through the air and Adele ran. Mitotsudaira, Asama, and Kimi all tried to get out of the dragons’ way.
Just as Asama thought they could dodge it, light arrived from between the two dragons.
The vermilion beam was a dragon cannon. The center Hidden Dragon that they had supposedly defeated earlier had fired another attack.
Asama could tell the racing light was no less powerful than before.
They all bent their evasive action. The two Technohexen in the sky read the change in the dragon cannon’s path and turned to face the Hidden Dragon in the back.
They all successfully dodged it, but the swift wind struck Asama like a solid wall.
The pressure behind the wind slammed into her and pinned her to the deck. At that very moment, she heard a sound and saw a light.
The defense barriers she had cast on everyone were glowing as they audibly shattered.
They were blown away.
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