Horizon:Kimitoasamade 2B Chapter 17
Chapter 17: Experienced One on the Enemy
It is not aloof
And it happens naturally
In whatever you happen to be wearing
Point Allocation (That Is Why)
We destroyed them, thought Asama.
The second giant Hidden Dragon had just ruptured and vanished thanks to her arrow.
As Mitotsudaira flew through the air, she entered a curving landing trajectory, but there was nowhere for her to land anymore. The ship’s roll had increased and the deck was nearly vertical.
But as the silver wolf flew through the emptiness, something caught her: black and gold wings.
Only after being caught on either side by those two did Mitotsudaira seem to realize what the lack of a landing point meant, so she shrunk down in fear. Seeing that, Kimi ended her dance and spoke.
“I like your commitment to the attack.”
“I think you can thank our teacher’s lessons for that. That’s why we were able to work together so well.”
They had not planned out Adele’s charge, Naito and Naruze’s shot, and Mitotsudaira’s attack.
They had all cooperated while reading each other’s movements. And Mitotsudaira was at the foundation of that.
Her attack had only worked if she trusted the faster Adele to charge in, notice the spear at the bow, and throw it to her.
…Kimi is right. That is a commitment.
That kind of cooperation was only possible when they could picture what the others would do.
…Here it comes.
As soon as Asama thought that, light wrapped around the greatly tilted bow.
It was a series of giant rings forming…
“A tornado. Looks like the Hidden Dragon is recovering again. What do you think about it doing the same thing a third time, Kimi?”
“I think it qualifies as a running gag by that point.”
Asama did not even need to check to see if there was a bitter smile on Kimi’s lips. As the Hidden Dragon went for Round 3, it was a shoulder smaller than the previous 2.
…Does that mean the stagnation is being worn down?
The Hidden Dragon was losing the power of the fragments that scattered into the sky like glowing cloth. But…
“I’ve never heard of a mysterious phenomenon that continually recovers like this.”
“Yes, you have.”
“Yesterday’s Non-God Sword. After we defeated it, it turned into something else.”
She realized Kimi was right. She had assumed they had not quite defeated it and the transformation was meant as a counterattack, but since this Hidden Dragon was returning in a changed form after being defeated, then that mysterious phenomenon may have been a sign of things to come.
She had records of the previous day’s battle, so…
“I’d like to look back over those once this is over.”
Her vision rotated as she spoke. The investigation ship was tilting and the deck was approaching vertical.
She and Kimi went for an open hatch on the stern of the deck.
Adele went for the hatch on the bow. Mitotsudaira and the 2 Technohexen ascended into the sky and moved around to the new top of the ship. And as the Hidden Dragon tried to recover on the tilting deck…
It raised a growling cry, but it was too late.
Before it had even fully formed, it wobbled and lost its grip on the deeply tilted ship.
Its wings had yet to fully form. Nor had the body those wings would move.
So it fell.
Mitotsudaira saw it happen.
She saw the deck grow vertical and the angle of tilt continue beyond even that.
And she saw Asama stand on the wall inside the rear hatch, use the edge of the entrance as cover, and prepare a new arrow.
The Hidden Dragon could not keep a grip with that tilt and it was not fully formed enough to fly, so falling was its only option. If it fell, that giant mass would collide with the ocean far below.
It would shatter without them having to do anything.
But what if?
What if that Hidden Dragon survived? What if it transformed again? What if it self-destructed to take the ship out with it? Musashi’s Shinto Representative could not overlook those “what ifs”.
There was a reason why Asama had to do something now.
…Just like there will be in the future.
It’s called duty, thought Mitotsudaira. She had her own duty as a knight, so she understood just how important that discipline was.
It was in one’s best interests to fulfill their duty and they would be given certain powers to do so.
So Mitotsudaira had a further thought:
…Why did Tomo say she wants to start a band?
Did she want to bring some kind of change or differing viewpoint to her predetermined future?
And just as she began rolling those thoughts around in her head, she heard a voice.
It was Naito who was supporting her on the left side.
“Hmm, yeah. How should I put it?”
“There’s just not a good place for her, is there?”
That exasperated comment brought a brief tremble to Naruze on the right. But before Mitotsudaira could decide if she should ask about it, Naito looked up.
Naito sensed the enemy through touch rather than sight or hearing.
Directly above, a chilly wind descended from the heavens which had already made the shift to night.
She was not imagining it. The side effects of a distant movement were reaching her and that unusual movement of air was arriving between the gaps in her feathers. So…
“Here it comes!”
And it did.
The previous parent Hidden Dragon was overhead. After flying away earlier, it must have managed to heal itself to a certain extent. And it seemed to be returning to save the 3rd Hidden Dragon which could be seen as its child.
The parent Hidden Dragon was already performing a power dive. It dropped down as if trying to stomp on the investigation ship that had rolled beyond vertical.
A hit here would probably destroy the ship. Naito could predict it would bend and break it instead of shattering it. After all, this Hidden Dragon was 30 meters long and it had the mass and power that entailed.
If it hit…
Naito saw it.
She could predict the ship would bend and that impact would cause Asama’s shot to miss. So she and Naruze had to use the ship’s falling time to somehow get the other girls out of the ship.
Or they thought they had to.
A voice shouting “hit” rose into the sky.
Asama fired her raised arrow into the heavens of the night.
Naito saw a single color.
Asama’s left eye glowed green as it looked into the night sky.
That was a false eye named Konoha.
She used it to detect and target. Since it already had a targeting torii-style sign frame open, Asama must have predicted this situation. No, to be more accurate…
…She let it happen.
When the 3rd Hidden Dragon had recovered, Asama probably could have fired right away. But she had chosen not to do so and to let the 3rd dragon remain.
“She was waiting for it to call its parent in,” said Naruze who seemed to be thinking the same thing.
Since Mitotsudaira nodded between them, their guess was probably accurate.
Asama must have known these mysterious phenomena had a “parent and child” relationship by their very nature, so she used the 3rd one as bait.
“And she fired!”
A straight line of power flew skyward.
The high-powered shot was the same as the one that shattered the transformed Non-God Sword the day before.
This was their classmate, and…
…She can really do it.
This was a strict and diligent classmate who could not sing karaoke properly and had never eaten a crepe, but no Musashi resident would underestimate the Asama Shrine’s #2.
Technohexen followed their own rules and gained power from how they separated themselves from others. Similarly, this classmate carried immense duty and followed many rules which made her less “human” but directly brought her power.
Asama was much less like a normal student than the rest of them. She was not a student who was also an Asama Shrine shrine maiden; she was an Asama Shrine shrine maiden who was also a student. But…
Naito thought to herself.
She had felt there was a good place among everyone for them.
She was currently unsure if she wanted to aim higher or not.
But that was not the issue.
Someone in a higher position already existed alongside them.
The same was true of Mitotsudaira who she currently held with Naruze. Not to mention Kimi and Adele who had helped defeat the Non-God Sword the previous day and were assisting Asama now.
How was their current position a “good place”? As Technohexen, they could fly, they had the advantage of working as a pair, and they had ways of strengthening themselves. But…
…At best, those things only bring us up to even with the others, don’t they?
As soon as she asked herself that, the shot tearing through the sky struck the falling Hidden Dragon.
The power pierced the Hidden Dragon on the bottom of its right side.
The straight line of trailing light punched right through the giant falling body.
But that penetration did more than just open a hole. By targeting it from below, the power passed through the dragon’s right side and continued upwards to destroy something else: the sword-textured right wing on its back.
Asama’s arrow came out at the base of the wing and collided with the sword-like structure forming its body. The arrow had lost speed while piercing through and it finally detonated at that point.
White light burst, its power passed through the wing, and the arrow purified the entire area.
The white lightning-like light that raced out was a purifying power transmitted through a ley line pathway. When that hit the Hidden Dragon, it was unable to resist the white explosion on its back.
The right wing shattered. The base remained and some pieces formed bone, but the pieces that formed feathers became countless shards and their red light blossomed in the night.
But to the Hidden Dragon, this was not the end and it was not forgiven.
A second blow followed.
Without its wing, it stalled out and lost control, so it tumbled through the air.
Its 30-meter body fell through the night and lost its proper positioning. The ferocious wind hit its surviving wing, and…
While stalling out, it crashed into the upwards-facing side of the investigation ship.
“Okutama” confirmed Asama’s decision.
The investigation ship had been knocked downwards by the Hidden Dragon’s crash.
The fall of that great mass lowered their altitude.
They immediately dropped 15 meters and the wind rose along the surface of the ship like an upside-down waterfall.
They were above the ocean, so the automaton’s sense of smell detected salt in the air, but…
…Asama-sama’s bow and arrow…
Salt was one of the most powerful purification catalysts in Shinto.
And that fact was highlighted by the glow in the wind surrounding Asama as she raised her bow toward heaven again.
She used a spell. Behind her, a dancer stood on the wall and swung her hands about with cloth wrapped around her wrists to represent the wind.
“Is she refining the salt from the sea breeze? Over.”
“Heh heh. Technically, I’m drawing out the purest ether that is most fit for purification.”
The dancer raised both arms to give the cloth “wind” to the shrine maiden.
And as the shrine maiden raised her bow…
“I’ve extracted the pattern. Kimi, distribute it to the others.”
“Okutama” understood what Asama meant. First, the dancer pulled in the wind and extracted ether that was specialized for purification.
…Then Asama-sama analyzes that pattern and creates an instant spell.
From there, Kimi would receive that spell and redistribute it to the others using her song and dance.
They strengthened themselves with an exchange similar to bartering.
…And it’s only possible in Shinto which allows substitutions…
And after receiving the “wind”, Asama launched a new attack.
But it was not directed at the parent Hidden Dragon that had endured the fall and was now atop the creaking ship’s side.
She fired on the 3rd Hidden Dragon falling from the bow of the deck.
She aimed straight at the smaller Hidden Dragon that was nearly thrown off by the ship’s fall.
She launched the arrow.
The falling Hidden Dragon shattered and blossomed in the night.
There was no scream, just a red light and a bursting noise.
But there was a voice.
It came from the parent Hidden Dragon.
Its giant body had endured the fall and was now standing up on the upward-facing port side of the investigation ship that was slowly rising back up.
It gave a roar of protest and anger.
The dragon’s cry shook everything.
The reverberation ignored the color of the night and caused the hull armor of the investigation ship (which they were now using as the floor) to undulate and split.
The peeling armor propagated toward the enemy gunner at the stern, so someone else observed the Hidden Dragon from the unaffected bow.
It was Adele.
She had evacuated to the bow hatch while the parent Hidden Dragon was crashing, but now she was climbing up the rigging and the railing on the edge of the front deck.
“Looks like the tilting of the ship has stopped.”
With that quiet comment, she picked up her vassal’s training spear that was caught on the rigging. Then she looked from the vertical deck to the Hidden Dragon on the top.
It had turned her way.
And this was no coincidence. It had definitely noticed her and turned to face her. She heard Asama shouting from the stern.
“Adele! Mysterious phenomena are made of ether, so they sense ether more than noise or presences!”
“Eh? What does that mean, Asama?”
“Well.” Asama nodded. “It means it’s hard for them to find you if you tune your ether properly. But we’re in the middle of a battle and everyone’s ether is a little overheated. And, well, you picked up your spear, right? It still has some spell ether left in it, so that clued the Hidden Dragon into your presence there. Heh heh. See, Kimi? It doesn’t matter how big or small your body or boobs are.”
“Please don’t get stuck in exposition mode!”
But the Hidden Dragon was already focused on her.
No, to be more accurate, it was the spear she held that had its attention.
…Oh, so I’m just something extra!
I’m a vassal more worthless than a spear! she added, but that was actually a good thing right now.
“This spear has got to be worth a fair bit of money,” she muttered. “But I’ll be leaving this here.”
She stuck the tip of spear through a gap in the railing and raised her right hand toward the dragon.
A dragon cannon suddenly flew her way.
While flying with Naito to escape to the front of the ship, Naruze gave a shout while supporting Mitotsudaira with an arm.
“That’s being a little inappropriate, isn’t it?!”
“No, no,” added in Naito. “It’s fine. Look.”
She said it with a tone of exasperated disbelief and she pointed over with her chin.
Adele was sticking her head up from the edge of the deck and her head was woozy from the dragon cannon.
But she was unharmed. The dragon cannon had passed overhead and diagonally into the sky.
The reason why was directly above Adele.
Someone was riding the Hidden Dragon’s head.
She had long hair and roughly wore a Far Eastern girl’s uniform. She casually rose from her crouched position.
“Chancellor and Student Council President!” shouted Mitotsudaira.
The girl responded while waving from atop the dragon.
“Hi. It’s finally my time to shine. I always seem to get the last performance. I like that it helps me stand out, but it can get old. Still.” She smiled. “How about I show off a little.”
Mitotsudaira saw her upperclassmen’s surprise appearance.
Torii stood on the Hidden Dragon’s head and three others stood in front of it: Vice Chancellor Oosuga, Vice President Tadayo, and 1st Special Duty Officer Watanabe.
They must have descended from the Musashi which was in stealth mode overhead. The investigation ship had lowered its altitude, so…
“Yeah, we were having some fun where Suga works part-time, but then we fell off of the Musashi.”
How was it even possible to fall from that atrium park built belowground?
But the current situation was different than with the Non-God Sword the day before.
…Chancellor and President Torii Mototada is on the front line.
And before, Vice President Tadayo had only been cleaning up the shattering Non-God Sword, but the current Hidden Dragon had not been shattered yet.
However, Oosuga spoke from right in front of the dragon.
“Hey.” His voice was slow and deep. “Wouldn’t it be sad to hit this thing?”
“See. I don’t really care when I’m up against a human.”
Oosuga did not even put up his guard and Tadayo nodded in response.
She tried to respond with as little emotion as possible, but the Vice Chancellor seemed to think she was urging him on. Oosuga said more to her.
“Hey,” he began. “Tadayo, you like animals too, don’t you?”
“If they don’t have a breath attack, sure.”
“You shouldn’t discriminate.”
“Have you ever owned an animal with a breath attack?”
“You can’t expect someone to do that.”
“Then what was your point again?”
“Calm down,” cut in Watanabe.
She casually spun her metal spear around in her fingers and asked Tadayo a question with a smile.
“Chuu-san, you know how much Suga-kun loves cute things, don’t you?”
Tadayo responded to Watanabe by pointing her cowling spear at the Hidden Dragon looking their way.
“You think this thing’s cute?”
“Cuter than me anyway.”
I can’t argue with that… thought Tadayo. Nothing good ever comes of letting him use his pain-in-the-ass logic.
But Oosuga then looked up at the Hidden Dragon.
“C’mon, let me see. …You’re scared, aren’t you?”
A dragon cannon shot his way.
A direct hit led to utter annihilation.
Annihilation of the dragon cannon, that is. The vermilion light scattered into nothingness in front of the 3 on the deck.
It had not been deflected or shattered. It simply vanished into the wind like mist.
“What was that…?” asked Naruze while lowering Mitotsudaira onto the stern.
She did not understand how the dragon cannon had been erased.
Her eyes were focused on Tadayo.
She had raised her spear. It was a plain cowling spear with anti-ether processing done. It was tough, but had nothing more than that. So how had it destroyed the dragon cannon?
“Initial speed and perfect aim,” explained Mitotsudaira as she took light steps on the side of the ship to bring strength back to her ankles. “The anti-ether Orei Metallo focused on the tip can ‘hit’ both dragon cannons and spells. So if she sends the spear in with equal speed to her opponent’s attack…”
“They cancel out, don’t they? I’m betting she uses a light mobile shell focused on her upper body in order to fix her legs in place and snap her arms forward,” said Naito. “That’s the defensive sort of attack spell you see in the noncombatant Far East. …A lot of the high level Far Eastern officers use attack methods like this.”
“I see.” Naruze nodded. “That’s a lot like how Mitotsudaira fights. …Keep your legs in place and strike. But you’re power and she’s speed.”
The three girls heard a voice. It was Oosuga’s.
“Oh, I hate this,” he said. “I always seem to make animals run away from me.”
As soon as he said that, the air moved with a dull sound.
The Hidden Dragon’s body had suddenly bent like a mountain.
And this was not because it was leaping or jumping back.
It was a physical blow. Oosuga still calmly held his thick wooden sword, but the Hidden Dragon was knocked upwards about 20 meters in front of him.
As he looked up, the second strike hit.
With a roar, something hit the dragon’s back from the opposite side.
A single thought filled Naruze’s mind:
She was entirely confused.
A being as giant as a Hidden Dragon was being pummeled instead of shattered.
If this would shatter it, she would understand. An anti-ether attack with a piercing or exploding power would shatter a mysterious phenomenon like a Hidden Dragon. Using only piercing spells would allow you to break through the Hidden Dragon with relatively little power.
Even her and Naito’s shots could do that if pressurized far enough.
But Naruze was currently watching physical blows.
These attacks supplied force across a surface.
They would provide an impact, but would not pierce through the enemy’s surface. They only pummeled the enemy with the force distributed nearly evenly across the entire surface.
Instead of narrowing down the power, it spread out and did less damage for the amount of power used.
This was a nonlethal technique.
…I suppose it is the kind of technique you would find in the noncombatant Far East…
But the amount of power on display was abnormal.
The strength needed to knock a Hidden Dragon into the sky was enough to throw 10 gods of war to the deck.
Naruze had no idea how he was doing it, but she knew what he was using: that wooden sword and some kind of spell.
Oosuga had used that combination to strike the Hidden Dragon.
And the Hidden Dragon was slammed back down. Its giant body collided with the ship.
Naruze found herself moving unexpectedly.
She fell onto her butt.
Naruze realized Mitotsudaira was looking at her from the left. Her eyes were widened in surprise. Of course they were. A winged girl had just fallen onto her butt.
Naruze did not feel ashamed. There was a reason she had lost her balance.
“What just happened?”
She could see something in front of her.
It was the Hidden Dragon.
It seemed to be lying on the deck after being knocked down by Oosuga’s strike.
“There wasn’t an impact?”
It should have crashed into the ship hard enough for the entire ship to bounce, but there was nothing. Naruze had braced herself for the coming tremor, so she had lost her balance and fallen when nothing happened. The Hidden Dragon was the same.
It could not understand what had happened. It had probably braced for the fall and impact, but…
…Did something catch it!?
Filling its entire body with strength had created a distortion in its body. When it was caught, the legs braced to land instead created a reactive force.
Oosuga’s earlier hit must have weakened the bonds holding its body together.
The Hidden Dragon collapsed from the reactive force it created itself.
A roar rang through the sky. The dragon’s entire body bent, loosened, unraveled, tore, and scattered.
From tail to head, the dragon’s collapse would not stop.
But by then, Naruze had noticed something.
Torii stood on top of the head the Hidden Dragon swung around to protest its collapse.
She was dancing. She swung her arms around, sang something to herself, and occasionally…
It looked like her feet were slipping, but she still kept the soles of her feet on the bucking dragon’s head and continued to dance.
Naruze realized something when she saw that.
Torii was guiding the collapsing dragon’s head.
By stepping down, pulling, and pushing, she turned the vanishing dragon’s body and face toward the stern.
And who was waiting behind them there?
Asama had climbed up onto the side of the stern.
She had only been able to take her stance and fire without panicking or rushing because of Torii and the others.
…I’m glad I didn’t have to hurry this.
By the time she noticed the parent Hidden Dragon flying in, she had received a divine transmission saying the Chancellor’s Officers intended to make an appearance. So after her initial attack, she had left the parent dragon to them and instead focused on the smaller one.
Her attack now was not going to steal the credit from Torii and the others. Hidden Dragons were mysterious phenomena, so a purification power was best to supply a finishing blow. Especially with this one that had done the unthinkable and recovered several times in a row.
Torii and the others understood how dangerous this enemy was, so they had guided it toward her for final attack.
And she fired the attack they wanted.
She had a clear line between the Hidden Dragon’s forehead and the arrow she held, so all that remained was to release the arrow. She placed plenty of Blessings on this surefire shot. She accelerated and pressurized it. The purification power was sure to shatter the Hidden Dragon’s body and fully erase the remaining stagnation inside it.
Asama performed her follow-through motion while confident it would hit.
And the Hidden Dragon immediately ruptured.
Its head was destroyed with a solid sound.
But it ruptured twice.
Something flew in from the northern mainland sky as a follow-up attack to hers.
Asama could tell the projectile that hit the Hidden Dragon as a follow-up attack was a bullet.
As part of her job, she had memorized the flight patterns of various projectiles, so she did not panic.
She watched the dragon as even its roar scattered as wind and thought about whoever had intervened.
…That was a sniper shot.
She generally knew where it had come from. Several transport ships and passenger ships had evacuated and stopped in the mainland sky to avoid the Non-Dragon Sword and Hidden Dragon.
Someone on one of those had fired this sniper shot using a rifle.
Whoever it was had not intended to fire when Asama did. They had most likely watched the Hidden Dragon’s movements and determined this was their chance to fire.
It had been an impressive shot.
But there was one thing Asama did not understand.
Why had the sniper shot the Hidden Dragon?
She looked to the passenger ships and transport ships stopped in front of the Musashi in the distant sky. The sniper who had shot the Hidden Dragon was most likely on the three-hull ship in the center.
No one could answer that question, but as she wondered about it…
“Maybe they thought they would support us because we were taking too long.”
Kimi made a suggestion after climbing up onto the side of the ship behind her, but even she sounded skeptical.
And with no one to answer this question, the light that had been a dragon vanished. But…
…This doesn’t resolve everything.
She had realized something during the battle: why these dragons had appeared and that they would not disappear so easily.
I want to go gather my thoughts somewhere, thought Asama before seeing something else.
After jumping down from the scattering Hidden Dragon’s head, Torii looked to the northern sky and the ship thought to carry the sniper.
“Was that supposed to be a greeting?”
In the end, the investigation ship could not be righted, so a new transportation ship was sent in for Asama and the others with medical inspection equipment onboard. By then, it was past 7 PM.
It took another hour and a half before they finished their questioning from Asama’s father through a sign frame, provided records of the spells they had used, and finally set foot back on the Musashi’s deck.
And at 9:12 PM, Kimi made a suggestion since they had been given an exception to the curfew.
“My mom’s place is still open this late, so let’s go mooch off of her.”
And so they entered the Blue Thunder for a late dinner.
- ↑ The Tada of Tadayo can be read as Chuu.
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