Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4A Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Warner on the Horizontalt
The next thing you know
You are not a challenger
You are something else
Point Allocation (Counterattack)
Asama realized that her decision had been a carefree one but also a very serious one.
She realized this while up in the sky.
She was riding Naruze’s feather broom to the Blue Thunder and she was trying to find a comfortable position for her butt.
For Asama Shrine work, she would sometimes ride transport ships and ceremony ships. She was used to high places and speeds, but…
They were flying.
But this flight did not slide through the sky. It cruised like a ship.
They flew by continually accelerating to constantly push themselves forward. The Technohexen broom could of course float and that gave it some stability, but the way it seemed to constantly push at them and swing them around reminded Asama of something.
“This is a lot like running, isn’t it?”
“Eh!? What!? I can’t hear you!”
The wind and their speed kept her voice from reaching the girl in front of her.
As they passed the night stealth barrier, Naruze turned back to speak, but instead of sending her voice toward Asama, it was more like she placed it in the air where it was swept back to Asama’s ears.
“There isn’t a rear seat, so sit on the broom cowling and grab onto either side! Do you have the cowling between your legs!?”
Naruze’s eyebrows rose at Asama’s response.
Thanks to all her training with Shinto prayers, Asama’s voice had apparently reached her. Naruze showed a smile on her lips.
“In that case.”
And with that, they flew.
They were in the sky. And quite high up at that.
In no time, they left the Asama Shrine behind. Asama was used to seeing Okutama’s surface from transport ships and such, but now it grew more distant from a diagonal perspective.
…Oh, we’re already near the bow.
Her senses could not keep up with their speed. It felt like they were already at Tama by the time she saw them leaving Okutama. So she looked forward.
Naruze had opened several Magie Figurs.
Since they had taken an unscheduled flight into the sky, she was quickly checking what course to take. Based on the symbols and route displayed there, she seemed to have chosen a route that cut across Okutama’s bow from left to right and flew diagonally right toward Tama.
Those two likely discussed this kind of thing while doing their job.
…Although she only ever seems to talk about her doujins at the academy.
But she checked their route and selected a course with the technique of a pro.
She was doing as good a job as any adult.
That was when Asama realized she was somewhat tense.
The rapid ascent had probably surprised her. She could feel the tenseness in her knees as well as in the hands holding onto the edge of the schale besen.
But she doubted that was necessary.
A delivery pro was taking her to the Blue Thunder.
So she shook her head and fixed her disheveled hair. She tightened the grip of her hands and leaned forward.
In front of her, Naruze’s wings had closed to reduce air resistance.
The voluminous plumage gave off the scent of the shampoo those two used.
It was morning glory.
That flower bloomed in the early morning, so did it hold special meaning in the delivery business that got to work early?
Asama did not know.
She felt like everyone tried to find meaning in everything.
So she faced forward through the wings and then looked to the side.
As the scenery slowly flowed by below them, it turned to the right such that Musashino’s bridge and stern were visible to the left.
Large ships were restricted from flying near Musashino’s bridge to avoid doing damage to it. So it was rare to see that bridge-shaped ship’s bridge from this close.
They were probably about 100 meters above the deck.
And their view slowly but surely turned in front of that giant structure.
The broom was tilting in the opposite direction. It was banking to the left to change course and fly along Tama’s port side.
The rear of the broom seemed to slide a bit and wind hit its belly.
Twice, they skidded rightward through the sky.
But Asama was holding onto the cowling. She had reflexively lifted up her hips, so her butt did not hit the cowling and bounce. Also…
She saw Naruze’s wings. The main wings were extended straight back as if to hold Asama on either side.
Was that supposed to help Asama stay balanced? Or was it used to control the broom?
Asama did not know that either.
She thought she heard someone calling to her from the right.
She looked that way and saw Naito and Mitotsudaira.
Mitotsudaira had strapped herself on using luggage belts.
They were crossed in front of her like seatbelts, so they formed an X fairly high up on her. Seeing that, Naruze wrote something on a Magie Figur and passed it back to Asama.
Asama chose not to respond, but this was going to end up in a doujin either way.
Naito’s broom flew up alongside Naruze’s.
But her voice could not reach them.
Of course, that meant nothing to Naruze whose wings clearly nodded.
…Here we go.
Their broom and Naito’s broom crossed paths as they flew in a gentle curve toward Tama.
They descended toward their destination in perfect harmony.
The aerial ship of Musashi always had work to do, even at night.
With maintenance, construction, transport, guard, and government work, there were always people working a wide variety of jobs in the streets at night.
So along the main roads, the shops stayed open even as the curfew approached.
There was one that stayed open all night long. That illuminated wooden space was located on Tama.
It was the bakery/café known as the Blue Thunder.
There were a few customers inside.
There were no families or groups of friends at this time. Everyone was stopping by to refuel on the way to work, so the counter in the back filled up first.
Among them, someone stood in front of the register counter for bread sales.
It was Tenzou.
Watanabe had given him a mission.
…I must report to Watanabe-sama if Naito-dono and Naruze-dono show up here at night.
Of course, he could not stake out the place forever. So…
“Excuse me. I am from the 1st Special Duty Unit of the Chancellor’s Officers.”
Tenzou produced a sign frame for the automaton at the counter while making sure the others could not see.
It displayed his identification. It provided the emblem of the 1st Special Duty Unit, his name, his ID number, and a stamp confirming that he was on an approved mission.
He wanted to make sure no one else saw this to ensure no one mistakenly thought the store was involved in some kind of crime. But…
Thanks to the 1st Special Duty Unit’s information network, he knew this was an unidentified automaton. And that the Blue Thunder’s manager had claimed to be her guardian to ensure her safety.
But, thought Tenzou. Toori-dono has started coming here to see this automaton.
Yet Tenzou was fairly certain that boy had not come here even once since that incident 9 years before.
…Should I just chalk this up to people changing with time?
“…Who are you?”
Tenzou only had one thought when the automaton asked that out of the blue.
…Sh-she really is a lot like her…
He was hesitant to say who that “her” was.
Their class had set up a mental dividing line between the events of 9 years ago and now, so there was no point in bringing it up again here.
But the automaton asked a question.
“If you will not answer me, then I will have to guess. Is that okay with you?”
He just about asked what that meant.
But the automaton slowly raised her right index finger, pointed at him, and gave him a sharp look.
That was wrong.
It was not even close, so Tenzou fell silent. Then the automaton nodded twice.
“…What do you need, Yamamoto-sama?”
“Eh!? You took that as a yes!?”
“Then I shall introduce you to our new product.”
The automaton expressionlessly moved her right arm around toward the bread shelf behind her.
The movement must have exceeded the limits of the shoulder joint because a metallic scraping came from the shoulder and the arm came off.
The arm was covered with black plastic and she had swung it with plenty of force, so it crashed into the floor.
Tenzou heard the undeniable sound of something heavy hitting the wooden floor.
He had difficulty reacting because it was all so sudden, but…
“A-are you okay!?”
He leaned forward to look behind the counter.
Just then, something like a giant spider leaped from behind the counter and at his face. He had no time to dodge, so it latched onto his face.
He quickly grabbed it, pulled it off, and slammed it down onto the counter.
“Oh, that is my arm. I am still having issues with control, so it moves around on its own when it comes off.”
A right arm used its hand to crawl every which way along the counter. The connector on the end produced a hissing sound like a snake and P-01s looked over at Tenzou.
“Now, Yamamoto-sama, allow me to introduce our new product.”
“…Eh!? You’re still doing that!?”
“Of course we are. The Blue Thunder is a leftov-…a bakery and café.”
“Y-you almost said something devastating, didn’t you!?”
“Now, now,” said the automaton while the right hand began checking the edge of the counter as if licking it. It may have been looking for a spot to jump down.
But P-01s did not seem to care.
“The thing is, we have a new product today.”
“I’m, uh, not really…”
He meant to say he was not interested.
But P-01s tilted her head and looked up at him.
“Do you not want the new product?”
“How about, um, I try it some other time?”
Why was he trying so hard to be polite? But the automaton nodded in understanding. She then pulled a paper bag from below the counter.
“So you do not want to try it right away. Then I will wrap your leftov-…your newly-released product so you can try it tomorrow. …That will be 500 yen.”
Naruze put her schale besen away in its phase space and opened the Blue Thunder’s door.
She heard the door’s bell ring and she sensed Asama, Margot, and Mitotsudaira behind her.
“Is our order ready!?”
As soon as she stepped inside, she saw Tenzou hanging his head while paying 500 yen to P-01s.
She shut the door.
“Oops,” said Asama as her chest bumped into Naruze from behind. “Wh-what is it, Naruze?”
“That is some nice reference material pressing into my wings, but Tenzou is in there being a loser.”
“Ga-chan, the start of that sentence doesn’t lead into the end, but you say Tenzou’s being a loser?”
“Judge. He’s definitely being a loser. I could tell right away.”
“Oh.” Mitotsudaira nodded. “You mean P-01s. There’s no helping that. Tenzou can never defeat that type.”
Naruze wondered if anyone could defeat her, but she still had a lot of her life left to live. She guessed that she might run across the truly unexpected at some point. And…
“I had a feeling going in there would get us caught up in it.”
“You are correct there, Naruze. We should wait a bit.”
“In that case,” said Margot as she put her broom away in its phase space and opened a Magie Figur. She was probably sending Naomasa the output readings from the flight here.
Naruze did the same while Asama took care of some shrine management work.
“Me too then…”
Mitotsudaira opened a sign frame to manage her corporation.
…Are we all like this?
Everyone had some kind of foundation for themselves.
For Naito and Naruze, rising in the delivery business rankings would only give them a short career that did not make much money. Compared to that…
…One of them is Musashi’s Shinto representative and the other is first in line to ruling the Far East…
Naruze was not jealous of those positions. She knew how much work went into them.
And while she could go for a flight to blow off some steam if something happened, people with more important positions did not have that luxury.
“Oh, is that why they blast things with arrows and eat tons of meat?”
“Wh-what kind of realization is that!?”
“It’s about your circumstances. …So do you think we can go in yet?”
Naruze glanced at the others.
The three of them looked up from their work to return the glance.
Their eye contact told her to open the door, so she placed her hand on it and pushed it open.
Straight ahead, the ninja and the automaton had two glasses and a bottle on the counter.
Margot grabbed the doorknob from behind Naruze and shut the door.
Finally, Margot spoke without turning back toward the others.
“Yes. That was a good decision.”
“It was, Margot. A very good decision.”
“Wh-what was that just now?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Margot was wise to not elaborate.
But Asama tilted her head and spoke.
“We can’t get in like this…”
“And it’s been a while since we got here, so why haven’t any of the customers inside come out?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Either they’re afraid moving will get them targeted too, or they came to the Blue Thunder because they enjoy watching this.”
“I see.” Asama opened a sign frame to check the time. “Oh, the evening 8:30 bell is about to ring.”
The morning 8:30 bell meant the start of the work day while this one indicated the start of the night hours.
It came in advance to the final bell at 10:00 and it informed everyone it was time to head back home. It had apparently started out as the sound of a cannon being fired, but the academy bell was used on the Musashi.
And once the 8:30 bell rang, night guards made up of the Chancellor Officers and volunteers began patrolling the city.
While it came shortly before time to sleep, that bell produced a lot of movement.
Before the city went to sleep, people moved through the roads. Naruze quite liked that atmosphere. Eisen closed for the day between 6 and 9, so she would often descend to the city or travel between dinner and the bathhouse while listening to this bell.
She often stayed up all night, so this bell told her the night was beginning.
But today, she would be flying up above those patrolling guards on her modified schale besen.
…Am I being overly self-conscious if I’m afraid I’ll stand out?
Regardless, she had to complete her business as quickly as possible.
She reached for the doorknob and pushed the door open.
“It’s probably fine by now. …Let’s go!”
The ninja and the automaton were facing each other with a row of empty plates on the counter.
Naruze wordlessly and quietly closed the door.
She had tried to avoid being noticed, but she had a feeling the automaton had started to turn in her direction.
She heard Mitotsudaira’s voice behind her.
“N-Naruze? Did something happen?”
“Judge. …She’s started something new.”
“Eh? Something new? What does that mean?”
“…Asama, if you’re that interested, then stop by here tomorrow. But do it alone.”
“I see,” said Asama just before they heard the automaton’s voice from beyond the door.
“I know you are there, Nargat-sama, Narooze-sama.”
“…I think she’s gotten our names so wrong they’re actually almost right again, Ga-chan.”
“Shh. Don’t react.”
Then they heard another voice from beyond the door.
“Oh, Naruze-dono, Naito-dono.”
…Why are you calling us!?
Mal-Ga: “I’m going to draw a sequel now!”
10ZO: “Is that a combined threat and confession to a crime!?”
But Asama and Mitotsudaira stepped back from behind her.
“Why are you keeping your distance?”
Naruze grabbed Margot’s shoulders and turned around.
And something happened just as they took a step toward the road where Asama and Mitotsudaira were.
She sensed something cold to the left.
It was like the night air had come to stop and become a cold mass.
It was the advance warning of something breaking the sound barrier and flying their way.
In this case…
…A cannon blast!?
That should not have been possible.
And yet it flew down the road and scored a direct hit.
Inside the Blue Thunder, it was sound that washed over Tenzou.
Next to the counter was a two-person table by a window that bordered the road. That glass shattered and the front door hopped up vertically.
The road-side wall clearly strained diagonally, but it was not actually destroyed. The movement was from it snapping back into shape after the straining was over. He heard the roof’s slates falling thanks to the building’s shaking and a few pieces of firewood fell from the storage shelves below the ceiling.
And the explosive blast outside gathered up the glass shards.
Tenzou clapped his hands and stomped his right heel on the floor in front of the counter.
Immediately, a row of floorboards rose up to form a wall.
This was one use for the ninja technique known as Tatami Flipping.
The wall defended against what tried to get in through the entrance, so glass shards and window frame fragments struck the underside of the floorboards.
…Did I block it all!?
Just as he wondered that, a small light bounced up overhead.
It was a shard of glass.
It was the size of a knife and it had ricocheted off the raised floorboards. It flew up to the tall ceiling and passed by over his head.
As the wind died down, Tenzou quickly turned around just in time to see someone there.
It was the Blue Thunder’s manager.
The middle-aged woman wore a blue apron and the glass shard was flying toward her.
She lightly caught it between her right index and middle fingers. She then served a customer the bacon steak on the plate in her left hand and she looked to Tenzou.
“Tenzou-kun, can you fix the floor? If not, I’m sending the 1st Special Duty Unit a bill.”
“Ah! Not to worry! I can indeed fix it!”
…I can’t do anything careless in front of her.
As he thought that, the manager smiled at him.
“I guess the bill for the window will have to go to Almirante. As for what’s happening out front…”
What had happened?
An alarm and a fire bell belatedly started to ring and a sign frame appeared next to Tenzou’s face.
It was from Watanabe and it instructed him to provide a report on the situation. However…
“Yeah,” said the manager. She faced the front of the shop despite the raised floorboards blocking the view. “Tomo-chan really doesn’t hold back…”
“A-Asama-dono did this!?”
Asama: “I heard that! And no, I didn’t!”
She had to correct me?
What did this mean?
The automaton named P-01s tilted her head.
“At least things are lively around here.”
Mitotsudaira saw something within the ringing alarms.
Something had flown in from the right. That meant from the bow since they had been facing the Blue Thunder.
When she looked back in that direction, she saw a valley of pale light created from a row of defense barriers in front of all the stores along the road.
It was likely an artillery shell that had flown in from the faint darkness beyond that.
Naito commented from behind her.
“That was a physical currency shell that’s banned these days. I think it was a re-pressed 1230s mark.”
“I’m not sure what that means, but it must have been made of silver,” said Asama who stood to their right.
…When did she get there?
Mitotsudaira had sensed a moving presence just before the attack hit.
A moment later, Asama had been facing the bow with her right hand held straight forward.
As a result, the ground was badly torn up in front of her.
That was the side effect of blocking the flying object with a defense barrier.
The destructive power had been sent skyward and a deep scar had been left in the ground.
Asama’s defenses were of course powerful.
Nothing at all had happened to the ground at her feet or at the feet of her companions.
But the damage directly below her outstretched hand stretched back to either side in an upside-down V-shape.
It was like they stood at the sandbank in the middle of a river of destruction.
…It wasn’t on the level of a quasi-anti-ship cannon, but it at least rivals an anti-god of war cannon?
“Uh, I guess I should ask: Tomo, are you okay?”
“Umm, why do you ‘guess’ you should ask? …But, yes. It was a silver shell, and silver is well suited for purification. It seems to have been made to detonate when it hit by transferring its momentum into destructive power, so I purified that cleanly off to the left and right.”
“I was in a hurry and I wish I could have stopped it with a proper barrier. I protected everyone, but there was some damage to the surrounding stores.”
The contents of her calm analysis were frightening.
“…That means we were indiscriminately fired on, doesn’t it?”
“No, this wasn’t indiscriminate,” replied Naito.
She used her wings to step toward the bow. She passed by Asama on the left and hopped over the damage to the ground.
Similarly, Naruze passed by Asama on the right and advanced.
And Naruze asked a question of the darkness toward the bow.
“With the alarm and fire bell ringing, we’re going to hear guard sirens before long. …Musashi is a refuge for Technohexen, so is there any reason to make the life of a Technohexen here more difficult?”
She then spoke a name.
Naito raised her eyebrows somewhat and felt a cold sweat in her heart.
…She’s making her attack now?
This was a clear choice on the woman’s part.
They had been naïve to assume the battle would come tomorrow since that was the day to apply for the tester rights.
They had planned to challenge her to the battle in the early morning when the skies were not crowded. That was the polite thing to do for challengers like them and they had assumed Wild Kamelie would not want to disturb Musashi’s sky.
But she had different plans.
She had given them time to gain their schale besens, but she had challenged them before they had finished fine-tuning them.
Without that fine-tuning done, their brooms were unstable. They did not have the right power balance or even appropriate center of gravity adjustments.
Their old brooms would have been easier to ride and more comforting.
…But they wouldn’t give us enough speed.
The ones they had now would give them speed, but they were essentially masses of unpredictable thrust.
They had carried Asama and Mitotsudaira on a low-speed flight which was relatively safe. But in the high-mobility of combat, an improperly-adjusted acceleration system could send the broom flying uncontrollably.
Wild Kamelie had made her attack now because she knew that.
“But we can’t say she’s playing dirty.”
This was a battle. One on which they had bet a turning point in their lives.
They could always retry or crawl back up after defeat, but winning would open up their future.
The battle had begun from the moment they had strengthened their brooms to catch up with their opponent.
Upgrading their equipment was the same as working to overcome their opponent’s combat techniques.
“Defeating our upgraded equipment is the same as defeating us with combat techniques.”
Official battles did have rules, but…
…If you need those to protect you, you aren’t really the top of the rankings, are you?
Wild Kamelie had fallen victim to several “accidents” and been targeted in corporate conflicts.
If those had defeated her, she could not just say the rules did not apply to them.
To be ranked #1 meant to overcome any and all challenges.
“So that initial greeting was meant as a kindness.”
Naito had to agree with Naruze there.
“Let’s do this.”
They would fine-tune their brooms as much as possible while in flight.
Then they would do as much as possible in the fight.
“Judge, let’s go, Margot.”
They saw a light on the distant bow.
It was an acceleration light to send someone up into the sky where the sirens and alarms rang.
It struck the Musashi’s floor.
“…That was fast!”
A line of light rose into the dimly-lit night sky with an orange tail trailing behind it.
Wild Kamelie was telling them to fly after her.
Asama saw the two Technohexen turn back toward her.
No, not just toward her. Toward “everyone”, which included Mitotsudaira.
By now, the others would be arriving from the Asama Shrine on foot. And as a representative of that “everyone”, Asama spoke.
“Don’t worry.” She clapped her hands so the sound reverberated through the air. “May any hardships experienced in the sky be purified.”
Naruze and Naito’s expressions changed at that. Naruze’s eyebrows rose in a small smile.
“You’re not going to pray for our victory?”
“Shinto is about purification. All Shinto can do is purify away any excess burden on you so that you can draw out your true strength.”
“Achieving victory is up to the two of you, Naito and Naruze.”
“Asama-chi,” said Naito with her teeth showing through the corners of her mouth. “We’ll be back with that victory.”
With that, wind exploded before Asama’s eyes.
The two of them spread their wings, held their brooms like spears, and launched themselves into the sky.
The black and white Technohexen pursued the camellia flower.
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