Horizon:Volume 1B Chapter 33
Chapter 33: The Summit’s Flower
Do suggestive flowers
Blossom despite being isolated?
Point Allocation (Reliability)
Futayo’s call for an opponent caused everyone on the port side to exchange glances.
Urquiaga and Noriki were getting up after the attack from Galileo’s spell, but fighting Honda Tadakatsu’s daughter while injured was a heavy burden.
They all slowly gathered, formed a circle, and began to whisper.
“How about I head out as a knight? Just leave it to me and – wham! – she’ll be done for.”
“Hm. Or I could drop Jizuri Suzaku from the sky as a surprise attack and – crash! – that would settle that.”
“No, I should use my bow from a distance and – boom! – problem solved.”
“…Why do the girls around here like onomatopoeia so much?” complained Tenzou.
“A dispute among the students like before was fine, but I’m not sure the Mitotsudaira family would support you if you opposed the King of Musashi,” said Neshinbara. “Also, I doubt a surprise attack would work on her and Asama-kun can’t oppose the King of Musashi as the daughter of the Asama Shrine.”
“Then we have no choice but to send me!” declared Nenji.
“As a German, I’ll put this realistically,” said Naito. “I think that would end with her stepping on you and splattering you everywhere.”
“Margot and I take a moment to use our spells and her cutting would reach us in the sky.”
Everyone exchanged another glance. For an instant, their gazes gathered on Persona-kun, but he frantically shook his helmet. No one even considered Itoken or Hassan.
Finally, Neshinbara sighed and spoke.
“I guess that leaves me. I can use substitution spells like Bertoni-kun did earlier.”
“I would be a better choice than you,” said Tenzou quietly. “She is a samurai which is a poor match for a ninja like me, but I can try.”
As he spoke, Toori peered down at them from the bridge.
“No, no. Tenzou can’t do it! That’s hopeless.”
“Y-you don’t have to pour cold water on my motivation, you know!”
“What!? But think about how she speaks. She speaks in a super old-fashioned way while you half-ass it. You lose from character density perspective before the fight even starts.”
Tenzou lowered his head for a bit.
As Futayo watched, she called out from over the railing.
“Do you need something with me? Does that ninja want something?”
“Tenzou, do you think you can speak like her without trying?”
The ninja hung his head, fell to his hands and knees, and repeatedly slammed his right fist against the schoolyard.
“D-dammit! I-I just can’t do it that seriously!!”
As everyone commented on how he took it pretty far as well, someone suddenly raised their head.
“Heh heh heh. The pathetic ninja, the pious half-dragon, the unsociable fighter, and all these overly-offensive girls are simply hopeless.”
It was Kimi. She raised her eyebrows and let out a laugh.
“Listen, all you foolish people. Simply sit there drinking tea. Foolish brother, your wise sister will save you and all your lacking companions. Flat-chested politician, come down from there. It is dangerous.”
As she spoke, Kimi left the group and walked toward the stairs up to the bridge.
On the bridge, Masazumi looked down at her with a confused look, but Toori spoke up.
“Oh, sis gets scary if you don’t do what she says, so you should probably go down.”
“A-are you sure this is okay?”
“Yeah. Oh, but based on what she said, I think she quite likes you, Seijun. You don’t have to be scared.”
Really? she wondered as she descended the stairs.
Kimi was unarmed as she climbed the stairs in her place. As she walked, she removed the neck of her uniform’s inner suit, the white inner collar connected to the hard points, and the uniform’s chest.
“These are in the way.”
With the chest opened up, her breasts were only supported by the sash-like black part. She also removed the shoulders of the jacket, removed the vest-like jacket, and left only the sleeves wrapped around her arms.
She was now lighter. Her skin was exposed, but she had a smile on her lips as she finished climbing the stairs.
“Heh heh heh. Foolish brother, you can start thanking me now. You will be thanking me again afterwards as well.”
“Sis, you’re always amazing with that sort of thing! Have you gone a little insane!?”
“Heh heh heh. Foolish brother, just admit you cannot keep up with your sister. Of course, there is no way you can keep up with your excellent sister who was born so much earlier than you.”
“C’mon, sis. You can’t brag about being born earlier. Come to think of it, you might’ve been born due to an accident on dad and mom’s part. On the other hand, I was born later, so I was born due to a planned effort on their part.”
“Heh heh heh. You scum.”
Masazumi listened to their smiling exchange as she joined the others down below.
“Are those two okay?”
“Oh, yes. Kimi and Toori-kun have always been like this. You could say this is how they interact.”
“But if you ask me, I think Kimi-chan is at her best here.”
“Heh heh heh. The people down below are talking about us, foolish brother.”
“C’mon, sis. A lot of the people down there are my friends, so don’t get them mixed up.”
As they spoke, something happened atop the bridge.
Futayo slowly got down from the railing while Toori and the Yoshinao couple headed for the stairs.
That left two. Kimi and Futayo faced each other at a distance of five meters.
As the two faced each other, Yoshinao heard his wife’s voice as he reached the edge of the stairs.
Her words reached his heart as the ends of her eyebrows lowered and she pulled on his sleeve.
He knew what she wanted to say. He should stop this.
On one side was a warrior. On the other…
…Is a strange girl.
That was the older sister of Toori Aoi who walked next to him. He had heard her speak, but he was not sure what she meant. However, he was fairly certain she was human.
A warrior against a strange girl.
The latter could not win. And if she could not win, she could only lose.
And losing against a warrior would most likely mean receiving some form of injury. That was why his wife wanted to stop it. He felt his wife was a kind person. That satisfied him and he decided to take her out to eat some time soon.
“Hey, We, We! Why are you staring off into space? Does your brain work differently or something?”
“Only we may call us We!” shouted Yoshinao. “Are you not going to stop her!? She is your sister!”
“It’s fine. Anyway, I have a question.”
Yoshinao listened to the boy’s carefree voice.
“If my sis wins, will you give me the position of king?”
What nonsense is this? he wondered. The position of king is given on the instructions of the Testament Union.
“We, you took our authority, so you can do the same thing in reverse. Also… If Horizon does return, she’ll be the ruler of Musashi, Mikawa, and the Far East as a whole, so you’ll be in conflict, right? And…”
“And?” asked Yoshinao wondering where Toori was going with this.
…This boy can do nothing and everything he does is foolish. But…
For some reason, he was beginning to move Musashi, the entire Far East, and maybe even more than that. His motive was simple. He simply wished to rescue and confess to the girl he had fallen for, but people had begun to take action toward that end.
Yoshinao had heard what this foolish boy had said to the Papa-Schola.
…He wanted his answer.
This got Yoshinao thinking.
He had once ruled a small territory on the national border and had intended to protect the people there.
But the Testament Union had told him to become the King of Musashi.
…If we had refused, our territory would have been destroyed.
And so he had obeyed, given his territory to the Testament Union, and avoided conflict.
But the major town of his territory had been destroyed by a highway between nations and the remaining villages had been absorbed by an industrial city. The people began living in the city and had supposedly gained a wealthier life.
He wondered if they were happier now, but those who had insisted on remaining in their simple land had lost everything.
And so he asked Toori another question. He asked a question to this idiot who had rejected the loss of what he cared for and was struggling despite having no power.
“Why do you wish to be king?”
“Because I want to take back all that Horizon lost because of me,” answered Toori. “Don’t worry. Even if I become king, I won’t use the royal we. That can still be your thing. It’s better that way. …Because I can still make jokes.”
“That is not the issue!!”
Yoshinao shouted, but he sighed inwardly.
…What is he trying to do?
There was no way his sister could win the battle beginning before their eyes.
As he looked up, Futayo took a slow step forward.
She approached in order to begin the battle.
Futayo looked at the girl standing before her.
Her wavy hair was dyed light brown and she had a confident smile on her face. Her name was Kimi and she was supposedly the elder sister of Musashi’s chancellor.
The sleeves wrapped around her arms and the exposed top of her breasts led Futayo to a certain conclusion.
“Are you a shirabyoushi?”
“Heh heh heh. Such a boring girl with no knowledge of art. This is much older than that. Are you truly that ignorant?”
“Unfortunately, I have no interest in the arts.”
“Heh heh. You will waste your life. How very boring. …Uzy, come on out.”
Once its name was called, a super-deformed girl-type Mouse appeared on her shoulder. The Mouse wore a mask pushed back above her head.
“This is the Mouse of Uzume, the primary god of the arts. My main shrine is Ootsubaki Shrine in Mikawa, but my contract is held via Asama. …Do you understand how Uzume-type gods work?”
“Not in detail. I only know it involves conveying emotions by causing commotions and laughter.”
“Is that so? Then I shall teach you.”
Kimi began slowly shaking her body along with Uzy on her shoulder.
This was the beginning of a dance. Futayo took a defensive stance while thinking Kimi was going to try something.
“Let me make myself clear: if you surrender, I will not treat you roughly.”
“Heh heh. What a fool. A girl who says she does not want to be treated roughly is a girl who has never even been treated mildly. Or do you think lenient treatment will delight your partner?” Kimi shook her body in the opposite direction, returned in the first direction, and smiled. “Even if you are able to delight your partner, you could never win them over. You have never seriously faced someone, have you?”
Hearing that, Futayo gulped.
That morning, she had challenged Tachibana Muneshige in speed. She remembered how that had overturned everything, including her standpoint. She felt that was the best she could have done in that situation, but…
She slowly shook her head and drove the memories from her mind.
…There is no reason to let her shake me.
She had to calm down. Her opponent did not appear to have trained her body for combat. Nor did she wield a weapon. She had produced a Mouse, so she would likely use a spell or divine protection. It was possible she had already used them.
However, the girl’s hands were covered by her sleeves. She could not operate a sign frame like that. She could still use spells by communicating with her Mouse, but that added more time to activate a spell.
In that case, it had to be divine protection. She would have a divine protection spell from an Uzume-type entertainment god.
…It will not be combat oriented.
There were different categories of gods because their abilities were also divided. If two gods were close in type, their spells and protections would be similar or even identical, but an entertainment god was simply too far removed from the combat category.
“Oh, just so you know, all of my contracts are related to eroticism and dancing.”
…She really has no combat abilities!!
In that case, she would use substitution intermediation.
By dedicating a dance, she could gain the power of another god via the Uzume shrine.
In that case, thought Futayo. I need to be on my guard.
And once she put up her guard, she thought. If her attack hit, she would defeat her opponent. That opponent’s movements were slow, so she could grab her if she tried.
…That leaves countless means of winning.
She would not even need to use the cutting power which was Tonbokiri’s true essence as a divine weapon. She could easily cut this girl with the actual blade. Or she could jab her with the butt of the spear. She could also sweep her legs out from under her, grab onto her arms and throw her, or pull her to the ground with her hair which was carelessly waving around.
Almost anything would work.
But that was why she decided to use speed.
That technique had not worked on Tachibana Muneshige that morning, but she wanted to check it again. She felt it was immature to use it on an opponent who was so far below her level, but the opponent was irrelevant when it came to testing her own ability.
And so Futayo lowered her stance, held up Tonbokiri, and faced Kimi as the girl swayed.
And she took a step forward.
Futayo used the handle.
Tonbokiri was normally 3.6 meters long plus a 40 centimeter blade, but it could vary between six meters and one meter using its ability to extend and contract.
It was currently approximately 2.7 meters and she found that length easiest to use.
Simply holding the center of the handle was enough to give her a blunt weapon over a meter long on both the right and left. If she passed by her opponent with a movement spell, it would be no different from hitting her with a metal rod.
Futayo moved. She travelled forward to pass by Kimi on the left as the girl continued to sway.
She swung the handle at ankle height. She had thought about going for the abdomen, but the cost would be too great in the off chance that her opponent truly had nothing at all prepared. A high speed strike to the gut of an untrained person could easily break bones or rupture organs.
The ankle could still break bones, but the odds were higher the girl would merely trip. Her balance was unsteady due to her swaying, so she would trip if Futayo scooped upwards as she hit.
An untrained body was easily damaged. After the fall and the pain in her ankles prevented her from walking, Kimi would likely surrender.
And so Futayo carried out her plan.
She ran forward with her divine protection. She lowered her body and swung the handle down.
And she swept it across to take out her opponent’s ankles.
Yoshinao saw Futayo suddenly appear before his eyes.
She had of course travelled there, but it had looked like she had instantly teleported. The motion of the wind and the waving of Futayo’s clothes and hair allowed him to just barely guess the direction of her motion.
…She is fast.
But that thought made him recall a certain fact.
…But there was someone she could not catch up to with that speed.
In that case, Musashi’s students had to be stronger than Futayo at the least.
But even if they could demonstrate that strength…
…It does not mean they can overcome the one who defeated her.
As he thought, Futayo adjusted her lowered stance, spun Tonbokiri around, and held it normally once more.
“It is over.”
Yoshinao looked back toward where Kimi had stood.
There, he saw Kimi standing casually and swaying with her arms crossed.
Kimi stood there.
She was unharmed. She did not have a scratch on her.
…What just happened?
As he gasped, his wife tugged on his left sleeve with her eyes wide.
Futayo noticed how the two of them were acting.
“What is the matter?”
As she asked that, she followed their gazes and looked behind her.
In front of Yoshinao, his wife, and Futayo’s gazes, Kimi stood with a smile on her face.
She was simply swaying lightly as if nothing had happened. She swayed with the tempo of a dance step.
After a moment, Futayo nodded. After another pause, she nodded again and then a third time.
“I never thought reality would lie to me.”
“Heh heh heh. Try not to take so long to reach such a simple conclusion. …Foolish brother, how would you react in this situation? Give her an example!”
Next to the railing, Yoshinao, his wife, and Futayo all turned in the direction of Kimi’s gaze. There, they saw Toori peering into a bucket and muttering to himself.
He sat down, occasionally laughed toward the bucket, and lightly stroked its wooden surface.
“Heh. Hah hah. Wa ha ha. You’re so cute. So very cute. Heh heh heh. You’re soaking wet.”
“…Has he gone beyond cross-species romance and reached inanimate object romance? You have quite an advanced younger brother.”
“Heh heh heh. He has done surprisingly well for my brother. Skipping past the middle steps makes for an excellent visual. I will knock him into the sewage later. …Now, Honda Futayo. You are currently the least interesting girl in the entire Far East.” Kimi raised her eyebrows and smiled. “You are just as hopeless as I thought. …You are making the idea of speed cry.”
In that instant, Futayo vanished from Yoshinao’s vision.
Futayo made her second attack.
She charged to the left and swung the spear as she passed by. She pulled in her shoulder and raised her bent elbow like a crank to scoop up her opponent’s legs.
And she hit.
She felt the blow connect. She used her entire body to brake and stopped after travelling seven meters. While almost sliding forward, she lowered her upper body and turned around so as not to turn her back to the enemy.
With the butt end of Tonbokiri turned toward her opponent, she raised her upper body to look.
“Heh heh. What are you doing? Is that supposed to be fast? Or painful? Or simply…meaningless?”
Despite supposedly having been hit, Kimi faced her with a smile.
“What sort of spell is this?”
“Who would be foolish enough to ask? And who would be foolish enough to answer? …But I am willing to brag about it.”
While taking swaying steps, Kimi stretched her right arm directly out to the side. While lightly spinning, Uzy travelled along the arm and then back. The Mouse rotated atop her breasts and then travelled along her extended left arm.
With the Mouse’s movements decorating her, Kimi spoke.
“Didn’t I tell you? My contract is related to eroticism and dance. But do you think being erotic means you will give your body to just anyone?”
With the Mouse named Uzy on the end of her left sleeve, Kimi slowly held the arm forward. She held her right arm forward as well and Uzy hopped to her right hand.
“The summit’s flower is only seen by those who reach that summit. And it cannot be brought down without it withering. And thus the summit’s flower continues to bloom in isolation. As long as that mountain remains inviolable, it can only be collectively worshipped by those who have reached that elevated place.”
Kimi laughed from her throat.
She then rotated her arms behind her and let Uzy hop to her left arm.
“My Summit Dance is a spell that does not allow anything inelegant to touch my body. It ensures that the flower cannot be picked by a fool who does not realize it will wither. Only someone I approve of, someone who I wish to wither for, can touch me.”
Futayo carried out her third attack, but Kimi’s voice continued as soon as she had dashed and swung her spear.
“How inelegant. Flowers are meant to be picked, not reaped.”
Futayo turned toward the voice behind her.
She saw a smile amid the waving hair and swaying body.
“Do not think I have no means of attack. Even beautiful flowers have thorns or poisonous roots. Let your guard down and I will slap you. And I will not stop until you are completely paralyzed,” said her opponent. “Now, show me whether you can reach this summit or not. As long as I continue dedicating this dance, I stand at the summit.”
And she moved. She swayed, stretched her gently moving body, raised her arms, tossed Uzy into the air, and opened her mouth.
With a smile, she let out a voice. It was a type of tuning that seemed to call in something.
Uzy performed mid-air acrobatics and Kimi swayed as the Mouse began to fall. But this was not the gentle swaying from before. She made clear steps.
She moved up and down, her hair, clothes, and body waved about, and her sleeves audibly struck the air.
And something else joined that noise.
Uzy fell to her shoulder, but her body swayed once more.
Her voice was higher and more drawn-out than before.
“Let me pass.”
Her words passed through the air.
Futayo recognized the words. This was a children’s song known as the Song of Passage. It was sung as a lullaby, an accompaniment to some games, and…
Not good, thought Futayo. What should I do?
“Let me pass.”
Her words were picking up pace. This was not the normal tempo for the song. It was a quick four-on-the-floor arrangement meant for dancing. As the tempo rose and the dance picked up speed, the density of the dance rose dynamically.
…And its value as a dedication rises!
The summit’s flower was attempting to blossom in an even higher place.
And Futayo had yet to reach the current summit. The fact that her attacks could not reach Kimi proved that.
But she knew one solution.
…Her spell is not perfect.
If her opponent was raising her dedication value by speeding up and singing, Futayo could reach her by dedicating an action that exceeded that level.
Tonbokiri’s cutting power would accomplish it in one shot. The weapon had been created as a military prototype. The amount of ether power consumed when activating it was greater than the amount of ether used for a personal spell.
But, thought Futayo. I do not want to use that if I can avoid it.
Her opponent was the same age. If that opponent was dancing, she would use speed. She wanted to outdo this opponent with speed and leave Tonbokiri as a last resort.
She stood up and took a step in preparation for that.
As her opponent sang and gently built up speed, she built up her own speed with a step that used her movement spell.
“Let me pass.”
And she moved forward to gain passage.
A sound rang out.
The wind blew and shadows danced.
A black and white dance blossomed in the center and a wind repeatedly rushed through the surroundings.
In the wind, only human shadows and a silver arc were visible. The wind did not hesitate to use its blade.
The shaking of the bridge and the stepping of feet created a reverberation, hair whipping in the wind created a rustling, and clothes flapping about creating a beat in the air.
“Let me pass.”
She sang with a smile in her voice.
“If I follow this narrow path, where will it take me?”
The surrounding noises provided accompaniment.
“This narrow path leads to the gods in heaven.”
But the noises attempted to drown out the voice.
“Your opinion is not needed. You cannot pass through here.”
Again and again, the noises rang out.
“I have come to celebrate this child’s tenth birthday.”
Black and white clothing danced in the center.
“By dedicating these two talismans.”
The surrounding air enveloped her.
“Going may be easy, but returning is frightening.”
The schoolyard’s trees and the school building’s windows produced noise.
“Can I pass despite my fear?”
“Let me pass.”
She began the second loop.
She did not stop, she did not cease, and she did not pause. Her speed only grew.
The sounds and her movements overlapped.
The speed grew. As if the noise had grown, the wind blew again and again.
“Hey… Look at that,” said the people watching.
The looked within the wind noisily surrounding the dance.
“I can see shadows now…”
As several people made similar dumbfounded comments, many different human figures began to appear within the wind.
High-speed movement and attacks repeated again and again. The movement could not be seen, but that movement stopped slightly in the instant of attack. Repeating this so many times produced a visible afterimage of the wind’s form.
Honda Futayo could be seen around the dancing black and white flower as she attempted to gain passage for her spear.
The location of her attacks changed based on the movements of the dance, so she did not appear in just one location. She became visible in two, three, four, and then suddenly seven and eight locations.
“Wait a second…”
Once it surpassed twelve, the afterimages became impossible to count as they began to appear behind and mix together with other afterimages.
But she could still not catch up. The dance was quick, accurate, singing, and noisy.
The flower danced while ignoring the blade that should have stabbed into her countless times. The people then noticed that the type of dance was changing.
“She’s dancing with her opponent.”
She was using Futayo’s movements as a part of the dance. Having seen through the movements of the girl’s arms, legs, and body, she would draw back when the girl moved forward and pursue when the girl moved back.
It was as if she had taken the girl’s hand.
And the dance changed to match. As she matched the dance to the attacks, it sped up even further.
“She’s swallowing her up.”
Kimi included Futayo’s attacks in her dance and raised the dedication level. The more Futayo raised her speed, the higher the summit of the flower that devoured that speed.
And so the sound of the wind grew. Sweat flew, the wind burst, and…
That voice was accompanied by an action. This was Futayo’s cry as she attacked.
Her speed added power to the strike and flowers scattered.
Those flowers were white sparks. Both of their powers were strengthened by a spell. The ether protecting them collided and produced those glowing flowers.
Futayo was catching up. As she tried to take the lead in the dance, those white flowers flew amid a great noise.
Her tearing shout produced color.
That color was red. As Kimi danced, several scarlet lines raced across her skin.
The wind was reaching her. The wind’s blade attempted to forcefully pick the flower.
Beads of blood joined the flowing sweat on the dancing flower’s skin and it drew lines as it dripped down.
But the flower did not end its dance.
Even as the summit’s wind raged about, the flower continued looking higher.
The song entered a new loop.
As wind blew through the port side and the noise shook the ground, Masazumi asked the others a question.
“Is she okay!?”
She felt the situation had gone beyond a battle between allies and reached a deadly state.
…If Aoi’s sister’s defenses are broken…
Futayo would likely stab straight through her.
She felt a bad feeling in the bottom of her gut.
“She will be fine,” said Asama as she held Suzu from behind.
Masazumi turned toward her and saw Asama’s eyebrows raised as she looked up at the bridge. Her expression belied her words, so it seemed she had been speaking to reassure herself.
“She will be fine. Everyone believes she will, so you believe in her too, Masazumi.”
“Kimi will not lose.”
The instant Asama said that, she closed her right eye. Masazumi looked over at the girl’s right cheek.
It had reached her after being scattered by the wind. It was not much, but the color was clearly there.
“She will be fine,” said Asama without wiping away the blood. “As I am sure you all know, Kimi has only ever cried once.”
“When? And to who?”
While looking up at the wind on the bridge, Asama gave the answer.
“A long time ago and to Toori-kun. …That was the only time.”
“As long as Toori-kun is watching, she will not lose.”
As Kimi sang and danced within the wind, she thought.
…This is wonderful. Great!
This was a good opponent. Not many people in Musashi could reach this speed.
Such a wonderful opponent, she thought. If it was a boy, there would be a sensual side too, but with a girl it is…um… What do you call it? Let’s see… Oh, well. I forget. But that is fine. I make the rules after all.
…But this is truly wonderful.
Her opponent was keeping up, so she brought her dance to the next level.
But her opponent kept up with that as well. She forcibly kept up as if clinging to Kimi.
…This is fun.
She did not feel she was being forced higher. After all, a girl was supposed to run away and have her opponent chase after her. There was beauty in running away so she could not be caught.
At the moment, she was moving.
Her sweat flowed, her hair shook, and her heat leaked from her skin. All sounds seemed like the beating of her heart.
She felt as if speaking out would expose her passion, will, beating heart, and everything else to the outside world.
It felt wonderful.
Her movements reached their peak, she demonstrated her will as much as possible, and the beating of her heart grew to the extreme.
And she exposed it all. All of her was defenseless. This was not something she could do often.
But, she thought. This is not enough.
There was a time long ago when she had cried with everything she had.
…Even this dance is nowhere close to that.
There had been a few times when she had tried to reach that point again, but she had never been able to reach that truly defenseless state a second time. No matter how far she took the dance, she could not catch up to that instant in the past.
She recalled what she had been exposing back then.
She recalled the past.
She thought about what had once happened.
…That was a few months after Horizon passed away.
“It seems Toori-kun received a serious injury on his left shoulder in the accident that took Horizon from us. While still unconscious, he was taken to Mikawa with Horizon and he was still sleeping when he was returned. But he was alone then.”
Below the great noise and crying wind, Masazumi listened to Asama.
“For a while, he stopped attending the academy. He stayed in his home for several months and it seems he never said anything.”
“Yes. Toward the end, he stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. At the time, his and Kimi’s parents were away and no one could contact them. When we came to see him, he would refuse to come out, so we wondered what was going to happen.”
Asama’s words spilled from her mouth.
“But it was Kimi who woke him up.”
That day was no different from any other day, thought Kimi as she moved.
Their parents had been gone, so she had been living alone with her brother who could not move his left arm very well.
She had been able to stay up late without anyone getting mad at her and she had been able to eat whatever she wanted as long as she stayed within the budget.
But her brother had been in a bad state. He would not speak, he would rarely change his clothes, he had stopped cleaning his room, and his expression would never change, but he had said something just once.
“What would happen if I died?”
She had not been able to say it was unexpected. At the time, she had thought about it too. She had understood that her brother thought it was his fault that Horizon had died.
And so she had answered while doing the best a child could to feign calm.
And he had obeyed. He had not done anything to try to kill himself.
…But he stopped eating.
He would come down to the table at mealtimes, but he would only sit in his chair and do nothing. He would hang his head and stare through his unkempt bangs at the table as if he could see straight through it.
Eventually, he had stopped coming when she called him down for meals.
She would tell herself he must have already eaten, eat her own meal, and then return to her room.
…Did I do that because I was afraid?
She did not know.
But even though her brother had not been eating or drinking anything, she had heard him vomiting in the bathroom late at night. And not because he had been feelings sick or had eaten something funny.
…He would stick his hand in his throat.
She had been able to tell he was attempting to vomit up his entire being because she could hear the small whistling of his breathing while obstructed by his hand.
She had tried to cover her ears, but it had not worked. After all, she could still vividly recall the noise even now.
The time he had spent motionless had increased.
He had done what she said. When she had brought food or hot water to his room, he would eat or drink a little while she was there. But he would not even touch it once she left and he would vomit it up later.
Their classmates at the academy had been concerned at first, but they had eventually stopped mentioning the real issue.
No one could reach their parents. Whenever he would pass by the house, Asama’s father had provided support by giving her health and healing charms. He had tried to make it look casual, but it was obvious that was an act.
She had been able to withstand it due to the understanding and support of those in the neighborhood.
But the deciding factor had come one morning when she had woken up.
Her brother had been collapsed in the hallway.
When she had tried to waken him, she had been shocked to find how light he was. It had felt like she was holding something that was hollow inside.
The dining room had been closer than the bed, so she had set him in his chair and prepared a light meal.
She still remembered what she had thought back then.
…This can’t keep on like this.
“Eat this,” she had said after placing chilled rice porridge and hot water in front of Toori.
But he had been different from normal then.
He had not listened to her and he had not even taken a bite.
Thinking back, she felt she had vaguely understood what she had been doing, but it had not occurred to her at the time.
“What is it?”
He had not responded no matter how many times she had spoken to him, so she had grabbed the collar of his pajamas in faint anger.
In that moment, she had heard her brother speak toward the floor.
“Horizon can’t feel anything anymore.”
Asama took a breath and looked up at the wind wrapping around the bridge and the flower at the center of the dance.
“It was amazing. On that day, I had reluctantly gone to meet Kimi and Toori-kun because my father told me to. I was supposed to ask them to come to the academy with me. When I approached, the window shattered and something rolled into the street. To my surprise, it was Toori-kun.”
“A moment later, Kimi jumped out the window as well and held Toori-kun down. They were in their pajamas, but they didn’t seem to care. …It was all very intense.”
Kimi had climbed on top of her brother and punched him in the face.
She had not known how to throw a punch. She had simply clenched her right fist and punched him like she had seen the adults do it. She had punched him again and again. Her fist had struck his teeth and felt like it would break.
“Can’t feel anything!?”
As her voice had filled the air, she had swung her fist again.
“Listen! You aren’t Horizon!”
She had punched him, but she had known she was not getting through to him. Words would not get through to him and physical blows had only been shaking him.
But she had continued speaking as if telling him to remember.
“Horizon dying is no reason for you to die!”
His empty eyes had then turned toward her. His gaze had said that was not true.
His gaze had exposed his will much more than her words or blows had hers. His gaze said Horizon had died. It said he did not have the courage to kill himself and so he was simply going to let himself die.
Kimi had seen a smile on his lips as she had punched him.
He was aware that he could not feel anything.
He could not feel her blows or her words. He had viewed it as the same as the place to which Horizon had gone.
Horizon could no longer feel anything and the same was happening to him.
He had smiled.
…And that is why…
“To hell with that!!”
Kimi had reached into her pocket for what she had brought from the dining room table. She had pulled it out, popped off the lid, and jammed it into Toori’s smiling mouth.
It was a salt shaker.
She had shoved it into his mouth.
And despite his questioning look, she had grabbed the bottom of the glass container and shaken it as if trying to mix together everything in his mouth.
She had felt the salt pouring out into her brother’s mouth. It had all poured out without stopping.
It had not just fallen on his tongue. It had poured deep in his throat as if he had swallowed it.
She had honestly thought that. She had known that would not kill him, but she had definitely thought it.
She had wished for his current self to die and disappear.
And a moment later…
Toori’s body had shaken and he had forcefully thrown his head backwards.
His self-imprisonment in the illusion that he could feel nothing had come from a barrier in his mind. By relying on that, he had been able to put up with the pain. He had cut his feelings off from his mind.
But that flavor and the reaction of his body had been unexpected.
The tongue was a collection of blood vessels. The inside of the mouth was a mucous membrane with blood vessels on the surface. Even if it felt dry, it had moisture and it quickly absorbed substances. The salt had immediately entered the blood vessels and reached his starving body.
In what may have been the shock of his body’s rejection, Toori had bent backwards and thrown his hands about.
He had scratched at Kimi with the nails that had grown long due to neglect.
Kimi had rejoiced.
After all, her brother had moved.
She had done it. Spices were amazing.
More. Yes. More and more spices. This is working. Delicious, isn’t it? It is enough to make you bend backwards. How about some pepper? And tabasco. Maybe some chili powder. Mom likes shichimi, doesn’t she?
I can feel it pouring out in my hand. How lovely. After all, that sensation is making my brother move.
Amazing. I am truly moved. I can see why pepper is worth a gold coin per grain.
What a fool. Trembling, struggling, and scratching around like that has drawn blood. Heh heh. Why are you letting some spill from your mouth? Oh, is the bottle in the way? Then I will remove it. That way you can eat all of the contents. Look, I will remove it. I will punch you and then remove it. Right, then left. There, it’s gone. Oh, dear. Are you crying? Do not worry. I won’t tell you to stop. Move more and more. Shout out, cry…
“And remember your feelings.”
Kimi had shoved her bloody hand into her brother’s mouth. She had wrapped her fingers around the sand-like roughness inside his mouth and she had rubbed it onto his gums, underneath his tongue, and behind his teeth.
But her brother had bitten down. He had split the skin of her fingers, torn off some flesh, and most certainly swallowed a bit.
But Kimi had finally taken a sigh of relief.
“Blood, flesh, trembling, and tears. …Have you regained a bit of what Horizon lost?”
Toori had responded by opening his bloodshot eyes and staring at her.
She had removed her blood-stained hand from his mouth and used her fingers to wipe off his mouth and teeth which still had salt and spices on them.
“Have you returned? No… That is not what I should ask,” she had said. “You did not even manage to go where Horizon is, you…foolish brother!”
Toori had taken action in response.
His face had twisted, he had covered his eyes with his too-skinny arms, and his mouth had opened.
He had raised a torn voice and cried.
Hearing his voice for the first time in a while and feeling him trembling below her had led Kimi to breathe another sigh of relief.
People had gathered around them, but she had not cared. All that mattered was hearing her brother’s emotion-filled voice for the first time in months.
Whether he had been frustrated, regretful, disappointed, or maddened, he had indicated himself by raising a voice not much different from a newborn’s. Kimi had taken another even deeper breath when she heard his cry.
The elder sister had lifted up her younger brother and gently yet awkwardly embraced him.
She had brought her lips to the tears spilling from his eyes.
“Listen. Always live your life like you are crying. When you laugh and when you get angry, do it like you were only just born. Cry out like a newborn taking its first breaths. And then save those who cannot do the same. Live your life such that you take back the things that are lost or taken after people’s births. I will help you do so.”
The tears on her tongue had tasted like blood.
“Children are born while covered in blood. And people are able to cry because they wish to soak themselves in the flavor of blood and be reborn.”
If she had kissed him, he would have tasted the same. And that was how she had known her brother was alive. He had been living. He had been covered in the tears that tasted of blood. Those tears did not flow in death. They flowed only while alive.
With that thought, the tension of her own mind and body had suddenly vanished.
Tears had spilled out and her jaw had twisted.
She had cried. She had not known why. She thought it might have been to act foolishly to trick him, but whatever the reason, her brother’s crying had spread to her and she had raised her own crying voice as if to share in the feeling causing the tears.
She had cried loudly.
“On that day, Kimi did not come to the academy either, but they were both at my family’s shrine when I returned. Toori-kun looked incredibly refreshed and he was pulling on Kimi’s hand as she cried.”
“Did they make a contract with a god?” asked Masazumi.
Asama closed her eyes and nodded.
“And ever since, they have been like this. We may have grown accustomed to it, but I think they have even powered up since back then.”
“The rest of us can’t thank Kimi enough for keeping Toori-kun with us.”
Masazumi then heard a noise.
The speed and the dance collided on the bridge. It began with flying sparks and a great high-pitched noise.
Futayo’s speed had caught up with Kimi’s dance and was beginning to overcome it.
And she heard a voice. It was Futayo’s shout that could be called a battle cry.
Immediately afterwards, an especially loud noise and an explosion of bright sparks burst from atop the bridge.
Futayo thrust the tip of Tonbokiri toward Kimi’s chest.
She did not hold back. She added the force of the thrusting spear to her own speed to increase the speed of the attack. She could not reach this opponent without doing so.
Her speed was already near its limit. Her legs were filled with heat and she was sweating horribly. She was also gasping for breath. Her movement spell was a type of bodily divine protection and it functioned using substation Blessings from several personal precept settings.
The bottom of her foot audibly struck the ground and that force added to her speed.
Sparks burst out.
She made it through.
The tip of her spear continued past that special barrier that felt gentle and viscous.
She continued on. And the blade arrived at Kimi’s sweaty chest. For just an instant, the tip pressed in the white skin and flesh, but the elasticity of the skin quickly caused it to return and the blade stabbed through.
Her weapon pierced her opponent.
She did not hold back. A few red drops of blood rose up between the tip and the rest of the blade. They bulged out and then spilled down the front of Kimi’s cleavage.
And yet Futayo saw a smile on Kimi’s face ahead of her.
She showed off her teeth and seemed to be enjoying herself.
As her lips moved, she was no longer singing.
Her dance had stopped and her movements had taken a different form.
Futayo had caught up, but Kimi had not stopped.
“Why don’t you shout out as if crying?” she asked while still smiling.
Futayo heard her laugh.
And then Kimi loosened her flushed cheeks, bent her eyes in a smile, and drew back her head.
She twisted her body, held her arms forward so as to lift up her breasts, and stuck out her tongue.
Her wet tongue licked up the blood gathered between her raised breasts and then she placed the tip of her tongue on the spear tip sticking into her chest.
The spear tip created a shallow split in her tongue.
Above the slimy pale red object, the color red welled up and spread out as if soaking in.
But Kimi shuddered as she let the color cover her tongue. She seemed to be greatly enjoying the flavor on the tip of her tongue as she licked her lips as if applying lipstick. She licked her lips again and lightly bit her lower lip to even out the coloring.
She let out a breath that was filled with the same heat as her flushed cheeks.
She took in a shallow breath, opened her lips, and narrowed her eyes.
“I am an indecent girl, don’t you think?”
A realization then came over Futayo.
…Don’t tell me this was part of the dance!
Her question had been the same as the side shows and talking used in the pauses of songs and dances. When a dancer had a partner, she would perform a dialogue with that partner.
And Futayo realized that this was very bad.
…I was asked the question while playing the role of the partner.
But she could think of nothing to say in response.
Tonbokiri’s handle bent in her hands. A counterforce was sent back toward her.
The spear had been repelled because she had been unable to reply to Kimi during her dance.
Kimi gently raised her arms in preparation to continue the dance.
“How disappointing. I was hoping to teach you how this tastes.”
As soon as Kimi spoke, Futayo heard a high-pitched noise burst out and she was blown away.
She had been rejected because she had interfered with Kimi’s spell yet been unable to keep up.
After being blasted several meters away, Futayo made an instantaneous decision.
Her speed had been defeated, so she had only one other option.
…I will win!
She had already stopped holding back.
But this decision went beyond the level of holding back or not.
She would use Tonbokiri’s cutting power. That divine weapon used spells and other things to cut, so it was a sure thing.
Unlike her father, she was not an expert at using the weapon. She could not use the superior drive that cut phenomena. However, she could use the normal drive that activated the cutting power from a name.
If she used it, her opponent would die. She had to understand that likelihood.
Her opponent was a Far Eastern citizen and an academy student. The true enemy she needed to face was someone else.
…But that enemy opposed my father as he used Tonbokiri!
The destruction of Mikawa meant that her father had not lost. However, the enemy who had opposed him was still alive.
Tonbokiri had not defeated that enemy.
How strong had her father, the unparalleled in the east, been? How powerful was the famous spear of Tonbokiri?
Her question produced a shout.
“If you wish to take the fight to the outside world, you must at least surpass Tonbokiri!!”
The blade reflected Kimi and Futayo called out to the weapon.
The user rights had already been set to her and she had tested it out in secret. She had been scolded for the furniture she destroyed, but she had simply been a bit unprepared. She had decided to try it on something smaller than a table next time.
…How could I make a mistake like that!?
As she thought, she saw light run along Tonbokiri’s blade.
The cutting power raced out.
Yoshinao had stopped moving.
His hand held forward to stop them and his opened mouth were both frozen in place.
He returned his hand to his side and closed his mouth.
As he watched, no one else was moving. Futayo who stood with her back to him while holding Tonbokiri, Kimi standing beyond her, and his wife by his side were all motionless. The same was true of everyone on both the port and starboard sides.
He heard a voice from behind him and to the right.
“Heh heh. You’re more hairy than I thought. Quit blushing. I know a dirty beast like you isn’t innocent.”
“Dirty? Dirty? Dirty joke?”
But those voices did not count, so he ignored them.
He focused forward.
…If she used that cutting power…
Kimi would have been unable to avoid it.
Just as he had expected, the sleeves hanging from Kimi’s arms had been cut in two horizontally.
As the sleeves fell down, the wind caught them and tossed them through the air. The body of her uniform and the waist of her suit had been cut in two as well, so they too fluttered in the wind.
“Oh, dear. What if I catch cold?”
Kimi calmly stroked the exposed skin from below her breasts down to her navel.
Her fingers wiped sweat from her skin, but she was unharmed.
Yet the cut clothing proved that the cutting power had reached her.
Yoshinao’s question must have reached his wife because new strength filled the hand tugging on his sleeve.
Futayo’s back swayed a bit in front of his eyes.
Her voice held clear surprise.
Futayo tilted her head as she watched Kimi stroke her sweaty skin.
“Heh heh heh. Hopeless girl, what has you so surprised?”
For a moment, Futayo seemed to be thinking, but she finally made up her mind.
“May I try again?”
“What kind of ridiculous request is that!?” shouted the surrounding crowd in unison.
Futayo flinched back, but Kimi looked down at her outfit which had been slit top from bottom and contained the remains of the sleeves on the wrists.
“Could you cut this part away from below the chest? It’s all sweaty.”
“I just need to adjust the angle. …Can you do it, Tonbokiri?”
“I can,” replied the spear.
“Okay.” Futayo prepared herself. “Bind, Tonbokiri.”
As Kimi held her arms diagonally outward, the remains of the sleeves split in two and fell off. The area of the uniform below her breasts was cut once more and a tube-shaped piece of cloth opened up and fell away from her abdomen.
Kimi’s body was now fully exposed from below the breasts down to below her navel.
“…You are unharmed.”
Hearing Futayo’s comment, Kimi tilted her head and used a finger to wipe up some of the blood on her injured chest.
“Heh heh heh. What a fool. Of course I am unharmed.”
“How can you be so certain!?”
“Because Tonbokiri cuts names. I use many stage names such as Josephine and Suzanne. Those names hold little weight and a blade will always slip to where it can cut the easiest.”
“W-wait!” shouted Futayo. “It may reduce the power, but Tonbokiri can still cut stage names and machine designations!”
“Oh, is that so? That is too bad. Whenever that spear has cut a stage name or something similar, it must have been with someone who truly believed that name referred to them.”
“Then what are those stage names to you?”
“A fashion. They are no different from clothes. That is why they were cut along with my clothes.”
Yoshinao heard Kimi laugh.
“A flower’s name has nothing to do with the flower itself. It is merely something someone else gave it. No matter how much that name is defiled, it means nothing at all to the flower. …If you are going to rely on that when you attack, your power will need to increase a thousand-fold before you can reach me.”
As she spoke, Kimi stepped forward.
Futayo tried to back away, but Kimi continued forward and stood in front of her.
“Open your eyes.”
She slapped Futayo’s cheek.
Such a pain, thought Kimi as she threw another slap.
As she felt the clear noise travelling through her hand, she knew what she had to say.
“You made three mistakes.”
She slapped in the opposite direction.
“To begin with… Heh heh. It was all over for you from the moment you opposed a girl as wonderful as me. After all, a proper girl will not lose to anyone but the one they have fallen for.”
Another slap, another high-pitched noise.
“Secondly, it seems speed is your main selling point, but you cast it aside after someone as dignified as me rejected you just once. Even if you know I am a poor match, you are supposed to show your will power by attacking again and again. If you cannot do that, I will never let you reach my body or heart.”
She threw a backhand slap and placed her fingers on Futayo’s cheek.
Her cheek was swollen from the slaps and it was covered in blood that had scattered from Kimi’s fingers.
Kimi wiped off that blood and spread it on Futayo’s lips as lipstick.
“Are you listening?” began Kimi. “Lastly, you should not be obeying that cosplaying King of Musashi, the Testament Union, or your own insufficient brains that told you this is for the sake of the Far East.”
“If you are a Far Eastern samurai, then isn’t it your duty to obey the ruler of the Far East?”
Kimi placed her hands on her hips and thrust out her chest along with Uzy on her shoulder.
“As a samurai, it is your duty to rescue Horizon! Just how badly do you have to mess that up to actually make her your enemy!? If you understand, then prostrate yourself before me! Sit!!”
As she shouted and pointed, Futayo paused and then lowered her head.
She forcefully placed her knees and hands on the floor and she swung her hair forward.
“I gave this too much thought and was on the verge of making a horrible mistake! You may have an indecent body, but you gave me, your enemy, accurate advice! I am in your debt!!”
“Heh heh. Foolish girl, as long as you understand.”
Kimi then turned toward her brother who was smiling and embracing a bucket.
“Heh heh heh. Foolish brother, do you have anything to say?”
“Yeah. Thanks a bunch.” He continued on. “I’m glad to have you as my sis.”
Kimi did not stop a gentle smile from welling up from below her cheeks.
“I see.” She nodded and turned toward Yoshinao. “Heh heh heh. King, what will you do now? I have won.”
But before he could answer, a voice spoke from the sky.
“That’s right. What are you going to do, hm?” said the calm, deep voice. “What decision will the Testament Union-appointed King of Musashi make? Will you transfer your royal authority as the former chancellor suggested earlier?”
“What will it be? Give me your answer, King of Musashi.”
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