Horizon:Volume 1B Chapter 40
Chapter 40: She who Seeks the Realm of Speed
I want to think on the meaning
Of that which is gained
By losing something
Point Allocation (Succession)
Muneshige heard metallic noises from every single direction.
The wind carried the sounds of attacks, defense, and sparks.
Some were from his strikes and others were from strikes he deflected.
He wanted to avoid clashing weapons as much as he could. Metal was hard, but that was why a nick could lead to the entire blade breaking and a bend might not be reversible.
The Logismoi Óplo were top-class weapons that could repair themselves, but that did not mean he could use it with reckless abandon.
…But I can’t worry about that against an opponent like this.
She was fast.
A repeated mixture of high-speed attacks came from every direction.
When he tried to evade, a counterattack would arrive and the butt of the spear would add on yet another attack.
If he moved his right leg out, she would try to cut off that leg. If he moved his shoulder forward, she would jab the spear toward it. If he drew back, she would push forward. If he moved forward, she would deliver a shower of jabs and other attacks.
The speed of her rotation was something her father, Tadakatsu, had lacked.
And the reason for that rotation speed was obvious.
…A shorter spear and frequent use of the butt of the spear.
By rotating the spear like a baton, she could simultaneously attack, hold him in check, and defend. And once some space opened up, she could close that space with a jab. If the spear was deflected, she could reverse the rotation and attack from the opposite direction.
The shortened shaft raised her rotation speed and allowed her to switch direction more quickly.
The butt of the spear was not an emergency weapon for her. She used it just like the blade, so she could attack twice as often.
…And she uses a spell!!
Shinto spells were based around cleansing impurities. Her spell would purify everything obstructing her speed, allowing her to use the full strength she had obtained in training.
She was likely purifying and reducing air resistance and weight quite a bit. She could raise her pure speed simply by reducing her number of actions.
…Would you call this a chain of attacks?
It could also be called a never-ending series of attacks.
“Did you develop this chain of attacks to battle your father!?”
He put some distance between them with a powerful strike of Lypē Katathlipsē.
But she did not respond. As if speaking would obstruct her speed, she kept her sharp gaze on the leading edge of her speed and continued moving.
Occasionally, she would spin her spear from one side of her body to the other in order to raise her attack speed even further. She used the spinning of the spear to gain some distance for her body.
Even her footwork and breathing were synchronized to her forward and back movements. She did not falter in the slightest.
She was fast.
Every motion led into the next and she did not stop when an attack was deflected.
As her blade flew about and landed grazing strikes, several red lines appeared on Muneshige’s skin.
The sound, the sparks, the wind, her dancing black hair, and everything else drew horizontal and vertical arcs.
As Muneshige repeatedly used compressed contracts in the holy spell activator on his back, scraps of paper and a shimmering of the air scattered from it.
“Surely you can take this even further!”
As Muneshige’s speed began to rise, a twisted feeling filled Futayo’s heart.
She was fully focused on controlling her body.
She had no idle thoughts. All worldly desires could be easily sealed away with training and she always chanted a certain phrase before battle.
…Just resist until you win!
Victory would lead to paradise. In that case, she just needed to keep quiet and win.
But a twisted feeling still arrived in that heart lacking idle thoughts. The feeling had some bitterness to it.
…Here he comes!
Muneshige was raising his speed.
His method was simple. He used a holy spell that produced acceleration.
He would continually reproduce a compressed foothold needed for movement and use it to raise his entire body’s speed.
That method had to produce tremendous exhaustion during battle. Even now, the shimmering of heat was rising from the cross-shaped composite radiator on his back that expelled the heat extracted from his entire uniform.
His method was very unlike Futayo’s. Her exhaustion was purified as a type of impurity. If she raised her speed too much, the purification would be unable to keep up and the exhaustion would begin to build, but she would still have greater endurance during battle.
He used a high output for a quick battle.
She used a low output for a long battle.
That was why she had chosen a battle style including a great number of movements and frequent use of the butt of her spear. Doing so would build up her acceleration and reach her top speed more quickly.
Her chain of speed was reaching its limit and he was beginning to push back.
She felt bitter.
After all, if he gave no thought to his exhaustion, his speed had no upper limit. If he gave no thought to the consequences and did not worry about damage to his body, he could instantly produce great speed and defeat her.
He was fast.
She recalled that morning when she had accelerated by purifying her stagnation and he had interfered.
The fact that she had not been at her top speed from the first step was no excuse. The same was surely true for him.
…My speed is a direct result of my training.
Her Shinto purification did not strengthen her. It removed the excess and impurities to allow her true strength out. If she had lost, it meant her true strength had lost.
But his spell strengthened him. He was producing something greater than his true strength.
…But I will still win!
This man had fought her father and he was still alive.
…So I will win!
Her father’s name meant to ‘simply win’.
Her father had helped with the destruction of Mikawa. That destruction had been successful, but his enemy lived.
Had he won or had he lost?
She did not know. She knew the result, but she still did not know what to think.
But there was one way to know.
…I must win.
Then she would learn the answer. And it would feel better than losing and learning the answer.
And so she raised the speed of her chain of attacks. She arrived at the highest point she had reached in her training with her father and Kazuno.
Muneshige judged his opponent as he moved at high speed.
…Can you speed up even further!?
She began to attack even more quickly. Her chain of attacks was already fast enough that he was almost exclusively defending. The color red flew from both of them thanks to scrapes and shallow cuts, but he had more such injuries.
…And her tactics are quite careful.
She had previously lost to him in a competition of speed, so she was challenging him at close range without using her legs much. She would approach and push to prevent him from moving freely.
It was a good tactic.
But, he thought. It is too straightforward.
By using a chain of attacks, each one had to flow into the next.
Her focus on that meant the attacks themselves were less decisive than they might have been. In exchange for a continuing stream of attacks, she could not make her attacks any stronger. She was also worried he would move in toward her, so she was not throwing her weight into the attacks or extending her arms or body for greater reach.
Needless to say, even these attacks were dangerous at the speed she was moving. Even if she could not use a single decisive attack, raising her speed had made all of her attacks fatal.
The lack of a single major attack meant she had no ups or downs.
By watching her flowing motions, he did not have to worry about what attack would come next.
He only had to determine when her high-speed motions would send the next attack.
And once he determined that, he had to move. First, he focused on the bottom of his feet.
He charged directly toward her.
In response, she swung her spear from left to right.
…A good decision.
After all, she held the spear in her right hand. If an enemy charged in from the front and circled to the left, she would need to swing her spear around to her back.
By swinging from the left, she prevented him from circling to her left.
But Muneshige took action against the slash from his right.
He used his right hand to strike it with Lypē Katathlipsē’s blade.
He swung it left and upwards. Tonbokiri’s blade was deflected into the air and the butt end immediately rotated in from below.
Before the butt end of the spear could arrive, Muneshige ran right and to the front to reach Futayo’s back.
She rotated Tonbokiri vertically with the right side of her body, but this caused a slight delay. After spinning the weapon vertically to hold it in her right hand, she could not immediately attack to the left.
Before she could turn around, he adjusted his grip on his weapon and passed by the side of her back.
It was a simple opening.
To continue her chain of attacks, she had to keep Tonbokiri rotating. That rotation would be used as a jab or slash, but it was a wasted motion until it struck him. A vertical rotation was especially bad. It could not guide the enemy to the left or right and it was difficult to shift which side she held it on due to the weapon’s weight.
She used the motion of her opponent deflecting her attacks, so he could deflect it in such a way that she held it on one side and then circle around to the opposite side of her back. He could then do whatever he wanted.
…But that is being too naïve.
Creating an opening like that was an elementary technique.
She was the daughter of the man who had inherited the name of the Peerless in the East. She would have been trained in how to handle this.
As Muneshige circled to the left side of her back, he watched his blade swing toward her.
If all went well, his strike would hit.
But she casually moved her body to the other side of Tonbokiri as it rotated vertically on her right side.
The rotating spear became an obstacle between his blade and her.
He understood what had happened.
She had let go of Tonbokiri as it rotated vertically and she had slipped through that rotation.
It was a simple action; she only had to take a step. That was enough to create a rotating barrier between her back and her foe.
But she had slipped through when it was rotating quickly enough to attack him.
…How much training has she gone through!?
She then took control of the rotating shaft with her right wrist. Using the point of contact between the spear and her wrist, she altered its angle and speed.
It resembled a horizontal backhand that aimed to sweep out his feet as he ran toward her.
He jumped to the left.
She grabbed Tonbokiri’s shaft as it passed horizontally behind her waist and rotated her entire body to perform the right backhand strike, but he performed a high-speed aerial cartwheel to move behind her.
As he landed, he would swing Lypē Katathlipsē toward her.
Her backhand could not reach him there. The shaft was placed against the back of her waist, so she could not continue the swing.
This was not a naïve opening as before. This one was created by his speed outdoing hers.
But he saw her continue to move. She lowered her hips below the metal shaft that moved behind her in a backhand motion.
Her hands remained on the shaft and she rotated Tonbokiri over her head as she sat. With her waist no longer obstructing its rotation, she spun the spear toward the spot he would land in.
And it was going to hit.
Futayo did not hesitate to act.
She swung Tonbokiri horizontally toward the spot at which Muneshige would land.
Just as she thought she had him, she heard a single noise.
It was a metallic noise.
It was the sound of his feet landing after shrinking his body down as he cartwheeled through the air.
He had landed on Tonbokiri’s shaft.
He had shrunk down as much as possible and achieved a grip on the swinging shaft with the soles of his shoes.
After landing on the shaft, he turned toward her.
He was about to attack.
She was sitting, so she could not evade.
But she made a certain decision.
“You are mine!!”
As Muneshige started to run along the spear’s shaft, he felt something off about his movements.
He was trying to move toward her.
…But the distance is growing.
He was moving away from Futayo.
He had been within arm’s reach, but now he was a few steps away.
…What is going on!?
And then he caught on. The socket controlling Tonbokiri’s extension was in her hand.
The spear’s length could be altered. Its greatest length was six meters and its shortest was one meter.
She quickly extended its shaft as far as it would go with him on top. A distance of six meters would require several steps.
And then he heard her speak.
He knew that shout meant she would use the cutting ability.
Tonbokiri could cut anyone reflected in its blade.
He did not know how much it had accepted her, but she could likely activate it normally.
And so he looked behind him. The horizontal blade contained his reflection.
An instant later, he heard her voice.
It all came down to a series of decisions.
First, Futayo saw Muneshige move.
He bent his upper body as if preparing to dive and collapsed atop Tonbokiri’s shaft.
But he could not escape its blade with just that.
Once it cut, it would all be over.
But she saw him take further action.
While lying atop the shaft, he stretched his right leg back and bent the ankle as far forward as he could manage.
He covered the blade with the sole of his right shoe.
With the blade covered by his shoe and his body following the shaft, he was hidden from the blade.
It was no longer reflecting him.
The cutting ability did not activate, nothing happened, and Futayo was dumbfounded.
…It did not work!?
As her confusion created a lethal opening, Muneshige let out a roar.
“I have neutralized its ability after reflecting on my previous failings!”
As he spoke, he gathered up his body.
And he ran.
Muneshige ran in a perfectly straight line with the speed needed to climb a wall.
He wielded Lypē Katathlipsē in his right arm, but his enemy was positioned to the left. On his second step, he stood up and rotated his entire body clockwise.
He was positioned for a right elbow jab and he performed a right backhand to slam Lypē Katathlipsē into Futayo who was still sitting.
He heard a dry sound resembling breaking bones or snapping wood and the wet sound of struck flesh. Futayo’s body and Tonbokiri were knocked away.
As she flew about a dozen meters, Futayo’s black hair trailed after her. With Tonbokiri still in her hand, she and it tore into the ground, rolled, and finally came to a stop.
Following that, the only motion was Muneshige landing with smoke and a shimmering of heat coming from the radiator behind him.
The people saw Futayo as she was knocked away and stopped moving.
Musashi’s Broadcast Committee had pursued Futayo on Neshinbara’s instructions. As soon as they caught up and began broadcasting the battle live, the result had shown itself.
The one left standing was Muneshige.
The students acting as commentators were speechless. Muneshige merely took a deep breath, did not bother wiping away his sweat, and turned toward the Broadcast Committee members when he noticed them.
He held up Lypē Katathlipsē to show them.
“I will now fire on the Musashi with Lypē Katathlipsē. The fleet’s ether extraction and supply will provide approximately 20% power, which is enough to destroy a single ship, so I must ask the residents of Musashi to quickly evacuate.”
He explained what he was about to do and that Musashi had lost.
“Rescuing Princess Horizon will be meaningless if the Musashi cannot depart. We can surround the Musashi and take her back once our reinforcements arrive. That is how this will end.”
He then began walking up the mountain and toward the Musashi.
But he stopped before taking even a few steps.
The Broadcast Committee’s film equipment moved to discover why.
The people watching the scene via sign frames heard a voice before they saw the motion.
It was half a growl and half a groan.
But the short breath had indeed come from Futayo who lay on the ground in the distance.
“It can’t be.”
The commentators turned to look in the same direction as Muneshige.
Futayo had not moved.
But they heard a voice. However, that slowly led to Futayo’s hips rising. Soon she was up on her knees.
She then collapsed once more, but did not give up.
She tried to get up again. Her arms, neck, and back moved unsteadily. She had yet to fully recover from the damage, but she continued moving even when she collapsed yet again.
“Yes, Honda-san is still in the fight!” said the commentator.
Futayo almost looked like a shadow as she swayed but still stood up with Tonbokiri in her right arm.
“Honda-san stood up!!”
Futayo used her dim consciousness to think.
Her thoughts were about as clear as when she first woke up each morning. She would suddenly find her thoughts digressing in ways she did not remember and almost forget what she had been thinking about before.
But she knew one thing for sure.
But she did not quite remember why she had stood, why she had fallen, or why she was here.
…If I fall…do I lose?
She tried to remember how it had been when her father and Kazuno had been with her. That had been training. And during training, falling had meant she lost. She did not recall having fallen recently, but it was not that she had never done so.
But that was wrong.
“It didn’t mean I lost.”
That’s right, she thought.
During training, falling had not meant she would be helped up. It had meant another attack.
…Is that right?
She recalled the times when she had fallen to the ground during training. She had not been able to use her legs. She had not been able to swing her arms properly. She had known she needed to stand and a spear blade had stabbed toward her.
The clear memory of that sharp blade snapped her thoughts into focus.
…That’s right. When training with my father…
She thought and remembered the weight in her hand.
It was Tonbokiri. That weapon was viewed as synonymous with her father. Why did she hold it now?”
“That is because…”
She had gained it after losing so many things.
Her father and Kazuno were gone. She would never train with them again. She had gained enemies, she had gained battles to fight, and she had inherited Tonbokiri. But…
She took in a breath, looked up into the sky, and released a shout toward the ground.
She felt like she was waking from sleep and that was when she truly understood the meaning of loss. Her heart understood clearly how precious the things she had lost were. After casting aside society, obligation, and reputation, she embraced the feeling as an emotion.
She bent her body and raised her voice.
But that voice ended when she ran out of breath.
…My emotions can be stopped by running out of breath!
She took in a breath but did not let out another shout. After all…
…You do not gain a second chance at a first shout.
So instead, she asked a question with her head still downcast.
“Tachibana Muneshige, I would like to ask something.”
She could tell her voice and body were trembling due to the damage she had taken.
“If you continue past here, will the Far East lose its ruler?”
She heard Muneshige turn around twelve meters in front of her.
That meant he was willing to answer her.
…That is fortunate.
In exchange for losing her father, Kazuno, and the days of training with them, she had gained a battlefield that would answer her questions.
And so she spoke again to the one who stood before her on that battlefield.
“What are your thoughts on the death of the Far East’s ruler?”
“That is what our ruler desires,” answered Muneshige. “And it is a samurai’s duty to give him what he desires.”
“I see. In that case, my father, Tadakatsu, defeated you. After all…” Futayo raised her head and looked at her opponent through her disheveled hair. “The destruction of Mikawa was the desire of my father’s ruler and he successfully protected that desire.”
Thus her father had been victorious.
In hindsight, it was a simple matter. Regardless of the emotions inside her now, her father had remained true to himself to the end. And he had left her with the weapon that was synonymous with his identity.
The rest was easy. She simply had to remain true to herself. And what must she do if she wished to be Honda Tadakatsu’s daughter?
“I have yet to meet her, but the ruler I must serve as a samurai is currently facing an unjust suicide.”
“And what will you do?”
“As you intend to force that suicide on her, I shall defeat you as a samurai of the Far East.”
She was injured and exhausted, but…
“A samurai does not serve herself. She protects her ruler and gives that ruler what they desire.”
“The ruler you intend to serve, Princess Horizon, might fill this world with war.”
“Ha ha,” she laughed. “That is on an even greater scale than my father’s ruler. Has the changing of the age already made the destruction of Mikawa an insignificant thing? I would expect no less of my ruler. She is well suited to one day rule the Far East.”
Futayo prepared to fight. Without gathering too much strength in her knees, she tensed her thighs enough to show off the flow of her muscles. The crack in her right ribs brought a creaking pain just from breathing.
But a sign frame suddenly appeared near her.
“Reinforcements are coming! We’ve gathered everyone we can!”
She saw the Broadcast Committee raise their eyebrows in a smile and clench their fists.
And she heard a voice from the sign frame next to her face.
“It’s me! It’s the other Honda! The idiot has gone to rescue the princess! If you need some of his ether supply, I can have him begin the procedure.”
“That will not be necessary.”
“Your voices are enough!”
That comment was followed by countless new sign frames opening on top of each other. The second in command of the guard unit, the other members of the unit, Musashi’s Chancellor’s Officers, Musashi’s Student Council, and many others she had never met all spoke together with their respective battlefields in the background.
“Go, temporary vice chancellor!!”
She nodded, but did not speak her response.
She simply leaned forward and launched her body in the same direction.
She had lost a lot, but she had gained more than just a battlefield and enemies.
This new emotion produced a shout from Futayo and she clashed with Muneshige.
Muneshige judged his opponent as they exchanged blows and evaded.
He did not need to ask why. She was injured.
He had run along Tonbokiri and struck her with his full strength. Given their weight difference, she could not have escaped unscathed.
But, he thought. I used Lypē Katathlipsē’s blade.
Rotating his body to attack was the proper way of using the weapon. It had been a backhand attack, but the double-edged Lypē Katathlipsē should have sliced through her.
However, she had done the very best she could to evade. She had realized her position prevented her from evading his attack.
…And so she remained crouched down.
She had lowered her body to guide Lypē Katathlipsē’s blade lower.
And in the instant the attack struck, she had raised her body.
As a result, the shield at the base of the blade had hit her instead of the blade itself. She had taken the shield attack full on, but it was far better than taking a blade attack.
…That was an excellent decision.
He could sense the high level of Tadakatsu’s training. Achieving damage control by reflexively knowing which part of the body to sacrifice was not taught in the academies. And the effect of that skill was clear. She had taken damage, but she was still moving.
Yet she was slow. She was obviously much slower than before.
…What is this?
Her movements somehow felt faster than before.
She would just barely evade, she would not deflect attacks, and her slashes and jabs whipped up the wind differently from before.
Wondering why, he began watching her movements more carefully. And then he figured it out.
…Her chain of attacks is lacking?
That chain of attacks moved her entire body at high speed. With her exhaustion and pain, a slight distortion should have prevented her from continuing it.
But she was managing. With her exhaustion and pain in mind, she was lowering the number of movements in the chain.
She was lowering the burden. Sometimes she would flow into the next movement in the proper way, but other times she took irregular actions.
But this produced one major result.
…Her chain of attacks is no longer limited to close range! She has added in attacks with a running start!
And there was one other difference from before.
Muneshige was moving his feet less than during their previous clash.
…That is because she is moving more.
She could not rely on her chain of high-speed attacks and defense, so she would move her feet to search out openings and to evade.
In the previous match, she had known she could not outdo his speed, so she had not challenged him in speed. She had moved as little as possible and used her chain of martial arts techniques to challenge him to a close range exchange of offense and defense.
He recalled the battle she had fought on the bridge in front of Musashi Ariadust Academy. Her opponent had danced while mostly remaining in a single spot and she made repeated high-speed attacks that surrounded that opponent.
That had not been a chain of attacks like before; it had been repeated high-speed movement and attacks.
What would happen if she took that speed and added in this partial chain of attacks?
The fact that it was only partial made it difficult to predict and it included heavier hits that used a running start.
Muneshige clenched his teeth and made up his mind.
He was outdoing her in speed. He could not allow himself to forget that fact. Whether she had a complete chain of attacks or a partial one, he would win if he was faster.
His divine protection reinforced his physical body, so he could produce as much speed as necessary as long as he was prepared for the exhaustion after the fact.
And so he raised his speed.
Wind and sparks flew in the evening clearing.
The wind was powerful and the scattering sparks decorated the top and bottom of the wind until they vanished into the setting sun.
The sounds were dozens of times as numerous, but a voice suddenly joined them.
“Wow,” said the Broadcast Committee student holding the filming device. “This is even more amazing than before!”
Shadowy afterimages began to appear in the clearing.
The afterimages were of Futayo attacking, Futayo evading, Futayo defending, Futayo spinning around, and Muneshige responding to all of those actions. So many shadows appeared that the word “many” was insufficient. Each time the wind and metallic noises rang out, the clearing was filled with sparks.
Futayo could be seen by her blue armor and calmly fluttering black hair.
Muneshige could be seen by his red uniform and the black and white Logismoi Óplo.
They both attacked head on, attempted to circle behind the other, and avoided receiving an attack from the side.
The ensemble of clashing blades sounded like strange music based in a single sound.
One of them let out a shout and the other replied.
And their speed rose.
It rose, continued to rise, and did not stop.
Futayo worked to continue head on because she felt she would pass out if she lost focus.
Her body remembered the motions.
She had learned these motions when training with her father.
That had continued for over a decade.
She did not think about what she should do. She tried things and learned with her body.
Her training had taught her body what to do and her experience accurately guided her movements.
And so she simply released herself.
How about this attack? How about this evasion? How about this defense?
She tried it all and built up what worked.
She found at what speed her attacks would hit and went with that.
Her opponent had tremendous speed. His reinforced body could raise that speed as far as necessary.
But what did that matter?
Her speed was built upon her training.
Her muscles, balance, and timing were taken to the extreme.
In that case, she could cut away all else.
She would not rely on her spell until she absolutely had to.
She was still inexperienced with her purification and she could only purify a certain amount of stagnation.
If she relied on the spell, the spell’s limits would become the limits of her own speed.
…I cannot allow that.
Her father had not been training her in spell usage.
The spell had merely been one part of her combat training.
She had forgotten that recently. She had felt unease and impatience over having no actual battle experience and she had felt a fear which could also be called vainglory. Those things had led her to show off her spell before she had sharpened her own movements.
…But I lost!
Her spell was not the way forward. She could not win like that. Then what was the foundation of her speed?
…I know the answer!
It was her body.
There was something she needed to do before using the spell to cleanse the impurities.
…I must eliminate the stagnation in my own movements!
She would rely on the spell and then move. She would use all of her training and then rely on the gods.
…Yes, that’s right.
She would raise her precision.
She would eliminate the waste.
She would cast aside her hesitation.
She would use her entire body, she would not be bound by her chained-together movements, and she would move with the speed created by her own movements. She would create the extreme form of the movements one could only make after long years of training.
She could wait to ask the gods for help until after doing all that.
If she did that, she would be able to purify all of the stagnation.
If her opponent was reinforcing his body, she would become nothing but speed.
When she took that to its extreme, no instantaneous reinforcement could stand up to her training.
She raised her precision and poured out all her strength.
Her body could go further. She became painfully aware that she was made of flesh and bone, but that told her she had not gone far enough. She had to sharpen her movements until she felt nothing.
She could not fear her opponent no matter how fast he might be.
She heard a voice. She did not know whose. She did not try to figure out whose. Her eyes did nothing but watch her movements and her ears could only sense the wind.
But the next word reached her ears clearly.
And she acted to do just that.
Muneshige continually pursued the change in Futayo’s movements.
Her lacking chain of attacks had suddenly grown more honed.
…This is not a chain of attacks!
Her attacks were growing more indefinite.
Her movements were those of pursuit. She was constantly releasing her body’s pent up energy toward a single point.
…But it does not seem to be reaching anything.
Rather than a chain of attacks, she would pursue the attack she herself threw and use that in her next attack.
It looked like her speed was growing with each attack, but that was not actually the case.
She was shedding the excess holding back her attack speed.
To her, the motions of her attacks were honing her speed.
The more slashes and jabs she released, the sharper her movements grew. It was a lot like a baby bird initially being unable to flap its wings properly but learning how to do so as it pecked at the inside of the nest.
Her movements looked like she was tearing at the air with a thin blade to create an even sharper tip.
Muneshige responded by raising his own speed. As he increased the pressure of his spell and a shimmering of heat rose from his radiator, he avoided her attacks and unleashed attacks of his own.
But Futayo did not receive those attacks.
Defense would only be stagnation for her, so she did nothing but evade.
And with those evasions, she moved forward.
Muneshige finally saw her directly before him.
She had caught up.
As he moved at high speed, he saw her expressionless face with slightly raised eyebrows. Blood blew into the wind and her hair was a mess.
…But she is not looking at me.
She was looking behind him.
“Is that her intended destination!?”
As if to answer, Futayo tilted her forehead forward.
She struck his chest as if to shove him out of the way.
And so he took action. He further increased the pressure of his bodily reinforcement and traveled ahead of her speed.
This ultra high speed step back put him in front of her speed so he could intercept her as she approached her limit.
But just as he prepared his stance, she raised her speed even further.
In that moment, he saw that the wind, sand, and everything else around her were not obstructing her movements.
…She purified them…
She had been using the same spell the entire time.
But she had been holding it back by focusing on her body’s movements.
Now, she released it.
She raised her head in front of him.
Her gaze stabbed into his eyes, but she was still not looking at him.
She was looking further back.
He knew that the destination of her purification was not where he stood.
It was much further along. That was the location she sought with her true limit based in her training.
As she approached, she gathered a bit of strength in the right arm holding Tonbokiri.
Muneshige leaped toward her.
He gave a compact swing of Lypē Katathlipsē.
“This ends here!”
And he leaped.
Through the sign frames, everyone saw what happened next.
Futayo walked past Muneshige as he charged in headlong.
The powerfully raised precision of her movements and the chained-together purifications treated even Muneshige as a stagnation and her training provided her with the movements needed to surpass him.
In an instant, her feet planted on Muneshige’s raised knee, the chest of his uniform, his shoulder, and his back.
And she descended to the ground on the other side.
But everyone saw another movement.
After Futayo passed by him, Muneshige planted his left leg in the air.
A tremendous metallic noise rang out and he turned around.
He sacrificed his left leg to kick off the air and rotate 180 degrees.
The young man in a red uniform let out a roar and leaped with his greatest speed yet.
This should work, thought Muneshige.
Having his opponent step over him had taught him her speed and how she achieved it. And from her countless attacks and evasions, he understood the speed of her attacks.
He was certain that Futayo’s speed would rise even further.
But she now had her back to him. Even if she used Tonbokiri’s long shaft to send a backhand blow behind her, that very same long shaft would be slowed when it reached her body in the middle.
Even if she tried to swing Tonbokiri in her hand, he could attack before it reached him.
So he moved forward to hit.
But then he saw Tonbokiri come apart in her hands.
She had removed the expansion device and held only the shaft and blade that formed the spear’s core.
It was lighter and it was shorter. She had inherited this weapon from her father, but to make it her own, she eliminated the stagnation it had contained when she inherited it.
It looked like she was coming to a stop.
And in an instant, she performed a back snap to send Tonbokiri flying up from below. The short shaft did not strike her body, the butt end passed vertically below her arm, and she completed a full swing.
Its speed was on an entirely different level from before.
She did not fully turn around for this counter, but the counter itself was directly facing Muneshige.
It would hit him, so he made an immediate decision.
He would use his right leg.
With a metallic roar, he kicked off the air with that leg.
Without thinking, he simply launched himself toward her left side.
He flew, but this would mean he could no longer use his right or left legs.
…But I will win!
He rotated his body and prepared Lypē Katathlipsē. He would strike her with the blade as he passed by her.
She was still swinging up the right backhand, so she had her back to the left.
He would hit.
Futayo took instant action.
As Tonbokiri compactly rotated up and around, she slipped underneath it.
…That is the technique she used when training with her father.
Her body had chosen it almost subconsciously.
She circled to the other side of Tonbokiri and grabbed the rotating shaft in her left hand.
A moment later, Muneshige’s Lypē Katathlipsē reached Tonbokiri.
And the two weapons struck.
The core of Tonbokiri was slender, so it bent and creaked.
As soon as his attack was blocked, Muneshige received an attack.
She launched a rapid-fire shower of attacks that exceeded her previous chain of attacks. In an instant, dozens of attacks reached him.
The armor on the arms and legs he used to defend shattered and the right arm holding Lypē Katathlipsē broke.
Lypē Katathlipsē flew into the air.
As he looked up into the air after it, a slash from Tonbokiri fell from above.
If it hit, he would die. What would happen if he died? For him, he would simply disappear. But for the one he left behind…
As soon as the one precious to him appeared in his mind, his back struck the ground and the blade stopped before his eyes.
Sound returned to his ears.
That sound was the wind and gasping breaths.
“Once you defeated me, you did not finish me off, so I will return the favor.”
He heard her turn around while still panting and he saw her swaying unsteadily, but he remained on the ground.
“Well done. You win.”
“That is not the case.”
He saw her slowly gather the fallen parts of Tonbokiri and rebuild it with her trembling hands. The parts shook and clacked together a few times, but it finally took form.
“You had likely lost from before this battle even began. You may be able to evade the cutting of my father’s Tonbokiri.”
Once Tonbokiri was whole again, she held it to her right.
“But my father had already cut the name of Garcia that refers to your speed. If it appears that I was the victor here, that is because my father had decided the outcome ahead of time.”
“Are you offering my loss up to your predecessor?”
“You are not one who would lose to one as inexperienced as me.”
“You have my thanks.”
With that one comment, Muneshige closed his eyes. Rather than the intense pain assaulting his body, it was the massive weariness and sense of relief that took away his consciousness.
Futayo picked up Lypē Katathlipsē and held it into the air.
She had won, but she did not know what exactly she had won or what she should do now.
She suddenly realized this had been her first real battle.
The new experience of defeating an opponent belatedly caused her to tremble.
She shouted out.
She had learned, realized, and come to know many different things, but she still did not fully understand them. And so she let out a roar.
She recalled what she should do when she defeated an enemy leader.
She raised her voice, raised Tonbokiri, and let her sweat scatter in the wind.
“The enemy leader Tachibana Muneshige has been defeated!”
A short distance away from the land port battlefield, a group of Tres Españan civil officials and students with support duty had been evacuated to the outskirts of Mikawa. Among them, one female student fell to her knees when she heard the report of Muneshige’s defeat.
“Master Muneshige…” she muttered blankly.
Around her, the students began putting together a rescue team for Muneshige.
At about the same time, the Musashi assault team centered around Toori finally arrived at the Tres Españan interrogation ship even as their numbers continued to dwindle. As warriors exited the ship, the Musashi unit formed a half-circle formation to protect Toori as he headed for the Andamio de la Ejecución. The Tres Españan warriors received support from Stithos Porneia as the pope-chancellor ran back and they began breaking into the unit protecting Toori.
The battle over Horizon had entered its final stage.
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