Horizon:Volume 1 Prologue
Prologue: Those Lined Up Before the Horizon
Whether to be lost
Or to be explored
The reason to keep hold of your heart's compass is something
Point Allocation (Protagonist)
A clear morning sky. Beyond the azure floated two pale white moons, and below lay waves of dark green mountains overlapping into the distance.
In the alpine region, the endless sky loomed over the jagged mountain tops.
Divisions in the shape of pillars towered in the sky. Stretching upwards from the earth, these divided segments gave off the appearance of colonnades. Through the way in which the wind and clouds traversing the sky dissipated upon reaching them as if hitting an invisible wall, as well as the division of the vegetation on the ground, those wide yet numerous pillar-like structures flaunted their existence.
The number of segments was immeasurable, their spatial relationship erratic, and their widths too were varied.
The sky, divided in that manner, held three things.
The first was wind. The atmospheric flows of the mountainous region rose, entwined, gave birth to clouds and then faded away.
The second were the waves. Abundant in the sky, glistening waves drifted. Lines not of clouds but of these waves were everywhere, stretching out through the sky outlining the character ‘八’.
Of the three things in the sky, the last was that which traveled between the clouds and created the waves.
Leaving behind the sound of their wake eight white ships sailed, navigating between the pillars that divided the sky and traveling past the lumbering mountains.
The Aerial City Ships, carrying towns and natural parks on their surface segments, drew their shadows together as they descended towards the mountains. The shadows of the group of ships, with two ships lined up in the center and three ships lined up to the left and the right, engulfed themselves in one of the gorges stretching multiple kilometers from head to tail.
Each of the ships created waves streaming from the bow into the sky; and carrying the echoes of the break of each wave, they continued on through the heavens.
Breaking the waves while advancing through the skies, each ship was connected to the adjacent ships by many thick ropes. Occasionally when the group of ships changed their path slightly the ropes which connected them would be drawn taut and pulled out.
The names were inscribed at the bows of the eight ships. First, on each of the ships the name “Musashi” was written with black characters. Next to this, the ship-names were unsurprisingly also written in black.
First Starboard: “Shinagawa”
Second Starboard: “Tama”
Third Starboard: “Takao”
Center Leading: “Musashino”
Center Trailing: “Okutama”
First Port: “Asakusa”
Second Port: “Murayama”
Third Port: “Oume”
The formation of these ships was such that the three ships on the left and right acted as outer hulls to the two in the middle. Reaching a total of eight, these ships sailed through the sky.
A sound rang out.
The sound was a voice of song.
From the graveyard on the surface-segment of Okutama’s bow, the echoes of that slow voice sang with a trembling rhythm.
“—Let me pass—”
Let me pass, let me pass.
If I follow this narrow path, where will it take me?
This narrow path leads to the gods in heaven
Your opinion is not needed. You cannot pass through here
I have come to celebrate this child’s tenth birthday
By dedicating these two talismans
Going may be easy, but returning is frightening
Can I pass despite my fear?
The song traversed the air, eventually disappearing.
In its place, a new resounding note appeared. Entirely separate from the sound of waves from the ship’s passage, the consecutive clangor of a bell rang out.
Sounding once, twice, thrice, it continued; a chain of unbroken music. However, the clear note of the bell that told the time was overridden by a broadcasted voice.
“To all citizens: I wish to inform you that in Quasi-Bahamut Class Aerial City Ship—Musashi, it is currently 8:30 according to the bell of Musashi Ariadust Academy. The ship is presently withdrawing from the Sagarmatha Corridor and sailing southwest. In the afternoon, we will be docking at the main port of Far East Representative State Mikawa. Once we have entered the hospitable atmosphere, Musashi shall be entering stealth flight and will experience a brief interruption in information services. As such, we wish for your cooperation. Over.”
The source of the sound and voice was a structure atop Okutama, which was the central-trailing ship.
Neighboring each other there stood two long, wooden, three-storey buildings. A metal nameplate was hung up by the entrance to the two structures whose bells were ringing. “Musashi Ariadust Academy” was written on the nameplate.
Between the gate and the school building was the schoolyard and a bridge, which crossed overhead. This bridge was part of a path that led to Musashi Ariadust Academy.
The diagonal length of the schoolyard was about 100 meters. The steps of the bridge crossing over the courtyard started from the gate, ascending until they reached a hatch in the second floor of the frontal school building.
As the bell that told the time faded away, the voice of a woman came from above the bridge as if she had been waiting for that moment.
The voice, traveling quite far, flew out towards the school building.
“Third Year Plum Class. Is everyone here?”
Several figures stood before Musashi Ariadust Academy, atop the bridge from which the voice had called out.
First, by the door a woman stood proud. She was wearing a black light armor-style jersey. Behind her hair, which was cut short, a single blade was strapped onto her back.
A longsword, painted-white, rested there. Its hilt was crafted of gleaming metal.
The scene the woman was facing consisted of the school building and a group of youths wearing black and white uniforms; some seemed to be human and some were not. The woman faced them with a smile.
“Then…let’s start the physical education lesson!”
Keeping a modest tone, the teacher spoke to the students gathered atop the bridge.
“Now then, the rules are simple.”
She indicated the tip of the group of ships, gesturing towards it with her chin.
“Are you listening? …Now then, I’m going to go all out and sprint to the yakuza office at the front of Shinagawa to give them a beating; so I hope everyone can follow along. After getting there it’ll be the start of the practical lesson; we clear?”
Hearing the teacher’s words, a collective “Eh?” burst from amidst the group of students.
The teacher ignored their outburst and smiled.
“If you’re late I might just have you do the early morning classroom clean up…and your response? Judge?”
In answer, everyone replied with this word, which conveyed their understanding.
As they did a tall boy raised his hand. He was wearing an armband on which the words “Treasurer: Shirojiro Bertoni” were written.
“Oriotorai-sensei… How does physical education relate to Shinagawa’s yakuza? Does it have anything to do with money?”
“Don’t be stupid, Shirojiro. Physical education has to do with exercise, right? And beating people up is an exercise! It’s really quite a serious problem if you can’t grasp a simple analogy like that.”
A figure clad in a female uniform tugged on Shirojiro’s sleeve. The long-haired girl (who was wearing an armband on which the words “Treasurer’s Assistant: Heidi Augesvarer” were written) spoke thusly, smiling all the while:
“You know, Shiro-kun, Oriotorai-sensei was recently assigned a solitary house up on the surface. But as she was celebrating wildly, her land was bought up and she was sent to the bottom level. This led to her indulging in alcohol; and then she got violent, and then she put a crack in the wall, and then she was seriously reprimanded by the teacher’s department… In short, everything after the middle of that story was entirely her fault, but…keeping in mind her original intentions, I’m thinking this is about revenge.”
“It’s not revenge. It’s just that I got kind of irritated, so I’m returning the favor.”
“That’s the same thing!”
Everyone clamored, but Oriotorai-sensei did not seem to even care.
Taking the longsword and its sheath from her back and into her hands, she clasped it to her side. She then rubbed the emblem of the brand name “IZUMO” which was inlaid on the sheath’s surface, before resting her fingers on the hilt which had a slightly twisted design due to IZUMO’s unique styling which emphasized the sword’s cutting ability.
“Is somebody absent? There’s no helping with Miriam Poqou… Besides her, Azuma’s finally going to return at noon today; but as for other absentees…”
Hearing the implied question, the group looked around at each others’ faces.
Having done this, a golden-haired girl wearing a black triangular hat spoke. She was wearing an armband on which the words “Third Special Duty: Margot Naito” were written. As the six golden wings on her back were swaying in the wind, she said this:
“As far as Nai-chan can see, Seijun and the chancellor aren’t here.”
In response the girl with black wings whom Naito was hugging, “Fourth Special Duty: Malga Naruze” shook her head.
“Masazumi is going to Tama’s Elementary Academy as an instructor, and in the afternoon she’s going to accompany President Sakai to Mikawa; so she should have an excused absence for today. As for the chancellor… I don’t know about Toori.”
“Mmm, then is there anybody here who knows what’s going on with our ‘Impossible’ Toori?”
Hearing her ask this, the class turned to look at a single person. Standing further behind and on the steps below, a girl with brown wavy hair folded her arms as her mouth formed a bow-shaped smile.
“Ufu~ Everyone! So you want to hear about my foolish brother Toori that much? Of course you do, don’t you? I mean, he’s Musashi’s chancellor and student council president, isn’t he? Ufu~ …But I won’t tell you anything!”
“Huh?!” Everyone exclaimed, confused. The girl nodded meaningfully.
“Because around eight in the morning when I woke up, he’d already left!”
“You wake up really late for someone so lively, you know!”
“Ehe~ It’s all right, my make-up was done; so I, Belle Flore Aoi, am making clear just how much composure I have in the morning. But that foolish brother of mine, waking up early and leaving without making my breakfast… Oh how splendid it would be if at his judgement for the afterlife he’s struck by a foul ball ruling by the umpire and drops down to hell! After all, it’s about time the world ends from the Apocalypse!”
At Naito’s call, Kimi turned around. Her eyebrows were slightly raised.
“Margot…not that name, you know? Aoi Kimi…a name like that sounds just like ‘raw yolk’, so it’s like the kind of name you’d give to something your dog ate and excreted. With that in mind call me Belle Flore, alright?”
“Nai-chan is just wondering, but…wasn’t it Josephine three days ago?”
“Nakamura-san who lives three houses over named her dog Josephine, so it isn’t Josephine; at least, not anymore! With the enjoyment of an old person, that woman has a cute hobby of attaching a collar with long and soft-looking fur to that animal just like a little girl and training it while it’s nude! It’s frustrating just thinking about it; but next time she’ll let me give it a hug, you know!? Wait a moment, aren’t I the underdog like this!?”
Naito said, though she had been grabbed by the collar and was being shaken back and forth by Kimi.
As this was going on, Oriotorai was silently adding check-marks to the attendance record she had taken out from her jersey’s bosom.
“Then, Toori is…late and unexcused…? Even though he’s the student council president and chancellor…? This won’t do at all…”
Hearing her speak, everyone smiled helplessly. Some voices went, “W-well…”
Oriotorai turned to face the class as they began to make excuses on his behalf, responding with a wry smile.
“Well, yeah. It’d be dangerous if Musashi’s chancellor were to get a hold of himself… There’s a reason for him being like that, after all.”
After sweeping her gaze about and looking around her, she spoke.
“Well, this is troublesome. Even though the Divine States below us used to be ours, it’s now under the provisional rule of the other countries; and the former residents are being chased into the Far East residency area… I can’t believe that all that’s left under the Divine States’ control is this ship, Musashi.”
Oriotorai slowly uttered these words, looking up towards the sky.
“…the Harmonic Divine States, which fell from the Harmonic World in the ‘Destruction of the Harmonic World’ roughly a hundred and sixty years ago, merged with the Divine States leaving cracks in between. After the ‘Harmonic Unification War’, this unified territory was in effect completely occupied by the countries that had come from the Harmonic Divine States; and the name of our island, the ‘Divine States’, was even changed to the name ‘Far East’.”
Oriotorai looked up at the clouds drifting through the sky, which was dotted with numerous pillar-shaped spaces like holes in a piece of cloth. Listening to her speak, the class tensed slightly.
However, Oriotorai continued to pour out a stream of words.
“At the time there was a treaty which stated that the countries of the Harmonic Divine States could not take military or political control. With this in mind, these countries established the Union of the Testament. They formed an academic institution, the Academy, which in turn acts as a military and governmental facility. Using this loophole they took our land. That’s why the principal countries currently hold the Academy as the most important governmental and military facility under the regulations of the Testament Union. In this way, they provisionally occupied the Far East dividing it amongst themselves. Making use of the monarchs who had been placed under their control, they reenacted the original war over the land as a battle between the students of the different Academies.”
This was not all.
“Kept separate from the Far East residency area which was prepared by the provisionally controlled territories and countries on the ground, Musashi is the only acknowledged territory of the Far East. Even so, we’re still under the Testament Union’s surveillance. Anyway, as for the Far East Academy’s chancellor and student council president…”
She meant to continue, but she was interrupted.
“They picked the least powerful and the least able person from our Academy to fulfill that role. Someone like Toori. They even went as far as to give him a nickname like ‘Impossible’.
“Their reasoning for doing this was: ‘The fact that a powerful leader is not required is proof that the Far East is peaceful.’ ”
Hurling those words out was a boy wearing glasses. He was wearing an armband on which the words “Secretary: Neshinbara Toussaint” were written.
Closing a torii-gate signframe whose display had been opened up in the air, he went on.
“It’s been like this for a hundred and sixty years. Because the Far East has avoided being targeted by the assorted nations by citing its mistakes as an excuse, we’ve always kept our heads down, cooperated, and paid our way. As such, even though we’ve become the Far East’s base of operations our power’s in severe disarray because we are always moving. In other words, Musashi can’t do anything.
“In any case, even though the students of the other countries don’t have an upper-age limit, the Far East’s students graduate at 18…and if you’re above that age, you can’t participate in the government or military anymore.
“It’s often said in the Far East that the students are the privileged class.
“And the countries of the Testament Union have a saying: ‘Those who are not students are hardly people,’ right?”
Hearing Neshinbara speak so venomously, voices of protest emerged from the class. A boy in the middle brought some packet snacks to his mouth. He was wearing a nametag on which the name “Ohiroshiki” was written.
“I can’t help but wonder, isn’t saying something like that rather dangerous?”
“It’s all right.”
“The Testament Union’s gods of war fly around the ship to observe us, but they don’t have the time to pick up on our voices one by one. Also we’re about to enter into Mikawa which is governed by the ruler of the Far East and the owner of Musashi, Lord Matsudaira Motonobu. Mikawa’s under the Testament Union’s observation; but they’ve half-seceded from the Testament Union and they’ve allied with P.A. Oda, who’re openly hostile towards the Testament Union… So while we’re around Mikawa, the Testament Union can’t afford to move carelessly. There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Ehhhh, you’re so mature. But this time it’s not just Tres España who’re observing Mikawa; it’s said that K.P.A. Italia’s Pope Chancellor has come to check on a new model of his armament of mass destruction, the Logismoi Óplo. Please have a little care…just a little is fine, though.”
Oriotorai said, the corner of her mouth curved into a smile. Facing her, Neshinbara spread his arms outward exaggeratedly and bowed deeply. Seeing this, everyone breathed in…
“But, well…” Oriotorai muttered softly. A smile on her face, she cocked her head.
“This country’s been suppressed in this way, but…do you all know your plans for the future?”
Hearing her ask this, everyone remained silent.
Oriotorai did not ask any further, as if the silence itself was an answer.
…They’re all third years already.
Around this time next year, they’ll probably be somewhere that’ll answer that question for me.
“The world’s getting pretty noisy nowadays. The history book of prophecy, the Testament, hasn’t been completely reenacted; and with the end of its descriptions coming up with the ‘Peace of Westphalia’, it’s being said that we’re probably facing the Apocalypse in which the world will end. Everyone knows that the ley lines are riddled with chaos, and phenomena are occurring everywhere… Things like the M.H.R.R.’s ‘Pied Piper Disappearances’ or Sviet Rus’ ‘Null Lands’.”
The students who were battle-able spell users as well as the students of certain lineages hardened their expressions. There had been incidents where they had been deployed to exorcise monsters born from the disturbance of the ley lines, and they had detailed information concerning these phenomena.
Everyone lived a normal everyday-life, but occasionally a question that set them off would find its way among them.
This was the question.
“ ‘If the world is to end this year, what will our way forward be?’ …right?”
As she said this, Oriotorai re-stopped the parts fixing the hilt to the base of the sheath.
“Well, it’s troublesome to think about; but things’ll be fine if we keep gathering points. We’ll eventually know what’ll happen to the world, so until then do what you want.”
“…You feel that way too, Miss? ‘It’s troublesome that we’re being suppressed, but do what you see fit.’ ”
A puzzled expression on her face, Naruze inquired this of Oriotorai. Listening to her question, Oriotorai looked at the sky.
“That’s right… Well…”
Oriotorai smiled slightly; and after a little while, she spoke again.
“Personally, I’m thinking about how I once thought of dying. That’s something from a while ago, though.”
Returning her gaze to the class which stood before her, Oriotorai’s smile grew a little wider.
…Well, these kids will understand the pain of being in that place.
She nodded to herself before lowering her stance.
She looked at those who had reacted instantly upon seeing her movements.
“Alright then; if you have skills in battle, you’re going to have to come with me. So follow me; and even if just a little, be ready to die. The rules are simple: if you’re able to hit me with an attack before I reach the office…”
“I’ll give you five more attendance checks. Do you understand? You’ll be able to skip class five times.”
Hearing these last few words, the expression on the class’s faces shifted.
Having heard these two words, “five times”, everyone whispered to each other.
“In other words, we’ll be able to skip five times in the morning…? If that’s the case…”
The class’s hopes were on the rise.
A boy raised his hand to draw Oriotorai’s attention. He was wearing an armband on which the words “First Special Duty: Tenzou Crossunite” were written. His hat pulled low such that it covered his eyes, he spoke together with the flying half-dragon “Second Special Duty: Kiyonari Urquiaga” who stood next to him.
“Miss, having the attack ‘hit’ and not ‘graze’ should be fine, should it not?”
“Well, well, the battle-types are thorough aren’t they? But yes; there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, you know? I don’t care about your methods either.”
Hearing this, Urquiaga folded his arms. With his dragon-eyes, he looked down to Tenzou.
“Did you hear that? This female teacher said that it’s fine no matter what we do, Tenzou. Is it fine if I use my power of imagination?”
“Judge. I heard her too. But, putting aside the story Auge-dono told us earlier, I ‘nearly’ touched that ‘female teacher’s’ butt the other day; and she managed to start a disturbance that removed the floor of the residential area all by herself.”
“Hmph. Tenzou, even when faced with reality the power of imagination is unmatched. That a ninja like you has not noticed that is regretful.”
“I understand. Then, um, Oriotorai-sensei, no matter where we touch or grope your parts we won’t have points deducted, right? Rather than that, we should get something like bonus points for…specific areas.”
“Ahaha, you two want to die before the lesson even starts, right?”
Saying those words with her eyes narrowed, Oriotorai stuck her tongue out.
Faster than anyone could react, Oriotorai jumped.
It was a backwards leap. Oriotorai jumped, sending her figure in its black jersey flying horizontally over the stairs that went down from the bridge and all the way to the tip of Okutama.
Her destination was the path below the stairs, which exited the second schoolyard and headed towards the bow. This was the road that led to starboard, passing through the middle of the natural gardens which split to the left and right due to the large wind tunnels used for air flow within the ship.
…The central-starboard passage, known as “Remorse Way”.
Ten years ago, the road was given this name after Musashi’s Great Renovation.
Oriotorai knew why people had started calling it this name.
There was a stone plate in one of the shoulders on the right of the road, close to the entrance of the passage.
It was a stone plate decorated with flowers, about 50 centimeters in height. One sentence was engraved onto its surface:
—1638 All those who reside in Musashi pray for the girl Horizon A’s happiness in her next life.
“Horizon, huh? For those kids, that’s definitely the name that became the beginning of everything…”
As she muttered, she looked towards the bridge. From her perspective it was rotating upwards at a furious pace. For an instant she caught sight of her class. Everyone atop the bridge had hesitated for an instant, unable to react.
Naive. If there were a cannon strike from an opposing battleship they would have died.
Were they aware of this?
Voices were spilling out from the bridge, audibly the start of a single word.
Oriotorai heard their voices.
They had most likely started to say the word “shit”. Were they regretful? It’d be fine if they were.
…Having been outwitted, they’d have to be.
So I thought.
I thought of the current Musashi’s chancellor’s officers and the members of the student council.
“Musashi Ariadust Academy: Student Representative Layout”
•Chancellor: Aoi Toori
•Vice Chancellor: N/A
•1st Special Duty (Intelligence): Tenzou Crossunite
•2nd Special Duty (Judgment): Kiyonari Urquiaga
•3rd Special Duty (Field Operation): Margot Naito
•4th Special Duty (Field Operation): Malga Naruze
•5th Special Duty (Field Operation): Nate Mitotsudaira
•6th Special Duty (Field Operation): Naomasa
•President: Aoi Toori
•Vice President: Honda Masazumi
•Treasurer: Shirojiro Bertoni
•Treasurer’s Assistant: Heidi Augesvarer
•Secretary: Toussaint Neshinbara
…There were people who weren’t here, or simply absent. Yet in general, all things strange had been gathered before her.
And they weren’t the only ones. They were all brimming with great things.
Interesting, she thought, smiling. And as she smiled, the students leaped from atop the bridge.
Everyone currently on the decks of all the ships could hear the cacophony.
Gunshots, the clashing of swords, and the sound of metal and destruction reached them from the central-trailing ship—Okutama.
“They’re moving through ‘Remorse Way’, heading to the bow!”
The din continued to move; and from the point of view of the watchmen who kept watch for danger from every ship, the source of the sound was traveling from the starboard of Okutama to the second starboard ship—Tama.
Because of this, the residents of the main deck on the port side of Okutama heaved a sigh of relief and started to prepare for the afternoon’s work; and the residents of the third starboard ship—Takao—gave three cheers from the front edge of the deck where they could be seen by the people of the second starboard ship—Tama.
Seeing this, Tama’s residents were firing curse and attack spells attempting to hit the people shouting “Banzai!” on Takao.
With these simple thoughts in mind the shopkeepers boarded up the entrances to their stores, closing the shutters in an effort to protect the shops. Depending on the shop in question, there were some protective barriers that had been erected using a spell.
Though all this was going on, a section of the shopping district remained open.
“Well, this happens all the time… I’m just praying that they don’t go down this route. If they do though, I’m going to have a breakdown.”
“Well, we played around like this too. In fact, so did the generation before us. If this continues to happen, it’ll be Musashi’s prided tradition!”
Thinking this, the shopkeepers gathered. They hid their invoices away in the darkest corners of the deepest counters, dealing with the coming problems by running away.
Having done this, they started to gamble. They were betting on the winner of the day’s lesson.
“…Even so, that teacher is apocalyptically strong in athletics. She’s a tester for IZUMO, isn’t she?”
“Judge, and they’re also without a vice chancellor of the chancellor’s officers so they’re missing a spearhead to their attacks.”
“Putting that aside, think about how all the all-on-one’s have gone. They haven’t been able to hit her. Not even once. Well…they almost got her last round…that was just a shame.”
“Mmmm,” the shopkeepers mumbled. As the source of the tumult continued its approach from Okutama, each of them wrote their choice on a piece of note paper and handed it to the bookkeeper.
Many gatherings of that kind had sprung to life within the town.
But in the center of the town a store stayed open, utterly still in this bustle of activity.
It was a café on the second starboard ship, tucked into an alley near the center-point of Tama’s surface.
Two signs were set up in front of the bakery. One had the words “shopkeeper making a delivery”, and the other had the words “open for business”.
Another sign hung above the door, a sign painted with the name, “Blue Thunder”.
There were no customers in the shop, but a silhouette stood behind the counter. This silhouette faced the street, her gaze forming a perpendicular angle with the lines of the road.
It was a white-haired female doll, just about the size of a human. Her model had skin that was principally constructed of biological parts, all synthesized from the same constituents as human flesh. The majority of her joints were encased in black elastic composites.
Occasionally, her two shoulders and chest would rise and fall as she breathed.
She was a doll that moved autonomously, an automaton.
Behind the counter of “Blue Thunder” the female automaton stood there in an apron, with her head lowered slightly. She placed baked bread upon the shelf behind her; she didn’t spare the road a glance.
However, her face suddenly turned towards the back of the store. An oven used for baking bread stood there, and above it a kitchen counter which held a stove that used the excess heat.
The automaton moved her gaze towards the kitchen counter and the cooking equipment next to it.
Continuing to face that direction, she stopped moving as if she had taken interest.
From the path, the numerous footfalls of a group walking briskly and the sound of their voices could be heard.
“—We’ve got to hurry up and get back, it looks like they’re comin’ this way. The town carpenter won’t be able to stop laughing.”
“If we’re being worked at a pace where we die from overworking, we’re not going to have the opportunity to use our money even if we get paid, y’know. But at your place, that part-time working automaton… P-01s was it? Can’t it be sensible and close the shop?”
“We’re not gonna close, ya know. I’m a former samurai, so closin’ shop durin’ business hours is kinda embarrassin’. That child understands this too. Even at this kinda time, she’s waitin’ for people comin’ to eat their breakfast.”
The approaching voice said.
“All of you, it still seems rare to me; but that child’s been comin’ to this shop every mornin’ for a year, and I’m renowned for openin’ early in da mornin’. I was pretty surprised when that child stood outside our door; and outside of da name P-01s she didn’t know anythin’, and she had no shelter so it was pretty troublin’, but well… I’m glad I hired her. She’s got spirit. Anyway, recently I haven’t even had to check da morning’s repertoire.”
“Spirit doesn’t have anythin’ to do with an automaton, right? They don’t have things like feelings, after all…”
At that point, the voices stopped. This was because the row of figures had come to the front of the store.
Within the crowd a middle-aged woman, the owner of the store, turned to a few of the people of the crowd as they continued to pass by. A smile hovered at the corner of her mouth.
“She’s my pride and joy. Now I’ve even started ta think about my own repertoire. Even if I put that on da menu in da future, I won’t be servin’ that to any noisy people, y’know?”
“Judge, that’d be horrible.”
Still laughing, the men and women left. The female shopkeeper entered the shadow of the store.
“Really, even though workers are supposed t’be equal. It’s not a big deal, right P-01s?”
Hearing her question, the automaton returned her gaze and a nod.
The shopkeeper across from her placed her hands on her hips and sighed.
“Well, don’t worry about the noise. Then… I won’t be closin’ da store, but I’ll have ta bring in the sign out in front and throw out da water. When the din’s all over and I can take a breath, you can head home. You can take as much of the baked bread as ya want. Why don’t ya bake it a little more in the oven?”
With that said, the automaton nodded slightly.
Her gaze moved slightly, but not to look away from the shopkeeper.
Having been asked this, the automaton returned her gaze after a short while and nodded.
In response, the shopkeeper put a hand to her hips and sighed.
“You memorized my repertoire; so when ya think about what ta make yerself, it was always somethin’ plain, and there were a lot of failures, but…well, the basics’re important.”
The automaton said softly. She continued to speak with an emotionless voice.
“To increase the repeatability of Shopkeeper-sama’s work, around one year is needed. Speaking about the current situation, other than being asked ‘Didn’t you put your heart into it?’ by the customers, there are no problems. Currently, P-01s is in the midst of researching her original breakfast; but as a result of the desired product being unclear, P-01s is in the midst of pondering to which level she should investigate.”
“If that’s the case, then just do it ’till yer satisfied. The depths of egg fryin’ are pretty deep after all.”
The shopkeeper laughed a little. Sticking her hand out towards the automaton’s head, she patted it as if mussing her hair.
“A child who does their work seriously is a good child… When yer done, make one portion just like we always did in practice. Yer an automaton, but yer type needs food after all.”
“Judge,” the automaton nodded.
Immediately after, a voice tinged with nervousness could be heard from the stern of the ship.
“Th-they’ve finally come…”
The second starboard ship—Tama—had a town of stone and a natural garden on its surface.
Because the “Tourist Destination — Tama” signposts standing everywhere in town displayed this message in foreign languages, there were many European faces amongst the crowds peering out at the clamor from the windows. All of those who lived on the surface below had turned their gazes upwards. They stared, all eyes reaching out to look over the wooden, thatch, and stone roofs of varying heights.
There, at a place which could be said to be above their heads, the mayhem ran.
The noise cut through them without warning.
Firstly, a cluster of light burst forth from above a commercial street at the port-side.
Everyone peering out from inside their houses saw a storm of bullets, arrows of light, and an attack that looked like a wall of linked lasers.
The stationery shop’s owner muttered while closing the armored door to his shop.
“Rapidly firing unblessed shots, huh? They’re all using the same kind of spell. On the roofs where there’s a direct line to the target, then that’s more than enough and there’s no wastage either…that is, if they were trying to hit a normal opponent.”
The opponent. Chased by the barrage of flying light, the silhouette of their opponent ran atop the rooftops.
It was a woman. She had readied her sword before her chest as she ran, wielding her sheath in her other hand.
She took the chasing light and bullets head on, cutting them out of the air and deflecting them away.
She continued to run on the roof even as she was facing backwards. Despite this, she sprinted in a special manner. Because she was focusing on stepping onto support pillars or building rafters and jumping off them, she did not accidentally send any debris flying.
This was not all.
She was dodging as she moved. She continued to evade as she dealt with the attacks flying at her. The roofs of the town’s central shopping street were already tens of meters in length, but her speed as she sprinted did not fall in the slightest. It even seemed that she was increasing her speed each time she was attacked.
The people chasing her were also going all out. One of them was using their teammates’ fire to hide and take cover, directly attacking the woman with a longsword. Some of them traveled a straight line across the rooftops, co-operating with the ranged team behind them. And finally the last few circled around the eaves of the first floor, showing themselves and serving to distract the woman from the shots coming from behind.
However, all of their attacks were deflected and crushed by her sheath and spinning hilt.
There were also those who had been blown away by kicks.
Because of the whirl of speed and the multiple attacks, not to mention the sound, the dodging and the parrying, the wind howled with a violent ardor.
The resonating sound of clashing metal set the windows of the houses shaking. From time to time an especially vicious attack would crash through the air, making it rumble like thunder.
The tremors shook the houses’ pillars; and even the ground was made to quake.
The adornments were all the color of light. The refracted light turned to spray and scattered in each and every direction, the white fragments tearing through the air.
Everything drove past.
Yet even though the sound and speed and light took on the Doppler effect as they distanced themselves, they did not lose their power.
Suddenly, the woman with the longsword called out:
“Hey! Adele and Hassan got knocked out!”
At her voice’s destination two figures had fallen atop the shopping street’s thatched roofs.
There were two people who had fallen face-flat in a ‘大’ position, their breathing erratic: A girl with glasses who held a white spear with a blunted tip, and a boy with a turban wrapped about his head.
The boy with glasses who was a part of the group running along the rooftops spoke:
“Itoken-kun! Go with Nenji-kun to rescue them!”
As he spoke these words a figure flew out from the midst of the group. He just looked like a nude man with a muscular body; but the black bat wings on his back were the proof of his status as a member of the Nightmare Races: a spiritual being. He was an incubus. The bald man raised his hand.
“…Good morning! I’m not just some weird guy! I am called Itou Kenji, an incubus of perversity! My apologies for this impoliteness, everyone!”
Everyone passing ahead flashed him half a glance, but they paid him no mind.
A hemispherical object about a meter in diameter separated from the group, exiting from in between them. The object was in fact a scarlet colored, translucent sticky body. Black sensory parts were stuck to the upper portion of its front, forming eyebrows, eyes, and a mouth.
It chased after Itoken, who was moving forward on his tiptoes with one hand on his waist, approaching the two people who had fallen on the opposite roof. Itoken raised his hand, waving to the creature who was coming up alongside him.
“Hey! Nenji-kun, you look as beautiful and lively as ever today, with your stickiness and transparency! You’re just so sticky!”
The sticky-bodied Nenji said, raising his sensory organ eyebrows:
“Mm. This time, we’re supposed to save someone aren’t we? If so, then this is my spec—”
Nenji was stepped on by the girl with the nametag “Aoi Kimi”. She was slower than the others, and had come running from the back.
Ahead, chasing after Oriotorai were the close combat specialists and point-blank marksmanship specialists. Among the spell users who trailed behind, there were many who weren’t athletic. As such, they were slow. There were figures other than Kimi who could be seen; but all of them were heading past, Kimi included.
“Ufufu~, I’m sorry, Nenji! I’m really sorry. Yes, I’m serious! I’m always serious, you know!!”
A girl who was running down the street by herself shouted at Kimi, who had raised her voice at Nenji. She shook her voluminous silver hair.
“Kimi, please be a little more sincere when you apologize. Ladies sho—”
“Ehehe~, you scolding demon girl. But still, Mitotsudaira, why are you running on the ground? Shouldn’t you just go ‘smash’ with those chains you always use?”
“This area is my territory, you know!? You’re rampaging throughout… Really!”
“My, my, the female knight who can’t defeat our teacher is barking like a wolf! You’re like a heavy-tank class after all.”
Kimi’s voice and Mitotsudaira’s retort were immediately lost in the distance because of the Doppler effect. Left behind them was Itoken, who was raising his hand 90 degrees to wave to everybody; and Nenji, who was splattered all over the rooftop.
When Itoken (who was waving his hand to everybody) looked at Nenji, the splattered scarlet colored stickiness was slowly crawling and gathering back together. Telepathy, interrupting at intervals, spoke in Nenji’s voice:
“He, hehe, that was pretty dangerous…”
“Nenji-kun! You seem like a man with a lot of spirit; but if we compare this to a game you’re a slime with nothing but three hit points, so you can’t be reckless, you know!?”
“Mmmm, I had taken a tight defensive position, though…”
The reformed Nenji showed his defensive posture…
After a little while, Itoken (who had knelt down) placed his hand on what seemed to be Nenji’s shoulders.
“Yeah,” Nenji muttered. “There’s always tomorrow…”
A voice resounded from the other side of the row of rooftops, near the bow.
Everyone who was chasing after Oriotorai had set something up.
The people who had set something up were the close combat specialists who made up the vanguard.
The location was at Tama’s bow on a roof in the business area, which was at a place slightly removed from one of the rows of houses in the residential area. To the left and right of the roof, tall buildings of major businesses lined up.
That was their aim. If the walls on the left and right were tall enough, then they would be able to restrict the space she had to dodge left and right.
While sprinting through the valley-like roof of one structure and passing the walls of buildings left and right, everyone thought this:
They had to hurry.
This was because they were just about to finish running through the second starboard ship—Tama.
If they exited the area they were running through now, the business area where the industries reside, they would be jumping off of the bow and towards the outside.
Outside the ship, on the other side of the bow would be the first starboard ship’s—Shinagawa’s—stern. The upper section of Shinagawa is the cargo area; so all that was there were wooden large-scale cargo containers, all lined up. Their destination was the yakuza office in a small residential area, which was situated at the deck by the bow. The road there was made up of the roof of the cargo containers. It was a completely flat area, with no hint of an obstacle.
If they entered Shinagawa, chasing her would become difficult.
What everybody thought after those words was the same.
“It’s about time we bring the fight to her.”
And, the first to move was him.
“I will go…!”
In the midst of running, Tenzou shouted, issuing his challenge.
Oriotorai whistled shortly in response.
“I thought that it would be you to come first.”
Hearing her voice, Tenzou gave a short answer.
The running Tenzou thought this:
…Indeed, this is my area of expertise!
Oriotorai is currently sprinting in a straight line over the rooftops, which has bad footing. Vaulting over chimneys, things sticking out of the roof and various other structures, her speed did not drop in the slightest even as she flew over the rooftops.
Faced with that, I cannot do the same. A woman’s speed drops when she jumps over an obstacle; but if a man tries to speed up while doing so, his feet will be caught by the unsteady roof.
However, I am a ninja. I chose to practice moving through treacherous roads during our lessons; and when Musashi entered port in a mountainous territory, I was trained to run across mountains in addition to survival training.
I knew that I would be the first to catch up to Oriotorai in this kind of situation. I have to lower her speed here, or she will gain an irreversible advantage.
Therefore, I must hasten forth.
Simple slashes of the sword have already been deflected…even gunshots have been sliced out of the air. If I am to strike, it will have to be a serious blow.
The ninja who specializes in treacherous roads follows a substyle from the school rules created by the English.
“Battle type (Style): Close-quarter-combat ninjutsu user (Ninja Forcer), Tenzou—!”
“Hey now, when a ninja starts shouting, what’s wrong with the world?”
I don’t care.
As he shouted, Tenzou increased his speed. The distance from him to the running Oriotorai was roughly fifteen meters. On the roof between them, Tenzou ran in a low posture as if he was scaling a wall.
He went. He approached her.
Oriotorai’s weapon is a longsword. It’s not a weapon that’s made to attack in a position where one is running backwards. No matter the circumstances, it is especially difficult for long objects to attack low places. Because the sword’s trajectory is curved, it cannot reach low places. If she tries to have it reach a low position, drop her waist and bend forward, her sword will hit the roof, and in that position she will no longer be able to run backwards.
Therefore to move in a way so as to counter the use of a longsword, I have to take a low position.
Before his eyes, Oriotorai drew the longsword on her back with her right hand, but it was still in its sheath. As might be expected, it seemed that she did not want to smash the naked blade into her students.
She’s a good teacher, Tenzou thought.
She occasionally causes violent incidents, but she will not attack me. Someone who keeps things safe is a good teacher. Don’t ask me if she isn’t actually like that, though.
In any case, Tenzou calculated their speeds. He thought of the current speed of approach and the speed at which Oriotorai would smash him with her sword.
The trajectory, the position and distance came together instantaneously.
…Because I’m low…
His thoughts screamed a warning signal.
My speed is more than enough. My method of shortening the distance and the number of steps I’m taking are optimal. I can hammer in an attack while standing up. But, after that…
…I can’t. I can’t block the combination that’s already headed my way…!
Just before, when she placed her hand on the longsword’s hilt, she had started a series of movements. As she stretched her right arm upward, her right knee had been raised. In the midst of her running movements, it was a movement that nearly escaped his eyes; but she appeared to slide her right butt forward, pulling her waist in so she could move into the next movement.
He could predict it.
Oriotorai’s next movement will bring her outstretched right foot downward, as if pounding with a hammer. At the same time, she will swing her longsword down into me. However with her right foot, which will have been drilled into the roof, she will forcefully jump backward. Before the longsword can strike the roof, Oriotorai will perform a large bound backwards.
The conclusion: Unable to dodge the blow, Tenzou will be smashed from above becoming a ‘大’ on the ground. If things go poorly, he will be buried in the straw of the roof.
An instant. Oriotorai’s longsword burst up in an upward-arc.
It came. Therefore Tenzou shouted:
This response came from above. A shadow flitted down towards the area above Oriotorai, who had already swung her sword.
The shadow was large, and it had two horns.
The half-dragon Urquiaga had jumped from the roof of the adjacent building.
Oriotorai raised a voice of admiration.
I see, she thought. When Tenzou darted in first, he shouted his self-introduction to divert my attention away from Urquiaga who was climbing the wall next to him.
…It was a feint.
This combination was important. “It is essential to think of a strategy when fighting against an opponent who cannot be beaten with brute force.” A teacher must impart this knowledge to her students.
They also have to be taught that there are opponents that will not be defeated with a small feint.
Therefore, Oriotorai moved.
Urquiaga, flying in towards the area above Oriotorai’s head, was in the middle of a movement that spanned but an instant.
I am a flying half-dragon. I can accelerate and fly for short periods because of my wings. Therefore, after Tenzou jumped in I kept my body low and flew to the roof of the adjacent houses from behind the others. From there I jumped to the roof above the tall walls in one motion.
My attack is a power dive from outside Oriotorai’s field of vision.
My weapons are my own two hands. My half-dragon arms are wrapped in scales and shell. Purely because of this, they can be used as striking weapons. Though there are several pieces of equipment attached to my waist, I will not use them.
Bringing her longsword down, Oriotorai spoke in a native language that could be processed at high speed.
“You’re not gonna use the things on your waist!?”
“The Inquisition starter kit isn’t meant to be wielded against those who aren’t heretics of the Tsirhc religion!!”
Urquiaga’s family descended from a line of Tres España inquisitors. They had been well established locally, but they were no longer able to support themselves because of over-hunting. Also, the history recreation of the Protestant Reformation had started in his grandparents’ generation; so they closed shop and came to Musashi. Now his parents were making and selling bedclothes in Oume’s third underground floor. Custom-made beds had become part of his family’s repertoire, and had become popular amongst a portion of people. The type of people who would say: “The restraints should be tight.”
Therefore Urquiaga also thought that he wanted to perform the job that passed his ancestors’ techniques down until now, like his parents. He chose to take Catholic Inquisition classes in the afternoon.
Because of this, he always kept equipment suited for that purpose on his person. Those were tools for interrogation, for fighting with people who gazed with hostility upon the Inquisition.
They were weapons with which he performed his duties.
However, this was not the time to use these particular tools.
This was because heretics and people of different faiths were different. Heretics were people who were of the Tsirhc religion, which was synonymous to the Catholics.
…However, they twisted the teachings of the Tsirhc religion and spread them. In other words, people who could not be saved.
On the contrary, people of different faiths were people who were not of the Tsirhc religion but were of another one; but because of that…
…They were people who could probably be saved were they to know the true teachings.
Oriotorai being a resident of Musashi had a western name. However, other than her eyes being blue her appearance and way of life was as a person of Musashi. Her religion was Shinto, so she comes under the category of “people of different faith”. Therefore…
“I cannot punch a Musician of Shinto as an Inquisitor! As such, I shall deal you a personal strike!”
Those words came.
Hearing this line, a question danced through Urquiaga’s mind.
Oriotorai is swinging her sword right now. Her right hand already passed by under me, caught up in a one-handed strike.
It was close. The timing to strike is to drift downwards, right behind the passage of her sword. I am of a winged race so I’m able to do this because I applied slight adjustments to my flight path, which I am capable of.
In response, Oriotorai can no longer take any movements to stop the movements of her sword. Because she’s flowing from that one strike into jumping backward, she’ll destroy her balance if she performs any other movements.
Therefore, Oriotorai’s attacks will no longer hit me.
Despite this, an attack found its mark.
Urquiaga, looking down at Oriotorai, took a strike to his outstretched dragon face.
Losing control of his airborne position, he was blown away.
Why did Urquiaga get blown away?
Tenzou’s eyes saw the reason why.
It was the sheath. While swinging her longsword with her right hand, she released the sheath’s clasp.
The sheath sliding off the blade like it was a rail effectively extended the reach of the longsword.
Grunting in pain, Urquiaga vanished to the rear.
He saw that Oriotorai was biting the strap of the sheath with her mouth.
The strap was pulled back by a twist of her neck.
The sheath returned.
With the sheath in its place again, the longsword was now headed in a trajectory that would slice into him.
My weapon is a tantō held at the back of my waist. I bought one of the Hankou brand, because I prioritized the thickness of the blade. However, the grip I use is a wooden hilt of the Shirasago brand. It’s more familiar to my hand; and the grip, its original material dyed black, is coated with matte so it doesn’t reflect any light in the night’s darkness.
It was an important piece to Tenzou. He drew it, holding it in a backhand draw with his right hand. Whilst he swung it upwards, he also brought his left hand to the hilt holding it on the pommel. However, he did not thrust it towards Oriotorai.
As he cried out, Tenzou changed his stance such that he passed his tantō up above his head, dropping his hip.
If he dropped his position in order to forcibly erase all forward velocity, his stance would defend him from attacks coming from above.
He planned to receive Oriotorai’s blade and endure it. And as he withstood it…
A presence came.
A presence from the rear, bursting out from behind his back.
Oriotorai saw. She saw that a boy suddenly came flying out from behind Tenzou.
If he was behind Tenzou, then his silhouette should have been seen.
The reason that he had not been visible was…
…A ninja technique!?
Ninja techniques are a ninja’s special physical techniques. Skills like moving noiselessly and controlling visual information were specialized for use in stealth activities. Categorized within these techniques was the ability used in the protection of VIPs. Namely, the ability to sever any indication of a VIP’s presence.
That was what Tenzou had used. Oriotorai shouted the name of the spiky-haired boy in a loose-fitting uniform, who had leaped out from behind Tenzou.
“Noriki was the actual threat!?”
“You don’t have to say it out loud if you get it.”
The boy Noriki closed the distance in a heartbeat.
At the same time, my longsword’s sheath hammered into Tenzou’s tantō.
The feeling which was sent into my hand was lukewarm, as if my sword had sunk into mud. This was because Tenzou had instantly sunk his body downwards to absorb the shock. Because of this, the sword did not bounce back and it did not immediately return to my hands.
My longsword is an important weapon. If I lose it, many troublesome things will happen before I reach Shinagawa.
In other words, my students.
I cannot let go.
However, precisely because of this, I’ve allowed Noriki to approach. To my eyes, Noriki’s eyes were as always slightly tensed, and he was expressionless as he dashed in. He was always a child whom I could never completely understand; but I’m more than satisfied if he understands teamwork.
Noriki’s weapons were his fists.
His right side was pulled back, the palm of his clenched fist facing upwards. The reason his left shoulder was slightly sticking out was because he planned to thunder his right fist straight forward, aided by the recoil of his left shoulder being forced back.
Noriki’s attack would come immediately after this, the instant I step down with my right foot. In order to withdraw my sword on the spot, just after swinging it down, I’ll have to bring my right foot down to act as an anchor. Noriki is aiming for that moment.
As he’s dashing in from a running trajectory, the attack will come from above Tenzou who’s crouched down. An attack that’ll come from above the longsword I’ve slashed downwards.
As such, Oriotorai moved to counterattack.
Tenzou realized that the load pressing down on his arm, which was set in defense, had suddenly disappeared.
Looking closely, the reason for the disappearance of his arm’s burden, the weight of the longsword from above, was simple.
Oriotorai had brought her hand away from the hilt of the longsword, despite the fact that it was her only weapon.
The instant this thought rose unbidden from his heart. The hilt of the long sword was spinning, coming to fall down towards him.
If the pommel falls downwards, the blade will point upwards.
Using Tenzou’s defensive posture as a fulcrum, the point of the blade will point behind Tenzou slanting upwards.
Towards Noriki, who was coming from the back.
Most likely at an angle where it would pierce into his chest from below.
Behind me, the sound of Noriki drawing a breath was audible.
I heard the sound of Noriki’s fist being fired. But, because he had punched earlier than scheduled, he could not have driven his fist into Oriotorai.
The sound of metal rang out. Oriotorai’s longsword was punched by Noriki in defense. Still revolving, it was blasted from before my eyes into the air beyond.
As Tenzou watched, Oriotorai’s foot came thundering down.
Tenzou thought this. Oriotorai isn’t holding the heavy longsword now. If she does a large bound backwards, she’ll be able to do it gracefully.
Furthermore, because it was punched by Noriki, Oriotorai’s longsword is flying through the air. Oriotorai’s leap backwards will take her closer to it.
Now, I, whose hip has been dropped, am no longer someone who is able to chase after Oriotorai.
I retire here.
Feeling the full force of the word “regret”, Tenzou shouted.
The trailing group was already moving before Tenzou’s voice could reach them.
This was at the time when Noriki had dashed in towards Oriotorai. Keeping behind Noriki, a single girl was moving. An artificial eye inserted into her left eye socket, the girl with long, black hair to whom the nametag “Asama Tomo” was attached brought up a bow she had drawn from her back while keeping her body running in a low position.
The bow “Kataume” with Shirasagi brand’s emblem engraved upon it sprung open in an instant from its thrice-folded state. Its nock tuned itself automatically; but even while it was still deploying Neshinbara’s voice flew from within the group she was in:
“Persona-kun! Give her a lift!”
A large man at the back of the group responded to his instructions. His upper body was naked and the man’s head was covered by a full-face western helmet. He was already carrying a girl whose eyes were covered on his left shoulder.
However, he swung his right arm forward and increased his speed.
Coming up next to Asama whose bow was now readied, his right arm stretched towards her.
Following the same exact timing, Asama nodded to Persona-kun once. Bringing her feet onto his arm she flipped her body, jumping to his shoulder. She smiled at the girl who was lowering her eyes as she sat on the left shoulder across from Asama.
“Um, Suzu-san, I’ll be over here.”
Saying that and dropping her hip, she secured her footing. The girl Asama spoke, her green eye narrowing:
“Ley line: Link…!”
In Asama’s field of vision, Noriki who was running ahead of her had swung his fist towards Oriotorai.
…Will it work?
I don’t know. In any case, not once do I remember Oriotorai being hit by one of her students’ attacks. It’s been my responsibility to do so for a year; but at the very least, Oriotorai’s never been defeated by her students in PE class. Or so the upperclassmen tell me.
…No matter how much I think about it, rather than a teacher she’s a real Amazon…! It’s somewhat terrifying…
Taking a breath, Asama regained her composure.
“…It’s my turn. I’ll use my shrine to perform one of the Divine Musician Technique’s Spells!”
“Spell” was the name of a technique that controlled something that existed in this world only: “Ether”, the particle that allowed contradictions and one of the constituents of space.
There were several different schools; but the one Asama was using was the Far East’s principal school, Shinto’s Divine Musician Technique.
As her voice rang out, by the collar of Asama’s school uniform the right collar of her light armor opened and a figure flew out from inside it. It was a diminutive girl wrapped in a faint crimson light. Her figure was slightly transparent.
The girl had a sleepy face; but she mounted Asama’s shoulder, dancing lightly by twirling her body and waving her right hand.
At the same moment a torii signframe radiating crimson light appeared by Asama’s face. Words appeared on the display which was previously blank.
“Link: Asama Shrine - Mouse: Sakuya Type 01: —Confirm.”
“Linked to Asama Shrine. Offering - Prayer - Worship: Processes have been completed by Mouse.”
“Asama Tomo-sama, thank you for using us. Please choose your blessings.”
“I’ll be using this with Asama’s debt of divine melody as a substitution offering! Hanami… I offer up a Divine Prayer for a triple purification of the projectile’s frictional retardation, deviation, and impediment as well as a targeting attachment, for a total of four spells! These are the basic spells of the shrine, so activate them without modification!”
Hearing Asama’s words the Mouse who had been called Hanami, the diminutive girl, nodded slightly. Words and a speech bubble appeared by Asama’s face.
“Spell of Divine Melody / Four / Therefore / Substitution / Four / Activate ?”
“Yes,” Asama nodded. Sucking in a breath, she brought the arrow drawn from her waist to the bow.
Other than being able to receive a long-term blessing at the time of contract, included under Shinto’s Divine Musician Technique was the technique “Loan of Divine Melody” which was created through charms and words of power. Now that Asama had decided to use the Loan of Divine Melody, as a condition she must offer things that would make the contracted God rejoice as an activation method. In this manner she is able to gain the effects of her spells.
In exchange for the four spells, the offerings Asama chose were these:
“As two substitutions, I offer up grains at the midday and evening meal! As one substitution, I will dance the kagura for two hours! As one substitution, I will walk and converse with Hanami for two hours! This adds up to a total of four substitutions! Hanami, if this is OK, then grant me my blessings.”
“Yes, yes,” the nodding Hanami looked up for an instant. She clapped her hands together, a smile on her face.
“Yes / Approval granted / Applause / Afterward / Speak / To God / Of the current world.”
The response came synchronized with the timing of Hanami’s claps. Light appeared from Asama’s readied arrow. At first, the light was weak.
However, as Hanami’s applause continued the amount of light immediately doubled, tripled, and quadrupled; and when the light reached its brightest…
Two vertical torii appeared at the end point of Asama’s gaze, the midpoint between Oriotorai and herself.
It was the Divine Musician Technique’s marksmanship spell. With the upper opening of the torii acting as a crosshair, the arrow locked on to the opponent on the other side of the gate effectively setting a destination for the arrow.
Asama’s green artificial eye began to sychronise with the targeting crosshair. The automatic-tracking crosshair automatically moved towards the direction that the eye was looking.
“Artificial eye ‘Konoha’ …has synchronized!”
In one instant: The green light projected directly from the green eye pierced the double crosshair.
Tenzou’s shout resounded.
Looking forward she could see that Noriki had vaulted over the crouching Tenzou. And beyond them Oriotorai, who had leaped backwards, flipped and grabbed hold of the longsword that had been flying away.
Tenzou and the others had failed.
Therefore, Asama fired.
She let the arrow fly.
Along with a sound like water splashing a line of light shot forth, bursting outwards.
It was unlike the bullets and arrows and linear spells that everyone had been firing up till this point. Because of the purification of deviation, it was imbued with a tracking spell. Even at the shrine, it was something that was not used unless purging flying or agile monsters.
Oriotorai, who was moving ahead of them, was the target of the arrow which had been given a temporary blessing through Asama’s use of spells. In addition Asama had fired exactly when Oriotorai was crossing from one roof to another.
…Today, I will hit!
I’m a daughter of one of the main pillars of the Musashi shrines, the Asama shrine. My father has a contract with the Shirasago brand, selling Asama goods wholesale to the Academy’s finance department; so he asked me about the shrine’s reputation at the Academy. There aren’t any bad rumors. My grades are fairly good, and I’m also the club-president of the tea club. There’s no need for my family to worry about me influencing the shrine’s reputation for the worse.
But my father had a single question.
“I wonder if you won’t hit that teacher even once before you graduate…”
That was the kind of situation I was in.
At first I was told not to use this spell on a human; but when he noticed that I had challenged her for the fifth time and had not yet come out on top, he asked me: “Eh…? Why not? Isn’t that weird? I mean, normally if you add a spell it’ll hit, right?” The reason I hadn’t hit was because Oriotorai’s fighting and athletic prowess exceeded that of an Amazon’s; but making my father understand that a person like that existed was a daunting task.
Because of this, I practiced with my father and formed a high-rank contract at the start of this year. Not only does this arrow home in on its target due to my purification, it readjusts its trajectory and other factors when it’s given the ability to dodge obstacles. I had only reached the level of skill needed to use it in practice a few days ago.
This was the first time that I’d used this in class with my artificial eye synchronized as well.
…How do you like this?
The arrow of light trailed a line of light and clear sound, darting in towards its prey with a trajectory that made it seem as if it was a fist, not an arrow.
In contrast, Oriotorai was currently in the air having jumped from one roof to another. The large leap she had performed just now was meant to send her flying over the road below. Her air time was long, and during it she could not dodge.
On the contrary, my arrow has been blessed with high-speed and tracking.
Asama saw. She saw that Oriotorai had readied her longsword at her neck, allowing a slight glimpse of the blade from the sheath.
…She’s going to try to suddenly slice the arrow out of the air?
Asama raised her eyebrows slightly.
“It’s impossible! Not only does it track, I’ve also given it natural evasiveness by purifying it of impediment so it will curve around all obstacles!”
Just as Asama had said, the arrow moved such that it twisted around Oriotorai’s longsword.
In response, still keeping the blade in its sheath Oriotorai stuck her sword out vertically, using it as a barrier against the arrow.
Yet, it was too late.
The arrow wreathed in light had already avoided the longsword, and with a movement that sent it skidding sideways it flitted towards Oriotorai. The reason it’s aimed at her face was because I, a rather tall individual, shot an unstoppable force from Persona-kun’s shoulder; but as might be expected, I felt a slight uneasiness which stemmed from us both being women.
However, this was not an opponent who would allow me enough composure to choose a place to target. I’ll take care of the healing. Not free, of course.
Anyway, Asama thought to herself. I did it, Father. Today, let us have chirashizushi in celebration of sinking the teacher. Because of the substitution blessing I have a limit on my meals during the day; but it’s fine if we have some ice cream afterward!
Asama thought as she followed the arrow with her eyes.
She thought of what Oriotorai had been saying before.
Certainly, reports of the disturbances in the ley lines were coming from shrines everywhere; and the frequency of these reports was also rising. Musashi, which was an aerial cruiser, had a low frequency of phenomena; but on the ground the vanishing of villages because of earthquakes, the birth of islands because of the rise of the earth in the sea, cases of people being spirited away, and the loss of knowledge through the disappearance of thoughts were common occurrences.
What bothered me the most was that recently, Father had started saying, “Don’t talk about this with anyone.” This was certainly an order that would come from the head of a shrine; but on the other hand, even with the organized power of all the shrines throughout the Far East’s territory…
…They were lost, unable to figure out a clear method of solving the phenomena that were currently occurring…
The reason she had strengthened her spell contract was to increase, if only by a little, the power available to her to deal with this.
If it’s possible, Asama thought. If it’s possible, please let the rumors of the Apocalypse not become reality; at least not before I graduate. When I graduate, I’ll search through the shrine’s network and investigate the phenomena.
And now I’ve let loose the power that will lead me onwards, to the future.
Asama, fists clenched in her heart that was filled with fighting spirit, stared at the arrow’s destination.
She saw that the arrow of light that she had released fragmented on the other side of Oriotorai’s longsword.
A noise rang out, and light burst forth.
“…We did it!”
Seeing the light and noise, everyone around was cheering; but Asama was the only one to keep her eyes open, and she shouted this:
“No!! The response was too light! …It didn’t hit!!”
Asama cried out. She shook the fingers of the hand that had released the arrow, confirming the feeling that cut through the air.
“…My ice cream!!”
This question echoed within Asama.
It was a spell that blessed arrows to hit. She reserved its use for the most powerful of monsters.
…Why!? The power of Shinto lost to a Super-Amazon power!?
As if answering the cry in Asama’s heart, Oriotorai moved.
She placed the raised longsword upon her shoulder.
Having become visible, her face could be described in one word: unharmed. There was not one injury on her mouth, where a faint smile hovered, or on her cheeks.
The next instant she sent her body flying to the roof across the road, the roof of one of the business buildings which made up the business district.
Bending her body backwards, Oriotorai took a step and accelerated. Her speed had not dropped in the slightest; Asama’s attack did not seem to have had any effect.
The moment Asama asked this, having been left behind by Oriotorai everyone jumped towards the roofs of the business area, still perplexed.
At that moment Neshinbara, who had caught up from the back, grabbed something out of the air and shouted:
“It was her hair!”
Drawing everyone’s attention as they continued to run, Neshinbara raised his eyebrows.
“Just now, Oriotorai held her longsword to her neck. That was when she cut her hair slightly. In the same movement she stuck her longsword forwards, restricting the arrow’s trajectory to a curved one and scattering a part of her own body, her hair, onto the arrow’s path. In conclusion…the arrow, caught up in the chaff of hair, decided that it had hit her and it lost the technique’s power.”
Hearing this explanation, Asama swallowed her voice with everyone.
Neshinbara looked forward. He turned his gaze towards Oriotorai, who was still accelerating.
“But when we were second years, we couldn’t even make her cut her hair. Asama-kun, what’s your total capacity of internal-fuel blessing?”
“Ah, it reached thirty-six at the start of the school year. I can use what I used just now another nine times.”
“Mmmm,” Asama groaned inwardly.
Fundamentally different from charms, which were spell-conductors that could be charged with ether, oral spells like the Loan of Divine Melody expended units of ether fuel such as offerings and blessing in order to activate.
Blessing was divided into internal-fuel blessing and external-fuel blessing. Internal-fuel gathered inside oneself through activities like meditation, but external-fuel was stored in the faith’s shared ether storage by performing acts of devotion at shrines or churches. In times of need it could be withdrawn and used.
Several hours are needed to accumulate a single unit of blessing. If you then offered that to the denomination’s shared ether storage as external-fuel blessing, transactions using that blessing were possible since others could also make use of it.
Because of this, using internal-fuel blessing to use a spell meant spending several hours of hard work in the accumulation of blessing and losing the chance of using it in transactions as external-fuel blessing.
As such, Asama had activated a Shinto substitution offering just now. She could substitute for blessing by personifying the ways of Shinto or dedicating the things a God rejoiced in as offerings.
However, Asama had already cited four offerings. If she increased the number of offerings, her everyday-life would become stifling. Therefore, Asama was now thinking of using the internal-fuel blessing accumulated within her for the next few spells, but…
…There’s probably going to be more work to do in the shrine.
I can’t think so naively, she thought.
Therefore Asama shook her head once, making her decision.
Hearing those words, everyone nodded. Chasing Oriotorai, they exited the business area and jumped down to the frontal deck and onto the thick ropes beyond which crossed the air over to Shinagawa.
Everyone chased Oriotorai as she ran ahead of them; they sprinted along the airborne corridor of thick rope that traveled towards Shinagawa.
The thick rope consisted of intertwined oil and water pipes, all of which were made of a pliable material. It was around one meter thick. Because a gravity floor about three meters in width had been created on top, an invisible path existed above the rope.
They were used to running atop this gravity corridor which crossed above the the rope. They had to be, because the road was invisible and the slant of the rope and incline of the outside world did not always remain constant.
Still, everyone went onward. They ran, their motion shaking the white string that had been added to mark the edges of the corridor.
“Margot! Let’s go!”
“Yes, yes, it’s dangerous to hurry like that you know!”
The two winged girls went ahead, their voices spilling out from the corridor. It was Naruze, who had six black wings, and Naito, who had six golden wings. They held each other’s hands.
Simultaneously, the two of them threw their bodies off of the thick rope.
However, in the midst of their rapid descent which spanned tens of meters, black and gold flowers bloomed; their wings had opened. They used their falling motion and the accumulated air within their wings to spread them wide. The two of them gave each other high fives using both of their hands.
“Let’s go…black and white Magi Gunners, the ensemble of fallen and descended angel!”
Continuing to embrace each other, they flew in this manner.
With a downward motion the wings on their back ejected the compressed air behind them.
Created as a result was a method of flying even fiercer than the wing beats of a bird; a method comparable to jumping in mid air. With one flap, they ascended thirty meters.
Because their two sets of six wings continued to flap further, the two of them exceeded the altitude of the thick rope in an instant. They turned to face the direction directly above Oriotorai. Flapping their wings by swinging their bodies, they braked in midair sending the wind screaming.
As they twirled the two winged girls displayed their special weapons, which were held in both hands.
The golden-winged Naito was holding a black Magi Figur modeled after a speedometer. It was roughly 50 centimeters long.
The black-winged Naruze was holding a white Magi Figur with a dragonfly-frame, the size of an A4 sheet of paper.
Faced with the spells-frames the two had opened, Oriotorai who was running below them shouted in surprise:
“The spell-focus bunch caught up? Naruze and Naito have made their appearance with the time everyone has bought, then.”
“That’s right. We’re in the middle of a lesson, so we won’t use Schwarz Fräulein or Weiss Fräulein.”
Using her finger Naruze drew an arrow of light in the center of the dragonfly-frame. As she piled up silver coins that she had taken out of her wallet atop the frame, Shirojiro and the others had met up with everyone and started to strengthen their spells.
“Shirojiro, who has a high-rank contract with a god of merchants, has finally caught up.”
Naruze muttered. Naito piled the copper coins she had taken out of her wallet on top of her speedometer Magi Figur.
“Shiro’ll be able to use the god of merchants’s spell intercession to perform ‘market segmentation’ on the charms and techniques that other people hold. Duration and effect are also segmented, so it can’t be used other than at the last spurt; but now should be fine…”
The instant Naito reached that point, a large silhouette suddenly passed behind the two.
Not only the two of them, but everyone below them as well looked up at the sky.
Multiple colossal figures were there in the blue expanse.
They were winged giants with rifles in their hands. With four wings in a cruciate style attached to their backs and their skin of white steel wrapped with crimson armored clothing, they were flying.
“A number of Testament Union-allied Tres España’s aerial-use gods of war. Did they come to warn us because we were causing trouble!?”
Gods of war. The total height of these winged giants was about ten meters. Three of these gigantic figures were flying in the sky by the starboard.
One of the gods of war approached Naito and Naruze before switching to a path that took him further away. It was the same machine that had flown behind the flying girls before distancing itself.
The tails of its armored clothing fluttering, the god of war getting further and further away met up with its comrades. Once it did, it set its wings aflutter and accelerated.
Wind sprung forth. With a force that was many times that of the wind the two winged girls had created, he flew through the air.
Rifles still at the ready, the three white and crimson constructs flipped upwards. Their flight path brought them to look downwards.
Naruze looked up to the sky and clicked her tongue.
“Aerial-use models that don’t have feet. Just like the battle-hungry Tres España. Even though we don’t even think about trying to leave Musashi, they’re showing us how much their fingers’re itching for the trigger…it’s the worst. I wonder if I’ll do some research on the pilots and have them star in our school’s Manga Research Club’s homo-manga. Tres España’ll always be the receiver…!”
“Then, who from our class should be the pitcher side? …But well, being Technohexen and of an irregular race like you and Nai-chan, going outside is more troublesome. Nai-chan thinks that they’re also doing their work.
“Masa-yan said it was pretty terrible. These gods of war are one of the models of Tres’ brand ‘San Mercado’, but their technological skills are lacking so the drive threads are K.P.A. Italian made. All they have is their pride, so they’re stuck guarding most of Musashi’s circuit of the eastern countries. Tres España are going bankrupt.”
“ ‘San Mercado’ …A lot of their parts are really aggressive and primitive, from the Reconquista times. That’s why they’re in this situation. It’s being said that K.P.A. Italia’s Pope-Chancellor was going to come all the way here to have Mikawa make a new Logismoi Óplo. Things must be heating up at the border between Mikawa and P.A. Oda, since Mikawa has a connection with that nation which has half-seceded from the Testament Union.”
“Logismoi Óplo?” Naito muttered softly. Seeing her look downwards, Naruze said this:
“It’s a type of divine weapon. They’re city-destruction class personal armaments. There are eight armaments that take the historical concepts of the seven deadly sins as their motifs. In the shadows, their wielders are called the ‘Eight Dragon Kings’. Ten years ago when Mikawa made a formal alliance with P.A. Oda, they were distributed amongst the countries affiliated with the Testament other than P.A. Oda so Mikawa could show that they had no intention of rebelling against the Testament Union.
“…I wonder what the real situation is. The raw materials for the construction of the Logismoi Óplo are, like the rumors say, probably a human’s—”
The moment Naruze spoke this. A voice rang out from below them.
Far below the thick rope, a person in work clothes was leaning out from an emergency exit near the bottom of Shinagawa and was shouting.
It was a white-haired old man, and he was using a rolled-up manual as a megaphone.
“Hey…! Don’t make so much noise and hurt the ship…!”
“Ga-chan, Taizou-chan from engineering is being simply unreasonable.”
“Your tendency to just give up is simply splendid, Naito. You couldn’t care less about the threats from the higher up.”
“That’s because…” Naito sucked in a breath before moving the needle of the black speedometer-model Magi Figur. She looked at Naruze over it, a smile on her face.
“…That’s because this is a lesson.”
“I see,” Naruze’s face broke into a smile. The two readied their special weapons, the Magi Figur, pointing them towards Oriotorai who was running below them.
They fired the effects of their spell.
There was a gaze.
This gaze looked to the light and sound that eventually resumed over Shinagawa.
The gaze in question stared out from the observation deck, which lay in the vicinity of the leading-middle ship’s bow.
There stood a black-haired automaton. An armband with “Musashi” written on it was attached to her shoulder.
She stared out towards Shinagawa.
Though she remained silent and unmoving, things moved around her. It was an armada of deck cleaning equipment, made up of mops and brushes. Though no one was holding these tools, they moved by themselves scrubbing away at the deck.
“Have you been cleaning all day? That must’ve been hard work. Also, is it really alright if you aren’t on the bridge?”
The automaton “Musashi” did not so much as turn around to respond to the question. She continued to look in Shinagawa’s direction.
“We have left both the mass of harmonic territories and the hostile Sagarmatha Corridor. The preparations for docking at Mikawa have already been completed. Because the Mikawa area is a stable territory where no harmonic territories exist, as Musashi’s fleet captain I need to carry out performance checks on each part of the ship. However, as Musashi has no armaments that maintenance is simple. To be blunt, I have free time.
“To supply additional information, cleaning is a task suited to the automaton race. Therefore doing it with our basic power, gravity control, is not a difficult task. Judge, President Sakai? Over.”
Saying “Judge,” the past-middling man, Sakai, walked up to stand beside the automaton.
“Mikawa, huh? …As usual, I’ve got to descend to the checkpoint and do the paperwork for docking; but this time an old friend of mine’s telling me to show my face, and after these ten years have passed… For the first time in ten years, it should be alright to go to central Mikawa, huh. Mikawa is close to closing its borders now.”
“Judge. Ten years ago when Sakai-sama was demoted by Mikawa, Mikawa had formalized its provisional alliance with P.A. Oda. With the Testament Union’s cooperation, they forbade the boarding of the Musashi and restricted foreign trade to Mikawa’s outskirts. Now, all the central district is that black box.
“The royal family of Mikawa were made the rulers of the Far East by the Testament’s description. In order to establish their status as the supreme authority of the Far East, both their right to autocracy and their right to be the window between the Far East and Testament Union were approved by the Testament Union; but…”
Musashi thought for a small while. After the moment passed, she spoke again.
“I judge that after formalizing his alliance with P.A. Oda, who have half-seceded from the Testament Union, Lord Motonobu of the Matsudaira family was able to forge his own path forward. The Matsudaira family replaced all its human resources, all but their most trusted associates, with automatons. Also, due to the construction of the grand workshop New Nagoya Castle which houses a ley line reactor forbidden by the Testament Union, the town is full of phenomena and other such events; and the city is in an unstable state. Be wary of your surroundings, but act unconcerned. Over.”
“Wow, isn’t that forbidden territory? I really don’t want to go there… Even though I’ve tried so hard to ignore them, why on Earth’re they calling the demoted me to come?”
“Judge. Were you not, to be brief, colleagues? Until ten years ago you were part of the Matsudaira Four Heavenly Kings who supported the Matsudaira… In any case, please be careful. The head of Mikawa, Matsudaira ‘Yes-Man’ Motonobu, is able to make gifts to the Oda using New Nagoya Castle’s ley line reactor.
“Musashi belongs to the ruler of Mikawa, Lord Motonobu. However, IZUMO constructed the basic components and handled the Great Renovation ten years ago; therefore, we are unable to conjecture upon the intent of Lord Motonobu or the automatons who serve him. Even during this docking, we will be mooring as a neutral country and taking on supplies; but there are no plans for exchanges across the populace. Putting into consideration how far we are able to leave Musashi, we are able to go no further than the checkpoints. Over.”
“That’s a pain,” Sakai muttered, scratching his salt and pepper hair.
In the distance, sharp, white explosions burst outwards from Shinagawa.
After a while, the sound reached them. Sakai rubbed his chin with his hand.
“Ah, then what do you think of them from your viewpoint, Musashi?”
“Judge. Speaking more expressively than I did at the year’s beginning, I judge them to be flashy. Speaking in terms of physical quantities, the amount of destruction has increased. Speaking from the people’s point of view, both the degree of annoyance and entertainment value have increased.”
“And speaking personally?”
“ ‘Musashi’, one and the same with the body of Musashi, is a unified being formed from several bodies. Furthermore, as I am not a human I cannot carry out judgements from a personal point of view. Over.”
“Then,” Sakai said. He brought his elbow to the edge of the deck, the railing. “As the entire ship Musashi, what do you think?”
“Judge. Speaking from my records of these ten years after the Great Renovation, they are the best. Compared to the other countries’ warrior units…the Far East’s students, left unable to receive battle instruction and with the exception of the defense force unable to form battle related organizations due to the Testament Union’s instructions…”
She thought a little.
“If I had individuality, I would judge them to be worthy. Over.”
“Musashi” moved her gaze down from Shinagawa.
Below her, from within the rows of mountains a crimson line rose straight towards the sky.
A line of crimson light.
The light rose to pierce the path that Musashi would take.
“This is the closest marker to Mikawa. After responding from the lower bow of this ship, Musashino, we will enter stealth flight by obscuring sensory information and leave the hospitable section of the upper atmosphere to enter Mikawa’s continental port. Over.”
Sakai, nodding with a “Judge” looked at the group of three crimson and white gods of war who were flying alongside Musashi.
“Because of the other countries’ surveillance, Musashi can move on nothing but the boundary lines between the countries… If we don’t cross the markers on the proposed flight plan, Musashi will be seen as intending to invade the other countries and permission to sink us will be granted by the Testament Union…”
As they watched one of the white gods of war touched its hand to one of its companions’ backs, replacing its miniature kinetic converters which came in the model of a power-coil.
And far away, the sound of explosions resounded from Shinagawa again. Smoke rose, fading into the sky.
“It’s so troublesome… Since all the countries from the Harmonic World have been stuck together in the Far East after the collapse of the Harmonic World, the Divine States’ Sengoku period and the battles of the rest of the world are being enacted simultaneously as fights between the Academies; all on the narrow Divine States.
“This is also happening because of the guidance of the Testament, which records the history of the Former Earth Age. It could be said to be the walkthrough to the world.”
“After attaining the Nobunaga name 8 years ago, the Oda family (which set the Sengoku period into motion) crushed the Mlasi rebellion’s power in order to strengthen the core of the Ottomans, P.A. Oda. They half-seceded from the Testament Union… Wary of his historical assassination being recreated by the Testament Union, Nobunaga no longer shows himself. However, he did not stop invading the other countries and has now become a demon who cannot be stopped by the recreation of his historical assassination; an existence that the whole world fears.
“…One hundred and sixty years ago, the other countries thought that if they created residential areas and Musashi and crowded all the people of the Far East into them, they’d be able to directly control the Far East. Now the Matsudaira family has officially allied with the Oda family, just as described in the Testament’s description of history; and Musashi is evading the control of the other countries.”
“However,” Musashi continued. “According to the Testament, it is the time for everything in the world to end. Over.”
“Musashi” continued to speak.
Where in the Testament was the end of the world foretold?
“As it is synchronized with fate, the Testament automatically renews itself for the next 100 years allowing the future to be read. 100 years ago, it stopped renewing itself and the history of the next year and the years onward were not recorded.
“The last description was of the Westphalia Conference, and the history from then onwards has not been recorded… As such, the masses have acknowledged the conference that takes place on October 24th of this year as the ‘oblivion due to the Apocalypse’ and it is being questioned if the world is drawing to an end as the year draws to a close.”
“Yeah,” Sakai said again. He looked at the smoke streaming from atop Shinagawa.
“Because of this, the countries are conducting a serious search as to why fate will stop this year; but they’ve been unable to formulate a conclusion or countermeasure… P.A. Oda is the only country to display a national plan to resolve the Apocalypse, the ‘Genesis Project’, and is recruiting people for its cause.
“Well, the ‘Genesis Project’ just seems like a false front, like they’re just going to make up the plan as they go.
“Even so, since we seem to be in the middle of it, everyone’s glaring at us,” Sakai said to himself.
“Judge,” Musashi responded. She also looked at the smoke streaming up above Shinagawa.
“Currently the world appears to be moving along without a hint of stopping; but it is certain that the Testament, which is synchronized with fate, has stopped and phenomena are occurring more frequently everywhere in the world. Asama-sama of the currently rampaging Third Year Plum Class has formed a high-rank contract with the shrine this year; but monsters of the aerial and mobility types that require a high-rank marksmanship blessing rarely appeared, even ten years ago.
“In the same way, the recent outbreak of night wanderings and frequent cases of people being spirited away are attributed to disturbances in the ley lines; but as the ley lines are circuits of ether which govern the entropy of the world and the state of flux of everything in it, they are linked with fate. According to one theory, fate will eventually disappear so the balance of the ley lines will be destroyed. —Over.”
“In short, various signs that point to fate ending have appeared?”
“Judge,” “Musashi” said before suddenly turning her back to him.
Sakai turned towards “Musashi”, but she had already started walking towards the bridge.
“Bits of information concerning the phenomena are coming from everywhere.”
“One moment, the nobles of the other countries have been suddenly spirited away; and the next, a resident of a village somewhere else suddenly disappears. The prophets of the Hexagone Française have tried to peer beyond fate, and they seem to have collectively lost their souls.
“In the New World, even the past is disappearing from the wall-paintings of the natives of the New World. —Over.”
“…Things’re lively, aren’t they?”
“Judge, the variety is currently increasing. Furthermore, they are tending towards becoming bigger and bigger. The frequency is increasing as well. It is almost as if the phenomena are being forced out by an unknown force which travels towards fate, which has been interrupted.”
“I see. You really know a lot of about this, Musashi-san. Is it a hobby? A mania? Could you be an otaku about this?”
“If I am to answer, I would say that it is a pastime. —Over.”
“Musashi” faced his way and nodded slightly.
In the distance, the sound of explosions resounded once again.
There existed a market.
This market was situated in the temporary residential district, which in turn was located at the tip of the cargo ship Shinagawa, on the deck of its bow.
This temporary residential area was a place that was not managed very strictly.
“That’s why the yakuza offices are there.”
Oriotorai’s words echoed in front of one of the buildings that stood in a line, spaces between them.
Her back towards the black-painted office that had been created out of a modified cargo container, Oriotorai looked at the deck.
There, more than ten students had collapsed on the floor, unmoving. Most of them were on their faces or lying face-up, but depending on the person, some were crying and wetting the deck.
Facing all of them, Oriotorai’s breath was not ragged in the slightest.
“Come on; don’t just sleep after getting here after me. Um, Suzu?”
“Ye…yes, what…is it?”
The girl sitting next to the collapsed and stationary Persona-kun spoke with a questioning tone. Keeping her eyes lowered and continuing to kneel, she turned towards Oriotorai. In response, Oriotorai flashed her a smile.
“Are you the only one alive?”
“Yes? …Ah, no, I-I, wa-was car-car-carried so, ah, yes.”
“That’s a choice based upon teamwork, so it’s fine. One survivor, and it seems that you properly rescued those who were retired on the way here. Far better than your second year.”
“Yes,” Suzu nodded.
At that moment, the front gate of the office behind Oriotorai opened.
Hearing the sharp noise, Suzu pulled her body back, her eyes still lowered, and Oriotorai tilted her neck towards her back.
A distance of twenty meters. Opening and exiting the door of the office was an angular giant who could not have been below three meters in height. Oriotorai looked at his four arms, which were covered with crimson scales.
“My, my, how the demons have fallen. Or rather, we’re in the air right now.”
“Who the hell are you!?”
The deep voice rang out, sending Suzu’s body trembling. Everyone lying down picked themselves up.
They looked at Oriotorai and the circumstances surrounding her.
“Sensei… Are you really going to do this?”
“That’s right,” Oriotorai said, not even bothering to turn her body to face the demon walking towards her from behind.
Neither did she draw the longsword that was slung over her shoulder.
“Well then everyone, we’ll be having the practical lesson now. Got it? Thanks to the fact that their organs contain approximations of ether reactors, the accumulation speed of their inner-fuelled blessing isn’t a joke. Not only is their skin heavily armored, their strength is about the same as a light god of war.”
“Well, aren’t you an expert!?” the approaching crimson demon said.
“Who the hell are you guys!? Having a field trip in front of our building!?”
“Mmm. Ahh, the truth is the night watch asked me to do this. Please get them, they said. Ah, but personally I’m here about the land buyout at Takao the other day. Remember that?”
“Huh? You think I’d remember things that happen all the time!?”
“I see,” Oriotorai said. She slowly turned her body to face the demon.
“It must be pretty horrible to be blown away without even knowing the reason why.”
The demon came. His massive strength as well as the bone structure that supported it brought the gigantic body which exceeded three hundred kilograms in weight to a speed of 150 kph with one step. The charge that brought the four hammer-like arms swinging forward had also been used during the charge, so it was not meant to be used against people.
The fact that the crimson demon charged Oriotorai led to this.
“Maybe you’re worried ’cause I mentioned the night watch? Good call, but…”
Before the colossal body closing in, Oriotorai said this.
“I will now give a demonstration.”
As she spoke, Oriotorai stepped her right foot forward.
Her longsword was lowered to her bottom-left.
“Even if they have a gigantic body, strength, and armor, demons have a fatal weak point.”
That weak point was this:
“Living creatures have skulls, and they have brains. If you shake the head, the brain will impact the interior of the skull and the nervous system will be numbed. That’s a concussion. An effective method of shaking the skull is to bludgeon something that’s closely related to the head. If you hit a location rather far from the head, the vibrations will resonate greatly.”
That location was this:
“For a human, the tip of the jaw. For a demon…”
Oriotorai moved. The right foot she had stepped forward acting as a fulcrum, she twisted her body right and forward, moving from the left.
Continuing on, she spun her body in one revolution, swinging her longsword as she evaded the path of the demon’s charge.
Filled with the momentum of her spinning, the longsword was swung. She let the tip of the sheath run upwards.
“The tip of the horns on the head. Hit the slanted horn like you’re trying to hook it.”
As she spoke, the sheath of the longsword, rising with a light movement, smashed into the left horn of the demon who was passing by in its charging state.
A sound echoed.
It was nothing more than a single strike that had slightly bent the demon’s neck.
Advancing forward for a couple more steps, the demon suddenly lost power in its knees and it fell to the deck.
He did not fall because he could not control his charge. His knees had trembled, and he lost all balance.
The gigantic body broke the wooden deck, gouging out the structural material. Because of the impact, he braked in a short distance.
The crimson demon tried to stand; but though he was able to raise his waist, he could not force power into his knees. If he picked his body up, he would repeatedly fall.
Oriotorai stood before the demon.
“When demons and other gigantic living creatures go into this state, the nerve clusters in each part of their bodies will start working in place of the brain so their recovery is fast. So before that happens…strike the position diagonal from the weak point.”
As per her words, she smashed his right jaw which was diagonal from the tip of his left horn.
It was a strong blow. The demon’s body, which he could not put any power into, was unable to defend itself.
His neck twisting, he fainted.
“Actually, hitting anything that looks hard is fine. If you do so, the vibrations will resonate directly. These guys’ heads aren’t really exoskeletons; it’s just their endoskeleton jutting out. If you smash them from a perfect direction, it’ll directly resound to their brain. What you can’t do is hit from a direction like you’re trying to smash their neck in, from directly above or directly into the charge. Demons’ neck bones and backbones are one straight line, and they’re hunchbacks, so impacts from directly above travel from their back to their butt. That’s why they can smash their horns together during adolescence or puberty.”
While she was speaking, the crimson demon dropped prone and the door of the office behind her was hurriedly slammed shut.
Oriotorai glanced at the office.
“Aah, they’ve gotten scared of me.”
“Of course they have,” everyone said as they began to pick up their worn out bodies. In response, Oriotorai said this:
“Mmm, then, how should we go in? The entrance is probably being defended. Even though I’m leading everyone, smashing in from the roof is a little difficult…”
“…Um, what do you mean by lead, Sensei?”
“Mm? This’s a practical examination on a societal field trip. I gave a demonstration, right?”
“Like we could do acrobatics like that!”
“It’s all right, it’s all right. You’ll become able to do it now.”
Hearing her calm tone, everyone’s face turned pale.
At that moment, suddenly, a young voice came from the side.
“—Huh? Hey, hey, hey, everyone, what’re you doing?”
Everyone turned to the boy’s voice.
A single boy was standing to the side of the class. He had brown hair and eyes that smiled. He was clutching two paper bags to the left of his long, rough and crumpled uniform that had chains attached to it.
He took a piece of bread from the paper bag he had gotten from a snack shop and put it in his mouth.
Someone spoke the name of the boy whose decorative chains clanked as he walked.
“Toori ‘Impossible’ Aoi…!”
The boy whose name they had called, Toori, ate an entire bun by stuffing it into his mouth.
“—Mmm, yeah, that’s me, that’s me… Wait, what? Everyone I, Aoi Toori, am right here, y’know?”
The smile on his face unwavering, he walked up in front of everyone, ignoring the fallen demon.
“But hey, guys, this’s a coincidence isn’t it? Could it be that everyone lined up too!?”
He said, holding up one of the paper bags and showing it off. Seeing it, Oriotorai tilted her head to the side.
She twisted behind Toori in the space of a heartbeat, the longsword hefted onto her shoulder.
“…Then, you, could you give a short version of what you skipped class to line up for? Please tell me.”
“Ehh? You’re actually interested in what I got!? I’m done for!”
Toori took out a box covered with pictures from inside the paper bag. He showed the art on the packaging to Oriotorai over his shoulder.
“Can you see it, Sensei! This is the R-rated eroge ‘Nuruhachi!!’ that came on sale today. It seems that this is a super tearjerker, and I was lining up for the first-press limited edition since the morning. Once I get back home today, I’m going to install this on my PC and spill an ocean of tears while being a perv! Tenzou, you want this too, don’t you!? …Huh? Where’s Tenzou? His old man was going for the special editions offered by different shops and ninja’d to the other stores. Maybe he went too? What do you think, Sensei?”
Instead of responding, Oriotorai, eyes half-closed, silently placed her hand on Toori’s shoulder.
In response, Toori crooked his neck to the side and turned to face Oriotorai with a smile.
“Huh? Sensei, what’s wrong? That’s one hell of a face you’re making. Was there something that happened which you don’t like? …Ahh, I get it, Sensei was lectured in a reprimanding manner by the president or the king for eating with a force as if getting married to the beef without even talking to anyone when we went to the barbecue shop at the end of the spring holiday, right? You can’t do that, Sensei. Flipping fried things with your chopsticks and shoving them directly into your mouth isn’t what karuta’s about. At least add some salt. Also, don’t eat such a mountain of cake for dessert; try vegetables once in a while.”
Everyone reared back, preparing to evade the coming mayhem. Standing in front of them, Oriotorai spoke.
“…Hey, do you know what I want to say right now?”
“Mmm? What’re you saying, Sensei! Sensei and I are people who are connected so well that we know what each other are thinking, right!? What Sensei wants to say is clearly passed on to me, you know!?”
“Aah, that’s not true at all. I mean, if you were connected with me you’d have to commit suicide right now.”
“Ehh!? What!? You weren’t going to let me fondle your boobs!?”
Toori frowned and opened his mouth. Oriotorai looked at him from below with upturned eyes.
“That’s dirty! Adults are dirty…! This female teacher acted like she was going to let me fondle her breasts and tried to kill me…!”
“…Hey, you, can’t you see something kinda strange? You all right? Are those eyes seeing anything?”
“Yep, right now it’s this!”
With that, Toori pressed in and lifted up Oriotorai’s breasts from the bottom left and right with both sets of five fingers on his two hands.
As everyone’s mouths froze while saying “Ah,” Heidi tilted her head.
“Huh? …Does this mean that an attack hit…”
Yet Toori, who didn’t know the rules, frowned while kneading Oriotorai’s breasts.
“Huh, I thought it’d be a lot more firm though… Strange, that’s seriously strange… My plans to be horrified at the amount of bone and muscle in here are…”
“Well, whatever,” Toori brought his hands away.
Ignoring Oriotorai whose mouth was twisted at the edges and whose fists were clenched so hard that her knuckles creaked, he looked towards everyone.
“Um, everyone, let me ask a little question. I think that I talked about this a little beforehand, but…”
After a breath, he uttered these words.
“I think I’m going to confess tomorrow.”
Hearing Toori’s sudden declaration of his confession, everyone had the same reaction. They all dropped their head forward in the same way.
However, that reaction immediately turned into “Ah,” in a voice tinged with comprehension.
A wavy-haired girl stood up from within the crowd and frowned. She, Kimi, ran her fingers through her mussed hair before staring at Toori, her head tilted to the side.
“Ufufu~, foolish brother, suddenly appearing, fondling breasts, and then declaring your confession without any sort of explanation aren’t the lines of a human who goes around carrying packages of erotic games. If the person you’re going to confess to is on the other side of the screen, you should stick your dick inside with their consent and die from shock! Wonderful! Please explain what’s going on to your intelligent sister!”
“Hey, hey, Sis, what’s this ‘it’s fine by yourself’ atmosphere you’re soaking up? You know something? I’m confessing tomorrow, so I bought this as my graduation from erotic games, alright? Do you not understand my honestly lively manner!?”
“Ufufu~, that’s a good feeling for a failure as a human, foolish brother, excellent! But if you get rejected tomorrow, what are you going to do?”
“Mmm, in that case, first I guess I’ll complete all the character routes using my real name, crying all the while.”
“That’s not what you’re supposed to do, is it?” everyone said, but Kimi sighed. Her shoulders sagged.
“Then foolish brother, let’s practice your confession, with your intelligent sister as the confessee. Spit it out, who is she!”
“Idiot, you should know this, right? Didn’t everyone just say, ‘Isn’t it her?’ ”
Toori moved his gaze from his sister to roam across the others.
Looking at all of their faces, his gaze met with each of theirs one by one. After he crossed gazes with the last of them, he said this.
A person’s name. Yet…
Sagging her shoulders, Kimi spoke. She moved her gaze away from Toori.
“She died ten years ago. In ‘Remorse Way’ that you hate so much… Didn’t our father make the gravestone?”
“I know. It’s just that I’m not gonna run away from that anymore.”
Still smiling, Toori spoke saying “You know what?”
He passed his gaze once over all of them before prefacing further, saying “Alright?”
“After I confess I’ll definitely cause all of you trouble. That’s because I can’t do anything. In any case, I’ll take the blame for everything I try to do after that; or rather…”
“It’ll be just like declaring war on the whole world, no matter how I think about it.”
Nobody interrupted the words he uttered with any questions or objections. Everyone just looked at Toori, their expressions firm.
Toori spoke to them.
“Tomorrow is the tenth year after Horizon died. You guys probably don’t remember.”
“Tomorrow, I’ll go to confess. She’s probably different; but in this one year I thought about it a lot, and I know that I love her differently so… I won’t run anymore.”
“Then foolish brother, today’s the day for us to prepare a lot of things. And also…today’s our last normal day?”
“That’s right,” Toori said with a smile.
“Relax, Sis. I can’t do anything, but… I won’t forget to aim high.”
At that moment. A hand tapped his shoulder from behind.
The area behind Toori, which he had just turned to face…
Oriotorai was standing there, a very still expression in her eyes. She was lightly tapping her right foot.
Yet, uncaring about the movements of her fist, Toori gave her a thumbs up.
“Sensei! Did you hear what I just said!? My embarrassing story!”
“Mm? When humans reach the peak of anger, the noises around them become inaudible. What do you think about that?”
“Hey, hey, Sensei, you should seriously listen to what your students are saying. It’s kinda pitiful, so I’ll say it one more time.”
“Alright?” Toori prefaced again, saying this to Oriotorai with a serious face.
“…When the uneventful today ends, and tomorrow becomes today, I’m going to confess. Please remember, all right?”
“Alright, you’ve gotten the death flag—!”
The next instant, Oriotorai opened a hole in the office’s wall with a spin kick.
Because the hole was something created by Toori’s impact as he had been blown away spinning by the kick, it appeared to be the character ‘大’.
In the midst of the shopping street that lay in the middle of Tama, the racket coming from Takao beyond the bow could be heard. It was not the sound of spells or shooting that had been heard up till then, but there was an abundance of the sound of swords clashing and ringing. It was the sound of group close-combat practice.
The residents of the commercial street who heard these noises were cleaning up the straw and fragments that had been scattered by the battle on the rooftops. There were bills for the Academy in the inner reaches of the stores and the topic amongst them was in the stage of whether or not to overcharge them.
The tourists that had been watching the din happily started to show themselves, heading towards the roads.
The town started to come to life.
The middle of the town where people had started to come and go and sound sprung forth.
That was where the white haired automaton, P-01s, stood.
She was wearing the café’s apron, controlling two brooms with gravity control so as to clean the storefront. She nodded her head towards the female shopkeeper’s calls which came from within the shop; but her eyes were distant, looking towards Shinagawa.
“Waaah,” a group of desperate battle-cries could be heard from the direction P-01s was facing.
Above her head, in the one direction where the segmentation of the sky appeared to be lessening, the surroundings of Musashi looked to be dyed with white. In order to pass above the rural land, Musashi shifted into stealth-flight and started to interrupt its sensory information.
Musashi would soon arrive at Mikawa.
Toori: “Sis! Sis! It’s ’cause I’m pretty smart, so for the sake of getting smarter teach me a lot of things, alright!? This time I’m a little mixed up about the relationship between the Far East and other countries, so show it to me clearly!”
Kimi: “Guess I can’t help it… If I say it simply, it would be something like this.”
- ■ Flow of History
- ○ Former Earth Age: People abandoned the Earth, which had a deteriorating environment.
- ○ People returned from space to the Divine States as Gods.
- ○ The environment of Earth had over-recovered, becoming unforgiving; and as many people returned that led to problems with the allocation of the territories.
- ○ The Harmonic World was created in a Different Space, and each country decided whether to move there. However, only the people of the Divine States decided to remain in the Real World.
- ○ With the wish for the history of humanity to go well, the history book of the Former Earth Age, the Testament was made. It holds the function of automatically renewing with the information of the next century.
- ○ The people separated between the two worlds recreated the history of the Testament, advancing until the Middle Ages.
- ○ However, the Harmonic World was annihilated by an after-effect of the history recreation in the Real World (Divine States).
- ○ Because of the Harmonic Unification War, the Divine States warred against the other countries. The Divine States changed its name to the Far East.
- ○ Each country placed an Academy at the head of their government and military, creating the Testament Union; and they took control of the Far East.
- ○ 1548, a century ago, the Testament’s history description did not automatically renew its descriptions after 1648.
- ○ And now, the present after a century, 1648. With the renewal of the Testament still in its halted state, it is being wondered whether or not this year the Apocalypse will occur.
Kimi: “Something like this. If you comprehend, then say it, all right? How was it?”
Toori: “Alllrightt! I realllly nonprehend it!”
Kimi: “Don’t use weird language!”
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