Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 33
Chapter 33: One who Lies on the Road
What is distorted
Simply by sleeping
Point Allocation (Recovery)
A wooden terrace overlooked a major street with a sign saying Greater London City. The terrace was located on the second story of an arcade.
The location was difficult to see from below and three figures were surrounded by decorative plants. In the center was a table with a blackboard and fisherman’s flag next to it.
The flag said “Howard’s Shop” on it and three people sat around the table. One was a man in a male English uniform and the other two were a boy and girl in Far Eastern uniforms. The tall boy on the Far Eastern side snapped his fingers toward his partner to his left.
“Heidi, provide Lord Howard with the paperwork for this ‘festival stand’.”
“Judge. Lord Howard, this is Shirojiro Bertoni’s final confirmation for our trade with England. Please send a copy to your committee office, industrial committee, and port administration office.”
Heidi lightly tapped the white fox on her shoulder.
“Erimaki, please assist in the data processing.”
As if that was his cue, Shirojiro spoke to Howard.
“Would you be willing to explain this situation, Lord Howard? Why is England holding these duels?”
Heidi heard Howard’s assent.
…He isn’t denying that the duels are taking place.
They were currently unable to contact Musashi’s main forces. Being unable to contact Mukai or the rest of the diplomatic team was clearly out of the ordinary, yet England had said nothing about the matter.
There was no response from divine mail or divine chat either. Heidi and Shirojiro had initially suspected they had been trapped in some form of barrier, but their attempts to use England’s cross religion divine transmission services for map and weather information had received responses with the proper seals attached.
That meant they were safe, but the others were in danger. It was best to assume the others had all been caught up in some form of trouble and had been trapped in a space that cut them off from contact.
…I hope they aren’t causing trouble for England.
If the others went on a rampage and caused too much damage, it was usually the merchants like Heidi and Shirojiro who were forced to clean up because “anything can be resolved with money”.
As Heidi was hoping it did not come to that, Howard placed the provided documents next to him.
“I am sure you have various guesses as to our reasons: an excuse for the Testament Union, to make our way to your chancellor, and so on. And we do indeed have a variety of reasons,” he said. “But how about we continue with our deal?”
“You do not intend to battle us?”
“I am the slow and steady type and my physical strength and spell ability are both at or below that of your average person. All I can do is assist in the creation of the stage.”
Howard pushed up his glasses and placed the pile of documents in the center of the table. The pile was about ten centimeters thick and he pushed it toward the two Far Easterners.
“I will be buying time. After all, all of those chosen this time are on the level of an academy’s special duty officers, so they do not quite have the right to challenge your chancellor. But you two treasurers and your vice chancellor would certainly take action at a time like this.”
“So you are keeping me here so that I cannot take part in the duels?” asked Shirojiro.
“By using money as an intermediary substitution, you might be able to interfere with the theatre space Shakespeare has created. On top of that, we do not want you borrowing the power of money to battle on the level of a god of war. That is why I will hold you here. In the same way, your secretary will be kept away by Shakespeare and your vice chancellor will be kept away on the first level. That leaves only your special duty officers.”
Heidi understood what Howard was saying.
“Even if they achieve something, you can say it means nothing on a higher level due to it occurring on the special duty officer level. It gives you an excuse.”
…Then what is Howard truly after here?
“Are you saying this is only an event for the festival? Is it a preliminary confrontation leading to the meeting this evening?”
“Testament. Whatever the result, our Fairy Queen will hold a meeting with you. That is what we are truly focused on, but we need to oppose you at the moment so the Testament Union cannot complain about the result of that meeting. …And a decent result here would be a wonderful thing for England.”
“I see,” said Shirojiro as he adjusted his sitting position. “An excellent negotiation. Had you planned all this back when we negotiated on the transport ship?”
“Yes, but I did not expect you to drive eight days up to twelve. On the financial front, it was Musashi’s victory, but on the political front, it was England’s victory. And now that that the stage is set, I can only wait for the others to guide us to that victory.”
Howard shrugged and further pushed the documents between them.
“Now then. Let us begin checking over the documents and affixing our seals. Oh, but I have plenty more prepared here, so there is no need to rush. I have added in some clauses that will be incredibly profitable for England, so make sure to check over it all very carefully,” he said. “Now, please accompany me as I make up for my inability to fight by stalling for time”
On the west side of London was a residential district near Westminster.
Something soared through the early afternoon light in the canyon between the tall buildings.
It was a roar produced from a beast’s maw and fangs.
It built up.
The instant it was released, the surface of the road exploded. The ivy covering the outside of the stone buildings was blown away, the shutters were knocked away, and the straw on the roofs shook and scattered. The surface of the road was washed clean as if a thin layer was peeled up, but a Hard Wolf remained on the road and something remained in the sky.
A fallen angel used its six black wings to soar. She performed a midair flip and landed on top of a three story building.
The tips of Naruze’s toes landed on the straw-thatched roof, she absorbed the shock with her knees, and she looked down.
The Hard Wolf named Drake stood in the center of the road about thirty meters away.
“What do you think of my War Cry, chicken girl?”
“It’s quite something as far as howls go.”
That settles it, thought Naruze. He has pure blood even for a Hard Wolf.
When Norse warriors and Vikings battled, they would express their exaltation with a War Cry to receive the divine protection of their war god, but that was modeled after the War Cry of a pack of wolves pursuing their prey.
That howl was meant to frighten their prey and coordinate with their pack, but a Hard Wolf took it even further.
“It isn’t as powerful as a Dragon Breath, but I can still knock down fleeing pray and put them in a state of shock. You often hear about animals cowering before a beast or a weaker beast giving up and offering itself to the wolf, right? Most of that comes down to this attack using our War Cry.”
He held up the gauntlet on his right hand to show it to her on the roof.
“If possible, I want you to show me how to negate this thing. How about it? Can you ignore this and actually attack me, chicken?”
Naruze did not understand what he meant. After all, he wore the Testamenta Arma that caused her to fail. With that on, he was invincible.
“Why do you want that? What’s wrong with being invincible?”
“Invincible?” he said.
Naruze took a defensive stance, but he did not do anything that suggested a denial or affirmation.
“The Testamenta Arma borrow the power of their nation’s Testament, so they stop working when they leave their nation’s ley lines. But I primarily fight in the skies outside of England, so this thing is almost entirely meaningless. Are you telling me to never leave England?”
When she thought about that question, she understood most of what he was trying to say.
“You want to reject that and say you don’t need it, don’t you? If you could find a way to make it useless, you would have no reason to keep it, you could leave this nation, and you could freely fight as a privateer in distant skies.”
“Testament. Our queen gave me this as a personal present, so I can’t just get rid of it for no reason.”
“With this, my wife can’t stab me. I always end up doing the eating. Even when it’s her turn, it’s my turn. It makes me feel lonely.”
Drake held up the gauntlet and narrowed his eyes.
“I can’t tell if I’m really the most important person to her. She can’t even tell whether I’m so important to her that she won’t kill me or if I’m so important to her that she wants to kill me. …And do you have any idea how much I have to eat and hurt her to satisfy a murderer who can’t kill the person closest to her? Not being able to kill others makes her want to hurt herself, so she’s desperate for twice the tragedy. She keeps telling me to give her more and more reasons to scream. By the end of it, it’s impossible to tell which one of us is doing the screaming.”
“Judge. So you’re giving 200% to ensure your marriage goes well?”
“Testament. I’m the type that will eat anything you serve me. But setting aside who the winner is, I just want you to hurt me. If you do, then I’ll have a much happier life. Personally, I would like to eat you, but I’d rather not kill you. So do your best so I don’t have to make that decision.”
“You keep saying you want to eat me. Do you really like chicken or something?”
“I do, but that’s not the issue here,” he said. “You’re similar to my wife in some respects. You’re both the type who remain devoted even if it means harming yourself.”
“So…” Drake stepped forward. “If you can hurt me, so can she.”
“Being used as a replacement for another woman is what woman hate second most.”
“And what do they hate the most?”
“Being unable to obtain what they love, but being unable to give up on it either.”
Drake smiled bitterly and continued his approach, but Naruze thought as he did so. She thought about how she could attack this opponent.
Whenever Naruze tried to attack, she would fail.
But so far, she had been able to evade. That told her something about the range of Drake’s Brachium Justitia’s effects.
…If I try to disgrace England’s justice, I will fail. But…
Any disgracing action would surely fail, so it was a defense-oriented Testamenta Arma. On top of that…
“Hard Wolves can only be harmed by weapons made of silver or something consecrated.”
“Testament. It’s a pretty common idea, but it makes me pretty hard to deal with.”
“Judge,” replied Naruze as she thought.
If a consecrated weapon would work, then a spell or weapon strengthened by ether would also work.
…The only weapons I have are the knives and forks from that café and my portable sewing kit.
She always carried that simple sewing kit and it had a single sewing needle and a single dressmaking pin. The utensils, pin, and needle were only silver plated, but it was better than nothing. They were enough to act as a medium for a spell.
She could also use the spells stored in her pen. She could not use the attack spells, but the drawing, divine transmission, and everyday life ones would work.
…I can use my lamp spell or the bodily reinforcements.
The lamp spell would illuminate the area around her and the bodily reinforcement spells would strengthen her muscles and nerves as well as reduce her exhaustion and increase her metabolism. Those spells were necessary to achieve proper mobility when flying, but she would also use them when busy working on the Musashi or when she slept. She would also create charms with them and sell them.
“They can all be used with internal auspuff. In that case…”
She understood how to combine all those things, she knew her and her opponents idiosyncrasies, and she knew when to attack and when to pull back.
“I have no choice but to go for it.”
“Let’s go,” Naruze muttered under her breath.
…If I don’t do this right, Margot will worry.
During the four days of preparation for the festival, Margot had not returned from the transport ship, so Naruze had often brought her changes of clothes and other personal items.
They shared a closet, but their cosmetics were separate due to their different skin tones, hair colors, and tastes. The lists of what Naito needed had been a surprise to Naruze. The other girl clearly paid more attention to her hair than Naruze did.
…Even if I can help restore her normal life by bringing her things, my failure doesn’t just go away.
In the Battle of Mikawa, Weiss Fräulein’s Verstärken Schale had been destroyed, so she had put a great burden on Naito and made her worry. Naito had been handling almost all of the actual work for their transport business.
…I showed her how useless I am in battle.
She had essentially shown the other nations that one half of the Weiss Hexen and Schwarz Hexen combo was weak. Naito had tried so hard, but she had tripped her up.
…I don’t like it.
She wanted to wipe the slate clean. She wanted to do away with her uselessness and weakness. And she wanted to eliminate Naito’s worries and be with her without getting worked up. So if she won here, she could slip away from the celebrations and have an all-night Naito festival in a private room on the transport ship.
“I can release everything that’s been building up!” she shouted aloud without thinking.
A roar from below tore through the bottom of the building and caused it to explode.
The destruction of the anti-air War Cry tossed Naruze into the sky.
She flapped her wings down to send her body further into the air and she leaped forward as if kicked by the flapping.
…The Hard Wolf!
Drake looked up into the air, but she twisted around and rotated before his gaze could follow her.
She landed twenty meters behind him.
Her secondary wings struck the air near the ground so she could land at high speed and she ignored the pain this caused in both her wings and her back. She was already in range of the War Cry.
And there was something she had to try from this position.
Before the wolf could turn around, she picked up a fragment from a broken shutter. She had spotted the fragment while up on the roof. It came from the grid area, but the hole meant for the wooden frame was empty. Naruze stuck a silver knife into that hole.
“That should do it.”
She lightly tossed it and it fell near Drake.
She had not failed in her throw; she had intended for it to land there. After all, that wooden fragment had a silver blade sticking upward from it.
…I threw it in case he would step on it.
And she had succeeded in throwing it. She was interfering with his justice, but she had not failed. She looked down at his feet as he turned and the broken shutter fragment was indeed there.
…But he’s still walking normally.
That was important for her. That meant this attack would effectively hit the bottom of his foot with his full weight.
But after he turned around and took a step forward, something happened.
The wind blew through and knocked over the fragment of wood that had a knife in it. That looked incredibly unnatural to Naruze.
“Anything that will cause direct damage to your justice is rejected.”
“Testament,” agreed Drake as he arrived within fifteen meters of her. “That’s right. It is rejected at the point it actually takes effect, so I won’t reject you just because you’re wielding a weapon. But you can’t even use acupuncture on me. You have to use a compress.”
“You must be a difficult man to heal.”
She felt as if her best chance at a decisive blow had just been crushed. Acupuncture had existed in Europe during the ice age and had fallen out of use for a long period afterwards, but it had been passed down among the people who would become Technohexen. That was the reason being stabbed with needles and not feeling pain was seen as proof of guilt during witch trials. However…
“Acupuncture eliminates the stiffness of one’s body, so it falls under Schwarz Techno and isn’t my realm of expertise.”
“Would you have preferred I didn’t give you any advice?”
“That isn’t it.” Naruze shook her head. “I was just hoping the day had finally come when I could try it out myself. When I asked Margot before, she gently refused me by saying there are more enjoyable things in life.”
“You were seriously planning to try it out on me?”
She failed to see the problem since he was an enemy, but it was apparently still off limits.
“Also, you’re going to be in trouble soon.”
Drake looked at his feet, picked up the fragment with a knife in it, and threw it toward her.
She caught the line drive in her right hand and he asked a question.
“Could you try that same thing again?”
She was confused, but she prepared to make an underhand throw.
And she tripped.
Naruze’s foot slipped and she fell to the side.
She frantically picked herself up off the ground that was warmed from the sun and she dropped the knife and fragment in front of her.
“How about that?” asked Drake. “That’s what you call optimization. England’s justice isn’t quick to declare someone a threat, but it remembers the intent of actions and can then predict disgracing actions and cause them to fail.”
“You’re going to be in trouble before long. If you don’t hit me with some kind of attack soon, everything about you will be stopped as ‘a part of the process’. If you aren’t careful, even breathing could be viewed as the beginning of the defiling process and then your breathing will fail. …Just like with my wife.”
Naruze gasped at that last comment.
“Then your wife is…?”
“Well, it seems she enjoys that too. She says the feeling of dying while unable to breathe is wonderful, but I don’t like the taste of cyanotic meat,” he said. “So could you find a way to escape this danger so I can make my wife delicious again? Also, I still have my work as a member of Trumps to take care of yet I’m craving some chicken, so you’d be putting me in a tricky situation too.”
The Hard Wolf took in a breath and puffed out his chest. Naruze realized he was preparing a War Cry.
She charged forward just as the roar raced down the road.
The stone walls shook, shutters were knocked to the ground, and straw-thatched roofs were ripped up and blown about.
…But I…dodged it!!
The War Cry was only effective in a fan shape extending from the Hard Wolf’s open maw, so moving forward meant more safe ground than moving back. The very back end of her wings had been grazed, but she flew forward regardless. She launched herself toward Drake while flying at as low an altitude as if she were running.
…This will work.
A method came to her in a flash of insight. It was not the best method, but it was her only option given the situation. And so she raised her wings a second time to fly even closer to Drake as he launched the War Cry.
But she tripped.
…Flapping my wings is seen as part of the process now!?
Her fall to the side eloquently answered her question. Flapping her wings had been determined a portion of defiling England’s justice. Her black wings and her momentum sent her tumbling through the air and the wolf stopped howling while turning his entire body toward her.
The lingering remnants of the War Cry struck her.
Drake turned around and looked down toward Naruze, so his War Cry sent her tumbling along the ground. She continued for three and a half rotations and ended up much closer to Drake.
The black-haired Technohexen came to a stop lying face down at approximately ten meters away. Her body shook irregularly as the shock of the impact caused her muscles to tremble beyond her control.
As the fallen angel coughed a few times, Drake took a few steps.
He did move toward her, but that was not his intention. He was changing his position. The reason for this action lay at his feet. Silver forks and sewing tools were scattered on the ground there. When Naruze had tripped, they had spilled from her pocket and flown toward him.
He took in a breath and prepared his next War Cry while stepping over the forks and a piece of a window frame with a knife inside it.
He stopped with about seven meters to Naruze. While standing between her and her weapons, he finished taking in his breath.
He had no intention of approaching to finish her off. He had made sure she could not reach her weapons and he would now safely crush her from a distance. There was no reason to eliminate the advantage of a long-range battle now.
He looked up in the sky, opened his mouth, and a growl came from the depths of his throat.
But just as his howl began, an explosion burst from his chest and color spurted from his throat. That color was a scarlet that reflected the afternoon sun and it took the form of a spray.
His body shook as if it had burst and steaming blood sprayed from his entire body.
The Hard Wolf’s body had been attacked such that it was damaged on the inside.
Naruze was trembling and could not even hold her mouth steady, but she saw the result of her actions.
The Hard Wolf before her remained perfectly motionless while still holding his knees apart and looking skyward. Bloody steam rose from his entire body and a shimmering formed in the sunlight.
This was the result of an internal rupture.
Naruze did not know if Drake had lost consciousness or if he was in a state of shock much like her, and she had no way of finding out. She realized strength had returned to her shoulders, so she rose up as if to crawl.
She looked down at Drake’s unmoving feet. Among the forks and sewing tools he had stepped over was a knife in a fragment from a wooden frame. The knife had originally been pointed up, but when Drake had stepped over it, it had toppled over so that it would fail to stab him.
The bottom of the wooden frame was producing ether light. That bluish-white ether light formed a small crop mark frame Magie Figur which had carved a spell into the wooden frame.
“Bodily…reinforcement.” She had done it.
She had poured all of her internal auspuff into the bodily reinforcement spell to give it several dozen times the normal power. This was no different from creating a charm and attaching it to someone. She had simply used the bottom of the wooden frame instead of a charm.
By applying the spell to the bottom of the frame and sticking the knife in the opposite side, the movement of Drake’s feet had knocked the knife over and exposed the spell so it would affect him.
…And bodily reinforcement is something that aids justice, so it wasn’t rejected.
She had thought up this idea from the moment Drake had drunk his milk. Eating could be a burden on the body, but it also supported one’s body.
…So recovery and reinforcing spells will work.
Even when amplified many times over, bodily reinforcement spells did not cause any direct damage. It was standard practice to use cooling spells when amplifying them, but if one regulated their breathing and acted appropriately, they would not tear a muscle or the like. It was the same concept as taking one’s time while transporting something heavy.
But Drake’s War Cry was different.
That shout that shook the city temporarily put an immense burden on his lungs and muscles.
All Naruze had done was multiply that burden several dozen times.
England’s justice would disgrace itself, but it would have to declare itself unjust to prevent that disgrace.
Rather than create the contradiction of declaring justice unjust, England’s justice had carried out the act and sacrificed the bearer of that justice.
A Hard Wolf could only be damaged with silver products, but he could damage himself. His lungs and blood vessels had to have been torn apart.
Naruze realized strength had returned to her waist, so she slowly raised her butt, brought her knees under herself, and rose up. She took a deep breath as she stood.
Her knees shook, but she endured using the compressed air remaining in her wings.
Once she realized she had stood, she also thought she had won. Yet as soon as she felt relief, strength left her body once more. That exhaustion seemed to tug her body down.
She felt as if she was drifting to sleep and she almost gave into that sensation.
If she did not announce her victory, she could not verify that victory.
But then the Hard Wolf turned toward her.
This was no optical illusion.
As bloody steam rose from his body, Drake raised his right arm.
…He can still move!?
There was no point in finding an answer to her question. With the smell of blood in the wind, the wolf’s claws flew toward her.
“It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a wakeup call like that! But you were still gentler than my wife when she plays her dismemberment game!!”
As the strike arrived, she felt more disappointed in herself than she felt despair or surprise.
She had been unable to prove anything to Margot. The fear of still being useless chilled her gut.
An instant later, she found herself tossed to the right.
After attacking the fallen angel by twisting his body and swinging his arm, Drake looked at his right hand and the light coming from the gauntlet.
“No flesh or blood on it and I didn’t feel a solid hit?”
After a groan and a clench of his teeth, he looked past his outstretched claws to where he had knocked the girl.
That motion was enough for blood to spill past his oily fur and a wet, slipping sound to come from within his uniform as if he had jumped in a puddle. But he confirmed that there was no remnant or piece of his opponent on his claws.
“I don’t know how, but you avoided a direct hit!”
The black-haired Technohexen had been knocked away by his claws, but she was still alive and she was still moving. He could see her trembling on her side.
But she could not stand. This strike had been different from the previous War Cry impact, so her brain had been rattled and her inner ear was out of order. She tried to prop herself up on her hands, elbows, or knees, but she could not feel the solidity of the ground beneath her and her muscles messed with her organs instead of what she wanted them to do.
She faced the ground and covered the dirt with the contents of her stomach. She fell into a sticky coughing fit, but her breathing quickly calmed down afterwards.
Drake observed the Technohexen as she roused her body like that.
“But externally, you’re unharmed.”
He spat bloody spit to the ground, traced his tongue along his bloody fangs, and let out an exhausted breath that carried the heat of blood with it.
“Testament. I think I know what happened. I already knew this was possible.”
He watched as she rolled on her side to keep her windpipe open. As he approached one step at a time, he focused on her wings.
A single needle was located at the base of her wing.
But it was not sticking into her. It was sticking out as if growing from her wing so it would stab him. It seemed she had pressed it in from the inner side of the wing so it would pierce through to the outer side.
That needle was why his strike had not reached her.
She had not evaded the blow and he had not missed.
…She tried to stab me with that needle and failed. My justice made sure of it.
She had likely prepared it as an automatic evasion method, just in case. And she had guessed correctly.
“Testament. Not bad. But…I can still move.”
Hard Wolves could recover quickly and he had been hit with a bodily reinforcement spell several times over.
The spell was starting to fade, but his body’s recovery speed was high in the first place. In another thirty seconds or so, the burden on his blood vessels, lungs, and muscles would return to normal. That would leave only one problem.
“I need blood.”
Conveniently enough, there was a nice chicken right in front of him. Bone marrow was good for the creation of blood.
…As my wife says, it’s quite nutritious, but it only ranks second out of everything in the world. Why does she have to be so strict about staying healthy?
As he thought, Drake approached the Technohexen. She was no longer resisting, so he crouched down and raised his right arm above his prey once more.
“How about a little salt for flavor?”
Before he received an answer, he swung his claws down toward her medulla oblongata.
Naruze thought she heard a metallic noise.
It resembled something she had heard in the past. Nothing was clear to her in her current state, but that noise was carved into her memory as a remnant of a definite past she could never let go of. Back then, the clashing of blades had been meant to protect rather than to fight, but what about the current noise?
She felt the heat of nonexistent flames and thought she heard someone scream. Whether to reject the sensation or to confirm it, her confused mind suddenly awoke.
Drake stood before her, but so did someone else. The other person stood between her and Drake. They were short and yet wielded giant swords which had caught Drake’s claws.
“Testament. I do not know if it is due to my officer position, but I was suddenly drawn into this strange place. I did not know what to expect, but it was certainly not to interfere in a battle between a Technohexen and a wolfman.”
Gin wore a vermillion and white uniform and wielded twin cross-shaped swords on her false arms. With a mechanical noise, she began gently pushing back against the wolfman’s white claws. Her arms were slender, but they did not look weak.
“Now then,” she said. “Tres España has retained the right to battle Musashi since the Battle of Mikawa, but I had not heard anything about England gaining that right.”
“All this violence here is just part of the festival entertainment.”
“Testament.” Gin nodded. “That is sophistry. You are using this chance to show off to both Musashi and the Testament Union, but you will attempt to write it off as mere ‘entertainment’ if you fail. That excuse will never be accepted.”
“And what are you going to do about it?”
Naruze listened as Gin spoke in a confident voice lacking in any shaking or trembling.
“I shall correct England’s justice.”
Naruze forced out her breath. Her stomach and lungs had yet to settle into place and her throat reflexively throbbed a bit, but she managed to take in a breath and continue.
“Are you going to ‘save’ me!?”
“Are you going to use that to justify attacking England!?”
Naruze wanted Gin to stop. This battle was between her and Drake.
…I can’t let myself be used by someone else!
In addition to that, Gin’s reasoning scared her.
…She’s entering the fight because England is acting “cowardly” by using sophistry to fight.
And that would lead to Tres España rescuing Musashi from an unjust England.
In other words, they would be using Musashi in order to attack England.
…And it would start by “saving” me as a representative of Musashi!
They were using her loss. No, it was even worse than that.
“Don’t decide for me that I’ve lost!”
Gin was robbing her of the chance to finish things with Drake, deciding that she was the loser, and then using her for Tres España’s advantage.
Naruze understood why this had happened.
She understood it, but she did not want to accept it. However, Gin spoke the reason without turning toward her.
“You were weak.”
She could say nothing in response, but she felt something pushing up within her chest.
Something warm spilled from the corners of her eyes, but Gin did not turn toward her and Drake was no longer focused on her. She had been forced from the battlefield and Gin’s next words set in stone what was to happen.
“I will be your opponent, Sir Drake.”
Naruze scratched at the dirt in an attempt to stand, but the back of Gin’s right false arm suddenly faced her.
Before she realized the cross-shaped light was a holy spell, her vision was already wavering.
…A tranquilizing spell!?
“This is the same spell used on Master Muneshige. Please go to sleep.”
Naruze could not even speak in protest. All she could do was listen.
“It is my turn now.”
Gin made a declaration while completely ignoring the Technohexen behind her.
“You are attempting to benefit yourselves while claiming this is a festival event as insurance.”
She looked up at Drake.
“In the name of the Testament, Tres España cannot allow this cowardly attempt to continue.”
“You just want an excuse to pick a fight with England, don’t you? You want something you can say we’ve done wrong to make sure we don’t call off the armada battle at the last second. …Wait. Is this because of me!?”
“Do not try to pretend you are any better after provoking us with your attack on Lisbon.” Gin narrowed her eyes. “Not only did you secure the Musashi through cowardly means, but now you are attempting to improve your standing in the Testament Union. Does this come from Protestant utilitarianism?”
“Don’t force this into a bigger problem than it is. Once the armada battle starts, I’m sure you’re planning to quickly begin the retreat so you can escape with as little damage as possible. Build this up too much, and it’ll come back to bite you.” Drake laughed while also coughing up some blood. “At any rate, I take it you’re going to call us your enemy and insist on stopping us from sinking the Musashi via ‘cowardly’ means.”
“Testament. Evil must be judged either by the law or the Testament. In other words, you must be judged either during the Peace of Westphalia or in an official war with us. That is the generally accepted method as stated by the Testament Union and the academy rules.”
Gin swept the Hard Wolf’s claws outward and held her double swords to either side without using excess strength.
“I request that you cease attacking Musashi. England has not gone through the proper procedures to take hostile action against Musashi. Using these methods for later benefit is a disgrace to the Testament Union and will harm the Testament Union’s coordination as we face the apocalypse.”
“That sounds to me like an excuse you just made up.”
Drake pointed behind Gin, but she did not turn around. Doing so would have left her open to attack, so she instead held up her left sword and checked the reflection in the blade without taking her eyes off of Drake.
The Technohexen was lying there. She was shedding tears on her side, but her breathing had settled into the gentle rhythm of sleep. Gin nodded once.
“Technohexen primarily engage in aerial combat and this one specializes in long-range attacks, so she did quite well against an English monster. …Then again, her own wings may qualify her as a monster.”
“My primary battlefield is in the air too, you know?”
“Yes, but you are a man.”
“Are you sexist!?”
“Testament. Or would you prefer I say you have the courage of a girl?” Gin took a breath. “Also, my husband is a postman yet he is also the Peerless in the West.”
“I can’t beat that.”
Her right eyebrow rose a bit when she heard that.
“Prepare yourself. My cross swords can emit ether, so they can harm you.”
“I’m injured, you know?”
“Testament. And that means you are in need of some flesh and blood, correct? Or do you have something against the flesh of another man’s wife?”
“If I was Catholic, I’d be excommunicated if I agreed, wouldn’t I?”
“Testament. Thank you for the beast-like answer.” She took a slow half-step forward. “And just so you know, Master Muneshige came to defeat me even after being pierced through both sides of his chest.”
“Are you bragging about your husband?”
She drew back her left leg and used it as an axis.
And she suddenly launched her left arm toward Drake.
The attack had no lead-up.
It was difficult for Drake to react as the sword moved like a sudden gust of wind. He could not tell from which direction the attack came; all he knew was that a sharp force approached. However, his reflexes kicked in faster than his mind.
He roughly pulled his body back. He realized the action was meaningless against the reach of a sword, but he had no other choice when faced with that silver light that seemed to chill the blood covering his body.
…What will you do when faced with my justice!?
A high-speed surprise attack like that was only possible by a skilled swordsman, but then the Testamenta Arma kicked in.
The leg she used as an axis slipped and her short body rotated in midair. But a moment later, Drake’s body was knocked backwards. That action that left a spray of blood in his previous location was fast enough to split the blood drops in midair.
He doubled over and a supposedly impossible silver line raced across his chest from bottom left to upper right.
…Did she complete her attack without failing!?
He had thought she had failed, so he had to wonder what had happened.
…She didn’t trip.
In the instant he evaded, he had distinctly seen Tres España’s 3rd special duty officer trip due to her initial attack. But something had happened after that. While tripping, she had launched a second attack and kicked against the ground with her opposite foot to right herself.
Righting herself like that took more than just footwork. It would require twisting and bending her entire body. However, something else bothered him more.
“Your second attack reached me.”
“Testament. It is a simple matter. I observed some of your previous battle with the Technohexen. Your Testamenta Arma causes any attack to fail if it will defile your justice. But you harmed yourself with your own strength earlier. That means your justice is willing to harm itself as justice rather than defile the fact that it is just. However…”
“Testament.” Gin held up both her swords. “To put it another way, your Testamenta Arma is honest and will not allow contradictions. That told me what I must do. If attacking will lead to failure, then an attack while failing will not fail as I am ‘already failing’. That contradiction breaks through the paradox preventing attacks from reaching you.”
Give me a break, muttered Drake in his heart.
His cheeks stiffened and he was well aware a smile of joy covered his face.
“But that failure only lasts an instant. It doesn’t last the entire time your foot is slipping. It should only be the moment your foot starts slipping and that moment should come as a surprise to you.”
“Do you prefer women who cannot ready their blade against a surprise attack? Your married life must be quite gentle.”
“I can’t compete with this,” he muttered under his breath.
He then looked down at his chest. His uniform was split and his bloody fur was exposed to the air.
The corners of Gin’s mouth slowly rose.
“What will you do now? Shall I prepare you a meal of flesh and blood? Will you take a bloodbath? Or will you sleep on the bed of the earth?”
“I feel like I just walked into the wrong house. But…”
He spoke not to lower his guard but to double check his next method of attack.
“My justice will analyze the process behind your attacks. It might even cause your breathing and everything else to fail. You won’t be able to see, hear, or even keep your heart beating. My justice doesn’t play around.”
“Testament. That should make for a decent handicap. You are used to hand-to-hand combat aboard ships, but you are not used to fighting down on the ground. I use Far Eastern swordfighting and I am the wife of Tachinbana Muneshige, the Peerless in the West. I will show you that I pay no heed to justice, failure, or process analysis.” Gin went on to ask a question. “Do you know?”
“Do you know when the Testamenta Arma were made.”
“Thirty years ago. Chancellor Henry VIII was given this one from somewhere.”
“Testament. It was the same with Tres España’s and those from all the other nations. Thirty years ago, the chancellors of each nation acquired the Testamenta Arma from somewhere and their power was used to hold the other nations in check and to defend their own nation. But I was not born thirty years ago.”
“I was an unforeseen opponent for your justice.”
“Then I’ll have to make up for that, seeing as I was an unforeseen bearer of this Testamenta Arma.”
“Testament,” replied Gin with a smile.
As soon as Drake raised both sets of claws, Gin moved forward and swung both swords by raising her shoulders.
“I will teach you what it means to make a Tachibana ‘lose’ and what it means to have ridiculed the Peerless in the West.”
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