Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 36
Chapter 36: Rude One in a Hiding Place
What is only realized upon running into it?
Point Allocation (Size)
Cheers returned to the street that’s surface had been scraped away.
The cheers were caused by the battle between a Hard Wolf and a girl with two false arms.
Drake’s War Cry could not harm the theatre space’s audience, but none of them failed to raise their voices in response to the theatre’s performance. Their enjoyment of watching the battle while using the buildings to hide from the wolf’s destruction quickly grew into cheers for the wolf and the girl who seemed to fight using acrobatics.
They flooded into the street and filled it with voices and movement.
The people’s gazes gathered on several lines of racing silver light. Those lights were produced by the wolf’s claws and the blades on the girl’s false arms.
They exchanged high-speed silver attacks while dodging, deflecting, striking, rushing in, or falling back.
The people knew that the wolf was England’s hero and that the girl was England’s enemy and one who defiled justice.
They also knew that those who attempted to defile England’s justice would fail.
But they also knew that, possible or not, this battle was entertaining. Whether they sympathized with or begrudged the one who succeeded and whether they sympathized with or mocked the one who lost, it was equally entertaining. Lastly, the people knew that, possible or not and success or failure, there was something that separated the two outcomes and they knew what that separation was called.
“This is a challenge!!”
They all shouted.
“Go for it, challenger!”
“Accept the challenge, hero!”
In response to their repeated cries, the false arms let out mechanical noises and the wolf knocked away the blood covering his body.
As they exchanged blows and evaded while almost standing still, the density of attacks grew.
Drake gave an impressed mental whistle at the intensity of the flow between the two of them.
…This is amazing. Both of us are amazing.
Gin’s attacks failed, so she would attack again while failing.
However, that method of fighting had one clear flaw. To attack once, she had to make a leading attack that would fail. It was only on her second attack that she finally achieved an initial attack. On top of that, the attack was an improvised one, so it was difficult to achieve a clean hit.
But all that only applied with a normal attacker.
This is incredible, thought Drake. This girl isn’t normal.
When it had started, her foot had slipped and she had used that for an attack. It had been cute. When faced with the childish action of tripping, she had swept in her other foot to support her body and to attack.
But that had not been enough.
…After all, my justice will learn the process.
From a certain point, she had started tripping the instant she tried to swing her swords. Brachium Justitia had learned the process of Gin’s actions and had her fail at the initial step.
But she had not been normal.
…She changed how she uses her swords!!
She had added many different variations into that initial step: back hand, side snap, different patterns using altered angles, mechanical strikes that relied on the motion of her false arms, etc.
“You have a lot of different techniques!!”
“Testament. I am using martial art forms.”
Gin attacked as if dancing as she built the tripping and other failed strikes into her movements.
“After thousands or tens of thousands of sparring matches and practice swings, your body truly learns these forms and can release them from any angle or situation. I can make alterations that your justice cannot view as the same ‘process’.”
She even rotated the wrists of her false arms to attack from angles impossible for a normal human.
“Testament. Let us increase the density.”
The silver lines coming from her suddenly increased.
What is this? thought Drake.
It was odd for the number of attacks to suddenly double. For one thing, she could supposedly only attack once for every two attacks.
…Did she suddenly start attacking once for each and every attack?”
His question gave him the answer. Each of Gin’s attacks was getting through without failing. She was no longer swinging her swords twice with the second swing being the real attack.
He began to wonder if she was ignoring England’s justice.
…No, that isn’t it!
“Are you using your shoulders or elbows for the initial attack!?”
“Testament. I throw a jab and then attack with a sword.”
The elbow or shoulder attack was built into the motion of swinging her sword, but it came first and would fail. Because that jab was a compact motion, it was more efficient than a failed sword swing.
This resulted in the increased speed.
If her foot slipped, she would change her footwork as if dancing. If her false arm malfunctioned, she would add in a different motion or adjustment and use the new action for her attack.
No matter her stance, she could use any kind of attack and continue to use them.
“This is the principle behind how the west’s strongest swordfights!!”
The two false arms gained and cast aside countless successes and failures.
The failures came from every direction and the methods were countless. A bird or cat would cut across her path, a spectator would collapse from anemia, a flowerpot would fall from the windowsill of a building bordering the road, water sprinkled on the ground would create mud, a banana peel would be underfoot, a gust of wind would blow through, a bucket would roll over, extremely localized rain would fall, a runaway horse would rush toward her, an accidentally-sent divine message would reach her, or a small-scale fissure would open in the ground. Gin failed as she avoided them all, but she would always continue attacking afterwards.
At some point, the spectators noticed that Drake had gone on the defensive.
Even with the failures included, the overwhelming amount of attacks required him to defend justice.
“England may have justice,” said someone in the crowd. “But does it have its hands full when defending against so much?”
The crowd stopped cheering, stopped moving, and simply watched the battle continue.
But a certain moment finally arrived.
As Gin attacked, she let out what sounded more like a cough than a questioning gasp and she took half a step back.
The wind wrapped around her as she fell back, but Drake stepped forward and sent his claws after her.
“Did you see that!? Even your breathing has been deemed part of the ‘process’!”
He ran forward as if preparing to tackle her and he rotated both his arms.
“A shame I don’t like cyanotic mincemeat!!”
He used the momentum of his charge to slam both sets of claws into Gin’s unmoving body.
As he made the decisive attack, Drake saw it happen.
Below the bangs covering Gin’s downturned face, her mouth opened in a small crescent moon.
She had trouble speaking due to her failed breathing, but her voice suddenly grew much clearer.
“I suppose I should change to my combat breathing technique.”
She changed her breathing. She used a different method than the one deemed part of the process.
Under this new breathing technique, she could repeat all the previous attacks.
But Drake had a thought: none of those previous attacks had reached him.
…It can’t be…
None of her previous attacks had been able to reach him.
…Is that why she had me charge in toward her!? She had me bring myself into reach!?
Even so, he had taken action first, so his claws would crush her from above.
“Oh, dear. Someone left a banana peel here.”
Gin’s pivot leg stepped and slipped on a banana peel.
Her body fell backwards as if to land on her butt. The tripping motion lowered her backwards and that meant she had escaped his claws.
And on top of that, she could use the failure to launch a successful attack.
Sure enough, her mechanical arms sprang up from near the ground.
“Well, Sir Drake? Did the west’s strongest lose?”
Before she even finished her question, Drake felt both his arms be severed and sent flying into the air.
It happened in an instant. The two false arms rotated as if doing the backstroke and the twin swords held by the hands sent Drake’s arms flying from his shoulders and high into the air.
It did not end there. Gin jumped backwards. The momentum of her false arms rotating backwards pushed her feet up and she pressed the bottom of her feet against Drake’s chest.
She jumped away so as not to be dirtied by his advance. She instead used the momentum of that advance to make her leap. She jumped around a dozen meters back, spun around in midair, and prepared to land.
Once she landed, she would only need to name herself victor and it would be over.
Or so she thought.
Everyone, Gin included, saw the “disarmed” Hard Wolf open his jaws.
He prepared his War Cry.
The internal damage from Naruze had yet to full heal. Blood began spewing from his shoulders in sync with his pulse, but he took in a deep breath.
That breath was in preparation for the War Cry, but it also tensed up every muscle in his body. That gathering of strength tightened the muscles in and around his shoulders which temporarily stopped the blood. The tightening of the muscles caused the bone to stick out as he gathered his breath for when Gin landed.
Gin could not evade in midair, so she would have to intercept the attack.
The long cannons appeared in the air behind her false arms. They were unwieldy at close range, but that did not matter here. She aimed one as the failure and the other as the actual attack.
“C’mon, stop that, Gin.”
“What is this ‘fff’ nonsense, you stupid Hard Wolf?”
The two duelists were hit by a tsukkomi chop or a kick from someone wearing their school’s uniform standing behind them.
Gin had her landing thrown off.
As she fell to one knee, she thought to herself.
…Mh. If Master Muneshige learns about this, he’ll treat it as “cute”!
Feeling disgraced, she turned around and saw Velázquez’s mustached face beyond the Arcabuz Cruz vanishing into their two-pitch space. He sighed with his weapon of a giant brush resting on his shoulder.
“Just stop this for now. Okay, Gin?”
“Why? I see no reason to answer with ‘testament’.”
“Your reason to fight has grown unclear. Look.”
Velázquez pointed toward the wall of spectators. They opened a path where he pointed and the point where the battle began came into view.
The Technohexen had collapsed there and the spectators had supposedly been watching over her.
Instead, a single white-lacquered arrow was sticking into the ground.
The meaning behind the arrow was given by the English uniform that had kicked Drake.
“She was rescued by a spell from Musashi’s sharpshooter shrine maiden. That’s why we were sent in to mediate…or rather, admonish you two.”
The speaker was a woman. The bottom of her uniform had been given a leaf-like texture, she wore a stole instead of a coat, and a bandana was wrapped around her green hair that had ivy growing from it.
“A dryad… Are you Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley?”
“Testament. I prescribe medicinal herbs to this stupid wolf’s wife. I was worried because she hadn’t been eating much lately, but it looks like her husband is filled with a little too much energy.”
She kneed Drake and he crouched down without turning toward her, but his arms were now connected to his shoulders. Ivy had extended from the tree-like oar in her hand and that ivy had forcibly sewn his arms on.
“After they’re connected, the ivy will wither away on its own.”
Grace tore away the rest of the ivy with a kick. Blood spilled from the reddish-purple dyed end of the ivy and Drake winced a little. However, he could already move both arms.
She had seemed to kick him a few times, but she may have actually been applying healing spells.
Grace took a breath and her Celtic ivy-patterned earrings shook.
“With your reason for this battle gone, it has to come down to a personal fight. If you insist, this idiot will go along with it.”
“Wait,” cut in Drake. “Why don’t you help me out?”
“I have to get home and help my daughter with her homework. Unfortunately, her math skills seem to take after her father.” After rejecting Drake, Grace turned back toward Gin and nodded. “You managed to show off your stance here and I know you’ll go through with it. You aren’t bluffing. But the other spaces should be finishing up around now. Tres España now has a reason to criticize England, so why don’t you fall back?”
“Wait,” cut in Drake again. “Are you saying I lost?”
“You allowed Tres España to demonstrate their stance through strength. That’s how these duels are supposed to work.” Grace smiled. “I understand that Tres España truly isn’t going to let us escape. England will have to be careful in our future negotiations. Giving you a poor reception would prompt immediate action from you.”
“Testament. If you understand that, I have accomplished plenty here.”
Gin nodded and took a step back.
Glowing pieces of words rose into the sky from the ground and in between the surrounding crowd. Grace looked up at them and spoke.
“Our intrusion and the absence of the Technohexen have caused it to come apart.” She somewhat raised her eyebrows and smiled. “I wonder what other stages have anything worth seeing? I think the only ones left are Hatton vs. Musashi’s vice president and Walsingham vs. the silver wolf.”
She laughed and rested the giant oar on her shoulder.
“There was a flashy explosion from Hatton’s area in front of Westminster Abbey. We’re all getting so worked up for such silly reasons.”
Westminster Abbey was located a bit southwest of central London and the area in front of it was filled with rising smoke.
After the white light and the smoke dispersed and after several rings of light appeared and vanished, the skeleton Lord Chancellor could be seen through a thin mist of light. Lord Chancellor Christopher Hatton ended his explosion pose and straightened up once more.
“Testament. Please give a prayer for the soul of Miss Honda, vice president of Musashi, who was executed for the crime of perversion.”
As he prayed toward the sky, light from between the clouds shined on him.
The spectators applauded while the many spears were removed from the explosion site.
But a figure stood up at the edge of the grass torn up by the blast and therefore just outside the range of the blast. Hatton’s empty eye sockets saw the black-haired figure almost trip as she ran.
It was Masazumi.
“…the one condemned for perversion!”
By the fifth step, Masazumi felt strength return to her knees. By the seventh, she felt air fill her lungs.
She was still alive. She had managed to escape at the instant of the explosion.
…I-I’m glad I was wearing the coat of a boy’s uniform!
She had disconnected her coat from the neck hard points and removed the coat the instant before the spears hit. More accurately, she had fallen to a sitting position to remove her body from it.
Not only had it been a bit large for her, but as a boys’ coat, it had light armor on the inside. If Hatton had not been holding her through the armor, she would not have been able to remove her arms.
Her upper body was now covered only by the girls’ suit and the added sleeves, so she felt vulnerable.
But when she thought about it seriously…
…This might be the first time I’ve ever been thankful I have no breasts.
Asama or the Aoi sister would have been unable to remove the coat and died. Cause of death: giant breasts.
She considered showing this off as a hidden talent at the student council’s end-of-the-year party, but she thought the others might get overly considerate since it was a self-deprecating joke. At any rate, she continued running while fully aware she was already out of breath.
“Where should I go?” she muttered.
She suddenly heard something scraping at the sky and the multiple indefinite noises were drawing closer.
She glanced up in the air while running and saw several skinny shapes seemingly trying to bite at her head. She was not a fighter, so she did not know how to avoid them. She at least knew they would all hit her on her current path, so she veered hard to the left.
The thrown spears slipped by her side, her neck, and between her running legs. She let out a reflexive shriek and took a large leap for her next step.
A moment later, wind fell in the spot her back had been in and it struck the ground next to her right heel.
Thinking the sound of the blade stabbing into the dirt was the sound of flesh being struck, she ran on.
But then she heard a new sound from behind.
“You’re dead on!!”
Hatton slid forward through the air without moving his legs. He moved quite quickly, so Masazumi gathered strength in her legs.
…Where do I go!?
She was unfamiliar with the land, she could not contact the others, and…
…Why am I surrounded by an audience like this!?
The term “audience” brought forth a certain memory which gave her the answer.
“A theatre stage.”
She had seen Shakespeare’s spell when the girl had cast her curse on Neshinbara.
Then, she thought. How do I break free of this situation?
She might have a chance if she could use a spell, but her Mouse was not leaving the hard point at her neck.
…And I haven’t made a spell contract.
She subconsciously touched the neck hard point on the right and felt something strange.
The slender furry softness was the baby anteater’s tail, but the bottom of it was warm and wet.
As soon as she felt the warm wetness, she tensed up. Her running grew stiff and the vibration of her feet hitting the ground shook her entire body.
But the Mouse at her neck bothered her. She looked down and saw that the center of the right hard point was broken and the long tail was dangling down from the front opening.
The Mouse did not appear to be dead, but it was not moving. The damp feeling on her hand was only a virtual representation, so the red color on her fingers quickly turned to light and vanished into the air. However, the Mouse was also a representative object, so it was definitely injured. The previous spears had likely done it.
If she had brought the Mouse out without being overly concerned, things might have turned out differently.
And when she had avoided the spears, she had completely forgotten the Mouse was even there. Being attacked was perfectly normal for a battle. If she was bringing something into battle with her, it was her responsibility.
She began truly worrying about someone other than herself for the first time in a while. She belatedly realized she had something she needed to protect from harm and the weight of that responsibility caused her knees to tremble a bit.
She looked behind her and saw Hatton open one of the books that had been hanging down from either side of his waist. The thick book he held now was titled “Attendance Sheet of the Condemned”. He slowly opened to a certain page.
“Year 63 Class 3! All rise…for death!!”
His words caused a change in front of her. A group of dirt-covered skeletons burst up through the ground, raised rusty spears, and let out a shout.
Thirteen skeletons were raising both their hands. They leaped up with the same force as their raised hands and launched a counter-attack toward Masazumi.
She had no speed and she did not have the time to get a good grip with her feet for a jump. And any intense movement could send the Mouse tumbling out of the neck hard point.
She tried to cover her neck but still chose to evade. She wanted to live.
…Come to think of it…
Wanting to live was completely natural, but she wondered how long it had been since she had thought that. At the same time, a bundle of spear tips were thrust her way.
Hatton and the thirteen Living Bones checked the result of their spear attack.
Their spear tips had definitely reached the location of their target.
No longer moving, Hatton could not see Masazumi anywhere on the lawn.
Why? he wondered. Her Mouse was injured and she looked worried about its possible death!
One might point out that Mouse injuries were common in battle, but she was a politician. The injury of the Mouse she was to protect had to have been quite a shock. It was a naïve attitude in a battle, but it said a lot about her as a human being.
“Her attitude toward her Mouse cancels out the crime of perversion! No death!”
All the Living Bones raised their arms and cheered in agreement. As those cries washed over him, Hatton began to wonder where the vice president had disappeared to.
He then noticed something in the ground where she had been.
The Far Eastern arrow was lacquered white and it stabbed vertically into the dirt.
Masazumi did not know what had happened to her. She only knew one thing for sure.
…I’m not dead?
Given the situation, she could not imagine how she could be alive. She had been skewered with spears while standing in place.
…I could see a military commander dying that way, but it’s a little out of place for a political commander.
But now she had collapsed forward and not a single spear had stabbed into her.
Not only that…
“What is this cushion?”
She sat up a bit and found breasts in front of her. Asama was lying there, so her breasts must have been the cushion.
…A cushion sommelier like Mukai would call this a lovely cushion. No, I shouldn’t think of them as separate things. Asama is a part of this cushion. Or is it the other way around? My thoughts are all jumbled up.
She observed her surroundings even more and found that Asama was unconscious and she was lying on top of Asama.
…I-I’m glad Naruze isn’t here to see this! But how did this happen!?
She further realized that it looked like she had pushed Asama down, mounted her, and removed her own coat.
She looked around, but no one else was there. She was afraid it was part of a hidden camera show, but a purifying type like Asama would not take part in something like that.
The two of them were alone, she had pushed down a girl, and that girl was showing no sign of resisting. What was the proper action at a time like that?
Calm down, thought Masazumi. I need to know what happened before taking any kind of action. Just a moment ago, I was being preached to by a corpse and blown up during a sports festival. How did that lead to mounting a classmate?
She looked down at Asama again.
…Talk about huge.
She was referring to her height.
Her height and willingness to help gave Asama a motherly position in the class, but why was Masazumi alone with her in this empty world?
…It can’t be…
“Don’t tell me I was summoned to another world as a hero.”
It was a common story in novels or comics. A person who was unremarkable in the real world would be summoned to another world and save that world with a newly-discovered mysterious power.
…As a shrine maiden, Asama could play the role of the summoner, but then what’s my special ability? My chest!? Is it my chest!? But that’s the same plot as the Flat Chronicles.
Asama frowned and squirmed below her.
Asama took in a breath and opened her eyes slightly. While feeling the girl’s warm breath, Masazumi saw the two colors of her unfocused eyes come into view.
…Why isn’t she dating anyone when she has so much charm? It’s probably due to the poor environment of our class, so I shouldn’t think about it too much. But people are easily influenced by their surroundings. If everyone around her is like that, wouldn’t she…? No, I need to stop thinking about this. But if that is the case, won’t it start affecting me before long? No, no. I need to stop… Actually maybe I should think about that one. Or shouldn’t I? Which is it?
At any rate, Masazumi sat up. The motion caused strength to enter Asama’s eyes and she noticed Masazumi. She was still lying down, but an exhausted smile appeared through her disheveled hair.
“Ah… That went well, Masazumi.”
…Huh? Has it been a while since I pushed her down? Did we already finish?
She tried to decide if losing her memory of that was a bad thing, but then Asama placed a hand on the back of her head and sat up. Masazumi was sitting on her thighs, so this brought their faces close and Masazumi could smell her hair.
“A-are you okay?”
“Oh, yes. I just happened to be standing right in front of you when I rescued you.”
…In front of me?
She then realized where they were.
…This is the plaza in front of Westminster Abbey.
She had not noticed because the abbey was to her back, but that was definitely where they were. However, the people were gone and none of the spears remained. Asama explained why.
“To put it simply, this is similar to a harmonic territory. You were in the theatre space created by Shakespeare and this is like the entrance that exists between reality and the theatre space.”
This mostly matched Masazumi’s guesses on the battlefield.
“So you saved me?”
“Were you about to win or something?”
“No, I-… Ah.”
She suddenly remembered the Mouse at her neck. Asama noticed her looking down.
“Please stay still. If it has not left its nest, I can handle it.”
Its “nest” likely referred to the hard point part. A gentle breeze blew Asama’s hair and the hair tickled Masazumi’s right cheek. The shrine maiden’s fingers reached around behind her neck to the hard point parts on either side. She was essentially embracing Masazumi and her cushion pressed up against Masazumi’s coatless chest.
…N-no strange internal monologues. Resist.
But, she thought. When my mother would face me to heal wounds, cut my nails, or cut my hair, we had this same kind of height difference.
A few sign frames appeared from the left part at her neck. As Asama manipulated them and Hanami supported the Mouse’s tail, a few glowing torii-shaped objects spilled from that tail. Asama placed them inside the left hard point part and Hanami rotated once.
Masazumi looked down and saw the anteater was contained in a box made from six bluish-white torii. The torii on the side said “healing in progress”, so the box must have been a healing spell.
Asama breathed a sigh of relief, moved away from Masazumi, and held the torii box out toward her.
“If it had been brought out after the injury, it would probably have been destroyed, but you made sure it didn’t fall out, didn’t you? If you care for it that much, you will make an excellent owner. It has been stabilized inside the box, so you can use external approaches now. Please wrap some bandages around it.”
The Mouse felt soft and warm as Masazumi took it. She could feel the shape of the box, but she could also feel the Mouse through the box. The baby anteater seemed to be sleeping and the blood had vanished. With the blood gone, the wound at the throat was visible.
Seeing the frown on her face, Asama frantically spoke up.
“Um… Should I add an Amaterasu-style spell so you can’t see the wound? If you don’t like the God Mosaic, you can choose the God Flash. Or if you ask the god, you can also get the God Steam or the God Inkblot.”
“Why are there so many options?”
As she muttered absentmindedly, she removed the left pocket binder from her waist and placed the anteater inside it. She gently held the pocket binder and Asama nodded and smiled bitterly.
Masazumi recalled she was sitting on the other girl’s thighs.
“S-sorry. I panicked and it slipped my mind.”
Masazumi hurriedly moved away and felt her face redden.
“U-um, what should we do now?” she asked to hide her embarrassment. “Were you alone?”
“No, I was with Kimi. I came for you and she went elsewhere. I could only put together enough spells to bring two people out of this theatre space, so the others will have to do their best on their own. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”
“Don’t feel sorry,” said Masazumi.
The successor to Musashi’s primary shrine had only been able to create enough for two people. That showed just how powerful the enemy’s spell was and how skilled Asama was.
She understood why Asama had come for her.
…I’m the vice president.
Only a student could challenge another student, but to challenge the student council or chancellor’s officers, one needed an equivalent position or to have won the right.
…These duels were likely set up to win that right.
By defeating a member of Musashi’s student council or chancellor’s officers, they would win the right to challenge Aoi. Elizabeth or the other higher-ranking members were not taking part because England could pass it off as the misconduct of their subordinates if it failed.
“I’m not a fighter, so I was in the most danger.”
Just because it was a festival, she should not have been wandering around on her own.
But Asama spoke as she stood up.
“I was able to save you right away because of your Mouse. When it was injured, its primary spell sent out a rescue signal. That gave me your exact location, so I was able to safely activate the spell to remove you from the space.”
“I see,” she muttered while realizing the meaning of the light weight in her arms. “I need to thank it.”
“You’re surprisingly nice, Masazumi.”
…Does the fact that I’m surprised to hear that mean I don’t know myself very well? I always thought I was harsh on others. Well, maybe that was just flattery.
“How large is this space?”
“It doesn’t seem to have Oxford on the first level. There’s something like a wall there that repels any attempt to move through it. That means Suzu-san, Adele, and Futayo shouldn’t have been affected.”
“But they might have run into trouble separate from this?”
“If someone defeats Futayo, they will gain the undisputable right to challenge a position higher than vice chancellor. But she is vice chancellor. As England hasn’t sent out anyone on the same level, that makes her the strongest one involved.”
“Let’s head toward the City. Toori-kun and Horizon are there and the others should gather there as well.”
“Is someone fighting there?”
“Yes.” Asama turned her back, looked over her shoulder, and pointed toward the City. “Nate went in that direction. As a knight, she feels it is her duty to protect Horizon and Toori-kun.”
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