Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 53
Chapter 53: Encounter Over a Distance
Is a greeting necessary for a reunion?
Point Allocation (Agreement)
A giant collection of ships writhed through the sky.
The eight ships of the Musashi bent the connections between them as they advanced.
But even as the Musashi pursued Tres España’s leading fleet, countless smaller ships flew along either side of it. Their small cannons were weak, but they used their numbers and speed to attack up and down the port and starboard sides to stop the much larger ships.
The Musashi repeatedly moved the connections between its eight ships in serpentine arcs to prevent the smaller ships from targeting it.
The light surrounding it came from the bright illumination spells and the cannon fire that resembled rain or pillars of fire.
The sounds came from the wind of falling and flight, the rumbling of impacts, and the destruction of shell strikes.
Countless whitecaps formed on the Musashi’s waterline, but that was not all that hovered in the air. Many trails of smoke rose from the upper level cities. Holes had been torn in the external armor and primary armor on the surface, so the light of ether fuel was forming smoke and rising into the sky.
It was not devastating damage, but the damage continued piling up.
“Even if it’s a quasi-Bahamut Class, it isn’t so much of a monster that it’s untouchable.”
Three people watched from the sky east of England. Drake, Howard, and Jonson of the Trumps were recording the state of the battle from a patrol boat hovering there.
Drake handed his binoculars to Howard and turned to Jonson.
“Do you need a pair too? They have night vision.”
“No, no, no. I injected myself with a drug just now, so my night vision is perfect.”
“I really don’t understand any of this,” said Howard while setting the focus on the binoculars.
“If you don’t want to be eaten, tell me what you think.”
“Testament. Is Musashi in real trouble here?”
“You really don’t understand this, do you?” Drake sighed. “The Musashi hasn’t been sunk because Tres España doesn’t have much firepower and because the Musashi’s outer shell is made so it won’t be breached by small cannons. Still, it’s already putting off smoke and the armor isn’t infinitely strong. The accumulated damage will wear it down and probably cause it to collapse from the top down. But look.”
Drake pointed at the distant Musashi with his right hand and used his left to alternatively point between the smaller ships on the left and right.
“That chancellor named Segundo has put the small ships in elliptical formations.”
“You mean those wheel-like formations?”
Drake nodded at his two liberal arts companions and began rotating his left hand and bringing it toward the right hand he was pointing toward the Musashi.
“The fleets on the left and right are rotating vertically. And so they rotate in from the outside. The ships making the upper arc of the loop slow down, fire on the Musashi from front to back, and then lower back down. The ships on the lower arc prepare to fire and raise their speed to move forward. By combining the two, they can fire continuously with no gaps. It gives the individual ships a chance to rest, but the Musashi has to constantly focus on their defense. This wheel formation takes the old land version and makes a vertical arrangement for aerial combat. Also…”
“By splitting between port and starboard, they’re recreating the Battle of Plymouth from the Testament descriptions.”
Drake checked the program Musashi had sent them.
1: “Hostilities Begin off of Plymouth at Southwestern England”
At this point, the English fleet circles around from behind and to the right of the Españan fleet to behind and to the left. The Tres Españan vice-flagship, the Santa Ana, is incapacitated. Also, the Tres Españan treasury ship, the San Salvador, is accidentally set on fire and leaves.
“Do you get it? The wheel formation on either side sets the stage for circling from behind and to the right to behind and to the left. Because they’re rotating, they’re sort of always showing their back. But by always showing their ‘back’, they can recreate the situation without exposing their weak backside. The Musashi needs an attack that will drive a wedge into the wheel formation and expose that weak backside.”
“Mate, but are you saying Musashi can’t attack when the wheel formation is constantly attacking them?”
“Testament. That’s right. The great number of small ships lets Tres España form a constant upper and lower barrage. That prevents them from sending out their Technohexen aerial unit. They can only curl up in their shell like a turtle.” Drake clicked his tongue. “But I doubt Musashi isn’t giving this any thought. The situation’s only gonna get worse for them if they don’t do anything.”
He clicked his tongue again and Jonson turned toward him.
“You sound frustrated, mate.”
“Of course I am! That chicken and wolf are heading to London, so why the hell am I out here dealing with the history recreation? And I’m only interpretively taking part to monitor and record the battle, so I’m completely losing out.”
“Drake, you really support Musashi, don’t you?”
“Testament,” replied the Hard Wolf. He bared his teeth toward the Musashi as it zigzagged, poured out smoke, and received cannon fire in the distant sky. “Dammit, what would I be doing if I was on the Musashi right now!? Oh, goddammit. I really don’t like war. It’s a waste of perfectly good human meat! But I can’t get enough of these riddles. It’s just so much fun solving the problems needed to survive on the battlefield. After all, solving them means preserving that delicious human meat! …Who’s acting as the Musashi’s captain right now?”
“Testament. I believe it is Adele Balfette, a vassal from Hexagone Française.”
“Not much to eat on her!!”
His shout was immediately followed by a hunting horn filling the air. As the sound carried into the distance, it was joined by something else: additional cannon fire and sparks.
“The wheel formation has accelerated! They were only getting the hang of it before! Now it’s truly getting started!!”
As the attacks repeated and accelerated, the port and starboard sides of the Musashi were deafened and blinded.
The sounds if impact took out people’s hearing and the sparks did the same for their sight. They could only perceive the deck beneath their feet, the body heat of those next to them, and the weight of their outstretched arms and the purification shield covering their entire body.
While holy spells deflected enemy attacks, the purification shields purified the attacks to lessen their power. The impacts were lightened, but a stubborn strength and spirit were needed as they did not vanish altogether.
“Forward,” said someone. “Keep holding it forward!”
It sounded like he was speaking to himself, but it was also meant to reach the others.
They all shouted the same words like it was a magical spell.
“We trained for this!!”
They had only had about a week to train, but they had trained hard. And those who were in charge of the port and starboard defenses had learned one thing for sure and that one thing could be summed up in a single rule.
“Keep defending until we receive further orders!!”
What would those orders be?
The only new orders for those ordered to defend was to stop defending. If they had not received those orders, they were not to stop defending. That was obvious.
They were not to move.
If they did not move, they could protect what lay behind them.
If they did not move, they could protect something along with the people standing alongside them.
The attacks came and they came fast. The defenders could no longer take the time to look left or right and they could not give thanks to the others supporting them, but they would support those same people if they were about to collapse. That was all there was to it.
They could only defend, so they could do nothing that would look cool. They could only curl up, tremble, and…
“Keep defending until we receive further orders!!”
Was there any meaning in that shout? Was there any meaning in psyching themselves up? Regardless…
“We will defend as ordered!” They took a breath. “Because we won’t let the Musashi sink!!”
Just as their voices overwhelmed the sound of the impacts, the defenders all heard another sound.
It was the same hunting horn as before and its second sounding could mean only one thing.
“Is the wheel formation going to accelerate again!?”
They all gasped at the thought of even more attacks and then a wall of impacts assaulted those defenders.
The crews of the small ships flew them at high speed.
With the first sounding of the hunting horn, they had simply increased the speed of the firing process, but with the second, they reduced the number of crew flying the ships to only a few and sent the others to help manage the cannons.
All of the ships had been used in the Lepanto, Itsukushima, or other old battles, so they had all been in service for twenty-five years or longer. They had been shifted over to patrol boats or guard ships at local ports and oftentimes became completely unused.
Some had even been sold and became transport ships or fishing boats.
Most of them had continued with those ships even after the war both because former warships had a long life and because…
“This desire was smoldering within us!”
Without wiping away their sweat, the men shouted within the light and rough wind of cannon fire. They were all past middle age and a lot had reached elderly.
“We tried to celebrate that we had survived, but even as we tried to find peace as the losers, we were made into the winners. …And yet so many of our comrades had been lost!!”
They had modified the ships. To increase their stability in the high altitudes of open sea, they had attached bilge keels on the bottom of either side which gave them fish-like silhouettes.
“The commander really helped us out by giving us the money the vice president had saved up and claiming it was for a harbor project.”
“Yeah, but that wasn’t enough money to get the ships fixed up. I did it myself and just about had a heart attack when I came up with some extra screws afterwards. …Of course, that’s how it’s always been!”
As they fired, they laughed without taking their eyes off the enemy.
“The ships don’t need to last much longer, anyway. We’re using old models against the Musashi at high altitude. All this firing is just about to shake the frames apart. I’ll be happy if they hold together long enough to circle England.”
Isn’t this fine?
“We can complete the history recreation just like this.”
“Testament. That we can.”
They fired, shot, and lobbed attacks. Some were physical shells, some were spells, and some were ether cannons. All the veterans working together attached cooling charms on their shoulders and divided countless metal shells between themselves.
They maintained the wheel formation and saw parts of the Musashi’s defensive formation on the verge of breaking.
“Just a bit more!!”
Their full strength produced sparks and smoke.
A harmony of replying shouts sounded like distant thunder.
Suddenly, the people forming the wheel formations on the port and starboard sides felt something.
It was a heat.
However, it was not a blazing heat. It was a cool or chilly presence.
Before they could finish their question, a wall of water shot up between the wheel formation and the Musashi.
Reversed waterfalls jutted upwards at even intervals along the Musashi’s port and starboard sides.
The thick walls of water were likely made by raising the output of and thickening the ocean used for the Musashi’s standard cruising. With the sound of spray, the water scattered into the air and the walls forming from the water supply below meant one thing.
“Is this a wall to defend against our wheel formation!?”
Everyone aboard the small ships understood that their shells, bullets, and spells would be greatly weakened as they broke through the rising water. Also, once their power had its trajectory altered, it would cause no damage outside of its weight.
They fired, but the wall predicted it and rose up to stop it.
“Did they read the pattern of our wheel formation attack!?”
“Judge. The faster and denser their attacks become, the more gaps in the pattern are filled in.”
Adele wiped sweat from her brow on the bridge and she spoke into a divine transmission sign frame with a tremor in her voice.
“D-defense unit, well done keeping up the defense until we could read their pattern!!”
In all honesty, she had not thought it possible except maybe for her mobile shell, but they had all endured.
She wondered if she had read the situation wrong or if she was overestimating her own ability.
Several walls of water were rising on either side of the Musashi and they were being controlled by the automatons who captained the individual ships. It was a defensive technique, but it had two purposes for the Musashi.
“Cannon unit! The enemy’s attacks are thinnest where the walls aren’t rising, so fire there! Bring an end to their wheel formation! That will bring an end to the Battle of Plymouth which is #1 on the program!”
It was possible the firing enemy ships would attempt to ram them, so it was dangerous to have them on the same level.
The Musashi would rise.
When using a rotating formation like the wheel formation, it was difficult to respond to movement on the other side. It was doubly so when rotating so quickly, so now that the Musashi had lured them into speeding up so much…
“Once we ascend, expand the outer hull, accelerate with gravitational cruising, and pursue the leading fleet!”
The walls of water gave them stability while ascending, so they could rise more quickly than the enemies on either side.
They were damaged and worn down, but they had made their way to the next stage.
The attack unit reported it was ready, so Adele gave the order.
As cannon fire arrived between the upside-down waterfall walls, the small ships on either side had no way of evading besides continuing their rotation. They had shields, but most of them were struck by the Musashi’s counterattack.
But the attacks bent one portion of the rotation and it all fell apart.
Everyone making up the wheel formation groaned.
“But this formation is supposed to handle both offense and defense!”
The rotation would help them evade and distribute the damage and they could attack continually without end. In an aerial battle, the formation was effective with horizontally firing ships and with overhead bombers. To break it, one had to attack all of the enemies to wear them down or to focus on a single point and break it.
The Musashi had chosen the latter.
The walls of water allowed them to choose their timing and they could carefully aim their cannons because they did not have to worry about defense. Once they were instructed which ship to target, relentless yet awkward concentrated fire was poured onto a few ships within the wheel formation.
Those few ships crumbled. Normally, any damaged ships were to withdraw to the inside of the formation, but they could not manage even that. Further attacks arrived and the crumbling ships shook weakly and lowered.
After saying only that, they left by falling.
Soon, the wheel formations were truly destroyed. As a history recreation interpretation, the ship leaving on the port side took on the role of vice-flagship and the damaged ship on the starboard side became the treasury ship.
The silence of the two ships created a gap that could not fire back.
“The next attack is coming!!”
New shellfire slammed into the ships on the edge of the gap and the crews of the small ships noticed the Musashi was beginning to ascend as it switched between offense and defense.
It looked more like an actual city than a giant building. Smoke rose from it, a few spots on the surface were on fire, and it had holes torn in the sides, but it steadily rose. Meanwhile, everyone on the small ships gulped.
“Don’t let them get away!!” someone shouted as loudly as they could. “Form an angled line! Advance and meet up with the commander for the resupply time!!”
Segundo watched the Musashi accelerate.
It looked small enough to hold in the hand, but it quickly grew large enough to need both arms.
He was overwhelmed by an urge to run away, but he somehow managed to hold himself in place.
Fusae and the others really are amazing, he realized. So this is what they attacked.
But he could now tell how they had managed it.
“It was what they were meant to do.”
It had been an attack to show off where Tres España stood. Fear was no reason to give up on that.
In truth, they might very well have been afraid.
“But it isn’t about whether you want to do it or not. It’s about what you need in order to do what must be done.”
What was that called?
Was it courage? But if so, why was a coward like him here now?
“Who can say?”
At any rate, Segundo saw the giant shape approach. It was an intimidating sight, but it was not unharmed. His comrades from twenty-five years ago had attacked it, torn holes in it, and worn it down at least a bit. Its defenses would have been weakened and the external armor and surface would be under stress.
I see, thought Segundo. I may be a coward…
“But I can trust that I don’t waste the courage I’m given, can’t I?”
Where was that which he could not waste?
For an instant, he thought of the woman he had left behind.
“But I was already given it.”
He had been given those latest feelings.
“Everyone, get to your next combat positions!! We are entering the second stage! We will start with the Battle of Portland and shift to the Battle of Calais!!”
The Soho nature district was located north of where the Thames flowed through London.
The business district known as the City was located to its east and the religious and political district of Westminster was to its southwest. The district contained a forest as part of its nature park and hunting grounds.
Someone walked below the sounds in the sky and while hidden below those trees.
Mitotsudaira walked along the dirt path that was filled with darkness and she looked to the city from that forest.
Specifically, she saw the plaza located between Westminster and Soho.
After a few more steps, she spoke without stopping her feet.
“Is the hound not going to pursue my classmates who went on ahead?”
She received no response, but she still smiled.
“Should I take it as a compliment that you find me alone enough of an opponent?”
She shook her head.
“No, you’re taking me too lightly if you think a single hound is enough to take on a wolf. Did my performance last time put you off your guard that much?”
As soon as she said that, lights appeared in the forest.
Hundreds of knife blades spilled from below the leaves of the trees on either side of Mitotsudaira.
“Wars of the Roses.”
The countless lights assaulted Mitotsudaira while slicing through the shadows, trees, branches, and darkness.
Mitotsudaira took action to easily avoid the downpour of blades falling from above.
…Honestly, what a pain.
She raised her arms.
Two chains dangled to the ground from them and continued back into the forest she had walked through. The silver chains sunken into the underbrush got to work in the forest.
“Reveal the enemy, silver chains. Show her that nothing can escape a wolf.”
An instant later, the silver chains that were wrapped around the trees tightened themselves. Accompanied by repeated sounds of snapping and tearing, the trees were felled within a several dozen meter radius.
The forest was cleared away.
The many snapping sounds produced three things.
The forest came into view, the countless blades were stopped by the leaves and branches covering them, and…
“A doll should not hide in the darkness.”
Walsingham was revealed standing motionless where the forest had been.
She split her cross spear and produced two cross swords while the countless blades returned to spiral around her.
Meanwhile, Mitotsudaira found a suitable object among the fallen tree trunks and split it by tightening a silver chain around it. She had formed two thick logs about three meters in length and she grabbed their edges with the silver chains.
“Now, will this be enough if I want to play fetch with a dog?”
She then entered the plaza which contained a fountain surrounded by stone.
This is the same layout as the site of my previous failure, she thought. If I am to report my victory to my king, I must make up for that.
She walked around the fountain and faced her enemy.
With the fountain between them, Walsingham held her cross spear and had the blades hover around her.
Mitotsudaira faced her from a spot in which she could bathe in the moonlight and she looked up into the sky.
“The moons are so beautiful.”
She asked a question of her opponent, but it was a question asking for agreement.
“Don’t you agree? That full moon brings joy to non-humans and automatons are no exception, are they?”
Below the moons, Walsingham faced Mitotsudaira and nodded.
There was a reason non-humans reacted to the moon.
“Did you know? Supposedly, one of the moons has existed since before the Age of the Gods, but the other is said to be a mass of Orei Metallo made from solidified ether that was used to fill a hole opened in the sky. The light of the sun which has circled to the other side of the planet reaches it.”
Walsingham did know.
She quite liked astronomy.
She was the leader of the public morals committee and had a lot of information on other nations. She did so to ensure her hands and her fangs could reach anywhere, but the Testament descriptions said that information network and scheming had led the queen to avoid the original Walsingham.
However, that was exactly why she loved the stars which were out of her reach.
She had no emotions, but she had determined it was appropriate to say she “loved” them if she thought about them and looked at them despite them being out of reach and beyond understanding.
Meanwhile, the wolf continued speaking.
“The mass of ether reflects the light onto this planet, but it is no longer mere reflected light. It supposedly becomes much like the ley lines that carry ether. And thus non-humans feel their hearts stir when that moon is out.”
That moon was currently overhead and illuminating the two of them.
And as if spurred on by that light, the silver wolf continued speaking.
She stood beyond the stone fountain and turned to face Walsingham.
“I will start by greeting you, but then I will defeat you.”
“Me too,” said Walsingham quickly.
An instant later, Walsingham was certain that she had moved first.
The night of London was filled with many different sounds.
Some were the tones of the naval battle in the southern sky and others were the evidence of the battles occurring somewhere in London.
The harmony reverberated through the buildings of the city. The shaking shutters and groaning stone walls added their own notes to the symphony.
The Thames flowed west to east through the center of London and even it had ripples from the shaking and occasionally shot shallow bursts of spray into the air.
Many eyes watched the river and the bridge crossing it. From the shutters of the houses and apartments along the river, people watched the railing on the northern end of the bridge.
A girl in white leaned against the railing. She had long ears.
Everyone stared at the girl who read a book by moonlight. The city’s lights had been extinguished for the blackout, so the people had no entertainment or anything else to distract them from their nerves. They could not leave their houses, so even the races with night vision could only read or play chess with family members who already knew their play style.
“Shakespeare is protecting us with her theatre.”
“This is one road removed from the central road, but I hear it’s a major fork in the ley lines.”
The speaking family turned in a certain direction where someone could be seen on the road south of the bridge.
A boy wearing glasses and a Far Eastern uniform arrived near the southern end of the bridge. He had his right sleeve rolled up, so everyone watching could see the bandages wrapped around that arm.
“Macbeth is here. The usurper of the throne is here.”
They all nodded and watched the boy stand on the south end of the bridge, but the girl did not look up from her book.
For that reason, the boy opened his mouth and spoke to the girl on the opposite end of the bridge.
“Please end my Macbeth immediately.”
Her silence seemed to ask why, so he continued.
“There’s somewhere I have to go after this.”
Neshinbara saw her stop moving. When reading a book, one’s eyes moved and one prepared to turn the page, but those actions were replaced by a voice.
“You make it sound like I’m keeping you here.”
“If you aren’t, then please end this play.”
“I can’t,” she said from the other end of the slightly rounded bridge. “Macbeth is built into tonight’s play. Your absence has made it continue without Macbeth himself, but that in itself is a kind of theatrical technique. Everyone can use their imagination to make up for a missing lead.”
“Are you sure you want me being the lead?”
“You keep putting words in my mouth.”
Shakespeare looked back to her book, so Neshinbara made a sudden statement.
“Which one are you?”
“You said yourself that there were two girls who lived in that Tres Españan orphanage with me ten years ago. Which one are you?”
“You don’t know?”
“Judge,” replied Neshinbara. “I don’t. After all, there was only one of you back then. There was only Thomas Shakespeare. Or should I say No. 14 Shakespeare.”
Neshinbara looked at the girl beyond the bridge.
He did not know if she had realized it or not, so he had to check.
“It’s a common thing in people who are abused in their childhood. No, it’s also common among geniuses. You end up with another self inside you. I don’t know if it was someone to shunt your stress onto, someone to speak with, your ideal, or what.”
“No. 14, I don’t know which one you are now.”
“What I do know is… No, maybe I don’t know it. I don’t really feel like I know it and I feel kind of bad when I think I do. At any rate, the one I want to be with isn’t you.”
“I think there’s something wrong with simultaneously calling for world domination and world peace.”
That’s because there is, he thought. But there’s also something wrong with you for sympathizing with it.
And perhaps for that reason, she asked a question.
There was a clear answer to that question. It was something he had realized anew after seeing what he had once created. That place was comfortable, but more importantly…
“If I’m there, I can create what it is I want to create.”
“But you aren’t creating anything.”
She hit him where it hurt, so he could only smile bitterly and shrug.
“You’re right and I’m sorry. This isn’t something I promised to one or the other. I promised to both of you. We promised we would create something wherever we ended up and, once we grew up, we would use those things to communicate with each other. …So I’m sorry. I hadn’t forgotten, but…I was afraid. I’d decided for myself that it would no longer get through to anyone even if I did it.”
“It’s fine. I also think it’s silly for a professional to write something to communicate with a specific individual. I’ll write what I want to write and, if everyone who picks it up can enjoy it, I’ll be even happier. That is the better method.”
“Then,” said Neshinbara while raising his right hand. “Please end Macbeth.”
“Because I will write too.”
He had already decided on that. Or rather, he had decided it without realizing it. He had vaguely realized it during the Battle of Mikawa and this had helped him prepare.
“I will write about the borderline of the world.”
“That’s meaningless. That will most likely not remain in history.”
“Judge. But if I enjoy it, that’s enough. And whether it remains in history or not, if it reaches readers who love books and they enjoy it, that’s all the better. I’ll be a bit depressed if they throw it to the floor, though.”
“A battle of ideals still burns calories, so please spare me that. But…”
“I doubt it will be allowed to remain, but it may be something that still ends up remaining in some other way. Is that the vague borderline you want to reach?”
“It’s the same for you, isn’t it?”
Silence fell over the other end of the moonlit bridge and river, so Neshinbara nodded.
“You feel the pressure of your inherited name and struggle over when you can brag about your skill as an author. For the history recreation, it ends with your name, so there’s no need to create anything original. But even so, you want your name to leave its mark. You stand on that borderline between your inherited name and yourself.”
“Testament. You sure are eloquent.”
“Judge. I’m a horrible guy that loves criticizing others. But I will still continue on.”
“Judge. First, to where you are.”
Shakespeare stopped moving and he felt her gaze on him, so he pointed his right hand at her.
“I too will go to that place where eloquently-phrased criticism washes over me. Unless I go there, the horizon I long for will be nothing but a dream. So I’ll go there. And since it’s still presumptuous of me to call myself a professional, I just need the one reason.”
He took in a breath.
“I will go there to fulfill my promise with the both of you.”
“There’s more, isn’t there?” quietly asked Shakespeare. “If you defeat me, you will take my Logismoi Óplo, won’t you?”
“Judge. To recover my value after my miserable performance, I need to bring a souvenir back from England. But in exchange, you make a demand. If you win, what do you want from me?”
“Testament.” She nodded. “If I win…”
She suddenly shut her book and dropped it into the paper bag next to her. She then pulled the white and black Aspida Phylargia from the bag and spoke quickly.
“You will remain in England and determine which one I am.”
How suddenly she spoke, what she said, and how quickly she said it made Neshinbara think he had misheard and he mentally stumbled.
“Eh? Wait. Wh-what do you mean by that?”
With her gaze hidden by her thick glasses, she lowered her head a bit and strings of writing spilled from her hair.
Just as he realized he had made a mistake, it arrived.
<<Move, Birnam forest.>>
The army disguised as a forest finally arrived on the battlefield.
<<Go forth and attack Macbeth, army of Birnam.>>
A large wave of battle crossed the bridge over the Thames and crashed into him.
“It sounds like the others are having pretty harsh battles.”
Naruze spoke to Tenzou who ran ahead of her, but he did not reply.
The Technohexen spoke in order to distract them, but the ninja did not play along. She then let out a voice and covered for the ninja.
She threw a bottle of water to the right of an upcoming intersection.
The bottle exploded and the warriors hiding behind the corner prepared their shields, but the two had already passed the intersection by that time. Arrows were fired and an occasional bullet flew their way, but they accelerated and avoided them.
The ninja had a charm set on either shoulder. They were both defensive charms created by Asama that weakened projectiles. They were powerful, but the circular meter on the bottom had already circled about two-thirds of the way around the torii-shaped activation symbol.
Nevertheless, the ninja continued onwards and suddenly spoke.
“Naruze-dono, we are coming up on an upwards slope.”
“Judge. I can see the Tower of London up ahead. You should be happy.”
She used her wings to accelerate and closed the ninja’s slight lead.
“But this has gone surprisingly smoothly considering-…”
She trailed off when she noticed something odd. The meters indicating the remaining power in the charms on Tenzou’s shoulders were draining quickly enough to see. That proved he was being attacked. There did not appear to be anything around, but if he was under some kind of attack…
“Tenzou!! That pillar!!”
Tenzou understood what her tone and words meant.
The two of them charged below the roof of an arcade on the shopping district to the right.
The stone and wood roof was destroyed by some kind of overhead attack, but the two of them did not fall back. They continued on through the arcade and up the shallow slope. As they did, some kind of power struck the arcade roof, balconies, and terraces much like footsteps.
“Wh-what is this!?” shouted Tenzou. “It’s just like something from a side-scrolling action game!”
“If so, we can kill the pike units by jumping on top of them. No, this is that.”
“Oh, of course. That! …I’m sorry. I got carried away. What is that?”
“As long as you understand,” said Naruze as her hand shot out among the overhead destruction.
She found what she was looking for, accelerated with her wings, and held up a broken arrow.
“This is a combination attack from Vice President Cecil’s weight attack and Dudley’s weapon manipulation.” She sighed while racing onward. “That was a close one. They increased the overall weight gradually enough that I mistook it for exhaustion. If I hadn’t seen your charms, I might not have caught on.”
“Then are they behind this attack that’s pursuing us?”
“Judge. We’re running below the arcade, so they switched to putting Cecil’s weight on the arrows fired by Dudley. The two of them must be above us, so you’re going to owe me one.”
Naruze’s words confused Tenzou, but she only smiled a bit.
“Most likely, Cecil’s weight will return to us once we leave the arcade and she’ll try to crush us. But I’ll forcibly keep most of it from reaching you, so you just keep running. Got it? I’ll take care of things here. I won’t be satisfied until I show those two what I can do anyway.”
“Are you sure you can handle both of them at once?”
“You just have to carry out the role I’ve given you.” She took a breath. “But this is for my own sake. Everyone in our class really cares about each other, so I’m sure they’ll all praise me for this. …And from time to time, that’s not too bad.”
“Naruze-dono,” muttered Tenzou. “Back in elementary school when we had never even looked each other in the eye, you suddenly looked at me and said, ‘Something smells like a dog in here? Is it you?’ Back then, I thought you would be a lifelong enemy. To make a long story short, guys really are easy to deceive.”
“Oh, sorry. I don’t remember that at all. But I do remember I ended up next to you after the seat change in the second term of our third year. I didn’t know who you were, so I avoided speaking to you. That was pretty painful.”
“Y-you’re absolutely horrible!! That second term is what did a wonderful job of traumatizing me into thinking girls hated me! That’s why I’m not popular!”
“You like getting worked up over nothing, don’t you?”
“And whose fault is that!?”
As they spoke, the roof overhead crumbled and the two of them continued forward.
They had almost reached the top of the slope where a plaza created a break in the arcade.
It was the perfect place to bring the weight down on them.
“That’s where the enemy plans to get us, so let’s use it to our advantage!!”
Cecil, Dudley, and a line of auto-loading arbalests stood in the plaza atop the hill. As they monitored the enemy’s approach, they saw two figures charge out from under the roof of the left arcade.
“Cecil! Crush them!!”
Cecil floated high into the air and the surrounding landscape grew slightly distorted.
She was adding weight to everything.
Her aim was to crush the two who had just climbed the slope. As they ran from sloped to level land, their postures and their breathing both changed. The great weight would disturb their running and cause them to collapse.
To ensure that happened, Cecil floated up even further.
The two enemies arrived and they were both colored black.
One was a ninja, the other had black wings and hair, and they both wore black Far Eastern uniforms.
The weight pressed down on them, but the Technohexen opened her mouth.
Dudley watched as the ninja ran through the plaza without anything weighing him down.
Wondering how, Dudley looked closely and saw through the trick.
The black-winged Technohexen remained on the other side of the ninja.
She was taking all the weight. Cecil’s weight could not be rejected even if it was understood. The target’s waist would drop, their body would creak, their feet would stick to the ground, and their speed would drop.
However, she used her arms to hold up an object: her wing.
Her right wing groaned, shook, trembled, and scattered black feathers in the gravity, but it remained over the ninja’s head.
Cecil’s added weight came from above. If something cut off its path, it would hit that obstruction and not reach what lay below.
“You’re using your wing to create a protective roof over the ninja!?”
She could not do so forever because she would eventually be crushed.
But she clenched her teeth and supported the ninja despite being on the verge of collapse.
She was successfully protecting her classmate from Cecil’s weight.
“I know,” muttered Naruze behind her clenched teeth.
What was this? She groaned, raised her eyebrows, grew flushed, took a bracing stance, and practically crawled along the ground rather than lightly flying through the air.
It’s disgraceful and nothing about it is worth seeing. And what’s with this situation? It makes me think of friendship, trust, solidarity, and other words I don’t much care for.
“But this is the best way to get back at those women!”
This pathetic endurance will take this ninja to safety.
After all, I’ve experienced this weight before and he hasn’t. He’s a weight virgin, so a weight adult like myself needs to give him a helping hand.
…Honestly, what a terrible role.
But Tenzou, there’s something else I remember.
It’s true that you’ve been cautious around me. I know that. It made things easier for me, so I was actually thankful. But whenever we would gather for the school festival or anything else, you may have seen it as your duty, but you would never leave me out when you went to buy things for everyone.
It was probably annoying, but there are times when I need a break or something to drink and I don’t want to be left out. I can be selfish, so that’s just how I feel.
But you never omitted me.
I’m not the type to forget that.
I’ll pay you back five times over. After all, you can’t get a girlfriend while running errands all the time. But now that I’m letting you run somewhere other than on an errand, I’m sure you can get a girlfriend.
I’ll pay you back five times over, so make sure to pay me back the excess four times later. Yes, up until now was about 12 years, so four times that would be 48 years. All you have to do is go along with my selfish whims and not leave me out for that long.
Go. The arcade across the plaza is only a few more steps. Is it twenty more? That’s a long way. Couldn’t it just be ten? Is London trying to mock me here? Ahh, I can’t lift my legs anymore. But I still have nineteen, eighteen more… My wing is heavy too! I need to go on a diet. Seventeen, sixteen. Yes, fifteen, when I get back, fourteen, I’ll eat something nice with Margot and then get to bed! Thirteen, twelve, eleven… Kwaaaah! I can’t stand straight! Ten… I don’t have to worry about the last ten steps, right? Right? Tenzou’s already moving on ahead, so it doesn’t even- nine… Wait. What am I doing? I need to stretch my wing forward and make up for falling behind, but eight and seven and…ow, ow, ow! My wing is seriously going to break. It’s going to dislocate and isn’t that supposed to make it happen more easily next time!? Oh, honestly. I’m dragging my feet. And I’m falling forward. But making it to six is good enough, isn’t it? Margot will praise me for making it this far, won’t she? If I make it five…no, four, Margot will let me grope her tonight!
I made it! I made it to three! I’m gonna grope her! Dammit, Tenzou! Get going already!
Two. Just a bit further. One…one…one one one…
Oh, no. The ground is straight ahead. I’m falling. But raise your wing. Only the tip of the wing can reach him, it’s only for your own self-satisfaction, and you’re probably going to collapse, but…
Say it and that ninja is sure to carry out your errand.
“A girlfriend! Three minutes!!”
Idiot. That makes it sound like you’re asking him to get you a girlfriend.
I guess it doesn’t matter now.
Dudley saw the ninja dash across the plaza.
The Technohexen running with him fell from her low stance and into a roll. She made a complete rotation while her wing groaned under the stress.
However, the ninja continued on. The Technohexen’s wing had barely been reaching him toward the end, but the remaining power in the charms on his shoulders had covered for that.
He cut past Dudley and accelerated into the arcade leading to the Tower of London.
Arbalest fire pursued the ninja, but he lowered down and accelerated as if crawling along the ground. The arbalest bolts caught up and swept across the area, but they shot over his head. And by the time the second set of bolts had been loaded…
The ninja had already dashed down the street.
Cecil’s cry brought a moment of hesitation, but Dudley did not pursue. She was ashamed to have let him escape, but another member of the Trumps lay ahead. Pursuing an enemy she had let escape would say she did not trust her fellow Trumps or the queen.
“I-I-I-I-I will deal with the opponent I can deal with here!”
Dudley turned toward the collapsed Technohexen. One enemy had escaped, but one had been stopped here. This was not a problem, so she waved toward Cecil.
“C-c-c-crush her, Cecil. And hold her down to r-r-r-r-restrain her.”
Hearing that, the Technohexen stood up while gasping for breath.
“Ha ha. What’s this? Attacking out of spite?”
“Sh-sh-sh-sh-shut up. I already defeated you.”
“No, you made me fall. Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
The Technohexen slowly rose, but Cecil was already pinpointing the weight on her. She gave a small groan and sat back on the ground as if pulled by her wings.
However, she looked over with strength in her gaze.
“I win. Tenzou will definitely carry out his mission.”
“How can you be s-s-s-s-s-so sure!?”
“Because that idiot is a ninja.”
She laughed while placing her arms on the ground to help withstand the weight.
“This is what you get!!”
Now, I’ve said it, thought Naruze with an inward smile.
She had not actually gotten her revenge, but this was good enough. If Margot had heard her, she probably would have scolded her for going too far.
…But this weight really is-
She suddenly felt as if her body had jumped upwards. The weight had vanished and the arms, back, and wings she had been using to avoid being crushed suddenly regained their freedom. As she wondered what had happened, she heard a voice.
“Oh, dear. Don’t push up from below so suddenly.”
Someone stood above her with their legs straddling her back and wings. She looked up to see who it was.
Why? she wondered in surprise.
“To enjoy the nightlife,” answered the smiling girl.
Dudley gasped at what occurred in front of her. Not only had a girl dressed like a prostitute casually walked up, but…
…She’s taking Cecil’s weight without issue!?
The girl’s hair decorations and skirt were definitely affected by the weight, but the girl herself was light. She swept up the weight on her entire body and faced Dudley with a smile.
Dudley recognized the girl. She was the one who had defeated Honda Tadakatsu’s daughter with a dancing spell during the Battle of Mikawa.
She was a strange girl, but that strange girl faced Dudley and spoke.
“He heh heh. Ball-and-chain woman and balloon woman, you look like you have a question. I will answer anything you ask. But the deadline is one second from now. …One. That’s it! I won’t answer anything more! Heh heh heh. Now, ask me your question!!”
…I have no idea what she’s saying!?
“Yes, I understand, so I will tell you. Celine! My name today is Celine! After all, my foolish brother made a cheese Doria made with celery for dinner last night.”
…Oh, I kind of understood that one! But it was completely pointless!
“W-w-w-w-w-wait a second!”
“Just a second!?”
“W-w-wait at least three seconds!”
“We’ll be here all day at this rate. Then again, it’s already night. …Is that okay? Oh, it isn’t, is it? How lovely!”
…Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Don’t get caught up in her pace, Robert Dudley. Follow your blood pressure’s example and calm down at a bit above normal. If there’s anything to say here it’s that I can’t believe the other Far Easterners have been able to put up with this!
“B-b-b-but h-how can you ignore Cecil’s weight!?”
“Ha ha. How stupid can you be? Of course I won’t tell the enemy that. …Wait, Naruze. What kind of look is that for gazing upon a goddess? Gaze upon her with more of a smile. What? You don’t understand either? My god allows makeup and fashion for substitutions, so just by being me, I am not effected by all sorts of spells! But that’s a trade secret!”
…She told us that readily!?
This was dangerous. Dudley could tell this was a dangerous person, but that dangerous person did not stop speaking.
“Now, Naruze, you deal with that skinny woman. Okay? And I will take care of that one getting a nice breath of fresh air.”
“W-w-w-wait! Aren’t you a normal student!? You do not have the right to-…”
“What? In that case, I will continue on to watch that plain ninja plainly fail after he got carried away and ran off. I doubt the warriors up ahead can lay a finger on the summit’s flower. You understand that much, don’t you? You really are stupid. I was lowering myself to your level, so why are you getting carried away? Honestly, this is why humans are so hopeless when they get arrogant! …All right! That was a pretty good line, wasn’t it!? I pass! Yeah!”
Dudley felt dizzy for a moment.
…Oh, no. And I already have high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, the strange girl helped up the Technohexen.
“Now, if I don’t do anything, the others will come crying here and try to interrupt me when I’m showing off, so let’s get this over with quickly.”
“H-h-h-how dare you say that!?”
“Heh heh heh. Make no mistake. I’m actually in a pretty good mood right now.”
The crazy person said something unbelievable.
“After all, my foolish brother and future sister awkwardly confirmed their dreams in this city. London is a wonderful city. I’m thankful. They both bought me a souvenir and I understand that’s something I could normally never hope to get, so I’ll let you off with a nice beating.”
Even the impertinent Technohexen stared blankly at the dancer whose smile deepened.
“C’mon,” she said while slapping the Technohexen on the butt. “You go over there. I won’t help you, but no hard feelings, okay? If I did help you, my foolish brother would complain and say you could’ve handled it on your own.”
“It looks like the situation in the sky has advanced a stage, so go on ahead to ensure we can advance as well, Malga Naruze. Go and release some of that stress.”
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