Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 66
Chapter 66: Seeing One Off to the Heavens and the Earth
It is a feeling
That is created at a single point in the past
Point Allocation (Proof of Equality)
Fusae saw a trail of fog rising from directly below her.
She understood what was making its way up to her.
It was the god of war named Jizuri Suzaku.
She had assumed it was one of the Four Sacred Beast gods of war just like Michiyuki Byakko, but each Sacred Beast had one of the Mountain-River-Path-Swamp powers and it had been unable to activate the swamp ability that the Suzaku would possess. Thus, this was merely a copy of the Suzaku god of war.
That meant Fusae had no interest in it and so she gave her instructions to Michiyuki Byakko. The OS’s movement control spell program began midair combat and she gave additional instructions.
“Buffer our fall speed and don’t hold back.”
More OS cadena firma appeared and the Byakko’s shoulders both opened in the downward direction. The cannons modelled after a tiger face appeared there.
“Ultra Vibration Destruction Cannon: Roar Deterioration.”
It fired its greatest power to intercept the mass of metal flying up from below.
Directly below, the night air shook at close range as the enemy jumped into that space.
The enemy more shattered than broke.
But Fusae saw what broke first on the rising mass of metal.
…The god of war buffering equipment!?
She had previously seen this during the Battle of Mikawa. When Jizuri Suzaku had been fired into the air, its legs, body, and arms had had large buffering structures attached. She understood that intellectually, but what she saw was different.
Jizuri Suzaku had flown up while upside down.
Fusae thought about what that meant.
…If its legs were pointed upwards…
Just before the ultra vibration enveloped the leg buffering, it would kick off of it to move to the side.
The god of war was heavy, but if any of its upward momentum remained, it could continue up into the heavens. If its legs were pointed up, its arms would be down and it could grab the Byakko’s back while passing by.
In that case, it would pass by on the left or the right and Fusae made an instantaneous decision.
The instant she saw the color red to the right, she had Michiyuki Byakko’s right claws race through the air.
It hit, it grabbed, and it tore.
And so Fusae assumed it had worked.
However, the expected shock and recoil did not reach Michiyuki Byakko’s right shoulder.
The red of the Suzaku had suddenly taken evasive action in midair.
Jizuri Suzaku was meant for work on the ground and the Testament Union’s almanac information and the information from intelligence agents in England was enough to know that Musashi had no aerial gods of war.
So how had it taken evasive action in midair? When Fusae hurriedly turned to the right to answer that question, she saw three crosses in the moonlight.
Two were god of war flight devices and the third was the vermilion god of war with its arms extended to either side.
Fusae recognized those flight devices because they were used for Tres España’s gods of war.
“Those are the wings of the god of war the Technohexen shot down during the Battle of Mikawa!”
The Suzaku’s cross wings warped the air behind it and the vermilion triple cross charged straight toward Fusae while she heard the enemy shout. The false arm girl named Naomasa’s words were hard to interpret as actual instructions.
“Hit her, Jizuri Suzaku!!”
Everyone from the engine division watched as the gods of war collided overhead.
Among them, Hiro, the girl in charge of Jizuri Suzaku, was asked a question by her grandfather.
“Installing them is good and all, but isn’t that forcing things to work?”
“She wouldn’t shut up about making it fly. I had the wings running for three days and nights straight to get the proof that it would work, so my ears are still ringing. Of course, I did say I would make any modification she wanted as long as she gave me the right to maintain it from now on.”
“So you were the one making all that noise below the inspection area. I was wondering why no one stopped by to tell me to scold whoever it was.”
“Oh, sorry. Was it that loud?”
“If it was necessary, then it’s fine. Then again, it would be even better had it not been necessary.”
Hiro crossed her arms and nodded at her grandfather’s words.
“Well, Jizuri Suzaku had a light frame to begin with, so I didn’t set the output too high. That means it really comes down to the first attack, but she said that’s fine because she just has to keep that Byakko away from the bridge. But…”
The granddaughter pointed up at the color vermilion flying in the sky.
“How much does everyone know about that Suzaku?”
“All of us know. As does everyone in Naomasa’s class…including that chancellor.”
“I see,” said Hiro. “But wouldn’t it be bad to let that be destroyed?”
“Even so, she has no choice but to do this. She decided that was how she would continue on with the others. So…”
Taizou looked up in the sky with everyone else.
“You cheer her on too.”
With that, an especially loud sound of impact came from the night sky.
The vermilion god of war tackled the white one.
It hit the right side from the right, but while the Suzaku used its raised left knee, Michiyuki Byakko attempted to counterattack with its claws in a right backhand.
Jizuri Suzaku used the wings on its waist to bend backwards in midair and slip below the Byakko’s swinging right arms.
“Grab it with your legs, Jizuri Suzaku!”
Rather than the side, Jizuri Suzaku’s legs wrapped around the Byakko’s upper arm.
One leg had not been enough to fully suppress its left arm before, so it used both legs this time.
An instant later, Jizuri Suzaku rotated around the Byakko’s back like a pendulum attached to the point it had grabbed.
After rotating and extending its arms, it wrapped those arms around the Byakko’s left arm from behind.
Now both of Michiyuki Byakko’s arms had been secured from behind using both arms and legs.
The Suzaku was stretched across the Byakko’s back as if lying down on top of its wings.
“Pull it tight!!”
Jizuri Suzaku bent its body with smoke rising from the wire cylinders that acted as its abdominal muscles. Its back bent like a bow and it pulled its entire body toward the sky.
With a mechanical cry, Michiyuki Byakko’s arms were pulled up from behind like chicken wings.
The movements of its shoulders showed it was attempting to resist, but there was little it could do in this state.
Jizuri Suzaku focused its entire body into holding those two arms in place, but…
The Suzaku’s body shook.
A burden was being placed on it. Michiyuki Byakko made several rapid attempts to tear it away and created a gap in Jizuri Suzaku’s restraint. The Suzaku attempted to tighten down, but that slight gap and difference in angle caused it to shift and it attempted to fight it using pure strength.
But shimmering heat began to rise from its body.
Due to the difference in output between the two machines, the Suzaku’s motors quickly reached their limits.
And so Naomasa gave a new instruction to the wings rather than the motors.
“Slam it down, Jizuri Suzaku!”
Jizuri Suzaku obeyed by flapping its wings, but it did not use them to fly. It moved itself backwards to help lift the Byakko’s arms.
Air exploded forward and all of Jizuri Suzaku’s strength and its wings’ strength both pulled Michiyuki Byakko’s arms toward the heavens.
And finally, Byakko’s arms were pulled completely toward the sky and its body rotated as if falling into the air.
Naomasa knew her technique had worked.
Before, she had chosen to use Jizuri Suzaku to clash with this god of war and that had led to her loss.
If exchanging blows would not work, her only choice was to use throws and locking techniques.
However, this opponent was definitely quite skilled.
…I’m lucky I had Mito to practice with.
She had gained a partner because Mitotsudaira had come to fall victim to…no, to learn her martial arts. Specifically, how to throw someone by twisting a grabbed arm.
Mitotsudaira had used her flat hand rather than her nails, but Naomasa had still taken a lot of attacks. She had spun and grabbed a lot in return, but she felt the yakiniku meant as thanks was not quite enough. The venison had had a strong taste, Mitotsudaira had not ordered any vegetables, the only alcohol had been wine, and they had been in the non-smoking section.
Also, the only answer Naomasa had found was the simple fact that she had to attack at an opening if she wanted to be certain.
That was why she surprised her opponent with her ability to fly and then attacked from the side.
She had grabbed and locked the other god of war and now she was falling through the air.
…Time to slam it into something head-first!
If she did that, she would win. She did not know what would happen afterwards, but the enemy would have been completely diverted from the bridge. That would prevent them from destroying Tama’s bridge before the Musashi reached the Tres Españan fleet.
And so she gave into the fall and flapped her wings again.
…I will win!
But as soon as she thought that, the enemy came into view.
It was Era Fusae.
She stood on Michiyuki Byakko’s shoulder and she faced Naomasa in the night.
Her eyebrows were slightly raised as their gazes clashed with such force it almost seemed audible.
A moment later, countless cadena firma from Michiyuki Byakko’s OS appeared around her.
“Michiyuki Byakko, envelop her.”
Naomasa did not understand and she saw white light produced by Michiyuki Byakko’s OS. The cadena firma were appearing around Jizuri Suzaku rather than Michiyuki Byakko.
…Is she trying to sync us with Byakko’s OS!?
She did not initially understand why Fusae would try to do that, but then it hit her.
Their falling direction had changed. The Suzaku’s back was now at the bottom of the fall rather than the Byakko’s head.
“What is this?”
Above Michiyuki Byakko’s shoulders and to the left of Jizuri Suzaku as it bent like a bow to hold those shoulders in place, ether light suddenly formed a wheat field and a path.
Instead of falling down, they were falling to the field Byakko had created in midair and the change in direction meant they would fall on the Suzaku’s back instead of the Byakko’s head. If they continued to fall, Jizuri Suzaku would be crushed underneath the other machine.
And they hit.
Fusae saw the destruction of Jizuri Suzaku’s left shoulder, left arm, and left waist down to the base.
The destruction was caused by the machine’s own weight as well as Michiyuki Byakko’s weight.
The Byakko’s arms were raised, but it had hit the ground such that the angle between neck and arm was widened. And if the triangle between arm and neck was brought down to a line, the Suzaku inside the triangle would be crushed.
That was why Fusae would do exactly that.
Afterwards, she only needed to stand the Byakko up from its face up position and run to Tama’s bridge on the path it created.
The Suzaku was unable to eliminate the vibration of the impact against the virtual ground behind it, but it still stood up. It forcibly jumped over the Byakko’s head in order to wrap its arms around and cling to that head.
Well done, thought Fusae.
The enemy planned to perform a lock on Michiyuki Byakko’s head in an attempt to rob it of the autonomous decision-making ability that required information from the sensory devices.
But as the Suzaku circled around above, Fusae performed an overhand swing with the Byakko’s right claws.
She targeted its torso and hit the chest. The claws pierced the armor clothing on the left side, tore through the joints and wire cylinders in the chest, and slammed the vermilion Suzaku into the virtual ground.
The Suzaku audibly crashed into that virtual ground.
As it lay sprawled out on its back, the damage from the claw strike left its internal structure and core visible.
Shimmering heat and steam were released as a pulsating machine was revealed.
The Suzaku shook with what sounded like a scream and white steam burst from the primary motor as the outside air came into contact with it.
A normal god of war would have a transparent ether cylinder that held the pilot, but the externally controlled type they were using was different.
…That should be the primary nerve device that controls the full body!
Breaking that would stop the god of war. However…
Fusae let out a questioning tone. The object under the moonlight was not a metal cowling surrounding the artificial nerves that supported the spinal cord.
…Why is there an ether cylinder for a pilot!?
A transparent cylinder made of thick anti-explosive glass was within arm’s reach in front of Fusae. It was filled with bluish-white Orei Nero and a long, narrow torii-style sign frame was visible within.
The sign frame displayed a human form. Normally, it would display the pilot, but this was not a man or woman who was trained as a pilot. It was a very young girl. Also…
The person in that flat bluish-white image only had a head, an upper body, and a scattering of other parts.
This isn’t right, thought Fusae.
When a pilot boarded a god of war and lost parts of their body, the lost parts would be displayed in a different color or some other kind of explanation would be provided.
However, this sign frame had nothing of the sort.
…Then was this girl put inside here for some reason while already injured like that!?
Small sign frames danced around her. They displayed a bird and contained the word “Suzaku”, but the injured girl in the long torii slept in the center of them all.
“That’s my younger sister.”
A girl with one false arm stood on the Suzaku’s shoulder with blood staining half her face.
“When our village was attacked, Jizuri Suzaku wouldn’t function. And just when everything looked hopeless, she spoke to me. She was barely even breathing anymore, but she told me to use her.”
“So I will use her.”
Fusae moved on reflex. She did not understand what was about to happen, but a thought of rejection told her to finish this opponent. She had decided to attack and prevent this girl from “using” her sister.
“Jizuri Suzaku! Get up!”
She knew what that meant. The Suzaku would force itself to stand up and interfere with Fusae’s actions.
She tried to understand what was happening before her eyes, but she could not. It was like trying to lock up something that could not control itself.
“Stop it! Michiyuki Byakko!!”
The Byakko responded. While the Suzaku rotated its wings and tried to flap them to stand up, the Byakko opened both its shoulders and fired the ultra vibration destruction cannons there.
But Fusae realized something. The ultra vibration did not produce any sounds of destruction or vermilion fragments. The Suzaku simply remained lying where it had been and something new had appeared on the edge of the ground behind it.
A background made of ether had appeared below Jizuri Suzaku’s back.
It was a marsh.
Jizuri Suzaku had somehow not been destroyed and an ether marsh had appeared below its back. After seeing that, Fusae realized some new light had appeared around her.
It began with the OS sign frames glowing on the surface of the ether cylinder exposed in Jizuri Suzaku’s chest.
The image of a girl slowly opened her mouth without opening her eyes.
At the same time, the Suzaku gave an extremely high-pitched and creaking cry.
As if in response to that sound, countless vermilion sign frames appeared across Jizuri Suzaku and around Naomasa. And they all said the same thing.
“Four Sacred Beasts God of War Type 3 – Jizuri Suzaku : Initial Activation Check : Beginning Initial Activation”
It was booting up and using the default settings of an initial activation.
Fusae gave a large gulp.
She had assumed this enemy was not using one of the Four Sacred Beasts gods of war, but she had been wrong.
…What if one of the Four Sacred Beasts OSs had never been fully booted up before?
It was unthinkable. After all, gods of war were supplied as finished products. They were shipped out once the OS and everything else had been fully activated to test them. It was unthinkable for a god of war that had been active for so long to have never fully booted up its OS.
…What if most of the OS’s artificial brain was lost during its initial activation and a dying girl was taken in in its place?
…What if the girl’s mind completed the damaged OS and fused with it?
The god of war had been active all this time by prioritizing that girl who had asked to be used. Most likely, the basic autonomous movement system had used the unconscious girl’s senses and had her reply to her sister’s instructions via actions.
That had been the girl’s will.
But when the girl who was also the OS had been in danger, it had acted in self-preservation.
“Are you saying the Suzaku is taking action to protect her!?”
The trigger had likely been when Michiyuki Byakko’s OS had attempted to sync with its OS.
The Suzaku’s OS had activated to combat the danger of the synching OS attempting to activate.
That was what had happened.
And now a marsh was spreading out before Fusae. It had been created from her path. Michiyuki Byakko was opening several locking cadena firma to prevent its path from being consumed, but it was no use. The Byakko had been the one to begin the sync, so the synching OS running within it was now eating into the barriers from the inside.
And if Jizuri Suzaku’s power was the swamp of Mountain-River-Path-Swamp…
…Is this water!? No, this is…
The marsh reflected the sky, but it was a blue sky that did not exist here.
Fusae then understood why Jizuri Suzaku had not been destroyed. If the marsh behind it was the sky…
“You ‘fell back’ within that infinite sky, didn’t you!?”
It was similar to the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. That thin marsh was an infinitely-thick sky.
The water’s surface was a flat surface, but Jizuri Suzaku’s wings had definitely opened within it.
At the same time, Michiyuki Byakko shook.
The Suzaku and Byakko’s positions and heights had not changed on the flat surface of the marsh that had appeared in midair, but it still fell. After all, that flat surface contained a sky with infinite thickness.
Anything that stood on it would fall, but Jizuri Suzaku had wings and it raised those two crosses.
And it flipped them both around.
Michiyuki Byakko fell at only about thirty meters above Tama, but the marsh meant it was essentially falling from extremely high altitude. On its way down, it slammed into the side of the deck.
It hit a corner with a straight vertical body slam that shattered the edge of the deck.
When it struck, the sound of breaking metal filled the air. The Byakko’s right forearm broke and the right thigh shifted out of place and broke so that the base of the leg would not move. The primary armor on the chest shattered in an instant and the motors below were exposed.
As if ignoring the secondary sounds of the scattering fragments, the Byakko bounced back up from the great impact.
And it limply slid off the ship and fell into the space between the sea and sky.
As it fell, a woman with disheveled hair stood on its white shoulder.
Fusae shouted something, but it was drowned out by the wind. But as she looked up, she saw the twin moons overhead.
In front of those moons floated two crosses and a god of war that almost appeared to be hanging from them.
The Suzaku slowly descended from the sky, but there was no strength in it. The OS had deactivated and it was descending under the bare minimum of autonomous actions.
Fusae looked away and saw something down below. It was the small ship that had collected Takakane and the others who had withdrawn.
But even as she breathed a sigh of relief, she realized someone was missing.
“Is Gin still fighting on the Musashi!?”
The sound of cannon fire on the Musashi seemed to answer her question.
Tachibana Gin continued to fight despite losing her chance to withdraw.
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