Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 34
Chapter 34: Pursuer in the Forest
You cannot catch up to it
Even if you hurry
Point Allocation (Objective)
Mitotsudaira ate her late dinner while walking.
…I can’t seem to calm down.
She walked through the forest where the shadows of the trees increased the darkness of the night. Tenzou was crouched down in the lead, she and Naito were spread out to the left and right about ten meters back from him, and Mary followed another ten meters behind them.
Tenzou kept an eye on the others’ pace and tried to stay below the trees as much as possible. He would occasionally gesture with his hand to inform them of a rocky area or an area in which flowing water had worn away the terrain.
10ZO: “We’re stopping.”
When he sensed a presence, he would inform them with an unlit sign frame.
After the occasional stop, Mary would walk up to him.
“If it’s an animal, let me handle it.”
They would whisper to each other and a boar or deer would eventually pass them by. Then they would begin walking again.
“Mito-tsan, how are your legs holding up?”
She was still wearing her personal shoes which had picks meant to be driven deep into the ground when using the silver chains. The picks had been removed for the time being, but she was not used to using them like that and would occasionally hit an outcropping of rock.
…I’m used to fighting on a plain or in a city. I’m no good in the forest.
She looked at the surrounding darkness of the trees and recalled an event from her past.
Long ago when she had been very young, she had entered the forest and gotten lost. She had not known how to return home, so she had cried.
When she thought that, she noticed she was trying to see the night sky through the tree branches.
This isn’t the time for that, she realized.
She quickly turned toward Naito and remembered what the girl had asked.
“F-fine. I’m doing just fine.”
She inhaled and responded more to the long gap she had made than the question Naito had asked.
“Don’t worry. I am from a Loup-Garou family.”
The rubbing pain on her heel was likely the beginning of a blister, but it was mild enough that resting somewhere would let it heal. However, her entire body felt sluggish and she did not have the willpower to say much, so she took a bite of the portable food Tenzou had given her as an excuse to remain silent. The soft bamboo packaging contained three cokepen-sized sticks. She removed one and put it in her mouth. Before biting into it, she licked it as if sucking on it.
The Far East’s culture of preserved food had made great advances using vegetables, but vegetables were not her favorite thing. She would have preferred Western-style portable food, but…
The surprise of the Western flavor almost made her stop walking. Next, the strong flavor of salt almost seemed to stab into her tongue.
“Oh, Tenzou made those at home. He says it’s a crude Far Eastern type of cheese. Then he broke apart some tuna, boiled it down, and solidified it with egg whites. Apparently, you’re supposed to make a soup out of it, mix it with rice, and cook it like that.”
She bit into it without really listening to Naito’s explanation.
She preferred normal meat to fish, but this cheese-filled tuna had enough resilience to feel like she was actually eating something. She practically whittled down the one stick in her mouth, and…
…I have two more?
“There’s even more.”
Naito tossed her something.
She caught it and found more than just sticks. There were wafer and pill shaped ones as well.
“The wafers are for main meals. Rice flour was solidified with condensed milk and cooked. The pills are for nutrition. They-…”
“I smell vanilla essence.”
“He said they were thickened with caramel.”
In that case, they had all been made using some kind of animal fat. She had expected to be given flavorless but edible charms called “food charms” or dried meat, but…
…Food charms are only meant to eliminate hunger and you can’t carry all that much dried meat with you.
She was thankful, but at the same time…
“This is a Western variation.”
Mitotsudaira focused on Mary who was protecting them from behind.
…This must have been her idea, not Tenzou’s.
Mitotsudaira was undoubtedly placing other burdens on her too.
Should I say something?
No, we’re on the move and I really don’t want to alert our pursuers by saying something.
But if this is just her being considerate, maybe I should tell her not to worry, but since she’s English, she might want to keep her distance from someone born in Hexagone Française, but she also married into Hexagone Française at one point, but she might have a grudge against Hexagone Française because that makes her feel indebted to Tenzou and Tenzou can’t follow through on that point, so…
She held her head in her hands and just about summed it all up as “It’s Tenzou’s fault”.
That’s not it. It really isn’t,” she thought while focusing on Mary.
…I really am terrible at communicating.
Mitotsudaira gave a mental nod and realized she tended to keep her distance from others.
She was a knight, she was a Demi Loup-Garou, she was second in line to ruling the Far East, and so much else, so she was used to speaking from those positions.
And she had been around the terrible people of Musashi for a very long time.
However, Mary was a bit different.
She was a royal and the Fairy Queen’s sister.
Mitotsudaira’s positions were of no help with this girl. In fact, those positions only complicated matters.
On top of that, England and Hexagone Française had countless historical connections and she did not know what the girl thought about those.
…And I’m not sure I should ask about it myself.
Well, I don’t need to worry about that now.
Yes, I’m feeling faint from the pain reduction.
…I don’t need to force myself to-…
Her thoughts ground to a halt before she could add “speak”.
Wh-what is wrong with me? Am I so bad at communicating that I’m shutting it down altogether?
I’m awful, she thought while mentally holding her head in her hands.
Is this shyness of mine an advanced version of rejecting something without ever trying it?
But come to think of it, all of my personal relation skill slots must be filled from trying to deal with those horrible classmates. I can’t fit anyone else in there, so there’s no point in adding any more acquainten-…
This is really bad.
During business discussions or at work, one could always discuss the product in question or the item being developed. But in personal socialization, the discussion had to be about yourself and the other person.
…What is there to even talk about with me? I’m a Loup-Garou, I have these rare silver chains, I’m flat-… That doesn’t matter. Right? Right?
At any rate…
…Every topic is too over-the-top.
But Mary is the same. She is English royalty, she is Scarred, she has Excalibur, and she has huge-… Well, that one might count since it’s what attracted Tenzou to her.
What were they supposed to discuss out of that? They could always discuss food or their everyday lives, but a normal chat felt unnatural with all their unique qualities.
This was what it meant to have too much.
Mitotsudaira sighed quietly so Mary would not notice.
“Mito-tsan, are you getting tired?”
“Eh? Um, no, I was just thinking.”
“Did you really find what happened earlier that humiliating?”
“Did you have to bring that up!? Are you trying to pick a fight!?”
Tenzou turned back toward them.
He pulled a finger horizontally across his mouth, lowered his hand, and pointed forward. Naito nodded twice and turned to Mitotsudaira.
“He says if you have your throat slit and are buried in the ground, you need to stay positive. …Think you can do it?”
“Are you sure he wasn’t saying to stay quiet, keep low, and continue forward?”
“Ohhh! You’re clever, Mito-tsan.”
Tenzou turned around again, so Mitotsudaira and Naito frantically crouched down. He suddenly looked far behind them and then back forward.
Without saying a word, he resumed moving and Mitotsudaira matched his pace.
…Did he find something?
A moment later, something appeared above the trees.
A giant object passed by.
It was a small Hexagone Française aerial ship.
Tenzou sent instructions to the others who just about raised their heads.
…It’s only passing by.
If it had found them, it would not be moving so quickly. It had seemed to appear so suddenly because it had released its auditory stealth. He focused and heard the overlapping sounds of several more ships in the distance.
Hexagone Française was trying to put pressure on them.
The sudden sound would fill them with the fear of being found.
They would be spotted if they panicked and began to run and they were rendered motionless while hiding from it.
…They will hold us in place with the ships while the pursuers come for us.
“But now is the time to move.”
“Tenzou, are you sure that’s a good idea? There’s a whole bunch of them flying around up there.”
“I will make sure we take a safe route, so do not worry. Besides, they clearly have no idea where we are. After all…”
“Mitotsudaira-dono, how far do these sounds continue?”
“Let’s see… It sounds like ten kilometers north of us is the center and they are spread out over a radius of twelve kilometers.”
“Judge. It would be natural to assume their main force of pursuers is at that center point. And they are searching over such a wide area because they have not caught our trail yet. Not even their force in the north has.”
“Once they realize we are not in the north, east, or west, they will narrow their search to the south. But the distance we travel in that time is essentially a bonus for us.”
“You’re so cool, Tenzou.”
Naito exaggeratedly spread her arms as she praised him, but Mary looked at him with her hands on her cheeks.
…I just scored some more points!
I’m so glad I came to Hexagone Française! Three cheers for Toori-dono’s abduction! he thought before focusing again.
…Anyway, we have some dangerous pursuers after us.
When they had dropped down, he had told Mary to manipulate the wind to send them a little to the east.
They had landed near the border with M.H.R.R.. There, she had asked a deer to carry some dummy gear he had prepared and travel south. Meanwhile, they had travelled west before starting south.
…If we travelled along the border with M.H.R.R., it is possible they would be too afraid of M.H.R.R. to pursue us. But I only made it look like we had decided to do that.
However, the enemy had not fallen for it.
The arrangement of ships above Hexagone Française showed no sign of moving east toward M.H.R.R.
…And as Mitotsudaira-dono pointed out, they are centered on a point directly north of here.
His ears had picked up the same fact.
“That means they did not fall for the decoy and are directly pursuing us here.”
Another ship passed by overhead. Its movements suggested it had not found them, but…
…They have at least speculated that we might have made it this far.
“Um, Tenzou?” asked Mitotsudaira. “If the pursuers do catch up, who would we be dealing with?”
My answer will be nothing but consolation, but we can’t have her panicking, he thought as he opened his mouth.
“No one much. Their forces are split dealing with M.H.R.R., so I assume they have only sent some kind of special forces after us. After all, we are pursuing their vice chancellor, so there would be little point in using too many resources on this.”
“We need to stop them before they reach the Reine des Garous’s place. She ordered us to stay away and she dislikes having others enter her territory. We know she is on her way to her safe house with Musashi’s chancellor, but provoking her could trigger the worst case scenario here.”
The female Belle de Marionnette of the Three Musketeers, Henri, spoke on the deck of a light aerial ship floating above a forest.
“Basically, don’t interfere with the Reine des Garous’s capricious nature. …Can you handle that?”
She spoke toward the rest of the deck, but that deck remained unlit.
She had her back to the pale moonlight and three female Belle de Marionnettes stood in front of her.
They were maids, but their maid uniforms were modified for travelling through the forest.
The tall one with the number 01 stitched on her clothing smiled and spoke.
“Testament. Understood. This will be our first official mission after being placed under the princess’s command. Regardless, I will do my best as her helper and as the inheritor of her uncle Mouri Motokiyo’s name.”
“To be honest, I would prefer not to have the princess’s maids engage in combat, but…”
“If the other nations learn that even the princess’s maid Belle de Marionnettes are trained in combat, they will be forced to take time to deal with us. And we have inherited the names of Mouri commanders, specifically Princess Terumoto’s uncles, so this is exactly what we want.”
She then tilted her head.
“But should I really be using Mouri-01 as a designator? Motokiyo is the fourth son of Lord Motonari and part of a mistress’s family, but this will lead the other nations to simply view me by that number.”
“Yes, but the Belle de Marionnette unit you lead uses the ranking from the Hexagone Française side, so there’s no helping it. It seems they actually wanted to give you the name of Takamoto, father of Lady Terumoto and eldest son of the late Lord Motonari.”
“But the Testament descriptions say Takamoto passed away before Lady Terumoto came of age. …And the inheritor of Motokiyo’s name went missing, so I am the replacement.”
Henri saw Mouri-01 lower the ends of her eyebrows in a smile.
“The princess has had a strong influence on you, hasn’t she?”
“Not as much as on Lord Exiv.”
She then turned to her two sisters. She nodded at the slender, expressionless one with short hair.
“I now officially grant Mouri-02 the name of Motoharu, second son of Lord Motonari.”
She then gestured toward the short girl past the other one.
“I also officially grant Mouri-03 the name of Takekage, third son of Lord Motonari. And…”
She indicated the lines of maid Belle de Marionnettes behind her.
“These are the chosen 128. As the Mouri forces, I ask that you remove everyone traveling through our territory without permission.”
She tilted her head.
“But what is the Reine des Garous hoping to do by abducting Musashi’s chancellor and student council president?”
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