Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 42
Chapter 42: Counterattackers in the Dark Forest
Why do we
The trick to fighting?
Point Allocation (Duty)
The battle in the forest continued as Tenzou and Mary separately charged in at the automatons who had been split between left and right.
Tenzou thought to himself as he heard repeated sword strikes from Mary and Excalibur on the other side.
Ex. Collbrande’s path did not waver. Unlike the irregular iai techniques of a ninja, she sent the arc of the sword toward the thickest part of the enemy.
It was a bold sword technique.
…The three hundred she cut down in the past is at least coming in handy now.
Ex. Collbrande was likely helping as well. The other half had come to him. It was light and dull, but it was effective as a blunt weapon. It was far from being a stealthy item and he was unsure a ninja should be wielding it, but he had no choice since it had taken a liking to him. He decided to think of it like a type of ninja dog.
…When I think about it, I’m completely relying on Mary-dono here, but I can’t let myself think that way.
But as he cut down the enemy with his attack…
He heard guns being prepared. The sound he heard in the noisy forest was unique to humans, so he held up Ex. Collbrande as a shield and bullets soon collided with it.
He realized the enemy’s grasp of the situation was recovering and used the sounds to count the number he and Mary had defeated.
Together, they had reached a total of twelve or thirteen.
The leading teams on the left and right had each had ten members, so the two teams had been reduced by about seventy percent. Two additional teams were arriving from below, but they could not do anything with the automatons of the leading teams in the way.
This was well done, he thought.
He sent a prepared sign frame as a sign and he made a wide swing with Excalibur.
The slash pushed the enemy outward and up the slope.
He had a single reason for distancing them like that. He placed Excalibur on his back to defend from behind and…
He ducked low and charged toward the additional team below while Mary did the same on the opposite side.
Mary was relieved to be moving.
She had a variety of thoughts about having to fight, but she was here because of everything that had happened in England.
…Doing what I can here is the least I can do for the others!
The enemy she drove back here was likely the same, so…
“Here I go!”
She held her skirt and seemed to fly as she rode the wind spirits.
…Is this really okay?
According to Tenzou, they were being pursued by Mouri’s three automaton sisters.
They had originally been part of a Hexagone Française academy, but they had apparently transferred to Mouri when Mouri Terumoto married Louis Exiv.
Mary had formally married into Hexagone Française in the past, so she knew these automatons’ abilities even if she had never met them.
Using that knowledge, she and Tenzou had exchanged ideas and put together this counterattack plan.
According to Tenzou’s knowledge of the Testament Union’s almanac, the three sisters held the positions of 4th through 6th special duty officers. On their side, Tenzou and Naito were special duty officers, but…
…What about me?
She moved on. Instead of utterly crushing the enemy, she had left a few behind her. That was to leave the possibility of friendly fire to stop the additional team from attacking.
Mary could see the spirits express their thoughts via movement in the ether and that revealed something to her. In the noisy night, the spirits were expressing their surprise at something that did not belong.
…A wooden skewer!
She realized this was Mouri-02’s attack at the same moment as Ex. Collbrande moved from her back, circled around her, and arrived in front of her. An attack tried to gouge into the large sword raised as a shield.
But Mary had a sudden thought.
The attack did not continue. There was nothing more from Mouri-02 or the others up ahead.
…That was a diversion meant to draw my attention forward!
In the past, she had cut down three hundred and later fought a fleet attacking England. Her spirit spells were weaker while away from England, but she had not lost the intuition that had given her.
Instead of using her hands, she had Excalibur sweep behind her using its autonomous movements.
It hit, but it hit more than just one object.
…All of the remaining ones!?
She looked over her shoulder and saw the correct number of enemies, but something was different about them.
Their arms were held out toward her as they tried to grab her.
Her strike had smashed them all as they attacked from behind, but beyond them, the previously damaged automatons were holding their comrades’ heads.
“I have determined she has noticed.”
As soon as Mary heard those words, the headless automatons she had hit with Ex. Collbrande exploded at close range.
“Mouri-01 to all others. If you determine you cannot continue your mission or that you are obstructing the others, remove your core and memory device and then self-destruct. Your body can be replaced and this is an excellent chance to gain a new body. There is no replacement for victory and your new body can be a reward you have earned instead of a simple replacement. …Make sure your decisions are sound.”
Mouri-01 heard everyone reply with “testament”.
They were excellent replies. All of those here, herself included, had bodies of hard wood frames, silicon outer shells, and soft resin skin. The wire cylinders of hardened cords that moved their bodies wore out quickly, but they ensured high performance on short missions.
“All but your head is made from natural materials, so it will all return to the earth eventually. If you detonate yourself, make sure to remove your head and core first and continue as we trained. Everyone remaining is to secure the heads and cores.”
“Testament,” the others replied just as another explosion rang out.
This self-destruction was not a “last resort” for automatons.
When they were acting in groups, even if only one survived, they could secure the cores and memory devices of the others and return with all of them.
And detonating their bodies after giving them instructions for an automatic charge could quickly turn the tide of a battle.
It was powerful enough to destroy an enemy’s front line or put a fleeing foe on guard. This was why they had achieved a 100% survival rate and a 100% success rate in their unofficial skirmishes with M.H.R.R.
“But how will Musashi’s special duty officers handle this?”
Tenzou did not speak a word when he heard the explosion and saw the flash of light. An expression of surprise or panic would only aid the enemy.
His ninja training allowed him to continue as normal no matter what happened in battle.
He still mentally expressed his worry, but was that due to confidence in his abilities or insufficient training?
However, he soon saw the color of gold push out from the leaves scattered by the blast. It was Mary’s hair.
She had swung Ex. Collbrande back and hid behind it as a shield. She had also used a spirit spell to control the flow of the air.
She was unharmed, but she and Excalibur had been blasted into the air.
The danger was not over yet.
After all, a headless charge was approaching Tenzou as well.
He heard their footsteps behind him. They had not caught up yet because he had started running faster than Mary had, but if the enemy further up the slope was planning to self-destruct…
…The additional team further down the slope doesn’t have to worry about them!
That was exactly what he saw in front of him.
The additional team was readying their guns.
They no longer viewed the explosive headless bodies as comrades.
So Tenzou lowered down a bit.
And he leaped high into the air toward her.
Mouri-02 calmly observed the ninja’s leap.
Her additional central team was in the process of joining with Mouri-01’s leading central team, so she left everything in the rear to the others and moved further forward. She rushed in front of her sister to protect her.
She accurately threw three wooden skewers toward the airborne ninja. She targeted his knees and ankles to stop his swift movements as soon as he landed.
After throwing the skewers as if pushing them, she prepared more. She would throw these at the ninja’s estimated landing spot, but something happened just as she gently spun around in preparation.
Hearing Mouri-01 call her name, she reversed her movements. Her sister was telling her to be cautious and that meant she must have gotten ahead of herself.
She kicked off the ground to quickly move back to the others. She accurately traced her previous movements in reverse and finally looked up.
She looked toward the ninja, but he was gone.
No, he was there, but he was not down below or to the left or right.
He was up above.
The ninja’s thermal reading was moving up.
He had jumped again in midair. Mouri-02 wondered how that was possible. She also wondered if it was even true, but another automaton shouted the truth.
“R2’s attack was evaded!”
That meant it was true. In that case, she had to determine what had happened.
Tres España’s Tachibana Muneshige had recently become famous for a double-jump spell and there were similar Signe Testament and other spells for floating or moving in midair.
But her sister pointed out the ninja way of doing this.
“The earlier tree disguised as a human form was thrown at us using ivy. …I estimate he grabbed that ivy to pull himself up!”
In that case, thought Mouri-02. He must have predicted a situation like this back when he was disguising the tree with the hot stone.
He had left a means of assisting his movements on the battlefield and he had used the previous disguised tree to make it look useless.
Mouri-02 decided this tactic was worth remembering and she also decided their enemy here was on the same level as them.
The leaves rustled as the tree branches shook and something fell behind Mouri-01. Mouri-02 and the others turned toward it, but it was too late.
After his double-jump, the ninja was attacking their eldest sister who was their central pillar.
The sudden attack from overhead was so unexpected that the automatons were slow to react.
However, Mouri-01 spoke calmly amid their confused pause.
“This is nothing to worry about.”
“Statistically, I predict Excalibur will be the first to drop down.”
They soon saw the result of that prediction. The object dropping from above had a human form.
However, it was only the upper body.
The coat of the ninja’s modified Far Eastern uniform descended while wrapped around Ex. Collbrande.
Branches and leaves scattered as it dropped straight toward Mouri-01.
But she had already taken a step out of the way.
The dropping sword did not hit its target and Mouri-01 predicted the ninja’s actions as well.
“He will drop down from directly above Excalibur. I predict he wants us to think that Excalibur is a diversion and that he will attack from elsewhere.”
Just as she said, a shadow shot down from above Excalibur.
“No one move.”
As soon as she said that, she used her gravitational control.
“Mine is not as powerful as Master Armand’s.”
She grabbed different spots along the ground, pulled up, and gathered them together as hard spikes.
“But this should make for a decent counterattack.”
Three meter spires of crust stuck straight up from between the automatons and the shadow fell toward that wide-range attack.
“Whoa, watch out.”
The shadow jumped up in midair.
This true midair jump should have been impossible for the ninja, but…
“Musashi’s 3rd special duty officer!?”
Naito did not answer the enemy’s question because she had already answered with an incantation.
She activated an acceleration spell. She wrapped her fingers around a pendant-style Orei Metallo and opened four speedometer-style Magie Figur inside her palm. Two were for acceleration and two for counteracting the recoil.
She often used this for her attacks, but without the broom to determine the angle of fire, she could not make any long-range shots.
…So it has to be close-range!
She had erased her thermal signature with a reduction spell and waited for the right timing.
They had all decided this would begin their path to victory.
After all, automatons were dangerous enemies.
Their life on the Musashi had taught them how immeasurably accurate automatons’ predictions were.
But, thought Naito.
…When you’re too accurate, you only ever think about the best possible option!
That was why the enemy had predicted Tenzou would attack here.
And they had not known how to handle her unexpected appearance in his place.
Naito’s right hand was pulled back by her waist, but after confirming the enemy was caught off guard, she thrust the hand forward. Her palm broke through the speedometer-style Magie Figur and sent light scattering everywhere.
She fired a ten yen coin toward Mouri-01 as the automaton tried to turn toward her.
The sound of the blast filled the air.
Naito was about five meters from Mouri-01, so the automaton could not avoid the attack.
The mountainous spikes she had created actually left her even less able to move.
But something did move.
It was Mouri-02 who was outside the spikes and quite nearby.
She used what she had prepared when predicting the additional attack above her sister. It was a different defense method from her sister’s spikes.
She used her gravitational control to lift up four automatons who had met her gaze through the spikes and nodded. After saying “testament” via their shared memory, those four had removed their heads.
Mouri-02 forcibly launched them upwards.
She forced her arms up to instruct her gravitational control. She was generally in charge of more precise control, so she was not suited for this powerful and forceful manipulation. Her arms creaked under the strain.
“Don’t hurt my sister!!”
With those words, the four doll bodies flew up as shields.
The four automatons’ heads dropped behind or in front of them and their bodies created a definite barrier between the eldest sister and the Technohexen.
Two were smashed by the direct hit, one was torn into, and one creaked but endured.
“Mouri-221, detonating.” “Mouri-222, detonating.” “Mouri-223, continuing as normal.” “Mouri-224, continuing as normal.”
Two exploded and the other two continued to act as a barrier.
However, the blast did reach the airborne Technohexen. Mouri-02 heard her wings moving and saw the light of a defense spell through the blast.
A special duty officer would have a countermeasure for a counterattack, she thought. She did not shift to defense so quickly by chance. That was the result of constant training.
But Mouri-02 heard another sound.
It came from up the slope behind her. It was directly below the location of the ninja’s previous double-jump.
It was the ninja. He had removed his coat and let go of Excalibur, but he was preparing to throw a kunai with only the movement of his forearm. And he was targeting…
Tenzou threw the kunai as if shoving it forward.
His target was Mouri-01. She was the enemy’s leader and she had created that group of spikes.
…So she can’t form another barrier!
But, he thought. First Horizon-dono’s ‘you thief’ joke and now this. Do automatons naturally like walls or something?
…At any rate, we need to finish this here!
They had used up all of their tricks and automatons could adapt too well for a trick to work on them a second time.
Not settling this here would be too dangerous.
He was concerned about their numbers as well. Including Mary, they had three fighters at special duty officer level and the enemy had two. That was a large difference, but the enemy had plenty of other automatons fighting with them.
Tenzou’s group was at a disadvantage for a long-term battle and they did not want to thoroughly annihilate their enemy to win.
That was why they needed to defeat the enemy leader to stop their advance.
And to do that, he was throwing this kunai.
But his hand suddenly stopped moving.
He had not decided to stop his attack. Instead…
…The kunai stopped!?
As if it had hit some invisible barrier, the kunai refused to move even when he pushed it.
It seemed like a gravity barrier, but that technique required the great output of the Musashi. And the idea that this was the automatons’ doing conflicted with another fact too.
…Because automatons exist to serve their master, their gravity is only supposed to affect their master, themselves, and their fellow automatons!
He had learned that from studying porn games.
But regardless, his weapon had been stopped.
“Wait just a bit there.”
He heard a girl’s voice he had not heard before and the kunai began to move. However, it moved toward his waist and into the stocker on the hard point there.
After the kunai was placed inside like a child putting away a toy, an invisible hand lightly tapped on the stocker.
This was gravitational control.
…What is going on?
Tenzou was confused because this should have been impossible for an automaton.
“Tenzou! Watch out!!”
After Naito’s shout, he was fired on from the left.
“Big sister, are you all okay!?”
He heard the same voice as before as thirty-odd automatons charged forward with guns at the ready.
The group was led by a girl who kicked off tree trunks and branches to secure an elevated position.
“Mouri-03 is here with her unit of thirty-two!!”
They split into groups of eight as they ran. They crouched low, aimed their guns, and accelerated further.
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