Horizon:Volume 3C Chapter 70
Chapter 70: Confronters in the Metal Tower
What do you call the moment of understanding?
Point Allocation (Surprise)
The battle continued.
As long as there were opponents to fight and they both remained standing, the battle would not end.
But Mitotsudaira did not understand anything as she stood up. Two simple words remained in her heart.
She felt she had been scolded by her mother again.
She thought her mother was kind, she enjoyed being around her, and she loved her, but the woman was incredibly scary when she got angry. She did not get angry often, but she would get really angry when Mitotsudaira did something dangerous or did not do what she was supposed to do.
If Mitotsudaira disobeyed her, she would be slammed into the ground.
When Mitotsudaira had been told she had to study but she instead stopped somewhere for fun on the way home, her mother had gotten angry. She had cried and asked if having fun was wrong. She had been afraid that she would not be allowed to have any fun from then on.
…But did she understand how scary she was?
Mitotsudaira did not know. She simply found her mother scary and wanted to avoid angering her if at all possible.
She had started studying in order to keep her from getting angry.
The same thing had happened eight years before. She had hoped she could get through to her mother at least a little, but she was still slammed into the ground.
At the time, she had sworn to herself she would never apologize, but…
She had been forced to say those words and she had lost everything. She had lost her pride, the friends she had gained through that pride, her reputation, and everything else. It may have been a misunderstanding, but in her mind, she had lost it all because she had disobeyed her mother.
It had happened again the other day and now it was happening yet again.
She could see her mother stepping down from the ring.
She felt she needed to stay on the ground and apologize.
She was no match for her mother. She was no match for the woman’s height, figure, strength, speed, techniques, or anything else.
She had no chance.
But, she thought.
Why am I standing?
There was no strength in the core of her body. She doubted she was standing straight. She could only feel her legs and their strength as they supported her.
Her field of vision shook, her eyes refused to focus, and she could only feel a vague heat throughout her body.
Why had she stood? Shouldn’t she have stayed on the ground, apologized, and cried?
She was no match for this opponent, so she could only lose.
Everyone had seen what had happened eight years ago and the other day, so they would know she stood no chance. If she explained it to them, they would understand. She just had to say she was no match for this opponent, so she had not stood a chance. Surely they would all…
She had a sudden though.
…Saying I simply didn’t stand a chance and giving up…is wrong.
That isn’t it, she thought.
There was something wrong with giving up because her enemy was powerful.
She knew that mistake.
The enemy may be powerful, one might stand no chance, and everyone might urge them to give up…
…But I know someone who didn’t understand any of that.
That’s right, she thought with a nod in her heart.
For the first time in a long while, she had seen it in Mikawa just two months before.
A certain idiot had wanted to do something that was clearly impossible, but he had decided to continue on alone if he had to.
That idiot was her king.
He had been worried for her when she had decided to come here, but if she ever decided to do something without giving up, she knew what he would say.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, okay? If things get dangerous, come on back.”
“If you’re gonna do it, then go do it.”
A scent reached her nose. It came from her collar. It was her king’s scent from when she had covered up her mother’s scent in the carriage and it was what had woken her up a moment ago.
Move. Please move.
Her mother was approaching. Her mother swung her leg to kick her through the air.
But, but, but, but that isn’t what matters.
…This isn’t about my mother.
I’m not supposed to think about her and apologize.
…I need to think about my king and get my body moving!
The kick scored a direct hit.
Several loud noises filled the room as a wave ran through the stockers and around a dozen of them broke and flew through the air.
The silver wolf’s body smashed through them and slammed into the wall like a shell.
That was the result of the direct hit.
Meanwhile, Rudolf II finished the follow-through of his kick while shards of blades and stockers scattered like dried leaves.
…What is this?
“You are surprising durable.”
He saw his enemy before him.
She was not unharmed, but she was not unmoving either. She was on all fours, struggling to get up from the floor.
The Reine des Garous’s daughter tried to stand up. Her weak hands grasped the floor, her trembling elbows pointed toward the ceiling, and she shakily lifted her butt and slid her knees along the floor.
She forgot about trying to attack her enemy, she forgot just how defenseless she was, and she simply tried to stand.
“Is she moving on instinct? No… This is a conditioned reflex built up by her training and everyday life.”
It did not matter how much damage she had taken or how great a disadvantage she had. As long as she could move, she would stand no matter what.
She was not just relying on a Loup-Garou’s durability and regeneration.
She had to have trained both her body and her mind.
“You are going to stand, aren’t you?”
His enemy leaned on a tilted stocker with half her face stained by blood. Her right shoulder may have dislocated because it hung limply by her side. She was out of breath and terribly sweaty. Her entire body trembled and she swayed as she breathed.
Nevertheless, she was standing.
Rudolf II did not know what had led her to stand, but he did understand one thing.
She would not be brought down by his current methods.
Even if he tried to knock her unconscious, she would recover quickly with the regeneration of a Loup-Garou.
The only solution he could think of was to use a chokehold to asphyxiate her into unconsciousness, but he wanted to avoid grappling with her when he did not know what she would do.
There were more surefire methods. For example, he could use a weapon to decapitate her.
This would no longer be a mere sparring match, but she did not view it that way anymore either. The most important rule in sparring was the fact that you could lose, yet she was not allowing herself that.
…I can always lop off an arm to incapacitate her through blood loss.
She would pass out if she lost enough blood. Despite that plan, Rudolf held a spear.
It was the same one she had used against him at the beginning.
He raised it and threw it toward the girl leaning against the stocker.
And he used his full strength.
Mitotsudaira saw her mother moving.
I’ve made her that angry, she thought.
After all, she refused to do what her mother said, she refused to stay down, and she refused to apologize.
That was why her mother had thrown that spear. Not to knock her to the ground, but to take her life.
There was no helping that. She had disobeyed her mother. She was listening to someone other than her mother. The real problem was how that other person’s words fit so much better with her own beliefs.
There was only one thing on her mind.
…I will not give up.
When was it that her king had told her that?
The spear flew toward her stomach.
If it hit, she would not escape unharmed, but her body would not move.
Just like before, she begged it to move yet it would not. There was nothing she could do.
But she still had the same thought.
…I will not give up.
And she had decided to continue disobeying her mother even if the spear hit her.
After all, she remembered something.
The day before, when her mother had captured her and forced her to apologize, she had been unable to do anything, yet her king had said something to her.
“Because you’re my knight.”
Judge. As long as I am your knight, I will no longer apologize to you.
I will only speak other words to you.
But what should she do about this lethal attack when her body would not move?
What could she say when she was told not to apologize?
I will not give up.
She had just one thing to say, but it was not that she would fight or that she would defend.
…I will go.
That word encompassed both fighting and defending.
…I will go.
She had used that same word long ago.
She had used it when living with her parents. She had used it when she had finished studying and was heading out to play.
Her heart had been so much lighter when she had already done what she was supposed to do, but had she done what she was supposed to here?
She had not given up and she had stood, so…
“I will go.”
A solid sound rang out.
It was the sound of the spear hitting its mark after being launched and tearing through the air.
However, it did not hit the silver wolf. It hit the wall behind her.
It had missed its true target.
But Rudolf II saw where the silver wolf was standing.
Her position was odd.
Just as before, she was leaning on the stocker by the wall.
But at some point, she had moved less than a meter to the right.
Her position had shifted just after he had thrown the spear.
The exhausted and injured silver wolf stood on her own two feet between the broken stocker and fallen weapon. She had a blank look on her face, but…
Rudolf II did not know when she had moved there.
It was only the distance of a single large step, but…
He did not know. He knew he had not seen it and he felt that meant he had let his guard down, but…
He saw the silver wolf wobble and almost fall to her knees, but…
Her position shifted again.
She briefly vanished and suddenly reappeared a step away.
Rudolf II watched as the silver wolf raised her unfocused eyes and exhaled with a hand on the nearby stocker.
…What is this?
There was something odd about the movement of her hand, the movement of her breath, and the movement as she coughed.
…What? What is this!?
They were all missing their midpoint. He could see the beginning of the action, but the next thing he knew, the movement had reached its end point.
When she placed her hand on the stocker, he saw her shoulder begin to move and her hand was suddenly already on the stocker. When she coughed, he saw her begin to breathe in and she had suddenly already bent forward after coughing.
He could not see the movement in between.
And she moved again.
With her eyes still unfocused and her body wobbling unsteadily, she started down the center of the pathway created by the destruction.
She vanished and reappeared yet again. She had likely tried to lean on the stocker, but when he saw her next, she was standing unsteadily in the center of the pathway with both hands raised.
The movement looked meaningless, but he realized the stocker she faced was shaking back and forth and creaking.
She had to have struck it during the unseen middle section of her movement.
Rudolf understood what had happened.
…This is a ridiculous explosion of instantaneous strength.
“There is actually a trick to moving quickly.”
Tenzou was embarrassed with himself for only understanding after Mary told him about Mitotsudaira’s state the night before and how she had thrown a stone in the spring.
…I get it now.
“Mitotsudaira-dono must be beginning to understand that trick.”
“What is that trick, Master Tenzou?”
He clenched his fist, held it up toward Mary, and shook it to tell her to clench her empty hand into a fist too.
“Clench your fist even tighter.”
“Eh? Oh, okay. Is this enough?”
“Yes, that is fine.”
He raised his fist in front of her face again and lightly swung it from the elbow.
“Can you swing your wrist using a snap from the elbow like that?”
Mary tried to swing the wrist of her clenched fist a few times.
“I can, but only at a limited angle.”
“If you want to swing it over a wider angle, you have to focus on the action and that slows it down.”
But he opened his hand and waved his fingers around.
“How about like this? Try swinging your wrist using a snap from the elbow again.”
She opened her hand and swung it. Her movement and the hopeful expression on her face were exactly what he had hoped for.
“Judge.” He nodded. “When you spread your hand, you lose all strength, don’t you? But you can move your wrist more easily and more quickly. After all, the movement of your wrist actually comes from your elbow and your wrist moves more quickly when it is lighter.”
“You mean,” added Mary, “if you keep the hand or foot looser, it will move more freely and more quickly?”
“Judge. You only use your strength at the very beginning and you gradually move it from the source of the movement out toward the end of the movement. When you swing a sword, you move the acceleration from your shoulder, to your elbow, and then to your wrist, correct?”
“Judge.” Mary gave a nod of understanding. “So speed comes from relaxing your strength?”
“Exactly right,” confirmed Tenzou while coming to understand something.
The night before, Mitotsudaira had not known whether she was tense or relaxed due to having her sense of pain cut off.
…So she did not know what had happened when she experienced that unexpected speed.
“Mitotsudaira-dono has always been the power type and she only knew how to use her strength. That means she never let her strength lapse, just like when you lift something heavy or press against a wall.”
Before, the Reine des Garous had called Mitotsudaira “diligent”.
She was solid, tense, and could not move lightly. That certainly was a “diligent” use of her strength.
…And she is the kind of person to “diligently” stick to her role as the power type.
So he clenched his fist and held it up again.
“This is what Mitotsudaira has been doing until now.”
He opened his hand and moved his elbow for a snap of the wrist.
“But if she catches on, this could be what she does from now on.”
“How do you distinguish between the two?”
“That is simple.”
He swung his opened hand again, but this time he did not just leave it open. As it moved over a longer distance and accelerated, he closed it. It was open at the starting point and closed at the end point.
“This is how you would do it as a punch. You want speed when you throw the punch, so you keep your fist loose and open. But after building up speed and strength over the longer range of movement, you form a fist to do more damage in the end. That is why anyone who sees it done at higher speeds can only comprehend the starting point and ending point.”
He breathed in.
“If Mitotsudaira-dono masters this, one would only be able to see the beginning and end of her movements.”
Mitotsudaira did not know what had happened to her.
She was terribly off balance. Whether she was wobbling or tripping over something, her body was moving unsteadily back and forth. She tried to lean on the stocker next to her, but she ran into it with unexpected force. She was ashamed of her behavior.
She could not gather her strength properly and her mind would not clear up. For one, she did not know why her mother was here.
She could not remember. She was fairly certain she had come to get Rudolf II’s memo and had ended up fighting him. She thought she had been badly beaten, but it seemed a fair bit of what had happened had been knocked from her mind. The fact that she did not remember the inconvenient parts seemed very unlike her, but she was grateful.
However, she did not like that she was only moving with her joints. Her ankles and knees were shaking, her body leaned forward, and she lacked the dignity of a knight. I cannot let my king see me like this, she thought as she noticed a few objects on the floor.
They were parts of her uniform that she must have removed at some point. They were the hard points for her waist and neck, the skirt, and the coat. Removing them would lower her defenses, so when had she removed them, assuming it had been her to do so?
…I don’t know.
Her dim thoughts were interrupted.
Her mother was coming. Oh, no, she thought. Her mother’s movements were trouble. Her mother would likely attack with her claws by using a right hook as she passed by Mitotsudaira’s right side.
If it hit, it could easily tear holes in her body. My king would probably make a perverted joke out of that, she thought with a mental glare, but she also decided to at least try to avoid her mother’s attack.
However, it was obviously far too late. She could not move very much, yet her mother’s approach was fast and she did not have much room to move back.
The next thing she knew, her mother was diagonally in front of her and had finished swinging her arm.
The woman’s claws had not hit her.
Huh? thought Mitotsudaira. It isn’t like her to miss. Did she intentionally miss as a warning or something?
But then she gently hit the stocker to her left.
Huh? she thought again. This is the stocker I bumped into before.
But it had been two steps behind her.
…Did it move up behind me on its own?
That was when she had a realization.
Something was not right.
Mitotsudaira came to her senses and realized something strange was happening to her body.
But something else happened at the same time.
Weight suddenly filled her entire body. Her numbed body awoke and her senses of pain and weight returned.
…What is this!?
She remembered what had happened up until now and the sudden weight just about caused her limp body to give out below her.
“Have you woken up?”
Her mother’s voice sounded both curious and relieved.
…No!! That is not my mother!
It was Rudolf II.
That definite enemy swung his claws at great speed once more while untwisting his body.
…What should I do!?
Mitotsudaira made a split-second decision.
If this attack hit her, it would likely pierce straight through her.
In her previous battles, she had always relied on her durable body and the great strength that let her stand firm, but she would lose if she tried that here.
If she let this enemy hit her with all his strength, her own strength would not be enough.
She could sense what she had been doing earlier.
She had been moving at tremendous speed. That extreme short-range acceleration was difficult to control.
She did not know the details of how she did it, but she could remember what had happened.
The night before, she had thrown a stone when her body was still unsteady from her injuries.
And just now, she had gained such great strength when her body was unsteady from the damage taken here.
What was the common point between the two?
As soon as she asked that question…
Rudolf II’s claws struck.
A great sound of impact rang out.
Rudolf II checked on his stance after swinging his arm: An excellent movement.
He could see his prey flying through the air, but something was different from before.
His prey was no longer the prey.
The silver wolf had been knocked away and leaped through the air, but…
Her heels slid along the ground by the wall and she remained standing with her guard still up.
She had not fallen.
She had raised her left arm in defense, so the clothing was torn and the skin below was torn and bleeding.
The wolf’s entire body trembled with tension and wobbled from the pain and lingering numbness. The sudden movement caused her to breathe heavily and her eyes had still not focused.
Nevertheless, she stood there with her guard up.
She had endured his attack and remained standing.
Rudolf II observed her in the Reine des Garous’s form.
…I have no sense of pain, but my sight and other senses picked up something different this time.
When he had dropkicked her to the wall earlier, he had felt her resisting the impact he was giving her.
But this time…
…Instead of resisting, she moved back to redirect it.
“Yes,” he said as he analyzed her. “You are no longer relying on your durable body to hold your ground by force. You moved back with that strange high-speed movement you demonstrated before, didn’t you? And you did so while taking my attack.”
That pointed to one fact.
“You successfully moved back in the very instant that you took my attack.”
The silver wolf was not listening to the words directed at her.
She took erratic breath after erratic breath and sweat dripped from her brow.
That showed she had released her extreme tension. That showed that what she had done had essentially been a gamble.
…She did not know if it would work, but she tried it anyway.
But she finally did something else: she breathed deeply in.
She began to tilt to the right.
And she immediately corrected her stance. She used the quick movement to have her shoulder tug strongly on her limp right arm.
The dislocated shoulder popped back into place with a short, dry sound. Her hand instantly clenched, her elbow bent, her wrist was lifted in front of her face, and…
…That woke me up!!
I shouldn’t have done that, she added, but she was back all the same.
Her mind had cleared and her body was finally reconnected.
She felt pain.
She was exhausted.
She felt shaking, sluggishness, heat, and all sorts of other things.
But she understood what all the previous attacks had done to her.
…I relaxed all the excess strength in my body.
Those attacks had been too powerful to resist. It had taken someone on her mother’s or Rudolf II’s level to do actual damage to her and their attacks had smashed through the strength she had gathered to resist them.
She could not quite put it in words, but…
“I feel light.”
Simply moving her lips brought pain, but she could actually move her hand to wipe the tears of pain from her eyes.
It was far from perfect, but she had recovered.
…Yes. This will probably only be a short-term fight.
But she had not given up and so she knew she could fight.
After all, Rudolf II had attacked her in her mother’s form…
“And I redirected the force.”
She had not known if she could do that. That was different from resisting and holding her ground.
…This must be the same as my mother’s high-speed movement.
She doubted it was exactly the same. She was inexperienced and had only just begun to understand the technique.
…But if I can do it, I can keep doing it and learn to do it even better.
So she breathed in.
When she exhaled, she wiped away her tears and turned her gold eyes to her opponent.
“I will name myself again. I am the 5th Special Duty Officer of Musashi Ariadust Academy’s Chancellor’s Officers…”
She wiped blood from her face, licked it from her finger with her lips, and continued.
“…and Musashi’s First Knight, Mitotsudaira ‘Argent Loup’ Nate.”
“Testament,” said Rudolf II with a nod.
As M.H.R.R.’s Holy Roman Emperor and Chancellor, he had to reply in kind if a knight named herself, so he returned to his male body and replied.
“I am Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and Chancellor of M.H.R.R.”
He then changed form and prepared his fighting stance. He searched for the optimal female form and opened his mouth to speak.
…I will maintain my imperial behavior.
“How about you come at me? Or do you like making an emperor go to all the effort?”
The wolf moved first and the human moved second.
A moment later, their movements intersected.
Neither one of them stopped fighting.
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