Horizon:Volume 4A Chapter 15
Chapter 15: Observer at the Site of Collapse
This is the action
Point Allocation (Search)
By the time Masazumi arrived at the site of the collapse, some others were already there.
Naruze was drawing diagrams to record the situation and Naito was in charge of information regarding materials transportation. Also…
“The Tachibana couple is here too?”
Crossunite, who was acting as guide and guard, nodded and pointed to the two people standing about five meters up on the collapsed materials.
“The two of them can work in elevated areas, so they are providing some help.”
Masazumi knew what he meant by “some help”. If the guards’ injuries were from a blade, the Tachibana couple could determine what technique was used in the attack. And if it did come down to a fight with the hidden culprit, those two could make it back alive.
…I’m grateful, but this is a troublesome situation.
To help the people relax and to make it look like the central individuals were hard at work, it was crucial they immediately appeared on the scene of the accident and dealt with the problem.
…But me being here only restrains Crossunite and the others.
They hold official positions, so they’re not normal students like Asa-
“Hm? What’s the matter, Masazumi?” asked Asama. “Why are you staring at me?”
“Oh, um, I was just thinking about our standards for ‘normal’.”
Come to think of it, we also have Azuma who’s a former imperial, Noriki is a former Houjou, I’m beginning to suspect Persona-kun is from Mouri, the Aoi sister says a lot of strange things, Hassan can battle warships, Ohiroshiki is out of the question, and Balfette is solid. Oh, I know. There’s Mukai! No, wait. She’s in charge of moving the Musashi. Does that mean our class’s relatively normal members are the incubus and the slime? We’re hopeless.
…There’s not a single normal person around me!
She started to fear this was a dangerous place for her to be during the sensitive time period when her personality was forming, but that also helped her understand how Asama and the others had turned out how they did. That did not ease her fears about herself, though.
“Anyway, please check over everything. It looks like you’re prioritizing the recovery, but how is the inspection going?”
“Judge,” replied the Tachibana husband up top. “We too would like to work on recovering the scene. We want to see the passageway.”
“Are there any signs of what happened up there?” asked Crossunite.
“Judge.” The Tachibana wife nodded and used a false arm to lift the top layer of collapsed materials. “The distortion began at one end and continued through to the opposite end. And from what I can see, the collapse began as a natural collapse but then the materials received an impact lower toward the ground. In other words, the culprit must have moved through the passageway and struck the materials. However…”
“Judge. I have a few questions. …For one, the culprit demonstrated enough skill with a sword or other blade to cut down the guards, but they also created enough of an impact to knock away these stacked materials. Who on Musashi has both of those skills?”
“…Someone with sword-fighting skills and the ability to make a solid impact?”
“Judge. Exactly. Where do you think we could find someone like that?”
Everyone slowly exchanged a glance.
They then looked back up at the Tachibana wife.
After a while, Crossunite averted his gaze.
“I-it is true that not many people are skilled in both sword-fighting and solid impacts. Y-yes, not many people at all! Yes!”
“Crossunite, you don’t need to speak for all of us.”
Masazumi cleared her throat to gather attention.
…I need to sum up everyone’s opinion here.
She looked across them all.
“Judge. The Tachibana wife is correct. This attack would require both a blade and a solid impact, and I do not think anyone on Musashi could-…”
As she spoke, Persona-kun walked past holding a giant machete in one hand and a giant hammer in the other. Ohiroshiki and some others led the way while carrying lumber, but…
“Good evening, hags and gentlemen! We are on our way to improve the earthquake resistance of the elementary school that the children use for shelter during emergencies! But rest easy for we will not be adding any strange modifications! Ah! What seems to be the problem, officers!? Why are you singling me out!? The god of little girls will not allow this! Ahh, I swear that’s not a bugging spell! It merely lets me listen to the metaphorical whisperings of the garden’s flowers! …Hey, where do you think you’re taking me!?”
After waving to Ohiroshiki as the boy was arrested, Persona-kun bowed toward Masazumi’s group and continued on toward Musashino. Mishina Shouichi gave a comment as he watched Persona-kun leave.
“…I’m pretty sure he could do both of those things.”
“Judge. Yes, I guess the problem is that people who can do both of those things are plentiful in Musashi.”
Mal-Ga: “You don’t have to force a smile while you say that.”
That’s a politician’s job, she silently complained before looking back up at the Tachibana couple.
“Do you have any guesses as to who did it?”
“Judge. Gin and I both believe a Far Easterner did it.”
“Because the collapsed materials were hit low to the ground. And based on the slashes to the guards. They were all hit from behind with a single strike running from the back to the side. And it was a slicing blow.”
The Tachibana husband opened a sign frame containing a diagram Naruze had sent him. It illustrated the state of the injured guards. They all wore armor and a sword at the waist, but they all had an injury from the back to the side. Some were to the right side and some to the left.
“A Far Eastern sword was used for a horizontal slice. …Far Eastern swords are generally swung down from above, so it took some skill to pull off this irregular horizontal strike on the guards.”
Futayo walked along a dark pathway on Tama’s aft end.
She held a paper bag of bread under her left arm and the bottle of cocoa was inside as well. She had been told to head home and drink it there, so she had decided to do just that.
The aroma from the bag was enough to satisfy her a little.
This is the kind of air I want to breathe, she thought with her eyebrows tensed.
When she looked to the back of Musashino, she saw a lit area.
…The materials collapsed there, but it is possible the guards’ injuries were made by an attacker.
She had received a report not from Masazumi but from the Representative Committee that worked under Masazumi.
Masazumi likely did not want to tie up the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers members for something like that, so the recent reports tended to be made by the organizations working below them.
…The more personnel involved in the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers work, the more that work will be known to the public.
That was of course something Masazumi had told her. Futayo felt bad for leaving so many decisions to others since arriving in Musashi, so she felt she needed to pay them back in the actual battles she fought against other academies and the intimidation effect she provided as Vice Chancellor.
“Maybe I should stop by the Main Blue Thunder on Musashino.”
According to the divine transmissions, the report on the collapse would take place at that Blue Thunder. If everyone was gathering there, she could share the extra bread and say it came from the manager and she could relax with her cocoa.
She also simply felt like relaxing with the others a bit.
With that decision made, she looked to Musashino.
The surface wide block here had been mostly remodeled as a residential area already, but the neighboring wide block was still a large hole.
A few thick rope passageways ran across the open space as temporary pathways, so she chose one as a shortcut to Musashino. She bowed toward the guard at the end and stepped onto the rope passageway.
“Maybe I should hurry.”
Futayo spoke to herself as she crossed the three meter wide path created above the thick rope passageway by gravitational control.
The ether field pathway glowed with a pale light and she looked around from there.
…The nighttime inspection work is about to end.
Her surroundings were still dark because the Ariake was still in night mode.
This artificial night was created by turning out the lights. The inspection work that needed that darkness was primarily on the outer hull, but it also included the living areas like the residential and industrial districts.
For the outer hull, they had to inspect and test the workers themselves who would be performing repairs and other work on the armor at night. For the living areas, they needed to make sure the light spells were functioning.
That was why night would periodically fall inside the Ariake and dawn would follow.
The nighttime inspection work was currently finishing up and everyone was breathing a sigh of relief.
As she looked around from the dark sky, she heard distant sounds and saw the occasional distant light. To her, those immediate signs of rapid work were the representative features of this time period.
“In that case…I need to do my job as well.”
She would visit Musashino’s Main Blue Thunder and exchange information.
…That too is an important job.
She nodded and resumed walking across the rope passageway toward Musashino. Aft was to her left and fore was to her right. As she walked, a sudden question occurred to her.
She tilted her head while looking to the other end of the thick rope passageway.
“Why isn’t there a guard at the passageway exit?”
These bridges were also used to carry important materials, so it was standard to place a single guard at each end. That was why she had passed one when heading out onto the passageway.
She turned around and found no one at that entrance point.
No, she could see someone collapsed in the darkness.
…Is that the guard from before?
She immediately decided to leave this place.
She had no real reason. Something like the feel of the air on her skin gave her a vague sensation that something was coming, so she turned back around to hurry across.
A silent strike hit her on the left side.
There was no doubt in Futayo’s heart. She was certain. Her father and Kazuno had taught her firsthand what the damage from different sorts of attacks felt like.
She was wearing armor, but the force of the impact began at a single point and spread out to her entire body while also permeating her body and leaving through the opposite side. It was undoubtedly a hit from a physical bullet.
Her body grew heavy and, by the time the impact left her, it had taken all of her strength with it.
She immediately decided not to ask why she had been shot.
Both the “why” and the “how” were not what mattered at the moment.
…I need to survive!
The shooter was aft of her.
She had been shot as soon as she turned around and pointed her left side toward the stern.
She did not know if a second shot was coming. When the first sniper shot missed, the target would move and prevent a second optimal shot. A skilled sniper would know that, but…
…There are some who can fire homing shots like Asama-dono and Naruze-dono!
If the enemy was on Asama’s level…
I should avoid assuming anything that unreasonable, she honestly thought. If the shooter was on her level, it would not have been a sniper shot. The entire rope passageway would have been blown away.
At any rate, she had no cover on that passageway, so…
She created cover for herself. She quickly turned and pointed her right half toward the stern.
She stood the Tonbo Spare against the ground as cover to hide her body. By placing her body’s central line behind the spear, she could avoid a hit to the vitals. Now she only had to report the danger via sign frame, and…
She realized something.
The vague wind-like presence had grown more solid.
It seemed to be silently approaching behind her.
What was it? Rather than ask, Futayo reached a conclusion.
…The enemy is behind me!
She took a step on reflex to jump left and thus to the aft edge of the narrow passageway. She still held the paper bag under her left arm, but she held the Tonbo Spare in her right hand. The spear would function better as a shield than the bag.
By approaching the left side of the rope passageway, the enemy would only be able to attack her right side.
She concluded that she only needed to avoid the attacks to her right side.
She saw the enemy to her left as they attacked from behind.
They had apparently been unable to follow her step to the left. They wore a hooded cloak and rapidly braked after attacking the spot she had just vacated.
…Who are they!?
She did not know. At the very least, she had no memory of this opponent. However, she did recognize their movements. Despite messing up their attack, they recovered with nimble footwork.
She could not be certain, but achieving that level of control without producing any footsteps was not a warrior’s technique. Also…
The hooded figure vanished.
No, their footwork had led into a step right into her blind spot.
Futayo guessed they were behind her and started to turn around, but…
She felt a faint wind-like presence and stopped turning around.
She faced forward. This check would be suicidal if the enemy really was behind her, but the enemy was in front of her after all.
They had circled in front of her rather than behind.
More than the fact that she had sensed correctly, Futayo gasped at the fact that the enemy who had circled behind her was now in front of her.
The enemy was lowered down almost to a crawl and had their sword drawn to the right side.
…What is this?
How and when had they circled in front of her?
She understood the theory. She had turned around to follow the enemy. Predicting that she would sweep her gaze horizontally to the back, the enemy had slipped below her horizontally moving gaze.
It made sense when explained step by step, but actually pulling it off would be incredibly difficult.
It was not the technique of a warrior.
It was a ninja’s assassination technique.
Meanwhile, Futayo was a warrior. She felt their close proximity gave her enemy the advantage, so…
She took a quick back step.
The enemy lunged toward her while standing back up.
And in the instant the space between them shrank again…
Futayo apologized to the manager in her heart as she threw the paper bag toward the enemy’s face.
She was blocking their vision to stop their charge. More than the bread, the bamboo bottle inside would likely act as a decent obstacle. After all…
…It was probably that bottle that took the previous sniper shot.
She felt pain in her left side, but she had not received a gunshot wound. Instead, she could see something dark staining the bottom of the paper bag. That was likely the cocoa spilled after the bottle broke. It was a real shame.
Then she took action.
She was worried about the sniper to the right, so she held her spear vertically while taking another back step. At the very least, she had to keep the spear shield in place until she left the sniper’s line of fire.
As soon as she jumped back, something shot by left to right in front of her eyes.
It took her a moment to realize it was a bullet. After all, the previous sniper shot had come from the aft to her right, yet this one came from…
…The fore on the left!?
Did that mean there were two snipers?
She had no way of answering that question and the enemy in front of her reacted to the thrown bag.
The hooded figure placed their empty hand on the airborne bag.
They gave a hard shove to push it back toward Futayo.
Oh, no, thought Futayo.
She had predicted the enemy would either slice through or brush aside the bag, but they had overturned that assumption.
And that was why she was caught off guard.
The preparatory move she had taken against the enemy had been sent right back at her.
It flew straight toward her face, blocking her vision.
The question “what should I do?” entered her heart for the first time in the battle, so…
This was no time to be thinking that, but it was clear her carelessness and negligence had made the situation two or three times worse.
She briefly realized how foolish she was.
She could not use her spear with it held as a shield to her right, so she prepared to swipe it aside with her left hand.
A sniper shot had come from the left as well. That meant it would be dangerous to leave her left side unguarded. A single shot could easily make its way to her heart.
In that case, she thought as she took another back step.
…I need to dodge!
Just as she lowered her body a little, something happened to the paper bag in front of her.
It and everything inside it was torn in two.
She knew the enemy had sliced through it, but the direction of the cut was odd.
The bag had been sliced from her side toward the enemy’s side.
Impossible, she felt. If they used their blade, it should have started on their side.
But instead, it opened wide on her side as if it were about to embrace her.
The contents of the bag spread out over her lowered head.
The bread scattered and the bamboo bottle split apart while scattering its contents.
Futayo was distracted by that movement.
In an instant, she felt a chilly presence on her throat.
Then she saw the hooded figure in a nearly crawling stance below the scattering bag and right in front of her lowered gaze.
She bemoaned her actions yet again but still tried to take a third back step.
As she did, a figure appeared behind her on the right.
This was not the enemy in front of her.
A second enemy was circling around her from behind.
Another one? thought Futayo.
This additional enemy also seemed to like hiding in her blind spot. This figure moving behind her right shoulder was small.
However, the second enemy also held a weapon.
After that, the enemy gave a shout of their own in a female voice.
“You need to get some sleep!”
The enemy swung their weapon.
At first, she felt wind. The air pushed by the hammer became a wind of swollen pressure.
The warm wind initially pushed in from the right, but…
…Here it comes!
A solid mass tore through that wind. The impact was even larger than the hammer itself and she could see it approaching in the movement of the air.
This was a striking divine weapon. And…
It was likely meant for assassinations.
It was going to hit her and a different sort of impact from the sniper shot was going to permeate her entire body.
Faced with that, Futayo did not hesitate.
Just before the enemy got in a clean hit and just before the strike landed on her body, she jumped. Instead of evading, she was altogether avoiding the enemy’s attack.
She threw herself off the rope passageway.
She threw herself into the empty darkness there.
…Where can I land…?
As her consciousness faded from the lingering effects of the partial blow, her body followed suit by sinking into the depths of the darkness.
“You’re saying it’s possible Neshinbara was caught in the collapse?”
Masazumi spoke to an underclassman who had arrived at the inspection scene.
Her question was directed at Ookubo, a second year and the head of the Representative Committee. The girl placed her hand on the two swords at her waist and she nodded toward Kanou, the automaton standing next to her.
“Do not worry, milady,” said Kanou. “The situation here has been settled.”
She must have been making sure it was safe. Kanou then bowed toward Masazumi.
“We had assumed the Secretary had attended the meeting you were holding, but based on the report we received on the meeting with the Date clan, he was not present. We were just on our way to ask about that. We had assumed he had attended the meeting you were holding, but based on the report we-…”
“Kanou-kun. Don’t get stuck in a loop.”
“My apologies. I was giving priority to sorting through my logic.”
…Even Musashi’s second year students are weird…
Masazumi thought that with a slight fake smile, her standard expression when interacting with underclassmen, and she shook her head. She then asked a question of Crossunite who was telling the gods of war which materials to transport.
“We haven’t found a body, right?”
She received an affirmative from both Crossunite and the Tachibana wife who was lifting up each of the collapsed armor panels to check beneath.
She was accurately clearing out the collapsed materials on the instructions of her husband who was standing at the top of those unstable materials with ease, but…
“We have yet to find the Musashi Secretary’s corpse. Yes, we still haven’t found it. What a pain. I want to find it as soon as possible, get back home, and prepare a bath for Master Muneshige.”
“Tachibana Wife, I think you were supposed to leave that second half unsaid…”
However, she had already lifted up most of the collapsed materials and leaned them up against the surrounding stacks. That had revealed the floor so they could investigate the cause of the collapse.
In the gap between the materials leaning against the “walls” on either side, a father and son were investigating the floor. One was Mishina Shouichi in his lab coat and the other…
“Old Man Taizou, how’s it going?”
Naomasa spoke from Jizuri Suzaku’s shoulder as the god of war held the materials in place lest they cause another collapse. Taizou slowly stood up in his hat that bore the number plate of the engine division’s leader.
“That Tachibana youth up there was right. This collapse wasn’t caused by a problem with the floor. It started as a natural collapse and then something hit it from the side.”
“Right, right.” Shouichi stood up next to the older man. “I was thinking the same thing, dad.”
“What?” Taizou glared up at Shouichi’s face. “Who ever said you could call me ‘dad’, you brat. Just because my wife felt she had to adopt you into the family doesn’t mean I’ve accepted it.”
“Oh? Are you sure about that, dad? You have me to thank for Hiro. Without me, you never would have met her. Now can you deny my importance?”
“Hiro was given to my daughter by god. You had nothing to do with it.”
“Wh-what are you talking about!? Hiro is the result of all my and my wife’s efforts!”
“What? If it takes you that much effort, how about I give you some forceful modifications? Hm? And does that mean you’re the one interfering with me and my wife’s daily wishes to see a second grandkid!?”
Vice President: “…What an awful conversation.”
Smoking Girl: “Really? It’s always like this in the engine division.”
Gold Mar: “Yay! Seijun’s super pure!”
…Why does it feel so frustrating to be called that? Then again, it is kind of refreshing to see Ookubo blushing at this.
At any rate, Asama casually moved in from the side.
Asama: “Masazumi. Look at this.”
Masazumi checked the information Asama sent.
Vice President: “Futayo was injured…and has gone missing?”
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