Horizon:Volume 5A Chapter 21
Chapter 21: Close Centipede
What will not stop?
Point Allocation (Unturning)
Mochizuki saw the result of her explosion.
The small explosion spell had been narrowed down for anti-personnel use. It was small scale, but it had enough power to easily blow someone away.
The falling smoke and flames were parted by Date Narumi.
She was unscathed as she walked forward. And…
Mochizuki did not understand. She had thrown an explosive as a counterattack. And she had matched it to Date Narumi’s timing.
She had predicted her enemy would pass through that, so she had prepared a second piece of coal which could completely crush her opponent.
Or it should have.
That “should” should not have existed for an automaton.
For an automaton, the result was determined in advance. There were times when they made a “should” estimation because their processing power could not keep up with their macro observations, but there were never any “shoulds” in the micro observations of a battle like this with little to interfere.
But the enemy was unharmed.
Her gait was light as she approached. Mochizuki worked her mind to figure out why.
Mochizuki reached an understanding. Date Narumi was walking.
Mochizuki had thrown her explosive based on the timing from when Date Narumi had been running.
Since she was walking now, the explosion had occurred in front of her and focused its power there.
…But the early throwing time was not a mistake.
After all, predicting she would be walking and throwing accordingly would have been dangerous. It was possible she could shift from a walk to a run.
So this decision had not been a mistake.
But this decision had not defeated the enemy.
And that enemy was approaching.
She walked forward.
Mochizuki prepared to move back.
Date Narumi raised her right hand.
Her lightly spread hand held nothing. And there was no sign of her grabbing anything with it. But…
…I have determined this was unexpected!
Mochizuki realized she had stopped moving.
“Well done, Date Vice Chancellor.”
Gin heard Muneshige speak quietly while maintaining his defensive stance.
She followed his gaze toward Mochizuki.
And when Gin looked that way, Mochizuki did something odd.
Even though Narumi was merely walking, Mochizuki frantically began to move back but suddenly stopped.
…What is happening?
Gin asked Muneshige about it while she adjusted the aim of her anti-air fire.
“What kind of trick is the Date Vice Chancellor using there?”
“Judge. …She intentionally placed herself at a disadvantage in two or three ways at once.”
“She is using the advantages of an automaton against her opponent.”
That reminded Gin of something.
“Is that what you did the other day, Master Muneshige?”
“This is different from ‘Asakusa’ and the others.”
Muneshige had fought an automaton the other morning, but…
“Compared to the Date Vice Chancellor’s current opponent, I can see just how free a life Musashi’s automatons live. I can also tell just how many harsh battlefields the other nations’ automatons have seen. And…I know perfectly well what combat policy the Date Vice Chancellor has taken.”
“Pacifism. Or rather, she aims to surpass her opponent without even fighting.”
Gin knew what he meant. That had been the Date clan’s initial policy toward Musashi.
…They kept their distance from Musashi and tried to claim the history recreation that made them the ultimate rulers of Oushuu.
Even if they would have accepted Musashi after that, they had rejected any interference.
Of course, even if the Date Vice Chancellor advocated pacifism, she would know that fighting was inevitable.
She avoided combat because the explosive power of dedicating all of her strength to fighting was too dangerous. Unturning Centipede’s Paths of Countless Hundreds went well beyond an individual’s technique.
Also, when she did use that, she tended to make her attack in consecutive waves to provide a warning.
“When she does fight, she pursues her enemy, bites at them time and again, and lets them know how much of an advantage she has before finally ensnaring them and crushing them. …Is that the way of Unturning Centipede?”
She had done that against Niwa when they fought P.A. Oda at Novgorod. She had secured her advantage on the battlefield using the consecutive ejection of Unturning Centipede’s parts and then she had made her attack on Niwa.
It was a strange contradiction.
She held back because she understood the danger she posed.
But when she decided to use her power, she did so without feeling a single pang of conscience.
And most likely…
…She stepped forward on this battlefield because she lacks Unturning Centipede.
Should you call it a prideful overestimation of her power?
Or should you call it a kind consideration for others?
But Gin also heard some whispering behind her.
“Strange… She was extremely belligerent with me from the beginning…”
“What’d you do to her, Uqui?”
“Only gave her some panties while playing a porn game and then fought her with a hammer.”
“That’s pretty high level stuff.”
“Um, Toori-kun, I don’t think that’s the issue…”
Perhaps some forceful interference had altered the Date clan’s policy from the outset there.
But without that here, the Date Vice Chancellor could handle this like normal.
“Here she goes, Gin. …The Date Vice Chancellor is moving forward.”
This is a pattern, thought Mochizuki as she fell back.
This must be the usual combat pattern of Date Vice Chancellor Date Narumi. Testament.
…She is going to repeatedly bite at me as a warning!
She would make her superiority known and, if her opponent continued to oppose her, she would prove that accumulated superiority by sending all of it her opponent’s way to achieve victory.
Date’s Vice Chancellor had already given several warnings.
When Mochizuki placed her memories on the chopping block of her decision making, she realized the warnings had begun from the first time that girl had blocked one of the explosives with her sword.
And that had done something to the timing of Mochizuki’s explosions and the way she dodged the many sword strikes.
…She created a pattern in them!
Mochizuki had intended to avoid repeating a pattern in her attacks and evasions.
But the enemy had made her do so.
By defending, dodging, and attacking in the same way, Date’s Vice Chancellor had given a pattern to Mochizuki’s movements.
It was not that Date’s Vice Chancellor could only defend or dodge, or that she could only make attacks that would not hit.
“I have determined she was guiding me by teaching me how to react to those actions!”
Mochizuki tried to fall back as Date Narumi walked toward her.
Mochizuki determined her opponent was dangerous, so she quickly prepared to move back.
Her body reacted to Narumi’s light movements.
Date Narumi had made one of the “initial movements” that Mochizuki had unwittingly memorized.
It was the initial movement that Date Narumi always made before attacking.
And once she saw that movement, Mochizuki would not be making the “optimal reaction” if she did not dodge.
So she began to change her backwards movement into the optimal evasion.
…I have determined that is wrong!
The immediate change of intent dulled and stopped her movement.
This was a deficiency found in automatons.
What was normally a strength had been remade into a weakness by the series of events.
And the enemy had made a further warning earlier.
When faced with the defenseless Date Narumi, Mochizuki had determined whether or not she was an enemy. If she had settled on “not an enemy”, this would not have happened.
That had been the final warning.
After preparing herself to overcome everything, Date Narumi was confirming her opponent’s hostile intent.
Mochizuki had misread the situation.
Her primary mission was to buy time for the Shirasagi Castle to complete its preparations in the sky. So she had determined her goal matched that of Date Narumi who was making no attempt at a finishing blow.
But she had been wrong.
Her opponent had only been warning her while building up what she needed to overcome.
…If I do not fall back soon, she will ultimately crush me and sweep me away!
Mochizuki had made the wrong decision here.
She had mistakenly thought this was provocation and that she was a step away from victory.
But that had not been true at all.
“I have determined you were luring me in!”
There was a reason for the intensity at the end of her statement. Date Narumi had lightly moved her knee forward as she approached.
She was coming.
Automaton vision was fast. She could perceive all of her opponent’s movements. But that was precisely the problem.
She could not overlook the initial movement of an attack that she had been forced to memorize.
To conclude that this was something else, she had to confirm it for herself.
This was the same.
Even in her high-speed vision, she had to wait to see that Date Narumi’s leg was merely stepping forward instead of preparing to attack.
Her high-speed processing power was wasted.
It was a waste of time.
“When you can see everything, you have to react to everything,” said Date Narumi. “Let me guess. You should have been a good match for me. You should have been able to use your explosives to hold back the consecutive summoning of my mandible swords. You should have been able to hold back all of my attacks. You should have been easily able to defeat me. That’s how it should have been…right?”
The enemy spoke of should after should. And without a smile on her face.
“And that’s why a thought occurred to me.”
“What was that?”
“What would be good for dinner tonight? We had fish yesterday.”
Mochizuki did not understand.
But Date Narumi continued to approach. But as she approached, Mochizuki had a thought.
…If I keep things like this, her attacks can’t reach me!
Yes, if the enemy attacked, she only had to dodge again.
If she made the appropriate response, the enemy could do nothing.
…And… She still had a secret technique.
Her opponent was not the only one with a trick up her sleeve.
And just as she sensed the possibility of victory, Date Narumi moved again.
She displayed the initial movement of an attack.
Oh, thought Urquiaga.
…Is she going to draw her sword here?
The half-dragon’s eyes saw the prosthetic limbs track suit girl finally draw a sword from thin air.
She had moved in close, but her automaton opponent had excellent reaction speed. Swinging that sword would not hit her. So…
Urquiaga continued speaking before the confused crossdresser and the others could turn his way.
“She’s powerful, but she doesn’t hold back.”
As he said that, Narumi made a certain movement.
She let go of the sword she had partially drawn.
Mochizuki determined her opponent had done something unexpected.
She had given Mochizuki an evasion pattern, looked like was using that for a feint, and…
…Did something else!?
Automatons always sought the optimal answer to the present situation.
They searched for that answer through calculations such as statistics and deviations, but most of all by searching.
Even when faced with a never-before-seen situation, there was a chance they had experienced, seen, or heard about a similar or equivalent action.
So that happened here. And…
She could not move until she found the answer.
She might find the optimal solution, so moving before it arrived might mean letting the optimal solution escape her. So…
Mochizuki made an adjustment as the word “move” appeared in her mind.
She saw Date Narumi charge forward without a weapon in tow.
She had to strike back.
This was an enemy before her eyes. As she had previously determined, this was a hostile opponent.
The current situation did not matter. The previous reason remained: Date Narumi was a part of Musashi, so…
…She is defined as an enemy!
Mochizuki moved. She moved back to avoid Narumi’s approach.
And she swung her hand like usual.
…I have determined she cannot dodge this!
She threw her explosives as a counterattack against Narumi.
Narumi saw the coals approaching.
The explosives had been thrown toward her approach.
…So she managed to respond. Well done.
And so Narumi continued forward. She leaned forward for just an instant to pass between the coals.
From there, she did not rush herself and walked one step further forward than normal.
That dodged the attack.
Ahead of her, Mochizuki was already preparing the next attack.
Narumi felt heat like wind on her neck.
The five coals that glowed with a red light had supposedly passed by her, but they made a gentle turn and pursued her.
These were homing weapons. They were different from the previous coals that had only traveled in a straight line. Their movements gently wrapped around her at close range.
And they exploded.
Mochizuki made her second throw.
She could not tell what had happened to Date Narumi.
This was a dangerous enemy, so she needed to throw more explosives.
…Obliterating her so nothing remains is the optimal solution!
Mochizuki used that decision to violently shake the air.
The many explosions surrounded her with smoke. The enemy was thoroughly hidden both physically and optically. Mochizuki knew what such an action was called: fear.
She had no emotions, but this was a statistical decision.
After all, this enemy had surpassed what automatons excelled at and took pride in, and she had moved in to consume her. It was almost like…
“She is trying to make my existence meaningless…!”
All of these additional explosives were thrown in a straight line. They did not contain the gentle homing ability seen in the earlier ones. That was…
…My secret technique!
She had revealed her explosion spell that she only used as a last resort.
“A fuse, right?”
She heard a voice. It was Date Narumi’s.
Mochizuki briefly stopped moving.
But only for a moment. She soon launched more explosives. She sent a great tremor into the air.
But the voice spoke.
“Your explosion spell is formed from a fuse. You should have plenty of explosives stored in some other phase like a dual pitch space for when bringing weaponry along on a covert mission would be difficult.”
“I have determined you are discussing ‘shoulds’.”
“And you should have things set up so that the bombs stored in a phase space are ejected and detonated when the fire reaches the end of the fuse. And for a fuse, you use…”
She said it.
There was no “should” here.
“Your throwing action was fake. You used the throwing action to disguise that your gravitational control pulled out a hair fuse and threw it like a long needle. That was why the throwing action was always the same and the thrown explosives were always the same speed. And that made it easy to avoid once I had seen through it.”
“But how did you-…!?”
“Because you tried to hit me by manipulating the timing more than the speed or angle. It’s the same as trying to hit someone with a projectile fired at the optimal speed instead of just throwing it by hand. That told me you were launching something with your gravitational control instead of throwing the explosive.”
Mochizuki stopped making the throwing motion.
Her enemy had seen through it.
It was no use against this opponent.
“I thought you did quite well at the end there. …You used nothing but straight-line throws the whole time and then released the gravitational control to give the hairs back some of their original limberness. The very air current I created by moving forward caught them and gave the fuses a gentle homing ability. A decent secret technique.”
She had seen through it all.
Mochizuki determined that every technique available to her had been crushed.
“How long did you know…?”
“Would it sound cool to say ‘from the beginning’?”
As for why…
“The smell. …You were plotting to infiltrate the Ariake if possible, weren’t you? So you prepared a disguise and used Musashi products. …That shampoo can overpower the smell of oil, can’t it? I’ve used it since last night.”
The wind reached the smoke.
A slight gap appeared in the smoke, creating a window-like slit. And when Mochizuki searched for the enemy through it…
“I’m over here.”
She was down below.
At the bottom of the smoke convection, Date Narumi was seated on the Ariake’s floor.
She had no arms.
There was no need to preface it with “most likely”. To escape the timing of the explosion, she had abandoned the weights on her shoulders and dropped her body straight down.
The enemy had been in the same spot the entire time.
Which one was it that had lost sight of what mattered and instead viewed the wrong thing?
…I have determined it was me!
Nothing she could do would work any longer. So as if abandoning all that…
She pulled out a bundle of hair with her gravitational control and fired it.
She lit the many fuses as Date Narumi got up from the floor.
“What if I attack with them all at once!?”
“You mustn’t lose sight of your original objective.”
Date Narumi ejected false arms onto her shoulders.
And not just one pair. The arms appeared like bullets being loaded into a magazine and she launched them toward Mochizuki.
They all took the same action she had used when attacking Mochizuki before.
She reproduced the attack enough times to reach the triple digits. The prosthetic arms accurately carried out the task. But those arms held no weapons. So even more than before…
…Those attacks cannot reach me!
Just as Mochizuki made that decision and prepare to make her final evasion, she saw something.
The many arms performing their attack in midair were holding her fuses. And each arm held just the one hair.
Armless Narumi spoke calmly.
“Attacking with them all at once, you said?”
“That is what I’ll hit you with to defeat you.”
Mochizuki realized all of the explosions had hit her own body.
As she was smashed to pieces, she heard gunfire. That was the sound of Kakei’s attack.
She heard 10 gunshots in a row. He was still firing at Musashi’s Vice Chancellor from point-blank range.
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