Horizon:Volume 5B Chapter 45
Chapter 45: Confronter in the Rubble
Perception of the situation
Understanding of the circumstances
Comprehension of the state of affairs
Point Allocation (Self-Awareness)
Kiyomasa had made a single decision.
She would dodge the enemy’s attacks. That was all.
After all, the enemy’s intent to attack was powerful. Hexagone Française’s god of war knights were a historic group and these were members who specialized in cutting-edge tactics. And they were considered aces on top of that.
She knew this enemy would never overlook her even in an exchange that only lasted a few moments.
And her sense of danger proved accurate when the enemy made multiple attacks to finish her off.
So she moved.
She started with a cannon blast. She had been unable to fire her right Caledfwlch, but she did so anyway.
She had wanted to fire it backwards so that it tore across the deck, but she had not had time.
She was only able to fire a thick anti-shelter blast from the Caledfwlch while it was aimed down like she was stabbing it into the deck by her right foot. She had rushed the output setting, but the attack had likely reached the tertiary armor.
But by dropping herself down into that hole, the enemy had lost sight of her.
When thrusting a cannon or spear straight out, it created a blind spot in your lower vision. Kiyomasa had correctly guessed that the enemy would not expect her to be down below after most of the rubble had been blown away.
But she had needed to go further than that.
Kiyomasa had chosen to abandon one of her Caledfwlchs by launching it backwards while the tent was still blocking the enemy’s view.
By firing the Caledfwlch toward the bow at the same time the enemy pulled back its spear, she could draw its gaze.
The enemy reacted exactly the way she had hoped.
The enemy attacked while passing by.
The enemy twisted its body for a horizontal sweep of its spear, so she dodged it with a side flip and…
The blade of light severed the enemy’s right hand at the shoulder.
Fukushima blocked the enemy’s expanded armor claws with Ichinotani.
With a metallic clang her vision was dyed white by scattering sparks.
Ichinotani was knocked away. Of course, that was the obvious result based on the difference in weight.
Fukushima used the instant of recoil and made sure her arm was not ripped off by letting go of Ichinotani and flying through the air.
She made a spinning leap through the starboard sky to the right of the enemy.
The enemy immediately reacted.
Its weapon of choice was a jab of its right hand. The tips of the metal fingers were narrow and flat in order to grab small objects.
The jab was made with the palm facing up and its initial speed surrounded it with a white explosion of water vapor.
Instead of instantly approaching, it reached her. And that attack was made without any hesitation.
But Fukushima fell. She used her Headfirst Fall acceleration spell to take evasive action.
There were footholds there.
Fruits had flown into the air from the row of festival stands.
They were citrus. Fukushima used those yellow summer fruits as footholds. She touched them with her toes, and…
She repeatedly fell forward, toward the space in the air just a bit ahead of the god of war.
She spun her body.
And she made a decision about which route to take in this evasive chain of footholds that still kept her within reach of the enemy.
She read the location. She viewed the air in a single instant and noted the locations at close and long range. With that done, she grasped the direction of movement, the speed, and the weight of all the airborne objects.
Then she soared.
And something fell from the sky and into her hand: Ichinotani.
The Lourd de Marionnette realized the enemy had reclaimed her weapon.
Ichinotani was a divine weapon that absorbed any received power and then re-fired it.
The Lourd de Marionnette’s expanded armor had definitely been hit by that earlier.
It might have been a weak power when it came to anti-Lourd de Marionnette attacks, but that would change if it struck a joint or a weak point.
So the Lourd de Marionnette viewed Fukushima as an enemy.
It recognized her as an opponent it needed to defeat moving through the air.
And in order to strike her…
It used its full power.
At their speed, the span of time known as an “instant” could be divided into many smaller units.
The god of war and Fukushima made several high-speed exchanges.
Fukushima’s speed while repeatedly leaping through the air was an accumulation of falls. Her speed rose with each one and her hair was extended in a straight line without fluttering.
The god of war did not let up while pursuing her.
It used its full speed with its right side out front and it used its jabbing right hand and its expanding waist armor.
The god of war had dropped its right cannon, but it could not use the left one either.
That was because Fukushima was keeping her position within range of the right arm.
But she did not attack. She too knew the power contained within Ichinotani was weak. So she watched for an opening and, when she saw the appropriate timing coming…
During their exchange of body movements and positioning, the god of war chose to make a cut.
It briefly slowed to place Fukushima in the air in front of it.
The distance between them grew.
At approximately seven meters, it was beyond the reach of a human.
Even for a 12m heavy god of war, that was only barely within its maximum reach.
So the god of war slammed its four wings backwards. It forcibly accelerated itself straight ahead along the deck.
It quickly moved forward while targeting Fukushima at her position nine meters above the deck.
The push from its back just about toppled it forward.
But the god of war used that motion to launch its final attack on Fukushima. As if to say goodbye, it threw a flat-handed jab while passing by.
The strike used not just its shoulder but its entire upper body.
The way its body arched and bent was reproducing a human action.
The arm extended and the wire cylinders of the joints raced out.
Its rapidly-moving metal fingers reached the airborne figure.
Fukushima repeated the process.
She continually fell through the air while keeping her eyes on the metal hand jabbing toward her.
Simply dodging was not enough.
…The god of war’s speed has already surpassed my own!
If she only dodged, she would be caught by the shockwave produced by the arm.
And if she jumped inward, she would definitely be hit by the god of war’s advancing body.
But if she jumped outward, she would never catch back up.
…In that case…
Fukushima repeated the process some more.
The method was simple. She fell into the air in front of the god of war to stay ahead of it, and…
She grabbed an airborne splinter of a festival stand and threw it toward her feet.
She created a falling foothold for herself. She stood upon it, and…
She kicked the final foothold: the god of war’s jabbing hand.
Her repeatedly-falling feet definitely touched the tip as it flew quickly toward her. And a moment later…
She strongly kicked off the jabbing hand’s fingertips and she fell.
…I did it!
Fukushima confirmed she was out ahead of the god of war.
She had left the rows of festival stands and reached the air above the aft plaza.
And in that space 30m away from the bridge, she was certain of her coming victory.
There was space between them.
But it was her turn.
The enemy was accelerating, but its entire body was leaning forward. And it had only just swung its right arm inward. Its shoulder was protecting its neck, but its face sensors were visible.
The face had to be her target. That was the standard when attacking a god of war.
But then she saw a sudden color: silver.
It was flat and large and it raced toward her along the line of fire she was considering.
Her confused heart stopped her movements. But that saved her life.
It was a shield.
The autonomous shield connected to the god of war’s shoulder had been swung up and launched.
The device used its own power to launch itself out along the jabbing arm.
Fukushima saw it, so she took action.
She fired Ichinotani’s cannon blast on the flying shield.
An impact split the air and Fukushima flew backwards.
The shield had not directly hit her.
Ichinotani’s attack had caused the mass of metal’s speed to waver and she had kicked powerfully off of it.
Fukushima fell in the direction that allowed the impact to leave her.
She bent back and spun in midair.
Her falling acceleration grew too great and her speed outstripped her.
But she transformed that spin into a proper flip in the direction of her fall.
After rotating by 360 degrees and bringing her body under control, she fell forward through the air while half turned on her side.
But her trajectory was shifted somewhat.
She was headed a bit toward the center of the ship, putting her dead ahead of the god of war.
The god of war’s shield had done that.
The jabbing arm had been somewhat hooked. The shield had flown along that inward curve, so Fukushima had been sent toward the center of the ship when she kicked off of it.
And the god of war had its cannon at the ready.
It was not afraid of having Fukushima’s Ichinotani absorb that power. After all, it could fire more than once and it had its shield even if one was returned. Also…
“You have no footholds left!!”
With that shout, the god of war fired on Fukushima.
It fired thrice.
The Lourd de Marionnette pilot watched it all play out.
First, his sight devices saw Fukushima look back in midair.
Beyond her dancing ponytail and raised Ichinotani, her sharp eyes stared back at him.
It was not hostility that filled her gaze.
It was fighting spirit.
And in front of that gaze, a shell exploded between the two of them.
Ichinotani had blocked the first shell.
It was unable to fully contain the impact, so Fukushima was sent flying.
The Lourd de Marionnette’s calculation ability predicted the path of her flight.
The second of the latter two shots was on course to hit her.
After all, there were no footholds in the direction of her flight. Nor were there any fragments flying through the air there. He had used the jab and shield combo to ensure that.
Thus, there was nothing she could do.
Also, he was still wary of her Headfirst Fall acceleration spell.
That spell did seem to have its limits, but it allowed her to repeatedly fall in the direction she wanted to go. What would happen if she did that in the direction of her current flight?
The first of the latter two shots was aimed in that direction.
So there was nowhere for her to escape.
The Lourd de Marionnette pilot accelerated. He shot forward to determine Fukushima’s fate.
He grabbed his left spear while moving forward.
He would pierce her with the spear. After all…
“You absorbed that first shot, didn’t you…!?”
There was a chance she would counteract the next shell with that.
So the Lourd de Marionnette pilot accelerated to stop that.
He did not hold back. He caught up to his own shell and thrust the spear forward with identical timing. He pulled back his right side and swung his left-side wings for the additional acceleration needed to perform the long spear attack at the same time as the shell.
All of the attacks would reach his opponent.
I did it, observed the Lourd de Marionnette pilot through his sight devices.
But then he noticed something.
There were footholds in Fukushima’s path.
They were fruits and festival stand fragments.
He had not created them. That kind of battlefield destruction had supposedly already ended on the starboard side and the battle on the port side had supposedly fallen a bit behind them.
His vision saw a single burst of sparks.
A high-speed shell had collided with the front armor of the third ship’s circular bridge.
The Lourd de Marionnette on the port side had launched it.
He knew why.
His companion on the port side had fired on the center row of festival stands to clear the line of fire for targeting the bridge.
And that had scattered stand fragments into the air above the aft plaza.
…It can’t be…!
The Lourd de Marionnette pilot breathed a nonexistent gasp at what his enemy, Fukushima Masanori, had done.
Had she predicted this situation?
He could think of a way: During their earlier exchange of speed, she had definitely grasped all of her surroundings.
And at her altitude then, she would have been able to see what was happening on the port side. So…
“You predicted it…!?”
Fukushima’s actions seemed to act as confirmation.
She kicked off a flying foothold and dodged his shell and spear to the left.
He had just made a left thrust with all his might.
From the outer left, he was protected by his left arm and shield, but…
Just as he realized he needed to protect his face…
The Lourd de Marionnette pilot received a damaging impact to the left of his face.
Kiyiomasa saw the result of the starboard battle.
She felt a strange mixture of joy and relief, but her own battle was not yet over.
She had severed the right arm of her god of war opponent.
Fukushima had damaged the left face of her god of war opponent.
But both opponents would have immediately cut off the transmission of pain and data from the damaged parts. Even if the one’s right arm had been cut off, the body’s data control management would make virtual weight calculations to allow for mobility on the same level as with both arms.
The god of war had not lost its power.
So Kiyomasa raised Caledfwlch and pursued her enemy.
The gods of war still did not understand their own level of injury, so…
…We must sink them!
And Kiyomasa raised her voice to do just that.
They would work together to defeat these two gods of war. And…
…That is the starting point Fukushima-sama needs to rid herself of her frustration!
To fulfill that movement of her heart, Kiyomasa aimed Caledfwlch toward the god of war’s back.
She heard a sudden voice.
And it came from right in front of her. Someone stood directly ahead of Caledfwlch just as she prepared to fire it.
It was an old man.
Fukushima saw a figure standing before her.
It was an old man.
It happened just as she landed and prepared to pursue the god of war.
The man casually wore a Far Eastern summer uniform.
He was short, his hair was thin, and he had a somehow kind-looking smile. However…
Fukushima felt like her eyes could not focus on the old man in front of her.
She quickly shook her head. She did not know if it was due to sweat or tension, but her eyes finally managed to focus. And…
“You’re a sharp one.”
She heard a voice. It contained more strength than she would have expected for such an old man.
He was short, his hair was knotted in the back, and he wore a round hat on his head.
This was a different old man from before. However…
“Do you have a moment?”
The voice was different, but the manner of speech was the same.
Fukushima noticed something when she saw him.
She was squeezing Ichinotani with all her might.
Fukushima realized what this was in front of her.
…This is a monster taking the form of a man…!
Fukushima was reminded of when she had been in front of Katsuie.
No, Katsuie himself would forcibly hide his presence inside himself.
But this old man did not hide it.
It was not his appearance that stood out. It was the overwhelming presence merely contained inside a human shape.
Could she call it “enormous”?
Her worries told her she needed to be prepared to be trampled if he so much as moved and prepared to be stimulated if he so much as breathed.
That was what stood before her.
He was merely speaking with her for fun at the moment.
She tried to ask who he was. But…
“Ho ho?” The old man laughed quietly in his throat. “You can tell that much when I am simply standing before you? Excellent. Most excellent. …You have a better head on you than Kakei or Sasuke.”
And Fukushima realized two things: the old man all of a sudden held an opened fan in his hand, and…
…The gods of war aren’t moving!?
The gods of war and the two girls had been engaging in an exchange of high speed and acceleration.
Then this old man had butted in and spoken with her, so the gods of war should have been able to attack the bridge already.
It would not have surprised her to find the bridge was already destroyed and the gods of war were on their way to the fourth ship.
And yet the gods of war remained stopped.
…Everything around me.
Fukushima checked her surroundings while keeping her eyes on the old man.
It had stopped.
All of it had: the festival stand fragments, the flying fruits, the dust, and even the water vapor smoke produced by acceleration were frozen in place, as if to paint a three-dimensional picture.
Then she heard a sudden voice.
The old man closed his fan.
Something immediately disappeared: the gods of war.
Both of those giant forms vanished from the left and right. The silver enemies were erased like theatre curtains closing from either side.
The fan fully closed at the same time as he waved his wrist.
Immediately, a voice reached Fukushima’s ears.
She was on the starboard side facing aft, but Kiyomasa’s voice reached her from port.
She provided the monster’s identity.
“…is Sanada 1st Special Duty Officer Katou Danzou!!”
Kiyomasa knew the person in front of her.
He was Katou Danzou.
According to the Testament, he was one of the strongest ninjas of the Warring States period. He had served the Uesugi clan, but when his skill was tested just for fun, the Uesugi clan had grown to fear him and tried to hunt him down.
…He supposedly did a massive amount of damage to them and then joined Takeda.
That was how he had ended up at Sanada.
This was her first time meeting him, but she knew of him. After all…
“For the history recreation of Katou Danzou supporting Sviet Rus, you entered Novgorod and served Mayoress Marfa, didn’t you?”
“You know about that? Was that part of your preliminary research before attacking Novgorod? If so…”
The old man raised the corners of his lips. Above his average-height shoulders, his bald-headed face smiled.
“Did you know that Katou Danzou is also known as Flying Katou the Illusion User?”
She did know.
“You are known as one of the strongest ninjas of the Warring States period. …But the illusions are in name only and you actually use ‘games’ that bring very real harm.”
“Games are fun, aren’t they?”
The old man had raised his hand at some point.
Something sat on that right hand’s palm.
It was a doll. A super-deformed papier-mache doll.
The doll suddenly moved in Danzou’s hand. It held its head between its hands and then faced her with a smile. And…
Just as Fukushima called out to her, the doll removed its own head from its body.
Immediately, Kiyomasa realized her own neck had been sliced.
Fukushima cried out as blood sprayed into the air beyond the row of collapsed festival stands.
She had no idea what was happening, but Kiyomasa had been attacked. And…
…At a vital point!?
But she heard a breath and a voice.
“I should have expected this from the Ten Spears. …It seems that was not enough to behead you.”
Fukushima did not look back.
She was not certain, but Fukushima had a feeling she must not look at this enemy.
So she intentionally kept her gaze on Kiyomasa. And…
“I am fine.”
She heard Kiyomasa’s calm tone of voice.
But the position was different. Instead of right in front of the old man like before, she was now a few meters back from there.
She had used Caledfwlch’s acceleration to fall back the instant the slash hit her.
And she held Caledfwlch with its blade raised in front of her.
“If you thought you could kill someone by playing with dolls, you are quite the naïve illusion user.”
Kiyomasa’s throat had not stopped bleeding, but a pale white band of ether light was tied around her neck and pressed against the wound.
“Why are you here? I have heard nothing of Sanada supporting Mouri.”
“For a personal grudge. …Belonging to someone other than myself.”
Fukushima listened to Danzou’s response.
“I am the one that the self-styled ‘Unneeded’ of Sanada refer to as their great teacher.”
Kiyomasa frowned while letting her spilled body heat flow from her neck and between her breasts.
The old man in front of her smiled with his fan covering his mouth.
“That should be more than enough of a reason for this duel.”
“Is this for revenge?”
“No, no.” Danzou smiled behind his fan. He pressed the fan against his forehead and lightly tapped his own head. “You all are attacking something that need not be lost and you have driven it to a place of resolve. I thought I would ask you why.”
His fan tapped his head again.
Immediately, everything disappeared.
Danzou, the gods of war, and all the rubble and fragments frozen around her.
The remains of the battle were there. The festival was destroyed. She held one Caledfwlch and the other lay alongside a god of war shield further aft.
And as for her neck…
Her hand was stained with blood.
She had been hit.
Hearing Fukushima’s voice, Kiyomasa breathed in.
She tried to gather strength in her belly, her legs, and especially her knees. But…
It was too late. The blood loss sapped her strength and she fell onto her butt.
Kiyomasa felt herself go limp.
The blood loss was part of the cause, but being released from all that tension played a bigger role. And…
She looked up at Fukushima who had run over and stood in front of her.
She smiled up at the girl, but that may have had the opposite effect. Those who had come out to intercept the gods of war called over from the fourth ship behind this one.
They could say they had endured that attack.
And as a result, Fukushima had achieved victory.
But Kiyomasa could see Fukushima.
Her sitting position gave her the perfect view of Fukushima’s downcast look.
Her eyebrows were bent and she tried but failed to keep her mouth tightly shut. The hand holding Ichinotani was trembling.
Kiyomasa chose to say what Fukushima had started to say but stopped.
“You feel frustrated, don’t you?”
Just as they thought they had defeated the gods of war, a new enemy had intervened and stopped them.
And he had used an overwhelming and absurd power. The gods of war had been erased and then he had disappeared without a trace. Also…
…He simultaneously appeared in front of both me and Fukushima-sama.
Was that normal for an illusion user?
But looking at it that way, the result was entirely different.
They had not endured the attack.
They had been spared.
And that may have been why Fukushima hung her head.
She angled her head so far that her bangs hid her face.
She yelled while squeezing Ichinotani’s shaft so hard she might have been trying to crush it.
This was anger.
She had been so impatient to make progress, but she had been stopped in her tracks. This cry was proof that she had accepted that situation.
She opened her mouth wide and tears spilled from behind her bangs.
Kiyomasa listened to Fukushima’s roar.
This cry finally let out everything that had been pent up since Novgorod.
The smashed and broken festival deck looked like a city after a powerful storm and Kiyomasa sat there as she answered Fukushima’s cry with a nod.
It had started during that duel at Mito and it ended now.
Fukushima had been unsure how they could correct themselves after their loss and she had generally thought it would all work out if they simply pursued their enemies, but…
…She has finally accepted it.
Accepted that they were inexperienced.
So Kiyomasa said, “It’s okay.”
With those words, she realized she was at her limit.
I have used up too much of myself, she thought with a mental sigh while forming her next words.
She spoke to Fukushima whose tears dripped from beyond her bangs and whose breaths transformed into a groaning roar.
“Now it is our turn to make a comeback.”
She had to wonder if she was smiling as she said that.
She closed her eyes.
And while noticing just how warm the sunlight was, she collapsed onto her back.
- Tobi in Japanese, hence the Toby nickname with Marfa.
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