Horizon:Volume 5B Chapter 52
Chapter 52: Storyteller in the Round Hall
Something that once was
Something that connects
Something that does not connect
Point Allocation (Dragons and Humans)
Kimi saw two movements.
The first was Mitotsudaira raising her eyebrows and moving in front of the foolish brother.
The second came from Asama who remained silent.
First, she quickly wrapped some healing charms around Horizon’s arm. After applying two or three, she tied them fairly tight.
Horizon gave Asama a calm look.
“…Thank you very much.”
“You’re the one that saved me.”
Asama’s eyebrows were somewhat raised and Kimi just about laughed when she saw it.
Horizon was clearly intimidated by Asama. Now that Horizon had the emotion of anger, Asama’s emotion reached her far too directly.
But Horizon must have been confused by that anger when Asama was also thanking her.
We have an excellent friend, thought Kimi. Her thoughts deepened: I’m glad we have a friend who can demonstrate that contradictory combination of conscience and sacrifice that is in the gap between what one should do and what one must do.
“I see you didn’t panic.”
Asama must have felt that short response was not enough because she clarified.
“I’ve wiped away my previous ‘normal’ where I would be shaken to tears when something was harmed.”
“Really?” asked Kimi. “So you’re not going to put on an adorable show that makes him say, “Oh, I didn’t realize you had that vulnerable side. How cute!’ You don’t want to be as cute as me with my fear of ghosts!? The way I faint is super popular and oh so cute! Thud!”
“…Kimi, your eyes roll back in your head when you faint. Can you really call that cute?”
“You said it! You said it, didn’t you!? The whites of my eyes are cute! They’re clean! A freshly cleaned white!”
Meanwhile, Masazumi finally caught up from behind and she did not try to hide how out of breath she was.
“Um, what’s going-…whoa, whoa, there’s a dragon there! And Aoi, did you stop crossdre-…no, you didn’t! You just took off your wig! And your arm is bleeding…? Wait, Horizon’s arm is bandaged too!”
“Do we really have to explain everything just because you arrived late?”
“Could you sum it all up for me?”
“We were just having a little fun is all.”
Asama looked to the foolish brother’s arm. The blood was flowing out and dripping down, but Asama sighed.
“…I’ll make sure it doesn’t leave a scar, so don’t work it too hard, okay?”
“Eh? I can’t work my arm too hard?”
“…I didn’t mean like that!”
When Asama said that, Kimi and everyone else fell silent.
After a while, a look of realization reached Asama’s face.
“A-and by ‘like that’ I mean day-to-day activities! Yes, ordinary day-to-day activities.”
Mal-Ga: “Wouldn’t that be a day-to-day activity for guys? Well, more like three times a day.”
Gold Mar: “There’s really no other way to explain how well your doujinshis sell, is there?”
Asama: “Not again! You’re trying to blame everything on me again, aren’t you!?”
Azuma: “Everything? What do you mean by everything?”
Uqui: “You don’t understand? You have ‘everything’ when you open up the memories submenu and can see all of the icons.”
Unturning: “It would seem some animals live in a different world from the rest of us…”
Regardless, Asama wrapped healing charms around the foolish brother’s arm.
His elbow dug into her chest while she did so, but she was too focused on healing to notice. And he simply stared at her hands working at his arm.
While activating the spells, Asama spoke quietly.
“Judge, I know. …I thought I had intercepted the enemy, but he made it through to my king.”
Horizon stood up and faced Mitotsudaira.
“Mitotsudaira-sama. I do not fully understand…but it is because you fought back that Toori-sama and I are alive.”
“It is true I managed to intercept the enemy. I believe I had a definite lock on him during that invisible charge. However…”
“A knight is shamed if she allows her king to be harmed even slightly. Especially with Futayo over there. I bear full responsibility here.”
“Mitotsudaira.” Kimi spoke with an “I might as well” tone. “Asama was able to heal my foolish brother and Horizon because you positioned yourself in front of them. So this result was thanks to the cooperation between you and everyone else, myself included. So what are you going to do from now on? None of us is thinking about this silly responsibility game. And you should be thinking about it least of all. Do you know what I mean? If so, then raise your tail and charge at your prey! Go!”
“I tried silently listening, but that just kept getting worse and worse…!”
But Mitotsudaira faced away from her king.
“I understand. …When I need to protect, I am a guarding knight. When I need to attack, I am a charging wolf. And right now I need to attack and finish off this enemy.”
She took a breath and brought out her silver chains. The four slack chains hung down from her arms.
“Eh? What is it?”
The knight answered the foolish brother.
“Feel free to order me to eliminate any burden I am causing you.”
Mitotsudaira took a breath.
She had sensed some kind of powerful presence during the dragon’s invisible charge. And it had felt like the presence moved away when she launched an attack in that direction. However…
…He has a slicing power.
Given that, her king and princess had been right to protect Asama.
Kimi and her king must have sensed a “gap”. Their entertainer’s instincts told them an attack should have come their way but did not, so they decided it must be headed toward Asama instead.
Mitotsudaira guessed Horizon had acted on her king’s instructions, so…
…This was another form of cooperation.
And that thought was accompanied by a voice reaching her ears.
“Can I ask for anything?”
“Judge!” she agreed.
Mal-Ga: “He’ll be asking for her body, then…”
Gold Mar: “Yeah. She even said this was the time to attack.”
Silver Wolf: “What are you people talking about!?”
“Then,” said the idiot from behind her. “When you sleep with your head on my arm, could you move a little closer to me? When your head’s near my elbow, it cuts off the circulation and my arm goes to sleep.”
A stir ran through everyone except for Asama and Kimi.
Silver Wolf: “W-wait!!”
Almost Everyone: “Oh, we’re waiting. …Now, go ahead!”
Unturning: “Does that mean the Chancellor was hit in the arm because of that?”
Scarred: “Hee hee. Lady Mitotsudaira, aren’t you glad you didn’t sleep on his neck or stomach?”
Silver Wolf: “Mary!? I-I wouldn’t do that! I wouldn’t!”
Vice President: “But, Mitotsudaira, you were completely lying on top of Aoi and the others before.”
Asama thought to herself as she watched Mitotsudaira prostrate herself before the idiot with her fingers perfectly aligned.
…Th-that was a close one! I need to make sure the damage doesn’t spread to me!
After all, she had slept like that too.
Of course, that was only because armless Horizon had been between him and her and because she had been filling the space left vacant. But then Horizon spoke up without warning.
“Wh-what is it…?”
“You too were sleeping on Toori-sama’s elb-…”
“Ahhh! I’ll fight! I’ll fight! I’ll head out there to fight alongside Mito!”
Asama felt a dull sweat soaking her body as she patted both of Horizon’s shoulders.
She sent Mitotsudaira a sign frame containing what they knew about the enemy and what she could predict.
“Mito, Kimi, and I will kick that dragon’s butt, so just leave it to us!”
…They will defeat that dragon?
Gin questioned Asama’s words while Cuatro Cruz went through a rapid cooling process.
The dragon had just finished changing direction and took a light step to face them.
“Lady Asama, the Mito Lord, and the Chancellor’s sister…are going to face him?”
Just then, the collapsed Musashi Vice Chancellor hopped to her feet.
She waved to the others.
“Listen up, everyone. Horizon-sama, I seem to be a poor match for this dragon…so can I go on ahead?”
…What did she just say!?
But Musashi’s princess responded to the idiot girl by looking their way and forming a large circle with her arms.
“Good,” said the Musashi Vice Chancellor.
She then patted Gin’s shoulder.
“Then let’s get going, Gin-dono.”
There was so much Gin wanted to say, but she swallowed it all.
She summed it up with a single word.
Why would that thought ever occur to her?
Why was she so selfish?
Why did she choose Gin now?
But the girl responded without delay.
“You are the Peerless in the West’s partner. There is no better battle partner for someone aiming to be the Peerless in the East.”
Gin listened as the girl continued.
“Of course, if I had someone else by my side, I would gain a different advantage from fighting alongside them. …But that is my reason for going with you here, Gin-dono.”
She is an idiot, thought Gin as she fell speechless. This girl really is an idiot.
Gin thought of her husband when she saw the samurai girl standing at ease in front of her.
She wouldn’t notice if you beheaded her from behind or fed her poison.
And Gin understood something else beyond that. It was something only she understood.
…She could hold her own against you, Master Muneshige.
That girl thought of nothing but battle.
She was taking Gin to the battlefield because she thought that would give her an advantage in combat. She would never even dream of something other than combat happening.
She was completely obsessed with battle.
Meanwhile, Muneshige and Gin were jointly obsessed with being the Peerless in the West. So they looked to each other and had enough mental leeway to clear away every obstacle to that goal.
But this girl was alone.
However, that was only because she lacked someone like Gin in her life.
She was so obsessed with combat and the like that she did not have the mental leeway needed to look at anything else and she had no one to help her out.
So she had relied on Gin here.
“That is…that is a foolish decision. I am the Peerless in the West’s wife. …Why would you rely on that?”
Gin turned to face the other way.
She faced the path leading underground and started forward.
“Rely on Tachibana Gin, not the Peerless in the West’s wife! The latter title is only available for Master Muneshige!”
Saizou turned around.
He was a little out of breath because he had not laid his hands on prey in a long while.
Hunting really was wonderful. His dragon heart was pounding with delight.
Two of the enemy had just gone to the lower floor. But that did not matter. He could see Musashi’s Chancellor, princess, Vice President, and shrine maiden were still here.
As long as the information gatherers were still here, he still functioned as a barrier.
There was no reason to buy time, but he still watched his opponent’s movements. They nodded at each other.
And they split up.
Three of them left their ranks: the shrine maiden, the Mito Lord, and what appeared to be a dancer.
Musashi’s Chancellor and princess were being guarded by a ninja and a half-dragon back in the main group.
“I see.” Saizou spoke to the three who had opted to appear before him. “A shrine maiden? So you really are haunting us.”
Eh? thought Asama.
…With this and what he said before, what did shrine maidens do to him?
Then Toori called out to her from a short distance.
“I bet it was…y’know, that time in middle school when you shot down a dragon on New Year’s.”
“All I did was fire a warning shot because that flying dragon was making too much noise on the holiday. It’s not my fault the arrow happened to hit.”
“That was a hell of surprise when it fell on the ship. The shrine visitors freaked out, but we managed to avoid any trouble by saying it was part of the festivities.”
“Yeah, ‘Okutama’-san got really mad and told us to take better care of animals. We let the dragon go soon afterwards and they’ve never gotten close to the Musashi since.”
“Oh, that,” said Saizou. “That was probably a dragon from the neighboring tribe. They were pretty embarrassed, so I believe they decided not to fly over your ship afterwards.”
“Then I actually helped the Musashi stay safe in the air, didn’t I?”
“Why are you smiling?” asked Mitotsudaira, but Asama ignored her. All’s well that ends well. Yes.
But she had something to ask Saizou.
“What did shrine maidens do to you?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t be in the Shinto records. For us, it happened 800 years ago and then 400 years ago.”
Saizou breathed a glowing mist out from the corners of his mouth.
“They were Testament Cross-Borders Units.”
“800 years ago, the dragon king, who was something like a Chancellor for us, was slain by humans. It happened suddenly, but the absence of a king caused the dragon army to crumble. The Germanic unification and survival had been going well until then, but after his defeat, we scattered as disparate factions.”
This was such a nostalgic story. And…
“400 years ago, The Testament predicted an incident in which 130 boys and girls would vanish from a northern M.H.R.R. town in a single night. …Fearing we would be blamed, we sent out a scout and discovered that no such incident occurred. However…”
Saizou was aware he was practically spitting out the words.
“On that night, we were attacked and our unit was destroyed.”
Mitotsudaira and the others looked to Asama.
Asama realized everyone was focused on her.
“I-it wasn’t me! It really wasn’t!”
Well, of coooourse it wasn’t, thought Mitotsudaira.
But someone else spoke up: Masazumi. She raised her right hand first.
“You’re talking about the history recreation of Hamelin, aren’t you? Yoshitsune mentioned that, too. She said it was similar to the Princess Disappearances.”
“Similar, hm? …Interesting.”
True enough, thought Saizou as he laughed. The dragon’s intermittent breaths shook the hall.
And beyond that shaking, the dragon spoke.
“It is true that, 800 years ago, there was a battle in which an entire city vanished in a single night.”
“Wait,” said Mitotsudaira. “Do you know who the Princess is…?”
“No, I don’t.” The dragon laughed. “And making people disappear sounds more like a Loup-Garou thing than a dragon thing. …Of course, we wouldn’t attack single individuals. But getting rid of an entire town or city’s population without destroying anything else? That’d be easy enough for us.”
Mitotsudaira started to utter some kind of rebuke, but Asama cut her off.
“So we can view Celestial Dragons as…malevolent beings, can we?”
“Yes. That’s it right there. That presence.” Saizou bent back as he spoke. “The group that attacked us 400 years ago wore equipment we had never seen before. And a woman among them used the same term you just did. …And I hear it was the same 800 years ago.”
The dragon raised the corners of his mouth. He showed off all of his fangs.
“It was a group of 130 from some unknown land. But you know what? After the Harmonic Unification War, when we first descended to the Far East…we found people using the exact same equipment.”
“Do you understand now?” asked Saizou. “That force should not have existed in the Harmonic World. I have to wonder if most of what you call Testament Cross-Borders Units were units sent in from the Far East.”
Masazumi quickly sent a divine transmission.
Vice President: “Neshinbara, can you check-…”
Novice: “It’s no use. The Far East is a mountainous land, so mysterious disappearances, even for entire villages, were fairly commonplace. And 400 years ago, during the age of Hamelin, the Far East was ruled by the Kamakura Houjou clan. Do you know who their leader was at the time?”
Four Eyes: “Houjou Tokiyori. There, all done.”
Novice: “Wh-why must you be like this!? You’re only fanning the flames of darkness within me!”
His darkness did not matter.
But Masazumi had to ask further.
Vice President: “Do we know what this Houjou Tokiyori person did?”
Novice: “Judge. He was a wise ruler. And there is a certain story about him. It says…”
Novice: “He traveled all across the Far East and listened to the people there. Traveling to every part of the Far East was probably a first for a head of state.”
Wait, thought Masazumi.
And she looked to Saizou who looked back at her.
“Well?” asked the dragon. “The dragon clans who were still putting up a resistance at the time were destroyed, fled deep into Europe, and scattered to the east and west. But the people of the Harmonic World were busy preparing for the recreation of the crusades, so do you really think they could have dealt with us? In fact, it was our presence that was keeping the Europeans from recreating the crusades. They were afraid we would attack them from behind or steal the land they left unguarded. …We even considered doing just that to regroup our forces.”
“Then how were you destroyed?”
“Didn’t I tell you? Hamelin. …Each time a similar incident was recorded in the Testament, some of our own would be wiped out somewhere. The few survivors bowed down to the Testament Union, converted to Tsirhc, and went to the Dark Continent. That helped with the recreation of converting the natives.”
Saizou laughed without smiling.
“There were also a lot of giants in the group that attacked us. When we looked into it, it seems those were probably remnants of the Taira clan or heroes that the Kamakura Shogunate didn’t know what to do with. And at the time, the leader of the long-lived pursued them into the Harmonic World.”
Masazumi knew who that had to be.
Indeed, thought Sasuke in the lower hall as he listened to the exchange from upstairs.
Whether they were real or fake, Testament Cross-Borders Units had existed in each era.
They had not appeared since the Harmonic Unification War, but Sasuke had a guess as to why.
…Most likely, they were a mixed unit with warriors from both the Harmonic Divine States and the real Divine States. Either that, or one or the other unit would send in the other.
That was why they left almost no trace and why they had not appeared since the Harmonic Unification War.
Sasuke thought about the spirited long-lived girl he had met four hundred years ago when he had lost so many friends in Europe and fled to the east.
She had been searching for an enemy she had once fought.
“Do you wish to finish them off?”
She had shaken her head at that.
“It’s already over.”
“I want to ask them to join me.”
But they had failed to determine if that person belonged to the group that had attacked them.
After all, they did not know where that group had gone.
They still did not know.
Most likely, the Testament Cross-Borders Unit that had fought with them had been remnants of the Taira clan and excess warriors from the Kamakura Shogunate.
Houjou Tokiyori had secretly gathered those people who had nowhere to go and dispatched them to the Harmonic World during his travels around the Far East.
So they had probably scattered after the battle.
Instead of returning to their original home, they would have spread out across the Harmonic World to find a new place for themselves.
By defeating those malevolent beings, they had wiped clean their pasts and their place in the world.
…That’s a purification.
But what about the ones before and after that?
He did not know.
Both before and after that, those groups known as Testament Cross-Borders Units had had a certain objective.
Would Sasuke be able to get that across to these people?
I hope my opponents here are up to the task, he thought.
He stood up and crouched down on all fours.
Two girls stood at the hall’s entrance.
The one in blue wielded a spear and the one in red was followed by a cannon.
He had fought people like this long ago.
So he opened his mouth. He bared his fangs and viewed his enemy.
“Push yourselves to the very limit, humans. You stand before one of the Celestial Dragons who are the rulers of all other dragons. …To ensure you are not conceited enough to think you can save the world when you cannot even defeat a Celestial Dragon…”
“Push yourselves to the limit and prove it is not mere conceit, humans.”
Narumi felt a rumbling from the floor below.
And it was not a slow shaking. It was a powerful, vertical tremor.
Dragons lived in Oushuu, so Narumi recognized this.
“That’s the sign of a large dragon fighting quite fiercely.”
“That means Sasuke’s taking this seriously,” said Saizou. “And just so you know, I’ve sparred with him many times, but not once have I won.”
Musashi’s princess raised her right hand.
“Are you bragging about how weak you are?”
How ill-advised, thought Narumi, but the Chancellor shook his head next to her.
“Hey, Black Mal.”
Mal-Ga: “I know. …Even when they’re both the same sex, people like to compare themselves to the person they have feelings for.”
“I see.” Musashi’s princess nodded and then faced Saizou again. “So you love him.”
Mitotsudaira saw Saizou attack to the side instead of at her.
“What are you doing!?”
Her natural ability to provoke people is off the chart.
Everyone screamed and ran away, but Mary remained out in front. She instructed a few air spirits to supply a single overall current to the air.
The group’s speed increased. Meanwhile, someone was targeting the dragon who had his back turned toward Mitotsudaira’s group.
Asama fired a thick arrow.
…They don’t leave any openings, do they!?
Instead of reacting to the sound of the blast, Saizou took action when he sensed the presence behind him.
They were a troublesome bunch.
The group did not move as a single individual. Many individuals moved as a group.
Their skill at adlibbing was so great that trying to crush the threat before your eyes would only get you attacked from somewhere else.
The most annoying part was how well they cooperated.
When the shrine maiden fired on him, no one else made a similar attack.
They had been trained to not waste any of their attacks.
But, thought Saizou.
“If I know you’re cooperating, I can use that to my advantage…!”
He quickly crouched down and moved his entire body back.
He was confident that the shrine maiden’s arrow was not a homing arrow.
After all, if a homing arrow detonated like the last one had or if he dodged it, the fleeing group would be hit.
His guess proved accurate.
A rapid gust of wind raced by just above his lowered back.
There was no point in looking up to see the arrow fly out of the hall and into the sky.
Instead, he turned toward the shrine maiden’s group.
He did not use his legs to turn.
He used his tail.
By swinging his long tail into the underground entrance, he propelled himself around the other way.
He smashed the dirt-covered floor and the Terrestrial Dragon bones buried within. His four legs drew arcs along the floor.
He was directly facing the shrine maiden now. She was in her follow-through motion after loosing her arrow. He knew she would not receive a firing divine protection from her god if she did not properly follow that form.
But he realized something.
…The Loup-Garou is gone…!
In that instant, Saizou’s instincts pulled his body back. He ducked his head down and pulled his shoulders back.
Just then, a piercing power dropped right in front of his eyes.
It was the silver wolf.
This could not have come out of nowhere. She must have sent out her chain along with the shrine maiden’s arrow.
The hall’s ceiling had collapsed, but some of it remained. Her chain had grabbed onto that and rapidly pulled her up above his head.
Instead of just dropping down, she had launched herself down using the chain and she held something like a spear.
It was the thick arrow the shrine maiden had fired.
At 1.2 meters, it was plenty long for a weapon wielded in the hands.
The most frightening part was how the arrow had been aimed at his eye. However…
“I have you now…!”
It was too late to aim a dragon cannon toward the falling enemy. And firing downwards would not sweep away the shrine maiden and dancer.
So Saizou moved. He got up and sent his left foreleg forward to strike the silver wolf. And…
Masazumi saw it happen while she hurried along the right side of the hall to reach the passageway in the back.
Saizou was to their left. His giant body had just performed a back dash.
It was a light action.
She could not believe that a body so large could move so quickly. But she had also not expected him to move backwards. It reminded her of the previous night’s battle.
That Terrestrial Dragon had been filled with hostility and had simply tried to crush them.
…I thought dragons always moved forward and focused entirely on attack.
This Celestial Dragon was different. When he sensed danger, he would evade, even if that meant falling back. And as a result…
As Mitotsudaira fell, an explosive pressure flew from her arms and toward Saizou.
That was the destructive power of Asama’s arrow.
When it lost its homing lock on them, it would detonate to hit them that way.
Mitotsudaira had wielded that blast as a weapon.
She had pursued Asama’s arrow and sent out a chain. She had first used the arrow as a piercing weapon. In the best case, that would work. But if it did not, the enemy would think he had dodged the piercing weapon just before it blew up in his face.
That had probably been Mitotsudaira’s plan.
But the enemy had dodged it.
This was not just a raging dragon. It was a Celestial Dragon who would do what it took to defeat the enemy.
He was not a mere beast.
And his next actions proved it.
He hunkered down, opened his maw, and directed it toward Mitotsudaira, Asama, and Kimi.
“You know those two who went on down? One of them said she was a poor match for me. …But you know what?”
“She’ll be an even poorer match for Sasuke. …She’s probably learning that the hard way right about now!”
With that, two tremors shook the ruins.
The first was a scream of air produced by Saizou’s dragon cannon.
And the second…
The shaking of battle arrived from the floor below.
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