Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 26
Chapter 26: Staller on a Curved Path
I did not go the wrong way
I started down the wrong path
Point Allocation (Summer Heat)
Kiyomasa saw Miyoshi Nyuudou frantically wave his hands side to side.
“P-please wait! You are jumping to conclusions!”
He seemed to have something to say for himself.
…I suppose Sanada is technically part of Hashiba’s forces…
Kiyomasa sighed and asked another question while still running.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Testament. Due to some connections from my past, I have sided with Hexagone Française and I stopped by here to perform some espionage on the way there.”
“P-please wait! You are jumping to conclusions!”
He seemed to have something to say for himself.
“For one thing, Hashiba and Hexagone Française have yet to properly open hostilities!”
That was true. They were of course still enemies, but it was worth considering how to handle this situation.
Kiyomasa sighed and asked another question while still running.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Testament. I will eventually be your enemy, so I came here for some espionage and found some young girls confirming their mutual friendship with a run. I caught the scent of youth and-…”
“P-please wait! You are jumping to conclusions! I am no one suspicious! I merely arrived for some espionage and felt my heart flutter at the sight of some young girls!”
“Please calm down! If you do, I am sure you will understand how pure my heart is! Young girls, youth, and a conversation while running! Ahh, how could I not feel my heart flutter!?”
“Kiyo-dono, how about we beat him up now?”
“Testament!” she agreed while Seikai whipped the horse drawing his cart.
The cart quickly accelerated.
“Ah. You’re trying to get away, aren’t you?”
“If my words cannot convince you, I have no other choice!”
Seikai stood up in the accelerated cart’s driver’s seat and swung his arm. He swung it toward the girls as they quickly picked up speed.
“Farewell, pure souls…!”
“W-wait! That cart is stolen!”
“Ha ha ha. We shall meet again tomorrow!”
A metal beam sticking out from a pile of materials hit Seikai on the back of the head.
With a solid sound, his body flipped through the air and over the materials loaded on his own cart.
He fell off.
But Kiyomasa and Fukushima had only just picked up speed.
They had to slam on the brakes when their enemy met this unexpected fate.
But by the time they stopped, they had already passed him by and were even further away from him than before.
The surrounding students were not warriors, so they could not capture Miyoshi Nyuudou.
So Kiyomasa turned around and ran. Fukushima was right there alongside her.
And she accelerated.
Fukushima used Headfirst Fall for a short dash that quickly filled the gap between her and Miyoshi Nyuudou.
Miyoshi Nyuudou hit the ground rolling, stood back up, and began running once he noticed her.
…He is surprisingly fast!
He was a ninja.
Fukushima was a samurai. Based on their combat styles, he would be faster on his feet than her. So if she was to catch up…
She had to use Headfirst Fall.
She needed to catch up in a hurry. If she could delay him by just a bit, Kiyomasa could arrive in time.
…Of course, we are fortunate that we can fight him as a pair.
After all, they had no weapons.
Miyoshi Nyuudou, on the other hand, did. He appeared unarmed, but…
…Here it comes!
He swung his arm toward them as he ran.
That thick demonic arm contained an emblem tattoo. That black pattern formed writing when he swung his arm and twisted his muscles.
Ether light raced along his arm and left his hand as a glowing projectile.
Fukushima dodged. As the bullet passed her by, she deflected it to the left.
It hit some materials being transported and exploded.
The bursting light and the blast itself were weak, but it made a lot of noise and the surrounding Azuchi people finally noticed what was happening.
The workers were only the rear guard being used to transport materials.
Most of those who could actually fight had been sent to defend the levee construction.
…So we have to do something here.
Fukushima had a sudden thought.
Llaf: “Takenaka-sama, were thou the one to determine the distribution of combat personnel here?”
Kuro Take: “Oh! So you noticed my excellent job, did you? Is there some kind of problem?”
Kiyo-Massive: “At least leave some guards here…!”
6: “More importantly, stop delaying work on the starboard side as well…!!”
AnG: “Calm down, Shouroku. Not that I know how hard you’re all working there.”
…That is very true!
But the situation was what it was.
Everyone had reflexively come to a stop.
They were unsure if there was any danger nearby them.
If they had been trained, they would be able to make a few different decisions. They would immediately decide whether to fall back to safety or to defend against the danger.
But if they had not received combat training…
…After hesitating, someone will be unable to bear the pressure and they will flee.
That would be dangerous. Everyone would think “me too”, seek that “uncertain safety”, and begin moving every which way.
So before that happened…
Fukushima accelerated between the stopped people.
Her eyes were focused on her enemy.
Everyone had stopped and become obstacles, but he was slipping his large body between them.
It was like water.
The more obstacles there were, the faster he seemed to move.
And as Fukushima pursued him…
She was hurrying, but…
…My movements are rough!
She grazed people and dug up the dirt beneath her.
Part of her thought that was fine. That was just how her acceleration worked. After all…
It had its origins in Minamoto Yoshitsune’s surprise attack.
Yoshitsune had appeared on a cliff behind the enemy formation and, as everyone else thought about taking a detour around, she had jumped down from the cliff. It was a technique for relying on your horse to descend a cliff. So if Fukushima was using that to accelerate…
…Of course it is going to be rough.
It was a wild technique.
But, she thought. Headfirst Fall provides a falling acceleration focused on speed, so it should be used by the person in the lead.
It was not a technique for use in a crowded area. So…
Fukushima sought to reach “the lead”.
Kiyomasa saw something as she ran: Fukushima jumped as she ran out ahead.
It was a great leap. The girl in a black track suit soared up onto some materials being transported.
And Fukushima placed her left foot on those materials.
A moment later, she disappeared.
She had poured almost all of her strength into acceleration.
As if to prove it, she appeared atop some materials a short distance away and then vanished again.
She next appeared on the back of a carthorse and then on the roof of a materials storehouse.
I can’t keep up with her, thought Kiyomasa.
Strengthening her body with a spell simply was not enough.
She was clearly following “after” Fukushima, not following “along with” her.
This of course meant Fukushima would catch up to the enemy, but also…
Kiyo-Massive: “Fukushima-sama! You’re moving too far out ahead!”
She called out to her, but…
There was no response.
Fukushima was focused just like during their run earlier.
She must have been thinking about something because she was failing to monitor her situation.
This time, she was probably focused on pursuing the enemy.
During training, taking time to think was important.
But at the moment…
A stir ran through the surrounding people as they noticed Seikai and Fukushima.
They began to move. Some cried out in surprise and others in confusion.
The frightened and panicked crowd got in Kiyomasa’s way.
Fukushima realized she had caught up to the enemy.
They were on a waterway. It was a small artificial river that passed through the wheat field.
It was about 5 meters wide and about a meter lower than the wheat field on either side.
The water was less than 10 centimeters deep and small stones were lined up below the water.
This was probably the “path” Miyoshi Nyuudou had used to approach the Azuchi. He kicked up the water as he ran about 10 meters ahead of her.
She heard something from the Azuchi behind her while she kept up the pursuit.
Everyone was raising their voices after finally noticing the chase.
Fukushima initially interpreted their distance from the Azuchi as distancing him from the work site.
That meant the enemy could no longer do damage to the others or to the Azuchi.
She was also well aware that leaving the Azuchi increased the risk to her. After all, she had no weapons and she was lightly equipped. She was also short on spells and divine protections.
She told herself she had to give up the chase after he had made it a certain distance away.
…As long as I keep that in mind, I should be fine.
She would not pursue him too far.
Of course, she had achieved impressive results by continuing the pursuit during the battle against the gods of war on the transport ship. So she decided she had to pursue and approach him to a certain extent.
So she did so. And…
Miyoshi Nyuudou accelerated.
He looked back her way and his narrowed eyes definitely focused in on her.
She knew why he had looked back: The waterway bent to the left up ahead.
The waterway was a level lower than the surrounding wheat field.
The wheat growing there hid the waterway from view after its leftward curve.
If she was careless, he could use the terrain to ambush her.
He likely intended to make clever use of this. His feet audibly kicked up the water as he turned his body around and…
He fired a shot at lower hips height. And it was not a rapid shot.
It was a slow ether projectile that was more released than fired.
Fukushima realized the enemy was luring her in.
The speed and position of his shot was all the proof she needed.
Miyoshi Nyuudou had targeted her hips which were essentially her center of gravity while running.
If she was hit or if she blocked it, the blow to her center of gravity would bring her to a stop.
And it was slow.
A faster shot would have more force behind it, but then the bullet would reach her sooner.
Since he was trying to buy enough time to escape, it was better for him if the bullet took its time reaching her.
And the slower bullet allowed for more accurate aiming. So dodging it was her only option.
However, the direction in which she dodged was the problem. There was water below her, so crouching would slow her down.
If she jumped above it, she would expose her entire body to projectiles. Even with Headfirst Fall, she could not change direction while in the air with no footing.
So it had to be left or right.
But dodging to the left would be dangerous.
The curve up ahead was to the left. If she dodged left, she would be hugging the inside of the corner, but the higher ground and wheat on the left would be in the way. As soon as she entered the corner without being able to see ahead, he could hit her with a counterattack.
Right would be safer. However…
…That would delay me around the left corner!
That would mean widening the gap between her and the enemy.
Fukushima sensed Miyoshi Nyuudou’s calm. He had fired one shot as if placing it in the air behind him, but that had given him several different advantages. He had likely been trained for this. Meanwhile…
…If only I had Ichinotani…!”
Then she could have absorbed his attack and continued forward without losing any speed.
The enemy shot approached.
She had to make a decision. So…
Seikai grabbed water in his hand.
He scooped it up in his large palm. He held it up so some shadows fell through it and the scene behind him was reflected in the water’s surface that floated like a bubble between his fingers.
The wide angle of the reflection showed him a wide area behind him.
He saw something odd in the center of that makeshift mirror.
Fukushima disappeared in an instant.
…A girl’s form vanishing in a river awash with summer sunlight…!
He viewed it poetically thanks to his usual habits, but he did not slow his running legs.
The enemy had not actually disappeared.
He indeed saw a movement in the water mirror he checked in a hurry.
It was down below.
Due to the curve of the bubble-shaped water mirror, it was hard to follow movement toward the bottom.
On top of that, Fukushima had taken an unexpected action.
She had leaned over to duck below the Sermon Cannon shot he had fired.
In Seikai’s view, ducking below it had been the 2nd best answer.
The best had been to dodge to the right and take the outer corner. Even if she was delayed by that, she would be safe and she could make up for the delay later.
She could not dodge to the left or above because that would expose her to danger.
Below had been the second best option, but…
…Ducking down reduces her speed!
However, the enemy had not ducked down. She had leaned to the side as if collapsing into the water. And…
She had launched her leaning body forward to maintain her speed.
This enemy’s acceleration spell did not strengthen her body. It accelerated her from her footing to the direction her feet took her.
She was not running; she was falling.
So what mattered was the indicated direction, not her stance. She could fall headfirst or back-first.
And the enemy made her leap. Her forward “fall” took her below the bullet and, just as she finished passing below it, she righted her body and accelerated herself forward.
There was no hesitation in any stage of her triple fall.
Seikai swung his left arm. By twisting his arm, he altered the connections of the tattooed emblem to reload. The bullets seemed to wrap around his left arm and moved from there to his body like large rosary beads. Then he slammed them into the firing spell on his right hand.
“Sermon Cannon Machinegun!”
He fired them in quick succession.
The glowing bullets punched into the waterway’s wall.
The fist-sized shots were fast and fired in rapid succession.
Their firing sounded more like blowing wind than a roar and it was joined by the loud noise of reloading.
In the lead, Seikai ran while facing backwards and kicked up the water.
In pursuit, Fukushima ran while leaning forward and kicked up the water.
Seikai was the first to make his way around the left corner.
He hugged the inside of the corner to make the most of his lead.
And while the waterway’s wall provided cover, he fired ether bullets so they would pass through the other side. And he sprayed them up to down.
For Fukushima, this created a horizontally-sweeping barrage that covered the inside of the corner to the outside of the corner.
“How about that!?”
Seikai shouted that while falling back and that was when Fukushima made her approach.
She took a center route. It was the same route as the one on which she had ducked below the previous shot.
She had not changed her route in response to the random vertical spray of bullets from Seikai. She simply ran, and…
She removed her jacket. A moment later, she grabbed the ends of the sleeves, scooped up water like the jacket was a basket, and swung it in front of her.
She released her jacket toward the barrage cutting across at just below chest height.
The water had not had time to soak in, but the jacket struck the barrage with the weight of the water it surrounded.
Even if it was not officially meant for combat, student equipment was given defensive abilities and divine protections. That and the weight of the water was consumed by the enemy bullets.
Of course, the destructive ether bullets would not be stopped by something like that.
A few shots hit it, tore through the water and jacket material, and pierced through.
This was not completely bulletproof.
But the bullets that hit the jacket and water were slowed just a tad. And Fukushima took aim for the gap that created.
She used her acceleration to throw herself sideways through the air.
She led with her right shoulder, twisted her body, and shifted into a Fosbury Flop.
She kicked off the water’s surface and moved quickly enough that the water only splashed up after the fact.
But not even that was enough. She had launched herself face-up in the air, but the later bullets were going to reach her.
That was why she turned herself around.
She began a midair spin to shift from face-up to face-down. She pointed her belly down and moved her right leg to kick at the water’s surface.
Her toes breached the water’s surface and reached the stones below.
She had her footing. And just then…
She used her acceleration not to pass through the barrage but to pull herself out of it.
Even so, a few of the bullets still had the speed and trajectory needed to reach her. Because she had twisted her body starting from the feet, her face was furthest away and it had not quite left the barrage.
But she had seen them. And she could instantly grasp the trajectories of just a few.
So she could dodge them.
She cleared the barrage using her twirling and accelerating body along with physical strength centered on her head.
A few strands of hair were taken by the barrage of ether bullets.
But that was all.
She had cleared it. The next acceleration was already entering her body.
Behind her, the abandoned jacket and water belatedly burst.
That spray could not keep up with Fukushima as she moved forward.
She fell forward.
Seikai watched the enemy’s movements.
She was catching up. The enemy approached with enough speed to do that.
Seikai thought while moving at a speed so great that the kicked-up water looked slow.
…In the summer sun, I am splashing water in a stream while playing a game of tag with a girl.
He instinctually arranged the scene into poetic terms, but he really did wish he lived in a world like that.
Needless to say, reality was cruel. Reality was nothing like a poem, so he was instead being pursued by an accelerating girl who blasted water explosively into the air.
That was a problem.
The enemy’s charge would not stop. She had done an incredible job of forcing her way through his barrage.
He was impressed how she had combined her jacket and the water to escape that tight spot. However…
…Why!? Why would you remove your jacket while behind cover!?
An athletic girl had removed her jacket in a stream below the summer sun.
Such a wonderful scene. So he wished he could have seen it.
Seikai scattered gunfire. He fired close-range at the enemy who was rounding the corner. He spread his three demonic fingers and fired the ether bullets along them.
He launched the 3-way ether bullets.
Fukushima saw the enemy’s 3-way scattershot. And she shifted her position.
She chose to dodge Miyoshi Nyuudou’s attack.
The Sermon Cannon was an ether cannon attack based on the massive Internal Blessings of his species and released with a spell.
He normally launched the ether bullets as if pushing them with his right palm.
It was a large palm and looking at it told you the angle at which he would fire.
But the palm was pointed downward when he fired this scattershot along his fingers.
If fired in the direction of his palm, it should have flown downward. But that was not what these bullets did.
They followed his fingers and were pushed out from the tips.
In that case, thought Fukushima.
…The enemy’s scattershot must be controlled by the spreading of his three fingers!
When targeting someone using his fingertips, it was difficult to intentionally “divert” the shots.
Miyoshi Nyuudou had the middle of his three fingers aimed at her.
So Fukushima leaped into the gap between his middle and outer finger.
She made it.
But Miyoshi Nyuudou reacted by swinging his right arm as he fell back.
He added a winding motion to the bullets.
The rapid-fire sermon bullets formed a horizontal wave and drew something like a whip with their trajectories. They flew past Fukushima, collided with the waterway’s wall or the water’s surface, and filled the air with clumps of dirt and spraying water.
But Fukushima immediately responded to the motion of the enemy’s bullets.
She followed suit.
…I can do this!
The bullets had speed and density, but they came in a wide 3-way spread. This was much easier to dodge than a blade or spear tip aimed at her.
Before this, she had fought opponents whose every attack was meant to be lethal.
Compared to that…
She crouched low and jumped forward.
Just then, two things happened before her eyes.
First, Miyoshi Nyuudou leaped backwards.
Second, he closed his fingers.
He greatly compressed the density of the barrage and fired all three shots toward her face while she stayed low.
The distance between them had not shrunk. He had matched his jump to hers.
…He predicted my action!?
She wondered how but found no answer. She simply dodged the barrage.
She lowered her body and plunged her head into the water.
She let her stance collapse as much as possible to dodge the bullets.
Her head, shoulders, and chest struck the water and bathed in the scent of algae.
But she had dodged them.
The sweeping air passed overhead. Or rather, over-hips since that was the last part of her to drop down. That was proof that the enemy bullets had passed her by.
She had made it through.
But she was in a dangerous position now.
Plunging to the bottom of the river while accelerating would only lead to self-destruction.
So she first thrust her hands forward below the water. She grasped the bottom of the river as if trying to plunge her hand into the stones there.
At the same time, she slammed her forehead against the riverbed.
Water splashed up as her forehead broke through the water and collided with the stones at the bottom.
But that provided three points of support: her hands and her forehead.
It was a lot like the preparation for a handstand, but that would only make her a target.
She needed to force her hips to the left, spread her legs, and…
…Spin them to the side…!
A handstand would have swung her legs straight up, but she swung them around to the left instead.
With a forceful twisting of her arms, she took a face-up position while twirling around.
Her skyward vision saw the enemy.
He was aiming his three fingers at her while falling back.
He continued to fire and she was still being pursued by his winding bullets.
So she removed her arms. She released her hold on the riverbed and used her legs to launch herself.
Her left-swung legs pulled her body over.
Her hands and head left the riverbed.
She now stood on the left wall of the waterway.
She was standing, but her body still had its momentum. So she used that as her initial speed.
She accelerated and shook the water from her body as spray.
Fukushima chose to run starting with her knee.
After all, she was accelerating from a wall. She first had to right her horizontal body.
But landing vertically in the waterway would create a dangerous time lag as she stood back up.
So she fell knee-first. She was nearly horizontal and she sent her knee into the water.
At the last second, she kicked her toes into the water.
When her lower leg hit the riverbed, it could provide acceleration.
So that was what she did.
She began a forced falling acceleration while in something resembling a crouch.
She released it while positioned low and nearly horizontal to the water’s surface.
She pulled her opposite knee close to her chest to make the next stride.
With each step, she accelerated.
And as she moved forward, she lifted her hips.
To run along the river, she slammed each step backwards and accelerated.
She lifted her hips, fixed them there, and did not raise her upper body.
If her body shook from the force of stepping on the riverbed, she would lose the force needed for her run. If she was to build up her speed, she had to keep her hips high and swing her upper body to match the rhythm of her legs.
…Here I go!
The enemy had predicted her previous action.
So this time, she included a motion that crisscrossed her legs as she ran in an arc. And…
Fukushima grabbed a handy stone from the riverbed and threw it.
She threw it outside the path of the shots that Miyoshi Nyuudou fired while swinging his arm around. It flew in a high arc.
She had thrown it so it would hit before she arrived. And with this timing…
…It will obscure his view!
In the end, Miyoshi Nyuudou moved to avoid having the falling stone obscure his view.
The enemy took a large step back.
From Fukushima’s perspective, he somewhat increased the distance between them. That step was added to the shrinking distance between them, so they were about a step and a half apart now.
But she had made him jump back.
It was now her turn to match his timing.
She made a crouching jump that matched the position and timing of his landing.
She would be aligned with the center of his chest when he landed.
She spun around backwards in midair.
She launched a spinning axe kick that carried the acceleration of Headfirst Fall.
Her falling acceleration gave it the same force as landing from a great height. She supported herself with her left leg which scraped and slid along the riverbed.
She was sending her full bodyweight toward the enemy.
Even if the attack was not as effective as hoped, turning her back protected the front of her body and she could use the rebound of the kick to jump the other way and put some distance between them.
And even if the enemy stopped his three-finger rapid-fire and instead fired from his palm…
…His palm is pointed downwards!
That was why she had not jumped in from below despite her crouching stance.
If she was below, he could intercept her from his palm.
But by staying low to the ground, the enemy was forced to continually attack downwards. That meant he could not raise his hand.
That allowed Fukushima to make this axe kick with any possible counterattack suppressed.
Fukushima thought, Given our distance from the Azuchi, I have to settle this here.
So she made her attack. She leaped to the inside of the right arm he swung around.
She launched her accelerated right heel.
In that instant, she heard a voice. It was Miyoshi Nyuudou’s.
“You leave me no choice.”
Fukushima saw Seikai take a certain action after those words.
He slightly spread his three fingers once more.
It was a small movement, but it was enough for the ether bullets to stop traveling down his fingers.
The new ether bullet moved to his downward-facing palm.
It was loaded into the center of his right hand, but he would have a hard time sending it toward her. She was already moving past his hand as she launched a backwards axe kick.
His counterattack would not arrive in time. The palm blast was meaningless, but he released it regardless.
He clenched his hand.
His large palm and three fingers squeezed the ether power while his wrist turned.
A moment later, the ether bullet exploded in his hand.
With a loud noise, cracks ran through his solid hand and the force opened his three fingers once more.
Fukushima saw the recoil launch his hand forcefully upwards.
But moving upwards brought his fingers to a certain location:
He had turned his wrist because he had predicted this.
He had used the recoil of the misfire to rapidly pull his right hand upwards. He had accepted damage for this movement.
Fukushima’s axe kick dropped down on Seikai’s hand.
The next ether bullet would be loaded in his right hand at almost the same moment that her heel would strike that same hand.
…Am I going to hit!?
If she did, that bullet would misfire too.
As a demonic long-lived, Seikai had natural armor, but the previous misfire had still damaged his hand. If a human like Fukushima was exposed to that, it could easily take off her foot.
She made up her mind in a split second.
While spinning her body, she twisted the leg supporting her. She turned her toes in the opposite direction of her movement.
Seikai saw the ether bullet fly out of his raised right hand and into the sky.
And Fukushima had been launched into the air.
She whipped up the wind as she flew to a height of about 7 meters, but it was more of an explosion than a jump that had launched her.
She had not been hit. Her acceleration spell had malfunctioned.
She had not just crashed into a wall of speed. The next burst of acceleration had reached her body in a broken form and sent her in an uncontrollable direction.
It was a lot like receiving a physical blow.
She was launched without any consideration for how she would land, her entire body was doubled over, and she was twisted to the left.
At this rate, she would fall into the wheat field to the right without her speed dropping much at all.
The effects of the malfunctioning acceleration spell must have remained with her as she flew in a large arc, but all she did was stab into the waves of wheat.
It was over.
The wheat field groaned and the wind swayed back, but there was no sign of the enemy moving within the wheat.
…Should I say that I won?
Seikai looked to his right hand.
The raised palm had large lacerations in it.
Meanwhile, his opponent would have taken damage from the speed crashing into her, but her fall had been cushioned by the wheat.
“I doubt she received any lasting injuries.”
He compared their injuries and compared that to the result of the battle.
He clenched and lowered his hand as it began dripping blood.
He heard a voice in the distance.
It was Katou Kiyomasa.
The height of her voice suggested she was running down a path between sections of the wheat field.
A blonde girl was running through the summer sun in search of her friend who had collapsed into the wheat field.
“…A splendid scene to imagine.”
He wanted to see it for himself, but that would put his life at risk. He had confirmed the state of the Azuchi, so withdrawing was most important now.
“I now have quite an odd story to tell. …A fight with the Ten Spears.”
“How will our Great Teacher and the others view this result and what will it tell them of the future?”
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