Horizon:Volume 6C Chapter 68

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Chapter 68: Hunter of the Hunting Ground[edit]

Horizon6-C862.jpg

I’m counting on you

God

Point Allocation (Okay, Okay)


As soon as Mitotsudaira recovered, she engaged Kakei in combat.

The sporadic shellfire continued. And those attacks primarily fell along the detour routes.

He doesn’t intend to let us get down there safely, does he!?

Everyone was hidden behind the lakeside slope. Asama placed defense barriers overhead and the warriors’ barriers protected them horizontally. Also…

“Suzu-san is sending us the target locations!”

Asama’s voice was accompanied by several sign frames appearing above the ground. They all said <Hit?> in Suzu’s handwriting. A bar graph scale stood up from them to provide the time the shell would arrive.

That’s enough for me!

With Excalibur in hand, Mitotsudaira moved her legs. And the enemy…

“Not bad!”

He used high-speed movements to try to capture her. But she sent her strength to her toe tips.

“Here I go!”

She pursued him. A wolf would not flee. Nor would she let her prey escape. Those were her rules.

Kakei’s movements were made up of rapid slides and turns. She pursued his curving motion with continual jumps while she ran between the predicted artillery target locations.

Using her whole body felt great. She contracted and extended her body while occasionally doing it with just one leg.

I need to move just a little faster!

The enemy continued firing the cannon. The sound rang in her ears, but the wolf turned her heels compactly to the right and accelerated.

The enemy was to the right. He was already trying to move behind her on that side, so…

“——————”

She swung her right silver chain in midair. She immediately had it grab a tree to turn her around.

That flipped her vision to the left just as Kakei jumped into view there.

“Oops.”

He immediately spun himself around and came to a stop. A cannon blast targeted her as she landed. And it came from behind her on the left.

She had expected this, so she forcibly jumped leftward.

The shell passed very close to the right side of her head. She felt the heat in her hair and the opposite trees were felled by the hit by the time she felt the wind.

The blast arrived a moment later. She tilted her head to avoid the expanding noise. And when she faced forward and to the left, she saw Kakei spinning his body.

She went for it.

I made it!

She leaped in front of him.

That was safe ground. Kakei’s shots arrived from his blind spots. If she stood in front of him, he would be forced to fire from behind her.

That would mean firing directly toward himself, so he could not do it. So if she simply moved forward…

No!

Mitotsudaira launched herself left.

A blind spot attack had appeared behind her.


That’s crazy, thought Mitotsudaira. Is he not afraid of hitting himself?

But she heard a certain sound.

“Tch.”

Kakei clicked his tongue.

He was blaming himself for failing to finish her off. So…

He lured me there, knowing what it would mean!?

But what would he do about the shell she had dodged? As soon as the question occurred to her, she saw the answer.

Something flew in from behind her on the left: a second shell.

The new one crashed into the side of one she had dodged.

“…”

Sparks erupted before her eyes.


Kakei dodged to the right while the destructive shockwave hit the left of his back.

What choice do I have!?

He worked to ensure he wouldn’t have to conclude he had “screwed up”. He had put a fair amount of effort into luring her in like that.

I mean, fighting the Reine des Garous’s daughter is no joke. Come to think of it, isn’t this like being one step before the final boss? She’s at least the major midgame boss. I’m doing the best I can on my own here, but…

There’s no easy way to deal with her…

He had just gotten a definite hit in on her.

He had struck her with the noise of the explosion.

Like before, it should have affected her inner ear too badly for her to move.

“But I guess it isn’t that easy!”

When he spun around with a turning slide, he saw a silver form there.

It was the wolf.

As she launched her entire body toward him, there were scorch marks on her uniform, but she was unharmed herself.

The explosion had not affected her. But why not?

The chains!


Mitotsudaira’s burst of acceleration sent the cold sweat flying from her back.

That was way too close!

The tree she had grabbed with a chain when approaching Kakei had saved her from the explosion.

She had reflexively pulled herself toward the tree held by the silver chain. That had only moved her about a meter, but she had also raised Excalibur so that her ears had processed the blast as no more than a loud noise.

And she had learned a new trick.

It was a movement technique she could use to corner Kakei. She would have to use it without any practice, but…

“Here goes!”


While Suzu stood on the hill and used the Musashi to monitor the situation in the forest, she questioned the wolf’s movement.

Eh?

Mitotsudaira’s movements were odd.

Before now, she had been moving around with accelerated leaps that felt like teleportation.

But those bursts of acceleration had a starting point and an ending point connected by a straight line. While observing her from above, Suzu was generally able to predict the routes she was taking. But now…

Wh-where is she?

She could not predict the wolf’s movements. She would jump at a different angle mid-leap and move in swinging curves. The oddest movements of all were the ones that could only be seen as a change of direction in midair. But…

“Umm.”

Suzu could not just proclaim that Mitotsudaira was acting weird, so she increased the resolution of her senses. She touched the model display controls and upped the magnification of the sensory data sent from the Musashi.

Her senses immediately detected something moving rapidly around Mitotsudaira. It was…

“The silver chains…!”


Kakei realized this was a lot of trouble.

The enemy had increased her mobility. And not with simple speed; it was her turning.

She used her chains.

The silver wolf’s two chains had grabbed the forest’s trees. When he tried to avoid her charges, the chains would pursue him. And when he dodged that…

“She grabs a tree with the chain to swing herself around!?”

The wolf pulled herself toward the tree held by the chain.

This was indeed a lot of trouble. She could grab a tree to change direction in midair and, if he tried to escape with a turning slide, she would swing herself around a tree liked a pendulum. And…

She can grab the tree to move up!?

She could easily transform a horizontal charge into upward movement.

Kakei smiled bitterly at how he quickly fell back because he could not respond to that sudden vertical movement.

I look pretty pathetic here.

This was exactly the kind of feint that a ninja was supposed to use against their enemy.

But those bursts of speed and directional changes allowed the color silver to jump every which way in pursuit of him.

She was a pack of wolves.

I see, thought Kakei. The forest is a beast’s home ground. And it was also night.

The home ground of nonhumans!

The enemy then began snapping at him with a fang named Excalibur.

She was closing in on him. He was too preoccupied with dodging to lure her in. However…

“I do have a weapon of resistance!”

This battle was the 2nd Siege of Ueda.

He had to produce results. So he took action. He turned to face the enemy while falling back to the left.

“Come, silver wolf!”

He was too preoccupied, but he lured her in regardless.


Mitotsudaira was running.

The enemy was falling back to her right.

He was 15 meters away. She knew she could catch up and she was indeed closing in. So…

“…!”

Despite the cannon fire, she jumped to the right to further close in on Kakei.

Another shell flew in from the left. He intended to drive her rightward as she advanced on him.

She refused to allow any more distance between them.

She threw a silver chain into the air to her right. It grabbed a tree up ahead in that direction, so she pulled herself toward it.

That brought her closer to Kakei. And as soon as she moved forward, Kakei fired again.

This shell targeted her face from the rear left. That was a risky position for moving forward to dodge.

So she let the chain go slack to decelerate in midair.

The shell passed right in front of her. And after that slight lapse in speed…

Silver chain!

Just as it started to pull her forward once more, she heard a cannon blast.

It was targeting her, but it was not coming from behind or to either side.

Up ahead!?

That was not one of Kakei’s blind spots. It was an impossible shot.


Kakei fired a decisive shot from dead ahead.

Now what’ll you do!?

There was a trick behind this shot.

That trick was the shot fired from the side just before. By allowing it to pass in front of the enemy’s eyes, it forcibly created a blind spot for both of them that was just enough for a single shell.

The enemy had been pursued from behind by the shells this whole time, but this counterattack suddenly came from the front. And it targeted the center of her body. She would not escape unscathed even if she guarded with Excalibur.

“Hit her…!”

Kakei prayed. He prayed for his god’s blessing to reach the blind spot behind the enemy.

Even after the main attack from the front, he fired more and more shells at the wolf from behind.

One of the ones behind her would catch up even if she tried to dodge.

He would corner the wolf and finish her off fair and square.

A moment later, he saw something.

The wolf had accelerated toward him.


Mitotsudaira gave a strong tug on the chain in her right hand.

And just as the approaching shell was going to hit her, she relaxed her right arm to decelerate.

I made it in time!

Just as the silver chain went slack, she sent her hand up and to the right.

She saw something there: a shell.

Kakei had fired it from the rear left to create a blind spot. It was the one she had just dodged.

Raising her right arm sent the silver chain up toward the shell’s path.

“…”

It hit. The silver chain’s loop caught on the shell.

How about this!?

It exploded.


Kakei saw a single movement.

The wolf had hit his shell with her chain.

As a result, the chain detonated the shell and the blast knocked the wolf away. Also, the chain broke and…

“She dodged it!?”

Just as the wolf was blasted outside his view, the shell shot from the front collided with the barrage of shells pursuing her from behind.

This produced a great roar, but Kakei turned around to the left.

The nighttime forest was there. And unlike his immediate surroundings which had lost its trees due to the shellfire, that forest was wrapped in deep darkness.

In that darkness, a single large tree was straining. The trunk vibrated and the leafy branches shook from bottom to top.

But he could not see anyone in front of that large tree in the darkness.

He reflexively jumped to the right and he looked to the left while distancing himself from the tree.

The enemy appeared in his vision there.

A single presence dropped down from the sky ahead and to the left.

The fall was accompanied by the sound of a wildly swinging chain.

It was the wolf.

The silver wolf’s shoulders rose and fell as she turned around with a broken chain and Excalibur in her right hand.

Kakei had a thought when their eyes met: Have I cornered her, or has she cornered me?

Now that’s a question.

He did not know. But he was extremely exhausted as well. He was not sure he could escape even if he used his skilled footwork here.

Shells from the Kanie Castle were falling all around them. The wolf walked forward within that din, so Kakei…

“Here goes.”

He launched a shell of his own.

He targeted it at the center of her back, which meant it also targeted him.

But a question arose as soon as he sent the command to fire.

Huh?

It had not fired.


What is going on? wondered Kakei.

He did not understand why his shell had failed to fire, but some kind of misunderstanding was a possibility. So he used his remote control for the fire controls to fire again. However…

“———————”

There was no response. It failed. No…

Huh?

He did hear something. He heard a secondary cannon fire exactly as he sent the command.

It was firing, but his god’s blessing had not sent it into the blind spot.

Has my god forsaken me?

He was not kind enough with himself to just accept defeat in that case. However…

“How could this-…?”

It hit him just as he muttered the word “happen”. The silver wolf in front of him had come to a stop.

She was not moving. No, that was not it. She had performed a certain trick.

“Erasing the blind spot!”


Mitotsudaira did not nod at Kakei’s words. She simply advanced.

“…”

She occasionally swayed her body. It was an instantaneous thing that caused her hair to bounce a bit.

I see.

There was something around them here.

The forest was a comfortable space for ether and ley lines and her Loup-Garou blood allowed her to sense this presence.

A great presence surrounded her and Kakei while watching over the battle. But unfortunately, it took Kakei’s side and helped him attack her from his blind spots. So…

“Oh.”

Mitotsudaira swayed while walking and performed a light shake while sending her gaze around.

She blurred the definition of the blind spot created by her body.

By shaking her hair, he could see through the gaps and by turning her body sideways he could see behind her.

Then she just had to match her movements to the timing of the shells. Not when Kakei pulled the trigger, but when the shell was launched toward her.

She knew the timing after listening to the sound so many times and watching Futayo’s battle with him before.

The attack from directly ahead had helped most of all. That had been her enemy’s special attack, but it had also allowed her to observe the timing of the blind spot shot with both her eyes and ears. So…

“Now, then.”

She moved forward.

And Kakei moved too.

He performed a turning slide. It was a beautifully ordered movement. It may have been the most perfectly executed one he had done yet.

Perhaps that was because he had just received a short breather after all that constant movement. He swung his relaxed body around to arrive behind her.

But Mitotsudaira moved.

Even if he arrived behind her, she still knew the timing to erase his blind spot.

The wolf eliminated the enemy’s attack and turned toward him with a burst of acceleration.

And she saw something there.

Kakei had drawn his guns. He held the dark metal devices in his hands.

“God,” he said. “I’m gonna do my damnedest.”


For Mitotsudaira, the bullets did not come from Kakei’s blind spot. And when a tremor ran through his body…

“——————!”

He moved forward. A pair of gunshots immediately followed.

Mitotsudaira twisted her body and dodged the incoming bullets.

“…!”

She gasped at how accurate the shots were.

Too-accurate shots were said to be easier to dodge, but this was on another level entirely. The bullets traveled along such a pure trajectory that she briefly thought she was being absorbed by those twin lines.

Only after suppressing the urge to move into their path did she move around.

But this was different from before. He did not run from her.

He stayed in constant motion to always remain in front of her and she swung Excalibur to respond to the gunfire.

Sparks flew, their shoulders collided, and they slipped past each other.

His movement was impressive.

He was at least on Noamasa’s level, if not higher. Given the speed and mobility, he had to be better.

At any rate, she controlled her speed just before striking at empty air.

She used a burst of speed that sent her hair fluttering behind her.

“Ohh!”

She pursued him.


A series of movements occurred in an instant.

Within those turns and accelerations, the wolf circled behind Kakei on the left.

He responded by turning to the left.

He first turned his head toward the wolf and fired from his left gun.

The bullet flew toward the silver wolf’s right chest, but just before it hit, the wolf raised her right arm and sent her body to the left.

She held Excalibur in her right hand and swung it wide to the left in order to slice into Kakei’s back.

He dodged that by bending back.

A moment later, a bullet shot past the wolf’s unguarded right side.

She had just swung Excalibur up to the left and tilted her body to the left.

As Kakei straightened up again, she was right in front of him while trying to move to the right.

He would not let her escape. He followed her acceleration. Just as she used a burst of speed…

“No more prayers!”

He swung his body to the right to follow. And he swung his right arm down to aim the handgun at the wolf’s right temple.

“I’ll do it!”

His mouth twisted to either side and he sounded on the verge of tears as he raised his voice.

“I’ll do it myself!”

He fired as if making a downwards blow.


Asama saw Mitotsudaira spin around.

Since she had swung Excalibur to the left, she had nearly overbalanced to that side. She had avoided that by jumping away to the left, but the enemy was pursuing her.

And he fired…

He shot down at her right temple while she leaned to the left.

But then Mitotsudaira unleashed a burst of movement.

She did not dodge. She performed a side flip right there.

She did not place her hands on the ground for a cartwheel. She made an instantaneous midair side flip with her head as the pivot point.

The gunshot rang out, but the bullet missed her face. Asama distinctly heard it hit the ground.

And the next thing she saw was Mitotsudaira landing and…

“Mito!”

She saw Kakei aiming his left handgun at her face.

A gunshot rang out.


Kakei saw the result for himself.

Someone had taken a bullet between the eyes.

But it was not the wolf.

It was him.

The wolf had raised Excalibur and the crushed bullet was pasted to the reflection of his face there.

The silver wolf must have held the large sword close and used it to protect her in midair. That explained why she had gone for a midair side flip instead of a simpler cartwheel. If she had placed her hands on the ground, she could not have defended herself soon enough.

“What’s your deal?”

Kakei spoke to his own face reflected in the mirror-like blade.

“Why do you look so relieved?”

A moment later, Excalibur flipped around. The wolf had pulled back her elbow and raised the weapon in preparation to attack.

Kakei saw the enemy, so he aimed his two guns and fired.

But she twisted her body and slipped between the two shots.

She charged straight toward him with Excalibur raised up and back. He fell back, but…

“…!”

He was too slow.

For a brief moment, he saw the black sky. The very next moment, he felt something piercing his right chest while he was slammed into a tree behind him.


Tenzou heard one sound vanish from the distant artillery hits.

He no longer heard the handgun gunfire that had started a bit ago. And instead…

Oh?

He heard an out-of-place cheer.

The shellfire was still underway, but the overall atmosphere must have changed. He heard the loud sounds of Far Eastern rifles and of Naruze firing. And on his end of things…

“Ga-chan sure is having fun,” commented Naito while holding Schwarz Fräulein below her arm and unleashing a stream of gunfire.

Next to her, Gin was intermittently sending shells to their surroundings. However…

There are too many of them!

The enemy automatons were approaching in an arc shape measuring 30 meters across.

They moved at a run, but there were so many of them. They kept a thickness of 8 rows deep and they never seemed to thin out.

And the enemy used their numbers to continually close in. That made it easy to hit them, but…

We can’t avoid this fight.

The automatons were climbing up the very detour Tenzou’s group hoped to use to get down.

And the enemy had reinforcements.

10ZO: “Neshinbara-dono! Could you ask Houjou for detailed information on any automaton supplies sent to Sanada!?”

Novice: “Oh, we already received a report on that: ‘This is the end for Houjou, so we gave them all of the spare parts we no longer need. Good luck. I could defeat them all without breaking a sweat.’ ”

10ZO: “Why did they have to do that!?”

Didn’t that give the enemy near-unlimited numbers? However…

Bell: “Tenzou-kun! Watch out…!”

Just as Suzu’s warning arrived, the automatons in front of him exploded.

It was obvious what had happened. They had not self-destructed, but it was not an attack from the Musashi side either.

“Is the Kanie Castle firing on us!?”


Suzu increased the magnification of the model to pick up the Kanie Castle’s actions.

Before, it had been focusing its shellfire on the upstream direction. The Musashi had responded by returning firing on the upstream edge of the Kanie Castle: the bow. However…

The Kanie Castle has focused its defense barriers on the bow.

The transport ship carrying the gunner gods of war was moving into airspace giving them a shot at the bow.

The Kanie Castle must have noticed because its aft cannons suddenly began firing in the downstream direction.

The shells were scattered along the detour route down to the lower part of the forest.

Is it not letting them down? Or is it…not letting them back to the road?

Either way, they were held in place.

Hori-ko: “This is dangerous. Fine, then. I will fire Lype Katathlipse downstream to clean everything up quite nicely.”

10ZO: “Please don’t clean us up too!”

Gold Mar: “I can fly out of the way, so can you tell me when you’re going to shoot it?”

The scary part was not knowing which of those suggestions she would accept. But…

Hori-ko: “That said, there are far too many trees piled up to go rescue the downstream team. I really think sending any help would not be possible.”

Silver Wolf: “You’re saying it’s my fault, aren’t you!? Aren’t you!?”

Wise Sister: “Hey, Asama, why don’t you send Tenzou’s team a barrier? They’re in range, aren’t they?”

Asama: “That’s true. I will send one defense barrier to Tenzou-kun! Can you catch it, Tenzou-kun!? Hold your arms up like this. Um, and spread them upwards at about 20 degrees.”

10ZO: “Y-you don’t have to be so specific!”

Suzu was worried about this, but she noticed something while lining up the enemy models.

Huh?

There was a chance she was mistaken since she was blind, but it seemed odd to her.

But there was one way of proving that it was odd.

Bell: “The number of enemies…is the same?”


“Huh?”

Adele tilted her head next to Suzu. She started up a targeting spell and locked onto all the enemy models. And after checking the enemy reinforcements too…

“Oh, you’re right! There are 1600 of them! The number is fixed!”

The number of automatons was indeed staying at a set level.

“But.” Adele turned toward Suzu. “What does that mean? If they just have to crush us, wouldn’t it make sense to send the whole group at once?”

“Heh heh. I think I know what this is about.” A pleasant aroma and something soft pressed against Suzu’s back. “Suzu, you tell them the enemy is being remotely controlled in some way. And the control method has an upper limit of 1600 units at once. In other words…”

“Someone nearby…is controlling…them.”

They were somewhere out there. And somewhere with a view of the battlefield. Suzu was blind, so she was not confident she could pinpoint a location “with a good view”. But…

Bell: “T-Tenzou-kun…are you listening?”

There was one place that always gave an advantage to sensory systems.

Bell: “The enemy must be…somewhere high…and without any obstacles!”


Tenzou heard Suzu while he held the defense barrier overhead.

Somewhere high and without any obstacles!?

He looked back over his shoulder.

The dirt hill that blocked the view of the Kanie Castle was about 2 meters tall. There were no trees growing on top and only the wind blew through there, but there was no sign of anyone there.

In that case…

Are they at the top of a nearby tree? he wondered just as the warrior unit arrived to take shelter below his defense barrier. The girl in the lead raised a hand in greeting.

“Thanks for the help, 1st Special Duty Officer!”

The instant he heard that, he jumped away from the female student.

“Imposter!”


This isn’t right, thought Tenzou.

He could not trust this warrior girl who had fled right in front of him.

She didn’t click her tongue or insult me even once!

He had received that sort of response 100% of the time on this mission, but it was absent here.

So this was a disguise. And if she was one of the Sanada Ten Braves with a connection to automatons…

“Mochizuki Yukitada…!”

“So you noticed.”

The girl’s mouth changed shape. Both sides rose to form a crescent moon. This was a mere reaction, not a smile from the heart. And…

Oh, no!

His pose holding up the defense barrier was a problem.

He tried to escape, but his upwards-stretching pose kept him from getting much speed with his first step.

“Excuse me.”

Mochizuki’s tackle hit him in the gut.


Masazumi did not really understand what had happened.

She simply saw a female student perform a flip and push Crossunite to the ground, which caused the defense barrier to hit the ground and shatter.

Who would’ve thought someone else has tastes as odd as Mary…

It did look like Crossunite had hit the ground headfirst, but more importantly…

Asama: “Um, it looks like you lost your defense barrier, so did something happen!?”

Vice President: “Eh? Well, a girl kind of jumped into Crossunite’s arms.”

Silver Wolf: “Eh? W-wait, Tomo! Tomo! Get Mary back into the chat!”

<Scarred-sama has been forced into the chat: Confirmed>

Scarred: “Hm? Um, do you need something?”

Hm, thought Masazumi as she described the situation before her eyes.

Vice President: “Well, a girl just pushed Crossunite to the ground and has mounted him.”


“Eh?”

Mary had no idea what was happening.

Pushed him to the ground? Mounted him?

“U-u-u-um, i-is it some kind of sport?”

“Yes, I suppose you can interpret it that way. And when mounting is involved, they sometimes use horse riding equipment which can be a real pain to draw.”

Naruze said that while taking some notes with one hand and firing Weiss Fräulein with the other, but Mary had no idea what she meant.

However, Horizon turned toward her to explain.

“Pushing someone to the ground is an ancient Far Eastern sport used for confessing one’s love.”

“Confessing one’s love…?”

“Judge. They face each other, the Shonosuke Kimura referee shouts ‘Hakkeyoi!’ and ‘Nokotta!’ at them, they embrace, and whichever one is pushed to the ground loses. The tradition is to start by sprinkling salt if you wish to reject the confession. In some cases, the winner is given some consolation money from the referee. And since the goal is to have the two bound by marriage, the final match of the day is known as the Musubi no Ichiban, or #1 Binding.”

There was so much to learn about the Far East.

But now she knew what was happening over there.

“U-um, so since Master Tenzou was pushed to the ground…”

“Judge. I have determined this girl is confessing her love to him.”

“————”

Mary was dumbfounded. She had hesitated yet had her emotions leak out so much that afternoon.

D-did I feel too distant to Master Tenzou?

No, she decided. This is something that girl forcibly did to him.

Scarred: “M-Master Tenzou hasn’t accepted, has he?”

Gold Mar: “Well, I guess you would say the girl thrust her hips between his legs and he thrust back up at her?”

Naito’s words sent a stir through everyone.

They all exchanged a glance and Urquiaga finally spoke quietly.

“So…we’ve lost Tenzou.”

“Why doesn’t that idiot do that stuff when he’s with us?”

“He does have a way of getting ahead of everyone else…”

Mary was not sure what they meant, but the image she got in her mind from Naito’s description seemed to have the male and female roles reversed.

But then…

Vice President: “Oh, sorry. Crossunite must have rejected her because she just drew a blade.”


Gin saw the scene play out while she fought back against the automatons.

The Musashi girl had the 1st Special Duty Officer in the mounted position while she raised a short sword.

She held his right side in place with her knee and he pushed her arm back with his left arm, but…

“Master Muneshige! What is happening!?”

“Judge. Given Lady Mary’s circumstances, I would guess this is an assassin from England.”

“Why does that incorrect theory sound so convincing!?” protested the 1st Special Duty Officer.

But the girl spoke while pushing down the hand holding the short sword.

“I will not ask that you stop moving, but I will ask that you stop your attack on us.”

She shook her head, causing her hair to fall away and a few objects to peel off of her face. And below that…

“Sanada’s Mochizuki!”

“Testament. I am here tonight to cause damage to all of you.”

Something happened just as she said that.

Several dozen shell target markers appeared at their feet.

Bell: “Downstream…team! Watch…out!”

They did not need to be told. But they had little room to escape with the wall created by the enemy automatons.

The Musashi Vice Chancellor, who was attacking the enemy to the right, sprang backwards.

“Masazumi!”

That nimble girl made a good decision when she picked up that VIP. Meanwhile…

“Gin, in the worst case, we will break open a path through the enemy formation.”

That was the Muneshige she knew and loved. She just about voiced her joy out loud, but she resisted. And after calming her breathing…

“Judge. …Then let us observe the situation while avoiding the bombardment.”

The shells arrived just as she said that.


Masazumi was lifted up by Futayo.

She had expected to be held under the other girl’s arm, but she had instead been placed over her shoulder. Futayo must not have had the time to spare, so she treated Masazumi like luggage.

While draped over that shoulder, she could see the ground right in front of her.

Mukai’s shell target markers floated above the ground all around them.

That’s an awful lot, she thought while Futayo accelerated. And Futayo used the time differences between hits to select a safe location.

Whoa!

The first hit arrived immediately afterwards.

The sound was more breaking metal than explosive boom and the wind burst into the sky. But it did not end with that one. Masazumi heard more objects falling from above.

“…!”

And the blasts continued.


Masazumi saw the destruction of the bombing.

Noise, shockwaves, and all sorts of wind rushed at her from below.

Directions felt entirely meaningless.

And it all kept happening. The sound struck her body and the ground flew up to hit her as pebbles. She wondered what was happening to her body, but…

Eh?

Something was off about the scene around her.

Moment by moment, the scene was changing, spinning, and moving like she was watching a video with frames missing.

Futayo was dodging faster than Masazumi’s eyes could keep up. But the next thing she knew, she was constantly surrounded by wind and occasionally hit by pebbles, but the noise was no longer hitting her as hard.

Is that just how amazing Futayo is?

She also saw the colors red and white pass by at times. Those had to be the Tachibana Couple who continued to tear into the automatons even now.

They’re all amazing, she decided just before realizing something.

The arm and hand Futayo had around her thighs were squeezing her pretty tight.

She saw Futayo’s usual expressionless face with the eyebrows raised just a bit more than usual, but…

“——————”

For some reason, that put her at ease. Because she had seen that same expression back when she lived in Mikawa.

That shows how seriously she’s taking this, thought Masazumi while relaxing from her relief in Futayo. When she did, Futayo’s arm held her even more tightly. That caused some pain, but it had to be a sign of just how dangerous this was. Besides, Masazumi could not hope to match Futayo’s strength, so protesting now would accomplish nothing. Also, Futayo suddenly spun around.

“——————”

She turned toward Crossunite within the falling and collisions.

Mochizuki deflected his arm and began to swing down her blade.


Tenzou saw the blade swinging down within the falling bombardment.

He used his left arm to defend and tried to tilt his back out of the way, but…

What is with this automaton!?

Mochizuki’s legs had grown longer. Instead of the standard human size, her knees had grown to cover the length between the bottom of his hips and his armpits.

She must have disconnected the joints and added an extra bone in between. Her pelvis had also split apart to hold the bottom of his hips with vise-like strength.

Tenzou looked up toward heaven while essentially trapped in a coffin.

He saw light. It was the short sword Mochizuki was swinging down at him. And a thought occurred to him when he saw it.

Well done!

This whole time, this enemy had skipped any unnecessary talk and immediately moved to finish him off. As a result…

The final bosses in Neshinbara-dono’s books always give a long speech about their grievances and lose their chance to finish off their enemy, but that isn’t how it works in the real world!

But a moment later, a horizontal line of cutting reached Mochizuki’s body.

It was a direct hit.


Immediately after using Tonbo Spare, Futayo spun around and dodged a falling shell.

Her cutting power had hit the enemy. However…

“It did not finish the job!”

She looked back to see Mochizuki moving.

Her chest was split, her upper stomach was damaged, her right upper arm motor was cut, and the front of her internal systems was damaged, but…

Just before I targeted her, she removed her non-structural parts and moved them forward, didn’t she!?

She had not been cut. Just nicked. It was not a perfect slice, but it had supplied an impact. However…

“The other day, I healed Kakei-sama after he was hit by that attack.”

The enemy knew what kind of technique Futayo used.

So just before Tonbo Spare activated, she had moved her unnecessary parts forward as a shield. And she had detached them so the impact would be diverted around her.

It was a lot like Celestial Dragon Sasuke’s armor. His had been fixed in place, but it had scattered and negated Tonbo Spare’s cutting. Mochizuki had recreated that scattering system by physically disassembling herself.

And Mochizuki took a certain pose. She raised her short sword to guard herself.

She did not kill the ninja. No, she had chosen to protect herself for a few moments instead of taking action and being stopped in the same away again. So…

“A shell!?”

A shell target marker appeared below the ninja and Mochizuki.

“I have an automaton body, so I do not fear destruction.”

A moment later, the bar graph showing the shell’s arrival time began to shrink at an accelerated rate.

The shell had begun to fall.


Mitotsudaira threw Excalibur downstream.

1st Special Duty Officer!

He had sent it to her, so she had to return it so it could save its master. She used a rising side throw.

“Eh?”

Except Excalibur slipped from her hand and flew in a straight diagonal line before stabbing into the ground to her right.

It loudly bit into the dirt and everyone froze in place.

After a moment, everyone sighed and Naruze spoke for them all.

“You screwed up bad this time, Mitotsudaira.”

“N-no, I didn’t! E-Excalibur moved on its own.”

“Now she’s making excuses…”

“W-wait, let’s review what happened! So calm down, everyone!”

“Hold on!”

The crossdresser stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“My king!”

“Everybody makes mistakes! Right, Nate!?”

“You’re not helping!”

But she did see something over his shoulder.

Excalibur was floating there after extracting itself from the ground. And the other Excalibur had joined it.

Eh?

It all happened in front of Mary. The Excalibur she had held and the one that had stabbed into the ground in front of her both floated up and lightly swayed.

Then the two Excaliburs solidly connected together.

The combined sword presented its hilt to Mary.

It was clearly telling her to use it.

And Mitotsudaira saw a divine transmission from Masazumi.

Vice President: “The enemy is about to get Crossunite!”

Mary immediately took action. She grabbed Excalibur’s hilt and raised it to waist height.

“Master Tenzou…!”

Mitotsudaira saw light gather in Excalibur’s blade.

She had seen that glowing blade once before: when Mary had used it at the end of the Armada battle.

“Get down, everyone!”

When Mary swung it, a blade of light measuring more than a kilometer long sliced through everything in its path.


“Get down!”

Gin shouted that warning when she saw Excalibur’s light chopping down all the trees in the forest on its way toward them.

But even as everyone else got down, Futayo alone remained standing.

“Hm? Gin-dono, what are you saying I should do?”

“Get down!!”

But Futayo must have decided it was too late for that because she jumped over the glowing sword.

Gin watched as the girl jumped straight up and tucked her heels up against her butt to clear the blade like she was jumping rope.

She’s insane!

And beyond Futayo, Mochizuki was still pinning Tenzou down.

“…!!”

She could not dodge. She had already fixed her skeletal frame in place to keep the ninja from moving, so the slash hit her.

She split apart just below her chest.


Mary did not really understand what she had done.

She had fallen back onto her butt and she looked down at Excalibur in her hands, but there was no more light in its blade.

U-um, what was that?

It had been a bit weaker than the attack during the Armada battle. The issue was with the ether supply to the sword, but…

Gold Mar: “How did that work?”

Asama: “As far as I can see, there is no ether stored up inside Excalibur.”

Mary could see that too. And it had been the same before.

The Excalibur she held in her hands was no more than a blade. And…

“Ah.”

It split in two. Both swords floated in the air and took their positions at her hips.

Everything was back to normal.

But then what had that attack been?

Wise Sister: “Would that be her special attack: the Master Tenzou Love Love Homerun?”

Is that what it looked like? she thought with a blush. And…

Me: “Won’t we find out how it works next time Tenzou’s in trouble?”

10ZO: “C-can we find a safer way to investigate it!?”

Mary honestly did not understand it herself, but she felt relieved when she saw that he was safe.

She had not lost him.


Futayo could see the entire forest had been sliced through and the trees felled, she could see the automatons had all split apart and broken, and she could see…

“Gin-dono, shouldn’t you get up?”

“Wh-what kind of moron would jump out of the way!? What if the blade had come to a stop or altered its trajectory!?”

Hm, she is angry with me. But the shells were still falling from the sky. And…

“1st Special Duty Officer!”

“J-judge!”

After pulling himself out from below the automaton’s lower body, the ninja stood up and opened a defense barrier in the sky.

They now had a roof. That left one other issue.

“Mochizuki, do you surrender?” asked Futayo.

The automaton’s body lay collapsed in front of the lake side of the slope.

It was just the upper body from the chest on up. Her right arm had also been severed.

“You cannot move, can you? Then I will secure you.”

“Do you really think you can do this?” quietly asked Mochizuki before closing her eyes. “I leave this with you.”

Futayo did not understand what she meant, but she was given an answer a beat later.

A tremor came from the ground behind her where the trees were falling.

“Just as there are many depressions where the water was removed, this area has many underground waterways. I sent my hair down one of those. So,” said Mochizuki. “How would you like to be dragged down to the underworld with me?”

Several explosions followed. They were much shallower than the previous tremor and they seemed to draw a straight line connecting downstream and upstream through the forest.

“…!?”

The earth shifted.

Everything below their feet moved toward the lake. Futayo felt a brief floating sensation.

“Kh…!”

And then the entire forest collapsed toward the ground below.