Horizon:Volume 7A Chapter 13

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Chapter 13: Attacker of the Racing Palanquins[edit]

Horizon7-A419.jpg

When did I

Become such

An active person?

Point Allocation (Goooooal!)


As soon as the duel began, Shigenaga judged the distance between herself and her opponent.

They faced each other from 16m apart.

They stood on the Musashi as it turned to the east and the hardened wood deck was almost perfectly flat.

She thought there could be no better location for a duel. And…

He has guts starting without a greeting!

In Sviet Rus, a privet always preceded a clash. Starting without that opening greeting was a way of showing true hostility.

Of course, Sviet Rus was Orthodox. She had a forgiving heart, so she made a mental note to not forget her own greeting after the battle.

“Here I come!”

She responded to his shout and started to take her first step forward.

But then…

“Hold on, idiot.”

Terumoto karate chopped the back of his head from her position directly behind him.

“Don’t tell her to ‘bring it on’ when you’re right next to me. That’s dangerous.”


Genan breathed a sigh of admiration as he watched Terumoto’s lecture.

She had her hands on her hips and scolded the boy by clearly explaining what he should have done.

It was true the boy had been careless earlier. It was probably a sign of nerves and fear than a desire to rush into battle. He had lost sight of everything other than his opponent.

He would have lost if the battle had continued like that.

After all, Shigenaga was abnormal.

A first step was meant to do more than just carry you forward. It lifted your body to put you into the pose to begin a sprint with your second step.

But with her first step…

She closed in on him quite a bit.

They were 16m apart and her first step had covered 2/3 of that.

So instead of a sprint focused on initial speed…

“Her movements are specialized for quickly approaching an opponent. I doubt her speed would have risen much with the second step.”

After all, her hips were positioned low.

Running required raising the hips. Since she had not done so, her first step was not meant to prepare for a sprint.

In that case…

Her step was likely meant to bring her close to her opponent and immediately launch a stable attack.

She had jumped for distance this time, but she could also do it low and quick over a short distance.

“By staying low, her movements carry a weight and speed that isn’t easy to stop. …I can see why Ujiteru lost to her.”

Shigenaga was a close-range fighter. Her primary weapons were handheld knives and swords, but she also had the Honjou Shield spell. By firing that at close range, she could hit people with a wall, but she needed to stabilize herself before firing a large shield at someone.

Circling around was not enough.

Firing that shield required the extra time and strength to balance herself. There was a reason she could normally do so without issue.

“She normally fights on snowy battlefields where her feet are buried in the snow.”

Genan could imagine how the battle with Ujiteru had gone.

Ujiteru would have used a series of rapid slashes and some tricky course changes for his blades, but Shigenaga would have used her entire body to circle around and approach him time after time.

Ujiteru would have responded with an attack instead of falling back.

Each time, Shigenaga was sure to have used the strength demonstrated by this “step” to escape, control her body, and then attempt to circle around and attack him once more.

She was short and she was not using any significant acceleration spells.

That was a power and skill that only she possessed due to her mixed demon and human lineage.

But this time, she had jumped. Given that…

She must believe she has the advantage here.

But her usual movement technique might have cost her this opportunity.

So she had switched to the best method for winning here. But in that case…

“Terumoto is the most impressive one here.”


I thought she was just a delinquent who could negotiate, but there’s more to her than that.

Narumi thought Terumoto’s timing had been surprisingly good.

Duels were often decided in the very first moments. Especially when there was a difference in skill or in a head-on clash.

Shigenaga had tried to settle it immediately.

She had gone in for a direct attack.

Had Terumoto smacked Nagabuto because she really was concerned about being caught in the crossfire, or had she been trying to alter the timing of the opening clash?

“It’s hard to tell.”

But intentional or not, she had altered it. She was lecturing the boy now, but…

“Listen, you need to pay more attention to your surroundings. Got that?”

“Y-yes, I get that.”

“No, you don’t! If you did, you wouldn’t have nearly dragged me into the middle of your duel! Look both ways before you start! Both ways!”

And based on what Narumi could see of that lecture…

Mar-Ga: “Am I being overly generous if I say she’s trying to help him relax?”

Uqui: “Honjou Shigenaga looks a little confused as well.”

He apparently saw it the same way as her.

Shigenaga was an expert fighter. That was why she had tried to end it in a single attack. The longer the duel dragged on, the more their surroundings would be dragged into it.

But she had lost her chance to do that.

“Okay.”

Terumoto ended her lecture. She lightly slapped the top of Nagabuto’s head a few times while standing between the two combatants.

She stepped back out of the way while crossing her arms over her head.

This can’t be fun for Shigenaga.

Her initial timing had been stolen from her.

This had been set up as best as it could for Nagabuto.

He could now move at the same rhythm as an expert like Shigenaga.

And then Terumoto raised her voice.

“Begin.”


Mitotsudaira heard a voice and two distinct blasts of sound.

Nagabuto had drawn the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry gun chain swords from his hips and he had fired one of them.

A quick draw!

When viewed as a gun, Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry was a surprisingly troublesome weapon.

When a normal handgun was holstered at the hip, the grip was facing up and the muzzle was aimed down.

But with Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry, the diagonal arrangement of the Nankin Tamasudare style barrels meant they were already aiming at the enemy once he simply raised the grip from his hip.

Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry used their user’s voice as a firing system, so each barrel could be fired in turn as it was pulled from the holster.

That was what he had done here.

“Ah.”

Nagabuto’s voice was drowned out by a second blast.

He sent an attack from hip height on the left and right, which made for an attack that was not easy to dodge.

Shigenaga responded by moving forward.

How would she dodge the pair of bullets as she advanced?

“Well done.”

She lowered her hips, and tilted her upper body further forward, taking it below her hips.

The forward lean of her upper body eliminated her normal silhouette. It was a lot like…

Uqui: “Reminds me of how Unturning Centipede moves.”

Unturning: “When I do it, I press my upper body down in order to run. That means I am also raising my heels. Shigenaga is leaning forward to avoid taking a bullet to her upper body, so she keeps her feet flat on the deck so she doesn’t fall forward.”

It was interesting how they took it in opposite directions, yet it looked so similar.

But for Mitotsudaira, both Shigenaga and Narumi’s movements were food for thought.

Lowering my stance is difficult with my acceleration.

That restricted most of her evasive action to the horizontal directions. She could include the up-down axis by jumping into the air, but then the enemy could aim for her when she landed.

If possible, she wanted a definite technique for dodging downwards. Because…

You can crouch down while moving forward.

Swinging herself quickly to the left or right was an easy way to dodge, but that moved her away from the enemy.

At present, she only had one way to dodge while moving forward: the Flat Chest Evasion.

If possible, she also wanted to learn this forward-leaning evasion.

She was watching an example right this moment.

“Here I go.”

A bullet passed by a bit above Shigenaga’s lowered head.

Nagabuto took a certain action in response.

“Kh.”

He stepped back.

He opened some space between them so he could fire on her again. He also further drew Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry and used his voice to fire them.

But Mitotsudaira had this to say about his decision:

Bad idea!


Tachibana Wife: “The back step and gunfire were not a good idea. Because, well…”

Gold Mar: “Falling back doesn’t really accomplish anything, does it? He should have, um…”

Flat Vassal: “E-everyone really sounds like they want to help him out, don’t they!?”

Me: “So what was wrong with what Nagabuto did? Hey, Neshinbara.”

Novice: “Well, you see, Aoi-kun, falling back only builds things up in a negative direction. For example, if you were fighting a user of dark summoning magic and they had summoned a portal to the abyss behind you, you would have jumped right into the void. The enemy can see behind you, after all. In other words…”

Hori-ko: “Mitotsudaira-sama!”

Silver Wolf: “Judge! My king? Since his opponent is advancing on him, falling back keeps him in the same situation he is already in. He already tried firing directly at her and she dodged it, right? So even if he fires again after stepping back, he is only repeating what he has already proven to be worthless.”

Hori-ko: “Then, Mitotsudaira-sama, what would be the correct course of action?”

Silver Wolf: “At the very least, moving to the right would have been better. Because Shigenaga is carrying a portable cannon on her right hip.”


Shigenaga aimed her first attack.

The portable cannon on her right hip was meant for use after approaching at high speed.

If she charged straight in at her enemy, they would expect her to use a close-range attack. Especially if she had lowered her hips.

But that was a feint.

Her first attack would be a cannon blast. The Honjou Shield could be seen as her clincher, but there was a time lag between when it was activated and when it was launched.

The cannon blast was weaker, but it could be fired instantly. It did have recoil, but since the stance to fire it resembled the one to launch a Honjou Shield, she could use it as a pseudo Honjou Shield and she was used to that stance.

So that was what she did.

She had charged in while staying low and flat-footed because she needed the stability to fire the cannon.

She had leaned forward in order to hide the portable cannon she was preparing to her right. However…

Mouri Terumoto did a really good job here!

Shigenaga had been opening the portable cannon when Terumoto had stopped her initial step earlier.

Had her opponent noticed that or not?

She did not know.

But he had stepped straight back.

She knew he was an inexperienced fighter. He was in middle school, after all. When someone had yet to develop combat habits, their split-second decisions often became extensions of their movements in everyday life.

That was what had happened here.

Upon seeing his enemy headed straight toward him, he had stepped back.

That was a mistake. It changed nothing while she continued forward.

Besides, the gun chain swords at his hips were drawn and fired diagonally upwards. If he aimed from hip height while drawing them, he would have difficulty immediately firing on an opponent ducked below hip height.

A simple step was a bad choice against an opponent approaching along the ground.

He should have bent his body toward her a bit. That would have angled his hips and directed the muzzles toward her.

But he had instead bent back as a part of his step away from her.

If she had been right up on him, a sway back would have worked.

However, bending back from an opponent situated lower than him would only aim the guns higher. And for her, it also stretched her target in the vertical direction. So…

“Step 1.”

She covered approximately 3 meters.

From that position, she fired a cannon blast so it would pass by his right side.


Me: “What’re you supposed to do when this happens?”

Mar-Ga: “Use a defense spell?”

Asama: “That’s what I would do.”

Gold Mar: “With Schwarz Techno, you can use an acceleration spell to fire a counterattack.”

Tonbokiri: “Instead of cutting or slicing, I suppose I would stab at the opponent.”

Wise Sister: “The Giant Breasts Defense! Or the Flat Chest Evasion if you’re Mitotsudaira!”

Uqui: “That cannon’s small enough I would probably just take the hit.”

Flat Vassal: “Yeah, I’d say that’s only a 0.7 on the ‘owww’ meter.”

10ZO: “Wh-why is no one suggesting just dodging out of the way!?”

Scarred: “S-sorry, but I think I would block it with Excalibur…”

10ZO: “No, that’s different because it’s you and you have Excalibur protecting you. And if you ever need to dodge something, just leave it to me.”

Hori-ko: “You mean you would be her shield?”

10ZO: “I mean I would move her out of the way! This is about dodging!”


Yoshiyasu saw Nagabuto dodge the attack.

Oh?

But he did not simply take evasive action.

He tried to move out of the way of the cannon blast by leaning back, but…

“—————”

He fell right onto his butt.


Huh? thought Narumi as she took a second look.

Anyone at the officer level would have picked up a habit of reading the shifts in the battlefield. When watching someone else’s battle, they would subconsciously construct a prediction of how things would go and then compare their prediction with the reality.

But this was not at all what she had predicted.

So she blinked once to throw out her prediction of the future. She had been picturing a certain outcome for about 30 seconds now, but she made an adjustment to rationally view what was happening before her eyes. And…

“He tripped?”

That was exactly it.

The boy had bent back too far and lost his balance. His legs had not kept up with his upper body.

His reaction speed was not bad, but he had not been trained in how to move. No…

He has not trained for or fought against an opponent on Shigenaga’s level.

In normal training, no one would use a small cannon feint. You might be taught that an enemy could make a surprise attack with their first move, but you would not be actively trained for it.

But that was what Shigenaga had done.

She assumed he was at her level and did not hold back.

If it hit, it hit. If it did not, it would act as a show of force. The attack was meant as a warning.

The boy had managed to react, but his initial reaction was of surprise.

He was surprised by what Shigenaga did and it caused him to fumble his response.

“Yes,” said Narumi while aware her brow was wrinkling. “I seem to recall a certain moronic half-dragon groping someone’s chest when he should have been attacking her.”

Uqui: “Narumi, that was an accident.”

“If you had done it on purpose, I would have beaten you half to death.”

Uqui: “No, you would not have. …If it had seemed intentional, you would have asked why I had done it and I would have answered truthfully.”

“Probably so,” she said while relaxing her shoulders and resuming her prediction of the battle before her eyes.

The boy had fallen. That had been a surprise for the onlookers, so…

“It must have surprised Shigenaga as well.”


Shigenaga was confused.

This isn’t good!

This was a real battle. National decisions relied on this duel.

But this boy had rushed into the battle in a way a normal name inheritor never would.

Why was that?

She knew he had little combat experience. Nothing else would make sense when he was only in middle school.

She had taken his skill level into account, and yet…

“—————”

His surprise and fall had made her rush some things too.

She was quickly reconstructing her thoughts after her predictions had been entirely shattered.

Kh.

Leaning forward as she advanced had been careless.

She would not arrive in time.

She had planned to use her Honjou Shield while he was crouched down with hips low. She had even pulled her right hand back in preparation when she fired the cannon.

But the height would be wrong now that he had tripped and fallen.

She thought she should use her forward motion to make a kick, but…

“…”

The boy had not let go of the grips. His fall had caused his half-drawn gun chain swords to bend and a few of the barrels were aimed her way from the deck there.

His shots were accurate and she would be the perfect target if she approached while he sat looking up.

“Ah.”

She heard his voice and the gunshot it triggered.

In that instant, she took a forceful action.

She used the recoil of the cannon blast from her right side in order to turn around with a leftward spin.

That slid her exactly one body width to the side. However…

“His shots are accurate!

The high-speed bullets raced by on her right just like she had expected.

It was too obvious.

And that was not exactly a good thing.

He was her enemy right now, but she felt his talents were currently wasted. His reaction speed was decent, but his lack of experience was a major flaw.

After his demonstration with the swords, she had expected him to be a bit more experienced than this.

But he was not.

He must be an “elite newcomer” built up in training!

P.A. Oda was not shorthanded. In fact, they had so many people to work with that they could select talented individuals from a generation and train them like this. The plan would have been for him to fight in the Keichou Campaign to learn on the battlefield, but Terumoto had brought him here instead.

Now, she thought while acting on reflex.

She had shifted herself left using a spin.

What came next would be a pain.

Her enemy had tripped, but he could still fire. She wanted to avoid getting too close.

She could always send out a Honjou Shield with her right hand, but the portable cannon was active on her right side.

The cannon would get in the way if she swung her right arm down to hit her fallen enemy.

So what was she to do?

Circle around toward his head!

He had fallen backwards, so he would have difficulty looking back in the overhead direction.

So while she put away the portable canon, she only had to circle toward his head and launch a Honjou Shield as she passed by.

The portable cannon was rotating a bit for the cocking phase to load a new shell.

Her right arm was free by the time she was passing him by.

If she ran and spun again, she could diagonally launch a Honjou Shield at him from her left side.

She could defeat him.

“Honjou Shield!”


Narumi realized she needed to update her battlefield predictions again.

Once again, something odd was happening in the Shigenaga vs. Nagaoka battle occurring directly to her side.

Huh?

It was something Narumi would never do.

Someone turned tail and fled.


Narumi saw the boy attempt to run away.

First, Shigenaga launched an attack on the fallen boy as she passed by above his head.

Just as she passed by and turned back toward him, she sent a Honjou Shield down at him.

She had already demonstrated her ability to lower herself to the ground, but making a backwards horizontal attack low to the ground was not easy. So she instead made a diagonal attack as a safety measure.

But the boy moved before it could hit.

He casually got up.

He did not spring up or roll. He simply sat up like he had just woken up in the morning.

“…!”

The Honjou Shield crashed into the deck where his face had been.

The destruction this caused pushed him forward in something of a roll.

“Wah!”

He was now turned completely away from Shigenaga. For an unturning fighter like Narumi, it was an impressively blatant attempt to flee.

Incredible.

He could die at any moment.

After all, showing your back was a tactic for running away without fighting. In other words, he would die if he did not escape. The boy likely did not understand the risk of forcing himself into that dilemma. Unless…

“Does he have a way of dealing with this?”

Just as she asked that, two actions occurred on the duel battlefield.

First, Shigenaga successfully stopped herself with the soles of her shoes screeching on the deck. She had turned back around toward the fleeing boy.

Second, the fleeing boy swung his arms.

“——————”

He held both the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry which were made up of 18 guns each. He barely had control over his arms and they wobbled on his shoulders.

He was panicking. That was clear from his forced movements, but…

How will this turn out?

The 36 barrels fired behind him.


The boy raised his voice as he ran away.

“Ah, ah, ahhh!”

The gun barrels responded by hopping up with loud roars.

Waves of recoil ran through the gun chain swords as 36 bursts of sparks were fired behind him.

He did not check behind him as he fired. Needless to say, these shots lacked his previous accuracy.

But that blind fire used its great numbers to create a barrage.

Meanwhile, Shigenaga had only just turned around.

She had no speed, but she lowered her hips and aimed at the running boy’s back and hips.

“Honjou Shield!”

She launched two horizontal attacks, one high and one low, to act as a barrier against the barrage.

The ether light shields caught the bullets as they sliced through the air and attacked the boy.


Yoshiaki saw two supposedly incompatible actions fit together.

At first, the boy had tripped due to inexperience and Shigenaga had hesitated to launch her attack.

But now, Shigenaga was pursuing the fleeing boy.

“Their strategies developed naturally.”

At the very beginning, Terumoto had stopped the flow of battle.

After that, the boy had naively sought a clash and failed.

Shigenaga had been forced to rethink her strategy twice.

But that had changed. The boy’s flight had created the dual strategies of the chased and the chaser.

The boy had run away because he was inexperienced, but…

This only made things worse for him.

He was capable of running away.

But there was no surprise there. That meant Shigenaga could fight the way she wanted while pursuing him.

That may be why Shigenaga is fired up again.

Launching two shields so they covered her own view was overkill against such an inexperienced opponent.

“Yoshiaki-sama! That Shigenaga woman is pissed off, mon!”

“It’s nice having you around, Shakenobe. I don’t have to think about myself too much.”

Nevertheless…

“Nevertheless, Shigenaga will win this.”

Righteousness: “Will she? I think he can manage a win if he struggles enough.”

“And,” said Yoshiyasu.

Righteousness: “Stacking two Honjou Shields on top of each other only blocks her view, right? She got a little too fired up in her rush to rid herself of doubt.”

“Just watch.”

As soon as Yoshiaki said that, the actions on the battlefield fit together again.

In the path of the Honjou Shields, the running boy suddenly threw himself forward.

He did so without looking behind him.


I knew it, thought Yoshiyasu.

Most likely, that Nagabuto boy had not noticed the Honjou Shields behind him.

But he had guessed that there might be an attack behind him, so he jumped forward.

That was fear.

Fear was felt by someone aware of their lack of power when they faced someone with power.

But there were two kinds of fear.

The first fear came from one’s own sense of powerlessness.

And the second…

Comes from the great power you sense in your opponent.

When you felt the former, you would simply run away. But when you felt the latter…

“You resist.”

If your opponent was powerful, you would run away while looking for a way to win.

You would never push yourself too hard. You would not display any foolhardiness that mistook recklessness for courage. You understood that your enemy was powerful and you would be destroyed if you stood up to them normally, so…

“Move!”

Yoshiyasu saw Nagabuto moving. He slid headfirst, but he swung his arms forward to catch himself as he landed.

The Honjou Shields passed by above him.

He had dodged them.

For an instant, his body tensed up and his jump lost some of its speed.

But the gun chain swords in his hands flew in an arc as he swung them forward.

“Is that your clincher!?”

Yoshiyasu saw the gun chain swords transform.

The two sets of 16 barrels had been linked together like a Nankin Tamasudare, but they were now connected end to end.


Tadaoki was panicking.

What is happening!?

None of this made sense.

No, it did make sense for him to attack Uesugi during the Punishment of Aizu before Sekigahara.

But why was that suddenly happening here?

“Dammit.”

He remembered a number of things.

He hated to admit it, but he was here to ask for help in achieving a certain goal.

It was imperative he achieved that goal. He could not die until he did so. Today and tomorrow were critically important for him, so he could not afford a serious injury here. However…

What am I supposed to do!?

He only knew one thing: he had Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry in his grasp.

He had guessed that scary young woman behind him would attack him and he had been right. He had started sliding headfirst and he thought his next move should be getting up and fleeing to the right.

But he felt the weight of Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry in his hands.

The way he had swung his arms forward was also how he controlled Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry.

Will it work!?

He felt like it would.

If he set up the barrels while getting up…

“It’ll work!”


Tadaoki made up his mind.

He would fight back. And with the biggest move he had.

That was his decision.

While sliding headfirst along the floor, he twisted his body around.

He worked his legs to rotate his body while still sliding in the same direction.

He was now on his stomach with his legs somewhat spread, which was…

A sniping pose!

He faced forward to view the enemy. That just left linking together Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry.

He swung his arms forward in order to bring together the two long gun barrels formed from the shorter ones.

However…

“——————”

It was no use. There was something between his arms.

No, to be more accurate…

It moved in between my arms!?

Something butted in from straight ahead and he saw what it was.

As he quickly turned around and took a sniping pose, a thick white panel rushed toward him.

It’s a wall.

It was a shield made of ether light.

It scored a direct hit.