Horizon:Volume 7B Chapter 43
Chapter 43: Considerate Boys Above and Below
You should follow the fundamentals
How much of this counts as “the fundamentals”?
Point Allocation (Individual Opinions Differ)
Tadaoki saw the ninja running along the wall from a distance of 15 meters.
The ninja would cover that distance in an instant. Tadaoki had fired once at the start, so he only had one shot left. He could reach for another gun, but he did not have time to raise it and aim it.
That said, he had taken the initiative.
He had done so by provoking the ninja with his yell of “bring it”.
When he had fought the Uesugi representative a few hours ago, he had learned just how important it was to take the initiative.
His shout may have been meaningless when they were moving at the same time, but he felt it was surprisingly important to define the order of their actions like that.
After all, he had no combat experience. There were no actual rules governing the order of actions, but it meant a lot to be aware that combat was like running through a list of steps.
His actions and his opponent’s.
…That’s a short list.
He had learned in his previous battle that combat was made up of his list and his responses. Even if that was not quite accurate, he wanted to use that as a starting point.
And he had found a definition for himself.
As a sniper, his tactics were generally composed entirely of responses.
He would not have to put together a list of steps for himself.
He decided that was how sniping worked.
He would not rush things.
He tasked himself with that standard rule of sniping.
He had to watch his enemy’s movements, adjust his aim accordingly, and fire when the time was right.
He already knew when to aim for, so he kept his opponent in the targeting spell, and…
…Here he comes.
He had gained this perfect timing by waiting.
Tenzou was impressed by Tadaoki’s decision.
…He is not moving!
When approaching, he would generally move side to side. That would divert his opponent’s aim and also shift the timing and positioning of his own attacks.
But when he initially jumped to the right, Tadaoki did not follow.
The boy remained motionless.
Only his eyes glanced at Tenzou’s feet before looking straight ahead again.
His gun was aimed not at where Tenzou had jumped to the right but at a point along the central line of his overall path.
There was a distance of 15 meters between them.
Tenzou would travel down the center of that while jumping to the right, back to the center, and then to the left.
He could advance 3 meters with each action, so he could perform 5 actions total before covering the 15 meters.
Those five would be jumping right, returning to the center, jumping left, returning to the center, and jumping right.
But that final jump to the right would place himself alongside his opponent.
That would not work.
When he returned to the center with the 4th action, he had to leap toward his opponent.
So his five actions would actually be jumping right, returning to the center, jumping left, returning to the center, and charging at the enemy.
It would turn out the same if he started from the left. This was one of the standard methods for a ninja to approach their enemy. After all, if you would charge straight at the enemy in the end, you only had to learn how to attack with a head-on charge.
But on that first action, Tadaoki had looked to his feet.
He had likely been checking the distance Tenzou moved.
The wall of the ruins was not made of clearly-defined stone blocks, but it did have panel lines. Using those would make judging the distances easy.
Also, Nagaoka was hiding most of his body behind the roof.
It was like being in a trench. His textbook stance also hid himself behind his rifle.
And he remained motionless like that.
He was a small but sturdy and accurate turret.
It can be hard dealing with someone who follows the fundamentals, thought Tenzou.
…Couldn’t he be a little more careless about this?
There were things he could do.
When the enemy was motionlessly reading his movements like Nagaoka here, there was one thing a ninja could use: projectiles.
He could throw a shuriken, a kunai, or a stone picked up from the ground when moving left or right.
That would force his opponent to move and create an opening.
…tried it out.
While swinging his body, he dropped a kunai into his right hand from his sleeve and threw it toward Nagaoka.
Nagaoka saw the enemy’s attack.
The ninja was trying to keep him from sniping.
When he had fought the Uesugi representative, he had been helpless against her long-distance attack.
Since she had used something as a large as a shield, dodging had been the only option that came to mind.
But this was different. It was only a kunai.
He was glad it flew so straight because it flew much like his own bullets. He was used to those straight lines. So…
He responded to the kunai thrown by the ninja.
He read its trajectory and caught it with his gun’s muzzle.
Tenzou saw what happened in the instant of the hit.
The Kunai he had thrown was deflected up by Tadaoki’s muzzle. And…
…Did he use the edge of the muzzle!?
If it went into the actual hole, it would damage the inside of the barrel and slightly alter the trajectory of the bullets.
But Nagaoka had caught it on the edge of the muzzle.
Sparks flew and the kunai bounced up into the air. However…
Nagaoka had lifted his gun barrel slightly, but it was accurately targeting Tenzou once more.
He could only see the dark hole at the end of the metal tube.
The boy did not shoot.
This was about deterrence and a show of force.
Nagaoka was saying he could handle any projectile sent his way.
He could read their trajectory and sometimes make a counter shot at the same time.
His response showed he was a projectile expert.
…He is very different from before.
In his duel with Honjou Shigenaga, he had started standing up and there had been no cover. That had not been conducive to sniping with his weapon that had a name Neshinbara probably loved.
And more importantly, their respective positions and situations were different this time.
He had cover similar to a trench and he was shooting down from above.
For an elite built up in training, this had to be very similar to what he had trained for. Tenzou’s actions and thrown kunai had to be things he had dealt with countless times while training to be a name inheritor.
I see, repeated Tenzou.
This boy was inexperienced, but he was strong once he was in his element.
He was faithful and diligent. We don’t have many people like that in our class, realized Tenzou.
This would not be easy, but Tenzou was trying to behave in the same way: true to the fundamentals.
He chose to continue jumping side to side. He jumped right, returned to center, and then…
…Let’s see what happens when I go with the standard move.
With that he moved to produce his standard technique.
Nagaoka saw his enemy disappear.
The ninja had vanished.
The ninja had been jumping side to side in a standard feint, but just as he returned to center from the right…
Where is he? Nagaoka wondered in surprise. That showed just how inexperienced he was. He only had the textbook knowledge inside him and he knew his confusion came from having to rely on that.
But, he corrected himself. This enemy is trying to get me to surrender.
In that case, the enemy’s disappearance could not be to run away or defend.
It was an attack.
The enemy had vanished in order to attack him.
He had a renewed awareness of the fact that this was an “enemy”.
This was not a sparring partner who wanted to see who could beat who.
This person was trying to defeat and control him.
If he lost, he would be taken to the Musashi group. Which would mean…
…I can go to Nördlingen.
But that did not please him.
Why not was obvious.
…I haven’t done what I can do yet!
Nabeshima really was a natural leader. They had only spoken for a few minutes in that corridor on the Toba Castle, yet she had firmly placed a collar around his neck.
He could not run away without first doing what he could.
He had managed to assist the other Hashiba forces as they withdrew from the bridge, but he had something else to do as a Hashiba warrior right now.
“So I’ll do it!”
He had to defeat this enemy in front of him.
And just as he refilled his lungs wit hair, the enemy arrived.
The ninja appeared on the right side of the wall.
He did indeed appear there, but not just there.
Another identical ninja appeared on the left side of the wall.
It was a copy.
This was a standard ninja technique while also being referred to as a secret technique.
Tenzou did not hold back after nailing his tactic.
This boy was definitely an expert. He could not display that expertise quite yet, but after fighting a few battles, he was sure to improve.
After all, he was diligent and he had solid fundamentals. Plus, he could think about how to respond to new and unknown things. Also…
…He has definitely improved his ability to respond to the unexpected since his battle with Shigenaga-dono!
He was growing.
So, thought Tenzou.
…I must bring him back with me!
Tenzou understood the boy’s situation.
Nördlingen. A doomed wife. Positions on opposite sides of a conflict.
Tenzou had been in a similar situation once.
Of course, he and the boy were not the same. If he sympathized with and claimed to understand the boy, it would only come off as condescending. But…
Taking this boy with him would help save a life and that was a positive thing.
That was not sympathy or personal feelings.
It was a fact.
So he would not hold back He had decided to do everything he could to ensure that fact.
The copy technique he was using here was not the physical copies that Takigawa had used against Mitotsudaira. This was a virtual technique.
Physical copies were used to get a barrage in against enemies with superior defenses or evasive abilities, but they were fairly meaningless against a sniper who did neither. So he had selected a virtual copy that let him attack without taking damage himself.
This was part of the fundamentals.
Tenzou inhaled while disappeared.
The virtual copy technique made copies of yourself by hiding your body while moving and revealing it while stopped. It required moving his entire body to immediately switch between stop and go, so breathing was an important part of keeping himself in motion.
Inhaling filled his body with strength, but it slowed his movements. So he let out his breath and strength before moving.
That was the trick to the fundamental copy technique. And if he did it right…
He could do this.
He started out with two.
But, he thought. It would be silly to think this is enough to count as fundamental.
He was not a name inheritor himself, so he had to use everything he had if he was going to face one.
And more importantly…
…That was quite impressive.
He was thinking about the P.A. Oda Leader named Takigawa Ichimasu.
The physical copy technique she had used was on a higher level than what he was doing here.
He could only create two or three copies for about 5 seconds.
But Takigawa had created five and fought a lengthy battle. Plus, her battle against Mitotsudaira had likely been her second one.
Nagaoka would know that powerful woman had been on his side.
So Tenzou could not half-ass this.
Takigawa had left. He could not act as a replacement for her, but as Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer…
“I accept your challenge.”
Tenzou moved forward.
By repeating the fundamentals, his numbers passed 30.
Tadaoki felt like he was surrounded.
That was partially due to the distance between them dropping below 10 meters, but it was also due to the great number of enemies who seemed to be leaping toward him to knee him instead of just dashing toward him.
…What do I do!?
They were virtual images, but these copies were still afterimages of the real one. They were not made of ether by a spell.
But his Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry was currently in sniper mode and it was too late to use the other one now.
He knew the textbook answer was to blow away the virtual images.
Virtual copies were made by moving back and forth at high speed while stopping, so to prevent that…
“Will this work!?”
Tadaoki took action.
This was only an idea he had and it was not found in any of his textbooks or training lessons, but…
…This has to be the right way to handle this!
He separated his rifle’s firing mechanism from the barrel, pressed the firing mechanism against the wall, and…
“I set it off.”
He used his voice to fire.
What erupted on the ruins wall was not so much the bullet as the compressed explosion of the spell gunpowder used to fire it.
The boy used a combination of actual gunpowder and a spell charm. To increase the explosive force and stability, the attack functioned like a shockwave gun at extreme short ranges and it would reflect and scatter if it hit a wall.
He tried to pull his left arm back with the barrel to avoid the strength of the recoil, but he was a little slow.
The shockwave tore his left sleeve and his arm was knocked upwards by the hit.
But he did not let go of his barrel.
Instead, the energy scattered across the wall. There was a deafening sound as the bursting of the air became energy that carved into his surroundings.
The result was undeniable.
All of the ninja’s copies wavered.
Tadaoki viewed the enemy with his full field of vision.
…I can tell which ones are the copies!
The copies were made while moving and they were always thinking of how they would move next. So when the shock hit them, they were hit on the way to their next move and were shaken.
The ones that shook were the afterimages.
But one did not shake. That one was at the leading edge of the movement and had moved past the shockwave.
“So it’s you.”
Tadaoki saw someone to his left swinging a short sword down toward him.
That one individual was not shaken by the shockwave.
…That’s the one!!
The blade came toward him while he reacted. The falling strike dropped the tip of the blade vertically toward him from above.
So Tadaoki dodged.
He used his left arm. His left elbow and forearm had hopped up from the shockwave.
He used that movement to spin his body to the right as if rolling his waist along the edge of the roof.
A moment later, the blade being swung down from the left stabbed into the roof’s edge.
…I avoided it!
He was now nearly lying on his back, so he moved again.
He slammed the rifle in his hands against his hip hard point and grabbed the other one he had prepared.
He would not have had time to shoot if the enemy had made a charge, but he had time now.
By flipping himself over, the enemy was now to his right.
He looked that way and saw his enemy there on the wall where all those copies had disappeared.
The ninja had carelessly stabbed the short sword into the roof’s edge there, and…
There was no ninja there.
There was simply a short sword stabbed into the roof’s edge.
Don’t let it surprise you, Tadaoki told himself.
What he saw here was not a lie. It was very much the truth.
The multiple copies were gone now and he had seen the unwavering ninja swinging down that short sword. However…
…What is this?
He only saw the short sword there now. It must have been swung down with a lot of force because it remained standing while the hilt vibrated a little.
The edge of the roof the blade had pierced looked white even at night.
Tadaoki realized something now that he viewed the roof’s edge: there was no footprint from the ninja landing there.
“It was an optical illusion!?”
The ninja had used one trick beyond the copies. He had snuck a different kind of “copy” within the many virtual ones and sent that toward the boy.
It could perhaps be called an act. By manipulating the movement of that one object, he had made it look like someone was holding and controlling it.
When Tadaoki had seen the blade falling among the many copies, he had first reacted to it.
And while the other copies were shaken, the unshaken short sword had created the optical illusion of there being an “unshaken wielder” holding it.
It was an optical illusion copy.
That optical illusion had been hidden within the many virtual images. The proof was right in front of him.
The ninja had used Tadaoki’s hope for how his attack would turn out.
…He got me!
Where was the enemy?
“He must be…”
“I am here.”
The voice came from behind him.
It came from the wall just short of reaching the roof’s edge. Tadaoki was lying on his back looking up at the night sky from the edge, so this put the ninja right behind his head while pressed against the wall.
…Are you serious!?
Tadaoki finally understood what his enemy had done.
The enemy had used the copies and the optical illusion, but at the same time…
“He remained ‘vanished’!?”
He understands this well, thought Tenzou.
It was true he had remained vanished.
It had begun when he disappeared after the initial feint.
He had used a simple stealth technique then.
He had made it look like he was quickly moving side to side and instead flattened himself against the wall.
Getting down on the ground was the most fundamental of stealth techniques.
But after the obvious feint, he had suddenly done something else.
His copy technique had been a fundamental virtual one. He had produced a lot of them, but his intent had been to hide himself crawling along the wall to reach Tadaoki. The following short sword optical illusion had been done by stabbing the sword into the edge using the final swing of his hand in his crawl.
He had done nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary. But…
“I will be taking you with me.”
Tenzou had already made his next move.
He grabbed his spare scarf and caught Tadaoki’s neck with it from the wall.
He was on his back at the edge of the roof facing the heavens. At this rate, the scarf thrown from the wall and around his neck would be pulled down so it tightened around his neck.
He would not let that happen.
He stuck his hand between the tightening scarf and his neck to avoid the constriction.
His right hand held one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. He canceled rifle mode to transform it into a gun chain sword.
At this close range, he was bound to hit. He had to aim back over his shoulder, but…
…I’ll do it!
Tadaoki raised the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry to aim at the ninja on the wall.
He was firing blind over his shoulder, but the ninja was on the wall and close enough to reach him via the scarf.
He would not miss. And he had decided this was what he had to do.
He prepared to fire.
The key to firing the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry was his voice, so he opened his mouth.
But no voice came.
It was the scarf.
He had tried to protect his carotid artery by slipping his fingers below the scarf, but it was not enough.
The ninja’s constriction had caught his windpipe.
Tadaoki felt himself panicking.
He belatedly understood why the enemy had used that scarf.
It was not to kill or defeat him. It was to neutralize him.
It was to keep him from using his voice to fire.
This meant the ninja had perfectly predicted his actions and acted accordingly.
But Tadaoki raised his voice. The scarf had already pulled him to the edge of the roof and he was essentially plastered to it, but he opened his jaws wide.
He cleared his throat and shouted.
And his voice did make it through.
It was only a distorted breath thanks to the pressure on his throat.
Not even he recognized it as his own voice and it was not actually saying anything.
It was no more than a cough that caught in his throat. And…
He realized his legs were rising from the roof.
He had been pulled to the edge of the roof as if he were being hanged and now his hips were lifting up to rotate through the air.
He was thrown into the air with his neck as the pivot point.
It was a neck throw.
And he heard a voice as he was launched into the empty air.
“I will not let you surrender.”
Why not? wondered Tadaoki. Isn’t that why you’re here?
But the enemy had more to say.
“It would be better if you ‘died’ here.”
Tenzou thought back to the past as he threw Tadaoki from the wall.
This was the same thing that had once happened to someone important to him.
They had “died” and renewed themselves. But this “death” was not to eliminate yourself. It was to renew yourself while carrying the past with you.
Perhaps you could call it a purification.
Tenzou doubted this boy understand that yet, but he spoke quietly to him as he fell toward the ether forest spread out below the darkness of the night.
“You did find some success, Nagaoka-dono.”
Tenzou slapped his left shoulder while still plastered to the wall.
Something sprayed into the night from that shoulder.
It was blood from the wound received from the bullet Nagaoka had fired earlier.
“Nagaoka Tadaoki injured Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer for a draw.”
With that, Tenzou looked down where the boy had fallen.
He took a breath, scratched his head, and stood up on the wall.
“I am no good at this preachy stuff.”
He opened a sign frame.
10ZO: “Hey, Mitotsudaira-dono? If possible, could you retrieve Nagaoka-dono with a Silver Chain?”
Silver Wolf: “I already caught him. And the Hashiba side captured that footage. …Word must be spreading among them that Nagaoka Tadaoki was taken out by our 1st Special Duty Officer throwing him off a tower by the neck. Also…”
Scarred: “Master Tenzou! You were injured, weren’t you!? H-hurry down so I can heal you!”
It felt like so long since Mary had gone out of her way to speak to him. But…
Still Got It: “Oh, dear. But he will be fine as long as he is in my forest. My allies will be given a divine protection to quickly heal them.”
Mary raised her voice but quickly realized what that meant.
Scarred: “Oh, w-well, I mean, I am not saying I do not want Master Tenzou’s wound healed. But, um…”
Gold Mar: “Ma-yan’s super passionate today.”
Mar-Ga: “Are we about to see a battle between the great spirit of fear and a descendent of the great spirit that supports England?”
“Well, uh,” said Tenzou.
10ZO: “I will perform first aid on myself before climbing down, so could you help clean up the wound once I arrive, Mary-dono?”
Scarred: “J-judge! I can do that, Tenzou-do-…Master Tenzou!”
He could vividly imagine the looks on everyone else’s faces down there. But…
He said that while a mass of metal came into view in the western sky.
It was a small transport ship. The one stopped at the eastern entrance of the great ruins was ascending in order to pick everyone up from the bridge. Which meant…
“The Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay mission has been cleared!”
“Reine des Garous.”
Narumi spoke to the person standing on the front line while her sign frame displayed information on the impending pickup by the small transport ship.
An ether forest covered the 50m-wide bridge from one end to here. The Reine des Garous had moved out ahead while everyone else hid behind the slope and other cover to see what the enemy would do.
If anything happened, they would move out to deal with it.
But they could not carelessly head out and provoke the enemy.
“Reine des Garous.”
Narumi quietly called out that name once more.
“I am sure you can drive back the entire enemy front line on your own, but please do not provoke them too much.”
“Testament. The enemy unit in front of me still has a small fighting force remaining if you include the gathered survivors. I do hope they give up because I am here, but it would also be a problem if they stay here or leave to attack the Satomi forces.”
The woman understood the situation well. But…
Silver Wolf: “Mother, does that mean you will be staying here!?”
Still Got It: “Nate? If you are feeling lonely, I can run to you immediately after the Satomi Liberation. I can manage that if I refuel twice with your father while on our feet. Oh, or in an abandoned building if we can find one.”
Silver Wolf: “Mother? It would be an international incident if a Vice Chancellor ran across national borders.”
What if I did it? wondered Narumi.
…Everything is like that recently.
Probably because she was not acting with a focus on herself. She realized anew that she worked best on the battlefield.
“Narumi, what is it? Do you want to eat some yakisoba?”
“That is quite a wild guess, but if anything, I feel more like some chicken toshomen.”
“When we get back, I will probably want curry.”
“So we’ll need some curry yakisoba and curry chicken toshomen.”
“You want to eat all that before going to sleep?”
“Then that’ll be breakfast.”
“That does sound nice.”
The Musashi Vice Chancellor was giving her a look like that was the best idea she had ever heard, but she decided not to think about what that meant. And…
“Um, excuse me!”
A voice reached them from across the bridge. The person who approached with a raised hand was the Hashiba freshmen named Kani. She pointed toward the tower ruins visible through the forest.
“What are you going to do with Oky-kun!? Are you taking him prisoner!?”
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