Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 78
Chapter 78: Answerer at the Calculation Site
Instead of following
Someone else’s path
Give me what
I want now
Point Allocation (Victory)
Tomoe Gozen saw the grass scattering in the wind.
Two giant forms had begun a rapid interaction: Yoshinaka and Date Narumi’s mobile shells.
Their footwork crushed the grass and packed down the dirt, producing tremors.
They tried to circle behind each other, attacked with and dodged swords, and made backhanded strikes.
From an outside perspective, one would block the view of the other and they moved too quickly to follow.
Even now, Narumi was leaping forward while turning her right side forward. She appeared to be pulling in her sword, but…
…I can’t catch any of the details.
She was probably trying to tear into Yoshinaka’s joints.
Tomoe Gozen had been a part of that speed earlier, but it was so hard to follow while on the outside. That was just how precise Yoshinaka’s movements were and how he did not resort to brute force to keep the exchange going.
Tomoe Gozen felt like Narumi had the disadvantage here.
…Their mobile shells are different.
Yoshinaka was wearing a mobile shell, but his own frame was large too. The shell provided power assistance and armor. It was a lot like wearing a suit of armor.
But Narumi was the size of an ordinary human. The mobile shell fully covered her feet and head, so there was a size difference between her and the shell.
That meant there were no direct reactions and feedback between shell and body.
When she planted her foot on the ground, the foot of the shell would cushion the impact and transfer it up the shell’s leg.
That was a harsh handicap in a battle where speed and reactions were everything.
She had to be using as many spells and divine protections as possible to assist her evasions and movements and Tomoe Gozen thought she was doing pretty well for herself.
…But looking at this really says something to me.
Her era had been so wild and rough.
After all, Yoshinaka’s mobile shell assisted the movements of his skeleton, but it did not boost his muscular strength. Even the reactive divine protections and spells were only replacements for his original reflexes.
That meant he was fighting the Date Vice Chancellor in her cutting-edge mobile shell while little different from how he had been without any assistance back in the day.
That explained why M.H.R.R. and Hashiba had wanted him so badly.
“Only they would be able to manage this kind of battle power.”
Meanwhile, more grass scattered in the wind.
In the battle beyond it, the amount of flying sparks grew.
Both combatants were attacking more often, sending solid sounds of impact into the air.
They both sped up and moved in closer.
Their battle became an exchange of close-range attacks.
Four elements are intensifying this battle, thought Narumi.
The first was speed.
The second was strength.
The third was technique.
And the fourth was competition.
She considered those four elements in relation to Yoshinaka.
Which ones were her advantage and which of his advantages could she take away from him?
To test herself, she stepped forward with her right side out in front and made a jab with the mandible swords in her two hands.
She made seven near-simultaneous strikes with both sides.
But before those attacks could reach the gaps in his armor, the enemy deflected them with his blade and with his armor.
…He’s rough but accurate.
He did a splendid job of using his armor to defend.
Normally, armor was meant to block unexpected hits. It was insurance in case the enemy caught you by surprise while you were attacking or evading.
But this opponent was different.
He moved his arm, shoulder, and chest armor alongside her blade and had her hit it.
So he deflected her attacks with his armor.
That proactive defense was meant to create an opening in the enemy’s defenses that he could then attack.
That was obvious enough to her.
He would only fight one or two battles of this type on this battlefield, so instead of carefully preserving his armor, he made use of it with the intent of wearing it out.
And after he did, he would wield his own power, so she made her own move.
“We make a good match.”
Her deflected arms left her open to attack, so she purged her forearms and resummoned them along with the mandible swords. A moment later, she made a jab with her newly-summoned arms.
A roar erupted directly ahead of her, so she sent her left foot back to dodge with the least possible movement.
…Now this is unpleasant.
She had come to understand something after fighting him for a bit, having her swords deflected, and attacking anew.
Uqui: “Hey, Narumi. Things are sounding pretty stagnant over there.”
Unturning: “I am trying not to upstage you too much.”
Unturning: “You’ve noticed too, haven’t you?”
Uqui: “The movements sound identical.”
“Yes,” replied Narumi while sighing within Unturning Centipede.
Unturning: “Minamoto no Yoshinaka’s mobile shell was built with Date clan technology.”
“Testament! Yes! It’s your beloved Katakura-kun! It’s time for a one-two-three divine transmission made from our love! And to be clear, the relative weights of our loves makes it 80% mine and 20% yours! …Huh!? Oh, it’s only you, Narumi-kun! Don’t send me a divine transmission when I’m about to start a passionate speech about self-love! I’m gonna hang up, okay!? I mean it! Right this instant! I swear I am! I’m totally hanging up! Just you wait! Are you sure you want that!? I’m serious! Almost there, just a biiiit longer and- hey, don’t hang up on me!”
Uqui: “So how’d it go?”
Unturning: “There was an HR-related malfunction in the divine transmission connection, so I couldn’t get through.”
“But,” she continued while using a snapping motion to send in a strike from the right.
Unturning: “When Kojirou took his second inherited name and when Komahime was married, Date exchanged some things with Hashiba. When it comes to weapons, Date wanted aerial ship technology and Hashiba wanted god of war and mobile shell technology.”
Novice: “That sure was generous of you.”
Unturning: “Using Date technology requires a fairly high level of steel refinement technique. Obtaining Orei Metallo at the former site of Novgorod does not guarantee they can make usable components out of it, right?”
Unturning: “We concluded we would have developed new technology of our own and closed the gap by the time they caught up on that front.”
Vice President: “But then M.H.R.R. conquered K.P.A. Italia.”
“I knew you would catch on,” said Narumi while catching some blade sparks on her armor.
Unturning: “IZUMO’s steel brand BIZEN is located south of M.H.R.R., so they began to provide technological support to M.H.R.R. after that. They had apparently been fairly cooperative even before that, but once M.H.R.R. could overpower everyone else in the area, they almost completely capitulated. That probably wouldn’t have happened if Hexagone Française had fought back sooner.”
But BIZEN’s capitulation must have only barely come in time.
Katakura would have been gathering the information, but it would have been managed by…
Unturning: “Niwa, since she was working as the negotiator with Date.”
Niwa had fought at Novgorod, but she must have acquired what she needed for her nation even before that.
Ironic that it was showing up here while Niwa was so close by.
Unturning: “The other mobile shell likely uses Date technology as well.”
Flat Vassal: “Um, but how can you tell?”
Unturning: “Due to the snowy environment, Date motors tend to use a lot of sealed and closely-connected parts and they use the exhaust to warm the parts. They also have a unique sound since they use Orei Metallo.”
Mar-Ga: “But M.H.R.R. is known for their mobile shells too. Why would they need another nation’s tech?”
Unturning: “I said they’re built for a snowy environment, didn’t I? That means they enclose the wearer in a sealed container. Compared to the open-design shells that only surround the wearer, ours provide higher-quality sensory devices and divine protection control. But…”
She had seen something here.
Unturning: “He is a ghost.”
The enemy’s mobile shell used an open style, but some parts of the armor was just as dense as the sealed variety in order to contain the bluish-white ether light.
Unturning: “They normally provide sensory and movement assistance and the reaction feedback divine protections are provided using conduits or fold-up charm slips. That technology has been modified to instead provide the divine protections needed to seal a ghost in the shell.”
The open design could not do that.
But a fully sealed deign must have been too difficult at that size, so the ether was held in place at various points across the shell. That was probably Maeda Toshiie’s technique.
And either way…
Unturning: “Now that I know this, I must correct Date’s mistake.”
Narumi stepped forward.
She forcibly leaped toward Yoshinaka.
…Don’t rush like that!
That was Tomoe Gozen’s opinion of Narumi’s leap.
She could tell Narumi had sped up.
She was using the flight thrusters on her back. The instant Yoshinaka sent his large sword in from the right was when she had previously sent her blade back at it, but this time she had moved forward.
However, Yoshinaka was not going to overlook that change in her movement.
Tomoe Gozen knew that much after dueling with him earlier.
Narumi caught his sword on her left blade and jabbed her right blade toward his gut.
Since she had moved forward, her left mandible sword scraped at his elbow armor instead of his sword.
Tomoe Gozen saw Narumi’s next movement build up on that as a foundation.
First, her left mandible sword slipped past the inner edge of the sword in Yoshinaka’s right hand.
Her sword held him in check and prevented him from swinging his sword inward.
Meanwhile, he used the armor on his right elbow and side to seize her left sword as if biting down on it.
And he twisted.
Nevertheless, she struck at his side with her right blade.
His response began with footwork. He moved his right leg back and swung his left foot forward and right to make a step.
That twisted his hips to his right.
The twist reached her left arm and the blade he was holding at his side.
She let go of the sword and purged her left arm in midair.
And he made an evasion.
He used the footwork-based twist of his hips to move his upper body.
He bent his body to the side and away from Narumi’s blade.
Tomoe Gozen recognized this method of evasion.
Tomoe Gozen watched the action play out.
This was his unique method of evasion.
…That isn’t the mobile shell doing that.
She had not understood it while dueling and sparring with him, but that motion was reliant on the legs he moved forward and back.
He created more clearance in his skeletal structure to prepare for the rest of the movement.
He decided how he wanted to move and then built it into his actions.
It was probably designed for when someone moved in close. He must have prepared it as an ace up his sleeve to ensure victory. And…
“Victory against me.”
He had used that against her during training 500 years ago. That had been the starting line for them all. He was now a ghost that had forgotten everything, and yet…
…He remembers that!
But the battle continued.
A Vice Chancellor would be able to react to that instantaneous movement.
Narumi had already responded.
She had moved in close and accelerated so she could respond no matter how he tried to evade.
She had closed the gap between them so the enemy could not escape.
She took a longer step to make up for the bending of his body.
Her blade was going to hit him.
But his left hand shot forward.
By bending his body, his left hand had lowered in front of her blade.
Gauntleted bony fingers grasped the mandible sword.
He seized it by force.
And he faced forward.
He unleashed a roar.
Meanwhile, her right sword was held in place. Tomoe Gozen saw him make a slight movement where he was holding it.
It was a vibration. He gathered his strength and shook the hand holding the blade.
That passed through the sword and lightly shook Narumi’s mobile shell.
That was enough.
Whether evading or whatever else, she would need an initial movement to do it, but he had sent a small vibration into her just when she was going to do that.
He unbalanced her.
At this level of combat, any interference with your movements was a real threat. If she tried to move now, it was all over, so this kept her from moving.
Before Tomoe Gozen could shout “that’s too dangerous”, Narumi made a movement her mobile shell could make even while unbalanced.
Tomoe Gozen saw a light.
Even with her movement prevented, there was something that interference could not stop.
She used the thrusters on her back.
Light burst out for an instant and the mobile shell blasted forward.
She made a short jump.
But her right hand was slow to move thanks to the unbalancing, so her body only lifted up on the left.
That was good enough.
The left arm she had purged earlier was there.
She reattached that left arm in midair and clenched its fist.
The metal attack slammed into Yoshinaka’s mouth and the roar was released a moment later.
The light shattered upon hitting the mobile shell’s fist.
It could not take flight.
Meanwhile, Narumi once more purged her left arm at the shoulder. And…
“Have a taste of your own medicine.”
The chain reaction of explosions erupted right in front of Yoshinaka’s face.
Tomoe Gozen saw the attack Narumi had made.
But she soon noticed what happened next.
Neither of them stopped moving.
With her right sword free once more, Narumi summoned her left arm and adjusted her distance from the enemy as she landed.
Meanwhile, Yoshinaka made his move within the smoky explosion of the ether light.
His voice shook the morning ground as mere noise.
And Narumi made her next move.
He rotated his cry down from the sky to the earth and spread his arms.
The armor on his face had broken.
Bone was visible below. It was a skull. It had been hardened to protect it and it was whiter than expected.
He was dead.
Tomoe Gozen felt like this was simultaneously what she had most wanted to see and what she had least wanted to see.
But his body was still moving.
He slammed the sword in his right hand toward Narumi as she approached.
He was fast. This was clearly faster than before.
The movement was accompanied by a popping of metal. The power system and artificial muscles within his mobile shell had burst as they tried to supply the movement he wanted.
These were no longer the movements of a man. He unleashed the strength of a wounded animal.
He was a mindless soul. Without the memories and words needed to restrain his strength, he had exploded with a power that surpassed the limits of his structure.
There was no hesitation in the movement. He had simply predicted Narumi’s action and swung his sword in response.
Meanwhile, Tomoe Gozen saw Narumi’s choice.
Narumi made two decisions.
First, she chose not to wield two swords.
She placed both hands on her right sword to abandon one sword’s weight and gain more speed.
She could no longer use the extra defense and quick rate of attacks the two swords had given her. This new stance showed she was prepared to let it all came down to a single attack from both sides.
And she made another decision as well.
For the first time in this battle, she stepped forward with her left leg first.
Narumi decided it all came down to this.
She had made sure to always start with her right foot during this battle.
When falling back, she had always used her left foot to keep her right one out front.
She had never made a single attack from the left.
She had a single reason for doing so.
This let her use her full strength when the enemy made their final attack.
For her final attack, she would launch an attack the enemy could not respond to.
She stepped forward and made another decision.
“Paths of Countless Hundreds!”
She repeatedly ejected new legs for rapid mobility. She used that momentum to slip past her enemy’s sword.
She sent out a high-speed attack from essentially point-blank range.
Then she saw the enemy’s decision via Untuning Centipede’s sight.
She had seen that footwork before. It was the twisting rotation that had avoided her earlier attack.
He pulled it off at the price of breaking his own artificial muscles and power system.
This was not a human or animal movement. It was only possible because he was a skeleton inside there.
His upper body twisted approximately 180 degrees around at the waist.
She could not hit him.
He had smashed his own body enough to move it out of the way of her sword.
The horizontal slash slipped right through the gap.
The sword pressure did hit him, but…
…He dodged it!
The enemy swung his own sword in that very instant, but it was directed sideways rather than toward her.
It hit the ground.
He used the large sword like a staff to prop his broken self up.
And he turned his face toward her.
Even his head had turned 180 degrees around.
Meanwhile, she was controlling Paths of Countless Hundreds. She turned her back thrusters around to face him directly. Instead of stopping herself while at such great speed, she threw herself forward in the air to collide with him.
If he tried to run out of the way, he would only put distance between them, which would work against him as he used himself as a cannon. Plus…
…He’s already starting to recover his functions.
When a mobile shell or god of war lost a portion of its functions, it would combine its other functions to recover the lost ones. Some, like the Seiryu, could even repair their own functions.
As far as she could see, his body was regaining strength by the second.
The surviving pieces of his power system and artificial muscles were linked together to use them in place of the broken and torn pieces to recover that functionality. He would eventually recover, even if not to his best condition.
If she was going to defeat him, it had to be now. So…
She blasted her thrusters into the ground. She upped the directionality to make it something like a spike and sent Unturning Centipede right into the shockwave.
She stopped, but she was a little too far away. It would take Unturning Centipede another step and a half.
But she knew what the enemy was trying to do: roar.
She also knew what she had to do. After stopping…
“Unturning Centipede!” she shouted while judging her distance from the enemy. “Summer break begins now!”
Tomoe Gozen heard a roar.
Having turned himself into a cannon emplacement, Yoshinaka released light. But Narumi’s mobile shell was not close enough to stop it.
She had very nearly made it, but she would need to take another step and a half for her sword to reach and to effectively hit him with his own explosions.
The roar raced out.
The light pursued it along a direct path toward the throat of Narumi’s mobile shell.
That was an accurate description.
The beam of light escaping Yoshinaka’s mouth scored a direct hit on Narumi’s mobile shell.
But Tomoe Gozen saw a blossoming flower.
That was the mobile shell. Narumi had separated from it and opened the entire front of it.
Narumi let the opening armor push her forward and collapsed out.
At the same moment, the roar beam hit the spot where her face had just been.
And after collapsing forward, she made a leap.
The mobile shell tossed over the sword in its right hand.
As soon as she caught the mandible sword from midair, the mobile shell exploded.
The blast reverberated out, the wind roared, and all the noise echoed off of the morning city wall.
But Tomoe Gozen’s eyes were on the Date Vice Chancellor’s sword.
It crashed into Yoshinaka’s throat so soon after his roar.
Narumi finally took a breath.
Behind her, Unturning Centipede collapsed over with its arms raised after being destroyed and triggering a secondary explosion. It almost seemed to be applauding her actions.
“Have a nice vacation, Unturning Centipede.”
In front of her, Minamoto no Yoshinaka was watching her.
She was standing behind him, so he looked up and to the left as if to remove the blade stabbed into his throat.
The enormous figure fell to his knees while the mandible sword slipped from his neck.
Then he fully collapsed to the ground. And…
She heard Tomoe Gozen’s voice. And footsteps.
Was she running this way? She could hear the rustling of the grass. But…
Narumi saw something.
A bluish-white light was rising from the ground below the grass. What was that?
…Could it be!?
She turned toward Tomoe Gozen and sprang toward the woman.
She was willing to tackle the woman if need be. And sure enough, her shoulder slammed into her.
Just as Tomoe Gozen questioned it, something appeared.
It was an arm. Giant fingers and a giant palm made from gathered bones appeared. Then the wrist and forearm suddenly grew from the morning ground.
…This is Maeda Toshiie’s Kaga Millionen Geist!
Narumi saw a hand of bluish-white ether light grab Yoshinaka’s entire body from below.
The powerful arm gripped his giant form and mobile shell as if to crush them.
Tomoe Gozen’s cry echoed vainly through the air as everything vanished before her eyes.
It only took a moment.
The ether light scattered into nothingness and the giant arm was gone, as was Yoshinaka.
Tomoe Gozen groaned as if in pain while still trying to lift up the man who was no longer there.
But she inhaled, paused, and looked up.
After waiting three breaths, she moved away with eyes closed.
Had she come to terms with something inside herself? She tapped thrice on Narumi’s shoulder and spoke a single word.
“I do not deserve an apology or thanks for this.”
Narumi took a breath of her own.
…That was not a pleasant result.
The enemy had gotten away and Unturning Centipede had been destroyed. She wanted to collapse to her knees over that, but…
“I suppose a pain-in-the-rear beginning was bound to result in a pain-in-the-rear ending,” said Tomoe Gozen before looking north.
Artillery fire continued in the sky while gunfire and other attacks were used to pursue the anti-imperial unit withdrawing to the north.
The battle was not over yet.
Mitotsudaira moved in closer to the enemy.
The anti-imperials and imperials were both a mobile shell unit. Naturally, they had high mobility and were fast. But…
…My king made a request!
The odors of spell gunpowder and scorched metal reached her lungs as she ran. The scent of dewy grass joined it.
She sniffed at those olfactory elements and realized it smelled different from Kantou.
If anything, it was a more nostalgic smell. Hexagone Française was not all that close by, but it was not all that far either. The climate and vegetation were similar here.
Also, she was surrounded by the trees of a forest.
“This is far from an away game for me.”
She sped up. She bent her legs to bring her feet up to hip height and then launched them forward.
“Here I go!”
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